Evil Genius

Best Laid Plans

eso 2014-05-19 06-11-58-918 This weekend I accomplished very little of what I had planned, but I did log into a nice surprise over in Elder Scrolls Online this morning.  One of the cooler things about crafting are the tradeskill apprentices… I am using the EQ2 term, because quite frankly I can’t remember the in game name for them in ESO.  Once a day they send you a care package of goodies along with a great note about what they had to go through to obtain it.  The notes alone are worth the skill points, because some of them are absolutely hilarious.  When I opened my care package this morning I noticed that I got a Tempering Alloy, which is the metal temper used to take a purple item to a orange quality one or a legendary.  This is still one of the best aspects of the game, the ability to upgrade an item to whatever tier you might want.

Granted this is my first legendary temper, and I am sure it probably takes six or so to get 100% chance of upgrade, but I will squirrel this one away until I manage to get more.  I had grand plans of dinging 50 and completing Coldharbor, and while I made progress on both fronts… it simply did not happen this weekend.  I blame Ashgar for distracting me with his Final Fantasy 5 draft idea.  I would love to say I will ding tonight, because I am maybe 1/5th of a level away from 50.  I have a few rather epic quests that I am currently on that I want to see the completion of.  Mostly right now I am suffering from too many things I want to play, and too little time to play them.  I might have to start bringing my laptop to work and getting in some playtime over lunch again.

Yesterday was somewhat fragmented, in that we had to attend a wedding that evening.  I have to say it is one of the more interesting weddings I have been to.  The pair are both former students of my wife, and the mother of the bride is another teacher.  I knew absolutely no one there, so the entire occasion felt extremely awkward.  However it was made significantly less awkward for me when the bride started walking down the isle to a full orchestral version of the Legend of Zelda Fairy Fountain theme.  So obviously at least one of the pair was a serious gamer, and in theory they both were, but it made a fairly nice processional theme.  At the end of the wedding they queued up the Imperial March, so I feel like I could get along really well with the pair.

Evil Genius

WildStar64 2014-05-14 06-15-15-469 One thing that I did accomplish this weekend was to play through the rest of the Crimson Isle campaign in Wildstar.  My hope was to play the engineer enough to determine if this was a class I could get into, and as the gameplay progressed I enjoyed it more than the Warrior.  I know without a doubt that I enjoy the Chua far more than I did the Cassian so in theory I guess I have my race and class.  I am still not terribly sold on the game, but it is starting to grow on me.  Surprising enough I found that I really enjoyed the explorer path.  Normally I am not one for jumping puzzles but these felt okay to me.  I am sure late in the game they will be as insane as some of the things I did to get SWTOR Holocrons, but even though those were painful… I enjoyed doing them.  They gave me something to look forward to in every zone, so I am hoping the explorer path will do the same thing for me here.

Soldier path seems an absolute natural fit for me, but all of the “holdouts” felt extremely forced in that it did not feel like there was a lore reason for starting a ruckus at a specific location.  Whereas with the explorer path in Crimson Isle you are helping the Chua scientists place monitoring stations high on the rock cliffs, and this felt cool to me.  So far the thing I dig about the Engineer is that it is very much a “kill them all” class as well.  You can circle strafe around gathering mobs up and shotgun blasting them down with impunity, or at least that is what it feels like right now.  I am sure as the gameplay moves on, there are far more consequences to this gameplay style but I can see it might be fun to tank an instance this way.

Mystic Knights

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-19 06-09-36-587 Yesterday I officially progressed through the roughest part of the game for starting as White Mage.  How I did it… is that I basically ground out enough levels to make it easier on myself.  Getting to the Water Crystal was a challenge but when I did, the entire game got that much easier.  Now I have a party full of Mystic Knights, which while not the best thing in the game are certainly far more offensive than the White Mage.  Mystic Knight is a class I have never played in previous plays through the game, and I am kinda digging the way spellblade works so far.  It gives me access to elemental attacks, without having to have a true spellcaster.  Supposedly the Rapid Fire combo with Spellblade is a super powerful way of delivering elemental attacks later in the game.

I streamed for quite a bit yesterday afternoon as I pushed through the water temple sequence and gained the Mystic Knight.  Last night I did not stream since I was mostly hanging out on the couch watching my sequence of Sunday night television shows.  I found that watching tv is the ideal time to grind out levels, and that is why I am level 19 currently and have just now finished the fire crystal / karnak castle sequence.  I think I did mostly okay in Karnak Castle and got all of the big name items, that I may or may not need later.  The only thing I missed was the Main Guache, but since I have no use for daggers with my fixed party comp, I did not worry about that too much.  I did pick up Esuna, Ribbon and Elven Mantle so should be fine moving forward.  At this point  I will have to consult a guide because I cannot remember for the life of me what comes next.  I know that I do not get my ranger job until a bit later, so that is really what I need to do next.

FF5 Draft: White Mage Hell

Today I am swapping things up a bit with my Steampowered Sunday post.  Originally the goal of this column was to force myself to play some games that were sitting in my steam backlog… which is huge.  However over time this has mutated a bit into “bel plays a game and reviews it”.  Today we are going to see some further mutation of this as I write about some madness that I allowed myself to get involved with along with my Aggrochat podcast co-hosts Kodra and Ashgar as well as occasional fill-in host Tam.  For some time Ashgar has participated in the Four Job Fiesta charity event that now helps out the Child’s Play charity.  The goal of this is to play through the epic game Final Fantasy 5 using a fixed set of jobs.

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-18 11-06-24-150 For those not familiar with Final Fantasy 5, it was a 16 bit era title that allowed you to choose what classes a fixed set of 4 characters would be by assigning them jobs.  While in the job they gained abilities that could then carry over into other jobs.  This became a min-maxers dream as you could make some extremely broken combinations.  As a result for years players have done various wierd combinations of this game for fun, and the Four Job Fiesta capitalized on this and turned it into a grand charity event.  For awhile Ash has wanted to do an internal draft of this game, where four of us get together and draft out a viable party made of of the different available jobs.  As a result each player has to make some compromises to determine what they want to go after first.

To facilitate this Ash decided to set up a card deck game using the amazing Google hangout app Roll 20.  He laid out the various sprites for the characters in rows representing the Wind Crystal, Water Crystal, Fire Crystal and Earth Crystal… adding the Freelancer as an optional job for the Earth Crystal given that specific one only has four options.  So again for those not as deeply familiar with the title as it seems to be among our little circle of mumble users…  the setup looks something like this.

