The Eternal Throne

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Commemorating the seventh anniversary of Tales of the Aggronaut I had my good friend and artist I keep commissioning to draw stuff for me…  make this collage of “Bel” characters.  If you are so inclined you can even get it in T-Shirt form with all proceeds going to the artist and zero to me as intended…  I have one hanging in my closet.  The characters pictured present my characters scattered through a bunch of games that were important to me…  from left to right:  My World of Warcraft Human Warrior, My Blades/Shotgun character from The Secret World, Middle top my Exo Titan from Destiny 1, Middle Bottom my Bahmi Warrior from Rift, my Imperial Dragon Knight from Elder Scrolls Online and finally my Lalafel Bunny Warrior from Final Fantasy XIV.  As much as I love this image…  it was sort of awkward to work with over the years and mostly just has to be used as is to adorn my blog’s sidebar.  It also made me shift how I actually requested commissions from Ammo, given that each of the individual characters was drawn as you see them and could not be pulled out or separated from the total image.

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Instead these days when I put in a commission for her to draw something, I pay for her to do something in a way that allows me to break the pieces apart and use them as I need for various other purposes like adorning the website, as channel art or turning into a social media avatar.  The individual comissions are more expensive but I also sorta like to make sure Ammo keeps a steady flow of commission work…  as does Tam who has in total commissioned way more than I have.  While I did not have time to deal with this prior to the anniversary post because work has been crazy… and I was up until midnight on Tuesday night dealing with an outage…  I did finish up the intended collage masthead last night and added it to the site.  The logo itself is a little off center so that it is effectively centered over the block of text and then the image extends out over the sidebar as well.  What you see before you is a bunch of individual commissions that I have composited together.   I am exceedingly happy with how it pulled together even though it greatly increases the vertical space of my masthead.

Once again I will talk a bit about each of them going mostly left to right.  First off we have a more updated version of Bunny Samurai Belghast from Final Fantasy XIV wearing the second version of artifact gear and wielding the glowy Palace of the Dead axe.  Next up we have my default visage from Monster Hunter world wielding the Nergigante Longsword and with my Real Life and in Game Palico Kenzie decked out in my favorite Baan Astronaut gear.  Then in the center-ish we have a commission that Tam actually did, with the goal being drawing how he sees me…  the advisement to Ammo was something to the effect of “Warrior Disney Princess and Friend to Woodland Creatures”.  So you have me heavily armored…  and then lots of buckles to make fun of my love for gear with extraneous straps and buckles…  the House Stalwart tabard to represent the guild that I started so many years ago…  and finally woodland creatures in the form of a bunch of bluebirds that play dual symbolism of me and my “birb” friends in my backyard and the fact that I am always on twitter.  Next up you have my Elder Scrolls Online updated Dragon Knight wearing the cosmetic gear that I generally wear in that game.  Lastly you have a Destiny 2 Sentinel Titan shield charging like a badass…  but with a head that is based on a comic book version of my actual appearance.  Last but not least you have a bunch of Moogles that I commissioned to represent the fact that I am part of the Moogle’s Pom Community team even though I have not streamed in eons due to anxiety issues.  The extra chubby one with the beard and a hoodie resting on the logo is the one that actually represents me.

There is an awful lot of symbolism packed into a single image… and while it is extremely busy… it also represents this blog.  I am constantly swapping between games and also giving a dose of myself with each post.  The only regret that I have and this is minor…  is that I sort of wish that I would have had Ammo draw Kenzie and Monster Hunter Bel completely rather than as a single composite image.  I could have faked it out… but it would have been nice to have Kenzie overlaying the logo a little bit to add more depth…  but I am not sure if it would have made visual sense.  I kept the placement of Bunny Bel and Titan Bel in largely the same location as the previous logo more or less on purpose because I thought they made good bookends.  The only problem is…  I already have a bunch more character commissions that I want in my head…  so I fully expect this to evolve over time.  Before I plug Ammo again… I feel like I have to state once more that when I post links to her stuff it is completely unsolicited and it is just the fact that I am a huge patron of her creations and want to spread the word.  Saying that… here comes the link dump of where you can find her (thankfully I already did this in a post and can just copypasta).

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Finally for some actual game related stuff…  I have been playing some Star Wars the Old Republic of late and I am currently blaming Pete since he was talking about it on twitter.  More honestly I think I am being influenced by what I have called the BlizzCon Spirit, but I feel like I need to explain that.  Each year around BlizzCon time I find myself getting enthralled by Blizzard products.  If I am not currently playing World of Warcraft at the time of the convention…  then I find myself playing it shortly after.  Similarly we recently had a whole bunch of news come out of Star Wars Celebration in Chicago…  featuring a trailer for Star Wars Episode IX, a trailer for the Respawn game Jedi Fallen Order, and some leaked footage from the Disney Plus Mandolorian Television Show.  All that goodness in one place has produced a BlizzCon spirit like effect in me…  which is not shocking given that I went through a massive renaissance of Star Wars the Old Republic leading up to the release of Force Awakens.

