The Institute

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Riding the RF

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This coming Saturday it is the intention to record the Fallout 4 show for AggroChat since we ultimately put it off until after the Holidays.  As a result I am back on the mission of trying to finish up the main storyline so that I can discuss it.  I have to tell you…  focusing on the storyline has killed a lot of my enjoyment of this game, and even then I find myself having a hard time of not following my instincts and letting myself get lost in the rabbit holes that are the weird side events going on around the commonwealth.  However I really really need to focus so I can finish up and be read to discuss the path I took.  Tam, Kodra and probably a few others will have likely beaten the game multiple times by the show happens…  but so much of my enjoyment has nothing to do with the storyline that I am going to be hard pressed to finish this game once.  I’ve logged hundreds upon hundreds of hours in the other Fallout and Elder Scrolls games…  and started playing each of them numerous times…  and to be honest… I think I have maybe beat the main story exactly once per game.  Beating them is just not part of what I find crucial to the enjoyment, but instead roaming around and inhabiting the world is what makes them special.  That said I am going to talk a bit about the storyline so if you don’t want to have any plot details spoiled…  please just skip the rest of this post.

Firstly…  I love the Railroad.  I’ve loved everything about the quest sequence so far, from the having to follow the freedom trail to find their base, to the extracting and guarding of runaway synths.  One of my favorite missions was when I had to pick up a synth and guard him while waiting on someone else to help ferry him along to his new home.  I realized by following the path of the Railroad I would ultimately come into conflict with both the Brotherhood of Steel and the Institute, and more or less I am perfectly fine with both of these choices.  The Minutemen however, I am hoping I can retain my position with them, because I really like the concept of them as the unsung heroes of the commonwealth.  The only frustration so far has been that working on the main story, and also the railroad story… has forced me to follow at least to a point the institute story.  Everything about the institute creeps me the fuck out.  They keep trying to tell me that they are no where near the bogeymen that they are acclaimed to be….  but then they want me to go abduct a scientist, and act like they weren’t going to give him a choice in the matter.  They also really wanted me to create a radio broadcast threatening the commonwealth that if they messed with the institute they would destroy them.  Again there is the whole Synth thing as well…  if you create life you have to respect it… and they very much seem to treat synths the same way we would treat a toaster.

Double Agent

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You would think that by working with the Institute I would come to respect and understand them, but instead it has only served to make me more creeped out by their actions.  The only real positive of the institute is the fact that the Courser outfit looks amazing, and I am more than happy to wear it around everywhere.  Basically the Institute reminds me of the Vault, magnified to the extreme.  Everything is cold and sterile, and I believe you are supposed to sympathize with your son….  aka “Father” but he seems just as twisted and misguided as the Overseers from the various vaults.  There is a point where you have this conversation with him, where he basically writes off everything that is happening in the commonwealth as nothing worth salvaging, but instead I feel like I’ve seen so much good already in the people of the commonwealth.  What is killing me is how long it is taking for me to get to the point where I can stop playing nice… and help the synths escape from the Institute.  There are a few of the scientists that I like, but it feels very much like running around in a creepy 1980s police state science fiction film.  Having every single item in the Institute look like 1970s era “high tech” concepts isn’t helping either.  I keep having flashbacks in my mind to movies like Logan’s Run or books like Brave New World.  Basically the whole experience with the Institute is a whole lot of nope.

So much of me wants to just open fire and take out everyone down there….  then give the tech they have to people who will actually put it to use for the benefit of everyone.  They claim that they are the last hope of humanity…. but they seem to be doing nothing at all to benefit anyone other than themselves.  They are a bunch of scientists high on the act of doing science…. and seem go give zero shits about the practical application of the tech they are building when it comes to actually improving the world for anyone other than their cloistered society.  Basically the Institute is against everything that makes me really love Fallout 4, the feeling of honestly saving the world a little bit at a time.  Both the Insititute and The Brotherhood of Steel are these paternal forces, trying to gather power and resources for themselves at the cost of the common folk.  So all of that said… I am going to be damned happy when I can finally open fire and leave the Institute behind me.  Tam kept alluding to the Railroad not being what they seem…. but I just have not seen it yet.  I don’t see the Institute as the noble force worth committing myself to… instead I see a group that causes a lot of harm and ends up thinking of it as “minor collateral damage”.  The hubris is strong with them…  and I am really hoping I am getting close to ending the story arc and leaving them behind.

 

 

 

The Kerfuffle

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Getting Out

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For the last few days we have more or less been stuck in the house.  We had quite literally three and a half days of nonstop rain, that then turned into ice, sleet and snow.  Yesterday however we were getting to the point of being stir crazy.  It is funny how much different you feel about your home when you feel like you can’t or at least shouldn’t leave it.  I can happily stay home for days on end without leaving… but the moment I feel like I am trapped there…  I start to go stir crazy.  So as a result my wife and I had decided that yesterday we would get out regardless of how cold it was.  Admittedly cold for me is sub freezing…  not necessarily the negative temperatures that the rest of my readers might consider cold.  We essentially had one task that needed to get done, and a bunch of other things that we sorted out somewhere in the middle.  My wife’s tribal tag was due, so we had to trek out to the small town that has a Cherokee nation tag office, and what I thought was going to take fifteen minutes ended up taking close to an hour because they were short workers due to the holiday break.  After that we grabbed a friend and went out looking for post holiday clearance bargains….  and the strange hair stuff my wife uses that no one seems to stock.

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At the first place we stopped we managed to find both the hair gunk, as well as clearance Legos.  At some point I had picked up The Phantom ship from Star Wars Rebels for cheap…. I want to say something in the range of $8-10.  Then I had seen The Ghost a handful of times marked down but always passed it up for this reason or that.  I had been kicking myself for not snapping it up when I saw the stores start to close it out, but apparently the target we went to somehow managed to still have one after the Christmas rush.  Better yet it was marked down by like $40 making it the best deal I had seen on it yet.  What I am really curious about is whether or not The Phantom will dock with The Ghost like it does in the television show.  Some googling makes it seem like that is the case, so I am really hoping.  My big problem with my Legos is finding a place to display them after I build them up.  This is one of the big solutions I need to figure out for my office.  I thought about some sort of shelving on the walls, but finding a way to make it somehow immune to cats jumping up there and knocking everything around is always going to be a problem.  When we went out to eat yesterday I snapped a photo of what was a broken “legal age of drinking” sign in the bar area.  Apparently we are super hardcore here in Oklahoma as we seem to allow newborns to drink.

