Reflecting on the Last Three Months of Blogging

This past weekend I was so exhausted I completely forgot about writing for this blog until late Sunday night as I was getting ready for bed, thus the delay in posting something today. I’m not sure what the issue was; I slept twelve hours Friday night, another ten on Saturday night and I took naps off and on all weekend. This from someone who generally gets about six hours of sleep a night. I might have gone ahead and worked out a post last night had I already decided on a topic for today but with nothing specific in mind (or nothing that I could write quickly at least) I figured I would just skip a day.

It turns out I have some time this afternoon in between finishing up a few work projects and so I decided to write a little about my blogging from the first three months of 2016. I’ve been posting something five to six days a week for almost three months now; something I would have never thought possible when I started blogging last year and I’ve learned a lot from the activity. This started in January with a new approach to blogging which I’ve continued to adjust until reaching a more or less comfortable equilibrium of writing and gaming during the free time that I have available without compromising the central importance of family and of Jesus Christ in my life. With three months under my belt I’d like to reflect a little on the experience.

Quantity, not quality…

Okay, that’s not exactly my philosophy but I have found that writing shorter posts consistently is much better for me in the long run than trying to write longer, more involved posts that often take up hours and hours of my time. I’ve learned to write somewhere around 500-700 words and have it posted all in about 30-40 minutes which is much better than the 2-3 hour posts of 1200 words I was writing more often than not last year. And while I certainly am not the greatest of writers, I do think the challenge of writing succinctly on a regular basis and allowing myself only one editorial pass per piece (I do cheat a little sometimes) has improved my abilities.

I’ve also seen more traffic on my blog because of the amount of writing I’m doing, which is something I had never thought about before. It makes sense now that I’m looking at the statistical reports on wordpress; if you have one hundred posts each being read once per day you’re going to have more hits than if you have 20 posts being read by twice as many people. This of course is not a reflection of engagement or quality, but it does create a kind of momentum and I’ve certainly seen far more followers added to my list and at least a couple of regular contributors via comments or “likes.”

Churning out ideas

One of the challenges to writing this often is coming up with ideas for daily postings. At first it was easy; having taken off from writing for about six months I was fit to burst on things I wanted to include in the blog. However in time either the well of ideas ran dry, or I found that a few concepts didn’t have the legs to make a full post, or the time between conception and execution was so long that I was no longer interested. I never erase those unused ideas from my list— even now I have a backlog of potential blogs from back in January—but the longer they go unwritten the less likely it seems they ever will be. That’s one of the reasons I started writing daily again rather than trying to do it all in a 2-3 hour block on the weekends. Often ideas have a momentum that can be easily lost if they aren’t put to proverbial paper quickly enough.

My Sunday posts I’ve found to be the most challenging. This is the day I’ve set aside to write on spiritual concerns related to my daily experiences as a follower of Jesus Christ but it’s not always easy to write a post of this nature. They take a lot more work so I’m learning I need to start them sooner than the night before (something that works throughout the rest of the week) and honestly whether or not I have something to write is a pretty good reflection of where my head and heart are at spiritually at any given time.

Lately work has been busy and I’ve come home (or gone back to a hotel more often than not) completely exhausted. Prayer and reading the Bible are both these funny activities that often require a bit of “oomph” to get started but once you do get going they become extremely refreshing. In other words, they are both opportunities to find rest in the Lord but often require overcoming the barrier of getting started and I’ve failed more often than not to do so in the last two weeks. It reminds me of physical exercise in that regard. I do plan on picking these writings back up again soon as they are some of my favorites to publish; hopefully you’ll see something posted this weekend.

Where do I go from here?

I’d like to continue writing more or less as I have been, however I do think creating a little structure might help me continue writing for the next three months. To start, I’d like to continue setting goals each month for the games that I’m playing, although I am going to tweak that a little bit because as March has illustrated, I bit off way more than I could chew and I need to be a little less specific with the side games I’m playing. Nevertheless, it’s a good way to have a focus for how I spend my time gaming in general and I’ve certainly appreciated the outline I set for The Secret World, even if I didn’t accomplish everything on the list.

