July 17, 2012

Guild Wars 2 is the new Prozac

Well, here I am... posting after way too long of a break. As excited as I was to start this blog, I thought I'd keep up with it better. But life can suck you into a whirlpool sometimes and I find myself wondering how I got in the water in the first place.

By no means have I lost interest in Guild Wars 2 or this blog. In fact, I'm still following the game obsessively and although I missed most of the last beta, I'm keeping up to date by watching the various youtube videos and reading all the interviews, blogs, etc. My heart is still in it, my mind is a whole other ordeal.

It's been a crazy year for me; I got married, lost my job of 4 ½ years, took a trip to Southern California, had a few medical emergencies for our dog, and I am still desperately searching for a job. That's just the gist of my life currently, but what really makes it hard is my depression.

Now it may seem odd for me to talk about my depression in a blog about gaming, but lets be honest, depression has a deep impact on the lives of people it affects. I've had to deal with it my whole life, and games have served as a distraction from the pain and the darkness that can occur from depression. For this reason, gaming has always been very important to me.

Anyone dealing with depression knows it can be hard to function at a normal level. Once more, it's a fairly taboo topic and many people shy away from talking about it for fear of appearing whiny or being a “downer.” This fear only adds to the loneliness that is a symptom of depression. For me, makes it hard to post a blog entry while this deep pressure of emotion is weighing on me and I'm trying not to show it.

Now that the cats out of the bag, I'm gonna give it a toy to play with. The toy is called Guild Wars 2. As I said before, gaming has helped me with my depression throughout my life. It's not just that you're in a fantasy world that distracts you from reality, but that you have goals to reach and reaching them gives you a feeling of accomplishment which helps you feel better about yourself. Moreover, an MMO, especially one like Guild Wars 2, allows you to have social interactions with people, and diminishes the loneliness you may feel.

What I wanted from this blog was to portray a more personal perspective of a gamer and I can't do that while hiding an major aspect of my life. Truth is, I'm an introverted, empathetic person who feels things deeply, but tries to hide it so I can fit in better with society (I owe a lot of that to my many customer service jobs). But from here on, I'll do my best to embrace it. After all, you cannot spread awareness, you cannot unit others like you, if you hide what you are.

April 30, 2012

Guild Wars 2 beta, smells like home cookin'

There was a time when I said I couldn't cook and I'd hear from all kinds of people “Oh cooking's easy, anybody can cook!” It's true, anybody can boil water, preheat an oven, and add various meat & vegetables to make something edible. But is it wonderful? I suppose what I meant when I said I couldn't cook was that my heart wasn't in it, therefore the food I made was nothing to write home about.

Guild Wars 2 is soul food. Every character, landscape, interface page, piece of dialog and sea creature that is found within the game, bears with it the love & passion of it's creators. The game is beaming with the type of innovation that can only come from free minds. Minds driven to give birth to a reflection of everything that's made them who they are, blessed in the opportunity to do so.

My praise may seem like a little much to some, but I believe anything that inspires good will deserves such praise. ArenaNet is not simply making a game, they're creating a healthy community. Such directive was evident in the company's blogs and Twitter post, but became a natural state of being when playing the game. People helped people, we fought together, we overcame obstacles and we lost some battles. Looking back I realize I wasn't playing the game, but experiencing it.

Like in the way that frozen food will never compare to Mom's lasagna, ArenaNet has given us a taste of something you can't get anywhere else.


A special thanks goes out to ArenaNet for making such an amazing game, their community team for their resilience, and my wife for putting up with my 3 day “absence” during beta. :)

April 18, 2012

Clear your schedule, it's time to take this dragon for a test fly.

Well we have a date for the first Beta Weekend Event and it's April 27-29. I will be playing the entire time, getting as many pictures (and hopefully video) as I can. Going to stock up on easy make food, caffeine, and let my wife know that while I may be here in person, my mind is on vacation.

I love this. Nothing makes me feel like a kid again quite like when I lose myself to the excitement of a new game. It doesn't happen that often for me, as I try not to buy many new games, and honestly, few games do anything overwhelmingly new to warrant the excitement. But Guild Wars 2 sure is doing it for me.

There was a twitter post by MK saying they'd let us know what content will be available for testing soon. I wonder if we'll be extremely limited in the first test, then given more room in future beta weekends. Whatever the case, as soon as I know what's available, I'm going to set a game plan for coverage and post it here. If there's anything you'd like to know about the game, let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to cover it.

