Grand Experiment – Year Two

AggroChat 54 – Darkest Dungeon Show

This evening we held the third episode of the AggroChat Game Club where we talk about my pick the early access rogue-like Darkest Dungeon.  I personally chose this game because so many of my friends had been talking about it, and purposefully delayed playing it in the thoughts of this eventually becoming an AggroChat title.  The result is that each of us played the game slightly different, and walked away with a very different perspective and feeling about the game.  Some of us loved it, but even among those that loved it…  we brought with it a completely different outlook and as such a different reaction.  Of course some of us absolutely hated the game, enough to actually Alt-F4 out of the window.

The end result however is what I feel like our most successful game club title to date, because it certainly spurred on some conversation.  Next months title is announced towards the end of the broadcast and I am sure it will be an equally interesting discussion.  As for my own feelings…  I really enjoyed the game, but it seems like I might be the most heartless bastard on the planet when it comes to how I treated my dungeoneers.  Some of my co-hosts developed bonds to their spelunkers and for me… they were just fodder to be thrown at the problem like minions in a Dungeon Keeper game.  Of all the games we have played for the game club so far this is the one that I am most likely to visit and keep playing, but I might be waiting until it exits early access.  There are certain things in the game that I don’t know if they are broken or simply that they have not been finished yet.

Grand Experiment – Year Two

I've Felt Strong Enough to Even Show you Me This Year Two years ago today I set about to change the nature of my blog and embarked upon what I termed the “Grand Experiment” which was more than anything blogging every single day no matter if I had a thought in my mind worth writing down on paper.  Now 730 posts later I continue to question what I was thinking when I started down this road.  The end result has been an interesting ride to say the least.  What has happened more than anything during these last two years is that I have gotten closer with the community of my fellow bloggers.  This has been more important than anything else to me, and it is through all of the various events like the upcoming Newbie Blogger Initiative 2015 that it is happened.  So while I question if I did anything that really mattered over these last  two years, I am thankful for every single reader and peer  that I now have.  There are lots of bloggers that write daily, and they have not made a big deal about it… but for me this was huge.  If you scan back through my blog there are several six month long lapses in content… and very rarely did I actually make it through a month without having a week with zero posts.

It has been so much more than just writing a blog for me personally.  I have allowed myself to open up more about myself and my life than I ever had to date online.  I’ve talked about my personal struggles, and shared with you my excitement and joy.  I’ve let you all into my life, and while I still for the most part am scant on the details…  you are seeing the impression of something very real that is happening.  I figured out early into this process that there would be days when I simply don’t have anything game related to talk about.  There would be days that I would have something on my chest that I needed to get out there, right or wrong… and I am thankful that you all have supported me.  I’ve been told that for many people my blog post is now part of their morning ritual, and if they get to work… and don’t see one they start to worry if something happened to me.  The first day I was late with a post and I had a deluge of people pinging me over twitter and IM to make sure I was okay…  was absolutely overwhelming.

Year Three

Not My Cat - But I Have Decided it is my Spirit Animal :) So tomorrow I begin the third year of this journey.  There are days I question myself why I am doing this… what exactly I am trying to prove.  The thing is I don’t really have an answer for either of those things.  I enjoy this connection that I have to my readers, no matter how ephemeral it might be.  There are days that I am doing this as therapy, other days doing it to share my excitement that I might burst if I don’t get it out onto the page… and in other days…  the days I cannot seem to find the words, I am struggling forward for you.  I feel like we have this contract, that I will write and you will read and together we will have this connection.  I don’t want to be the one to sever that connection.  I don’t want to be the one who lets down my end of this contract.  So I will keep living and experiencing and doing my hack job of sharing that experience with you.  This time next year I have no clue what I might be talking about… but I hope to still be talking and looking forward to our next journey.

Now I ask something of you.  Since we have been sharing these moments each morning for some time…  tell me about what you have done over these two years.  Granted a lot of you have blogs of your own and they are in my RSS reader that I consume at irregular intervals like drinking from a giant firehose of words.  But some of you out there have been with me this entire trip, and have never commented.  I would love to hear from some of you, and let me know how your life has changed over these last two years.  I might not even know you yet, but I would like to.  What major changes has my readership gone through while I have been on this journey.  I’ve upset a few people along the way, some of which have blocked me out of their lives…  but I have gained several orders of magnitude more friends along the journey.  That is the really important thing to me… all of the friends I have to show for my trip, and that I still keep in contact with on a weekly basis.  You are the ones that give me the drive to keep moving forward, and hopefully this next year will be a fun trip shared together.

The Arcade Community

One of the odd things I have been struggling with over the last two years of writing daily is why on the week days I can bang out a post in usually less than thirty minutes, but on the weekends it takes upwards of three hours.  The problem is I think that I simply don’t feel quite the same pressure to perform on the weekends.  I know I am not under the gun to produce in a short period of time so I faff about more.  This morning for example I have read half a dozen articles, done my daily garrison chores in World of Warcraft and am finally just now setting down to start writing.  I think the pressure to perform is crucial for what I do, and without it I likely would not have kept this up all this time.  All of this said there are days when the process of getting up every morning to stare at a blank screen becomes frustrating.  On  those days I wonder just how long I can keep this ritual up.  Tomorrow will be the second year anniversary, and so far the will to write has not left me.

Fighting Games

streetfighter1 Last week Mortal Kombat 10 was released, and I will admit there is a part of me that wants to purchase it and wallow in the nostalgia a bit.  The problem is another part of me knows that I could do this, but it would not feel the same.  In fact no fighting game I have played has felt right to me, and I cannot really place the reasons why.  Ultimately I think its because I myself am in a different place than I was when I first played Street Fighter 2 all those years ago.  I touched on this a bit with my story about my friend Wade, but I thought I would delve more into it this morning for Storytime Saturday.  While I have heard the fighting game scene is alive and well with the EVO Championship Series, there is just something missing from it without the existence of the arcade element.  There was a critical friction required of actually getting to the arcade that somehow made the experience worth that much more.

I remember in the days before I had my drivers license, I took any opportunity I had to get my hands on a stand up arcade cabinet.  I spent many trips to Wal-mart hanging out in the lobby and playing whatever games they happened to have available there, trying to make that handful of quarters last an entire shopping trip.  When the Circle K in town first got in Street Fighter, I was not exactly drawn to it… because at first it looked like the boring Karate games that came out in the late 80s.  We of course did not have a “real” Street Fighter cabinet, but instead one that was recycled from some other game with Street Fighter innards.  As such we didn’t have the helpful stickers showing us the moves, so the first time my friend stumbled across a special attack it was like magic.

