Date with Dragons

Feeding Tradeskills

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Last night was a prime night for faffing.  I started the evening by doing my semi-regular ghost iron farming run to feed my daily cooldowns on my blacksmith, engineer and transmuter.  I have figured out that it is just simply easier to farm up a bunch of ghost iron and then turn around the transmute it to trillium than trying to play the mining lottery to get equal amounts of black and white trillium.  In about 15-20 minutes I can farm up a big stack of ore and then funnel that off to each of the professions so I can do my daily crafts.  Right now I am funneling all these resources towards two things.  Firstly I am stockpiling materials so that I can make myself a Sky Golem, which when I saw it I knew I had to have one.

Secondly I am stockpiling the rare smithing material in order to make the tanky belt… the only problem is I have yet to unlock the tanky belt through the daily crafts.  As a result I have more than enough Balanced Trillium Ingot’s to make one, but I figure I can use items for all of my melee characters.  So this becomes a daily disappointment as I log in and craft an ingot only to see that I did not yet learn the Protector’s Trillium Waistguard.  I could craft the legs, but that would currently break up my four piece set bonus…  so that is not a thing I am willing to do just yet.

Date with Dragons

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Once I finished with my tradeskills I worked my way through the daily Netherwing quests.  Curently I am a good way into revered so here is hoping by the end of the week I will be zipping around on a new flight of Netherwing drakes.  Honestly I am mostly doing this for the fact that it adds 6 mounts to my grand total, and less that I actually think I will use one of the drakes.  Back in the day I never did the quest chain because I thought they looked goofy.  For whatever reason I cannot look at a Netherwing drake without thinking of a shark because of the way their nose is shaped.  Right now my absolute favorite dragon seems to be the one I picked up from Stonecore.  To be honest farming up the Vitreous Stone Drake was far easier than I could have imagined, since it drops on normal mode.

I finished off the night running Onyxia a few times, with no luck on getting that mount, and then popped into Blackwing Lair with a friend.  While I really like the blue judgment set that came from the opening of Wrath of the Lich King event… I would still like to own a full set of the original Judgment.  As a result I have been clearing Blackwing Lair weekly trying for the various visual pieces.  So far I only have the chest and shoulders, but that doesn’t leave that many visual pieces left, one of which I will hopefully get from Onyxia.  Mostly since my paladin is now a Dranei, and boots no longer show up…  I am mostly trying for the gloves.  While I got no judgment, I did manage to get my mage friend robes and shoulders for his set.

Zoning Out

I am guessing that I did not get a very good nights sleep last night, because as I sit here writing this mornings post I find myself constantly zoning out.  I can seem to only manage a paragraph before my mind starts wandering again.  As a result I think I am going to cut this off here a bit abruptly.  I am still feeling a bit under the weather and yesterday it felt like maybe I pushed myself a little too far.   I went through a flurry of activity when I got home, and crashed in my recliner shortly after and was pretty much useless the rest of the night.  I was offered spots on two different raids last night, and I ended up turning both down because I just didn’t feel like I could give vaguely close to my normal effort.  I feel like I made the right choice, but hopefully I did not put off the people who offered me a spot from future offerings.

Goodbye Cataclysm

Feeling Human

This morning is the first day in a long while that I have felt pretty decent.  I went to bed around 9:30, but had to get right back up shortly after and deal with one of our ferrets.  Our “old man” had made a horrendous mess of himself and as a result we decided there was more there than could be cleaned up with wet wipes.  As a result we gave him an impromptu bath and then made sure to get some nutrients down him.  We really need to talk to the vet about him, because at this point I am not really sure how good of quality of life he is really having.  One of his two back legs just simply doesn’t work right most of the time.  He will be just fine one moment, and then the next he will be tripping all over himself.  Which is something we went through with his brother bandit when he got insulinoma… for which there really is no course of treatment in a ferret that old.

Even with the last minute excitement last night, I did still manage to make it to bed before 10 and slept through the entire night.  I woke up a few minutes before the alarm was set to go off this morning, so I got a wee bit of a head start on the day.  Right now I am feeling rather chipper, but I am sure that will be quelled as I actually get to work and see whatever stacked up yesterday while I was gone.  I am looking forward to feeling human again, so here is hoping it lasts.  Since I’ve gone over 48 hours without developing a fever, I am assuming that I am not contagious.  My wife went to work yesterday and came home completely drained, so I am figuring that will also be the case for me.  As a result I really don’t have much plans for doing anything when I get home but crashing.

Goodbye Cataclysm

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I really did not do much of any consequence last night.  It came time for our Monday night flex raid and I just was not capable of concentrating.  Instead I continued to piddle around on Belglorian my Discipline Priest.  I have decided that the thing I enjoy about Discipline is that they are kind of the “tanks” of cloth wearers.  So long as I keep my shield up on myself, I can survive damned near anything and eventually win the fight…. albeit extremely slowly.  The thing I did not realize however was just how much splash healing I was throwing around.  One of the early Pandaria quests involves reviving a bunch of pilots that crashed landed in amongst a bunch of orcs.  As I was working on killing the orcs I kept noticing that I was getting credit for reviving pilots.

I thought that maybe the quest was bugged and I was getting credit for another player reviving them in the vicinity.  As I got closer to one and started nuking away with smite I noticed that I kept healing the NPCs.  I am sure this will sound insane to most people but you have to understand… my priest was my free level 80 character I made when I accepted a scroll of resurrection.  I am the future of our game… a high level player with no real clues about how the class works.  Initially I had planned on leveling as shadow, but when a friend told me about the sheer survive of Discipline I made the switch without much effort put into researching the spec.  It was one of those things that just worked, and the gameplay seemed extremely simple.

