Nineteen Years

AggroChat 59 – The Shadowrun Dragonfall Show

Last night we got the folks together to record the fourth AggroChat game club show, this time devoted to Tamrielo’s pick.  Shadowrun: Dragonfall is the second game in the Shadowrun: Returns series from the wildly successful kickstarter process.  While the first game focused mostly on getting the engine correct, this game focuses more on weaving an interesting narrative in the Shadowrun setting.  In tonights show we delve deep into the game and talk about the various choices we made while playing it.  Please be warned this is a full spoiler show, and we will talk about some of the plot twists and the alternate choice paths that you can make in the game.  I highly suggest that if you intend to play this game,  that you revisit this show after doing so as not to spoil any of the content.

 

This title is auspicious for various reasons, primarily because it is the first title that everyone joining in the show either beat or came extremely close to beating it.  Kodra and I started recording tonight and during the course of the show actually defeated it.  Ash however is in the final stretch making him only about thirty minutes away.  The other extremely unique thing about this game is it is quite literally the first game we have played that we all were able to give a big thumbs up to.  Join us next month for Kodra’s title as well called There Came an Echo, which is a voice controlled real time strategy game… that is certain to lead to some strange conversations.  Additionally if you played Shadowrun: Dragonfall along with us, please head over to AggroChat.com and drop the team a line with what you thought about the game.

Nineteen Years

It was roughly nineteen years ago yesterday that my wife and I first got together as a couple.  In truth we use May 30th as a close approximation of our “dating anniversary” because honestly neither of us really know the EXACT date.  For the most part we consider it to be the more important anniversary and try and at least acknowledge it every year.  We are not big into gifts and never really have been.  We tend to label things we were already going to get as “anniversary gifts” after the fact.  Like apparently the wooden rocking chair I got my wife awhile back is her anniversary gift, and according to my wife my new SUV and the used iPad 2 I will be getting Monday is my gift.  It seems like I made out like a bandit until you learn how we spent our anniversary.

Friday was the last day with kids for my wife and thus begins the yearly ritual of packing up her room.  This year however it is a bit more stressful for her because she is having to entirely vacate her cubical.  When they moved into the building they created this “collaboration room” for the teachers, and set it up in quite possibly the least collaborative method known to man…  the office cube farm.  This summer however it seems like they finally got the memo and are going to tear down the cube farm and replace it with a much more open shared workspace.  That said she has to completely move out of both her own personal cube and another cube for a program she manages.  So yesterday I spent my anniversary packing up these cubes in boxes and moving them as she worked on packing away stuff in her classroom.  It is not the most glamorous anniversary in the world but it was me helping her be less stressed so I think in the grand scheme of things it was a win.

End of School Stress

There are times in life when I have to fight my nature.  I tend to be fairly protective of my friends and family, and I especially feel protective of my wife.  She is a strong badass of a woman, who does not need me to fight her battles for her… but there are occasions when that instinct still kicks in.  Part of the reason she is so damned stressed right now revolves around an event that happened Friday night.  She is a rockstar of a teacher, and I mean that in every sense of the word.  She will fight for these kids and bend over backwards to try and make sure they are doing whatever they need to be doing.  This week was one of those cases where she bent over backwards to try and make sure one of her students was doing what they needed to be doing.  The problem being this isn’t always appreciated and sometimes misguided parents can add to her stress level.

It is extremely hard for me to see her in the frustrated state she was in Friday.  Every fiber of my being wants to protect her from the people who were stressing her out.  Thankfully school is over and due to the extremely supportive administration things will work themselves out.  But for the time being she has been wrestling with whether she did the right thing, or enough to help her students.  For this reason and many others I am happy to help her try and at least get one stress out of the way.  I know I would not be half the teacher she is, because quite frankly if I had to deal with half of the things she suffers with a smile…  I would have gone postal a long time ago.  She however has a level of dedication that can only be admired and respected.  So I spent our anniversary packing up boxes, moving file folders, and moving it around the building.  It might not be a glamorous chain of events, but if it lightened her burden then I think it was a successful way to spend our day.

Merry Sith-ness

Last Man on Hulu

While Carol is busy planning their wedding, Phil hosts his bachelor party.Last night I had one of those nights where I was just restless without good reason for being so.  Every activity I considered doing simultaneously sounded awesome and horrible at the same time.  So while I finished my push to 21 in each of my Final Fantasy XIV crafting professions, I didn’t really accomplished much of use the rest of the evening.  I spent a good chunk of my crafting time test driving Hulu and watching the tv show Last Man on Earth.  My assessment of both is rather mixed.  Firstly having never experienced Hulu my very first impression was precisely “what the fuck is with all these advertisements”.  I finally found a blurb on the Hulu website explaining why they have ads which comes down to a bullshit answer of needing to reduce the cost of the subscription.  How about this, how about you charge an “extra-premium” tier subscription that turns off all of that crap and just lets me watch the shows.

Right now my likelihood of actually staying subscribed to Hulu past the free trial is pretty non-existent for this reason.  To make matters worse it is like watching Cable “On Demand” where they play essentially the same four commercials over and over.  At this point I seriously want to burn down the honey bunches of oats factory that is shown on the Post cereal commercial that they kept playing over and over and over.  After having that drilled into my brain all night long while watching an already sub par television show has made me want to vehemently avoid anything products by Post while roaming around the super market.  I feel like that is counter intuitive to their original mission with the advertisement in the first place.  As far as Last Man on Earth…  the first episode was humorous, but then once Kristin Schaal showed up it progressively went down hill.  Which is sad because normally speaking I adore Kristin Schaal, I still find this skit one of the most hilarious things on the planet.  The problem with both Netflix and Hulu is the shows just keep playing without manual intervention… so I think I ultimately watched one too many episodes before finally deciding I had enough of it and stopped it.

