Retrospective

If there’s one thing I would not have predicted, so many moons ago, it’s that raiding in GW2 would successfully kill my desire to blog.

Not in the usual “I hate raids” hermit-y grouch sense, mind you.

It was a combination of things:

  • Yes, there was the tension between the hypocrisy of continuing to raid…

(reasons: a) no Legendary armor alternative; b) the -need/craving- to see all content successfully completed; c) maintain network of -competent- players in one’s timezones for future content, outcasting = no more success, d) yeah, the challenge / puzzle inherent in difficult content is somewhat entertaining, even if the need for 9 other people’s schedules to coincide is not)

…while philosophically being opposed to the divide that raids create. (More on that later.)

  • There’s my chronic allergy to all things drama.

I had long ago resolved that I would never write in fine-grained detail about anything that happened (good or bad) in my raid group, or the people and personalities and politics and stories of any other raid group I heard about, for that matter.

The Oceanic/SEA community in any game is a pretty small one, and when you compress it down to people that want to raid, even -smaller-. The raid guild I’m in appears to have subsumed a fairly hefty majority of this population.

Hell, I would not be surprised to find a fair number of this group have experienced the same Age of Conan/Warhammer/Aion exodus as I, just spread across various guilds and organizations. Bottom line, this is a very tiny community. Hardcore players talk and know each other, stories can spread like wildfire.

Some people love gossip. That’s not wrong. I don’t. And I choose not to contribute to it.

This does, however, pose something of a challenge to writing when you’re consciously stifling a part of yourself and your experiences, editing before word is even laid out on the blank page, so to speak.

It may not have killed the idea muse, but it did steal some of the desire to even sit down and begin.

  • There was the lack of positive feelings about anything Guild Wars 2, or a desire to promote it by writing about it.

I don’t know if any of my readers were tired of it, but -I- was tiring -myself- with all the negativity and complaining.

So I tried the ol “if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all” routine, and what do you know… I ended up not saying anything at all.

Whoops?

You know, I don’t even think it’s the game at this point. I am sure many many people are discovering GW2 and playing it at different phases in their life and are having tons of fun.

-I- just seem to have boarded the down escalator to the burnout basement, and am just about treading water by raiding once or twice a week and then dropping the game like a hot potato before the burn hits the third-degree.

I was pondering why this was the case all throughout November and December, hoping to develop it into some kind of blog revelation. I did actually figure out -something- fairly revelatory, which is that…

  • The divide in GW2 has gone too deep. I can’t really relate to the current community. I don’t feel like a part of it anymore. This causes disassociation, from almost everything GW2.

In nearly every Reddit thread about GW2 lately, there is this constant conflict of “no, you’re wrong” sentiment from people in different camps.

I’m sick of it.

I don’t even care what the two camps support or hate any more. I just wish they’d stop sniping at each other all the damn time.

Except, of course, they won’t.

So the only way I’m not going to see any of their crap is to stop reading and stop participating in the community.

Hey, it works for me. It works for the argumentative guys. Maybe it doesn’t work for the devs, or maybe it does, but you know what, it’s none of my damn business.

So I’ve mostly stopped commenting on the GW2 Reddit, besides the odd craving to dispense sage advice to newbie questions or upvote-whoring sarcasm/jokes from time to time. I spread out and lurk in other friendlier Reddits and enjoy reading those posts instead.

On a less complaining but still worriedly alienating note, eavesdropping on much of my raid guild’s Telegram conversations (ie. a third party messaging app) also brought home some important thoughts to consider. Mostly, they ran along the lines of:

These are nice people, but these are not -my- people.

Let me explain. Age is a big factor. In the endless scrolling conversations of short pithy phrases, 90% of them Twitch memes or spamming of emojis (Telegram calls ’em Stickers, apparently), it is relentlessly brought home to me that I don’t get it, I don’t have the cultural context for this, we have moved from the age of the Millenials to Generation Z.

Being a cusper, I can usually get to grips with various generational tendencies without really 100% identifying with them, but you know, Gen Z has me beat. I have no idea what they’re saying half of the time. They’d rather use voice chat over the microphone than type anyway; reading is hard and text is for sticker spam.

That I can communicate enough to raid successfully with them is already a pretty hefty accomplishment, with a lot of generosity and goodwill extended across generation borders. (Hey, plenty of other groups will say, no mic=no join us, and so on.)

Then there’s time. Gen Z is in college. (Granted, half or more of my particular raid group is working, so we may be slightly older than average.) No, duh, why should we be surprised that the people with the most interest in raiding can spare (and spend) heaps of time in a game due to their real life circumstances?

I thought I played GW2 at a fairly hardcore level. The amount of time some of the people I eavesdrop on spend in-game boggles my mind. Not judging, mind you. I’ve had my heavy hardcore months in four years of GW2.

But lately, it’s just seeing other people do it that put a mirror in front of my eyes and the growing sentiment inside me is that I don’t want to spend -that- many hours in this particular game any longer, because I have other interesting priorities that would be shoved to the wayside if I did.

And there’s mindset. Challenge-seeking, continual improvement, competitiveness, optimal min-maxing, unsoweiter. Not everyone who raids is on one extreme – which is good, because otherwise I’d never get a spot.

There’s a spectrum. There’s people like me that espouse the above just long enough to break whatever necessary threshold there is to hit success before satisficing, and then there are the maximizers who never ever goddamn stop. (And those sprinkled in the middle, of course.)

