Sith Happens

This morning is a slow starter.  Yesterday we made the mistake of laying down for a nap around 4pm… which ended up with us getting up around 7pm…  and not being able to get to sleep again until 1:30.  Essentially everything is happening in slow motion this morning as I finally woke up around 9.  On top of that all the days of cleaning have compounded in this massive “sinus event” with my allergies attacking from all sides.  So I have eaten my breakfast, taken an allegra for the allergies and some ibuprophen for the drums in my head.

The New Normal


Luckily we finally have a comfortable livingroom to show for all the work.  Yesterday we moved out the old sofa, put together the cubicles you see on the far side of the room with the beige cloth baskets, and made a trip to garden ridge to purchase green cloth baskets for our entertainment center.  Everything as a whole feels more  cozy and tidy than it ever has in the almost 15 years we have lived here.  I currently am sitting here writing this blogpost in the recliner that is in the lower left-hand corner of the  picture.

It has been a pain in the ass to go through this transition, but we have two really comfortable living spaces to show for it right now.  The living room is awesome, but so is the loft that I posted about a week or so back.  I now have it rigged for ps3, xbox 360 and cable… and with the whole home dvr I can sneak up there to watch  doctor who or any of the other shows my wife does not really care for.  We still have a lot more to do, but most of it now is just cleaning and organization.

I really cannot pinpoint what sparked all these changes.  At first it seemed like spring cleaning combined with a little nesting instinct, but I think there is something more there.  At this point I have lost over 35 pounds, and my wife is well over 20 pounds.  So I think as we feel better about our selves, we are wanting to make our surroundings match that.  It is almost as if the weight loss has given us the courage to tackle other things in our life that had also been bothering us.

We have this big long list of things we would like to do, but most of them involve getting rid of this item and swapping it for something else.  For the time being we are pressing the pause button, as we have already spent beyond the threshold of what we are comfortable with.  Getting the two of us to spend large amounts of money is a really difficult thing.  When you have spent years sitting on it, it is hard to finally part with those dollars even if it is for a very positive change.

Sith Happens

swtor.exe 2013-5-25-23-51-40-16

I wrote a few days ago about patching up Star Wars the Old Republic on a whim, since it was a game I knew I had a large patch waiting on me.  I wanted to test just how fast the new internet could patch it up… and it did so remarkably fast.  I was receiving the patches at roughly 1.5 meg per second, which is in completely a different league from the 300 kbps I was used to.  The funny thing is that ever since patching it up, I have had a nagging desire to play.  I have been so freakin sore and tired from all the moving of furniture and cleaning that I have not really been able to play much of anything for long periods of time.

Oddly enough once I solved some really jacked up mouse turn issues… I have been enjoying myself in SWTOR.  About 6 months ago I started a new Sith Sorceror named Belgarotte over on Ebon Hawk, so I decided to continue on his journey.  Previously it was Imperial Balmorra that halted me, because really… Balmorra, especially Imperial side is boring as shit.  This time however I have been able to get in the groove of playing a sorc and have reveled in shocking the shit out of things.  You might guess by the name, that I did in fact originally intend to play a Sith Assassin, but already having a Jedi Shadow I decided to go down a slightly different path.

It is so bizarre to me to be enjoying a caster class.  Traditionally I hate “finger wigglers” as I call them, but something about shocking the hell out of things with force lightning… while Khem Val tanks for me is enjoyable.  The combo is really formidable, and I would say it is likely the best match up of class and first companion I have played.  I suppose if you were playing a Scoundrel, and the thought of Corso Riggs did not want to make you stab things…  it might be an equally good combination.

Darth Egregious


The biggest take away for me is that given time… returning to the game is still really enjoyable.  Especially if you have subscribed at some point, the game is completely playable on their free to play model.  There are so many egregious money grabs, and I am trying my hardest to look past them.  But that said, it is making them money and helping keep the doors open… enough to start funding new development…  so I can’t complain that badly.  What helps a game survive is usually a good thing by me, and for the most part the things they are charging for are purely optional perks.

Over time I have accumulated a good chunk of cartel coins, and have gathered up a few nifty things.  The gear I am wearing is mostly from a new cosmetic set that I am completely forgetting the name of.  But it feels extremely Sith Inquisitor to me.  I am a huge proponent of cosmetic gear, if your character looks cool you feel better about playing them.  Right now I have a full set of moddable items, and likely I will keep those as I level.  This has been extremely helped by the fact that planetary commendations are one one generic currency, rather than one per planet.

The game feels so much better coming at it from a purely casual standpoint.  Previously I was in a rush to burn through content and get up to 50 so we could do fun group things together.  Now that I am piddling my way through the game, it feels so much less shallow than it did before.  I realize I will ultimately level out of the content, and at that point it will be time to play something else.  I honestly am not sure I will even make it to cap before the wanderlust hits me, but I am enjoying myself for the time being.

