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.


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.

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,”


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?”


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-


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


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.


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


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


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.

NBI: A Behind-the-Scenes Example of My Writing Process

Ok, the truth is that I write a lot of these posts off-the-cuff and in the browser form because I usually have something I’m dying to say.

I’ve also been using a very similar tone of voice and writing style for a long time now, and used to do a great deal of freewriting before.

So I know I can backtrack and edit a word here and there to make things read more smoothly, and then get back to where I was without missing too many beats.

I don’t do a lot of revision on this blog because I enjoy the rawness that seeps out from something fairly -close- to freewriting, with just minor edits for readability. It’s a stylistic choice.

Other blogs are more formal and you can expect that they did quite a bit of clean up and formatting to get to that point. Write how you like.

But when I struggle, that’s when I pop open the word processor and start typing up a document’s worth of junk that will probably never see the light of day, but serve as a crucial link in the writing process.

Today, I want to share with you all the behind-the-scenes stuff that people sometimes don’t tell you they go through before that perfect-looking piece on the page:

As an example, we’ll be taking the sonnet challenge that Syl gave me for the poetry slam.

1) Research. Google. See what others have had to say.

Petrarchan sonnet? What the hell is a Petrarchan sonnet?

My old high school literature teacher would probably be very sad that everything had returned to her, but in truth, I had no idea. Google to the rescue. Some research later, I figured, okay, I can do that, and accepted the challenge.


2) Take screenshots. Formulate preliminary ideas.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I had anything more to say about Tequatl.

I joined TTS. I have him on farm. (For now, till I or critical mass gets bored.) The waiting sucks. All themes I’ve covered before.

I did know that I wanted some better quality screenshots than the low-res ones I get in a hundred man zerg. Maybe that might spark some ideas.

So I camped out at odd hours on the main Sparkfly instance, when as predicted, barely a soul shows up any longer, even on the Tarnished Coast and got some nice ones.

(You can skip this if you don’t need screenshots in your blog post, but I personally find it fun and part of my creative expression.)

Unfortunately, after looking at the screenshots (of which I take a bunch and pick the nicest, just like freewriting and revising), I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to say about Teq.

In a bloody poem too.


3) Preliminary poem phrases, structure and format.

Fortunately, poetry has restrictions, and Petrarchan sonnets have quite a bunch. So in my Word document, I wrote out the rhyme scheme.



The sonnet is also separated into two parts, an octave (first 8 lines) and a sestet (last 6 lines.) A change from the first rhyme group to the next is supposed to signify a change in the subject matter or the tone of the poem in some way.

Then I scribbled my first ideas, completely ignoring rhyme schemes or iambic pentameter, just trying to solidify some sense of theme.

First verse, herald his majesty (stuff we love about Teq)
his animations – his rock jumping, the clarity of his attacks
the awesome splendor of multiple embers popping
the incredible surge of a hundred names all commited on the same task
beating on a shatterer that ignores you just isn't the same

Second verse, do a heel turn about him (stuff we hate about Teq)
alarm clock camping and all that waiting is boring
can only see in low pixels or I'll crash
where's mah LOOT, dammit
still no mini
the home server sparkflies are emptied

As you can see, ridiculously messy. But we are comfortable with messes when creating.

I started a list of phrases and images I liked. Maybe they could be fitted in later. (Once your brain starts working on a problem, have notepaper handy, some of these turned up while half-asleep or in the shower.)

the spectacle draws crowds from servers all / far

Surely better rewards so endless the wait
As time wears by, that love doth turns to hate
the longer the wait
hark, the dragon, it is swiftly brought low
the players eagerly race to the chest
mass dis appoint ment reigns, still not hing good
with/in time, the more that love doth turn to hate
Shall I compare thee to a starless night?
'Gainst the Shattered dragon, crystalline blight
there is no wait but no risk
just punching bag the foot
be still, my heart
and how one charr can turn the tides
the more that love abides

the loot dismays
low pixel
poisonous caress of thy fingers
thousand embers burning
the roar of a hundred embers
lava fonts blossoming
champion of Zhaitan

4) Freewrite

I was still having problems figuring out what I wanted to say. Peter Elbow to the rescue. Skimmed the chapter “Poetry as no big deal.” Decided to do a verbose dump instead.

