Talador Completed

Frustrating Stutters

DragonAgeInquisition 2014-11-17 23-05-09-482 This morning I am feeling relatively miserable.  In truth I have felt extremely lousy since mid way through last week.  The hacking and coughing and clearing of my throat just wears me out, and as a result of all of it my lungs are extremely pissed off at me.  That said since the weather outside is brutal with lows in the teens each morning… I am perfectly content to stay bundled up inside.  Yesterday it was my hope that I would be playing Dragon Age Inquisition, but even with a driver update there are still some issues.  The issue I am having is that the game will quite literally be running at a locked 60 frames per second… then all the sudden it will freeze for a moment causing everything to stutter including the audio…  then resume back at 60 frames per second as though nothing happened.  The game is still playable, but extremely annoying since this seems to happy about once a minute.

The most frustrating thing is that it doesn’t seem to be settings related.  I have dialed down the game to extremely low settings and the hitching still occurs.  This means that essentially I am not able to join in any reindeer games for the time being.  My hope is that an early patch will either come out for the game, or another updated Nvidia driver that resolves the issue.  If it is not fixed by this weekend however I am likely to just such it up and deal with the pauses.  The game itself, what little I have seen of it…  seems really cool.  Overall it feels far more like Dragon Age 2 than it does Dragon Age: Origins…  which itself is a mixed bag.  I wish my character had been silent, because it doesn’t really feel like my character at all… when there is a voice talking instead of me.  That is just one of my personal quirks however, but I figure most people prefer to have a voice acted character.  Ultimately when I play games like this it is all about the big damned hero fantasy, and saving the kingdom…  not the narrative of the actual characters.

Talador Completed

Wow-64 2014-11-18 18-59-52-329 First off I have to say that I love this screenshot.  It does not give away any details about the quest chains in Talador other than the fact that Blackhand is involved.  However if you have completed the quest chains in the zone you know exactly what this screenshot is from.  In any case I am happy that I managed to catch it at just the right moment.  Yesterday I was contemplating just completely skipping the quests in Talador to move forward into Spires of Arak.  My friend Rylacus begged me not to do this, because there was a moment in the game  that I just had to see.  Thankfully I followed his advice and man…  that zone was freaking amazing.  Granted there was a lot of faffing about in that zone unrelated to anything…  but the four chapters were all excellent.  Terran Gregory and team have don an amazing job with the cinematics in this expansion…  and I am constantly floored at how nice everything looks.  When one of these scenes cuts in… it manages to make me forget this is a decade old game.

Wow-64 2014-11-18 19-12-45-733 Now I have another dilemma to decide.  Once again I am at the breakpoint of a new zone, as last night I managed to ding 98.  I have all of the precursors leading into Nagrand, or I could go start the Spires of Arak.  In either case it will ding me, but Nagrand will actually give me gear that I need to get into normals and heroics. That said… so far each of the zones has provided important bits of the puzzle letting me understand more of the expansion as a whole.  The Spires however are the zone that everyone seems to think drags a bit… and just in the look of it, it reminds me so much of Blades Edge mountains… which had massive pacing problems thanks to the horrible terrain.  Part of me wants to jump straight to Nagrand, since it was my favorite zone in Burning Crusade.  However the other part of me realizes that if I don’t do Spires of Arak while it is relevant… I will never likely go back and do it because the terrain looks frustrating.  At this point I am just not sure which direction I am going to go…  but in any case I am only two levels away from 100.

An Excellent Moment

ffxiv 2014-11-17 18-29-06-953 I’ve talked at length about just how phenomenal the Final Fantasy XIV community is, but when I have concrete examples I still feel like I need to share them.  Monday before our 8 man raids, I was attempting to cap out my poetics earned for the week, and as such decided to run a completely random expert roulette.  Now I queued as DPS, and was shocked at just how fast the queue actually managed to go.  We got into the instances and everyone said hello as is  the FFXIV custom, and then some actual chatter started up.  Things seemed to be going smoothly but within a few minutes the healer asked us if we were experiencing any lag.  I was not but as the run progressed I started to see small bits of it with my actions.  However I have totally seen times where even among our little circle of friends… one of us was experiencing some crushing lag.. and everyone else was just fine.  During a pull the healer disconnected and the ninja and I managed to hold out just long enough after the tank died to finish off the pack.

Now were this any other online game, when the healer got back… they would have been chewed out by the players and called horrible for having a “bad” internet connection.  I’ve seen that play out many times in the past in several different games.  However in Final Fantasy XIV the healer came back, apologized and the general consensus of comments from the  group was “stuff happens” and “thanks for trying”.  As the run progressed the were several moments where the healer lagged out of disconnected, often times causing the tank to die.  In every single time  the tank took it with grace and thanks the healer for fighting through the issues so we could keep going.  Upon completing the run everyone thanked the healer for valiantly “sticking it out” and I am certain that I was not the only person to give her my commendations.  She sounded thoroughly frustrated by the events, but every player in the instance was supportive of her situation.  What other game have you ever seen where that happens?

