Archive for September, 2010

Play Styles

Saturday, September 11th, 2010
Well, It’s been a little while since I posted. I’ve had to move, and it’s been a little hectic and distracting.  I haven’t given up on Wizard101 (since I went for the $60/year deal so I am paid up until next July), but I’ve been looking for programming work and as we all know it is tough out there jobwise at the moment. But I’m not giving up. I appreciate all of you who have responded with suggestions and comments (especially the ones whose comments appear to indicate that they actually read at least one of my posts).
   
Today I’d like to talk about play styles. I could go on giving specific advice about particular games, but I am more interested in more generalized principles that can apply to many games. In my time spent so far in online games I have changed my play style from time to time, and looking back I realize that while the game designers might have had one main “mode” in mind when they created their games, we as player do not have to confine ourselves to one particular way of playing. I’m not recommending or judging anyone’s play style, just sharing what I have noticed myself doing. See if any of this sounds familiar to you. Have you found yourself being any of these types of gamer?
  
1. The Escapee.  I have played games in this mode where I don’t really care whether I accomplish anything, or help anyone else accomplish anything. I am just immersing myself in a fantasy world where there are no taxes, infomercials, relatives, employers (heh, can’t say no bosses can I? Sorry.) In this mode I often just wander around attacking enemies at random, ignoring quest-givers, hardly bothering to train new powers when I happen to level. Accomplishing, levelling, growing, cooperating are all irrelevant, because what I am basically doing is escaping from my main source of stress — my everyday life.
  
2. The Don Juan.  I have gone through phases where my main goal was establishing new relationships with female gamers.  In this mode, as in the Escapee, I am not so concerned with doing or growing my avatar, but rather with teaming up with avatars that appear female and trying to find out if they really are. Unlikely as it might seem, some ladies out there are doing the same thing. Some lady gamers are not offended by flirting while gaming, if you can do it with some style and can have something interesting to say. What is offensive are things like (a) being so focused on flirting that you play badly and get the object of your interest’s avatar killed  — no one likes to see their avatar die because someone they are playing with was not bothering to attack, defend, or heal, (b) crude overtures that make the lady in question feel depersonalized into a mere sex object, and (c) harassing her to reply so much that the lady you are trying to woo cannot accomplish what she came to the game to do, such as finish a quest or whatever.
  
Don’t get me wrong. I am not condemning flirting in-game. I have fallen in love by doing exactly that. But try to remember a few things. First, many guys create female avatars because, well, we like to look at female-shaped bodies. So that hot-looking lady you are coming on to might be a guy laughing his rear off. Second, think about ages. Some parents let their kids play their accounts. You could end up chatting up a sub-teenager who is flattered by the attention until their parent sits down beside them and freaks out. Third, as in real life, be prepared to take rejection in stride. Some ladies do not need more males in their life; some dismiss overtures routinely, knowing that men genuinely interested in them will be patient and persistent.
  
3. The Overachiever.  In this mode I have been so into doing and levelling that I have no time to respond to others who need advice or help or just want to say hello. I have probably missed out on friendships or loves by being so type-A at times like these. It is easy to get into the “stupid noobs!” mentality and refuse to help newcomers because it will take time I could be using to level up. Later I might feel guilty and remember that we all begin as noobs whether we like to admit it or not. But when I am the Overachiever I can almost get road rage when someone kills the NPC I needed to turn a quest in to, or when people tie me up with invites or questions. Okay, sometimes we all have time to help, and sometimes we really want some time for ourselves. The key is knowing how to balance so we don’t get stuck in an attitude rut.
  
4. The Restarter.  In nearly all online games, your avatar will move up from each level to the next level quickly at first (to avoid discouraging new players) but then you levelling slows down as each level takes exponentially longer because more XP is needed to reach the next level. So often I create a new avatar, play up six to ten levels, then lose interest and start over with a new avatar. The result of this is a lot of avatars I may never play again, avatars that are cases of arrested development. Heroes, warriors, wizards all stuck at level 7 or 8, languishing on the server as I create new characters to regain that fast-leveling play mode. Actually, it’s even worse that that. Since I tend to form solid power set preferences in each game, I can end up creating not just a lot of avatars, but a lot of avatars that resemble each other. For example, in City of Heroes I fell in love with fire+radiation corrupters on the Villain faction. I like to throw fireballs, but I also prefer to be able to heal myself. COH defenders (healers) can heal themselves, but, strangely, while they can shoot ice, energy, dark blasts, and so on, they cannot be fire blasters. That one power set is denied them. But Corrupters can be fire blasters and have their secondary power set be Radiation Emission, which include Radiant Aura, a self-heal, and Radiation Infection, which weakens enemies, making it easier to solo your Fire/Rad corrupter. So, pretty soon I saw I had over twenty fire/rad corrupters….all under level 20. Sigh. It still happens  from time to time. I have even deleted fire/rad corrupters to make new ones so I can start over. Oh well. (My first level 50 in COH was a rad/rad defender.)
  
