The Trinity Five Years Ago, and Now

Rowan Blaze over at I Have Touched the Sky had a quick blog post up today, and linked an old post he wrote about “The Unholy Trinity.”

It was written more than five years ago, in a time when WoW was king and neither GW2 or SWTOR was even out yet. (Let alone TSW or FFXIV or Rift.)

I find it an interesting look back at how the holy trinity was commonly perceived then, tank/dps/heals, fixed roles, taunting, etc.

Harbinger Zero apparently even managed to suggest an alternative trinity of offense, control and support, which *ahem* sounds suspiciously close to GW2’s later proposal of damage/support/control.

Today, looking back at our current existing MMOs, beyond alternative trinities (or quadruples or multiplicities), we see overall more of a relaxation on how fixed or difficult it is to swap roles or specs, and the provision of possibilities for individual players to “feel heroic” by temporarily swapping role/functions to off-tank, off-heal, crowd control, battle rez, what-have-you…

…Perhaps as a genre, MMOs have progressed a little further than we realize. (Even if it’s slower than some of us like.)

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2014, A Retrospective – Part 2

July

So what else happened in July besides a whole lot of blogger XCOM?

The Living Story Season 2 opens in GW2 with the Gates of Maguuma.

Right off, I take to the Story Journal like a duck to water. Maybe it’s just Guild Wars 1 nostalgia, but for those of us used to the older game, story is supposed to come in chapter-like chunks in private instances where Randomname the Ranger and his mapchat spamming friends can’t interfere with one’s immersion and interaction with story NPCs.

Besides, this means other players can experience the story at their own pace and time, which is always good for encouraging others to join the game at any time and not feel like they’ve missed out forever and have nothing but the current seasonal content to do.

There was the Dry Top zone, that steadily opened up fortnight after fortnight.

I indulged in a modest amount of farming, but didn’t go overboard since it was essentially a permanent zone. (Still working on all those Ambrite weapons to this day.)

The World Cup happened, apparently. I have forgotten, but for this post I made comparing soccer, football and the MMO trinity. Yeah, I still don’t know where I was going with that ramble.

And I spectated the DOTA 2 International, because the pros have a lot more time to play one game very well, and me, I just dabble, doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

It was a pretty good July though, until the slight letdown with the next awkward Living Story transition that attempted some open world aspects, which promptly broke down.

August

In GW2, there was Mawdrey, and the resulting Orr deforestation in the pursuit of the shiny Bloodstone Dust chomper and backpack.

Blaugust was revving up, but I was mostly busy mucking around in my personal instances chasing achievements and doing just fine at a less intense blog posting pace.

I did, however, write some general topic articles inspired by the communal productivity surrounding the Blaugust event:

  • MMOs are Dead, Long Live the Multiple MOGs – I get a terrifying amount of hits to this post to this very day. For whatever reason, there appears to be a lot of people either wishing for the death of MMOs or seeking confirmation to their demise or something… (Look, guys, just google “FPSes are dead” or “RTSes are dead” or “adventure games are dead,” you get the same stuff! Someone’s burned out and no longer interested in the genre, is all. It’s OKAY to change games. There’s no “till death do us part” vow involved.)

I also play the heck out of Path of Exile, since it launched its Forsaken Masters expansion, albeit at a super casual level.

The end of August marks a bunch of shitstorms that enveloped the GW2 Reddit for a while, most of which I avoided commenting on, because I just couldn’t muster up any indignation one way or the other. Too damned busy actually playing games here (and woirking on a sekrit project.)

I did defend the New Player Experience, since I do think it smooths out the learning curve for the group of people that need direction (and there’s so -many- of them.) Whatever gets us more newbies attracted, then attached to the game is good! Even if they have to try it out multiple times before it finally clicks!

And finally, I launch my secret project, still super rough around the edges and due for a version 2.0 some day: The Beginner and Intermediate Player’s Guide to Movement and Combat in GW2

Call it my sneaky contribution to the new player experience.

