Make a boring game fun again, play a different character

As I mentioned a bit ago in my blog about taking a break, I had been away from WoW for about a month.  With my vacations and vacations from other guild members, our raiding was pretty much put on hold until the new patch dropped.  To be honest, I really wasn’t even thinking about playing again.  I was just done with the game and my Mage (note: I am a terrible Mage).  However, as one of my friends was thinking about bringing his Mage up to shame me in the dps ratings, I was thinking about hoping over to my only other level 100 character, my DK.  I wasn’t having much fun playing my Mage and with another guild mate bringing up one, I just thought now might be a good time for a change.  So, for most of last week, and over the 4th of July weekend, I spent a good amount of time playing my DK and getting his ilvl up high enough to start seeing Hellfire Citadel, the new raid content.  And I have to tell you, playing something new can make a boring game fun again.

My Death Knight in World of Warcraft
My Death Knight in World of Warcraft

If the prospect of my and a friend essentially switching roles, he currently raids on his paladin, I don’t think I would have even bothered playing again.  However, I had a great amount of fun playing and learning how to dps with my DK.  Since I have almost exclusively played a ranged class since I started WoW back in February 2005, that’s when I rolled my Hunter Kanzto (haven’t played him in four months…), trying out a melee character was a whole new experience for me.

I no longer could plant my feet and cast anything and everything I wanted from as far away as possible.  Now I had to be in the thick of things, constantly moving while constantly trying to stay within range.  Some boss fights, that used to be a snooze fest for me, are now challenging due to the “new” (new to me at least) mechanic I had to deal with.  I even had to change up my action buttons a few times to get a more streamlined layout that worked better with constant movement.  I now have new found respect for those melee classes and players who always manage to do well in the dps race; I’m still not completely sure how you do it.

I also went a different route with how I was playing my DK.  While leveling, I was in a tanking spec and basically just outlived whatever I was fighting.  That’s pretty easy to do as DKs are notoriously difficult to kill.  However, taking things down just took too long.  After doing some google searching, I found a decent guide on how to be a DW Frost DK.  I not as unkillable as before, but I can take things down much quicker…well, quicker than I could in tank spec.  This brought on a new level of different and frustration for me.  Not only did I have to be next to the thing I was fighting, I now had to make sure I was doing everything right in order to survive.

Now, chances are that I am as terrible a DK as I am a Mage, but I do enjoy the challenge of figuring out what I need to do and when in order to maximize my dps as well as survivability.  What switching up a class and role did for me was make WoW different, fun, frustrating, and kind of new again.  If only my friend who hurry up and hit 100 with his Mage (he’s at level 98 right now) and gear them up so we can officially swap out for our raids.  Though, to be honest again, I did raid last night on my Mage and did have fun with it.  Though, the whole while I was talking about how much fun my DK is.

Playing something new can make old, boring games new and fun again, though your mileage may vary.  If I had to level my DK from 55 to 100, I never would have even tried.  But, this does work in other settings as well.  If you do not like or are bored with you D&D (or other systems) character, talk to your GM about rolling up a new one.  It can definitely change how you feel at the table and make the experience more enjoyable.

Have you ever given up on a game only to go back to it and play a different character?  Did it make the game fun again?  How about with a tabletop roleplaying character?  Please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.

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Gaming Breaks

In the course of being a gamer, we sometimes get completely engrossed in one game and ignore all others.  This is why, in a video I will be posting later, I mention that I haven’t had much time, if any, to play games on my various consoles.  I got completely engrossed in Elite: Dangerous on top of actively tackling garrison missions daily in WoW.  However, my recent vacation to the great cities of Boston and New York City allowed me to get away from gaming.  I could have gamed while there, but I didn’t bring a laptop that could handle those games and I was far too tired after waking around all day to even think of playing a game.  I have been back now for a two weeks and I still haven’t thought about online gaming.

Image Credit: http://www.arabianbusiness.com/should-i-have-any-free-time--540228.html
Image Credit: http://www.arabianbusiness.com/should-i-have-any-free-time–540228.html

This brings me to the topic I wanted to talk about, taking a break.  Taking a break from our regular routine of gaming can be quite refreshing.  It opened up more free time than I thought and I found myself looking for things to do.  I caught up on some TV shows (I can now say I have watched all of Breaking Bad), but I really was kind of bored and didn’t know what to do.  Kind of a good problem to have, no?

