Monday, March 11, 2013

A Monday in which I reminisce on Requiem and my days in an uber World of Warcraft guild

I got kind of confused with the book tour post for Ellie Garratt's new book Passing Time and published it/unpublished it. You may see it in your Google Reader. That post will go up on Wednesday, so I'm sorry for the confusion. If you would like to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh's blog today, he is hosting Ellie Garratt on schedule.
My friend Kevin is gonna make me want to play a pandarian before this
post is over. *Shakes fist at Kevin!
Today I would like to introduce you to the first of two "Kevins" that I met while playing World of Warcraft. I still don't know what this particular "Kevin" looks like in real life as I haven't met him, but I've talked to him on the phone and on ventrilo and he's a fellow druid lover (although I thought his character's name "Shribryn" was far cooler than the one I picked, which was "Velanna"). I hope to introduce you to the other "Kevin" soon. I sent him some interview questions. The other Kevin was my raid leader and guild master of "Requiem" (a very handsome fellow I might add) and we dominated our server for about five years. Plus we were a top 200 guild. That's sayin' a lot for those of you who don't know what that entails. That other Kevin went on to raid with the guild "Elitist Jerks" after I left, which is a "top 10 in the world guild" on the server Mal'ganis US.

Anyway, this first Kevin (and my good buddy) wants to take you on a little nerdy history of Azeroth. So those of you that like video games and/or fantasy stories may enjoy this entry. As a side note, I think those of you who "despise" video games because they take boys away from reading should check this attitude because video games are just "graphical" fiction with the best possible "choose your own adventure" engine. To explain further, it would be like an author of fiction hating on another "author of fiction" simply because they get all the attention and their product looks way better. In other circles...we might call that jealousy (a topic for another time). So yeah, jealousy does not become you my dear...

Anyway...take it away Kevin a.k.a. "Shribryn"...

As some of you may know, Mike used to play a lot of Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft (WoW) and in fact, it is in that game where I met him. Since I’m assuming some of you have never played WoW or don’t know anything about it, I will explain a few basic facts. WoW is an MMORPG which is shorthand for saying it is a multiplayer online role playing game and Azeroth is the world where most of the game takes place.
Comment from Mike: Graphics continually improve. I remember when I thought this
looked good. This is what Wizard 101 looks like LOL.
The game is a simple concept. In exchange for $15/month, each player starts with a few basic abilities and your character improves through a combination of leveling to gain new abilities and gear to make you more powerful.  The combination gives a feeling of improvement that can be addictive. This isn’t a particularly new idea but when Blizzard released the game, they hit the sweet spot. When their game came out in late 2004 there were only about 6 million people playing MMORPGs. In under a year the number jumped to almost 13 million and many of them were playing WoW. In the United States alone, they had to open almost 200 servers to accommodate the traffic, each essentially their own little world.
Growth in MMO Accounts per year. Impressive, eh? It reminds me of the explosion
that the iPhone experienced (or the iPad) or for that matter, Apple. Only Apple
did it better. Still, a company would be proud to have this kind of growth.
I will never forget the day in game when I got a whisper from a guild of casual players asking for help against some of the game’s harder content. After a few failed attempts, one of their druids bombarded me with a constant steam of private messages and our conversation continued long after his guild gave up the fight. Within a week, I recruited Velanna (aka Mike) and a few of his friends to join my guild. Mike’s character is in the picture below on the far right. I’m next to him in tree form.
Having the name <REQUIEM> floating next to your character was pretty damn cool.
People all over the server basically treated you like a celebrity because you could clear
all the content on hard-mode. It really taught me how working together as a team
with someone is the best way to play a game. Some of our guildies were such
attention whores. They'd sit in all their epics and legendary gear at some high
trafficked location in the game and just go idle so that people could "marvel" at all
their cool stuff. The psychology behind video games is fascinating.
As you can imagine, finding long-term friends in an online game like WoW is hard. During the time I was in charge of recruiting for the guild I noticed a consistent trend that every month we’d lose around 10% of our members. That might not seem like much but it essentially means over the course a year, guilds (teams of players) will look completely different than they did a year earlier. Beating the ‘boss’ in the picture below took ‘playing’ 4 hours a night, 3 days a week for almost a year. Only about 5 people remained of the 40 that were there from the start.
The <REQUIEM> Bad-assess. Seeing these pics brings back memories.
That is the nature of the game and the trap of MMORPGs. They suck you in with the promise of a fun social experience but it eventually becomes a grind.  As Penny Arcade perfectly summed up in their GIFT cartoon (below), the anonymous nature of a game like this means you will find a greater percentage of idiots and it’s a test of your interpersonal skills if you want to find a good friend. Of the thousands of people I met in the World of Warcraft, Mike is the only one I talk to on occasion.
Click to Embiggen
A few weeks ago, Blizzard sent me a 10-day pass for their latest expansion, Mists of Panderia. I’ve heard some good things about it and despite my misgivings, I decided to check it out.  At first, it was weird to play as I couldn’t remember any of the buttons to press but it came back quick and so did the nice feeling of falling into the world of Azeroth.
Oh the peril of a huge sword is just too hard to resist
standing underneath and sneaking a screenshot.
The newest Warcraft storyline is based on Chinese and Asian legends and the world they created is breathtaking. The first thing I noticed was just how good the new areas look despite the game’s age. In addition, the questing is streamlined, there are better tools for new players, and the game’s mechanics are simpler. One huge improvement is the addition of the tools added since the Lich King expansion that helps players find groups. The LFR/LFG system minimizes the playtime needed at the highest levels so there’s no longer any need to devote a year of your life to experience all the content.  I can attest that is a good thing.

