The MMO Tourist: Alganon

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I do not know about you, but I am the type of person that enjoys going places without knowing too much about them. As long as the key components are worked out (transportation, lodging, money, etc.), I am good to go. Fortunately, video games, MMO’s specifically, offer a universe of travel opportunities minus the cost of consulting a travel agent or the hassle of updating a passport.

Now, I have explored many virtual worlds over the years (check out Confessions of an MMO Tourist). Each world/ game has its own unique personality (artwork/ design) and sense of quirks (game play, community, etc.). Today, I am about to set forth into the world of Alganon. A recent Massively.com article tipped me off on this free-to-play title. So, after creating an account (no credit card information necessary) and downloading the game client (3GB), I set forth on my newest virtual adventure.

The flight into Alganon began with a bit of turbulence (ie: loading the game was choppy and rough). Being a seasoned traveler, however, I knew that some turbulence was par for the course, so I tightened my seatbelt and held on. After some time, I finally arrived at a character creation screen. So I created a character, selected a family (crafter, explorer, socializer, etc.), and proceeded to start the game. Now I should note at this point that the turbulence (game performance) had not stopped. I was beginning to get sick! Never before have I seen a released MMO behave in such a rough way.

The game performance only grew worse as the in-game intro video kicked in. Thinking that the game issues were coming from my end, I quickly decided to change some video settings to see if it would help. Below you’ll find a screen capture of the result of my simple act:

After such a bumpy flight, I decided that it was time to get off the plane…I mean game. As a seasoned traveler, I know that there are far more polished experiences out there to be had. Why should I even try and suffer through the mess that is Alganon? The world of free-to-play and pay-to-play MMO’s is vast. Until next time, may your life be free of beta-like games.

Monster

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In the beginning:

World of Warcraft (WoW) is a literal monster. I remember the day it first appeared to me, looking all innocent in its shrink wrapped box. Little did I know that what dwelled inside was a digital narcotic that would end up stealing 3 months of my life. Wait. I should clarify that. I let World of Warcraft become my drug of choice; I let WoW rule my life.

Wasted summer:

So there I was, home from college for the summer. My brain fried from finals and from having to drive from East Texas to Southern California. All I can say is that it was a long trip! All I wanted to do was sit back and relax for the summer. My parents, however, had other plans in mind for me. Everyday I was asked when I was going to start looking for a job. A job? I had just slaved myself to death over school and now they wanted me to get a job? I just couldn’t understand that–I do now that I have student loan payments–. So I set up my computer on the kitchen table, and I proceeded to play WoW day and night. That summer was long, filled with nagging, and looking back, a complete waste of my time. I had let a computer game become my escape from reality. World of Warcraft had become my monster.

Fight and flight:

Today (10/22/10) marks the beginning of BlizzCon 2010. The hype train is chugging away at full steam, and Cataclysm is rapidly incoming (December 7th). At this junction, I find myself a tad conflicted. The excitement of friends clamoring for Cataclysm makes me want to go back and check out the game. However, I know that much has changed in my life.

Since that wasted summer, I have gotten married, had a little boy, and overall (hopefully!) have grown up. I no longer feel that I have the time to seriously dedicate to World of Warcraft. Sure, I could log in and dabble around some, but I would be no closer to friends who are not at the same place in life as me. I think, at this particular junction, that WoW is just not for me anymore. I need a game where I do not feel guilt if I don’t play (due to paying $15 a month). I also need a game where I can quickly exit/ press a pause button and it won’t impact anyone (in-game). So I guess that this is goodbye WoW. Don’t bother coming around anymore. I don’t like hanging out with monsters.

A Pixar Afternoon

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Ah yes, Friday afternoons. After a busy week, things are finally winding down in the office. What better time than to take some time and compile a list! A list you say? Aren’t those a bit cliche? Why yes they are good sir or madam. However, this will be no ordinary list. For the list we are to compile today chronicles one of the top animation studios on the planet. Dreamworks Animation? No. Walt Disney Feature Animation? Nope. The studio I am hinting towards is none other than Pixar Animation Studios. This list of personal favorites could be hard…onward ho!