The added benefit of my new found free time is that I was finally able to look towards playing some console games again.  I truly have a huge backlog of games I still have to play.  While I will most likely continue playing Dragon Age: Inquisition until I beat it, I still have the original Assassin’s Creed to beat (just need to do the last couple kills).  I even bought a PS4 and Bloodborne because I kept reading so many good things about it.  If I was still spending all my time online gaming, Dragon Age and Bloodborne, along with a couple other Xbox One games I have, would still be unopened.

This doesn’t just apply to video gaming.  Sometimes we need to take a break from our board game groups and our tabletop roleplaying groups.  The break helps us realize how much we enjoy and how much we get out of our gaming groups.  Fortunately for me, the breaks I get from my board gaming and roleplaying groups are because people are out of town.  I really enjoy these groups, and believe I could go without the breaks (not regularly gaming during the week completely throws my schedule off), however it is most likely that these shorts breaks I get keep everything fresh and fun when we get to game again.

What do you think?  Do you take breaks from your gaming routine and find yourself with a lot of free time to enjoy something else?  Do those breaks allow you to go back to other games that you still need to play?  Please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.

Learning to Adapt

We all game differently.  While playing a board game, roleplaying it up, or playing a video game online, chances are we are playing something while in a group.  And not all groups are the same.  In my board gaming group (going on nine years now) everyone at the table has a fairly strong personality.  This carries over to my roleplaying group as a lot of us are in both groups.  However, this isn’t the case for all groups all the time.  Sometimes we are thrown into a different situation and we have to adapt to those around us.

This adaptation can be as simple as toning down the amount of curse words; I admit, I have a pretty dirty vocabulary at the gaming table.  However, if I am with a group where they don’t appreciate colorful language, or there are kids around, I need to tone it down and I do.  I do not complain about it and the group doesn’t need to keep reminding me about it either.  I do it because it is polite and I want to keep gaming.

This carries over into roleplaying groups as well.  Not everyone in the group can be super boisterous all the time.  Depending on what everyone is playing, we might need to drastically tone down our conversations in and out of character so someone else can have their turn in the spotlight.  Some GMs might not appreciate a lot of side talk while roleplaying is happening.  Others might require you to pay very close attention to what is going on as they will only give you a few seconds to decide what your character is going to do on their turn.  Again, this requires us to adapt to the situation.

This carries over into games like WoW too.  During MoP while we were working on taking down Garrosh for the first time, the guild, as a whole, was on edge and didn’t appreciate screw-ups.  There was very little chatter at all while we were attempting bosses we hadn’t killed yet.  However, after we took down Garrosh and everyone one else quit until WoD, the new guild I joined was all about messing around.  They had taken down everything on a more difficult tier so they were more about having fun and helping everyone else out.  It was incredibly fun raiding with them.  Everyone was constantly throwing out jokes or saying complete nonsensical things to get a laugh.  The raid leader would even modulate his voice to add to the entertainment.  Had I ran with them with the mindset I during my old guild’s first Garrosh kill, I wouldn’t have had as much fun.  I had to adapt to their playstyle.

A picture of the Settlers map my friend took when she was at Strateicon this past February.
A picture of the Settlers map my friend took when she was at Strategicon this past February.

When heading to a gaming convention or trying to get into competitive play, multiply this need to adapt 100 fold as you will encounter all sorts of different people with a wide variety of personalities.  My friends who go to gaming conventions always share stories about some of the people they met at the gaming table.  They would go from wisecracking at one table to complete silence at the next.  They were always adapting to their fluctuating situation.

The adaptability you can learn from gaming with different groups is invaluable in everyday life.  If you are trying to branch out and experience new things and meet new people, finding a gaming group might be the way to go.  You’ll have something in common with the new people and you all will be there for the same thing; gaming.

What is your experience with different gaming groups?  Were some very open and joking often, while others were very on point and serious?  Please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.

