Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Last Three Years: Re-Written by Guild Wars

After meeting a very awesome new friend over Thanksgiving break, Nate and I discovered that not only did this guy, let's call him J, share almost all of our geeky loves (board gaming, tv shows, fantasy books, card games, movies), he was a huge Guild Wars fan!  If you already know all about Guild Wars, look for the big red text near the bottom, that's when I'll re-write history.

Quick description for anyone bothering to read this who didn't play Guild Wars (GW).  GW was (and is, I guess) an MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role playing game) in which you could create a character, level up, that sort of stuff.  Yes, it was like World of Warcraft, and no, it was not like World of Warcraft.  WoW specializes in dangling carrots: just one more level, just one more piece of gear, just one more accomplishment, cool mount, trophy item, rare skin, dungeon cleared.  GW had a campaign but it was rather short and the max level was 20, which you hit very quickly.  The game didn't really begin until level 20.

But the really awesome thing about GW was the PvP (player vs. player, you fight other people, ho man these abbreviations are starting to kill me).  You could team up with eleven of your best friends, build a guild together, and fight other guilds for points and dominance.  There was a random 4v4 arena, team 4v4 arena, and the much-renamed Tombs/Heroes Ascent/Hall of Heroes/etc. *GOLD STAR* arena that determined world dominance over the realm.  Whichever country controlled the Hall of Heroes got special access to regular PvE (player vs. environment, you killed monsters) zones with rare loot and cool challenges.

But what's the really unique thing that sets GW apart?  Because there were, and especially now, are a TON of games that let you fight other people.  GW let you create a max level character with max stats JUST for PvP.  This meant if you weren't into the campaign (and most players lost interest in the rather short campaign rather quickly) you could be ready to fight in the arenas in the time it takes to create a character and pick your skills.  You didn't have to level up, you didn't have to find the best gear, and your success in your fights wasn't based on how many hours you'd spent grinding your character to be the best.

Not only this, you only created your primary profession.  The original game launched with six: Ranger, Elementalist, Warrior, Monk, Necromancer, and Mesmer.  In addition to your primary profession, you could pick a secondary, which you could change at any time you were in town.  When you left town, you could bring eight skills with you.  Just eight.  Any combination of your primary/secondary, as long as you had no more than eight.  And some skills were "elite" skills, meaning they were slightly better than others, and you could bring one elite as part of your eight, if you wanted (low level characters didn't generally have elites).  That said, elites weren't these "20-minute cooldown use it for the INSTANT WIN BUTTON."  They'd heal for 50% more, or do 30% more damage, or be cheaper to cast with a slight bonus.  They were just a little better, but they weren't broken.

This meant there were limitless possibilities.  Sure, there were a lot of "bad" builds out there, but there wasn't just one "right" build (*cough* what I hate about number grinding games like WoW).  See an E/Mo on the battlefield?  They could be a fire mage, a water mage, they could be an earth tank with protection spells, or they might just be using the elementalist ability to have lots of energy and be a full time healer with their monk skills.  Point was, you didn't know until they started casting, or if you were very clever and could identify the type of weapon they were carrying.  There were all SORTS of crazy builds out there, and a lot of them were fun.  Not only that, but every single build, every skill, had a counter.  There was always some way to build against anything you could run against.  The only question was: did you bring it?  Did a teammate bring it?  Running a strong build that was common meant that the counter would be common as well.

One other important thing.  There was exactly one ability in GW that caused loss of control of your character.  Just one.  It was being knocked down.  Very few skills could knock you down, and they were all expensive, elite, had penalties, or several of the above.  You were only knocked down for a second or two.  Do you know what makes a game frustrating?  NOT BEING ABLE TO PLAY.  Pay attention here LoL and WoW: fear/stun/silence/sheep/toss/mind control is NOT FUN.  Who wants to have their character become feared for FIVE WHOLE SECONDS (this is an eternity in PvP) while your character runs in random directions?  It's frustrating and suicidal and makes us throw peripherals at the wall.  And there are so many characters who can do it in WoW/LoL!  At least in GW you knew who could and could not kick you on your ass, and there were counters for that too, and you never spent the entirity of a fight unable to do anything.  You might CHOOSE to not cast, because you would take damage, but then you could auto-attack.  You could CHOOSE not to move because you would take damage, but you could if you really needed to.  You could CHOOSE not to attack because of a curse, but if the value was worth the penalty, you could do it anyways.  There was no ability in the game that said "you may not attack or do anything useful for quite some time, because this other character has cast it on you, so fooey on you, have fun, oh you died?  Should have played someone else then."

