The story of my gloves…

One of the things I’ve come to loathe in modern MMOs is the item grind and the lack of attachment that comes with it.  In World of Warcraft, I don’t care at all about my items because the chances are pretty high that I’m going to replace them soon.  It might be a couple of days, or a few hours, or more often than I would like just a matter of minutes.  I recall one day in particular where I upgraded my character’s pants seven times in just two hours of play.  I probably could have kept any one of those since each upgrade was just a couple of points, from 120 armor to 122 or 8 strength to 9 or adding a stat bonus the previous pants didn’t have, but I felt no attachment to any of those pants.  They’d been so easy to obtain that the stats were all that mattered.

And the appearance, but when the game practically forces you to look like a rodeo clown trying to maintain a cohesive and good look is practically futile.

In my perfect MMO, character stats would be on a smaller scale.  No more crazy strength of 874.  There would be a cap, 100 is a nice number, but then I’ve always had a soft spot for the old table top D&D standard of 25.  With a smaller scale, a single point increase from a magic item would have noticeable impact.  Magic items would then be more rare.  In fact, I’d probably place true magic items only at the end of long quests, coming from incredibly hard boss mobs (assuming the game even had them) or through the arduous labors of master craftsmen.  The obtaining of a magic item would be a story you could tell.  Rather than “Yeah, I got these gloves from delivering pies from Joe to Stewart.” your story would be more along the lines of “Well, about three weeks ago, I undertook a small task for the local sheriff…” and spiral off into a series of deeds and fights or harrowing escapes.  More importantly, those magic gloves would take a long time to replace, if ever.

Over the long haul, your character would become a graphic representation of the stories you could tell, instead of a collection of the best gear you’ve obtained lately.

I think this desire, this design, springs from the years I played EverQuest as a monk.  In the early days, a monk could barely wear any gear, and he was 70% effective even naked since his gear was so weak and he fought without weapons.  Thus, every item that I wore was something I obtained through playing the game.  Some of it from long quest chains, some of it, later, from slaying dragons and other rare and dangerous beasts, from invading the planar homes of the gods, crafted by dear friends using rare materials obtained through adventure.  Even as the game changed and the design encouraged monks to wear more gear, and more monk wearable gear became available, I’d been playing one way so long that I continued.  Every item I carried was a story.  The Treant Fists were a tale of a lost weekend in the Gorge of King Xorbb, the headband of the Ashen Order and the sash of the Silent Fist that eventually lead to the Robe of the Whistling Fists and the Celestial Fists, the Iksar shackles, the Shiverback Hide armor, and so much more.

I’d love to see a game, or perhaps I’ll have to make one, where I actually care about my gear beyond the numbers it increases.

The abnormal tank & the rogue

Back in the days of EverQuest, the wife and I used to duo when we couldn’t find groups.  This isn’t strange, as I have found most couples do this.  What probably is strange is that she played a rogue and I played a monk.  With monk avoidance, the ability to bandage up to 70% (I think they could even do up to 100% later on), a weapon or item that summoned bandages, items that rooted or snared, and rogue evasion, I could tank experience giving mobs while the wife destroyed them from behind.  We really enjoyed traveling the world and finding places and monsters we could fight in this fashion.

Recently, we’ve started playing EQ2X (EverQuest 2 Extended free-to-play) and as per usual she rolled up a rogue, a brigand to be precise.  Now, I didn’t have the option to roll a monk (you have to pay for them), but I decided to roll up a templar.  As we’ve been playing, I’ve been focusing on aggro generating skills and damage and mitigation.  I’m a tanking cleric, so to speak.  I pull, I debuff and nuke and she destroys them from behind.

We’ve played this way in most of the games that we’ve played.  I play a somewhat versatile class that can semi-tank and survive while she plays a DPS heavy class that focuses on the killing.  I really enjoy it and it makes for interesting game play as we level.  Me trying to find new ways to hold aggro with a class that isn’t supposed to do that, and her trying not to steal aggro with a class practically designed to steal aggro from tanks.  I think the only game we strayed from this was LotRO in which we played a Champion/Minstrel and a Captain/Lore-master.

Do you have a favorite duo in games?

The Art of the Pull

This past weekend I spent my time in Free Realms grinding out some Brawler levels.  I was only level 4 and had that stupid “Get level 5!” as my only brawl quest.  Well, I had other quests for the brawler, but they all required that I fight things recommended for level 5 and over.  So I went and found a few random encounters and got level 5, then set about questing again.

Back in the days of EverQuest, I played a monk.  The reason I chose a monk was because the guy who introduced me to the game said it was hard to play and was the class least reliant on equipment.  And it was true, in the beginning.  My monk was about 80% effective when “naked”.  Of course, as the game expanded, monks became just as reliant on gear as every other class.  But the point is, I played a monk.  One thing monks did in EQ was called “pulling”.  If you aren’t familiar with the term, it means that my group would pick a safe spot to sit and I would run out and find monsters for us to fight, dragging them back to the group for the kill.  The reason monks did this was because they got a skill called Feign Death which allowed them to escaped monsters if they happened to get too many chasing them.  Play dead, monsters go away.  As all monks did, I learned the observable mechanics of the game, how monsters would walk back to spawn points at different times, how some would “reset” their “hate list” upon reaching their spawn, and lots of other little things.  Over time, as I observed more and became a better puller, I used Feign Death less and less.  I learned how to pluck a single monster from a group just by standing in a particular place a particular distance away at a particular angle.  Honestly, being a puller in EQ was probably what kept me playing for so long.  One of the main reasons I quit was at the high end game during raiding your team only needed one or two monks for pulling, and any extra monks were just a part of the killing team.  Auto-attack is boring, especially after a life roaming zones in search of danger.

