Making Horrible Choices

This morning I sit here typing as a truly insane torrent of rain pours down on our house.  Apparently over night this massive storm system has blown in, and the deluge we are experiencing is the end result.  Luckily the “T” word has not been mentioned at all, just lots of rain and the potential for flash flooding.  Still instinctually I turned to channel 6 or on digital cable… 706 and have been watching it as I get ready this morning.  This is a reaction to weather that is just engrained in Oklahomans from a little age… and even though I rarely if ever watch the evening news…  when weather happens I am glued to it.

Unplanned Adventure

Yesterday I was just feeling absolutely horrible, and while I made it into work… by noon I was wishing I had not.  I was suffering from what I tend to term “giblet” problems… everything just felt all wrong.  So I took a half sick day, and went home after I got out of an important series of meetings.  When home I pretty much went to bed, or at least laid down.  I ended up falling asleep and sleeping roughly three hours, and when I woke up I was feeling a bit better.

I got up and around and checked email… remoted into work and did a few things.  At this point my wife who is on summer break tells me that one of her coordinators called, and as a result she would need to go back to school this evening to pick up a text book.  Summer School starts today, and she would no longer have access to her room to grab it.  At first I groggily agreed, thinking man that sucks for her…  then she informed me that she was wanting me to go with her.

I quickly saw my evening going to absolute crap before my eyes.  I already felt horrible, but the thought of having to leave the house and go off on a jaunt just felt almost unbearable.  To her credit, we had a stack of errands that needed running… and her thought process was that we could just do them on the way to or from the house.  The negative part however is that her school is 45 minutes away on the exact opposite end of Tulsa.  She said we would do it later, but as time ticked past…  I ended up insisting that we leave as not to wreck the entire night.

Making Horrible Choices

This timing and path we ended up taking was a bad call on my part all around.  We ended up venturing out into the tail end of rush hour and wading knee deep into bumper to bumper traffic.  It turns out there had been a wreck in the middle lane of 169 at 51st street, and as a result traffic was backed up past 11th street.  What should have been an hour and a half trip at most, ended up being a three and a half hour slog.  All the while I am fuming that I even have to be doing this in the first place.  My wife gets an unbelievable amount of credit for dealing with me last night at all.  We bickered back and forth during the whole trip, but it could have gotten so much worse.

I was very much an asshole about the whole ordeal.  I felt like crap, my migraines have been getting worse, work has been stressing me out… and adding on top of that was getting drug back into the world for something that didn’t really involve me.  Had I needed to run get something from work, I would have just run in by myself and gotten it, I didn’t understand why I needed to be tagging along in the process.  All of this snowballed together to turn me into a bundle of unfettered rage… or at least angry sulking.  I was an absolute bear to deal with all of last night, and I greatly apologize for it.  Her thought process made absolute sense, but she is the logical one… I tend to be the one driven by my passions.

Making everything worse was the fact that we were both pretty hungry at this point.  She had not had any lunch at all, and the combination of both of us lead to a pretty crappy car ride.  The one glowing silver lining is the fact that we got to eat at Ron’s.  For those not native to Tulsa, Ron’s is this awesome chain of hamburger joints.  They specialize in several things, including the sausage hamburger… but my absolute favorites are their hot and spicy chicken and cheese tots.  Figuring it would put both of us in a better mood that is exactly where we went, and at the end of all the frustration it was truly glorious.  I had way more calories than I would have liked, but enjoyed every bite of the buffalo flavored ambrosia.

Defiance

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Between waking up from my nap and after doing some work that had stacked up while sleeping, and our horrible jaunt out into the real world I sat around on our amazingly comfy sofa trying to get “ungroggy”.  As a result I decided to boot up defiance and give it a spin for a few.  I have been sitting on a copy for awhile thanks to my early alpha testing ways, but have not really spent much time playing the game.  Honestly I had created my engineer, and gotten him to the Earth Defense force base… and that was just about it.

Yesterday I decided to start working through the first few quests.  I remember thinking in alpha that this was really not “my game”.  While there are definitely elements I like about it, I am just not much of a shooter person any more… and in fantasy MMOs I very rarely if ever play a ranged class.  All of that said there is something undeniably enjoyable about the game.  It seems to tweak what ever section of my brain that loves the Fallout series.  I feel like in order to really tap into this I need to find myself a shotgun, since essentially I play every Fallout game wielding a Combat Shotgun, or whatever equivalent that game has.

I wandered around for a bit and managed to knock out one of the quests that was horribly bugged in early testing…  the whole rescue men that leads to recover supplies from the hospital mission.  During testing this ended up with essentially endless waves of mutants spawning on top of you until you could no longer keep up.  This time around, while there were a lot of mutants that spawned… they were definitely a finite number.  The gameplay feels better overall, the game less laggy and the controls more responsive.

I hope as I move further through the content that I will find myself caring about it a little more.  Having watched the television show, I find myself actually caring about the game world quite a bit more.  The only problem I have however is that the starting missions feel extremely uninspired.  The mutants you end up fighting, seem like the most generic possible mob you could end up fighting.  I don’t care that I am slaughtering them, they are completely meaningless…  to fall back on the Fallout analogy… I found myself caring more about killing mole rats and rad scorpions.

There are some neat random side effects that happen, like saving EREP forces from mutants.  The only problem is that this loses all sense of urgency when you realize that this spawns in exactly the same place on a pretty regular interval and almost every time you ATV through the area… those damned EREP soldiers have been captured again.  I have yet to encounter an Ark Fall, so I am hoping that those will really spice up the gameplay as I love Rifts.  All it all it feels like something that I will play every now and then… just like Guild Wars 2, and Neverwinter… but not a game I will likely ever get seriously into.

Reaches of Inner-Outer Space

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I will admit that likely a good chunk of my bitchiness earlier, was the fact that I figured I would have lost my chance to continue on in The Secret World.  That by the time I managed to get home and watching IM again… that the Elite Dungeon train would have long left the station.  I really enjoyed Monday night, and was looking forward to being able to roll around as a prebuilt team of five last night.  It turns out that my friends had for the most part been patiently waiting for me to show up.  So as soon as I got home and fired up my laptop, they were beckoning me to join them in game.  After the ball of frustration I had just experienced, I was in major need for venting it all into killing random bad things.

Much like last night we started running the next few elites all in an attempt to get Rae the achievement needed to unlock the gatekeeper fight.  As a result we burned through Hell Fallen and the Facility, making short work of both.  We decided to skip Hell Eternal since it is an extremely long dungeon, and make an attempt at the Slaughterhouse since it is comparatively short.  I am not sure what it was… either that the fight had changed since we were last in there… or the fact that we were probably getting tired at that point…  but for whatever reason we could not push through the NKL-107 encounter.

After doing some research, apparently there is a bug currently in place that causes some of the buffs from nightmare to bleed into the elite version.  This also happened to us in the past when they rolled out the nightmare version of The Ankh.  We went from being able to roll through that place without issue, to not being able to defeat the final boss at all.  It was the same kind of feeling we had with Slaughterhouse in the robot fight.  Ultimately we needed a more reliable purge, which was not something we really had at that moment.  Both myself and Rae had the ability to do a 33% of the time purge, but this was just not regular enough to keep the tank alive with the nightmare buffs.

It was still a really fun time, and the best part is that once we finish these last two elites… Rae should be geared enough to face the Gatekeeper and hopefully survive.  Granted getting past him was a mind numbingly frustrating experience as a DPS, so it might take her awhile to come up with that magic formula that allows her to defeat him.  The fact that she picked up her 100% purge should make the fight overall easier, since I did it with only my 33% of the time purge…  and it introduced a random element into my success.  I really look forward to trying Nightmares again, to see if we are any better equipped to handle them than we were before.

Wrapping Up

The other awesome thing that happened last night is that I finally connected with Rylacus and got his two characters invited to the Outcast Misfits in Rift.  I am sure he will appreciate having some “green spam” while he is leveling, and it will definitely be easier to determine if he is actually online… or just playing the scratchers.  It is still pouring down insanely outside… and I am not looking forward to making a wild dash out to my car.  However the hour is getting later, and I need to be getting on the road.  I hope you have a great day… and you also can admit when you are being an asshole… more gracefully than I did last night.

