Of Chicken Horse

More Friends

After crashing extremely early last night, I ended up getting up fairly early.  From about 5 pm onwards I didn’t really get proper sleep, and mostly just laid there quietly until shortly after 6 pm.  The result was me getting to PAX and parked at around 8 am.  The parking situation was much improved, and that at least took one worry off of my mind.  By the time I got through the random bag fondling that they have been doing upon entering this year… Dallian was milling around in the Coffee Shop area.  So we sat there for a good while fiddling with street passes while waiting on others to show up.  I am not sure why I have been obsessing about street passes, but that has really felt like my overarching goal.  I guess part of it is the fact that I realize I will not have access to this many in one place… until I end up going to PAX next year.  So I spent pretty much any free time clearing out one batch of streetpasses and playing the picture puzzle and find mii game.  I am up to 392 Mii characters on my 3DS which is a significant boost to the 90 or so I had before coming this year.  Before coming this year I had completed zero of the slides… and after this year I have seven fully unlocked.

While hanging out there and chatting… and waiting on the rest of the folks to show up we had a random encounter with a couple of awesome folks.  The two of us were sitting at a table for four, and a couple came up and asked if we minded them joining us.  When you play board games there is a convention of playing with the box lid standing up, to signal you are open to letting other people join your game.  I wish there was something like that for tables, because I felt bad commandeering a table…. but I also wanted a nice place to sit while we waited.  What followed was an awesome conversation about Destiny and the Division, and a bunch of other console and PC games rolled together.  The funny thing is… we had this lengthy conversation all without introducing ourselves, and it took a fifth person joining the conversation to actually make that happen.  Now I hope to actually keep tabs on Hatti and Rabbit over twitter, and maybe even interact more between now and next year.

Everyone Must Play

As the day went on we managed to catch up with Tick, Damai, Thalen, Paragon, Ashgar, Rae and her brother John… and eventually Rowan, Sctrz, and Genda and his wife.  I believe when we were playing several rousing games of Code Names, we had ten around a table in the gaming area.  I believe the game was chosen in part because it scaled nicely regardless of how many people happened to be playing it.  While playing a rapidly snuck a few blurry pictures which I am totally using on my blog without talking to the individuals first.  However of the several photos I have… I picked the one with the people in it that I didn’t think would actually care.  I am also not naming anyone by name….  so hopefully no one gets cross with me.  Today was a lot of trying to sort out what to do, after we played a half dozen rounds we ended up breaking up into smaller groups and never quite joining back together.  I spent a lot of time circling like a shark trying to decide what to do… and alternately spending time with Exale and Maovis, who were cosplaying Venom Snake and Lo Pan from Big Trouble in Little China.  Lo Pan was an insane hit, and we ended up spending a lot of time stopping so folks could take photos.

I think the highlight of the day was dragging people to the Ultimate Chicken Horse booth just like I had done to me.  I cannot adequately elaborate on just how fun that game really is to play.  It takes a few rounds to get into it… but before long folks are cheering at the screen or groaning when they fail to complete a level.  There is something so deceptively simple about the game… and the iterative gameplay of each person adding a piece to the greater level keeps it fun and engaging.  I think the best feature is the fact that there is a fixed number of attempts that everyone can make, and regardless of the outcome someone will be crowned a winner.  I am already extremely partial to the chameleon who does this silly rainbow dance when you manage to win with him.  I also do not mind at all the Raccoon, and my lanyard now sports a button since they apparently ran out of Chameleons.  This is definitely going to be one of those games that I pick up immediately, and probably start buying for all of my friends so that they can join in the multiplayer madness.  I forsee us talking about this game a lot on the coming AggroChat.

Parking Debacle

Pax Day One

The first day of pax was interesting, mostly because it started off on a bad foot.  I wrote about yesterday how I failed to charge my cell phone over the course of the previous night.  The positive of that however is that I learned my power bank does a phenomenal job of charging phones, and by the time it took me to drive from the hotel to the convention center it was sitting around 63% from the previous 15%.  Last year there was a plethora of parking options up and down Commerce and Market streets, but unfortunately yesterday every single lot had a full sign.  I finally ended up parking in a surface lot, having to pay $20 for 8 hours.  On the way to the convention I stopped and chatted with one of the attendants at the garage I parked in last year, just to find out what time of the day it actually filled up.  Turns out that some other corporate event is going on downtown, and that a company had booked pretty much all of the city run garages, greatly reducing the amount of available parking space.  She said that today they would be open again, so here is hoping that I can get into the garage I am used to.

As far as the day itself, it took a little while to connect with everyone.  I met up with Dallian in this coffee shop area near a giant Pax South sign, where we milled around until we joined up with Paragon and Damai… and eventually Ashgar.  Since we had not heard anything from Thalen yet, we wandered into the con and around the floor.  All the while I was on lookout for trying to sort out where exactly my first appointment was.  Turns out it was downstairs at the river level…. which is not something I even knew existed.  The rooms down there were super nice however, and in truth I liked them better than the area the Motiga suite was last year.  When I went to scope the place out I got nabbed by Deanna from Perfect World, and ushered into their room to hang out while waiting on time for my appointment.  They had this really great spread of brownies and other pastries, but unfortunately… I had just eaten a large breakfast at the hotel thinking it might be awhile before I found food on the con floor.

Livelock

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I will of course be writing a proper piece for MMOGames.com once I have more stable internet, but I still wanted to talk a little bit about it this morning.  I have to admit I was not really sure what to expect from all of the press announcements leading up to me actually getting to test it.  I had a basic idea that it would be a top down shooter, but I was not really certain past that.  I turns out that the game as a whole is a love letter to the twin stick shooters of the past, updated and infused with modern gameplay mechanics.  So in my head it feels like Ikari Warriors meets Diablo meets some almost MMO mechanics.  When the game is finished it will include three mechs that have specific niches, and in the discussion they mentioned tank/healer/dps holy trinity.  It seems as you level up your character to 30 you unlock ways to swap up your abilities and make them more defensive or more damaging.  I asked the ever important question about how big of a detriment a new player will be to seasoned players… and apparently the game is more skill based.  Level 1 characters and Level 30 characters have the same health, and the upgrades to abilities don’t really crank up the damage value, but instead change the way they work.  So in theory this might be a great game for impromptu co-op with friends.  That has always been the challenge in our own little circle, that if someone was not there on the first night… it is often difficult to play catch up and be viable until everyone simply hits the level cap.  The other nice thing about this game is that it is a straight up $19.99 game, and I grilled them a bit about future monetization plans.  It seems like right now they have no plans to offer a whole bunch of DLC characters or anything like that… they are just trying to design a really tight three player co-op experience and that is in many ways refreshing.

