Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NBI: Random Blogging Thoughts

This post is part of the Newbie Blogger Initiative.

Blogging is an interesting hobby.  Like most hobbies, it can consume a lot of your time, but unlike most, there's nothing physical to give to someone to say "I made this" or "I read this" or "I won this" or "I played this".  If you're like me, when people ask what I do for fun, I'll either fail to mention PC entirely or downplay it into "and I write some stuff online for a gaming website".  If I say "I'm a blogger", there's a tendency among people I meet to say "Oh, like Matt Drudge".  And if I say "I'm a gaming blogger," more often than not I'll get a reply akin to "Oh, like how to win at poker or blackjack?"

The concept of a gaming blogger that has nothing to do with casinos is a big mental block for a lot of non-gamers.  And if you talk to someone who can get past that, they'll respond with "So, what do you think of that new Call of Duty game coming out?"

"No, like WoW."

"WoW?  What's WoW?"

"World of Warcraft."

"That thing?  That's for weirdos."*

Such is the life of an MMO blogger.

But you know what?  That's okay.  You're not writing for them.  Even if you secretly harbor ambitions to be the Ashton Kutcher of the MMO blogging community, don't let the ignorance of the masses get you down.

Write for yourself first, then write for others.

Don't bother chasing readership if you don't like what you're doing.  Blogging isn't a job.  Okay, it can be if you want it to be, but most bloggers start out just doing it for other reasons.  Stray from that, and readers will notice.

Now, that's not to say that you can't appropriate work habits to use when blogging.  A regular publishing schedule is good to stick with, and having a set writing time helps you stay on task, especially on those days when you've got problems coming up with something to write.  There have been days when I sit at the laptop and say "I don't know what the hell to write this week," and days when I have three or four ideas simply drop into my lap.  To limit the former, I've taken to jotting down inspiration when it strikes,** so that I've got a list of ideas to choose from when I write.

I'll freely admit that one of the items on my to-do list is one that I've started several times and never completed:  the dreaded fanfic.  I figure if I'm going to actually write some fanfic, I'd want it to stand on its own, and not sound like amateur hour.  The spectre of old D&D fiction I'd written back as a kid, the sort that has "Sir Doofus drew is +5 Holy Avenger and charged at the ancient red dragon" in it, is what's holding me back.  But that's just me; other bloggers can whip out fanfic without breaking a sweat, and for them this is no big deal.

In the end, you get to define your blog, not the other way around.  Do what you want, on a schedule you want.  Be active in the blogging community.  There are always new blogs with interesting voices; go and find them.  Participate in discussions.  The more you give to the community, the more you'll get back.

And whatever you do, as Wil Wheaton once said, "Don't be a dick."

*When people tell you that IT and tech fields are full of geeks, don't believe them.  I know this from experience.  Some companies may have high numbers of geeks, but they're balanced out by IT companies populated with MBAs and smarmy salespeople.  Cubicles filled with college/pro sports paraphernalia (including, but not necessarily limited to NASCAR) are also a big clue that maybe your work environment doesn't have a high geek population.

**Just don't do it in a meeting at work.  It's like having your ringtone going off, with the professional sound of "Sunny Day" from Sesame Street announcing a call from your kids.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

One Person's Trash is Another Person's... Trash Mob

One drawback of random queues for content is that you run into people with differing viewpoints.  No, I'm not talking political or sports views --although I was once in a SWTOR Flashpoint where an argument broke out over American football-- but rather different approaches to the content should be run.

I say "drawback" because one of the big sources of instance/BG drama is that clash of viewpoints.  Failpugs are full of tanks who bypass bosses, healers who refuse to heal people who make mistakes, and DPS who decide they know how to pull properly.  But in a basic sense, what you might be looking for in group content might be completely different than everyone else, and when you feel like you're being dismissed/ignored that can cause significant drama.

This isn't a new revelation.  I've been in instances where the tank decided his version of "fun" was to chain pull the entire first area in Halls of Lightning, expecting the healer to keep him upright.*  The completionist vs. the minimalist clash is often found in instances such as SWTOR's Taral V or WoW's revamped 5-man Zul'Aman/Zul'Gurub.

But this clash of views took on a whole new meaning in an Alterac Valley run the other day.

I'm used to the arguments about Blue vs. Green in Strand of the Ancients and Gold Mine vs. Blacksmith vs. Lumber Mill in Arathi Basin, but the fight that broke out in BG chat in AV was a new one on me.

Prior to the other night, I'd only been in one so-called "bridge stomp" in AV.  For the uninitiated, a bridge stomp is a strategy where almost the entire Alliance gathers behind the bridge to Dun Baldur, allowing the Horde to kill off Belinda and sack Stonehearth Bunker and Icewing Bunker.  The Alliance then rains down hell on the bridge, which in theory will kill off Horde at a far greater rate than the Alliance defenders.  If everything goes according to plan, the Alliance wins a war of attrition and earns a ton of HKs.

As a Rogue, I'm kind of superfluous to the bridge stomp itself --I'd get killed too quickly to help the plate wearers defend the bridge-- so I and a few other stealthies basically peel away some of the Horde attackers by forcing them to constantly retake their own towers and the Coldtooth Mine.

