Rift Puzzles and Cairns by Level

One of the coolest things that Rift has is hidden puzzles, cairns and static spawn treasure chests scattered throughout the world.  Your instinct is to gather up the list and go after them as soon as you can…  but since each of them gives you a physical reward…  there is a bit of a trick to it.  Essentially each puzzle or lootable in the world has a fixed level range… and in order to give you the best possible reward it is always a good idea to wait until exactly the maximum level.

Since I have a large number of friends just starting the game, I figured I would take a few moments to compile a list of puzzles, cairns and lootables by level range.  This is in many ways a remix of the information found on KFGuides.com and I will be redirecting you there for the individual puzzle and cairn information.  They have done a ton of work organizing this information I am just presenting it in a checklist form, similar to my bonus level ranges post from SWTOR.

Level 30 Rewards

Lake of Solace / Freemarch

The lake of solace is a really unique case.  Not only does it have a puzzle deep within the lake, and a cairn, but it also has eight distinct lootables buried deep within the depths of the lake.  Each one will give you a potion that is worth 8 minutes of underwater breathing.  For location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, location for the cairn, and location for each of the 8 lootables please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Silverwood

Silverwood is the starter zone for the Guardians and offers both a puzzle and a cairn that can be found.  Unfortunately there are no lootables that I know of.  For location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and location for the cairn please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Level 35 Rewards

Stonefield

Stonefield is the second area for the Defiant and is connected to both Freemarch and Scarlet Gorge.  It has a puzzle and three separate Cairn locations.  For location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and the location of all three cairns please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Gloamwood

Gloamwood is the second area for the Guardians and is connected to both Silverwood and Scarlet Gorge.  It has a puzzle and a single cairn location.  For location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and the location of the cairn please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Scarlet Gorge

Scarlet Gorge is the beginning of the mixed faction zones. It is connected to both Gloamwood and Stonefield and acts as a bridge between the two faction starter areas.  It has a puzzle and a single cairn location.  For location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and the location of the cairn please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Level 40 Rewards

Scarwood Reach

Scarwood Reach is a mixed faction zone and connects to both Scarlet Gorge and the high level zone Stillmoor.  It has a puzzle and a single cairn location.  For the location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and the location of the cairn please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Level 45 Rewards

Moonshade Highlands

Moonshade Highlands is a mixed faction zone and connects to Silverwood, Gloamwood, and the high level zone Iron Pine Peaks.  It has a puzzle and a single cairn location.  Please note, the puzzle requires two players to click in a pattern in order to complete the puzzle.  I can be solo’d but is extremely difficult and requires perfect timing.  I would highly suggest bringing a friend along for the trip.  For the location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and the location of the cairn please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Droughtlands

Droughtlands is a mixed faction zone that connects to both Freemarch and the high level zone Shimmersand.  It has a puzzle and a single cairn location.  For the location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and the location of the cairn please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Level 50 Rewards

Iron Pine Peaks

Iron Pine Peaks is a high level zone and represents one of the three end game daily zones for the original game.  It touches Stillmoor, Scarwood Reach, Scarlet Gorge, Gloamwood and Moonshade Highlands.   It has a puzzle and a single cairn location.  For the location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and the location of the cairn please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Shimmersand

Shimmersand is a high level zone and represents one of the three end game daily zones for the original game.  It touches Droughtlands, Freemarch and Stonefield.  It has a puzzle and a single cairn location.  For the location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and the location of the cairn please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Stillmoor

Stillmoor is a high level zone and represents one of the three end game daily zones for the original game.  It touches Iron Pine Peaks and Scarwood Reach and has a puzzle and single cairn location.  For the location of the puzzle, tips for completing it, and the location of the cairn please check out the following guide at KFGuides.

Ember Isle

Ember Isle is a challenge zone that was released after the launch of the initial game.  It featured level 52 or higher mobs and was designed for extremely well geared players.  After the launch of Storm Legion they scaled back the mobs a bit to turn this into an alternate leveling zone.  Unfortunately KFGuides seems to have stopped following the game as a result we have to rely on alternate sources for information.  This zone has both a puzzle and  a decent guide to locating it and completing it can be found here.  Additionally if you prefer there are a number of youtube videos showing the process.  I have not found a really good guide for how to get to the Cairn but you can find the location coordinates here.  Additionally there are also a number of youtube videos showing the path.

