Electronic Gaming Monthly

Tied to Screens

At least once a week I see a report in the news talking about how we have become too tied to our screens and we have lost social interaction.  While I agree that as a culture we are pretty damned addicted to technology, this view point that not interacting face to face is aberrant or strange seems to be a pretty extrovert centric.  For the introverts the era of instant non-face to face communication allows us to leave far richer lives than if we were left up to our natural curmudgeon tendencies.  I am not one of those people that goes out seeking face to face interactions, and while I can handle it in short doses…  it completely drains me and causes me to retreat inside my shell.  Whereas digital interaction, doesn’t really cause much stress at all as I can interact when I feel like it, but withdraw just as easily as closing down a chat window.

Dealing with people simply causes a lot of anxiety for me.  We have various friends that we will go out with semi-regularly… but even then I struggle.  When we make the initial plans it sounds like a great idea, then as it creeps ever closer to the time of the event… I start looking for ways out of it.  It goes from something extremely fun, to something I am dreading.  Then finally when I force myself to go through with it I have a good time in spite of myself, but this whole rollercoaster I put myself on is something I would rather simply avoid entirely.  It takes a lot out of me to go through it each time.  So when I see someone complaining that we are losing social interaction, I feel they simply are not taking me into account.  Sure there are fewer people for the extroverts to get their warm fuzzies from, but for us extroverts it means we are forced into a lot less awkward interaction as a result.  I feel like thanks to the internet I live a far richer and involved life than I ever would have on my own.

Electronic Gaming Monthly

magazine-electronic-gaming-monthly-super-street-fighter-ii-turbo-v7-5-of-12-_5-page-2 While on an oddly introspective tear this morning, I thought I would talk a bit about a little back and forth I had yesterday about something I miss.  In my travels I stumbled onto the Podcast A Life Well Wasted again…  which tragically only ever released seven episodes.  It is this great This American Life for Video Games feel, and I would love to have more of it.  I re-listened to the first episode talking about the death of EGM magazine and was struck with waves of nostalgia for that time in video gaming.  Electronic Gaming Monthly at the time was this inch think omnibus devoted to all things video gaming covering arcade, consoles, hand held and even on rare occasion PC gaming.  I read the magazine pretty religiously from roughly 1990 to around 1996.  It and White Dwarf were the magazines that I waited each month to arrive, and before I actually subscribed I would anxiously watch the news stand at my local grocery store for the next copy.

Back then a lot of my fervor for the magazine centered around them giving me the dirt on the next arcade fighting game.  I remember it was the first magazine to post full moves lists for Street Fighter 2, and I memorized them like some arcane text.  The arcades were this crazy place where people speculated about potential moves, and by the time Mortal Kombat 2 arrived there were all these unofficial moves sheets floating around the arcades with half of the attacks speculative or complete and total bullshit.  EGM was the voice of authority, only publishing things that they had verified as working.  At the same time they had this irreverent review style that appealed to me greatly at the time.  Gaming was still very much an insider thing, and an excluded subculture…  so it just felt awesome to have a magazine talking about the things I actually cared about.

I really don’t know why I stopped reading the magazine, other than maybe the internet got better at reporting the news I cared about…  or simply that I got busy and poor in college and could not long shell out the then $7.00 price tag for a magazine each month.  Before this episode I was acutely aware that Electronic Gaming Monthly no longer existed, but I never really knew when exactly it happened.  In fact the last time I went to a news stand I didn’t see any magazines devoted to video games, so I am guessing that is entirely a bygone era.  Once upon a time I used to think that working for EGM would have been the coolest job in the world.  There were times I day dreamed about becoming a “video game journalist”.  I guess in some way with my blog I have been, or I am at least as legitimate as that term ever really was.  I do miss an era when the magazines did not feel beholden to the manufacturers to make sure they got at least a 6 out of 10 score.  The aspect of the scoring system that I appreciated the most was that you usually got three different reviewers points of view, instead of just one.

Quite honestly I think a lot of what made that time in gaming history so magical is the actual lack of information we had about anything.  Right now we know everything about the games that are being made before they even exist.  Hell we obsessed over Titan and all we really knew about it was a name, but still folks managed to dig up little nuggets of information about it.  EGM worked, because we were starved for information on our hobby.  They were one of the few sources of this information, and while they might only give us 100 words on a single game… that was far more than we were getting anywhere else.  The wild speculation, the misinformation, the rampant rumors all got laid low by a single issue of this magazine giving fertile ground for the next crop to spring up until it arrived to quell them again.  I miss that era… and I think in a way that’s why the 16-bit games are so important to me… because they are wrapped up in that shroud of mystique.  I miss Electronic Gaming Monthly.

Beginning the Real Grind

Destiny_20140929175725 Last night I accomplished one of the goals I had set out to do Sunday and finally pushed through to level 20 in Destiny.  At this point I feel like the real leveling curve begins as I start searching for gear with +light on it.  Right now I have managed to find a blue chest piece with 5 light, so I am barely if at all moving in the right direction.  Similarly I started working on the Queens Bounty and managed to knock one of them out for killing Fallen Ultras.  I am roughly halfway through the 200 headshots one, so hoping I can grind that out in the next couple of days.  I am really not sure how many of these I can complete before I actually get to take my swing at the loot piñata.  I could really use an upgraded hand cannon as the level 18 green one I have been using feels not quite so epic any longer.  I have to say I am really digging Mars so far.  I find the Cabal extremely satisfying to kill, like even the relatively weak Legionaires.

Destiny_20140929174412 At some point around level 18 I got sent to the shipwright again, and she let me pick a new design.  I have to say I am digging this one a lot more than I did the collectors edition version.  The paint job is okayish, but I am really loving the design of this ship.  This is the first design I would have likely picked on my own.  I absolutely hate the style of the first ship, and the collectors edition ship still has enough elements that it annoys me.  This however is finally a good looking star ship.  I think mostly I extremely dislike asymmetrical designs, so as a kid I loved the X-Wing and A-Wing… but the B-Wing and Millennium Falcon frustrated me.  I could forgive the Millennium Falcon however since it was essentially cobbled together out of a bunch of other ships… but that B-Wing…  man no mercy for that.  In any case I am still digging destiny, and it is beginning to remind me more and more of Phantasy Star Online.  That was really my first venture into online gaming, so there is a large bit of nostalgia there as well.

#Destiny

Invaders from Mars

Weekend Goals

This weekend I set out with a handful of goals, and as always not everything got accomplished.  The first goal was to manage to get to 20 in Destiny.  Had the servers not gone down last night I might have actually hit it, as I am a little ways into 19 and still have quite a lot of story content t o do.  The second goal was to finish my second Animus book, and that one got wrapped up yesterday afternoon without much issue.  Sadly I don’t have the “bookrocks” stockpiled to buy another one, but in theory I could hop on the nightly hunt mob train and get there without much issue.  The third goal was to cap out my soldiery tomestones, and while I am not quite there I am close enough that tonight’s elite roulette will get me there.  Finally I had planned on trying to get to 10 on my Knight in Trove, which I didn’t quite make but I am now level 9 and also have a level 6 gunslinger.

All in all I think I had a pretty productive weekend full of focused faffing.  I think the Godmother would be proud of my little checklist of accomplishments… or at least almost accomplished items.  This is what keeps me motivated in games, is to have things that I want to tick off a list.  I am finding that I am exceedingly good at grinding headlong towards a goal, but when I lose sight of that goal I start to get bored.  One of the more interesting side goals of the weekend was to figure out how to configure JoyToKey and in part thanks to this tutorial video from Beau Hindman, I managed to get it running with little issue.  So now I am running around in Trove using my Xbox 360 controller and I have to say it works pretty well.  There are some wonky issues with occasionally my view drifting off slightly to one side or the other, but I think that is more an issue of the thumb sticks not entirely centering each time.  I might see if I can lower the sensitivity at some point to make it less twitchy.  The big thing I notice is the amount of time you spend mapping and remapping controls until you find the thing that feels most comfortable.

Invaders from Mars

Destiny_20140928212227 As always it was the love of loot and the desire to acquire more of it… that ended up lighting a fire under my ass in Destiny.  Previously I had been happy to slowly poke my way around the patrol missions, wandering aimlessly through objectives.  However due to the various loot issues going on that patch 1.0.2 intends to address,  they are basically having a loot giveaway event.  As we talked about in the podcast Saturday night, folks are frustrated with the grindy nature of the endgame, and as such they rolled out a limited time event that addresses that at least to some extent.    The event that is going on is known simply as The Queen’s Bounty, and through it a series of items appear on the bounty board.  Supposedly if you complete a handful of these you end up earning a legendary quality weapon.  Basically I want to get in on this loot grab before it goes away.

