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

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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.

Player Taxonomy

This is the sixteenth post in my experimental “post every morning” scheme, and it represents the first true roadblock.  Up to this point, I had been posting about whatever was happening in my life, and namely whatever games I played the previous night.  The problem I have right now is that while I have plenty of awesome things to talk about from last night, I can’t speak a word about any of it.  I may or may not be under a pretty sizeable NDA.  So as a result I will be trying to find interesting things to talk about otherwise.

Player Taxonomy

I was having a discussion the other day with a good friend and we got into the whole dividing players into groups concept.  We often times have this notion that players are either hardcore or casual, and depending on which side of the divide you are on that other term becomes a slur against what you don’t enjoy.  He presented an interesting take on the divide, in that players are made up of multiple parts of different drives.  He broke things into 3 drives, but I have since expanded it into 4.

  • Casual – These players tend to play games on a very peripheral level.  They may play multiple titles, but not really get heavily involved in any one game.  They do not perform large amounts of research, even if it is a game they play very often.
  • Core – These players tend to get extremely invested in one or more games.  They may play multiple titles, but are more likely to dig into the theory and gameplay of one specific game.  They are likely to do large amounts of research on technique and related information.
  • Social – These players tend to be focused on the social aspect of gaming.  They are in games because their friends are playing them.  Their gaming experience revolves around interaction with their friends, and if enough of a critical mass of their community leaves the game they are likely to do so as well.
  • Solo – These players tend to prefer to do things alone, and while they may associate with communities they do so mostly for the benefits that being a member provides.  They will participate in group activities if there is a large benefit to doing so, but afterwards they often wander back off to doing solo content.

Essentially the theory is that we are all made up of these building blocks.  For example I tend to be Social-Core by nature in online games, but I will have large periods of being Solo-Core depending on if I am playing a game with a preformed community or not.  I crave the social connection of a community in an online game, however in the absence of it I tend to withdraw and not reach out to strangers.  I have tried to be Casual about games in the past but it rarely works, as I almost always end up digging deep into the minutia, figuring out mob spawn patterns, what the best drops are, and which areas I should be hunting.

There is a line of thinking that says that labels in gaming are a bad thing.  I agree to some extent, because the old social versus hardcore debate only really tells part of the story.  However the truth is that different kinds of players are motivated by different forces.  We need some kind of judgment free taxonomy to help understand what kind of a player someone is, and what they are looking for out of the online gaming experience.  I cannot claim the above is a new idea, as I got it from a conversation with a friend… and he cannot claim his ideas are new either because this is something that has been kicking around in the marketing side of the industry for several years.

I feel these building blocks do a pretty good job of modeling opposing forces, namely social tendencies versus solo tendencies, and casual tendencies versus core tendencies.  All that said I feel it is totally viable for someone to be social-casual-core striking a balance between really digging into a game and playing them on a superficial level.  The thing I have noticed over the years, is that most of the players that claim to be casual… myself included really dig deep into whatever game they happen to be playing.  They just may play lots and lots of games at the same time or serially.  I think it is an interesting discussion at least, and as a guild leader I have always tried to understand the drives of the people that I am trying to mold towards a specific goal.

Journey to Coldharbour

 

With all my personal posts and game log type posting, I have not had a chance to really mention this.  At the beginning of the month Zenimax released this video about Coldharbour the domain of Molag Bal.  I have to say right off the bat the footage from the video looks amazing.  I think it is awesome just how vastly different Coldhabour looks and feels from Deadlands the Oblivion plane belonging to Mehunes Dagon we experienced in Elder Scrolls VI: Oblivion.  It seems like the Dark Anchors that are mentioned are going to be similar to the Mehunes Oblivion gates.

I really look forward to seeing how all of this will really work in game play.  It seems like the anchors drop down from the sky, so I am wondering if they will be “Rift like” events that occur around the map, or static spawns.  The Elder Scrolls games have always had a certain measure of dynamic content, so it would be cool if the Anchors were this games answer to “Rifts”.  There really isn’t enough in the video to really make a call one way or another, but it is a super cool concept.  Every time they release one of these videos, I just want to play ANY Elder Scrolls game I can get my hands on.  Why hullo there Skyrim!

