Monday, December 19, 2011

An Unwanted Hiatus

A death in our immediate family -- coupled with the holidays -- has left me drained and barely able to game, never mind blog.

After the holidays are over and my stress level has returned to its normal state of crazy-yet-functional, I'll be back.

Till then, here's a screenie of my minstrel, Cherrydue, all dressed up for Yule and carrying home her tree:

Hope everyone else is happily gaming through the holiday madness...


Friday, December 2, 2011

Gamer Girl Survival Guide # 2

In the first Gamer Girl Survival Guide post we talked defense.  Now it's time to look at the other side of that shiny coin:  offense!

Not only do we need to learn to lithely mitigate the barrage of whatever is thrown at us in our virtual worlds, but we can also sometimes avoid being the target at all by having a respectable in-game arsenal.  Girls, we need to arm ourselves!*

Literal weapons and other in-game gear are a part of being well-armed in an MMO.  It's less likely that people will be condescending to a female player that has gear that is as good -- or better than -- theirs.  It's also easier to not be phased by occasional ass-hattery and chauvinism when you're decked out in high-end stuff. So, let's run the content and get the goods!

Another -- and even more important -- way that we need to arm ourselves in-game is knowledge and skill.

When I say that women need in-game knowledge, I'm not just talking about knowing which NPC is named "Jenny Greentoes" or when the next festival starts.  I'm talking about the following:

- Have general knowledge that affects game-play.  Know what virtues we should trait for various fights, what buffs we want, and what consumables are most useful.  Be prepared to answer questions for other players when they arise, too.  Why?  Out of helpfulness, sure, but also because it makes us look good!  Example (thanks, Palin!) general knowledge question: "Are there other places than a skirmish barterer to get Greater Scrolls of Delving?"  Answer:  "Yes.  You can also buy them with TP through the store OR spend over 6,000 shards on them at a relic master."

- Know everything to do with our classes.  Know all of our class skills, our class trait sets, and how virtues/stats affect our classes.  Know our gear and be prepared to defend why we use each piece!  Read the class/beta forums and stay informed about current issues and future changes.

- Have a basic understanding of the other classes.  No one expects every player to be an expert of every single class in a game, especially those we don't play, but knowing other classes and how they affect us in a group, is essential for being a good group player... especially at end-game.  Having at least a basic understanding of the other classes will also help us to be able to give advice and feedback to others.  And helping people gains us respect. 

- Learn some strategy!  We need to know the fights we're going to be joining.  Let's always go in with a basic idea of the strategy so our group leaders don't have to hold our hands.  Have some basic foreknowledge of what is going to happen and how to handle it.  For example, knowing what kind of debuff a boss lays down in an instance is not only good for success of the fight, but being able to answer these kind of specific questions when they arise -- much like understanding other classes -- can gain us respect.

Aside from being a knowledgeable player, let's also be prepared to back up that stored information with SKILL!  Knowing that the Lieutenant of Dol Guldur puts a purple eye over our heads that will kill our fellows is good.  Running to the designated spot on time and NOT killing our fellows is better!

Showing that we play as well as others will help chip away at the gender prejudice that we sometimes face, and hopefully we will someday be thought of as more than just "gamer girls" but also as equal and essential members of the gaming community.  This isn't a female specific concept, by the way.  ALL end-gamers in MMOs have to prove themselves worthy of being considered "good players."

By being geared, knowledgeable and skillful players we'll have a full arsenal to not only use in social combat, but to hopefully avoid ever even being the target when it arises.


*Most of my examples and information will be taken from LOTRO, since it is where I have the majority of my MMO experience.  The basic advice can be applied to all MMOs**, however.

**"Hello Kitty Online" might be an exception.

Draigoch Revisited

In October I wrote about my disdain for the current "dragon raid" with a lot of heart-felt detail, but several weeks later my feelings have changed a bit.  It seems only fair to share that, too.

So, what's changed about the fight that makes me like it better?  Nothing.  My kinship, Trucido, just has it completely DOWN at this point.  I no longer find myself dreading the once tedium of fighting the great dragon, and I think it all comes down to... speed!  If the fight is finished quickly, the repetitive nature of the first two phases isn't nearly as painful.  Since there is still a lack of real raid-wide strategy (and excitement compared to other, better raids) it's best when it all goes like:  Boom! Loots! Yay!

I look forward to Turbine lowering Draigoch's morale in the next update simply to make the process go even faster.  Moreover, I look forward to new instances and a raid that I can only hope is reminiscent of far better fights that we've seen in this past.

