500th post – let’s make it a doozie!

And this is officially our 500th post. It’s been a riot, and a bit of a roller-coaster, from something that started as a little side project and very quickly escalated into being a whole lot more. We’ve loved learning a bit about blogging, the people we’ve met through it and the connections we’ve made. It’s really felt like we were part of a wider community.

And that’s why the next bit is going to be hard to write.

First, let’s get some facts out the way:

  • Spinks and I are both married women, we have houses to semi-run, cats to look after, husbands to spend time with and other RL stuff on our minds
  • We dual-play MMOs
  • Spinks plays WAR and WoW, she’s tied up with Lich King, but has a 6 month sub to WAR and fully intends to keep playing
  • I play LotRO and WAR, I have a more regimented schedule to keep me playing both games – with certain days marked for WAR
  • Hawley just started a new full-time job and had to move house, deal with that and take on WAR and blogging at the same time
  • Blogging isn’t as quick and easy as it sometimes seems to be! It takes away from core gaming time, not from work time, or household time, or partner time – it directly (for me, anyway) takes me away from a game I want to play
  • I’m on holiday for 2 weeks at the start of December and come back to working fulltime over Xmas to cover for staff that want holidays – so I’m effectively unavailable to blog all of December

And here you may see where this is going. We’re taking a break from blogging. We love WAR and we still find open RVR awesome in the game, especially as our server, Burlok, has thriving T3/T4 RvR action. It’s not hard to drop in each night and find some fighting going on, if that’s what we feel like. But we also have new expansions to tackle with friends, ones where we don’t want to drop too far behind the curve and which we’re enjoying as well.

I once said in Tobold’s comments that when we stopped writing about WAR, I’d wrap up Book of Grudges. We knew that when we decided on the name. We weren’t lured in by hype and now hating the game. In fact, on the flipside, we enjoy gaming too much to want to stop and blog. Seriously.

I know there’s negativity out there. We’ve not been 100% positive on the levelling curve and some of the changes (like stupid ward armour and the need to do dull dungeons over and over so we can go do fun RvR stuff), but the game does deliver fun RvR and for that we will be continuing with it.

I’m sure we’ll still be reading and commenting on others’ blogs. Who knows, one or other of us may pop up elsewhere. I’m still trying to persuade Spinks to do a more general gaming blog cos I know we’d all like to read that!

Anyway, as of 1st December, Book of Grudges, as an updated blog, will be no more. We’d rather bring it to a dignified close than try and keep up with it and watch the quality (that we feel it has) dissipate.

Thanks for ALL the comments, emails, links and just for making us feel so welcome. Thanks also to Mythic for the game and to GOA for the support, even when we were being critical.

The blog will stay up, in entirety and we’ll still check the email box for it, so if you feel the need to contact any of us, that’s how to do it and we’ll reply with our personal email addresses so contact is a bit more speedy!

More is better!

In a special edition of cute baby animals, I bring you:

Bringing in new classes

The three games we play have something big in common at the moment, they’re all introducing new classes to the game – so we thought we’d do a very brief look at how the introductions differ:

Knights of the Blazing Sun and Black Guards in WAR

Two of the ‘missing’ classes being introduced to the game sometime before the end of the year (pending date changes, of course). As everyone reading this will know, they’re both tank classes – the Knight is mirror to the Chosen and will use auras and twisting, the Black Guard mirrors the Ironbreaker but uses hate instead of grudges as a mechanic. They’re iconic classes and have been much missed, so there’s bound to be plenty of them.

Now, WAR might be the first MMO to introduce new classes so early on in the cycle, mainly because they were obviously close to being ready when cut out from release. This means that there won’t be any new starting areas, gear was already designed, and it’s still in the stages where people are testing out alts anyway. WAR has also chosen to herald the entrance of the new classes with a fairly interesting live event, which is going on in all zones at the moment. Hopefully it’s going well – some will do it for the fun, some for the chance to get a week headstart with the new classes – again, something that I believe is pretty new in the genre, but will probably be copied!

Rune Keepers and Wardens in LotRO

Came in with the Mines of Moria expansion. They can be various races (covering all of the races in-game, but each new class skips one race), but the starting areas remain the same. Turbine have added gear for the classes to each stage of the game, including raidsets etc.