1. Wall-E – Showcasing what I believe to be one of the finest depictions of love in a movie (and its silent!), Wall-E is an absolute masterpiece.

2. The Incredibles – This movie has a special place in my heart as it was the first movie that I ever took my wife (then girlfriend) to. The pacing, realistic depiction of family, and overarching rant against a society that insists that everyone is special makes this movie top notch in my book.

3. Ratatouille – This Brad Bird film never lets go of the accelerator and never allows itself to fall into normal movie cliches. And I thought the movie was going to linger on the paternity issue, bah!

4. Toy Story 2 – My favorite Toy Story movie. I should note though that I do think that Jessie’s sad song is a bit over-done.

5. Toy Story – Full of great quotes. I will never forget the look of shock on Buzz’s face when he discovers that he really can’t fly.

6. Toy Story 3 – A perfect end to an amazing series.

7. Cars- “Speed.” This movie never fails to make me smile. Although, the pacing can drift a bit into the slow lane at times.

8. UP* – UP takes the award for making me cry, hard. I enjoyed its bittersweet story of an old man who learns that he still has much to contribute despite his advanced age. This movie showcases the emotional depth Pixar can infuse into its stories.

9. Finding Nemo – I find this movie long and poorly paced. Sue me.

10. Monster’s Inc. – Clever. Perhaps too clever? Multiple viewings have killed this movie for me. Be happy I even mentioned it.

11. A Bug’s Life – Perhaps I need to watch this again (its been years), but I found this film boring.

Favorite Non-Pixar Movie: Meet the Robinson’s (woo hoo!)

*Note: UP is certainly in the same category of Wall-E in terms of quality, storytelling, and pure emotion. However, I do not find it to be a movie that I want to watch time and time again.

Fight The Distraction!

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Sitting in Church on Sunday, before the service had begun, I curiously watched friends surf Facebook with reckless abandon. No doubt updating their peeps on their latest and greatest thoughts or browsing through pictures posted of some nameless persons trip to Zanzibar (where the Zanzibarbarians live, ask Gonzo). Over on Relevant.com, Shane Hipps has written an article exploring the narcissism that Facebook brings out in us.

It encourages not just self-absorption, but, more accurately, self-consumption. We become creators and consumers of our own brand.

While I agree with Shane on his observation, I also believe that Facebook isn’t the only distraction fighting for our very souls. Mobile technology, which makes texting, browsing Facebook, and surfing the web possible is killing the art of face-to-face communication.

How many of you have had conversations with friends in which the friend has sat there and texted/ talked to you at the same time? I would probably guess that this is becoming the norm. For myself, I find this behavior to be extremely rude. I have always made face-to-face communication a priority. I have even gone as far as turning off my phone so that I am able to solely focus on the person I am talking to. Now I have nothing against cell phones or texting, but I do have a beef with fellow conversationalists being distracted when I am trying to talk to them. People who text and talk at the same time practically scream that they do not care about the person they are talking to. Multitasking, which is what texting while talking is, is one of the great lies of our time. Therefore, I call on my friends, family, and readers (all 2 of you) to practice a little thing called manners. Fight the distraction!

Euthanasia

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There comes a point, in an MMO’s lifespan, where the decision must be made to pull the plug. To end the adventures of the remnant and move on towards newer horizons. This virtual form of euthanasia needs to be practiced before:

  • The dreaded “maintenance mode” begins (no updates)
  • Populations dwindle to the point to where these once thriving online worlds become ghost towns (a sad reminder of their former selves)
  • The game becomes a “chat room” for terrorists due to its low profile–hey, it could happen!–.

Unless new life can be breathed into MMO’s such as Warhammer Online ( or insert another game name here), a killing of utmost mercy is in order. For indeed, it is better to die young than waste away in your own pile of virtual filth.

