State of Mind: Scattered

Why, yes, today's guild missions are brought to you by Skittles.

I’ve kinda been all over the place in the last few days. Yes, even in my gaming and entertainment leisure time.

Kingdoms of Amalur went on Steam sale over the weekend, and I couldn’t resist picking it up and trying it out. It’s… kinda ho-hum. It looks pretty and decent enough. I was kinda expecting something Skyrim-like, but got something a touch more generic. The NPC interactions are all voiced and functional, but it weirds me out that they all seem to be giving me one generic response treating me like a human even though I chose to play an Alfar – eg. they stand around telling me all about the Alfar like a narrator, sometimes putting in their snide opinions about the race, while I’m standing over here thinking, “Don’t I look like an Alfar to you?”

Combat is third-person console action-like, a little bit Dark Souls-ish but probably a lot easier, with blocking and dodging and all kinds of weapons that you can eventually unlock combat combos for and stuff like that. There’s a certain slickness of presentation – eg. combat moves can be reviewed in a separate menu page which even kindly includes a short embedded video of what the move looks like when performed (very nice, more games should do this a la DOTA 2, etc.), the manual itself is integrated into a menu page for you to review if desired.

And there’s also clunky aspects, like promptly overloading myself when I unwittingly took stuff from a chest in town that was apparently extra weapon/armor DLC and me not being able to figure out where there’s a house or stash to put them in again… The quests are not especially thrilling me, they remind me a bit of a soulless typical MMO – lots of errands, little choice about how I can react to them or roleplay (if the quest suddenly decides you gotta kill these people, then you gotta kill the targets it wants you to kill, unless you don’t do the quest at all and don’t get the xp), and I don’t even have the fun of socially interacting with other people to boot.

We’ll see. It’s not a -bad- game per se. It just seems like I had slightly different expectations of what it could give me, going in, and I may have to turn to another game to get it, while playing this game for what it is, at a later date.

I’ve been sneaking in daily missions in Path of Exile. It’s about all the time I can spare for it at the moment.

I have a sudden urge to check out Marvel Heroes, but I’m really just too scattered this week to manage it.

A chance comment some time ago got me thinking about Babylon 5, and I decided to start a marathon session of it alongside my gaming during the more meditative, mindless moments. Also taking advantage of this to backup my DVDs into digital form – already had one minor scare when I found scratches on Disc 4 of Season 1 and it seemed unplayable in the DVD drive. Had to give it a mild polish with, of all things, toothpaste – making tons of smaller minute scratches to polish down the big one sufficiently to be read. Just starting Season 2 now.

There are more than a dozen things I could be and am sort of kinda maybe want to be doing in Guild Wars 2.

I’m not quite at the ‘overwhelm’ stage of can’t cope, but I’ve been distinctly squirreling all over the place in the last few days just unable to concentrate or focus much or decide on a direction.

  • There’s a nagging reminder in the back of my head that I need to update my guide and take out FGS references and clean up a few paragraphs that are unclear or slightly off course, now that the feature pack is out.
  • There’s my regular iron ore or platinum ore node runs. It’s a decent way to make pocket change off the dungeon runners, since I really don’t have the personality or playstyle to do 5-6+ dungeon runs a day. (It’s entirely possible there are crafter and TP middlemen in there as well, as the gold generated by dungeon running somehow filters down to the other player types through the TP.)
  • There’s another nagging reminder that I haven’t done a thing about the optional achievements for not-quite ‘hard-mode’ Living Story challenges for Dragon’s Reach Part 2.
  • There’s finding the time to attend TTS Teq or Wurm runs.
  • There’s finding the time to do some WvW – I hear there’s a tournament going on. Personally, I’ve been super grateful that the required participation this time around is only 5 events.

Mostly because I’m still having periodic driver issues with my X-Fi soundcard. Every now and then, while in GW2 and someone constantly talking over Mumble, a magic frequency or pitch will be hit, or the card just decides it’s had enough, or there’s a memory leak, or the driver just decides to malfunction, or I DON’T KNOW, the whole damn thing will freeze my computer for good. Cue hard reset, cue a lost place in WvW and no mood to continue because the continuity of whatever urgent battle there was has just vanished, cue an undetected soundcard on reboot, and about 15 minutes of Driver Sweeping all traces of the soundcard driver off my system and reinstalling the exact same drivers again.

