CoH/NBI: Screenshot Nostalgia Trip #5 – Scary Places

This one might also double up as a “The Scariest Place” themed post for Murf’s NBI Screenshot Challenge, except I have trouble deciding which one might be the scariest in terms of looks, nor were they exactly scary to the player most of the time either.

So I will leave it to Murf to decide which, if any, counts as part of his challenge, and continue on to the nostalgia. 🙂

coh_drvahz

In a world primarily composed of office and warehouse tilesets, Dr. Vahzilok’s set piece lair in the sewers was rather memorable. Dr. Vahz is also pretty spooky in his own right, teeny featureless face in a massively brutish body cobbled together from various bodies.

coh_cot

The Circle of Thorns are kinda magically demonically spooky… and then there were the endless Oranbega maps which nearly everyone dreaded, with its neverending corridors, connected by portals that would never let you through (your whole team would get through on the first or second try, but you’d just keep bumping and bumping into them and getting teleported back a dozen times), plus more portals that you had to close at the end (all twelve or thirteen of them, behind the narrowest tunnels and corner curves one can never spot) with the constantly respawning demons… which then got nerfed into not giving ANY xp after some patch or another…

coh_hole

Then there’s falling….

seemingly forever…

…down something that looked like the petrified gullet of a ginormous beast.

(This might have been the Eden trial, but I’m not 100% sure anymore.)

coh_maw

A set piece mission map villain-side, but I can’t remember what it was about either. I just remember the very ominous looking cavern at the end, shaped like a big ol’ toothy maw.

coh_arachnos

Arachnos-controlled areas were ominous, in a shadowy kind of way.

coh_worldburn

A hero-side map (Croatoa, I think) that happened to have a nice set piece of it being aflame, with the conceit of this screenshot implying that my fire/fire dominator and his imps were the scary badasses to blame.

coh_notskyrim

I believe this was one of the “more recent” set piece maps that entered the game nearer the end of its lifespan. I was pretty impressed by the update in graphical style, this spooky crypt entrance to a cave system looking like something that might belong more in Skyrim (or Legend of Grimrock, at least) than City of Heroes.

I dunno, I find it hard to judge what’s scary or not, because the honest truth is that I don’t really find even games specifically in the horror genre “scary” these days.

FEAR was effective on me because it was one of my first introductions to the concept of horror movie jump-scares being used in a first-person shooter game.

(Also, they twisted the then-common expectations of the time – ie. you’re always safe on ladders cos you were locked in a ladder climber animation and it would be unfair to present a player with a situation if you give them no animations to react with – almost reach the top and AHH, freaky little girl face staring right at you and then ghosting away. These days, stuff is sophisticated enough to let you dangle from ladders and shoot now, I think.)

But then I started watching a couple of horror movies and being mostly squicked out rather than scared per se at the repeated tropes that lent themselves more to gore and gross-out factor, and recognizing jump-scares for being what they were, and then I played Doom 3 and most of the horror kind of drained out of the genre from the endless repetition, and by the time everyone was singing the praises of Amnesia, I got about fifteen minutes into the game before getting bored out of my skull from the darkness and sneaking and “you don’t actually see anything but there’s spooky horror sounds and shit, and if you don’t act like how we want, it’s an instant game over, try again” mechanics…

…and stuff just stopped being scary for me because I ended up viewing them from a more meta design or film-critical lens.

“Ah, note the shaky camera angle meant to imply uncertainty in the protagonist, or induce a sense of motion-sickness in the viewer/player.”

“Here comes the mysterious magical little girl/doll meant to prey on our mental imagery of small female children being vulnerable and helpless and needing to be protected, turning instead into a monstrous crone figure or a giant threatening vulva or yeah, something of that nature.”

Also, there’s that whole ‘game’ aspect: it -is- a game, the real self is one step removed, the character you’re playing is in a scary, threatening situation, but you’re not. (At least, I hope you aren’t. Don’t look out the window at night while you’re mucking about with fictional horror, yeah?)

NBI Writing Prompt: I could cop out and ask you to tell me about (or show me screenshots of) things you find scary (or not) in your games.