Interestingly, both new classes are supposedly decent soloers, and together they form the tank-healer combo, with some good dps between them. A good design decision for the overwhelming number of the new classes that started in the game this week.

Death Knights in WoW

Came in as part of the new expansion, although none of the pre-expansion events specifically featured Death Knights. They’re well known as part of the lore, have featured previously as raid bosses in pre-Burning Crusade WoW and anyone who played Warcraft III will be familiar with them. This class also starts at level 55 so skips the bulk of the levelling process.

They have a full Death Knight specific questline when you create a new character of that type, in a semi-instanced setting that reminds me a lot of the LOTRO introductory quests. The questline is solid and fun, and features lots of WoW-trademark style quests with the customary pizzazz and sparkle. There’s an associated storyline to do with redemption from evil and choosing to fight against their previous overlord. It’s well written and  culminates in a fairly epic battle scene. They also get a full set of good quality gear and a fast mount thrown in for free, which you are awarded as part of the intro questline.

The gear they release you into the outside world with on a Death Knight also looks absolutely fantastic. (Well, until you start replacing it and look like a clown again, but it will last for awhile.)

Strange happenings

It’s been a strange old week, full of all sorts of nonsense at home and at work. Not been around all that much in WAR, but enough to become interim guild leader. It’s happened for a few reasons, but I was happy to take it on and keep the title warm until someone else steps up for it. But logging in and looking at myself as guild leader makes me feel a bit.. responsible. I even went through the list and promoted everyone to member and to alliance member status – something I could have done as an officer, of course.

Then, I feel like I should be writing motivational motds, but always default to the practical or chocolate-based.

I also missed the start of the Heavy Metal event because of work and the Mines of Moria. I’m doing overtime this week, so it’s come at a bad time for me – plus, there’s a hell of a lot to do before I head off for two weeks’ holiday (more on that nearer the time!).

But I hear Reikland Factory is good fun, I hope to try it out myself very soon. Maybe even tonight though I usually play nothing on thursdays. I’d still like to give it a shot!

Other than general admin and motd coolness, is there anything else I should consider during my brief inter-regnum? I think my job is just to hold the title – but think what fun I COULD have?!

The Hype was Right!

I was reading with interest the to and fro of posts between Michael@MMO Nation and Syp@Waaagh about the WAR ‘backlash’ that they see among bloggers at the moment.

They’re on the wrong track here. There is no backlash. What we’re seeing (to my mind) is that people have mostly played the game, enjoyed it (or parts at least), and are now prioritising their gameplaying time because of other games that are available. I don’t really have any links to people being unreasonably bitter about their unreasonable expectations not being met, just writers being honest about what they liked or didn’t and why they’re moving on.

The hype and backlash cycle is part of the huge PR circle of life. But backlash itself means something more specific than just whining about having your expectations reset. It’s to do with a kneejerk reaction to something that is popular. Or when the media builds up some celebrity or book/game/programme and then turns on it viciously, encouraging people to enjoy the spectacle of a good clean lynching. Maybe with a side-helping of Schadenfreude Pie. And this is what I haven’t seen. I don’t see a lot of people trashing the game completely because it broke their fragile little hearts.

And this is because no one lied to us in the hype.

I love hype

We’re all fans here. We’re not haters. We love hype. For myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the leadup to the WAR launch. I loved the Massively posts and the interviews and the monthly grab bags. I loved the discussions and being able to write about why we were excited and what we were looking forwards to. And the thing about Mythic’s hype machine that still impresses me is that for the most part, the parts of the game we most enjoyed are the same parts that they were hyping.

They told us about Public Quests, Scenarios, Open RvR, the Tome of Knowledge, the cool class mechanics, different zones to explore from level 1 to 40 for each race, being able to level in PvP or PvE, and the extensive Warhammer Lore and when we played the game, these were the things we loved too! I don’t feel at all that I was misled.

Some of the tuning has been slightly off. They have introduced other things that were never hyped (armour sets arrrgh) and maybe we did or didn’t like those so much but the core of the game is a rock solid play experience that is exactly what we were promised. Open RvR is genuinely fun in a way that no other game since DaoC has been able to pull off — we’ll see how WoW’s version plays out over the next month or so when more people have levelled in Wrath but I see it devolving into organised groups trashing PUGS, like everything else in WoW. WAR has managed the endgame impossibility of getting people to play together, which is a sadly rare experience in MMOs. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Open RvR raids for that reason.

