Category Archives: Frivolous Friday

Friday Conundrums: The last Game of your Life

This week while casually browsing my twitter feed, I came across a short exchange between fellow blogger Braxwolf and Michael on their love for Civilization 5. It was one line by Brax there which completely took me aback –

In over 5 years of video game blogging and discussion with other players, I have never once asked myself the proverbial question of “if I could only play one game for the rest of my life – which one would it be?”. The fact that I still don’t have the faintest idea after several days of musing on this topic, gives me pause.

The “three things to take to an island” thought experiment is a fond memory from my school days, naming your most important movies or books which I generally find easy. Heck even the question about which food I’d go for if it was the only thing I could eat, forever, is easily answered: Pizza! I have weighed all the pros and cons of other food items and come to the solid conclusion that I could live out my days quite happily on a balanced pizza diet.

But when it comes to video games, I am at a loss. The intuitive thing would be to name one of my all-time favorite titles surely, Chrono Trigger or The Witcher 3 or some other RPG or adventure with some substance to it. Yet – I am not so sure! If I REALLY was to name one game for the rest of my life, it would probably need to be a smarter, more long-term choice: a game that allows for plenty of repetition and customization, something open-ended rather than a heavily story-based title that’s also final. Either way, it would be a matter of time before I came to hate it with a passion, but anyway.

Tetris? No. Minecraft maybe?


Forever on MC Island?? (

Really, I haven’t got a clue and it amuses me how I freeze at the mere idea of this fictional scenario. Happy weekend everybody – and which game would you choose to be your sole companion for all eternity? It’s a scary thought!

The Free and Easy Forever Status Report for Your Blog (and other Media)!

I think it was Billy Connolly who once joked in an interview that the only weather forecast you’ll ever need was this: “It will rain and after the rain, there will be sunshine until it rains again”. I have to paraphrase a bit because the clip is gone from youtube but anyway, it made me laugh as his dry sense of stating the obvious always has done.

A friend of mine who shall not be named is currently contemplating to shut down his blog; as you might have guessed, I am decidedly against it. I’ve witnessed the rare occasion over the years, and it’s been six years of MMO blogging for me now, that a fellow blogger actually quit his or her blog for good (I miss you – Tam, Chas and Larisa!) and am still grumpy they deleted it. More often than not however, blogging and/or gaming malady is a temporary thing, fickle and multi-causal. More importantly, there is simply no rational reason for chucking your blog, podcast or whatever just because you’re feeling out of steam for a while, heck even a long while. Blogging is not a pact with the almighty that terminates the contract as soon as you’re not a good girl. Even better, your blog is just a bit of code on the internet (ya rly), it takes no space in the apartment and you won’t have to dust it off! So what is this obsession with constant status reports? This is LIFE, yo!

On quitting blogs

Okay, I get it – sometimes we just need an excuse to talk about ourselves and what’s going on in our lives. That’s cool. As far as audiences go however imagined or otherwise (I imagine mine is fairly well-dressed, wearing top hats and monocles), you don’t owe anyone regular or final-ish status updates and there is certainly no requirement for grand quitting gestures. In fact, most people don’t really care much if you take three weeks off or three months and whether you’re on time every Monday morning or not. That said, it’s completely nice to announce a longer AFK but do yourself a favor and stop the quitting business! It will save you from “oh guess what, am back…again!”-followups and potential content losses (because you didn’t backup, did ya?) when that writing, ranting and rambling mood strikes again. And for most writers and oversharers on the internet, it always does!

Don’t do it, okay? I hate broken links to deleted articles!


Since it’s Friday and I’m in a good mood, I’ve decided to provide my neurotic friend with a “forever status report” for his blog. I don’t know if he’ll actually use it but it’s a pretty great substitute for whatever he was coming up with instead:

“Dear readers, blogging friends and commenters,
I will be blogging a little less, until I blog more again! This is going to happen forever.
Thanks for taking note, you’re all great and should totally like me on twitter! XOXO”

THE END. You’re welcome, “Bob”! Happy Friday quitters and welcome back forever!