Needless to say, satisficer and maximizer mindsets do not mix terribly well. I get where the maximizers are coming from, there’s a certain joy from doing what they do; it’s just that they do fail to understand now and again that others don’t share the same time or priorities as they – or perhaps they do, and they’re just willing to eliminate those others from consideration in their narrowing search to optimize further. Who knows. “Not my people”, so talk remains at a professional / acquaintance level.

For those reasons and more, November/December for me was spent in a sort of low-level gaming crisis of faith. I kept hoping for some kind of revelation to blog about, while experimenting in various directions.

Something did eventually come together, but strangely enough, I didn’t feel like I had the energy or motivation to blog about it until today, on New Year’s Eve.

It’s a combination of a few small-scale revelations, really:

  • Guild Wars 2 has become just another game among many. I don’t want it to be my life any more, aka not my “primary” game or MMO.
  • I may, in fact, give up “primary” game thoughts in order to visit more of my game backlog. Dunno. It may be just “play what I feel like” any given month and if something becomes primary that month, so be it.
  • I was getting really antsy about having too many tasks I wanted to do on my plate, and wishing that they were all magically done and complete without having to spend the time. An impatient pipe dream, yes. I needed to somehow resolve this so I could stop driving myself nuts.
  • Patient gaming is a thing. I ran into this concept idly trawling through Reddit – there’s a whole subreddit of patient gamers. They use the term mostly to describe those who lag months and years behind the wave of “new” before playing games. (Huh, I did that already. I did not know there were others like me. *subbed*)

What I’ve been doing this December is an odd foray into something beyond patient gaming – I would call it “slow gaming” except that phrase has been already snapped up by others to describe completely different things – slow-paced deliberate games, low-stakes idle interludes, a longer, sustained experience on an extended timescale.

It’s the last that comes the closest, the idea of extending the timescale of play.

You see, an inventory of tasks and projects suggested I had way too many priorities to keep in play at any one time.

I wanted to do stuff in GW2 like PvP more, learn/gear more classes for raids, collect legendary armor things, force myself to fractal, make legendary weapons, at the same time that I wanted to play Breach League in Path of Exile to death, continue with Terraria’s expert mode, re-visit Minecraft, dabble with other Steam games, not to mention catch up on some nostalgic gamebooks – digital and analog, think about solo playing some tabletop RPGs, catch up on digital magazines, read new books, explore interactive fiction, make my way through courses on Udemy and Coursera like programming and pixel art, exercise more, maybe with the help of Pokemon Go, prepare healthy lunches for work, find a new pottery teacher…

… clean house before the coming year’s super-early Chinese New Year.

Oh, and blog more.

Yeah, right. So going to happen.

I’m not a specialist. I don’t do deep-diving or seek mastery at one thing for 10,000 hours until I become an expert. Razor focus on one thing is not me.

Being a generalist, though, risks overwhelm. So here I am, idly flipping through one of Barbara Sher’s positive pep talk book for generalists with many interests, whom she calls “scanners,” looking for inspiration and advice. Then it hits me.

It’s not anything in the book per se, though there’s a lot of encouragement and cool tips and tricks that might work for some people or at different points in our lives. She suggests that certain scanners might be happy exploring different interests every month, or perhaps spending two years on one thing before going on to another.

The timeframe is too long, I think, and I have -so many things I want/need to do.-

But what if I bring it down to a week, and in that week, I don’t focus on one thing, but say, three things?

Three top priorities, in other words, and because it’s just a week, I can quickly elevate something else to be top priority the next week. The system supports fast iteration.

I can drop GW2 without too much guilt one week (beyond the bare minimum) and spend the time on other constructive pursuits; then the next week, I could PvP or catch up on Wintersday festivities without too much guilt that other things are not getting done.

Experiments in December have not been without its ups and downs (there was deliberate procrastination on one priority for at least two weeks, in part due to being plain exhausted from real life.) It’s a work in progress.

It does seem like something that might suit my particular patterns of cyclic interest fairly well, and more successfully, it has diminished the frequency of relentless restless “I wish it were all done, now” impatient thinking.

We’ll see how it goes for 2017.

In other news, I have run ManicTime (as introduced by Endgame Viable) for over a full year now.

jan-mar2016

  • Red – Guild Wars 2
  • Grey – Minecraft
  • Light Brown – Path of Exile
  • Black – Shadow of Mordor
  • Yellow – Stardew Valley

apr-jun2016

  • Dark Red-Brown – Total War: Warhammer

jul-sep2016

oct-dec2016

  • Green – Terraria

I chopped the looong graph up lazily, so there’s no more axis on three of the charts, but meh, it’s an amusing look at the games I spent the most time on this year.

There were plenty of less than 10 hour dabbling with other games, but I didn’t feel like mentioning those this post.

Big trends for me that I’ve noticed is that GW2 time stayed relatively constant across the year until it took a big hit in Nov-Dec during my little gaming crisis of the faith.

Total gaming hours also got whacked significantly in December (Nov was like a little practice run where I transferred my obsessive attention to Terraria before cutting back.)

Path of Exile is always something I can rely on to spread focus as well, played in spurts throughout the year.

Man, I want to play more Minecraft and Terraria. Maybe next year. 🙂

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A State of Contentment

Happiness is a bunch of Labyrinthine Cliff screenshots...

