My first World of Warcraft experience

The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) was the title I chose for my contribution towards last month’s post about the best games to play at Christmas. It’s easy to get into, and you can do a couple of quests before getting down the controller and grabbing more chocolate.

I can’t say I booted it up during my time off work though. My two-week holiday began with the sort release I wouldn’t normally pick up but was inspired to try after watching a blogger-friend stream part of it recently: Yakuza 0. It won’t be one I’m likely to end up finishing due to its long length but I’m having fun with it for the time-being at least. This was followed by several days of World of Warcraft (WoW), my first real experience with this MMORPG and only my third online game.

It probably sounds strange that I’ve been gaming for over 30 years now and have never played it before. MMOs weren’t on my radar growing up in the 1990s because I was more interested in my beloved adventure genre; and this meant I didn’t have the opportunity to really learn how to use a keyboard-and-mouse outside of clicking. It’s caused me to always feel a little comfortable with team-based games due to my lack of coordination and so I tend to stay away from them.

Saying that though, I’ve sunk way too many hours into ESO over the years. I started off playing by myself in 2015 then roped my other-half into joining me, and we started playing on a weekly basis with Tim from Timlah’s Texts & Unity3D Tech and his partner Jake during our 50-day challenge for GameBlast20. Although they ran us through some dungeons and I was clearly the weakest player on our team, it wasn’t something taken too seriously so I never felt I had to worry about my performance.

When I first met Pete and started discussing video games with him, he told me he’d had a long history and many late nights with WoW although he hadn’t touched it since 2009. His brother still played however and whenever we went to see him, the pair would talk about his current adventures. I asked my other-half if he’d like to get back into it after one such visit and he declined, saying he didn’t have the time; but I think this had more to do with his worry that I’d get frustrated with trying to play with him due to my lack of skill with a keyboard-and-mouse.

In mid-November though, Ellen from Ace Asunder began streaming and several mornings were spent watching her work her way through battlegrounds in the MMO on Twitch. Seeing how much fun she was having made Pete feel the WoW itch again and we somehow ended up organising to play with her and friend-of-the-blog Phil. I made an account and the four of us spent New Year’s Eve jumping from quest to quest until 01:30 in the morning, then making it up to level 37 after a few more sessions in the following week.

World of Warcraft, WoW, woman, warrior, Paladin, mountains, sky, view

Are the keyboard-and-mouse controls frustrating me? Yes, and I’ll have a tantrum about them occasionally. But after several restarts to find a character I feel comfortable with and making use of Pete’s old keypad, I’m doing a lot better than I was initially. I’ve finally settled on a Paladin named ‘Laterlevels’ (how original) because this fits in with the odd way I like to play RPGs: I always want to do a bit of everything rather than being confined to a single role so here I’m able to tank, heal and do damage.

Before you say anything, I know you’re not supposed to play like this; you’re meant to pick your class and stick with it so you become an expert at what you do. But I’m lucky enough to be playing with a group of friends who accept my quirk and are more interested in hanging out than me gitting gud. Whenever I’m not sure what I’m meant to do be doing or make a mistake in-game, they don’t criticise me for it or make me feel like a bad player – they give advice or lend a helping hand.

It makes me feel like I’m a part of the team and that’s what makes it fun. We’ll follow Phil as we head towards the next quest, take on rare spawns when they appear in the hope that Ellen will get another pet to add to her collection, and watching Pete regularly fall off cliffs. And while we’re doing all that, we’ll chat about our day and what’s going on in the world. This social interaction is the lockdown equivalent of hanging out with colleagues at lunch-time or meeting with friends in the pub after work.

There are only two things bothering me slightly, the first being that I’m not paying any attention to what the quests involve. We tend not to read the descriptions and simply head off to the next adventure after the last one. I think this would be different if I were playing WoW on my own, because I’d be doing it for the story; but being with a group means the social aspect has replaced this need and become more important than the narrative. I feel a little sorry for the writers and know I should be paying more attention to the effort they’ve put into the game.

World of Warcraft, video game, WoW, Phil, Pete, Kim, Ellen, witch

And then there are stairs – especially those damn spiral staircases in confined spaces. I can guarantee I’ll fall off every single one of them at some point upwards and if they have a bannister, you know my character will get caught on it coming down. I’m getting better at movement with more practice over time but I always seem to struggle with stairs, so I’m grateful to Ellen for letting me hitch a ride on one of her dragons or Mekgineer’s Chopper whenever I’m getting particularly frustrated.

