That Rift Moment

Yesterday was a fairly stark contrast to Saturday, but a pretty welcome one.  After milling around the house and blogging, and my wife doing the same we decided to embark upon a journey to Joplin.  We didn’t really make it out of the house until around noon, but by then the 50* temperature had warmed into the high 60s making my choice to wear shorts more justified.

Cameras at the ready

We brought with us our cameras, but they did not leave the car for the most part.  We roamed around for a few hours but didn’t really find much of anything up there that “inspired” us.  It had been a few months since our last trip to Joplin, so we had plenty of things to do as we ran around town.  But for whatever reason, each time we talked about stopping and roaming around, we were both decidedly meh on the topic.

I feel like at some point we need to take a trip to a nature preserve or something of the sort.  That seems to be what both of us are leaning heavily towards wanting to shoot now.  The recent round of thunderstorms has finally caused Oklahoma to green up, and I think both of us want to take pictures of that before summer starts to brown it again.  We have a list of places that we have talked about, but honestly we need to just do it.  Our problem yesterday was that our default weekend shoes are sandals, which are not exactly conducive to stomping through the weeds.

Return to Moriban

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When we finally made it home for the evening I contemplated jumping back into the Neverwinter, but all day I had thought about how much fun I was having with the new build in Rift.  I am super glad that I did, because a short while after logging in one of my favorite people showed up.  Plasmodia is like this friendly mad scientist, and one of my highlights of playing Rift with Machiavelli’s Cats.  Her and her husband Marklaar were both super awesome people to hang out with, and apparently had missed me.

So over the course of last night I hung out and chatted, and generally did not pay much attention to what I was doing.  This is a good thing when a game supports this.  I happily ground my way through packs of mobs, loosely following whatever objective was highlighted on my minimap.  I generally tend to play really poorly when I am chatting with someone, as a result I used to run laps in Dalaran while I had to talk to someone for any length of time.

That “Rift” Moment

2013-04-28_200331I am no stranger to doing stupid things, but at one point last night it was getting a bit excessive.  I was absolutely getting my ass handed to me, enough that I was starting to question this new miracle spec I had stumbled into.  It was round about this point that I remembered…  I have experienced this before.  Sure enough I looked up at my buff bar and noticed that not  single one of my 9 buffs was currently active.  Upon cycling through the buffs it was like I was a whole new person once more.

I would love to say, that this was the first time I had encountered this problem.  However anytime I go back to Rift for awhile, I ultimately end up running around like a buffless noob.  I’ve heard that there are mods that will remind you that you are “naked”, so I guess it might be time for me to investigate one of those.  Overall though I had a blast just hanging out and chatting, and while I was on guild chat seemed to liven up.

Small Group of Friends

I had noticed that Alea Iacta Est Rift was certainly more quiet than I remember, and last night talking to Plas I found out the reasons.  Turns out that a good chunk of the AIE/Cats folks wandered off into Defiance and are happily shooting mutants there.  Luckily I was able to play enough of it during Alpha and Beta to realize that it really was not the game for me.  As much as I love the concept of a Science Fiction MMO, the result never ends up being something I really enjoy…  at least for any length of time.

Another issue that is going on right now is that it seems the officery types are AWOL as well.  I have a feeling that some of the Defiance folks will be burning out on the game, as a good number of individuals on my twitter and google plus feed already have.  My hope is that some activity in Rift will draw them back.  Plas and I plotted to start doing Wednesday night dungeon groups, and I believe we will be having the first of these this week.  Right now that is likely going to be me, Plas and her hubby Mark and then anyone else we can tempt from the guild.  If you play on Deepwood and are super good natured, and friendly to absolute nubitude…  look me up.

Beauty of Dawn

 

Beauty of Dawn – Malukah – Elder Scrolls Online

So in a completely different direction, I had to post this.  I seriously cannot go a single day without listening to it.  This is Beauty of Dawn, a song by the already famous Malukah that apparently she teamed up with Zenimax Online Studios to create.  From my understanding, she wrote this song after an extended play test of Elder Scrolls Online.  Whatever the inspiration, it is completely amazing and so rich and evocative.  The song just feels laced with lore, and hopefully when the game releases we will understand all the things she is talking about.

If you could not tell, I am kinda a huge fan of the Elder Scrolls Setting.  I first got into them with Daggerfall, and have been a rabid consumer of all things Tamriel ever since.  There have been so many times while playing Oblivion and Skyrim, that I thought to myself…  man this would be really amazing if I could just play this with my friends.  My hope is that Elder Scrolls Online ends up being just that… Skyrim with friends.  I realize there are certain MMO trappings that you have to have to make the genre survive, but so long as the core gameplay translates I will be happy.

This is day four of my experiment, and if you have made it this far I want to thank you for reading.  The daily posting thing is still not extremely comfortable, but I look forward to doing it each morning.  I find sitting down and rattling out my thoughts relaxing.  Hopefully over time, it will even be useful to the community… though I sincerely doubt that.  This is going to be an insanely busy week at work, so I think I will need this little morning sanctuary to keep me sane.  Hope you guys have an awesome day, and awesome week if you don’t check back in before then.

Loot Box Strikes Back

Here we go with day three of the experiment.  I just got out of the house, picked up breakfast and now I am settling in to a blog post.  Yesterday was pretty pitiful as days go, in that it either rained or was dreary all day.  Was the type of day that just makes you want to lay down on the couch and take a nap…  which my wife did in fact do at one point.  I on the other hand rotated between my laptop downstairs and my gaming rig upstairs playing pretty much non-stop games.

