Goodbye Granite Falls

Last night was night three of good sleep after taking a quick walk before bed.  Additionally it has broken loose the log jam that was my weight loss plateau.  As of this morning I was down another three pounds since starting the walking.  The weird thing about the sleep however is that I am pretty much dead to the world.  I didn’t dream, I don’t remember sleeping… I just went to bed and woke up with the alarm and everything between is a void.  I seem to be getting rest because I am not absolutely dead tired in the morning… it is just an odd experience since I normally dream and remember the dreams.

Don’t Starve

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Over the last few nights one of my friends has been playing the hell out of this game, so last night I decided to fire it up and give it a shot as well.  It has been compared to turn of the century film version of Minecraft… but quite honestly I didn’t have that feeling at all.  Essentially “Minecraft” to me means taking raw materials and building something permanent.  So for me Terraria is a Minecraft game… but Cube World for example is not… regardless of how much it looks like it.

It took me awhile to adjust my expectations…  what we have here instead of a building game is a survival game.  Something I find far less interesting.  Essentially you have to gather resources during the day, and survive the night all while not going crazy or starving.  You gain sanity by standing near the fire each night, and as you get more insanity you start to see hallucinations everywhere.  I’ve heard that eventually the hallucinations will attack you if it gets bad enough.

I can’t say I really enjoyed myself massively…  but the gameplay instead fell into the mildly entertaining category.  I think at my core I am a base builder… and the lack of the ability to build a permanent basecamp to go adventuring from really harmed my enjoyment of the game.  I have seen screenshots that seem to suggest that later you are able to build fortifications to keep your camp safe.  Additionally at least at low levels, it seems like you are almost penalized by trying to keep returning to a central base.  Since in essence you can plunk down a fire anywhere you happen to be when night comes.

The other big problem I have with the game is a lack of permanence.  The goal of the game is to “beat” each world by solving some puzzle that allows you to progress to the next one.  So even if I could build some form of a base, I would be abandoning it every time I moved to the next tier in the game.  Even in Minecraft when I decided to venture out and build a new base camp… I know that I always have the previous ones to return to if I so choose.  Essentially it seems like the game has all the survival hassle of Minecraft, without the elements that make it fun for me… the wholesale world building.

The game is well designed, plays extremely smoothly and has a great retro look and feel that is immediately appealing.  If you really like the survival aspect of Minecraft and similar games than this might be just the thing for you.  I only managed to survive 3 nights on my first foray because I kept trying to engage in combat apparently too early.  So that throws another money wrench in my enjoyment… to be happy in a game I need to be killing something regularly.  My friend is having a blast with it, so it might very well be down your alley… however it goes in the “not really for me” bucket.

Goodbye Granite Falls

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Between the laptop lunch fun and the beginning of last night I managed to wrap up the last of Stonefield with Baby Bel over Faeblight.  The tail end of that zone is much more enjoyable than I remember.  I am sure it was equally epic when I ran it originally… but there have been some tweaks that seem to make it flow better.  Firstly I remember there being a gap where I was uncertain exactly where to go…  so the transition up to the camp near the Phoenix Gate seems to be messaged better.  Additionally the “rumble” with Guardian forces at the tail end of the zone… actually occurs in Stonefield now.  Previously it sent you across the bridge into Scarwood Reach… where it was extremely easy to get into mobs way too high for your level.

So major Kudos for them for fixing the flow of this tail end content.  Additionally the whole opening of the Phoenix gate felt far much more epic to me after having done the Rise of the Phoenix raid instance.  I guess I am in less of a rush this time through the game… and as a result find myself enjoying the content much more.  I still have problems with a few things… like Meridian and Sanctum still do not seem worthy of being capitol cities…  but there is enough good always to make up for the few frustrating spots.

Has the Must Haves

Essentially when I was working on my MMO must haves list… I came to the realization when a friend asked me… that Rift is the only game on the market that has almost every single bullet point I listed.  While I am looking forward to Elder Scrolls Online… it also seems like a vastly different kind of game… much like The Secret World is.  So as a result… I feel like even after that game launches… Rift will still be my traditional MMO crush.  I feel like I will always be playing rift at least some of the time.

There is just so much to like about the game, and so many different options for things to do.  Especially now with the gem store… you can expand your character in ways you never could before.  Recently for example I picked up Artifacing for Belghast over on Deepwood.  This adds to his already existing crafts of Armorsmithing, Weaponcrafting and the three harvests of Butchering, Mining and Foraging.  At this point it is just easier to add additionally tradeskills to that one character than to try and level up new harvesting abilities elsewhere.  The one thing I really wish however is that we had cross shard mail between our own characters.

Better Mentoring

One of the sore points right now is that mentoring should be a bit easier than it is.  I am not talking about lowering your own level… because that seriously could not be any easier.  What I am looking for is the ability to invite any 4 friends to a group… click a button… and have it queue us for a random dungeon to meet our level range.  Right now we essentially have to mentor manually to the lowest common denominator… sometimes it lets us queue for a dungeon… other times we have to remember where the hell the dungeon entrance is and run in manually.

One of the most powerful things about Rift is that it is functionally possible to group with your friends regardless of shard or level range.  Trion really needs to put some effort into ironing these tools out to make it a much simpler proposal.   I want to be able to group a bunch of people together and see a list essentially of things we can do… and then queue for something on that list without having to do much fiddling.  When we have done this manually there is usually a lot of trial and error until we get everyone in the right zone at the right time at the right level.  Streamlining this process would be a massive boon.

Wrapping Up

Well I have pissed away another morning rambling on about nothing much.  Now has come the time for me to gather up my now empty coffee cup, run it to the kitchen and get on with the day.  I hope you all have a great day, and I hope mine personally is far more uneventful.  While I was on vacation, nothing much happened.  But every day this week since I have been back… there has been a crisis.  Yesterday for example McAfee decided out of the blue to mark an FTP Server Daemon as a “Potentially Unwanted Program” and in the process quarantined it… taking down a number of automated processes with it.  I just want a nice calm day where I can actually remove items from my task list, instead of chasing down fires.

Rift Puzzles and Cairns by Level

One of the coolest things that Rift has is hidden puzzles, cairns and static spawn treasure chests scattered throughout the world.  Your instinct is to gather up the list and go after them as soon as you can…  but since each of them gives you a physical reward…  there is a bit of a trick to it.  Essentially each puzzle or lootable in the world has a fixed level range… and in order to give you the best possible reward it is always a good idea to wait until exactly the maximum level.

Since I have a large number of friends just starting the game, I figured I would take a few moments to compile a list of puzzles, cairns and lootables by level range.  This is in many ways a remix of the information found on KFGuides.com and I will be redirecting you there for the individual puzzle and cairn information.  They have done a ton of work organizing this information I am just presenting it in a checklist form, similar to my bonus level ranges post from SWTOR.

Level 30 Rewards

Lake of Solace / Freemarch

The lake of solace is a really unique case.  Not only does it have a puzzle deep within the lake, and a cairn, but it also has eight distinct lootables buried deep within the depths of the lake.  Each one will give you a potion that is worth 8 minutes of underwater breathing.  For location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, location for the cairn, and location for each of the 8 lootables please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Silverwood

Silverwood is the starter zone for the Guardians and offers both a puzzle and a cairn that can be found.  Unfortunately there are no lootables that I know of.  For location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and location for the cairn please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Level 35 Rewards

Stonefield

Stonefield is the second area for the Defiant and is connected to both Freemarch and Scarlet Gorge.  It has a puzzle and three separate Cairn locations.  For location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and the location of all three cairns please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Gloamwood

Gloamwood is the second area for the Guardians and is connected to both Silverwood and Scarlet Gorge.  It has a puzzle and a single cairn location.  For location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and the location of the cairn please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Scarlet Gorge

Scarlet Gorge is the beginning of the mixed faction zones. It is connected to both Gloamwood and Stonefield and acts as a bridge between the two faction starter areas.  It has a puzzle and a single cairn location.  For location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and the location of the cairn please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Level 40 Rewards

Scarwood Reach

Scarwood Reach is a mixed faction zone and connects to both Scarlet Gorge and the high level zone Stillmoor.  It has a puzzle and a single cairn location.  For the location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and the location of the cairn please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Level 45 Rewards

Moonshade Highlands

Moonshade Highlands is a mixed faction zone and connects to Silverwood, Gloamwood, and the high level zone Iron Pine Peaks.  It has a puzzle and a single cairn location.  Please note, the puzzle requires two players to click in a pattern in order to complete the puzzle.  I can be solo’d but is extremely difficult and requires perfect timing.  I would highly suggest bringing a friend along for the trip.  For the location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and the location of the cairn please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Droughtlands

