Ten Years of Tales

bel-ammo-collage

bel-ammo-collage

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.

 

Grand Experiment – Year Two

AggroChat 54 – Darkest Dungeon Show

This evening we held the third episode of the AggroChat Game Club where we talk about my pick the early access rogue-like Darkest Dungeon.  I personally chose this game because so many of my friends had been talking about it, and purposefully delayed playing it in the thoughts of this eventually becoming an AggroChat title.  The result is that each of us played the game slightly different, and walked away with a very different perspective and feeling about the game.  Some of us loved it, but even among those that loved it…  we brought with it a completely different outlook and as such a different reaction.  Of course some of us absolutely hated the game, enough to actually Alt-F4 out of the window.

The end result however is what I feel like our most successful game club title to date, because it certainly spurred on some conversation.  Next months title is announced towards the end of the broadcast and I am sure it will be an equally interesting discussion.  As for my own feelings…  I really enjoyed the game, but it seems like I might be the most heartless bastard on the planet when it comes to how I treated my dungeoneers.  Some of my co-hosts developed bonds to their spelunkers and for me… they were just fodder to be thrown at the problem like minions in a Dungeon Keeper game.  Of all the games we have played for the game club so far this is the one that I am most likely to visit and keep playing, but I might be waiting until it exits early access.  There are certain things in the game that I don’t know if they are broken or simply that they have not been finished yet.

Grand Experiment – Year Two

I've Felt Strong Enough to Even Show you Me This Year Two years ago today I set about to change the nature of my blog and embarked upon what I termed the “Grand Experiment” which was more than anything blogging every single day no matter if I had a thought in my mind worth writing down on paper.  Now 730 posts later I continue to question what I was thinking when I started down this road.  The end result has been an interesting ride to say the least.  What has happened more than anything during these last two years is that I have gotten closer with the community of my fellow bloggers.  This has been more important than anything else to me, and it is through all of the various events like the upcoming Newbie Blogger Initiative 2015 that it is happened.  So while I question if I did anything that really mattered over these last  two years, I am thankful for every single reader and peer  that I now have.  There are lots of bloggers that write daily, and they have not made a big deal about it… but for me this was huge.  If you scan back through my blog there are several six month long lapses in content… and very rarely did I actually make it through a month without having a week with zero posts.

It has been so much more than just writing a blog for me personally.  I have allowed myself to open up more about myself and my life than I ever had to date online.  I’ve talked about my personal struggles, and shared with you my excitement and joy.  I’ve let you all into my life, and while I still for the most part am scant on the details…  you are seeing the impression of something very real that is happening.  I figured out early into this process that there would be days when I simply don’t have anything game related to talk about.  There would be days that I would have something on my chest that I needed to get out there, right or wrong… and I am thankful that you all have supported me.  I’ve been told that for many people my blog post is now part of their morning ritual, and if they get to work… and don’t see one they start to worry if something happened to me.  The first day I was late with a post and I had a deluge of people pinging me over twitter and IM to make sure I was okay…  was absolutely overwhelming.

Year Three

Not My Cat - But I Have Decided it is my Spirit Animal :) So tomorrow I begin the third year of this journey.  There are days I question myself why I am doing this… what exactly I am trying to prove.  The thing is I don’t really have an answer for either of those things.  I enjoy this connection that I have to my readers, no matter how ephemeral it might be.  There are days that I am doing this as therapy, other days doing it to share my excitement that I might burst if I don’t get it out onto the page… and in other days…  the days I cannot seem to find the words, I am struggling forward for you.  I feel like we have this contract, that I will write and you will read and together we will have this connection.  I don’t want to be the one to sever that connection.  I don’t want to be the one who lets down my end of this contract.  So I will keep living and experiencing and doing my hack job of sharing that experience with you.  This time next year I have no clue what I might be talking about… but I hope to still be talking and looking forward to our next journey.

Now I ask something of you.  Since we have been sharing these moments each morning for some time…  tell me about what you have done over these two years.  Granted a lot of you have blogs of your own and they are in my RSS reader that I consume at irregular intervals like drinking from a giant firehose of words.  But some of you out there have been with me this entire trip, and have never commented.  I would love to hear from some of you, and let me know how your life has changed over these last two years.  I might not even know you yet, but I would like to.  What major changes has my readership gone through while I have been on this journey.  I’ve upset a few people along the way, some of which have blocked me out of their lives…  but I have gained several orders of magnitude more friends along the journey.  That is the really important thing to me… all of the friends I have to show for my trip, and that I still keep in contact with on a weekly basis.  You are the ones that give me the drive to keep moving forward, and hopefully this next year will be a fun trip shared together.

Six Years of Aggronaut

AggroChat #53 – Get Hyped

This week we are without Tamrielo and Rae for various reasons, but joining us once again are the ever amazing Grace and Thalen.  For awhile I thought we would be missing Kodra, but he shows amazing determination and podcasted anyways.  This is the week that he moved across country from Atlanta area to Seattle, and thanks to the magic of living in the same apartment complex as Tam, was able to “borrow a cup of internet” and a chair and pretty much everything else needed to make the podcast function.  This weeks episode is called “Get Hyped” because we spend a lot of time getting hyped about various things we are excited about.