It’s a core that Mythic can and will build on. Later on today, the Heavy Metal event starts on EU servers (GOA willing) and with it a temporary new scenario and the introduction of short-term daily quests with the chance to get a look at two new classes. And that’s only a couple of months into the live game. Imagine what it could be like in a year or two’s time.

That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to play it continuously for the next two years. I believe that it’s the nature of MMOs now that a lot of players have limited appetite for the grind. So we’ll see much more of the playstyle of people playing new content for awhile and then moving on to another game which just put out a content patch or an expansion. I really think that some people will gravitate towards being fixed on one game but a lot of others will keep max level characters in more than one, and pick them up as the content becomes available.

There is a question about how player communities can adapt to this. It’s not very comfortable for guilds to have large segments of the population drifting off for months at a time and then coming back and expecting to be involved with things — but guilds and games will both have to work out ways to handle it.

But there’s still no need to be a hater. Mythic put out a good game. It’s flawed in some ways that weren’t apparent in beta (I wrote a post a few months back that I can’t be bothered to look up about things that can’t be tested in a beta, we’re seeing them come back to roost now). Hype is fun and it’s perfectly fine to get caught up in the enthusiasm. Just don’t … hate yourself for it later!

U-Turns Galore in 1.0.4

So  the Heavy Metal patch (1.0.4) is going live without the healer and ironbreaker nerfs that we’d discussed a few days ago.

Mark Jacobs writes about how they’re thinking now about the career updates for future patches (I am now slightly unclear as to which changes will go in which patch but we’ll see when the patch notes go up) which gives some of the reasoning and accounts for feedback and reports from the test realms. A basic summary is:

1. Ironbreaker Grudge mechanics still being tweaked but there will be a much slower loss of grudge per second. This means that the Ironbreaker doesn’t have to stay constantly in combat to be able to use Grudge.

2. Healer HoT changes (nerfed) are being backed out completely but the buffs to the slow heals are staying in. So that’s a decent buff and not a nerf at all.

3. Sorcerer/ BW DoTs will not be benefitting from the general damage increases.

I’m all for testing and all for not being nerfed so hurrah for that. But I still wish I knew why they’d wanted to nerf healers in the first place — was it a basic balance issue that still needs to be addressed (maybe even moreso because of the planned buffs) or just a mistake?

Game developers in general are very bad at explaining why they make specific fixes, possibly because of the torrent of feedback that might ensure. But as a player, I would like very much to know how developers feel about the state of different classes because I’d like to know if my expectations match up with the designers. (If they don’t, it’s a good sign that you are playing the wrong class.)

Silly rituals

My Rune Priest hit 40 yesterday, finally. After being 39 for a couple of days and participating in open RvR instead of questing hard. I have yet to do a chapter 21 or 22 quest, so I have plenty to do if I ever feel like it, questwise. But I don’t. I was in a smallish warband capturing keeps back from Destruction and the xp/renown was constant if not huge. We even had some skirmishes which helped. We ended the morning session in Thunder Mountain – the map mostly blue and able to allow us the chance to eat. I was at 97% to 40. I spotted a red blob on the Thunder Mountain map.

“Hurrah”, say I – “I have a quest to hand in”. So off I hovver to go do that, and it nudges the xp bar up a little. Which is when one of my friends on Teamspeak suggests handing in the banner scrap quests in Altdorf. I port back to the city and head up to Karl Franz. After that is handed in I’m even closer to 40 so I head to the side room to speak to the Elf and Dwarf rulers. I look and think for a moment about what’s about to happen, and choose to speak to the Elf first –  not 40 yet. And then I turn to my Dwarf ruler, hand in a Greenskin banner scrap and get to 40. Yes, I decided what order to hand them in so the Dwarf would get me to 40. Silly? Perhaps.

In each MMO it’s been hard not to feel I should celebrate getting to the level cap. Usually I make sure I’m in a small group with people I want to share a celebratory moment with and we go pick a mob I want to kill. Can’t remember what it was in DAoC, except that it was extremely carefully planned. WoW, a little less so, and LotRO I think I did plan on doing it, but ended up in an instance or something.