The Kerfuffle

Something is going on in the WoW twitter community, and to be honest I am not entirely sure what is up.  I’ve tried to piece things together as best as I can, but the root seems to be that two different groups are fighting… and it somehow is over the #warcraftpositivity hashtag.  What has been so damned odd on the outside looking in is just how many people who are apparently not even involved in the initial kerfuffle are getting pulled into the fray.  I had things I was going to say, but honestly I am not even sure if it matters.  It just really sucks to be on the outskirts and watching two different groups of friends fighting over something that was supposed to be a good thing in the first place.  Essentially while the Internet is a huge place… when you are mostly hanging out in a small corner of it there are going to be times when you keep running into people that for whatever reason you do not get along with.  At this point you can do one of two things…  you can make a big deal of it and get upset or you can just accept that these people still exist in the world and there is nothing you can do about it.  Your friends can still be your good and true friends… and still like this other person.  Sure it is awkward as hell to be part of a sequence of messages that include this other person… that might have you blocked and as a result you are only seeing part of the conversation…  but at the end of the day no matter how much you huff and puff there isn’t much you can really do about it.

All of these things tend to start with a difference of opinion, and then it gets inflated to the point where it is a verbal war.  Well meaning people get in the middle of issues that don’t actually involve them, and as a result it becomes a “thing” that seems to leaving everyone scratching their heads as to what exactly happened.  I was not even really on social media that much over the holidays, yet I still seem to have gotten wrapped up in it as I got some random un-follows from folks loosely connected to the mess.  I’ve used twitter since 2009 and in that time I have found less than a half dozen folks that were not bots getting auto-blocked from reporting spam…  that I actually found vile enough to block.  There are some folks and hashtags that I have muted in Tweetdeck but that is an entirely different story.  Basically it takes a lot to get me to block someone, and I try my damnedest to never act based purely on third or fourth hand knowledge.  I am not big on the shunning of people for a reason  that are not deeply personal to me… and even then while I will never forgive some people, I can still functional and interact with them in a generally friendly manner.  I hold some serious grudges against a few individuals based on my interactions with them in WoW, but I also knew that at some point because of mutual friends I would have to keep interacting with them.

WoW Community

The problem is… that due to events like this happening with a frighteningly regular frequency, the WoW Community has developed this reputation of being like a middle school lunch room.  At times this is absolutely a fair assessment, but it is also a shallow one.  The players who are online and interacting on a regular basis do not represent the bulk of Warcraft players.  Most people just want to log in every night, and decompress while killing internet dragons… and don’t really reach out much past their own guild or immediate circle of real life friends.  I’ve heard the WoW Community referred to as Toxic, and this is also I think unfair.  Sure this particular community has some problems, but those problems are only really noticed…. because it is so insanely huge still.  When you are part of the largest MMO community, even single problem is going to be magnified through sheer numbers.  Sure there are more assholes in WoW, because there are far more players there to interact with… and the folks that hang out in trade chat and heckle other players…  seem more noticeable when you have a hundred on a server… instead of just having two or three in other games.  The same goes for the twitter presence, because the wow community as a whole out numbers pretty much every other MMO gaming community I am part of combined.

What gets lost in the noise is all of the positive things that are happening behind the scenes.  There are people who are doing a lot of good and putting a lot of actual positivity out in the world.  Just because a handful of miscreants takes offense to that, and decides to derail something….  doesn’t mean that it was a bad thing in the first place.  The truth is… were it not for the fact that I was on twitter and interacting with a handful of the folks connected to the events…  I probably wouldn’t have even known something was going on.  Both House Stalwart the guild I founded back in 2004, and Facepull the horde side guild I am finally getting to do awesome things with…  are both doing amazingly well and thanks to the holiday break have more smiling faces active and happy to be in game than I have seen in a long time.  That is what matters in Warcraft, not the bickering or the name calling that seems to be happening somewhere in the ether above the actual game.  I think those of us who are watching things seemingly burn down around us… need to remember that in a couple of weeks time no one will remember what the hell actually happened.  Things will keep moving forward the way they have always moved forward, and people will still keep being awesome all around the community.  So my hope is that if folks still cannot get along after all of this…  that they just quietly disagree in their own corner of the twitterverse, so that the rest of us can continue having a happy place to rest our heads.

A Matched Set

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Holiday Goals

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270 After Sifting Through Bank

There are a lot of folks that have goals going into the holiday season, for me… these tend to involve some gaming feat that would normally take a silly amount of time to do.  One Christmas break I played through Mass Effect 3, and then started over from scratch and played from 1 to 3 again trying to control the outcome.  The Christmas break that SWTOR was released I leveled as part of a duo from level 1 to 50.  Other years my mission has been to level a character from start to finish in World of Warcraft, and I made a decent dent in that with pushing the druid from 1 to 40 so I could use that Yeti mount.  This year one of the things on my list has been to finish leveling my Warlock who before this week was sitting at level 30 from the last time I got the urge to level.  I am not exactly sure why but I have wanted to have a matched set of level capped characters in Destiny for awhile now.  I think largely it is because when I am farming exotics, I hate the concept of items going to waste… and I pretty regularly got exotics for Warlocks in spite of not having one.  So sitting in my bank I had 3 exotic helms and 1 exotic chest that were warlock only, as well as a few legendary warlock only items as well.

Throughout the course of yesterday afternoon, while the ice was falling outside… I was sitting upstairs in the warmth of my office plugging away at my warlock.  Originally I started doing the House of Wolves content, since I tend to like it better than the Dark Below.  However I quickly noticed that I was leveling way faster while simply working my way through the back log of bounties I had accumulated.  As a result I spent most of my afternoon meticulously narrowing down the number of bounties I had until finally I was a sliver away from 40.  I hopped down to Mars and completed a few missions and dinged.  After sifting through my bank and spending a few legendary marks, I managed to push my overall light level up to 270 which is not too shabby for a fresh 40.  The only negative is… some of my exotics are really specific to sub class and the only one I have made ANY movement in thusfar is Voidwalker.  I really like jumping up into the air and throwing down three bombs at people…  but at some point I need to push up sunsinger because for group activity that seems to be the best option.  Self resurrection is slightly overpowered, but I figure it is something you save in reserve for when it looks like your group is going to wipe.  However it should do well to feed Tlaloc whenever I get one.

