The Dragon Knight Comes

The morning after

Screenshot_20140330_182433 Yesterday was a really exciting day, and today I am in somewhat of a stupor from all the festivities.  As I talked about in my last couple of posts, yesterday was the beginning of the Elder Scrolls Online five day headstart.  Thing is this is definitely not my first game launch, in fact there is rarely a game launch that I do not participate in…  but this one just feels more personal.  I’ve known various people that have worked for various game companies, but this one is just different.  Elder Scrolls is a monumental franchise for me, and I started my fandom back with Daggerfall.  However never before has one of the people who I hang out with on an almost nightly basis…  part of the creation of something I love.

So more than anything I wanted this launch to go smoothly, for the health of the guild and the health of the game in general.  The launch of a new guild in a new game is an extremely stressful time for me.  Trying to get all the people going in the right direction is a challenge but more or less things seem to have gone extremely smoothly.  We’ve only had a few people who did not heed my bajillion posts about faction, and ended up rolling the wrong one.  I feel bad that they essentially have to start over now, but by being the wrong faction they will never be able to group with the rest of the guild.  This is one of the few confusing points, in that characters can live in multiple guilds… but functionally you can only group with your own faction.

The Dragon Knight Comes

Screenshot_20140330_200220 It’s odd for me to try and be objective about a game launch, when I have been playing the game in one form of another for over a year now.  The fact that I have played as much of it as I have, and that I still want to participate says as much as anything I could.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the “3 month mmo club”, but for whatever reason this is different.  Since I have reported so many things and watched them get fixed in subsequent builds, it feels as though I have more at stake here than I have in the past.  As of logging out last night I was just a little shy of dinging 11.  Honestly getting to level 8 or so is really easy, but from there on it slows down considerably.  Additionally for most of the day yesterday I was trying to stay in lock step with my friend Audrae.

The problem is I am fundamentally bad at questing as a group.  I am all about doing hard objectives with friends, but the piddly little things, it is rough to stay in step.  At one point yesterday I had to take an extended break, and I laid down for a bit.  When I came back we had no Rae, so I am guessing she fell asleep as well.  I piddled around after that, did a few things, grouped a bit and killed a world named mob as well as ran some other friends through Bad Mans Hollow.  At this point I am feeling very tanky, and my survival is probably as good as it has ever been in ESO.

Once I leave Glenumbra I will finally set out into mostly untested territory.  The characters that I have made it past the first real zone on were all Ebonheart, so for the most part Daggerfall Covenant will be fresh.  Towards the end of beta I purposefully tried to test only the early content, as to keep the later stuff fresh for me.  It was wierd, that so many people struggled to figure out what path they were going to take, or how they would create their character.  For the most part i have created “Belghast Sternblade” the Dragon Knight over a dozen times scattered among various beta tests.  It was the one character that really spoke to me, so I kept returning to playing it over and over… never tiring of the game play.

Guild is Hopping

Screenshot_20140331_061118 I will admit, when the betas opened up a bit more and folks started breaking out some negativity regarding the game… I was a bit concerned to say the least.  There is a fairly significant threshold of 50 members of the guild in order to open up the Guild Store.  There was a time where I wondered if we would actually be able to hit that in House Stalwart, but apparently those fears were completely unfounded.  As of this morning I am looking at the guild roster and we have 65 accounts in the guild.  The place is absolutely hopping and at this hour of the morning there are already a half dozen people in and playing.  Apparently all the work trying to make sure this was happening paid off, and I am starting to think about the various things we will be able to do if we even maintain half of these members at veteran levels.

Thing is… this is just the Imperial Edition and folks who ordered direction through Zenimax.  There will be another batch of players starting Tuesday, and another batch starting on the 4th again that didn’t pre-order for whatever reason.  As a result I still expect the guild to grow significantly.  When all is said and done we might be sitting around 100 members, which would make this one of our largest game launches in House Stalwart history.  The thing that is helping this time around is the Alliance of Awesome.  This has helped to funnel so many new and good people into Stalwart for the beginning of this game.  At this point I am going to have to start figuring out what the final guild infrastructure is going to look like, and who I will tag to be officers.  I tend to treat each game as a unique animal, and just because someone is an officer in one game does not immediately mean they will be in another.

Since we have a blended “family” going on right now, I also feel it is crucial to reach out and tag people from all the various camps, as well as the traditional stalwart folk.  So far I have to say everything seems to be blending nicely.  I was talking yesterday that while a lot of us know each other from twitter, this was the first time we had really been in the same guild.  I am thankful that everything has gone so smoothly.  For at time yesterday we had a dozen or more people hanging out in the “Bel is streaming” channel on mumble, and later today I should be posting the various stream segments up on youtube and adding them to the Elder Scrolls Online playlist.  However in the mean time you can go to my twitch streams past broadcasts tab to see them all.  All in all I think it was a very successful launch day, and one of the more successful ones I have experienced.  The real tests will be as they start adding more players.

Elder Scrolls Launch Day

Steampowered Sabbatical

Normally this morning you would have been reading about my misadventures playing a new to me game from my steam backlog.  However we are taking a week off from that feature, mainly because I knew I would be busy this morning with something else.  However we will get to that later, and the reasons why I got up at 5 am this morning to be prepared for it.  Instead today we are going to talk about a few games and the highlight of my day yesterday.  For awhile now I have been doing the “Bel Faffs About” thing where I stream a game as I play it, and invite people into my “Bel is Streaming” mumble channel.  The usual suspects are my guildies who come online and are entertaining so that I don’t have to.

Yesterday I got to hang out with some of my favorite people from twitter, namely @Gypsy_Syl, @NexusRangers, @GameByNight and after awhile the very awesome @TipaDaKnife.   I got to hang out the longest with Syl and it was a blast.  The only problem is I am so used to listening to her talk about video game music thanks to the amazing Battlebards podcast… it was a little weird to be talking about anything else.  Everyone was great and it made for a fun afternoon, even though after getting up at 4 am I was quite a little slap happy as the night went on.

