Distraction

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Yesterdays post was super negative, and I apologize for being down a bit.  I am dealing with some mental stuff and fighting through it, but it has colored my world view decidedly darker for the moment.  Yesterday over on Mastodon, someone commented that it sounded like I simply wasn’t having fun anymore.  To some extend I have been having less fun, but I feel like MMOs in general require a lot of grind to get to the fun parts.  Right or wrong that is just sort of the nature of the beast and something I accept as part of the package deal.  My hope is always that the moment to moment gameplay is enjoyable, but even when it isn’t the hope is that there is a lot of enjoyment beyond the grind.

It was around this time that I came up with a reasonable analogy to explain MMOs.  Say you are a person that is really into knocking down dominoes and watching them fall into intricate patterns.  In that hobby it would often time take days to painstakingly set up the tiny little slabs, and then eventually when you are finished you get to start the chain reaction causing them to do all sorts of awesome things…  for a few minutes.  Hours upon hours worth of work…  for a very short payoff.  This is what playing an MMO feels like most of the time… a lot of painstaking work managing factions and consumables and all of the assorted trappings that come with doing endgame stuff…  all to have a few minutes of joy every week.

All of the faction work leads to something…  but that something is often times short and sweet and leaves you wanting more of that awesome endorphin hit that it gave you.   However for the moment I am distracted by the fact that Brewfest is happening and with it comes the Coren Direbrew event.  Sadly the trinkets that are provided this year are only 335, when I was hoping they would be something more sustainable like 340-345.  Regardless it is a thing that gives a much needed slot and my hope is to farm up a set on the Warrior and maybe get the Warlock leveled enough to get some as well.  Additionally there is a pet that I have never picked up before that I hope to get the tokens for.

After that will be the Halloween event, and another grind to chase…  since I have never managed to get the mount to drop and am only slightly bitter about it.  The positive is that it seems like all levels can participate in the Coren Direbrew event, so my hope is that similarly all levels can participate in the Halloween one as well.  That means if I so choose to do this nonsense… I could run around thirty characters through the event every day…  with thirty shots at the mount each day.  On the Brewfest side I have the Kodo and Ram and am not sure if other mounts drop but I think I am in good territory.  Whatever the case this adds up to a large package of distraction that may or may not keep me entertained until the 8.1 patch releases and we can see if anything feels better in the world.

 

The Grind Feels Bad

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Over the last few days I have trying to sort out something about Battle for Azeroth, namely why World Quests feel so generally awful in this expansion.  What I have come up with is a few points, but they all largely center around it being a system that was developed for a different expansion cycle and then not retooled enough to make it function in the same role in this expansion.  For starters World Quests are generally an excellent source of gearing, and in this first days after dinging 120 it very much played that role, giving me access to better and better items until eventually hitting the world quest soft cap of around 330…  with dungeon quests being able to drop up to 340.  The highest actual quest drop I have seen for a green is 273, so that gives you 57 levels worth of gear before the system ultimately peters out.  Honestly that seems like a reasonable gap in itemization, and I augmented it with the occasional heroic or mythic drop to speed my process up.

I think the crux of the issue with World Quests is we are no longer chasing anything that actually matters.  In Legion we were chasing a slew of Legendary items that could drop from literally anything, and I have seen them drop from random boss based World Quests.  So for me at least it felt like every single World Quest that I completed was one additional chance that I had to get the chase items of the expansion…  a Legendary item.  Additionally Emissary quests rewarded a chest upon turn in, that often times had a piece of gear that was very useful in that gearing phase…  but most of my alts got their very first Legendary this way as well.  So again doing the Emissary each day was some thing I looked forward to, because it gave me rep, some sort of a reward, a chest that contained gear… and once again the ever important seemingly elevated chance at seeing orange text scroll across my screen.

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The other thing that is missing is a grind that feels like it matters.  Artifact Power good or bad felt important for a very long time…  even towards the very end as we were unlocking those traits that just sorta made everything get better…  the effect was noticeable.  I felt like I was tangibly better after spending that point…  but also the acquisition of artifact power felt more even handed.  As it stands right now… I can clear both Zandalar and Kul’Tiras of every single available quest during an evening and I won’t have made a single dent in the amount of Artifact Power required to get one more item on the MacGuffin necklace that they gave me that I am supposed to care about.  The ramshackle manner in which we are given traits that are to be unlocked by necklace level… makes the entire system something very hard to deeply care about.  I got an item… the item is higher level…  I guess I will use it in spite of not being able to unlock any of the traits because they are arbitrarily placed through some progression system that I think at one point was supposed to be important but just now seems like numbers pulled out of the ether to keep us grinding.

Basically put… all of this feels deeply unsatisfying and makes me start questioning what exactly the point of us logging in every night to do emissary quests actually is?  The answer to that is…  faction.  Faction is the fire in which we burn.  At least in my case the faction I care the most about right now is the Honorbound because it gates my progress towards unlocking the Mag’har.  Similarly I am certain that faction will also be the thing that gates our access to the Zandalari and Kul’Tirans respectively.  In both cases if I could give Blizzard a sum of money to pay for my time spent… and either instantly gain the faction needed or just simply pay to unlock the race… I would happily do so because the grind that ultimately bars content is completely joyless.  In Legion we gained faction as a side effect of the chase for bigger and better things.  The Artifact weapons felt like a fitting reward for gaining Artifact Power…  and the Emissary chests gave us a shot at getting the real power items of the expansion the Legendaries.  It was a chase I was capable of doing and ignoring the fact that I am every so slightly moving the bar up.

