Nerd on Nerd Violence

Hipster Glasses

hipsterglasses Living in Oklahoma is absolutely insane sometimes.  We have been having a string of 80 degree days lately, and it has been fairly glorious.  When we went for our walk in the evening it would be in the high 70s and absolutely wonderful outside.  Last night the temperature dropped again and this morning it is 48 degrees outside.  I don’t like turning the AC and Heater off and on, especially for a short cold snap like this, so instead last night we simply piled the blankets on.  I am so thankful for our cats , because Chloe our fattest and fuzziest cat somehow managed to squeeze between us and under the covers keeping us both nice and toasty through the night.

Yesterday I happened to snap the photo on the side on a whim.  The previous day I had gotten some new glasses, so I snapped a photo to send to my wife to show her.  Well yesterday morning we had some absolutely amazing looking skies.  When I went to snap a photo I noticed that the camera was still turned the wrong way, and using the front facing one.  At which point I noticed that it looked pretty cool to see my head surrounded by the halo of clouds.  This is the first photo I have seen of myself in years that I actually kinda like.  I have had a lot of issues with the way I look and in part it has been due to the weight issues I have had.  Just like I am starting to get used to my own voice through all the podcasting I have been doing… I am starting to become more comfortable in my own skin.

The willingness to try something new as far as glasses go is probably just a side effect of this.  I have literally work the same hair cut, and same glasses for damned near two decades.  While they aren’t always the same frames they are as close to the same thing as I can get at the time.  I like to keep things simple, and I have always reasoned with myself that this is in part because I am trying to not have to think about things.  In part I think it is this lack of comfort in my own skin that had lead me to simply think it didn’t matter what I wore or what I looked like.  I kind of dig the new glasses, my friends have been giving me shit about them.  When I like something they say it is because I am being “ironic” or if I dislike something they claim it is “too mainstream”.  That however will fade, and each of them has begrudgingly said that they like them as well.

Nerd on Nerd Violence

stillabetterlovestory Since getting my fitbit I have done all sorts of little things to hack my life and try and add in more exercise where I could.  While I have always parked on the roof, I’ve begun walking up and down the ramps from the 6th floor to the 4th floor where the skywalk is.  As a result I have started noticing various vehicles and one of them has stood out.  There is a green Honda “something” that has a cute little demon skull and cross bones on it and a “twilight girl” sticker.  My feelings about that sticker have evolved over the last few weeks as I have passed it.  I think we can universally agree that the Twilight series is pretty horrible.  My wife had been given the books by a student, and she read them… then when the first movie came out we struggled through it.  We both agreed it was a horrible idea and one we would never repeat again.

Thing is… somewhere along the line this morphed in culture from “twilight is horrible” to “people who like twilight are horrible”.  As I have spent the last weeks walking past this car I had a revelation.  This person is a geek, and they have proudly emblazoned their vehicle with something they obviously care about.  While we might not like it, we have to respect the fact that they stepped up and announced that they loved something… anything.  This is no different than my Doctor Who lanyard, or my co-workers collection of my little ponies, those things are just “socially acceptable” geekdom.  At one point or another throughout our lives we have been picked on for those same geeky traits, and if you have not… then you’ve lived a truly charmed life.  It just feels like picking on someone for liking a horrible novel, is fairly hypocritical.

The other night I friends and I ended up having a fairly epic discussion after I had stopped recording the podcast about the decision to completely jettison everything in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.  As we started discussing it, the initial reaction was “how dare they” and it faded more into a “makes sense” as we started to recount the various aspects of the Expanded Universe.  For each thing that we loved we managed to pull out five or six fairly horrible and badly written constructs from the comics, novels or video games.  Most of it was no less “horrible fan service” than the Twilight novels.  As much as I loved Dark Empire for example… you have to admit it is a pretty dumb story arc when it involves the fact that there are millions of clone emperors hidden throughout the galaxy.  Not to mention the fact that while Luke spent an entire series of movies fighting the Dark Side, he decides to give in within a couple of comic books.

We are all guilty of loving something completely moronic that has no literary merit.  So I say to the “Twilight Girls” out there… rock that shit and ignore the people who will hate you for it.  To the rest of us…  we need to realize that this person is a geek just like we are, they just happen to like different things.  Geekdom is not a thing we own, there are no rules of entry.  While I might rage on “Brogamers” and what they have done to my beloved gaming community… they have no less right to be there than I do.  For us 30 and 40 something’s, who spent our lives getting excluded from pop culture…  it really is not cool that we try and do the same thing to others.  I am proud when I see anyone let their geek flag fly… even if it is not something that I particularly care about.

Prophet Loves Jewelry

Screenshot_20140429_204839 I was all over the place last night gaming wise.  I popped into Trove for a bit and streamed it, and I decided to do the same for Rift and show off our awesome guild hall.  When I finally settled on a game and played for a bit it was once again Elder Scrolls Online.  Over the course of leveling I seem to have completely ignored the main story.  This is in part because you keep having to go back the harborage to keep accepting the next step, and for whatever reason I have simply not taken the time to do this.  As a result I spent a good chunk of last night trying to play catch up and do both the level 35 and 40 main storyline quests.  My big takeaway… is that at some point during his history The Prophet managed to knock over a jewelry store.  He seems to have this endless supply of necklaces and rings.