Or I could ask you to write about stuff that scares you, and whether or not you have the same response in games.

(eg. Snakes and scorpions freak me out in real life, and I generally have a big healthy fearful respect of any critter that’s venomous or fatally dangerous to a human and am perfectly ok with this response and not interested in dulling this instinct.

A picture of a snake or scorpion in a game or a video is okay, no problems with that.

In real life though, I’ll just be way over there if something that could kill me is over here though.)

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NBI: Talkback Challenge #1

Great big wolfy yawn...

How GamerGate affected me: It didn’t.

Not interested in Twitter. Not interested in social justice warriors.

I don’t need a self-elected “look-at-me” celebrity purportedly fighting for “my” rights. Keyword: fighting.

fighting
ˈfʌɪtɪŋ/

noun
 1. the action of fighting; violence or conflict.

adjective
2. displaying or engaging in violence, combat, or aggression.

Like Tyrannodorkus, I chose not to participate.

I neither want to enable or acknowledge.

You may very well have a point but if you use the wrong means to do it, it can very well become counter-productive and shoot your own cause in the foot (or knee)… several times over.

Extroverts or those with a western bent (or perhaps just the activists with the herd mentality and lack of critical thinking) may think this bystanding behavior is “hiding” from issues and allowing more vocally obnoxious groups to get their way, that if you don’t automatically join up with every social group that comes your way espousing the same belief, that you must be “against us” if you’re not “with us.”

*shrug*

I’m an introvert.

I come from a pragmatic culture that blends both east and west in equal measure, that is used to keeping their heads down when political speeches start getting thrown around (cos you can get sued or thrown in jail for saying the wrong thing against the right people) and finding other quieter (almost sneaky) non-confrontational ways to affect change and sway the hearts and minds of a populace over time.

I don’t believe in binaries, dichotomies or black-and-white thinking.

The obnoxious people are doing just fine making a fool or a nuisance of themselves and getting into car accidents with a lamp post (in the case of obnoxious drivers) without anyone’s help or involvement. In fact, you risk getting hurt via their stupidity and confrontational behavior if you do join them. Let ’em win their Darwin Award elsewhere.

You don’t feed a troll with attention. You starve it by utterly ignoring it and not letting it succeed in getting a rise out of you.

(You can also quietly moderate them out with as little fanfare as possible so that their efforts go unnoticed and unremarked, or even better, costs them money, which makes them take their focus elsewhere to someone more “fun.”)

No need to bring yourself down to their level or get into a car wreck fighting with them.

You want to know who I think the real game-changers are?

The many girls and women who are simply out there playing games each day, making it a perfectly normal, everyday, boring, no-need-for-commenting-on experience. (“Dude, I Played A Game With A Girl Today!” would be kind of an amusing blog post to make in this day and age, right?)

Everybody who just goes right on ahead in our games treating everyone equally, following female raid leaders just as respectfully as male ones without a single off-color comment or sexist remark.

Folks who build, lead, join or support communities where mature, rational, respectful behavior is the norm.

Whoever in the game industry who supports and introduces more choice and customization in art assets and the depiction of PCs and NPCs to represent a broader and more diverse representation of humanity (and other fantasy races.)

It’s a slow process, but patience and little everyday things change minds and cultures a lot more successfully than direct adversarial confrontation.

We can normalize open-minded behavior through our everyday actions – you don’t reject sexism (or any kind of -ism, really) by waving a banner or noisily cheerleading and then feeling good and continuing on with your lives like you’ve done your part:

  • You reject it by treating everyone you meet equally regardless of their gender (or whatever)
  • You reject it by choosing not to label others or thinking before you say sexist (or whatever-ist) things
  • You reject it by calmly saying, “hey, that’s not cool” to someone acting like an ass and proceeding to model desirable behavior
  • You reject it by creating and supporting positive egalitarian diverse communities that can discuss and dissent (not ghettos of one color or gender, or cults that support only one way of thinking, or groups that automatically default to dichotomous “us vs them” viewpoints)
  • and by teaching the generations to come to be just that little bit better a person than our generation.