Moving Classrooms

I need to start wrapping up for the day.  We have a relatively short list of things that need to accomplish today… but one of those is pretty massive.  Essentially my wife is having to change classrooms in order to tag team teach a forensics class with a science teacher.  As a result we are going to have to transplant her not insignificant amount of “stuff” from one classroom to another.  Additionally even though the school year is out, we are going to have to set everything back up like a functional classroom… because summer school.

So as a result I will be even more sore after the end of today, and cursing life.  Hopefully though nothing much is going to happen Monday.  That way I can sit around and enjoy Memorial day chilling out on our new sofa.  I will probably stab someone if that doesn’t happen.  At this point I just need some normality in my life for awhile, I have long ago passed my threshold for comfortable change.  I need things to stay the same for a bit, so I can just relax.  Anyways… I hope you all have a great day, and you choose to do something far less strenuous than we are choosing to do.

Awesome Trailers Revisted

Today my friend Liore posted a great run down of some of her favorite trailers of recent memory.  They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery… so hopefully she will understand that I am completely latching onto the idea.  Honestly watching the trailers she singled out, made me start thinking about some of my favorite trailers, and once the idea set root in my brain it was going to happen.

What makes an awesome trailer?

There are so many ways to make a trailer stand out, it could have an amazing soundtrack and visual or just be extremely well directed and emotionally engaging.  There are trailers I love that pretty much fall into all categories.  A lot of the ones Liore singled out in her post, are ones I love too for various reasons, but I noticed my favorite kind of trailer was mostly absent in the list.

I love a trailer that sets up the world of the game, the eternal conflict, and just pumps me up to play the game.  I love when I watch a trailer and walk away feeling “hell yes, I want to play this now”.  It could be the soundtrack of the visuals, but if it can somehow tap into my inborn sense of bloodlust… it is a win in my book.  I especially love the trailers that set up the lore of the world, and give us a window into the game that we normally would not see otherwise.

DC Universe Online


This trailer will likely go down in history as one of my all time favorites.  When someone mentions a kick ass trailer, this one is always the first one I think of.  For starters, everything Blur Studios touches is amazing, but more importantly it sets up the storyline of the game in a brilliant way.  I have always loved the DC setting where the traditional heroes are thugs, and Luthor is the hero… and to set that up as the basis of the MMO made me only want to play it more.

Sadly for whatever reason the game itself never met the epic quality of the trailer.  It tried extremely hard, and in some aspects succeeded.  The little references, like Booster Gold commercializing everything really made it feel deeply rooted in the DC universe.  I will have to say that no matter what, this trailer got me to buy the game and play it.  I still boot it  up from time to time when the mood hits me.

Hellgate: London


FOR THE LIVING!!!!  God there is so much that is amazing about this trailer.  Also there is so much frustration that I have that this game did not succeed.  It had some amazing story behind it, and this trailer sets up everything you need to know about it.  This has it all, awesome heroes of both genders and all of them making extreme sacrifices to save the next generation.  Considering my last name is Temple… I may or may not also have an extreme thing for the Templars.  So much was right about this game, but it also had so many failings… namely its horrible network code.  There have been many times I have considered playing the Asian free to play version, but it would just feel odd.

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron


I feel kinda bad about this next pick.  I truly love the feel of this trailer, and the epic qualities especially when my personal favorite… Grimlock makes his appearance.  Why I feel bad is that I have never actually played this game, regardless of how amazing the trailer is.  Every time I watch this trailer, I keep thinking… why god can we not get a full length Transformers movie that looks like this… instead of the odd biomechanical Transfomers from the Michael Bay movies.  Everything about this trailer screams Transformers to me, and takes me back to a chunk of my childhood.

Mass Effect 2


While I love Mass Effect 3, and the trailer Liore posted made me want to go back and play the series from 1-3 all over again…  my favorite game in the series will always be 2.  This trailer makes me relive all the badassery that is ME2, and its great swat team like side missions.  This makes me want to load it up and slaughter legions of collectors.  Doesn’t hurt that I am a huge fan of Thane, and he is completely badass in the trailer.

Bioshock 2


I will always love the Bioshock franchise no matter what.  The first one still stands out as one of the most transformative gaming experiences I had up to that point.  As trailers go however, the launch trailer for Bioshock 2 is great.  I love the relationship between the Big Daddy and the Little Sisters, as someone who has always chosen to play a tank… and protect the squishy players of the world…  I can totally relate to the dynamic of the eternal protector.  Watching the video fires me up to play the game and wreak havoc on some splicers.

Fallout New Vegas


This trailer falls in the category of letting you in on something, that you normally would not be let in on just by playing the game.  While this scene is alluded to in the gameplay, you only know it exists by watching the teaser trailer.  Fallout has been and will likely always be one of my favorite series.  It means two things to me, huge wastelands to explore, and badass guys in armor.  This trailer teases the NCR Ranger in such a tantalizing way, that immediately I thought… man I have to get that armor in game.  I went from lusting after the Brotherhood Armor in the previous games, to making my goal in game to acquire the Ranger armor with those cool goggles.  War… War Never Changes.



