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 🙂

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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.

Wrapping up for the Winter

Wotcha everyone,

Wrath of the Lich King.  Warcraft’s new expansion.  I have to mention it at some point, because for me to try and ignore its imminent release would be like trying to ignore the imminent arrival of Winter.  No matter how much I might run around in Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts (geographical dressing FTW!), it’s still going to get colder and colder.

So, here is me putting on a big woolly jumper and a scarf.

Will I be playing Wrath of the Lich King?  Probably.  At some point.  Hopefully, my mates who still play World of Warcraft will froth at me about it, in the hopes that I will join them.  If they don’t, it will be because it’s rubbish, or they don’t want to spend time in my company.  Either option would be bad.

Good games are good for all of us.  It keeps raising the bar, it means that standards rise, and that means that we all get to play better games.  So a good Wrath of the Liche King is great for everyone.

But I don’t want a repeat of the playing carnage that was Burning Crusade.  An entire server in one zone, desperately trying to level as fast as possible?  No, no thanks.  Neither would be trying to play whilst thousands of Death Knights are desperately trying to get to level 80 to assure themselves a place in their raid.

I might play later, but not at launch.

But there is something about the launch of Wrath of the Lich King that vaguely disturbs me.  And that’s a continuation of something that really started to strike me during the closed beta, NDA days of Warhammer Online.

For me, one of the things I love about online games is getting out there and discovering stuff.  I don’t have to see every single square foot of the world, but I love discovering things.  I love discovering the plots arcs, and taking part in them.  I love seeing the various places, and discovering what sort of trez there is to get.

Yet more and more, it seems that letting all those juicy little secrets out is part of the marketing campaign.  Now, I haven’t bought gaming magazines for a while, but this month’s PC Gamer has a number of pages dedicated to Wrath of the Lich King spoilers.  I can only assume that there have been similar amounts of NDA leakage to gaming websites as well.  Whether there’s more or less leaking than for Warhammer Online’s launch I have no idea, and nor do I care to find out, but something does worry me.  Is one of the reasons that we look for these leaks to give us a leg up, an advantage over our fellow players, rather than to help us form an opinion about a game, and if we should spend our hard-earned spoondoolicks on it?

It’s quite likely that I’m going senile, but I remember a time, a much gentler time, when gaming was about fun.  It was about levelling your character, so you could do different fun stuff.  It was about “ooing” and “aahing”, and generally going “squee!” when something nice dropped.

And then, somehow and somewhere, that ceased to be the case.  Suddenly it was about getting to maximum level as fast as possible, with the levelling content being there purely to stop you getting bored and going elsewhere.  Suddenly it was all about the epixxx, and moaning because “your” item didn’t drop.  Again.

Will Wrath of the Lich King change this?  Will it bring peace and love back to online gaming?

Or is Wrath of the Lich King just another excuse to wave our e-peens about the ether, in the way that Warhammer Online, and the rest of the current wave of 2nd Generation Online Games have been doing for some time now?

I really, really hope it’s great.  That it becomes more than the sum of its parts.  That it brings happy joy-joy feelings to online gamers everywhere.

Most of all, I’m really hoping they’ve got rid of the grind, because that’s what keeps sucking all of the fun out for me.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Contribute to change

Want to change the GOA website?

What started as a smallish petition created by Penlin over at Freddyshouse has become somewhat bigger, leading Magnus to comment on the thread:

I’ve passed this petition along to people within GOA and we’ll be following it. Not that it’s really needed – we’re keenly aware of the general perception of our webpage as it is.

Obviously, Community Management have compiled many reports on this topic and we’ve continuously worked for a change. Events have recently taken a turn for the better and I’ve gained renewed hope for a real change. There’s really nothing conclusive I can share on this at the moment but I certainly will as soon as I’m in liberty to do so.

Do know that this is something close to my heart and we’re pulling all the strings we can here. 

So while our fellows in the US are voting on somewhat more serious matters, let’s see if we can amass some votes for getting rid of the war-europe annoying Flash! Use your vote wisely, all.

Lie back and link for England

Welcome to Denizens of Xibalba, Cathbadh’s Warhammer Adventure and Spell Damage!

