Early this month I went to Atlanta to do some in-person work with my team. Since I’m remote, I hardly ever get to see my coworkers. After a day of group work, we headed to a place called Revery. It’s a Virtual Reality bar in Atlanta. I know VR’s been a thing for a while, but I hadn’t tried it yet. Being a lifelong fan of VR-based fiction (hello, Holodeck!) it seemed too primitive to warrant dropping $400+ on a device.
The VR bar turned out to be the perfect place to check it out. The floor was a bit sticky, but the delicious (and reasonably priced) cocktail I had made up for it. I’d recommend not drinking too much if you’re there to play. This activity requires quite a bit of moving around!
We tried out several games, many recommended by the staff. My favorite was probably Fruit Ninja–I used to play that game obsessively on my phone. I could see myself getting really into that one in VR. There are a ton of games to choose from, although selecting one or another was a bit tricky. The staff was always around to help so we got the most of our game time.
The bathroom had some cool lighting, so I took a bathroom mirror selfie: something I hadn’t done in a while!
If you ever make it out to Atlanta, and you want to give VR a try, I recommend checking it out. More cities might have VR bars, too. It’s a great way to try without having to buy your own device.
Cover Image: Another game we played, Beat Saber, which is like Guitar Hero with light sabers in VR. Image via Dual Shockers.
I tried Albion Online. I picked it from my list of MMOs to try first because I was traveling and it would run on my MacBook Pro.
ProTip: Don’t play a game where you do a ton of clicking on a laptop without a mouse.
I think I have about 30 minutes of game time in, and that’s enough to know this game’s not for me. Here’s why:
While I like the graphic style, everything looks kind of the same. I’d tolerate this for a quirky indie game, but in an MMO I need more variety. This also means the character creator is boring.
If I wanted to play a game where I just clicked a bunch, I’d play Diablo III.
I got lost in the tutorial area.
Yup. I really wanted to at least get to the real game before deciding this wasn’t for me, but that’s not going to happen if I get lost before I can even get there. You start off the game, like most MMOs, in the character creator. Playing as a woman, you get to pick from various skin colors, hair colors, and faces. All of the faces look about the same, like Lego faces but with less detail. Then you pick your underwear, from a potato sack style garment to extra-revealing. I went with the potato sack.
You get in the game and you get quests where you go out and gather materials for new things. You don’t pick a class, but eventually you can pick a skill from a choice of two. Oh, goody. Eventually you get a mule. It’s definitely the fastest I’ve ever gotten to ride a mount in an MMO. After a couple more gathering quests, I had to go to some new mountain area. I couldn’t find it.
Sometimes getting lost is good, if you find interesting things, but I just found this tower full of identical mage-types that were easy to kill. I did not find anything that made me sit up a little straighter or want to play more. And so, I logged off for good.
Cover image from Albion Online. I always go for the quaint medieval village concept art.
It’s time to get honest with all of you. I was going to do Blaugust this year, and try some new MMOs, and try to get back into it. But I’ve been too busy. It’s August 7 and I’ve already gone to Atlanta for work and went camping once. I’m camping again–this time in the Canadian wilderness–later this month.
When I’m free I don’t want to play video games. I want to watch TV with my husband or play with my son. I want to curl up in bed and read until my eyelids get heavy. I want to work on personal projects. I was in my hotel in Atlanta and decided to try out Albion Online and I played it for about 30 minutes before I was bored out of my mind and decided to read some Python blog posts instead. I basically decided to do more work instead of gaming.
Now I don’t know what to do with this blog. It was supposed to be “parenting for nerds” with a gaming/MMO bent, but if I’m barely playing games how does that work? I’ve also been thinking a lot about my nerdiness. Yes, I’m a nerd: I write code and help other people write better code for a living. I love Sci-fi, fantasy, and Marvel movies. But am I nerdy enough to write a nerd parenting blog? I don’t take my kid to nerd conventions, I don’t even go to them myself. I don’t like the idea of dressing up. Costumes are uncomfortable. I don’t even like Halloween.
I don’t think I’m having nerd imposter syndrome. No neckbeards have told me I’m “not a real nerd” for some reason or another. I’m definitely a nerd. But I can’t write blog posts about if you should let your kid play Fortnite because I couldn’t get past the starting screen because I couldn’t figure out how to customize my character. I’ll have an idea for something I want to write and it doesn’t fit here. I’ve posted on Medium, but the platform is terrible for writers unless you want to opt-in to their paywall (I don’t). I wanted to write about my long strange career path so I did that on dev.to. I always have this problem, this I don’t know what to do with my online presence existential crisis.
