The Impossible Plateau

Forced Fasting

Screenshot_20140422_193251 This blog post is going to suck, I just wanted to get that out of the way now so you can avoid reading it.  In the mornings I muster the “oomph” to blog by channeling the dark arcane magic of coffee.  I am completely un-caffeinated today and it is horrible.  I am having to fast this morning as part of some blood work, and I have no problem with the not eating part…  but no coffee is hitting a little below the belt.  I totally imagine that once I have had my blood drawn I am going to go to the nearest QuikTrip and like try and drink straight from the coffee pot or something like that.  I’ve never really understood the purpose of fasting before blood work, since don’t you really want to see the persons stats how they actually are all the time?  What is the point of having this fasted idealistic state, when you know the person is going to screw everything up with caffeine anyways.

As part of our insurance plan at work, we are having to submit to a “biometric screening”, which seems really damned Orwellian to me.  The last few years I had been a conscientious objector to the process and as a result paid a significantly higher insurance premium, but this year that reached a critical mass.  If you do not take the screening your monthly insurance rates are literally over double what they would be if you submitted to the finger prick.  We did not find that out until after all of the normal screening sessions were finished.  So now I have to go to some massive last call session this morning.  I still think this entire process is bullshit.  I’m curious, are any of you having to do this for your work insurance?  My working theory is still that our HR department is incompetent and just simply cannot negotiate for new insurance plans worth a shit.

The Impossible Plateau

Last night I decided to faff about again in Alik’r and start the stream going while I did so.  There is a spot on the map that seems like it should have something cool at it, but for the life of me I cannot figure out how to get up there.  During a good chunk of the video I am trying to get up to the place and failing miserably.  I go for a really long swim, which I am sure was boring for everyone watching… and by everyone I mean no one.  Actually to be truthful over the course of the video I did manage to pick up two viewers.  First I was joined by ShinyWhip who apparently was bored and was willing to watch me go for a swim.  She got to watch me fail miserably at trying to solo a world boss as well.  Eventually I was joined by my guildie Saia who also got to watch me fail at a few things.  That is pretty much the subtext of my streams…  me failing at playing video games.

At some point I had to go afk for an extended period of time and I cut off the stream after returning.  Later in the evening I attempted a public dungeon with Warenwolf but we seemed to be missing a lot of the bosses.  Turning in the quest from inside gave us credit for the place, but I have never seen a public dungeon without a slew of optional bosses. In grand total I think we found three, and none of them actually seemed to drop anything of use.  Honestly I have been on a bad streak as far as bosses go.  I am reaching a point where the greens I craft seem to be significantly better than the blues I am getting as drops.  Crafting in this game is extremely overpowered, and I now have enough skill points dumped into blacksmithing that I have a pretty great chance of getting a temper off anything I deconstruct.

I dinged 38 last night, so In theory I could craft up an entirely new set of gear.  Not sure if this is really worth it however.  Thinking I am going to try and limp on with the 36 set I have until I ding 40, and then craft all new gear then.  The problem with crafting sets of gear is that it is a serious drain on your available tempers.  I am really not sure how many I have, but I don’t think I have near enough to be throwing them away randomly.  The big frustration so far with Alik’r is that I am still mostly finding Orichalcum.  I thought by now that I would be swimming in a sea of Dwarven Ore, but so far it has been extremely rare… which means I may not even have enough ingots to craft a full set of anything right now.

On Streaming

I am really bad about not touching social media or my RSS feed on the weekend, and as a result I usually have a significant backlog that starts sometime on Friday night.  Since I was off for Good Friday this past week, it mean this void started on a Thursday night.  As a result I missed this post by Scopique on his thoughts about streaming.  I am honestly not sure how I feel about streaming in general.  Twitch is one of those weird things that I am not really sure what to do about.  While I have a twitch channel and I stream somewhat regularly, and then dump said videos on Youtube…  I really don’t watch twitch much at all.  Well there was that period of time when all of us were watching Twitch Plays Pokemon… but that was more of the “trainwreck you just can’t help but watch” thing than something I genuinely enjoyed.  Generally speaking the only time I watch anything on twitch is when there is some presentation relating to a game I am playing.

As a result I feel kinda bad that I am streaming and love it when people watch my stream…  but I don’t ever actually end up watching anyone elses streams.  I feel like that is a big reason why my stream and youtube channel will never really be successful on their own.  They will always be attached to my blog, since the blog is what is really important to me.  I don’t fully get the twitch or youtube cultures, and in order to get either to really work it feels like you need to fully immerse yourself into said culture.  Right now I am streaming mostly because going back and listening to the things that my friends and I say on my stream entertains me.  I say all sorts of stuff and fifteen minutes later I cannot remember what the hell I just said, so it cracks me up the random stuff that comes out of my mouth while I game.  Ultimately I stream for the same reason I blog, because for whatever reason I find it entertaining and fun, and would probably be doing both even if I never had a single reader or viewer.  The stream however is just not something I think of as meaningful or permanent… it is very much a throwaway experience to me.  Entertaining for the moment it is happening, but not something to really ponder once the stream has been turned off.

That is not to say that there are not some absolutely amazing and entertaining folks out there.  Qelric for example does amazing videos, and her production value is just great.  I tend to watch whatever videos come down the pipe from her, because I find them equally entertaining and informative.  That said I have never really gotten into the “let’s play” culture on YouTube.  I tried doing some of it with my series on Trove… and really I just didn’t like the way it felt.  For a period of time I was trying to get people to do the like and subscribe thing… before I realized that I just didn’t really care much.  If people watch my YouTube channel and like my videos… awesome…  if they don’t… equally awesome.  I think the big difference is I am not trying to make a career out of being an internet persona.  I don’t need viewers or clicks or likes or whatever to get a pay check.  At the end of the day my blogging and my faffing about in streams and videos… is just something I do for entertainment.  I respect the folks who are trying to make this work as a career but I don’t think I could ever deal with the inherent instability that is trying to make a living off the whims of others.

Easy Targets

Heartfelt Thanks

I want to lead off this morning by thanking everyone that responded yesterday to wish me well on my five year blogoversary.  It still seems a bit strange that I have been doing this that long, well technically I have been doing “this” the whole daily blogging thing only a year.  All the support you guys have given me has been awesome.  I greatly appreciate you all in so many ways.  I still feel like I don’t know what I am doing, but I just keep doing it anyways.  At this point the blogging thing is so ingrained in me that I think I would continue to post daily even if I had nothing to talk about.  Thankfully I always seem to be able to at least incoherently ramble, and that tends to fill a page faster than anything.

While we are on the topic of blogging and thanks, I wanted to take a quick moment to talk about the Newbie Blogger Initiative.  I have touched on this a few times over the last few weeks, but it is approaching quickly.  May First is the official launch of the 2014 edition of the Newbie Blogger initiative, whether you are a veteran blogger or someone who has always wanted to create a blog… we need you.  This year proves to be a really interesting run as things are changing up quite a bit.  There are awards with prizes attached to them for various things.  Additionally we will have a return of the Syl’s ever fun NBI Poetry slam, as well as some event nights.  Right now a massive hearthstone battle royale has been confirmed, and you can check up the sign up information here.  There is also a great idea for a League of Legends night, that I hope gets enough support to make as well.

The thing about blogging is for every one of us that are blogging daily, there are another batch that have either abandoned their blog or are sitting by the sidelines trying to muster the nerve to start blogging.  I was one of those people five years ago, and a similar community got me started.  I implore you to embrace this opportunity and either reignite your blogging passion or light a brand new spark.  Folks are constantly saying that blogging is dead as a medium, but each of us that do so regularly are thumbing our noses at this concept.  We need fresh blood to keep this gaming blogosphere alive and healthy and events like NBI shine a bright light on new talent.  This will be my third year supporting the effort, and I look forward to seeing a new crop of bloggers step up and do a better job than I ever could do.

