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Behind the Curtain

Behind the Curtain: Guilds and conflict resolution

World of Warcraft, Culture, Guilds, Opinion, Behind the Curtain

Obviously, lots of players takes guild recruitment seriously, as they should. But how seriously do we take guild drama?

Assuming it's not directly affecting us, most of us love guild drama and revel in other players' dysfunction. I haven't checked the numbers – I'm too lazy – but it really wouldn't surprise me if Guildwatch was one of the more popular columns over on WoW Insider. I know it's one of my favourites.

I like to think that I'm a fairly decent bloke – I try not to laugh at other people's misfortunes, and I don't like to rub a person's nose in their own failings, but God help me, I can't get enough of Guildwatch.

How far would you go to forestall the breakup of your guild? At the end of the day, if your guild leader decides to hit the big /gdisband button, it's not like you can physically stop them, short of some questionable activities you'd find difficult explaining to the police.

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Behind the Curtain: Playing in the sandbox

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Entropia Universe, Culture, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Second Life, Behind the Curtain, Virtual Worlds

I was feeling lost for a little while there. My mojo wasn't working, the Force was not strong with me, etc. I'm back in the swing of things now, however. I tried to break my habit, and move on to pastures new with Lord of the Rings Online, but it seems that I'm a one-game kind of guy, and I ended up back at World of Warcraft.

Before I settled back in to routine however, I did do some exploring and thinking. Listening to my colleague's advice, I spent some time with MMOs that I otherwise wouldn't have bothered with. I even dipped my toes into the waters of Second Life.

I've tooled around in Second Life more than once, trying to get a good handle on it. Try as I might though, it never seems to gel with me, never seems to click. That's probably more down to me than any identifiable fault with the game. That said, any game which, if I recall correctly, used to offer a furry as an option at character creation automatically scores low in my book.

That was a joke, hold off on the flames please.

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Behind the Curtain: In praise of solitude

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Culture, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Behind the Curtain

So, I'm back in the saddle. A break to catch my breath and a new alt of a class I've never played before appears to have worked wonders.

The alt in question is a Draenei Shaman. Yes, World of Warcraft again. Try not to hate me. Or not; it's a free Internet.

This'll only be the second time I've played through the Draenei starting area. The last time was a while after The Burning Crusade came out. Long enough after that the rush had died down, but still close enough that the place wasn't deserted. This time however, things are a little different. Death Knights appear to be the alt of choice as far as one looks. I won't lie, I've got one as well, but I've hardly touched her. The old-world starter zones are even more desolate now than at any other time in the game's history.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

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Behind the Curtain: Just when I thought I was out

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Entropia Universe, Lord of the Rings Online, Culture, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Behind the Curtain

It's funny the things that can suck you right back in, just when you thought you were out.

I've been feeling pretty burned out with World of Warcraft over the last couple of weeks, and I wasn't enjoying the feeling at all. There was a brief interlude where the Argent Tournament piqued my curiosity, so I grabbed the PTR downloader to give that a try. That lasted all of about an hour, when I realised just how long it would take me to download the files. I'm not sure if I should blame BT for my frequently crappy connection speed, or Blizzard because they can't seem to create a decent downloader. It doesn't matter really, as I can QQ about both equally.

Then it hit me – burn out didn't need to be a bad thing. In a shocking turn of events, I decided to actually listen to our readers' advice, and spend some time with other MMO, and maybe try a change of pace.

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Behind the Curtain: On burnout

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Behind the Curtain, Warhammer 40k

So, I'm afraid that I'm getting a little close to burnout.

Oh noes. zomg. qq. whine. complain. Etc, etc.

In the past, I have suffered from serious burnout which resulted in me leaving World of Warcraft for six months or so. I'm still not sure how they survived without me. We've all been there, where the rewards for logging on just one more time aren't enough anymore. I say that we've all been there, of course that may not be true; but you're a rare specimen indeed if you've managed to play MMOs for any significant length of time without burning out for at least a little while.