It will then promptly go back to working for an unspecified period of time, playing MP3s, movies and VOIP with no issues whatsoever… UNTIL  IT DECIDES TO DO IT AGAIN.

The good news is that it’s looking likely that I’ll have accumulated enough spare budget for a new computer sometime in October *crosses fingers, hope I don’t jinx anything by saying it* and I might be able to finally stop playing on a toaster run by PotatoOS and relegate this box to being a secondary system.

It does mean that I need to factor some time in the next few weeks to research current computer hardware options for putting together an affordable dream computer. While pleasant to look forward to, it -is- another fairly big project on the to-do-sometime list making me even more scatterbrained, having too many choices of fun pleasant things to do with leisure time.

  • Back in GW2, there’s wanting to take advantage of the new money-making opportunities from the collections that just launched and changes to certain classes making certain gear suddenly more desirable, plus WvW tourney being in effect. Not going to specify more than that, since I don’t want my targeted niches to close too quickly, but let’s just say the prices of certain things have shot up to amounts that raise my eyebrows and have me going, “Oh man, I would SO DO THAT for 15 minutes over 15 minutes of CoF ad nauseam and get the same 1-2 gold from it.”
  • On a related note, camping out in the Font of Rhand also seems to have developed into a popular activity. I think it’s awesome, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I really enjoy that minidungeon and wish more people knew about it / experienced it. Well, these days the rewards seem to have become worth it for folks to portal others in, even. You get a daily rare on killing Rhendak, similar to a world boss. And with each new character, a daily chance at opening his chest, likely for blues and greens, but you might get a rare and maybe even the Chalice of Rhendak for the Treasure Hunter collection. There’s also trying to get him to cough up his exotic ring…. that’s going to take a while. He takes 10 minutes to respawn, which seems like a fair enough respawn time – I’ve been getting through quite a few Babylon 5 episodes while cycling through spare characters.
  • I’ve completely wiped out my fractal relics from making Mawdrey II. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m on the lookout for jumping into -some- fractals to get relics accumulated again.
  • There’s the dungeons collections, which I’ll probably never get in a hurry, but I wouldn’t be opposed to getting some more tokens whenever…
  • Oh, and there’s my new charr mesmer who’s level 24, just shy of my stagnated human mesmer at level 26, who seems more promisingly fun to level. Sometimes it’s really about looks and feel of your character, I guess. I’d love to get him back into leveling and map exploring… except I seem to have gotten stuck waiting for the buggy mines in one of Diessa Plateau’s hearts to be fixed (can’t interact with them) and have somehow ended up camped out in Rhendak’s underwater chamber after chowing down enough skill scrolls to cheat my way to getting Portal on the utility  bar.

Yeah, I think you get the idea.

There’s plenty of other RL stuff that I ought to be getting done somewhen as well.

I think I’m eventually just going to have to sit down, sacrifice an hour to make a list and prioritize one thing over another, but yeah, squirrel mind is being squirrely at present.

I expect blog posting and updates to be fairly squirrely for the next week or two too.

Nope, I’ve Got No Issues With “Comfortable”

You see, I just spent 18 hours of the last Saturday, literally every waking moment not devoted to food or personal hygiene, seated in front of a computer…

… not having ANY fun at all.

Because the darned thing was malfunctioning, and all leisure activities had to be put aside, with troubleshooting the sudden new priority.

At that point, I would have traded a good many things to get back to my simple regular non-stressful routine of dabbling around doing dailies in a “comfortable” game, in a comfortable chair.

The trouble began Friday night, when I logged in for my usual Teq and Wurm runs.

GW2 was freezing on me.

As in, a complete hang with mouse cursor frozen, inability to ctrl+alt+delete and the only way to get out of it was a hard reset.

The hell.

