Hip to be Mean

Jackals and Idiots

This morning I had this post in my head that I was going to write, talking about my present funk with World of Warcraft, and how I would not be still subscribed were it not raiding.  I was going to talk about the ramifications of this expansion and how it is weighing heavily on my guild and the activities of its players.  While it feels like I had written this same post numerous times in the past, I thought like maybe I had new things to say about it.  I said I “was” going to write it because at some point yesterday I started reading a post linked to me by a friend.  While it took me several tries over the course of the day to actually finish it…  I am glad that I did.  In the post a blogger/journalist/whatever you want to call it interviews someone who makes games.  We don’t know what role they play, or what company they worked for… but as the interview unfolds none of that really matters since  they are largely talking in generalizations.

As a blogger, and podcaster, and now writer for a professional games site…  I could find a lot of offense in what the person had to say.  He calls folks like me Jackals, and the folks playing the games idiots…  but I can’t hold any real venom for the person because were I in their shoes I probably would feel exactly the same.  I am not really sure how it happened but over the years I have met and become friends with a lot of people that work in the industry.  I have listened to horror stories of working in the trenches, and tried to be a positive ear to turn to when they knew layoffs were looming over their heads.  I’ve heard just how personally some reviews effect them, and how helpless they felt as they had to make this or that decision for the sake of getting a product out the door.  While I don’t think that I would feel the “press” were Jackals per se, I would definitely have an opinion that many of them are opportunistic and prone to their own flavor of “band wagoning” as a game is taking on water and sinking.  After years of having your livelihood depend upon the good nature of strangers, I am sure I would have a pretty poor opinion of the enthusiast press in all flavors.

Hip to be Mean

I feel like one of the root problems is that somewhere along the line it became hip to be mean.  If we are operating in the gaming space it is a fact of life that we are nerds and geeks or at least former nerds and geeks.  You don’t spend your time writing about a very intricate and detailed thing without being at least at one time in your life…  extremely devoted to it.  I feel like each of us are in some way vying for some undefined “street cred” in the things we say, and there are absolutely times where I have to stop myself from falling into that trap.  There is a quiet game of one-ups-manship that happens when you get a bunch of gamers together in a room.  It starts as simple as nostalgia… when someone starts reminiscing about the games of the past…  and someone else has to throw down that they started in an earlier era…  and the instinct is to escalate from there.  So if you started in Nintendo, I feel obligated to point out that I started with the Atari…  and then someone else will feel obligated to point out that they played pong.  This literally happened casually in the course of five minutes the other night in our WoW raid, without any of us really realized it.  No one meant anything mean by it, but there is this constant and subtle battle for relevance when you get gamers together.

When you take this natural instinct and magnify it, I think you end up with rant bloggers and you tubers that seem to like nothing  at all in the world.  It is like being mean and ranting about a subject is a “cruise control for cool”, and frankly I am tired of it.  I used to be a pretty negative person, and in fact it is deeply rooted in my core to be pretty pessimistic.  I expect the worst out of most situations and am pleasantly surprised when things do not go horribly wrong.  About three years ago I made a conscientious effort to change this, to focus on the joy we should all be feeling while playing games rather than the mountain of negativity that is so damned prevalent.  Even if you are bitter and jaded, at some point in your past you had to have felt the spark of sheer magic the first time you played a game.  I remember being absolutely transfixed by these shapes dancing across the television screen, and being in awe when I realized that my hand on this crude object could control what they did.  There is magic in the process, and as someone who has tried to make a game I still have a sense of wonder when I realize just how much work went into the creation of even the worst title.

People Make Games

We have this modern tendency to think of the people that make the things we use as nameless faceless corporations.  So we think of Electronic Arts for example as this evil company that is trying to fleece us for our money and give his horrible games in return.  When in truth Electronic Arts is an assemblage of hundreds of really hard working and well meaning people who just want to make something awesome.  They grew up on the same dreams we all did, wanting to make video games for a living… and unlike most of us they held onto those dreams and chased them rather than accepting something else for their fate.  The people that make video games are my equivalent of a professional athlete, they are the people that fought hard enough to achieve the goal of creating that thing they love so much…  for a living.  So having known developers in all forms over the years, and listening to them talk about what they are trying to do… and the games that they are trying to make.  I have a hard time viewing these companies as the evil empires they are made out to be.  No one sets out wanting to make a horrible product, and no one deserves to feel like they are hated by the people that are supposed to be their fans.

So knowing that there are people and families depending upon the games I play, gives me a slightly different perspective on what would otherwise be a failure.  I find it harder to rage about this game being horrible, and everyone who created it being horrible by association.  The irony of this post was that I had originally planned on writing about my frustrations with a game, a post that could very much feed into this same cycle of hatred.  The difference is I try my best never go indulge in the rant, or at least not fully indulge.  I’ve been told that my angry posts are nicer than some peoples regular posts, and while I have a hard time believing that…  I have heard it enough times to assume it is largely true.  In part I have to think that the empathy I have for the people who are making the experiences that I  still very much do find joy in…  is the difference.   So if I talk about Blizzard being dumb for not doing something…  I know that behind the scenes there are countless heroes struggling every single day to try and create the best possible game they can given the struggle of working with what is now a fifteen year old code base.  We started playing these games because they made us happy, that they gave us a bit of joy… and let us indulge sometimes in a bit of escapism.  I try my best to focus on that, and the tingly feeling I still get when I play something really good.  Maybe it is simply that I am now staring down the barrel of 40, and that I don’t want my legacy to be that of a raving asshole.  In any case I am going to still struggle to remain a positive voice in an otherwise sea of negativity… and I am hoping over time more people will join me in my lifeboat.

Bel Propaganda

Guild Infrastructure

greysky It has been an insane ride with our free company.  It is like the floodgates have opened and folks are now recruiting themselves.  More truthfully it seems that when someone gets a foothold in our free company, they tend to recruit their friends to join it as well.  As a result some strange stuff is happening, like last night it was pointed out that apparently we are now ranked 15th on our realm and climbing as far as activity goes.  That is apparently up from 70th on our realm…  which is absolutely insane, needless to say we are a guild on the move apparently.  What is awesome about this is just how damned friendly everyone is.  Each time a new infusion of people join the guild there is so much happiness in guild chat, with everyone welcoming the new players.  My biggest hope is that we can keep this general sense of joy going forward.  What is even more awesome is just how many of the new people are perfectly comfortable hanging out with us on voice chat each night.  We are now contemplating the very real possibility of being able to field multiple serious 8 man groups at the same time, which a few months ago would have seemed crazy.

