On to Nazmir

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I feel like I need to be apologizing since you are not getting an awful lot out of me this week.  I am still recovering from whatever crud I seem to have caught, and my wife appears like she might be coming down with it too.  All this time I thought it was just super bad allergies but maybe it really did end up being some sort of a summer cold.  Regardless we ended up heading to bed around 9 last night because we were both sitting there fighting sleep.  That means I did not spend an awful lot of time playing last night, but I did managed to finish up the main story arc of Zuldazar which was very cool.  The only negative is there is a lot of stuff happening that doesn’t cleanly get resolved so I am expecting that once again the raids will act as finishing off bits of story.  It gives the players that would not normally run the raids a hook to go do them…  but at the same time it is a bit annoying that you are essentially forced to do them to see the end of story lines.

I got called out by Grace that she had not yet dinged 120, but I am going out on a limb and saying that she dinged last night.  I mean she said as much, but I also remember he saying as much the night before.  Basically at this point I cannot trust my brain because apparently whatever crud I have is effecting my memory as well.  I think I also said I was 117 going on 118…  which is not true as I dinged 117 last night.  It is little wonder that I had trouble following some of the story line throughout Zuldazar a bit.  It is my hope that this weekend I can push forward and ding 120 so I can start doing end game shenanigans.

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The real hope however is that I start to feel like a normal human being.  Yesterday was my first full day back at work since Monday, and it took an awful lot out of me.  This weekend also probably means we are going to run a lot of errands as my wife realizes things she needs for the classroom given this is her first day back with kids.  It is going to be busy… and I realistically need to be back a normal operating status in order to do all of the things that need to be done.  I’ve not done any of the Developer Appreciation Week posts but my hope is to do a few of them over the weekend.  This is really not a great time to be sick, so hopefully I get over this nonsense quickly.

Zuldazar Continues

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This morning I am doing considerably better than I was yesterday, but I am still not quite in fighting form.  Whatever crud I have has kicked my butt and I only managed to make it about three hours yesterday before tagging out and heading home.  What is annoying the most is that I feel just generally drained and awful and unable to enjoy pretty much anything I am doing.  I spent a good chunk of yesterday trying to catch up on Jessica Jones Season 2 and I think I made it to episode eight before giving up for the day.  The only negative about this is that I was probably not paying anywhere near as close attention to World of Warcraft as I should have.

I reached this point where suddenly there were Mogu everywhere and I am not sure how we got there exactly.  I’ve since pieces together some of the details but I have a feeling there is a quest somewhere in the chain where I simply wasn’t paying anywhere near enough attention.  It is around this point that I realized just how damned spoiled Elder Scrolls Online has made me.  It is very easy for me to glaze over a wall of text presented with a quest, but significantly less easy for me to ignore a character that is actively talking to me.  Voice acted content makes me forget that I am effectively just doing a fetch or a kill ten quest, and instead the character I am interacting with becomes intimately more “real”.

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I still largely look like a toddler that dress themselves for the first time… all I am missing is the inexplicable scuba mask and tutu.  I am trying to do this whole no transmogging thing…  but every night is a struggle.  It is funny that I am realizing how much of my enjoyment of my character is the way that it looks.  Right now I look like hot garbage and it is by reference making everything I pick up feel like it is utterly useless and disposable since it will make me look a brand new kind of awful.  It seems that there is way less loot as a whole from quests, and I think in part this is because of the upgrade-able items, however I have yet to find a weapon with Heart of Azeroth talents on it.

Ultimately this is meaning that I don’t have any gear for an offspec because each time a new weapon rolls around it is a significant upgrade to what I was wielding before and not something I can pass up for sake of balancing out my characters options.  I like the upgradeable gear, but right now I seem to keep getting the exact same three slots so I am presented with a series of lateral choices rather than building out a full set of gear.  That has always been one of my big complaints about World of Warcraft and leveling, is how piecemeal the gear ends up being and how you always have a few slots that are languishing with no direct upgrades.

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I legitimately thought I was nearing the end of Zuldazar, but some events transpired that have effectively thrown me into a “world two” sort of scenario.  Quest destinations that I thought I had finished now suddenly are springing up with brand new options.  I have a feeling that before the end of this I will have arrived at every destination twice…  which makes me realize just how damned bad I am at following main story quests.  The events that shifted everything into motion…  came from quite literally the last quest I had showing on the board.  I thought I was heading towards the end conflict of the zone…  not opening up a whole new one.

Tonight in theory I should be able to push through the end of Zuldazar.  I am artifact level 10 and about 1/5th of a level away from 117, so I am sure I will wrap that up before shifting to swampland.  Grace has of course already dinged 120 because she is better at not getting distracted by shiny objects… and by shiny objects I mean mobs that look at me funny and I have to charge into.  We did run a dungeon last night and that was pretty fun.  I have a feeling though it is not going to be super popular given that there is a functional repeat of the Blackrock Depths Torch Room in it.  I feel like every set of dungeons has an Oculus, and unless there is something more heinous hidden in the dungeons I have yet to run… I am guessing that this expansion it will be Temple of Sethraliss.

