Blurry Cats

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I’m somewhat all over the place this morning and struggling to get started, so in the meantime here is a picture of a confused cat.  This is Kenzie, she is my real life palico and “helps” me do lots of things…  including fetching me rubber bands and string that I didn’t even know I needed.  She then wants me to throw the string or rubber band so she can find it again and prove how good of a Palico helper she is.  She is trying to show how much better the real version is than the in Monster Hunter World version.  She also largely looks like this every time I take a photo because it is like she has never seen my phone before.

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I guess this is an upgrade from the ferret who won’t stop wiggling and then yawns…  so that every photo looks like she is about to bite me.  Example in the photo above…  I promise she did not just bite me after the photo was taken.  In fact the most aggressive thing she ever does is lick my hand and she is a lovable wiggly fluffball.  I wrote on twitter the other day that I am consistently jealous of people who can take good photos of their pets.  Ours seem to exist in two states…  asleep or shapeless blur.  By the moment I get my phone out, unlock it with my thumbprint and open the camera app…  the moment of adorableness that was just happening is always over.  What you end up seeing are the hollow after moments of what was a really cute photo ruined by the fact that my pets do not understand photography.

They are however great at sleeping on me or around me.  Like right this very moment Kenzie is laying on my headphones because apparently that is a comfortable thing to do…  just sort of drape your body over an awkwardly shaped object.  Basically she likes being near me at all times when possible and meows incessantly the moment I lock her out of the bathroom to take a shower.  Similarly when I record a podcast on Saturday nights she gets really confused that she cannot also be in the room… and if you have ever tuned into one of my streams you have probably hear her talking to me or me talking to her.  The thing is… I have several blankets on my desk for the cats to lay on… but more often than not she is just going to lay on a controller or something else that cannot possibly feel comfortable.

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Since this has apparently turned into a post where I just sit here talking about pets.  This is Allie, she is our old lady and mostly just wants to lay on things.  The majority of the time she is either laying on the blanket I keep on my recliner end of the sectional or draped over top of me while I am sitting there using my laptop.  She is awesome in that she has figured out how to lay in such a way as to not obstruct my keyboard and mouse movement.  The only problem is when she is doing this thing I basically cannot type with my right hand.  When I am using a controller she has figured out how to basically cradle herself up against my beard as not to obstruct the use of said controller.  She is a great girl but is starting to show the signs of age and ultimately we are just going to love on her as long as we have her.  Once again…  the moment I took this shot she moved slightly causing it to be a little out of focus.

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Then we have Mollie our youngest and most blurry cat.  I took like six shots in rapid succession and this is the least blurry of them all.  She had a rough start of her life and as far as I can tell she was found as a kitten in a parking lot and taken directly to a primarily dog animal shelter.  So she lived there for like the first six months of her life having to content with the constant barking of puppers.  When we first got her she was insanely skittish and over time has improved…  but she also isn’t quite there yet.  For whatever reasons she seemed scared of me at first, but I largely chock this up to the fact that the lady running the shelter was about the same height and build as my wife and she maybe thought she looked “safe”.  Over time she has become my little shadow as I move around the house, hopping up on things and wanting attention.  However she bolts the moment she hears a loud and strange sound or sees Kenzie.  There are times though when kenzie is sleeping on the blanket on my wife’s end of the sofa…  and Mollie will sneak in and snuggle with me and those are the best times ever.

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Since this morphed into a pets post…  I figured I should also show off a picture of Shiloh when she is sleeping and adorably curled up in her toy box.  Ferrets love toys and she will drag them around the cage and shove them into the toybox or under blankets, though she rarely falls sleep in here.  I am guessing she was playing and got tuckered out.  Ferrets are sorta like windup toys in that they have all sorts of motion and action until they run out of charge… and then basically conk out wherever they happen to be at that moment.  As a result you will find your ferrets sleeping in all sorts of weird positions because they ran out of energy at exactly that moment.  There have been times I have woken up in the morning and Shiloh will be conked out halfway between the litter box and one of the beds…  because apparently she woke up just long enough to go potty and then ran out of steam again.  She has always been a sleepier girl than any of our other ferrets have been and when she is sleepy… she is REALLY sleepy.  Then again when she is active she is really active and wants to be picked up and subsequently tries to climb up my shirt.  The funniest thing is that she also plays with the cats… especially Mollie and she will wait at the side of the cage when she is near by.  Mollie also tries to pull on her blankets when she wants Shiloh to wake up and play…  so inevitably there will be a tuft of fleece blanket sticking out through the cage in the morning.

So those are my pets… I did not exactly intend on the post to take this trajectory but it is what happened.  I hope you have a great day and a great start of the week.

 

 

MTG Arena Economy

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Last night I spent a tiny bit of time in Magic the Gathering Arena because they unleashed the new Dominaria expansion.  The funny thing is the digital version of Magic got Dominaria long before I actually got the box that I ordered.  If you currently have access to Arena just the act of logging in gets you three packs, and once again remember these packs have 1 rare/mythic, 2 uncommon and 5 commons…  and or a combination of wildcards.  Wildcards as always can be traded in for any card you are missing of that rarity and they do not appear to be set dependent.  This means that more or less you seem to be able to bank them and then turn in a bunch of them any time you want to build a deck.

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The other thing that went in yesterday was the ability to spend money and buy the intermediary currency of Arena…  Gems.  There are two currencies in the game…  Gold that you earn by completing quests and such and Gems that you plunk down hard earned cash.  The prices range from $4.99 for the first pack of 750 gems making it roughly 150 gems per dollar all the way to 20,000 gems for $99.99 making that 200 gems per dollar spent.  The thing that concerns me the most at this point is the fact that MTG Arena is a beta and I have yet to actually find any place that talks about whether or not there will be a wipe before launch…  and if there is one if money spent will be refunded.  This is the biggest hurdle for me personally against spending any money at all…  because I would really like assurances that I would at least keep the value of that purchase even if I don’t keep the cards.