I’m not playing any MMOs right now and I’d like that to change. I haven’t tried every MMO out there, and I was thinking about finally giving Final Fantasy XIV a try when I thought, why not try a few? I’ve worked on compiling this list of MMOs I haven’t and would like to try. Since Blaugust is happening again, I’m going to take that time to try out some games and write up my thoughts. Maybe I’ll even find a game I want to stick with.
What MMOs Shall I Try?
Final Fantasy XIV – This has been at the top of my “maybe I should try this” game list for a while, so I’m definitely going to give it a shot. I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game. Maybe I’ll be hopelessly lost, but that’s why this is a trial, right?
Albion Online – I love isometric games, okay? Maybe it’s a nostalgia thing, but I dig it. I’m concerned about this game being PVP-centric, but I haven’t played much PVP and maybe I’m missing this huge piece of gameplay I’ll actually love. We’ll see.
SWTOR – Technically I’ve played this game since beta tested it. But since I was actually testing the game and reporting bugs, and that was many years ago, I think it deserves another visit. I mean, it’s Bioware.
Star Trek Online – This is on the list because I loved Star Trek: The Next Generation as a kid. Probably the only game on my list because of the IP. I normally prefer games that are new universes instead of existing IPs, and I can’t think of many IPs that would instantly make me want to play something. Okay, I tried both the Harry Potter mobile games and liked neither of them.
Black Desert Online – I want to try this game because I think the would looks incredibly pretty and it might be fun to explore. I also heard the character creation is lots of fun. (Is that still available outside the game? It would be great to create a character outside of the Steam two hour reimbursement window.)
Path of Exile – I found this looking at Massively OP’s game column list to see if there was anything on there I hadn’t tried yet. I saw this one. It’s not spectacularly appealing, and if I have to cut a game from my list, this might be the one to go.
Do you play any of these games?
I’d love a tour guide! Hit me up via the contact form, Blaugust Discord (I’m “Alli”), or email (allirense AT gmail) and let me know what you play and you can show me the ropes.
Got an idea for another MMO I should try? My list is getting full, but I don’t want to miss out on something awesome. Here’s a bit about what I’ve already tried and what I look for in games if you have a suggestion.
I’ve previously played World of Warcraft, Secret World Legends, Maplestory, and if you count it–Pokemon Go. I’ve tried Guild Wars 2, Eve Online, ESO, Project Gorgon, Wild Terra Online, and LOTRO. I have no interest in playing City of Heroes, Rift, or any looter-shooters with MMO-like qualities. I tend to be drawn towards games with a more western character style and I like bright colors. I’m fine with isometric and I love stylistic graphics, but I don’t like Minecraft-style voxels.
While this week was difficult, there were little moments of joy sprinkled throughout. I realized that our wedding is no longer a vague ways away, but in a few weeks. Despite the stress dreams, I’ve been enjoying the last few bits of planning. Instead of rings, we’ve decided to exchange framed hand-written vows. My mom and I went shopping for accessories. Tomorrow I’m going for a bra fitting. Oh la la!
I’m a natural worrier. I worry about the weather, the violinist who hasn’t emailed me back, and if I’ll like the flowers. The one thing I haven’t worried about is the man I’m marrying. I think that’s the important part.
I’m loving An Unkindness of Ghosts despite having limited reading time. The world building is exquisite and Aster is unlike any other protagonist. Sadly I won’t be getting much extra time to read soon.
Online, I enjoyed Wired’s article about Microsoft’s parental leave requirement for subcontractors. When I had my son, I had to go back to work after about 8 weeks. It was hard enough for me, someone with the luxury of a job sitting at a desk to go back when I did. It’s even harder for people who work on their feet. This line in the article stuck out: “paid family leave was the most desired workplace benefit.” Shout it from the rooftops, people!
One of the hardest things about being a mother is the judgement. We live in a society where nearly every parenting action, particularly of mothers, is scrutinized by others. Kelly in the City’s thoughts on the subject closely mirror my own. I’m so grateful for the judgement-free online community parents I’ve found.