Mithril or Bust

Landmark64 2014-03-29 17-44-37-40 Yesterday we played a lot of Landmark as we hung out, and the missions of the day were really two fold.  Firstly I wanted to try and finish my work on gathering the resources for the Mithril pick.  Currently this is the highest in progression you can go as far as mining, and thanks to the changes they made to the Founders Pick being able to harvest ANY tree… there is not a resource mining or wood that I cannot consume.  The other mission was to be able to craft the rest of the basic machines for my claim so that others can use them.  One of the odd things that was different from alpha is that there are both public and private machines.  The private machines are labelled as “Refining stations” and allow you to work resources at a progressively better rate, returning more finished materials than went into creating them.

Landmark64 2014-03-29 18-19-05-58 For some time now I have felt a little bit bad for grabbing such prime real estate, but not having done anything on it but clear the ground.  In the above screenshot you can see the foundation for Belgarde Keep from the spire, so it really is a very short run away.  The problem is as I progress through the crafting tiers I am in constant need of stone.  Yesterday at one point I decided to dig down in the desert for as long as I could and harvest as much stone as I could.  Unfortunately that happened to be exactly the same time @GameByNight decided to use the “teleport to friend” option.  I had been down there long enough that the ground above me was respawning leaving us essentially trapped underground.  Thankfully the evac to safety option works remarkably well.

Landmark64 2014-03-29 17-31-12-88 What you are seeing in the pictures represents roughly 350,000 stone worth of building.  I managed to gather 200k doing my “big dig” and poured another bit into it over the course of several trips.  Sometime soon I will have to do another one my grand harvesting missions and try and make some more progress.  Essentially I am building a greatly scaled up version of the building I created in alpha.  I am changing up the design significantly but not the overall building type.  I like big open air temple like spaces.  Essentially I am building much the same type of structures that I used to build in Minecraft.  The smooth tool and the ability to craft curved shapes is nice, but I really prefer straight and chiseled edges.

Elder Scrolls Launch Day

Watch live video from Belghast on TwitchTV
Last night I went to bed seriously early for me, after having gotten up at 4 am the day before.  I had heard rumor that the servers would be opening this morning for the Elder Scrolls Online slightly early, but was not certain that was going to be the case.  I ended up waking up about 4:45 and by the time I made coffee and got upstairs, there were a few other guildies also sitting on mumble waiting for things to open.  Sure enough a little bit after 5 am CST I was able to log in and create Belghast Sternblade for real.  Thing is… it did not take me terribly long on the character creator because I have created this character literally a dozen times now throughout a years worth of testing.  I am a simple person, and tend to create the same basic character in each game that I play.  So I managed to get in extremely quickly and create the guild long before anyone else logged in.

Watch live video from Belghast on TwitchTV
Since early this morning I have been hanging out in the “Bel is Streaming” channel as lots of other people have popped in to join me.  Honestly far too many to list here, but it has prove to be a really enjoyable and entertaining day.  I will be exporting the stream to youtube eventually but here I am posting the various twitch links.  If nothing else they are fun to open up and listen into our conversation in the background like it was a podcast.  I am for the most part live streaming all day long.  While this is a headstart, this is one of the smoothest launches I have participated in.  THis folks is why they had us stress test the hell out of stuff during the weekend betas, and every indication shows that they learned a lot of information.  The mega server tech seems to be holding up and scaling well.

Watch live video from Belghast on TwitchTV
Right now I am having a blast, so if you have access to the House Stalwart mumble server, pop by and say hi.  I plan on going right back to the game, that is open in the background and continuing my odyssey.  However I wanted to take a moment and make my post before it got any later in the day.  Hopefully you all are having as great of a weekend as I am.

Elder Scrolls Online Headstart

Prelaunch Countdown

At the point I am writing this blog post we are roughly 24 hours from the launch of Elder Scrolls Online.  If you are really curious about the exact time… someone has created a page dedicated to that… with Europe Final Countdown playing embedded of course.  Last night I made it to bed at a normal hour… or at least normal for me, but this morning my body conspired against me and decided that 4 am was time to wake up.  While I had not planned this, it is actually going to feed into my idea of being up for the launch the moment the servers open.  So tonight I will be heading to bed early, and trying to wake up in time for the launch in the morning.  I normally get up at 5:30 in the morning during the work week, so really this will be good in the long run since Monday will not be quite so hellacious.

I have to say at this point I am completely amped, but also nervous.  One of my favorite and least favorite things about a new game is pulling together the guild.  It is always a struggle to make sure everyone is rolling in the right place, with the right faction.  There are always opening day adjustments as you shift this thing or that, and trying to deploy the logistics to be able to get everyone moving in the right direction.  This is by no means my first launch pulling together a guild, and likely it will not be the last either.  No matter how much experience I have in making things work…  I still get the jitters hoping it all goes off without a hitch.  SWTOR was without a doubt the smoothest, since we were able to create the guild before launch through their web based tools, but even then there was plenty of confusion among the folks that were too lazy to sign up before the guild placement happened.

Elder Scrolls Online Headstart

eso 2014-02-15 11-38-45-72 I thought I would devote this mornings post to getting everyone ready for the big event.  There are several things about this launch that should make things significantly easier.  Firstly there are no servers to worry with, there is the North American mega server and the European mega server.  I do not however know if characters cross over between the two.  We will be focusing on the North American mega server for this, and I am hoping that our European friends will have decent lag there or even be able to roll there at all.  Have I mentioned how much I hate regions in video games?  House Stalwart will be aligning ourselves with the Daggerfall Covenant, as was decided in a poll that ran some time ago.  This means that in order to play with the guild and group easily, you also need to roll Daggerfall Covenant.  Guilds span factions, but it is logistically impossible to group together at low levels if you are of two different factions.

Thanks to the preorder bonuses however you will be able to roll any race in any faction.  If you did not preorder, then grats… if you want to play with the bulk of the guild you have to play either a Redguard, Breton or Orsimer.  Really if you were interesting in this game at all, you should have preordered to long before this point to make sure you could have that very important preorder perk.  Those who did preorder… I am sure we will see plenty of elves in our guild as a side effect.  Most of the people I know going cross faction classes are doing so in order to play a Bosmer, Dunmer or Altmer.  I personally will be rolling an Imperial because it is the race that best fits the character of “Belghast”.