Destiny_20140927232244 I had managed to get to level 16 before setting foot on Venus, through just wandering about on the moon doing patrol missions.  As such I knew that if I just worked my way up through the backlog of story content I had waiting on me, I would ding 20 without much issue.  So yesterday I set forward doing just this.  I got to experience Venus and Mars… and so far I have to say I still prefer good old Cosmodrome and the Moon.  Venus can be extremely pretty, but everything seems to have this yellow green haze to it.  Additionally I have come to realize I am really not a huge fan of fighting the Vex.  The fact that I have to shift from aiming for the head to aiming from the yellow glowing spot in their belly can be frustrating at times.  Additionally fighting them is a bit like fighting a zombie horde.  The Fallen and the Hive had a fair amount of cowardice in their moves.  You can push and pull them around the map, but the Vex just keep advancing regardless of what you do like this unrelenting mass of shambling robots.

Destiny_20140928204249 Once you land on Mars however… the Cabal take heavy metal up to eleven.  This is very much the Warhammer 40,000 faction, in that they seem to have a cavalcade of ever more insane mechanized environmental suits to do battle with you.  There is this one baddie known as a colossus that has some sort of a chain gun that just pinned me down stunned as it ripped through my shield in a few moments.  The Phalanx however were what became super maddening.  They are basically a space marine with a giant riot shield.  They fire out from around the corner and appear to be deadly accurate regardless of how awkward that position must be.  The best tactic seemed to be either to toss a grenade, or try and bait them to move in one direction would looping around behind them.  In any case… my sequence of hand cannon one shots pretty much stopped when I reached Mars.

Destiny_20140928212751 At some point it appears that Destiny reset the player preferences, because apparently my grouping setting got flipped from invite only to allowing anyone to join.  In part I am thankful for this because I was joined by Nidrew who basically carried me through a few of the rougher missions, or at the very least kept me from having to start over.  So long as one of us stayed alive we could eventually respawn back up.  I find that aspect of the game interesting, that when a team mate has fallen, your focus goes from finishing the objective to just staying alive for 25 seconds so that they can revive and get back in the fight.  Of course you can go over and rez them youself, but often times they got pinned down in a fire fight and running back in there might end up being suicide.  In any case I am very thankful for the help, and when I stopped I was sitting at 19 so hopefully I can push on through to 20 tonight and maybe start working on the bounties.

Book of Deeds

ffxiv 2014-09-28 15-56-37-128 When you see this text pop across your screen it feels extremely epic…  until you realize that this was just one of nine books that you have to do…  and you have so many left to go.  I love the feel of the Relic weapon quests because they still remind me so much of just how difficult it was to get your epic weapon in the original Everquest.  The reality is that it is going to take me an insane amount of time to complete it, far longer than is reasonable considering lots of my FC mates are taking the significantly shorter route to a ilevel 110 weapon.  I don’t want to call it the easy way, because it is in itself a significant amount of grinding, but with the most recent patch it just got way easier to acquire the necessary bits.  In fact since that patch went in I already have everything waiting in my inventory to be able to get my ilevel 110 Axe, I just need a bit more soldiery which I should get Tuesday when the reset happens.

5OpoacO That said I still plan on going through with the Relic quest chain, because man… the Bravura Nexus looks amazing.  I borrowed this image from the FFXIV reddit, but man I really want to swing that weapon.  Granted the step between where I am currently and where you get that weapon involves months of work, but at some point I will be swinging it happily.  Granted by the time that happens they will probably add another tier of progression in there, and it will already be outdated but screw it… it looks awesome.  Final Fantasy XIV is really good so far at giving me things that I want to get that require lots of work to get them.  I’ve always been extremely luck with drops, so getting that item to drop off a boss seems to be an ineffectual way of keeping me engaged.  Giving me something that I have to do every week to slowly inch my way towards victory…  that seems to actually work at keeping me around.  I love the way that the books work so far in that each one slowly incrementally improves your current weapon.  Someday I will get there, I just hope that the rest of the people I am playing with will still be playing when it happens.

#FFXIV #Destiny

Mercenary Kings

Dinklebot is a Great Name

It was not until last nights stream that I had heard anyone refer to the Ghost in Destiny as the “Dinklebot”.  Kodra credits Matt Lees as originating the term, but whoever did it… it is absolutely priceless.  Not only does it clearly identify that the ghost is voiced by Peter Dinklage  but it also adquately sums up just how useless the Ghost as a whole feels in the storyline.  Last night once again we recorded AggroChat, and this week we had our regular cast of hosts Ashgar, Rae, Kodra and Tam.  Destiny has caused so much angst that we started talking about it even before we went on air, and finally I had to say “guys, we should save this for the show”.  This week a letter from the producer came out as well as some patch notes talking about upcoming changes to gameplay.  We lead off the podcast by talking about these changes and how they personally effect us and our gameplay.  I somehow doubt that any of us in particular will be mourning the loss of the loot cave.

From there I think we dove into Kodra and his morning stream of Hatoful Boyfriend.  I tuned in when he met a bird that is totally reminiscent of the vespa riding mad woman from FLCL…  except she drives REALLY slowly.  Carve it into your soul!  The game feels like it is complete madness… and also created using lots of clip art… and Christmas tunes.  I commented in the stream that I think the game probably cost about $50 in shutterstock credit to make.  The storyline is absolutely insane, so it is totally worth a watch.  From there we dive into Trove and the Closed Beta gameplay that just started.  Rae and I have been playing a ton of it, and we even managed to get Tam and Ash to try it out.  Then things turn to our present obsession with Fallen London.  I think everyone but Rae is currently madly playing this game.

Finally I give over the floor and let Tam, Rae, Ash and Kodra verbally faff about what is going on with League of Legends Worlds.  At this point my eyes glaze over as while I enjoy playing League of Legends… I do not grasp the concept of watching other people play it yet.  It was a good show that ran a bit longer than we had intended… but oh well.  In a rush to tie things up, I totally forgot to do the where you could find us bit… so instead I recorded a snippet later telling folks to please leave comments either on our AggroChat Nook or the @Aggrochat twitter account.  We apparently have some loyal listeners out there, and would love to hear from them.  By the time I record the show and post it Saturday night, to the moment I get around advertising it Sunday morning… we generally have a couple dozen listeners.  That seems like dedication to me.

Steampowered That Wasn’t

1303218406-witcher-2-wallpaper-hd-5 This morning I had every intent to play Witcher 2, as I have had many people in my thread talking about how much they love this series.  I have tried multiple times to play Witcher 1…  and the controls on that game feel like absolute shit.  I will boot it up, and the last time I didn’t even make it through the first action sequence before tossing it aside.  It might have the best storyline ever, but if the controls are horrible…  I cannot bring myself to suffer through it.  Maybe at some point I will see if there is a lets play series where I can watch someone else play the game… or at very least all of the cut scenes edited together.  Since folks had been talking up this game again in anticipation of Witcher 3… I figured I would play it for Steampowered Sunday.  Apparently I figured wrong.

I have had this installed on my machine for some time, and when I went to launch it this morning nothing happened.  After digging through the forums it seems to just not work for some users.  There were a bunch of red herrings that I chased down, but none of them ever caused the game to launch correctly.  The only thing I didn’t try was downgrading it to run under XP Compatibility mode… because honestly I just thought about it this very moment.  In any case it does not seem to like Windows 8.1 64 bit, or at least my machine.  There are numerous supposed problems that it runs into with virus scanners… but given my frustration with the first game…  there is a plateau to just how much bullshit I am willing to go through for this game.  Maybe at some point I will pick up a console version of it, because at this point I am done with the franchise on the PC.

Mercenary Kings

MercenaryKings 2014-09-28 10-45-38-516 Instead I fell back on a game I have also had installed for awhile but never gotten around to playing.  Mercenary Kings is a Metal Slug like shooter from Tribute Games with the amazing animator Paul Robertson.  I was originally made aware of him several years ago when I watched the video Pirate Baby’s Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006.  The animation is in fact as insane as the title might suggest.  Later on he went to animate the amazing Scott Pilgrim vs The World console game, so quite frankly I picked this up because of him.  This morning… I flat out sucked at playing a side scrolling Contra/Metal Slug style shooter.  Maybe it was my frustration after trying to deal with Witcher 2, maybe it was the controller…. or maybe I just flat out suck.  In any case I died a lot, and die in some pretty silly ways.  I think I died to a kitten at one point.