Lost in the Desert

Since I had not streamed on twitch in a few days I decided last night I would fire it up while I wandered around in the desert.  Alik’r is an interesting zone and almost feels like two zones.  There was a series of frenetic feeling quests in the town of Sentinel as you saved it from a zombie invasion.  All the while doing so there was a call to purpose, a feeling that you had to keep moving or something horrible would happen.  Now that I am out in the desert proper, the feeling of the zone has changed again.  Now as I sift through the dunes looking for various points of interest, the feeling seems to be much more relaxed and similar to the way Stros M’kai felt.  This is good and bad, good in that I feel like I can take my time through the content… and bad in that I am horribly prone to completely lose focus.

One of the things I am really loving are the creatures out here.  The game does a really good job of disguising the fact that you are often fighting the same damned creatures over and over.  The first time I really noticed this was in beta and playing the different starter zone experiences.  In Ebonheart you had the fiery Shalk, Aldmeri you had Thunderbugs, and in Daggerfall you had Assassin Bugs.  They were all essentially the same mob, but each performed slightly differently in the kinds of attacks they would do.  In the desert of Alik’r I noticed that Dunerippers were essentially crocodiles but vastly different in appearance.  They shared quite a bit of similarity in the base model and the sweep attacks, but also incorporated the mudcrab dig attack and a model swap.  Noticed the same thing happening with the Jackals, that look extremely different from wolves but behave almost exactly the same.

All of this give a feeling that the world is related, and that the various creatures of Tamriel evolved from the same core at some point.  I think that is the thing I love more than anything else, that everything in Elder Scrolls Online has a certain “sameness” to it.  It all feels like it is part of the same world.  While a Dwemer ruin in Skyrim might look vastly different from one in the Alik’r desert… they all feel like they were from the same race.  This adherence to a “racial stylebook” makes the game feel amazing.  One of my big fears with Elder Scrolls Online and the announcement of the three factions is that they would somehow destroy the natural diversity of the Elder Scrolls setting.  However thankfully you are just as likely to find a Dunmer or Argonian NPC in the desert as you are to find a Redguard in Riften.  The game has managed to maintain the jumbled mess that is the Elder Scrolls setting.

Easy Targets

After awhile hanging out in mumble by myself I was joined by the illustrious Zelibeli and Jabberant, who decided they were on their way out to Cyrodil.  This was to be Zeli’s first foray into the frontiers, so I decided to halt my questing and tag along.  I warned them that I sucked horribly at PVP, but still managed to love Cyrodil.  In every conceivable way it is the Dark Age of Camelot frontiers.  You have three different realms that border the region, with lots of objectives scattered around the map.  Just like Dark Age of Camelot there are also numerous other things to do out there than just PVP.  We attempted to meet up with one of the bigger conflicts at first, but ended up getting completely rolled by a veteran three player a few times.  One of the interesting things about Cyrodil is that it instant levels you to 50 for the purpose of the content.  The only problem is it bolsters you to the BASE stats of a 50… not a 50 with full gear.  This means that a bolstered character will always be significantly weaker than a true 50… and even weaker still than a veteran rank player.

In large scale siege warfare this really doesn’t matter much since it is mostly a numbers game.  In one on one combat… the difference is extremely noticeable.  I felt like I simply could not deal enough damage to the veteran rank 3 player.  While I out survived both Zeli and Jabb this was simply to my tanky nature more than anything else, and still even after having fought two other players the guy completely wrecked me.  As a result we ended up varying our goals and we set our sights on a skyshard.  One of the add-ons I have apparently shows the locations of all of the skyshards in Cyrodil, so I figured this would be a valuable excursion.  So we made our way to this tower guarded by goblins, with the skyshard very clearly at the top.  It took a few tries to finally reach the goal, as the moment we reached the tower initially we got attacked by several folks from Ebonheart also after the same goal.

Screenshot_20140421_211127

One of the cool things is there at the tower we picked up a quest to deliver a doctors bag to a town there in Cyrodil.  We did not do this however as the town in question was deep within currently Ebonheart held territory.  That seems like a grand mission for another night.  After a lot of faffing about we ended up picking up another guildie, Barose and heading to a dungeon.  I think it is really awesome that there are full dungeons scattered around the map in Cyrodil.  This one was a really nifty vampire dungeon and I ended up getting so much loot that I had to “mail bank” a ton of it to Rae.  Apparently I ended up sending her 9 emails full of it before the night was up.  The PVP dungeons seem to drop loot as though they were a group dungeon, but overall seemed easier in scale.  I am guessing they are rewarding us for the risk of doing PVE content in a PVP zone, where any group of players could hop into the dungeon and slaughter us in the process.

Overall it was a really great night and there is talk of trying to create some sort of formalized guild Cyrodil night.  If nothing else last night proved that there is plenty to do in Cyrodil even if you do not necessarily engage in siege warfare.  While I am not opposed to defending a keep or claiming one for our guild, I also want to explore all of the other dungeons out there and collect more skyshards.  For the longest time I had a point where I simply did not know where to spend points, but having leveled up a lot of abilities I seem to once again have more opportunities to spend them than points to spend.  I had a great time and I hope Zeli and Jabb both did as well.  Was really fun just hanging out and being horrible at PVP together.  You should totally join us the next time.

#ESO #ElderScrollsOnline #Cyrodil #PVP #NewbieBloggerInitiative

Five Year Blogoversary

Something Profound

fivecake I feel like this morning I should post something deeply profound since as of this morning it means I have been doing this blog thing for five years.  Technically my first post was on the 17th, but it was really just a test to make sure the site was functional.  My very first “real” post was on April 21st 2009 contemplating the ramifications of what “dual spec” would do to our raid.  I have changed a lot in these five years, and while I wish I had posted more regularly early on, I do like the fact that you can see this evolution in game play and attitude over the years.  The original intent of this blog was to be a World of Warcraft Warrior Tanking blog hence the title.

But looking back that idea didn’t seem to last more than a few posts before it started to morph into a blog about my adventures in raiding.  At that point I was in my “wannabe hardcore” mode, and in this fashion being plugged into the blog scene was probably more of a detriment to my enjoyment than a boon to my happiness.  I saw people doing really awesome things, and our little rag tag mostly casual raid just couldn’t keep up.  I am not super proud of some of the angry posts I made to that effect as we struggled to clear content in Wrath of the Lich King.  There are many times I wish I could just jettison the first couple of years worth of posts, because I really don’t know that version of me any more.

Personal Growth

Every so often through the back log of posts I stumble upon one that I had forgotten about and that I really am still proud to have written.  The biggest takeaway for me over these five years is that I have become much more comfortable in my own skin.  When I started writing for my blog, I tried to be this thing that I thought everyone wanted me to be.  The flawless leader, the archetype, the figurehead that did no wrong and always had the right words to say to fix the problems.  The longer it ran the more I realized I was not that person.  I was just as full of self doubt and confusion as the next player, and that they didn’t follow me because I knew all the answers…  they followed me because I cared enough to try.

So now I can look back at the first four years of my blog as me trying to “find my voice”, but I don’t really think I found it until I embarked upon my “Grand Experiment”.  There is something about having to write a post each and every morning that forces you to open up and be honest.  There comes a point where you just run out of spackle and polish to keep up your persona.  I would like to hope that by the time I entered into the idea, the “persona” of me was dwindling and I was left with just the real version…  but I can even see that over the course of this last year of daily posts I became far more honest with my public.  I still enter into each posting expecting no one to actually read it, and in that there is a comfort level that allows me to say some things that I might not say otherwise.

