Social Structure and MMOs

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I’ve talked off and on about Imzy, and how it is filling a niche for me at least that Google+ used to in that it allows for a sort of long winded discussion that twitter just simply doesn’t.  Yesterday I read a post there that made me realize something I had been trying to sort out in my head for awhile.  The vast majority of my gaming time is spent playing MMOs and I tend to have several that I am in various states of active in at the same time.  However I rarely if ever gain any sort of permanent traction in them, and after a few weeks of play tend to fade away again until the whim hits me to fire it back up.  I go through a cycle of curiosity that leads to excitement…  that leads to confusion and disillusionment that ultimately ends with me leaving once more.  I will pick up a game and for a few days to weeks it is going to be the most interesting thing in the world as I get adjusted to the systems and mechanics again.  However I always reach this point where an overwhelming sense of “what now” hits me.  When that happens I wind out going right back to whatever it is happens to be my core game…  which if we are being honest with me is an alternation of World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV.  I have been working on my games played during 2016… and decided to extend that out to all of the games that are easy to track thanks to my blog.  There is a clear pattern of when I start getting super excited about WoW I shift away from FFXIV and versa vicea.  There is of course some overlap, but you can see a back and forth pattern that emerges.

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So the question is then…. what do these two games seem to have that so many others don’t.  The answer was sitting there waiting for me to notice. I often talk about games having great communities…  but generally speaking this is in broad terms and extremely non-specific.  Most games have some excellent niches in them, but in the grand scheme of things that doesn’t really do much to add core enjoyment for me.  I keep returning to World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV… because those are the games that I have established communities in.  There was a time when I was willing to branch out and meet new people…  plunk myself down in a brand new game and start growing an entirely different infrastructure.  The community that I have right now… is in large part the result of me doing this over and over.  Each new game I go into I meet a whole new cast of people…  but at some point that began to change.  As I gathered a larger and larger core of players… I stopped looking outside to the community nearly as much and instead looking to my guild.  While I am still meeting a lot of new people… they are coming with the pedigree of knowing someone I already know and am familiar with…  which of course speeds up the social footnotes that come from meeting anyone new.

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Last night was a prime example of this happening, because we were raiding in World of Warcraft and had someone pop by and join….  that I had not personally played with in several years.  My personal community in House Stalwart within World of Warcraft seems to have this ability to stay evergreen… and always have a certain chunk of the population that is active and always happy to be there.  House Stalwart my guild has existed for twelve years…  in spite of my actions.  When I left WoW to start playing Rift I tried my best to burn down everything about the game… actively recruiting people away to play this new an exciting game.  I did the same thing for Final Fantasy XIV and Elder Scrolls Online… and countless other games.  However at its core… the guild still remains and not only that… but has remained viable for the purpose of doing interesting end game content the entire time. Similarly the Final Fantasy XIV guild… while considerably younger just seems to endure whatever boom and bust cycles we go through population wise, and in both cases….  I know that I can return at any point and will be welcomed back with open arms.  In truth I think pretty much everyone who has touched either guild feels the same way…  which is why folks are constantly showing up from out of the woodwork and reintegrating back into the core at least for a little while.

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So the problem that exists with nearly every other game…  is I just don’t have anything close to this infrastructure…  nor do I really have the emotional or intellectual strength to try and forge it.  There have been House Stalwart offshoots in damned near every MMO that has existed… or at least as a guild community we have chosen a specific server and faction to all roll on.  However for most… these interludes serve as a vacation from the game they were already playing… and after a break most folks wind up going right back to the familiar.  In a traditional MMO I need to have something that I am building towards, and that object on the horizon is usually doing interesting things with my friends.  So while it is absolutely fun to pop in and play Rift or ArcheAge for a weekend…  I find hard keeping motivated when I know I have no real facilities to do any of the big interesting things… other than pugging.  I am spoiled to be honest, and so many years of not having to PUG has soured my experience as a whole.  Any random person I encounter is somehow tarnished by the memory of all of the good times I have had with my guild throughout the years.  After generations of MMOs… this has lead me to be rather insular in my gaming habits and tending to return to the folks I already know and respect rather than trying to create something new.

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So now days I tend to operate in two modes.  I have the games that I am active in and have deep social connections… and the games that I slink off to when I need to limit my social connectivity and turtle for awhile.  I tend to gobble up whatever new content is available, and then happy drop that game by the wayside as I return to active duty again.  Games like Star Wars the Old Republic, The Secret World and Elder Scrolls Online are great for this role, given that they all have deeply engaging stories that you can find yourself completely lost in…  so much so that you forget that you are essentially alone in a crowd of strangers.  There are a lot of games that I think I would enjoy… if I had a similar stable infrastructure.  However at this point… to be honest… folks are pretty stratified in their gaming habits.  I can no longer really make an impassioned argument as to why they should abandon X game that they know and love for Y game that is new and different.  I know this boom and bust cycle all too well at this point… and while it is a hell of a fun ride, to some extent I am getting that fix elsewhere.  For me personally… the Diablo 3 season mechanism perfectly emulates the feeling of “unwrapping” a brand new MMO and rushing with your friends to level as quickly as you can.  This time however we all know it is perfectly fine to fade away once you have achieved your  goals…  because its a game we will all return to again and again as new seasons happen.  I have been the cause of so much frustration and disappointment in my gaming career…  that I guess in some part I would rather slink off alone… than get folks excited about yet another game that I am sure we will all abandon within three months time.  However that same instinct…  is what keeps any of these games from actually gaining traction.  What I realized this week when reading the post on Imzy is just how desperately I need that social infrastructure for me to be able to enjoy a MMO.

