Rails Are What You Make of Them

Going Off Script

eso 2014-02-17 13-54-30-89 There was a topic yesterday that started with Tobold’s post and wound up in a G+ comment stream.  While I believe Tobold’s comments about on rails gaming were initially about a certain game that is still under NDA with a space theme…  it eventually wound its way to Elder Scrolls Online.  To which I added the information I posted yesterday on my own blog, about the fact that the majority of quests are skippable, and that there are a very few that actually need to be completed to move to the next area.  But the root of the problem here I think is that after a decade of playing themeparks…  we have gotten extremely good at seeing rails.  Moreso I think we are so trained to stay inside of the lines that we are afraid to break out of the little protective cage the themeparks have built for us.

For the longest time I fought the “quest to level” construct and then over time I managed to get extremely good at mindlessly grinding them.  There was a time when I could take a character from 1-85 in less than seven days in World of Warcraft.  The problem is… this is a thing I do to level quickly, and not something that comes instinctual.  I am constantly deviating from the path, and poking my head into places I shouldn’t be.  If I have 10% to go to a level, my instincts are not to grind some quests, but instead to go kill some really high level mobs.  You can blame Everquest for this type of “go kill things” upbringing, and I am still happiest when mindlessly slaughtering bad guys.  So when I am out questing, skipping that bad guy for the sake of speed is not usually a thing that ever enters into my mind.

So when I was plunked down on Stros M’Kai in the Daggerfall Covenant for the very first time… I willfully and gleefully ignored the quests that were given to me.  I wandered off and explored the island, gathered some crafting bits, found lots of treasure chests and leveled happily oblivious to the fact that there was a rail.  Sure eventually I reined myself in and did a few quests, but the vast majority of that first couple hour play through was aimlessly exploring.  If I found a cave I poked my head in to see what was there.  The little voice in the back of our head that says “don’t go there yet, you will have a quest for it later” is something that we end up doing to ourselves.

Rails Are What You Make of Them

eso 2014-02-17 13-36-59-84 For the most part I would agree with Tobold’s assessment of that space game, but since so many people love it I continue trying to give it a second and a third and a fourth chance.  I went through this same thing with Guild Wars 2, I kept trying to see what people liked about it… because I honestly didn’t understand it.  Over the weekend I maybe landed at how to enjoy it.  Once I finished the tutorial, I went completely off the rails, wandering around aimlessly killing lots and lots of things and getting nifty bits in the process.  That mode of play made the game enjoyable for me.  Quests are a really good way to level, and I think they also do an excellent job of telling the story.  However something we have forgotten along the way is that they are mostly optional.

We can blame World of Warcraft for this to be honest, but not in the way you might think.  WoW brought quests out into the open, where they had always been something for insiders before.  In Everquest you went around /hail-ing every single mob you encountered because maybe just maybe they might have a quest for you.  In Dark Age of Camelot, you did the same thing trying to locate the “Kill Task” quest giver for a specific area.  City of Heroes gave you specific contacts you needed to talk to that acted as a hub for running future missions.  Finally World of Warcraft gave us the now ubiquitous golden exclamation point… taking complete all of the subtlety out of it.  Still… even in WoW it was not until Burning Crusade that I really started to lean on quests as the crutch that they are.  I got a good number of my levels by going off the beaten path and looking for neat things out in the world.

To some extent it is also the fault of games that have stopped giving us things to find just over the next ridge.  There should always be things just out of the way for us to go looking for, because this act reminds us that there is another way to play the game than just mindless questing.  This self directed fun is crucial, and is what ends up making a game stay fresh.  I tend to cycle through two modes of gameplay…  aimless wandering and mindelss questing.  I find both to be really enjoyable when I am in the right frame of mind.  I think this is why I can return to WoW all these times and still be happy with what it is.  That said I am constantly going off script in that game as well.  There are so many nooks and crannies that often lead to treasure or at least interesting things to kill.  Basically… these rails that we keep seeing, are something we’ve allowed ourselves to see.

Dungeons of Belgrade

BelgradeKeep_Update With all the talk of ESO lately, I am still very much playing Landmark on a daily basis.  Last night I got in and worked on Belgrade Keep for a bit.  I tweaked the exterior a bit adding supports to the first balcony and then building out an entirely new balcony from the top of the castle.  Additionally I added some more of my custom columns to the corners of the ramparts to tie the visual theme together, as well as adding some to the ground floor to mark the entrances to the ramp leading up to the keep and the entrance to the crafting undercroft.  I thought I was nearing a point where I needed to simply grind out the various accoutrements to decorate the keep.  I was completely wrong however.

I decided that Belgrade keep needed a proper dungeon, so I spent the majority of the night watching episodes of Arrow on Netflix and hollowing out the basement by hand with the remove tool.  One of the things I have noticed that removing large blocks of material with the select tool often ends up leaving weird fragments.  So I tend to do it manually simply because I like the results better.  After having spent hundreds of hours hollowing out tunnels branch mining for diamonds in Minecraft… I find I have an affinity for that sort of work.  The plan is to divide up the sub basement into cells, maybe with a torture area…  but that all depends on how creative I am.  I am curious if I have enough room for a second sub basement to be honest, because I can seemingly dig down further.

My Father the Builder

I really need to sit down and brainstorm out the rest of the month, because when I am not staring at a blank page I am full of ideas with factoids.  However when I sit down to write at 6 am, my mind is mush and devoid of any good ideas.  So today’s factoid is going to be a little odd, be warned.  I am not a terribly handy person, as in I am not a manly man builder type.  I can watch a youtube video and figure out most things, but I have a bit of a mental block about things that are mechanical.  In part I think it is because my father is so damned amazing at it.  I realize he grew up in an era when if you didn’t fix it yourself it stayed broken, and my grandfather was the king of tinkerers.  For me however, since I spent most of my childhood sick… I just simply was not exposed to it…  apart from getting to be the loyal “flashlight holder”.

At a young age I think I told myself I couldn’t do this.  There are things that are well in the realm of my mastery.  You give me a few boxes, scissors, magic markers and tape… and I will build for you a GI-Joe base that will make you weep.  However you dump a heap of mechanical bits on the table and I cannot see the same possibilities.  Growing up with a machinist for a father was a really interesting and awesome thing.  When I broke a wheel off one of my hot wheels… he would take it away to a magical land where it would come back with a shiny new wheel better than the previous.  He would take it over to work and machine out of scrap aluminum a wheel, then carefully wrap it in electrical tape for traction…finally carefully attaching it back to my hot wheel.  My father could make magic happen.

I just wish I appreciated it more at the time.  When Star Wars was all the rage, I wanted nothing more than the Death Star play set.  I did not grow up with a lot of money, so spending $100 on a cheap plastic and cardboard play set was really out of the question.  That Christmas instead my dad hand crafted me a Death Star that was far cooler than anything store bought ever could have been.  I am still not sure exactly how he built it, but he had some long screw running down the back of the unit with a crank up top. and a machined elevator that rode up and down on the screw.  So that I could crank my action figures up and down between the floors.  Now I appreciate just how ingenious it was, but probably at the time I wished I had the “real thing”.

As my father is getting older, I am starting to have to figure these things out on my own.  I know at some point he won’t be there to call for advice.  Someday I will have to learn the lessons he had to learn.  I admit it scares me, to think about a world where a master builder like my father doesn’t exist.  I don’t think he really knows how in awe of his abilities I am, and how much I wish I had his natural intuition for how things should go together.  I should really remedy that, but my father is a lot like me, and not really great at saying these sorts of things in person.  There are times I think that maybe he DID pass on his legacy to me, but that it just changed over the years.  I am good at computers and hacking around with software to get it to work the way I want it to work.  Then when I can’t find whatever it is that I am looking for, I know that I can crack open Visual Studio and build it myself.  So maybe just maybe I have some of that same magic too.

