A little help.


What would you think if I sang out of tune,
Would you stand up and walk out on me.
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song,
And I’ll try not to sing out of key.
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm,I get high with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends.

A few weeks ago I got up on a stage surrounded by plasma tv’s and plastic instruments. With John Lennon’s Rickenbacker 325, and a microphone I got to rock out with three of my friends, in front of a few hundred other friends. Literally days before the game came out (and if you don’t know which one I’m talking about you have issues) and there were just TONS of people gathering to watch or line up along the stage for their turn to rock. It was so much fun being part of that crowd singing along, and a little bit nerve wracking being on the stage.

So after I returned from Seattle and got marginally better you can bet one of the first places I went (other than work) was to best buy. Granted we already have RockBand 2, and all that jazz. So I was expecting to walk in, pick up a 50$ game and walk out. Then Howard (who happens to have all the Beatles albums on original capital vinyl) started making this pitifully sad I just stepped on the puppy’s tail sort of sound. My eyes fell on the 259$ ultimate-super-duper limited-edition shining-boxes on display. I heaved a (very fake) heavy sigh waved my arm through the air, and in my best “ell we really shouldn’t…” voice said “go ahead love, get it” and then happily walked out of the store.

Before going home to actually -play- I had to stop by my mothers house and show her. She too managed to somehow pout well enough to make me wish I had brought over the PS3 for her.  I left her feeling guilt-ridden and consoled myself that she could come over and listen all she wanted. At home Howard admired the efficiency and brilliance of how everything was packed into the box more than he drooled over Paul McCartney’s Hofner bass. Then everything got set up, and bronchitis and all proceeded to systematically get through 3/4ths of the game. The rest to be finished the next night when more friends joined in.

Since that fateful day we’ve found we have a love-hate relationship with the plastic bass. We’ve had it out and played it virtually every day, and surprisingly enough the standard RockBand2 has not gotten neglected. Nor have other games in our collection. BlazBlue being the most popular, followed by Soul Calibur 4 and then the games that  GameFly shipped us. Valkyria Chronicles is wonderful but even I have to make sure I have at least 2 hours to get through a campaign, and admittedly it does seem a bit “slow” as far as progression. This is a tactical game, not an action packed one. Action on the other hand came in the form of Call Of Duty: World at War, which after playing for approximately 4 hours I’d decided I’d died enough to send the game back. Its replacement arrived Friday in the form of Tales of Symphonia for the Wii. Which I have not had a chance to play as of yet.

The Aion release loomed out on the horizon, and by Friday my low-on-cash self was trying to find virtually any way I could come up with 50$ before the official release. I didn’t really mind if I missed the head-start, or pre-select but I really wanted to be able to hop into a game with my online friends again. By late friday I’d begged, pleaded and convinced Howard that I would forswear out-to-eat foods for a entire thirty days (quite the daunting feat) if he would BUY it for me. Yes Buy is the keyword in that sentence.

As it turns out, another very wonderful friend of mine whom I cannot thank enough gifted me the collectors edition via Steam. The collectors! Not the standard! Which means ::drumroll:: that I was able (in theory) to get into pre-select and the head-start. But before I go into -that- let me first whine about how I really should have made Howard put the agreement in writing. Making a deal with him is worse than… well a lot of other things. Basically it comes down to terminology.

“I will forswear eating out for 30 days if you buy Aion for me.”

“Sure I will GET Aion for me.”

“Really? You’ll buy it for me?

“Yes, I will get it for you if you are really going to give up eating out for 30 days”

“Agreed.”

“Ok then, I will get Aion for you.”

Now, after knowing him for so long I suppose I really should have caught onto how he stressed the words. Certainly after the fact I can admit the conversation seemed odd but I was in a state of happy bliss and didn’t notice. This is why I am finding it difficult to extract myself from the agreement. Howard spied for my friend ensuring I did not buy or otherwise obtain a copy of Aion before it got there. Therefore Howard is claiming he “Got” it for me. Which, he didn’t. My friend “Got” the game for me, Howard just provided the necessary assistance. Gah!

At any rate, upon opening my email Saturday I found out I had a copy of Aion. Three hours downloading and patching (while suffering an hour long internet dysfunction) and I found myself at the login screen. Now, if all went well I would be logging in, and making a character and basically reserving my character/faction/server of choice. All did not go well however and the server Zikel which [OMG I’m Drunk] decided to roll on, was locked. It remained locked well into the night and I finally gave up and went to bed.

