5 Biggest MMO Disappointments

This is one of those days I have zero clue what to write about… but as not to break the chain of constant posts I am going to push through and post something anyways.  In part this post about nothing has been brought to you today by the letters N, D and A.  So instead of a normal post about what I did last night, or what I want to do today…  I am going to make a post about my top five biggest MMO disappointments.  This is kind of the bookend to my post about my five favorite MMOs, so hopefully I can do this without coming off overly negative about each.

The Disclaimer

Some of my picks for this list will be rather controversial… but they are my picks nonetheless.  This list is not about what I consider to be the worst MMOs, or even bad MMOs at all.  In fact most of the ones included on this list are games I have played over and over again… and will likely play again in the future.  On the converse… these are the games I have been the most disappointed by over the years.  This could be due to lack of content, lack of depth, lack of features… or just simply lack of follow through.  This is by no means a death sentence for an MMO…  it wouldn’t be on the list at all if I didn’t care.  For example… I do not care at all for TERA or Aion… but I was not necessarily disappointed in either because I was not expecting to like them in the first place.

5 – World of Warcraft

World-of-Warcraft-Mists-of-Pandaria-Thunder-King-patch If you remember… I included World of Warcraft as number five on my five favorite MMOs list… and I think placing it in the number five spot on this list adequately represents the love/hate relationship I have with this game.  Without a doubt I have had some of the best times playing WoW, but I have also had some of my biggest disappointments in the path they have chosen to grow it.  It feels like an old high school friend… that you were extremely close to… but after years of being apart you grew in two completely different directions.  While you want really badly to be happy for it… you can see the potential that was there… and how it has been squandered.

World of Warcraft was a game that I expected not to like in the first place.  I remember my very first thought when I heard about it… was where the hell would they get their story.  Until Warcraft 3… every Blizzard game had essentially only had enough storyline to keep the game from completely falling on its face.  After experiencing the deep and rich world of Norrath… I did not think that Blizzard could pull off anything that engaging.  I was wrong… they wove together a world that was deep, rich, and filled with lore.  Additionally they incorporated the best features of every game that had come before it… and remixed it in a way that truly represented the absolute best of breed for the time.

However over the years… they have butchered the lore…  and instead of continuing to incorporated the best features on the market… have instead created half assed versions of them.  I have to keep coming back to the Transmogrification system… because it personifies this concept of the modern Blizzard approach.  They took something awesome… alternate appearance systems… and instead turned it into an extremely cludgy money sink.  The same thing happened over and over as they tried to incorporate features of popular mods… but the official version was never anywhere near as solid as the original mod that inspired it.

Then on the other side of the coin… the content was just lacking.  When new content was introduced… it was too little to late.  Like a quick appetizer that never quite turned into a meal.  Shortly after the release of Cataclysm… I started a brand new Worgen Druid… and managed to level it without much effort in under 5 days played time.  Additionally the raid content just felt more and more uninspired…  remixes of previous encounters.  So I will admit… at times I am one of those guys… that views the golden area of vanilla through rose colored lenses.

For certain players the new mix of content and the pacing works.  I have a ton of friends who are still knee deep in the thrall of this game… and more power to them.  I just reached a point where I could not view anything but the disappointment.  As a result I am not playing, and trying my best not to complain on a regular basis about the game.  But… additionally I do not feel this post would be honest if I did not include WoW in the mix.  I feel like it still has so much potential, and maybe if they changed to a content driven DLC style free to play model… they would have the endorsement to build content other than the raid ladder and dailies.

4 – Guild Wars 2

guild_wars_2_allotment This is another title I did not really expect to like when I first heard about it.  I was never a huge fan of Guild Wars 1 despite everyone telling me just how amazing a game it was.  I liked some of the concepts presented, like the Magic the Gathering style ability system and the ability to multi-class…  but everything else about that game I really despised.  If I do not like your games user interface or control scheme… no matter how awesome a game it is underneath  I just cannot bring myself to play it…  no matter how many times I try.  So all of this said I really had written off the concept of Guild Wars 2.

This all changed however when the folks at Arena.NET posted their Design Manifesto.  It basically said everything I thought I wanted to hear, and laid out a great vision for a new game.  So I was amped when I was able to get access to the testing program.  However I was immediately disappointed in the experience I had there, and lack of what honestly felt like a game.  I was disillusioned enough that I actually resigned from testing and wished them luck.  One of my friends remained in the test a little bit longer than I did…  and eventually bailed himself.  I hoped they would find some direction and turn the project around.

When it came time for open beta testing… I gave the game another shot.  The lowered expectations of expecting to dislike the game… caused me to view it through slightly different eyes.  I enjoyed the game enough that I picked it up when it came out.  The problem is… there just was not enough meat on the bones to hold my attention for long.  There are definitely some aspects of the game that I enjoyed, but the whole experience felt very disposable… more so than any game I had experienced. 

Additionally it did not feel like I was progressing my character at all.  By the time I reached level five, I had unlocked all 5 abilities for my primary weapon choices and the signets and other related abilities… just did not feel like they had enough weight to them to make them something worth striving towards.  The game set out to abolish the holy trinity of tank, healer and dps… but the problem is that it didn’t really replace it with anything in the process.  Group content felt like a chaotic mess, and I was extremely disappointed when I did my first dungeon and realized the zerging a boss down from a spawn point was totally a viable tactic.

In the Manifesto they proposed that – Shouldn’t Great MMOs be Great RPGs too?  The only problem is the key means for moving the story along in a role playing game is the questing construct…  but they sought to abolish that as well.  Once again… it is fine that they wanted to change the game… but they didn’t really replace it with anything meaningful in the process.  As a result I felt extremely disconnected to the world around me.  Things were going on around me… on scripted timers… but I didn’t really care about whether or not we won or lost.  I didn’t care about the people and place… and the lack of questing did this.

In the Manifesto they stated that it was time to make MMORPGS more social.  The only problem with that is that they introduced so much passive grouping, and took away any need for player roles…  that the end result is one of the least social games I have played.  When roaming around the world… you may be fighting along side other players, but you do not have to interact with them in any meaningful way.  Each player is a self sufficient independent state… and as a result has no real need for anyone other than themselves.  The game just feels like it is lacking reasons for players to actually be grouping together.

Let me reiterate, there is a lot to like about the game.  It runs amazingly well on low end hardware, and presents a very fluid gaming experience.  It has one of the prettiest worlds I have ever explored, and has a lot of things that incentivize exploration.  While it is presenting a ton of new content in the form of now bi-monthly updates… the problem is most of it is limited time only.  Instead of growing their world… they are creating disposable episodes that only serve to make the game play experience all the more disposable itself.

3 – Star Wars: The Old Republic

Star-Wars-The-Old-Republic-screenshot I’ve loved Star Wars since before I could even fully verbalize it.  My parents tell stories about me seeing the movie when I was one… and then coming home and jabbering endlessly about “Darfa Bater”.  So if there was any game that has enough storied lore to hold my attention… it should have been SWTOR.  I was a huge fan of Knights of the Old Republic, and as a result I was completely committed to the genre they genre they chose to set the films in.  Additionally I love the Bioware style of storytelling, and am a pretty huge Dragon Age and Mass Effect junky.

All of these things should have made SWTOR be the next 8 year game for me.  The problem is… the experience while amazing… is overall disposable once you have made your way through the content.  So much care and feeding were placed on making sure the quests were just right… and the voice acting was flawless… that it greatly cut into the total amount of content available.  The three chapters that were available at launch… felt like an awesome introduction to the game…  but the main course never really arrived.

I hear the Makeb release is extremely nice… and the continuation of the storyline extremely successful.  The only problem is…  that content came a year too late to stave off the players leaving.  I feel like had they had more content in the pipeline and ready to release a month after launch, they would have been able to keep the majority of all the players that started playing.  We just burned through the content way faster than they had expected.  Additionally the fact that there was only one path per faction… and that essentially all the quests were the same minus the handful of class specific ones…  alting became extremely tedious.

Additionally when they chose to go free to play… they adopted one of the most blatantly abusive models I have seen.  Essentially with free to play, you can choose to take the carrot or the stick… and things like gear locks, pay walling what should be base features, and rolling out a never ending stream of unique lockbox gear just feel too much like being beat with the stick for me.  It has however been extremely lucrative for Bioware… and enabled the game to keep its doors open.  If it means they continue to release new content… then in the long run it could be good for the game as a whole.

I am still disappointed however at what could have been.  Had they been able to launch a continuation of the main storyline each month or so…  it would have kept me glued to the game.  The original storyline was amazing… and there is no taking that away from the game.  The Jedi Knight storyline is probably one of the most epic story arcs I have experienced in any game.  It was just over way too soon, leaving me nothing really left that I wanted to do.  The problem is… that content was extremely expensive to produce.  There was never a way that they ever could have kept up with the demand.

