Saturday, May 30, 2015

Mount and Blade: Warband... again... and again... and again... This time with 100% more reddit

So I tried to get back into Mount and Blade for about the millionth time, but this time I figured I'd ask a few of the questions to the subreddit /r/mountandblade to see if they had any idea what I was doing wrong or some advice on how to proceed.  I made THIS post to ask some questions and got some very well thought out and detailed explanations... which is exactly what I expected from a community focused on such a detailed and well thought out game.

My biggest problems with Mount and Blade outside of technical "how to land shots" type stuff in no particular order:

  • Once I build an army I can't feed/pay them because I'm broke
  • When I lose a fight I spend the next hour going 1v100 and being taken prisoner over and over again.
  • When I try to rebuild an army I'm ambushed over and over and over before I can even get any troops trained
Those problems were all given solutions which I have been trying out in my most recent campaign staring Coward McRunsaway.  Turns out you can buy businesses in cities and they will make money for you passively.  That's a strong start.  As soon as I had 2500 denars I purchased a brewery in a city and it makes me a little under 200 denars a week.  I've been trying to save up for other businesses, but it's been very difficult.  Prisoners take time to offload and without a high prisoner management skill you're stuck spending a ton of time to make very little money.  The more time I waste running around looking for a ransom broker the more food my army eats.    I have been bumping up my prisoner management, but I don't use blunt weapons, so I've been kinda handicapping myself a bit.  I'm looking for a good 1hb weapon now.  Also, I got lucky and was asked to be a mercenary for the Rhodoks very early and have been a mercenary a long long time paying for about half of everything I need.  I break even some weeks and lose a lot on others depending on how many troops I have and what I've done that week, but it's a very different experience than being in the negatives until everyone deserts. 

I also found out the very simple "trick" of just right clicking a friendly lord with a huge army and pressing "accompany."  That means if there's a fight, it's going to be with my army and his army.  So, when I've found myself with dwindling numbers of good troops I just linger with a big, well equipped army and play backup.  Before this campaign I never had a lot of success finding specific lords I needed to find.  This time I decided I'd just do everything I can to find who I needed to find.  Turns out, when there is a war going on a lot of the lords stick together.  That means if you find a lord with a big army moving towards the enemy there's a great chance you'll find the rest of the lords in the field.  The only trouble I'm still having is finding the first lord when I'm summoned to fight in a war.  I've only failed that quest once so far, but it's frustrating because I started looking where they said he was right away and couldn't find him.  I need better tracking skill... but I spent all those points on a follower I ended up dismissing and now I'm back to not being able to see useful tracks.

Another very lucky situation of my current game is that we took over a lot of Swadian land, so I can train Swadian Knights.  I kept hearing how strong they are, but I couldn't believe it when I saw it.  I only have 5, but they account for half the kills on the battlefield and don't suffer when they are dismounted either.  I also added in some Mamlukes from some Sarranid villages we have control over.  That frees me up to make all my Rhodok soldiers into sharpshooters and make the most of my people's strengths.  I still struggle vs horse archers, but having both Sarranid and Swadian calvary means at least someone can keep up with them.  The Mamlukes have the added benefit of using blunt weapons, so more prisoners!

Basically, I've been "successful" enough to keep playing.  I've never had a game go longer than 100 days without having a million horrific problems so this game being almost 300 days and not really that bad is a great start!

Thanks again to /r/mountandblade for giving me the boost I needed to actually keep on truckin in Mount and Blade: Warband!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Warlords of Draenor Recruitment Journal #2

What did I call the last one?  Who cares.  Anyways, picked up a few new guys this week.  One is a 93 warrior with a 100 pvp geared monk main who's not in the guild yet.  The second one is a friend of the couple who joined last week.  The last one is a mage I met out in the world while farming barn mats.  We had so much fun blowing up mobs and running down alliance that I had to ask him to join.  He agreed.

