Simon J McDonnell

Creating cool stuff

An Input System for Games using SDL

I’ve been working on a side project for a bit, which is a small game engine. I’m making it to learn how to build things from the ground up, and also to use it for my own game projects. A big part of that work right now has been focused on cleaning it up and abstracting things. This is necessary as it had gotten quite messy with me just trying to get stuff working without consolidating (which only works up to a certain point).

The part I’m trying to improve right now is my input system. Or rather, the fact that I had no central system for it at all. I was just querying the keyboard state directly and then had some if statements, which wasn’t exactly ideal.

With that in mind I started putting together a system. My requirements were that it had to:

  • Be easy to remap input from one form to another
  • Be able to parse input from a variety of sources (keyboard, controller, mouse, etc) into one output
  • Support a callback system for sending out new input events
  • Be easy to get input code into the parts of the game that actually did gameplay logic

I sourced heavily from this excellent article on Most of the design is just that article expressed in my own way. To summarise my approach I’ll have to turn to the definitely-very-good MSPaint diagram I drew up for it.

Below you can see the actual code at its highest level. It consists of three distinct steps:

  1. Getting the raw input
  2. Mapping the input to in game interactions
  3. Sending the input out via callbacks

Getting Raw Input

Our first step will be to get the actual raw input from the hardware, this is what we’ll use as the base form of our input.

The Input Mapper queries for the raw input systems available through SDL every frame. It stores every distinct input it receives as a separate MappedInput object in a vector of inputs, with the raw input (specified as an enum), and any massaged values that it may need included in each entry.

An example of this would be when it detects mouse movement it will have the raw input being INPUT_MOUSE_MOTION, and the values being set to the relative movement of the mouse during that frame.

Mapping the Input

Once the raw input has been obtained then it’s time to map it from its raw form into in game actions that are abstracted away from specific keys.

This is done by looping over all of the Input Contexts that have currently been provided to the Input Mapper, passing the vector with all the raw input in it to each of them in turn. If a context returns true from their mapping function then that raw input is consumed, and it skips the remaining contexts to process the next raw input.

As you can see it’s a double loop, which I’d really like to find a way to get rid of, but nothing obvious has occurred to me. If you have any suggestions please let me know!

The context system is nice because it allows multiple control schemes to coexist. I don’t currently have a way to change the ordering for the contexts, but it’s definitely something I want to be able to do in future – so as to be able to put specific control schemes in pre-eminence at certain times. When I do that I’ll likely convert the vector to a LinkedList so the swapping around of elements has less cost.

An example of where this context system would be useful would be if you were making an FPS, and the character got into a vehicle. You’d want the vehicle movement actions to happen, but not the normal player characters. Maybe you’d also want them to be able to still shoot while in the vehicle, with this context system you can exert that kind of control.

Something I’ll support in the future is reading the mapping configurations from file. When that happens I’ll likely do away with specific C++ class implementations for different control schemes.


Calling the Callbacks

Okay! So our raw input has been gathered and mapped. Now we need is to get it out of the input mapping system and into our actual game code where we can do something with it.

For that we’ll be iterating over our mapped input, calling all of the input callbacks on each one of them. This is unfortunately another double loop, which once again if you can think of a way around I’d be happy to hear it.

The callbacks used here are all pointers to the base class for my input callbacks, which has derived classes for both member and free functions.

The way this is structured is that the callback objects themselves are not owned by the input system, but by whatever is calling it. The input system only holds pointers to ’em. This means that the calling code is responsible for subscribing and unsubscribing their callbacks from the input system. Failure to do so will result in an almost immediate crash as I do not check for null references when iterating over the callbacks.

As you can see above the actual subscription process is fairly easy. You just need to set up the callback object with SetArgs, and then subscribe to it via a handle to the input system.