2 – Champions Online

champions_online_screen_4 One of my all time favorite pen and paper games is Heroes Unlimited by Palladium games.  I had early experiences with D&D and AD&D… but this was the game that really hooked me on the possibilities of role playing games.  What made the system so cool is that it had rules to create literally any type of super hero or super villain you could imagine.  Of course I created my share of Wolverine or Batman clones…  but the game system was this fertile group that through a series of roles I could create some unique characters as well.  What made the game so engaging was that the sky was literally the limit in the types of things you could create.

I was a huge fan of City of Heroes, because it gave me some of this same rich character building…  but did so in an easy to digest MMO form.  That game however had a lot of short comings… and when Champions Online was announced it looked to be addressing all of these base issues and creating this wild open ended super hero creation system.  You could mix and match power sets… creating your own custom mix for your character… and this was placed on top of a character generator that was even more robust than City of Heroes.  Everything sounded like the perfect super hero game… and I was hooked on it early.

The problem is… the power sets were grossly imbalanced.  This is the first game I had ever played where certain power sets were literally unplayable.  You could reach a point where you just simply could not progress any further due to the choices you had made.  On the other side of the coin… certain power sets were so grossly overpowered that they completely removed any challenge from the content at all.  You could steam roll over the top of anything, while your friend that chose one of the broken ones… could not even fight the lowest rank mobs.

The major disappointment is that they did a very poor job of mitigating the different power sets.  They would buff one…. but then another power set would become the broken one… making it a constant cycle of your favorite power set potentially becoming the unplayable one.  The game had all the potential in the world… and just became grossly mismanaged.  Instead of understanding that this  constant state of power flux and un-playability was what was driving their players away…  they instead decided to streamline the content.

I really do not remember the timing, but I believe this happened around the time of the free to play conversion.  Previously there had been a pretty interesting storyline that had multiple paths your characters could take.  The end result ended up with everything being a big jumbled mess.  The thing that ended up as the nail in the coffin however… is that coming back as a free to play character… I could not play any of my existing characters.  Each and every one included some costume bits that were not open to free players.  This should be a lesson to anyone… grandfather existing characters…  because holding players characters hostage behind a pay wall is never a good call.

1 – Warhammer Online

warhammer-online-1 I had to put this one at number one… because really this game turning out the way it did is one of my biggest gaming regrets.  I love Warhammer… have since I was in middle school and painting my very first citadel miniatures.  I love the world and the lore… and the sheer brutality of the chaos gods.  They took a failing IP and placed it in the hands of MMO veterans… Mythic games… who had brought the world Dark Age of Camelot.  It seemed like a no-fail proposal.  I thought they knew exactly what players wanted… and could borrow from the success they had with DAoC and all the nuts and bolts that make a game work.

Unfortunately Warhammer Online is really the tale of two games.  The one to twenty experience was amazing.  The PVE content rich, the new public questing construct extremely fun, and the early battlegrounds extremely inventive and enoyable to play.  I still think that the early experience in Warhammer Online ranks among some of my favorite leveling experiences.  The problem is that when you hit about 20-25 the bottom fell out… the PVE content ceased to be interesting… and became increasingly more sparse.  The game changed from this fun questing experience to this “go grind pvp to level” experience.

I feel like the game as a whole was a clash between these two seperate games… one of which I enjoyed immensely… the PVE experience… and one I really could care less about.. the PVP experience.  Had they given me a pure PVE warhammer game… I would probably still be playing it.  The game as a whole did so many innovative things, and there were so many mysteries around the world to unlock for your book of deeds.  Additionally it shipped with an Addon system that was on par with World of Warcraft, and presented some extremely interesting class and race choices.

If only they had focused on giving equal time to both the PVE and PVP experience.  The only problem is… I feel like the makers of this game have come to completely different conclusions about why it failed.  Mark Jacobs has gone on to create Camelot Unchained… which serves to be a purely PVP game completely casting aside any PVE aspects.  I feel like his take away was that it failed because it just was not PVP enough.  In truth not a single friend that was playing left because of lack of PVP.  We had a guild of around 40 players… and all of us left when the post 20 forced pvp experience began.  Harecore PVP players are a niche within a niche, and I just don’t feel that you can really build any game solely around them as your target audience.

This is probably the game I feel would beneift the most from a free to play conversion.  Awhile back I signed up for a new free trial account just to give the game a spin and see if it really is as good as I remembered.  Overall the starter experience is still extremely fun, even though they have dumbed down the richness quite a bit by funneling everyone into the empire lands.  I feel like a free to play version, might pump a bit more life into the title and allow it to survive.  The problem is… this has become the textbook example for MMO failure… and I doubt EA would spend a dime on it going forward.  As a result I will always be left with the thoughts of what might have been had the direction been a bit more sound.

Wrapping Up

This post ended up going a lot longer than expected.  I’ve been typing for around an hour and a half now, but finally have reached a point where I have said what I needed to say about each of them.  Hopefully none of them came off as too terribly ranty.  I hope you all have great weekends, I will mostly be trying to relax a bit before Monday.  I am already stressing out quite a bit, because I know going back I will be having to fill in for my boss as he is going out of town.

The Ordeal

So much happy right now…  I am sitting at home on my comfy sofa typing on my laptop.  I cannot express in words just how good it feels to be here.  I am not a huge fan of travel, I don’t mind being other places…  but I greatly prefer being home.  Quite honestly… New York is probably the furthest I have been from home, and while it was entertaining I am elated to be back here.

The Ordeal

Travelling to Albany was rather un-eventful and everything essentially went nice and smooth.  My biggest complaint was the lack of free WiFi at Chicago O’Hare/  The trip home however… had lots of moments of annoyance.  First off I managed to take a wrong turn on the way to the airport.  As a result I ended up turning on my android navigation… which took us on quite possibly the most scenic route ever to get back to the Troy-Schenectady Road.  I drove through tons of residential neighborhoods having to take turns at almost every intersection… but eventually we met back up with the right road and we were on our way.

My wife had offered a lift to two other classmates that did not have transportation… so after dropping them off at the terminal we went to the car garage to drop off our rental.  This is singlehandedly the most poorly designed feature of the Albany Airport… and as a result cars just end up backing up as people bail out to meet their flight… often times leaving the keys in the ignition and the car running.  We were in no major rush… so we politely waited through the mess and were directed into a parking lot.

At this point we had to wait again… for the single person who was handling all drop offs and requisitions for both Alamo and Enterprise.  I felt sorry for this guy… because he looked seriously stressed.  We waited around… got our receipt and apparently they had charged us for a couple of extra hours… stating that we had returned it late.  It was around this point that my wife went into attack mode…  because she had stated multiple times when renting the car that we would not be returning it until 5 pm on Thursday… as she didn’t even get out of her conference until 3.

When I say attack mode…  she was doing all of this as politely as possible… but still being extremely insistent.  Apparently the poor employee had just had enough of the place…  and ended up giving us a massive discount as well as removing the extra charges.  So that settled we made our way across the street… through the plumes of smoke left by people trying to get a last minute cigarette… and into the ticketing area.  I really wish that smokers should experience just once… what their addiction does to an asthmatic.  But since they are seemingly fine with poisoning others… I am guessing they just wouldn’t give a crap.

Nine Pounds

We waited in a line, and made our way up to the ticketing kiosk.  My wife went first since she is again the road warrior and can do those kiosks without thinking.  There was no real place to set our bag at first, but soon an employee came over and cleared the scale and I hoisted the big orange beast onto it.  The rather snooty employee informed us that we were nine pounds over weight.  We either had to remove nine pounds from the bag or pay an extra hundred dollars to check the bag.  I am not shitting you… one hundred dollars… for nine frickin pounds.

So my wife rifled through the bag because she thought she knew what the culprit was.  As a result of the conference she had gained this massive 3 inch binder full of course materials.  Sure enough after removing that it took the bag weight down to a level that the snooty ass would be willing to accept.  Since I only had one carry on… we just decided to bring the binder along and store it in the overhead bin.  So I spent most of yesterday carrying my laptop/camera bag and a huge three ring binder…  I did not look geeky at all… I swear.

My Awesome Bag

LaptopBag I want to take a few minutes to talk about my bag… now that I have mentioned it.  This thing is seriously amazing… and served perfectly for what I was needing.  Essentially I was looking for a way to carry both my laptop, camera and lenses in one compact form factor.  I ended up searching around and finally settled on this one from amazon…  the above image was taken of the bag fully loaded in the hotel room.  I was able to stuff a ton of tech in one bag…  and then carry it around with me.  Fully stuffed it was a bit difficult to cram in some of the overhead bins… but I managed to do so with a little bit of effort.

Just for reference… this is all the stuff in the above bag.

