NBI: List of Blogging Do’s and Don’ts #NBI

Newbie Blogger Initiative, Star Trek Online

May of 2012. It was a crazy world then. TERA had just launched, The Secret World was still in beta, and Aion just went Free-To-Play. Crazy. (Thanks to Syp for the timeline!) Also, the Newbie Blogger Initiative was in full swing, and Casual Aggro was a new and fledgling blog, waiting to be read and judged by the masses.

Hindsight is 20/20, of course. Over that time, a lot has surprised me, and I’ve learned more about myself than I ever thought I would. Mostly, I’m shocked I’m still writing. Seriously, usually I would have flaked out on something like this ages ago, and during a rough period where I got sick and depression got the better of me, I did end up taking a 2 month hiatus. But it didn’t knock me out, or mean that I was done. I may have been downed, but I pulled myself out and came back for another round. I may sometimes be a flake, but I’m also stubborn. 😛

So, here is an outpouring of accrued knowledge I’ve gained over the past 17 months, far from the multi-year’s worth of experience of others, but I hope it’s still something that you can take away from.

The Secret World, Agartha, Blogging

TO-DO

Write Down Your Ideas

You never know when inspiration is going to strike. Brilliance is going to strike at 2 AM, or on the drive home, or at the bar, or on the disc golf course, and if you think you’re going to remember it, you’re taking a big chance. What you might remember in the future might be different, or changed, it won’t be the brilliant flash. So, write it down! Thankfully, there are many ways to do this. Smartphones all have note apps, notecards work, any spare piece of paper, really, just write it down!

Be Social

Game blogging doesn’t happen all alone, it takes a village to raise a blogger. When one of us succeeds, all of us succeed. Just as a store’s employees are some of their biggest customers, the majority of eyes that will be on your blog are other bloggers, but that’s okay! Your audience and word of mouth will be your biggest promoters, so join in on that. Get yourself a Twitter account, and use it. Find other bloggers, retweet or repost their stuff, comment on their articles and read them, really read them. Now, you can’t read them all, and that’s okay, too, but following the old “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” rule, you can’t go wrong.

Spend A Good Chunk of Time on Your Title

The number one thing that will draw people to your post, whether it’s from others blogrolls, from Twitter, or any other site, will be your title. So, spend some time on it. Make it compelling, make it something you think others can’t resist reading. Think about why YOU click on any link, and work on your title from there. But then you should follow the next point…

Stay On Topic

If someone clicks on your link because they expect topic A, you shouldn’t hand them topics B and C. Give them A! So stay on the topic you promised. If I visited a site and the post ended up being something different than the title, I wouldn’t be reading it for much longer.

Widen Your Gaming Experience 

People like to read about others new experiences, mainly because starting something new is risky. I was never big on grouping, and am mainly a solo gamer. This hasn’t changed, but I have started grouping a lot more, and it’s still outside my comfort zone. But that’s okay. Try something you would never imagine yourself doing: PvP, Raid, Roleplay, play a popular military shooter or a new indie game. Just try new things, and tell us all about it.

Guild Wars 2, Whale

Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery

Trying to find a truly creative source for your blog is difficult. Really difficult. Those that do it are working on a whole other creative level. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking inspiration from other’s sites. For example, all of my screenshots have roll-over text, ala XKCD. My blog’s main image switches and shows game images like Bio Break and Kill Ten Rats, and I try to use a lot of screenshots like Massively. If it works for them, it might work for you. However, signing my posts is something I’ve made up. Not everything needs to be borrowed from others.

Make your RSS Links Easy To Find

Google Reader may have shut down, but just because it has, that doesn’t mean Rich Site Summary feeds are dead. Far from it. They’ve just switched providers. Currently I have my Feedly looking at 100+ gaming blogs, and even this is nothing compared to other bloggers. So, the easier you make it to find the RSS link on your site, the less there is in the way of having someone add your blog to their RSS aggregator. Also, if you have a podcast, make that link easy to find as well! I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to want to subscribe to a podcast, but then find out the podcast has no direct RSS Feed link. Even if it’s only on iTunes, there is still a way to find that link. The more barriers you take down for others to reach your content, the more they will read it.

