Playing Dice with Humanity

Tribalism

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Yesterday my friends were having a long drawn out conversation that started out about the current Roma controversies, wound its way through discussions of any insular society… and like always an hour or so later ended up landing in the game world.  Namely discussion fell onto the concept that even within small groups, cliques and teams form and the number over players it takes before that happens.  Based on the discussion we agreed that likely the smallest number that really starts to occur is around seven people.

So none of this so far has any real bearing on todays post…  but throughout the conversation we started talking about the openness to new players.  One of the things that disturbed me a bit, is that one of my friends said that I was most likely the least open to new players, or at least the most suspicious.  This went against my own personal vision of myself, considering I am constant abducting people into my guilds on a regular basis.  So as I explored this line of thought further, he said that mostly it was due to my views on PUGs.

No PUGs Allowed

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While this is not necessarily the thing I would like people to think of when they think of me… my guild as a whole has known for years that if they want me to tank for them, my price is that we have a full group of known good players.  Usually this means that they are folks from the guild, but I am also completely open to friends of the guild in these scenarios.  Basically… I don’t want to enter the group finder and play dice with humanity.  The thing is… this did not used to be the case.  I used to PUG players in a regular basis both in dungeons and even raids.

This got me thinking… what changed, why did I no longer even consider finding players outside of my monkey sphere to fill groups.  I used to build groups on a nightly basis and even believe in it so much that I wrote a series of guides to covering the finer points of networking, communication and assembly of a winning PUG group.  This was not something that was limited to WoW, but something I had done in many games previously.  So I guess the question is… what changed to make me so fearful of the player base that I now refuse to pug even a single player into one of the groups I am responsible for.

Before the Dungeon Finder

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Without too many leaps of logic I landed on the specific moment it changed… The Dungeon Finder.  I have railed on the evils of the dungeon finder for years, but I don’t think I have really elaborated on that point enough.  Essentially in the world before the dungeon finder I regularly relied upon social channels, trade chat, and other guilds to find folks to fill out my groups.  I drew upon my friends list to fill the most basic elements.  As a tank I knew that all I needed to do was find one of my many amazing healers that I worked with regularly, and then the dps could be filled out in short order.

The key point here is that with each player I talked to… I actually took the time to exchange a few lines of dialog with them before throwing them a group invite.  It is amazing how much you can gauge about the personality, intentions and general character of a player from a few sentences.  There was a very human element to this discourse, and over the years I developed and instinct about who would make for a good dungeon run by the way they presented themselves.  To some extent I had learned to prune through the bad apples and seize upon the good ones only.

Additionally playing with players on your own server there was a bit of an honor code in the works.  As the guild leader of one of the larger guilds on our server, I knew the leaders of most of the other guilds.  So as a result if I had trouble with one of their players in a dungeon run, I knew precisely who to come to with those concerns.  This lead most players to be on their best behavior, since there were potential social consequences of making an ass of yourself in public.  Additionally I met a lot of really amazing people through this process, many of them that would end up in my guild or raid later on.

Playing Dice with Humanity

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The Dungeon finder was the first blow to this world, but since we were dealing with mostly players from our own server… it wasn’t really that bad.  I still regularly queued as a tank almost out of welfare to help the folks get those dungeon runs.  I continued to still meet great players, and the bad ones were quickly added to my ignore list never to be seen again.  However players complained, that the queues were still too long, and not enough tanks and healers were queuing.  So as a result Blizzard started the cross server queuing madness and this was the nail in the coffin for me and pugging.

When there are no social consequences to ones actions… the worst possible behavior can be expected if not assumed.  Periodically I would get convinced to queue with someone for a dungeon, and every single one of these occasions lead me to log out of the game frustrated and angry afterwards.  I learned quickly that if you play dice with humanity, you are always going to loose.  I met exactly ONE really awesome player through random groups, and that was only because the player happened to be on my own server.  I didn’t really mind braving the bullshit as a DPS, but I refused to tank the instances any longer.

Rift Happened

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So in a whole series of events I ended up leaving World of Warcraft, and entered a game without a dungeon finder system.  It is funny how quickly I fell back into the old habits of building groups from social channels.  Level 50 chat served as a launch pad for groups, and quickly within a few weeks time I had built up a long list of “known good players” that I could draw into dungeons.  As a result we were filling out Elite groups on a nightly basis and happily clearing dungeons.  I met enough people that there was even talk of merging in with another guild at one point… but we decided against it.

When the dungeon finder was released for Rift I watched the same events play out all over again.  The social channels dried up, folks no longer responded to calls for groups in Level 50 chat… and everyone went back to the wow-like ways of relying on the dungeon finder to make a group for them.  Additionally the community of the server as a whole suffered.  The same old wow-like behaviors came back and the chorus of “PULL BIG” and “GO GO GO” returned as well.  So once more.. I stopped grouping and resurrected a rampart around myself with a sign on it reading “No PUGs Allowed”. 

From that point forward my rule as a whole has pretty much been… I will tank any dungeon you want me to tank, but you have to make sure we have a full guild group before we do it.  I refuse to pug in any players that come from random dungeon finder systems.  I would literally rather not do dungeons, than have to deal with the random chance of finding a decent person in the system.  Most of the time this is not really a huge deal since I tend to bring a large group of people with me into whatever game we end up playing.  However I am running a lot fewer dungeons than I would like to, and I am not sure how I can get past my phobia of strangers.  So at the end of the day… after all of this… I guess I can see my friends point.

WoW Remix

Gamer Nature

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One of the things I have learned while playing Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn… is that any player from 11 or 14 classic… really hates it when a player compares the game to World of Warcraft.  I’ve seen so many of these “classic” players fill with so much rage the first time someone mentions WoW.  Yesterday I encountered a small bit of it outside of the game in a G+ thread where myself and another tank were giving an up and coming Gladiator some advice on how best to deal with multi-mob threat.

Best advise I have to you is: don’t expect this game to have "WoW equivalents." This isn’t WoW. It’s not a WoW clone. It’s not trying to be WoW. You’ll enjoy the game a lot more if you take it as it is, rather than forcing it to fit some molded preconception you have for it. You’re trying to fit a circle peg into a square hole.

