Friday Forum Fodder

Bring on the Fodder

For awhile now I have had a forum segment kicking around in my head.  The idea is that I use Fridays as a day to reflect on things that have been brewing out on the various games forums.  My friends have thought this was madness, as it would likely devolve into flame based insanity.  I however think that I can make it work, since so many topics start on the forums anyways.  However based on recent events, especially relating to one of the topics I have chosen this morning… it still very much can get out of hand.  Anyways…. if I don’t start this thing I won’t get it done in time.

Stop..ramming..pvp…down…my…throat!!!

http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/11422312838

Yup that’s right… I have opted to leave the original forum post title intact for most of these unless it is offensive.  Abusive use of ellipses aside there is nothing terribly offensive so here goes.  This thread spawned a really interesting response from Bashiok stating hinting that in Warlords of Draenor a more permanent PVP toggle would be on it’s way.  Now this has already been discussed by @AlternativeChat and @Qelric but I don’t really want to respond on what they have said… since the whole idea behind this is for me to respond to the subject matter contained within the forum post.  I know this involves a bunch of semantics and blinders and whatnot… but it is a thing I am striving to do.

I have to admit my first reaction was “It’s about damned time”, as well as my second and third and fourth reaction.  I have a love/hate relationship with PVP in general, in that I tend to love to hate on it.  I am a massive Carebear at heart and get really excited about collaboration and community in online games and not so much about conflict and competitiveness.  Please understand that this is coming from someone who tanked my servers first alliance Reins of the Black War Bear raid.  Additionally I was a proud supporter of the South Shore vs Tarren Mill madness from vanilla and got to meet most of my servers hardcore PVPers during that time.  However that is the root of it… I want to PVP when I want to PVP, and no other time.  The problem lies that there are so many ways that you can get accidentally flagged without ever really intending it.

One of the things I do semi regularly is run around the Timeless Isle farming the named mobs.  Generally speaking be it on the Timeless Isle or Darkmoon Faire I am a pretty welcome commodity since there never seems to be any tanks out there willing to tank the mini-bosses.  The problem is as a Deathknight sometimes my diseases end up getting on flagged players and in turn flag me.  Honestly I don’t know what it is, but I assumed it was the disease/bloodboil that I am constantly doing because I will end up flagged pretty much every time I do this public service.  Granted the horde generally have the self preservation to wait until I have tanked the boss for them before killing me…  but moments after downing the boss I am generally laying dead on the floor.

You might be thinking this means I rally support and start an epic land war?  Nope… this means I do one of two things.  Either I walk away for a bit and wait for my flag to clear before resurrecting, or I simply log out of the game and play something else for awhile.  I seriously want zero part in PVP on a day to day basis and see it as an imposition on my play time.  Ultimately that is what it is about for me, PVP is a gross inconvenience upon my time and forces me to somehow direct my attention to something other than my current goals.  It is very much not a welcome distraction, and since I tend to play tanks… very few of the pvp skills have any meaning within the game I tend to play.  PVP tanking was a thing I loved, but sadly that only really existed in a functional way in Warhammer Online.

Rift has had this PVP toggle for awhile now and it works extremely well.  They brought it in during the much larger “faction as fiction” patch which is something I would love to see Blizzard do as well.  Factions are meaningless things to me, and ultimately boil down as red vs blue in my eyes.  I generally do not have much faction pride one way or the other… just like I have no sports team alignments.  In an MMO the only “faction” I generally care about is my guild and its members.  I tend to see the “Faction walls” as un-needed barriers that keep me from playing with half of the other players on the server.  I started playing MMOs before these things really existed in Everquest, and have never really seen the benefit of them on the whole.  Faction should be something that is character specific, that may limit where you can go in the world…. but not limit who you can associate with.

To summarize…  “hell yeah” to the prospect of a more permanent PVP toggle.  There have been a lot of people speculating how this might work, with faction cities etc.  They can honestly take a pretty good queue from Rift in that when you are flagged as “No PVP” you can still be attacked by NPCs of that opposing faction.  Thing is… you just cannot attack them back without turning off your anti-pvp flag.  So this means that NPCs are more than willing to beat you into a pulp for being the pacifist you are.  Players however… cannot.  Running around in anti-war mode should have its limits, and this seems to be a pretty good way of handling them.

Why reforging removal is a mistake

http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/11551045075

There are many versions of this thread out on the Battle.net forums, but this was one of the longest running sitting presently at three pages.  Generally speaking I think a lot of these devolve into flames and get deleted before becoming truly “epic” threads.  To summarize the original posters point…  the believes that reforging was put in place to balance the classes and break the tyranny of having over powered classes.  This opinion to me only seems to reinforce why reforging needs to go to be honest.  I watched the blizzcon coverage the year they announced Reforging, and it was generally sold to the player base as a way of having MORE choice not having less.  The problem is, like everything we the players have ruined it.  I truly believe the intent, just like the intent of the current talent situation… was to allow us to have a bit more flavor in our characters.  So that we could put our own spin on on the current spec and tweak the gear to perform the way we wanted it to perform.

The reality however is that we have systemized this and anyone who does not use Ask Mr Robot to reforge their gear to an “optimal” state is immediately “ doing it wrong”.  Essentially… this is why we can’t have nice things.  I personally ignore Mr Robot in favor of my own flavor on my spec, but I am sure I am a horrible person for doing this.  Essentially just like the way the previous talent system was… we have an “illusion of choice” in that everyone is expected to change their gear stats towards the same ultimate ideal scenario.  If this is a thing that every single player is doing, it means to me that the design of the system was inherently flawed in the first place.  I applaud Blizzard for taking chances on building new systems, and I also applaud them for reversing that decision when it looks like it simply is another “non choice”.

If you have not gotten the impression already, I applaud them for deciding to remove reforging.  While it was a really cool idea, it never quite worked out as well as I would have personally liked.  The way it worked always seemed extremely limiting.  I think we all envisioned a system where we could throw away useless stats from our gear in favor of the one that we really wanted in the first place.  However the reality was dictated by some pretty rigid rules and only actually allowed us to change the secondary and tertiary stats, instead of getting more of the thing we generally want… our primary class stat.  Additionally there is the issue of… if you are constantly reforging away a specific stat then the gear is simply itemized poorly.

Again I feel like this is another case where World of Warcraft can take a queue from Rift.  Generally speaking the stats that I find myself personally reforging away are hit and expertise.  This is because these stats can appear on every single piece of gear…  however they are only useful in limited quantities until you hit the soft cap for every class.  As a result you are lining up to remove them once you reach the higher tiers of raiding.  How Rift has “fixed” this problem is certain stats only appear on certain pieces of gear.  So you have a limited number of ways to gain that stat, so each and every piece them becomes important.  Granted the hit/expertise issue is no longer going to be an issue at all… since they decided to simply remove the stat entirely.

Ultimately those are two completely different game design approaches.  In the case of Rift they decided to make it work, by rationing the stats that players didn’t need as often.  In the case of wow they kind just applied a general mallet to the approach and are now designing around the need for those stats in the first place.  Both are completely valid approaches, and as always Blizzard seems to line up on the side of simplification rather than intricacy.  If Blizzard were a toy it would likely be something made by Fischer Price and not some intricate model kit imported from Japan.  There are places for both kinds of games and ultimately why I play more than just WoW.  Currently it seems like the decisions they are making for Warlords of Draenor are really good ones, given the present state of the game….  however I am sure 2 years from launch we will be applauding them for undoing various things they did.  World of Warcraft is a constantly evolving game, and I think as a whole this is a really good thing.

