Lucian Arrives

Good morning my happy people out in the land that is digital.  I am feeling a bit better this morning, so I must have managed to get a decent amount of sleep for once.  Quite honestly I think a good deal of my issues right now stem from the fact that my allergies are going into overdrive.  Normally bit late August things have calmed down a bit here in Oklahoma.  However all of the rain we have gotten seems to be kicking all the things into overdrive.  Dear summer sun… why you no kill these weeds?

Lucian Arrives

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Yesterday was mostly about League of Legends for me and some of my friends.  The champion Lucian finally was available, and this was something several of us had been anticipating.  Over lunch Rae and I both played him a bit in a 1v1 game to test out his abilities.  Overall he feels like a much less tanky Graves, but with a few more murdery tricks up his sleeve.  When we played him he felt extremely mana hungry…  but apparently early in the day yesterday his Q was costing double mana…  which could very well account for this.

He seems to have the same slowish building period that Graves does, but once he has a fair amount of gear his attacks become extremely potent.  I know later in the evening Tam played a few games with him and really liked the end result.  The Champion spotlight does a pretty good job of outlining his abilities.  Personally when I played him I was constantly out of mana, because the cooldown on his abilities is far shorter than your mana pool can ever support.  Essentially he feels like a bottom lane champ I could maybe get used to playing.

Seeking Bot

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To this point… pretty much all of the champions I really enjoy playing have been top lane champions.  Currently my favorites are WuKong, Darius, Garen, and Riven… all of which are primarily suited to the top lane…  though I feel like Riven would do fine mid.  Essentially the problem is… when playing with my friends I tend to always hog that one position of the map.  While no one has complained… I just feel like I should branch out a bit and try and find something I enjoyed on the bottom lane.

As a result I have been playing quite a few 1v1 custom maps to play with various champions, and see which ones I could get used to.  Early on Graves was a champion that Tam suggested I might like, since he played a lot of him early on.  I enjoyed playing him, but I was prone to rushing things and engaging way before my items and abilities would support it.  So he was a champion I played for a little bit while I was finding my own play style, but never really returned to.  Lately I have dusted him back off and realized that I do really enjoy him quite a bit for what he is.

Additionally I had picked up Jayce when he was on sale some time ago but never actually got around to playing him.  I have to say I really like him as a bottom lane champion and the tool kit is especially useful once the laning phase is over.  The Shock Blast / Acceleration Gate combo seems extremely good at harassing other champions in your lane since you can poke at them near the turret with impunity.  So far my favorite one of his attacks is To The Skies!… at one point last night I finished off a champion and stole the blue and red buffs with this little quick pounce.  Essentially any champion with a “pounce” attack is a champion I like.

So combined with Lucian, that at least gives me three champions that I like on the bottom lane.  I feel like there are probably more I should try.  I picked up Kennen at some point because I like ninjas… but have never really played him much.  The problem is… because of my dislike of mages… I tend to shy away from AP champions.  Building AD feels natural to me… but the AP items all feel odd to me.  I feel like this is a thing I need to get past at some point… but ultimately right now the ranged champions I enjoy are the ones that are also ADCs.  The problem is that I have pretty much exhausted the AD ranged champions that I like.  Ultimately I will have to get over the hurdle and start digging into some AP ranged champions to add some variety to the bottom lane.

Realm Reborn

 

This weekend begins the official head start for Final Fantasy XIV and I am climbing down off my fence and giving it a shot.  Quite honestly a good chunk of what changed my mind was the fact that Green Man gaming has a 25% code(GMG25-OGRUH-7SM8H) that you can apply which takes down the Digital Collectors Edition to a level I am willing to gamble on.  Additionally there are going to be a large number of House Stalwart folks giving it a shot.  For me at least this is going to be mostly a weekend game.  I still planning on playing Rift during the week because there are a number of things I want to do there.  Additionally the guild is still pretty active and I love the vibe we have built there.

Final Fantasy is not really a primary game for me… the job system is really interesting… but it is still very wow like overall.  Quite honestly… I know that this game will have worked its way out of our systems well before the First Quarter 2014 release of Elder Scrolls Online.  I am under no illusions that this is the type of game that is going to hold the attention of our guild for very long… but it might be enjoyable to explore for awhile.  Being brutally honest… the majority of folks will have burned through whatever they wanted and gotten bored of it within the first month…  but for a few people it might hold some meaningful long term gameplay.

With the ability to do all the jobs and all the professions on one character… I really plan not to alt at all.  Belghast Sternblade will be my only character far as I am concerned.  We are settled into the Cactuar server, and I am really hoping Square pulls their heads out and fixes the server capacity issues we experienced last weekend.  I was finally able to get in and register my head start code yesterday, so hopefully that is a sign that they have gotten a number of the kinks worked out.  Overall the gameplay has been enjoyable, but we have struggled with infrastructure problems that never should have made it out of alpha testing.

Unfortunately this weekend I am not really sure how much playtime I will get.  Friday night we have a wedding rehearsal, and Saturday morning I am photographing a wedding while my wife is a bridesmaid.  Then Saturday night we have a baptism to attend.  So that pretty much fucks both Friday and Saturday, leaving only Sunday to do anything enjoyable.  My hope is that between the Wedding and the Baptism… we can run any errands we need to run so that Sunday we do not have to leave the house at all.

Wrapping Up

Well I have rattled on more than enough and now it is time for me to get my ass out of this house and on with the day.  I hope you all had a good week and that you have a far less busy and annoying weekend ahead of you.  I am nervous as hell to be honest… I have never shot a wedding.  But this is a favor to a friend so I am sure I will muddle through as best I can.  I am just not one for portrait photography… people tend to bore me as subjects go.  But she was happy enough with the family portraits I shot for her…  so here is hoping she will also be fine with my wedding photos.

Fear the Reaper

Hey look, it is morning again… and once again time to push random thoughts into Live Writer.  I wish to god I knew what the hell was up with my sleep patterns.  Last night I started attempting to go to bed around 8:30, but I still tossed and turned and woke up half a dozen times.  I feel slightly less zombified than I did yesterday… but it is still not that great.  I am beginning to suspect this is all thanks to my friend allergies, and then fact that I have been stuffed up for weeks.  Maybe tonight I will try taking some Benadryl before hitting the sack.

Elder Subscriptions

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Yesterday I wrote a rather long ramble about how the subscription model is something I am only wiling to pay these days, if I am really committed to a given game.  I provided for an example the fact that I would be more than willing to pay a monthly subscription fee for the Elder Scrolls Online for example, whereas I simply am not for Wildstar.  At the time of writing the post at 6 am… I did not realize that at 4 am that same morning it was announced that ESO would in fact be a subscription based game, and be charging something along the lines of the standard $15 a month “wow rate”. 

The thing that I am comforted by is the fact that they seem to understand that for a subscription fee you have to give a kind of “premium” access.  In the age of free games being really good, and easily accessible… you cannot simply allow players access to your game for the monthly fee.  You have to sell your players on a service… that you will provide regular updates to them for free as part of that monthly commitment.  The original interview that announced the information leaked a handful of details to this fact.

  • 30-Day Free Time when you purchase the game, and then a monthly fee to play.
  • $14.00 / €12.99 / £8.99 per month.
  • Discounts for setting up multiple months at a time.
  • Game card support.
  • Promise: new content every 4-6 weeks.

The last part is going to be crucial.  So many game developers have promised regular content updates.  Some of them deliver for awhile, and then taper them off over time.  Not to pick on them… but The Secret World was supposed to have monthly episodic releases… yet a little over a year into the game we have had 7.  Granted there are multiple mitigating circumstances, namely the loss of most of their staff…  but still very few companies have ever actually delivered on the promise of regular content updates.  To the best of my knowledge the only two that have really excelled at it are Trion with Rift and Arena.net with Guild Wars 2.

Elder Scrolls promises to provide us a massive game world to explore, with two decades worth of land mass…  literally every area we have ever explored in an elder scrolls game.  But we all know that there will be a string of players that has burned through every inch of that content in a single week of playing.  The success of this game will be to provide a constant stream of updates, and at a frequent enough pace to keep the players always engaged in the game and not gobbling up content in a purely episodic manner.  That is the problem I currently have with The Secret World, the content is infrequent enough that I stop playing while waiting on the next “issue” to release… only to come back and gobble it up and then leave once more.

I feel like the trick that Elder Scrolls has up its sleeve that we are really not even fully capable of wrapping our heads around.. is that fact that it will be a fully fleshed out MMO experience launching on a console.  Currently DC Universe Online is the best “MMO” experience that console gamers have, and at the end of this month Final Fantasy XIV Realm Reborn will be joining it.  However both of those are limited to PlayStation 3 players only.  ESO will be launching on both the PS4 and XBone and will be adding a completely different dynamic to the sink or swim equation. 

