I Lived Threes Company

The Illusive Bottle

eyedropbottle Last night went absolutely nothing like I had expected.  Well that is a bit of a misnomer in that I knew we would be running errands, but I did not realize it would take quite so long nor be so frantic.  My wife is a rock star teacher, this much I have said before.  However she is tag-team teaching a forensics science class this year and as a result they are pretty much pulling the curriculum out of their asses as they go.  For what they are teaching there really are no textbooks, and as a result no approve lab equipment really either.  Enter the empty eye drop bottle on the right.  You would think something like this would be relatively easy to find.  You would also be completely wrong

She needs these for a faux blood typing lab, since it is against safety regulations to use actual blood.  Funny thing is I can remember doing blood typing in freshman biology…  odd how things have changed in two decades.  We went everywhere we could think that might have little bottles including craft stores, pharmacies, finally we found eight of these at a local medical equipment/compounding pharmacy.  Problem is to be useful… she needs 30.  We picked up what we could find and proceeded onwards in search of the illusive idea.  Finally at Michaels we found some flip top bottles that should also work.  The problem is this took the count up to 25…  still 5 short of the finish line.  Supposedly today that Michaels location is getting some more in a shipment, so that means we will need to make our way back out there tonight to pick some more up.  The preference would be to find more of the actual eye drop bottles, so my wife plans on calling around to the various compounding pharmacies today.  This is the unknown life of the husband of a rock star teacher…  the constant trips out for random things for the classroom.

Clearance Lego Haul

ClearanceLegoHaul Roughly every six months the various store chains jettison one batch of toys to receive new ones.  This is my favorite time of the season… because it means I can pick up cheap Legos.  I have always loved building with Legos and I likely always will.  This desire to build things is exactly why games like Minecraft and Everquest Next Landmark are so sticky to me.  They are the dream of every Lego kid, the ability to create things without restrictions of having to have the right pieces.  The above image represents the haul of new sets for me to play with over the last several weeks.  They have come from a mixture of Target and Wal-mart and for the most part everything was 25-50% off.  There is a certain price range that I am willing to snatch things up, and while the Jabba’s Sail Barge that I saw yesterday would have been awesome… it was not $70 worth of awesome.

So instead I play a waiting game to see if it will make a second price cut and drop down into the range which I am willing to buy it for.  Last night while we were running around in the mad search for the bottles I managed to pick up the two Galaxy Squad sets above.  I might be because I grew up in the “funky space lego” era, but I love new space sets.  What was extra cool about this find as a whole is that last year I managed to pick up the Lego Star Wars TIE Fighter really cheaply, so now having an X-Wing to go with it is pretty awesome.  I realize I am a big damned kid…  but I am okay with this.  Getting older is require, growing up and losing the childish wonder at things…  is completely optional… and not something I suggest at all.

Boosting for Fun and Profit

90boost60bucks I feel like today’s post would be incomplete without mentioning the price leak yesterday for the boost to level 90.  I realize ahead of time that my point of view on this is going to be controversial, but it is my point of view anyway.  I personally think the boosting to 90 thing is generally going to be bad for the game community, in that dropping a new player into a fully leveled character is a bit of an overload.  Honestly I went through this myself when I accepted a scroll of resurrection and decided to boost a character to 80 that I would never actually level otherwise.  Dropping directly into a level 80 priest, when I had never actually played a priest past 10 before… was to say the least disorienting.  This is coming from someone who has six 90s, and three others waiting in the wings to reach the cap as well.  I “grok” warcraft on a pretty deep level and understand how the systems tend to work.

If I was completely at a loss for dropping in the pilot seat of a fully realized character… I can only imagine what it is going to be like for someone who has never played the game, or has not played the game in years.  After all this is the reason why Blizzard says they are giving us a boost to 90, so that we can recruit new friends and catch back up old ones.  It just seems like a fundamentally bad idea, but like I said I realize I am in the minority as people seem to want the ability to skip the majority of the game.  That is honestly the other problem I have with this idea.  Fundamentally Warcraft and the MMO genre in general… are about leveling and gaining constant incremental achievements and improvements.  If you do not want to level… then maybe you are playing the wrong genre?  MMOs are always going to be about leveling in one form or another… be it leveling in actual character level, or grinding away to get the gear to move to the next tier of LFR.  There is always a leveling treadmill there, because at its core this is what the genre is all about.

So after all of this…  now I feel like maybe you are prepared for my opinion on the price point.  I honestly think $60 is rather fair for what you are asking.  You are asking for the luxury of being able to skip the majority of the game and jump straight to being inches from the finish line.  It is absolutely a luxury, so it should have a luxury price tag associated with it.  Understand that this is for additional 90s…  we are still getting one for free when we purchase Warlords of Draenor.  So the ambiguous planned social benefit of catching people up to the latest content will still be firmly intact… as everyone is going to have to buy the expansion anyway.  If you think of it in terms as paying for a Faction and Realm Transfer combo costs $55 right now…  then it is not really out of order to expect that creating a brand new 90 character to cost $5 more.

Mentoring Is A Better Answer

I still feel like boosting was a bit of a copout answer to the problem at hand.  A much better solution would have been to finally implement a good mentoring system like so many other MMOs have.  Rift, EQ2, City of Heroes, and so many others have systems that allow you to drop your level to that of your friends.  We we had the bulk of players actively playing Rift this year, we took advantage of this weekly.  On Wednesday nights we would gather up and assess what levels we had, then everyone would mentor themselves to the lowest person and we would go do content together that was relevant for that level.  It was pretty glorious and my only complaint is that hey really need to make “queue for random mentored dungeon” a thing, because it was always a pain in the butt to do a dungeon together with all the manual mentoring.

2014-02-19 06_38_03-Twitter _ Gypsy_Syl_ @belghast mentoring systems ... The ever awesome @Gypsy_Syl posed this statement when I opened up this line of dialog on twitter last night.  While I agree with her that this likely was the intent with the boosts, the question is what exactly are players rushing towards then?  Leveling is pretty much the solo game, and all that awaits you when you hit the cap is for the most part group content or leveling another character.  Mentoring systems would help with what the stated intent was… to allow you to play with your friends.  If that was not their intent, then quite honestly they should stop selling it that way.  Mentoring systems go far further for helping you play with your friends, since you and your friends get to experience content the way it was designed to be experienced together.

2014-02-19 06_41_21-Twitter _ MatthewWRossi_ Honestly, I kind of feel like, ... At the end of the day I tend to align with @MatthewWRossi who put it so poignantly in the above tweet.  If a character is a struggle to level, then it won’t be something I play often once I get it to the level cap.  Prime example of this was my rogue that I just recently hit 90 on.  It was absolute skull drudgery to get it to the level cap, but I forced myself to do it… because I have not had a rogue at cap since burning crusade.  Problem is while leveling it and the eventual LFR grind… I came to realize just how much I do not like playing a rogue.  I pushed him over this finish line for reasons other than wanting to play the character, namely I wanted a max level transmute specialization alchemist…  but each time I log over to the rogue to do something like a holiday instance, it just feels wrong.  If you don’t enjoy the process of leveling the character, then to me at least it is highly unlikely you will enjoy the end result either.