Of course, there are things I didn’t like. Now that that it is easier for players to access the highest-level content, the designers have decreased the challenge to accommodate players that don’t take the time to understand the game’s mechanics. This seems to have made some players even lazier as many don’t seem to bother to move when they are ‘standing in fire’ as they know healers can keep them alive. Despite that, the latest expansion is a definite win for Blizzard.
The one thing Blizzard can’t change is the fact that no online experience can replace real life interaction and the rise of mobile gaming on Iphones/ Ipads/ Androids is stealing potential customers. As you can see on the chart at the top of the post, the MMORPG industry has stagnated for over the last 4 years and mobile gaming has been a big reason. Games like Angry Birds or Words with Friends are cheap, have little of the social stigma and place little/no time demands on its customers. There’s nothing Blizzard can do about that but I don’t feel too sorry for them. They still have millions of subscribers paying $15 every month and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Even with the positive changes to the game, my return to Azeroth was short.  I know from experience that the time demands are still too much and my completionist nature can’t handle it.  I’m not leaving Blizzard’s domain entirely as the new Starcraft expansion is/was released on March 12th so if any of you are interested in playing, my player ID is jebei#674.


Thanks Kevin for taking me down a stroll through memory lane. I do miss playing World of Warcraft with <Requiem> a lot. However, I made a choice to quit playing so that I could get my mojo back with regard to writing (to play something so incredibly creative destroys my own creativity), to start getting in better physical shape, and to concentrate on goals I wanted to make which are namely: to buy a house and get my retirement all set up nicely and maybe do some traveling (if there's any money left). All of that is really difficult to do when you are raiding four nights a week, and people are depending on you to show up because you have the gear that allows them to tackle the difficult content. However, there's nothing like a game to show you the people that have no ability to do math and to point out those that may have an IQ of around 80. You quickly learn to distance yourself from those people, as they will waste all of your time. It sounds ruthless, but that's the way it is.

Any of you watch the trailer? It shows actual game play. Pretty impressive in my opinion. Have a great Monday.


  1. I stopped playing WOW many years ago. It was fun while it lasted but when I started to spend almost all my time on the computer and not enough time in the real world, I knew I had to make a change.

    I prefer PVP games. I love League of Legends and am proud to say I was one of the first people to devise off-the-wall builds for certain characters, like AP on Tristana.

    Now I don't play games except for Maplestory.

    I'm glad you're focusing on "bettering" yourself. Keep at it and never give up!

  2. It requires a time commitment and most people just aren't that committed.
    Never got into the online games. Think it was the sixty bucks for the game PLUS a monthly fee. A group of us at work used to play Unreal Tournament, but that was on the LAN, not online.