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Effectively in order for a grind to feel good… you have to have enough things distracting you from the fact that you are grinding.  Every 10 to 20 minutes there needs to be enough of an endorphin hit to make you feel like you just accomplished something, and Battle for Azeroth seems to lack this when it comes to what I would refer to as the maintenance grind.  Sure Warfronts were fun because they gave me a shiny purple item every 15 to 20 minutes…  but World Questing, the thing that should be there as a daily pursuit is just a bunch of stuff that I will throw into the grinder or an insignificant amount of gold or artifact power to make up for my time spent.  115 gold for example… the highest paying World Quest that I have available to me on the above map is a completely meaningless and insignificant sum of money.  In order for gold to be a reward from doing a world quest I feel like it at bare minimum needs to be a range that goes from roughly 500 to 2500.  Similarly Artifact power at this point already requires 2500 or more in a single hit to make the bar noticeably move.

Ultimately what happened last night is I logged in… did my Emissary quest…  felt horrible about the rewards…  then logged over to the other faction in an attempt to play an Alliance character.  Which again I bounced out of pretty early on because in the back of my head was a little voice asking me… do I really want to do this grind all over again on another character on another faction?  The grind is just not fun, and I hope they do something to make it feel better in the next patch.  In the meantime I logged over to Destiny 2 which has its own grind problems and found myself having a good deal more fun because…  once again every 10-20 minutes I got the little hit of endorphin from something interesting dropping on the ground.

BFA: The Good and The Ugly

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At this point Battle For Azeroth has been out for just shy of a month and in that time I have leveled two characters to 120 and geared them.  I’ve shared little anecdotes as I leveled and did some of the content, but I have yet to really collect my thoughts about the expansion in one place.  This morning I am going to share some of these thoughts because some things are really working extremely well, and other things are not working at all.  This is by no means an objective list because the majority of the content on my blog is just me sharing my opinion with others.  Your list is probably going to look a little different if you were to create one.  However I feel like it is time for my to share my highs and lows.

What Works Well

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Warfronts

This is not something I thought I would be into at all but I am shockingly loving it.  Now some of that love will probably dissipate as the lure of 340 gear becomes less. I remember enjoying Alterac Valley back in Vanilla because it was about more than just fighting other players.  The Warfronts are essentially all of those elements that I enjoyed divorced from the player versus player interactions I didn’t enjoy. Also did I mention 340 gear?

Mythic+

I am way more into the experience of running Mythic Plus this expansion, in part because my normal circle of folks that I tend to game with… aka the folks loosely connected to AggroChat are also into doing them.  Also it feels like the gear is better this go around than it was the last time… because I got a 355 item from my Mythic 3 weekly chest, so numerically it seems to be scaling in a way that makes them worth it.

Kul’Tiras

Again I was not super sure how I would feel about the split faction islands concept but I really like roaming around on Kul’Tiras.  Once again this gives the feeling of PVP without actually being PVP since not playing on War mode means nobody gives a shit if I accidentally flag myself.  It gives me a whole new playground to roam around in after I have already reached level cap, and I am hoping that they give us more areas as the expansion drags on similar to how they expanded the game with the Broken Shore and Argus.

Dinosaurs and Pirates

I really love the horde content and the feeling of riding Dinosaurs and fighting Old Gods.  Everything about that is on point and makes me extremely happy. Similarly I love the whole Sea Witch and Pirate nonsense happening in Kul’Tiras.  Basically this is Ixalan the expansion and I am loving so much about it. The faction bullshit is still faction bullshit, but at least it is playing out in an interesting way most of the time.

Uldir

While I have not seen much of it, I am digging the whole Mesoamerican Titan thing going on with Uldir.  The two bosses I have seen have been fairly interesting, and I look forward to seeing the rest of the raid.  I think it is kind of shit though that they copped out and didn’t make it a tier set, and instead just made shared armor type sets.  This wasn’t cool in Trial of the Crusader and isn’t really cool now.

War Mode

I love War mode because it single handedly removed the worst players in World of Warcraft from my universe.  They simply do not exist any longer because they are off on their own island full, removed from my field of view.  Bravo for voting them off the island and making a more chill environment for me to run around in. As a result of this… the “enemy” players I encounter are often times helpful… and in turn I am regularly hopping in and helping them out as well.  It is a kinder and gentler Warcraft that I greatly approve of… now just drop the damned faction wall.

What Doesn’t Work

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Crafting

Crafting still feels awful.  Now I give them credit for splitting up crafting into a per expansion thing, because quite frankly that is the only reason why I am dabbling in crafting at all on my Demon Hunter.  However what feels completely fucking awful is the fact that the gear that is actually worth chasing is gated behind running fifteen mythic dungeons to achieve it. By the time I can craft it, it will no longer be worthwhile at all.  At a bare minimum there should have been a weekly quest to acquire a couple of the hydrocore items. Also there should have been a chance of any item over 340 that gets scrapped producing a Hydrocore. While this is less fucked up than Legion crafting was… it isn’t very far off the stupidity meter.

Weapon Drops

Every player I know is struggling to get decent weapons because they are just hard to come by.  I’ve run a silly number of Heroic Dungeons… several Mythics, killed a raid boss, and a slew of warfronts and have never seen a weapon drop in any of them.  I am having to survive entirely off drops from World Quests that seem to get rationed each week in an extremely limited quantity.  Now having written this…  I did get my first weapon drop of the expansion last night from a Warfront, and I will continue grinding that until I get another…  however that weapon came after a chest, legs, 3 pairs of bracers, a belt, another pair of bracers, another belt, a cloak…  and then finally a weapon.  I still feel like they have tuned this expansion drops for the era when we got freebie Artifact weapons.