The Job Options

Wind Crystal

  • Knight
  • Monk
  • Thief
  • Black Mage
  • White Mage
  • Blue Mage

Water Crystal

  • Red Mage
  • Time Mage
  • Summoner
  • Beserker
  • Mystic Knight
  • Mime

Fire Crystal

  • Beastmaster
  • Geomancer
  • Ninja
  • Ranger
  • Bard

Earth Crystal

  • Dragoon
  • Dancer
  • Samurai
  • Chemist
  • Freelancer

The Draft

The rules of the game that we are playing under is that each player must always have one of a given job, and from the moment you get your crystals… every character must have a job.  There are alternate rulesets where you can play with freelancer until you get all four jobs available, but we are playing with the more pure ruleset.  This as always means that some of the parties will have a much easier time than others.  Whoever gets stuck with Thief and White Mage will be struggling, since both of them have issues early game, and whoever has the Black Mage will have a supremely easy time rolling over everything in their way.  We opted to go with a draft order that minimized the advantage of being first, and the disadvantage of being last… that looks a little something like this.

ABCD | DCBA | BDAC | CADB

We decided to roll a 20 sided die in the Roll20 addon to get started and pick the order.  Ashgar using his dice hacking abilities rolled an 18, Tam rolled an 8, Kodra rolled a 5… and I rolled a very lowly and painful 2.  Meaning that in the above scenario Player A would be Ashgar, B would be Tam, C would be Kodra and I got stuck bringing up the rear with D.  However due to the order of the draft I feel like maybe I had a slight advantage.  Of course the Black Mage was gone by the time it got around to me, but I still had plenty of really good things to pick from, considering in this draft I got to make 2 picks back to back.   When all was said and done our party compositions looked like this.

Belghast – White Mage, Mystic Knight, Ranger, Samurai

Ashgar – Blue Mage, Summoner, Beastmaster, Dancer

Kodra – Black Mage, Red Mage, Bard, Chemist

Tam – Thief, Time Mage, Ninja, Dragoon

This surprisingly left the Knight completely untouched, which is an extremely good early game starter.  Not unsurprisingly no one picked the Berserker or Mime, or the Geomancer.  However I think we were all somewhat shocked that no one at all picked up the Freelancer, which ultimately ends up being one of the best options since they can be super customized.  I think overall each of us had a plan in the works, namely mine involved using Ranger to feed my Samurai.  Ash seems to like Blue Mage and Beastmaster which are super fiddly combinations… but he is methodical enough to make them work amazingly.  Kodra of course went for the power combo of Black Mage/Red Mage which will mean he has an extremely easy play through.  Tam went with a super focused build of being able to feed the Ninja and Dragoon, but will have the roughest start of all of us… since you cannot get thieves a weapon in the first town.

Reality Setting In

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-17 20-29-04-556 It was really during the first “post job” boss encounter that the reality of my choices set in.  I wanted to go for a very melee party, which meant I needed some extremely strong healing.  There is no stronger healer in Final Fantasy 5 than the White Mage, so it seemed like a no brainer pick.  However I did not really “grok” the reality of trying to play through with ONLY white mages up through the water crystal.  Karlaboss aka the fight above is the moment it really set in what I had laid out in front of me, as I slowly dinked away at 650 hp… 10 damage at a time.  Granted there was no way in hell he was going to kill me… but the entire process is just slow and tedious.

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-17 22-28-47-597 I made it through to the ship graveyard where finally I could start to grind away at the mobs.  My white mage party is uniquely suited for combating the undead, since this flavor of FF allows for you to case cure on the undead which becomes an offensive spell.  I made an early mistake in that I tried to podcast while playing this game, and wound up running out of mana and dying horribly.  However I reloaded from an earlier save state after we finished the podcast and continued on the journey.  I opted to grind my way to 10 on the undead hoping that would give me enough of a buffer to get through the next few fights before I finally get the water crystal and can make a party full of mystic knights.  Granted I will still have to keep one player a white mage, but that should work just fine given I will still need some healing.

White Mage Hell

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-17 23-03-44-311 The boss at the end of the ship graveyard was a complete pushover.  Generally speaking this is a pretty rough time for most parties considering she starts out living and turns undead a few rounds into the fight.  The undead version has the nasty added issue of poisoning players each time she hits them.  This quickly gets out of control for most parties, however with an army of white mages I just pushed forward nuking the hell out of her with cure.  It took two rounds of this after she turned undead to finish her off.  I calmly cured the poison and moved on. However as easy as this fight was, the next one turned out to be absolutely brutal.

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-17 23-30-16-066

As I climbed the north mountain to get to the wounded dragon Hiryuu, I started to question if I should have ground higher than ten in the ship graveyard.  I simply could not do crap against the mobs on the mountain, other than simply out survive them.  Additionally the flail that I picked up, and is now my saving grace… seems to miss quite a lot.  Instead of fighting I opted to run away from almost all of the fights leading up to Magissa.  I knew this encounter would take a truly insane amount of time.  She has 650 hp and as you can see from the above shot I was only whittling away around 12 hp per attack.  This was a sheer battle of willpower to keep moving forward at a snails pace.

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-17 23-37-20-000 When she summoned her pet Forza, I ignored him completely, realizing that there was no way at all I could keep up with fighting him and Magissa and the regeneration spell she casts on him.  Instead I opted to cast protect on my entire party, and used one of my white mages to heal folks up while the others slowly dinked away at Magissa until she fell.  Finally I turned my attention to Forza and focused all of the attacks on him.  Even doing this the “right” way, it still took about thirty minutes to push my way through the encounter with my army of “horrible monks”.  I was completely drained after that fight, and it was getting close to midnight so I stopped playing and streaming.  At some point today I will pick up where I left off.  You can watch the entire thing on my twitch stream, or you can check out the videos that I have uploaded to YouTube embedded below.  Additionally Kodra is streaming his play through so check out his channel as well.

