Friday, August 11, 2023

GamesMadeMe: Actual Games + My Gaming Origin Story!

 GamesMadeMe is a series of posts that cover gaming-related topics that have shaped who I am as a gamer today.  Since I've covered specific moments in games and related topics like gaming magazines it is about time I actually talk about some games that made me!  Today let's take a jaunt down the gaming history that has informed my current day preferences.

 We'll start at today and work backwards as best as my memory can recollect!

new world
  New World is my current jam and holds the record of "most played" across my entire gaming career.  As of this post I am nearing 2,500 hours played!  Whats most amazing is that I never planned to play this game.  I only found out about it because it was hosting an early preview event at the same time as the Crowfall beta test.  

 While testing Crowfall the population numbers plummeted one day and when I asked why the New World preview event was mentioned.  I decided to give it a go because I just wasn't feeling Crowfall and I was absolutely hooked from the moment I set foot in New World.  I am still hooked.  I love New World.



 Guild Wars 2 (GW2) is next on the list.  Between New World and Minecraft (which we'll hit after GW2) there were a lot of games but Guild Wars 2 was the one that stuck around and kept coming back around.  I own and have played the first three expansions but admit I am all about PvP so spent a lot more time in World vs World vs World (wuvwuv for short).  

 Also as I mentioned in my Game Markets post I was a huge investor in Guild Wars 2 and truth be told that is where most of my /played time was invested in GW2.  I earned so much gold and converted so much of it to premium currency that I have piles of stuff and knick-knacks on my account. I also have several level 80 characters.

 I never really got hardcore into GW2 even though I played a ton (1,000+ hours).  I didn't have a guild and never played with one during my time in the game.  The game is very solo friendly so it was never pressed upon me to need to group up.  I did a lot of things but aside from playing the market one specific thing never grabbed hold.  I never finished the original story, never did dungeons/fractals/raids, really didn't finish any living seasons, and outside of some ascended gear pieces and a single legendary greatsword don't have much gear.  I own the first two expansions but barely played their stories/areas.  But I still loved the game and should I ever break up with New World it's likely where I'd go back to.


 Minecraft launched in 2009 which was a special year as that is when my oldest was born.  I tried Minecraft off the recommendation of a co-worker.  At the time there was no survival mode and the game was a very basic block building game.  The UI still showed how many players online; I used to have a screenshot showing there were about 500 total users online!

 The beauty of Minecraft way back then was that it ran on our work computers.  When the survival mode launched my co-workers and I filled our breaks and lunch hours with Minecraft.  We had our own server and played the crap out of the game (some of my Minecraft videos from this era exist on my Youtube 1 2 3).  

 As a first time father Minecraft was the perfect game in those first few years of my oldest son's life.  Relatively non-violent and abstract blocky graphics = perfect for a kid to watch.  I played Minecraft pretty hardcore for it's first four years.  Lots of fond memories and I wish to this day I'd of stuck with making videos (I could be super famous now!).

 And that would have been the end of Minecraft after I moved on to other things, but right as I was breaking my addiction my oldest son hit Kindergarten and Minecraft was every kids world at the time.  My son picked up Minecraft about 2013/14 and he still plays it to this day.  We've played together on and off and we even got mom (not much of a video gamer) to play.  Some my fondest gamer dad moments are building stuff in Minecraft only to find out my son cheated and spawned a wither the next day and destroyed it.  I still have the worlds saved and a personal cherished digital artifact is when screen recording accidentally recorded my son exploring a new castle I had built for him.


  Before Minecraft my passion was Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR for short). WAR also holds the record as the game that broke me.  I was the uber fanboy for WAR. As a long time Dark Ages of Camelot player I was confident that Mark Jacobs could do no wrong.  WAR was going to be the best game ever.  It was the World of Warcraft killer (remember we are going new to old so we haven't gotten to WoW yet).

 WAR is also unique in that the entire rise and fall of the game is captured in this blog's history (see tagged posts here).  If you were interested you could watch as I go from eternal fanboy to ex-cult member.  I loved the premise of the game and had a great group of folks to play with.  

 We formed the Casualties of War guild on the back of a bunch of World of Warcraft/MMORPG bloggers (400+ members at its peak).  Running that guild taught me I never want to run a guild again even though in every aspect of real life I am a leader (people leader at work, leader when I was in the military, leader in boy scouts, always my kid's sports team coach, etc).