Using the Input

We’ve got our mapped input, and now it’s been sent out to our game code. Now how can we use it once it gets there? The simple answer would be – any way you want! But here are a couple of examples:

Above you can see that you can use either the raw input that’s been received for this input, or the processed input that’s been mapped to an in game interaction. I’ve included the raw input as frequently it’s convenient for testing new functionality.


Plans for the Future

I’ve already mentioned some of my plans above – enabling the shuffling of input contexts for priority, as well as reading the mapping information in from file. Those are likely the first things I’ll tackle. Apart from cleaning up my code of course, I was more interested in getting a functioning system up and running, but now that it’s mostly there I’ll need to tidy it up.

There are so many interesting ways you can improve an input system, most of which I’m unlikely to do unless the whimsy strikes me. Things like gesture recognition and cross-frame delays (waiting more than a frame before recognising an input as valid). The reason for that is while in big game companies there are other peoples needs to consider – I don’t have to do that. What I’ve built is functional enough for me to play around with and get stuff done. After all, my main goal was just to tidy away my awful and messy direct querying for input code into something nicer, and that’s been accomplished.

I hope that this run through of my input system has been useful to you, please catch me on Twitter if you want to ask me anything about it.


The Game List of Shame

I saw a tweet today that the Steam Summer Sale 2017 started tomorrow. It got me thinking about a method I’ve constructed to help me stop buying any new games. It is the eponymous GAME LIST OF SHAME. Which, you know, sounds terrible but has actually proven to be fairly effective.

The Problem

I buy and have bought way too many games. I’m very susceptible to low prices on games that either my friends have said are good, or just that were part of zeitgeist at one point or another. This has led to me having the extremely common PC gamer problem of having an enormous backlog of games that I’ve never even booted up. The amount of games I buy each year outstrips the amount of them that I actually complete, which isn’t exactly a healthy approach to any medium.

I’ve known that I’d like to be buying less games for a while now, but the thing that pushed me to do something about it was when laurel got me a PS4 for Christmas. I love playing games on it, and shortly after I got it the Spring PS store sale started. So, following tradition, I bought a bunch of games. These were of course in addition to the four or so games that I had already been bought or been gifted for my new console, none of which I’d completed yet.

I saw the pattern beginning to repeat itself, and I didn’t want to end up with a big backlog of unplayed titles on TWO different platforms.

The List

So I made a list. The contents of said list are all of the games I’ve bought but not yet completed in 2017 and 2016. I’ve sectioned it off into both of my main platforms – PC and PS4. I’ve also included a separate category for Bundle Games, as a lot of the time I would buy bundles for the one or two games in them that i really wanted, so it tends to be quite a large category.

The Rules

I can’t buy any new games until I complete at least half of that list, which for the mathematically inclined among you is 28 games (rounding up). That’s the cornerstone rule, and it has worked pretty well so far. I’ve bought two games in the time since I started the list. one of those was the Alan Wake collection, because it was about to be removed from Steam forever. I didn’t add it to the list because I’ve already completed it. The other was Overwatch for PS4, as I had a voucher code that was about to expire which made it quite cheap. I once again didn’t add it to the list because it’s a multiplayer game that i already owned for PC and had played a bunch of.

The only other rule is that I don’t need to actually complete a game to mark it off the list. if I play something and I feel like I’ve gotten my worth out of it (something like Civ or other endless games) then I will mark it off the list. The other case will be where I play something and I just don’t like it or don’t want to play it anymore. I’ve done this with Dark Cloud for the PS4. It was a game I’d really liked when young, but it has not aged well, and so I marked it off of the list and uninstalled it.

Those two sub-rules underscore a key part of the list – it’s not to punish myself into completing games I do not enjoy playing; it’s to get me to actually try out and play the games I already own. Too many times I will buy a game and let it lie unused, and then buy more and repeat the pattern. It was getting to the point where my main interaction with games was buying them, not playing them.


Since I’ve adopted this method I’ve completed/marked off 9 games, and am working through my 10th, Dishonored 2. I’ve played some really good titles that I’ve had for some time, and it’s been a lot more rewarding than pointlessly expanding an ever-unused backlog for little point other than raw consumerism.



