Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Good Things

Continuing in the footsteps of of Bootae and Gaarawarr (and not Martha Stewart, who runs a column every month with the same name), I too will attempt to list my 5 favourite things about Warhammer, with perhaps if I'm lucky, a spin on why my whole family enjoys it.

1. The artwork
I am continually astounded by the artwork in this game. Each of the pairings have their own perfectly realized settings,architechture, monsters and quests, and even style of quests. I love the quirky, sometimes silly greenskin content as well as the blustering dwarves and their scottish accents and constant invitions to have a drink. All the chaos-imbued lands make me actually shudder, especially when I come across a bloody great eye embedded in stone or a series of those creepy floating stones or even just the unnaturally glowing runes carved into trees. The struggling human side makes me sad, or mad, or something that gives my KOTBS a purpose. Elven lands and their darker side are just that -- pretty, nature-y places with unthinkably beautiful architecture, and the despoiling of the same.

But the best part of the art is the attention given to staying true to the Games Workshop original art, by which I mean the avatars and monsters in the game. Hubby and I long ago used to paint Warhammer miniatures (and even played the tabletop game once or twice). Now our armies happen to be ones not really currently in the game (mine are wood elves and his are undead -- so I'm guessing we'll see more of his guys soonish with the whole Land of the Dead, and I'm keepin my fingers crossed for a new player race of Wood Elves somewhere down the line). Interestingly enough, all that long time ago (like almost 10 years ago), we have painted miniatures that we have actually seen in the game.
For example:

This guy vs this guy:

or this cool scorpion and its counterpart:

some of hubby's skeletons and a few in WAR clamouring for my attention:

and some of our most recently painted Skaven and an in-game version.

So whenever we come across monsters that are really cool, I really, really -- ok, even another really -- want to paint them. (I have a list *, and it keeps on growing.) Even though I don't play a chosen, I want to paint one. I found a miniature that comes closest to my shadow warrior and I want to paint it up in the colours my shadow warrior has. We are lucky to have a Games Workshop close at hand (in the mall we frequent) and I carefully survey each blister pack looking to add to my "to paint" list, or to my mental inventory of ones we will buy should we ever have time to paint again. We've even got the kids painting, or at least started (with the two free Space Marines they got last time we stopped in to have a look-see).

2. The ease of playing
Now this is mostly from the point of view of a parent watching/helping a youngster play the game, but own point of view (which I'll get to later) is not really much different. I like that the girls can easily find quest givers, and a
re starting to get the hang of looking for the red outlines on their map and mousing over to see what they need to accomplish there. I like that that the Tome (oh I love the Tome!) keeps track of all the quests for you so you can go back and read the text if you need to because you missed something in the steps of the quest, or by blithely accepting quests without reading the quests. I'm mostly talking about my youngest here, but I do it myself lots of the time.

I know that some people think that dumbing the game down detracts from the game experience, and while I agree to some extent (I, for instance, loved talking to each and every person in Norrath --EQ1 days -- trying to see if they had something for me to do or if they were the person I was supposed to find), I find that these days, with my limited play time, I like that I can quickly knock off quests without all that depth. Also, when we go for days (sometimes even a week or two) without logging on, I love that
my map and my quest log are still showing what I was working on last and what I still have to do, so it doesn't take a lot of time to get back into the game.

3. The depth to the world
Ok, so having read #2, you're going to think I'm crazy, but I also love the depth of the world. The rivalries between the sides of the pairings; the insight gained when you actually read the unlock you just got; the hidden quests that add an
other dimension. I really do love these, especially when I have time to just explore the world and go my own pace. It doesn't happen often, mind you, but I love that when it does happen that I have time, I can dive more deeply into the world and come up with meaning for what I'm doing.

4. Chickens

I think this
is sooooooo hilarious. The first time it happened to hubby, we had no idea what was going on. Literally, we stood around wondering what kind of spell could do that to somebody. It took a while, but when we did manage to figure out that he had levelled to 12 and realized the built in mechanic, we laughed long and hard. I haven't had loads of time to run around and do the lower tier scouting quests as a chicken, but I thoroughly enjoyed the one time I did do a chicken run. I loved Garawarr's epic post of his day of running all the Empire PQs along with the descriptions of various people turning into chickens along the way. I even -- get this -- love the sound you make as you run/fly around. Go try jumping as a chicken. Very amusing :)

5. Titles
The first game in which we actively tried to acquire titles was LOTRO, and they have quite a few nice ones. I remember being especially proud of getting my Sherrif title on my hobbit, though I was a bit upset about the spelling, being a Tolkien purist. Warhammer though, upped the ante on the sheer overwhelming number of titles that you can acquire in the game. And while some of them are a bit boring, most are very nice, and a good number are fairly easy to get, especially if you have a cheat sheet. Liena has my favourite so far (for her character) -- which is Heritor of War. It was an easy unlock (and stumbled upon by accident, mind you), but what I like about this title -- it suits my idea of her character, and it's fairly unique.