Merry Sith-ness

swtor 2015-05-30 01-43-38-91 Around 10 pm last night I opted to try and go to sleep, thinking maybe my malaise was simply caused by being tired.  The problem being the moment my head hit the pillow it is like a flip got switched in my brain and I was instantly in “super awake” mode.  I tossed and turned trying to figure out a way to get comfortable, and chatted with my wife until she fell asleep.  After an hour of struggling to find sleep I opted to simply get up.  Thinking that if I could go do something my brain would eventually shut the hell up and let me go to sleep.  I’ve suffered from bouts of insomnia my entire life, and sometimes the worst thing I can do is try and force myself to sleep.  Otherwise I will have sat there in bed for three hours and ultimately just end up frustrated that I didn’t get up and do something with that time.  I am not entirely certain why I ended up launching Star Wars the Old Republic other than I have really not played much of it, and they have an insane xp bonus event going on.

I would really like to play the continuation of the main storyline on my Jedi Guardian, but the hard truth there is that I have been gone from the game so long that I quite literally have no clue where to start on it.  Instead I opted to log into my Sith Juggernaut that is knee deep in Balmorra hell.  In theory I could do just the class quests and be off the planet, but I feel a deep need to finish all of the things especially since this is the highest Sith character I have mustered to date.  I am not sure if it was surprising or not but I actually enjoyed myself, but the unfortunately thing is that I managed to stay up until 2 am before sleep finally claimed me.  This is going to make for a long evening with our podcast since I was back up again at 8 am.  Hopefully I will be able to sneak a nap in today, but I have a feeling that since it will be nice outside my wife will want to get out of the house.  We have been suffering through absolutely insane torrential rain.  I heard an estimate that over the last week we have gotten as much rain as we normally get in an entire year.

Beautifying AggroChat

AggroChat

One of my failings is that I have done a pretty piss poor job of advertising the fact that AggroChat.com exists and is populated full of good stuff to read.  Ultimately if you are reading Tales of the Aggronaut you are going to be extremely familiar with some of the content, but not all of it.  Essentially AggroChat.com was a vehicle that I came up with as a way to pull together all of the content created by the hosts of the AggroChat Podcast.  Additionally this site serves as a way to connect to each of the authors and a better vehicle for receiving both the AggroChat and Bel Folks Stuff episodes.  We have had some grand plans to eventually expand this site to include people who do not already have blogs of their own.  For the time being however it gives you a one stop shop for the following content…

The takeaway is that through this one site you end up with a ton of content delivered on a regular basis.  I personally blog every single day, and Tam blogs five times a week at least.  I keep hoping to add  more news commentary content and game reviews but we have not quite gotten there yet.  I plan on in the near future creating a special section of the AggroChat Game Club games where you can pull in some quick commentary from each of the folks that played it, as well as a link to the show where we discuss it.  Essentially we are going to keep expanding it, so I should do a far better job of promoting it.  So check the site out, and I would be open to any comments and suggestions.  I’ve tried to set the site up in a way that allows you to drill down into specific content by one of our Authors quickly and efficiently.  As of last week I even went back through every episode of AggroChat and indexed which hosts are on which shows so that they show up in our Author category links.  While there is already a lot of great content here, watch the site because I am hoping it gets ever cooler.

Last Best Hope

Bel Folks Stuff #7 – Late Night with Jaedia

Rift_FOXFOXFOXFOX I have been pretty horrible about keeping any semblance of a schedule with the Bel Folks Stuff podcast.  Some months I release early in the month, and others I barely squeak out an episode before the month finishes.  This month is definitely the later as with other events going on I struggled to find a good time for me to record this bonus podcast.  I am extremely thankful that when I found a time my good friend Jaedia was gracious enough to make it work.  What makes it even more special is the fact that Jae is recording rather late in the evening.  It seems she doesn’t actually sleep, and might be some kind of new fangled android or something?  Joking aside we had a lovely conversation about all sorts of random things.

Since both of us have suffered with depression and anxiety for years, we touch a bit on that.  We also of course talk about gaming and what we have been up to lately.  We also get into the rules of how long you have to live in Wales before you have to start calling yourself “Welsh”.  Jae is recently married so we talk a bit about the transition from living together to being “married” that we both went through.  Jae at one point had five different blogs so we talk about the depths of her insanity and ability to compartmentalize.  We also talk about the happy medium we have found with being a general interest blogger.  It was a fun show to record and I hope a fun show to listen to as a result.

[Download Episode Here]

Last Best Hope

WildStar64 2014-05-14 17-53-01-005 Almost since launch folks have been foretelling the Doom of Wildstar, and not for lack of good reason.  The game had extremely anemic launch numbers, and as was announced during the latest NC Soft earnings report its box sales had trickled to a slow drip.  The current rumor mill of Wildstar going free to play was really spurred on by the announcement of their Mystery Box promotion.  So yesterday when they announced that the game would be shifting to a free to play model, this should have surprised no one… not even the most die hard of pro-subscription Wildstar fans.  While some Wildstar players are tending to wallow in the doom and gloom that comes with these sort of statements, I tend to view this as a potential new lease on life.  For whatever reason gamers appetite for a monthly subscription is next to non-existent.  Even World of Warcraft recently introduced the Token system allowing players to convert in game gold for subscription time much in a similar way to Eve Online does.  This leaves the last pure bastion of the subscription game being Final Fantasy XIV… and I would not be shocked if we see them implementing some sort of gil to token system eventually.

I am not saying the age of the subscription is over, but I think the age of subscription being the only option just might be.  I personally prefer to pay a single monthly fee for “all you can eat” buffet access to the game.  Some players prefer to try and play the game for free regardless of the restrictions.  Others prefer to purchase features “À la carte” and quite frankly I think in the current gaming economy a game needs to support all three models in order for it to gain permanent traction.  Wildstar I feel suffered from the same issues that Elder Scrolls Online did… namely that it launched during an exceptionally tight window of viability.  Too many things were being released during too short of a window and it caused the players to flit gleefully between everything that was coming out.  I know I personally left Elder Scrolls Online to play Wildstar and left Wildstar to play Warlords of Draenor.  Sure I set down permanent roots in Final Fantasy XIV during that time as well…  but most players do not do a great job of juggling more than one game at a time.