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Now we get into the prime thing you can buy with your gems…  packs of cards.  At the 45 and 90 pack range you get what was the Dominaria buy the box promo card…  making me think that they consider 45 packs to be the equivalent of a 36 pack Magic the Gathering Booster Box.  I did some nonsense via spreadsheet before I actually noticed that there is a post on the forums with pretty much all of the economy elements outlined.  As it stands the only scaling is on gem purchases…  where the more money you spend the more gems you wind up getting per dollar.  At the high end of buying 750 gem packs that places the price per pack at $1.33 and if you are buying on the low end at 20,000 gems the price per pack drops down to $1.  That means 45 packs would be $59.88 buying 600 gems at a time and $45.00 buying 20,000 gems at a time…  similarly the gigantic 90 pack bundle comes out to $119.76 and $89.99 respectively.

For an economy reference… Hearthstone buying in the smallest package ends up being $1.49 per pack and in the largest package $1.16 per pack…  for 3 fewer cards each pack.  The biggest problem with each and every gem pack is they do not exactly sync up with the dollar amounts meaning you are going to have a remainder of gems that are not really usable for the purpose of buying packs.  Contrasted again with Hearthstone there is no intermediary currency so you always know what you are getting per dollar spent regardless of some nonsense exchange rate.  My friend Toadchild also did some math and figured out that the most efficient way to purchase cards if you wanted the maximum number of packs for your gems…  would be 1-45 card pack, 2-15 card packs and 4-6 card packs giving you a total of 99 packs for 19,800 gems.  This still gives you an annoying remainder of 200 gems though in the process.  If you are curious about the full range of nonsense here is the google sheet I was working things out in.

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Other than just the ability to purchase cards for cash…  they implemented the beginnings of a draft mode.  Quick Draft however is not the pod drafting you were expecting however and instead something significantly different.  Effectively when the event is going on you can enter the draft at will and be placed up against some AI that drafts with you.  This apparently gives you the ability to leave the screen and return to your matches later any time while the event is active.  The buy in is going to be 5000 gold or 750 gems… aka the $4.99 pack and rewards you a blend of cards and gems in prizes.  Essentially you keep anything you draft into your collection and have the possibility to win additional prizes if you get to 7 wins before you get to 3 losses.  Draft packs have the same distribution as tabletop giving you 1 rare/mythic, 3 uncommon and 10 commons making it a more familiar format for those who have drafted before.  The prize support breakout looks a little something like this…

  • 0 Wins: 50 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 1 Win: 100 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 2 Wins: 200 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 3 Wins: 300 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 4 Wins: 450 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 5 Wins: 650 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 6 Wins: 850 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 7 Wins: 950 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted

The boosters are all listed as a “Chance for Extra Boosters” but there really isn’t any particular information surrounding that…  maybe if you go 7 and 0 you get 3… or 7 and 2 you only get 1.  This isn’t really clarified that I saw.

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The other thing that went in is Quick Constructed which is effectively a tournament in a box allowing you to hop in and play in a competitive structure with prize support.  The buy in here is 500 gold or 95 gems and has significantly more meager rewards primarily allowing you to gamble your gold for the chance at winning your 7 and getting it doubled in the process with a few randomized cards in the process.  This would feel better were it not for the fact that they completely removed random card rewards at the end of winning a match, meaning this is now your way for getting that sort of thing.  I actually loved the whole get a random card after you win thing… because it sorta felt like an Ante card even though that concept is an element of a bygone era.  For those interested the prize support structure looks a little something like this…

  • 0 Wins: 100 gold and 3 individual Uncommon cards
  • 1 Win: 200 gold and 3 individual Uncommon cards
  • 2 Wins: 300 gold and 3 individual Uncommon cards
  • 3 Wins: 400 gold and 3 individual Uncommon cards
  • 4 Wins: 500 gold, 2 individual Uncommon cards, and 1 individual Rare card
  • 5 Wins: 600 gold, 2 individual Uncommon cards, and 1 individual Rare card
  • 6 Wins: 800 gold, 1 individual Uncommon card, and 2 individual Rare cards
  • 7 Wins: 1,000 gold, 1 individual Uncommon card, and 2 individual Rare cards

In a worst case scenario you spent 500 gold and got back 100 and 3 common cards.  In the best case scenario you spent 500 gold… doubled it and got back 2 rares and 1 common.  Unlike draft this is not an AI mode and you are playing against players.  They suggest that this is game mode primarily for players who have already completed their daily quests and are looking for a way to get more goodies.

All in all I am mostly happy with the economy of the game so far.  It seems rather reasonable especially if you contrast it with paper magic.  For your dollar you are getting way more value out of Magic the Gathering Arena both in the sheer number of rares and uncommon you get per dollar and the fact that wildcards exist.  Wildcards and stockpiling them seems to be a really good way to prepare for the oncoming release of a new expansion.  As it stands right now…  I could sit on my stash of mythic and rare wildcards and then the moment the next expansion releases buy everything outright that i need to make a deck work.  Cracking packs is always going to be fun for me personally, but for players who would rather just buy what they need… cracking packs becomes a way to get those much needed tokens to finish their custom “brew”.  The only concern I have is that since this mode seems so much more equitable to the player…  what will it ultimately do to the physical hobby?

[UPDATE]

I got a response back from Wizard of the Coast support and the plan is to return the spent gems to your account when it goes live.

 

The Pilot and The Meat Suit

It has been a weird few weeks for me.  One of the problems I have had over the years is that people tend to value me way more than they should.  This means that I often get pulled in to consult on things that I have absolutely nothing to do with.  When you factor in the shift to management…  this seems to have only gotten worse.  Sure I have an above average ability to troubleshoot software related problems and my borderline nefarious past makes me decent at working through potential system flaws.  I’ve always sorta been a jack of all trades and master of none, and it turns out as I have gotten further in my career that is actually a really handy survival skill.  It helps me understand how the pieces fit together and how the different roles click into place to make a whirring machine function.

The biggest problem there is I find it mentally exhausting to attempt to solve the problems of others, because I sorta have to pour myself into the situation and ask a bunch of “what would I do” type questions.  As a result last night I completely missed the Mythical Nonsense night.  I had a dinner that was made up of Jalapeno Chicken, Corn Dodgers and Potato Wedges (Charlie’s Chicken is so good)…  and largely crashed out on the sofa until a short time later when my wife was ready for bed…  and I followed her extremely willingly to a comatose wonderland.  I stayed there until roughly 5:10 this morning when my body decided that I needed to be up…  which is about 20 minutes before the alarm goes off.  So I sat there quietly petting the cats on the edge of the bed until the cacophony of beeping happened.