Wildstar: Devspeak Movement

 

So I am still on the fence about whether or not I care about Wildstar.  Firstly I have not had a great track record with me trying to get deeply involved in any Science Fiction based MMO.  They are awesome for awhile, but they seem to lack the stickiness with me that fantasy MMOs have had.  Secondly no matter how hard I try, I cannot seem to view this as anything other than a much higher resolution World of Warcraft.  There is a moment in this video that I immediately thought the guy was falling into Area 52 out in Netherstorm.  All of that said, the game does look much nicer in every department than WoW.

Range of motion in a video game is a huge thing.  If the combat animations feel clunky, the combat itself will feel clunky… as goes with the jumps, rolls, running animations etc.  This is a beautifully animated game, and the video really showcases that.  The big take away I always have from one of these videos however is just how amazing their Marketing and Communities are at engaging the public.  They do a phenomenal picture of painting a picture of the game and setting up an attitude that makes you want to play it.  I feel like this is going to be one of those titles that I will need to play before I can decide if I am going to look into it very seriously.

Aatrox, The Darkin Blade

Another nifty tidbit of information from yesterday, is that Riot games announced their next champion for League of Legends.  Basically it looks to be a badass AD melee character with life draining abilities.  Similar to Mordekaiser he uses a health spending mechanic to cast abilities.  You can click the picture, or this link to see a full breakdown of his abilities.  At first glance he kind of feels like a fusion of Mordekaiser and Zac, so will be interesting to see how he plays.

Initially I thought… hell yeah, badass demon dude with a molten sword and wings!  But ultimately I am really not sure if this is a “Bel” character or not.  So far I have not really enjoyed playing Mordekaiser, because his mechanic feels super “fiddly”.  I don’t really like champions that are very “do this one thing, so you can do this other thing or you die” in their ability set up.  I admit it, I am totally a barbarian and like simple gameplay…  think Garen, Wukong and Darius.  When I play a game, I am about as subtle as dropping a piano on someone.  I feel like even though he looks awesome, and I like his abilities (other than the health spending mechanic) he will definitely be a “try before I buy” character.

Adventures in Legally Viable Posting

So I have managed to weave together a post this morning after all, and this makes me happy.  I was afraid that my certain restrictions would dry up the well of rambling, but I have managed to grab a few things I thought was cool out of the air and cram them into a single posting.  Not that my nightly rundown posts are all that exciting in the first place, but hopefully folks won’t mind these posts every now and then when I am bound not to talk about the previous night.  I hope you guys have a great Friday, and that it is the gateway to a really amazing weekend.  We are going to be super busy this weekend finishing up the game loft, so wish me luck!

Forever Downwards

It’s a rainy Thursday morning here in Oklahoma, and it took everything I had to pull myself away from the covers.  The constant rhythm of the rain was absolutely intoxicating, and was calling me to stay in bed and sleep.  Unfortunately with my boss still out, I am thrust into the role of his proxy and end up having to attend all the meetings he was supposed to attend.  The biggest positive however is that since it is Thursday, there is only one more day in the week.

Rewarding Exploration

rift.exe 2013-5-8-17-30-41-624

One of the things that the Elder Scrolls games have taught me is to explore every corner of the map.  You never know where something extremely cool is hiding.  I’ve always appreciated it when a game likewise rewards players for getting “off the path”.  When Rift launched, it quickly became known for all the explorer moments that occurred on the tops of mountains, bottoms of the ocean and forgotten dungeons.  There were a number of things that could only be found by straying from the path.

I can still remember the first time I stumbled onto a puzzle, or a cairn and remembering how cool that felt to have found something in the game on my own.  It also reinforced the gameplay style of wandering all over the map looking for possible Easter eggs.  From that point onwards I was traipsing across the tops of mountains, just because I could and just to see if there might be something to be gained from doing so.  I have been glad to see that Storm Legion if anything has ramped this instinct up.