Storm Legion Puzzles

In Storm Legion they seemed to shift the focus of these puzzles away from being an excellent source of gear, to being a way to collect various items for your dimension.  I still love the concept of in game puzzles so I myself will be tracking these down and completing them.  Previously I had only completed the original puzzles and did not even realize there was a puzzle on Ember Isle or that the tradition had continued into Storm Legion.

Essentially there are puzzles now in City Core, Kingsward, Moriban, Steppes of Infinity, Seratos, and Eastern Holdings.  The Stylish Radish of Better Homes and Dimensions has an awesome guide that outlines all the things you have to do to complete the puzzles of Storm Legion.  Many of them seem to have collection prerequisites, and essentially unlock new items for you to purchase on Omi the Mistress of Puzzles in Tempest Bay.

That’s All Folks

That is all I currently know about puzzles and other nifty things out in the world in Rift.  Hopefully compiling this will help someone out there.  Remember for the old world puzzles and cairns, wait until the level listed before completing them to assure the gear is the best possible you can get.

Crashing Castles

Good morning you happy people… and this time I actually mean it.  I am not sure what it was… the fact that I was completely exhausted by the end of the day, the hour or so I spent playing with friends… or the 15 minute walk I took before bedtime…  but something helped.  I went to bed around 9 pm and slept the entire night through without any panic attacks.  Probably some of the best sleep I have gotten in awhile.  So thank you all for the varied suggestions yesterday on the subject.

Crashing Castles

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One of the best side effects of the steam sale, is it is a great opportunity to get your friends hooked on amazing games when they get priced on the cheap.  I’ve been a huge fan of Castle Crashers for years, and used to play it with some friends on the Xbox 360.  When it was released on steam… I picked it up immediately because seriously…  it is worth buying on every platform you own.  Right now it is going for the absolutely bargain basement price of $4 as part of the daily sale… and should be up there for at least another 24 hours.

As a result I got recruited last night when Ashgar picked up multiple copies of the game and gifted it to anyone who didn’t already have one.  I have to say this was exactly the type of fun I had been needing.  For me, Ash and Tam it was much like coming back home to our side scrolling fighting game roots… and we all adapted pretty quickly.  Rae on the other hand, we could tell never really played that type of game… this compounded with the fact that she was playing with the keyboard…  made the evening frustrating for her.

On that note… I highly suggest you pick this title up especially if you hail from the era of Final Fight and Double Dragon.  But if you do so… I also highly suggest you have a gamepad to play it on.  This was designed to play with an Xbox 360 controller… and I feel it plays best when I use that.  It is completely playable on anything else however… but just remember all the tips and suggestions given in game… will be geared towards that specific controller.  It won’t say press heavy attack… it will say press Y.. so if you are using something else there had to be a bit of translation in your head.

Just as a note to anyone on my steam friends list.  I will almost never turn down an opportunity to play some castle crashers.  There is something about this game that is so pure and fun that it just takes me back to the days of feeding quarters to gauntlet or teenage mutant ninja turtles and playing with three other friends.  I really hope they create a sequel someday that is just as fun.  The only game that I might like more than this as far as side scrolling beatemups… is Guardian Heroes…  if it ever made its way to steam I would be immensely happy.  Speaking of which… I need to get some people together to play the D&D Shadows of Mystaria steam port.

Granite Falls

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Right now on my little warrior I am slowly making my way through the granite falls area.  Stonefield has always been one of my favorite areas in the zone, in part because it was the area shown in the original cinematic trailer for the game.  Additionally the town of Granite Falls is one of the prettiest in the game, and the falls themselves have always looked extremely epic.  Sooner or later I will end up having to buy the Granite Falls dimension so I can have my very own copy.

I am up to my favorite quest chain as well, involving the crypt near town.  Essentially giving me ANY quest chain involving undead and I will be happy.  I started working on this over lunch, and got about halfway through the sequence of quests before I got drafted for castle crashers last night.  My hope is that today I will push through the rest of Stonefield and move on to the Scarlet Gorge area.  I feel like this is an area that just does not get enough credit in the game.  I will have to play up another character when they have gone through with the redesign of the zone that is supposedly in the works.