As you might be able to tell by now this is not exactly my normal post, because I really don’t have a lot of gaming information to talk about.  Instead you are getting something else that may or may not be weird and awkward.  For as long as I have remembered I have had this sort of feeling inside that I wasn’t real.  I am not exactly sure how to put it other than that, that I am not actually part of my own life.  When I get tired or stressed I find myself sorta going on auto pilot and then watching my life happen as though I were watching a movie.  I am detached and somewhere else just casually browsing what my meat puppet of a body is doing without me actually being resident in it.

The closest thing I can explain it as is though the me that everyone else interacts with is not actually really me.  Instead it is like the real me is someone piloting this flesh mech around and occasionally gets bored of doing so…  and instead retreats to just letting the AI take over.  Every so often things will shift back into focus and I will with startling realization notice that I am in fact real and I am in fact effected by whatever is going on.  This is always jarring when it happens no matter how many times I experience the shift in perspective.  It’s like something has tethered me back to my meat suit and forced me to actually interact with the world in first person again instead of the blissfully detached third person I was enjoying.

Now you could just say that I was letting my mind wander, but it has always felt more than that.  Its like for a bit the “me” inside of me took a break and wandered off because it got bored with whatever happened to be going on.  It is really frustrating when this happens during a conversation because then I sorta have to try really hard to catch up and “grok” whatever the hell was just being said because I know at some point someone is going to expect an answer that makes sense.  It is weird feeling like a spectator in your own life.  Like I said before… this was going to be an odd post from the start but it was the thing that was presently on my mind.

 

Monster Hunter and Destiny

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While I am not quite ready to throw out a complete post about it…  I am swirling around in my head the notion of rebooting Blaugust this year.  If I did so it would be a slightly different affair and I am sorting out in my head exactly what that might entail.  There was a period of time when we had a bunch of events happening at the same time…  Developer Appreciation Week, Newbie Blogger Initiative and Blaugust.  None of which really exist today in their current form and have not properly for a few years.  So in remixing Blaugust I would be also attempting to fill some of the niches that the others provided as well by laying out a series of themed weeks.  The rough idea is it would start with the last full week in July as a sort of “Prep Week” where the remaining elder bloggers would sorta throw out “how to get started” posts from an inspirational, logistical or technical manner.  It is still an idea that is incubating however so I will do some sort of a larger post once it has solidified completely in my head.

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The other general thought that has been going around in my head is that Monster Hunter World has become my new Destiny: The Taken King.  That sounds counter intuitive I know since Destiny 2 is a much closer simulacrum to the original game than Monster Hunter World given that they are two completely different genres.  However what I am talking about is more the way I engage with the game rather than the way the game actually plays.  Destiny 1… especially during the Taken King era was this game I was completely obsessed with and wanted to know every tiny bit of lore I could find for it.  It was this giant box of content that allowed me to engage with it in whatever method I chose to, and also always gave me one more goal to complete once I had finished the previous one.  It was this title that I could just log in and play any given night without needing to bring into it a predetermined purpose because there were so many layered purposes available that I could easily latch onto one of them and proceed happily for an evening.

I had a small group of friends playing it, that allowed me to do bigger activities if I so choose like the various raids I completed with Axioma and later Tequila Mockingbird.  That said most of my time playing the game was just me roaming around and doing stuff that suited whatever mood I happened to be in.  There was always one more obstacle to overcome and one more piece of loot that I was chasing and never quite obtaining.  It was a perfect storm of hooks for me personally and kept me entertained right up until the point when my head was filled with daydreams of Destiny 2 and what might be.  I realize I can still log in at any point I want and play the game again…  but it almost feels tarnished due to the greatly diminished community surrounding it.

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Destiny 2 for reasons I cannot fully explain does not contain the same hooks for me that the original did.  I tried very hard to stay focused on it, and for some time I have blamed my eventual malaise towards the game on the fact that I tried to play it twice.  What I mean by that is that I played the game hard and heavy when it released on Playstation 4 and then immediately turned around and went through the same manic leveling process on the PC one month later.  Effectively I ran up six characters to high gear levels back to back, and I had managed to hit 305 the then cap on PS4 before swapping over to PC and grinding up to that point again.  That is a lot to ask of any game to sustain interested during that sort of nonsense and I largely explained my fading away from the title as simple burnout.

The problem is there was so much more that I have yet to completely unpack.  The moment to moment game play in Destiny 2 feels amazing…  but there is a problem with its feedback loop.  What was missing was my drive to keep doing more of it once I had obtained whatever shiny baubles I wanted to obtain weapon wise.  What was missing was some larger overarching pull that kept me going off and doing individual tasks that ultimately felt like they were adding up to some big payoff.  In part the problem is a lot of those items that I used to grind for…  now exist as Eververse cash shop exclusives.  The other problem is that when they have put in longer grinds like the weapons of osiris…  they feel extremely hollow because they are so horribly repetitive and involve you doing the same limited number of activities over and over.  I realize they are still trying to fix this broken loop and some of the upcoming changes might help it…  but I feel like their over reliance on timed mechanics is going to be a bridge I just cannot cross given now much anxiety they inflict.

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On the flip side you have the game Monster Hunter World that I honestly did not expect to get into, given my lousy track record with the handheld versions.  However I am engaging with it much the way as I engaged with Destiny during the Taken King era.  I find myself looking up lore for the monsters if they have existed in the series before, and if not speculations about their origins and such that are floating around on Reddit.  I find myself researching bits and parts for armor and what interesting builds surround them that exploit their specific attributes.  I find myself able to log into the game any given night and just find something to do because I have this massive laundry list of things I want to go acquire.  I can always use more elder dragon parts….  but similarly can use the gemstones that are rare drops off of almost any creature you can hunt.  I became completely ecstatic last night when I got a double gem drop off Zorah Magdaros…  that I cannot fully explain why I was bothering to do in the first place.