  • 15.6” Lenovo y500 Laptop
  • y500 Power Brick
  • Large Monoprice gaming mousepad
  • Logitech g600 MMO Mouse
  • Earbud Headphones
  • USB Cable and Brick for Cellphone
  • Sony PSP in Case
  • Sony PSP Charger
  • Two Cliff Bars – in case we got hungry while travelling
  • Canon t3i DSLR
  • 4 Lenses for DSLR
  • 6 Filters for DSLR
  • Wide Angle Adapter for DSLR
  • Fisheye Adapter for DSLR

So yeah… this bag holds a ton of stuff, and does so in a fashion that still makes it easy to carry.  While I mostly bought this for the trip… it actually makes a far better camera bag than my pervious one… because it gives rapid access to all the stuff in it.  With the laptop and chargers out… it is actually rather light.  This will definitely become handy whenever we start going up to the lake.  Additionally it would let me bring both my laptop and camera to work… if I wanted to end up going out over lunch and taking photos.

Airplane Juggling

So back to our tale…  after all the manipulation of our luggage and drama with mister snooty pants… we were finally able to just chill out at the gate waiting on the airplane.  We got to our gate…  and immediately realized that this was going to be one of those rare occasions where we had to walk out on the tarmac to load into the plane.  While we were sitting there… we noticed that pretty much every plane listed as coming from Newark was delayed.  Ours was currently on time…  but that didn’t stay that way for long.

We heard over the intercom that that our flight had not left the gate at Newark yet, and that they had a bunch of empty spaces on one currently loading at a different gate.  So we hustled upstairs and when we got there…  they called our names specifically.  Apparently they were giving higher priority to those with connecting flights once we arrived at Newark.  I have to say… airport workers catch a lot of shit…  and I dished out my own little bit about mister snooty pants….  but these guys upstairs were amazing.  I watched this lady fight with the registration system trying to juggle us off one flight and onto another… while her manager was constantly calling down to the baggage room to make sure they got each passengers luggage off of the other flight and onto this one.

After about thirty minutes of serious reservation system hackery… she managed to get us new passes for the plane that was already loaded and waiting at this point… and in doing so managed to get us seats side by side.  I cannot impress upon you enough just how awesome it was to see them working.  We thanked them profusely and boarded the plane.  It seems like most of the passengers that had connecting flights, even this very sweet girl who was flying by herself for the first time… and was more than a bit freaked out…  got loaded onto the earlier flight. 

Newark: Eater of Souls

Newark is hands down the most poorly designed airport I have seen…  which isn’t saying much…  but my wife the frequent flier agrees.  Essentially the layout of the place involves three completely stand alone concourses.  There is an automated tram that runs between the three… but for whatever reason it loads on the OTHER side of the freakin security barrier.  So if you decide to use it… you have to exit security… and then pass back through the security checks to get in.  It seems like as a result the individual airlines have various workarounds in place.

United Airlines runs a shuttle bus that goes between the terminals.  How this works however… is that they have essentially given up a gate and built  a waiting room… and ramp that goes down to the tarmac.  About every 10 minutes a bus arrives and passengers can load onto it to go to either concourse A or B.  We missed the first bus since the waiting room was already packed when we got there.  So by the time we waited on a second bus… loaded it… took the not insignificant trip across to concourse A..  we only had a few minutes left before our plane was set to depart.

Three Hour Tour

After having just enough time to hit the restroom and sit back down… it was time to board our flight from Newark to Tulsa.  This was yet again a step down in size, so instead of two seats on either side of the isle… this plane had 1 seat on one side… and 2 on the other.  By the time wet got in… and found out seat it was occupied by a Chinese woman that spoke almost zero English.  We pantomimed that she was in the wrong seat and were able to go through the process of getting strapped in place for the duration.  On a positive note…  I apparently no longer need the extender thingy.

This flight was without a doubt the most chatty group I have ever encountered.  There were multiple conversations going on that often times spanned multiple rows.  I would have greatly preferred if everyone would have just sat in silence… but the amount of alcohol being imbibed pretty much made this an impossibility.  Also since all flights going into Newark were being delayed… I am guessing there was a lot of time spent in various airport bars along the way.  The worst example of this was the duo directly in front of me.

In the single seat we had a Country Boy CFO from a random company in Joplin, MO…  and to his side was a nice Indian gentleman that said he worked in IT… though from the cut of his suit… he had to be somewhere in management.  The two of them struck up a conversation… that managed to last all three hours of the flight… and got progressively more and more animated the more alcohol the CFO partook of.  By the time we neared Tulsa… country boy was full on dropping f-bombs every few minutes.  The last rant I recall was something about “effing welfare”.

At multiple points throughout the conversation he talked about how everything thinks he is dumb by the way he talks… but he is much smarter than they give him credit for.  To which I think to myself…  if you have to keep reminding people that you are smart… it becomes progressively less likely than it is actually true.  There were so many points during the flight that I wanted to hit him over the head with something large and heavy.  Especially when he went off on a tear about how not dressing up shows a lack of work ethic.  This is a feat of logic I just cannot manage to follow… I suppose it only makes sense if you are drunk.

About the last hour forward, the nice IT guy, kept trying to extract himself from the conversation.. eventually saying that he needed to catch some shuteye.  At which point he started fumbling under his seat to find a bottle that had fallen down… which instead turned out to be my foot.  When he realized this he profusely apologized and we all had a laugh.  Finally we landed in Tulsa… after what seemed like an eternity in good ole boy hell.  By the time I hobbled off the plane.. it was like after three hours in a cramped space I had forgotten how to walk right.

Wrapping Up

Ultimately we made it out to the baggage carousel, and of all amazing wonders our big orange bag had managed to arrive in Tulsa just fine.  I feel absolutely drained by the whole ordeal.  New York was an interesting place to visit, but I am extremely happy to be back in my wonderful home.  Apparently the cats missed us… because right now I have one on me… wife has one on her… and the other is laying between us.  Hopefully it will be a long while before I fly again… the next trip needs to be a road trip.  I hope you all have a great day and a great weekend.

Homeward Bound

This morning as I sit at the keyboard typing away… my laptop remains essentially the only thing not yet packed and ready too be loaded into our rental.  I have a mixture of excitement and trepidation…  excitement because I will be so glad to be home… and trepidation because I detest flying… and know I have to deal with a 3 hour flight from Newark to Tulsa.  Hopefully everything at home is just fine, and that our animals are all happy and healthy, and that the house sitter had no real issues.

Holding Pattern

The most frustrating thing about this trip so far has been that while I had all the time in the world to do anything I liked…  I did not have stable enough internet to do much of it.  Sunday night when we finally arrived at our hotel room, the internet was awesome…  while not quite up to what I am used to at home… it was more than sufficient.  Monday the cast of an off Broadway show arrived… and from that point onwards regardless of the time of day… most everything has been unplayable if I could even get connected in the first place.

It feels like so much has been going on this week, with the anniversary events happening in The Secret World and a release of a new content update.  Then over in Guild Wars 2 there is quite a lot of stuff happening as well.  Finally I am still in the thrall of my Rift resurgence… and for whatever reason this is the game that seems to hate the hotel internet the most.  I will start off with a decent ping, but very quickly it degrades into completely unplayable.  Often times I ultimately just ended up disconnecting and not being able to get back on afterwards.

Very quickly I realized that I would have to just wait to do much of anything until I got home today.  As a result I feel like I have been trying to find things that did not necessarily involve an internet connection to play them.  Unfortunately while my laptop is loaded full of MMOs… it is sadly lacking in the single player and offline departments.  With the Hotel Internet not being super stable… I can’t really download anything from steam that I have in my archives.

A Game of Cubes

Cube 2013-07-11 06-31-04-27 Cube World was released last week sometime… but the store went almost immediately offline… and stayed that way for the majority of the week.  When the ability to purchase the game came back… they had taken the new accounts sign-up feature offline.  So it became a daily activity of checking whether or not this was open for registration, and finally on Saturday night… before we left for Albany…  the registrations opened up and I was able to grab ahold of a copy.  This game has served as my mostly offline shiny new thing to play with on this trip.

The game as a whole is much harder than I was expecting it to be.  Initially I was thinking this would be much more Minecraft than it has ended up being.  Essentially you start out in a completely randomly generated world… with little to no ability to actually kill anything.  At first you end up following around packs of NPC adventurers that will help you combat the bad guys you encounter in the world.  As a result… the process of getting from “I suck at everything” to “I can survive mostly on my own” feels a little tedious.

I am not sure if this is just another game that loathes melee players or not, because generally ranged tends to be easier as a whole than melee in most games like this.  I detest finger wigglers. so of course I had to go for sword and board…  though over time I have migrated to dual wield.  The block mechanic works well enough… but only for insanely short periods of time.  When you are dealing with monsters that seem to be able to do non-stop special moves…  it just isn’t enough to make the difference.

My biggest complaint thus far is that the torch feels inadequate for illuminating anything really.  It creates roughly a 5 block by 5 block bubble of light around you…  but when it comes to exploring anything like a cave… it is extremely hard to see where you are going.  I am hoping that over time you can get upgrades that increase your radius of light similar to how you can in Terraria.  If you intend to craft metal upgrades… you will spend a lot of time looking for caves, fighting bats and destroying iron nodes.  As a result the lighting system feels extremely limiting.

