Saturday, September 29, 2012

Yeah I Rolled One of Those

Well, why not. I rolled a Pandaran, but the females looked so stupid (the way female Tauren look stupid), that I had to go with a male. Of course I spec'd him as a monk. What's the point of rolling a new race if you don't also roll the new class especially suited to the new race. And, given my predilection for healers, of course I'm going with the heal spec. I have to say, so far, at low levels, it's a boring heal. But maybe that will change.

The new start zone is very well done. Nice art and a good story line, but alas, within an hour or two you're back into the same old same old. Yeah, young monk, go travel to Orgrimmar. =sigh=

But then, as soon as I hit lvl 15, I jumped into dungeons as a healer and was surprised to see that at least some of the dungeons had been reworked. New bosses, new story arcs. Nice. Except that at low levels everyone is powering through the  content to get the xp or the boss drop or the dungeon quest reward. As a healer I found myself in the usual position of being unable to even loot because the tank ran ahead and I had to follow. =grrr= At least I'm not having to struggle with mana. In fact, neither this toon nor my healing shaman have any issues with mana. =weird=

Yeah, I wanted to just name him Weiwei, but it was taken. Drat. LIke my Fu Manchu 'stache? Interestingly, as my daughter pointed out, lots of Ameri-centric players are using Japanese names, often from animé, on their Chinese Panda character. C'mon people, we're not that stupid are we? Do all "those Asians" just seem the same to you? Really? Gah. I wonder how this, and by that I mean the Chinese flavored Mists of Panderia expansion, is playing in China. Are they happy to represent or pissed at the stereotyping? Ah well. I think I'll jump into GW2 this weekend. It's been a while and I'm almost getting to lvl 30 where I can run dungeons.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Posting From SassyB

The year was 2007, it was a beautiful summer evening all the guests were full from repartee and repast. As the waiter cleared the table, there was talk of continuing the conversation with after dinner drinks, but everyone excused themselves. Why do you ask? To go to their respective hotel rooms and play WOW--together, but alone. I sat in stunned silence. Why wouldn’t these people want to continue the conversation in person? At the time I laughed it off as mere silliness. Little did I know that lurking beneath my Ann Taylor outfit and carefully, manicured nails was a trooper waiting to be born.

That summer I had driven down to Madison for the Games, Learning and Society conference to meet with Ornerybob, his hallowed professor and several of his cadre mates. This was my formal introduction into the study of virtual worlds. I just didn’t get it. Really, write a dissertation on gaming? Ornerybob and I continued the conversation and he, in vain, tried to explain the importance of gaming in education. This discussion continued for the next five years.

Over those five years I learned much from Ornerybob in regard to education and technology and for the most part we agreed with one exception—gaming as a learning tool. I was supportive while he wrote his dissertation, but didn’t see gaming as a true method of learning. He introduced me to Jane McGongigal through TED. Her enthusiasm was infectious and she made her point when said “what if we can harness all this enthusiasm?” The cracks in my armor were beginning to show.

I then started a doctoral program in Learning Technology. The very one I had been learning about through Ornerybob. In one of the classes we needed to create an alter identity in an online environment. I had enough to do as a single, working mom and full-time doctoral student and now I had to go play in the virtual world? Of course, I knew Ornerybob would jump at the chance to introduce me to the virtual world he loved. I was finally and firmly pushed into Star Wars: The Old Republic or SWTOR as he always calls it. 

There was much to be decided before I started. What character would I be? Republic or Empire? Would I play the trial game or buy the $15 dollar version? I, of course, chose the free version as this was only temporary. Next we looked at the characters. I hemmed and hawed because there wasn’t anything girly to choose from. I grudgingly chose a Trooper and we started to play. Below is my daily blog:

Day One

I didn't know what to expect for my first time playing a virtual reality game. Picking out my character was fun, but I wish I would have been given more options (yes, I am a girl). I have a gun, but have no idea how to use it, or is just for decoration?

Moving around is extremely difficult, Ornerybob told me I was walking like I was handicapped. There aren't any smooth turns since I am using curser keys—very awkward.