Defying Reason

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Also over lunch yesterday I decided on a whim to boot up Defiance for a little bit.  I have an odd relationship with this game.  I like it mostly… but I just can’t seem to take playing it for very long.  I am happy to log in, kill a few rounds of mutants, maybe complete a quest… ride around in my dune buggy for a bit… and then log.  I figure it would be much more enjoyable if I was playing regularly with a large group of people, but solo I seem to have a very short attention span.

I guess overall I just don’t like shooters as much as I once did… and the whole behind the back shooter thing works well but feels just awkward enough to give me a low tolerance for it.  I really like the television show and the world, but so far I see little resemblance between the two other than having my very own “cat woman” telling me what to do.  I just wish that the story had been set in the St. Louis area that we are vaguely familiar with in the television show… instead of out in California.  Additionally since I am NOT from the California area and have never been… there just isn’t the same payoff as there is for other people.  I didn’t realize that Mount Tam was an actual place…  but I would have been able to pick up landmarks in Missouri.

Ultimately it is a good game… and it is pretty enjoyable…  but I have the same patience with it that I have for Borderlands 2.  I seem to be happiest when I play in spurts, unlike my friends that can literally play Borderlands 2 for hours and hours on end.  Defiance definitely scratches a similar itch for me…  and I finally found a weapon that I like.  Essentially it is a heavy energy machine gun thing… reminds me of shooting a BAR in the WW2 area shooters.  I can take down the baddies pretty successfully with it…  but I cringe at the thought of eventually out leveling it.  I have yet to find another weapon that I enjoy anywhere near as much as it.

I think this will continue to be one of those titles that I boot up every now and then… but never really dig too far below the surface.  Additionally the game feels very “un-social”, and very much single player.  I rarely if ever end up encountering other players when I play, and if I do they are usually buzzing around on their way to the next objective.  I am sure this changes as you get higher in the content, but I am still in the starter area essentially.  I could push through I am sure and get to the next area… but I figure why force myself when I seem to be enjoying little spurts of play here and there.

Wrapping Up

Well it is that time again… I need to wrap this up so I can get on with my morning and get into work.  Today is trash day, so I need to make sure that is out by the curb.  Additionally I really need to run some stuff by the cleaners.  If I don’t get a start on these things I will end up extremely late for work.  Right now I am essentially the boss, as mine is off on vacation… but it sets a bad example if I start slacking myself in the process.  I hope you all have a great day… and here is hoping that today will be relatively panic free.

Don’t Panic

Good morning you happy people… with the most forced cheeriness I can possibly muster.  I had a pretty lousy night last night… and was unable to get to sleep until well after 1:30 am.  I will get into the whys a bit later, but suffice to say… today is my first day back at work since the July 3rd.  To raise the ante a bit, my boss will be out of the office and as a result I will be filling in for him in all the meetings he attends.  This essentially is the equation for one of the most un-enjoyable weeks I’ve probably ever experienced.

Don’t Panic

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I’ve been experiencing what has been termed panic attacks of varied levels of severity for some time.  When I had my first ones… I literally thought I was having a heart attack… and as such was told to rush to the emergency room.  At which point they hooked me up to an EKG, did some blood work… and essentially told me that I had had a panic attack.  The problem is… were this a one time occasion I could take it in stride.  This ends up happening most nights when I go to lay down and start trying to pack away the thoughts from one day and prepare for the next.

Last night was another night where I was in the thrall of the panic rollercoaster, and as such just could not sleep.  The particular recipe last night was far less about a heart attack sensation…  and more about hyperventilating, a feeling of shortness of breath…  which is odd because I know the difference from being a life long asthmatic.  I literally tried everything I could think of to calm myself down.  I tried some deep breathing exercises and they worked exactly as long as I was doing them.  Once I stopped for a moment… my body went back into full freak out state.

Essentially from what I can tell this is all being caused by the very real anxiety I experience at work.  Essentially everything is in a state of turmoil.  We are a ship without a rudder right now, and without a strong force at the head of our department…  we are constantly shifting priorities based on which is thing is the most political advantageous.  As a result my work world is pure hell, and I have no stability at all.  This is something that I am finding out I guess my mind craves…  stability.

What is so frustrating… is I understand what is going on… but I seem to be completely helpless to stop it.  I had a pretty major freak out session during the day on Saturday… and at the suggestion of my wife I had a beer and seemed to calm down.  So last night I tried the same thing…  the last thing I want to end up doing is medicate with alcohol…  but I was desperate.  Unfortunately… that “fix” seemed to be a one time only thing… and in truth after I had finished my hard cider… everything seemed to get worse.

