Sunday, November 19, 2017

Playing In The Big Leagues : DCUO

If you run around in just about any MMO without a guild tag up you can expect to get unsolicited invites. Sometimes it's a whisper asking if you're looking for a guild. Sometimes it's a drive-by pop-up.

Occasionally you run into that annoying recruiter who hears "I'm not looking for a guild right now" as a challenge to his recruiting skills but usually all you have to do is make the right polite demurral or simply not respond at all and you're on your way. Which is what I always do.

Except last night, playing DCUO, I didn't. I was in a Metropolis Police Station shopping for clothes (as you do), when a League Invite window popped. Leagues, naturally, being how guilds are known in the game.

And I accepted it. I don't know why. I liked the name - DC Bombshells - and I also liked the name of the person who'd sent the invite, both of which are always positive indicators, but mostly I was just in a mellow, "it's a grouping kind of game" frame of mind.

I said "thanks" and no-one replied so I guessed it was going to be one of those "we recruit the entire server" kind of organizations. Which is fine. Being in one of those is like still playing solo only now you have a tag so you're more anonymous than ever.

With that ice broken I was in for more socializing. Since returning to the game I'd taken a minimal amount of trouble to read my skills, check my loadouts, spend my Trait Points and grab a couple of upgrades so I was about as ready as I was going to be.

The next step of the Episode story arc was a four-person instance. I queued it and it popped in a matter of seconds. The Episode instances so far have been role agnostic so queuing as DPS isn't the drag anchor you'd expect.

The instance went very well. In keeping with modern practice no-one spoke as we followed the quest tracker instructions, which could largely have been condensed to "Kill everything and go through the next door that opens".

As battle progressed it occurred to me that, as DCUO has one of those rare, welcome, native screenshot functions that auto-hides the UI, I might be able to get some decent combat shots. Getting screen grabs of fights involving your character that don't look like an explosion in a firework factory is hard enough but doing it without dying can be next to impossible so I was surprised and delighted with the results.

When I came to look them over, it wasn't just that I had a few nice pictures for the blog: I could actually see - for the first time ever - what my character does in a fight. I had no idea that when she uses her "Whirlwind" attack she flies around her enemies at ankle level, parallel to the floor, for example.

I'll be taking a lot more in-combat shots because they look great. I wouldn't go quite that far in describing what my character looks like but she certainly looks a lot better than she did in yesterday's illustrations. It was looking at the unseemly outfit she was embarrassing herself with in yesterday's post that made me open the Style tab and rethink.

DCUO may not match the legendary superhero fashion show that was City of Heroes but the Style system is a robust entry in the MMO appearance stakes. I don't have a whole lot of Styles earned and learned yet but I was able to put together something I'm a lot happier to be seen rescuing citizens in.

The instance proceeded efficiently and without drama until someone spoke up to question one member of the party who seemed to be in the wrong place doing nothing very much. There was no reply but a couple of minutes later I noticed the slacker had dropped from the group and been replaced by a new person. No "Vote to Kick" window popped so I guess he left of his own accord.

That was as awkward as it got. Well within my tolerance levels for pugging. We got to the final boss - Owlman - and knocked him around for a few minutes. Then we stood there like lemons while he and bad Commissioner Mayor Gordon played "pass the buck" for a while before Owlman pulled some trick from his Owlbelt (I'm guessing) and made his escape.

Fun times. The group broke up while I was reading my reviews in the window of shame that pops after an instance. I was, of course, lowest on every count - DPS, Healing, the other one. Well, I did beat the guy who left halfway through, but not his replacement. Still, no-one yelled at me and you could at least see I'd been doing something.

I went back to my Lair to go through my bags and sort out any upgrades that had dropped and I was standing around doing that when I heard voices. DCUO is a game with a lot of voiceover work so I just assumed it was Superman or someone nagging me to do more pro bono but gradually it dawned on me that DBG probably wouldn't pay voice actors to chat at length about their builds in some kind of simulated in-game version of a podcast.

I'd completely forgotten that DCUO has inbuilt VOIP. What I was hearing was a couple of people in my new League, chatting away. That was freaky. They sounded quite pleasant though so I turned the sound down a little and left them on like a radio station in the background.

That got me looking at the League tab. I don't think I've ever opened it before. I discovered that I've joined a League that only accepts female characters. Googling the League's name makes it clear why that is. Once upon a time I'd have known that without having to look it up but my obsessively detailed knowledge of the DC Universe stops dead in its tracks around 1989.

I don't know what counts as big in DCUO terms but DC Bombshells has over 400 members and there were twenty or twenty-five on the whole time I was playing. It looks as though I've joined an active organization at least.

Whether that's going to encourage me to log in more often or make me find something altogether different to do remains to be seen. Joining guilds has had both effects on me in the past. Whatever, it makes a change.

I'm not a fan of "getting out of your comfort zone" in principle. I've always held comfort to be aspirational not problematic. I do need reminding sometimes, though, that a comfort zone can stretch a fair old way and still stay pretty comfy.

I think I might be able to push this one a little further yet.


  1. I can't recall ever seeing you write very much about being in a guild, other than the occasional mention of a time in the past where you were very much into group content - was it in Everquest? I kind of hope you stay and go on some more adventures with other people; I'd be curious to hear how it turns out.

    1. I was very actively involved in guilds in DAOC and EverQuest from about 2000 to 2004, then in EQ2 from 2004-mid-2005. Then I went back to EQ and was in a guild on new server there. Most of those were what we used to call call "family guilds" back then - somewhere between 20 and 40 members - although the second DAOC guild was a lot bigger - the leading guild in its server/faction for most of the time I was in it.

      After that I went back to EQ2 and was in a guild there which changed the pattern because within a matter of what seemed like days after I joined the guildleader left and never returned. Mrs Bhagpuss and I ended up staying in that guild for around five years and it became our guild. I found I liked having control of the technical side of guilds so much that from then on I pretty much only ever made my own guilds.

      MMOs also changed around then to become hugely more solo oriented and most MMOs allowed you to create a guild with just one account. Even when they didn't, the F2P revolution meant I could just make enough accounts to meet the minimum requirement (did that in several MMOs).

      For the last decade Mrs Bhagpuss and I have co-led a guild that has the same name in every MMO we play. We occasionally invite other people we meet but the most I think we've ever had on the roster is about a dozen people. In GW2 we have just one other active member. In GW2, though, we also joined a 400+ member guild to do WvW - we've been in that one for several years.

      I have very ambivalent feelings about guilds. I really detest guild drama and I would be lying if I didn't own up to being the cause of some of it in my time. I definitely would prefer to go without a guild at all than to go through some of the situations I experienced in the past. These days the whole guild concept seems to be massively diluted from what it was a decade and more ago, though. I'm not sure if that kind of drama even happens any more.

  2. got a group in an Alert that was actually competant? My brother keeps telling me all the time about having to deal with people who can't follow simple on-screen prompts.


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