Shinobi Jones

I am struggling with existence this morning.  I have always thought the saying “Thank God Its Friday” was a little trite, but I have been telling myself for the majority of the week “all you have to do is make it through Friday”.  I am not really sure what about this week has made it so stressful, but I am certainly feeling it.  It might be the fact that I know I am just about to be completely alone for a week as my wife has to go to a conference thingy.  Have I mentioned that I don’t really embrace change well?

The Hills have Dead

State-of-Decay-Watchtower

One of the games I have really been looking forward to on the Xbox 360 is State of Decay.  This is the open world exploration based zombie game from Undead Labs.  It was available as of yesterday on the Xbox Live arcade for 1600 points… aka $20.  Additionally it seems that Undead Labs is trying the failed 38 Studios approach of launching a console game and then bankrolling that success into a MMO version.  So as I look at the game, I am also in the back of my head thinking about how well this will work in MMO form.

Basically in a quick sound byte…  State of Decay is Dead Island but done better.  You are given a more interesting world to explore, populated with less random encounters and a stealth mechanic should you choose to deploy it.  I am about as subtle as a hurricane, so this is usually lost on me… but stealthier folks will love being able to sneak up on the shambling dead and get a silent take down.  There is a lot going on in the game, and most of it really good… especially for a Xbox live title.

The premise is simple, you are at a campground when the world falls to shit… and you and your friend Ed (poor bastard) agree to go around searching for survivors.  By saving other characters you essentially end up building a pack of stalwart zombie hunters.  I believe later on you can develop an enclave of survivors and protect them, building influence with each of them.  This influence seems to dictate the type of things you can do.

There are some really cool mechanics as you go out and explore the world.  One of the niftiest things is that you can at any point essentially fortify your position.  While this defies reason a bit, because as you fortify your position you magically brandish a hammer, nails and a stack of bedraggled board.  However this function allows you to protect yourself from zombies busting through windows to come attack you and the human target… Ed.  This will buy you more time to rifle through the bags and chests in an area to scavenge for materials.

So far I have encountered two kinds of undead.  The first is your normal shambling kind that if they hear you comes running but can pretty much be beat down with a bat easily unless they swarm you.  When I was searching the camp I discovered a maintenance shed that was guarded by a half dozen of a completely different kind of undead.  These were far more dexterous and had an almost demonic appearance with glowing eyes.  As a result these were much harder to take down… and quite honestly damned near killed me.  However as I said earlier… the game really rewards risk taking, because the maintenance shed was completely loaded with stuff to scavenge.

At this point I have not really played the game for very long, as I had some things I was planning on doing in The Secret World.  However the content I have played has left me wanting to play it more.  If you like zombies and you like Fallout style open world exploration… then I would give this game a look.  Additionally it has some pretty good voice acting and writing so far, even though I have not really experienced a lot of it.  As a whole it very much feels like Dead Island meets Fallout meets Walking Dead by Telltale.  If that sounds like an enjoyable combination… then you should totally check this one out.

Shinobi Jones

TheSecretWorld 2013-06-06 22-17-30-07

Last night we lacked our quorum of five members, so nothing really coalesced in the game around a “group activity”.  Since I had not yet done the “Last Train to Cairo” sequence, I figured it was as good a time as any to go get my whip.  First off I have to give Funcom major kudos because this is hands down the best issue they have released.  The feel of this mission goes above and beyond everything we have experienced to date.  It makes me extremely anxious to see what seven and eight are going to be like… especially with seven supposedly having a 007 flair.

I am going to try to keep from spoiling any of the content… but essentially the mission pack is a wild ride of sabotage, puzzles, stealth, and the most epic train sequence you have ever seen.  All the while you have these great flavor references to the Indiana Jones movies.  This is made all the more surreal by the fact that of late I have been rocking a combination of the shinobi outfit… with the glowing draugr mask… to produce a ninja with glowing blue eyes.  Jones. Shinobi Jones…  with my subtle rocket launcher combat style.

As always the puzzles are extremely puzzling.  There was one deadly floor trap that took me over thirty minutes and probably a dozen deaths to get the hang of.  All of the risk however is well worth the reward, as you not only get your spiffy new whip… but also get a 10.1 epic helm in the process, as well as some currency with a new faction of the Council of Venice.  I have heard rumor that through the upcoming expansions, there will be similar 10.1 epic items, all designed as a way to ease someone into being able to do the NY raid content.  If so I fully support this notion of gear through truly epic quest sequences.

I really need to go back and complete the Tyler Freeborn sequence of quests, as I have left that one hanging as well.  Quite honestly I am sure there is a lot of content I have missed, as the only issue that I have fully explored was the first one, with the awesome prom night sequence.  Carter is still one of my all time favorite protagonists in this game, but after taking the train to Cairo…  I am starting to really like combo of Nassir and Said.  Quite honestly almost all of the content is extremely well written and memorable.

The Secret World has been one of those games that I fired up every few weeks and piddled around a bit in.  However it has been months since I had actually played the game seriously.  Each time I come back for awhile, I marvel at just how well crafted it is.  It still has some very rough spots around the edges, but they have improved a lot in the last year.  I hope that they manage to find that point of equilibrium at which they are able to continue producing introducing content, and as the same time sustain their work force.  The game always gives me some awesome experiences.

Wrapping Up

I have more things I could talk about, but honestly my head is killing me and I want to wander off and find some headache medicine.  Additionally it is already getting late in the morning, and I need to gather laundry for the cleaners.  I might do a few bonus posts this weekend, because I have a few ideas that need to congeal in my head for awhile before throwing out onto paper.  I hope you all manage to survive the coming work day, and that it ends up turning into a weekend quickly.  Ours is going to be dictated by preparation for my wife to travel, and by myself mental preparation for being alone for a week.

Lair of the Beast

Mornings are starting to become an exercise in cat juggling.  We have one cat that is significantly older than the others, and has special dietary needs.  As a result we have been trying to get her locked into the bathroom with us as we shower so we can feed her a can of special food.  The problem is… the other cats and her alike have now come to expect this.  So before I do anything in the morning… I have to shut her in the bathroom… go into the kitchen and set out some wet food for the other two cats… then return to feed her.  Hungry cats are very good at dive bombing your legs… making it extremely hard to walk when already groggy.

Bagmaker in Chief

rift 2013-06-06 06-01-23-48

Over the last few weeks I have had quite a few friends become active over in Rift.  Other than answering questions and getting them into the guild I am in..  I have been trying to provide for their gear and equipment needs as well.  As a result I had set aside yesterday evening to try and farm up enough Lanzan cloth to make a set of 24 slot bags for Rylacus (or Rylakus as he had to go with in game…  apparently the other name has become popular).  It seems like I go through cloth like water, and the 14 bolts requirement is pretty hefty to be able to make a single bag.

I expected to be farming most of the night to make his set.  Funny thing is… apparently Rift has done the same thing that WoW did.  They have made it so that cloth drops so much faster when you are farming it on an outfitter than when you are on anyone else.  The only negative is that this meant I needed to do the farming on Belgrave my bag maker.  Since the release of Storm Legion, I made one small push to level him… ran into issues chewing through the mob hitpoint pools and have not really tried since.  As a result his specs were somewhat in a state of disarray.

I quickly pulled together a very rudimentary Ranger/Marksman spec and proceeded to start playing again like a WoW hunter.  Luckily this seemed to work better than the last time I tried it, and I could shred mobs and manage to keep my pet up at the same time.  Sure enough the drop rates were considerably better than when I had tried this little exercise on my warrior.  In roughly an hour and a half I accumulated enough cloth to make a full set of 4 bags.  Additionally I crafted Ry a set of 19ish leather gear for him to grow into, though since I taught him how to play the “scratchers” game he has managed to stay fairly well outfitted in planar goods.

I still want to find a time when both Rylacus and Thalen can be on, and anyone else we can manage to gather up.  Would be fun to run them through a couple of dungeons… even though Thalen is now over 50 at this point and Ry is not even 20.  I guess this is the reason why the mentoring system is in.  I think it will be interesting when Ry sees Rift dungeons.  So far it has been a very eye opening experience for him.  He has until now been pretty much a wow loyalist, other than a jaunt into SWTOR.  Now he finally gets why I say that Rift is hands down the best of the wow-like games.