MercenaryKings 2014-09-28 10-57-04-571 Many of my deaths could have been avoided to be honest if I had just read the tutorial level.  Me being my normal self…  wanted to simply rush head long into fate and totally missed the fact that I could do things like proactively reload my weapon for example.  No matter however as bad as I played I still had quite a bit of fun.  The game is not really your traditional Metal Slug or Contra clone, in that the game map can be traversed in many different paths.  One of the missions involved me hunting down and taking out 8 snipers, and as such this involved me covering the entire game map multiple times looking for the last sniper I had missed.  A lot of the terrain is gated by obstacles that you cannot cross in a specific direction, so many times you have to go a different way to get where you were hoping to get.  The game has a checkpointing system of huts that allow you to respawn in various points in the map… and I respawned over and over and over.

MercenaryKings 2014-09-28 11-14-22-904 I saw this screen an awful lot during the time I played the game.  You have two meters for failure of a mission.  Either you run out of fixed number of lives, or you run out of time.  I believe the initial timer is set to 20:00 and I mistakenly took this as having plenty of time to poke around the map.  If you know what you are doing I am sure this is more than enough time to find your objective and move along.  For me… I ran out of time several times.  The game play is not the stage after stage progression that I was expecting.  Instead you have a village full of members of your team, each of them interacting with you in different ways.  There is a village store, someone that will allow you to toggle on internet play, the general that will allow you to pick your missions and the chopper pilot that will drop you off as well as a few other characters that I didn’t really interact much with.  The game is at times reminiscent of a lot of classic arcade games, but it ends up being a really unique mash of of them.

You can check out my entire horrible play of the game in the above embedded Hitbox video.  It is still making its way to Youtube, but if you would rather wait for that copy you can check it out here.  I think I was mostly just having a bad morning.  I woke up late and am still in a state of stupor, and then combined with the frustrations with Witcher 2… that I has psyched myself up to play…  I was maybe not in the best place to do a recording.  In any case I had enough fun that I will be playing it some more.  It falls in a camp of being frustrating, but just frustrating enough to make you learn how to do things better.  In the little bit I had played I had already improved quite a bit.  When I got rushed however I would still make really dumb mistakes.  There are some enemies I could avoid, and others I couldn’t.  Quite frankly at this point I am really not that great at side scrolling platformers, even thought I continue to try and play them mostly in part to a huge sense of nostalgia for that genre.

MercenaryKings 2014-09-28 11-31-52-794 On a positive note I did manage to actually complete one of the missions.  The find the snipers mission, mostly was about exploring the level and not so much about rushing towards a final objective.  As such it seemed to fit my playstyle a bit better.  I got the first 7 snipers pretty easily, but it took me forever to find that 8th one.  It ended up being back near the start of the mission…  which Ashgar kept trying to tell me… but unfortunately I was not watching my stream chat.  I didn’t advertise this one so I didn’t expect anyone to actually be tuned it.  I just fine the process of streaming a considerably easier way to get a video up onto youtube than through actually uploading it myself.  If you like Metal Slug, Contra, Gunstar Heroes, or any of those style of games I suggest you give it a shot.  I might end up repurchasing this at some point on a PS4 because after getting used to that controller…  I have to say the Xbox 360 that previously had been my controller of choice felt really really odd.  I am wondering if I can hook up a PS4 controller to my PC…  but I guess that is a mission for another day.

#AggroChat #Witcher2 #MercenaryKings

A Proper Paladin

Capitalism Ho!

This morning I am getting around a bit later than normal.  I am not sure why exactly I slept in so late.  I got up to go to the restroom at 6 am, and then next thing I know my wife is getting up at 8:30 telling me that her tummy is grumbling.  I apparently took from 8:30 until 9 to actually raise myself from the stupor.  I showered and got dressed and wandered out like usual to find some breakfast.  When I got to the QuikTrip just down the street from my house it was absolutely packed with people.  When I exited the car I immediately realized why.  Across the street is the high school and I was confronted with a barrage of the sound of that can only come from a dozen marching bands warming and tuning.

Since there were band parents and potential competitors wandering in and out of the store, I half expected that everything would be picked over.  However it seems like they were prepared and pretty much everything you could want was in stock.  I ended up getting my traditional Jalapeño Sausage Cheese Roll, and for my wife a chocolate long john.  For the moment life is good as I have consumed my breakfast and am now writing for you lovely readers.  It was around this point that I remembered that my friend Kodra and fellow host of AggroChat was planning a stream this morning.  If you catch this post early enough you should totally tune into his Hitbox stream and watch him attempt to date birds.  We have been joking for a few weeks that he needed to play this game… and the subsection title comes from a comment he just made over the stream when he was offered to get a job.

All Grown Up

ffxiv 2014-09-26 14-44-58-894 Yesterday I was feeling absolutely like crap.  I woke up and it felt like someone had filled my head with concrete over the night, and took after my throat with some sandpaper.  I struggled around yesterday morning trying to get psyched for work, and it just wasn’t working.  I texted one of my co-workers to make sure he was in the office, and that things were going smoothly.  After reporting back in that all was well I decided to just stay home.  I stayed remoted into work most of the day, working on this and that but took breaks to work on leveling my paladin.  Considering I technically took a sick day, I didn’t feel bad at all about doing this.  They were essentially getting free work from me as it was, and I was mostly just dealing with little issues as they came up, and responding to email.

After doing my daily low level dungeon roulette and getting Haukke yet again… I decided to pull everything in the zone and skip nothing.  The boost of XP managed to take me through the rest of 48 and halfway through 49.  I didn’t really feel like tanking another low level dungeon considering my precious bonus was gone, so instead I went out to Mor Dhona and worked on some leves.  It is almost as though they had intended folks to do just this because all but one of the Leves spawn in exactly the same corner of the zone.  So I could run to the vendor get four quests, complete all four and just say no to the free teleport between them.  It took a couple of rounds of this to get close, but what actually dinged me was completely the “do 5 different types of leves” challenge log entry.  Those things are worth a truly prodigious amount of experience.

The awesome thing about having so much Syrcus tower and Weathered gear, is that all of it is dual class for both Warriors and Paladins.  This means the second I dinged 50, and bought 3 pieces of ilevel 90 gear from the hunt master… I was sitting at I think ilevel 89.  My weapon and shield being the only thing dragging down my overall score.  The problem is I had glamoured most of the hideous looking Syrcus tower gear to look like the default warrior set, and class specific glamours won’t show up when you equip it as another class.  Instead I opted to go for a mix of the chain tunic I loved so much, and some of the heavy allagan bits I had managed to connect.  For the paladin I keep the golden crown, and for warrior I use the bunny samurai hat.  So far I am digging the look.

A Proper Paladin

ffxiv 2014-09-26 18-53-46-632 Yesterday afternoon and into the night, my mission was to push through the Relic Reborn quest line and become a proper Curtana wielding paladin.  One of the unintended consequences of the Nexus relic system, is that folks tend to be ONLY farming whatever happens to be the dungeon or trial that gives bonus light.  Players have figured out there is the equivalent of the “Hot Zone” that Everquest and Everquest II used to have.  Where if you run that one thing, you get a significantly boosted amount of nexus light.  The result is that it took absolutely forever to get most of my primals done.  I think at this point folks are still busy farming nexus light, and not working on alts… which I think is what keeps the group steps for the relic moving along quickly.  You would figure as a tank I would get damned near instant queues… but unfortunately that was not the case.

ffxiv 2014-09-26 16-03-37-980 I spent large blocks of time dancing in various places.  Here I am dancing for two NPCs in Uldah… both of which seem thoroughly unimpressed by my skills.  I think a rundown of the waits looked a little something like this…  Chimera took around 45 minutes to finally pop and when it did I was the most seasoned tank so ended up tanking it.  Hydra on the other hand took only about 25 minutes… and the other tank a Cat Girl in a Bikini wielding a huge axe rushed in and tanked it.  For Ifrit it was more like a 15 minute wait, and oddly enough once again a Cat Girl in a Bikini tanked it, but from what I can tell it was a different one.  Finally we come around to Garuda and it was almost instant pop.  It turns out that I lucked out and hit a spot where Garuda was the Hot Zone… and as such it was the fastest Garuda run I have ever experienced.  Folks were ignoring all of the mechanics and pretty much just burning her.

ffxiv 2014-09-26 17-49-49-518 That just left Titan, and after another fifteen minute run I was volunteered to be the primary tank.  This is fine because really as far as fights go Titan is one of the easiest fights to tank.  For the most part you just stand in one spot occasionally shifting slightly to either be next to the red line or to avoid a bomb.  Like every titan I have seemed to be in ever… it took a couple of wipes and echo stacks before we finally pushed through.  On the time we won we were down to a single Scholar healer and a few dps and me.  This seems to honestly be easier than trying to keep alive eight people on this fight.  Sure it was a pain in the ass and took a really long time, but you reach a point where the healing and movement is manageable and you just keep repeating the same loop.  With that I had my Curtana and shield.  Moments later I had upgraded it to Zenith level and finally felt like a real paladin tank.  This makes level 50 job number four and my fourth Relic Zenith.