At this point I am a stones throw away from 44 and I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of Bangkorai.  Normally I do a pretty bad job of following quest chains through the zones in Elder Scrolls, but this zone… I have done worse than normal.  I have objectives scattered all over the place some of them completed, others still dark and unfinished.  I am getting cursed quite a lot because I cannot stop myself from charging packs of werewolves and vampires.  I’ve had the “Sanies Lupinus” curse more times than I can count, but it seems to just go away on its own rather rapidly if you do nothing about it.  I had one guy rather mad at me the other night named “Raper of Souls”, which was convenient since I had already paused to report his name.  Yes I am one of those people… I report bad names, and do so on a nightly basis.  I am not going out of my way to troll people who are trying to turn into a werewolf or a vampire… I am simply playing the game as I always do.  Namely I charge first and ask questions later.

Thankfully we have plenty of werewolves and vampires in guild if someone needs to get bitten.  Personally I would far rather choose neither and be a hunter.  In fact I have already morphed my silver bolts attack to also effect werewolves.  I’ve always had a love of werewolves, so in theory I would totally become one were it not gimped.  Right now werewolf seems a bit underwhelming, considering all of its buffs only actually take place when you are in Crinos form.  Yes I just called it Crinos form…  I played a lot of Werewolf: The Apocalypse, so it will always be known as Crinos to me.  Vampire on the other hand has all sorts of passive benefits that are active all the time, but the weakness to fire seems far more problematic than the werewolf weakness to poison.  As a result… I am just walking the line between and hunting both equally.  Though oddly… I seem to be going out of my way to save both werewolves and vampires in the storyline.

#ElderScrollsOnline #ESO #HipsterGlasses #NerdOnNerdViolence

The Achilles Heel

The Struggle

Most mornings my posts flow freely from my fingers as I sit here typing away at my keyboard.  This morning however is not one of them.  For whatever reason I feel completely drained of anything that makes sense.  Over the weekend I spent quite a bit of it at a severe sleep debt, and I think for the most part I am still trying to recover from that.  When I am in doubt I turn to my RSS feed, but after thumbing through the pages I have yet to really get the inspiration to write anything either.  I am in a really weird place right now.  I am still very much loving Elder Scrolls Online, but I also feel like most of what I say about it is just repeating something I said earlier.  So instead I think this morning I will talk about the points that frustrate me.  I’ve been more or less accused of being a cheerleader for the game, or at the very least our podcast as “full of fanboys”.

The Achilles Heel

Screenshot_20140415_214158 For as awesome as the game is there is one massive and glaring hole in the game.  It is simply too damned hard to group up with your friends.  This problem is multi-faceted, but revolves around a few variables.  Firstly content “trivializes” when you are five levels over the level of the actual mobs.  This means you get no experience, gold or any other form of loot from killing the monsters.  This also means that the experience that you gain from completing the quests is significantly reduced.  While I have said that content is still relatively challenging a good deal over level, that also means you are taking risk with zero reward.  This becomes a massive problem when a guild member happens to need a low level dungeon.  The first time someone completes an Elder Scrolls Dungeon it is pretty much a given that there will be wipes.  For the on level players this is really not a huge deal, but for the higher level players that have been drafted… it is pretty significant.

I feel like once I have gotten my 42,700 gold mount this will be less of an issue for me, but right now as it stands I am taking zero risks when it comes to my bank account.  I am a stones throw away from the mount, and right now just trying to build up enough of a cap to afford a repair if I need one after buying it.  By repair right now that means roughly 2000 gold each time I do it.  This is always the problem as players age through content, trying to keep enough money inflow to pay for the money going out.  Having mobs completely trivialize and stop being worth any loot is a big problem when I consistently out age the content of a given zone.  Bangkorai for example is a zone that seems to cap out mob level wise at 43.  I just dinged 43 last night and I have not even completely half of the content in the zone.  This means that my need to turn all the black dots white on my map will easily cause me to stop getting loot long before I finish the content.

For a game that already has significant problems with bots hanging out in dungeons and farming bosses over and over, this is a hard problem to solve.  My immediate suggestion would be to make the group-able level range something more like ten levels, rather than five.  Encounters ten levels under you can still a challenge especially in a dungeon setting.  That would also ensure that you gain loot the entire way through a zone, regardless of how much you manage to dawdle around.  I realize the whole trivialization thing is not going to be an issue once I enter the veteran levels, however that is setting up the same problem every MMO has ever had.  If the “real” game begins at 50, then why even have the pre-50 game.  I don’t necessarily believe this, but I am playing devils advocate here.  My problem is I happen to love the leveling game in every game I play, and the Elder Scrolls Online is no different.

Mixed Mode Grouping

Screenshot_20140421_224612 Another huge problem the game has is that grouping is somewhat piecemeal as you level.  You are constantly flowing between quests that allow multiple players to complete them together, and quests that require you to solo them in a private instance.  Additionally the system is confused about players getting credit for things.  You can simply ride by someone fighting a the last mob in a quest chain and accidentally get a quest completed, but when it comes to anything that requires gathering… each and every party member has to get their own items.  This generally lends to frustration as you end up waiting around for respawns to allow the character that is lagging behind to complete that step in the quest chain before progressing to the next item.  It feels like this whole system could have been better thought out.  Duoing is a very common tactic for couples and friends leveling in a new game, and this game seems to support this extremely well at times, but really badly in a few cases.

Where this gets compounded is when a duo happens upon a solo instanced quest.  Inevitably one of the members will breeze through the content, and the other will struggle.  I’ve seen more than a few duos derailed by Doshia already in our guild, and I am sure as a whole it is probably even worse.  The game has very particular skill check moments, and this ends up locking a single player away behind that quest so that they cannot progress further in a given quest chain until they solo it.  What does the other half of the duo do at that point?  Do they twiddle their thumbs and wait around for them to complete it…  therefore putting more pressure on the member that isn’t quite able to grasp the fight as quickly?  Do they wander off and kill random stuff potentially causing them to get ahead in level.  These gates are awesome in theory, but hell on people trying to keep at the same level.