The point of that little trip down memory lane is to preface the following: Monster pathing and aggro hasn’t changed much over at SOE.

I find myself going under equipped and lower level than I should into brawler fights and using my monk skills to splits monsters and fight them one at a time when they are clearly intended to be fought in pairs or threes.  You can even run from most groups of monsters and watch your “radar” to see when most of them turn around and go home, leaving just one tenacious follower to combat.  I’ve even gone so far as to defeat “events” that clearly shouldn’t be something I do alone.  In one quest instance, you get to a certain point and it triggers waves of monsters to attack.  If you stand and fight, you have to take them on 3 or 4 at a time, but instead you can run off to the side and hide, wait for all the waves to show up, and then use aggro and positioning to pluck them one at a time out of the mess.  Sure, it takes longer, but seeing as how actually finding people to group is one of the most difficult things to do in Free Realms, taking the time and doing it on my own is preferable.

Anyway, I managed to get myself 4 levels doing Brawler quests, and then I headed back to Sanctuary to see if I could exhaust it like I did Seaside.  I haven’t yet, but I’m getting close.

The Pick-Up Group Dilemma

One of the banes of MMOs would appear to be, from scanning forums all over, the Pick-Up Group. More commonly known as a PUG, these are the random people you end up grouping with trying to accomplish goals in the MMO of your choice.

World of Warcraft has had the biggest impact of group expectations that I have seen due simply to the fact that when it comes to grinding experience points and other general gameplay every player can always say “Screw you guys, I’m going to go solo.” The only situations where that really isn’t true is most instances and raids. As a result, because every player has the viable option of soloing, they put up with less, but they also don’t try as hard.

Back in the age old days of EverQuest, where grouping was practically required because only certain classes could solo well and even then not everyone could do it (it made me weep sometimes to watch druids repeatedly screw up kiting), a player just couldn’t tell everyone to go away and run off by himself. You had to make the group work, or you had to find another group.

The good side of that is that the community on an EQ server was, in my opinion, much tighter than your typical WoW server. Forced grouping compounded with non-trivial travel and no rest bonuses for exp meant players tended to stick in one area for long periods and group with the same people again and again. Doing my tenure in Velketor’s knowing people meant that they understood I was a monk, a monk who knew how to pull, and capable of joining a group pretty much anywhere. When I went to look for a group in zone, it rarely took long at all for someone I’d previously grouped with to see me, invite me, and the fun would begin.

The bad side is that sometimes it was necessary to yell at people (or rather, to type at them furious in all CAPS). If you put together a full group at the front of Karnor’s Castle, proceeded inside to set up camp, and only then discovered that your bard was a spastic mental case, you might be forced to just suck it up and deal with him because even though he was crappy at his job, a crappy crowd control class was often better than no crowd control class. However, given that the spastic bard needed the group almost as much as you needed the bard, compromises would be met, adjustments to play style made, and the exp would again begin to flow.

City of Heroes is an example of a game that has tried to make the solo and group experiences equally fun. Almost any mission in the game can be done alone, but if you bring along five or six friends the mission will scale upward in a fairly predictable fashion. But, since the game goes largely without item drops and other things some MMOs depends on, CoH is actually able to provide a weird dichotomy between the two: solo play is much much more reliable for progression, you know your own class and you can go at your own pace; in a group, classes mesh together to provide new strategies but due to the size of the scaling encounters are usually more chaotic and “exciting”, providing a different rush than solo play. In both cases, you can flag your character or group to adjust the difficulty up or down to fine tune your experience.

Overall though, despite all the frustration bad groups gave me in EQ, I’d still prefer them to the eternally disbanding groups of WoW. CoH was a nice middle ground but might not mesh well with the item-centric design of other games.

What do you think about Pick-Up Groups?

Monks: A New Alternate Advancement Ability

AA Ability: Embrace Death
PoP Ability, cost 9 AA, requires level 63 and Rapid Feign 3.
Duration: 1 minute
Reuse: 20 minutes

Feign death is a skill that all monks possess that allows them to fake a
death like state. Unnatural stillness, slowing of the pulse, shallow
breathing. The highly trained monk learns to embrace the death-like state
in such a way that is beyond doubt. He is able to bring his pulse to a
halt, stop his breath, lay still, ignore pain, and even reduce his body
temperature. This state is so believable because for 1 minute the monk IS

This would be a 100% complete mem wipe. Since we don’t have mana, it must
have a reuse time that makes it a choice to use it over a regular feign.
The duration is because there needs to be a limit on it due to what I’m
about to suggest….

This would be exactly like being a corpse. It is a 100% mem wipe,
everything believes you have died, and for up to 1 minute (you can
deactivate it, but still have to wait the full reuse time to do it again)
nothing will break the feign. No spells.. nothing. At the end of 1 minute,
you stand up automatically (the shock of your body getting no oxygen and
no blood pumping for a full minute is quite a jarring experience).

But that’s just my idea… *shrug*

Bulletproof Monk

Catches bullets? with his teeth? Nigga please!

Okay, so that line is actually from Barry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, but I just couldn’t resist.

Want to see explosions? guns? unrealistic martial arts fight scenes? If you said yes, this movie is for you.

I loved it! (It was much better than Cats.) Chow Yun Fat played his usual self, only slightly less serious. Seann William Scott played his usual self, only slightly more serious. And Boy Wonder Studios (owned and operated by Burt Ward, Robin from the old Batman TV show) did a fine job on the special effects.

I liken this to a kung-fu movie in the old style, like the ones that used to air as “Kung Fu Theater” on Saturday afternoons. Guys show up, fight, move on. Chases. A little story about a prophesy. And saving the world.

Definately worth my $6.