Regularly Playing

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Yesterday I decided to start “truing up” my “Regularly Playing” section of my hot bar.  This area has been through many changes throughout the years and the whole idea was just to let readers know what I am actually playing right now.  It originally started as me simply i-framing in the information from Raptr… but since I don’t actually use that server or any other equivalent games tracker that isn’t going to work.  I shift games quite often, and I wanted a way to indicate what games are currently “on tap”.  So this shifted from “Now Playing” to “Frequently Playing” and eventually wound up with the verbiage of “Regularly Playing”.  The goal now is to evaluate the list once a month and make adjustments to keep it “mostly true”.  I realize I am finger quoting a lot of shit in this post, but the truth is I come home and log into whatever seems enjoyable unless I have a specific activity planned that night.  Over time some stuff fades away and other games get added, so I thought as part of this process I would talk a bit about where I am currently in each game on the list, as well as a bit about any that I might have removed or didn’t quite make the cut.

Destiny: The Taken King

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I am still just irrationally enthralled by this game, though over the last week I have not played quite so much because I am starting to get back into MMOs once more.  This week has been all about Iron Banner, because I am trying my best to get my Hunter to Rank 5…  in spite of not being here for the weekend due to travel plans.  The major goal of the month was to hit 335 light and I have managed to do just that on the Titan, however I am still lagging on the Warlock and Hunter with the primary slot that they need the worst being literally any legendary quality artifact.  I need to sort out what I can do to get one of those because I have plenty of infusion fodder to feed into an artifact… they just have 320 blues currently equipped.  The only real frustration that I have with Destiny right now is that Bungie is apparently shit at math.  We were told that several activities would drop an item equal to your current light level of better.  However now sitting at 335, there are still a truly silly number of activities that drop 334 items.  From Challenge of Elders turn-ins last night I got both a 334 weapon and 334 arms, and from an exotic engram I got a 334 secondary…  all while showing up in game as 335 light.  This is pretty maddening since 334 is useful for infusion if you are desperate but what you want to see is 335s so you can bring up ALL of your gear to that light level.  Regardless I am still loving the game and I am hoping that the next big patch will address this problem.  Also hoping that when I get back from my trip I can finish the push to Rank 5 because I am roughly halfway to Rank 4 at the moment.

Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

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This marks the second week of me being “back” at least as far as doing the Tuesday night raid content is involved.  I am still very much in “catch up” mode, but I am enjoying myself.  As far as downtime activities I have started the grind to get elemental crystals for the first Anima weapon, aka the Relic 2.0 or 3.0 depending upon how you are counting.  I am loving being Lala-Bel once more and I guess whatever funk I was going through that was keeping me from playing MMOs has passed because I am enjoying myself again.  I very much need to be doing a nightly Expert but that has yet to happen quite yet.  After yesterdays post however I found a whole slew of people willing to be tagged and pulled in for expert running.  Now I just need to get back from this weekend and get started on this proper.  Also apologies ahead of time for the nightmares that will be induced by the creepy-assed Calcabrina dolls.

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls

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Season Six is very much winding down to a close, and I have managed to accomplish pretty much everything that I could have hoped for… at the very least I got my additional stash tab.  I have friends who still have things to knock out to get theirs so I am very much in a help as needed mode.  That said I am still poking my head into the game on a regular basis to farm for Menagerist Goblins…. something I have yet to actually see.  The highlight of the season was something that I did not even realize was a thing until it dropped.  I guess the cosmic wings are among the rarest item this time around.. because it is RNG on top of RNG on top of RNG.  You have to get one of the rainbow goblins to show up… and then have to get it to drop the Whimsydale portal… and then have to get a specific mob to show up in there to get them.  In any case pretty much any time I get a Whimsydale portal I holler at anyone who happens to be on to come along with me now just in case they drop again.  I’ve made it way further this season than at any other time… the only thing I am not looking forward to is trying to merge my current seasonal bank into my non-seasonal bank once more.


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This is the newest addition to the list and also the one I have spent the least time playing.  This week was the official launch of Overwatch, and my friends list has been completely on fire about this game.  I played it enough in beta to know that I liked it, and then ceased to play it any further waiting for launch.  Now that launch is here however… I have all of these competing priorities.  The game is really good and so far I have yet to find a champion that I don’t like… pending I give them a serious chance.  I was largely diametrically opposed to D.Va largely because the mech looked like a killer whale mixed with a guardian mode veritech.  However after getting the carbon fiber skin from a loot box… and giving her a proper try I found out that I really enjoyed it.  The game is probably the best designed shooter I have played in a very long time.  The thing that is going to keep me from really sinking my teeth in however… is it has no PVE/Exploration gameplay like Destiny.  If I could have Destiny set in this universe with character progression and collecting awesome weapons…  I would be completely hooked.  This will likely always be a game relegated to the “once or twice a week” column for me largely because I am just not that competitive.  Earning loot boxes is a cool reason to keep playing, but eventually there will come a point where I run out of things I care about that came come from lootboxes.

World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor

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This is the backburneryist of backburner games for me right now.  I’ve gotten in the habit of logging in daily and collecting my free money from the garrison… especially now that I put a massive dent in my finances and bought the Grand Expedition Yak.  That said every now and then I do play one of the characters that I am still in the process of leveling.  I have this grand idea that it would be fun to roll into Legion with a full list of level 100 characters, however I somehow doubt that is going to happen… much the way as it has never actually happened during any of the other expansions.  However that said the alt of choice right now is my druid that I am slowly pushing up.  In truth I am in a holding pattern until Legion and largely not paying a ton of attention to the game in the meantime.