So while today is pretty cool that the blog itself has been around for five years now, I feel like the upcoming anniversary of the grand experiment is far more important.  That was really the moment when I decided a true direction for my blog, and in the last year I feel so blessed in the connections I have made during it.  The funny thing is… even after five years of doing this, I feel like I don’t really “know” anything about this trade.  I tend to just push forward with what seems to work, and figure out the rest of the details as I go.  As I enter into my third year of the Newbie Blogger Initiative… I really don’t feel like I am worthy of the title of “Mentor”, because I am still very much figuring things out for myself.

Breaching the Spotlight

I’ve always been one of those people who has preferred to be behind the scenes, and while I like knowing that people are actually reading what I write, I’ve tried to avoid stepping out into the spotlight.  Part of this comes from the whole “not really comfortable in my own skin” aspect of things.  I’m a big guy, and I probably always will be, but over the last year my wife and I have embarked upon a personal journey that has lead to both of us losing well over seventy pounds.  So while I am not going to be taking any “selfies” any time soon, I am feeling a lot more confident about myself as a result.  As such I am forcing myself to do things that I would have avoided before.

This started with my game streaming over on Twitch, and while I choose not to display my webcam on the stream… it is a start.  While streaming I started joining mumble and letting anyone pop in to chat, and I realized that I might have something interesting on my hands.  In listening to the old streams it really started to sound like a sort of impromptu podcast.  Out of this I talked to a few of my friends that I have talked with nightly in twitch for years, and we started a podcast.  Sunday we recorded our second episode and I am pretty happy with how things are turning out.  I made an attempt to go on camera with the Gamer Hangout vidcast but honestly the “in front of the camera” thing was just a bit too much for my anxiety.

Yesterday I got the opportunity to branch out from my comfort zone again, and while I was extremely nervous going into it… and likely drove my wife insane starting an hour or so before it was supposed to happen… it seemed to go off without a hitch.  I was invited to guest host MMORPG.com Game On podcast with Liore and Syeric.  The episode we recorded last night will not be posted until this coming Wednesday, but I am excited and scared to see how it turned out.  The multiplaying podcast did not happen this week, but I may end up getting rescheduled on this weeks show.  While it may not seem like a big leap for me to go from doing my own podcast, to joining in on others… it really is.  What has made Aggrochat so easy for me is we are just recording the same kinds of conversations we have had for years.

Aggrochat Chibis

belghast_shieldhat Rae is probably going to kill me for posting this, but meh she will get over it.  It feels fitting to show this off today, since five years ago she made the Belghast in Zul’Aman gear chibi that I still use for everything.  Right now everything we have for AggroChat is very much in a placeholder state.  We wanted to get podcasting before we lost our nerve, and did not want to wait for all the infrastructure to be in place.  One of the things she has been working on are Chibis for each of the podcasters so we can have a nifty chibi-fied logo version of ourselves.  Over the weekend she sent me what looks to be a final or near final version of my chibi.  I am absolutely in love with it, and can’t wait to see what the final version of all of them looks like put together.  Once she is finished with everything I am probably going to be updating the masthead to include this guy as well.  I want to thank all of you who have read my blog during the last five years.  You’ve made this a very interesting journey, and I can only hope I have to “oomph” to make it another five years.

World Without Warcraft

Replace all the Tech

Yesterday was a really odd day for my wife and I in that it seemed to end with some results that we never really planned ahead of time.  The key focus of the day was to get out and move around so that hopefully we could get some steps in.  It is funny how the fitbit has gamified our lives, in that both of us want those extra steps whenever we can.  So when we went to a shopping center we parked purposefully way the hell out in the boondocks so that we would have to walk extra steps to get to our destination.  Thing is I find myself doing this little tweak almost everywhere.  It feels like cheating, but I guess in the long run it will be far better for my health to force myself to walk more.  The fact that I get “acheesements” for doing so just reinforces the behavior.

I wish we had gotten the fitbits a year ago when we first heard about them, because it makes me wonder where we could be today if we had.  One of the various errands we had to run was going to Sams Club to pick up a few things.  They have these amazing apples, and I was getting low on oatmeal.  Now that we have one around the corner from my house I tend to go there quite often.  We actually got our fitbits at Sams because they were significantly cheaper than anywhere else, even considering internet pricing without the shipping.  Turns out we need to shop there more often for tech, because we noticed they had the Samsung Galaxy s5 in stock and at a pretty massive savings.  Currently to get one through AT&T the carrier we use is $250 a 2 year contract, through Best Buy it was $199 with the same contract, but Sams had the price down to $160.

After we walked around the store for a bit and thought about it, we decided to upgrade our phones.  My wife decided she would rather have the maroon s4 instead of the s5.  So for about the same amount that we would have spent to upgrade one phone through AT&T we upgraded both.  The best part is that the mobile tech managed to keep our original phone plan.  We have been grandfathered into the AT&T unlimited data plan for years, and if we ever lost it… we would jump providers in a heartbeat.  So really in the grand scheme of things it is beneficial for them if they want to keep us as customers… to keep moving that plan down the road.  We are not massive data users, but I just like knowing I don’t have to ever think about that.

Now I am coming from the Galaxy S2 that I have had for over three years now, but so far I am liking the S5 quite a bit.  It has a lot of features that I had been missing like the extended bluetooth support that allows me to sync my fitbit directly with the phone.  Additionally it works with chromecast allowing me to use my phone as a remote control for plex and other chromecast apps.  We spent a good chunk of time after getting the phones trying to set them back up again for usage.  The battery life overall seems much better than that of my s2, which is odd considering how much larger the screen and everything else is about the phone.  I have not even attempted to play with the camera yet, but I have heard it is a big jump forward.  The oddest thing about yesterday is using our phones without our contacts… since apparently most of them were stored on the sim card and not in google contacts.  Sams did not have a data transfer cable, so I guess that is the one negative about using them to swap phones out.

Chromebook Time

acer-unveils-first-chromebook-with-haswell-for-249 Have I ever mentioned that my wife is amazing?  I believe I have in the past but here is yet another instance of this.  I am a habitual craigsist shopper but I go in slumps.  I will furiously check it daily for something and then ignore the fact it exists for months.  My wife on the other hand tends to do so pretty regularly, and if she knows I am looking for something keeps an eye out.  For awhile now I have been interested in a Chromebook because for me it seems like the perfect note taking machine.  I religiously use chrome already and pretty much use nothing but google docs as it stands.  I wrote my entire nanowrimo novel last year in google docs… and I still need to edit that.  Basically I needed a machine that I could take with me into meetings at work and take copious notes and then have easy access to them later to mail to my boss or anyone else who so needed them.  The chromebook really seems like the ideal solution for this, but I balked at paying full price for one… since really I was only going to use it for a super limited purpose.

At the suggestion of friends I had mostly been looking for an Acer Chromebook instead of one of the Samsung models.  Yesterday my wife asked me “what brand chromebook were you looking for?” which generally means she’s found something on Craigslist.  Sure enough there was an Acer c710 Chromebook for sale that looked to be in pretty good shape for $150.  I hem hawed around a bit and thought about it, and decided that still I did not want to pay that much.  So instead we counter offered $100 and figured that would be the end of it.  After awhile the guy responded back that he would take $120, which was better but was not exactly an immediate purchase type situation.  We were heading on our way to our favorite Indian restaurant for a late lunch/early dinner so we told him we would think it over and get back with him.