The Keymaster

TheSecretWorld 2013-06-05 20-33-13-89

After gathering up the materials and crafting some bags, I pinged my friends over IM and decided that we would make another push and finishing the Gatekeeper requirements for Rae.  Once again I was playing the part of Shinobi Belghast, and after checking her achievements… we determined that the only thing she was still missing was the achievement for Elite Hell Eternal.  This is one that we specifically avoided the night before last, because of the time commitment it took previously.  When we were running elites regularly, Hell Eternal had several bugged fights and usually took the longest to get through.

Fortunately all of the buggy moments have been ironed out and the experience was extremely smooth start to finish.  I really love the Hell series of dungeons and the story they tell.  I have always been partial to the writings of Clive Barker… and the story of Theodore Wicker definitely parallels some of these stories.  I could see this tale fitting as a footnote in the “Great and Secret Show”/”Everville” series.  Not to mention that the hell skinned weapons are hands down my favorite in the game… so I am always game to collect more of those skins.

I have been enjoying the Shinobi skin immensely.  There is just something fundamentally wrong with running around in a ninja costume with a rocket launcher strapped to your back.  It is this great juxtaposition, and pretty much represents what happens when I attempt to play a stealth class.  I attempt to sneak around and ultimately end up just pummeling the opposition with superior force.  There is something so satisfying about watching a rocket fly off towards the target, and this is all the more satisfying seeing a ninja fire it.

We wrapped up the dungeon rather quickly, and Rae was off to her date with the Gatekeeper.  We had set her up for the harsh reality that we experienced when each of us did the trial.  At that point, hands down the hardest was the dps encounter… and of the five of us… only 2 of us even attempted the fight.  Either they have nerfed the encounter a bit, or Rae is just fundamentally better than we were.  It took me 20-30 tries to get through the encounter, and Waren two days of attempts…  last night Rae managed to beat the Gatekeeper on DPS mode in less than 20 minutes.

Lair of the Beast

TheSecretWorld 2013-06-05 22-07-34-40

Instead of starting in on the nightmares last night we decided to take an alternate path.  In our absence from being active in the game, Funcom had introduced quests for all the various monster lairs.  So we made our way to what we perceived as the “starter lair” in Kingsmouth.  Upon entering the burnt out region on the map, we were greated with a brand new visual effect announcing the lair.  The edges of the screen became roped in the veiny filth graphic and a title appeared in the center of the screen announcing the lair name (which I cannot for the life of me remember).

The lairs themselves are just as difficult as before.  We started off working on them with just 3 players… 1 tank, 1 healer and me as the single dps.  We were able to chew through the equivalent of “trash” but when we attempted to fight a Draugr they tended to rip us a new one.  Now this might have been that we were not quite used to the various mechanics to avoid… but in any case as we got our 4th and 5th player the experience became much more enjoyable.  Essentially the first two lair quests that we did were the standard kill and collect type fair, but it gave us a sense of purpose as we wandered around the dangerous area.

It was getting late when we wrapped up the first two quests… and picked up phase 2 of one of the quests and unlocked a harder one.  Since we were standing near the exit to the area… and based on the late hour… we decided to tackle the other two missions at a later date.  Previously when we had made an attempt at the various summoned lair bosses, the drop rates were abysmal.  They seem to have improved this, as we were getting a summon boss part on almost every other kill.  We designated one player to collect the bits, and he die an amazing impression of a pack mule throughout the night.

We seem to have slightly misunderstood the goals however, as we were thinking we needed to get all the parts of a specific kind of piece… aka Beta, Theta, Xi.  But it turns out that each monster is crafted out of multiple named pieces… and in any given lair there are 3 different monsters to summon.  We were feeling rather disheartened as we had 3 of one type, 2 of another, and the rest were singletons.  However I would be wiling to bet that after last nights journey, we should be able to summon at least one complete monster.  Hopefully we can get together tonight and give it a shot.

Wrapping Up

In the time off from The Secret World, it seems as though they have made a not insignificant number of changes to the game to tweak the abilities and the overall balance.  As a result I think we are all really enjoying the game more than we did before.  Each player has finally found a spec that they seem to enjoy, and of the five of us… only Ash has yet to completely abandon the concept of playing anything melee.  That is still a major shortcoming of the game to me, the way it unfairly punishes players for  attempting to melee.  I gave up long ago and switched to Shotgun/Pistol for instances over my beloved Shotgun/Blades.

If you were like us and had not seriously done much group content since early in the game.  You definitely owe it to yourself to give the elite, nightmare and lair content another look.  Our little group has been having a blast, and for the most part the game feels very fresh.  I find myself looking forward to getting into group content each night, and that has been a feeling that has been missing for a few months.  Anyways… the time is ticking on and I need to be really wrapping up instead of rambling more.  I hope you all have a great day and relight whatever spark has been dimming for yourself.

Making Horrible Choices

This morning I sit here typing as a truly insane torrent of rain pours down on our house.  Apparently over night this massive storm system has blown in, and the deluge we are experiencing is the end result.  Luckily the “T” word has not been mentioned at all, just lots of rain and the potential for flash flooding.  Still instinctually I turned to channel 6 or on digital cable… 706 and have been watching it as I get ready this morning.  This is a reaction to weather that is just engrained in Oklahomans from a little age… and even though I rarely if ever watch the evening news…  when weather happens I am glued to it.

Unplanned Adventure

Yesterday I was just feeling absolutely horrible, and while I made it into work… by noon I was wishing I had not.  I was suffering from what I tend to term “giblet” problems… everything just felt all wrong.  So I took a half sick day, and went home after I got out of an important series of meetings.  When home I pretty much went to bed, or at least laid down.  I ended up falling asleep and sleeping roughly three hours, and when I woke up I was feeling a bit better.

I got up and around and checked email… remoted into work and did a few things.  At this point my wife who is on summer break tells me that one of her coordinators called, and as a result she would need to go back to school this evening to pick up a text book.  Summer School starts today, and she would no longer have access to her room to grab it.  At first I groggily agreed, thinking man that sucks for her…  then she informed me that she was wanting me to go with her.

I quickly saw my evening going to absolute crap before my eyes.  I already felt horrible, but the thought of having to leave the house and go off on a jaunt just felt almost unbearable.  To her credit, we had a stack of errands that needed running… and her thought process was that we could just do them on the way to or from the house.  The negative part however is that her school is 45 minutes away on the exact opposite end of Tulsa.  She said we would do it later, but as time ticked past…  I ended up insisting that we leave as not to wreck the entire night.

Making Horrible Choices

This timing and path we ended up taking was a bad call on my part all around.  We ended up venturing out into the tail end of rush hour and wading knee deep into bumper to bumper traffic.  It turns out there had been a wreck in the middle lane of 169 at 51st street, and as a result traffic was backed up past 11th street.  What should have been an hour and a half trip at most, ended up being a three and a half hour slog.  All the while I am fuming that I even have to be doing this in the first place.  My wife gets an unbelievable amount of credit for dealing with me last night at all.  We bickered back and forth during the whole trip, but it could have gotten so much worse.

I was very much an asshole about the whole ordeal.  I felt like crap, my migraines have been getting worse, work has been stressing me out… and adding on top of that was getting drug back into the world for something that didn’t really involve me.  Had I needed to run get something from work, I would have just run in by myself and gotten it, I didn’t understand why I needed to be tagging along in the process.  All of this snowballed together to turn me into a bundle of unfettered rage… or at least angry sulking.  I was an absolute bear to deal with all of last night, and I greatly apologize for it.  Her thought process made absolute sense, but she is the logical one… I tend to be the one driven by my passions.

Making everything worse was the fact that we were both pretty hungry at this point.  She had not had any lunch at all, and the combination of both of us lead to a pretty crappy car ride.  The one glowing silver lining is the fact that we got to eat at Ron’s.  For those not native to Tulsa, Ron’s is this awesome chain of hamburger joints.  They specialize in several things, including the sausage hamburger… but my absolute favorites are their hot and spicy chicken and cheese tots.  Figuring it would put both of us in a better mood that is exactly where we went, and at the end of all the frustration it was truly glorious.  I had way more calories than I would have liked, but enjoyed every bite of the buffalo flavored ambrosia.