Sunday morning I woke up and, it was still locked. Not only was it locked but servers would be down until the 3pm launch of the game. I went and visited my mother, ran a few errands, and returned with 30 minutes to spare. I hopped onto vent with 10 minutes left. There I whiled away my time in the slowly filling vent-channel with last-minute info and much semi-good-natured name-calling. Then we all fell prey to Aion. Literally, half of us got pwn’d within the first 3 minutes of logging in. How? By becoming victim to the British word “Queue” which Aion used to successfully beat us back while we rabidly flung ourselves out their servers. Brilliantly I might add.

I had pressed “login” less than 30 seconds after seeing the game Developers twitter pop up “go go go! servers are up! welcome home!” and I was 200-something in line. Ok not bad. My screen goes blank! Noooooo! My laptop was unplugged! I scrambled, and as fast as I was… I returned to the number 800-something. Egads! “Your estimated wait time is 20min” Ok, thats not bad. Except it got stuck there. I suffered less horribly than some of my guildies who were 5, 15, or as much as an hour late… They faced numbers like 3000, and times like “5.5 hours” Ick.

So while waiting I got more coffee, and found myself heartlessly threatened by Howard and FallenAphrodite with “Router firmware upgrades” and “oooh look is that a wireless button I see on your laptop? What happens if I press it.”

Miracles of Miracles I got in a little over an hour later. I’d been hearing horrors of people trying to compleete quests and having mobs/fruitbaskets/ect ganked by limited spawns and too many people trying to all get the same thing done. So, I was very happy to discover that the flood of people I was released into the world with, were either slow or much faster than me. I wandered through just about every quest without much issue, catching up with several guildies rather quickly. I didn’t suffer rubber banding, or lag, or overcrowding… It was, in effect a smooth launch possibly one of the smoothest I’ve seen, and possibly due in part to Aion knowing enough that sometimes a firm “no, you must wait” will make it all that much nicer in the end.

While leveling friends stopped by, Beatles Rockband blared, GO got played, a BBC program ran on the TV. It created a sort of familiar confusion where at times I couldn’t hear my guildies via computer-speakers, and at times the whole room broke out laughing because they heard something being said via my computer-speakers. I took a very very short break to get Pizza, and then I was back at it. Closing in on 2am I’d finally gotten to Pandemonium (yes thats the name of the first city on Asmodian side) and explored it well enough to know that in nearly every nook and cranny there were characters seated on stools with banners. Identifying features of someone who’s set up a shop.

Typically these read “mana stones for sale” or “weapons, cheap.” But the later it got the more I saw “AFK” and “SLEEP” and even “Does this message mean I went to bed? Yup.” While I would buy sleep, I was shocked at how they were blatantly advertising that they were going to leave the game/computer running rather than risk getting stuck in a queue again. While on one hand I hope it worked, on the other hand it means the people in queue at that time couldn’t get in because server was still in efftect “full” which means tomorrow, theres a possibility that when I try to log-back in I will be stuck once again in a queue.

A potentially much-slower moving queue since it seems a good number of people are too-scared of said-queue to log-out. Which means next time someone who was nice enough to log-out gets stuck in the queue, they might suddenly decide, “Well if these people over here are making it hard for me to get back in and enjoy the game because they are afk/asleep then I guess I really have no choice but to do the same.” And that convoluted logic = fail.

Yet, if it goes on for too long and becomes this “worst-case nightmare” I’m seeing in my head. I might find myself doing the exact same thing thereby falling victim myself to this pack-mentality fear. I know myself well enough to know that while I try, I’m not a saint and if I have to wait again and again and again to get back in, I will certainly be trying to find a way to stay in.

On the other hand Aion promises server balance, and I can see the potential for those stuck in queue (who maybe can’t get on with half their guild) deciding to rage-quit and go to another server. Then after the initial rush (which always happens) the servers will relax because people are back to their jobs and normal playing hours. All of this should make things like staying logged in pointless measures.

Aside from these vexations at the players: GAME IS FUN! Or at least as much fun as AoC and Warhammer and Pirates of the Burning Sea, and Chronicles of Spellborn were in the early days. Give me a month, or two, or three and see if I am still there. That is the real test.

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