Impending Doom

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Nearly 7 years after the launch of World of Warcraft, Blizzard is still reporting player growth like McDonald’s used to report how many customers had been served.

World of Warcraft(R) Subscriber Base Reaches 12 Million Worldwide

IRVINE, Calif., Oct 07, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. announced today that the subscriber base for World of Warcraft(R), its award-winning massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), now exceeds 12 million players worldwide. This milestone was reached in the wake of the mainland Chinese launch of World of Warcraft’s second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King(R), and also as global anticipation continues to mount for the December 7 release of the game’s third expansion, Cataclysm(TM).

“The support and enthusiasm that gamers across the world continue to show for World of Warcraft reaffirms our belief that it offers one of the best entertainment values available today,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “We are as committed as ever to taking the game to new heights, and we look forward to demonstrating that with Cataclysm in December.”

Since debuting in North America, Australia, and New Zealand on November 23, 2004, World of Warcraft has become the most popular subscription-based MMORPG around the world. It was the bestselling PC game of 2005 and 2006 worldwide, and finished behind only World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade(R), the first expansion pack for the game, in 2007. For 2008, the World of Warcraft series represented three of the top five bestselling PC games, with Wrath of the Lich King finishing the year at #1, and in 2009, World of Warcraft titles claimed three of the top six spots.*

At this point in the games life, I am not surprised that the gaming community is still talking about the WoW monster. World of Warcraft is a power house in that it takes systems found in other games and refines them to something close to perfection. The amount of times I have resubscribed to WoW, after swearing it off, is also a testament to how great this game is (or maybe that is an admission as to how addictive it is).

Up until the announcement of Cataclysm’s release (12/7/10), I really didn’t think that I would ever venture into the lands of Azeroth again. However, the release announcement suddenly had me interested. Here is the thing, all my friends will end up diving back into the game. Especially those of mine who are going to BlizzCon. So do I enter back into a game that is almost seven years old? Like the infamous Death Eaters in Harry Potter, I can feel my soul being sucked back into the void. See ya there!

Surf Report – 10/9/10

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Welcome to the Sunday edition of the Surf Report.

.: God :

Our motto here at JBG is, “because there is more to life than just games”. The individual sections of God and Life exist in an effort to explore the world beyond the flickering screen. In addition to venturing into topics outside of video gaming, such as faith and life, we have also pushed an overall agenda of moderation. Video games, as with any other hobby, are meant to be consumed in a healthy manner. I have personally witnessed, both in my life and others, the impact of excessive gaming (late nights, lost jobs, and loss of friends). The results of embracing gaming as a lifestyle are certainly destructive when taken beyond normal levels.

Recently, I got thinking about how JBG’s mission extends just beyond the gospel of moderation. I quickly came to the conclusion that we are also here to preach against distractions. For me, gaming can be a distraction; for others it can be something as simple as trolling Facebook. All the noise and media we intake on a daily basis can lead us to neglecting the spiritual sides of ourselves. Basically, distractions can cause us not to hear God’s voice –I am not saying that He speaks audibly, but I am also not saying that He can’t!-.

The question I want to ask you, on this wonderful Sunday, is this: What is distracting you? If it is video games, why not take some time away from them; if it is Facebook, why not take an extended vacation. A thought to ponder on.

.: Life :

What have you been reading lately?

Over the summer I happened to purchase a Nook for my birthday. This delving into the land of e-books has caused me enjoy all sorts of fantasy books. Everything from the first book in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series to more recently, First King of Shannara by Terry Brooks. At first, I found the Shannara book to be wordy and the story cliche. As I have progressed, however, I have been suddenly surprised by where the story is taking me. Perhaps Brooks isn’t a Tolkien hack after all.

Syp, over @ BioBreak, posted last week on what books he is reading. I don’t know about you, but I love hearing about new books! Check it out.