Until then, here’s Jeromai – the wolf of indeterminate gender, providing a perfectly gender-neutral blog, hoping to make a point of their own – signing off.

No, seriously, have you got nothing better to do than to
No, seriously, have you got nothing better to do than to keep fixating about what’s down there?

NBI Writing Prompt #3: “Dude, I Played A Game With A Girl Today!”

NBI/GW2: The Everyday Boringness of Things

Everyday boring things...or not...

The trouble I have with blogging these days is that I find just blogging about prosaic day to day things boring, and yet, so much of our MMO life is prosaic day to day things.

I did a daily. I did another daily. I leveled from numeral X to numeral Y. I crafted Z item.

I incremented this achievement, and completed that achievement. I added onto this collection or that wardrobe.

I made an Eternal Sands focus the other day.
I made an Eternal Sands focus the other day. Just to get the component out of my bank. Except now it’s taking up an inventory bag slot on my character. Doh. Might not have quite thought this through.

In a sense, I’m not sure what difference it makes, in the greater scheme of things.

Why should you or I care about what I did? What I incremented? What I achieved?

Why, oh, why, is my life so boring and routine, with nothing new to say?

How can I find a story in the everyday boringness of things?

booksorstories

In my blog posts, I want to tell you a story. I like stories.

I like unique stories.

Unique narratives that can only be told by me, in my voice, doing the stuff that only I can do… stuff that hopefully you haven’t done in exactly identical fashion so that you’re still interested…

… and yet, weirdly, conversely, stuff that you should at least be vaguely familiar with so that I’m not over here talking in a foreign language you don’t understand and have zero interest in either.

Perhaps the problem is that -I- am seeing what I do as the same old boring routine.

Another day, another dragon...
Another day, another dragon…

But that’s not it. Not quite. Because if it really was that awful, I’d change up the routine.

I’m a big proponent of variety to prevent burnout, and I have a whole list of other things I could be doing, in this game or in the 500+ others on my Steam games list, if I got tired of what I’m doing.

And yet, every night, I look at the clock and make sure my butt is in the chair by 8.10pm so that I can kill the Triple Trouble Wurm with the oceanic arm of TTS.

If I have time, I might join in by 6.30pm for Karka Queen, or try my best to squeeze my way into Tequatl by 7.00pm.

It is a safe, comfortable routine.

If I really can’t make it, I forgo it (some days you just gotta be an adult and not play computer games,) but when I can, I’m usually there for Wurm because I -want- to be there. Why?

Perhaps the problem is the way I am telling it.

These last couple of days, since the beta portal invite event for the Silverwastes, Oceanic Wurm has been cancelled.

I catch an NA Wurm kill instead, on the weekends, in the mornings, to sate my bloodlust.

Naturally, I pop the second piece of regurgitated armor that I wanted.

I’ve killed OCE Wurm for months now with no armor drop.

Guess there’s something to be said for change and variety.

One more armor piece to go.

Perhaps we have to look deeper than the prosaic facts to the affairs of the heart, and seek the hidden conflicts.

In the night, the whole Oceanic gang is merrily farming the Silverwastes, which is also utterly perfect for my needs.

In the first two days, I wanted a beta portal, of course, like everybody else.

I play normally on Day 1. Or as normal as my experimental sinister necro build can be. I defend the red fort, and help escort nearby pack bulls for a ways before orbiting the red fort once more.

We do the breach events, the Vinewrath, then go champion farming during the recovery time to maximize our portal drop chances (mob drop + event chest drop).

Nothing. No portal.

But I get to stress test the sinister necro build to my satisfaction and I’m getting better at playing it.

The second build is a vast improvement in survivability over the first, the trickle heals from life siphoning seem miniscule but they do have a noticeable effect I can feel in gameplay.

On Day 2, I still play normally, but I branch out a little more and start actively tagging more events. I drift over to the purple fort to tag the Magister Wiggs defend event, while ostensibly guarding Gritblade’s red fort. Purple and yellow bulls are a must-tag. Red bull, when I can.