War Campaign

What if you took the Garrison and the Order Hall but removed anything about it that made it enjoyable.  Then you would end up with the War Campaign that has a few interesting moments but largely feels forced and phoned in.  The missions you can run are boring and don’t really offer anything interesting apart from the occasional faction boosts.  The upgrades to your boat… are largely meaningless and are locked behind things I largely don’t care to be doing. It serves as a way for me to get to Kul’Tiras and nothing more, and all of the flavor that went into both the Garrison and Order Hall is just not there in any way that I care about.

Azerite Items/Heart of Azeroth

Much like the War Campaign this is a neutered version of the Artifact Weapon.  Everything that felt good or interesting has been diluted and spread out over a bunch of artificial bumps in the road where you get something…  but you don’t have an awful lot of choice about the thing you are getting. You get a 370 chest from Warfronts… well you are stuck with an arrangement of sub optimal talents on that piece of gear because it is not like you are going to luck into something else anytime soon.

There are so many ways this system could have worked better.  Maybe if each time you leveled up your Heart of Azeroth you got to choose which talent to learn, and then when you got a piece of gear you got to assign to the 2 or 3 slots available one of those talents you learned.  Then to go one step further… the assignments should be remembered like Talent picks and assigned to a specific spec so if you change your gear swaps Talent loadouts. As it is now… you feel like you have no real choice and have to largely roll with the items you get…  because once you have left 325 land you won’t have all that many options.

Islands

So at face value these are “fun enough” and involve running amok and killing tons of stuff with a group.  These work more or less like Pandaria scenarios… if they were completely divorced of having a purpose. As it stands I don’t get the point.  They are a cool tech that could have been interesting, but as it stands it is a boring and grindy activity that occasionally if you are really freaking lucky you might get a pet or a mount.  Your reward for running them is a purple currency called Dubloons that more or less doesn’t really have a purpose yet. As it stands the currency is used to buy a bunch of items that can only be used on Islands…  but this does nothing to help define the reason why you should give a fuck. As it stands you are forced to do enough to have done five different island layouts in order to move your also largely meaningless war table progress forward.  I can’t even call it a stick, because it isn’t really hard… but it is completely devoid of any carrot.

Tarnished Hope

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Yesterday was a bit of a trying day for me personally.   I’ve personally been bought into this notion that Mastodon provided a kinder gentler alternative to Twitter, but yesterday largely proved that notion completely wrong.  The Fediverse has been the welcome home of the disenfranchised and marginalized, which is awesome since Twitter has not done a great job of protecting that group in any way.  However some events happened recently and because of them I am glad that I joined up several weeks ago rather than right now at this time.  I was able to see what I thought was the ActivityPub community in its native state, talking about interesting things openly and publicly and willing to friend each other just as easily.  I was able to get settled in quickly with the help of a whole slew of people who offered useful advice as I docked myself into a corner of this big maelstrom of interesting things.

I started out on Mastodon.cloud which was a large overflow instance to the original flagship of Mastodon.social.  However I quickly realized that maybe being on a big disconnected instance was not the best idea in the world.  As such I made the migration to Elekk.xyz which is awesome and started funding the patreon a bit to help out in its maintenance.  However when my good friend Liore decided to fire up her own private instance…  I found myself making the jump yet again to Nineties.Cafe and I am extremely happy I did.  It is sort of this protective bubble where the people I already knew and the friends of those people are hanging out and talking freely about our interests.  It has made it very easy to drown out the events that are happening over in “fedi” aka the federated timeline.

Effectively some weeks back Wil Wheaton joined Mastodon and like any denizen of twitter had some difficulty adjusting to the weird mix of things going on here and all of the little social norms that I talked a bit about the other day.  However with increasing fervor there was a move to push him off of the platform, and while there are folks who have very valid concerns…  most of what I saw regularly in the form of shitposts from Fedi was effectively the consensus of “fuck him for being famous”.  As such it felt like a defense coalesced with the goal of pushing the infection out of the system, and in that I saw a lot of behavior that I had seen on Twitter and other social media platforms that is normally targeted at those same disenfranchised and marginalized people that I talked about at the beginning of the post.

Essentially I was watching the bullied become the bullies, and it saddened me greatly.  I thought I had found a quiet corner of the internet that functioned the way I remember the internet first feeling during those heady early days of the nineties.  I’ve compared Mastodon to early IRC or to the BBS era…  but the last couple of days have felt like anything but that.  I am not saying that the folks who pushed back are evil or wrong, just that the tactics that they were employing were the exact same thing that I have seen employed against them in the past.  The only real comment I have made on the issue was last night.

I guess today yet again proved that we can build a better technology, that has the potential for better community engagement. But we can’t necessarily guarantee that everyone is going to be willing to be better human beings. Human beings still suck, and I welcome the robot overlords that will come after us.