 

AggroChat Episode 6

This week we have myself, Kodra and Ashgar for Aggrochat.  Rae was unavailable because honestly I feel like she was probably asleep.  She spent the day hanging out at the local Renaissance Faire with her brother and our good friend Dallian that appears on last weeks Aggrochat.  This week we had a bunch of things to talk about, or at least things that Kodra especially was excited to discuss.  The first of these was the new champion in League of Legends… Braum.  Next we talked about the Hex vs Wizards of the Coast lawsuit and what it means for the game and TCGs in general.  We also get on this long drawn out discussion of Kickstarter Fatigue and what it means for the kickstarters that are still coming out, and whether or not that is still a viable means of funding a project.  Like always we get lost on lots of rabbit trails between all of this points.

#AggroChat #FF5 #FinalFantasy5 #FourJobFiesta #SteamPoweredSunday

Elder Dungeons

H1Z1 Preview

h1n1 Yesterday was the big reveal of the new SOE game H1Z1.  While it should surprise no one… this is a zombie survival MMO.  With the name there is literally nothing else that it could have been.  Right now the details are pretty sketchy, but details are being collected on the official reddit.  It really looks like it is going to take what Rust and DayZ are doing, to the next level and make it massive and persistent.  While all of this intrigues me…  I think it is pretty much in the “not for me” camp.  I am amped about exploring a zombie filled world, and building bases with my friends to protect against the hordes.  Dealing with additional players in a PVP scenario in that same world… pretty much destroys my enjoyment.  Ultimately I am all about community and working together, and unless there is some unofficial co-operative server there really isn’t much pull for me.

I played quite a bit of the DayZ mod for Arma 2, but the thing that ultimately stopped me from playing it more was the fact that I didn’t need to worry about the zombies, but instead worry about getting sniped from a massive distance by other players.  I realize that it is more realistic to have players be fighting other players for survival, but in these games there are often times far more players in the world than zombies.  I feel like ultimately what I am looking for is State of Decay co-operative mode… which sadly is not in the cards.  I want to explore a purely PVE world with my friends, and scavenge from potentially NPC factions.  I guess the proof will be in the pudding and how things are set up.  What would really kill the game for me is if other players can loot your corpse, similar to DayZ.

So long as if I die to players I get to keep my progression and my inventory, I might be okay with this.  The other big concern is, that Smedley already talks about players coming along and burning down the bases of other players.  As a kid I loved to build with blocks, but it would piss me off when another kid would come along and knock down my intricate structure.  That is precisely what it feels like to me, when you have a base building game… that allows other players to come destroy yours.  Some time ago Smedley said there was another game on the horizon that SWG players would love.  I keep wondering if this is it, because it is supposed to have the whole player created town aspect.  Knowing what I know about the SWG community however, I don’t really see them being terribly enthralled by this.

The Evil Within

A game I have been watching with some interest for some time is The Evil Within.  Essentially it brings the world famous Shinji Mikami, creator of Resident Evil.  During the early days of the playstation, I absolutely ate up survival horror titles.  I played the shit out of Resident Evil, its sequel, Parasite Eve, and even Dino Crisis.  However for me the genre reached its peak with the release of the original Silent Hill.  There was something so perfect about that game and the way it blended between the relatively sedate “normal” world, and the absolutely twisted “nightmare” world.  The game absolutely blew me away from the opening chords of its theme song.  As the Resident Evil series wore on, it became ever repetitive and boring, as you rehashed the same old t-virus saga again and again.

What The Evil Within does is pair the mind of Shinji Mikami with the publishing might of Bethesda Softworks.  Now granted this is not the same team that brought us the Elder Scrolls, or even Fallout…  but so far they have managed to prove that when one of the Zenimax studios creates a title…  I am ultimately going to be interested in it.  The above trailer is brand new for Pax and I have to say I am super interested.  It feels far more like Silent Hill than Resident Evil, and this is an awesome thing to me.  I want another game where I wander around a nightmarish landscape that I can’t quite wrap my head around.  The title is slotted to ship at the end of August, and I am super excited about it.  If you loved the original Silent Hill as much as I did, I figure you have reason to be excited as well.  If nothing else the trailer is really freakin cool.

Elder Dungeons

Screenshot_20140408_195314 I finally put my finger on what exactly I am loving about the dungeons in Elder Scrolls Online.  In many ways it feels like a return to the dungeons of Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot.  World of Warcraft did something to MMOs that has seemed unrepairable until now.  It was really the first game to begin to treat dungeons as though they were wholly separate from the rest of the world.  It walled the dungeons off in instances, filled them with special dungeon mobs, and applied abilities to them that you would see in no place OTHER than a dungeon.  The dungeon became its own unique game, that required a completely different set of skills than play out in the world did.  Every game since the launch of World of Warcraft has taken this lead and filled their dungeons with “elites” that for the most part require players to focus fire them down, since an individual player could not possibly solo one at level.

This was not always the case, dungeons used to be filled with the same kinds of mobs you might encounter out in the “real” world, just in larger numbers and higher frequency.  So stepping into Elder Scrolls Online, I admit I was freaked out when we first encountered and 8 to 10 mob pull.  I am only now realizing that this is essentially the same 8 to 10 mobs you would encounter while roaming around the world.  What makes this challenging and not just “trash packs” is the fact that these mobs fight smarter.  From the moment you step into the dungeon, you encounter “group tactics”.  Healers will heal the lowest target, including other healers…  Necromancers will raise the dead, melee will go after your squishiest party members.  The mobs are treating you like dungeon encounters, and trying to take you down as a team.

What makes this so refreshing is that these tactics are not solely reserved for “dungeons” but the same kind of thing you start encountering as the game ramps up difficulty.  In Stormhaven it is getting rare that I am not involved in three or more mobs at a time.  Almost always this will include a healer of some sort, a “tank” of some sort and a “dps” of some sort.  The first time a mob tried to kite me, it was a really cool moment.  Why this is great is because Elder Scrolls is somehow managing to teach players the skills that they will need for later content, in the content they are actually playing.  So while yes, there is a massive learning curve… I feel like we will not have the same problems we have with the PUG scene in World of Warcraft in the eventual Elder Scrolls Online end game.  If you can make it through the veteran content, you likely can make it through any of the content in the game.

It is refreshing to have a game that does not try to coddle the player.  Shit happens, and if you do not react appropriately to it… you get punished and punished hard.  The game is not some brutal Dark Souls type experience, it plays fair and within a set of established rules… but even after playing it as long as I have… I still die, and die often.  I really look forward to the adventure zone combat, because it feels like it is going to be something akin to the old Everquest planes.  I loved breaking the plane of hate and the plane of fear, both of which were unforgiving and brutal… but also immensely rewarding.  While Craglorn sounds like it is much more structured than the planes were, it feels like it might offer a similar style of gameplay.  It will be a long while before I am Veteran Rank 10, but hopefully when I get there we will be able to wander about the zone finding adventure.