The Gaming Bible

egm31Electronic Gaming Monthly became my bible, and I anxiously awaited every single issues because they painstakingly printed move lists for all of these fighting games.  By the time Street Fighter 2 was released we had an arcade in town called the Wooden Nickel and any time I could I tried to get out there to camp the fighting game machine.  It was at this point that I was first introduced to the etiquette of the arcade.  On that machine at Wooden Nickel was a plastic strip attached to the bottom of the bezel, with eight numbered coil slots.  My friend who was much more of a regular than than I was, explained to me that it was how you requested the next game aka “Winner Stays, Loser Pays”.  You could walk up to any machine, plunk your quarter down and you were immediately in line for the throne.  It became a challenge to see just how long you could stay on the machine, and it became my mission to stretch my quarters as long as I possibly could.

I could play a mean Ryu or Guile, but there were always challengers that I found difficult like someone who really knew how to play Dhalsim for example.  Around this time Mortal Kombat released but we continued to plug away on Street Fighter 2, it felt like the superior game in every way.  Mortal Kombat had the cool gimmick of fatalities and photo captured graphics, but the gameplay itself was just more fleshed out in Street Fighter 2.  That was the case until the release of Mortal Kombat II, when most of us changed our religion.  By this time I had transportation and was regularly going to Arcades in both Bartlesville and Tulsa.  There we started to find various “beta boards” for Mortal Kombat II, and quite honestly this was the strangest time in video games that I can remember.  At this point there was really no such thing as “patching” a game, but Midway distributed Mortal Kombat II in such a way as to allow for the swapping out of chips as upgrades came out.  The first MK2 board I can really remember playing on was one that I think was labelled “.98” but honestly at this point I have had 20 years of time to forget the details.

johnnycagefriendship `The problem with these early boards is they were extremely incomplete.   They might have a fatality for this character, but not one for another character.  Was the boards evolved we started seeing newer and stranger items being added into the mix.  I remember the first time I saw a “babality” or a “friendship” I was completely floored that something like that would exist.  The problem is this started a massive rumor mill flowing in the arcades.  People would come in and sell these guides that had codes for supposedly all of the characters, more than half of which are completely made up.  At this point if you had access to AOL you were a god, because you had access to the message boards where all of these codes were being traded.  I made it my mission to try and assimilate all of these rumors together into a comprehensive guide and actually test each of the codes.  I noted which version of the game had which abilities, and which codes were complete bullshit.  All I had access to was Microsoft Works at the time, but I tried my best to churn out as professional a guide as I could for the time.  Instead of charging for them, I would just leave them with the desk of the arcade for anyone who wanted one.

The Arcade Community

fullgorejago There were some players who knew all of the abilities and other players who had nothing to really work with.  When you have as many characters as a fighting game has, you don’t have room on the cabinet bezel art to actually show the moves…  so everything was guess work.  I guess in my own way I was trying to level the playing field.  Let people know the attacks so they could defend against the jerks in the arcades that would refuse to teach anyone any move.  Me I would happily explain what I was doing to the players that fought against me.  I would explain why I was doing what I did, and why I was attacking in a specific way.  Granted over time I lost my advantage on the players, but I felt it was for the good of the community as a whole, because really at that point the arcades were like a community.  You would see the same players when you went to specific arcades, and they would remember you and chit chat back and forth as you played.  When someone would be gone for a significant amount of time…  folks would note their passing and wonder why they were not around.

The last game I remember being extremely excited about before this era finished for me was Killer Instinct.  At this point anything that was 3D rendered was new and exciting, and we rushed to this cabinet because it represented the next evolution of fighting games at the time.  It looks so primitive now, but at the time it was pure magic.  The attract music was amazing, and listening to the absolutely over the top sound effects like the infamous “Combo Breaker” made the whole experience unlike anything else that was being offered.  Additionally this was the first game that I can remember that had actual programmed combo sequences that you could kick off.  I graduated High School, moved on to college and other than a few flirtations with Soul Edge in the University Center basement I had moved on to the PC and games like Starcraft.  I feel like my entire generation went through this transition and then the gap between home systems and arcade systems lowered to the point where there simply was not a reason to keep going somewhere else to play video games.  I mourn the loss of that community because it really was something special, not entirely unlike the relationship we have in MMO guilds.  I have heard the EVO scene has revitalized a lot of this, but I feel like at least for me… that was another time and another place  and I have moved on to other games.

On User Interfaces

User Interface

ffxiv 2015-04-23 20-29-38-35 Last night while running dungeons I got into a lengthy discussion with my friend Damai about the user interface layout in Final Fantasy XIV.  As such I thought it might be useful to talk about my chosen layout this morning.  One of the awesome things about this game is how adaptable the stock interface is to whatever you want from it.  One of the big features that is poorly documented is that every single element can be scaled up or down.  Some of these windows that are targetable can be scaled at any time, the rest can only be scaled in user interface edit mode.  To Scale a window target it and hit Control and Home.  This toggles through a series of available sizes from tiny to massive.  As you can see in my interface I have lots of different hotbars, some of which are scaled as small as I can get them, and others a more standard size.

My layout is pretty straight forward.  I tend to set up all user interfaces the same if given the option so that my main block of hotbars is stacked in the center of my screen, with my own health information and targets health information is directly above them so that I only have to look down a slightly from the center of my screen to see it.  This is extremely important when you are dealing with encounters that transition at a certain percentage or something similar.  I snapped this photo between pulls, but what is missing on the left side of my hotbars is the available targets window showing current emnity gems.  On the right side of my hotbars is my party list which I have placed as such to make healing easier.  I am right handed, so I tend to set my heal bars on the right side of the screen to make the movement more natural.  All the other bits are largely extraneous like the lower lefthand bar includes all of my class icons allowing me to switch between classes faster.  Pretty much every game I play has a set up similar to this, but in the FFXIV user interface I feel like this is my ultimate version of that design.

Messy Interface

Wow-64 2015-04-21 20-48-48-06 Tuesday night I snapped a picture of my raiding interface in World of Warcraft from comparrison and I have to say… it is getting to the point where I struggle to play with this mess.  At some point soon I need to trash everything and start from scratch trying to build something less intensive.  I feel like one of the triumphs of Final Fantasy XIV is that it gives me a much more slim line interface but also manages to communicate to me all of the information contained within my World of Warcraft interface… but just in a much more compact fashion.  Hell I would hazard that if I were playing World of Warcraft with the interface I have in FFXIV I would be enjoying it significantly more.  This is the point when Tamrielo would chime in with some commentary about the conversations we have had in the past on user interfaces.  I like a very specific design and when a game doesn’t support that layout I get frustrated quickly.  So many of my complaints about Elder Scrolls Online were the fact that its interface would not support the layout I was looking for.