.: Gaming :

When I have had time for gaming, I have been diving into The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Absolutely amazing! If I hadn’t had my nose buried in the 90’s, with a SEGA Genesis, I probably would have discovered this gem! So far, I have managed to obtain all of the pendants and the Master Sword. Until next time.

That’s it for this weeks Surf Report. Make sure to comment below and have a good week!

Self-Titled

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It was October 24th 1995 and with little fan fare at the time the world of Christian Music changed forever and all it took was the release of a little blue CD. This Disc started the formation of a tidal wave over the Christian Music scene and would ultimately change the way the entire world saw Christian Music. Up until October 24th, Christian Music was a sideshow, making a few crossovers with songs from Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant, but after the release of this CD and the 2 other albums that were released in the next 5 months, everything changed.

What watershed, paradigm altering album was this? The first Jars of Clay Album. Almost 15 years ago (yes we are getting that old) that little disc of 10 tracks and 1 bonus track changed everything.That album opened the door to the possibility of a Christian group making music about faith and God that could actually be better than secular music. It was a mind blowing thought that someone would actually prefer to listen to Christian music because it was better musically and lyrically instead of listening to it just because they didn’t want to hear the vulgarity that can be present in secular music.

2 months later, the tidal wave grew in strength with the release of an almost artwork less disc from a group who up until this point was a B team act that wasn’t good enough to head line shows. This album began a cultural phenomenon inside of youth groups all across the country and possible the world. Yes, The Jesus Freak Album from DC Talk was the Van Gogh to Jars of Clays Picasso. Painting with broad brush strokes with a heavy rock anthem (at least it seemed heavy at the time) this album pavedthe way for the metal and punk scenes that would later form in the Christian sub-cultures.

In February of 1996 the final push of the tidal wave that was the golden era of Christian music landed from arguably the most anticipated group of the 3. Take Me to Your Leader from the Newsboys showed everyone that we could rock just as hard at concerts as any secular band. The Newsboys brought so much energy that they were picked up by Virgin Records becoming the first Christian group to be picked up by a secular label.

In the last 15 years there are a lot of bands that have followed in the footsteps of these unlikely pioneers who were willing to take a risk in an industry that was dying of sameness and complacency. With bands like Switchfoot and others making big crossovers into the secular world our tidal wave has never been as high as it was back in 1995. While his aim was different I think that Hunter S. Thompson said it best, “And that, I think, was the handle – that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of old andevil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. We had allthe momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later,you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look west, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark – that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

We, the youth of Christian music, had finally tasted a win against the forces of secular music, and our world and eyes were never the same again.
Jacob Ingalls

(to follow Jacob via twitter, click here)

Quote of the Day

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I think I struggled for a long time to find my plan or calling…but I’ve learned that God first calls me to Himself. To no other purpose then to trust Him and rest in His peace. No lofty trips to Africa, no climbing ladders to becoming a worship leader, or changing the world…he just wants me all for Himself. Everything else is secondary and can come later. Because without learning that first…I would just fail every single time and I would never be happy. – A good friend.

On-Line Gamers Anonymous

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Awhile back I came across On-Line Gamers Anonymous. The site is a virtual self help group for those struggling with gaming or Internet addiction. Their mission statement says:

On-Line Gamers Anonymous is a fellowship of people sharing their experience, strengths and hope to help each other recover and heal from the problems caused by excessive game playing.

If you find yourself struggling with gaming or Internet addiction, On-Line Gamers Anonymous would be a great place to start getting help. Your PSA for the day.

Fired Up

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After a 3 month absence, JohnnyBGamer is back! Where have we been? Off in the lands of Tumblr visiting Shotgun America.

The mission of JohnnyBGamer, to seeks to balance life and video games, continues to beat like Poe’s Tell Tale Heart. It just won’t go away. So, in an effort to challenge myself as a writer and actually produce content, I have decided to get all fired up about JBG once more. In the coming weeks, I hope to get the site back up to speed. I sincerely hope that you will join me on this renewed journey of God, life, and gaming.

-Bryan “Waafer”