This is the feedback loop that used to drive me while playing Destiny 1 and it is the feedback loop that keeps me doing nonsense.  I have an addiction to SOS Roulette which isn’t even really a thing…  just something I made up in my head to relate it to the various roulette’s in Final Fantasy XIV.  I like dropping into the middle of an assortment of random events happening that people need help on and trying to push the scenario to a win condition by my interaction with it.  Sure there are times we fail miserably like Monday night…  but then there are nights like Last night where we somehow managed to win every single boss fight I attempted including Val Hazaak and Nergigante.  There will likely NEVER be a time when I cannot use at least one or two things off the elder dragons.

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What makes Monster Hunter World so sticky is that eat time I get the parts to craft a new piece of gear, it ends up opening a whole bunch of possibilities to solve other problems…  and often times leads me down a path of wanting something else to try some new build out.  The way the gear sets interact in interesting ways means I am constantly searching for another piece of gear to complete a specific stat packages that I have decided in my head that I need.  This was the same sort of nonsense that happened for me in Destiny 1 where I was constantly seeking out a slightly better stat package that interacted more perfect with the gear I had.  I had a vault full of items that I didn’t want to shard because they were useful under certain circumstances and led me to want to keep them.  I am having this same problem in Monster Hunter World where I am afraid I will legitimately hit the 1000 item hard  cap on equipment.

Effectively what I have realized is that Monster Hunter World is my new Destiny, and hopefully I have explained a bit this morning what that actually means.  It is that game that I can pick up and play without any real reason… and find a constant stream of activities that I want to be doing…  that also feel like they are working towards some larger objective.  Capcom is doing an excellent job of keeping a constantly flow of events and activities happening almost every week to keep us engaged and wanting to do new an interesting things.  Kulve Taroth is phenomenal and might go down as some of my favorite content in any game…  but the fact that they sprung it on us completely unannounced makes it all the more exciting.  While I have had friends who have bounced off of this game… I still maintain an active enough community to be able to do things together if need be.  The only problem is that right now I seem to be a couple of hours off what would be prime monster hunting time…  given that I tend to wind down around 9:30 my time and that is when folks are getting online.

Ultimately while this might seem counter-intuitive…  if you loved the original Destiny but largely have bounced off Destiny 2…  you might give Monster Hunter World a try.

SOS Failures

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The thing about SOS Roulette is that sometimes you win big…  other times you fail miserably.  Last night was more in the fail miserably column as I decided to attempt to farm some of the gems I need to create the full Kulve Taroth set of gear.  That means I will need a Kulve Taroth Gem, a Val Hazaak Gem, a Xeno’jiiva Gem and a Nergigante Gem.  As a result I spent most of the night joining in on Nergi and Hazaak fights without much luck.  The truth is these are not the best things to queue into because the elder dragons represent a steep climb in difficulty.  More often than not last night we carted out of the fight with someone taking a faint and finishing things out without getting any measurable loot.

The night did however make me realize how desperately I need one more Miasma gem so I can become immune to Effluvial build up and just wreck that fight without much issue.  The truth is Hazaak is way easier than I remembered him being, which seems to be a common theme I am feeling as I go back and redo these fights.  The truth is I have mostly been in a mindset of fighting tempered or similar things over the last few weeks and as a result all of those high rank “tough” fights feel a lot easier as a result.  The truth is I should just be doing these solo where I can predict what is going to happen better….  but that just always feels so lonely.  I admit most of the time I do the SOS Roulette thing just because it feels like I am doing things with people…  without the need for actual human interaction.  I realize I am not normal.

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I did manage to get in a really good run of Kulve Taroth where I walked away with two decent items that represent weapons I had not really gotten before.  First up is the Taroth “Blitz” Erupter which appears to be pattered off of the Deviljho Light Bowgun…  and I have no clue at all if it is even a reasonable weapon but it does give me at least a Rank 7 one to play with.  Next up you have the above image of the Taroth Buster “Water” which lets me start playing around with Gunlance, another weapon I have not so much as even equipped.  I think more than anything that is what this event represents for me…  a way to get a bunch of decent versions of weapons to start playing with and testing out.  Sure I could have crafted likely better versions of all of these things…  but I feel like I sorta need to know what types of weapons I like before I sink a lot of resources into them.

I think tonight I might start getting used to soloing things again, either that or see what Ashgar is up to because I know he needs Nergi parts as well.  I need to get serious about trying to farm that last Kulve gem because when the event is over my opportunity closes there.  Shiana has somehow managed to get four of the gems already so has enough to craft both the alpha and beta sets.  For me… I am mostly just focused on crafting a single set and unfortunately I only have one gold ticket waiting in the wings to fill out whatever gem I have the hardest time getting.  I think I blew my luck the other night when I managed to carve a Wyvern Gem and then get two more from the end of mission loot window….  for a total of three that night.

 

Mixed Gaming Weekend

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Everquest is a game known in part for it’s interesting factions and your ability to not only completely wreck them…  but in some cases improve ones that started out bad in the first place.  My High Elf Ranger for example was friendly with Paineel, and my friend had an Iksar Monk that was completely at home in Rivervale thanks to hours and hours of clearing Runnyeye.  The factions have interesting names too like “HighHold Citizens” or the “Deepwater Knights” and are fairly granular in that you might be perfectly fine in most of a zone but one specific area will attack you on sight because you wrecked your faction.  I had a weird dream last night that there was a law firm that acted as a mediator to help you repair your damaged factions.  I don’t remember exactly I was there or what faction it was that I had offended, but I remember being across a giant board room from some NPCs that just kept chanting “You’ve ruined your own lands, you’ll not ruin mine!”.  I eventually was able to appease them slightly with an assortment of bear pelts, slashed deathfist belts and bone chips…  which only makes sense in Everquest.

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The primary thing that I played this weekend was our April AggroChat game of the month…  Night in the Woods.  I don’t want to talk too much about this other than it being really good and I highly suggest playing it yourself.  That said the suggestion is with a tiny bit of reservation because I found it a deeply emotional experience.  There are things in the game that pattern my own choices in life and others that were the road not taken.  I am mostly saving the ammunition for the podcast next week, but I have some feels about this game and its characters and small town life in general.

