Developer Appreciation Week 2015 – Part 3

Over the last several days I have been rattling off a series of studios and game teams that I appreciate.  Today will mark my final day of this process, but I am hoping that it has inspired some of you out there to make your own posts about the developers you appreciate.  The person I really appreciate is Scarybooster for getting this thing started back in I believe 2010?  Scary has a way of coming up with these great ideas, like he is the person who decided the Alliance of Awesome needed to happen as well.  Unfortunately he no longer updates his blogs, and has deleted more of them in the past than I can count.  So if you know Scary tell him he needs to stop doing that shit and keep coming up with interesting and awesome ideas.

Blizzard – Heroes of the Storm Team

HeroesOfTheStorm_x64 2014-12-02 22-35-45-233 I talked about League of Legends yesterday, and there is no denying it’s market domination in the MOBA arena.  The problem is League is far more complicated of a game than I care to play.  I get frustrated trying to figure out what I should build when, and then Blizzard comes along and creates an MOBA for someone like me.  This game does what Blizzard does best, boil a genre down to its most basic essence and polish it until it shines.  This is precisely how I feel about HoTS and its impact on the MOBA genre.  Through a series of quick this or that choices you can build out your character and get right back into the action without constantly being afraid that you built the wrong thing.  While friends have pointed out that this greatly limits what you can do with any given champion…  I am fine with this and in fact welcome it.  As much as I enjoy a “Tanky Darius” I would rather just have some clear messaging on what the intent of every champion was, and Heroes of the Storm gives this to me.  On top of this the map design is awesome, and each one feels equally enjoyable with its own specific mechanics.  I think the entire world is tired of playing Summoner’s Rift.

SOE/Daybreak – Landmark Team

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-14 06-10-23-64 Every time I talk about the company formerly known as Sony Online Entertainment, I do so with a little bit of heartbreak.  Daybreak is not the same company, but I feel like the people that are still there are trying their damnedest to make this situation work.  There is a lot of negative press that I could be talking about on my blog, about the poor decisions of the company managing Daybreak but for the most part I have tried not to.  I feel like there is plenty of negativity out there already on this subject, and that the people who are still there need our support now more than ever.  With that said this post goes out to everyone who has ever been a part of the Landmark game.  While I am not playing it right now, I still think it is an extremely cool concept and I keep meaning on jumping right back in.  Landmark is essentially the ultimate building game in every possible way, and the amount of stuff that the community has been able to create because of the excellent toolset developed by this team is phenomenal.  This game blew me away, and I am still constantly amazed by the sort of things I am seeing built.  So bravo to the folks who are no longer with the team, and bravo to the folks still there fighting to keep the ship going forward.

Undead Labs – All of the Them

StateOfDecay 2013-09-28 21-17-40-13 For most of these I have singled out an entire team to talk about, but this time I am breaking that trend and instead talking about an entire studio.  I love Undead Labs.  I love their spirit, and I love their dedication…  and quite honestly I love the way they interact with the public.  I remember when State of Decay was about to release on the XBox 360 I was completely pumped for it.  I went home that night played the game for several hours and then wrote a pretty gushy blog post the very next day.  Within moments of posting the blog I had it being retweeted by Annie Strain the wife of Undead Labs Founder Jeff Strain, who then proceeded to engage with me in a back and forth about my blog post and the game in general.  That sort of genuine interaction is just so damned refreshing, and it seems to extend to every single team member.  I was lucky enough to get to hang out and talk to several of them during Pax South, and they all had this infectious joy over the games they had created and were creating.  While I still desperately want a multiplayer version of State of Decay, I have faith that sooner or later the team will give me something akin to that experience.  In the meantime they just seem like a really damned cool studio, and I look forward to watching as their latest game Moonrise progresses to launch.  Additionally I feel like I am probably buying yet another copy of State of Decay as the special Year One edition should be landing shortly.

Motiga – Gigantic Team

GiganticScreenshot-TheMargrave This is another tale of me just really liking a game studio.  I went to Pax South knowing next to nothing about this game other than the fact that it existed, had a cartoony art style and used a teal and orange color scheme it all of its marketing.  I walked away from Pax South being both a fan of the game and of the team behind it.  I was lucky enough to participate in several plays of the game, and got some time to talk to several members of the development and community staff.  They all seem just as amped about this game as the players did, and it was awesome to be coached by the folks who built the game…  or have them marvel when I apparently found a bug that nobody had actually found yet.  The game is just really damned fun, and that seems to be the focus on making sure the various champion interactions are enjoyable.  I have no clue what the timeframe for this games launch is but I look forward to it anxiously.  Playing it with two other members of the AggroChat crew against a minor YouTube celebrity, and defeating him…  was pretty much the highlight of my Pax South experience.  So keep up the awesome work and I look forward to playing this game with my friends when it releases.

Every Single Game Developer

While I have singled out a handful of individuals for specific games that I really love playing…  I feel like for this final day of my #DAW2015 love fest…  I want to change things up a bit.  Basically this goes out to every single game developer out there, regardless of what you are working on or for what company.  You guys are living the dream of so many of us who did not  choose to chase it.  While there are absolutely days I’m thankful I am not in that industry, especially as another studio decimates its staff to realign for this or that reason, there are other days where I pine over the path not taken.  You folks are my rockstars, and even if you are making a game that no one will ever play…  you are being awesome.  Games bring me so much joy, and there is a cast of often nameless and faceless people who struggled through crunch time to get that product into my hands.  As I talk about the games I talk about, I try my best to always be aware of the folks behind the scenes that made it happen.  So to all the game developers out there…  keep making awesome stuff and I will keep playing it.  Thank you all.

Disconnected Dragoon

Missing a Raid

WoWScrnShot_031815_063013 Yesterday was one of those days when I felt like I was moving through molasses the entire day.  In part it was the whole staying up late and babysitting servers bit, but also we had so much stuff going on during the day connected to the two outages.  It turns out that after much research they were not actually related.  I knew I was not exactly in “fighting shape” so I let my raid leader know that I would not be attending the WoW Raid that night.  This is in part a good thing because they were apparently talking about having to do a paired down raid due to limited healers, and it is probably a good thing to rotate folks a bit.  At this point I would never mind having to sit out for a night because I have so much other stuff going on that I could be doing.  When I got home I took a nap and that helped quite a bit, or at least made me feel something vaguely human.

I asked my wife not to let me sleep more than an hour, since I generally struggle with the concept of napping.  If I take a nap, it means I am not likely to get a good nights sleep.  My body plays this game with me, where it only wants to get five to six hours of sleep a night.  When I nap, it means I am going to have this massive bout of insomnia that night.  Thankfully the short nap managed to do what it needed to do and I was still able to sleep fairly well as a result.  I spent most of the night hanging out on the couch catching up on Better Call Saul.  The irony of be getting into this series is the fact that I have never actually watched Breaking Bad.  I mean I have watched the first episode, but since my wife showed some interest in the show I didn’t really want to start it on my own without her watching along.  Otherwise there would come a point where I would have to start back from scratch and watch everything over again.  I managed to catch up through episode seven, and that show is just  becoming more interesting as it goes.