Unexpected, but enjoyable, aspect of a game

A screenshot of when you start up the game
A screenshot of when you start up the game

I recently bought and started playing Elite:Dangerous.  I saw ads for this game everywhere, and I just had to check it out.  I went to the Elite:Dangerous wikia website to get an idea of what I can do in the game, and quickly chose my role; I was going to be a bounty hunter.  I went into this game with some preconceptions and was pretty much slapped in the face by what I got.  However, what I got is far more enjoyable than what I thought I was going to get.

After buying, downloading, and installing the game, but before I actually started playing, I tried out some of the tutorials.  They cover some simple things like flying around, landing, and even some combat.  I found the combat to be the most enlightening as that’s exactly what I got the game for.  However, when you get your first ship, the Sidewinder, which is free, I quickly found that combat in the actual game was very different than in the tutorial.

My "space-trucking" ship, the Type-6
My “space-trucking” ship, the Type-6

Your free Sidewinder has been outfitted with, pretty much, the worst of everything.  There’s a reason it was free.  So, when I eventually encountered another ship that was trying to destroy me, I figured, “Hey, I easily took these things out in the tutorial.”  Several deaths later and after talking to some co-workers about it, my eyes were finally open to the reality of the game; all ships, by default, have terrible equipment and you need to work your butt off to earn some space bucks so you can buy better gear.  Basically, I had to resort to “space-trucking,” as my one co-worker put it, in order to start generating money.  I was, initially, very disappointed; I didn’t get this game to buy and sell commodities.  But, if I have to do it so I can bounty hunt later, then I’ll suck it up and do it.

What I didn’t expect, however, was that I found “space-trucking” to be incredibly fun.  Sure it is tedious, but, for some reason, I didn’t mind it and actually enjoyed it.  Even though you are hauling goods from one space station to another, you get to see amazing sights as every system is different.  This gets turned up a notch when you get into rare trading which requires you to travel to far away systems which, at a minimum, much be over 120 light years away.  Depending on how far you can jump at once, you may end up visiting 10 different systems along your route.  If you don’t have a fuel scoop, you will get to explore those systems more as you will need to find a space station to dock at so you can refuel.

A picture of my Eagle, with a custom paint job, which I use for combat
A picture of my Eagle, with a custom paint job, which I use for combat

What all this “space-trucking” leads to is the ability to either improve your own ship or to buy another ship.  Each ship can only be upgraded so much, so there definitely will be a time when you will need to buy a different ship.  This allows you try out new things.  If you want to get into bounty hunting, you can buy a fighter ship.  If you want to explore the galaxy, there are ships better equipped for that.  Of, if you really like “space-trucking,” you can buy a larger cargo ship and continue delivering goods.  Currently, there is no limit on the number of ships that you can have, so you can have a ship for everything.  I do have plans to buy several more ships, but right now I am switching between rare trading on my Type-6 and bounty hunting with my Eagle.

Have you tried Elite:Dangerous?  If not, you should definitely check it out and let me know what you think by leaving a comment and/or sharing on Twitter.

Social interaction in WoW

People are, by nature, social beings.  Most of us crave or require regular social interaction with other people.  We gamers are no different.  How we get our interaction, however, may be different.  Most people think of video games as solo activities, and don’t get me wrong several of them are.  But, just because games can and are played alone doesn’t mean you don’t get any social interaction out of them.  Depending on what types of games you play, you can get a lot out of them.

The most basic, current example would, of course, be World of Warcraft.  I have already talked about working as a team in WoW.  Something that goes hand in hand with working as a team is working with others.  In WoW, there’s a lot of content that can be played through by yourself.  This is usually done through questing and achievement hunting.  Nowadays, we can even go back through old content that used to take several people to complete and complete it alone.  I personally get a lot of enjoyment out of that.  Current content or more difficult achievements or quests require playing with other people.