The UK launches its first National Videogame Archive. About time!!! Hrrm, wonder if they want some of my old games…

Virtual Worlds Forum event postponed due to a shooting at the venue. And talking about virtual worlds, both Sony and Microsoft are planning on launching them, Second Life style for their respective consoles.

World of Warcraft praised for educational value – by nature, they mean all MMOs here, they just used WoW as an example. In similar news, the Church says games can be a positive influence!!!

Spore expansion due out in November. It’s called “Cute and Creepy Parts Pack”, digitalspy say they don’t know what’s in it but I think I can guess. Don’t want to be cynical about money-making, but an expansion.. ALREADY?

Tigole posts more about Blizzard’s upcoming plans for WoW PvP: Including the ability to queue from anywhere and earn xp via battlegrounds. That didn’t take long. There have been a lot of blog comments about this — Syp thinks competition is great for gamers, syncaine wonders if borrowing too many ideas can water down the core of a game.

Congrats to The Greenskin for a year of blogging! Inspirational!

Save da Runts lists 10 tips from a tank to the healers.

Gamasutra has an in-depth community analysis of Warhammer Online. The writer has been checking out forums to see how the community is evolving post-launch.

Ever felt awkward about admitting to your non-gamer friends that you spend the evenings playing games? The Brainy Gamer has been thinking about whether our culture has a taboo about adults playing frivolous games.

We expect to have more Blizzcon links next week, but here’s one to start. Diablo III will be playable (presumably as a demo) at Blizzcon. And they announce one of the other classes: the wizard. Oh, it has frost nova and magic missile, be still my beating heart. Sorceress fans should be pleased. Here’s the trailer.

Elitist Jerks have an amusing thread on how to think of a good guild name. Also lots of thoughts there on how to reach a consensus with your guild and what your guild name says about you. I love the idea of naming them like Iain M Banks’ ships, wish I’d thought of that. “Of course I still love you” would be an ace guildname. (GCU Arbitrary – no comment, they found where I steal usernames from – arbitrary!)

A fixed-life MMORPG?

As long-time readers of the blog will know, I’ve been toying with the above idea for quite a while. Mostly because Cult TV is as much of my life as gaming – and because I know many of my fellow MMO players love the same shows I do so we end up discussint them a lot on Teamspeak.

In fact, this post is inspired by a guild chat the other night on the subject of Star Trek and Babylon 5. Not really a compare and contrast, that’s been done to death – we were mostly discussing what we liked about each and where Battlestar Galactica falls in the whole ‘which is best’? category (for me, it’s overtaken Babylon 5, for the record). But the discussion is kind of irrelevant, it just triggered a few thoughts…

There are certain similarities between a good ongoing TV show and an MMO, but they’re all a little flippant – lots of characters, a detailed background, and a long lifespan (unless you’re like Brimstone or Firefly!). TV shows run in seasons, MMOs run from content update to content update (nb: this might be a patch or expansion). Until Babylon 5 came onto the scene, TV shows spiralled on as long as they could – a bit like MMOs. But since Babylon 5 we’re seeing more shows with a built-in lifespan; Battlestar Galactica and Lost (since we know there are 34 more episodes anyway) being just two examples of this. And the shows have definitely benefited from it, becoming tighter and more focused and allowing for long story arcs with payoffs many years after the original hints and clues.

So will any MMO be brave enough to follow cult TV into embracing the fixed lifespan model? It’s risky. You’d need entry points (a bit like mid-season round-ups, or ‘previously on’ segments), but with instancing it’s possible. It would allow for an actual narrative structure for the MMO, and for persistent changes to be made by players. It could allow the developer to explore various subscription models where players could sub for the entire life-cycle, or for a ‘season pass’. There would be a problem, of course, if the game isn’t good enough and the playerbase drops too low for the big ending – that’s where the risk comes in. And of course, we like the social side – how would I genuinely feel if I played a 3-year game and then there was nothing. TV series combat this with prequels, spin-offs, and films. Maybe an MMO that worked this way could do something similar. Anyway, I find myself more and more intrigued by the idea.

To me, the current MMO model is much more like X-Files, where there is an  underlying ‘lore’ and that st ory gets progressed every so often, but there’s a lot of filler (grind) and the quality of that can be a bit patchy. Or, that’s how I see World of Warcraft these days anyway. And no hate please, I stopped playing it before Burning Crusade, though I did stop in to check out the new starter areas – but it was already too locked into raiding for my life. I can see WAR after 4 years being in a similar position, truthfully. I know Dark Age of Camelot lost some of my attention after 2 years of play..

