Thursday, January 21, 2021

What was that about Old Dogs?

I tend to be, well, a bit hidebound in how I do certain things in MMOs.

I'm not a big fan of "gaming" things for exploitative purposes. I don't mean illegal cheats/loopholes, but taking advantage of a weakness in game to obtain a lot of a certain item. Such as a Mage taking advantage of how mobs track to farm immature venom sacs, for example. I've seen the YouTube videos, and I get the how it is done, but I still grumble at the poor design of how aggroed mobs go after you that I have a hard time in game of actually taking advantage of the poor design. 

For the uninitiated, you can stand at a certain spot in LBRS, aggro a whole bunch of spiders, and right before they get to your toon you can jump up to a stone walkway beside you and that same mob turns around, runs allllll the way back and then gets up on the stone walkway to chase after you. Do this enough times while AOEing, and you can burn down the entire mob.

Yes, it's legal, but it still bothers me that these elite mobs --and spiders at that-- don't understand the basics of climbing a 3 foot wall.

Or the basics of doing single pulls in Maraudon. Again, not a fan of taking advantage of similar weaknesses in Mara to farm Mara.

***

Some other exploitative runs, such as Lasher runs in Dire Maul East, I just don't get. 

I've done Lasher runs before, and after I'm done I sit there and go "That's it? That's all the gold you get for this? That's all the useful herbs you get?" And I shake my head. I was expecting a ton of useful herbs, but all I ever got were a ton of Heart of the Wild, which any Auction House affictionado will tell you doesn't sell that much. I mentioned this to a friend of mine who loves Lasher runs, and he said "it's the grays you get that are worth it."

/sigh

By contrast, I farm herbs in Eastern Plaguelands and Western Plaguelands, and in most normal times I can get some stacks of Plaguebloom, Dreamfoil, and Mountain Silversage and make 90 gold every couple of hours' worth of farming. 

Well, that was before the Mountain Silversage market collapsed a month ago.

***

I look at some people in WoW who accumulate a lot of gold, and wonder just how cutthroat you have to be in order to amass that much gold. How sweaty do you need to be? It's not like there's such a thing as compound interest in MMOs*, so you have to actively go out and sell things in order to obtain gold. Whether it's your services (such as selling water, boosting**, or ports), mats, or finished items, you have to sell something if you want to keep up with the increasing demands of raiding and other activities. 

It wasn't until about 7-8 months ago that I became aware of the concept of the GDKP raid. The "G" in front of the more traditional DKP term means "Gold", as in people bid gold to win items in raids. To join this "raiding of the rich and well heeled" you have to have a certain minimum amount of gold, and the raid leads inspect you to determined if you've got enough gold to play. Which sounds more than a bit like Casino Royale, but in WoW. Just let that sink in a bit: there's raids out there only for those with enough gold to join in.

Still, it's not like I'm the only perpetually poor person in our raids. I know a Warrior who barely makes enough gold to repair his gear between raids.*** And apparently there are a lot of people in our raid who need enchants, which means needing the mats + gold as well. 

***

I realize that this sounds like whining, which is why I'm talking about it here rather than on Discord or in WoW. But I believe a lot of this due to my approach to playing the game. If I wanted to earn gold, I'd do it the Gevlon way, which would likely earn me gold but also have some of my in game friends disappointed in my greedy methods. And while I'd like to think that changing my approach to farming in WoW wouldn't change me, I'm not so foolish as to believe that. 

How we play is a reflection of ourselves. That doesn't mean that we don't learn or grow while playing a video game, but it does mean that how we approach the game, how we interact with people in a game, and the emphasis we place on in game activities are a window into our own psyches. People who say "I play to blow off steam" and then proceed to act like an asshole in game are showing to the world what they are really like without the constraints of society.****

***

Nevertheless, I have begun changing my approach to farming gold in WoW. 

Instead of farming for raw materials, I've instead begun to focus on the finished items. I used to dip my toe into the tailoring market, but my lack of sales there dissuaded me from that approach. But potions? That's something I can work with. I know way too intimately just how much potions cost for raiding, and now I'm taking that knowledge and applying it to Az's potion making. Potions such as Greater Firepower, Mageblood, and Greater Shadow Protection sell well on the Auction House, and I'm focusing on what I can sell based on what I can farm. Sure, the market will change, but if I can can do this, I'm sure I can change with it. I don't need to go crazy while farming, spending all of my spare hours just trying to get enough gold for the next Naxx run, but I do need to be mindful of the lure of gold.