#FFXIV #Paladin

Neon Ninjas and Knights

Its A Voxel World

Trove 2014-09-25 21-00-16-293 Yesterday something pretty awesome happened…  Trove Beta launched and overall everything went pretty smoothly.  I have been a fan of the game since I got into the very first Alpha wave.  You can check out my first video from November of last year and see just how much the game has changed.  This is one of those titles that has changed at an almost staggering pace.  I would pop my head in about once a month… only to find that the framework of the game was in a massively different place than when I last left it.  I have to say during the Alpha this became a bit of an impediment to me playing it.  I would want to just pop in and do something interesting and essentially have to relearn how to do anything at all.  That said my friend Rae showed interest in the game early this week, and oddly enough we happened to both log in together on the very last night of Closed Alpha.

Trove 2014-09-22 23-56-16-632 We had such a good time running around and smashing things, that we decided last night when the Beta launched to skip playing Final Fantasy XIV at least for a bit and dive straight into leveling up in Trove.  The above mounts we found during the final hours of closed alpha, and they are essentially rainbow piñatas that shoot rainbows and confetti out of their butts as you ride along.  Basically it is my goal to manage to get this mount again during beta.  Nothing says Trove quite like leaving a trail of sprinkles everywhere you go.  Unfortunately the mount comes from their version of a lootbox.  I have no clue what the drop rate is for one of the piñata mounts but I know I purchased 10 of them last night and Rae purchased 5 with the points we were given going into the beta… and all we managed to get were a few crafting recipes.

Neon Ninjas and Knights

Trove 2014-09-25 20-37-50-103

One of the brand new things for Beta was the introduction of the Neon Knight class.  For most of the night this is what Rae ran around as while I played my Knight.  The class is a bit of a stealthy melee in that your right mouse click causes you to drop a decoy and shift into stealth.  From there you can throw shuriken at your target for a fairly devastating effect.  The purple rings around you seem to be some sort of a charging up mechanic that indicates when you are ready to throw shuriken.  Other than that if you attack from stealth you do a significant amount more damage.  I personally found the class a little frustrating, since I like to rush headlong into combat and bash all the things in the face.  For someone who wants more tactical game play however this might be the ideal option.

Fortunately or unfortunately I feel like the most “Bel” class in existence is still the Knight, which is essentially your default.  For starters it is a melee class with pretty high survival in up close confrontations.  The secondary attack is this impressive weapon slam that can knock back enemies and deal a cone of damage.  The first ability you get is a charge and god knows I love charge attacks, but this one also doubles as a movement ability and a way to dash across gaps to get to places more easily.  Finally the last attack is this shield that you can put up that causes you to take no damage for a period of time.  The last one is on a long cooldown, but it serves nicely as an “oh shit” button for doing some of the harder content.

Content Density

Trove 2014-09-25 19-18-34-398 One of the coolest things about late Alpha and now Beta is just how diverse and dense the content is.  Early on in the game each biome section would have a single objective be it a castle or a tower or something of the sort.  This time around you would be hard pressed to go for very long before discovering something that has a boss or a challenge or something of the sort.  Granted by the time I came back later in the night, the world was getting more than a bit picked over…  so I am hoping that the world reset happens pretty frequently.  In any case we were able to roll around the map going to areas that had not been touched and doing the challenges we encountered along the way.  The above shot is from this insane rainbow dungeon in the clouds that you get to by climbing up through the hollowed out tree pictured in the back.  Each biome has its own challenges with is own mob types which make the gameplay feel fairly fresh.

Essentially the challenges that I have encountered break down into a few themes.  The first involves triggering an event.  These tend to say that there is something dangerous inside in the upper right hand corner of the screen.  When you trigger the event you have to survive a few waves of enemies, and if you do so a chest appears.  The negative is that both you and the mobs you are fighting have to stay inside a blue ring that spawns when the event starts.  We had issues when fighting mobs up in the air, that they would fall off the edges.  The positive is you can retry the event over and over by simply moving out of the ring and waiting for it to reset.  The part that makes these challenging is that generally the area with the totem that triggers the event is covered in spikes or surrounded by these pillars that shoot fireballs in a Castlevania fashion.  So while the half dozen mobs really isn’t a huge problem… keeping them from knocking you back into environment obstacles totally is.

Something Minecraft Doesn’t Give Me

Trove 2014-09-22 22-31-52-013 At it’s core the gameplay of Trove is similar enough to Minecraft that you cannot talk about it without at least mentioning that game.  You could call Trove Minecraft with more meaningful combat and MMO style loot, but the game itself feels richer than that might denote.  One of the aspects of the game that I like the most is the existence of my Cornerstone.  This is basically a plot of land that I control and can build permanent structures upon… but that also moves with me around the world.  I can walk up to any plot that is presently unclaimed and the  game will rebuild my cornerstone before my eyes.  So I can have crafting machines travel around with me, and each time I do this it resets my spawn point.  This gives me some permanence that I crave in an otherwise very flexible world.  This however does not make for a great community, as folks are constantly picking up their home like a hermit crab and moving it with them.

What is more interesting is the fact that players can create clubs, which in essence give you guild like functionality.  I’ve created a Club for the Alliance of Awesome, and as such we have a “Club World”.  This is a fully instanced biome where we can control everything in it.  This means you can build super intricate guild houses and give other players the ability to teleport into them.  This is the more permanent structure from the looks of it, and gives folks a way to link up and meet in user created worlds.  While ours does not really do much of anything at the moment, I have plunked down a few machines and will likely keep adding to it as we go along.  You are given only the smallest of islands to start building on, but it looks like more or less you can freely build out over the ocean for quite some ways.  There are a number of websites giving away beta keys right now, so I highly suggest you track one down and give this game a shot.

Of Social Networks

A New Challenger Awaits

Yesterday morning I rather easily allowed myself to get  talked into a brand new social network account.  Over the last few days there has apparently be inordinate amounts of buzz surrounding the self proclaimed “Anti-Facebook” known as Ello.co.  The folks behind it posted a rather lengthy manifesto talking about their high minded ideals.

Your social network is owned by advertisers.

Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.

We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.

We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate — but a place to connect, create and celebrate life.

You are not a product.

Yesterday evening it got me thinking… do we really need another social network?  I am a sucker for all things new and more than anything I accepted the invite as a way to go ahead and sign up and claim @Belghast like I have done so many times in the off chance that I want to use it.  This morning I thought I would talk about the various social networks that I use and what they mean to me.

The Network I Care About

During the launch of many of the social networks I dabbled in them, but the first one I found myself using on a daily basis was Twitter.  When I entered the world of games blogging it became my front doorstep allowing me to communicate and collaborate with other bloggers.  It doesn’t hurt that the WoW Blogosphere has such a tremendous twitter presence, but even after fading out of those circles I stuck around and found new cornerstones of the non-Warcraft landscape.  Over the years twitter has been a source of much enjoyment and much frustration, but at the end of the day it still remains one of my primary means of conversation with a lot of people that I care about deeply.  Ironically I would not likely be as connected to twitter today, were it not for the fact that my wife found such deep and meaningful connections there before me.

There is something genius about the sheer brevity of the 140 character limit.  It is just big enough to express a thought, but too small to go into much detail about it.  I’ve found the more I blog, the more I need my social interaction to be in small bite sized chunks.  So right now Twitter fits me perfectly.  There was a time when I was not blogging when I craved something more.  Ultimately if it is going to be a long discourse I end up posting it here, and simply echoing it to all of my networks for the sake of stirring up discussion either in the comments here or in the threads I post them  there.  The biggest problem I have with twitter is the fact that it is a very closed community to anyone who did not get in on it early.  It also frustrates me that I have friends who cannot get the name they want because someone who doesn’t use twitter at all and never has, camped it years ago.