Awesome Boss

This morning I am thankful for an awesome boss.  As I write this… I am feeling absolutely horrible, and have sent my boss an email saying that I would not be in today.  That I would be taking the day and resting.  I’ve had bosses in the past that would have had a problem with this, bosses that the only thing that mattered was that I was sitting at my desk during the hours of 8 to 5.  I am very fortunate to have a boss that is more family than administration.  Prior to this current environment it had been a very long time since I had anything resembling a work family.  Maybe it was the fact that my first environment straight out of college was so close knit, but it essentially spoiled me for other places I worked.   While I still feel close to a lot of the people I have worked with over the years…  in part it was either through shared interests or shared struggle in horrible situations.  This team that I am part of now…  I feel like I belong to something bigger than myself and it is entirely thanks to the support of our boss.

Previously we were a group of self starters, and functioned well as independent islands more or less left along by every boss we had been under.  Our current boss was a member of that team, and saw the disconnectedness of the group as a whole as something of a challenge.  Over the last several years he has worked to bring us all closer together, and as such make us mesh more tightly.  I know that I can go to any one of my team members with a problem and they will do everything in their power to fix it, and they know the same is true for me.  Its the stupid little things like bringing a cake to our staff meeting on the months we have a birthday, or going out to see a movie together as an after hours team building activity.  All of which by themselves are silly or minor…  but adding up to be an awesome environment to work in.  So I am thankful I have such a great environment to call my work home.

A Tale of Three Games

Cold Snap

ffxiv 2014-11-17 21-15-23-635 Our Final Fantasy XIV group has ended up taking about a month long break following the launch of the 2.4 patch.  For various reasons we have not rallied the troops on Tuesday nights, and as such we have opted to move our group content night.  Tuesday has turned out to be just as bad a day to do anything serious as it was in every other MMO.  For some reason it seems that Final Fantasy XIV patches more often than not late Monday night leading into Tuesday morning.  This means along with the normal weekly reset we are often times dealing with marginally unstable servers.  Since Monday tends to be a night where most folks focus on getting the last poetics needed to cap for the week, we figured it was also a relatively low volume raid night.  So going forward we are going to try and pull together 8 man group content Monday nights with whomever we can muster at the time.

ffxiv 2014-11-17 21-53-20-145Often times who we have available will dictate what we can do.  Last night we started off with Shiva Hard Mode, since most of us had not actually completed it.  I have to say the fight was rather enjoyable, and it was kinda like a strange mishmash of titan and ifrit.  It took us a couple of tries to see all the mechanics and then we straight stomped her.  Granted this is just a hard mode and we are used to mostly attempting extremes.  After that we went back and did Garuda Extreme again, because there was at least one member of the party who had not completed it.  Traditionally we would be working on Titan Extreme, but it was good to go back and see that we could in fact repeat our victory.  Granted it had been well over a month since we had last done the fight, and as such all of us were a bit rusty.  However after a few wipes we nailed it like we actually knew what we were doing.  Hopefully by next week everyone will have unlocked Ultros so we can take that on as a group, and this should have keyed most everyone for Garuda… so we can make attempts on Titan Extreme again.

To Skip or Not to Skip

Wow-64 2014-11-18 06-15-39-104After our group broke apart in Final Fantasy XIV I opted to poke my head into World of Warcraft and see what mayhem I could cause.  I apparently was significantly closer to 96 than I realized, because upon entering the game and beginning work again on the Gorgrond content…  I dinged within doing a few of the bonus areas.  I still have a handful of bonus content areas to complete, but now this gives me a dilemma.   I am at an ideal point to transition to the new zone that unlocked at 96… Spires of Arak.  The problem being I have yet to do anything at all in Talador other than set up my garrison outpost.  It looks like a really cool zone…  but I am wondering if doing it will basically screw me for getting into normal mode dungeons.  The problem that I ran into with Pandaria is that I leveled significantly quicker than the content would normally allow… and this means that I ended up needing to skip entire zones in the process.  Normally I would keep plugging on, but I would really like to be available for at least a normal mode tank when I reach 100.  The gear level that I came into the expansion with is just not going to hold long enough for me to do meaningful content.

It was my experience in Pandaria that if you could get into Townlong Steppes and Dreadwastes at the level cap to enter them… you could end up getting enough gear upgrades from questing that you were more than ready to set foot into normals… and quite possibly you were within an upgrade or two away from being able to do heroics.  I guess in theory I could keep plugging away at Talador and simply finish all the content in the game before worrying about doing dungeons.  Ultimately I do want to finish the content, because this expansion actually has a storyline that I care about for once.  I guess my only desire to rush to 100 is so that I can get in on the initial wave of folks needing to run dungeons.  While tanking for strangers was not as bad of an experience as I had expected…  I feel like once everyone hits cap that experience will degrade significantly.  Ultimately I will need to make a decision and move forward.  Right now I am leaning heavily towards just skipping Talador entirely for the moment and diving into the Spire of Arak for maximum upgrade potential.

A Tale of Three Games

DragonAgeInquisition 2014-11-17 23-23-02-356 At midnight of last night another game launched that will be fighting for my attention, or significantly earlier than midnight if you know how to use a VPN to cause yourself to show up as another region.  This once again is proof positive that region lockouts are dumb, because they are so painfully easy to circumvent if you really want to.  I however did not care enough to do this, and my Monday night was already pretty full so I just waited until 11pm my time to get in and play the game.  Dragon Age: Inquisition is a game with so many hopes wrapped up in it, that can either be booned or bashed within the first few hours of game play.  Will this game return to Dragon Age: Origin style game play, or will it be more akin to Dragon Age 2.  Quite honestly I don’t have an answer for you yet because I just have not seen enough of the game.