Free to Play is Not Doom

WildStar64 2015-04-17 20-28-57-98

More games have converted to the Free to Play model than I care to keep track of, and in no case has it really signaled a lasting doom for the community.  If anything the opposite is true as a flood of new players come rushing into the community over a few months.  When a game releases as free to play it becomes the shiny new thing in the view finder of the player base, and for a period of time everything old is new again.  This is likely the phase of doom that most players are dreading, because it means that there will be more than a few “how I mine for fish” folks flooding into your gated community.  The thing is… this too shall pass.  Not all of these new people will stick around and find footing in the game, and often times the most heinous of players tend to be the most fickle as well.  Within six months you will have a more stable population filled with the people who really do intend to set down roots in your community and stick around awhile.  Many of those players will probably even convert to subscriptions, but simply didn’t want feeling like that was their only option.

The free to play model is ultimately a good thing for many games because if nothing else it lowers the barrier of entry for new players.  This makes it that much easier for you to be able to recruit people into the game to join you.  I know with Final Fantasy XIV once they opened the fourteen day trial accounts, it became all that much easier to get my friends to give the game a “second glance”.  This also means that probably every player that played at launch is going to fire the game back up and revisit their characters.  I personally found the game greatly improved when coming back recently and rerolling as an Exile.  I don’t regret my decision to come back, nor do I regret snapping up cheap boxed copies of the game for months of gametime and bonus items.  The game is really rather good, and my hope is that with me stepping out of World of Warcraft for awhile I can devote more time to playing it.  If you find yourself in a situation where you are surrounded by “doom and gloom” folks, my suggestion is that maybe you find a more friendly place to hang out.  Over the long haul this will be a good thing for a game  that was so desperately trying to avoid falling into a death spiral.

Waiting for Headstart

Death or Double Space

ffxiv 2015-05-19 19-04-12-406 This morning I am struggling to find purpose when it comes to sitting down and writing a blog post.  I know as I struggle through this something will magically happen and words will appear on the page.  For the Newbie Blogger Initiative folks out there, this sort of thing happens often.  Last night for example I didn’t do much of anything that would inspire a story.  I guess in truth that isn’t entirely true since I did record a Bel Folks Stuff podcast with Jaedia, but that is still being edited and hopefully will be released on Friday.  After we finished that however I attempted to hang out on the sofa and craft, but before long found myself nodding off at the keyboard.  I actually chose to do the responsible adult thing and head on to bed around 9 pm.  As I said nothing terribly exciting to talk about.

I will say one of the more humorous things that came out in the twenty minutes or so before we actually started recording was that I am old.  Jaedia was talking about editing my posts and that I double space after every line.  This is an artifact of my age and something that is so deeply ingrained in me that I cannot stop doing it.  Our editor over on MMO Games apparently thinks it is “adorable” that I double space, so I have transcended that line of being cute for my outdated ways.  Ultimately I could write a search and replace to remove them… which would be simple enough but for whatever reason I find posts that double space after the end of each sentence easier to read.  Throughout my entire educational career this was the “correct” way to do anything, and I have the style manuals to back me up on this one.  The whole single space thing has come into vogue in the meantime.  I feel like the “oxford comma” folks on this one that I am willing to die on this hill as I continue to double space.

Waiting for Headstart

final_fantasy_14_heavensward_dragon.0 For awhile now I knew that I would essentially be done with World of Warcraft on or around June 19th when the Heavensward head start happens.  Admittedly I took a similar break from Final Fantasy XIV around the launch of Warlords of Draenor, or at the very least dialed back my Final Fantasy time to only a few times a week.  So this is one of those things that I always knew would happen, but I realized yesterday that I should probably tell my raid leader that he essentially only has me for  two weeks.  I guess he knew it was coming and was extremely cool about it, but I still felt the need to actually put it in words.  I was not however able to tell some of my other friends yesterday so my hope is to do that tonight when we work on Blackhand.  I would love to be able to defeat Blackhand before I go.  This would give me some nice closure for this phase of the expansion.

I think ultimately everyone involved with the guild knows that sooner or later I will run away again.  I don’t exactly have a history of much longevity with World of Warcraft since the Cataclysm expansion.  I will show up for a brief period of time, get bored and wander off again… only to be drawn back later due to some inexplicable urge to play.  Right now I have just reached that place where there is nothing that I care to do in World of Warcraft.  I’ve been there so many times, and it is not actually a lack of things to do.  There are TONS of things that I could be doing, farming pets, farming mounts, clearing old world content, or working on achievements.  The problem being that none of these things are actually driving me to log in.  There are times I think this funk is essentially the side effect of me raiding multiple nights a week, and has very little to do with Warcraft itself.  I think I reach a point where I simply need a break, so I wander off for a bit and do other things only to return later in a much more casual fashion.

Not Quite Done

Wow-64 2015-05-14 18-09-55-06Right now my plan is to dial back my World of Warcraft raiding time to zero as I work on leveling in Heavensward.  I am still torn as to whether I will end up playing a Warrior or a Dark Knight.  I am pretty damned attached to Warrior as far as classes go, but the whole leap+aoe opener thing that Dark Knights are supposedly going to have makes me super excited.  I loved that aspect of the Jedi Guardian in Star Wars the Old Republic.  Ultimately I will likely have both to 60 and geared up, but there is going to be some serious nostalgia drawing me back to Warrior.  I have loved everything about the way that job feels, and I have to say my Malignant Mogaxe is reason enough to play one.  I am honestly just pumped to wander around the new zones.  Last week during the Live Letter watching Yoshi P play in the zones reminded me so much of the way Kunark felt.  Granted it is much higher fidelity than the original Kunark, but I am talking more about the scale of the zones.  Everything feels big and expansive and I am hoping that because of this the hard edges and zone walls will be more disguised.

In the past when I have withdrawn from World of Warcraft I have made a big deal about it.  I have almost always done one of those “quitting” posts, but this time around I don’t feel the need to do that.  In fact I have no plans on actually cancelling my account.  I still plan on piddling around in the game, just on a much more casual level.  Hell for all I know after my month or so long sabbatical I might be right back raiding the 6.2 content like normal.  I do admit that I am super interested in the Hellfire Citadel raid that is just about to come out.  I liked all the “fel” stuff from Burning Crusade, so if Tanaan Jungle is going to be an entire zone of that I might really enjoy it.  I am just going to allow myself time to back away from the game as a whole so I can experience Heavensward to its fullest without the sense of bitterness towards Warcraft for pulling me away two nights a week.  I really think this is for the best because if I force myself to raid WHILE playing Heavensward that is the surest way to get me to actually quit the raid entirely.