The problem with being handed all of these tools is I have no clue what half of them do, especially the passives.  Sure I see pretty little icons proc at the top of my screen but I am far too busy killing things to actually hover over them and see what just happened.  Now I had the common sense to at least research spell rotation and things like that before sitting down and building my hotbars, you can guarantee that not every instant 90 will do the same.  Anyways enough of that old soap box, but I am the prime example of what happens when you hand someone a nearly fully leveled character.

Imperial Silk

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I will admit that I had no real plans to ever level a priest, and since I got a free level 80… I decided to make it a priest since that was the least likely for me to ever level.  One of the gaps that I decided to fill with this instant 80… was a Tailor.  So for while some time I was a level 80 priest sitting in Stormwind with capped out tailoring, and no real way to make the ever so spiffy imperial silk.  Sure I could have had someone summon me over to the Silken Fields, but that just seemed too cheesy even for me.  As a result I decided to level the priest so I could legitimately start making bags for my army of alts.  Funny thing is that somewhere along the way I actually started enjoying playing the class…  even though I am probably playing it wrong.  I like smiting things down while laughing off the damage I am taking with my shields.

Speaking of army of alts… I have to say having one of every crafting profession comes in really damned handy.  The moment I dinged 85… I went through a flurry of activity logging in and out various characters.  When I finished I had a complete set of Pandaria level armor, a new staff, and a new cloak… and as soon as I get to 87 I will make a new trinket.  I’ve decided to level up alchemy on this guy as well, so at some point I will feed him a bunch of herbs which should allow him to equip the alchemy trinket as well.  Mostly I am doing this so that I can have an elixir master as well as my transmute master.  I technically have a third alchemist, but I am not sure if it is worth having a potion master as well.  The only thing I can see myself making a lot of that might be worth it is Luck Potions.  Depending on how I feel tonight, I might farm up materials for a push through alchemy at all levels.

Forced Convalescence

Remnants of Flu

I have to say I feel horrible.  Saturday morning my wife was diagnosed with the flu, and at some point after that I started getting symptoms myself.  As a result I started my own dose of Tamiflu as well to try and keep things from developing into the full blown flu.  I think more or less I am keeping from falling deep into the recesses of fludom.  I am not running a fever, but I generally don’t run a fever ever.    I do however have full body aches and lots of coughing.  My wife has been trying to get me to sleep as much as I can, but that ends up causing more issues like not being able to sleep at night.

I did however take some Nyquil and it allowed me to sleep some, and I managed to stay in bed until after 9 am this morning.  Which is why you are getting my traditional post considerably later than normal.  At this point I am not really sure what I am going to talk about this morning since in my convalescence I really have not done anything terribly exciting.  I am expecting to be back at work tomorrow, since I doubt if I am contagious since it doesn’t seem like I have developed the full blown thing…  just some kind of touch of it.  I guess I am just left with the whole feeling miserable thing.

Forced Convalescence

chromecast_1_solo-100047456-large One of the cool doodads that I picked up over the break is a Google Chromecast.  Previously we had been a Roku household and both the living room and the bedroom televisions had the original Roku model hooked to them.  While there was nothing wrong with these models, and we had gotten more than our fair share of use from them… over time they began to feel a little clunky.  When Chromecast added support for Plex I started seriously plotting the move to the nifty $35 Google Dongle.  After about a week of using the one in the livingroom, I popped back out to  best buy and picked up a second dongle for the bedroom TV.  Luckily at that point I seemed to catch a sale on them and snagged the second for only $29.

What is cool about it is that streaming to the Chromecast seems to work equally well from my Toshiba Android tablet and my wife’s iPad 2.  So she has been using it to stream exercise videos in the bedroom, and in my forced state of convalescence I have been using it to stream Lost Girl over Netflix.  I have to say that show is far better than I ever expected it to be.  Lost Girl was always a show I caught a few minutes of before watching Being Human.  After spending some time with it over the last couple days I have to say I am enjoying it quite a bit.  The characters are really engaging and I love Kenzi to pieces.

Disciple of Discipline

Wow-64 2014-01-13 11-15-07-82 The other thing I have been doing during my upright periods, is working on leveling my priest.  So far I have taken my shortcut through cataclysm.  Essentially I start in hyjal and do the first few quest chains in deepholme until I ding 83.  At that point I switch to Uldum and quest along until I hit 84… immediately switching to Twilight Highlands which usually dings 85 before I have gotten very far into it.  Sure it is pure hell on quest completion, but usually my goal is to get the hell out of Cataclysm as quickly as possible.  Burning Crusade used to be the content I avoided like the plague, but quite honestly I find it more enjoyable than I do the Cata content.  Ultimately my goal is to get to Pandaria as fast as I can, because other than a few bum quest chains I greatly prefer that content.

Additionally I am still working on the Netherwing faction on Belgrave.  Right now I am roughly halfway to revered so it feels like I am actually making progress.  Yesterday I stumbled my way through all of the flight quests out there, which are admittedly ridiculously easy now since it seems near impossible for one of the NPCs to actually knock you off your mount these days.  I figure at this point I have a few more weeks of daily quests and then I will be the proud owner of a new batch of netherwing mounts.  Right now I would trade all the progress in for just feeling better.  On that note I think I am going to cut this off and go be comatose a bit longer.

SteamWorld Dig

Steampowered Sunday #1

This is the beginning of a brand new segment for my blog.  In truth for awhile now I have been trying to come up with a good way to start this feature.  Originally I was going to call it “Sunday Indie Sunday” but that never really got off the ground.  The idea behind Steampowered Sunday is really simple.  Over the years I have built up a large backlog of titles from steam sales and the various humble bundles that I have never actually played or at the very least not really played enough to feel like I have given the game its due. 