The Game Needs Mentoring

Screenshot_20140405_210040 This game is in desperate need of mentoring.  I realize at this point I have banged this drum so damned many times that the skin on it is close to cracking from the abuse.  However I feel like every game is better off with a mentoring system.  For those not familiar with the concept, mentoring is a system that allows a high level player to drop their level to that of the player.  If you group a level 50 character with a 20 character, this functionally makes them both level 20 characters.  Scaling always makes it so that the mentored down character is “better than” their level, but it works better than not having it.  Generally speaking a mentored character receives loot as though they were at the level of the group and the difficulty is something similar to level as well.  This is a magic bullet, and has worked to make every game that has it better.

This was my key point of frustration with the game when I heard it did not exist.  It is never the right answer not to ship with both Bolstering, like you see in Cyrodil and mentoring.  I have a maxim that is getting tired at this point… but it is no less true today than it was when I first started posting about it.  Anything that gets in the way of you grouping with your friends is bad.  These games are social experiences, and as such should have every possible tool to allow friends to group freely together.  This game unfortunately has a ton of barriers between players.  Firstly there is the issue of level gaps and trivialization of content, that I have talked about here.  We also however have the frustration of not being able to group across faction, even for instanced content.

Globalization

Screenshot_20140404_220811

Finally there is always the problem of region lockout, and while I can understand the logistical need to have both a North American and a European mega server… my hope is that at some point they will choose to merge them.  I should not be penalized for having lots of friends who do not happen to live in the United States.  What is happening in practice is that my European friends are simply accepting the fact that they will be having lag and rolling on our megaserver just to be able to participate with their friends.  The concept of a region lock needs to die in a fire.  In an era when we can communicate instantly across the entire damned planet, thinking of things in a country centric means just doesn’t fly anymore.  Please note that this is not specifically an Elder Scrolls Online problem, but a problem with each and every game system out there.  I am looking at you Sony and your players locked behind the ProSiebenStat.1 wall as well.

I have spent weeks talking about the things that the Elder Scrolls Online has done really right, so it is only fitting that I spend at least one day talking about the things that it has done “less right”.  I am hoping with time they fix some of these problems, especially the inability to group with people in a meaningful way once things have trivialized.  The answer that they would give us is that after level 10 we should be going out to Cyrodil… which is fine and good and an option I will probably start taking more often, but that is such a SMALL part of this game, that it just feels like a cop-out.  You have created this amazing world, and crafted a really fun dungeon experience.  Let me show it to my friends in a meaningful way, because right now I don’t want to run lower level content because it just isn’t fun trying to be the high level in a dungeon.  Adding mentoring would solve almost all of the problems I mentioned other than the region lockout.  Here is hoping that someday they add it in, before it is too late for the folks who were NOT in the initial leveling rush and will fall by the wayside as they realize they can’t do anything meaningful with their friends.

#ESO #ElderScrollsOnline #Mentoring

The City of Crows

The Second Year

This morning I am feeling more than a little groggy, but this isn’t unusual coming back into the working world of Mondays.  Today I feel like I should be extolling you all with some great wisdom, considering this is the beginning of a second year of daily Tales of the Aggronaut posts.  However I am pretty empty of anything that seems close at all to wisdom.  So instead I am going to continue to ramble on like I always have and hope people are still willing to listen to it.  Honestly at this point I am shocked and amazed that I still have a decent number of readers each day.  I keep thinking that the novelty is going to wear off sooner or later.  The biggest thing I do know is that I am helped in ways you won’t likely even understand by the fact that I do have readers to keep me honest.

I figure I will get the inevitable Monday morning plug of the Aggrochat podcast out of the way.  I am honestly pretty damned proud of the fact that we have managed to record three episodes in a row in spite of some scheduling difficulties.  In light of the fact that I am beginning my second year of daily posting, I am really hoping at this same time next year we can look forward to celebrating the anniversary of a year of weekly podcasts.  I have a lot of fun recording these, but then again I also have a lot of fun recording my game stream whenever folks decide to join me in the mumble channel.  One of the things I have always been about above all other things… is gaming with friends, and I guess a part of me is trying to capture that and bottle it in either podcast or game stream form.  Though honestly the connections have been a little off lately as we’ve not run a dungeon together in weeks, so here is hoping this coming week we can all remedy that.

The City of Crows

Screenshot_20140428_061028 In spite of not being able to really play much Friday night and having to program on an application most of Saturday, I seem to have made up sufficient ground most of Sunday.  I started the day at 39 and working on the tail end of Alik’r and I finished the night dinging 42 and starting to make a dent in Bangkorai.  Right now I am questing out of Evermore and something odd is going on here.  The town is absolutely deluged in crows, and for those who have been through the Ebonheart Pact zone Crows Wood… I am beginning to wonder if it is for similar reasons.  If that is the case I will be extremely happy, because I love all things relating to that Daedra.  If not… it is at the very least a very cool and brooding locale, and thankfully a return to Breton architecture.  There is a kind of beauty to the harsh Redguard landscapes…  but their “cities” never really feel like proper cities to me.