Getting Invited to the Guild

As I said earlier, my goal is to be up at the time the servers go live and get the guild created asap.  One of the cool things about Elder Scrolls Online is the fact that you can friend people at an account level.  The easiest way to get invited to the guild is to friend @Belghast, as the game uses a system similar to twitter.  My goal is to get several people who can do invites in the interim and then deal with creating a formal “officer” structure later.  Additionally I will be using the Alliance of Awesome Reddit thread to organize invites for the “new to Stalwart” crowd.  For those who have access currently to our mumble server, I will be streaming the launch tomorrow in the “Bel is Streaming” channel.  So that is a really quick way to get invited is just to pop into the channel and ask for one.

The only other real decision looming on the horizon is what campaign we want to choose for Cyrodil.  There is a thread up on the Elder Scrolls website listing the various campaign names.  At this point they are all named after the iconic weapons that you get in the Elder Scrolls series by doing quests for the various Daedra.  As a result some of them are going to be far more popular than others.  I would imagine that Wabbajack would fill up before any of the others, thanks to the fond memories of Sheogorath.  Other names will appeal to the “sounds cool” crowd, and Auriel’s Bow will be full for the “I pick whatever the first name is in a list” crowd.  Right now I am thinking either Volendrung or Dawnbreaker might be good options.  Both are iconic weapons, but also not as iconic as say the Wabbajack.  However this is something we can decide later.

Big Easy Summary

  • Daggerfall Covenant Faction
  • North American Mega Server

If you have any questions feel free to post them here, or over on the Reddit Thread, or via Twitter, or ask them the day of via Mumble.  It is my goal to make this as clean and orderly a process as possible.  There are always some issues with any game launch, but hopefully thanks to the copious amounts of stress testing we have done to this game… it will go nice and smooth.

Communal Harvesting

A Circus with Wi-Fi

While yesterday was considerably better than Wednesday, it was still pretty freakin stressful.  It just seems that after essentially five days out of the office so much crap has stacked up that I absolutely have to deal with.  I keep threatening to run away and join the circus, but I don’t think anyone really takes me seriously at this point.  Afterall I would have to find a circus with wi-fi and fiber…  because really satellite internet sucks.  My boss asked me what exactly I would do at the circus, and I guess probably the easiest role to play would be “bearded lady”.  All I would really have to do is cross dress… and I guess I could deal with that.

Yesterday I managed to get over 10,000 steps with my fitbit for the first time so that is a little bit of a personal goal met.  In part we only managed to do this because we spent most of the evening shopping for a refrigerator.  The problem being that our house has one of those damned annoying “over the fridge” cabinets.  This means that we have a fixed amount of space that we can slide one in.  Problem being that if the numbers are not lying horribly… everything is about half an inch too tall.  We think actually the fridge we are looking at will fit just right, but if not we might have to do some “day of arrival” modification to the cabinet.  I was going to try and doctor this with a dremel, but yesterday one of my friends suggested a hand planer.  The fridge is still mostly functional (except for ice cream) so I think we have a little bit of leeway.

Bigger Claim

Landmark64 2014-03-28 06-13-28-23 I made it home well before my wife last night as is usually the case, so I ended up popping upstairs to play some Landmark.  In truth I first tore apart my computer and installed a brand new Geforce 750 ti 2 gb superclocked card that arrived.  It dropped into the machine without any issue, other than a little bit of confusion windows 8.1 had when I first booted up.  However as I was re-downloading the geforce drivers it seemed to magically right itself, so I am guessing behind the scenes windows was doing something.  I love my wife dearly for not balking at me wanting to pick one of these up, but overall she is super supportive of my obsessions just as I am of hers.  She also got a care package full of jewelry yesterday, so she also got something nifty in the mail.

I have to say that if I thought Landmark looked amazing on Medium or High, it looks all the better on Ultra.  My early evening obsession was in getting the two claim extension flags crafted so I could expand my hold on Liberation/Shield.  With the help of my good friend Rae I managed to gather up enough Elemental Tin to craft two of these flags.  Thing is… while applying them I realized that the upkeep costs are not weekly like I assumed, but daily.  Before adding my additional claim flag the upkeep cost was 300 copper per 24 hour period.  Adding one claim flag doubled this.  So while I don’t really see a problem harvesting 600 copper per day (and you can keep a stockpile of 5 days worth on your claim), I am not sure if I really want to do 900 a day and add the second flag.  So right now I will just sit on that for the time being, and if a friend needs it to expand their claim I will mail it their way.

Communal Harvesting

Landmark64 2014-03-27 21-24-28-84 When I finally got home in the evening from our whirlwind tour of the various appliance stores in town, I sat down with the purpose of working on upgrading my tools.  However my friend Rae and my friend Lethbridge were already grouped together in search of the illusive “thistle seeds” that only come from a super rare desert tree with purple flowers.  One of the coolest features of the Closed Beta that was not in the previous Alpha incarnation (at least that I know of) is the way grouping works.  If you and I are grouped and in the same area… essentially you have to be in visual distance of each other…  when I harvest you get a copy of everything I loot, and when you harvest I get a copy of everything you loot.  What makes this awesome is that while someone is harvesting one node, you can pop over and harvest a completely different node and share the benefit.

I am not entirely sure if this is a “feature” or a bug, but Audrae was way more progressed than me tool wise.  She and I played early in the evening, and then two hours later when I got home from the fridge-go-round she was still playing.  During that time she had progressed to a tungsten pick, and as we wandered around the their two zone looking for these trees she was able to harvest… and therefore transfer a copy to us of much higher materials than we could ever do on our own.  Essentially this means you can leap frog your friends over hurdles by wandering around and harvesting with them.  So while at the time I could not harvest the tungsten and gold, I could do iron or stone or a tree and still be somewhat useful.  Towards the end of the evening I arrived with a lot of help at the same place she is in the progression:  Tungsten Pick and Gold Axe.