Once upon a time I had an interface that I was extremely happy with in World of Warcraft.  On the left side of my hotbars is where I kept recount for damage and threat meters.  On the right side I kept grid, an extremely combat view of the party and raid frames.  The problem is grid died several expansions ago and no mod has come along to present the raid frames in quite so perfect a fashion for me.  Grid gave me exactly the right amount of information, and as a tank I loved it because it would put a little red dot on any frame that was currently drawing aggro.  I could at a glance tell if I had the majority of the mobs.  There are other raid frames that work somewhat similar, but all of which are geared towards healers.  Grid could be made to work for anyone who simply needed to see at a glance how the raid was doing.  I feel at this point I need to just start from scratch, and build back only the features I actually want and need.  All of the prepackaged user interfaces end up frustrating me because I don’t have full control over them.  So as such for me to be happy, I am going to have to simply delete my interface folder one weekend and start over.

Interfaces are Important

rift 2015-04-24 07-04-25-36 This might seem like an odd thing to some, but when it comes to my enjoyment of a game I would say that the user interface ranks near the top of “most important things” to me.  There are many games that I think I would enjoy, if they just had a better interface or better control scheme.  Ultimately what this means however is my ability to manipulate things in such a fashion as to bring them in line with what is familiar for me.  I’ve included three different games with three different interfaces, but as you can see there are some basic elements that I set up in each of them.  While I am not literally cloning the exact same layout in each game, I am still bringing them closer into line with what I expect to be the case.  I expect targets to appear on either side of my character and for the hot bars to be stacked in some fashion below my character.  I am extremely combat focused so I want all of the important things that I need to see to be close to the center of my screen.

The things I tend to push off to the margins of the screen are the things that I am not dealing with often like Quest trackers, and hotbars for buttons that I don’t want to have to go digging to find, but that I also don’t need often.  I am a creature of habit and I end up ultimately remapping things to work similar between games.  If I am playing a class with some sort of a builder effect, then I will always put the “dump” ability for that effect on the 7 key.  In Rift for example this is my single target finisher, on my Warrior in FFXIV this is Inner Beast.  I will always place my interrupt hotkey on the 0 key that way my brain is wired to hit that key without thinking when I see something I need to interrupt.  Similarly if I have an engagement ability that pushes me into combat, I will always place that ability on either 4 or 5 depending on the game… which can get confusing at times.  Taunt regardless of the game however is always going to be sitting on 6, and if I am playing a stealth class…  I recycle that key for my stealth ability.  Because I play so many games, I have to create some sense of standardization between them.  I guess in my mind I am just playing versions of the same game, and that ultimately is how I can switch back and forth between games without missing a beat.  This is also why the interface is so important to me.

Wrong About Wildstar

More Initiates

ffxiv 2015-04-13 21-12-58-11 For as frustrated as yesterdays post was, today’s is all the more hopeful.  Lately on Wednesday nights I have been assisting a fledgling second static group in our free company out.  While it still struggles to get a full eight people, we are making some progress.  As more people level to the cap, more people will be available to join in the raiding fun and hopefully this will smooth the process out significantly.  For the last few weeks we have been working on Turn 5 of the Binding Coil of Bahamut, aka the first major hurdle and the gateway to the second coil.  Last week we made decent progress but were still struggling to get through the dive bomb phase.  That phase seems to be the biggest frustration with the fight, and once you figure out the timing the rest goes smoothly.  While I barded it up last week, this week I tanked it because that was the role that was needed.  Since my health was significantly higher than Damai we swapped roles and I took the Twintania role and he adjusted quickly to dealing with the adds.

Now our first group of the night was less than successful because we ended up having to pug in half of the players.  The positive was that we noticed that the people screwing up were not our own people.  As the evening went on more people got in game and we were able to fill out the rest of the slots with some other seasoned veterans.  From here I think it took four attempts before we downed the 5th turn and keyed a whole new group of players for the second coil.  This is awesome for a bunch of reasons… because firstly it means that second team is progressing nicely apart from issues getting people online at the right time.  Secondly however it also means we can start drawing on the pool of players available for Monday night turn 9 attempts as well.  I know Grace is itching to see t9, so hopefully this will smooth out some of our own attendance irregularities.  It is almost summer after all and with summer comes folks going off and doing summer things.

Wrong about Wildstar

WildStar64 2015-04-22 22-58-27-92 This morning I am questioning if I have been wrong about Wildstar thus far in feeling that the game was just not for me.  Granted we gave it a good shot and played this game at launch but it felt like something was off.  Now coming back and playing it again I am really enjoying myself, but there are a large number of details that are significantly different that I think are effecting my enjoyment.  When the initial video was released talking about the Exiles and Dominion, I naturally felt an immediate affinity with the Exiles…  the problem being most of my friends had that same immediate attraction to the Dominion.  I struggled with this choice until I found the Chua and for the most part enjoyed my time playing an Engineer.  The problem being…  I just did not enjoy that style of tanking.  What I should have played was a Warrior, like I did every time I actually enjoyed myself during the beta.  So this time around I am playing a Human Warrior and enjoying smashing faces and jumping around like mad.  The Exile side has this whole “Firefly” vibe that works for me, whereas the Dominion feel more like playing the Empire from Star Wars.  Both are interesting but at this point in my life… I feel more kinship with the rebels.

The other thing that is helping significantly is due to the whole promotion I have a hover board starting at level 1, which makes roaming around the zones so much more enjoyable.  Additionally thanks to the promotion I have some spending money from selling extra items on the open market.  Knowing my character is set for awhile on upgrades and spending money makes all the difference in the world.  Finally the pace I am playing with makes a huge difference.  Wildstar is the sort of game where piddling around feels more enjoyable than focused leveling.  I am stopping to smell the roses, and boulders, and landmines… well you get the idea.  Additionally I went the Soldier path, meaning I get to smash more things in the face and while I enjoyed Explorer…  smashing things in the face is just more my style.  At launch I had this overwhelming feeling of a need to keep up with everyone else, so that I would be viable for dungeon running.  This time since I am playing all by myself for the most part…  I am taking my time and poking through the content at my own speed.  All of which adds up to a completely different experience for me.  All of this proves that the circumstances you go into a game greatly colors your end experience.  So far I am enjoying playing this game as a secondary “cooling down” from the action type game.

Wrong about Marvel Heroes

MarvelHeroes2015 2015-04-20 21-57-03-00 Another game that I have recently picked up that I am more than willing to admit I was wrong about is Marvel Heroes.  I have avoided this game like the plague because of a whole slew of reasons.  Firstly at its core it is a Diablo clone and while there is nothing wrong with that…  click to move and attack games and I generally do not get along that well.  Thanks to League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm I have learned to tolerate them… but my preferred means of control will always be WASD.  Secondly everything surrounding this game gave the impression that it was a free to play money grab of the worst type.  I played a tiny bit of this game in beta and was not terribly excited about any of the heroes I was able to play, so I filed this away in the “not for me” bin as well.  The thing is over time I have continued to watch people I know and love and respect playing this game as seriously as they have played any traditional MMO.  When I see something like this I start to wonder, what are they seeing it in that I am not.  I’ve had these same feelings surrounding games that I just did not previously understand like Guild Wars 2, and after finally hitting my stride in that game I figured I might as well give Heroes a shot too.