My goal is to grab a “new to me” game each Sunday and give it a decent amount of play time.  Afterwards of course I will be writing a blog entry about the game.  This isn’t necessarily a review, but more my thoughts and impressions about the game play I just experienced.  My friends are already talking about griefing me by adding more games to my list.  So we will see how far I can actually make a dent and if I can actually keep up with this feature.

Steamworld Dig

2014-01-12_00001 The first title to explore seemed like an obvious pick… since the feature is called Steampowered Sunday, then why not delve into a game called Steamworld Dig.  This however is a playthrough that almost didn’t happen.  It seems that I found a bug in FRAPs, that no one really expected.  It seems as though frap is configured to ignore Steam, and instead of correctly searching for steam.exe in memory, they are just ignoring any process with steam in the title.  As a result…  SteamWorld Dig seems to be incompatible with fraps.  Luckily I remembered that you can also take screenshots through the steam overlay with f12.  While this is not exactly what I like to do… as I tend to disable screenshot functionality and have fraps do all the work… that way all of my screenshots end up in the same directory…  I made do.

2014-01-12_00004 I picked up Steamworld Dig some time ago during one of those insane steam sales.  Basically if it is a game that I have been wanting and it drops at or below $5 then it is pretty much an instant buy for me.  I know sooner or later I will get around to playing it, and especially now with this new Sunday feature.  The premises is deceptively simple…  Metroid-Vania with Mining.  In the game you play a robot miner who is coming to Tumbltown to follow in the footsteps of his uncle.  The uncle had the claim on the mine directly below the town, and as such your are exploring the mine looking for resources and upgrades.

2014-01-12_00009  The game employs an inventory system that looked deceptively like Minecraft, but in reality at least to the point at which I have played, you can only remove blocks, you cannot ever replace them other than with ladders that can be purchased for 5 coins each.  The result is that initially you can only store quantities of three different ores at the same time.  This quickly becomes an issue as before getting very deep you are regularly getting half a dozen different ores.  This involves a lot of running back and forth to the surface to sell your wares in the little town.  Each time you sell you are working towards an upgrade threshold cap.  Each time you earn a certain amount of money you unlock additional new upgrades.

2014-01-12_00013 The upgrades are then purchased with the coins you are earning from selling ore.  Initially you have access to the trading post and Cranky’s upgrade store, but I am assuming much like Bastion that over time other places may open for business.  The first upgrade you can get is to your pick axe which similar to upgrades in Minecraft allows you to mine existing ore types faster, and the ability to break new ore blocks that you previously could not.  Similarly in the second tier of upgrades you can add an additional bag slot allowing you to carry up to four types of ore at a time.  This of course means fewer trips back up to the surface, and more time down below mining.

2014-01-12_00015 As you explore, you will uncover caves that shoot off of the main dig.  These usually hide power ups and unlock new functionality.  For example the waygate above gave me the ability to equip run boots, which means while pressing down X on my 360 controller I can run, and in the style of Super Mario World, jumping while running increases the range and height of the jumps.  Additionally there are blocks that disintegrate as you walk over them, so in many of these puzzle caves the only way to get through is to run quickly over top of them.  All of this progression will seem extremely familiar to anyone who has played a Metroid of Castlevania game. unlock tools so you can get to new places and unlock more tools.

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The game play gets progressively more and more difficult which adds an interesting spin on the Metroidvania genre.  Since you cannot replace rock, you are essentially making your own playfield at all times by the choices you make as to what to dig and where to dig it.  This means you can make life hell as you remove the wrong block at the wrong time.  The game play is more about what you choose to leave standing and less about digging down to a specific objective.  Above you can see my first death as I managed to get squashed by a rock that until this point I did not realize would fall down when I mined under it.  This is also a decent time to highlight the lamp bar on the upper right corner of the screen. 

As you dig down your lamp light decreases at a steady rate.  There are various fossils that will wake up when you get close to them and spawn worms.  Killing these will drop an item that does two things.  Firstly it will refill one bar of your health, and secondly it will add oil to your lamp meter letting you stay down longer.  The only problem is it becomes pretty easy to dig deeper than you can possibly return from on a single lamp charge.  There really seems to be no penalty for going without lamp other than the fact that you cannot see what you are doing.  This means that you cannot identify what type of block you are mining your way into… which is suicide since there are the boulders that can crush you placed throughout the levels at an ever increasing pace.

The Wrap-Up

2014-01-12_00003 The game play is extremely fun and I found myself spending an hour or so playing the game before reaching a point at which I thought I could realistically write up this blog post.  The only thing lacking with the game seems to be a point.  I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way, but both Metroid and Castlevania and the modern equivalent Guacamelee all have a narrative that drives the pace of the story ahead.  SteamWorld Dig on the other hand has a series of small objectives, but I am not sure if I am really building towards anything meaningful.  I am digging so that I can get stuff that will let me dig faster.  I don’t really care about the cast of robots that inhabit Tumbletown… yet.  Over time this might change, but at an hour into the game I really am not feeling like there is some great purpose behind what I am doing.

That is to say, the game is completely enjoyable without this deeper meaning.  The game play is fun, the controls are responsible and it has as good of a wall jump implementation as I have seen.  The problem is it just feels like there should be something more.  I mean I realize you wander into the town and find your dead uncle, but this doesn’t seem to cause much intrigue or story to happen.  Hell at this point I would even take a pokemon-esc “I want to be the very best” dialogue sequence to explain why I care about mining.  I realize these are robots, but even robots should have a reason why they are doing things.