Things Removed From List

Elder Scrolls Online

The truth is the MMO Funk hit and I never really returned to playing this regularly.  I still very much want to, but it is going to need another lag in some other game for me to really sink my teeth into it.  The game that exists today is amazing and they have done a really good job of keeping the content fresh.  The biggest problem is I really don’t have anyone to play with over there on the North American server cluster.  Now if I were playing on the EU side… I know lots of active and happy guilds.  I would absolutely play with the Whitestar folks were that really a viable option.


While initially interesting to me, this game just did not sink its teeth into me the way it did the rest of the AggroChat crew.  There is just something that I don’t like about it… and I have tried to reason out what exactly it was.  I still have an account and still have some cool stuff on it, so I might at a future date return to it, but it never really replaced my love for Destiny.

The Division

While technically it was never actually on the sidebar… it probably should have been.  I was all about The Division at launch and that excitement did not even manage to carry me through to the level cap.  I am sitting around level 26 and I am just not sure what is holding me back.  Largely the content at that level doesn’t feel nearly as interesting or rewarding as it did at lower levels.  The packs of mobs out in the world seem to be scaled for group play, and when you down folks… they don’t seem to be dropping anything interesting.  In theory I could hold my nose and grind through it… but what would  I be grinding for?  I am so far behind the curve in gear and it doesn’t feel like the game really gives you a lot of great options to catch up.  There has been a sequence of changes that I really didn’t feel like had me in mind.  At first I liked that it felt like you could progress through the game on many different vectors and end up at the same loot goal.  However the crafting material nerf really hurt that feel for me.  This is something I might return to later, once they offer some Destiny like catch up mechanisms to give players a hand up.


Contemplating Forge

Last night was another night that was all over the place.  Firstly I decided to reinstall and give it another chance.  I have so many mixed emotions about this service, I like the concept that I can grab short clips at the end of my gaming session.  I dislike the fact that I can ONLY grab short clips, which are generally too short to show a boss fight for example.  I like the always on nature, and that it can just run in the background without me feeling like I need to be entertaining.  However I ran into some issues last night where apparently even though I had push to talk set… it was still actively picking up my microphone the entire time as you can see in the above clip.  So you get a snippet of a conversation between my wife and I about something I don’t even remember.  I like the idea of streaming but I don’t always want to be actively interacting, and forge is this great middle ground.  Ultimately I wound up muting my microphone at a system level just to make sure that it was not picking up.  I am hoping this is just a bug in the current client, and I will crawl the site to see if I can find out why this was happening.

The other gotcha it seems is that it did not pick up and start recording Elder Scrolls Online.  I spent the first part of the evening doing garrison dailies and doing at least one Tanaan objective in World of Warcraft and it recorded all of that perfectly.  However as soon as I swapped into ESO, it never came up with the forge icon in the upper right hand corner of the screen letting me know it is recording.  I will say that the really really nice thing about the client is sometime in between my last attempt at using the service and this one… it seems to work nicer with Fraps because there is no way I am giving up that just to use the service.  I am too used to having a common and centralized screenshot tool for all of the games I play.  It is an absolute necessity that I have a fresh source of new screenshots for this blog, and I hate having to try and find the screenshot directory for each individual game.  So instead I tend to unbind the screenshot key if it is allowed and just use Fraps for everything.  It was awesome last night that I was able to use fraps just fine while still recording on forge….  at least when it came to World of Warcraft.  I am going to be a sad panda if that ends up being the issue with it recording Elder Scrolls Online.

Return to Greenshade

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The bulk of my time last night was spent wandering around Greenshade in the Elder Scrolls Online.  Generally speaking I tend to play this game by wandering aimlessly from objective to objective, but last night I actually seemed to move through the zone with a purpose.  That purpose being ingratiating myself to the Court of the Wilderking, a forest spirit that controls the Valenwood and that the local Bosmer worship as a God King.  As part of trying to quell the rebellion and steal forces away from the Veiled Heritance, my mission was simple…  get the support of the Wilderking to get the support of the local forces…. thus ending the  rebellion.  I of course did a bunch of other stuff along the way, and I am not entirely complete with the main story sequence…  but I am having a blast.  I got sidetracked in helping a friend level in World of Warcraft, and then again by the Love is in the Air event…. and finally I am settling back into Elder Scrolls Online for a bit.  Granted currently I will probably continue to hop games like mad because there is just so damned much stuff that I want to be playing.  In Elder Scrolls I have yet to see any of the Imperial City content, or Orsinium… and they are just about to release the Thieves Guild as well.  So much catching up to do… but at the same time I feel like I have all the time in the world to do it because I am not playing the game at a serious end game focused level.

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The other big happening of the night is that I finally dinged Veteran Rank 4, allowing me access to the next tier of crafted gear.  I was doing awesome….  until I screwed up and rushed to get my shield made and forgot to go to the set crafting area.  Originally I was planning on having 5 piece Alessia’s Bulwark, and 4 piece Ashen Grip…  except I am now sitting at 3 pieces in that set because I got sidetracked and ended up making a non-set shield.  Unfortunately I am completely out of the right kind of wood so I will need to do some more adventuring before I can finish things out.  For the time being I have opted to abandon my costume and go with the actual armor look because I dig the Imperial armor look.  I will probably always favor the Dunmer sword type, though recently I did enjoy using an axe for a bit.  The game looks amazing on the laptop, and I am so damned happy with how well everything is performing to be honest.  It does get a little hot but then again what gaming laptop doesn’t.  My previous one had a SLI graphics card configuration so had insanely hot air venting out of both sides of the laptop.  At least this setup isn’t continuously baking my mouse hand.  I just need to sort out why exactly Forge was not recording the game.