Droughtlands is a mixed faction zone that connects to both Freemarch and the high level zone Shimmersand.  It has a puzzle and a single cairn location.  For the location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and the location of the cairn please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Level 50 Rewards

Iron Pine Peaks

Iron Pine Peaks is a high level zone and represents one of the three end game daily zones for the original game.  It touches Stillmoor, Scarwood Reach, Scarlet Gorge, Gloamwood and Moonshade Highlands.   It has a puzzle and a single cairn location.  For the location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and the location of the cairn please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Shimmersand

Shimmersand is a high level zone and represents one of the three end game daily zones for the original game.  It touches Droughtlands, Freemarch and Stonefield.  It has a puzzle and a single cairn location.  For the location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and the location of the cairn please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Stillmoor

Stillmoor is a high level zone and represents one of the three end game daily zones for the original game.  It touches Iron Pine Peaks and Scarwood Reach and has a puzzle and single cairn location.  For the location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and the location of the cairn please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Ember Isle

Ember Isle is a challenge zone that was released after the launch of the initial game.  It featured level 52 or higher mobs and was designed for extremely well geared players.  After the launch of Storm Legion they scaled back the mobs a bit to turn this into an alternate leveling zone.  Unfortunately KFGuides seems to have stopped following the game as a result we have to rely on alternate sources for information.  This zone has both a puzzle and  a decent guide to locating it and completing it can be found here.  Additionally if you prefer there are a number of youtube videos showing the process.  I have not found a really good guide for how to get to the Cairn but you can find the location coordinates here.  Additionally there are also a number of youtube videos showing the path.

Storm Legion Puzzles

In Storm Legion they seemed to shift the focus of these puzzles away from being an excellent source of gear, to being a way to collect various items for your dimension.  I still love the concept of in game puzzles so I myself will be tracking these down and completing them.  Previously I had only completed the original puzzles and did not even realize there was a puzzle on Ember Isle or that the tradition had continued into Storm Legion.

Essentially there are puzzles now in City Core, Kingsward, Moriban, Steppes of Infinity, Seratos, and Eastern Holdings.  The Stylish Radish of Better Homes and Dimensions has an awesome guide that outlines all the things you have to do to complete the puzzles of Storm Legion.  Many of them seem to have collection prerequisites, and essentially unlock new items for you to purchase on Omi the Mistress of Puzzles in Tempest Bay.

That’s All Folks

That is all I currently know about puzzles and other nifty things out in the world in Rift.  Hopefully compiling this will help someone out there.  Remember for the old world puzzles and cairns, wait until the level listed before completing them to assure the gear is the best possible you can get.

Crashing Castles

Good morning you happy people… and this time I actually mean it.  I am not sure what it was… the fact that I was completely exhausted by the end of the day, the hour or so I spent playing with friends… or the 15 minute walk I took before bedtime…  but something helped.  I went to bed around 9 pm and slept the entire night through without any panic attacks.  Probably some of the best sleep I have gotten in awhile.  So thank you all for the varied suggestions yesterday on the subject.

Crashing Castles

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One of the best side effects of the steam sale, is it is a great opportunity to get your friends hooked on amazing games when they get priced on the cheap.  I’ve been a huge fan of Castle Crashers for years, and used to play it with some friends on the Xbox 360.  When it was released on steam… I picked it up immediately because seriously…  it is worth buying on every platform you own.  Right now it is going for the absolutely bargain basement price of $4 as part of the daily sale… and should be up there for at least another 24 hours.

As a result I got recruited last night when Ashgar picked up multiple copies of the game and gifted it to anyone who didn’t already have one.  I have to say this was exactly the type of fun I had been needing.  For me, Ash and Tam it was much like coming back home to our side scrolling fighting game roots… and we all adapted pretty quickly.  Rae on the other hand, we could tell never really played that type of game… this compounded with the fact that she was playing with the keyboard…  made the evening frustrating for her.

On that note… I highly suggest you pick this title up especially if you hail from the era of Final Fight and Double Dragon.  But if you do so… I also highly suggest you have a gamepad to play it on.  This was designed to play with an Xbox 360 controller… and I feel it plays best when I use that.  It is completely playable on anything else however… but just remember all the tips and suggestions given in game… will be geared towards that specific controller.  It won’t say press heavy attack… it will say press Y.. so if you are using something else there had to be a bit of translation in your head.

Just as a note to anyone on my steam friends list.  I will almost never turn down an opportunity to play some castle crashers.  There is something about this game that is so pure and fun that it just takes me back to the days of feeding quarters to gauntlet or teenage mutant ninja turtles and playing with three other friends.  I really hope they create a sequel someday that is just as fun.  The only game that I might like more than this as far as side scrolling beatemups… is Guardian Heroes…  if it ever made its way to steam I would be immensely happy.  Speaking of which… I need to get some people together to play the D&D Shadows of Mystaria steam port.

Granite Falls

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Right now on my little warrior I am slowly making my way through the granite falls area.  Stonefield has always been one of my favorite areas in the zone, in part because it was the area shown in the original cinematic trailer for the game.  Additionally the town of Granite Falls is one of the prettiest in the game, and the falls themselves have always looked extremely epic.  Sooner or later I will end up having to buy the Granite Falls dimension so I can have my very own copy.

I am up to my favorite quest chain as well, involving the crypt near town.  Essentially giving me ANY quest chain involving undead and I will be happy.  I started working on this over lunch, and got about halfway through the sequence of quests before I got drafted for castle crashers last night.  My hope is that today I will push through the rest of Stonefield and move on to the Scarlet Gorge area.  I feel like this is an area that just does not get enough credit in the game.  I will have to play up another character when they have gone through with the redesign of the zone that is supposedly in the works.

Defying Reason

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Also over lunch yesterday I decided on a whim to boot up Defiance for a little bit.  I have an odd relationship with this game.  I like it mostly… but I just can’t seem to take playing it for very long.  I am happy to log in, kill a few rounds of mutants, maybe complete a quest… ride around in my dune buggy for a bit… and then log.  I figure it would be much more enjoyable if I was playing regularly with a large group of people, but solo I seem to have a very short attention span.

I guess overall I just don’t like shooters as much as I once did… and the whole behind the back shooter thing works well but feels just awkward enough to give me a low tolerance for it.  I really like the television show and the world, but so far I see little resemblance between the two other than having my very own “cat woman” telling me what to do.  I just wish that the story had been set in the St. Louis area that we are vaguely familiar with in the television show… instead of out in California.  Additionally since I am NOT from the California area and have never been… there just isn’t the same payoff as there is for other people.  I didn’t realize that Mount Tam was an actual place…  but I would have been able to pick up landmarks in Missouri.

Ultimately it is a good game… and it is pretty enjoyable…  but I have the same patience with it that I have for Borderlands 2.  I seem to be happiest when I play in spurts, unlike my friends that can literally play Borderlands 2 for hours and hours on end.  Defiance definitely scratches a similar itch for me…  and I finally found a weapon that I like.  Essentially it is a heavy energy machine gun thing… reminds me of shooting a BAR in the WW2 area shooters.  I can take down the baddies pretty successfully with it…  but I cringe at the thought of eventually out leveling it.  I have yet to find another weapon that I enjoy anywhere near as much as it.

I think this will continue to be one of those titles that I boot up every now and then… but never really dig too far below the surface.  Additionally the game feels very “un-social”, and very much single player.  I rarely if ever end up encountering other players when I play, and if I do they are usually buzzing around on their way to the next objective.  I am sure this changes as you get higher in the content, but I am still in the starter area essentially.  I could push through I am sure and get to the next area… but I figure why force myself when I seem to be enjoying little spurts of play here and there.

Wrapping Up

Well it is that time again… I need to wrap this up so I can get on with my morning and get into work.  Today is trash day, so I need to make sure that is out by the curb.  Additionally I really need to run some stuff by the cleaners.  If I don’t get a start on these things I will end up extremely late for work.  Right now I am essentially the boss, as mine is off on vacation… but it sets a bad example if I start slacking myself in the process.  I hope you all have a great day… and here is hoping that today will be relatively panic free.

Don’t Panic

Good morning you happy people… with the most forced cheeriness I can possibly muster.  I had a pretty lousy night last night… and was unable to get to sleep until well after 1:30 am.  I will get into the whys a bit later, but suffice to say… today is my first day back at work since the July 3rd.  To raise the ante a bit, my boss will be out of the office and as a result I will be filling in for him in all the meetings he attends.  This essentially is the equation for one of the most un-enjoyable weeks I’ve probably ever experienced.