The tool of online social interaction
The tool of online social interaction

If you team up with the same people over and over, they become your friends.  And although they are just your friends in a video game, they are still your friends.  You don’t chat about random things with random people online, but you will with your friends.  I remember a rogue I used to party with often back in the vanilla days of WoW.  Bahaphat was his name.  While we were never in the same guild, we often did dungeons and quests together.  We would chat about how things were going.  After breaks I would take with WoW, one of the first things I would do when I came back was see if Baha was playing and see what he was up to.  I needed to reach out and remake the connection we had.

Right now, I am in two guilds in WoW; one on my horde character that I am currently neglecting, and one on my alliance character.  In my alliance guild, several of the members only play WoW to play with friends.  They never come online to go through content by themselves, they only come online when we are putting a group together to tackle raid content.  Our guild leader has expressed numerous times that he only plays WoW so he can play with friends.  We all get a social interaction fix off of playing this game together.

In my horde guild, they are a bit more tightly connected.  This is mainly due to them being from all over (unlike my alliance guild where we all work for the same company in the same town) and from being in one of the top raiding guilds in the U.S.  Because they spend so much time playing the game together, all the main people have become very good friends.  If you join their mumble chat you will hear everything from funny stories to how things are currently going with someone’s family.  Members even flew from all over to hang out and go to BlizzCon 2014 together.  It’s almost like they are a family.  Everyone is there to play and socially interact with each other.

How have you made friends in online gaming?  How do you keep in contact with them?  Please feel free to leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.

Image credit and source: Logitech headsets http://gaming.logitech.com/en-us/gaming-headsets

Strategy with Eclipse

Let’s talk about strategy.  Strategy is important in several aspects of life and, most definitely, at work.  We are constantly coming up with new strategies to deal pretty much everything, always seeking to find a new, more effective way to do something.  I strategize my time and how I am going to manage my MBA classwork while working full-time all the while maintaining my regular routines throughout the week.  However, coming up with new strategies for everything is very tough and very time consuming.  Fortunately, there are several board games out there that require a heavy dose of planning and strategy to play and win.  Eclipse is one of those games.

This was taken from the Eclipse game I played on March 12th.  I am the red player, and as you can see, it looks like I am doing ok.  I have several planets generating a decent amount of money and research.
This was taken from the Eclipse game I played on March 12th. I am the red player, and as you can see, it looks like I am doing ok. I have several planets generating a decent amount of money and research.

Eclipse is a relatively new board game that came out only four short years ago.  It is an incredibly popular game that is enjoyed in households and conventions a like.  There are numerous ways to win the game, which galactic domination being the most common.  While the game is quite fun, It can also be an incredibly frustrating game.

My player sheet.  As you can see, at this point, I was doing fairly decent in money and research but terrible in resources.
My player sheet. As you can see, at this point, I was doing fairly decent in money and research but terrible in resources.

I have played Eclipse a couple dozen times.  Each time, everyone around the table, except for a few, try to employ a different method of obtaining points and eventually winning the game.  Some races you can select in the beginning have an advantage with developing technologies, and through those technologies gain several points.  Another option is to develop nothing but warships and start invading your neighbors.  This seems to be the most common strategy employed, and it does have, in the games I have played, a decent winning percentage.

However, there’s a bit more to this game, and its strategies, than just tech or war.  If you play with the maximum number of players, which is six, it is imperative to know and understand what everyone else is doing and realize that it is almost impossible to win by yourself.  A simple strategy of building warships and acting aggressively towards everyone is a quick way to get everyone else at the table to, possibly briefly, join forces and crush you.  Another simple strategy that will get you into trouble is trying to remain removed from everyone else and try to explore and gain more and more territory.  That will also cause a few of your opponents to join forces to crush you.

So, what to do?  Typically, the best strategies involve more than one player, each working with their strengths.  In Eclipse, alliances can be formed where two to three players join forces.  These alliances only work if all parties bring something to the table.  One person can focus on building nothing but warships, while another builds nothing but technology.  In this case, both are generating points for their team while focusing on their respective strengths.

As you can see, the person playing black invaded me and I couldn't do anything about it.
As you can see, the person playing black invaded me and I couldn’t do anything about it.  I lost all but two small systems.