I essentially know it is work related because while we were in Albany… I had absolutely no panic attacks whatsoever.  It was only once we returned… and I started to dread this work week that they came back with a vengeance.  Ultimately I am going to have to see some form of medication to get me through these.  I’ve never been on any form of a mood altering medication… and I have avoided them like the plague.  However I am feeling like I need something, to help my body realize what my mind already does.

Elite Loyalty

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Last night I managed to push across the loyalty barrier for the next tier.  Upon completing the “purple” tier I got what is probably my favorite loyalty reward yet.  I now have the option to display the red thorned “elite” mob portrait ring on my own player portrait in the UI.  This is one of those little things that just feels cool.  While roaming the world that portrait ring is ubiquitous with danger… and being able to rock that appearance on all my characters is just slick.

Additionally I got the Loyal Helmed Murdantix mount for all of my characters, and you can see my baby warrior riding it.  It is extremely similar to the Ancient Murdantix mount that dropped in a raid instance, but it has the extra added bit of having a really cool helmet / blinder on it.  For whatever reason it feels so much cooler to me than the old one.  I’ve always loved the various “biped running on all fours” style mounts, but this is probably my favorite of them so far.  It feels like I am riding a troll or werewolf or something similar into battle.

Of late I have been splitting my time mostly between Belghast@Faeblight the little warrior shown above, and Belgrave@Deepwood my level 53 nightblade/riftstalker rogue.  I am still having a blast on both… especially the baby warrior.  Which I am sure seems a bit insane since I have a level 60 warrior already.  I find it interesting to play through the old content with fresh eyes.  I working with the Dark Thane prebuilt spec, and it has changed massively since I last played it.  I am enjoying the sense of discovery each time the game gives me a new ability to play with.  Essentially it lets me learn the spec an item at a time, rather than being deluged with everything it offers at once at level 60.

On Belgrave, I have just started Seratos and am making my way slowly to Necropolis.  I really love the dark bone woven zones of later Dusken… and they all seem to be carnage quest bonanzas.  I am a major junkie when it comes to those kill quests… I just wish the reward source stones were actually useful to Belgrave.  I have essentially purchased everything I can upgrade wise with them for awhile.  I still have yet to figure out what exactly to do with the excess ones.  If you guys know some cool use for them other than the gear upgrades… let me know.

As an indication for how much I am enjoying Rift… yesterday I took a break from my NDA bonanza just to get in some play time.  That is saying a lot… because I love beyond love the game I am playing that is still under NDA.  One of the interesting things about the free to play conversion is the daily and weekly gifts.  Which surprisingly got upgraded massively when I bumped up to this next tier of loyalty.  Instead of purple boxes… I started getting orange ones… and out of my weekly box I pulled a orange deeps box… which netted a really nice purple dps weapon for Belghast@Deepwood.

I find that the draw of knowing I have a new box every day keeps me logging in regardless of what else I am playing.  It is something extremely simple but for me… it is effective.  After logging in… I usually end up playing around and questing or crafting or even just hanging out in guild chat and talking.  I love that Trion chose to use the carrot and not the stick when it came to the free to play conversion model.  It seems to be working, because I am seeing lots of people online quite often.  Would be awesome if I could get more of a critical mass there so we could do bigger things.

Wrapping Up

Since I am thoroughly out of it… I need to get this morning thing underway.  I hope I survive the day with the small modicum of sleep that I was able to get.  I also hope that today ends up being far better than I have made it out to be in my mind.  I pray beyond reason that I can have a night off from the panic attack rollercoaster, because it is pretty much the opposite of fun.  At least I guess if it happens again I can continue building in Minecraft… which is what ultimately caused me to calm down enough to sleep.  I hope you all have a great day… and I hope it is stress free.

Paradigm Shifts

Once again this morning I am sitting down to write about what I did last night… but finding it that I can’t really discuss anything I did last night.  As a result I am searching the depths to find a topic to talk about that doesn’t break those three magical letters…  N, D and A.  The big news today… are things I don’t really want to talk about…  so I want to talk instead about a few paradigm shifts that have really made a difference in my life, and changed the way I look at things.