As a result of all of this…  Tam and I had a discussion yesterday in which we released we were getting far too large to not have any guild infrastructure.  When it was just a handful of us that were in constant communication… it worked more or less to not have any semblance of a guild website.  However now that we have all of these new people we are having to create something resembling a modern guild.  When we came back in July I stubbed out a site on Anook but we never really populated it with anything.  As of yesterday this is changing, and I hope that we can get the rest of our guild to sign up and join in the fun there.  Largely I am choosing Anook, because a lot of people already have accounts there… and dealing with running a forum is a pain in the ass.  Forum software is often one of the largest attack vectors on any site, and if you do not keep a rigorous schedule of constant updates…  it is liable to get compromised.  I simply don’t want that sort of liability any more, and since Anook offers a fairly robust forum, shared image galleries, an event calendar, and a nifty way to link guild streams together…  it seemed like a really nice fit.  Not to mention that Lonrem is amazing and has been willing to support damned near any hair brained scheme I have come up with.  Folks have already started populating the shared image album, which is awesome.

Bel Propaganda

ponyparade

Another thing to come out of yesterday is something of a recruitment piece.  Over the last several weeks I have been giving essentially the same talk to everyone that joins the free company.  Not that I mind having this conversations, but I felt like I was spending a lot of time repeating myself just getting the most basic information out there.  I got to thinking… if I could condense this talk into a single page I could create something easy to link to new people.  It is by no way an attempt to stop questions, but more to give players that are new to our group a quick info dump about who we are and what we are like.  After creating this I realized… that I also created a tool to let people entice their friends.  So as such I thought I would offer up the link here this morning for any of my Free Company mates that might be reading.  You can now go to belghast.com/grey101 and get a quick dump of a bunch of information about our free company and our basic guidelines.  So when your buddies ask you about your free company, you now have a quick thing you can link them to explain further.  I used it yesterday afternoon and so far people seem to dig it.

While on the topic of propaganda… I had to include the above photo that Rae sent me.  She was feeling out of sorts on Monday night, and while the bulk of us were raiding Turn 9… it seems she was up to shenanigans in our housing zone.  I am really not sure how this happened but apparently an impromptu pony parade occurred where everyone broke out their favorite pony mounts and rode around our housing zone.  I absolutely love that this sort of thing happens.  A large number of us idle in the housing zone when not doing anything, and we have developed this awesome community of players that do the same.  The night we bought our house, we were welcomed by a bunch of neighbors from the houses around us and over time we have gotten to know several of them.  It is awesome logging in and running to the market board, only to get /hugged several times along the way.  Cactuar is a truly amazing place, and I am so happy that we apparently chose correctly when we rolled there over a year ago.

Heroic Hans and Franz

WoWScrnShot_032415_202250 Trying to mix things up a bit, and get our folks upgrades… my Raid has been working on some of the Heroic encounters in Blackrock Foundry.  Last week we made significant progress on the Hans and Franz encounter, and had some lessons learned that we took into this week.  Namely two things really lead us to this victory.  Firstly better awareness of who was getting the body slam attack, and for them to move out of the raid making sure the tank did not take the debuff.  Secondly better self awareness in trying really hard not to get pinned down by the crushers as they came through.  Last night we had some of the worst possible luck as far as RNG goes and the patterns we could potentially get.  There is this one pattern that was killing me damned near every time because the boss would be in the center of the room… and the only free space on the far left edge.  On the last few tries, including the one when we managed to down them… I started prioritizing my own survival to damage time spent on the boss and I feel like the rest of the raid did essentially the same thing.

We managed to pull out a fairly narrow victory, but I have a feeling that since we now believe we can do this fight…  future attempts will be much smoother.  From there we moved to work on Beastlord Darmac, and had a few heartbreaking attempts getting him within 2% on our best.  That fight… is just madness on heroic with so much shit in the room being on fire during the later phases.  There are several things we need to work on, but I feel like we CAN improve and potentially down them next week.  Largely the spear maintenance needed to be better, both in folks moving so they do not get pinned and folks breaking out individuals who did get pinned.  The amount of time you have is really tight, and this needs to be an all raid effort when someone is gets stuck.  Secondly I feel like during the last phases we needed to move the boss more often, because the amount of flame surrounding him made it damned near impossible for melee to dps.  If nothing else we made solid progress and I feel like with a bit of polish we can knock this one out as well.

We Like To Help

Reluctant Roulette

ffxiv 2015-03-04 23-21-10-21 I thought I would take a few moments this morning to address a few things we are noticing among new recruits to our Free Company.  I believe for the most part the majority of this group reads my blog at least sometimes, so here is hoping that my post will find it’s audience.  If nothing else this serves as a good reminder to anyone new to Final Fantasy XIV or considering playing it.  The first behavior I am seeing an awful lot of is an absolute reluctance to EVER use the Duty Roulette system at all.  It seems like most of the players have come from several years in World of Warcraft, where “pugging” has become a dirty word.  I fully understand this and quite honestly I was scared to use the Duty Roulette system…  that is until another FC mate tiptoed into the water and reported back that it was actually pretty awesome.  I dislike random groups in other games more than most people, and I will be the first to say that the community in this game is simply better.

The other thing you should know is that those of us who are veterans are using the Duty Roulette system constantly.  On a given night if nothing much is going on I will be queuing for either Hard Mode or Trial Roulette, and at least once a day I am trying really hard to get in at least one Expert Roulette.  Sure you occasionally stumble onto an elitist, but it is nothing like other games where you are belittled and kicked from the group for not instantly being amazing.  More often than not when a player says they are new, someone will take the time to explain the encounters to them.  Honestly I often give my player commendations to new players for having the strength to stand up and tell the group.  It makes the run go so much smoother when you know for certain if a player is going to have the requisite ancestral knowledge to understand the common way a given fight is done.  More than anything I suggest you give Duty Roulette a chance.  I’ve actually met several people on Cactuar through the roulette system, and it makes me happy to see them around.

