Bearwall. Because I don’t care about pageviews and I have no interest in breaking this up into a week-long 5 part miniseries to keep you coming back for more.
In fact, what I’ll do is break this up into two parts and post them both today, so it’s easier to ignore one of them!
Just part of our customer disservice. Discouraging readers since… oh, heck, day one, really.
I have a new obsession, and its name is Borderlands 2.
Yes, I am well aware this is a game from 2012 that most everyone else seems to have played already. It’s so old the sequel prequel is coming out soon.
Borderlands 2 is not an MMO. It’s a cooperative first person shooter RPG set in a futuristic anarchistic apocalyptic world…. ic.
Does old game automatically mean bad game? Or tired and stale game? NO!
Unless the graphics suck, but hey, this is only two years old. I think the cell shaded graphics are perfect and crisp, and give me a ‘styled and smooth like WoW but not WoW’ vibe that I’m loving.
I’m not just gonna talk about Borderlands 2 and why it’s got me crapping rainbows. I’m going to start by dissing on World of Warcraft, and then explain how Borderlands 2 is filling a need I didn’t even know I had until the warm fuzzy feelings were gotten.
If I were to name three issues I have with World of Warcraft, it would be that the endgame content is too dependent on a massive playerbase, there are too many abilities crammed onto my bars/buttons, and the PvE ‘fun’ abilities are constantly screwed over (I mean ‘tuned’) due to PvP balance issues.
I’m pretty good with everything else. Yes, even long daily quest grinds and stuff.
In WoW, I am perfectly happy having long term goals that will take much logging in and questing and collecting and stuff to complete. I like having goals I can’t zerg through. Sometimes, it’s nice to push that stone up the hill a little ways and take a break, knowing there is no way you can roll it all the way up RIGHT NOW no matter how hard you try. So that’s not an issue for me, your kilometers may stray from baseline.
My first real issue is needing tons of people at endgame to get anything done.
The whole WoW thing is designed around being a massively populated world, and the top level challenging and rewarding content in the game requires large numbers of players to complete.
This leads inevitably to needing to get all them peeps. If you want a regular play experience, you need to gather up a large group of people to ensure you can do the content when you want instead of standing in a city yelling “Hey, anyone wanna raid?”
Guilds full of people, raid organization and application processes, solo players begging for ‘Looking For Group’ mechanics so as not to be left out, etc.
Here is my problem with it. You’re starting with a need for bodies to reach a certain number before you can access the content at the highest challenge level. This means first you need the bodies. Once you’ve got the quantity, then you can start selecting for quality.
Anybody ever hear a variation of the following statement in your raid team? “We’re still short three people, we need one tank, one healer and a DPS. Can anyone swap to a tank? Can anyone swap to a healer? Okay, now that we’ve done our best to control the quality of tanks and healers, anyone got any friends? No? Shit. Okay, then I guess we’re either calling it, or looking for some mouth breather from the Trade channel.”
“Let’s just call it, strangers suck.”
What is the optimum experience you can hope for? That your guild and raid teams are full of nice friends that all like each other (or get along well without drama), are skilled at playing their class, dedicated to maximizing their main character as best they can, and that have the time to play with you consistently.
That’s the best you can hope for.
How many of you have to settle for less than that to make sure you get your raid on? And of the things you settle for, does your raid aim for skill and dedication first, and if they’re friends or not, or even decent human beings or not, well, you can’t always get everything you want out of life?
And if you DO prioritize friends… does that mean sometimes you’re taking people you really like, but who suck at playing their character and that adds a fresh level of hell all on its own?
So, if you raid, sometimes you just have to accept that some of the people you’re playing with either don’t like you, or you don’t like them, or you love them but they suck, or you hate them but they rock the DPS charts so nobody will ever say boo to them.
But that is the price you sometimes have to pay to play the challenging content, right?
What about number of abilities?
I like having a good variety of abilities. It’s fun to have cool stuff to do. Where I’m at, though, is realizing that to truly excel at playing my character in a raid I should have all of my key abilities, and I mean ALL of them, either macro’d, bound to quick access keys, or bound to mouse buttons for fast blind usage while focusing my eyes on the screen and targets.
To play at the top of my game in a raid, I should never, ever be looking at the button bar on screen to click something. Those fractions of seconds are precious.