So, I'd say the best way I've found to meet new guild mates is to be social in the world.  Duh?  Not really.  People don't even think to invite someone who's standing right next to them doing the same thing to a group... which benefits everyone involved.  Be social, mention you're looking for new members, be nice to people, and don't be afraid to take the lead in the situation.  Simple.  The only "hard" part is finding yourself in places where you will run into similarly minded people

The next step is going to be the step that makes every salesman's career... the referrals.  I'm not exactly sure how we've only received one referral member since this big recruitment drive of mine.  It's either that most people we've found are loners or they are waiting to see results before trying to sell the guild to their friends.  Either situation is fair.  I always mention that we are not in a position to create content for the casual member and that recruitment and excitement levels are going to determine which direction the guild ultimately takes.  I just need to see if I can find a way to get the whole guild invested in bringing in new players.  They don't have to be like me posting all over the internet and chatting up everyone they run into.  I'd just like people to have their eyes open for people who'd fit in and not be afraid to say something.  This is the area I'm going to focus on going forward.  I'm going to have to sit down with a couple of the old guard and see if I can shake them up a bit as well.  I don't think it's asking for much to be on the lookout for good players, but I also don't want to pressure people to the point where they feel something's wrong or it's too much work.

All in all, this week was a success.  We picked up 3 new active members who have been contributing to the guild since they joined.  Goal is one per week.  I can see in the future it's going to be important to find a healer main or ten if we're going to get into more organized content on either the pvp or pve side of things.  As it stands now we have one healer who's playing his 90 boost on our server infrequently and 4ish people with alt healers (myself included).  That's okay if people don't mind playing their alts, but I know I'd like to take my warrior or death knight out way more frequently than my healer at this point.  Same seems to go for everyone else who has a healing alt.  We even have a monk who runs windwalker/brewmaster and doesn't seem to have plans of gearing mist walker.  it's all okay, but in order to have everyone playing what they want to play we need to find more healer mains who WANT TO play their healer primarily.  With how low our numbers have been and how steadily they have been improving with our open door policy I don't want to change anything quite yet, but something will have to be done if we break 100 characters in the guild and not one healer main who's active and contributing.  The only thing we can hope for is that having to pull from the general public for healers to run content should mean we are meeting way more healers than anything else and have the best chance of winning them over.  I guess we'll see.

Anyways, you can always catch me online at or on twitter @T6SROF.  The recruitment saga will continue...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor - Reviving an Old Guild

If you've been stopping by the stream you've probably noticed that the new expantion to World of Warcraft has sucked me in.  I'm in love with the game right now and having a really great time.  That being said, our guild, has been all but dead for months.  I started hearing the few guys who would log in from time to time start talking about all of us joining a bigger better guild and it all felt hopeless.  

I decided I was going to do something about it and I have been trying every which way to find the right people for our guild ever since.  I would say my drive to start boosting our numbers started at about Christmas time and since then we've picked up about 10 new players.  Of those 10, 2 are friends from Twitch who used their free 90 boost to get characters on our server (Boulderfist).  4 of them are married couples who came to the game in pairs.  One couple was the tank/healer of a dungeon I was in.  The other I met via a recruitment post on /r/wowguilds.  The other 4 are people we met in the world who were guildless who I convinced to give us a shot.  There have been a few members added through trade and one rogue who was griefing alliance in Spires of Arak who needed to join us, but there has been no one good way to get new players.

I'm posting this because I'm actually very curious to see how this works out and want to start documenting a kind of... recruitment journal... so I can start to go back and review my notes as the guild grows... or doesn't.

The hardest part of recruiting right now is that we don't have any finite goals.  Most people recruiting are looking for something functional.  They want melee DPS who can raid Monday and Wednesday from 18:00 to 23:00 server time in ilvl 650+.  That's easy.  People who see that and fit the bill who are not happy with their guild situation will notice.  The only difficulty is getting your message in front of those people.  When your only goal is to find fun people to play with and eventually do rated battlegrounds and some minor raiding... what the hell do you say to get the right people to notice?  I mean, you can go and say just that, but there's a big difference between a guild that has 500 members who don't know each other and just casually do stuff together when they can and a group of 20 players who all know each other well and have fun spending time together even though both of those groups are pulling from the same pool of players.