Conquering the Dunes

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Today is the official start of developer appreciation week in Blaugust Reborn, but I am not sure if I can muster any measure of a post that requires that much forethought.  I am not entirely certain if I am just dealing with allergies or if I have picked up some sort of a summer cold… but whatever the case I am miserable.  I wound up going home around one yesterday when the meeting that I had to be there for…  got rescheduled.  I am in that state where my throat is so raw that it is gagging me, which is not super fun to randomly find yourself in that state.  I’ve largely been avoiding doing anything serious and instead just casually leveling on the warrior.

It is unfortunate because I know I have friends who are chomping at the bit to chain some dungeons…  but I am just not confident in my ability to function in a group setting right now.  At this point I have finished Vol’dun and managed to get 113.5 roughly in levels and 5 in artifact power.  I have not done the faction campaign stuff at all, and in truth have largely been avoiding it.  I went into this expansion expecting for it to be pvp all the time… and have been pleasantly surprised by the lack of faction nonsense that I have had to deal with at this point.  I am afraid doing the faction specific campaign will ruin that little bit of joy I am having.

I am absolutely loving seeing what the Troll Empires were like during their strength rather than the broken down outposts that we usually encounter in game. I say outpost…  because seriously Zul’Gurub feels like a backwater as compared to Zuldazar.  The temple city is amazing…  even though I keep finding myself getting lost trying to traverse it and remember where the various things are that I need to interact with.  I spent ten minutes last night trying to remember how to get back to the throne room for example.  We largely picked Vol’dun as a way to get the desert content out of the way, since those zones tend to have a lot of oppressive sameness.  However as you can see from the above screenshot… there is a lot of stuff going on in that zone that makes it feel less like the traditional MMO desert.

The outfit I am wearing is supposed to be plate armor…  so I am not exactly sure why there is a prominent target telling the monsters fighting me where exactly to strike.  I am sure on male characters this looks like awesome troll armor, but instead I sorta get a cool looking dress….  with midriff exposed.  I started playing my Orc Female characters largely because I got tired of the Horde Hunch, where pretty much most of the traditional male horde races have a hunched over thing going on.  It has been a great experience other than dealing with the fact that so much of the plate armor has weird pieces missing for no apparent reason.  Maybe I am secretly protected by the mystical power of the male gaze?

I am trying really hard not to transmog as I level, but that may or may not last much longer.  I wonder if you poke her in the belly if she will go “Tee Hee” like a really gruff orcish Pillsbury Doughboy.  Video linked for the sake of anyone who has no clue what the Pillsbury Doughboy is… and why you would be poking one.

Dolly and Dot Are My Best Friends

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Last night was the launch of Battle for Azeroth the new expansion for World of Warcraft, and as I said yesterday it sort of snuck up on me.  Blizzard was doing a global release for the first time in my memory meaning that while a lot of the world did in fact get the game on August 14th…  the United States got it in the evening of the 13th.  So it was in fact midnight CEST on the 14th for Europe but for me personally it launched at 5pm my time.  I was not however sitting at the keyboard waiting for the gates to open as it were…  because it was 5 before I managed to get to town from work.  That then triggered the whole list of things I need to do when I first get home as well as nomming some tasty noms…  finally ending up at the keyboard around 6ish.

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At that point I was pleasantly surprised that I got right in with zero queue or waiting.  There were reports of folks having some issues with the login server, but thankfully I had none of those issues and effectively sailed right in.  I even tempted fate about 8:30 last night and decided to swap from my desktop upstairs to my laptop downstairs…  and even at that point I was able to log straight in without much issue.  I am not sure if this is a smaller than normal launch day, or if they were just really that prepared for the launch.  Whatever the case it went smoothly and collectively myself, Grace and Mor decided to get the desert zone out of the way first and spent the rest of the evening roaming around Vol’dun.

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For my troubles I managed to get my amulet-of-not-artifact-power to level 2 just barely shy of level 3, collected 2 pieces of the upgradeable gear that has talent point unlocks on it, and dinged 111 with about halfway to 112.  I consider it a very productive night given that I did not take any time off from work and really didn’t “grind” that hard at anything.  I believe both Grace and Mor are further ahead than me, but at some point I will catch up and hopefully reach the first dungeon unlock, though in truth I didn’t notice if there was one we could queue for already or not.  I am surprised at just how much story there is in this expansion… like not just text story but I seem to be drowning in really awesome cut scenes.  If the rest of this expansion carries on the same way as the beginning has… it is going to maybe be one of the better expansions in World of Warcraft history even with the questionable PVP narrative.

The above video is going to be a bit of a spoiler, but if you care to watch… it features my favorite moment so far in Battle for Azeroth.  Meerah the awesome Vulpera responsible for driving the caravan around Vol’dun serenades her pair of Alpacas.  Dolly and Dot are the best and are probably going to be the break out hit from this expansion.  It reminds me a lot of the singing Quaggan from Guild Wars 2, and is similarly memeable.  Meerah herself was apparently voiced by the very amazing Deva Marie, so extra awesome bit about the quest.  ~Dolly and Dot are my best friends~  ~they pull my wagon through dunes of sands~  ~they have small teeth and they love to eat…~  then sadly the song is cut off by a mean ole troll who doesn’t appreciate awesomeness.

