After pontificating on guilds last week, and the difficulty of grouping up in some games, this week managed to present itself as a case study.
I’d been trying to go cold turkey from MMOs for a bit, after a minor breakdown when I stopped seeing blonde, brunette, redhead, bandit leader, and just saw the ones and zeroes. It was generally going fairly well, occasional WAR-lapse aside, but after a while, with my immune system at its weakest, a virulent bout of City of Heroes resubscription swept through Twitter, against which I was helpless (scientists found traces of yellow spandex at the site of the outbreak). My main account is on the US servers, and the League of Evil are on the EU servers, so, reluctant to shell out on another parallel subscription, a bit of digging around turned up some trial codes which looked ideal. Ten days would nearly last until the Warhammer open beta, after all, so I now have four City of Heroes accounts: my original US account (still running), an EU trial account (expired, from Van Hemlock’s Operation Cheapseats last year), a second US account (trial only, created using a code I thought might be for an EU trial, but it wasn’t) and a second EU account (finally, success with an EU trial code!)
I’d seen a bit of a chat on the official forums about trial account restrictions that had been put in place since the last Cheapseats freebie, but hadn’t paid an awful lot of attention. Actually getting into the game, though, crikey; you can only talk in Local, Help and Team. It’s like going from mobile phones to cocoa tins connected with bits of string. Only somebody cut the string. About the only way of getting in touch with somebody was to add them as a Global Friend (as they get a confirmation option for that), then hope they figure out your silence indicates you’re on a trial account (no whispers or tells allowed, even as replies) and they invite you to a team. I don’t know what you’re supposed to do with existing global friends, remove and add them again maybe… I believe the restrictions were put in place to stop players being bombarded with spam, but they seem a touch harsh; if trial accounts could at least reply to whispers it would be something, but I guess the chat system doesn’t work like that. Another possible explanation is that creating alts is so much fun in CoH that, without those restrictions, some players could quite happily bounce from trial to trial to trial, creating a new alt every ten days. Anyway, it took all of two minutes to decide that really wouldn’t work for socialising with people (plus I’d created an Assault Rifle Corruptor, but forgot to pick a different gun instead of the stupid default super-soaker, so had to re-roll in any case), so after all that I went back and upgraded the original EU trail account to the full game. What the hell, it’s only money… Just to really drive home the problems with separation in MMOs, the existing character from that account was useless as it was a hero, and everyone else was playing villains, *and* it was on the other UK server. It’s a good job creating characters and running the low level content is fun, and thank heavens for the sidekick system, if not for those the whole exercise would’ve been entirely futile, but once non-trial-account-ed and supergrouped up it’s been great to run around the Rogue Islands with new people, and smash up bus stops and parking meters.
As if that wasn’t quite enough of a case study of The Annoying Thing About Continental And Server Splits In Games, the CoH resubscription virus was followed through Twitter by a dose of WAR-fever, only this time I’ve got the EU Collector’s Edition pre-ordered (and am somewhat reticent about playing on US servers again, for the very reason demonstrated with the CoH business), and others are buying the US version of the game to hook up with GAX peoples. You have to laugh, really; the only thing needed to complete the “Whoops, vicar, there go my trousers!”-like farce would be for one of us to be a vicar. And for somebody’s trousers to go missing. Still, every cloud has a silver lining and all that, and some poking around the Warhammer Alliance forums and other blogs turned up Insult to Injury, a casual, older, Order guild for WAR who seem like a really fantastic bunch, so I think I’m all set for launch now. Just need to try a couple of classes during the open beta to finalise that decision.
As a counterexample to the difficulties of getting together theme, I finally had a free Tuesday evening yesterday (there’d been much vital real-life stuff happening on Tuesdays previously, like Bonekickers) so I hopped on to Guild Wars so say “hi” to the Tuesday N00b Club. I’d just planned to say hello, perhaps get an invite to hang around the guild chat, then wander off and set fire to some monsters in a continuing bid to (a) get to level 20, and (a) figure out what I’m doing in the game. No resubscription, no finding out what continent’s servers I need to be on, pow! In a couple of clicks, I was wandering around the rather plush guild hall. It turned out to be PvP night:
“Have you done much PvP?”
“Have you got a free slot for a PvP character?”
“No (the sum total of my PvP experience up to that point being a couple of years back in the tutorial mission from the original campaign, where you get dumped into a 2v2 encounter whether you like it or not), and maybe” said I. In for a penny, in for a pound, and all that; when I posted last week that levels aren’t vitally important in Guild Wars, I’d entirely forgotten that when you create a character it’s either at level 1 (a “Roleplaying” character, for running around PvE content) or level 20 (a PvP character). Off I toddled, and was soon back with a level 20 Elementalist, ready to do battle. Well, not quite ready to do battle, someone had to explain about creating PvP items, and I hadn’t even looked at the skill bar, so while the rest of the N00bs headed off for a skirmish I got myself set. My usual Elementalist tactics (up to the mighty level 7 I’d achieved as such) were to set fire to stuff, then set fire to stuff some more until it stopped moving, but the default PvP build had most of the stat points put into Air Magic and a few lightning-based skills on the bar as a starter, so I figured I’d stick with that. Looking for something to pad out the rest of the bar, I noticed a few skills mentioned “knock down”, so hoping that was as annoying in GW as in every other game, I stuck ’em in. The actual skirmishes after that are a bit of a blur, I genuinely had no idea what was going on (something to do with flags and towers, it seemed) but following the basic tenets of (i) follow somebody (anybody) on my team, and (ii) USE ABILITIES TO DO DAMAGE, I think I managed to get a few shots in. It was rather fun, and certainly piqued my interest for RvR in WAR, and future Guild War-ing, though I’ll really need to do a bit more reading for the latter so that the titular N00bishness of the Club is slightly more ironic than literally true in my case.