Did you ever look at Minecraft videos or hear your friends gushing about it, and thought “I’d totally love to play a game where I can craft stuff and build things, but it’s all fantasy land and primitive stuff. I’m not into that right now.”?

Maybe your friends are all up into Minecraft, hear your words and start telling you how you can TOTALLY play Minecraft with modern weapons and high technology and all this super awesome stuff, you just have to load special mods and make sure everyone you play with runs the same mods and know which ones are the cool ones and understand how they work and make sure yuo’ve got the right update for your game version….” and you want to scream at them to shut up, you’ve GOT a job?

Maybe you’re still on board with the Minecraft because it is such a great game, and then they tell you that you just have to make sure you’ve got the latest and greatest Java updated and installed, because it’s all Java based and lags bad, but it’s still cool, and that was the deal breaker that made you run screaming into the night?

Well, this isn’t that game.

This isn’t a Minecraft mod. It’s not a Minecraft anything.

What it is, is Star-Made.

In summary, it’s a crafting game similar in feel to Minecraft, but built from the foundations up to be a universe-spanning starship and space station game.

Its single player, and it’s multiplayer. It’s also in my home experience completely lag free.

And at the moment, it’s a rock-solid free to play Alpha. Free to play as in “free to play, no money, no cash store, no microtransactions, no bullshit”.

You download it, you play it, you submit bug tickets if you find something wrong. So far I’ve played two solid days with my son, and we’ve found nothing wrong with it at all. I’m looking, I want to help with the bug reports, so far I’ve got nothing.

I also bought it. Right now it’s a pre-order of $6, and you know what, after the weekend I’ve had playing with it, I feel like I ripped them off. They didn’t even make me pay it, I wanted to, and I still feel like I ripped them off only paying $6 because I wanted to help.

Freaking game is amazing.

I’m not going to sell it to you anymore, you’re (mostly) adults, you can watch Youtube videos as well as anyone. you can see for yourself if it looks interesting.

What I’m going to do is lead you through two days of gaming bliss with my son.

Here is the tagline for the damn game; My son just turned to me a few minutes ago after we both logged off and he said to me, “I really had a great time playing Star-Made with you this weekend, it was wonderful.”

That’s a tagline.

Here are a few links in sequence to give you everything I’ve used all weekend to get this thing going and answer all my questions on the fly.

The link to Star-Made the game.

A link to a Youtube video on how to set up a local server and connect using LogMeIn Hamachi. Worked perfect for me.

A link to a basic video on how to group weapons on your ship so they’re more effective.

A link to the Star-Made Wiki, which has answered most of the questions I’ve come across, mostly about Faction Modules so we could make our own faction with a name (The Destroyers) and claim a captured space station as our invulnerable home-base.

There. Those are all the tools I’ve used to have tons of fun, so now let me get on with the recap.

I never heard of Star-Made before, but my son loves watching the Yoggscast videos on Youtube, and he started watching a series from June of 2013 (yes, a year ago!) that they did about Star-Made.

“Dad, I’d love to play this game, and it’s free to play.”

I’ve heard this before, and as usual, I began to do my research on just how ‘free’ this is going to be. Yoggscast is usually really good about the games they spotlight, so I’m curious. He’s in the same office playing side by side with me, so I get to hear all these videos. I’ve been hearing the Yoggscasters playing together in the game for a few hours. They sound like they’re having fun.

On the other hand, it was free to play a year ago. What’s up with it now? Does it even exist, and if it does, why have I heard nothing?

A million and a half people have watched the Yoggscast video about it, you’d think I’d have heard something from someone.

I found the Star-Made website, downloaded the game, installed it, fired it up. Plays fine. I installed it on my son’s computer, plays fine.

I let the Cub go nuts on it, and went back to reading back issues of Ultimate Spider-Man.

He logged in, and the game starts you floating in your space suit next to a big Trading Post Space Station (shaped like a hell of a long cigar, distinctive silhouette to find when you’re thousands of kilometers away), with $25,000 bucks in your pocket and all the basic parts in your inventory needed to build a ship. It runs you through a tutorial, and then you’re free to do… well, whatever.

He did the tutorial, built a ship from scratch having a ton of fun putting all the pieces together exactly like blocks from Minecraft, linked weapons, attached his scavenging cannon (which you use to mine out asteroids, space stations and planets from inside your ship) and then moved off to starting mining a nearby asteroid for resources to buy more ship parts and armor from the Trading Post.