I am hoping we get a lot more Meerah, Dolly and Dot as I go further into this zone.

Follow Up to Yesterdays Post

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As a follow up to yesterdays post about Monster Hunter World PC… when I took a break to move downstairs to the laptop I decided to fire up the game there to see what sort of settings I would have to play on to get the game functional.  What you are seeing is MHW on Low settings and 720p resolution and even then… I was only managing to see about 25 fps.  For reference the gaming laptop I have is in the top bar of the site but also linking it here.  As far as the stats go… it has:

  • Intel Core i7 4th Gen 4720HQ (2.60 GHz)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 2 GB GDDR5
  • 16 GB Memory
  • 1 TB HDD
  • 128 GB SSD

The game is effectively unplayable given that I am only seeing 25 fps in town and even then it wildly fluctuates down into the teens and up into the thirties.  Essentially hopefully you can make your own determinations as to how well the game is going to run on your system between the two baselines I have given you.  Now the positive is…  steam does allow you to return games if you end up trying it out and it simply not working at all.  Personally right now I am streaming Monster Hunter World through Parsec on my gaming desktop upstairs when I am playing downstairs on the laptop.  This is honestly the way I am gaming most of the time these days and is probably going to keep me from upgrading that laptop anytime soon.

 

Monster Hunter World PC Thoughts

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This weekend I played a significant amount of Monster Hunter World on the PC.  This morning I am going to talk a bit about my thoughts related to it and why it maybe isn’t the dumpster fire that the internet seems to think it is.  First off you are not going to get much general Monster Hunter commentary since I have belabored that point at length on this blog.  I love the game and think that for the most part everyone should give it a shot on whatever platform seems most comfortable for you personally.  I played the hell out of it on the PS4 and only backed off a bit when I got bit by the Elder Scrolls Online bug again…  which has moved recently into desperately trying to prepare for the World of Warcraft expansion.  Basically don’t ever take me moving on from a game as a reason not to play it because quite honestly I am fickle as hell when it comes to game.  I play a lot of different things and shift wildly between them as the mood suits me.

You can get a link to my current PC build up in the menu of this site but for those reading via RSS I will summarize the high points.  The relevant information:

I technically have an SSD in this system but have long since run out of space to run games from it…  so for the most part I linked the drive that the game itself is running on.  For sake of reference I attempted to screenshot all of the relevant graphical settings I am using.

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Essentially I set the resolution to 1080p and attempted to max everything out to see what sort of gameplay that would give me.  For the most part I get 60 frames per second, with the occasional dip into the 55ish territory as you can sometimes see sub 60 numbers in the lower left hand corner of these screenshots.  However it feels very smooth given that I personally cannot seem to differentiate between about 40 fps and 60 fps that well.  Ultimately I wanted to throw these numbers out there however  I have a 5th gen x99 setup running a still fairly beefy GTX 980 graphics card.  Your mileage may vary wildly if you are using a system less capable than that, but I am not really sure how far below.

The game looks infinitely better than it did on the PS4 and had I the time this weekend I would have installed it on my laptop to see what sort of concessions I needed to make it get it running on a far lower end machine.  The laptop being a 4th Gen i7 which is the generation of processor in the recommended settings, and a mobile gtx 960M… which given the rules of mobile cards means it likely performs about the same as a desktop 700 series since the desktop did not get the 800 series.  Regardless it is further testing I want to do so that I could give some estimates of what the game would run like and look like on a lower end machine.  The truth is I played most of the weekend on the laptop, but I did so using Parsec streaming off of my gaming machine upstairs.  I still am deeply in love with that software.

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The biggest takeaway for me personally is just how phenomenally good the game looks on the PC.  On the baseline PS4 everything felt very muddy for lack of a better word.  There were lots of moments when everything seemed like there was a thin coat of vasoline on the lens and you couldn’t quite focus on anything specific.  This means that a lot of the vistas in this game were completely lost to me and might as well have been static background images.  However on the PC there have been numerous points where I just stop and stare the the scenes in awe of just how cool everything looks.  I have a hard drive full of screenshots already and according to steam I am only twelve hours into the game.

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It is highly likely that this is an experience that the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro players have already had… but for use plebs still stuck on the lower end machines in this generation…  the difference is extremely noticeable.  Now all of that said…  my awe of the game comes from a console player getting to see the world I already love in much higher detail.  From the general standpoint of a PC gamer… the game still has some wonky stuff going on in the way that the world looks and it is the same sort of stuff you see in a lot of console ports.  Textures don’t always look as crisp as you might expect and what appears to be in focus versus blurred out is all over the place.  Notice in the above image who the background appears so much crisper than the character in the foreground for example, just random goofy stuff that you don’t notice in motion but do notice when the action stops.