Married at the House of Vacuums

Belgarde Keep

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-14 06-11-05-53 Over the last two days there have been a couple of significant patches to Landmark.  You can check out the patch notes herehere for more information.  The most exciting of the changes is the fix to the way trees/plants/rocks kept respawning on our claims with no real way to remove them.  In previous shots of my forest keep the overall view had been obstructed by a couple of giant trees.  Now you can see a fairly clear view of the place.  I have given up on calling it a temple, because really it no longer looks anything at all like a temple.  Instead I have officially renamed it to “Belgarde Keep”.  Last night I spent quite a bit of work starting to flesh out the details.  You can see in this image that we now have the wooden posts sticking out from each floor as though they were coming from the ceiling beams.  Additionally I have started replacing my main columns with ones that include some inset stucco.

Another really cool thing of note last night is that with the patches Sapphire and Ruby have been more sane and rational to collect.  In fact if you are lucky you can now find surface spawn nodes.  Over the course of a couple of these nodes I managed to gather up more of each gem than I had gotten to date allowing me to finally craft the Indigo Pick.  Of course I got a rather crappy one on my first attempt, but all the excess sapphires allowed me to craft another cobalt pick, and after a little bit of farming tonight hopefully I will make a second shot at the Indigo.  While they have reduced the amount of burled wood you need slightly to convert from raw to the craftable material…  this still seems to be the bottleneck in almost everything that I want to craft.  I made another attempt at a better axe last night and managed to get one just slightly faster.

At this point my focus over the next few days is to attempt to get a better Indigo pick, gather the materials for upgraded machinery and continue to work on fine detail for the keep as a whole.  I need to start gathering the tier 5 resources but to be honest I am not even sure what they look like at this point.  Right now the biggest thing I am not quite happy with in my keep design is the single pillar that supports the balcony.  I expect now that the tree is out of the way I will rework that design feature extensively.  I might try a curved balcony, I have ideas in my head on what that would be to craft but not sure exactly yet now to go about it especially since I would need to curve both the railing and the flooring.

Toxic Love

Wow-64 2014-02-14 06-28-16-80 Earlier in the week I posted about the ongoing Love is in the Air event happening right now in World of Warcraft to coincide with Valentines Day.  I had pretty much ignored the event until the last few days because in general, I queue for the dungeon each day and I walk away each day with nothing but a stack of useless Love Tokens.  In past years I have queued faithfully each day only to somehow miss getting any of the pets and mounts.  So this year I was not any more expectant of something cool…  but since everyone else was doing it I felt I should probably start running them each day on all 6 of my 90s.

Giant-chu-chu Finally last night my streak of nothing changed… at least to some extent.  While I did not manage to get one of the mounts, I did however get the toxic wasteling pictured above.  I realize it is just a ball of slime, but I find it far cuter than the other oozeling that I have.  This is one of the newer models and minus the insane eyes… it kinda reminds me of a ChuChu from the Legend of Zelda series as pictured on the right.  At least I feel like this years queueing was not a complete and total waste.  While I would love to get the a Swift Lovebird I simply did not start the event soon enough to gather up the needed 250 tokens.

norexmanningday

I have to share this image really quickly that @ManaBrownies posted over on twitter yesterday of ALL THE LOVEBIRDS.  The thing that tickles me the most however is not the fact that you have multiple love birds and mini pet versions… but instead their guild name.  I love that name so much, and if you don’t get the reference…  which is probably likely since it is totally esoteric.  I suggest you watch Empire Records, which oddly enough is on the long list of favorite movies.

Married at the House of Vacuums

In honor of Valentines Day I have another related factoid.  My wife and I were Married at the House of Vacuums.  Before we get to that point I have to explain a bit about our wedding in general.  All we ever wanted was a very simple wedding.  In college when we began planning it, we pictured this simple outdoor wedding with just the immediate family.  However over time this plan morphed to nightmarish proportions.  My mother took ahold of the guest list and started wanting to add everything under the sun, including my fourth grade teacher.

Then there was the fact that an outdoor wedding was simply not good enough.  Since I grew up catholic, apparently you are not really married in the eyes of the church unless it happens inside of a catholic church.  So she wanted us to have two weddings… the real outdoor wedding and then another smaller service in a catholic church so we were “legitimate”.  I have never been really big on rules and regulations, and there was no way in hell I wanted to have two separate weddings just to make some religion happy.  Especially one that I do not abide by myself and have not been a member of since I had the freedom to choose my own path in life.  She was getting entirely too involved in the process and planning something neither of us wanted.

Finally there was the issue of who to walk my wife down the isle.  She is from a split household, one that split years after her birth.  So she had two complete households and as a result two fathers.  Her step dad was a quiet and unassuming man, and would do literally anything for her… often making excuses to plan a trip up to college to come see us for the silliest reasons.  Her biological father at that point in her life was not terribly engaged, and while I have come to love him… was very pushy and brash.  So her step father would have been quiet about it, but wounded for life if he did not get to walk her down the isle.  Whereas her biological father would have made a grand scene likely disowning us if he was not the one to walk her down the isle.

image We had set and unset the date many times, but as the three ring circus careened off in a direction we were not willing to go with it, we decided that we needed none of it.  All that mattered was that we were together, and as a result we opted to elope.  That conjures visions of romantically running away to some fabled location, but in truth we simply managed to run around town and gather all the necessary things to be legally married in one day.  We found a little marriage chapel in town, that had an opening the next day.  While we were not technically married at the House of Vacuums, the marriage chapel we went to was around the corner in the same strip mall.  My cousins and our best friend at the time stood up for us as witnesses, and we had a nice simple wedding service presided by a female minister that I cannot for the life of me remember the name of any longer.

Parts of our family, namely my mother was I am sure pissed at me for years over robbing her of her big day.  However like everything else in our lives we managed to get married “our way”.  My wife and I are both very non-conventional and pragmatic, so eloping to the House of Vacuums was simply “our way” of dealing with the challenges at hand.  There has not been a single day I regretted our decision, and now I have an interesting story to tell.  At the end of the day that is worth far more to me than having been crammed into a tuxedo and forced to go through a series of events we didn’t really want in the first place.  At one point her biological father offered us a large sum of money to elope… but he never actually made good on that promise.  I guess it was a good thing we did it because we wanted to.

The Mafioso’s Daughter

Weekly Routines

Wow-64 2014-02-11 23-20-48-41 With yesterday being server reset day in World of Warcraft, I opted to take a break from my Landmark madness to do my weekly boss farming for mounts.  Out of my stable of six level 90 characters, there are three that can solo Onyxia in a manner that makes me not want to pull out my hair.  The very first time I tried doing Ony as a Blood Deathknight for example it took at least 30 minutes of diseases/deathcoil/icy touch to finally bring her down to the ground.  However I have figured out that as Frost Deathknight, Retribution Paladin, and Enhancement Shaman I can make short work of her.  As a result every Tuesday it has become a thing, for me to run those three characters through the fight in an attempt to get the ever illusive reins of the onyxian drake.

Of course like expected the kills went quickly but I had no better luck than any of the previous weeks getting the drop.  It was at this point that I decided while I was farming content, I might as well take a few stabs at Kael’thas and his Ashes of Al’ar.  The funny thing is… I don’t even like that mount, but it has become a point of pride for me to farm one up.  So while I do at least one attempt every week, it is not like I would ever ride it.  So far I have managed to solo the instance as Blood and Frost Deathknight and as Retribution Paladin…  and I am wondering if I will be able to do it as Enhancement Shaman.  Of course once again this week nothing of any interest dropped.