*X-ing fingers*


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

SW:TOR -- The Decision.

After much deliberation (and reading lots of reviews by people who have played to end-game) my husband and I have decided NOT to play TOR at launch.  We feel that there are too many issues -- and potential issues -- with the game and we'd rather wait, watch and read about how the game is doing 3+ months after launch.

The things that contributed to my decision the most are:

- No customizable/movable UI (should be a standard MMO feature by now)

- No combat log!  (This is a basic NECESSITY in an MMO)

- No raid assist panel, or "show target of target!"  (This just pains my end-game/raiding heart)

- The combat seemed more focused on cool animation than skill.

- The worlds seems very narrow/linear without any real capacity for exploration outside of just getting from point A to Point B.

The things I listed above are from my personal experiences.  If I am incorrect (and, for instance, I just couldn't find my combat log) please let me know!  I'd love to hear that this game is better than it currently seems.  And please understand that I liked a lot of what I experienced (read my last blog post) in this game and WANT THIS GAME TO SUCCEED!

I know that games can change a LOT after beta and even in the first months following launch.  This is why I haven't given up hope for TOR and am only saying "not yet" rather than "never."

I hope that Bioware chooses to fix the flaws and add the features/content that will makes this everything we'd been hoping it would be for more than 3 years now.

For now:  reading, watching, waiting and hoping.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Time to talk SW:TOR!

I know that there are a zillion people out there talking about "Star Wars: The Old Republic" now that the NDA has lifted... but none of them have been ME yet, so here we are!  (Oh, and I promise not to hit you with any big spoilers without advance warning.)

I first tested the game 2 weekends ago.  I played a Smuggler (completely solo) and tried to get as much leveling and content completion into my time as I could.  I think that the self-imposed grind to try and get out of the prologue and into a starship ended up being a big mistake.  I watched all of the VO stuff for each quest, but was very focused on "getting somewhere" and didn't really take the time to appreciate the unique combination of a solo RPG feel mixed with an MMO.  After less than two days of playing this way, I ended up totally burned out, completely disappointed, and bored with the whole game.  I wrote Bioware some choice reviews about the repetitive, generic nature of the mission objectives and combat and walked away feeling like this was just another generic MMO like WoW but dressed up with a Star Wars theme.  I had made my mind up that I wasn't going to play it, and that was that.

Then my husband finally got a beta invite for this last big weekend.  He already knew how I felt about the game, but I said that I would give it another chance so we could play together.  Playing in a virtual world with friends/loved ones is one of my favorite aspects of gaming.  This time, I took a totally different approach.  We both played Jedi (he was a knight, I was a consular) so we could quest together from the very beginning.  There were no self-imposed goals -- though obtaining that first lightsaber was pretty compelling -- and we both got swept into our stories, as well as each other's class story.

There was also a late night table dance that left my husband exclaiming to the world "This is the best MMO evar!"

We played the game all evening, and then woke up wanting to play some more the next day.  That kind of excitement doesn't happen very often for me in a game, so I was surprised when it hit me that I was really, REALLY having fun with a game which I had completely denounced just two weeks earlier.

So, what made it different/better this time around?  I think that there are a few factors:

1)  I didn't care for the beginning planet for the Smuggler/Trooper.  It felt too much like a generic, crowded war zone for my taste.  The starter area for the Jedi, however, was lovely and allowed some moments of peaceful exploration between the combat.

2)  The group play is like nothing I have ever experienced in another MMO... in a good way!  I felt as captivated by my husband's story as my own and the social points just for playing with him felt like prizes.

3)  I took time to try out the crafting and found it unique and fun, even though it devoured all my credits.

4)  I realized that with parties only consisting of 4 people, my husband and I (with our two companions) could duo this whole game if we wanted to.

5)  I allowed the game/story to set the pace instead of forcing my own leveling agenda onto it.

I think that number five is the most important difference in how I felt this time.  TOR isn't just another grindreallyfasttocapandgetsomegear type of MMO.  The story is what drives everything, and your involvement and choices change that story and shape your experience.  I think that Bioware has made a very unique MMO that will be a more captivating experience than most.

But I'm still torn on whether or not I actually want to spend $160 (2 copies) plus $30 a month for us to play this game.