The major complaint I have had with the system… is that I feel it would have been better if it supported a building system like Minecraft or Terraria.  I like exploring… but I also like having bases of operation that gives me a feeling that I am actually changing the world around me.  The exploration aspect of the game is great, and I love encountering monsters I have never seen before… and often times dying to them the first time.  But I wish I could be building things in the world as well.  If this game could be blended with Minecraft the hybrid would probably be the most addicting game ever.

Fort Belghast

javaw 2013-07-11 06-57-27-91 As a direct result of playing Cube World… and this feeling that I wanted to be shaping my world…  I have spent a lot of time alternating back and forth between exploring in that game… and building over in Minecraft.  I started a brand new world and the seed I chose had a really nice shallow cave system.  I started off boxing that in and using it as a prebuilt base until I started constructing a proper fort on top of it.  Right now the underground area has a few large chambers, with a structure growing up into the little fort that you can see in the image above.

I created an elevated bridge style entrance, because it allows me to see what is surrounding my base before exiting out into the dangerous world.  Also when there are a large number of zombies or similar around me… it funnels them into one single block place for farming.  Additionally if I absolutely have to… I can bail over the wall to escape something.  Right now I am quarrying stone from below the base to build up the tower system above.  As you can see in the above picture… the tower is currently woefully unfinished.

I hope to do some terracing eventually to clean up the area and make the approach to my fort a little nicer looking.  I have really not done that much exploration… my focus has really been on building up a solid base of operations.  Eventually I will start a mine system below my base where I can hopefully get plenty of ores and other special resources.  I mostly play Minecraft to build structures… but for whatever reason it feels more real to me.. if I do it on survival.  I could be just as happy playing on creative… since all I really want to do is build nifty things… but the world then feels completely dead.

Homeward Bound

I cannot express in words… how happy I will be to leave this area and get back home.  I miss essentially everything…  my animals… my comfy sofa… a world that makes sense to me.  I’ve found plenty of interesting things to do to kill my time…  but it was not really the grand voyage of discovery I was hoping for.  I know the workshop my wife attended, has been massively useful for her… and each night she has come home with pictures of the labs and activities they did.  So the major focus of this trip was a complete success… and my being here…  was just to make sure that happened.

I came on this trip just because I wanted to make sure my wife could attend this workshop.  While she is a trooper and an amazing road warrior… she would have struggled with driving in this environment.  She doesn’t really like driving period… and Tulsa traffic is far more sane and rational than anything I have experienced here.  Her lack of depth perception would have been a major issue in this environment where I am essentially constantly scanning both sides of the street watching for some idiot that is about to dart out into the middle of traffic (as has happened so many times I have lost count).  So ultimately regardless of how I have felt about this vacation…  I feel like my role in it was a success.

So essentially today I have to check us out of the hotel at noon and then figure out a way to kill 3 hours of time until I pick my wife up from class.  We are ferrying two other classmates to the airport… turning in our rental… and catching a 5 pm flight to Newark.  We have a 45 minute wait until we catch another flight to Tulsa that should take 3 hours.  So hopefully by about 9:30-10ish tonight I will be home in my own bed.  After the hotel bed all these nights…  our comfy bed at home will be amazing.

Wrapping Up

This has been an interesting experiencing even if it has not been super exciting.  Time for me to do some googling to figure out how exactly I will kill the rest of the day.  Thinking I will play some Minecraft until around noon… pack up the rental and then set off and do something for the rest of the afternoon.  Elo was telling me about another mall with another game store… so I will likely set my sights on that.  I hope you all have a great day, and that it is relatively uneventful.

Bilgewater Trade Cartel

Why is it… that a bed that is uncomfortable at 10 pm… can become the most comfortable thing in the universe at 6 am?  Feeling very creaky as the hotel bed seems to not agree with my back, but that is nothing a few Tylenol will not cure.  It feels like the time shift thing is catching up with me… last night I could not for the life of me get to sleep and this morning I simply do not want to wake up.  Luckily however just one more morning of this before I am back home.  I miss my comfy spot on the couch a lot when I try to game here in the relatively uncomfortable office chair on a table that is just a tiny bit too high.

Bilgewater Trade Cartel

Trade-Prince-Gallywix Yesterday it was confirmed by Bashiok that in 5.4 they would be adding in a cash shop for the World of Warcraft.  Apparently to some in the WoW community this is shocking and disturbing news, and Rowan wrote up a nice piece covering his thoughts on the matter.  Much the same as him… I am an outsider watching this situation evolve as I have no real vested interest in the game any longer.  I still have a good number of friends playing it, in and theory I am still leading House Stalwart over there by proxy.  I gave up the guild leader crown, but the person I handed it off to consults me on most major decisions…  not that I really expected that… but that has been what happened in practice.

What I don’t understand is why this is such a shock to the installed player base?  I am honestly surprised this has not happened before now.  The fact that you could go to battle.net and hit the store and purchase lots of in game items right away… means that essentially for years World of Warcraft has had a cash shop.  Placing this in game just streamlines the process, and makes it more of an impulse buy.  Additionally it allows them to expand their product offering to include different sorts of items.  Again…  I am shocked this has not happened before now…  as they already have a large catalog of items and services available for a fee.

I’ve said this before… and I will say it again…  I feel all of this is leading to Blizzard announcing a free to play conversion.  Right now it is just them, Eve Online, and Final Fantasy XIV that have subscriptions…  the last not even fully re-released yet…  so that could change.  Everything I have heard is that Blizzard has lost favor in China, and that World of Warcraft is no longer the cool thing it once was there.  As a result they have taken serious losses in player base there, if not completely losing that market.  This has been the thing that seriously overinflated their subscriber numbers, especially since WoW Asia already had a vastly different payment model than the United States monthly subscribers.

I feel like since it does not seem like they have much else in the pipeline… they will be making the big announcement at Blizzcon this year.  I feel like this is a decision they are going to have to make with the changes in the market, the constant trickle of player losses, and the fact that there is nothing on the horizon for at least another year.  This is pending an expansion announcement, which would at least be a year out.  If not another expansion… then the next big thing on the horizon is Titan in 2016.  There is just nothing there to ignite the player base and make them care about the game, so if nothing else I feel like a free to play decision might bring back existing players and get them to spend some money on the game.

I feel like Star Wars the Old Republic and Rift have both made the Free to Play conversion a much more palatable one for Blizzard.  In both cases they proved that they could make the switch and become more profitable in the process.  For a company with a deeply aging game, aging infrastructure and no clear content ark for storyline progression…  it has to be something that looks mighty tantalizing right now.  The only possible reason why Blizzard would not make this call is big stubborn pride.  But as they start to lose more money…  the pride thing eventually goes out the window.  Whatever is good for the bottom line of the company… and keeps the doors open… is ultimately good for the most dedicated player base.

Old Friends Renewed

rift 2013-07-10 07-14-34-08 Elowynn, Falconwing and Egan are folks I have known for roughly eight years of playing online games.  Back in vanilla wow, my guild House Stalwart and their guild Silent Strike were close allies and did a ton of content together.  There were many joint Zul’Gurub runs that I can remember fondly.  As Stalwart moved through Burning Crusade we got more and more “serious” about the content, our guilds started to drift apart as our focus was just in a difference place.  But during this time, there was not a period where I was not in communication with these folks… and if we needed subs for a raid I always threw a query out to them.

All these years later, I am finding out that they have a very active guild presence over on Faeblight.  Since I am on crappy hotel internet… I decided to roll a low level character to go visit with them.  I have to say it is in many ways like coming home.  While a lot of the people are different, the core of Elo, Falcon and Egan make the Silent Strike guild over on Faeblight feel all warm and fuzzy.  I am really wishing I had known about it when I came back to the game some time ago.  I love my friends that are in Outcast Misfits… but I have to admit I have a pull towards trying to transfer over to Faeblight.

Ultimately when it was just me… it was no big deal.  But over the course of the last several weeks I have gotten a large number of the Stalwarts and various other friends playing Rift again.  We’ve used the Stalwart channel to organize things… but it would be awesome if we could end up all in the same place.  The Misfits are nice folks, but I am just used to a role-playing environment… namely because of the naming rules.  The Misfits have some members I have literally reported for offensive naming violations… and that is just not something I am used to having to stomach within the guild I am in.  They have provided an extremely friendly place to hang out, but I keep wondering if our folks would be better served with Silent Strike on Faeblight.

Ultimately I have stayed with the Misfits, because it opened a lot of doors for my people.  If any of them decided they wanted to raid… then they would have those options.  But honestly I find myself mostly sticking to the people I know… and the server channel we created.  Silent Strike at least are extremely similar to the type of environment we had with House Stalwart.  I guess ultimately I have been looking for that type of environment all along.  Catari Honor Guard was it… until the membership stopped playing…  but since then I just haven’t found anyplace I feel comfortable calling a home.  I would be nice to feel like inviting someone to a guild… without having to give them a bunch of disclaimers about how the members are a little “rough around the edges”.