Don’t Panic

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I’ve been experiencing what has been termed panic attacks of varied levels of severity for some time.  When I had my first ones… I literally thought I was having a heart attack… and as such was told to rush to the emergency room.  At which point they hooked me up to an EKG, did some blood work… and essentially told me that I had had a panic attack.  The problem is… were this a one time occasion I could take it in stride.  This ends up happening most nights when I go to lay down and start trying to pack away the thoughts from one day and prepare for the next.

Last night was another night where I was in the thrall of the panic rollercoaster, and as such just could not sleep.  The particular recipe last night was far less about a heart attack sensation…  and more about hyperventilating, a feeling of shortness of breath…  which is odd because I know the difference from being a life long asthmatic.  I literally tried everything I could think of to calm myself down.  I tried some deep breathing exercises and they worked exactly as long as I was doing them.  Once I stopped for a moment… my body went back into full freak out state.

Essentially from what I can tell this is all being caused by the very real anxiety I experience at work.  Essentially everything is in a state of turmoil.  We are a ship without a rudder right now, and without a strong force at the head of our department…  we are constantly shifting priorities based on which is thing is the most political advantageous.  As a result my work world is pure hell, and I have no stability at all.  This is something that I am finding out I guess my mind craves…  stability.

What is so frustrating… is I understand what is going on… but I seem to be completely helpless to stop it.  I had a pretty major freak out session during the day on Saturday… and at the suggestion of my wife I had a beer and seemed to calm down.  So last night I tried the same thing…  the last thing I want to end up doing is medicate with alcohol…  but I was desperate.  Unfortunately… that “fix” seemed to be a one time only thing… and in truth after I had finished my hard cider… everything seemed to get worse.

I essentially know it is work related because while we were in Albany… I had absolutely no panic attacks whatsoever.  It was only once we returned… and I started to dread this work week that they came back with a vengeance.  Ultimately I am going to have to see some form of medication to get me through these.  I’ve never been on any form of a mood altering medication… and I have avoided them like the plague.  However I am feeling like I need something, to help my body realize what my mind already does.

Elite Loyalty

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Last night I managed to push across the loyalty barrier for the next tier.  Upon completing the “purple” tier I got what is probably my favorite loyalty reward yet.  I now have the option to display the red thorned “elite” mob portrait ring on my own player portrait in the UI.  This is one of those little things that just feels cool.  While roaming the world that portrait ring is ubiquitous with danger… and being able to rock that appearance on all my characters is just slick.

Additionally I got the Loyal Helmed Murdantix mount for all of my characters, and you can see my baby warrior riding it.  It is extremely similar to the Ancient Murdantix mount that dropped in a raid instance, but it has the extra added bit of having a really cool helmet / blinder on it.  For whatever reason it feels so much cooler to me than the old one.  I’ve always loved the various “biped running on all fours” style mounts, but this is probably my favorite of them so far.  It feels like I am riding a troll or werewolf or something similar into battle.

Of late I have been splitting my time mostly between Belghast@Faeblight the little warrior shown above, and Belgrave@Deepwood my level 53 nightblade/riftstalker rogue.  I am still having a blast on both… especially the baby warrior.  Which I am sure seems a bit insane since I have a level 60 warrior already.  I find it interesting to play through the old content with fresh eyes.  I working with the Dark Thane prebuilt spec, and it has changed massively since I last played it.  I am enjoying the sense of discovery each time the game gives me a new ability to play with.  Essentially it lets me learn the spec an item at a time, rather than being deluged with everything it offers at once at level 60.

On Belgrave, I have just started Seratos and am making my way slowly to Necropolis.  I really love the dark bone woven zones of later Dusken… and they all seem to be carnage quest bonanzas.  I am a major junkie when it comes to those kill quests… I just wish the reward source stones were actually useful to Belgrave.  I have essentially purchased everything I can upgrade wise with them for awhile.  I still have yet to figure out what exactly to do with the excess ones.  If you guys know some cool use for them other than the gear upgrades… let me know.

As an indication for how much I am enjoying Rift… yesterday I took a break from my NDA bonanza just to get in some play time.  That is saying a lot… because I love beyond love the game I am playing that is still under NDA.  One of the interesting things about the free to play conversion is the daily and weekly gifts.  Which surprisingly got upgraded massively when I bumped up to this next tier of loyalty.  Instead of purple boxes… I started getting orange ones… and out of my weekly box I pulled a orange deeps box… which netted a really nice purple dps weapon for Belghast@Deepwood.

I find that the draw of knowing I have a new box every day keeps me logging in regardless of what else I am playing.  It is something extremely simple but for me… it is effective.  After logging in… I usually end up playing around and questing or crafting or even just hanging out in guild chat and talking.  I love that Trion chose to use the carrot and not the stick when it came to the free to play conversion model.  It seems to be working, because I am seeing lots of people online quite often.  Would be awesome if I could get more of a critical mass there so we could do bigger things.

Wrapping Up

Since I am thoroughly out of it… I need to get this morning thing underway.  I hope I survive the day with the small modicum of sleep that I was able to get.  I also hope that today ends up being far better than I have made it out to be in my mind.  I pray beyond reason that I can have a night off from the panic attack rollercoaster, because it is pretty much the opposite of fun.  At least I guess if it happens again I can continue building in Minecraft… which is what ultimately caused me to calm down enough to sleep.  I hope you all have a great day… and I hope it is stress free.

5 Biggest MMO Disappointments

This is one of those days I have zero clue what to write about… but as not to break the chain of constant posts I am going to push through and post something anyways.  In part this post about nothing has been brought to you today by the letters N, D and A.  So instead of a normal post about what I did last night, or what I want to do today…  I am going to make a post about my top five biggest MMO disappointments.  This is kind of the bookend to my post about my five favorite MMOs, so hopefully I can do this without coming off overly negative about each.

The Disclaimer

Some of my picks for this list will be rather controversial… but they are my picks nonetheless.  This list is not about what I consider to be the worst MMOs, or even bad MMOs at all.  In fact most of the ones included on this list are games I have played over and over again… and will likely play again in the future.  On the converse… these are the games I have been the most disappointed by over the years.  This could be due to lack of content, lack of depth, lack of features… or just simply lack of follow through.  This is by no means a death sentence for an MMO…  it wouldn’t be on the list at all if I didn’t care.  For example… I do not care at all for TERA or Aion… but I was not necessarily disappointed in either because I was not expecting to like them in the first place.

5 – World of Warcraft

World-of-Warcraft-Mists-of-Pandaria-Thunder-King-patch If you remember… I included World of Warcraft as number five on my five favorite MMOs list… and I think placing it in the number five spot on this list adequately represents the love/hate relationship I have with this game.  Without a doubt I have had some of the best times playing WoW, but I have also had some of my biggest disappointments in the path they have chosen to grow it.  It feels like an old high school friend… that you were extremely close to… but after years of being apart you grew in two completely different directions.  While you want really badly to be happy for it… you can see the potential that was there… and how it has been squandered.

World of Warcraft was a game that I expected not to like in the first place.  I remember my very first thought when I heard about it… was where the hell would they get their story.  Until Warcraft 3… every Blizzard game had essentially only had enough storyline to keep the game from completely falling on its face.  After experiencing the deep and rich world of Norrath… I did not think that Blizzard could pull off anything that engaging.  I was wrong… they wove together a world that was deep, rich, and filled with lore.  Additionally they incorporated the best features of every game that had come before it… and remixed it in a way that truly represented the absolute best of breed for the time.

However over the years… they have butchered the lore…  and instead of continuing to incorporated the best features on the market… have instead created half assed versions of them.  I have to keep coming back to the Transmogrification system… because it personifies this concept of the modern Blizzard approach.  They took something awesome… alternate appearance systems… and instead turned it into an extremely cludgy money sink.  The same thing happened over and over as they tried to incorporate features of popular mods… but the official version was never anywhere near as solid as the original mod that inspired it.

Then on the other side of the coin… the content was just lacking.  When new content was introduced… it was too little to late.  Like a quick appetizer that never quite turned into a meal.  Shortly after the release of Cataclysm… I started a brand new Worgen Druid… and managed to level it without much effort in under 5 days played time.  Additionally the raid content just felt more and more uninspired…  remixes of previous encounters.  So I will admit… at times I am one of those guys… that views the golden area of vanilla through rose colored lenses.

For certain players the new mix of content and the pacing works.  I have a ton of friends who are still knee deep in the thrall of this game… and more power to them.  I just reached a point where I could not view anything but the disappointment.  As a result I am not playing, and trying my best not to complain on a regular basis about the game.  But… additionally I do not feel this post would be honest if I did not include WoW in the mix.  I feel like it still has so much potential, and maybe if they changed to a content driven DLC style free to play model… they would have the endorsement to build content other than the raid ladder and dailies.