I actually forget which post and which comment started it, but the gist was that it looked like a lot of players didn’t even know -why- they were stacking in corners or how to move appropriately to break line of sight and pull mobs if something went wrong at the beginning of their ‘stack here’ strat.

Probably no one had ever bothered to explain the basics to them, the very foundations of movement and positioning, and what things like ‘kiting’ or ‘LOS’ were. The stuff and jargon MMO regulars automatically know from prior games… except GW2 is meant to also attract people who have never played an MMO before.

How many will actually find it, or bother to read it? Don’t know, don’t really care. Can’t save ’em all. Still going to meet players in-game that’ll turn your hair white.

But at least it’s out there now… so individuals who do care about getting better might find it, or have the link shared with them by others who care to help them.

It hit 3,801 views in August, and has an average of ~500 views every month, so -somebody’s- reading it anyway. If it helps one person play better, t’was worth the effort. (And hey, shameless pageview accumulation is good for my blog and my ego!)

September

Day 1: Computer troubles. Serious computer troubles. No gaming. Much troubleshooting.

It takes a good part of the day to finally narrow down the troublemaker as the Creative X-Fi card that just decided out-of-the-blue no-driver-change-or-anything that it would hang the entire operating system. Repeatedly.

I eventually yank the entire card out after a week of intermittent troubles and fall back on the built-in Realtek audio on the motherboard.

The big anticipated feature patch hits GW2, bringing the NPE, collections and a whole bunch of other changes.

That month, I am mostly all over the place like a squirrel, but end up sucked down the rabbit hole of Minecraft: Agrarian Skies.

October

October brought Bragtoberfest, the one blogging community event this year I managed to find sufficient time for proper participation, rather than just cheering from the sidelines.

I play a hefty helping of games that month, many in tandem with other people, who have all met online at a scheduled time expressly for the purpose of playing said game. This is a rather new and enjoyable experience for a grumpy hermit like me, even if I do lose some sleep over a couple of weekends and draw the line at Twitter. We play Strife, Path of Exile, Team Fortress 2 and Killing Floor.

We also play a few other games asynchronously, using blogs and Twitter to share our experiences – such as AxonMountain and some Orcs Must Die / Defence Grid.

Along the way, I’m chugging along in Minecraft and faithfully doing dailies in GW2, but there’s really nothing to write home about logging in for 15 minutes to do Daily Gatherer, Daily Laurel Vendor, Daily Kills and so on.

At the end of October, I bow out of most gaming and blogging to play the best game ever: Building mah shiny new computer.

November

Too much shiny. Too little blogging. That seems to be the story of this month.

When my luxury purchase of a GTX 980 graphics card finally arrives, I’m like a kid that hasn’t had sugar in three years suddenly let loose in a candy store with pocket money to spend.

GW2 is cranked up to high settings and everything becomes eye candy. I go after FPS games that would have previously brought my toaster to its knees, like Natural Selection 2 and Evolve. I’m just trying to play all the things – Prison Architect, various Minecraft mods, Marvel Heroes, GW2’s latest story drop that brings the Silverwastes zone (with all the attendant grind) with way too little time.

I do manage two philosophical response posts about PvP and PvE – why it’s in our best interests to get along, despite differing tastes, and trying to break down the terms PvP and PvE into more useful differentiators of preference.

December

The last month in 2014 brings the Seeds of Truth update to GW2, aka EVEN MORE GRINDING. Oh yes, and there’s a pretty jumping puzzle too.

Well, I guess we’re all grinding away in our respective games, be it Warlords of Draenor or otherwise. That’s a seed of truth too, I would surmise.

I have wound up stumbling my way into a perfectly balanced triumvirate of gaming: GW2 + Minecraft + Random Singleplayer/Steam Game holds my attention perfectly. So perfectly that I sometimes forget to blog about what I’m doing, and sometimes I still think you guys don’t really want to hear about the 30-60 minutes of doing my dailies in GW2.