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When I last played I managed to push my way through a bunch of the new content and through the entire Fallen Empire campaign.  However Eternal Throne was brand new content and I did not hang in long enough to actually start on it.  So Tuesday night after getting home from work… I patched up the client and started working my way through the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion.  I am taking it pretty slow, not playing a ton on a given night with me just finishing the first chapter last night and moving into the second.  Every time I return I forget just how good the storytelling is in the game, and how much it reminds me of Knights of the Old Republic especially in the more modern single player incarnation.  As a cherry on the top it came out yesterday that Kathleen Kennedy confirmed that they are looking at doing a movie set in the Old Republic era…  which gives me goosebumps at thinking that maybe just maybe some of my favorite characters from the KOTOR series will officially enter the canon.  I still very much love Star Wars and even though Last Jedi mostly landed flat for me…  I am looking forward to the end of the Skywalker Saga and seeing what they do from that point onwards.  I am hoping that we see a huge cinematic saga centering around the large set pieces of the Old Republic setting.  Bioware has created so many great characters that are just waiting to be realized on the big screen.

 

Ten Years of Tales

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Ten years ago today I installed WordPress for the first time and decided to put digital pen to paper and roll out the mat of Tales of the Aggronaut.  At that time I doubt I had a thought in my head about it lasting anywhere near this long, nor growing into what it has become.  Tales of the Aggronaut was not my necessarily my first blog…  and the previous incarnation is floating out there still in the ether never to be spoken of again.  However this blog combined a bunch of things that I was already doing…  namely writing big walls of text.  I was one of those folks that would come into a game forum and write big posts talking about my feelings about this thing or that thing… or offering support and advice to those who were in need.  I was a fairly active member at the time on the Argent Dawn server forums, and a lot of the people that I am still in contact from those days I met amongst a bunch of lines of text…  and the eventual IRC server that spawned from it.

Ten years seems like a momentous number, but I just could not really think of anything I wanted to do to mark the occasion.  At this point many days it is a struggle to get myself to log in and make a morning post, let alone come up with some grand promotional scheme.  Instead we are going to have a quiet birthday…  which is in truth how I prefer to celebrate my actual annuals these days as well.  There are many blogs out there that are far longer in the tooth than this one, but I think well aged blogs is a bit of a rarity these days.  I know my own blog roll is full of blogs that have gone into the sands of time…  that I just cannot bring myself to delete.  Blaugust has helped quite a bit, and I am planning on this year potentially outshining last year now that we have a fairly active Discord community surrounding it.  I am thankful for my regulars…  and I hate to say this because it sounds vain but…  anytime I get a notification saying someone liked one of my posts it is a little burst to keep me going.

The other interesting thing about the passage of ten years is just how different my life has become in that time.  When I started this blog I was a dedicated Guild and Raid leader making our way through the newly released Ulduar raid and struggling a bit at the jump up in difficulty between it and Neo-Naxxramas. I was also completely devoted to World of Warcraft and namely playing the Warrior class.  I also had very definite opinions on raid tanking and various other aspects of the game… thinking myself to be some font of knowledge for the community.  I had opinions and I was very willing to share them damn the consequences…  because I was in my early thirties and thought I had figured an awful lot of things out.

Now we scan forward to today…  and I am a leader of people with fifteen people under me as I transitioned from development to management.  As a result I am not longer leading anything at all in my off time and doing really good to be a member of literally anything.  While I still organize people around concepts and ideas…  I have tried my best not to be the one actually holding the reins.  While I used to raid on a near nightly basis…  I can’t bring myself to even commit to raiding once a week for a few hours.  Where I used to spend every night grouped up with other people and usually on voice chat…  I can’t bring myself to communicate with other human beings regularly once I am officially off the clock.  Where I used to think I had a clue what I was doing…  I am now in my 40s and know that I know next to nothing about most topics and it seems like I am imposing myself when I share my opinions on things.  While I am still very much an MMO player…  I find myself playing them all effectively on solo mode or maybe with a very small group of people in tow.

Another thing that has changed significantly over the years is how much of myself I am willing to put into these posts.  I’ve shared with you deaths in the family, times I am struggling with one thing or another, and things that have happened that brought me joy.  I shifted my writing style from being disconnected from the readers…  to trying to invite you all into my world for a few minutes each morning as I write.  I can’t say that anything I write about is actually interesting, but it is at least grounded in the reality of where I am and what I am doing at a given moment.  The truth is I would be far more popular if I would simply stick to a single topic and become an official site for a specific game.  Those folks are the ones with the large readership, but me…  I am more of an acquired taste.  If you are not interested in me as a human being… then chances are you won’t be sticking around for very long.