The Network I Had Hope For

When Google Plus rode into the social network scene I latched onto it with both hands.  It was telling me everything I ever wanted to hear and more.  I shuffled into that network during a period of time when I was not blogging at all.  I’ve always found that I craved dumping my thoughts to the page, and need it as some sort of mental reset button.  Google Plus became this reset valve for me and I essentially started blogging regularly through the network.  The early days were pretty great when the only people that were on Plus were the people who cared enough to be on  it.  There were some really valuable networks of gamers and geeks to be found there, and it reached a critical mass around the launch of Star Wars the Old Republic.  Folks used it as a way to find other guilds and collaborate with them for events bigger than themselves.

Then Google opened the flood gates, and the awesome people got diluted by a sea of all the frustrating parts of the internet.  I watched awesome women go from being able to start genuine conversations about things… to having to constantly fend off the sexual advances of men making inappropriate comments in their threads.  I watched the people I cared about on the network slowly taper off their usage or retract into private circles.  Something happened for me at the same time… I started blogging again and more regularly, and my need to dump out my thoughts onto social media changed.  I started to favor brevity again, and as such retreated back into Twitter.  I still poke my head into Google Plus a few times a day because there are people I do care about that use it as their primary network, but I just don’t feel nearly as engaged as I once did.

The Network I Wish More People Used

When Anook launched it was yet another website that I signed up for but had no real use for.  I simply didn’t get it.  I expected it to be Raptr, but I saw none of the automatic games tracking hooks that I had come to expect.  In a moment of frustration I exclaimed to Twitter that I didn’t understand what was so great about this network, and why various people were using it.  At that moment as if by magic one of the hardest working community managers I have ever met appeared to explain.  The fact that he dealt with my frustration and quite frankly abrasive commentary… and stuck around to try and explain the mission statement in earnest says a lot about his character.  Lonrem explained that what they were wanting to create was not a new Raptr but almost a Facebook for Gamers for lack of a better description.  I made it my mission to start trying to use the site, and I have really enjoyed the interactions I have had there.

In fact I use Anook often enough that I have started to fear that people might think I was somehow being paid by them.  Truth is…  no one is getting paid, not even the amazingly hard working community manager.  This is very much a grass roots by gamers for gamers network, and that is why I have latched onto it so hard.  The problem is that right now it is inconvenient, and simply doesn’t play nicely with other things.  I can’t automagically syndicate my blog posts each morning to it, and there is no mobile client which for most of us is the real killer.  The thing is… I believe in its mission and I want to see it grow so I keep trying to force feed it to people.  I just wish it was a more active community, at least more active by the corner of the internet that I really care about.  The biggest feature for me is the Nooks themselves, because it allows you to carve up little communities related to the games you play but still all be in the same broad network.  I would really love it if more of you became active participants in what could really be an amazing community for gamers.

The Network I Actively Despise

Once upon a time there was this fledgling social network called Facebook.  At the request of some friends I signed up for it, and I somewhat enjoyed the interactions there.  There were these cool apps that let you do interesting things like draw pictures with other users, or make interesting buttons and post them on a virtual bulletin board.  It was a fun place full of light hearted interaction.  Then something changed… the world found out about it.  Over  a series of months it found like everyone that I really didn’t care about knowing still existed found me.  There is a weird social pressure to accept an invite from people you don’t even like.  I unfortunately did this over and over until my Facebook was full of things that frustrated me.  Essentially it became all too much like High School all over again, as the majority of the people who tracked me down were folks that I went to school with.  I decided I did not need that negativity in my life, and went through the overly difficult process of actually deleting your facebook account not just cancelling it.

The problem is in this world… not having a Facebook account can be a severe detriment.  There are lots of things that can only be reached THROUGH Facebook.  There were various contests and product giveaways that I wanted to participate in, and they all required that I have access to that network.  As such I started a new Facebook account connected to my blog, with the express purpose of only ever friending other bloggers or gamers.  It is pretty much a broadcast only medium for me, and I use it to syndicate my blog posts for the people who use Facebook as their social network of choice.  It is an account I really wish I didn’t feel like I needed to have, but until companies stop focusing so heavily on Facebook…  it will remain there.  You can follow me and I will likely follow back, but just realize that everything you are seeing is an echo of either Twitter or my Blog, and I don’t actually log in and interact there.

The Network Of Lofty Ideals

Now it brings us full circle to the network that started this present discussion.  Right now I have not made up my mind what I think of Ello.  There is a lot of what they are saying in their manifesto that I really do like.  The problem is the realist in me also thinks there will be a significant degradation of those ideals over time.  Google Plus started out this awesome place to interact with other like minded individuals… but mutated into a frustrating mess that is for some reason integrated with the world possible place on the earth for discussion…  Youtube.  At some point they have to stop being a boutique network and think about becoming a business… and I simply don’t see that their feature focused approach is going to bring them enough operating capital to stay afloat.  Granted the premium thing might work, especially for a niche site like Anook.  I would totally pay money to unlock more automated functionality to make my life easier.

For the time being I am using it… because to be truthful it is the new trendy toy.  I have a very small group of friends there, and for now it is a cool place.  The problem is that there are literally no privacy settings of note.  You either have a fully public account or a fully private account.  As such I think that everyone is posting very censored bits of information until they figure out how things like that will work.  Basically I would not post anything there that I would not also post on twitter or publically on Google Plus.  The design ethic pisses me the hell off to be truthful.  There is minimalism… and then there is crippling minimalism…  and Ello tends to be the later.  I’ve learned over the years that I am really just not a fan of minimalist design at all.  Give me lots of buttons and gadgets that let me configure things until my heart is happy.  For the time being I am somewhat rationing my own invites to the network until I see just how limited they end up being.  It feels very much like those early years of Gmail, when you had to know someone in the know to get access…  which has its positive and negatives.  Folks seem to be broadcasting, but not that many people seem to be actually interacting.

Cancelling Titan

Bragtoberfest 2014

bragtoberfest_spooky

This month Izlain and J3w3l of Couch Podtatoes are running an event for the gaming community.  The idea is to have an entire month of remembering the good things about gaming.  The last few months have been frustrating to be a gamer, and the word gamer itself has been drug through the mud a bit by some misguided individuals with other agendas…  and their willing or not so willing peons.  The idea is to get back to the roots of gaming… and just play awesome games for the fun of it.  I was brought into the equation to help out with some logo work, and I did a couple of them that you might see used during the event.  For a better description you can check out what Izlain posted on his blog Me Vs Myself and I.

We all know that the last few weeks have been a frustrating time to be a fan of video games. There are sections of the Internet and our society as a whole that don’t necessarily see things the way we do, and a huge push back against women, other minority groups, and the industry have stigmatized the word “gamer.” I want to take it back. I want us to remember why we started gaming in the first place. I want you to enjoy being a gamer, and to brag about your accomplishments in games, be it a high score shattered, a nice piece of loot earned, or your name at the top of a leaderboard. That bragging can take place however you see fit, be it via your blog, on a podcast, in a video, whatever you want. Let’s just get back to our roots as gamers.

Bragtoberfest aims to make it fun to be a gamer again. We all game, and most of us also either blog, stream, vlog or podcast about games as well. Why not combine the two into a month-long event?

If you are interested you should definitely check out the Bragtoberfest 2014 nook as that Is where the contest will be running out of.  There are four major events that Izlain and J3w3l are running, as well as a slew of prizes to be had.  More importantly this is an embracing of the good that is left in gaming, and the enjoyment each of us have that first time we boot up a new game.  Also to get some buzz going, don’t forget to mention #Bragtoberfest when you post about the events.

Goodbye Alpha

Trove 2014-09-22 23-56-16-632 Monday night on a whim I hooked my good friend Rae up with a key for the Trove Alpha, since she had shown some interest in the game.  So we spent the evening wandering around the game, and I wish to god I had been streaming it… because the running commentary of her and I “discovering” things had to be hilarious.  Trove is one of those games that I really enjoyed early on, but have simply not played of late.  Each time I do manage to boot it up the game has changed so massively since the last time that I almost felt overwhelmed to even begin to play it.  If nothing else the game has shown players just how in a constant state of flux most game development is.  Trove has broken some of the rules and for the most part uses Reddit entirely for its user forums, as well as communicating copious amounts of information back with the community about what it has done and intends to do.