#H1Z1 #TheEvilWithin #CragLorn #ESO #ElderScrollsOnline

2013 Retrospective

Grand Experiment in Review

2012 was an extremely horrible year for me and at least professionally I would rank it as quite possibly the worst year I have ever had.  I would put it as worse than the year I was out of work for six months after the dotcom crash.  On September 11th 2012 my company suffered what they thought was a network attack, that only later the security guy pulled his head out of his ass and realized it was a regularly scheduled security scan… that he himself authorized.  The results of this was a massive overreaction that caused me and my team to spend the rest of the year and a good chunk of the beginning of this year rebuilding damned near everything that touched the web.  Why did we have to do this?  Because they quite literally pulled the servers out of the racks and sent them to the FBI, leaving us next to nothing to work off of.

So next to that year, this year has seemed like an absolute dream.  However it has been more than that for me.  2013 has been a year of personal growth and exploring new things.  In April when I finally pulled my head above water after the “faux” security incident, I really wanted to make a break back into blogging.  I fell off of the planet shortly after the security event and simply could not bring myself to write about anything.  Coming back I devised what I called a “grand experiment”, namely to blog each and every day even if I didn’t think I had much to write about.  At this point there are 237 posts categorized as “The Grand Experiment”, and without fail I have blogged every day even when it was a struggle to do so.

Has the experiment worked?  Well functionally yes I have managed to blog every day, but more importantly has it provided an interesting stream of content?  Quite honestly I don’t know.  Most of the time I feel like I am a little kid writing to a make believe audience.  When I talk to someone who mentions something I have written… I am always shocked.  I feel like no one actually reads my stuff, that I am mostly just writing it for my own benefit.  People seem to enjoy what I write, and I have a regular stream of readers… but I will never have the type of audience that the bigger bloggers have.  I am just too rough around the edges for that sort of thing.  For the most part I am happy with the results of a year of blogging and my long-term goal is to make it at least one full year of posts without pause.  That of course will be up April 26th of 2014, which seems like it is far in the future right now.  However I don’t see myself losing steam at any point soon.

A Healthier Me

Another big change in my life over the course of 2013 is that I am considerably lighter.  In March my wife and I began to shift the way we relate to food.  I say it in terms like that because really we have completely changed our relationship to food as a whole.  To say we went on a diet doesn’t really encompass the level of change.  Diets are about the short term, but we wanted to make permanent and long-term changes in the way we ate.  Namely we focused on trying to find a new and sustainable way to live.  At this point I am 70 lbs smaller and have hit a bit of a plateau over the last month.  However the fact that I survived both Thanksgiving and Christmas without breaking that plateau makes me happy enough.

My wife on the other hand continues to lose at a steady pace and is now down roughly 60 lbs.  At some point I need to get super serious again, as I have become lax of late.  However the current weight seems to be a place I can comfortable stay without any real intervention.  I have reached my goal and it is time for me in this new year to refocus myself and set a new one.  I will never be a small man, I come from a long line of really big people.  I am however happy enough being able to say I am a “smaller” man.  The thing I was not expecting to be honest were the health benefits.  As a whole I am far healthier than I was a year ago, and the primary benefit is that my Asthma that I have struggled with my entire life… and have even been hospitalized for… is really a mere nuisance these days.  I can go months on a single inhailer, and that is not a thing I have ever been able to do in my life.

Professional Growth

In the last year I have grown more into the role of the manager of my group.  I have learned to delegate more, which is something I have always struggled with in my life.  I was good at accepting assignments, but never very good at passing them on to my troops, instead trying to take them all on myself.  My team is pretty amazing and I would be lost without them.  I guess in some small way I have learned to have more faith in them, and trust that they will do as much diligence with an assignment as I would have.  As a result I have shifted more into the architect role for my group and part-time project manager and full-time traffic cop.  Making sure all of the assignments are going to the right places and all seeing at least some progress.

We usually have 50-60 active projects for a team of three people.  So it involves lots of juggling.  Various forces in my company want me to move up into a permanent management position.  However I simply do not want to distances myself from the “real work” enough to take them.  Additionally right now I am responsible for three extremely highly functional people, and I don’t think I  could cope with being put over less functional people that I would some how have to whip into shape.  I am not really great with confrontations, and as a result I think I would flounder.  Either that or it would be similar to me as a raid leader, and I would turn into a real asshole.  For the time being I think I am happy with where I am and what I am doing.

I Wrote A Novel

One of the things I have always wanted to do in my life was to write a novel.  I made several false attempts at various times over the years but never could seem to push myself to do it.  This November I joined the NaNoWriMo event, and over the course of the month knocked out my first novel.  I have no idea if it is actually any good, because honestly I have not even read it since finishing it up.  I plan in the new year to tear it asunder as I edit it, and fix any issues.  However regardless if it completely sucks, I have accomplished a goal.  I managed to write a novel, and that is a thing most people can’t say about themselves.  I didn’t do it to get famous, or be published, I did it mostly just to prove to myself that I could.

The weird thing about it is, November seems like a lifetime ago.  The whole concept of writing 1500 words per night was just absolutely draining.  My entire life revolved around that novel for those thirty days, which is honestly longer than I have stuck with anything like that in my life.  More than anything I feel like it was a venue of personal growth.  I did a thing I never thought I could, and I did so in a methodical way in which it felt like success was assured from the moment I started.  Sure I faltered a few times along the way, and there were a few days I didn’t write a blessed thing.  However I kept moving forward towards the eventual 50,000 word count goal and I achieved it.  I think more than anything I am proud of this accomplishment from 2013.

A Year of Gaming

This is a gaming blog afterall, so during 2013 I played a lot of games.  I played way more games than I can ever manage to remember, but I will try and run down a few of the big ones.  The list of major titles is as follows.

Oddly enough I am beginning this new year not entirely differently than I began the last year.  January 2013 I was still involved in the launch of Mists of Pandaria, and it was not until April that I really began to distance myself from that game entirely.  World of Warcraft and I have this love/hate relationship.  I get frustrated with it so much, because it seems that they always seem to take the most short sighted solutions to problems, and there are so many games that there that do various things it does…. so much better.  However as a total package I feel like the game is unbeatable.  It offers the most good things in one package.  The realization for me however after my 2+ years of absence from being serious about the game is that it is not about the game at all.  World of Warcraft is about the people playing it, and I had missed the ragtag group of people known as House Stalwart immensely.