WoW Remix

So I found the above comment rather puzzling.  Especially coming from where this game did… the new version while not a “WoW Clone” is at the very least a WoW Remix.  Almost every ability I have has some simulacrum in World of Warcraft.  For example I think of my Warrior as a mix between a Druid tank and a Deathknight tank.  While it is in fact a unique beast… I still refer to the process of tabbing through mobs and applying Butchers Block as “Tab Sunder”.  Everything ultimately gets referred to more often than not by the wow name for it.  I don’t teleport back to my home location… I hearth.

Since most of the active MMO gamer pool has a relatively short memory… this is the way it has always been.  Before WoW claimed the crown as the most popular MMO… each new release got referred to by the terms we used in Everquest.  Damaging yourself to get back mana… was referred to as “Twitching” or “Cading” in reference to the Necromancer or Shaman spells.  Any form of a speed boost was often referred to as “SoW”, I can remember hearing people call the various speed powers “SoW” in City of Heroes.  To some extent listening to the FFXI diehards talk in FFXIV ARR has been a trip down memory lane… because those players carried with them terms from EQ into XI like DD for direct damage.

Top Dog Sets Rules

Awhile back there was a thread somewhere asking what games you would suggest to new players… and quite honestly despite my sordid relationship with the game, I have to say I would always suggest that someone play at least SOME World of Warcraft.  In my own guild we have a few players who have never played the game, and as a result they miss the references that are made in guild chat and mumble all of the time.  Thing is… this is not just a thing my guild does, this is a thing EVERY guild does in EVERY new game.  World of Warcraft had its own vocabulary that was grown out of the lingo that we used in Everquest.  Essentially as that game eclipsed the other games, its ability names started to take the place of the previous ones that were used.

Today going into any MMO for the first year at least… every single thing in game is going to be referred to by its WoW equivalent.  So the fact that as a seasoned MMO player… I can find immediate and direct WoW equivalents makes me think that the above statement is a little naïve.  FFXIV very much has wow equivalents, just like every game since the rise of wow has… and every game after will as well.  It is the fact that a game becomes the market leader that determines who dictates the vocabulary, because essentially there is nothing new under the sun.  Everything we do in FFXIV also has a direct EQ vocabulary equivalent, as everything we see today is a remix of the things that came before it.  The comparisons will someday shift again, but only when a game has eclipsed the current leader.

Final Funk

Pull Resisted

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Last night I resisted the desire to re-up my World of Warcraft account… in part because I really did not feel like playing much of anything.  When I first logged in I popped into Hearthstone to see what the daily quest happened to be.  It was win two matches with a paladin or priest deck, neither of which I have even finished unlocking the basic cards for.  I made a valiant attempt at victory on a paladin, only to find out that practice victories did not count.  Essentially there is no way in hell right now that I could beat an actual player with either of those decks… even though priest seems to be pretty damned hax based on my regular loss record against them.

After that I popped into Rift for a few but could not seem to find the oomph to play that either.  Though since the shiny vault was backed up again, I figured I would at least take the time to pilfer through that and help relieve some of the stress.  I have been in these unknown funks before, but I am not sure what to do to kick myself out of this one.  Ultimately I ended up retiring to bed and playing Pokémon Y until my wife joined me some time later.

Final Funk

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I think in part my present funk is due to the fact that once again I have topped out another game and lack the drive to do much of anything further in it.  I am still very much enjoying the dungeons when we can pull those together, and I want to do more 8 man content especially now that we have a fresh 50 to run through it.  However I don’t have a single thing I really care to do in game the rest of the time.  So as a result I am simply not logging in.  I did the All Saints’ Wake and it was extremely disappointing and finished within like 10 minutes time or running errands throughout the various cities.

One of my game designers always brings up the “moment to moment” play, and I guess for me this is what is lacking in Final Fantasy.  After pushing my Warrior to 50 and then grinding up a Bard to 50 as well doing literally nothing but FATES… I find myself lacking the desire to do the FATE grind ever again.  Normally tradeskills is a thing that fills in the gaps, providing me some downtime between grinds.  However you can tell a tradeskill system is bad if I would far rather play the EQ2 mini-game crafting system than do anything within the FFXIV system.

Another huge thing that tarnishes my enjoyment of FFXIV is that like it or not… I am a bit of a loot whore.  At the very least much of my homicidal rage against monsters… is because I know they have a chance, albeit slim of dropping something amazing.  I like playing the loot pinata, and when a game has that sort of a loot system I can happily grind again at mobs never quite knowing what the next one will drop.  FFXIV on the other hand has absolutely no meaningful loot.  Mobs drop crafting items, and since I don’t really care about crafting…  there is absolutely zero excitement there.

So as I stand currently I am not playing the game much at all.  My friends have access to me via instant message, twitter, text message… so I figure if they need me to tank for them I am more accessible than most folks.  In the meantime I keep trying to figure out something that excites me to do in the time between dungeon runs.  My other friends seem to default to League of Legends, but quite frankly I don’t enjoy the game enough to ever queue with strangers.  So as a result I end up trying to resist the desire to re-up wow and playing quite a lot of Pokémon.

Failing Resolve

Perfect Drug

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This morning I am having a bit of a slow start getting going… so as a result I spent the last 30 minutes or so crawling through my news reader looking for something to inspire me.  At which point I landed on this post from Liore talking about her feeling the need to apologize for playing World of Warcraft and the overall negative reaction she has gotten from other gamers.  I think in part… the negative attitude is due to the fact that there is really no such thing as a former WoW player.  I don’t really intend hyperbole with, but much like an alcoholic you are never really fully over World of Warcraft.

I was so damned pumped the day I got into the Hearthstone beta, and while I am presently having a blast playing it despite how many times I get beat…  it has awoken some things that I was not quite ready for.  I cannot count how many times after a game of Hearthstone this weekend that I considered reactivating my account and “playing some wow”.  I am still resisting, and my little interaction a week or so ago with a trial account is keeping me in part from doing it.  World of Warcraft this is wonderful marzipan world that is awesome so long as you are willing not to think about it too much.