I still have a lot of hope in Mastodon and Pleroma and the rest of the little islands that live in the ActivityPub Fediverse, and I am super glad that I have found my little island full of refugees from the nineties.  I just saw a lot of the same behavior that I have on other social media platforms and it made me a little bummed about the whole experiment.  However I will keep moving on and keep looking for the good things out there happening.  There are needlessly folks who feel safer after yesterdays events, and that is good I guess.  I just wish it wasn’t at the cost of reverting to the same flavors of toxic gate keeping that had been used as a weapon against “the other” before.  Yesterday just made me think a little too much about this quote from Animal Farm:  All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Reluctantly Fury

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This morning is a hard morning, because I am struggling to wake up.  I apparently had a way more active night than I realized, because in my mind I slept all the way through.  However my wife told me a tale this morning that tells otherwise.  Apparently I fell asleep with the television on and at some point during the night she woke up and decided that it should be turned off.  The television remote was on the end table on my side of the bed so she proceeded to wake me up and tell me to turn it off.  Instead of doing this… I apparently proudly proclaimed that “I peed”.  At which point she tried to tell me no.. please turn off the television…  to which I again proudly replied “but I already peed”.

This apparently happened a couple more times before I finally reluctantly turned off the television.  I remember absolutely none of this happening at all.  In my mind I went to bed and slept all the night through without incident, but I am guessing my generally groggy state this morning is due to the fact that I didn’t in fact do that thing.  I have been taking a dose of nyquil before going to bed because I have been fighting this nameless crud, and I am wondering if the sleep inducing nature of that…  lead to my odd behavior.  Regardless it is blogfodder as I call it, and like so many things I probably shouldn’t tell you…  I am telling you anyways.

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Last night I managed to get the Demon Hunter to 114 and finish out the quests in Vol’dun.  At this point I have moved him on to Nazmir which is a zone I never quite finished on the Warrior before getting caught up in the madness of world questing.  As I was winding down on the Demon Hunter I decided to make one more pass on the Warrior to see if there were any quests up that I absolutely had to do.  It was around this point that I decided to try out Fury in proper and get my bars set up.  Now at this point I don’t have a great combo of weapons for Fury as I am have a spear from world questing that came in around 320 and an axe that came from a world boss I believe at 289ish.  It is good enough to get started, but generally speaking I have had hell getting weapons this entire expansion so far.  I was hoping that onehander fury was a thing again and I could just drop some fist weapons crafted by my leatherworker, but that is apparently not a thing.

The shocking truth is…  Fury is amazing.  It feels good and shockingly feels like I have more moment to moment survival than I do as a protection warrior.  Basically this is now my world questing form and will probably run dungeons as such also to help build out the rest of my gear.  This is the expansion where apparently I am maining Fury on the Warrior, however that is not enough of a consolation prize to give up my mission to level the Demon Hunter and tank on it.  It does at least make me feel like maybe I didn’t completely waste the first two weeks of this expansion leveling a character that would be permanently shelved during this expansion.  Maybe just maybe at some point they will apply some tweaks to the way protection feels and I can dust off the sword and shield.

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Another thing that I poked my head into last night was Destiny 2, and for starters the lighting model feels totally different as evidenced by the way this ship looks.  As far as the changes… I am still wrapping my head around what weapons do what.  What I thought was going to happen was that we could put any weapon in any slot.  What actually happened was that weapons are still divided by Kinetic, Energy and Power slots and then to confuse things further…  the weapons are split by what sort of ammunition they use being primary, special or heavy.  Fusion Rifle, Sniper Rifle and Shotgun all now are counted as special weapon types and are divided between the first and second slot.  What I had hoped was that I could run around with Uriel’s Gift in the first slot, Merciless in the second slot, and then a Sword in the third slot.  That is not a thing since Merciless and Uriel’s Gift both occupy the same slot.

None of this works exactly how I remembered them explaining it in the first live stream about Forsaken, however I have also not been following the changes terribly close.  So technically there probably are ways you could have a shotgun in the first two slots, but I am not sure how viable that is actually going to be.  The infusion however works much better to where it is slot based and not weapon type based.  That said we still can’t do what we were able to do in TTK era of feeding trash drops from one class to become infusion fuel to push up another class which is unfortunate.  Supposedly the changes feel really good, but I am on a mission to level the Demon Hunter so I did not give it that much time.  I hope to explore it more over the long weekend break.

Dealing with Absences

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Yesterday was crazy.  It was one of those days when moments after checking my phone I realized things had gone south with the patch cycle from the night before.  I tried remoting into things from home and had no luck, so I hurriedly shower, dressed and drove into work to see if I could raise anyone to get the matter resolved.  I left so rapidly that I freaked my poor wife out who was out on a walk…  and she came home to my vehicle being missing from the drive way.  The other bad thing is that I didn’t actually get breakfast meaning I was probably more grumpy than intended during the entire day.  The problem with running on adrenaline is that there is an inevitable crash…  which came about noonish.  All of this said…  I didn’t get to do a morning blog post yesterday and I was not in the proper frame of mind when I got home to do one either.

As a result this morning I am going to use this incident as a teaching moment.  There will be times when you just cannot force a blog post out of yourself…  and that is okay.  When I was doing my “Grand Experiment” that involved posting every single day I managed to make it 1121 days without missing a post or a little over three years.  That streak sorta developed a life of its own as time went on, but I knew sooner or later I would need to break it for my own sanity.  Knowing that regardless of the day that you had to get up and write something was fairly oppressive.  I would literally day dream about stopping cold turkey, and then ultimately talk myself back down off that ledge.  Ultimately when the time came I made a compromise and switched the blog for the last couple of years over to week days only, that way I could have the weekends to myself to leisurely do whatever comes along.

