Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Laptop for a Casual Gamer

Mushrooms and Moons in Outland
I don't usually talk about why I am a casual MMO player, but I will today.  As mentioned before, I have been playing World of Warcraft off and on since it started and was casually raiding during the original game and the Burning Crusade expansion.  My first daughter was born approximately two years before the WoW was released and she was diagnosed with PDD/NOS when she was three and that diagnosis progressed to Autism.

Different children with autism have different needs, but mine requires pretty constant supervision.   She often doesn't look like she is paying attention, but she immediately notices if she isn't being watched and will usually get into something she shouldn't if she isn't supervised.  It isn't malicious, she is just compelled to get into things and, though she generally wants to obey us, without immediate supervision, she does what she wants and that usually leads to getting into food she shouldn't (such as candy or sodas) or destroying something even though we think they are well away from where she can reach.

I won't go into details, but there were times when my playing WoW meant that I wasn't there when she needed supervision.  She didn't hurt herself or anyone else but it put me on notice that I can't be involved in anything that I can't leave when I am at home.  Ever.  At one time I thought there would be times when someone else could supervise her and I could focus on playing, but I have found that if I'm home, I need to be available in case something happens, no matter who else is there.  More than anything else, this led me to the times I wasn't playing WoW but also to the desire to find a way to play so I could leave whenever I needed to.

This wasn't a simple conclusion.  I denied it for a long time and I probably still deny it some days now, but I have found that if I deny it, I will regret it, so those times are few and far between now.  The biggest change has been in my attitude to playing.  However, there is one simple change I have made that makes a huge difference in being able to play:  a gaming laptop.  

For years I have said that I needed a desktop PC so I could have an up-gradable graphics card.  However, in the last 10 years, I have upgraded my PC twice and only upgraded the graphics card once outside of those PC upgrades.  Finally earlier this year, my PC stopped working, my graphics card already needed upgrading and I decided to look at laptops.  We don't have a lot of extra money, so I was looking to spend under $1000 if possible.

I ended up with a Asus G46VW laptop and I'm very happy with it.  They have taken the spot where the DVD drive typically is and have replaced it with a GeForce 660M graphics card.  I bought an external DVD drive for about $20 and I don't miss it.  The biggest downside based on reviews seems to be the screen, but it is fine for playing casually while doing other things.  If I ever get the time, I can hook it up to my 23 inch monitor, and the games do look much nicer there, but that hasn't happened recently.  

I now have a way that I can play plugged in wherever my children are, watch them.  If needed I can unplug it and take it with me, though for the most part, I just play with it plugged in.  It also is allowing me to write this blog post while moving between the den and kitchen to watch my daughter.  I try to be careful with it, but it also seems pretty sturdy, but still portable at 2.5 pounds.

It won't satisfy the person who needs a large screen at all times or the faster processor, but as the main machine for a casual gamer, or a second machine for a more serious gamer, I would highly recommend it.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Casual Alternative to MMO End Game

Hanging with Jeeves and a new Engineering pet outside the Auction House
It is that time of year when people are looking back at the last year and forward to the year ahead.  Ocho wrote two posts, one listing the 5 games he is looking forward to and another about the 5 Games that don't interest him.  Number 1 on the list of games that don't interest him was World of Warcraft.  I find it interesting because I feel like we have some of the same interests and I can completely understand why he doesn't want to play World of Warcraft, but at the same time it is the only game I am looking forward to next year.

I used to raid on a weekly basis in both vanilla WoW and Burning Crusade.  I took a break at the beginning of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion and never really raided after that.  I was never comfortable with my play style in either Wrath or Cataclysm and went searching for another game that fit my play style better.  While Ocho points to discontent with the WoW end game for his reason not to play the game, I have finally decided that my discontent with the WoW end game will cause me to play the game differently.

Godmother just today (you don't know how shocking for me that is to be able to respond to a post the same day it was released) posted about how her achievement of the 'Mount Parade' was so significant for her.  I had a similar reaction to my creation of Jeeves.  While questing in Icecrown, Kantrina found the Jeeves recipe, and though I highly doubt it will be worth the cost in components, I love having it.  For those that don't know, you can call on Jeeves to appear and he will allow anyone in your group or raid to sell things, repair or buy certain common items.

So I declare myself a proud member of Team Faff (Godmother's word for spending time doing things in game that don't serve the normal end game goals).  For me, it isn't about gear, or achievements as the game defines it, it is about setting my own goals and working towards them.  Right now since Jeeves is done, I've started working on getting my Miner, Kantro, to a high enough level so I can send bars to Kanter to transmute.  Will I ever use those bars?  Probably not many of them, but I want to be able to do it.  After that, I will either level my Mage, Kantrina, so I can work on higher level Enchanting and Engineering, or go back to leveling Archeology on Kanter so I can get the Vial of the Sands.

Because of the need to be able to drop what I am doing any time, I need goals where other people are not depending on me.  However, I love being able to help people and I've found a way I can have fun and still be able to do that.  Other people have other constraints and play the game very differently.

Godmother made the provocative statement "I reckon what Warlords should be doing, as a first priority, is actively discouraging as much solo play as it can."  I disagree with that.  I believe one of the lessons that Blizzard learned in Mists is that more options is a good thing.  If you want to raid or want to have the best gear, yes, you'll need to play nice with others.  However people can be happy working on their farm or Garrison, or battling pets, or using their professions, or competing in the Brawler's guild and pretty much do these things solo.  It benefits the players if they have multiple ways to keep busy that match different interests and time availability.  And, if it keeps people playing, Blizzard has the incentive they need to keep offering multiple ways to play their game.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Week in an MMO Life: Revisiting the Cataclysm

Visiting Thrall at the Maelstrom
I don't have a lot to say this week, so I'll just give you a brief description of what I am up to.  I'm still enjoying leveling my Warrior and have now arrived and nearly leveled out of the Cataclysm expansion.  I had not seen much of Vashj'ir so I decided to focus on that this time through.  I enjoyed the storyline, but all the plot lines seemed to have depressing endings.  Maybe it was just me.  I performed the first parts of the Deepholm, Uldum, and Twilight Highland questlines and just plan to keep going until I get to 85 and move on to Pandaria.  I also gathered enough Embersilk that I was finally able to level my First Aid on Kanter.

I guess I will level him all the way to 90 (or at least 600 mining skill) so I can start making Living Steel without getting help from others.  Then I will probably go back to Kanter and return to leveling Archeology which I deserted some place in the 200s.  As mentioned previously, Vial of the Sands is my long term goal now.  I will need to start selling things rather than just emailing back and forth between my characters, but with max level herbalist, alchemist, miner, blacksmith, tailor and jewelcrafter, I don't think it should be a problem.  I also have my mage, Kantrina, that I left at level 75 and though I have leveled her enchanting (for disenchanting), I would like to level Engineering as well.  I found the Jeeves recipe and I'd like to make it along with some of the other toys.

One fun side task happened when I was visiting Uldum for the first time via Tanaris.  I got a whisper from someone who had been portalled there and was trying to get to Rachet.  I recommended going to Theramore, then Menethil then Booty Bay and finally take the boat to Rachet, but he didn't know how to get to Theramore.  I led him through the flooded Thousand Needles, but, because he couldn't fly, that took a little while.  It was my first chance to see how drastically it had changed.  We then travelled through Dustwallow Marsh and I left him on the boat to Menethil.  He was genuinely grateful and I was glad to be able to help someone out.  One advantage of casual gaming is that if plans change, it is never a big deal.