Sunday I ended up playing this game for awhile, and wound up playing it for I think five hours without really meaning to.  I feel like the piece of the equation that I was missing to really enjoy it, comes from the fact that I did not even realize I was in need of that Super Hero MMO fix.  I happily played City of Heroes for about six months before moving on to World of Warcraft.  When Champions Online launched I was extremely excited about that game…  until the first patch wound up killing the combination of abilities I wanted to play with.  With the launch of DC Universe Online that was yet another game I really enjoyed, but struggled to get traction in for reason I still don’t know to this day.  Marvel Super Heroes seems to be just a bout the right amount of depth for me to consume as far as super hero content goes, and the ability to swap between heroes freely helps significantly.  Right now I am focusing on Captain America but by the same token I have gotten rather fond of Gambit and Deadpool.  All of which I really want to play more of, and ultimately this seems like the perfect sort of game to play downstairs on my laptop while watching television and movies.  In fact I am hoping to do just that this weekend, and see what mischief I can get into with my shield bashing self.

Bad Medicine

A Good Nights Sleep

Monday night I did not sleep well at all.  I was up late futzing and waiting on a print job for my wife, that ultimately ended up printing the wrong thing.  As a result neither of us got to bed until after midnight.  After that I don’t think either of us really got solid sleep, and next thing we knew it the alarm was going off at 5:30.  As a result I spent most of yesterday sleep walking through it.  There are just some hazes that not even caffeine can clear, and this is only compounded by the fact that my allergies are still killing me.  Even the smallest task seemed like a struggle, and last nights raid was pure hell to suffer through…  in part because of my present state of mind.  I realistically should have just bowed out and headed to bed, but that didn’t happen.

I did however managed to get to sleep around 10:30 and last night was probably the most luminously glorious night of sleep I have had in a long time.  Granted I woke up before the alarm by about twenty minutes…  but I did the correct thing and just got on up instead of trying to struggle for those last few minutes of sleep.  The end result is I feel more human than I have in a long time.  Who knew I needed this sleep thing after all?  Now if only I didn’t have to go to work I could actually enjoy my day.  Today in particular is going to be a strange one as I have to go to lunch with a vendor.  Working lunches make me grumpy, especially since during this one we will be grilling the vendor for information.  At least maybe I get a free meal out of the deal.

Rough Raiding

Wow-64 2015-04-21 20-48-48-06 Last night I was not in the right frame of mind for raiding.  That is the simple fact but the end results of the night didn’t really help either.  As a whole the night felt like we were beating our heads against a wall.  We had fourteen people, two healers and opted to run Blackrock Foundry Heroic.  I am not the raid leader so I am sure there was a reason, but it felt like we were just setting ourselves up for failure.  We managed to eek out a victory on Hans and Franz with that configuration.  Then we lost one healer and gained a different healer, and someone healing in their off set.  We pushed forward and managed to down Beastlord Darmac in this fashion, before heading on to do some attempts on Flambender Ka’graz.  There we made some swaps to the layout that seem like they might have worked, but it required a lot more work adjusting on the tanking side, so overall it was a wash and we wiped horribly.

This stagnation and continued throwing ourselves against heroic when it seems like on some level we are just not ready for it is completely destroying any desire I have to log in.  I am not sure what is going wrong honestly.  I am not sure if our tanks are undergeared, or if our healers are undergeared… or if the dps are just taking too much “could be avoided” damage making the healers heal someone other than the tanks.  All I know is that we are having to battle rez tanks constantly, and as a matter of course which makes all of our attempts sloppier than they should be.  Our Tuesday WoW raid is generally bad at adjusting to the conditions on the ground which is maddening to me, because this is precisely the strength of the Monday night Final Fantasy XIV raid.  If things don’t go according to plan we seem to lose our shit completely, and end up flailing wildly…  or standing in shit and dying.  So I am not sure if we just have a massive case of tunnel vision or if there is some gearing problem at hand.  I know for me personally I am still wearing 640 pants because nothing better will drop.

Bad Medicine

Wow-64 2015-04-10 06-18-41-75 The problem is right now I am right back in that old familiar place.  I dread logging into World of Warcraft Tuesday and Thursday to get a raid invite.  I’ve reached that point where I am just frustrated with the whole raiding in wow experience.  I have been here so many times before, and I am not quite sure how to fix it.  I feel committed to “take my medicine” and log in for the sake of my friends, but I question…  are any of us actually having any fun right now?  Monday was one of the funniest nights of raiding I have ever experienced, and we spent it wiping like nubs to turn 9 after having taken a month off of it.  So it obviously is not progression that ultimately dictates how I feel about a raid… it is the attitude of the raiders and the atmosphere of the raid.  We spent Monday laughing and joking, and at the same time we made some serious progress.  That is when I love to raid, when it feels like we are pulling together as a team even if we are wiping horribly.

The Tuesday/Thursday night raids just feel broken.  They have about as much mirth as the waiting room of a battered women’s shelter.  I log in and join the raid and I feel worse, because there is an unspoken tension going on.  No one talks anymore, because key players in the raid are easily distracted by chatter.  What is frustrating is, this is not the raid I joined.  This is not the raid I saw at the end of Siege of Orgrimmar, or even during High Maul.  That raid was excited about the prospects of this expansion, and enjoyed their evenings spent together.  This raid just feels stressed and burnt out… and I have no clue how to rehabilitate it.  I wish I did know honestly, because I miss that raid that existed before we set foot into Blackrock Foundry.  That is a raid I enjoyed spending two nights a week with.  This one…  I just end up zoning out and waiting for the night to be over.

Juggling Games

Naeling It

ffxiv 2015-04-21 06-18-03-34 The Monday night raid group has had quite the sequence of strange weeks since patch 2.55 went into the game.  Either we were lacking the right people, or enough people at all to do turn 9.  As a result after what seems like a month we did our first night of second coil attempts.  We were all exceptionally rusty going in, but the spirits were extremely high.  At times I would say our spirits were too high, because holy shit were we slap happy.  I was one of the worse so it is not like I can really complain much.  The positive take away is that we managed to get further than we had ever gotten before last night, and were starting to work on the fire/lightning phase of the fight.  On our best attempt we got Nael to 30% which feels like progress.  Essentially once we learn the phase four dance, we just have to keep that up until the boss is dead.

