28 Mar 2010

Angry Mage is Angry

I managed to get pissed off at so many things yesterday. It seems laughable looking back on it, how can a videogame get me so worked up? It’s stupid, right? I mean, I’m a grown adult, so why let a game affect my mood so much? Why let it get to me?

Right.

I’ve been getting seriously annoyed with the loading screen bug. The one which seems to have only started in 3.3.3, where you’ve chosen your character and you’re waiting for the game to load. The progress bar fills up and seems about to run then just sits there. I can hear the dulcet tones of Dalaran zone music in the background, so I figure it’s just taking a while before flipping to in-game. Maybe some data got dropped between here and Paris, and it’s just taking  while to resync. It’s like some kind of digital tease, tormenting me while it sits there and does nothing.

No point waiting though. The game has hung, so it’s back to alt+F4 then going through the whole thing again. Email address, password, authenticator code. And I’ve usually got one of those bits wrong, so I usually end up typing it again, hammering each key deliberately as if my keyboard is being held personally responsible for my failure to type.

Trouble is, it won’t stop happening. It’s like an itch that you can’t scratch, growing more and more irritating. It feels like I have to log in two or three times just to get the game to load. When I’m switching servers or hopping between my two accounts, it’s a real bugbear.

That’s just one issue though, and a technical one to boot. Getting worked up about it is a bit like having a rage against a server. Sure, you might want to pull on your steel toecapped boots and punt it round the datacentre a bit, but that isn’t going to suddenly make it work. You might feel better, but it doesn’t fix the problem.

The thing that made me throw in the towel today was just sitting around in Dalaran. I figured that after a successful raid on Wednesday that I’d try my luck in VoA. There’s badges, there’s Tier 10, so it’s worth a go. We’ve just won Wintergrasp so I pipe up in Trade and LFG that I’m looking for a VoA group. As soon as I do it, there’s something like 4 or 5 other mages all saying “Take me, take me instead!” It’s reminds me of a birds’ nest, with a clutch of mage chicklets all chirping away hoping to be the one to get the invite worm.

I don’t know where they all came from. It feels as if everyone just said “You know what, I’m going to play my mage today.” So I go sod it, I have alts, I’ll play them instead. Sod the competition, I’ll see if I can do something in the guild another time.

I fire up my priest. I figure that he’s got the tier 10 robe, so there’s a good chance I can find a ToC or ICC PuG for him to join. Earn some rep, get a few badges, maybe snaffle a few drops at the same time. I find an ICC10 group looking for a healer and tank, so I join up. I should have realised something was up when there were only 7 spots filled, but I shrugged it off. I alt-tabbed, fired up Google Reader and scanned through some blogposts while I waited for the raid to fill.

From there things went from bad to worse. An hour later we finally enter the instance after suffering numerous joins, dropouts and so on. We have a resto druid attempting to MT heal with 1FPS. A resto shaman who is watching TV half the time. Another tank who has to leave because “something else came up”. One wipe at Marrowgar later and the raidleader’s having to replace people.

We finally get a group back together with a replacement for the tank and resto druid. We’re all set and ready to have another attempt at the boss. Only the resto shaman is AFK. She’s watching TV, asking us to wait while her programme finishes. At that point, the tank that just arrived sees the group for the joke it is and leaves.

I follow shortly after.

I know this is an MMO – that it’s supposed to be Massively Multiplayer. I get that this is the point. But sometimes the biggest selling point of the game is also it’s most crippling weakness. The sheer amount of asshattery that goes on in the game is a nightmare, and it feels like it’s something that’s only become worse since the cross-server LFD tool. It means that the decent people – the guilds I’m in and the people I play with – are all the more valuable.

It also means that sometimes I just want to treat it like an RPG. Like Dragon Age without all the cut-scenes and dialog trees. I just want to choose an anonymous alt, sit somewhere and go questing. Everyone else can shove off for a few hours. Just play it like a single-player game with a chatbox and mash buttons for a while.

There are always going to be asshats. You’ll find them in every game, from Counter Strike to Checkers. No amount of programming wizardry or karma system has been able to remove asshats from a game, or to generally discourage asshattery so much that it’s no longer worthwhile. All you can hope to do is minimise the effect that they have on your game, or ensure that the density of asshats is so dilute that their overall impact is negligible.

Meanwhile I’ll sigh, shrug my shoulders and carry on playing. After all, it’s only a game.

Isn’t it?

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