Steam Sale Season

2013-07-14 10_12_54-Welcome to Steam Right now it is essentially Christmas for PC gamers… because the ever increasingly insane Steam digital distribution sale is going on.  For the last three summers, Steam has brought us PC titles discounted as much as 80% off retail price and quite frankly I have gotten used to this concept.  What the Steam sale has done for me… is made me realize that if I wait a bit… I don’t have to pay the retail price for a game.  While this concept seems simple…  it has permeated the way I view gaming in general.

Essentially I have reach a point where most games just are not worth the ubiquitous $60 price tag.  They are worth something to me… enough so that I wouldn’t even dream of pirating a game these days…  unlike the heady college days of downloading whatever I could get my hands on.  The problem is… the amount of money I am willing to pay is far from what the game companies want to charge.

It is like I have developed these containers in my head and as something comes out I immediately slot the title into one of them based on my interest.  The first bucket is… that I want the title at release and am willing to preorder it. This bucket seems to have the least number of titles that fall into it… and is reserved for those game series that I absolutely love and will happily consume anything that is released as part of it.  See The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Bioshock’s of the world.

The second bucket is… I am interested in the game, but only willing to buy it if the price drops.  This is a larger group of games, and most of these are things I think I would like but don’t necessarily align to my “favorite” types of games.  I am always looking for a deal… and I am willing to entertain these games if a significant deal arrises.  The third bucket is… I am interested in the game, but only willing to buy it on one of those insane steam summer sales.  I am talking about when a $60 game sells for $4 type sale.

Finally of course there is a bucket that the game genres I just have no interest in.  The odd result of all of this  is that I only really pick up games if they are on sale.  I find myself less and less willing to pay even $40 for a new game…  but instead am willing to wait out the good deal.  This has trickled down into all aspects of gaming… and I find it particularly jarring now that I have re-engaged with the console gaming world.  A world where essentially you have three options…  pay $60, wait for the red banded edition for $20 or buy them used.

Coming from the steam world… console gaming feels fundamentally broken.  Most games are not worth $60 to me… and quite frankly a large number are not even worth $20.  For console titles… I tend to snap them up when they are $15 or less…  that is the price point I am comfortable taking the risk on.  So as a result… I pretty much only buy my games from pawn shops and other non-gamestop used game sellers.  All of this is 100% a direct result of the training that steam has given me… to always look for a deal… and that I can always get the game cheaper somewhere else.

Amazon Prime

amazonpriime Another huge shift for me was when I decided to pony up for the $70 a year that upgrades your Amazon account to Prime.  The free video streaming sounded tantalizing… but quite honestly they are so far behind the curve in letting you filter the content… that we never end up using it.  For me the real meat of the prime deal is the fact that it gives you free second day shipping on any item you order that supports the prime program.  This has completely changed the way I look at shopping in general.

I have never been a big showroomer, in that I went to the store…  and then ended up purchasing online.  Quite honestly if I can skip the whole going to the store experience I will every time.  The decision point always came down to… wether or not this was something I needed quickly.  If so I would end up trekking out to Best Buy and dealing with the annoying blue shirt mafia just to get the item I needed.  Instant gratification has a price… and it was both a monetary and annoyance price for me.

The thing that Amazon Prime does is change the equation entirely.  How often do you actually need an item without a few days notice?  I have come to realize that most of the time there are very few absolute emergencies that necessitate me going out to a store to buy something.  Even in those situations…  Prime members get a significant reduction in next day shipping as well.  In almost every case over the last few days… I have been able to wait the few days it would take for it to arrive.  Previously it used to take roughly a week to get an item from Amazon, but lowering that shipping time to two days… was a complete game changer.

The only negative effect is it drives my wife insane.  She feels like we are always receiving a package from Amazon, but in every case… these things are items I would have had to go out to a store to purchase.  I would much rather do my research online, do my price comparisons online… and finally order online.  Being an introvert, anything that keeps me from having to deal with salesmen is always a positive.  Additionally there are a lot of things I simply cannot get in a store around me.  Tulsa is not exactly a huge market… for example the closest IKEA to us… is six hours away.

For example… yesterday while running around town we decided to pop into Ulta to see if they still had the pomade I use.  It is the only product I have ever found that adds hold and body without making my hair feel “crunchy” like a gel.  The stuff is fairly expensive, but it literally takes me 2-3 years to go through a container.  After roaming around the store we finally asked a guy stocking the shelves… and he indicated that they no longer carry it.