While Eclipse explicitly states what each race is more proficient at, which enables you to develop a good strategy around that, in the real world you aren’t going to be that lucky.  By looking at your team, understanding each of their strengths, a potent strategy can be crafted leading to victory or achievement.  This could be a strategy towards achieving the company goals more efficiently and reliably, to managing your personal spending better.  The point is this fantastic game can help you understand strategy and how to use it in everyday life.

Have you ever played Eclipse?  What is your favorite or most used strategy?  Please leave a comment below and/or on Twitter.

For all the information you could ever hope to know about Eclipse, click here.

Dealing with Stress

stressed-catStress is a part of everyday life for almost everyone.  There is seemingly no way to completely get away from it.  A lot of the time, we, as a people, turn to a vice in order to either reduce our stress or to forget about it for a period of time.  There are a plethora of vices out there, like going for a run or drinking a beer.  Not all vices are healthy; I think you could make a compelling argument that most vices people turn to are unhealthy.

Because of the pressures I face, mostly at work due to the nature of what my team does with very limited resources, I definitely have stress that I need to manage.  While I do occasionally partake in drinking alcohol (mostly beer, though I did recently discover that I do like wine) I do not drink to reduce stress, for I would end up drinking far more than I would like (I am a one-beer-a-couple-days-a-week kind of guy).  I do run, but I find that it does absolutely nothing to reduce my stress (I envy people who can reduce their stress through physical exercise).  So, what does a person like me do to manage their stress?

I game.

For me, not all games or types of gaming are equal when it comes to reducing stress.  If I want to get rid of a lot of stress in a short amount of time for a short amount of time, games like Dynasty Warriors is a good game for me to play.  I can pick from a number of Chinese folk heroes and suppress the Yellow Turban rebellion, where, through the course of the scenario, I can defeat over 1,000 enemies and a few other Chinese folk heroes in the process.  It is great fun and does reduce stress quite well while you are playing.

If I want more prolonged stress reduction, I can play a game like Mass Effect (Mass Effect 2 is my favorite of the Mass Effect games) or Dragon Age (the first one is awesome, second is not bad, and I haven’t had the privilege of playing the third installment yet).  These games offer amazing characters combined with an amazing story and incredibly fun game play.  I am drawn more to these types of games in general, as the stories are fantastic.  While the combat is great and does help to reduce stress like Dynasty Warriors, I find that the amazing story offers more of a distraction from my everyday life.  I care about the characters and what they are doing and trying to accomplish and thus lose myself in their story, completely forgetting, for a time, my current stress.  Unfortunately, I tend to start thing again about my stress either in the middle of playing or immediately after I wrap up.

Tabletop roleplaying, however, is where I completely forget about or greatly reduce my stress.  Since I roleplay every week, I usually have stress saved up so I can get rid of it during a session.  Unlike the roleplaying video games mentioned above where you are playing someone else’s story, you are playing your story while you tabletop roleplay.  Granted, it isn’t you exactly; it is a character completely created from your imagination that you are playing, and thus you have a deeper connection with them.  Since they do not exist in the real world, they do not have any of the problems you have in the real world; they aren’t stressed out from your job, so it is incredibly easy to lose yourself in your character.

A picture of my Pathfinder Magus, Seamus Thom, with my steampunk dice and Pathfinder Core Rulebook
A picture of my Pathfinder Magus, Seamus Thom, with my steampunk dice and Pathfinder Core Rulebook

This is part of the reason why I mentioned in an earlier blog (Tabletop Roleplaying Games: An Introduction) that I look forward to my roleplaying sessions every week.  It’s where I dump most of the week’s stress that I built up.  For as long as the session lasts, I get to be someone else with completely different problems/goals/motivations/etc.  Unlike with video games, after a roleplaying session, instead of my stress creeping back up, I will often stay later discussing things about the session with my friends.  We will go over how good the session was and what we hope to do next time.  Or, as often is the case, something funny and off-topic was mentioned during the session, so we will all gather around an iPad or computer to watch some interesting video.  All in all, roleplaying is the best stress relief for me, as it has longer lasting effects over other methods of gaming.

Do you also turn to gaming to reduce stress?  What games do you play?  Please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.

Stressed cat image credit: http://nerdomeblog.com/2013/03/04/on-not-being-stressed-out/