Lent, why it sucks, and cravings

First off, I’d like to start this post in a beautifully stereotypical manner: yes, I’m going to apologise for my lack of posts within the last six months or so! What a unique way to write a blog! Anyway, I’d love to be able to only blame university work for my lack of writings, but that simply isn’t the case. Sure, recently I’ve been pretty snowed under with deadlines, reading and work, but the majority has been pure laziness on my part. And I haven’t really had much to say. Usually when I play a good game, a blog post will just start in my head and I’ll have a fairly good idea of what to say. That just hasn’t happened. Perhaps the games recently have been as boring as fuck. Since these have included Bulletstorm, Europa Universalis Rome and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, I somehow doubt it.

Anyway, I won’t be posting anything strictly game-related any time soon, as I’ve been convinced to give video games up for Lent. I’m not a particularly religious person, at least not in the sense of Lent, but doing something like this is a challenge, and one I was sort-of happy to accept. Hell, it gives me more time to read, which is a relief; my ‘to-read’ list has been steadily rising since Christmas.

It’s also given me time to think about stuff to do for this blog. For a while I’d been looking for a project to help this blog stick out in the blogosphere, and whilst I’ve had a few ideas knocking about, nothing has really stuck. This time though… this one might actually work, as it hinges on the very thing this blog was named after: my legendary propensity to be distracted.

I have a rather large collection of games, considering my relative youth in PC gaming. Some I bought because they were genuinely wanted, and then got bored of (Dragon Age, Saints Row 2, Red Faction Guerilla etc). Others I bought because they were cheap on Steam or Gamestation, and have never really played (ARMA, Hitman: Blood Money etc). My idea is to take this list, and to play them. In a random order. From a hat. Possibly of the camp-cowboy variety. The basic idea is for me to learn some form of patience and sticking-power with games, and to actually play the games that I seem to have wasted so much money on over the years. Hopefully, this will work.


Anyway, there’ll be more on that story later. Back to Lent, and why it sucks. As mentioned, I’m off games for fourty days. It’s really nothing other than a pure willpower exercise and competition against my girlfriend, who has given up something she adores in compensation (chocolate). It’s not going too badly, other than occasionally being tempted by seductive sultresses of games. Two vixens in particular (which I hadn’t expected to be attracted to) are Wurm Online and the MUD Achaea Online. Both very deep games, and both are total bastards to get into. Somehow, my almost sexual lust for gaming has landed on two of the ugliest motherfuckers around. For some reason, these are the ones I really want to play again. Yes, despite almost everyone in my student being entraced by Minecraft (and making some rather impressive structures) I am instead craving two games which I have taken up and given up several times before. Gah!

I have played Wurm Online before, and I always meant to write a post about it. Unfortunately, once I’d stopped playing the game and had actually sat down to write the post I was on the waning edge of my obsession and writing about the game in a positive light seemed like a nigh-impossible task. Another chance to write a post would be nice, but… to put it in perspective, the last time I played Wurm, I spent eight hours in a hole, mining myself a safe haven. That’s eight real-time hours, not in game hours. In a hole. Mining. I passed twenty-four hours of gaming within three days. For me, that amount of game-time is ridiculuous. I was hooked.

It seemed like the key were the goals I’d set for myself. See, Wurm places you into a fantasy setting, complete with goblins, and gives you one task; to survive. You’re on the frontier, and you are the first wave of civilisation into this wild area. It’s up to you to ride the wildness and to tame it. It’s a very compulsive idea, and I soon found myself grabbed. My short-term goal was to build a house. And I was hours away from doing that, even several ideas into the game. And I wasn’t even going for a mansion: I was aiming for a garden shed-sized building. One block in size. Even something as small as that was many hours work away, because of the skill system.

The skill system in Wurm is deep. And I mean deep. For instance, Carpentry is one of your main skills that splits into other sub-skills: Fine Carpentry, Toy Making, Fletching, Bowyery, and Ship Making. Each one levels up differently, and each is needed for different items. To gain points in a skill, you must create items, knock down trees, kill things – whatever ties into the skill. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. To create a simple mallet, you first cut down a tree, chop that felled tree into logs, carve that log into a wooden shaft and mallet head, then try to put them together. If you’re lucky, now you have your mallet. Should you be mortal like me, then it’s more than likely that you failed at some point along the chain and are now sitting in a pile of scrap wood, weeping at your inability to carve a simple wooden shaft. To begin with, each link along this chain has a chance of less than fifty percent of working, and combining the mallet would be much lower. Obviously, this goes up as your level increases, but the differences are slight, especially in the early stages of the game. To add insult to injury, your shaft may have gone into the head, but might now need filing, sanding or even, hilariously enough, bonking with a mallet to finish it off. Catch-22 scenarios like this are fairly common and this is very much a game for the hardcore and/or stubborn.