All this aside, I think the PvP in GW really took off with their first expansion, Factions.  This is where the last several years of online arena play could be COMPLETELY REWRITTEN if GW had figured out what they had, instead of marketing it as what they didn't.  See, the Factions campaign was terrible.  It was awful.  The only reason people bought Factions was either they didn't know any better, or they wanted the skills and classes for PvP.  Factions also added (in my opinion) the BEST arena ever: Alliance Battle.  Instead of having to be in a super cool guild and playing with the bad-ass elite, or randomly fighting in the 4v4 with who knows who, you got the best of both worlds.

Alliance Battles (AB) were based on the two factions in Factions (*sigh*). You picked one side and your guild was aligned with them.  You could enter to fight with up to 3 other people, meaning the most control you had was over four players.  The actual map incorporated three teams of four players on each side, making a glorious 12v12 capture-the-point melee. AB was where you could try out new builds that synergized with bigger parties.  Not to mention, AB had the best overall team/map strategy of any of the arenas.  Knowing where to be and when to be there was a huge part of the fight, not just mashing buttons or having an awesome build.

See, no one screamed bloody murder if you had one bad team member.  No one had a ton of control, and the arena was a lot more laid back than the others.  If you had friends you could join in easily, but if you were alone that was fine too.  It was awesome.  I've been told that after AB came out WoW released their own version of a capture-the-point PvP arena, conveniently named Arathi Basin (or AB, boy do we love our acronyms!).  Now there's a whole style of games known as MOBA, or multiplayer online battle arena, where the ONLY thing you do is fight other people in arenas!  One of the most famous of these is League of Legends, the completely free to play game that just celebrated it's 2 year anniversary (and yes, I play LoL, and Dominion is the much better map, thank you).

Let's re-write history now:
See, Guild Wars got a huge following because it was free to play, but in the end they couldn't support themselves.  Other games like LoL are also completely free to play, but Riot Games (makers of LoL) are rolling in money because of something we call "micro-transactions" (this is also what makes those Facebook games profitable).  People are willing to step over small monetary fences for worthless eye candy.  You can spend your entire time playing LoL without spending a cent, but pay a few dollars and your character can be transformed with a new costume.  You can unlock more characters quicker, and get new skins for them too.  In WoW you can pay a small amount to change your character name, to move characters between realms, to buy fancy mounts, etc.  None of this makes you fight better, but it makes you feel cooler.

Let's say GW had jumped on this micro-transaction idea back in Factions, when it was clear that PvP was what they excelled at, and not PvE.  People can pay to change their character name, to get really cool elite armor, to change their character's haircut or face paint or get unique shoulder pads or hair nets or staves.  Now GW pulls in a bunch of money for very little work.

Let's say they stopped advertising their crappy campaigns (Nightfall, really?  Didn't you get the memo when people bought Factions just for the PvP skills?) and instead actually advertised their PvP.  Do you know how many WoW/other online gamers I've talked to who had NO IDEA that Guild Wars possessed an incredibly detailed, easy to jump in (max level characters and all that), balanced, challenging PvP playstyle?  They might have started the campaign and never even reached halfway before quitting in boredom.  They never KNEW and thus never TRIED.

So now they have advertising.  All those people who are playing games like LoL (28 billion worldwide, or something like that?) might have heard of GW.  Heck, if even a fraction of those played the PvP, that's money for the game plus micro-transactions.  Instead of flickering out like a sad candle as their devoted players eventually get bored waiting for new content or GW2 or move off to play another game, GW now remains strong in the market.  They might even be leading the MOBA/free game micro-transaction business model.  Instead of all this other PvP out there, we have a solid, huge game, with PvE elements for those who want them, and an incredibly rich, varied field of PvP play.