We Like to Help

ffxiv 2015-03-16 19-51-20-83 One of the other behaviors I am seeing a lot of is players not asking for help.  I realize that in some groups this might not be the norm, but in our Free Company for the most part people enjoy helping others.  Now there might be times for this or that reason that someone cannot help, and that is perfectly fine.  However if we don’t know a given player needs something, it is impossible for us to read minds.  Our hope is that this creates an atmosphere where people are freely saying what they need to do, and others  are responding that they can help out.  A prime example is that we have known for a bit that Neph needed Dzemael Darkhold, so when she popped on the other night we ran the dungeon to make sure she got it.  Similarly we have done countless primal fights or lower level dungeons to help our dps players especially fight their way through the queue system.  Self service and the Duty Roulette are always valid choices, but when you are confronting a thirty minute long queue…  please speak up and pending it is not a raid night folks should be able to pull together a dungeon pretty easily.

Running dungeons in Final Fantasy XIV is not quite like running dungeons in other games.  The fact that the game auto scales your level to match the dungeon, and rewards you with money if you are max level…  means that running lowbies through dungeons is always a positive prospect.  In other game my primarily problem with running low level dungeons was that it ended up feeling like I was babysitting players, because at max level I could just one shot most of the encounters in the zone.  In Final Fantasy XIV, these dungeons are still viable, and it feels like you are doing something meaningful regardless of the level range.  I will never get tired of running places like Haukke Manor or Stone Vigil, and Primal fights like Garuda still end up being a challenge for our scaled down groups.  It is interesting trying to remember how you functioned without your high level abilities, and this alone makes a lot of things far more interesting than you might think.  So please if you need help, be it a dungeon or help with some crafted gear…  speak up in chat.  Right now Tam is doing an interesting census of players to find out if they are interested in raiding, so I highly suggest you fill that out from the guild message of the day.

A Night with Nael

ffxiv 2015-03-23 20-28-37-77 Last night was a bit of a refresher night in many ways.  Namely we had a few people out, which meant we snagged one of our new recruits to help out with turn nine.  The problem is our group does things a bit different than the “norm” for turn nine groups.  So there was a bit of adjustment, similarly it had been over a week since I last set foot in the zone, and I was more than a tad bit rusty myself.  I still feel like we made some progress, but we are hitting this wall on the third phase where we are just not pushing Nael hard enough to keep from getting two dragons.  In our attempt to push harder, we are getting this awkward transition to phase four and getting a dragon at the same time…  which is leading to a wipe.  I feel like I am simply not doing enough dps on my Dragoon to really make up the difference.  My tank is level 122 gear wise, but my dragoon is only 112.  Honestly I never expected to be dpsing in a raid situation, so my Dragoon has essentially gotten table scraps as far as gear goes.  I have been pushing to grab a piece of 120 gear our of World of Darkness each week in the hopes of boosting my dragoon dps just a little bit.

This however means repeating World of Darkness over and over without seeing any drops.  Last night represented my sixth and seventh run of the week, and thankfully on the final boss I saw a piece drop that I did not already have.  Sure it was only the belt, but at the 11th hour on the night before reset…  I will take quite literally anything.  I was just about to reach the point where I was going to start rolling on everything just to get a piece of gear before the zone reset today.  Largely I feel like I am being a boat anchor on our group with this fight.  We need more dps, and I am just not going to the extreme lengths that Kodra is willing to to tweak his dps.  The optimal dragoon rotation is twenty seven steps long according to the guides I have read… and quite frankly there is no way in hell I am going to be able to pull that off flawlessly every single time.  Instead I do a much more simplified and repeated sequence, but when we are on this razors edge of being able to do it versus not being able to do it… it feels like I am failing the group.  As such my answer is to try and pour gear into the problem, and as soon as World of Darkness uncaps on the 31st I will be running it until my eyes bleed farming a full set of gear.

Night Means Business

Weekly Caps

ffxiv 2015-03-19 23-18-41-40 Another weekend down, and I have somehow managed to cap poetics at the 11th hour.  I did not get near as much playtime as I would have liked over the weekend, and I was pretty horrible about managing to do an expert roulette every single day.  That said I still managed to cap without a whole lot of issue yesterday evening while watching television.  This meant that I also managed to get a second item this week in the form of the ironworks neckpiece.  Right now this only leaves me with the ring that is sub 120, as far as the full set of poetics gear I still need a chest and a belt.  One of those will take multiple weeks to get, so at this point I am trying to decide whether or not to go after the expensive piece, or to go for another 375 item and upgrade my final 110 item to 120.  I really wish that World of Darkness had a shot at dropping jewelry, or at the very least rings since that seems to be the problem item for all of my classes.

The problem with rings in Final Fantasy XIV is that they are unique equipped.  Now there is a slight trick to this, that the unimproved and improved version of the same ring count as two separate items.  This means I could buy a second ironworks ring now that I have an augmented one and get rid of that last 110 slot that way.  This always feels wasteful since you are essentially never going to use that non-augmented ring for anything other than a bridge to slightly higher stats.  This is one of those things that I hope they work around in the expansion, making more ways to fill that second ring slot without resorting to wasteful spending of tokens.  Another thing I would love to see is for max level players to get a few tokens for running free company mates through low level content.  I was honestly concerned that I might not make the cap this week because I spent most of my weekend tanking lower stuff for friends.  I wouldn’t change a thing, but it would have been nice to know I am slowly inching towards the cap when we were running Dzemael Darkhold or Aurum Vale.

Lower Content

ffxiv 2015-03-22 18-35-46-30 Other than the stress about hitting the 450 poetics weekly cap, I had a blast this weekend running free company mates through lower level content.  Over the course of the weekend I tanked a few primal fights, a couple of trips into Stone Vigil, a couple of trips into Dzemael Darkhold, and if I am remembering correctly at least one trip into Haukke Manor.  Essentially anytime a guildie needed something run, I stepped up and offered…  sometimes with some caveats attached like that I was already in a run.  What makes me even more happy is it seems like most of the guild is doing the exact same thing.  Our folks really genuinely seem to enjoy helping, and this makes me extremely happy to see it in action.  I find it interesting that even though we are spending a lot of time running content below our actual gear levels, that they still feel fresh and challenging each time we sit foot in them.  That is a real testament to just how good their dungeon content is, that after running Haukke for what has to be close to the 100th time, it still feels just as enjoyable.

The awesome thing is that thanks to all of this dungeon running we have a whole new flock of players getting close to hitting the level cap on their first classes.  I believe Syl hit 47 on her Black Mage, and I know Grace is somewhere in the 46ish range after our various runs throughout the weekend.  What is so awesome about this is that doing 8 player content is going to be all that much easier as we keep adding new folks to the mix.  The awesome thing is, there is a possibility that at some point we can actually be running two full parties at the same time.  This is going to be great for offering lots of different content options to the group as a whole.  It is a super exciting time to be playing Final Fantasy XIV in the Greysky Armada, and all of it just has me pumped to log in each night.  I am thoroughly enjoying the game and really looking forward to June and the Heavensward expansion.  That said also really looking forward to the 2.55 patch coming March 31st.