Ultimate Chicken Horse

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The other game I really want to talk about from yesterday is Ultimate Chicken Horse.  Now this is a title we have talked about before on AggroChat on our PAX Prime Show.  While Tam, Kodra, and Ashgar tried to explain the game to me… I didn’t really “grok” it until I was sitting there yesterday with a controller in hand playing it myself.   The idea is pretty simple…  you have a platformer that you compete with up to four other players.  The level designs are pretty classic and relatively simple to complete.  What makes the game amazing is that each round, each player gets a block that they can place somewhere in the level.  Some of these blocks help the players out like springboards or platforms…. and others will kill the player like crossbows that fire arrows, or spiked floors.  The goal of the game is the make the level difficult enough for at least one of the people you are playing with to die…. but not so hard that you cannot beat it yourself.  If everyone beats the level… no points are awarded.  If no one beats the level…  no points are awarded.  Things start to get really insane about five rounds in when the map becomes a field of death and destruction.  I can already tell this is going to be one of those must own “go to” games for hanging out with friends.  The best part about it is the fact that it does couch co-op and does it amazingly well.  The only problem I am going to have is that I am not sure if it supports network co-op, and I simply don’t have a group of people to play it with on a regular basis in local mode.  I am absolutely going to buy the game regardless because I want to support this flavor of insanity.  If you get a  chance, you should totally check it out when it ends up on steam shortly.

Ending the Day

The big problem with the day yesterday, was the fact that I was super paranoid the entire time about the crappy parking option I had.  Previously the $10 lots were for as long as you cared to stay, meaning I could be there late at night without much issue.  I talked to the parking attendant about the lot I happened to be in, and she mentioned that it was a privately owned lot and they were super quick to boot cars.  So the entire time while roaming around Pax I kept looking at my phone to check when it was time to walk out and get the car and try and move it to someplace better.  I finally headed out around 3:30 in the afternoon to do that, and in the time it took me to exit that surface lot… someone had already taken my space.  I drove around Commerce and Market streets and all of those lots still showed the “Full” sign, so I circled back around to the lot I had parked in… which now had a barricade across its entrance as well.  So everyone went off to Dave and Busters, and I instead went to the Hotel and played 3DS until my wife and friend got in a few minutes later.  Once the traffic had died down we went out roaming for a bit, because we needed some pop to throw in the hotel fridge.  The day took a lot more out of me than I realized, and I ended up crashing really hard about 9 pm.  Over the course of the day I walked a little over 15,000 steps, which is something I am just not used to right now.  It was fine and well while I was in motion, but once I got back to the hotel room… it took its toll.  Overall was a really good first day, other than the parking bullshit.  Next year I am going to sort out the bus system and just use it, because in theory there is a bus that picks up right outside this hotel and drops off near the convention center.

 

Journey to Pax

Travel Day

Yesterday was a very long day, and by the time I reached the hotel room last night I was pretty out of it and ready to crash.  In theory I should have blogged then, because now I feel like I am running late by stopping to do it this morning.  The travel itself went really smoothly.  The most interesting part about it was just how the world gradually warmed as we went south.  It was in the mid to high 30s when we left Oklahoma, and by the time we hit Austin it was a balmy 60 degrees out in the evening.  The other big revelation is that how much faster it seemed when not driving in the pouring rain like we were last year.  Our trip to Pax 2015 was honestly pretty miserable, and we got caught up in a quagmire of construction between Waco and Temple that put a massive crimp in the entire trip.  This time around we were bracing ourselves for the same thing to happen, but honestly the only really bad traffic we encountered was when we finished eating dinner in Austin and were attempting to leave town at around 7:30 in the evening.  As we went through the downtown area it was this irrational bumper to bumper traffic where everyone alternated between riding the gas and brake.

As far as the trip itself we meandered our way down taking in a bunch of random stuff along the way.  We however made significantly better time than we did in 2015, and as a result we had quite a lot of time to kill when we finally got to Austin.  I think more than anything that is the point at which I started to slow down.  Up until that point I had been constantly in motion with a clear destination in mind, and without that driving me I lost steam quickly.  By the time we actually met some friends for dinner I was pretty out of it, and while I attempted to keep a robust conversation going…  inside the world had turned into the “wah wah, wah wah wah wah” of the adult characters on the peanuts cartoons.  So when we finally hit the hotel room, we shuffled everything up from the car and attempted to “set up base”.  I would not have even set up my laptop last night probably, but my wife needed to use it to remote into something in her school.  The problem is… in my rush to make that happen…  I kinda did a half assed job of getting everything hooked up.

The Mishap

In the process of hooking things up, I connected my USB hub up to the laptop, and into that I connected my phone and the powerbank.  When I got up this morning, raised the lid of the laptop… and expected to be able to wiggle the mouse and have the screen come to life.  The problem is… nothing happened.  I thought maybe there had been a critical update or something that came through…  so I attempted to power on the laptop…  nothing happened.  Then it dawned on me…. that I had hooked everything up… except the laptop power supply.  So that means as a result my phone is also now sitting at 15%.  So in theory…  I get to test my powerbank early in this process because there is no way I can handle existing with only 15% battery.  At the moment I have it hooked to a high powered ipad style wall charger, and a usb3 cable… so here is hoping that while I eat breakfast it will continue to charge and maybe be up to 50% or so.  However for most of the day I have this feeling that I will be leaving it hooked to the power bank.

The awesome thing is that last night the whole group text thing seems to have worked, because after I sent the initial test message I crashed and crashed hard.  Over the night there were seven messages in that thread and it seems as though everyone met up at the Hard Rock.  There is a bit of a feeling of “missing out” because I am staying nowhere near the convention.  That said… after the drive there is no way I could have functioned.  I realize that Thalen made a longer drive, and he apparently joined in the reindeer games…  but yeah…  I was personally toast.  So at this point I am going to wrap this thing up, head down and grab a quick breakfast and then finish packing my bag for the day.  The goal is to be parked at the convention center around 8 am, and hopefully meet up with folks then.  There are a bunch of anxieties that I am trying to keep pushed down so that I can function normally today.  However if it goes anything like last year I am going to have a really fun time.