Write When You Have Something To Say

Updating frequently is a good thing, and is a good thing to strive for, but if you’re writing “just to post something”, you’re doing a disservice to your readers. If you’re writing just to have SOMETHING, namely your quality is going to suffer. Some blogs post very rarely, but if all of their posts are high quality, it doesn’t matter if they post once every two months, you’ll still be more likely to read it. On the opposite end, if the majority of your posts are the writing equivalent of “white noise”, even your loyal readers are more likely to pass it over.

Promote Yourself, But Be Humble

Imagine you’re in a car dealership, and you’re looking at a brand new, 2014 Blahdeblah. The salesperson comes over and tells you “Oh. This car? Well… it doesn’t get the best gas mileage. The seats aren’t that comfortable, and after a few miles, the engine tends to make a funny noise.” Are you going to buy the car? Most likely not. Be proud of what you write! Promote it! Tell it to others! Let THEM be the judge of your quality. There is a time for self-deprecation, but when you’re promoting your blog, that isn’t the time. The other side of this is that you don’t want to go too far into arrogance. It’s not as fine a line as you think, though it is easy to cross sometimes. Humility will draw others to you, arrogance will push them away.

Write What You Want to Read

More than anything, you’re writing for yourself, and your target audience is essentially YOU. So, write what you would like to read. Your style, be it long prose, or short thought-provoking pieces. Nothing but screenshots, or haiku. If you find what you’re writing interesting, that will show and improves the chances that others will find it interesting, too. If you’re passionate about your topics, that passion will flow, and your target audience, other gamers like you, will see that.

Skyrim

NOT-TO-DO

Be An Elitist Jerk

Are you the 1% of the gaming elite? The kind of player that actively looks down on other gamers they deem beneath them? Do you frequently find you seriously use the term Noob, Scrub, Welfare Gamer, etc.? Then why are you writing? Who do you think your audience is going to be? The other 1% of gamers? No. If all you’re talking about are top raids, and how you have to carry everyone else, all you’re doing is stroking your own ego. It’s tacky and arrogant. Get over yourself.

Plagiarize

Seriously. Writing is not my number one skill, but even I know how low this is. I can’t think of anyone who has done this in recent memory, and it’s not a rampant problem, but just don’t do it. You know what is good? Quoting others, linking to other sites that you find info from. Always give credit to your sources. Always. Even if you’re just writing a discussion piece off of some other blog, give credit to the source as inspiration. They’ll appreciate it, and be more willing to pay attention to what you say. It’s just good karma.

Be Hard on Yourself

If you miss a week or two, eh, it’s no big deal. I started off writing this blog and put myself on a strict once per three days schedule. This lasted… pretty much three days. For days I would see it on my calendar: Write a post! Overdue! I was being hard on myself, but it didn’t really push me to write, it pushed me to NOT write. I was just being hard on myself for not living up to my own expectations. The schedule I wanted to post wasn’t the schedule I could actually post, and it depressed me, and caused me to take a month long break. I was simply being too hard on myself. If you don’t live up to your own expectations, give yourself a break.

Be Negative Without Constructive Criticism

Rants will happen, and a rant from time to time isn’t going to hurt, it’s only human. But if all you do is complain, and don’t offer suggestions on how to fix the problems you see, then you’re quickly going to gain a reputation as a complainer. A “This game sux!” post just looks immature and trolling, and nobody is going to take it seriously. However, if you post what you think is wrong, and offer ways to fix them, or examples in other games of where something works, you might even become a force of change.

Apologize For Taking a Break

This is hard to avoid, sometimes, and the best of us will do it periodically, but when you apologize, the assumption is that you did others wrong. That others are dying to read what you say soooooo much that you not posting has wronged them in some way. When you apologize for taking a break, the true person you’re really apologizing to is yourself. And like I said earlier, don’t be so hard on yourself. Plus, if a blogger is constantly apologizing for not posting, it takes away from what they’re posting about. If you plan on taking a break, maybe consider taking on guest bloggers, or just not mention it at all. If your readers consider your posts high quality, it won’t matter the time in between posts, they still want to read it.