This was, of course, not good for any semblance of normal blood pressure since rebooting would -obviously- mean I fall out of the correct megaserver map instance and have to try my luck spam taxing back in.

Before long, I stopped worrying about even getting into the correct map, because I was consistently triggering a freeze every time I opened Teamspeak alongside GW2 and switched into a channel with people talking.

?!!??!?!

This was fine yesterday, and the day before that, and the months before that!

I’d changed nothing with my computer between yesterday and today!

Utterly bamboozled, I decided that maybe I was straining the RAM on my computer by having multiple programs open at once and gave up Teamspeak as a lost cause for the night (which didn’t bode well for any future fun with TTS until I could figure out the issue) and just sat in Sparkfly Fen on a pug Teq map brooding on possible causes and solutions.

10 minutes in, the system froze again.

WTF?

Hard reset, retreated from the crowded map, sat in Lion’s Arch to get some crafting and TPing done – some secondary productive activity anyway, though I really wanted to be killing Wurm – while trying to see if the problem still persisted.

I bought a mass of sigils from the TP for a little experiment, and the “Take All” triggered a freeze.

Fuck.

Hard reset again, log in, try not to do anything more strenuous than stick stuff, jigsaw-puzzle like, into the Mystic Forge.

30-45 minutes into this, freeze yet again.

YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME.

Completely unable to enjoy any aspect of the game in a normal fashion, I ended up giving GW2 up as a lost cause for what remained of the night (not very much) and started basic troubleshooting.

Maybe it was a memory issue? The Resource Monitor did seem to indicate that having both GW2 and TS running was exhausting the “Free” memory, but there was still a lot of blue-colored “Standby” memory remaining – I’d already switched to Win 7 64-bit to combat the problem…

…maybe I was running out of swapfile? I was admittedly a little low on the free HDD space, so I ended up on a mass transfer-data-to-external-hard-disk deletion spree.

Temperatures of the CPU and GPU were all normal, so that couldn’t be it either…

Then with a sinking feeling in my chest, I suspected I had a real problem when the mouse cursor froze up on the desktop with nothing more strenuous open than Windows Explorer and Firefox (plus regular startup programs.)

Maybe it wasn’t a GW2 specific issue after all.

There was more disk space free on both drives than had ever existed in the past month, the pagefile had plenty of room to play with…

I shut the computer off for the night because I was tired of hard resetting (and worried about how much strain it was putting on my ancient PC)  and just overall tired and sleepy, and was rather hoping to wake up in the morning and find that it was all a bad dream and that everything would be back to normal in the morning.

It wasn’t.

I got on to GW2 just fine, gingerly stepping into LA, expecting a freeze any minute now.

It didn’t come, so I logged onto Mumble in preparation for WvW reset. As I switched into the guild’s channel, I heard our comm say someone invite Jeromai to a group…and then yep, the computer froze.

Well, shit.

Cue hard reset. Cue all the attendant stress and obligation that comes from having social networks and connections and expectations online – though fortunately, this was pre-battle and not like, a dc in the middle of a raid or something where your not-being-functional could cause an immediate wipe of a mass of people counting on you.

Went through the slooow loading Windows, loading GW2 process and finally logged in, to explain why the party invite and I was just sitting there unresponsive (and probably greyed out and offline) and then backed out of any WvW reset parties to grimly face a morning’s worth of troubleshooting.

Little did I know.

Sure enough, just sitting there in LA and switching into a Mumble channel where folks were talking produced fairly consistent freezing. It wasn’t -just- Teamspeak. It seemed to be all VOIP.

Goddamn it, was I doomed to a future in-game life with no contact with the VOIP-using player subset?

Hell, I didn’t even need to be running in GW2. Just sitting in Mumble could cause the freezes. (Silver lining, WvW reset goes for over three hours, so there’s lots of time to find channels where people are talking to stress test my system while troubleshooting…)

Googling up “computer freezes” in relation to VOIP presented a whole smorgasbord of possibilities:

  • There was something apparently called DPC latency, which had an impact on whether computers could handle real-time data streams, and may be the cause of audio-drop outs and a couple seconds of freezing. (Except my freezing was a LOT worse than a couple seconds.)
  • My RAM could be failing.
  • My hard disk drives could failing.
  • My power supply could be failing, and so on.