The game I probably played the most often during the year however was Rift.  I want to love rift so badly, the promise of the game is really great.  The problem is it just lacks something that I can’t quite put my finger on.  It is a technically superior game in every aspect, but it is like it lacks a cohesive narrative that makes me care about the world every single day.  The dragons were a thing I thought I  could get behind.  But now that we have systematically killed each of them off, I cannot say in a single sentence what the world of Rift is.  I think that might be the problem, there is no one clear narrative to the game.  You cannot say “this game is” and have even half of the people agree on it.  I still play it occasionally and there is still an incarnation of House Stalwart there that Psynister and Fynralyl are keeping alive.  I thank them so much for being there, but I just can’t seem to care about the game right now.  I am sure at some point I will again.

Final Fantasy was another major force for the year.  This was a game I never intended to like because really I feel like me and Japanese RPGs had a messy divorce quite some time ago.  I had a group of friends actively wanting to play it, so against my better judgment I went along for the ride.  What I found however was a really well crafted narrative and dungeon experience.  If I could have kept experiencing new bits of immersive content, I would have likely stuck around.  However once you reached the end of the game, it was exactly that…  the end.  All paths lead to massive amount of grinding, and for whatever reason… while I can stomach grinding all day long in World of Warcraft… I could not stomach the particular FFXIV brand of grinding.  Namely I blame this on the overall lack of meaninful drops in the game.  If I have a chance of getting something cool while killing mobes, no matter how remote the chance… it feels exciting to me each time I open a loot window.  There was nothing that could drop from mobs in the world that I would ever care about.  Additionally gearing up to get to a point where we could raid, was just not a bridge I was willing to cross.

Games for 2014

There has been a game I have been in super secret closed door testing since February.  I cannot name the game by name, but I have to say I am still extremely excited about it even after most of a year testing it.  I have watched the game grow from something that felt polished to something that really is amazingly rich and polished.  I don’t think I will quit WoW this time for another game, because I have set down some pretty solid roots there again.  However I know I will also be playing this game, at the very least two to three nights a week.  It is probably the least wow-like game I have played in a long while, and because of that I feel like there is room in my heart for both games to have a unique space.

Past that I am really not certain what 2014 will hold.  I know that I am not really interested enough to purchase a PS4 or an XBox One, so I think I will be exiting the console mainstream once again.  I am mostly a PC gamer to be honest, and since my gameloft has been taken over by my wife I am okay with not having access to the consoles.  More than anything I am looking forward to the various stores beginning to liquidate their stocks of PS3 and XBox 360 games, so I can pick up the titles I always wanted to play but didn’t have the desire to pay for.  Additionally there are still a lot of things on the DS/3DS that I want to play, and I am looking forward to picking up the newest Zelda game.  I am sure there will be a number of surprises along the way, games that catch my fancy enough to deserve lots of blog posts.

I hope that 2014 will be as positive force in my life as 2013 has been.  Additionally I hope each and every one of you out there can say the same.  My friend @AlternativeChat has declared 2014 the “Year of Faff”, and I am down with this notion.  I think we all need to learn how to faff about in the game worlds we are in, because stopping and smelling the roses is the only real way I know to break the cycle of burnout.  I have tried my best to embrace this concept, and hope to continue to do so in the year to come.  More than anything, I feel like I am sick of jumping games every three months, and I get the sense that the gaming world as a whole is somewhat sick of that as well.  I hope we can each embrace our own faff, whatever that might mean.

Pokémania

Age Gap

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I feel like there is this huge phenomena that I completely missed the boat on.  Even though it was my generation that brought the Gameboy to the world, and I can remember getting one in 1989 it was never a primary console for me.  It was that thing I played when I was on a trip, or more often my younger cousin played when he was visiting.  For him the Gameboy was totally a primary means of gameplay, but for me… it was more novelty than anything else.  The battery life was pure shit, so it was not like you could actually take it anywhere for long periods of time without a large stock of AA batteries to fuel it.

Additionally it made everything you played look spinach green.  There were various big name titles that came out like Metroid II that provided an experience that did not exist on the bigger consoles…. but by that time I had the Super Gameboy and the ability to play these games in pseudo color.  While I bought a Gameboy Advance and later a second hand Gameboy SP they were still more novelty devices for me.  As a result I feel as though I almost completely missed one of the biggest crazes to ever hit gaming.

Pokémania

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I was already well into the working world when the whole Pokémon insanity happened.  It was one of those games that I knew existed, but since I didn’t really play Gameboy much, I had never actually experienced.  My first entry into the world actually happened when the card game was released.  Before it really blew up, it had become something that the card gamer folks dabbled in at my local game store… and I had a starter deck and a handful of boosters.  It was a charming little game, and it played rather quickly as compared to Magic: The Gathering that could often times drag on for ages.

I did not really encounter the Gameboy game until much later, when I played Pokémon Blue on a Gameboy emulator.  I found it a charming game, and quickly became addicted to capturing these little critters, but the experience ended there for the most part.  I don’t think I ever actually beat the game.  Once the novelty wore off I was back to playing my JRPGs on the PlayStation, and traded Pokémon for Jade Cocoon. I likely would have stayed disconnected from the Pokémon experience were it not for MMO games and often times being one of the oldest folks in the raid.

Battle Pets

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A large number of the gamers that I play with on a regular basis are one full generation younger than I am.  As a result… Pokémon was a huge deal for that group.  I can remember talking about WoW Pokémon with a small measure of disdain when it was originally announced, but mostly because I really did not get what is so fun about it.  However when it was released I went from antagonist to addict in no time.  In fact for the first several nights after the release of Mists of Pandaria, I wandered around doing nothing but battle pets.  I have always been a pet collector in MMO games, but being able to do something with them… made the whole experience that much better for me.

The thing is… this also made me realize that this madness called Pokémon totally worked on me.  I began to feel like I had missed an entire experience.  Over the last few months my inner circle of gamer friends have been prepping for the release of Pokémon X and Y, and while at the time I didn’t think much about it… the closer it got to release the more I wanted to participate this time.  I have not owned a Gameboy since the SP, and have completely missed the DS era.  As a result I missed a number of games that I still want to play.  So I feel like I have a significant backlog of games I want to play for it.