Using the monthly goals as a starting point, I’d like to write regularly on the games I’m playing from that list; perhaps once weekly on each game. That will give me at least two to three posts that I can count on each week and will leave me a couple days for writing about anything else that comes to mind. This isn’t a rule set and stone, just a springboard for weekly ideas that I can use so that I’m not staring down five posts a week and wondering whether or not I’ll have an idea for each day. This month you’ll probably continue to see a lot on The Secret World with the addition of Stardew Valley and Tree of Savior. I also plan on playing The Deadly Tower of Monsters once a week or so until I’ve completed that game and I finally started Life is Strange so I have that to look forward to as well.

Beyond using a monthly list of goals as a regular source for topics, my other blogging goal is to write one or two of these posts each evening either before or after I’ve been in game and to keep them at about 500-700 words (not this one of course, it’s already at 1200…) Basically I want to continue with what I’ve been doing but refine the process a little more and make sure I have enough source material to keep going. It’s been a lot of fun getting back into the blogging scene during the first quarter of 2016 and if I can keep at it for the rest of this year I’m really looking forward to seeing how I grow as a writer.

The Secret World: The Manufactory

Last night my guild invited me to do The Manufactory, one of the new Tokyo dungeons. Unlike the other dungeons I’ve done, this one makes use of the AEGIS system and requires that you have controllers and shields upgraded. I’m nowhere near where I ought to be but I was generously carried along anyway so that I could see the dungeon and learn the fights. And since I did not have my AEGIS shields before we started, they even ran me through the quest required to obtain them first. All in all it was a lot of fun and makes me wish my AEGIS equipment was in better shape as I think the added complexity brought about by the controllers and shields makes for an interesting dungeon.

The fights in The Manufactory were on par with many raid level mechanics I’ve experienced in World of Warcraft and the added AEGIS system meant you had to pay attention to the enemy shields as well as everything else. Player shields were less interesting though; in most cases I was told which one to switch to and then I could forget about it after that until the next time it needed to change. There were a couple of interesting uses where team members had to wear different colored shields but otherwise I don’t think they add as much to the experience as the controllers and enemy shields do.

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I’m not going to go into the specifics of each fight because frankly I would have to run it again to better understand some of them myself but they were all unique and they all required a high degree of teamwork and a working knowledge of the fights. I can’t imagine what it must have been like trying to learn these bosses for the first time, but then I could say that about almost all of the dungeon bosses in The Secret World. One of the fights, referred to as a game of “rock, paper, scissors” by my Cabalmates had me so confused I just ran around the whole time and tried not to get in the way. But the rest of the bosses I think I could do again without too much additional explanation and I hope that I’ll be able to soon.

I didn’t get any useful loot other than a 2.0 upgrade kit for one of my controllers (which I won’t be able to use for some time, but is still handy to have) but with the double AP event that started I was able to advance my skill wheel respectably for one evening’s work. I didn’t go for any rewards though, just to do something new with my Cabal. And as an added bonus, I was able to get on Team Speak with them for the first time and start to associate real life voices with in game characters.

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Overall my progress is coming along quite well with the exceptation of the AEGIS equipment; my skill wheel is at 62%, I have two glyphs at 10.4 and third at 10.2, and I can now say that I’ve seen the inside of The Manufactory and completed it. Doing so has me eager to jump back into Tokyo so I think I’ll take a break from the Black Bullion farming I’ve been doing in Shambala for a little while and pick back up where I left off in Kaidan, at the Fear Nothing facility.