A Secret to Everybody

So this morning I have fallen prey to one of my least favorite morning time scenarios.  I woke up naturally, and after realizing that the alarm had not gone off…  I attempted to go back to sleep.  Just as I was starting to drift back into slumber… the alarm went off rudely waking me.  I should have just gotten up as apparently my body thought my battery was done charging.  As a result I am mostly awake but the part of me that was trying to go back to sleep is still groggy and vengeful.

A Secret to Everybody

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My evening was absolutely nothing like I had planned… though quite honestly I had not really planned much of anything.  My intent was to go upstairs, eat some dinner and then get back into Rift or SWTOR.  However upon arriving upstairs I got a message form a friend asking if I wanted to be the 5th in The Secret World.  The best part about this concept was the fact that this was the core group that I experienced The Secret World with initially.  It felt like getting the band back together as it were.

Basically what has spurred this recent interest in TSW is the fact that they seem to have fixed blood as a healing spec, or at least fixed it enough to where it is enjoyable once more for our healer.  Previously we burned through the elites and started banging our heads against the Nightmares before our healer just could not take any more.  This is the ultimate Achilles heel of the Secret World experience, it goes from being super open to all possible specs and experimentation with new ideas…  to requiring this one certain thing in order to survive in Nightmares.

When I say we got the band back together… this is not entirely true.  The original five were nightmare ready and geared up in half purples.  This time around we have a Rae in place for Warenwolf, and as a result last night we had to start working through the elites so that she could unlock the Gatekeeper fight… and ultimately unlock Nightmare content.  This was a pretty good idea since none of us really know what we are doing anymore.  I have played Secret World once or twice a week, but I have limited that to my roflstomp sword/shotgun build.

The problem with higher level content is that melee is just not viable.  The Secret World is far too punishing to melee characters, and if you choose to dps as melee you essentially end up harming your group in the long run.  As a result I ended up abandoning my beloved blade/shotgun build for favor of shotgun/pistols in order to dps elites and nightmares.  Essentially last night was a matter of us all trying to remember what the hell to do with our characters.

Greenshot Down

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I am having to swipe images from other websites this morning.  Like a tourist without film, I thought I was snapping pictures all night… but not a single one of them turned out.  Awhile back I had switched from Fraps to Greenshot… and had pretty good luck with it.  However recently I have not gotten a usable picture from it.  When I attempt to snap a picture it acts like it is working, but the end result is either a black screen or a picture of my desktop.  I have been using Razer Game Booster as a backup… but for whatever reason it does not like The Secret World.  The above image is an example of what I am shooting… it seems as though for whatever reason it is alpha transparent.

The long and short apparently is that I am going to have to switch back to fraps and just deal with its idiosyncrasies.  The additional takeaway is that I really don’t have pictures from my adventure last night, which is a shame… because in theory I took some good ones.  I am completely open to other suggestions if you guys have ideas on a better universal screenshot program.  I prefer using fraps or something like that rather than the in game screenshot functionality, because it aggregates all my screenshots into one place.  This makes it easier to sort through when I am pulling together a blog post.

All Roads Lead to Rome

We burned through elites last night like a five player wrecking ball.  That was another problem we ultimately had with the Secret World end game.  You go from absolutely demolishing content in normal and elite mode… to having the bottom completely drop out from under you in Nightmares.  However the best thing about their content is the fact that they do not believe in trash…  and only place it in front of you if you are supposed to learn a mechanic from it.  Teaching players your game through the introduction of trash mobs is a concept that every game needs to take to heart.

I thought after the release of Cataclysm that Blizzard had maybe learned this lesson.  During the Baradin Hold fights, you learn the concepts you need from the trash leading up to the bosses.  The problem is, this is the one and only place in Cataclysm that they really do this.  Introducing players ton concepts with learning trash is far superior every time to throwing an encounter at them, and leading them to google it.  I will get off this particular soapbox… as the hour is getting late…  but this is seriously a concept that needs to be propagated.

Over the course of the night we cleared Elite Polaris, Hell Fallen, Darkness War and The Ankh.  I think we got Rae a few drops, and I myself managed to pick up 347 damage versions of the two weapon slots I did not have a blue for.  After all that dungeon grinding however, we decided we needed a break.  I thought initially we were going to just break up for the night, but Tam quickly suggested that we grab one of the newer investigation missions.  He remembered seeing one in the Haitian Market area of London, so we all headed back that way.

This is the point at which we remember why we really fell in love with the game in the first place.  The content is deep and creative, and leads the characters through a series of imaginative puzzles.  This investigation quest personifies why this game works and why players should be playing it.  I wont go into too many details… because spoilers.  But essentially you retrace the steps of roman explorers through Ancient London.  Make sure you brush up on your latin… or at least have a translator handy.

Wrapping Up

Last night made me extremely happy.  Returning to grouping in The Secret World was like picking up a familiar book and re-reading it.  While the mechanics have changed slightly, it is still the same solid game and story under the cover.  I really hope that in the coming weeks we can return to this world as a group more often.  I would really like to finish getting Rae geared, and through the Gatekeeper fight so we can get some revenge on all those nightmares.  I hope you have a great day, and too discover an old friend.

Dam Impressive

Last night was another of my infamous “you no can has sleep” nights as my brain absolutely refused to shut down.  I really need to get some melatonin and give it a shot when that sort of thing happens.  I was extremely tired, but my brain was spinning on some completely useless project, and like the software you have to manually close when restarting your machine…  it kept gumming up the process.  As a result I am borderline catatonic, and find myself getting sidetracked by the simplest of things this morning.  It is going to be a not so enjoyable day.

General Celes

I spent most of the morning playing the Gameboy Advance version of Final Fantasy 6 on my PSP in an attempt to catch up to where I had gotten previously with the native PSN version.  Taking screenshots is a bit more of a pain in the ass… so I did not take very many.  As a result you get something I found from Google image search of the same basic spot I am at currently.  Apparently the above example chose to rename their General Celes to Moghan…  for whatever reason I have never really renamed my characters.  I prefer to just accept the name they are given by default, since that tends to be how they are referred to out of game.

Yesterday I had encountered an odd glitch, where I was unable to talk to Kekfa and start the “Figaro Submerge” sequence.  I had a previous save luckily, so I could load that back up and sure enough the second time it worked just fine.  The big negative so far of playing the GBA version, is that you only have 3 save files.  As a result you keep having to round robin your way manually through the saves.  I pretty much save every time it is possible, and hate saving over whatever my latest game is, so this process just becomes more cumbersome.

I made my way back to the Mog screen that allows you to pick which batch of adventurers you will follow.  As a result I picked Locke first, as he is generally my favorite character in FF6.  It took me a bit to remember how this whole sequence worked, but after some trial and error I managed to get into the underground passage, rescue Celes and make my way out of South Figaro.  When we needed to shower and get ready yesterday, I was standing just ouside South Figaro on the world map.  So I will head my way back to Narshe and that should be the end of that sequence.  I will likely play the river journey next…  for whatever reason I tend to save the Sabin for last always.

Dam Impressive

Yesterday we had plans to eat dinner with my wife’s mother at 4 pm in Grove Oklahoma…  which is on the edge of the Grand Lake of the Cherokees about an hour and a half from Tulsa.  There are multiple ways to get there, none of which extremely straight…  and some of them way more contorted than others.  Since we had not really been out on one of our photo jaunts in awhile my wife suggested we take one of the extremely contorted ways so we could look for interesting scenery.  As a result we took this hour and a half trip and extended it to be a little over three hours long.

The weatherman said that the day would be clear and sunny..  but the end result lead us to constantly check the weather on our phones as the sky was pretty much filled with rain clouds the entire trip.  As a result the lighting was less than favorable, and especially so as we travelled past places we would normally stop.  To the weathermans credit, it never did rain… just looked like it was going to at any moment.  While we had been along the route at various segments of our planned trip, we had never actually been the totality before.

I am hoping this actually works… because I have never really attempted to create a linkable Google map for something.  But this is the route that we ended up taking to get from 169 to Grove via Highway 20.  When we got in the Spavinaw hills we encountered the extremely cool Spavinaw lake dam.  Basically Spavinaw lake is where the bulk of the water for the City of Tulsa comes from.  In the 1920s the City realized it would need to draw water from outside of the immediate area and as a result created this massive waterworks that spans from Lake Spavinaw, through other smaller lakes and ultimately ends of at the water treatment facilities inside of Tulsa.  As we drove along the road it took us right beside the extremely cool looking spillway pictured above.

