Thursday 31 October 2013

NBI: It's almost over

The last day of October, and thus the last day of the Newbie Blogger Initiative 2013 today! Also, confession day: I was planning to write several more advice pieces than the single one I have done, and I also had planned to feature three new blogs that I liked each week, but this real life thing came in the way and... ah well, I think the NBI was fun either way, with many new enthusiastic blogs and lots of discussion. I hope it was as much fun for our newbies as it was for me over a year ago, when I was a newbie myself!

Three final blogs for you to check out:
Thinking Play: Pasduil writes clever and thorough posts about gaming in general, but also about his passion, the too little represented (among newbie bloggers) LotRO. I'm hoping for more of these treats soon.
Away from game: Even though this blog is about different games than I play, Lonegun is a passionate writer that knows where to find those spots that interests any gamer. A pleasure to read.
JVT workshop: The blog of the one and only Joseph Skyrim (whom's name was totally stolen by the Elder Scrolls), prolific blogger ánd commenter. The place to be for in-depth posts about game design and you-name-it.

Last-minute advice

I know, I know, I should've been a good blogger and just posted these as articles themselves (bad Rav!). But late is better than never, no?
Layout: Contrary to what others may have written about this during this NBI event, I firmly believe in that you should make your blog look like how you like it yourself. Don't make it a simple blank page with black letters (read: boring) just because some readers might want to appear reading work stuff at their work. Those one or two readers aren't worth the effort - not to talk about the fact that almost everyone uses readers anyway. It is useful to think about some sort of format of your blog, as a consistent look makes people recognize it. For instance, as you may have noticed, my posts always start with a banner picture - and if I don't have an screenshot available, I torture my readers with homedrawn ones.
Name your games: People like to read blogs about games they play themselves, so there's no better way to catch the attention of a visitor than by making clear what games you write about, especially if you have a multi-game blog. If it's not clear already from your blog's title or layout, a short list of games can do wonders. Otherwise you risk people with short attention spans to just skip over your blog if they don't see anything that interests them right away. Here are some inspirational newbie blogs that did it right: Gamer by design, Part Time Core Gaming, Vagabond Worlds.
Comments: If you want to be part of the community and like interaction with readers, allow these. Make it as easy possible for people to comment and avoid Captcha like the plague. It's super annoying to regular visitors of your blog and I know of commenters that will just not comment at all when confronted with it. If you're afraid of spam, first try how much spam your blog actually receives and base your decision on that. A holding-comments-back-for-approval system is not advisable either if you want a fluid conversation between visitors. I know how frustrated I am when checking a blog I commented on several times a day to see if there are reactions and the owner hasn't seen or approved any yet. I myself use a hybrid system of no-Captcha but approve-comments for posts older than 14 days, because I found that I got spam on my older posts. I have no spam now, and I hope it's not too bothersome for people to select a profile they can comment with.
Blogroll: Again, if you want to be part of the community, take one. A blogroll is a good way of being part of the community and at the same time shows your visitors what sort of blogs you like. Don't be afraid of people leaving your blog faster because you have a blogroll: if they are bored with what they read, they will leave anyway, blogroll or no blogroll. People are usually quite conscious about what they are reading and don't just accidentally click away (that's something for your grandma who never touched a computer, not your average reader). Also, linking to others might mean they'll link you back. If you've just started a new and unknown blog, think about it like this: if you don't have a blogroll yourself, why would people add you on theirs? I prefer blogrolls on the front page myself, but you can always consider having one in a tab page if you think that clutters your page too much. 

Oh, and don't write walls of texts. Like the one above (facepalm).

Keep in mind that this is just advice and no more, so you're welcome to disagree, politely shout at me, ignore me and do whatever you want instead. I know you will, anyway.

Okay, this is enough for today. See you at the next NBI event! Or hopefully earlier.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

SWTOR: Smuggling plan

One of my more cryptic pictures today, inspired by Rowan's blog post notes. A griffon if you can explain all the numbers!*

For a long time past there's the option to 'smuggle' gear between characters of the same account using legacy gear and mail.** When my second character, sorcerer Fárah, reached level cap, I sent her leftover gear from sage Ravanel. Nowadays it's usually the other way around: Fárah does progression raiding with my Imperial guild and sends the leftover bits over to Ravanel. I always forget what gear my characters exactly have, though, so there's always some papers lying around with notes - also for other gaming stuff that involves any numbers or calculations.