Forever Downwards

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Yesterday I stumbled onto a hidden path and experienced one of the coolest of these “Explorer Moments”.  I had been doing a few quests in what appeared to be a partially submerged Brevanic ruins.  Leading off to the side of the entrance tunnel was a non-descript path that truncated in a flooded room.  This just screamed to be explored, so I started swimming downwards into the abyss.  The tunnel continued to wind downwards through bend after bend, with no sign of stopping.

I had been through what felt like a dozen of these turns when I reached the point of no return.  My breath meter was at the halfway point, and I decided to push on ahead…  because surely there had to be a reason for the tunnel to exist even if it was just an instance zone in.  At roughly the 1/4 of my breath bar mark, I noticed the tunnel straightening out and a break in the water leading up into a chamber.

The Patient Sentinel

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Upon breaking out of the water and entertaining the chamber, I was rewarded with an achievement: Deep Learning.  Across the room waiting on me, was a holographic construct with a quest, and a lever that appeared to enable a teleport to the surface.  The quest was actually part of a chain, and ultimately lead to some pretty cool storyline.  To me however, the coolest piece of this whole experience is that now I apparently have permanent teleport access back down into the bowels of the Storm Legion base.

It is little moments like this that make games worth playing.  This type of stuff is why the Elder Scrolls and Fallout games are so much like crack for me.  There is always something cool off on the horizon, that I know I can go over to and explore.  Rift does a really good job of lacing the gameplay with little discoveries that you can only find if you deviate off the path. 

ARAMination

Originally I had plans to run dungeons with the Alea Iacta Est folks, but as the night wore on my friend Plasmodia to to feeling woozy.  Seems as though her supervisor had brought back some form of the “convention crud” and she was beginning to run a decent fever.  We all agreed that she should be ushered off to bed, but with that we had lost our tank but more importantly our 4th member.  I have not minded our instance runs where we pugged a single person in, but the more you add the more unpredictable the process becomes.

Throughout the week my friends have been diligently playing League of Legends matches every night, and I’ve felt bad for not joining them.  In large part I had been coaxed into playing the game, so that I could be a stable fifth player for them.  With my resurgence of Rift, I have been anything but that.  I think part of the issue is that I just do not like the game nearly as much as they all seem to.  I have fun, and it is enjoyable when I am playing with a full group of friends, but I am often times thinking about other games.

Not Competitive Enough

This shows badly in my game play, and my lack of improvement.  I am not super competitive, and I just don’t seem to get the adrenaline rush they all do from killing other players.  When we have scrimmaged against each other, I have enjoyed beating someone I know far more than I have enjoyed beating any of the random players.  I have learned to assimilate a lot of the language and phrasing that has come with the game, but it rarely if ever is the thing I am looking to discuss as a group.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the game and I enjoy playing with my friends when we play the game together.  However I just find myself lacking caring about things like build order, and last hitting, and all the other trappings that come along with the game.  I have watched a friend go from not knowing the game exists, to super hardcore about it, and all the while I am just struggling to understand why anyone would play the game if not for others.

The prime example of this difference really came up last night.  We had managed to pull out a “back door” victory in the ARAM gameplay mode.  What this means is a player hides in the bushes from the other team, and then when they are charging down the lane, sneaks back and takes out their nexus ending the match.  It essentially catches the other team with their pants down, and steals a win.  It is extremely cool when it happens for your side, and extremely defeating when you have it happen to you.

A Difference in Motivation

After this whole chain of events, while I thought it was cool… she was talking about how pumped she was and that she would not be able to sleep after that.  I seem to lack that adrenaline rush entirely, because while it was nifty that we had won, and I was proud of her for her maneuvering…  it was just another match to me.  The problem is, because of this lack of adrenaline and craving for victory… I still make the same bad decisions and still fall for the same traps.  Winning the map just doesn’t mean that much to me.

This is my problem in every game I have tried to do any player versus player gameplay.  I just don’t care about the outcome as much as other players do.  When there is not a direct correlation between money and loot on the line, winning over another player for sheer bragging rights doesn’t mean much of anything to me.  Now on the other hand, I have always had the drive to push to kill that raid boss, or clear that raid instance… because I knew there was a chance at tangible goodies awaiting me.