Disconnected Dragoon

ffxiv 2015-03-04 19-29-18-85 When it came to actual gaming last night, I was a bit more distracted.  I spent some time logged into Final Fantasy XIV because our Free Company is just insanely vibrant, but I really didn’t do all that much gaming.  I ran a few roulettes, and managed to get yet another piece of 130 gear thanks to another carbontwine, but mostly I just spent a lot of time hanging out at the free company house when I got up from my nap.  It really is surreal to see the number of people online… and at some point I need to catch up with my whole guild census project and record all the new people in our spreadsheet.  One of the problems with FFXIV is that there is no good guild notes functionality so we are having to keep an external list of which character belongs to which personality.  Its tedious but for whatever reason I struggle to relate in game names back to twitter and blogger names.  I spend a lot of time thinking “I think  that is this person” but never fully committing because my memory is extremely fallible.  That is my deep dark secret, that in other games I remember everyone… because I can check the officer notes.

I am not sure how I really made it through the sequence of Labyrinth of the Ancients, Syrcus Tower and World of Darkness… but I am guessing at this point I can just do those on auto pilot.  I am hoping I was not “that dragoon” in most of the instances, because I managed to get several commendations.  Generally speaking if I go in, and manage not to die… I get commendations.  I should have spent the night working on botany, but instead I mostly stood around a lot staring blankly at the screen.  I feel like over the last several nights I have been particularly antisocial.  Largely when I am watching something on Television I stay off voice chat, and go for large periods of time without reading free company chat either.  I know at some point Arkenor asked for a group, but it was not until it had actually formed that I noticed.  I have been a less than stellar “Bel” lately, and I am hoping tonight I will be feeling back to my normal self.  I feel like I have missed a lot of what is going on, and I am hoping to remedy that.

Time to Landmark

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-17 17-36-42-66 It has been well over a year since I last played Landmark in any fashion.  That game has evolved in such a way that if you are not playing constantly you fall behind in the number of changes.  At this point I simply feel behind the curve and it has been a real barrier from me jumping back into the game.  This morning I read something interesting however, that Landmark plans to have one more major character wipe before opening its doors to the public.  My theory is that this might be precisely the ideal time to pop my head back in and see how the game has progressed.  Right now this wipe is slotted for sometime around April 29th.  So my hope is that I can pop in and experience all of the new content fresh and not be so entirely out of touch with it.  Honestly the most enjoyment I had in the game was the process of “leveling up” which was completing a series of arbitrary goals to keep moving up through the different types of picks and tools you can create.  Once I had access to everything the game quickly became stale for me.

For reference when I last played the game… the Caves system was not yet patched in.  So this means I have that and all of the player combat to experience fresh.  The problem is I am torn on the whole Daybreak thing.  I am still rather pissed about the layoffs, but at the same time the folks who are still on staff there are struggling to make this whole thing work.  My Landmark account is a sunk cost as I purchased it so long ago.  I might as well get some use out of it, and see what this game has become in the months since I let my claim get repossessed.  There was a point where I realized I was only logging in just long enough to mine copper to pay the upkeep on my claim.  This is one of the things I don’t like about upkeep systems.  If you are only playing the game to pay upkeep, are you really playing the game at all?  I am actually looking forward to the character wipe now and hopefully I will be able to reignite the spark I once had for this game.

Doubling Down

Still Frustrated

EQ2_000006 Yesterday I broke my self appointed rules and made two posts because I felt the news warranted it.  I said my peace but the problem is… I am still frustrated this morning.  At the time of posting yesterdays blog piece I really only knew about a few of the people who were let go.  As last night wound its way onwards, more names trickled out and at this point I am absolutely shocked by the scope.  While I am not sure about the numbers, it feels like roughly half of the folks I was aware of over there were let go.  Granted the actual numbers could be anywhere, but I am basing it simply on the faces that have shown up on twitter saying they were no longer Daybreak employees, versus the ones that have said they still are.  In any case this will be a massive blow to Everquest, Everquest II, Everquest Landmark and whether or not we will ever actually get Everquest Next.  For awhile on Aggrochat we have joked about Next being vaporware, and that we would only ever get Landmark…  but now I am starting to really wonder if that is closer to the truth.

Everquest will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first footsteps into the MMO world.  Similarly I am drawn to Everquest II in ways that I cannot quite understand, and while I go for large swaths of time without playing, I often return to it was the gaming equivalent of “comfort food”.  It is this strange mix of a world that I am absolutely in love with, and a combat system that I hate beyond words.  If I had to create a list of “favorite games that I am not playing” I would put Everquest II at the top of that list…  so I guess I ultimately am part of the problem.  I love this world but I am not inhabiting it on a nightly basis, and as such not giving it money to grow.  I’ve bought into Landmark and H1Z1 but I am not really playing those either.  I remember feeling the same way when City of Heroes closed its doors, that I had so many fond memories… but that I had also ultimately moved past that game as well.  I guess we want the things we once loved and enjoyed to stay protected in a bubble forever, never to change…  but when we move on are we not also ultimately to blame?

Doubling Down

Gw2 2015-02-05 19-08-06-25 Before the events of yesterday I had a topic kicking around in my head about the worlds that we play.  I am not sure how the events of yesterday feed into the narrative, but I am going with it in any case.  I feel as though the era of the “new mmorpg” is all but over.  There will of course be new games that identify with the “mmo” ideals, but they won’t be quite the same as the worlds we have had had in the past.  I feel like we are going to see a lot more games like Destiny, that is “mmo-lite” or another genre with mmo features.  I feel like the worlds that were crafted during the golden age of massively multiplayer online role-playing game launches, are the worlds we will have to live with for better or worse.  When Blizzard cancelled Project Titan, we can look at that in so many different ways.  We could say that it was a sign that MMOs were dying, and that they no longer believed in the genre.  We could however take that as a sign that they believed that the worlds we had already were worth saving.

So many of the games that we love are not broken toys, at least not yet.  Each of them if given the devotion and the development resources could be transformed into a truly magical place.  I am looking at the transformation of Final Fantasy XIV from 1.0 awkwardness to 2.0 and beyond splendor as proof that a game can change for the better.  I’ve played each of the major MMOs for some length of time, and have experienced that each have exactly the same problem.  How do they keep the player engaged on a daily basis, rather than in bursts of activity each time new content is released?  I feel the problem is that games right now are mired in the construct of expansion releases, pooling up major features until they can sell another box of the game.  This means the best features tend to either get bottled up for years time, or never actually make it into the game at all.

The episodic construct is a bit better, but you have to be careful that you are not adding “expiring” content into your game, making players feel rushed to somehow grind through it all before the next patch hits.  The problem I had with the Living Story in Guild Wars 2 was that when I fell behind, I didn’t feel like there was a point to actually try and catch up… since I had missed so much already.  The fact that the content was expiring made it feel less “real” to me… that they weren’t permanently improving the game, but instead running a series of limited time events.  I feel like the shift needs to be moved away from both of these constructs and instead the focus placed on fleshing out the world.  Do you know how frustrating it is to me in World of Warcraft that there are five portals below Wyrmrest Temple but only two of them go anywhere?  Each world we play is littered with these forgotten expansion ideas, and all I really want is for a game world to quit teasing us and start living up to its full potential.  Now is the time for these companies to double down on the content they have, fix the issues with their game systems… and try and make their games worth our copious time and devotion.