More Fodder Next Week

Mostly I am curious if this concept worked for you and if you actually enjoyed it?  I am still evolving in my head what I want this to be.  Generally speaking when I blog, I respond based on what I have heard said in the blogosphere without really going back to the original forum source… if a forum did in fact spawn the discussion.  With this I am trying to essentially write what I would have written as a forum response… but instead in very long form blog format.  Let me know if this works, or if it doesn’t how you would like to see it changed.   Also remember tomorrow begins another experiment of mine…  Factoid February.  I still am not 100% certain what I will write… but I expect to devote one section a day to whatever the current “Fact” is.

Free To Play Budget

The Arrival

Well yesterday was the day that The Elder Scrolls online officially announced its pricing and opened up the preorders.  This honestly has been a day I have waiting for anxiously for some time.  I realize that lately there has been a lot of hostility towards the Elder Scrolls because it is trying to be a traditional subscription model game in a market gone completely gaga over the “free” in free to play.  I personally do not mind paying for a box and then later paying a subscription fee for a game, especially not this one.  Unfortunately my NDA is firmly in place so there is not a whole lot more I can say about the reasons why I am so into this game.  I am anxious for it to fall so I can properly gush over it.  Honestly at this point I am shocked that it is still in place, considering the April launch date.  Hopefully the coming weeks will see that change.

I love the preorder launch trailer above, because it takes place seconds after the original cinematic launch trailer.  Whereas the first trailer focused on the player versus player conflicts being set up in the world, this one is more focused on the other conflict.  You know the one where a giant Daedric Prince is trying to take over Tamriel.  Since I am not PVP centric, this is the conflict I am most interested in and the cinematic like always does not miss a detail of showing this tension.  If you have not already seen the original cinematic… you should really watch it first to get the full effect.  I would love to see them release one that edits the two together into one seamless sequence.

The Pricing

ESO_ImperialEdition The above image is the shot across the bow that started the madness.  It seems that ahead of time Amazon staged the image and it got leaked.  From that point it was off to the races with speculation and complaint about the benefits or lack thereof.  Honestly when I look for a Collector’s Edition all I care about is access to in-game goodies, a soundtrack and the traditional head start weekend.  As far as in game stuff, I generally expect some form of an in game boost item that becomes meaningless by about level 10, and some sort of an in-game mount…  since having a mount becomes so insanely important in these games.  So by those criteria this CE is lacking the soundtrack, but instead making up with an additional playable race… The Imperial.  More than likely Belghast will be an Imperial, because that is fitting his character.

The real benefit however is not even mentioned here in the image that started it all.  Apparently if you preorder before launch you get an additional set of bonuses called the “Explorers Pack”, that will allow you to create a character of any race in any faction.  That right there is pretty huge.  Imagine if you could have an Alliance Tauren, or a Horde Dwarf?  I would have totally done that many times in my time playing various faction centric games.  So far only Rift has really allowed me to create faction bending characters, and even then it is only through the use of race swaps.  You also get an additional pet, but next to the rest of that pack it seems meaningless.  All of this comes for the relatively reasonable prices of $50 for digital, $60 for physical, $70 for digital CE, and $100 for physical CE with the statue and book and all the miscellany that you see above.

Yesterday we were absolutely shocked at how reasonable the box was to be truthful.  Based on recent examples a collectors edition I was honestly expecting this to be another one of those $150 Star Wars: The Old Republic style boxed sets.  So while I find it pretty reasonable… there are a lot of folks who are chafing under the pricing.  To be truthful were I outside of the United States I would too.  For starters it seems like Zenimax simply changed the currency symbol rather than setting a realistic price point.  That means for all my British friends, these prices end up being $80, $96, $112, and $160 respectively.  Eighty bucks is a bit too much to ask someone to pay for a brand new non-super happy magical edition of a game.  Granted by the time I post this, those prices will likely change as I just did them based on a quick google of converting dollars to pounds…  but still they are more than a little out of whack.  The end result is a lot of my euro friends simply saying “nope”, and quite honestly if I had to pay those prices… even as much as I love the game I might also be in that boat.

Free to Play Budget

ESO_Aldcroft  Remember the other day me talking about how our perspective matters.  This is yet another case of this happening.  Had the free to play explosion not degraded what we are willing to pay for an MMO… then this is another launch that would have gone off without a question as to the price to value.  At this point however so many MMOs are either outright free, or some sort of a “buy the box” model.  Elder Scrolls Online, Wildstar and World of Warcraft remain the last bastions of the “pay for the software and pay for the game” era.  So we can quickly rush to bashing them for this decision… but the problem is they were built for a era that may or may not be over.  These games were started in a time when the reality was that players would happily plunk down their $60 for the client software and just as happily plunk down $15 a month for the maintenance fee.  I mean this model works in the IT world, since damned near every big money software package comes chained to a maintenance agreement.

What has changed is that players now have an option.  Similar to the open source movement, folks can now say “Nope” and opt to avoid playing the new and shiny games and instead retrench in games like Rift that have a much lower barrier of entry.  As much as I want to play Elder Scrolls, I can’t necessarily say that they are wrong.  I am pretty intimately connected to the success of this title, so I was going to play it long before they announced the pricing.  I knew from the moment it was announced that I would be leading a branch of House Stalwart in this game, and having a lot of fun along the way.  For me buying Elder Scrolls Online was a foregone conclusion, but I can completely see especially with the really poor currency conversion skills… why folks would opt not to buy into this franchise.  Granted this games success really doesn’t lay within the MMO community…  frankly I don’t think they “need” us.  This game will be a test of whether or not the console player has an appetite for a large scale multiplayer version of a game they have bought tens of millions of copies already.

Sneaky McSneakybits

Persistent Stuff

Trove 2014-01-29 06-10-34-60 It has been quite a while since I last talked about Trove on my blog.  For a bit I had been recording regular segments of me exploring the world, then after roughly six of them I just stopped.  Namely this coincides with me getting super into World of Warcraft raiding for a bit.  I however have continued to explore the game each time they add a new build.  At this point it is hard to remember exactly what the state of the game was when I last talked about it.  Currently we have fully persistent cornerstones, and you can see mine on the right-hand side of the image above.  It is still very much a work in progress, but essentially I was trying to maximize the space available and still look like something I could pick out at a distance as “mine”.

Currently there are four levels above ground and two below ground, the first of which below has my workbench and block transmuter thingy.  One of the cool things that they added in within the last few patches is the ability for your crafting inventory to survive between server resets.  This means I finally have a real reason to mass harvest materials for use later, since I am not constantly losing everything each time a patch goes in.  My biggest wish however is that we could craft some weapons to replace the starter crap.  Each time the server resets I rush around trying to get decent enough weapons to leave the first tier zones.  In this present patch it feels like maybe they nerfed the drop rates a bit, as I slaughter a few dozen ladybugs and bees this morning and have gotten nothing at all but cubits… the crafting currency.

Another cool thing they are doing is replacing the in game weapon drops with ones created by players.  When you get an item, it now says who the weapon was created by.  It was pretty cool the other night when I got a nifty rapier drop and noticed it was created by a friend of mine CaptainCursor.  Since the community is relatively small at present, this adds a whole new level to the game since you are constantly running into things created by names you recognize.  You can check out the latest patch notes over on the Trove reddit.