I am however already questioning my choices, and thinking that maybe I should not have gone sword and board tanky.  The game unfortunately gives you a tank for your very first character, and while I have not even completely the introduction… I am already having flashbacks of trying to make two tanks work to keep Alistair in my party.  The description mentions having proficiency with a two hander as well, so hopefully one of us can equip one of those and be done with it.  Quite honestly the game felt a little sluggish, but I think maybe I had something installing in the background when I made my attempt to play it.  For whatever reason it seemed to run silky smooth.. and then absolutely thrash the hard drive every so often without much rhyme or reason as to why.  My hope was that it was just a background process thing… and not the game doing something dumb like trying to dial into the dragon age servers periodically.  The game took a significant time to load… which I do think we can probably blame on busy servers as everyone was trying to launch the client at exactly midnight.  Hopefully as the week goes on, I will have more to report on it… other than it exists.

My Cousin

No matter how smoothly this Thanksgiving goes… it was going to be a rough one regardless.  This is going to be the first dinner without my grandmother, who has been such a fixed point and an anchor in our family.  She represents that last in a long line of degrading family events that pretty much means all of the normality that I grew up with as far as family and holidays goes is gone.  When my grandmother on my fathers side passed away, those meals just stopped in any semblance of order.  We would say that we would try and get together, but ultimately we each made a quick visit in private to my grandfather… and that reason for maybe passing each other in the drive way even left when he passed away.  Similarly with my wife’s family… when he step dad passed away the era of having big family meals went away… and folks opted to break apart into much smaller units.  The last bastion of the big family get together was my Grandmother on my mothers side… and this past year she passed away.  Predictably holiday plans have been non functional.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, because it is one of the last pure ones.  Sure the day after thanksgiving is this black mass to consumerism… but thanksgiving day itself has remained relatively pristine.  It was a day about getting together and having a meal with your family, and that mission was just simple enough to stay pretty true to its original goal.  There is something about sharing a meal with friends and family that is just special to me… and for years I tried to convince my family to turn Christmas into Thanksgiving 2.0… where we just got together and shared conversation and food… and forgot the presents.  My grandmothers house was this focal point of all of the family activity.  She was such a strong matriarch and she is as much a reason for why I am the person I am… as anyone in my life is.  I spent the majority of my childhood at her house, with her as my companion and friend.  So this Thanksgiving was always going to be a hard one, no matter what happened.

The interesting thing that I have noted as we have gone through a series of recent funerals is how well my generation seems to get along with one another.  When my grandmother passed away, I stayed long after most of the folks had left just talking to my cousins.  My generation just does not fit into our family as a whole… we went out into the world and for the most part all did something with our lives beyond the boundaries of the small town my family hails from.  The other day my wife was lamenting how strange Thanksgiving would be without my grandmother on facebook, and at this one of my cousins announced that she was intending to invite us to have the meal with them.  Apparently she had gone through the same malaise and similarly they had a few deaths in their family that pretty much ended up with the holiday decimated.  So as such here we go trying to start our own new traditions.  Hopefully Thanksgiving will go smoothly, but in any case it will be better than spending it without family.

Sell Me on Warlords

AggroChat 31 – Endless Legend of Draenor

Last night we recorded yet another episode of AggroChat, and I was joined by Ashgar, Kodra and Tam.  Still no signs of Rae, but she has been absent in a lot of things lately.  I think she is just going through one of those periods of seclusion, that I occasionally find myself in.  I went into last night not thinking we had a whole lot to talk about, but once again we managed to ramble on for an entire show.  This week Ashgar, Kodra and Tam have been spending some time playing Endless Legend a relatively new 4X game that spawned from a rather steam early access program.  From what it sounds like it is a really interesting take on the traditional civilization game model.  Throughout the discussion it reminded me in no small part to Age of Wonders but with more original fantasy race combinations.

Thanks to a sale on Steam Tam delved into the rather critically acclaimed Shadows of Mordor.  When I originally saw the trailer I thought… “man this is a Tam game”.  He loves all things stealthy, and by the same token I thought “man this is not a Bel game”.  At least the second part of that statement might have been wrong.  It sounds like there is plenty of carnage and mayhem, and a super interesting nemesis system to keep players busy.  Essentially if I could manage to struggle through the stealthy bits, there is probably a really enjoyable game there waiting.  One of the cooler ideas is that apparently your friends nemesis characters… will join your game and hunt you down too.  So in  theory you could unleash some living nightmares on your friends if you end up letting them level up too much.

Finally I delve into the topic of Warlords of Draenor and my return to the game.  I still stand by my original statement that if you have no interest in World of Warcraft, this expansion will do little to change that.  However if you are like me and still have at least a passing interesting in the game, or have a huge vault of nostalgia towards the Burning Crusade era…  this is going to be like crack.  Right now I am finding the game extremely interesting, and we ramble on talking about it at length.  So while I thought we didn’t have a whole lot to talk about, it turned out as the night went on that we still managed to fill up a show full of verbal faffing.

Burning Crusade Nostalgia

Wow-64 2014-11-15 20-00-32-716 One of the points we landed on last night that I find extremely interesting might also be the reason why I am enjoying this expansion, but I don’t feel like someone like Tam would.  Ultimately I think it depends on how you felt about your experience in Burning Crusade as a whole.  For me Burning Crusade was really the expansion where I came into my own as a player, and became “Belghast”.  I started my WoW raiding life as a Hunter, but that was a class I had never actually intended on playing.  Originally I wanted to play a tanky paladin, but the bait and switch when they replaced the strike system with the seal system… and the fact that at low levels paladins were frustratingly slow to level solo caused some problems.  I had a death in the family shortly after the launch of the game, and when I came back most of my friends had shot far ahead of me, leaving me to have to solo almost entirely.