Would I purchase the game again after having played it?  Honestly yeah I would suggest folks picking it up, but only doing so at a deep discount.  The game play is fun enough and it seems like a glorious time waster.  It is the type of game you can just zone out and enjoy the mechanics of.  The animations are cute and the sound design is really nice in places.  I just keep hoping that eventually I will uncover something even vaguely resembling a plot.

Comfort Gaming

Tamiflu Chasers

Over the last several days I have talked about my own respiratory misery.  My focus over this time had been on somehow surviving through to Friday and not making a complete and total ass of myself during my presentation.  It seems that I was at least somewhat successful in that mission, however during all of this time I seem to have neglected the fact that my wife had been getting progressively worse.  It reached a head last night when at bedtime she was running a 101* temperature.  This morning she teetered back and forth on whether or not we should go to urgent care.

For those not familiar with the absolutely fucked up medical system here in the United States… Urgent Care is this weird beast that sits somewhere between your doctors office and the actual emergency room.  The idea is to create a construct that allows you to get after hours emergency style treatment for non-life-threatening ailments.  In the master plan the insurance providers tend to treat these like doctors office visits, and as such you only have to pay one neat co-pay.  The problem is… they are insanely deluged with patients.  Our local Urgent Care place opens at 9 am on Saturday, and we were there mere moments after opening… and the waiting room was already completely filled.

I dropped my wife off at her suggestion, and ran around running errands in the meantime.  We are both a bit concerned that I will catch something since firstly… I was born with a naturally weakened immune system, and secondly… that my lungs are already in a pretty severely compromised state.  I felt like an ass for her waiting alone, but she and I texted back and forth throughout the morning.  At roughly 10:30 I picked her up and she was brandishing a prescription for tamiflu.  She was in fact diagnosed with the real life full blown Flu, and unfortunately despite my yearly flu shot this puts me in a pretty bad place for likely catching it from her.

As a result I am in the process this morning of trying to get ahold of my own primary care physician to attempt to procure a preventative prescription for tamiflu as well.  Needless to say my morning did not go anywhere near planned and as a result I am finally sitting down to write a blog post.  With all the excitement I don’t really have a whole lot to say.  Or at least nothing more exciting than what has already transpired.

Comfort Gaming

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One of the best things I have discovered in the past year is the Alternative Chat podcast.  If you are not in fact already an avid listener you should make steps to rectify that.  In the latest episode the Godmother of Faff mentions a term that is so uniquely perfect, that I am shocked I had never heard it used before now.  “Comfort Gaming” is a concept that is very near and dear to my heart, but I never really had an adequate term for it.  There are so many gaming experiences that I can return to time and time again when I am in the need of some solace.  Here in Oklahoma we are big on “comfort food” with our heaping piles of mashed potatoes and white gravy and our chicken fried steak.  This same concept applied to gaming also makes sense.

I guess in a way WoW is my comfort gaming.  I spent so much time trying to move past the game, but in fighting it I was denying the fact that I really did enjoy it and the people who play it.  Sure there are so many games out there that do one thing or another so much better than the World of Warcraft.  Games like Rift are pinnacles of technical brilliance with their deep systems within systems.  However something just gets lost in the translation at times, and in all of my years of wandering between games I have found another game that fullfilled so many of the little high points I have looked for in a single package.  Playing wow, questing, farming, exploring, collecting transmoggy bits, soloing old world content… all feels comfy.

Crawling back into the game this time was like breaking out that worn out pair of jeans that just feels amazing.  There is nothing new under the sun in wow, and it is not exactly a pinnacle of innovation…  but what you have here is a really great mix of fun ways to spend your time.  I created my WoW Bucket list as a way to have something to fall back on when I got bored.  Thing is with the great number of people I have assembled in my guild… I have yet to really get bored enough to search on the list for some purpose.  Purpose seems to find me constantly in either helping someone else out or getting a wild whim that I want to follow.

So as I embrace the year of faff, I am also embracing “comfort gaming”.  WoW is by no means the only comfort game I have.  I find myself able to crawl back into the Fallout or Elder Scrolls worlds and get lost for an entire afternoon at a time.  Similarly I am deeply looking forward to the release of Elder Scrolls Online… because that universe is one I supremely love.  However saying that, I have no real intent to abandon the World of Warcraft.  It scratches an itch for me, and in part is that way because of the amazing people that are playing it.  While I could never play a game only for the people… the mixture of absolute fun activities and amazing folks makes the game as sticky as ever for me.

Bad Luck Tokens

Feel Bad Inc

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This morning I am feeling like absolute crap.  Last night was one of those nights where I just could not get into playing anything.  I cycled through a bunch of different games, none of them holding my attention enough to keep up with it for long.  I am not sure if I am actually “sick” or just that my lungs are not in the best shape.  On the lung front it seems to be several things adding up at once.  Firstly it is breathing all of this cold dry air coming with the recent cold snap.  Secondly everyone seems to be smoking in the parking garage… which if I smoked I likely would as well…  but this creates a hanging cloud of death that I have to walk through every morning.  Smoke is a nuisance to most people but to a severe asthmatic it keeps me from breathing.  Each time I get a whiff of it, I can literally feel my lungs tightening.

Lastly the other night we were trying to clean up a mess and I had to help my wife empty the vacuum bin.  The dust managed to get clogged up and she had to work really hard with it to free the jam.  As a result this plume of dust came up from the container and while I tried my best not to breathe… I ended up breathing some in anyways.  As a result this triple whammy has lead to my lungs trying to close shop on me.  Severe Asthma sucks, it really does.  While it is better than it has been in years, there is always a chain of events that brings me to my knees and simply unable to function.  What sucks about it the most is that Friday I have a huge presentation to give, so I have to somehow manage to get better enough to be clear and understandable without gasping for air.

