videogames

The endgame that (possibly) is no endgame

Above is the tweet I received from ANet after tweeting about the fact that I’ve achieved level 80 on my brave Charr Elementalist Akinja. Though it might sound silly, hitting the level cap in a MMO that isn’t World of Warcraft is something entirely new for me. As the experience bar approached the end, I was feeling anticipation building up in me. Then, everything went so fast: I walked right into a chain of events, and while fighting together with four other people somewhere in the Bloodtide Coast, the golden bar reached the other end of the screen and I saw the words “Level Up!” appear above my character. I had finally made it. The leveling process was over, and I could start…

Hang on there…why am I already collecting experience for the next level? Is there a next level? The GW2 Wiki clearly states that the maximum level is 80. Why do I still gather experience?

Well, turns out that you’re never truly done leveling in this game. The moment you hit 80, nothing tells you to dive into some raid or high-level dungeon. If you want to, you can just continue what you’ve been doing for the past eighty levels: explore the world, help people and just be heroic. No ones forcing you to do anything new now. Relax, and choose what you want to do!

It’s hard to explain how this realization has blown my mind. I knew that Guild Wars 2 approaches the endgame differently, but knowing that I don’t have to participate in some gearing treadmill, running through the same dungeon every week while praying to the RNG gods, was a big relief, almost akin to an epiphany. Truly, I’ve been playing the endgame since I started playing the game, seeing how the two are not different from each other. But…does that mean that there is no endgame?

When ANet promised to deliver a different type of MMO, I thought it was just marketing bollocks. Seeing how I’m enjoying this non-existent endgame right now, I think they might have been telling the truth.

Damn you, ANet, for making me enjoy an endgame that might not even exist!

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Knowing your limits

A week ago, I went to the doctor because I thought I was having a heart attack.

Woah, calm down! I’ m fine! Really! It turned out to be a strained muscle in my chest, combined with dizziness caused by the weather swings we had back then. What was even more interesting than my trip to the doctor’s office that day was the talk I had with the doctor’s assistant. Since the doctor herself was far too busy with other patients, her assistant was taking my blood pressure and ECG. Once it turned out those were fine, she asked me a few questions about my life.

Do I work? Well yeah, fortunately enough I’m full-time employed, doing a job I really enjoy.

Do I work out? Sure, three times, sometimes even four times a week at my BJJ dojo, with the odd running session in between.

Do I have other hobbies?  I told her about my blog, my gaming habits and my need to stay on top of the info-iceberg related to all my interests.

Am I in a relationship? Yes, since more than a year with the greatest girl on Earth.

By this point, I was starting to wonder about all these questions. I could understand her interest in my physical activities, but her verbal barrage was starting to delve into more private things. Granted, I do not mind telling my doctor’s assistant about such matters, but I was getting curious about it. So, when the assistant gave me a moment in between her questions, I asked her why she was so interested.

Apparently, she thought that the chances that I would be the victim of a heart attack were really low. However, judging from what I told her, she felt that I might just be working myself towards a physical and mental burnout. Though she noticed my smile when the word “burnout” was dropped, she advised me to take her warning seriously. I would not be the first Twentysomething who thought he could take on the world, just to hit the wall a few years later. Given the serious look on her face, I nodded and told her I would ponder her advice. I thanked her for her help, thanked my body for not getting me into the hospital, and left.

Well, the assistant got me thinking. Maybe it is a problem of us young, ambitious people that we do not know our limits. We like to do as much as we can, savouring every minute of our life to the fullest. We’re young, have an income and start to realize that we’re growing up. We’re not yet ready to be really mature, so we do keep on living like we’re fifteen without a care in the world. And that might just be the problem.

It’s hard to grasp, but being 24 is different from being 18. Though I don’t feel like I have much weight on my shoulders, I have a lot more on there than when I was a teenager. I guess I’m not the only young adult who underestimates the duties and tasks that come with being independent. Among all these fine bloggers here, I think there are many more like me who try to combine a full-time job and family with their writing ambitions. To all you great people I say: know your limits.

Really, just know your limits. It’s okay to surpass them once in a while, but know when enough is enough. Take care of yourself.