The Division

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Also looming on the near horizon is the launch of The Division.  At this point it is absolutely certain that I will be playing it on the PC, at least at first.  When the price comes down a little I will probably also pick it up for the PS4 so that I have access to it for any of the friends that happen to be playing there.  For the last few days since the end of the beta I have trying to sort out how best to organize folks for the upcoming launch.  The game itself does not really have guilds or clans or any structure like that….  at least that I saw in the two betas I have been part of.  So as a result this is going to make getting stuff going a little more difficult than in other games.  However my friend Sigtric, the man who coined the hashtag #BelEffect is firing up a Discord group and attempting to get it to be the official/unofficial chat server for the game.  If you are going to be playing I highly suggest you pop by and join the “Gone Rogue” community.  There is a shared general chat and breakout channels for PC, PS4, and Xbox One to make organizing things a little easier.  I honestly wish I had something like this for Destiny.  Discord is one of those things that is growing on me, and while I still find Slack easier to use…  there is a point in the near future where I could see abandoning traditional voice servers and moving to Discord entirely.


Relearning to Fight

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Nostalgia vs Reality

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I feel like I grew up at exactly the right time to be a fan of fighting games.  For the most part these were what consumed my High School game playing years, well apart from a healthy dose of pen and paper role-playing and miniatures.  I remember when the local Circle K got in the original Street Fighter back in middle school, my friend and I were completely enamored with it.  Sure we had played fighting games before, but there was just something different about this one.  Then when Street Fighter II started showing up in Arcades during early 1991… it was quite literally all we could talk about.  Electronic Gaming Monthly had become our bible, and when it released full move sheets for each character, my friend Wade and I practically memorized them.  We were set on course for a wild ride over the next several years, as a new game would come along and dethrone the previous king.  I spent so much money in the arcades playing Street Fighter II derivatives, Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury, Samurai Showdown, Mortal Kombat 1 and 2….  and finally culminating for me at least with Killer Instinct.  I went off to college…. got poor…  so I missed a whole generation of the early Tekken games, finally re-entering the fighting game world with Soul Edge in the basement of the university center.  I stayed engaged for most of the original Playstation and for the first bit of the Playstation 2…  and then thanks to my addiction to MMOs…  checked out of the scene once more.

From that point onwards I have tried to poke my head in, every now and then…  even purchasing the original release of Street Fighter IV on my fairly new Xbox 360.  There is still very much a will in me to play these games… but I have had to realize that I am not nearly as good as my nostalgia believes me to be.  Generally speaking I get my ass kicked and get it kicked extremely hard when I try and play anyone with much skill.  I also have completely killed any of those key callouses that we used to need to keep from getting a nasty case of “raw thumb”.  There is something about Street Fighter V however that has reinvigorated my desire to try and learn to play Fighting games once more.  At almost 40… I simply don’t have the reflexes to ever really be “great”, not that I ever was in the first place.  I could dominate an arcade cabinet for a few hours on a single quarter during my prime, but that part of me is just no longer around.  Gone is most of that competitive spirit, and instead I just want to have some fun playing a fighting game.  So much has been added to the genre since I last played, that it feels like I will be simply starting from scratch again.  We will have to see how long the drive stays with me, but as of right now I have every intent of sitting at home tonight and trying to remember how to play a Street Fighter game.  I ended up picking it up on PS4, so my PSN id is Belghast as is my Capcom fighter tag, though I don’t expect to play against anyone for a long while.  I wish I had ordered that Hori Fight Commander in preparation of this…. because I am not sure if I can get used to hitting shoulder buttons for heavy attacks.

Goodbye Grahtwood

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In other news… I have now finished the bulk of the quests in Grahtwood and am moving forward to Greenshade.  There are I am certain a few points of interest that I did not take care of while I was in Grahtwood, but a lot of them are simply going to wait for another level… and a fresh infusion of gear.  So many of the world bosses that I encountered were actually two separate boss mobs that interacted with each other.  I can absolutely whittle down one world boss, by simply out surviving it and self healing….  but when it comes to two at the same time my damage output is lacking.  So my hope is that when I hit Veteran 4 and can craft a whole new set of gear… that I will be able to return and kick their ass.  Right now I am largely wearing a crafted set of Veteran 1 gear… and at this point it is starting to feel a bit dated.  In other news I got this installed once again on my upstairs gaming rig, so my hope is to maybe start streaming some of my evening shenanigans.  I am not sure what it is about playing Elder Scrolls Online, but it very much feels like returning home.  Its like the world waited there quietly for me to return, and has thus far welcomed me back with open arms.  If you ever played this game in the past… you might take the bit to patch up your client and give it a shot.  I know a few people recently have restarted after not enjoying the beta testing at all… and are enjoying themselves.  The game certainly feels more polished now than it was at launch.


Magical Moose

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Luck and Friendship

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Over in World of Warcraft, there has been an item that has lovingly started to be referred to as the Friendship Moose…. and there are good reasons behind it.  The mount itself is pretty damned majestic, and makes me feel like Santa Claus when I ride it.  It comes from getting the Ahead of the Curve achievement for Heroic Archimonde….  well in truth Archi drops a quest but same basic difference.  The reason why it has become known as the friendship moose is the fact that there have been an extremely large number of people in the WoW Community who are going out of their way to try and get people the mount.  To the best of my knowledge it was originally @Thomicks that started the #FriendshipMoose hashtag, and then it kinda just went out of control from there.  I know @Zelse007 for example has been really knocking these out and as of last night he has gotten 639 Folks their moose.  I won’t lie that the thought of getting a spiffy mount is partially what drove me back into raiding in World of Warcraft recently, but more than anything it was to be able to hang out with Horde friends that I had never really raided with.  Quite honestly I never expected to get the Reins of the Grove Warden.