Elder Scrolls in general is already massively popular among console gamers… so it will be interesting to see just how many of them are willing to pony up a monthly subscription fee to continue that experience.  To me it feels like the console market is relatively untapped territory… and it could be the thing that ultimately pushes ESO over the top.  There was a lot of gnashing of teeth among the PC gamers that we would be getting a watered down experience since ESO would be launching on the consoles as well… but I look at it in a completely different light.  If we want regular content delivery… we ultimately want Zenimax to make as much from this game as they reasonably can to keep funding constant development time.

It will be interest to see how this all plays out in the end.  I have been shocked at just how civil the discussion has been on the Bethesda forums.  Sure there are a handful of doomsayers explaining how that ultimately this will lead to the end of Elder Scrolls as we know it…  but the majority seem to be taking the announcement of a subscription model well.  Normally that forum is a wretched hive of scum and villainy… that is known for its completely outrageous demands.  My hope is this is a sign of how the Elder Scrolls community as a whole will take the announcement.  Ultimately this is the community that Zenimax has to lock down as far as a subscriber base, not necessarily the roaming community of nomadic gamers.

Fear the Reaper

 

Another surprise from Gamescom yesterday was the announcement of the new Diablo 3 expansion…  Reaper of Souls.  What is so surprising about this to me… is the fact that Blizzcon is only a few months away.  This is the type of announcement I expect Blizzard to hold in reserve for their own convention.  This does however provide them a little bit of momentum and building anticipation as they move towards November.  I will admit… this cinematic had me dusting off my Diablo 3 account and playing some last night.

Like many of my friends… I ultimately lost interest in the game once I finished the main storyline.  We beat the game and then retired our characters completely.  For me at least it has always been a problem with the click to move control scheme.  However thanks to regularly getting coaxed into playing League of Legends… it feels a little less foreign than it did… and as a result I rather enjoyed playing my little monk last night.  Overall I was a much bigger fan of Torchlight 2 than Diablo 3… but returning to it now it feels better than I had remembered.

Ultimately my one major problem with the game still remains.  I hate the fact that I have to play on their servers, and as a result have to deal with server lag while playing essentially a single player experience.  Most of last night things were going peachy… however there was one moment when I died due to a massive lag spike and went from full health to dead almost instantly.  This is at the end of the day the most damning strike against the game.  There should still be a “Lan” mode… even if you have to dial home every so often to save character data… the bulk of the interactions should be happening independent of the server.

I still feel like a complete sucker, that a pretty trailer got me to break out a game I had not played in over a year.  I have always been a fan of the blizzard cinematics, and this is no different.  They always manage to tell a compelling tale for whatever they are choosing to show.  Overall I really don’t much care for the design of Malthael…  but he does seem sufficiently creepy to carry the role of bad guy for another Diablo 3 chapter.  WoW Insider has a rundown of the features… that include:

  • A new Crusader class, wears heavy armor as a tank, buffs/debuffs friends and enemies, not unlike Diablo II’s Paladin
  • Reaper of Souls will officially by Act V of Diablo III
  • Level cap raised to 70
  • Paragon level cap removed
  • All classes will get new spells as they progress to level 70
  • Something called a "multilevel Legendary item"
  • Substantial updates to the loot experience, "Loot 2.0" as named by Blizzard — you’re more likely to pick up items tailored to your current class
  • Overall loot reduced, not picking up as many items not needed by your current class
  • New Crafter: Mystic — re-roll stats on items, gives chance to create better gear
  • Two new endgame modes/activities: loot runs and Nephalem Trials

My hope is that the overall experience is far less forgettable than Diablo 3 was for me… and this will add features to the game that make me want to play it more often than you know… once a year.

Wrapping Up

Well I need to wrap things up and head into work.  Yesterday we got the new washing machine installed and I was able to do the loads of laundry that had gotten wet and soured due to the flood.  Things feel like they are mostly back to normal.  At some point we need to rent a carpet cleaner and try and get rid of the massive water stain in our bedroom, but that can be done later.  The rest of my week will be focused on getting read for the wedding I have to photograph on Saturday.  I hate weddings…  so here is hoping that sitting behind the lens of a camera will make it less heinous.  I hope you all have a great day, and I hope your weekend is going to be far less busy than mine.

Wildstar Woes

Good morning you happy people in digital land.  I am trying to muster the “oomph” to do another days post.  For whatever reason since the “flood” happened, I have not been sleeping well at all.  I assume it is all the noise from the air mover fan we have had pointed at our carpet to try and dry everything out.  Luckily at this point… I think the carpet is completely dry so here is hoping that turning it off tonight will render a full nights sleep.

Wildstar Woes

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With all the recent strife caused by our washing machine and the subsequent damage… my morning posts have pretty much been dominated by that.  However in the gaming world there was quite a little shake up… at least as far as the twitter-sphere is concerned.  Monday Carbine announced the business model for Wildstar… and it was shockingly subscription based.  I think most of us in the blogging circles had been expecting Wildstar to launch as a free to play or some sort of hybrid model.  Instead we are getting a full subscription game with an implementation of the PLEX system from Eve.

Essentially all players will have to do one of two things to continue playing.  Either they will pay a monthly subscription fee, or they will purchase and consume a C.R.E.D.D. on the open market that another player has purchased speculating that they can sell it for enough in game currency to make it worth their while.  EQ2 also has a very similar system to this with the Krono, and it seems to work well enough at removing large sums of in game currency from the market.  The big negative however is that mere mortals are unlikely to ever possess enough currency to buy one of these subscription tokens.

In the games I have played that have them they usually start off reasonable enough shortly after the program launches… but over time it continues to trend upwards gaining in game currency value.  For example when I bought my first Krono in EQ2, they were selling for 500-600 platinum.  However the last time I sold one, I was able to get almost 1000 platinum for them in a few months time.  Additionally the REX token in Rift launched at around 600 platinum and now fetches roughly 1500 platinum depending on the server.  Essentially it is constantly pushed out of the reach of anyone that is not an auction house baron or a habitual gold farmer.

Killing Casual Interest

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Essentially in my experience there is really no way that anyone casually interested in a game like this can afford to buy the subscription tokens from the market.  They are stuck with subscribing to keep their access turned on.  For me my interest in Wildstar has gone from passing to pretty much dead zero.  All thanks to the announcement that there will be a subscription attached to the game.  Don’t get me wrong… I love subscriptions in games that I am really interested in.  I will happily pay a monthly fee to support the game and gain buffet style access to all its features.  But I am simply not “really” interested in Wildstar.

The problem is… in my large circle of gaming friends it seems very few players actually are.  There are a bunch of us, that likely would have picked the game up were it a “buy the box” or free to play model.  We would have given it a shot, seen what it was like in close up and maybe for some of us… it would have clicked.  But the fact that I know there is both a box cost and a reoccurring subscription fee really makes the game something I don’t want to take a chance on.   In a world where most of the games I have been playing… are free to play… that subscription fee seems like an awfully binding commitment.

Ultimately I will be sitting in the wings, waiting for the eventual switch over to free to play.  That seems to be the thing to do these days… and what started off as a way to bail out a sinking game seems more and more like an actual business model.  It feels as though there is the initial 6 month money grab of subscriptions… then a planned deployment of free to play to catch the players like me who were only casually interested in their net.  If this is really in fact a business model, it seems like a very disingenuous one.

There are players who are supremely devoted to the subscription business model.  One of my good friends Liore, has gone through a whole arc as a game she deeply cared about… namely Rift went free to play.  While she has softened to the idea of the Rift free to play implementation… since arguably it is likely the most player friendly one on the market..  she still is not a huge fan of the “death of the subscription”.  When a game company sets out to do a 6 month money grab then convert to free to play… they risk alienating all the players that are extremely pro-subscription.

Of Subscriptions

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I guess at the end of the day… my problem is not that Wildstar has gone subscription at all.  It is that Wildstar is not interesting enough to me to make me WANT to pay a subscription for it.  Granted I have yet to play it at all… so maybe the proof is in the play style… but right now having only received the publically available information I am just not interested enough to commit to it.  Additionally I seem to have a love/hate relationship with Science Fiction MMOs.  I enjoy the hell out of them for a short period of time… but the scifi genre in general seems to lack the hooks to keep me there for long.  Granted that would probably all change if a Mass Effect or Fallout MMO were ever to release.  However I highly doubt either of those would happen, and quite frankly after SWTOR Bioware should farm out the “MMO” portion to someone more experienced.

Getting back on track… I don’t see anything fundamentally flawed with the subscription model.  I pay a subscription to Rift, even though it is the best free to play model out there.  I do it because they reward me in so many ways for doing so.  Similarly I used to pay a subscription to EQ2, Lotro, DDO, etc… all of which are free to play games… because the subscription gave me something more than I could get otherwise.  Ultimately this comes down to a case of me just not being that interested in Wildstar.  The main issue with the subscription model is it turns off the revenue stream from players like me that might have bought the box if there were no strings attached.