Can’t Not Think

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The problem is… each time I go back to the game I just end up frustrated about the decisions they didn’t make.  World of Warcraft is like that friend you know with so much potential, but they keep making horrible life choices.  So when I go back I get frustrated by the Transmog system, and the piss poor community support, and the fact that every single social channel that used to be my lifeblood in the game is dead…  since most of the folks I care about have long since moved on.  For me World of Warcraft is this magical thing that will never again be, because we have all fundamentally changed from the days when it was our nightly obsession.

We reject WoW so harshly because we know it is basically an empty promise.  All it takes is a little bit of nostalgia and reminiscing about the “good ole days” and we are ready to re-up for another ride.  Hearthstone has been horrible for me in this aspect, because seeing the cards and the artwork… makes me want to go play Belghast and actually get him to level 90.  However my allergy to pugging, or more so TANKING for pugs will end up in tears as I would be going back with no real support structure.  House Stalwart still exists, but it is a shell of what it once was, and going back and seeing that is hard on me as well.

Failing Resolve

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All of this said… I fully expect over the next few weeks this nostalgia trip that is Hearthstone will eventually end up in me reactivating my World of Warcraft account.  I figure I will only last a week or so if I do, and even knowing this going into it… I full expect to do it anyways.  I spent most of the weekend trying to play various things without really having much success.  I played a little rift, patched up gw2, played a lot of pokemon and hearthstone… and even considered patching up SWTOR.  All the while trying to avoid the fact that the rush of nostalgia is demanding me playing some WoW.  But all of this is why we push back so hard when we see a friend slip back into playing the game.  We know deep down inside that we are likely next to follow.

Halloween 2013

Spooky Pasta!

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One of the things I love in the various MMOs I play or have played… are the varried Holiday events.  Some of them make an extreme effort to fit them into the lore of their world, and others just cut and paste a real world tradition onto their land.  Both have their merits and both are enjoyable so long as they don’t involve too much grinding.  Each game seems to pick and choose holidays, but there are two that every game seems to have…  Christmas and of course Halloween.

Halloween time is generally my favorite holiday because the traditions itself usually involve killing lots of dark denizens of the night.  Additionally the playing dress up theme usually means some cool weapon and armor skins that you can use throughout the rest of the year.  Currently we are in the run up to Halloween itself, and as a result pretty much every MMO has some form of event going on marking the holiday.  Going to take a few minutes this morning to talk about some of the cooler ones.

Nights of the Dead

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This event runs in Everquest 2 from 10/15 through 11/11 and is probably the grand daddy of all Halloween events.  Each year they keep adding new content, but still leaving all of the old content in place.  Zam has a really great guide to the various quests and events.  If you are one of the new to EQ2 folks who just partook of the free level 85 event… I highly suggest checking it out.  However even with a brand new account you can still participate in most of the fun.  My personal favorite event is the hedge maze that drops lots of nifty cosmetic gear.

Blood and Madness

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Guild Wars 2 supposedly has a really amazing event called Blood and Madness that kicked off on October 15th that involved a series of limited time events (one day only) finally culminating in a big event that only exists Halloween night.  Dulfy has a pretty comprehensive guild to the events, but for the most part if you are not already doing this series you have missed out this year.  This has been my key bitch about Guild Wars 2 to date… I hate the concept of short run limited time events.  The amount of busy work needed really only allows someone who ONLY plays GW2 to keep up… and because of this I just can’t be bothered to attempt it.  I would love to see this as a long term event that ran the entire length of the holiday, but until then it will be out of my reach.

Autumn Harvest

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Rift has an event called Autumn Harvest that starts on October 17th and runs through Halloween and potentially a little bit past.  They have chosen to focus on the harvest aspect of the holiday and as such have sent you to a special version of the Realm of the Fae where you help Atrophinius and his minions bring in the amber sap harvest.  There are a ton of cool things you can get, including a phantom version of several popular mounts.  The coolest feature of the event however is that you can get these short time use potions that make tons of artifacts show up on the ground in the realm of the fae.  This is a huge catch up on collections event.  This year around there are a ton of new items to be gotten and you can check out this preview guide on Rift Junkies.

Hallow’s End

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Hallow’s End is an event that occurs in World of Warcraft from October 18th through November 1st.  There are tons of nifty things going on like trick or treating, but the meat and potatoes of the event is the Scarlet Monastery Headless Horseman instance.  I have a love/hate relationship with this holiday.  Every year it has been available (and that I have been playing wow) I have participated in the event… all for a shot at the extremely awesome flying headless horseman mount.  Every single year I have come up empty handed.  When a game company places an item in an event, like a mount… that is usable every day… and makes it a super rare random drop… I want to stab them.

All Saints’ Wake

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Currently there is an event going on over in FFXIV that is completely new to me.  All Saints’ Wake started a little early, but was intended to run from October 18th through November 1st.  All of the time zones get a little discombobulated in the translation.  While I am not partaken in the event yet, so far the other one I have seen has been what I would call “Holiday-Lite” in that there is a FATE going on that awards some sort of currency that you then use to purchase things off a vendor.  Since the vanity gear system is not in place yet, this makes the things you can acquire super limited, but I plan on gathering them up just in case.  One of the most humorous observations from last night is that apparently the Pumpkin helms… are repaired by Cullinarians.

The Rundown

That is the rundown of the big ones I know of that are going on, but like I said in the first part of the post… this is the one holiday that pretty much EVERY MMO celebrates.  I can even remember in Hellgate: London there being a Halloween event of sorts that took its form in a Guy Fawkes day celebration… that happened to have a lot of Halloween themed stuff.  I would be curious to hear about any events that are your favorite that I missed.

Fighting Nostalgia

Familiar Itch

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Over the last few days I have been feeling immensely nostalgic about World of Warcraft.  This tends to happen to me as we near Blizzcon time, and I start to see twitter a buzz with people excited to be attending the convention.  Some of my tweeps have even resorted to Blizzcon countdown clocks, and yesterday they finally reached the 20 somethings in days left til the conference.  With this wave of nostalgia comes the all too familiar desire to re-up my account and play some of it.  It would not have been the first time I did so on a whim, and is more than likely not going to be the last.

However I am wise to this trickery, or at least have a contingency plan in place.  I have come to the realization that I like the idea of playing WoW a lot more than actually playing it.  As a result I keep a trial account at the ready for when of these urges strikes, and last night I patched up my client once more.  I figure if I make it through playing the trial account with the desire to play more WoW… then it is probably time to re-up.  I figure this is a decent litmus test to see whether or not the desire to play is real before I spent $15.