I realize it was only $20 but it seemed like a significant difference at the time.  Mostly because I feel like in buying a chromebook I am only going to use it for the most basic of things.  I already have a really nice full fledged gaming laptop, and this is really just for carrying with me to meetings or any place I need to show off something on the web.  My wife’s school system is getting chromebooks for her students, so there was also the side benefit of giving her a machine to play with in seeing precisely what she can do with it.  After thirty minutes or so of discussion we decided to just pass, and tell the guy we really didn’t want to spend more than $100 on it.  Apparently he was wanting to sell it and we were the only decent offer all weekend, so we shifted gears and went all the way across town to meet the guy.

The funny thing is, the kid grew up in the very small town my wife hails from, so any question about reputability was out the window there.  We’ve dealt with some pretty sketchy people over the years of using craigslist and sometimes you just get a bad feeling about things.  Anyone who is willing to admit that they are from a town of 3,000 is obviously not looking to do something untoward.  I actually used it last night while podcasting to bring up our show notes, and so far it seems pretty much what I expected.  Chromebooks are really just a machine that runs nothing but a chrome web browser.  Anything that would work in chrome seems to work great on the chromebook, for my needs it seems like it is going to be perfect.

World Without Warcraft

Last night we recorded our second broadcast of the Aggrochat podcast.  I am shocked, amazed and absolutely humbled that people seem to have listened to the first one.  At last check we were around two hundred downloads, and for our first effort that seems insane.  Last night we followed the same basic format we set up with the first show, and ended up getting caught up in a quagmire of a topic.  There was a thread on twitter during the week where someone made the statement that they thought the gaming world would have been better off without World of Warcraft.  We spent the majority of the hour and fifteen minute run time of this episode discussing what that world would be like, and what things simply would not exist without WoW.  Between the four of us we managed to take a bunch of different angles and the end result was this nostalgia filled romp through MMO gaming.

#AggroChat #GalaxyS5 #ChromeBook #WorldOfWarcraft #Podcast

Dead Rising in Desert

Finishing The Spire

Screenshot_20140416_220811 One of the things I love the most about Elder Scrolls Online is just how epic their zones feel.  Last night I finally wrapped up Rivenspire and I had literally working my way through the zone for over seven days of serious playtime.  At this point according to Raptr I have logged 113 hours of playtime at am just now level 36.  When is the last time a game has managed to offer that much gameplay for the same level?  I don’t want to embark upon spoilerdom but Rivenspire introduced me to a new cast of characters, with their own epic conflict.  Some of them I really liked, and hope to see again as the overall storyline progresses.  As I am writing this post I am listening the Castlevania: Syphony of the Night soundtrack, which seems fitting.  Rivenspire is a zone about a battle against evil vampire overlords, and somehow they made the entire experience feel fresh with a few interesting plot twists on the standard mythos.

What is even more awesome is in wrapping up the zone… you are left with a feeling of unease.  In Elder Scrolls Online you never quite “get the girl and save the kingdom”.  There are always uncomfortable consequences that arise from your sequence of choices… consequences that you know you will have to life with in later zones.  I am not at all at ease with the final decisions that lead to me finishing the Rivenspire.  I most definitely saved the day, but I wonder at what cost.  I fear what the ramifications will mean to the overall fate of Tamriel and Nirn as a whole.  In any case I get to say good buy to the brooding and moody Rivenspire for the time being, and venture forth into the blazing deserts of Alik’r at the personal favor of Queen Maraya.

Dead Rising In Desert

Screenshot_20140419_000750 Another thing that I have always loved about the Elder Scrolls franchise in general are the unique little quirks that all of the races have.  The Bosmer for example strictly abide to the green pact, which states that they cannot harm any plant life.  This has the interesting side effect of making them strict carnivores… and on occasion cannibals.  As we move into the deserts of Alik’r we find that a necromancer has raised an army against the capital city of Sentinel.  The problem is… for the Redguard they revere their ancestors so much that they believe it is sacrilege to strike down the risen dead.  This means as you arrive at the docks of Sentinel it is being overrun by Ra-Netu (zombies) and the Redguard are unwilling to defend themselves against the ravening horde.

As a foreigner you save the day by doing what they cannot and will not do… strike down their ancestors.  So far this has given the quests I have completed in the Sentinel area a “call to action” feel, like everything I am doing is all the more urgent.  It is a bit of a refreshing change from the otherwise meandering zones I have experienced.  I am sure once I have left the immediate sentinel area the aimless wandering will begin again.  In truth it already has a bit, I realized I had been killing zombies for 45 minutes at one point yesterday and had no clue at all what objective I was supposed to be doing.  I had a similar moment happily bouncing from assassin beetle to assassin beetle, so the zone is definitely prone to my random fits of bloodlust.

Potentially Lovely Day

Landmark64 2014-04-13 22-04-40-22 I need to wrap this up because it looks to be a lovely day out in the real world.  I was off work yesterday, and while I enjoy lazing around immensely… I didn’t get much walking in.  So hopefully today we can go out and do something that involves copious amount of walking to make up for the fact that I closed the day yesterday with only 2 dots on my fitbit.  My wife and I have both experienced this moment recently where we have hit a plateau, but have greatly increased our exercise.  I think we are essentially swapping fat for muscle, and that eventually we will begin to lose weight again.  At the very least I hope that is the case, I have noticed that I have a lot more definition in areas I didn’t really before, and I seem to still be losing inches by the fact that I keep having to synch my belts tighter.

I wanted to post a real quick reminder to pay your upkeeps in Landmark.  I just logged in really quickly to check on that while writing this post and found I was 9 hours from losing my claim.  I’ve had numerous friends who have lost their claims and have simply abandoned the game because of it.  I highly suggest you log in and check on it just to make sure you have plenty of copper to pay the fee.   I’ve put a ton of work into mine and roughly 600,000 stone so far and it would have been devastating to lose all of that.  Granted when you lose your claim they do template the entire structure, but I have had numerous issues trying to place a template that large, needless to say I managed to get a pretty choice spot in the world and I would hate to lose it.

#ElderScrollsOnline #ESO #RivenSpire #Alik’r #Landmark

Elder Scrolls Online Ability Primer

Debt of Knowledge

eso 2014-04-13 11-41-22-20 One of the things I have been encountering in Elder Scrolls Online is that the game has an extremely steep learning curve.  There are certain things I take for granted since several of us have literally been playing this game for well over a year.  We all had the same moments the newer players had, where we got our asses handed to us by a mudcrab or a wolf or encountered that first boss that we just could not push past.  Thing is the game has a set of skills that have to be mastered and pushed to almost muscle memory.  Most MMOs you can get by with simply swinging your weapon blindly at the target and hoping for the best.  This is not the case for Elder Scrolls Online, and this morning I am going to try and outline some of these abilities and some strategies I have developed to make sure they work as expected.  I had hoped to accompany each of these with a screenshot, but alas the servers are undergoing maintenance this morning.

Paying Attention to Combat

The most important tip I can give is to pay attention to everything that happens in combat.  All mobs have a “tell” when they are about to perform a specific kind of attack.  If you learn these tells you can figure out what they are about to do and set up accordingly.  This is a fundamentally different concept from say World of Warcraft where monsters tend to cycle through the same animations regardless of what they are going to do.  For example the crocodiles in the game have a pretty heinous tail swipe attack that you need to get out of range for.  Shortly before doing it every time they will scrunch up a bit, bending at the center of their body.  Knowing this gives you plenty of time to run out of the arc of the attack which has a very short cast timer.  This becomes extremely crucial when you start encountering packs of mobs that employ “group tactics” with healers and tanks and ranged dps.