At that point the Hunter was the king of soloing all things, and as such I picked it up and caught up to my friends rather quickly.  I can’t say I disliked playing Lodin my hunter, but it just wasn’t the class I had ever intended or imagined myself playing.  Then one thing lead to another, and a good friend needed a hunter for his raid… and bam I ended up becoming a raiding hunter.  I loved the Late Night Raiders group of hunters, and many of them I am still close with even today.  However i never really excelled as a hunter, because my heart was not fully into it.  I could do better than average damage, and had decent enough reflexes and was reliable as part of a rotation…  but I had no passion for it, at least not the way the other hunters did.  However as I started accepting gear from the raid, I felt bound by loyalty to keep playing that character as long as they needed me.

The Raid Crash

lnrmountbattle With the launch of Burning Crusade it was this great reset button, and I seized the opportunity with both hands.  I half heartedly tried to level Lodin at first, but quickly found myself exclusively playing Belghast my protection warrior, and became a much needed tank as we all leveled up.  The Burning Crusade could be thought of as the great raid killer, because all of the changes… all of the moving characters around and dropping the standard raid size from 40 to 25 man ultimately was the final blow to many raids on our server that had only been limping along for some time.  Here is where the perspective comes in because while I was just an admittedly well liked member of the raid…  Tam was one of the leaders of it.  So while I viewed everything as this grand opportunity to do the things I had always wanted to be doing…  his viewpoint had to be decidedly different.  I know when my second raid “No Such Raid” fell apart around me it took a lot of our me personally.  I had that raid dumped in my lap, and with the figurehead in its cult of personality gone… there was really no amount of duct tape to keep the ship afloat.

So while I personally view Burning Crusade as this expansion where I got to finally move into the role  that I had been designed for…  others might not have quite the hopefulness that I did.  I remember when the expansion hit, there were a lot of raid members that were frustrated by the gear reset.  In fact they were down right mad that all of this work that they went through and effort they put into getting just the right items…  was to be immediately erased the moment they stepped foot into Hellfire Peninsula.  Expansion are the great equalizers… they give players the opportunity to shift focus, and pick up something that they had always wanted to play but were never given the chance to.  With the launch of Warlords of Draenor I am doing just that myself.  I felt it was fitting for me to be setting aside my Deathknight and once again taking up the mantle of Protection Warrior.

Sell Me on Warlords

WoWScrnShot_111414_183551 Last night during the course of the podcast, Tam uttered the words above..  “Sell Me on Warlords”.  In truth I couldn’t nor would I really want to.  Warlords of Draenor is more of the same, with a prettier coat of paint and some nifty casual friendly features like the Garrison.  I feel this is an expansion that only those who still begrudgingly feel love for World of Warcraft in their hearts should ever try and play.  The game has some serious shortcomings still as compared to more modern MMOs.  It pisses me off on an almost nightly basis that it doesn’t have a mentoring system, nor does it have a content scaling system for dungeon runs.  I greatly prefer that Final Fantasy XIV sizes down the players to fit the dungeon, so that there is never a case where you straight up roflstomp the content.  This came up the other night when Zeli and Jabberant started characters and used their boost to 90 to create them on Argent Dawn.  Jab asked if there was a way to go back and experience the old dungeon content… and sadly unless you mean by soloing with great ease… the answer is a resounding no.

So I can’t really sell Warlords as the next best thing since sliced bread.  I still think that functionally Final Fantasy XIV is a better game.  That said I am happy that I don’t really have to make the choice between them,  In fact I have been extremely thankful to have FFXIV that I am still deeply connected to as Argent Dawn has burned down around me.  What Warlords represents is a game with the charm and grace of any Blizzard title.  The recent performance issues still do not degrade the fact that the game is extremely well crafted.  At the end of the day it is an old game, with a fresh coat of paint…  but it is a very enjoyable game still.  The content itself I am finding more enjoyable, because they took the lessoned learned with the Timeless Isle and extended them out to the world as a whole.  There is so much to see and find, and so many neat rare mobs to take out along the way.  It is like they gave me carefully crafted crack just for me… because I love getting interesting loot and killing interesting things.  If you hold a special place in your heart for Draenor… it might be a worthwhile time to return as well.  At this point I still have not actually renewed my account…  but signs are pointing to that I will be doing so.

Supporting Wife

One of the recent sagas in my life that has somehow managed to stay mostly out of my blog is the ongoing issues I have had with my laptop.  I feel like at this point I deserve an honorific of “laptop killer” because I seem to be exceptionally hard on them.  My Asus Republic of Gamers laptop lasted about two years, and I loved it dearly…  until something went wonky with the motherboard and kept it from charging the battery.  Then I got the SLI configuration Lenovo y500 laptop… and I too adored it.  Ultimately I think it was pretty much my perfectly laptop, until a few weeks ago I went downstairs to boot it up… and it refused to go past the Lenovo splash screen.  I realized unfortunately that it was out of warranty, so I ended up posting on the Lenovo support forums.. and as of yet have not received a response.