Now, let's just see if this old dog can internalize these new tricks.



*At least ones that I play, anyway.

**Another service I find distasteful. If you already know how to play your class that's one thing, but boosting to merely get to "where the game begins" misses the point. The leveling experience gives you the opportunity to learn to play a class, and you apply those lessons at endgame. Having to learn tanking at L60 when the only times you set foot in an instance were when you were being boosted is, well, a lost opportunity.

***Or so he claims. It's gone on long enough that its now a meme.

****Or maybe within societal constraints. After all, the past four years have been very educational in how people behave when they realize they can get away with anything.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Differing Touchstones

Last Fall I discovered just how out of touch I was with pop culture while waiting for a Molten Core run.

I can't remember the specifics of the conversation, but there was a comment made about surreal comedy, and I piped up and mentioned "Oh, like Andy Kaufman."

There was radio silence, and then a "who?"

"You know, Andy Kaufman, the guy who was the subject of the movie Man in the Moon."

"I don't really remember that movie."

"How about the REM song from the early 90s?"

"Card, you're not helping yourself any with that reference."

Well, shit.

 

For reference, here's the REM song.


Finally, another raider who was about my age spoke up. "Yeah, Andy Kaufman was in Taxi as Latka, and he did that routine where he challenged that pro wrestler to a fight."

"Yeah, he was kind of nuts to egg that guy who was twice his size on, just like his Elvis impersonations were so out there that you never forgot it."

At least I got the chance to make a semi-graceful exit.*

***

I was reminded of that generational disconnect once more while I was listening to a playlist on YouTube the other day. At one point the old Spinners song "Rubberband Man" came on, and I was bopping along. One of the mini-Reds happened by, and she said "Oh, that's the Guardians of the Galaxy song."

Not having seen anything past the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie --yeah, I'm a bit tired of superhero movies these days**-- I was surprised. "Really? The NBA used to play that song for highlights of players from the 70s and 80s, like Doctor J, Michael Jordan, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and the Big O."

At least the kids knew who the Big O (Oscar Robertson) is, because he played at the University of Cincinnati and then in the NBA for the Cincinnati Royals. I've told them the story several times about how my dad used to ride his bike to go see the Royals play at the old Cincinnati Gardens, and how Oscar was easily the best basketball player he ever saw.

The statue of The Big O outside of
UC's Fifth Third Arena. My photos turned out lousy,
so I borrowed this one put out by UC.

***

Why mention this? Well, because people --and gamers-- are a product of their generation. To the longtime MMO players who spent years in the old days of WoW (and now WoW Classic) have a completely different view of Azeroth than those who are new to the game.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard over the years that "XXX sucks!" Like my own personal bugaboo, Belsavis, in SWTOR. I can't stand that zone because it just keeps going on and on and on. Just when you think you're about to finish the planetary story, you go through a tunnel and reach yet another mini-area to explore and quest through.

Or the oldest mini-Red's personal dislike, Corellia. She has major issues finishing the final planet in the "vanilla" SWTOR zones because the warzone imagery depresses her so much. 

I was reminded of that disconnect when her baby Hunter, Tasarae, reached Darnassus for the first time. Of the Alliance cities, Darn has the reputation of being the most disliked. It's hard to get to, it's very spread out, and it's difficult to find anything without inquiring from the guards.

But when Tasarae walked through the open pathways with her new pet owl, she gushed about how beautiful Darnassus was. And when she arrived at Auberdine, the rugged shoreline and evergreen forests of Darkshore captivated her. 

It is the seeing of things with new eyes that energizes me. Just like when --very soon-- Tasarae will arrive at Westfall and head out on the questline that leads inevitably to the Deadmines and a confrontation with Edwin Van Cleef, the Stonemason whose thirst for justice led him down a dark path where everyone else was an enemy, and only he and his followers were in the right.

I'm looking forward to this. Tasarae doesn't know what's ahead for her, but I do. And I will once again be able to see this world through her, with new eyes.