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The thing is…  I have some really amazing friends.  Earlier in the week I was pinged by Damai to see if I wanted to join in with his raid for a farm run.  The plan was to clear a bunch of bosses on Thursday and then pop in really quickly early in the evening on Saturday and take down Archimonde.  Generally speaking I cannot participate in this raid because it happens to coincide almost exactly with our podcast recording session.  However this time they planned on being in and out of the raid roughly two hours before our podcast was set to go.  I ultimately had to beg off on Thursday, because I kept going into uncontrollable coughing fits, but I was however able to attend yesterday….  which was good enough to get me a moose.  I was carried extremely hard last night, the above image is of me being the only dead member of the raid…. from when I tried to run my fixate to the edge and happened to run right in between two folks firing their lasers.  Not only did I walk away with a moose but I also picked up a couple of sweet upgrades, one of which is REALLY amazing for my special snowflake Gladiator spec [ Worldbreaker’s Resolve,  World Ender’s Gorget].  I gotta say I am happy beyond reason… because I absolutely thought this was far beyond my reach.  I want to give a special shout out to Damai, Errya, Pugnodeum, and the rest of the Praetorian Guard crew for dragging my but along.

No AggroChat

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So now that the warm and fuzzy bits are out of the way… I have to tell you that right now I am feeling like a complete and total failure.  Sure being the only person to die on Archimonde should have done that already, but this is something different.  We’ve been recording AggroChat for a little over two years now I believe, and during that time we have missed two episodes.  This week being the second episode, and for the most part…. this time is completely because of me.  While raiding last night, I was on listen only mode because I quite honestly had no voice to talk with.  Throughout the day yesterday, as it went on my voice kept getting weaker and weaker until the point where I simply became a squeaky whisper.  On top of this…  Tam is out of pocket this week, Grace is out of pocket this week… and yesterday was Kodra’s birthday…  leaving it up to Thalen and Ashgar to hold up an entire show.  As a result throughout the day we simply decided to call it, and I really hate the fact that it was my fault for doing just that.  This crud that I have picked up is driving me insane… I am so ready to be “better” but as the weeks go by it keeps dragging on.

I know last week when I went ahead and recorded… it was probably a bit of a set back.  Because prior to last weeks show I was feeling a bit better…. and then afterwards I was pretty much dead to the world for a few days.  What is killing me the most is that when I am in this condition I just don’t want to do much of anything.  As a result I have been focused heavily on Elder Scrolls Online, which is a game that I am largely playing by myself.  Sure there are a handful of awesome people playing with me like Ammo and Sol, but even then my interaction is mostly that of answering the sort of questions that new players have…. and not so much active grouping.  I can zone out and zone into the storyline… and as a result I am probably enjoying it more than I have since I first played alpha.  Part of me wants to at least push through the rest of the Aldmeri Dominion content before resigning the game to the back burner again.  Another big thing that I want to do at some point is pick up where I left off in SWTOR, and play through the Reven content that I never actually got around to doing.  I have this feeling at least in the near future that I am going to be focused on story games, less than I am going to be on raiding and grouping activities.  The Final Fantasy XIV 3.2 patch might change that, and in part I hope it does…. because I would love to feel the drive to play that game again.  However in the meantime I am going to quietly be piddling over here without my voice.



Team Akatosh

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Psijic Order

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Coming back to The Elder Scrolls Online has been this strange homecoming for me, in part because this is one of those games that I was part of something bigger than myself.  Everyone has that one world that they would love to see done up as an MMO.  It might be something from fiction like the setting of the Dune series, or something from a movie like Stargate…. but everyone I have ever known seems to have that one world that they would love to play in.  For me that world was Tamriel, because since Daggerfall I have been a huge fan of the Elder Scrolls series of games.  Granted I don’t date back nearly as far as some folks, but it is safe to say that I have spent multiple thousands of hours roaming aimlessly in the various Bethesda games.  On February 26th of 2013 I got the email that I had been longing to see since I first began trying to imagine other worlds to make these sort of games from.  I am not sure if I was in the literal first wave of invites, but I was there pretty early and that first four hour testing session went by so insanely fast.  I was completely hooked, and bursting with so much to talk about….  knowing that I would have to swallow it down because I wanted to do my best to honor not only the NDA but also the testing process.  This time I had one of my best friends reputation riding on the line, because not only did he get me in the testing process… but he was also responsible for building a lot of the quests I was experiencing.

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During the early days they fired up beta testing servers, and assigned different people to different teams based on specific traits about them.  I still for the life of me have no clue what Team Akatosh was, or what demographic we happened to represent.  It was pretty early discovered that the Mara team were made up of largely female gamers, and then there was I believe Stendarr that was largely made up of ESO purists.  Collectively we became known as the Psijic Order once the tests opened up further and started letting in new people.  We were essentially the “first wave” or as some have referred to it the “The 0.016% ” but I don’t even have a clue if that figure is correct or where it even came from.  I ground the hell out of this game, and never missed a single test that I can recall… and in every single case until the very end of the testing process… the tests were specific times.  I gleefully bug noted every single thing that I saw, and at one point it got back to me that Ashgar and myself were apparently in the top 1% of bug reporters…. something I am admittedly a little proud of.  The problem being that I got into testing in February of 2013… and the game launched in April of 2014…  which means I feverishly played it as a second job looking for flaws to report for roughly a year before the game actually launched.  When it launched…  based on the videos on my YouTube channel I streamed at least 45 hours of it.  I had simply burnt myself out on the game because I focused on it so seriously.