The truth is…  I would have probably been a lot happier with my streak of posts if I had allowed myself to have the occasional day off.  The thing with posting is that you need to be doing it regularly to gain reader traction, which for me at least translated into forcing myself to post something regardless of circumstances every day.  The truth however is that you simply need not to allow yourself to fall completely off the wagon.  It is fine to take a few days off here or there but for me at least the most important aspect is to get back to posting as soon as you feel able to.  The early days of my blog were a tale of a flurry of posts with massive gaps in between…  some of them months long.  The longer I was away the harder it seemed to create a post worth the justification of how long I was gone.  It was as though I needed to come up with some epic reason why I just wasn’t feeling up to writing about myself or the games I was playing.

In my experience however you just need to post something…  anything…  to get yourself over the hump after an absence.   You could post about what you had for breakfast…  or in my case yesterday the lack thereof.  You talk about whatever stressers caused you to need to duck your head back into your shell and turtle for awhile.  You could write about something on the horizon that you are looking forward to, or about something that you just accomplished that you are still thinking about.  The point is just to write something to get yourself over that initial gap in content and back into the habit of regularly posting again.

One of the things that I like about my current schedule is I feel like it gives me the room for these gaps.  Is it an extended weekend that includes a few days of vacatrion?  Then I have the option of writing on those days or just saying screw it and taking the entire time off from the blog.  Is there a time when life has just become too much and I cannot fit proper writing in?  Then a gap in the middle of the week is honestly no worse than a gap at the end of it.  Basically the schedule that allows for absences and not holding myself to some nonsense like those 1121 posts in a row…  makes the blogging experience far more livable.

I think ultimately that is why I have shifted things around this year for Blaugust is that I realized over time I was trying to get people to sign up for something that was largely unrealistic.  After that first Blaugust I noticed that the majority of “winners” that managed to get in all 31 posts in a month…  also wound up taking a full month off as a result.  A not insignificant number of those blogs simply ceased to exist afterwards…  or maybe had a few false starts at getting back at posting without ever really returning.  Basically Blaugust and that schedule had killed blogs…  which was the exact opposite of what I was hoping would happen.  I kept shifting around the format until in 2016 I simply couldn’t handle taking anything else on that year…  as was apparently the case with all of the events in our community.  So now as Blaugust has returned…  my hope has been that the focus be on just posting more regularly and also participating in the community…  rather than trying to run some race.

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I am not entirely certain if this post will help anyone, but I thought it was worth talking about the mindset I now take towards dealing with absences.  I hope you are having an awesome day and I highly suggest getting out and checking some of the other blogs participating in Blaugust.  Here are some resources to help you get started…

There is still plenty of time left in the month to participate.  If you are interested check out some of these links.

Side note:  The images don’t mean much of anything but I played some Monster Hunter World on PC last night and am getting tired of just posting the Blaugust logo over and over on these.

 

Jason Jessee Board

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This week was originally designated as “Get to Know Each Other Week” in my master scheme but I feel like that is well under way in part thanks to the existence of the Blaugust Discord.  If you have not joined the discord I highly suggest doing so, also if you have not signed up for the event then there is still plenty of time to get involved.  For as generally open as I am with my readers about a lot of things… I still find it fairly hard to actually talk about myself in any sort of directed way.  Sure while I am in the middle of writing about a topic there are a bunch of real life details that end up getting thrown into the mix for flavor, but to sit down and write a specific topic about me as a person…  that is a whole other challenge.

I was born in 1976 on the wane of the seventies and the cusp of the eighties…  then spent my high school and college years in the nineties giving me a really odd blend of cultural experiences.  Each of those decades left its own indelible mark on my psyche.  Another piece of the puzzle is the fact that I was the only child of a machinist by day and occasionally professional photographer by night and weekend…  and a home economics teacher.  I grew up in Rural Americana in the middle of the part of Oklahoma aptly referred to as “Green Country” in a town with a population of around 2000 give or take a few.  We lived just far enough outside of the city limits to prevent us from getting cable…  or me having many kids to play with.

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That means a good deal of my life was spent entertaining myself through copious amounts of imagination and a strong dash of public television.  I’ve talked a bit about my attachment to Mister Roger’s Neighborhood but I was equally attracted to adult programs like Nova.  For the first several years of my life I spent the majority of my time with my grandmother and grandfather who served as a babysitter while my folks worked.  My grandmother also doubled as my companion on so many adventures from learning how to cook, to roaming around in the pasture…  to playing rousing games of candyland.  There were many times come Friday night when my folks came to pick me up, that I would announce that I was staying the weekend.

As time passed and I aged those weekends with my grandparents were replaced with staying over at friends houses.  There was a circle of two other close friends that I had and it seemed like every single weekend we were gathered together at one of the houses.  I always enjoyed the act of getting out of my own family and melding into another one for the weekend.  In late middle school one of the trio moved away and we were left with a duo.  By the time high school rolled around things started to get a little strained, since my partner in crime was largely forced into sports by his father who wanted him to follow in his own footsteps…  and I didn’t really have the equivalent pressure pushing me in that direction.

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We all saw each other pretty often because around about this time skateboarding was a massive thing.  My first “real” deck that I planned for and bought on my own was the Jason Jessee Neptune deck, and I wish I still had it if for no reason other than to hang it on the wall.  I’ve contemplated buying one of the modern reproductions to do that, but its an awful pricey expense for a piece of kitch.  Skating lead its way to other drift compatible activities…  like playing in a band that ultimately formed around the nexus of a few of us that hung out frequently.  I played the drums, the friend from middle school played the bass and patterned himself after Flea of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and the other friend with seemingly unlimited means bought a sweet telecaster and played lead guitar.  We never really coalesced on a proper band name… we were FSU for awhile which we thought was edgy because it stood for Fucking Shut Up.  Later we performed under the name Jive Daddies… which I always thought was kinda dumb but was overridden by the other two.