Night Means Business

FINAL FANTASY XV EPISODE DUSCAE_20150322124217 I spent some time yesterday afternoon playing the Final Fantasy XV demo, otherwise known as “Episode Duscae”.  The demo starts our cast of road trippers a bit into the content from the sounds of it.  Their vehicle has broken down and they are having to make some cash to pay for repairs.  This serves as a way to teach the player about combat.  The other thing that it should have taught me better was that the day/night cycle means serious business.  I did what I always do in games, and went wandering off the path looking for combat wherever I could find it.  I took on packs of Saberwolves, and foolhardily a giant pack of what I think were called “Gerdua”.  They were these huge lumbering tusked calf things, and somehow I managed to aggro around a dozen of them.  I got a lot of practice using the parry options to take them down.  As night fell the game reminded me that I really should camp for the night.  The problem is it did not really message well where i should camp or even how I should go about doing this.  On my map was a house icon, and an exclamation point there saying something about making camp.

So I wandered off in that direction in the middle of the night, and from out of the sky came a horribly bright light signaling an enemy drop ship was just about to flood me with baddies.  After dispatching the first party of four heavily armored troopers, I started getting attacked by Goblins.  The goblins were no big deal because they had minimal hit points, in fact after some time I started really enjoying wrecking them.  That was until a second and third drop ship showed up…  so I started trying to juggle eight heavily armored troopers and a half dozen goblins running in to fight me.  I was actually holding my own for a bit, until the Saberwolves started showing up…  and at that point I was pretty much done for.  I thought to myself “That Escalated Quickly” and it really did… one minute I am doing just fine and feeling like I have a chance and the next moment the entire world seems to be attacking me.  So when this game tells you to camp…  I suggest you camp.

FFXIV for PS3 Closeout

AggroChat #49 – Road Trip Fantasies Type-0

During this show we are joined by our normal cast of Belghast, Rae, Tam, Kodra and Ashgar as we devote the majority of the show to lots of different things Final Fantasy.  We talk the release of the Final Fantasy XV Demo and how this has sent Tam back into the 90s.  We talk Final Fantasy Type-0 and how we are enjoying this very different Final Fantasy Offering.  We also talk about how the Final Fantasy franchise going to more “on rails” games turned several of us off the franchise for awhile.  Ashgar beats Ori and the Blind Forest and talks a bit about his feelings regarding the ending.  Tam talks about his enjoyment of Dreamfall Chapters and how it isn’t really required that one has played the previous games.  Rae talks about her new Noms website, where they plan on making a recipe a week and reflecting on what the various authors think of it.

I talk about my current funk with my World of Warcraft raid and how the frustrations there are harshing my enjoyment.  We also delve into a deep session once again where we talk about the differences bertween WoW and FFXIV raiding.  We also have a session of “Tam Told us So” now that the news about crafting specialization has taken some of the focus away from us all becoming Omni Crafters.  I talk about my return lately to Elder Scrolls Online and the conversion to a Buy To Play system.  I talk about a game I did not expect to like but find myself begrudgingly enjoying, and that is ZMR:  Zombies Monsters Robots.  Finally we close out the show with some discussion about the League Championship Series and the introduction of the new roaming support champion… Bard.

FFXIV For PS3 Closeout

FinalFantasyARRXIVPS3Yesterday we spent the day mostly roaming around, in an effort to get out of the house more than anything. Tis the season for post Christmas clearance in all the various stores as they start closing out one seasons stuff in preparation for summer.  This is generally an awesome time to pick up all sorts of random bits, but more often than not I am hunting for Legos.  I’ve already found several sets deeply discounted and I have reached the point where I really don’t pounce on something until it is at least half off or more from the original price.  In my journeys yesterday I noticed that it seems like all of the Target stores are closing out their PS3 copies of Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn.  This creates a unique opportunity for players who have been on the fence about playing the Game.  Throughout my journeys yesterday I found it between $6 and $10 for a boxed copy of FFXIV  PS3.  Now if you act very quickly you can turn this PS3 copy into a PS4 copy with several caveats.

Firstly this offer goes away on March 31st, so you will have a limited amount to time to actually do it.  Secondly you have to have a PS3 or access to a PS3 to make this work.  You have to log your PSN account into a PS3 and bind that PS3 to your account.  Then you have to  boot up FFXIV and log into the game, thereby registering your PSN account to your Square Enix account.  Finally you have to go into the Mogstation and you can click the link that should now appear at the bottom of your account screen.  This should give you a code that you can then enter through the Sony Playstation store on your PS4 to get a copy of Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn of PS4.  This is a ton of hoops to jump through but it should allow you to get a copy of FFXIV ARR for really cheap.  There are some caveats here… firstly when you claim your PS4 copy, it nullifies your PS3 copy.  Secondly this does not give your account a PC License, which would be a separate  purchase.  I did this some time ago myself but I had forgotten all of this bullshit that you have to do until yesterday when a friend was trying to make this work.  I normally play on my PC but I like having the option to play on PS4 especially since you can remote play through a Vita or PSTV.  Granted the controls are kinda wonky, but it would be well worth figuring it out for leveling and crafting as such.

City Building

Cities 2015-03-21 11-45-41-43 Another game that I have been playing around with lately is the confusingly named Cities: Skylines.  It seems like I was suffering the same confusion that so many other gamers seem to be… that Skylines was somehow connected to the Cities XL and Cities XXL franchise.  That colon apparently is there to somehow differentiate the games, because they are in fact from two different companies.  I had played XL in the past and was not terribly impressed, so when I say the buzz about Skylines I for the most part ignored it.  That was until I actually watched some game play footage and saw that the game was essentially everything I wanted the last couple of Simcity titles to be.  Overall the game feels very much like a logical successor to Simcity 2000, which was really the last big city building game that I enjoyed playing.  If you take the concepts from that game, and bring them up to modern standards you have the Skylines interface.  The game strikes this balance between trying to have mind bending graphics and being pleasant to look at and play with.