Sneaky McSneakybits

rift 2014-01-29 06-31-43-93 Yeah I have no clue why I named this subsection and the blog post this…  brain does things sometimes.  Last night my most important mission was to finish leveling my rogue to 60, and consume all of the various loot boxes I had gathered up along the way.  At some point they made it so that you are guaranteed a lockbox of some sort from your weekly patron gift.  Since my warrior Belghast is already fairly well geared, or at least well enough to begin raiding…  I figured I would stockpile them to give my rogue a quick gear boost upon dinging.  Turns out it worked pretty well at doing just that.  Between the lockboxes and about 50 plat in select purchases I was able to get well past the 300 hit requirement for expert dungeons.  I did not however get to run one as we spent a good chunk of the evening out and about last night.

In theory the queue should go pretty fast since I am equally comfortable Barding it up as support or going dps as either my Marksman spec or my Nightblade primary dps one.  Going back and playing rift has made me realize just how much I love the Rift Rogue and truly dislike playing a WoW Rogue.  While I got Gloam to 90, and I am extremely happy I did so that I could do the living steel transmutes I needed to craft my Sky Golem…  I really don’t think he is going to get much play.  Quite simply put…  Belgarou my feral druid is a better rogue than my rogue is…  or is at least a more interesting one.   I have just come to realize I don’t really like the way rogues in wow play.  Not sure what it is about the play style but it just isn’t for me anymore, especially now that I feel other classes like Retribution Paladin do the rogue combo point thing better.

Ultimately my key frustration with WoW rogues is that combo points are built in the target instead of a buff that stacks on the rogue itself.  Warhammer Online got this right initially with the Witchhunter class, which was by all purposes a “better” rogue.  I realize at this point the combo points on target thing is tradition, but it simply does not work that well.  While saying the Rift rogue is better, is a bit disingenuous since it is essentially a wow rogue, hunter, druid, and a few other classes that don’t exist in wow rolled into one.  I think the main reason why it “works” better is that the combo point mechanism is on the rogue, not the mob.  This adds a bunch of interesting gameplay elements like building your combo points on the boss, and then using your combo dump to execute weaker encounters.  It is just at this point that the WoW rogue seems so much less interesting than the other “Rogue like” combo point classes.

Onyxia Mount Patrol

Wow-64 2014-01-29 06-49-55-23 After the time in Trove and Rift, I settled in for a little bit of Tuesday raid reset madness over in World of Warcraft.  For better or worse, there are several raids that I solo each week on multiple characters for an attempt at the various pets, tansmoggy bits, and every elusive mounts.  The start of each week tends to be me making the trek out to Dustwallow Marsh to beat up on Onyxia.  First off I have to bitch a little bit, because post Cataclysm they have made it a royal pain in the ass to get to Onyxia for Alliance players.  The fastest route I have figured out is fly straight south out of Stormwind, hop the boat at Booty Bay, and then fly to Dustwallow from there.  All of that involves flying across several zones and hoping that you happen to arrive at Booty Bay just in time to land on the boat.

Of course like normal she didn’t drop me a mount, or anything else of interest for that matter but at this point I can easily solo her as Retribution Paladin and Frost Deathknight, so I do this little interchange twice a week.  I need to cycle through some of my other characters and see if I can build a spec for them that can bring her out of the air in phase two.  I might be able to gather up enough timeless isle gear to make a passable Boomkin spec on my druid, and I think in theory I could probably do it on as Enhancement Shaman.  I do not think however that my Rogue or Warrior will be of much use in my quest for her mount.  I need to check with my friend Rylacus and see if he has any master tips for dropping her out of the air.  The one time I tried to do the fight as a Blood DK it literally took 30 minutes for my diseases/icy touch/deathcoil to do enough damage to get her back on the ground.

The highlight of the evening in WoW however was me flying over to Ahn’Qiraj on a whim.  Turns out that I now have enough physical damage to solo the Twin Emperors fight.  This had long been a stumbling block for me when it came to soloing AQ40.  The other big hurdle was viscidious, however since I dual wield frost… I simply switched my razorice enchanted one-hander to my main hand and that seemed to do the trick for shattering him.  Past that howling blast was more than enough frost damage to freeze the big blob.  I am still missing two pets from this place, so I can see adding it to the weekly faff farming rotation.  I did not really have time to do my BWL run on my paladin, I am still missing a few pieces of judgement… so I am sure over the next few days I will be getting that in.  Since the eggs are a pain in the ass on anyone other than my Deathknight, I generally grab a random person from the guild who needs transmoggy bits before venturing into the dungeon.  My hope is to find a time when Scarybooster can be online, and drag his butt through with them.

Kickstarting Regrets

Patron Buffs

rift 2014-01-28 06-04-39-64 Last night I just was not feeling the raid thing.  Monday nights are traditionally the open flex night in House Stalwart, but that night has always been an optional evening since it is not really attached to any specific raid group.  As such I decided to mill around over in Rift and work on my rogue.  Earlier in the day I had complained about how slow the 56-60 game was.  To be truthful Storm Legion as a whole is much more sluggish and prodding than the old world content, and by the time you reach 56 it slows down again.  Thankfully @gamer_lady came to the rescue by reminding me that there are patron buffs.

I think I began the night around halfway into 58 and wound up ending the night 15% away from 60.  The buffs make a massive difference in the speed at which you level, especially with quest turn-ins.  I hit a sequence in Argent Domain with tons of quest turn-ins and saw my xp just skyrocket.  Tonight if I get back into Rift I will likely finish off the push to 60, and hopefully be able to open all the various lockboxes I have saved up for his ding.  Additionally I am pretty close to finishing off runecrafting, so here is hoping the greens I currently have in my bags are enough to carry me over that finish line.  I think runecrafting was the last of the trade skills that I had no maxed out, or at least I vaguely remember finishing off artificer the last time I played seriously.

Kickstarting Regrets

pantheon-cqa-epl-116 The theme that I keep seeing repeated out on kickstarter is that designers are using it as a way to work through their past regrets.  Each time a game fails to grab market share there are a myriad of reasons why it happens.  However in the case of recent kickstarter campaigns it feels like each designer has their own internal reason why they feel a project failed.  In the case of Camelot Unchained, it seems like Mark Jacobs feels that Warhammer online failed because it simply was not pvp enough.  So as a result Unchained is being designed to be this love letter to PVP in all its glory.  I am sure there is a niche that wants to do nothing but pvp, but in my experience the only aspect of Warhammer I really liked at all…. was the PVE content.  So I wish Jacobs luck on his journey because he is building a game I simply am not interested in.

Similarly in the past weeks Brad McQuaid started his kickstarter for Pantheon: The Fallen.  The pitch so far seems eerily familiar to the one I can remember hearing for Vanguard.  Hardcore game with mandatory group centric game play, and some really complex systems to add depth to the world.  It seems like McQuaid’s regret is that Vanguard was not hardcore enough, and definitely in the post Sigil games era it became much more casual and solo friendly.  The thing is… the Vanguard he proposed really failed to get serious market approval, and SOE watered it down to try and find a market for it.  I realize this might be “too soon” since SOE just announced they were cutting Vanguard from their lineup… and honestly that depresses me quite a bit…  but it is very obvious that McQuaid has a very different reason in his head for why that game didn’t meet expectations.