During my junior year however I got really sick.  I started having these black outs and managed to park my car perfectly in a ditch down from my house once.  It was ultimately sorted out that I had a pinched blood vessel in my neck, that was the side effect of getting rear ended in a car wreck and developing a minor case of whiplash.  However it took awhile to sort that out and during this time I sorta drifted away from that circle of friends and built a new one.  One of the truths of small time life is the lack of things to do… leads kids towards copious amounts of alcohol and drug abuse.  My original duo of friends found their way into more serious paths leading towards hard drugs, and that was not a journey I was willing to follow them on.  So really my illness became a convenient excuse to simply stop participating and extract myself from that situation.

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Another thing that happened around this time is that my family finally got a computer.  It was a 386SX 16 MHz without a math co-processor with 2 meg of ram and a 90 MB hard drive that at the time seemed like all the space I would ever need.  It had no sound card because those simply did not come with computers standard at that point and was largely designed for business products running Windows 3.0 originally…. and later upgraded to the revolutionary 3.1.  I learned computers through necessity, because I kept doing something to jack the machine up and then needing to figure out how to fix it before my dad got home.  Largely these interludes involved me trying to sort out how to get more than 16 colors in windows paint…  it was simpler time.

The new circle of friends and I vacillated between two activities…  pen and paper gaming and pouring over whatever bootleg games we managed to get from someone that had a relative in college and would ship us home boxes of pirated games.  Getting anything new was pretty much out of the question because at this point we had no access to stores that sold anything even vaguely related to PC gaming.  At some point I stumbled upon a bookstore that happened to have 5.25 inch floppies with shareware on them and got my first copy of Wolfenstein 3D and an editor that someone made for it.  We obsessed over building levels to the game and the result was usually one person building a level and another person trying to run through it.

I feel like at this point I have already typed too much information about myself, so I am going to cut things off at this point.  We are now circa 1992 and on the cusp of Magic the Gathering being a thing.  I’ve recently gotten back in touch with one of the members of the little crew that I played table top games with, so I fully expect him to respond here at some point.  I do miss those days when things were so much simpler and it seemed like we had all of the time in the world to hang out and do stuff together.  Time moves so much faster as you get older, and busier, and have your attention fragmented by dozens of things at the same time.  I might pick up tomorrow with some more details that I maybe glazed over, but like I said…  getting any sort of coherent narrative out of me about myself is a challenge.

 

Thanks Folks

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blaugustrebornlogo2018

Yesterday I made a blog post with one intended purpose, but it wound up being interpreted in a completely different way.  I thought I might talk a little bit about this because as a blogger this is going to happen.  We all view our posts through the lens of our experiences.  No one can actually be inside your head or completely understand what it was that you meant by something.  This is in part why I spend a lot of time retracing things I have already talked about in my blog posts because in my head…  no one actually reads my content.  The corollary of that however is that I feel like I need to write something that would make sense to someone who is hitting my blog for the first time.  I do a lot of things like “for the uninitiated” call outs where I back track and explain why a thing is important to this topic.  Granted this ends up increasing the length of my posts, but the hope is to keep someone from needing to furiously crawl through my back log of now over 1800 posts.

Ultimately for me personally, when something is so widely interpreted in a way I stop to think…  is that ultimately the post I wrote without intending to.  There are so many times that once fingers get started on the keyboard that posts sort of develop a mind of their own.  I know there are writers out there that carefully choose every word and sentence to build a strong discussion about the topic they are referencing.  Then there are others like me that get started and let the post develop as they go.  The problem with that method however is that things can veer off in unintended directions.  My intent in yesterdays post was to be some sort of a positive post about “these are my demons that I deal with but I still manage to get up and write every single day”.  The idea was to share my personal struggle so the folks out there who are going through the same thing can know that they are absolutely not alone.

However I feel like maybe a little too much of those demons were on display, and the post maybe came out a little true to life.  The hard truth is that I do not see in myself the person you all see in me.  I find it as impossible to reconcile that as it is to develop the internal infrastructure to accept a compliment.  That said… there were many times yesterday where I was almost brought to tears as the comments came in throughout the day.  I had every intent to sit down and respond to each and every one of them…  but I am still to this very moment a little too overcome with emotion to try tackling that task.  I didn’t write a post with the intent of getting reinforcement from my community, but that was ultimately the result.  I got a virtual war-cry from my friends to the equivalent of “we got your back!” and I appreciate it greatly…  even though I am not entirely certain how to process it.

There is no real hyperbole intended in yesterdays post, because I sorta accidentally opened the door a little too wide to the self doubts that I hear inside of my head every single morning.  That said I still hold my breath and hit that publish button.  I am glad that there are people out there however that apparently believe in me so much more than I believe in myself.  So many of the things that I have done in my life I did only because I felt like there was no one else out there to do them.  I lead my first guild because I was concerned about what the future might bring for me if I didn’t step up and do that.  I moved into a leadership role at work, because no one else was and the challenges that we were dealing with required more management than a bunch of independent developers.  I stepped up to my current management position only because I was afraid for what might happen to the unity of our team if someone else took the reigns.  A lot of the decisions I make are not out of a faith in my own abilities, but a fear in what might happen if I don’t do the thing that appears to need doing.