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One of the weirder revelations for me personally is that the game is completely connected into steam groups… and seems to rely on your steam friends list and the groups you are a member of in place of the clan system.  This means that I already happen to have a Greysky Armada group ready to go and you can see me up in the gathering hall flying the colors of our guild…  even taking into account the custom imagery we uploaded for it from FFXIV.  The only problem here is…  I think those of us who have lots of groups and massive friend lists at this point…  are maybe bogging down the network?  It seems to take forever to bring up a friends list dialog, or to browse the sessions that your friends are in.  This seems to have improved over the week, but is still way more sluggish than it felt on the console.

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The real problem however is that the network connectivity seems to be extremely fickle, with Match Making generally not working at all…  and the browsing of existing sessions working about as well.  You are going to see this window a lot with a 50382-MW1 error being throw which is essentially the “cannot connect” generic error message.  Spawning your own instance however seems to work reliably well, and joining an instance a friend is in also seems to work fairly well.  I’ve managed to play with my friend Wolfy at several points during the weekend, but just go into the situation expecting things to be less than reliable.  I feel like the PC is a leap forward overall given that it allows you to integrate with your existing list of Steam friends…  but the overall way that grouping works in Monster Hunter World is still extremely awkward.  This is one thing that Dauntless has going for it, is that grouping as a whole just feels more natural.

If you want to see me fail miserably at a hunt and mash the shit out of my keyboard and mouse here is the stream from Sunday morning.  The keyboard is getting more comfortable as I go but I will say it was a challenge to get used to after being fairly comfortable with the PS4 controller.  For the most part I have rolled with the default keybinds, but you can in fact remap most everything.  The only thing that I really have changed is that the initial set up for Longsword was Left Mouse for basic attacks, Right Mouse for thrust, and Ctrl Key for Spirit Blade…  which was functional but not exactly fitting with the priority that I have those attacks.  I swapped Right Mouse and Ctrl to give me something that feels more natural given that I rarely actually thrust, the only negative however is that it makes it more challenging to do the leap out of the way slash attack.  My fingers are long however and for the most part I can hit any ability that I need to.  Your mileage may vary given how comfortable you are reaching into odd spots on the keyboard.  I do however need to sort out something other than F1 + Number to get to the quick bar items because that really doesn’t work for me right now.

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All in all I am really happy with the PC port and especially if you have been waiting in the wings due to a lack of console…  you should totally pick this up.  From what I am hearing it is both the biggest selling Japanese Steam game of all time, and the biggest Steam launch of 2018 so far…  so much of the issues that are happening currently are probably just compounded by that fact.  As the crush of players coming in to hunt some monsters dwindles a bit…  I think a lot of the network weirdness is going to mysteriously go away.  It is 7 am CST and right now Steam Charts is showing 245,535 concurrent players…  with an all-time peak of 329,333 which was also achieved apparently in the last 24 hours.  Basically it is super popular right now and as a result there are going to be some growing pains.  If you cannot deal with that maybe wait a month before picking it up, however the game does always default back to a single player state allowing you to get in and experience the game play regardless of the current network conditions.

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If you found yourself on the fence about this title I hope this post offers some wisdom.  Like I said I need to get in and actually install the game on my laptop to give it a lower end impression as well.  I will try and do that over the coming days…  but not likely tonight given that apparently Battle For Azeroth launches at 2pm CST?  Talk about that game release sneaking up on me.  I hope you have a great day and an awesome week.

 

Shovel Cow

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I am in this really weird place because I am both disconnected and connected to World of Warcraft at the same time right now.  I am disconnected from the storyline because of the events of arsonist Sylvanas, but I am also finding myself enjoying the simple act of leveling.  On the alliance side I have one of every class up in the 100-110 range, but on the horde side I am severely lacking in a bunch of columns.  As of right now I have a stable of 110s on The Scryers in the form of my Warrior, Paladin, Demon Hunter and Warlock and then a 110 Deathknight over on Eonar.  That said there are a bunch of spots left in my roster to level something and with the introduction of the prestige races I thought it would be really funny to make a High Mountain Tauren Monk.

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So lately I have been spending most of my time in game rolling around…  figuratively and literally…  on the Monk.  The highlight of the weekend was when I found out that I had a one handed shovel graphic in my transmog collection and that if I turned both of my weapons into them…  they would sling across my back.  This only really works because monks don’t actually use weapons at all and they just sit there strapped across my back as I punch and kick things.  Now I am also just realizing that I can probably do a shovel knight transmog of some sort on a heavy armor character.

I’ve always found the leveling game to be one of the stronger points for World of Warcraft and as screwed up as the 60-80 leveling bracket seems to be right now…  I do feel like them slowing things down a bit and blunting the effect of heirlooms was probably a good idea.  Sure it means I can no longer solo world bosses, but it also means that I can have an experience that feels a little closer to what it actually felt like to level something originally.  I am still flying through the levels however, but the ability to sit down and finish an entire zone without the need to move on in order to satisfy the part of me that wants to be “optimal” is a good thing.

