Wednesday 27 May 2009

Yet in bold quest thereof, better to sink in boundless deeps, than float on vulgar shoals.

After regaining consciousness and finding myself lying on the floor of the lounge with my face bonded to the carpet by a tenuous glue of dried saliva, I spent a short while contemplating the sensibleness of spending a solid fours hours editing a podcast until two o’clock in the morning. My mind then drifted on to the health implications of heating one’s testicles to a somewhat alarming temperature through the unfortunate circumstance of them having happened to block the heat exhaust port on my Macbook as I collapsed comatose upon it. I would state for the record that I was still fully clothed and that this is not the prelude to some sort of strange Macbook mating fanfic, or a working draft of the explanation I plan to give to my doctor:

“ did I get first degree burns down there? You.. you wa..want to know how? Uh, well, it’s because I’m a part time podcaster you see; hazard of the occupation. Yes, I’m sure you want to take pictures. For some sort of medical journal I presume? Wait, what? Your blog?”.

I have the strangest nightmares.

Having regained my composure, and all feeling in my genitals, I moved swiftly on to the most important question of any day: what was I going to play? As I mentioned on the podcast, in a move which many would call madness but which I would propose is less mad than many of the things that occur inside my head cavity, I decided to have a nose around in Vanguard and see if the game is yet able to offer anything of interest to a jaded and cynical MMO veteran who is questing in their own right to find an MMO that restores that long lost sense of adventure and exploration that they once knew. Vanguard is known to be big. Really big. So with the offer of a fourteen day free trial I decided to brush the electronic dust from off of my Sony Station account. I then spent a good hour or so having an allergic reaction to its Fisher-Price front end and its bizarre configuration options nested away in window menus, until finally I got the game downloading. I’m not even going to venture a review, preview, first impression, call it what you will, because I really didn’t spend enough time in Vanguard to justify it. The races are varied and plentiful; the classes look interesting with some nice interpretations of the standard fare. When I entered the starter area and completed the first few quests up to level four or so it was surprisingly engaging, certainly compared to how I imagined it to be after reading various reports in the blogosphere and beyond upon its release, which left the impression that it was the MMO equivalent of Hannibal Lecter: something that teased and toyed with you, then utterly destroyed your will to live before serving you your own brain alongside a nice glass of Tuscan red.

The reason I stopped playing the tutorial was that everything was all so terribly familiar, I had played Vanguard before and in a far more accomplished form. I reactivated my subscription to Everquest 2.

I’ve never been an Everquester. I earned my MMO wings in Dark Age of Camelot, skipping Ultima, Everquest and several other MMOs that are generally accepted to be what Real Men (and Women; thanks Stan) played when MMOs were hard, computers were complicated, and blogging was something done by a martial artist with a bunged up nose. I did try Everquest 2 a year or so ago during one of my many bouts of MMO ennui and although I enjoyed pottering around in the character creator, I only managed to get one of the several hundred characters I created past the initial starter area and to a major city. I’m not sure why I didn’t get further, perhaps I was just generally burnt out, such that soloing another MMO – especially one as daunting as EQ2 is when you first stand at the base and peer neck-achingly up towards its summit which is hidden not in the midst of misty clouds as one would imagine, but somewhere behind the moon – was never going to do anything other than further the frustration felt.

I’m looking for an MMO that is impressive in scope and offers a sense of adventure and exploration, and Lord of the Rings online is impressive in graphical presentation and content, but is also greatly restricted by the IP. What’s more, every time Turbine attempts to add a third storey extension to the intellectual property in which they dwell, one pictures a giant eye staring down at them and all who would follow them; wreathed in flame, the lidless all-seeing eye of Tolkien, watching and waiting. So I have strapped on my backpack, taken my trusty walking stick in hand, and set out on my adventures in the lands of Norrath instead. I spent some time researching classes, and settled on one that was a little outside of my comfort zone in an attempt to spice things up yet further. Traditionally playing healer classes, more specifically hybrid healers, I decided to avoid them and instead picked from the DPS line. I couldn’t entirely resist the siren call of ‘group support’, the role I most enjoy playing but which does unfortunately have the – oft sadly unfulfilled – caveat of requiring a group. DPS to see me through solo content then, and tasty group buffs should I find myself in the strange and disorientating situation of participating in an amenable group in an MMO.

What with Champions Online being delayed, along with Jumpgate Evolution and I’m sure, as we mentioned on the podcast, soon to be every other MMO near release as they all frantically scramble to add the missing boars from their game in order to qualify as an MMO (hint to the sci-fi MMOs: Duke-Nukem-style boar headed mutants), I’ve got a few months to slowly wander my way through a few areas of EQ2. I’m not there for the levelling treadmill, the fact that it’s all new to me means that I want to explore this strange new world, seek out new life and new civilisations, and go boldly where only a few hundred thousand people have gone before.

If I can do all of that as a three foot tall man-rat with a penchant for singing, so much the better.

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