Today I'm trying to freewrite and figure out what I want to say about Tequatl. I've gotten a number of somewhat satisfactory screenshots, though I am still unable to get a single good quality picture in a big zerg. So Teq is still gonna look shitty in combat pictures. Now what I want is some power, rather than fakeness in my writing.
I like Teq's design – their model, the fight mechanics are nifty, the animations are clear and well signposted as to what to do and when. There's a lot of small things that people can get better at. Dodging, killing hypnoss, maintaining repair focus, etc.

The camping around for hours is fucking annoying though. For a good hour, I'm busy looking for things to do in the other screen. I've web browsed till I'm sick of it. I've been trying to play games on my mobile phone.

And we do all this for what? The hope of a good lottery reward. Ok, the consolation prize is not bad. A bunch of blues and greens for magic find and some paltry amount of gold for your time.

The experience of it was nice the first few times. But now it's just an obsessive habit. Eventually I suppose I will have to stop. But it's just hard to stop because you're scared of losing out, and since there's such a huge demand and overflows filling, you just kinda feel like you have to get in on it or lose out to everyone else.

The fight itself is pretty fun and exciting.
The wait is NOT. It is anything but.

I like the fight. I like being in the zerg and supporting and being supported. To see the might stacks going. The trickle of healing keeping everyone upright. The ability to plunk a warbanner down and see a bunch of people rezzed. I like being able to watch Tequatl's animations, his foot slam down and dodge a second after, and the satisfaction of seeing evaded pop up at the right time to avoid his shockwave. I like seeing his hands plunge into the ground, knowing the fingers will be poping up and dropping a wall of reflection in a square or triangle to protect the zerg. I like that all this just gels and synergizes without having to state exactly how.

I love turret defence. I love being on guard for the finger and getting ready to hack it down. The satisfaction of knowing that you're the one interposing themselves between a turret operator that is relying on you and a risen ready to bite their face off. I love the pleasure of being able to go all assassin and precision strike down a hypnoss, and watching all his summons fall apart and explode, removing targets from others flailing away wildly, not knowing who to properly kill. I love moving the mouse to scan all three of the turrets' health – they are my babies, and I will grab a hammer and repair them if they're the slightest bit dented or scratched. A job well done means turrets firing in uninterrupted unison, scales kept down, cleanses going, the zerg functions because things went right here.

I hate the wait. It is a bunch of standing around doing nothing. Of listening to obnoxious dribbles of what passes for small talk over mapchat or teamspeak. Words cannot describe how boring it is. Of being chained to your computer, afraid to afk for too long. The compulsion to check the screen every so often. It is a major turn-off. It is something to be endured. A marathon of dead soul boredom.

Creativity tries to arise by looking for a million and one other things to do. Maybe I can watch a video in the other screen. Read a book. Play a browser game. Pick up my phone and play a mobile game of tower defence. Side procrastination. Doing anything but playing the actual game. Enforced period of non-gameplayingness. I'm getting ridiculously good at Bloons

You see? Freewriting is messy. But this could be cleaned up very easily into a proper blog post.

I -did- have more to say about Tequatl, after all.

One of the more important revelations for myself was that I actually reveled in the fight. The combat was a thrill. I liked dodging at the right time based on his well-signaled animations and NPC chatter. The simultaneous charge of zerg and embers to and fro from the megalaser has to be experienced to be believed. And I could do turret defence a thousand times and not get bored, it just checks all the protective tank aspects of my soul.

I tried another love/hate verse to get the theme down.

I like the Teq fight
The experience in the moment is unmatched
The charge of the foot zerg back and forth
The blossoming of embers during the burn phase
Turret defence sings to my tank soul

I hate the waiting for hours to get to it
I'm getting so good at not playing GW2
The loot sucks
It has become an obessive habit to camp Teq
I want to stop but I'm scared of losing out

Wasn’t quite it either.

The last two lines are also pretty significant to me, but they just didn’t fit into the structure of the poem, and so were cut. (For now.)

But from the false starts, I determined that I liked the ‘sunless day’ and ‘starless night’ lines, that I had Shatterer screenshots that I wanted to include, and that I liked the repeated wordplay of ‘love turning to hate’ and ‘love abiding.’