Fighting Nostalgia

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As a result I rolled a brand new Worgen Warrior on my trial account and proceeded to play.  Immediately the buzz of the nostalgia started to wane.  I had honestly forgotten just how spammy playing a low level warrior was, and by example EVERY World of Warcraft melee character.  The unpredictable nature of rage and to a lesser extent energy left me with a decision.  I either spent the entire time fighting watching my bars to optimize cooldowns… or I could just spam whatever basic attack I wanted to ALWAYS go off.  Being a relatively impatient player… I always chose the spam route.

After a few minutes of spamming Heroic Strike… I remembered just how much my fingers used to ache after a dungeon run, always banging on the key I wanted to fire next because I could not be bothered to actually watch my bars.  Basically my master plan of fighting the wave of nostalgia worked, all too well.  I made it to about level 5 on my baby Worgen, to the point at which the forsaken show up… at which point I was supremely bored and logged out of the game.  Having a taste of the gameplay reminded me that it really was not as fun as my mind had built it up to be.

Project Phoenix

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Sometimes a game is much more enjoyable to remember fondly, than to actually play it.  Right now there is a kickstarter going on called Project Phoenix.  The goal of it is to essentially recreate the magic that was City of Heroes/City of Villains.  I had so much fun playing these games, and regularly descend into bouts of nostalgia swapping with another friend of mine on mumble.  The problem is… I think CoH is another game that is much more enjoyable to talk about fondly than to actually play it.  I remember so much about the game, but every time I tried playing it again during its later free to play years the whole experience just felt lacking.

I wish this project the best of luck, but super hero games for me seem like they were a phase of a bygone era.  I have tried Champions Online and DC Universe Online and in both cases… I was carried into them on the nostalgia of City of Heroes but found both gaming experiences somehow unable to live up to my memories and as a result my expectations.  I think World of Warcraft and City of Heroes are both games for me like the original Everquest… extremely enjoyable to sit around and talk about the “good old days” but not really fun for me to play any longer.

Thing is… I think that is perfectly okay.  I think nostalgia works that way, it makes us romanticize things that would now be trivial.  For example I can remember being amazed at just how huge the sandbox that my father made for me was, and how I spent hours playing in it with my Tonka trucks.  However were I to evaluate it from adult eyes, I would likely find it tiny and boring… and be ready to stop in a few minutes.  Often times things we remember so fondly end up tarnished if we go back and re-experience them.  This has been the case for Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot, City of Heroes, World of Warcraft and a long list of other games that I have moved on past… but tried to rekindle that flame.

Trade Cartels

Forgive me father for I have sinned… it is roughly 8 pm before I am sitting down to write today’s blog post.  In my defense I have been out running around all day.  Firstly to my hometown to go see my grandmother, and then later gallivanting all around the countryside in search of cheap Legos.  But that is a tale for another day… namely tomorrow.  Today I have a topic I have been wanting to write about since yesterday afternoon.  I just have failed miserably at being near a computer today to be able to do so.

Trade Cartels

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Yesterday a number of us got into a rather length discussion over twitter relating to my loot commentary, or on the lack thereof in Final Fantasy XIV.  Shortly into the back and forth I got this comment from @DesslynStorm.  Essentially to paragraph, they believe that all loot should come from crafters.  I guess in an idyllic situation this would probably be an alright thing.  The problem is that I have seen far too many games where a specific branch of crafters got a monopoly on a specific item and abused the hell out of it.

I love crafting systems and by extension generally love crafters, but in every game I have played where specific items were ONLY obtained through crafters, the Trade Cartel has reared its ugly head.  Essentially this is when a group of crafters collude to price fix a specific item so that everyone can turn a specific profit on it.  Without a doubt the most heinous of these has generally been the bag makers in each game I have played.

The Threats

On Argent Dawn in World of Warcraft, my warrior was a bit of an oddball.  He was an enchanter and tailor, namely so that I could have someone to make bags.  Bag space is one of those things that I put a premium on in whatever game I happen to be playing, and will generally go to whatever lengths it takes to make sure my characters have a decent amount of them.  I occasionally made a bag and threw it up on the auction house undercutting the competition by a large margin.  It was at this point I was approached by my first trade cartel.

A seemingly reasonable mage mentioned that I really should price my bags higher.  I told him that I was making a profit and I wanted them to move quickly, so I was fine with where they were priced.  This is the point at which the threats started pouring in… another crafter joined sending me tells.  Going so far as claiming that they would ruin me on the server.  Something that I laughed off because at this point I had been the leader of one of the largest guilds on the server for roughly three years.  I was in a pretty active raid and knew the guild leaders of most of the other larger guilds personally.

The Retaliation

But the I am pretty sure that had it been real life, the next step would have been them trying to send someone over to my house to break my knee caps.   They proceeded to start buying the bags and relisting them whenever i posted a new one.  So at this point I made it my life’s work for the next few days to flood the market with cheap bags.  If I was online I was farming humanoids for cloth and turning around and dumping them on the market at cost.  No one puts babby in a corner!  For awhile they were ravenously snapping them up, but at some point they lost their fervor and simply waited for me to get bored.

I imagine that I had run them out of their current gold, and probably made a handful of enemies for life.  But I have encountered to a lesser extent these price fixing schemes in several other MMOs.  Each time my instinct is to break the regime because I have seen what it is like when someone has fixed the market.  Early on in the life of Argent Dawn, there was a single player that had almost all of the rare enchants.  He was part of a big raid guild on my server, and as a result he had a few of the raid drop only patterns that no one else seemed to have.  Additionally he could do crusader in a time when it was not commonly known where that dropped.

Since he had 100% of the market on these enchants, he charged truly ridiculous prices.  When I finally figured out where Crusader dropped… I decided to break up his monopoly, but standing in Ironforge (the only auction zone at the time) and offering free crusader enchants so long as mats were provided.  Again came the threats, because I was cutting into his profit margins.  I am sure I had nothing to do with it, but as more people started offering free enchants with mats, he ultimately quit the server and went elsewhere.  Functionally I just really dislike when someone tries to profit unfairly on others.