Flame Others

Again, this is common courtesy. If you don’t like what someone else posts, don’t flame it, use it as counterpoint. Attacking others will quickly push your readers away. But actively reading a post you don’t agree with and writing your side of the story creates discussion and civilized debate. And isn’t that what we are, a civilized society? A rule to live by: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Flame

So, there you go. My hope is that, even with all the grains of salt you are taking with this post, that there is something here that will assist you. I may not have been blogging for a long time, but I have learned a lot, and if I can even help one other blogger with this post, just one, it will make it entirely worth it.

// Ocho

Keep Calm and Blog On

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Guilds: What For?

Secret World, Headstand

This is a “Talk Back Challenge” post, created for the Newbie Blogger Initiative. This sort of post is designed to encourage conversation about a broad topic and to entice conversation about the topic. One of the New Blogs on the Block (NBOTB), Away From Game, has been tasked with writing about the same topic. So, once you are done with my post, please go check theirs out. Or now. Whatever works for you. I’m easy. If you are coming from the NBI pages, feel free to comment, or write a piece of your own and link back. As always, thank you for reading! 🙂

First, a universal truth: The shortest distance between any two points is a straight line.

The reason this truth is so universal is it not only applies to Euclidean geometry, but to the world at large. The easiest answer is most likely the correct one. When walking, our collective feet naturally create the pathways that make the most sense, even if it’s not on the pavement. Scientists look at patterns found in nature, and they resemble patterns we use or could use in our lives. In other words, we will always take the easiest path to achieve our goals. Keep this in mind.

Guilds are the primary social structure of these MMOs that we play. We use them to chat with others, to share resources, and to run group-oriented content. But what is our motivation for joining them? Is it because we are social creatures and that we feel that our addition to a guild can make the overall guild better? Or, really, do we join them for purely selfish reasons?

Star Trek Online, Need, Greed

Except Damianus, and whoever that Ambrose fool is, it’s all about the Need!

Time and time again, I’ve seen that MMO gamers have proven themselves to be selfish. I mean, just take a look at the picture on the left there. I took that in Star Trek Online just a couple of days ago. In a random group with random strangers, for an event that lasts less than a few minutes, almost every single person, on every piece of loot dropped, when given a choice of whether to “Greed” it or “Need” the item, chose “Need”. Did they really need it? No, of course they didn’t! In a random group, hitting “Greed” on a drop, in this case, was literally handing the loot to someone else.

With loot being one of the primary paths to success, having more loot is the straightest path to our goals, even if that involves skirting the social mores of fairness. If our goal is to reach the top level fastest, we will take Experience Boosters, or only do the missions that reward the most Experience points. If our goal is to make the most money, we will farm the most profitable materials we can sell to others, we will manipulate the in-game auction house to corner the market on goods, and we will essentially spend our gaming time eeking out the highest Gold/hour ratio we possibly can. And if our goal is to get all the best end-game gear, only obtainable through grouping and raids, we will join guilds that make this process easier.

So if our collective gaming goal is one of selfishness, that we are just trying to improve our own characters, why do we form guilds at all? In my opinion, we form guilds paradoxically because it raises our individual success. If, in a dungeon, you join a PUG with random players, they are more likely to exhibit behaviors found in the above Need/Greed example. A random group is less likely to complete the dungeon in the first place than an organized group, and then when loot drops, they are less likely to be fair about it’s distribution. An organized group is significantly more likely to be fair in it’s loot distribution as well as it’s competency, thus improving individual progression chances.

This is even more evident when players drop a guild they are in and move to a big raiding guild. On an example I have made previously, once guild members reach the upper echelons, and the current guild they’re in isn’t giving them any more progression, they will generally seek greener pastures that will.

Secret World, TSW, Polaris

This should be no surprise, though, as it is also found in nature:

We’re used to thinking of social groups as fundamentally cooperative entities, but with some kinds of groups, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the best-known biological theory of herding, William Hamilton’s “selfish herd” idea, proposes that herds are the result of individuals trying to ensure that other members of their species, rather than themselves, will get eaten by predators.Michael Price, From Darwin to Eternity

“Get eaten by predators” may be extreme, none of us are eaten by a predator when we lose a loot roll, but the execution is similar. At the end of a boss fight, a piece of loot can only be distributed to one individual. That individual significantly improves, but the group only improves if that one individual continues to play with them. The choice, ultimately, is in the hands of the player.