Blocking Power Attacks

The most critical ability is blocking power attacks.  When a mob is about to set up for a power attack beige rays of light will start radiating around their body.  In addition they will be setting up some attack animation like performing a large weapon swing.  Generally speaking if you do not block a power attack you are going to die.  Maybe not immediately, but it will almost always take enough health that it puts you in a severely compromised state.  This means you need to block EVERY power attack to be successful.  In order to block the default control is to hold down your right mouse button until the animation has completed.  The trick here is that blocking takes stamina, so you have to make sure you have enough stamina in reserve to always be able to block a power attack.  If you successfully block the attack, and it is not a boss type encounter… you will place the mob in an “off balance” state that I will cover later on.

Interrupting Spell Casts

While you cannot interrupt a power attack, and simply have to block it… there are some abilities you can interrupt and you should as often as possible.  When a mob is casting an ability that is interruptible red rays of light will begin radiating from their body.  Often times this will be associated with a red telegraph on the ground, but I will cover those shortly.  Pressing both the right and left mouse buttons at the same time will interrupt the cast.  I however find it difficult to time pressing both at exactly the same time.  What I do instead that works so much better for me is to hold down my right mouse button like I am performing a block, and then simply tap my left mouse button while the right is held down.  This will correctly perform an interrupt move and stop whatever spell is being cast.  Successfully interrupting a spell cast will place the mob in an “off balance”state similar to blocking… if the mob is not a boss type encounter.

Moving Out of Red Stuff

Wildstar was the first game I had played that actively used the term “telegraph” to describe the various visual overlays that appear on the ground to indicate that the mob is just about to do something.  For lack of a better term for this visualization method… I am adopting it from this point on.  During various encounters when a mob is just about to do an ability a red telegraph will appear on the ground.  You should not be standing in this red field at all costs.  This means you either need to interrupt the cast if the mob has the red rays of light radiating from it… or simply move out of it.  There are lots of different versions of this telegraph mechanic, sometimes it is a cone shape, other times a long line, and more commonly a giant circle.  In all cases you should not be standing in whatever is about to happen.  Many of these you can block, but it is always best to simply move out of the red until you know for certain which mobs abilities can be reliably blocked.

Dodging

But you are saying to yourself… sometimes I can’t move fast enough to get out of the red stuff.  Thankfully Elder Scrolls has an answer for your.  They have implemented a dodge mechanic that many “action mmo” players will recognize.  Essentially this can be performed a few ways but the default action is to double tap one of your movement keys.  You will perform a short dodge in that direction.  While you are in the dodge animation you are immune to damage briefly.  This means you can use dodge to get through traps, and out of puddles even if the effect has landed.  Personally I find it damned near impossible to time a double tap of a movement key reliably.  Thankfully for someone like me Elder Scrolls also has an option to set a keybind.  I currently have dodge keybound to middle mouse button.  If I click it while standing still it will perform a backwards leap.  If I click it while moving in a direction, it will perform a dodging roll in the direction I was last moving.

Exploiting Off Balance States

So I talked about “Off Balance” states a bit earlier and said I would get into that later.  It is finally later.  Every so often you will perform an ability that places a mob in an “off balance” state.  You can tell this by the fact that the mob will have the standard Final Fantasy/Street Fighter “dizzy” animation with head slumped and swirly bits over its head.  This means a few things, firstly that mob will not be attacking you until it recovers, and secondly you can exploit its compromised state with a power attack.  While the mob is “dizzy” performing a power attack will knock it down.  How does one perform a power attack?  Skip down to the next bullet point for that one.

Power Attacks

Power Attacks are extremely useful, especially as a “from stealth” opener.  To execute a power attack you hold down your left mouse button as your character does an extended animation ending in a stronger attack.  How power attacks work greatly depends upon the weapon you are using.  Some of them are far more valuable than others, but remember in using a power attack there is always an opportunity cost associated with them.  Some builds will favor them greatly, and other builds will favor the faster light attacks.  Your mileage may vary.   I personally only really use them when the mob is in an “Off Balance” state to get the free knockdown effect.

Knockdowns

You can exploit and “off balance” state with a power attack to knock down the mob, but there are also lots of other abilities that have a knockdown effect.  As a Dragon Knight I have an ability Stonefist that will knock whatever mob down it hits.  Why this is useful is that it is the only way to actually stop a mob from firing a power attack.  Additionally if you time it just right you can use a knockdown to interrupt a spell cast.  Stonefist for example has a slightly longer than melee cast range, which means I can use it to interrupt casts on mobs that are not within the range of my normal interrupt ability.  The big warning with knockdowns, is that in general boss type encounters are immune to them.  Some of them will not be, and in those cases I highly suggest you exploit the hell out of that fact.

Breaking Crowd Control

One of the things you will encounter that is frustrating in Elder Scrolls Online is that the game has a lot of snares and crowd control… and that they are all very long.  The reason why it is “okay” for a game like this to have such long CC is that every player has a quick and easy way to break free.  You have two options at your disposal and I will cover both.  The first and probably quickest is to simply dodge.  Dodging frees you of crowd control effects and negates any snares that you might have on you, letting you go in a direction of your choosing away from the encounter.  The second option is the actual “CC Break” ability.  It functions just like interrupting a cast and you perform it by pressing down both mouse buttons at the same time.  Again like I said earlier I find this maneuver difficult to pull off with precision timing, so instead I employ the “hold right mouse button and tap left mouse button” alternate maneuver.  You should try both and see which is easier for you.

These Are the Basics

In most MMOs you can ignore the tutorial and just get straight into the combat and pretty much “figure it out” as you go along.  Elder Scrolls Online is not that type of game, and while you are running around Cold Harbor it makes attempts to teach you how these abilities work.  However there are a number of them that it doesn’t cover at all.  The problem is that the game expects you to be fluent in ALL of these techniques pretty much by the time you hit your first “guild quest” encounters.  Doshia and Gutsripper both completely wreck players that do not have ALL of these things firmly under their belt.  My hope in writing this little primer is to help bridge the ability gap that players coming from traditional MMOs have coming into the Elder Scrolls Online.  I am by no means a master at all of these, and I will occasionally screw up… and pay the consequences with a death.  However knowing all of these abilities will leave you better prepared for whatever the game has to throw at you.  Like I said above, after awhile all of these things become muscle memory and you just start performing the right thing at the right time without really thinking about it.

#TES #ElderScrollsOnline #ESO

Big Dumb Broforce

Happy Friday

At the very least, Happy Friday to me!  This is the last day of my week as we have Good Friday off tomorrow.  I plan on spending the day in a near vegetative state playing Elder Scrolls Online and likely streaming quite a bit of it.  It seemed like today was going to be a day I could wrap up the loose ends.  I have a bunch of projects that each need a few hours of undivided attention to finish up the last bits of coding.  The problem is I am constantly getting interrupted at work by “fly bys” when some random person comes by to ask a question.  Looking at my calendar it was completely clear, so I thought I would be leisurely listening to the ESO soundtrack and working through the last bits of these projects.

WRONG! I generally check my work email a few times a night, and right before bedtime I noticed I had been invited to a meeting to discuss hopefully the technical details of a new project.  Then I panned down and noticed the time.  There is a special place in hell for people who schedule 12 am to 1 pm meetings.  Sure enough this damned vendor had done just that, so now I have to give up my lunch hour to listen to some vendor do a sloppy job of trying to explain the technical requirements of their product.  I hate vendors…  mostly because where I work the relationship of vendor and customer seems to be completely backwards.  We always end up having to jump through hoops to meet vendor needs… when it should be the other way around.