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However the big title on the horizon that I would have had to play… was Legend of Zelda:  A Link Between Worlds.  A Link to the Past is one of my favorite games of all time… I put it very close to Castlevania Symphony of the Night… the game that is likely my all time favorite.  I was always a fan of Legend of Zelda, spending countless hours beating the first one.  However, Link to the Past was that game that really proved to me the raw power of the Super Nintendo.  I picked up a copy on my way home from getting outpatient sinus surgery and I played the hell out of it as I recuperated.  When I heard there was a sequel coming to the 3DS I knew sooner or later I would end up with the console.

Taking the Plunge

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Much to the frustration of my wife I am sure… last night I took the plunge and picked up a black/black 3ds XL and Pokémon Y.  My immediate group of friends have been keeping the X and Y thing pretty balanced so I could have gotten either.  Basically for me it came down to the fact that I would far rather have a crazy red and black flying bird with three hands…  than some kind of blue faerie antelope.  Other than that… I really could not tell you the difference.  I played the absolute crap out of the game last night, and spent most of that time catching Pokémon and then trading them off using the crazy wonder trade system. 

This has to be the coolest feature I have found so far.  Basically since the 3DS is an extremely connected device, you can place any Pokémon you do not want up for trade, and receive a Pokémon that another trainer does not want.  Essentially it is the whole, one mans trash is another mans treasure concept… and while I am sure at later levels you mostly get things you have no interest in… starting out I found it to be the source of many Pokémon I was interested in.  I oddly enough ended up with quite a few interesting and potentially rare ones mixed in with the dross.

I still feel a little overwhelmed.  Having never really played a Pokémon game… there are so many things that have changed since my brief experience with Pokémon Blue.  Luckily I have various friends that serve as an almost encyclopedic tome of knowledge about all things “pocket monster”.  They have been helping me out immensely especially in evaluating which things are good and which things are not so good.  I feel like I have a couple of decades of research to do before I even feel like I have a slim grasp on what all is going on.  I am now a proud member of the 3DS era, so I can now add a “friend code” to the long list of other social identifiers I have.

Zombie Infestations

Black Helicopters

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This morning is a bizarre morning here in Tulsa.  I woke up groggily to the sounds of my wife taking a shower, which was essentially a signal to myself that I needed to get up as well.  So I rolled out of bed, showered, threw on some clothing and stepped outside with the purpose of getting some food.  What greeted me was this eerie fogscape that felt like it was straight out of The Secret World.  The sun was up already, which is usually the death of any fog in the area, but this fog seemed to be persisting.

By the time I had gotten to QuikTrip for my normal morning breakfast of a sausage roll…  it almost seemed like it was getting worse.  As I pulled in, I noticed that the building was ringed in Crows, with a little semi-circle of them gathered on the grass.  This definitely did not help the odd feeling…  and the last thing I wanted to do was go step into the middle of the semi-circle.  Pretty sure if I had a Revenant would have spawned… and I had left my shotgun at home.  So I made it home safely, and nothing really far from the norm happened… but the world definitely feels like it would be flooded with Draugr.

Zombie Infestations

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Yesterday I played quite a bit more State of Decay, and since Marcus was in a tired state, I had to switch things up and break out Maya Torres.  One of my biggest frustrations with this game and Dead Island as well is the whole “melee weapons break” construct.  I have always been a melee centric player, and tend to gravitate playing someone I can beat shit down with.  As a result when you throw me into an open world game… I tend to gravitate towards the melee weapons.  One one exception to this is the fallout franchise…  where I tend to stick with the combat shotgun indefinitely.

So as a result of this fetish of mine…  my entire gaming experience seems to be a search for new melee weapons.  This is not really kosher when it comes to the flow of State of Decay.  Immediately you think… open world game… explore all the things and gather up the loot.  While this is a viable play mechanic…  the world is not a static thing.  There is a whole meta game going on behind the scenes of trying to keep the morale of your survivors up and protect them from the badness outside the church gates.  In my search for things to beat zombies with… I noticed a series of messages showing up announcing that such and such location was infested.

I didn’t think much about this at first… but the infestation kept spreading to a new location.  Once there got to be three infestations up… my survivors started to lose morale.  So I had to go on a mission of cleaning out each of the houses.  This was not the easiest task in the world… because each and every one had a half dozen to a dozen zombies in it… and at least one or two of the red eyed “super” zombies.  Each time I cleared out an infestation I got back the lost morale and then some.

I Do Bad Things

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The coding of State of Decay is frustratingly brilliant at times.  The rule we have learned from watching the various zombie movies… is that while zombie eyesight is pure shit… their hearing is pretty amazing.  Gunshots draw more zombies to investigate the noise… and this mechanic annoyingly well.  Essentially if you decide to go out guns a blazing… you will have to fight an endless string of zombies.  I know eventually you can attach a muzzle suppressor to dampen the noise but I have yet to find one… or figure out how to do it.  The above shot is the beginning of my foolish attempt to shred a horde of zombies.

During the gameplay there will be roaming hordes of zombies that will wander around town and have the potential of attacking your base.  There was one heading up the road towards home… and I got radio’d about it while out and about.  I finally managed to kill enough that I could run into the safety of the base…. which kept them from spawning more.  Yes I know I am abusing the shit out of that mechanic…  but I was running out of ammunition by the time I had taken down a handful of them.  I got a huge morale bonus for taking out a zombie horde, but it greatly hurt my ammo stock and weapon durability doing it.

The biggest problem I have with gunplay in State of Decay… is that I still suck at aiming a weapon with a controller.  I feel like I will be far more confident sniping zombies in the head… once the mouse and keyboard controls are available.  Right now SoD PC is a direct port of the xbox version, and as a result there are some goofy graphical glitches at times and you have to rely entirely upon your controller.  The gameplay mechanics work well for a controller, and the game performs a smooth 60 fps for me at max graphics.

Bard is Born

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Yesterday I also played quite a bit of Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn.  Since I got my main to 50… and I am the second in the guild to do so…  I figured I would work on my Bard a bit as the others caught up.  I managed to take it from 26 to 33, and at level 30 I completed the sequence of quests to pick up the Bard job.  The odd thing about it… there is very little change in the way the class feels between Archer and Bard.  With the Warrior and the Dragoon… in both cases I picked up a massive quality of life ability, whereas with the bard you pick up an ability that makes you more attractive to other players…. but not much of anything you can really use yourself.