So it was kind of nice to be presented with an opportunity to decide which NPC could get me to 40 purely by what order I handed in the quest.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d do something like that – really?

Anyway, first thing I then did was sort out tactics, masteries, and then went for a tasty lunch – followed by more open RvR later!

In WAR news (since I can’t post much today and everyone else is busy too), 1.05 will go live on the US servers today, but without the Ironbreaker or healer ‘nerfs’ or the sorc/BW DoT ‘buff’. Those career issues will stay in testing and become 1.06, which will also introduce the Knight of the Blazing Sun and the Black Guard to the Public Test Server for US players to enjoy.

Podcasts

I’m a bit of a podcast nut, because I have a 1.5 hour commute to and from work on the days I work (yes, I’m lucky enough to be a part-timer). I also tend to think podcasts can ease some of the blah from grinding, as and when I need to do it. So it falls to me, fairly naturally to give you a quick overview of the podcasts I listen to – I’ve tried to stick to WAR and gaming ones, but if you ask nicely I might list all the ones I have on my listening list (even ones I’m ashamed of ;p).

Warhammer

No Prisoners, No Mercy – now here’s one we can rely on! Part of the Virgin Worlds collective, this is really top notch and makes me laugh like no other WAR podcast. Sister Julie and Sister Fran put such passion and heart into the podcast that it’s impossible not to get caught up in its infectiousness. It’s a great insight into someone else’s experience of the game, and also raises some really interesting points. But let’s put it this way, the minute I get this one downloaded on iTunes it goes to the top of my listening list!

The Warpath – another weekly WAR podcast from the Virgin Worlds collective, this time helmed by Phillip and Stephen. long-time friends and players of Warhammer tabletop – which is great for me, because it helps fill in some of the lore that I’m really lacking in. I’ve really enjoyed their breakdown of classes – it gave me a lot to think about! There’s quite a bit here about progression through the game and how they’ve found the levels and tiers they’re currently playing, and I find it fascinating to listen to how others view these things, it also sometimes kicks me out of my doldrums and reminds me why I’m enjoying the game, and I look forward to the time when they hit their first fortress.

WARP – yay, another regular WAR podcast, and another one I’ve been enjoying recently. It has quite a few hosts, which means they bring a lot of different experiences to the podcast which is pretty cool. They cover things a wide variety of things, and taught me a lot about the various things different archetypes could do to siege equipment, and I think the show is developing really nicely even if it’s not quite as polished as it’ll probably be in a couple of months – but I still enjoy listening a lot.

Destruction Dollswhat can I say, it was a fun couple of episodes they put out, and I was greatly looking forward to more of it. But it’s been put on hold indefinitely. Shame, but it’s happened a fair bit. Still worth downloading and listening to the episodes they produced, but it’ll be pretty out-of-date.

Chaos Cast – produced and presented by THE triumvirate of WAR bloggers, Syp, Snafzg and Keen, this was once a fortnightly show. It seems to have also fallen by the wayside though, but I’m sure we’ll see the odd sporadic episode. The camaraderie between the three is obvious from listening, and it was always enjoyable to listen to.

Podcast of Reckoning another podcast that seems to have drifted off a little, but I’m listing it here because I know Orlock from MMOgeek fully intends to record another and get back into the swing of it. I remember it being full of fun and good humour, as well as having a British voice as part of it. The WarhammerGeek parody songs are simply fantastic, so even if you don’t go download the back catalogue of podcasts, head over to the site, listen to them and bug Orlock to record the ones he’s written!!

General Gaming

Virgin Worlds though I might like to pretend I don’t pay much attention to other games, of course I do. And Virgin Worlds is a great way to hear about developments in the MMOsphere. I may not agree with Brent on a few things (mostly to do with LotRO rather than WAR), but he’s terrific at what he does and always puts together an informative and entertaining show.

PC Gamer this is the PC Gamer UK podcast, and I adore it – despite the fact I don’t play many games at all. My husband and my friends are quite games-fanatic though, so it allows me to keep in touch with releases, and the contributors are always entertaining. It’s probably not work-friendly, but I love the banter between the contributors!