Ultimately right now there are entirely too many good options for a player to play for no money outlay at all.  It used to be that all you could play for free were a handful of subpar eastern games.  Now you have games like The Secret World and Rift at your disposal… both of which are games I would happily pay a subscription fee for… but don’t have to.  Essentially Carbine is asking players to take a gamble on their game… by buying the box and paying a monthly subscription and I feel as though a lot of players just are not willing to do that any longer.  This is simply my point of view based on the “temperature” from both social media and blogs in response to the rather “shocking” announcement of Wildstar’s payment model.

Grain of Salt

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Essentially you can take everything I just said today with a grain of salt.  Just because I was shocked that Wildstar did not go free to play… does not necessarily mean I am opposed to the subscription model entirely.  For example… if Elder Scrolls Online were to come out tomorrow and announce that they were going to be subscription only, it would be equally shocking.  However I would care far less, because ESO is a game I am already 110% committed to playing at launch.  From the moment it was announced I have been figuratively been like Fry begging them to “Take My Money!”.  The difference is.. ESO is a title I deeply care about and have been wanting to play literally since the first time I played Morrowind.

I had played Daggerfall before, but with Morrowind I was already used to the MMO construct thanks to lots and lots of Everquest 1.  All the while I was playing the game I kept thinking… man this setting would be so much more enjoyable if I could play it co-op.  So I have been 100% sold on the concept of an online Elder Scrolls game since that moment.  Each additional TES game.. has made me want the ability to play it with my friends even more.  When I heard that Zenimax was working on an MMO, I hoped beyond all hope that it was the Elder Scrolls setting.  At this point they could charge a $200 box fee, and $20 a month subscription… and I would likely still figure out some way to play it. 

I feel however that this level of buy in from an MMO player is extremely rare right now.  We are literally deluged with really good options that cost us next to nothing to play.  The MMO climate is nothing like when WoW launched or even when Warhammer Online launched.  Players are not looking to ditch their current game for something new… they want to dip their toes in the water first to make sure they like it better.  Having both a box fee and a subscription fee sufficiently raises that barrier just high enough that a good number of players, myself included will not commit to the game unless we are completely sold on it.  For an unproven brand, from a publisher that is notorious for selling their games short (NCSoft)… it just seems like a massive hurdle to cross.

Wrapping Up

Well I need to wrap this up and get on the road.  We are taking delivery of the new washing machine today… so I am only working a half day.  Essentially I need to get to work and do a full days work in 4 hours.  I hope you all have a great day and I hope everything goes smoothly with the delivery and install of the new washer.  Last night was a bit of a mad dash around the house to try and clear room for the folks to move it into place. I think I am as ready as I will ever be.

Fishing for Pants

Good morning all you people out in digital land…  I am slowly attempting to wake up.  Last night I crashed around 8:30, that was the point at which I just could not go on any more.  I slept like crap the night before last, and spent all day yesterday dealing with various things around the house… so by that time I was just falling asleep in my chair.  Here is hoping that a combination of coffee and writing will rouse me from my mental slumber.

Towel Trick

Yesterday was pretty much a continuation of damage control for our little flood that happened Sunday evening.  I stayed home from work in the hopes of having someone come out to repair the washing machine… or at least advise us that it was kaput.  One of my wife’s friends had given us a phone number of a repair lady that she had used in the past, so at 8:00 am on the dot I left a rather detailed message.  At this point I went about doing as much damage control as I thought I could.

Previously we had used essentially every towel we had in the house to soak up the water and attempt to prevent additional damage.  As a result we had a massive heap of soaked towels.   I took them out Sunday evening and placed them laid out on the concrete around the pool in the backyard.  My thinking was that the heat of the concrete combined with the wicking effect would suck he water right out.  My theory may or may not have worked… but at some point the neighbor boy that mows our lawn came through and… rather thoughtfully picked up all the towels before mowing.  However this means he deposited them stacked in a heap on one of our lawn chairs.

So of course as I came out yesterday morning they were all still soaked, but thankfully not moldy yet.  First order of business was to lay them out as flat as I could… but this time I decided just to drape them over every piece of lawn furniture we had.  By noon the majority were fully dry, and the last few were just mildly damp.  So I dumped the remaining ones in the dryer for a few minutes to finish drying them.  Yes I realize the absurdity of drying essentially dirty towels… but my whole idea here was to try and keep them from molding while we were down a washing machine.

Fishing for Pants

One of the big problems ahead of me… was the fact that the load we were washing was still sitting in the stagnating pool of gain infused water in the washing machine.  I had to find a way to get these out and dried so I pulled the wicker basket we keep in the bottom of the closet as a clothes hamper and lined it with trash bags.  Then I began the process of fishing for pants.  The water had turned a dark murky color in the hours since the breakdown… and quite honestly finding the clothing was a bit of a challenge.  But with perseverance I dumped each and every soaking garment into the bag lined basket.

I hauled the mess out into the backyard and proceeded to wring out each of the garments all the while not getting the mess of water on myself in the process.  This turned out to be a bit more of a juggling act than I had planned… and at this point I am pretty sure that my hands will permanently smell of Gain detergent…  but I guess there could be far worse things to have infused into your skin.  It was a bit like playing Tetris with wet clothing trying to figure out a place to have each hanging by itself without overlapping.  I thought briefly about going to the store and buying a couple of hooks and a clothes line…  but we really did not have a good place to string one up.  That might be something we need to remedy.

Sunday night we had a wet/dry vacuum that a neighbor had brought down, but when we were finished extracting the liquid from the carpet, he took it back down to his house.  So there I was, with a bunch of Gain smelling murk in a dead washing machine that I really needed to extract.  I roamed around the kitchen and found a pitcher that we don’t really use… and that combined with a Rib Crib cup served as my vessel for bailing out the washing machine.  This was an annoyingly tedious process and I essentially extracted roughly 3-4 gallons of liquid from the machine.  I finally got it down to just a little bit in the bottom… at which point I employed a bunch of dollar store knock off “sham-wows” we had laying around. 

Spending Money

That did the trick and the washing machine is essentially as dry as I can possibly get it.  Essentially at this point I had given up hope on the machine repair lady coming out and making this a simple task.  After talking to my father… his theory was that the pump motor had seized up since that is what happened to their last washing machine.  I was fine with this theory… and it generally meant that I needed to pick up another washing machine.  The same neighbor that brought down the vacuum works at Lowes, so I decided it was time to go visit him.  My ultimate hope was that they could have something delivered that day…  albeit a grossly unrealistic hope.

Essentially they were running a special this week on a Roper Washer and Dryer pair, for $299 a piece.  Roper is a sub brand of Whirlpool and is essentially more than likely manufactured here in Tulsa at the Whirlpool plant.  We have had a Roper refrigerator for 15 years and counting… so it is a brand that I am very familiar with.  Essentially it is a no bells or whistles functional machine, and that was perfectly fine for me.  My niece inherited the Roper washing machine that my wife’s sister had and it is still going strong.  So I decided to go ahead and just pick up a new washer, in hopes of having to delivered and installed quickly.

My basic theory was this…  if a new unit is roughly $350 after you pick up the hookups…  it would cost me at least $100 to have someone come out and look at my current washer.  So do I throw money at a seven year old admittedly bargain basement washing machine… or do I just save that hassle and buy a new one.  The earliest they could have one delivered was Wednesday afternoon, so I latched onto that before that day filled up.  So on top of wasting all yesterday messing with “the flood”, I am going to also have to take on Wednesday afternoon.  Quite honestly at this point I just want it done so we can go on about our lives.

Television Recycling

Since the day was already shot… and I was too hot and grumpy to go back to work at this point and play nice with the people that want me to do stupid things.  I decided just to make the day into a “whatever needed to get done” day.  For a few weeks I had been hauling around in the back of my jeep a load of clothing intended to go to Goodwill.  Since I am down 55 lbs and my wife is down roughly 40 lbs… we had a lot of clothing we could no longer wear.  So like always we go through a mad cleaning frenzy and bag it all up with the intent of donating it to Goodwill.  The problem is… I didn’t actually take it to Goodwill that weekend and as a result I have had eight bags of miscellaneous clothing in the back of my jeep for almost a month.

The main reason why I had not taken it yet was the fact that we also had a 27” CRT television.  So I packaged I went through the house gathering any additional donate-ables and cleared room in the pile that had shifted greatly for the television.  I get to the donation center… and start unloading everything… and the nice man working there informs me that they cannot accept CRT Televisions.  I guess when the HDTV switch happened… they were absolutely flooding with them… and quite frankly they do not sell in any of the centers.  It makes sense but was not something I thought about ahead of time.  Hell we used it as our bedroom television until recently when we went through the cable upgrade.

What was awesome of him however… is that he told me Best Buy would take the television and recycle it.  So I finished unloading everything into his bin, got a donation receipt and headed over to our local Best Buy.  Supposedly they were giving 50 Best Buy points for people turning in their old televisions… which is next to worthless in their rewards pyramid scheme.  So I went inside and inquired at the front desk where I should bring my television.  They pointed to a corner up at the front of the store… so I hauled it in and set it down in the approved cubby.  I guess I could have asked for my points bounty, but at this point I was hot and tired and could give zero shits.  Finally I was able to go home and chill out for a bit.