It had been years since I had finished the entire Hillsbrad>Arathi>Hinterlands crawl always dropping out of each zone at some point as soon as the next zone lit up as having a quest available.  Now I am doing the Plaguelands which honestly I feel like is one of the zones that benefits the most from Cataclysm.  However on the podcast this weekend we largely talked about the big problems with World of Warcraft storytelling… and eventually drew a conclusion that Cataclysm was the expansion that derailed what seemed to be an arc of really solid story.  If you are curious the above embedded video is that show… but be warned we bash Warcraft pretty hard.

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In other news… I appear to no longer be allergic to casters in video games.  I recently started playing my Warlock a lot and have even been considering maining it in Battle for Azeroth.  This weekend I started a brand new Nightborne Shadow Priest and spent a few hours really enjoying myself leveling it through the Ashenvale content.  I am not sure what snapped inside my head but I actually sorta find casters relaxing.  I’ve always said that “me and finger wigglers don’t get along”, and that was sort of my shtick.  The truth however is that I never really enjoyed that style of game-play and recently something changed.  I find myself enjoying this game of “can I kill it before it touches me” that I have never really gotten into before.

I think we can blame Final Fantasy XIV for this because that is really the game I first seemed to get into the caster thing, or at least the gameplay style of “dot all the things”.  I had a shockingly enjoyable time leveling Arcanist and then Summoner, and put quite a few levels into my Thaumaturge/Black Mage as well.  I went through this thing where I leveled every single class to 50 just to help get rid of a bunch of gear, and in doing that…  I arrived at a sort of truce with playing a caster.  Recently however that truce has turned into a comfort level that I have never really experienced before.  I don’t necessarily get it myself and my friend Grace thinks I must be ill… but whatever the case I had a lot of fun running around on the new babby Shadow Priest this weekend.

Lastly…  my friend Chestnut had this idea as part of Blaugust to do a bunch of mini podcasts asking some questions about how we got started.  It took me awhile but I sat down yesterday after editing AggroChat and before I editing the weekly sermon podcast from the church my wife attends.  I tried very hard to keep it under 10 minutes and managed to do so…  which is a miracle in itself since AggroChat is sort of known for long shows.  I thought I would share it here and I believe Chestnut has a master plan for some other use for these as well.  Hopefully you have an awesome week and I am sure I will get back on doing some Blaugust related topics tomorrow.

 

Because Rocks

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While we are still very much in Blaugust prep week, I am going to take the morning off and talk about some non-Blaugust stuff.  First off the above embedded video is the YouTube version of this weeks Podcast where we talk at length about our feelings regarding Battle for Azeroth.  Of the crew Grace and I are the only two that are really still connected to World of Warcraft in any major way, and the show itself became a bit of an extended version of the feelings we are both having.  This weekend I spent a good deal of time prepping characters for the expansion since I had not really done that yet, and can abuse the event that is happening as a way to get some reasonable gear easily.

Unfortunately I made the decision to main Horde this expansion before I experienced the nonsense War of the Thorns quests…  but as part of that decision I have been prepping my Warrior, Deathknight, Demon Hunter, Warlock and have been pushing up my Paladin.  Now it had been awhile since I had done one of the class order hall missions, and I was immediately struck by now good tone wise it felt to be gathering up the paladins on either side of the fence to work together towards the goal of saving Azeroth.  I am not sure how we got to this point where all of the past gains of the Legion expansion are out the window and we are back to a forced Red vs Blue narrative.

One of the things we talk at length about in the podcast is just how bad the Advertising campaign feels.  Firstly we are divided as a nation and as a world by so many serious issues right now that it just feels irresponsible to be pushing more of that for the sake of selling your product.  Secondly…  in our experience World of Warcraft isn’t a dividing line but instead something that brings people together with the stupid artificial boundary between Horde and Alliance just being an inconvenience that maybe keeps you from playing with some of your friends.  I tell this tale in the podcast but I figured I would talk a little bit about it in person.

When I went to take my ITIL training and eventually take the test, there was a significant amount of waiting around because of a scheduling mistake.  This meant me and the trainer of the class had to sit around and hang out for a bit while waiting on my online time slot.  During this we realized that we both had played World of Warcraft and were both raiders back in the day…  but on opposite sides of the fence.  Instead of it becoming a discussion about Horde vs Alliance… it became a discussion about our shared experiences leading guilds and raids and all of the weird things we had encountered in the process of doing that.  We both immediately realized we had more in common in our experiences than different and focused in on those things…  rather than some nonsensical artificial rivalry.

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So as I find myself prepping for the launch of this expansion I end up thinking about the expansion that could have been.  Had we continued the class fantasy and kept moving forward towards a unified Azeroth it could have been so amazing.  Legion was probably the strongest World of Warcraft content to date and in part it was so strong…  because the Horde and Alliance factored so little into it.  There is a sequence in Stormheim that feels awful as you are forced back into the shoes of Red and Blue but everything else feels so good as you are working side by side with the other faction to face bigger evils.  That is the World of Warcraft I want, where we take on things bigger than ourselves as we face what will be the obvious resurgence of the Old Gods.