If you are so inclined you can watch me faff about for awhile yesterday afternoon working on finishing a few quest chains in Alik’r.  Unfortunately I cannot “100%” the zone, due to the fact of a few bugged areas that I will have to come back for.  I am however happy enough to be moving on.  The desert is gorgeous, but also very spartan… and I will be happy to be roaming around areas with grass and trees again.  Bangkorai in general feels like a wrapping up of things.  This could be in part because the finale of both the Mages Guild and Fighters Guild quests chains occur within the city of Evermore.  I am rather happy with the conclusion of both to be honest, even though at least in the case of the fighters guild it took more than a few ziggzags to get there.

The Earth Forge

Screenshot_20140428_061721 One of the awesome things about both quest chains is that they unlock locations that were previously unreachable.  In the case of the Fighter’s guild you can then travel to the Earth Forge at any time, and I have to say… if they ever open up player housing… I am really hoping I have the option of getting a room here.  The Earth Forge is pretty much my ideal location.  It somehow blends a rocky pine filled mountain climate with the skeletal remains of a massive Dwemer machine.  This pretty much combines two of the things I love the most in Elder Scrolls games in one place.  If not I hope I can at least get a portal in my house to the Earth Forge, because I have a feeling I will be going out of my way to visit here regularly.

Screenshot_20140428_061328 The Mage’s Guild quest line similarly opens up permanent access to the lost island of Eyevea that Shalidor once controlled.  If you are into mages and such you should really like this place.  In a similar fashion to the Freeport Enchanters guild in Everquest, you travel around the island through a series of portals.  You can of course do it by foot, but the place is massive.  From the architecture and the environmental details I would guess this area is technically in the Ebonheart Pact somewhere, specificially in Morrowind.  The buildings are all mostly Dunmer architecture and the flora are mostly large mushrooms.  The best part about both unlocks is that they now give you access to two new crafting stations per location, that each creates an extremely powerful set of gear.  The only drawback is that each of them requires eight traits to be learned per item slot in order to craft them.

Grindless Crafting

Last night a discussion spawned in guild chat from one of our members talking about how much he disliked the way crafting worked in this game.  First off I was shocked a bit, because I personally could not describe a better system.  It is like everything I always wanted in a crafting system, and as I started digging into the reasons for why he didn’t like it, every point I brought up seemed to be something he enjoyed about it.  Finally I got down to the root of the problem… he felt that leveling tradeskills was a painful undertaking.  To some extent I agree, it feels like you are not making any progress, but then you learn that this is not the type of system you would ever “grind” your way through.

This is a negative side effect of the World of Warcrafts of the MMO world, in that it feels like you should grind your way through crafting to make sure you keep up.  So far I have not really made it my missing to level crafting at all, but instead have simply played the game as I normally would.  Multiple times a night I wayshrine back to a crafting hub, deconstruct any gear that I have gotten and go on about my business.  As a result my Blacksmithing is level 28, and Clothing and Woodworking 24.  Please note that the only thing I have ever crafted is sets of gear for myself and the occasional set of gear for a guildie.  I’ve never crafted a single Clothing or Woodworking item at all, and those skills have both progressed nicely.  This is the aspect of the game that I like almost more than anything else, crafting just happens as you play the game.

We’ve learned that the best way to level crafting is through deconstruction of gear.  At low levels you don’t get very much of it to be truthful, but as you move through the game the amount of drops that you get increases wildly.  Simply by playing the game and deconstructing everything you get, your tradeskills will more than keep up with where you need them to be.  It is hard to get used to this concept, and that progression through the ranks of crafting is more about how you spend your skill points and less about raw tradeskill level.  Mostly I just wanted to take a moment to address this today, just in case anyone else out there was trying to “grind” their way through crafting.  If you are doing this, you are on a path of madness because crafting and deconstructing your own items is without a doubt the least efficient way to level.  If you feel the need to “grind” at the very least find a crafting buddy.  You get far more experience deconstructing gear that someone else has crafted, so if you both craft items and swap you will both end up better off.

#AggroChat #ESO #ElderScrollsOnline #Alik’r #Bangkorai

Grand Anniversary

No Free Lunch

Last night was Saturday night, and that means we recorded another episode of the Tales of the Aggronaut podcast…  AggroChat!  We had a few odd things going on last night.  Firstly Rae was off travelling in world visiting her longtime friends Ahi and Bez.  This means she was completely unavailable.  Additionally Kodra was travelling, and connected in from crappy hotel wifi in San Francisco… leading him to be a little bit robotty.  However we pushed through all of this and picked up a 4th player in the form of our good friend Tam.  He had been talked about plenty of times on the podcast already, and it only seemed fitting to have him sub in.  Super thankful for him to be willing to do it in a pinch.  We talked about all manner of things including Hex Closed Beta, ArcheAge and the concept of selling entry into the beta process, and our ideal scenarios as far as character building and abilities in MMOs go.

We are going to have to find a way to stay more on topic, because each episode has increased every so slightly in length.  The first one was right at an hour, the second an hour and fifteen minutes, and this one roughly an hour and thirty minutes.  We could have formal topics that we push through, but I personally like the meandering format, because it means it is more like the natural conversations we already have.  I wish I had kept rolling because moments after I cut the podcast off we had a pretty epic conversation about how Lucasfilm is disavowing the entire Expanded Universe concept… and while we will miss some things maybe it isn’t so much of a bad idea.  There were some really odd fan service things about the Expanded Universe that don’t really hold up story wise.