The only regret I have right now is choosing to get my 1300 poetics weapon on my warrior.  I was torn, he is absolutely my main and I intend not tanking as often as I can.  The problem is on Nael the fight we are struggling with I am having to dragoon it up.  That dps boost would really help, but what is done is done…  just kinda kicking myself for not picking a dragoon weapon first.  That said since 126 is more than geared enough for anything we are doing…  I am considering focusing on getting a 1300 weapon for the dragoon now before I pick up any more poetics gear for the warrior.  He still needs a chest piece and a belt, which I was going to start building towards the chest next.  However since that is still going to take a significant amount of time… I might work on getting that weapon instead.  I really wish that today’s 2.56 patch would have uncapped poetics…  because man do I need a lot of them.

Cap and Storm

MarvelHeroes2015 2015-04-20 22-24-50-34 Last night after the raiding shenanigans Thalen mentioned that at one point he had created a House Stalwart super group in Marvel Heroes as a way of stopping the random guild invites.  So I popped over into game and got invites.  From this point we grouped up for a bit until he needed to head to bed.  I have to say that I thought Captain America’s charge in and shield whirl thing was good AOE… until I ran around a bit with Storm.  While I got to tank bosses, pretty much all of the trash in the entire zone died horribly to a cloud of whirling winds.  That said I am really enjoying the fact that I can tank almost any world boss without much issue by keeping my my defensive buffs.  I noticed last night that there was a difficulty slider so at some point I want to play with that.  There are times this feels a lot like diablo on “normal” and I am wondering if there is a “hard” setting that I really should be playing.

Quite honestly I have not been even vaguely close to death other than last night when I was tanking Gorgon.  There I simply used the occasional med pack and made it through that fight without much issue.  The only reason  why it was dicey at all was because I was essentially soloing him, which is probably something I should not be  able to do at this point.  As of last night I am sitting at level 15 and still really enjoying the game.  I think this is going to be my go to for mindless fun, and I swear there are so many times the zone layout reminds me of City of Heroes.  I guess that might be because when I played that game I kept my camera zoomed out as far as it would go, which made it feel a bit like an over the top game.  The competition for spawns is a bit annoying near the entrance of a zone… but if you wander off by yourself you pretty much get the place to yourself.  When I hit the island of Madripoor it felt like the pack thinned out significantly, so I am guessing most people don’t make it out of the level 10 range before moving on.

Juggling Games

WildStar64 2015-04-17 19-23-24-41 The problem with juggling multiple games is that one of them always ends up falling through the cracks.  Right now I wish I had the time to devote to working on my character in Wildstar and trying to hit 65 in Rift.  Instead I am logging in a few times a day in Rift to run minions… and just not logging in at all in Wildstar.  Honestly my playtime is really spastic right now, because I have a bunch of things that I am trying to do each day.  In Final Fantasy XIV I am playing the mini cactpot each day and trying to stockpile as much MGP as I can.  Then while in game I run at least one daily expert so that I can cap my poetics each week.  I am also logging into World of Warcraft in the morning and at night to run my Garrison missions in the hopes of getting those ever illusive raid gear crates.  I am not 100% sure how they work, other than the fact that they show up every two weeks, so I keep clearing out other missions in hopes of making room for them when they show up.

Something new added to the rotation is logging into Marvel Heroes to get my log in reward.  Similarly I am logging into Final Fantasy Record Keeper for the same reason, and to get my daily item chest.  Record Keeper is one of those games I mostly play while my wife is shopping or I am out eating, waiting on food to arrive at the table.  It is a moment of boredom game more than anything else, but that said I am really enjoying it.  It is scratching an itch that I had not quite found from a mobile game.  Realistically I should be trying to log into Wildstar each day so that I can do a boom box, but I have been failing miserably at that one.  The funny thing is that I am spending a lot of time in a lot of different games but not really playing any of them.  Finally after doing my routine I figure out which game I am actually going to play and run off playing that one.  Most of the time that is Final Fantasy XIV but over the last few nights I have been playing a significant amount of Marvel Heroes.  Basically…  right now I am all over the place.

Frosty Machine

Craigslist Fails Me

I have had a strange relationship with Craigslist over the last few years.  Sometimes it is the source of truly amazing things… other times the source of nothing but frustration.  When it comes to buying laptops for example I have had a high rate of people flaking out on me and simply not showing up with the merchandise.  When it comes to console systems however I have a pretty damned stellar experience getting a PS4 for $200 and a Vita for $100 for example.  Hell right now I am typing on a $150 Logitech G710+ Keyboard that I got for $40…  so generally I have some phenomenally good luck there.  I’ve always felt like if I can keep from taking the initial depreciation hit on an item…  I might as well do it.  I have no problem with second hand goods, and while I don’t get to pepper the internet with unboxing videos…  but I think we are both better off for that.

Several months back I found a Power Color r9 290x for over half off the price it should have been for the card.  I figured it was worth the shot because that was way more video card than I would normally allow myself to buy.  The problem with buying something like a video card is… there really is no way of knowing if the card is good.  It could be burnt to a crisp and unless there are visible signs of damage there is no way of knowing.  When it came time to meet the guy, he said that he replaced the card for a dual Titan Black setup…  so that seemed legit at least as to why he would be getting rid of an otherwise solid card.  I take the card home and install it and it caused my machine to reboot after a few minutes of running any game.  When I started watching the temperature on a monitoring app it would just start climbing, and no amount of manual fan control would bring down the temp.  The card would overheat and freak out my system.

Frosty Machine

At the time I was a bit forlorn but didn’t give up heart.  I ordered a few things to increase the amount of cooling in my case and there they sat in the floor of my office for months.  Part of me didn’t want to install them because deep down I think I knew that I essentially got ripped off on the first card.  This weekend I tore apart my machine and installed all of the extra cooling and I have to say the processor now runs at a frosty 21* C with a recorded maximum of 28* C during gaming load.  I am pretty happy with that but after installing the R9 290X it went through the same cycle as before.  Load up any game and a few minutes later my system is rebooting.  Chances are the guy was using it for bitcoin mining, which quite literally burns out a video card.  I point blank asked him if that was the case he and said no…  but people sometimes lie.

To get a good after market cooler to slap on the card it would end up costing me around $100 for one that fit this particular card… and it just didn’t think it was prudent to throw more money at it when the end result might be the same.  I have mostly stuck with GeForce cards because quite honestly they are what I know.  I know how they perform, I know how to tweak the settings.  This was a brief foray into the concept of owning a Radeon but I am now retreating back into the realm of things I understand.  I ordered a MSI GTX 960 card over the weekend and hopefully if everything works out as planned it will be here Tuesday.  While this is not the screaming card the r9 290x should have been… it is at least stable, reliable and a significant upgrade over the 750 ti I currently have.  I just want games to run without much futzing, and this card should allow me to do that.  Also due to a promotion I apparently get a copy of Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt to play around with on it, a game I likely would have picked up anyways.