Here's the biggest reason (cost aside) why I might not buy/play TOR:  because even though I love that this game is story driven and different, I'm still an end-gaming lets-go-kill-that-huge-monster-in-a-huge-group kind of girl.  I love my raids!  Not for the loots (though that is nice) but I love the challenge of 12+ people working together to overcome unbelievable odds to defeat an epic foe.  I love the tactics of end-game raiding.   I love the trial and error of a new fight.  I love feeling a part of something bigger than just me and my story.  And I have all that in LoTRO.  I also have the name "LOTROgirl" everywhere, and that could end up being awkward. ;-)

The reason I might end up playing TOR is that it fills another game void I didn't really know I had before I tested it the second time.  I can immerse myself in a story -- without the stress/tedium of end-game grind -- and be thoroughly entertained.   I can also have it feel like a solo game on those days when I am not feeling like interacting with the MMO world, or when my amazing yet introverted husband wants to run something challenging with just the two of us.  He reminded me yesterday that he is NOT and end-game/raid person and that he was thoroughly enjoying the TOR beta without consideration for what it would be like at cap.  That ended up reminding me that once upon a time I enjoyed the experience of just playing and living in the MMO moment, too.  And that's something I haven't felt in a really long time -- being captivated by a game without end-game goals and promises of fat loot.

As much as I'd like to say that I would play this game with the hope that there ends up being some awesome end-game, it's hard to make decisions based on what the future MIGHT bring us in a game.  For now -- in the limited time I've gotten to try it -- TOR is enjoyable just the way it is, just in a different way than LoTRO is.  Maybe there is room in my heart (and schedule) for both games.  I'm still undecided.

Maybe a few more hours of beta testing will help... *clicks SWTOR icon*

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Middle-earth Real Estate: Where Would You Call Home?

Real life this last week has made me think that it might be nice to actually live in-game, were it possible.  Have you ever given any thought to what spot in LoTRO's Middle-earth that you would call home, if you could?

Although my main (non-RP) character in game is an elf, the choice for me is easy.  I would blissfully settle down in the Shire.  And, yes, I have a specific place that I think would be my perfect fit in Middle-earth:  Buckland.

Just imagining walking down this path on the way back home (with some fresh baked pies) makes my heart feel light.

Not only is it peaceful and scenic, but Buckland area has everything else that I could want in a Middle-earth hometown.  It isn't as big and bustling as Michel Delving or Breetown, but still has certain necessities like a large open market as well as the entertainment of the Buckland Faire.


If you want a nice meal and a pint, The Golden Perch is just across the Brandywine River in Stock; and if you prefer to catch your own breakfast, sunrise over the Brandywine makes a lovely backdrop.

Buckland has all of the typically beautiful scenery that you would expect from the Shire like gorgeous fields of wildflowers crowned by rolling hills, and little, out-of-the-way spots near the water that look perfect for peaceful, drowsy, summers.

Buckland also has something that sets it apart from the rest of the Shire.  It is bordered by the Old Forest and is the only town to have an entrance to it.

This might be a turn-off for some people, but I think that the mysterious beauty of the forest is amazing, even if dangerous to wander about in.  As a writer who flirts with dark fantasy, of course I would also love to be able to start my own tale with, "I live at the edge of the forest."

Where is your ideal bit of Middle-earth real estate?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Coming Out... as a Gamer

I started online gaming regularly in 1999 when Asheron's Call first made it's awesome appearance.  Since then, much of my free time has been devoted to exploring these online worlds (If interested, I list most of what I've played in my profile); and yet -- until very recently -- when I was asked what I like to do for fun, I shied away from the most honest and obvious answer which is, "I play games!"

I have only "come out" as a gamer over this past year.  I think that part of the reason I stayed in the gaming closet (Woah, now I am totally thinking how awesome an actual Gaming Closet could be!) for so long is that -- much like other geek-ish hobbies -- if you don't partake yourself, you probably won't "get it."  I got tired of trying to explain what these games were and why an adult would spend time playing them.  I also heard so many negative comments from family and friends regarding the gaming habits of my partners that I was eventually pushed into denial and hiding.

I've spent most of my real life being a very open, unabashed sort of girl -- if I want pink hair, then I dye it pink! -- and that's the place where I am most comfortable:  The place where my opinion of myself matters the most.  When I realized that my discomfort over being honest about this topic was affecting how I was feeling about myself, I knew something had to change.  Hiding such a big part of me for so long had frayed the edges of my self-esteem.  I think that my unconscious logic went something like this:  If gaming is something that needs to be hidden, then it must somehow be shameful, and if I am partaking in something shameful, then I am less valuable as a person.  I obviously had to evaluate what gaming was to me, if it was worth the "shame" that I (and others) were assigning it, and what to do about it all.