As far as what I'd like to see? Well I'm very interested in the Sylvari race, being the nature loving guy that I am. It would be nice to at least get to experience character creation for all the classes so that I'm not spending an hour on each race till I find the perfect look. And trust me, I will. Hopefully I can create a guild in the beta and familiarize myself with the guild tools. I'd like to focus on the top 3 professions that interest me: Warrior, Elementalist, Warlock within the first 2 days, then on the last day, I'd like to just explore, try out all the other classes and answer any questions presented to me.

So yeah, I'm very excited to finally play the game and looking forward to enjoying the childlike experience of a shiny new toy. I'm turning 30 in May, but until then, this guy is reverting back to 12. :)

April 7, 2012

Squad leader, we got a man down. ...Squad leader? You there?..

Hey you, come join the squad I'm leading, but while you follow my instructions, STFU. ArenaNet just posted a blog about their Squad system in Guild Wars 2. Jordan Massey is a gameplay programmer who is working directly with the WvW system and he shed some light on what Squads are and how they'll benefit teams. While most of it was in consideration of the WvW, it also applies for groups who want to take on big PvE content, such as world bosses.

Click the link to view the article by Jordan Massey 

The article is worth reading, but to sum it up, squads can be made up of many people, and have 1 person leading. People can join on the fly, however, squad commanders are the only ones able to speak in the chat designated for that particular squad. So leave behind the banter & interruptions when it's time to focus on the task at hand. Still, it seems a little odd for a game that's so focused on being social.

Personally, I like this a lot. While I value what my friends and guildies have to say, you're likely to have all kinds of people outside your circle who will be joining the fight. There's nothing worse than people arguing or spouting off obscenities while the rest of the group is trying to focus. And it's not like you won't have communication with the people you'd actually like feedback from. Just share it in guild chat, private tells, vent/mumble etc.

The blog mostly spoke about the iteration of squads in WvW, but Jordan said it can also be used for big encounters in PvE. Since the closest thing they have to raiding that we've seen so far are non-instanced boss encounters, that require a large group to take down and allow for anyone to join the fight at any time. Basically, you can walk in on a fight, click on someone who's in a squad, and select the option to join that squad.

I can see certain squad leaders becoming sort of like heroes in the game. The ones who know the content very well and are able to rally players to success. Their names you'll get to know, you'll want to join their groups whenever you see them, and they will bring the community together. That sort of virtual glory should be enough to drive squad leaders to do their best.

With 3 days left before pre-purchase, I'm overly excited to get into the next beta. I'll be sure to leave my impressions here and hopefully get some videos since there won't be an NDA. Till then, let me know what you think of the Squad feature.

March 31, 2012

That guy sure is a character!

Throughout my life, I've used entertainment, like many Americans, as an escape from reality. As I'm nearing age 30, I've spent more time questioning that effect on my life. Is this escapism creating a false sense of reality in me and is it in turn affecting my expectations in life?

What makes fictional stories so different than reality? I thought about this a lot the other day, as my wife was watching Office Space on Netflix, a movie about a disgruntled office employee. The main character goes about life in a careless way, with everything falling into place even though he'd given up all effort to be productive at his job. I could never be late for work everyday and skip the days I don't feel like coming in, all while having a “I don't care” attitude and tearing down my cubicle, without the consequence of losing my job. But this character did, in fact he got a promotion, and it made for a great story.

The difference is, I have bills, 2 cats, and a wife. However, there's that part of me that desires more chaos in the world and a bit more freedom. It's that part of me that wonders if these characters are truly so far fetched. It's not that we can't be outrageous, it's that we won't. Pressures from society and fear of being different, or abnormal, save us from potentially making fools of ourselves. That is, unless you live in Berkeley, CA.

A good story has colorful characters, each with their own flavor. The problem with real life, at least in American society, is that we're so caught up with fitting in, that the the lines of individuality become thin. When someone acts out of the norm, such as owning a flock of cats, or tattooing feline spots on their face, they're looked at as freaks. But at the same time, many people suppress their desire to stand out in fear of being ostracized. Where's the fun in that?

So I've come to the conclusion that many of these fictional stories, that masterfully transport our minds to a place more colorful, are not so out of touch as we are from life. People can, and should be eccentric, they should take chances, and their appearance should reflect how they feel inside instead of adhering to social pressure. Remember that character is defined as the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing. Do you have character?