I'm stumped, but not frustrated.  If I can pick up one good player who wants to be a part of the guild every week then that's great.  I just need to keep working at it and keep trying.  I just don't know where is the best place to look.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor Warchief fight

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor Impressions

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a hack and slash assassination type game along the lines of Assassin's Creed and the new Batman franchise.  I haven't played through an AC game since I labeled the first one "The best boring game I ever played" and dismissed the Batman games as completely overrated.  I'm not really all that interested in the Lord of the Rings movies and haven't read the books since they were assigned reading in high school.  So, why buy it?  100% of the reason I decided to give this a try is their new (and about to get used by every other game under the sun) nemesis system.

More after the jump

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Goodbye Diablo 3 Auction House aka How to screw up player motivation

There's the announcement everyone thought would never come.  My friends who are new-ish to Diablo 3 have said things like "people must be abusing the system" or "too many bot accounts making money off the Real Money Auction House."  The truth is in the announcement and I've been saying it all along.

it ultimately undermines Diablo's core game play: kill monsters to get cool loot.

The auction house is a cancer.  It creeps into your head every time you restart your game without finding anything of consequence.  It's there every time your freshly found legendary rolls lousy stats.  It's there every time you simply can't get something done the way you want to do it.

The basic dungeon crawler goes: Kill stuff, get new things from the stuff you killed, use these new things to kill even more stuff, repeat.

When you break that chain with a non core gameplay related means of upgrading your stuff it messes with your motivation.  My first thought is "what isn't dropping to make room for these other means of acquiring loot?"  That's quickly followed up with "I bet I'm not finding anything because of the auction house."  Eventually I get to the point where I am unsure I can ever upgrade any of my stuff my killing monsters (core gameplay) so I go to the auction house.  If I can't upgrade there either then why play the game at all?  The world is full of junk and I can't afford the stuff in the auction house.  What's the use?

Then I'll kill some boss mob somewhere and he'll drop nothing (hi, Butcher... you ass) and I'll sit back and go "I bet he isn't dropping anything because they have to balance the drops vs the auction house."

Even if it's not true... it's in my head.  I am all messed up and the core gameplay is unclear.  Am I supposed to be killing stuff or following Randy Pitchford on twitter?  Should I be spamming zombie bears or should I be refreshing the auction house?  It sounds like I'm exaggerating to make it sound worse, but I'm being 100% serious when I say there were many days in Diablo 3 where I'd just log in to screw with the auction house because I didn't believe it was possible to find any upgrades. Then, after a couple sessions like that I'd stop playing for a while because it would sink in that I can't do any better for myself by playing... that's why I'm in the auction house all night... what do I think I'm going to do when I get that upgrade off the auction house?

Borderlands 2 and SHiFT codes

This is a very similar problem to Diablo 3's auction house.  This is a way that's not only there, but encouraged, to replace killing things in the loot chain.  If you're unfamiliar, you can follow people like Gearbox Software's Randy Pitchford on twitter and he'll occasionally post what are known as SHiFT codes.  These codes give you keys.  These keys unlock a chest (in the center of town near the most used portal in the game) that drops gear.

So what is core gameplay in Borderlands 2?  You load a game, kill a boss, end the game, load it back up, kill the boss again.  Why?  Because unlike Diablo 3, legendary items (that are pretty damn awesome) only drop from specific bosses and random loot midgets.  It's hard to get the items that are recommended for high level play and even harder to get them with the proper affixes that make them truly powerful.  The fact that there's a box in the middle of Sanctuary where you can spend currency you earned by being on Facebook or Twitter and upgrade your stuff is such a punch in the guts that it makes me feel like this is going to be my last Gearbox software game for a long time.