As far as Borderlands goes, I will always prefer the original trailer.  I love the way it introduces each character and gives them a comic book style introduction frame.  The soundtrack to me has become so connected to this trailer, that when I hear the song on the radio all I can think of is playing Roland.  As badass as this trailer is however… it fails miserably at one thing… getting me to by the game.  When you watch the trailer, it just looks like another shooter, albeit an edgy and graphically interesting one.  All someone had to do was tell me the phrase “Diablo With Guns”… and I shifted into “take my money now” mode.  Problem is this was about 6 months after the initial release.

Warhammer Online


This is yet another jaw droppingly epic trailer from Blur Studio, and sadly also another trailer that is leaps and bounds better than the game itself deserves.  As a longtime fan of Warhammer, there were so many little geek out moments.  From the Squid Herder, to the Bright Wizard, to the Chaos Maurader…  the video just oozes lore.  The moment that just takes the cake however is when the Tzeentch Bringer of Change steps through the wall.  Yes…  I am definitely a Warhammer geek.  Like I said, I just wish the game was as good as this trailer.



I have gone back and forth on this trailer over the years.  At first I was not sure about it, but the longer it exists… and the longer I have played Rift.. the more I appreciate it.  There are so many little things about this video that make the Rift player in me geek out.  The number one subtle element is the way the crow flies into the scene, then becomes life touched at one point, and finally at the end a flame touched phoenix.  On top of this, I recognize the abilities they are using and could in theory guess the specs of the supposed characters that are shown.  My favorite moment however, is when the warrior visibly switches souls… something that really slickly explains what to expect about the game itself.  It does what I think it set out to do, introduce players to the setting… and as icing on the cake it uses a setting that actually exists in Stonefield.  So often in these videos, they are in completely made up settings… grounding the video in the actual game is just kick ass.

Star Wars: The Old Republic


Once again Blur Studios makes it into my list, this time with a series of three trailers that were released leading up to the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Return, Hope and Decieved each set up a segment of the storyline leading up to the game timeline itself.  In addition, each sets up the archetypal character for each class in the game, and fleshes out some back story.  Combined they make an epic story arc that I can watch over and over. 

I loved Star Wars: The Old Republic…  until I ran out of content, but every time I watch this sequence I get nostalgic about what might have been.  The game is still pretty solid, but sadly it is wrapped into one of the most egregious free to play models I have ever experienced.  I realize that Bioware in essence had to sell its soul to stay afloat and keep the game running, but I will always be wistful about the game that could have been.



This trailer does an amazing job of setting up the universe that Rage takes place in, and explaining how the world got to the point where it is today.  Everything about the trailer makes me want to play the game.  I have a certain measure of regret over this title.  It is one of the best single player experiences I have had in recent years, but also one of the absolute shortest.  If the game had roughly twice the content, it would have been a truly phenomenal game.  What is left is a great experience, and the trailer tells you everything you need to know to enjoy it.

Diablo 3


Like Liore said in her post, it would be inappropriate to have a list of trailers that did not include something from Blizzard.  While I probably would have also picked the Wrath of the Lich King trailer, I didn’t want to copy her pick.  Probably my favorite series from Blizzard as far as trailers go, is Diablo.  Each trailer is always so rich in storytelling, and the Diablo 3 one is no exception.  Sadly for me, this is another case of the trailer being better than the game. 

Actually I have to take a step back from that, and say that the actual game itself was really enjoyable and I liked the story quite a bit.  It just was over way too damned fast.  I essentially played the game until I had completed the content, and then have not really touched it since.  All of this does not change the fact that the game trailer is pretty amazing.

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion


I am a HUGE fan of all things Elder Scrolls, but this trailer just set the game up perfectly.  Patrick Stewart as Uriel Septim was such an amazing casting, and this trailer which also serves as the intro video to the game pumps me up every time I watch it.  All I want to do when I see this is get into the game and explore, and become the epic and heroic warrior I know I can become in an Elder Scrolls game.  It does what I am looking for in a trailer, introduces the setting and provides the urge to play.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Live Action)


I can remember the first time I saw this trailer, I was just amazed that they went to the amount of effort to create a big budget live action trailer.  This feels exactly like Skyrim, where the peasants run away the Dragonborn runs into the action, and draws down on the drake.  This trailer and later commercial is just such a perfect representation of how epic the game feels.  It really makes me wish there was an Elder Scrolls television show.