BDO Travel Log: At first I was like “Oh, little Ents”…and then I ran!

So I decided to get some map progress in Black Desert Online last night and hit the road equipped with naught but my trusted horse, some carrots and a lantern for when that scary time comes along at 22.00. I had not yet discovered the south-eastern parts of BDO and parts of the south-western border were still clouded in mistery. Aware of the general direction, I soon toggled off the UI for better screenshot measure and feels. The feels got real real fast.


The adventure is real.

I am starting to think there’s not a patch on that huge world map that doesn’t hold some sort of secret, a hauntingly beautiful vista, a quirky new race, or a fake wall to crawl under and reveal a deep cavern beyond. These actually exist; they’re not obvious to see but there are fake walls with cracks leading to Tomb Raider style treasure hunting, so always look for the telltale signs.

Speaking of other IPs, it seems someone at Pearl Abyss is madly in love with the Lord of the Rings. It’s not just hinted at in the main story but screams at you from so many details in the world. Naturally the elves live in Lothlorien too in BDO but before I get ahead of myself: I also found the Ent Forest.

At first I was like “ohh little Ents”, when all the shrubbery around me came alive to get a bite off my horse –


Harmless Mini-Ents

…Charming! Escaping the hungry underbrush I ventured deeper into the forest and lo and behold, “bigger Ents!” –


Still harmless medium Ent

…that was all fine and dandy before a deafening sound just behind me pierced the air like a hundred dying trees, followed by a large “THUMP” in my general direction. “Oh shit, a REAL Ent!” –


Time to gooooooo!

I couldn’t even photograph the whole sucker. It cast a high shadow among the tallest trees and yes, there were several tree herders in this forest. Time to run and see the elves before Papa Bear kidnapped me to the Entmoot!

Ever the aestheticians, the elves lived up beautiful trees with spiral staircases going ever up and up. There was a lift too for the lazy which I promptly accepted. The highest platform on the chief tree was only accessible by ladder and from high above the view was stunning right before sunset. There is housing here to be rented too, albeit not a very roomy option.

The adventure could have stopped here. Surely it should – it would be greedy to ask for more. However I had barely turned my back on elfland, when a giant Cyclops started chasing me in massive leaps across the map. Apparently this corner of the world is all about big things intent on killing you. On the bright side, escaping the cyclops is how I found Crio Village, home of the Otters. I am not going to spoil it too much –

I didn’t even know this was a thing! The game keeps doing that, it keeps surprising me around every other corner. The world of Black Desert Online feels very real at first, almost “too real” running danger of getting boring – but no so. Who needs heavily themed patchwork-zones in an MMO when you can have a seamless world that despite its pretty realism is packed with reward and whimsy? Or as Bhagpuss puts it: this land is vast and wild and filled with wonders. If you seek them out, you will find them.


The world is as beautiful as you see it

Happy Friday everybody! Enjoy these early steps of MMO exploration, they’re precious!

The Fantastic Races of the Black Desert

Black Desert Online is one of those MMOs, like Age of Conan, that only lets you roll humans/humanlikes as player characters. Okay, the ranger class are elves apparently (although my ranger looks zero elf and a good thing too) and it’s debatable what Berserkers are… But there’s not the exotic choice of being a tiny Asura, a grumpy dwarf or a green-skinned orc in BDO. What that meant to me at first was that I wasn’t going to encounter the usual high fantasy whimsy in this MMO but a more serious, maybe Skyrim-esque setting with the odd dragon or crazy wizard.

Thank god I was wrong! For some reason Pearl Abyss are only down to earth when it comes to player classes but outside of that, anything goes. Exploring the world of Black Desert Online with all its different quirky races is a true delight. I’ve only discovered maybe half of the current map by now and some of the races I’ve encountered had me go squee with joy or laugh in amazement. Current favorites: otters and kuku birds!


Dwarves and Granoks?


Otter with dudes that look like fauns


Goblins have it tough in BDO




They have a cave troll!