But I have a regular keyboard and a mouse that, while nice, only has two extra buttons near my thumb. And there is only so far my fingers will reach to hit keys.
There are plenty of mice out there that have rows of mappable buttons, and there are also several gaming keyboards with button bars and extra keys to bind as well. Professionals noticed this need for mappable keys a long time ago, and there are many products to fill that demand, products with high quality, durable and sensitive to the touch.
That’s fine, but I don’t own any of those. I should buy one if I’m going to keep raiding, the Razor mice with the programmable buttons are amazing, but I don’t have one now, and I feel the lack.
It’s doable to play without it, but at the same time it feels kind of silly to be thinking that in order to play my character in the game properly, I really should invest in some top of the line peripherals, because I can’t cut it as a clicker. Clicking’s a noob move.
What if I don’t have $150 to drop on a new mouse and keyboard combo? Well, get over it, right?
I’m not arguing the point. I don’t have to have that to play, I can sort of get by without it, it’s totally optional.
I’m saying it’s something to keep in mind, that part of playing World of Warcraft at the top level involves more than just buying a game and paying a monthly fee and trying really damn hard. If you want to be competitive (or at least not the worst player in your raid group), you need to do what it takes. And in this case, it might mean a new mouse and keyboard. And trying to wrap my brain around muscle memory programming for a main character and also any alts I want to raid with, too.
Or maybe I should spend that time learning a foreign language. Might be a bit easier. Always wanted to learn Gaelic. It’ll have just as much application in the real world, too, so bonus!
Oh wait, I’ll be able to say really cool toasts over Guinness. Points to Gaelic, set and match.
Then there is the last issue I have.
Adjusting what I can or cannot do with my character around what is ‘balanced’ for a PvP player.
Also known as;
“Why can’t I do that?”
“Because it’d be overpowered against other players in the Arena or BG.”
“So? Fuck them. I don’t PvP, I couldn’t give a shit less. I want to tame and fly a fire-breathing dragon and burn down towns and stuff.”
PvP is why you can’t have nice things. Because the team of dragons you’d like to command to descend upon your enemy for five seconds of glorious roflstomping and munching is the burst damage some other player will scream about being too OP to defend against.
PvP means everyone has to have balanced abilities. If you’ve got high survivability, your DPS has to be shit. If your DPS is super high, you’ve got to be a glass cannon in a field of thrown stones. If you can take control of a character away from someone else, everyone else has to have access to blocks or breaks.
PvP ensures that any crazy WTF ability that might look really cool or do something nuts against a computer-controlled opponent is automatically ruled out of the game.
You’re supposed to be super… but everyone else has to be equally super. And once everyone is equally super, nobody is. Yeah, I know movie quoting is cliche, but damn it, it’s true. In a game about crazy sorcery and wild magic and demons and dragons and barbarian warriors and ancient beings that can crack open the planet and drink the guts like an egg, we’ve got to make sure all the players are perfectly matched in potential power because stunlocks suck.
World of Warcraft. Wish spells need not apply.
It is what it is, and I have a lot of fun playing it, warts and all. I’ve never really had cause to voice these issues before because I have had no solution, and pointing out problems without a solution is whining, and screw that. Is it fun to play anyway? Heck yes. So, ignore and move on.
But what if there were other games that took a different route? They weren’t a complete replacement, but they did fill that gaping void? A game that satisfied the itches that need scratching!
I’ve found my personal backscratcher in a little game called Borderlands 2.
As I said before, it’s a first person shooter RPG with up to 4 person scaling cooperative play.
All three of my World of Warcraft points are addressed right there.
It’s a first person shooter.
I don’t know how it is on console, but the keyboard/mouse controls are a dream. The only buttons I’ve had to remap were melee attack, grenade throw and crouch. And my mouse just happens to have thumb buttons for two of those, and crouch on right control feels natural.
I never, ever have to look at a button bar to do stuff in Borderlands 2, within minutes the controls felt 100% natural without macroing. No worries about special keyboards or mice. Well, my mouse with the two extra thumb buttons came in handy, but I could have remapped them to something else and gotten by. I still have many attack choices, too, through a scroll-wheel-controlled weapon list, each weapon doing something wild and crazy.
It’s on Steam with up to 4 player cooperative play.
And it’s real drop and bop coop, anyone on my Steam friends list can see what I’m doing, start up their game and drop right in, joining me wherever I am on the fly. And vice versa.