Pre-Travel Post

The Night Before

I am going to warn you ahead of time…  I took some Benadryl earlier and am fading extremely quickly.  I take no credit for this post making a damned bit of sense tomorrow when you fine folks will actually read it.  Tonight did not go exactly as planned.  The goal was to get home, change the ferret cage and start packing technology.  At least on one level that worked, and I have at the very least everything laid out and ready to pack…. but will get into that more later.  The first obstacle was pulling my laptop case out of the closet….  which was inexplicably covered in a few tiny tiny spiders.  I am pretty sure a few of them bit me, either that or the paranoia just makes it seem like everything is crawling on me.  The original thought was to burn the laptop bag and call it good…  but then I remembered that I actually rather liked this laptop backpack… and also I needed it to travel.  So I did my best to de-spider the thing and get my laptop packed.  However in the process I kicked up an inordinate amount of dust…. which is where the Benadryl comes in as a desperate attempt to stave off triggering my asthma.

After that the plan was to start packing my messenger bag.  So I got together my power bank, and tested it.  It for some reason shipped 100% charged, which shocked the hell out of me.  It also seems to have a flashlight built into it…. that I managed to turn on and it took a good ten minutes of pressing buttons to get it to turn back off.  I also managed to test my digital recorder, and it seems like it is going to do a damned good job of recording any impromptu interviews that I get to do from the convention floor.  It is also going to hopefully be the basis of a “LunchCast” concept I am kicking around where I record little solo podcasts on my lunch break while sitting in the car.  So back to the bag… I was walking over to the bar where I had it laying… when Kenzie our kitten was pawing at it like she was trying to cover something up.  Turns out she had just pissed right in the middle of the bag, which leaves me pretty much zero options.  The bag itself was canvas with leather straps….  and at this point it is ruined unless I can somehow wash it.  With nothing much to lose, I threw it in the washing machine with a big fully blanket hoping to cushion the insanity that is the clasps clanging around in there.  For the most part it seems to have worked, and while it needs a little bit more time to dry…  it seems to be mostly in one piece.

The Backup Plan

In theory that should work, and if it doesn’t I guess we will find something else that will work on the drive down.  Right now the plan is to get up crazy early, pack our clothing, pick up our passenger and get on the road hopefully by 6 am.  From there we meander our way from Tulsa to Austin, where we are meeting some friends of my wife for dinner.  Right now I am just hoping that in my pre-coffee state I can remember to pack everything correctly.  Originally I had planned on bringing my chromebook, but since PAX does not actually have public internet…  it kinda makes a chromebook mostly useless.  Instead my idea is to talk to myself… and by talk to myself I mean record voice notes if there is anything I need to jot down quickly.  Last year I spent most of the first day of PAX alone, and it was not until Saturday that Rae and Ashgar actually arrived.  This year however I should have one or two people to hang out with on Friday, meaning I will have less time to sit in a quite place and bang out post ideas.

It feels like I am actually packing fairly light this year.  I did manage to get my 3DS all patched up and Final Fantasy Explorers downloaded and installed, so that at least is done.  That is pretty much going to be my go to for standing in line diversion.  Past that I will have my phone and will probably be tweeting throughout the day on twitter.  I think I am in a pretty good state as far as anxiety goes, because if tonight didn’t break my will…. I don’t figure anything can.  I am hearing reports that construction was pretty horrible between Dallas and Austin today as folks drove it, so I am definitely not looking forward to that.  The big positive however is I am driving down in a newer vehicle, that is way more comfortable to long trips.  Additionally in theory if I get tired of driving, I can probably convince either my wife or our passenger to trade off and take the wheel for awhile.   The greatest irony of going to a gaming convention is that it means until I finally get home Sunday night… I am going to be playing far fewer games than at any other point of the year.  If all goes as intended, I will get to meet a bunch of folks that I have gamed with for years and Pax South will be yet another amazing experience.

 

Of Brain Weasels

Anxiety Sucks

Yesterday was a bad day when it came to Anxiety.  There is always this little roller-coaster of emotions that I go through right before I am about to do anything.  It is like those butterflies in your stomach… eventually grew up into a Cthulhu-esc abomination that now tries to suck the life out of everything you do.  Right before a major event, be it a trip like in the case of Pax South or simply even just going out to dinner with friends…  my anxiety brain runs rampant telling me all of the myriad of things that are going to go horribly wrong.  The end result however is always the same, and the final chorus of the mental play always ends up singing…  “everyone will hate you” over and over again to the point of absurdity.  Part of my whole being honest with my readers means delving into these things when they are happening.  My general theory is that there are a lot of people suffering, thinking that no one else feels these things.  If by talking about it I help someone to realize that it is shockingly common, then I guess some good has come of the roller-coaster.  The internet can be a carnival of horribles, but at the same time it can be this strangely successful support group.  If others had not talked about their own anxieties… then chances are I wouldn’t be to the point where I can actually talk about and confront mine.

Yesterdays anxiety attack came from two distinct sources.  The first is the fact that I am meeting a bunch of people that I have “internet known” for years, for the first time in person at Pax South.  The logical brain tells me that these people love me, and will just be happy to see me.  The anxiety brain tells me, that I am a fraud and that everyone will hate you…. so you probably better just stay home where it is safe.  No amount of reassurance really stops the voices, because they are irrational fears… the primal stuff that never really goes away.  They are the evolved version of that nightmare where you end up at school naked, or in my case… I signed up for a class I never attended and it is past the drop date… and somehow have to cram and entire semester into a single week to pass the final or end up failing.  I know if I can get past this…. and get out the door on this journey, I will be perfectly fine.  Once I get in the moment I feel safe and happy and can really enjoy my friends, but  it sometimes takes all the power in my being to ignore the anxiety brain long enough to actually make that happen.  Adulting sometimes requires mental hacks.

Appraisal Anxiety

The other big source of anxiety that happened to be looming at the exact same time was our home appraisal.  Last week we went through the process and from that point onwards I have been stressed about whether or not we would get a decent enough price to be able to continue.  We are currently going through a home refinance, and there are few things that stress me out in quite the way that money does.  The thing is…  most of my concerns are entirely in my head.  Based on some quick comparisons we pulled together, it seemed like the number we were shooting for was very conservative.  However until we got the physical piece of paper back, we had no clue.  Also there was always the fear that the appraiser would find all of these faults that we had to cough up more money to fix…  just to be able to go through with the “refi”.  However about halfway through the afternoon we got back an email from the company with a lengthy form essentially saying that we were fine.  The number he came back with was way more than we needed, and in truth more than even my wildest dreams would have expected.  Essentially this good news was what I needed desperately to tell my anxiety brain to shut the hell up and let me go on with my life.