I get in one more community participation event post with Bloggy Xmas – broken into two parts because I’m longwinded as hell when I get started.

  • Community and Me” is just me rehashing my old history and getting a little maudlin about old communities.
  • Community and You” is the main inspirational message to those who miss old communities and yearn for new ones. Step up. Join in. Lead. If you don’t want to lead, be the Second Man. If you still don’t have time for that, be the umpteenth follower, but join in regardless.

As Izlain and Belghast and a number of other blogs are recapping and recounting, 2014 was the year this little part of the internet figured out how to become more interrelated and create a sense of community – one overall arcing ‘blogging’ community containing lots of smaller sub-communities within.

And that’s a good thing too.

P.S. I suddenly remembered that I was supposed to also share what else happened in December that never made it to my blog.

First, the ancient 5.1 speakers and subwoofer started to give way, with the power cutting out every so often (mental note: Buy new 5.1 speakers for Christmas. T’was easier listed than done, mind you, 5.1 speakers appear to be way out of fashion now. Took me a while to find new ones.)

Then on the 19th of December, the unmistakable scent of burning electronics engulfed the room as the power supply of my old toaster of a computer finally reached the end of its lifespan. *bows head in respectful moment of silence*

The good news is that the old hard disks didn’t seem to be too affected by the blowout and I managed to salvage all the data onto an external hard disk.

The bad news is that I’ll have to locate and transfer saves if I should ever want to play stuff I was halfway through, and I’m a very lazy person when we come right down to it.

The fate of the rest of the components is still unknown, pending more free time to check them out. They’re so old, it’s hard to muster enough enthusiasm or energy to do so. One has already written them off in my head, so to speak.

Oh well, at least I successfully transitioned to the new rig before that happened.

2014, A Retrospective – Part 1

Time really flies.

I find I’ve almost forgotten what happened at the start of this year, if not for my blog posts that handily provide a historical chronicle of all the things I was up to, gaming-wise.

In retrospect, the absolutely-non-Chinese phrase “May you live in interesting times” certainly applies to my 2014.

January

After taking a good couple of weeks off for spring cleaning, I dived back into GW2 to find the Marionette and Triple Trouble Wurm upon us.

One went through a whole gamut of emotions on discovering “raids” turning up in one’s previously raid-free game – from pissed off and depressed at the general populace’s inability to learn quickly, sheer boredom at all the waiting involved before the grand fight and feeling a great loss of control when it comes to relying on random strangers to -not- be stupid, to getting almost compulsively addicted to a small slightly-more-elite (if self-selected) community of compatriots who suck a lot less than random strangers.

After more or less coming to a compromise, if not quite coming to terms, regarding my philosophy of finding raids inherently exclusive and being very allergic to them, I more or less rationalize that they are more or less “okay” in a game which doesn’t have vertically progressing stats on gear, nor exclusive highly desirable rewards coming from only one boss, nor the ability to restrict one’s team to an elite few in a separate raid instance, and more importantly, contains a raiding community large and inclusive enough to leave the door open for newcomers without ridiculous prerequisites and willing to teach others what they know.

In the spirit of this ‘willingness to teach’ and ‘share info with others’ (and also a certain amount of enlightened self-interest to get my Marionette achievements,) I dash out a Visual Guide to the Marionette’s AoEs and contrary to my personality, attempt to promote the hell out of it on Reddit to get as many eyes on it as possible.

Not only does this work, I end up quoting Portal to myself, “I’m making a note here: Huge success” when I look at my blog stats. The page hits over 4,444 pageviews in January, blowing my previous 2013 hit on Liadri (at a mere 2,711 views in the month it was released) out of the water, and I realize that I don’t actually have to do anything else in 2014 – I’ve already topped myself and can sit back, rest on my laurels and just blog about what I feel like blogging about for the rest of the year.