The Waiting Game

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If you read my posts yesterday, you will at least know that I played a good deal of Neverwinter.  However the game did not open up to us folks unwilling to pay the “Drizzt Tax” until later in the day.  So for a good couple hours in the morning I was back in Rift smashing through baddies.  I am still completely taken aback by how big of a difference the spec change made.  Previously I was a Paladin/Warlord/Paragon spec weighted in that order, and the PkuDude99 spec is mostly Warlord with some Champion and Paragon as a zero point tree.

I have always leaned on Paladin like a crutch, because it offered so many cool things… like some measure of healing and stuns.  However it seems like Paladin has either been nerfed into oblivion since I last played… or is not working as intended.  I had a lot of the same talents already in Warlord, so in essence all the spec does is drop paladin and swap in the Champion DPS tree.  That change basically took the game from borderline unplayable, to extremely fun.

I’ve always loved Trion, and to some extent I have kept my account open as a way of supporting the company.  Since release two years ago, there has maybe been a 3 month stretch where I did not have an active account.  I really believe in them as a company, because they have done some truly amazing things.  However showing up and playing every now and then, without following every single patch note leads to the ability to create some potentially broken characters. 

I almost feel like the spec system is too complicated, but in the end right now for this very moment, and for as long as PkuDude99 keeps the forum thread updated…  I am happy.  I’m roughly halfway through 58 now, so at some point on the horizon I will have to begin shopping for a dps spec as well.  As much as I love to tank, I really don’t like doing so for pugs.  So I am resigned to play DPS roles at least until Alea Iacta Est picks up again, and we can get some guild groups going.

Neverwinter is coming

2013-04-27 22_40_14-GreenshotSo yesterday I broke the pattern and posted a big massive review post about Neverwinter Online.  I had a few friends asking me my take on the game, so I spent a few hours compiling the post and threw it up there.  As a result I have robbed myself of a lot of what I had to say about the game for todays post.  I am still apparently enjoying myself since I pretty much played the game from noon yesterday till around midnight.  I can’t remember if I managed to ding 16 before I logged last night, but if not I am pretty close.

I managed to find my happy slaughtery spot last night in the tower district.  I wandered around there aimlessly not paying attention to my quests, charging into packs of orcs and ogres with glee.  When I can ignore the objectives of a game, and just play it… this tells me it is succeeding at bringing me into its mechanics.  From my level I would say it has succeeded… since my friends who were doing the same content are only 12.  That accounts for a large number of ogre kills along the way.

Loot Box Strikes Back

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Yesterday in my review I talked about the cash shop system, and the loot boxes.  By level 9 I had seen my very first one, and when they drop they are rather hard to miss… as a huge glitzy gold treasure chest appears on the ground.  By the time I had hit 15, I had gotten 13 of these loot boxes.  So like I always do, I bent under the curiosity of what magical stuff might be in them.  The above image is of an epic quality companion that I was able to pull from the boxes.  So far it is pretty awesome, and does this fire AOE dive bomb attack on the mobs.

The other ones I have opened have mostly just had runestone/enchantment bundles, so that appears to be the common loot.  Like I said yesterday, the system is pretty nice in that you are always going to be getting 10 trade bars regardless that can eventually be saved up for the more desirable items.  I want to say the cheapest of these items was around 150 bars, so in opening 15 boxes you would at least be guaranteed the ability to purchase that.

Farmville with Swords

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So while the lockbox system does not seem terribly egregious yet, the crafting system more than makes up for it.  They apparently expect us to be crafting while at the grocery store, shopping mall and work, since they have given us a web interface, and no actual way to craft while in game.  This would be great other than the fact that it completely relies on materials you acquire as drops, or purchase from an in game reagent vendor.  The first thing I had to do, upon connecting to the web interface was to log in and immediately stock up on the various vendor bought reagents.

Basically the system revolves around training hirelings to do your work for you.  You have miners and various sundry artisans that will toil away on items for your needs.  The biggest problem I saw, was that nothing they could actually make was of any use to me.  This is a huge pet peeve of mine with crafting systems in general, I should be able to craft gear for myself as I level through them.  This one appears to be exclusively relegated to something you will use to make gear for your alts later on, because even if I had started doing this immediately… the “white” gear that you can make would be useless next to the “green” drops I was getting.

Time Sinks

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2013-04-27 15_41_39-GreenshotThe other component that is fairly egregious to me, is the fact that it is ungodly time consuming.  Not as in you sitting at the keyboard mashing buttons, but you setting something up to go and it literally taking several hours to complete.  This is going to be how they get us to buy lots and lots of Astral Diamonds.  You will be seeing the window above a lot if you intend to craft much.  Last night before going to bed, I had set the system to hire an additional miner.  The game UI said it would take 17 hours to finish, yes that is in fact seventeen real hours.  This morning when taking these screenshots, I still had over 7 hours left, but could rush the order for only 39,691 Astral Diamonds.

This logic permeates the game as a whole, with so many functions like leveling up your companions, tied to real world timers.  I believe there is also a timer associated with instance queues, that can be bypassed by just spending some astral diamonds.  I am not 100% certain about this, but I do know on my map there are several timers constantly in motion.  Every time I have seen a timer in the game so far there has been some way to speed it up by spending Astral Diamonds.  Usually the timers start out minimal, like the first time I leveled one of my companions it was only a couple of minutes.  Now it is 15-20 minutes each time I need to send my companion off to train.