As much fun as we had, Monday night was a little bittersweet.  It was only after logging out that night and checking into the Reddit yesterday that I realized that it was in fact the end of Alpha events that we were seeing.  So many awesome things were going on, mostly that people were throwing down these pinatas full of loot on the ground for us to combat.  We both managed to get amazing Pinata mounts… that leave a trail of rainbows and sprinkles as you move around.  Sadly all of this went away that night as the servers went down.  We will not be able to play again until Thursday when the beta officially begins… and I have to say right now I am feeming to play again.  In the past I had pretty much played by myself, but to be running around with someone else was an absolute blast.

Trove 2014-09-22 22-31-52-013 Right now we have tentative plans to wander around Thursday night leveling.  I plan on working on Knight since that tends to be my favorite, and at this point I am not sure if Rae will be a Gunslinger or a Faerie Trickster.  At least a small part of me is hoping that the new Neon Ninja class will be ready at the start of beta.  I have to say the game is so much more solid than at any point I have ever played it in the past.  The biggest improvement is just how content dense the various biomes now are.  Once upon a time there would be a single element in the biome that was worth finding and clearing, but we stumble across all sorts of points of interest, each with their own bosses and treasure chests to  be found.  Right now I have an Alliance of Awesome guild running, so if you are playing or plan on playing let me know and we can get you invited.

Cancelling Titan

projecttitan Yesterday during an interview with Mike Morhaime the website Polygon broke the news that apparently the mystery project Titan has officially been cancelled.  For those who are completely unfamiliar with the name Titan and the mystery surrounding it, you can check out this excellent post from Massively running down the short history of a game that doesn’t exist.  For me I guess it feels weird to know now that Blizzard does not have a new MMO up its sleeve, and makes me wonder if they are completely abandoning the MMO genre in general in favor of games that are frankly easier to manufacture content for.  Right now Hearthstone is by all reports doing amazingly well, and they have managed to find a mix of value in their micro transaction model so that it does not feel abusive to the players.  Similarly with the ramping up of Heroes of the Storm, we have them formally throwing their hat into the MOBA arena which at least for the games that have done it right, is also a cash cow.  The amount of effort that it takes to develop a new hero for example is so significantly less than it does an entire MMO expansion.

Statistic: Number of World of Warcraft subscribers from 1st quarter 2005 to 2nd quarter 2014 (in millions) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista
I feel like one of the things that most players do not understand is that World of Warcraft is following a very bell shaped decline.  Each time a new expansion is released there is a momentary bump, but the last one of these only raised the subscribers enough to cover the exodus at the tail end of the previous expansion before steadily declining again.  I am not trying to claim doom and gloom about World of Warcraft, but it feels like fact that the game has long since entered its golden years.  The positive is that both Everquest and Everquest 2 have enjoyed significant followings and stability long after the buzz died down.  In both cases they continue to churn out expansions happily, and for the small but extremely devoted fan base they are great places to be.  As such I more than expect that the same will be true for World of Warcraft.  I expect the game will likely taper off and flatten the curve a bit around 2 to 3 million players.  Looking at the number alone however, we can see that the game is at a level of subscribers that it has not been at since the sometime between the opening of AQ40 and the launch of Naxxramas in vanilla.

So I guess my question is this…  does this really mean that Blizzard as a company is moving away from the MMO model that they popularized?  Do they have another skunkworks project up there sleeves that they can surprise the player base with at a later date?  I realize talk about the decline of World of Warcraft makes a lot of fans nervous.  I am trying to do so with the least amount of hyperbole available, and in a way that is an non-incendiary as I can.  The truth is right now World of Warcraft still brings in a very significant amount of money.  As it ages however, that revenue stream keeps diminishing.  The question is, can they make enough money from micro transactions to replace the stability of the subscription dollar?  Will they be able to muster the same amount of fandom without an MMO to stir up the hysteria to eleven?  What does the future of Blizzard look like, and is it as dominant a force as it has been to date?

#ProjectTitan #Trove #Bragtoberfest

Familiarity in Proximity

Mega Servers Continued

A few days ago I made a post on about launch issues and game servers, and the problems and solutions that come from various server scenarios.  In my post I presented some discussion about the various styles of servers and the weaknesses that each have.  Mega Servers are an awesome technology but there are problems with it, namely that it reduces the casual proximity of players.  In my post Doone made a comment, and while I normally would have simply posted it as a reply…  I am thinking that maybe I need more space to go into my thoughts.  For sake of not having to make you jump through a bunch of hoops I am going to repose his comment here.

Im not sure why anyone thinks Megaservers make it difficult to build community? Do you mean that it’s too many people to build intimate connections? Because if thats the case, then we’re just talking about social tools, not megaserver tech. Players just need a reason to interact and that doesnt change because of megaservers.

AA’s current situation is embarrassing. Theres not any good excuses for their current situation. This isn’t the first MMO launch, not even the first MMO with land and other features that complicate server flexibility. Theyre simply unprepared for deliberate reasons. There’s just no way they didn’t know what they needed for a smooth launch.

It’s worse that people who shelled out hundreds of dollars to support development are reporting not getting that 4 day advantage they were promised. That’s a serious charge.

Should AA have gone Megaserver? I don’t see how this wasn’t mandatory given the kind of features it has. You need a vast server community that’s STABLE. And you can’t have that when your system is as inflexible as the one they’ve adopted. I think they’re sinking their own ship right now.  — Doone

While I agree with the bulk of what he said, I thought I should maybe clarify my points about mega servers.  At first glance they look like a magic bullet for the problem.  At the very least I thought they were a magic bullet for launch day woes, however they have their own problems that do not always show up early on.

Informal Community

ffxiv 2014-09-22 18-11-33-975 There is a certain kind of community that happens spontaneously by just being around the same players each and every day.  For example the above picture is that of one of the late game hubs in Final Fantasy XIV Revenants Toll in Mor Dhona.  Upon arriving at the Aetheryte crystal I am immediately seeing some familiar places that tend to frequent it.  You can see a name marked in orange as someone I have already friended.  However more than that I recognize if not the names, but the guild tags of many of the players surrounding me.  There is a sense of familiarity in seeing the same players day in and out, and when one of them is in need you are more likely to step in and help out.  This is the way friendships in MMOs used to be formed through shared activity, not just shared guild tag.

ffxiv 2014-09-14 22-10-22-567 In Final Fantasy XIV it has instanced housing wards, where you purchase a house and in theory become neighbors with lots of other players.  Our house is across the street from a Market Board which is the way that you access the auction house economy.  Over the course of weeks of being in close proximity with several other players, we have struck up a bit of a friendship.  One of which is the name in orange in the above Mor Dhona photo.  There is lots of spontaneous interaction that happens just by being around other players and gaining that sense of common goals.  This picture is when we just spontaneously put on our brand new Dragon Warrior inspired Blue Slime King hats and started dancing together.  But the interaction has spread much further than that, and I’ve helped these players out in the world beyond our neighborhood, as well as had my heart warm each time I happened to see one of them out in the wild.

A Server of Strangers

eso 2014-03-31 21-54-58-07 I’ve played many games so far that have some form of a blended server environment.  World of Warcraft for the last several years has blended the leveling zones for the entire battlegroup to make each server feel more populated.  The most recent poster child for Mega Servers however was the Elder Scrolls Online.  Before launch they made several promises about creating a situation that grouped like minded players together into virtual servers, while still all being part of a much larger farm.  While we had one of the smoothest launches since they could easily scale up the hardware temporarily, and reduce it later as needed…  there are a lot of problems that came from not being with a fixed set of players.  Admittedly some of the issues are due to the poor decisions made with the user interface.

In the above image, can you easily tell where my group mates are?  Can you tell the names of players surrounding me?  In both cases the answer is a huge nope, and this poor design choice of obfuscating information about other players only served to make the mega server concept feel that more alienating.  Everyone that was not you became another nameless faceless person taking up room and competing for your resources.  While this is the extreme, I’ve had the same thing happen in World of Warcraft when I encountered players from other servers.  It was like that they were somehow less important to me, since they didn’t share the same server lineage.  I knew that I would likely never see them again, so why even bother trying to be friendly?

Familiarity in Proximity

WoWScrnShot_102913_165101 In a traditional server structure there is familiarity in your actions.  You end up noticing players that do the same things as you do.  It might be farming a specific location on the map because you like the look of it, or crafting at a specific machine.  In hub based MMOs like World of Warcraft, you spend inordinate amounts of time milling around whatever your faction end game city tends to be.  I would spend hours running circles around Dalaran while dealing with raid and guild business over text.  While doing this I used to favor certain areas of the town and vendors, and I started taking note of who else seemed to like milling around these same places.  Over time I would start up conversations and get used to seeing the same people.  If they were gone, I would wonder what they were up to and hope that they were okay.  Over the years there are so many contacts that I have made… that ultimately turned into later guild members that I made only because I noticed they were in the same place as me and decided to strike up a conversation.