It’s hard to say whether I’m preferring WoW to ESO right now; I think it would be more correct to say that it’s different. I do find the latter easier though because it’s possible to play with a controller and I’m used to how certain things work, like the camera and movement directions, after having sunk over 240 hours into it. But I’m sure this will come in time with WoW too and eventually I won’t need my teammates to give me a lift (although I’ll probably still accept because who doesn’t want to ride a dragon).

We’ve chosen not to stream our escapades so far. I’m not sure I’d feel entirely comfortable with the game being shown from my point-of-view while I’m still learning the ropes as I’d be too conscious about what I was doing onscreen to enjoy playing. I guess it could be something we consider in the future though once the controls feel natural. Who knows, WoW might become part of our #DaysForDonations challenge for GameBlast21 if we keep up our aim of playing at least once a week.

Being able to play with friends might encourage me to branch out into other MMOs in the future but I’m not sure I’d want to go it alone with strangers. Right now, I’m going to stick with hanging out with Pete, Ellen and Phil in Wow and seeing if we can increase Ellen’s pet collection.

We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)

Save point: goals for 2021

In Wednesday’s post, I looked back at 2020 and how Later Levels had done during its fourth year. Publishing the figures was a little scary but sharing this information will help me to grow as a blogger and might be of some use to those around me too.

It’s now time to look ahead to the coming 12 months. It’s hard to predict how the blogging landscape may change in 2021 because we’re living in strange times right now and so much is unknown about the future. But I’ve said that I hope to see a return to the community aspect and more collaborations, and if that wish is going to come true then I’ve got to do something to give it a helping hand. So let’s see what I’ve got planned for Later Levels during 2021…

Start: making The Great Blog Crawl an annual event

The Great Blog Crawl came out of a discussion between Ellen from Ace Asunder and I about the things were missing most during the COVID-19 lockdown. We decided to create a community event where we could recreate an evening spent with friends in the pub, while at the same time promoting the awesome bloggers in the community. Participants were sent on a ‘scavenger hunt’ around 50 of the best blogs before joining us for a ‘virtual pub’ stream, where Frostilyte from Frostilyte Writes was declared the winner.

Ellen and I would like to make The Great Blog Crawl an annual event and increase the number of sites involved to perhaps 100. The only things standing in our way are the risk of low interest from members of the community along with our energy levels – which, let’s face it, were both been hit hard during 2020. But we don’t know if we don’t try and therefore it’s important we give it a go, so look out for further details about a 2021 event during the first quarter of the year.

Do more: commenting on other posts

blogging, laptop, hands, keyboardSomething I was incredibly guilty of in 2020 was leaving likes on posts I’ve enjoyed but not comments. After deciding to stop spending so much of my life online in July, the amount of time I’ve devoted to reading blogs and my enthusiasm for digital discussions has decreased. But the community aspect of blogging is all about conversation so this is something I need to change for 2021; and I’m therefore going to make more of an effort to comment on articles and chat to their authors.

Continue: streaming and raising awareness for SpecialEffect

JustGiving, LaterLevels, GameBlast20, SpecialEffectOne of the highlights of last year was completing our 50-day challenge for GameBlast20. We knew it was going to be demanding in terms of time and effort, and we weren’t sure we’d make it through the entire period, but reaching the end was an amazing feeling. I’ll continue to support and raise awareness for SpecialEffect, a charity which helps physically-disabled people to experience the joy of video games, and can’t wait for everything we’ve got lined up for GameBlast21 in February – including seeing Pete in that Pikachu costume.

Do less: admin for The Support Role

Last January was the beginning of The Support Role, a Discord server created by Luke from Hundstrasse and myself through a desire to make it easier for bloggers to get advice and support each other. It has now grown to include over 75 members and 20 channels on a variety of blogging, streaming and gaming subjects, and it has been lovely seeing members of the community interact in discussions and collaborations. Thank you to everyone there who helped make it what it is.

It’s time for us to step away from managing the server however, as both Luke and I have increased work commitments coming up in 2021 and need to take a step back so we can focus on other areas. We won’t be disappearing completely though and this isn’t the end of the group: the reigns have been handed over to the very-capable Gaming Diaries and Dan from so please make them feel at home! New members are welcome and you can join the server using this link.

Stop: posting weekly #BloggerTalk questions

#BloggerTalkThe #BloggerTalk weekly community event also started in January last year and saw a blogging question posed to the community every Thursday. Although I’m grateful to everybody who joined in and shared their experiences on Twitter, it didn’t encourage as much conversation as I’d hoped for and some weeks were very quiet. I therefore don’t think there’s much to be gained from repeating the event in 2021; but who knows, it may make a return at some point in the future if the mood feels right.