Nada.

I’m getting a pattern down with the necro though, saving wells for the set Mordrem spawns around each bull escort, using my condi scepter/dagger on husks, and using power (axe/horn, deathshroud, lichform) for everything else.

Late in the night of Day 2, when there isn’t an ongoing TTS Silverwastes map, I decide to just pop in and use the LFG SW 30-40% breach hopping method to get a few more Silverwastes maps in.

I use the guardian.

(Somehow, I have no trust in a general PUG map. Using my sinister necro feels wrong.

I might get downed accidentally, because I am still warming up to and making mistakes with the necro, and no one might rez me.

It seems like taking on too much for a bunch of strangers to throw condis on husks AND power damage other Mordrem, at the expense of getting downed and having to waypoint if I screw up, because everyone else has run off and left me to it.

On a PUG map, I stay on the ledge at the copper husk during the Breach. Why should I be the only idiot jumping into the pit and getting attacked by a million offshoots?

On a TTS map, following the example of our crazy asura leader, we hurtle into the pit and kite the offshoots around, and the husk melts a lot faster.)

So I play the guardian, on an indistinguishable Silverwastes map filled with hostile toxic mapchat, I run around shamelessly tagging all the events between red and purple forts (all three bulls included) and let someone else worry about whether the forts are overrun. Worse case scenario, we can retake the fort for another event.

One event or another finishes, a fort defence of some kind, or a bull escort, and I realize that I have new mail and a purple beta portal in my inventory.

firstportal

Well, that’s good. The anxiety is over.

Now I can focus properly on the farming and the making of gold and champion bags while everyone is still excited about the Silverwastes.

In between organized map hours on Day 2 to Day 3, I stop by a LFG chest farm on my necro to use up the many shovels and bandit crests I’ve accumulated.

Almost absent-mindedly, I tag a Veteran Mordrem event to get it out of the way of my unlocking of a bandit chest. I hit the AoE loot button when it dies.

A new mail pops up in my inbox.

No way… Really?

Really.

It's amazing how quickly I can clutter up a character's inventory when I'm actively playing them.
It’s amazing how quickly I can clutter up a character’s inventory when I’m actively playing them. As a WvW alt, his bags were much cleaner before.

The necro has an accompanying purple portal to the one sitting on my guardian. What a weekend.

On Day 3, I’m back in the TTS Silverwastes map instances on my necro, cheerfully going through multiple rounds of the Vinewrath.

I haven’t stopped. I don’t plan to, until mass interest has died off.

It is fun. It is profitable.

It is routine farming.

I love it anyway.

Why?

Why do I look out for and make it a point to attend the same, safe routines?

Maybe it’s because it’s with the same, safe people.

People with a certain level of competence that I can trust.

People whose names I am familiar with.

In-jokes and laughter comprehensible to only those who were there.

The revelation makes me wonder about my reaction to dungeoning. 

I hate it. I have massive trust issues with dungeons.

Which is curious because I’ve stopped using LFG for the most part. There, you can never get the same people twice, which doesn’t do much for building trust for people like me, slow to trust.

I wait for a trusted friend to yell at me and pull me into a dungeon, and if I’m free, I go through it and it’s not so bad, but I still don’t like it.

Maybe because I still don’t get regular, scheduled practice to build trust with the same group of people.

Or maybe because I don’t trust myself in the dungeon.

As much as I farm Silverwastes, twice now, I have dropped out of the map without completing the Vinewrath stage.

The modem or my ISP has been acting weird lately, disconnecting for half a minute or so before reconnecting again.

It’s long enough to drop me right out of the right map instance and make it a pain to taxi back.

Sometimes I do, if I’m lucky and the map isn’t full.

Sometimes the map is full, or I just don’t want to bother someone with the chore of taxing me back in.

So I just shrug and stop playing for a couple hours while my internet is on the fritz and go do something else, like eat, read, watch TV.

Voluntarily missing the rewards for that particular hour doesn’t really bother me, whereas I would have been a stressed out emotional wreck for the tens of minutes I wasn’t connected to the game while four other players were waiting for me in a dungeon.