Brackenleaf’s Briars

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The awesome thing about coming back is that I am remembering the way I loved the game roughly three years ago when I first got that beta invite.  Things feel fresh and new, and the pace is perfect for me.  I can meander around aimlessly but still feel like I accomplished something at the end of the night.  What is cool is the fact that the Psijic Order still apparently exists, in both the private area on the official forums, and the guild that we formed on launch.  Over the last few days I have caught up with a few of these folks and it has been pretty cool knowing that someone stayed.  While at launch we had around 150 people…  until the other day there were only one or two of those that still poked their head in every now and then.  Since then I have gotten Ammo and Solaria into the game, and they seem to be enjoying it.  I have another friend that says he purchased it, since apparently you can now find it for around $20 and I will be meeting up with him to get a guild invite as well.  Last night I did a significant amount of house cleaning, namely that I demoted everyone to recruit and removed bank access, largely just as a safety precaution since 90% of the folks are not active.  The idea is as folks show up again, I will fix their permissions, but that allows those of us who are there to feel more safe sharing items in the guild bank.

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I realize the Aldmeri Dominion quests were the last to go into the game… and that when they were created it was a bit of an all hands on deck crunch time.  That said they are some really amazing quests.  There is a quest sequence that deals with Brackenleaf a giant living tree…. that looks suspiciously like the Great Deku Tree from Ocarina of Time.  The quest sequence involves protecting the tree from an enemy known as “The Outsider” and has some interesting plot points.  I have to say…. I have always loved the Bosmer and if I was going to be an elf I think that is absolutely who I would be.  I could absolutely live by the Green Pact, and eat nothing by tasty tasty animals.  Also really enjoying the interaction with the Bosmer leader of Elder Root and the haughty Altmer that he is forced to deal with.  I think the overall quest arc of Grahtwood is going to be pretty great to experience, so looking forward to pushing that forward a bit more.  As of last night I dinged Veteran Rank 3, and I have an unknown number of champion points.  I decided to go ahead and subscribe, and with that came a 10% experience boost… that was honestly immediately noticeable.  Namely it was noticeable on the Veteran Rank progression, and I doubt I would have hit Rank 3 last night were it not for the boost.  Essentially I mulled over the whole sub thing for a bit… and decided that the same amount of money could either go to outright buying some expansions…  or go to three months of subscription and at the same time give me 4500 in currency to spend elsewhere.  For the time being I went with the sub option because it just made more sense.


Old-Lady Suit

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Best Intentions

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I had psyched myself up yesterday to go off and do some raiding last night.  Some friends of friends had graciously offered to drag me along with them for the first part of Heroic Hellfire Citadel.  I thought to myself that this was an excellent opportunity, that could lead to gear and maybe even a moose at some point, so even though they raid PST, I figured I would make the good college try.  The problem being my body is still conspiring against me.  This is officially the sickest I have been in years, as we are now going on thirteen days for this crud.  Admittedly my wife had something super similar weeks before we went to PAX and while she got over the bulk of it… almost a month later she still has the constant cough.  The thing that is killing me at the moment is the sore throat, only exacerbated by the constant body shaking coughing fits and drainage.  So by the time the raid was starting around 9:30 my time…. I was already taking NyQuil and planning to slip into bed.  I politely begged off as best I could and if any of them are reading today… I sincerely thank them for the opportunity.  One which I kinda hope will still be available when I am not feeling like shit.

The problem I am in with Belghast is the fact that my item level is artificially low, because there are four pieces of gear that I simply cannot afford to get rid of.  I have the four piece normal Blackrock Foundry set, and every time I try and sim out swapping out of it for higher item level gear… it is a major dps loss.  The problem being that I am playing a special snowflake class that will be going away in Legion.  Gladiator just works strangely, and it feels like Blizzard inadvertently gave use the most perfect class set ever.  The two piece bonus is “Shield Slam has a 8% Chance to Automatically Cast Shield Charge” which is massive, and helps fill in those spots where I could not normally have Shield Charge up for the damage bonuses.  The four piece is essentially “Shield Charge increases the damage of Heroic Strike, Slam, and Revenge by an Additional 20%” which is the single best damage booster that I can get right now.  So I simply cannot abandon this set bonus, and the only real option right now would be to try and find a Mythic Blackrock group so I could get the Mythic four piece set.  Because of the way the Hellfire Dungeon set works… I can also squeeze in the two piece of that set giving me “Bonus Armor Increased by 145” which while not insane… is a decent dps boost since every point of armor translates to 2 attack power for Gladiator spec.  So needless to say I am stuck in a corner where my 686 gear score does not exactly equate to my performance…  but I don’t really have access to the upgrades that would actually help.  I mean as much as I hate to see it go, I totally see why Blizzard is getting rid of this special snowflake spec.  It is extremely hard to itemize for and gear for.

Madness and Cheese

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So after getting frustrated that there was very little I could do to improve my lot in life on my Warrior, I ended up logging over into Elder Scrolls Online for some nice and peaceful questing.  I actually managed to catch Solaria on at the same time, and I spent a little bit of time attempting to help her get started in crafting.  The only problem being that during prime time it seems like all of the ore is heavily farmed down.  Since I have the insane “see it from a distance” glow effect, I am wondering about dropping down to Betnikh and helping farm up a bunch of ore for her.  She decided to go with a Heavy Armor Two-Handed Templar…. which was one of my favorite paths from alpha testing.  It feels a little bit like a WoW Retribution Paladin in the burst damage department, and has some really high survival when running around questing.  It also greatly simplifies the crafting, since Blacksmith can literally make everything they would need to use from the weapon to the armor.  The problem there is Blacksmithing honestly seems to be the most useful profession, and as a result ore is always in high demand.  I could in theory just pass over a bunch of bars, but she really needs the skill-ups from refining the bars right now, so I would be better served just going out and farming ore for her.