4 – Guild Wars 2

guild_wars_2_allotment This is another title I did not really expect to like when I first heard about it.  I was never a huge fan of Guild Wars 1 despite everyone telling me just how amazing a game it was.  I liked some of the concepts presented, like the Magic the Gathering style ability system and the ability to multi-class…  but everything else about that game I really despised.  If I do not like your games user interface or control scheme… no matter how awesome a game it is underneath  I just cannot bring myself to play it…  no matter how many times I try.  So all of this said I really had written off the concept of Guild Wars 2.

This all changed however when the folks at Arena.NET posted their Design Manifesto.  It basically said everything I thought I wanted to hear, and laid out a great vision for a new game.  So I was amped when I was able to get access to the testing program.  However I was immediately disappointed in the experience I had there, and lack of what honestly felt like a game.  I was disillusioned enough that I actually resigned from testing and wished them luck.  One of my friends remained in the test a little bit longer than I did…  and eventually bailed himself.  I hoped they would find some direction and turn the project around.

When it came time for open beta testing… I gave the game another shot.  The lowered expectations of expecting to dislike the game… caused me to view it through slightly different eyes.  I enjoyed the game enough that I picked it up when it came out.  The problem is… there just was not enough meat on the bones to hold my attention for long.  There are definitely some aspects of the game that I enjoyed, but the whole experience felt very disposable… more so than any game I had experienced. 

Additionally it did not feel like I was progressing my character at all.  By the time I reached level five, I had unlocked all 5 abilities for my primary weapon choices and the signets and other related abilities… just did not feel like they had enough weight to them to make them something worth striving towards.  The game set out to abolish the holy trinity of tank, healer and dps… but the problem is that it didn’t really replace it with anything in the process.  Group content felt like a chaotic mess, and I was extremely disappointed when I did my first dungeon and realized the zerging a boss down from a spawn point was totally a viable tactic.

In the Manifesto they proposed that – Shouldn’t Great MMOs be Great RPGs too?  The only problem is the key means for moving the story along in a role playing game is the questing construct…  but they sought to abolish that as well.  Once again… it is fine that they wanted to change the game… but they didn’t really replace it with anything meaningful in the process.  As a result I felt extremely disconnected to the world around me.  Things were going on around me… on scripted timers… but I didn’t really care about whether or not we won or lost.  I didn’t care about the people and place… and the lack of questing did this.

In the Manifesto they stated that it was time to make MMORPGS more social.  The only problem with that is that they introduced so much passive grouping, and took away any need for player roles…  that the end result is one of the least social games I have played.  When roaming around the world… you may be fighting along side other players, but you do not have to interact with them in any meaningful way.  Each player is a self sufficient independent state… and as a result has no real need for anyone other than themselves.  The game just feels like it is lacking reasons for players to actually be grouping together.

Let me reiterate, there is a lot to like about the game.  It runs amazingly well on low end hardware, and presents a very fluid gaming experience.  It has one of the prettiest worlds I have ever explored, and has a lot of things that incentivize exploration.  While it is presenting a ton of new content in the form of now bi-monthly updates… the problem is most of it is limited time only.  Instead of growing their world… they are creating disposable episodes that only serve to make the game play experience all the more disposable itself.

3 – Star Wars: The Old Republic

Star-Wars-The-Old-Republic-screenshot I’ve loved Star Wars since before I could even fully verbalize it.  My parents tell stories about me seeing the movie when I was one… and then coming home and jabbering endlessly about “Darfa Bater”.  So if there was any game that has enough storied lore to hold my attention… it should have been SWTOR.  I was a huge fan of Knights of the Old Republic, and as a result I was completely committed to the genre they genre they chose to set the films in.  Additionally I love the Bioware style of storytelling, and am a pretty huge Dragon Age and Mass Effect junky.

All of these things should have made SWTOR be the next 8 year game for me.  The problem is… the experience while amazing… is overall disposable once you have made your way through the content.  So much care and feeding were placed on making sure the quests were just right… and the voice acting was flawless… that it greatly cut into the total amount of content available.  The three chapters that were available at launch… felt like an awesome introduction to the game…  but the main course never really arrived.

I hear the Makeb release is extremely nice… and the continuation of the storyline extremely successful.  The only problem is…  that content came a year too late to stave off the players leaving.  I feel like had they had more content in the pipeline and ready to release a month after launch, they would have been able to keep the majority of all the players that started playing.  We just burned through the content way faster than they had expected.  Additionally the fact that there was only one path per faction… and that essentially all the quests were the same minus the handful of class specific ones…  alting became extremely tedious.

Additionally when they chose to go free to play… they adopted one of the most blatantly abusive models I have seen.  Essentially with free to play, you can choose to take the carrot or the stick… and things like gear locks, pay walling what should be base features, and rolling out a never ending stream of unique lockbox gear just feel too much like being beat with the stick for me.  It has however been extremely lucrative for Bioware… and enabled the game to keep its doors open.  If it means they continue to release new content… then in the long run it could be good for the game as a whole.

I am still disappointed however at what could have been.  Had they been able to launch a continuation of the main storyline each month or so…  it would have kept me glued to the game.  The original storyline was amazing… and there is no taking that away from the game.  The Jedi Knight storyline is probably one of the most epic story arcs I have experienced in any game.  It was just over way too soon, leaving me nothing really left that I wanted to do.  The problem is… that content was extremely expensive to produce.  There was never a way that they ever could have kept up with the demand.

2 – Champions Online

champions_online_screen_4 One of my all time favorite pen and paper games is Heroes Unlimited by Palladium games.  I had early experiences with D&D and AD&D… but this was the game that really hooked me on the possibilities of role playing games.  What made the system so cool is that it had rules to create literally any type of super hero or super villain you could imagine.  Of course I created my share of Wolverine or Batman clones…  but the game system was this fertile group that through a series of roles I could create some unique characters as well.  What made the game so engaging was that the sky was literally the limit in the types of things you could create.

I was a huge fan of City of Heroes, because it gave me some of this same rich character building…  but did so in an easy to digest MMO form.  That game however had a lot of short comings… and when Champions Online was announced it looked to be addressing all of these base issues and creating this wild open ended super hero creation system.  You could mix and match power sets… creating your own custom mix for your character… and this was placed on top of a character generator that was even more robust than City of Heroes.  Everything sounded like the perfect super hero game… and I was hooked on it early.

The problem is… the power sets were grossly imbalanced.  This is the first game I had ever played where certain power sets were literally unplayable.  You could reach a point where you just simply could not progress any further due to the choices you had made.  On the other side of the coin… certain power sets were so grossly overpowered that they completely removed any challenge from the content at all.  You could steam roll over the top of anything, while your friend that chose one of the broken ones… could not even fight the lowest rank mobs.

The major disappointment is that they did a very poor job of mitigating the different power sets.  They would buff one…. but then another power set would become the broken one… making it a constant cycle of your favorite power set potentially becoming the unplayable one.  The game had all the potential in the world… and just became grossly mismanaged.  Instead of understanding that this  constant state of power flux and un-playability was what was driving their players away…  they instead decided to streamline the content.

I really do not remember the timing, but I believe this happened around the time of the free to play conversion.  Previously there had been a pretty interesting storyline that had multiple paths your characters could take.  The end result ended up with everything being a big jumbled mess.  The thing that ended up as the nail in the coffin however… is that coming back as a free to play character… I could not play any of my existing characters.  Each and every one included some costume bits that were not open to free players.  This should be a lesson to anyone… grandfather existing characters…  because holding players characters hostage behind a pay wall is never a good call.

1 – Warhammer Online

warhammer-online-1 I had to put this one at number one… because really this game turning out the way it did is one of my biggest gaming regrets.  I love Warhammer… have since I was in middle school and painting my very first citadel miniatures.  I love the world and the lore… and the sheer brutality of the chaos gods.  They took a failing IP and placed it in the hands of MMO veterans… Mythic games… who had brought the world Dark Age of Camelot.  It seemed like a no-fail proposal.  I thought they knew exactly what players wanted… and could borrow from the success they had with DAoC and all the nuts and bolts that make a game work.

Unfortunately Warhammer Online is really the tale of two games.  The one to twenty experience was amazing.  The PVE content rich, the new public questing construct extremely fun, and the early battlegrounds extremely inventive and enoyable to play.  I still think that the early experience in Warhammer Online ranks among some of my favorite leveling experiences.  The problem is that when you hit about 20-25 the bottom fell out… the PVE content ceased to be interesting… and became increasingly more sparse.  The game changed from this fun questing experience to this “go grind pvp to level” experience.