I Lived Threes Company

Today’s blog post is going super long, but I guess I had a lot bottled up in me to talk about…  no callback to the eye droppers intended.  As I have said a few times I started out at a junior college for the first two years of my college education.  So when it came time to transfer up to a four year university to finish off, I opted to get an apartment with a high school friend who had been doing the same.  For a few months everything was peachy, and we lived pretty blissfully.  Then one morning I was woken up by a bunch of strange men moving my roommates stuff out of our apartment.  Without warning he decided to move into the “band” frat house, leaving me pretty much high and dry without much explanation.

It turns out that the landlords were coming that afternoon to kick him out of our apartment.  When we got the place we had opted to each pay our half of the rent separately.  While I had been religiously bringing my envelope down to the landlord on time, it seems as though he had not for the last two months.  They were not going to make me catch up his side of the rent, but I just didn’t feel right not doing so.  As a result it pretty much burned through all of my available cash, and the burden of keeping a place that I got intending to have a second income to support.  At this same time, my wife and her roommate were living in the slums essentially.  The place they were renting had literal holes in the floor and a very curious maroon stain creeping through the paint on the ceiling.  So we both needed to get out of our current situation.

As a result we did the pragmatic thing, since it was a rarity that my wife and I spent a night a part at that point.  We found a place that was ideal for three people, and after spending a few months watching the really nice caretaker renovate the place… we moved in.  It was in a quite little trailer park roughly ten miles from town, so it gave us the feeling of having a home… more than a rental.  So at that point I was basically living Threes Company, with two female roommates.  Essentially my wife and I had the master bedroom together, and our roommate had another large bedroom on the opposite end of the trailer.  The computers and consoles were set up in a “vestigial” middle bedroom that while it had a bed, the bed got used more as a couch than anything else.

The funny thing is that my wife’s father refused to admit that we were “living together in sin”.  Anytime he needed to talk to my wife, he would not call our phone line at our end of the trailer, but instead he would call the roommates phone at the opposite end.  Remember these are the days of dial-up… and since all of us were IRC junkies to boot… we had to have separate phone lines.  I have to say the situation was damned near idyllic, and over the time living together the room mate and I developed a loving brother/sister type relationship.  She is one of the few people we still keep in contact with from our college days, and while we don’t see her often not a week goes by that we don’t think about her.  Our bonding was special, since she has Cystic Fibrosis… and when she was having a bad night it was not unusual that I would get employed to pound on her back to help break up the gunk so she could breathe.  After all us respiratory system rejects got to stick together.

Rails Are What You Make of Them

Going Off Script

eso 2014-02-17 13-54-30-89 There was a topic yesterday that started with Tobold’s post and wound up in a G+ comment stream.  While I believe Tobold’s comments about on rails gaming were initially about a certain game that is still under NDA with a space theme…  it eventually wound its way to Elder Scrolls Online.  To which I added the information I posted yesterday on my own blog, about the fact that the majority of quests are skippable, and that there are a very few that actually need to be completed to move to the next area.  But the root of the problem here I think is that after a decade of playing themeparks…  we have gotten extremely good at seeing rails.  Moreso I think we are so trained to stay inside of the lines that we are afraid to break out of the little protective cage the themeparks have built for us.

For the longest time I fought the “quest to level” construct and then over time I managed to get extremely good at mindlessly grinding them.  There was a time when I could take a character from 1-85 in less than seven days in World of Warcraft.  The problem is… this is a thing I do to level quickly, and not something that comes instinctual.  I am constantly deviating from the path, and poking my head into places I shouldn’t be.  If I have 10% to go to a level, my instincts are not to grind some quests, but instead to go kill some really high level mobs.  You can blame Everquest for this type of “go kill things” upbringing, and I am still happiest when mindlessly slaughtering bad guys.  So when I am out questing, skipping that bad guy for the sake of speed is not usually a thing that ever enters into my mind.

So when I was plunked down on Stros M’Kai in the Daggerfall Covenant for the very first time… I willfully and gleefully ignored the quests that were given to me.  I wandered off and explored the island, gathered some crafting bits, found lots of treasure chests and leveled happily oblivious to the fact that there was a rail.  Sure eventually I reined myself in and did a few quests, but the vast majority of that first couple hour play through was aimlessly exploring.  If I found a cave I poked my head in to see what was there.  The little voice in the back of our head that says “don’t go there yet, you will have a quest for it later” is something that we end up doing to ourselves.

Rails Are What You Make of Them

eso 2014-02-17 13-36-59-84 For the most part I would agree with Tobold’s assessment of that space game, but since so many people love it I continue trying to give it a second and a third and a fourth chance.  I went through this same thing with Guild Wars 2, I kept trying to see what people liked about it… because I honestly didn’t understand it.  Over the weekend I maybe landed at how to enjoy it.  Once I finished the tutorial, I went completely off the rails, wandering around aimlessly killing lots and lots of things and getting nifty bits in the process.  That mode of play made the game enjoyable for me.  Quests are a really good way to level, and I think they also do an excellent job of telling the story.  However something we have forgotten along the way is that they are mostly optional.

We can blame World of Warcraft for this to be honest, but not in the way you might think.  WoW brought quests out into the open, where they had always been something for insiders before.  In Everquest you went around /hail-ing every single mob you encountered because maybe just maybe they might have a quest for you.  In Dark Age of Camelot, you did the same thing trying to locate the “Kill Task” quest giver for a specific area.  City of Heroes gave you specific contacts you needed to talk to that acted as a hub for running future missions.  Finally World of Warcraft gave us the now ubiquitous golden exclamation point… taking complete all of the subtlety out of it.  Still… even in WoW it was not until Burning Crusade that I really started to lean on quests as the crutch that they are.  I got a good number of my levels by going off the beaten path and looking for neat things out in the world.

To some extent it is also the fault of games that have stopped giving us things to find just over the next ridge.  There should always be things just out of the way for us to go looking for, because this act reminds us that there is another way to play the game than just mindless questing.  This self directed fun is crucial, and is what ends up making a game stay fresh.  I tend to cycle through two modes of gameplay…  aimless wandering and mindelss questing.  I find both to be really enjoyable when I am in the right frame of mind.  I think this is why I can return to WoW all these times and still be happy with what it is.  That said I am constantly going off script in that game as well.  There are so many nooks and crannies that often lead to treasure or at least interesting things to kill.  Basically… these rails that we keep seeing, are something we’ve allowed ourselves to see.

Dungeons of Belgrade

BelgradeKeep_Update With all the talk of ESO lately, I am still very much playing Landmark on a daily basis.  Last night I got in and worked on Belgrade Keep for a bit.  I tweaked the exterior a bit adding supports to the first balcony and then building out an entirely new balcony from the top of the castle.  Additionally I added some more of my custom columns to the corners of the ramparts to tie the visual theme together, as well as adding some to the ground floor to mark the entrances to the ramp leading up to the keep and the entrance to the crafting undercroft.  I thought I was nearing a point where I needed to simply grind out the various accoutrements to decorate the keep.  I was completely wrong however.

I decided that Belgrade keep needed a proper dungeon, so I spent the majority of the night watching episodes of Arrow on Netflix and hollowing out the basement by hand with the remove tool.  One of the things I have noticed that removing large blocks of material with the select tool often ends up leaving weird fragments.  So I tend to do it manually simply because I like the results better.  After having spent hundreds of hours hollowing out tunnels branch mining for diamonds in Minecraft… I find I have an affinity for that sort of work.  The plan is to divide up the sub basement into cells, maybe with a torture area…  but that all depends on how creative I am.  I am curious if I have enough room for a second sub basement to be honest, because I can seemingly dig down further.