One of the things I had forgotten about Elder Scrolls Online was just how well written the quests are.  I completed a sequence in Grahtwood where I ended up encountering my favorite of all Daedra… Sheogorath the Prince of Madness.  You never know if he is going to attack you… or offer you cheese…  and then attack you.  What makes this sequence so great is the fact that I have tangled with Sheogorath in the past of this game.  He remembers my interactions and even seems to comment based on my decisions….  in this completely unrelated quest line.  The amount of time that they put into making sure that the dialog trees had little gems like this, is just awesome… and I am still really impressed by them when I find them.  All of the content was designed knowing that your single character might be completing all three factions worth of it.  There is just something warm and fuzzy about playing this game…  and while at one point I was disappointed in it…  I think most of that was really just me trying to make it into something that it was not.  As a largely solo experience the game is exemplary, and honestly I look forward to trying to scramble enough people together to do a dungeon or two and see if that experience improved as well.  Cheese for everyone!





Maybe I Don’t Hate Elves?

The Thalmor

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Today I am feeling a bit more stable, and as a result going to attempt work.  I think I could probably use another day of rest, but in truth… yesterday I rescheduled meetings for today… and I don’t want to go through the hassle of trying to go in and reschedule them again.  My throat is still insanely sore from all of the coughing, and my eyes were matted shut this morning…  but in truth other than these things I am doing considerably better.  My eyes are actually clear again instead of the red irritated mess that they have been recently.  I also noticed that during the day yesterday apart from a bit of a nap… I actually felt like playing games again.  During most of the weekend… I honestly spent more time staring at the screen than I actually did doing anything.  I continued my journey into the Aldmeri Dominion campaign on my now Veteran Rank 2 character….  roughly half of the way to rank 3.  Throughout the course of the day I managed to work my way around the map unlocking pretty much everything but the handful of Dolmen like the one pictured above.  The problem with playing during what is normally work hours… is that there simply aren’t that many people around able to help you out.  While I can struggle through most world boss encounters thanks to the hax of Green Dragon Blood.  I have heard that it has technically been nerfed several times… but it is still enough of a self heal that I can struggle through most fights on my own.

The harsh realization I had while playing Aldmeri content is that maybe I don’t actually hate the High Elves or Aldmer as much as I though I did?  In past games I honestly went out of my way to kill the High Evles when I saw them… but I am coming to realize that these were the Thalmor, and not necessarily representative of the High Elves as a whole.  So pretty much all I was seeing was this extremist wing of the elves, that are just as horrible to their own people as they are to anyone else.  I mean I have always liked the Bosmer and their Green Pact…  I mean who doesn’t think Cannibal elves are awesome?  Then there are the Khajiit, and you have to be a horrible ass to not like them.  It is awesome seeing them in a light that is not as constant comic relief, even though they are absolutely right up there with the Argonians for most oppressed race of Tamriel.  So while I expected to like the occasional merchant and small folk in this campaign… I did not expect to really like the leaders.  The Canonreeves and Battlereeves have for the most part been awesome…. as has Queen Aywren herself.  I am actually enjoying helping them turn the tide in the battle against the Maormer and the Veiled Heritance.

Epic Battles

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Hands down the best part of the zone was the final fight for Firsthold.  During this sequence you have to actually breach a number of Oblivion gates, as you push into the Refuge of Dread and try and sever the ties of Mehrunes Dagon to our plane.  The irony is… were it any OTHER Elder Scrolls game… I would probably be completing the quests to HELP out Mehrunes Dagon because I would almost certainly be rewarded with a spiffy weapon.  Sadly I took zero screenshots while in the Refuge of Dread, so instead you are getting a random dungeon screenshot.  That is just how enthralled I was by that sequence of quests, that I kept wanting to move the story forward and get to the final culmination of the zone…. which itself was an equally epic battle.  What makes it even cooler is that immediately following the conclusion of Auridon… we are thrust into yet another epic sequence as we try and win back the town of Haven in Grahtwood from the Jackdaw Pirates who have taken it over.  I know it is going to shock Tam that I am saying that I actually kinda like the High Elves…  but I have to admit it.  Sure I like working for the Khajiit or Bosmer slightly better…. but the sad part is that we apparently only get to see the assholes in the form of the Thalmor when we are outside of the Summerset Isles.

All of this said… I still feel a much greater pull to the Daggerfall or Ebonheart Pact.  I do have to say I really am enjoying questing through the Aldmeri areas however, in part because this was the last content to go into the game… and also the content I spent the least amount of time playing.  I feel though that once I finish leveling through it… enough time might have passed for me to be able to enjoy the Ebonheart areas again.  Largely it is just the Stonefalls area that tends to drag on… and if I can ever make it through that area I will be perfectly fine because then I am mostly into undiscovered territory again.  I have to admit I am having a lot of fun, but I am mostly playing as a solo player.  If you too are playing ESO on the PC, feel free to throw a friend invite to @Belghast my root account.  It would be nice to at least have some folks to chat back and forth with while I am playing.  Since I still don’t have much of a voice, and it is actually somewhat painful to talk… I am avoiding voice chat like the plague.  Otherwise I would be sitting on our teamspeak server, and at least listening to the others as they are playing Warframe.  At some point soon I need to poke my head back into that game, but the mood just hasn’t hit me.  I also similarly need to play some more Destiny, but I have been spending most of my time downstairs on the couch and not near the PS4.  I have to say… it feels pretty good to have things to talk about… other than just how horrible it is to be sick.


Missing Adventure

Running its Course

I am sure at this point that you my wonderful readers are getting sick of reading about the adventures of Sick Bel.  I promise I am also getting tired of writing about them, because at this point I keep thinking that surely today is going to be that magically day where I start to feel amazingly better.  Pretty much the longest a virus will run is seven days, and at this point I started coming down with it last Sunday…. which would in theory make today the day things just start to improve drastically.  I am still fairly miserable, and last night I had another night of constantly interrupted sleep.  Around 7pm I went to bed, after taking some evening meds that knocked me out.  From there I ended up sleeping pretty solidly until around 11pm.  Well my wife woke me up twice about the stupid printer upstairs, but those little blips really didn’t effect my overall sleep.  After 11pm I wound up waking up every hour on the hour to adjust or get a drink.  So in theory I got more sleep than I am used to, but it was super fitful.