It feels as though the players have congealed at the upper levels, and as a result the lower level FATE grind spots have become more sane.  I had quite a bit of fun in Costa Del Sol doing the various fates there and managed to get extremely good contribution which has pushed me up in level quite a bit.  If I play this morning I will likely go back to Costa and work on getting to 35 so I can do Sunken Temple.  I think we have a back of guild members that are at that level.  I know Lethbridge still needs Haukke which I can do with him now… that was my ulterior motive for leveling yesterday.

Additionally I really need to work on my pugilist to get him caught up with archer.  That way I can get rid of a ton of low level leather gear without fear of it being needed by someone else.  The inventory management meta game has become a real thing for me, with both of my retainers almost completely full… and my gear store hovering around 20 per slot.  I need to push up all my melee classes so that I can free up room by deconstructing it.  I am still having quite a bit of fun with the game, but I am really hoping they open up some questing options in the upcoming patches.

Wrapping up

Well it is that time, and I need to wrap this up.  I really need to clean the house because it is a pit… and I think it is adversely effecting the moods of both myself and my wife.  Also it would be nice to start the work week with a clean house, and anything I do today will save me scrambling Monday night to gather the trash.  I hope you all have had a great weekend, and I hope that the start of the week is equally great.

Early Access Zombies

Minor Renovations

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Awhile back I decided to change out the Raptr widget I had embedded in my sidebar that showed the last few things I had played, to something more manual.  I have always loved the feeling of the Steam library grid view, with its cool little preview images.  So for my “Now Playing” section I strived to create something similar feeling.  I think for the most part it works, but it is now a much more manual process as I have to create an image and then add it to my sidebar.  I feel however that the results are worth it.

I had been wanting to do something different with my blogroll for a bit, but I was not really sure what I wanted to do.  I am a very visual person, and even though I read most of the blogs in my RSS reader, I still think of them based on their visual appearance.  The idea I came up with was making similar preview images for all of the blogs on my blogroll to give potential readers a flavor of the blog before even clicking through.  I still have several more blogs to add to it, but I think the end result is really nice.  Once again it is a much more manual process as I have to take time to create an image for each blog before I add them.

Blogrolls are one of those things that people tend to ignore in their own blogs, but for me it is a resource for someone to find other good voices.  As a result I like to take care in trying to make sure my blogroll represents what I am actually reading.  When pouring over this small change I did notice that a large number of the blogs on my roll were just not posting anymore.  As a result I have pruned the list quite a bit, and will add to it as I notice people starting back up.  Additionally I added a new section for “Gamecasts” since it is a mix of video casts and podcasts.  I still need to add quite a few things to this list but it is a solid start.

Console Diablo

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Recently I downloaded Diablo 3 again and gave it a spin trying to get back into the game.  While I found elements of it enjoyable I also remembered all the things that frustrated me about it.  I have come to the point where I just cannot stand the “click to move” mechanic.  It just “feels wrong” for lack of a better term.  I think in many ways this is the one thing holding me back from truly loving league of legends… I just can’t stand the control mechanics.  When I heard Diablo 3 was coming to the consoles, I was initially not all that excited…  but the other day I noticed that a PS3 demo existed.  I figured what the heck, no better way to test and see if I like it.

It appears that all of my problems with the game stemmed in some way from the horrendous control scheme.  With a controller, the game felt fresh and new and extremely enjoyable.  Granted I only played a little bit the other night, and only had access to the Barbarian, but I had a blast.  It made me remember just how much fun I used to have with Diablo in the first place.  I am not sure if I am quite ready to shell over 60 bucks for the game on the console… but I can see myself picking it up sooner or later.

What I really want however if for them to patch in controller support for the PC version.  This is the version that has the characters I want to play, and the friends I want to play with.  I have a perfectly amazing XBOX 360 controller hooked to my PC that I use with more console friendly games.  Essentially everything about the game was better with a controller.  It is like they took so much more thought and planning into the user interface design as a whole.  So please Blizzard… patch in controller support at least when you release the expansion.  It makes everything about your game feel better.

Early Access Zombies

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Back on September 20th Undead Labs released their extremely awesome open world zombie survival game… State of Decay as part of the Steam Early Access program.  I picked it up shortly after but did not really have a chance to play it until last night.  If you remember when this came out on the XBLA I raved about it for a long while, but really have not played it as much as I would like.  One of the problems I have playing consoles is that it disconnects me from my group of friends.  There is a large circle of us that hang out on mumble every night, and I have yet to find a really viable option for hanging out and chatting on mumble while playing the consoles in the loft.

Last night I happily fired up Mumble and then popped into the game.  It feels as though the overall gameplay experience has tightened quite a bit.  The Early Access candidate is in essence a beta test, and Undead Labs wants to make sure players know this while playing the PC release.  Currently the client only has support for a controller, but they plan on eventually adding in mouse and keyboard support.  Quite honestly I would rather they do this than half ass it like some of the other console ports like Force Unleashed.

The game is super responsive, and I can run it comfortably on maximum resolution making the client look so much nicer than the XBOX 360 one I was used to.  I really hope they add in multiplayer co-op.  This game just screams for it, because exploring this world with your friends would be so much more enjoyable than doing so with what are essentially scripted bots.  I have no idea how long the game will be in this “beta” state on the PC, but everything about the title is at least as good as the XBLA client.  So I would not hesitate suggesting the game to anyone.  If you like zombies and you like fallout style open world exploration… this game is for you.

Wrapping Up

Well I need to wrap this up and get up and around.  I have a conference to attend today, and also need to make a trip to the cleaners… so I need to give myself as much wiggle room for finishing getting ready as I can.  I hope you all have an excellent weekend.  Ours looks like it is going to be super rainy.  For those curious, my mom is recovering well and I am not sure if I mentioned this or not… but so is Lethbridge.  Spoke with him last night and he is in a lot of pain after his surgery but doing okayish.  He was in FFXIV for a bit last night playing the game one handed… which I guess is a good thing that a g600 can do.

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.

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.