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I also played a bit of Defiance 2050 this weekend… and I have to say I am deeply confused by this title.  Maybe I completely misunderstood what this game was supposed to be.  I had gotten the impression that it would be a game where a bunch of time had passed since the original game and that the world had drastically changed.  So as a result I was deeply confused when I followed a sequence of events in Mount Tam that if I am not completely mistaken are pretty much exactly what happens in the base game.  So I am not exactly sure what is up with this one, because it seems like the same game with no changes that I could see?  I did not play for terribly long but was extremely confused the entire time because I kept expecting something new.  Yes I realized that I just used confused three times in rapid succession…  but I am trying to drive that emotion home here.

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The other bits of my weekend that I did not specifically call out here were spent in Monster Hunter World working on the weekly objectives…  namely hunting Black Diablos and doing 9 Star missions.  Here you can see me hanging out with T’Challa who I did not realize was into Monster Hunter World…  after taking down Xeno’jiiva.  Things I learned this weekend…  my fear of Diablos is largely unwarranted because waiting this late into the game to really start farming it…  means it is way easier than my memory would tell me.  The last time I had fought a Diablos was the one needed to clear the main story step.  I have avoided these like the plague because that fight…  was pure hell at the time.  Now I seem to be able to take them down pretty easily and I did four of the weekly event quest involving taking down both a normal Diablos and a Black Diablos.  As far as the 9 Star quests… I SOS Rouletted them which involved two Xeno’jiiva fights, a double tempered bazel fight, and a tempered rathalos/hard tobi fight.

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I did also spend a few attempts on Kulve Taroth and figured out that you can filter your session by folks doing the encounter.  I’ve been kicked a few times… the first because I am guessing they wanted a fixed party comp and I snagged the last slot they were saving for someone else.  The group disbanded and was locked when it was reposted.  The other time I am guessing that it was for simply being a longsword player because that seems to be the weapon type that everyone bags on as this games “Dragoon”.  I mean it isn’t wrong… I take a lot of damage and do plenty of stupid things but more often than not I also break big parts off things with spirit helm breaker.  Other than that I wound up getting into a few really good and chill groups and got more weapons…  sadly no more oranges but I did get a couple of decent purples.  I have this interesting collection of death shots and in this one I think I died to a magma splash, either that or someone else fainted and this was my final action shot.    I have a few really good ones from my many attempts at Nergigante as well because the scene at the end of the encounter always seems really interesting to me… so more often than not I take a quick snap.  All in all it was a pretty good weekend and I am really looking forward to next weeks AggroChat so I can get all of these thoughts related to Night in the Woods out of my head.

 

Gold Dust Woman

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Right now in Monster Hunter World there is a brand new type of event happening called a Siege.  The idea is that an entire 18 player session is working towards one objective… taking down a Zorah Magdaros style massive elder dragon.  In order to start the process you need to find a gold pile somewhere out in the wilds.  By default this should be somewhere near the start of any of the outdoor zones.  In talking to the AggroChat crew last night I was told to do an investigation…  which absolutely worked… but I believe that Tam originally intended to tell me to do an Expedition which according to Ash also works.  The pile will be very obvious and very out of place and by looting it you will then have a quest as soon as you zone into Astera.  From there the quest takes place in the Gathering Hub and will show up as a unique quest type called Siege at the bottom of the quest givers list.

From there you join a party in progress or start your own.  There is no SOS Roulette for this so my standard practice of joining a clan session to hang out only really works if you are all focused on doing the event.  The AggroChat crew apparently did this with only four players on Wednesday night when it opened, but I largely just kept joining public sessions until I found one with players actively doing the quest.  For the most part every instance I joined had two active groups so a total of eight players chipping away at the progress meter for the event.  Functionally all groups are working in their own separate instances with progress made each time you meet a milestone… like knocking off a specific part of the body.

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There are functionally four phases that I am aware of in the fight.  In the first phase Kulve Taroth moves around the zone completely oblivious to the players allowing you to hit it with canon fire perched atop cliffs much like the Zorah Magdaros fight.  During the second phase she is still covered in the gold plating but begins to take notice of your actions and will actively but very slowly attack you.  During the forth phase she enters a room where there are some magma eruptions that heat the gold up making her go significantly faster as well as allowing for better damage to knock parts off.  During the final phase she goes into a room where magma is dripping down from the ceiling and all of her armor is knocked off making her extremely fast and very Nergigante like in damage when she hits you.

Ultimately the goal is to survive until one of two things happens…  either she gets bored and wanders off “leaving the area” which counts as success weirdly enough.  The other option is that through the actions of all teams that her horns are broken…  which allows the team that broke them the ability to carve them for all sorts of tasty loot.  The other thing that makes this fight extremely interesting is that she is constantly dropping parts on the ground so you have to juggle fighting with looting on a regular basis.  Additionally there is a tribe Gajalaka that will constantly be getting in the way, throwing things at you, knocking you down…  so you will be dealing with this in additional to avoiding very wide sweeping attacks.  You can take them out however and the ones with gold shielding on their back drop Kulve Taroth bits… and the others have a reasonable chance to do the same.

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This is a massive time sink, given that it often takes a full instance two or three attempts to take down the dragon.  What makes it worth it however is the interesting semi-randomized loot drops that introduce the relic system that has existed in other games.  While you are in the fight picking up drops, there is a chance that you can get a relic weapon.  These then are appraised at the quest giver after you have exited the instance in a fashion similar to decorations.  Last night I ran three complete Kulve Taroth fights and walked away at the end of the night with 22 blue rank 6 weapons, 5 purple rank 7 weapons and 3 orange rank 8 weapons.  The above screenshot is an amalgam of all of the best items that I got from the fights.  Apparently that Insect Glaive is good enough to make Tam our resident Glaive master general drool a bit over it.

What I am more interested in however is the fact that this is giving me an infusion of weapons that I might have not actually tried on my own.  The truth is I have played with a very small subset of weapons in the game and there are others like lance that I have wanted to try… but had no clue which one to work towards.  Last night I got myself a reasonable sleep lance to start taking down things like everyone’s favorite target dummy…  Great Jagras.  More than this, it is giving me a smattering of different elemental damage types which gives me more leverage when we start looking at other fights in the game.  The other big thing I am working towards is being able to craft a full set of the Kulve armor because it too is really nice…  but will involve a lot of elder dragon farming since each piece requires a gem.