That stupid chest right by the main teleporter and New-U station stares me in the face every time I log in and mocks me with the potential stuff that DOES NOT DROP because they want twitter followers and social media interaction so they had to build a non-shoot-assholes-in-the-face method to upgrade gear into their game.  Now, I've never used a key on that box, but I can't imagine that it will be full of junk.  They want that social media hotness!


So, it's been a few months and life goes on in the Diablo 3 world.  I still haven't logged back into Borderlands 2 but that might be because I've been enjoying so many other games so much recently.  Or, it could be because I've never even hit max level and have no interest in the "farming style" of the game yet they keep selling level cap increases...  I don't know.  I do have a negative feeling in my gut about Borderlands 2... but that might be because I'm the kind of player who is bothered by the "meta game" instead of just playing the actual game.  This only comes with games I absolutely love.  I really like Defiance... but I don't play it enough to care about any of the currencies or what I can get with shabloobie bucks or whatever the hell they are.  But, in Guild Wars 2 I'm bothered by the fact that bag space is held behind a pay wall so much that it makes me dislike the game.  Planetside 2 is one of my favorite games of the last decade yet I haven't logged into the game at all in months because I started to see the "core gameplay" as something I wasn't digging.  I enjoy the tactical land grab but the best way to play as defined by the motivator (xp/certs) is to dig in at one base and play team death match all night.

In the end, game developers and publishers need to sit down and realize how they are motivating players.   If people are moving away from PLAYING the game because there are better paths to in game rewards then there's something wrong.  The only exception to this is Defiance because its content is in tune with a TV show and the two play off each other.  They want you to play the game AND watch the show... and I'm somewhat okay with this because it's handled properly.  I'll go into that another time... EVERYONE ELSE... stop with the out of game solutions to in game motivation. 

Oh, and I think Diablo 3 could have kept the auction house seeing as they also announced seasonal ladders with Reaper of Souls.  I'm seriously tapping my fingers for that expantion to launch... but anyways... I need to go kill some stuff and loot some things... so follow me on twitter @T6SROF (c wut i did thar?)

The best game of Oregon Trail you'll ever play... aka The Banner Saga

I finished my first play through of The Banner Saga late last night.  The more I think about how I want to approach this post the more I just want to talk about the story.  Not because it's good (it is) but because it's most of what you'll take away from the experience.  This isn't one of those art piece "interactive stories" that have been popping up much more often in recent years.  It's a strategy game.  It's also not just a strategy game because the story is dynamic based on the decisions you make... making it something more along the lines of a choose your own adventure story.  The setting of the game is a journey.  The destination changes from time to time, but it's basically Oregon Trail.  You start at one end with an army, some "clansmen" and supplies and head out to where you've got to be enjoying one strange adventure after another on the way.

The reason I am having trouble putting my thoughts on paper about The Banner Saga is because I feel like this game COULD have been more enjoyable if the developers had a bigger budget.  Once you get through the first half hour of the game you've seen all the animations you'll see.  The people you chat with will have a twitchy eye or tap on their shields, but they are just a looping 5 second animation on the screen as you read all the dialogue yourself.  I make this complaint only out of love.  The voice acting that IS in the game is stellar.  The combination of the 70s retro cartoon graphics and the voice actors they used really is something special.  The only problem is you don't hear them much outside of the first half hour of this 10 hour play through.  I also have to back peddle even MORE because I believe the story is so good it stands up on its own without NEEDING voice actors or animations.  In fact, I'd probably skip most of the dialogue if it was being spoken instead of displayed in text.

Basically, I loved the little cut scene in the beginning and I wanted a lot more of that.

The combat is fun and mostly straight forward but it did take me a little time to figure out exactly what's going on.  You move your fighters around on what amounts to a chess board and take turns trying to whittle down each others armor and strength.  Each fighter has its own special ability and passive ability along with their own distribution of stats.  It's boiled down to the most basic and it really does feel good to have a plan come together.