My conclusion actually took a very short amount of time when I thought on it all logically and compared my hobby to other hobbies.  My hours gaming are no more wasted, silly or harmful than the hours that people spend doing most other non-essential activities.  Hobbies are meant to be activities that pass the time while making us happy; and gaming makes me happy!

Now I am OUT as the proud gamer geek girl that I am.  I no longer try to blend in like this..

... and it's made me a happier gamer and person for it.  It's also made me want to blog about it all, so YOU get to reap the rewards, too! *wink*

Sometimes I still get confused looks or laughter when I mention that my alter-ego is a lvl 75 Elven Hunter, but I no longer let it affect me negatively.  Most people have some sort of activity that they partake in that is non-essential to their survival, and that's okay.  Instead of feeling shameful for time potentially wasted, I now feel grateful for having a life where I'm afforded the time and resources to have as much fun as I do!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gamer Girl Survival Guide # 1

I had a bunch of thoughts sparked by the first comment on this CSTM post on the topic of being a female gamer/MMO player* and have decided to break them down into individual posts to create my Gamer Girl's Survival Guide.

The first survival tool for being a female in what still seems to be a "man's world" -- although LoTRO has more female players than any other MMORPG I've ever played -- is:  grow a thicker skin.  If we can't handle a bit of discomfort caused by other humans online, we shouldn't be playing an MMO and should probably go back to playing The Sims where we can create every aspect of our world and occupy it entirely alone.

I'm not saying that women should condone really inappropriate or harmful behavior or anything that is worthy of "reporting," rather (like in real life) we have to learn to tolerate certain things in order to play with other people.  We need to choose our battles carefully and weigh the consequences.  Example:  There is a particular seasoned member of my kinship who makes blatantly sexist, vulgar and misogynistic comments in kin and raid chat on a regular basis, which is inevitably followed by a string of typed lololols and laughter in Ventrilo.  Is this potentially upsetting and annoying?  Yes.  Is it worth taking it up with my officers, causing drama, and potentially upsetting what is otherwise an amazingly functional, drama-free and happy kinship?  Not to me, it isn't.  At least, not yet.  Everyone has their "line" that can be crossed.  In the real world, we have to draw that line further out to protect ourselves, but online -- etiquette lacking the way it does -- we have to make some concessions for peoples' misbehavior or we will either be very unhappy gamers or find ourselves paying a monthly fee to play all alone.

There isn't any way to completely stop the barrage of stinging darts -- that is sometimes aimed at us and sometimes friendly fire -- but we have the ability to choose to shrug off what we can, and the responsibility to deal with whatever we can't shrug off in a way that leaves us as blameless as possible.

None of this is as compromising as it might sound, nor as difficult.  Chances are if you are already a female MMO player, you've achieved this by now.  And if you're a new girl to online gaming:  Don't be disheartened!  Even with the annoyances, sexism, and trolls, it's still well worth putting points into your real life "resistance rating" and "ass-hat mitigation" so that you can be part of the adventure!


*I realize that this topic is going to be touchy.  I'm going to have women angry that I make concessions to men (and use the term "girl" and other non-empowering titles); and I am going to have men who are angry because they feel that I am stereotyping and generalizing them.  I get it.  Feel free to comment.  I actually do care how you feel, although in this place -- my blog -- I care more about my own feelings, staying true to myself, and my self-expression.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Draigoch The Red

There is no question whether or not that the new raid boss, Draigoch the Red, is an epic foe.  Afterall, he's a great dragon who is guarding his horde of treasure.  That's pretty classic.  He also goes against the norm and sports a beard;  that's pretty hipster.

The walk down to where the battle begins, is a unique and exciting start.  Draigoch senses the intrusion of your group, and peers through the cracks in the tunnels leading down.  If you get caught in the light from his peering eyes, you're toast... literally.  This comes with no repair bill which is fortunate for me since I tend to be impatient and die an average of 3 times during this part.  The first time I was one-shotted by this beast was novel and kind of fun.  Most of the raid did the same thing.  Since then, it's really just become annoying for me.  Since Turbine isn't likely to remove this aspect, I guess I need to just get better at not getting caught!

I don't want this post to be a play-by-play or a guide, since there are plenty of those out there, but rather just a personal opinion piece by someone who has done this raid multiple times, on both easy and hard modes.  So for the sake of conciseness, here it is:  I think this raid is boring.  Don't get me wrong, the boss himself is great, and the cavern filled with super-heated gold coins that jangles and jostles you about as Draigoch becomes increasingly irritated with your progression is pretty cool, too.  What I have a hard time with is the repetition sans excitement.