Breakfast Hard Roll

20130710_074443 For the last few mornings… I have ended up going into Stewart’s a Upstate New York convenience store to get a pop in the morning.  Near the checkout they have had these bins with a sign above it that says “Hard Rolls”.  They are divided into neat little bins… one for Butter, one for Peanut Butter, and one for Peanut Butter and Jelly.  As I waited in line… I would watch people grab 2 or 3 at a time… and it all seemed amazingly odd.  So that after experiencing this enigma for a few days… I decided I had to try one this morning.

It is apparently truth in advertising…  a Kaiser roll or Hard roll as people here apparently call them… sliced down the middle and covered in butter.  After doing some figuration… it is roughly 300 calories… and is the dirt cheap price of $0.85.  I guess this is a relatively cheap way to get fast and easy sustenance.  Quite honestly… the roll itself was rather tasty… nice and soft on the inside and nice and buttery and crusty on the outside.  The butter inside as well was of a seemingly good quality… or at least it did not taste like fake butter.

I still do not fully get why people seem to be buying multiples of these at a time… other than the fact that maybe since I am I  staying in the ghetto… it is a cheap way to get some calories in you.  Maybe they are going to have them for lunch?  It was tasty enough for me to eat it again, because I have always had a weakness for bread and butter.  I just find the concept of that being normal convenience store fair a little odd.  In Oklahoma you expect to have Hot Dogs, Nachos, Taquitos, little Breakfast Sandwiches… maybe donuts…  but not fresh rolls.

Wrapping Up

I have zero idea what I am going to do with myself today.  I know at some point I should probably leave the room so that the maids can work freely without trying to move around me.  I guessed the time at which they would clean the room wrong yesterday… and ended up back here before they had done so.  I had a nice conversation with the maid however, and she apparently does not really like Schenectady either.  She misses working in Florida… and I suppose I would too.  I also get the impression she was extremely happy to have someone willing to talk to her.  Anyways I hope you all have great days… and I will endevour to figure out how to kill another day.

No Place Like Home

Good morning all you happy people in internet land.  Today I am going to try and catch up on sleep, since I have not really been sleeping well in a foreign bed.  Additionally it would be nice to make some progress on my “How To Rift” series… and since I have nothing but time to kill until we fly out of here Thursday…  it might be the perfect time to do it.  I feel like I just need a chill day to recuperate from the travel, since I have been operating at roughly 5 am on my body’s internal clock.

A Wild Lummy

The highlight of yesterday without a doubt was meeting up with a longtime gaming friend Atonal/Lummy.  I’ve played with him off and on in various games since the original Everquest.  So I have literally known him over a decade, but never thought we would actually meet face to face.  There is sometimes awkwardness when you meet someone for the first time after knowing them for years online.  So I suggested we meet up for lunch, since that in my experience is about the perfect amount of interactivity.

Not knowing the area… I asked him to suggest a place… so we met up at the Park Pub in Troy, NY.  The food was phenomenal.  At his suggestion I had the peanut butter and jelly wings…  which I was slightly skeptical at first but man they were amazing.  They were unbelievably messy… and there is no way to eat something like that without getting copious amounts of sauce in your beard…  but amazing nonetheless.  Additionally I had green bean fries… that I had heard of before but never actually had… or at least not had in this fashion.

We hung out there and talked for awhile.  We shot the shit about games and the like… and various fish out of water experiences I was having here in New York.  Afterwards I roamed around Troy a little bit before making a beeline back to the hotel.  I had to get back so I could pick my wife up from the conference for the day and run around.  He mentioned getting together today to catch a single A ball game, but honestly I am just too dead to do much of anything constructive today.  Would have been enjoyable, but I doubt he wants me falling asleep and snoring in the ballpark.

No Place Like Home

The longer I am here, the more I realize just how lucky I have it in Tulsa, and just how amazing that town is.  I always assumed that the Albany area was a much larger market than Tulsa…  but each time I search Google to see if they have a this or a that…  they lack anything that Tulsa lacks…  and also a lot of the things that Tulsa does have.  Additionally when we have gone into stores… they seem to carry far less than the ones we have near us.  It is just an odd mental shift for me… I went into this little adventure thinking I would be going to a much larger market… and realize now that they are quite a bit behind Tulsa in most aspects.

By my friends assessment, we are essentially staying in the slums of the Albany area… and this has been an odd adjustment as well.  The hotel we are staying in is rather nice, but the area surrounding us is very much not.  Each night we have heard gunshots, and last night there was what sounded like a major firefight concluded by some screams.  This is all definitely not something we are used to… two times now we have seen someone get arrested in the vicinity of where we were.  Last night in Latham we watched a guy behind us get pulled over… 3 cop cars, two cops with guns on him…  as he surrendered a gun on the roof of his car and was handcuffed all while waiting on a traffic light to turn green.

I can’t say I am necessarily frightened by any of this… the reality may not have fully sunken in.  Its like watching some surreal show playing out in front of me.  The only thing I am afraid of however is that I will hit one of the idiots that keeps darting out into the street to cross the major thoroughfares down here.  I have damned near hit 3 men on bikes… and come close to hitting 4 or 5 kids as they darted out into traffic.  This effect is the worst in the area near our hotel… and as we move away from it, the problem lessens.  But we have yet to really find anything I would say is the “good” area of town.

That has been an odd concept for me… we are in this area surrounded on all sides by untamed land essentially.  But I have yet to find any “new” construction… nothing resembling the looming housing editions we are used to, or the shiny and new shopping centers.  Everything seems to be built on top of essentially existing areas.  Last night we roamed from all around the metro area and made a circuit between Albany, Troy, and Schenectady…  and while we found a lot more of the same thing we had been finding before… we have not really found what I would call suburbs, or at least not what we are used to in Oklahoma.


Maybe I am just a bit homesick.  Normally when we travel it is to some new and magical place, filled with new sights and interesting new attractions.  This delays the fact that I really don’t like travelling much, and that would rather just be in my comfy home.  It eventually hits… that feeling of “man I just want to be home”, but it usually takes awhile to get there.  Here in the Albany metro… there are not that many new things to experience.  While I am still having fun and enjoying myself… I will definitely be ready to go home to my house and my animals… and my bed.

Downtown Albany was extremely majestic… but the problem we keep running into is that every place we would like to take photos at… is either in a horrible area of town, has copious no trespassing signs… or there is no real good place to park and take a photo.  So while the views downtown were amazing… there was no real place to stop that could even vaguely take in the view.  All these old industry giant era buildings look more like castles than they do civic structures.  I guess that is part of it as well… there are so many remnants of past greatness that it is a bit sad to see the state the town is in now.

Everywhere you go there are signs of just how amazing a place this area used to be.  I took a trip up to Rotterdam and they have this massive factory… bigger than I have ever seen.  But the town surrounding it is this giant sprawling slum.  I guess I am saddened in a way but a lack of civic pride on an epic scale in these areas.  It feels like they have such amazing heritage, but have grossly squandered them.  Maybe this comes from the fact that in Tulsa we have been on a major downtown revitalization program, and every inch of these past structures is being reclaimed and renovated by businesses.  So our cool old stuff is becoming cool new stuff on a nearly monthly basis.

Wrapping Up

Well it is just about time for me to run my wife into the conference.  Going to try and find some breakfast and then come back to the hotel… crash for a bit and maybe work on the “How To Rift” series.  I hope you all are having a great day… and I hope none of the Albany area readers are now pissed at me over my assessment of the town.  I will be thankful to be heading home on Thursday… because I miss my place in the world.

Why Albany?

Funny how I am on vacation… but I am still getting up at five thirty in the morning.  In this case it is so that I can take my wife to her conference.  Quite honestly I went to bed pretty early last night, so I am more awake than I would normally be at 5:30.  Additionally I have already finished getting ready for the morning… so I thought I would have enough time to knock out a blog post.

Search for Food

So far Upstate New York is vastly different than anything I would have expected.  Firstly we have found what seems to be a residential wasteland, with housing everywhere you can see…  but no restaurants and very few stores.  We ate breakfast around 4 am yesterday… and had a stick of beef jerky in Chicago O’Hare…  but other than that we had not had anything at all to eat when we got here around 4-5 pm.  As we started to roam around town we were absolutely ravenous.

We expected to drive around through the residential areas and eventually find some newer shopping developments which have familiar food options.  This was the theory… but after about 2 hours of driving around we really found nothing.  Finally we found a shopping center with a Target, Lowes, and various other big box stores…  and in it they had a Ruby Tuesday, Panera, Taco Bell and a Five Guys.  This is quite literally the first places we had found to eat that were recognizable in any fashion.

We opted for Ruby Tuesday… and while grossly overpriced it was tasty and familiar enough.  The way this area is laid out just boggles the mind.  I was expecting what seems to be the ubiquitous development model everywhere else I have been in the united states… of commercial areas along the major roads with residential areas between.  I feel like I need to spend some time looking at Google maps trying to get a lay of the land by air.

Another nuisance we have discovered is that apparently this part of the state does not believe in road signs… or at least not well marked ones.  Additionally the same street will change names numerous times…  so on one side of an intersection it will be one name… but on the other side of the intersection something completely different.  The entire area feels like some giant city planning rube goldberg machine…  and we are the little ball bearing making its way through it.