NBI Talkback Four – Deadly Gamer Sins

As part of my continued attempt to complete the writing prompts as part of the Newbie Blogger Initiative, this morning I am tackling Talkback Challenge Four.  This one is a bit different than most because it is actually a series of questions about the “Seven Deadly Gaming Sins”.  This concept is courtesy of Joseph Skyrim who has outlined the series of questions as a way of getting to know our gaming habits better.  I have not done terribly many questionnaire type posts so this might be a little interesting.

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Lust – Do you enjoy games more if they have scantily clad and “interestingly proportioned” avatars? Do you like playing as one of these avatars? Why or why not?

Nope!  I am being honestly with this one because quite honestly there is this awkward uncanny valley thing going on when it comes to nudity in games.  It always feels extremely cringe worthy in part because developers have yet to figure out a way to do mature content without it either being soft core pornography or incapable of also showing human emotion at the same time.  As far as playing Avatars, that isn’t my shtick either.  Pretty much all of the characters I willfully play are like the ultimate version of myself, or more so how I wish I might be.  As a result I am always going to go with the heavily armored character, with badass armor plates everywhere.  While the subligar in Final Fantasy XIV is humorous, I am not the type of person to walk around in one.

Gluttony – Do you have a game backlog of unfinished games but still buy new games regardless? Why or why not?

I have a truly massive backlog of games that are unfinished, and I am mostly okay with this.  When I buy a game I don’t necessarily view it as “just” buying a game.  I also view it as me supporting the development of that game with my dollars.  Maybe that is a strange concept, but there are a lot of games that I am happy that exist whether or not I ever get around to playing them.  Additionally I am a sucker for a good sale, and sometimes I pick games up in the hopes that I will actually get around to playing them because they were pennies on the dollar of the original price.  When I pay full price for a game I always play it, pretty much immediately.  The bargain basement games however, sit in the stack waiting for me to find the time and the drive to dig into them.  I really need to resurrect the Steampowered Sunday concept again and start digging through my backlog.

Greed – Do you enjoy hand outs in a game? Have you ever opted to NOT do an action / in game activity because the rewards were lacking? Why or why not?

Oh absolutely on this one, as far as opting out of not doing something because there was no reward in it.  I am most guilty of this in World of Warcraft, because when I reach a point where I can no longer receive upgrades on a given character…  I lose all desire to keep doing  the content.  This is more than just a loot issue however because there are games where the content itself is the reward.  Some games are only valuable to me so long as there is a carrot being dangled in front of me.  For example I generally love running dungeons, but the hassle of running heroics in World of Warcraft is not worth the non-existant rewards that can be gained from doing it.  On the other hand in Final Fantasy XIV I am almost always down for running a dungeon (except Aurum Vale because fuck Aurum Vale) and there is quite literally nothing of use that I can get from most of them.  The experience is worth my time even when the rewards are not.

Sloth – Do you ever leech or AFK in a party? Do you discourage others from attempting things that you feel are difficult? Have you ever seen someone that needed help, but decided not to help them? Why or why not?

I’ve never leeched experience or AFK’d in a party other than you know…  to go do something important in the real world for a brief period of time.  There are times though that I do get pessimistic when I don’t feel like we can defeat a given content.  I tend to play MMOs and there is a hard fact that sometimes there are simply gear checks that a group is not ready for.  So while I see myself as being a pragmatic voice of reason… there are some who could see me as discouraging the group.  As far as seeing someone in need of help… if someone is struggling with content I will almost always try and lend a hand in a game setting.  I am one of those people who runs over and helps attack random monsters, because it is in my nature to do so.  As far as dungeons and raids and such, it all depends on what my overarching mission for the night is or how much time I might have.

Wrath – Ever get angry at other players and yell (or TYPE IN CAPS) at them? Have you ever been so angry to stalk a person around in game and / or in the forums? Why or why not?

The me that existed around Lich King absolutely did this thing.  In fact I have a lengthy post about the “Bunny Incident” if someone is interested in reading about it.  The current me… I try really hard to be overwhelmingly positive.  Mostly I went through a bad spot mentally for awhile… and then I took the advice of “fake it until you make it” and quite literally it did help.  Over time I became  a much happier person and additionally more balanced.  There are some people though that seem to hate me and I do find myself obsessing about them a bit.  Trying to figure out exactly what I might have done to them to make them so upset with me.  I have this overwhelming need to be liked that no matter what I try I cannot quite shake.  I am working on it, but it is like the polar opposite of Wrath.

Envy – Ever felt jealous of players who seem to be able to complete content you can’t? Do you ever suspect they are hacking or otherwise cheating? Why or why not?

For the most part no on this one.  I don’t really see myself as some pinnacle of gaming skill.  I am just a guy that enjoys piddling around in video games.  I am not a terribly competitive person, and as such when I get bested in skill I just move on knowing that the player was better than me.  I do take pride in things like tanking, but I think that is slightly different.  As far as Envy goes…  I don’t ever get jealous of content that people are able to complete.  There are times I do get frustrated when players are at a level that I know they did not earn themselves, but are bragging about it.  Anyone that worked their way up through the content on their own merit and through the blood sweat and tears that comes from weeks of wiping…  those folks earned every last drop and I would never be jealous of anyone who put in the effort I did not.

Pride – Are you one of those people that demands grouping with other “elite” players? Do you kick players out of your team who you feel are under-performing? Why or why not?

Nope! I love my “scrubs” and “casuals” for the most part.  Now on the raiding side I do tend to demand that players put in some effort.  That said I am more than willing to teach someone the ropes, and explain fights.  This has been one of the great things for me when it comes to the Final Fantasy XIV community.  Overall folks have been more than willing to stop and take the time to explain the encounters when someone says they are brand new to it.  As far as raiding goes you ultimately have to do what is best for the team.  If you have a player that is simply not performing, and even though you have spent time working with them… simply cannot compete at the level the rest of the team is.