Big Dumb Broforce

Broforce_beta 2014-04-17 06-13-57-71 One of the things that I lament about modern video game design… is the attempt to make them feel like interactive movies.  While I can appreciate the craftsmanship of the Mass Effect series, it is not the type of game I want to play every single day.  I like blowing things up, gibbing bad guys and generally saving the day.  I have massive amounts of notalgia over the big dumb games of my childhood.  Nobody really gave a shit about the storyline in Double Dragon, because mostly it was completely incoherent.  However we did know the bad guys by name and enjoyed punching them repeatedly.  The name Abobo still sends an irrational amount of fear through me.

Broforce_beta 2014-04-17 06-16-34-23 Broforce is basically one of these games with a storyline that is basically an excuse to blow a bunch of stuff up.  The game is very reminiscent of Metal Slug, another title that I absolutely love, with a few significant tweaks.  The gameplay is very similar, go through the map rescuing prisoners of war.  The twist is each time you rescue another prisoner, you gain an extra life and then transform into that prisoner.  This gives the game a huge cast of characters, all of which have extremely unique abilities.  In the above shot I ended up playing as J from Men in Black… known in this game as “Bro in Black”.  All of the various characters have been given bro names like “Brobocop” or “B.A. Broracus”.

Broforce_beta 2014-04-17 06-18-41-32 At the end of each sequence of levels there is a boss fight, this one is a helicopter that alternates between dropping bombs and firing a chain gun at you.  What makes it difficult is that both NPC weapons and your weapons can destroy terrain.  Meaning pretty quickly you are running out of places to stand.  One nifty tip that I have noticed is that the platforms the flags spawn on are indestructible, meaning you can use them as a shield when the bomb phase starts.  All of this said the gameplay is just infectious.  I’ve played roughly an hour so far, and am really enjoying myself.  The only thing that I find frustrating is that not all of the “bros” are created equal.  Some of them like the MacGyver clone are extremely situational.  It reminds me of playing Castlevania and getting stuck with the wrong alternate attack right before a boss fight.

Broforce_beta 2014-04-17 06-14-48-16  The one thing that would greatly improve the experience for me is the ability to swap back and forth between the bros you have rescued.  That would make the gameplay feel more strategic and less random.  Even in the modern Castlevania games you got a second chance to swap back to the weapon you had before.  It is bad enough that if I get MacGyver I tend to just suicide out to swap to a new character.  Playing mad bomber is just not as fun as it seems… even though his bombed turkey attack is hilarious to watch.  The game is available through steam early release, but it feels pretty damned complete to me.  If you like mindless shoot-em-up game play, I highly suggest you give it a look.

Wandering Rivenspire

Screenshot_20140416_220811 The rest of the night I ended up working on the various quests in Rivenspire.  This zone might be my nemesis, not because I don’t like it… but maybe that I like it too much.  I find it nearly impossible to focus while wandering around a landscape full of vampires.  I end up falling into vampire hunter mode and spending large amounts of time slaughtering the undead without really knowing I have done it again.  I desperately tried to stay focused last night and follow the quest chains.  I managed to ding 32 and at this point I am no longer getting drops from most of the encounters around me.  It seems like if you are not within five levels of the encounter it becomes trivial and stops dropping anything meaningful.

I am however using the opportunity to loot everything I see, and feed the cooking mats to Kodra and Sylladora depending on the level of the material.  I hit a lucky streak last night and managed to get both the Breton and Argonian racial motif books.  The Argonian one is still looking for a home by the way if any of my guildies need or want it.  A few days ago I managed to get an Imperial motif book, so they do apparently exist for everyone concerned the only way to get imperial gear was through the collectors edition.  I managed to find a buyer for it and got 10,000g… which I figured was pretty damned good considering that the other motif books started out around 2,000 and have quickly dropped to 500 as the market has become flooded.

For awhile I was trying to broker a trade for either the Barbarian or Primal racial motif, however I have heard they are pretty common drops in the veteran levels.  That ancient elves and daedra are far more difficult to find.  I figure getting the gold while I can for the imperial book was the best course of order.  Like always I am in a relative state of poor in this game, but I need to begin saving up for my fast pony.  I might have to give up on deconstructing everything I see and just start selling it to make a profit.  My biggest concern right now is that I am several levels ahead of the zone I am in… and this just seems to keep getting worse as I move upwards.  I just find it impossible to move on past a zone until I think I have gotten everything out of it.

Interesting Footnote

It seems as though I am going to be on two podcasts this weekend.  I will of course be recording the second episode of AggroChat… which I am looking forward to.  We have several topics that we may or may not get around to discussing.  It should be a fun time for me at least either way.  The second however is that I will be guesting on the Multplaying.net podcast.  So keep watching their site for the file because I am sure it will be a fun time.

#ElderScrollsOnline #ESO #BroForce #AggroChat #Multiplaying

Groupcraft Revisited

Dusting Off Skills

One of the very first features that got my blog noticed years ago was a series I called Groupcraft.  In it I outlined the general theory I take when trying to make a group happen out of thin air.  This was a process I had streamlined since when I first started trying to make groups happen back in Burning Crusade, and still continue to do this today.  This advice predates the existence of the dungeon finder tools, and even in a world where you can push a button and get a group… I still find most of it extremely useful.  Based on a discussion over on twitter yesterday, I feel like it might be time to dust off this topic and revisit it.  The Elder Scrolls online has grouping tools, but once again I find that a custom built group is far more successful as the queue times seem to be pretty extreme for anyone who is not a tank or a healer.

Taking Responsibility

Screenshot_20140404_220734 The very first step in the process is to take responsibility for your own happiness.  You can sit around in guild chat hoping a group will happen upon you and whisk you away to a dream land of epic loot…  or you can make one happen yourself.  Massively Multiplayer games are the refuge of introverts, and since I believe it or not am one of them…  this was a hard step for me to move past.  In other games I have hung out hoping things would evolve into a group… and then wound up disappointed when I pissed my night away waiting for it to happen.  In games like Everquest it was easier, simply going to a specific place in the world meant it was pretty easy for you to get into a group.  However in the post wow world this is just not something that works.

Be Specific

Screenshot_20140407_183815 It is simply unrealistic for you to expect that someone will form a group for you.  As a result you need to be the catalyst that makes sure the groups happen, and it really isn’t as hard as you might think.  Once you’ve decided you are going to step up to the plate and form a group…  you need to know what you intend to do.  This can be a pretty flexible mission of “run a dungeon”, but in doing so you need to know which one and what the requirements for that dungeon are.  The first dungeon you are likely to run in the Daggerfall Covenant is Spindleclutch.  It requires some kind of sturdy tank, some form of a healer, and then the rest of the party is pretty flexible.  By healer and tank, there are many different things that can work but they need to be able to take some damage and heal some damage.  Simply throwing a few points into healing staff is generally sufficient at least for the first tier of dungeons.

Surveying the Scene

Screenshot_20140416_060055 Now that you know what you want to do you need to lock down some people.  With the goal being Spindleclutch the sweet spot seems to be around level 14 with it technically being able to support people in the 12-18 range generally speaking.  While I took this screenshot from my own guild this morning when nobody much was on, you would hopefully see some names lit up and available.  What we are focusing on is the 12-17 section of the screen.  For example in Stalwart we have an entire screen worth of people to choose from.  If you can find at least four people on in the list then bam you likely have the makings of a group.  If you can find two or more, then you can shift focus and go do a public dungeon since those tend to be design for two or more players and are loaded with all sorts of goodies similar to instanced dungeons.

Communication

Screenshot_20140405_224903 This step is absolutely key to making your group work.  So many people simply broadcast to guild a message similar to “anyone want to do something?”.  These are NEVER successful, or moreso are only successful if the person on the other end is also trying to build a group.  Saying “I need one more person for Spindleclutch” is a bit more successful, but that still requires that someone is watching guild chat and comfortable in their own abilities to speak up and sign up for your mission.  What I find instead works so much better is to directly message players.  So if I were to be building this hypothetical group I would start pinging folks in the sweet spot with something like this. “Hey noticed you were in the level range for Spindle Clutch, going to be pulling together a group.  What roles can you fill?”.