Wrapping Up

I’ve rattled on enough for one day…  but this essentially covers the bulk of my “day off” from work.  Looking forward to having this entire mess past me.  Wednesday they will deliver and hook up the new washer, and once that is done I will start the laundrypalooza of trying to catch up and wash all the crap that got stranded in the process.  I have it all neatly packed in a few empty steralite boxes… which admittedly it felt a little silly to be folding and storing dirty laundry.  Anyways…  I hope you all have a great day, and that your week has been going better than mine.

The Flood

Good morning all you people out in digital land…  I am trying to wake up enough to string cognitive words together.  I did not sleep much last night, and I will go into reasons later… but suffice to say I am exhausted.  In addition I have a royal mess to deal with today, so I likely will be staying home.  Hopefully once I have a schedule for the day I can catch a cat nap.  Here is hoping that my old friend coffee will be enough to keep me going until then.

The Flood

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Today is the first day back to school with kids for my wife, and as a result the weekend was fairly stressful with her trying to prepare for everything.  During the summer I pretty much get a break from doing a lot of the household chores, but with the school year starting back up it is once again my job to take care of those things as she stresses out over lesson planning and grading on the weekends.  Previously there was a load of clothing that we had started but not finished… so I started that up again.

Once finished I noticed that a pet bed had come apart in the wash.  So I picked up the pieces and started a second load… this time of darks… since that tends to be the load we absolutely must do each weekend.  I went along about my business and an hour or so later I went in there to check on the progress… expecting to swap it into the dryer.  As I was walking towards the washer I noticed that the whites were wet… but it didn’t dawn on me until I was further down the hall what was happening.  Essentially the laundry room, parts of the closet, the hall, and our bedroom were soaked in water as apparently instead of draining out the water drained all over everything.

The Aftermath

So I hollered up at my wife, but while she surveyed the scene she was still in “I am freaking out because of too much school work” mode… and simply could not take in additional information at the time.  One of the positive side effects of owning a pool, is that we have a ridiculous number of beach towels for when people come swimming.  So I got into the closet, pulled out all of the beach towels and started sopping up the water.  This got up the bulk of the water, and I gathered those up in a trash bag and took them out into the back yard to hang up.

One of our neighbors brought down his wet/dry vacuum and got up the rest of the water as well as much from the carpet and pad as he could in the bedroom and closet.  Finally I brought down my big fan from my office upstairs and set it up pointing at the floor and turned it on high, hoping that the air circulation would dry the carpet the rest of the way.  After that it was pretty much just up to time to see if it would dry out.  My jeans were in the washer load when it blew… and it apparently did not make it all the way through the rinse cycle…  so since drying them out over night was not really an option I ran to the store and picked up another pair so I would actually have something to wear today.

The Denouement

The big air mover fan… made an odd kind of white noise… and all night long I kept waking up thinking I heard something strange.  I am fairly resistant to change, especially in my personal space.  The addition of a really loud fan on the floor beside my side of the bed was a rather disturbing change, and I ended up waking up every thirty minutes to an hour as the night went on.  As a result this morning I am feeling completely sapped.  The good news however is that the carpet is dry to the touch…  there is still a dark spot which tells me it is not completely dry.  We will leave the giant fan running for the next few days hopefully drying everything the rest of the way.

I emailed my boss to let him know what had happened… so my day today is pretty malleable.  One of several conclusions will happen.  We have the phone number of a reputable repair service, and I plan on calling them at 8 am.  Either after explaining what happened they tell me that they think it is easily fixable… like a clogged drainpipe or they tell me that I most likely have a dead washing machine.  So we either have the repair woman out…  or I go to Lowes and buy a new one that is on sale… and hopefully am able to do so early enough to arrange for same day delivery.  I believe Lowes will deliver, install and haul away the old unit… and we also have a line of credit there for such situations.

The Subligar

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So since everyone on Mumble was playing Final Fantasy XIV… I continued on yesterday.  The above picture is the result of questing around level 10.  Essentially I had picked up all of the pieces… thinking they looked odd but not really noticing it much… until I finally picked up the pants.  This is in fact a matched set of the level 10 quest gear in the “Lemon Lozenge” area of the game…  yes that is what I called Lima Lominsa.  The leather harness thing was a bit sketchy… but it looked okay-ish with my poofy red pants… that and I had gotten used to the occasional “nipple chest” from Rift and GW2.  The pants… well I wasn’t paying much attention and I picked them up…  despite warnings from my friends about the existence of the “Subligar”.

Turns out this is a running joke since FFXI but having to wear it… it doesn’t feel terribly funny.  Personally I find this kind of armor completely bullshit.  I am sure this is some dev’s odd kink at work, but too often this is what women have to wear ALL the time.  At least when I started my next set of quests I was able to upgrade to something that covered me.  Maybe I am an odd duck but I feel like armor should you know… be protective.  There is nothing heroic feeling about having to wear a pair of underwear while fighting monsters with a big axe.  If people want this crap in game… that is fine… just don’t make it a quest reward.

Ultimately after playing for about 10 minutes… I downgraded all my gear to my level 8 set… which realistically was only a few points of defense difference.   What was so disturbing about it was… that my previous set was this really amazing “leather plate” appearance, with a unique chest piece graphic apparently for marauders… then in the course of a few quests go to lemon yellow panties.  I posted a picture on G+ bitching about it… and was essentially met with a chorus of “QQ More” from the women… since this is pretty much every game experience for them.  I totally get that…  but no one should have to wear armor like this period.

It used to frustrated the shit out of me when I would find a nifty looking pair of plate pants… only to hand it to a female character and see it turned into a shiny metal bikini.  I am completely fine with the irony of having the tables turned… but remember I am one of the guys supporting you.  Make the assholes that dressed their companions in SWTOR in the Slave Girl outfit wear this… not someone who farmed for days to try and get proper Jedi robes for Kira.  Once I could solo it… I literally ran “The Esseles” a good 50 times until I got the orange moddable robes to drop so she could have something decent to wear as I leveled up.  Anyways rant about skimpy clothing over.

The Game

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I am in a really odd place about Final Fantasy XIV in general.  There is a lot about the game I am enjoying greatly.  Then there are other things that bug the hell out of me.  I honestly do not know at this point if I will be playing once it releases or not.  I have not had this much trouble deciding if I actually like a game or not since I played Guild Wars 2.  There are many aspects that I really dig like the whole jobs system… but so much of the game is just messaged really poorly.  Essentially you have to have some ancestral knowledge from other players to keep you from screwing your character up.

For example…  DO NOT SELL ANY ARMOR EVER!  I did… I regret it.  So something I did not realize… when you switch classes later you go back to level 1… and a ramification of this is that you will not be able to wear any of your armor period… other than the starter gear.  I sold mine long ago… thinking I would not need it.  As a result I had to run around buck naked in the Gridania starter zone until I could hit 5 and actually equip some gear.  Luckily I pretty much have every set of gear from that point on, but to the best of my knowledge based on what I am seeing from the vendors… there appears to be no way to rebuy that level 1 equip-able gear.

So much of the game feels deeply foreign to me… as though they set out to purposefully buck the western MMO traditions.  The game is at its core exactly the same as a World of Warcraft type MMO… just nothing is called by the right names, and nothing actually works in the same ways.  Essentially most of my time playing has been building this translation matrix of figuring out what a thing is called… and what it means to me.  I guess to some extent… that intrigues me… that the game can be so similar at the same time as it is completely foreign.

Like I said… at this point I seriously do not know if I will be playing this at launch.  If I do it will likely be a weekend thing.  My friends were wanting me to rush through the content… so I could get to some point where they needed a tank.  Really though I was far more happy to piddle aimlessly than to try and push through the quests to reach a point that they were already at.  I tend to out-level my quests by a large margin.  I am still afflicted by my desire to kill everything in sight… and that seems to be a super effective means of leveling.  The only mission type that seems to piss me off are the ones that involve using some emote on a target.

I guess at this point I have to say that I begrudgingly enjoy this game.  There is something about it that is charming, and despite all the jacked up characteristics… like the Subligar… there is enough here that I find enjoyable that I could see playing it.  I just am not sure if I could ever play the game seriously.  I definitely do not have the same admiration of all things Final Fantasy that it seems to take to really be 100% committed to this.  I guess I will see how I feel about things after the head start weekend next week.  That will ultimately determine if I play or not.

Wrapping Up

Well I need to prepare to call the repair woman and see if I can get an assessment of the situation.  If not… I will go to Lowes and see if I can get a washer delivered today.  I hope you had a much better Sunday than I did, and that you have a great start of the work week.  I am going to try and take a nap after I deal with these phone calls so that hopefully I stay fully functional.  Hopefully the carpet finishes drying as do the towels out in the back yard.