So over the last few weeks at my wife’s urging we have been watching craigslist to see if we could find something interesting.  In the past when I have been without my laptop, I have been in a state of utter panic…  however this time around I have tried extremely hard to be zen about it.  We saw a few interesting things but either the poster wanted more than I was willing to pay for it, or after some exchanges of texts I found out that the video card would be too underpowered for my purposes.  All of this while I did not realize that my wife had also been searching craigslist on a daily basis.  Thursday night she happened across a post on the Oklahoma City craigslist, for someone selling a Lenovo y580 a model slightly newer than mine… for a ridiculously cheap price.

My wife did not even bat an eye at the thought of us making a trip to Oklahoma City, entirely for the purpose of getting me a laptop from some random seller on Craigslist.  I am exceptionally lucky and thankful that I have a wife that is so supportive of all of the random otherwise meaningless activities I engage in on a daily basis.  She knows all of this is important to me… and while she doesn’t always grasp the reason why…  she constantly surprises me at just how much she is willing to do in support of my madness.  So yesterday went took a two hour trek to Oklahoma City, looked over the laptop… and today it is sitting beside me downloading various things.  Of course we made a trip through all of the Half Priced Books stores in the area, since we don’t have those in Tulsa… so it was not entirely about the laptop.  Still I am extremely thankful to have a partner willing to jump through so many hoops for my happiness.

Hunting Bookrocks

Deep Freeze

Last night was another prime example of the odd weather patterns here in Oklahoma.  When I got home from work it had managed to heat up enough to kick on our air conditioning.  Then over the course of one of the worst wind storms I can recall, that pretty much wrecked the gate to our backyard…  it dropped from a balmy 80 degrees to 33 degrees and still really windy this morning.  Being veterans day, and being that I am off work today… I had planned on having the Heating and Air guy out today to do our yearly “winter” inspection.  I am guessing that I picked the perfect day because tonight it is supposed to plummet even colder.  I realize that all of you northerners are thinking that the temperatures I am describing is nothing… but for someone raised to live in 70 degree to 115 degree climate this is pretty cold.

The problem with the heating and air folks coming out is the fact that my office was a mess.  I have a bad habit of just tossing empty boxes in the corner and over the course of a year the pile of boxes had gotten pretty epic.  It made me realize just how much stuff we order from Amazon.  While we do not have curbside recycling here, we do however have these little bins called “Mr Murf” that I can take the cardboard to.  So I have loaded the back of my jeep with the various assorted boxes, condensing them as best I could.  In addition I went out into the backyard and unhooked the hose from the house in preparation for a hard freeze. The last step was to gather up all the trash and put the bin out next to the curb, feed the cats, feed myself and sit down to blog.  All in all I have had a damned productive day and it is only 7:30 in the morning.

Hunting Bookrocks

ffxiv 2014-11-10 21-34-48-178 I rushed around so much this morning so that, one it would actually get done, and two I could spend the rest of my day leisurely farming for bookrocks in Final Fantasy XIV.  Before I finished the night last night I managed to cap my Tomestones of Poetics, and similarly I am close to another piece of armor with my Tomestones of Soldiery.  Generally speaking running content on reset day yields some of the best results, so I will more than likely be hitting a mixture of Labyrinth of the Ancients, Syrcus Tower and Expert Roulette in an attempt to get the precious precious bookrocks.  At this point I really want to get my pants drop out of Syrcus Tower so I can stop running it as a dragoon.  Ultimately I would rather be running it as a class that has a higher likelihood of getting drops like my Bard.  However given my past luck with MMOs, I know the moment I take anything other than the class that can roll “need” on them… they will start dropping every single time.

In The Burning Crusade I raided Karazhan every single Sunday for over a year.  During this time tanking it, I managed to get Attumen’s mount, but never managed to get the tanking necklace that eluded me.  After a years time I got tired of dragging a character in there that only needed a single item, so I started healing it on my paladin… letting another up and coming  tank take my space.  The first time I was in there as a Paladin… the tanking neck dropped.  That has always been the case for me… I have exceptional luck early on and then there are one or two items that will not drop no matter how many times I attempt to get them.  Then there are super rare items that everyone seems to be able to get but just end up taunting me.  I am looking at you Headless Horseman mount.  When I was farming that regularly, almost every time someone in my instance would get their mount…  but I would not.  I guess it could be worse… I could be Rylacus or Tamrielo…  who simply don’t get drops at all.

Rapidly Backpedaling

Wow-64 2014-11-11 07-56-07-885 I am still completely up in the air as to whether or not I will be playing Warlords of Draenor come Thursday.  Had you asked me two weeks ago I would have said an absolute and resounding “Nope”.  Then Blizzcon happened… and the extreme heartstring tugging of the Looking for Group documentary.  That thing crit me straight to the feels for 9999… yeah I am still thinking in Final Fantasy numbers here.  Unfortunately I felt things that I have not felt stirring in me about World of Warcraft since probably I last set foot on Draenor or at the very least last set foot in Northrend.  This started an unraveling of my resolve against playing World of Warcraft.  Basically there are two important pieces of data.  The first being that my subscription does not officially run out for another 19 days.  The second being that thanks to them opening preorders what seems like a year before the expansion actually launched…  I’ve already pre-purchased the game and used my boost to 90 to push up my Night Elf Mage.