Sourced from

I’ve always liked the idea of playing D&D. Well, that’s a lie. When I was a teenager I was terrified of letting most people know the things I actually liked, but over the past lock of years I’ve been very interested in playing it. A lot of that had to do with the Penny Arcade podcasts and live D&D games. I started watching and listening to them, and they’re a really great source of entertainment. They are both an enjoyable way for me to pass the time as well as something that makes me excited to play in my own games.

So yeah I read a chunk of 4th Edition books as my brother owned them, but there was no one interested in playing it. Until there was! But those games went really badly. I very much wanted to play, but got stuck with DM’ing, and was quite poor at it because I just straight up did not prepare anything at all, so it was a very dull “kill some guys” adventure.

I also felt it was hampered by 4th Edition and it’s focus on being a tabletop combat game over actually being a collaborative storytelling device (which is what I really wanted). My favourite parts of the aforementioned live games and podcasts were the bits where they creatively solved problems and joked around while doing it. The actual mechanics of combat didn’t really do it for me as much, except when it was as a vehicle for interesting situations and/or character development. Though I do like combat, I think a full RP based adventure would be interesting, but it’d be very difficult to make it not-boring. Combat serves an important role as a method of generating interesting scenarios and making the players feel good about their characters prowess.

My interest in character driven encounters in D&D isn’t really that surprising I guess. When I read I like books to be about the characters, their interactions, and their conflicting motivations, desires, and actions. I’ve gotten into discussions in the past with people who feel differently (Laurel for example), who like environmental stuff to have a heavy focus (that’s not to say they don’t also enjoy characters). It’s one of the key parts of why I don’t like Lord of the Rings, I find it super super boring. There are so so so many descriptions of landscapes that I do not care about. It also fails (at least in the beginning) of setting you up with interesting characters that are enjoyable to watch interact. In my opinion The Hobbit is a much better book.


So anyway, 4th Edition didn’t do it for me so much, but that’s not the hot new kid on the block anymore. That would be 5th Edition, which has a much lighter touch with the combat stuff, and a heavier focus on storytelling. This edition has been out for a while, but it’s only recently that I both A) Found a group that was interested and B) Actually had time to do it. So we off the cuff went through character creation, and I’ve been readying campaign notes and planning out their first adventure.

I’ve been having a real ton of fun with it so far, and have found that it really scratches a creative itch with me. It’s really enjoyable to think up a basic scenario and then flesh it out slowly and evolve it into something unique and interesting. I’m hoping the players enjoy what I’ve thought up, but even if they don’t I can learn and improve, and I’m having fun either way.

I just fucking know they’re going to kill characters I plan out whole arcs for in two seconds though. The fuckers.


The Hopefully-Good Games of 2016

2015 is dead, long live 2016!

There are a lot of games coming out this year that I am excited about. If you would like to hear me talk about said games, please continue reading. If you don’t then i never really liked you anyway (I’m joking please come back oh god I need you.)


I’m starting with the big guns. Holy shit I am excited about this game. I never pick up games on day one, but for this one I am definitely preordering.

The previous game, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, was one I really really enjoyed, but which was held back by a few flaws. XCOM 2 seems to be fixing nearly all of those flaws, as well as improving and adding a bunch more stuff.

XCOM combines a lot of things that I like in games, the main one of which is emergent story telling. I like when the game systems themselves produce stories that you relate to your friends. Think of when you tell people about something you built in Minecraft, or the shot you juuuust failed to block in Rocket League. Those kinds of small moments of triumph and failure combine in XCOM with an ongoing campaign with persistent characters whom you name and customise. Together this all forms a building narrative that’s entirely personal to your game, and is all the sweeter for it.

I also love it for it’s turn based strategy and squad building/customisation. That last one is one of the main ones, honestly. Games where you can manage a squad of customisable and upgradeable agents scratches a very particular and deep seated itch in my psyche. Unf, love it, so looking forward to this game.