March 25, 2012

Wearing shorts and a t-shirt, struttin' through a blizzard like a boss.

When you pass through a snow covered valley, wind howling in your ears, the setting sun casting shadows around you, it's easy to get lost in the astonishing beauty of it all. Easy enough to make you forget you're sitting at your desk in a crappy apartment, killing time before you have to leave for your lousy job. It's the immersion that hooks many people to MMOs, and it also gives them a bad name.

My first MMO was Ultima Online. A few of my friends were playing it and I had to join if I ever wanted to see them again. I never really get into it, though. Perhaps I was too young for it, or maybe I didn't see the appeal. It came at a time when the internet was rather new in my house, and although I didn't play long, it left me wanting more.

Technology has played a big part in getting me into MMOs. When the atmosphere in MMOs began looking more realistic, or at least appealing to the eye, I got hooked. Maybe it's a bit shallow of me, but personally, the presentation of a game matters a lot. I like sleek designs, breathtaking locales and high detail. Perhaps it's my love of nature blending with my digital age taste.

Many have demonized MMOs for their addictive qualities. You hear one story of an obsessed husband, playing a game for hours on end, who loses his wife and friends because he would rather play the game. Then you hear a few more stories just like that, and all of a sudden these games are destroying our country. It's just like rap, violent movies, rock & roll, and Elvis' pelvic thrust. It's all out to get you!

The sad thing is, many people who fight what they believe to be an evil doing, rarely give it a chance. So often they make judgments with closed eyes, hands over their ears, while they scream something about burning witches. I can't say there isn't a danger in playing too much of an MMO, too much of anything is unhealthy, but I can say they've given people experiences that wouldn't have been possible without them.

Next time someone gives you slack for bragging about the shiny new gear on your high elf, just laugh it off. They're obviously missing out on some great experiences. Just make sure you turn off the computer now & then so you don't miss out on any adventures yourself.

March 22, 2012

Do you play the role, or is the role playing you?

When I'm anticipating a new game release and drooling over the scraps of info that trickle out, the most fun part is figuring our what type of character I'm going to play. Since I prefer RPGs, the options are often vast and varying. And now, with personal story arcs becoming an important factor in MMOs, it makes me question even more what kind of character I want to play and if character creation choices are going to impinge on that. But first, lets look at why we choose certain character types and if it's a reflection of our own personalities.

I was talking to a close friend of mine a while back about which class we want to start out with in GW2. He told me he was very interested in the Necromancer, but he typically enjoys playing melee characters more, as the experience of hacking away at something is very appealing to him. It got me thinking why I choose certain classes.. even the choices of race & gender I make. Is it just a cosmetic thing, or is there more to it?

When I was younger, I was all about casters. I grew up a nerd, wishing I was a wizard rather than a football player or something more realistic. Perhaps it was because of games like Final Fantasy IV, where the animations were limited, spells just looked cooler than the simple run up and slash of melee characters. It wasn't till games got more advanced that I began to enjoy melee characters. The style was more fleshed out, it's usually fast paced and demands a lot of coordination. Just the challenge I wanted!

Digging deeper, I've found it's more about the game play mechanics of the class rather than if they use spells or swords to disperse or their enemies. Personally, I like a class that is versatile. Something that has a bag full of goodies for all sorts of situations. In WoW, my favorite class is Hunter (with druid close behind). The hunter, which is limited to only DPS, has so much utility. You can direct mobs onto the tank, pull mobs off the healer, trap, slow, stun, play a tug of war with mobs by pulling/dropping aggro, plus you have the many pet abilities to choose from.  Basically, allowing you to master the class through utility.

You see, I'm a fairly adaptable person in life. My living situations have changed often, and I've worked at a handful of very different jobs. It's no wonder this translates to my gaming preference. But with SWToR and GW2 having personal story lines, there's more to it than the play style you enjoy. I find myself asking will I like the personality that's given to my character by developers?

Ree Soesbee, ArenaNet's lore and continuity designer, recently sat down with VG24/7 in an interview discussing these personal story lines. She mentioned that you'll be given in-game biography questions to further flesh out your character and allowing for many paths to go on. While in SWToR, I wasn't very happy with the linear storyline of my character, it felt very limited to light or dark, I do have faith in what ArenaNet is offering in GW2.  Hopefully we'll be given choices that change our character, adapting to the situation at hand.  After all, life is most exciting filled with experiences that have an impact on your very character.