I was afraid that if I waited much longer that whatever was left of our community what fade away.  It was my hope that it was not yet too late and by the fact that we have now tied our best year in participation it seems like I might have accidentally picked the right time to do this.  The last couple of years have been extremely rough on this community, and my ultimately hope was that we could get back some of what we lost.  There are blogs that are gone and likely never coming back, but we are bolstering those holes in our wall with brand new bloggers that will hopefully infuse us all with a level of excitement.  I think it is impressive how far we have come in so short of a time.  Each year the initiative has picked up steam as the process has gone on and the flood of topics pulls people out of the woodwork.  Here are the numbers of past years…

  • 2014 – 52 Participants
  • 2015 – 88 Participants
  • 2016 – 62 Participants
  • 2017 – 0 (I failed to get it organized)
  • 2018 – 88 Participants (so far, it is not too late to join in)

Also impressive at this point is we have 92 members active on the Discord with a large number of people who have just joined to participate in the conversations even though they may not be officially participating in the event.  I do believe…  we may have a community again and an extremely active one.  Ultimately that was the thing I was missing the most, being part of something much larger than myself.  There have always been some of us that spun topics off one another, because quite honestly we refused to accept the pronouncement that blogging was a dead art.  It is my hope however that this version of Blaugust will be more forgiving when it comes to the after effects on the community.  There are a lot of bloggers that in the crush to get their 31 posts in…  have burned themselves out in the process only to close up shop shortly after the event ended.  My hope with this year is that we are providing folks the tools to run the marathon, not the sprint and keep going for the rest of the year.

There are so many mornings that I feel like a little kid pretending to make a newspaper or sitting in a hollowed out cardboard box pretending to be on a television show.  The truth is however that people are out there reading this and I am thankful of the kind words that you have shared with me.  I will do my best to try and figure out how to accept them.  I have more of a support structure than I deserve, and I am extremely thankful to everyone who has joined me in this madness.  We are on a really interesting journey together and I don’t quite know where it is going…  but I feel like it is going somewhere very special.  So in so many words… thank you so much for the help and love and support and random hugs.  Thanks for having my back.  Lets go do awesome things together!

The First of Blaugust

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blaugustrebornlogo2018

Welcome everyone to the very first day of Blaugust…  the legit and actual month thereof.  It has been a wild ride to this point because as of just a few minutes ago we had a little over eighty blogs signed up and ready to go.  You are all proving that there is in fact a desire for this sort of thing still and that no… in spite of all of the hot takes to the contrary blogging is not in fact dead.  The reason why I did this thing was in part to stoke the fires of our community once more and see who all I could get to come out of the woodwork.  We have lived in this torporous state for far too long and it is time for us to get active again.  Blaugust is in fact a month dedicated to active posting.  We just finished the pre-game week as it were with posts on technical topics about actually getting started.  Now it is time to get out there and write some amazing content…  and with that comes a need for topics.

During this week you should see posts showing up in the community with ideas to keep you going for the rest of the month, and I have a few of my own to add to this.  However I wanted to take a moment this morning to recap just how impressive things have been so far.  First off… there is still time to participate in Blaugust even though the month has officially started.  The idea is about getting active not necessarily about posting every day, so as long as there is still some time left in the month there is time to sign up.  You can check out the official sign-up sheet here and join us on Discord for what is becoming an exceptionally active community of creatives.  There have been many conversations that I have peeked in on while sitting in a meeting this week, that have seemed really awesome.

I think now is probably the time to recap the folks participating as well.  There is a master list that I have been keeping updated if you want to incorporate it into your content or the amazing Chestnut has been maintaining a twitter list of the folks active on that platform.  Now for my own lists…  folks participating.

The Community of Mentors

The Awesome Folks Participating

In 2014 the first running of Blaugust we had 55 folks sign up and participate.  In 2015 we had our biggest year to date with 88 participants and in the last official running in 2016 we had 62.  At this point we have completely eclipsed two of the years and given the patterns that I have seen in the past of folks joining in mid month I fully expect that we will be blowing that 2015 number out of the water as well.  The level of support I have gotten in this initiative has been staggering, and I want to take a moment to everyone who is helping to make it an extremely lively place to be.  I’ve been attempting to pop my head into the proceedings as often as time allows but things have been sorta insane in my life the last few weeks.

One of the hardest parts about blogging is the fact that there are some days you are just going to have a completely blank mind.  The harder you try and materialize your thoughts so you can condense them into printed word…  the more they seem to fly around in your head at incomprehensible speeds.  Then there are days when you have too many things you want to say and they sort of log jam somewhere between your brain and your fingers.  In those cases it is good to have a backlog of topics that you can draw upon in order to force some sense of focus.  Here are some topics that I have kicked around in my head before but never actually written about.

Ten Random Topic Prompts

  • Write about the first time a game made you cry.  This could in theory be substituted for any sort of media… a book, a movie, a play…  just write about the first time you found yourself completely caught up in the story and those walls fell.
  • Write about your first online gaming experience and why it was positive or negative in shaping your opinions of online interactions going forward.
  • Go find a random screenshot that you like and write about what was going on in your head or in the game at the moment you took it.
  • Write about how you got involved in your first guild, and the sequence of events that prompted you to finally accept an invitation.
  • Write about your three favorite items from any video game ever regardless of genre.
  • Write about any goal you have achieved in the past and what it was like to work towards it and eventually get it.
  • Write about some of the positive or negative interactions you have had with the blogging community.
  • Write  about someone you met through gaming that has turned into a friend that transcended a single game.
  • Write about times where your gaming life has clashed with your real life obligations and how you have handled that.
  • Write about something you really truly love be it a Movie, Television Show, Piece of Music, Video Game or literally anything else you are super passionate about.