Bad Luck Tokens

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One of the things that happens for everyone at least one time during raiding is that the loot gods frown upon you… for an extended period of time.  For me lately this has been in the form of zero weapon drops for my various alts.  Yesterday at one point I was talking to a good friend of mine and he said he had been waiting on a trinket to drop for three months.  Similarly I can remember running Karazhan for almost a year and never once seeing the necklace of Maiden of Virtue.  During the middle of our discussion a “wouldn’t it be cool” thing happened.  I do not believe that it is the intent of any game designer for RNG to wreck gear progression.  No one in their right mind would ever intend players to simply not ever get the items they need.

The idea arose… that what would happen if you got bad luck tokens.  This of course is just a name we came up for them, but you could call them any spiffy thing you want.  The idea is that if you entered a dungeon and got no loot drops that you would end up with a special token, potentially mailed to you after the dungeon run.  If you save up enough of these… and it would be a large quantity like 50 or so you could turn in your tokens to a special vendor for any one piece of gear “within reason”.  Of course this would be standard drops, and nothing akin to a legendary or anything of the sort… though my old world raid would have disagreed with you considering we ran Molten Core for damned near three years never seeing a single binding.

The basic idea is to create a route to the item even if your luck is absolutely horrible.  That through sheer diligence and determination you could still get it.  Granted the details are a bit fuzzy, but back in the day we used to have a thing called the “bitterness pool”, I am not really remembering the full details to be honest because this was something we did back in vanilla.  Essentially each player hunting for something rare would chip in some gold every week.  At the end of the raid week anyone who did not get their declared item to drop would get a share of the pot.  If you did get your drop your money went to soothe the pains of those who didn’t.  It was funny and some people made quite a bit of money from the pool… especially those seeking the Drake Fang Talisman.  But at the end of the day the pool got them no closer to getting what they actually wanted… that elusive item.

Late to the Party

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When it comes to killing things… I seem to be able to do that for hours upon end without ever really getting bored of it.  However when it comes to daily quests or similar reputation farming activities…  I usually can’t seem to make myself do it.  During Burning Crusade I successfully farmed up a bunch of factions, but one of the ones that had always eluded me was the Netherwing.  There was just so much competition for the eggs, and at the time I simply could not be bothered to give up large blocks of my time working on it.  Last night however… I really didn’t feel like doing much of anything, so as a result this seemed like a useful thing I could be working towards.  The problem with Belghast, the character I was originally working on this with is that he was not a harvester, and being able to harvest the herbs and mine the ore was a quick and easy way to get a faction boost.

Last night I managed to go from neutral to friendly and put a decent dent in that.  I need to do some more research to see if there is an easy faction guide to pushing through this.  I mostly just want the netherdrake mounts for the total count, since there are a lot of them that you can get.  I have never really been a fan of the look of them, and as a result that is partially what kept me from farming up the faction.  Oddly enough I did Skyguard, which has the even weirder manta ray thing mount…  but I proudly rode that all through BC.  Additionally I need to see if there is an addon of mapnotes for the various egg spawn locations.  That seems like it will be the fastest route to the faction, to keep doing the egg turn ins.  Hopefully I will have the patience to keep doing this even when I am not feeling like crap.

Vacation Catch Up

Back in the Swing

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I think finally I am back in the swing of things as of this morning.  Last night and this morning to be honest… I have felt fairly crummy.  There is an unnamed crud that seems to be circulating through the company and I am scared I might have contracted this new strain of “death flu”.  Since I was not exactly feeling up to par I turned down the opportunity to tank Siege of Orgrimmar for a new friend, and instead chose to go directly to sleep.  I have to say that was probably exactly the right decision, because I seem to have reached the point where my body is accepting this familiar hell that is waking up at 5:30 in the morning.

Today I even woke up a few minutes before the alarm was set to go up.  Of course I jumped up in a panic, out of fear that I didn’t actually set an alarm at all.  However upon fumbling for my glasses I noticed that the alarm was in fact on and it was only 5:28.  I just sat there on the edge of the bed waiting for it to tick down.  The alarm serves several purposes, not the least of which is that for some reason it is annoying enough to rip through my wife’s slumber and wake her up.  The funny thing is… our alarm clock is an artifact of the 80s.  While the above image is not my actual alarm clock, but it is the same model.  My aunt got it for me when I was around thirteen years old, and it has worked like a trooper ever since.

The secret to the alarm working is two fold.  Firstly it has without a doubt the most painfully horrible alarm when it goes off.  It reminds me of the droning klaxon that goes off in the background of every science fiction movie.  Additionally… this is the most important part… I keep it on the opposite side of the room from our bed.  This means one of us has to get out of bed and cross the room to turn it off.  At that point we have already won the hardest battle of getting up in the morning… actually leaving the warm cocoon of the bed.  It feels as though my brain is finally able to cope with waking up on a schedule again.  Now if I can just get over the death flu everything will be okay.

Vacation Catch Up

When I go on vacation I tend to do so on a pretty large scale.  I find it hard to follow social media, my RSS feed, and pretty much anything that is not wake up/play game.  As a result over the last few days I have been crawling down through my RSS feed.  I have basically made it about 7 days into the feed at this point and am realizing that I was mentioned in a few year end blog posts, and I feel like I have to thank them.  I feel like I am missing one, and I should have kept better track of these things while diving into the avalanche of posts.  Suffice to say that even the one or maybe two that I am drawing a blank on at 6 am this morning… made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

First up apparently I am now most known for my crusade to write something… anything.. every single morning.  I guess as far as something to be known for… I can live with that, especially since before April I was most known for long and unexplained lapses in blogging.  As I posted in my own year end summary, 2013 was a good year for me and I made a lot of positive changes.  Firstly I have to thank Talyn328 of Pumping Irony, he drew my attention to his year end recap post and he said a lot of really nice things.  It gave me a spontaneous case of the feels.  Additionally he pointed out my oversight that he is not on my visual blogroll…  a thing that I should correct this week.