The traveling and all the little side stories throughout your journey are what really take this game to the next level.  Do you trust the guys who just so happen to be going in your direction and invite them to come along?  Or, do you kill them where they stand because you can't be too cautious?  Maybe you just keep going about your business and see what happens?  In the end, this game does moral decision making right.  This isn't the Bioshock style of "Press A to snap this little girl's neck or Press B to save her."  Sometimes it's the difference between glancing or saying nothing that changes everything.  The story is so well woven that I honestly couldn't tell you why I ended up where I did.  All I know is it makes me want to start all over again and see what else is out there.

With that being said... let's go over some quick pros and cons and wrap this up:

  • Story.  
  • Art Style
  • Easy to pick up yet difficult to master turn based combat
  • Moral decision making done right
  • No "Quick save" making every decision count
  • Animations and voice acting taper off too early
  • Holy WTF loose ends when I finished my play through without any hint to there being a way to find out.
  •  Only one profile can be played.  You can either resume or restart (sorry PC sharers)
  • No "Quick save" making every decision count


If you enjoyed Oregon Trail or you like turn based "chess like" strategy games... OR you just love a good, well written story you need to get on steam right now and pick yourself up a copy of The Banner Saga.  It's an amazing experience that you should not miss.

Monday, September 02, 2013

UPDATED: Match Making Kills Communities? Yes and no... MMORPG edition

When I talked about match making killing communities I felt very strongly that removing the match making tool would improve the way people interact.  I still do to a degree, but there's a much better way to look at the situation that I had not thought of until I read a bunch of related and absolutely unrelated arguments about this or that and realized that the tool is never the problem.  You may be realizing why I attached the photo of this handsome gentlemen to this post.  His shirt is a joke, but it's a decent way to put a bow on the argument that tools aren't intrinsically good or evil... it's the use of the tools.  Now, don't get all real world on me here, this is leading to more game talk... this isn't the blog for gun control discussion.

Anyways, The tool that matches us up with compatible teammates/opponents isn't evil.  It doesn't kill communities on its own, but it does allow for social interaction to become redundant if the game isn't designed properly.  What this means is that the match maker should help those with limited time or social contacts but should be a supplement to the game, not the game.  

How many times have you heard people talk about League of Legends or DOTA2 and say "I don't like the community.  I only play with friends."?  THAT'S THE IDEA!  You are supposed to be making friends through the solo queue and eventually have a group of people you enjoy spending time with to play games with when you're online!  People have become so reliant on match finders and queues that they have no idea what they are supposed to do when they end up in a game with people.  It's like putting two people in a room together and they both take out their phones and start checking facebook instead of talking to one another.

So, let's look at MMOs and how they've changed thanks to the Dungeon Finders.  EverQuest is a great example of a game where you were on your own to build groups.  If you were known as a good tank and a good person you'd get groups with other people who respected your abilities/personality.  Great, right?  Well, as a good tank with a decent personality and long friends list I'd still end up sitting around in the /lfg lists trying to form/be invited to a group.  This would sometimes go on for hours.  I distinctly remember trying to find groups for 3+ hours only to end up having the group break up 10 minutes after reaching our destination.  Sucks.... a lot.  

Two days ago I updated my Rift client for the first time in probably a year.  All of my skill trees were reset due to changes that were made since I last was on so I had to rebuild my healer tree.  I threw a ton of points into the Warden tree and queued up for a dungeon.  A minute or two later I was dropped in with 4 other guys and we were off.  I didn't even have time to buff myself before we were fighting the first wave of enemies.  I was getting decent xp and was moving quickly from place to place as the rest of the group was at the new level cap while I was still at the old one (60 and 50 respectively).  Nobody was taking damage so my heals were pointless.  I had all my skill bars messed up but it didn't matter because gear and xp were flying.