Creepy reindeer geek


Fishman on his way to weightwatchers


Mario was here


He asked me to kiss him, I said no


KUKU bird <3

Happy Friday everyone and enjoy that early MMO magic!

The Rocket Science that is Cosmetic Features in MMOs

One of the most baffling things to me personally about cosmetic features in MMOs has always been their often mind-bogglingly lacklustre, inconvenient implementation by developers over a longer period of time. You’d think a customization mechanic as most-wanted as this one, deserved full attention from the get-go. But in the case of most popular mainstream MMOs that I have played over the years, it always took ages to get there – as in get it half-way right! When I returned to Draenor long after transmogrification was a thing in WoW, Blizzard had still managed to make the whole process unbelievably complicated and fussy. Void space huh? And don’t get me started on cosmetics 1.0 in Wildstar or GW2! Not even looking at FFXIV for this one.

Sort this out, pretty please?

Sort this out, pretty please?

It seems that whenever players are super anxious to get their hands on cosmetic features, the whole process ends up being highly anti-climatic:

Dev: “Guess what, we are finally introducing a cosmetic feature for your gear next patch!”
Dev: “There is only a few restrictions…”
Player: “Huh??”
Dev: “Oh and also, the following items you really can’t use-“
Player: “But but…”
Dev: “And you can only get more slots via the ingame store.”
Player: *erm*
Dev: “Did we mention the special cooldown?”
Player: /quit

Seriously, can we just get a second, overriding gear tab to equip whatever items/looks we collected already, without consumables or service NPC mumbo jumbo? And maybe without paying extra every time we change something or just to get a decent amount of set options? Why is that so hard? This whole affair is like the coitus interruptus for the fashion-conscious player! RIFT anyone?

Happy weekend everybody! Dress sensibly!

Meeting our MMO Doppelgangers

Custom character creation is one of the most defining aspects of the MMORPG genre. Stuck with alter egos longterm, players may spend more or less time initially creating their character’s looks but almost everyone agrees that it’s important not everybody look the same in massively multiplayer games. As a non-alt player who cares about customization a great deal, I have high expectations of character creation screens. But whether a game makes it easy or very hard to create a more unique avatar, adventuring alongside thousands of other players means that one day it is inevitably going to happen: you meet your doppelganger online.

My human priest in WoW was far from a popular model in an MMO that has always offered very little in terms of individualism. While scores of white- and violet-haired nightelf twins were running around everywhere in vanilla WoW, it took months before I encountered “myself” in Azeroth. I still remember how weird this felt – in fact, I remember being mildly annoyed about it. Wearing the same gear was obviously inevitable in early WoW but looking the exact same all the way down to the bend of your nose was a big no-no in my book. Whenever I re-encountered that player in Ironforge, I would rush in and out of the auction house quickly. Go away, imposter!


This is an intervention! (

I never even thought about this issue until I encountered the above tweet the other day. It certainly didn’t occur to me that there could be such approval for MMO doppelgangers. I guess encountering someone with the same taste as you is some kind of confirmation but I still can’t feel positive about it. Maybe it’s a matter of being too immersed in your online self (there’s no identical me in real life…I think), in a way it takes away from the whole illusion created by virtual worlds. It’s probably a little silly of me too, but…..don’t copy my character design, okay??

Happy Friday to all the unique butterflies out there!

In which I respect the Holy Trinity and solve the DPS issue!

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to yet another post on the holy trinity on MMO Gypsy! It never gets old!

For some reason a recent tweet of mine on sitting in boring DPS queues in FFXIV ended in a 100+ tweets-or-so conversation with all kinds of folk about why dungeon queues are broken in MMOs and how to fix them. Of course it didn’t take long for someone to suggest that DPS suck, or then healers suck, or something, and from there it was a lot of mix’n match between the “significance” of the three roles vs. their relative playstyle difficulty vs. responsibility and punishment. All rather interesting topics in their own way, also vastly different from one another. Alas, twitter is great to spark discussions but not so much for finishing anything.