Five minutes later a swarm of fast-moving pirates pounced on him and destroyed his ship, causing him to lose his ship, a small amount of cash, and respawn next to the Trading Post where his spawn point was set.

Where he got to watch as the pirates noticed him, came swarming after him there, and killed him again.

Keep in mind, this was with enemy AI set to ‘easy’.

So I found the option in settings to reset your universe, wiping everything, and let him start over, hopefully with pirates spawning MUCH farther away so he has a chance to build something with armor.

I went out to the TV, popped in the first Sherlock Holmes movie starring Robert Downey, Jr and started to enjoy the snarky asides with Jude Law. I love the layers of that film.

The Cub comes out about 30 minutes later to tell me the pirate swarm happened again and he lost everything, so thank you very much but he’s choosing to rage quit.

That’s what he called it. Rage quit. Most polite rage quit I’VE ever seen. It was more of a zen retreat. “I choose to withdraw my forces, good day to you sir.”

Off he went to bed, highly frustrated.

I stayed up to investigate.

I was certain there HAD to be some trick to the pirates, otherwise who would play the game? Kinda hard to get anywhere if a swarm of pirates mobs you 15 minutes into every game.

I logged in myself, made a ship, moved about 100 yards towards an asteroid and suddenly a small fleet of five pirate ships appeared and destroyed me.

I felt violated. I’d just spent some lovely time hand-crafting my ship, and then boom!

I re-spawned, and I was so close I got to watch them salvaging the ruined remains of my jaunty craft. Then they turned and blasted me from space. Again. In my space suit.

Well, that’s just bullshit.

I searched the good old internet looking for ways to turn the pirates off or make them actually easy, or something.

The first thing I found was the video about making better clusters of weapons. So I tried that.

The pirates thought my little ship with my itty bitty wittle anti-matter cannon were cute, in the seconds before they destroyed me. I couldn’t afford any damn armor, so they were shooting a clay pigeon. Also, outnumbered much?

Finally I found a page on the Star-Made Wiki that detailed the server.cfg file, and showed one of the lines was to control enemy spawning.

One problem. Server.cfg files would be for a server, right? So to do this I’d have to run a server. OMG time to vapor lock.

But wait, I searched for how to set up a Star-Made server, found the Youtube link above, and I already had LogMeIn Hamachi installed from a previous attempt at networking Minecraft.

I followed the instructions. I ran the server startup on my computer, little window showed up. What, that’s it? Apparently so. Server running on my computer, just like that.

I started the game through the launcher to actually play, selected Network, then copied my IPv4 address from the LogMeIn window as directed, pasted it into my single player Star-Made network as shown in the video, boom, I logged my game into my server. Looked at the little server window, showed me right there online.

I went over to the Cub’s computer, fired up LogMeIn Hamachi, logged into the network with my computer, started the single player Star-Made game… and used my common sense to type in the network address from my computer instead of his, since my cmoputer is where the server is running. I swear, I almost typed in HIS IPv4 address instead of mine to try to connect to MY computer. Geez.

Hey look at that, he’s there right next to me next to the Trading Post.

Just like that, five minutes in setup and we were LAN linked on a home Star-Made private server using LogMeIn Hamachi. Which is also free.

That’s when I logged us both out of Star-Made, went to my install directory, found the folder for the server, and used a text editor to change the server.cfg file from ENEMY_SPAWNING = true //Enables enemy spawing to instead show as ENEMY_SPAWNING = false //Enables enemy spawing.

Started the server back up, logged my game in, and started playing.

From that moment to this, I have never seen a pirate ship again. Little bastards.

This morning, the Cub got up and I introduced him to the world of multi-player Star-Made on a private server with no pirate ships.

We both logged in, and spawned beside each other automatically. We both made ships, moved out and messed with asteroids.

No pirates.

I saw a space station floating nearby to the Trading Post, so I flew over towards it.

I promptly got blown out of the sky.

Turns out, setting the server.cfg file to stop enemy spawning does not prevent pirate-faction-controlled SPACE STATIONS from being in the game.

With turrets. Armed turrets. Turrets armed with anti-matter cannon.

SHORT RANGE anti-matter cannon.

It’s the best of all worlds for a father and son. No sneaky pirate ships to ambush us while we slowly craft our ships and fortify our bases and harvest resources, and armed space stations filled with loot to test our ship weapons on. It’s so much more fun when the targets shoot back.

The Cub felt sorry for me that I was blown up, but I simply shook my fist at the stars and began construction of the grand ship Revenge.