(None of the above were particularly incredible possibilities, since my computer IS 7+ years old by now, with all the hardware inside likely way past their warranties.

These were all not fun possibilities to consider. The RAM failing wouldn’t have been a matter of just going out to buy new ones to slot in.

It’s DDR2 RAM – who sells DDR2 RAM these days?  My mobo is too old for DDR3 RAM. I’d have to switch the motherboard, which meant the CPU as well, which meant pretty much embarking on the whole new computer adventure at a time when my budget still can’t really deal with an SGD $2000 purchase. Besides, new computer would mean reinstalling Windows and all the programs, a day of intensive effort I never look forward to.

A hard disk failing would mean potential data loss, having to copy over stuff from the last not-terribly-recent backup, more reinstallation of stuff, and oh, cracking open the case to swap in a new one. Still not fun.

A new power supply would cost about double the price of a hard disk or two sticks of RAM, and still involve an opened case and lots and lots of rewiring and computer surgery.)

  • Or it could be a virus.
  • Or maybe… could it be some kind of driver or IRQ conflict?

Cudgeling the memory suddenly revealed that I -had- changed one thing between yesterday and the day before that.

I’d absent-mindedly plugged in my phone to transfer some photos, and this was apparently the first time I’d done so with my new-ish Windows 7 operating system, because it did its usual automatic “installing drivers” schtick.

They weren’t the ‘official’ drivers from some CD loaded with plenty of branded bloatware, just whatever Windows 7 had decided of its own accord was worthwhile to use. It had worked for the purposes of transferring pictures… but had Windows 7 been too clever and rearranged something it shouldn’t have?

  • Or it could be the anti-virus itself getting too smart of its own good.

I’d been running Avast antivirus, with its multiple shields, and I couldn’t help but notice in the stats provided that its File System Shield seemed to be scanning a lot of files, at roughly the same time I was having all the freezing problems. Coincidence?

So many possible angles. No real clue of where to start.

Suffice to say, there was a lot of scanning.

That terrible boring activity of watching a progress bar creep slowly up percent by percent while listening to your hard disk spin away, hoping not to hear any funny sounds or see any errors pop up on screen.

There were a lot of freezes mid-scan attempts. It is not a fun thing to attempt to surf to Malwarebytes’ website and have the computer freeze on you. VIRUS? TROJAN? ROOTKIT? are all things that go through your mind.

The second attempt post umpteenth hard reset worked… so maybe not…

DPC latency checker or watching resource monitor was consistently triggering a freeze about a minute or two into watching the info display.

There were scans of the hard disks for functionality. Seemed ok.

There was writing MemTest to a CD to boot from so that the RAM could be checked. Seemed ok.

There was lunch sometime between scans and brooding, barely tasted.

If anything, it’d gotten worse.

I was only getting into normal mode Windows for about 2-3 minutes before the whole system would freeze, which isn’t much diagnostics time at all.

The one saving grace was that safe mode Windows (with networking even) seemed to work fine… and was even pretty stable.

No freezes there.

So it -probably- wasn’t a major hardware issue, was the afternoon’s conclusion.

What was intensely weird was that taking out all the startup programs and services using msconfig in safe-mode, and then starting up normal mode with that very selective startup of absolutely nothing worth mentioning… was still producing freezes.

There was a battery of virus scans in safe mode, all coming up negative.

Seeing those results, I uninstalled Avast to see if that would help the problem any. Still no go. Still plenty of freezing in normal mode.

In the evening, I took a break in safe-mode to make some backups of my recent data (like screenshots!)… just in case it really was a failing hard disk, I’d regret it if I had time to salvage stuff and didn’t, after all.

NO FREEZES IN SAFE-MODE. FOR THE HOURS IT TOOK TO TRANSFER GIGABYTES WORTH OF STUFF.

WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON.

During the enforced break, I discussed the whole perplexing issue with a friend, and we started leaning towards the possibility of a driver conflict and/or IRQ conflict.

It was weirdly suspicious, I told him, that the IRQs for safe mode and normal mode were differently assigned. My Creative X-Fi soundcard was sitting on IRQ 3 on safe mode, and IRQ 20 on normal. A bunch of various USB hubs on the mobo were seemingly chaotically arranged and sharing IRQs on normal, but looked a little more organized on safe mode. My graphics card had a negative IRQ on normal mode – was that usual? Sadly, I didn’t know, since you know, one never bothers to look at these things when the computer’s running smoothly. Did I really scramble something by plugging in my phone and letting Windows 7 have its way with things?

Annoyingly, there appeared to be no easy way to manually re-assign IRQs with Windows 7. The operating systems have gotten too smart to allow that kind of thing.

The conclusion reached was that it was time to crack open the case and try to isolate the problem from there.

Urgh.

Did I mention the dust in the case?

And that I’ve lately figured out that I have a dust allergy from a) developing a seriously runny nose and congested lungs from inhaling dust thrown up in the air and b) symptoms subsiding when I swallow an antihistamine pill?

If things were normal, I could have been just happily mining for iron and platinum ore instead, I thought mournfully, as I opened the screws and tried not to inhale.

Or static discharge anything into valuable components. (There’s one plus for living in a country with high humidity. Not many static shocks here, if you don’t spend your days rubbing across carpeted flooring.)

Swapped and reseated the RAM. Turned the main power back on. Booted up. Still freezes. No go.

Turned the main power off. Removed the soundcard. Booted up.

No freezing. Or at least… for five minutes and counting, which is about double the improvement already.

Crap. Really?

Googling up “Creative X-Fi” and “freezing” brought up an inordinate number of hits, especially in relation to Windows 7 and 8 and driver issues, and plenty of complaints about Creative being slow-ass sons-of-bitches who don’t update drivers quickly, or write competent ones to begin with, and that folks were having freezes that required hard resets to get out of in virtually every game you could name.

It was officially night, and one had finally narrowed down the possibilities to the probable culprit.

It made a certain kind of sense, it had been two voice programs triggering audio issues, after all, before things escalated to freezing any time it felt like it.

But but… it’d been acting fine for the months since I’d switched to Windows 7, and installed all the official drivers (last updated Feb 2014, for Windows 8) from the sad little page labeled with “End of Service Life.”

And I really really liked the sound my X-Fi produces. On-board sound just isn’t in the same league, by far.

Further study revealed that the motherboard had a second PCI slot. Friend suggested swapping in the soundcard into that one instead.

Did so.

Yadda yadda long story short, booted up, well, hey, still no freeze… checking the IRQs showed it had reassigned itself to 19 instead of 20… maybe that helped?

Friend headed off, celebratorily triumphant, thinking we’d licked the problem.

I sat down to some well-deserved and much-delayed GW2 dailies… when the computer froze again.

SERIOUSLY. FUCK THIS.

Suffice to say that I essentially skipped dinner, and went through many permutations of safe-mode and normal-mode, doing everything I could to first disable Creative X-Fi (which resulted in stability long enough to finish GW2 dailies, giving me at least some stress reduction in that department) and then wiping clean every trace of Creative drivers and programs and registry traces that may have been producing conflicts with each other and other drivers (Driver Sweeper was pretty useful) and then crossing my fingers and reinstalling cleanly the official ones again.

(I would have gone to the unofficial ones next if the official ones failed. I was pretty much operating on a whole “If this… then that” systematic list by that time.)

There were the odd occasional scares between reboots when Windows failed to detect the soundcard at all, then detected the soundcard and installed its own version of an appropriate driver (dated 2011, no idea where it found those) which ironically seemed to work, but of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone and had to try for the 2014 ones, then it couldn’t detect the soundcard again, and then only detected the soundcard partially (playback was missing, but the microphone inputs were there, what?) and so on and so forth.

Eventually, one install seemed to take.