The usual blog silence descends when I’ve run out of things to say, beyond an update on what I’ve been up to, games-wise:

Games I’m Playing

Guild Wars 2 – Next Living Story is slated for one month from now. Whoosh.

Welp, it gives people time to get Wildstar out of their systems, I guess.

I’m more or less done with Festival of the Four Winds, beyond an occasional peek into the Crown Pavilion when I feel like it, along the same irregular pace I keep for Teq and Wurm. That is, once every 3-7 days.

cliffs_overview

Same with the Labyrinthine Cliff events (maybe I’ll get another Favor of the Bazaar sometime this month!) and the Queen’s Gauntlet (maybe I’ll get a Chaos of Lyssa! Nah… I don’t believe in delusions of lucky drops, even with the latest patch, but I may as well convert spare tickets into tokens.)

8 Orb Liadri is still beyond me for now.

I just can’t muster any desire to craft a very distinct build plus gear -just- to do it over 90+ times, given how my latency affects orb pick-up speeds. Over on Reddit, an Aussie DnT guy mentioned that he took 80+ tries, while looking on in envious contrast at his NA guildmates, so I have no illusions about the amount of effort it’s going to take.

Plus framerates of 20 are likely not the most ideal, so I think I’ll just wait for the next year’s Festival or the one after that, if and when I finally get the spare cash and time to get around to upgrading my computer.

I might get around to another bout of screenshot taking in the Cliffs sometime this month...
Maybe one more round of screenshot taking in the Cliffs sometime this month…

I’ve dropped back comfortably into my old routine of logging on for an hour or two to finish my dailies and gather all the things.

Yes, I’m weird, I really like gathering all the things. My watchwork pick has been a great purchase for me on this front, since my commenters talked me into going for it.

(They convinced me it’s really all about the individual. I can’t see any use for the salvage-o-matic, for example – I’m getting far more orichalcum and gossamer from salvaging via Mystic or Master kits, and I calculated it’s enough to pay for even Master kit usage if and when I finally run out of Mystic Forge Stones. Just leave leather giving items for basic kits, though I do tend to just shut my eyes and salvage when using Mystic kits.)

Every couple of days, I get enough watchwork sprockets to auction off and put a couple gold in my pocket, saving me from the chore of enduring a couple dungeons – which I’m not a great fan of. I won’t say it’s anywhere near a great income stream (running a world boss choo choo train and selling the rares will probably net the same or more) but it enables me to get some pocket money while doing stuff I -like- to do.

Every now and then, I break routine and do part of said world boss choo choo train, or poke into a dungeon (or even a fractal yesterday and a guild TA aetherpath today!) or hop into WvW for a change of pace – and it all feels as it should be.

Dolyak photo bombs are another great way to break routine.
Dolyak calf photo bombs are another great way to break routine.

A true amusement park functioning like it ought to – come in, play the minigames or go for the rides you want, leave when you need to, no obligations, subscriptions or regret required.

Terraria – The anticipated relaxed pace of GW2 for the next month gives me time to poke around other games. A whole flock of NBI bloggers appear to have taken up residence in J3w3l’s Terraria server, and I’m poking my head in, as well.

A big patch or two seems to have been introduced since the last time I played it with J3w3l, and there’s plenty of stuff to explore and look forward to as well.

The world’s not in hard mode yet, as I think other players are still starting from scratch, but the big kahuna at the end appears to be the Frost Moon event, said to be harder than the Pumpkin Moon waves we were fending off the last time.

It’s all good, because this gives me time to work on building cool stuff without getting worried about nasty mobs or corruption coming around the next corner.

I played around with some pixel art – pretty much a first for me.

It's a platform game, right?
It’s a platform game, right?

Got re-obsessed with the Great Biome Project – saving all the trees and biomes for posterity in their little penned-off convenient-to-access zoo enclosures…

Saving the trees...
Saving the trees… one rectangle at a time. Still have space for Hallow trees once we get to that point.
In Africa, they set aside sanctuaries for lions. In Terraria, antlions are the endangered species.
In Africa, they set aside sanctuaries for lions. In Terraria, antlions are the endangered species. This is all Eri’s fault, by the way. Beyond numerous potholes in the desert, -somebody- also insinuated my project failed the last time around! Well, three rows of desert this time! I saw three antlions spawning once!

And working on digging my fallout shelter in preparation for hard mode.

Unfortunately, lead is not a valid material for lining walls with. Tinfoil will have to do.
Unfortunately, lead is not a valid material for lining walls with. Tinfoil (or tin plating) will have to do.
Dooown the vault shaft, into the decontamination tank.
Dooown the vault shaft, into the decontamination tank.

There is a whole new FISHING system which looks deliciously fun to play around with.

Catching critters for bait, as well as critters to turn into a terrarium collection (the rabid collector in me demands a whole laboratory floor of them at some point), and then catching a whole bunch of new and rare fish in various biomes, and having some kind of quest to turn them into the Angler NPC…

Haven’t had time to play around with this as much as I’d like, but definitely intend on getting around to it.

also works great as
The decontamination chamber also works great as an underground fishing pond on my doorstep.

Path of Exile – My new favorite game, which is working great in conjunction with the above two.