I feel like Battle for Azeroth is the expansion that no one wanted, and I have arrived at this point by listening to my social media feed made up of a bunch of long time WoW players.  Sure there are a few people I know who were excited for the War Mode…  but only because they rolled on a PVP server to be with friends and don’t want any part of that nonsense and will be turning it off completely.  It just seems like a weird gamble to triple down on the faction versus faction thing, when it felt so amazing to get away from it completely.  I keep hoping that maybe they will throw us for a loop and that the factional nonsense is short lived, but I somehow doubt that.

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I will be there with my hordelings hanging out with that side of my gaming family, but I am not going to be super pumped about it especially with the way that the early questing has gone so far.  We are fighting a war “because rocks” and that we don’t want the other side to get any of these macguffins of ultimate power.  Here is hoping that things get better from here.

Protecting Sanctuary

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Tomorrow is the official launch of Blaugust and I am pretty freaking excited about it.  I think last I checked we had something in the vicinity of 52 blogs signed up and I am hoping once the first topics start rolling in that number will keep incrementing upwards.  July 25th through July 31st I have dubbed the Blaugust Prep Week, and what you can see from me and hopefully the other mentors is a series of posts talking about how to get started.  These may range from technical discussions of WordPress vs Blogger vs Tumblr to more general discussions of picking a format for your blog or coming up with a name you won’t immediately outgrow.  For the participants however, they should view this as a time to stretch their legs a bit and prepare for the month ahead.  Get some of those early posts in so that you can sort out your own personal blogging rhythms.

Since we had a few more folks sign up I figure I should link their stuff here as well.

New Participants

Once again if you have not taken the time to sign up, please do so.  Considering we have all been there before deciding if we should be blogging at all…  I promise you can do this thing.  When you have signed up make sure you pop by the discord and come hang out as we chat about bloggery things.

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One of the weird disconnects thematically that I have in Elder Scrolls games has always been the Dark Brotherhood.  For the uninitiated, the Dark Brotherhood is a group of assassins that answer the call of the Night Mother.  Around the game world individuals perform a ritual known as the Black Sacrament that calls on the Night Mother with a very specific prayer “Sweet Mother, sweet Mother, send your child unto me, for the sins of the unworthy must be baptized in blood and fear.”  This prayer is heard by the Night Mother and relayed to the Listener of a specific sanctuary which then goes and seals the contract.  We as players traditionally carry out these contracts that involve taking the life of someone who has generally speaking wronged someone else.

So you would expect that from within the Dark Brotherhood everyone would effectively be blood thirsty assassins ready to kill at a moments notice.  While the last bit is true…  the Sanctuary has a very different feel on the inside.  The Dark Brotherhood represents some of the most weirdly sweet content in an Elder Scrolls game.  The members all take care of each other like a family, and when you return home the various other assassins are generally happy to see you.  There is something almost weirdly wholesome about the whole situation, and ultimately I think that is what makes the experience all the more unsettling.

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Ultimately every tale of the Dark Brotherhood tends to end in the same manner, and I am wondering if the tale told in Elder Scrolls Online will be the same.  There are several characters that I genuinely like…  like the Nord who sheltered a scared werewolf girl and adopted her as his sister.  Every game seems to have some characters that you just feel protective over…  in spite of the fact that they are legitimately cold blooded killers.  It is a bizarre juxtaposition that makes me completely uncertain how to feel about any of it…  but it is also one of those guilds that I always look forward to seeing the storyline.  It is progressing much slower than the Thieves Guild did, and I can’t say I am any better at getting a kill in without being noticed.  That said it doesn’t really seem to matter much in the grand scheme of things as I can simply hide out until the heat and my bounty clears.  The thieves guild and dark brotherhood skill lines are amazingly complimentary…  and my only complaint so far is that I cannot assassinate folks during the thieves guild dailies without triggering “being seen” and reducing my timer.

May the dread father guide your blade.

Traders Row

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This weekend the Discord was super active with folks talking about their blog and various related topics.  I am traditionally super bad at following any sort of social media or chats over the weekend.  I barely respond to instant message or text either because I am generally engaged in something that takes all of my attention, either that or running around.  This weekend we went out junking for a bit which was extremely fun, and got this amazing ice cream at a “from scratch” sort of place a town over.  I had English toffee and my wife had cotton candy and both were phenomenal to eat while we roamed around looking through the various junk shops.  I mean they are all labelled as “antiques” but really…  if it isn’t a junk shop I am not terribly interested in looking at it.

We had a few more people sign up for Blaugust which is awesome.  If you have not done this and are at all considering it… please fill out the form link and join us in this madness.  Onwards to the new blogs… one of which has yet to get complete set up but we are going to mention her anyways.