The first bridge stomp I'd been in, the guild behind it had opened up their Vent channel and had set up a raid group specifically for the attack, which made perfect sense.  They also had complete buy-in from the rest of the AV team, because the sheer number of HKs also meant that we were able to summon Ivus, which is something that most people had never seen.**  Therefore, when I'd ported into an AV run and the people there started chanting "War!!!", I kind of had an idea what was up.

But not everyone appreciated having their AV run turn into a bridge stomp, and said so loudly on BG chat.

"I don't want my BG hijacked by some lame-ass premade," groused one DK.

Another player added that these players "...didn't know how to play AV," among other (more colorful) things.

"You're all a bunch of little kids!" said a third.

The bridge stomp team kept mocking the detractors and egging them on, causing a dramatic escalation in hostilities.

"Yep, we don't let anyone older than 14 in the guild!"

"Whoops, I just grew a pube!"

And things kind of went downhill from there.

I tried to ignore the fight as best as possible and kept to just annoying the Horde side, even when the anti-stomp crowd started taking other graveyards, loudly announcing their intention to disrupt the bridge stomp plan.

Just how many adults are actually in this BG anyway? I thought.

After about close to 1/2 hour, the anti-stomp crowd began to drop, firing off a few obscene parting shots along the way.

A lot of this fight could have been avoided by the bridge stomp team behaving maturely.  Announcing intentions prior to the start of AV, and even organizing things via Vent would have gone a long way toward keeping things civil.  That said, once the bridge stomp team began, the people who expected the "15 minute zerg" AV threw a tantrum and behaved no better.  Each side wanted their way, victory be damned. The fact that we won was superfluous by the end, because I was sick of everybody's behavior.  The parent in me wanted to send everybody into time out for a good long time, because you can bet that if I found out my kids were behaving like that, a time out would be the least of their worries.

I felt bad for the Horde, because they probably had no idea what the hell the Alliance was doing with half doing one thing and half doing another.  But if nothing else, the Horde were the ones who actually behaved like adults; they tried to win as best they could.

*And chewing him out when he wasn't able to.

**Watching Ivus whallop a Horde tank certainly made my night.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Some Ponderables

In addition to having an earworm from this:

I was really little when this show first aired.  
And yes, Wonder Dog's behavior was modeled after Scooby Doo.

I've had a bunch of nonsensical MMO oriented thoughts that I can't get rid of.  Therefore, I give you some MMO Ponderables:

  • Do Draenei get sunburn, and if so do they end up looking like Eredar?
  • Why do Sindorei --who often have names invoking their love of daylight-- seem to never get tan?
  • With all the radiation surrounding Gnomeregan, why don't more of the Gnomes turn into mini-Hulks?
  • How can some of the Imperial NPCs --the regular populace-- tell you that they're loyal servants of the Empire without breaking down into laughter?
  • In Guild Wars 2, when you aggro an enemy bandit they say "Ha! You're kidding, right?"  Why don't they say as they die "I guess you weren't kidding..."
  • When I see a quest giver in Neverwinter talk, why is it like watching a dubbed martial arts movie?
  • Why do Gnome NPCs say "Daylight's burning!"  Shouldn't the Kaldorei say that?
  • Given all of the terror that NPC necromancers generate in Age of Conan, why do the inhabitants of the cities never bat an eyelash when a PC necromancer walks by with a bunch of undead trailing in their wake?
  • Why are Warlocks a playable class in WoW, anyway?  Aren't they supposed to be the bad guys?
  • Why is the scenery so great in LOTRO, but the toon graphics so... blah?
  • Is "multiplicity" Garrosh's super power?  After all, he's in Orgrimmar, he's in Borean Tundra, he's in Nagrand, and oh look he's over at the Argent Tournament Grounds and at Silverpine Forest...
  • "Evil will always triumph because Good is dumb," says Dark Helmet.  Well.... let me introduce you to Darth Malgus....
  • What do jawas/sandpeople look like underneath those robes, anyway?  On second thought, maybe I don't want to know; it could be Gargamel and the Smurfs.
  • What sort of birth control do they use on those Bioware games?  Sure seems like you'd expect a lot more kids around than what you see in game.
  • Why is it that the younger a player is, the louder they feel they have to be in BG chat?  It's not a perfect correlation, but it sure seems that way at times.
  • How can kindergartners sit in "circle time" without any trouble at all, but a bunch of BG players can't stand within a circle in Silvershard Mines?
  • Why do the WoW male human toons all look like they've got gas?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

"Who Gives a @#$% About the Refinery, Anyway?"

It's been kind of a strange week in my neck of the woods.

I gained a few more streaks of gray in my beard, mainly due to taking my oldest out shopping for Homecoming dresses.  (I'm not sure I'm ready for her to go to formal dances just yet, but she is in high school* now...)

And I also gained a few more patches of gray dealing with random BGs, as well.  This post is dedicated to those numerous runs, trying to eek out enough Conquest points to get another piece of Grievous gear.