Wish Them Well

camelotunchained This is not to say that I don’t think both Pantheon and Camelot Unchained will not be modest successes.  In both cases they are feeding to a relatively underserved sub-demographic of gamers.  The problem is… that really is a niche within a niche within a niche and I feel has some pretty slim market potential.  As romantic as I feel the vision of Pantheon is, I know personally I simply cannot play that sort of a game.  I need a game where I can find a group quickly and one that I can also have meaningful solo game play and progression.  Gone are the days when I could sit for five hours in the plane of hate camping an epic mob with friends. 

My blocks of time are more in half hours and hours at a time these days, and at any given time I might need to be pulled away from the screen.  As a result I have to play games that do not penalize me for this.  So while I am nostalgic for the days of sitting outside Karnor’s Castle and forming groups…  I also remember the hours upon hours I sat around doing absolutely nothing because I did not have said group.  Granted this is me projecting a lot of my own thoughts on these games, and very little information is really available about them.  However the pitch just does not sound like something I can really participate in. 

Ultimately I hope all of these new MMOs succeed, and even though games like Wildstar are strictly in the “not for me” column…  we need more MMO success than failure if we hope to keep our favorite genre alive.  Additionally there needs to be a great adjustment for what exactly “success” means.  If 100,000 players keeps the game running and turns a minor profit… then man that sounds like success to me.  World of Warcraft skewed our reality, and just with my opinions of the community… it is time for a reset.  No game has been as successful as WoW has been, so it is clearly an outlier and not the mold by which all games need to measure up.  Until that sort of baseline adjustment happens… all new games will end up being judged as failures.

Stalwart Ebonheart

Small World After All

Yesterday I had a pretty interesting chain of events happen, that have left me all warm and fuzzy.  At some point yesterday I tweeted a general complaint about how steam seems to be incapable of flagging on a machine level that we have already installed the various pre-requisites like DirectX.  This tweet seemed to develop a life of it’s own as it got re-tweeted around a bit and favorited.  Most of the people were extremely familiar to me, but one of the folks retweeting was completely new.  In my current mode of trying to reach out more to help foster the community I followed Maevrim.

It turns out the two of us have been running in the same circles for years spanning two different games and two different servers.  For the bulk of her time playing World of Warcraft, it seems as though she was in the guild Gnomes Will Eat You on Argent Dawn… a guild House Stalwart folk are very familiar with.  During the old days our two guilds did quite a bit together, and these days my raid has the very amazing Frosti… that has a sort of dual citizenship with characters in both House Stalwart and Gnomes Will Eat You.  Turns out she also plays on Faeblight where the House Stalwart Rift branch is located.

To make things even more awesome, she is looking for a new guild home.  Of course my guildmasterly ninja instincts started kicking in and I have been trying to welcome her into the Stalwart fold.  Its true… we are kind of like a cult but I promise that our koolaid isn’t poisoned much.  Scan a few hours later, turns out she was on a podcast and I somehow got mentioned.  Now I seem to have missed the reference or it was said before or after the started recording.  But all of this makes me realize just how small and relatively tight knit a community we have.  Like I said the other day, it is all a matter of perspective.  We might think we are alone in the void, but then something happens to make us realize just how connected we are as a whole.

Stalwart Ebonheart

SkyrimESO Since April 4th 2014 will be here before we know it, I figure it is time to start planning for the House Stalwart Ebonheart Pact branch in Elder Scrolls Online.  For some time I have known that I would be playing this game at release, and my hope is to successfully weave in time of both it and World of Warcraft.  The goal is to play a few nights a week, because really I am a sucker for anything Elder Scrolls…  and you would have to cause a real cataclysm to keep me away from it.  For a long time I have also known I would be aligning with the Ebonheart Pact, in part because my three favorite races are the Nord, Dunmer and Argonians.  After an impromptu poll of the folks who signed up on the brief Tamriel Foundry site we had… it seems like that is the case for most of the guild.

Since House Stalwart has always been a social guild… and more family than anything else… I thought I would open things up this time to my blogger family as well.  I know Maric and some of the Mercy Corps folks will be joining Stalwart in this endeavor, and my hope is to gather up as many good people as I can before the launch.  I am sure a good chunk of the current and former Stalwart members will be joining us as well.  Basically all sociable folks are welcome spending they are agreeable to the standard House Stalwart Three Tenets.   While I founded House Stalwart in World of Warcraft, the ethos that I helped foster has spanned so many games and will likely move into even more in the future.  My hope is that we will keep creating a connection that transcends the games we happen to be playing at the time.

If this type of environment sounds like a good fit for you, then please follow this link to our forums.  I created a brand new forum thread this morning, trying to gauge how many people we will have at launch.  If you have any issues setting up a forum account either drop me a line here, or ping me over twitter and I will see what I can do to assist you.  Also of note, we are primarily a Eastern Standard/Central Standard time zone guild, but have members with a pretty wide variety of playtimes.

Nightblade Finishing School

rift 2014-01-27 06-40-08-54 This weekend I also dipped my feet back into Rift spending a bit of time Saturday and Sunday working on my Nightblade.  I am not sure if I will ever make a third level 60, but I really do want to finish my rogue off who is currently sitting and 70% through 58.  While I enjoy the Storm Legion content on one level, on another it feels extremely grindy.  As such during the course of leveling Belghast to 60 I stalled out no less than four times.  Similarly Belgrave has stalled out quite a few in the process of getting this far along.  Maybe I am just spoiled by the brisk pace of leveling in games like World of Warcraft or even Final Fantasty XIV… but getting through Storm Legion feels like an absolute chore.  I do however really want to spend some time pushing through it.

This weekend I spent quite a bit of time doing Instant Adventures and they made the process feel a little less painful.  At some point I also want to spend some time in dungeons… but for whatever reason I seem to always get Stormbreaker Protocol… which for those not familiar with it is the Rift version of Oculus.  Essentially it is that one dungeon that makes almost the entire party disappear.  I feel like I really need to get adjusted to the Rift controls a bit more before stepping foot into a dungeon, though honestly I was killing things in Argent Domain last night as efficiently as I ever was.  More than anything with the impending release of 2.6, I want to dust off my Rift account and finally push the Nightblade across the finish line.

Far Cry 3

Steampowered Sunday #3

I guess at this point Steampowered Sunday is a real thing now.  I have friends nudging me in certain directions towards games I have in my steam list that I have yet to play.  Today I intended to play one game, but wound up playing another as I didn’t really plan ahead and pre-emptively install it.  So instead I decided to choose a game I did install over the Christmas break but never got around to playing.  One of my good friends snagged Far Cry 3 from my Steam wish list and gifted it to me during the insane Christmas sale.  I had always heard really amazing things about the game, so it sounded like something I would enjoy.

Already Installed DirectX Checkbox

farcry3_d3d11 2014-01-26 11-22-38-48 Be warned today’s post is going to be far more about the frustrations of trying to play a game… than actually playing one.  I had installed Far Cry 3 beforehand, but never actually fired it up.  So of course when I went to launch the game I had to suffer through the usual steam bullshit that involves installing every driver and redistributable known to man.  You would think that by now steam would have figured out a way to set a machine level flag that says “we’ve made this sucker install directx over 10 times, surely we can take it easy on him now”.  On top of the normal bullshit… I had to deal with something I had never seen before  called UPlay.