February

Edge of the Mists launches in GW2, an absolute non-event for me. It is so utterly uninteresting to me that I utterly miss predicting the potential popularity of it as a karma train leveling map.

I was far more interested in knocking out my Rodgort. Hurrah.

We also break for a quick philosophical interlude analyzing the watchwork mining pick, something I have to consider myself fairly spot on regarding the price of its advantage. Sprockets did indeed rise like toxic spores to around 3 silver plus, and I -did- buy the pick and get about a rare’s worth of silver daily from it. I suppose it balances itself out in the end because I don’t camp world bosses, which would also net others a rare, or PUG dungeons in that time (which would net about 3+ rares’ worth of gold).

Then we say our last goodbyes to Lion’s Arch.

And spend the last part of the month witnessing the best and worst of human nature in a crisis, artificial it may be.

2014 is also the year my old toaster of a computer slowly but steadily starts to break down, beginning with a totally avoidable accident with water into a keyboard.

March

In March, the Battle for Lion’s Arch concludes with a rousing fight/raid against Scarlet’s holograms.

The wardrobe and account-bound skin saving gets launched, to the immense glee of the fashion-conscious everywhere, and I reach a certain point of no return with GW2 – in a way, it’s a point of maturity in my mind, though it ends up being annoying in terms of having no conversation topics to write about.

It’s the point where I kinda feel that GW2 is -there.- It’s a mature game. I’m mature. I don’t have to spend my every waking moment promoting or hyping this game or feeling super-insecure because omfg, someone dared to say they hate my game on the internet. Yeah, whatever. Don’t play my game then. We have a lot of other people joining or quitting every damn second of every day. I trust that those who like it will stay. Those that don’t, won’t.

It has a good niche (as in pretty much second or third most popular MMO after WoW, depending on whose approximate metrics you’re using) as being a ‘different’ game for those who are tired of the standard MMO model, so it makes a ton of sense that those looking for the vanilla model will find that GW2 won’t give them what they’re looking for.

It’s going to receive a ton of criticism and some praise from pretty much every and any angle, and I found myself running out of new things to say about topics that are going to be rehashed over and over, or experienced in similar ways.

In the same month, I cast my eye around at other games and end up dipping a toe back into Minecraft (now with added mods!) with the Hexxit modpack. (I did, in fact, get my gold chocobo and flew it around visiting random things that caught my eye, but never really found anything more interesting to write home about. Flight sorta killed the mystique of the world.)

There was also a Landmark visitation, courtesy of Isey‘s free key, some dabbling around, with the main question bubbling up on “What’s the point of Landmark, again?”

April

I wound down quite quickly in Landmark after that, finishing up after following through some voxel tutorial videos and deciding that this ‘art’ business of working for free for SoE in exchange for ‘fun’ wasn’t quite for me. I intend to take a peek back in at it at some point, especially now that I have more of a monster rig that presumably won’t send me falling through the void at 5 FPS every so often, but I think the longer development time it has before I do so again, the better I’ll look upon it when I pop back in.

In GW2, April brought bobbleheads!

I also fritter around a lot that month, venturing to WvW and EoTM on my thief (where I figure out that EoTM is easy mode WvW for staunch PvErs), wallow around shamelessly stacking sides in hotjoin PvP, experimentally level my engineer in ‘normal map exploration’ fashion by killing all the things while going from point A to B and reach a perfectly average and normal 1 level per hour base rate (if you can’t seem to reach this pace and aren’t intentionally slowing yourself down and actually want to level fast, something is WRONG with what you’re doing.)

Then another feature patch hits, fucking up traits everywhere (many I still haven’t gotten around to unlocking, luckily most of my characters were pre-patch and grandfathered in) and the megaserver rears its ponderous head.