My Father the Builder

I really need to sit down and brainstorm out the rest of the month, because when I am not staring at a blank page I am full of ideas with factoids.  However when I sit down to write at 6 am, my mind is mush and devoid of any good ideas.  So today’s factoid is going to be a little odd, be warned.  I am not a terribly handy person, as in I am not a manly man builder type.  I can watch a youtube video and figure out most things, but I have a bit of a mental block about things that are mechanical.  In part I think it is because my father is so damned amazing at it.  I realize he grew up in an era when if you didn’t fix it yourself it stayed broken, and my grandfather was the king of tinkerers.  For me however, since I spent most of my childhood sick… I just simply was not exposed to it…  apart from getting to be the loyal “flashlight holder”.

At a young age I think I told myself I couldn’t do this.  There are things that are well in the realm of my mastery.  You give me a few boxes, scissors, magic markers and tape… and I will build for you a GI-Joe base that will make you weep.  However you dump a heap of mechanical bits on the table and I cannot see the same possibilities.  Growing up with a machinist for a father was a really interesting and awesome thing.  When I broke a wheel off one of my hot wheels… he would take it away to a magical land where it would come back with a shiny new wheel better than the previous.  He would take it over to work and machine out of scrap aluminum a wheel, then carefully wrap it in electrical tape for traction…finally carefully attaching it back to my hot wheel.  My father could make magic happen.

I just wish I appreciated it more at the time.  When Star Wars was all the rage, I wanted nothing more than the Death Star play set.  I did not grow up with a lot of money, so spending $100 on a cheap plastic and cardboard play set was really out of the question.  That Christmas instead my dad hand crafted me a Death Star that was far cooler than anything store bought ever could have been.  I am still not sure exactly how he built it, but he had some long screw running down the back of the unit with a crank up top. and a machined elevator that rode up and down on the screw.  So that I could crank my action figures up and down between the floors.  Now I appreciate just how ingenious it was, but probably at the time I wished I had the “real thing”.

As my father is getting older, I am starting to have to figure these things out on my own.  I know at some point he won’t be there to call for advice.  Someday I will have to learn the lessons he had to learn.  I admit it scares me, to think about a world where a master builder like my father doesn’t exist.  I don’t think he really knows how in awe of his abilities I am, and how much I wish I had his natural intuition for how things should go together.  I should really remedy that, but my father is a lot like me, and not really great at saying these sorts of things in person.  There are times I think that maybe he DID pass on his legacy to me, but that it just changed over the years.  I am good at computers and hacking around with software to get it to work the way I want it to work.  Then when I can’t find whatever it is that I am looking for, I know that I can crack open Visual Studio and build it myself.  So maybe just maybe I have some of that same magic too.

Late Night Doctor Who

Mad Man with a Box

Since today is Steampowered Sunday, I thought I would do my factoid as a separate post again, simply because if feels really odd to tack on personal bits on the tail end of “feature”.  Since I vowed to finish this month with a factoid a day, this seems like the best way of handling that.  Anyways… as I have stated before I grew up in a really small town.  There are smaller I am sure, but 2500 people is pretty damned small especially for being a county seat.  As a result I did not have cable until I went to college.  The cable ran to within a quarter mile of my house growing up, but because of that we were limited to six channels.  Essentially an NBC affiliate, CBS affiliate, ABC affiliate, Fox, UPN and the local PBS channel.

Since network television has always been crap, I spent a good chunk of my childhood watching Public Broadcasting like Mister Rogers or Nova.  Late at night however the PBS channel changed and brought into our living room all these excellent British television shows.  They varied over the years from Are You Being Served, Faulty Towers, Monty Python, Keeping Up Appearances, Benny Hill, Blakes 7, The Tripods… but the constant was always Doctor Who.  Some of my fondest memories of my father were staying up late to watch Doctor Who.

Late Night Doctor Who

fourthdoctor I realize it is not much of a shocker that me… a notorious geek… loves Doctor Who.  It goes deeper than that.  The first Doctor I can really remember is Jon Pertwee aka the Third Doctor.  However to me Doctor Who will always be the fourth doctor, Tom Baker.  Seeing that hat and that scarf still gives me warm fuzzies.  Doctor Who above all represented what was good and right in the world.  The solemn defender that used his mind rather than brute force to solve problems.  While I love the modern incarnation of Doctor Who as well, it is simply a different animal.  For as crappy as the special effects were, even rewatching the old episodes on netflix, everything from that era felt more fantastical and hopeful.

Doctor Who also gave me and my father a time to bond together.  It was not something my mother liked at all, so she gave us the time to hang out together.  More or less I was raised by my mother and grandmother, in that they were the people who I spent most of my time with.  My dad was almost always working, and when he was off work he was busy with his photography business.  So the moments when I got to just hang out with my dad felt few and far between.  Even today when we get together, the topic will eventually lead its way back to whatever is happening in the current series with the current doctor.

While there are a lot of things that I am nostalgic about, and am willing to geek out over…  Doctor Who just feels more pure.  While the show has better special effects and has ratcheted up the horror factor a notch or two… it still feels very much the same show at its core.  It will and always has been about a mad man with a box, who deeply loved what he saw special and different in humanity.  That gives me hope for us as a species, that this lonely man from Gallifrey could care about us that much.  I hope that the series continues on forever, infecting each new generation of viewers with the same spirit of wonder.

Belghast Hates Crowds

Mixed Up Day

eso 2014-02-15 17-55-35-41 This has been a really odd day.  I am doing a second post today so that I can do my factoid.  I didn’t really want to include it as part of the previous one… because the previous one was pretty epic.  I woke this morning to find that the NDA had lifted for Elder Scrolls Online.  I have seriously been waiting for this day for so long, but oddly enough I was relatively unprepared.  I didn’t have all my ducks in a row, and tons of material ready to post once the embargo had dropped.  I guess it makes sense, as winging it is more my style.  Hopefully over the coming weeks until the release I will keep posting little tidbits.  The NDA lift was only relating to the beta weekend content, namely the first 3-4 zones for each faction.  As a result there are still a few things I can’t really talk about fully yet.

Nothing at all really went as planned today.  Originally we were going to get up and around, and I was to take my wife to meet a friend.  Then they were going to my mother-in-laws to pick up a baby goat.  Yes that does sound strange I know… but it was a thing that was happening.  Basically the goat would go to our friends house and be able to roam freely on what is ending up as being a pseudo livestock sanctuary.  Things happened however and we wound up spending the entire time killing time…  only to find out about 4 pm that it was not going to happen at all today.  Had I know all of this to start off, I would have blogged in the morning.

Belghast Hates Crowds

It was an absolutely lovely day, so while we were stuck in a holding pattern… we at least got to run most of the errands that had been stacking up.  Since it has been below freezing for what feels like a month, everyone was out and about with the same basic idea we had.  The problem with this is the fact that every single place we went was crowded.  Crowds are something that causes extreme anxiety in me.  If people are packed in too tightly in too small of a space, I get this severe fight or flight instinct.

Earlier in the day my wife wanted to run by our local Goodwill, which is a pretty small store in the first place.  To make things worse they were apparently having some insane half off sale or something.  The result was that you could barely move around the store.  I had run over to the convenience store to get us drinks for the road, and thankfully by the time I fought my way inside she was ready to go.  The moment I stepped inside this massive panic set over me, and as I pushed through to where she was it was like my skin was crawling.  In most times by sheer power of will I can reset the desire to run screaming away.  That is not to say that the instinct is not there and is not strong.