The problem with the mega server is that it destroys this kind of familiarity through proximity.  I feel like Elder Scrolls Online was the absolute worst case of this, because not only did it rob you of being around the same people all the time… it also took their names and guild tags from you.  One of the important aspects of a guild is it becomes far easier to recognize than individual player names.  Over time you start to associate a certain kind of behavior with a certain guild tag, and then when you see one of those people leading an event you have an informed decision as to whether or not this is going to be a good thing.  As a guild leader, my people were amazing and the absolute best advertising I could ever have created.  I would get random messages from players who ended up running a dungeon with one of my people, and they wanted to take time to compliment me as guild leader on how nice they were.  It is this kind of interaction with others that I hope to preserve with whatever ends up being the next server model.

The Happy Medium

2012-08-22_234640 As I said in my first post, I think there is a happy medium somewhere.  I think the ultimate version of mega servers, allows you to checkmark certain characteristics that you favor and then creates essentially a virtual server populated with the same players every time.  Similarly I think there are ways for games to maybe more easily identify players that you have interacted with in the past.  The biggest problem with Elder Scrolls Online is that every player felt anonymous.  Even my own guild members, I struggled to locate them in a mob.  This should never be the case, you should always be able to pick your friends and guild members out of the biggest sea of names and faces.  Similarly I think it is important to be able to identify players, because it allows you to form those connections in your mind that if I saw this player in my crafting hub and they are out here doing the same action…  I am invested in maybe going that next step and inviting them to a group.  I want us to keep the best aspects of the traditional server structure, and find new ways to scale them as we go forward.

I want to leave with an excellent post from Sig of Crucible Gaming called “How WoW Ruined MMO Gaming”.  While the title is hyperbole, there are some really good thoughts contained within, and it seems like Sig  mourns the interconnectivity of the previous era of gaming.  Once upon a time we needed players, and as such generally treated them better.  As games have removed the need for having other players we have eroded that base of civility.  While in many cases I think that World of Warcraft has poisoned the well in doing away with some things that were absolutely normal previously, I don’t think we are in an unredeemable state.  Final Fantasy XIV has proven to me that there can exist a game that is both social and modern at the same time… and that has a thriving and cohesive community.  I think the ultimate trick will be finding ways to take what they have done there and scale it to other games.

Leopard Print Paladin

Susceptible to Grind

Destiny_20140920104852 This weekend I played a good bit of Destiny because it is the perfect game for those moments when I don’t feel like I am get into something terribly detailed.  I play this game much in the same fashion as I play Diablo 3, in short bursts with the ability to jettison out if needed to go do something else.  As such this has become in many ways the game I play when I know we are going to be leaving the house soon.  I am never more than just a teleport to orbit away from safety, which makes me consume the game voraciously in small doses.  As such I have mostly been running the game in private mode with my fire team locked down to keep people from popping in at random.  I feel like I don’t want to deal with the expectations of others when I am playing a game in this fashion.  Generally speaking I am either moments from leaving the game, or playing the game while camping something in Final Fantasy XIV…  and in either case I am not exactly responsive enough to be a proper group mate.

Destiny_20140920114944

The bulk of my gameplay has been doing either patrols on the Cosmodrome or on the Moon.  I finally got a blue engram to drop, but unfortunately it was for my class item… which is essentially just decoration.  Instead of the traditional “flag football” towel, this one is a series of 3 banners that hang down from my waist.  One of the things I am learning about myself is that I am deeply susceptible to grinding.  I find it super easy to zone out and just wander around aimlessly in an area.  I seem to be able to get infinite amounts of entertainment value from simply wandering around killing Fallen and Hive on the moon and accepting the little mini-quests.  As such I was level 16 before I actually finished the Moon this weekend and got the quest chain sending me to Venus.  I am sure I will be 20+ before I finish Venus, because as soon as I unlock the next patrol zone… that is more than likely what I will be doing quite a bit of.

Destiny_20140920112437 I think part of the problem with Destiny is the fact that it has relatively little to go with as far as Story goes.  As such I find absolutely no sense of urgency pushing me forward to keep completing missions.  In a game like Mass Effect 3 I felt like I was moments away from doom at all times, so I just had to keep pushing forward and trying to turn back the tide in a war larger than myself.  In Destiny they have failed to infuse the narrative with any of this.  Sure things are going horribly wrong out in the galaxy, but we have this last city that seems completely immune to the effect of what is happening.  Sure The Traveler is “dying” but I don’t feel this happening, I feel like that is generations away and I have just been drafted into essentially a science fiction stalemate.  So I have zero issue wandering about and taking time to smell the “helium coils” as it were.  The moment to moment gameplay are what keeps me engaged with this game, and the story line and as such story quests could not exist at all and I would still be happy.

Leopard Print Paladin

ffxiv 2014-09-22 06-44-52-320 At the beginning of the weekend I was a level 40 newly christened Paladin of Uldah.  Over the course of the weekend I managed to push my way through to 46 and get the first of my spiffy gear.  For those who are not familiar with Final Fantasy XIV, at 45 you complete a class quest that will reward you four pieces of “Relic” gear that represents the defacto look for your class.  This means you get a full set of gear minus two slots.  The belt is not terribly important because no belt really changes the look of something drastically.  However the other missing piece is the chest piece and it is essentially the item that always ties a class set together.  On the Lalafell the paladin “short shorts” look is minimized by the total lack of height, however of anyone else it looks like you are wearing white boxer shorts without the chest piece that gives you the plate skirt that is so characteristic of a paladin in this game.

There is a full set of gear that drops in the dungeon Dzmael Darkhold, that rarely sees much use since it is level 44, and at 45 everyone gets their class set.  However the one piece that is extremely useful is the chest, which thankfully in all of my journeys I have gathered up a few of these.  The problem is that for pretty much every class there is something goofy going on with this set.  For the tanks the set features an inexplicable leopard print inlay, with no way to “dye” the pattern away.  So as a result for the last few levels you end up looking a bit goofy until you finally ding 50 and get that class chest piece.  Thankfully for me I also managed to pick up a nice pink quality chest for 47 that should make the outfit look a little bit more put together for the last few levels.

Red Bunny Samurai

ffxiv 2014-09-22 06-46-10-323 The other thing I am realizing is just how much of my other gear will work for Paladin.  Almost all of the dropped pieces and jewelry from the endgame levels worth for Marauder, Warrior, Gladiator and Paladin.  The problem with this is that I have several of the pieces glamoured to look like the Warrior class set.  Apparently this will not show as such when I equip them however, and quite frankly the Syrcus tower set looks like crap for plate wearers.  So I am wondering what set I am going to glamour to that can be neutral and work for both classes.  The most important thing after all is that I still have a proper bunny hat.  While I freely admit that I stole wearing this helm from Tam, I think I have more than made it my own… since it was clearly designed to be worn by a Lalafell.  He tends to favor the white one with the full face mask, where I am enamored with the red one that allows my full face to show through.

My goal for the coming days is to push the paladin to 50 and get it fully geared in 90 or better items.  I’ve been stockpiling hunt marks to be able to do this the moment I ding, but I am really not sure how many pieces I will actually need to buy.  All of my jewelry is dual class, as well as my chest, belt, and boots.  That just leaves three pieces of gear that I actually need to purchase, and then again I will need to spend the requisite 1125 tomestones of mythology to get the zenith weapon and shield.  Right now I have a dilemma I suppose in that I am really close to being able to purchase my next Animus book, but I am also really close to 50 at this point.  I don’t have the tomestones to do both.  In theory I can get the book and the process of simply getting my relic weapon should give me more than enough tomestones to be able to at least craft the relic.  Then I can deal with grinding out the rest as a paladin if I so choose.  In either case I should have another animus book and a 50 paladin soon enough.  Then I suppose my focus turns to finishing off my White Mage.

#FFXIV #Destiny

Fallen London

AggroChat Episode 23

Last night once again we gathered myself, Rae, Ashgar, Kodra and Tam and recorded yet another action filled episode of Aggrochat.  I would love to think it was action filled, but more likely than not it was just a lot of rambling about about various things.  I titled this weeks broadcast “An Intimate of Devils” because one of the games we talked about is the web based Fallen London.  Several of us are playing it but really only myself and Kodra have spent a good amount of time doing so.  Somehow we both managed to align ourselves with the Brass Embassy which is the home of the demonic residents of Fallen London… the Devils.  It turns out that apparently the plural of devil is an “intimate of devils” so I thought it was an interesting if not fitting title for the show.  If you have not caught on I try and name the shows something that might cause someone to click through on it.