Think about it.  Is there any other game that let's you PICK YOUR SKILLS?  You're a warrior in WoW, you get all the warrior skills, although only some are good.  But you've still got 50 on your bar.  In LoL each character gets four skills and every time you see that character, you know they have those four skills.  It's not bad, but... there's no diversity.  There's usually a "right way."

Eight skills.  One can be elite.  They must come from your primary and secondary professions.  Rules done.

You can change your secondary profession at any time in town.  You can make a new primary profession and be ready to play (PvP only) in 10 minutes. There are a thousand possibilities as to what you'll run into on the battlefield.  Did you bring the right counters?  Did you decide to play glass cannon?  Are you hooking up with friends for incredible skill synergy? (Three air eles and a channeling rit with iron mist, I'm looking at you!)  Did you do something hilarious just because you could, and not get flamed all match for it?

It's balanced.  You always have control.  You always have a choice.  Do you run?  Attack?  Cast?  Look up the Mesmer class.  It's like nothing any other game has out there.  It's all about making the other players think about what they're doing.  If I'm fighting a mesmer, will she interupt me?  Make it painful for me to cast?  To attack?  Is it one of those crazy Me/W Illusionary Weaponry builds?  Even if she does cast backfire on me (I take 140 dmg for casting a spell), is it worth it to save my team member?  Now there's a depth and a richness that takes forever to master.  It was the challenge and the flavor of a game that's fairly simple on the surface and just gets richer and richer the more you play.

Guild Wars could still be running today (instead of the shadow servers that are left running).  We've been waiting for GW2 for years now and no one I know is holding out any hope.  The fans that loved GW see GW2 as a WoW wanna-be, abandoning most of what was so simple and wonderful about GW.  People who love games like WoW are never going to convert over.  Too many other games have tried and failed to live up to the cash cow that is WoW.

Are we ever going to see another PvP game with a similar set up?  I loved the idea of a limited skill selection, and better-but-not-broken elite skills.  PvP was balanced and you always had control.  It was a game of choices and not button mashing.  The characters were simple, the skills were straightforward, and their mixing was what gave so much flavor and joy to the game.  I spent a long time playing GW, and a good portion of that online with my brother and now-husband as we fought in AB all night long.  We ran good builds and bad, we tried crazy stuff, and we have so many stories that we still laugh at it's unbelievable. 

I want that PvP back.  I want GW to go back and redefine the start up of free-to-play micro-transaction MOBA style games.  They could be the undisputed leader in what balanced, controllable, fun fantasy PvP could be, instead of a what-if waiting on the will-flop.  Not that I don't think LoL and similar haven't done a good job, they clearly have a fanbase, but I think part of their success is that their fanbase had no other similar style games with that kind of quality.  GW could have been that game.

Development and Marketing take note: if one of you makes quality in department A, please don't advertise your crappy department B.  Redefine history.  Bring back AB.  Give me back my crazy air ele so my friends and I can run iron mist builds and laugh ourselves silly because no one in their right minds brings iron mist, but we made it work.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Completed: Toothless!

So I finally took the time to sit down and spend some time away from my computer screen to craft.  My very first project was to make a stuffed Toothless from the movie How to Train Your Dragon.  Well, that was before I had my sewing machine, so I was piecing it all together by hand.

Well, needless to say that was long and slow and painstaking and I never actually managed to finish the poor guy.  I finally dug out all of his pieces and finished the last bit of sewing, stuffed him, and here he is!  My very first stuffed animal... about six months later :p.

Isn't he cute?  He's made of black velveteen cut from a skirt I never wore.  The wings and fins are all hand stitched for the veining (ugh!  Never doing THAT again!) and there are pipe cleaners in the edges of the wings.

I did learn a lot working on this guy.  The wings aren't really fully posable, and one of his legs likes to lay at a funny angle, but hey!  I've got a Toothless!  I'm just happy the poor guy is finally done and stuffed and not a pile of fabric pieces in my drawer.