Steampowered Sunday #11

When Elder Scrolls Online released on a Sunday, it pretty much put a severe halt to my blog series known as Steampowered Sunday where I take some time and play a game from my backlog of titles.  Last night during the podcast we were talking about a game that Ashgar had been playing this week that fell firmly into the Bullet Hell genre.  Kodra seemed to think this was madness, and having been a big fan of Ikaruga I totally understood the draw.  There was a time period when I used to play lots of bullet hell shooters and pre-hell shooters.  Gradius, Darius Twin, Raiden Trad… all games I remember fondly.  I was never particularly good at them, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.  I remember playing 1942 on the nintendo for hour upon hour trying to make my way through all the stages.

At some point I just stopped playing them.  I think it was during the death of the dreamcast, but when I bought my PS2 I just simply stopped picking up the games anymore.  While I have Gradius 5 on my PS2, I guess my tastes in games changed a bit.  This honestly more than anything represents a period of time when I stopped playing consoles very much and started consuming games almost exclusively on the PC.  Every now and then I would flirt with a new shooter like the ever amazing Jamestown, but I never really got heavily into it again.  Last night in an attempt to cold boot this series again, Ashgar griefed me by gifting me a copy of a really rather awesome bullet hell shooter on steam.  At face value Danmaku Unlimited 2 reminds me of a less technical cousin to Ikaruga.  The soundtrack is in part what makes the gameplay, and helps you do what is needed to make it through the levels.  The secret to a bullet hell is to zone out and focus only on the pattern and not so much about the rest of the noise on screen.  Only a few things can actually hurt you, so you focus in on those things.

The hilarity of my play through is that after years of not playing these games my reflexes that had built up are completely gone.  In addition I am playing this game roughly thirty minutes after waking up.  So yeah I do pretty bad.  Ashgar tried to make me feel better by saying that I did significantly better than he did the first time.  Essentially the gameplay video is roughly seventeen minutes and the point at which I ran out of lives to keep going.  I made it to about the mid point of stage four.  All in all I think I did a pretty good job.  The awesome thing about the game is it is really cheap.  So for the price you cannot beat this kind of bullet hell goodness.  I feel like there is a lot of customization in the way you set up the game.  I went with pretty generic options and was playing on easy, so I think there is a lot more depth to be had there if I dig into it.  Probably going to stream some more of me trying to play it later.  In any case… I have successfully rebooted the Steampowered Sunday feature.  Long live me playing through my steam backlog!

Grand Anniversary

Last but definitely not least… today is the one year anniversary of the Grand Experiment… my attempt to blog something each and every day.  This means as of today I have made a post every single day for a year.  That is a pretty significant feat and I am really damned proud of myself for sticking with it.  At this point I figure I am going to try and make it another whole year without letting the beat drop.  It hasn’t been the most easy thing to do, but I want to take a moment to thank my wife who has been extremely supportive in this adventure.  There have been days where I might not have made it through the post without her just assuming that it was going to happen and giving me time and space to do so.  Additionally I want to thank my friends who have supported me in this madness and my readers.  There have been moments when I felt alone in my mission, and was surprised at how many of you have reached out your arms to help me along the way.  Somehow I have gone from being the least regular of bloggers… to the most regular, and it is a pretty insane transition.  I feel like I have grown a lot in the past year, and I thank you all for helping me with it.

The Limits of Caffeine

Sleep is a Crutch

sandman Yesterday was one of the roughest days I have experienced in a very long while, and is the type of day that causes me to go to bed early when everyone else is still up and gaming.  It only takes one or two of those days where you have to struggle through with no sleep to keep you from ever wanting to do it again.  In my case Thursday evening was totally out of my control, which makes it all the more frustrating.  I had planned on going to bed around ten and everything was going to be perfect.  Then my lungs decided to conspire against me.  Either I could lay in bed and struggle to get my breath, or I could just get up and take a breathing treatment.  The treatment hopped me up enough that it really took until midnight for me to calm back down enough to be able to sleep.

Our eldest ferret, Smokey has had one foot in the grave for some time… and the other belligerently ignoring that fact.  It is to the point where we check on him when we get home each night just to make sure he is still alive.  He doesn’t move around very well and pretty much does three things… sleep, poop and eat, not always in that order.  As a result we’ve set up a cage for him in our bedroom in the floor so he could have some peace and quiet, and so the girls wouldn’t keep trying to play with him.  For the most part we are just trying to keep him as comfortable as we can until he inevitably does die.  His littermate passed on several years back, and at this point he is ten and really past the life expectancy of even the hardiest of ferrets.

When I laid down at midnight, moments later he decided that he needed to rearrange his bedding…. for multiple hours.  After laying in bed listening to the constant scratching and shuffling about I got up and sat down on the floor opening the cage and trying to help him out.  His mobility is very limited, so I thought by helping him arrange the blankets into a pouch, he would be happy.  Wrong… I was so wrong.  Everytime I would move something it seemed to start the entire process all over again.  Finally about 3 am he either got things the way he wanted them or decided to give up for the night.  We have to get up at 5:30 for work…. leaving us only a few hours of sleep.  There are times I would have called in sick, because I knew I was not going to function but I knew at least that afternoon I would be the only person in the office for my department.

Turns out when another coworker called in for oversleeping…. who had been planning on being out that afternoon anyways… I literally was the only worker there all day long.  Which means I got nothing accomplished as I dealt with ticket after ticket and an emergency request from the communications department.  It is days like this that make me try my damnedest to keep a schedule.  You only have to struggle through one of these to make you never want to do it again.  To make matters worse…. we had to drive to Tahlequah that evening, the entire purpose of carpooling yesterday and my cheat blog post typed up the evening before.  So I struggled through… and downed another 24 oz can of Monster as we headed out to our evening destination.