This morning I got ready like I was going to work, however I could quickly tell that it just was not going to happen.  I didn’t have a lot on my schedule today, so I felt like it would be better served to spend the day chilling out and napping as much as I could, with the hope that come tonight I will start to just be doing better all around.  I am taking what feels like a smorgasbord of over the counter meds to try and help with the symptoms.  The first line of defense is Mucinex Fast Max, followed up with an antihistamine, and huge doses of vitamin C.  This morning I am just worn out… but something already feels slightly different.  So here is hoping that by tonight I will be able to get a normal nights sleep.  The problem has been that honestly no position seemed comfortable at all, so I just ended up alternating through the bad choices.

Lapse in Gaming

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You can always tell how sick I am based on how well I can game.  That is always my happy place, and the activity I retreat to when I need to recuperate.  The problem is that yesterday and quite honestly the last several days….  I spent a lot of time booting games up but not really playing them much.  I mean I got this or that quest done in Elder Scrolls Online, or would pop into Diablo 3 and do a Greater Rift…. but each of those activities would wear me out to the point where I just needed to log out for awhile and do nothing.  So over the last few days I have spent an inordinate amount of time staring blankly at my laptop, and television at the same time…. not really paying full attention to either.  When in this state…. I really am not functional at all.  Which kinda sucks for the whole, writing a daily gaming blog thing.  I am hoping that today or tomorrow I will start to get back to normal so I can once again have adventures worth writing about.  Thanks to all of you for bearing with me while going through this mess.


Modding Tamriel

Struggling to Record

Last night was one of the worst ideas I have had in awhile.  I am still extremely sick, and for the most part don’t really have a proper speaking voice.  The problem being, that Saturday night is the night we record AggroChat.  This seemed to be an off week for most people.  Grace was busy, and Ashgar was being worked to death in the “on call” rotation.  The smart and adult thing to do would have been to simply apologize to our listeners and take a week off.  However I am hopelessly chained to this notion of not missing an episode… either in my daily blog posts or weekly podacsts.  I guess there is a part of me that is afraid that if I ever go by without making a post, that all of this will fall apart.   That people will go their own separate ways and whatever thing we have called AggroChat will just cease to exist.  I mean I am deathly afraid that if I miss a day of posting on this blog… that day will turn into six months before I start posting again.  So there was what I should have done…. and then what I did.  The end result is me today not really being able to talk, and afraid that I won’t be magically better by tomorrow morning for work.

The show itself went pretty well, I just felt like I struggled to try and maintain a voice that could actually be heard and understood.  Quite literally I sound like I am going through puberty, where my voice cracks and squeaks at uncontrollable times.  My vocal cords I guess have been ravaged by the congestion and the constant coughing.  To make matters worse yesterday my eyes started watering uncontrollably and are all bloodshot.  Basically I feel horrible, and will probably end up taking a sick day Monday as a result.  The worst part has been trying to get any rest in this state.  I’m taking NyQuil but it doesn’t seem to actually do much.  My night felt like it was perforated by getting up every hour on the hour to readjust myself.  I am hoping after staying up all day today I will be tired enough that I just simply collapse tonight and don’t much care what position happens to be comfortable.  I realize this is just a cold…. but my god is it one of the worst ones I have had.  I swear I have had the honest to god Flu and it has effected me less annoyingly.

Questing Auridon

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It wouldn’t be me if I went too terribly long without adding some interface addons into Elder Scrolls Online.  Right now I have Dustman, a mod that auto sells junk items and allows you to auto sell other items that you don’t really want, which is one of those things that I end up trying to find in any game I play.  I also have Lore Books and Skyshards that simply mark the location of any books or shards that you have yet to collect.  I also found a really cool mod called Undiscovered which marks areas that have some sort of a POI that you have yet to visit, which makes completing maps much easier.  The best of the mods however is the Minimap I am using which is ultimately something I complained about not having back in early testing.  I love the compass rose, but it doesn’t really replace the minimap… and I found myself spending too much time with my map open when I lacked the minimap.  Having this makes the overall experience of moving around the world so much more enjoyable for me, because quite frankly….  I have gotten used to always being able to see that top down view.  The only negatives are that most of the really awesome interface mods that I ran during the first days of the game…. seem to be long gone.  I guess I should probably check the non-curse sites just to make sure that they might not be still lurking out there.  I realize that I am essentially “Wow-ifying”  Elder Scrolls by adding these mods in…. but quite frankly I don’t care.  It makes my experience more enjoyable.

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The biggest improvement so far is that the Veteran system was replaced by the Champion system, and it finally feels like I am making forward momentum again.  I like that doing a few things here and there ends up earning me a point that I can spend on improving my character.  It also feels like they have put some serious polish in place, because in playing Friday night and most of the day yesterday… I really didn’t encounter any bugs.  All of the deeply scripted events went off without a hitch, and while I had gotten used to having to log in and out to get things to trigger during those first days of the game…. all of that seems to be a thing of the past.  The other really positive thing is that the community seems to be pretty cool.  I’ve gotten a lot of impromptu help, or folks asking if I wanted to join in for this world boss or that anchor.  I’ve not really seen anything that made me cringe, which is a huge plus given that there were plenty of cringe worthy happenings during those first months.  I am not sure how long I will remain playing the game, but I gotta say I am enjoying myself….  which is huge given the funk I have been in lately of not really knowing what to play.