A Simple Night

ffxiv 2015-02-11 19-54-39-33 Because of the news yesterday, and because of other events leading me to question myself and my connection to other people… I was not in the best of places emotionally last night when I got home.  I have to say my mood was improved by hanging out with my extremely awesome free company in Final Fantasy XIV.  For a few nights I had promised to help my friend Solaria work on knocking out some stuff, since she was fairly new to 50 and in doing so also spent a good deal of time running dungeons with Thalen and Asha.  I have not had a night where we tore through multiple dungeons in a night, and I have to say it was good for the soul.  Granted I felt a bit wobbly, since I have not really tanked much of anything other than our raids, and dungeon tanking ends up so drastically different.  That said we managed to unlock a few dungeons for both Thalen and Solaria, and in the process get some Tomestones of Soldiery and Poetics.

I’ve missed logging in, getting pulled into a group and then spending the rest of the night tromping through dungeons.  It is like connecting with my most basic instincts of trying to make sure everything in the dungeon hates me equally.  I really enjoy the pace of Final Fantasy XIV, and its particular brand of tanking.  The Warrior just “feels” right, and I am hoping I will be equally at home with the Dark Knight.  If nothing else I will always have the Warrior to fall back on if the Dark Knight ends up not being the class I have wanted all along.  I know Thalen has several more dungeons yet to unlock to qualify for high level roulette, so I am going to try and force myself to build groups more often.  I get stuck in my own little world, and spend most of my time soloing… but I know when I do group content I feel so much better at the end of the night.  While last night did not cure me completely… it did make me feel significantly better.

Night Falls

Unfortunate Bonus Round

This is going to be a bit of an oddity for me, I am breaking my normal one post per day rule.  I feel like the gravity of the situation warrants it, because right now I am feeling so many different emotions at the same time.  By now most of you will have heard the news that I believe first broke over on the newly erected Massively OP website.  Today Daybreak Games, formerly Sony Online Entertainment has chosen to make some sweeping cuts to staff.  Among the individuals caught in this madness were none other than Dave “Smokejumper” Georgeson and and Linda “Brasse” Carlson.  I cannot fathom a chain of consequences that would lead to this happening, but I will get into that later.  For me and many others these two individuals along with Scott Hartsman before he left to join Trion…  were the face of the Everquest franchise.  They were the spirit of the game, and the lifeblood that kept the player base constantly engaged, because never once did you question their sincerity or devotion to making the game world awesome.

Last Tuesday when the news broke that SOE was to be no more, and they would be taking up the new name of Daybreak Game Studio I tried to keep things in stride.  After all I had gotten used to Everquest transitioning from Verant to being called Sony Online Entertainment hadn’t I?  When I found out they had been purchased by what seemed to be a cold and faceless financial holdings company, I tried to keep a positive tone in that it seemed that they were holding most of the companies rather than chopping them up into pieces.  I held in the back of my mind the possibility that the future was in fact going to be positive, that maybe out from under Sony they could reach previously locked off markets like the Xbox One.  After all this same company owned both Rhapsody and Fiverr, surely they knew what they were doing right?

Night Falls

Today it seems that my worst fears have been realized, and that things really can’t stay the same.  As online gamers we get lost in the worlds created by the games that we love to play.  Part of that world are the names and faces of the individuals who act as the conduit between our normal mundane lives, and the magical realms we spent our free time in.  At least in a small part they act as civil servants to the virtual cities we inhabit.  As we watch public presentations and read patch notes and press releases, it is amazing just how quickly we can rattle off the names of the key players that are relaying the information to us.  Even though we may never know them, we develop an almost personal relationship as they take the stage to give us tidbits of information about the future state of “our” game.

The problem is…  we get extremely close to these personalities, so that when one leaves either by their own hand, or by circumstances the shock waves reverberate through the community.  Today a mighty shock wave happened, and I am still not quite sure how to talk about it with any intelligence.  For many years, Brasse has been the public face of the Everquest community team, and Smokejumper the face of the future of that franchise.  It was impossible to watch either of them and not see just how excited they were to be representing this game that they too loved.  I find it exceptionally hard to try and imagine a future that does not involve them, and I have to say a lot of my faith that there will even be an Everquest going forward is more than a little tarnished.

The Survivors

This has been the month of senseless corporate action.  First with AOL killing off their blogs, and now the selling of of Sony Online Entertainment.  I am deeply concerned about the future of these games, in part because the gravitas of Sony…  allowed for SOE to be a little “funky”.  They devoted time to building a lot of unique and quirky features that we were not likely to see come out of any other company.  Do you think that any other company would have given us something truly strange like SOEmote?  Sure I never used it, but I thought the tech was extremely cool especially for the roleplaying community.  The tools that I did love, like the robust housing system and the dungeon builder…  likely would not have come to fruition in a company not quite so willing to chase rabbit trails.

All of this said… I think it is important to also think about the people who were left behind.  They are reeling from the layoffs, and seeing their friends gone.  Having been through more than one layoff, it completely changes the feel of the office.  Every action becomes questioned, and every motive suspicious, making it almost impossible to focus on doing the excellent job that the “citizens” are expecting you to do.  It is easy to say you are done with the Everquest franchise, because of these rather rash actions…  but in truth you are just going to punish the people who are still there, still trying to create the game worlds you love.  Hopefully we can all take a deep breath, grieve the loss, and try and figure out how to move on without being bitter.  I really hope this next week gives us some really good news, because this month so far has turned out to be a fairly tragic one.

Pairing Down

The Struggle

One of the biggest challenges about this whole “blog every day” concept is that some mornings there is just nothing at all in my head to talk about.  When I am sick like I was yesterday, I tend to turtle and pull my head up inside my shell, disconnecting me from the interwebs and all of you fine people.  Unfortunately when my biggest source of inspiration is gone, I can get a little bit of writers block.  It is mornings like this that I feel outline the importance of just allowing yourself to write whatever happens to pop into your head.  It might not be epic and exciting, but it is staying true to the mission as a whole.  Unfortunately we are well based the NBI 2014 initiative, otherwise I would spin this into some sort of an inspirational post about struggling through.

This is not a slight in any way to the previous NBI groups, but I have been really impressed with just how tenacious the Class of 2014 has been.  Generally speaking there is a significant drop off the month after the initiative as folks take a massive breather after having survived being the focus of so many folks attention.  When the spotlight fades a bit, it is rough to keep posting when you inevitably notice fewer people are reading.  However this group either is blissfully oblivious to the existence of blog statistics, or they really are writing for themselves, because they seem to still be going strong.  A few of the “newbies” are among the most prolific posters in my blog reader, and I am amped to still see them enjoying the whole experience.

Pairing Down

WoWScrnShot_061314_062051Right now I have come to realize that I am playing entirely too many MMOs to feel like I am making any significant progress in any of them.  Over the last two months I’ve played Warlords of Draenor, Rift, ArcheAge, Wildstar, Star Wars the Old Republic, Elder Scrolls Online, Defiance, Everquest II, Landmark, The Secret World, Diablo 3, Lego Minifigures Online and Trove.  While I embrace the whole polygamerous thing, I think even for me this is a bit too much especially when you throw in League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm on top of those… and occasionally some Hex and Hearthstone.  Mostly I think I need to drop some of the games that feel similar to me from the rotation, or at least games that scratch the same itch.

rift 2014-02-13 06-28-10-40 I feel like I have to keep testing Warlords of Draenor in part out of remembrance for River, and him being so damned excited to have gotten into the alpha process.  While I won’t be playing with the same wide eyed amusement that he would have, I am trying my best to enjoy the experience in his honor.  However I can safely say that I will not be playing the actual live World of Warcraft anytime in the near future.  I think maybe WoW has run its course with me for awhile, and Wildstar has stepped in to take its place in my heart without me really wanting it to.  Wildstar really is a much better version of WoW, and I am just embracing that fact.  As a result Rift and SWTOR are also losing out, because to me they still fill the same “wow-like” niche.  As a result I won’t be renewing my patron account in Rift.