I realize that the game needs to make money in order to support itself.  I have ranted at length before about “digital freeloaders” expecting to be able to play these games without ever dropping a dime on them.  However I just wish they would disguise it a bit more.  Playing Neverwinter at times, feels like a trip to Disney World, where everything is happy and shiny… but has a hidden price associated with it.  I guess this is the ultimate evolution of the term “Amusement Park” gaming.  I just wish the entire process didn’t have to feel quite so dirty.

The Sun is Coming Out

I’m hoping as the day goes on it will warm up outside.  Right now as I have just spent an hour and a half writing this up, it feels like it is starting to.  When I went out to get breakfast it was nice and sunny out already, but still 50 degrees.  It is my hope that we can get out and around today, maybe take some photos but at the very least go do something.  I never thought I would said that I want to do something other than gaming, but since becoming more active… I start to get twitchy when I sit in one spot too long.

If you’ve managed to make it this far in the post… I wish you the best of days, and hopefully you can get whatever you intended to get done this weekend.  My hope is that we go wandering and find something interesting to look at in the process.  Have a great day.

A Whole New World

It is a relatively dreary day here in Oklahoma as the experiment rolls onwards.  I’ve been out into the world, gassed up my wife’s vehicle and picked up some breakfast for the two of us.  Lately on the weekends we have been going out and indulging our recent photography habit, but unless things clear up I don’t see that happening.  It rained most of the night, and still looks like the sky could open any minute so for now I am hanging out inside blogging.

The Wrong Leather

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Initially I had intended to get in some League of Legends last night, but within moments of logging into mumble Drathis announced that he had to leave and would be back later.  Knowing the normal schedule, Tam confirmed that he too would be leaving shortly to go dancing.  This left us with four players that could commit to playing, and instead of pushing it further I just decided I would pop into World of Warcraft and continue working on Lodin.  I really enjoy LoL, but it is really only a worthwhile endeavor for me, if I am hanging out with a full team of friends.

I picked up in the Jinyu village where I had left off the previous night and started going through the paces of questing.  It was around this time when my favorite Aussie turned Malaysian 3D Content artist popped by the voice server.  Banzai is coming off a big project for Nintendo, and as such finally starting to filter back out into society.  This is a normal pattern for him, he goes into crunch mode on some awesome new project… then pops his head up afterwards and mingles for awhile.

When I am talking, I tend not to be paying attention to what I am doing.  As a result I ended up happily indulging my bloodlust and skinning anything I could.  So after a few hours of talking about 70s and 80s “Giant Robot” anime… I noticed my bags were insanely full with Pandaria level leather.  Normally this would be a great thing… but unfortunately I leveled way faster through the cataclysm content than I had intended and neglected to level my leatherworking past 460.

I consulted my favorite farming guide and decided that I did not want to take the amount of time required to unlock the Molten Front content.  So as a result I was bound for Tol Barad.  It was around this time that Banzai filtered out off the channel…  damned time shift..  and silence fell.  Farming spiders over and over is pretty boring.  I managed to farm up about 70 savage leather before the boredom hit me.

Pandaria to Pandora

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My friend Warenwolf had been happily playing Borderlands 2 while I was off in pandaland farming up leather.  Every so often he would comment about some spiffy thing he got to drop.  I thought to myself… I like cool things dropping *sadface*.  The biggest problem with Borderlands 2, is that for whatever reason I never got synced up with my friends.  They are all out doing the mega super extended content, and I am still stuck at level 12 poking around doing lower level quests.  With the boredom setting in heavily, I decided I really should be over trying to catch up my Commando.

Borderlands has always been such a great concept, and the second one is so much richer than the first.  However wandering around killing mobs several levels lower than me wasn’t exactly a stellar cure for my boredom either.  I managed to knock out four quests, all of which involved wandering back through areas I had already beaten the bosses of.  At this point I need to do some research in how to skip ahead in the content to something that is actually challenging and fun.

I managed to hold out as I did most of a level and a half, but this is the type of game that was really made to be played as a group.  I will admit that my fetish for Jacobs weapons in all their steampunky goodness is still in place.  As you can see in the picture above, I spent most of my time with a single shot tommygun-esc Jacobs assault rifle.  However after an hour and a half I was still looking for something fun to occupy my night.

Difference a Spec Makes

2013-04-26_224721If you were following any of my tweets, you will know that I wound up over in Rift last night towards the end of the evening.  Based on the excitement of those tweets, it went extremely well.  While we are on the subject of tweets…  why the hell has no one else integrated a twitter client with their game?  Seriously this is one of the killer features Rift has going for it.  Rift truly is the king of the “WoW Clones”, and I mean that with the utmost respect… because they have essentially gone around and latched onto the best practices of everyone else in the  industry.

One of the things that always hits me, when I boot up Rift on my gaming machine is just how amazing the game looks.  The subtle features of the title are just gorgeous to look at.  Inevitably I hit /tweetpic and comment about this, and someone chimes in agreeing.  Again someone else needs to make a /tweetpic command… it is absolutely brilliant.  A few weeks back, I had been reading a blog post by Wilhelm on The Ancient Gaming Noob talking about how he was just having a hard time getting into Storm Legion.

This resonated pretty solidly with me, because from about 56 onwards it has been like pulling teeth to try and level.  The mob hit points increased at a rate that was far greater than either my dps or survival.  I had been leveling with somewhat of a forum sanctioned spec, that was supposedly the best survivability to dps ratio.  Even at that it was still taking me roughly half my life to chew through most even level mobs.  I really want to hit 60, and try some of the endgame content…  but essentially leveling through the higher content was pure torture for me.