Elder Scrolls Online


This is the trailer that I am most pumped about right now, so I saved it for last.  This trailer was released to announce the opening of beta signups for Elder Scrolls Online.  There is just so much about this game that excites me, and I love the way little callouts are made to the various factions.  I have always identified with the Nords, and when they crawl out of the bowels of the fortress after slaying a bunch of undead werewolves… just makes shivers of happy run up and down my spine.  Don’t get me started on how awesome it is that the werewolves were undead in the first place…

I’ve heard plenty of snide comments saying that the trailer is all about the guy from Assassins Creed, but all I can see is a Breton Rogue.  I am a notorious carebear, but for whatever reason I am really looking forward to the RVR in this game.  The frontier in Dark Age of Camelot was just a cool place to be, there were so many things that were NOT keep raids that you could do.  It was just cool to go out there and feel confident enough to be able to hunt the really hard mobs that were out there.

The fact that Cyrodil sounds like essentially the Dark Age of Camelot frontiers, just sounds so amazing.  I mean this is Cyrodil, the setting that the ENTIRE 4th game was set in.  That is so much space, and I am really hoping there are so many amazing non pvp targets out there as well.  It will be so much fun going out there with a group of friends and seeing what all we can do.  This video just pumps me up for doing some RVR and exploring Cyrodil.

I Blame Liore

This post went on so much longer than I had intended it to, but there are just so many amazing trailers that I love.  Right now I want to play every single one of these games, but I think I will ultimately log into Rift and cause as much havoc as I can.  If you’ve made it this far, I really hope you have a great night and can get something knocked off your gaming bucket list.

On SWTOR and F2P

While I anxiously wait on The Secret World to patch in the background, I thought I would take a few minutes to respond to today’s big “un-news” story.  Pretty much every news source from IGN to Forbes is reporting that Star Wars: The Old Republic will be going to the free to play model by this fall.  I am not really sure if this was any surprise, since in mid-june there was another similarly placed article hinting that Bioware was looking at the model.

Roar of the Crowd

What is also fairly unsurprising is the immediate upwell in the gaming community, including much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth.  This really should shock no one at this point, and is really deserving nothing more than a polite “I wish them well”.  I know for me personally, the subscription fee was no barrier, and had nothing at all to do with my reasons for leaving the game.  I completely believe in the concept of voting with my dollar, and I have no problem supporting the causes I believe in.

By that token, I guess you can state that I just stopped believing in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  It was an amazing rollercoaster ride of riveting story.  But at the end of the day, there just was not enough content to hold my attention.  By the same token, I don’t feel a need to “Rage against the machine” and try and bring the game down.  I still have several friends playing it, and reportedly they are still enjoying themselves.

Enter the Pundits

I find it annoying that this move is being treated like the sign of something bigger.  On one side we have groups of players that are mad at the game, feel betrayed by it, and are already signaling this as the desperate act of a dying game.  On the other side you have groups chanting “death to subscriptions”, and ushering this move in as the beginning of a brave new era.  I tend to think this is the act of a company, doing what they feel is best for their product.  While this might be the highest profile conversion, it is far from the first, and likely will not be the last.

While I personally find the subscriptions a much more honest business model, Free to Play is not necessarily a bad thing.  I know at least in the case of the games I have played, the free to play status has done a lot to lower the barrier of entry.  I’ve seen the server populations bolster in Everquest 2 since the conversion.  While there are a lot more ruffians on my roleplaying server, the vast majority have been seemingly well mannered.  The only thing I am uncertain of, is whether or not these players actually stick around for the long haul.

Negativity and Zealotry

I think one of my biggest frustrations with this whole situation is that there will be so much negativity in the coming days from all the camps.  I realize this makes me seem like a hypocrite, because I’ve ranted about more than my fair share of games in the past.  If you look back through my archives you can see many an angry tale featuring my favorite boogeyman, the dreaded Blizzard.  I would like to think that over time I have mellowed.

I’ve reached a point where I am just tired of both the rampant negativity and zealotry in the community.  Do we have to hate all other games just because we are playing something different?  If we love a game, do we have to shove it in everyone else’s faces until they accept our choice as the “one true game”?  I guess I have reached a place where I am happy to play the games I like, but equally happy to hope the other games succeed as well.

We Need More Success

We have built a zero sum climate in massively multiplayer gaming, that really doesn’t need to exist.  While every game is in essence competing with the games that came before it, when did we start having to tear the others down?  I feel like in order to keep the MMO culture thriving, we need each one of these games to find their own niche, and their own kind of success.  Ultimately we have to redefine what success means, because there will likely never be another 10 million subscriber game.

I know personally I have stopped looking for a WoW Killer that will never exist. So long as we keep using that as the bar for success, we are setting every game up for a failure.  Maybe I have grown up a bit, but right now I am just looking for some enjoyment in whatever I play.  Currently that happens to be a mixture of The Secret World, Everquest 2, and World of Warcraft. 