Luckily the sky had cleared a bit by the time we got there, so we pulled off into the parking lot and roamed around.  Normally I have a no trespassing rule when taking photos…  I will not cross any fences or barriers… however if there is a way around said fences that do not involve actually crossing one… I am game.  As a result I ended up walking around a fence that was locked over at the power station near the spillway… and this allowed me to get some interesting shots close up to the water flow.

When I go out and take photos I end up uploading them all in bulk to Google+ albums, then create what I call a keepers album for sharing.  I had not dumped my memory card in awhile, so I had photos from mothers day, the house work, and then these of Spavinaw… so the end result was that I uploaded 182 photos.  After I did my culling and singling out the ones I really liked the most… that became whittled down to the 42 keepers you can see in this album.  I think there are some pretty good shots in there, and it has honestly been awhile since I have felt like uploading what I shot…  so I think this is a good thing.

Gaming Restlessness

When we got home from our little jaunt, I had to fight with the Google+ photos system for a good deal of time.  They have changed something, so that it does not work nearly as well for bulk uploads.  As a result I was pretty pissed by the time I finally finished with that mess.  I ended up flitting back and forth between several different MMOs… never quite finding the fit for my mood.  I played my Melee Mage in Rift for a bit, but ended up getting frustrated because I had not kept up my butchering… and was going to have to go back into Silverwood and grind wolves until I raised it enough to do Gloamwood.  This is the negative side effect about leveling through the instant adventures system…  you end up in a bad place skill wise.

After logging out frustrated, I went over into SWTOR and tried to play my Sith Warrior.  Right now I am knee deep into Imperial Balmorra yet again…  and that kind of frustration just made things worse.  I managed to complete three or four quests before ultimately logging out again.  I patched up Guild Wars 2, because for whatever reason… the fact that I have real internet and can patch things quickly. that would have taken me leaving a game running over night…  still amuses me.  That more than any other change has meant the most to me…  the fact that we have real internet finally!  There have been some negative side effects however…  I used to host a small web server out of the house, and with Cox blocking port 80… we have lost access to most of that content.

I played GW2 for all of ten minutes before remembering why I don’t really play the game much.  The gameplay choices they have made just are not that enjoyable to me.  No matter how much I have tried to play it… I still find the lack of quests off putting.  So I feel like I am running around aimlessly with nothing of any importance to do.  Once that sets in, everything I do feels extremely grindy…  since very little of it actually matters other than your world completion score.  I wandered around in the 40-50 zone near Hoelbrak but quickly logged as the game almost immediately bored me.

I would have gone upstairs to the loft and played some PS3 or XBOX, but I fear that they would have had the same result.  I was just in a restless and frustrated frame of mind… that was only made worse when I actually attempted to go to sleep.  For whatever reason my mind latched onto the nettop computer I am building for the loft.  I started going over all the things I would need to do, evaluating what the best emulator and video front ends would be…  all of which were not at all important.  Especially since I have yet to even move the computer out to the loft from my office.  I was just restless in every sense of the word… and as a result am paying the price today as I struggle to keep my eyes open.

Wrapping Up

I am hoping that I survive the day as one of the sleep deprived masses.  I will be mainlining five hour energy shots in a vague attempt to be alert and responsive.  Right now I am honestly not sure what has to get accomplished today, but I am hoping by the end of my web service staff meeting I will be able to determine that.  I hope you all have a productive start of the work week…  and that you are not going into it nearly as tired as I am right now.  Hope you all have great days.

Four Job Fiesta

Oh Sunday… that morning in which you think to yourself…  crap I have to go to work tomorrow.  Today will be pretty much dominated by my wife’s mothers birthday.  We are going to drive to grove later this afternoon to meet her for dinner, and are talking about potentially meandering our way there with cameras.  So as a result I have no clue when we will actually leave, but there will not be much gaming at all today.  Right now I am just trying to barrel through my morning blog post without losing focus.

Riftstraction

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I still need to return to my Sith ways, but for whatever reason yesterday I was distracted once more by the lure of rift and my melee mage.  I hit level 22 yesterday while still wandering around Silverwood.  I ended up getting caught up in a buzz of completionism…  something that I am not normally afflicted with.  The problem is… I had left a lot of the quests involving the court of Prince Hylas unfinished.  One constant for me regardless of the game… is that I love slaughtering elves.  So I got caught up in the carnage, and ended up completing all the quests for the zone.

I have since moved on to Gloamwood and am busy killing Barghests and Bats.  Gloamwood is the only zone that ever made me question my choice of Defiant.  I just love the feel of it, so much atmosphere and if they traded the goblins for skeletons… it would have been my perfect zone.  Gloamwood Pines so deserves to be the guardian capitol city, it is better in every way than Sanctum.  It actually looks like a real town, with plenty of houses to actually support people living there.  Whereas Sanctum is a capitol city with no housing at all.  This has always been one of the problems I had with the Rift old world… it doesn’t look like people could actually live in it.

The funny thing about my recent venture into melee magery, is that it was intended to be able to play with my friend Rylacus.  The only problem with that notion is he has not logged in since late night Friday.  Oh well… this game has the best mentoring system I have seen, so I can always drop my level back down to hang out with him.  I am purposefully not doing the dungeon finder so I can run the dungeons for the first time on this character with him and hopefully Thalen as well.  I love Rift, it is a great game… but the problem has always been that it is pure hell to get other friends to play it.  I really hope the free to play conversion makes that problem a bit easier.

Four Job Fiesta

For a few years now, my friend JJ has been trying to get me and some other friends to join in on the Final Fantasy V Four Job Fiesta charity play-a-thon.  While I do not fully understand the process… from what I do get the goal is for all of us to try and beat Final Fantasy V and raise money for the Childs Play charity in the process.  There are multiple ways to sign up to play but the basic concept is that there are 22 jobs (26 in the Advance version), and at the start of the game… you will be assigned 4 random jobs.  Then you have to complete the game using only those jobs you were assigned.

Since it has been years since I have played FFV, and I have never beaten it… I am playing with the least number of possible restrictions.  I am praying I get a fairly balanced team, otherwise I will be pretty much screwed.  My friend Drathis got a pretty rough combo last year from what I can remember and struggled with it.  I will be relying on JJ a lot as this goes forward since he is pretty much the FFV master.  I think he can play the game in his sleep, so I am sure he will be a good source of information.  Right now my intent is to play the Gameboy Advance variety on my PSP.

I blasted this out over social media, and it got picked up and reshared… so hopefully this helps get the word out.  Everyone is welcome to participate, to sign up all you need is a twitter account… as the sign up process involves that.  I am assuming that will also be how we get assigned our four jobs on 6/17.  The festivities begin the day before my birthday, so I guess I know what I will be doing for my birthday.  I have a feeling it is going to take me a long time to beat the game.  You guys should all sign up and join in the madness.

Six Advance

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Yesterdays post spawned comments from a few friends, namely JJ and Stop that I should really be playing the Gameboy Advance version of Final Fantasy 6.  Apparently the PSP native copy is globally considered the worst possible port of the game, and has known lag issues.  So I took the advice… found the latest version of gpSP I could for the PSP… and restarted the game on the Advance version.  I have a Gameboy Advance SP somewhere… but I have no clue where it is right now.  So my best option was to play the game on my PSP via emulator, and the game runs beautifully.

All of the issues I had that I thought I just misremembered…  were really issues with the PSP/PSOne native version.  The Advance copy plays super fast, and is actually scaled to fit a modern aspect ratio beautifully.  The only problem I encountered was a pretty massive bug when Kefka first visits Figaro.  I could talk to everyone BUT Kefka… then zoned out to see if it would fix the bug… and now Kefka is no longer there.  I am going to have to reload from a previous safe and see if I can fix the bug.  I would hate to think it is going to be game breaking.

The one awesome thing about this, is that basically it proves out the theory that I can play Advance games just fine on my PSP, so this will likely be how I end up playing FFV during the Four Job Fiesta event.  The PSP battery life is always an annoyance, but I have a spare battery for this reason.  I just want something I can play it on that is portable so I can play over lunch etc.  I will be trying to dig up actual copies of the GBA carts, so that I don’t feel too dirty emulating them.