When I screwed the cover back on and righted the case, the most godawful noise started buzzing out of the box. It sounded like a dying jet engine in severe distress. A whining spinning sort of propeller noise with plenty of death rattle in it.

DEAR GOD ALMIGHTY, IS THAT A HARD DISK DYING, OR IS IT ONLY THE FRONT FAN?

Both hard disks and the fan were in the same place, so it was rather difficult to isolate the sound. Whatever it was, it sounded like it was going to tear itself apart any second now.

There was much hasty shutting down, powering off, and un-righting of the computer case back to the horizontal. Reverse those things to boot back up, but nope, even with the case flat, that noise was still unhappily going at it.

Much listening. Much gingerly touching the hard disks with the power on and that godawful noise to check for vibrations, hoping not to zap myself.

It’s the fan, I told myself. It’s probably the fan. All that movement of the case maybe jostled a wire and got it rubbing against the fan blades… or a chunk of dust fell into it and now it’s misbalanced and complaining like a very pissed off mistreated centrifuge.

Well, there’s no way I can operate the computer with that noise.

I had to get at the fan. How am I going to get at the fan with two hard disks in the way? So the front panel came off, with much struggle, and way too much fucking dust.

I guess I forgot to clean that part of it, though I vacuum the rest of the insides once in a blue moon. (It’s a see-through Cooler Master case, one tends to go for the visible stuff and forget the rest.)

It’s the middle of the night, no one sells cans of compressed air at this hour and I didn’t want to drive out and interrupt the troubleshooting process any further anyway. So enter much lugging in of the modest-power vacuum cleaner and much careful hoovering away at the fan, without touching anything (fortunately, static is still not the major issue it is in temperate countries) and without sending the fan spinning too much, which might create unwanted dynamo effects and electricity generated in the wrong places.

Powered back on. Blissful comparative silence. It was the fan after all, and it was now thankfully behaving.

Undergo everything in reverse once again. Move vacuum out of room. Replace cover. Right computer. Boot up. Cross fingers. Load Windows. Still no freeze. So far so good.

I had supper at midnight and went to bed shortly after. Not a great recipe for avoiding acid reflux, I assure you.

The next morning was a case of gingerly tiptoeing around the system, testing out listening to voice programs alone and in conjunction with GW2, getting the startup programs re-enabled and testing if GW2 and VOIP would still work, and finally reinstalling a new antivirus program (gone over to Avira now, not sure if Avast really was being too smart for its own good, but the insistent ‘feature’ ads were getting to me regardless.)

I’m still getting a mild case of audio crackles and pops when someone speaks too loudly over VOIP, but I think I can live with that over freezes for now.

I’ll troubleshoot that ANOTHER time.

Really, sometimes it takes a crisis to appreciate what you had and took for granted.

I’ll happily play with my “boring” and comfortable GW2 that apparently lacks content in relation to other MMOs and attend a daily Teq and Wurm, being actually able to hear VOIP communication, and go from node to node harvesting stuff any day over Saturday’s 18 hour troubleshooting marathon. ANY DAY. ANY TIME.

IT COULD ALWAYS BE WORSE.

WoW: 10 Years, 10 Questions

Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated...

Like it or not, WoW has been an institution in the public consciousness for a very long time.

The 10 Years, 10 Questions survey by ALT: ernative Chat seems to have taken off like wildfire and become at least a shared point of reference to unite the now disparate interests of MMO game bloggers for a time.

So why the hell not join in?

Though these are thoughts from a WoW contrarian’s POV:

1) Why did you start playing World of Warcraft?

I attempted it twice.

Once was juuust before the game officially launched, when I decided that even though I was burned out like hell on the raid concept and avoided Everquest like the plague, I may as well take advantage of the FREE beta to give the game a fair shake before dismissing it.

It took about 3 continuous days of leaving the computer on in a sweltering tropical climate wondering if I should use up even more electricity by running the air-conditioner for 72 hours to cool the computer down to download the client.

Something about their fancy bittorrent strategy to save bandwidth costs on their end, wasn’t playing well with my ISP. My download speeds were throttled, and throttled good.