I guess burnout doesn't have to be a bad thing. I only just got a Wii. Don't laugh, I know I'm a little behind the curve on that one. Spending less time on MMOs means that I'd have more time free to play through Resident Evil 4 on the Wii, which makes sense, given that I've already gone through it on the Gamecube and PS2. I could also go back and pick up Resident Evil 0, and the remake of the original. And the Gamecube versions of 2 and 3. And Umbrella Chronicles. Wait, they released Code Veronica for the Gamecube as well, didn't they?

Okay. I admit that I need help.

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Behind the Curtain: The guilt of an MMO gamer

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Anarchy Online, EVE Online, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Culture, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Behind the Curtain

I haven't been playing World of Warcraft as much as I should have this week, and I feel bad about it. Last week, my Warrior hit the Defence cap, I got my first 25 Emblems of Heroism, and I tanked Archavon on 10-man. This week though, I've hardly even logged on.

I have instead spent most of the week playing Mario Kart Wii, honing my skills so that I can crush my 7-year old nephew utterly when next we meet. There are lessons we all need to learn early in life. Chief among them being never, ever, horse your Uncle Craig at Mario Kart. He'll thank me for it in time.

I also had some problems with my internet connection, thanks to the UK's seeming inability to cope with heavy snow. Then again, it is January, so I can see why we were taken by surprise. That was sarcasm, by the way.

I have felt guilty about my lack of WoW time though. I've been neglecting my characters in favour of other games, and I feel bad about it. I've felt this way before, on the occasion that I've taken a break from WoW, for example, to spend some time with EVE Online or Star Wars Galaxies.

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Behind the Curtain: The role you play pt. 2

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Classes, Culture, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Behind the Curtain

I haven't looked back. I've had a lot of ups and downs on my journey to level 80. I haven't always stayed true to my original goal, and ended up skipping more than my fair share of groups at level 70 – can you believe that I didn't actually visit one Heroic dungeon in Burning Crusade?

I've been in groups where the run was smooth as silk, and the chat had be holding my sides from laughing too hard.

On the flip-side, I've had groups which made me want to claw my eyeballs from their sockets, and break my fingers so I couldn't play ever again. Seriously, Barrens General had nothing on some of these people.

I've discovered that a lot of the things that make me a good healer in WoW also make me a good tank. Situational and tactical awareness, an eye for detail, the ability and willingness to communicate and the ability to make decisions quickly are necessary for success in both roles. Don't get me wrong – I'm not the best tank out there, I'm far from perfect, but I'm bloody good at it, and you could do an awful lot worse.

Tanking is a role that puts a fair amount of responsibility on the player's shoulders. Whether you like it or not, whether you even realise it or not, a lot of the wipes that happen in an instance will be your fault. Yes, that Warlock/Mage/Shaman shouldn't be pulling aggro, but you should be watching Omen and warning them about it. Mobs running around one-shotting your healer? You should be picking them up before bad things happen.

You might not agree, you might say that aggro is each player's own responsibility – that they should be checking their own Omen, and making sure they're behind you in aggro. That's fair enough, I just calls 'em the way I sees 'em.

I never expected to enjoy tanking as much as I do. I've found a role that I never thought would have suited me, but by the same token, might not have enjoyed as much if I'd gone into it earlier in the game. Maybe I was wrong about the other classes I considered, and I'd have ended up feeling as much at home being a Mage or Shaman.

Most of us play games for some small amount of escapism, to get away from our real lives and forget our stresses for a little while if we can. But are we drawn to certain classes because they reflect something within ourselves? Do I enjoy tanking and healing because of some personality quirk? Does that mean I enjoy smoothing over people's concerns and keeping them happy in real life? My family would beg to differ. Are Mages running a heavy Fire spec all secret Pyromaniacs? Are those of us with a Druid secret hippies? The analogy doesn't really hold much weight, I'll admit – but there may be something in it.

Feel free to comment below, share similar stories of you finding your niche, or even stories of you not finding it. Let me know if agree or disagree with my theories – I'll try not to delete the ones that disagree. No promises though.

Behind the Curtain: The role you play

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Classes, Culture, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Behind the Curtain

This week, I'd like to talk a bit about how taking a look at how you play a game, and which class you play, and maybe choosing to change one or both can pay dividends.