World of Warcraft: Legion


I’ve first played World of Warcraft many many years ago when I was in secondary school and it was still in Vanilla. I played it pretty solidly until about 5 years back and have been fairly intermittent since then. I have however bought and played in every single expansion the game has released at some point while it was still current. Legion will be no different. It’s strange to me, I’ve sunk so much money into this game, and I know I’ll never play it for an extended period of time again, but it occupies a special place in my heart as the first MMO I ever really played. It introduced me to such a wonderful world, and I’ve experienced some very lofty heights while playing the game. It will always be something I return to, I think.

I also really like how they’re overhauling transmogrification, making it more like Diablo 3’s system, which is excellent. Oh and I’ve wanted to play as Demon Hunter in a game ever since I played Warcraft 3, so that’s exciting. Artefact weapons are also cool, but my excitement about them varies heavily depending on which one we’re talking about.

Dishonoured 2


The first Dishonoured was an excellent stealth/magic/assassination game with some great mechanics and an interesting art style. It also had a great setting, but it was rendered somewhat lackluster by your being imprisoned (not literally, well sometimes literally) in the drab city of Dunwall. The sequel sees you in an exotic seaside city, so that should be a very nice opportunity for the team at Arkane to get creative in terms of architecture and colour.

The best thing about Dishonoured was Blinking, everyone knows it. Blinking, for those not in the know, was a short range teleport. It was made majorly more fun in the DLC with the addition of time freezing whenever you were staying still and using it, this included being in mid air. The trailer I’ve seen for the second game makes it look like the new playable character, Emily, has a more shadow-tendriling clawing method of locomotion, so that could be interesting. Of course you can still play as turbo-blinking Corvo, so alls well!

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided


I loved the previous Deus Ex, but I also hated it. I thought it’d be a game I’d have great fun with. It was a narratively focused action game with great stealth mechanics, choices that mattered, an interesting world, and an good characters. Everything lined up perfectly! The problem, as it turned out, was me, or rather how I played the game. You see Deus Ex gives you the equivalent of experience points for doing things various ways, and the way to maximise those points was by doing each level A) Nonlethally and B) Without being spotted by anyone, ever. This sounds good, rewarding people for good play, but it was a nightmare, because you could quicksave.

What this meant for me, was that I would quicksave every few seconds, and then quickload whenever anyone saw me. This was fun in the beginning because it didn’t happen often because the levels were easier. But as the game progressed and guards became tougher and more aware it just got more stressful and hard. I broke near the end of the game and just started killing people with my sword-arms and grenade-torso, but it really affected my opinion of the game negatively. I walked away from it without being able to say I really enjoyed it.

However, I’m still very excited for the sequel, and hey, maybe I can play it without totally ruining it for myself this time!

Dark Souls 3


Dark Souls 3! I loved the original, as you may have guessed from my previous posts and some ones that came before it, so another game in the series is exciting to me. However I still haven’t played the second one, so I’ll be tackling that before this one can ever be started. I’m weird like that, I need to finish previous entries in a series before I’ll play the next one, it’s the reason I’ll probably never play Mass Effect 3 because I can’t find my save for the second and I won’t abandon that progress.

So yeah, I picked up Dark Souls 2 in the winter steam sale, so I’ll be playing that before this, hopefully I’ll be done in time to give this a whirl while it’s still current.

Darkest Dungeon


This is a bit of a lie, almost? Because, you see, I already own Darkest Dungeon and have played it quite a bit. That is because it came out on early access last year and has seen steady progress since. It’s full release date, however, is later this year, so I’m counting it in this years games.

I really love the concept for this game, which is that you manage a team of gothic-themed adventurers in a very dark world. Venturing into ancient crypts and monstrous places, you seek booty and to complete quests, gaining power and wealth in the process. This is all with the end goal of conquering the last, and greatest dungeon, the titular Darkest Dungeon. The problem being of course, that these places and world are so dark, that it’s not just their health that the heroes need to worry about. Their very minds start to fray as they blaze light into the darkness, and you have to take care of them in towns with libations or prayer (among other, saucier options), lest they go mad.