While I try my best not to be, I am very loot driven.  If you lay out three paths before me…  one gives tokens, one gives nice gear, and the other lots of experience…  I will always go for the one that gives the nice gear.  One of the reasons why I have so much bloodlust in these games and literally kill everything walking, is I know that any single mob could have the chance of dropping something really cool.  When you remove loot from the equation, you remove a ton of my motivation to achieve.

Since I am very focused on improving my character through gear… League of Legends feels like rerolling a new character, getting it to level 10, and then rerolling something else… over and over and over.  You never reach that point that you can do amazing things, because you’ve built up your character in the process.  I think the methodology of the game works and levels the playing field for all players.  But the fact that I start over at square one in each match really drops my enjoyment whether or not I want it to.

Rambled Long Enough

Well I’ve rambled on at length about League of Legends, and how generally ill suited I am for the game.  The tail end of this post feels like me thinking through things on paper.  I enjoy League still when we have a voice server full of people playing together, but if given a choice I will always choose to play an MMO.  I just feel extremely bad for abandoning my friends, when they really have needed a stable fifth person.  Looking at my calendar, it looks like today is going to be super busy with my boss being out of the office.  I hope all of you out there have great days that are far less stressful than mine looks to be.

Specimen Captured

This is day eight of my experiment, and this is the first day I really don’t know what to write about.  I knew this day would come sooner or later, as writers block is almost always the headsman’s axe for my blog.  I think it could be a bunch of separate things happening all at once.  Firstly it has gone from sunny and 80* here in Oklahoma, to dark, dreary and 35*.  On top of this, I have a big server move scheduled for 10pm Saturday evening that I am fairly nervous about.

Hellbug Rally

rift 2013-05-01 17-58-53-39Pretty much my overarching mission for the day was to try and get one of the Hellbugs before the crossover event disappeared.  For those who are not familiar with them, the Hellbug is one of the archetypal creatures in the new Trion Worlds and SyFy game/show combo…  Defiance.  They remind me of a cacodemon from Doom… with legs.  Right now in rift, there seems to be a one in five shot of any spawning fire rift being a “Invasive Species” Hellbug rift.  Granted this is completely through incidental observance and is “not a real number”.

The big problem I have had is that I have no clue where the best place is to FIND Hellbug rifts .  Wednesday night I devoted a bit of time to farming Fire rifts, and never even saw a single one.  Thursday at lunch and early evening, I ping ponged between the level 50 top end zones, namely Shimmersand and managed to see three… and in most cases those were just as they were closing.

ARAM Strikes Back

After a few hours of this, mumble was filling up and I needed a break from the skull drudgery of killing closing “not hellbug rifts”.  When we had four people online, I got coaxed into doing an ARAM map over in League of Legends.  I had initially thought that Tam was going to queue us up for another 2v2 battle… but much to my surprise we were going out into the main queue.  We picked up a 5th random, with whom I traded Jayce for Volibear that apparently we were both more comfortable with… and we proceeded into the map.

The takeaway is that I still suck at League of Legends.  I had a good time and it was a close map but honestly there is still so much of the time I am running around not really knowing quite what to do.  Playing a full on melee support character against a bunch of ranged characters is one of those situations.  I like everything about Voli, but he is definitely a “set someone else up for the kill” character.  I never could seem to get in sync with the other players on the map.

After that we played a couple of Summoners Rift maps, mostly to get various friends their kill of the day bonus.  On the first I played Darius, who is still brutal and awesome to play.  On the second I played my current favorite, Wukong and did sizably worse.  I played a bit too aggressive a bit too early and wound up underfed for most of the map.  After that I was just playing catch up trying to eat all the minions I could.  I still have not gotten terribly good at “last hitting” and ended up with way too many minions wasted.

Specimen Captured

2013-05-02_225242After those last few maps, I decided I would head back downstairs and work towards my goal of capturing the illusive Hellbug.  Shortly after logging into my account on my laptop, I noticed a player asking for more for a Hellbug Raid group.  I figured… sure what the hell, it is not like I had been having much luck on my own.  I made my way to City Core, and after a few minutes received a player summon directly into the heart of an Invasive Species rift.