The Non-WoW Itch

ARCHEAGE 2014-05-08 20-13-50-11It was fun trying to get into Defiance, but the problem is I got into the Destiny alpha… and it was pretty much everything I had hoped Defiance would be.  So I won’t be spending much more time trying to get into that game when I know there is something I will like much better coming later this year.  ArcheAge I want to like, but it has without a doubt the worst community of griefers I have experienced anywhere.  So unless Trion comes out and announces there will be a co-op server… it is pretty much a nonstarter for me and no sense really spending much more time on it.  Landmark on the other hand has an amazing community, but right now there just isn’t much game there for me to play.  They have built this amazing crafting sandbox, but without combat it isn’t all that interesting to me past the initial build phase.  They have added caves so I figure at some point I will poke  my head back in, but exploration without combat just sounds boring to me.  I’ve officially allowed my claim to be repossessed at this point.

EverQuest2 2013-10-02 06-37-39-56 I still have a special place in my heart for Everquest II, and I can’t say I won’t return to it in the future… but for now I think there are just too many other options.  EQ2 was one of those games where I hated the combat system but loved everything else about it.  Wildstar with its systems within systems is really filling the niche that EQ2 always did, which might be why it is feeling so sticky considering it is replacing both EQ2 and WoW for me.  The Secret World is one of those games I love to remember fondly, but never seem to have a desire to log into on a regular basis.  I know there is a bunch of storyline that I have yet to participate in, and I keep thinking that some weekend I will play through all of it.  That weekend just has yet to arrive, and lately the only time I seem to log in is when I get new hardware and want to test how it performs.

The Also Rans

Diablo III 2014-03-06 22-07-06-52 Diablo 3 is enjoyable, and at some point I would really like to get a crusader to 70…  hell I would like to get my monk to 70.  I just struggle to find any drive to play it when my own personal internet zeitgeist… aka the folks I hang out on voice chat nightly, are not also playing it.  It was really fun up until the release of Elder Scrolls Online and then boom we all vacated the premises.  For the time being I am pretty much crossing it off my list until there is another upwelling of desire among my friends to play it.  Trove is similarly really fun, but without a lot of people that I know playing it on a regular basis I have fallen back out of love with it.  I will likely continue to poke my head into the game irregularly but when I do play… so much has changed that the experience feels very off-putting.  The game is in a pretty much constant state of flux, which is awesome if you are devoted to this game, but confusing if you are a “sometimes” player like me. Play 2014-03-14 10-12-29-25 League of Legends will be a permanent fixture in my gaming rotation so long as I have friends who are devoted to playing it.  I don’t necessarily love the game, but I enjoy playing with my friends.  I personally like Heroes of the Storm so much better, but the problem is with it being in a limited release “technical alpha” state there just are not enough people around regularly to play with.  The MOBA genre is really only fun for me if I am playing with a group of friends, and in this scenario League wins out every time.  That is not to say that I won’t keep poking my head into Heroes especially as they add new waves of players.  As far as Hearthstone and Hex…  I am back playing Magic the Gathering in real life with friends at lunch time…  so the draw of these games is minimal right now.

Those Who Made the Cut

WildStar64 2014-06-20 22-30-01-908 So after spending all of this time culling games for this or that reason, I figure I should talk about the games I am deciding to keep in the rotation.  Warlords of Draenor I am actually enjoying when I do manage to get in and play it.  So yes I am partially doing it in honor of River, and his desire to be in the Alpha, but there is something charming about the new content.  I don’t feel like it will be enough to keep me in WoW, but for the time being I am enjoying it while I can.  Wildstar has pretty much filled the corner of my heart that desire to play a theme park MMO, and it really is the most glorious theme park of experiences once you give yourself over to it.  I feel like I have barely scratched the surface on what it has to offer, and I am intrigued at the schedule they have put out before us.  I really like that they are choosing to put in “hardmode” single and small group content before augmenting the raid game.  That says a lot that they understand that they need to focus on both going forward to keep players.

eso 2014-02-23 12-41-25-63 I still feel like I have so much more that I want to do in Elder Scrolls Online.  I want to finish the Aldmeri Dominion content and see the Ebonheart Content, as well as spend time exploring Craglorn.  I love this game even though I am not playing it much, and I can’t see dropping it from the rotation anytime soon.  I realize that not many players feel the same way about the game as I do, but really for me it is like the best possible version of Skyrim.  I have been out so long at this point that I feel like I am going to be extremely rusty.  There game has problems, namely it is awkward as hell to do anything as a group other than Cyrodil.  They really need to fix this, and I hope that the good folks at Zenimax are looking into things like mentoring.  Right now it is a really awesome single player experience, but gets cludgy when you start adding in more people.  That said it still does have amazing dungeon design, and there are so many of them that I have yet to experience.

LMO 2014-06-23 06-41-14-037 Last but not least is a game that has come in and taken my heart by storm.  Lego Minifigures Online is absolutely adorable and I love everything about this game.  Last night this was the only thing I actually played, and grouped up with Rae she managed to catch me up almost to her level in experience.  Right now we have a vastly different set of mini figures, and it is really enjoyable to group together.  We have both opted to get memberships, and the pocket dungeons are awesome… some of them ending up extremely challenging like the Dragon’s Lair dungeon with I think five different boss fights in it.  I’ve already gotten more than my moneys worth of enjoyment out of it, so this is definitely going to be in my weekly rotation for a long while.  It basically scratches the itch that Diablo 3 did, and cashes in on my absolute love of all things Lego.

So there you have it, going forward I am mostly going to be focused on Wildstar, Elder Scrolls Online and Lego Minifigures Online.  I of course reserve the right to change my mind and undo all of these in the blink of an eye.  That said I do have a ton of single player games that I want to play through, and both the PS3 and PS4 ready to stream content.  I spent a good chunk of the weekend playing Assassin’s Creed 4 for example… and I am absolutely horrible at it, but enjoying myself quite a bit.  As far as online games, I am going to try and limit myself to just these games above for the time being.  I know in September I will be digging into Destiny and playing that online with friends quite a bit, but it doesn’t directly conflict with the types of games I chose above.  Maybe with this abbreviated list, I won’t constantly feel overwhelmed when I sit down at night and try and figure what exactly I am going to do.`

Alliance of Awesome

Multigaming Community

allianceofawesome On January 31st a few interesting things happened.  Firstly Sony Online Entertainment released the alpha for Everquest Next Landmark…  now just known as Landmark.  More importantly this set a chain of events into motion.  For some time there has been a group of loosely affiliated guilds and gaming  communities tugging on essentially the same pool of players.  So we might end up getting this mix of players for a specific title and then having a similar mix of players for another title down the road from this huge twitter/g+ gaming community pool.  With Landmark this reached a bit of a head and someone was brave enough to stand up and say it was silly.  In the opening days of Landmark, since there were no guilds (and still arent for that matter) each of these communities opted to start a chat channel.  The problem is this left some people joining as many as six different channels at a time.