Nobody told me I had to be able to have a sense of direction! I have a GPS for this reason. I find myself spinning in circles looking for things—if this were real world I would have vomited from dizziness.

I am now at level 2. Am I supposed to be excited? I blew up a box, yipee?

If I didn't have Ornerybob showing me around I would probably be about 10 feet from where I started. He was so excited to have me playing, he had a disco ball appear and we started dancing. Ridiculous, I would never dance under a disco ball.

I am going to keep playing to get the hang of the game and meet some of Ornerybob's friends and see what it is like to play with a group.

Educational comment—if I can learn to have a sense of direction I will have learned something.

Day Two
Today I had fun, but was told I am going to have to learn to fight! I thought I just followed the Ornerybob and let him do all the killing.

I have learned to move better and I understand the left click and two right clicks—couldn't figure that out on day one. I also learned that if I use the curser keys simultaneously with the “A” or “D” key I can move somewhat smoothly. It would have been nice if Ornerybob explained that to me!

I still don't have any sense of direction :)

Educational comment—I can see how this would work for eye hand coordination and mapping skills, but so far I am not seeing the educational value.
Day Three
Ok, I admit I have found the game creeping into my thoughts while driving, studying, and watching television. I was excited to play with Ornerybob and practice walkingJ He was going to teach me how to use my weapons, but we had technical difficulties.

I am at level 5!!! I love being able to run through people as if they weren’t even there—if only I could do that in real life!

Educational comment—bows head in shame…I was wrong. As I went from mission to mission I thought why can’t these missions contain mathematical codes to blow things up instead of left click, double right click? Couldn’t the narration tell a historical story? I saw it all unfolding before me, a virtual reality game that combined math, history and language skills. As long as we keep the learning in the game within each player’s zone of proximal development this could be a successful learning tool. What have these manufactures been waiting for? What do we have to do to get them started?

As I contemplate research for my doctorate I realize the last five years of indoctrination have been preparation for my future in academia. I have been brought to what, ironically, I call “the dark side.” I am now a gaming convert. People will now run from me like I did from OrneryBob as he proselytized the power of the learning in a gaming environment. As so eloquently stated by Yoda, “Always pass on what you have learned.”

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Diablo3 and Guild Wars 2 - Not a Baseball Score

First, D3. I'm approaching the end of D3 nightmare mode and I have to say I still like it. Yeah, there's some problems with gear and professions, but this is one game where, for me at least, the game is not about gear and professions. It's about killing and not being killed. I'm still leveling four toons, roughly equally, through the game. In order of enjoyment they are: demon hunter, monk, barbarian, and wizard. I simply cannot stand the witch doctor. Oddly though you'd think I'd have had enough repetition with four toons doing the normal and then nightmare modes, I still find the game fun and attractive. This is because the classes are actually distinctive. Unlike WoW where the lines have been so blurred that it's getting hard to tell them apart, in D3 they really engage with enemies very differently. I don't want to get too nerdy here so I'll let it go at that.

Like most MMO gamers I've been restlessly searching for the next good MMO. Tried RIFT and like it but not enough. Tried SWTOR, which I still play because I want so badly to like it but it's not very compelling and not very MMOish (and omg could the auction house suck any more than it does? no!). So I was reading some reviews and there were kind words about Guild Wars 2. I didn't play the original. I think because it was just PC platform. The GW2 is also just a PC game, but I have a PC now too for SWTOR so .. I thought I'd check it out. I watched a pretty interesting video on game play in the beta. The guy made a very informative video, which in itself is unusual. Here, check it out. I really like the RIFT-like public pickup encounters, which he calls dynamic encounters. I think the regional temporary re-leveling is a cool idea. I like the notion of quests that morph based on the context of current play. It just sounds like a bunch of NEW and INTERESTING game mechanics. OMG, that's what we're all looking for. So I ponied up for the game. Weirdly there is no subscription. You buy the game and play. I assume there will be some DLC that you pay for or some other means of paying for further development and expansion of the game.

Since I hate entries with no images, I leave you with shots of my four Diablo3 toons. Click to enlarge.

Sylvanas, demon hunter, 46

Kahn, barbarian, 45

Tomoe, monk, 45

Musashi, wizard, 43

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

They Broke My Minecraft.