The interesting thing about this whole post is the fact that I was going to make it this morning regardless of anything else.  There is a whole lot of “stuff” that we just simply don’t talk about.  I was raised in a part of the country and a time period where this is not the sort of thing you discuss in polite society.  Additionally the bullshit logic of the eighties could be summed up in the commercial slogans like “never let them see you sweat”, where showing any sign of weakness would ultimately lead to your downfall.  However I tend to believe that if we were just more honest with each other about our own failings, that the world would be a much better place.  I know that there will be nothing that I can do to really shed my fears, irrational as they might be.  So instead I have learned to live with them, and learned ways to trick myself into doing the stuff that I need to do to be a “functioning member of society”.  It turns out that today without me realizing it is the day that the whole #BellLetsTalk hashtag happens online, where folks share their own stories about mental health.

Beauty of Honesty

The thing is…. I don’t have answers to my problems, but I have things that work for me.  The beauty of opening up about them… is the fact that chances are someone in your “monkeysphere” gets exactly how you are feelings.  Just knowing that often times helps more than anything, to know that you are not quite as alone in your mental prison as you happen to think you are.   I am lucky in that I have a lot of friends that just “grok” me in ways that I could never explain.  When I go through my “turtle” periods where I pull my head inside my shell and hide from the world… they are the ones poking their head in to check on me and make sure I am doing okay.  I am also lucky that I have a bunch of friends that understand that my withdrawing is not about them, but instead about me trying to give myself time to heal.  So just talking about the various things that are going on in my world, has helped me immeasurably.  If you find yourself in a situation where you just need another human being to listen to your problems and tell you that your brain is full of shit…  then I am here.  The truth is, for the most part our brains are constantly telling us lies, because they end up getting focused on incomplete data about every situation.  We can never fully know what someone other than ourselves thinks, so we fill in the missing bits of data with speculation…  which tends to be the worst possible view of a situation.  Over the next few days of packing and travel I am going to be stressed beyond belief, but I know deep down inside if I can just trick myself into going through with everything… I will have a really fun time.

 

 

X-Files and Grifts

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Mulder and Scully

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Last night really was a night all about one thing.  The previous night my wife had fallen asleep during the X-Files premiere, because she is sick as hell… so we had planned on watching the first episode again while eating dinner so that we would be primed and ready for part two when it aired at 7 pm my time.  I have to say I have been looking forward to this television return just about as much as anything you might imagine… other than maybe the start of a new Walking Dead season.  During the 90s I was a huge fan of the X-Files, and I am guessing I watched it more religiously than I ever realized.  When watching the show again recently with my wife on Hulu…  I remembered the major plot points of every single episode we saw.  For the most part… the original show holds up pretty well other than the technology aspects in a largely pre-internet world.  I tried to temper my hopes about how the continuation of the show might end up, but regardless I was pretty hyped.  Be warned that I am going to spoil various plot details so if you have not had a chance to watch the show, I suggest you skip down to the Diablo block below.

For the most part… I think the show ended up really damned good.  I was kinda shocked to see them using the same television intro sequence that they did in the original, but I guess they wanted to paint a clear picture of the fact that this directly connects to the original.  We find out that Mulder and Scully did in fact get together… and had a child together… but ended up having to put him up for adoption to project him from the powers that were after both of them.  Mulder has essentially lived a life in relative seclusion, whereas Scully has returned to medicine and is doing surgery to correct defects that may or may not be caused by Alien DNA.  Where the show starts to go a little off the rails is the introduction of a new character played by Joel  McHale.  “Tad O’Malley” is a caricature of the right wing conspiracy theory types, and he vehemently believes that the government has been in a massive cover-up of alien activity since Roswell.  All of this fits the original vibe of the show… but then something happens that I just cannot reconcile.  Mulder is introduced to a woman that he apparently interviewed when she was a child, during her first abduction… that tells him that she was abducted by men not by aliens.  Without much additional information…  Mulder goes through this “change of religion” and is instantly equally convinced that the government has been fiddling with its own people, and that the Aliens are no longer even a thing anymore.

I guess my problem here is… how does someone who has devoted his life to the thought that Aliens were fiddling with the human populace, quite literally turn on a dime and adopt a completely different conspiracy mythology. Thankfully Scully plays the skeptic here, and calls him on his shit.  By the end of the show however his change of religion is essentially confirmed, but the way this all plays out just feels pretty abrupt.  We are treated to a very sweet shot of the “Smoking Man” who is now having to smoke out of a tracheal plug.  Then we shoot forward to last nights episode, as both Mulder and Scully are apparently back in the saddle working for the FBI under Walter Skinner again.  This episode felt perfect.  Everything about this felt like we are just picking up the legacy of the original show and moving forward, this time acting upon the theory that mankind has been fiddling with Alien dna and fusing it with people.  We are eventually presented this super creepy ward filled with kids with rare deformities, that we suspect are the cause of Alien intermingling . Basically if they can keep cranking out episodes as good as the second part of this “six part event”, I am down to gobbling up whatever the X-Files puts out there.  The best part about all of this… is Duchovny and Anderson still work amazingly well together.

Grifts with Friends

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While watching our little mini X-Files marathon last night, I was also fiddling around in Diablo 3.  I initially started simply piddling around and doing bounties, however once Damai logged in he rallied the troops and before long we had a full team alternating between regular and greater rifts.  There are still several pieces of gear that I am hunting for, so I was totally down with the cavalcade of legendaries and set pieces.  The big takeaway from last night was just how well I seemed to be able to hold my own.  For the most part we were doing the same Torment X stuff that was wrecking my face the last time we were together as a group, but I have reached a point where honestly it doesn’t really phase me.  Sure I still need to get out of exploding bits..  but most of the mob and environment damage is at a point where it is reasonable.  The only gotcha is the fact that I still do way less damage than would be needed to quickly clear this content.  Fortunately however we had plenty of dps to chew through the mobs, and Carth who is now well over 600 paragon levels is a brutal machine.

By the end of the night I managed to climb to 297 Paragon which places me within the realm of the big kids finally.  I am still pretty sold on my thunderfury, and I managed to pick up a temporary chest piece that serves nicely until I can find the one I am actually hunting for.  Other than that the big acquisition was the thorns epic gem, but I am running very low on sockets for my jewelry.  This is a point of contention for me with this game actually.  At 70, no piece of jewelry should come without a socket.  There is never a point where you would not want an epic gem in every piece of jewelry, yet the random item generator is constantly spitting out socketless rings and necklaces to serve as  disenchant fodder.  Instead I went through 35 diamonds trying to socket a ring before finally getting the lucky roll, which ends up super frustrating.  Mostly this just feels like a design flaw, since the key to doing awesome things at high level seems to be based around rocking as many maxed out legendary gems as you can throw in there.  I still don’t have all of the gems that I need, so I am guessing that my new idle activity is going to be clearing greater rifts just to level the ones I have up.