The debates around DPS queues inspired Murf to go on a rant on his own blog and profess profound hatred for everything DPS in MMOs. He plays a healer of course (correction: he also plays everything else, including self-loathing DPS!). As a longtime ex-healer myself, I find this both entertaining and missing the mark although in the end when tempers have cooled, we probably agree that there’s a problem with how DPS work and get to coast in many MMOs. Or rather how I would put it, there’s a problem with the way many encounters are designed to put more pressure on tanks and healers, with less unforgivable mechanics for DPS. It is by design that tanks and healers are made to care because immediate and fatal repercussions (this is also how players get weeded out early on). By the same virtue these two roles get a lot of praise, sometimes far more than they deserve because everyone needs to thank them for still being alive. Nevermind that bosses don’t get killed by either of the two in any half-respectable showdown. DPS whether good or bad, can’t ever do enough in MMOs and they’re the ones that get haunted by meters in WoW and other games because of it.

But this discussion is far more interesting even: at its core it raises the question of how much holy trinity we truly want and can tolerate in MMOs (“we” as in the general “we” – I have not been a fan of the trinity in a looong time). Nevermind the great ideas of giving DPS “more responsibility” as in crowd control (tanks ARE crowd control), buffs/debuffs or ressing mechanics. While these assumed fixes sound fine in theory, they’re at best cosmetic – in reality it’s the trinity itself that needs fixing. I’ll get to that in a moment.

Taking the Trinity Seriously

If we actually believe in the holy trinity, we must accept that at a most basic and philosophical level even, the three roles are all equally important and co-dependent; they are three parts of a whole. I have written before about how each of them takes a specific role in regards to time/life in MMO combat. Assuming balanced encounters, all three of them are necessary (yes, I can come up with lots of fights where either DPS or healers or tanks are allowed to die, ignore that). Tanks and DPS are more enemy-centric, healers are ally-centric. Tanks and healers are directly supportive, DPS more in-directly which makes them no less part of a cooperative trio.

Now Murf came up with the following analogy in his post to illustrate the status quo of the three roles in MMOs:

“Imagine a family vacation. The two parents are your Healer and your Tank. The three kids in the backseat of the car are your DPS. Whether those kids behave and make it an easier ride to their destination or not, it is still entirely up to the two parents to get everyone there.”

This is sadly very often the case, although both FFXIV and Wildstar are good examples for sometimes more complex DPS encounters (endgame). The correct analogy if the trinity wasn’t in fact broken, should be this:

Dad drives, mom makes sure everyone’s good on food and the kids are the ones that run the engine. The car does not move without the three kids – it shouldn’t.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: there is no combat in any game ever without damage dealing. I realize that the obvious frustration with DPS is based on how the roles have played out in daily MMO reality, nonetheless it’s encounters that are the problem. Stripped down, every game that includes combat *is* a DPS game. Even MMO combat can do without tanks and healers but not damage dealers. The first role that gets cut from farm raids are healers (tanks are next).

Tanks and healers are an artificial institution; they are created by taking away means of self-sustenance and control from a more well-rounded or self-sufficient damage dealer. You only introduce them once games decide to slow down combat and/or make it more tactical or cooperative, the way it happens in traditional or round-based (J)RPGs that generally have specialist/trinity roles too or unit-centred games (RTS) or MMOs. Take away Link’s shield and a good portion of his HP, his buffs and potions on the other hand and transfer each to separate characters: you create a holy trinity Zelda! Now, which role is the central one? Which came first? Is any of them negligible?

Solving the DPS issue

Encounter design is one issue but hybrid skills are an even greater problem. The answer cannot be to increase hybrid abilities across the board – unless you would like to go down the GW2 path. GW2 came out making every class equally feasible and self-sustained with “tankier” and “healier” bits and pieces. Combat was criticized as zergy and lo and behold, few years in there are suddenly raids and traditional roles because players presumably want a role focus and more co-dependence to warrant cooperative play. Okay.