During the course of the episode we talk about so many board games in the wake of International Tabletop Day.  This discussion managed to make a very sleeply Kodra awake enough to continue podcasting.  We also talk about how amazing the new Netflix Original Daredevil series is.  We talk about the Star Wars The Force Awakens trailer that was released, and cannot get through a single podcast without talking about the new tidbits of information floating about regarding the Heavensward expansion that is looming ever closer.  I talk about the new Wildstar promotion asking players to buy up “dead stock” and get rewarded heavily for it.  Some see it as an act of desperation but personally I see it as an act of sheer genius.  I also go on at length about how great the new Wardrobe system is in Rift.  It was a super fun podcast to record, and as such we ran fairly late.

Six Years of Aggronaut

SixYearsOfAggronaut

This week a fairly important anniversary slipped by without me realizing it.  The funny thing is that I even went so far as to make a Google reminder on my phone…  but then Friday ended up being an exceptionally busy day and I just plain “forgot”.  Friday April 17th was the sixth anniversary of my blog.  On April 17th of 2009 I made my first post on this blog, and it was a rather simple “Hello World”, but still it was the beginning of something that would ultimately be my obsession for a large chunk of these six years.  Now a much more important anniversary is coming up at the end of the month, when I mark two years of daily posting.  Tales of the Aggronaut was not by any means my first blog, but it was the one that I stuck with.  It began its life as a World of Warcraft blog, and ultimately turned into a Rift blog… and then when I realized I could not sustain it as a single game blog became what you know and hopefully love today.  Throughout all of it however it has more than anything been a blog about me, and surprisingly does an excellent job of tracking what I happen to be thinking and feeling at a given time through my reaction to things happening in the games I love.

According to Google Analytics I have had almost 100,000 readers during the time I have been writing this blog.  This is the more important stat for me, because it means I have reached almost 100,000 people in one way or another.  Granted these statistics don’t reflect the folks who choose to read my blog over RSS, but more than anything I wanted to come clean about my numbers for various reasons.  We are heading towards the Newbie Blogger Initiative and I always get the impression that people seem to think I have this wildly popular blog.  I have had some insane bumps like the one from WoW Insider that skews all of my statistics.  On that day I had over 6000 readers in a single day, but that was during a different time in MMO gaming.  On a good day once you combine both RSS and traditional analytics I maybe have 500 readers.  So while I will never be the media celebrity that some of my friends seem to think I am…  I am thankful for each and every person who feels connected enough to me to read me on a regular basis.  Sure I write this blog as a form of self therapy at times… but in truth it is my amazing readers that keep me going on mornings that I simply do not feel like writing anything.  Thank you all for your attention, and I hope I can still live up to whatever expectations you might have of me for the next six years.

Piddling in Wildstar

WildStar64 2015-04-18 17-48-26-74 I admit I have allowed myself to get pulled in by the latest Wildstar promotion.  It all started as a way of doing some research for a story I was writing for MMOGames.  However in the rush to find copies of Wildstar to see how many were actually out there in the wild…  I ended up picking a few up myself.  Now above you can see me proudly sporting the Marauder outfit and riding my Glitterkitty hoverboard.  While I loved playing Chua I never really felt all that at home with the Dominion.  I remember watching the original trailer to Wildstar and felt an immediate kinship to the Exiles.  However most of my friends at launch wanted to play Dominion so I went along with it.  That said by the time I left after my initial months I was too annoyed with the game to make a faction swap feasible.  There was just something I didn’t really like about Wildstar and I never really could put my finger on it.

Coming back I am actually enjoying myself quite a bit, but I have not hit the Whitevale wall yet that I did previously.  Also I feel like as much as I enjoyed having two robot buddies following me around at all times… the Engineer was really just not my type of character.  This time around I am focusing on a tanky warrior, and having a significant bit more fun doing it.  I can’t say I will play for a super long time but I have hooked up with Chestnut and Chaide and am hanging my hat with the Black Dagger Society.  There is rarely a time when I am just playing one game, so I feel like this might be enjoyable to revisit every now and then.  For me I generally have a base of operations in one game… and that game is Final Fantasy XIV and then I venture out into other titles as well.  Since World of Warcraft is no longer holding my attention I have been spending more time in Wildstar and Rift for those “off nights”.

Five Year Blogoversary

Something Profound

fivecake I feel like this morning I should post something deeply profound since as of this morning it means I have been doing this blog thing for five years.  Technically my first post was on the 17th, but it was really just a test to make sure the site was functional.  My very first “real” post was on April 21st 2009 contemplating the ramifications of what “dual spec” would do to our raid.  I have changed a lot in these five years, and while I wish I had posted more regularly early on, I do like the fact that you can see this evolution in game play and attitude over the years.  The original intent of this blog was to be a World of Warcraft Warrior Tanking blog hence the title.