Signs Your Random Battleground Isn't Going to Go Well

  • The toon with the highest health is a Rogue.
  • You check out the list of toons in the BG and discover you have no healers.
  • The other side has a premade and your side is already arguing over strategy.
  • Nobody stays back on defense in Alterac Valley.
  • Your entire team runs to the mid in Eye of the Storm.
  • You're Alliance and you port into Strand of the Ancients.  (Nuff said.)
  • The BG starts and half of your team is AFK.
  • Nobody targets the enemy healers.
  • Nobody stays back to defend the Farm/Stables during the initial rush.
  • In a 10 or 15 player game, 5 or more of your players are Rogues.
  • A player ports in and declares "You all suck but I'm here, so we'll win."  (Never tempt people to throw a game just to spite you.)

Oh, and the title quote?  That came from an Isle of Conquest game wherein a few of us were talking back and forth about capturing and recapturing the Quarry and Refinery.  The Warrior who said that also was bitching about the fact that the Horde was ahead of us in breaking down the gates, and he didn't make the correlation between the Horde having both the Quarry and Refinery and being 30% closer to breaking down the gate...

*For those not familiar with the U.S. educational system, high school or secondary education is Grades 9 through 12, roughly age 14/15 through 18.  Attending a college/university is technically optional, but highly encouraged.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

My My.... Look at the Time!

This past Sunday, PC passed its fourth anniversary.

I knew that it was some time in September, because I'd only been playing a month when Deftig suggested that we start a blog, but I'd not realized our first post was at the end of September.

Deftig did a lot of the heavy lifting to get the site ready.  He'd selected Blogger over other options --my lone advice was to make it easy to modify-- and had prepped the site for publication.  We selected the name Parallel Context over the course of an afternoon whereas he and I would trade name ideas and he'd go out and see if it was available.  We ended up with Parallel Context simply because it was the first blog name that was free, not due to any clever desire to have our initials as PC.

Even though he hasn't posted in a while, the site still bears Deftig's fingerprints in layout and format.  I've done some mild tweaking over the years, but I've not felt the need to change things very much.*

Our first full year had a lot more posts than subsequent years.  Part of that was two --occasionally three-- people posting, but part of that was that I could post that much:  the kids were smaller and we weren't involved with (what often seems like) 50 million after school activities.  As time has gone on and my life has gotten busier, my posting has dropped to a more sustainable 1-2 times a week.

What has changed the most over the years, however, is the MMO blogging landscape.

When I read Righteous Orbs, the Pink Pigtail Inn, or Welcome to Spinksville!, I felt like I was at the watering hole for a lot of MMO bloggers.  All three posted often and engendered lively discussion, and the first two had enormous blogrolls.***  When Tam of Righteous Orbs dropped by and commented on a post of mine, it felt like a rock star saying hello.  And when Larisa of PPI added our blog to her blogroll, I felt that we'd finally arrived.

But the voices have gone silent.

Righteous Orbs and PPI closed up shop a few years ago, and Spinks has slowed her output tremendously over the past year.  (As of this writing, she hasn't posted in over two months.)  While the gigantic blogroll lives on with Rades' Orcish Army Knife, even the MMO Melting Pot is scaling back operations while Hugh takes a detour into his love of filmmaking.


Things have changed, yet people are still out there, writing away.  And so are we.

I don't see PC going away any time soon, and given my tendency to poke my nose into just about any MMO that strikes me as interesting, I'll have plenty of topics to write about.

Staying true to my Midwestern roots, I'm not going to turn PC into something it's not.  We're not exactly a backwater, but we're not trendy, either.  And that suits me fine.

/raises coffee

Here's to another four years!

*If I ever can get my WoW screenshot to work properly I'll get the title pic updated, however.  We're a bit behind the times.

**Yeah, like that never stopped me before.

***Spinks' blogroll is smaller, but for a former developer I find it very interesting reading.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Good To See You Back Again, NBI

It's good to see the Newbie Blogger Initiative make a reappearance.

Contrary to what some may believe, you can never have enough bloggers out there.  The blogosphere is in a constant state of flux as new blogs replace those that have gone silent, and in MMOs especially an infusion of new blood is always welcome.

Why  "MMO's especially"?  Because it seems that MMO blogs are on a downward spiral, with some long standing blogs going silent or taking extended leaves of absence.  We need new voices, new perspectives to step in and be heard.

Yes, it can be hard at times when you check your blog and see a big fat zero next to comments.  I'm not going to lie and say that it never bothered me, because it did, even when I knew that practically nobody was aware of this new blog of ours.  And when the search term that most frequently brings someone to your site is "retardin desensitizing cream", it can be pretty damn depressing.*  Blogging is definitely not for those who crave attention.  However, blogging is for people who like to write, have an opinion, and want to spend some time putting that opinion out there.

This is not the immediacy of Twitter.  Neither is it as voyeuristic as Facebook or LinkedIn or G+.  But blogging does provide a creative outlet to those who want it, and the best part is that your opinions can't be shouted down on your own blog.

And when you get that first real comment, the feeling is priceless.

*I'm sure that just by mentioning this name we'll get yet another wave of searches heading our way.  That's what I get for my one post way back in 2010 (or so) about the subset of Ret Spec Paladins derisively called Retardins.