The cool thing about the Raid, is that they seemed to have found a pattern where one had not existed before.  We systematically crossed the zone hitting various Fire rifts, with about every third one seeming to be a Hellbug rift.  It all felt very reminiscent of trying to spawn the “Ancient Cyclops” in South Ro… but the raid leader seemed to know what he was doing.  At the very least it did not involve killing every other mummy or some nonsense like that.

It was round about my fifth Hellbug rift that two things happened.  Firstly upon closing my Fifth Rift I got an achievement: When Worlds Collide which apparently happens after reaching the final stage of five of these new rifts.  Additionally the achievement nets you the very cool <Ark Hunter> title.  Upon receiving my loot, I also noticed that I had acquired a Skittering Hellbug (rifthead does to appear to have parsed yet).  Based on discussions with some of my G+ Rift friends, I got extremely lucky to get the mount this soon.

Based on the write-up over on Rift Scene that I linked the other day, it appears that Skittering Hellbug and Skritt pet are the green quality items and red in appearance,  Gulanite Hellbug and Burple are the blue quality items and purple in appearance, and finally Toxic Hellbug is the purple quality item and green in appearance.  I have no clue if there is also a Toxic Hellbug pet as well, especially since Rifthead lacks any of these items right now.  The Toxic Hellbug is rare enough, that in the rift raid, and tempest bay I have yet to see one.

Hellbug of a Different Color

I had quite a lot of fun once I managed to get into a viable rolling raid.  I hope to join up again tonight and try my luck at getting one of the other colors and at least one of the companions.  While I doubt if a hellbug would ever replace my Snogs, I am a total sucker for pets and mounts.  Additionally, I really need to make my way back out to Ember Isle, especially now that it is no longer as heavily farmed and see if I can find any of the other rares.

While I didn’t much feel like writing, I guess I was able to force myself through the process and write anyway.  I guess I can throw writing in the same bin with “parties”, in that they greatly stress me out and I try and avoid them… but if I actually attend I usually have a good time.  I’ve been enjoying writing to you, my mythical audience.  It is always interesting writing something, knowing it is going to go out into public…  but also knowing that it is highly unlikely to actually garner any comments.

If you’ve made it this far… I hope you all have a great day, and I hope it is followed by an even better start of the weekend.  I have no clue what we are going to be doing, but based on the pile of laundry and the state of our house it will involve some cleaning.  I know at some point soon I have to get cable run to a couple of rooms, which will involve making sure nothing is in the way.  It has been interesting getting past the initial seven days…  I have no clue how long I will actually be able to keep this going.

Breaching the Core

One of the pains of living in Oklahoma is the shifting weather patterns.  Last night when I went to bed it was roughly 80* and this morning as I am waking up it is 45*.  At this point I wish it would just pick a season and go with it, because flipping back and forth between heat and air conditioning is a pain in the butt.  Despite the weather annoyances, yesterday went pretty awesome for me.  I had two fairly huge meetings, both of which went extremely well, and the roadmap I had slaved over was well accepted.

Hellbugs on my yard

Yesterday it was announced in the patch notes that a new kind of Fire Rift was opening up in Telara.  These “Invasive Species” rifts have a chance of dropping either the hellbug mount pictured above, or a hellbug companion pet.  Rift Scene has a good writeup by Cupcakes about the event, and last night I started to see players on these new mounts showing up in Tempest Bay.  It was late in the night and I honestly forgot to take a screenshot, so I am doing something I dislike doing and linking to the Rift Scene image for reference… hopefully I have given sufficient credit.

I spent the better part of the evening roaming around trying to find one of these Hellbug rifts.  After roaming around Morban, Kingsward, and eventually several old world areas I came up completely empty handed.  Going to need to do some research to see where they are more likely to spawn.  I really want either the purple one, or the super rare green one.  While I played enough defiance to know it was not really a game for me, I am all about cross overs and new mounts.

A.R.A.M.

I popped onto mumble, and after a bit of chatting with my friends and listening to their banter about League of Legends, I allowed myself to get drawn in for a quick map.  I was reintroduced to the concept of A.R.A.M. aka All Random All Murderbridge.  We had done this the night before, but I didn’t realize it was an actual “thing”.  Apparently the Howling Abyss really wants me to play Nunu, because once again I got him assigned to me as my random champion.