So there you have it… I have both access to my account to play, and the expansion already sitting there waiting on me.  The problem is my problems with the expansion are still there.  There is an excellent video from Qelric condensing her views about the Death Knight class in the expansion, and while I have never been able to be that concise she sums it up nicely.  All that I have been able to say… is that they just felt wrong somehow.  Like I never could quantify exactly what that meant.  All of that said… if I do end up  coming back I will more than likely do so on Belghast my warrior, with a return to protection tanking.  I managed to get into Belghast a little bit right before I quit playing before the launch of Elder Scrolls Online and was having a reasonably good time with it.  The protection changes seem to be mostly good, and the feel is solid.  I would be kinda nice to set foot in Draenor on the character that came into its own during the Burning Crusade expansion.  BC was the era where I transitioned from Hunter main to Warrior Tank main, so there is a whole bundle of nostalgia wrapped up in that setting.

The one thing I know for certain…  I will never be leading the World of Warcraft House Stalwart again.  When I came back last year, I fought hard to try and mend the rift that had built up in the guild in my absence.  I tried desperately to get the two factions to talk to one another, but no amount of me acting as a bridge between… managed to actually help.  This broke my resolve, and eventually the problem child in the equation left…  and things apparently have been rather blissful in his absence.  World of Warcraft is not a game I can play seriously any more.  I tried to go back to raiding regularly with this last expansion and it just did not fit with the way I want to play the game.  So long as I was a damned dirty casual I seemed to be enjoying myself, but the moment people started relying on me for anything…  I was back in the position that I fought so hard to escape the first time.  If I do play again, it would be as a secondary game the same way that I continue to play Rift.  It is time for the Warcraft branch of House Stalwart to have a true leader, not just a figurehead that long ago stopped loving that position.

Given that it is Veterans Day here in the United States, I thought it fitting to show my thankfulness for the service of our men and women in the armed forces.  This actually means quite a bit to me, because while I have never served in the Military myself…  both of my grandfathers did.  We lose sight on just how hardcore World War 2 must have been.  The Grandfather on my fathers side was wounded during the D-Day invasion, and had a machine gun emplacement shoot down his back as he was trying to duck into a foxhole.  Had he not happened to quite literally fall on a medic, he would have died as the machine gun and sliced through his lung and it was collapsing.  They bandaged him up just enough to send him back out into battle, where he eventually participated in the Battle of the Bulge.  During that leg of the campaign it was so cold that he lost  half of his toes to frostbite.

My Grandfather on my Mother’s side was in the Tunisian front and captured during the Battle of Kasserine Pass, and spent time in a prison camp.  Eventually he joined in with others and staged and escape managing to eventually get back to Allied lines.  While on the run he was aided by various farming families in the Italian countryside.  My wife’s step father on the other hand was a veteran of the Korean Conflict.  He was a member of the Chosin Few, a group of service men trapped on a peninsula in the Chosin Reservoir that held off Chinese forces.  The thing that I found the most interesting is that all three men were completely stoic about their service.  Not a single one of them wanted any recognition for what they had done for our  country.  In fact none of them really wanted to talk about it at all.  It was only later in life that each was willing to give us little tidbits of information regarding what all they had been through.  I quite literally cannot imagine what they had to go through to survive, and I am thankful that I will never have to know.  So on this Veterans Day I am thankful for all of the men and women who have served our country so that I can have the life of safety and personal freedoms that I lead.

#FFXIV #WoW

A New Lance

Curiosity Abated

image I ended up getting into a conversation yesterday based on my post regarding the longevity I have played Final Fantasy XIV.  Like I said yesterday I have been back in Eorzea since July so this will be going on four months… which for me in my recent MMO history is a really long time to be playing any one thing.  I have officially played Final Fantasy XIV longer in this one stretch than I did both Elder Scrolls Online and Wildstar combined if you just count time spent playing the production clients.  This got me thinking and my friend as well… what my longest played games might be.  So this morning I turned to Raptr, which I have always just left running in the background quietly logging time spent in whatever game I happened to be playing.  When you do this you end up with some unexpected results.

For the purpose of this chart I ignored anything with less than 100 hours played, which it turns out is a surprising number of MMOs including Lord of the Rings Online, Warhammer Online, Guild Wars 2 and a few others.  The fact that almost 40% of my time spent playing MMOs has been in World of Warcraft was not a huge shocker, considering I played that game for roughly 7 years without taking much of a pause.  The fact that Rift weighs in at number two is also not a huge shock, considering I have played it off and on since release.  What did surprise me is that I fully expected Everquest 2 to be in third place, as it is one of those titles I keep cycling back to periodically.  I guess the thing is that I don’t end up playing it for terribly long before the combat system ends up frustrating me and I move in.  In the year it has been out Final Fantasy XIV has shot to the number three spot in total time spent in an MMO with 536 hours.  If nothing else I feel like that is pretty telling of just how much I am enjoying this game.

The last revelation is that I found it interesting that I spent roughly the same amount of time in Elder Scrolls Online, Star Wars the Old Republic and Wildstar.  Wildstar was the lowest of the 100 hour plus club weighing in at only 122 hours.  Elder Scrolls Online was the highest with 163 hours, but were we able to include the year I spent testing that game I would have probably overtaken Everquest 2 at least.  With Star Wars the Old Republic I could have sworn I spent more than 127 hours playing the game, so it really makes Wildstar and SWTOR almost exactly the same…  which is strange considering that I never got a character to maximum level in Wildstar, but managed to level three in SWTOR.  I guess the content grind really was that much faster in SWTOR than I realized.  In any case it is interesting to look at the data and see where your time has been spent.  Raptr by no means is an exact science, but I have it running on both my desktop and my laptop so in theory the data should be relatively complete.