Here Comes the Sun

That mad meandering mindful dash . . . that first hour of Minecraft is always what I first love. You had to get everything right or spend the night listening to the monster's moans . . . hopefully by torchlight. I loved that struggle. 

Finally, with a bed you select to slumber and watch the screen fade to black when a sudden return of light to reveal a monster! "Where's the sword? . . . just hit it with the . . . leaf! Hit it!" I loved that surprise.

The struggle and surprise of the long night . . . both in-game and out . . . with 1.3 nigh that changes! The code for the single player game is being removed. Instead, single player will just be a multiplayer shell.

In Beta, sleeping in a bed placed in an area that is exposed to monsters would cause the player to wake up with a zombie or skeleton next to them. As the chart to the right shows, placing beds next to external walls would also cause this. 
The system is much simpler since the full release — sleep is not allowed within 10 blocks of a hostile mob. If a hostile mob is within 10 blocks of the bed when the player tries to sleep, the player is not allowed to sleep, and the message, "You may not rest now, there are monsters nearby," will be displayed. There is no longer any chance of an interruption. (
Now, when I explore I just carry a bed and throw it down anywhere and sleep on it at night without even trying to fortify my position or even light it. I do it even when I can see mobs as long as they are 10 blocks away. 

This is the sucks!

Village of the Damned

Since Snapshot 12w06a, Zombies will attempt to break down doors, continuously banging on them. On Hard and Hardcore difficulties, Zombies can successfully break down Wooden Doors. Iron Doors are always safe from Zombie attack and destruction. Zombies will attack Villagers within 16 blocks of themselves, ignoring the hazard of direct sunlight.
If you do not keep the night away then the zombies will come to play. By "play" I mean slaughter all your villagers. This is an easy enough issue to resolve by just going to bed.  However, if you happen to explore a dungeon that removes you from the day/light cycle then you can't "just" go to bed. Go spend that long amount of time exploring every aspect of a dungeon and return to find an eerie sight . . . every door and villager missing and the word "CROATOAN" carved on a tree.

I have only found one solution . . . 

I did it for their own good!

Monday, July 02, 2012

On Returning to a WoW Raid After 7+ Months Out of Game

So ... that happened. I decided to see if I could still play WoW and have fun. My memories of the five plus years suggest I can, but is that just the past coloring the future; should/would/could I take part in the upcoming Mists of Panderia expansion? Or will I find it boring and unpleasant? To answer that question in part, I opted back in and signed up to raid with what is left of Terror Nova guild.

Yeah, there's still folks there I know and like: Tychem/Medford, Cymro and his trail of Cym-alts, Zalvadre, Palazza, others... But there are many I don't know. Anyhow. Off I went Thursday night. Having just read four long capstone draft papers I was in a mode to kill something big.

So, obviously I was under geared having not raided in more than half a year, but my guildies tossed me some goods from the guild bank and off we went. ... to Dragon Soul on 10man normal. This is the newest raid. I assumed I would suck. I only died on this the fourth boss, Ultraxion, I think it was. And, I wasn't the only dirtnapper. It's one of those fights with an out-of-phase thing where you need to jump in and out of the Twilight Realm...and need to time it perfectly. We ended here after three wipes. For the earlier fights, the group was uber enough that I had no trouble.

Did I enjoy it, the raiding? Yeah. I did, or rather I enjoyed the banter and the goofiness and the trash talk and the gear whoring and all that. Enough to play more? Mmmmm. Maybe. Note that the tank did more DPS than I did. If I rejoin play I'm going to have to start grinding for gear, lol.

PS - That was last week. Last night we downed the last boss, Deathwing, after three failed attempts. And yeah... I fist pumped.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Diablo3 and Me

I am playing this game. A lot. I now have four toons in Nightmare Mode, which means I've beaten Diablo on normal mode and now do the same game (well, 98% the same) all over at a greater level of difficulty: more adds, more complicated fights, scaled loot...

It is still, for me, a solo game. A very simple solo game. With an auction house that can do RMTs. No, I refuse to pay real money for stuff; it defeats the whole purpose for playing the game. *cough* Yankees *cough*

BTW, the 1 friend listed in the corner is Oddible who is always on playing Starcraft 2v2s and the like.