I feel like the game as a whole was a clash between these two seperate games… one of which I enjoyed immensely… the PVE experience… and one I really could care less about.. the PVP experience.  Had they given me a pure PVE warhammer game… I would probably still be playing it.  The game as a whole did so many innovative things, and there were so many mysteries around the world to unlock for your book of deeds.  Additionally it shipped with an Addon system that was on par with World of Warcraft, and presented some extremely interesting class and race choices.

If only they had focused on giving equal time to both the PVE and PVP experience.  The only problem is… I feel like the makers of this game have come to completely different conclusions about why it failed.  Mark Jacobs has gone on to create Camelot Unchained… which serves to be a purely PVP game completely casting aside any PVE aspects.  I feel like his take away was that it failed because it just was not PVP enough.  In truth not a single friend that was playing left because of lack of PVP.  We had a guild of around 40 players… and all of us left when the post 20 forced pvp experience began.  Harecore PVP players are a niche within a niche, and I just don’t feel that you can really build any game solely around them as your target audience.

This is probably the game I feel would beneift the most from a free to play conversion.  Awhile back I signed up for a new free trial account just to give the game a spin and see if it really is as good as I remembered.  Overall the starter experience is still extremely fun, even though they have dumbed down the richness quite a bit by funneling everyone into the empire lands.  I feel like a free to play version, might pump a bit more life into the title and allow it to survive.  The problem is… this has become the textbook example for MMO failure… and I doubt EA would spend a dime on it going forward.  As a result I will always be left with the thoughts of what might have been had the direction been a bit more sound.

Wrapping Up

This post ended up going a lot longer than expected.  I’ve been typing for around an hour and a half now, but finally have reached a point where I have said what I needed to say about each of them.  Hopefully none of them came off as too terribly ranty.  I hope you all have great weekends, I will mostly be trying to relax a bit before Monday.  I am already stressing out quite a bit, because I know going back I will be having to fill in for my boss as he is going out of town.

Homeward Bound

This morning as I sit at the keyboard typing away… my laptop remains essentially the only thing not yet packed and ready too be loaded into our rental.  I have a mixture of excitement and trepidation…  excitement because I will be so glad to be home… and trepidation because I detest flying… and know I have to deal with a 3 hour flight from Newark to Tulsa.  Hopefully everything at home is just fine, and that our animals are all happy and healthy, and that the house sitter had no real issues.

Holding Pattern

The most frustrating thing about this trip so far has been that while I had all the time in the world to do anything I liked…  I did not have stable enough internet to do much of it.  Sunday night when we finally arrived at our hotel room, the internet was awesome…  while not quite up to what I am used to at home… it was more than sufficient.  Monday the cast of an off Broadway show arrived… and from that point onwards regardless of the time of day… most everything has been unplayable if I could even get connected in the first place.

It feels like so much has been going on this week, with the anniversary events happening in The Secret World and a release of a new content update.  Then over in Guild Wars 2 there is quite a lot of stuff happening as well.  Finally I am still in the thrall of my Rift resurgence… and for whatever reason this is the game that seems to hate the hotel internet the most.  I will start off with a decent ping, but very quickly it degrades into completely unplayable.  Often times I ultimately just ended up disconnecting and not being able to get back on afterwards.

Very quickly I realized that I would have to just wait to do much of anything until I got home today.  As a result I feel like I have been trying to find things that did not necessarily involve an internet connection to play them.  Unfortunately while my laptop is loaded full of MMOs… it is sadly lacking in the single player and offline departments.  With the Hotel Internet not being super stable… I can’t really download anything from steam that I have in my archives.

A Game of Cubes

Cube 2013-07-11 06-31-04-27 Cube World was released last week sometime… but the store went almost immediately offline… and stayed that way for the majority of the week.  When the ability to purchase the game came back… they had taken the new accounts sign-up feature offline.  So it became a daily activity of checking whether or not this was open for registration, and finally on Saturday night… before we left for Albany…  the registrations opened up and I was able to grab ahold of a copy.  This game has served as my mostly offline shiny new thing to play with on this trip.

The game as a whole is much harder than I was expecting it to be.  Initially I was thinking this would be much more Minecraft than it has ended up being.  Essentially you start out in a completely randomly generated world… with little to no ability to actually kill anything.  At first you end up following around packs of NPC adventurers that will help you combat the bad guys you encounter in the world.  As a result… the process of getting from “I suck at everything” to “I can survive mostly on my own” feels a little tedious.

I am not sure if this is just another game that loathes melee players or not, because generally ranged tends to be easier as a whole than melee in most games like this.  I detest finger wigglers. so of course I had to go for sword and board…  though over time I have migrated to dual wield.  The block mechanic works well enough… but only for insanely short periods of time.  When you are dealing with monsters that seem to be able to do non-stop special moves…  it just isn’t enough to make the difference.

My biggest complaint thus far is that the torch feels inadequate for illuminating anything really.  It creates roughly a 5 block by 5 block bubble of light around you…  but when it comes to exploring anything like a cave… it is extremely hard to see where you are going.  I am hoping that over time you can get upgrades that increase your radius of light similar to how you can in Terraria.  If you intend to craft metal upgrades… you will spend a lot of time looking for caves, fighting bats and destroying iron nodes.  As a result the lighting system feels extremely limiting.

The major complaint I have had with the system… is that I feel it would have been better if it supported a building system like Minecraft or Terraria.  I like exploring… but I also like having bases of operation that gives me a feeling that I am actually changing the world around me.  The exploration aspect of the game is great, and I love encountering monsters I have never seen before… and often times dying to them the first time.  But I wish I could be building things in the world as well.  If this game could be blended with Minecraft the hybrid would probably be the most addicting game ever.

Fort Belghast

javaw 2013-07-11 06-57-27-91 As a direct result of playing Cube World… and this feeling that I wanted to be shaping my world…  I have spent a lot of time alternating back and forth between exploring in that game… and building over in Minecraft.  I started a brand new world and the seed I chose had a really nice shallow cave system.  I started off boxing that in and using it as a prebuilt base until I started constructing a proper fort on top of it.  Right now the underground area has a few large chambers, with a structure growing up into the little fort that you can see in the image above.

I created an elevated bridge style entrance, because it allows me to see what is surrounding my base before exiting out into the dangerous world.  Also when there are a large number of zombies or similar around me… it funnels them into one single block place for farming.  Additionally if I absolutely have to… I can bail over the wall to escape something.  Right now I am quarrying stone from below the base to build up the tower system above.  As you can see in the above picture… the tower is currently woefully unfinished.

I hope to do some terracing eventually to clean up the area and make the approach to my fort a little nicer looking.  I have really not done that much exploration… my focus has really been on building up a solid base of operations.  Eventually I will start a mine system below my base where I can hopefully get plenty of ores and other special resources.  I mostly play Minecraft to build structures… but for whatever reason it feels more real to me.. if I do it on survival.  I could be just as happy playing on creative… since all I really want to do is build nifty things… but the world then feels completely dead.

Homeward Bound

I cannot express in words… how happy I will be to leave this area and get back home.  I miss essentially everything…  my animals… my comfy sofa… a world that makes sense to me.  I’ve found plenty of interesting things to do to kill my time…  but it was not really the grand voyage of discovery I was hoping for.  I know the workshop my wife attended, has been massively useful for her… and each night she has come home with pictures of the labs and activities they did.  So the major focus of this trip was a complete success… and my being here…  was just to make sure that happened.

I came on this trip just because I wanted to make sure my wife could attend this workshop.  While she is a trooper and an amazing road warrior… she would have struggled with driving in this environment.  She doesn’t really like driving period… and Tulsa traffic is far more sane and rational than anything I have experienced here.  Her lack of depth perception would have been a major issue in this environment where I am essentially constantly scanning both sides of the street watching for some idiot that is about to dart out into the middle of traffic (as has happened so many times I have lost count).  So ultimately regardless of how I have felt about this vacation…  I feel like my role in it was a success.

So essentially today I have to check us out of the hotel at noon and then figure out a way to kill 3 hours of time until I pick my wife up from class.  We are ferrying two other classmates to the airport… turning in our rental… and catching a 5 pm flight to Newark.  We have a 45 minute wait until we catch another flight to Tulsa that should take 3 hours.  So hopefully by about 9:30-10ish tonight I will be home in my own bed.  After the hotel bed all these nights…  our comfy bed at home will be amazing.

Wrapping Up

This has been an interesting experiencing even if it has not been super exciting.  Time for me to do some googling to figure out how exactly I will kill the rest of the day.  Thinking I will play some Minecraft until around noon… pack up the rental and then set off and do something for the rest of the afternoon.  Elo was telling me about another mall with another game store… so I will likely set my sights on that.  I hope you all have a great day, and that it is relatively uneventful.