I promise Nunu is not like the only champion I have unlocked.  The game should have been able to pick from Alistair, Annie, Ashe, Darius, Garen, Graves, Jayce, Kennen, Olaf, Shen, Tristana, Udyr or Wukong… but instead in both cases it picked Nunu which is part of the weeks free rotation.  Apparently it thinks I need more Yeti in my life.  Moaning aside, I have to say I am finally feeling like I am getting used to him.

Once again ARAM assigned us one champion that we were familiar with and one that we were not per team.  So it essentially ended up with Tam playing Morgana vs Rae playing Nidalee…  and then Drathis trying to play Alistair vs me trying to play Nunu.  It was a really good match and we had a “no towers down” stalemate at midbridge for most of the map.

Tam and I actually managed to make a break, get a 15 minute into the game double kill, and drop two towers.  Then all hell broke loose as my shitty DSL internet connection fell apart.  My ping climbed up to 500, then 1500, then 3500 and disconnected me from the game.  At which point we never really recovered.  In true sportsmanlike tradition, Drathis and Rae asked if they should hang back until my connection stabilized but we urged them onwards… since a map against friends is a map against friends.

Breaching the Core

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I wrote about this the other day, but over the weekend Plasmodia and I had talked about trying to pull together some groups on Wednesday nights.  We had set a startup time of 9pm Central, and after my one ARAM map it was getting close to the meet up time.  We managed to pull together a really solid core of a team, and they were totally willing to run non-elite dungeons so my nub arse could join in.  We ended up with Plasmodia tanking, Marklaar running support, me dpsing, and Aleriase healing.  This left us only needing a single dps, so the queue times were near instantaneous. 

We got assigned Empyrean Core, which a few of us had never seen before.  The zone itself was amazingly beautiful, full of super intricate widgets and bobbles.  The thing that really surprised me however was just how challenging the dungeon still was.  Previously the Elites were super hard, but the normal dungeons were a bit faceroll-y once you actually managed to hit cap.  Last night I was the only under level player, and it each of the boss rights were still rather challenging.

We ended up doing two runs last night, and getting assigned Empyrean Core both times (apparently this is a problem in Rift).  I had a complete and total blast, and hanging out with the Alea Iacta Est rift contingency was awesome.  Aleriase mentioned that they had been trying to start doing group nights both Tuesday and Wednesday, so I am completely down with doing more of this in the future.  I am not sure if we will regenerate the numbers needed to raid, but any kind of grouping with friends is always a positive.

Dungeoneering Challenge

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I had almost forgotten just how much I have missed running challenging content with friends.  I have been in a real lull of good group content of late.  The last time I feel like I was truly challenged in a dungeon was back in The Secret World, running the Nightmare mode content with the friends I have been playing League with.  The content was brutal, we had to constantly think on our feet, but the adjustment process was a blast.

I had hoped that with Pandaria we would at least have a period of time when heroic content was an actual challenge.  But from the first night, we essentially steamrolled the dungeons we ran in greens and a smattering of quested blues.  I think in part that is a good reason why I got bored of WoW so quickly this time around.  WoW for whatever reason has forgotten how to be challenging, without resorting to random or downright “Cheap Shot” tactics.  Random chance that a mob kills you outright, or does something so horrible you just can’t recover is not challenging, it is just annoying.

If I can actually muster a regular group in Rift, I can see myself sticking around for awhile.  In these games I am happiest when the groups come easily, and we can go off and smash baddies together each night.  I get bored and slog down when the grouping stops, and my only option becomes pugging.  So much of the grouping experience… are the people you experience it with.  In most cases, I would rather not play a game at all than to deal with pugs.

Tiny Two-hander

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Last night gathered up some much needed gear for 60 through the various dungeon runs.  One of the few pieces that I could actually equip now, is a Protector’s Sword of Slaying pictured above.  This was a pretty massive upgrade over the two level 58 green one-handers I was using, but as you can see above, the scale feels a wee bit small for a Bahmi.  Maybe I am just used to the final fantasy-esc big dude with an even bigger sword trope that wow ran with, but it is just too “normal” for me to feel epic about it.