I am certain that I am the first person that ever considered naming his ship the Revenge. The very first.

The Revenge is a good ship. It’s the ship I’m still piloting now. I started with two layers of hardened hull armor around my core, followed by multiple stacked rocket launchers, anti-matter cannon and scavenger cannon. Then I covered it with more hardened hull armor. Then we scavenged a derelict space station, and I covered the ship with shield modules.

See, what we found was that there are plenty of space stations out there that are unarmed, and plexiglass windows sell for a mint at a Trading Post. A little scavenging without having to worry about pirates netted us a fine haul of booty to sell at the Trading Post, and the post sold us plenty of hardened hull armor and weapons.

The problem I had was visibility. My ship core was in the middle of all the armor, so my view looked like, well, this;

Starmade-piratestation1

All those weird green angles and shadows are hull armor showing around and in my view, because I’m looking through the hull.

That picture shows our second run against the pirate-controlled space station. You can adjust the ratio of your guns so if you want a bigger radius of explosion, you can reduce something else… like reload speed. Or range. Or damage.

I upped the range to keep me out of the turret’s anti-matter envelope, increased the reload time, and fired my missiles as long shots. Kind of like dropping rocks in their gravity well, they couldn’t reach me from their fixed positions with beam weapons, and I proceeded to teach the pirates that all those years of reading David Weber books about Honor Harrington didn’t go to waste.

The view was annoying, so I did some reading, and found that by adding a cockpit module to the hull I could move my viewpoint elsewhere on my ship… multiple elsewheres, and I could flip between them with the arrow keys.

So I was able to put cockpits centered between my various gun systems, and get really nice views. Without jaggies.

Starmade-openstation1

That is a view from my ship, while floating inside a captured space station we are converting into a Death Star, with my sons’ ship floating just outside.

Orientation bothering you? Just remember, the enemy gate is down. Only orientation that matters.

After a bit, my son did something to his guns that knocked his scavenging cannon out of sync with his scavenging computer. He wasn’t sure what to do to fix it because his computer was in the middle of his ship, so he’d have to take half the thing apart to get to it.

This led to my finding out I could save a blueprint of my ship to the server catalog, and the game put a dollar amount on it. All he had to do was get close to a Trading Post, open the catalog, have enough money to buy it, and poof! Instant copy of my ship. The Trading Post did NOT have to have every block used in the design in inventory before selling it, the dollar amount bought the whole thing, fabricated and complete.

So the very next pirate space station we found, there was the Revenge, and the Revenge Mark II. I’d added a computer AI-controlled turret to the top since my first run.

Starmade-piratestation2

That is me scavenging the ship with my cannon, while the Cub is in a duplicate of my ship off the port bow firing his scavenging cannon clear through the station superstructure.

So what, I like big guns. Really big guns.

Like I said, it’s ugly, it’s a big green box. I used plenty of angle pieces and green lights to dress it up so it looks like a ship, even if it does have the lines of a tugboat.

And the acceleration to match, damn but she’s a slow beast.

We’ve found that Navigation around the star sectors is pretty easy. The display shows you what sector you are in, and as long as you keep a journal of the sector coordinates of cool places you’ve found, you can bring up the navigation menu and create a waypoint to that location when you want to go back later. We’ve used it a ton to travel all over space roaming at will without fear of getting lost or being unable to find each other.

It’s always nice after a day of raiding to now how to get back home.

The Cub is working on a pet project of his, he is building a scale model Star Destroyer. With AI-controlled turrets.

I’m working on building a Death Star. And I intend to build a carrier, with AI-controlled ships. I have been looking into it, and I think it is possible to have AI-controlled small fighters as parasites to your capital ship.

We’re going to take our time, have fun building an empire, and when the time is right we’ll modify that little server.cfg file and let new pirates spawn in to join the party. See how they like it when we can hunt them back in ships that have actual armor and shields.

Oh, and in the blueprint catalog, the ships the pirates use are in there too. So you can buy them and check out their design, suckers are fast, have strong shields, but popguns for weapons. No missiles. If you have a chance to armor and shield your ship before they swarm you, you might even be able to take them down.

This has been a long post, and I’m not covering everything because who knows if this sounds like your thing. If it does, you’ll find out soon enough, everything you could want to know is out there, usually in a Youtube video.

Here are some serious incentives to try it.

It’s free.

It’s quick to set up, especially for a local network.

It’s well-documented on Youtube and on the Star-Made Wiki.