Scarybooster proposed a simple idea, that we all agree to use one common chat channel, and with that the Alliance of Awesome was born.  It started simple in scope, but from there Zelibeli and I kinda ran with it and over the last four months we’ve built a rather large loosely connected gaming alliance.  Currently we have five different groups in the AofA community: House Stalwart, Multiplaying.net, Combat Wombat, Mercy Gaming, and Dark Religion.  Lately I have been talks with Liore about maybe having the already awesome Machiavelli’s Cats community join the fold as well.  I have to say so far that over the last four months things have indeed been awesome.  For the most part everyone has seemed to get along swimmingly and I’ve watched this group of disconnected pieces merge into a community in every sense of the word.

A Simple Idea

One of the big problems with being habitual multigamers is the fact that guilds are often transistory and it is hard to constantly muster a new batch of people to play whatever game is coming down the pipe.  Additionally since not every game will end up being ideal for everyone, this means you have massive amounts of fragmentation as folks leave a given game for something new.  The idea was that each individual guild would take responsibility for the reigns of the games that they were most into, and then that way as gamers we would have access to a good and familiar guild regardless of the game we choose to play.  Over the coming months I would like to see this formalized into a sort of Rosetta stone for who has which guilds where and just how active each of them are.

The problem is that since we each have our own guild identities, it felt odd to constantly ask players to register an account on a new forum for each group.  As a result we tried a few different things to have a shared neutral ground between the communities.  The first of these efforts was the Alliance of Awesome reddit… and while it worked well enough, it caused as much frustration as it solved.  Then I stumbled onto Anook and it seemed almost perfectly suited for us.  It offered public and private forums, an events calendar and was more gamer social network than private site allowing folks to link everything up to the games they are streaming into the shared hub… or in the verbiage of that network a “nook”.  This also lets the bloggers in our midst share our posts easily on the nooks blog, and so far that seems to also be working well.

A Unified Approach

Over the last few months we have been melding significantly.  Elder Scrolls Online launch for example was the first real “Alliance of Awesome” foray, and while we still kept to the branding of House Stalwart… it was very much a shared occasion.  With the launch of Wildstar, we had no real forerunner guild wise that looked to be taking up the reigns.  Instead we opted to drop any specific guild branding and simply go with the “Alliance of Awesome” for our guild name.  Honestly I have to say it feels very natural and I can see eventually we may drop the individual guild monikers and just do things from that standpoint.

The biggest problem I forsee moving forward is the fact that right now we are still very much utilizing two completely separate voice servers.  A good chunk of the House Stalwart guild is still very happily playing World of Warcraft and doesn’t really care about any other game on the market.  The rest of us are pretty nomadic, but we still are far more used to and comfortable with mumble as a communication platform.  Multiplaying, Dark Religion, and Mercy Gaming have all standardized on a Teamspeak 3 server run for free by the ever amazing Saia.  So I would really like to make a move to trying to use that as well and simply dropping the mumble.  That said this feels like a landmine because I have no clue how to convince the WoW-only contingency to abandon mumble and make the shift over to Teamspeak 3.  Also I hate to abandon Mumble myself until they have done this, because while I am not playing World of Warcraft on a nightly basis I still hold the guildmaster position and get called on to resolve issues.  I want to make sure I am reachable by folks even when I am not in the same game.

Shared Ethics

The other rough spot is that we need to come up with a shared set of rules and codes of conduct.  For years House Stalwart has followed a simple “three tenets” approach, and relied on guild leader and officer judgment to fill in the gaps.  Zeli tends to favor spelling things out, and considering the large volume of people she has dealt with not completely organically connected… I can totally see why this would be a good thing.  After years of trying to “keep things simple” but then having to deal with explaining nuance… I am starting to favor Zeli’s approach to be honest.  I hate writing rules, and as such that’s why I came up with the somewhat ambiguous three that we use.  I figured that using common sense folks would realize what they meant… problem is not everyone “common” is the same.  The further away from the same core of friends you get, the more confusing the interpretation becomes.

Going forward I think we are going to have to just agree upon a shared set of rules, and I think so far the batch Zeli came up with for the Alliance of Awesome guild seems like a great place to begin.  The biggest thing I hope out of this is that we are a living community.  That we will continue to grow as we adopt other awesome people from twitter, anook, g+, or that we happen to stumble across in game.  Also I hope that we do in fact get the Machiavelli’s Cats community to join the fold, and keep finding other like minded groups to rally to the cause.  I would really like Alliance of Awesome to not only have an ostentatious name, but also have awesome actions to back it up.  I want us to be part of the solution in the games we play, and not part of the problem.  I would love to see us better each of the gaming communities we are in.

Giving Back

File:Child's Play Logo updated.pngOne of the things that Zeli and I have been talking about lately is that we would really like to enter Alliance of Awesome in this years Child’s Play marathon.  Far as I can tell this will take place on October 25th, and the idea is to have 25 hours of live streaming for charity.  I have wanted to participate in this for years, but I thought it would be more interesting if we signed up a whole bunch of streamers from the Alliance of Awesome community and have one shared channel for the purpose of the event.  We have quite a number of people who stream already, and it would be awesome to give each of us like a 4-5 hour block of time to play whatever the hell we want to.

Also lately we have been holding a lot of events in various games.  Right now Wednesday nights are “Faff About in Cyrodil” night, and those are pretty much only to anyone in the Alliance of Awesome community.  Additionally we have been holding a Thursday night “League Beginner Night” to let folks ease into the League of Legends game.  So far both events have been a blast and I would love to see them grow beyond the small number of people that we have.  I am sure we will be doing something similar for Wildstar, especially with the focus on grouping in that game.  I can only see the community as a whole getting better.  So here comes the thing I am sure you have all been waiting for.  If you are not already a member of the Alliance of Awesome community… head over to the website and join our nook.  We don’t have any real requirements for membership other than wanting to be around a bunch of awesome people, and striving to be the “white hats” in gaming.  If you have a large community, track down myself or Zelibeli and we can see if the entire group would be a good fit for us as well.  Growing up as an only child, I always wanted to be surrounded by friends… and on the internet I try my damnedest to surround myself with as many awesome people as I can.  So far I think things are going pretty well.

Uniblade Get

Scrounging for Copper

Landmark64 2014-06-03 19-20-49-284 The above picture pretty much accurately represents the last several times I have played Landmark.  Generally speaking it is on a Tuesday evening when I realize that my claim upkeep will be running out shortly.  So I log in and make a mad dash around the area surrounding my claim to scrounge up enough copper to pay the upkeep for another week.  Generally speaking I only spend just enough time in game to gather the 4800 copper I believe that is required to unlock another 8 days of upkeep.  It really wasn’t until last night that this process started to grate on my nerves, and I began to question what exactly I am trying to protect.  In theory I could get my claim repossessed and be free of this burden…  but as of yet I have not wanted to give up my “prime real estate” next to the spires.

Landmark64 2014-06-04 06-14-48-975 I guess the thing is I haven’t been super into the game since the end of Alpha and the wipe that lead into Closed Beta.  My previous claim I was extremely happy with, this one I am not sure quite what to do with it.  It is this hulking monstrosity that I have zero desire to decorate further.  I have reached a point where Landmark just isn’t that fun for me right now, or more so there just isn’t enough “game” there yet.  What they have is this great rules driven building game, but after a point building stuff becomes stale.  I look at all the harvest time I would have to sink in to be able to build the things that I would want to build… and I simply am unwilling to devote the time.  I feel like maybe once combat goes in, that the game might be more tangible for me, that it might feel like there is a purpose to what I am doing.  It was amazing just how strong of an incentive “protecting against monster attacks” was to spur on my building sprees in Minecraft.  For the time being however I am seriously considering harvesting up all of the stone and other resources used on my claim and just letting it get repossessed this week.  That way I could mark one game off my list until it becomes interesting again.