Now, I could just have this stance because I haven’t had the best of luck with guilds in the past. They would either demand ridiculous amounts of time, or have almost zero activity that made staying in them the same as not being in a guild at all. And now? With my transitive nature, the best guild I’m in is one with players in multiple games, with Twitter our primary contact. So it goes.

I know this isn’t the most efficient manner of getting loot, but then not all of us join guilds just for the loot alone.

// Ocho

StarbaseUGC’s Purity and the Newbie Blogger Initiative 2: Electric Boogaloo

Lord of the Rings Online, The Shire, Hobbits

Happy October all!

October is a great time of year, one of my favorite months. The leaves are turning colors, pumpkin beers start lining the shelves, and the smell of campfires fill the air. It’s that fantastic time of year where I can have my windows open at home and not need the air conditioning or the heat, and all that is needed to stave off the cold on chilly mornings is a light longsleeve shirt.

It’s a great time of year to be a gamer, too. Game companies start ramping up for the holiday season, and with humanity’s retreat back indoors, content for our games is released like crazy to draw our attention their way. I remember back when I played World of Warcraft I took many breaks from the game, but when I returned, seeing the Halloween event in full-swing was common.

It’s hard to argue that the holiday that really starts the tide of content is Halloween. Lord of the Rings Online’s Haunted Burrow will most like be making a comeback, ArenaNet considers Halloween to be the biggest event of the year and always goes all out with the Mad King, WoW celebrates with candy, costumes, and headless bosses, STO releases the creepy episode Hearts and Minds, and the list goes on.

But this year, starting TODAY, October 1st, there are two big events that I want to make you all aware of and point you towards: The Newbie Blogger Initiative 2, the second coming of the event that launched a thousand blogs, and StarbaseUGC’s Star Trek Online Foundry Featured Episode Series, Purity!

Skyrim, Dragons, Fall

Newbie Blogger Initiative 2

The Newbie Blogger Initiative, or NBI, for short, is something that I hold dear, namely because it was what gave me the boost I needed to get me from being just a casual gamer, to being just a casual blogger. I kid, but as far as new experiences go, this one has been pretty awesome. The NBI opened me up to the larger game blogging community, has improved my writing and communication skills, has opened me up to new experiences, and has given me a new angle to view these games we play from. The prolific Syp gave us 2012 NBI Vets a headstart on blogging, a shot of eyeballs and advice, and now the favor is being passed forward.

A new Newbie Blogger Initiative officially starts today and will last all of October! This time around, Doone from T.R. Red Skies and Roger from Contains Moderate Peril have taken the reins, opened up a set of forums for new bloggers, and already the sponsors are lining up to offer their sage wisdom. At last count, 28 different game blog writers, with experience ranging from game development to professional writing to podcasting to being able to awesomely coordinate outfits and kick ass while doing so, have all thrown their epic head slot armors into the NBI 2013 ring.

So if you are on the fence about possibly starting up your own corner of the Internet, hopefully this endeavor is able to push you to give it a real shot. And really, with such a large, helpful community backing you up, you really don’t have anything to lose and quite a lot to gain.

Star Trek Online, Foundry, Star Trek

StarbaseUGC Presents: Purity

The Foundry in Star Trek Online often feels like the red-headed-stepchild of the game. The toolset enables all players to match wits with the writers of one of the most iconic IP’s in history, and tell their own story using the vast base of canon that has come before. On paper, it is a monument of epic proportions and is the glory of the Star Trek universe. In reality… not so much. Lackluster support from the developers and a playerbase that largely ignores it, it suffers. Without proper direction, finding user-generated missions that are high quality is no easy task. Thankfully, this is where StarbaseUGC steps in.

StarbaseUGC is a site designed for the Star Trek Online Foundry user. The site provides resources for both new authors and veterans alike, and should be the first place you go if you want to start the process.

To show their Star Trek prowess, StarbaseUGC launches today the first episode in a weekly story arc that will run until November 5th, a new episode every Tuesday. The episode “Purity: Of Denial” by Zorbane, will be available for all level 31+ Federation and Federation-Aligned Romulan Captains, and can be found from the Foundry tab of the Mission Journal. Check out the trailer below.