Some people say I should just use one set of legacy gear and send the entire thing over each time I'm going to play the other character, but I refuse to do that, for the reasons of 1) bothersome and 2) cosmetics. Surely it's just utterly boring if both my characters look the same. Fashion above everything!

Not sure if I dare to categorize this one under "Drawings". Ah well, whatever.

* Cookies are so 2012.
** Credit for this interpretation of the word 'smuggling' goes to Njessi, I think I heard her use it like this first and it's awesome.

Monday 21 October 2013

In search of the true MMO gamer

I read an excellent post by Lonegun about the free level cap character viral that roams some MMOs. It was a little rant about how they dislike this feature and it was so excellent because it started me thinking about what this thing is that we call "MMO".

Lonegun in The Rant: Leveling is a Grind over at Away From Game:
"In my opinion people who are, “bored with the slog of leveling” are not true MMO gamers." 
Ouch, well, that hurt. (Okay, maybe not all that much.)

In an MMO, I usually enjoy the 'leveling' part on my first character. But to be honest, I'm not actually enjoying the leveling itself (I care very little for that aspect and an inaudible groan escapes me each time a guildie/kinnie exclaims "DING!" in chat), I enjoy the exploration, learning how to play my character and the lore (if it interests me). If a game is designed well, I incidentally reach level cap when I've seen everything (or a bit before, so there's a bit left to explore for other characters). After I've seen what the world has to offer, then it loses its appeal when I level more alts.

What I truly love about MMOs is endgame. The challenge of getting a group together and get the best out of yourself, combined with the comradeship that emerges in a group when doing things together. This is what makes me log in with enthusiasm and keeps me interested in an MMO. I know this is not for everyone, in fact, this sort of gameplay is found in the more traditional MMOs (WoW, LotrO, SWTOR) and most new MMOs try to step away from it. However, this is what I like in MMOs, and if that makes a non-true MMO gamer (whatever that means), then so be it.

I would never buy a level capped character, though, that obliterates the whole idea of a 'game' for me. Playing my character makes me feel connected to it. It may sound strange, but my character gains worth to me with the time invested. If it is a terribly boring grind to level a character, I will just not play the game at all. Maybe this is the light in which we should see the recent get-a-level-capped-character offers: a desperate attempt to keep players interested.

I do not believe we have found the 'true MMO gamer' in Lonegun's leveler, though. In fact, I do not believe either the leveler or the hardcore end gamer necessarily represents the 'true MMO gamer'. The search continues this week in part two.

Thursday 17 October 2013

SWTOR: The obligatory trek

Whoa! What is happening to my master?

Well, Treek, you've got a lot of planets ahead of you to figure this one out...

Not even a couch surfer?

While I spend a lot of time in 'real life' enjoying movies wherein people's largest dreams are to 'explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations', my own exploratory desires leave something to wish for. It had been a month since Y-u'no reached level cap, but I still hadn't been able to get myself to travel to all those planets and collect some datacrons.

Time to deploy The Boyfriend! Since Tiger's slinger had recently hit level 55 as well, I could drag him along to show me how to get them (I SUCK at jumping!). We went for all the Cunning and Endurance datacrons per planet, using this list from SWTOR-Spy.

Got a clue already, Treek?

It's a grind

Many games have some sort of optional mechanic to get permanent stat boosts for you character. This is always some sort of grind to keep your characters busy and it's not really all that 'optional' in the sense that anyone doing hard challenges will never pass on them because not doing so will be gimping yourself in a way. I have a deep detest for any kind of grind, so the prospect of having to do this stuff already made me groan.

Then again, the deed system in LotRO is waaaay worse ("kill so-many-hundred of this type of mob in this region" or "find all these locations in this region" x 16 x 5 = a total of 80 times performing such a boring task per character). Not only do you need to find much fewer datacrons in Star Wars than you need to finish deeds in LotRO, they are also often hidden in a clever way, sometimes requiring you to solve a small puzzle in order to get to them.

These containers, held by magnets, were slowly moving around and we had to wait and jump from one to the other to get to the glowy reward up ahead.

The endurance datacron on Voss arguably took the most time, because we had to do the whole planetary quest line in order to get access. From now on I'm going to do that on any character that lands on Voss.

Also, I just looked at the picture above and it struck me how much Treek looks like a teletubbie with that antenna on her head (it's not actually on the head, but it looks like that from afar).

We managed to get all Cunning and Endurance datacrons done in one evening. Still, I wish you had to find all datacrons only once for all your characters. That would be the appropriate fun level for me: now it still feels like a grind.