No More Loot Boxes

rift 2014-05-08 06-09-17-50 Another decision I have made is to drop my Rift patron status.  I’ve subscribed to this game for pretty much all of the time it has been out on the market save for about three months.  There is so much that I still like about Rift, but at the same time I just have no drive to play it.  I have a ritual of logging in every Wednesday to collect the weekly patron gift, opening it… seeing if I get any cool armor and then logging right back out.  Since I have geared both my Warrior and my Rogue in this fashion… and I have faltered at leveling my Cleric, I just can’t justify keeping up the patron status for a game I really have not played much at all in the last year.  I have 90 days left of patron status, so I might in that time change my mind, but presently I just don’t have enough people to play the game with to make it worth my while.

One of the things that worked out differently than I had hoped with Patron status is the way that loyalty and cash shop currency accrued.  That first year when I picked up a year long subscription, I had a massive amount of loyalty and a ton of cash shop currency to blow through as part of the free to play conversion.  I made the mistake of assuming that the same thing would happen when I picked up this past years patron status.  One of the things I expect out of a free to play “subscription” plan is a month allotment of cash shop currency.  Since this isn’t a thing in Rift, I really don’t see much benefit in keeping up the Patron status.  Additionally I expected another huge boost to my loyalty level from subbing for another year, and that didn’t happen either.  For the time being I will simply play the game like a free to play player does until they give me reason to subscribe again.

Uniblade Get

WildStar64 2014-06-03 22-27-28-614 The last several days in Wildstar have been about one thing and one thing only…  trying to get to level 15 and trying to accumulate enough currency to buy a mount when I ding.  As a result I have completely ignored the crafting system and sold everything I could possibly sell in an attempt to buy my precious mount.  Was it worth the effort?  Well the jury is still out on that one, but I do like the looks of my Uniblade.  I figured this was the obvious choice for a Chua Engineer, especially since the “Hamster Ball” mount just did not feel dignified.  Right now the mount feels a little lackluster since it is only a 15% boost.  However it is cool that you can still sprint on a mount and that feels awesome as your engine revs up and such when you do it.  The physics of the Uniblade are a little weird, and I have to say I would have honestly rather had the Exiles Grinder mount instead… but all in all I am happy.  One bug I encountered is that apparently in order to buy the mount you have to have enough currency to cover the undiscounted price.  This means instead of the 1 gold 15 silver price listed you actually have to have something like 1 gold 65 silver to be able to cover the full price…  even though it will still only charge you the 1 gold 15 silver.

WildStar64 2014-06-03 22-49-08-220 Now that I have obtained my goal, I am going to be far more interested in random grouping.  I kind of wanted to meet up with people last night and group, but I was so focused on grinding out my level and trying to get as many saleable items as possible.  This meant doing much lower content than I should have been doing, since it rewards less experience but I was more likely to accumulate a lot of saleable items in the process.  One of the interesting things about Wildstar is that unlike World of Warcraft, you only seem to gain guild experience while grouped with other guildies.  This means that in order to unlock all of the perks like the guild bank, we are going to have to group together and go do content.  Now that I have level 15 I am really looking forward to trying the first dungeon… and I am imagining that it rewards a ton of guild experience.  My next goal is to find a decent weapon, as I am still using some random drop green.  My hope is that whatever dungeon quests exist I will maybe get a blue weapon from them.  I also need to do some research into which tanking abilities I need to do a dungeon.

Wildstar Groupage

Since we are taking the night off from Elder Scrolls Online my goal tonight is to get some Wildstar grouping going.  The goal is to resume the Cyrodil nights next Wednesday, and I hope to play quite a bit over the weekend as well.  I still want to see so much in Elder Scrolls, but face it… this is launch week for a new game, and for the most part folks are going to be playing it.  Tonight I want to focus on getting a group going with some Alliance of Awesome guildies and trying to gain lots of guild currency.  Zero clue what we will actually be doing, but here is hoping we can find another world boss like we did the other night.  If we have enough people it would be awesome to pop our heads into a dungeon.

#Landmark #Rift #Wildstar

A Path Not Taken

A Question Answered

I am getting a super late start today, or more so I am sitting down to write my blog post this morning later.  I dropped the dry cleaning off yesterday morning, and then shortly after decided I felt entirely too bad to exist in the real world.  So I went home and took breathing treatments throughout the day, in an attempt to convince my lungs to stop being assholes.  It has mostly worked, but this meant that I needed to get up relatively early this morning and go pick up the dry cleaning so we would have it for Monday morning.  I still have plenty of shirts in the closet to cycle through, but my wife had reached the limits of her wardrobe.

It seems like at least once a year a new social media technology is released, and the internet zeitgeist all flocks to it.  I generally sign up for these the moment they happen in an attempt to stake my claim flag and then they sit dormant for years until I finally decide that I want to start using it.  One of these is Anook, and I asked a very simple question last night on twitter.

image While I was expecting someone like Maeka who has been posting on the site for a good deal of time to chime in, I did not expect to be drawn into a length conversation with the Community Lead.  As you can see, we talked a lot and I started to buy into the vision.  The problem that they see it is that there are all these services, that you load up with content once… and then forget about.  Facebook is this way for me, I have a profile because I know that certain people would rather be notified of my content through that vehicle… but I don’t actually USE facebook.  I hate the service, I hate the way it feels, so I feel bad each time someone sees the content that somehow got set up to syndicate from twitter… and thinks I am actually using that as a means of communication.

I know going into this that Anook is not what I have been longing for.   I would love to have a gamer focused site that acts as a social glue for everything else I have content on.  A single point of syndication for G+, Twitter, Steam, Raptr, Battle.net, Glyph, Playstation Network, Xbox LIve…  whatever services I happen to have accounts on including my own blog and podcast.  I think this is a niche that if someone fills it, will be amazing.  What Anook is instead is trying to focus on creating a community with the ability to talk about disparate topics.  I see this as trying to be a social network, but almost from a guild website type of approach.  In the short time I am going to start populating it with my content, be it youtube vids, the podcast or my daily blog posts.

In the long term I could see maybe starting to try and use this for some of our other ventures like Stalwart Gaming or the Alliance of Awesome.  When I first signed up for the site at launch, it felt fairly primitive, and I really did not grasp the concept.  It just felt like Raptr or Steam without the nifty automation and game tracking functionality.  Now I can see what it is trying to be, and while I may not be 100% sold on it, I definitely appreciate their goals.  More than that I appreciate the kind of specialized attention this Community Lead gave me in trying to win me over to their vision.  Hell that along is going to make me loyal to the cause more than anything.  I will always reward amazing service with my patronage.

A Path Not Taken

This morning is going to be a bit “gaming lite” again, but with the hustle and bustle of the Newbie Blogger Initiative I’ve sat on a tale for a few days.  I wanted to make sure I got the posting underway proper before taking a lot of screen real estate for something personal.  My wife is a teacher, and this year her schedule aligned just right to allow her to attend the junior assembly.  This is one of those deals where someone inspiration comes and talks to the kids about the dangers of the world.  This is the sort of thing I as a teenager used to ignore, taking a sketch pad and doodling up in the bleachers instead of actually listening.  I am sure for some of the kids there this will definitely be the case.