Matched Set

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One of Each

It feels nice to have a matched set, and the funniest thing is…. every single one of my characters is an Exo.  Mostly I had issues with not liking the other races character creation options.  The humans were out because they lacked a beard…. because seriously…  I cannot ever bring myself to play a human that doesn’t have a decent beard.  The Awoken were out because well…   space elves…. and I have a pretty deep hatred of most things elven.  I am fine if other people want to play them… but they are very much not my thing.  The best elves ever… were both from the Elder Scrolls setting… because Cannibal Wood Elves and Nasty Vile Dark Elves…  are the only ones I can embrace fully.  That left me with one race left to play… and since Destiny ultimately reminds me of playing Phantasy Star Online… and Exo is about as close as I can get to my Cast it was the clear winner.  The awesome thing is though that each of my classes has a very fitting look and feel for their class, even though they are all technically just big robots.

I’ve not dwelled on it too much, but I really think that Phantasy Star Online being my first MMO… has greatly shaped how I feel about Destiny.  The games have a very similar feel, with a lobby system of sorts being the tower…  which equates pretty similar to the tower like area you ran around in PSO.  Then you go out on missions that involve you going to planets and often times retracing the same areas over and over with slightly different features and creatures dependent upon your mission.  I played the hell out of that game, up until the point when I got hooked on Everquest.  The funny thing about it is, that as melee heavy as I was in other games… in PSO I always played a Cast Ranger.  So the fact that I really enjoy Destiny doesn’t seem that shocking.  It feels very much like the spiritual successor, minus the anime skin.  At some point I really want to get into the raid in Destiny, but similarly to WoW….  I mostly just want to do it for the gear.  Downing new content is cool and all, but the force that always drives me forward in these types of games… is the acquisition of new and cool things.  When you take loot out of the equation, like in Final Fantasy XIV it is a serious hit to my enjoyment.  Most of my dungeon running in FFXIV was in an attempt to complete cosmetic sets, and ultimately was still gear driven…  just gear as an appearance not necessarily as function.

Next Mission

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At this point I really need to buckle down and finish Fallout 4 main storyline, because this coming weekend we need to record the review show.  I am not sure what exactly has happened but I have simply not been playing Fallout much over the last few weeks.  I think we can blame most of it, on my re-entry into World of Warcraft and my desire to play “catch up”.  Then this week has been a bit of a resurgence in Destiny, this combined with the only machine I have that plays Fallout 4 well enough is my upstairs computer.  Over the course of our movie and television marathons I have largely been downstairs on the sofa in my comfy blanket cocoon.  This has meant that Fallout sadly has been abandoned for the moment.  I tried last night to play it some over steam in home streaming, and once I sorted out the many technically difficulties, I finally got it up and running.  The only problem there was that the video stream would artifact out anytime I encountered much action, making it questionable if it is really worth playing it on my desktop… or if I would simply be better playing it on my laptop with greatly reduced graphical fidelity.  My laptop will run it after all, but with a somewhat potato quality.  In any case… I need to pick up where I left off and make some forward movement.

Winter and Yeti

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Winter Arrives at Casa Belghast

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So something I am realizing yet again is how badly I need a schedule to function.  During the work week, I am on super tight time constraints.  I get up at 5:30, make coffee, pack my wife’s lunch, and then am usually upstairs sitting at my keyboard by just a little after 6.  Then I bang out a blog post, feed the animals… play with the ferrets because they are begging to be picked up… and then am out the door at around 7 am.  On the weekends however….  and on this holiday break…  I am completely all over the place with my blogging.  When I know there is no real time constraints…  I feel free to screw around in the morning.  I’ve been reading twitter and blogs for the last two hours…  and finally it is getting to the point where it is kinda embarrassing that it is 11:30 and I have yet to produce a blog post.  While I complain about stress, I am also apparently one of those people who thinks most clearly when the shit is hitting the fan…  or at least I am bumping up against a deadline.  It is like my creativity flows more freely when I know there is something riding on the line.  I know that at pretty much I can start writing and come up with a post…  and because of that… it means when there is no deadline I keep putting it off.  I am the king of procrastination…  and among the list of things that need to do today is book my hotel room for Pax South…  which is only a few weeks away.

As you can see in the above image, Winter has finally arrived in Casa del Belghast.  For most of the Christmas break so far it has been windy as hell, but still pretty warm.  On Saturday, it started raining, but between the showers… it was still nice and warm outside.  The thermostat started to turn down yesterday, and overnight the constant rain turned to ice, and eventually as of this morning snow.  The Monday morning commute was apparently hell, based on conversations with the folks holding down the fort.  This is one of those moments when I am damned happy that I still have essentially another week to go before I have to worry about it, and by then I am hoping that we have returned to the balmy conditions we have been in recently.  I am perfectly fine with not having a “real winter” here in Oklahoma, because our normal Ice Storms suck.  If we got fluffy and happy snow like the rest of the world seems to, I would be perfectly fine with winter.  Instead we get ice… and lots of it… that usually starts out as sleet and then eventually becomes glaze ice that freezes to anything it hits…  high means power lines.  Why the hell we have above ground powerlines still boggles me… because the ice can snap the aerials like very brittle twigs.  Thankfully from what it seems, this is going to be our major day of ice and snow… and then it will warm back up shortly after.

Mission Yeti: Accomplished

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I told Lodur last night, that he would have to hold down the fort without me… because I am officially out of the Team 360 No Mount business.  I’ve talked over the last few days of my Christmas gift that required a little work.  A really good friend of mine read my commentary about the struggle to get the holiday Yeti mount, and when she managed to get two of them…  pinged me that she had a gift for me.  The gotcha of course was that it was on a server that I have zero characters, so I rolled a level 1 druid and have been leveling like crazy over the last few days.  It took me roughly two days of marathoning Star Wars movies to go from 1 to 40 and last night I wrapped it up getting the final two thirds of a level in Feralas.  I stopped what I was doing as soon as I dinged and made my way to Orgrimmar to learn Journeyman Riding, and of course learn the mount.  From there I fiddled around and got to an interesting vantage point to take a few screenshots.  I am super happy to have the mount, but also really enjoyed the “Catte Durid” leveling process.  The only problem is… that this character is now stranded on a server that I am not sure if I will play much on.