While Rowan did in fact mention me during his year in recap…  my gratitude for him goes so much deeper.  This man is like my own personal cheerleader, and I mean that in the best possible way.  You should totally read his year end recap, but what he does for the community as a whole goes so much deeper than that.  Every single day he picks up my post, and the posts of several other bloggers… and then creates an interesting tweet spun off of the topic.  I have tried to do this but I just lack the gift this man has.  I will never understand what I did to qualify for this constant support, but I am forever grateful for it.

I know without a doubt that I am missing one, but as I crawled through my blogroll this morning I could not seem to find it.  One of the negative features of Feedly is that you can’t search back through the things you have read.  BlueKae gave me a shout out for a completely different reason, and I was happy to read his NaNoWriMo recap post.  I just want to say that while he claims I was part of his motivation for keeping moving, he was just as much part of mine.  Quite frankly I never could have made it through the 50,000 words were it not for the constant support of my online family.  That really is what you guys are… an extended family of my choosing.

What About Games?

Well honestly I didn’t so much of anything exciting last night.  At the very least not out of the ordinary.  I gathered up a few guildies and we all ran the Throne of Thunder LFR part one.  Mainly since I have done it a truly silly amount of times at this point, I served as a guide to the various mechanics.  I am not sure about the others, but I once again lost out on a weapon.  I did however get my favorite trinket in the game, that my shaman uses regularly.  When Bad Juju procs, it summons Voodoo gnomes… which are one of my favorite things to be added to the game.  There are two other items, one from Burning Crusade and one from Cataclysm that have a similar effect.  All it really makes me want is a gnome shaman.  Blizzard you should make that happen.

We are tentatively talking about going into the next part tonight.  We got a really late start on it as the bulk of us spent a silly amount of time messing about the Timeless Isle.  I personally was a bit late getting in game as I was playing that other game that must not be mentioned.  Speaking of games that with NDAs still intact… it seems as though the floodgates of invites have opened for Elder Scrolls Online beta.  Here is hoping that everyone that wants a key gets a key, as this is certainly one of the most sought after invites I have seen in awhile.  It reminds me of the early days of WoW Closed beta.  If you are interested J3w3l has been doing a really awesome job of collating a lot of the information floating around about the game in a series of blog posts.

Bucket Update

Not As Bad As Could Be

Northrend

So yesterday was my first day back from vacation, and I have to say it was nowhere near as painful as I had imagined.  Sure over the last few days I had set an alarm for 7 am to start getting my body back in the swing of things, however there is still a large difference between that at the normal 5:30 am I wake up each day.  Sure the morning itself sucked, and I think I grumbled a bit about it yesterday, but as the day moved on I found myself doing mostly okay.  Of course it is still absolutely silly cold outside, but then again so is the rest of the country.  In the grand scheme of things our near zero temperatures are “mild” compared to the areas that are legitimately in the negatives.

The drive in was surprisingly tame, sure there were a few slick spots here and there but as the northerners say… snow is actually not that bad to drive on.  I feel as though I could deal with snow being on the road, and not our normal inch or two of ice.  Granted supposedly there is some ice under the snow, so if you start losing traction there is absolutely nothing to gain footing on… but if you drive rationally it seems to be just fine.  The problem is I live in Oklahoma… and we are not known for driving rationally.  I watched a redneck on the way home purposefully spinning his tires and fishtailing all over the street outside of my house.  I halfway expected him to end up hitting a house or something the amount of movement he was making around out there.  Here is hoping I can get out on the roads and have a similar safe driving experience this morning.

Bucket Update

WoW-64 2013-12-27 08-24-56-75

Yesterday I finished leveling Archaeology to 600, and I knew without a doubt that was something on my wow bucket list.  So this morning I thought I would take a moment to cross a few things off.  I have actually made quite a bit more progress than I had originally thought.  Seems as thought I have knocked the following things off the list.

  • Level Gloam to 90
  • Level Alchemy to 600 on Gloam
  • Level Tailoring to 600 on Belglorian
  • Get Traveler’s Tundra Mammoth
  • Level Archeology to 600 on Belgrave

To be truthful I have not really worked that hard on knocking things off I just piddled around or as @AlternativeChat says “Faffed”.  I have to say hands down the best money I have ever spent in any game is the 14,000 gold to purchase the Traveler’s mount.  I use the thing constantly, especially when I am out farming resources.  On my lowbies, like my Horde Warrior it has made leveling him so much easier as I am always near a vendor… and it seems like the Barrens now drops a truly silly number of patterns.

As of last night we have tentative plans to start working on some of the old world mount achievements.  Here is hoping with that I can start knocking out various other bits from my list.  I have to say I am still very much enjoying the game and keep finding new things I want to do.  Right now I am running a truly silly amount of LFR as I have 6 characters that could use gear.  However when I need a break from LFR I am slowly working my way to 90 on my Disc Priest Belglorian.  I really want to get him up to the cap so I can start doing the daily tailoring cooldown.  Currently 81 is a bit too low to be able to survive Pandaria.