Wrapping Up

Okay time to start getting ready to confront the day.  Time to leave will be coming sooner than I want it to, and I still need to shower etc.  I hope you all have a great Sunday, and a great start of the week.  I have no clue what I will be doing today other than the visiting my mom-in-law part.  I might try and fix the bug on the FF6 play through so I can keep going, or I might dive back into Rift.  In any case I hope you all enjoy your day.

Kyclops Kombat

I am getting a later than normal start this Saturday morning.  Quite honestly I am pretty groggy because it was another “watch the skies” night.  I really did not sleep well at all, for the most part I kept getting woken up by a new round of tornado warnings from about 11pm onwards.  At some point during the night the danger passed and it shifted to infomercials.  I know this because I dreamt about some magical drug that can cook food in only minutes…  I feel as though I maybe got a few things mixed up.

Tornado Alley

For the most part last night was one big near miss.  The storms hit all around the Tulsa area where I live, and instead gave the areas where both of our parents live pure havoc.  Most of the night was watching concerned while texting back and forth with my dad about what was coming towards them.  At one point there were two tornados, on either side of highway 169 roughly 10 miles from my parents house.  But other than a bunch of rain both all three of our sets of parents made it through the night safe.

I feel as though I have to explain something to folks who are not from “Tornado Alley” and even more so not from Oklahoma.  From the time I got home around 4pm until after the time I went to bed around 11:30pm no normal programming was shown at all.  All of that time we have literally the best meteorologists in the country tracking the storms and some of the best storm chasers in the country following them.  The station we watch for example has not one but two helicopters at their disposal, and they are also chasing the storms by the air.

So when storms are a brewing, it becomes this surreal showplace of watching as these giant green, red and yellow blobs inch towards your home and family.  All the while we are seeing live in car video, and tower cam video showing just how bad the storms are.  There were several points during the night when a normally calm broadcast would be interrupted by an excited storm chaser yelling over the weatherman that a tornado was on the ground and this place or that place.  At which point all focus would shift to whatever that crisis was, and putting the other crisii that had not quite happened on the back burner.

Oklahomans have a pervese sense of attraction to Tornados…  it is that whole moth too the flame thing.  Anything that destructive has to be respected and almost admired with a certain kind of majesty.  You can hear this in the storm chasers voice and choice of wording… you know they are out there for a totally different purpose than you the viewer is.  While we are huddled in our homes scared shitless about what might be barreling down on us… they are excited as they see the “best activity all night” while describing a wall cloud.  You can’t take offense to these adrenaline junkies reveling in the fact that they are chasing a storm that spawned a massive tornado.  It is a symbiotic relationship…  without them we would not have nearly the warning that we do.

The biggest take away for the rest of the country is that you should fear and respect tornados.  We Oklahomans have literally grown up with this our entire lives, we have the best possible weather and storm chasers on our side…  yet still as evidenced by last night… people die because they were either caught unaware, or did not respect the fury of the storm.  All of the deaths that happened last night along I-40 were in essence preventable… it is drilled in from our first days in school, that the worst place to be in the case of a tornado is your car on the road.  Yet when the sirens went off, for whatever reason people took to the highways to avoid it…  and instead placing themselves right in the path.  The most tragic of these deaths is the mother and child that were… according to the highway patrol…  sucked out of their car by the storm.

Kyclops Kombat

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Before all hell broke loose, early in the evening… I was looking forward to being able to play some Rift.  One of my good friends, Rylacus was planning on playing last night, and as a result I decided to break out my one remaining lowbie while waiting on him to show up.  I have made several attempts at rolling a mage in Rift, and none of them make it terribly far.  The long and short is… that I just do not enjoy “finger wigglers” as I call them.  I need to be smashing into things with a weapon to get that visceral feedback I crave in a combat system.  If forced to, I can usually play a Necromancer type because pet class caster is kind of that hazy middle ground that I can find some enjoyment in… but I had never actually made one past level 20.

When Storm Legion was announced, and they mentioned having a Melee mage… I knew I was all about that.  The Harbinger really is a fun class to play, and for the most part it is essentially the battlemage archetype from other games.  You have a series of spells that essentially summon armor or weapons to suit whatever situation you are in.  Right now I have a sword that procs a dot, axe that procs a heal, physical resist armor and magic resist armor…  all of which are useful in certain situations.  Right now I am mostly playing with the 2 handed healing axe and the physical resist armor, because against quest mobs that seems to be the power combo.

I had only been on playing my mage about thirty minutes or so when another good friend of mine shows up in mumble.  Thalen has been working on his cleric and managed to get him up to level 48.  One of the things you have to know about Thalen, is that he is a rabid completionist.  As a result when he logged in, he was wandering around the droughtlands looking for 5 quests he had missed, that would count towards the droughtland completion achievement.  He mentioned that there were a series of elite quests that he could not quite solo…  so I quickly found myself logging over to Belghast and heading that way.

One of the subplots in the zone is that there is a group of Cyclops that you can earn the respect of by proving your strength.  Thalen had apparently made it all the way to the end of this series and had two quests unfinished.  The first of which was to engage the cyclops in a massive 4 way brawl, and the other was to track down and kill several named cyclops.  I mentored down to 48 and we headed out to the arena.  We started up the battle and I was shocked at just how much damage I was taking.  Moments later I realized that yet again I had rushed off into combat… without throwing any buffs up.

After buffing the combat was pretty easy overall.  While tracking down the various named cyclops my Raredar plugin threw this big green alert over the top of my screen that I have not entirely familiar with seeing.  It seems that it had found a rare named spider, so I tried to keep it busy until Thalen could get back to me.  It dropped a piece of epic currency and a piece of blue armor, which would have been good… were we actually doing this content on level.  We wrapped up the quests and I bowed out of the group, as things were starting to get crazy weather wise.

The sad part is…  Rylacus never showed up during the couple of hours I was playing.  Later on I ended up getting a text about 11 pm from him…  just when the shit was hitting the fan here… saying he was able to log in now.  I texted back saying that unfortunately we were under the gun weather wise, and answered a few of his questions.  I am sure the third text came off extra grumpy, as he seemed to have a way of texting just as I was trying to fall back asleep.  Hopefully we can get meet up another night and run around together.  Would be nice if we could some how engineer both myself, Ry and Thalen being on at the same time.  If that ever happens… we will have to find something epic to do.

Enter the Returners

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As things got more dicey outside with the weather, I decided it was time for me to disconnect from anything online involving other people… and switch back to something I could pause.  I picked up my psp and continued on my adventure through Final Fantasy VI.  I have to say I still have a solid dose of nostalgia about this game, but there are little things that annoy me.  For example it feels like it takes far longer between rounds of combat than I remember.  Granted this could just be my impatient self, used to non-turnbased combat…  but it feels like those action bars take for freaking ever to fill.

There will probably be spoilers in the lines ahead… so if you have not played this game you should probably stop reading.  Essentially last night I finally completed the Mog minigame… and escaped Narshe.  The combat there is far rougher than I remember it being before.  It might be that I just suck at final fantasy games nowadays, but it felt like the final guard battle did way more damage than he should have.  It took me a few tries to get past him, one of them involving loading an earlier save… since when you rez back you have 1 hp… and I had next to no potions at that point.

After that I ventured forward to to Figaro, had my first real renin with Kefka…  and still thought it was cool to watch Figaro castle submerge.  I remember back in the 90s, I was not at all expecting that turn of events.  Because of the engine room… and mecha look… I thought maybe it would turn into a robot or an airship…  but submerge was not one of the things I was thinking.  So after thumbing our noses at Kefka we wandered across the desert and went through the cave to South Figaro.

At this point I had enough money to pretty much optimize everyone’s gear… since this is the very first occasion that you have to actually purchase anything.  While I don’t remember thinking this at the time… that is a really really long time to go surviving only on drops and chests.  Nowadays it feels extremely cruel, but at the time I guess it was just par for the course.  After spending some time in town… I couldn’t really remember exactly what I was supposed to do next… and there was not a clear call to action.  This Final Fantasy game seems to do a far worse job at messaging what you are supposed to do than I remember.

Essentially I fell back on my “wander aimlessly” skill and found Sabin’s cabin… at which point we get the “Edgar realizes his brother is still alive and nearby” cut scene.  So now it jogs my memory… that we have to go up Mount Kolts to get to Banon at the returners base.  Bingo! We have a plan now.  So I ascend Mount Kolts, see the spooky shadowy figure following me… remember that it leads in a boss fight.  Sure enough it is Vargas the son of Duncan… who killed his father because he thought Sabin was the chosen one.  We fight Vargas, Sabin jumps in… the game teaches us how to use his freaky Blitz ability… and boom we win the day because pummel apparently is just THAT good.