Shut Up, We’re Talking Darren and Karen host a podcast where they and their guests discuss the most up-to-date or interesting MMO news. Part of the Virgin Worlds collective, it’s another one I just wouldn’t miss and have been listening to for a while. It’s really interesting to get all the experiences of various MMO players and I’ve never failed to find this one particularly worth listening to.

Rock Paper Shotgun Electric Wireless Show – newish podcast from one of our favourite websites out there (I’m sure you’ve guessed we love it). Again this covers PC games, has great repartee and may not be entirely work-safe (if you’re prone to listening to podcasts on speakers at work that is!). But it always makes me smile, gives me a great insight into games I can then recommend to my husband/friends and has that nice touch of British humour about it. Episode 4 is basically a couple of the guys from Rock, Paper Shotgun, and Paul Barnett on a British train, chatting – which nicely encapsulates the casual and fun nature of the show. It’s only up to show 6 now, but I hope it continues for ages.

So that’s it in terms of gaming podcasts currently on my list, though it seems I may be trimming them down somewhat if those on hiatus don’t return soon!

Hope you enjoy them, if you go investigate. Or suggest some others for me to check out – remembering that some of my time is given over to comics, TV and film geekery too 🙂

All things in moderation. Except this rant.

Wotcha everyone,

Thanks BBC.  You’ve just pointed out that addiction to online gaming is bad.  In such a way that makes me want to go and buy Wrath of the Lich King RIGHT NOW and play it ALL NIGHT.  Just to spite you.  Yes, you, BBC.

I think it’s the just-one-step-from-hysteria tone of articles commenting on online gaming addiction that annoys me most.  And now here is a justification blog.

Yes.  Online games are addictive.  Yes, they really are.

I know this.  I freely admit I’m addicted to them.  I will not even try and append any disclaimer “buts” to that statement.  “Hello everyone.  My name is Hawley, and I’m an addict”.  Single player games just don’t offer the same draw for me, and I do play them for a few hours most nights.  And during the day, if I can.  I have also seen friends start playing them, become addicted, and lose their social lives to online gaming.

Yes, our health can suffer.  For every hour spent fighting my way around Praag, I’m wasting an hour I that I could have used training for the London Marathon.  Or practicing to climb the North Face of the Eiger.

Yes, there is a lack of personal contact.  I’m spending my time looking at a screen, instead of engaging in actual, honest-to-goodness face-to-face conversation with actual, honest-to-goodness people.

Yes, I’m removed from the community at large.  I could be spending time working within my local community, volunteering for charities, and generally helping little old ladies cross the road, but, well, you see, the forces of Destruction need holding back, you see.  And if I don’t do it (whilst getting to level 40) then who will?

But then again, if all the people who weren’t addicted to online gaming were off training for marathons, conversing politely to all and sundry, and filling their spare time volunteering for their local charity, then the world wouldn’t just be a better place, it would be unrecognisable.  We’re just following their lead.

And please, can we also point out that there are a lot more, far more harmful addictions out there.  Because, let’s face it, *anything* can be addictive, given the right person.

I could sit here and go through a list of everything, in order of how dangerously harmful they are to the addict, and those around them.  But there’s no point, is there?  We all know what they are, so why should I waste all of our time going through them, and making this seem like a guiltily defensive moan.

No, this is an aggressive rant.  Why is it that online gaming, and World of Warcraft in particular, is hauled over the coals whenever something happens in online gaming?  Why does it always have to be reported in the same semi-hysterical way?

Why is it that games are the bane of modern civilisation, the root of all of our modern evils?

Is it because we’re WASTING OUR LIVES™ by playing them?  Okay, that’s a valid point.  But then again, I spent three years commuting four hours plus per day to get to work and back.  Four hours.  That’s 20 hours a week.  Almost a whole day every week spent sat on a train, or waiting for one that would never come.  But no-one told me that was wasted time.  No!  Being at the mercy of the British rail system was a good thing, because it was spent going to and from work!  But I tell you what, it felt like I was wasting my life at the time, and I still feel that way 5 years later.

Besides, I spent much of that time reading books, and everyone knows that reading books is good.  Don’t we?  We shouldn’t collapse in front of the television every night, we should do something constructive, something edifying, something worthwhile, like reading a book.