Exclusivity is Bad

If you had a game where the only source of gear were through the crafters, the average player would end up having to pay far more than they do currently to outfit themselves.  I realize that Desslyn’s experience comes mostly from Star Wars Galaxies… and I feel that game is vastly different from the modern MMO in innumerable ways.  Additionally I feel like the average player within that community had a level of altruism that we will likely never see again.  So I feel like what worked in SWG will never likely work again in another game.

An example in Everquest 2, crafters can create what is arguably the best available gear in many occasions, the Master-crafted sets that occur every 10 levels.  These require some rare materials, but not so rare that they are unattainable.  Since only crafters are the source of them, they have total control over the market for them.  On the brokerage system, almost all gear is extremely reasonably priced, however a level 10 set of Mastercrafted gear will go for several hundred times the amount of gold a level 10 character would ever have to spend without buying currency.  Crafters have priced the privilege of having a good matched set of gear out of the hands of most players.

Multiple Paths

My personal stance is that all games should have multiple paths to acquire your gear.  I feel like different kinds of players want to play the game in fundamentally different ways.  Players who deeply care about crafting for the sake of crafting…. will always do it regardless if they can profiteer from it.  I feel like there should be viable options for end game gear through Crafting, Quests, Exploration, PVP, Dungeons and Raiding.  Any given player may like a mix of those things, and giving multiple options to achieve their goals in a game, allows each person to tailor their journey to suit their own tastes.

I have always thought it would be great, if you could really gain the best possible gear… by doing a series of extremely long and arduous epic quests.  By the same token I think it would be cool if crafters could complete a series of trials to synthesize rare materials and with that craft top end gear as well.  I see it as a risk vs time type equation.  Dungeon and Raid loot might be instance, but it requires a large group and repeated running to get everything you want.  Whereas with quests and crafting, it is more a cast of slow and steady wins the race… the end goal is achievable but likely takes a considerably longer amount of time.

Fallacy of Profit

I feel like the hidden root of the whole concept that all good gear should come from crafters, is that crafters by default should be able to make large amounts of profit from their trade.  This is just a foreign concept to me.  I am one of those people that crafts because I enjoy the relaxation sometimes of crafting.  I am not a rabid crafter, but when I do craft I tend to do it because I like outfitting my friends in gear.  In Rift I regularly farm up cloth to set new players and new characters up with a full set of 24 slot bags to begin their journey.  I enjoy making things for people, and making them happy in the process.

So to view crafting from the point of a cold profit based calculus just makes no sense to me.  Sure I feel like crafters should be able to get their money out of the items they make and maybe make a meager profit…  but I feel if you go into a trade skill with the purpose of making money you are likely crafting for the wrong reasons.  Crafting and the self reliance that it gives you should ultimately be its own reward without any need to tie it to monetary gain.  So I guess I question the notion that a certain class of crafter has that they should automatically be able to get rich quick through their crafting endeavors.

Wrapping Up

I feel as though I rattled on more than enough.  Additionally I am tired and sore from the days excursion.  Right now I want to relax on the sofa and boot up Final Fantasy.  One of my good friends managed to get onto Cactuar so I want to get him invited to the guild.  Tomorrow hopefully will be a much more relaxing day.   I hope all of you had a great day and that the weekend has turned out to be awesome.

Once upon a Cleric

Morning all you people out in internet land.  For the second day in a row I feel absolutely miserable.  I think overall it is just a massive overload of allergies, but it has managed to go and piss off my asthma.  As a result I ended up at home about halfway through the day yesterday and have been juggling breathing treatments ever since.  I have yet to decide if I am going to attempt going in today, but right now it doesn’t seem likely.  I feel worse than I have felt in a long time.

Once upon a Cleric

Today’s post has been spurred on by a comment on twitter to yesterdays post.  Essentially a friend of mine said that they would make a healer out of me yet.  To which I replied… that few would believe but I actually started out my MMO gaming “career” as a healer.  The friend of course could not believe that… so I figured today I would regale you all with the tale of how I ended up being so damned tank centric.  We are going to have to step into the way back machine and go backwards through the years quite a bit to around 1982.

My mother was a high school teacher, and as a result I spent large amounts of time milling around the high school after hours as she finished up with her lessons.  There was a traditional at the end of school each year… that essentially anything left in the lockers by the end of the day was thrown away.  As a result the janitorial staff and by proxy us teacher kids got to rummage through whatever was left in the lockers.  Stuffed in the bottom of the locker I found the thing that would begin my descent into madness… an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook.

From that point onwards I was obsessed with all things D&D and roleplaying, and I was especially hung up on the cleric class.  I loved the concept of a battle priest, fighting undead and wielding both weapon and holy spells.  This obsession was only further cemented when I read the novel “Pools of Radiance” and was introduced to the Tarl the Cleric of Tyr.  I loved the fact that he was just as good with a weapon as it was with turning undead.  I thought it was a cool concept and the idea was only furthered with the awesome images of battle priests in the Warhammer games.

Tiny Elvis

EQPic_OasisDorfonGiant

Scan forward a decade and in 2000 I got hooked on Everquest by a friend of mine.  He introduced me to the whole mythos by having me play his second character on a Vox raid.  Pretty much the most epic way possible to get introduced into MMOs.  I pretty much went out the next day and picked up Everquest, the Kunark expansion and the newly released Scars of Velious.  When it came time to choose a class, there really was no option but a Dwarven Cleric of Brell.  I was completely enamored with the concept of battle priest fighting undead.  That concept lasted pretty well into my late 30s… when I began to realize that my life as a cleric was that of a heal bot.

The end game reality for a cleric was the Complete Heal rotation.  For those of you who are not familiar with this concept… essentially each cleric establishes an order and it is agreed upon before the fight.  Each of us then set up a macro that shouted “Casting CH – Ready Cleric #X” whereas the X was replaced by the correct priest in sequence.  When that cleric saw their number scroll by they were to count to 12 and then press their own macro.  Then return to a watching for their number to scroll by state.  The end result is that the tank received a complete heal every 3 seconds… instead of the normal 12 second cast time of the spell.