Finally in closing… today is an auspicious day not only because it is the official beginning of the month of Blaugust, but also because it is my 20th wedding anniversary.  It is just staggering to think about that it has been twenty years since our wedding.  I am super happy to be sharing this journey with my navigator…  because everyone knows I have zero sense of direction.

Seeking Screenshot Tool

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goodbyefraps

This morning I am going to go in a different direction… and ask the Blaugust community with assistance on something.  For years I have been a loyal FRAPS user for the purpose of recording game screenshots.  I have a legally registered copy… that happens to have personal information in the registration details screen so I have mosaic’d it out.  There are an awful lot of pirated copies floating about but I happily plunked down my $40 and have been using it for over a decade at this point.  It has always simply worked as intended and given me the ability to record screenshots without fail.  This changed however when Destiny 2 made the weird decision to block any form of an overlay for “security reasons” there by making it so that FRAPS could not record anything successfully.

First I feel like I need to start off with why I use FRAPS rather than in game screenshot tools.  It all comes down to the fact that I like posting a significant number of screenshots in my morning posts…  and that I am lazy.  I cannot remember what the directory MMO number 376 that I have installed on my system uses for screenshot storage.  As a result I like having everything dumped into the same directory where I can filter through them quickly, and eventually archive them off to my network attached storage.  I have a truly nonsense number of screenshots stored out there at this point.

Ultimately what I am looking for feature wise…

  • ability to capture fullscreen, borderless and windows screenshots without capturing the window frame or my desktop
  • ability to save to the format of choice… I tend to dump things to JPG because my blog gets grumpy if I upload PNGs anymore
  • ability to work flawlessly without having to constantly check to see if its on
  • ability to change the target directory and dump everything to one place
  • ability to bind whatever it is to work off of PrtScrn button because its habit

For years FRAPS did all of these things but one of the recent Windows 10 updates seems to have changed that.  Now any time I launch a game I need to kill FRAPS and relaunch it to get the overlay to work properly.  This means that it is now a fiddly mess and it makes me grumpy.  So what I am asking you my community is…  is there a hidden gem out there for screen capture that I am unaware of?  Now I am going to talk about some of the alternatives that I have used.

GeForce Experience

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This one seemed like a no brainer given that I run Nvidia based cards and this ends up installing to your system regardless if you want it to.  It isn’t a flawless system but it was the only reliable way that I seemed to have to be able to record Destiny 2 given that the overlay is hardware based and not something executing at a software level.  Its major flaws were the fact that it would not dump to a single directory, but instead a series of directories named off of what the game executable thinks it is.  This causes some weirdness when the game developers don’t actually go back and fix the name of their executable… for example the Quake Champions screenshots I have are in a directory called “PC” or Dauntless for whatever reason shows up as “Archon” which was maybe an early name for the game?

Another flaw is that you cannot change what format the screenshots are dumped in as it always saves to PNG, which involved me going through a morning ritual of converting all of the screenshots that I was going to upload to JPG to bypass the nonsense size limit.  Lastly and quite possibly the most damning problem is when I happen to be running a game in windowed mode…  it records my entire desktop like the above screenshot.  This means I either need to drop it in photoshop and cut out the window or just live with the fact I am posting a postage stamp for a screenshot.  Not ideal to say the least given that when I am streaming I occasionally run things windowed so I can see what is going on in stream etc.

Dxtory

Another screenshot software that has been recommended to me numerous times is Dxtory by ExKode which is I believe a Japanese based software house.  It is also in the 30-40 dollar range price wise and does a really good job of capturing both images and video.  The problem is… it would occasionally just stop working and not give any indication of this.  I would be playing along thinking everything was working as intended… I would still have an overlay in game indicating that the software is active…  then when I sit down to write a blog post the next morning I would have zero screenshots to show for the previous nights play time.  The unreliable nature and the fact that this was not an every night occurrence made me move away from it.  Some times it would go for three or four nights without flaking out on me… and other times it would happen multiple times in the same night.  I was not able to find any sort of pattern around it.  Whatever the case however it was unreliable and I opted to move away from it.

Greenshot

This is an open source software mostly designed to capture regions of an image much like windows clipping tool.  However it does in fact have an unattended screenshot mode and as a result I attempted to use it as my software of choice for awhile.  The problem is that when running Windowed Borderless… it would intermittently alternate between taking a screenshot of my desktop and taking a screenshot of the game.  This became problematic given that I was missing a bunch of screenshots and again… maybe had nothing to show for my night of gaming come blog post time.

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The core problem is that most of the screenshot tools don’t really do the thing that I want them to do given that they are largely focused on capturing video…  and not capturing still images.  I have StreamLabs OBS for those moments when I want to capture video so I have that covered.  However what I want instead is just a reliable screenshot tool that I can use with literally every game I play, so the images don’t get lost somewhere on my hard drive.  I may give Dxtory another spin because it has been numerous years since I last tried it.  Ultimately however what I really want… is FRAPS to stop being a butt and just work again.  In the meantime however, I would love to hear some of your suggestions for screenshotting games?  Do you still rely on the in game screenshot tools, or have you consolidated to using some tool other than the ones I have mentioned?