So suddenly I knew there had to be TWO sonnets. (Dammit.)

The first verse of the first sonnet would be relatively eager, turning to disappointment and ‘hate’ by the second verse. The first verse of the second sonnet would continue from that mood of dismay, then twist back to love (which for me, would be love of the fight.)

5) Edit. Prune. Revise. Fill in the Blanks. Repeat. Iterate.

I had enough to get started on an actual draft of the poem. (If not, I would have freewritten some more. Maybe put on some music for more ideas and tap into one’s emotions.)

I placed the lines I knew I wanted into position. Began counting syllables and making sure they (somewhat) fit iambic pentameter. Ten syllables. Unstressed, then stressed. da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM. (As much as possible, though I got lazy in parts.)

I very knowingly chose words with LOTS of rhymes for my a b b a lines. Then decided to get all fancy and do an echoing b a a b twist for the second sonnet.

And tried to fit in as much of my prior generated imagery as possible while going line by line and trying to tell some kind of story with the whole thing.


6) Format. Add pictures. Ruthlessly cut pictures that were nice but couldn’t fit.

The final round of revision is via the blog post preview.

After all my trouble with the verses, I didn’t want them separated line by line with screenshots. So I only had room in between the verses to fit them in.

I had too many screenshots.

I DIED to take some of those screenshots.

I tried to fit two screenshots in between the verses.

Looked terrible.

I cried a little inside (and my asura who gave his body is surely not happy about it) but ruthlessly cut them anyway. (Note to self: write new blog post so that I can show them off.)

You can see them here instead. Because they’re still pretty. (Oh hey!)



Writing can be messy. And that’s okay.

Whatever gets you to the final product in the end.

GW2: Love/Hate Song for a Dragon (NBI Poetry Slam)

Tequatl and I have a very complex relationship going on...


Shall I compare thee to a sunless day?
Tequatl, the Undying, Zhaitan’s knight
the scourge of countless nations, Sparkfly’s blight
Thy bulk shrouds sky amidst desolate bay
by turret and megalaser array
we bide our time and wait for thee, packed tight
Dull hours pass, the throng endures despite
Hark! There’s something in the water, they say!


Players rouse themselves and charge, Teq stuns thrice
stumbles, goes down, the hordes do rush the chest
Hopeful, for good things come to those who wait
Mass disappointment reigns, still nothing nice
Just greens and blues, as most folks can attest
Each time, the more my love doth turn to hate


Shall I compare thee to a starless night?
Oh Taco, Destroyer of Dreams betrayed
Thy cool cruel Majesty, oft delayed
‘Gainst the Shattered dragon, crystalline blight
No wait, but neither any hard fought fight
I stabbed a claw, and snoozed, no health decayed
Too soon it died, and still the loot dismayed…
A quaggan wakes me from my fancy flight


The surge of embers roar into my ear
Lava fonts bloom, the zerg assails his flank
I think of how one charr can turn the tides
amidst thy poison cloud caress, no fear!
No turret falls – I guard, protect and tank
In strife, the more my love for you abides


This one goes out to all those who have ever waited for Tequila.

(And Syl too, of course. Because we would never do these without a starting kick in the pants. Join the NBI poetry slam today!)


GW: The Lonely Vigil

I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

— Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1818

All right, all right, so it’s really a female warrior statue known as The Lonely Vigil. Maybe Turai Ossa (aka the Ghostly Hero) can be Ozy.

And when you get up closer, it ostensibly falls and collapses to form a bridge, though the wiki says one never sees it actually happen.

With that, the Wayfarer’s Reverie of Tyria ends. Being an opportunist, I poked my head into the Crystal Overlook to pick up the teleporter waypoint for the Elona quest too, getting fantastic screenshots along the way.

I love the Crystal Desert and the Arid Sea. Besides it being the place of Ascension, which makes it feel especially memorable, it is wide and flat and open, making loop backs and cursing and swearing less likely. And despite it being desert, there’s so much to see.

The gorgeous sky, the bones, the ancient ruins that keep calling to mind Ozymandias and wonder about this specific set of fantastical ancient peoples whose civilization has been lost to the sands, not to mention, Forgotten (pun intended.)

Oh, and hydras. (Ancient farming memories, anyone?)