There are many multi-player servers out there you can log into to try, most with actual experienced players that I’m sure will be happy to show you a thing or two… and teach all about the importance of factions and faction modules and forming alliances and having a home-base you can dock your ship in to be invulnerable to attack.

You can make your own custom-designed star ships, seek out new life and new civilizations, and nuke them from orbit.

Great game. Just, great game.

I hope that you have a chance to try it with your kids, or with your friends, and see what it’s like. Building your own ships immediately and going after each other in dogfights, having design decisions MATTER to ship handling and weapon stats, it’s just an amazing feeling.

FYI, this isn’t Eve Online. Try it yourself, but just because it has spacecraft building, space stations, PvP, factions and pirates, and an economy and Trading Posts doesn’t make it Eve. It’s definitely it’s own thing.

You just gotta try it. You’ll see.

And say goodbye to the rest of your weekend.

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If you’re ever looking for some great World of Warcraft or Druid-related items, I strongly recommend you check out the Etsy store that blogger Euphyley has for her crafts at Warcrafts By Euphyley.

Euphyley writes great guides about rare spawns and Hunter pets in Warcraft at WoW Rare Spawns (go figure) but she’s also an incredibly gifted artist, and these are simply wonderful.

A lot of the items are related to Druids, so this is right in our wheelhouse, but there are also some Warlock, Shaman and Mage themed pets and even items from other games (like 1 UP mushroom earrings) and lots of Hearthstone and Pet Battling jewelry.

Here are a few pictures of some of the amazing things in her store, so you can see I’m not kidding, these handcrafted items are truly unique and quite beautiful.

DruidMalorne minimoonkin VoidwalkerNecklace

There are many more, and they are all just as lovely as these, so why not check them out?

Still not convinced?

One word.

MURLOCS.

Warcrafts by Euphyley

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Since WoW is now dead to me, at least until I totally cave in and resubscribe because I am cracking up and can’t take much more, I have lots of free time on my hands.

I spent some of it tonight fixing my music playlist.

I go to the gym most every morning, and I use my iPhone and the Amazon Cloud Player to manage my music because fuck iTunes.

Some songs get too burned into the brain to keep getting the blood thumping, and others are momentary flashes of fascination before I lose interest, but for right now, this is my absolute ultimate “just hit random and go’ music selection.

Since this is me, I have infested my playlist with my own personal sense of humor and touch of hell. As an example, I derive great joy from making Nickelback rub up against both Rage Against the Machine AND Skrillex. I like to think Nickelback wakes up each morning screaming from my own personal brand of voodoo hoodoo, and that RATM and Skrillex would be getting together and plot some kind of vicious blanket party except, you know, they hate each other too much to drop the fashionable scowls.

See if you can spot some of my other “I may love this song but I’m going to make the artist feel dirty” song arrangements.

It doesn’t matter what order they’re in anyway, I always run my playlist on random, so don’t read anything into which is top or bottom. They’re all evensies.

Keep in mind, I’m an old bastard, and I really don’t care if you like these or approve of MY liking them or what. This shit gets me moving, and at my age, that’s a freaking miracle. Also, I am long past the age where I worry what people would think of my music choices. My music choices should all be grateful I choose to like them, it’s like bestowing a blessing upon them from on high. They’ve been anointed, and that leaves room for more beer.

Do you hit the gym or work out and are on the hunt for something new to freshen your playlist tracks? Something here ought to get it done. If it doesn’t, you’re dead.

Of Monsters and Men – Little Talks
Rihanna – Where Have You Been
Within Temptation – Faster
David Guetta (feat Sia) – Titanium
Rihanna – We Found Love
Lana Del Rey – Summertime Sadness (fast remix)
Nemesea – In Control
Nonono – Fire Without a Flame
Dragonforce – Through the Fire and the Flame
Audioslave – Like A Stone
Agent Provacateur – Red Tape (from the Jackal soundtrack. The Jackal. It was a movie with Bruce Willis, damnit, sue me)
Shakira – She Wolf
David Guetta (feat Sia) – She Wolf
Nonono – Like the Wind
Havana Brown – Warrior
Nonono – Jungle
The Cranberries – Zombie
Kelly Clarkson – Stronger
Lady Gaga – Applause
Skrillex – Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites
Nickelback – Side of a Bullet
Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name Of
Avicii – Wake Me Up
Nonono – Pumpin Blood
Christina Aguilera – Fighter
Eminem – Lose Yourself
One Republic – Counting Stars
Avicii – Hey Brother
nicki minaj – Super Bass
Coldplay – Viva La Vida
Of Monsters and Men – King and Lionheart
Katy Perry – Wide Awake
Ke$ha – Die Young
Katy Perry – Roar
Pussycat Dolls  When I Grow Up
Veronicas – Untouched
Vast – Touched
The Crüxshadows – Eye of the Storm
Rihanna – Disturbia
The Offspring – Lightning Rod
Dragonforce – Fury of the Storm
Namie Amuro – Hide & Seek
Concrete Blonde – Tomorrow, Wendy
Johnny Cash – God’s Gonna Cut You Down
The Offspring – the Noose