Chicken Fried Chicken

delrancho This was the highlight of my evening and likely going to be the highlight of my entire weekend.  My wife and I both went to college at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah Oklahoma, and one of our favorite places to eat was Del Rancho.  It is this odd throwback diner that has been in existence since the 50s.  Their claim to fame are these insanely huge portions of chicken fried chicken and chicken fried steak.  The fact that they served this up cheaply, and stayed open until 11 pm made it the favorite late night cram session destination of many of my friends.  So of course… since we were going to be in town anyways this is where we were going to eat… damn the calories.  Besides this place has been a destination for many epic conversations involving us in the past, so no reason why it should not today.

If you are a long time reader of my blog you might remember two years ago when we helped a student of my wife’s move to college.  We were the thing he was lacking, stability.  While his grand-mom… grandmother turned adoptive mother, is a very sweet lady, she lacked the logistical ability to see him off to college successfully.  Over the course of his two years at college we have been the “parents” he has turned to, to help him out when he was in a moment of crisis.  So last night as we picked him up from his dormitory he was a much changed man.  More confident than I had seen him, and also considerably fitter.  College had done the thing that it does to everyone… change them and in this case seemingly for the better.  College is a place of “proto-adults”, folks in the tween time between being a teenager and a real card carrying adult.  Before my eyes I was watching him become the person he would eventually be.

Essentially he is a young gay man having an existential crisis, and once again we applied stability and logic to his dilemma.  After sorting through various relationship issues that he just needed someone to act as a sounding board on, we got to the root of the issues.  His mother and sister were planning on moving across country to California.  They were planning on doing this over the summer.  He was trying to decide if he should go home for the summer and see them for as long as he could or not.  But in reality what it seemed like he was needing was someone to give him permission not to.  His family is a massive quagmire of drama, and my fear is that him going back would cause him to become mired in it again.  His family has stolen from him, and tried to rope him into their schemes in the past.  So we gave him the one thing he really needed… permission to do what was best for himself.

The Limits of Caffeine

monsterzeroultracans It was while I was walking around Wal-mart as he and my wife picked up groceries, that my body began its crash cycle.  The lights in the store felt dim and funky… and I found myself having trouble focusing my eyes on anything without staring at it for a long while.  I had been here before… it what happens when I have pushed my luck entirely too far and the joyous effects of caffeination fail me.  The problem is we were still over an hour away from home.  I dropped him off at his dorm room and headed out of town to the convenience store formerly known as hilltop.  I gathered up a cocktail of stuff in an effort to try and give me enough to push across to home.  This consisted of a grape five hour energy, a monster zero ultra… and a bag of white chocolate drops for sugar content.  I questioned if this would actually do it, but I knew that it needed to.  My wife had been up just as long as I had, and while she was offering to take the wheel and drive home… she has even more issues with night driving than I do.

The problem is I had already abused myself pretty sufficiently to get to this point.  Two hours of sleep had been extended by a cup of coffee in the morning, a monster on the drive in… another monster at work, a five hour energy about lunch, a few diet mountain dews during the day, another big monster after work, and another five hour energy on the turnpike to Tahlequah.  Essentially I was learning the hard way… that there is a finite limit to just how long Caffeine can do its magic and keep you alert.  The drive home was really weird and somewhat hazy.  I went through moments of absolute clarity and alertness, to moments of feeling like I was swimming through fog and exhausted.  The oddest thing is these cycles seemed to happen about every ten minutes.  My wife did a valiant job of keeping me talking, even if it was just me responding “uh huh” and “yep”.

Thankfully we made it home safely, and went through the nightly ritual of dealing with the litter boxes and making sure all the children had food and were safe and happy.  I finally got to crash around eleven, and I am not sure if I was conscious much past that.  It was a day of zero gaming, and the beginning of a weekend where it is not sure if I will get in much gaming either.  Several years back I wrote a testing software for my wife in ASP.NET, and we hosted it on a web server here at the house.  When we switched providers and jumped from a 4 meg connection to a 98 meg connection… we lost the ability to host servers.  So now I need to figure out a way to rewrite this over the weekend in PHP/Jquery so that I can host it on the same external host I use for this blog.  All of this said… I plan on logging into ESO and relaxing a bit the moment I finish this blog post…. which seems like a really good thing to do right now.

Thumper Logic

Cheat Day

One of the rules of the “Grand Experiment” has been that I would sit down each morning and write a blog post.  A lot of my friends in the blogosphere write their content at their leisure and stage the publishing at a date of their choosing.  There is technically nothing wrong with this practice, but the entire idea behind the experiment, was to force myself to write every day.  So as a result I have always considered it cheating to do what I am doing right now… writing a topic the night before I intend to post it.  These lofty ideals are one thing, but every now and then real life throws me for a loop.  Generally speaking on the weekend my posts end up being considerably later because sometimes I have to accommodate life in the process.

However our weekend plans have been altered quite a bit and as a result my wife and I are carpooling together tomorrow.  This means that I won’t really have my traditional “drink coffee slowly and contemplate the universe” time in the morning…  or at least I won’t be able to faff about as much as I normally do.  So as a result I am admitting to my “blatant cheatery” up front and hoping you won’t mind terribly much that you are getting a slightly stale topic by the time I post it tomorrow morning.  I could have lied to you, and posted this without you really knowing the difference…  but I am always willing to admit my failings freely.