The whole open, drop-in, drop-out nature of the Silverwastes makes it a more convenient design for me.

I can stand by a cliff for a couple of minutes in the Silverwastes and go get myself a drink or have a bathroom break without anyone noticing or caring or being bothered by it.

(If you don’t move for hours, that’s a different story, of course.)

Try that in a dungeon.

Even if you’re surrounded by the most loving and understanding friends ever, with plenty of free time on their hands to wait for you, the fact of the matter is that they still have to wait for you.

I hate that sense of obligation.

I wish I knew why.

Figuring out that part of my brain is a subject for another post though.

I took my own advice in my last post and freewrote for ideas.

The above is an elaboration of some of the threads that were in the mess of freewriting.

The trick is mostly to pick up on a thread topic that was a little intriguing to you and do another round of writing concerning that, hoping that richer stuff pops out.

I think the above post has a ton in there that anyone can spin off. I’ll just pick a topic that occurs to me.

NBI Writing Prompt #1: How can we design our MMOs to foster more trust between strangers?

  • (Is forcing them together the only way, or are there other more innovative means to do so?
  • A matchmaking system that tries to prioritize putting the same people playing at a certain hour together?
  • A voting/reputation system to increase the chances you’ll interact more with the people you friend/like/think more highly of?
  • Clever megaserver systems that prioritize the same?
  • Something even newer and more innovative?
  • Something old that has been done before but not picked up by our modern MMOs?)

NBI: Dear Reader, I Have Nothing to Write About

Foo, quaggan is writer's blocked!

You may have noticed that I’ve been alternating between silence and incoherence for the last month or two.

I wish I knew why.

I might have fallen out of the blogging habit when I went full tilt obsession into Path of Exile, giving up my usual routine in favour of devoting more hours into achieving an arbitrary challenge.

It might have begun even earlier, when I settled into a comfortable daily routine of a couple games that made me happy and decided not to get all huffy and bothered about other people playing other games or not playing my games.

The problem is that there are only so many blog posts one can write about doing the same stuff in a game and being content, nor can one muster enough interest to care much or spend time thinking about topics beyond that narrow focus.

It could be because I’m feeling rather lost and aimless in my current set of games. I’ve definitely hit ‘endgame’ some time ago, so most of the activities are essentially busywork – do a bunch of things to maybe get a rare RNG chance at improvement or adding to a collection, or gather a bunch of things that will increment an achievement or collection.

It’s not grind, because grind implies a lack of enjoyment and enduring to get to the end reward.

I still -like- doing the activities. I’m not forced into doing the activities every day. I can and have skipped days. Given a choice, though, I’ll do these activities over not doing them because I want to do them and have fun in the process of doing them.

afarmingweshallgo

But really, it’s a toss up over whether you’ll come over to mercy kill me if I wrote blog posts entitled “Day 1 – Farmed Silverwastes,” “Day 2 – Farmed Silverwastes,” “Day 3 – Farmed Silverwastes,” or if I bored myself to death writing about it first.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I just can’t help but wonder… Is there something more I could be doing? Something new to write about?

The irony has not escaped me that I am battling a bout of Blogger’s Block during the same month as this year’s Newbie Blogger Initiative.

Given this struggle, I cannot muster sufficient energy to officially be a blog sponsor of any kind, but it strikes me as a great opportunity for putting my money where my mouth is and practising what I preach.

This month of May, I’m going to write. And write. And write some more.

I hope to do this alongside the new and returning bloggers that are joining us for this exciting, exhausting, intriguing, infuriating, depressing, uplifting, agonizing, engaging and altogether roller-coaster journey of distilling one’s thoughts into words…

…and offering them up as a gift to oneself and others.

There is a beautiful energy and synergy in the shared struggle, one topic spinning off from another, one blogger’s post inspiring a string of others, knowing that we’re not alone.

(I desperately need that energy to kickstart my blog writing again, and I hope in turn to contribute to the spirit of the NBI with the posts produced.)