I talked a bit about the general toxic environment I encountered while leveling the character, which does not give me warm fuzzies about staying there.  That said this is the only server that my friend really has characters on.  The frustrating part is that to move a character it is $25 each, which seems like a lot of money when you are looking at an army of alts.  Considering that at this point moving a character is a scripted process, and requires zero manual intervention…  the game as a whole would be a happier place if they just adopted the Rift system of server transfers.  In that game you can move one character per week for free, pending that character is in good standing and above the level of 15.  That means over time you can move servers with your characters, and sure you have to wait a week per… but it lets you get out of bad situations without being taxed into oblivion for doing it.  There are many times that players end up getting stuck on a server that they literally do not know anyone playing the game anymore.  So it seems like insult to the injury of losing their friends…. to ask them to cough up another $25 per character to move off of the bad environment.  Sure you can always group with Battle.net but there is something you miss by not having access to the friendly green spam of guild chat… and all the while I was leveling this druid… I felt the pangs of not having access to my friends.  At some point I will likely delete the druid I have on The Scryers and move this character to that server, but in the meantime it will serve as a sort of hiding out alt…  which is largely why I have not mentioned the server name yet.

 

 

Week in Gaming 12/27/2015

Ace of Spades Acquired

Holiday Lagged

There are some mornings when trying to think is a struggle…  this is one of those mornings.  Last night I suffered from a pretty bad bout of insomnia, and instead of just sitting in bed and hoping for sleep to find me… I got up and played PS4.  At which point I realized it was 2:30 in the morning and I really needed to try and sort out how to sleep.  The day as a whole today is rainy and nasty and the antithesis of just how delightful the holiday was here in Oklahoma.  On Christmas day I was running around in a short sleeved shirt, and were it not for the wind I wouldn’t have needed my hoodie.  We were warned however that just after the holiday the temperature would drop, and from the sounds of it the panhandle of the state is now getting lots of ice.  Thusfar it has been only rain…. but so much of it that sitting upstairs in my office it actually drowned out the sound of all of the various machines whirring away.  I finally got up around 8:30 and attempted to start the day, but the problem being…  that I have largely just been staring at the screen unable to get a post started.  Then suddenly I remembered….  it’s Sunday… the day I have a crutch to fall back on in the form of the week in review posts.  So I am hobbling along on this crutch for all that is sacred in the world… otherwise I have no clue what I would write about.

Return of Destiny

MIDA In Action

I guess Bungie got the message that it sucks when Xur does not have a weapon option during the Friday festivities.  The last four or five weeks he has brought some new weapon each time…. and this week was no different with the newly Year-2-ized version of the MIDA Multitool.  During this month he has also brought the Monte Carlo, Hardlight, and Telesto.  The only problem here is Friday I have to make a decision… do I care enough about getting this weapon to grind out the 23 strange coins needed to purchase it.  The Monte Carlo was a no brainer, because I have heard so many good things about this gun… that I just had to play with one myself.  Telesto was similarly a no brainer, because I have gotten two of these to drop… so had no need for it.  MIDA and Hardlight however I was left with the decision if it was really worth the needed grinding to pick it up.  With the Hardlight I decided… that I already have a lot of Auto Rifles that I really like… between my love of the Zarinaea-D, Zhalo Supercell, Monte Carlo and the newly improved Fabian Strategy…  I had no real use for a new Auto Rifle to add to the mix.  For the MIDA however I crowd sourced my opinion and got messages back from Sig and Squirrel both saying to pick it up… that it was both amazing in PVE and PVP.  So far I am liking it, but I am having to get used to using a Scout Rifle again.  I have largely just been using Auto and Pulse Rifles for awhile now, so it is taking some adjusting.  The truth is… for the most part there are very few weapons that I don’t like in Destiny.

Warlock Movement Again

Last night while dealing with Insomnia I decided to cast aside the Hunter and Titan briefly and instead focus on the Warlock who still need to hit the level cap of 40.  I realize I could be leveling through doing the Taken King content, but instead I just ended up clearing out my bounty log.  I am finally reaching the point where my Stranger’s Rifle is beginning to show its age, as I finally got some weapon drops that are technically higher than it is.  The problem is… I am so damned used to using the Stranger’s Rifle… and the whole fully automatic pulse rifle thing is so overpowered… that I am probably going to keep at it until I hit 40, or at least until I get a purple weapon to replace it with.  In the meantime I am left with the decision… do I grind my way to 40 like I am doing in a super chill and enjoyable way… or do I actually start with the quests.  On my Hunter I largely waited to do quests until I was at the level cap, so I could revel in the sweet sweet engram drops that seem to happen like candy during missions.  I still have all of the House of Wolves and Dark Beyond quests as well… and those in theory won’t be nearly as beneficial gear wise.  So I might just start on doing those and see how close to 40 I can get.

Ace of Spades Acquired
Ace of Spades Acquired

Another thing I did this week was get my Ace of Spades exotic on the hunter.  I am currently on the First Curse of the step of the Gunsmith quest on my Titan… and I have to say I am simply not looking forward to doing all of the bullshit you have to do to get it.  The only problem with Ace of Spades is just how crap hand cannons seem to be right now.  I am not sure which I dislike more… the absolute potato range of them… or just how small the magazine and ammunition pool is in general with them.  I run out of ammunition while using a hand cannon faster than almost anything else…  and I never seem to get enough normal ammo drops to be able to use these in strikes.  So instead every now and then I break them out while doing bounties when things don’t matter quite so much.  The positive of Ace of Spades however is that it just look bad ass.  So in theory it might get some use, but not really likely given all of the other exotics that I have and legendaries that are also equally well stated.

World of Warcraft

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Catte Druid in the Forest

The other day I posted about my mission that level a Cat Druid to 40 all so that I could leave the 360NoMount club… and add the Christmas Yeti mount to my collection.  It has been two days and I am now getting close to the goal.  As of last night when I finally reached the point where I thought it was probably time to attempt going to sleep… I was roughly 2/3rds of a level from 40 and was just now starting Feralas.  It has been a fun ride pushing up a new Cow Druid, and went a lot faster than I might had expected.  I took a slightly different route than I did with my Warlock and the end result feels like I got a lot more straight forward Kill Ten type quests which I can burn  through insanely quickly.  The other thing that helped is the fact that my druid is a skinner… and I was constantly jumping random leather bearing animals along the way to level that.  Back the in the day all of the leveling guides used to tell you to always be engaged in killing something… like if there was a mob on your way to your objective to always kill it no matter what.  Having done that on the Druid and not so much on the Warlock… I have to say that yes in fact that is the superior way to level especially with all of the experience boosted heirlooms that I am wearing.  The question is… now that I have almost achieved my goal… do I hit 40 and quit… or do I keep pushing up the druid.  I am not a big fan of the server cluster I am on, and the people seem to be insanely rude compared to Argent Dawn so at some point I may transfer the druid over once I finish it.  I realize I can cross realm group…  but man…  some of the stuff I have encountered here I have never run into on AD.  That is saying a lot given that I used to always think of Argent Dawn as a pretty horrific place.