Most Improved

MarvelHeroes2015 2015-04-19 23-11-38-80 Marvel Heroes is one of those games that I have avoided like the plague for reasons I don’t fully understand.  I played a tiny bit of it in beta and was not extremely impressed.  However over time it has racked up a wide array of “most improved” titles from the various gaming sites.  I always thought this was a funny concept to be touting… but in truth it is really well deserved.  Earlier in the week I had decided to install the game through steam, because I kept seeing friends of mine playing it.  I figured I would give it a shot and check it out to see how enjoyable it actually was.  The end result was me spending three hours straight playing it last night without really realizing it.  The game has the super hero feel down perfectly, and it actually does a better Diablo than Diablo at this point.  When you start you are given a choice of several heroes, and after reading the descriptions of each of them… it seemed like Captain America fit my desired mode of play the best.

The irony of this is that other than enjoying the movies, I have never really been that big of a fan of Captain America.  At the very least it was not a comic I ever read or spent much time on other than his involvement with the Avengers.  Character wise however he is just about perfect a mix of a solid melee, solid ranged, and lots of defensive cooldowns.  I guess you would assume that a character with a shield as a weapon would end up feeling pretty tanky right?  My favorite thing about him is the shield throw and the ability to use it similar to Sivir in League of Legends to sweep the room and take out a bunch of bad guys.  At this point I think I am level 11 and am actively looking forward to playing more of it.  There are times it feels so much like a top down City of Heroes, so maybe this is the game that is going to finally give me my superhero mmo fix.  I’ve heard the end game can get pretty grindy… but then again so does Diablo, so I guess it makes sense.  In any case I threw some money their way for the X-Force pack through steam and look forward to trying all of those characters as well.

Six Years of Aggronaut

AggroChat #53 – Get Hyped

This week we are without Tamrielo and Rae for various reasons, but joining us once again are the ever amazing Grace and Thalen.  For awhile I thought we would be missing Kodra, but he shows amazing determination and podcasted anyways.  This is the week that he moved across country from Atlanta area to Seattle, and thanks to the magic of living in the same apartment complex as Tam, was able to “borrow a cup of internet” and a chair and pretty much everything else needed to make the podcast function.  This weeks episode is called “Get Hyped” because we spend a lot of time getting hyped about various things we are excited about.

During the course of the episode we talk about so many board games in the wake of International Tabletop Day.  This discussion managed to make a very sleeply Kodra awake enough to continue podcasting.  We also talk about how amazing the new Netflix Original Daredevil series is.  We talk about the Star Wars The Force Awakens trailer that was released, and cannot get through a single podcast without talking about the new tidbits of information floating about regarding the Heavensward expansion that is looming ever closer.  I talk about the new Wildstar promotion asking players to buy up “dead stock” and get rewarded heavily for it.  Some see it as an act of desperation but personally I see it as an act of sheer genius.  I also go on at length about how great the new Wardrobe system is in Rift.  It was a super fun podcast to record, and as such we ran fairly late.

Six Years of Aggronaut


This week a fairly important anniversary slipped by without me realizing it.  The funny thing is that I even went so far as to make a Google reminder on my phone…  but then Friday ended up being an exceptionally busy day and I just plain “forgot”.  Friday April 17th was the sixth anniversary of my blog.  On April 17th of 2009 I made my first post on this blog, and it was a rather simple “Hello World”, but still it was the beginning of something that would ultimately be my obsession for a large chunk of these six years.  Now a much more important anniversary is coming up at the end of the month, when I mark two years of daily posting.  Tales of the Aggronaut was not by any means my first blog, but it was the one that I stuck with.  It began its life as a World of Warcraft blog, and ultimately turned into a Rift blog… and then when I realized I could not sustain it as a single game blog became what you know and hopefully love today.  Throughout all of it however it has more than anything been a blog about me, and surprisingly does an excellent job of tracking what I happen to be thinking and feeling at a given time through my reaction to things happening in the games I love.

According to Google Analytics I have had almost 100,000 readers during the time I have been writing this blog.  This is the more important stat for me, because it means I have reached almost 100,000 people in one way or another.  Granted these statistics don’t reflect the folks who choose to read my blog over RSS, but more than anything I wanted to come clean about my numbers for various reasons.  We are heading towards the Newbie Blogger Initiative and I always get the impression that people seem to think I have this wildly popular blog.  I have had some insane bumps like the one from WoW Insider that skews all of my statistics.  On that day I had over 6000 readers in a single day, but that was during a different time in MMO gaming.  On a good day once you combine both RSS and traditional analytics I maybe have 500 readers.  So while I will never be the media celebrity that some of my friends seem to think I am…  I am thankful for each and every person who feels connected enough to me to read me on a regular basis.  Sure I write this blog as a form of self therapy at times… but in truth it is my amazing readers that keep me going on mornings that I simply do not feel like writing anything.  Thank you all for your attention, and I hope I can still live up to whatever expectations you might have of me for the next six years.

Piddling in Wildstar

WildStar64 2015-04-18 17-48-26-74 I admit I have allowed myself to get pulled in by the latest Wildstar promotion.  It all started as a way of doing some research for a story I was writing for MMOGames.  However in the rush to find copies of Wildstar to see how many were actually out there in the wild…  I ended up picking a few up myself.  Now above you can see me proudly sporting the Marauder outfit and riding my Glitterkitty hoverboard.  While I loved playing Chua I never really felt all that at home with the Dominion.  I remember watching the original trailer to Wildstar and felt an immediate kinship to the Exiles.  However most of my friends at launch wanted to play Dominion so I went along with it.  That said by the time I left after my initial months I was too annoyed with the game to make a faction swap feasible.  There was just something I didn’t really like about Wildstar and I never really could put my finger on it.

Coming back I am actually enjoying myself quite a bit, but I have not hit the Whitevale wall yet that I did previously.  Also I feel like as much as I enjoyed having two robot buddies following me around at all times… the Engineer was really just not my type of character.  This time around I am focusing on a tanky warrior, and having a significant bit more fun doing it.  I can’t say I will play for a super long time but I have hooked up with Chestnut and Chaide and am hanging my hat with the Black Dagger Society.  There is rarely a time when I am just playing one game, so I feel like this might be enjoyable to revisit every now and then.  For me I generally have a base of operations in one game… and that game is Final Fantasy XIV and then I venture out into other titles as well.  Since World of Warcraft is no longer holding my attention I have been spending more time in Wildstar and Rift for those “off nights”.