This seems to be something I inherited from my father, and his father before him and so on down our family line.  I grew up in a town of 2500, and my grandfather refused to go to the grocery store, or to the sonic drive in… because there were too many people there.  My father, cannot make it for more than a few minutes in most stores without having to return to the car and wait for my mother.  The fact that I can exist in society and live a pretty normal life is a real boon.  The older I get however, the worse it seems to get.  The place that it bothers me the most is a crowded elevator.  Being a big guy already, trying to squeeze into a standing room only metal box is something I can barely handle.  There was a time at which I could go to concerts, but now that many people assembled in one place just is an impassible barrier.

For the most part I have found ways to mitigate my anxiety.  Movie theaters are a huge problem, with people crammed in tightly.  So to get past that I tend to go to matinees where there are simply not that many people.  If I can get an entire row by myself I can normally make it through the experience just fine.  For example this past Friday I got out to see the Lego Movie at the 4:15 showing… giving me pretty much free reign of the place.  So knowing that the instincts will set in, I can just avoid situations that will make me try and climb the walls.

Married at the House of Vacuums

Belgarde Keep

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-14 06-11-05-53 Over the last two days there have been a couple of significant patches to Landmark.  You can check out the patch notes herehere for more information.  The most exciting of the changes is the fix to the way trees/plants/rocks kept respawning on our claims with no real way to remove them.  In previous shots of my forest keep the overall view had been obstructed by a couple of giant trees.  Now you can see a fairly clear view of the place.  I have given up on calling it a temple, because really it no longer looks anything at all like a temple.  Instead I have officially renamed it to “Belgarde Keep”.  Last night I spent quite a bit of work starting to flesh out the details.  You can see in this image that we now have the wooden posts sticking out from each floor as though they were coming from the ceiling beams.  Additionally I have started replacing my main columns with ones that include some inset stucco.

Another really cool thing of note last night is that with the patches Sapphire and Ruby have been more sane and rational to collect.  In fact if you are lucky you can now find surface spawn nodes.  Over the course of a couple of these nodes I managed to gather up more of each gem than I had gotten to date allowing me to finally craft the Indigo Pick.  Of course I got a rather crappy one on my first attempt, but all the excess sapphires allowed me to craft another cobalt pick, and after a little bit of farming tonight hopefully I will make a second shot at the Indigo.  While they have reduced the amount of burled wood you need slightly to convert from raw to the craftable material…  this still seems to be the bottleneck in almost everything that I want to craft.  I made another attempt at a better axe last night and managed to get one just slightly faster.

At this point my focus over the next few days is to attempt to get a better Indigo pick, gather the materials for upgraded machinery and continue to work on fine detail for the keep as a whole.  I need to start gathering the tier 5 resources but to be honest I am not even sure what they look like at this point.  Right now the biggest thing I am not quite happy with in my keep design is the single pillar that supports the balcony.  I expect now that the tree is out of the way I will rework that design feature extensively.  I might try a curved balcony, I have ideas in my head on what that would be to craft but not sure exactly yet now to go about it especially since I would need to curve both the railing and the flooring.

Toxic Love

Wow-64 2014-02-14 06-28-16-80 Earlier in the week I posted about the ongoing Love is in the Air event happening right now in World of Warcraft to coincide with Valentines Day.  I had pretty much ignored the event until the last few days because in general, I queue for the dungeon each day and I walk away each day with nothing but a stack of useless Love Tokens.  In past years I have queued faithfully each day only to somehow miss getting any of the pets and mounts.  So this year I was not any more expectant of something cool…  but since everyone else was doing it I felt I should probably start running them each day on all 6 of my 90s.

Giant-chu-chu Finally last night my streak of nothing changed… at least to some extent.  While I did not manage to get one of the mounts, I did however get the toxic wasteling pictured above.  I realize it is just a ball of slime, but I find it far cuter than the other oozeling that I have.  This is one of the newer models and minus the insane eyes… it kinda reminds me of a ChuChu from the Legend of Zelda series as pictured on the right.  At least I feel like this years queueing was not a complete and total waste.  While I would love to get the a Swift Lovebird I simply did not start the event soon enough to gather up the needed 250 tokens.

norexmanningday

I have to share this image really quickly that @ManaBrownies posted over on twitter yesterday of ALL THE LOVEBIRDS.  The thing that tickles me the most however is not the fact that you have multiple love birds and mini pet versions… but instead their guild name.  I love that name so much, and if you don’t get the reference…  which is probably likely since it is totally esoteric.  I suggest you watch Empire Records, which oddly enough is on the long list of favorite movies.

Married at the House of Vacuums

In honor of Valentines Day I have another related factoid.  My wife and I were Married at the House of Vacuums.  Before we get to that point I have to explain a bit about our wedding in general.  All we ever wanted was a very simple wedding.  In college when we began planning it, we pictured this simple outdoor wedding with just the immediate family.  However over time this plan morphed to nightmarish proportions.  My mother took ahold of the guest list and started wanting to add everything under the sun, including my fourth grade teacher.

Then there was the fact that an outdoor wedding was simply not good enough.  Since I grew up catholic, apparently you are not really married in the eyes of the church unless it happens inside of a catholic church.  So she wanted us to have two weddings… the real outdoor wedding and then another smaller service in a catholic church so we were “legitimate”.  I have never been really big on rules and regulations, and there was no way in hell I wanted to have two separate weddings just to make some religion happy.  Especially one that I do not abide by myself and have not been a member of since I had the freedom to choose my own path in life.  She was getting entirely too involved in the process and planning something neither of us wanted.

Finally there was the issue of who to walk my wife down the isle.  She is from a split household, one that split years after her birth.  So she had two complete households and as a result two fathers.  Her step dad was a quiet and unassuming man, and would do literally anything for her… often making excuses to plan a trip up to college to come see us for the silliest reasons.  Her biological father at that point in her life was not terribly engaged, and while I have come to love him… was very pushy and brash.  So her step father would have been quiet about it, but wounded for life if he did not get to walk her down the isle.  Whereas her biological father would have made a grand scene likely disowning us if he was not the one to walk her down the isle.

image We had set and unset the date many times, but as the three ring circus careened off in a direction we were not willing to go with it, we decided that we needed none of it.  All that mattered was that we were together, and as a result we opted to elope.  That conjures visions of romantically running away to some fabled location, but in truth we simply managed to run around town and gather all the necessary things to be legally married in one day.  We found a little marriage chapel in town, that had an opening the next day.  While we were not technically married at the House of Vacuums, the marriage chapel we went to was around the corner in the same strip mall.  My cousins and our best friend at the time stood up for us as witnesses, and we had a nice simple wedding service presided by a female minister that I cannot for the life of me remember the name of any longer.

Parts of our family, namely my mother was I am sure pissed at me for years over robbing her of her big day.  However like everything else in our lives we managed to get married “our way”.  My wife and I are both very non-conventional and pragmatic, so eloping to the House of Vacuums was simply “our way” of dealing with the challenges at hand.  There has not been a single day I regretted our decision, and now I have an interesting story to tell.  At the end of the day that is worth far more to me than having been crammed into a tuxedo and forced to go through a series of events we didn’t really want in the first place.  At one point her biological father offered us a large sum of money to elope… but he never actually made good on that promise.  I guess it was a good thing we did it because we wanted to.