Oh, and I used this tutorial.  Katy-A deserves the credit for making the pattern!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Found: Super awesome and geeky crafts

So while browsing the internet I've been finding a wealth of amazingly cool, nerdy, and creative crafts.  I already made myself a Kirby plush (more coming later) but some of these are just amazing.

Particle Zoo is an effort by CERN and the folks working at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to bring the world of particle physics into the realm of "cool", or at least populate professors' desks with awesome little plushies.  They have made versions of all the subatomic particles, which you can buy individually or in lots such as the "everyday matter" box, or "universe in a box" (includes everything but antiparticles).  They are even stuffed with different materials in accordance with their real weights!

My favorite of the Particle Zoo has to be the special particles.  I just about died seeing the flavor mixed neutrinos and the decaying quarks!  Well, I DID work with particle physicists, and do an entire project on the stuff.

It's a DNA scarf!  The free pattern can be found here, and it makes me really bummed I don't know how to knit!

Custom cat doll from Luna.
There's this lady in the Netherlands that makes custom dolls that look like your cat.  I love the ones of the long-haired kitties especially.  Some of them are so detailed!  Why is it so hard to find nice orange fur so I can make a version for myself of Munch?

This one isn't for me personally, but it seems pretty cool!  DNA 11 has you send in a cheek swab and they make wall art out of it!

I hope someone enjoyed this explosion of crazy crafts.  I am very serious about the Particle Zoo set though.  Every budding physicist needs one!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

More Munch!

We are seriously lacking in the adorable kitty pictures department.  What is Munch for Lunch without the Munch?

"Yeah, I can play Pictionary too!"
"So what if I've already had one?"
Feelin' pretty good with two under his belt.
Waaaay too much for this snoozy kitty.

*No cats were actually intoxicated for the taking of these pictures, but one very groggy cat was teased mercilessly.*

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Sweater Project: Monster

Check this out!  I love the contrast of the dark patterned blue wool and the bright orange fabric.  You can see how the original artist constructed it on her blog, The Sweater Project.

The knotted little demon tail is the perfect touch!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Geek Alert: Gaming Quilt

As though I don't have enough ideas running around in my head and not enough time to do them, guess what I found a few nights ago while internet searching?  Ahhhh!  Want to make one so badly!

Eeeeeek!  I especially love the underwater one with Mario in a froggie suit as a pillow.  God, Super Mario 3 was the best game ever.  Also, I am rather disappointed in the lack of Link quilts online.  SNES Zelda was the only one I owned and played to completion and it still holds a fond place in my heart.  I think a master sword quilt is in order.

Also, Nate saw these and went googley eyed at them.  Here is one craft he will whole-heartedly endorse.  He wants a Kirby.

Why can't Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind have something so easily translated to quilt form?  I lived that game for over three years...  It makes me sad there is no pixelated memorial to it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Book sale!

Saturday was Nate's birthday so that kept me pretty busy all weekend (we started celebrating on Friday night by going out for ice cream).  However, I would love to share some awesome tidbits about the used book sale in town.

Once a year a local group holds this huge used book sale with materials donated throughout the year, with proceeds going to charity/non-profit.  The books aren't as cheap as the ones from the huge used book sale back home, but hey, how often do you get to enter an animal arena filled to bursting with books?

Besides my usual large haul of fantasy books, I picked up this amazing book I never knew about.  Quilting with the Muppets!  The coolest thing about this book, other than the Muppets of course, is that they actually do the patterns in 3D.  Fozzie and Cookie Monster are done with faux fur, and they have tips and suggestions for making Kermit sort of "pop" out of the page, and Gonzo's nose actually protrudes and hangs out of his quilt square.  There will definitely be a Muppet themed project in the future.

BTW: not being engaged in social activities until I hit college may have been rough on my people skills, but the fantasy section of the book sale was like memory lane.  I'd read SO many of those books and authors!  I kept exclaiming out awesome titles to Nate who, as soon as he decides he wants to read a book, will be drowned in awesome titles.  And I'm only introducing him to the GOOD STUFF.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Microwavable Heaters

As it turns out, I actually completed two more projects that I didn't post about because I was so eager to give them away to friends I forgot to take pictures!  For many years my family has used flax seed filled sacks as microwavable heaters as an alternative to hot water bottles.  They can also go in the freezer as a cold pack.  Since this winter was the closest thing to a real winter I've had yet in PA, everyone else thought it was the next ice age and complained they were cold!