Slow News Day

I honestly do not have a lot going on this morning to talk about other than these few updates.  I am woefully behind on reading my RSS feed, since I really did not keep up with it at all while I was off work.  Why would I be reading webpages when I could be playing games?  I feel bad that I am this far behind.  I know there is a lot of gaming news that I am missing out on, so hopefully I can spend some time to day catching myself back up.  In the meantime I will leave you with this awesome fan trailer by Qelric.  There has been a thread going around the community requesting a Diablo universe version of Hearthstone, called Soulstone.  I fully support this notion, and I really should be playing more hearthstone myself.

WoW Needs a Gatekeeper

Content Gating

contentgating

One of the constructs from EQ that existed in the early days of World of Warcraft was the concept of content gating.  It still exists to a lesser extent but nothing like it did when there were formal quest requirements for entry to most of the raids.  These were extremely frustrating barriers, not because they existed but because they required the entire raid to complete.  Potentially the worst was the Vials of Eternity quest chain needed to enter Mount Hyjal.  At the time this meant that in order to run the Tier 6 content, you had to find a group willing to take you through the Tier 5 content in its entirety, as you needed drops off Vashj and Kaelthas the end bosses of the two Tier 5 raids.

At the time this posed so many logistical problems for raids, as you were left with two somewhat unsavory choices.  Firstly you could stop what you were doing in your current progression and run the Tier 5 content to prepare newer players for Tier 6.  This took time, and most raids already had pretty tight schedules as it was.  Secondly you could end up recruiting someone away from an already successful tier 5 raid, creating a farm team like scenario that caused so much bad blood between guilds.  The best possible scenario was to pull a player away from a raid that had died, but this was a bit of a rarity at the time.  Needless to say there was much cheering when the content gating systems went away in Wrath of the Lich King.

Must Be This Tall

you-must-be-this-tall-to-rideWhile overall removing these raid based requirements was a good thing, as greatly simplified the care and feeding of raids, it did however introduce a lot of unplanned uncertainty.  It was out of this uncertainty that things like Gearscore spawned.  Gearscore was a concept of creating an overall quality rating for a player based on the gear they had acquired.  The system was popular enough that with Cataclysm Blizzard introduced the iLevel system formally in your character sheet and began creating content gates based on this requirement.  For example currently you have to at least be iLevel 480 or higher to be able to do a Heroic Scenario.  The game keeps you from being able to queue for the content until you hit that magic number.

The problem is that the iLevel system of measurement is fundamentally flawed.  Gear acquired tells a raid leader absolutely nothing about the overall play ability of the player.  If you try hard enough you will be able to acquire gear regardless if you have the skill expected of that quality of gear.  This is why you see players in Siege of Orgrimmar LFR that are legitimately only doing 20,000 dps instead of the 75-100k dps you would expect from the 496 iLevel requirement.  iLevel is easy, so it has stuck around but it does nothing to tell you what to expect from a player.  As was proven in the past, skill is much more important than gear, and players who really know their class will always out perform those who don’t regardless of how much new shiny gear you throw at them.

WoW Needs the Gatekeeper

TheGatekeeper

The problem at hand is that people that are building raids have no non-subjective means of determining if a player is ready for the content until they have actually taken them into the instance.  You can drag underperforming players along, but you need to have players that are performing past the expectations of the content to be able to make that work.  The single best content gating mechanic that I have seen in any game came from The Secret World.  At the top of Agartha there was an encounter that is collectively known as The Gatekeeper.  He stands as the gateway to the nightmare level dungeon content, that drops the best gear in the game.

He presents to the player three tests, one geared towards Tanks, another towards Healers and a final one towards DPS…  which in my experience was the most difficult.  Each of them is a test of personal accountability and that you can perform what will be expected of you in the nightmare level content.  They are fairly brutal, especially coming from the overall easy Elite mode content before them, but they do in fact very accurately assess how well you will do in the Nightmare content.  Back when my circle of friends keyed for Nightmare mode, we struggled a bit, but we were still able to compete based on the skills displayed by the test.  Waren and I both prided ourselves for passing the dps trial, without switching gear and going after either the healer or tank trials that were seemingly a bit easier.

Essentially the trial was designed to make sure you could move out of things while still maintaining a certain level of dps on the boss.  These are the basic skills that any dps player needs in a raid encounter.  The player could retry the encounter over and over until they succeeded only then allowing them to move forward into the Nightmare content. I know personally it was exhilarating when I managed to beat the Gatekeeper.  I am certain I tried it some 20-30 times before I finally landed upon the way that I finally beat him.  Sure there were guides to doing it easier, but the players till had to execute well enough to be able to get through the encounter.  If you stepped in anything, you died instantly.  If you allowed an add to catch you, you died instantly.  If you failed to interrupt something, you died instantly.  Finally if you failed to maintain a certain level of damage…  you also died instantly.

Personal Endorsements

firstaidcard

Once upon a time, in another life I was once a Boy Scout camp counselor.  One of the things that happened every year during that first week before the kids arrived was that each and every counselor had their First Aid, CPR and Swimming Lifesaver certifications renewed.  In each case it involved some sort of skills assessment, the Swimming Lifesaver being the worst of these.  However each and every one of us passed it, and while we were cheered on by the rest of the staff each was a personal trial that we faced alone.  I feel like raiding should be gated by some sort of non-subjective skills assessment similar to this.  It sucks being the one to tell a player that they just are not good enough to be able to do the content.  Without hard facts as to why, it often feels like the leader is playing favorites or simply singling a player out unjustly.