Battle for Azeroth has been the perfect stress relief this week, particularly getting absorbed in the Nazmir quest chain. I think the fiancé may want to play our Alliance mains with me again soon, but he’s been leveling a shaman.
Tonight we played some Pokemon Go and walked to a small event downtown. The ice cream sandwiches were delicious. I always forget about Pokemon Go as a game I play, as it’s just become a regular part of life. My interest in it has been waning lately. We need some new Pokemon to catch.
Today marks the end of Blaugust. I’m glad I participated. It was the catalyst for me to launch the blog and a way to connect me to a larger blogging community. However, I have felt pressured to post more, perhaps lower quality posts than I would like. Yesterday I was working on a post and trying to get it finished. Eventually I decided I really wanted to spend more time and thought on the topic and posted some photos of my cat instead. I don’t mind posting (literal, in my cat’s case) fluff and I love injecting some humor in my writing, but some of the topics I want to tackle require more thought. Those posts are going to take longer than a half hour at lunchtime or 45 minutes in the evening to explore.
At the same time I tend to try to be too perfectionist in my writing and sometimes I need to just let go and hit publish. Perhaps the scales need some time to find the right balance.
That said: I’ve decided to go on hiatus until around the end of October. I have so many things coming up including my wedding, my honeymoon, a work trip, my son starting a new daycare, and some personal things. If I have extra time, I may spend it working on some of the more in-depth pieces I have brewing in my head so I can finish them when I start back up again.
On Alliance side, my fiancé and I decided to visit Stormsong Valley, because of how pretty it looked from the preview. It starts off interesting enough—you have to figure out why the fleet is missing. You get to a monastery and everyone is a jerk and doesn’t want to talk to you.
It felt like we played that for a while and suddenly we were helping bee keepers with their evil globs of honey. A tad cool on it’s own, but really disjointed and unrelated to why the fleet’s gone. Because I’m not really invested in these evil honey globs, my motivation dies as we kill each one.
On my own I decided to play my Horde character. Sneaking into Stormwind was more exciting than breaking out of prison, and don’t get me started on how cool Princess Talanji is. Daza’alor is much more navigable Boralus. It feels like it was actually planned, instead of things haphazardly built up on top of each other. It’s all angles. Plus, you get the royal treatment.
Soon I was faced with the question of where to go quest. The answer turned out to be easy: Talanji was going to Nazmir, so I would go to Nazmir, too. I had no idea the place was going to have a Temple of Doom vibe which is like catnip for me. You’ve got these Blood Trolls who are worshiping this mysterious G’huun character. They’re creepy Trolls with paper white skin and red markings that might be gashes.
The Blood Trolls are out and about doing what looks like draining blood from victims to make blood orbs. If you play WoW with your kids, I don’t recommend this zone. Although I was pretty young when I saw Temple of Doom of the first time.
Talanji realizes things are dire and we need to get the Loa to help, so they’re around, too. I always found them particularly fascinating. I’ve met two so far and both of those quest lines have been completely engrossing.
I don’t think I’ve ever been this into the quests in WoW. I want to stop writing now and play for the rest of my lunch break. I want to find the rest of the Loa and figure out who G’huun is! (My guess is he’s an Old God. We’ll see.)
The concept art for Nazmir is well done, but it’s not a zone I’d describe as pretty. Cover image via Blizzard Entertainment.
This is going to be the last “Reading, Playing, Writing, Doing” update, but it’s not going away! I’m merging this feature in with Happy Friday. Instead of just a list of links, Happy Friday posts will now include this information about what I’ve been up to. I enjoy writing this more than the link lists. On Friday I look at my Happy Friday draft and see two links in there and then I have to scramble to find more so it feels like a full post.
I finished Song of Achilles and started An Unkindness of Ghosts. Since I bought a paper copy, I wanted to get my lamp setup for comfortable reading. The outlet was too far from the bed so I looked for an extension cord. My fiancé said there was one in the garage that was nine feet long. While nine feet was too much, he went and got it anyway. It was closer to 20 feet. Too long. I looked behind the bed headboard and, lo and behold, an outlet! The bed had to be moved a little, but now the lamp is in the perfect spot.