I guess this means that I have never actually played a Ubisoft game on the PC, since this seems to be required to play any of them.  For starters it took a truly silly amount of time to download and install, and then it prompted me for a login.  Since I didn’t think I had an account, I stubbed out the normal “Belghast” login, only to be told that it already existed.  At this point I scratch my head because maybe at some point in the past I did in fact set up UPlay.  I notice there is a handy reset password option, so I went through the steps to reset it to my email address.

At no point did it say “dumbass you don’t have an account”, it just said it would be sending an email to reset my password.  I waited a truly silly amount of time, refreshing the email window, and apparently locked my account out in the process.  However no emails actually arrived even after scanning the bowels of my gmail account, and sifting through half a dozen broken english versions of “your battle.net account is being banned” phishing attempts.  Turns out I am guessing I really do not have a UPlay account, either that or it was somehow set up on the PS3 and seemingly irrelevant to my PC.  So either this happened or there really are more Belghasts out in the world, as a result I had to set up my account on an old username that used for years.

Gameplaying Time?

farcry3_d3d11 2014-01-26 11-05-32-65 So finally I am able to log into the game and launch it.  I am greeted by the usual cinematic that I ignore and keep pressing the escape key trying to skip out of as soon as possible.  It appears that I am a rich d-bag, and have equally rich and d-bag friends that are amped about spending my trust fund on an island vacation.   Apparently also at some point we think it is a great idea to skydive onto a pirate held island… because you know the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney never harmed us… so surely the real thing will just give us candy or something.  Color me surprised when we manage to get kidnapped and held for ransom so our equally rich and d-bag parents to pay.

At this point after spending the first hour of the morning trying to get into the game due to the frustration that is UPlay… I am wanting to slaughter everything in sight.  Just give me a gun, point me in the direction of a slaver and I will go Rambo on their asses and save the day.  Conveniently for me, every single bad guy in the game seems to be wearing the same red shirt and red hat… making it super handy for drawing crosshairs down on them.  I love it when bad guys shop at the same place, because I can’t be bothered to think before blowing them away.

But Wait… Stealth Time

farcry3_d3d11 2014-01-26 11-12-13-85 There are few things I hate more in the world, than having to sneak around and be stealthy in video games.  So when I finally get control of my character what do I get to do? Sneak around and avoid being seen as I play through a super on-rails cinematic.  This is one of the things that frustrates me the most about modern games… namely those that started their life originally as a console game.  They seem to relish the concept of making you play through a bunch of shit before actually letting you play the game.  If I have to follow a predetermined path, while doing a sequence of events that are unchangeable… it is a cinematic.  Letting me control my character as I go through the cinematic just makes it all the more unhinging.

For me the ideal intro to a game like this is the Elder Scrolls style…  you arrive as a prisoner, someone breaks out out and then bam you are on your merry way causing mayhem.  I guess the more I think about it…  Oblivion and Skyrim both had some pretty frustrating “follow the dumbass npc” sequences early on… but they felt brief enough and in both cases you got to diverge from the script heavily if you desired.  This on the other hand was sneaking about following a path set aside by your macho army brother… all the while you have nothing that you can really do other than throwing some rocks.  Man I am a badass at throwing rocks… let me tell you.

Can It Be Fun Time?

farcry3_d3d11 2014-01-26 11-15-15-67 So despite your best attempts at avoiding being seen… your dumbass brother runs right into the pistol of the big baddy that you met earlier in the cage.  So you get to play a fun game of trying to mash your space bar hard enough to keep your brother from bleeding out.  Guess what… he bleeds out regardless of how hard you play whack a mole with your keyboard.  In a strange turn of events… instead of just shooting you in the back like you would think the big ultimate bad guy would do….  he decides to release you out into the jungle.  So once again I am thinking to myself… man can I finally have control of my character?  Can I finally play this game and do shit at my own pace?  NOPE!!!

What you get to do now is have a weird sequence as you run through the jungle avoiding bears and helicopters flying over, flashing the tree line with spotlights and trying to shoot you.  During this odd sequence you are once again following a predetermined path, and you seem to be able to take damage but never actually die.  At one point it told me to bandage myself, which I did… but it really did not seem to have much to do with success or fail.  Eventually I followed the path, went out onto a rope bridge… I lost a fight with a helicopter and just like baby Moses got tossed into a river only to get found by a seemingly friendly stranger.

Thanks Three Dog

farcry3 2014-01-26 11-43-01-40 While he sounds absolutely nothing like him… this dude for some reason reminds me of Three Dog from Fallout 3.  So I completely missed his name, because in my head he will forever be Three Dog.  Basically he saved you because you have the heart of a warrior… which if funny because up until this point all your character has done is whine constantly about being in the jungle.  I seriously expected him to break out the Dante from Clerks “I’m not even supposed to be here today”.  Essentially he sets up the premise of the story.  The pirate slavers are taking over the island and these mystical tattoo warriors are fighting back.  Since you escaped the camp alive, you are going to be their great white hope to save the day.  You will learn powers that somehow show up on your tattoo because… magic reasons.

So at this point… I am finally starting to wonder if I get to play the game yet or not.  Three Dog gives you some cash and lets you go shopping for a weapon… which basically means you get to buy a pistol… because all you can afford is a pistol.  Now he sends you out into the jungle on a few missions… the first of them is to destroy a jammer on a near by radio tower.  All in all this goes pretty safely other than the fact there is a static spawn snake that just sits there are the base of the tower.  A bullet to the head and you are up the tower and mapping the world.  It seems that as you open up the towers you allow the vendors to get new and spiffier stuff.

Capture Objectives

farcry3 2014-01-26 12-08-27-41 Once the actual game started after wading through what felt like three hours of bullshit… it was pretty fun.  Essentially the game play is a lot like Just Cause 2, where you move around the map weakening the presence of the enemy forces in your area.  Unlike Just Cause however you actually capture the elements for your blue team.  Unlocking new stuff gives you new power-ups in the form of magical tattoo powers, and unlocks new weapons.  Additionally in each outpost you capture there is a mission board that gives you hunting and kill missions.  Hunting seems extremely important in the game as it allows you to upgrade your backpack… allowing you to carry more weapons and equipment.

The kill missions however seem extremely frustrating.  I took the first one, and like always I paid little attention to the mission introduction.  Look I am a big dumb monkey, give me a gun and point me in the direction of the enemies and I will destroy them.  I however rapidly failed the mission because guess what they wanted me to do…  that’s right sneak around and do some ninja stuff, using the nifty new takedown move that Three Dog just taught me.  I have a feeling that if this is the case… I will likely avoid these entirely because like I said before… stealth is not a thing that Belghasts do best.

Will It Blend?

farcry3 2014-01-26 12-10-21-89 All in all the game really is pretty fun, once they actually let you play it.  This game would have been so much better had they just created a simple reason for you to escape and let you pick up from the moment you get rescued by Three Dog without having to suffer through the horrible on-rails pseudo game play.  Hell I feel like it would have been better had your parachute just landed you in the middle of the native camp, and they simply told you that your family was captured.  Bam instant call to action, and instant adventure time.  If you can suffer through two hours of crap, then the game is pretty fun, or maybe you don’t dislike the modern on-rails psuedo-cinematic as much as I do.