I played it a good chunk last year, but wanted to wait till it was done before I played it further. I’m very excited to try out the full thing.

Other Ones

The preceding games are just the ones I’m most excited about, there are plenty of other games coming out this year that look really good. I’m sure I’ll talk about whatever ones lure me their way as I play them, but for now, those above are my ones to watch.

The Games of 2015

I played a few games this year. Though I probably bought more than I played, that sentence is true most years. I wanted to talk briefly about some that I quite enjoyed.

Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition

Anor Londo is very pretty

I bounced off of this in 2014. I went down to the graveyard and kept dying to some poxy skeletons, which just put me off the game. Well I picked it back up at the start of the game and jesus I am so glad I did. One of my top games of all time now, Dark Souls is a masterpiece.

I did almost the entire game with one weapon – The Zweihander, which is an ultra greatsword. This matches my desired playstyle in games like this and Monster Hunter, which is to pick the perfect moment to strike and deal huge damage in that moment, and then usually dodge away to search for another perfect moment.

I had absolutely tons of fun playing Dark Souls, and the moment I beat Ornstein and Smough (Ornstein dying last) after beating my head against them for two or three weeks was one of my all time best gaming moments. The rest of the game was much easier after that.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

BJ Blascowisz has the saddest eyes I have ever seen in a video game, ever. I was surprised by this. I was expecting a fun over the top FPS that was all gameplay and not much else. I still got the first part, but it was combined with a very effective man who could be best characterised with the term ‘weary.’ All BJ wants is a quiet Sunday with the people he loves. He instead gets relentless war, sees sickening sights, and has everything he cares for held out of reach by conflict.

I also liked the part where you shoot the robots.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

I did not like The Witcher 1. I loved The Witcher 2. I love The Witcher 3.

I’ve never seen a game combine action, character, world, and beauty in such a stunning collaboration. It was an intensely good game, and an inspiration to all game developers with big ambitions. It’s world is so filled with things to do that I eventually had to stop doing anything that wasn’t either the main quest or a quest with a named character (Zoltan, Djikstra, etc). Even with this limitation it took me about a million years to finish. Lengthy open world games are tougher to find time for when you’re an adult with a job and a commute.

Amazing game, simply amazing.

Game Dev Tycoon

I’ve wanted this for a while, just not enough to actually pull the trigger. I finally did in the steam winter sale a few days ago. It’s been great fun. You play as the manager of a game development studio and basically just pick combinations of platforms, topics, audiences, etc and try to make a successful game with that configuration. It’s really good to just throw on and play for a little bit without much commitment. I haven’t found it to be that hard, I’ve never really come close to bankruptcy, but it’s fun to try to maximise your scores for the various combos you can throw together.

I very much enjoy when games give you the ability to name things, as you can see in the screenshot above. If it didn’t then my hit game “Stabby Deer” would have had a much more boring name.

Rocket League

Me and Laurel have been playing this one for a while. It’s a fucking amazing game. The controls are spot on, the skill curve is great, playing it with other people is the best fun, and nothing matches the feeling when you score the perfect goal.

I’ve seldom played a game so perfect at what it does, A plus plus plus.

The Stanley Parable

Wonderful game. It’s essentially a turbo version of the original mod, which was an interactive fiction game in which you could disobey the things the games narrator said you would do. The first example of this is when you come to a set of two doors and narrator says “Stanley went through the door on his left.” You can choose to do that and continue on your way, or you can choose the door on the right, and let the unravelling begin immediately. It degenerates and changes so much during the course of your exploration that it’d be a shame to spoil it further.

You should play this game, it’s not hugely long but it’s super interesting and great fun.