 

 

Kitten Assist

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Helping Hand

KenzieHelping

This is becoming a pretty regular occurrence in my office, where Kenzie decides to “lay” behind one of my two monitors and then spend time poking her head out under the bottom and bopping things with her paw.  This morning she has been desperately trying to drag my phone that is attached to a usb cable towards her…  which is making me rethink the placement of that charger cable.  For the most part this weekend we hibernated to avoid the cold, and while we had nothing to deal with like the blizzard folks on the east coast…  I am not equipped to handle 20* temperatures that well.  The biggest news of the weekend is that we got our new dishwasher set up on Saturday.  Its stupid but right now it feels like we are purposefully dirtying dishes just so we can “play with it”.  I know it sounds like we truly are deprived of fun when you put it into those terms.  The truth is… we’ve gone without a dishwasher for a very long time.  The order of business was to rinse things out, and set them in the sink… until we had enough there to warrant washing dishes.  Now we simply dump the dirties in the dishwasher as we dirty them….  which is making me have to rewire a bunch of my internal processes.

We also used this as an excuse to buy new silverware… and by silverware I really mean stainless-steel-ware because it is not like we are the “good silver” type.  I am getting used to not eating on a mishmash of seven different patterns that we have had since college, but it is taking some doing.  A few years back we standardized on one set of dishes and gave away the equally mishmash set of plates and cups and bowls that we got in college, and I guess it was time for us to do the same with utensils.  So we are now eating with the best forks target can buy!  Well not exactly… there were apparently ritzier sets available.  The whole experience is just strange… its like I have to reroute how I exist in the kitchen now and it is taking some getting used to.  One of the themes that you can catch running through the blog is that “bel doesn’t handle change well” so… it will take a few weeks before I really can tell you if I like it or not.

Crusader Weekend

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I spoke a little bit about this one but on Friday night I got carried hard in Diablo III.  On the night season 5 opened, several of us ran around together as a group… but one of that group has eclipsed the rest of us by a huge margin.  On Friday night my friend Carth was nearing 500 paragon levels, and I am almost certain that by the time I am writing this today he is probably around 600 given his meteoric rise.  Me however… I was sitting at only around 10 paragon when I joined the madness that was our leveling binge.  Over the course of roughly three hours I got drug up in level to a point where I was actually somewhat functional.  During that time I pieced together what was a pretty damned good set of gear, and Saturday morning I managed to wrap up the last few requirements for the season 5 chapter 4 rewards.  At this point you can check out the particulars on my Diablo 3 profile, but there are still a handful of things that I am working on upgrading.  Damai linked me this build and I am following it to some extent, but there are some places where I plan on diverging… namely on the choice of weapons.

There is no world where I would ever use the pig sticker with its constant squealing.  The entire point of using it, is to have a fast attack speed… and technically my current sword already has a faster attack speed than the pig sticker.  Most of the weekend past Friday night was about me figuring out just what I could do on my own.  I can solo Torment VIII pretty easy, but it is slow enough going that for bounties I have decided to just stick to Torment VII as they go so much faster.  While recording the double AggroChat this weekend, I managed to do one full circuit of Torment VII bounties and while I added a few paragon levels I didn’t really get much loot to write home about.  At some point I plan on trying to solo more greater rifts to increase my blood shard count, but right now I have done through level 30 without much issue.  I really hate doing timed events… they just bring out all of the horrible anxieties in me, so in truth greaters are not exactly my favorite thing to do in the world.

Rhino Prime

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The other big happening of the weekend is the fact that I managed to finish up both my Rhino Prime and my ArchWing.  The only problem is that I have a silly amount of things that now need leveling.  I still have not capped the Lex sidearm, or my Drakgoon, Boltor, Latro…  or even my Dual Skana.  The frustrating thing about all of that is that I really don’t know how best to level them.  This is one of those games where I really like running around with other people and playing it…  but have not really enjoyed soloing much at all.  So whenever I had a “solo” moment this weekend, I fired up WoW and did Garrison stuff or popped into Diablo 3.  I need to sort out a solid and reliable way for leveling, and I thought just maybe it would have been a low level survival mission.  While I got lots of loot from it… I didn’t exactly get lots of levels and only managed to put four levels on the Rhino frame.

I am in this strange state of limbo where I think I might want to like Warframe more than I actually like it.  I absolutely enjoy playing with my friends, but unfortunately without also playing it solo… I am falling massively behind.  The friends who are really super serious about playing this game… are playing it all of the time as their primary game right now.  Which means I will always be behind in my ability to actually help them out in missions.  It gets frustrating sometimes when you realize you are being carried hard… and there isn’t much you can do about it.  I was slow abandoning the bow, and as a result I am struggling to play catch up with my other weapons.  The bow is this awesome solo weapon…. but pretty useless for group activity.  The problem there is that I feel like the non-bow weapons are less useful for soloing… so when I am stuck going through missions by myself to level them it feels like a sub optimal experience.  So as a result… I really didn’t play much warframe this weekend because I am still sorting out my feelings about the game.

Pax South: Lessons Learned

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I am in fact apparently a wizard.  Last night we recorded a double episode of AggroChat, and even though I purposely took an hour and a half nap… by the time we wrapped up and I go into bed at one in the morning I was completely toast.  Generally speaking when we record AggroChat I tend to do what I call the “rough edit” that night, which mostly means putting all the pieces together in the right order and then head on to bed rather than wrapping up all of the small details like I used to.  Then Sunday morning I get up, have breakfast, have coffee and by the time I can actually form words…  I do all of the bits that end up posting the episode in various places.  This morning I did apparently everything related to two separate podcast episodes, and pre-staged it all so that in theory everything will publish next weekend while I am at Pax other than the anook thread since there is no way that I know of to schedule one of those.  I absolutely positively feel like a wizard… and the only downer is that all of this work… and I still need to make interesting words on Aggronaut.

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As I am writing this blog post I am realizing that I have roughly four days left to plan all of the shit I need to do before Pax South.  This is the point where my anxiety kicks into overdrive.  I think of the most part I have everything ready that I need to have ready for the show.  Once again I am doing the “unofficial media” thing as MMOGames.com has me booked for a few media appointments.  This time around I think I am far more mentally prepared for this reality than I was last year.  I also feel like I know more things about Pax in general and especially the Pax South setup than I did last year.  This time around I am also going to have a bunch more friends to hang out with, so while I am overall less interested in the panels this time around…  I am far more interested in the people.  The only bummer is that a bunch of people that I failed to connect with during the inaugural year…  are not going this year.  So this morning, largely for my own benefit to get my shit in order… and partially for the benefit of people who didn’t attend last year…  I am going to run down some of the things I learned.

