NBI 2016: Blogging can be life-changing

Yes, I admit, the headline is probably a bit too dramatic. ;) So before you get too excited: Blogging will not make you rich and it is very unlikely that you will become famous. However, looking back at the past five years with this blog, a few things happened that did influence our lives in positive ways.

Even though writing, and thus blogging, per se is a solitary pastime, having a blog ultimately leads to being read. If you allow comments on your blog, then the interaction with your readers can be a very direct one, obviously. In case you are wondering: Should I allow comments? – I can recommend this post by Contains Moderate Peril. If you opt for a wordpress.com blog, I would suggest enabling the feature that when somebody comments for the first time, this comment will be put in “moderation” and you manually allow it (or not). This way, you can catch trolls and delete their comment without it being public. No harm done. As soon as you allow somebody’s comment, future comments will not be put in the moderation queue and will appear immediately. So far in the five years, this setting has helped us a lot – not that we actually did get troll comments. We only sometimes get spam comments that the automatic spam filter doesn’t catch. This is still a very good feature for these situations.

But back to the topic of this blog post: If you allow comments, then you will sooner or later get a few people who will comment on your blog. It will very likely not be a huge amount as the vast majority belongs to the “quiet readers”. What I personally really like is when people comment and add their thoughts that a post of mine provoked.

On top of that, blogging about specific games also means that you are part of a gaming community. This is also where comments come into play. Reach out to other bloggers that you like reading. Comment in their blogs, add them to your blogroll or reply to a post they made with a post of your own (always remember to link to them and use trackbacks as that is a good way to notify them of your post).

In my case, some other person (Marc, the founder of GuildMag) had noticed our blog and when ArenaNet was wondering who to invite to their European community gathering before Guild Wars 2 launched, the UK community manager at the time reached out to us and invited us to come to Brighton. Now this was probably a lot of luck for us! This trip was back in 2012 when I was still relatively new to the blogging world, but without this blog, I obviously wouldn’t have been able to go because all of us were bloggers or writers for Guild Wars 2 fansites. I accepted the invitation (gladly, of course!) and then found myself on a plane to the UK. I had never been to the UK before (and still haven’t returned which is quite sad, because I really want to visit that country), so I was even more excited. Finally! Even if it was only for a bit more than 24 hours. And I’ll be eternally grateful to Tasha for pulling me back when I had forgotten that cars drive on the left side over there.

Group picture EUFanDay

While there, I got to know some Greek dude who had mentioned his Guild Wars 2 guild. Once back here at home when we were trying to find a good guild for us, I sent him a message and asked if we could join. And that’s how we got accepted to Dragon Season. This guy (those who know Dragon Season probably know by now that it’s Tilion that I am talking about) has become a very close friend of mine and if nothing goes wrong, we will finally get to meet again this summer!

Another example is the Foostival. Foostival is a real life event from fans for fans of Guild Wars 2 which has taken place in several European countries for a couple of years already. It is mostly organized by those of us with Guild Wars 2 fansites. Since we are German but blog in English, we did not actually have any connections to the existing German fansites. But when GuildNews joined Foostival back in 2014, I was invited to help organize this event (by Tilion, actually) and I happily accepted. Through the Foostival, we have met several more great people and hope to stay in touch even outside of Guild Wars 2. Since they are all German, meeting in “real life” is also a lot easier since there is less distance to travel!

Last but not least, being one little blogger with one little blog can also lead to something more “professional”: Justin from Massively mentions that a lot of them started off as individual bloggers. And some of the Massively staff actually ended up working for game companies (like Rubi who now works for ArenaNet and Celestrata who joined Turbine and later switched to TrionWorlds).

GW2 Pink Day Plaza - Aurora Glade

I guess what this post aims at is that blogging is actually not so much a solitary pastime, but a very social one with lots of opportunities to reach out to others, connect and find friends who share your interests. Thanks to the internet – and if you use a widespread language like English – even all over the world. But even if you decide to blog in your native tongue, you can still reach out to a lot of people you would probably not meet otherwise. And I personally just really enjoy participating in something bigger, something community-driven (“Pink Day in LA” should also be mentioned here which I once helped organize on our server Aurora Glade).

(Side note: I had originally wanted to be a lot more active during NBI, but due to health issues concerning my fingers and a strict “NO TYPING!” from my doctor, I tried to restrict typing to my day job. :p)

NBI 2016: Screenshot prompt “The New”

A prompt to make a blog post with screenshots? I’m in! So, this is part of the “Newbie Blogger Initiative”. You can find more information on what the Newbie Blogger Initiative is in a previous post of mine (as well as in the other posts I’m linking to there).