Currently we are tag teaming the harvesting of cobalt in trying to get those picks, as well as wandering around the “old growth” forest biome looking for the illusive “Ancient Rootstock”.  This then gets refined into Vital Heartwood which is used to craft the haft of the Cobalt Pick we now lust after.  At this point honestly we are mostly focusing on item progression, and at some point soon hopefully I will have compiled a stockpile of materials to begin rebuilding “Belgarde Keep”.  The new version will be considerably bigger as I have two claims to work with now, but for the most part I plan on using the same sort of construction. This means I am going to need millions and millions of stone, which luckily I am getting while I wander around the world harvesting other things.

Landmark64 2014-03-28 06-41-04-00

In the curious footnote department… I noticed that in closed beta the loading screen has now completely dropped the “Everquest Next” verbiage from the logo.  It is now identified as “Landmark” and so is the client itself.  I am wondering if this is an attempt to start trying to clear up the confusion of how this connects to Everquest Next as a whole?  They have been up front about their intention that this is a completely separate game, that will share tech with Next, but have its own objectives.  So I guess this is the beginning of trying to divorce the two brands in the minds of the players.

The Great Landrun

Joining the Circus

joiningthecircus I have decided, that after the day I had yesterday, I am going to run away and join the circus.  Not that I particularly want to be a part of the circus, and especially not since clowns have always freaked me the hell out.  It however seems like the proper thing to do when you’ve had a day as bad as the one I had yesterday.  Lets scan back through the annals of time to September 11th 2012, and “the event”.  I had just returned back to work from taking a few days off for the death of my Grandfather, when a gross overreaction to a security scan gone wrong changed my life for the worst.

Yesterday was my first day back after taking two days off for the death of my grandmother.  As I was travelling in I got a text from my boss making sure that I would be there.  When I got in, things were bad.  Seems as though a security scan gone wrong had locked up and was not essentially DDoSing our websites.  So I spent most of the morning dealing with trying to triage our servers as the scan completed.  Finally someone had to go in and force cancel the scan because it seems like things had hung up completely.  I ended up spending a good chunk of my afternoon dealing with the fallout.  Then on top of that we had a major GIS system release, that kept me there until after 5:30.  Which doesn’t seem very long until you realize that I generally work 7 to 4.

Basically I was already not in the best shape after losing my grandmother, and to walk back into this shit storm… was almost more than I could handle.  However I managed to soldier through and do the stuff that needed to be done to get through the day.  Apparently this is what happens when I lose a grandparent… the world plots to destroy me.  I feel like it is appropriate still to run away and join the circus.  That seems to be the thing you are supposed to do when you have had a phenomenally bad day like yesterday.  The only problem is it might be difficult to find a circus with wi-fi, so I guess I will just limp through the rest of this week and try really hard to recuperate this weekend.  To add some icing to this cake, it seems like we need to go refrigerator shopping.  While most of the food is still freezing well enough, we have reached the point where Ice Cream is no longer “icy”, but instead more yogurt like consistency.

The Great Landrun

Landmark64 2014-03-27 06-04-21-29 Yesterday afternoon Landmark reopened and we were greeted by a slew of new servers and some completely new island names.  Gone was my beloved Liberation/Pingo so I knew I would have to venture out and find someplace new to call home.  I spent a bit of time popping between the tier 1 zones until I settled upon Liberation/Shield.  Originally I thought I would only be in game long enough to stake my claim and then run off and play some Diablo 3.  I was apparently wrong.  It turns out that this time around we had to gather up enough materials to be able to craft our very own claim flags.  By the time I landed on the island I noticed that the claimable land was already shrinking… and while doing a lot of complaining over twitch… I proceeded to try and gather the mats to make my claim flag.

With the founders pick, it was actually rather simple.  The claim flag requires 7 elemental iron, 10 heartwood, and 10 sapphire.  Before I really knew what I was doing I had gathered up the iron and the heartwood and only needed to find some sapphire.  However a short run from the portal spire I managed to find a patch and get more than enough gems to finish my flag.  I zipped to the portal which now has not only a forge but a sawmill as well as a brand new mailbox.  I was shocked and amazed that I was able to make a claim within visual distance of the spire on Liberation/Shield.  I proceeded to faff around for the next thirty minutes clearing my claim to prepare to try and rebuild Belgarde Keep.

Grappling Hook Lust

After I ate some dinner I popped back in and started streaming again.  Granted like usual I am in with my friends on mumble and we are not necessarily talking about Landmark.  However before too long the all consuming mission of Rae and I was to get back our grappling hook.  Being able to zip around the map rocks, and NOT having it made me sad.  So I popped around the map looking for a machine capable of making the grappler.  Turns out it is the outfitters workbench that can craft it, and just southeast of the portal in Liberation/Shield has a really great claim.  Serac has apparently poured through the creation of some of the better machines, and will hopefully serve as a nice outpost close to me for building all the stuff I need to build.

While it took damned near all night to find 20 elemental tin… since surface tin seems to be a rarity, I did manage to cobble one together before I had to go to sleep.  The only problem… I had forgotten just how bad the Bronze Grappling hook sucked.  For starters the cord is insanely short, so you can only grapple very short distances.  On top of that it has always felt like it is far more random in its hook points than the later ones.  All of that said… any grappler is better than no grappler.  At least now I can dig my way into a hole with impunity, knowing that I can zip back up to the surface just by hitting E.

If any of the SOE folk are reading this… you guys should totally sneak me a prime grappler code under the table.  I still want to know how those things work as compared to the highest tier grappler I crafted in Alpha, which I believe was Viridium.  Another really amazing addition this time is the mailbox I mentioned earlier.  Throughout the night I mailed several sets of “claim flag mats” to various friends who did not have the luck to start the game with the Founders Pick.  With the massive run on land going on, I wanted to make sure most of them had the chance to claim a decent space while they were still available.  Now if you were an alpha player…  you are on your own since it is relatively simple to gather up the materials after getting in and seeing just how common Iron, Heartwood and Sapphire really are.