Lego Episode

Good morning you happy people out in digital land…  I Belghast am doing my best to try and be noble and bloggified this morning…  but seeming to fail miserably.  If you have not figured out by now… this top paragraph is really just me psyching myself up to write.  Think of it as the wind-up to a pitch, and while I do divulge important bits of information from time to time… mostly it is just my way of easing into writing about “things”.  This morning I am still drinking a cup of coffee, so who knows what adventures my mind will go on throughout the course of the day.

Lego Friends

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So a few weeks back my niece wanted Legos for her birthday.  This was one of my happiest moments as an uncle, and I spoiled her fairly rotten.  I may or may not have bought like $80 in Legos for her… because by god I am going to support the notion of my niece being into “building things”.  I have to say I was extremely disappointed in what I was able to find however.  It seems like all of the Lego City products have essentially nothing but male minifigures.  On a completely seperate row… were the Lego Friends toys… and scattered in among those were an assortment of “real” Lego sets with female characters.  So I ended up getting her a pink bucket with a girl minifig, a blue bucket with a boy minifig… and this princess horse grooming set because the minifig in that one looked a lot like her.

I was woefully sadden later to find out that she used some of her own money to buy a bunch of the Lego Friends sets.  Feminist Frequency released a video on the Lego Friends and for the most part I agreed… that they were an un-needed aberration in Legoland.  I had no clue why they existed in the first place.  I could not understand why they did not just release a series of Lego city sets with female heroines.  But yesterday I think I finally grok exactly what the Lego Friends do that the minifigures do not.

We spent most of our day yesterday either preparing for or spending time with family.  We had a surprise get together for my wife’s fathers birthday, and this was the first time I had seen my niece in awhile.  During my wife’s insane Lego find she found 3 sets for my niece.  One Lego friends set, and two normal lego sets but with gender neutral themes and including girl minifigs.  Thing is…  when we gave them to her… she was excited about all the sets for different reasons… but she was especially excited about the Lego Friends set… because it she did not already have “Andrea”.  I never once thought about the fact that the Lego friends might have names.

So I started listening to how she talked about Lego friends… and it finally made sense.  She cares about the different characters and their personalities much the same way as a little girl assigns attributes to each of the members of the Barbie universe.  The catch is that instead of teaching copious consumption… in that you need to buy Barbie all these things… like a dream house and a car…  it is letting her BUILD things for her new imaginary friends.  She talked about that she is building a house for all her lego friends… which is going completely off the map since none of the sets we have gotten for her so far was anything resembling a house.  Essentially from my standpoint Lego Friends are “working as intended”.

She is having all sorts of imaginative play… but she is building various aspects of the universe inhabited by these five named minifigures.  So I no longer feel like a horrible person for buying into this “Friends” franchise.  She is building and creating and imaging all sorts of new experience for her “dolls” and it seems like it is the best of both the Lego and Barbie experience.  She is having aspirational play imaging herself as a vet or a doctor or a home builder…  but doing so in a way that she is actually making the things happen by building them… rather than waiting on another trip to the store to acquire another item.  Here is hoping that she continues to build and create… and we will do our best to keep supplying a fresh set of bricks to incorporate into her little world.

Heroica

lego_heroica

Part of the whole going to see family thing, involves going to a small town about an hour from Tulsa.  With it being back to school time, my wife wanted to stop and see if they had any different school supplies… or more importantly ones on clearance at the small town Wal-mart.  While we did not really find much in the way of school supplies they had a bunch of Lego stuff on clearance.  I have seen the various Lego board games for awhile, but never actually picked them up.  I have heard they were an awesome source for relatively rare pieces, but they were always way too expensive for me to just pick up on a lark to part out.  I found these two Heroica sets for less than twenty bucks combined so I figured it was well worth that.

It got me to thinking… wouldn’t it be cool to run a D&D or similar pen and paper campaign using the Lego board games as a mapping system?  I saw a picture from G+ the other day of a dad teaching his kids D&D using minifigures to represent their characters.  It seems like father of the year material there, but wouldn’t it be cool if you also built the dungeon they were exploring out of Lego?  Granted it would involve kitbashing a TON of these sets to find enough pieces to be able to do it…  but it seems like a noble undertaking.  Sadly I don’t really have enough friends nearby to really support a D&D campaign.  When we do pen and paper we tend to do it as a google hangout… and I think the tactile experience of Lego everything… would be lost horribly over a camera.

Nipple Chests

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When I finally got back home from our family outing excursions… I sat down on the couch just absolutely drained.  I initially fired up Rift, but I just was not feeling up to grinding my harvest skills any further.  Granted I know I could have played something else… but I am somewhat obsessed with getting my Cleric to a level at which he can do Storm Legion content.  I logged into Mumble and everyone there was playing Final Fantasy XIV… so I figured… what the hell… might as well join them.  The game is growing on me, I will admit…  but I am just not sure to what extent.  There are still so many things that bother me about the game in general.

If my character looks awesome… I feel awesome while playing it.  This is why I am such a huge proponent of cosmetic gear systems.  If I can set my appearance and always look amazing… I will feel happy while playing that character.  Final Fantasy XIV has way too much of the bullshit you see in the above picture.  Wearing a “nipple chest” and powder blue assless chaps does not make me feel heroic in ANY way.  I just feel like a walking punchline to a horrible joke.  This shit might fly in Japan… but I just feel like a moron walking around like this.  Sadly earlier my character looked amazing…  I had a really slick looking set of gear… that fit the way my character plays… but since FFXIV has no cosmetic system to speak off… I am stuck looking like an abomination if I want to wear the most effective gear.

There is definitely something charming about the gameplay however.  It feels like a much better version of World of Warcraft.  The world looks nicer, the character models themselves are awesome… and the way combat chains off other abilities is a huge step forward from the WoW model.  The world seems fairly intricate as well, with lots of little things to explore and find.  I am still experience the whole things named nonsensically aspect… like what the hell is a Guildleve or a Levemete in the first place?  It feels like when Americans try and make ethnic sounding names that end up just being gibberish.  The whole game could do with a better cultural pass to change the names of things into something that makes sense.  As a result I can never remember what anything is called and just end up making names up for them.

I figure I will play the rest of the weekend and see where I feel about the game at the end of it.  It is more enjoyable than TERA or Dragons Prophet for example…  so were this a free to play game it would be a no-brainer as to whether or not I would be occasionally playing it.  But the whole subscription thing is still a sticking point for me.  I keep hoping that it will miraculously get better.  One of the things I want to try out is the jobs system.  I need to get up to around 15 to fully unlock the airship system be able to travel to the towns that have the guilds I want to pick up.  I think I am more than likely going to switch to pugilist or lancer first after getting Maurader to 15.

Wrapping Up

Well I managed to ramble on about meaningless stuff for another hour.  I hope you all have a great weekend.  I am guessing I will be splitting my Sunday between FFXIV and Rift.  I might even go upstairs and build some more Lego sets since that seems to be on my brain.  I still feel like I am potentially coming down with something… and as of this morning my wife seems similarly effected.  Here is hoping it just ends up as allergies and nothing more serious.

Goodbye Elrar

Good morning folks.  I am getting up and around rather slowly this morning as I still fell rather like shit.  I have scarfed down my traditional QuikTrip Sausage Roll breakfast, and imbibed enough caffeine to be cognizant.  Now I should really pretend to be brilliant and write up a post that people will love… or at least not hate.  Like most mornings I feel like this is an insanely daunting task.  We have a rather busy day of family gatherings and such…  so I feel as though this morning there is added pressure to be expedient.

Goodbye Elrar

elrar_pbr Roughly halfway through the day I had a moment to check my RSS feed and I stumbled across this article on Rift Scene.  At first I thought I had misread the title… because for the last two years… Elrar has been the public face of Rift in general.  But it turns out that in fact it was true… and that he was in fact “laid off”.  I am not sure the reasoning behind this but I do know that most every player will miss him.  As a big guy as well, I immediately identified with him, and after years of watching him on live streams I got used to his voice and antics.  It feels kinda sad to know that the recent stream where he showed off the amazing hedge maze… was to be his last with us.

There isn’t much official word out there, and Trion really has not posted an official statement other than one from Dahanese across the dev tracker.  I can only assume that this is more of the whole “changing direction” topic that Scott Hartsman mentioned when he took over as CEO.  When he said “We’re going to rapidly be laying the groundwork for a new strategy for Trion” I don’t think any of us realized just how rapidly he would be geting to work.  In the eight days since the announcement he has closed two offices and now sacked the public face of Rift.

Elrar went over on the MMO-Champions forums and posted this note…

Hey all,
I won’t be long – but wanted to say it has been the utmost pleasure getting to spend each day with all of you who make up the RIFT Community. You will be missed & I will fondly remember the time we had together.