When Star Trek Online announced weekly episode missions, it was the next day that I purchase my Lifetime subscription. 3 years later, and they have come out with, what, four story arcs? I still consider my STO Lifetime a good purchase, as it has more than paid for itself, but their promise of weekly content has fallen by the wayside. Understandable, but still a shame. So I’m excited to see what StarbaseUGC is bringing to the Foundry and I will definitely be playing along (and reporting about it).

So will Zorbane knock the first chapter out of the park? Will Cerberusfilms be lifted to the level of minor celebrity?! Will Syp ever not sing a sea shanty over Teamspeak?!! Will YOU be the next breakout author of the Newbie Blogger Initiative and teach all of us a thing or two?!!! Tune in next time for the answers (maybe) to these thrilling questions!

Same Casual Aggro time! Same Casual Aggro channel!

// Ocho

The Newbie Blogger Initiative – 1 Year Later

Would you look at that… a full year has passed, and Casual Aggro is still up and running. Believe me, I’m as shocked as you are. Although I had a few warm-up posts, I claim the real starting date of this blog to be May 1st, 2012, when Syp of Massively and Bio Break started a movement to help new bloggers find their footing in this crazy interwebz.

So, Happy Anniversary to all my fellow NBI brethren! To which, I’m happy to say, there are many still around.

After taking a look at the full list of blogs posted back on May 30th, 2012, there were 111 new blogs formed during the initiative. I opened up every single one to take a look and see how many were still active (yes, I had 100+ tabs open in Chrome and my PC didn’t blink… this thing is a BEAST), and the results surprised me. One would expect a great number of these blogs to have slowed down or stopped updating entirely, and a great number did. However, a large number did not close up shop and are still updating today! In figuring these numbers, any blog that has updated anytime in the past month qualified as being “active”.

And, guess what? Out of the 111 starting blogs, 28 are still active today, giving a retention rate of over 25%!! So, yeah, I’d call it a huge success!

So, out of the 28, I’d like to spotlight a few of them as blogs that you should add to your RSS feed immediately.

Ravalation

Spearheaded by the fantastic Ravanel Griffon, Ravalation is all about the adventures and misadventures of her time gaming in Lord of the Rings Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic. She is also the most prolific blogger in the entire group of 111, and her words jump off the page with so much energy that you can’t help but be a fan! I know I am. If you check out one blog from the NBI 2012 group, make sure it’s this one.

Most recent post: LOTRO’s 6-Year Anniversary!

MMO Juggler

If there’s a game-jumper who even out-jumps myself, it’s the MMO Juggler. Everything from Lord of the Rings Online, to Age of Wushu, to EVE Online, to Guild Wars 2, to The Secret World. You name it, he’s probably played it and has a comprehensive write-up about it. Now THAT’s dedication.

Most recent post: GW2 Lowbie Zone Exploration

MMO One Night A Week

No, I didn’t just pick Kanter‘s blog because he based his latest blog post after something I wrote (which I’m very flattered about, by the way). I’ve been reading his blog for the past year, and I love the premise as it’s a universal one: Not enough time, but a love of gaming. Although most of his gaming time is spent in World of Warcraft these days, a game I’m not too terribly fond of, I still like to hear about his exploits from the perspective of an uber-busy gaming fan.

Most recent post: MMOs and Gambling

Conveniently Placed Exhaust Port

Forgive me Jason, but I did not start following you on Twitter until today. However, I’ve been following your blog for quite a while!

For those of you who aren’t Jason, yesterday’s rant on Candy Crush Saga, for example, is a must read. Seriously. Go check it out. Jason mixes his impressions of games with a humor that is spot-on and 100% relatable.

Most recent post: The aforementioned Letter to Candy Crush Saga

Trust me when I say that these are not the only worthwhile blogs out there from the Newbie Blogger Initiative group. Here is a list of the remaining active blogs, please go and check them out:

Why I Game / Healing Mains / Stynlan’s Musings /  Neurotic Girl / Warp to Zero / Dreadblade / White Charr / FunSponge / World’s End Tavern / Wynniekins’ Adventures / That Was An Accident / Altaclysmic / The Adventures of Danania / Red’s Roid Rage / Bloodthorne / Unwavering Sentinel / Sephora’s Closet / Warlockery / Elfkina Vezicka (Slovak) / Beyond Tannhauser Gate / Noob Raider (Japanese) / The Delver / Geotia’s Letters

That’s a much easier list to swallow than the whole 111 that started.