All of that said…  I am thankful for the people that I do have that regularly check in on my world…  and it is shockingly a larger number than I ever expected it to be.  In ten years almost 200,000 unique individuals have visited Tales of the Aggronaut…  and while I am certain a good number of those unique users are bots because internet… it still means that I have introduced myself and my point of view to way more people than I ever expected I would.  During that time I have made 2028 posts including this one…  which would have been a larger number were it not for the fact that I barely made any posts during the first four years of this blog.  Every day however a few hundred of you come and visit my world and I am thankful for the company.  It makes me wish I had the fire to do more to actually push this blog and the disconnected community that supports it on a regular basis.  In theory I should be pushing a discord or a reddit or some other venue…  but instead I would just rather enjoy knowing the fact that I have a bunch of quiet users out there tagging along with me as I do things.

This isn’t exactly the triumphant post you make when you reach a milestone like this, but in truth I didn’t really want a bunch of fanfare.  You out there… reading this blog… and an important part of it even though you may have never actually interacted with me directly.  Even though I largely write like I am talking to myself, I do appreciate knowing there are people out there that care.  As far as words of wisdom to leave this post on…  I am not entirely certain I have any.  I guess we will see if Tales of the Aggronaut makes another ten years…  though at this point I cannot imagine what the world and my life will be like during that time.  My blog is as much therapy as it is a purposeful act of creation, and I thank you all for taking the time to listen.

 

Monster Hunter Belghast and Kenzie

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This morning we are going to mostly talk about this amazing comissions that I just got back from my good friend Ammo.  For the uninitiated she effectively is the unofficial artist of this blog, and what I mean by that is if given the chance I spend a lot of time paying her to do artwork for me of my various versions of “Belghast”.  For reference here are some of the other “Belghasts” she has done for me in the past.

Basically…  she has drawn a lot of my characters over the years and I knew at some point I wanted her to do a version of the character that I mostly run around as in Monster Hunter World.  Basically I operate in two modes with Ammo… either I give her months of lead time…  or I beg her to rush something out the door.  She has been super gracious in both cases, but the MHW Bel was something I had wanted for awhile but our schedules finally lined up to where we could give enough attention to both at the same time.  I prepared several gigs worth of reference photos of both my character and my trusty Palico Kenzie…  which is named after my very attention hogging middle cat.

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I technically have an art degree but I just never really sketch anything these days.  However occasionally I am able to sketch something together quickly that denotes the sort of feeling I had in mind for the piece.  I did this with the Elder Scrolls Online commission as well and in both cases it worked out perfectly.  However the posing with the Monster Hunter World piece is phenomenal and perfectly illustrated what I had in my minds eye.  For reference the above screenshot is one of the ones I sent over to Ammo to work from.  She nailed the feel of Extermination’s Edge the Rarity 8 Nergigante Longsword that I spend most of my time wielding.  Additionally she got the feel of my usual outfit which involves a Dober Chest, Teostra Arms, the Eyepatch and a bunch of other gear obscured by the Samurai cosmetic waist and legs.  This is more or less my signature look unless I am going for a specific set designed for a specific encounter.

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One of the best parts about this commission is that it allowed me to correct something that I simply could not do within Monster Hunter World.  This is Kenzie, who as you can see is an adorable butt and also a tortoise shell  calico or “tortie” for short.  The Palico creation system is just not complicated enough to do that sort of a design, so as a result I am stuck with a weird version of a dark calico to try and do my best to represent her in game.  Ammo was of course not constrained by those limitations and when she asked me for reference photos for Palico Kenzie… I sent her a bunch of my girl here instead.  I think she nailed the feel of Kenzie’s orange nose blaze perfectly.

Ultimately I have plans for this image that won’t quite come to fruition until a little closer to the actual anniversary of the blog which occurs April 17th.  I am not exactly sure when it will happen, mostly whenever I get time to mess around with things.  I feel like it is time for this blog to have a bit of a face lift so in theory one weekend there will be a rapid sequence of changes one day.  Firstly I wanted to make today’s post to really dive into how the commission process has worked for me personally in the past, and how Ammo and I tend to coordinate on the various artwork that adorns my corner of the world.  I also want to do a shameless plug given that she does such an amazing job and has done artwork for so many people that I know.  She did an amazing holiday card that Chestnut sent out this year… that I don’t think I have actually seen a digital copy of that I can share here.  Essentially… she does great work and you should totally use her skills for your artwork needs.

Here is a Giant Dump of How to See Ammo’s Amazing Artwork and Even Purchase Some of It!

I know she keeps pretty busy with commissions so you would have to check with her directly to see if she has any bandwidth.  On the 7th Anniversary Aggronaut shirt I didn’t want any cash from that, but did want one for my own personal use so I asked her to throw it up on one of her storefronts.  Just to make sure this is out there… we have no financial relationship at all other than the fact that I spend money getting her to make cool artwork for me.  I am just one of those people that will rabidly promote the things that I am into… and Ammo is the best.  There are a lot of artists in what I would call the “Warcraft” style, and they are all quality without a doubt…  but Ammo being roughly my age comes from a different genre…  namely Comic Books and as a result I love the more comic style she has developed over the years.