Things Learned at Pax South 2014

Internet Sucks

The biggest takeaway from last year is the fact that the internet is going to suck.  I guess part of me expected that a major convention center to have open wifi access, since I just assume that is as integral a part of anyone’s life as it is mine.  They don’t… in fact several of the media appointments last year we had sidebars about how frustrating it was to get their own network up and running so they could run their own games.  There will be of course cellular internet through your phone provider… but I would not expect it to work.  I tried to live tweet the Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns announcement…. and two hours later those tweets were still slowly filtering their way to the internet.  If you need to meet up with people… trade cell phone numbers.  For the most part while text messaging was a little sluggish, they were still going through because non-media texts really do not require much of a connection to go through.  As a result our master plan for keeping connected is to start a group text message thread that hopefully everyone can keep running throughout the weekend.

Pax Pizza Sounds Better than It Is

Now I am not picking on Pax Pizza in general, because they are trying their best to feed the masses.  However if you have ever had one of those small round microwave pizzas that Sams Club and CostCo sell by the case, you’ve had Pax Pizza.  The food options inside of PAX were pretty limited, but do include standard fare like hamburgers, hotdogs, chips, pop and water.  There is a food court just down the Riverwalk that includes a lot of things… but this was pure madness the night we tried to go there.  My big suggestion is to bring some food with you, for the most part I survived in Cliff Bars and Beef Jerky and brought my own water bottle that was relatively easy to refill.

Messenger Bag not Backpack

This suggestion might seem a little counter intuitive at first, since backpacks are FAR easier to carry than a messenger bag… but hear me out.  Everywhere you go at PAX you are going to get crammed into very tight spaces with a bunch of strangers.  You know what you cannot really do when you are stacked front to butt with a bunch of people?  Guard your valuables…  and you are getting jostled so much that you really honestly could not tell if someone was getting into your backpack.  So sure you can group up in a way so that your buddy is on watch, but it is just easier to be wearing something that you can sling over your shoulder so that your hands can rest on the bag in front of you.  Thankfully I thought this though last year, and took with me a new canvas messenger bag…. but my reasoning was that it seemed like it would be easier to get into it at a moments notice.  However after seeing the queue room…  I was super glad I didn’t have a backpack for sheer paranoia and anxiety reasons.

You are Constantly Walking

It is hard to fully appreciate just how much walking you are going to do at PAX.  The convention center is pretty large just by itself, and things are spread out all over… and in addition to that if I am remembering correctly there are three distinct floors…. with something happening on pretty much all of them.  The amount of time I spent sitting was pretty non-existent, with “Statue Hall” and the tables near the concession stand being the only real areas for hanging out while seated.  So absolutely wear comfortable shoes…  but even then… it won’t really matter.  The biggest complaint I had was by the time I hit the hotel room I was just dead to the world… and still had to somehow knock out a blog post and do any of the other things I need to do to check into the world.  The lack of internet during the day meant that there was pretty much no way I could do this during bits of downtime.  I am honestly concerned about this one, because I am not walking nearly as much as I was before Pax last year…  I will survive.

Nowhere to Charge Devices

You ever seen people huddled around a single power jack at an airport?  That is absolutely going to happen at PAX.  There were a handful of places where you could sit down near an outlet, and they were essentially the most heavily guarded spots available.  As a result… bring a power bank.  These devices are pretty ubiquitous and since it is inevitable you are going to be on your phone for much of the show…  I highly suggest having one and plugging in while you attend panels.  I ended up getting a pretty cheap one for this year from Amazon that in theory will charge my phone three times, but if I can get one good charge I will be relatively happy.

Patch Your 3DS Streetpass Now

One of the traditions I was indoctrinated into by Ashgar last year was collecting StreetPasses on my 3DS XL.  For whatever reason… every single person walking around seems to be carrying their 3DS almost entirely for this purpose.  A single pass through the main room and I would need to find someplace to stop and clear out my streetpass queue to allow new people in.  Why this is awesome is that when you get a game like Bravely Default… that has a minigame based on the number of street pass users you have available… it is absolutely amazing to bring an army.  That said in order to get the full benefit… you need to make sure that all of your games and apps that can collect streetpasses are all patched up and running the latest revision.  Since you won’t have internet access… do it either now before you leave, or from your hotel room.

Ask an Enforcer

If you have any questions or need help with anything…  your friends in orange are there to help.  The enforcers are a great part of the PAX experience, and they will quite literally be directing you to where you need to be.  If you have any questions about what a given line is for, or where you need to be to attend a specific panel, these fine folks are going to be able to point you in the right direction.

Daily Carry Bag

As I said before last year I carried with me a canvas messenger bag, and it worked out excellent.  The biggest thing I liked about it was just how easy it was for me to fiddle with it while waiting in line.  I could fish out my power bank, 3DS, or chomebook quickly based on whatever I needed to deal with at the moment.  It also serves as a handy way to keep any swag you happen to pick up along the way.  There will be booths on the main floor that have really nice shopping bags… but these are awkward to juggle while standing in line.  Bring a good bag, it will be your best friend.  Right now here is what I am looking at carrying with me, just as a way of helping you think through what you might need.

  • Water Bottle – seriously this is key. Stay hydrated by making sure you have something easy to refill.
  • Cliff/Quest/Whatever Bars – these are easy ways to get some food in you when you are hangry.
  • Beef Jerky – easy portable protein, I can live off this stuff.
  • Dried Fruit – going to add this one to the list this year, thinking some dried fruit might help mix things up.
  • Chromebook – lightweight, easy to carry device for taking notes.
  • Small Physical Notebook – because sometimes you need to actually write something down.
  • Digital Recorder – this is new this year, instead of trying to record audio on my phone I got a small digital stereo recorder.
  • Nintendo 3DS – because streetpasses are awesome.
  • Business Cards – last year was shocked at the number of times I was asked for one… this time I came prepared.
  • Power Bank – for recharging your phone or anything else that will recharge off of a USB port.
  • Tiny Bottle of Advil – the floor is loud, and without a doubt it is going to give me a headache, so the scout in me wants to “be prepared”.
  • Hand Sanitizer – because humanity is a messy huddled mass… and you want to stave off the PAX Pox.