I “finished” normal difficulty on my Shadow at around level 35ish… only by some definitions of the word, because the last two maps ramped up pretty insanely in difficulty and I was sure I wasn’t in the right gear or build for completing it properly. I couldn’t be arsed to switch out my haphazard gearing because that would mean dealing with three stashes’ worth of inventory management I’d been putting off, so I went the waypoint rez route instead.

LOTS of death, LOTS of rezzing. Nickle and diming the last boss to death with poison and an occasional hit before exploding into bloody gore.

Totally doing it wrong, I know.

But I just kinda wanted to see the end of the story content.

After finishing Act III and watching the end credits roll, I found myself back in Act I… on the new Cruel difficulty, one step up from Normal.

Still level 35.

OH. Then it hit me that one was going to have to play through Cruel and Merciless to get to those lofty level 90ish heights.

*gulp*

There are experience point penalties for death in those two harder difficulties, so it was time to say goodbye to waypoint rushes. (Ah, I hardly knew ye, dear strategy, now obsolete…)

I took a short break to roll up two new characters, a Templar (str/int hybrid) and a Ranger (pure dex), and fooled around in the lowbie levels for a bit, feeling out the differences in gameplay and playstyles. Both were taken to the Ambush League, which apparently had a different stash and economy from Normal (until the league ends, anyway.)

Realizing that suddenly made the chore of inventory management a lot less onerous, when I figured out that there wasn’t going to be much point trying to hoard gear to twink out new characters in Normal, because I was going to start them in Ambush (until July ends anyway.)

So I logged back into the Shadow character, and cleaned my four stash tabs up. Also in the process, upgrading all my gear as much as I could, and re-evaluating all my skills and gems and refining the build further.

Then I took him out for a spin on Cruel difficulty, to find that the difficulty was back to being just right, and even a bit more exciting now that I had to take a bit more care in what I aggro’ed and fought and positioned myself.

The loot shower was also a lot nicer, with more blue magic items dropping and a couple rares, so the rewards seem rather in tune too.

(No doubt at some very high level point, blues will be like trash and maybe rares will drop like candy, but, for now, things feel good and like an improvement.)

In fact, the rewards in the side passage maps were so tasty my inventory and stash started filling up exceedingly rapidly.

I’m now pondering a convenience microtransaction purchase at some point soon-ish to enable the way I prefer to play. (Toss a whole bunch of loot in the various stash tabs while clearing a map or two, then sit in town to slowly clear out the loot, evaluating it and selling it.)

I don’t have to, of course. I could just clear stuff out as and when it comes, or choose not to pick up relatively valueless blue drops, but meh… pacing-wise, I prefer the above.

So it’s likely I’ll talk myself into putting down $20-30 for Path of Exile at a near point in the future, and I think that’s fair enough.

I got a whole game’s value out of it, playing for free, and now that I think I like it enough to keep playing, at higher levels of difficulty and challenge, with more varied characters and builds, it seems attractive enough to expand my bank space further to accommodate those characters, while at the same time, paying Grinding Gear Games for the game and online service.

League of Legends – Still waiting for an NBI blogger game. 🙂

On the back burner otherwise, but definitely looks attractive as a whole new game (and genre) to learn, with new systems and new gameplay expectations.

I like and approve of the microtransaction model as well.

I’m just not really driven by the whole competitive league and ranking aspect of MOBAs, so random join PvP games don’t really sound like something I would choose to inflict on myself on a regular basis, except when I get the rare whim. Sounds just like PUGing a dungeon, except now there’s even more personalities to create drama when one side inevitably loses.

I would need a regular team of friends with which I’m used to playing with, which can then proceed to match itself competitively with others. Or solo, I’m likely to just end up playing a random cooperative bot game for some mild fun.

Either way, dabbling is good for the moment. There are only so many games one can play at any one time.

Games I’m Not Playing

The Elder Scrolls Online – All this “quitting TESO” talk of it feeling like a singleplayer RPG is making me -want- to play it, lol.

I -like- singleplayer soloist games.

Except I’m nervous about the bait-and-switch at the very very end, where apparently you’ll need a group THEN (after how long singleplayer?)

And buying a box for $60 and paying a sub fee for $15 every month is a hurdle I simply cannot get over.

Let’s see, compare and contrast the potential gameplay value I get out of Path of Exile and League of Legends spending LESS than $75, or pay $75 to give TESO a try?

Sounds like paying $150 for an ArcheAge alpha to me.

If you really reaally like the game and setting and all, maybe it’s worth it then.

(For example, I am likely to be a premium-paying sucker for Eternal Crusade, as long as it doesn’t blow up on a technical front, like crashing or lagging very few seconds. The attraction of just being in a Warhammer 40k universe is -that- powerful. I mean, it can’t do any worse than Warhammer Online, right? *stares at Collector’s Edition box collecting dust* Welp, WAR was a fun first month, anyway.)

For anyone else, it’s really not. (Heck, I’m still waiting for a 75% off sale for Skyrim DLC.)

Wildstar – Sorry, I have a home in GW2, I no longer do launch crowds.

Especially not for vertical progression games that play just like WoW, even if it’s on sci-fi steroids.

I’m content to follow along with the various blogs that are covering it.

I’m getting various amusement kicks from the ones that protest about its challenge and its “hardcore” nature, and enjoying myself leaving *hardcore* chants all over the comments of the sites I think can take the light-hearted pokes.

The game is what the game is.

Take it for what it is, if you’re going to play it.