I made all my friends hand warmers, but a few got much larger sacks for sleeping with.  I also cut bits from colored sweaters so they looked better than a plain beige sack.

The one on the left is a sunflower, made to match my friend's sunflower decor in her room.  The one on the right is just a colorful pink/red flower with leaves.  The sack is actually a section of a pair of slacks, so two sides of the bag were already sewn for me (Goodwill $0.15 pants, I might add).  These were a ton of fun, really easy to make, and my friends LOVED them.  It feels good to be handy and to make things that are useful and appreciated.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Call the internet search hounds!

I need help finding a few things on the internet, and for some reason finding proper search terms has always been a weakness of mine.  Consciousness behind the internet, can you help?

I want to put together a Halloween costume like a Mesmer from Guild Wars (a video game).  In particular I liked these armor sets.

These armor sets are generally characterized by: the long overcoat that holds itself out from the body and open; thigh high boots or velveteen stockings; detailing, corset structure, or embroidery about the chest and midriff; full length sleeves, often with embellished cuffs or a flare at the wrist; and a neck band or ruff.

Here's the biggest problem.  I don't see any gowns like this when searching, I find a lot of Victorian gowns or generic renaissance but nothing that is open and holds itself open.  Is this style of gown called something?  Does anyone know a good set of search terms?

Although I don't know how to read patterns, my only other thought is to try and find a gown pattern, cut out the front and put a thicker electrical wire all through the hem to hold it in place.  Suggestions?

Monday, April 25, 2011


Annnnnnnnd.... because I have time tonight, here's post #2!  I picked up a couple of really cute summer dresses over the last month and I managed to get pictures of a few of them.  I wish I'd gotten a picture of the one I wore this weekend.

Nate made me practice my "runway walk".

Dress: Thifted, Plato's Closet ($6). Shoes: umm... ages ago? Purse: Thrifted, Goodwill ($1). Necklace: Christmas gift from Nate.  Peek-a-boo cat: rescue (priceless).
Let's put it this way... The first time I wore one of these, I got hit on by a grocery store employee.  The second time I noticed a bunch of middle aged men staring at me all the time and a few quiet comments when I was the next aisle over.  The third time, the cashier at Goodwill very kindly told me I should consider contacts (implication: I was very pretty, and if I ditched the glasses he wanted a date :p).
After many years and some "self-esteem reprogramming" by my sweetheart, I can accept these compliments for what they are, and not get too flustered over it.  It's actually a confidence booster.  Who wouldn't want to be told they're beautiful?  Then I can come home, tell Nate, and he can cuddle me and feel confident in his beautiful "catch".

Project: Complete!

Wow, I'm so excited I finally had time to finish a project, and not just dream up new ones!  I had a hectic couple of weeks at work and then on of Nate's good friends stayed with us for the last week, so needless to say free time was non-existent.

But tonight I finally got to sit down with the piles of fabric I've been accumulating to finish a project.  You ready for this?
Munch's new favorite hang-out.
Recycled sweater quilt #2 is complete!  I bought some beautiful cranberry fleece from Jo-Ann's with a 50% off coupon so the back only cost something like $4.  The sweaters were <$10 total, and I still have a bit of each left.

I wanted to go with a very different color scheme than the pink one I had first made here.  Granted these are for gifts, but a dark gray/burgundy colored blanket is so much more my color tone than pink.  Plus I learned a few things from my first attempt which made this quilt a LOT easier (hint: don't use super thick wool and thin merino next to each other!).

And you can see that my adorable little Munch monster has already claimed the blanket as his.  I laid it down on the floor and I literally did not have time to grab my camera before he sat on it.  *sigh*  Good thing this blanket's recipient isn't allergic.