Bilgewater Trade Cartel

Why is it… that a bed that is uncomfortable at 10 pm… can become the most comfortable thing in the universe at 6 am?  Feeling very creaky as the hotel bed seems to not agree with my back, but that is nothing a few Tylenol will not cure.  It feels like the time shift thing is catching up with me… last night I could not for the life of me get to sleep and this morning I simply do not want to wake up.  Luckily however just one more morning of this before I am back home.  I miss my comfy spot on the couch a lot when I try to game here in the relatively uncomfortable office chair on a table that is just a tiny bit too high.

Bilgewater Trade Cartel

Trade-Prince-Gallywix Yesterday it was confirmed by Bashiok that in 5.4 they would be adding in a cash shop for the World of Warcraft.  Apparently to some in the WoW community this is shocking and disturbing news, and Rowan wrote up a nice piece covering his thoughts on the matter.  Much the same as him… I am an outsider watching this situation evolve as I have no real vested interest in the game any longer.  I still have a good number of friends playing it, in and theory I am still leading House Stalwart over there by proxy.  I gave up the guild leader crown, but the person I handed it off to consults me on most major decisions…  not that I really expected that… but that has been what happened in practice.

What I don’t understand is why this is such a shock to the installed player base?  I am honestly surprised this has not happened before now.  The fact that you could go to battle.net and hit the store and purchase lots of in game items right away… means that essentially for years World of Warcraft has had a cash shop.  Placing this in game just streamlines the process, and makes it more of an impulse buy.  Additionally it allows them to expand their product offering to include different sorts of items.  Again…  I am shocked this has not happened before now…  as they already have a large catalog of items and services available for a fee.

I’ve said this before… and I will say it again…  I feel all of this is leading to Blizzard announcing a free to play conversion.  Right now it is just them, Eve Online, and Final Fantasy XIV that have subscriptions…  the last not even fully re-released yet…  so that could change.  Everything I have heard is that Blizzard has lost favor in China, and that World of Warcraft is no longer the cool thing it once was there.  As a result they have taken serious losses in player base there, if not completely losing that market.  This has been the thing that seriously overinflated their subscriber numbers, especially since WoW Asia already had a vastly different payment model than the United States monthly subscribers.

I feel like since it does not seem like they have much else in the pipeline… they will be making the big announcement at Blizzcon this year.  I feel like this is a decision they are going to have to make with the changes in the market, the constant trickle of player losses, and the fact that there is nothing on the horizon for at least another year.  This is pending an expansion announcement, which would at least be a year out.  If not another expansion… then the next big thing on the horizon is Titan in 2016.  There is just nothing there to ignite the player base and make them care about the game, so if nothing else I feel like a free to play decision might bring back existing players and get them to spend some money on the game.

I feel like Star Wars the Old Republic and Rift have both made the Free to Play conversion a much more palatable one for Blizzard.  In both cases they proved that they could make the switch and become more profitable in the process.  For a company with a deeply aging game, aging infrastructure and no clear content ark for storyline progression…  it has to be something that looks mighty tantalizing right now.  The only possible reason why Blizzard would not make this call is big stubborn pride.  But as they start to lose more money…  the pride thing eventually goes out the window.  Whatever is good for the bottom line of the company… and keeps the doors open… is ultimately good for the most dedicated player base.

Old Friends Renewed

rift 2013-07-10 07-14-34-08 Elowynn, Falconwing and Egan are folks I have known for roughly eight years of playing online games.  Back in vanilla wow, my guild House Stalwart and their guild Silent Strike were close allies and did a ton of content together.  There were many joint Zul’Gurub runs that I can remember fondly.  As Stalwart moved through Burning Crusade we got more and more “serious” about the content, our guilds started to drift apart as our focus was just in a difference place.  But during this time, there was not a period where I was not in communication with these folks… and if we needed subs for a raid I always threw a query out to them.

All these years later, I am finding out that they have a very active guild presence over on Faeblight.  Since I am on crappy hotel internet… I decided to roll a low level character to go visit with them.  I have to say it is in many ways like coming home.  While a lot of the people are different, the core of Elo, Falcon and Egan make the Silent Strike guild over on Faeblight feel all warm and fuzzy.  I am really wishing I had known about it when I came back to the game some time ago.  I love my friends that are in Outcast Misfits… but I have to admit I have a pull towards trying to transfer over to Faeblight.

Ultimately when it was just me… it was no big deal.  But over the course of the last several weeks I have gotten a large number of the Stalwarts and various other friends playing Rift again.  We’ve used the Stalwart channel to organize things… but it would be awesome if we could end up all in the same place.  The Misfits are nice folks, but I am just used to a role-playing environment… namely because of the naming rules.  The Misfits have some members I have literally reported for offensive naming violations… and that is just not something I am used to having to stomach within the guild I am in.  They have provided an extremely friendly place to hang out, but I keep wondering if our folks would be better served with Silent Strike on Faeblight.

Ultimately I have stayed with the Misfits, because it opened a lot of doors for my people.  If any of them decided they wanted to raid… then they would have those options.  But honestly I find myself mostly sticking to the people I know… and the server channel we created.  Silent Strike at least are extremely similar to the type of environment we had with House Stalwart.  I guess ultimately I have been looking for that type of environment all along.  Catari Honor Guard was it… until the membership stopped playing…  but since then I just haven’t found anyplace I feel comfortable calling a home.  I would be nice to feel like inviting someone to a guild… without having to give them a bunch of disclaimers about how the members are a little “rough around the edges”.

Breakfast Hard Roll

20130710_074443 For the last few mornings… I have ended up going into Stewart’s a Upstate New York convenience store to get a pop in the morning.  Near the checkout they have had these bins with a sign above it that says “Hard Rolls”.  They are divided into neat little bins… one for Butter, one for Peanut Butter, and one for Peanut Butter and Jelly.  As I waited in line… I would watch people grab 2 or 3 at a time… and it all seemed amazingly odd.  So that after experiencing this enigma for a few days… I decided I had to try one this morning.

It is apparently truth in advertising…  a Kaiser roll or Hard roll as people here apparently call them… sliced down the middle and covered in butter.  After doing some figuration… it is roughly 300 calories… and is the dirt cheap price of $0.85.  I guess this is a relatively cheap way to get fast and easy sustenance.  Quite honestly… the roll itself was rather tasty… nice and soft on the inside and nice and buttery and crusty on the outside.  The butter inside as well was of a seemingly good quality… or at least it did not taste like fake butter.

I still do not fully get why people seem to be buying multiples of these at a time… other than the fact that maybe since I am I  staying in the ghetto… it is a cheap way to get some calories in you.  Maybe they are going to have them for lunch?  It was tasty enough for me to eat it again, because I have always had a weakness for bread and butter.  I just find the concept of that being normal convenience store fair a little odd.  In Oklahoma you expect to have Hot Dogs, Nachos, Taquitos, little Breakfast Sandwiches… maybe donuts…  but not fresh rolls.

Wrapping Up

I have zero idea what I am going to do with myself today.  I know at some point I should probably leave the room so that the maids can work freely without trying to move around me.  I guessed the time at which they would clean the room wrong yesterday… and ended up back here before they had done so.  I had a nice conversation with the maid however, and she apparently does not really like Schenectady either.  She misses working in Florida… and I suppose I would too.  I also get the impression she was extremely happy to have someone willing to talk to her.  Anyways I hope you all have great days… and I will endevour to figure out how to kill another day.

Last to Know

This morning is feeling really harsh, as I woke up around 7 am on a Saturday, after staying up until around 1:20 or so last night.  It was entirely intentional however… since I wanted to make sure I could sleep tonight.  We will be getting up before 4 am tomorrow… so that we can catch a 6 am flight.  Normally I struggle to get to sleep, and the only sure way I could think of to make sure I slept tonight… was to purposefully exhaust myself today.  All of that logic aside… it still sucks to be groggy and feel like you just want to go back to sleep.

Last to Know

Most of yesterday was relatively un-eventful.  We hung out around the house, cleaned a bit, did copious amounts of laundry…  but in the larger scheme of things nothing much happened.  I hung out on my laptop playing some Rift and my wife read or did planning for the next school year.  Essentially the standard things we do any day.  We had plans to go out and about but those never really materialized, so essentially we were the exact opposite of busy all day long.  This will factor in shortly as to why how un-busy we were matters.

About seven last night we get a call from my wife’s step brothers spouse.  Apparently my wife’s mother is in the hospital… suspected heart attack.  Of course we are a little freaked… but the freaked out part turns to a bit of anger when we find out that she has been there essentially all day.  My wife goes into a panic of trying to call people and make sure they know… and one by one… every person she reaches has known for hours.  Even estranged family members seem to know.