I will say though it has been fun trying to two-hander.  I’ve always gravitated towards dual wield, and in the original rift game what kind of weapons you wielded really mattered for your soul.  As such I always gravitated towards paragon heavy souls, which were the dual wield tree.  I had not however played around with a two-hander since they made it no longer matter what weapon you were wielding with which soul.  That alone has been fun and well worth any wipes that happened in the core.

I am really hoping that over the next few days, I can use this sword as a dowsing rod to help me find some of those hellbug rifts.  I would really love to have one of those mounts, and I have missed out on so many other cool mounts thanks to my bad luck and my wanderlust.  I am super grateful to my guildies for pulling together the groups last night.  I had a blast and look forward to doing it again. 

I see my time is running short, and my coffee has run out.  If you’ve made it down this far in the post… I wish you the best of days.  I will have to pull my coat back out of the closet as I go off to work, but I am hoping that by the weekend it will be warm again.  Hopefully it is pleasant wherever you are.

Wukong is super annoying

Yesterday more than mildly sucked.  While I was blogging in the morning, just after posting it… I managed to stub my toe hard enough on something sharp under my desk… that it caused a chunk of my toenail to chip off and a little bout of excessive bleeding.  After that my stomach pretty much bothered me all day long, and I tagged out of work around noon.  I worked remotely the rest of the day trying to catch up and prepare for big releases on Thursday and Saturday.

Escapist Thwarted

All of this, combined with trying to come up with a new way to circumvent my ninja ferret caused me to get a later than normal start on evening relaxation time.  On the ferret note, our current solution seems to be working… and I am breathing at least a minor sigh of relief.  We have a drop ceiling in our kitchen, circa 1980, with those massive semi-opaque sheets of plastic covering fluorescent lighting.  Over the years the 1980s plastic has fallen apart, and we have had to replace them on a piecemeal basis.

We had just finished doing this, and still had the leftover bits in the kitchen when a stroke of brilliance hit.  Basically Miss Bellatrix is getting out by climbing the corner with the litter box.  We surmised that if she did not have a foothold, she couldn’t get out.  So essentially we have taken two sheets of this plastic covering and clipped it onto the wire with binder clips from the backside, so that it presents a sheer face for her to try and climb.

Based on last night, and the fact we left her out over night as an experiment…  and she is still pouncing around the playpen this morning…  I would say the experiment worked.  The funny thing is, I think she just tries to escape out of boredom.  She sleeps far less than the other two ferrets, and when she has gotten out she tried to crawl up into bed with us. 

My theory was that she was bored and looking for someone to play with… she often tries to wake the other two ferrets up to play.  So the whole escape thing is kind of adorable… but something we had to nip in the bud, because our house is just too dangerous for her.  We have an open living room, that spans 2 stories, and a second floor balcony that overlooks it.  It is just too likely that she will wander up there and try and take a swan dive off.

Freljord Rising

 

Yesterday was a big day for new content releases.  In Everquest 2 you had the Game Update 66 launch, and with it the launch of the Cobalt Scar area.  Neverwinter Online of course launched to the public, and has been riddled with issues at least with the patcher.  Early in the evening I decided to fire up the client and log in, and was greeted by a roughly 8000 player queue.  So it appears that the launch is at least popular, but then again most MMO launches are. 

The content launch I ended up playing last night however is League of Legends and its patch 3.6.  The big event with the patch is a massive re-ordering of the champion lore in Freljord and the release of a brand new champion…  Lissandra The Ice Witch.  I would highly suggest watching the above video if you are interested, but the basics are that the Freljord is now divided into three warring clans:  The Avarosans lead by Ashe, The Winter’s Claw lead by Sejuani and the Frostguard lead by Lissandra.

With the focus on Freljord and its lore, this week all of the free rotation champions are somehow connected to this effort.  With it, there is a much more sweeping sale going on in the store, with ALL Freljord champions costing both reduced RP and IP.  Additionally there are some nifty new skins available, my personal favorite is Runeguard Volibear.  I already really liked playing Voli, but this skin just makes him look even more badass.