Finally while I was wallowing in my bitterness I opted to run all six of my characters through the holiday event instance.  This year around it drops 480 necklaces, which unfortunately all of my characters have better.  However I did manage to pick up a tanky necklace upgrade for my Paladin.  Once again I am chasing a mount, but more than anything for total numbers… because there is no way in hell I would ever ride the Big Love Rocket around, but I would consider riding the Love Bird.  More than anything I would be after the handful of pets.  I normally don’t mess with the holiday events.  Once I completed my violet proto drake, I have mostly ignored them.  They are however pretty fast to run, since no queue last night lasted longer than 7 minutes as dps.

We Were Playing It Wrong

image Over the last few days I have been complaining about the lack of Sapphire and Ruby or at least the difficulty of gathering it up.  Yesterday I noticed the above tweet from Dave Georgeson, it seems like maybe we as a community was overlooking the intended way to get these.  I had piddled around early in the game with a +1 discovery ring and didn’t see much difference, but at the suggestion of the tweet I crafted the Assessor’s Band and managed to get a +4 one.  With it equipped alongside the existing +1 I am seeing a massive difference in the number of veins open to me as I wander through the world.  I am sure you have been through the frustrating case of seeing a huge vein in the distance, but when you get up there finally there is nothing there.  Well apparently that is what discovery is for.

 

After equipping the two rings, for the most part those veins stay in place as I get closer to them.  Additionally the discovery trait also seems to interact with how often I get the rare drop from each item.  This means I am getting more elementals, burled wood and as a result seeing more veins that have sapphire and ruby in them.  They are still frustratingly rare, but less so.  I did not play for extremely long last night, but I did manage to get a couple dozen gems of each type.  Supposedly we are getting a patch today or tomorrow that will fix the issues that have arisen with boulders and trees spawning again on claims, with no real way to remove them.  I am mostly waiting for this before I do much more building as I can’t really see my keep as a whole until I can remove some trees.

The Mafioso’s Daughter

Before I met my wonderful wife, there were plenty of missteps along the way.  Most of them are not really entertaining in any fashion, but one I always felt like I dodged a bullet with…  potentially literally.  While I was still attending a junior college I met a really nice ballet major attending a nearby college.  She seemed great, but early on I could tell that she was used to operating in a much higher tax bracket than I was.  It wasn’t anything major, but her expectations of what “going out” meant were far different than that of my small town upbringing.  After a few dates she pulled me aside and told me that she was starting to get serious about me…  but there was something I needed to know.

It turns out that her family was connected to the mafia.  She kind of brushed this off as no big deal or as something “I would get used to”.  Her father ran some large electronics store, and they lived down the street from the Gotti clan in Long Island.  We didn’t have Google back then, but over the course of a few online searches and some mapquest usage… it seemed like her story checked out.  I’m a boy scout literally…  I am not the type of person that “high crime” has ever appealed to.  While I love watching shows like Boardwalk Empire, I have never once romanticized that lifestyle.  It had become very clear over the course of the dates that she was “daddy’s little girl”, so I felt it was probably bad for my health if I did not let her down gently.

I did my best to be “less interesting” that I would hopefully make her lose interest in me, and over the course of a few weeks it worked.  I wanted no part of the “family business”, but at the same time I didn’t want to break her heart… and have mine shot in the process.  Sure I am probably over exaggerating the danger here, but it definitely freaked me the hell out.  Looking back now I can regale you with the tale of the time I dated the Mafioso’s Daughter, but when I was going through it, nothing about it seemed funny.  I doubt there was every a time where I would have just “gotten used to it”.  Thankfully not terribly long after that I met my awesome wife, and everything before is now just a humorous footnote.

Budgie Week Fiasco

Another Friday, Moar Fodder

Well another week has passed and it is once again time for Friday Forum Fodder.  I have admittedly not been following the discussion around the interwebs as closely as I usually do during the week.  I have a massive backlog of unread blog posts in my reader as spending the first half of the week sick and the second half desperately trying to play catch-up has left me with less lollygagging time.  I did stumble across a couple of things that I found interesting so the topics are primed and ready to go.

WoW Up to 7.8 Million Subscribers

http://www.mmo-champion.com/content/3741-WoW-Up-to-7-8-Million-Subscribers

Apparently yesterday Blizzard had their Q4 2013 earnings call, and announced that they were currently sitting at 7.8 Million subscribers, which surprisingly is a 200k subscriber bump over the 7.6 announced in the Q3 2013 earnings call.  Of course we all know that Blizzcon happened between those two calls, and that we had the announcement of the Warlords of Draenor expansion.  However 200,000 players seems like an awful lot to simply account for the “Blizzcon Bump”.  On Argent Dawn I have said before that we have been experiencing a bit of a renaissance with a large number of players coming back that I have not seen since Wrath, and some of them not even since Burning Crusade.  This feels like something more substantial than just interest in the new and shiny bauble called Warlords.

With the release of Rift, something happened in the populace, a fracturing of sorts.  That was the very first time I saw people leave WoW in a semi-permanent fashion.  Always before when a new product released, players would drift away from the game only to return a month or two later.  Something was different with the release of Cataclysm that broke the inertia of players to stay in one place.  I myself was gone for a little over two years, and during most of that time I never saw myself seriously returning.  For whatever reason I think a lot of us are resigned to the fact that the “wow-killer” simply will never exist.  All of this effort spent trying to find a better experience than World of Warcraft just wound up leading us right back to the original.

I personally have come to realize that what WoW provides just does not exist in the same quantity or quality elsewhere.  Sure various games do various components of the total WoW experience better, but no one game hits as many high points as Blizzard does.  I have reached a point where I am mostly okay with the games flaws… and while I wish that it did certain things better, I can accept the fact that what it does is for the benefit of the many not the few.  There are niche games out there that will scratch the various itches I have that WoW simply cannot.  So while I am back in WoW I am also still very much playing Rift, TSW, Everquest Next Landmark and will be adding Elder Scrolls Online to that lineup.  I have reached a point where I am okay with playing multiple games at the same time.

The beauty of World of Warcraft is that it is the game of consensus.  It is that game that everyone plays when they can’t get anyone to agree on any other game.  People play WoW because people play WoW.  More than anything the large community that comes part and parcel with playing the game was the thing I had been missing since leaving it.  When you play wow, you are instantly a member of something larger than yourself, and that is just an experience that is lacking with any of the other games.  Don’t get me wrong, the other game communities are great, especially the fledgling Everquest Next community bolstered by SOE’s new sense of transparency.  However it is still lacking in sheer size and volume of players.  The Blizzard gaming community is big enough to support everyone, and that is a really rare and special thing.

Budgie Week Fiasco

http://forums.riftgame.com/general-discussions/general-discussion/412505-budgie-week-guide.html

Firstly I want to say, this is less about the specific thread but more about the Budgie Week event.  I latched onto the guide threat by Seatin mostly because it was the only really active thread out there that coalesced all of the viewpoints in one place, whether or not he actually intended that to happen.  Seatin does a great job of supporting the community with his guides and videos, so nothing I say should be held as a reflection on that.  Additionally I love the folks at Trion, especially the team that is presently working on Trove.  That is such a great game and the open process is so refreshing, including the use of Reddit as their primary forums.  Additionally when Rift went free to play, I considered it to be one of the more just and equitable models.  However some of the things they have been doing with the cash shop are feeling more than a little shifty.