This is essentially what I carried last year and it worked out well.  The only two things that I am really adding new this year are the Dried Fruit, because I think it might be beneficial for me to be able to snack on.  I am also adding a dedicated Digital Recorder, because trying to record audio on my phone was complete bullshit last year.  I contemplated trying to add a proper camera, but I didn’t want to add another device to my bag.  I am once again going to make do with my phone camera, but I will just need to take into account that I cannot simply snap a quick photo, do to the horrible lighting conditions on the floor.  I am really hoping the whole text message network thing is going to make meeting up with people easier.  If you too are going to be on the floor, let me know… because I would love to catch as many people as I can.  It is my hope that this is going to be an amazing year, and the goal this time now that I feel like I have my feet under me… is to see as many people and games as I can.  One last quick note is… that if you find yourself getting overwhelmed there are actually lots of relatively quiet places you can go hide out.  There is always the AFK room that PAX runs specifically for this purpose, but even then I found lots of other places on the third floor of the convention center where I could get away for a bit.  The further from the main floor you get, the more sane and rational the crowds become.

 

 

Literal Pay to Win

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Actual Pay to Win

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One of the bogeymen of the MMO industry for years has been the concept of “Pay To Win” or the fear that those with the most money can end up with the best stuff.  The cycle of what makes an MMO has been right or wrong built on this illusion of a meritocracy.  The general idea being, that if you work hard and get really good… you can have the best items in the game for your efforts.  The problem with this is that it in itself has always been a lie.  Last night I spent several hours hanging out with friends playing Diablo 3, and during that time I simply was along for the ride… getting carried so unbelievably hard that during greater rifts I was gaining a paragon level damned near every-time my friend Carth killed something.  Nothing about this situation is me actually having any real merit, but instead was a situation of I knew someone who was willing to drag me along for fame and glory while at the same time increasing their own magic find chances.  The same has always been the case with raiding in general, that it is more about who you have an “in” with and that can get you into this or that raid… rather than pure skill.  However these games are built under the pretenses that these obstacles need to be there in order to maintain the social order, and keep the gamers from rioting.

In the past when there has been even an hint of “Pay To Win” there have been riots in the streets.  The problem being that, there are many games right now with ways to shortcut your way to victory.  Granted in many cases they don’t take you all the way there, and you still have to do a lot of things to truly catch up.  It has become perfectly acceptable for games like World of Warcraft or Everquest II to sell character boosts, that allow you to jump instantly to an end game equivalent level and be decked out in equivalent gear, saving you the time of actually leveling.  So the question is… why is this acceptable but it is not acceptable to sell armor and weapons?  I’ve been mulling over these questions while playing Warframe over the last few weeks.  The truth is… that game is absolutely a pay to win scenario.  If you were to spend multiple thousands of dollars on that game, you could in theory have the absolute best in slot gear for every single frame.  The funny thing is that while I know this is the case… it doesn’t actually hinder my enjoyment.  I don’t feel like I am somehow being robbed of my experience, but instead I know in the back of my head there is always an out… if I ever get down a path that ends up being too grindy.

Money for Time

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“Pay to Win” in the case of Warframe is a bit of a misnomer, because in the purest sense that would mean you are getting something with your money that no one else can get without stepping up to the plate and spending an equal amount.  There are lots of games with lootbox grab bags…. and these always seem super insidious to me…  I am looking at you Rift and your mounts.  Warframe however just feels honest about it.  You can farm a planetary boss over and over until you get all three parts of a Warframe to drop… and then purchase the equivalent blueprint off the market for in game credits, or you can just bypass the entire process and pay 200-400 platinum to have it in your grubby hands right then and there.  You are paying to speed up time…  because there is the act of actually grinding the components… and then gathering up the materials through running missions on planets.  Finally there is the actual time of crafting the thing.  Each of the three sub components take about 24 hours to craft, and then the final Warframe craft takes between 2 and 3 days depending on if it is a normal or a prime frame.  So if you absolutely have to have something right then and there…. you can pay a premium to get it delivered into your hands.

What I find more interesting though is just how thriving the secondary market is when it comes to purchasing items.  There are so many things that you can trade in this game, and for almost every single one of them there is a secondary market.  Players are limited to a specific number of trades per day, but you can often times find what you are looking for in the secondary market for prices cheaper than the official shop.  So while you can’t actually buy the Prime Rhino Warframe from the shop right now, you can find a player that has collected the four component pieces and essentially pay them platinum for the act of farming it for you.  So the cycle is interested, in that those who have the time to run missions over and over to farm up complete pattern sets….  can easily turn that time into money.  The folks who don’t have the time, but can afford to spend some money… can turn that money into the resources that help them play the game more efficiently.  It is far from a utopia, but it is nowhere near the apocalypse that most MMO players would predict.

Two Way Street

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I think the key to this feeling overall “fair” is the fact that it is absolutely a two way street.  There are lots of times in MMOs where the “house” steps in the middle and offers a not entirely fair deal to both sides of the equation.  For example in the case of the World of Warcraft token… it is not literally a case of one human selling a commodity to another human.  Instead there is an algorithm in the middle, that buys tokens from players for a floating amount of in game gold… and then sells that token back to players who want to use it in lieu of subscription time.  The problem is… this formula takes human nature out of the equation, the thing that makes the whole experience interesting.  In games like Rift and EQ2, that have direct exchange of subscription token to currency between two players….  the patient player can wait out the best possible deal.  There were many cases where I sat on a token for weeks until I found someone who absolutely had to have that token right then to continue their substitution, and wound up getting a premium for it.  Similarly I am sure there are players who took advantage of market surplus to stock up on tokens when they were cheap and ended up spending far less in game currency as a result.  The reason why that felt better, was that there were options… that you were not essentially dealing with a vending machine that took its on theoretical cut.

What I think I like the most about this situation in Warframe is that it feels like I have a lot of options.  I can go much more slowly and solo the planets trying to collect the items I need, or I can pester my friends to run it with me multiple times .  I could go to the aftermarket and hit the trade channel and look for the items I need to finish out a blueprint set.  Or if i am really desperate I can simply open my pocket book, but in all cases I have several different paths to the end goal, and as a result I don’t feel nearly as trapped as I often do in other games.  For example right now I would love to have a Moose in World of Warcraft, but the raid I have connections with… that can easily get me one… happens to run at the same time as we record AggroChat.  Do I want a moose because it is some status symbol, that somehow places me above other players?  God no… I just like collecting mounts, and I like the idea that it looks like a normal group mount but can also fly.  If I could plunk down money and pick that mount up on the store…  you can bet I would rather than trying to do the copious amount of social engineering it will actually take to get me that damned mount.  Warframe…. I can take either path.  I can work with friends towards a goal… or I can simply grease the wheels and get everything I feel like I want faster.  In truth…  I feel like we as players are far more scared of “Pay to Win” than is really warranted.