While I have joked that “If you don’t like TSW, you have no soul”, I do not literally mean that.  Not every game, has to appeal to every player.  I think part of what has had me so excited about The Secret World for example, is that it is a very niche game, and seems to be happy with that fact.  We need more games that are OK with catering to a specific niche.  We as players, need to be okay with not winning the subscription race and playing the game with the most people.

No Free Ride

So I think this announcement heralds neither the doom of Bioware or the subscription model for that matter.  Players will always be willing to pay good money for good content.  Free to play, simply means that these companies are giving us the game, and hoping we like it enough to give them money in return.  Ultimately we the players have to fulfill that social contract and give them that hard earned money in one form or another.  If you don’t then honestly you are just a drain on that games community.  At the end of the day someone has to pay for it, because there is no such thing as a free ride.

The Illusion of Choice

Before this past week, I had not really followed the news about the Mists of Pandaria expansion apart from a mention here or there in my RSS reader.  So now that I am leaving the wow-free zone that I have created for myself, I am trying to catch up on all the tidbits of progress.  I admit, when I first got wind of the expansion I was just as bitter and cynical as the rest of the “kung-fu panda and pokemon” complainers.  I am not sure if it is the long leave, or the news I am reading itself but I am looking forward to it.

Never a Real Choice

One of the big complaints that did manage to invade upon my fortress of wow-less solitude, was the “dumbing down” of the talent trees.  When I first heard the news, like a good chunk of my friends, I was full of rage over them needlessly simplifying a process that already worked “just fine”.  I bemoaned switching to a system that gave up choice in favor of “hand holding”.  My talent trees should be tall and full of many widgets to click on, the way they always were!

I have come to the realization that despite the “illusion of choice” and multiple options, in each tree there was really only one viable path.  There are roughly 68 DeathKnights in my guild, and apart from  no more than a 5 talent difference, each us has almost the exact same blood tanking build.  For each class, and each tree, there has always been one spec agreed upon by the community to be head and shoulders above the rest.  So while it always felt like we had tons of options, in reality if we wanted to play on any serious level, we were going to go with the agreed upon path.

The thing is, this has been the case in every game I have played that has some sort of a talent system.  Rift added a bit more depth to the system, but the same winning combos were there as well.  This was so much the case that between my times playing it, they have added this nifty system that tutors you through speccing into one of these agreed upon paths.  This was a breath of fresh air, since with 9 potential talent trees to juggle per class, plotting a course became extremely arcane.

Freedom to Fail

The point of view I have eventually come around to is one that I would have argued until I was blue in the face a few years back.  In the end, all having a talent tree does is really give a player a chance to screw their character up to the point of being unplayable.  I had a friend, who shall go unnamed that decided to try and build a “Jack of all Trades” hunter in vanilla WoW.  Instead of focusing on one tree and then some secondary talents, he spread his points out evenly trying to pick up the best all all the early talents.

The end result was a character that had no glaring weaknesses, but no real bonuses either.  He could solo just fine, but when it came to running dungeons he lacked the raw damage output needed to support a team effort.  Believe it or not, I have seen many people make this mistake over the years.  The freedom of picking talents, also gives you the freedom to make characters that simply don’t work.  Ultimately the designers have intended us from the start to try and reach those top tier talents. As such when a winning hybrid spec exists it usually gets “fixed” to restore the balance.

Less is More

So in returning to what outraged myself and others, at face value the Deathknight talents are going from 41 points to only 6 points.  Initially like everyone else I thought to myself, my god they are watering these classes down.  Last night I copied my Deathknight out to pandaland and quickly found out that my assumptions were completely wrong.  In truth the new system is going to give us far more personalization while still remaining viable.

Just like with Cataclysm, when you first open an empty talent tree you are asked to choose a specialization.  Previously this just gave you whatever the signature ability was for your class.  Keeping with the Deathknight analogy, choosing Blood gave me Heart Strike, Veteran of the Third War, Blood Rites, and Vengence.  However my talents gave me all the other abilities that made tanking as blood viable, namely all those handy “oh shit” cooldowns.

What it took me a long while to understand, is that in Mists of Pandaria, when you choose a specialization you are essentially receiving with one single click that previous “optimal spec”.  Instead of getting those signature abilities from before, I receive 17 active and passive abilities that made up the golden path everyone chose.  What this really does, that has never existed to this point is set a clear baseline of abilities that one can expect every possible spec to have.  This completely takes the guess work of whether or not a player has some critical ability out of the mix.

Fluffy Goodness

Basically the talent points are now a series of decisions that occur at level 15, 30, 45, 60, 75, and 90.  Each of these decisions changes the flavor of your abilities, or adds new functionality to your class.  When I switched my Deathknight from Human to Worgen, the thing I really missed was the Every Man for Himself racial.  Previously in Wrath it was not terribly difficult to build a viable tanking spec that included the ability Lichborne.  However in Cataclysm, you had to give up some high threat talents and utility to get it.