In either case it is worth a play through, so long as you don’t end up paying much for the game.  This is definitely not going to be in the same league for me as Skyrim, Bioshock, Dishonored or even Just Cause 2.  However it is still pretty fun and I like the map control aspect of the gameplay.  I just wish there was more direct action early on that let me run amok and cause mayhem.  Granted you have to understand that I have not played Far Cry 2 either, I have only actually played the first one.  In that game you pretty much dropped straight into the action, and I was expecting the same from Far Cry 3.  I figured sooner or later I would give a review that I didn’t just absolutely gush over the game like I did about Hammerwatch and to a lesser extent Steamworld Dig.  I give Far Cry 3… 3 Mehs out of Meh.

Precious Underwear

Spicy Chicken and Tots

spicychickenandtots During the school year I am pretty much the cook, the maid, the laundry service, and of course the pet care.  My wife is extremely hardcore about her job, and as an educator spends a good 70-80 hours a week doing work for the classroom.  I have far more disposable time so as a result I pick up 99% of the household chores.  I am not saying I am Martha Stewart and keep a perfect household, but the shit that has to get done gets done.  Any time I don’t have to worry about one of those chores I am ecstatic.  Last night my loving wife went to meet some friends at a local chain called Ron’s.  While there she picked me up a takeout order of one of my favorite meals ever…  spicy chicken and cheese tots.

I bragged on her on both G+ and Twitter last night, but it means a lot to me… so I am leading off tonight’s blog post as well.  While it drove me into a food coma and I was pretty much useless for the tail end of the raid last night… it was absolutely amazing.  Additionally it gave me a much appreciated break from trying to figure out what in the hell we were going to have that night for dinner.  More than anything I think that is what is worth raving about.  The figuring out things and being a responsible adult all the time… wears you down.  As she commented her “credit card cooks well”.

The Wi-Fi MIracle Redux

Wow-64 2014-01-24 21-51-38-07 Speaking of last nights raid… leading off with a really cool screenshot we took all decked out in our Sky Golem mounts.  I had no clue that damned near all of the raid had one.  Granted this section really has nothing to do with the raid, but it is entirely too cool of a screenshot not to use it.  Today was a weird day, as I said over twitter I did not go through my normal morning routine and as a result you are getting a post a lot closer to 8 pm than early morning like normal.  Essentially last week I mentioned that we had promised to come up this weekend and attempt to fixorate my mother-in-laws Wi-Fi connection and install the printer we got her for Christmas.  So with these things looming on the horizon the goal was to get up there and get them done as early in the day as possible.

Over the week I ordered a Cisco RE1000 Wireless repeater thinking it would do the trick to help piggy back the signal across the large gap between the two houses.  In theory yes it does in fact work, and I was able to get the wireless printer configured as a result.  In practice however it is so insanely slow I am not sure anyone will be able to tolerate it.  On the positive side we have gotten her in the practice of surfing on the laptop out in the addon with a straighter shot to the original wifi access point.  Out there the speed doesn’t seem half bad, in the rest of the house it is slower than dial-up.  I went to download a printer driver and it was going to take over three hours for a 100 mb file.

Precious Underwear

preciousbriefs My hope is that once we get electric run to the RV pad we have placed between the two houses, I can install an additional repeater in our RV, which will hopefully complete the piggyback chain, or at least speed it up.  For the meantime however she can check her ever so important facebook, and she seemed mostly happy.  We ate lunch and then wandered along our way to run more errands.  My wife this year is teaching a forensics class along with a science teacher.  Like always we end up footing the bill for most of the materials for the various labs that she leads.  One of the things that she will be doing a lot of in the forensics class is finger printing, which requires a really fine brush.

During the 80s there was this magical device called the Static Duster.  For the most part microfiber has replaced it, but somewhere along the line my wife found a very small one, about the size of a makeup brush.  Now we both know we have seen a place that sold them recently in a dollar section.  So today we spent most of the day running to every dollar store we could think of.  We sadly came up completely empty, but when we went to Family Dollar we saw a truly bizarre sight that made the trip worth while.  Down the men’s underwear isle, every single package of briefs and socks had antitheft devices attached to them.  Do people really steal that many pairs of underwear to warrant this?  If you notice, it is not just on the package but also there is  one attached to each pair in the pack.  They apparently take their underwear security seriously.

Da na na na na na na na na na na na na…

geekmugs

So here we are in the same place as we were this morning… with only one of these magical static brushes, and ten lab groups that need them.  The last place we can really think to look is the Wal-mart dollar section, but quite frankly after all the running around today neither one of us really had the stomach for a trip there.  There is no such thing as a quick trip to Wal-mart, and just in setting foot there you have to deal with so many frustrating people.  I may be a good guy and run out there tomorrow while she is working on lesson plans.  Hopefully she won’t hold her breath, because that is a serious act of commitment…  however she did bring me spicy chicken.

If you recall back to the junking episodes over Christmas break, one of the things I had been looking for were some awesome coffee mugs… more importantly awesomely geeky ones.  The last place we went tonight before picking up some food and heading home was Ross.  A few weeks ago my wife had found a pair of pants there… and for whatever reason she did not pick them up.  So of course when we went tonight they were nowhere to be found.  I have to get her in the habit of buying the thing she wants when she sees it instead of waiting around.

However while I roamed aimlessly around the store looking for something to entertain me, I noticed these two coffee mugs.  The first is a really awesome classic batman mug, with the symbol on the opposite side, and the other is a really huge mug with a skull on it.  Pretty much to me putting a skull on anything makes it awesome.  My wife however does not understand this, and keeps balking every time she finds a scarf or other garment of women’s clothing with a skull on it.  Quite simply put…. skulls make everything better and this mug is no exception.  Now I have six mugs that I like, and will be proud to use.  So despite a relatively frustrating day, that involved absolutely nothing I wanted to do in the first place… it ended on a high note that involved geeky mugs and a really amazing smoked chicken salad.

Veritech Pilots Unite!

Profundity is Gone

For those that followed me during the recent couple day bump of new readers…  I am rarely as cogent or pointed as those topics come off as.  Most of the time the Tales the Aggronaut spins are yarns of faffing about and doing scattered things in the games I play.  That is not to say that I won’t again be overcome with feels and post something dreadfully important, but most of the time I just ramble on about whatever is in my mind.  This is the side effect of my whole “blog every morning” crusade I embarked upon nearly a year ago.  So if you have a limited appetite for game ramblings, I apologize ahead of time.

My office right now is like a magma chamber, and I am not really sure how long I can keep up this mornings post before I wither and melt away.  The heating and air system in our house is pretty horrific, and for some reason there are two heat vents in my very small office.  As much as I have tried to block them off completely… the heat continues to radiate through the wall.  So the rushed feeling I am having is likely going to cause this to be one of my extra “special” mornings.  Right now all I can say is thank god it is the weekend… and even though I have to pull a wi-fi miracle out of my hat tomorrow…  I am ready to be done with work for the week.

Veritech Pilots Unite!

Wow-64 2014-01-23 16-27-11-42 One of the side projects that has been underway for roughly a month is the coordinating of my crafting cooldowns each day in order to eventually produce the amazing Sky Golem mount.  I realize I am way behind the times in getting it crafted, but hell it is news to me.  Last night I managed to make the last two components and then went on an absolutely giddy flight around the Vale.  I loves it so much in all of its mechanical glory.  I feel like a Veritech pilot from Macross/Robotech.  For the next few weeks every single character of mine will be zipping around on this goblin machination.  Then I am sure like always I will get bored and pick a new mount for a few weeks.