 

Blade and Soul Impressions

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Change of Plans

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This morning I was all ready and prepared to go on an angry tear about the change to specs in World of Warcraft on Legion Alpha.  Then I thought to myself… my blog has already hosted more than enough “I’m Angry at WoW” posts that I really did not need to add another one to the pile.  I still think the idea is quite possibly the dumbest I have seen yet, but I figure if it does go in… I can either deal with it, or stop playing again and no amount of gnashing of my teeth is going to make a change.  I have next to zero clout when it comes to things like that, so better just to ignore it for the moment and try not to get worked up over it.  In the meantime however I finally was able to pop into Blade and Soul and give the game a proper try.  I talked yesterday about some of my misgivings…. of which there were many, so the game started off on negative footing before I even entered.  Last night my friend Liore mentioned that the newly added servers had no real queues, so as a result I ended up rolling a new version of Squirrelghast on that server.  I am guessing that names are game wide, since I could not create a “Belghast” on Gunma the server I ended up rolling on.  So while I will always probably think of it as Squirrelghast I am guessing technically I am some sort of black fox…  but the tail is so fluffy and curvy that it reminds me of a squirrel.  Also if I was being super pedantic about it… I would be Squirrelgrave since I ultimately had to go with Belgrave for the reboot character.

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The game is shockingly charming… and I say shockingly… because I really did not expect much.  The localization team has done an amazing job of shaping the story into something that I cared about.  I admittedly cannot really remember any of the names, but the opening story arc involves you training at the Hongmoon academy under a guy that I am going to forever call “Dog Grandpa” because he is a Lyn and grandfatherly.  Then a lady with a name that I also don’t remember so I am just going to call her “Evil Bayonetta” comes into the neighborhood and causes a ruckus.  You watch her kill your fellow classmates, and find out that one of them…. that is pretty much exactly like Byakuya Kuchiki from Bleach… betrayed you for the special school scrolls.  At this point Dog Grandpa transforms into Akuma from Street Fighter and whipping some ass, until Evil Bayonetta threatens your life…  and he pays his own life and the blade he had been guarding to save you.  At which point you get blasted off of magical sky castle place into the ocean and are found by a village guard captain that also just happens to be a former Hongmoon student.  With this you begin your journey to be the best that ever was… and I am guessing we will travel to other towns… and meet other conspicuous former Hongmoon students that have life lessons to teach us.  The entire game intro really does feel like watching Anime, and while I made up names for people…  it was enjoyable and I did actually have some feels when Dog Grandpa sacrificed himself for my characters life.

Rise of Cricket

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Honestly I have to say the game itself is really rather fun, or at least fun in the same ways that TERA was fun.  The primary difference here is that the quests that you do seem to have some merit to them… rather than just being random grindy nonsense.  The localization team has given the various people you meet, including the random peasants…  personality and humor and it makes going off and fetching five healing salves or slaying 10 blackrams enjoyable.  The mechanics work out really similar to TERA where your left mouse button is used for your resource builder/default attack, and your right mouse button is your resource spender.  Then in addition to that you have various numbered special attacks and openers that you can use during battle, in addition to some quick time events that occur that allow you to for example stomp your enemy when they are knocked down.  The combat feels really fluid and the animations are awesome.  While I don’t normally go for that running on wires nonsense from kung fu movies…. when you sprint with your arms swept back… it just feels nice and when you do the whole glide thing in mid air it is surprisingly addicting.  The game progresses smoothly and most interactions are doing using the F key which serves the purpose of the generic “interaction” key that some other games have.  If you are used to TERA or Neverwinter or an “Action” MMO of the sort… then you should get accustomed to this game rapidly.

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The world itself is gorgeous… and works well.  Sure the textures are not always the best in the world… but the overall presentation “works”.  I think what adds the most to this is the fact that the soundtrack itself is really well woven into the game.  It changes regularly based on area of the world, so when you step foot near the graveyard it suddenly becomes more sinister, and when you are back in town it becomes a happy market tune.  The only nuisance so far is the fact that a number of the areas are instanced, and there is a slight hitch when you zone into them. I am not sure if this is due to server load, or if there will always be this little hitch but it gets frustrating at times.  Some areas are completely seamless, so I am guessing this is mostly happening where there are phasing or in a location where the actors change frequently.  For example the Mayors Office or the Healers building… are instanced… but in both cases I have had several different interactions in those buildings.  Its a quirk and you get used to it, but just something to expect.  There also seems to be quite a bit of delay on waiting for NPCs to load in on your screen when you first arrive in an area, but this is nothing worse than the stuff I am used to dealing with in WoW.

Reservations

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So far I am enjoying myself, but not sure if I am enjoying myself enough to actually spend money.  Nor am I really certain how long I will remain playing.  I was plenty fine with logging out and playing some Warframe after a few hours of gameplay, knowing that I would likely not make it through the queues again that night.  So when you contrast that with a game like Final Fantasy XIV when we played at launch…. and I got so damned angry about the prospect of ever having to log out and fight the login boss again…  that tells you it was enjoyable but nothing world shattering.  There is also a lot of silly bullshit that is happening in the game that is super cringeworthy.  When you first meet the character of Namsoyoo above, you get the impression that she is a very young girl…  then when it pans out for the first time you see her wearing some sort of gauze based dress with insane anti-gravity boobs.  The games bread and butter seems to be gratuitous T&A action in a way not dissimilar from the Dead or Alive franchise.  All of this is sad, because the game and the localization are actually rather good… and don’t really need the oversexed window dressing.  Now I have yet to run into super insidious, but right now it just seems a little much like somewhere the original artists were blushing and going “tee hee hee boobies”.

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The game certainly has some character, and the first time you meet a really important character you get this cool cinematic intro thing….  which unfortunately has these insanely pixelated fonts that send my eye twitching like mad.  I mean I realize that this game has been out since 2012… but we had better computers than that back then right? As far as performance… I am running this at 1080p on my GTX 960 card with pretty much everything cranked up as far as I can tell because their sliders are also somewhat nonsense, and I am getting a smooth 60 fps all of the time with little or no dips, so I am guessing the game will run smoothly on a toaster.  So long as I focus on Squirrelghast I am pretty happy playing the game and being an adorable but super serious blade dancer.  The other big negative right now is that everyone that I know seems to be spread out pretty evenly among the servers.  However the gold spam is so horrible that honestly I am completely oblivious to the fact that chat even exists, so if someone were trying to message me and have conversations I wouldn’t notice.  I have this feeling that Blade and Soul is going to be a very solo experience for me, and one that I will work out of my system in a few weeks, rather than a game I am going to set down roots.  However if you are looking for a pretty fun action based MMO, you might give it a look.  I didn’t expect anything… but enjoyed a couple of hours of running amok in this pretty landscape, and I suspect that if you also go into it with similarly lowered expectations you might enjoy yourself too.