The idea behind dungeon finders is to allow for people with limited time or friends the ability to do group based activities and get good group xp/gear.  It came from developers who wanted nothing more than to pack the game world with fun.  They wanted to remove the frustration of sitting in town spamming "/ooc 50 warrior LFG" for hours and replace it with a rewarding experience on a small time budget.  While they were at it, they also removed the frustrating time sinks like retrieving your corpse after a death, getting buffs from other players, and all sorts of other things people were always complaining about.  Great, right?  Well...

Time for another movie character!  This time, it's The Architect from The Matrix Reloaded.  In case you don't remember, he talks about previous iterations of The Matrix where they gave everyone a perfect world and they rejected it.  The simulation failed because people didn't get the suffering and hardships they expected from the world and couldn't live in absolute happiness all the time.

See where I'm going with this?   People look back fondly on their time in games pre-match making.  They tell stories of corpse runs and long dangerous journeys that ended up a failure.  They laugh about the time they lost a level and ended up having to play naked for a day while they got back to the required level of their gear.  BUT... they won't go back to it because people are wired to do what is the most fun and avoid suffering.

This has to do with community? 

Yes.  Be patient.


So, this guy spends his whole time online breaking down exactly what the maximum amount of xp per hour is possible and it turns out that it's running dungeons back to back to back with a strong group.  He fires up his twitch stream and shows off how him and his friends can make 100x the reward that you can by doing dungeon after dungeon.  You then log in and do the same thing to a similar result.  Eventually, everyone is aware that doing dungeons is the absolute best way to get xp and want to do nothing but the best for themselves while they are online.  Great.  Now we all know exactly how not to "waste" time while we're grinding.  People start requesting more and more of this "optimal" content and the company delivers.  When you get online you press a button and are dropped into a queue.  It doesn't matter where you are in the world, you'll just be dropped right in on the action...

With a group of strangers.  If things go well you may ask if they'd like to restart the dungeon, but for the most part you'll be re-queuing because it's easier than talking to people.  Your character is still just standing in town waiting for the next group to pop.

Meanwhile, there is this whole world around  you that you learned to avoid via min/maxers figuring out what's best...

But... what if the min/maxers found that your time was better spent out in the wild farming mobs in a high level zone rather than doing dungeons?  That would make it so you'd have to form a group, travel to a spot, interact with other people, and work together for an extended period of time.  That sounds a whole lot like social interaction doesn't it?  Isn't that how you make friends?  Get to know people?  Build a reputation?  Yes!

So, are the dungeon finders the problem or is the open world the problem?  

The dungeon finder is a tool and by definition cannot be "evil" on its own.  This particular tool's use is destructive only because it's the best option in the game across multiple titles.  Tera?  WoW?  Rift?  Yeah... do dungeons if you want to make the most of your time.  Zones are no longer built for groups.  They are soloable experiences for people who don't feel like grouping with others.  With how little people get to know each other in match made groups there are more and more people who would rather just solo because "the community is bad" which puts more and more pressure on the devs to make the world easier and more solo friendly.  This pushes more group oriented people into dungeons which give a distorted view of communities.  So, over time, this cycle leads to people who could be the best of friends not even saying hello to one another because there's no reason to.  Add in that these match made groups are pulled from multiple servers and everything that is being thrown at you is another valid reason to never interact with anyone EVER.

Dungeon finders have their place, but they are out of balance right now.  They also don't typically give you the options you'd need in order to make the most of the situation.  Let's say I'm a tank and I have a healer friend and a dps friend but we would like to meet someone who plays a strong crowd control role.  We should be able to go into a dungeon finder looking for a crowd control player from OUR OWN SERVER so we can basically have "try outs" for a new friend.  I've never seen the option to only draw from your home server.  

Dungeon finders could also be adjusted to help with general LFG stuff as well.  Why can't I say what I'm doing and where and have the game find the missing piece to my group?  It would be really nice to be able to use the dungeon finder like that as well.  "Warrior, Cleric, and Monk farming RSS looking for DPS/CC" into the finder and in pops a shaman and rogue!  I'd even be okay with allowing group members to teleport to the group leader or the zone line to make it easier to meet up.