In fact, with the sheer volume of titles so far, more people have unique monikers than I've ever seen in other games. A chosen title can give you a bit of an inkling about the character or even the player's personality. I sometimes change them around to suit my mood as well. For instance, for St. Patrick's Day, I dyed all my characters' armour green (dye is my #6 fav -- both the ease and the fact that the colours are named after actual GW paints) and gave them all the title "The Green", just for the day.

The first title my girls go for as soon as they can is "Skeleton Hunter" (another easy, but usually bypassed one), though they really love to see that they get new titles when they're doing stuff. In fact, one of my oldest's favourite things about her foray into scenarios was the lightning fast updates of titles she got as she got killed repeatedly in the first few minutes.

Sooooooooooo... Those are just my 5 favourite things about Warhammer Online, and I could probably go on with more. I'm sure others have their own favourites too. It just goes to show that it's not all grumpy nay-sayers out there. They're just usually the most vocal.

* For those who are keeping tabs, here's the list (so far) of the mobs I want to paint/try to find so that I can paint them:
  • All the trolls -- I love the trolls
  • Flamers/horrors
  • A chosen, mounted A shadow warrior
  • A Knight of the Blazing Sun (note that we have about a dozen mounted Bretonnia knights, but none of them look like my KOTBS)
  • A Dwarven Runepriest (see how I spelled it all together Dont?) -- for my hubby
  • Squigs! (I have a herder)
  • Night gobbos -- I love these guys
  • That humongous guy in the arena in IC, with the skulls all over and that enormous chain
  • A lobber
Yikes, I could keep going on forever, this is the first time I've tried to write down the list that's in my head. I'll stop here though -- you get the idea.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Parenting Gamers...

"Underpinning this debate is an age-old truth; we fear what we don’t understand and many parents today don’t know, understand or get gaming. Why do kids have this passionate love affair with video games? How can they invest so much of themselves in blowing up zombies, decorating an igloo or slaying trolls? How do kids get their thumbs and brains to work in tandem when they can’t seem to find their way to the laundry basket?

As parents, many of us struggle with issues like appropriate game play, game systems and appropriate titles. Or maybe we’re not even part of the conversation and have allowed our kids to parent themselves through the video game landscape.
What is a parent’s role in managing the video-gaming habits of their kids?"

The above is an excerpt from an invitation that I received the other day from my daughters' school. It's a seminar where you can learn about video gaming and what parents should do about it -- gaming, that is. While I'm sure lots of other parents are chomping at the bit, I don't really think we need to go to it. Since we actively play most of the games that the girls are playing, we know what they're up to. Granted, this may change as they get older, but probably not too much.

I guess I have no fear of gaming (and the internet in general) because, to some extent I do understand. I'm connected all the time, except when I'm asleep or out of the house. I Facebook, check my email almost religiously, and yes, I play games. I understand about "passionate love affairs" with video games. I am the type of person who easily gets addicted to playing, and I know that my younger daughter, at the least, is very much like me in that regard. Right up until my first daughter was born, I would be glued to the computer playing whatever game was my current favourite. That was well and good when the games were single player and had an end (Tomb Raider series, mostly), but once I stepped into the MMO world, I got swept up, and literally had to drag myself away when it was time to cook or sleep.

That's what happens, and I know it happens, so I'm on the lookout for it happening to my girls. I've seen Second Skin, and I've known people who have ruined their lives over games, and I hope it doesn't come to that for them. Being born and raised around computers is a good thing, I'm sure.

They started out with educational games. Always on mommy or daddy's lap, learning how to count, ABC and move the mouse properly (this is at 18 months old, approximately). Moving on to reading and math games as they got a little older and were getting ready to start school. Being allowed to move mommy's avatar around in whatever world we were currently playing once they were able to figure out how to do that. Reading quests and running around with their own avatars once they could read and understand what to do (we're still working on this with the younger one, but she's getting it). Wii games and DS games are a little less educational, but they still have to figure stuff out.

Worlds like Webkinz and Club Penguin gave them a flavour for meeting their friends online and appeal to their love of cute things. Heck, I even play Webkinz too -- I even have my own account! (Some of the games are really fun!) I've seen them invest themselves wholeheartedly into decorating rooms for their Webkinz pets, learning Karate with their penguin pals, and drawing art and putting it on billboards in their JumpStart World. And I've watched carefully as they blithely blow up orcs or other "bad guys" with magic or chop them to bits with a sword. Occasionally they'll question why they have to kill another elf or human, or a cuddly looking bear, but hey, I had the same question in Tomb Raider when I had to shoot that little monkey to get the blasted key he stole.

So we talk about what is real, what's not, and make a place for fantasy in our lives. Whether it's letters to the Easter bunny or fairy penpals, or wandering in a world with orcs and goblins, or sitting around a table playing a roleplaying game that we made up ourselves based on books they're into, we all need a little fantasy. I know I need to escape the real world sometimes, and I'm sure they do too.