Why Albany?

Rowan asked the question as a comment on my blog yesterday, but I guess I have never really clearly explained why the heck I am in Upstate New York in the first place.  I usually don’t give a lot of details about my wife on my blog, just as a courtesy because she works in a profession that is always under scrutiny.  This coming school year she will be tag-team teaching a Forensics Science class at her school, whereas she does the mathematics instruction and she teams up with a science teacher.  We are here in Albany for a Forensics Science workshop, and the other teacher was supposed to be attending with her. 

However at the last minute they backed out… and I did not want my wife having to navigate Albany completely by herself.  So I took the time off and we are trying to make a vacation of it.  While this may not be the most touristy destination we have been to… there are definitely some interesting things to look at.  Our hotel is in Schenectady, and just down from it is a really cool downtown area full of interesting buildings.  We are hoping to have a few nice days to wander around down there and take photos.

So far however it has been overcast and rainy.  Apparently New York State rain means serious business.  We were driving around yesterday when the sky opened up on us… and remember…  I am from Oklahoma…  we are used to thunderstorms…  but these were literally some of the largest rain drops I have ever seen.  Everything went from clear to flash flood conditions in moments.  I just kept driving because quite literally I was afraid I would drown the car if I attempted to turn off the road.  Again I am no stranger to flash flooding… but this was pretty crazy… usually the clouds move off quickly but this one just seemed to hang over the top of us for a good thirty minutes.

Chicago O’Hare

I know I bitched about this one yesterday a bit… but I have to bring it up again.  My wife travels a lot during the summer, and as a result she has experienced most of the big airport hubs.  Chicago O’Hare is literally the first airport she has ever been in that did not have free WiFi.  It is complete crap that what gets touted as the nations busiest airport does not have free internet.  Hell even when we landed in Albany… they had free WiFi, and that Airport is hands down the most dysfunctional one I have ever experienced.

When we landed in Albany, the route to the baggage claim was rather contorted winding us through what felt like half the airport just to get to it.  When we arrived there seemed to be only one baggage carousel servicing any of the incoming flights.  This one area was trying to serve up luggage from 8-10 flights… quite honestly they were scrolling past on the monitor too fast for me to get a good count.  We waited and watched as luggage went past…  including bags for the rest of the passengers on the plane we just arrived on.

But we did not see our bag anywhere… and during this time I am going through my mind trying to figure out what we would need to do if we had a lost bag.  Once the crowd cleared… and quite literally it had been shoulder to shoulder as we waited for our bag…  I was able to look around the room.  Across the room I spotted our bag at the unclaimed luggage area.  I am guessing our luggage arrived on an earlier flight and was just sitting there waiting on us.  So the forty five minutes we spent standing around watching for it… were essentially useless… but I could not see across the room.

Wrapping Up

Well it is time for me to run my wife to the conference.  I hope you all have a great day.  I will likely be coming back to the hotel room to do some googling and try and find something to do during the day.  If all else fails I will just boot up Rift or Cube World and entertain myself just fine.  I find it funny that I have a ton of people on twitter and G+ but not a single person in this area so far.

The Puddle Jumper

This morning has been a pretty wild ride.  I am sitting in concourse F of the Chicago O’Hare airport with my combination camera/laptop bag on my lap as a table.  So far it is working pretty well.  I am trying to bang out this post before my battery dies.  The negative side effect of a gaming laptop is the fact that they have complete crap for battery life.  So long as I stay out of a game here is hoping that I can type fast enough to make it through… and then hopefully post it with the complimentary 30 minutes of free wifi access.

The Road Warrior

My wife travels all the time… and I did not really realize exactly what that meant until I watched her glide through the check in process of the airport.  For me this was a confusing and often times anxiety ridden experience… but for her she had everything ready at exactly the right moment when it was needed.  I have a brand new respect for her as she is able to navigate this world of cold steel and fluorescent lights.

I guess thought in the grand scheme of things it makes a lot of sense.  For the last six years or so she has been travelling to at least 3 different conferences each summer.  Anyone who feels that educators get the summer off can rightly go to hell.  My wife spends almost every moment from when she gets out in May until when she goes back in August preparing for the next year.  While some educators might rest on their laurels and recycle the same curriculum each year… she essentially rewrites her class work from scratch over the summer months factoring in new things she learns from these various workshops and conferences.

I feel very much out of my element sitting here in an airport.  I have entered someone else’s work.  All airports seem to look the same to me.  They are all the same kind of cold shiny exteriors and remind me in many ways of most hospitals.  The only variable seems to be the size… and jesus christ is O’Hare huge.  We had to cross three concourses to prime ourselves for our connecting flight.  I will admit this is the first time I have used a moving sidewalk…  and they are pretty amazing.  Right now I feel like a caveman experiencing fire for the first time.

The Puddle Jumper

Even thought I have lost roughly fifty pounds… I was not quite ready for the reality that is riding a puddle jumper.  I was able to get an extension belt… which seemed overwhelmingly too large…  but it helped get the extra inch or two needed to make the two connect.  The hardest part about the flight for me at least was trying to cram my 6’4” height legs between the tiny rows.  I really cannot recall the designation for any certainty… but I believe it was a CSL 700.  Whatever it was it was tiny.

I am extremely thankful however for the fact that each row was only two seats wide.  This let my wife and I forcibly cuddle… without the awkwardness that is trying to ride with a stranger in an extremely confined space.  The thing that I found extremely bizarre was just how many people partook of what had to be an even smaller bathroom.  All flight long however there was a constant stream of people going back and forth between the sky-commode and their seats.  It got extremely awkward as this one guy was so insistent that he tried to squeeze past the beverage cart to get there.  

There is literally nothing that you could do to get me to use a bathroom on an airplane.  Even if I was sick beyond reason… I would find a way of mustering the strength to keep holding it in.  I brought a drink on the plane but did not really consume much of it out of abject fear of needing to go.  The bathroom was so small that when the flight attendant at the back of the plane sat down… his chair completely blocked its entrance.  On the positive side… the flight attendant setting between us was a pretty cool guy from St. Louis.

The Rest of the Trip

So far the trip has been thankfully uneventful.  I have to say from the air… Chicago looks just like every other city I have ever seen…  just much much larger.  Somewhere along the flight path… I swear there was a building that looked just like a classic playstation.  I will have to Google maps it to try and figure out what the hell it was.  We have a three hour layover here in Chicago, and hopefully the plane to Albany will not be extremely packed.  We look to be departing from an even smaller terminal… so my fear is that it will mean a smaller plane.  I wish I could just detach my legs… that is probably the only way I will ever fit comfortably between the tiny rows of seats.

When we were waiting at the terminal in Tulsa… I experienced what was probably the worst possible choice of television to be watching.  All morning long it was nothing but nonstop coverage about the plane crash yesterday.  I could tell it was having an extremely negative effect on a few of the passengers.  There was a lady in quiet tears as she sat there obviously physically nervous about getting on a plane.  Her boyfriend took her away on a walk through the concourse to try and calm her down… and she returned about ten minutes later and was no longer crying… so it appeared to have worked.

Additionally I got to see probably the least tasteful display of public affection.  Seated across from me was a couple that was just barely keeping out of each others pants.  I am sure they appreciated the confined spaces of the airplane… because for the 45 minutes or so we sat there she crawled up on the guys lap a few times.  I have to say that is the most interesting thing about the airport…  watching the behaviors of other people. 

As a result I don’t think our three hour layover here in Chicago will be too bad.  They bill themselves as the busiest airport in the United States… and as a result there is a constant stream of humanity flowing past me as I sit here and type.  It is pretty easy to play guessing games… wondering where each person is headed.  Some of them happy… some of them obviously not…  but all of them going somewhere different. 

Wrapping Up

Going to wrap this up and attempt to get on the WiFi and post it.  Here is hoping that the rest of our trip goes relatively un-eventful.  I am looking forward to being done with the trip…  I like going places… but I hate the act of travelling.  As a result I tend to go nowhere.  Hopefully you are having a good Sunday morning… and that you did not have to get up at 3 am like I did.  Looking forward to exploring Albany and finding what nifty things i can discover there.  If you have any suggestions… I would love to hear them.


I will rant about this more tomorrow I am certain… but I was not able to get WiFi access at Chicago O’Hare.  So While I typed this up there I am just not able to post it from my hotel room.  We are safe and sound in Schenectady New York, and just about to go exploring.  If you guys know of anything we must see in the area, please let me know!

Last to Know

This morning is feeling really harsh, as I woke up around 7 am on a Saturday, after staying up until around 1:20 or so last night.  It was entirely intentional however… since I wanted to make sure I could sleep tonight.  We will be getting up before 4 am tomorrow… so that we can catch a 6 am flight.  Normally I struggle to get to sleep, and the only sure way I could think of to make sure I slept tonight… was to purposefully exhaust myself today.  All of that logic aside… it still sucks to be groggy and feel like you just want to go back to sleep.