So an action RPG with friends... Sure there are other people on and I can make my game public to invite others, or invite "friends" on my friends list, but why would I? I don't need them, and if I want to chat I don't need them in my game to do that (nice touch Battlenet). SWTOR at least has multiplayer dungeons. WTF, Blizz?

So as we have worked our way in and out of RIFT, SWTOR, Diablo3, I find that WoW itself is still the most complete multiplayer. Maybe if I could play FPS multiplayers like without barfing I might find what I'm looking for there, especially the new COD release: Black Ops II. But I'm not big on map-based play. Guess it's time to go outdoors again til someone actually innovates.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Jedi is Making Me a Better Person

I am, sad to say, learning to be a better person because I play  one in a virtual world. Think about what that means. But first, some background:

Context -- I've started playing Bioware's Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO (SWTOR). It's my fourth or fifth MMO and I wanted to play it in part because of the Star Wars theme but mostly because I was curious about how Bioware's ethical decision making approach to lore would work in an MMO, as opposed to a single player game like Dragon Age. I was in the beta; loved that and decided to play. I rolled on the Republic side because I was feeling that the Star Wars lore really compelled me to roll light side. I've got two Jedi toons: a Consular Sage (healer) and a Knight Sentinel (dps). I have since, of course, added a couple of dark side Siths to the family. This entry is about the two Jedi, which I play the most frequently.

Vygotsky -- Yah, I'm going to drag his dead ass into this. Why? Because Vygotsky tells us that we do in order to learn. That is, first we behave, we act. Then, from that we learn. Now typically learning theories tell us that we have to develop some capability to learn first, or we need to be taught or instructed in order to learn. With social learning theory we roll up our sleeves and engage in real activities, with others, and from that engagement, from working it through, we learn. Learning is the product of experience.

Jedi and the whole light side thang -- Okay, so at various decision points in the game, as various quests entail choosing to be mean and snarky, and vengeful and destructive or patient and supportive, and thoughtful and other-directed, I have chosen to go light. I don't kill the bad guy I've just subdued, I give him another chance or I urge that s/he be treated justly. At first it was a combo of wanting to level my light side points so I could wield higher level lightsabers, and realizing that if I were truly RP'ing (role playing) a Jedi, I needed to be true to the Jedi principles. But now, by level 45, something strange has started to happen to me. I am feeling the vibe. In real life I am more patient, urging calm and negotiation, listening before deciding... not that I NEVER EVER did those things. I mean I'm not a complete jerk, but certainly those would not have come up on the short list of my strengths. But now, in a kinda of creepy way, I realize I'm trying to engage reality using some of those ideas from the Jedi side of the game.

It's freaking me out a little. As we look into game studies we don't typically look for this! We look at kids acquiring scientific habits of mind from playing games like Quest Atlantis or River City. We look at kids acquiring collaborative teamwork skills from games like WoW or networked FPS. So, here I am playing a game without any overt educational intent on my part or on the part of the game devs., but voila, by agreeing to engage with these pro-social -- oh, let's use the schooly expression and call it character ed. -- principles, I am engaging in a new behavior pattern, and from that, learning  (becoming aware) to be intentionally or thoughtfully different in my actions/reactions. That was my point.

Now I wouldn't just say this is some weird thing happening to me. I had a conversation early in my SWTOR playing days with an old buddy of mine, OrneryBob, whose name says it all. He was a real hothead/meathead in WoW, not that I ever minded but other people did. He actually TOLD ME that the SWTOR Jedi knight he was playing was making him choose to be good, to go with the light side choices, to be nicer. I lol'd of course, assuming it was a sarcastic and snarky joke. But ... dude, I get you now. I feel it. It's real. It's creepy but it's real. I wonder if it will stick after I stop playing some months or years hence.

A Trooper Looks at 50 . . .

Into the room the Jedi come and go . . . speaking of nothing.

Fleet isn’t exactly empty, but it is quiet.  The friends list is empty. The guild list is empty. The galactic market kiosks are empty.  The last three plants for the daily quests didn’t have enough folks to form a cue. I spent two hours running the Corellia Run (11 chests in 20 minutes for about 125,000 credits) Didn’t see a soul or a Sith the entire time.