Hopefully I’ll look back on today’s post this time next year and feel a sense of accomplishment at having completed some of these goals. Saying that though, it’s important to remember that blogging should be fun and this has always been the ultimate aim for me. As long as I can say I’ve enjoyed myself over the past 12 months, then I’ll consider them to have been a success – and that’s just the incentive I need to keep moving forward and carry on writing here at Later Levels.

So what have you got planned for 2021? Whatever your goals are, I hope they’re within reach and bring you much happiness this year.

We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)

Save point: a review of 2020

Tomorrow is the final day of 2020. It’s time for taking stock, looking back over our achievements and being proud of the fact that we made it through such a strange year. It’s also the perfect opportunity to consider where we want to go in the future.

I decided to publish a proper end-of-year review for the first time in December 2019. It was something I was initially nervous about because I’ve never really taken resolutions and goals for the blog that seriously, but then I realised: sharing this information wouldn’t only help me grow as a blogger, it might be useful to others out this too. Now I’m back with the 2020 edition to look over the past 12 months so let’s find out how Later Levels did and think about how this could potentially shape the site in 2021.

2020 overview

  • WordPress:   1,667
  • Twitter:   627
  • Facebook:   92
  • Instagram:   236
  • Twitch:   200
  • Posts:

  • Total published:   221 posts
  • Most popular:   The Longing: knowing Shade
  • Most liked:   Blogging awards: breaking the chain
  • Most discussed:   Keeping my blogging to myself
  • My favourite:   Never growing up: too old for gaming?
  • Traffic:

  • Views:   33,075
  • Visitors:   18,958
  • Likes:   4,682
  • Comments:   2,298
  • Best day:   06:00 on Mondays
  • Achievements:

  • Raised £600 for SpecialEffect as part of GameBlast20
  • Participated in game-swaps with several blogger-friends
  • Hosted The Great Blog Crawl with Ellen from Ace Asunder
  • Mentioned during a SpecialEffect stream
  • Made more good friends through both WordPress and Twitch
  • Games played:

  • Played:   85 games
  • Completed:   56 games
  • Demos played:   42 demos
  • Previewed and reviewed:   39 games
  • Kickstarted:   10 games
  • Games of note:

  • Favourite played:   The Painscreek Killings
  • Favourite of 2020:   The Longing
  • Least favourite:   Thomas Was Alone
  • Favourite Kickstarter:   Chinatown Detective Agency
  • Most looking forward to:   Book of Travels
  • 2020 charts: blog

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    Views, visitors, likes and comments

    Although the average views per month has increased every year since Later Levels started in December 2017, a strange trend occurred in 2020: the number of views and unique visitors increased substantially since June. I believe I know the reason for this however and give an explanation in one of the sections below. The statistics might look good but the data is so skewed that it’s hard to get a true picture of how well the blog performed this year, because I can’t tell how many of these hits are from ‘true’ readers.

    The only thing I can say for certain is that the number of comments left on posts is dropping and COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the blogging community. At the start of the lockdown period in March, we saw an increase in the number of people turning to blogging and video games to fill their hours; then many moved over to more interactive platforms such as Twitch and podcasting as they sought social interactions; and now people are taking time out for themselves as they become digitally-drained as a result of lockdown-lifestyle.

    I understand this very well, having felt a similar way back in June after organisers of many of the annual expos decided to take their events online rather than completely cancel. In July I made the decision to take a break and I stopped spending so much of my life online. The hours I now devote to reading blog posts and commenting on them has reduced as a result; and as I’ve written before, how can you expect anyone to leave messages on your articles if you’re not doing the same in return?

    Best days and times

    Like 2019, the best time of the week for Later Levels visits remains on Monday morning – although the time has changed from 06:00 to 07:00 in the past year. The blog parties still seem to be a driver for this as they take place at the start of the week and these posts always receive the highest number of likes and comments. In an attempt not to skew the data any more than it already is (see above), I’ve removed these events from the overview table given at the start of this review.

    Saturday, 29 March 2019 is still the day that had the best views ever and I’m still unable to work out why. No posts were published on this date and, although there were a few big blogging events on the site that month, they all occurred well before or after. The best I’ve been able to come up with looking at the WordPress statistics is that a particular visitor from the UK checked out an awful lot of posts on that day – although I’m unable to say who this was and what they were looking for.