After that I find my way to the Returners base…  Terra gets all emo because she doesn’t know which path to choose.  You walk around the base talking to people, and finally meet Banon outside.  Does anyone NOT choose to join the Returners?  I mean what happens if you say no… do you just stay there and the game is over?  Far as I know there is not an entire second side of the game where you rejoin the empire and kick returner ass…  so if you say no it essentially has to be a non-choice.  Based on a google search, apparently if you say no… she still agrees to follow them to talk to the Esper in Narshe.  So yeah… sounds like pretty much a non choice… but you have the opportunity to be a dick about it.

Basically I reached the point where my eyes could no longer stay open when we had run away from the Returner base and the game forks.  I figured that was a good time to stop playing, so I had Mog save in the split decision room.  I feel like I will probably pick up and play Locke’s story, as he is probably my favorite character in FFVI.  He is kind of the rogue I judge all other rogues by.  Did I mention that FFVI had a massive impact on me growing up?

Happy Birthday Mom

So I need to wrap up, because well it is 10:30 and I need to call my Mom to figure out what we are doing today.  Today is her Birthday, and while she doesn’t actually read my blog… I figured the sub section title was fitting.  It sounds like we are basically free of Tornados until at least next Tuesday.  I am exhausted from the previous night, so not sure how much oomph I am going to have as the day goes on.  I hope you all have a super enjoyable day, and one that is likely to be more productive than mine.  I may end up having to take a nap before the day is over.

Best Fantasy Ever

This morning I just said “fuck it” and hit the snooze button.  This is not a practice I normally do, since I usually end up feeling far more tired after doing so…  but today is Friday…  and last night was another one of our Oklahoma “watch the skies” nights.  I feel like as a whole today may just be a “fuck it” day in general.  I feel like I don’t have much of anything to really talk about, but by god I am going to do it anyway.

Chaos Reigns

Last night I started the evening attempting to play some Star Wars the Old Republic.  However ultimately the constant distraction of the tornado cells coming through our area lead to nothing but me getting killed over and over by afking in the wrong place.  Basically I needed to play something with a pause button last night, and that ruled out all of my MMOs.  Last week a discussion with Syl about Jesters ended up bringing up one of my favorite video game villains of all time… Kefka.  She mentioned that her favorite rendition was in the game Dissidia… and I thought to myself…  man I wonder why I never played that?

Sometimes you see a game so often, that you develop this picture in your head of what the game will be like to play.  For the case of Dissidia, I had built up this image in my head of a this massive fan service JRPG that comes up with a loose excuse to involve all your favorite characters from vastly different final fantasy games.  So while the fan service part was definitely correct, the rest of the game resembles almost nothing of a traditional Japanese RPG game.

The game as a whole is about Chaos over throwing Order… and that is precisely what playing it felt like to me.  It works absolutely nothing like I expected.  Essentially you pick one of the cast of characters, the engage in a series of game boards…  that you have to move across by clearing obstacles in your way.  When you encounter an obstacle… you have to fight them in this truly bizarre behind the back view fighting game.  All of the fights so far have been repetitive and essentially a time waster, but I have this feeling that when I actually encounter a boss fight it will be like the floor dropping out from under me.

Essentially it feels like an extremely flimsy excuse to pack a game with a bunch of cinematic of characters you know and love interacting together.  Each time you clear one of these game board, you are treated to a 3D cut scene of your character doing whatever they do best… usually brooding.  Along the way you pick up gear that slightly improves your ability to knock down these straw men villains that get put in your path.  I am sure on the boss fights you will have to have the best of all possible gear to make it through them. 

There is some kind of weird mini-game involving a chocobo and carrots that I have not quite figured out what is going on with it.  I am sure it is important, but I have yet to notice anything happening other than every so often a pixelated chocobo shows up on screen and eats a carrot.  Additionally there is an absolutely insane unlock system that allows you to play as other characters, unlock other costumes and even character voices.  The most confusing of these is what looks almost like a cash shop…  but I don’t see any RMT hooks in the game at all.

Basically after playing Dissidia for 2 hours… I am still not really sure if I like the game or not.  There is so much of it that is the epitome of repetitive gameplay, however I found myself continuing to play it in spite of this.  I made it through the tutorial… that didn’t really teach me anything…  and a few game boards into the Cloud storyline before I decided to give up.  This is definitely going to be a game I return to, because it is like this super confusing puzzle that is going to annoy me until I solve it.  There is so much going on in this game, and it has such a devoted following that I feel like I have to figure out why.

Best Fantasy Ever

Another title I had dug up for the PSP was the Super Nintendo turned Gameboy Advance turned Playstation turned PSP remake of my favorite of all JRPGs…  Final Fantasy VI…  or as I played it originally Final Fantasy III.  I was really late getting turned onto this game, it was not until Christmas break that I ended up giving this game a spin.  I rented it from the local video store…  and then when it came time to turn it in… tried valiantly to purchase the cart from them so I could maintain my game saves.  I gathered up all the cash I had gotten over Christmas, and picked up the game at Toys R Us…  then spent what felt like the next 4 months playing it.

There was just so much going on in this game.  It had a great cast of characters, awesome steampunk meets magic theme… and for the time the graphics were truly amazing.  This to me is the pinnacle of the Final Fantasy experience, and everything since has been a downhill ride for me.  Much like me being able to replay Symphony of the Night over and over… this is on the same list…  but I have never really done so.  I’ve never been that big into the various mobile gaming systems post green and black gameboy.  So I have essentially be relegated to playing this title on emulators for the last decade.

Now that I have it on the PSP, I am really looking forward to a proper play through again.  I started it back up last night, but only really made it towards the end of Narshe before sleep claimed me.  Previously I had been taking my laptop into work, and going upstairs and gaming over my lunch hour.  Right now my plan is to just bring my psp in with me, and play it while everyone else is on their laptops.  I just wish I had a proper way to take screenshots from my psp… because I would love to be able to chronicle my journey through the game.  I might have to research that…  since I have custom firmware…  wondering if something like that exists.

Wrapping Up

A friend of mine finally got around to using the free game and expansion codes I gave him over in Rift.  I told him that he needed to do so soon, because anyone with Storm Legion would get grandfathered into a bunch of stuff when the F2P conversion hits.  He said he might be around tonight, so I will be breaking out of of my lowbie characters and hanging out with him.  Looking forward to listening to him discover that game as we play together over mumble.  Already there have been a bunch of excited IMs traded back and forth… and he has only played the game for about 20 minutes.

This weekend we have a double whammy of my mothers birthday on Saturday, and my wife’s mothers birthday on Sunday.  I am sure that will ultimately dictate what our weekend is like.  Additionally tonight is supposed to be another bad tornado night… and potentially worse than last.  So we will be watching the skies and hoping for the best.  I hope you all have much better days than what mine sounds like it is going to be.

Crash of the Titan

I am going to try and move quickly through my post this morning, just not sure how successful I will be.  I have a super busy day ahead of me.  At 8 am I am supposed to be at a development conference here in town, and after the first section… I need to head back to work to try and work out the kinks in a program that has to go live on June 1st.  Needless to say I am stressing more than a little bit at the rushed schedule.

Brand Loyalty

To make matters worse I have decided to pick a topic that I have been wanting to write about for a few days, but not really found the time to sit down and put pen to paper… or in my case keyboard to words?  On 5/28 it was revealed in a Venture Beat article, that the infamous Project Titan would be delayed until at least 2016.  This announcement of course has caused various ripples in the blogosphere and twitterland, most of which relatively negative.  This is going to be my attempt to wrap my head around the issue.

WoW is back in a state of decline based on an early May report that they were down another 1.3 million players.  I myself have done the resub and cancel dance a few times since the release of Pandaria.  Ultimately people play wow not out of a sense of loyalty to the content anymore… people play wow because people play wow.  The best thing about wow is also likely the most fleeting.  It is the only MMO that has been able to accumulate that many subscribers in one place at one time.