Someone shows up in the guild list, but looking their location is “Space”. It is the only other active part of the guild besides me . . . they never chat and spend all day in “Space” and just add levels. Part of me is fascinated by this process and wants to ask them about it. The more dominate part of me however has no interest in a discussion with someone who can level playing the crappy rail missions over and over. Besides, anyone who could isn’t really someone I expect is into narrative.

1.2 came with a fair share of things worthy of note mostly for the fact they weren’t included in the vanilla. The interview with the developer was they were waiting to consider the population issue until after 1.2.  Everyone who had drifted out to see other games would suddenly come flooding back. Yeah . . . with a flood like this I am in imminent danger of the soles of my shoes getting moist.

However, there is something interesting about 1.2 that I can comment on . . . and shall! At legacy level 25 for five million credits you can get a neutral galactic market kiosk on your ship . . . and on any ship of any toon you ever roll. This, if the game were either alive or reanimated, could lead someplace interesting. How long in a game with higher populations that matured would it take until the majority of the committed players had on the ships of whatever toon they played a neutral galactic market? What does that mean for the faction galactic markets? Could make for some interesting evolving for the environment.

All in all, the legacy stuff is a nice piece to add to the MMO existence. Hope it survives into other iterations of 
MMOs. Of course, I’d prefer the existing sinkholes of stupidity like the current market’s interface for an example would be perfected before we add more things that need to be perfected.

Anway . . . and . . . If you give the run faster talent to level one is it still a talent?

Hopefully . . . soon . . . The Boss and The Don and maybe The Mayor might could be 50 . . . and we can at least explore some of the higher content together. Otherwise, until they address the population issues . . . it is just another ghost town . . . sans ghosts.

Well . . . here I am . . . in good faith (as opposed to bad?) . . . waiting for Godot.
(Whedon, Sartie and Beckett . . . for those of you playing at home.)

Monday, April 09, 2012


So if you have the flu, what to do? Rack up some SWTOR hours!!111!

On the weekend, feeling miserable and looking for something to keep my mind off my cough, I decided on a SWTOR marathon. I really want to hit 50 before the patch, with at least one toon. old MMO problem kicked in. Somehow I manage to end up on the friends list of middle school boys who need help with a quest and then never leave me alone. /cry  Just ask my friends and family, it happens a lot. Usually I end up trying to change my toon's name, which stopped working on WoW when WoW made it so that the change tracked over onto the other person's friends list. I'm not mean enough to tell them to sod off, which I really need to learn to do. [My daughter, reading over my shoulder, said, "yah mom, you really do.]

So on the weekend I was helping this kid do the Jedi class quest on Belsavis. It's a beautiful lore chain, really worthy stuff, and this kid was blowing through it like it was ... just so much Kleenex. Gah, and I was running along healing his pathetic Jedi warrior ass. So I made a note. I'm coming back to do this slowly. Finally I shed him after he said, I put you on my friends list. I'll help you when you need to this 'cause you can't do it alone.  No, pathetic young padawan, YOU can't do it alone. But I... I am a master Jedi Sage. It might take Qyzen and me six or seven days to kill a bad ass boss, but that boss is going down. I love Q. He's my bff and I want to have his lizard babies. [No, wait... I used to have pet lizards. I know how that works. =grimace=] My other companions are weak. Well, the pocket healer, Tharan, is okay but he's got a fetish for that blowup doll, er I mean holo-chic, Holiday, and she's really annoying.

So anyhow, after I dodged the kid [I logged on and got spammed with "you wanna do a heroic?" six times in a row within a space of five seconds, so I waited till after his bedtime] later that night I ran the quest chain. It took several hours, and here's the real point of the entry: It was delicious in that Bioware lore-fic way. The Esh-kha and I are pals now. I echo Hallow Voice, as he echoed Broken Scar. Yesssss!!!1!! Someone at Bioware has some RP juice.