The Crusades

The Morning After

Yesterday was a trying day to say the least.  The funeral for my grandmother was at the odd hour of 9:30, and to add to that it was 35* outside which made me cling to my leather jacket like a life vest.  The wind that was blowing made the graveside portion absolute torture.  When we got back to the dinner afterwards, we huddled around the coffee pot trying to warm up.  I feel like it has been too long since I had been to a catholic funeral, because after going to mostly protestant ones over the last few years…  it felt very clinical and detached from my grandmother.  I am sure she would have liked it, being the devout catholic that she was, and the priest… however hard he was to understand seemed to do his level best to give her a proper sendoff.

Normally I am used to absolutely losing my shit at some point during the funeral service as loved ones recount tales of the deceased.  This didn’t happen, either in the losing my shit variety or the recounting tales variety.  It was a mass, just like every other mass I have attended… with the exception that there was a casket at the front.  Nothing about the service felt like we were honoring my grandmother… instead it just felt like we were obeying a ritual.  It is sad she is gone, but the positive of it all is that I think it is going to help my generation… the cousins to reconnect.  We stood around and visited for a couple of hours in the church hall after the service.

For whatever problems my moms generation has had with drama… that seems to be completely absent from my generation.  It was good seeing my cousins and finding out that all but one are living in close enough vicinity to be able to get together for dinner.  My wife is already scheming to have some sort of a cousins day out at the zoo.. in part because the children of my cousins don’t really know each other… and that is a damned shame.  I remember similar outings to the kiddie park etc, that let my generation mingle and get to know each other.  While I have never really fit into my family, it seems like none of my cousins have really felt like they fit in either.  I guess it is time for us to create our own brand of family.

The Crusades

Screenshot035 I have to say I love everything about the crusader.  I somehow got left out of the Reaper of Souls beta shenanigans, so yesterday was quite literally the first time I had played one.  I have always been drawn to “tanky” characters, or at the very least sword and board oriented ones.  The crusader so far does not disappoint at all.  I have only made it a little way through the play through and I am already digging the look and feel and style.  My friends seem to have a problem with the male crusader voice acting, but I dig it so far.  So right now I am completely torn, I want to play my crusader so much…  but I also want to complete Act V.  In part because I don’t want the internet to spoil my fun.  I can only go so long without reading tweets about D3, and sooner or later someone is going to spoil the ending.

Granted Blizzard games are not exactly high fiction, but I am trying to keep whatever I can about the game secret for now.  Which is extremely ironic, considering I live streamed the entire evenings play.  So basically… if you care about spoilers don’t watch.  It should be at least mildly entertaining as within moments of starting playing last night, I ended up with two other friends joining me in my mission.  Whenever Rae is in the channel it is always entertaining.  As the evening went on we ended up with Tib, Waren, Drathis and eventually Tam in the channel as well.  Granted our trio never really changed during the course of the evening, but suffice as to say that we were all somehow playing Reaper of Souls.

So far I am really enjoying the new content.  I don’t want to dig too deeply into it as to create my own spoilers but the maps are pretty vast, and extremely detailed.  The thing that I am liking the most so far is how almost every single dungeon has some sort of new event.  These were my favorite thing about Diablo 3, but they just felt like they were to sparse or random as to whether or not you would actually see one.  The amount of creativity that went into designing this acts traps and events is pretty great.  There is also an amazing sub theme going on, that will make Frank Herbert fans excited, but I won’t go into more detail than that.  It is not exactly subtle, but fans of the Dune series will pick up on the references.

Bounty of Games

eso 2014-02-17 13-58-08-09 Right now my big hope is to be able to get through Act five this week, and hopefully have my monk to level 70 to show for it.  The primary reason I am wanting to push through the content is that if my math is correct… Elder Scrolls Online head start begins this Sunday.  Granted this is the five day launch for folks who preordered imperial edition through Zenimax… but that is precisely what I did.  I have been really looking forward to this game and I am amped to finally get in and make some permanent decisions.  Like I have said before, I have been in testing of this title for over a year at this point and have watched it grow from something good to something great.  The only problem is…  it is launching super close to Reaper of Souls.  So while I don’t want to abandon playing a crusader… I know I will at least for the short term.  I intend to be in and streaming ESO from day one as I wander around and adventure on my Imperial Sword and Shield Dragon Knight.

Ding 60… and 90

The Rosary

While I grew up catholic, it has literally been years since I had been to the crux of catholic existence… the rosary.  Somehow my wife who was raised Baptist has never actually attended one at all in the over 16 years we’ve been married (or two decades we’ve been together).  Under normal circumstances this would have been a disorienting experience, but last night it was made doubly so by a weird quirk of the modern church.  It seems as though there is a massive priest shortage currently in the church.  Quite simply put very few individuals enter the priesthood in America, and this is really no big surprise given the negative image of the church over numerous sex scandals.  I am not adding commentary here, just stating the fact that there is a massive shortage of priests.

As a result since the retirement of the priest I grew up with, they briefly had a priest designed to “reinforce catholic doctrine”.  Father had many quirks, one of them was a refusal to have “special offerings” for the various causes of the Catholic church.  Apparently lately there have been no less than three passing of the plate for various causes, so I can see why he refused to do that crap.  Anyways since the reformer priest, they have cycled through a series of priests, none of them native English speakers.  Each one seemingly harder to understand than the last one.  The catholic church is thriving in other parts of the world…  just not here in America.  So when you take what would have already been a confused experience and add in severe language issues…  it was all my wife could do to keep from laughing.

For starters each time the priest would say a “Hail Mary”, he sounded like he was bored with the prayer.  As a result he would begin running his words together and mumbling.  So this produced all sorts of interesting things.  After the Rosary I got together with my cousins and we all compared notes on what we heard.  I personally thought he was saying something about a “Roma Tomato”, one of my cousins heard “Fruit of the Loom” and another something about “flushing the toilet”.  It reminded me of a time when I was at my wife’s church, and the preacher had an extremely thick accent.  We kept thinking he was talking about “Bastard’s For Christ” instead of what we found out later was “Ambassadors for Christ”.  The problem is once you hear it…  you can’t un-hear it… and while I knew by memory the words he was trying to say, I had no less trouble making them out.