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Me and my Blueberry

The other activity that I spent time this week doing was leveling my Warlock.  Basically playing her was my reward for completing my holiday dailies…  and in part the only reason why I made so much progress on the druid so quickly, is that I completely started ignoring that holiday dailies existed.  At some point I need to go through all of my characters and loot the presents in Orgrimmar and Ironforge before they poof, but I think once I get to 40 on the druid I am going to switch back to playing the Warlock.  It is funny how isolating it can be playing on a different server even though you have access to BNet and your friends list.  Facepull is just friendly and somewhat active green spam and I love having it around.  It is my hope that at some point soon we will get the rumored battlenet channels, which will hopefully let us have guild like chat spanning across multiple games.  If there was an addon that existed that gave me access to slack while playing World of Warcraft… I would be in a perfect place.

 

 

Best Gift Ever

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Star Wars Christmas

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There are times when the best gift at Christmas…  you are not quite sure if it was intentional or not.  I’ve talked about our relatively chill Christmas day plans for the better part of a week, and I have to say after going through it yesterday it was far better than I could have imagined.  First off we have all this amazing food…  that we will be eating for a week.  On the menu….

  • Chilli-Cheese Rotel Dip
  • Sausage Cheese Balls
  • Pulled BBQ Beef
  • White Chocolate Cranberry Clusters
  • Chocolate Cashew Clusters
  • Snickerdoodles
  • Ranch Pretzels
  • White and Milk Chocolate dipped Pretzels
  • Flakey Biscuits to heap the BBQ Beef on

It was not exactly the most conventional meal, but we grazed happily throughout the course of the original three Star Wars movies.  You cannot have read my blog over the last few months and somehow missed the fact that Star Wars was a major part of my childhood.  I went to see the original when I was roughly 2 years old in the local drive in… and was hooked from that point on.  So for Christmas it was a given that I would end up getting a bunch of Star Wars merchandise from my parents.  The best gift however was this marathon and the effect it seems to have had on my wife.  I am trying to keep my expectations tempered, but maybe just maybe we have another Star Wars fan in the family.

Granted she has always been amazing about my Star Wars thing… and has brought me home various artifacts like Star Wars Legos, or just the other night a cool set of Kylo Ren playing cards.  So even though she didn’t get why the movie was important to me… she was always super awesome about putting up with my thing.  I remember in college she even used to get into the hunt for new action figures, helping me crawl through the racks of figures to find the one or two that I didn’t already have.  The prequels pretty much killed my desire to be surrounded by action figures on my walls…  but I do pick up the occasional figure every now and then and on the wall between my monitors I have Dark Jedi Luke, Jedi Leia, Clone Emperor, Mara Jade, Admiral Thrawn, a snow gear Plo Koon, and a badass Savage Opress figure.  So yesterday I half expected the desire to watch the three originals and then go see the new one… was at least in part a gift for me.  That is until she invited one of her friends along for the journey.  After watching the originals and seeing the new one…. she came home with all of these questions that I can’t really answer before she watches the prequels.  So right now the plan is to spend today marathoning through those as well…  and I am happy as a clam when I say… it was not MY idea to do this.

Keeping it Chill

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There are a lot of things I am into that I think she would also like.  I mean she was a huge fan of the Harry Potter series and got into it long before I did, and is also a fan of the Star Trek series and has been amped to see the newer movies.  So the raw DNA of a Science Fiction and Fantasy fan is there, and I think if I could ever get her interested in say the modern Joss Whedeon Marvel films she would really enjoy them as well.  However with those… we would need to start at the very beginning chronologically and do another Marathon since each movie at least in part fleshes out another corner of the Avengers universe.  All of this said….  I am trying to keep it super chill and not put any pressure on her to like things more than she actually does.  However just having my wife ask me questions about Star Wars…  might be quite possibly the best Christmas gift I have ever received.  I mean I guess it was impossible to live with me for the last two decades and not have SOME of the Star Wars franchise to imprint on her.  She has always liked R2-D2, Chewbacca, The Jawas and the Ewoks…  and she used to laugh when I would throw a blanket over my head and say Utini.

One of the awesome things about our marriage has always been that we could have completely different likes…  but each of us would be supportive over whatever the other person was into.  She has been awesome about the daily blog thing… and the podcast… and this game or that…  because I know they really do put dents in our schedule that are theoretically “untouchable” where I need to be at a keyboard.  Similarly I am cool with the fact that there are many nights where she works in her classroom until 8pm or has this or that church activity that needs attention.  It has always amazed me at just how well we work together, when in truth we don’t have that many shared interests.  At the core has always been this willingness to go along with whatever the other person wants to do… because I think we enjoy seeing the other half excited even if we aren’t that excited ourselves.  All of this said…  I am not expecting a Christmas Miracle… and all of the sudden my wife will be as obsessed with Star Wars as I have been all of these years.  I still think its amazing however for her to be asking the same sorts of questions that I pondered all throughout my childhood and even now have nothing more than vague guesses at.  I think without a doubt though, there will be no question as to whether or not we will be going to the next several movies because if nothing else… she seems hooked on the new generation of films after watching Force Awakens last night.

 

 

 

Christmas and Catte Durids

Chillest Christmas

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This year is turning out to be the most chill Christmas, since 2003 when we took a cruise to Cancun.  At this point I am honestly not sure how we managed to get away with this low key of a Christmas, but I am not complaining.  For most of our married life, my wife and I have spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas running around like crazy, trying to appease every household with an appearance of adequate length.  The entire process leaves us not really enjoying any of it, and stressed about the next place we have to go while at any given house.  Now the last decade has wreaked havoc upon our family, and with it has slowly whittled down the number of houses we actually have to go to.  Previously Christmas Eve was this tradition of going to my home town and going to mass with my mothers side of the family, and then opening presents with them afterwards…  and finally ending up across the street at my aunts house late at night.  This meant Christmas Eve we often didn’t get home until after midnight, only to need to get up bright and early Christmas morning to be at another house before noon.  Unfortunately the matriarchs of both sides of the family have gone, and with it a lot of the traditions.