That was, perhaps, not the best of first impressions.

Of course, since I left it till the last minute, I literally had about 1 hour of game time, snatched in the morning before I had to leave for work, after which WoW would officially launch and I’d have to pay to play it. Box + Sub fee. Quite a big hurdle to overcome.

I made a Tauren… something. Druid, I think.

Logged in, admired how clearly they laid out everything for newcomers to the genre (I’m a big fan of well-designed tutorials, even if I don’t need them, because well, they show good design and successfully attracting and retaining newbies without turning them off = success) and attempted to do some quests.

Somewhere just past retrieving something from the well, and facing the prospect of goodness-knows-how-many Kill X Whatevers quests in a tutorial area I’d seen was small and cramped and limited (for those said newbies not to be confused, I geddit), I said, there’s no way I’m getting past this in an hour, this is kinda boring, I don’t want to raid anyway so no interest in endgame, so what is the point of advancing further? Just to see numbers exponentially go up?

Then I nope’d right out.

Cue a long period of doing just fine without WoW and forseeing burn out of many at around year 4.

Couple years later, colleague at work started playing WoW like an addict, bringing his shiny new laptop in to sneak in game time during downtime periods.

Ended up essentially spectating him leveling, going through Battlegrounds and so on, mostly with a tolerant knowing smirk that the raid endgame wasn’t for me and trying to sell him on City of Heroes instead.

We sort of peer pressured each other to try out our favorite MMOs. For a time, anyway. Like the free month on the box, in both directions.

The one thing that ended up selling me on a second try of WoW was the smoothness of how his hunter went from mob to mob killing stuff. I -love- smooth, slick, medititative combat grind or farming, whatever term you want to use when referring to killing a whole bunch of easy mobs in quick succession.

The animations were quick and responsive and a little cartoony but just felt good even while merely watching him play.

I guess I could stand to buy a now-cheaper box bundle of WoW plus the Burning Crusade expansion and just enjoy the feeling of combat for a while.

2) What was the first ever character you rolled?

Tauren Druid, I guess. Because it could shapechange and stuff, and I like monster-y races.

I rolled it a second time when I re-tried WoW again, and this time managed to get up to the level where you could turn into a bear, and then the feral cat. Enjoyed the smoothness of the feral cat DPS combat quite a bit, but then had hunter envy watching my work colleague solo stuff and crank out level after level.

I think it was around that time that Cataclysm dropped as well. That was another reason to try WoW, I wanted to get a quick sense of the ‘before’  and then see the ‘after’ and check out what had been  ‘improved’ on.

Post-Cata, I rolled an Undead Hunter – a skeleton archer that ended up reminding me of Clinkz from DOTA.

That became essentially my “main” or the leveling character that got the furthest ahead, up to level 63, thanks to the well-arranged but very meta-gamey post-Cataclysm quest hubs.

I got up to the first flying mount level, flew around for a bit, ended up in the… Outlands, is that what it’s called? The Burning Crusade content level range, which was still full of the oldschool BORING Fed-Ex Kill Ten Rats shit (except now it was more like kill 27 somethings, and there’s a good chance it won’t drop the entrails you want anyway, so it’s really kill 33 more)… and cracked.

Couldn’t take it anymore, and gave it up as a bad idea yet again and ended the sub.

To this day, the poor skeleton guy is still logged-off somewhere in that other dimension.

3) Which factors determined your faction choice in game?

Horde for life!

Um, I played orcs in the Warcraft RTS games?

Because there were far more interesting monster-like and ‘ugly’ races over Horde side than the boring pretty humanoid ones on the Alliance side?

And it didn’t really matter anyway because I just hopped to another server and rolled a Draenei and a Worgen to try them out, the only two races I had a real interest in on the other side.

4) What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why?

Let’s see: it would either have to be the first breaking point where I nope’d right out of the last 5 hours of the beta.

Or it would be somewhere around that time where I went swimming to some island just off the Orc coast (I can’t even remember what class that Orc was), across the way from some NPC troll village and then accidentally died to a shark or something in the water.