Likewise, Wildstar came out with an incredibly high bar set for everybody but especially its DPS. I have written about how this MMO in particular has pushed healers on the backseat and given DPS real responsibilities. How many have reached WS endgame and passed the nauseating attunement though? How many have said the dungeons were too hard and too unforgiving until stuff got nerfed and the game almost burned? Okay.

There is a common thread here: some players like specialized roles but still want “some” self-sufficiency. They want cooperative play but not the kind that makes you “carry” anybody. Different roles yes but god forbid they are not exactly the same in terms of difficulty or punishment. Oh man, tough times developers!

I want everything in MMOs!

I want everything in MMOs! (click to expand)

There’s hyperbole in all caricature and also a grain of truth. The above strip is my friendly (limited-skill) attempt at demonstrating this issue. Which is not to say that it is entirely unsolvable: I do in fact want better holy trinity encounters myself (either go big or go home). The radical solution?

  • Remove all damage dealing skills from healers and tanks
  • Remove all half-assed healing skills and crowd control functions from DPS

That’s right! You want a holy trinity, then get it for reals! Cooperation, shared responsibility, shared pressure, equal stakes, equal punishment – you have it! Never again finishing encounters without everyone alive and well. Also, no more hybrid solo time where everyone can quest on their own or level up, heck scratch leveling entirely (I concur with this post)! Proper cooperative MMOs are about grouping and it creates all kinds of balancing issues when they need to simultaneously serve as solo adventure parks and multi-player venues (and PvP arenas).

This is the only consequent move towards a holy trinity that respects its three roles equally. Do I want to play this game? Probably not for long. But I sure as hell would enjoy egomaniac tanks and healers shutting up about not requiring DPS when their own existence is based on intentionally crippling a more well-rounded character.

P.S. Once upon a time. Happy weekend everybody!

[FFXIV] An Anniversary to Remember

Thanks to Rohan’s post this week I got around doing the FFXIV anniversary event “The Rising“, which is still available until September 7th. It was hands down the greatest anniversary quest-line I’ve ever come across in an MMO, so I am very glad there was still time. Because I read Rohan’s post first I had a vague idea of what it was gonna be about and a good thing too – I would’ve missed a lot of the inside jokes and references otherwise and likely have clicked impatiently through half the speech bubbles first. Don’t do it!

*Spoilers ahead*

As Rohan mentioned too, The Rising is one remarkable and successful shattering of the fourth wall in an MMO. Strictly speaking, MMO anniversaries are all a little out of character anyway, as they specifically celebrate the existence of your virtual fantasy world since [insert launch date]. SE have more to celebrate than most though and so they’ve taken things as far as it gets; if you have any history with FFXIV/ARR or SE at all, or any context of how far this title has come since 1.0, you really need to take the 20mins to experience this unique event! It is delightful in its self-irony and heart-warming in its humbleness. As far as my own MMO experiences are concerned, The Rising is also very much unprecedented in its very personal and direct address of the player base. Also, when do you ever get to explore a dev team’s virtual offices or sit with one of your favorite MMO composers’ alter ego?


Talking MMO music with ol’ Soken!

For those who won’t be experiencing The Rising either because they can’t or don’t want to, you can check out the essential cutscenes on youtube and read about all the not-so-hidden references on the reddit mega thread. That only leaves me with saying “you are welcome, SE” and kudos for not giving up on a legacy that’s dear to so many franchise fans worldwide! May our adventures in Eorzea indeed be a continuous source of joy and wonder! Happy weekend everybody!

Shared hopes

Shared hopes

We Are Explorers, Part 2: And also very annoying! [#Blaugust 21]

Last night I discovered that Tevis Thompson recently published another one of his rockstar insightful wall-of-text essays on the shattered soul of videogaming and I don’t even know where to start – I need to write about this but I also need more time! I find myself overwhelmed by resonance every time I read his analyzis and ye gods, there’s so much to address…so for now, I’d rather just leave you with this link over the weekend. Really, just read it – do it now! (maybe come back here after.)