Why is the open world so important?  Because that's where you set up shop and hang out for an hour or two getting to know people instead of plowing scripted content over and over where everyone knows exactly what's going to happen.  I made way more friends chain pulling in Wall of Slaughter as a bard than I ever did healing dungeons in Tera.  The open world gives you a chance to put a spotlight on your personal skill and show what you bring to the table.  Are you the type of healer who never goes OOM?  Are you a tank who never loses aggro?  Are you so fast with your crowd control that we never have to deal with more than one mob at a time?  Can you pull fast enough to always have a mob at camp?  Are you DPSing so hard that mobs are melting without ever pulling aggro off the tank?  These are all things you never really get a feel for in dungeons... and even if you do, those guys will be replaced with new ones when you queue back up anyways.

You also get a feel for who likes what you like as well.  If I meet people who are grouping together in my favorite zone and it's their favorite zone as well then we have something in common and can learn to make the most of our time there.  If you like to plow around a zone and find a group that also likes to plow instead of pull then that's great!  It's just a way more social environment than static dungeon encounters.  

I hear more and more complaints about "communities" and lack of social interaction than anything else these days.  People want to get to know one another and form new groups of friends.  What's more common is for old groups of friends to migrate from game to game without adding anyone new into the mix.  Is that what Massively Multiplayer is all about anymore?

The bottom line is the more games get streamlined the less we need one another.  This can be fixed by adjusting the rewards available from different activities.  These are just games.  The worlds can be completely changed if the motivation is there.  It's time we start pushing for compelling open world experiences that reward us better than taking part in disposable groups.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Average +1: What we expect from our friends

When you are grouped up with random people to play a game you get a certain level of quality.  When you invite someone to a game, you expect that quality +1.  This higher set of expectations can create a really frustrating situation for everyone involved... but there's good news!  It can be avoided!

Check your mic  

This should be pretty self explanatory, but there are some steps you need to go through to not be a pain in the ass.
  • Identify an easy to use echo service (TeamSpeak has it in the settings pannel and Skype has an echo call contact on your contacts list)
  • Wear your headset or place your mic how it will be when you're gaming.  Don't set it perfectly... as if that's how it will end up... put it where it will actually end up when you're playing.
  • Talk LOUDLY into the echo service.  Now, talk really quietly as if you're trying to speak without waking people up in the same room.  Set your outbound volume to not blow out people's ears when you're excited while still letting us hear you clearly when you're calm.
  • UNDERSTAND THIS: Your nose and mouth both breath.  Air comes in and out both of those places.  Headsets have a tendency to stroll up near the ol' sniffer and make you sound like a gross mouth breather.  Stand alone mics tend to be super sensitive to air.  If you breath into your mic we're all going to be sour.  Nothing is worse than a mouth breather in voice coms.
    • IN ORDER TO AVOID SOUNDING LIKE A MOUTH BREATHER WHEN YOU HAVE ALL YOUR CHROMOSOMES... blow air like a dumbass all around while echo testing.  If you can snort out your nose and puff air out your mouth without it being picked up then it won't pick up you breathing normally.
  • If someone says your mic is FUBAR... IT IS!  Don't go "Who?  Me?" because at the moment it got so bad that someone said something, the last they want to hear back is "How could this be?"  Even if you've gone through all these steps, don't hesitate to fix it even when it ain't broke.
Know your audience

Some people want to be entertained both on mic and in game with silliness and jocularity.  Other people want to be a srs bsns all the time.  Most people are in the middle and have norms and expectations that they will make clear if you give them the opportunity.  Most people (even Jay) don't want to be a tremendous douche to you, so if you're not living up to the cultural norms of the group you're playing with, they will drop hints... TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY.  "Hey, is your mic on?" Probably means "Feel free to talk more."  "We get it" probably means "Talk less."  And there are plenty of places for hints and suggestions throughout your time online.  We all enjoy a good personality when it's warranted, but sometimes we all need to either tone it down or bring it up to match our audience.