If you disapprove of its fundamentals, you -shouldn’t- be playing and supporting it with your wallet to begin with.

But I will wait and see how many hype hamsters wash out after a month or three, when they can no longer stand the HARDCORE.

They must not have been *hardcore* enough!

If you’re just having fun with the leveling aspect and playing around with its housing and dabbling in its casual parts, and content enough to pay the sub fee for those aspects only, and not at all perturbed by being weaker numerically in gear, I promise to leave you guys and gals alone though.

I’ll just read the blogs and enjoy the stories and screenshots from a distance.

If the game ever gets cheaper, or moves away from its rampant Achiever-driven RAIDS SO HARDCORE stance to pay attention to the bulk of people that are enjoying its more casual aspects, I might join ya’ll for a bit of fun…

…but not before.

Grouping and Soloing in Terraria Hardmode

Cowabunga!

Over on the Terraria end, hard-mode has been my drug of choice.

I find that I enjoy the challenge of facing something difficult and initially pwns your face off, but then steadily working out how to defeat it via better and creative tactics (and possibly incrementally better gear.)

The big BUT is that I can accept this quite easily in a singleplayer or small multiplayer game, but somehow the flow seeking for optimal challenge seems to break down in a big MMO.

One major difference that I can think of is that Terraria allows creativity of block placement and the ability to alter your scenery. You get to dig trap pits, walls and barriers to shield yourself, plot and plan and set up regeneration stations (<3 my honey pits) and the eventual reward of this industry is the capacity for “easy fun” when the mob progresses to the “on farm” phase, where you stand around, hold down a mouse button and cackle as things die and loot drops.

In a big MMO, progress is more measured by how good your gear gets, and how well your group/raid members play.

In Terraria, there is incrementally better gear as well, but progress on that front is generally a lot faster.

RNG chances of 0.5% – 1% are a LOT more palatable when you can go through one mob in under a few seconds and can generate hundreds of them in under an hour.

Contrast this with an MMO raid where you only get to test the favor of the RNG gods once a night for maybe twice a week at best and things start to get annoying very quickly.

Mobs in Terraria can be soloed. I’m not at the mercy of waiting for others to match my timings and praying they or their gear is up to the fight.

They’re also easier in a group, so there is still incentive to come together when everyone is online.

And of course, the most fun in Terraria arises from the creative collaboration. Taking the ideas of one person and then running with it, being inspired by and improving on it.

arena

The old new arena, you may recall, was a clean glitzy place marred only by the record of our untimely demise at the hands of Skeletron when we summoned him on a whim a little -too- close to the dawn.

Post-hardmode, one thing has pretty much led to another.

Our group ‘boss’ project has been the Pumpkin Moon event, a series of 15 waves to be fought during the space of night. Logically and rightfully, it’s a lot easier to push the waves when there’s more of us around than attempting to solo. (But you could always summon it solo and still try it out, so there’s no nasty restriction there.)

Eri and I once attempted the event as a duo, and got to something like Wave… 4? Memory fails. From there, we noticed the tendency of mobs to start falling into certain locations, like a lake bed, and the idea was born to start playing mechanic and wiring up traps to defeat the smaller mobs more easily. (Also conveniently getting all of us familiar with the new stuff to boot.)

Each person has built upon the ideas of the other, and our new arena is pretty danged lethal. (Note: Keep hands and feet and body away from machinery when spiky balls are in operation!)

newnewarena

The assorted junk at the center of the arena was also a collaborative effort. I stuck a honey pit and campfire (and later a heart crystal) there cos I loves me some stacked regen. I put a clock there too cos I hate shuffling around my accessories trying to check when night was coming via a GPS.

Eri set up teleporters for kiting bosses, and a bed spawn point, and a chest and other conveniences have popped on in.

I wanted to play with asphalt.

I had 999 pieces of gel to use up, and the thought of running places at double the speed was very appealing to my lazy soul. Especially for getting to the dungeon quickly to farm all the goodies inside.

What better to use it on than Eri’s already set-up highway?

Followin' the black brick road...
Followin’ the black brick road…

Of course, sometimes collaboration has a cost. It involves compromises.

The new and improved lethal trap corridor below our arena necessitated the removal of a scenic lake. Someone’s *cough* lazy draining methods have turned it into a somewhat boring rectangular underwater reservoir.

reservoirdeath
I see it also claimed the life of its builder. Hooray for turtles and their were-merfolk ability!

Of course, all this means is the ability to re-collaborate and re-improve on the design.

I’m still pondering what to do with the stored water. I recently worked out how to pump liquids with pumps and wires and am somewhat eager to play with it. Just need a good idea.

I installed a bit better lighting because turtles are still blind as a bat (need to farm my nice white light off dungeon mobs at some point), took the opportunity to redecorate my tunnel in the gaudy fashion of someone who really likes those crystal shards but has no real sense of what’s appropriate, and stuck in a new door for one more minor mob speedbump before they pop in to plague me in the midst of crafting stuff.

Oh, and I also repaved the new way up (the one that doesn’t involve flying head on into a hundred spiky balls) with asphalt, just because.

It makes a hilarious fun slide into the other pond on returning from the castle.

And the cost of the speedy new west highway?

pumpkintunnel

Someone’s pumpkin has a hole in it. A very straight worm drilled through it. That’s what a little bird told me. Yes.

Halloween’s over. Pumpkins rot, y’know?! (At least, partially.)