As the speaker was introduced, my wife thought the name sounded familiar but shrugged it off.  Then he started talking about living in a town of 3500 in Northeastern Oklahoma.  At that point she started to wonder if maybe he lived in her hometown.  Finally when he started talking about his son… it hit her like a sack of bricks.  Growing up I was best friends with two other guys, and for the most part we were inseparable.  The man on the stage telling his story was one of those two boys father.  He had been almost a surrogate parent to me, as much time as I had spent over at their house throughout Middle School and most of High School.  When we first got together in College I was still telling stories about him and his son with fondness.

The thing is something changed along the way, and his son was getting into some pretty bad stuff.  Alcohol changed to Marijuana changed to Cocaine binges… and eventually I had heard he was even dabbling in Heroine… not that you can actually dabble in that.  Two things happened my junior year, one I started distancing myself from him… and two I got really sick.  The combination of the two ended up with me picking up some new friends, ones better for my well being… and while we had no falling out or anything… we just faded apart.  At some point after graduation we had managed to get back in contact.  He was running a record label out of Ohio, and prided himself in sending me lots of indie recordings of the bands he was working with.

Every so often he would call and we’d end up talking for a few hours.  When he moved back to town he got married, had a couple of kids and settled down as the director of an area Arts festival.  I thought that things were going pretty well for him, or at least on the surface he seemed to have gotten his shit together.  I visited him at least once at his office, and we went out to lunch, and then at our ten year reunion we of course hung out.  So it was with complete shock that a few years later I hear that he was not okay at all.  At some point the drugs had returned, and one day while driving home at lunch to get a fix he hit a special needs kid who had been riding his bike along a busy thoroughfare.  The report is that my friend didn’t even stop the car, and the cops followed him to his house an arrested him on the spot.

They say he was going fast enough when he hit the kid, he practically exploded.  They had to cremate him because there simply was not enough to bury.  So as my friends father was retelling this tale, my wife is sitting there in shock because she knows the other side of a lot of the tales he is telling.  She has this cold realization that had I not made a change and distanced myself… that it could have very well been me.  I hung in the same circles, but there was just a point where their behavior was getting a bit too risky for my tastes.  My friend deserves his fate, he did not get there over night, but over a course of multiple years of bad decisions.  However I feel horrible for his parents, because as parents go… they were awesome.  They were always so good to me, and treated me like another member of their family.

Once the assembly was over, my wife rushed up to the stage and introduced herself to his father, and apparently he just gave her a huge hug.  Then asked how I was doing and how things were in our lives.  He really was like another parent, and I feel like I need to get a hold of him.  He lost his son, in ways that he will never get him back, but maybe I can reach out and be a little closer to him and his wife.  They were always so good to me, that I want to be there for them however I can be.  So what makes the whole situation that much more odd, is that I was one of those kids who didn’t pay attention to this sort of thing.  I ignored more than my fair share of drug assembly, and ditched them whenever I could.  However I am living proof that changing the path you are going down can make all the difference in the world.  I could have easily been my friend, and that alone is pretty sobering.

Bangkorai is Huge

Screenshot_20140430_212918 Last night I spent most of the night streaming some Elder Scrolls Online gameplay.  Bangkorai is freakin huge.  Each time I feel like I might be nearing the end of the zone, I keep finding a pocket of stuff that I have missed. At this point I am extremely overleveled for the content at level 45, and the highest mob I have found at all has been 43.  This is a thing that keeps happening to me, I seem to move extremely slowly through content.  My whole general approach to Elder Scrolls Online is to kill every single thing in my way.  This means I probably kill far more badguys than the average gamer.  I have watched my friends play through content, and they go out of their way to skip combat.  This game gives you really good ways to skip combat in the form of “disguises”, however I NEVER use them.  The only time you will actually see me wearing one is when the quest literally cannot be completed without one.

A good chunk of the night was spent working on a series of quests in an occupied town.  I could have skipped almost all of the combat entirely by wearing the disguise.  However I ignored the fact that it was in my inventory and proceeded to lay waste to everything with a red diamond on it.  Which is a big funny considering my character is racially imperial… but apparently I like killing my own kin?  I am still enjoying the hell out of the game, and while I am super interest in ArcheAge I keep telling myself… to wait until I reach a point in Elder Scrolls Online where I am not quite so in love with it.  The game keeps giving me sufficient reason to log in every night and play, so until it stops doing that I will keep playing it.  ArcheAge will always be there when things start to get dull and I want to do some full on sandbox… however as time consuming as it seems based on the few streams I have watched…  maybe I am better off with Themebox or Sandpark.

Contest Entry


Watch live video from Belghast on TwitchTV
Toward the end of the night Rae pulled me over into Landmark.  She has been working on the big contest that they have going on and wanted some feedback on her building.  So far I think it looks pretty great, but this has been where she has spent all of her effort of late.  Personally I still have so much to do on my temple complex that I am almost mired in a building funk because of it.  Towards the end of the video I end up traipsing back into my own claim.   I am not really sure where I am as far as the game is concerned.  I like the game so much, but right now there is not something about it making me to want to log in regularly.  I think maybe once there is combat or something other than “Lego mode” I might feel more strongly about the game.  Quite truthfully lately I have enjoyed Trove more… and it is far more primitive.  The reason behind that seems to be that there is more to “do” in trove.  Definitely going to be active in the Landmark community, but right now past the initial rush of wanting to build something… there just isn’t much “stickyness” to the community.

#PathNotTaken #ANook #Landmark #ElderScrollsOnline #ESO

Dead Rising in Desert

Finishing The Spire

Screenshot_20140416_220811 One of the things I love the most about Elder Scrolls Online is just how epic their zones feel.  Last night I finally wrapped up Rivenspire and I had literally working my way through the zone for over seven days of serious playtime.  At this point according to Raptr I have logged 113 hours of playtime at am just now level 36.  When is the last time a game has managed to offer that much gameplay for the same level?  I don’t want to embark upon spoilerdom but Rivenspire introduced me to a new cast of characters, with their own epic conflict.  Some of them I really liked, and hope to see again as the overall storyline progresses.  As I am writing this post I am listening the Castlevania: Syphony of the Night soundtrack, which seems fitting.  Rivenspire is a zone about a battle against evil vampire overlords, and somehow they made the entire experience feel fresh with a few interesting plot twists on the standard mythos.

What is even more awesome is in wrapping up the zone… you are left with a feeling of unease.  In Elder Scrolls Online you never quite “get the girl and save the kingdom”.  There are always uncomfortable consequences that arise from your sequence of choices… consequences that you know you will have to life with in later zones.  I am not at all at ease with the final decisions that lead to me finishing the Rivenspire.  I most definitely saved the day, but I wonder at what cost.  I fear what the ramifications will mean to the overall fate of Tamriel and Nirn as a whole.  In any case I get to say good buy to the brooding and moody Rivenspire for the time being, and venture forth into the blazing deserts of Alik’r at the personal favor of Queen Maraya.