Awhile back some of my friends were frustrated over the Squirrel mount that was released, in that they missed the ridiculously short window it was available for purchase outright in the game.  This was really the beginning of a new trend, offering a cool mount for a very short time, and then putting a similar mount in a cash shop lootbox as the primary means of obtaining it.  This was the case for the Squirrel mount, the Mech mount, and now looks to be the same basic thing going on with the Budgie mount.  The shifty part this time is that they introduced a world event to make it seem as though you can actually acquire the mount that way. Problem is… with this being only a 7 day event it is simply impossible to gain enough of the “bird seed” currency doing these quests alone.

According to Seatin’s guide, if you got in on the first day of the event there is a maximum of 210 bird seed that you can obtain.  The mount costs 850 bird seed on the vendor, meaning there is simply no way to obtain it without somehow augmenting your seed count.  It turns out right now they are offering a limited time cash box that has a chance of dropping a different colored budgie mount, and you are guaranteed between 6 and 10 birdseed per box.  The average seems to be 8 per trove, so in theory you need roughly 80 of these cash shop boxes to be able to purchase the bird.  Granted you have a chance from each to get the OTHER budgie mount, but we aren’t even taking this into account.  Essentially even doing your quests religiously every day, you would have to spend roughly $300 on the cash shop to be certain you get this mount while it is available.

Now Daglar has posted on the forums that this is a promo event, and they intend to run it several times a year, and by participating in all of them you should be able to get the mount.  Even saying that… it still feels extremely bad seeing this unfold.  This is the same kind of crap that I see over in SWTOR with making most of the truly unique looking mounts only available through the random chance of a cash shop box.  The difference there is that you can actually post the items once you have gotten them on the auction house… whereas the cash shop loot in Rift is either soul bound or bound to your account.  This whole event just leaves me feeling a little dirty for having supported their shirt to free to play so actively.  I still think Rift is a great game, and I still think more or less it is a good value… they are just doing a few unsavory things that make me a little sad inside.

Bel Goes to Nasa

This mornings factoid digs pretty deep into the annals of time.  Once upon a time I wanted to grow up to be a Scientist.  I am not really sure what happened along the way to change that life ambition.  If I had to guess it was probably the fact that AP Chemistry ate my lunch, but I managed to get out of it with a B, which seemed pretty damned good at the time.  All that aside, I did really and truly want to be a Scientist, so I took the yearly ritual of the science fair extremely seriously.  Through boy scouts I had gotten into model rocketry, so when it came time to pick a project I thought it would be interesting to do something related to that.  With copious help from my father, we constructed a wind tunnel that ran on a shop vac, and proceeded to test the effects of airflow based on various model rocket fin shapes.

I think the key to winning a science fair is to have something cool to look at in your booth.  I am sure there were many students that had more scientifically sound studies than I did, but I had cool photos of the pattern each of the fins had made.  We tied string to each of the fins so that we could watch the pattern the thread made based on the airflow.  The contrails that were created gave a clear picture of how each shape varied and was something nice and concrete that the judges to latch onto.  I won the local level science fair and managed to move up to regional’s, but this was not something really new to me, because my pantograph had done the same my six grade year.  In all honesty repeating a victory at the local level would have been more than enough for me.

When I got to regional’s however I was shocked at just how excited the judges seemed to be about my exhibit.  So when it came down to time to present the awards, I don’t really remember what place I got in the main competition, because it was quickly overshadowed by the “special” award that I won.  I got a trip for me, my family and my science teacher to NASA’s Johnson Space center.  I have to say it was one of the cooler things I have experienced.  A lot of the trip is a haze at this point, but I remember walking through a prototype of what would eventually become the international space station.  I also remember getting to play around in the shuttle flight simulator, and meeting actual astronauts.  All of which were pretty heady things for my little wannabe scientist seventh grader mind.  But of course, High School happened… and I discovered computers and programming… and I jettisoned the thoughts of being a scientist out the airlock and moved on.

Belghast and the Severe Asthma

Bel is a Sick Little Monkey

Right now I am feeling like a failure, for several reasons.  For starters Steampowered Sunday never happened yesterday, because I kept waiting on the Everquest Landmark servers to stabilize enough to get in and record some gameplay.  I thought it was going to be a cool idea to do SPS over a brand new alpha game that lots of folks were interested in.  More so than that… I completely forgot that I had a raid last night, so I owe a lot of apologies to my raid group.  I was feeling pretty shitty Friday night during the raid, and over the course of the weekend I just got to feeling worse.  Yesterday was a bit of a haze and since the snow came down and my wife’s school was cancelled… I guess the day was lacking the normal sense of pressure that a Sunday has.

By the time I got drug down to our neighbors super bowl party, I had lost touch on what day it actually was.  Sweet mother of god the food there… so much of it and so tasty.  She had made these little bacon wrapped smoked sausages caramelized with brown sugar.  I could have seriously made a meal on that alone.  Like always she cooked for an army, and there were only 7 or 8 of us there.  We left around halftime because we walked down and didn’t want to slip and fall on the way home through our poorly lit sidewalks.  The food coma that set in just left me in a bit of a stupor.  As a result I literally could not remember that I was supposed to tank a raid that night.

I am really hoping they had enough to pull the raid together but since the other regular tank was also slotted to be gone… I am seriously doubting they were.  So I am posting it here, and I will post it elsewhere and say it in person…  I am sorry I flaked on you guys.  This is out of character for me, but it quite literally slipped my mind.  I didn’t even realize I had done it until I got up this morning.  Today I plan on trying to sleep as much as I can, because sleep heals.  As a result I got up at 5:30 and emailed my boss saying that I would not be in and then slept until 10:30.  I will be taking dayquil and breathing treatments to try and break the gunk up so that I can breathe again.  I really need to be viable for work tomorrow.  We are supposed to be getting a lot more snow and ice tomorrow, so we will see what exactly that means.

Belghast and the Severe Asthma

Since I am sick right now, I kinda wanted a factoid that blended with that.  I have touched on this a few times but it is worthy of factoidization.  I have extremely severe asthma, it has gotten slightly better over the years but there are times where my body still completely breaks down on me.  I have a number of triggers ranging from weather changes, to strong perfumes and smells, and the worst of all is smoke both second hand and smoke from fires.  This has been a thing that I have struggled with my entire life.  My very first asthma attack happened before the age of one, when my mother heard me wheezing in my basinet at the end of the bed.  My father had been an extremely severe asthmatic growing up and spent many a night under an oxygen tent… which was the 1950s treatment for such things.  I don’t think I was officially diagnosed however until after age one, because the pediatrician kept saying “babies don’t have asthma”.

To make things even worse I have what they call a “primary immune system deficiency”  which basically means I have a lazy immune system.  So I tend to catch everything that is going around and it takes significantly longer for my immune system to wake up and realize there is something bad inside of me that it should be fighting.  So this complicates the first thing significantly, as I almost always have some sort of a cold.  If they drag on long enough there is a moment where it wakens the beast and my lungs start shutting down on me.  This weekend is one of those times where a “nameless crud” has finally lingered long enough to trigger my asthma.  Most of the time I can take a bunch of breathing treatments and be just fine.  Every now and then it triggers a downward spiral that requires much more severe intervention.

Probably the worst of these was the 2005 Thanksgiving Holiday, over which I spent five days hospitalized.  I know I mentioned this event in the little letter I wrote a few weeks back to some smokers in my building, but this is the worst case scenario that I am always worried about in the back of my head.  Of course this was created by an unlikely chain of events.  One of our friends had a house fire, and I went down to the house long enough to be handed prescriptions to take to Walgreens to fill.  That was enough to trigger a negative reaction that lead to me going to the Emergency Room.  They hooked me up to a BIPAP machine that would help me breathe, or at least force air into my lungs, and since my lungs were so swollen shut… it caused me to respirate insanely fast.  So fast that they were scared I might have a heart attach that night, since my pulse was racing.