Lord of the Rings Online is one I should talk about in this regard though, since it is a little different than the others. I have a lifetime subscription, but I don’t know how long the lifetime of the game is. I do know the narrative structure, because I’ve read the books! But, if we get Moria now.. Rohan sometime down the line, it really could die off numbers-wise before we ever get the pay-off of Mount Doom. I, of course, hope it doesn’t. And it gets closest to the fixed lifespan that I’m enthusing about but, it isn’t fixed by any means. I’m sure if they could can post-Mount Doom they will.

Anyway, I’m no game pundit, and I’m certainly no TV pundit. I see, in the shows I love, how much they benefit from a long story arc and a known end-date or fixed period. I don’t know if it’d work for an MMO, but I’d love someone to give it a shot, mostly because I think there could be some really interesting narrative potentials with such a move. Hell, there may even be one I just don’t know about!

On another note of similarity, in my youth I knew nothing about TV producers or game designers… maybe the name Aaron Spelling, but not much else. Now I know Joss Whedon, Brian Fuller, J J Abrams, Richard Garriott (ok, knew him a while back), Ron Moore, Mark Jacobs, Will Wright, Rob Pardo.. it seems we’re entering an age where those behind the scenes both in TV and games are finding the spotlight more often, and embracing it.

And finally, because I don’t play that many games myself, I do need to mention that non-MMOs already embrace the ‘sequel’ strategy to lengthen their titles’ life and perhaps provide new ‘seasons’ of content. Fallout 1, 2 and 3, the Baldur’s Gate series, Diablo 1, 2 and 3, Half-Life 1, 2, etc. There was a hint of belief on the latest PC Gamer podcast that perhaps Dragon Age and Massive Effect will enable people to use their old characters in sequel games – this would more or less be the TV model, but still wouldn’t have a definitive end-date.

Brainiers-than-me, what do you think?

Bye bye freedom

So Warhammer Online has gone gold, and the open beta will be with us on 7th Sept – the client is up and ready for download!. That gives me.. a couple of weeks left of ‘freedom’, and I don’t know about you, but I actually have a plan this time on how to get things ready in my life.

The Practical

  • Gain some husband rep by doing dishes, cooking, generally hanging out and watching DVDs
  • Ensure laundry is done and up-to-date
  • Make and freeze some meals so husband doesn’t have to do all the cooking! (he’s unbearably good at feeding me when I’m caught up in gaming)
  • Get plenty of rest, seriously, plenty!
  • Catch up on all my recorded TV on the PVR – making sure I’m on top of things, and reminding myself that leisure time doesn’t have to be in front of a PC
  • Organisation – sort out bills, medical appts, etc
  • Give lots of quality cat-cuddling time, so they don’t feel too unloved and fall asleep on keyboard or mouse when they want attention
  • Work out my autumn TV schedule and set it all up on the PVR. Yes, I am a bit of a TV fan, but I like to think I only watch decent stuff ;p
  • Read more of the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R R Martin. Just finished book 1
  • Make sure vidcam works before Games Day trip, and that I have any idea how to get data off it

The Philosophical

Ponder the following:

  • What is better; Trez or Freebies?
  • Why is it called ChaosCast if they’re all playing Greenskins?
  • Which am I looking forward to more; Lost or Battlestar Galactica?

Game-related

  • Look at Rune Priest masteries, have a vague idea how I might spec
  • Finalise list of character names I actually like – double-check that I like them
  • Decide on an alt (more naming hell)
  • Decide if I even want a Destruction alt on another server
  • Build up my post count on guild forums, which I’ve not been that active on because of blogging or gaming!
  • Make sure I’m up-to-date with all my LotRO stuff and do stuff with LotRO guild before my play-time there scales back radically (yay for lifetime subs)
  • Discuss some BoG plans with Hawley and Spinks – maaaybe look at design, and then ignore it ;p
  • Get nervous about Games Day, try not to worry about missing out on some headstart because of travelling to and from Games Day and seeing my family at the same time

I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking I need to get things in order before the game releases. So what are you all planning to do before life gets… really busy?