Defiance

Defiance 2013-06-04 15-57-14-71

Between waking up from my nap and after doing some work that had stacked up while sleeping, and our horrible jaunt out into the real world I sat around on our amazingly comfy sofa trying to get “ungroggy”.  As a result I decided to boot up defiance and give it a spin for a few.  I have been sitting on a copy for awhile thanks to my early alpha testing ways, but have not really spent much time playing the game.  Honestly I had created my engineer, and gotten him to the Earth Defense force base… and that was just about it.

Yesterday I decided to start working through the first few quests.  I remember thinking in alpha that this was really not “my game”.  While there are definitely elements I like about it, I am just not much of a shooter person any more… and in fantasy MMOs I very rarely if ever play a ranged class.  All of that said there is something undeniably enjoyable about the game.  It seems to tweak what ever section of my brain that loves the Fallout series.  I feel like in order to really tap into this I need to find myself a shotgun, since essentially I play every Fallout game wielding a Combat Shotgun, or whatever equivalent that game has.

I wandered around for a bit and managed to knock out one of the quests that was horribly bugged in early testing…  the whole rescue men that leads to recover supplies from the hospital mission.  During testing this ended up with essentially endless waves of mutants spawning on top of you until you could no longer keep up.  This time around, while there were a lot of mutants that spawned… they were definitely a finite number.  The gameplay feels better overall, the game less laggy and the controls more responsive.

I hope as I move further through the content that I will find myself caring about it a little more.  Having watched the television show, I find myself actually caring about the game world quite a bit more.  The only problem I have however is that the starting missions feel extremely uninspired.  The mutants you end up fighting, seem like the most generic possible mob you could end up fighting.  I don’t care that I am slaughtering them, they are completely meaningless…  to fall back on the Fallout analogy… I found myself caring more about killing mole rats and rad scorpions.

There are some neat random side effects that happen, like saving EREP forces from mutants.  The only problem is that this loses all sense of urgency when you realize that this spawns in exactly the same place on a pretty regular interval and almost every time you ATV through the area… those damned EREP soldiers have been captured again.  I have yet to encounter an Ark Fall, so I am hoping that those will really spice up the gameplay as I love Rifts.  All it all it feels like something that I will play every now and then… just like Guild Wars 2, and Neverwinter… but not a game I will likely ever get seriously into.

Reaches of Inner-Outer Space

TheSecretWorld 2013-06-04 22-18-39-77

I will admit that likely a good chunk of my bitchiness earlier, was the fact that I figured I would have lost my chance to continue on in The Secret World.  That by the time I managed to get home and watching IM again… that the Elite Dungeon train would have long left the station.  I really enjoyed Monday night, and was looking forward to being able to roll around as a prebuilt team of five last night.  It turns out that my friends had for the most part been patiently waiting for me to show up.  So as soon as I got home and fired up my laptop, they were beckoning me to join them in game.  After the ball of frustration I had just experienced, I was in major need for venting it all into killing random bad things.

Much like last night we started running the next few elites all in an attempt to get Rae the achievement needed to unlock the gatekeeper fight.  As a result we burned through Hell Fallen and the Facility, making short work of both.  We decided to skip Hell Eternal since it is an extremely long dungeon, and make an attempt at the Slaughterhouse since it is comparatively short.  I am not sure what it was… either that the fight had changed since we were last in there… or the fact that we were probably getting tired at that point…  but for whatever reason we could not push through the NKL-107 encounter.

After doing some research, apparently there is a bug currently in place that causes some of the buffs from nightmare to bleed into the elite version.  This also happened to us in the past when they rolled out the nightmare version of The Ankh.  We went from being able to roll through that place without issue, to not being able to defeat the final boss at all.  It was the same kind of feeling we had with Slaughterhouse in the robot fight.  Ultimately we needed a more reliable purge, which was not something we really had at that moment.  Both myself and Rae had the ability to do a 33% of the time purge, but this was just not regular enough to keep the tank alive with the nightmare buffs.

It was still a really fun time, and the best part is that once we finish these last two elites… Rae should be geared enough to face the Gatekeeper and hopefully survive.  Granted getting past him was a mind numbingly frustrating experience as a DPS, so it might take her awhile to come up with that magic formula that allows her to defeat him.  The fact that she picked up her 100% purge should make the fight overall easier, since I did it with only my 33% of the time purge…  and it introduced a random element into my success.  I really look forward to trying Nightmares again, to see if we are any better equipped to handle them than we were before.

Wrapping Up

The other awesome thing that happened last night is that I finally connected with Rylacus and got his two characters invited to the Outcast Misfits in Rift.  I am sure he will appreciate having some “green spam” while he is leveling, and it will definitely be easier to determine if he is actually online… or just playing the scratchers.  It is still pouring down insanely outside… and I am not looking forward to making a wild dash out to my car.  However the hour is getting later, and I need to be getting on the road.  I hope you have a great day… and you also can admit when you are being an asshole… more gracefully than I did last night.

A Secret to Everybody

So this morning I have fallen prey to one of my least favorite morning time scenarios.  I woke up naturally, and after realizing that the alarm had not gone off…  I attempted to go back to sleep.  Just as I was starting to drift back into slumber… the alarm went off rudely waking me.  I should have just gotten up as apparently my body thought my battery was done charging.  As a result I am mostly awake but the part of me that was trying to go back to sleep is still groggy and vengeful.

A Secret to Everybody

TheSecretWorld 2013-06-04 06-15-22-12

My evening was absolutely nothing like I had planned… though quite honestly I had not really planned much of anything.  My intent was to go upstairs, eat some dinner and then get back into Rift or SWTOR.  However upon arriving upstairs I got a message form a friend asking if I wanted to be the 5th in The Secret World.  The best part about this concept was the fact that this was the core group that I experienced The Secret World with initially.  It felt like getting the band back together as it were.

Basically what has spurred this recent interest in TSW is the fact that they seem to have fixed blood as a healing spec, or at least fixed it enough to where it is enjoyable once more for our healer.  Previously we burned through the elites and started banging our heads against the Nightmares before our healer just could not take any more.  This is the ultimate Achilles heel of the Secret World experience, it goes from being super open to all possible specs and experimentation with new ideas…  to requiring this one certain thing in order to survive in Nightmares.

When I say we got the band back together… this is not entirely true.  The original five were nightmare ready and geared up in half purples.  This time around we have a Rae in place for Warenwolf, and as a result last night we had to start working through the elites so that she could unlock the Gatekeeper fight… and ultimately unlock Nightmare content.  This was a pretty good idea since none of us really know what we are doing anymore.  I have played Secret World once or twice a week, but I have limited that to my roflstomp sword/shotgun build.

The problem with higher level content is that melee is just not viable.  The Secret World is far too punishing to melee characters, and if you choose to dps as melee you essentially end up harming your group in the long run.  As a result I ended up abandoning my beloved blade/shotgun build for favor of shotgun/pistols in order to dps elites and nightmares.  Essentially last night was a matter of us all trying to remember what the hell to do with our characters.

Greenshot Down

TheSecretWorld.exe 2013-6-4-6-12-26-660

I am having to swipe images from other websites this morning.  Like a tourist without film, I thought I was snapping pictures all night… but not a single one of them turned out.  Awhile back I had switched from Fraps to Greenshot… and had pretty good luck with it.  However recently I have not gotten a usable picture from it.  When I attempt to snap a picture it acts like it is working, but the end result is either a black screen or a picture of my desktop.  I have been using Razer Game Booster as a backup… but for whatever reason it does not like The Secret World.  The above image is an example of what I am shooting… it seems as though for whatever reason it is alpha transparent.

The long and short apparently is that I am going to have to switch back to fraps and just deal with its idiosyncrasies.  The additional takeaway is that I really don’t have pictures from my adventure last night, which is a shame… because in theory I took some good ones.  I am completely open to other suggestions if you guys have ideas on a better universal screenshot program.  I prefer using fraps or something like that rather than the in game screenshot functionality, because it aggregates all my screenshots into one place.  This makes it easier to sort through when I am pulling together a blog post.

All Roads Lead to Rome

We burned through elites last night like a five player wrecking ball.  That was another problem we ultimately had with the Secret World end game.  You go from absolutely demolishing content in normal and elite mode… to having the bottom completely drop out from under you in Nightmares.  However the best thing about their content is the fact that they do not believe in trash…  and only place it in front of you if you are supposed to learn a mechanic from it.  Teaching players your game through the introduction of trash mobs is a concept that every game needs to take to heart.