  • Alli – To Be Determined…  but think the name “The Parent Trope” was chosen via the discord this weekend.
  • Void – A Green Mushroom

One of my favorite things this year is seeing us spread out.  We’ve got several sign ups that listened to either the Massively OP Podcast or Geek to Geek and then I am seeing other interesting references showing some word of mouth from folks I am not sure if I even know who they are completely yet.  The other thing I find interesting is several of the comments are written in a way as though they think maybe I don’t know who they are.  If you are a long time reader of my blog and a regular favoriter or commenter regardless of the venue…  blog, twitter, wordpress reader…  I promise I know who you are and am super happy anytime I see you pop up in my notifications.

It isn’t often that I link my podcast from the weekend in my Monday morning post but maybe that is a thing I should do more often.  This weekend it is directly related to the sort of weekend I had, namely it is a show where we largely talk about Elder Scrolls Online and our recent renaissance with that game.  At this moment myself, Ash, Tam, Kodra, Void, Neph, Thalen and Lyle are playing it more or less in various states of “active”.  I believe ToadChild and Eliyon are also playing as well but I have not really seen them online…  either that or not as a name I would recognize them as.  We have a pair Miko and Uldane14 that seem to be leveling together in Morrowind because their levels stay synchronized but never respond to guild chat so not sure who they are.

One of the things you have to realize about House Stalwart in Elder Scrolls Online… is this represents the last great guild that I tried to build.  That is not to say that I have not done my fair share of recruiting for various guilds and continue to do so to this day.  Stalwart on ESO however was my last guild building experiment where I attempted to get all of the people who know me and all of the people they know together in one room…  and over night blossom into a guild of like 150 people at the launch of the game.  We had folks that I knew from various games I had played, folks who worked on said various games…  lots of members of the blogging and content creation community including Dulfy for a bit because we had bumped into each other during the alpha.  It was a massive thing and so long as folks were willing to abide by the three tenets they were welcome.

The only problem with that is there are a large number of people in the guild that I do not remember at all.  In fact there was at least one person I kicked recently that was the ex-husband of a good friend of mine who left her under some seemingly shady conditions.  When there is a situation like that I tend to punt the spouse as a precautionary measure just so at some point in the future there isn’t a moment when they are both online and forgot that they were both in that same guild.  Anyways this is not at all what I intended to be talking about this morning, but suffice to say there are a lot of people in the guild and since you can technically be in five guilds at once… not many have left.  I have two guild slots left, and in truth one of those could be easily pruned in a pinch because I think we only used it as a private extension of the guild bank.

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The thing I actually wanted to talk about this morning is how my opinion has shifted in relation to a topic from this game.  When it first rolled out I remember myself being extremely frustrated by their version of the Auction House system.  I had gotten used to games like World of Warcraft that had overarching global Auction House systems that allowed you to within moments search everything that was available for sale.  It felt extremely efficient, but in hindsight it also has lead to practices that I am not quite so down with like the various gold making schemes that involve playing the Auction House and looking for bargains.  This isn’t my jam… because I don’t really have that day trader instinct and as a result it always just seemed to unnaturally inflate the price of things making it harder for me to get what i wanted.  I remember receiving threatening messages in game from a bag making cartel when I dared to break their agreed upon price point and sold some bags for less to move them quickly.  I told them if they didn’t like it… buy my bags and relist them but otherwise I will do whatever the hell I want.

So for the uninitiated instead of an Auction House system, Elder Scrolls Online has a series of Guild Traders that are located throughout the world and in clusters that can be found in most towns.  I tend to personally refer to these areas as Traders Row and in most cases they are fairly close to the Wayshrine making it easy to pop over and check them.  Now each Trader is bid upon by various guilds in a blind bidding scheme for a fixed bid cycle, and then that guild is charged a weekly rate to maintain the guild store.  I have no real first hand experience of this other than one of my guilds regularly has an active trader somewhere in the world.  When your guild has a trader you have the ability to sell items on the guild store to anyone who happens across your trader and decides to open the inventory and purchase something.

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This has a lot of interesting side effects… namely that all traders are not created equal.  The traders that are in higher rent districts for lack of a better term…  areas of that have higher churn from the player base tend to have much higher prices.  So I am sure over in Summerset, the brand new expansion the prices of items on those traders would be artificially inflated to account for the fact that in order to win that trader… the blind bid that guild had to put up was likely extremely significant.  Now the inverse is true as well… if you find some trader in a backwater area that isn’t even a main city…  the items you find on that vendor are likely going to be extremely cheap.  This creates a cycle of being able to find bargains…  if you are willing to go do the leg work.  There is technically a search engine for items… but it isn’t very complete and requires that people be running an addon that updates the pricing.

Instead what I did on Friday night was spent roughly two hours popping around from town to town looking for deals.  I was ultimately trying to complete the Dwemer crafting set, but in the process I also completed the outlaw weapons and the rest of my mercenary armor pieces.  This process involved taking a way shrine to what I thought I remembered as one of the main towns in a region, making my way to the traders row and searching each of the vendors looking for any of the items I currently was hunting for.  What should have been tedium…  honestly felt pretty enjoyable.  Each region has its own feel and its own group of people that prefer to frequent it.  For example like I have talked about how Shornhelm is my home in this world…  there seems to be people that feel that way about almost every city.