We are trying to create new traditions among my generation, like getting together the other night at Phat Philly’s here in town just to share a meal and a conversation.  But many of these new traditions are not necessarily dependent on a given day, the way the past generation was.  In my family it has always seemed that if it did not happen on the actual day… it didn’t count.  For me…  getting together period and hanging out counts regardless of when it is happening.  We originally had plans for Christmas Eve, but those fell through due to illness in the family.  As a result last night we ended up going out to dinner with my folks, and then them coming back to our house to open gifts and chill out for awhile.  It was really nice, and while we have yet to see my wife’s side of the family…  we are somehow ending up with this perfect Christmas day where we get to hang out at home and snack on all the goodies that my wife baked yesterday.  As I have mentioned the last few days, we are doing a Star Wars Marathon and then hitting the new movie at 7pm tonight.  Since I have been asked… we are only doing 4, 5 and 6 largely because neither my wife nor her friend that is coming over are really big Star Wars fans.  When indoctrinating someone into the franchise…  I think the prequels do nothing but muddy the water… because they expect you to already know a bunch about Star Wars.  I am more than happy to simply not include them for the time being, because from what I could tell they had no real bearing on number seven.

Some Assembly Required

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Yesterday I got a message from one of my friends, saying they had a Christmas gift for me.  The only gotcha was that I would have to make a character on a specific SomeAssemblyRequiredserver to receive it.  This message came through at a time yesterday when I was babysitting the kitten… with us both locked in my office (to keep her out of the baked goods) so it worked out perfectly.  I created Belgrave the Catte Durid and my friend met me in Newbie Cow Land.  Next thing I know she had a trade window open and handed me the item on the right.  At once I was both thrilled and understood what she meant when she said it might require some work on my part.  On my blog I have talked about my current chase of the holiday Yeti mount, and how Lodur and I founded #team360nomount and unfortunately hunting this mount had kinda dominated my play sessions.  Not only was my friend giving me the gift of a mount… but also giving me the gift of chilling the hell out and not worrying quite so much about doing every single holiday daily.  The first thing I did every morning was work through my holiday missions, and I knew I would have ended up a ragey mess if I had done all of this… and still ended up without one.

This is proof positive that I have amazing friends, because so many times something like this has happened.  One of my friends shows up to save the day… and my sanity.  As a result however I am shifting gears and since The MooCowAdin is now my best geared character…  I am going to start running up the catte durid instead of my Warlock.  Right now the plan is to go a mixture of Kitty and Bear, which lets me tank and pewpewpew.  I always say I am going to play Moonkin, but then never actually end up playing Moonkin because it is a super fiddly spec.  The strangest thing about playing this character is how vastly different the leveling experience feels on a non-roleplaying server.  On Argent Dawn and The Scryers in your open world zones you are playing with lots of other players from Role Playing servers.  I have always said that RP servers just attracted a better caliber of people… and it seems like that really is the case.  Within the first few minutes of playing my druid I had been spit on and slapped numerous times by other players, and while running around in Azshara last night I had people constantly trying to steal the skins from my corpses as I was looting them.  Conversely while leveling my Warlock on the amalgam of Roleplaying servers…  I constantly waving and blowing kisses at me while wandering around.  There have been many times I was getting low on health that someone just shows up and throws a random heal.  So I gotta say… the experience is so night and day that it just seems odd.

Merry Christmas

Christmas is a day that means lots of different things to lots of different people.  So my hope is that whatever today means to you… it is in fact an awesome day.  I don’t always sync up with my family, and there are a lot of times it feels like they don’t really “get me”.   The person they assume I am isn’t always the same as the person I really am, but in the long run…. I think a lot of people feel that way.  Otherwise we would never leave the home and strike out into the world.  What I will say is that over the years I have carefully surrounded myself with awesome people that do get me.  I am blessed with some truly amazing friends, and in the end… your friends are the family you choose.  So whatever today means to you, or whatever your traditions happen to be… my hope is that you are spending it with the people that make you happy.  I am going to spend the day chilling out with my wife and one of her friends and watching the hell out of some Star Wars while playing World of Warcraft.  I feel like it is going to be an amazing day.

 

Donuts and Cards

Snowman Donuts

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Every single year my wife and I say to ourselves…  that this will be the year that we are not rushing around last minute to finish things up.  However every year… Thanksgiving happens and it feels like we have so much time left until Christmas…  because as a kid Thanksgiving to Christmas seemed like an eternity.  In the adult world however, Thanksgiving is an early warning sign that you better get your shit together because the Christmapocalypse is coming soon.  Every year we struggle to figure out what we are going to do, and then end up rushing around when inspiration hits us.  Last night that meant an 11pm trip to Walmart to pick up the last few things, because we had been avoiding that store like the plague since before Thanksgiving.  While there we opted to pick up something for breakfast, and this is when the most adorable donuts ever come into play.  I absolutely ate a Christmas Tree and a Snowman this morning… and they were shockingly tasty.  I guess if you put enough frosting on anything it becomes good right?

In theory once I wrap up this blog post I will have to sort out how exactly I am wrapping things, because this evening begins our Christmas festivities.  This year is going to be a strange one, because up until this week we had planned on going to the house formerly known as Grandma and Grandpas, and having dinner and presents with my father’s side of the family on Christmas Eve.  However due to medical difficulties that fell through, and instead my parents and coming here… where we are going to go out for dinner and then come back and have presents and such.  This has been a stressful year as a whole, so as many low key gatherings as we can get away with… the happier I will end up being.  The only bittersweet part of it is that we simply don’t have that many gatherings to go to period.  My mother’s side of the family pretty much evaporated when my grandmother passed away.  On my wife’s side we technically had Christmas with her dad before Thanksgiving so he could go down south for the winter, and her Mom hasn’t really had a bit formal Christmas gathering in years.  There are celebrations we could go to, but they are their own kind of stress due to the large number of people.  So instead… we are mostly going to hang out close to home and do largely relaxing things.