I have already set my sights on the next big crafting project.  I am a horrible engineer… or at least I have traditionally been a very poor one.  I never raised the bankroll to get my chopper back in Wrath, and during the expansions after I simply lost sight on it as a goal.  Now my intent is to farm up everything I can farm and then raise the required monetary commitment to craft one of these puppies.  Not that I think I will ever actually use it… I have so many cool ground mounts like the Fiery Warhorse’s Reins or Rein’s of the Swift Spectral Tiger that I am always anxious to break out when I am in a flight limited area.  I feel like getting a chopper is just one of those things I want to do moreso than really have a reason to do.

Blackwing Descent

Wow-64 2014-01-23 19-41-34-38Finally on the silly activities front, several of us were hanging out on mumble last night.  The question was posed… how many people would it take to clear the old raids, namely Blackwing Descent.  I surmised that we could probably limp by on three, 1 tank, 1 healer, 1 dps.  Next thing I know we are on our way to blackrock mountain and giving it a try.  Thing is… I remember nothing about this raid at all really.  Granted while we were doing it several things came back, but I had literally not see any content past the first two bosses.  I left WoW shortly after the launch of Cataclysm and at that point we had only managed to down Magmaw and Omnomitron (yes I know that isn’t the name).  So for the most part it was a completely new place for me.

We of course entered for the purest of faffing reasons…  the druid in our party wanted these shoulders for transmog.  I myself would not have minded getting an Ashkandi 2.0 to drop, simply because the fidelity of the weapon is so much higher than the one I keep in my bank for transmoggy goodness.  All in all the run went pretty smoothly.  We struggled a few times, including several attempts at Chimaeron just trying to figure out how to work the fight mechanics.  For whatever reason my purgatory talent seemed to be glitching out the key fight mechanic, so I popped outside real quick and summoned my vendor mount  and changed that talent. 

The trippy fight honestly was Nefarian because I was the only one to survive the initial flood everything in lava phase.  So for the most part I solo’d a good chunk of that fight, namely the swimming around the room in lava killing the guys on the platforms phase.  Then the monk healer and I duo’d the final kite him around the room phase.  Since it was a 10 man fight, we only had one battle rez, and as such it seemed like a better idea to rez the healer than the druid dps.  It was a fun night and I could see myself doing it again.  I am really hoping that we can mostly trio the rest of the content.  Funny enough we managed to get an achievement during the process without really intending to.  I really want to go off and do firelands so I can hopefully get my druid friend his fire kitty.

People Are Not Pixels

In Black and White

Yesterday was a really weird day for me, past that I really don’t have the proper words to describe it.  Firstly I made a post, and it seemed to resonate with a large group of folks.  I will get back to that in a bit however, other than that it was one of the more stressful days I have had in awhile.  The concurrence of the two things happening at the same time was a bit of a godsend, as the internet literally got me through the day.  I am this odd dichotomy of social and anti-social.  When I am in my zone with people or topics that I feel comfortable with…  I can become a social butterfly.  When in the guild mumble or conversing in game or on twitter… I become an amped up version of myself.

However in the real world I am considerably more subdued, and wary of the spotlight.  Over the last few years I have been pushed more and more into a role of leadership within my job.  For a long while my goal was to avoid doing anything that got me into the paper.  Growing up I was in my small town local paper damned near every week… and it was a pretty claustrophobic experience.  One of the things I have always loved about living in the “big city” is that I could function more or less anonymously, and only show up on the radars of the folks I cared about.  However yesterday I had a scheduled meeting to be on a panel for a follow up interview to an earlier article.

The first time I was part of one of these panels, I thought I had dodged the bullet.  The article came out and there were no quotes attached to my name.  However over the course of that weekend another story came out outlining some of our development efforts.  Sure enough, almost every line had my name attached to it.  It is not like there is anything I want to avoid saying, or any problem I have with anything I said… but the whole experience stresses me out greatly.  I am hoping that I have actually managed to dodge it this time, because the reporter really did not seem all that interested in what I had to say.  However I had to psyche myself up so much for the whole experience that I just felt like I was crashing down afterwards.

Skewed Perspective

Most of the time I feel like I am blogging in the morning in a complete vacuum.  The fact that I choose to blog when I do doesn’t really help this much.  Generally it is dark outside, the house is completely quiet other than the hum of the various computers in my office and the occasional visit from cats.  To misquote Rowan, it sometimes feels like I am shouting into the void and never really hearing a response.  When you spend a lot of time operating in that mode, your perspective gets more than a bit skewed as was apparently the case yesterday.  I was bummed, and all the sudden it was like the entire damned internet gave me a flying tackle hug.  I am so amazingly humbled by the show of support from people I didn’t even realize were out there listening.  Much like Ardua is on a mission to hug everyone…  I just want people to feel as loved as I did yesterday.

While what I said seemed to strike a chord with a lot of people, and the spontaneous explosion of a post I expected to just wither quietly away came on exactly the day I needed a boost.  Some folks seemed to really “grok” what I was saying, and others simply thought I was asking for comments.  To be truthful… comments are awesome, and I won’t lie that seeing that many passing through my blog was an amazing thing to me.  However I would like to think this is not about ego as at least one person suggested.  What yesterdays post was about more than anything is connecting with people, on a real and permanent level.  People are simply not pixels to me, and that is really the point I tried to make more than anything else.  If we talk and interact, then I care about you and your own personal destiny, not just in ways where it is convenient for me to care.

People Are Not Pixels

Folks are amped about Wildstar, or Eve Online or Neverwinter…  none of which are things I care about at all, or have any real interest in.  However I am always excited to interact with folks on the level of things that they care about.  When a blog turns from gaming to more serious topics, I am interested as well, because it unravels the puzzle of each person and what makes them tick inside.  As Syl mentioned yesterday, the community is what you make of it.  So I am going to endeavor to comment more often on more blogs.  Quite honestly… I get self conscious at times.  “Tales of the Aggronaut” is my space in the world, and my buffer of comfort that allows me to get away with saying whatever happens to be on my mind at the time I say it.  When I leave my blog and visit others…  I feel somehow like I am intruding on someone else’s space.

There are many times I intend to comment, but backspace away the statement because I feel that it doesn’t really add much of worth to the discussion.  Jaedia mention that yesterday, the whole concept of having to take a deep breath and push the publish button.  That is me so many times, I don’t often value my own opinion…  so why should others?  Twitter and G+ are like this great neutral ground, where it feels like it is okay to bother people.  Since Twitter comments are so short, it feels like having to distill your comment to 140 characters somehow makes it more innocuous, less imposing.  Basically I am a bundle of self doubt and neurosis and I am going to try really hard to get past that.

I am sure I will have another downer of a day, but you all overwhelmed me with your giant group hug.  I care about each and every one of you, even if you silently supported my topic and didn’t muster the courage to say anything yourself.  That is me most days, so I fully understand.  There will be days I still feel like I am shouting into the void, but I need to keep adjusting my perspective.  Yesterday proved to me just how blessed I really am.  Some days I simply need to be reminded that I have a really awesome life, filled with so many amazing people that are there to support me when I falter.  So on that note… before I gush any further… I just want to give you all a heartfelt thanks.