The Force Awakens

A History With Stars Wars

forceawakens_logo It would be a slight understatement if I were to say that Stars Wars has meant a lot to me over the years.  It pretty much represents my childhood wrapped up with a neat little bow.  The earliest memory I have is of seeing Star Wars at the local drive-in theater sometime around age two.  I became absolutely obsessed with it, and according to my parents walked around the house pretending to be “Darfa Bader”.  If nothing else it was the toys that kept the fires lit for me from the moment I started watching through the end of the original trilogy.  I played and replayed the scenes from Star Wars so many times with the action figures, and in many ways it was my first foray into storytelling.  Sure I started by simply mimicking what I saw on screen, but quickly branched out into telling my own elaborate stories revolving around the cast of characters I knew and loved.

forceawakens_crashedstardestroyer I eventually moved on like all kids do to other things, like GI Joe, Transformers and Mask.  The thing is that Star Wars always held a special place in my heart, so when the west end games Role-playing game was released I was all about playing that for a period of time as well.  I remember one Christmas all I asked for was the then CBS FOX VHS copies of the movies, and I remember being absolutely ecstatic when I actually got them.  I probably damned near wore out my copy of Empire Strikes Back, because that movie just seemed so perfect to me.  While I didn’t have a hope of ever seeing more movies at that point, I could at least wallow in the nostalgia of the originals whenever I felt like it.  When you grow up in a small town, and live out in the middle of the country…  you end up watching a lot of movies, and more than one weekend was spent having impromptu Star Wars marathons.

The Revival

forceawakens_Vadarmask During college Star Wars started to make a comeback in a massive way.  At this point we didn’t even know there were new movies in the works, but it started with the re-release of the action figures.  At this point I was going to junior college and on my drive to class in the morning I frequented a lot of stores as folks were stocking.  I remember the feverish search for the new action figures as they started to hit the store shelves.  I was absolutely elated the day I found the extremely illusive Princess Lea and C-3PO figures because in that first run of the new figures…  they were the limited quantity ones.  As new sets were released I tracked them all down, including some of the variants.  At this point I was going to art school and pretty much half of my class were equally obsessed with them, trading tales of where we found what.

forceawakens_luke I remember sitting in a Wal-mart super center in Fayetteville Arkansas, freaking out as they had figures that we did not have in Oklahoma.  My wife was extremely awesome and helped me rifle through the stacks of newly stocked figures looking for all of the ones I was missing.  She knew going into our relationship that I was a geek, and she had always been super cool about it.  But I admit it was at that moment, when she was helping me hunt for figures…   that I realized just how rare she truly was.  Even to this day she gets excited for me when I find a cache of Legos or something else that I have been obsessing about.  While she doesn’t share a lot of my interests she has always been extremely supportive of them.  She put up with me having hundreds of action figures hung up in neat rows in my college apartment, and didn’t seem to act like it was strange or anything.

The Re-releases

forceawakens_xwings Around this time the first of the re-releases happened as we were given the opportunity to watch the movies on the big screen.  She was there with me waiting in line for tickets and even though she is not really what you would call a Star Wars fan, sat through all three of the movies.  While some of the visual hackery annoyed me…  I was getting to see the movies again on the big screen and that was all that really mattered.  The feeling of sitting in that theater as the Lucasfilm logo came up on the screen… and the Theater erupted in deafening cheers was one that I will never forget.  There were so damned many warm fuzzies coursing through my body that I felt like I was going to explode.  The first two movies…  were pretty great.  I could deal with the silly scenes like Han Solo stepping over Jabbas tail, or the goofily animated CGI dewbacks.

forceawakens_darkjedi Empire was similarly fine, because it god rid of some of the problems like the transparent snow speeders.  My love of Empire as a movie could allow me to look past anything.  But when we finally got to Return of the Jedi… my least favorite of the original movies I admit I started to lose my shit.  The silly scenes like the musical number just finally got to me.  I started to question what in the hell George Lucas was thinking, but by this time we knew about the prequels and I was willing to look past all the flaws and keep up my fanboy hype for the hope of seeing more Star Wars on the big screen.  I admit freely I was a junkie and Papa George was going to keep giving me a fix, and I was willing to push aside the growing concerns in the hopes of seeing brand new stories.  After all I had dreamt about seeing the Clone Wars play out since I was a little kid, and maybe just maybe this was finally going to happen.

Breaking Me

forceawakens_firstorderstormtroopers When the Phantom Menance was released I was working for TV Guide, and had access to a wealth of marketing materials that were filtering around our network.  My hype level was over 9000 as I had 8×10 copies of each of the limited edition hand painted covers of the magazine hung up around my office.  I remember the lines for Phantom Menace were really the first time I had experienced lines of any sort waiting for a movie.  I remember opening day the theaters were showing it on every available screen with a new showing every 2 hours for the first 48 hours.  By the time I go in to watch the movie after work I was practically vibrating.  Then Jar Jar Happened… and the rest of the movie was instantly tarnished by it.

forceawakens_chrometrooperI wanted to maintain my hype…  but there was just so much to hate about that first movie.  What the fuck were midichlorians?  Are they really telling me that Anakin is a Jesus-like virgin birth?  There was just so much bullshit packed in that movie that while I tried to maintain my enjoyment, over time it just festered inside of me.  By the time the second movie came around… I had no plans of seeing it on opening day until I was given free premiere tickets due to my involvement with the Fan Force group here in town.  Admittedly that was a pretty damned cool way to watch the movie, in a private theater along with all of the local press…  with open bar and catered food before and after.  By the time the third prequel came along… it was about a week before I actually went to the theater to see it.

forceawakens_falcondeathstar1 I’ve since reconciled a lot of my frustration with the prequels.  What was anger has faded into a dull annoyance, and a tinge of heartache when I think of what those movies could have been.  Brian Posehn does a funny skit about how “Star Wars is his Vietnam”.  I am nowhere near as bitter about it as he is…  but there are times I have been close.  There was a period of time post prequels that I distanced myself from Star Wars as a whole.  I stopped collecting the figures, I stopped doing pretty much anything Star Wars related.  It was really when Star Wars the Old Republic released that I started to ease up on my position and enjoy the content again.  Today I collect Star Wars in Lego form and love it… but anything that comes from Phantom Menace is immediately less important in my eyes.  I feel like Clone Wars and Rebels television shows are redeeming the franchise significantly by giving me the sort of storytelling that I always wanted out of the newer films.