At this point the player is going to do one of two things either say they cannot go, which is perfectly cool… or respond back with a list of roles they can provide.  You are already one step closer to a group than you were a few minutes ago.  I tend to just assume players want to run dungeons, and I skip the step of even asking if they want to go.  It might seem presumptuous but over the years I have come to realize that most players are waiting for something interesting to happen.  If you give them the opportunity, they more than likely will jump at the chance… unless they simply do not have the time to do “whatever” that night.

Lock Down the Required Roles

Screenshot_20140405_210040 Now comes the trickiest part.  We know that we need players between the levels of 12 to 18 with a sweet spot being around 14.  We know that we need a tank of some sort and a healer of some sort.  If you are yourself a tank or healer, it becomes a lot easier… as you need to only find the other half of the required roles.  As a more dpsy player you need to find two people before you have a viable group.  An instanced dungeon group cannot really happy before you’ve found both a tank and a healer, so those are the slots I tend to fill first.  Once you have locked down both positions, you have a viable dungeon group and can fill the last slots.  If you cannot find a tank or a healer remember you still have a perfectly viable public dungeon group.  Public dungeons are pretty awesome, and every one I have gone too has been a loot bonanza quickly filling my inventory.

Start Up the Group

Screenshot_20140408_195314 So at this point you’ve locked down the required roles, and identified a three other players who are ready to dungeon together.  One of the nice things about Elder Scrolls Online is that all that really needs to happen now is for a single player to zone into the dungeon.  At that point all of the other players can choose the “teleport to player” option which will pop them into the dungeon as well.  Hopefully your custom group will go smoothly.  However inevitably you will hit a snag, or a boss encounter you simply were not ready for.  I believe in a blame free dungeon environment, where you assess what is going wrong and try and fix it however you can.  Dungeons are hard, and they require complex skills.  Try and be open to assistance and provide blameless advise for what might be going on in the dungeon.  If you do all of these things, I think you are pretty much guaranteed an enjoyable night of dungeoning.

The fringe benefit of all of this is you begin to know more members of the guild, and what each player can bring to the table.  The more you do this, the easier it becomes to pull together groups on the spur of the moment.  You shift from feeling like you are forced to only solo, to being someone who has control over their own destiny.  The truth of multiplayer games is that the players generally would like to group up and do big things.  Not everyone has the time to do this all of the time, but folks come into this genre with at least the intent to do things larger than they can do on their own.  You just have to be willing to take your fate into your own hands and start the ball rolling.  Even today I get super self conscious at times when I step out into a new social environment that I did not bring with me a ton of familiar faces.  But this basic framework for making groups happen has never failed me.

Better than Dungeon Tools

Screenshot_20140414_195115 So I will throw out a final thought for the day before closing this up.  I first outlined my process for making groups happen in an era when we did not really have the grouping tools that exist today.  So this is the way you HAD to get groups, and relied heavily on social channels and guilds.  Now that we have role based dungeon tools… quite simply we have gotten lazy.  Building a group like this means you have to communicate with other players to make it happen.  The one thing that makes “pugging” so generally terrible is that players simply do not communicate freely.  How many times have you been in a pug and it is a silent train careening off the tracks?  No one is talking, and no one is trying to discuss what is going wrong.  The only time anything is said is when it is to curse out the tank or the healer for being “fail” at the game.  By talking to the players to form the group you have already broken down that crucial barrier to success…  communication.

Almost every game that has a “push a button, get a group” type tool also has other tools for you to try and build groups around.  So I always try and fill my groups the “old fashioned” way, and then if we are a single person short go ahead and queue us all together for the dungeon filling that last slot.  Even absolute assholes tend to behave better when they are out numbered in a guild group.  I feel like the modern grouping tools are best used to augment building a group from scratch.  Get as close as you possibly can to a full team, and then use the tool to fill the rest.  You can always pop into a public dungeon while you wait in the queue.  While I have mostly focused on Elder Scrolls Online, this general theory pretty much applies to every game I have played.  The most critical step is really telling yourself that you can do this.

#ElderScrollsOnline #ESO #GroupCraft #Dungeons

Crypt of Revenge

Cold Snap

badweatherbrewin The above photo is from this past Sunday evening, taken right before a massive line of storms blew in.  During the day on Sunday it was around 80* outside and Monday morning it was 35 out.  Over the night last night it dipped back down into freezing temperatures.  One of the problems with living in Oklahoma is the constant and ever changing weather patterns.  At this point I just wish it would realize we are in spring and not winter.  When I went out to lunch yesterday… it was snowing.  Not the occasional snowflake drifting down from above, but enough that I had to use my windshield wipers on a pretty high setting.  It was of course melting the moment it touched anything, but it was more than enough to be annoying.

Down the road from Tulsa in Porter they are extremely concerned about this years Peach harvest.  They had been talking on the news about planning on using helicopters to push warmer air down into the fields to keep the crops safe.  That didn’t seem terribly cost effective but I am sure it would at the very least be interesting to watch.  We actually had to turn on the heat again last night, and even this morning in my office that is normally the warmest part of the house it is really freaking chilly.  Can it be spring yet please?

Crypt of Revenge

Screenshot_20140414_200714 When I last stepped foot in the Crypt of Hearts I was level 26, and since then I have dinged 30 and upgraded a good chunk of my gear.  Similarly the healer that was also 26 is now 31 and during the day yesterday we plotted our revenge on the dungeon.  While it was enjoyable to get our asses handed to us the first time, this time around we wanted to wreck the place for taking our candy.  I have to say the levels and the gear helped massively.  In fact there were several moments last night where I ignored proper elder scrolls dungeon etiquette and just charged into the packs pulling everything at once.  For the most part we could mitigate the combat with the fact that we had a 37 and 38 dps with us.  The fights all still required us to pay attention to what was going on, and the mechanics were still very punishing, but they were not impassible.

Screenshot_20140414_202848 The boss encounter above was probably the most brutal thing we had experienced to date.  Even with the slightly overpowered damage it took us a few tries to get through it.  Essentially the skeletal juggernaut alternated between two attacks, the first being a linear charge across the room, and the second being quite possibly the largest AOE attack I have seen to date.  You have to avoid both successfully or you end up getting wrecked.  The area of effect is so large that you have to be running in the right direction AND then dodge out to clear it.  This means you have to save plenty of stamina in reserve to always have a dodge available.  The damage you take seemed to lessen depending on how close to the edge you managed to get before the attack fired off.  While punishing, it was still a really cool encounter to experience.

City of Ash

Screenshot_20140414_203939 After defeating the Crypt we decided to continue our journey into the City of Ash.  This dungeon represents and entirely new kind of dungeon crawl from the other ones we had experienced in Elder Scrolls Online.  The back story for the dungeon is that you are trying to save a Bosmer city that is being assaulted by the forces of Mehunes Dagon.  For those not familiar with the name, he was the big baddie that you were fighting during the course of Elder Scrolls VI: Oblivion.  His plane of oblivion is one of fire and demons… and not surprisingly you end up fighting a lot of flame based Dremora inside the City of Ash.  What makes the encounters interesting is when you reach the city and start the quest proper… you are given the choice of a healer npc or an archer npc to guide you.