International Cupid

Short term commitment

Yesterday a friend of mine asked me if it would be okay if she played Elder Scrolls with the House Stalwart group.  She was not sure how into the game she was, so might only be around for a month or so.  She wanted to make sure no one would be upset with her not staying terribly long.  She was afraid that House Stalwart were more dedicated members and might take offense to that.  I of course assuaged her fears, since Stalwart as a whole is super casual and primarily a social guild.  However what came next was a realization that I am not sure I had actually admitted to myself.

When I go into one of these games I don’t really expect folks to last more than a few months.  That has been the track record with new games and our guild especially.  This was so much the case with Final Fantasy XIV that I even started what I feel is going to be a new thing for me.  When I subscribed to that game I chose to do so for three months and then immediately went into the back end and cancelled my account.  That way it would essentially self destruct after three months unless I made some form of manual intervention to renew it.  While you might think this is me not having faith in the game… it is more that I am not having faith in myself.

Other than World of Warcraft, each game I have played has been a three to six month encounter.  While there are still games that I play semi-regularly, the tempest of activity has usually died down into a spring breeze at or around the three month mark.  It feels to me that we are inherently either gaming lifers, or game jumpers.  If you look at my own guild our I would say we have roughly sixty players that have only ever played WoW and cannot imagine playing another game.  Then there is a pool of forty or so that tend to play whatever happens to be the next great game in the internet cultural zeitgeist.  This experience has lead me to the new stance of giving a game three months of subscription and then evaluating where I stand after that.

Cash Shop Expansion

rift 2014-02-13 06-28-17-76 Yesterday the big 2.6 patch went in over in Rift and I have to say I have been watching this one with a bit of excitement.  There are a ton of new features going into the game and you can read highlights of them over on this little info blurb created by Trion.  This is the point at which I am going to be a bit of a downer, because after logging in last night I realized… the things I am most interested are really freaking expensive.  A big thing they added in was the ability to start applying cosmetic skins to your pets.  This has been one of my key frustrations with the pet classes that unlike the WoW Hunter we had no real control over what our pets looked like.  There have been some really ugly pets as well… I am looking at you emaciated beastlord blue tiger thing.  Most of these have improved to where the base pet is at least passable, but I would never turn down the opportunity to tweak the appearance.

Problem is that they are really expensive, in order to get all of the new skins… something that admittedly not everyone is going to want… they are running a special on them for roughly $70 worth of in game currency.  Once the special is over however that price quadruples for the full unlock.  Individual class based unlocks are more reasonable at around $7 per class.  These are of course guesstimates based on the fact that in the $20 bundle it breaks out to be 160 credits per dollar.  I feel like the whole budgie mount thing has maybe unfairly colored my opinion of the cash shop as a whole.  Once upon a time it felt extremely reasonable, but now everything just seems more expensive than I want to pay for it.

The biggest thing I was interested in during this patch was the Dreamweaving profession.  Once again however I was hit by the realization that in order to play with that it would involve me plunking down some cash to buy another trade skill extension.  I don’t want to roll a brand new character just to be able to play with the profession, and I don’t really want to unlearn any of my already max level professions from my characters to pick up this new one.  I realize it is a first world problem, and in a game like WoW we would have no choice at all but to do just that.  However last night I was being irrational and felt extremely frustrated by having to make that choice.

Basically the only thing left that really made me excited after having the other two shiny baubles behind a paywall I didn’t feel like crossing… was the bounty system.  I will admit I am pretty excited about this.  One of the features that I loved from Dark Age of Camelot that no other game has really gotten right was the ability to create trophies of certain mobs out in the world.  Our guild hall was full of these because I was constantly going out and collecting the “remains” needed to craft them.  Rift seems to have finally created a version of that system that looks like it will work in modern terms.  However after the frustrations up until that point, I just didn’t feel like sinking in the needed research to figure out exactly how the system worked. 

I am sure at some point soon I will revisit it and be happy as a clam hunting down trophies.  I just fear that this is he new reality for a game like Rift.  When we get a patch, it will involve a little bit of free content and a lot of content you will have to hit the cash shop button to be able to truly enjoy.  My frustration mostly is due the fact that I am a patron and have been one since the transition of that program.  I feel like overall that is a “bad deal” since the loyalty accrual is excessively slow, there is no monthly credit allowance, and we still end up having to buy the new baubles when they come out.  Sure the various daily buffs are nice, and I likely would not have made it to 60 on my rogue without them…  but it feels like there should be at least some regular allowance of credits that can add up over time to be able to buy stuff from the store.

International Cupid

Today in light of Valentines being tomorrow, I have a factoid that I rarely tell.  It is really weird how chance, fate, kismet… whatever you want to call it works sometimes.  My wife and I grew up thirty minutes apart from each other in neighboring towns.  It turns out that we knew several of the same people, went to several of the same places, and were probably in the same room multiple times during our lives.  We would not have met however were it not for a mutual friend in Belgium.  During the early days of the internet, we were both IRC junkies.  Internet Relay Chat opened up a door to a world much larger than our own, and let us converse with people around the world…  breakout out of our very limited small town upbringings.

Chatrooms in truth were a lot like we view guilds today, as a little social family that you hung out with.  People shifted back and forth between them freely, and much like running content with some friends guild you hopped back and forth between channels freely.  I’ve always been interested in programming and for awhile I got really into writing IRC bots.  I would build little games into them, with dice rollers, character sheets and combat.  It was through one of these bots that I met Hans.  He asked me to come help him out with one of the bots on his channel, and it was one of the nights I was in his channel working on it that I saw a familiar address pop into the channel.  Back in that day, you could see what internet service provider someone was connecting from, and over time I learned to immediately recognize all the local ones.

Out of the blue I messaged the new person who had entered the room saying something dumb to the equivalent of “not often that I see a local”.  Apparently I freaked her out a little, since at the time I was logged into the bot.  Observational skills were never a strong point.  Hans apparently verified that I was a nice guy, and non-stalkerish because over the course of the next few weeks we struck up a friendship.  Over Easter weekend she was heading back to her hometown, and we decided to meet up and go to the movies together.  At this point it was just two friends hanging out and meeting in real life.  We got along just fine, but neither of us was really looking for anything at that point so dating didn’t even dawn on either of us I don’t think.

As fate would have it, I was planning on transferring to the university she was attending, so at the very least it would be awesome to have some friends on campus.  It was not until I had actually transferred that sparks really happened.  To be honest we moved very quickly from “dating”, to being essentially inseparable from that point onwards.  There were no long drawn out courtship rituals for us, we were far more practical than that.  I still marvel at just how odd it was, that we had grown up so close to each other, but that it took someone half a world away to introduce us.  Years later as we talked about our childhoods we have come up with several points at which we were likely in the same place at the same time.  Thankfully we have an international cupid to thank for finally connecting us.

The Mafioso’s Daughter

Weekly Routines

Wow-64 2014-02-11 23-20-48-41 With yesterday being server reset day in World of Warcraft, I opted to take a break from my Landmark madness to do my weekly boss farming for mounts.  Out of my stable of six level 90 characters, there are three that can solo Onyxia in a manner that makes me not want to pull out my hair.  The very first time I tried doing Ony as a Blood Deathknight for example it took at least 30 minutes of diseases/deathcoil/icy touch to finally bring her down to the ground.  However I have figured out that as Frost Deathknight, Retribution Paladin, and Enhancement Shaman I can make short work of her.  As a result every Tuesday it has become a thing, for me to run those three characters through the fight in an attempt to get the ever illusive reins of the onyxian drake.