So, again, I wanted to give a huge Thank You to Syp for starting the movement in the first place, and an even bigger Thank You to all of my friends, supporters, and readers who make me look forward to creating my future posts.

You all rock!

// Ocho

P.S. – I still can’t believe I lost the “Promising Star” Award by only 3 votes… to a blog that is not even active anymore! Ah well. So it goes…

Newbie Blogger Initiative: Month Wrapup

What a long strange trip it’s been. No, really, this month has been absolutely incredible.

The Newbie Blogger Initiative was essentially a month of tried and tested blogs promoting and sponsoring new and just-off-the-boat blogs, like Casual Aggro, all in the name of community, goodwill, and mutual interest. To call it a success is an understatement. My little part of the blogging universe has seen incredible numbers that still leave me gobsmacked. And I really have Syp to thank for all of it.

Without his initial support you, an awesome person who has taken the time to come and read my ramblings, would probably not have stopped by. However, I am certainly glad you have and I hope that you enjoy what you are reading. If you are, drop me a line! If you don’t, drop me a line, too, and let me know where I could use improvement.

If you have enjoyed my random insights into gaming today, you might also enjoy any of these fine blogs as well. This list is very comprehensive, but if one of them catches your interest, please give it a look. The author, karma, and I thank you.

New blogs to check out:

Sponsor advice posts:

That’s a serious list, right? I hope that in the coming weeks, I’ll be able to peruse all of them and then pass on some great stuff.

1 month down and hopefully many more to go.

\\ Ocho

Dungeons and Dragons Online is Different… But In A Good Way

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m in a regular gaming group. I know, I know. Me. Why is this a surprise? Well, gaming has never been one of my big hobbies until recently. Sure, I played games and I was a fan, but I was never the “gaming group” kind of guy. Raiding? Nah. Never liked scheduling gaming. What made me switch, I guess, was Twitter. I started using Twitter a few months ago for the giveaways and prize opportunities you see from time to time and at the same time I started following a few of my favorite writers, game companies, bloggers and well… one thing led to another. Syp, a very prolific blogger and spearhead of the Newbie Blogger Initiative (of which I am a part of), posted a question if anyone wanted to form a Dungeons and Dragons Online gaming group. My first thought was… Nah. No way. Its not me. Despite this, though, I found myself saying “Yeah, sure!” and after the feeling of foreboding that formed in my stomach cleared and we started playing I started really having fun… and found out exactly how much all the MMO experience I have from other games is worth nothing in Dungeons and Dragons Online. Here are a few things of what makes DDO different.

Character Creation

The way characters are created and how they level up is completely different, and this is where I feel the most inexperienced. I created a Bard, which I assumed would stand in the back, play a little music, and essentially offer support. So how does it play? A Two-Handed Axe wielding damage dealer that gets up in your face! Every once in a while I’ll play a song or two to buff my group or daze some enemies, but really its all about going toe-to-toe and smacking baddies upside the head. This has confused me to no end.

Character Creation overall is very open. Every level you gain is a momentous occasion! So much so, that you don’t automatically level. The choices made during leveling are so important, it gives you as much time as you need to figure it out. Most other MMOs you visit your trainer and get new skills, but in DDO you have the ability to gain the abilities of other classes entirely. Say you start a rogue. Well, after a couple of levels you could switch it up and take the rest of your levels as a wizard. This could help to increase evasion in combat or help you with traps. Multi-classing seems to be a very popular thing to do in DDO as it helps create very customized builds.

Personally, although I love a lot of depth when it comes to character creation, I’m afraid of it becoming an illusion of choice. If you don’t pick the best options, then you can very easily break your character and make it so you become less effective at the high levels of the game. I guess I’ll find out, although if anyone experienced has advice about building Bards, I’d be happy to hear it.