Eventually they were able to get things under control but it was five days before my blood oxygen levels came up enough for me to be able to go home.  By day two I was absolutely stir-crazy in the hospital.  All I really wanted was someone to bring me a laptop.  This whole event has made me super aware and conscious of irritants in my area, and before this happening I probably never would have had to courage to tell the smokers what they were doing to me.  With my large amount of weight loss, it has improved my asthma quite a bit.  However there are still moments where something triggers that chain reaction and I go down for the count.  I think this current situation is an accumulation of weeks of breathing colder than normal air mixed with some bug that is going around.  But there you have it… a relevant factoid for a day when I am pretty sick.

Liberation Pingo

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-02 19-53-24-37 This post has already gone on pretty long at this point, but I didn’t feel like I could truly make another post without at least mentioning EQN Landmark.  Friday evening late the Alpha keys went out to all of the founders, but I personally did not get it launched until Saturday morning after I made my blog post.  At that point it was extremely hard to find a plot of land that was claimable.  So I wound up in the middle of nowhere on the Liberation server and the tier 3 Pingo island.  I feel like this may be a positive thing in the long run as there seem to be more than enough tier 3 resources to be had there.  However this has involved a lot of my bouncing to other areas to pick things up.  Right now I am building cautiously as during one of the server resets this weekend we lost all progress and I lost my crafting machines in the process.

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-02 22-13-44-02 The important thing to note… that if your tolerance for bugs is low.  Save your money and wait until this enters beta.  The game is very much an alpha product, but what is here is extremely fun.  Essentially at this point it is much like the early days of minecraft.  You wander around a very pretty world looking for resources that you can then take back to your claim and craft with.  The area my claim is in rests deep in a forested valley and as a result very little natural light reaches it… so all of the pictures on my claim tend to be cast in shadow.  Hopefully I can craft enough torches to fix that problem over time.  The key progress I have made is I have been able to upgrade to the Iron Pick allowing me to harvest some higher end stuff, and I have been able to craft the selection tool as well as replacement crafting machines.

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-02 13-38-34-12 Right now the only frustration really is the long queues.  At one point yesterday I waited for two hours in a queue, only to have the game crash out at 50% as it was loading.  However as the evening went on this improved drastically.  I just want to thank the EQN Landmark team because they really went above and beyond with this launch.  I am pretty sure Dave Georgeson for example was up almost 48 hours straight working on the problem along with the rest of the team.  So I have to say kudos for the work well done.  I am already enamored with the game, enough that I have upgraded from Explorer to Trailblazer.  There are a lot of systems simply missing right now, like it seems you can send a friend request… but the other party cannot respond nor is there a friend list.  As a result we are using server channels so I have created a house stalwart one.  Typing “/join stalwart” should get you in, and everyone that is friendly is more than welcome.

Me and My Tentacle

I Hate the NDA

Trove 2014-02-01 09-26-43-06I know you are thinking, “of course you hate them, you are a blogger” and to some extent yes that is the source of my frustration.  However more than that I feel like in the internet age they are defeatist.  We are in an age when people are actively ready to hand you their cash to participate in a pretty buggy experience.  Look at how popular the Steam Early access process has been to date, and just how many people are actively playing games that are not close to being launched yet.  I started playing Minecraft during really early beta and it was roughly two years before the game “officially” launched… all the while there was so much enjoyment to be had in the process of the alpha.  Each step of the way it was the constant stream of videos that got people pumped to be playing it.

At any given time I am in a number of alpha and beta testing processes for video games.  It has been a thing that I have done for years, and it seems like the more you test the more you get to test.  In the case of two of those I am amped and ready to be gushing about those games and posting cool info about them.  The problem is both of those are under pretty strict NDA processes.  They moment they lift however I will be off to the races with information in hand ready to post.  What the NDA seems to cause right now is an era of disinformation.  Folks who you assume are in testing can make comments like “I wouldn’t get your hopes up” here and there… without actually touching their NDA guidelines and cause a negative buzz for the game before it even launches.

The Open Model

The negative seems to stick with us more than the positive, and it seems like everyone knows someone who knows someone who doesn’t like this game or that game and is more than willing to give you their laundry list of reasons in private.  This I guess is why Trove has been so unbelievably refreshing.  The official forums are Reddit, and from day one we have been able to post whatever the hell we wanted about the game.  They know it is alpha, but they also are super transparent about the information.  Yesterday they released the Gunslinger class seen above, and sure it is buggy but it is damned cool seeing the first additional class in the game come to fruition.

Thing is… we’ve known this was coming for some time.  They have talked about it in the live streams, on reddit… posted various tidbits of information.  So the community that has sprung up around this game was ready and waiting with open arms to see this new class and the new batch of player created weapons that would spring out of it.  What this open model does is general some serious evangelism for your game, which is a good thing.  People what to play games that other people are having fun playing.  The above video is the entire reason why I started playing Minecraft.

Were it not for the X’s Adventures in Minecraft series of videos, I probably never would have gotten onto the Minecraft bandwagon at least not until EVERYONE was playing it.  There was something so simple about the game play I saw and infectious but only because the person doing the lets play videos was so open and engaging about what he was doing.  Games can really benefit from this simple grass roots support, and I feel like this is going to play a larger and larger role in getting folks into new games over time.  I am sure we are also entering the era of the video casting shill…  and we have seen a certain measure of that in the media recently with the payola scandal going on within the xbox one videocasters.  All of this said… I just feel like right now the NDA does more harm than good.  When a new game comes out, people crave information about it… and if the game company themselves won’t provide it, this is a great niche for the evangelists to fill.

Me and My Tentacle

Wow-64 2014-01-29 23-06-53-81 I admit it… I just wanted a reason to name this post something goofy.  Over in WoW I have spent a lot of time soloing old content for fun and profit.  Namely I have been seeking the pets and mounts that drop in older content.  I believe i spoke about my surprise that I could actually solo the Twin Emperors finally in AQ40 which had been the only road block from regularly soloing this instance.  When I took down C’Thun I got one of those items I had always wanted to get back when we were raiding.  The Vanquished Tentacle of C’Thun is a trinket that on use summons a Tentacle of C’Thun to come fight by your side for 30 seconds.  Even back in the day this was mostly a novelty item… since it was stationary and as a result really not that useful unless you were fighting a mob that stood completely still.  However how freakin cool is it to summon a tentacle on demand?

Another bit of madness I have engaged upon recently is trying to work my way through the Argent Tournament.  Look I know you are all saying… why did you not do that in Wrath?  Well I am bad at doing daily quest grinds…  I always have a million other things I would rather be doing than dailies.  So I piddled at them from time to time… but mostly I just hated the jousting mechanic.  Now however it seems like that mechanic can be cheesed by the fact that I am a well geared level 90.  Luckily I think I only have Gnomeregan and Darnasas left before I can get the tabard, which it is cool to have a port to Northrend.  However this is something I am doing mostly for the large number of pets and mounts you can get.  Not sure how super seriously I will take this, I doubt it will become a daily ritual like the Netherwing grind did.  Right now I have a lot of different games that I ant to be playing, but this is my next faction “goal”.

Friday Forum Fodder

Bring on the Fodder

For awhile now I have had a forum segment kicking around in my head.  The idea is that I use Fridays as a day to reflect on things that have been brewing out on the various games forums.  My friends have thought this was madness, as it would likely devolve into flame based insanity.  I however think that I can make it work, since so many topics start on the forums anyways.  However based on recent events, especially relating to one of the topics I have chosen this morning… it still very much can get out of hand.  Anyways…. if I don’t start this thing I won’t get it done in time.