Essentially my wife is her mothers next of kin… the closest blood relative and the only one who could legally sign for her.  Yet she is quite literally the last person to find out she is in the hospital…  let alone has been there since at least around noon yesterday.  Somehow one of the step daughters got called and went to the hospital with her…  but my wife’s mother did not want anyone  called… since they “didn’t know anything”.  Thing is…  the step daughter is a 50+ year old grown woman… she should have started calling the moment she found out anything.  My wife’s mother was in a hospital bed… it is not like she could have stopped her.

To make matters worse… my niece thinks it is important to let everyone know when her kids have odd bowel movements…  yet the one time something important actually happens she doesn’t let us know?  She is a busy body, with no job, and essentially no life…  yet the one time she could have passed along crucial and vital information she didn’t.  Essentially the whole experience was frustrating to be so catastrophically left out of the loop.  I think we finally got called because people wondered where we were.

Okay So Far

In their defense… for whatever reason they all thought we had already left on our vacation.  But even then it would have been nice to at least know something was up.  Ultimately I think they wanted to save us the stress since we couldn’t really do anything about it.  Overall she is being treated like it was a heart attack… but she has had none of the signs of heart attack.  She was out working on the farm of her “boyfriend” and fainted.  But afterwards we find out she had not had anything to eat since 9pm the night before…  and not really had anything to drink since around 6pm.  So it could have been a low blood sugar or dehydration thing… since senior citizens dehydrate extremely easily.

She was as stubborn and frustrating as ever when we finally got to the hospital last night around 8:30.  All in all she was doing well, and felt much better, however they had her hooked to a heart monitor just to make sure things were okay.  They said she had some signs of plaque in her arteries… but quite honestly what 76 year old person has not developed a build up?  Based on her explanation of what happened I am doubt it was anything cardiac since she had no chest pain… and has no soreness other than the injuries she experienced in the fall.  The doctors had not really seen any “smoking guns” so hopefully they will release her today with an all clear.

We’ve made everyone we talk to essentially promise to call us first from now on… despite whatever she says.  I know she just didn’t want to needlessly worry anyone… but the simple fact that she was in the hospital at all meant folks needed to know.  We would have headed up there at noon and sat all day with her if we had known.  But this has always been the way it has gone in our family.  Since we tend to keep our heads down and focused on the day to day… we always end up the last to know about anything.  Generally it is the gossip queen niece that keeps us up to date… but sadly she seems to gloss over the things that are actually important.

The Treehouse

rift 2013-07-06 08-27-24-31During the day yesterday I played a ton of Rift, as I ran around happily on my stabbity rogue.  I completed Pelladane and most of Cape Jule, but found myself struggling a little bit when I hit Seratos and the mob levels increased.  As a result I decided to try and push on through to 53 through a combination of Instant Adventures, Rifts and Zone events.  I made pretty decent progress and am sitting at roughly 75% through 52.  I would have probably made it to 53 that night, but of course the things I mentioned above happened and that pretty much closed out our evening.

During the middle of my Instant Adventure-a-thon my friend Rae got home and logged in… and wanted me to check out her dimension.  She has literally spent the last three days doing nothing but work on her dimension and it shows.  She had some some really awesome things.  The picture above is me standing on the top platform of her tree house… that she built entirely from scratch.  Essentially she has this huge pavilion of sorts on the ground floor, with spiral staircases leading up to a garden level… then finally a series of platforms climbing up the tree.

This alone would be amazing, but she has also built down into the little grotto area at the bottom of the falls in the Moonshade Pools dimension.  So through a nifty winding path downwards you can reach the bottom and she is starting to build a pretty nifty dock down there.  I knew she had this in her, since she is a minecrafting fiend…  but overall she has done way more with dimensions than I would expect anyone would.  She has inspired me to start trying to do something with my own version of Moonshade Pools.  Right now it is pretty much just a catch all for all the nifty dimension items I have gotten so far.  If you are over on Deepwood, friend Audrae and take a look for yourself.

Wrapping Up

Well I should wrap up this post and get on with the whole getting ready thing.  We have a long list of errands we need to run today so that we can pack this evening and prepare to leave the state tomorrow.  We still have our houseguest, and he is seemingly doing okay.  He has been down to his mothers house quite a bit, so here is hoping he is about to decide he wants to move back home. I hope you all have a great day, and I hope we have safe travels.  I will likely be blogging tomorrow from the airport in Chicago, as that will be the first time I really have anytime to do much of anything.

The Houseguest

This morning I am getting a late start as I took Friday off.  It didn’t really make sense to go back from the fourth for one day… only to be gone for a week after that.  I was fairly exhausted by the time I made it to bed last night, and it was only through the nudging of my wife that I got up and around this morning.  Just as a warning this is probably going to be one of the most real life posts I have made in awhile.

The Houseguest

We have a really unique relationship with one of our neighbors… it long ago transcended friendship and moved into the adopted family territory.  When she was run over by her Ex-Husband… we were the ones that rushed to the hospital.  When I had my insane arterial spray bleed out incident…  she was the one we called and while we were in the hospital she did what no one should ever have to do…  cleaned up the CSI inspired mess.  So essentially we will do anything for the other, it is just the norm.  We’ve been in each others lives for roughly fifteen years.

All of that said… her kids are essentially like our kids too… or at very least like a niece and nephew.  Roughly a week ago there was a simple fight that escalated into something bigger… he went off in a huff saying he was moving out.  The problem being… he is a High School junior… and while legally an adult he has no facilities to survive on his own.  As a result he has been couch surfing since then, staying with whatever friend would let him for the night… and from the looks of it… not really sleeping or eating much.

Initially we were planning on having him stay in our house as a house sitter while we were gone next week.  But after seeing him yesterday and how rough he looked we essentially told him to come in… take a nap and that he could stay with us until we left for the trip.  Apparently we are a safe place, because the second he laid down he was out like a light.  The only problem is our house is not really equipped for guests.  You essentially have the option of sleeping on a couch or a loveseat.  While he was napping we ran several errands, one of which was to go get a blow up mattress to at least give him something vaguely resembling a bed.

My hope is that we can act as a neutral ground and that while we are gone the he and his mom can reconcile the differences.  This way staying with us… we at least know he is not out “getting drunk, getting high or making babies” as my wife put it.  He is a good kid, he just makes some phenomenally dumb decisions at times.  This is the same kid that was notoriously losing his bike… because he forgot who’s lawn he left it on.  He does not have a malicious bone in his body, but my fear was the longer he was out there the worse things he would have to do to survive.  Additionally we know at least his mom can rest a little easier knowing he has a safe place to stay for the time being.

The Flood

As a result of having a houseguest, one of the things on my to do list that I had never gotten around to was changing out the apparatus in the tank of the upstairs toilet.  This is something I have done a few times before, so was not something I had the least bit of hesitation about.  I turned the water off at the wall, drained the tank, undid all the fittings and swapped out the apparatus.  All of this took about 20 minutes or so.  After hooking everything up… there was a leak.  I tightened the plastic nut to make sure it was not coming from the tank.

I didn’t feel like I could really get it tightened enough, so I ended up running around the corner to home depot to get a tool better suited for the tight space.  Finally I toweled everything off and verified that it was not coming from the tank.  Instead it looked like it was coming from the braided hose that connected to the wall.  I began trying to tight that up a bit… and the plastic collar of the hose essentially disintegrated in my hands…  and the result was a gushing torrent of water going everywhere.  I managed to get the water shut off at the wall quick enough… but the floor and me that was laying on said floor… was completely drenched.

At this point I feel like I have left my depth of home repair know how…. not that I had much.  Apparently my penis was not fully programmed with all the knowledge it should have about how to fix things.  After all since men always have to do this sort of thing… it must come pre-programmed out of the factory right?  I know to take care of what is wrong, we will have to shut off the water outside in our front yard.  But know we are getting into actual plumbing… because it seems as though the current cable is essentially JB Welded onto the pipes.  Actually it looks like it is stuck on with games workshop “green stuff” which I have heard is actually a plumbing compound.

I feel as though we should probably just call a plumber, but for the time being we are down to one restroom.  That said we have essentially been down to one restroom for a good 6 months…  since the tank upstairs has been wonky at least that long.  We have one more day before we leave for a trip… so this all may be something we just deal with afterwards.  After that point we will no longer be trying to share a restroom with a houseguest.  I just hate the concept of rushing around trying to fix something right before we are going to leave town.