    Popular posts

    The most popular post during 2020 by far was The Longing: knowing Shade. Now why on earth would an article about a small indie game that really won’t be to everybody’s tastes have done so well? I think have the answer. In digging through the WordPress Stats and Insights, I was able to discover that a link had been placed on a somewhat dodgy-looking website where you can apparently find places to download the game for free. Sorry to anybody who found the post this way: you’re not getting any pirated freebies here.

    The next most popular posts were Twitch tips: advice for new streamers and Good games for non-gamers. As mentioned above, many people have turned to streaming during the COVID-19 lockdown and are looking for guidance on getting started; and non-gamers have been searching out new pastimes to fill the additional free hours. I’m sad to report once again that there were no rude search terms for this year – and I have no idea how 53 people managed to find the blog after entering ‘amazon’ into Google.

    Friends and commenters

    The WordPress statistics show an average of 10 comments and 21 likes were left for each post published during 2020. The lovely people mentioned in the tweet opposite deserve a round of applause: between them, they left a total of 221 comments so we clearly had a lot to talk about. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Frostilyte from Frostilyte Writes and Nathan from Gaming Omnivore through their streams after our game-swaps; and Ellen from Ace Asunder has become a good friend this year thanks to a shared love of cats and memes.

    It’s hard to predict how the blogging landscape may change in 2021 because so much is unknown. I’m hoping we’ll start to see a return of the community aspect and more collaborations over the coming year but perhaps that’s a little too much to ask for, considering everything else happening in the world right now. The silver-lining of 2020 has been the bloggers whom I’ve had a chance to know better and being able to support each other through these tough times.

    2020 charts: Twitch

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    Streaming statistics

    New for 2020, I’ve added statistics for the Later Levels’ Twitch channel into the review post as we started streaming consistently this year. This began when we decided to attempt the 50-day challenge for GameBlast20 throughout January and February: a stream of at least an hour each day for that period rounded off with a 24-hour marathon. Although it took a whole lot of effort and sore thumbs, we managed to raise awareness and funds for SpecialEffect and made us realise how much we enjoyed playing games on Twitch.

    There’s an obvious dip in the figures for June and this correlates with my decision to take a break. As a result of the lockdown, I felt as though I’d been living too much of my life online – work, socialising and entertainment – and needed to step away for a while. This resulted in me writing a short series of posts about our experiences with streaming in July and, as mentioned above, one of them turned out to be the second most viewed article during 2020.

    We’ve decided to stick to a streaming schedule going forward because it feels like the best way to keep ourselves motivated. But this comes with a caveat: since the summer, we’ve agreed to give ourselves the space to be able to pull out of a scheduled stream if something arises or we’re just not feeling it. Streaming should be fun and it won’t be that for us if we start treating it like a job; statistics don’t mean anything if you’re not enjoying yourself, raising awareness for a worthy cause and spending time with friends.

    So there you have it: a round-up of Later Levels’ performance over the last 12 months. But what does this mean for 2021? Come back on Friday for a post sharing my blogging goals for the coming year and in the meantime, have a very happy New Year’s Eve tomorrow.

    We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
    Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
    (*Not guaranteed.)

    #CreativeChristmasCollab: in celebration of friendship and memes

    Christmas is a time for coming together, celebrating friendship and playing video games. 2020 is no different despite its weirdness, and the lovely Chris Durston has put together an event to raise our festive spirits.

    Chris’s aim for the #CreativeChristmasCollab is to make this year a little less strange by bringing the community here in our WordPress group closer together. Participating bloggers were asked to provide a link to one of their favourite posts and then, after he’d worked his Secret-Santa-style magic, write something nice about the person we’d been matched up with and their article. I can now reveal who I’ve been gifted for this collaboration: the lovely Ellen from Ace Asunder.

    I laughed when I received Chris’s message and saw her name. You see, although Ellen and I have always been in the same blogging circles, we started getting to know each other properly about a year ago and now talk pretty much every day. We’ve joined forces to run several community-events together too, the most recent being this summer’s Great Blog Crawl, and it’s something we’re hoping we can bring back again for 2021 but in an even bigger and better format.

    But she’s more than just ‘someone I know from blogging’. I now consider her to be a friend in real-life regardless of the fact we’re almost 3,000 miles apart, have never met in person and COVID-19 screwed up our plans to change that. The past several months have been tough for everyone and Ellen is always on hand to listen and give advice whenever I’ve needed it – as well as plenty of memes for those days where I’ve been stuck in eight conference calls in a row.

