Four and a Half Years

Four and a half years ago I downloaded the World of Warcraft free trial and entered the realm of massively multiplayer online role playing games for the first time. “Don’t worry,” I told my wife, “I just want to see what it’s like. I won’t get addicted or anything.” Addiction is perhaps too strong a word to describe my relationship to MMOs and gaming in general but during these last four and a half years, “unhealthy obsession” would probably be a fair assessment. However after four and a half years of nearly uninterrupted nightly gaming sessions of 2-5 hours each I’m taking a break from video games for a few months and getting my priorities back in order.

While I’m sure it may come as a surprise for many of you, I’ve danced around this decision for a long time now. For many years I’ve prioritized this hobby in such a way that other aspects of my life— my role as a husband, a father, a church member, my vocation, my personal health, etc.— have been subservient to my obsession with MMOs. I’ve been the equivalent of a functioning alcoholic; mindful enough of my responsibilities not to completely neglect them, but so wrapped up in my video games and so protective of my time playing them that these other areas of my life have grossly atrophied.

For too long I’ve justified this behavior, but the reality is I’m not giving my wife and children the attention they deserve. I’m not focusing my resources, time, creativity, and affection on them the way I ought to; how could I? I’ve put my best into MMOs and the surrounding culture and reserved for my family whatever was left.

My relationship with Jesus Christ has also suffered as I’ve worshiped at the alter of my Steam account rather than at the foot of the cross. This more than anything else has crippled me spiritually, mentally, and socially. I’ve also let opportunity for professional growth slip by, let projects around my home go unfinished, and struggled to maintain a physically healthy lifestyle because all of these things have been slotted into my life with the assumption that 9pm -12am every night was off limits for anything but MMOs. And that doesn’t take into consideration the time I spent reading and thinking about the genre.

I want to be clear about something though, I still do not ascribe to the myth that video games are inherently addictive and wrong to enjoy. I believe they can fuel addictive behavior and be the source of its obsession but that makes video games no more responsible for destructive behavior than the a flame ignited by a carelessly discarded cigarette butt can be held accountable for burning down a house. I had an obsessive personality before I discovered MMOs, and I will continue to have one long after I’ve moved on.

The obvious implication here is that I will not be playing any MMOs for the next few months so that I can have the hard reset I need to get my priorities right. However I know myself well enough by now that I will also need to remove every other tangental source of gaming that I’ve insulated myself with over the years. I love reading so many of your blogs but for now I’ve removed feedly completely from my phone. MassivelyOP and BioBreak, which have been a staple of mine for years and were my earliest introductions to writing within the genre have been removed from my bookmarks. My own blog will be going dark indefinitely and I am going to take at least a couple weeks away from Twitter as well until I get use to the changes.

As difficult as this decision was to make and as sad as I am to be losing even temporarily my community, my blog, and the many MMO characters and worlds that have endeared themselves to me, I feel a relief that I haven’t felt in years. It’s as though a burden has been lifted and I have a freedom to move and grow again in ways that have been stifled for a long time.

I plan on spending a few weeks journaling privately about where I’d like to see change in my life, what kind, and how I’d like to implement it. Of first importance will be sleep, followed by a return to consistent prayer and Bible study. I also have plans for being more engaged with my children’s home schooling, an opportunity to take a volunteer leadership role at my church, an anniversary trip to plan for my wife and I, and a paradigm shift to flesh out on how I want to lead my team better at work.

This sense of freedom and relief has been the strongest evidence for me indicating how desperately I needed this change. Once I feel rooted in new habits and new priorities, I’ll reconsider the role MMOs should play in my life (if any) as well as this blog. Thank you all for your friendship, your encouragement, your banter, and your support of Waiting For Rez. Things will be quiet here on my front for a while, but you’ll hear from me again before long.

Please look forward to it.

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Age of Wushu: Dynasty, First Impressions

Mobile MMOs aren’t something I actively seek out, but with the amount of traveling I’ve been doing lately and a failing battery in my laptop (recently replaced) it seemed an alternative worth exploring. LEGO minifigures was on my iPhone for some time until the 1.5 gb of storage required became too much and I had to remove it. It was a fun game though, and over a 3-4 month period I reached the end of the story and leveled a few minifigures to the cap. Having purchased it on Steam as well, I actually found the title better suited for mobile. It never offered the depth of gameplay found in most MMOs but as a mobile alternative I found it to be charming.

During my most recent travels, I noticed an ad on Massively OP for Age of Wushu: Dynasty, a mobile version of Snail’s Wuxia MMO by the same name, sans “Dynasty”. I’ve never played Age of Wushu (it’s on my list though) but was curious about Dynasty so I clicked the ad and was promptly taken to TaiChi Panda on the App Store, another one of Snail’s titles. Nice one, Snail.

After manually searching for Age of Wushu: Dynasty on the App Store I was able to download the game and take a look. To begin you have to create an account with Snail. After registering you’re provided with five schools to chose from with two being gender locked, the Shaolin and Emei. I chose the Royal Guard for my first character which uses a clawed chain, and the Tangmen for my second which uses twin daggers. Not a lot of description is provided on the selection screen so I just chose the ones with the weapon sets I liked best.