In the same post, after I had chimed in another guy (pkudude99) came in behind me and posted a spec that folks should try.  This week Wilhelm made a new post talking about trying out the spec, and how successful it was.  After reading this, it had been in the back of my head to do the same and this present boredom was the perfect opportunity.  After about 30 minutes of respeccing, rebuilding macros, resituating hotbars…  I was off to Camp Cyclone in Morban.

I hopped on my white tiger and rode up to the first mob I encountered, a 58 Storm Legion trooper of some sort.  I charged into battle, and in within a few seconds I had torn the mob asunder and taken next to no damage.  In that moment, a game that had felt like an extremely soulless grind only an hour before had become a magical playground of bloodlust and dismemberment.  The spec was in fact amazing, and over the course of the evening I happily ping ponged back and forth between packs of mobs slaughtering them with a smile on my face.

I have mentioned that I have quite the bloodlust when playing a warrior right?  My happiest moments in games is when I am not paying attention at all to the objectives I am supposed to be completing, but instead just bouncing around the map killing everything that crosses my map.  This totally happened last night, and as the dust settled around my warriors feet I had somehow put on half a level and gotten three planar attunement levels.  I was a happy boy, but also noticed that it was almost midnight so I figured I should probably start winding down for the night.

Extremely long story short… if you are playing a Warrior like me, and found yourself losing a battle to the grind of Storm Legion…  I highly suggest you check out this spec.  Thank you Wilhelm and thank you PkuDude99 the author of the spec…  for pointing it out.

"Perfect Solo" updated for 2.1 Hotfix 7 changes

Slaying Saturday

It is day two of the experiment, and roughly an hour later I have another blog post about nothing.  Our hope was to be able to go out wandering today and take some photos, but looking out our window it looks extremely dark out there.  In fact I think I just heard thunder, so I am guessing that is off the menu.  I believe Neverwinter is now available for me to play, so I may indulge that for awhile.  Essentially I purchased the cheap package, to be able to get in and play the beta events out of curiosity.  Honestly if I could have refunded that purchase I likely would have.

I played just enough in beta to decide I didn’t really enjoy the game as much as I thought I would.  But now that I have access to it, it feels like a colossal waste not to at least try playing it again.  Maybe I will care more about my characters with they are not throwaways?  I honestly liked the Guardian fairly well, but the thing that kept getting on my nerves was the fact that forward momentum stopped as soon as you performed an action.  This just felt like a needless break in motion.  Ultimately I guess I was expecting it to control more like Skyrim, and less like SWTOR.

If you’ve made it this far… I hope you all have an amazing weekend.  Here is hoping to the skies clearing and us being able to get out and about.  Being about to get out on the weekends for some exercise and fresh air has been beneficial to my waistline.

The Grand Experiment

Over the years I’ve developed a certain false assumption about blogging.  For whatever reason I have felt that in order to sit down and write anything…  I had to have something exciting or somehow epic to write about.  This combined with the fact that I have picked up a plethora of design and managerial responsibilities at work, has lead to these massive lapses in content.  There have been multiple times lately that I have wanted to blog, but felt I had nothing really to blog about.

So instead of doing a massive “what happened to Bel” post, explaining all the shit I have gone through since September 11th of last year…  I am just forging forward into unexplored territory.  Usually I have a bit of free time in the mornings as I drink my cup of coffee, or as I try and wind down at the end of gaming each night.  My experiment is just to sit down and write about what I did the previous day…  even if I find it immensely normal and unexciting.

Cute and Potentially Disturbing

2013-04-25_174531As soon as I got home last night, I sat down and reserved the new Raptr reward pet for Rift.  I am really digging the rewards system, in that so far I have gotten some pretty nifty things through it.  Last promotion they offered the Dwarven Smithy Goggles that I had been coveting ever since they gave them out as a reward at PAX.  This time around they were offering a really bizarre in game pet that looks exactly like the Raptr mascot.  Pictured above, I am not 100% sure if it is really adorable, or really disturbing looking.  In game it almost looks like the various balloons that are available during the anniversary event.  In addition I am wearing the Stone Spaulders that are another promotion this time around.

I’ve used Raptr for years without much expectation for reward.  I just liked the fact that it was a really solid multi-protocol IM client that seemed not to tax the various games I was playing.  When they started giving me rewards for the games I played… that was just icing on the cake.  Yesterday I had used the /tweetpic functionality in game to post this shot on twitter… and I got a response from a live Raptr employee, which was a really nice touch.

The rewards presently available that you should check out…

The Monkey King

A few weeks back my friends managed to get me playing a game I had never played before, and thought I never would.  Over the course of the last few weeks I have been joining them almost nightly for 5 player games of League of Legends.  I had been absent from the game for a few nights, mostly because my internet connection has really gone to shit.  But I was coaxed back into the fold last night.

Once again my internet was being shitty, and I was warping all over the maps…  but I still enjoyed myself.  I’ve developed a particular affinity for Wukong, the Monkey King.  I really like leaping in an doing massing amounts of damage only to throw up a decoy and escape away into the shadows.  I am not particularly good at any champions so far, but I am mostly passible with Wukong, Garen, Darius, Shen, Alistair and Volibear.

There is a definite pattern with the champions I end up liking.  One of my friends… the one who got me hooked on the game has successfully created a roadmap of all of the champions he feels I will be happy with.  So far, one by one he has been right, with the exception of Blitzcrank.  After a warm-up map against bots, a 6th friend logged in and we decided to do 3v3 twisted treeline.