I took this screenshot because I am pretty damned proud of getting my first upgrade.  Apparently in the years since I have played Simcity 2000, I have gotten pretty horrible at city building.  The biggest problem I am having with skylines is that it seems difficult to figure out how best to build the roads and utilities to conserve space for zoning.  The above city is actually my second attempt at creating something viable, and so far it is working okay.  My first city was a complete mess because I didn’t really know what I was doing.  I have a feeling that this second city will also be a learning experience as I try and figure out how best to optimize putting in an electrical grid and such.  All I do know for certain is that skylines is definitely a way to lose an hour without realizing it.  I started playing this as my wife was getting ready to leave yesterday morning, and next thing I know she was ready.  I feel like I need to watch some people playing it to figure out how best to do things again.  The standard grid that I used to build in doesn’t appear to really work here.  If nothing else this feels like the true “next best city building game.

The Guide Program

There are many stories that at the time were frustrating but become more humorous through the lens of nostalgia.  I think we as gamers all have thousands of such tales in us, and with this new feature my goal is to try and devote some time to committing these to paper.  Nostalgia is a powerful force, but one that is fun to wallow in every now and then.

Exeteroth Iceforge

EQpic_LOIOPosingAgain I’ve been sitting here for a bit staring at a blank screen, not quite sure what to write for my Storytime Saturday post.  Which lead m to start thinking about the things I miss in games.  One of the casualties of the whole Daybreak Games debacle was the majority of the in game GM department.  From what I have heard they currently have only a single GM per game, which makes me wonder why there is not talk about bringing back the Guide program.  For those who are not familiar with the concept, the Guide program was a series of player volunteers that gave up some of their in game time to serve as junior GMs on a server other than their own.  These guides took care of a lot of the day to day requests like players stuck in geometry, and minor behavior infractions.  The guide system always felt really cool because you knew more than likely you were getting another seasoned player helping you out, and in part you felt more connected to them because of it.

This freed up the GM staff to do some interesting things like live events.  It was always extremely awesome when something was going on, and it was amazing how fast word trickled through the community.  Players would drop what they were doing to flock to whatever zone something cool was happening in.  The unfortunately thing is it has been literally years since I last participated in something like that.  Modern games seem to have a GM staff that simply does not come out to play anymore.  There was a time when on Xegony in Everquest we knew all of the GMs and guides assigned to our server.  There were so many times they would be hanging out in zone with us as we took down a raid boss, cheering us on.  The problem is there were tales of GMs doing questionable things to help out some of the top tier guilds.   I really hope they were just rumors, because while we might have had GMs in zone with us they never did anything to assist us other than to lend moral support.

Spawn Rights

magiptasa One of the rights of passage in Everquest was the obtaining of the epic weapon.  This was an extremely long process that involved the camping of many rare spawns.  I’ve talked in the past about playing a cleric which was actually one of the less annoying epic weapons to obtain.  The worst ones relied upon steps in raid instances that were extremely rare spawns.  I remember getting home from work, logging in and seeing messages in guild chat that “Pasta” was up, and everyone immediately knew that it meant we were going to the Plane of Hate that night.  Magi P’Tasa was a super rare spawn on what I vaguely remember being a two week long spawn cycle buried deep within the Plane of Hate.  When it was up… it became a race among all the various raid guilds on the server to see who could field a raid first and clear to it and defeat it.  So many times there was a fever pitch battle to try and log people in fast enough, and get us all into Hate in order to grab the spawn rights first.

That was one of the awesome things about Xegony is that for the most part the raid guilds respected each others “spawn rights”.  Meaning that if someone was in a zone, it was more or less off limits to any other guild trying to come up and muscle them out of it.  So whoever gained a foothold in Hate for example, owned Hate until they were doing farming it.  These farm sessions could last days at times, especially on the weekends.  This however was not the case on every server.  Originally I started on Veeshan, the home of the fabled Fires of Heaven raid guild.  They respected no ones “spawn rights” in any form, and there were constantly tales of them steamrolling their way through a zone that someone else was currently farming to muscle through to the spawn they needed.  Often times training mobs on the rival guild to keep them busy while they got what they were after.  I feel like in part the reason why we have instanced dungeons in World of Warcraft, is in part because of these sort of shenanigans.

Murky Depths

Npc_lord_bergurgle The cool thing is that while all of this was going on, it was not unusual for guides and GMs to be hanging out watching the race for the spawn.  I have to say the coolest instance of GM intervention I ever experienced was while I was working on my own epic weapon quest.  At the bottom of Lake Rathetear was a particularly annoying step that involved farming a set of Aqua Goblins until a rare named goblin called Lord Bergurgle spawned.  Like so many of the spawns in Everquest this on was based on a random chance anytime you killed the placeholder.  This often meant spending hour after hour on the bottom of Lake Rathetear which was a slog of a camp because the bottom of the lake was pitch black…. with nothing other than some crumbling ruins to stare at.  During one of my sessions down on the bottom of the lake a random GM popped by and spend several hours just keeping me company as we waited on the spawn.  It was awesome that she was more than happy to chat away keeping a lonely cleric company while waiting on an annoying spawn.

Basically I miss this sort of interaction between the customer support staff and the player base.  During these early days there was so much more cooperation between players and customer service, because it felt like we were in this together.  That we were working together to make this game we both loved all the more awesome.  I am not saying that CS is not doing an amazing job currently, but I miss this era of manual and personal intervention with the players.  The GMs and Guides were physically in the game with you, not connected into it through a chat server in a call center somewhere.  In part it was also cool that “guide robes” were something that was instantly recognizable as a person of authority.  It was like a uniform that every player immediately recognized and respected.  They were the in game security guards and forces of right and good.  I keep hoping now that we have these smaller niche games that they will bring back something like the guide program.  I think it is good for the community as a whole to have representatives in direct contact with the player base on a regular basis.  If nothing else it is fun to fondly remember this era in MMOs, even if I doubt it will ever fully return.  I feel like this is probably something that gets harder to support the larger the game gets.

Pope Belghast

On Spoilers

This week has been an absolutely insane one, and I have had this feeling of constantly being behind the curve.  So it is no surprise that yesterday I was just not getting around to listening to the relaunch of the Contains Moderate Peril podcast, now with the addition Jaedia and Jasyla joining the cast of permanent hosts.  One of the topics that landed on was a discussion about spoilers.  I have this mixed feeling about the concept of information being spoiled, and it largely centers around the fact that I don’t generally mind them.  If nothing else knowing there is a plot twist coming up, only serves to enhance my interest in the product.  I can only think of one instance where a spoiler actually stopped me from watching the show… and that primarily was because the single character I cared about was killed, and I didn’t feel like going through the motions of watching it happen.