Stop..ramming..pvp…down…my…throat!!!

http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/11422312838

Yup that’s right… I have opted to leave the original forum post title intact for most of these unless it is offensive.  Abusive use of ellipses aside there is nothing terribly offensive so here goes.  This thread spawned a really interesting response from Bashiok stating hinting that in Warlords of Draenor a more permanent PVP toggle would be on it’s way.  Now this has already been discussed by @AlternativeChat and @Qelric but I don’t really want to respond on what they have said… since the whole idea behind this is for me to respond to the subject matter contained within the forum post.  I know this involves a bunch of semantics and blinders and whatnot… but it is a thing I am striving to do.

I have to admit my first reaction was “It’s about damned time”, as well as my second and third and fourth reaction.  I have a love/hate relationship with PVP in general, in that I tend to love to hate on it.  I am a massive Carebear at heart and get really excited about collaboration and community in online games and not so much about conflict and competitiveness.  Please understand that this is coming from someone who tanked my servers first alliance Reins of the Black War Bear raid.  Additionally I was a proud supporter of the South Shore vs Tarren Mill madness from vanilla and got to meet most of my servers hardcore PVPers during that time.  However that is the root of it… I want to PVP when I want to PVP, and no other time.  The problem lies that there are so many ways that you can get accidentally flagged without ever really intending it.

One of the things I do semi regularly is run around the Timeless Isle farming the named mobs.  Generally speaking be it on the Timeless Isle or Darkmoon Faire I am a pretty welcome commodity since there never seems to be any tanks out there willing to tank the mini-bosses.  The problem is as a Deathknight sometimes my diseases end up getting on flagged players and in turn flag me.  Honestly I don’t know what it is, but I assumed it was the disease/bloodboil that I am constantly doing because I will end up flagged pretty much every time I do this public service.  Granted the horde generally have the self preservation to wait until I have tanked the boss for them before killing me…  but moments after downing the boss I am generally laying dead on the floor.

You might be thinking this means I rally support and start an epic land war?  Nope… this means I do one of two things.  Either I walk away for a bit and wait for my flag to clear before resurrecting, or I simply log out of the game and play something else for awhile.  I seriously want zero part in PVP on a day to day basis and see it as an imposition on my play time.  Ultimately that is what it is about for me, PVP is a gross inconvenience upon my time and forces me to somehow direct my attention to something other than my current goals.  It is very much not a welcome distraction, and since I tend to play tanks… very few of the pvp skills have any meaning within the game I tend to play.  PVP tanking was a thing I loved, but sadly that only really existed in a functional way in Warhammer Online.

Rift has had this PVP toggle for awhile now and it works extremely well.  They brought it in during the much larger “faction as fiction” patch which is something I would love to see Blizzard do as well.  Factions are meaningless things to me, and ultimately boil down as red vs blue in my eyes.  I generally do not have much faction pride one way or the other… just like I have no sports team alignments.  In an MMO the only “faction” I generally care about is my guild and its members.  I tend to see the “Faction walls” as un-needed barriers that keep me from playing with half of the other players on the server.  I started playing MMOs before these things really existed in Everquest, and have never really seen the benefit of them on the whole.  Faction should be something that is character specific, that may limit where you can go in the world…. but not limit who you can associate with.

To summarize…  “hell yeah” to the prospect of a more permanent PVP toggle.  There have been a lot of people speculating how this might work, with faction cities etc.  They can honestly take a pretty good queue from Rift in that when you are flagged as “No PVP” you can still be attacked by NPCs of that opposing faction.  Thing is… you just cannot attack them back without turning off your anti-pvp flag.  So this means that NPCs are more than willing to beat you into a pulp for being the pacifist you are.  Players however… cannot.  Running around in anti-war mode should have its limits, and this seems to be a pretty good way of handling them.

Why reforging removal is a mistake

http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/11551045075

There are many versions of this thread out on the Battle.net forums, but this was one of the longest running sitting presently at three pages.  Generally speaking I think a lot of these devolve into flames and get deleted before becoming truly “epic” threads.  To summarize the original posters point…  the believes that reforging was put in place to balance the classes and break the tyranny of having over powered classes.  This opinion to me only seems to reinforce why reforging needs to go to be honest.  I watched the blizzcon coverage the year they announced Reforging, and it was generally sold to the player base as a way of having MORE choice not having less.  The problem is, like everything we the players have ruined it.  I truly believe the intent, just like the intent of the current talent situation… was to allow us to have a bit more flavor in our characters.  So that we could put our own spin on on the current spec and tweak the gear to perform the way we wanted it to perform.

The reality however is that we have systemized this and anyone who does not use Ask Mr Robot to reforge their gear to an “optimal” state is immediately “ doing it wrong”.  Essentially… this is why we can’t have nice things.  I personally ignore Mr Robot in favor of my own flavor on my spec, but I am sure I am a horrible person for doing this.  Essentially just like the way the previous talent system was… we have an “illusion of choice” in that everyone is expected to change their gear stats towards the same ultimate ideal scenario.  If this is a thing that every single player is doing, it means to me that the design of the system was inherently flawed in the first place.  I applaud Blizzard for taking chances on building new systems, and I also applaud them for reversing that decision when it looks like it simply is another “non choice”.

If you have not gotten the impression already, I applaud them for deciding to remove reforging.  While it was a really cool idea, it never quite worked out as well as I would have personally liked.  The way it worked always seemed extremely limiting.  I think we all envisioned a system where we could throw away useless stats from our gear in favor of the one that we really wanted in the first place.  However the reality was dictated by some pretty rigid rules and only actually allowed us to change the secondary and tertiary stats, instead of getting more of the thing we generally want… our primary class stat.  Additionally there is the issue of… if you are constantly reforging away a specific stat then the gear is simply itemized poorly.

Again I feel like this is another case where World of Warcraft can take a queue from Rift.  Generally speaking the stats that I find myself personally reforging away are hit and expertise.  This is because these stats can appear on every single piece of gear…  however they are only useful in limited quantities until you hit the soft cap for every class.  As a result you are lining up to remove them once you reach the higher tiers of raiding.  How Rift has “fixed” this problem is certain stats only appear on certain pieces of gear.  So you have a limited number of ways to gain that stat, so each and every piece them becomes important.  Granted the hit/expertise issue is no longer going to be an issue at all… since they decided to simply remove the stat entirely.

Ultimately those are two completely different game design approaches.  In the case of Rift they decided to make it work, by rationing the stats that players didn’t need as often.  In the case of wow they kind just applied a general mallet to the approach and are now designing around the need for those stats in the first place.  Both are completely valid approaches, and as always Blizzard seems to line up on the side of simplification rather than intricacy.  If Blizzard were a toy it would likely be something made by Fischer Price and not some intricate model kit imported from Japan.  There are places for both kinds of games and ultimately why I play more than just WoW.  Currently it seems like the decisions they are making for Warlords of Draenor are really good ones, given the present state of the game….  however I am sure 2 years from launch we will be applauding them for undoing various things they did.  World of Warcraft is a constantly evolving game, and I think as a whole this is a really good thing.

More Fodder Next Week

Mostly I am curious if this concept worked for you and if you actually enjoyed it?  I am still evolving in my head what I want this to be.  Generally speaking when I blog, I respond based on what I have heard said in the blogosphere without really going back to the original forum source… if a forum did in fact spawn the discussion.  With this I am trying to essentially write what I would have written as a forum response… but instead in very long form blog format.  Let me know if this works, or if it doesn’t how you would like to see it changed.   Also remember tomorrow begins another experiment of mine…  Factoid February.  I still am not 100% certain what I will write… but I expect to devote one section a day to whatever the current “Fact” is.