Previously my choice would have been to find a new product, which involves a lot of trial and error and a lot of buying expensive containers that you end up not liking, or I could have gone to the other Ulta locations in town hoping that there was an off chance that one still had it on the shelves.  Instead my wife whipped out her phone, looked it up on Amazon… and I will have my container here on Tuesday.  Essentially knowing we have fast and free shipping on whatever we want to order has completely changed the flow of our purchase decisions.

The Next Thing

I am not sure what the future will bring and what new paradigm shift will come with it.  I feel that television and movies are fundamentally broken right now.  In order for them to survive they will have to come up with a new and more equitable system for the customers.  A prime example is that my wife after returning from the forensics workshop wanted to watch some of those early episodes of CSI… back when it was more focused on the science and less on the interpersonal drama.

We got home… fired up Netflix… and while CSI Miami and CSI New York were available… the original was not.  I checked Amazon Prime and the same thing was true.  I fired up a trial account for Hulu Plus only to find they had access only to CSI Miami.  If your television show is not available on any of the three major streaming services… you are essentially fucking over your fans.  I checked Amazon, and it would have cost $1.99 an episode… or $24 a season.  Quite frankly a television show is just not worth that to me, and I have no real desire to own media… I just want streaming access.

Instead we went out to a local used chain… Vintage Stock and paid $10 for a DVD copy of Season 1… and I am now in the process of ripping and converting them to digital format.  All so we can consume the content in the way we choose.  This entire process is broken… and hopefully someone will fix it.  I feel like the whole concept of broadcast television is equally broken.  Having to wait for a show to come on in the world on on demand streaming just feels extremely archaic.

Hopefully someone will come along and design a system that provides one subscription with all you can eat programming and make it work in a way that the old media dinosaurs can profit from.  Ultimately companies are going to have to realize that some money is better than no money at all.  Had we struck out on getting a used copy of CSI…  I would have pirated the content out of spite.  Essentially they gave me no legal means to stream their content.  Customers want to give you their money, but they want to do it in a way that makes them feel like they are not getting bent over in the process.

Wrapping Up

Well we are just about to watch some of those said CSI episodes… but I have been delaying the process since I type much faster when I do not have to filter out the television.  As a result my wife has been patiently waiting for me to finish up this post.  I hope you all have a great Sunday, and that the start of the work week begins in a not too painful way.  Mine will be a hassle since I was gone a full week.. and often times various bits of work stacks up waiting on me.  Thankfully now that I have some awesome co-workers they tend to take care of 90% of it.

5 Biggest MMO Disappointments

This is one of those days I have zero clue what to write about… but as not to break the chain of constant posts I am going to push through and post something anyways.  In part this post about nothing has been brought to you today by the letters N, D and A.  So instead of a normal post about what I did last night, or what I want to do today…  I am going to make a post about my top five biggest MMO disappointments.  This is kind of the bookend to my post about my five favorite MMOs, so hopefully I can do this without coming off overly negative about each.

The Disclaimer

Some of my picks for this list will be rather controversial… but they are my picks nonetheless.  This list is not about what I consider to be the worst MMOs, or even bad MMOs at all.  In fact most of the ones included on this list are games I have played over and over again… and will likely play again in the future.  On the converse… these are the games I have been the most disappointed by over the years.  This could be due to lack of content, lack of depth, lack of features… or just simply lack of follow through.  This is by no means a death sentence for an MMO…  it wouldn’t be on the list at all if I didn’t care.  For example… I do not care at all for TERA or Aion… but I was not necessarily disappointed in either because I was not expecting to like them in the first place.

5 – World of Warcraft

World-of-Warcraft-Mists-of-Pandaria-Thunder-King-patch If you remember… I included World of Warcraft as number five on my five favorite MMOs list… and I think placing it in the number five spot on this list adequately represents the love/hate relationship I have with this game.  Without a doubt I have had some of the best times playing WoW, but I have also had some of my biggest disappointments in the path they have chosen to grow it.  It feels like an old high school friend… that you were extremely close to… but after years of being apart you grew in two completely different directions.  While you want really badly to be happy for it… you can see the potential that was there… and how it has been squandered.