All of this said I am super sensitive about potentially spoiling someone else’s experience.  For example on AggroChat when we are about to discuss major plot points, even if it is a game well past the statute of limitations on such things… we still tend to preface it with “spoiler alert”.  All of this discussion however has made me realize how generally awesome my twitter feed actually is.  I can count on one hand the number of times that I have seen information in it that was actually a spoiler to anyone.  Similarly the group of people that I hang around with and game with seem to be equally sensitive to such information.  I just find it interesting that we don’t consider reading the book before going to see the movie spoilers, but when we read a plot synopsis it is somehow different.  I will say that knowing the “Red Wedding” was coming, only served to enhance my enjoyment of that season of Game of Thrones, because I knew at some point this event would happen.  That said… I would have been pissed as hell had someone spoiled any moment of the Harry Potter books for me, so I guess it goes both ways.

Back to Blackrock

Wow-64 2015-03-20 06-34-13-03 Since my world was insane Monday and Tuesday… I ended up missing my World of Warcraft raid group night.  As a result last night was my first time back this week, and it felt a little odd to be back in the game.  It seems on Tuesday they managed to down everything we currently have on farm but the Operator Thogar encounter…  which is fine by me because so far that is hands down my favorite fight this expansion.  It took a few tries but I think on attempt three we managed to down Thogar again.  I was absolutely shocked when I saw loot pop up on the corpse, since we generally run on personal loot.  Our raid leader said that we had very few upgrades that could be gotten so that personal loot was no longer the big draw it once was.  Unfortunately I have to disagree with him as I have not had a single upgrade in going on seven raids.  I’ve gotten nothing but gold, and in many cases double gold since I am spending tokens left and right.  I kept expecting that one of the weeks the slot machine of a loot system would pay out… but I am guessing that is no longer the case.

I was really hoping this week would be my week to pick up shoulders, since I have been sitting on the chest piece for a few weeks now.  Neither piece is an upgrade unless I am also getting the two piece set bonus for wearing them.  I am annoyed that I still have four slots that are sub 670 gear, but given time I will hopefully find some upgrades.  One of the things I was not expecting is that they bumped Blackrock Foundry gear up by 5 ilevels, which actually makes LFR worthwhile for a couple of slots like my 640 legs.  As far as progression content we worked on the Heart of the Mountain encounter for a bit before popping out of the instance, flipping it to heroic and working on Hans and Franz.  On our best attempt we managed to get them down to 8% but we had various issues.  Largely we were flying without a safety net last night as both our Deathknight and our Healing Druid were not in attendance… meaning we had no battle rezzes at all.  I am getting frustrated that we are struggling with this attendance hump, not quite being able to get all the right classes we need to succeed on at the right time.

Pope Belghast

ffxiv 2015-03-19 22-56-58-83 Before and after the raid I spent time in what has become my more comfortable gaming home… Final Fantasy XIV.  For a period of time I was splitting myself fairly equally between World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV, but honestly at this point I am only actually logging in twice a week because I feel a sense of commitment to the raid.  The thing that has always been missing in every game we have played is a huge thriving community.  Right now we have that in Final Fantasy in spades, and in fact I would say our average player base is easily twice the number of people who are actually online regularly in House Stalwart.  I want to say Ashgar said that over the last few days we had 55 unique players online, and we often top 20 on a nightly basis.  For awhile I was actively recruiting players, but folks seem to keep recruiting themselves once they hear about the Free Company.  All of this makes me a very happy Belghast.

After yesterdays post about being a reluctant healer, Ashgar took it upon himself to convince me to heal expert roulette last night.  I told them this was a horrible idea, but they didn’t really listen and I endangered the lives of not only Ash but also Thalen and Solaria.  It turns out that I honestly didn’t do too horribly.  We ended up getting Keeper of the Lake which is a frustrating instance at the best of times.  We died to the very first boss, but I believe that was the only time we wiped, and I only managed to lose a player once… and that was on the final boss encounter where I swiftcasted a battle rez.  Yesterday after the WoW raid I spend most of the time milling around in the housing district, when we had a brilliant idea.  I have been sitting on the player commendation pope hat for awhile, and with my soldiery healer gear… it just worked too perfectly not to use it.  I even have a proper miter in my hands.  I introduce to you Pope Belghast, the reluctant healer.

Reluctant Healer

Tyranny of Blank Page

ffxiv 2015-03-11 19-16-57-98 I’ve been going through a bit of a spell the last several mornings where I get upstairs, sit down, and stare into the abyss that is a blank screen not really knowing quite what to fill it with.  So this is a post to tell all of the people that read me, that seem to think I have this limitless font of material… that sometimes it runs dry.  In part it feels like I am just not doing all that much of any interest in the games I am playing.  Due to various issues at work my in game time has been very distracted.  Often times I might be at the screen but I am doing a generally poor job of paying attention to the people around me.  Even last night while sitting on Voice Chat, it was like it was filtered and muffled in the background of my mind, taking a few minutes to pull my focus forward and actually understand what someone just said.  Suffice to say it is me, not the games I am currently playing that is causing the problem and in an attempt to make things better I went to bed pretty early last night.

The last few days have just been odd to exist in my skin.  I had a very interrupted weekend, where I did not accomplish much in the way of gaming.  Then each morning my routine is thrown off because my wife is on spring break, and while in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t change my schedule  that much… something feels fundamentally off.  It has been nice having her home during the day because it means I don’t have to figure out something for dinner that can be reheated easily.  Last night she made this amazing batch of Chicken and Dumplings, and from the sound of it the recipe was super easy.  Largely just dump a bunch of stuff in the crock pot and give it an appropriate amount of time.  The thing that frustrates me the most about my current “out of it” state, is that I feel like at any given moment I am letting down five people because I am not doing whatever they need me to do.  Between MMOGames, the fledgling AggroChat site, the insanely growing free company in Final Fantasy XIV, the guild in World of Warcraft and various sundry other side projects I feel pulled in so many places.  When I am “myself” and in my right mind, with the appropriate frame of reference… it all seems to work.  When I am in this current stupor nothing seems to function and I am failing in equal parts at all of it.