But let’s get to the prompt itself:

This week I was thinking “the new”. A moment in game you experienced something unexpected, learnt something new, or just a visual element or object you had never seen before.

I tried to come up with something good, funny, creative – and I failed. But then I remembered my recent rant about expansions and the new regions introduced and figured: This is just perfect, isn’t it? “The new” parts of the world that an expansion gives a player: Guild Wars 2 expanded its world by giving its players more of the Maguuma Jungle, called “Heart of Maguuma”, while Rift gave us the Nightmare Tide zones. So, one features a jungle with trees and several floors to experience. They also added gliding, so you can vertically explore the game while the other gives us nightmares in a mostly underwater world. In my personal case, this really is a nightmare sometimes because of my phobia of “deep dark water” and “the things that live there”. So in case you are scared as well, be careful!

Rift’s Nightmare Tide was released in October 2014 and Guild Wars 2 released almost a year later in October 2015, which also means that both expansions are not exactly “new” anymore. But back then, they very much were, of course, and that’s where I’m digging for screenshots. So the screenshots you will see were taken when I first played in those new zones.

Rift: Nightmare Tide

Guild Wars 2: Heart of Maguuma

Guild Wars 2: The upside of having a “content drought”

I saw a post on MMORPG.com about the potential correlation between content updates and increased earnings for ArenaNet and Guild Wars 2 which got me thinking about my gaming behaviour related to their content updates. In general, I would say that the less new content they release, the less money I spend in Guild Wars 2. I remember giving them at least 5 € a month (remember: I try not to spend more money on online games than I would on a monthly sub), but since the expansion has been released, I did not give them any additional money anymore. I only spent some gold to trade for gems. However, I actually did not want to focus on how much money I spend on this game. I would just say that my spending behaviour is related to the amount of time I give to one specific game over others more than how much content a game actually releases, although those two factors are related, of course!

When I looked at the charts of that post, I remembered what Guild Wars 2 was like within the first year: New content every two weeks, content that would leave permanently after two or four weeks again. It was… stressful, actually. I found myself playing more because I had the feeling that I have to or I would miss out on something instead of playing because I was in the mood to play this specific game.

If I could choose, I would definitely want to have new content every two months or so that would stay permanently! But this is not a wishing well here. So, I’ll instead look at what we had back then and what we have right now. Back then, we had new content every two weeks. Now, we don’t have much new content. In my personal and subjective case, there is even no new content, because I don’t raid (you can thank World of Warcraft for making me swear never to get into raiding again). Which of the two do I prefer then? As I already said, I found the constant temporary content stressful. So for that alone, I choose the “content drought”. I kind of embrace the slow content releases. I work full-time, I work on my dissertation, I exercise regularly, I have a social life away from the PC (well, sometimes, at least), I like getting variety by playing more than just one game when I do decide to play and last but not least, I have this little blog here. In other words: I am not a hardcore gamer at all.

Having no new content means that whenever I feel like playing Guild Wars 2, I start it up and play. I enjoy myself in the game, because I never feel as if I am in the game only because I have to. There is nothing to catch up with and no feeling to play in order to not fall behind – and that’s refreshing!

Mind you, I say that only because there is still lots for me to do in the first place. :p At the moment, I am playing in Edge of the Mists whenever I find a bit of time to gather Proof of Heroics, so that my engineer can get his scrapper specialization unlocked. Yes, I am lazy. Or rather, I don’t really want to do all those hero challenges again. I much prefer battling in the Mists. I guess I would actually prefer “real” WvW over Edge of the Mists, but when you only have half an hour or so to play, this game mode is perfect. It’s fast with good rewards for your time.

GW2 Edge of the Mists

In the long run, I do of course hope that we will get to see a lot of new content and my hopes are for season 3 of the living world to be really good and exciting!

And if we pretend that there is a wishing well for a moment, then I would definitely wish for more content like the marionette fight, but with a longer time frame to participate and learn the encounter. I just really enjoyed the open world content and that is one thing I definitely miss from the content releases of season 1.

But hey, there will be an update tomorrow. Maybe we will get something new after all. :p

Paeroka’s Ponderings: Original vs. expansion “maps”

Paeroka's Ponderings featured image for columnWhen an MMO originally launches, I often find myself exploring the world and simply enjoying the stories that can be found. When you play a hobbit in Lord of the Rings Online, you start off with things like delivering a cake to a neighbour. There is this peaceful village that has no idea about the threat in the outside world, so naturally, their biggest concern is this cake (and well, they are hobbits, after all). But even in other regions, you get to explore the culture of the people living there, you get to read about their lives and all that. One could argue that it is a bit boring at times, but I personally enjoy this part of an MMO. I mean, it is a virtual world, so why not have a look at the everyday life of its citizens?