I put together every one of these that I could find in a shared playlist on Grooveshark, to help make it easier to try them out. Nonono isn’t on there that I could see, and neither was Namie Amuro, who does the song Hide & Seek on the famous Blind Machinima video. I was shocked by how many were, so hopefully the playlist there works for you if you’re interested in listening to any that are unfamiliar to you.

I am always on the hunt for more pounding songs for my workout, so if your personal favorites aren’t here (and I can’t imagine that tehy would be), please share them in the comments or on Twitter.

Have a great weekend!

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The final countdown has begun. I have less than 24 hours remaining before my paid World of Warcraft subscription goes dark.

Cassie frankly doesn’t think it’s going to happen, and I’m kind of curious if I can manage it myself.

A little voice in the back of my head tells me, “You know, you KNOW that a week after your account closes, Blizzard will announce new in-game rewards based on continuous subscription time… and you’ll have gone from ten years to zero. Don’t do it.”

Last night, I decided to log into each of my characters to find that one special place, mount and pet to pose with and take pictures of before logging out for what might be the last time.

For every character I have leveled to max over the years, I have some special place that springs immediately to mind with images of great battles, raids or fun with friends and family. At least I did until I reached my last character, Chainblade, my poor abandoned Death Knight.

Poor Chainblade. I created my Death Knight to play with my son, and we spent a good bit of time together in Cataclysm on the long march to 85. When Mists of Pandaria came out, many of my other characters traveled on, but Chainblade was left behind. He never took the magic airboat ride.

As my son’s Death Knight Hailsword adventured deep into the mist-shrouded pandaland, Chainblade became a pet battle alt. His duty orders sent him to spend a long, LONG time standing next to Major Payne, where he would briefly appear each day to engage the good Major in pet battle before returning to his tent for the rest of the afternoon.

Chainblade was the character that joined my son in completing the daily missions to gain a Winterspring Frostsaber, so that mount is the one that Chainblade shall always be riding for me. I was happy to see that he still carries with him a photograph of his cub’s first toy. That brought a smile to my face.

But what location resonated with the Death Knight? I could certainly log out next to Major Payne, that would feel proper considering the length of time spent there, but it doesn’t half speak of adventure, now does it?

In fact, Chainblade spent so many months in brief daily battle with Major Payne that I didn’t create a story for him so much as had the head canon build up for me.

You see, once the Lich King was finally defeated, the great wars of Chainblade’s time were over. He had battled valiently and been true to his cause, but once the grand threat was removed, what place could there be for the dead in the lands of the hot blooded and quick?

With his days of glory behind him, Chainblade the worgen Death Knight retired to the Argent Tournament in Icecrown, near to the scenes of his past glories, and there he spends his days lost in his memories of friends and fallen foes from the past, and continuing on from day to day in a kind of timeless, changeless rhythm amidst the comfortable trappings of his life on the front lines.

Chainblade has his tent pitched near to Major Payne’s tower at the Tournament, where he has been for several years now. He’s a familiar sight to the vendors there as he goes about the same time-worn ritual, each day the same as the last.

At midday when the pale sun is at it’s zenith he will emerge from his tent, vigorously sniff the air, and then light one of his foul-smelling Nerubian cigars. Once he has it going well, he pulls out his old campaign chair and sits beside his fire to enjoy the feel of the weak sun on his fur.

As the light slowly begins to move, tracing stark patterns across the face of the Storm Peak mountains, he relaxes in his chair and sips his kungaloosh. He drinks to forget, even as the taste of the kungaloosh mixed with a dash of quinidine bark reminds him of the times he drank it in the hot jungles of Sholozar Valley to keep his undead heart moving slow and sluggish in the quickening hot climate.

When night finally descends in full and the lights of the Tournament are aglow, he gets up and wanders his way over to visit with Major Payne, and watch as a fresh crop of hopeful challengers bring their pets, eager to show off their skills to the master trainer.