I’d apparently crossed some zone boundary or other without knowing it, because I turned up as a ghost at the ‘nearest shrine’ and when I rezzed there because there was no fucking way I was going to retrace my footsteps all the way back to the frickin’ ocean, I was like level 15 in a level 30+ zone.

EVERYTHING was a deep deep purple.

Cue a whole series of deaths, where I was calculating my chances of dying in sequence trying to ‘shrine hop’ towards a zone where I would maybe stand a fighting chance?

Ended up eventually reaching a town / quest hub where I found a more-or-less affordable (ie. nearly everything my lowbie had earned via quest rewards so far) griffon ride taxi back to the “correct” zone for my level range, cursing under my breath about being penalized in monetary terms for exploring, instead of being a good orc peon and following the defined questing route like a carrot-seeking Achiever.

Or it would be the second breaking point where I stood in the middle of demon-infested lands and couldn’t repeat the same thing I’d been doing for the past 63 levels, just in less hidden, less streamlined and not-much-story form.

With memories like that, I suppose that explains why I don’t really play WoW.

5) What is your favourite aspect of the game and has this always been the case?

How smooth and slick the dang combat is, animations and all.

Yep.

It got someone not at all impressed with the foundations of WoW (vertical progression, bait-and-switch leveling to raid game, raid endgame) to play the game for a time, just to enjoy pew-pewing stuff for a while.

I bet they had a testing and iteration period where they really -nailed- the optimum time-to-kill for a normal mob to fall over and die, how many attacks it should take to feel right, and so on.

It works. It really does. It has this ridiculous addictive “just-one-more-mob” quality to it.

6) Do you have an area in game that you always return to?

Err… considering I can barely name any area in game, the answer has to be no.

Maybe Orgrimmar, if only because all my Horde characters end up funneled there in the “proper” course of things? An inn, because of rested XP?

7) How long have you /played and has that been continuous?

No clue.

In real life terms, maybe a month or two or three’s worth of sub time?

Not continuous, no. The longest was that two month stint casually leveling the skeleton archer, I mean, Undead Hunter.

8) Admit it: do you read quest text or not?

I tried.

Then I compared the quality of the couple of sentences to the longer elaborate sagas found in LOTRO, where I actually had a vested interest in the lore, and gave up doing it in WoW.

Easier to do like the Romans do, put on a Quest Helper mod, follow the shiny dots and arrow and play the game efficient OCD Achiever-style. It’s primarily the main playstyle that’s rewarded by ding after ding, after all.

9) Are there any regrets from your time in game?

Not personally, no.

I played what I wanted, experienced what I wanted, and stopped when I didn’t feel like playing any longer, no hard feelings.

I do kinda regret how this massive WoW giant etched into the collective gamer consciousness an “understanding” that THIS IS THE ONLY WAY THINGS SHOULD BE and that every MMO should feel and play like WoW.

But I’ve gotten over it and decided that with the passage of time, enough people will burn out of this phase to populate other games, and one may as well look at the silver lining and say that the WoW zeitgeist at least introduced a ton more people than would have otherwise got into MMOs or games to the basic concept.

10) What effects has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming?

Not very much?

Perhaps providing a vague frame of reference or conversation topic, where one actually meets another person in real life who admits to playing MMOs and then it turns out that they only blindly and faithfully play WoW, and then we end up exhausting that as a subject because it’s either I smile and nod politely while they tell me all about the next piece of gear they’ve gotten from a random roll (sorta like being accosted by that stereotypical someone who just wants to regale you with all the stories his last D&D character got up to, though that’s never really happened to me)…

…or they try to get me hooked “You should play too,” which then naturally segues into asking why I don’t, and them blinking with uncomprehending eyes while I bite down on the words ‘endless treadmill’ and ‘hamster wheel‘ and try to explain the difference between vertical and lateral progression options, and inclusive versus exclusive mindsets, and how clever game design can affect the way players behave in-game.

The conversation tends to stop after that.

Uh, yeah. Not much.