Last to Know

Most of yesterday was relatively un-eventful.  We hung out around the house, cleaned a bit, did copious amounts of laundry…  but in the larger scheme of things nothing much happened.  I hung out on my laptop playing some Rift and my wife read or did planning for the next school year.  Essentially the standard things we do any day.  We had plans to go out and about but those never really materialized, so essentially we were the exact opposite of busy all day long.  This will factor in shortly as to why how un-busy we were matters.

About seven last night we get a call from my wife’s step brothers spouse.  Apparently my wife’s mother is in the hospital… suspected heart attack.  Of course we are a little freaked… but the freaked out part turns to a bit of anger when we find out that she has been there essentially all day.  My wife goes into a panic of trying to call people and make sure they know… and one by one… every person she reaches has known for hours.  Even estranged family members seem to know.

Essentially my wife is her mothers next of kin… the closest blood relative and the only one who could legally sign for her.  Yet she is quite literally the last person to find out she is in the hospital…  let alone has been there since at least around noon yesterday.  Somehow one of the step daughters got called and went to the hospital with her…  but my wife’s mother did not want anyone  called… since they “didn’t know anything”.  Thing is…  the step daughter is a 50+ year old grown woman… she should have started calling the moment she found out anything.  My wife’s mother was in a hospital bed… it is not like she could have stopped her.

To make matters worse… my niece thinks it is important to let everyone know when her kids have odd bowel movements…  yet the one time something important actually happens she doesn’t let us know?  She is a busy body, with no job, and essentially no life…  yet the one time she could have passed along crucial and vital information she didn’t.  Essentially the whole experience was frustrating to be so catastrophically left out of the loop.  I think we finally got called because people wondered where we were.

Okay So Far

In their defense… for whatever reason they all thought we had already left on our vacation.  But even then it would have been nice to at least know something was up.  Ultimately I think they wanted to save us the stress since we couldn’t really do anything about it.  Overall she is being treated like it was a heart attack… but she has had none of the signs of heart attack.  She was out working on the farm of her “boyfriend” and fainted.  But afterwards we find out she had not had anything to eat since 9pm the night before…  and not really had anything to drink since around 6pm.  So it could have been a low blood sugar or dehydration thing… since senior citizens dehydrate extremely easily.

She was as stubborn and frustrating as ever when we finally got to the hospital last night around 8:30.  All in all she was doing well, and felt much better, however they had her hooked to a heart monitor just to make sure things were okay.  They said she had some signs of plaque in her arteries… but quite honestly what 76 year old person has not developed a build up?  Based on her explanation of what happened I am doubt it was anything cardiac since she had no chest pain… and has no soreness other than the injuries she experienced in the fall.  The doctors had not really seen any “smoking guns” so hopefully they will release her today with an all clear.

We’ve made everyone we talk to essentially promise to call us first from now on… despite whatever she says.  I know she just didn’t want to needlessly worry anyone… but the simple fact that she was in the hospital at all meant folks needed to know.  We would have headed up there at noon and sat all day with her if we had known.  But this has always been the way it has gone in our family.  Since we tend to keep our heads down and focused on the day to day… we always end up the last to know about anything.  Generally it is the gossip queen niece that keeps us up to date… but sadly she seems to gloss over the things that are actually important.

The Treehouse

rift 2013-07-06 08-27-24-31During the day yesterday I played a ton of Rift, as I ran around happily on my stabbity rogue.  I completed Pelladane and most of Cape Jule, but found myself struggling a little bit when I hit Seratos and the mob levels increased.  As a result I decided to try and push on through to 53 through a combination of Instant Adventures, Rifts and Zone events.  I made pretty decent progress and am sitting at roughly 75% through 52.  I would have probably made it to 53 that night, but of course the things I mentioned above happened and that pretty much closed out our evening.

During the middle of my Instant Adventure-a-thon my friend Rae got home and logged in… and wanted me to check out her dimension.  She has literally spent the last three days doing nothing but work on her dimension and it shows.  She had some some really awesome things.  The picture above is me standing on the top platform of her tree house… that she built entirely from scratch.  Essentially she has this huge pavilion of sorts on the ground floor, with spiral staircases leading up to a garden level… then finally a series of platforms climbing up the tree.

This alone would be amazing, but she has also built down into the little grotto area at the bottom of the falls in the Moonshade Pools dimension.  So through a nifty winding path downwards you can reach the bottom and she is starting to build a pretty nifty dock down there.  I knew she had this in her, since she is a minecrafting fiend…  but overall she has done way more with dimensions than I would expect anyone would.  She has inspired me to start trying to do something with my own version of Moonshade Pools.  Right now it is pretty much just a catch all for all the nifty dimension items I have gotten so far.  If you are over on Deepwood, friend Audrae and take a look for yourself.

Wrapping Up

Well I should wrap up this post and get on with the whole getting ready thing.  We have a long list of errands we need to run today so that we can pack this evening and prepare to leave the state tomorrow.  We still have our houseguest, and he is seemingly doing okay.  He has been down to his mothers house quite a bit, so here is hoping he is about to decide he wants to move back home. I hope you all have a great day, and I hope we have safe travels.  I will likely be blogging tomorrow from the airport in Chicago, as that will be the first time I really have anytime to do much of anything.

The Houseguest

This morning I am getting a late start as I took Friday off.  It didn’t really make sense to go back from the fourth for one day… only to be gone for a week after that.  I was fairly exhausted by the time I made it to bed last night, and it was only through the nudging of my wife that I got up and around this morning.  Just as a warning this is probably going to be one of the most real life posts I have made in awhile.

The Houseguest

We have a really unique relationship with one of our neighbors… it long ago transcended friendship and moved into the adopted family territory.  When she was run over by her Ex-Husband… we were the ones that rushed to the hospital.  When I had my insane arterial spray bleed out incident…  she was the one we called and while we were in the hospital she did what no one should ever have to do…  cleaned up the CSI inspired mess.  So essentially we will do anything for the other, it is just the norm.  We’ve been in each others lives for roughly fifteen years.

All of that said… her kids are essentially like our kids too… or at very least like a niece and nephew.  Roughly a week ago there was a simple fight that escalated into something bigger… he went off in a huff saying he was moving out.  The problem being… he is a High School junior… and while legally an adult he has no facilities to survive on his own.  As a result he has been couch surfing since then, staying with whatever friend would let him for the night… and from the looks of it… not really sleeping or eating much.

Initially we were planning on having him stay in our house as a house sitter while we were gone next week.  But after seeing him yesterday and how rough he looked we essentially told him to come in… take a nap and that he could stay with us until we left for the trip.  Apparently we are a safe place, because the second he laid down he was out like a light.  The only problem is our house is not really equipped for guests.  You essentially have the option of sleeping on a couch or a loveseat.  While he was napping we ran several errands, one of which was to go get a blow up mattress to at least give him something vaguely resembling a bed.

My hope is that we can act as a neutral ground and that while we are gone the he and his mom can reconcile the differences.  This way staying with us… we at least know he is not out “getting drunk, getting high or making babies” as my wife put it.  He is a good kid, he just makes some phenomenally dumb decisions at times.  This is the same kid that was notoriously losing his bike… because he forgot who’s lawn he left it on.  He does not have a malicious bone in his body, but my fear was the longer he was out there the worse things he would have to do to survive.  Additionally we know at least his mom can rest a little easier knowing he has a safe place to stay for the time being.

The Flood

As a result of having a houseguest, one of the things on my to do list that I had never gotten around to was changing out the apparatus in the tank of the upstairs toilet.  This is something I have done a few times before, so was not something I had the least bit of hesitation about.  I turned the water off at the wall, drained the tank, undid all the fittings and swapped out the apparatus.  All of this took about 20 minutes or so.  After hooking everything up… there was a leak.  I tightened the plastic nut to make sure it was not coming from the tank.

I didn’t feel like I could really get it tightened enough, so I ended up running around the corner to home depot to get a tool better suited for the tight space.  Finally I toweled everything off and verified that it was not coming from the tank.  Instead it looked like it was coming from the braided hose that connected to the wall.  I began trying to tight that up a bit… and the plastic collar of the hose essentially disintegrated in my hands…  and the result was a gushing torrent of water going everywhere.  I managed to get the water shut off at the wall quick enough… but the floor and me that was laying on said floor… was completely drenched.

At this point I feel like I have left my depth of home repair know how…. not that I had much.  Apparently my penis was not fully programmed with all the knowledge it should have about how to fix things.  After all since men always have to do this sort of thing… it must come pre-programmed out of the factory right?  I know to take care of what is wrong, we will have to shut off the water outside in our front yard.  But know we are getting into actual plumbing… because it seems as though the current cable is essentially JB Welded onto the pipes.  Actually it looks like it is stuck on with games workshop “green stuff” which I have heard is actually a plumbing compound.