I’m thankful that my body decided to send me to the doctor’s for this little lesson. I’ll surely keep an eye on my limits, so this won’t be my last post. Oh no, this will surely not be my last post…

Signed,

Chin

Fixing Elves, Part 1

thranduil elf party art

“Thranduil the Party King” by TiaAnthy

Quite some time ago, I wrote a piece about why I’m not so fond of Elves in fantasy fiction. While I’m still anything but a fan of our pointy-eared perfectionists, I think that hating something without offering any suggestions for improvement is just…lame. Everyone can be a hater, but it takes constructive criticism and feedback to actually improve something. That’s why today, I want to take a look at how I would approach the old fantasy trope with the long hair and even longer lifespans. I’ll tell you which traits I would keep, but how I would put those into two new and different settings. Leave your lembas at home, it would just feel out-of-place where we’re going!

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How To Get Through the Loading Screen

The video above is fairly accurate representation of what many people (including me) do during loading screens. Though I didn’t get smashed while waiting for my game to load so far, I recognize a few very familiar things in this video.

It makes me wonder…what do you people do while you’re waiting for the level to pop up? How do you cope with waiting for your buddies to click the “Ready”-button when playing a co-op game? Share your bizarre and strange activities with all of us!

Your comfort zone: the childhood neighbourhood you should leave behind

“Comfort zone” by xiaoyugaara

You know what’s fascinating about geekdom? We have hobbies far outside the comfort zone of many other people, but still despise leaving our own comfort zone. Once a geek has settled into a fandom or field of interest, it’s hard to get him out of it and discover something new. It’s like we like to stray from the mainstream, but once we’re out in the wild, we stick to the part of the nerd jungle we know best.

There’s actually nothing strange about that. As humans, we like to have comfort zones. The name says it all: we need a physical, mental and spiritual area in which we feel comfortable and at home. It’s our safe little shell, into which we retreat when the world out there is just too much. Everyone has a comfort zone, and everyone enjoys it. However, comfort kills growth, and so we tend to turn our comfort zone into a stagnation zone in the long run.

You see, when you only surround yourself with people you know and things you like, you will never make new experiences. And if you don’t make new experiences, you don’t grow. Even though you might have left your childhood neighbourhood long ago, staying in your comfort zone will keep you there forever. You will walk the same streets, say hello to the same people and eat at the same damn restaurant every last Sunday of the month.

This stagnation is death for us creative people, and as geeks and nerds, we are often creative. As a player of tabletop RPG’s and amateur writer, fresh ideas are like fuel to me. I can only recycle a concept, character or plot so often, before it has gone stale. Leaving my comfort zone is thus important. No matter the area, I try to leave it regularly. When I picked up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu two years ago, I left my comfort zone because I never practiced such an intense and grappling-orientated sport before. When I gave the improv storytelling game Fiasco a try, I entered new territory since I had no experience with those kind of role-playing games. When I decided to peek into Sunstone, I went way out of my comfort zone because I just don’t have a thing for BDSM webcomics focusing on the trials and tribulations of the female main characters.

Now, not every excursion out of your metaphorical childhood neighbourhood will be positive or succesful. My quick peek into Sunstone certainly wasn’t (though I do admire the artistic style). What counts though, is the fact that you were willing to try something new. To get a taste of something fresh and foreign. You decided to ignore what you know, and focus on something you didn’t. It’s these experiences that spawn stories that start with “Hey, remember that time when I…”, and those stories are worth telling. For us creative people, they will also give you ideas for your creations. In an Exalted campaign in which my players took the roles of teenage Dragon-Blooded who were trained at a military academy, many of my descriptions for their martial arts classes were based on what I saw in my BJJ classes. When the characters in my RPG campaigns get to meet people from another culture, I think back to how I felt when I moved to Denmark for an exchange semester. Drawing from your own experience adds authenticity, and your audience will appreciate that.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I urge all of you to just go out and leave that stagnation zone of yours. Read a book you normally wouldn’t read, see a movie you think will blow or hang out with people you don’t hang out with regularly. There’s a world beyond your childhood neighbourhood, and leaving it behind for a holiday from time to time will bring you both fresh impressions and a new view on the same old streets and people.

 

White Knighting Sarkeesian…again

feminism glass ceiling

“No more need for feminism” by ladylaguna

Alright, you might think that there are a few other things I should or could write about today. You might think I should write another edition of Geek Jitsu, considering it’s Wednesday. However, since I’m busy compiling and writing the first PDF version of that column, there won’t be a Geek Jitsu every Wednesday for the next weeks. I can only provide you with so much healthy advice. Still, there’s this E3 thingy going on, and you bet I have an opinion about that. Well sure I do, but there’s something else I have to get out of my system (which is related to the E3).