Before I do that though, I would just like to mention that I did finally manage to get hold of Baron Rivendare's mount after 68 runs - my thanks to all of you who shared similar stories in the comments of last week's column. Or at the very least, my thanks to whatever Blizzard GM read my whinings and took pity on me, if that's what happened.

Apart from Keith. Ten runs, two mounts and one sword? Keith, I'll be hunting you down to kill you in your sleep, I just wanted to give you fair warning.

If you've been paying attention to any of my columns of late, you'll have noticed that I'm playing a level 80 Protection Warrior in World of Warcraft just now.

I may not have Matthew Rossi's deep, rather touching, love for the Warrior class, but I do love being a tank. Which is something of a surprise, because it was never something I thought I would enjoy being.

My first character in WoW, away back around patch 1.9 was a Tauren Druid. I won't lie, the whole idealized Native American feel of the Tauren sucked me right in. The serenely beautiful rolling plains of Mulgore certainly didn't hurt my choice either. As for the Druid class itself, I can't quite remember what drew me there. I imagine it was that the theory and lore behind the class match up well with that of the Tauren race itself – they seemed to go well together, so I guess I just went with it.

Levelling up, of course, I specced Feral. I knew the Balance and Restoration trees were there, but I avoided them. I avoided Balance because it didn't suit the way I wanted to play, and I avoided Restoration because I wasn't yet comfortable speccing into a tree which required regular PUGs to get the most out of it.

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Behind the Curtain: What keeps you going?

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Behind the Curtain

This week, I have been mostly killing Baron Rivendare. I'm now sitting with 65 kills under my belt, with no Deathcharger to show for it. We are not amused, and are now convinced that Blizzard hates us. Precious. Sss.

I have the run down to a science now – dodge one pack of mobs, step aside from that pat, kill this group, spank the boss, rinse and repeat. Then repeat it again, and again, and again, and again, and again. I'm sure you get the idea.

I was talking with one of my colleagues at my 'real' job just the other day, when he asked me if I had anything planned for the evening. I started to plan my response in my head, trying to come up with an easy way to translate, in non-gamer terms, what I'd been doing with my time of late. I ended up going with, "Not much" because I just couldn't figure out how to explain it without taking half an hour.

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Behind the Curtain: On the edge

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Behind the Curtain

So, I finally hit level 80 with my Warrior.

What should I be doing now? Hitting up Icecrown, working on getting those last few pieces of gear to hit the defence cap, then working on reputation, clear some Heroic runs for more gear. And maybe have some fun, chaotic Naxxramas runs with my guild where we lay bets on who can die in the most spectacular fashion.

If, that is, I can get my dates right and sign up for the correct evenings.

What am I doing instead? Farming Stratholme for the near-mythical undead mount of one Baron Rivendare.

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Behind the Curtain: Looking to the future

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Behind the Curtain

I was reading an article on the BBC News Technology pages the other day, and it piqued my curiosity.

The availability of super-fast broadband is about the only thing that's likely to entice me to move back to my home town.

But how much bandwidth do you need to kill ten more foozles?

Ofcom , the organisation which – among other responsibilities – monitors ISP in the UK, recently reported that the average home broadband speed here is 3.6Mbps. A quick Google search suggests that speeds in the US are similar.

Broadband speeds are climbing, there's no doubt about that, but upload speeds still lag behind download speeds. I imagine that this is one reason preventing developers from getting really experimental with interactivity in MMOs. If your players' bandwidth is being taken up just shunting the basic game data back and forth, why bother eating up the rest of it with something that might just end up being window dressing?

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Behind the Curtain: Take a look back

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Fury, Culture, Events (In-Game), Expansions, Game Mechanics, Launches, MMO Industry, New Titles, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Tabula Rasa, Behind the Curtain

Brace yourself for the obligatory 'New Year' post. I'd resolve to lose weight, tone up and be kinder to my fellow man, but I'd be lying. Not because I'm weak and won't follow through on them, but because I don't need to. I'm practically perfect in every way.