World of Warcraft was a game that I expected not to like in the first place.  I remember my very first thought when I heard about it… was where the hell would they get their story.  Until Warcraft 3… every Blizzard game had essentially only had enough storyline to keep the game from completely falling on its face.  After experiencing the deep and rich world of Norrath… I did not think that Blizzard could pull off anything that engaging.  I was wrong… they wove together a world that was deep, rich, and filled with lore.  Additionally they incorporated the best features of every game that had come before it… and remixed it in a way that truly represented the absolute best of breed for the time.

However over the years… they have butchered the lore…  and instead of continuing to incorporated the best features on the market… have instead created half assed versions of them.  I have to keep coming back to the Transmogrification system… because it personifies this concept of the modern Blizzard approach.  They took something awesome… alternate appearance systems… and instead turned it into an extremely cludgy money sink.  The same thing happened over and over as they tried to incorporate features of popular mods… but the official version was never anywhere near as solid as the original mod that inspired it.

Then on the other side of the coin… the content was just lacking.  When new content was introduced… it was too little to late.  Like a quick appetizer that never quite turned into a meal.  Shortly after the release of Cataclysm… I started a brand new Worgen Druid… and managed to level it without much effort in under 5 days played time.  Additionally the raid content just felt more and more uninspired…  remixes of previous encounters.  So I will admit… at times I am one of those guys… that views the golden area of vanilla through rose colored lenses.

For certain players the new mix of content and the pacing works.  I have a ton of friends who are still knee deep in the thrall of this game… and more power to them.  I just reached a point where I could not view anything but the disappointment.  As a result I am not playing, and trying my best not to complain on a regular basis about the game.  But… additionally I do not feel this post would be honest if I did not include WoW in the mix.  I feel like it still has so much potential, and maybe if they changed to a content driven DLC style free to play model… they would have the endorsement to build content other than the raid ladder and dailies.

4 – Guild Wars 2

guild_wars_2_allotment This is another title I did not really expect to like when I first heard about it.  I was never a huge fan of Guild Wars 1 despite everyone telling me just how amazing a game it was.  I liked some of the concepts presented, like the Magic the Gathering style ability system and the ability to multi-class…  but everything else about that game I really despised.  If I do not like your games user interface or control scheme… no matter how awesome a game it is underneath  I just cannot bring myself to play it…  no matter how many times I try.  So all of this said I really had written off the concept of Guild Wars 2.

This all changed however when the folks at Arena.NET posted their Design Manifesto.  It basically said everything I thought I wanted to hear, and laid out a great vision for a new game.  So I was amped when I was able to get access to the testing program.  However I was immediately disappointed in the experience I had there, and lack of what honestly felt like a game.  I was disillusioned enough that I actually resigned from testing and wished them luck.  One of my friends remained in the test a little bit longer than I did…  and eventually bailed himself.  I hoped they would find some direction and turn the project around.

When it came time for open beta testing… I gave the game another shot.  The lowered expectations of expecting to dislike the game… caused me to view it through slightly different eyes.  I enjoyed the game enough that I picked it up when it came out.  The problem is… there just was not enough meat on the bones to hold my attention for long.  There are definitely some aspects of the game that I enjoyed, but the whole experience felt very disposable… more so than any game I had experienced. 

Additionally it did not feel like I was progressing my character at all.  By the time I reached level five, I had unlocked all 5 abilities for my primary weapon choices and the signets and other related abilities… just did not feel like they had enough weight to them to make them something worth striving towards.  The game set out to abolish the holy trinity of tank, healer and dps… but the problem is that it didn’t really replace it with anything in the process.  Group content felt like a chaotic mess, and I was extremely disappointed when I did my first dungeon and realized the zerging a boss down from a spawn point was totally a viable tactic.

In the Manifesto they proposed that – Shouldn’t Great MMOs be Great RPGs too?  The only problem is the key means for moving the story along in a role playing game is the questing construct…  but they sought to abolish that as well.  Once again… it is fine that they wanted to change the game… but they didn’t really replace it with anything meaningful in the process.  As a result I felt extremely disconnected to the world around me.  Things were going on around me… on scripted timers… but I didn’t really care about whether or not we won or lost.  I didn’t care about the people and place… and the lack of questing did this.

In the Manifesto they stated that it was time to make MMORPGS more social.  The only problem with that is that they introduced so much passive grouping, and took away any need for player roles…  that the end result is one of the least social games I have played.  When roaming around the world… you may be fighting along side other players, but you do not have to interact with them in any meaningful way.  Each player is a self sufficient independent state… and as a result has no real need for anyone other than themselves.  The game just feels like it is lacking reasons for players to actually be grouping together.