But anyway, enough of that tangent. I’m sure an actual post for Wurm will follow at some point. The ironic thing is, writing this has only made me want to play it even more. Fuck.

On that note, I’d better leave before I knaw my own arms off in lust for gratification from an interactive-visual medium.


Should you be the self-hating type, or just curious, Wurm Online can be found at http://www.wurmonline.com.

Damn That Snake!

I have a confession to make.

Months after making that post, I was led by the nose back into the accursed game which I love so much that I never play it.

Yes, I subscribed to EVE Online for a month. I regret doing so, as all people who have visited a seedy brothel do. But, like them, I hope to have left a wiser man. I’m wise enough to know that I’ll be visiting it’s turgid depths again though. Even if it did give me syphilis.

You have no idea how much I wanted to make a “your mum” joke in that last paragraph.

So, I went back to my old Caldari character for a month, hoping to do some missions and get some money and reputation. In non-EVE speak, I have a character specialising in missiles who does quests.

My hope was, as always, to get stuck into EVE and start enjoying it as much as my clan mates do. I did missions for about two days, and continued training my character for about three weeks. Yeah, I failed as epically as I usually do, and now I’m broke, which’ll hopefully stop me from charging wallet-first into it next time.

Again, I’d been brought into the EVE universe by talk from my friends and visions of doing these fun things for myself. Unfortunately, the fun part of EVE is totally overshadowed by the part of it which is no fun at all, and yet is totally vital; making money.

Ways of making Interstellar Kredits (ISK) involve one of the following:

  • Mining – this involves targeting an asteroid, turning on your mining lasers, and then al-tabbing out of game until your hold is full of minerals. Then you sell the minerals.
  • Ratting – grinding in MMO terms. You kill NPC mobs over and over again for the loot. Majorly boring, basically.
  • Mission running – this is the EVE version of quests; you pick up the mission from an NPC agent, and you complete the objectives given to you. This actually sounds like fun, until you realise that almost every single type of mission is the same. It’s either “go here and kill stuff”, or “go here and get stuff”. That’s it. That might sound incredibly similar to the World of Warcraft quests, and pretty much any MMO, but at least they give you stuff to look at. Once you’ve seen one starfield, you’ve pretty much seen them all.
  • Complex running – pretty much the same as instancing in WoW, only you’re not certified to be alone. If they can find you, anyone can jump into the complex to get you. So yeah, that can be jumpy. This is rather higher end than the other stuff though, so don’t expect to jump straight into doing this one.

I’m sure there are more, but I don’t really know what they are. Apparently planetary stuff has really taken off (lolirony) and can make you money, but I don’t know much about that.

From my personal experience of talking to many EVE players, the process of making money is a precursor to the fun part of the game, and a necessary evil. Because it is an evil. A boring, soul-destroying evil.

But I think that’s what a lot of players enjoy. It’s a totally immersive and hardcore game. The learning curve is the first test of that. It weeds out the players it doesn’t want or need in order to progress. EVE doesn’t want the carebear fest that WoW can be. It isn;t going to hold your hand, and it certainly won’t cuddle you after pirates have brutally taken you from behind. A trained monkey could reach level 80. It couldn’t play EVE. The totally immersive, real universe feel of EVE is something that brings in a lot of players.

And sadly, it’s not something that I go in for. I don’t have the patience, or indeed, the concentration to play it properly. I’m not ready for a second life. I struggle with having one most of the time. I like having games I can dip in and out of at my personal whims and desires. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t like that, and I could play games like EVE Online, Achaea: Dreams of Divine Lands and Wurm Online properly, and to the extent that they deserve. But that’s not me, and EVE isn’t my game.

The sooner I realise that, i can stop tempting myself back into it every few months. Damn shiny thing syndrome.

In the meantime, here’s a video that shows EVEs charms in a way that I couldn’t describe. Skip to about 50 seconds in, to trim the excessive intro.