After a cultural victory in Civ 6, I’m finally done with Civ 6. This left more time to play World of Warcraft. Since my fiancé and I are leveling Alliance characters together, I’ve been playing my Horde character solo. Here she is dressed up like a pirate:
I’ve been having more fun with the Horde side quests than the Alliance ones. Princess Talanji might be my new favorite character. Sylvanas, who? Forget the Horde, I want to defect and join the Zandalar. Even though I’m a Blood Elf and not a Troll. I’m saving how much fun I’m having in Vol’Dun for another post.
My main writing accomplishment this week was to complete the outline of the one short story idea I have. It’s about the apocalypse, psychological experimentation, and a strawberry.
The theme for the week was “meals with relatives.” We made dinner for my uncle who’s officiating our wedding and my aunt. I cooked these herb butter chicken thighs and they were as easy and amazing the second time as the first. We made waffles for breakfast for my parents. Tonight we’re having dinner with my fiancé’s mom and his aunt. For once we’re not cooking!
Yesterday we went to the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. There we picked up some deliciously tart rhubarb jam and smoked salmon. We had brunch at Social, which is one of our favorite places mainly because the first time we were there they gave us two free appetizers. I had the prettiest looking avocado toast ever.
I love the idea of the tiny project challenge because little projects are so doable! Tiny projects can also build up into big projects.
Upcoming MMO Crowfall’s concept art makes me giddy. Here’s some in action:
I’m not sure I’d want to watch concept art videos on a huge outdoor screen. Or maybe I would? Either way, when my son’s older I love the idea of outdoor movie night. Here’s how to make your own screen.
Cover image from Crowfall, which might turn out to be the prettiest MMO ever.
Yesterday I talked about motivations for blogging, today I’m talking about motivations for gaming. I’ve taken the Bartle test (I’m an Explorer) and the Quantic Foundry Motivation Profile (I’m Calm, Spontaneous, Relaxed, Deeply Immersed, and Creative!). Given my results and my own experiences, I’ve come up with a list of my own motivations for gaming.
When I’m playing video games I like to be surprised. One of my favorite gaming moments was playing Don’t Starve. If you’re not familiar, it’s a survival game with stylized graphics and a creepy atmosphere. I didn’t expect it to be my cup of tea, but a friend raved about it and it was on sale for five dollars. I hadn’t gotten very far and was exploring when I came across a chest. I opened it and it suddenly became winter, but inside was a bunch of treasures to help me survive the season. Woah! My reaction was “Holy crap, what is happening?”
Exploration for exploration’s sake doesn’t do it for me. I need a reason to explore. In Don’t Starve, if you don’t explore and collect things you need, you’ll die. The reason might be that you’re trapped in a giant virtual maze and need to find the way out. Or perhaps you’re looking for clues to solve a mystery.
I love a good story. I like reading them, hearing them, writing them, but most of all playing them. Here’s another gaming moment. I was playing Dragon Age: Origins for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect from the game, but I met the character Alistair and he was sarcastic and funny. I thought to myself, “This character is awesome! I hope he sticks around for a while!” You know what ruins a good story in a video game? Bioware clearly forgot: Pointless. Side. Quests.
I have yet to find a game that successfully blends story and exploration. The closest I can think of us Skyrim, but I had to force myself out of a “I have this list of quests and I must go do them” mindset to enjoy that game. Firewatch comes to mind. I remember moments where I felt like I was exploring, but the game was linear. Myst perhaps; but I don’t remember the story of Myst. I remember the puzzles. I used to want this: a game where you explored and it told a story. I’ve begun to think that every game that tries this fails. I’d rather have one or the other.
The Sims 3 is my favorite Sims. I like the creation part of the Sims games: outfits, houses, public places, etc. The Sims 3 let you be meticulous about design elements with the create-a-style tool. It broke my heart when it wasn’t in The Sims 4. (I’ve still been playing 4 because the graphics are so pretty.) I haven’t really found another game that scratches my creative itch.
This is where the programmer in me comes out: I like to solve puzzles. I like to figure out the best way to win. I’m not into making spreadsheets to determine the best stats for my WoW character. I prefer trial and error: If I do this, will I get more points? What does this weapon do and is it effective for my play style? My favorite way to find out is to try it.
What motivates you to play video games?
Strategy is why I’ve been playing Civ 6, but if you want to know why I often quit halfway through the game and start over, look back to Exploration. Cover image from the very beginning of one of my games. What’s out there?