I had never done this map before last night, and while enjoyable… it really feels super claustrophobic.  The other bad thing I noticed about it is that if one side gets underfed…  it just snowballs as running around the map catching up on minion kills doesn’t really feel like a possible thing.  Even with the frustration, playing with friends is always fun… and it cracked me up as certain players definitely disliked killing their friends.

Classic “Home” Tour

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Finally the constant lag, and ending up in the wrong place… fighting the wrong thing in League of Legends got under my skin enough to cause me to call it a night.  One of the big things I do lately… is follow whatever whim happens to hit me.  While I cannot really explain it fully, I had a whim last weekend to play one of my oldest characters.  Lodin is the Dwarf Hunter that I spent all of classic World of Warcraft raiding with, and had neatly put to bed with the release of Burning Crusade and my transition to tanking fulltime.  I had made various attempts to level him in the past, but really never got any traction.

Over the course of the weekend I managed to push him from 75 to 85 and actually enjoyed myself.  One of the realizations I have come to is that World of Warcraft is the fast food of MMO gaming.  It is bright, and happy and very enjoyable… so long as you don’t think too much about what you are consuming.  It is the second part I always fail at.  I end up thinking about how half assed so many of their implementations are.  The transmogrification system for example is hands down the worst version of cosmetic items, in ANY game.

Since World of Warcraft is so much more of a casual experience than League of Legends, I figured I could tolerate the shit internet a bit better there.  While I have been super nomadic since leaving the game, the guild I founded back in 2004 is still extremely active.  I had intended to go out to Jade Forrest and continue my push to 90, but logged into the statement coming across guild chat “It’s Bel’s Fault”.  I assured the guild member that I am certain it was in fact my fault, but inquired exactly what was my fault this time.

Turns out they decided on a whim to run old raids to show a friend that was relatively new in the game.  Not that they actually needed my help, but a trip down memory lane is something I am almost always down for.  We proceeded to clear Karazhan, Magtheridon, Gruuls Lair, and ended the night taking down Kaelthas in Tempest Keep.  All of it was stupidly easy, and posed no representation of what it was like to do those instances when they were real… but it was still fun seeing it all again.

A Wild Blog Post Appeared

It is now 6:48 am, and I have run out of coffee.  I started writing at roughly 6:00 am, so it appears that the experiment worked.  I did in fact have enough time to prattle on about what happened last night.  I did nothing terribly interesting, but I did manage to piece together a narrative of the events.  Right now most of my gaming nights look just as spastic as this one.  I’ve been ping ponging back and forth between whatever games end up suiting my fancy.

Right now I don’t really intend to set down permanent roots until Elder Scrolls Online releases.  I’m currently plotting my return to guild leadership with that game.  In essence I miss the camaraderie of House Stalwart, and while I can’t be 100% happy returning to World of Warcraft and assuming the hat there…  I feel like ESO is the game we all want to play.  In effect I feel like I want to “get the band back together”.  I’ve tried this before in the past, but in all of those cases I tried my damnedest NOT to be the guild leader.  I wonder if those guild excursions failed, because I was not putting the same effort into making sure things were happening.

I could ramble on about this past for hours I am sure, but right now I know that pretty much everything for me until the release of Elder Scrolls Online is going to be “appetizers”.  If folks are interested, I have been using Tamriel Foundry as a way of planning for the Elder Scrolls House Stalwart instance.  I really loved the pre-launch guild building tools that were provided by SWTOR, and this gives a very similar feeling.  As always it is like pulling teeth to get any of the Stalwarts to actually sign up for anything, but we have 8 signed up…  and even more in the recently launched Google Plus community

Makes me feel all fuzzy inside thinking about the potential of the game and guild.  As far as the blog goes, I will try my best to keep this experiment up.  It seemed to work, and I had enough time to write a really long post.  I will attempt to keep writing even if I don’t particularly find it interesting myself.  If you have made it this far in the post… thanks for reading.

Nostalgia Wins

Of all the topics I thought I would be blogging about, it is pretty safe to assume this is the last one I ever expected to be writing.  However over the last couple of weeks I have been giving in to my nostalgia, and I feel like I need to come clean about it.  About a week before my birthday, I found my way onto the guild mumble, in the guise of helping a long time friend test their mumble connection.  It was not long before a few others showed up, and we had a lively little discussion going.

When you get a bunch of old friends together, sooner or later they are going to start talking about the “good ole days”.  While none of us were actively playing it, those cherished times were all raids in World of Warcraft.  Over the last year and a half, since leaving the game, it has pretty much been my regular whipping boy.  I’ve said so much, and blamed so many things on the game and its players, but at the end of the day we really did have some amazing times there.  It wasn’t long before I found myself accepting a Scroll of Resurrection, and reactivating my account.

Sealing the Rift

2011-03-15_062142 (1)I expected that much like reactivating Rift, this was going to be one of my short lived whims.  I had a good deal of fun wandering around Telara for about a week, before the same feeling from before had set in.  Rift is without a doubt technically superior to every game on the market.  It has every feature I could ever possibly want in an MMO.  The problem is that once again I find myself not really caring about the world of Telara and its two warring factions. 

What hooked me on MMOs all those years ago, was this always on and deeply intricate fantasy world to explore.  Norrath will always be my first love, with its interesting races, brooding gods, and vast landscapes.  I can remember spending hours, reading quests, trying to gather up every little tidbit of this rich world.  Years later I developed the same connection to the land of Azeroth.  The setting was already familiar to me, and knowing a little bit about it already, made World of Warcraft and its lore all the more addictive.