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Character customization is nil beyond choosing the gender and age— there is an adult and teen version for each gender which I thought was interesting. Each class does have a unique costume however and your appearance can be selected separately from the gear you are wearing in game, so you can keep this starting outfit indefinitely.

After choosing a class, gender, and name you can log into the game where the first prompt you’ll receive is to click a quest indicator on the left hand side of the UI in order to be autopathed to an NPC. This will lead to a tutorial sequence where combat and base gameplay functions will be explained. This autopathing and directed progression will be a running theme with Dynasty, many features being automated and only requiring a single click to initiate or complete.

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That’s cold, Wang. Somewhere, a newly orphaned ninja baby is crying shuriken tears.

Gameplay is straightforward with your character running from NPC, to questing location— often in a separate instance— back to NPC for turn in and more story dialogue, all of which will be navigated by the autopathing feature. The game does an excellent job walking you through the many features of the game, including equipping and upgrading gear, improving class abilities, learning the various movement skills, and progressively teaching the combat system. You may not know why you’re doing any of it, but by golly you’ll know how.

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Combat is interesting in theory but by level 10 has required very little effort, it’s mostly just mash buttons—especially the glowing ones— and win. There are three ability types available: overt, feint, and parry. Feint attacks will break through an opponents parry, parry will block your opponents overt attacks, and overt attacks are your basic abilities that will mostly be spammed and occasionally will offer a combo. At level 5 you even have the option to automate combat, meaning you can sit back and watch the game play itself. I’m not sure what the purpose of this is, but it’s useful for getting action screenshots.

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Surprisingly the cash shop has not been invasive or necessary as of yet. There appears to be an energy system (called vigor) at work which limits game time and can be bypassed through cash shop purchases. However unless this becomes more restrictive at higher levels, I’ve never used up all of my vigor and it appears to be unique by character rather than to the account as a whole which means if you do run out you could always continue playing with an alt. You also receive rewards for logging in, leveling, and for playing certain lengths of time which include potions that refill a portion of vigor and even cash shop currency.

So far I’ve played for no more than an hour or two and it’s been entertaining if nothing else. The gameplay is weaker than LEGO Minifigures and the UI is a cluttered mess— at least on an iPhone 6— that would make the game unplayable were not everything automated so efficiently. But the combat animations are fun to watch, the feint/parry/overt system at least has potential to become interesting at higher levels, and overall Dynasty more closely resembles a traditional MMO than Minifigures does with regard to progressing class skills and gear. It also has a longer lifespan given what Funcom’s recent financial report suggests, which saddens me a little. However if you’re curious about trying an MMO of the mobile variety, Age of Wushu: Dynasty is probably worth a look; for science if not for meaningful gameplay.

Goals for May 2016

After taking a little time to try other MMOs and going back and forth on whether or not to schedule my gaming time differently, I’ve come up with what I think will be a fun and productive plan for May. Most of my time will continue to be split between two games, The Secret World and Tree of Savior (hopefully with a little more love reserved for TSW). I’ll list a few goals below specific to those games.

Then once a week I’m going to take an evening to focus on a game I’ve wanted to explore more but just have not gotten around to doing. For May, that will be Blade & Soul. Finally, I’m going to dedicate a couple of hours over the course of the month to a one or two new MMOs I’ve never played before. This month those games will be Dragon Nest and Continent of the Ninth Seal. Both of these games heavily feature action combat and instanced dungeons with scaling difficulty levels that must be completed multiple times in order to progress. There are several MMOs available on Steam like this and I’ve never played one before  so I’m eager to try them and see if I like the playstyle.

Lastly, I have an additional project in mind for Tree of Savior. I find the lore in ToS interesting enough to want more but as with most games I’m having a hard time remembering what’s happened at earlier stages in the game and thus end up at a loss as to how current storylines relate to previous revelations. So what I’d like to do is start a new character, an Archer, and play through the game one map at a time while recording the story elements in a series of blog posts. I’ll include a screenshot of the map, an example of what the environment looks like, the name of the map, and a summary of what story elements were revealed during the missions in that area.

I haven’t decided if I want to do a mission by mission account or if I want to write a single summary of all pertinent story points for each zone. I have a little time to decide, as I would like to first reach at least 127 on my Cleric so that I can unlock the Monk advanced class and finally be able to do some real damage. I’m really excited about this project though, and hope to get started this month. I’d like to do one post a week, but I’m going to be flexible with regard to doing more or less as the mood hits me.

Tree of Savior

  • Reach level 127 on my Cleric and unlock the Monk class
  • Write the first two posts in my lore series using the Archer class
  • Level a Swordsman from 20 to 50

The Secret World

  • Finish Tokyo through Issue 11
  • Upgrade remaining Head and Major Talismans to QL 10.4
  • Earn enough AP to put together a Fist/Pistol healing build
  • Try healing in an elite dungeon

Exploring Additional MMOs

  • Play Blade & Soul once a week, leveling the Warlock class
  • Try Dragon Nest and Continent of the Ninth, 1-2 hours each