With the MoP talents at each level you are basically making a choice and in essence sacrificing other abilities.  Most of the tiers, for the classes I have seen all are similar abilities with a similar theme.  In the case of Lichborne, I can take it as my level 30 pick, but I am giving up on having Anti-Magic Zone and the brand new Purgatory ability.  None of the choices really take away from my viability, but each shapes the flavor of my character.

So while at face value it looks like you have less freedom, in reality I personally feel like I have more than ever.  I cannot count the number of times I have respecced just to change one or two points.  That was the only real control I had, and in general I have had less than 5 points that could realistically be juggled.  This time I am getting to make 6 choices, each of which has some pretty significant ramifications.  I can be a tank with Bladestorm, or a Deathknight with AOE Deathgrip (Gorefiend’s Grasp), or Combat Rogue with Shadowstep.  I get to make these fun choices knowing that I am not trading my viability for flavor.

Ode to the Trinity

I have to say I am honestly shocked after writing this all out, that I am really looking forward to the expansion.  I made as many catty comments about it as the next person, but the more I read about the changes the more I like.  The funny thing is, I know I am contradicting things I have said I wanted in the past.  I have seen enough of the “post-trinity” games that I know that I don’t really enjoy them.  At the end of the day, I really like having clearly defined roles.

The main problem I have had with abolishing the “trinity” is that without them I feel like I have no purpose.  While this is great for soloing, grouping in games like Guild Wars 2 has been sheer and total chaos.  The classes that generally get hurt the most are the melee, and those are the only thing I have ever been interested in playing.  I cannot be happy unless I am sinking a weapon in monster flesh.  Playing a “finger wiggler” just lacks the visceral quality that I crave.

So when I would try and take on a difficult/elite/etc encounter with group members, this little scenario would play out.  I would run in and begin to attack, sword and board in hand.  Sooner or later I would pull aggro, and begin trying to back out.  Ultimately I would fail at shedding aggro and die while trying to heal myself.  The fighting to stand up would fail as well, since we are fighting a big monster and not easily killed by throwing stones at it.  At this point I rez, and try and run back into the action which may or may not be all the way across the current map.

Even in games that have blurred the lines a bit, without going into battle knowing your role it feels like every bad pvp experience I have had.  “Lets all run in and throw ourselves at the enemy, I am sure they will fall to one of our flailing bodies.”  I like knowing who is the tank, who will be providing dps, and who will save all our asses by healing us when we do something phenomenally stupid.  A well balanced party was the key to pen and paper RPGs and honestly it still makes sense for MMO grouping.

Solo Friendly

I think the nugget at the center of every “post-trinity” argument however is pretty simple.  Everyone wants to be viable in both a group and while soloing.  SWTOR tried to solve this by giving everyone companions that essentially turned you into an instant somewhat balanced group.  WoW has added in a lot more self heals, and other ways to save yourself when things are going wrong.  Ultimately, everyone wants to be able to play the way they want to play and still be viable doing so.  For me that is usually tanking, which I guess places me firmly as a pillar of the trinity. 

This post has rambled on a lot longer than I had originally intended.  I guess in hindsight I should have broken it into multiple posts, but at least in my mind all of these things are connected. I am still pretty shocked that I am looking forward to roaming around Pandaland.  What I have seen of the areas, I have enjoyed.  I will go on at length another time, as to why I feel Cataclysm failed whereas Wrath and Burning Crusade did not.  Suffice to say, I feel Pandaria will be a return to the world building experience of the first two expansions.  I am looking forward to exploring this new and beautiful world.

Rediscovering Dungeons

Here in Oklahoma it has been insanely hot and by Thursday it is supposed to be in temperatures over 107F.  As a result, I have been actively trying to avoid leaving the comfort of air conditioning.  This meant that this last weekend, I spent the vast majority of it logged into Argent Dawn in World of Warcraft.  The game still has a pretty firm resurgent hold on me.

Am I Really Back?

WoWScrnShot_062512_060314Honestly at this point I am still not 100% sure if I am really back, but I have moved from seven days of free time to actually paying for the first month.  I had planned on doing this anyway, just to make sure my friend got his mount, but I have to say I am already finding myself making plans for the future.  Right now I have a stable of sub 85s, and I admit I am looking forward to leveling them.

I spent the largest portion of the weekend working on Exeter, my Paladin.  This was actually my very first character in World of Warcraft, and I had grand ideals about playing it as a main.  Due to not being able to keep up with my friends, and the failings of protection paladins early on in vanilla, this never quite panned out.  But nonetheless the character has always had a special place for me.

When I last played the character over a year and a half ago, I had just started on Vashj’ir and decided to swap from Retribution as I played in Wrath, to full on protection.  With some minimal ability swapping, I was able to pick up the character pretty quickly and continue on questing.  I have to say the Cataclysm Tankadin is a blast to play.  I have given paladins crap over the years, even on this blog, but the gameplay is extremely infectious.