 

 

*Thanks for covering my ass there, Zwak. 

**Not to mention all of the freaking gatekeeping by a subset of geekdom.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Return of the.... WoW in the Wild

 It's been a while, but I caught sight of this ol' minivan once more at the mini-Reds' high school:


And, I think, the same Columbus Crew MLS sticker.

Oh yes.

 

And it turns out they live in our neighborhood, as I was behind the minivan all the way back home.

Given that I've seen Horde stickers around the University of Cincinnati, I'd have to hang around there more frequently if I want to see more WoW stuff, I assume.

However, here's what my oldest's significant other gave me for Christmas:

Beer not included.

Yes, the Lion of Lordaeron etched on a beer glass, complete with "Redbeard" on the bottom.

Have I mentioned lately that I love my oldest's SO?

Now I need to find out where they ordered it from, so I can get some others made. Maybe a "Cardwyn" or an "Azshandra"....


Sunday, January 3, 2021

Bears as Far as the Eye Could See

Well, not really, but there was an impromptu Druid Bear form dance party at the Myzrael-US Stormwind Fountain last night. From what a couple of people had told me, it just kind of happened. A few Bears started dancing around the fountain, and then others showed up until the entire fountain area was crawling with them.

And the one player who tried to join in while shapeshifted into a Firbolg.

Alas that I wasn't there to get a pic*, but I did see some of the pics that my friends took, and it was one of those spontaneous moments of pure fun that make playing an MMO worthwhile.

Kind of like this, when I landed in Ironforge and ran to my usual spot:

There were actually two more at first,
but they began galloping around the area.

It turned out that I knew one of the people there in the reindeer lineup, and she waved at me. I waved back, and we had a chat while the reindeer patrol looked all nice and proper. One thing led to another, and I was invited to go to AQ20 they were putting on as they didn't have enough people to raid Naxx that morning.**

Just one of those things that you simply can't plan on.
 

 

 

*I suppose I could have asked if I could use one of the pics, but I try very hard to keep my blogging relatively unknown. It's not that I talk shit about the people I play with --I don't-- but I don't want my blogging general knowledge either. I know it's a bizarre opinion to have of a blog, since it's a public endeavor, but I've found being such an obscure blogger very freeing in its anonymity. Here's a link to a post back in August 2020 as to my opinions on the matter, but if you just click on the "blogging" label and you can see the numerous times I've mentioned this particular phenomenon.

Nevertheless, there are a few people on Myzrael-US who do know I blog, but I'm very confident in saying that those who do know don't exactly spend a lot of time reading the blog either. (Or at least they've never mentioned any of my blog posts to me.) Which is perfectly fine with me.

**Card was already committed to another AQ20, so I went on Az. I didn't need any of the drops, but I enjoyed the run. Apparently my friend hadn't seen what the Perdition's Blade looked like, so she was asking me where I got that weapon (off Raggy in MC), and how cool it looked (oh yes, it looks awesome).


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Oh, for Pete's Sake, 2020....

One of the few guildies left in my current guild actually put in an appearance today. He'd been consumed with binge watching a television series or two, so he'd been away from WoW Classic during that time. But what really pushed him into logging back in was that he is kind of in "rest mode" due to injury.

He broke his pelvis skydiving.

As he put it, there was a malfunction in the skydiving equipment, so he took the landing harder than it should have. When he landed, the force of the landing drove his femur up and into his pelvis, blasting through it to the other side. So he had to have the pelvis repaired and the joint reconstructed.

By the miracle of modern medicine, he was up and walking with a walker 3 days later. 

He still has a 3+ month road back to health, however, but at least he's moving in the right direction. It could have been worse --much worse-- but at least he's expected to make a full recovery.

I blame 2020 for this, as he'd skydived tons of times over the years, so this should have been a no-brainer.

And as an ironic aside, if I'd have left the guild, I'd have missed this story. So go figure; 2020 is conspiring to keep things exactly the same as they are.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Ghosts of the Past

For all of the highs I've experienced as a gamer this year, 2020 has massively sucked in general.

And Friday brought more bad news in that one of my wife's friends died of breast cancer.