If you're new to the group, spell out what you bring to the table

If we're playing team games of StarCraft 2 together, let me know what you're planning to do so we can work together.  If you can only 6 pool as Zerg, lay that out before I go Nexus First.  If you can't play a certain way or have philosophical or skill based limitations, SAY SO.  AKA, let me in on what is in your head because my skills at reading minds aren't up to par. 

If we're playing League of Legends and we're trying to figure out who is going to play what role and there's only one role you can play, get that out front so we know how to pick around you.  It's not a big deal if we know, but if you can only go jungle and someone else has already picked a jungler, don't just quietly go mid with a free week champ that you've never played before... SAY SOMETHING.  

Don't expect everyone else to read your mind

The difference between random teammates and pre-made teammates is that we are allegedly working together which should give us an edge.  If you take away that advantage by treating the group like strangers then why not just kick you out of the group and find someone who gives us that "strategy edge?"  Working together on the fly with various different people is an art and it's not easy.  It makes it no easier if you keep the plan to yourself.

Do what you do best  

If your best race in StarCraft is Zerg... play Zerg first!  If your best champ is Ezreal... play him first!  Don't expect people to know you're typically better "but".  Nobody wants "buts" when they are inviting you to a game.  You need to establish that you are average +1 before you start trying out riskier strategies.  If you are not going to be better than the average then why would you be invited?  This doesn't only mean skill.  This means effort, communication, personality, etc.  If you're not that great, the least you can do is try your best to work with your team.  Sometimes that's more important than anything else.  Just be that average +1 somehow and you'll be a welcomed member of the group.

Take advice.  Give advice.  Ask for advice.

Part of working together is lifting each other up.  If someone is hinting at something you could be doing to help the team, take that advice and be open minded.  Online gaming is not the most open minded place when it comes to things like "I have a better idea how to do what you're trying to do."  It's hard to give advice un-prompted.  If you're having a particularly hard game, ask if anyone has any ideas.  If they give you BS like "play better" then maybe you're not in the right group of people... but challenge that.  "I'm being serious, I'm having real trouble laning vs Teemo, is there something I can do to win this lane?"  Most jerks have only one jerk bullet in their jerk chamber and use it as a defense mechanism just in case your question was meant to bait them into a trap.  If you can shake off the jerk bullet and get real advice then you're in a better place in the game or at least within the group.

If you see something that could be improved, let them know, but understand that they may not take it well if you don't phrase it properly... or if they don't know you well enough.  This can be tricky and every situation is different, but when you find a group you like and have proven you're average +1 you can build good relationships by navigating the "I know you're frustrated but try THIS..." scenarios.  

When someone offers advice... even if it's a between the lines type hint, follow it if you can.  Effort is appreciated and being an open minded teammate is awesome.  If someone hints that the bottom lane could use more ganks, try to gank bottom lane.  Acknowledge that you have received the information and tell them what you're going to do to fix it.  


If your mic works properly, you are communicating with your group, your team work is outstanding and you do what you do best then you'll be a welcomed member of the team.  I'm not just talking about playing with me and my friends... this is for everyone you meet online.  I dare you to find someone who doesn't care that you're always huffing and puffing into your mic.  Everyone hates that even if it's just a little bit.

When you DON'T live up to the Average +1 standard it's more frustrating than having a lousy random person on the team because the expectations are higher.  On top of that, you're sticking around.  Now, we all have to learn how to work around whatever it is you're doing poorly.  Is it that your mic is garbage and we've been trying to tell you all night to do something about it?  Is it that you keep trying outlandish stuff and we're losing close games together (making it hard to not blame you)?  Are you not keeping up with the culture of the group?  Are you giving non stop play by play when everyone wants voice coms clear for important information?  Are you being silent when people are asking what's up?  

The average +1 standard isn't much to live up to.  There are so many ways you can be more fun to have around than a random, but it's up to you to make sure you have the right mind set and equipment to get the job done.  So, fix that mic, get your game face on, and let's go kick some ass.