I’ve got bad news… I think I dropped my keys…

Loot

Just like other games, beating up bad guys, opening chests (which might be trapped, by the way), and completing quests gets you loot. The loot, though, is just… different. Its hard to explain. Instead of getting gear with stats where the weapons you have are based on your class, loot is meant to simply complement your skills chosen during leveling. If you pick proficiency in swords, you can still wield a club, it just won’t do as much damage or your chance to hit won’t be as high as a sword, but the club might be better against some enemies. Armor can protect you, but it also makes you less dexterous or can make your spells fizzle. Boots, wrists, rings, helm, and cloak instead of offering armor and stats can give you a new spells to cast, or buff a skill, like “spot” or “listen”.  So the way loot is given, confusion easily sets in when every item choice is not an obvious upgrade. Suddenly, I could wear a cloak that increases my Charisma, or wear a cloak that lets me cast “Mage Armor”. I right now have both… as I really can’t choose between them as I still don’t have a full grasp on what my character can do.

Traps and Puzzles

Picture this, you’re sneaking through a dungeon (because everyone can sneak, too… just maybe not as effectively as others) and your senses point you out to a trap ahead. A trap. Nothing obvious, like a spot of fire on the ground that you shouldn’t stand in, but a spot where spikes will come out of the ground and run you through. If you’re a rogue, you could try disarming it. If you have enough skill in “Jump”, you could jump past it and try to avoid the damage. Tricky. Or when you hit a lever, the floor gives out just like you’re Indiana Jones or something. This truly makes every dungeon feel a little more suspenseful. There could be a trap right in front of you, and if you don’t have the proper skills, you would never know until it hit you.

Then, the prize you seek is sitting on top of a pedestal surrounded by a bubble of magic. How do you get rid of it? By shifting floor panels on the ground until a beam of light hits the pedestal. A puzzle! Not a difficult puzzle, mind you, but a puzzle! A real puzzle! Now, I haven’t been playing it that long, but I really can’t wait to encounter some real mind-benders. Not going to cheat and use a guide, either. In my opinion, that just takes away the fun, but the more puzzles in the game the better.

Killing Monsters Does Not Give Experience

Unless the quest was to specifically kill a monster, experience is gained by completing quest objectives and you get no experience for killing monsters. This means that if you’re not the most hardy of characters, and killing the monster isn’t necessary, you could just sneak past them. Most times, they don’t even have loot on them. Unlike other games where you could pass a group of mobs, but doing so means missing out on their loot and experience, there is no penalty for skipping them. It becomes a tactical choice instead of mandatory or a punishment. This gives the feeling that every encounter is important, and gives many different ways to complete each quest.

The weekly DDO group watching the scene unfold below.

A Brave New World

Overall, all of this leads to one conclusion: I have no idea what I’m doing. I probably won’t for quite a while, either. The learning curve is pretty steep. With all of these points, even though some of them can be found in other games, like puzzles in Star Trek Online or situational loot like in Guild Wars, they really set Dungeons and Dragons Online apart. My main fear is somehow messing up my character with the really complex character system, but this is the way Dungeons and Dragons players like it.

Even though it’s totally out of character for me, I’m really glad that I’ve joined this weekly group. Not only are the guys I’m playing with awesome, but the game itself is growing on me week after week.

\\ Ocho

P.S. – For some good reading, check out some of the blogs by fellow weekly group members: Professor Beej, Psychochild’s Blog, Warrior Needs Time Badly, and Bio Break (although Syp hasn’t found time to play with us, despite starting the group in the first place. 😛 )

Newbie Blogger Initiative, A Huge Thank You

Newbie Blogger Initiative NBI

When I started this blog oh so long ago (about 3 days), I did NOT think that it would take off as it has. The hits, the comments, the discussion, and the support has been absolutely tremendous. It gives me such a rush that I am very compelled to keep this up and keep the discussion and love of all things gaming going!

I owe it all to Syp, a Senior Contributing Editor at Massively.com and the owner of Bio Break, and the creation of the Newbie Blogger Initiative. The Newbie Blogger Initiative is a movement, in the words of Syp, “To facilitate the start-up of new blogs by providing them with advice, support, and a crapton of traffic after they’re settled in.” ‘Crapton’ has been an understatement.

So if you have stopped by this blog and feel like checking out anything from my Newbie Blogger brethren, please do. The MMO and gaming community is one that is very united and strong, the support has been fantastic, and lets keep the love going! So if you are inclined please visit any blog on my Blogroll on the left side of the page or click on the image above. Again, thank you all.

\\ Ocho