 WAR was really fun to play when it launched. Unfortunately the game was never really finished and it showed.  End game zones were mostly devoid of content and the advertised end game of city sieges never really worked.  When it did work it was exploited heavily.

 WAR ended up crashing and was shutdown.  Fortunately I broke my fanboyism long before it was in shutdown and even though I revisited it for a little bit it never got it's hooks back in me.  It did forever change how I want to interact with new MMORPGs.  I'll be optimistic about games.  I will play them hardcore like I do New World and be a cheerleader.  But never again am I going full fanboy and expecting a new MMORPG to be the next big thing.


 November 23, 2004.  A day after my birthday.  World of Warcraft launched and there I was on the Azgalor server with my mind blown (even though I had played in a beta phase before launch).  How could a game be this good?  12 hours later I realized I hadn't left the computer.

 World of Warcraft (WoW) holds the spot in my record book for the longest gaming sessions.  I could not put the game down and my addiction was aided by an odd work scheduled at the time where I basically had half the month off and the other half 12 hour shifts.  I was also in the military in full on real-life-war-mode so interest in anything other than work and then getting home to play WoW didn't exist.

 I loved playing WoW launch.  I was fortunate in that I never really had problems accessing the game and playing.  It was just a magical time to be playing online games.  So many new players, and gamers, coming to check this once-in-a-lifetime game out.  I played as a Horde Troll Shaman but refused to heal; I was all about the DPS shaman with windfury on the great axe.

 My time playing WoW was focused on PvP.  I really didn't care about dungeons and did very few.  I never participated in a raid nor did I have interest in raiding.  I wanted to do nothing more than prowl the Alliance zones looking for trouble.  Since there were PvP servers I was given that opportunity.  Later on battlegrounds came out and that was my jam.

 As magical as WoW was though it didn't hook me long term.  I gave up playing before the first expansion came out and it was months later before I gave The Burning Crusade a try.  I really don't know why I went from playing 12 hours straight to not interested.  Partly it was landing an amazing girlfriend who then became my wife, but mostly I just stopped playing.


 Before WoW it was Dark Ages of Camelot (DAoC).  DAoC launched Oct 9, 2001 and I played it faithfully until WoW wrenched me away.  I loved the Realm vs Realm and played a Runecaster for Midgard on the Merlin server.  I was at or adjacent to many of the world firsts in the game: there when the first relic was captured, in the race to be the first player to 1 million realm points, and there when the guy that did make it to a million realm points got part of the game world named after him (screw you Dakkon!).

 Mixed in with my time in World of Warcraft and Dark Ages of Camelot was Star Wars Galaxies.  I was an early adopter as I was heavily involved in the Star Wars roleplaying forums the game hosted before launch.  I was in the early beta/alpha tests when all there was to the game was an empty sand zone and speech bubbles.

 Star Wars Galaxies had some of the best possible MMO systems ever created.  It is a shame they never got the time of day if they were not strictly combat or Jedi related.  As I tell people I want to be the moisture farmer so as the game steered more to letting anyone become a Jedi the more it wasn't for me.  But systems like housing, vendors, gathering, and crafting - no game has done it better.  No game even comes close.  Damn it game developers; give me SWG 2.0! (No; I am not interested in SWG emu servers).

 Ultima Online is the first graphical online game I played.  It is the first game I bought when I had my own PC and my own place as a young adult.  I rushed to get internet solely because I wanted to play Ultima Online.  

 I was introduced to Ultima Online years before that moment when I was working in a grocery store as a teen and my manager played it.  I would get a chance to go to his house and watch him play on a potato of a computer.  At the time it was original Ultima Online with all it's craziness: no safe zones, red players killing anyone that walked out of town without a plan, player run cities, game masters that would literally play god in the game, and houses you could lose if you lost your key.  To illustrate how early we are talking: there were still tons of open spots to place a house.  I never got to play, but watching was enough for me.

 Fast forward back to being in my own place with my own PC and I was joining right as Ultima Online Renaissance came online.  The Renaissance expansion brought a mirrored version of the world, called Trammel, that was completely safe and it opened up a flood of new land to fill with houses (the "open spots" having long ago been taken up in the original Felucca realm).