For reasons I don’t quite understand, I just can’t seem to develop the same connection with the races and world of Telara.  The game does everything right, and has every bells and whistles I could ever want in an MMO, especially now that they are adding mentoring.  At the end of the day however, I just don’t really care about my characters the same way I normally do in these games. 

Home is never the same

WoWScrnShot_061412_232732So in a fit of nostalgia I have been playing WoW once more, and I have to say I am enjoying myself quite a bit.  I think it is a testament to just how good a game it is, that I can return after almost 2 years, and a ton of frustration and bad feelings towards Blizzard, and be able to have fun.  I honestly had the intention of never playing the game again.  I had mixed emotions about trying to “return home”, and the ramifications that it might mean.

So much has changed, the guild I spent seven years building up is very similar, but it is definitely not the same guild I left.  Little things have changed, gone are a good number of the people I cherished the most, and with them some of the easy banter that used to go on in guild chat each night.  However, there are moments, especially on raid nights when some of the veterans show up, that things return back to “normal” for a bit, or at least the normal I remember.

In addition to folks that have moved on like I did, there are tons of new names and faces that I don’t know.  I used to pride myself on trying to know everyone in “my” guild, but truth is from the moment I passed on the hat that guild stopped existing anywhere other than my mind.  I think this is all the more noticeable by the fact that Argent Dawn once again is going through the pre-expansion doldrums.  The guild is still a great group of people, just not as outwardly friendly as it once was.

Normal is a moving target

WoWScrnShot_061712_000107I’ve hit on this multiple times, but the truth is while it feels like the guild has changed, it might simply be because I myself have changed.  When I was last wearing the green and black of House Stalwart, I was a burnt out Guild and Raid leader, unable to stand the thought of playing the game anymore.  I have realized that a good bit of that frustration that built up was because my reality was changing around me. 

When I built up House Stalwart into what it was, I was a relatively unhappy code monkey, working under a boss with a penchant for passive aggressive micro-management.  Nothing I did was ever good enough, and I felt like I had no control over my work world.  At the same time there was a good deal of turmoil in my personal life.  During a five year stretch, we lost something like 15 family members.  The first and worst of these was the suicide of my nephew.

Everything simply felt wrong, and out of control.   I think in a way I built up House Stalwart to be this stable, safe environment to hide out in.  Over time my life started to shift back into normality, I didn’t need my support structure as much as I once did.  I changed jobs leaving the constant stress, feelings of inadequacy and that horrible boss behind.  The problem is, I had built a guild full of great people who had come to need me that I did not want to let down.

The more responsibility I had thrust upon me in the real world, the less I wanted to deal with it in the game world.  So when I moved jobs, to one I had more of a direct role contributing to, I pushed back against being the main tank.  When I had a coworker leave, and have to pick up the slack and essentially do two jobs at the same time, I pushed back against raid leadership.  As I picked up some management responsibilities, I pushed back against guild leadership eventually left the game.  So it seems impossible to separate the frustrations I had with the game, from the changes I was going through outside of it.

Am I really back?

WoWScrnShot_061612_233953So over the last week I have been getting adjusted to the game again.  I find myself actually looking forward to going home and playing at night.  More than anything that is something that has been missing for awhile.  While I have found enjoyment in whatever I was playing, the actual drive to log in and play has been gone.  Now I think ahead about what I might accomplish each evening, and it is refreshing.

There is a question my friends keep asking that I don’t have an honest answer for yet.  I am not sure if I am really back, or honestly what being back even means.  I figure if I am actually playing a month from now, then chances are I will be playing for awhile.  I am enjoying this present trip down memory lane in the meantime.  Last night I soloed most of AQ40 and AQ20, then later duoed a good chunk of the Black Temple.  I am enjoying the experience of rediscovering this game I used to love so much, with no expectations.

I am having a blast playing my Deathknight, probably more than I have since originally leaving the game.  I am not really sure how to quantify it, but World of Warcraft does melee right.  I’ve played melee characters in roughly a dozen games since leaving wow, and in every case they didn’t quite feel right.  They either were too simplistic, too slow paced, or somehow didn’t truly capture the fun nature of swinging a weapon at a monster.  I have to think that it is all the attention to detail and smooth animations that make playing a melee just feel correct.

Future uncertain

Right now I am not sure what my gaming future will bring.  There are so many big games on the horizon, and I am sure I will play several of them. I am not sure if WoW will stick, or if I will just float along to the next big thing.  Currently I have access to WoW, Pandaria Beta, Guild Wars 2, The Secret World, Diablo 3, Rift and Everquest II.  So far however, the only two I am actually logging into are WoW and EQ2.  In each case, those are the two universes I am most nostalgic about.  I guess that no matter what I say or do, I will always love Norrath and Azeroth.  It has been just as shocking to myself, as it has been to my friends that I am back in WoW.

Rift: A Comfy Chair

This weekend I have spent most of my time reacquainting myself with the world of Telara.  While much has changed, it very much feels like sitting back down in a comfy chair, much the same as returning to Everquest II always has been.  A year has been a pretty long absence from the game, and in that time many changes have taken place. 

2012-06-03_214729The most subtle thing, is the fact that it seems the entire world has been given a face lift.  Granted the above screenshot doesn’t exactly show it off to the highest state, since I have been playing mostly on my laptop.  Everything from the character creation screen, to the world itself feels different from my memory, and from the screenshots I still have from earlier.  I’ve talked with Scopique off and on throughout the weekend and he felt exactly the same thing, otherwise I would have thought this just an artifact of not having been in game awhile.