So when we found our last datacron, on Makeb, it was time for a little party. With appropriate music, of course!

Wednesday 16 October 2013

SWTOR: Beware the aliens

This traffic sign on Corellia made me wonder. What would it mean? "Beware the aliens?" You would hope the whole Taris thing was buried well under the ground by now*, but I could imagine my twi'lek Y-u'no being perplexed as she halted her tauntaun to look at the sign.

On second thought, the aliens don't resemble twi'lek at all. They are more of the E.T.-phone-home type, but then the mobile version. They also look more like the archetype of evil aliens (think: Alien vs Predator) that we are to believe want to invade Earth. Or maybe I'm looking at this for too long and it just means: "watch out for people crossing the street" (with some imagination the figures represent a daddy alien with two children).

Either way, Y-u'no moved on, in search of more datacrons.

* Before the devastating bombardment, Taris was racially divided in different levels with humans living in the luxury top apartments and aliens in the cheap lower grounds. Play Knights of the Old Republic to find out more (and if you haven't played it yet, this classic is absolutely worth it!).

Monday 14 October 2013

LOTRO: Into the woods

It was time for Tiger and I to start the last area of Wildermore: the Balewood. These woods to the northwest are usually shunned by the people from Wildermore, for spooky tales surround them. Still, some fled into it after running away from Núrzum and the orcs, and we were to find them back. 

As usual, I was a bit disoriented after just having logged in and mounting my warsteed, so I decided to just mindlessly follow the green arrow on the mini-map where Tiger had disappeared. I wasn't looking very much at the surroundings, in fact, I was looking so little at them that I just managed to halt my steed before I would have fallen down a deep cliff. There lay the Balewood, and my, was it beautiful!

We of course know that this wood is one of the outer parts of Fangorn, and it looked just as magical and fairy-tale like as I imagined. Only I imagined it as being very green, but here, it was winter.

Now we got excited thinking about the Ents and other creatures that may or may not be hiding in this forest. I will write more about that in my next LotRO post.

Friday 11 October 2013

Pokémon: May contain bad language

Mirror, mirror on the wall: which song's the most awful of them all?

So Unowns. Maybe you remember how I told you that there are 26 different varieties of this pokémon species, and that I never managed to catch them all before - but now I was determined to do so. It took me several months or so, but now I have!

And remember how much I hoped there would be some sort of reward for collecting them all? Like, a special item, or maybe even a special combined Unown species to catch? Super exciting! So was there a 'reward'? Yes there was.

Scientist: "You caught all the Unown variations? That's a great achievement!"

Yes, yes, I know, and a darn boring and long one at that. Now give me the loot!


"I've set up the printer here for handling Unown. Feel free to use it anytime."

My jaw just dropped. The Pokémon printer? I mean, really? (In case you don't know, it's an extra device that you could buy and put on your Game Boy to print out pictures of your pokémon - a thing that nobody actually owned. Including me, I don't own one. And I wouldn't know what to do with a piece of paper with an Unown on it anyway, I rather drawn them and put them on my blog.) Well, that was an epic anti-climax.

But wait, there's one spot vacant at the printer, after Unown nr. 26? And what do those message on the wall, e.g. "Escape", mean? Is there another enigma after all?

Monday 7 October 2013

NBI: The harvest of one week

My harvest back in 2008 - note the oldschool SoA outfit (one of the first screenshots I ever made)

It's Monday today (I know, I was vile of me to emphasize that), but... it also means we've survived one week of the NBI, hurray!

I think almost every sponsor wrote at least one advice post this past week, which made us end up with about enough food to publish a whole book. I first planned to post them here, but when I saw their large amount (28 and counting) I became struck with a sudden strike of laziness. You can always check them out here at the source, though.

At first I was a bit worried by the low amount of newbie blogs participating - I know some say that blogging is dead, but surely it isn't that dead?! - but as the week proceeded, more and more checked in, and now I'm having a day's job checking out all these new blogs.

I've made a special blogroll with NBI initiates which you can see to the right (scroll down a bit). Be sure to check them out and leave a comment if you have the time - I remember how much that motivated me when I was a newbie myself last year. I know there are a lot of blogs on there, but picking just one to leave a comment behind is already a great thing. And if you cannot choose, I'll help you a bit here.