Except not really. I'm lying. I also hate Mary Poppins with a cold, implacable hatred. But that's neither here nor there.

It's been a year of ups and downs in the MMO world. We've seen World of Warcraft go from strength to strength with an expansion pack which knocked the socks off of Burning Crusade. Say what you will about Blizzard, but it's always good to see a company that's willing and able to learn not only from its past mistakes, but its past successes. We've seen the long-awaitied launch of Warhammer Online, but we've also seen some downers, with Tabula Rasa going down the tubes, and Fury falling over. Although, not as many people were upset about Fury, given that it was terrible from start to finish.

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Behind the Curtain: The spirit of competition

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Culture, Game Mechanics, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Behind the Curtain

I was going to write a little about the differences between making better games, and making games better.

The more I thought about it though, the more I realised that a topic like that doesn't really have a place here at Behind the Curtain.

You can take that statement either to mean that an intellectual, investigative piece doesn't really fit the mood of an opinion-based weekly column; or that an intellectual, investigative piece would simply be too hard. Your choice. Also, it's Christmas, I'm Scottish, so I've been drinking a lot.

Instead, I got to thinking about competition. I'm not really competitive at all, you see, so most games (computer and real-life) which involve Vs. modes or PvP hold little appeal to me.

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Behind the Curtain: Multiple MMOs pt. 2

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Behind the Curtain

When I started thinking about this subject, I remembered reading something on the subject a while back on the Daedalus Project.

Going by the figures Nick Yee collected back in 2006, less than a quarter of the players he spoke with had more than one account.

I can't help but wonder if that number will have increased or decreased with time.

Without getting too much in the state of the world-economy, as we all have to tighten our belts that little bit more, we'll end up looking for cheaper ways of relaxing and blowing of some steam. I wouldn't be the first person to point out that the average cost of a monthly MMO subscription is less than you'll spend on one night at the cinema.

While it's absolutely not my place to fault Dr. Yee's work, and I certainly don't intend to, I would have liked to see him also ask about how many players had more than one account active for the same game, and the reasons why.

The reasons given for having subscriptions to more than one game aren't surprising. Players maintain several subscriptions due to having friends and family still active in the game; or they feel that the time spent so far with the game will be wasted if they cancelled the account; or for financial reasons like waiting for the subscription plan to expire, or simply forgetting the subscription was there.

If people were asked why they play more than one game, I'd expect to see similar answers, but I'd hope to see some others, too. Game mechanics, for one. When I went back and looked at Star Wars Galaxies a while back, I didn't feel like it was a game I'd really want to play on a regular basis. That said, the crafting in the game was still as interesting as I remembered. A crafting system that isn't a simple pass/fail mechanic, rewarding time spent hunting for high-quality raw materials, and classes whose sole purpose is to craft rather than quest ticked a lot of boxes for me. And while the ground game left a lot to be desired, there was still a lot of fun to be had in space, hunting Rebels or Imperials, depending on which side your bread was buttered on.

My point is that it's a rare game that provides you with everything you want. Maybe you play one game because the combat system is second to none, but another one because the RP tools in it haven't been bettered yet. Graphics are a big thing for a lot of people, and the cartoonish graphics of WoW have put off more than one person in the past, without a doubt. Realistic graphics and presentation, on the other hand, won't stop your game from being slated if it deserves it – see Age of Conan for proof.

Your turn now. Do you run more than one MMO at a time? Which ones are they, and why? Hit the comments, and let the world know.

Behind the Curtain: Multiple MMOs

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Age of Conan, EVE Online, Culture, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Behind the Curtain

Is one MMO ever enough?

Lots of people play more than one MMO. Among the staff here at Massively, you would be hard pressed to find a writer with only one active subscription. Ever the exception however, I am a one-game kind of guy.

"Is that through choice, or necessity though, Craig?" I hear you cry. The answer is that it's a little of both. It's easy to say that I don't have enough time to play a couple of MMOs, but if I was really honest with myself, I'd admit to that being a lie. If I'm able to free up a couple of hours every couple of nights to play World of Warcraft, then why can't I alternate those nights, for example, between WoW and another game?

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