He sips his drink and watches through the dusk hours while the natural drama of victory or defeat goes on around him, untouched by it all but still feeling something, some small sense that he could have been any of them, with a bright future ahead, and with a life where such a small thing as a lone pet battle victory or defeat could seem like the most important thing in his entire young life.

Then the day has finally ended, and the youthful challengers all run off to celebrate or drink away their disappointment and tell stories of the grand adventure they have had, and their hopes for more excitement in the days and weeks to come.

Chainblade sets down his drink and cigar upon the steps of the old, cold tower and faces off with the good Major for the last battle of the night, two old warhorses replaying an old and familiar game. He takes his victory with the ease of long practice, using the same tactics as has worked each month and even year that has slipped on by.

Picking up his drink and cigar once more, he gives the Major a long-toothed grin, and retires to his tent, letting the moments of the day slip away to blend into the long line of unchanging and forgotten fallen dawns behind him.

Kind of sad, really. He’s a Death Knight, he shouldn’t be sitting around molding away by a campfire, he should have one last, bright charge against a valiant foe left in him!

I decided to resurrect Chainblade, call him up out of his retirement and make him shake loose the cobwebs from the rut he was in, give him one last hellride through mystery and adventure.

Chainblade had always been Unholy, so it was really time for a change. The tired old wardog needed to learn everything all over again, and what better way than to take a lesson from the new World of Warcraft Crash Course video on Death Knights, and try Frost? Dual Wielding Frost at that, really shake things up!

I watched the video, and I enjoyed it. Then I read the guide for Frost Death Knights at Icy Veins, and thought, “Holy crap, that is a lot more complicated than the Crash Course made it sound!”

Then I read the small section on simplified Frost DPS, and saw that it was about the same as the Crash Course, only you know, Icy Veins talks about things like Army of the Dead and glyphs and what kind of Runeforging enchants to put on weapons and all that stuff. Whew! A ton of stuff to take in.

Chainblade finally took his first steps into Stormwind in years, and was summoned to a visit with the King. He was directed to take a magic airship ride to discover what had happened to the fleet and the White Pawn, and stepped once more into adventure.

Two words: Holy shit!

I have played through the starting Jade Forest Alliance zone as every character class now.

I can say, without reservation, that I have NEVER before blown through that zone like an unstoppable juggernaut the way the Frost Death Knight did.

Just, holy shit!

I know I should be popping some of my short duration cooldowns, but I didn’t have time, because even when swarmed by adds like Hozen I just destroyed them. I never even bothered with Obliterate, I never had to.

I will say that the combination of summoning my pet on a 2 minute cooldown, and then using the talent that takes half of my pet’s health away to heal ME for half of MY health on a 2 minute cooldown was awesome. If I got swarmed by more than four or five things, I’d wait until I was finally below half health (and most of the mobs were dead anyway), then pop my pet and my healing Talent and boom! Back at full health AND with a pet to help finish them all off.

Felt overpowered while leveling, and that’s no lie. I never died, and I took on swarms of Hozen. I pulled the Hozen camp where Admiral Taylor is found right before you rescue him and take him to the fishie people, and it was nothing but a thing. Just pull the camp, kill them all and loot enough keys in one go to finish it all up. And then get the skulls easy because everything’s dead.

Never, ever felt anything like the god-like power of the Frost DK in that area.

I think I only ever summoned Army of the Dead once, and that was when I started feeling guilty killing swarms of adds without it, like I was being a fail DK. Army, damnit! I’m supposed to use that.

One last night to go. Tonight will be the last one.

Chainblade is level 86 already, and he’s remembering why he had to drink that kungaloosh to make it through a hot forest full of things that wanted to eat him in the first place.

Even if he finds himself retiring there among the fish people, he’ll at least have had the pleasure of one last hurrah, and the knowledge that yes, even in this modern age, an old wardog can learn one more trick, and be a total badass while doing it.

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I long for the day World of Warcraft openly embraces being an Event Driven game.

The early promise of World of Warcraft for me was an online persistent fantasy world to adventure in.

Raiding didn’t enter into it. Raiding as a thing wasn’t part of my lexicon, it wasn’t what everyone talked about.

Everyone talked about the races you could play as. The character classes you could be. The way you could get quests from characters in the game that weren’t controlled by a GM or other players, and whenever you played, what you had done in the past carried on in the world to be shared with others. Persistent.

I remember in the early days talking with my friends Manny and James about World of Warcraft and the potential of games like it. Back when the idea was new and fresh and who knew what the future of such games might hold?