It wasn't unexpected, as she'd taken one last trip this Autumn to Gatlinburg, Tennessee to say farewell to a part of the country she loved, and you could tell from the photos she posted that the disease had ravaged her. But people still held out hope that she'd live to see one last Christmas.

Needless to say, thoughts of mortality dominated my weekend.*

This was taken on Monday, but it also
exemplifies what I was up to last weekend.

***

I decided early on to not dwell on her suffering, because there wasn't anything I personally could have done. The only people who could have done something were her caregivers, and I had to assume that they did the best they could with the cards they were dealt. I also thought of what her family went through, and watching her decline reminded me so much of what happened to my father in May/June 2017.** He fell and was admitted to the hospital on Derby Day (First Saturday in May), and was gone before Father's Day (Third Sunday in June). When the oncologist told my Dad in early June there was nothing he could do, he asked what my Dad wanted. "That I go quickly," Dad replied.

But what I kept coming back to was the concept of "a life well lived".  

I've heard people describe it as "working to live rather than living to work", but A Life Well Lived is more than that. It's about finding and keeping meaningful relationships, exploring and doing new things, and doing things because you want to do them rather than having to do them. If a lot of that sounds like you'd have to have a lot of money to basically thumb your nose at American Corporate Culture, you're right. You would have to be independently wealthy to do that. 

Or poor and have no attachments. A modern day hobo, if you will.

Okay, it's not really that bad, because exploring and doing new things doesn't require you to have a lot of money to accomplish. After all, there's libraries, parks, free concerts, etc. to be explored. Still, telling your boss to get bent and going off and doing your own thing, ala American Beauty, is a dream that very few get a chance to fulfill until retirement.

Ah yes, Homer Simpson did live that out.
From The Simpsons' Treehouse
of Horror. I think fourth season.

 

It's one thing to experience death in a pandemic from members of our extended family, whom we may talk to once every year (if that), and then quite another from someone that the family regularly converses with. The stench of death that surrounded 2020 can depress even the hardiest of optimists, but it can also force a re-evaluation of your own life, leading you to ask whether your life has truly been a Life Well Lived.

***

And that it has.

My wife has issues playing around on the computer when it's nice outside and there's places you can go. So did my father, who was a certified golf nut.*** If it wasn't raining, he was golfing. If he wasn't golfing, he'd be at a driving range. If he wasn't there, he was outside in the front yard or back yard, practicing with a pitching wedge. And if he wasn't doing that, he'd be watching golf on television.

He loved golf even more than his beloved Xavier Musketeers basketball team, and if you knew my dad, that's saying quite a lot.

But at the same time, Dad subscribed to the Puritan work ethic, which I liked to sum up by using the H.L. Mencken quip that Puritans had "the haunting fear that someone somewhere might be happy." He worked long hours, was a perfectionist, and was never satisfied that something he worked on was "good enough". 

If you know me, either in MMOs or in real life, then this meme has probably popped into your head:

Yeah yeah yeah... I get it.

I have tried very hard not to burden my kids with my faults, and I think I've largely succeeded. They study, they play, and they work hard, but they don't overdo it. The girls are obsessive and perfectionists at music, but as long as it's limited to just that localized area, I consider that a success.

But still, my dad didn't have a father figure growing up, and his uncle (who never had kids) was the closest one he had. So he basically imprinted himself upon me, and as time has gone on I've had to fight that Puritan ethic that tells me that playing games without any real focus other than pure fun is a waste of time.**** 

My wife hasn't exactly helped either, as I can't tell you the number of times we've had a lazy day off and sometime at the end of the day she gets upset that we didn't do anything. She's so used to her parents always doing things outside, visiting places, and simply doing things that the concept of just screwing around and decompressing frequently has the opposite of its intended effect. If we go on vacation, if we're not where we are supposed to be bright and early so that we can maximize "fun" she gets really upset.*****

And if you think you know where this is going, yeah....

I spent the weekend alternating between two wildly contrasting views: that I should stop being an ass and join the guild I raid with (and have Az join another guild comprised of friends I group with on a regular basis); or that I should stop playing MMOs entirely and focus on "better things to do with the life I have left."

There was absolutely no fucking middle ground here.

Both have compelling arguments to them, and when you're listening to sad music from Simon and Garfunkel, the Carpenters, and other staples of my parents' record collection, both feel equally valid. 