Under those circumstances then yes, absolutely I would trim that player from the raid and replace them with someone that was able to “keep up”.  That is the thing about raiding is that essentially it is a “team sport”.  On many fights you are only as good as your weakest link, and even though it might suck to do it… you have to do what is needed for the raid group to progress.  That does not make the person a bad player or a bad person… and outside of the raid environment I would not think any less of them.  I like to keep a line of separation between “Guild” and “Raid” for this reason.  The guild is a social structure and the raid is a working group designed to complete a task.  Folks have to be understanding that while everyone can be in the guild, not everyone is ready to put out the effort needed to be in the raid.  I don’t necessarily see this as a “pride” thing but more a “taking the needs of the team” into account.

Flight is a Double Edged Sword

Skipping Content

WoWScrnShot_061712_000053 Over the last few weeks a topic has sprung back up that I thought was long put to bed.  I guess the lack of flight in World of Warcraft for the Warlords of Draenor expansion is still a divisive topic.  I’ve said before that I support their decision to keep flight out of the expansion.  My current malaise with Warcraft has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not I can fly.  So this morning I thought I would talk for a bit about the inclusion of flight in games and the strange ramifications it has on game play.  Ultimately when you include flight players skip your content as simple as that.  I can say this coming from a perspective of someone who has played several games with and without flight.  Ultimately the first game I played with flight was City of Heroes, and it was both the most powerful “travel power” and also the most frustrating.  Sure you could soar above the battlefield and move around relatively unscathed, but you did so at often times half the speed of any other travel power.  The players that could fly however were able to terrain hack content, and often times find ways to level with absolutely impunity, but they did so giving up the ability to move about “quickly”.

When World of Warcraft first introduced flight it felt very similar.  While you were technically going at 150% speed it felt like you were moving more slowly because in the air you lost your point of reference for how fast you were going.  Additionally the flight masters still moved significantly faster than you were able to go.  Even with the introduction of artisan flying at 280% flight speed you were still slightly slower than a flight master which I believe is roughly 300% speed.  The problem is in both cases it changed the way I played the game.  While I struggled to make the money to fly in  Burning Crusade, by the time Wrath of the Lich King rolled around I had enough cash to spare to be able to outfit all of my alts with even Cold Weather Flying giving me the ability to fly while leveling.  I found myself using the same sort of terrain hacking tricks that players did in City of Heroes.  Instead of fighting my way to the entrance of something I simply swooped down from above and quickly poked into entrance tunnels to avoid fighting any adds.  If I needed to kill a single quest mob, I would zoom straight into the hut they were located in with surgical precision avoiding the experience of clearing my way through a camp.

Flight is a Double Edged Sword

EQ2_000043 While you might be fine with this style of play it does not change the fact that you are ultimately playing the game in a way that was not intended by the developers.  Someone spent a serious amount of time and resources designing the layout of the content you just leapt over the top of with your trust flying mount.  Sure there are ways for developers to put counter measures in place that block you from terrain hacking the content using a flying mount, but that just adds to the problem.  Instead of making new areas of the game they would be reworking areas to make sure that you cannot skip the important bits.  This also destroys the ability to add content along the way like side quests and collectibles because if you are skipping directly to the end you will never actually see it.  By having flight you are really handcuffing the tools that the content providers have to add to the mix, and changing the way they have to approach the content.  The end result is likely a far less vibrant world.

If it were just Worlds of Warcraft I would think that maybe they simply integrated flight in a bad way.  The problem being that I went through the same experience with Everquest II.  Once I got the ability to fly I stopped experiencing content “as intended”.  I started flying up to exactly the spot on my mini-map I needed to be at in order to complete the quests as quick as humanly possible.  I pulled myself out of the game experience and essentially was robbed of the living and breathing world around me.  With flight questing becomes about clearing dots off of your map as quickly as possible without spending any time really engaged in the content itself.  I think in many ways this was why I enjoyed the questing experience of Warlords of Draenor so much more than I did the previous expansions.  It actually forced me to spend time getting to know the layout of the zones, rather than zipping over the top of them.  It is better to see the crags and crevices of the world…  than a monstrosity of super pixilated trees that never quite mesh correctly.

Heavensward and Flight

final_fantasy_14_heavensward_dragon.0 As I look forwards at Heavensward I have to admit I am more than a little concerned that we are seeing the introduction of flying into Final Fantasy XIV.  Firstly I hope they stand firm on the statement that there will be no flight in the original areas of the game.  Secondly I hope they have thought through all of the ramifications that come with introducing a system that lets you skip over content.  There has been a lot of talk about having to explore a region and learn how to harness the winds in that area before being able to fly there, and I am hoping this is actually a fairly drawn out process.  This would mean that the player would need to have spent a significant amount of time in a given region before learning how to fly there.  At one point Yoshi P in an earlier statement said something to the effect of having to completely explore an area before being able to learn flight.  In both cases this sounds like maybe they understand the danger that integrating this system really is to a game.  The problem is that flight is a Pandora’s box that cannot be easily shut after it has been opened.

Blizzard has learned this lesson and is trying to hold shut that lid with all their might.  Other games like Rift have been carefully guarding their own box to make sure that no one opens it.  It is with great reservation that I watch as Square Enix prepares to open their own box and see what happens.  I say reservation, because this is the same development group that has managed to outthink its player base on a regular basis.  They have essentially social engineered a community into treating each other with a modicum of civil decency rather than a race to the bottom to see who can behave the most horrifically.  I have hope that they will be able to solve the problems that no company has to date with flight.  I have hope that they will figure out a way to keep it from cheapening their content experiences.  My hope is that they will make it so we are not completely alone in the sky.  This is an expansion about doing battle with dragons…  and dragons notoriously can fly.  Maybe we will have to avoid encounters in the air just like we try and avoid encounters on the land  as we traverse the world.  We have roughly twenty four days before we find out, but I still stand by my stance that I am fine playing games without flying.  I am even fine when a game decides that flight was a mistake and claws it back out of our grips.

Obsession with a Skillet

To Achieve Self Sufficiency

ffxiv 2015-04-07 17-25-17-52

There are a lot of reasons why people craft in online games.  Some start down the path because there is an item that can be created that is better than something that they can get through other means.  Others start down the path to earn money, or be able to play the market.  For me I have always been the type that crafts so that I don’t have to rely on anyone else.  I have the most awesome guild in the world, and in it are a group of individuals that would drop whatever they happened to be doing to craft me anything that I might happen to need.  The problem being I hate asking people for things.  I am the type of person who would give away anything to anyone that might need it, but when it comes to me asking for something… it goes against every bone in my body to impose on someone else.