Friday, April 15, 2011

What I've Been Working On

What's this?  I actually made progress on a project?  Yeah, graduate school has been kicking my butt and not leaving a lot of time for fun things, like hacking fabric apart to make soft and squishy things.  I did make a cute little turtle that didn't take very long at all.  In fact, I think I like him so much I'll make a few more, or go with an underwater theme, and maybe put together a mobile for my sister's soon-to-be-baby.

I've also successfully finished piecing together my second sweater quilt!  I haven't put the backing on it yet, but the important parts are all there.

This was made by cutting apart four 100% merino sweaters, and I picked the softest ones I could find at that.  There was the black argyle, a nice GAP striped but had too many holes to wear, a burgundy one full of holes, and a dark charcoal gray.  Hey, if Goodwill wants to sell holey sweaters for $0.15 on sale, I won't say no!

Also, thank you to Resweater's blog for giving me this idea and for having a lot of inspiring ideas in general.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


So I've been far too busy with graduate school and recovering from mono to post anything, or to do any crafting (and hence have cool projects worth sharing).  So instead I'll just share some cool pictures I snagged off the web as inspiration.  *insert legal stuff here... I don't tag where I find this stuff, most is from Etsy or google image searches*

Actually, the last one is from Resweater.  I just love the expression on that monster face!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What I've Been Working On

Is actually quite a lot!  I finally got plastic safety eyes in the mail and got the big 20mm ones added to my bear rug, as well as stitching on a faux leather nose (note: this is WAY harder than it sounds).  I still have to make some claws and sew on the liner; pics when it's done, promise.

I also finished up two more microwavable heat packs, this time as a monster head and a snake.

Both are made out of fabric scraps or recycled sweaters from Goodwill.  The funky eyes are made of felt and done crooked on purpose.  The fiance actually had to ask me if I intended it that way *rolls eyes*.

As sort of a funny story, the fiance also bought 12 bars of Irish Spring soap because he had run out, but apparently didn't buy the kind he was used to.  He now has 12 bars of "cleansing scrub" soap with sand and gravel and rusty nails and bits of iron filings in them for that extra exfoliating action.  The first time he washed up he got out of the shower with pink skin and visible lines down his arms!

In steps my friend the internet, and reveals there are "soap scrubbies," wool soap liners that let the suds out but keep the soap in.  He insisted it have a "manly" decoration on it: no flowers or birds, but wouldn't tell me what.  Ok my manly man with extra iron in his soap... you get a big red X.

What a manly, tough guy decoration!

I'll let you know if it works!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Currently Coveting: Summer Dresses!

I spent part of today looking through the store fliers and online merchandise from Kohl's and JCPenney.  Originally the idea was to look for ideas for a new swimsuit for when we go on our honeymoon cruise.  I got distracted by so many incredibly cute dresses; of course I have no idea how many would actually look good on me, but I love the pictures.  My favorite two:

Ok, so the second one is a skirt and not a dress, but oh my!  I feel like I'd look like a million bucks, at least to Nate.  What feels like a million bucks, though, is the $30 price tag.  For someone who usually shops at Goodwill and tries to not buy their full price $5 items, this comes quite steep.  Why don't I know how to read patterns?!  Why don't I have a sewing machine that can handle denim?  Arrrrrgh!

Other cute dresses I saw are below.  Anyone else thing they look like good summer options?

Can you tell I like a particular style?  Apparently I've figured out the one dress shape that looks good on my long torso and small bust!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Because of spring break Nate didn't have to work this morning, which meant we got to go downtown for lunch.  Not wanting to feel like a grungy lab rat, I got dressed up so I could enjoy the day with him.

Sweater: gift (100% cashmere!!). Tank: Kohl's. Skirt: Um..? Purse: thrifted (Goodwill, $1).

I got this skirt years ago and never really wore it because it was pink, and I hated pink.  Funny how times change.  Also, the orange fuzzball couldn't stand the fact that he wasn't the center of attention, so he made himself part of the pictures.

"Pick me up!  I'm supposed to be the center of attention!"

"That's better.  Now keep scratching, and don't let me down until dinner time."
At least I always get an enthusiastic greeting when I come home from work each day :).