5. The Crafter.  In many games you can “make” things to make yolur avatars more powerful or faster. My main Warlock in World of Warcraft is an enchanter/tailor, and I was delighted to discover that this meant he could create his own flying carpet to fly around the higher level zones on. it is quieter than winged mounts like griffins (no wings beating to distract you) and you stand on it instead of sit, and it goes straight up fast. And of course my main Warrior is a miner/blacksmith so he made is own swords from ore he mined. Crafting is a fun thing if you are in the mood. Sure, you could just go to a vendor or the auction house and buy a sword…but it is often more fun to know you are using a weapon you “made” rather than bought. The same applies to other types of crafting where you can make potions, armor, and so on. (In City of Heroes you can make Enhancements that are slotted into powers to make them more accurate, powerful, faster-recharging, and so on).  Yes, crafting is fun. But sometimes it can also become obsessive. I have often spent entire evenings obtaining the ingredients to make one sword, one robe, or one device, when i could have been questing, leveling, and socializing with guildies. It often seems like the key ingredients you need to make really good weapon, piece of armor, or whatever turn out to be rare drops, that is, things you can only get by killing particular monsters or bosses. SO there I am, killing giant tarantulas in the Arathi Highlands in order to get Spider Silk to make a pair or Spidersilk Boots. It is not a quest, it might not even help my tailor level because I am way higher than the spiders so i am not getting any XP at all. BUT my lower mage or shaman or priest wants those darn Spidersilk Boots so here I am killing level 33 spiders with my level 74 warlock again. Arrgh. yes, crafting can become obsessive to the point where it derails my progress. Am I the only one? My gnome mage simply had to have his own Flying Machine. So here is my Death Knight out in the Outland farming Fel Iron again. Fammit! Maybe I do need to get a life (who said that?).
  
6. The Jackass of All Trades.  In most online games character variety is encouraged by giving you many different ways to develop your avatar. For example, in City of Heroes you might want your Blaster to focus on accuracy and damage, but your Defender focusses on healing and recharging quickly. In World of Warcraft your mage can specialize in Fire, Frost, or Arcane abilities. Your Warlock might specialize in powers that use minions, or forgo some of those options to put more power into your Damage Over Time attacks. But it is tempting sometimes for me to refuse to specialize: to, instead, try to make a character that has a little of everything: a jackass of all trades and master of none. That way i feel like I am keeping my options open. Unfortunately, this rarely results in a strong avatar. It might be hard to decide on your specialization, but it is worth the effort, because while your toon may not be able to do everything (and none can, of course), you can become very good at one or two things. Okay, so your healer doesn’t do much damage — but he has become a great healer, something any team with half a brain will appreciate. Okay, maybe your shadow priest isn’t that good as a healer — but he is hell on wheels for dealing damage to enemies. I know it is hypocritical of me to say this, given the JOATs I have made in the past…but get a grip and go ahead and specialize. You will be glad you did later. And if for some reason you are not happy with how your avatar turned out, do not despair. Most games allow you to change your mind later and redesign your avatar. In City of Heroes this is called a Respec and you can earn it by staying in the game (veteran rewards) or by completing certain “Task Force” quest chains. In World of Warcraft you can “forget” your talent tree choices and get those talent points back to re-choose your specializations (but it will cost you some gold, and it costs more if you do it more than once).
  
Let’s face it, these online games and virtual worlds give us new ways to obsess and get stuck in behavior and attitude ruts. But that’s okay, because they are “only” games. It is an ongoing learning experience. Don’t be afraid of obsessing. Just try to step back and look at what you are  doing once in a while. The mystic Krishnamurti once wrote something to the effect that all you have to do is observe what you are doing, and you will find yourself naturally making changes if you do not like what you see. Try new things. If you see you are getting repetitive, try something else. –MRK
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