Or this song from Fannigan's Isle,
A local Irish band.

 

One one side, it only makes sense that I'd finally join the guild I raid with, and at the same time place Az in a guild that has several other friends I run with. After all, they're acquaintances and friends that I enjoy hanging with, and it only makes sense to finally join the club.

However, there's also the risk of burnout.

I've seen some of the guilds currently raiding Naxxramas out there raiding Naxx 5 or 6 nights a week. The sheer number of mats and potions to keep that grind up is absolutely insane, and I don't see how guilds can keep that pace up without cracking soon. 

And likewise, I do raid a ton myself. That's because I want to see a lot of the smaller raids put on succeed, such as ZG twice a week and AQ20 on Sundays. Then there's Molten Core Thursday Fun Runs, which I also know need regular raiders to succeed. So I show up because that's what friends do, they support each other. And to be fair, I don't buff myself much for those runs because I'm geared well enough to not require it. Yet I can see where I can't simply keep this going week in and week out. 

There's also the push to get "sweatier", as in working harder and harder to get to the top of my raiding game for the progression raids. Other Mages in the guild diligently farmed Necrotic Runes in the Scourge Invasion event and ended up with 6 to 8 stacks (or more) of Blessed Wizard Oil, so they'll have BiS oils for Naxx raids practically going into BC. Me? I had real life to deal with, and managed 3 stacks, which should get me to February. I say to myself that should be good enough, but is it really? Do I really know if I'm measuring up if I'm constantly 6/6?

And there's the perpetual gear grind, and I'm sitting here wondering when I'll ever catch up to the rest of the Mages. I've been assured repeatedly that I'm doing fine, but as I pointed out above, I'm my Dad's son, and that "I'm not good enough" mantra is alive and well within my psyche.


 

For the other side, it kind of goes without saying. Save some dollars, free up some time to do other things, such as read or fix things around the house, and maybe go out and get back in shape. Without my MMO habit, I'd not be seriously considering building my own PC. That's saving quite a few dollars right there, that could be better spent on "more important stuff". 

Like studying my work more, I suppose. I've been told I need to brush up on this or that, or pick up a new skill to keep myself relevant. Dropping MMOs would free up the time for me to do that, and to take the certification exams that do keep me relevant.

And yet, do I want to become my father? Do I want to be dead at age 69? I spent my life running from having "He Did a Good Job at Work" chiseled on my tombstone, so why should I change now?

Do I want to become sweaty at work instead of in a game?

***

What will I do? 

/sigh

Fuck all if I know.

I don't have any answers, which is why I wrote this all down. 

I am my father's son, for better or worse, and because of that I have my own demons to overcome. And there are plenty of times when that inner voice shouts louder than any voice of reason, whether it comes from myself or my friends or my family. And no matter what I do that voice will still be with me, sowing doubt.

Like I told some of my fellow Mages when I tried to explain what's going on right now, "I need to get my head screwed on straight first, and then maybe I'll be able to do something."

(But it wouldn't surprise me if I just remain in purgatory, in this wandering between the two ends. Because my inner voice would like it like that.)


 

 

*At times like this, I pour gasoline onto my internal fire by playing this piece from the Ken Burns' documentary The Civil War. I first heard it about 30 years ago, and every time I listen it feels sadder and sadder, so be warned. And for pete's sake, don't listen to this if you've a couple of drinks in you.


 

**If you wondered why the blog output declined during that time, now you know.

***When he was growing up, he'd even play golf in the snow; his uncle would take him out to the golf course near old Lunken Airport and they'd play there. My dad was very very good at golf; he could have been a local PGA pro at one of the courses around the county if he wanted to, but he never considered himself good enough to be able to do that. Hell, I'd have liked to have seen him try out for the US Open on the amateur side. As a measure of how good a player he was, he's played at both Pebble Beach (California) and Valhalla (in Louisville, KY), both places on the PGA Tour, and he's either made par or gotten under par. No handicap, just skill.

****How he reconciled his golf obsession (and college basketball obsession) with that work ethic is beyond me, so don't ask.

*****Yeah, vacations are anything but relaxing.


EtA: Added an extra pic.
EtA: Corrected some grammar.