Reluctant Healer

ffxiv 2015-03-19 06-33-40-41 One of the more interesting side effects of my current mission to cap poetics every single week, is the fact that I seem to be absolutely rolling in Tomestones of Soldiery.  As a result I have been using it to bolster all of my other classes, and most recently I have been pouring it into my White Mage.  The ultimate irony is that I am sitting at 104 gear score, but have yet to heal anything at level 50.  I have to say I am looking pretty badass though in my daystar gear set.  Overall I am a huge fan of all of the soldiery gear, though I feel like I should probably be spending the points on my Bard instead.  My bard actually gets use anytime we need a ranged dps for something and not a tank.  This doesn’t happen extremely often, but far more often than I would ever consider swapping to heal something.  I have to admit that healing in Final Fantasy XIV was really fun up through Brayflox… and then it is like things got too real for me.  I had too many flashbacks to my early days as a healer, and it stopped being nearly as much fun.

I know I have covered this numerous times but I started my MMO career as a Cleric in Everquest.  For years I had played Clerics in Dungeons and Dragons and managed to turn them into these awesome holy warriors.  Picking the right deity here, and the right spells there… could turn what is usually a support class into an amazing front line battle priest.  Unfortunately this design went against everything that was Everquest, and I spent a lot of my time soloing using the good ole Root and Nuke combination.  Then when it came to raiding… I had to learn about the frustration that is the Complete Heal Rotation, where every 2 to 3 seconds the main tank is getting a full heal, so you have to time the 12 second cast so that someone is always starting up the next one.  All of this makes me really reluctant to heal anything, because I never want to get back into a mode of operation where that style of game play is the normal.  So I guess I have a bit of a mental block towards actually putting myself out there as a viable healer.  I would gladly do it for anyone in the free company, but I just haven’t really made it widely known that it was an option.

Guild Tanking

ffxiv 2015-03-19 06-43-48-08 Instead I am far more comfortable taking up the mantle of a guild tank.  In my current daze I have probably missed a half dozen opportunities to tank for guildies.  Last night I managed to catch one of these as Solaria  and her daughter Isalenne needed to run Haukke Manor.  I would have tanked anything for them, but it so happens that Haukke is probably one of my favorite dungeons in the entire game.  I love the whole Castlevania feel to the place, and while leveling my healer I seemed to get that place almost every single time I popped into the low level roulette.  As a result I have pretty much every pull memorized, and Isa commented on just how relaxing the run was compared to the average duty finder one.  I actually got into a discussion on twitter yesterday about DPS queues and class balance and I realize that I am 100% part of the problem.  I will happily don the mantle of the serious tank when it comes to my friends…   but when I solo queue for the duty finder… I do so as a DPS.  I’ve never really learned how to turn off that part of me that takes total responsibility for the success or failure for the group when I am tanking.  As such I am willing to take that burden for my friends, but cannot bring myself to do it for strangers.

The problem is I know deep down in my bones how generally awesome the Final Fantasy XIV community is.  I know that I have tanked for random strangers before while leveling… and actually enjoyed it.  The problem is I have this mental wall that I struggle to get around.  Since the introduction of the Ninja, the DPS queues in Final Fantasy XIV have been completely out of control.  If you do a low level duty finder you can be sitting in that queue for over thirty minutes as dps, and if you are a ninja… it trends extremely close to infinity as the game seems to try to stick a ranged and a melee in a group if at all possible.  The end result is a lot of frustration for newer players that just need to get dungeons running.  As such I try my damnedest to intercept people needing dungeons and make them happen among free company members.  The problem is… not all of my friends are on Cactuar, and not all of them are in our Free Company.  I really should be a better person and do more “charity queues”, which is a term we came up with shortly after release when everyone seemed to need Ifrit but no one could get a group.  Various members of our free company would queue for Ifrit and help a bunch of people through that obstacle.  I remember one Black Mage had been sitting in that queue for three hours, so really I need to step up to the plate and do more random tanking.  Knowing this however is slightly different from doing this…  but I am going to try and force myself out there.

Disconnected Dragoon

Missing a Raid

WoWScrnShot_031815_063013 Yesterday was one of those days when I felt like I was moving through molasses the entire day.  In part it was the whole staying up late and babysitting servers bit, but also we had so much stuff going on during the day connected to the two outages.  It turns out that after much research they were not actually related.  I knew I was not exactly in “fighting shape” so I let my raid leader know that I would not be attending the WoW Raid that night.  This is in part a good thing because they were apparently talking about having to do a paired down raid due to limited healers, and it is probably a good thing to rotate folks a bit.  At this point I would never mind having to sit out for a night because I have so much other stuff going on that I could be doing.  When I got home I took a nap and that helped quite a bit, or at least made me feel something vaguely human.

I asked my wife not to let me sleep more than an hour, since I generally struggle with the concept of napping.  If I take a nap, it means I am not likely to get a good nights sleep.  My body plays this game with me, where it only wants to get five to six hours of sleep a night.  When I nap, it means I am going to have this massive bout of insomnia that night.  Thankfully the short nap managed to do what it needed to do and I was still able to sleep fairly well as a result.  I spent most of the night hanging out on the couch catching up on Better Call Saul.  The irony of be getting into this series is the fact that I have never actually watched Breaking Bad.  I mean I have watched the first episode, but since my wife showed some interest in the show I didn’t really want to start it on my own without her watching along.  Otherwise there would come a point where I would have to start back from scratch and watch everything over again.  I managed to catch up through episode seven, and that show is just  becoming more interesting as it goes.

Disconnected Dragoon

ffxiv 2015-03-04 19-29-18-85 When it came to actual gaming last night, I was a bit more distracted.  I spent some time logged into Final Fantasy XIV because our Free Company is just insanely vibrant, but I really didn’t do all that much gaming.  I ran a few roulettes, and managed to get yet another piece of 130 gear thanks to another carbontwine, but mostly I just spent a lot of time hanging out at the free company house when I got up from my nap.  It really is surreal to see the number of people online… and at some point I need to catch up with my whole guild census project and record all the new people in our spreadsheet.  One of the problems with FFXIV is that there is no good guild notes functionality so we are having to keep an external list of which character belongs to which personality.  Its tedious but for whatever reason I struggle to relate in game names back to twitter and blogger names.  I spend a lot of time thinking “I think  that is this person” but never fully committing because my memory is extremely fallible.  That is my deep dark secret, that in other games I remember everyone… because I can check the officer notes.