 Being a new player I had zero idea what the land grab was and other than some memory of watching my old manager play the original game I didn't know what I was doing.  So I treated the game like a virtual world; more intent on interacting with other players in a social aspect than getting the next progression item checked off.  If that meant just picking up garbage people left on the ground (oh yeah; items could be dropped and picked up by other players... how novel) then that's what I did.

 Eventually I did catch on that I needed to progress and that spun into having multiple different accounts so I could abuse all sorts of systems like the faction system, housing, and more.  Unfortunately I was so late to the housing party the only way to get a house was to buy it off eBay (yes, I bought my UO houses off eBay!) because all open spots were taken so even if you wanted to place a house you could not.

 I was very fond of PvP in UO.  I was not a player killer, but I loved faction warfare (player killing without becoming a red player).  I also got into the provoking skill which was basically the easy mode of end game PvE content as you could entice monsters to fight each other while you hoovered up the loot they dropped from killing each other.  

 I also got big into taming anything the game let you tame; my favorite being the white ice dragons.  Anyone that knows taming in UP knows the saying "kill all"; nothing more satisfying than a half dozen dragons suddenly vaporizing an enemy.  While in today's PvP metas it is "kill the healer" back then it was "kill the tamer".  Many a fight was won based on how many dragons were brought.

mud mush

 Now I need to fill a gap between my gaming origin story and Ultima Online because before graphical MMORPGs I was addicted to text MUDs (multi user dungeon).  Without MUDs we wouldn't have the MMORPGs that we have today.

 The one that got me started was a MUD running in IRC on the Xnet IRC server.  I stumbled on it joining a chat room and a bot posting a puzzle; once you figured out the puzzle it let you in fully to the MUD.  It was like virtual Indiana Jones! I have no other recollection other than those pieces, but it was tons of fun and featured perma death PvP.  I killed my younger brothers character at one point.

 Probably my most invested MUD was a Star Wars themed one.  I don't remember the specifics and the websites are long gone, but I do still have notes I took on paper about it.  I used graph paper to map out areas of the game and take notes about things like "droid here" or "viewport overlooking space dock".  It had space flight as well as many planets.  I do vaguely remember getting into some drama and getting banned at one point. 

 I played plenty of other MUDs as well along with MUSHES and whatever other acronym soup we used back in those days to differentiate one from the other.  I even got into Medievia MUD for a bit which was the largest MUD ever and still running to this day.  It was mind blowing they were aiming for things like 20,000 players online and wanting to get to 200,000 (not sure what they ever peaked at).  I was used to MUDs with 5 people online; thousands was crazy to think about.  One of the coolest part of Medievia and many other MUDs was player created content.  It was just text so the barrier to entry to have your dedicated players help build was very low.  I honestly wonder if some of my poorly worded room descriptions are still floating around somewhere in Medievia!

 We'll finish on the origin story of gaming for heartlessgamer and recount the day I won a Sega Genesis.  I had played Nintendo and Super Nintendo at friends and extended family houses, but in my house we were still stuck in the "black and white" television era.  Without easy access to them video games were no different than any other toy to play with when visiting friends and family.  

 That all changed the day that I won a Sega Genesis.  The Sega was a possible prize from selling magazine subscriptions as a fundraiser.  I (really my mom) had done a good job getting folks to sign up so I was in the running.  It was towards the end of the school day and classes had just let out and announcements were coming over the intercom.  I hung back in the classroom to hear them.  I really, really wanted that Sega Genesis.  Then I heard my name and to this day I can remember looking at my teacher at the time and seeing the biggest smile on her face as I sprinted out towards the office to get my prize.  I hoisted the box over my head and for a few glorious moments I was the king of my school.

 I walked to school so had a few blocks to get home with the prize.  I really don't remember my parents reactions, but they were supportive of me getting it up and running.  I wasn't kidding when I said we still had "black and white" televisions.  Our main set was too old to get the Sega working and after phoning a friends parents we were able to get it set up on my mom's tiny little kitchen TV.  From then on I spent many an hour at the kitchen table playing Sega games in black and white. Some favorites from the time; Wrestlemania, Shining Force, and of course Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

 I will never forget winning that Sega Genesis and I swear the movie 8-bit Christmas is loosely based on that time in my life (I already had an awesome treehouse my dad made though; I just needed a video game console).  And that is the gaming mode that started it all and therefore is what truly made me a gamer!

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