I thought after the release of Cataclysm that Blizzard had maybe learned this lesson.  During the Baradin Hold fights, you learn the concepts you need from the trash leading up to the bosses.  The problem is, this is the one and only place in Cataclysm that they really do this.  Introducing players ton concepts with learning trash is far superior every time to throwing an encounter at them, and leading them to google it.  I will get off this particular soapbox… as the hour is getting late…  but this is seriously a concept that needs to be propagated.

Over the course of the night we cleared Elite Polaris, Hell Fallen, Darkness War and The Ankh.  I think we got Rae a few drops, and I myself managed to pick up 347 damage versions of the two weapon slots I did not have a blue for.  After all that dungeon grinding however, we decided we needed a break.  I thought initially we were going to just break up for the night, but Tam quickly suggested that we grab one of the newer investigation missions.  He remembered seeing one in the Haitian Market area of London, so we all headed back that way.

This is the point at which we remember why we really fell in love with the game in the first place.  The content is deep and creative, and leads the characters through a series of imaginative puzzles.  This investigation quest personifies why this game works and why players should be playing it.  I wont go into too many details… because spoilers.  But essentially you retrace the steps of roman explorers through Ancient London.  Make sure you brush up on your latin… or at least have a translator handy.

Wrapping Up

Last night made me extremely happy.  Returning to grouping in The Secret World was like picking up a familiar book and re-reading it.  While the mechanics have changed slightly, it is still the same solid game and story under the cover.  I really hope that in the coming weeks we can return to this world as a group more often.  I would really like to finish getting Rae geared, and through the Gatekeeper fight so we can get some revenge on all those nightmares.  I hope you have a great day, and too discover an old friend.

Dam Impressive

Last night was another of my infamous “you no can has sleep” nights as my brain absolutely refused to shut down.  I really need to get some melatonin and give it a shot when that sort of thing happens.  I was extremely tired, but my brain was spinning on some completely useless project, and like the software you have to manually close when restarting your machine…  it kept gumming up the process.  As a result I am borderline catatonic, and find myself getting sidetracked by the simplest of things this morning.  It is going to be a not so enjoyable day.

General Celes

I spent most of the morning playing the Gameboy Advance version of Final Fantasy 6 on my PSP in an attempt to catch up to where I had gotten previously with the native PSN version.  Taking screenshots is a bit more of a pain in the ass… so I did not take very many.  As a result you get something I found from Google image search of the same basic spot I am at currently.  Apparently the above example chose to rename their General Celes to Moghan…  for whatever reason I have never really renamed my characters.  I prefer to just accept the name they are given by default, since that tends to be how they are referred to out of game.

Yesterday I had encountered an odd glitch, where I was unable to talk to Kekfa and start the “Figaro Submerge” sequence.  I had a previous save luckily, so I could load that back up and sure enough the second time it worked just fine.  The big negative so far of playing the GBA version, is that you only have 3 save files.  As a result you keep having to round robin your way manually through the saves.  I pretty much save every time it is possible, and hate saving over whatever my latest game is, so this process just becomes more cumbersome.

I made my way back to the Mog screen that allows you to pick which batch of adventurers you will follow.  As a result I picked Locke first, as he is generally my favorite character in FF6.  It took me a bit to remember how this whole sequence worked, but after some trial and error I managed to get into the underground passage, rescue Celes and make my way out of South Figaro.  When we needed to shower and get ready yesterday, I was standing just ouside South Figaro on the world map.  So I will head my way back to Narshe and that should be the end of that sequence.  I will likely play the river journey next…  for whatever reason I tend to save the Sabin for last always.

Dam Impressive

Yesterday we had plans to eat dinner with my wife’s mother at 4 pm in Grove Oklahoma…  which is on the edge of the Grand Lake of the Cherokees about an hour and a half from Tulsa.  There are multiple ways to get there, none of which extremely straight…  and some of them way more contorted than others.  Since we had not really been out on one of our photo jaunts in awhile my wife suggested we take one of the extremely contorted ways so we could look for interesting scenery.  As a result we took this hour and a half trip and extended it to be a little over three hours long.

The weatherman said that the day would be clear and sunny..  but the end result lead us to constantly check the weather on our phones as the sky was pretty much filled with rain clouds the entire trip.  As a result the lighting was less than favorable, and especially so as we travelled past places we would normally stop.  To the weathermans credit, it never did rain… just looked like it was going to at any moment.  While we had been along the route at various segments of our planned trip, we had never actually been the totality before.

I am hoping this actually works… because I have never really attempted to create a linkable Google map for something.  But this is the route that we ended up taking to get from 169 to Grove via Highway 20.  When we got in the Spavinaw hills we encountered the extremely cool Spavinaw lake dam.  Basically Spavinaw lake is where the bulk of the water for the City of Tulsa comes from.  In the 1920s the City realized it would need to draw water from outside of the immediate area and as a result created this massive waterworks that spans from Lake Spavinaw, through other smaller lakes and ultimately ends of at the water treatment facilities inside of Tulsa.  As we drove along the road it took us right beside the extremely cool looking spillway pictured above.

Luckily the sky had cleared a bit by the time we got there, so we pulled off into the parking lot and roamed around.  Normally I have a no trespassing rule when taking photos…  I will not cross any fences or barriers… however if there is a way around said fences that do not involve actually crossing one… I am game.  As a result I ended up walking around a fence that was locked over at the power station near the spillway… and this allowed me to get some interesting shots close up to the water flow.

When I go out and take photos I end up uploading them all in bulk to Google+ albums, then create what I call a keepers album for sharing.  I had not dumped my memory card in awhile, so I had photos from mothers day, the house work, and then these of Spavinaw… so the end result was that I uploaded 182 photos.  After I did my culling and singling out the ones I really liked the most… that became whittled down to the 42 keepers you can see in this album.  I think there are some pretty good shots in there, and it has honestly been awhile since I have felt like uploading what I shot…  so I think this is a good thing.

Gaming Restlessness

When we got home from our little jaunt, I had to fight with the Google+ photos system for a good deal of time.  They have changed something, so that it does not work nearly as well for bulk uploads.  As a result I was pretty pissed by the time I finally finished with that mess.  I ended up flitting back and forth between several different MMOs… never quite finding the fit for my mood.  I played my Melee Mage in Rift for a bit, but ended up getting frustrated because I had not kept up my butchering… and was going to have to go back into Silverwood and grind wolves until I raised it enough to do Gloamwood.  This is the negative side effect about leveling through the instant adventures system…  you end up in a bad place skill wise.

After logging out frustrated, I went over into SWTOR and tried to play my Sith Warrior.  Right now I am knee deep into Imperial Balmorra yet again…  and that kind of frustration just made things worse.  I managed to complete three or four quests before ultimately logging out again.  I patched up Guild Wars 2, because for whatever reason… the fact that I have real internet and can patch things quickly. that would have taken me leaving a game running over night…  still amuses me.  That more than any other change has meant the most to me…  the fact that we have real internet finally!  There have been some negative side effects however…  I used to host a small web server out of the house, and with Cox blocking port 80… we have lost access to most of that content.

I played GW2 for all of ten minutes before remembering why I don’t really play the game much.  The gameplay choices they have made just are not that enjoyable to me.  No matter how much I have tried to play it… I still find the lack of quests off putting.  So I feel like I am running around aimlessly with nothing of any importance to do.  Once that sets in, everything I do feels extremely grindy…  since very little of it actually matters other than your world completion score.  I wandered around in the 40-50 zone near Hoelbrak but quickly logged as the game almost immediately bored me.

I would have gone upstairs to the loft and played some PS3 or XBOX, but I fear that they would have had the same result.  I was just in a restless and frustrated frame of mind… that was only made worse when I actually attempted to go to sleep.  For whatever reason my mind latched onto the nettop computer I am building for the loft.  I started going over all the things I would need to do, evaluating what the best emulator and video front ends would be…  all of which were not at all important.  Especially since I have yet to even move the computer out to the loft from my office.  I was just restless in every sense of the word… and as a result am paying the price today as I struggle to keep my eyes open.