As a result I tend to level crafting so that I can make my own gems, brew my own potions and enchant my own gear.  In World of Warcraft for example I have one of every single craft at maximum or at least near maximum level.  This has allowed me to basically take care of my own needs and it makes me pretty happy.  In Rift I have the same thing, in fact I spent a large chunk of my bonus currency when they converted to free to play unlocking all of the trade skills available on my main character.  So self sufficiency is an important mission to me, and it is a bit strange that until last week I had not actually touched the crafting system in Final Fantasy XIV.  In part I had watched lots of my friends fall into the black hole that I am now in and wanted to avoid doing so until I had at least leveled one of every combat role I might need.

Obsession with a Skillet

ffxiv 2015-05-25 09-58-53-40

Like I wrote yesterday I have now left the territory of being able to purchase goods from a vendor and craft those up in rapid succession.  You can get to fifteen in a given crafting profession relatively easily.  Sure it takes a lot of time and getting to fifteen in all professions took me roughly two weeks of piddling at leveling off and on to get there.  Now however it seems like the challenge is not the leveling portion but the acquisition of items to use in crafting.  While my friends seem to think I am insane in doing this my strategy falls along the lines of picking a single item and then farming up three for four stacks of materials and mindlessly crafting a given item until I ding.  This worked extremely well for leatherworking in that I simply gathered up enough aldgoat skin and allumen to be able to craft up four stacks of aldgoat leather.  Sure it was pure tedium to craft that many items in a row, but I did so while watching television so it ultimately was not that bad.  The crafting system while more involved than just pressing a button and crafting an entire stack of items, is simple enough that you can pretty much do it through muscle memory.

Last night I spent crafting mortar by combining stacks of limestone and fine sand, both of which I mined up myself.  This pushed me from 15 in Alchemist to 21 over the course of the evening, watching Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, Veep and Last Week Tonight for a reference in just how long it takes to push a profession.  After that I started work on Culinarian by crafting a bunch of salted fish.  I purchased three stacks of fish from the market place because it was relatively cheap, and the table salt I crafted by combining rock salt and distilled water.  I managed to make it to 16 last night before heading to bed, and as soon as I finish writing this blog post I will begin the journey once again.  Ultimately I decided to push Alchemist and Culinarian first because they are ultimately the professions I like the least.  The strange thing is… that each step I make towards 50 makes me happy because I am that much closer to being self sufficient.  While honestly I am not to the point of being able to make all that many useful things…  I know eventually I will get there.

To Lost Causes

ffxiv 2015-04-16 12-08-19-77 At this point I have 25 days to push eight professions from 15ish to 50, and I don’t feel like there is a way in hell for me to make that work.  Even if I took that month off from work and did nothing but craft full time… I don’t think I would be able to make it.  Even knowing this fact…  I am still going to try.  If I can at least get to 40 by the time Heavensward launches I will be happy enough.  There are so many other competing things that I would like to accomplish but right now I am as my friend put it past the “event horizon” and the only way out is through.  Crafting has dug its hooks into me and I am currently obsessed with getting caught up.  I wish I had not waited so long to make the push, but in the grand scheme of things I tend to only feel the drive to do something… when pushed on from external forces.  The impending launch of Heavensward is the catalyst that makes me want to do this, and for that I guess I am thankful.

Right now I am so thoroughly amped about the launch of this expansion, more so than I have been since potentially the launch of Shadows of Luclin in Everquest.  That was really my “first” expansion launch, and I was so unbelievably excited about what it might hold for me.  Everything I have seen about Heavensward is making me feel that excited about it all.  I think this expansion is going to be just as game changing, because the new content feels so vast.  The scale of everything seems to be amplified, and that makes me so happy.  The world building of Everquest embraced the feeling of everything on a large scale, and my hope is now that the team has proven their mettle with a smaller experience that we will see them branching out and building worlds on a bigger scale.  My hope is that with the introduction of flight that we will see less hard edges in the world.  I admit I am leery about flight because in both World of Warcraft and Everquest 2 it changed the way I played the game potentially for the worse.  In both cases I skipped content because I could simply fly over the top of it…  and I am hoping that Square can approach flight from a slightly different direction.

The Madness Continues

AggroChat #58 – Eight Is Enough?

This week we explore the age old question of podcasting.. just how many hosts can you have before a show descends into madness? As the title suggests we ended up with eight hosts on this weeks AggroChat and I think for the most part we exited on the other side with our sanity still in place… or what little we actually had of it to start. This week Ashgar and Kodra are both travelling, and as such I made plans to cover for them if they were unable to make it for the show. However because they are the consumate professionals that they are… they figured out a way to podcast remotely. This left me with the choice of either backing out on the folks I had arranged or just push forward into madness. Like usual I chose the path of madness.

This week we have quite possibly our longest show to date as we aske the question if Eight is Enough? This week we talk about Kodra’s trip to Canada, and his descent into Pathfinder Online. This spurs a discussion about the recent crop of MMO nostalgia titles and how they all somehow miss the boat on what made those early MMOs so interesting. Since all of us literally are playing Final Fantasy XIV we spend a good deal talking about our two groups working on turn nine of the Second Coil of Bahamut, as well as contrasting WoW and Final Fantasy raiding experiences. Grace talks about her experience leveling a ninja and how this game causes us to play things we didn’t think we would ever like playing. I talk about my complete and total embrace of the black hole that is the crafting system and how I have managed to push all classes to fifteen this week.

On top of this we talk Sword Art Online in both the Anime and Game forms. We talk a bit about how each of us is trying to wrap up our time in Shadowrun in preparation for next weeks show. We talk Mad Max Fury Road and to a lesser extent Orphan Black. Ashgar talks about his continued experiences with Radiant Historia, and Thalen ventures into Broken Age. Dallian and I talk about our experiences this week playing Witcher 3, and how the Hearthstone mobile app doesn’t work nearly as well as we would have hoped it would. Finally we wrap things up with some discussion about Moonrise and the impending steam early access. It was without a doubt one of the biggest shows we have recorded but also extremely enjoyable to participate in. It seems we somehow were able to juggle eight people on a show without complete chaos.