Players need cycling back to WoW in most part as a way to hang out with their WoW friends.  For those who are relatively new to the blog I will give a quick bio.  In 2004 on launch day I founded a little guild called House Stalwart.  At that point we had roughly 50-60 players and over the course of the ebb and flow of expansions, we reached our pinnacle at the launch of Cataclysm… with roughly 800 characters in the guild, divided up by a completely indeterminate number of accounts.  At this time we had 4 active raid teams, and more than enough players to do anything with at any time.  We have never reached the Alea Iacta Est levels of having 13+ guilds melded together through the use of an addon… but we were fairly large.

The Shedding

Since that time I have seen two things happen over and over.  Firstly players got tired of the gameplay and when something they liked better came along… they moved over to that.  There were pretty massive exodus points with the launch of Rift and Star Wars the Old Republic… but there have been smaller little conversions going on as well.  Secondly I have seen a good number of players simply leaving because of life.  They no longer wished to devote the amount of time they were spending on wow to the game, and instead chose to divert that effort into family, careers or other hobbies.

The end result is that we have lost roughly half of the active members that we once had.  Instead of four raid teams, they now barely have two… one of which struggles constantly trying to fill any given raid night.  On a good night there are around 20 people on at any given time, but there are also large stretches where that number is in the 3-5 range.  Essentially our guild has dropped significantly, and this is the tale I have heard over and over from other guild leaders from the early days of WoW.

This is not to say that there have not been an influx of new players coming in to fill the gaps, but in our case and the case of many vanilla guilds… they are shells of what they once were.  Remember my statement about “people play wow, because people play wow”… ultimately this attrition will reach a point where there is no longer enough of a critical mass of players people remember… or want to play with… to act as a magnetic core to keep pulling people back.  I know in my own case, the number of players that I really want to see dwindles each time I return to the game on one of my “wow whims”.

Crash of the Titan

One of the things that has universally been held off in the distance as a beacon of hope by the true believers, is that Blizzard was working on a new MMO…  that this would be the one to cure all the ills.  The problem is right now they have been given the knowledge that this promised land will not be coming for at least another three years.  That means three more years of the status quo.  Sure there will be another expansion in there, that will raise the level cap and provide another dose of very similar raid encounters…  but ultimately there will be nothing truly new for three long years.

As a former dedicated warrior blogger, I still have a ton of friends and online acquaintances that actively play World of Warcraft.  The problem is, on any given day… I can watch my twitter feed for thirty minutes and see several posts of subtle frustration about the game.  Maybe I just notice these more than most people, since I am been in a not so subtle state of disappointment with the game for a long time.  I still find it extremely fun at times, so long as I “don’t think about it”.  It has become the ultimate junk food gaming experience, that I can really enjoy so long as I don’t think about what I just consumed.

Ultimately I know that sooner or later WoW will suffer the same fate that all aging MMOs have to this point.  Players will abandon it for the new shiny on the horizon.  Warcraft has had a longer than normal shelf life, but when I have had my little whims, the game play experience and client already feel extremely dated.  Essentially there will be a point, and I am not sure what that number is… where there is just not enough of a critical mass of players to glue the other players together.  Because a large chunk of the players still actively playing wow, are the ones that derive their gaming enjoyment from playing with other players.

Tomorrrow-morrow-land

The big thing that the Titan announcement has done is said to those players that there is no real future in this game.  When Everquest was declining in numbers, leading to the launch of World of Warcraft… they had a new and shiny game in Everquest 2 waiting in the wings and currently fairly publicly beta testing.  Blizzard has come out and said that they essentially has nothing up their sleeves.  Once that has happened, there is no “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”…  we all know the wizard doesn’t actually exist.

Granted I get the reboot, and I get the reluctance to announce anything at all.  Essentially Blizzard hit one out of the park on a fluke swing, and based on the way they have mismanaged World of Warcraft over the years… I know for certain they have no clue what magic they cast to get the initial success.  They know that whatever they come out with has to be bigger and better than WoW…  or it will likely be not just the end of the franchise…  but also potentially the end of their company.  They have also seen that anyone who has come up against their own monster creation has fallen grossly short of all possible sales and subscribership goals.

I sincerely think they have no clue at all right now of how to create a new IP that players will love as much as their very fabled Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo product families.  All of which were allowed to start with extremely humble roots… and were allowed to be grown up through the very supportive and nurturing PC gaming cocoon of the 90s.  They basically have to birth a fully formed and ready to run adult franchise, with all the characters and branding that we the consumer will immediately latch onto and love like no other.

Screwed

In a word, they are screwed.  Building new IP is not the strong point of the juggernaut that is Blizzard.  I remember when they were talking about World of Warcraft… being completely shocked.  Up until Warcraft 3… the games basically had just enough storyline to keep the gameplay from absolutely falling on their face.  I had no clue how they would build a fully fleshed out and three dimensional world out of that type of writing.  But they managed to do so, but did it by drawing upon characters and settings that had already been created.

I have no idea how they are going to create this fully fleshed out reality that is deep enough for us to care about it immediately.  Especially when it has to be amazing enough to keep players from getting drawn into other truly epic IP that it will be competing with.  Namely I am talking about Elder Scrolls Online, and the mouth watering prospect of being able to play through all of Tamriel in the same game.  You have to realize we have never seen more than a small corner of that world in any of the modern games, and each of them is just mind numbingly huge.

How can Blizzard come up with anything that will trump a world that has been built over the course of almost 20 years and 5 blockbuster games set in the same world.  While I have friends that work for Blizzard, and I wish them the absolute best… I question as to whether or not they can roll out this new IP and hit the ground running with enough momentum to trump a setting like that.  I feel like ESO is the first game to come along that really has a chance in hell of toppling the WoW Juggernaut, only because of the landmark success of its previous incarnations.  Skyrim for example sold seven million units in the very first week and in my Raptr users group, a large number of those players have put in 300-500 hours playing this “single player” game.

The Paradox

Ultimately… people play wow because people play wow.  The only thing that will pull players away from wow permanently, is enough of a mass of players playing something else.  I feel that both Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online have the potential to do this over the coming year.  Combine this with the fact that there is nothing coming down the pipe from Blizzard to compete with this… and you have a recipe for change.  This is going to happen sooner or later, this is a certainty…  WoW will wither…  all MMO titles wither given time.  It is exceedingly hard to actually kill an MMO, as evidenced by the fact that both Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot are themselves going relatively strong… just in a greatly diminished capacity.

I realize that players have predicted the doom of Warcraft, over and over… and each of them… myself included have been wrong.  It feels like this announcement about Titan is the beginning of something…  what that something is quite honestly is undetermined yet.  Blizzard may retreat into its juggernaut and produce a golden age of content…  or they may devote seasoned resources away from it to build their new planned kingdom.  But in either case, I think Titan being pushed back and rebooted entirely has been a massive blow to player confidence.  I think it is this blow that will ultimately have major repercussions.

Wrapping Up

I need to wrap this up, I could rattle on at length about this for a few more pages… but I feel like I have essentially said what I set out to say.  I need to print off my ticket for the dev conference… go get some breakfast and get on my way.  I hope you all have a great day… and this little doom and gloom treatise has not diminished that.  I still like World of Warcraft as a concept, I have just been very disappointed in the overall experience for several years now.

Fatman Blues

Another morning, another day closer to the weekend.  Yesterday I was just absolutely struggling to exist in the world.  I felt like I was walking around in a daze all day long, and nothing ever quite snapped me out of it.  I took that long nap on Sunday afternoon, and ever since my schedule had been somewhat out of whack.  I am convinced my body and mind goes to shit if I get too much sleep.  So long as I get 4-6 hours I seem to be able to functional like a normal human being, but when I get over that…  my body goes haywire.

Restless Gaming

As a result of this haze, I was super restless last night.  I flitted from activity to activity never really finding much traction in any of them.  I managed to hook up with my friend Del over in SWTOR at one point in the evening, and he made me a bunch of moddables so that I could outfit a set of orange gear I had my eyes on.  I am hoping that if I now start always choosing commendations… I will be able to keep up with keeping the suit of armor outfitted.

I am now on the last section of Dromund Kaas on my Sith Warrior, and I pushed through a good chunk of it…  but seemed to lack the focus to actually finish.  When I would attempt to quest, I would find myself super sleepy and almost unable to keep my eyes open.  Unfortunately last night my wife washed the bed sheets, so we had to wait for the current load to finish drying, and then for them to finish as well.  This gave me no real option of just going to bed early.  So I wandered about the house like a zombie, looking for something to occupy my time.

