Friday, November 24, 2017

Cake On My Birthday : Comfort Gaming

"Comfort gaming" is a phrase that crops up once in a while, often with an almost apologetic tone. It's not looked at with quite the same contempt as the "comfort zone", that awful place we're always being encouraged to get out of, but even so, anyone would think there was something inherently bad about wanting to feel comfortable.

I disagree. Comfort seems to me to be a hugely desirable condition: the deeper and more lasting, the better. If all my gaming were comfort gaming I'd be comfortable with that.

There is some work to be done around boundaries, for sure. To be comfortable does not forbid challenge. There's a sweet spot where the challenge is itself comfortable. A moment when the intellect is engaged while the body is relaxed; something to be relished.

Neither does comfort mandate stasis. There's comfortable change and comfortable surprise. Comfort doesn't have to be all settling back. It can be exciting and satisfying too.

Comfort gaming is doing what you like to do in a game and only you can tell what that might be. If having your nerves jangled is what you seek then maybe an adrenaline rush can be comfortable for you. Wouldn't be for me but I don't deny the theory.

Crushbone dropped gear is a little...orcy?

Comfort embraces a wide range of emotions. My comfort gaming varies with my moods but whatever shape it takes always exudes a sense of welcome. Whichever imaginary world I wash down into needs to open up and take me in with charm.

Familiarity helps. A lot. A prime reason I play MMORPGs is that they are all the same. Of course they're not all the same. They are, though. That they are and they aren't is why they've worked so well for so long and go on  doing so.

We complain about how hard it is to return to a world we left and yet we hop on each bright new shard as it appears, flocking like sparrows to the scattered crumbs of a feast we fear could end at any moment. There's comfort in seeing the old newly made even when it's not made well.

Mostly, though, the deepest, softest landing lies in a past that's present still. Those worlds that wander on with or without us, changing yet unchanged. Every time WoW announces another expansion, be it months or more likely years away, a flurry of posts appears as wanderers drift back home and settle in.

Cloak and pixie courtesy /Claim
I have a list of comfort games. It's a long list. Almost any graphical 3D Diku-MUD clone is on it and that's a lot. Filling the top slots are the EverQuests in which I include Vanguard, aka EQ 2.5.

This week, as we ramp up towards Christmas, my energy levels as I get home from work are low. I don't have the energy for something like DCUO. That  was fine when I had the whole day to do nothing but sit and twitch my fingers but after a long day standing and walking and talking it's beyond me.

GW2 can be as comfortable as it gets when approached in a particular manner but Path of Fire is hard work and just now I don't have any more open character slots or low level characters to raise, while WvW is busy with less than comfortable Commanders doing things I'd rather they didn't and which I won't support.

I popped into the Vanguard Emu to see how it was getting along only to find my Raki Disciple back in his starter duds with his bags and bank empty. Complete item wipe and along with that his free Griffin so now he can't fly.

It's a good thing. It signifies progress. The item database had to be purged to allow progress on crafting. I took him out around Khal and killed scorpions and ksaravi ratmen for an hour so now he's dressed again, somewhat.

Doing that kicked up a fierce desire for simple progress. I wanted to play a young character with not very much and get stuff. I was sorely tempted to stay on and do it on Telon but the sheer void beneath me brought clarity.

I'll wait a little longer but let me say now - if and when the magnificent team behind the Vanguard Restoration Project confirm a stable build they're going to stick with then I'm going back. There's no better low-mid level game anywhere in MMOs.

I cast around for ideas. I would have liked a new fantasy diku-MUD I haven't played but I couldn't find one. Instead I went to EQ2's latest progression server, Fallen Gate, where I added a couple of levels to my Fey Conjurer.

Greetings from Telon!

That was fun but it didn't quite scratch the itch. I wanted something just a little warmer, more welcoming. Something that would be less about trudging up the hill in the snow, more about being pulled along on a sledge towards a hot drink waiting for me next to a crackling log fire.

That, it occurred to me, sums up the modern EQ2 so I looked through the collection of characters on my currently-subbed All Access account and found a ratonga Bruiser in the mid-teens. I woke him up and spent an hour or two going through various bank vaults. I logged in different characters, different accounts and by the time I'd worked out that I really didn't have an awful lot he could use it was time for bed.

That was Session One and it was comfort gaming to the max. So much so that I carried on the next night where I'd left off, only this time I strip-mined /Claim. I took boosts and buffs and mounts and vanity pets and set the little rat up. Then we went to Qeynos and spoke to all the Mercenaries.

I wanted an Inquisitor but Qeynos only has Bdorn the Dwarf Templar, who I know and distrust of old, so I gave the shilling to a Halfling Troubador, Bildli PieFlinger and she and the rat went on their merry way.

They carved a swathe through  Antonica into Blackburrow then on to Nektulos Forest. The fighting was fast and furious and deliciously easy but the loot wasn't quite hitting the spot. Thence to Greater Feydark, the orc menace and a chance for upgrades.

Mrs Bhagpuss, who hasn't played EQ2 in five years, was somewhat taken aback by the color scheme of my patchwork horse. Times have changed and all for the better.

Every evening this week, once my GW2 dailies are done, it's been back to Norrath. The Bruiser is now in his low thirties and deep in Crushbone. Progress has slowed a little. It takes fifteen or twenty minutes to do a level now. He's just beginning to get drops somewhere close to par but almost anything is an upgrade - he still has starting gear in a few slots.

It might be argued that, with upwards of fifty already on the go, I don't need another character in EQ2 but I do need a Ratonga Bruiser. One who isn't on the Test server, where my one-time "main" rests, retired at 90. One that's on the account I'm currently using.

On the other hand, I am sitting on two unused Level 100 boosts on that account so it could equally be argued that if I want a Ratonga Bruiser I should jump straight to the gate that's going to open next Tuesday, when the Planes of Prophecy expansion drops. It's not even as if I don't know how to play a Bruiser, after all. I don't need to level one up to learn. I already did that.

And maybe I will use a boost. Maybe I'll skip past the upper fifty and carry on from a hundred for the final ten.

If I do it will at least be with a character that's developing a little history. That matters. There's such comfort in the familiar and this is how familiarity begins.


  1. It's funny those pesky level boosts - I never passed 60 in EQ and while I used the boosts, the character I have spent the most time with is my new, lowbie enchanter as I level him up. I want to experience everything I missed and everything they added along the way, not skip to endgame. That's my EQ2 struggle - I never played it enough to get hooked on it (level 18 chanter was my highest) so going back to try and level through it it isn't a comforting journey (like EQ) but a foreign one. Someday, I always say, someday.

    1. Yes, level boosts are a mixed blessing. I do like them in games where I already have max characters (or ones with a lot of played hours, at least) but for new or unfamiliar MMOs I think they can be more trouble than they're worth.

  2. Agreed. Much as I like my oldest character and the comfort playing him provides, I often would rather noodle around with lower level characters in zones and quests I know all too well rather than continue working through last year's expansion. Different sort of comforts, yep.

    -- 7rlsy
    AB, and Stormhold until kicked


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