Not sure what my future holds at this point, but I’m excited for the possibilities – gaming or beyond! I hold no ill will towards Trion or the folks still working hard to succeed today. The RIFT development team is full of kick-ass individuals who very much share the same passion for the game that I shared with you.
While I’ve never really used it, I’m going to try out managing my own Twitter account to better stay in touch with those who want to:
www.twitter.com/GiantApproved
I’m also musing a Twitch channel, at least with my new-found free time, if I start anything up it would be at www.twitch.tv/elrar
Thanks again everyone & my best wishes to you all

I wish him the best of luck to him in his future ventures.  I have loved having him as our community manager in Rift, and hopefully he will find another community to nurture in the future.  Ultimately that is what a community manager does more than anything.  I have so much respect for the community folks out there… my decade as a guild leader has made me realize just how difficult a job it is to always be on… and always be extolling the virtues of the company line.  A CM has to buy into their product 200% and always be ready to present a positive spin on even the darkest of commentary.  It would be so hard to meet a standard “fuck you all” thread with a smile and happily turn it around into a positive.

Ultimately I think the community team learns how to feed off the positive experiences to shield themselves from the negative ones.  Combine that with the fact that every action they do is always under a microscope of scrutiny and you have a recipe for endless torment.  However the community staff seems to feed off of it… draw power and inspiration and find a way to keep going the next day.  Even in games where I have not liked or agreed with their community staff… I have had the utmost of respect for what they do as a whole.  In the best cases I have become friends or at least friendly with the community team…  and in cases like Elrar or Morteia I will miss them terribly.

Now to do my own amount of spinning… as much as I will miss Elrar…  I really hate all the crap that has been shoveled in the direction of Dahanese over the last 24 hours.  No one ever wishes to replace someone else, especially someone beloved by the community.  This is not her fault and as a result the community really should refrain from giving her grief over the events.  I am sure she is going to do the best job possible for us as players, and as sad as I am about the events… I welcome her with open arms in her new role.  She will most certainly work her ass off to support the community and be a new face for us all to come to love.

Mining Madness

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Last night I was pretty drained so I spent most of the evening running around trying to work all three harvest abilities up to 300 so I could officially start Storm Legion content. I feel as though this whole plan of mine might be madness… but I don’t really want to get too far into Cape Jule without the ability to harvest all the resources I find.  I am wanting to level up my cleric so I can have a nice pre-3.0 healing resource to help the guild with dungeons and the sort.  One of the things I have learned since the last time I leveled multiple harvest professions… is that regardless how much slower the skill-ups seem… that I am far better off finding camps of mobs that can be harvested rather than running around aimlessly looking for pops.

As a result I spent a good chunk of my time out in Shimmersand in the highest level area.  I have been farming the above camp of crystaine and iron golems trying to hit 300.  I managed to get butchering up to 300 while killing drakes in the same basic area.  My real challenge is going to be finding an area of boglings or similarly forageable critters to kill to finish topping off foraging.  Of the top of my head I really cannot think of any… but I figured I would try Stillmoor.  I vaguely remember camps of life creatures… which are often times forageable.  If any of my readers have a suggestion of where to go from 250-300 foraging… I would greatly appreciate it.  Worse case scenario I will run around aimlessly and pick herbs in Iron Pine Peaks.

Another Shot

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Awhile back I posted that I had cancelled my preorder for Final Fantasy XIV, and my commentary about the game in general.  However apparently I still have access to this last beta phase.  With a good number of my friends super excited about the game…  I thought I would go ahead and download it last night.  I figured giving it another shot is never a bad thing.  Fortunately or unfortunately… my commentary above from earlier in the day still applies.  The game is rather charming in many ways… but at the end of the day it is just not different enough for me to really be able to get past the “wow with chocobos” aspect.

Firstly… and this will be a huge killer for so many people… it has without a doubt the worst intro sequence I have ever had to sit through in an MMO.  You are essentially surrendering thirty minutes of your life as you play through a completely unimportant sequence of events I assume intended to introduce you to characters that will for some reason be important later.  The probably is… there is no Escape key to allow you to skip it… and after you have seen one of these sequences you pretty much never need to sit through it again.  However on each and every character you are forced to slog through the annoying cutscene.

Once you get into the game… unless you know otherwise… you are treated to a series of banal quests as you run errands around town.  I made the mistake of doing these the first time I sat down to play the game.  Now I at least know that I can pretty much just go to my guild master, do that quest and go out into the world killing things with great zeal.  The gameplay is enjoyable and the world is gorgeous…  but it all feels like an poor fitting shoe.  There is so much familiar but at the same time… so foreign.  There are symbols and glyphs all over the place, that I feel like I am supposed to natively understand what they mean.  Additionally things are called by weird names… and it almost feels like something was lost in the translation from Japanese to English.

That is pretty much the problem I have regularly with the title.  It feels as though another culture set out to create World of Warcraft.  So it is WoW but with a completely different set of cultural norms.  So this is what adds to the whole familiar but odd at the same time feeling that I just cannot shake.  I used to be a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series… but my affection for it stopped almost exactly at Final Fantasy VI.  So there is a certain amount of nostalgia here… but at the same time it feels like it draws more heavily from the later games.  So while I am casting spells I might recognize…  the world itself does not feel familiar apart from a smattering of familiar critters.

I figure I will continue to play it off and on throughout the weekend with large sessions of Rift in-between… but I still feel confident in my feeling that this is a pass game for me.  Like I said before… if this was a “buy the box” title, I would have gladly snapped it up and played it off and on when friends wanted to.  However that said, there is no way I can see justifying a monthly subscription fee to play it.  I know my friends who are extremely into the Final Fantasy setting will love the title.  It is charming and does a good job of bringing the FF setting into the WoW Genre.  But for someone who doesn’t really care about Final Fantasy… it comes off as just another WoW Clone… albeit a well done one.

Wrapping Up

Well I need to get on with the morning.  In addition to the family gathering this afternoon, my wife apparently has a compiled list of things that she needs to run errand wise.  So I need to finish this up and get on with the day.  I hope you all have a great weekend, and hopefully I will see some of you either in Rift or in FFXIV.  My current character name over there is “Belghast Sternblade” but anyone who has played with me long could have guessed that one.

Open Data

Good morning you happy people.  I am mostly conscious today but feel like I am coming down with something.  While it has not fully hit me yet, last night I felt relatively horrible.  It is one of those mornings where I have been staring at the blank screen for ten minutes… finally comprehending that I am supposed to write something thoughtful or interesting.  It is mornings like this that I question my decisions in life… and why in the hell I ever decided to do this blog every morning thing.  However I shall persevere and push on… and try and be thoughtful and or interesting or at least something other than comatose.

Armory

2013-08-16 06_10_03-Belgrave @ Argent Dawn - Community - World of Warcraft

I am addicted to armory systems.  When I am playing a game that has them… I happily check up on literally everyone I meet just to see exactly how they are doing things.  I am not a terribly competitive person by nature, but I love peering into the inner workings of other players.  I have learned so much from sifting through the specs of other players.  Additionally when I have gotten a good drop, I used to sift through the profiles of level appropriate guild members, to see if any of them could use it as an upgrade.  If they could I would send that doodad off in the mail, because I would always rather an item go to use than end up as pocket change when sold.

The funny thing is… I thought EVERYONE liked Armory systems.  I made a comment yesterday about how much I wished that Rift had one… and immediately got a couple of responses from twitter talking about how much each of the players disliked them.  One player took the stance that they had never seen any good come of them… and that in generally they only served as a point for players to trash talk or tear down others based on their gear.  The second player said she liked to keep her spec and gear secret, that she felt like it gave her an edge in PVP. 

I guess I can see both points, but they are also both foreign concepts for me.  Firstly I rarely if ever pvp, and when I do it is on a lark and only to help complete some world event or guild quest.  I am pretty much anti-competitive and want everyone to just get along and work together towards some glorious common goal.  That said I can also see how if you do not have a protective bubble of guildies surrounding you… how you could get exposed to players that want to pick apart your gear and “call you bad”.  I’ve always found armory systems to be amazing diagnostic tools that provide easy access information sharing of how exactly a player is out performing you by so much.

Open Data

2013-08-16 06_22_55-Belghast [90 Shadowknight] - Antonia Bayle - EQ2U - Character Details

I think the king of all armory systems exists in Everquest 2.  The odd thing about it… it was built by a third party developer.  I have a friend that works in the tools division of SOE, and I can remember all these early attempts to make a reliable and excellent mobile application.  Ultimately they decided as a company that they simply did not have the manpower to adequately support an extremely detailed data visualization and armory tool on all available platforms.  So instead they shifted their focus and made an amazingly intricate data service.  This would allow third party developers to build the ultimate armory application for whatever platform they chose to.  The end result I feel was a master stroke, and they have provided better access to data than any other company out there to date.

After the data service was released, EQ2Wire a long time supporter of the community and the best news source came along and released a truly phenomenal armory system.  Essentially it provided full access to everything you would care to learn about your character.  In fact in many ways it provided more information about your character than you could actually access in game.  It had all sorts of nifty auxiliary functionalities like lists of all the dungeon maker items you had collected, or all your spells with the ability to create a shopping list for reagents to upgrade them.  When EQ2 did a massive reworking of the AA system, they offered the ability to look at the previous version of your AA profiles so you could easily see just how exactly you had specced your character.