I didn’t think I had played that many games this year, but I guess I was wrong! This year had some extremely good ones, and luckily next year is looking similarly promising. I’ll likely write another post detailing the games I’m most looking forward to next year. Stay tuned (or don’t).


2015 is gone.

In the beginning I came back from spending three months in America with my girlfriend Laurel. It was the hardest goodbye I have ever had to give.

Then I got a job in Sixminute in Dublin, working on mobile games with Unity. I loved the people, I got really into coffee, and I hated life because I spent four hours most days commuting.

Laurel got an Irish visa and moved over in July. It’s been so wonderful. Six months apart was long enough. We moved into a flat in Dublin immediately. It’s got a wall that is entirely made of windows.

I started my job in Digit in Dublin in August. I’m making mobile games with Unity again. The people are wonderful, I learn a lot from some very knowledgeable people, but it’s sometimes stressful.

I spent Christmas with my family, and New Years entirely with Laurel. This is the third holiday season we’ve spent together, and we’ve done it in three different countries. Here’s to many more.

  • I need to learn how to balance my life better because it sometimes feels like my entire life revolves around work.
  • I need to create more in my off time, because it’s depressing to have nothing to show for that time.
  • I need to make more time for friends, I’ve drifted off alone and it’s tough to be lonely
  • I need to exercise more, this body is getting flabby and I put in too much work for that to happen again

2015 was a tough year, but eventful. I think 2016 is going to be better, less stressful, more joyful.

Creating stuff is hard


I played The Beginners Guide today.

I won’t give the story away, but let’s just say it’s a walking simulator about creation and how creation is experienced, from a couple of different perspectives.

It got me thinking about how much I create, which is none. It made me feel kind of bad about it, but also not so bad? A mix of emotions. Some of the levels presented in the game are pretty fragmentary, some are broken, but some are small and focused and finished. This made me think of my worries when I open up Unity or fire up Visual Studio. I’m so scared of how people might perceive the stuff I make. In my mind when I complete something it has to be great! It has to be something that other people can look at and feel admiration at. I don’t think this is a healthy attitude to have, but it’s a hard one to shake.

Creating stuff is easy

It’s very easy to bring up a blank page and fill it with lines. It’s easy to record yourself shouting in a mic. It’s easy to make a game where you do nothing. Creation itself is really easy. Creating something that you’re proud of is hard. How do we measure our pride at something? Well it’s just something we feel when we’re done maybe. For me a lot of the time it’s when other people see it. I apparently need a lot of external validation for the things I do. This isn’t the most wonderful thing ever.

I like to see myself as a hermit. Myself and Laurel often contrast ourselves like that. She’s the extroverted social one, I’m the one that’s fine with just being alone for extended periods of time. In some ways it’s true. I like to be alone with my thoughts. But in a very important way I need people, I need them to approve of what I am and what I do. It might be healthier to be another way, but I’m not sure how you get to that point. Do I ever want to get to the point where I don’t care what people think? Probably not, but it’d be nice to get to the point where I care more about what the people close to me think, instead of just everyone.


I’m not depressed, which I realise is something that depressed people say, but bear with me. I’m just struggling to be creative right now, because I feel like I’m in a funk, and I like to think of myself as someone who creates. Or rather, I would like to be someone who creates, I don’t really think of myself like that, but I would like to.

Something The Beginners Guide showed me is that it’s okay to create small things. Everything doesn’t have to be the best and biggest thing. Every work does not have to be your magnum opus. You don’t even have to show anyone the things you make, they can be just for you. Just for you.

So I might make some small things, that might be nice.

Evenin’ Workin’

I don’t do much work at home.

When I do work it tends to come in spurts, when I’ve lain fallow for long enough and I have some free alone time on my hands (a rarity these days). Most of the time though, when I’m not at work I just straight up do nothing at all that could be construed as improving my technical skills. I don’t think this is a bad thing.