So long as he was sticking to prayers I knew I was mostly okay, but there was a period where because of his respect for my grandmother…  he went completely off script.   The words I did manage to grasp, seemed to be meandering and completely off focus.  He was talking about how some people live to be 100, and most people live to be 60.  Which I thought was an odd statement considering the vast majority of the people in front of him… were well over 60.   Thankfully all of us managed to make it through more or less with a straight face.  The only thing I am certain of is that we have a new florist.  The shop we used to use is no longer in business, so we tried the spouse of a person my wife teaches with.  She did an amazing job and produced two gorgeous arrangements for a more than reasonable price.  It’s always good to have a florist at the ready.

Ding 60… and 90

Wow-64 2014-03-25 07-16-07-71 Yesterday during the day I spent a good chunk of my time streaming and playing World of Warcraft.  With the release of Reaper of Souls last night at midnight, and the upcoming headstart of Elder Scrolls Online… I really wanted to get my mage to 60 so I could perform the boost.  Going into the day I was sitting at 57 so just a stones throw away from the finish line.  I spent most of that time chain running dungeons, and if you are phenomenally bored you can watch almost the entire adventure on my twitch stream.  A few odd things happened along the way.  Firstly I ran into a guild called Combat Wombats… which in itself is not that interesting.  What I do find interesting is that they are apparently not connected at all to the guild by the same name run by several of my blogger friends.  I threw out a few names, and the two members of the guild didn’t have a clue who I might be talking about.

Second interesting thing is that I reached a point of equilibrium where I maybe didn’t suck at magery as badly.  In fact for quite a while running these dungeons I was pretty damned high on the damage meters and overall damage done.  I felt like I had grasped the basics of playing frost and was ready to move on to bigger and better things.  When I dinged 60 and took the boost to 90 I went from being confident to being completely confused.  In the 30 levels that I skipped over, I had more than doubled the number of buttons I had to keep track of.  Firstly I found it extremely disorienting to have my hotbars completely replaced without being prompted.  At least when I took the jump to 80 from the scroll of resurrection, it asked me if I wanted to have them rearrange my hotbars.

After deconstructing them and trying to remember what I had on each of the buttons, I realized that I had way more buttons than places to put them.  This is the problem with boosting.  In those 30 levels the way a mage plays changes drastically, and I am sure this happens for all of the classes.  So while I felt extremely comfortable playing a mage before the boost, afterwards I felt like I was a complete and total “nub” again.  I scrounged around and found a complete set of timeless isle gear between the banks for a few characters.  Complete in the pieces of armor, as I was missing 1 ring, a necklace and two trinkets.  However this took my overall gear score to 491 which I felt was better than most of the boostards would be.  As a test I decided to queue for the first stage of Throne of Thunder.

While I was not the lowest dps… I was really damned close.  There is so much going on, that I felt completely lost in trying to figure out when I should do what.  I like all the other boostards did things backwards.  After realizing I was in over my head, I did a little bit of research and I think for the most part I have a grasp on what my priority should be for casting.  At some point in the next few days I will try the next part of the LFR to see if my overall numbers improve.  I would run a few heroics, but quite honestly… I find LFR to be far less confrontational when you are not sure about how you are doing.  I can almost always do better than the worst player, so that gives me the leverage to learn on my feet rather than being called out in a 5 man group.

Pugs Aren’t All Bad

I had another interesting incident happen yesterday, that is making me feel like I need to re-evaluate my stance on pugging.  Starting to think that maybe I should even start trying to tank them some more.  In all of the dungeons I have run on my mage to get to 60, I had very few situations where things did not go well.  More than that, I have had a few incidents happen where folks have been genuinely awesome.  Yesterday in the middle of a Lower Blackrock Spire run, I ended up meeting a pretty awesome druid healer.  Throughout the course of the run we chatted back and forth, and when for no apparent reason half of the party bailed on us, we hung out for a bit while waiting on the queue to fill.  She said she was waiting around on a call from the vets, and was hoping to get a few dungeon runs in the meantime.

Since she was on a timeframe, I told her that she should drop group and should be able to get an instant queue.  She thanked me, and we went on our way… thinking that I would never see this player again.  Turns out there were really only a few people queuing at that time of the day, and when the queue popped I was in another LBRS group with the same healer.  We had a really good druid tank to work with, but he admitted straight up that he didn’t know his way around the zone.  So I helped shuttle him through the content, giving him a few tips on nasty pulls.  We wiped a few times, but overall everyone stuck with it and we managed to complete the dungeon.  Over the course of the run the healer talked about coming back to wow and wishing she could find a good guild to run with.

After the conclusion of the run I gave her the spiel on House Stalwart.  Went over our three rules, and a bit of background information.  Once again I didn’t really expect anything to come of it, but within thirty minutes she had rolled a priest on Argent Dawn and pinged me for an invite.  So as frustrating as pugs can be, I guess there are some genuinely nice players just trying to get through the game as well.  I went into the dungeons not expecting anything more than experience, and ended up walking out with a new guild member.  Considering just how many of my current guildies are people who I met through dungeon groups… I really should relax my anti-pug stance and give it a shot now and then.  There are always going to be gems in the rough out there to be found.

Faffing the Steppes

Fitbit Logic

So this is the point where I am supposed to come up with something interesting to talk about for a blog post.  I kinda over did it a bit yesterday with the double posting, but that family drama piece really needed out of my head.  Once I finished posting it, we both dressed and went out into the world to run the errands that needed running.  The fit bit does funny things to you.  I find myself parking way the hell out in the middle of nowhere just to be able to get some extra steps in.  This also permeated our grocery store trip.  I am normally one of those people who goes exactly to the areas of the store for the items I need and then zips straight out.  I used to be able to do the weekly shopping trip in about fifteen minutes.

However yesterday we purposefully meandered up and down every possible isle, not because we didn’t know exactly what we needed… but we were trying to milk the trip for as much walking as humanly possible.  So we wandered up and down the isles, saving the frozen foods for last.  Not unexpectedly we probably bought a lot more groceries than normal but we got our maximum amount of walking from the trip.  It feels like cheating, since I am going out of my way to try and put in as many steps as possible into everything I do.  However… I guess that was really the point of gamifying exercise.  Funny thing is, last night at one point I got up to get a drink while watching the walking dead.  When I got back I ended up pacing around for a bit while watching the television before sitting back down.

