For months I struggled to find meaning in MMORPGs and wrote about my feelings a little over a month ago. Then something changed, and I am not exactly sure how or when it did. Now I am suddenly finding myself caring an awful lot… and even more than that thinking about what I am going to be doing that evening. The only problem is… I have found myself struggling nonetheless. Life was going rather peachy in Final Fantasy XIV that is… until I started trying to catch up in the patch content. Last week they released 3.3 patch content and I happily quested my way through both the tail end of 3.2 and 3.3 until I hit a road block. That road block being that in order to do the first dungeon introduced by the new content… I have to be sitting at 200 item level. Now when I took a break several months ago I was sitting at 190 item level and that was just about as good as was humanly possible to get at the time, or more so as good as you could get without the really painful grind. Upon coming back I have been having a blast farming ponies with the guild and slowly working my way through the relic weapon quest. I’ve also attempted to keep running experts but failed miserably at doing them on a regular basis.
The end result is that I have managed to pull my item level up to 195 but 200 still feels like it is a very very long ways off. One of the problems is in the past when they have introduced a new item cap like this to continue the quest, the previous set of dungeons provided gear that was of sufficient level to breach it. However the last set of dungeons in this case only dropped 195 level gear, which were upgrades in a few slots but in no way good enough to bring me up to fighting levels. The answer of course is to run Void Ark over and over until my eyes bleed, however I find myself struggling to do that when I don’t have anyone else to run it with. Tuesday is the night we run group content as a free company, and on that night the guild is active as can be. The only problem is the rest of the week it is a ghost town. So I struggle to push myself to do activities with strangers, which is going to be a common theme in this post. My entire time in MMO gaming I have always had this wonderful social support structure, from the moment I set foot in Everquest to modern times. If I needed something done there was always a ready supply of friends that I could pester to come do it with me. When I am missing that I am finding that I don’t exactly know how to function.
This brings us to game two that I am struggling with. Over the weekend in a fit of nostalgia and such I dove head first into Rift and am having a really great time. I’ve started participating in the Rift discord community, and picked the brains of several friends as to all of the things that I should be doing now that I am back. The item that kept getting mentioned is that I really should start working on the weekly quests out in the Planetouched Wilds area. So being a dutiful follower of instructions I wound my way through the quest content and hit a big stubborn wall. There was a quest on top of Lantern Hook that involved killing a bunch of mobs essentially before they killed me, and quite frankly I was overwhelmed. I tried it in a few different specs before eventually asking for some help. The only problem is by that time in the Discord community, everyone was busy doing their own thing and not watching chat… so I got nothing but crickets. The challenge with Rift is that it is not that I have minimal social structure in that game like the way I do in Final Fantasy XIV… it is that I suddenly have none at all. Over the years all of that structure has eroded to where I am left with just one single channel that once or twice a night has another person in it with me. The majority of the time when I say hello to said other person in the channel I get no response telling me… that it probably scrolled by so fast on their screen that they didn’t even notice it.
Rift does a great job of providing a ton of things that I could be doing solo, but unfortunately there are still times where I absolutely need other people to do content. What I ultimately did was start watching the level 65 channel until I saw someone that seemed nice enough and that was playing on the same server as me. I pushed myself so far out of my comfort zone and asked them for help… to which I was shot down. However I politely thanked them anyways, and about thirty minutes later while I was still sitting there struggling to figure out a way to do the quest by myself… I got a message from them again saying that they were finished with their raid and that they could come help me. So massive thanks to Domasca from Faeblight for assisting with the quest and pushing me past that obstacle. I continued on about my business and finished another set of quests only to return back to Lantern Hook to be handed yet another quest that I had no way of soloing. It was at this point I gave up for the night and went to bed, frustrated. Basically I am already standing on a precipice with this game and have a handful of choices in front of me. Either I can start rebuilding my social network within Rift a single player at a time, and in doing so force myself into anxiety ridden territory. I can research specs and try and find that one magical spec that lets me solo silly hard content like I have done in the past. Then of course there is always the option to just quit the game again… which is the one that I am trying to avoid as hard as I can. Rift is this wonderful throwback to an era in MMO gaming that I miss greatly… the only problem is that era is one when you needed lots and lots of active friends to support you through all the random things you needed to accomplish. So in truth… I need to figure out how to meet new people in this extremely well established and already stratified community.