Wrapping Up

I am hoping that I survive the day as one of the sleep deprived masses.  I will be mainlining five hour energy shots in a vague attempt to be alert and responsive.  Right now I am honestly not sure what has to get accomplished today, but I am hoping by the end of my web service staff meeting I will be able to determine that.  I hope you all have a productive start of the work week…  and that you are not going into it nearly as tired as I am right now.  Hope you all have great days.

Four Job Fiesta

Oh Sunday… that morning in which you think to yourself…  crap I have to go to work tomorrow.  Today will be pretty much dominated by my wife’s mothers birthday.  We are going to drive to grove later this afternoon to meet her for dinner, and are talking about potentially meandering our way there with cameras.  So as a result I have no clue when we will actually leave, but there will not be much gaming at all today.  Right now I am just trying to barrel through my morning blog post without losing focus.

Riftstraction

rift.exe 2013-6-1-13-57-33-514

I still need to return to my Sith ways, but for whatever reason yesterday I was distracted once more by the lure of rift and my melee mage.  I hit level 22 yesterday while still wandering around Silverwood.  I ended up getting caught up in a buzz of completionism…  something that I am not normally afflicted with.  The problem is… I had left a lot of the quests involving the court of Prince Hylas unfinished.  One constant for me regardless of the game… is that I love slaughtering elves.  So I got caught up in the carnage, and ended up completing all the quests for the zone.

I have since moved on to Gloamwood and am busy killing Barghests and Bats.  Gloamwood is the only zone that ever made me question my choice of Defiant.  I just love the feel of it, so much atmosphere and if they traded the goblins for skeletons… it would have been my perfect zone.  Gloamwood Pines so deserves to be the guardian capitol city, it is better in every way than Sanctum.  It actually looks like a real town, with plenty of houses to actually support people living there.  Whereas Sanctum is a capitol city with no housing at all.  This has always been one of the problems I had with the Rift old world… it doesn’t look like people could actually live in it.

The funny thing about my recent venture into melee magery, is that it was intended to be able to play with my friend Rylacus.  The only problem with that notion is he has not logged in since late night Friday.  Oh well… this game has the best mentoring system I have seen, so I can always drop my level back down to hang out with him.  I am purposefully not doing the dungeon finder so I can run the dungeons for the first time on this character with him and hopefully Thalen as well.  I love Rift, it is a great game… but the problem has always been that it is pure hell to get other friends to play it.  I really hope the free to play conversion makes that problem a bit easier.

Four Job Fiesta

For a few years now, my friend JJ has been trying to get me and some other friends to join in on the Final Fantasy V Four Job Fiesta charity play-a-thon.  While I do not fully understand the process… from what I do get the goal is for all of us to try and beat Final Fantasy V and raise money for the Childs Play charity in the process.  There are multiple ways to sign up to play but the basic concept is that there are 22 jobs (26 in the Advance version), and at the start of the game… you will be assigned 4 random jobs.  Then you have to complete the game using only those jobs you were assigned.

Since it has been years since I have played FFV, and I have never beaten it… I am playing with the least number of possible restrictions.  I am praying I get a fairly balanced team, otherwise I will be pretty much screwed.  My friend Drathis got a pretty rough combo last year from what I can remember and struggled with it.  I will be relying on JJ a lot as this goes forward since he is pretty much the FFV master.  I think he can play the game in his sleep, so I am sure he will be a good source of information.  Right now my intent is to play the Gameboy Advance variety on my PSP.

I blasted this out over social media, and it got picked up and reshared… so hopefully this helps get the word out.  Everyone is welcome to participate, to sign up all you need is a twitter account… as the sign up process involves that.  I am assuming that will also be how we get assigned our four jobs on 6/17.  The festivities begin the day before my birthday, so I guess I know what I will be doing for my birthday.  I have a feeling it is going to take me a long time to beat the game.  You guys should all sign up and join in the madness.

Six Advance

Final Fantasy VI Advance_2013_06_01_08_19_32_751

Yesterdays post spawned comments from a few friends, namely JJ and Stop that I should really be playing the Gameboy Advance version of Final Fantasy 6.  Apparently the PSP native copy is globally considered the worst possible port of the game, and has known lag issues.  So I took the advice… found the latest version of gpSP I could for the PSP… and restarted the game on the Advance version.  I have a Gameboy Advance SP somewhere… but I have no clue where it is right now.  So my best option was to play the game on my PSP via emulator, and the game runs beautifully.

All of the issues I had that I thought I just misremembered…  were really issues with the PSP/PSOne native version.  The Advance copy plays super fast, and is actually scaled to fit a modern aspect ratio beautifully.  The only problem I encountered was a pretty massive bug when Kefka first visits Figaro.  I could talk to everyone BUT Kefka… then zoned out to see if it would fix the bug… and now Kefka is no longer there.  I am going to have to reload from a previous safe and see if I can fix the bug.  I would hate to think it is going to be game breaking.

The one awesome thing about this, is that basically it proves out the theory that I can play Advance games just fine on my PSP, so this will likely be how I end up playing FFV during the Four Job Fiesta event.  The PSP battery life is always an annoyance, but I have a spare battery for this reason.  I just want something I can play it on that is portable so I can play over lunch etc.  I will be trying to dig up actual copies of the GBA carts, so that I don’t feel too dirty emulating them.

Wrapping Up

Okay time to start getting ready to confront the day.  Time to leave will be coming sooner than I want it to, and I still need to shower etc.  I hope you all have a great Sunday, and a great start of the week.  I have no clue what I will be doing today other than the visiting my mom-in-law part.  I might try and fix the bug on the FF6 play through so I can keep going, or I might dive back into Rift.  In any case I hope you all enjoy your day.

Kyclops Kombat

I am getting a later than normal start this Saturday morning.  Quite honestly I am pretty groggy because it was another “watch the skies” night.  I really did not sleep well at all, for the most part I kept getting woken up by a new round of tornado warnings from about 11pm onwards.  At some point during the night the danger passed and it shifted to infomercials.  I know this because I dreamt about some magical drug that can cook food in only minutes…  I feel as though I maybe got a few things mixed up.

Tornado Alley

For the most part last night was one big near miss.  The storms hit all around the Tulsa area where I live, and instead gave the areas where both of our parents live pure havoc.  Most of the night was watching concerned while texting back and forth with my dad about what was coming towards them.  At one point there were two tornados, on either side of highway 169 roughly 10 miles from my parents house.  But other than a bunch of rain both all three of our sets of parents made it through the night safe.

I feel as though I have to explain something to folks who are not from “Tornado Alley” and even more so not from Oklahoma.  From the time I got home around 4pm until after the time I went to bed around 11:30pm no normal programming was shown at all.  All of that time we have literally the best meteorologists in the country tracking the storms and some of the best storm chasers in the country following them.  The station we watch for example has not one but two helicopters at their disposal, and they are also chasing the storms by the air.

So when storms are a brewing, it becomes this surreal showplace of watching as these giant green, red and yellow blobs inch towards your home and family.  All the while we are seeing live in car video, and tower cam video showing just how bad the storms are.  There were several points during the night when a normally calm broadcast would be interrupted by an excited storm chaser yelling over the weatherman that a tornado was on the ground and this place or that place.  At which point all focus would shift to whatever that crisis was, and putting the other crisii that had not quite happened on the back burner.

Oklahomans have a pervese sense of attraction to Tornados…  it is that whole moth too the flame thing.  Anything that destructive has to be respected and almost admired with a certain kind of majesty.  You can hear this in the storm chasers voice and choice of wording… you know they are out there for a totally different purpose than you the viewer is.  While we are huddled in our homes scared shitless about what might be barreling down on us… they are excited as they see the “best activity all night” while describing a wall cloud.  You can’t take offense to these adrenaline junkies reveling in the fact that they are chasing a storm that spawned a massive tornado.  It is a symbiotic relationship…  without them we would not have nearly the warning that we do.

The biggest take away for the rest of the country is that you should fear and respect tornados.  We Oklahomans have literally grown up with this our entire lives, we have the best possible weather and storm chasers on our side…  yet still as evidenced by last night… people die because they were either caught unaware, or did not respect the fury of the storm.  All of the deaths that happened last night along I-40 were in essence preventable… it is drilled in from our first days in school, that the worst place to be in the case of a tornado is your car on the road.  Yet when the sirens went off, for whatever reason people took to the highways to avoid it…  and instead placing themselves right in the path.  The most tragic of these deaths is the mother and child that were… according to the highway patrol…  sucked out of their car by the storm.