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Lastly there is both new layered armor and palico gear associated with this quest and I am wearing two pieces of the set… shoulders and waist in the above screenshot.  Kenzie my palico is wearing the full set of her gear.  This is crafted by combining Bushi Tickets that drop upon turning in the Kulve Taroth quest when your instance had defeated it and combining them with a bunch of varied monster parts.  I am working towards the Bushi Homare set which involves a bunch of elder dragon bits…  whereas the Bushi Sabi set has a broken down battle worn appearance and requires a bunch of parts from alternate high rank mobs like Black Diablos.  All in all I love the feel of this event because it is essentially Monster Hunter World doing a raid.  I’ve been extremely impressed with the sort of things they are continuing to patch into this game giving us reasons to keep coming back and interacting with content.  The event itself runs for a few weeks and I can already tell I will be spending at least some time each night farming Kulve Taroth for interesting weapon options.

Unintended Night

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What I was supposed to be playing last night is World of Warcraft as Wednesday is our normal mythical nonsense night.  Unfortunately we were down two people already and I myself wasn’t really in the mood to do it either.  I’ve been dealing with some stuff and yesterday was a bit of a bad mental health day.  When those situations happen I tend to turtle up somewhere quiet and hang out by myself until whatever it is has passed.  World of Warcraft is such an inherently social game that even the act of logging in ends up prompting a bunch of people to poke me and say hello…  and it feels bad to ignore them when I need to ignore them.

Sure there is now “Appear Offline” mode but even then that is not a perfect scenario.  For me at least there are a handful of people that I am generally okay with interacting with, because they know the drill.  They understand deeply because they go through their own periods of turtle time, and as a result there is no need to attempt to keep up appearances as it were.  However if you are in Offline mode and you reach out to one of those people who are on the closest rings of your monkeysphere…  they cannot respond.  You will be able to send them messages all day long but they will always get the offline message when attempting to respond back to you.  As a result when I am feeling like this I just avoid WoW like the plague because it isn’t worth the hassle.

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What I wanted to be doing was to sit on the couch and play some Everquest while watching some more Mighty Boosh streamed through the television.  Unfortunately they seem to have had a rather traumatic maintenance yesterday.  The servers went down at 5:00 am EDT on the 18th and did not come back apparently until 2:30 am EDT on the 19th.  I have no clue at all what was going on…  but I kept trying to fire up the launcher and getting the maintenance message.  I have been enjoying myself a shocking amount in Everquest, but I realize that I am riding the drug that is nostalgia.  I am not sure how long that drug will last but for the moment I am riding its high.

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What I did instead was play a lot of MTG Arena as I got it set up on my laptop.  Yesterday Scopique wrote an interesting response to my post about Arena…  or at least one that mentioned it because it wasn’t exactly a direct response.  The funny thing is I wouldn’t necessarily call myself much of a competitive gamer.  I traditionally shy away from player versus player situations, but games like MTG Arena or the Crucible in Destiny don’t seem to bother me that much and I am not entirely certain why.  I stumbled across a post from Tobold who very much did not enjoy his time with Arena, but for the moment I don’t mind at all that it is largely just a stripped down 1v1 client.  I think ultimately if you are going into Arena expecting Duels of the Planeswalkers or MTG Duels either one… you are going to be sorely disappointed.

Arena is simply a Magic the Gathering Online that isn’t horrible.  Sure MTGO is serviceable but nothing about it is really intuitive and it feels like you are jumping through a lot of hoops to make anything work.  MTGO was absolutely less cludgy than the days of trying to arrange a game on IRC and then getting both parties to fire up and connect to each other through the Apprentice application.  However card gaming on a PC has changed drastically since then and Hearthstone more or less has led that charge.  Arena is that Hearthstone-esc interface for the far more seasons and complicated game of Magic the Gathering, and the thing is… it works amazingly well.

There have been a few times I have been bit by the game trying to move forward without me…  but in the grand scheme of things it seems to do 99.9% of the right things at the right time.  The other moments don’t bother me too much because I am not placing a lot of my personal ego into whether or not I am winning.  I am simply enjoying playing cards and occasionally I do really well.  I do feel like Tobold’s comment of not feeling like he could be competitive with the decks presented was a bit nonsense given that I have been entirely playing the stock Golgari Exploration deck.  I felt like I was able to pick it up and start winning matches almost immediately…  and sure as my rank has risen I am winning less matches but even that doesn’t bother me much.  I am still winning more than enough to complete daily quests getting me packs and gold…  to buy more packs.  All in all I feel like Arena is going to shape up to be a very solid version of Magic the Gathering Online…  but we need to stop the comparisons there for our own sanity.

MTG Arena Beta

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Yesterday was of course the ninth anniversary of the Tales of the Aggronaut blog…  and Wizards of the Coast got me a present.  Roughly halfway through the day I checked my mail and noticed that I got an email from WotC inviting me to the closed beta of Arena…  their attempt at making a modern Magic the Gathering client.  The truth is Hearthstone has been eating their lunch for several years now due to its extreme accessibility.  It also does the dual whammy of giving both a nostalgia buzz for magic the gathering and collectible card games in general…  while delivering a fatal blow of world of warcraft nostalgia at the same time.  It’s a good game… and honestly lately I have been playing quite a bit of the warrior rush deck, but even that said…  it is no Magic the Gathering.  There is just something about this game that causes me to follow the community and buy cards… even though I don’t get to play that often.

The biggest problem for me is that I don’t really have a LGS or Local Gaming Store to be spending my time at.  I live out in the burbs and the closest thing to me is on the opposite end of Tulsa from where I live…  making it not exactly convenient to go to in the evenings and play cards.  Where a game like Hearthstone or Arena comes in is it allows me to get that fix…  without the need to actually get hands on other players.  That said I am working on fostering a little community at work for lunch time gaming and am building up some balanced decks to sort of make an easy drop in and play environment.  All of that said… it is just so much easier to get online at the end of a day and get my gaming fix rather than trying to coordinate with other human beings.