After Q and I downed the final boss (yeah it was hard; yeah we died twice; but we did it...alone.) I took the name Ember Fist. Apparently everyone takes Sky Hunter which is so ... unimaginative. I was tempted by Silent Teeth, but it's just too funny. Ember Fist is what I'm aaaaall about. Don't let that Jedi Consular healing thing give you the wrong idea.

I can't really say much about the chain cause you'll want to enjoy it yourself. As soon as I scrape the pictures off the Windows lappie I'll add them here. [I only game on that confounded machine.]

More to come...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Quick Note

I thought I should add a link to my ancient Pokémon blog from the year I spent playing Pokémon TCG. You'll find the link over on the right under WE READ.

It was also a learning gaming community, but completely face to face, and thus provides a different take on this whole learn to play thing. Pardon any comment spam that's arisen in the years since it went dormant. I don't really got clean up the headstones in the graveyard much anymore. I think some of the links to shots of the cards are now gone; sorry 'bout that.

Sunday, January 08, 2012


So this is the fifth combat game I've played that includes a talent tree that allows you to make choices about the talents you want your character to acquire. Generally speaking I run healers, casters, or melee toons. I have never tried to be a tank. Well, okay, once, if you count Dragon Age games. I did enjoy that but really in that game you're in control of several player types at once. Anyhow...

Now in SWTOR I am leveling four classes (a caster/healer and two melee and one ranged dps). SWTOR is new, and though I played beta I am still figuring things out.  ... Or am I? I have been selecting specializations within trees, and selecting talents within specializations. I've been nervous about it. I put some serious thought into the always difficult balance of leveling and endgame. There hasn't been much around to look at for support from the SWTOR community because the game is so new.

Today I found some spec'ing info., and what struck me was that I was dead on. Now it shouldn't surprise me. I've been dead on before, in other games in the recent past. I find expert recommendations and discover that I'm pretty much completely in line with the model build, with a point or two differentiating us. In those differentiations it's largely acknowledged as 'depending on what you like,' i.e., options. I was pleased to realize I had acquired some expertise. I understood how the game is played at a sufficiently deep enough level to understand the mechanics of my toon as solo and as a party member, and sufficiently deeply to make reasoned selections.

Now, I'm going to go all Vygotsky on your ass and suggest this happened through the zoped and external to internal to external dialogue. Its pretty obvious. As a beginner, I leaned on existing advice from WoW players through forums, blogs, and wikis, to figure out the best build for a huge variety of characters (I played that game a looooong time). Each source offered not only a visual display of how to spec, but more importantly, a verbal analysis (text or movie). In the beginning, it didn't always make sense. I could understand part of it, but what, for example, did they mean by gear dependent or mitigation? As time went on and I made more characters and the game devs changed talent trees requiring whole new conversations in the community about talents and choices, I started to pick up the reasoning and the language. Those changes required experts in the community to explore with each other, to argue and eventually to converge on advice. Their interactions were laid bare in the community (thank you CoP access to expertise).  Eventually I found myself not particularly concerned with what the community advice was. I could have that whole dialogue in my head as I spec'd. This was evident when I moved to a new game with spec'ing. I tended not to seek out information unless I was having trouble. To me trouble meant I was missing something, some interaction between choices or between choices and game play mechanics. Aha, new expertise.

Oddly, this echoes the expertise trajectory in a combat card game like Pokémon TCG (or Magic or whatever), in which you first learn to build and play a deck, where the deck embodies choices of talents and mechanics. At some point, after getting better at deck building but still losing, you realize that you don't just play your deck, and in fact you don't play your deck. You play against the other deck. That is, you need to think about the interaction between choices you've made and the game mechanics and choices other players have made. A real BGO every time (blinding glimpse of the obvious).

So here I am, plaiyng a new game, with new talent trees and a slightly different group mechanics, and I'm doing a good job of figuring things out with expertise I wasn't really aware I had acquired. I thought that was worth mentioning. It also gets me to wondering about other learning circumstances in which learners might not be self-aware of their own developing or developed expertise. So, in a way, what a good assessment/test should do is give learners (not teachers, not administrators, not legislators, not the tax paying public) the opportunity to realize through use/externalization what they know. In there somewhere is a really valuable steal from gaming (instead of that lame ass 'badges' shit).