The game as a whole is the same basic game it always has been.  It is a “wow-like” at it’s core, and is still the basic quest driven adventure it always has been.  However I have to say, everything Trion does, is carried out with the utmost of attention to detail.  So while the experience feels like a throwback, in terms of the games on the horizon and in beta, it is without a doubt the absolute best “wow-like” experience out there.

Bring on the new

2012-06-03_203556

I am not exactly sure how to quantify it, but the game as a whole feels much more fleshed out than it did at launch.  The game world back then, felt extremely spartan.  There are far more constructs in place to add some additional depth to the game.  Instead of leveling with some arbitrary soul choices, that you make through a series of quests, you are asked to choose a predetermined path.  Each of these paths offered, highlight some of the more common and well designed builds, but give you a feeling of purpose. 

Personally on my Guardian Warrior, I chose the heavily Reaver-centric tank build.  Each time you gain points to spend, the game makes suggestions of the best possible path to gain abilities.  So far, as a result it seems like I always have exactly the abilities I need, at the level I begin to need them.  I got my shield throw ability, right about the point I started needing to split up pathers.  On my high level defiant Rogue, I picked the Huntsman spec, and it ended up giving me a far more capable Ranger spec than I ever managed to create for myself.

Basically this seems to make the game far more digestible as a whole.  I’ve personally found myself spending a good deal of time on the two new trade-skills, Fishing (as seen in the image above) and Survival (think cooking).  This really was something missing at launch.  There was no functionality for creating crafted food, which forced you to rely on vendor bought food just to survive.  Not only is the food better and stat granting, but it has been a good cost savings as well.  At level 17 I have roughly 3 platnium, which is far more money than I can ever remember having in the past.

The mind numbing and annoying

One of the interesting things that has changed since I last played is the fact that the game is now apparently free until level 20.  This has had some pretty negative effects on the community, or at least what passes as a community at low levels.  As is custom in Rift, players are placed in a level gated “general” chat.  The level 1-29 chat channel is packed full of children, and with them mind numbing annoyance.  If the channel at all represents the future, we are royally screwed.

Luckily I managed to get into a very lively guild, The Gaiscioch Family.  So now my screen is filled with friendly green spam, and it is far easier to ignore the rabble.  I can imagine that paying customers long for the day they ding thirty, and move up to the next chat bracket.  On my high level characters, defiant side, the community seems very healthy and friendly.  So I am hoping that this is just something we can chock up to the fact that there are a large number of “non paying” customers at the low levels.

On a whim

2012-05-31_203839I re-subscribed to the game on a whim, and in response to news this week of the expansion.  After looking at the long list of features that had been added since I had last played a year ago, intrigued me, and with it I chimed in for a 3 month subscription.  I’ve had quite a bit of fun this weekend playing it, but I am sure as the week comes on I will go back to playing a good deal of Everquest II and Diablo 3 again.  I plan to play the game off and on and experience the Guardian content I never got to see.

The guild I am in now, seems really nice and always in action.  So I could imagine that if I leveled up I could experience all the expert content and even some of the raids if I so chose.  The big question is, that since I pretty much renewed my subscription on a whim, what exactly do I want from it?  I am generally happy to quest along, and do the occasional rift, so I assume that bring my happiness once more.

While the core mechanics work the same as when I got bored with it before, it feels like they have beefed the game up in the fluff department, which is what had been lacking for me before.  With the expansion comes player housing, and with the next patch mentoring.  Right now I am finding the Rift mobile client pretty addictive.  Through playing the scratch-off game, I have managed to win 10 or so of the purple rift currency.  So as a result I have all the best gear you can buy from the rare planar vendor.  So while it is a viral gimmick, you can actually really improve your gameplay just by playing it every hour.

A year later

A year after I left Rift, it has become a pretty great game.  Everything about the game, from the maps, to the nameplates, to the mobile client just exudes polish.  It is always funny to listen to general chat, and year people complaining as is the case with any MMO.  I think to myself, anyone complaining about the game that has tried to think of everything, clearly has never played a game with a roughly cobbled together UI and little planning.  I think much like Everquest II, the game is in its most playable state since release.  Unfortunately, just like EQ2, the people that hold a grudge against the game will likely never give it a fair shake.  Here is hoping that the expansion can rekindle the game for others.  I luckily have the ability to feed my whims, but it will take a bit more than that to bring in the folks that can only play a single game at a time.

Bring On The Storm Legion

It is the beginning of a new month, and with it closes the #NBIMMO fun.  As a result Syp has posted a poll for the NBI Awards on Bio Break.  You can cast your vote in categories like “Promising Star, Game Specific” and “Most Interesting Angle”.  The categories have narrowed down the field with five blogs competing for each award.  I am not really sure how long the voting is set to run, but get over there are show all these new blogs some love.

Entering the Storm

There had been some rumors circulating about this, but yesterday Trion dropped a 100 megaton bombshell on the community announcing their upcoming feature rich expansion: Rift: Storm Legion.  The announcement of a new expansion is never that huge of a surprise. We have come to expect them roughly a year after release. However this is one of the most ambitious and feature packed expansions that I have seen in recent memory.  Some of the features include:

  • Two huge new continents, reportedly more than tripling the size of the existing game world.
  • Dual-faction island city of Tempest Bay.
  • Four new souls, one for each of the callings
  • Level cap raised to 60
  • Ability to “Instant Adventure” your way from 1-60 if you choose.
  • Greater variety of onslaughts, rifts, and events.
  • Seven new dungeons zones.
  • Three new raid zones.
  • A new single player Chronicle.
  • Massive colossus battles that supposedly effect the world in ways we have not yet seen.
  • Personal dimensions:  Guild and Player Housing.
  • New “Cape” inventory slot.
  • New Grandmaster tier of crafting.
  • New puzzles, artifacts, collectables, achievements, mounts, pets, titles and more.