A New Lance

ffxiv 2014-11-02 21-47-07-232 For some time now I have focused on my Warrior job in Final Fantasy XIV as my main.  I figured it was the one that I needed to be geared the most since I was going to end up tanking for my free company when we raided.  However since launch I have also really liked playing a Dragoon, and for the purpose of Duty Roulette I almost always queue as DPS.  Ages ago I got all of my jobs that I have at 50 to ilevel 90 so that they would be viable doing pretty much anything I cared to dip my toe into.  However before we started contemplating raiding, I picked up a handful of pieces out of Syrcus Tower on my Dragoon placing him slightly ahead of the pack.  Since the unlocking of loot in Syrcus I have been spending most of my time there trying to get him gear.  Right now I still figure that most of my soldiery needs to go to finishing getting the warrior to ilevel 110 or better, however at 108 I am still leaps and bounds ahead of a lot of my guildies.

ffxiv 2014-11-02 11-28-35-404 Factoring that in I figured I could splurge a little on my own wants for awhile.  When playing any class my focus has generally been on getting a new weapon.  It always feels like the most significant improvement, because it is that object that is most visually noticeable when you swap out a single slot.  As a result it has annoyed me for some time that I still had my Gae Bolg Zenith weapon on my Dragoon.  I could after all start the Atma grind, and the Animus book grind…  but really in the grand scheme of things I do not have the money to get through the Novus step…  so while I want to finish these for the sake of finishing them, it is not exactly a pathway to a better weapon for me.  With the uncapping of Syrcus Tower it means that we have ready access to Unidentified Allagan Tomestones, the precursor step for getting the Weathered(100) and eventually Unweathered(110) weapons.  So while I started out running ST over the last few days to pick up level 100 gear for my Dragoon I have ended up essentially grinding out one of the weapons.

ffxiv 2014-11-03 22-25-12-711Last night I finished my grind to 1300 Tomestones of Soldiery and as you can see in the above screenshot I am the proud wielder of a shiny new Liberator lance.  Unfortunately this happened like moments before bedtime for me, and I never really got to try it out.  So tonight my plan is to run a quick Syrcus or Labyrinth to see how good it feels to have bumped up 20 levels in weapon ilevel.  When I got my 110 axe on my Warrior, it was a massive and immediately noticeable difference, and I am hoping it will feel the same on my Dragoon.  After dumping this 1300 “bookrocks” on a weapon, I will now return to gathering them up for the purpose of finishing out my set of Soldiery gear.  That means I will need a ton of Sands of Time however to get those pieces up to 110 ilevel, which means I will still be running a truly silly amount of Syrcus Tower.  In the grand scheme of things though I enjoy running it.  I never see it as a grind, because it still feels very epic to me.  I feel about ST the way I feel about various WoW raids that I used to solo for fun.  It feels like I am doing something epic and important, even though it is content that is very much “on farm”.

This morning I am going to get by with just a two section blog post.  Each of those sections took awhile to write so I figure it all shakes out in the end.  This morning for my Month of Thankfulness post I figured I would talk about something fairly unlikely.  Yesterday at work I had my annual performance review, and even though I am in many ways the pocket expert on so many systems we have…  it is still a process that I find stressful.  I think most sane and rational people have these moments where they feel like they are a giant fraud, and these seem to hit me just before I go into my yearly performance review.  Yesterday was the same as every year, lots of anxiety for no reason.  Once again I had a fairly glowing review, but I am kinda just beating around the bush here.

What I am thankful for is my boss.  When I started out in my current position my little sub group got passed around like a hot potato.  At one point I had been under six different managers, four directors and three CIOs… and had only been with the  company for two years.  Then my current boss took the position.  I have to say when he took over I was suspicious, because I had never seen him in a managerial light, however he has done an amazing job.  I really respect the focus he has placed on making our environment not only productive, but a very fun place to be.  Each of us has our own “kitch” and for the most part he supports it all.  It is the first time since my very first job… that I felt like I had a work family.  This is also the first group I have ever willfully attended the Christmas Party for… and we do all sorts of outside activities like most recently going to the RiffTrax showings.  So this today I am thankful for the effect he has had on improving how I think about my job, and the fact that for the most part I look forward to going into work each day and seeing my team mates.  Sure each of the members of our team is a self starter, but it is his focus on morale that has made the entire thing work.