My creations tend to be more on the ugly but functional side of things. Especially for speeding up farming of items I want, but am too impatient to spend hours waiting for.

Terraria has been kind enough to allow increasing mob spawn rates by standing by a water candle and drinking a battle potion, so farming seems to be very much a part of the game.

I want the ability to summon Pirate Invasions, because they’re fun, and that requires a pirate map consumable that is used up per summon. You get a pirate map off a rare chance killing mobs in the Ocean biome. That involves walking to the edge of the map and lots of swimming, and I’ve already killed so many sharks in a prior search for a diving helmet that I could make shark’s fin soup if such an item existed in Terraria.

Solution? Enter the meteor farm. Placing 50 pieces of meteorite anywhere turns it into an artificial meteor biome, and in near end-game armor, a helpful leaf crystal acts like an autoturret that can one-shot the meteor heads that spawn to accompany the biome.

sunsandandmeteors

Ugly, but functional. And the wooden platform below catches most of the drops.

It also allows for more active participation when desired, because I can only AFK so long before getting trigger happy.

The other thing that I regularly amuse myself with is the artificial biome project.

I guess I just enjoy taming the wilderness by encasing it in easily accessible little bubbles that preserve its habitat for posterity. I don’t even mind the mobs that keep spawning from them, they make life fairly entertaining (though I do have a certain hatred for a giant fungi bulb that insists on throwing nasty spores in the air that whack an unaware person for 56 damage per spore.)

Home sweet artificial biomes. All trees finally growing.
Home sweet artificial biomes. All trees finally growing.

All attempts at preserving natural antlion populations are failing miserably. I think I need a longer desert.

All attempts at preserving the natural antlion populations are failing miserably. I think I need a longer desert.
Work has begun on an underground jungle, though so far, it's more of an underground fish farm.
Work has begun on an underground jungle, though so far, it’s more of an underground fish farm.

This World Ain’t Big Enough for the ____ of Us!

Over at Healing The Masses, J3w3l (or Eri, as I’m going to use from now on because it’s a lot easier to type!) has been singing the praises of multiplayer Terraria and what this may imply for sandbox MMO worlds, such as EQNext Landmark.

I’m here to give you the other perspective and the potential pitfalls, in a semi-serious, semi-tongue-in-cheek fashion.

Insufficient Lebensraum / Resources

Of all the things that could plague a sandbox MMO, I worry about this one the most.

The first pioneers get the best locations.

In A Tale in the Desert, areas near the chariot stops for convenient travel later get taken up very quickly. In fact, the crowd is so great that veterans tend to stay a little further away because they know they won’t have space to expand later when all the beginners are off squeezing in their little buildings near each other to form a sort of ghetto.

In my brief time with Wurm Online, anything near the spawn point was over-worked to the point of ludicrousness from the horde of new players zoning in, and I walked for miles and miles finding settlements all over (many seemingly abandoned) and I wouldn’t even dream about peak waterfront property along the coast. This was, of course, on the free server so overpopulation woes would be expected.

Over in Terraria, as the first players, Eri and her friend Grish have taken up the spot that most people in single-player games will build on. On the surface right near the spawn location. (The game’s design encourages this as the guide needs to be housed in a building, and between hostile mobs and his pathfinding AI… let’s just say we want a roof over his head pretty quick.)

They built themselves a massively grand castle.

bigasscastle

(And it just underwent a recent renovation to make it even grander. It’s lovely to behold.)

Now, being that I’m a guest and don’t want to be rude, it makes little sense to try and settle in the same space they’re using. So I looked around, found some real estate near them but off to the west a little and decided to go mostly underground.

If you’re a new settler coming by to the server at this time, your only other option nearby at this point is probably a base in the sky overhead. (The east side is over-taken by corruption.)

Or you’ll have to move a little further off to the west – though you’ll have to contend with a small lake and our sky bridge highway in the vicinity.

I did find two fairly creative buildings – a treehouse and a small obsidian underground lair – in my explorations, but I’m not sure if they were made by the starting pair or natural spawns or by well-equipped visitors popping by.

As for resources, well, suffice to say that you’ll be picking up after our leavings.

I had to do a much deeper and expansive exploration to find copper and lead (iron equivalent) as I’d started a new character. Fortunately, I like exploring and the other two seem more in favor of long highways and tunnels, so I managed to sneak into a niche of going around all the naturally formed caves, breaking vases and grabbing the abandoned ore that the two were no longer interested in after a while via progression.

For anyone coming in now, my suggestion would be to travel along the well-lit areas and venture further out. Just like the other two, I’ve now stopped digging out every last copper and lead ore I see, I only stop for gold and higher.

Chests with equipment in them? Haha. I didn’t see any for a while, until I started venturing into the unexplored caverns.

Luckily, like a number of players, underwater does not seem to be a hit with the two.

I wandered over to the East Ocean, struggled with trying to learn the new changes to the biome, made a makeshift survival elevator down into the water to get easier access to the bottom without drowning by being too gung-ho, and discovered it doubled up rather nicely as a shark trap. Rampant OCD farming for a while yielded a Diving Helmet and Jellyfish Necklace. (Fortunately, mob spawned resources are forever.)

Eventually, I made it over to the West Ocean to find that there were still two water chests left there – one with a Breathing Reed and one with Flippers inside! So now I have Diving Gear. New niche: Underwater Warrior Extraordinaire.