We’d talk about what new things online games might bring, like player-created quests and storylines with XP and rewards, or monster NPCs controlled by other players when taking a break from their player characters.  Or smaller-scale MMO games with special events where live GMs might be in control of key main NPCs or commanders, and you could join their army as a player character and fight in one of these vast wars as the GM-controlled commanders led you forward into battle.

Early days full of promise, where the main draw of World of Warcraft and other MMOs was in how similar they were to tabletop pen and paper role playing games, and not in how they were different.

In every game where there are levels and experience points, there comes a time when you have to address… what do you do when you hit the level cap?

In tabletop games, at least in my experience, you either retire the characters and make new ones (usually in a new game system that just came out), try a few runs in a world where your old characters are now the new high power NPCs that rule the area your new players play in, or nuke the game from orbit and reduce everyone in power from some calamity, it’s the only way to be sure.

In a programmed always-online persistent world, the level cap happened, and it made us stop, look around, and go… so, what now? Where has the story gone? What do we do when the quests have all been done and there is no GM across the table to improvise?

The response was to have raids. Big raids. Raids with lots of players against static content, one big battle that you fight over and over and over. Every week, over and over.

Why? Loot. Upgrades. Shinies. More power.

If we’re capped, then what difference does that make?

Ah! What comes next. The big question. Are we done, or is there more to come?

And so a game that lured me (and my friends) in with a lush fantasy world, leveling, questing, rich story and familiar classes and races where the point was to adventure in new lands and meet new peoples became a game where I waited for the next scheduled event to begin. We began playing the waiting game, spending time on alts and pvp waiting for the next new event that would move the story forward one chapter at a time, adding new raid battles.

Events that had a beginning, a middle, and a definite ending.

We played World of Warcraft one way at the beginning, and a different way at the level cap. We had to, once at the level cap our actions to grow our characters were complete.

Do you remember when the majority of players only had one main character, and those with alts were few, and mostly those that couldn’t stick with one thing long enough to max out?

An Event Driven game does not keep you in with long and exciting questing adventures, it keeps you in by having a timed event that you must take part in while it is active to gain the rewards.

While an event is going on, you have filler content, preparations, small quests or gathering to do, but the focus is the big battles, and each event includes it’s own end because if you fight a big battle, once you’ve won, you know how that story ends. The only question remaining is how many times you’ll have to repeat that same battle until the timed event is over, and everyone has been given a reasonable chance to finish it before the next event comes out to push the story forward one more chapter.

That is what World of Warcraft really IS now. It’s not the subscription based role playing game that I at least still think of.

It’s an event driven game, and how engaging the game is can be traced directly to how long it’s been since a new event was released to take part in and stir the senses anew.

Each event brings new rewards for taking part, new parts to the ever-growing story, new bits and pieces of shiny things like mounts or armor or titles. Or achievements.

The death of an Event Driven game is lack of events. You’ve got to have a new event ready to go as soon as the last one gets stale.

There is a point to this, and it’s one that has been bothering me with every ‘expansion’.

Blizzard does not act as though they realize what kind of game we’re playing. They act as though we continue to play World of Warcraft as a questing and leveling experience, even as more shortcuts to max level are baked into the core experience.

You have to ride the wave of new events to keep the players pumping quarters into the change slot. If you distract us with new shinies, we keep collecting them.

I want to collect them. I need to collect them. if you give me more shinies to chase, nobody will get hurt.

There is an interesting series of articles at Venture Beat that Albert Reed, the CEO and co-founder of Demiurge Studios has been writing about their extremely successful game, Marvel Puzzle Quest.

This is a series that you should take some notice of, because this is welcome candor from a man that is focused on how to separate a player from his money, and what methods he has used to become ever more successful at it.

The third chapter (there are eight so far, and each one is extremely good reading) discusses how Marvel Puzzle Quest has really taken off by embracing being an Event Driven game. If you read it and other articles in the series and really think about what is being discussed, there are a lot of similar elements going on in World of Warcraft, but they’re not shown the same level of awareness.

They’re not even close to being the same kind of game, but we are all video game players, and most of us seem to respond to the things that an Event Driven game offers, and that World of Warcraft gives us in spurts and false starts.

World of Warcraft expansions and content patches give us a new chapter to the story, and the main instrument in that chapter to advance the story are multiplayer raids with ever-higher power loot items as rewards.