So when I say that I would love to have an armory system in Rift.  This is the system I would most like to see it patterned off of.  I would love them to take the data they already provide about the game to fan sites… but roll into it all the information about the players and serve it up as an active data service.  Hell I would even devote development time towards working on an armory system if one decided to pop up and turn into a github project.  Likewise I am sure lots of other people would devote their time to it as well.  It would be awesome to return to being able to scour the guild roster to see who can use an item, or who has an amazingly artful spec.

One of the nice thing that EQ2 did when they rolled out their system was adding the ability for your to go off the grid of sorts.  When you check that box, your character information becomes cloaked from the data feed.  This would satisfy those players who want to keep their spec and gearing close to their chest, for PVP purposes.  A scenario like this is the best of all worlds since it would finally allow me to integrate an armory system into our guild website.  I have been working on a social roll-up page that lists various pieces of meta data from our forum profiles in one place.  So I have been able to integrate WoW Armory, and TSW Chronicle… but am missing the game we are playing the most often… and as such is what prompted this whole line of discussion.

Redeemed

League of Legends 2013-08-15 20-37-32-38

Several of my friends are super devoted to League of Legends.  For the League E-Sports crowd, I am going to sound like a complete moron…  but my friends were watching whatever event was going on last night.  I pay about as much attention to e-sports as I do to traditional sports… which is absolutely none.  This was a funny realization for me, because I feel exactly the same way while watching both.  Zero interest in watching someone else play a game, regardless of what that game is.  I guess I get bored watching other people do things that I could just be doing myself if I cared enough to do them.

All of the talk of League however made me want to pop in for a bit.  I had some RP sitting in my account and Riven is probably the cheapest I have ever seen her.  I have been told multiple times that this was a champion I would probably like a lot.  Previously I would say my three favorite champions were WuKong, Garen and Darius…  all of which have an extremely similar play styles.  Essentially I seem to be unable to get into any champion that is NOT a top lane bruiser style champion. 

I fired up a quick 1v1 custom game to put Riven through the motions, and man… I have to say I love her.  I have never gravitated towards female avatars in any game I play… I just find an inability to really get into playing them.  However I had already found at least one female champion that I really liked… and that was the super murdery Vi.  I can now add Riven to that list.  Firstly she is another champion limited only by her cooldowns much like Garen.  I really love that style of gameplay, as I hate having to watch my mana bar…  and I think in many ways that is why I love Garen so much.  Additionally she has an extremely high sustain, especially once you throw a bloodthirster on her.

She is kinda like my perfect fusion of WuKong with his insanely ganky E-Q-W combo that lets him hop in and bash things then sneak away… with my love of Garen and his complete lack of resources to fiddle with.  I still suck horribly at League because I am diametrically opposed to its click to move control scheme… but when I play Riven I feel like I suck a little less.  Additionally her combination charge/shield attack is extremely awesome at getting out of jams…  like getting too close to a turret… which I may or may not do way the hell too often.  At least I can add one more champion to the arsenal of ones that I really enjoy.

Wrapping Up

Well this has rattled on long enough… and I should really be getting on my way.  Here is hoping that I get to feeling better, and that I really am not coming down with something.  I figure it is likely just allergies as it has been all summer.  My boss is out of the office today… which normally folks would think it is a good thing.  However in my case that just means I have to fill in for him when a crisis arises.  I really hope no crisis arises… I could use a nice and chill day.  I hope you all have an excellent one, and that it begins an amazing weekend.

Bank Overflow

Good morning you happy people.  Today is a day for rampant forced cheeriness because quite honestly I feel like crap.  My sleep patterns have been off for the majority of this week, and it has left me completely drained most of the nights.  Last night for example I wanted to do many splendored things… but ended up slumped at my keyboard fighting sleep.  Hopefully I will adjust to the environmental changes, like my wife starting the new school year…  but whatever it happens to be it is a pain in the butt.

Bank Overflow

rift 2013-08-15 06-17-12-54

My life’s mission… at least as far as gaming is concerned… has been to try and gather as many awesome and community minded people as I could together.   Then I abscond with them and stuff them neatly into House Stalwart.  My guild jokes that my “panel van has the best candy” as I am constantly finding someone else in need of a good home.  Last night yet again we welcomed a new member, and I am hoping he enjoyed himself.  I was a little off my game in the whole engaging people thing…  it was all I could really do to stay vertical.  In fact at one point last night I decided I was done being vertical… and went downstairs to try playing on the sofa.  Unfortunately that only hastened sleep… and roughly thirty minutes later I was logging out.

One of the negative side effects of putting all these awesome people in one place… is they tend to be extraordinarily generous.  The above image is a shot of one of our bank tabs.  They are absolutely stuffed to the brim with random things our guildies thought might be useful to other guildies.  As a result I am going to need to do a massive cleanout.  Some of the items are pretty easy… for example all that raw meat I will just ship to my survivalist and convert to level appropriate food.  Other things like the gear… I would really prefer to see them find a home.  The other option is to runebreak them and turn them into level appropriate runes.

We have long used tab one as an artifact exchange program.  Essentially the idea is that as you are out collecting artifacts, you dump the ones you already have in the guild bank and then extract the ones you need.  This has been a great program, the problem is… there are a lot of people that put in way more artifacts than they extract.  So hopefully we can induct a few new members into the practice that will hopefully soak up all the unused artifacts so we can start fresh.  I funded the first two bank tabs but unfortunately the third one is just too far out of reach.  I don’t have anywhere close to the 1500 plat needed to buy it.  So for the time being we are going to have to make due with the limited space we have.

Granted having a guild that helps each other so freely… is the kind of problem I enjoy having.  I think tonight I might start packaging up various tidbits from the bank into care packages and just sending out to guild members that are in the appropriate level ranges.  There are a lot of things in the bank that I view as clutter… like the on use scrolls that give a short term stat boost.  But if packaged with a rune and maybe some food…  it becomes a nice care package for a leveling guild member.  I just don’t want the generosity of the guild to go to waste.

Cthulhu Expansion

I am extremely late to the bandwagon of even bringing this up… but a few days ago Blizzard trademarked the name “The Dark Below” and that set the world a twitter…  pun intended.  At first there was some debate as to whether or not the name belonged to World of Warcraft, or if it was intended for the upcoming Diablo 3 expansion.  However additional data came out yesterday that pegs the name of the D3 Expansion as “Reaper of Souls”.  Prior to this however…  I assumed that Dark Below was going to be the 5th World of Warcraft expansion simply due to the fact that the name has roots in the Warcraft universe.  Apparently the term “Dark Below” was mentioned in the original Warcraft: Orcs vs Humans manual… as well as a section in the Warcraft roleplaying books from which WoWWiki References this quote.

The Dark Below is a place inhabited by demons, devils and infernal creatures, from where some sorcerers take their power directly and sometimes have a patron beast to foster their magic

So on that alone I assumed that this would be the beginning of the fabled “Burning Legion” expansion.  I hate to bring this list out… but I still find it curious just how closely the franchise has followed it all these years later.  This list first started circulating before the release of The Burning Crusade, and more or less was pretty accurate until Cataclysm.  I feel like the whole idea of rebooting the world was a complete monkey wrench thrown into the “master plan”.  But I am wondering with the release of Pandaria… are we going back to trying to pick up items from the list?

The Pre-Burning Crusade Expansion List

Draenor Set

Azuremyst Isle – 1 to 10
Bloodmyrk Isle – 10 to 20

Eversong Forest – 1 to 10
Quel’thalas – 10 to 20
Hellfire Peninsula – 58 to 62
Zangarmarsh – 60 to 64
Terokkar Forest – 61 to 65
The Deadlands – 63 to 67
Nagrand – 64 to 68
Blade’s Edge Mountains – 66 to 70
Netherstorm – 67 to 70
Shadowmoon Valley – 69 to 70

Northrend Set

Borean Tundra – 67 to 70
Howling Fjord – 67 to 70
Dragonblight – 69 to 72
Grizzly Hills – 70 to 73
Crystalsong Forest – 72 to 75
Zul’drak – 73 to 76
Sholazar Basin – 75 to 79
Storm Peaks – 76 to 80
Icecrown Glacier – 78 to 80

Maelstrom Set

Gilneas – 77 to 80
Grim Batol – 78 to 81
Kul Tiras – 79 to 82
Kezan – 81 to 86
Tel Abim – 83 to 85
Zandalar – 84 to 87
Plunder Isle – 86 to 88
The Broken Isles – 87 to 90
The Maelstrom – 89 to 90

Plane Set

Pandaria – 1 to 10
Hiji – 10 to 20

Wolfenhold – 1 to 10
Xorothian Plains – 10 to 20

The Green Lands – 88 to 91
The Dying Paradise – 91 to 94
The Emerald Nightmare – 94 to 97
The Eye of Ysera – 97 to 100

Deephome – 88 to 91
Skywall – 91 to 94
The Abyssal Maw – 94 to 97
The Firelands – 97 to 100

Legion Set

K’aresh – 96 to 99
Argus Meadowlands – 97 to 100
Mac’Aree – 99 to 100
Maw of Oblivion – 100+
The Burning Citadel – 100+++

Ozumat

As you can see from the list… up through the close of Wrath of the Lich King… everything pretty much synced with what we were seeing in the game.  Some of the zone names were inaccurate, but the list is too close for it to be a complete aberration.  So as I said above… when I saw the name and the reference from WoW WIki… I immediately thought this was going to be what is mentioned above as the Legion set.  But further evidence has come out that leads elsewhere.  Yesterday an article caught my attention pointing out that Ozumat the fiend in Throne of the Tides was in fact from the Dark Below.