Sneaky McSneakybits

Persistent Stuff

Trove 2014-01-29 06-10-34-60 It has been quite a while since I last talked about Trove on my blog.  For a bit I had been recording regular segments of me exploring the world, then after roughly six of them I just stopped.  Namely this coincides with me getting super into World of Warcraft raiding for a bit.  I however have continued to explore the game each time they add a new build.  At this point it is hard to remember exactly what the state of the game was when I last talked about it.  Currently we have fully persistent cornerstones, and you can see mine on the right-hand side of the image above.  It is still very much a work in progress, but essentially I was trying to maximize the space available and still look like something I could pick out at a distance as “mine”.

Currently there are four levels above ground and two below ground, the first of which below has my workbench and block transmuter thingy.  One of the cool things that they added in within the last few patches is the ability for your crafting inventory to survive between server resets.  This means I finally have a real reason to mass harvest materials for use later, since I am not constantly losing everything each time a patch goes in.  My biggest wish however is that we could craft some weapons to replace the starter crap.  Each time the server resets I rush around trying to get decent enough weapons to leave the first tier zones.  In this present patch it feels like maybe they nerfed the drop rates a bit, as I slaughter a few dozen ladybugs and bees this morning and have gotten nothing at all but cubits… the crafting currency.

Another cool thing they are doing is replacing the in game weapon drops with ones created by players.  When you get an item, it now says who the weapon was created by.  It was pretty cool the other night when I got a nifty rapier drop and noticed it was created by a friend of mine CaptainCursor.  Since the community is relatively small at present, this adds a whole new level to the game since you are constantly running into things created by names you recognize.  You can check out the latest patch notes over on the Trove reddit.

Sneaky McSneakybits

rift 2014-01-29 06-31-43-93 Yeah I have no clue why I named this subsection and the blog post this…  brain does things sometimes.  Last night my most important mission was to finish leveling my rogue to 60, and consume all of the various loot boxes I had gathered up along the way.  At some point they made it so that you are guaranteed a lockbox of some sort from your weekly patron gift.  Since my warrior Belghast is already fairly well geared, or at least well enough to begin raiding…  I figured I would stockpile them to give my rogue a quick gear boost upon dinging.  Turns out it worked pretty well at doing just that.  Between the lockboxes and about 50 plat in select purchases I was able to get well past the 300 hit requirement for expert dungeons.  I did not however get to run one as we spent a good chunk of the evening out and about last night.

In theory the queue should go pretty fast since I am equally comfortable Barding it up as support or going dps as either my Marksman spec or my Nightblade primary dps one.  Going back and playing rift has made me realize just how much I love the Rift Rogue and truly dislike playing a WoW Rogue.  While I got Gloam to 90, and I am extremely happy I did so that I could do the living steel transmutes I needed to craft my Sky Golem…  I really don’t think he is going to get much play.  Quite simply put…  Belgarou my feral druid is a better rogue than my rogue is…  or is at least a more interesting one.   I have just come to realize I don’t really like the way rogues in wow play.  Not sure what it is about the play style but it just isn’t for me anymore, especially now that I feel other classes like Retribution Paladin do the rogue combo point thing better.

Ultimately my key frustration with WoW rogues is that combo points are built in the target instead of a buff that stacks on the rogue itself.  Warhammer Online got this right initially with the Witchhunter class, which was by all purposes a “better” rogue.  I realize at this point the combo points on target thing is tradition, but it simply does not work that well.  While saying the Rift rogue is better, is a bit disingenuous since it is essentially a wow rogue, hunter, druid, and a few other classes that don’t exist in wow rolled into one.  I think the main reason why it “works” better is that the combo point mechanism is on the rogue, not the mob.  This adds a bunch of interesting gameplay elements like building your combo points on the boss, and then using your combo dump to execute weaker encounters.  It is just at this point that the WoW rogue seems so much less interesting than the other “Rogue like” combo point classes.

Onyxia Mount Patrol

Wow-64 2014-01-29 06-49-55-23 After the time in Trove and Rift, I settled in for a little bit of Tuesday raid reset madness over in World of Warcraft.  For better or worse, there are several raids that I solo each week on multiple characters for an attempt at the various pets, tansmoggy bits, and every elusive mounts.  The start of each week tends to be me making the trek out to Dustwallow Marsh to beat up on Onyxia.  First off I have to bitch a little bit, because post Cataclysm they have made it a royal pain in the ass to get to Onyxia for Alliance players.  The fastest route I have figured out is fly straight south out of Stormwind, hop the boat at Booty Bay, and then fly to Dustwallow from there.  All of that involves flying across several zones and hoping that you happen to arrive at Booty Bay just in time to land on the boat.

Of course like normal she didn’t drop me a mount, or anything else of interest for that matter but at this point I can easily solo her as Retribution Paladin and Frost Deathknight, so I do this little interchange twice a week.  I need to cycle through some of my other characters and see if I can build a spec for them that can bring her out of the air in phase two.  I might be able to gather up enough timeless isle gear to make a passable Boomkin spec on my druid, and I think in theory I could probably do it on as Enhancement Shaman.  I do not think however that my Rogue or Warrior will be of much use in my quest for her mount.  I need to check with my friend Rylacus and see if he has any master tips for dropping her out of the air.  The one time I tried to do the fight as a Blood DK it literally took 30 minutes for my diseases/icy touch/deathcoil to do enough damage to get her back on the ground.

The highlight of the evening in WoW however was me flying over to Ahn’Qiraj on a whim.  Turns out that I now have enough physical damage to solo the Twin Emperors fight.  This had long been a stumbling block for me when it came to soloing AQ40.  The other big hurdle was viscidious, however since I dual wield frost… I simply switched my razorice enchanted one-hander to my main hand and that seemed to do the trick for shattering him.  Past that howling blast was more than enough frost damage to freeze the big blob.  I am still missing two pets from this place, so I can see adding it to the weekly faff farming rotation.  I did not really have time to do my BWL run on my paladin, I am still missing a few pieces of judgement… so I am sure over the next few days I will be getting that in.  Since the eggs are a pain in the ass on anyone other than my Deathknight, I generally grab a random person from the guild who needs transmoggy bits before venturing into the dungeon.  My hope is to find a time when Scarybooster can be online, and drag his butt through with them.

Kickstarting Regrets

Patron Buffs

rift 2014-01-28 06-04-39-64 Last night I just was not feeling the raid thing.  Monday nights are traditionally the open flex night in House Stalwart, but that night has always been an optional evening since it is not really attached to any specific raid group.  As such I decided to mill around over in Rift and work on my rogue.  Earlier in the day I had complained about how slow the 56-60 game was.  To be truthful Storm Legion as a whole is much more sluggish and prodding than the old world content, and by the time you reach 56 it slows down again.  Thankfully @gamer_lady came to the rescue by reminding me that there are patron buffs.

I think I began the night around halfway into 58 and wound up ending the night 15% away from 60.  The buffs make a massive difference in the speed at which you level, especially with quest turn-ins.  I hit a sequence in Argent Domain with tons of quest turn-ins and saw my xp just skyrocket.  Tonight if I get back into Rift I will likely finish off the push to 60, and hopefully be able to open all the various lockboxes I have saved up for his ding.  Additionally I am pretty close to finishing off runecrafting, so here is hoping the greens I currently have in my bags are enough to carry me over that finish line.  I think runecrafting was the last of the trade skills that I had no maxed out, or at least I vaguely remember finishing off artificer the last time I played seriously.