Of course like expected the kills went quickly but I had no better luck than any of the previous weeks getting the drop.  It was at this point that I decided while I was farming content, I might as well take a few stabs at Kael’thas and his Ashes of Al’ar.  The funny thing is… I don’t even like that mount, but it has become a point of pride for me to farm one up.  So while I do at least one attempt every week, it is not like I would ever ride it.  So far I have managed to solo the instance as Blood and Frost Deathknight and as Retribution Paladin…  and I am wondering if I will be able to do it as Enhancement Shaman.  Of course once again this week nothing of any interest dropped.

Finally while I was wallowing in my bitterness I opted to run all six of my characters through the holiday event instance.  This year around it drops 480 necklaces, which unfortunately all of my characters have better.  However I did manage to pick up a tanky necklace upgrade for my Paladin.  Once again I am chasing a mount, but more than anything for total numbers… because there is no way in hell I would ever ride the Big Love Rocket around, but I would consider riding the Love Bird.  More than anything I would be after the handful of pets.  I normally don’t mess with the holiday events.  Once I completed my violet proto drake, I have mostly ignored them.  They are however pretty fast to run, since no queue last night lasted longer than 7 minutes as dps.

We Were Playing It Wrong

image Over the last few days I have been complaining about the lack of Sapphire and Ruby or at least the difficulty of gathering it up.  Yesterday I noticed the above tweet from Dave Georgeson, it seems like maybe we as a community was overlooking the intended way to get these.  I had piddled around early in the game with a +1 discovery ring and didn’t see much difference, but at the suggestion of the tweet I crafted the Assessor’s Band and managed to get a +4 one.  With it equipped alongside the existing +1 I am seeing a massive difference in the number of veins open to me as I wander through the world.  I am sure you have been through the frustrating case of seeing a huge vein in the distance, but when you get up there finally there is nothing there.  Well apparently that is what discovery is for.

 

After equipping the two rings, for the most part those veins stay in place as I get closer to them.  Additionally the discovery trait also seems to interact with how often I get the rare drop from each item.  This means I am getting more elementals, burled wood and as a result seeing more veins that have sapphire and ruby in them.  They are still frustratingly rare, but less so.  I did not play for extremely long last night, but I did manage to get a couple dozen gems of each type.  Supposedly we are getting a patch today or tomorrow that will fix the issues that have arisen with boulders and trees spawning again on claims, with no real way to remove them.  I am mostly waiting for this before I do much more building as I can’t really see my keep as a whole until I can remove some trees.

The Mafioso’s Daughter

Before I met my wonderful wife, there were plenty of missteps along the way.  Most of them are not really entertaining in any fashion, but one I always felt like I dodged a bullet with…  potentially literally.  While I was still attending a junior college I met a really nice ballet major attending a nearby college.  She seemed great, but early on I could tell that she was used to operating in a much higher tax bracket than I was.  It wasn’t anything major, but her expectations of what “going out” meant were far different than that of my small town upbringing.  After a few dates she pulled me aside and told me that she was starting to get serious about me…  but there was something I needed to know.

It turns out that her family was connected to the mafia.  She kind of brushed this off as no big deal or as something “I would get used to”.  Her father ran some large electronics store, and they lived down the street from the Gotti clan in Long Island.  We didn’t have Google back then, but over the course of a few online searches and some mapquest usage… it seemed like her story checked out.  I’m a boy scout literally…  I am not the type of person that “high crime” has ever appealed to.  While I love watching shows like Boardwalk Empire, I have never once romanticized that lifestyle.  It had become very clear over the course of the dates that she was “daddy’s little girl”, so I felt it was probably bad for my health if I did not let her down gently.

I did my best to be “less interesting” that I would hopefully make her lose interest in me, and over the course of a few weeks it worked.  I wanted no part of the “family business”, but at the same time I didn’t want to break her heart… and have mine shot in the process.  Sure I am probably over exaggerating the danger here, but it definitely freaked me the hell out.  Looking back now I can regale you with the tale of the time I dated the Mafioso’s Daughter, but when I was going through it, nothing about it seemed funny.  I doubt there was every a time where I would have just “gotten used to it”.  Thankfully not terribly long after that I met my awesome wife, and everything before is now just a humorous footnote.

Democratizing Access

Democratizing Access

Trove 2014-01-29 06-10-34-60 Over the last few weeks there has been a subtopic that has sprung up several times in blog comments threads and occasionally over on twitter regarding the selling of beta access.  More so a lot of the discussion has centered around the trend of the public paying to beta test a product for a company.  For me I tend to lump all of these schemes together be it a kickstarter you might support, or steam early access or something like the trove or landmark presales.  In all of the cases you are giving the company a stream of funding on the promise of getting early access to their game so that you can play it first.  Quite honestly I am completely fine with this trend and think it is overall a good thing.

At this point I have been over a hundred alpha and beta programs for various games.  I used to try and keep track of them all but to be honest I simply cannot.  Every time I turn around I am in a new beta program with a new NDA.  Previously getting into these programs, especially the more coveted ones involved knowing the right people or being extremely lucky with a random roll of the dice.  I will admit I have talked to a friend of a friend who got me on that desired friends and family list more than a few times for a game I was extremely interested in.  To be honest, the system that existed just is not fair to the gamer, and involved a whole lot of cronyism…  did I abuse this fact to get access to what I wanted?  Hell yes I did.

For the the concept of buying into a program just seems more just.  If you care enough to plunk down your money in support of a game, then by all means you should have access to alpha and beta testing.  I think it changes more than just that, in the programs I have been a part of recently that really worked well… the company is more accountable to its paid testers.  They have been all the more responsive with feedback and taken bug submissions all the more seriously.  Additionally in each of these games where I have been essentially a paid tester, I have seen a faster development of new feature sets and rapid patching schedules.  Trove for example it is unusual that we go a week without a major feature being added.

For me at least, who is someone that does not mind adding my support to a title I believe in before I have seen it…  this trend is a good thing.  If you think about it in a certain light, this is really no different than preordering a game months in advance.  When you decide to purchase that collectors edition, you are taking a gamble on the game being something you will want to play for the long haul.  When The Secret World came out, I took a gamble and purchased the lifetime membership, thinking it would be a game that I would enjoy for a good time to come.  While I do not play it every week, I still feel like I got my value out of that initial purchase, and log in frequently enough to feel like I am still using it.  I think like most things, all of this is a matter of perspective, but I feel like this shift in systems is far more fair than the previous ones.

Cough Syrup Gems

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-11 06-29-12-29 Last night I managed to find enough sapphires to be able to craft my cobalt pick.  Unfortunately it is a pretty crappy one, but so far the ones my friends have made have all been lousy.  My hope is that once I can craft the indigo pick I will once again get a blue or better quality.  For now however I am using my viridian pick on anything it can mine out, and then only switching to my cobalt pick to actually consume the rubicite and ruby veins.  Speaking of which… if I thought sapphire was frustrating I feel like I am in for a long haul when it comes to finding the 120 ruby needed to craft the indigo pick.  Right now the only way to find ruby is at the bottom of a surface spawning rubicite vein.  Unfortunately like the above image shows… most rubicite you find on the surface is really just an upside down cobalt vein.