WoWScrnShot_062512_064918Over the course of the weekend I finished Vashji’r, quested through Hyjal, mined my way across Deepholme and finally reached 85 while doing the first few quest chains of Uldum.  I have no clue how many actual hours of play it took me, but with all the perks granted by a level 25 guild, it seemed like it just flew by.  Instead of watching my xp bar I found myself just following along the quests, and before I knew it I had hit the cap.

While I have complained about “kill ten” quests before, I have come to realize that at the end of the day I really do prefer them.  Having a traditional questing structure gives me a sense of purpose as I check things off my list.  When I have played more open ended games, like Guild Wars 2, I have felt like everything I did lacked that same sense of purpose.  As much as I had complained about the disconnected feeling of Cataclysm, the quest flow is pretty nice and has enough other kinds of quests to break the monotony of the kill tasks.

Grouping Should Be Fun

Screenshot_2012-02-22_22_19_17_638583When I left WoW originally it changed my game play deeply.  I went from being the center of each group as the main tank, to actively avoiding grouping all together.  I had developed a phobia of being needed at all, since I had spent the previous seven years responsible for the happiness of so many others.  I grouped when I absolutely had to, but the rest of the time I was off by myself and seemingly happy.

With the release of SWTOR, I gave grouping another try.  However choosing to level as a dedicated duo, left me feeling chained to having to play whenever someone else was online.  When it came time to run flashpoints, I just found them not as much fun as I remembered dungeons being.  I think in part, I just didn’t like the design of the Star Wars hard modes.  I don’t mind hard encounters, but I have always felt that they should be an endurance game, not twitch reflexes.

Many of the SWTOR hard mode flashpoints, just felt cheap and irrationally punishing.  Colonel Daksh in Maelstrom Prison for example, goes into this phase where you have to avoid getting in line of sight of him.  Essentially 2 or 3 times per fight, everyone in the group has to do an intricate dance avoiding being seen.  If you are seen at all, it is essentially a one shot death.  If you aren’t dpsing him fast enough, you also die from the incredibly short enrage timer.  As we wiped over and over to one thing or another, the attempts just ceased to be enjoyable, and given time flashpoints were just something I completely avoided.

Remembering It Can Be

image00211Thanks to the coaxing of my friend, coming back to WoW I have been grouping again.  I eased into it by duoing some old raids, until I built back up my tanking ability to some extent.  Once I got back into the swing of a heroic, including the “new to me” hour of twilight five mans, it felt like coming home.  Unfortunately it seems like we can only muster full guild groups on Friday or Saturday nights.  But those last few nights, have been some of the most enjoyable gameplay I have experienced in years.

Friday night we gathered up to work on various achievements, that each of us had outstanding.  We knocked out a couple still remaining from the Icecrown five mans, and then moved on to the redesigned Zul’Gurub.  ZG has always been one of my favorite places in Azeroth, and in vanilla I spent hour after hour there both tanking and healing it.  When I heard they were removing the raid and making it a heroic, I was extremely disappointed.  However, considering they went from a raid to a five man, they’ve done the zone justice.  While none of the fights are exactly the same, they each feel very similar in nature and still have a very epic feeling to them.

In an hours time, we had knocked out every available Zul’Gurub achievement.  While there really wasn’t much in the way of gear upgrades for anyone involved, we had a complete blast doing it.  I am remembering the side of gaming I used to love so much, but the circumstance of having to be both guild and raid leader robbed me of.  Running around with my friends taking down baddies, has re-awoken a piece of my inner child I thought was too jaded to ever feel this way again.

Well Rested Return

One of friends, mused that I just needed some time away from the game to get my perspective.  I think that honestly might be the case.  Too much frustration had built up, over too many things not directly related to gameplay.  Coming back now, I have a new pair of rose colored lenses and my buffer of bullshit has been emptied out.  I never thought it would be WoW I was returning to however.  I really thought with my recent return to Rift, that it would be the one that held my attention.  As much crap as we have all said about “pandas and pokemon”, I think the upcoming expansion will breathe some life back into the game.  I just hope that my return, others will be willing to give it a fresh start as well.

A Quiet Evening in Norrath

I have to say, it has been a fairly crazy week.  At work I have been dealing with a “brand marketing” company, as we try and stand up a brand new promotional website.  On the blog, the Newbie Blogger Initiative has kinda kicked me in the ass, and made me start trying to post some useful stuff on a regular basis.  In game, as I mentioned yesterday I picked up TERA on a whim, so I have added it to my rotation of SWTOR and EQ2.

Checking In On The Republic

Screenshot_2012-04-12_22_57_20_558931After spending the weekend in the Guild Wars 2 beta, and a good chunk of the week playing TERA, I felt like I needed to spend last night in SWTOR since the troops were getting restless.  Leading a guild in Star Wars has been an interesting transition.  I lead a very active guild in World of Warcraft for a little over seven years, so since the Star Wars guild is a combination of the same people, one would think I would be used to it. 