I feel as though we should probably just call a plumber, but for the time being we are down to one restroom.  That said we have essentially been down to one restroom for a good 6 months…  since the tank upstairs has been wonky at least that long.  We have one more day before we leave for a trip… so this all may be something we just deal with afterwards.  After that point we will no longer be trying to share a restroom with a houseguest.  I just hate the concept of rushing around trying to fix something right before we are going to leave town.

Stealth For Me

rift 2013-07-04 23-00-30-83 When things finally calmed down I collapsed into my comfy spot on the couch and decided to play some Rift.  Of late I have really been enjoying my rogue Belgrave on Deepwood.  Some time ago I wrote about trying out the Granpa build that PK suggested.  I cannot swoon enough about how awesome the build is, and just how much it has improved the fun of playing a rogue for me.  The most interesting thing about it for me however… is that I am actually enjoying playing a stealth class.  This is however I think because it works drastically different than most stealth classes I have played in the past.

Always in the past it felt like you were at a great disadvantage if you were not constantly stealthing around in game.  Stealthing in games like WoW feels much like race walking… equal parts awkward and frustrating… and just not that enjoyable.  I hate the construct that moving in stealth makes you move slower, and until now the only stealth class I had really enjoyed was my Dirge in EQ2… and that was mostly because thanks to bard songs… I could move faster stealthed than most classes did on mounts.  The moving through molasses aspect of rogues in the past has made the class seem overly tedious.

Rift on the other hand with the Nightblade has made stealth a temporary buff that lasts at most 30 seconds.  As a result this completely changes how you use stealth in the first place.  It ceases becoming a tool that lets you skip content, and starts becoming a strategic resources that you employ to open combat, or at most to sneak past a single mob that is overly tough like an elite.  Additionally this short term stealth buff does not slow the player down…  so the combat feels just as fluid as I stealth up just before I enter combat. 

Additionally the build I am using gives me essentially no downtime… so I can roll from mob to mob or even packs of mobs… stealthing quickly between them to get my next opening off.  The feeling is extremely awesome, and gives me whatever was lacking from a rogue in the past.  This is not a prodding game of shadows… this is feels more like fast paced ninja assassins.  Otherwise… I feel like Rift does rogues in a way that traditionally warrior style melee players can enjoy.  Unfortunately I figure it is probably lacking for the folks that like poking along through  content at the pace of a snail.

Wrapping Up

Now you have a rundown of all the major shifts that have occurred in my life over the last 24 hours.  Hopefully we have made the right calls, and hopefully we can act as a neutral ground as mom and son reconcile.  Additionally… hopefully we have not just delayed the process… and or inherited a semi permanent member of our household.  I hope you all have a great day… and I hope that you don’t have any awkward decisions on the horizon.

Original Norrath

The big hullabaloo at work ended up going far better than expected… however since the meeting time was at 1 pm I spent most of the morning in an overall sense of dread.  I am a “rip the band-aid off” person, not peel it back slowly… as a result I detest suspense.  I want to get the pain over with so I can get on with my life.  In class I usually volunteered to give my speech or presentation first so I could get it out of the way and relax.  But I survived… and now I am on vacation for awhile.

Original Norrath

eqgame 2013-07-04 09-23-34-47 Thanks to my Everquest 2 account and having station access I have had the ability to play the original Everquest for some time now.  For whatever reason I never really took advantage of this.  From time to time I would boot up a copy of the game playing one my favorite emulator server, but I had no real interest in ever returning to the real thing.  On a whim I decided to fire up the game client and see if the game experience had improved as a while.  A few months back I did the same for Dark Age of Camelot, and was surprised at how well the game actually stood up against modern titles.

The Good

eqgame 2013-06-30 10-55-46-78 Honestly many of the features of the game have been drastically improved since I last played it on an older emulated copy.  Firstly most of the NPC models I encountered had been drastically improved, but honestly I never had an issue with graphics… I play minecraft afterall.  The problems I always had with the game were just how bad the user interface was.  Luckily this has been improved a lot, and they seem to have fixed the horrible mouse look system from the early days.  For the most part it controls out of the box like you would expect any modern MMO to control.

Additionally they have completely gotten rid of the corpse recovery aspect of the game.  This was the biggest sticking point with me, and the cause of lots of marital strife for myself and my friends.  The inability to simply disconnect without dire consequences caused many a fight, and I can still remember getting a call one Sunday afternoon begging me to come home right away and resurrect someone because they got stuck in a bad place and were about to lose all the gear on their corpse.  All in all there was nothing positive about that system.

What happens now is if you die you respawn back in a safe area with all your gear just like modern MMOs.  After level 10 you begin to lose experience just like you used to in the old game.  From my understanding you still can lose levels through death, but this is acceptable I suppose.  Temporarily losing progress on death is something you can deal with, permanently losing everything you have spent years acquiring on your characters… that is not something you can deal with.

Additionally they have added in a return to bindpoint functionality that lets players rapidly get out of an area.  This was another huge problem with the game as a whole, the inability to safely leave the game at a moments notice.  Things happen, and you cannot always plan when you might need to leave a game.  Modern MMOs have taken this into account, but it is nice to see they have gone back through and added this functionality into what was always the most painful game on players.

The Interesting

eqgame 2013-06-30 14-17-20-14 The thing that I find most interesting is all of the ways that they have essentially “hacked” modern features into an extremely old and limiting engine.  The name Everquest used to always be a joke, since for the most part the game itself had very few “quests”.  They have remedied this by adding in a full quest journal system, and through some clever scripting given you an overarching quest for each area that essentially leads you by the hand to the other quest givers.  This way players at least know who to /hail to get the quests in a given area.

Additionally they have incorporated new features, like treasure chests that are commonplace in other games.  They had no real way to do this in the traditional sense… but instead creatively created ground spawn stationary mobs that look like chests but don’t fight back.  So by destroying this “chest” the player can then loot the contents.  I have to applaud the devs for coming up with extremely creative solutions around complex problems and limitations of their game engine.

Additionally I find it interesting that they have come to a point where they expect mudflat ion to occur and that players need certain stats to be able to survive.  Through the tutorial quests you manage to get a really nice set of gear, probably better than I had in my 50s in the original game… and include with it the ever important 10% haste item.  This was a must have item, and I remember hours spent farming various drops for the guild to make sure that every dps player had at least the most basic of haste items.

The Bad

eqgame 2013-06-30 12-56-54-66 Today’s post was essentially spurred on by one of my friends blog post yesterday.  Over on West Karana, my friend Tipa posted an article called “Why I Stopped Playing Everquest”.  Her commentary could almost exactly double for whatever I am about to say, because the same things that do not appeal to her… are what I noticed indulging this whim.  Ultimately it is honestly the same problem I had with Dark Age of Camelot as well.  The game play is to slow and prodding… and quite frankly boring after being used to today’s MMO standards.

I played a Cleric in the original game, and my little circle of healers used to joking refer to the game as AFKquest, in that we spent far more time alt-tabbed or talking than actually doing anything active on our characters.  Unfortunately playing a melee is not much better.  I have reached a point where I just cannot handle passive and slow combat, and literally doing nothing as your character auto attacks down a monster.  The above golem took a good 15 minutes of waiting on my character to slowly chew down its health.  I alt-tabbed and caught up on my news feed, tabbing back between articles to see if it was over yet.

This is not what fun game play looks like anymore for me.  At one time it was, but more so it was because it was the only thing that gave us online character development and progression.  The game holds up on many levels, but the slow pace of the game and the absolute passivity of combat guarantees that it will never be more than a passing novelty for me again.  Sure I got the tingles of nostalgia as I heard the opening theme again, but I have the same nostalgia playing Everquest II, which for me at least is a much better game in every possible way.

I feel like I have always looked at my time playing Everquest through rose colored lenses… but after playing it again for a short period of time… I started to think about all the things I didn’t remember.  All of the hours spent standing around doing nothing, while other players drug mobs back to the party and killed them… somehow never taking enough damage to make it worth casting a heal.  Quite honestly the game involved way more waiting around than I would like to remember.  Waiting to break fear, waiting for everyone to log in and show up for an event, waiting to get enough faction to turn in a specific quest item, waiting for that one magical super rare monster to spawn needed for someone’s epic.  I simply don’t have the patience for that much waiting, or at least I have come to value my time a bit more and I am simply not willing to squander it.

Wrapping Up

Overall I was surprised at just how well Everquest had updated itself to compete with modern games.  However after playing for a very short period of time… I remembered all the bad things about the game and they pretty much toppled the nostalgic good things.  I am going to file the game in the “not for me anymore” category.  I might visit occasionally since it is free for me to do so, out of sheer nostalgia, but it isn’t something I could ever really get into again.  The gameplay overall is just not what I am looking for out of an MMO.

Since this is the big holiday weekend in the United States, I wish all my fellow Americans a happy Independence Day.  For my dear friends in the rest of the world… I apologize… because for the next 24 hours you will hear about nothing but our Fourth of July celebrations.  I still hope you all have a great weekend.  We have a bunch of stuff to do to prepare for our vacation and a bunch of cleaning to do for our house sitter.  Guess I need to get up and be productive.