But looking back that idea didn’t seem to last more than a few posts before it started to morph into a blog about my adventures in raiding.  At that point I was in my “wannabe hardcore” mode, and in this fashion being plugged into the blog scene was probably more of a detriment to my enjoyment than a boon to my happiness.  I saw people doing really awesome things, and our little rag tag mostly casual raid just couldn’t keep up.  I am not super proud of some of the angry posts I made to that effect as we struggled to clear content in Wrath of the Lich King.  There are many times I wish I could just jettison the first couple of years worth of posts, because I really don’t know that version of me any more.

Personal Growth

Every so often through the back log of posts I stumble upon one that I had forgotten about and that I really am still proud to have written.  The biggest takeaway for me over these five years is that I have become much more comfortable in my own skin.  When I started writing for my blog, I tried to be this thing that I thought everyone wanted me to be.  The flawless leader, the archetype, the figurehead that did no wrong and always had the right words to say to fix the problems.  The longer it ran the more I realized I was not that person.  I was just as full of self doubt and confusion as the next player, and that they didn’t follow me because I knew all the answers…  they followed me because I cared enough to try.

So now I can look back at the first four years of my blog as me trying to “find my voice”, but I don’t really think I found it until I embarked upon my “Grand Experiment”.  There is something about having to write a post each and every morning that forces you to open up and be honest.  There comes a point where you just run out of spackle and polish to keep up your persona.  I would like to hope that by the time I entered into the idea, the “persona” of me was dwindling and I was left with just the real version…  but I can even see that over the course of this last year of daily posts I became far more honest with my public.  I still enter into each posting expecting no one to actually read it, and in that there is a comfort level that allows me to say some things that I might not say otherwise.

So while today is pretty cool that the blog itself has been around for five years now, I feel like the upcoming anniversary of the grand experiment is far more important.  That was really the moment when I decided a true direction for my blog, and in the last year I feel so blessed in the connections I have made during it.  The funny thing is… even after five years of doing this, I feel like I don’t really “know” anything about this trade.  I tend to just push forward with what seems to work, and figure out the rest of the details as I go.  As I enter into my third year of the Newbie Blogger Initiative… I really don’t feel like I am worthy of the title of “Mentor”, because I am still very much figuring things out for myself.

Breaching the Spotlight

I’ve always been one of those people who has preferred to be behind the scenes, and while I like knowing that people are actually reading what I write, I’ve tried to avoid stepping out into the spotlight.  Part of this comes from the whole “not really comfortable in my own skin” aspect of things.  I’m a big guy, and I probably always will be, but over the last year my wife and I have embarked upon a personal journey that has lead to both of us losing well over seventy pounds.  So while I am not going to be taking any “selfies” any time soon, I am feeling a lot more confident about myself as a result.  As such I am forcing myself to do things that I would have avoided before.

This started with my game streaming over on Twitch, and while I choose not to display my webcam on the stream… it is a start.  While streaming I started joining mumble and letting anyone pop in to chat, and I realized that I might have something interesting on my hands.  In listening to the old streams it really started to sound like a sort of impromptu podcast.  Out of this I talked to a few of my friends that I have talked with nightly in twitch for years, and we started a podcast.  Sunday we recorded our second episode and I am pretty happy with how things are turning out.  I made an attempt to go on camera with the Gamer Hangout vidcast but honestly the “in front of the camera” thing was just a bit too much for my anxiety.

Yesterday I got the opportunity to branch out from my comfort zone again, and while I was extremely nervous going into it… and likely drove my wife insane starting an hour or so before it was supposed to happen… it seemed to go off without a hitch.  I was invited to guest host MMORPG.com Game On podcast with Liore and Syeric.  The episode we recorded last night will not be posted until this coming Wednesday, but I am excited and scared to see how it turned out.  The multiplaying podcast did not happen this week, but I may end up getting rescheduled on this weeks show.  While it may not seem like a big leap for me to go from doing my own podcast, to joining in on others… it really is.  What has made Aggrochat so easy for me is we are just recording the same kinds of conversations we have had for years.

Aggrochat Chibis

belghast_shieldhat Rae is probably going to kill me for posting this, but meh she will get over it.  It feels fitting to show this off today, since five years ago she made the Belghast in Zul’Aman gear chibi that I still use for everything.  Right now everything we have for AggroChat is very much in a placeholder state.  We wanted to get podcasting before we lost our nerve, and did not want to wait for all the infrastructure to be in place.  One of the things she has been working on are Chibis for each of the podcasters so we can have a nifty chibi-fied logo version of ourselves.  Over the weekend she sent me what looks to be a final or near final version of my chibi.  I am absolutely in love with it, and can’t wait to see what the final version of all of them looks like put together.  Once she is finished with everything I am probably going to be updating the masthead to include this guy as well.  I want to thank all of you who have read my blog during the last five years.  You’ve made this a very interesting journey, and I can only hope I have to “oomph” to make it another five years.