Kickstarting Regrets

pantheon-cqa-epl-116 The theme that I keep seeing repeated out on kickstarter is that designers are using it as a way to work through their past regrets.  Each time a game fails to grab market share there are a myriad of reasons why it happens.  However in the case of recent kickstarter campaigns it feels like each designer has their own internal reason why they feel a project failed.  In the case of Camelot Unchained, it seems like Mark Jacobs feels that Warhammer online failed because it simply was not pvp enough.  So as a result Unchained is being designed to be this love letter to PVP in all its glory.  I am sure there is a niche that wants to do nothing but pvp, but in my experience the only aspect of Warhammer I really liked at all…. was the PVE content.  So I wish Jacobs luck on his journey because he is building a game I simply am not interested in.

Similarly in the past weeks Brad McQuaid started his kickstarter for Pantheon: The Fallen.  The pitch so far seems eerily familiar to the one I can remember hearing for Vanguard.  Hardcore game with mandatory group centric game play, and some really complex systems to add depth to the world.  It seems like McQuaid’s regret is that Vanguard was not hardcore enough, and definitely in the post Sigil games era it became much more casual and solo friendly.  The thing is… the Vanguard he proposed really failed to get serious market approval, and SOE watered it down to try and find a market for it.  I realize this might be “too soon” since SOE just announced they were cutting Vanguard from their lineup… and honestly that depresses me quite a bit…  but it is very obvious that McQuaid has a very different reason in his head for why that game didn’t meet expectations.

Wish Them Well

camelotunchained This is not to say that I don’t think both Pantheon and Camelot Unchained will not be modest successes.  In both cases they are feeding to a relatively underserved sub-demographic of gamers.  The problem is… that really is a niche within a niche within a niche and I feel has some pretty slim market potential.  As romantic as I feel the vision of Pantheon is, I know personally I simply cannot play that sort of a game.  I need a game where I can find a group quickly and one that I can also have meaningful solo game play and progression.  Gone are the days when I could sit for five hours in the plane of hate camping an epic mob with friends. 

My blocks of time are more in half hours and hours at a time these days, and at any given time I might need to be pulled away from the screen.  As a result I have to play games that do not penalize me for this.  So while I am nostalgic for the days of sitting outside Karnor’s Castle and forming groups…  I also remember the hours upon hours I sat around doing absolutely nothing because I did not have said group.  Granted this is me projecting a lot of my own thoughts on these games, and very little information is really available about them.  However the pitch just does not sound like something I can really participate in. 

Ultimately I hope all of these new MMOs succeed, and even though games like Wildstar are strictly in the “not for me” column…  we need more MMO success than failure if we hope to keep our favorite genre alive.  Additionally there needs to be a great adjustment for what exactly “success” means.  If 100,000 players keeps the game running and turns a minor profit… then man that sounds like success to me.  World of Warcraft skewed our reality, and just with my opinions of the community… it is time for a reset.  No game has been as successful as WoW has been, so it is clearly an outlier and not the mold by which all games need to measure up.  Until that sort of baseline adjustment happens… all new games will end up being judged as failures.

Stalwart Ebonheart

Small World After All

Yesterday I had a pretty interesting chain of events happen, that have left me all warm and fuzzy.  At some point yesterday I tweeted a general complaint about how steam seems to be incapable of flagging on a machine level that we have already installed the various pre-requisites like DirectX.  This tweet seemed to develop a life of it’s own as it got re-tweeted around a bit and favorited.  Most of the people were extremely familiar to me, but one of the folks retweeting was completely new.  In my current mode of trying to reach out more to help foster the community I followed Maevrim.

It turns out the two of us have been running in the same circles for years spanning two different games and two different servers.  For the bulk of her time playing World of Warcraft, it seems as though she was in the guild Gnomes Will Eat You on Argent Dawn… a guild House Stalwart folk are very familiar with.  During the old days our two guilds did quite a bit together, and these days my raid has the very amazing Frosti… that has a sort of dual citizenship with characters in both House Stalwart and Gnomes Will Eat You.  Turns out she also plays on Faeblight where the House Stalwart Rift branch is located.

To make things even more awesome, she is looking for a new guild home.  Of course my guildmasterly ninja instincts started kicking in and I have been trying to welcome her into the Stalwart fold.  Its true… we are kind of like a cult but I promise that our koolaid isn’t poisoned much.  Scan a few hours later, turns out she was on a podcast and I somehow got mentioned.  Now I seem to have missed the reference or it was said before or after the started recording.  But all of this makes me realize just how small and relatively tight knit a community we have.  Like I said the other day, it is all a matter of perspective.  We might think we are alone in the void, but then something happens to make us realize just how connected we are as a whole.

Stalwart Ebonheart

SkyrimESO Since April 4th 2014 will be here before we know it, I figure it is time to start planning for the House Stalwart Ebonheart Pact branch in Elder Scrolls Online.  For some time I have known that I would be playing this game at release, and my hope is to successfully weave in time of both it and World of Warcraft.  The goal is to play a few nights a week, because really I am a sucker for anything Elder Scrolls…  and you would have to cause a real cataclysm to keep me away from it.  For a long time I have also known I would be aligning with the Ebonheart Pact, in part because my three favorite races are the Nord, Dunmer and Argonians.  After an impromptu poll of the folks who signed up on the brief Tamriel Foundry site we had… it seems like that is the case for most of the guild.

Since House Stalwart has always been a social guild… and more family than anything else… I thought I would open things up this time to my blogger family as well.  I know Maric and some of the Mercy Corps folks will be joining Stalwart in this endeavor, and my hope is to gather up as many good people as I can before the launch.  I am sure a good chunk of the current and former Stalwart members will be joining us as well.  Basically all sociable folks are welcome spending they are agreeable to the standard House Stalwart Three Tenets.   While I founded House Stalwart in World of Warcraft, the ethos that I helped foster has spanned so many games and will likely move into even more in the future.  My hope is that we will keep creating a connection that transcends the games we happen to be playing at the time.

If this type of environment sounds like a good fit for you, then please follow this link to our forums.  I created a brand new forum thread this morning, trying to gauge how many people we will have at launch.  If you have any issues setting up a forum account either drop me a line here, or ping me over twitter and I will see what I can do to assist you.  Also of note, we are primarily a Eastern Standard/Central Standard time zone guild, but have members with a pretty wide variety of playtimes.

Nightblade Finishing School

rift 2014-01-27 06-40-08-54 This weekend I also dipped my feet back into Rift spending a bit of time Saturday and Sunday working on my Nightblade.  I am not sure if I will ever make a third level 60, but I really do want to finish my rogue off who is currently sitting and 70% through 58.  While I enjoy the Storm Legion content on one level, on another it feels extremely grindy.  As such during the course of leveling Belghast to 60 I stalled out no less than four times.  Similarly Belgrave has stalled out quite a few in the process of getting this far along.  Maybe I am just spoiled by the brisk pace of leveling in games like World of Warcraft or even Final Fantasty XIV… but getting through Storm Legion feels like an absolute chore.  I do however really want to spend some time pushing through it.

This weekend I spent quite a bit of time doing Instant Adventures and they made the process feel a little less painful.  At some point I also want to spend some time in dungeons… but for whatever reason I seem to always get Stormbreaker Protocol… which for those not familiar with it is the Rift version of Oculus.  Essentially it is that one dungeon that makes almost the entire party disappear.  I feel like I really need to get adjusted to the Rift controls a bit more before stepping foot into a dungeon, though honestly I was killing things in Argent Domain last night as efficiently as I ever was.  More than anything with the impending release of 2.6, I want to dust off my Rift account and finally push the Nightblade across the finish line.