If you’re looking for those items, you’re now outta luck when it comes to the oceans. Maybe you’ll find a water chest randomly while digging underground.

As for the dungeon, I’m sure a good part of it has been picked over, as I dared (screamingly underleveled) into the place with them for a time until I got insta-gibbed.

World Progresses At Speed of Fastest Player

Which brings me right to my next point. Both of them had 400hp and were decked out in many shiny objects. I was waffling at around 140hp and had lead items then.

Out of pure screaming survival, I rapidly revised my goals (which were originally to explore and progress up the tiers and slowly read the wiki to catch up on changes) and did not protest when they found Muramasa in a chest and chucked it at me, because OMG, a sword that can kill things in here! (A nice sword at that.)

After which, it was an easy slippery slope to accepting the extra life crystals that were thrown at me, then picking over what seemed to be the ‘donation room’ chests to grab a better pickaxe, the first hit of demonite ore, and spare shadow armor, which immediately catapulted me several tiers ahead and expanded my exploration range much more rapidly.

donationroom

If you’re coming in now, help yourself to the stuff in the chests here. We three have been overloading it with things. I now keep finding life crystals, which I no longer need!

Last night, I got another free upgrade courtesy of Grish, who threw Palladium stuff at me. (Palladium, what the hell is palladium? Some wiki-ing later revealed it to be hardmode stuff, apparently.)

That promptly extended my range downward and I ventured into Hell to find it pretty darned survivable, as long as one didn’t try to take a bath in lava. So now I’m amusing myself collecting hellstone… for fun, I guess.

hellforgesgensandmore

It’s not like we have a shortage of hellforges here.

(Also in the background, two obsidian generators that off the scale for anything I would ever make, and a large sign pointing out the west highway.)

This is something a lot of sandbox MMO players are going to have to come to terms with. There is very little point reinventing the wheel.

In A Tale in the Desert, the first pioneers suffer through some exceedingly tedious grind with primitive technology, and proceed to unlock much better technology for all players to come.

The bottlenecks that are designed in place can be quickly overcome by making use of communal public resources, or becoming friends with a veteran player, who will usually not mind chucking resources like leather, papyrus seeds, better flax seeds to get a new player coming in late to the Telling started with a much easier time.

If you try to solo it all, you’ll probably drop out after a month or two, tops.

Obnoxious people will now proceed to throw the ‘this is a -multiplayer- game, after all’ line in your face.

As a solo-preferring player, I’d just say that one needs to be open to social interaction and opportunities that arise and adjust your niche accordingly, and use the presence of other players and communal resources as desired to get over humps that are designed into the experience.

You’re never going to come in cold and be just as good as the vet player who’s played since Day 1. Be patient with yourself, adjust your expectations, work your way through the wiki in sections, learning one aspect of the game at a time.

I started one Telling as a complete noob, and ended up sharing the resources of a nice guild that befriended a newbie. With that experience, I began another Telling solo and worked my way through that, learning additional aspects of the game. Which made the Telling after that a very easy powergamer start – I was now an intermediate-level player and probably could claim some vet-hood (but not as much as the players who had been around for all the time.)

Player Creativity May Affect Experience

Back in Terraria, I have to confess that I would never build the structures I’m seeing the pair create. They’re of a scale that is quite beyond me.

I tend to just build ugly functional rectangles.

undergroundfarmexperiment

(Underground farm experiment in perpetual state of under construction)

In a single-player game of Terraria once, the most creative thing I probably did was to balance my wood tower on top of a single door. Because the idea struck me on a whim and looked highly amusing.

In Minecraft, if I manage to make a two or three floor rectangular cottage with corresponding mine shafts and a rail line highway, that’s already a big accomplishment for me. I tend to just tunnel into a stone wall and set up operations there. Decorative architecture? Large bases? Expansive castles? Not at all likely to happen.

In a multiplayer world, -I- benefit from seeing the structures other players create. They’re a lot more beautiful than I would be able to make, I get to wander and explore and get creative inspirational ideas that I would never have come up with on my own.

Other players, however, would have to contend with my corresponding lower aesthetic sense impacting on their designs.

Differing Player Goals

Which brings us to how player goals may end up clashing in a sandbox MMO and lead to either compromises or drama.

Eri’s friend, Grish, is a veteran Terraria player. He runs around being very familiar with everything, and his goal appears to be to finally beat the hardmode bosses with the benefit of extra hands in multiplayer. Progress is dizzyingly rapid as a result. Goals clash: I compromise by inwardly shrugging and saying thank you whenever the next set of equipment I don’t even recognize is thrown at me. I can always learn at my own pace in a single-player world another time.

Eri seems to be a big decorator. The castle is her baby. A very lovely looking place it is too. Her appreciation of aesthetics is evident. Also, expansive highways tunnels for convenience. She’s taming the wilderness one straight line at a time. Goals clash: I’m just guessing, but she probably winces every time she walks past the eyesore that is my permanently-under-construction no-time-for-decorating-yet base, or the many torches I dot around the place because I’m blind as a bat and prefer all the places I go to be clearly lit up. 🙂

needmoarlight

The problem with turtles is that they can’t see worth beans.

In this case, I’m a guest. I just try not to be too annoying and go with the flow of whatever the plan seems to be.