The Past Year

screen_img3A little less than a year ago, I made on post on this blog titled “It’s Not You, It’s Me”, where basically I admitted to cancelling rift and outlining some of my reasons for doing so.  There are multiple reasons, some of which I have come to realize really were about me, and my lack of wanting to commit to doing any form of organized gameplay.  I can’t hold any game responsible for that, because honestly it has been an evolution I have gone through, from very serious raider, to very serious casual player.  Since then I have played a ton of EQ2, LoTRO, gotten bored with SWTOR, and been dabbling in Guild Wars 2 and Secret World betas.

The primary problems I had with Rift, was the lack of “fluff” the world had.  Nothing in Telara seemed to exist, just for the fun of it.  All things seemed to be tied to some purpose, or needed by the single questing patch per faction.  I enjoyed the game, but just ran out of things I felt worthy of doing.  There were plenty of collections and achievements that I could have gone after, and I had many factions I could be running dailies with, but when I ran out of quest storyline, I just ran out of things I was interested in.  Rift events were a blast, but after a point they also became old.

Trion Listened

screen_img5I can’t say that Trion listened to me, I don’t have the ego to even imagine that, but what I can say is that my entire guild seemed to go through the same gradual leaving that I did.  We went from having 50 active players, to 10, to 5, to none.  So while they may not have listened to me, I can tell they heard the community as a whole that wandered off, because in the last year they have been insanely busy.  I stopped actively playing the game sometime last June.  Here is a list of some of the major content achievements as taken from this amazing “welcome home” thread, for folks coming back to the game.

  • PVP Rifts.
  • Cross Server Looking For Group.
  • 3 “Sliver” 10 Man Raids.
  • Chronicles Solo/Duo Instances Added.
  • Planar Attunement Post 50 Advancement System.
  • Master-Mode Dungeons.
  • Support for player made Add-ons.
  • Ember Isle – New questing zone for level 50 characters.
  • Instant Adventures – LFG open world adventures.
  • Cross-Faction Auction House.
  • Rift Mobile App.
  • In-Game Character Weddings.
  • 6th Role Slot.
  • Crafting from bank.
  • Mercenary System to balance the sides in PVP Matches.
  • New Fishing and Survival Trade-skills.
  • New “Seal” crafted Inventory Slot.
  • Nameplates for mobs and players.
  • Streaming Client.
  • Guild Finder system.
  • Leaderboards.

Expansion before the expansion

screen_img6So in one year they have added an entire expansions worth of content already.  I’ve always respected the folks at Trion, and thought given time, they would turn the product into a really amazing place to be.  I subscribed for roughly a years time, even though I only played the game roughly 4 months.  I had faith in the team, and figured my subscription was a “donation to the cause” of sorts.  Seems like that “donation” has been repaid in massive amounts of hard work.  Even before the expansion proper launches, 1.9 is waiting in the wings and seems to fill up any of the remaining gaps in the game.

The two big things for me that are coming in 1.9 are Conquest Mode, and Mentoring.  Conquest promises to take us back to DAoC style 3 faction PVP.  I have long held the opinion that what is wrong with PVPin general, is the fact that games focus on the Red Vs Blue mentality.  I can remember in DAoC, the factions to some extent self balanced.  If one team was a bit stronger, the other two would temporarily gang up to even out the odds.  I think the Conquest mode will be a shot of adrenalin to a languid PVP culture.

If you’ve read my blog at all, you have heard me go on and on about mentoring and how great it is.  Literally this is the one feature that I think every game needs.  Being socially focused, it gets frustrating when new friends start and you can’t really help with out without absolutely steamrolling content for them.  This is really no fun for anyone, for you laying waste without consequences is boring.  For your friends, they end up just following you around aimlessly never actually learning how to play their classes.  When you can mentor down to your friends, and run the content for real, you get to relive the experience and do so with your buddies.

A Pat on the Back

It is so easy to focus on the negative things in the game industry.  Trust me there are plenty, and I have been a bitter ass for a very long time when it comes to the flaws in games.  That said, I feel that it is all the more important that we point out what is going right in the industry.  With the expansion, Trion will have added in every single one of the “must have” features I could even muster.  On top of that, it triples the size of its game world, and with that comes a flood of new content for players to experience.  Essentially they have answered the challenge posed by all of us who unsubscribed, and have done so in really heroic fashion.

I still very much love Norrath, and am having a blast still in Everquest II, but I almost feel like I need to resub to Rift just to applaud them for their efforts.  At this point I have been gone long enough that essentially I will need to completely re-roll to remember how the hell anything works.  That said I think I will be doing just that, and taking a tour of all the changes first hand. 

I had already decided that I would not really be playing Guild Wars 2 or Secret World anymore until the launch.  I played enough of the games to realize I liked it, so I don’t want to wear off that new game smell.  So between the ever present EQ2, Rift, Diablo 3, and piddling around with SWGEmu… I think I will have plenty to do for the foreseeable future.  It needs to be said:  Great job Trion.