For this fine blaugust 21st, I do hereby declare that of the four essential MMO playstyles, explorers are by far the hardest to satisfy and therefore a real headache for developers. We’re really quite an annoying bunch that way and since I self-identify as explorer (and all the incomplete gamer surveys I’ve ever taken would agree there), I shall explain why I think so. In a way, am letting developers off with this but not really. Also for the record, I do not actually believe any player to be defined by merely one interest or playstyle – I find Bartle and other gamer categorizations as insufficient as the next person. For the sake of simplicity and my fun with this argument however, let’s roll with clear-cut, straightforward gamer attitudes. Okay? Good!


Already part of Bartle’s character theory chart

It’s always struck me how both socializers and killers/pvpers have the strong social component in common. They come across as very opposed preferences but both playstyles are fundamentally driven and enabled by other people, as in PCs rather than NPCs. If we were gonna oversimply definitions to the point of being a little insulting (I’m doing it!), you could say that what socializers really require in MMOs is a colorful, interactive stage they can hang out on with other equally chatty people. As for killers, they require prey – they need a platform that allows them the freedom to organize themselves in groups and then go after everyone that’s worse than they are, challenging each others various skills. Again, these are gross oversimplifications but the takeaway is that the entire MMO world and setting is secondary to the primary, social experience (which is not to say that these playstyles know zero single-player appeal, they do – and there’s other genres than MMOs that may appeal to them).

Then there’s achievers and well, they’ve already won as far as MMOs are concerned, haven’t they? The great majority of MMORPGs since WoW which have followed the linear themepark approach, have been created with achieverdom in mind, stuff packaged into small itsy bits with clearly cut out paths and little popups of “hooray” and content patches and expansions of blarrggghhh…..(oh sorry, I got lost there for a minute). Anyway, achievers may thrive through experiences with or without other people – what I do understand about their basic mindset is that they enjoy work that’s been cut out for them, checking goals off a list, feeling gratified by achieving predetermined wins, a sense of tangible progression and completion. Therefore, achievers require steady content from the developer monster and that’s basically the world we all live in today – THANKS A LOT YO!


Okay okay, explorers! I started off by saying we’re the annoying bunch (*cough*) and we are, in the sense that our itch is very hard to scratch intentionally. Explorers need space and the freedom to roam, interesting things and randomness and umm…..intrinsic drive created through game design that must not be noticed. Simple, right? We want to be wowed at the exact moment of our choosing or well, at least never of the game’s choosing, and without any notion of the invisible puppetmaster present. The game world just needs to “be”, needs to simulate something real and after that we’re mostly interested in ambling off the beaten path and potentially finding stuff nobody else would nor intended for us to find. NEGATIVE SPACES, come on MMOs!

Freedom in games is a finely crafted illusion. Infinite depth and space can only be achieved by carefully orchestrated mystery. And randomness is mostly unthinkable.

And this is why having explorers for an audience is sort of a nightmare for any slightly ambitious world designer. Really, I feel for you – so much love and respect for those who get it right in MMOs, even just for a little while! I guess that’s also why randomly or procedurally generated maps were all the rage for some time, only the problem with that is….it’s not quite that simple. A haphazardly generated world feels redundant fast and oddly meaningless. There’s only so many times you like to take a trip into the blue in Minecraft until everything starts blending and feels the same. So yes, random but not totally random…..what can I say, we’re complicated!

P.S. Happy Friday everybody – explorerdom foreva!

[FFXIV] Manderville Dancing all Night long! [#Blaugust 14]

This morning when I got up and went to the bathroom, I stepped right into a tack. Foot bleeding and howling, I groggily stumbled towards the kitchen for disinfectant, only to step into cat puke with my other foot. This is a true story. Some days we need to fight with all we’ve got.

Lucky for me, I have the Manderville to do just that – and now you’ve got it too! Happy frivolous Friday everybody, enjoy the weekend and don’t forget your next Blaugust post!