Last week, I wrote a post about how all these male gamers should take a chill pill and let Sarkeesian share her opinion on the role of the female gender in gaming. A few days ago, Sarkeesian tweeted about the lack of female protagonists in the games presented during E3. When I saw it, I just thought “meh, didn’t bother me” and went on with my life. However, a gazillion wannabe alpha-males out there had to interrupt their schedules to bring down some “righteous” fury on Sarkeesian. A most “enjoyable” compilation can be found here.

I hate playing the White Knight for people who are fully capable of defending themself, but these tweets just raise the question why there’s so many gamers ¬†who get all tense and aggressive when someone adds some feminism to their hobby. You might not like Sarkeesian’s opinion, but that’s no reason to call her a cunt or tell her that her statements make your manhood all limp. Those are the things you spew forth when you’re five and you have a disagreement with your big brother, not when you want to have serious dialogue with someone who doesn’t share your views.

Look, I’m not telling you guys to agree with Sarkeesian. I don’t even fully agree with her, but you don’t see me sending her hate-tweets, hoping her life ends in some cruel way. What I am telling you, though, is that you should finally grow up and just argue with her like an adult. Write your own blog posts about this, send her e-mails or contact her in any other way. That will certainly get your message across as well, while opening up some healthy dialogue we can all learn from.

I hope this is the last post I have to dedicate to this topic, and that we all can just get along, no matter if we want our video game protagonists to be male or female. One love, guys and gals. One love.

Three player types that give me healer rage

healers wow druid tauren

Image courtesy of Angry Healers

Rage is a feeling many gamers will feel when gaming. There’s the rage quit, when you just throw your keyboard out of the window and exit the game forcefully. There’s just general rage, which is often caused by the (perceived) idiocy of your fellow gamers. And then there’s a very specific kind of rage, which is often found in MMORPG’s which cling to the holy trinity of tank, DPS and healer. Some call it “just whining”, but I call it healer rage. Sadly, I am no stranger to it, but my experience with it has taught me that it takes specific types of players to invoke the rage deep in my healing heart. In this post, I want to introduce to you that trio of idiot players that force me to raise the question: “Why the eff do I still enjoy doing this? ”

Type #1 – the heal-hogger
The first kind of annoying player is what I call the heal-hogger: a player who thinks that he is the only one worthy of your healing and that no other member of your party should receive those green, floating numbers. Most often, this player is an unexperienced tank, who lives under the illusion that his survival is the only thing that counts. A heal-hogger will remind you regularly that he is your number one priority, especially when his health gets dangerously close to fifty percent, or when he sees that you dare to heal the top DPS of the party. He’s not just green because of your heals, but also with envy.

Luckily, most heal-hoggers grow out of this behaviour once they understand the game dynamics and the value of every party member. It still takes time though, and their appearance in a pick-up group gets my heart racing in the wrong way.

Type #2 – the “I have a scratch, heal me now!”-dude
Many new healers think that they have to make sure that everyone’s health bar is permanently full. Sooner or later, these young apprentices learn that many end-game encounters do not give you the time, resources or plain possibility to keep everyone’s HP at a maximum. The experienced healer does not fret when a part of the group hovers around half of their maximum health. Everyone’s alive and kicking, so where’s the problem? Well, a certain type of player can be the problem…

This annoying archetype has probably never played a healer himself and does not understand that most of us have to work with a resource budget. He lives under the impression that if just one party member is not at maximum health, the healer is slacking. This player will remind you of your failure, telling you that you’re worthless and should play something else. You know who should play something else? You, you annoying piece of dung. You will appreciate me once you’re at the brink of death because you pulled something. Which brings me to my final annoying player type…

Type #3 – the tank who isn’t the tank
Some people just seem to be always in a hurry. Sadly, many of these people play MMORPG’s, and nothing can be fast enough for them. When the tank dares to slow down a bit because the party can’t keep up, this tank who isn’t a tank will take over his job and charge ahead. Going all Leeroy Jenkins on the party, this often squishy damage-dealer while dive right into a pack of elite monsters, causing his health to plummet. Once he’s dead, and the party is done cleaning up his mess, he will blame the healer for his demise and often ragequit.

Well, you mother of annoying party members, let me tell you something. The reason you’re dead is because you’re an idiot. My heals don’t work on idiots, so you just killed yourself. Remember that the next time you group up with me. Maybe if you calm down a bit and use your grey matter, my heals will detect that increase in IQ and work on you. Until then, have fun paying your own damn repair bills.

Writing this piece already brought up some healing rage, so I guess I better stop now and think about all the players who appreciate a good healer. Yes, believe me, they’re out there, and you should be grateful for having them around. Just stick with them, and you might be able to dodge these three flavours of idiocy I described above.