Kyclops Kombat

rift.exe 2013-6-1-10-0-33-45

Before all hell broke loose, early in the evening… I was looking forward to being able to play some Rift.  One of my good friends, Rylacus was planning on playing last night, and as a result I decided to break out my one remaining lowbie while waiting on him to show up.  I have made several attempts at rolling a mage in Rift, and none of them make it terribly far.  The long and short is… that I just do not enjoy “finger wigglers” as I call them.  I need to be smashing into things with a weapon to get that visceral feedback I crave in a combat system.  If forced to, I can usually play a Necromancer type because pet class caster is kind of that hazy middle ground that I can find some enjoyment in… but I had never actually made one past level 20.

When Storm Legion was announced, and they mentioned having a Melee mage… I knew I was all about that.  The Harbinger really is a fun class to play, and for the most part it is essentially the battlemage archetype from other games.  You have a series of spells that essentially summon armor or weapons to suit whatever situation you are in.  Right now I have a sword that procs a dot, axe that procs a heal, physical resist armor and magic resist armor…  all of which are useful in certain situations.  Right now I am mostly playing with the 2 handed healing axe and the physical resist armor, because against quest mobs that seems to be the power combo.

I had only been on playing my mage about thirty minutes or so when another good friend of mine shows up in mumble.  Thalen has been working on his cleric and managed to get him up to level 48.  One of the things you have to know about Thalen, is that he is a rabid completionist.  As a result when he logged in, he was wandering around the droughtlands looking for 5 quests he had missed, that would count towards the droughtland completion achievement.  He mentioned that there were a series of elite quests that he could not quite solo…  so I quickly found myself logging over to Belghast and heading that way.

One of the subplots in the zone is that there is a group of Cyclops that you can earn the respect of by proving your strength.  Thalen had apparently made it all the way to the end of this series and had two quests unfinished.  The first of which was to engage the cyclops in a massive 4 way brawl, and the other was to track down and kill several named cyclops.  I mentored down to 48 and we headed out to the arena.  We started up the battle and I was shocked at just how much damage I was taking.  Moments later I realized that yet again I had rushed off into combat… without throwing any buffs up.

After buffing the combat was pretty easy overall.  While tracking down the various named cyclops my Raredar plugin threw this big green alert over the top of my screen that I have not entirely familiar with seeing.  It seems that it had found a rare named spider, so I tried to keep it busy until Thalen could get back to me.  It dropped a piece of epic currency and a piece of blue armor, which would have been good… were we actually doing this content on level.  We wrapped up the quests and I bowed out of the group, as things were starting to get crazy weather wise.

The sad part is…  Rylacus never showed up during the couple of hours I was playing.  Later on I ended up getting a text about 11 pm from him…  just when the shit was hitting the fan here… saying he was able to log in now.  I texted back saying that unfortunately we were under the gun weather wise, and answered a few of his questions.  I am sure the third text came off extra grumpy, as he seemed to have a way of texting just as I was trying to fall back asleep.  Hopefully we can get meet up another night and run around together.  Would be nice if we could some how engineer both myself, Ry and Thalen being on at the same time.  If that ever happens… we will have to find something epic to do.

Enter the Returners

snap031

As things got more dicey outside with the weather, I decided it was time for me to disconnect from anything online involving other people… and switch back to something I could pause.  I picked up my psp and continued on my adventure through Final Fantasy VI.  I have to say I still have a solid dose of nostalgia about this game, but there are little things that annoy me.  For example it feels like it takes far longer between rounds of combat than I remember.  Granted this could just be my impatient self, used to non-turnbased combat…  but it feels like those action bars take for freaking ever to fill.

There will probably be spoilers in the lines ahead… so if you have not played this game you should probably stop reading.  Essentially last night I finally completed the Mog minigame… and escaped Narshe.  The combat there is far rougher than I remember it being before.  It might be that I just suck at final fantasy games nowadays, but it felt like the final guard battle did way more damage than he should have.  It took me a few tries to get past him, one of them involving loading an earlier save… since when you rez back you have 1 hp… and I had next to no potions at that point.

After that I ventured forward to to Figaro, had my first real renin with Kefka…  and still thought it was cool to watch Figaro castle submerge.  I remember back in the 90s, I was not at all expecting that turn of events.  Because of the engine room… and mecha look… I thought maybe it would turn into a robot or an airship…  but submerge was not one of the things I was thinking.  So after thumbing our noses at Kefka we wandered across the desert and went through the cave to South Figaro.

At this point I had enough money to pretty much optimize everyone’s gear… since this is the very first occasion that you have to actually purchase anything.  While I don’t remember thinking this at the time… that is a really really long time to go surviving only on drops and chests.  Nowadays it feels extremely cruel, but at the time I guess it was just par for the course.  After spending some time in town… I couldn’t really remember exactly what I was supposed to do next… and there was not a clear call to action.  This Final Fantasy game seems to do a far worse job at messaging what you are supposed to do than I remember.

Essentially I fell back on my “wander aimlessly” skill and found Sabin’s cabin… at which point we get the “Edgar realizes his brother is still alive and nearby” cut scene.  So now it jogs my memory… that we have to go up Mount Kolts to get to Banon at the returners base.  Bingo! We have a plan now.  So I ascend Mount Kolts, see the spooky shadowy figure following me… remember that it leads in a boss fight.  Sure enough it is Vargas the son of Duncan… who killed his father because he thought Sabin was the chosen one.  We fight Vargas, Sabin jumps in… the game teaches us how to use his freaky Blitz ability… and boom we win the day because pummel apparently is just THAT good.

After that I find my way to the Returners base…  Terra gets all emo because she doesn’t know which path to choose.  You walk around the base talking to people, and finally meet Banon outside.  Does anyone NOT choose to join the Returners?  I mean what happens if you say no… do you just stay there and the game is over?  Far as I know there is not an entire second side of the game where you rejoin the empire and kick returner ass…  so if you say no it essentially has to be a non-choice.  Based on a google search, apparently if you say no… she still agrees to follow them to talk to the Esper in Narshe.  So yeah… sounds like pretty much a non choice… but you have the opportunity to be a dick about it.

Basically I reached the point where my eyes could no longer stay open when we had run away from the Returner base and the game forks.  I figured that was a good time to stop playing, so I had Mog save in the split decision room.  I feel like I will probably pick up and play Locke’s story, as he is probably my favorite character in FFVI.  He is kind of the rogue I judge all other rogues by.  Did I mention that FFVI had a massive impact on me growing up?

Happy Birthday Mom

So I need to wrap up, because well it is 10:30 and I need to call my Mom to figure out what we are doing today.  Today is her Birthday, and while she doesn’t actually read my blog… I figured the sub section title was fitting.  It sounds like we are basically free of Tornados until at least next Tuesday.  I am exhausted from the previous night, so not sure how much oomph I am going to have as the day goes on.  I hope you all have a super enjoyable day, and one that is likely to be more productive than mine.  I may end up having to take a nap before the day is over.

Best Fantasy Ever

This morning I just said “fuck it” and hit the snooze button.  This is not a practice I normally do, since I usually end up feeling far more tired after doing so…  but today is Friday…  and last night was another one of our Oklahoma “watch the skies” nights.  I feel like as a whole today may just be a “fuck it” day in general.  I feel like I don’t have much of anything to really talk about, but by god I am going to do it anyway.

Chaos Reigns

Last night I started the evening attempting to play some Star Wars the Old Republic.  However ultimately the constant distraction of the tornado cells coming through our area lead to nothing but me getting killed over and over by afking in the wrong place.  Basically I needed to play something with a pause button last night, and that ruled out all of my MMOs.  Last week a discussion with Syl about Jesters ended up bringing up one of my favorite video game villains of all time… Kefka.  She mentioned that her favorite rendition was in the game Dissidia… and I thought to myself…  man I wonder why I never played that?

Sometimes you see a game so often, that you develop this picture in your head of what the game will be like to play.  For the case of Dissidia, I had built up this image in my head of a this massive fan service JRPG that comes up with a loose excuse to involve all your favorite characters from vastly different final fantasy games.  So while the fan service part was definitely correct, the rest of the game resembles almost nothing of a traditional Japanese RPG game.