If I’m doing worthwhile interesting work during my hours of employment then I don’t really feel the need to do anything at home. I just want to chill out, to do anything other than what I was doing between 9:30 and 6 (modulated forward or back depending on arrival time). This typically turns into me sprawling on the couch to watch some Battlestar Galactica (which is a wonderful, wonderful series by the way), playing some games, or most usually, consuming internet content mindlessly.

Credit to

Credit to

On the one hand, this is a bunch of activity that doesn’t actually produce anything for me either professionally or personally (in terms of personal skill or financial gain). However it does allow my brain to take a much needed rest after the rigours of the workday. This rest is pretty important to me, as after a day of using my brain on a tough problem I am quite frankly mentally exhausted. The analogy I’ve been thinking of recently is clenching my brain around a problem, after doing it all day (with occasional relaxation for lunch and the like) my brain is fatigued and needs time to recover before it can be used again.

This is something that’s been bothering me for a while, and it wasn’t till I started writing this post that I realised that I was kind of okay with it, at least from the imposter syndrome perspective that’s always concerned about my skill level. I need a rest, otherwise I’ll just burn myself out and get less work done in the long run.

From another perspective though, it’s a problem. I want to make things on my own time. Things that are mine alone, and that nourish my creativity. Every day I get home and am too bushwhacked to get anything done, and another day slips away with nothing to show for it except the improvement of my work product and some accrual towards my paycheck. This isn’t good for my psyche.

This post won’t end in a promise or a plan, it’s more of a rambling thought train. I’m feeling the itch though, I think it’ll be soon.

I miss Burning Crusade

I used to play World of Warcraft. I used to play it quite a lot. I believe I’ve more than passed the 100 days mark on just my main character. I shudder to think what it would be total when you add all of the playtime from my alts too.

I don’t play anymore, I haven’t for a while. It’s just not as good any more. People may argue this is rose-tinted glasses talk, but as the subscription numbers continue to decline I don’t know if that’s so.

I started WoW when it was still the base version of the game, Vanilla as it’s known. Everything was new and exciting. I’d never played a game like it before and it was thrilling to check out all these new sights. The world felt alive and vibrant, full of people in chat and in cities, chatting and grouping. Guilds were fun to be in, with active chat and members who helped one another. I had reached the mid thirties as a Tauren Shaman when Burning Crusade came out, when I promptly rerolled as a Blood Elf Paladin.

Burning Crusade was incredible. The new races both looked great, and their starting areas far outstripped the other races’ in every respect, from visuals to rewards. Then once you managed to get to 58 you got to go to Outland. Outland was the blasted demon-infested ruins of the orc homeworld Draenor. It was beautiful. I remember paying a mage to teleport me to Shattrath City at level 55 because I couldn’t wait any longer. I made the long trek through to Hellfire Penninsula, the starting zone. I was too low a level to do any of the quests, so I just killed demon boars for three levels. This was acceptable because the last levels in Azeroth barely had any quests and I’d have ended up grinding anyway. And Outland mobs granted double the experience.

I remember during those three levels of grinding I would keep walking down to my brothers room (he was already in Outland) and just saying how much I loved it, how beautiful it was. I kept looking up and just marvelling at the strands of twisting energy and moons that made up the sky. It was real good.

Eventually I got through my boar-levels, started questing, then got to max level. This was a wonderful experience as the quest design took a huge step forward in BC. It was also filled with detours like me finding one pool of water where mobs dropped rare crafting materials. I found a buyer for them and wiled away some time becoming rich by killing water-snakes and harvesting their magic innards (just like real life). My brothers were all also playing during this time, so it was brilliant to be able to chat and group with them while we levelled. Once I’d hit max I started running dungeons with friends I’d made along the way. They helped me get the hang of tanking and I ended up joining their guild.

I was a member of Dark Secrets for a while, and I got to experience the first raid of Burning Crusade, Karazhan, as well as a number of heroic 5 mans. Karazhan was awesome, just a fantastically well designed piece of content. It was my first time raiding in any game, and I loved the cooperation and chatting on Ventrilo between pulls. I felt like part of the team and I got to see a lot of cool stuff. So anyway, then I betrayed them to join a different guild that my friend was in, which was called Existence.