What?  Are they taking the piss?  When I was a wee whipper-snapper, before the internet, and before mainstream gaming, I lived my life in books.  If I wasn’t told to do something by my parents, they would find me with my nose in a book.  Anytime, anywhere, there I was with a book.  To the point that they got worried.  Yes, worried.  They deliberated on whether they should take books off me, or just hope and trust I would be “all right”.  If only books had had their positive, wholesome and uplifting image then, my home life would have been much easier!

I’ve spent a lot of time reading books.  I still do.  And not one has changed my life.  I may have learned some things, I might have discovered how different people thought during different periods to our own time, I might even have vicariously lived the exciting and varied life of the author through their writing.  But no, I have received none of the enrichment that seems to be promised by reading actual treeware nowadays.

No, the point here is that whenever Online Gaming hit’s the press, someone somewhere decides to bring out the same semi-hysterical Online Gaming is Addictive! story, and present it in the same way that they no doubt inform people that “MY HAIR IS ON FIRE!  MY HAIR IS ON FIRE!”.  Yes, we can see that your hair is on fire.  Thanks.

Is it that online gaming doesn’t make for the same exciting sexed-up news that makes the mainstream viewer or reader sit up and take notice?  Are we living in the sort of society where the average person is too busy checking their crampons to look up unless the geeks are shown to be dangerous geeks?  And in a way that all the studies that show that gaming can help improve cognitive thinking, social skills, and hand-eye co-ordination stories won’t?

We all choose the way we want to spend our leisure time.  And anything that makes us feel happier, empowered, or powerful can turn us into an addict.  Those happy joy-joy feelings make us want more happy joy-joy feelings.  Anything taken to excess can negatively impact on our lives, and our personal well-being.  And one of the wonderful, amazing things about people is that we’re all different, and as such, can take different things to different extremes.

People drop out of the mainstream all the time, and a lot of the time, what they’ve done isn’t the real reason for dropping out.  The student who drops out of university can blame World of Warcraft all he likes, but it’s quite possible that if it hadn’t been getting phat lewtz and epixxx that got in the way of his degree, it would have been something else; I remember trading essay-writing time for Warcraft 2.  Not because I was addicted to Warcraft 2, but because I really would have done anything rather than write that sodding essay.  Warcraft 2 was just the easiest, shiniest escape route.  And didn’t involve canoeing up the Amazon.

Geeks are an easy target, after all.  We don’t have “normal” hobbies.  We’re playing a game, and by doing that, we’re doing something that many people just don’t understand.  They don’t understand the attraction, they don’t understand how it works, and most of all, they just don’t understand how we can be so passionate about it all.  And, like most people confronted with something they don’t understand, they mock it.  And it doesn’t help that many geeky hobbies are inherently silly; I know, I do most of them.  But then, after ridiculing our hobby, John Normal goes back to shouting at 22 grown men in tribal colours chasing a ball around a field.  And refers to his tribe of choice as “we”.  “We” won.  “We” lost.  Despite the fact that all Mr Normal did was shout ineffectually from the crowd of John and Janes.

I’m geek and proud.  I don’t hide my geeky nature; I revel in it.  I stopped bothering to hide it a long time ago, and when people mock me, I’ll mock back.  I’ll also try and educate those who don’t understand.  But it doesn’t help when the people who bother to listen have already been informed by the media that we’re all raging addicts with no ability to differentiate between a fake world and the real one.  That we’re all ready to shiv each other up for stealing something that never existed in the first place.  That we’ll never leave our games to go and do something else.  Something involving real people.

Stop it.  Just stop it.

According to the media, gamers buying Wrath of the Lich King at midnight so they can go home and play it immediately are damaging themselves.  Their addiction is wrong.  But parents taking their kids to the midnight launch of a Harry Potter book at a bookshop is perfectly fine, it appears.  And something to be celebrated.  And I’m sure NOT ONE of those kids went home and immediately started reading when they should have been sleeping.  No.  Not one.  All tucked up in bed, sharpish.  Their parents too.

Please, can we have a more balanced view?  One that says we may be daft, but we’re mostly harmless?  That some of us are addicted, but not in the way that means we’ll be mugging old grannies and stealing your toaster to sell for subscriptions?  And that most of us aren’t addicts?  Please?  Do us a favour, and don’t make us have to justify our hobbies to our parents, as they try and hold an intervention?

Cheers,
Hawley.