Faffing the Steppes

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Most of yesterday was spent faffing about in World of Warcraft.  With the impending launch of Reaper of Souls tomorrow, and the headstart for Elder Scrolls Online soon… I really want to get my mage to 60 so I can boost it.  My gameplan in general has been to work on quests while not in a dungeon.  But I am pretty much habitually queuing at every chance I get.  This has been interesting to say the least.  Normally speaking I can stomach pugs if I am not tanking, and for the most part this has been the same with playing a mage.  The only problem I run into is when I have a tank that simply doesn’t know what they are doing.  To make it worse, many of these tanks in question are not speaking English.  I really question the logic behind blizzard lumping non-english and english speaking servers together.

Granted this happens with European servers in pretty much every single game.  However speaking more than one language is a much more common occurrence there.  While I can pick out a few words here and there of Spanish, I am by no means fluent enough to get my point across.  At one point last night the tank in question skipped half of the zone.  Since we were all leveling, and killing things means more experience… I didn’t really get the point.  Since the tank was only speaking Portuguese I had no real way of conveying my questions.  Maybe blizzard needs to look into embedding Google translate into their API, or maybe that is an add-on idea waiting to happen.  There have been many games that have bridged the language gap very well with some auto translation.  I think maybe it is time for Blizzard to look into doing the same.

Veronica Mars

I finally got around to watching the Veronica Mars movie this weekend, and I have to say I liked it quite a bit.  I started watching the series on a random whim, and thought my wife might also enjoy it.  So together we worked our way through the entirety of the series when it was on Netflix.  It is one of those rare instances where a TV show appeals equally to both of us.  Mostly for me…  I like the title character.  I love the random quirky smartassery that comes out of her mouth, and the creative solutions to awkward situations.  I find it odd just how this show, much like Firefly has found such an active “life after death”.  If nothing else this proves to me that Hollywood knows exactly jack shit about what people want.  Kickstarter and similar community backing seems to be a way for the huddled masses that don’t fit into the neat bubble of “pop culture” to finally get the things they have always wanted.

I did not back the show, mostly because I was feeling more than a little bit of Kickstarter fatigue when it happened.  Thankfully not everyone was me.  When it came out I bought the $20 digital copy from Amazon, because I wanted to put my money where my mouth.  The only problem with the digital offerings here is they are all pretty much heinous, and none of them are really compatible with my chosen method of watching television and movies.  Namely I prefer to stream things to my television using Chromecast and Plex.  Granted I could do the crappy tabcasting thing, which is fine for say a twitch stream, but ends up annoying me when trying to watch something more “long form”.  As a result I went out an acquired a downloaded copy of the movie to back up the one I paid for.  Dear Hollywood…  your DRM is dumb for making me pirate the movie after paying legally for it.  You are doing it wrong.

As far as the movie itself goes…  I liked it a lot.  I am not sure exactly how I can give it a proper review without absolutely giving everything away.  The characters I liked from the television show that I cared about, all made cameo appearances even if they didn’t always factor heavily into the plot of the movie.  The quality of acting and cinematography was great, especially considering this did not go through the traditional channels.  That said however… the movie felt a bit off at times, or more so it just felt like I was watching an hour and a half long episode of the television show.  The movie ends in a perfect place for them to pick up a sequel or even another television show.  So here is hoping this is not the last we see of Veronica Mars.

Miracle of Normality

Visiting Grandma

So today you are getting a bonus post out of me.  Sometimes I post out of a sense of duty, other times I post because I need to get something out of my head.  This is going to be one of the later, and as a result it is going to be deeply personal.  Gratz… you guys get to go inside my head for a bit.  If you only care about the gaming side of my blog then today’s post is likely not for you.  Yesterday afternoon we made the trip up to my hometown, because after not going for a few days… we felt like we needed to.  My mother has not been dealing with this terribly well, and honestly I feel like I haven’t even really started dealing myself.

The big event that has transpired since last up there, was that Grandma was ready for viewing at the local funeral home.  I am not a big fan of funerals, and not a huge fan of viewing the body.  People talk about how the body “looks just like them”, or how good of a job the funeral home did.  I have to say objectively… that the funeral home did do a good job.  They made my grandmother look pretty, but the problem is…  my grandmother is not laying there in that casket.  What remained laying there was a carefully decorated husk left behind when the person they were, died.

I am not a deeply religious person, in fact after my catholic upbringing I have pretty much avoided allegiance to any religious doctrine.  I tend to believe the things that I can directly observe, but I do believe in the soul.  I think we just lack the technology yet to observe the fundamental spark that makes each of us a unique person.  I have been there as someone died, and watched the light leave their body.  Moments before they were the person I knew and loved, and then almost like a balloon deflating whatever magical stuff made them the person… was just gone.  So that is why I say that no matter how pretty they attempt to make the husk… it never “looks just like them”.  When I die I want to be cremated… I want to dispel all illusions that what remains when I am gone, is anything but my remnants.

Miracle of Normality

Once we finished viewing the body, we went out to my grandmothers house to see my mother.  My mother and uncle have more or less been holding vigil at grandmas house trying to contact the family and figure out what all they needed to do before the funeral this coming Tuesday.  The more time I spend there around her siblings and my cousins… the more amazed I am that I made it out of the environment relatively unscathed.  That is not to say I don’t have my own deep furrows and scars… but I fared far better than most.  My mom and dad for whatever failings they had somehow managed to provide me a relatively normal upbringing, my cousins did not end up so lucky.

It seems like the only real way to be okay, is to escape the gravity of this small town.  My cousin didn’t make it out, and now he is a drug infused mess.  He managed to marry a woman who was even more messed up than himself, and together they brought into this world a lovely and intelligent little girl.  The problem is… the longer she is caught in the gravity well of the two of them… the worse off she will be.  He claims that he is no longer using, but the signs betray him.  He is severely fried, doing all the telltale signs that my friends did in high school when they were “flying high”.  So either he is using, or his wife is using enough to give him a permanent contact high.