NaNoWriMo Supporter

AggroChat Episode 28

Last night we once again rallied the troops and recorded another episode of AggroChat.  This week Kodra was saddled with the dual burdens of illness and family…  and as such could not attend.  However we had Ashgar, Rae and Tam.  The number one thing on all of our minds was experiencing the 2.4 patch content in Final Fantasy XIV which landed last Monday/Tuesday.  During that time Tam has pushed up a rogue from level 1 to 50 and is now gearing it for raiding purposes.  I have mostly spent my time running Syrcus Tower trying to get bits to gear out my warrior and dragoon.  All of us have been slowly working our way through the brand new dungeon content.  Yesterday shortly before the show Ash, Tam and myself finished the last of the three new hardmodes and I have to say I am really damned impressed.

ffxiv 2014-11-01 20-20-47-557 Even more impressive is where the main storyline seems to be going.  This is one of the aspects I find the coolest about FFXIV is that the story just keeps evolving and not in an artificial way.  The problem with Star Wars the Old Republic is that when you reached 50… especially as a Jedi Knight or Jedi Counselor you had solved the galaxies greatest threat.  There was nowhere to go but down from there.  In FFXIV when you finish the main story, it is just the beginning and everything about the game tells you… you didn’t solve shit.  You took out one pawn in a far greater game.  So every three months or so when we get a major patch, I am always amped to see where exactly the story is going to go.  Right now I am only a couple of hours into the new story content, and already they have thrown out some allusions to past Final Fantasy games that have me spooked as to where we might be going with this.

NaNoWriMo Supporter

At this point hopefully all of this years participants have at least broken ground on their new novel.  Throughout the month of October I mulled around the notion of doing NaNoWriMo 2014, but in the end I have decided not to.  Last year if you recall I essentially live blogged my novel and used each days writing as the next days posting on my blog.  In the intervening year I have done absolutely nothing with it.  I’ve not even cracked the original drive document to even begin editing it.  This more than anything else tells me I am not quite ready to undergo the challenge again.  Last year I won, and by winning I mean I actually finished my 50,000+ words by the end of the month.  The problem is I have a chrysalis for a novel and not really something worth publishing.  I need to put at least as much effort as I did writing it into editing it.  At least once a week I think about digging into it and ripping things to shreds as I sort bits out that I slammed together in a rush.  It just seems so damned daunting to unravel what I was only able to pull together through sheer will.

The other reason why I have decided to skip NaNoWriMo this year is that it took a hell of a lot out of me.  My world for the month of November revolved around making sure I got my words done for the day.  In the end nothing else mattered, and I pretty much abandoned everything else that I enjoyed.  It was during the month of November that I faded away from FFXIV in the first place, because the game required too much effort from me to keep playing it while pouring out 1500 to 2000 words a day.  Additionally my blog suffered because I could not keep up my daily blogging AND write that many words a day… was just not something I could juggle.  This was the point that I got back into World of Warcraft, because WoW was a game I could play entirely on auto pilot.  Nothing about the game made me think, and I could live in this blissful muscle memory zone where I got enjoyment without having to acknowledge the world going on around me.  NaNoWriMo was all consuming, and while I think it is something that everyone should complete at least once…  I have done that.  I completed the competition last year, and wrote a novel… something that I can check off my bucket list.  I don’t feel the need for a repeat performance…  at least not quite yet.

What I plan on doing is being a cheerleader for the folks who ARE planning on doing the struggle this year.  The folks that need inspiration or support as they struggle to keep up with the waterfall of words that NaNoWriMo is.  Be it a word of encouragement or a swift kick in the ass when I see they haven’t done their words for the day…  I will try and be there.  So while I am not a participant I am very much a supporter of the process.  Having actually gotten my novel finished on time last year I might even be able to provide a source of advice.  I would never have finished last year were it not for the other people struggled through the process with me.  They were a source of inspiration and I am hoping some of them will be taking up the challenge this year as well.  It is an awesome thing, and hopefully I can play match maker between groups of friends entering the fray together.

I realize this is the second of November and not the first, but we are going to temporarily ignore that fact as I introduce a new thing that I am going to do all this month.  In truth it was not until yesterdays post that I was made aware that this was a thing.  My wife usually skims my posts each day to see if I have written anything about “us” in the blog, and after doing this yesterday she turned to me and said “you should have done a month of thankfulness post”.  So yeah… I kind of wish I had thought about that before making my post yesterday.  So this morning I pulled together a logo and am setting forth on this adventure.  I’ve always liked Thanksgiving the best of all of the holidays because it isn’t about commercialization or how much you can spend to show your love… it is just about a simple thanks for the awesome things in your life.  I am not going to make this out to be a big thing like Blaugust was, but I think it would be awesome if it spread a little bit around our community.

My Wife

I figured I would start off my series of posts with a post about my wife.  Not only did she give me this idea but she is pretty much a constant source of support in my life.  More important than that she keeps me grounded.  I get absolutely engrossed in the things I am into, be it my blog, the podcast, streaming or whatever the latest video game I am obsessing over.  She has a way of pulling me outside of all of this and focusing me on the real world outside of my computer and consoles.  There are a lot of couples that game together, and I have always thought this would be a cool thing…  but I also know it would never actually fly for me.  If I had a gamer spouse  the bills would never get paid, the chores would never get done… and I would ultimately end up losing my job.  My wife helps me keep one foot firmly planted in reality, and keep from slipping down that slippery slope.

More than this we compliment each other nicely.  She is all of the things I am not.  She is a creature of logic and I am a creature of passion, and together we make this awesome pair.  I can’t necessarily say that we are opposites, because we have just enough in common to make it work, but we definitely complement each other.  The other strange thing is that we rarely actually fight.  I mean we bicker back and forth, but there is rarely any spat that isn’t resolved by bed time.  We are in fact an old married couple, and have been able to complete each others sentences for years.  There are so many times we will just say a word or two before the other person agrees… because after almost two decades we know exactly what the other is thinking.  Without having a place of love and stability, I wouldn’t have the courage each day to put myself out here in front of you all.  For all of this and more I am very thankful for my wife.