We do have rules though, usually made up when they're needed (like when we first started out with Webkinz we had to make a turn schedule and stick it to the computer so we knew when and how long each girl could have on the computer). Obviously they can't play when they're at karate class or their other active endeavours, and they certainly wouldn't choose to sit at home on the computer on a beautiful day when they could be bike riding with their friends. And they're still at an age when homework is fun -- though my older girl screams through it to get to the next activity. So not too much inactivity and screen time at this stage.

It helps that they usually only get to use my computer (and yes, it's in a central room), so they only get to use it when I'm not (which really isn't very often). And I realize that the time is coming when they'll need to use the computer for homework, or want to message their friends every minute of the day, so my time will become even more limited. (Hey, I remember having to spend hours on the phone with the friends I had just seen a few minutes before -- at least texting is much quieter!) Maybe by the time they're ready for all that they'll also stay up later, so we may need to invest in another computer so I can get my gaming time in.

But that can't be all bad, cause then we could play more games together. And that's the main thing, and the real reason I don't need to go to the seminar. Our kids want to play with us, and we'll encourage that for a good long time.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bunny business in WAR

So there I was, walking along minding my own business in Dragonwake, when this cute little bunny hopped up behind me, looking mischievous. I followed along behind him for a while, to see what he would do.

A passing Shining Warspear wanted to know what I was doing. Did he know if this bunny was up to something strange? He pleaded ignorance, and I couldn't tell if he was telling me all he knew. I followed the bunny for a while, but he didn't lead me anywhere interesting, though there were some interesting nose twitches, and one time he even rose up on his back legs and touched me conspiratorally on the leg.

So I went on to Caledor, looking for more signs of spring in the air. I found loads of these trees in full bloom, but it wasn't quite what I was looking for. So I gave up on finding what I was looking for in Elf land and travelled to the Empire.

In Reikland, I finally began to find what I was looking for. More bunnies.

Close by the observatory, I noticed that the rabbit population was booming. I spotted one, then two, then three within eyesight. I turned around and there were two more. By the time I'd finished counting, I'd found ten bunnies within a small radius. My girls and I were sure they were up to something, the way they kept twitching and rubbing their noses. Some sort of secret communication? Perhaps they were setting up where they would meet later to hide eggs and chocolate? Unfortunately, we'll never know, as we had to get ready to go out and thus had to leave the bunnies to their business.

Certainly it looks like a horde of bunnies descended on our house last night, given the number of eggs hidden all around, and the huge amount of chocolate that has mostly been consumed already -- and it's not even lunchtime! Perhaps later when we all crash from our sugar highs, we'll log in and find those bunnies again, and search their bodies for brightly coloured eggs.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Here comes Peter Cottontail

Not that I'm taking a break from WAR, really (no really). But with Easter fast approaching I need to put on my bunny ears (shh, don't tell the girls) and get the event, if you'll excuse the wretched pun, hopping.

Really I'd rather be playing. Last year at Easter we ran around WOW collecting virtual Easter Eggs after they'd decimated the ones left by the bunny, but I doubt that WAR is fuzzy bunny enough to have decorated eggs lying around. Still I hope to get at least one hour of our normal Sunday morning time in the aftermath of the Egg Hunt, and before the dreaded Parade, ok, not really dreaded -- at least this year there's no snow in the forecast.

If I don't get my hour, I'll make up for it later, when they're back at school. (insert evil laugh here)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April foolishness

Well, it seems like everyone and their brother is leaving WAR today, if only for a few hours. I wish them all well in their new endeavours, even Riv with his new Carebear blog. My youngest daughter was all over that one. At least I can show her that one. Greg over at Tome of Knowledge should make an excellent pirate. And all those going back to WoW, enjoy!

April Fool's Day with 2 kids under 10 is strained at best. I'm no good at coming up with pranks -- I can think up lots, but usually after the fact. More of a "hey, wouldn't that have been funny if xxx happened instead?".

I've read lots of fun things to do in various parenting magazines -- everything from blue milk or blue water running out of the taps to green eggs and ham (thanks, Martha Stewart), to switching around the drawers for when they go to get dressed. As I unloaded the dishwasher this morning I thought how funny would it have been if I loaded it up with stuffed animals instead of dishes and had the kids unload it for me. But who has the energy to come up with things like that ahead of time??

And my daughters seem to be taking after me in that regard. Enduring attempted prank after attempted prank all morning is agony. Just grin and bear it is my motto. Don't want to see any deflated self-images around here. I pity the poor teachers who have to put up with them all day today. But it is real fun for them.

Watching the wheels turn and churn as they try to come up with a prank on the spot is hilarious. Seeing the mischievous glint in their eyes as they try to come up with something to fool their friends is priceless.

Maybe I can come up with a really good prank before the end of the day. Wouldn't they be amazed if stodgy old mommy was able to fool them for real? If you have any ideas for me, leave a comment. I'm off to find that GM castle in Eataine.