The game as a whole is about Chaos over throwing Order… and that is precisely what playing it felt like to me.  It works absolutely nothing like I expected.  Essentially you pick one of the cast of characters, the engage in a series of game boards…  that you have to move across by clearing obstacles in your way.  When you encounter an obstacle… you have to fight them in this truly bizarre behind the back view fighting game.  All of the fights so far have been repetitive and essentially a time waster, but I have this feeling that when I actually encounter a boss fight it will be like the floor dropping out from under me.

Essentially it feels like an extremely flimsy excuse to pack a game with a bunch of cinematic of characters you know and love interacting together.  Each time you clear one of these game board, you are treated to a 3D cut scene of your character doing whatever they do best… usually brooding.  Along the way you pick up gear that slightly improves your ability to knock down these straw men villains that get put in your path.  I am sure on the boss fights you will have to have the best of all possible gear to make it through them. 

There is some kind of weird mini-game involving a chocobo and carrots that I have not quite figured out what is going on with it.  I am sure it is important, but I have yet to notice anything happening other than every so often a pixelated chocobo shows up on screen and eats a carrot.  Additionally there is an absolutely insane unlock system that allows you to play as other characters, unlock other costumes and even character voices.  The most confusing of these is what looks almost like a cash shop…  but I don’t see any RMT hooks in the game at all.

Basically after playing Dissidia for 2 hours… I am still not really sure if I like the game or not.  There is so much of it that is the epitome of repetitive gameplay, however I found myself continuing to play it in spite of this.  I made it through the tutorial… that didn’t really teach me anything…  and a few game boards into the Cloud storyline before I decided to give up.  This is definitely going to be a game I return to, because it is like this super confusing puzzle that is going to annoy me until I solve it.  There is so much going on in this game, and it has such a devoted following that I feel like I have to figure out why.

Best Fantasy Ever

Another title I had dug up for the PSP was the Super Nintendo turned Gameboy Advance turned Playstation turned PSP remake of my favorite of all JRPGs…  Final Fantasy VI…  or as I played it originally Final Fantasy III.  I was really late getting turned onto this game, it was not until Christmas break that I ended up giving this game a spin.  I rented it from the local video store…  and then when it came time to turn it in… tried valiantly to purchase the cart from them so I could maintain my game saves.  I gathered up all the cash I had gotten over Christmas, and picked up the game at Toys R Us…  then spent what felt like the next 4 months playing it.

There was just so much going on in this game.  It had a great cast of characters, awesome steampunk meets magic theme… and for the time the graphics were truly amazing.  This to me is the pinnacle of the Final Fantasy experience, and everything since has been a downhill ride for me.  Much like me being able to replay Symphony of the Night over and over… this is on the same list…  but I have never really done so.  I’ve never been that big into the various mobile gaming systems post green and black gameboy.  So I have essentially be relegated to playing this title on emulators for the last decade.

Now that I have it on the PSP, I am really looking forward to a proper play through again.  I started it back up last night, but only really made it towards the end of Narshe before sleep claimed me.  Previously I had been taking my laptop into work, and going upstairs and gaming over my lunch hour.  Right now my plan is to just bring my psp in with me, and play it while everyone else is on their laptops.  I just wish I had a proper way to take screenshots from my psp… because I would love to be able to chronicle my journey through the game.  I might have to research that…  since I have custom firmware…  wondering if something like that exists.

Wrapping Up

A friend of mine finally got around to using the free game and expansion codes I gave him over in Rift.  I told him that he needed to do so soon, because anyone with Storm Legion would get grandfathered into a bunch of stuff when the F2P conversion hits.  He said he might be around tonight, so I will be breaking out of of my lowbie characters and hanging out with him.  Looking forward to listening to him discover that game as we play together over mumble.  Already there have been a bunch of excited IMs traded back and forth… and he has only played the game for about 20 minutes.

This weekend we have a double whammy of my mothers birthday on Saturday, and my wife’s mothers birthday on Sunday.  I am sure that will ultimately dictate what our weekend is like.  Additionally tonight is supposed to be another bad tornado night… and potentially worse than last.  So we will be watching the skies and hoping for the best.  I hope you all have much better days than what mine sounds like it is going to be.

Fatman Blues

Another morning, another day closer to the weekend.  Yesterday I was just absolutely struggling to exist in the world.  I felt like I was walking around in a daze all day long, and nothing ever quite snapped me out of it.  I took that long nap on Sunday afternoon, and ever since my schedule had been somewhat out of whack.  I am convinced my body and mind goes to shit if I get too much sleep.  So long as I get 4-6 hours I seem to be able to functional like a normal human being, but when I get over that…  my body goes haywire.

Restless Gaming

As a result of this haze, I was super restless last night.  I flitted from activity to activity never really finding much traction in any of them.  I managed to hook up with my friend Del over in SWTOR at one point in the evening, and he made me a bunch of moddables so that I could outfit a set of orange gear I had my eyes on.  I am hoping that if I now start always choosing commendations… I will be able to keep up with keeping the suit of armor outfitted.

I am now on the last section of Dromund Kaas on my Sith Warrior, and I pushed through a good chunk of it…  but seemed to lack the focus to actually finish.  When I would attempt to quest, I would find myself super sleepy and almost unable to keep my eyes open.  Unfortunately last night my wife washed the bed sheets, so we had to wait for the current load to finish drying, and then for them to finish as well.  This gave me no real option of just going to bed early.  So I wandered about the house like a zombie, looking for something to occupy my time.

Fatman Blues

I finally settled back down in my office upstairs, and set to trying to unravel a mystery.  The goal of this search was to be able to find a way to upgrade my PSP to firmware 6.60… aka the latest revision and the one required to couple your device with your ps3.  There is more to the tale than this however, as there always is in a mystery.  It is a tale of intrigue and suspense… stay awhile and listen!

Back in 2007 I picked up a used PSP 1000 model, aka the “Fat” design as the modding community calls it.  It was just the latest device in my eternal search for  way to play retro console emulators on a mobile device.  Turns out through a truly arcane process, you could install a custom firmware, that would allow you to boot emulators from the memory stick.  When I say arcane, I am not being facetious…  you literally had to have just this one right version of the original release of the grand theft auto UMD to be able to execute the firmware loader.

I jumped through all the hoops with the constant fear of “bricking” my device all for the glory of being able to play all my favorite Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Genesis games on the go.  Thing is it worked, and worked amazingly well.  I could boot into an emulator, but also be able to play just about any UMD based game I came across.  Additionally through dark science, I was able to take my Castlevania Symphony of the Night playstation disc and rip it into a format capable of running on the device.  So quickly this became my favorite toy.  Not only could I play Super Metroid, but I could also play SOTN… my favorite game of all time.

The only problem with this notion is that the world evolved around me… and I was essentially stuck on this custom flavor of firmware 3.01.  I can remember that the Final Fantasy II remake was the first game I purchased, but was unable to play on my psp.  With the realization that I was stuck on this firmware, with no real upgrade path… and no real time to research said upgrade path…  my device became something I only really broke out on road trips.  Since I tend to be the one driving… it didn’t even make it off the shelf that often.

Resurrection Game

With my resurgence in console gaming, I had noticed there were all these games I had sitting on my PS3 harddrive that claimed to be capable of copying to the psp.  I had a renewed fire to try and figure out a way to get my 3.01 OE-A firmware device up to 6.60 the latest revision and the one required to connect to the playstation network.  While waiting on the cable guy last Thursday I had nothing better to do than research how to fix the problem.  The problem with an underground community…  most of the information listed is speculation and mythos. 

After following down several rabbit trails to find nothing, I finally found a tool that would supposedly allow me to restore my firmware back to a stable version.  The highest I could get with the tool was 6.20, which was technically high enough to run almost anything…  just not enough to connect to the PSN.  I executed the process and sure enough it worked restoring my device back to 6.20.  The only problem is… it worked with an Asterisk.

Apparently in the process of restoring the device it somehow corrupted something known as “IDStorage”.  Anytime I attempted to patch up to 6.60 from there I got a pretty arcane error message with an error code of “drnffffffd7”.  Seems as though the root of it is, that my physical hardware and my firmware version do not match exactly based on this region code chart.  The latest versions of the official firmware check this before applying the update, and as a result I am pretty much hung once more on an older version of the firmware.