    She’s also been there with a huge amount of support right from the start of our GameBlast21 plans. It’s thanks to her that our cat Zelda appeared in the promotional video for the event and the team received a lovely mention during one of SpecialEffect’s streams. We always look forward to completing gaming marathons for the charity, but we’re now even more hyped for next February and are looking forward to roping genniz0rz (Ellen’s Twitch name) in for a few games.

    When Chris told me about his collaboration idea, I thought I’d take the subject of the article created by the person I’d been matched with and dedicate a post to them on the same topic. That’s difficult here though because, in a similar vein to Ellen’s The Legends of Twitch, I’ve already written about some of my favourite streamers from the community and shared this back in July. So instead, I’ve come up with something different to celebrate our friendship and I think she’s going to approve.

    As mentioned above, she’s always there with a meme whenever you need one and we’ve sent so many to each other over the past months. Our favourite subjects seem to be cats, making it through the coronapocalypse or dealing with working in an office. Check out the gallery below to see some of the best, being mindful that a few of them contain strong language – and make sure you go visit Ellen at Ace Asunder and on Twitch.


    Memes 2020 photo gallery

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    We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
    Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
    (*Not guaranteed.)

    Gamers’ blog party: winter 2020 invitation

    Christmas may be less than two weeks away but before that: it’s time for the latest blog party here at Later Levels. There’s no better way to celebrate this time of year as well as meet some new blogging friends and read their awesome posts.

    The rules are simple:

    🎉   Arrive at the party: don’t be shy and stand in the corner – say hello and introduce yourself in the comments below! Give an introduction to your blog to welcome new readers and let us know what you’re all about.

    🎉   Present your gift: think about the posts you’ve written this year and choose your favourite or one which was fun to write. Leave a link to it in your comment and explain why you’ve picked it.

    🎉   Show us your festive spirit: a blog party is nothing without good music and video games. Tell us which favourite festive tune you’ve brought with you, and the video game you’ll be playing this holiday season.

    🎉   Mingle: grab yourself a drink, put on a party hat and get to know your fellow guests! Check back on the comments throughout the day to discover excellent sites and meet new bloggers.

    🎉   Party all day: the comments below will be open for 24-hours until 06:00 GMT on Tuesday, 15 December 2020 so you’ve got plenty of time to meet and greet. Plus your posts will be shared on the Later Levels’ social media channels!

    These blog party events are my way of giving something back to the amazing WordPress community and showing my appreciation for all of your support. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some lovely people and talented writers since starting the site at the end of 2016; here’s a little thank you and a way of finding some awesome blogs you may not have come across already.

    Have fun – and excuse me while I grab some more ice for the drinks and turn the music up louder!

    We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
    Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
    (*Not guaranteed.)

    World Kindness Day 2020: intentional acts

    2020 has been a rollercoaster. The first couple of months were normal enough but life has been strange since the UK was placed on lockdown in March due to the threat of COVID-19. We’re all trying to stay positive but sadly, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight right now.

    Some days are better than others for me personally. It can be nice staying at home, knowing that my family is safe and having extra free hours to spend on video games and finding new hobbies; but sometimes I feel like I’m climbing the walls and just need to get out of the house. Spending so much of my time in front of my laptop for both work and socialising tends to leave me digitally drained and there are some evenings where I can’t bear to pick up the controller.

    I think this is normal though and similar feelings are likely to be hitting a lot of people. Humans are wired to focus on the negatives affecting them so, even if something good happens during the day, we almost immediately go back to our previous state. But what if we started paying more attention when those positive things appear? And what if we took it a step further, by making a point of trying to create those moments that put a smile on someone else’s face or make their afternoon a bit brighter?

    make kindness the norm, World Kindness Day

    This is what World Kindness Day is about today: to stop seeing them as random and begin thinking of them as intentional acts of kindness. We’re all encouraged to look for ways to make kindness the norm in our daily lives and take some time to recognise when those positive moments are happening. Even something small – sending an uplifting text message, paying someone a compliment, letting a driver out in front of you with a smile – can make a big change to how we’re feeling.

    Is there a blogger who has done something amazing, written a post worth shouting about, been there for you when you needed an ear to listen or is just an all-round awesome person? Then we want to hear about them in the comments below. Take a minute to explain why you think they’re great and shout about their work. There are so many talented people and wonderful friendships here, and it’s the perfect day to celebrate them.

    Kindness starts with one little act and if there are enough of them, then there are definitely brighter days ahead.