Fatman Blues

I finally settled back down in my office upstairs, and set to trying to unravel a mystery.  The goal of this search was to be able to find a way to upgrade my PSP to firmware 6.60… aka the latest revision and the one required to couple your device with your ps3.  There is more to the tale than this however, as there always is in a mystery.  It is a tale of intrigue and suspense… stay awhile and listen!

Back in 2007 I picked up a used PSP 1000 model, aka the “Fat” design as the modding community calls it.  It was just the latest device in my eternal search for  way to play retro console emulators on a mobile device.  Turns out through a truly arcane process, you could install a custom firmware, that would allow you to boot emulators from the memory stick.  When I say arcane, I am not being facetious…  you literally had to have just this one right version of the original release of the grand theft auto UMD to be able to execute the firmware loader.

I jumped through all the hoops with the constant fear of “bricking” my device all for the glory of being able to play all my favorite Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Genesis games on the go.  Thing is it worked, and worked amazingly well.  I could boot into an emulator, but also be able to play just about any UMD based game I came across.  Additionally through dark science, I was able to take my Castlevania Symphony of the Night playstation disc and rip it into a format capable of running on the device.  So quickly this became my favorite toy.  Not only could I play Super Metroid, but I could also play SOTN… my favorite game of all time.

The only problem with this notion is that the world evolved around me… and I was essentially stuck on this custom flavor of firmware 3.01.  I can remember that the Final Fantasy II remake was the first game I purchased, but was unable to play on my psp.  With the realization that I was stuck on this firmware, with no real upgrade path… and no real time to research said upgrade path…  my device became something I only really broke out on road trips.  Since I tend to be the one driving… it didn’t even make it off the shelf that often.

Resurrection Game

With my resurgence in console gaming, I had noticed there were all these games I had sitting on my PS3 harddrive that claimed to be capable of copying to the psp.  I had a renewed fire to try and figure out a way to get my 3.01 OE-A firmware device up to 6.60 the latest revision and the one required to connect to the playstation network.  While waiting on the cable guy last Thursday I had nothing better to do than research how to fix the problem.  The problem with an underground community…  most of the information listed is speculation and mythos. 

After following down several rabbit trails to find nothing, I finally found a tool that would supposedly allow me to restore my firmware back to a stable version.  The highest I could get with the tool was 6.20, which was technically high enough to run almost anything…  just not enough to connect to the PSN.  I executed the process and sure enough it worked restoring my device back to 6.20.  The only problem is… it worked with an Asterisk.

Apparently in the process of restoring the device it somehow corrupted something known as “IDStorage”.  Anytime I attempted to patch up to 6.60 from there I got a pretty arcane error message with an error code of “drnffffffd7”.  Seems as though the root of it is, that my physical hardware and my firmware version do not match exactly based on this region code chart.  The latest versions of the official firmware check this before applying the update, and as a result I am pretty much hung once more on an older version of the firmware.

Pandorica Opens

There is a fix, but it involves something called a Pandora Battery.  The further and further I get into this process, the more and more it sounds like an episode of Doctor Who. Turns out “Pandora Battery” is just the publicly traded name for a special device called a “Service Mode” battery.  Apparently this was  device that was handed out to PSP service centers, that allows the technicians to essentially flip your device into a kind of debug mode so that they can fix various bits of software and load new firmwares without software protections.

This is apparently paired with something called a “Magic Memory Stick” which also seems to tie its roots back to the official service centers.  Both of which are apparently created through using a certain tool on your device.  Ironically… in order to run that tool… I have to apply a custom firmware patch again.  So last night I went through the process to turn my 6.20 official into 6.20PRO-C2.  Unfortunately the aftermarket batteries that I picked up do not have the required eprom needed to convert them into pandora batteries.

After some digging online I found a place that sells the Pandora battery for roughly 10 bucks after shipping.  The only problem… it is coming from china, and as a result will take between 17 and 24 days to get here based on Amazon estimates.  So for the time being I have a custom firmware psp that can run pretty much any game on the market, but just not be able to connect to the playstation network… and let me copy games from my ps3 to it.  I guess while I wait I will enjoy the concept of playing emulators on a mobile device again.

The Takeaway

The moral of the story is…  do not venture down the custom firmware path unless you want it to forever dominate your future.  From what I understand… I would have had issues going from 3.01 official to 6.60 official anyway.  But that would have just meant downloading a bunch of intermediary firmware’s and stepping through the process.  However these firmware are only really available on the mod community sites, so I would have been traipsing down a lot of the same alleyways.  From my understanding, a good chunk of what made my transition so hard is the fact that I applied a custom firmware back when they had not quite figured out how the device worked.

Anyways…  I thought someone might at least find the tale entertaining.  I have a Pandora Battery on the way, have made a Magic Memory Stick… and in a months time when it finally arrives I will attempt the IDStorage fix and see if I can go all the way to 6.60.  Basically throughout this entire process you walk a super fine line of trying not to “brick” your device.  I hope you all have a great day… and don’t venture down any trails that lead to dead ends.  Each day brings us closer to the weekend!

The Cat Sith

This morning is the first workday morning of summer break, and as a result everything in the world feels completely “off”.  I am very much a slave to routine, which is likely why I have been able to keep posting every morning.  The routine is that my wife gets up first and the noise of her getting ready wakes me up enough to be ready to hop into the shower as soon as she gets out.  But with her being a teacher and now no longer reporting every day due to summer vacation…  the whole world feels wrong.

Is This Working?

The only good thing is that now I no longer have to make two coffees and start her vehicle before heading upstairs.  Not that this was really much of a times saving…  also somehow I managed to take just as long as normal… even though I got about a 15 minute head start.  I blame the fact that I am juggling a herd of angry acts, that are wanting food and water.  My wife is taking one of the cats into the vet this morning, so as a result we had to pull both food and water at midnight last night.  It is hard to reason with a cat as to why their bowl is empty.

So please indulge me in my need for validation, but one of the things I have been wondering is whether or not this morning posting thing is actually providing material that people are interesting in reading.  This morning will be the 32nd of these daily posts, and while I continue to still find material to ramble on about…  I wonder if any of my rambling is actually worth reading.  They have strayed pretty wildly from the initial design of… blog about what happened game wise last night.  Over time they have become more and more personal, and it is this part that I am the most self conscious about.  Do people really care about what is happening to me in real life?

I might just be going through a needlessly introspective spell, but I have wondered if this was a worthy endeavor to undertake each morning.  Maybe it just seems questionable of late since my busy schedule has left me with less and less gaming material to report on.  I keep hoping that life will stabilize a bit, and that I will be able to get back into a routine.  As much as I might have rebelled against raiding on a schedule, I really miss that kind of group based activity.  Right now I feel like I can never commit to doing something, for fear I will be needed elsewhere… or something will interrupt my playtime.

Many Faces of Lux

One of my good friends has over time become completely obsessed with League of Legends.  This may or may not be my fault, because I was the one that showed the game to her.  I totally blame Tam though, because I never would have played this game were it not for his constant nudging.  As a result, ever since this started Rae has been madly sketching Chibi League characters in the corner of her notepad.  I suggested she work up a few of them and post them, because ultimately the folks who do artwork for League started off as fans.

One of Rae’s favorite characters is Lux, and as a result she has been creating various versions of her re-imagined through different skins.  Above are her renditions of “Pep Squad Lux” and “Changeling Lux”, with the later existing because she wanted to try and do a “dark” skin for that character.  I think they both turned out pretty well.  To connect the dots, Rae is also the creator of the wonderful Belghast Chibi that adorns the header of this website.  She has started accumulating some of this material with backstories on her new blog.

The Cat Sith

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I spent a good deal of yesterday relaxing on the sofa playing some SWTOR.  I continued the adventures of my Thundercat Sith… Belgrenth, and at this point am almost through with Dromund Kaas.  I have to give a huge thank you to my friend Del.  He read my footnote in my blog yesterday about potentially only using vibroblades with this character… and in my mailbox was sitting a moddable vibroblade that is usable at level 20.  I am loving this concept of the cat sith that chooses to only use vibroswords.