Pandorica Opens

There is a fix, but it involves something called a Pandora Battery.  The further and further I get into this process, the more and more it sounds like an episode of Doctor Who. Turns out “Pandora Battery” is just the publicly traded name for a special device called a “Service Mode” battery.  Apparently this was  device that was handed out to PSP service centers, that allows the technicians to essentially flip your device into a kind of debug mode so that they can fix various bits of software and load new firmwares without software protections.

This is apparently paired with something called a “Magic Memory Stick” which also seems to tie its roots back to the official service centers.  Both of which are apparently created through using a certain tool on your device.  Ironically… in order to run that tool… I have to apply a custom firmware patch again.  So last night I went through the process to turn my 6.20 official into 6.20PRO-C2.  Unfortunately the aftermarket batteries that I picked up do not have the required eprom needed to convert them into pandora batteries.

After some digging online I found a place that sells the Pandora battery for roughly 10 bucks after shipping.  The only problem… it is coming from china, and as a result will take between 17 and 24 days to get here based on Amazon estimates.  So for the time being I have a custom firmware psp that can run pretty much any game on the market, but just not be able to connect to the playstation network… and let me copy games from my ps3 to it.  I guess while I wait I will enjoy the concept of playing emulators on a mobile device again.

The Takeaway

The moral of the story is…  do not venture down the custom firmware path unless you want it to forever dominate your future.  From what I understand… I would have had issues going from 3.01 official to 6.60 official anyway.  But that would have just meant downloading a bunch of intermediary firmware’s and stepping through the process.  However these firmware are only really available on the mod community sites, so I would have been traipsing down a lot of the same alleyways.  From my understanding, a good chunk of what made my transition so hard is the fact that I applied a custom firmware back when they had not quite figured out how the device worked.

Anyways…  I thought someone might at least find the tale entertaining.  I have a Pandora Battery on the way, have made a Magic Memory Stick… and in a months time when it finally arrives I will attempt the IDStorage fix and see if I can go all the way to 6.60.  Basically throughout this entire process you walk a super fine line of trying not to “brick” your device.  I hope you all have a great day… and don’t venture down any trails that lead to dead ends.  Each day brings us closer to the weekend!

Thundercats Ho!

This morning I am really struggling to boot my mind into something even vaguely functional.  I had a weird night, and with it came an extremely odd dream.  Basically I was back in High School and in some kind of engineering competition, where we had to do something interesting with an old broken phone.  I was on a team of three, and as the dream is already fading… I forget who exactly was on my team.  I do however remember that we went to a bunch of flea markets, found this 60s area payphone and with the assistance of an arduino made it work so it would be able to receive text messages.  The text message had a special kind of ring, and when you picked up… Microsoft SAM voice would read back the text.  I am pretty sure we won the competition, but at this point that is fading from my mind as well.

School Daze

Granted I don’t really know how to do any of the things I just described… but it worked well in the dream.  I blame the High School related dream on the fact that all yesterday I essentially hung out in the High School where my wife teaches.  The school year is over, but due to some changes in the schedule and a class she will be tag teaming with a science teacher… she is having to move rooms.  Normally this would be something we could wait to deal with until August, however they are needing her room for summer school.  As a result we had to go up and move her into the new room yesterday.

According to my pedometer app, I walked roughly 2.5 miles over the course of the day while moving roughly 200 textbooks, 25 legal sized boxes and miscellaneous items that didn’t fit in them.  35 pounds ago there would have been no way in hell I could handle this, let alone get it done in an hour and a half.  So I am feeling pretty damned proud of myself, and while I am sore today I am not absolutely dead to the world.  That is a pretty huge distinction, I guess it means my muscles are actually getting used to the activity.

During the first hour and a half I brute forced moving all the items from one classroom to the next, then left her to unpack and move things into their proper locations.  I give my wife crap for this, but she does an amazing job of labeling exactly where something came from…  so since the class rooms are essentially the same she was able to take entire boxes and know exactly which shelf they came from.  After doing my volley of movement, I went off and ran a few errands and gathered lunch while she worked.

We ate the lunch of champions…  Doritos Tacos from Taco Bell…  which are surprisingly not that bad for you, and one of the better choices you can make from a fast food restaurant.  After coming back I started assisting with piddly little things to help the process along.  It became my job to break down boxes, and anything else that needed done as not to interrupt the flow of emptying boxes.  We got up there at roughly 11:30 and ended up leaving around 4.  It took considerably longer than I had anticipated, but I also was not aware of the gravity of the situation.  “A Few” boxes turned out to be considerably more than I was initially expecting.

The Hobbit

I know this is geek sacrilege, but I watched The Hobbit for the first time yesterday.  After the morning activity, when we finally got home I wanted to do something stationary for awhile.  So I decided to fire up The Hobbit.  I had picked it up awhile back, but never actually got around to watching it.  Now you are thinking to yourself… why did you not watch it in the Theatre?  Well honestly…  crowds freak me the hell out.  It takes a lot to get me to go to the theatre, and since this is not a movie my wife would enjoy…  it is even harder to get me to justify going by myself.

As far as not watching it until now…  well quite honestly until we got this sofa, hanging out downstairs and watching a movie was not really that enjoyable of an experience for me.  My previous recliner was broken down and made sitting for any length of time fairly painful on my back.  So I figured watching the movie was a good way to christen the sofa.  The only negative is that about halfway through watching the movie, we had neighbors come down so I had to turn down the sound…  and divert attention to them as well.

All of this said I found the movie enjoyable, but for whatever reason it felt like it was lacking something.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, and honestly still cannot.  I realize that The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy are two vastly different styles of storytelling, and have vastly different moods to the books.  It is lacking the atmosphere that Lord of the Rings had in spades, while the world was gorgeous…  it just felt off.  I am sure this is one of those movies that I learn to love on repeated viewings… but it was not the immediate moving experience that Lord of the Rings was.

The highlight of the movie for me were of course the dwarves… because I have an irrational attachment to dwarven characters.  I cannot play a game without playing a dwarf sooner or later.  My first Everquest character was a Dwarf, and it has colored my tastes ever since.  I think that since I am 6’4” in real life, and end up banging my head on everything… I secretly long to be shorter.  Overall the movie was good, and like I said I think I will fall more in love with it on repeated viewings.  Just on the first watching it felt like there was something off about it.

Thundercats Ho!

swtor.exe 2013-5-27-9-31-7-799

On a whim last night I decided to spend a bit more of my accrued Cartel Points and unlock the Caithar race.  Immediately I decided to create a Thundercat Sith Juggernaut… because at the end of the day that is exactly what the newly christened Belgrenth looks like.  All I am lacking is the sword of omens, and a weird gauntlet sheath.  Actually that might be a fun trope for this guy… use only vibroblades… that is as soon as I can get a moddable vibroblade.  A Thundercat totally needs a real sword, not a lightsaber!

I’ve done the Korriban starting zone so many times I could likely quest through it in my sleep, however I still found it enjoyable to be doing it on a Caithar.  Overall the experience is not really any different, but I really like the appearance of the character.  I have chosen to go full light side, as though a thundercat just accidentally happened to get stuck in the Star Wars universe.  To be truthful, since Thundercats is really a science fiction story… and the magic in their world is almost purely technology…. it is not that far fetched if you think about it.  Maybe the Caithar ARE the thundercats… in that case would the Emperor be Mum’Ra the Ever Living?

The other big highlight of the night is I finally caught up with Delevax and got my army of unguilded Sith alts in the House Stalwart sith guild over on Ebon Hawk.  It is not super active, but it will be nice to see the occasional “green spam” as I play.  I know him and a handful of friends play on a regular basis, I might try and get something up to their level range and hang out with them.  I warned him as I warn everyone anymore, that pretty much I am not intending to really settle down in a game until the release of Elder Scrolls Online.  At that point I am going to try desperately to “get the band back together” as it were.

Happy Memorial Day

My one request all weekend has been that we pretty much have Memorial Day to rest.  For the most part it looks like this is going to happen.  We have to drive out to a friend house and deliver the spare table from our livingroom, but overall it doesn’t appear that there is going to be much that is strenuous going on.  I hope to be able to game most of the day and just chill out on our comfy new furniture.  We had our requisite cookout on Friday night, so at least that memorial day tradition has been honored.  I hope you all do whatever your family considers a tradition today… or at least find it relaxing.  Happy Memorial Day to you all.