Over the course of several trips to various guild traders, I found myself noticing a lot of the same names hanging out around them.  It feels like a trader may anchor a guild to a location and with it gives the world a tangible destination feel that has been lacking from other games.  The world is massive, but it also feels lived in…  populated with players who happen to prefer one area to another and go there to deal with their “upkeep”.  Just like I preferred Iron Forge for years… and later the Dwarven Quarter…  you can prefer Elden Root to Daggerfall and it is perfectly okay because there is nothing that you can get in one location or other other that makes one superior.  I guess that isn’t entirely fair… given that you need to go to a faction Capitol to get your Undaunted dailies but that really isn’t that big of a deal.

In a game with instant travel…  it has been interesting to see how many things are there to keep you connected to one location over another.

Blade of Woe

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First off with some business to attend to that is Blaugust related.  The very awesome Chestnut has been maintaining a twitter list of all of the folks participating in Blaugust 2018 that are on that platform.  Next up I was asked to participate in a couple of blogs, one with recording a promo that they could edit in and another actually sitting down and talking a bit about the event.  Those have both made their way into production as it were, and first off you have my promo that appears near the tail end of Geek to Geek Podcast with Void and Beej.  Next up I recorded a bit with Syp at the tail end of the Massively OP Podcast, but in both of these cases you should totally listen to the entire show because they are excellent.  I always enjoy the conversations that happen between Void and Beej and then  Syp and Bree as well so two shows always worth listening to.

Over the last few days I have not done the whole morning Blaugust updates in part because the sign ups had slowed down a bit.  However with the spots on the two podcasts we seem to have had an influx of new folks.  On the sheet I ask where folks heard about Blaugust, and so far one of my happiest moments is when I get a submission that says something other than the equivalent of “Bel Told Me” because that means we are spreading out and expanding our reach.  At this point we have 48 blogs signed up to participate and we still have some time before the festivities actually start…  I am cheating a bit with that number because technically one has not signed up but I know it is incoming.  If you are wanting a list of all of the participants and mentors I am keeping a google sheet with only the relevant information in it for folks to use on blogrolls and the like.

New Mentors

New Participants

As always though there is plenty of time to get started.  Pop over and fill out the sign up sheet to get registered, and then pop by the Discord to hang out with other Blaugustans.

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In gaming news, last night I started the Dark Brotherhood series of quests and so far they are pretty freaking cool.  This was always one of my favorite guilds in the Elder Scrolls games because I like the whole Sithis and the Night Mother thing going on as well as the fact that in spite of being a bunch of blood thirsty killers…  there is this interesting family dynamic happening.  This sanctuary is no different and there are some really cool things happening from the sounds of it, and I am interested to see how the events fold out this time.  The Dark Brotherhood quest lines tend to go in a specific direction…  as do the Thieves Guild to be honest.  The Elder Scrolls Online Thieves Guild was in fact a traditional Elder Scrolls Thieves Guild story…  so I have certain expectations of how things are about to go here as well.

I am not very far into the quest line and have only done a few contracts, but I am absolutely and completely down with how Blade of Woe has been implemented in this game.  I like that it just gives me an assassination ability instead of making me wield a freaking dagger.  I am not a stealthy character, but the truth is…  Dark Brotherhood is probably going to make me one because I am not sure how long I can pay the upkeep of constantly having a couple thousand gold in bounties on my head.  Now the first trait in the DB skill line seems to reduce the amount of bounty gained when someone witnesses a murder…  but regardless I need to be at least a little stealthy in my hits.

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I do not really like forced stealth mechanics, and my brand is more about charging into battle in a nonsensical manner and as a tank gathering up all that enemy hate.  This is not conducive to the Thieves Guild, but you can absolutely go in that direction with the Dark Brotherhood.  If you want to complete a mission by making sure there is 100% body count… then by all means that is a thing that can happen.  However it becomes painfully obvious that every one of those kills is going to cost you in the long run, with a very tangible bounty associated with it.  I came out of one mission with roughly 5500 gold in bounty on my head…  and while I could have waited awhile for that to drop I made my way to the nearest outlaws refuge and took care of it rather than be hassled by the guards.

Now that I have gotten slightly better at using Blade of Woe I am doing a better job of getting those kills in unnoticed and as a result reducing that gold footprint.  This game is teaching me to be stealthy and while it is weird for me to say it…  I am actually enjoying it more than I have in pretty much any other game.  I was extremely proud of myself the first time I got into a building unnoticed and back out without having to use one of the magical stealth baskets.  The mission I ran at the beginning of the night involved roaming around a palace and it mostly felt easy to go where I needed to go because I am starting to develop the reflexes needed to sneak about.  There is a certain muscle memory that I am developing that I have never really had in the past.  In other Elder Scrolls Games the only reason why I ever used sneak…  was to land a bow shot with the damage multiplier.  This time it feels like it allows me to move around freely and avoid entanglements I might not want to deal with.  All in all… still having a blast even though I was initially grumpy with the forced stealth.