Thumper Logic

Thumper-GIF One of the things that I have not talked about much is that the Grand Experiment is far more for me than just writing every single day.  It has also been an effort to surround myself with as many positive influences as I can, and limit the amount of negativity I have in my life.  I am not just trying to bury my head in the sand.  I assure you that I see just as many negative things on a daily basis as anyone, I am a pessimist by nature.  However I had noticed that the more negativity I surrounded myself in, the more negative I became and as a result the more unhappy I was.  You know how they say “fake it until you make it”, well it turns out it works pretty well for being happy as well.  If you can’t be happy, adopt the trappings of being happy until I actually sinks in.

In addition to trying to limit my exposure to negativity… which means I pretty much stop reading game forums when they exit the alpha and beta phases… I have been trying really hard not to write many “rant” posts.  In doing so I have realized just how unbalanced and ranty the world seems to have become.  If you look at the popular review sources, it seems as though we absolutely love to hate video games.  There are popular youtube personalities that I have never seen give a single game a positive review, however people line up to watch them.  I am sure that the occasional video like this is funny, but after awhile it changes into something else.  IT feels like these reviewers are trying to enact their revenge on an industry they believe has “wronged them” somehow.

People Want Different Things

Yes I am in fact breaking this image out again.  It is perfectly okay for you to not like something, but just because you don’t like a thing does not mean it is immediately “bad”.  I may not have enjoyed War and Peace… but that does not make it any less of a classic.  Sure there are of course the occasional game that are horrible in an academic sense… I am looking at you Superman 64, but these are really rather rare.  If a game comes out and at least one person enjoys it then I cannot really call it a “bad” game.  There are games that are a financial failure, but that is a completely different line of discussion.  Over the last few years it has become extremely “cool” to hate everything, and a lot of this was ushered in by the “hipster” movement.  If you read the reviews of games, you would have the impression that the industry is doing horribly and making nothing but utter crap.  However they seem to be making more money than ever, in part because very few people who consume these games actually pay attention to internet reviews.

At this point I am just too damned old to care much about looking cool on the internet.  I feel no shame in gushing about the things I am really enjoying, and just glossing over the things I don’t so much enjoy.  Over the weekend I appeared on the Game On podcast, and eventually the topic came around to Wildstar a game I really don’t like very much.  I had a few options of where to go with my commentary.  I could of course have spun up a mighty rant that would nuke the game into oblivion from orbit.  Instead I chose to share my reservations, but also talk about a few of the things that I thought the game was doing right.  It is your choice as a player, or a blogger, or a youtuber to either dwell on the good parts or the bad parts.  Right now I am making the conscious choice to look for the good in both people and games, and so far I am much happier for doing it.

The Curse of the Fanboy

I hope it feels so good to be right.
There is nothing more exhilarating
than pointing out the shortcomings
of others, is there? – Randall
 

One of the worst curses you can give to another gamer is to call them a Fanboy, because it immediately belittles anything they may or may not have to say in response to your criticism.  I guess my question is, why aren’t we all “Fanboys” over something.  For the majority of us, gaming is our hobby, and even in those for whom it is a job…  at one point or another it was also their hobby as well.  We are all geeks here, cut from the same core fabric even if we claim to not acknowledge it.  We all love games, more deeply than any of us would ever care to admit.  At least at some basic level we all have to admit that games are absolutely magical.  They can bring us to tears, make us laugh, and cause us to plunk down another $60 like a junkie in search of a fix.  If we do all of these things, then why the hell SHOULDN’T we love it, and be more than happy to raise our hands high and yell “FUCK YES I’M A FANBOY”.

I love games, or I wouldn’t be spending each and every morning writing about them.  Sure you get a fair dose of my personal shenanigans and that of my friends… but this is a gaming blog devoted to my love and obsession of video games.  I am not trying to make games better than they are, because they seem to be just as good today at getting me to spend countless hours a night playing them than they were when I was a child.  Sure I hold up certain games like Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past or Castlevania: Symophony of the Night on a pedestal, but my love of those games should not somehow tarnish something that doesn’t do the same thing as those games did.

What gets lost in the shuffle is the people behind the games that folks all too often want to tear down.  No one goes into a game trying to build something that the players will hate.  Each and every one of them has lost sleep at night trying to make the best possible game within the constraints they were given.  Just as I started writing about games because I love them, they all aspired to be part of this industry that quite frankly has some pretty shitty conditions placed upon them.  No child says that they want to grow up to work in an industry that is ultimately thankless and will more so make large segments of the fan base revile you.  I am just waiting for it to be acceptable to like something again without someone else feeling the need to put you down for doing so.

Cast of the Aggrochat

aggrochat_bubbles_trans

I feel like I got a little preachy during the course of this post, but it is really how I feel.  I am going to unabashedly love things, until I don’t then move on to other things that I love equally well.  So far I feel like my mission of being more positive has paid off.  I am surrounded by some pretty amazing friends, and I feel so thankful to have all of you supporting me on a daily basis.  While I have a deep protective streak, which leads me to play all the tank classes that I end up playing… I feel no need anymore to protect you from what I deem a “bad game”.  You might see me wax philosophical about how I don’t quite grasp a game, but that is coming from a place of wanting to learn what people see in it… and not from a place of hatred.  I wanted to close things out on a really positive note by showing off something that I really love right now.

Rae has been hard at work over the last few weeks since we got the odd idea to start Aggrochat.  She has been capturing the essence of our personas in Chibi form and I think she did a damned fine job.  From the left we have Rae riding Ashgar the bear, with me in the middle, and the ever stylish Kodra on the far right.  There are a few inside jokes in the peace but I figure it is universal enough for most to enjoy it.  She does amazing work, and is the creator of the original Chibi Belghast that I have used for ages as avatars and in the masthead of this website.  Over the coming weeks we will be branding our libsyn page into something more fitting a proper podcast.