Don’t want them dropping in? Then don’t have them as friends! Or log in as invisible maybe, I dunno, maybe you can do that. I wouldn’t know.
Borderlands 2 is becoming my gateway game to multiplayer outside of WoW and Minecraft. I never had anything to do with multiplayer on Steam before, and BL2 has made it so seamless and easy it’s got me hungering for more coop in other things. What’s next, coop Portal 2? I think so. I really do.
Since the game scales difficulty based on number of players both up AND down on the fly, I don’t HAVE to have 3 other people to play. There is no forced incentive to find three bodies to join me, whether I like them or not, except more crazy out of control fun.
I can play a cooperative player vs environment game, and ONLY EVER PLAY WITH ACTUAL FRIENDS.
My favorite moments in WoW have always been playing with friends, and some of the best of those were during Burning Crusade, when I had no aspirations to raid, and it was okay to do 5 person regular and heroic instances for fun. All Druid and Rogue stealth missions, things like that. Fun with friends. When it gets to be a 10 or 25 person raid… how well do you really know everyone else?
In BL2 I never, ever have to wonder who in the group actually thinks I suck and doesn’t want to play with me but they needed that extra body to fill the group because none of their real friends were online.
You just play with friends. And if someone has to go do real life things, they go. The game carries on. You don’t have to restart, or find a replacement, or begin again at a save point. It’s… it’s revolutionary. In fact, it’s so awesome I could almost cry.
World of Warcraft is starting to build this in, but with the holy trinity of tank/healer/DPS, there are limits to what they can do with Flexible modes. Take a first person shooter where there are no tanks, and watch it fly.
To only ever play with friends. No drama. No bullshit. No unspoken undercurrents.
It’s kind of terrifying, when you think about it. Entire blogs would fade away with the lack of bitching about strangers in LFR groups.
You’re kidding, right? Who needs to be balanced when you’re just blowing away computer-controlled opponents? Go ahead, have giant robots and turrets you can summon, base an entire character class out of controlling an opponent, freezing and floating them in place and making them your puppet, or out of having ginormous honking guns on rock and roll. Why not? Why not have a class that is super challenging to play, and another that’s kind of easy mode. Who suffers in the long run? Why the hell not?
The thing is, Borderlands 2 isn’t an MMO. It’s doesn’t have to complete with a persistent online world. This ain’t a game where you’re setting up shop and moving in.
And I’m starting to realize, it’s perfectly fine to play games that aren’t MMOs. In fact, it might be a damn good idea to just avoid them all for a while and focus in on what are the most important parts of playing a game.
Having fun, either alone or with friends.
Borderlands 2 also scratches that RPG itch for me.
Skill trees, loot drops (in all the normal colors of the rainbow, as long as your rainbow is Green, Blue, Purple and Orange), and leveling up.
Oh, but in keeping with that whole ‘playing with friends and not competing’ thing, there are no such things as soulbound legendaries. A friend drops in and gets an amazing Legendary weapon he can’t use, well, just open trade and give it to someone else. or if you have Legendaries that are too low level for you, and a friend just started up the game? Drop in on them and trade ‘em over. Nothing says you can’t. Nothing is soulbound because why screw you over that way in a coop game without PvP?
Can you imagine a world where you play a game, and say, just as an example, a right-hand binding drops for a Legendary weapon, and you could trade it to someone else that could use it… or mail it to your other character that has the left-hand already and has never seen the right for years and years? And it would seem normal to do that, because why on earth wouldn’t you be able to? To what end do you prevent someone from making use of a drop or giving it to someone that could?
Ah, but then that cheapens Legendary weapons, right? I mean if anyone can have one without spending a year or two to get one… if any scrub, any loser, any filthy casual…
But wait a second.
What if… what if we were just meant to play this game for a while and have fun with it, and may after a while buy a different game instead of spending 8 years in this one obsessing over being the coolest kid with the most rare Legendaries that you can’t use because they’re not current content and weren’t when you finally finished grinding for them in the first place?
It’s kind of a different state of mind, isn’t it?
World of Warcraft and other MMOs certainly have their place, and that place is to create a long term persistent world to live in… forever. To reject reality and replace it with your digital playground.
I’m delighted to have found something else that has grabbed my passion as well, and has me shitting rainbows in delight.