I have to say this made combat in the dungeons and raids and extremely boring and binary system.  Watch chat for your number, cast your heal, return to not paying attention until your cool down was up.  It was not until I dabbled with EQ1 a bit recently that I realized just how much downtime that game had.  You were still chained to the screen of sorts, but I can remember healers knitting, reading books, all just waiting on their complete heal rotation.  The thing that soured me on the experience however was not having any control over my own destiny.  I essentially followed someone else into a dungeon and was there until they determined it time to leave.  This experience has forever soured me towards healing in general.

The Celt

belghast_daoc

The game we played after we fell out of love with EQ and the hours spent standing around doing nothing… was Dark Age of Camelot.  The above image is the very first incarnation of Belghast Sternblade.  The Celt Champion was a really amazing class, in that it had ranged spells to pull with, loads of debuffs and was equally proficient in the tank, off-tank and dps roles depending upon how it was specced.  Most of the time I tended to favor two handed weapons and served in a dps and offtank in a pinch role for the various excursions.  My friend juggled the roles of both main tank and main healer by dual boxing a Dwarven Warrior and a Celt Bard together. 

This is the point at which I should note that the bulk of my time playing DAoC was spent on Gaheris… the carebear server… largely because it gave us three whole realms worth of zones and dungeons to explore instead of the rather claustrophobic single realm setup.  Adding to this trio we had a Lurikeen enchanter that served as our primary dps.  It was amazing the amount of things we could pull off with the small group we had.  There were many times I had to offtank a mob just to spread out the damage enough to get through the fights.

When I started doing Keep and Dragon raids… I got drafted into the full tank role a few times and really enjoyed it.  This is essentially the game in which I got my first tastes of tanking.  I liked the taste… and ultimately ended up doing quite a bit more with our alliance.  As we moved on to other games I started favoring the hybrid/offtank role because it gave me soloing versatility and a key group dynamic that I could fill.  When we played City of Heroes, I was a blades/regen scrapper which in many ways was one of the more tanky classes in the game.  Once again a friend played the full bore earth tank, and I alternated between dps and off tanking as needed.

Bait and Switch

wow_exeter_paladin

This is Exeter, a tankadin… and my intended main when World of Warcraft released.  In beta the Paladin had been the ultimate synthesis of Battle Priest and Tank.  I had so much fun running around with my friend who was playing a nuking priest at the time.  My attacks would debuff the target against holy damage, and he would come in for the kill and demolish it.  It was like the perfect symbiotic match…  then Blizzard completely destroyed it at the 11th hour right before release by introducing the “Seal” system to replace the “Strike” system.   Over night Paladin went from being the most amazing thing I had played so far… to feeling absolutely awful and confused.

With release… I stuck to my guns and tried to make a Paladin work… and so long as I had friends to level with I was doing awesome.  Then tragedy struck… we had a death in the family, and I simply was not around for a few weeks.  When I came back all of my friends had long since leveled past me, and I found trying to solo on the paladin a thoroughly frustrating mess.  Since the one thing above all else Hunters were renown for was their soloing ability… I started playing Lodin.  I was able to catch up to my friends with surprising speed and I played a hunter just effective enough to not be a horrible strain on my party.

Hunter Happened

lodin_half_giantstalker

I never really intended on playing Lodin as a main character… I just intended on using him as something to catch up to my friends… then later leveling Exeter on my own and returning to the intended role of Tankadin.  However one thing lead to another… and a good friend of mine ended up starting a raid, that needed hunters… and before I really realized what I was committing to, I was a half GiantStalker decked out raiding hunter.  The funniest and most ironic part is… that I ended up on the one class that had a cast rotation similar to the complete heal.  Once we entered Molten Core I got indoctrinated into the Tranquilize rotation.  Just like complete heal… hunters would set an order and we would then “tranq” the next enrage effect.

I had a lot of good times raiding with the Late Night Raiders, and I met a ton of people that have become permanent fixtures in my gaming life… but quite honestly I was never a good hunter.  I could pass as one, and I could sit around 3rd in damage when compared to our other hunters if I really pushed it… but I just did not care about the class the same way the others did.  My instinct was always to get up in the face of the mob and beat on it with something…  and I hated pet management above all things.  I managed to get Exeter to max level… but it ended up feeling just horrible.  At that point Paladins tanked with Seal of Rage… which was a glorious mess that never really worked at all for holding aggro.

Priest Enabler

Belghast_pulling

Around about this time a good friend of mine mentioned that she would like to level a healing priest, but didn’t really want to go through the grind that was leveling a healing priest.  I had been kicking around the notion of leveling a tank, but again leveling as a tank was a painful experience.  So as a result we decided to level my human warrior Belghast and her dwarven priest Finni together to make the process easier.  This was probably a bad thing… because it was the first moment that I realized how amazing priests are.  They enable me to make really bad decisions… like pulling ALL THE THINGS in an area and then living to tell the tale.

I loved this new play style of making everything hate me… then getting bailed out of my bad lifestyle choices by someone else.  The two characters shot up extremely quickly, and before I knew it I was tanking the unofficial raid nights for Late Night Raiders.  The problem is… the more I got into tanking… the more I hated playing Lodin.  The only problem… Lodin was geared… and there was no way to get as geared as the LNR tanks.  So I bided my time, continued getting tanking experience and “apprenticed” of sorts under the various really good warriors that we had in our raid.

One of the best things about an expansion… is it is a complete gear reset.  As a result I used the Burning Crusade expansion to be my springboard to ditch the hunter and move forward as a “real” tank.  From that point onwards I have essentially played nothing but tanks as main characters.  Be it my Warrior in Rift, or my Marauder/Warrior in Final Fantasy… I always gravitate towards tanking.  It took some time… but I finally found that one role that really suits me.  Which I guess in a way is why I am so passionate about tanks being a thing going forward.  It is a role I feel that I play fairly well.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it… the tale of how I went from being the most healery of healers to playing absolutely nothing but tanks.  I figured it was a tale worth telling, especially since there are folks that still have trouble thinking of me as ever playing anything but a tank.  The ironic thing is… there are a group of folks I raided with at the time that still think of me as Lodin the Hunter.  I was a really horrible hunter.  At this point… I am going to go crash on the sofa as I feel absolutely terrible.  I sincerely hope you are having a much better day than mine.