So whereas seeing red used to make me a sad panda… seeing blue in my rubicite veins has the same effect.  Right now I have managed to gather up 45 of the 120 rubies, but I still need a large quantity of elemental rubicite as well.  Luckly I have a ton of side projects that I want to complete, and as a result I still need large quantities of gold and tungsten and to be truthful cobalt and sapphires to be able to complete several of the upgraded crafting benches.  Right now I have upgraded to the amaranthe forge, but the rest of my machines are at the lowest possible level.  It is funny how often my machines get used by my neighbors.  That is one of the aspects I love about this game, I will be in my little keep crafting away and next thing I know someone comes by to say hello and either ask if they can use my machines, or compliment me on the building.  There is already a small but budding community happening in the various islands.

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-11 06-45-18-18 Between sessions of looking for sapphires and rubies I put in quite a bit more work on the Forest Temple that has now turned into more of a Forest Keep.  I completed the wood brace beams in the ceilings of most of the floors, and started working on the basement “undercroft area”.  Now all of the machines are located there and I decided to only display the most current machine to ease confusion.  Additionally I built a “vault” area where I wrapped my vault portal in stone so that it just looks like a portal in the wall of sorts.  I am almost to the point where I will begin fine detail work.  I am considering trying to make some mosaics using the triangle block to inset in the walls, but I am not 100% sold on that notion.  Essentially I would use the various ores as a sort of stained glass.  I uploaded another album of photos to show the recent progress.

I’ve Never Used My College Degree

The title of today’s factoid is a bit misleading, since any college degree gets used to some extent at least in being able to check off a box on a resume search, however I have never been employed in a field that has actually used mine.  Throughout High School I was torn between two loves, that being Art and Computers.  There was a point in my senior year where I was enrolled in four different college degree programs for the coming year, because I simply could not make up my mind which path I wanted to choose.  Being somewhat pragmatic, I chose to attend a junior college and get my basics out of the way on the cheap as I tried to make up my mind… the whole “what do you want to be when you grow up” question.

I decided to take an associates program that was brand new that year called “Desktop Video Production”.  Primarily it consisted of lots of 2D and 3D animation work on the Amiga/Video Toaster, a fair amount of computer science and programming classes, and some old school production video work and classic video editing technique.  Being a brand new degree program, everything was experimental and when a few of the classes didn’t make I had to get substitutions made so I could get out of there in two years.  At this point I was greatly leaning towards art, so I opted to transfer into a four year university and enter the commercial art program.  Since I had an associates, they decided to transfer any computer science hours that did not specifically map up to something they had as a computer science minor.

It was here that I made a shift again, the more into the art curriculum I got, the more and more I shifted to doing as much as I could on the computer.  I became the lab manager for the fine arts lab, and tutored folks through Photoshop, Corel, Quark Xpress and a few 3D animation packages.  It was around this point when I started looking at the job market that I realized exactly what the term “starving artist” meant.  While in college I got a job as the system administrator and webmaster for a small internet service provider.  It was here that I managed to get the “by the bootstraps” education in networking, server administration, and a good bit of serious web programming.  I realized that if I wanted to be making a decent living, that I would be far better off following my computer tendencies.

Straight out of college I got a job as a webmaster for a fairly large company and over the years that morphed into more serious programming.  At this point I’ve shifted back and forth between web and windows programming, even doing a small a bit of low level device driver programming on occasion.  All the while almost entirely abandoning the Bachelor of Commercial Arts degree that I ended up with.  Sure especially on the web there is a good aspect of commercial art that you end up doing, so this is why I say my factoid is a bit misleading.  However it is very true that I have never once worked as an artist, at least for profit.  The interesting thing about being a programmer without having a serious computer science background, is that I think it gives me a slightly different perspective.  Often times when sitting in a room with computer science majors, I will come up with an off the wall solution that ends up saving the day.  I guess in the end I am thankful for my non-traditional background.

Saddest Sight Ever Seen

Saddest Sight Ever Seen

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-10 06-07-39-53 If this image is not enough to ball up your fists in rage and scream out “why god why!” then you are not yet to the cobalt pick grind in Everquest Next Landmark.  The moment you see red in a cobalt vein you know that your hopes and dreams have been dashed on the rocks in front of you.  As I entered the cobalt era I was certain that the problem would be elemental cobalt as it had been in every other tier.  I have never been so wrong in my life.  Up until this point the gem component of your items has been the “easy” thing to get, since gems tend to be surface spawns that you can zip around the map looking for.  This all changes with Sapphire… and name you will come to hate.

It turns out that Sapphire can only spawn at the tail end of a cobalt vein.  In my experience however this is a one in twenty type occurrence as almost every single cobalt vein contains the crystallized cough syrup known as Rubicite.  Don’t get me wrong, I get happy shivers at the fact that I will eventually get to mine up Rubicite… and maybe just maybe make it into an amazing set of armor.  I loved Temple of Cazic Thule, and I was a bit too late to soak up the Rubicite armor from there when I started in Velious but it was a thing of mythic proportions that I lusted after.  The problem is… since we need 80 sapphire to make our cobalt pick I am beginning to curse the sight of it.

At this point I have found exactly two Cobalt veins that had sapphire at the end, which has netted me 28 sapphire in total.  On the other hand I have 25,000 cobalt ore and 170 elemental cobalt to show for my best impression of dig dug.  From what I hear it only gets worse when you start needing Ruby, which can only be found at the tail end of ground spawn Rubicite veins.  Most of the ground spawn rubicite is sitting beside cobalt generally meaning they are all part of the same mega vein.  My friend Rae managed to power through the sapphire level in about three hours, but based on my experience yesterday this seems like she managed to get lucky.  Since each of the tier 3 zones tends to have a little bit of a mix, I might just need to abandon my beloved Pingo for a bit and search elsewhere.

The Root Problem

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-10 06-24-23-91 Notice something weird in this picture?  Yup that is right, it is in fact silver spawning in Pingo a Tier Three zone.  The problem right now is that Tier 3 has become a dumping ground for everything that is high end.  This means to find your rarer spawns you are having to sift through a ton of Iron, Silver, Tungsten, Gold, Marble and all of the associated tier 2 and 3 gems.  At some point I am sure they will add tier 4 and 5 zones, but until they we have to scrounge to find the higher tier resources in one massive melting pot of a zone.  I realize this is all extremely temporary, as they have mentioned already on the forums that tier 4 and 5 are coming, so I am not so much complaining and just venting my frustration… and warning those who have not reached this point yet that they might want to slow down and smell the roses a bit.

There are still a lot of things I want to build, so while I am out soaking up all the cobalt I find in hope of sapphires… I am also trying to gather up as much gold as I can since there are still a few nifty things I can build with it.  I have heard that the Viridium Grappling Hook is much better than the bronze one, so I am anxiously looking forward to having enough elemental gold to craft it.  Similarly I have a bunch of crafting machines that I can work on upgrading.  I plan on making my Cobalt pick at one of the communal crafting hubs rather than trying to craft the Amaranthine forge for my own claim.  Though to be honest… since the forge takes no sapphire I might end up with more than enough resources to craft it first.