In a sandbox MMO, what this has a tendency to promote is each person (or group of players) spreading out far enough away from another to develop their own homestead the way they like it and do their best to live and let live. Until some idiot builds too close to them – whereupon the drama starts.

Take home message: Remember plenty of lebensraum. If you’re a designer, try to make the world large enough for many players to settle in with sufficient resources not to end up fighting over them (unless that’s what you want players to do.)

Property and land ownership and access rights are going to be very important to get right, including what players are able to do with aesthetic eyesores (especially those that are abandoned.) In A Tale in the Desert, the player-arrived solution is to allow other players to remove them after a certain number of days have passed if the owner has quit the game. In Wurm Online, they appear to be left to rot slowly, I’m not sure. In Terraria, anyone can modify anything apparently, which involves a fair amount of trust and compromise.

If you’re a player, try to settle sufficiently far from other players if at all possible. One potential problem, of course, is that one’s idea of ‘sufficiently far’ is never really accurate when one is new to a game. The room needed for expansion can always end up surprisingly large.

And finally, let us not forget the griefers.

I am sure there are worlds in Terraria where friendships have been broken because some guy’s idea of fun is to go around being destructive and troll-y. Even while not trying to, we run into opportunities for potential problems.

In the earlier days of starting out, I had a bad habit of finding uneven holes to fall into, or wooden platforms that weren’t level and thus inadvertently cause a precipitous encounter with gravity and the ground. It’s not hard to extrapolate to intentional pitfall traps from there.

endoftheline

There’s always the risk that each others’ aesthetic designs overwrite or annoy one’s fellow players, and from there, it’s an easy step to intentionally trying to be offensive via trying to destroy another player’s creations or create an ugly eyesore.

In Terraria (and presumably Minecraft), the host can always boot with extreme prejudice someone being a pain.

In an MMO, rules are going to have to be built into the design as to how players can end up affecting each other, and what recourse players have if they feel someone is griefing or harassing them. Be it griefing them back or killing them (a la Eve Online and other FFA PvP MMOs of that ilk), or clear and strong land claim and property ownership rights, or being able to vote out a non-cooperating player, or having a few people with the power of enforcement and authority to turn to, etc. And when the final stage of taking it to the GMs is appropriate.

Emergent Properties and the Right Attitude

After all that, you may ask, why would anyone bother playing a sandbox in multiplayer?

I’d suggest that one should play it for what you can’t get in a singleplayer game. The opportunity for emergence that arises between player interactions and the opportunity to be social..

You can get emergence from NPCs in a single player sandbox, and you can talk to them if you want to, but they’re unlikely to return meaningful conversation 🙂

When two self-interested parties interact, one has the opportunity to choose cooperative, selfish, altruistic or indifferent behaviors.

Depending on one’s viewpoint and goals, this can lead to welcome or unwelcome results. (Someone acting in altruistic fashion may not always be welcome by someone wanting to be left alone. Someone being indifferent can be taken as a massive affront by someone with the expectation of more friendly behavior. It’s not always easy to cooperate at a skill level that matches the other and having a shared goal is often a prerequisite. Selfish behavior can benefit oneself at the expense of others, which may be the primary goal of the individual in question.)

I think it’s important to have the right attitude and expectations that all this can and will happen at different times, between different players when one plays a multiplayer sandbox, so that one isn’t surprised or disappointed when it does. It’s never paradise or utopia. It’s humans, and they bring with them heaven, hell and ordinary earth wherever they go.

notquiteheaven

If this is heaven, there are many holes in it now.

(Aka the effect of player depredation on a limited resource. Most of the building was gone by the time I arrived. I took apart a few more bricks to find out what they were. And added the tunnel to hide from harpies and collect both cloud and rain blocks. I also mined out the gold. Still silver left!)

The actions of one may also randomly impact on the landscape and others around them, which leads to unpredictable occurrences.

One can look upon them as problems / crises or opportunities to take advantage of or tell stories or laugh about.

The recent castle renovations in Terraria have necessitated a moving of the combat arena over to the west. Right on top of my house, in fact, which has now been dubbed ‘the hobbit hole.’

arena

Did I mention that I would never build something so expansive on my own? They took the opportunity to enlarge and prettify it, which is very awesome because I get to use it without expending any effort at all.

It is also really conveniently nearby. I am a very lazy person and hate walking, so all amenities close by is great. I’m big on functionality.

In the process, a water tank/reservoir was set up on top of it to create a waterfall effect. Except… there was a leak.

I was fairly deep underground digging out my glowing mushroom farm at the time, when I saw water cascade into the tunnel just a few blocks away from the farm. (Thankfully, it wasn’t connected.)

Mildly amused and relieved at the close call, I call out: Hey, there’s a leak.

Oops, comes the reply. Will fix it.

Turns out one side was a block shorter than the other.

Chuckling to myself that this exchange was something that wouldn’t happen if not in multiplayer, I finish the farm and in truly lazy fashion, use my magic mirror to port back home, barely one screen away…

Whereupon I discover that I am effectively ‘snowed in.’

frontdoor2

It’s around this point where I just crack up and die laughing because the juxtaposition of the turtle looking at his front door with that expression is priceless.

The back door was also ankle-deep in water, so opening either door would not have been the wisest maneuver. (I did, of course, eventually open the back and have to bail out some water. They came in handy for watering waterleafs later, Silver lining, laziness to walk and all that.)

This would so not totally happen when playing alone.