Return of the Queen

Good morning you happy people…  this is my first post without the aid of coffee.  I am trying to taper back my caffeine intake because the whole heart fluttering/palpitations thing has been back with a vengeance over the last few days.  I honestly figure it is mostly stress induced, but I am willing to cut back on a few things to help the process along.  It is not exactly an enjoyable feeling, so if I can stop it from happening…  I will be happier.  As a result without aid of coffee, I may not be entirely cogent at 6 am.

Return of the Queen

So yesterday was my birthday, and I have to say I was overwhelmed by the birthday messages I go from all sources.  Logging into twitter of G+ was like hitting a wall of happy birthday… it was pretty awesome.  You guys made what would have been a pretty crappy day not one.  Essentially my birthday was slotted to be pretty awesome.  I had a replacement laptop arriving sometime midday, and my wife would be flying in at noonish and I would get the spend at least half the day chilling out with her.

I got up pretty early yesterday, and when I got upstairs to catch up with the world my wife had messaged me telling me that her flight had been cancelled.  Apparently there was “weather” in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and they were re-routing all flights.  So instead of her 7 am flight…  she was being placed on a 3:30 flight… on standby.  At this point she was not slotted to actually get back to Tulsa until 9:30 that evening.  So that left her having to do the awkward chilling out at the airport thing, and me to be alone on my birthday.

I would have driven up to get her, since she was in Kansas City, and it is a roughly four hour drive from where we live to the airport…  but with the laptop coming, neither of us wanted to leave that out on the porch.  We have a little pack of hoodlums in the neighborhood, that have been suspected for the flurry of car break-ins that I wrote about awhile back.  Mostly they are bored teenagers with no real parental guidance to give them a moral compass, but they have been known to have sticky fingers.

So it became a waiting game… if the package arrived quickly enough it would be possible to run up and back and get home before the flights would have.  However since my laptop arrived at 1 pm, that slotted her still getting home around 9 after you factored in both directions of the drive… and a lot of unnecessary stress in the process.  Somehow along the process she managed to get juggled to an earlier flight, and in the grand scheme of things landed last night in Tulsa around 8 pm.  It is really awesome to have my wife back, but honestly the impact has not quite hit me yet.  We got home in time for her to unpack and pretty much go to sleep, since she had been up since the crack of dawn.

Laptop Resolution

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Yesterday I had regaled you with the tale of the guy flaking out on me yet again, and me giving up and just ordering online.  As I said above, yesterday around 1 pm I had a doorbell ring and my laptop was there on the threshold.  Since it was too late to try and drive to pick up my wife, I decided to unbox it and play with my new toy.  First off, for having dual SLI cards the laptop is remarkably quiet and cool.  There is heat emanating from the heat sinks on either side but it is no way as hot as previous laptops have been.  I am guessing this is the massive air intake on the bottom of the laptop causing the thing to stay cool.

I have not honestly had much time to really game on the laptop, I spent most of yesterday downloading stuff.  I got in and played a little Dragon’s Prophet and it looked gorgeous.  My previous laptop did not like that game at all, and this one funs it pretty much on high settings fluidly.  Additionally I played a little Rift as it was patching and it also looked gorgeous and ran well on ultra settings.  The sad thing about the digital age however is it still takes a long while to download multiple 16 gig game installations.  For whatever reason League of Legends was taking the longest… which seems insane considering how simple a game it is… and how low tech the graphics are.

The keyboard is going to take some getting used to, but so far I really like it.  Keyboards are a huge thing for me… and this is as best as I can describe it a mechanical chicklet keypad.  It has the low key height of a chicklet style laptop keyboard, but you have the satisfying mechanical feedback of an old school keyboard.  It reminds me a lot of a half height version of my Microsoft sidewinder keyboard that I use on my desktop.  The important thing is it feels extremely responsive but like I said it will take some getting used to.

The biggest feature that is going to take awhile for me to adapt to is the fact that this laptop is Windows 8.  I have to say, I still have no idea what Microsoft was thinking by defaulting a desktop operating system to the Metro interface.  I realize that I likely use my computer differently than most people…  I tend to do everything through the run prompt…  but even for day to day use… the Metro interface seems worse than useless.  The very first thing I did was download Stardock’s Start8 giving me back my start menu and run prompt.  After that it feels much like using Windows 7 with a strange skin on it. 

I will slowly get used to the forced minimalist interface elements…  but I find the whole “we only use solid colors” movement of recent years a bit chafing.  Our graphical designer at work seems to have been bitten by the same bug… and white frankly this whole only using bright solid colors thing looks a little “Fisher price” to me at times.  All in all I am very happy however, I like the feel and form factor of the laptop, and what I have seen of its graphical powers are excellent as well. 

Downtime Fiesta

FFVmap-world2While I was installing software yesterday, I had my PSP going and was playing through Final Fantasy 5.  So far my biggest problem with this game is that it does a fairly poor job messaging what you are supposed to do next.  There is always a certain element of roam around until you figure it out to every mission.  Now that I am well past the point at which I had played previously… I am in virgin territory and often times struggle to follow the logic behind the game.  Luckily I have veteran resources to rely upon if I get stuck, but for the most part I have figured out things.

I believe previously I had been just about to enter the moogle village after arriving at the second world.  Yesterday I managed to play through Castle Bal, Quelb, Drakenvale, Ghido’s Island, Surgate Castle, Xezat’s Ship, the Barrier Tower thing, Forest of Moore, and am now just about to storm Exdeath’s castle.  There were numerous difficult encounters along the way, but I managed through them and did not hit any major roadblocks like Soul Cannon was.  Atomos was definitely a pain in the arse with his huge hitpoint pool, but I managed through it.

I feel like I have a super low maintenance party with Black Mage, Red Mage, Ranger and Samurai.  My good friend Ash that talked me into this madness has a Blue Mage… so it seems like his entire play through is dictated by trying to get the right abilities off the right mobs.  There was some madness last night about needing to have a level divisible by 3 to get some ability off some boss encounter.  Right now the biggest thing I need to worry about is keeping my characters in the best gear (which I would have done already) and grinding mobs to get job levels ((which I would have done already).  After making the swaps this party feels like my kind of party…  simple and effective.

Wrapping Up

Well it is that time again, I need to wrap this up so I can finish getting ready and head on in to work.  Going to pack up the laptop this morning and bring it for our noontime gaming excursions.  It should be considerably lighter since it only weights 6 lbs.  I hope you all have a great day, and I want to say again how much I appreciated getting all those birthday wishes yesterday.  Now time to return to the real world and try and finish out this week.