Screenshot_20140414_205238 We took the healer, because we assumed that any game that would offer you a healer… means you are just about to start taking massive amounts of damage.  We were for the most part right as the encounters mostly pulled themselves for large chunks of the dungeon.  I am not entirely certain if the mobs were actually linked, or if the healer bot was instead pulling for us.  In either way the crawl through the burning “Ewok Village” was fast paced and frenetic.  Bosmer architecture is really interesting, as they seem to be able to convince the trees to grow in shapes that support their city.  Considering how seriously they take the Green Pact the inhabitants had to be freaking out when the first started around them.

Screenshot_20140414_210056 This is probably going to go down as one of my favorite dungeons, in part because the zone looked amazing… but more importantly because there was a giant burning oblivion gate at the very end.  Oblivion is probably the Elder Scrolls game that I have spent the most hours playing, and gave us the amazing Shivering Isles campaign.  You could drop an oblivion gate in an otherwise boring dungeon and I would still have to go there just to defeat it.  Fortunately the City of Ash is not a boring dungeon, and had some of the more interesting boss fights I had experienced to date.  The games dungeons honestly just keep getting better.  Each of them has a very unique feel and vastly unique mechanics.  What I find amazing is how nothing really feels “recycled”.  The bosses do what you would expect them to do based on how they are and what their environment is.

Arx Corinium

Screenshot_20140414_211149 So during the course of the night, we had started in a skeletal crypt, moved to a burning bosmer city… and finished it in the Black Marsh.  At each tier so far the different dungeon environments have been extremely varied which is a good thing.  At this point in the evening I was starting to get a bit drowsy so might recount of the tales might be a bit spotty at best.  The main mission here at Arx Corinium is to help a Nereid save her sisters from the Naga that control the dungeon.  What this means to the players is that you are going to have to fight a ton of things at the same time.  One of the more interesting things is that there are also huge Lurchers lumbering about the dungeon.  These are not connected to the Naga packs and seem to be non-social.  It gives them the feeling of a Big Daddy from the original Bioshock.  Throughout the night we tried our best to either pull them before or after the rest of the pull.  At one point one of them just wandered up from somewhere unseen, so they seem to have pretty long paths.

Screenshot_20140414_213219 There are many of these “leap of faith” moments where you have to jump off cliffs and waterfalls hoping that you survive the drop.  While we managed to survive each, there definitely seems to be a high chance that you might bounce enough on the rocks to kill yourself.  There were fights in the dungeon that reminded me more than a little bit of Polaris from The Secret World… and not really in a good way.  I am sure that over time we would be able to adapt to the encounters, but there were a few fights that we only made it through because Shiana is 38… and really good at kiting.  On at least two of the encounters he was the last person standing and managed to drag us over the finish line.  I felt bad for Waren and Shiana… because they were essentially just along for the ride and the repair bill.  In Elder Scrolls Online you need to be within five levels of the encounters you are fighting or you no longer get loot.  That said Tam and I managed to walk away with a lot of nice things and I think it was a great night overall for all of us.

#ElderScrollsOnline #ESO #CryptofHearts #CityofAsh #ArxCorinium

Life in Castlevania

Keep Progress

Landmark64 2014-04-13 22-04-18-30 Last night I popped into Landmark for a bit and continued work on Belgarde Keep.  At this point I have burned through around 1 million stone and still have so much more to do.  One of my friends chastised me for building with stone.  He said that I could do this much more easily with dirt and then come back over and paint in the stone texture.  For whatever reason that just feels like cheating.  Right now I can carve out bits of detail as I so choose and I still have stone underneath.  With dirt I feel like I would be playing a constant game of trying to keep the facade looking right.  The irony of my structure is that in a game with a pretty prolific smooth tool… I go out of my way to try and keep from anything getting smoothed.  I don’t like the way it mushes up the textures to be honest.

Landmark64 2014-04-13 22-03-23-53 I was feeling pretty good about my progress until I saw this picture…  it looks like maybe my structure is a voxel off somewhere when it comes to what is currently the upper tier.  So that means I will likely have to rip it out and start over from scratch placing stuff up there.  However for the time being I think I will leave it as is until I get the “oomph” to go on another massive stone farming mission.  The section I am standing on in this above photo… I am thinking about removing large chunks of it and making it a low balcony.  Giving it more of a ramparts feel to it.  Right now I am pretty pleased with how things are going, I just need to pull myself away from Elder Scrolls Online more often to do more work on it.

Life in Castlevania

Screenshot_20140413_230742 I spent most of yesterday faffing about in Rivenspire, and as was my expectation from yesterday… it is very much Castlevania.  Stuff is going horribly wrong in zone, and it is mostly due to the fact that we have free roaming vampires everywhere.  There are few things I like more than slaughtering malformed vampires, but apparently one of them is killing Trolls.  I remember in Skyrim the first time I was attacked by an Ice Troll.  It felt completely epic seeing this lumbering shape charging at me through the blowing snow.  That feeling apparently never gets old because I spent a good chunk of the day yesterday avoiding finishing a quest just so I could kill loads more trolls.  Fire is traditionally the weakness, and I am not sure if that is still the case…  but I as a Dragon Knight I applied loads of it just in case.

Rivenspire in the way it is laid out seems to be designed to keep me moving around in circles.  There are so many things I still have to do in the zone to be able to move on… and I have already dinged 30.  I am afraid I will be at least 35 before I manage to gather up the presence of mind to focus on the task at hand.  This game for whatever reason is almost my kryptonite.  There are so many shinnies and rabbit trails that I cannot keep from following.  One minute I will be on task riding towards an objective, then a dark tear will open up from the sky and dump things down onto me…  then I spend the next forty minutes on a mindless rampage across the country side only to realize I am back where I started and no closer to my objective.  Thing is… I might get frustrated over my constant state of distraction, but I am enjoying each and every minute of it.

Faffing About Bleakrock

In an attempt to let people catch up a bit I decided to run around on my little Bosmer Nightblade in the Ebonheart Pact.  Nothing terribly exciting but I thought I would stream my adventures.  I had not streamed in awhile, and I end up joined by my friend Pazz.  Over the course of an hour I make my way through the Bleakrock quests.  If you’ve already played through Bleakrock there is nothing terribly exciting to see here, other than me roaming around aimlessly with a big sword.  I really like the Bosmer for some reason, they feel more “feral”.  In a way I am purposefully rolling things that would not be seen natively in an area.  I plan on making an Argonian when I roll a character in the Aldmeri Dominion.  You can listen to Pazz and I rattle on for awhile, and since he apparently does not understand how to make a push to talk key you get to listen to his inane water bottle noises that sound rather “questionable”.

You Apparently Like Us?

I am absolutely floored over the support we have gotten so far on the podcast.  Embedding it again because it seems like the thing to do.  Honestly I expected to post the podcast and then maybe have a dozen listeners that took pity on us enough to download it.  Instead I have gotten some pretty positive comments.  I know that it is currently pretty low quality, but that is something we can improve on over time.  I had a friend ask me what bitrate we encoded at… and I literally had no answer.  I just saved it out without really paying attention what I chose.  I also want to fiddle a bit with the actual recording next time around.  The positive is that I do believe there will be a next time.  We all had fun doing it, and even if no one else was listening I think we would still continue recording.

I had a few people offer to be guests, and another few people offer to have us on their podcasts for some cross pollination.  I think for the short term we need to lock down exactly what it is that we are doing before changing the mix significantly.  I think it would be fun to record a show where we completely open things up similar to my podcasts, but then again that might be a little odd fighting to stay on task with people constantly popping in and out.  For the time being what we did works, so I expect to keep tweaking that a little bit to improve the quality.  I’ve already worked on a new version of the intro, and hopefully by next week Rae will have our awesome Chibis finished.  This is starting to feel like a “real” thing… and while that is odd, it is also pretty damned cool.

#Landmark #ElderScrollsOnline #AggroChat #RIvenspire #Bleakrock