Point Paralysis

Maybe I didn’t suck

For whatever reason this morning I am absolutely struggling to remain conscious.  I feel like maybe I drifted into the “too much sleep” territory last night.  We ended up with a heavily altered game play, in that when my wife got home last night we ended up taking our evening walk and combining it with some extra steps to go walk to eat dinner.  This was awesome in that it meant that my playtime was not perforated last night by going out to walk, but I seem to have squandered the benefit by going to bed early.  For whatever reason around 9 pm I got irrationally tired and after dealing with a few chores crashed out on the bed with two cats snuggled up beside me.  Normally I get pretty much the same 6 hours of sleep every night, but last night I got a little closer to 8 hours and I feel groggy as hell.

Awesome thing happened yesterday, in that the podcast I was a guest on over the weekend published the episode.  I feel humbled that I was offered to join in the fun, and the end result was really nice.  I listened to it yesterday after getting out of our weekly staff meeting, and I have to say I was a bit scared to do so.  I was worried that maybe I would have come off like an ass or something, but overall it seemed to flow really nicely.  Every now and then podcasts will have a guest on that is abrupt and disruptive… and I am always afraid I will be that guy.  Each podcast has a certain feel to it, and I was hoping that I was staying true to that.  It is still really damned weird to hear my own voice, but after doing this streaming thing and our own podcast I am starting to get used to it finally.

Point Paralysis

Screenshot_20140424_062015 Yesterday one of my guildies and fellow bloggers Werit posted a piece on something I think all of us have felt, that he calls “Skill Point Paralysis”.  One of the big features of Elder Scrolls Online is that the game is not so much about how you play the game but how you choose to build your character.  You can be damned near anything you can imagine within the frame work of the game.  You want to play a spell slinging rogue, or a tanky archer?  Sure you can build both of those in damned near any “class” as well.  The problem is without a reasonable undo system, it gives a false sense of importance on every single skill point.  It is a bit like playing a chess match and being afraid to make a move for fear it was the wrong one.  I have had the benefit of playing this same character over a dozen times throughout the various beta test phases.  Over that time I have refined exactly what I want to do, but still I will find myself with four points pooled up and not really sure where to spend them.

So I thought I would spend a few minutes this morning talking about the type of decisions I make.  Essentially I tend to divide things up in my head into three categories:  Active Attacks, Passive Buffs, and Utility.  At the end of the day I can only have five active attacks on my bar at any given time, so as a result I tend to discount the value of choosing one of these.  Also picking up a new active attack means I need to devote some time into raising it and unlocking the morph.  After a point new abilities are not really as useful as old abilities until you can morph them.  So that means I need to be committed to a new ability choice if I want to go down that path.  I will occasionally pick up an ability if it sounds interesting, but if you notice in the above screenshot I have Power Bash at level 1… in part because I have not really used it much in combat.

Utility abilities are a special kind of actives, and I generally limit myself to only having one of these on my bar at a time.  Sometimes these are survival cooldowns, self heals or group buffs… but most of the time I classify things into this category that are only “situationally good”.  For example I love beyond love the Silver Bolts ability.  However it is only really worth putting on my bar if I know I will be fighting Daedra or Undead… or now that I have the fighters guild rank 7 passive Werewolves.  If it is an ability that I will use only 20% of the time, I greatly devalue picking that with my skill points.  Sometimes however these abilities are useful for things other than their original intent.  Even if you are fighting something other than the mob types mentioned above… Silver Bolts still becomes a pretty potent weaponless ranged attack if your character happens to be lacking one of those.

Always On is Awesome

The final category is where I tend to spend MOST of my points.  If you look at the above screenshot I have every single passive ability that I can currently get in the sword and board tree.  Similarly if you would look at my Heavy Armor and Imperial Racial trees their passives would be completely filled as well.  If I have a useful passive to buy, I will almost always choose that over something else.  Passives do not require me to change my play style to incorporate them in, nor do they require me to level them to make them truly useful.  Instead they are a single pick that makes my character immediately and permanently better.  In a game I will always favor something that gives me a permanent boost over something that gives me a situationally better boost.  I like “always on” things, because if I can be awesome all of the time, it is better to me than being awesome some of the time.

Finally I have limited myself to a single tradeskill for the time being.  Until the points begin to flow like honey later as I wander around the world collecting them…  I have narrowed my focus to two weapons (sword and shield and two handed), three class trees (because really you want to cherry pick abilities between them), one armor type (heavy is the only choice I ever seem to make), racial tree, and a single tradeskill (blacksmithing).  Now I will occasionally pick up some especially valuable picks like Soul Lock from the World tree, that gives you a chance to fill soul stones each time you kill a mob.  Overall I  have narrowed my focus to a specific set of abilities.  The big thing I see players doing that gets them in trouble is trying to tackle more than one weapon at a time early on.  I did not pick up a second weapon until 20 or so, well after I had the ability to hot swap between them.  Trying to spread yourself too thin is something that will ultimately lead to making the game harder than it really needs to be.

#ElderScrollsOnline #ESO #SkillPoints

The Impossible Plateau

Forced Fasting

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

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

The Impossible Plateau

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

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

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

On Streaming

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

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

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

Easy Targets

Heartfelt Thanks

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

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

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

Lost in the Desert

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

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

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

Easy Targets

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

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

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

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

#ESO #ElderScrollsOnline #Cyrodil #PVP #NewbieBloggerInitiative

Five Year Blogoversary

Something Profound

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

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

Personal Growth

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

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

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

Breaching the Spotlight

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

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

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

Aggrochat Chibis

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