He has pretty much burned all of his bridges with local employers, who give the assessment that “he is a hard worker, when he shows up for work and is sober”.  Essentially what he needs to do is take his daughter and go somewhere far far away from the influence of his “friends”.  Because he is basically destroying her life as well.  Right now he is making money by scavenging for metals to sell for what will ultimately end up as drug money.  He was talking about how good his daughter had gotten as spotting copper.  How she ends up dragging home extension cords, and various other things that have copper in them.  I fully expect that this is going to end up in tragedy.

At this point… I am wondering what exactly I can do.  He at least cares for her and tries really hard to be a good father.  If I turn them into DHS, she is old enough and far enough gone that she will bounce from foster home to foster home and likely end up more messed up than she already is.  Her best hope right now is for him to essentially give her to his sister to raise.  His sister escaped the gravity well and moved far far away.  So much so that when my mom called to tell her about grandma, she didn’t answer the phone and had to call back after listening to the message.  She said that she no longer answered phone calls from our area code, because she refused to let her family be torn apart by her brother.

Still Dealing

So anytime I try and break down over missing my grandmother, I just find that I can’t.  I live such a charmed life in comparison to the rest of my family.  I feel like in some way I don’t deserve to break down.  I realize at some point I will have to “deal” and it won’t exactly be pretty.  Thankfully I have a very supportive wife, and a vast support structure of friends that will be there to catch me when I fall.  In the meantime I am going to keep soldiering forward towards Tuesday, and the funeral.  There were so many times I had to bite my tongue yesterday, and I was very proud of my wife in that she was able to as well.  There was a constant flurry of texting between the two of us, but through that we were able to keep “stable”.

Grandma would not want there to be fighting, and there is a very tentative peace currently between the siblings… and they don’t need me straining it.  Right now everything of grandmas entered a trust, where the four brothers and sisters… and my cousin who represents the fifth now have to work together to make decisions.  This is not going to end cleanly, and I imagine shortly after the funeral a war will erupt between the siblings.  I can already see people cracking up, and my mother is not exactly helping this by being extremely overbearing.  I realize they are all hurting, they are just dealing with that hurt in some bad ways.  In the midst of all of this… my internal conflict and suffering really doesn’t matter much.  So I will do my damnedest to keep a stoic face until everything is finished.

Assassin’s Creed II

Steampowered Sunday #10

I have had a really lousy week, and if you have followed my blog you know why.  However that said, I did not want to break the Steampowered Sunday tradition.  This week we had a tie between Assassin’s Creed II and Evoland, and in order to settle the tie I essentially flipped a coin.  As a result I played roughly and hour and a half of Assassin’s Creed II.  At face value this seems like a game I would not like very much, considering in general I do not like stealth titles.  However so many friends of mine have been so into this game series that I felt like I had to give it a try.  I feel like I am somehow losing gamer cred by admitting that I have never played ANY of the Assassin’s Creed games before today.

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All of my friends have said that the essential title that I needed to start with was Assassin’s Creed II, so as a result that is the title I have placed in the running for a few weeks.  Initially the title suffers from many of the console game tropes that I hate.  Namely the “long introduction” and the forced “stealth” to get to an area where the game opens up.  Then when you finally get into the action, there is yet another trope that I cannot stand…  “the un-skippable mini-game” namely in the form of the rooftop race with your brother.  So early on… things were not looking really good for this title.  Within the first 15 minutes it had committed three cardinal sins.  That said I kept playing and eventually got a grasp on why exactly this game is fun.

AssassinsCreedIIGame 2014-03-23 11-16-19-93

Where this game shines is the open world exploration aspect.  While they only give you a small area at a time to roam around, for the most part you are allowed to get to your objective in whatever fashion you like.  Additionally the “stealth” aspect of the game is extremely forgiving.  If you are “feeling your wheaties” you can beat the shit out of your pursuers, or if you don’t feel like fighting you can simply run away and in a grand theft auto style wait for the coast to be clear again.  Your enemies show up as very clear red dots on the map, and in many times you can simply blend into the crowd to avoid them.  The only time they seem to notice you is if you are extremely close or doing something like running about or doing something to draw attention to yourself.

AssassinsCreedIIGame 2014-03-23 11-22-55-66 I realize at an hour and a half into the game I have barely scratched the surface.  So far it seems like the game progresses in a very GTA style, where you are presented a series of small quests.  Some of them involve going and fetching something, others beating up a person, and others still following around NPCs and helping them with some task.  All of this is pretty boring, but the fact that you can accomplish these missions by wandering around the rooftops of the city make it far more enjoyable.  I can see why people are into this title, and I think I would like it even more if it were more open and free.  I can only imagine how great this title would be if it were presented in a more “fallout” type sandbox manner.  Right now you are given pretty clear direction in what the quests do and which ones you should take.

AssassinsCreedIIGame 2014-03-23 11-18-25-82 So far the only real frustration is when I manage to get a “timed event” style quest.  I find movement in this world to be cludgy at best, especially after being used to the parkour of newer games like Titanfall.  There are many times where I do something like leap off of a building that I did not intend, but did so because I either didn’t wait long enough for my camera angle to readjust or waited too long.  If I can get used to the quirks of the movement I feel like my enjoyment will improve, however when you put me under a timer and the  movement does something screwball I feel like throwing the controller across the room.  I have to remind myself that this game was initially released in 2009, and since then game controls have become so much more responsive.  I am sure if I cracked open Assassin’s Creed IV many of these issues have been solved.

AssassinsCreedIIGame 2014-03-23 11-15-41-64 Overall I think this is going to be a title I play quite a bit more of.  In fact once I finish a few chores this morning, I will probably boot it back up and play some more.  I am hooked enough on what is there to make me want to play some more.  Right now I am also feeling deeply antisocial, so a single player title is a good option.  At this moment I am tentatively positive about the game and considering I got it as part of a massive package of other Assassin’s Creed titles, I can see maybe going back and playing the others as well.  My friends all told me to start with 2, because there were some serious controllability issues prior to that point.  If that is the case I am very glad I did, because I already feel like 2 is more than a little awkward, I would not have likely made it this far in a title where the controls were worse.