The Madness Continues

ffxiv 2015-05-19 19-04-12-406 The insanity that is the Final Fantasy XIV crafting system continues.  It was a rainy day here in Oklahoma so I spent most of it curled up on the couch watching television and banging away slowly on crafting.  As of yesterday evening I had managed to push every single crafting profession to fifteen, which essentially signals the end of “easy mode” crafting.  During those first levels everything you need can be purchased off of a vendor and it is simply an act of brute forcing your way through the levels.  Now I begin a trek through the dark territory that involves copious farming of materials.  Last night while podcasting I farmed up three stacks of allumen and aldgoat skin for the purpose of leveling leatherworking.  I was not sure just how much Aldgoat Leather I would ultimately need to get through to 30 but I suspected it would be quite a bit.  Towards the end of the podcast and while editing I crafted up the entire stack of materials, making some 410 Aldgoat leather and it pushed me from level 15 to level 21.

In theory if I can just find something like this to farm at each step of the way I might make it through the 50 levels of crafting with ease.  It seems that in leatherworking at least there is an item like that every 10 levels that can be mass farmed and crafted up.  The ones that I worry the most about are Alchemist and Cullinarian because they seem to be the most fiddly of the professions.  Right now I am farming up Limestone and Fine Sand to make a ton of Mortar because I actually need some to hand off to Cylladora to craft a Moogle themed wallpaper for me, for my personal room.  Yesterday in the mix of things that I ran I helped some guildies get through Good King Moggle Mog and managed to get the rare crafting material to drop.  Who doesn’t want Moogle themed wallpaper for their personal room?  Anyways I am finding the whole crafitng thing oddly soothing but it has absolutely consumed every last moment of my play time.  Now that I am having to farm up materials however I am at least venturing out in to the world some.

Poking My Head Out

ffxiv 2015-05-23 17-12-44-17 Yesterday was quite literally the first day I have done something other than craft for the last two weeks.  Maybe it isn’t quite that drastic, but the majority of my time in game has been working on some craft or another.  Yesterday I ran Haukke Manor with some guildies and got to play my rogue.  I have to say that class is just fun to play in that the animations are amazing.  While it is only 28 right now I am thinking it might be the next class that I push to 50.  A huge chunk of this desire admittedly is the fact that I have a pair of Moogle themed daggers waiting for maximum level.  Mog weapons make everything more enjoyable, as I am using the mogfork on my dragoon and mogaxe on my warrior.  Other than Haukke I ran an expert with Grace and Tam, and then later that night ran the Battle at Big Keep and The Chrysallis with guildies.  It was good to actually stretch my warrior muscles a bit after all of the crafting.  I feel like at this point I have more than I could ever actually accomplish still to do before the launch of Heavensward.  There are only twenty six days until the Heavensward head start, and there is no way in hell I am going to finish a lot of my side projects before then.

Quite literally I feel like I could take a month off and focus on nothing but Final Fantasy XIV and still have things that are left unfinished before the expansion.  Right now it seems I have opposite problems between Final Fantasy and World of Warcraft.  In Warcraft there is nothing I really want to do, but in Final Fantasy I have what feels like dozens of competing desires.  It is actually hard getting used to the notion that I will be going into this expansion with a lot of unfinished baggage, but I guess in the grand scheme of things that gives me reason to keep poking my head back in on the old world.  The things that I absolutely want to finish before Heavensward is that I want to complete the Post Moogle storyline.  I feel like I really just need a good afternoon to work through all of that content, so I am wondering if maybe that is going to be my mission on Monday.  Put on Orphan Black on the television and quest my way through to one of the coolest hats in any game.  Even writing this… I am realizing just how much content there is in this game yet to do.

Fear of the Unknown

MMO Nostalgia

pathfinderonline One of the interesting subtexts this week that we will likely talk about on tonight’s AggroChat is Kodra and Pathfinder Online.  He has begun the descent into this game and been trying to drum up a certain measure of interest from the rest of us to join him.  The problem is that as I listen to him talk about the game I realize that I have already played this.  In fact I gave three years of my life to Everquest, and everything about Pathfinder Online feels like a nostalgic throwback to that era.  I am sure it is a perfectly awesome game, but while I miss the sense of community we had back then there are many things I don’t miss about it.  This is all the more relevant since right now the Ragefire server is open in Everquest and folks are flocking there for their own hit from the nostalgia pipe.

The thing that I don’t miss about that era is the way I felt chained to the computer.  Every time I set foot in the world I had a tangible fear of losing everything that I had worked so hard to attain to that point.  There was always the fear that you might take a death in a place where you could not recover your body.  Over time the items on your body started to decay and disappear, and eventually there was a point where things were simply no longer recoverable.  The problem is when you took a death your entire mission in life became about getting that body back.  I’ve known people that skipped major events in their life all because they were in the middle of trying to get back their virtual items.  I’ve personally gotten calls on the middle of a Sunday afternoon begging me to go home and log in and go find them so that I could resurrect their body and give them back some of the lost experience.

Fear of the Unknown

kithicor-thecrew So while I don’t miss any of that bullshit, I do the constant and tangible sense of fear.  The problem being that the modern games seem to have missed the boat in what exactly caused this fear.  Right now so many of these sandbox games take the cheap route and make every player afraid of every other player.  The problem with this is that it is counter productive to building a community.  You want your players to band together, rather than avoid each other like the plague.  What caused the fear was that the world was this scary and unknown place.  There were no in game maps, there were no mob statistics…  and it was the lack of information that made the world frightening.  We didn’t know what we didn’t know… and often times our imaginations invented a far scarier scenario than the game servers were possible of creating at the time.  We imagined complex plans within plans… and that the server was quite literally out to get us.