Dead Rising In Desert

Screenshot_20140419_000750 Another thing that I have always loved about the Elder Scrolls franchise in general are the unique little quirks that all of the races have.  The Bosmer for example strictly abide to the green pact, which states that they cannot harm any plant life.  This has the interesting side effect of making them strict carnivores… and on occasion cannibals.  As we move into the deserts of Alik’r we find that a necromancer has raised an army against the capital city of Sentinel.  The problem is… for the Redguard they revere their ancestors so much that they believe it is sacrilege to strike down the risen dead.  This means as you arrive at the docks of Sentinel it is being overrun by Ra-Netu (zombies) and the Redguard are unwilling to defend themselves against the ravening horde.

As a foreigner you save the day by doing what they cannot and will not do… strike down their ancestors.  So far this has given the quests I have completed in the Sentinel area a “call to action” feel, like everything I am doing is all the more urgent.  It is a bit of a refreshing change from the otherwise meandering zones I have experienced.  I am sure once I have left the immediate sentinel area the aimless wandering will begin again.  In truth it already has a bit, I realized I had been killing zombies for 45 minutes at one point yesterday and had no clue at all what objective I was supposed to be doing.  I had a similar moment happily bouncing from assassin beetle to assassin beetle, so the zone is definitely prone to my random fits of bloodlust.

Potentially Lovely Day

Landmark64 2014-04-13 22-04-40-22 I need to wrap this up because it looks to be a lovely day out in the real world.  I was off work yesterday, and while I enjoy lazing around immensely… I didn’t get much walking in.  So hopefully today we can go out and do something that involves copious amount of walking to make up for the fact that I closed the day yesterday with only 2 dots on my fitbit.  My wife and I have both experienced this moment recently where we have hit a plateau, but have greatly increased our exercise.  I think we are essentially swapping fat for muscle, and that eventually we will begin to lose weight again.  At the very least I hope that is the case, I have noticed that I have a lot more definition in areas I didn’t really before, and I seem to still be losing inches by the fact that I keep having to synch my belts tighter.

I wanted to post a real quick reminder to pay your upkeeps in Landmark.  I just logged in really quickly to check on that while writing this post and found I was 9 hours from losing my claim.  I’ve had numerous friends who have lost their claims and have simply abandoned the game because of it.  I highly suggest you log in and check on it just to make sure you have plenty of copper to pay the fee.   I’ve put a ton of work into mine and roughly 600,000 stone so far and it would have been devastating to lose all of that.  Granted when you lose your claim they do template the entire structure, but I have had numerous issues trying to place a template that large, needless to say I managed to get a pretty choice spot in the world and I would hate to lose it.

#ElderScrollsOnline #ESO #RivenSpire #Alik’r #Landmark

Life in Castlevania

Keep Progress

Landmark64 2014-04-13 22-04-18-30 Last night I popped into Landmark for a bit and continued work on Belgarde Keep.  At this point I have burned through around 1 million stone and still have so much more to do.  One of my friends chastised me for building with stone.  He said that I could do this much more easily with dirt and then come back over and paint in the stone texture.  For whatever reason that just feels like cheating.  Right now I can carve out bits of detail as I so choose and I still have stone underneath.  With dirt I feel like I would be playing a constant game of trying to keep the facade looking right.  The irony of my structure is that in a game with a pretty prolific smooth tool… I go out of my way to try and keep from anything getting smoothed.  I don’t like the way it mushes up the textures to be honest.

Landmark64 2014-04-13 22-03-23-53 I was feeling pretty good about my progress until I saw this picture…  it looks like maybe my structure is a voxel off somewhere when it comes to what is currently the upper tier.  So that means I will likely have to rip it out and start over from scratch placing stuff up there.  However for the time being I think I will leave it as is until I get the “oomph” to go on another massive stone farming mission.  The section I am standing on in this above photo… I am thinking about removing large chunks of it and making it a low balcony.  Giving it more of a ramparts feel to it.  Right now I am pretty pleased with how things are going, I just need to pull myself away from Elder Scrolls Online more often to do more work on it.

Life in Castlevania

Screenshot_20140413_230742 I spent most of yesterday faffing about in Rivenspire, and as was my expectation from yesterday… it is very much Castlevania.  Stuff is going horribly wrong in zone, and it is mostly due to the fact that we have free roaming vampires everywhere.  There are few things I like more than slaughtering malformed vampires, but apparently one of them is killing Trolls.  I remember in Skyrim the first time I was attacked by an Ice Troll.  It felt completely epic seeing this lumbering shape charging at me through the blowing snow.  That feeling apparently never gets old because I spent a good chunk of the day yesterday avoiding finishing a quest just so I could kill loads more trolls.  Fire is traditionally the weakness, and I am not sure if that is still the case…  but I as a Dragon Knight I applied loads of it just in case.

Rivenspire in the way it is laid out seems to be designed to keep me moving around in circles.  There are so many things I still have to do in the zone to be able to move on… and I have already dinged 30.  I am afraid I will be at least 35 before I manage to gather up the presence of mind to focus on the task at hand.  This game for whatever reason is almost my kryptonite.  There are so many shinnies and rabbit trails that I cannot keep from following.  One minute I will be on task riding towards an objective, then a dark tear will open up from the sky and dump things down onto me…  then I spend the next forty minutes on a mindless rampage across the country side only to realize I am back where I started and no closer to my objective.  Thing is… I might get frustrated over my constant state of distraction, but I am enjoying each and every minute of it.

Faffing About Bleakrock

In an attempt to let people catch up a bit I decided to run around on my little Bosmer Nightblade in the Ebonheart Pact.  Nothing terribly exciting but I thought I would stream my adventures.  I had not streamed in awhile, and I end up joined by my friend Pazz.  Over the course of an hour I make my way through the Bleakrock quests.  If you’ve already played through Bleakrock there is nothing terribly exciting to see here, other than me roaming around aimlessly with a big sword.  I really like the Bosmer for some reason, they feel more “feral”.  In a way I am purposefully rolling things that would not be seen natively in an area.  I plan on making an Argonian when I roll a character in the Aldmeri Dominion.  You can listen to Pazz and I rattle on for awhile, and since he apparently does not understand how to make a push to talk key you get to listen to his inane water bottle noises that sound rather “questionable”.

You Apparently Like Us?

I am absolutely floored over the support we have gotten so far on the podcast.  Embedding it again because it seems like the thing to do.  Honestly I expected to post the podcast and then maybe have a dozen listeners that took pity on us enough to download it.  Instead I have gotten some pretty positive comments.  I know that it is currently pretty low quality, but that is something we can improve on over time.  I had a friend ask me what bitrate we encoded at… and I literally had no answer.  I just saved it out without really paying attention what I chose.  I also want to fiddle a bit with the actual recording next time around.  The positive is that I do believe there will be a next time.  We all had fun doing it, and even if no one else was listening I think we would still continue recording.

I had a few people offer to be guests, and another few people offer to have us on their podcasts for some cross pollination.  I think for the short term we need to lock down exactly what it is that we are doing before changing the mix significantly.  I think it would be fun to record a show where we completely open things up similar to my podcasts, but then again that might be a little odd fighting to stay on task with people constantly popping in and out.  For the time being what we did works, so I expect to keep tweaking that a little bit to improve the quality.  I’ve already worked on a new version of the intro, and hopefully by next week Rae will have our awesome Chibis finished.  This is starting to feel like a “real” thing… and while that is odd, it is also pretty damned cool.

#Landmark #ElderScrollsOnline #AggroChat #RIvenspire #Bleakrock