Three new blogs for you to check out:
  • Lyle's Grind: brand newly started and inspired by the NBI, Lyle's Grind certainly doesn't look at all repetitive as the title implies. Lyle writes about all sorts of games and mentions tribbles in a post, so this is a blog I cannot ignore.
  • The Cynic Dialogues: a recently revived blog in which Scree is currently investigating new games on the horizon. I'm enthusiastic about the prospect of another blogger who might get into TESO and for the most part just can't look away because the layout looks so darn nice.
  • Crucible Gaming: no official newbie of the NBI, but a new blog nevertheless that I discovered earlier this week. Much to my surprise, Sig writes about LotRO and SWTOR: my favourite subjects! A must-check for everyone interested in these games.

That was it, keep blogging, commenting and see you around with the NBI!

Friday 4 October 2013

Using a pseudonym

Ravanel Griffon is not my real name. (Noooooooooooo! She deluded us! REVOLT!)

As I'm sure you're aware of, some people use their real name, and some use a pseudonym when blogging. And while scouting about around blogs, I sometimes stumble upon the following thought:

"Using your real name makes your blogging more professional." 

This also implies the opposite: using a pseudonym makes your blog being perceived as less professional, therefore having less credibility, less meaning. And guess what, this is not true.

Hence I thought it was refreshing to see Tobold (a quite successful blogger using a pseudonym himself, may I add) write a post 'in defence of the pseudonym'. He made me think "ah yes, that's why I write as Ravanel Griffon". And then I thought this might just be the thing to ramble on about in the light of the NBI, so here it comes.

The pro's of a gaming identity

Tobold in Survival and identity (Tobold's blog):
I am a scientist, and I have written publications in scientific journals as well as a bunch of patents. Now imagine somebody is doing a Google search on my real name for some professional reason: Obviously I do want him to find the stuff I have written professionally. But Google sorts search results by popularity, and games are a lot more popular than hard science. So if I had written my blog under my real name, my professional identity would have been buried in the search results.
I'm not ashamed of my activities as a gaming blogger. I think the idea that gaming is a waste of time is old fashioned and done for. Gaming is a fun way to pass your time and as long as you're not overdoing it there's nothing wrong with it - and this pretty much counts for any type of leisure activity. There's nothing wrong with blogging either: if anything, it's a very brain active hobby that trains both writing and networking skills. So why do I then 'hide' behind my gaming identity?

Indeed sometimes I feel like I should actually use my real name to make a statement and show people it's okay to game, but that is not the main purpose of this blog (it would look different if it would be, I tell you). I think Tobold hit the nail on the head.

It's fine as it is. People I know through gaming know me as Rav, and finding me as such on this blog is only logical to them. That I blog is no secret for people I know in 'real life', and if they're interested I'll give them the link. But if you look for Ravanel Griffon you'll get gaming related stuff, and if you look for my real name, you'll get professional stuff. It's just more convenient this way.

In the end, using a pseudonym isn't strange at all. Think about the book industry, where it is commonly accepted for authors to use one. Singers also often use pseudonyms and nobody is surprised with that. This doesn't make these people less credible. Why would blogging be any different?

Finally, Tobold gives some good advice on how to pick a virtual name, so make sure to check his post out.

But I want to use my real name!

Well, that's fine too, of course. Maybe you work in the gaming industry and want your name found related to your blog. Or you want to show your blog to all your friends without having to explain who Pwnmeister xBloodbathx is. Main point is, your gaming identity will reflect on your real name and will become fused with your online identity, and that is something you should be aware of.

My advice in this post therefore is: use whatever name you want, but make a conscious choice.

To conclude, if you're a blogger and reading this: what name do you use and why did you choose to do so? Write in the comments or write your own post about it. It would be interesting to hear and, who knows, it might even help a few newbies making a choice.

Thursday 3 October 2013

SWTOR: Flavour of the month

Look at that smug face

Hey all, this is Yuniper. Yuniper is a flavour-of-the-month (FOTM) operative. As I wrote earlier, healing operatives are in a very good spot at the moment, beating other healers left and right, especially in arenas. So that's why I'm superbusy leveling mine. Because I'm only interested in PWNing others, obviously.

I could of course instead be totally hipster and play a class that is currently in a weak to mediocre spot before it is cool.

I always think of the FOTM question that rises in every MMO now and then as amusing. There are people who get totally wound up about playing a class that is in a better spot than others and refuse to play one, or accuse others of playing one. Some might actually swap their main for another class because they don't want to be playing a "FOTM-class". Many do of course roll and play one instead "for lolz".

Me, I won't stop playing my sorcerer healer just because she's less optimal for some type of fights, because I love the class to bits. But I will level my operative because it seems the only way to get a taste of ranked PvP.