But with expansions, this seems to be gone quite often. In Rift, for example, I don’t find myself exploring. Instead, I find myself eye-rolling and longing for the previous worlds again. Of course, Rift’s “Nightmare Tide” expansion is an incredibly bad example as I find it to be by far the worst area/region I ever played in any MMO. That whole “you’re in a dream/nightmare“-stuff is just too over the top for me. But that is my point, after all. Everything is focused on the expansion’s storyline and yes, you even do get to experience the way the citizens live in that world. But for me, it is too much and I want to get back to the origins in the “original world”. It often feels slower and wider than what you get with an expansion.

Rift_Dreams

Could it simply be me? That the “magic” of exploring a new (game) world is just gone and I can’t appreciate these things anymore like I did when I first entered the game? On the other hand, I wonder if it really is related to the scope of the story. How much time does it take to create such an MMO? How much time does a company have to let their artists and writers create the world and how much time do they get to create the expansion maps? Or maybe it’s just the typical “we start slow and then the ‘main storyline’ gets into the focus more and more”. The developers may feel the need to bring out bigger and better stories and with that, the little calm areas that I care so much about just get pushed off, because they’re not important anymore.

I would say that this is at least partly what bothers me about Guild Wars 2. I get it, the threat of the Elder Dragons gets worse every day and it would not make sense to have our characters stroll through an area and bring a cake to my asura’s grandmother. There is a world to save, after all! Still, that doesn’t mean that I have to like the change.

Looking at the different MMOs I have played – at least those who did get an expansion – I would say that I liked World of Warcraft’s Burning Crusade as it gave a whole new continent and two new races with two new starting areas. The new maps had different storylines they followed while the big bad guy, Illidan, had his own storyline. Not everything was focused on this big bad guy. Guild Wars 2’s Heart of Thorns and Rift’s Nightmare Tide both focus on a big storyline and the maps seem to exist only to deliver the story (while yes, also sometimes telling a side story). Thankfully, both games have a feature that downlevels you (or lets you downlevel in Rift’s case as it is optional there), so I can actually go back and enjoy the lower level zones whenever I want to! Still, I wonder what those two games would need to do to give me new high level maps that I enjoy.

I regularly have rants and ramblings in my mind, but never really know if I should post them, so “Paeroka’s Ponderings” is where I will try to give these rants a place. Sometimes they will make sense, sometimes they won’t.

Impressions from Foostival Germany 2016

NamensschilderAs some of you may know, I am part of the organizing team of the German Foostival. It took place yesterday, on May 7. In the previous two years, we had a location in Hamburg which is in Northern Germany. As amazing as that city is (seriously, there is no better city in Germany than Hamburg if you ask me), it’s just not easy to reach especially for residents in the southern parts. So this year, we switched and had Foostival take place at the esports bar Meltdown in Cologne.

The location was very fitting, obviously. :)

The only downside of this place was that it was dark inside while Germany is currently experiencing a very unusual early summer with temperatures up to 25 °C instead of the usual 15 °C. If we had known that in advance, we could have looked for a beer garden instead. :p  But seriously, it was a very really nice location with good drinks and the pizza place on the other side of the street even brought some of the ordered pizzas in!

What I liked more in comparison to the location in Hamburg was the absence of PCs – well, mostly. The Meltdown actually has PCs and consoles that you can play on, but those were ignored for the most part and did not play a role in our organization of the event (they were used after Foostival was over, though. Gamers will be gamers, after all!). We were also all in one room sitting around a couple of tables whereas in Hamburg, the group had been split in two rooms at times. This way, we could all be together and mingling was a lot easier. It being a bar, we could also enjoy lots of beverages including drinks like a “Headshot” or a “Stimpack”. Not that I think we need alcohol to have fun, but it was still very convenient to have drinks around. :p

So, without PCs and all of us being in one room, it was also much easier to get in contact with the others and as such, I met a lot of new people and had a lot of interesting conversations, not only about Guild Wars 2, but also about other games and “The Dark Eye” (a German roleplaying game similar to “Dungeons & Dragons”).

Once the event was over, the bar opened to the general public, but not all of us left. I really enjoyed just sitting there together with the others who had stayed behind and talking. If you ask me, we wouldn’t even need any programme, quizzes or games. I could just spend that whole day talking and getting to know the others! And as such, I hope to see them all again soon – maybe at Gamescom, maybe at the Foostival 2017! :)

Please excuse the crappy quality of the pictures. I took them with my mobile phone, but I know there will be much better pictures soon and I will of course link you to the picture gallery then!

As always: A huge Thank You to everybody who organized the Foostival with me and to all the helping hands! Foostival would not be possible without us all working together the way we do. :)