I’ll be creating a modest set of goals, so as not to burn myself out in the striving, and also to create a fun writing challenge and a change of pace.

The target is a blog post of 500-1000 words, every 1-3 days or so.

And I’ll end off with a writing prompt or blog idea or exercise of some kind, to help combat that uncomfortable moment of staring at a blank page and having no ideas (or worse, deciding that one has nothing to write about, and avoiding sitting down in front of the blank page in the first place. Guilty.)

NBI Writing Exercise #1: So, you have nothing to write about. No ideas. Zilch. Your real life is boring. Your game life is boring.

No one, including yourself, could care less about the routine of incrementing some number or another, but you’re still doing it anyway, for reasons that escape you.

It’s time to freewrite.

Open a blank document or get a piece of paper – something different than your usual blogging method – and just start writing about how you have nothing to write about.

However you want. Stream of consciousness. Sentence fragments. Loose grammar. Every ohter word misspeled. Whatever.

Brood about why; philosophize; throw in random ideas and things you might want to do in the future; discuss what another person might do in your stead; talk about things you hate; talk about things you love; talk about things that you have a ‘meh’ response to, and why; go with the flow of where the writing takes you.

Keep freewriting until you’ve stirred some threads of interest, something that makes you go “hmm, maybe there’s something here.”

It doesn’t have to be a lot. It doesn’t have to be a fully formed thought. You just need a tiny thread of something that vaguely resonates, that you can pick up and explore further in writing, and right there, that’s your next blog post in potentia.

The MMO Cycle – A Cento About Missing the Magic of MMOs

Beauty in a swamp...

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

The happiest day — the happiest hour
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! how it tells
Of the rapture that impels

And yet that spirit knew – not in the hour
Of its own fervour – what had o’er it power.

chievos

But he grew old —
This knight so bold —

Ah, dream too bright to last!
Ah, starry Hope! that didst arise
But to be overcast!

And o’er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.

forums
And the people — ah, the people —
All alone,
And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
By a crowd that seize it not,
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot,
A play of hopes and fears,
It shall not be forgot!
That the play is the tragedy, “Man,”

suchzergmuchpower

And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed,
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow —
“Shadow,” said he,
“Where can it be —
This land of Eldorado?”

anya

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were — I have not seen
As others saw
That motley drama- oh, be sure
In spring of youth it was my lot
To haunt of the wide world a spot
The which I could not love the less-

fountain

‘Twas noontide of summer,
And mid-time of night;
And stars, in their orbits,
Shone pale, thro’ the light

grove

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
So lovely was the loneliness
Of a wild lake, with black rock bound,
And the tall pines that towered around.

wildlake

At midnight, in the month of June,
I stand beneath the mystic moon.
And the mystic wind went by
Murmuring in melody-

moon

For the heart whose woes are legion
‘Tis a peaceful, soothing region —
For the spirit that walks in shadow
‘Tis — oh ’tis an Eldorado!

bamboo

cento is a poem made up of lines from poems from other poets.

Long time readers may be familiar with my complete and utter adoration of Edgar Allan Poe, though I leave the precise poems from which I have “borrowed” the lines an exercise for the reader.

I use GW2 out of convenience, since it’s the MMO I’m currently playing and most readily accessible to me, though I believe the poem is relevant to MMOs in general.

In no way should you assume anything about where I am on the MMO burnout cycle with regards to GW2 from this poem…

…though I will say that I -was- bored with the lack of change and Living Story, going through the motions seemingly out of habit, still a little turned off by the megaserver’s effect on the community I was used to…

…and that watching the Chinese “Fear Not This Night” music video that they’re releasing in preparation for the launch in China (the first video embedded above) and going pretty screenshot hunting suddenly reminded me of some of the things I truly love about this game.

This poem was also brought to you by the letters S Y L via the poetry slam sponsored by the Newbie Blogger Initiative 2014.

(Which I hope to talk about more later this month, but just haven’t had the time to get my act together yet. Long story short: Wanna blog? Blog! Now is good!)

It’s stretching the theme of magic by a considerable amount, but well, it’s what wanted to be written.