I have to say however, it has been an interesting experience.  I’ve talked about it before, but I really am not the same player that my friends knew and loved form WoW.  After being committed to raiding 3-4 times a week, I find myself having trouble even committing to running a dungeon as a group.  I’ve developed this resentment towards anything that ties me down, or forces other players to depend on me.

The Reluctant Guildmaster

Screenshot_2012-03-21_22_16_22_840230After several nights of piddling around in other games and a weekend of soloing while testing, coming back to SWTOR last night was a bit jarring.  I logged into a sea of tells, similar to like I used to get on a nightly basis in WoW.  Each person that contacted me, had been waiting patiently for me to show up again, because they had some real need of my attention.  But I have to say, it almost invoked a fight or flee instinct in me.  Instead of actually going out and trying to get into my new Chiss Smuggler, I wound up simply logging in my 4 characters all night and running slicing missions. 

I can happily report however, that the last patch did in fact seem to fix the slicing bugs.  I was able to make a meager profit from running high end slicing boxes.  When 1.2 came out, I ended up blowing through around 300,000 credits, trying to figure out a mix of lockboxes that actually was able to at least break even.  Our guild crafters really relied on getting materials from those slicing missions, so it will be nice to be able to provide them once more.

I’ve hit a wall right now in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  I have 3 characters at 50, each of them geared at least in purple mods in moldable gear.  All that is missing from my stable is a smuggler.  I made a push to do dailies on all three of my max level characters, and farmed up the 1.5 million credits to unlock the Chiss race I was wanting.  Problem is, I just can’t seem to push forward anymore.  At almost legacy 30, there really is nothing left for me in the system that does not involve prodigious amounts of credit grinding.

Norrath Calling

EQ2_000047After last night feeling very much like returning to a job after a vacation, and knowing that tomorrow would be spent on the road, I decided tonight I would relax over in Norrath.  Everquest 2 is one of those games I can always return to, and always find something interesting to do.  I seriously think there is more content in that game than I will ever be able to complete. 

I have a level 90 ShadowKnight, with around 300 AAs, so I could be off doing the new 90-92 content.  Problem being that I don’t really feel like doing anything that serious.  The rest of my guild seems to be moving happily through the content, and from all accounts it seems like the Withering Lands and Skyshrine are extremely awesome.  For whatever reason though, I just have more of a desire to play my level 80 Dark Elf Dirge, and my level 20 Froglok Paladin.

Belglorian of Marr

EQ2_000059Tonight I decided to log into my little frogadin, and take a trip to Stormhold.  Over the years this has been one of my favorite dungeons.  I love the way Norrathian dungeons are laid out, and anytime you give me one filled with tons of undead I am a happy camper.  Other games have pretty dungeons, but for whatever reason they don’t feel like something the mobs would actually use.  EQ2 dungeons are replete with kitchens, store rooms, audience chambers, and are populated with everything from the butler to the chef.  I honestly think this was why I liked Karazhan so much.  It was the only wow dungeon that felt like someone could actually inhabit it.

I’ve completely stacked the deck on my Belglorian, my paladin.  I picked him up one of Fippy Darkpaw’s swords during the chronoportal event.  In addition I have crafted some nice armor, including the level 20 reactant “of authority” chest piece.  Essentially my gameplay is to keep him locked at 100% AA at level 20 until I can get at least 100 AA levels.  Right now I am sitting at 45, and each AA makes life a little easier.  There are so many good level 20ish spots, and I find running around killing random stuff in Everquest 2 really relaxing.

I had a bad pull deep down inside of Stormhold, wound up getting two bosses and wiped.  I took a quick break to come over her and write something up, but I can hear the soft crackling of the braziers near the entrance in the background as I right.  It is softly calling me back, to come bash heads again.  I hope you all have a great weekend, mine will be busy chaperoning a college trip with my educator wife.  As a result not sure how much playtime I will actually get other than tonight, so I am planning on savoring it.

Ilum Republic Dailies: Speed Guide

I created this guide because I can do all of my Ilum quests in 15-20 minutes each morning as I am drinking my coffee.  However most of the folks my guild seem to take 30 minutes to an hour to finish them all up.  One of the biggest factors is the fact that if you do the quests in the order you receive them, you end up doing a ton of back tracking.  I’ve prepared a nifty map to illustrate the order in which I do the quests.  I skip the heroic, because after a point it really is not worth the effort it takes.

Your time may vary based on several factors:  how farmed the various camps are, your luck with RNG drops, and your current level of gear.  However in all cases this seems to be the best path for Republic.


Speed Questing Order Rundown

Belsavis dailies are considerably more contorted, but I will be working on trying to create some semblance of a guide for those as well.