Bad Launches

Good morning you happy people… it is the beginning of another work week and I still feel sore as hell from the weekends adventures.  The odd thing is my thighs are killing me… and I am guessing it was from all the random times I had to squat down to take a shot throughout the wedding festivities.  I still need to sift through the photos and cull it down to a final set of “wedding pictures”.  As I just reached up to scratch my forehead… it appears that the sunburn is starting to peel… so I have that itchy mess to look forward to over the next few days.

Pre-launch Problems

ffxiv_animated_errors

The above animated image pretty much sums up my experience with the weekend pre-launch of Final Fantasy XIV a Realm Reborn.  Essentially I got to play a bit before the wedding madness started on Saturday morning, and then at almost every point afterwards I received some form of an error trying to log in.  Essentially I think all of the issues encountered can more or less be chocked up to the poor infrastructure we have seen at various points during the other tests.  Almost everything about this weekend could have been reconciled if they had the forethought to include an actual login queue system.

Sure there is a sort of queue that exists, but the highest number in queue my friends and I have seen is somewhere in the 400s… which leads me to believe that the queue is limited to something ridiculous like 500 members.  This leads to the very fun process of spamming a character login only to get the ubiquitous 1017 error stating the world is full.  That is hands down the most frustrating part about the whole experience.  It seems like complete blind luck as to whether or not you are going to make it in.

Bad Timing

Ultimately another large portion of the failure that was the FFXIV head start, was the fact that they were holding it entirely over a weekend in North America.  Normally pre-launches begin on a Thursday night and continue on through Friday… at which time they can begin to see what the scaling issues are going to be like and adjust accordingly.  Holding it on a weekend essentially means that all infrastructure resources in North America are closed for the weekend.  I feel as though if they could have thrown a few more servers at this issue a lot of the problems would have been resolved.

Instead the game team and infrastructure resources are operating on a significant time lag.  An example is that Sunday evening… at what would be 8:30 am Japanese time… they managed to stabilize the JP servers.  As a result I was finally able to roll a character on the Japanese network of servers and at least spent a little time before going to bed playing around on Ultima.  My friends think that this morning we will see the EU/NA servers stabilize similarly.  I still question whether or not they actually care about customer service, but that is part of a much larger issue.

Bad Launches

servers

So far this is probably the worst game head start I have experienced.  Normally when a game launches, we get a few blissful days of stability during the head start as only the pre-orders get to play… and then can chill out for the first day as the servers burn around us knowing you already have characters that are pretty far into the game.  Quite honestly this is the first time that I can remember ever experiencing large periods of not being able to play the game at all… during a head start weekend.  Lots of head start experiences have been riddled with lag or other issues… but the game was at least partially playable.  During the entirety of the weekend I got roughly 2 hours of gameplay.

One of the things I found interesting however is that while talking to friends over text and mumble… I did not realize just how subjective a launch experience was.  For me I herald the launch of Rift as quite possibly one of the smoothest I had experienced.  However talking to one of my friends… he remembers tons of issues during that launch.  This lead me to crawl back through my forum posts and blog posts from the time… and I literally found no mention of any issues brought on by the launch.  Did I just not notice the issues because I was enjoying myself… or did I really not experience the problems that he had made note of.

So this makes me wonder… how many of the bad launches I have experienced are purely subjective?  For example, I considered Guild Wars 2 an extremely solid launch since it was playable for me the entire time… albeit I spent most of that time on the overflow shards.  However the simple fact that we could not really play on our “real” shards made it an extremely frustrating experience for certain other players.  Do they consider that launch a failure… whereas I consider it a pretty solid success?  Additionally I struggled with massive amounts of lag during the SWTOR launch, but my friends consider that to be one of the more successful launches to date.  It felt like a rocky start to me, and as such I got extremely frustrated by it.

King of Bad Launches

blizzard_entertainment_logo

So far the two worst launch experiences I have played under are both from the same company.  World of Warcraft has gone down in history as the rockiest start.  I can remember the game being more or less unstable for a solid month.  I remember almost always being able to connect to play the game… but functionally the server side lag made it next to unplayable.  There were times I could level without issue… so long as I never attempted to loot anything I did not already have in my inventory.  Likewise the launch of Diablo 3 was essentially an unplayable mess for the first few weeks and constant error codes.  I had far less forgiveness in me around that launch, because after the rocky wow start… they should have had better preparations in place for another blockbuster success.

The thing is… at the launch of WoW more or less the gamers dealt with not being able to play the game… because it was in so many ways leaps and bounds ahead of what else was currently on the market.  It was “worth” waiting for.  I feel like companies simply do not have the luxury of time to fix their problems.  I posted a complaint about the Final Fantasy launch over on G+ and immediately people brought up the failure that was Diablo 3.  Gamers tend to hold a grudge against the games that floundered and while some of them will develop a short memory and return to your game happily once the issues are resolved, there is a certain percentage that will never again trust your company.

With these catastrophic infrastructure failures… I feel as thought Final Fantasy XIV has roughly a weeks time to fix everything and get the servers in a relatively permanent state.  The roughest part is the fact that this is occurring during the pre-launch and we are not even seeing the final launch day crowds.  Right now every one of these frustrated players has the opportunity to log into amazon, or green man gaming and cancel their preorder.  I know of a handful of players who have done just this.  The rough reality is that other than the Final Fantasy diehards, the title is just not good enough overall to make the masses wait to play it.  There are way too many other games on the market, and many of them without the subscription fee.

Wrapping Up

Here is hoping that the next few days see massive improvements in the stability of Final Fantasy XIV.  Right now I am extremely disappointed and this probably goes down as the worst pre-launch I have experienced.  The next few days will determine if it can compete with Blizzard for the worst launch category.  Hopefully they can throw enough hardware at the problem to fix it quickly.  I hope you all have a great week, and that you were able to get in more playtime than I have to date.

Open Data

Good morning you happy people.  I am mostly conscious today but feel like I am coming down with something.  While it has not fully hit me yet, last night I felt relatively horrible.  It is one of those mornings where I have been staring at the blank screen for ten minutes… finally comprehending that I am supposed to write something thoughtful or interesting.  It is mornings like this that I question my decisions in life… and why in the hell I ever decided to do this blog every morning thing.  However I shall persevere and push on… and try and be thoughtful and or interesting or at least something other than comatose.