So now I have to wonder… is this finally them doing a proper treatment of Nazjatar and Queen Azshara?  I almost immediately ruled out this concept when the name first started circulating… because just among my friends Vashj’ir was pretty much a hated experience.  So I really could not see blizzard returning us to an underwater setting again.  However so far the evidence points in that direction.  If the Dark Below lies beneath the crust of Azeroth… then it would make sense that the entry way would be some underwater trench.  My biggest concern would be if they do another confused expansion like Cataclysm where there is content scattered throughout Azeroth without one central point of focus.

As bored as I got with Pandaria… it was less about the content and more about my general malaise with World of Warcraft.  Everything about that expansion was well done… and had I really cared about the game I probably would have enjoyed it much the same way as I enjoyed the hell out of Northrend.  Cataclysm on the other hand felt like a haphazard journey across existing areas of the world.  I hope whatever they do for this expansion that they give the players an entire world to explore rather than more piecemeal crap.

Wrapping Up

Well I need to get on the road.  Today was a multiple cup of coffee day as my mind wandered quite a bit through the course of this post.  While I don’t play World of Warcraft, and I really have no intent of returning… I am still a sucker for Azeroth.  You can’t spend a decade immersed in a world and not care about its evolution.  I keep hoping that Blizzard will “do the right thing”, but they always seem to make decisions that are half-hearted.  It will be interesting to see what Blizzcon provides.  I hope you all have a great day, and I hope I make it through the day without falling asleep at my desk.

Whim Republic

Good morning folks.  In many ways last night was a far worse night than the previous… but for whatever reason I am feeling awake and rested this morning.  I wish to god I understood sleep patterns, and why getting significantly less sleep ends up with me feeling better in the morning.  Previously I had been used to 5 to 6 hours of sleep, but here lately consequence has ended up with me getting to bed a little bit earlier.  More often than not… getting extra sleep just ends up making me feel horrible as a result.

Harvesting Moonshade

moonshadehighlands

I spent a little bit of time when I first got home helping out a guild member orient herself to Ashora.  However after assuring that she got all of the porticulum points… I logged back in Belgaroth and continued down my rabbit hole  of leveling as a pure harvester.  At the point at which I left off yesterday I had just finished up Freemarch and was entering into Stonefield.  Stonefield actually went extremely quickly as I found that all of the rock golems gave extremely fast skill-ups.  Additionally there were large fields of the mountain goat like creatures that I could gather up and AOE down.

Once I moved into Moonshade everything slowed down quite a bit again.  Firstly I was finally catching up to where the character was at foraging wise… so this meant now having to manage leveling a third skill.  I managed to push up rather quickly in harvesting on the various ram like creatures near the Defiant portal.  The only problem is they petered out about 200 and the transition point to train the next tier is 225.  I found the same essential problem killing boglings and skinning them out in front of the Dwarven Relcaimer camp.  At roughly 200 everything slowed down.

Unfortunately the zone did not have any lower level golems or earth elementals… so I had to run around the zone randomly pushing up my mining from picking up Cobalt Lodes.  I noticed that the Golems up near Hammerknell all required 170 mining, so that was ultimately my goal.  After about 30 minutes of farming Cobalt I managed to push up to that point.  The Golems all give skill-ups but they are fairly annoying since after killing each one it spawns three little phantoms.  Additionally if you do not harvest the golem immediately it fades often times before you have killed the three phantoms.  So it is this delicate juggling act of trying to mine the golem as the phantoms are spawning and before they have really begun attacking you.

This is the point at which I left off for the night.  I figure tonight before we pull together the guild night festivities I will try and finish up pushing my trades to 225 so I can learn the next tier and move into the endgame zones.  Hopefully I can find a ready source of mobs to mine, forage and butcher as that makes it go so much quicker than having to run around and try and find nodes to harvest.  I would rather kill hundreds of mobs at one camp, than try and find 50 nodes spread out throughout a zone.

Whim Republic

swtor 2013-08-13 23-38-38-65

Early in the evening one of my friends on mumble had been playing Star Wars the Old Republic and talking about it.  After we got finished with our walk I decided to patch it up and pop in for a few to poke my head around.  When I was last playing I had been alternating between leveling a Dark Side Sith Sorcerer and a Light Side Sith Juggernaut.  I have to say I almost immediately regret my decision to log in when I was confronted with the warning screen letting me know that I was no longer a subscriber and should as a result feel horrible.  They gave me a nice chart showing me all the ways I should feel horrible in the various basic features of the game that I would be losing by logging in.

I guess to some extent I had forgotten exactly how miserable an experience it is to try and play SWTOR as a free to play title.  There I sat with my no-crew skills, my one hotbar, my inability to use various sundry features like displaying titles, my bank, the auction house.  I had a stack of credits that had apparently built up from the last time I subscribed so I decided to start trying to make my character playable by unlocking various things.  Essentially each one of these items can be unlocked permanently at an account level, but it would literally cost you multiple hundreds of dollars to get your account back to a state at which it would not feel absolutely horrible to play.

All the while I am going through this… I am marveling in the back of my head just how horrible an experience this is as compared to Rift.  When I was trying to do my now dead in the water “How To Rift” series, I created a brand new account for the purpose of seeing what exactly the limitations were.  Surprisingly enough logging in and playing on a free to play character pretty much felt exactly like logging in and playing on my main.  There are a few limitations, but they are essentially unlocked through the loyalty system the moment you spend any money.  You are gimped on the number of bag spaces, but as compared to SWTOR this seems like a truly minor thing.

Lack of Loyalty

loyalty-box

I guess what feels so exploitative about SWTOR is the fact that I spent a good deal of money with that game.  I bought the collectors edition package at launch, and subscribed for I think a total of 9 months.  That is far longer than most players did, I feel as though I should get some of these features grandfathered in.  I fully expect to be limited on total character slots, or the ability to play the newest content…  but it feels like complete shit to log into my characters and have zero recognition for money spent when they were struggling along trying to make the subscription model work.  What they are missing essentially is a loyalty system along the lines of what Rift has put in place.

When I logged into Rift after the free to play conversion… I was literally showered with loyalty rewards and the in game credits currency.  I want to say I had roughly 100k credits and was at roughly 3/4 of the way through the purple tier of loyalty.  I felt like they cared about me as a longtime subscriber, and they were more than happy to welcome me back and shower me with gifts.   Granted I am STILL a subscriber, there has only been about a three month period since the release of the game that I did not subscribe.  The experience all feels so much nicer however that they give me rewards I want to build towards, and make me want to spend money on the game because I want to support them.

 

On the other hand in SWTOR I feel like I am a cow being milked for whatever money they can get out of me.  Everything about their system just feels cheap and insidious.  Instead of adding new features to the game and pay-walling those… they seemed to have chosen arbitrary basic features to hide away from the unwashed masses of non-subscribers.  So essentially without paying that monthly fee you get an extremely broken feeling gameplay experience.  I know I have commented multiple times about how horrible their free to play model is, but I guess I forget just how bad it really is… until I experience it again each time.

The above video was compiled by Rift Scene and compares and contrasts the features of SWTOR, TERA and Rift.  If you are not really familiar with the differences between the Rift and SWTOR free to play model it is well worth watching.  I hope I will remember just how bad it is, the next time I get the urge to patch up the game and log in.  There really is nothing there for me there unless I choose to subscribe, and I have no desire to do that since I know the next time I lapse I will be treated the same.  The main difference for me is that I feel like EA Bioware really does not deserve any of my money.  Trion on the other hand, gives both the outwards appearance that they care about me as a player, and as a result I feel like giving them all the support in the world.

Wrapping Up

Well time to get on the road.  Todays post ended up far more ranty than I had intended it to.  I am just still shocked at how bad the SWTOR free to play model is when it actually comes to playing it.  On paper it looked horrible, but as a non-subscriber attempting to play the game it feels even worse.  I hope you have a good day and you find absolutely nothing to rant about.  I have a massive list of things I need to get done, so here is hoping I have the “oomph” to do them.