 

Character Appearance and Identity

I thought about writing a post a while back on whether or not I was an MMO role player although now I can’t remember what initiated the idea originally. Still, it came up again in my musings this week, so here we go! I’ve only attempted to RP in the traditional sense once, in WildStar. It started off okay; I went to an RP housing plot and “sat” at a bar table observing and listening to other conversations while the owner and I engaged in some light RP. She was kind enough to help me get started once I confessed OOC that I had never gone to an RP event before and I wanted to observe. However it ended with me going outside for what I thought was going to be a card game but turned into something vulgar so I kindly dismissed myself (in character, of course) and RP walked my butt off the plot.

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I was enamored with the Radiant Legion in WildStar, which is why I tried role playing with this character. It didn’t pan out.

So I don’t join other people regular in spontaneous or planned storytelling of that nature, nor do I come up with elaborate back stories about my characters covering every detail of their present and past experiences, but I do think about who my characters are generally speaking and what their reactions might be in the situations they find themselves in. It’s never all that different from how I would actually respond but it is a type of basic role play; enough to keep the “RPG” in my “MMORPG” experience anyway. I don’t think I’ll ever participate in RP activities more involved than that, though I’m not opposed to it. Not entirely, anyway.

Still, there’s another aspect of playing an MMO in which I would describe myself as a role player, albeit moderately so, and that is with character creation. How my characters look matters to me, and especially with alts I want them to be diverse; to actually have distinct character. And once I’ve made a decision on how a character looks I rarely change things later on. When I do I often change them right back. It may only be a different hair style or color but it’s often jarring enough that I no longer feel like I’m playing the same character.

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The first iteration of Sevenfalls had no freckles, darker make up, and a mouth that was too small. These things I changed early on because I didn’t like how they looked in game.

This happened most recently in The Secret World, when after 200+ hours of time played I changed the hair and lipstick color of Sevenfalls, my main. In TSW changing your character’s appearance— even superficial changes like hairstyle, color, and make up—is quite expensive so it’s not something you do willy-nilly on a regular basis. Appearance is meant to be semi-permanent in this game which is why I kept my character the same for so long (which by the way is silly, considering it’s a modern day setting and changing hair color, style, and makeup should be as common or infrequent as the player desires.) So when I tell you that I changed my character’s style, then changed it back to the original, then once again back to the new version, know that it was kind of a big deal and expensive.

What caused the back and forth were two conflicting emotions; on the one hand I wanted a change in my character’s style and that included hair and cosmetics while on the other hand she no longer felt like my character once the changes were complete. I tried to make it as realistic as possible. I kept her freckles even though they are tied to make up options (which is silly and restrictive, by the way), and I even kept her eyebrows the same as her original hair color so that it would be as if she dyed her hair but not her eyebrows to match. In other words, I was trying to approach it from an RP perspective but in the end she still felt foreign to me.

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This is how I’ve come to know the character for some time now, down to the costuming. Just looking at this screenshot makes me want to change her back again!

 

Since I’ve paid three times now to make these appearance changes I’m leaving the new look for at least a week or two to try it out; maybe in time she’ll start to feel familiar again. But it’s interesting to me that despite the fact that the changes I made were those similar to what someone might do in real life I still felt disconnected from my character. Is that how I respond when a friend or family member cuts their hair or changes the color? I don’t think so but I guess most people don’t make these kinds of drastic changes on a regular basis so perhaps I don’t have enough examples to compare it to. However from what I do remember, when my wife cut her hair short I didn’t suddenly feel like I was married to a different woman.

Is it different because I’ve personally identified with the in game character, or perhaps because this digital avatar has no real personality, facial expressions, or mannerisms of her own for me to latch on to and so when the one thing that does define her changes, it affects how I relate to that character? I’m not going anywhere particularly deep with this line of thinking, but I am curious how others feel. Do you freely change the way your characters look and if so does it affect how you think of them? Does that make you a role player, or at least something similar? Or does it make little difference to you whether they keep a beard or are clean shaven; whether their hair is purple or brown?

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And here’s how she looks now, although I’ve tried a couple of different approaches with the outfit. Will I keep the change? I’m still not sure.