The Force Awakens


When the new movies were first announced I was admittedly skeptical, that is until I heard that they were pulling them out of the hands of George Lucas.  Better yet I was excited when they announced that J.J. Abrams would be doing them.  While this is a point of contention for a lot of fans, I happen to be one of the people that love the newer Star Trek movies.  In fact I watched the first one twice in the same weekend.  I was never that big of a fan of the original Star Trek series, so I felt the reboot made the movies more enjoyable for me personally.  Now take the fact that Abrams is directing and combine it with the fact that Disney now owns Star Wars… and I think we are in better hands than we have been in a very long time.  Disney is extremely good at two things…  protecting their intellectual property, and churning out content for the fans to snap up.  I feel like we are in the best possible place that Star Wars has been in for years.

forceawakens_moneyshot This week the first real trailer was released for Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration weekend.  As you might have been able to tell… the images I am using to narrate this Storytime Saturday are all pulled from the trailer.  I find myself shifting from cautiously optimistic about the prospects for this movie…  towards full blown hype.  Right now the trailer is quite literally showing me everything that I possibly want to see in a new Star Wars film.  The costumes for the new Stormtroopers look great.  The new Dark Jedi looks to be something straight out of Star Wars the Old Republic.  The real money shot however is the one above when we get to see Han Solo and Chewbacca back in action.  My first thought was OMG HAN SOLO AND CHEWBACCA!  My second thought was… man Harrison Ford looks really old.  My third thought was…  shouldn’t Chewie be showing some grey hair by now?  All I really know is once again I will be waiting in line for tickets so I can see this madness opening day in December.  In fact we are talking about maybe going as an office to go see it.  I guess in that at least Disney has succeeded in re-igniting the fires of the little kid down inside me who never quite gave up on Star Wars.

Daredevil is Awesome

Broadcast Television is Strange

For this mornings post I am going to diverge a bit from my normal gaming topics and talk about some television that I have been watching.  Now there are often times I say that I don’t watch much television, and this is both true and not true at the same time.  I have not regularly watched television on a schedule for years.  For the last few years there have been two shows that I actually tuned in on purpose to watch and that is The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones.  That said I never “only” watch television.  I have gotten to a point where I have be fiddling with something else because the act of watching television feels too passive to me.  So Sunday nights it has become almost ritual for me to sit downstairs with my laptop straddling my lap as I watch these shows that all not so coincidentally occur on the same evening.

It just feels strange to me, to have television occur on a schedule.  Everything else in my life is on demand and waiting for me when I feel like consuming it.  This concept of letting someone else control the pace and timing for my actions just feels deeply foreign, so I greatly appreciate the new paradigms of Netflix and Amazon shows being released one entire season at a time.  I am hoping that broadcast networks follow suit at some point, or they simply die out from neglect.  I don’t think that I am at all alone in my television consumption habits.  It all started with the DVR and my ability to delay content to a time when it was convenient to me.  Now I just let entire seasons stack up before bothering to actually watch them.  In our household we get more use out of the “on demand” section of cable television than anything else.  Now my wife and I both have a default channel that we watch when we want the television on as background noise.  For me it is Cartoon Network, and for her it is HGTV…  but in both cases we no longer passively watch the television.

Daredevil Is Awesome

Daredevil-Netflix-Logo Over the last two weeks I have watched my way through the latest of the Netflix original series, and I have to say I am damned happy to have done so.  Daredevil was never really “the guy” for me, but for one of my friends growing up he was.  As a result I read more than my fair share of Daredevil comics, especially in part because of the constant cross over with the Punisher who absolutely was one of my favorites.  Daredevil and Punisher both always seemed to have this characteristic that the more spandex and super powers comics never had.  They were gritty and rough around the edges… and gave us a window into a darker side of the marvel universe.  Hells Kitchen was a horrible place, but at the same time there was a resilience there and a determination to keep moving forward.  The Netflix Daredevil series captures this spirit perfectly, in a simple unassuming way.  The character of Matt Murdock is portrayed perfectly in all of the nuance of the character.  Daredevil has always been this split character, part hero, part victim of his own fatalism…  and this is played out on the screen amazingly well.

MARVEL'S DAREDEVIL The real triumph is the fact that this is a show that does not idealize violence.  While Matt makes a difference, we get to see the high personal toll that is taken on his body.  He does not make it out of these fights unscathed like we normally see from a Batman movie, but instead has a constantly bloodied body to show at the end of the night.  What made Daredevil great was the constant sense that he was in over his head, but that he kept fighting the noble fight because no one else would.  The best performance in the show however has to come from Vincent D’Onofrio as the Kingpin.  He makes this character into someone you almost want to root for during the course of the show.  You are both sympathetic to the character and repulsed by it at the same time, which is a rare trait.  You want the Kingpin to win… if for no other reason than to set up the ultimate triumphant fight between he and the Daredevil.  I feel like this first season has created fertile ground for this show to grow and change, and ultimately serves as quite possibly the greatest comic book origin story I have seen in a long while.  The only sad part is that I want another thirteen episodes to watch, because this first batch was simply not enough.

Unbreakable Kimmy

Unbreakable-Kimmy-Schmidt The other show that I have been watching lately is also a Netflix original, this time by Tiny Fey of 30 Rock and SNL fame.  The premise of the show is that Kimmy Schmidt was captured when she was in 8th grade by the leader of a doomsday cult.  Now freed she is taking on the world with her middle school understanding of it.  Kimmy Schmidt the show feels very much like 30 Rock meets Sister Wives turned Doomsday cult, but for the most part it works.  The character of Kimmy is essentially the same character as Kenneth played by Jack McBrayer.  I have to assume that a lot of the writers from 30 Rock are now doing this show, because the comedic timing is almost exactly the same.  I’ve only made it five episodes into the show so far but at  this point the cast of characters seems to be set.  On the home front you have the crazy landlord played by the always amazing Carol Kane, and the gay failed actor roommate played by Tituss Burgess.  Both serve to balance and unbalance the character in various ways, and the interactions by Kane and Burgess are amazing… there is an almost loving parental thing going on.

As far as work goes Kimmy finds her way into the employ of Jane Krakowski’s character Jacqueline Vorhees, as assistant, nanny, life coach, best friend, and whatever else she needs.  The problem here is that Krakowski is essentially playing the same character as she did on 30 Rock, which makes me wonder if this show was originally designed as a spin off vehicle for the Kenneth character after the ending of that series?  You could seriously plug the characters in from 30 Rock and the show would still work, which I find bizarre.  Sure in this case Krakowski is a wealthy Manhattanite with no grasp on reality, instead of a falling Hollywood star with no grasp on reality…  but they feel exactly the same in practice.  There are definitely some laugh out loud moments but these all come from the fact that Kimmy is still for the most part stuck with an eighth graders understanding of the world.   All of this said, if you loved 30 Rock… and I did…  this will provide the same sort of awkward humor fix that you might be left craving.  I plan on watching the rest of the series, and I am hoping it gets picked up for another run.  I can’t necessarily give it the rave review that I gave Daredevil, but it is most definitely a fun show to watch.