Awesome Cards

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I’ve never really received many cards, or at least not ones that were really special.  There was the year I alpha tested Guild Wars 2, and got a really cool Santa Charr card signed by the team.  I have that stuffed away somewhere, but this year… I got some that are even more special.  I snapped a photo of them so you folks could see them.  To the left you have a bear with sunglasses print that my cousin’s wife made.  Now this is a literal print, not something mass produced… you can feel the ridges of the woodcut… or in this case my working theory is battleship linoleum.  To the right is a really cool custom Christmas card featuring the artwork of the ever amazing Ammosart.  She asked me for my address a few weeks back, but it didn’t dawn on me at the time why she was asking for it.  When I got the card in the mail I was shocked, and super happy to have received it.  Honestly I am lucky to have the friends that I do, because they greatly improve my mental state on a daily basis.

I’ve commented several times lately about just how awesome my social networks are, and I guess over the years I have curated them to the point where 99.9% of the time they make me happy.  It’s not that I am purposefully trying to shut out the bad of the world… I hear plenty of that on NPR during my drives in the car.  I just feel like social media as a whole is “my time” and for “my enjoyment”.  The world is depressing enough without feeling the need to wallow in the bad parts while sitting at home on your sofa wrapped up in a warm blanket.  I still have some pretty horrific bouts of depression…  but I can only imagine how much worse it would be if I was not trying to focus on the good things in my life.  Before I know it, this much needed break will be over and I will be rushing to catch up at work, but for the time being… I am just going to savor every moment of this relaxation that I get.

Sorting Packaging

I should wrap this post up and get downstairs to help my wife with the stuff she is fiddling with.  Currently I am locked in my office with the kitten, to help keep her out of the baked goods.  This is probably a crucial role to be played, but at some point soon I will need to venture outside.  I have to brave the crowds and go find some packaging for gifts that will be delivered tonight.  Last minute is a thing… that apparently I do well.  I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas day, because I doubt that many people will be taking the time to read whatever I have to say tomorrow.  So have a very Merry Christmas, and if we try really hard we will all survive it just fine!

Bel’s Year in Gaming

Path to Madness

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Firstly I feel like I need to lead off this morning by saying… I am feeling much better.  Thanks for all the support yesterday, and I have to admit that a video shared to me by ChibiSeira helped a lot as well.  Part of the problem is…  I have been reviewing my blog for a project that you can see above.  Normally this isn’t a big deal, but depression loves to lie to you.  It makes things seem worse than they actually are, and in my mind…  I have been in this present down cycle for months and months.  The reality however is this current phase has only really been there since late October at the earliest and more specifically in this post Thanksgiving stress period that leads to the end of the year.  Basically my down cycle is happening during the most stressful and hectic part of the year so it is absolutely expected.  I’ve probably had one of these cycles every single year of my life, but where things wound up getting a little cross wired yesterday was the fact that at the time of posting…  I had only actually managed to make it through June.  So sifting through my blog it seemed like I was so active and so functional during the first half of the year… and the depression filled in the blanks and told me that I was absolutely useless for the tail end of the year.  Hell to be truthful with August and September I have no clue how I ended up playing so many things… especially considering it is another massively stressful time of the year as my wife starts a new school year again.

Basically as I finished sifting through this years worth of blog posts…  it made me realize that my brain was in fact telling lies to me.  That sure the last few weeks have been a bit sparse, with me getting sucked back into World of Warcraft again…  but that this is in no way indicative of the year as a whole.  Essentially the above image started as me wanting to know the answer to a simple question…  “How long of a break did I take from World of Warcraft?”.  From here it shifted into… “wouldn’t it be cool to plot the various MMOs I have played this year” to finally “fuck it lets just plot everything I talked about in my blog”.  To the best of my knowledge this represents all of the games that I wrote about this year in one form or another, which pretty closely marries to the games that I have played.  If you are really curious you can see the actual google sheet that I built the image off of.  I am sure there are little blips here and there that I poked my head in but never thought to write about them, but for the sake of this discussion we are safe just assuming that for one reason they weren’t that important to me.  The list as a whole currently includes sixty eight different games, and I underlined the games that represented the AggroChat Game Club titles.  The first thing you will notice is that I am absolutely very much an “MMO Gamer”.  Thirty Six of the games fall into the loose bubble that is “MMO” or “Online” game, and in many months I was playing more than one of these actively.

The Win Condition

One of the things I have come to realize is that apparently I am wired oddly these days, and this has been highlighted through participating in AggroChat and namely the Game Club.  My Co-Hosts often seem to focus on whether or not they have beaten a game, and honestly…  this rarely ever enters my mind.  My focus seems to be on the playing and whether or not that was enjoyable.  The funny thing is…  I was not always this way.  I remember during the Nintendo era, my friend Wade and I had a running competition to see who could beat the most games and as a result we both had lists of the games we had beaten.  My focus was always on trying to churn through the game as fast as possible to get to the end, and then something changed.  I was introduced to the internet, and the social aspect of gaming through IRC and MUDs.  Then when Everquest was released and I was subsequently “jumped into” playing it… to borrow a phrase from Beau Hindman… my focus became about the experience and the social aspect of playing an MMO.  Years later… I still MOSTLY play MMOs and when I play single player games…  it becomes about the exploration and savoring the moment to moment game play and less about the win condition.

I guess this makes sense as MMOs generally have no win condition at all, but are instead a sequence of small moment to moment game play experiences that continue to build upon each other making up the overall game experience.  Basically I find that I don’t like my single player experiences to end.  When I play Mass Effect 2 for example, I spend time doing every single side mission because I know once I start that one mission…  it is all over but the crying.  That zeroing in on the end of the game is the least exciting part of the equation for me.  Similarly I tend to avoid the main story line in both Fallout and Elder Scrolls games like the plague, because in the past at least they have had a similar problem of ending the game… when you finish the main quest.  Then there are games that kill your character as part of the main story arc, and I find them insanely unsatisfying because even if I am not playing it… I like to think my character is out there somewhere moving around in the world without me… still existing.  I think this is ultimately why I will always favor Mass Effect 2 to 3….  and will always take that one option in Dragon Age Origins.  Basically I have been conditioned through playing MMOs to not want the enjoyable experience to ever end.  So often I get right up to the end of a game… and then just stop playing it.  When I revisited Wolfenstein New Order for example… I was less than fifteen minutes away from beating the game… but there was a part of me that desperately did not want to do it.

Happy Festivus!