In retrospect, I suppose the megaserver is a necessary evil, so that newbies can join Tyria and feel like they’re in a bustling world, but I do still miss my server communities. I still don’t want to say anything about traits because I haven’t had much experience with them beyond them serving as a goldsink when I power leveled a new character to find that “AUGH, nothing’s unlocked yet. Eff it, where’s my guild bank, lemme just toss some gold at this problem. There are only a few traits I need for this meta build anyway.”

The singleplayer game of the month was Sleeping Dogs

May

…which stretched into May, and received my final evaluation of “Enjoyable. Worth experiencing.”

I wrote (or more appropriately, “assembled”) a poem during the Newbie Blogger Initiative that I was pretty proud of, especially the screenshots. It helped me reconnect with some of the things I really loved about GW2, despite some of the aimlessness and lack of goals or sense of ‘feeling’ I’d been feeling a lack of, once the first Living Story concluded.

Then I go on a game-hopping vacation, with the shortest trial of Wildstar ever, just long enough to play in Stormtalon’s Lair and PUG a few group fights in various instances, before deciding I still can’t do these vertical progression stat games which turn me into even more of a misanthrope.

I take Neverwinter for a spin, long enough to realize that its combat puts me to sleep and end up in a decent amount of love with Path of Exile. Guess I found my new “singleplayer” (*ahem*) game of the month.

The Boss Blitz hits, back in GW2, with Wildstar-like telegraphs everywhere (hooray, orange circles!) and I wax rhapsodic about frustration and human reactions to it while the whole community sloooowly adapts and learns just how to deal with this new situation presented to them. Two days later, the beginnings of hope and a few less chicken-running-around-with-head-cut-off fight participants.

The big surprise for me in May was a chance City of Heroes blog post response that got linked by Missing World’s Media’s Facebook page.

2.5 Things City of Heroes Did Wrong became an overnight hit, laden with controversy, fueling a boatload of comments from some very passionate people. Me, I wound up laughing to myself all the way to the stats bank with 1292 pageviews that month. Absolutely unintentional, I dashed off the post as a mere -response- but I guess I hit something core and fundamental, given that there seemed to be two main groups, one with some amount of agreement and one in complete disagreement.

June

In June, the bout of mild boredom burnout had all but subsided. I was happy.

The Labyrinthine Cliffs has that effect on me, I guess. Such gorgeous landscapes and lighting. I spent a day or two ostensibly playing GW2 and mostly taking Labyrinthine Cliffs screenshots for posterity. (And a good thing too, given GW2’s propensity for explosions and destruction to move the narrative forward.)

The new Living World Story Journal was announced, I got a Chaos of Lyssa recipe to drop, I even wrote a short story about my Ash Legion engineer – the technical construction of which I am quite proud of. It is absolutely intentional that there is some conflict in every scene/section, two characters want something different, who gets their way? I can be prone to forgetting the rule of conflict, so this was a good writing exercise that actually yielded something complete.

I made fun of Wildstar’s 12-step raid attunement program in a short throwaway post, which helped to spin off other blog responses and aided their comment-and-pageview-collection efforts.

And then went Steam Summer Sale crazy.

It was a really good haul and I actually got -most- of them played before this year’s Winter sale.

Tried Monaco, State of Decay, they were so-so. Played through Shadowrun: Dragonfall and enjoyed it. Gave Don’t Starve: Reign of Giants some fair enough attempts (that usually ended with my camp going up in flames from a giant Dragonfly in Summer, and losing the willpower to continue further.)

The Wolf Among Us was one of my surprise hits. Highly recommended. Great story, great atmosphere, great setting. Ended up reading the Fables comics due to it.

XCOM was the other game I thoroughly enjoyed. That spun off an extended Let’s Play series using blogger names that began at the end of June and pretty much extended all the way into July.

(I’d love to get back to this at some point, but I wound up distracted for a couple months and now it’s going to take a little longer to get back to it, if ever… for reasons which will become clear when I hit the month of December in retrospective.)