  3. Like anything else in life, it takes a time commit and some natural ability to do well. It's not a matter of luck.

    Of course, you know I'm a supporter of video games. I've done some school visits and tell students (and their teachers) that my main character in my YA series is a gamer. I tout the skills you learn from gameplay.

  4. I played World of Warcraft up to level 44 and gave up on it because I didn't like how the the game is designed so you have to spend a lot of time on it to accomplish anything. (Also in Guildwars I finished 3 campaigns)

    People are attracted to those games because it's a better world and it is easier to accomplish something on a video games than in real life. You can be something important. I was a leader in a guild once, and was fun.

    It's also hard to quit those games because when you do if you have any friends in the game they start begging you to come back.

    WOW is a highly creative well done game, but for me...I'm glad I got away from all that.

  5. So I probably should know this about you by now but you play WOW? Seriously, my two oldest boys were absolutely addicted for about three years. Since the oldest left for college in the Fall, they don't play as much.

  6. Games shouldn't be that much work.

  7. One obsession I'm glad I avoided. Does look fun though.

  8. Ahh yes the MMO days. I was a guild recruiter in Starcraft for a variety of guilds, but ended up losing interest because I just had too many other things going on. Never got into WOW which is probably for the best. I'd never leave my room!

  9. I haven't done gaming of any kind in something like 3 years. It just took too much time out of writing.

  10. I did realize you had a missing post. Dunno how you find the time for all those weeklies and games, on top of that.

  11. I am embarrassingly ignorant of these games. A part of me really wants to get into them, but another part knows I just don't have the time. But I swear I'm just gonna TRY one some day and see how it goes.

    Welcome back post kidney stone, Michael!

  12. I've always wanted to play but haven't had the opportunity. It look wicked cool, though.

  13. I'm not kidding, I'm so lucky I haven't gotten into these games. I would get obsessed! I'd never get any writing done. But I think you're right that there is crossover between people who like these role playing games and people who like to read fantasy novels. it's very much the same sort of thing, getting lost in another world for awhile.

  14. I was a big WoW player for a couple of years, but never had to commitment to get into a serious raiding guild. It definitely put a crimp on my being outside of my crappy little apartment lol

  15. Looks like fun. I used to play a Stargate game online. Still have friends from that.

    Happy Monday!

  16. Wow. Those are some serious hours you have to put into the game.

  17. It's awesome that you two formed a real friendship through online gaming. What a fun idea to have him as a guest.

    I have a yearning to play RPGs, but I know the time commitment, so I expect I'll have to wait a good 10 years to fit it in my schedule. That won't be weird will it - a 55 year old female Newb?

  18. I think this game is out of my league. I'm on spring break this week and am hoping to be able to read your book.

  19. I've never played or even seen these games. Mario is even too challenging for me. :)

    Hope you're feeling better!

  20. I typed individual responses to everyone and blogger ate my comment. So thanks you all for coming to visit my blog today. Sigh. Some days I hate blogger. My responses were so good :/

  21. I used to play Warcraft back when it was just a RTS... Warcraft II was one of my favorite games of all time. Never made the transition to WOW though. I had a young kid at the time that I was raising by myself. No way I could have carved out any time.

  22. I'm not a gamer at all, but I find the storylines fascinating. I'll often look them up online to see what they're all about. I know I'd get sucked into one if I played it.

    So I have to stay away!

  23. I do love certain games, though I'm not into them as such. My nephew and I go in together to kill zombies on Island of the Dead, which is great fun.

    OMG, Walking Dead was tense. I was so hoping Hershel could convince Andrea to kill the Governor. And why didn't Rick just shoot that bastard? I would have. I wonder how he'll take care of Michonne, or if he really intends to hand her over? And I loved that badass walker kill session with Daryl and the Governor's guy, whose name escapes me at the moment. I can only remember him as Juan Pablo the dude from Sons of Anarchy.

  24. I've never actually picked up the game. A few friends had me try it, and had I any money at the time I might have bought it, but I never found it interactive enough to get into. I like getting to know people.