I really like the Korriban and Dromund Kaas quests, but I am ultimately fearing when I transition into Balmorra.  That planet is what kills almost all of my Sith characters.  For whatever reason I do not mind Taris at all, but Balmorra just feels like a complete drag.  My hope is that since I am enjoying this kitty sith trope so much that I will be able to push through relatively easily.  If not I can always flip over and play my Chiss Scoundrel that I never managed to make it off Coruscant with.

I am by no means done with Rift, or am I ever really done with any game…  but right now this current whim has been rather enjoyable.  There are a lot of things that Star Wars the Old Republic does really well.  The questing and story are superb, and the combat is extremely fun.  Where the game failed me is the whole “things I want to do at level 50” area, but I am so far from hitting that wall that everything feels fresh and new.  I am actually looking forward to getting off Balmorra with some character, because I have never seen anything past there Imperial side.

A Hollow Community

Free to play has been both good and bad for this game.  The huge negative is that public chat channels are worse than the worst barrens chat.  Most nights feel like I am wading through a sea of 13 year olds amped on sugar and caffeine.  Additionally there is another disturbing trend…  the Subscribers treat free to play characters like complete and total crap.  I have seen more haughty elitism than I care to recall in the last few days of playing.  I literally saw someone say “lets all pick on the free to play trash” when finding out a player was restricted from sending tells… and it isn’t that they just said that, but players literally did start to belittle the target player.

The funny thing is, I never saw this in the extreme that I have in SWTOR playing other Free to Play conversions.  Over in Lord of the Rings Online, players generally treat each other pretty equitably it feels.  While I tiptoe back and forth on the concept that if you are not paying for a game you are actively hurting it…  I don’t ever want to single out a player and make them feel bad.  I feel like turning off general chat is the wrong answer to these issues, and I have found myself trying to help the players that are getting picked on and not allowed to “join in any Reindeer Games”.

Wrapping Up

Well I have spent another morning drinking coffee and blogging to you all.  Like I said above I would be interested in knowing how well you guys are enjoying these posts.  I am sure I will have a busy week ahead of me, since starting the week on a Tuesday… tends to just mean you have both Monday and Tuesday compressed into one mega painful day.  I hope you all survive the day and have a good one.  I hope it is not a bad omen that I have not made it to work, and am already looking forward to leaving it for the day.

Thundercats Ho!

This morning I am really struggling to boot my mind into something even vaguely functional.  I had a weird night, and with it came an extremely odd dream.  Basically I was back in High School and in some kind of engineering competition, where we had to do something interesting with an old broken phone.  I was on a team of three, and as the dream is already fading… I forget who exactly was on my team.  I do however remember that we went to a bunch of flea markets, found this 60s area payphone and with the assistance of an arduino made it work so it would be able to receive text messages.  The text message had a special kind of ring, and when you picked up… Microsoft SAM voice would read back the text.  I am pretty sure we won the competition, but at this point that is fading from my mind as well.

School Daze

Granted I don’t really know how to do any of the things I just described… but it worked well in the dream.  I blame the High School related dream on the fact that all yesterday I essentially hung out in the High School where my wife teaches.  The school year is over, but due to some changes in the schedule and a class she will be tag teaming with a science teacher… she is having to move rooms.  Normally this would be something we could wait to deal with until August, however they are needing her room for summer school.  As a result we had to go up and move her into the new room yesterday.

According to my pedometer app, I walked roughly 2.5 miles over the course of the day while moving roughly 200 textbooks, 25 legal sized boxes and miscellaneous items that didn’t fit in them.  35 pounds ago there would have been no way in hell I could handle this, let alone get it done in an hour and a half.  So I am feeling pretty damned proud of myself, and while I am sore today I am not absolutely dead to the world.  That is a pretty huge distinction, I guess it means my muscles are actually getting used to the activity.

During the first hour and a half I brute forced moving all the items from one classroom to the next, then left her to unpack and move things into their proper locations.  I give my wife crap for this, but she does an amazing job of labeling exactly where something came from…  so since the class rooms are essentially the same she was able to take entire boxes and know exactly which shelf they came from.  After doing my volley of movement, I went off and ran a few errands and gathered lunch while she worked.

We ate the lunch of champions…  Doritos Tacos from Taco Bell…  which are surprisingly not that bad for you, and one of the better choices you can make from a fast food restaurant.  After coming back I started assisting with piddly little things to help the process along.  It became my job to break down boxes, and anything else that needed done as not to interrupt the flow of emptying boxes.  We got up there at roughly 11:30 and ended up leaving around 4.  It took considerably longer than I had anticipated, but I also was not aware of the gravity of the situation.  “A Few” boxes turned out to be considerably more than I was initially expecting.

The Hobbit

I know this is geek sacrilege, but I watched The Hobbit for the first time yesterday.  After the morning activity, when we finally got home I wanted to do something stationary for awhile.  So I decided to fire up The Hobbit.  I had picked it up awhile back, but never actually got around to watching it.  Now you are thinking to yourself… why did you not watch it in the Theatre?  Well honestly…  crowds freak me the hell out.  It takes a lot to get me to go to the theatre, and since this is not a movie my wife would enjoy…  it is even harder to get me to justify going by myself.

As far as not watching it until now…  well quite honestly until we got this sofa, hanging out downstairs and watching a movie was not really that enjoyable of an experience for me.  My previous recliner was broken down and made sitting for any length of time fairly painful on my back.  So I figured watching the movie was a good way to christen the sofa.  The only negative is that about halfway through watching the movie, we had neighbors come down so I had to turn down the sound…  and divert attention to them as well.

All of this said I found the movie enjoyable, but for whatever reason it felt like it was lacking something.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, and honestly still cannot.  I realize that The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy are two vastly different styles of storytelling, and have vastly different moods to the books.  It is lacking the atmosphere that Lord of the Rings had in spades, while the world was gorgeous…  it just felt off.  I am sure this is one of those movies that I learn to love on repeated viewings… but it was not the immediate moving experience that Lord of the Rings was.

The highlight of the movie for me were of course the dwarves… because I have an irrational attachment to dwarven characters.  I cannot play a game without playing a dwarf sooner or later.  My first Everquest character was a Dwarf, and it has colored my tastes ever since.  I think that since I am 6’4” in real life, and end up banging my head on everything… I secretly long to be shorter.  Overall the movie was good, and like I said I think I will fall more in love with it on repeated viewings.  Just on the first watching it felt like there was something off about it.

Thundercats Ho!

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On a whim last night I decided to spend a bit more of my accrued Cartel Points and unlock the Caithar race.  Immediately I decided to create a Thundercat Sith Juggernaut… because at the end of the day that is exactly what the newly christened Belgrenth looks like.  All I am lacking is the sword of omens, and a weird gauntlet sheath.  Actually that might be a fun trope for this guy… use only vibroblades… that is as soon as I can get a moddable vibroblade.  A Thundercat totally needs a real sword, not a lightsaber!

I’ve done the Korriban starting zone so many times I could likely quest through it in my sleep, however I still found it enjoyable to be doing it on a Caithar.  Overall the experience is not really any different, but I really like the appearance of the character.  I have chosen to go full light side, as though a thundercat just accidentally happened to get stuck in the Star Wars universe.  To be truthful, since Thundercats is really a science fiction story… and the magic in their world is almost purely technology…. it is not that far fetched if you think about it.  Maybe the Caithar ARE the thundercats… in that case would the Emperor be Mum’Ra the Ever Living?

The other big highlight of the night is I finally caught up with Delevax and got my army of unguilded Sith alts in the House Stalwart sith guild over on Ebon Hawk.  It is not super active, but it will be nice to see the occasional “green spam” as I play.  I know him and a handful of friends play on a regular basis, I might try and get something up to their level range and hang out with them.  I warned him as I warn everyone anymore, that pretty much I am not intending to really settle down in a game until the release of Elder Scrolls Online.  At that point I am going to try desperately to “get the band back together” as it were.

Happy Memorial Day

My one request all weekend has been that we pretty much have Memorial Day to rest.  For the most part it looks like this is going to happen.  We have to drive out to a friend house and deliver the spare table from our livingroom, but overall it doesn’t appear that there is going to be much that is strenuous going on.  I hope to be able to game most of the day and just chill out on our comfy new furniture.  We had our requisite cookout on Friday night, so at least that memorial day tradition has been honored.  I hope you all do whatever your family considers a tradition today… or at least find it relaxing.  Happy Memorial Day to you all.