Existence was very fun. The members of the guild were permanently on Vent and it made doing random other tasks in the world way more fun to just chat away while doing them. We cleared Karazhan and went on the clear Zul’Aman. I got some really cool gear and some great raiding experience. I’d like to say I made some great friends but the guild unfortunately imploded and I have no idea where any of the those folks are right now (apart from one, I forgot!). This was before the introduction of the id’s, so there was no way to track them beyond having their character names added.

With that implosion my time with BC mostly ended. I wiled away my time building up my mount collection and doing random activities with friends and my brothers. I continued playing into Wrath of the Lich King and then a little into Cat, but BC was when I was most active.

The thing I miss most about BC was the feeling of inhabiting a world, of an expansion being a chance to explore amazing new worlds and vistas, meet interesting new characters and meet new friends. Unfortunately Blizzards approach to building new content I feel has really been lacking, it just doesn’t make me excited like the old stuff did. Added to that they’ve pretty much killed all social interaction or server community with their increased automation of dungeons and raids. I don’t know how they could possibly back away from that, but man, servers feel barren, and no one talks. It’s depressing.

I miss the game I used to play. I miss the friends I made. I miss the time in my life when I played. I miss it.

The Grand Tournament


So the new Hearthstone expansion has been announced. The first expansion being Goblins V Gnomes. It’ll add a bunch of new cards with some really interesting new effects, like Inspire, which triggers whenever you use your hero power. As well as this they’ve added cards which alter the hero powers, like this one:



This obviously has pretty huge implications for the current state of the game. It’ll make some classes a lot more viable, with this particular card as their centerpiece. Shamans for example will be very interesting to play with the ability to choose which totem best suits your current need.

I’m not particularly great at Hearthstone. I construct shambolic decks that maybe have a loose theme. I’ve been pushing with one Warrior charge one that’s gotten me as low as 16, but that’s my all time best. I don’t even have all the classes levelled up to get all their basic cards. There are a lot of cards I don’t have, and will likely never have. This is why I understand why some people will be annoyed at this expansion, because they feel they’re already so far behind, and now they’ll get a whole bunch of new cards that they don’t have.

I understand why they would think this, but I think it’s dumb. If your enjoyment of the game is based on having all of the things in it then that’s a strange mindset and isn’t one that most designers will design around. You may argue that it makes it so you MUST pay real money if you don’t want to get left behind. This is true if you’re in the upper echelons of skill, but that is quite frankly, not most people who are commenting furiously on the reddit threads. People get to Legendary using nothing but basic cards. If having the latest and best cards was the sole determinant (or an overwhelming one) then this wouldn’t be possible.

If you’re not getting into the high rankings then odds are that it’s your fault, not your inventory. Why would people even want to play a game in which having the latest cards made them automatic winners? It would cease to be about skill and start to be about how much is in your wallet, which is no fun at all. Once again, I say this as someone who is really not skilled at the game, just bewildered at why people are so angry at an infusion of interesting new cards and mechanics.


I wasn’t as excited about the first expansion pack. The rivalry between Goblins and Gnomes was something that was present in the game, but didn’t have much of a concrete representation and was thus hard for me to get excited about. Also I hate Gnomes and am ambivalent about Goblins. I’m more excited about this one because it mirrors The Argent Tournament, which was a place/event that I really enjoyed in Wrath of the Lich King. It had a shitty one-room raid, yeah, but it was fun and interesting and there were a ton of new mounts to get (which I crave).

Added to that it looks like they’re actually adding some really interesting new meta-changing mechanics in the form of the hero power stuff. That’s very cool to me. GvG just added a bunch of new cards. Interesting cards, sure, but just cards. This one adds that AND a whole new idea around which to build a deck. It’s very cool!

So yeah, I’m excited, woo Hearthstone, yay, etc. Sorry for the late post.