Stealth For Me

rift 2013-07-04 23-00-30-83 When things finally calmed down I collapsed into my comfy spot on the couch and decided to play some Rift.  Of late I have really been enjoying my rogue Belgrave on Deepwood.  Some time ago I wrote about trying out the Granpa build that PK suggested.  I cannot swoon enough about how awesome the build is, and just how much it has improved the fun of playing a rogue for me.  The most interesting thing about it for me however… is that I am actually enjoying playing a stealth class.  This is however I think because it works drastically different than most stealth classes I have played in the past.

Always in the past it felt like you were at a great disadvantage if you were not constantly stealthing around in game.  Stealthing in games like WoW feels much like race walking… equal parts awkward and frustrating… and just not that enjoyable.  I hate the construct that moving in stealth makes you move slower, and until now the only stealth class I had really enjoyed was my Dirge in EQ2… and that was mostly because thanks to bard songs… I could move faster stealthed than most classes did on mounts.  The moving through molasses aspect of rogues in the past has made the class seem overly tedious.

Rift on the other hand with the Nightblade has made stealth a temporary buff that lasts at most 30 seconds.  As a result this completely changes how you use stealth in the first place.  It ceases becoming a tool that lets you skip content, and starts becoming a strategic resources that you employ to open combat, or at most to sneak past a single mob that is overly tough like an elite.  Additionally this short term stealth buff does not slow the player down…  so the combat feels just as fluid as I stealth up just before I enter combat. 

Additionally the build I am using gives me essentially no downtime… so I can roll from mob to mob or even packs of mobs… stealthing quickly between them to get my next opening off.  The feeling is extremely awesome, and gives me whatever was lacking from a rogue in the past.  This is not a prodding game of shadows… this is feels more like fast paced ninja assassins.  Otherwise… I feel like Rift does rogues in a way that traditionally warrior style melee players can enjoy.  Unfortunately I figure it is probably lacking for the folks that like poking along through  content at the pace of a snail.

Wrapping Up

Now you have a rundown of all the major shifts that have occurred in my life over the last 24 hours.  Hopefully we have made the right calls, and hopefully we can act as a neutral ground as mom and son reconcile.  Additionally… hopefully we have not just delayed the process… and or inherited a semi permanent member of our household.  I hope you all have a great day… and I hope that you don’t have any awkward decisions on the horizon.

Original Norrath

The big hullabaloo at work ended up going far better than expected… however since the meeting time was at 1 pm I spent most of the morning in an overall sense of dread.  I am a “rip the band-aid off” person, not peel it back slowly… as a result I detest suspense.  I want to get the pain over with so I can get on with my life.  In class I usually volunteered to give my speech or presentation first so I could get it out of the way and relax.  But I survived… and now I am on vacation for awhile.

Original Norrath

eqgame 2013-07-04 09-23-34-47 Thanks to my Everquest 2 account and having station access I have had the ability to play the original Everquest for some time now.  For whatever reason I never really took advantage of this.  From time to time I would boot up a copy of the game playing one my favorite emulator server, but I had no real interest in ever returning to the real thing.  On a whim I decided to fire up the game client and see if the game experience had improved as a while.  A few months back I did the same for Dark Age of Camelot, and was surprised at how well the game actually stood up against modern titles.

The Good

eqgame 2013-06-30 10-55-46-78 Honestly many of the features of the game have been drastically improved since I last played it on an older emulated copy.  Firstly most of the NPC models I encountered had been drastically improved, but honestly I never had an issue with graphics… I play minecraft afterall.  The problems I always had with the game were just how bad the user interface was.  Luckily this has been improved a lot, and they seem to have fixed the horrible mouse look system from the early days.  For the most part it controls out of the box like you would expect any modern MMO to control.

Additionally they have completely gotten rid of the corpse recovery aspect of the game.  This was the biggest sticking point with me, and the cause of lots of marital strife for myself and my friends.  The inability to simply disconnect without dire consequences caused many a fight, and I can still remember getting a call one Sunday afternoon begging me to come home right away and resurrect someone because they got stuck in a bad place and were about to lose all the gear on their corpse.  All in all there was nothing positive about that system.

What happens now is if you die you respawn back in a safe area with all your gear just like modern MMOs.  After level 10 you begin to lose experience just like you used to in the old game.  From my understanding you still can lose levels through death, but this is acceptable I suppose.  Temporarily losing progress on death is something you can deal with, permanently losing everything you have spent years acquiring on your characters… that is not something you can deal with.

Additionally they have added in a return to bindpoint functionality that lets players rapidly get out of an area.  This was another huge problem with the game as a whole, the inability to safely leave the game at a moments notice.  Things happen, and you cannot always plan when you might need to leave a game.  Modern MMOs have taken this into account, but it is nice to see they have gone back through and added this functionality into what was always the most painful game on players.

The Interesting

eqgame 2013-06-30 14-17-20-14 The thing that I find most interesting is all of the ways that they have essentially “hacked” modern features into an extremely old and limiting engine.  The name Everquest used to always be a joke, since for the most part the game itself had very few “quests”.  They have remedied this by adding in a full quest journal system, and through some clever scripting given you an overarching quest for each area that essentially leads you by the hand to the other quest givers.  This way players at least know who to /hail to get the quests in a given area.

Additionally they have incorporated new features, like treasure chests that are commonplace in other games.  They had no real way to do this in the traditional sense… but instead creatively created ground spawn stationary mobs that look like chests but don’t fight back.  So by destroying this “chest” the player can then loot the contents.  I have to applaud the devs for coming up with extremely creative solutions around complex problems and limitations of their game engine.

Additionally I find it interesting that they have come to a point where they expect mudflat ion to occur and that players need certain stats to be able to survive.  Through the tutorial quests you manage to get a really nice set of gear, probably better than I had in my 50s in the original game… and include with it the ever important 10% haste item.  This was a must have item, and I remember hours spent farming various drops for the guild to make sure that every dps player had at least the most basic of haste items.

The Bad

eqgame 2013-06-30 12-56-54-66 Today’s post was essentially spurred on by one of my friends blog post yesterday.  Over on West Karana, my friend Tipa posted an article called “Why I Stopped Playing Everquest”.  Her commentary could almost exactly double for whatever I am about to say, because the same things that do not appeal to her… are what I noticed indulging this whim.  Ultimately it is honestly the same problem I had with Dark Age of Camelot as well.  The game play is to slow and prodding… and quite frankly boring after being used to today’s MMO standards.

I played a Cleric in the original game, and my little circle of healers used to joking refer to the game as AFKquest, in that we spent far more time alt-tabbed or talking than actually doing anything active on our characters.  Unfortunately playing a melee is not much better.  I have reached a point where I just cannot handle passive and slow combat, and literally doing nothing as your character auto attacks down a monster.  The above golem took a good 15 minutes of waiting on my character to slowly chew down its health.  I alt-tabbed and caught up on my news feed, tabbing back between articles to see if it was over yet.

This is not what fun game play looks like anymore for me.  At one time it was, but more so it was because it was the only thing that gave us online character development and progression.  The game holds up on many levels, but the slow pace of the game and the absolute passivity of combat guarantees that it will never be more than a passing novelty for me again.  Sure I got the tingles of nostalgia as I heard the opening theme again, but I have the same nostalgia playing Everquest II, which for me at least is a much better game in every possible way.

I feel like I have always looked at my time playing Everquest through rose colored lenses… but after playing it again for a short period of time… I started to think about all the things I didn’t remember.  All of the hours spent standing around doing nothing, while other players drug mobs back to the party and killed them… somehow never taking enough damage to make it worth casting a heal.  Quite honestly the game involved way more waiting around than I would like to remember.  Waiting to break fear, waiting for everyone to log in and show up for an event, waiting to get enough faction to turn in a specific quest item, waiting for that one magical super rare monster to spawn needed for someone’s epic.  I simply don’t have the patience for that much waiting, or at least I have come to value my time a bit more and I am simply not willing to squander it.

Wrapping Up

Overall I was surprised at just how well Everquest had updated itself to compete with modern games.  However after playing for a very short period of time… I remembered all the bad things about the game and they pretty much toppled the nostalgic good things.  I am going to file the game in the “not for me anymore” category.  I might visit occasionally since it is free for me to do so, out of sheer nostalgia, but it isn’t something I could ever really get into again.  The gameplay overall is just not what I am looking for out of an MMO.

Since this is the big holiday weekend in the United States, I wish all my fellow Americans a happy Independence Day.  For my dear friends in the rest of the world… I apologize… because for the next 24 hours you will hear about nothing but our Fourth of July celebrations.  I still hope you all have a great weekend.  We have a bunch of stuff to do to prepare for our vacation and a bunch of cleaning to do for our house sitter.  Guess I need to get up and be productive.