The catch is, of course, when there are no events… we are all left flailing around looking for something to do to fill that time, and I at least usually feel as though somehow I am to blame for not being able to find something fun to do in the game.

That moment, that point in the game at the end of a content patch or game chapter where I have completely exhausted the raiding by doing the same ones thirty or more times, repeatedly, is exactly the moment when a new event should begin.

The lesson that Marvel Puzzle Quest and other games is teaching us, is that those events do not all have to be major battles or world-shaking story arcs. They can be smaller stories, told on a more personal scale, with smaller rewards of a more cosmetic or even temporary nature, but because they are new to us, they keep us engaged.

World of Warcraft had that same awareness, once upon a time. There was a time, a long, long, LONG time ago, when the seasonal events in game were something new to look forward to.

The problem is, once released they have been abandoned, and rarely get refreshed for a new year.

For several years now, the only question we have is, “Did they bump up the power of the drops from last years event? No? Pfft. Well, maybe my 8th alt can use a mole machine to get to BRD.”

I get the feeling from Blizzard that they’re not looking at the upcoming calendar year and discussing what content will be released at what time to space things out right, and have plans in place to provide filler events at key droughts.

Or, worse yet, they are planning it by the week, but they are including out-of-game Blizzard events like the release of a Diablo 3 expansion as WoW content.

Content from a company that is not actually in the game is not content, it’s competition.

Break my immersion in your game with a different game and you have no assurance I’ll ever return.

I’d like to think that the developers lift their heads from the gorgeous art they are creating and the quests and NPCs and zone terrain, and have a team meeting where someone breaks down the upcoming year one week at a time.
“Okay, now we’ve got 52 weeks in the year, we’re on week 22. What do we have going on that week. How many weeks since the last new thing to do? What, 8 weeks since a big content patch with raids and Tier armor? Two months, that’s a long time to be hitting the raids for progression, people will be needing a palate cleanser. What do we have new coming to break it up? yeah, Tim, what do you have?”

“Maybe we could have a one week event where we use that great design work that went into the Argent Tournament and jousting. How about we make that week a new max-level jousting tournament? Phase the argent tournament area for max level characters only with a bread crumb from the faction leaders, add a new questline, update the vendors with some new rewards with a new currency token that expires just like other seasonal currencies. Players can joust against familiar NPC opponents that will be exciting if we tweak them right, or PvP against other players. They can use the tokens to maybe buy pieces for a transmog set of jousting armor without stats, something that will look neat for roleplayers, and a new armored mount as the most expensive reward to keep people tilting all week. By the time the event is over, people will see raiding as a fresh break from the tournament, and an opportunity to show off their new pets or mount of armor look.”

“Okay, what about week 23? The week after a jousting tournament, do we want to give folks time to recover after spending a week playing more than average to try and earn those tokens?”

It just makes sense to me that you as a game designer, maintaining a game where time played is your number one asset, would be looking at the content in your game on a week-by-week basis to make sure you have planned for each week to have something that will keep players engaged and looking forward to logging in, but not feel like it is their job to have to log in and clock in those hours each day.

So you have planned events with just enough time for the majority of players to complete everything, and then you move on to something else, and some events be intense battles and major upheavals and others be story builders and setups for the events to come.

An event doesn’t have to be the release of a full raid tier. An event cane be a fresh week of seasonal content that is actually fresh. It can be a small quest chain that is newly added that leads you to search places around the world seeking treasure, such as the treasure maps of old.

What an event has to do is give you something fresh to do, have the chance to offer you a reward no matter how small it is, and be something that breaks you free from a daily grind if only for a little while.

Sometimes, like in the first half of Mists of Pandaria, it seems Blizzard does everything right. And then we come to where we are today, and look around, and wonder… “Are they playing the same game we are? Or are they playing the alpha and have forgotten we’re stuck in the Timeless Isle, and all we want is to grab the skipper and Maryann and get the hell off?”

However World of Warcraft started, whatever the original goal, it’s event driven now.

As much as the game has grown and matured over the years, the philosophy behind content scheduling seems to be lagging a bit behind. I hope that the planning improves soon, because I’ve seen some of the new competition coming up, and while there is no such thing as a ‘WoW Killer’, there are certainly some developers who seem to be chomping at the bit to entice players away by promising them frequent content updates.

Remember, it doesn’t matter how big the content update, because when you’ve had nothing new to do for a half a year, anything starts looking pretty damn good.

If you be standing still while the lean and hungry go racing around you, maybe you be moving too slow, mon. And maybe you be the meal they waiting to eat.

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