World of Warcraft has already created a system similar to this in the Proving Grounds.  The problem is these are optional encounters and most players either don’t know they exist or since they are not required for anything…  they never actually go through them.  I myself have never done them, because they were not required for me and did not reward anything meaningful.  If they took this concept and somehow integrated it into creating a ladder to climb towards raiding, it would be extremely beneficial in the long run.  That has always been the problem with raiding in general, there is a nice clean linear path to climb to get from level 1 to 90.  However once you enter the endgame all this player guidance goes away.

The iLevel system tells the player that having the gear is enough, however in reality we all know that success in raiding is about so much more than just gear.  Having a similar endgame ladder to climb that even rewards pieces of gear to help the player progress would make what happens after you cap, so much clearer.  Additionally having one of these Gatekeeper like encounters that controls entry to the new content provides a very clear “you must be this tall” sign that players that strive for.  Sure it sucks because it introduces a “keying” process again, but in this case it would be one of personal responsibility, not of raid responsibility.  Additionally it would give those really good but also very timid players a boost of confidence if they knew that beating this solo encounter… where there is no one to judge them… means they will do just find in the larger group setting.

Even When Bad, Its Good

Misplaced Weather

It is currently in the teens here in the Tulsa area, and the wind-chill is pushing it into the single digits and in some places negative numbers.  Waking up this morning the entire world is covered in a blanket of white, albeit not a terribly thick blanket… but it is still coming down and shows no signs of stopping any time soon.  Dear Canada, I believe you misplaced your weather.  Can you please pick it up at the front office at your nearest convenience?  A friend from twitter suggested that maybe Canada was not home and the weather was left with their nearest neighbor…  which in that case seems to be the entire United States. 

Here in Tulsa the weather is a nuisance more than anything else, primarily since my wife and I both head back tomorrow after a two week vacation.  For us at least, knowing this was on the way we ran all of the errands we could think of yesterday so we could just hang out inside today in a blanket cocoon. I could go to the front door and take a picture of what is going on outside, but frankly I am just too damned lazy.  I am wrapped up in two blankets and have a loudly purring cat on my chest…  so yeah not moving.  Hopefully the snow itself will not last terribly long, and so long as it sticks to just snow I figure we will be fine.  It is always the ice storms that I am concerned about not the dustings of snow.

Had a Bad Day

20140105_083251[1] Yesterday was a bit of a frustrating mess.  Over the last several days I have been trying my best to make it through the Gates section of the Siege of Orgrimmar LFR on my Paladin.  Since you cannot progress to the next step until you have beaten all of the bosses in the previous one, I found myself hung up there trying to get the last two bosses.  Each and every group seemed to fall apart either during or directly before the Dark Shaman encounter.  Over the course of the last few days since Tuesday I have been in no less than 8 Gates groups, and this yesterday morning it seemed for a moment like I would get through the raid finally.

We had made it up to Nazgrim but after one wipe the group completely disintegrated leaving me stranded with only needing the final boss.  There are weeks that I cannot get the first bosses of a dungeon to save my life, however each and every one of the 8 attempts at Gates involved me starting over with the first encounter.  I am not sure if I set them down hard, but after the extremely frustrating close call in LFR I got up from my cocoon and while pulling off my headset it completely snapped, leaving the right earcuff danging.  The break was so close to the earcuff that I don’t think I could even attempt to bandage it along for a bit with duct tape.

It seems like I am extremely rough on headsets, as in the years of playing World of Warcraft I have gone through no less than eight that I can recall.  No single headset has lasted more than two years before either falling apart on me or starting to malfunction somehow.  Right now I am back to using a Logitech behind the head headset, but it itself has an issue with the left earcuff cutting out constantly and is only serving to infuriate me more.  Granted these are all first world problems… and I should simply be thankful that I can replace the headset at my leisure rather than having to wait to do so.  In fact as of writing this article I have already ordered a replacement.  I am going back to an older plantronics design that previously I had gotten 2 years out of, which is pretty much the most I can hope for.

Even When Bad, Its Good

People are constantly down on LFR because it represents the absolute worst of humanity.  The thing is… even at its worst I greatly appreciate its existence.  I tend to be an altaholic, at present count I have 6 characters at 90 and a large number of characters within range of getting there.  I have already begun raising my Discipline Priest Belglorian and within in the next few weeks it will likely join the ranks.  I get frustrated in these games when I can no longer progress my characters, and because of the structure of traditional raiding, this generally meant that I got to progress whatever my main was…. but no one else.  I have enough time to deal with carving out a block of time in my schedule for one stable raid group, but not multiple raid groups.

What LFR gives me is the ability to keep moving forward on all of my characters at my own leisure.  I don’t expect a lot from the process, and I don’t expect the players in LFR to be marginally functional.  I find it that I can compartmentalize LFR so that I only focus on my own role and ignore the fact that Rome is burning down around my shoulders.  In doing so this means each and every one of my alts can at least achieve a certain level of gear.  Granted I am not expecting them to be amazing, but I can keep moving slowly forward on all fronts… keeping me engaged in each character.  Now even with this on demand raiding, I still personally don’t have time to run every character through.  However I can get enough piecemeal progression to make me happy.

It is almost as though LFR was invented for someone like me, that likes to dabble in a lot of different things, but doesn’t so much care anymore about reaching the ultimate progression in any of them.  So while I might complain about LFR, and get supremely frustrated at times…  I am still very much thankful it exists.  Despite all of the frustrations and set backs, it eventually goes just fine.  Last night about 11 pm I finally managed to get a Gates group that was sitting on Nazgrim… the only boss I was missing.  After a wipe we got the determination buff and came back and beat him on the second attempt.  After all of the wait and all of the gold bags… I managed to pull the best possible drop I could hope for in the instances.  My paladin is now the proud owner of Gar’tok, Strength of the Faithful and one step closer to being as well geared as I can get him.