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When you start up the Arena client you are given a handful of packs to start crafting your own decks with.  This assortment essentially encompassed the last two blocks of play…  Rivals of Ixalan, Ixalan, Hour of Devastation and Amonkhet.  I got a handful of decent cards and could have probably crafted together a serviceable deck from them.  I personally like these two blocks of play theme wise and together they give quite a bit of reasonable synergy.  I believe the plan going forward is to largely limit Arena to standard sets by default…  which seems a little if that were the case why Kaladesh and Aether Revolt are not included.  It was my understanding that when the Kaladesh block cycles out the Amonkhet block will as well in Q4 2018.  Quite frankly I struggle keeping these things in my head as to which sets are in and which sets are out because it doesn’t seem anywhere near as clear as it used to be.  I apparently am not the only person to think this because there is literally a website called What is In Standard.

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One thing that is going to be a challenge to get used to is that the pack structure is vastly different from live paper magic.  When you open a pack you get a grand total of 8 cards instead of 15 cards…  which I hope means they are going to charge a reduced price for the packs when the whole buying packs for money thing is eventually introduced.  You get a single rare/mythic, two uncommons, and five commons.  If you already have more than a play set of a card they replace it instead with a token as you can see underneath Samut in the above picture.  These can then be spent to fill out missing holes in your collection trading a rare for a rare or a mythic for a mythic.  At first I could not understand why I kept getting them since at this point in my head… I had only opened a handful of packs.

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Also in your collection are a wide variety of deck archetypes built and ready to go.  Personally I have been shifting back and forth between Golgari Exploration for which Green/Black has always been my preferred color set, and Legion of Dusk which similarly is heavy black and vampire themed enough to ignore the fact that I am using white mana.  I love the exploration mechanic and when it compounds with cards that do stuff when any card explores.  This means you can get some really big critters on the board that escalate rapidly.  Ultimately in a perfect situation I want a foul orchard out on turn one, Wildgrowth Walker on turn two, and then some combination of creatures that explore like Seeker’s Squire or Ixalli’s Diviner to pump up the Walker and start my assault proper.  What that works it is beautiful… when it doesn’t there seem to be enough alternate paths to victory to hang in for a very long time.

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For the most part the client itself plays exactly like you would expect a magic client to play.  It does a lot of things for you, like if you have no plays it goes ahead and skips to the next turn which is likely going to throw you off at first.  There is a way to flip the client into a more granular level having you verify each and every trigger that happens…  which would be important for more technical decks.  I do feel like the timeout is maybe a little bit long given how many phases you have to get through…  there have been times that matches have taken forever because the other player was just slow at evaluating their options…  or potentially just doing something else at the same time.  Unlike the Duels of the Planeswalkers clients I never felt like it was rushing me through things and causing me to lose card play opportunities.  It seems to have some intelligence built into the client and stalls anytime it thinks you might have a play option, and so far it has not missed a time when I needed to play a card in response to something.

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After each victory you are awarded a single random card, and there are various quests that you can be working on while playing matches.  For example you can see in the bar that I am at 8 wins of 10 needed for  my next pack of Rivals of Ixalan.  The pack quests seem to come at 5 victories, 10 victories and 15 victories…  and not sure if that trend continues on every 5 victories or if you are limited to 3 packs per week.  Similarly there are quests that I had already completed like Kill 13 of your opponents creatures or cast 13 white or blue spells, each of those rewarding 250 gold.  The in game pack purchasing mechanism allows you to buy a pack every 1000 gold, so essentially after doing four of these quests you can get some more cards.  I am assuming this gold currency will also eventually be used for drafting which sadly is not in yet…  but I believe they have talked about wanting that game play mode exists.

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The only real thing you need to know is the fact that I set up my account around 6:30 last night and the next thing I knew…  it was 9:30.  The game is extremely good and brought back all of the right nostalgia beats for sitting around playing magic the gathering and trying to figure out how to dig yourself out of a card draw hole.  There are times when things go extremely well…  then there are other times like the above match when things go south really quickly.  I just could not get the exploration cards I needed to power up my front line and managed to keep the other player long enough to get a recursive combo on the ground.  As a result they manages to gain up 183 life before finally finishing me off in a single round.  I could have conceded at any point, but I wanted to see how big they could manage to get their health pool.  Even in a horrible loss condition… I was entertained.  I look forward to seeing how this product evolves over time and I am likely going to start streaming it on occasion so you can laugh at me as I make obvious mistakes.

Aggronaut Ninth Anniversary

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These posts are always really weird to sit down and write, because how exactly do you summarize something you have done this long.  Back in 2009 when the blog formally started I was helping to lead a raid in World of Warcraft as a Warrior Tank…  and quite possibly in the worst job I have ever been in.  I didn’t feel needed or respected at work, and this blog… and all of my guild/raid-leaderly duties were essentially my way of dealing with the maelstrom of chaos happening in the workplace.  As my work condition has improved my game environment has also changed… and it seems like the more responsibility that I take on in my work and home environments….  the less I actually want in my gaming ones.  Liore and I used to joke about starting and old folks home for old raid leaders, but there are times that it feels like I am absolutely a candidate.  These days I feel like I almost actively avoid the concept of raiding in the first place.

I realize this is probably an odd start to an anniversary post, but after going back and crawling through the last year of blog posts…  I am realizing that this is the first year when I did not have some form of active raid going on.  Sure we attempted to get something started in Final Fantasy XIV around the Stormblood launch…  and in Destiny 2 but neither of those really stuck that well and developed into a proper regular raid night.  Instead I have largely opted for solo play on a broader scale this year than I have in the past.  June saw the advent of the Robosquid Armada…  something we are loosely continuing with our Mythical Nonsense nights…  but that represents probably the most serious content that I attempted in this past year.  I am not sure if this is sign that I have changed in what I am wanting out of games… or if this was just a situation where no one actually wanted wear that raid leader hat permanently.

In the past year I also experienced a work transition, but it was one of those things that I largely just eased into.  For years I have been the unofficial leader of the development team at work, starting with a sort of “team lead” title that didn’t actually exist but very much was the role of assigning projects and figuring out our workload.  Around the beginning of this past year I was given the formal title of Supervisor…  and then last December my actual manager retired creating a vacancy that I moved into.  Now I managed not only the development team, but also data analysis and gis…  giving me fifteen other lives to watch after on a daily basis.  In many ways it sort of feels like going back to raid leadership…  but this time in the real world where I am sorta tanking for these people by dealing with the nonsense and meetings that are required to get forward movement.  Guild and Raid Leadership is not exactly one of those things that I would put on a resume…  but I will say that the experience does completely equate.