Armory

2013-08-16 06_10_03-Belgrave @ Argent Dawn - Community - World of Warcraft

I am addicted to armory systems.  When I am playing a game that has them… I happily check up on literally everyone I meet just to see exactly how they are doing things.  I am not a terribly competitive person by nature, but I love peering into the inner workings of other players.  I have learned so much from sifting through the specs of other players.  Additionally when I have gotten a good drop, I used to sift through the profiles of level appropriate guild members, to see if any of them could use it as an upgrade.  If they could I would send that doodad off in the mail, because I would always rather an item go to use than end up as pocket change when sold.

The funny thing is… I thought EVERYONE liked Armory systems.  I made a comment yesterday about how much I wished that Rift had one… and immediately got a couple of responses from twitter talking about how much each of the players disliked them.  One player took the stance that they had never seen any good come of them… and that in generally they only served as a point for players to trash talk or tear down others based on their gear.  The second player said she liked to keep her spec and gear secret, that she felt like it gave her an edge in PVP. 

I guess I can see both points, but they are also both foreign concepts for me.  Firstly I rarely if ever pvp, and when I do it is on a lark and only to help complete some world event or guild quest.  I am pretty much anti-competitive and want everyone to just get along and work together towards some glorious common goal.  That said I can also see how if you do not have a protective bubble of guildies surrounding you… how you could get exposed to players that want to pick apart your gear and “call you bad”.  I’ve always found armory systems to be amazing diagnostic tools that provide easy access information sharing of how exactly a player is out performing you by so much.

Open Data

2013-08-16 06_22_55-Belghast [90 Shadowknight] - Antonia Bayle - EQ2U - Character Details

I think the king of all armory systems exists in Everquest 2.  The odd thing about it… it was built by a third party developer.  I have a friend that works in the tools division of SOE, and I can remember all these early attempts to make a reliable and excellent mobile application.  Ultimately they decided as a company that they simply did not have the manpower to adequately support an extremely detailed data visualization and armory tool on all available platforms.  So instead they shifted their focus and made an amazingly intricate data service.  This would allow third party developers to build the ultimate armory application for whatever platform they chose to.  The end result I feel was a master stroke, and they have provided better access to data than any other company out there to date.

After the data service was released, EQ2Wire a long time supporter of the community and the best news source came along and released a truly phenomenal armory system.  Essentially it provided full access to everything you would care to learn about your character.  In fact in many ways it provided more information about your character than you could actually access in game.  It had all sorts of nifty auxiliary functionalities like lists of all the dungeon maker items you had collected, or all your spells with the ability to create a shopping list for reagents to upgrade them.  When EQ2 did a massive reworking of the AA system, they offered the ability to look at the previous version of your AA profiles so you could easily see just how exactly you had specced your character.

So when I say that I would love to have an armory system in Rift.  This is the system I would most like to see it patterned off of.  I would love them to take the data they already provide about the game to fan sites… but roll into it all the information about the players and serve it up as an active data service.  Hell I would even devote development time towards working on an armory system if one decided to pop up and turn into a github project.  Likewise I am sure lots of other people would devote their time to it as well.  It would be awesome to return to being able to scour the guild roster to see who can use an item, or who has an amazingly artful spec.

One of the nice thing that EQ2 did when they rolled out their system was adding the ability for your to go off the grid of sorts.  When you check that box, your character information becomes cloaked from the data feed.  This would satisfy those players who want to keep their spec and gearing close to their chest, for PVP purposes.  A scenario like this is the best of all worlds since it would finally allow me to integrate an armory system into our guild website.  I have been working on a social roll-up page that lists various pieces of meta data from our forum profiles in one place.  So I have been able to integrate WoW Armory, and TSW Chronicle… but am missing the game we are playing the most often… and as such is what prompted this whole line of discussion.

Redeemed

League of Legends 2013-08-15 20-37-32-38

Several of my friends are super devoted to League of Legends.  For the League E-Sports crowd, I am going to sound like a complete moron…  but my friends were watching whatever event was going on last night.  I pay about as much attention to e-sports as I do to traditional sports… which is absolutely none.  This was a funny realization for me, because I feel exactly the same way while watching both.  Zero interest in watching someone else play a game, regardless of what that game is.  I guess I get bored watching other people do things that I could just be doing myself if I cared enough to do them.

All of the talk of League however made me want to pop in for a bit.  I had some RP sitting in my account and Riven is probably the cheapest I have ever seen her.  I have been told multiple times that this was a champion I would probably like a lot.  Previously I would say my three favorite champions were WuKong, Garen and Darius…  all of which have an extremely similar play styles.  Essentially I seem to be unable to get into any champion that is NOT a top lane bruiser style champion. 

I fired up a quick 1v1 custom game to put Riven through the motions, and man… I have to say I love her.  I have never gravitated towards female avatars in any game I play… I just find an inability to really get into playing them.  However I had already found at least one female champion that I really liked… and that was the super murdery Vi.  I can now add Riven to that list.  Firstly she is another champion limited only by her cooldowns much like Garen.  I really love that style of gameplay, as I hate having to watch my mana bar…  and I think in many ways that is why I love Garen so much.  Additionally she has an extremely high sustain, especially once you throw a bloodthirster on her.

She is kinda like my perfect fusion of WuKong with his insanely ganky E-Q-W combo that lets him hop in and bash things then sneak away… with my love of Garen and his complete lack of resources to fiddle with.  I still suck horribly at League because I am diametrically opposed to its click to move control scheme… but when I play Riven I feel like I suck a little less.  Additionally her combination charge/shield attack is extremely awesome at getting out of jams…  like getting too close to a turret… which I may or may not do way the hell too often.  At least I can add one more champion to the arsenal of ones that I really enjoy.

Wrapping Up

Well this has rattled on long enough… and I should really be getting on my way.  Here is hoping that I get to feeling better, and that I really am not coming down with something.  I figure it is likely just allergies as it has been all summer.  My boss is out of the office today… which normally folks would think it is a good thing.  However in my case that just means I have to fill in for him when a crisis arises.  I really hope no crisis arises… I could use a nice and chill day.  I hope you all have an excellent one, and that it begins an amazing weekend.