The Silver Lining

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-10 06-05-53-24 The silver lining is of course that I now have more stone than I know what to do with.  This has allowed me to take breaks from all the farming to work on my temple.  At this point calling it a temple is maybe a bit of a misnomer since depending on the angle you look at it, it may or may not look like a castle.  The biggest thing on my wishlist right now is the ability to completely remove a tree.  I have several that keep respawning in awkward places…  like the stairwell between the second and third floor for example.  At this point I have added a third and fourth floor and have started working on a tower on the upper ramparts.  Trying to figure exactly where I want to go from here.  I am considering making the undercroft stone rather than its current dirt, but in any case I have more than enough resources to do whatever at this point.

House Husband

I was at a loss for what to write about as my factoid for today, so going to one I have held in reserve for awhile.  I have never been terribly big on traditional gender roles in my marriage.  I tend to believe that a marriage is a shared voyage and whatever it takes to get through together is what needs to happen.  As a result I tend to be the “Mr Mom” of our household.  My wife is a teacher, and for those of you who have teachers in your life… they are grossly underpaid for their work.  My wife happens to be one of those rockstar teachers that refuses to accept anything but the absolute best for her kids.  As a result she quite literally works 70-80 hours a week between classroom, lesson plans, grading, and the plethora of councils that she sits on as a member and the extra duties she has willingly taken on.  Most nights I am home by 4:30pm and she doesn’t get home until after 7.

The truth is I have much more disposable time than she does, as evidenced by the fact of my gaming.  So as a result during the school year especially I take on the lions share of household chores.  This means I cook, clean, take care of the animals, do laundry, do almost all the grocery shopping and anything else that happens to need to get done during the week.  The only chore that I do not do, is the dishes… but I could and I have in a pinch.  My mother was a Home Economics teacher… and as a result she was tired of seeing boys come through her classroom that were completely incapable of taking care of themselves.  Her mission in life was to make sure that I could do whatever I needed to do to be self sufficient.  While I suck at using a sewing machine, I can even do that in a pinch…  though I am far more comfortable with needle and thread.

The original plan was simple.  I have lots of disposable time so I would pick up the slack during the school year, and then over the summer I get a break… and do nothing.  This however has not quite worked out as well as we had planned it.  The problem is part of being a rockstar teacher is going around the country to various conferences over the summer.  My wife has even gone so far as to work with a group of other teachers and found her own summer conference.  So several weeks out of the summer I do get to do absolutely nothing, but the majority of it these days is business as usual.  I really don’t mind too much, but there are days where I do get sick of keeping the household running.  So all you folks who juggle family and house and still try and find some time for yourselves…  I know those feels.

Beardly Dedication

Press NDA Lifted

There has been a lot of confusion in the last 24 hours as Zenimax has lifted the NDA just far enough to allow a bunch of press outlets to post stories.  Massively crafted a really poorly worded tweet stating that the ESO NDA Had lifted.  Even though they followed up almost immediately with a correction stating that it only applies to the press and media beta…  it has caused massive amounts of confusion.  As a result there are so many video leaks going on right now, a good number of them seem to have an axe to grind with the game in general.  I am still very firmly under a gag order but I feel that is a bit of a disservice to the game as a whole.

Most of the albeit scathing reviews of the game seem to be missing the general point.  I feel like right now a lot of people are going into this game with the expectation of it being something that it is not.  This is the problem of a broad game like The Elder Scrolls.  Every player has a certain way that they want to play the game, and if their chosen game play isn’t supported then obviously it is a horrible game.  Apparently there are players out there who legitimately do nothing but steal stuff from stores, or players who do nothing but kill quest giver NPCs.  These are just a few of the fringe game play styles that I have seen mentioned on the more public forums that certain fragments of the population are up in arms over.

Thing is… the game seems to be selling extremely well.  The game has firmly been on the top 10 best sellers list on Amazon.com since releasing.  So lots of people still have interest in the game despite the sour grapes reviews that are coming out.  At this point I feel like Zenimax needs to open the flood gates and let the actual fans who have been sticking by the title speak for it.  This is not an insignificant number of players mind you, but each of us is bound by the same NDA gag order, and unable to say a single thing in defense of the title.  Keeping the NDA in place, and stating that there will not be a fully open beta before release… only serves to give the public the impression that the game has something to hide.  The game has absolutely nothing to hide, and I look forward to the day when I can talk about it without hedging everything I say in grand generalizations.  The video I linked above is my favorite of the batch of “reviews” and Dan Bull seems to “get it”.

Forest Temple that Isn’t

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-07 01-17-39-49

I have still been plugging away on building my “Forest Temple” and posted some photos the other day yesterday on the EQ Next Reddit.  Turns out my name is a bit controversial.  I am building a temple in a deeply forested region of the Pingo island, so to me that is a Forest Temple.  But apparently to a lot of people that has a specific meaning, which is the Forest Temple from Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time.  I am just too old for this to have a significant meaning  to me I guess.  Ocarina of Time came out when I was in college, and while I played it and enjoyed it… it really didn’t imprint on me as being anything more than a fun game.  A Link to the Past is my Zelda game and the one I hold up as the pinnacle above all others.  For me the Zelda franchise is best in its 2D form.

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-07 01-16-57-89 So to clariify… I will try and come up with a better name for my place, because I don’t want to give the impression that I am trying to build “The Forest Temple”.  At this point I have massive amounts of resource farming to complete the temple.  I want to do one more floor and a ramparts area at the top, as well as build out the undercroft more fully.  Right now I am planning on moving the craft machines from the porch area to the undercroft.  I hope I can unlock the paint tool because I think with that I can help to age the temple with little bits of mossy grass on the stone.  I also want to do some work to make things more intricate, but i figure over time I can work out the fine details. I posted an album of pictures of my most recent progress.

Beardly Dedication

This is one that my wife suggested so I am running with it.  Early my Sophomore year in High School I started growing a beard, and unlike my friends who were cursed with the inability to do so… I was able to grow one rather successfully.  From that point until today I have only been clean shaven twice… and both of those times were horrible mistakes.  Granted I vacillate back and forth between a full beard and a moustache/goatee combination… but for the majority of 22 years I have been proudly dedicated to beardom.  Basically my beard started as a way to make me look older, because I suffer from a baby face.  If I were to shave right now at age 37… I would look like I was about fourteen.  Well maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it is not a good thing to say the least.

The first time I shaved my beard was during my Junior year.  I was completely smitten with a girl who barely knew I existed.  I asked her out to the prom and she accepted, but she really pressured me to shave off my goatee at the time.  I should have stuck to my guns, because quite honestly nothing about that night was worth the pricetag of shaving my beard.  I did not realize I was mired quite so deeply in the friend zone as I actually was, and at least if I had my beard I could have stroked it while pondering the situation as she danced with someone else the majority of the night.  Beard stroking apparently is a legitimate thing, and it actually spurs on mental activity.

The second time I shaved it… I did it mostly by accident.  I took off a little too much from one side while trying to even out my beard.  Rather than shaving down to a goatee, I decided that my wife had never actually seen me clean shaven.  At that point we had been together five or six years, and she was polite about it… but told me to grow it back as soon as I could and to never do it again.  Apparently the beard suits me, either that or she couldn’t handle the fact that she looked like she was married to a teenager.  I figure at some point when I do actually want to look younger I can instantly loose 20 years by shaving, or at least this is my planned exit strategy.  The actual secret to my beard is more akin to the fact that I simply hate shaving and will do whatever I can to avoid doing so.  At one point this year I was sporting a beard that would make the guys of duck dynasty take notice…  but that was more a test of just how long I could let it go than anything else.