Sucking Less

It was pretty late by the time I had gotten around to actually doing much of anything, and since I had not played League for roughly a week… I decided to join in the festivities there.  While waiting on our group to filter into mumble, we decided to do a little 2 v 2 “Murder Bridge” aka Howling Abyss.  To be extra griefy…  Tam decided to set us up for a random champions match.  By the artwork above you can see that I got stuck with NuNu.  What essentially happened is two players got champions they were familiar and decent with, and two completely random picks they had never played.

Making it even more hilarious was the fact that we ended up with four melee champions.  The teams broke down like this:  Myself playing Nunu and Drathis playing Tryndamere against Tam playing Warwick and Ashgar playing Udyr.  My big takeaway from playing Nunu is that his frostbolt is without a doubt one of the most griefy pokes I have seen in the game, especially on a map that includes nothing but melee that have no solid ways of closing the gap. 

We lost rather spectacularly in part because Drathis ended up spending most of the map pretty underfed, which as a carry caused him never quite to reach his potential.  Also…  Ashgar is really really good at Udyr, a champion he was super familiar with and rather skilled.  It was hilarious for Tam and I however, because really Nunu and Warwick are much much not our kind of champions… much laughing ensued.

Wukong is super annoying

After our quick murder bridge, we somehow jumped from four players online to eight and decided to do a 4v4 Summoners Rift.  After the ickyness of playing Nunu, a champion that I absolutely hate when playing against him… I decided to climb back into the warmth of what has become my favorite champion…  Wukong.  When playing against each other, it is always interesting.  Some of us, Rae especially, seem to have a problem killing friends, and you can almost hear her audibly cringe each time she does it.  Others like Ashgar and I seem to set up and develop a friendly rivalry, which unfortunately causes us to deathmatch more than we should.

Another thing I am learning, is that apparently I am super annoying playing Wukong.  Ashgar and I both ended up as solo tops, which pitted Wukong against Fizz…  both of which are super bursty and super pouncy champions.  For the most part we traded blows back and forth, but once I had gotten fed I seemed to start winning these little battles.  Apparently my Ultimate ability is super overpowered, and after a few interludes where I went through the jungle to help out in another lane…  it seemed my dear friends started hunting for me.

At one point they boxed me in, as two came down from base and the other two came from the river and completely wrecked me.  It is funny to listen to your friends reacting to the decoy ability, and finding out that it is not the real you they just killed.  I have to say if I were up against Wukong I would probably focus fire him as well.  The game felt like a tale of two games, the first when I was super fed and able to pick off players with impunity, and the second when said players realized what was going on and started gunning for me.

Champion Testing

After the mega 4v4 battle, we had a few more players filter off and we fired up a Summoner’s Rift vs bots to test out various champions folks had wanted to play.  I got to play Olaf, which I played extremely differently than I expected…  but was really enjoyable nonetheless.  In addition, I finally got to play Mordekaiser, which is NOT as fun as he looks… and most definitely not a “Belghast” champion.  I think I could get used to him, but I feel like I need to do a lot of reading first.

Was a fun evening all around, and I got to play several characters that I had never played before.  I am of mixed opinions on my Nunu experience, I was told by my friends that I played him pretty effectively, but overall it just felt so odd to me.  He also feels like one of the most griefy champions I have seen, with the frost ball and his ultimate…  so many ways to slow the player and do large amounts of damage to them in the process.  I could see maybe picking him up and trying him again.

If you aren’t regularly playing, I highly suggest you hop in during the Freljord launch event.  There is a much better assortment of killer champions in the free rotation this week than normal.  Or at least, there are more champions I was wanting to play, and most of them on a significant sale.  If you’ve made it this far in the post, I hope you guys continue having an awesome week.  Today is a super stressful day for me, delivering my mobile web roadmap, so hopefully that will go well.  More than anything, I think the document is designed to be big, and sit on a table during the meeting saying “look we thought about this shit”.

The Grand Experiment

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

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

Cute and Potentially Disturbing

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

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

The rewards presently available that you should check out…

The Monkey King

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

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

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

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

Classic “Home” Tour

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

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

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

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

A Wild Blog Post Appeared

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

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

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

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