Other than that we talked at length about the Microsoft acquisition of Minecraft, and what its possible ramifications could be.  We talked a little bit about Final Fantasy XIV and especially about Rae’s journey to become an Omnicrafter and get to 50 on all of her professions.  We spent a large chunk of time talking about Destiny and our experiences playing the game… and trying in vain to find the story.  Currently the Tokyo Game Show is going on, so we talked a bit about the games that were being shown there especially Final Fantasy XV or “Final Fantasy Roadtrip” as we have taken to calling it.  Finally we discussed for a bit what all was happening at the League of Legends World Championship.  We ran a bit longer than normal clocking in at an hour and ten minutes, but hopefully you enjoy what all we had to say about a large number of topics.

Fallen London

lodgings A few weeks back my good friend Tarantella convinced me to give a web based game called Fallen London a shot, and since then I have been playing it quite a bit, often times feverishly burning through my turns multiple times a day.  I liked it so much that I decided to become an “Exceptional Friend” which is their equivalent of a patron system giving you a second “candle” worth of turns.  That is the rather nice way of them displaying how many turns you have left.  You start off with a rather large candle and as you take turns it slowly burns down to just the stub.  If you have played the early web based RPG Kingdom of Loathing, the gameplay will be very familiar.  You are allotted a fixed number of turns, and then periodically you gain a new turn.  The turns regenerate at a rate of 1 per every 10 minutes, so generally speaking each morning you will start with a fresh candle of 40, or in my case two candles of 40 since I am a patron… and then you play through those and start accruing them back until you are at the maximum number of turns again.

one of the things that makes this more interesting than say Kingdom of Loathing is the fact that you get what are essentially “chance” cards that you can play.  These also regenerate at a rate of 1 level 10 minutes until you have 6 in reserve.  The size of your current hand is determined by the quality of your lodgings.  You start with only one card in your hand, and then as you upgrade your lodgings this increases.  Right now my lodgings is a decommissioned steamer and it allows me certain types of cards to show up as well as increasing my hand size to three.  These cards tend to give you far better rewards than wandering around the various districts of Fallen London.  I say wandering, but there is no action combat in this game.  Everything is carried out by making a series of text based decisions, and the game has a Everquest style color coding system to show how difficult the encounter is.  If you mouse over an option it will tell you specifically what the chance of success is.  There are various items that can be spent to give yourself additional chances at completing the task.

It’s About the Setting

houseofchimes The aspect of Fallen London that makes it appealing to me is that you have this London by Gaslight era setting infused with all sorts of Cthulhu elements as well as a fair bit of steampunk.  The background of the game is that London is the 5th great city to fall, and in this case it means to be consumed completely by the earth.  In the early bits of the game I found it unclear if this was literally a fissure in the earth or if the city was somehow transported into another dimension.  In either case it finds itself surrounded by a great subterranean ocean known as the “Unterzee”.  Additionally the city has found itself host to several supernatural entities that find it as a handy stopping off place between their own realms and that of the above world.  So the game is a game of factions and secret societies… and you as the player have to tiptoe your way through them figuring out exactly who you choose to align with.

Personally I have found myself fond of the “Rubbery Men” which are essentially Cthulhu style deep ones in suits that wander around the city trading for mysteriously throbbing stones.  Additional over the course of my exploits I’ve found myself getting closer and closer to the Brass Embassy as I mentioned above, the cloister of devils that visits our fair city between trips above to take the souls of men.  The artwork overall for the game is extremely simplistic, but at the same time evocative of a dark and mysterious world that it is trying to induct you into.  The game is not terribly action packed in that you essentially are doing a lot of text adventure, but nonetheless I find it compelling.  It is like a self driven pen and paper role-playing game.  I’ve made more than a few false steps as I have tried to figure out my way around the world… not the least of which was somehow pissing off the patron that had gifted me some really nice things.

An Evolution

2014-09-21_00007 One of the problems with Fallen London is that the way it is set up is designed to ration you out a few turns at a time.  Additionally you are essentially “landlocked” inside of London.  There are missions that open up storylets in different areas, but all of which are roughly connected to Fallen London proper.  The folks at Failbetter Games have created Sunless Sea that is now available on Steam Early access to address this problem.  This time instead of taking the role of a prisoner being released into Fallen London, you are taking the role of a Steamship captain giving you mobility outside of town.  You and your fearless crew embark upon missions outside of the city and engage in battle against pirates and sea monsters while trying to gain the favor of the factions within the city.  I’ve not played a ton of hours yet, but I am nonetheless intrigued.

2014-09-21_00001 The game does not really hold your hand, and in a way it reminds me quite a bit of FTL in that you can screw up spectacularly and wind up dead within a few turns.  While wandering around the “Zee” you have to watch several things… the hunger of your crew, the fuel of your vessel and your hull integrity.  As you wander about the in your vessel, you will encounter new areas and if there is a dock jutting out in to the water you can explore on shore.  So far I have found a few new areas, each with storylets that will likely come into play later as I get further into the game play.  The overall interface of the game is very familiar if you have played the web based Fallen London.  The primary difference is you have to learn what a whole new set of stats means, in that they do not use any of the same baseline abilities as the web version has.

Doing Battle

2014-09-19_00003 Eventually you are going to encounter something that wants to take a chunk out of your hull.  Combat itself is turn based and strategic in nature.  In order to perform most of your attacks you need to illuminate your target to be able to aim properly.  As such the opening salvos of combat tend to be you throwing flares out into the water to light it up properly.  There is the option to do a wild salvo, but the chance of hitting the target and dealing serious damage is pretty low.  As such I tend to throw out 3 flares first so that I can hit the target with a full force attack.  On small targets like this abyssal crab it generally only takes a single hit.  When you start encountering pirates however you will have to a bit more tricky.  I’ve noticed that the pirates prefer to open with wild salvos which generally do little damage but can stress you out as you are trying to light up the target.

2014-09-21_00002

When you defeat an enemy you are given a series of options based on how far you have progressed as a character.  In the case of the Crab, you are given the option to harvest it for supplies or dissect it to learn knowledge.  More often than not I take the supplies as this is quite literally how you feed your crew, and anything that keeps me from having to spend Echo to buy supplies makes me happy.  When I took out a pirate ship I was given the interesting option of sending it to shore with a skeleton crew and getting more resources from the ship.  I ended up getting quite a haul of Echo from doing this, but it greatly reduces the number of available crew members when you do it.  I am sure that has an opportunity cost later on as a result, but I have not quite run into a situation where the number of crew members mattered.

Tomb Colonists

2014-09-21_00005 Right now in my game I am spending most of my time running Tomb Colonists to Venderbight.  The Tomb Colonists are one of the stranger factions of Fallen London.  They are in essence mummies that travel around in coffins.  So basically as I am doing this, I am hauling three coffins at a time and getting a pretty decent payout when I get to Venderbight and sell them back to the Tomb-Colonists there.  It isn’t exactly glamorous but it is worth quite a large amount of echo… something I am sorely lacking.  I need to do some research to see what it takes to get a more efficient engine because right now it seems like I am burning through a good deal of my profit in simply buying up fuel… which greatly limits my range of movement.  I figure in coming sessions I will explore more of the coast line and see what trouble I can get into.  Unfortunately however I don’t really know how to gauge how rough an encounter is… so I feel like at some point I am just going to die horribly to something too strong for me to take.2014-09-21_00004 Right now I am very much digging the narrative of both games and the setting.  I only wish there was a way to have the two games be connected, in that I was either playing the same character or somehow being a benefactor one way or another.  I did notice I was able to log in with my Fallen London account, but I did that right before starting this post… so I have yet to see just how connected they end up being.  Long story short, I highly suggest you check out Fallen London since it is completely free to play.  If you like the setting and find the various factions as compelling as I do, then I suggest you also check out Sunless Sea.  I am looking forward to exploring more of the “Unterzee” as a Steamship “Zailor”.  Right now Sunless Sea is under $20 for steam early access, and I feel like that is an absolute steam considering just how much interesting content I have already seen.  The one thing still on my wishlist is for a proper mobile client for my phone, then I would be raving wildly about how awesome of an experience this is.

#AggroChat #FallenLondon #SunlessSea