The fact that I managed to create a post this morning is a Festivus Miracle!!!  That’s right folks… it is Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us.  Right now the game play for the rest of the year is to dig into some of the things I played and talk about various experiences…  like the game that surprised me or the game I struggled with the most.  Not everything I played was amazing, but a lot of it actually kinda was.  I am also hoping to finally beat the main storyline for Fallout 4, and maybe do the same for a few other games that I left stranded like Witcher 3.  In any case, I hope you have a happy whatever it is that you want to celebrate.  Be it Christmas, or Festivus, or a belated Chanukah… or ever a Super Christmas nod to my friend Grace…  I hope you enjoy whatever it is that you celebrate with friends and family.  Right now we have this awesome Christmas day planned of marathoning through the original Star Wars movies and then going to see seven in the theaters since my wife and one of her friends have yet to see it.  I seriously could not think of a more perfect way to spend the day.

 

Pushing Away

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Lamentation

I posted the above statement, but I didn’t really have the strength to go into more detail last night.  Essentially I have been sifting through my blog in an attempt to summarize the year… which is one of those things that you feel like you SHOULD do at the end of a given year.  There are so many end of year traditions going on in the blogosphere, and I guess in some what I felt like I needed to do something.  The problem with this notion is it seems like the person that existed in the first half of the year, was one hell of a lot happier than the person for the last half of the year.  In January I had just attended my first gaming convention, and was super excited about Final Fantasy XIV and the raid…  and still pretty damned excited about the progress being made in World of Warcraft.  I was somehow juggling as many as four nights of raiding a week, streaming pretty regularly, along with a new column on MMOGames and a second podcast in the form of Bel Folks Stuff.  Now zooming back to today, both the FFXIV and WoW raids are dead in the water…  and I have backed almost completely out of MMOGames and essentially killed off the Bel Folks Stuff podcast… and it has been several months since I have even vaguely attempted to stream anything.

I know at some point I just got overwhelmed and started locking up… and I guess I never quite unlocked.  I am still in trauma mode where I am moving from day to day on mostly muscle memory.  There are a lot of things that I just don’t do anymore, not the least of which is read blogs on a regular basis.  During the “Bonanza” column I was reading roughly 450 blogs and every post on them all in preparation for my weekly column highlighting the posts contained within.  Once I handed that column off to another blogger… I quite literally stopped reading blogs all together for awhile.  I had turned this thing that I got a lot of enjoyment out of into a job, and that is the sure fire way to make me stop wanting to do something.  I now read blogs… but do so extremely infrequently…  and feel like a complete failure for allowing myself to get to that state.  I think as a result my own blog has suffered, because so often there would be a topic going around the blogosphere…  and reading the thoughts of another friend would end up sparking me to write my own take on it.  Now I sit down each morning and struggle to come up with anything to write about at all.

Cessation

There have been several points this year where I have contemplated just stopping all of it.  I’ve considered backing out of the podcast, and stopping with the daily posting.  It feels like I have been pushing away from all of the things I have cared about, one by one…  and each time I do it I just feel more of a failure for doing so.  I have been struggling greatly with just existing, let alone being happy and excited and engaging.  What makes this even harder is looking back and seeing that apparently I had whatever magical sauce there is at the beginning of the year, but it is almost completely gone now.  The frustrating part about it is…  I am not sure how to get it back.  I realize I have to start putting myself out there, a little bit at a time…  but even the thought of logging into voice chat on a nightly basis feels like the biggest possible hill to climb.  It has been at least three months since I have regularly logged into voice chat on a nightly basis, and maybe that is a good first step.  The problem being that the games that I am playing right now and not the games that the rest of the AggroChat and Stalwart crews are playing.  I really am enjoying World of Warcraft again, but even when I am logged in it feels like I am completely disconnected from everyone in it.

There were moments last night where I was asked to help out a few friends, and it felt like it took all of the effort in the world to accept.  I spent time with Giulietta doing the Pit daily quest, and I need to do this more often since I too need a bunch of them to complete the flying requirement.  I had fun while doing it, but it always requires so much effort to get over that hurdle to put myself out there… and actually do something with another human being.  Similarly I forced myself to go do stuff with Finni/Qav when I was hordeside because I knew once I got started I would enjoy myself, but it is entirely too easy to stay mired in my own oblivious world.  I realize what I am describing is depression, and I have battled it my entire life.  I am going through what I would term as a “down cycle” but this one seems to have been going on longer than most.  Generally I go through a few weeks of retreat and then that energizes me to the point of being able to engage again.  This time… it just seems to keep dragging on and no amount of “fake it until you make it” is working this time.  There just seems to always bee some external stress force bearing down on me, and I am hoping that being off for the Christmas break will help some of this.

Ashenvale

Wow-64 2015-12-22 06-45-14-71

As far as gaming goes…  I feel like I had a night without a lot of progress.  The focus of my evening was largely  the holiday event, where I complete all of the daily quests on the four characters that can do them…  mail all of the tokens to Belgrace… and then become crushed when I realize that yet again I have no mounts.  Lodur and I decided that we are going to create #Team360NoMount and the only requirement is that RNG and Blizzard hates you too.  I have this lengthy history of not getting holiday mounts to drop.  I have the two from Brew Fest, but other than that I have a perfect record of always participating… but never getting the mount.  The sorest point for me is always going to be the Headless Horseman mount, because it is probably the one I want the most…  but will never actually see.  I do admit though that this years Yeti mount is going to be a close second in the amount of pining I will do if I don’t get it to drop.  There are few cooler things than riding around on the back of a big damned Yeti.

As far as actual game progress I managed to push my Warlock to 21 and am now sitting in Ashenvale.  I took the start quest from the adventure guide, and happily cancelled all of the quests from the Northern Barrens.  I am wondering just how long I will actually be questing in Ashenvale before I do the same and move on to whatever zone comes after it.  The biggest positive of this of course is the fact that I can actually summon my Vendor Mammoth and sell things whenever I feel like it.  This is the toughest part of the sub 20 game in World of Warcraft, is being so insanely used to summoning a vendor whenever you want… but suddenly not having that ability.  I swear that mount is the single best item I have ever purchased in this game.  If I can ever get the cash to purchase the Yak from Pandaria, I am sure I will say the same about it….  since being able to Transmog my gear is just about of equal importance to me.  If I could summon a transmog vendor at any time I would never look fugly again!  Other than that I managed to knock out a few parts of the Hellfire LFR on the Cow, but didn’t really get anything worth writing home about other than a few more runes and some gold thanks to queuing as a partial group.