From a hunter's/DPS perspective, this raid is so repetitive that I would rather grind slayer deeds than have to go in there again.  For me it goes like this:  DPS a paw, run to another paw, and another, and another... jump down when the body falls and stand there (sometimes DPS) while the burglars/CJ group do their thing to get challenge mode, run back in and REPEAT... ad nauseum.  This is phase one and can last a very long time depending on the success and speed of the CJs.  This is ALSO phase two but with the added tension of the possibility of the upper tank calling the wrong direction (except for Ceana who was amazing last week and didn't lead us wrong once!) which generally wipes the raid.  So for me, phase one and phase two are the exact same thing, and very, very dull.  By the time we make it to phase three, I'm tired but also nervous, cause a wipe at that point can mean 60 - 90 minutes of work wasted.  Phase three is actually a pretty cool fight, it's just that after the repetitive nature of the preceding hour+, it's hard to be all like, "Yay, what a fun raid!" even if/when we win.  Which, btw, looks like this...

I'm told that the upper tank and healer have more exciting roles in this fight, and that being in the CJ group gives you something else to do, too, so maybe it's just being a DPS drone that is causing my misery.  Although, playing my hunter in every other raid in this game has never caused that feeling.  Maybe someday I'll get my minstrel up to cap (or PUG it on my captain) and see if it makes a difference.  It's just really sad to me that my main toon finds something in this game that should be my current favorite aspect (I love raiding!  Did I mention that?) so agonizing.  Maybe completing T2 challenge -- and therefore earning me a worn symbol for the deed -- will help raise my spirit.  I'm not sure.  All I know is that I am currently doing what needs to be done based solely on my love/commitment to my kinship, Trucido... and that I am already really looking forward to the next end-game content update.  Until then, I'm going to show up to raid night with as positive an attitude I can muster, hoping that with more experience the whole thing goes faster and, for now -- in the words of Annoula -- plan to just,  "Stay frosty!"

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Let's talk TOONS! (An Introduction)

I primarily play on the Windfola server, but also have a couple of toons on Landroval -- which is an amazing server, and I often wish I had started there!

On Windfola:

My main character is my lvl 75 elven hunter, "Curiel."  She is agile, dangerous and will be my favorite girl forever, even if they nerf hunters again like they did in VII, B7 (OMG, please don't ever do that again, Turbine!  Just the thought makes my face look like this..

I also have a delightful little redheaded hobbit minstrel named "Cherrydue" who used to double as my main back when I was in a kinship short on healers.  She will eventually get to lvl 75, but am lvling with my hubby's guard and not rushing.

Both of these toons are in Trucido (check them out here) which is truly an amazing kinship!

My many, many other alts are used primarily for crafting and reside in my alt kin (extra storage, yay!) that is also home to my husband's alts and our daughter's toons.

On Landroval:

I have a low lvl hobbit minstrel named "Nanny Witchdiggle" who is a feisty, fiery, wrinkled, old girl who loves to laugh.  She was created as part of an alt kin with some friends from Windfola (who stopped playing on Landy over a year ago) and I am considering finding her a new home kinship.  For now, though, she -- and my other little alts -- remain the only active member in "Halflings for Hire."

I also have a Captain (who shall remain anonymous for now ;-) on her way to 75.  She is less interesting as a character, but I *love* playing her in groups.  Due to my commitments to Trucido of Windfola, I don't have her in an end-game kinship but I do enjoy pugging her through content on off-raid nights.  It was on some late night OD weekend runs that I discovered how much fun playing a cappie is!

Sooo, that's me!  Feel free to /wave if you see me in game.  :-)

Friday, October 28, 2011

All hail The Pumpkin Queen!

My photo/postcard was featured in this week's Freeps' Press!

Being featured is pretty cool in itself, it would be way cooler if it earned me some Turbine Pts... or a free skeleton mount.

I love the Harvestmath outfit that I created for this festival, although my first choice of any outfit in Middle-earth would be THIS...

I heart you and your evilicious breastplate, Amarthiel!

Hello, blog-o-sphere!

I was forced from my former LotRO blogging on my.lotro by their poor features and general bugginess which ended up with me no longer blogging about the game or my characters anymore.

I'm starting fresh over here so that I can start that up again, 'cause if I'm not playing Lord of the Rings Online, the next best thing is talking about it.