There were situations like Kithicor Forest in Everquest, where during the day it was a friendly low level hunting zone, but at night all manner of maximum level undead spawned and started roaming.  The truth of Kithicor is that there were far fewer undead spawning than we realized and that we were never in as much danger as we actually thought we were.  In all the times I ran through the zone at night, I never once died to the undead…  but I was constantly in fear of it.  I “knew” death waited around every corner and because of it I tiptoed my way out into the world constantly aware of my surroundings and constantly afraid that at any moment the server would reach out and smite me for my impudence.  The fact that it never actually happened, didn’t really matter…  because I lacked the data mined information to tell me exactly what the spawn rates were and where the roaming paths were located at.

Players Together, Not Against

watching_sat We are quite literally overloaded with information about the games we play.  Knowing the amount of hit points a given mob has is just expected now, along with knowing every other intimate piece of information about the game.  We know the attacks a creature is capable of making, and how exactly to counter them…  before we even see said creature take a swing.  Where this modern incarnation of Everquest nostalgia falls short is understanding that it was our lack of knowledge that made us afraid to venture into the world.  It was not necessarily the harsh death penalties, and it most definitely was not that we were afraid of other players…  it was that the world was cruel and unknown.  The focus on PVP as a way of providing cheap content always seems to miss the point of why the original games worked.  Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot worked more than anything because it caused players to be willing to look for help from anyone who would offer it.

When you expect the world to strike you down at any moment, you are willing to accept assistance from anyone willing to lend it.  Especially in Everquest it felt like every player in the game was on the same team, that it was us versus the world.  Sure there were territorial squabbles over spawn camps and the like, but more often than not each server had its own hard and fast rules for dealing with this sort of thing.  We the players made order out of the chaos, and there was protection in numbers.  There were many zones that you didn’t go to because you knew there were not likely to be other players to help you out if something went wrong.  By the same token these untouched zones became the perfect place for a group of friends to go off exploring on their own.  This is what we need in the current crop of nostalgic games, a sense of why exactly the first games worked and a certain measure of ignorance to make us all fear the darkness.

Don’t Believe Your Own Hype

Strange Dreams

Last night I failed miserably to attend the World of Warcraft raid.  For whatever reason I have not slept amazingly well this week, so by the time I got home yesterday I found myself incapable of sitting up straight in my office chair.  From there I attempted to game on the couch from my laptop, but before long was finding myself dozing off.  So around the 7:30 start time of our World of Warcraft raid I was ultimately taking a nap.  It looks like they put in ten solid tries on Blackhand without me, which is pretty awesome.  Hopefully this coming week we can manage to down him and take his candy.  I am not sure why I am apparently sleep deprived but after all the napping on the couch I still managed to sleep a fairly full nights sleep.  Admittedly I woke up several times during the night, but each time I was able to get right back to sleep without much issue.

I did have a really strange dream during the course of all these wake ups.  It was at some banquet for Blizzard Entertainment, and somehow had gotten chosen to say a few words.  When it came to me and I introduced who I was and what blog and podcast I am from…  there was a sheer look of horror from the stage.  It was like this overwhelming wave of “What is he doing here?” sweeping over the fine folks from Blizzard.  I proceeded to say a few words about my love of Blizzard and I am not really sure what happened next because I woke up.  However I do remember having this general feeling that I did not belong there.  The funny thing is…  that in order for the dream to function I would have to be well known, and this is something that I am not willing to accept.  I don’t think anyone at Blizzard has a clue who I am, let alone enough of a clue to be horrified that I would be speaking at their banquet.   I am just a guy that does a thing, and not terribly important for doing it.

Don’t Believe Your Own Hype

One of the interesting things about being a blogger or a podcaster is that you are forced into the often uncomfortable role of self promotion.  This aspect of blogging names my skin crawl because ultimately whether your like it or not, you are building a brand.  The brand is made up of you, the image you project of yourself and the content you create.  Most of us adopt a persona of sorts that we break out when it comes to interacting with the world and our readers.  For some of us that persona is really damned close to the real thing.  For me it is like a super hyped up and self confident version of myself, and the odd thing is that over time the REAL me has become more and more like the “Rockstar” me.  For the most part this is harmless, because “super” me probably is far more enjoyable to be around than the sulky and moody “actual” me that exists sometimes.  The problem is it is really damned easy to lose your sense of self on the internet.

In the decade or so I have been serious about socializing online, I have seen more than a few people lose themselves in their own hype.  They start to believe that they are legitimately famous and as such somehow separated from the “common” folk because of it.  If you ever find yourself with the strong desire to utter the phrase “Don’t you know who this is?” then chances are you have already gone off the deep end.  As strange as it sounds this is a constant fear of mine, that I will end up becoming one of those empty self promoting husks.  I spend most of my time trying to actively deny the fact that I have any sway over other human beings, and that I am ultimately just talking to myself.  The reality is somewhere between because apparently as much as I try and deny it the whole #BelEffect thing that I am cursed with is apparently a legitimate thing.

Find A Grounding Force

The reality is that on a daily basis I have somewhere between 500 and 1000 readers of this blog when you combine direct hits and folks that read it through an RSS reader.  I am by no means a large presence on the internet, but I do have a niche following.  I do everything in my power to forget that I actually have readers, largely because I am scared to death of turning into one of the people that I have been frustrated with in the past.  I just want to be me, doing the thing that I do… and sharing that thing with other people.  Essentially what has worked thus far is to surround myself with people that are not buying into my own hype in the least.  While my friends like to grief me with things like that hashtag or trying to claim I am some media personality… they are also the first people that would call me on my shit if I ever started to believe any of it.  More than anything the biggest grounding force in my life is my wife, who is not part of the gaming universe at all.

I realize this is a strange post as far as Newbie Blogger Initiative tips goes, because if you are just starting out you are in that phase where you are struggling to gain the courage every single day to post anything at all.  There comes a time however when those fears go away and you are able to interact freely.  I’ve tried my best to stay grounded and humble as this blog has grown from something a couple dozen people followed to the readership it has today.  The problem is that not everyone does, and I have watched this whole process go to folks heads.  I am no one special, and thanks to the support of my wife and friends…  it is my intent to keep it that way.  Self promotion is a necessary evil, and the “rockstar” version of my personality will more than likely always need to be there as a coping mechanism for the stress of dealing with other human beings.  It is my sincere hope that I can keep from falling into the trap of believing in my own hype.  It is also my hope that as you go through your own rollercoaster of success with your own blogging endeavors that you too can keep from believing your own hype.