On the home front we are still in the same location we have been since 1999 and we experienced no major upheavals in the occupancy of our home.  We still have three cats:  Allie, Kenzie and Mollie and one ferret:  Shiloh.  There was a period of a few weeks when we thought a dog had adopted us… but luckily we found its home because we are just not really dog people.  Mollie is still skittish as hell, but has reached a point where she is my buddy instead of running from me whenever I entered the room.  She more or less was found as a kitten and grew up in a dog shelter for the first part of her life and wound up scarred from the experience.  Now she sorta follows me through the house as I do things…  letting me know she wants attention at various points along the route.  Kenzie is just as crazy as ever and is currently sleeping on the desk beside me.  Allie is still doing okay… but she is definitely entering the autumn years of her life and we are just trying to make her as comfortable as we can for as long as we can.  Shiloh is a sweetheart and gets lots of attention anytime she is awake…  but ferrets sleep an awful lot of the time which means I tend to give her lots of loving before work, when I get home from work, and before I go to bed…  because that seems to fit her sleep schedule.

The other day Tobold wrote a post talking about the decline of his own blog, and while I am not trying to do the same… it is noticeable the slow and steady bleed of readers.  I think this is far less a case of people simply getting tired of my nonsense and more a case that tastes are changing.  Personally I don’t have near the time I used to for keeping up with blog reading.  There used to be a morning routine that I had without fail… and now I never know who is going to ambush me on the way to my desk with some hot button issue that needs immediate attention.  Looking my analytics, it appears like my readership dropped by about eight percent…  which sounds bad but between the 15/16 year and the 16/17 year I lost sixty four percent of my readers.  It maybe seems weird to be happy that the bleed has at least been partially bandaged but the truth is…  what keeps me doing this on a daily basis is so much more than simple need to see the numbers go up.  I have talked about this before… but I think blogging for me is a form of therapy.

I feel like the “death of blogging” as it has been touted so many times is just a shift in tastes.  Folks are turning to YouTube for their gaming information whereas they used to bond with a forum or gaming blog in the past.  This sucks for those of us who prefer to read their information rather than have to watch a five minute video to get thirty seconds of information.  I first started encountering this myself when I would start playing a newer game… and find it completely impossible to find any sort of a blogging community that I should be reading.  When I started playing Destiny heavily… I found I had to trade blogging voices like Syp, Rowan, Liore, Syl and Grace for Youtubers like Mesa Sean, My Name is ByfHoltzmann and Arekkz.  As the gaming tastes have shifted so have the communities and maybe you can find a Reddit for a game like Destiny 2, The Division or Monster Hunter World…  but you aren’t actually likely to find a proper blog for them.  The truth is the era of YouTube might also be coming to a close as a lot of folks are preferring to just interact directly with the personalities they are entangling themselves with direction over Twitch.

The trend seems to be moving towards more and more access to the person making the content, and while I dabble in streaming and have been adopted by the very amazing Moogle’s Pom stream team…  it is still very much an ill fitting glove for me.  Blogging is about opening yourself up to the world with a comfortable distance from the reader.  Sure I sit down each morning and write my thoughts for you…  but I am not having to interact with you directly as you read them.  Comments exist and so does pinging me over twitter…  but there is a layer of separation between what I am doing and what you are doing that makes the experience feel more cozy to me.  When I have encountered a reader before in a game or something like that… I never quite know what to do, how to interact with them.  The same is true on streams…  interacting real-time with people is fine so long as those people already exist in my monkey-sphere of people I am prepared to interact with.  When someone new enters the room I never know how quite to do things…  that they might also find entertaining.

As far as gaming goes this past year… I did a quick run through of what I seemed to be playing the most for each of the months since the last Anniversary…

  • April 2017 – Star Wars the Old Republic
  • May 2017 – World of Warcraft
  • June 2017 – Final Fantasy XIV
  • July 2017 – Final Fantasy XIV
  • August 2017 – Guild Wars 2
  • September 2017 – Destiny 2 (PS4)
  • October 2017 – Destiny 2 (PC)
  • November 2017 – Destiny 2 (PC)
  • December 2017 – World of Warcraft
  • January 2018 – World of Warcraft
  • February 2018 – Monster Hunter World
  • March 2018 – Monster Hunter World
  • April 2018 – Project Gorgon

Not shockingly I tend to be extremely MMO-Centric in my gaming habits.  I tend to have some primary game that is my central focus at any given time and then a bunch of other games that I am also sorta playing.  Weirdly enough I spend so much more time playing an MMO solo… than I ever do actually playing solo story games.  I think the core reason behind that is two fold…  firstly I don’t like when games end.  I find the ending of the game to be the most sad time because it is over.  MMOs never end…  so I can never need to worry about running out of ways to interact with that world.  Secondly I find single player story driven games to be a very lonely experience.  Even if I am not interacting with other people… I like knowing they are out there and changing my gameplay in sublte and interesting ways.  Just seeing chat scroll by in the background makes me feel like I am part of something bigger than the tiny window into the world I have carved out for myself.  In theory streaming single player games can provide a similarly multiplayer experience…  but I never know how to handle that.  I don’t like reading out all of the text outload…  and it feels weird to pause what I am doing to read text as it scrolls by on screen while there are other people “in the room”.

I realize this is a bit of an odd anniversary post but it is what happened to come out of my mind this morning as I sat down to type it up.  One thing that I completely have not addressed is the amazing artwork that I have above at the top of this post.  That is of course by the very awesome AmmosArt who is more or less the official unofficial artist of all of my en-devours.  Since I am a member of the Moogle’s Pom community,  I wanted a few streamer moogles to use for decoration elements… and having seen her moogles before I knew it would work out swimmingly.  I have not actually used them in the method that I was intending yet…  but regardless they are amazing and I thought I would use this opportunity to share them with the world.  It’s time for me to wrap this up and head to work, but I wanted to close with one last thing.  Rather you are a regular who reads my post religiously, or a random drive by…  thanks for nine years of this interesting experiment.  I do this each day…  because in some way I am having an open dialog with each of you and the fact that you are out there somewhere is very important to that formula.