I am not sure how I really made it through the sequence of Labyrinth of the Ancients, Syrcus Tower and World of Darkness… but I am guessing at this point I can just do those on auto pilot.  I am hoping I was not “that dragoon” in most of the instances, because I managed to get several commendations.  Generally speaking if I go in, and manage not to die… I get commendations.  I should have spent the night working on botany, but instead I mostly stood around a lot staring blankly at the screen.  I feel like over the last several nights I have been particularly antisocial.  Largely when I am watching something on Television I stay off voice chat, and go for large periods of time without reading free company chat either.  I know at some point Arkenor asked for a group, but it was not until it had actually formed that I noticed.  I have been a less than stellar “Bel” lately, and I am hoping tonight I will be feeling back to my normal self.  I feel like I have missed a lot of what is going on, and I am hoping to remedy that.

Time to Landmark

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-17 17-36-42-66 It has been well over a year since I last played Landmark in any fashion.  That game has evolved in such a way that if you are not playing constantly you fall behind in the number of changes.  At this point I simply feel behind the curve and it has been a real barrier from me jumping back into the game.  This morning I read something interesting however, that Landmark plans to have one more major character wipe before opening its doors to the public.  My theory is that this might be precisely the ideal time to pop my head back in and see how the game has progressed.  Right now this wipe is slotted for sometime around April 29th.  So my hope is that I can pop in and experience all of the new content fresh and not be so entirely out of touch with it.  Honestly the most enjoyment I had in the game was the process of “leveling up” which was completing a series of arbitrary goals to keep moving up through the different types of picks and tools you can create.  Once I had access to everything the game quickly became stale for me.

For reference when I last played the game… the Caves system was not yet patched in.  So this means I have that and all of the player combat to experience fresh.  The problem is I am torn on the whole Daybreak thing.  I am still rather pissed about the layoffs, but at the same time the folks who are still on staff there are struggling to make this whole thing work.  My Landmark account is a sunk cost as I purchased it so long ago.  I might as well get some use out of it, and see what this game has become in the months since I let my claim get repossessed.  There was a point where I realized I was only logging in just long enough to mine copper to pay the upkeep on my claim.  This is one of the things I don’t like about upkeep systems.  If you are only playing the game to pay upkeep, are you really playing the game at all?  I am actually looking forward to the character wipe now and hopefully I will be able to reignite the spark I once had for this game.

Guar Wrangler

Horrible Night

1685929-797522_xo_manowar___bws_super Last night was supposed to be our guild attempt on Turn 9 again in Final Fantasy XIV.  I logged in ready to go, and then all hell broke loose.  We had two servers go down at work, and I spent my night working with a coworker trying to bring them back online.  While all this was happening, the guild rightfully filled my spot and the show went on without me.  It sounds like maybe they got through another phase but I was not paying that close of attention to what was going on in Teamspeak.  I spent most of the night watching those servers, trying to make sure that they were not going to go down again.  I got a 9:30 pm call from my boss which freaked me out, because my mind immediately jumped to the conclusion that something had happened again.  Turns out he was just returning my call from earlier in the evening that apparently he missed.

The problem is as stressful as my actual evening went… it apparently spilled over into my dreams.  In my dream I was interviewing Robert Downey Jr. and he was extremely agitated.  He was pacing around the room, and I kept trying to the bottom of why.  Suddenly he got mad with me and transformed into the Ironman suit from his briefcase.  He fired a shot at me, and I responded by turning into the X-O Manowar suit.  We battled back and forth in this conference room.  One of his repulsor beams blew a hole in the wall and outside I could see the Ultramarines fighting some sort of giant Kaiju.  Finally they defeated it and stormed into the building to assist me.  Moments from capturing Robert Downey Jr. turned Ironman…  I apparently woke up.  It was a strange night.

Capping Poetics

ffxiv 2015-03-16 19-51-15-65 While semi-afk and working on servers I happened to notice movement in my game screen.  It turns out the entire guild was swarmed around me trying to lure me back from wherever I happened to be.  Unfortunately it didn’t work and it took another thirty minutes or so before things were finally restored.  Since I missed the boat for raid time… and quite honestly I didn’t feel like I should get involved in something that serious I opted to run hardmodes for poetics.  I went into the night sitting around 200 poetics of the 450 cap.  Through a series of hard modes, trials and a random expert with guildies when the raid was over I managed to get within a single point of capping.  This meant I was within a single trial of cap, so I stayed up and did just that… managing to get the most frustrating Ifrit Hard mode I have ever experienced.  The tank failed to have shield oath up, which meant that the white mage quite literally tanked Ifrit for most of the kill.

If nothing else capping poetics was a bit of a silver lining to an otherwise shitty night.  Right now I am very much in this mode of trying to cap every week so I can finish gearing out my main the Warrior.  As far as pieces to purchase, I need a couple of pieces of jewelry, the belt and the chest piece… and then a bunch of weeks to past to get the necessary carboncoat and carbontwine to upgrade them to 130.  In any case there is still a lot of upgrades ahead of me, and my hope is to get to as much 130 gear as I can before the release of the 2.55 patch which is supposedly March 31st.  That seems really damned soon considering we just recently had the Golden Saucer patch, but I guess they are wanting to give players time with that patch to finish things up before June 19th and the Heavensward headstart.  I guess now that I think about that, it is only giving players a month with 2.55 which makes sense as something that they would want to do.

Guar Wrangler

eso 2015-03-16 23-59-44-25 After the night that I had I should have just gone straight to bed.  The problem is I was still very much still “worked up” over the events.  I likely could not have slept if I had tried, so throughout the night I had been patching up Elder Scrolls Online, and decided to pop my head in.  It turns out that they flipped the switch for Tamriel Unlimited a bit early, and folks were able to log in and play last night.  Overall the transition seemed smooth enough, and all of my pets and such got sucked into the new collections system.  Similarly I was granted 4500 crowns to spend on the in game shop, and with that I picked up the stealth armor pack that had this very cool covenant armor set, and the guar that I am riding on.  I also picked up the Wildhelm dog pet, because he looked adorable.

As far as the game itself, I had been popping my head in Tamriel once or twice a week for awhile now.  After the change I didn’t really detect anything to strange other than the fact that I now had a champion point to spend, and had to respec my character completely.  That was the hardest part, trying to decide and remember what I had before.  I feel like I probably ended up with a similar build to before… but I can’t be too certain.  I am still heavily sword and shield dragon knight, and that seems effective.  I wandered around and managed to take out a world mini-boss at some ghost pirate camp without much issue, so I am happy with the results.  I look forward to getting more time to explore the Aldmeri Dominion now that the champion system feels like I am actually making forward momentum again.  Now I just have to live with the consequences of having limited sleep.