Blogs Are Not Community

Social Gaming

I am breaking my own rules a little bit with this mornings post.  Generally speaking I sit down at the keyboard and write something fresh each morning, in the 30-45 minutes I have before I need to leave for work.  There have been times in the past when I have broken this rule due to me needing to leave for work early the next day.  Today however I feel that this topic needs a bit more care and feeding than my half awake brain can really muster.  As such I am getting started on this topic the night before my intended date of posting.  I am sure that sounds just as contorted as it did to me as I wrote it… but bear with me.

Today I spent a few minutes sifting through my Twitter list, and pruning folks who either are not active any longer, or that have never really engaged with me in the past.  I may have accidentally pruned someone that does not fall into that category in the process, and if so I will go ahead and apologize now.  If this happened and we talk regularly I will definitely want to correct that mistake.  Essentially I view the people I converse with in games and online as more than “just pixels”.  I think this is the side effect of growing up an only child, that I have a deep yearning for being people…  despite also having an introverted streak in real life.  So as I approach people, I see them as not someone from whom I can benefit… but instead a potential life long friend waiting to be discovered.

Blogs Are Not Community

This viewpoint towards social media and other gamers has caused me more than a bit of heartburn during my almost five years of blogging.  As I pruned my twitter list today, I noticed that a number of people that I thought I had made a connection with along the way no longer followed me.  There is a time that this would have absolutely devastated me, but over time I have gotten used to a sad fact of the gaming blogosphere.  While at times we think of ourselves as a community, in truth we are more like a collection of independent nation states.  While we may make occasional alliances, and share resources…  these alignments are all too temporary and fleeting.

This is not to say that I have not met some really amazing people that I will hopefully be lifelong friends with, but over the years a handful of folks I trusted ended up stabbing me in the back.  I have come to accept that unlike my guild, these are not always people that I can rely to always be there for me.  My craving this permanent connection is likely a side effect of the amazing guild I have been a part of since 2004, and the similarly amazing community that got me started in blogging in the first place.  I have given credit to Blog Azeroth and the Twisted Nether Blogcast in the past, but had this extremely nurturing community not existed, I likely would not have set down roots in the blogosphere at all.

Blog Azeroth

I’ve always enjoyed writing and found it extremely therapeutic, but the BA folks offered me support and fertile environment.  There are several truly amazing and completely selfless people out there.  I’ve talked a lot about how amazing @RowanBlaze of I Have Touched the Sky is… and I cannot highlight this fact enough.  However I have to take a moment to talk about @Fimlys of Twisted Nether Blogcast.  This man has made a career of highlighting the amazing work going on in the World of Warcraft blogging and podcasting community.  Similarly from the Blog Azeroth roots I met so many amazing people like Stop, Triz, Rev, Linedan, Llanion and so many others that I may have met initially through BA that I now associate with other things.  So these forces combined gave me a somewhat unrealistic viewpoint of what I felt being a gaming blogger was all about.

When I made the decision to leave World of Warcraft and venture off into other games, I was simply unprepared how tentative this “community” of friends I had built really was.  I joined Twitter initially as a way to hang out with other blogger types, and within a few weeks I had amassed a large group of people that I chatted back and forth with regularly.  However as soon as I stepped forth outside of the WoW Bubble I found that a good chunk of those people disappeared. Since I was posting content not related to WoW, they were simply no longer interested in me and  my non-wow discussion.  I tried to make connections within the more game-agnostic circles, but set forth with the false notion that it would be just as easy as it had been within WoW circles. 

Cold Outside

It is funny how a one game can instantly bring people together.  If you meet anyone in real life, and find out that you both play WoW… regardless of the Horde/Alliance divide…  you are pretty much instant friends.  You both share this large shared set of experiences to draw upon, and it gives you immediate common ground.  Going out into the outer reaches of the mmo landscape, was tantamount to leaving civilization behind.   I expected to find the same kind of fast friends I had experienced before, and instead had some pretty harsh reality checks.  Like I said, I go into almost every encounter with a new person open minded and entirely too trusting for my own good.  This is likely a side effect of growing up here in Oklahoma, but I generally expect the best from people.

The problem with the non-wow MMO blogosphere is that there is no common point of reference that we all have.  Sure I would imagine that most of us have WoW in common, but each of us exited that experience with a kaleidoscope of different experiences not all of which something you want to build a friendship on top of.  If you go a little further back there is likely a common thread of Everquest, however not everyone views those days with the same rose colored lenses.  So instead of immediate bonds over shared experience, what I found instead were a bunch of wholly independent personalities, not all of which were that open to new people operating in their shared space.

Lessons Learned

I had a bunch of bad experiences early on, and it has made me a bit more guarded.  I still try and be as open as I can be, but at the same time realize that I am “just pixels” to a fair number of the people I meet along the way.  This has made me cherish all the more the people I do feel genuinely care about my well being along the way.  I want to thank @Sypster for creating the Newbie Blogger Initiative and @ModeratePeril and @TRRedSkies for carrying the torch forward this year.  You three and everyone who has participated in the initiative in any way are selflessly trying to create the same kind of nurturing environment that lead me to start blogging.  The problem is, that once the initiative is over we all fail pretty miserably at keeping the ties we created going.  I’ve picked up several of the new bloggers on Twitter, but I could be doing so much more as well.

I think all of this comes down to the fact that once you leave the rather large and protective WoW-based blogging bubble… the community is somewhat flawed.  We lack a single focus, a single rallying cry to unite behind.  For a long time there has been a zeitgeist of players rushing to whatever happens to be the newest thing.  So for a short period of time, we have a rallying call, a thing everything wants to talk about.  When the magic fades from whatever shiny new toy we have, we are left again with a bunch of separate islands floating in the same stream.  I can wish things were different all I like, but I know at the end of the day I have a very few individuals that I can really count as true and long lasting friends.  Overtime I have learned to accept this and just expect folks to drift apart and forget or be forgotten.

What Was the Point?

Quite honestly… I am not really sure what I was trying to say before I started down this path.  I still find it disappointing when someone decides they no longer want to interact.  I know for example one individual who has followed and un-followed me at least a dozen times by now.  I feel like I am the same person I was the day I began blogging, or at least I am at my core.  I have always tried to be myself and be open to meeting new people, and hopefully integrating them into my own personal monkeysphere.  If you want to interact with me, and do so in a way that does not stress me out… then I want you in my sphere.   Chances are I am also going to try and adopt you into my guild family…  it is a thing I do.

This year I really want to surround myself by more positive influences, and be willing to accept that there are going to be some negative ones I need to let go of.  I cannot make everyone happy, and I am sure I will annoy the hell out of a good number of people along the way.  My hope though is somewhere between I will keep finding a lot of loyal and true friends along the way.  I also hope that by some small way I can do my part in trying to fix what is broken with our “community”.  I am not really big on making new years resolutions, but if I did make one it would be to continue staying positive and try my best to find the good in people.  Here is hoping that some folks will stick around long enough to find the good in me as well.

Factoid February

I have to credit @TheChindividual for the name, who is as a matter of fact one of this years crop of Newbie Blogger Initiative graduates.  This February I am going to do something to put more of myself out there in front of everyone freely.  During the twenty eight days this year I am going to start off each mornings post with a true factoid about myself.  @Ithato had a great idea of posting two falsehoods and one truth…  and as much as I like that, I think it defeats the purpose of baring my soul for all the world to see.  So I have a few days before this starts, and I am going to begin jotting down things… hoping by the time I need them to have all twenty eight ready to go.  Hopefully at least someone out there will get some enjoyment about my little tidbits.