Let me reiterate, there is a lot to like about the game.  It runs amazingly well on low end hardware, and presents a very fluid gaming experience.  It has one of the prettiest worlds I have ever explored, and has a lot of things that incentivize exploration.  While it is presenting a ton of new content in the form of now bi-monthly updates… the problem is most of it is limited time only.  Instead of growing their world… they are creating disposable episodes that only serve to make the game play experience all the more disposable itself.

3 – Star Wars: The Old Republic

Star-Wars-The-Old-Republic-screenshot I’ve loved Star Wars since before I could even fully verbalize it.  My parents tell stories about me seeing the movie when I was one… and then coming home and jabbering endlessly about “Darfa Bater”.  So if there was any game that has enough storied lore to hold my attention… it should have been SWTOR.  I was a huge fan of Knights of the Old Republic, and as a result I was completely committed to the genre they genre they chose to set the films in.  Additionally I love the Bioware style of storytelling, and am a pretty huge Dragon Age and Mass Effect junky.

All of these things should have made SWTOR be the next 8 year game for me.  The problem is… the experience while amazing… is overall disposable once you have made your way through the content.  So much care and feeding were placed on making sure the quests were just right… and the voice acting was flawless… that it greatly cut into the total amount of content available.  The three chapters that were available at launch… felt like an awesome introduction to the game…  but the main course never really arrived.

I hear the Makeb release is extremely nice… and the continuation of the storyline extremely successful.  The only problem is…  that content came a year too late to stave off the players leaving.  I feel like had they had more content in the pipeline and ready to release a month after launch, they would have been able to keep the majority of all the players that started playing.  We just burned through the content way faster than they had expected.  Additionally the fact that there was only one path per faction… and that essentially all the quests were the same minus the handful of class specific ones…  alting became extremely tedious.

Additionally when they chose to go free to play… they adopted one of the most blatantly abusive models I have seen.  Essentially with free to play, you can choose to take the carrot or the stick… and things like gear locks, pay walling what should be base features, and rolling out a never ending stream of unique lockbox gear just feel too much like being beat with the stick for me.  It has however been extremely lucrative for Bioware… and enabled the game to keep its doors open.  If it means they continue to release new content… then in the long run it could be good for the game as a whole.

I am still disappointed however at what could have been.  Had they been able to launch a continuation of the main storyline each month or so…  it would have kept me glued to the game.  The original storyline was amazing… and there is no taking that away from the game.  The Jedi Knight storyline is probably one of the most epic story arcs I have experienced in any game.  It was just over way too soon, leaving me nothing really left that I wanted to do.  The problem is… that content was extremely expensive to produce.  There was never a way that they ever could have kept up with the demand.

2 – Champions Online

champions_online_screen_4 One of my all time favorite pen and paper games is Heroes Unlimited by Palladium games.  I had early experiences with D&D and AD&D… but this was the game that really hooked me on the possibilities of role playing games.  What made the system so cool is that it had rules to create literally any type of super hero or super villain you could imagine.  Of course I created my share of Wolverine or Batman clones…  but the game system was this fertile group that through a series of roles I could create some unique characters as well.  What made the game so engaging was that the sky was literally the limit in the types of things you could create.

I was a huge fan of City of Heroes, because it gave me some of this same rich character building…  but did so in an easy to digest MMO form.  That game however had a lot of short comings… and when Champions Online was announced it looked to be addressing all of these base issues and creating this wild open ended super hero creation system.  You could mix and match power sets… creating your own custom mix for your character… and this was placed on top of a character generator that was even more robust than City of Heroes.  Everything sounded like the perfect super hero game… and I was hooked on it early.

The problem is… the power sets were grossly imbalanced.  This is the first game I had ever played where certain power sets were literally unplayable.  You could reach a point where you just simply could not progress any further due to the choices you had made.  On the other side of the coin… certain power sets were so grossly overpowered that they completely removed any challenge from the content at all.  You could steam roll over the top of anything, while your friend that chose one of the broken ones… could not even fight the lowest rank mobs.

The major disappointment is that they did a very poor job of mitigating the different power sets.  They would buff one…. but then another power set would become the broken one… making it a constant cycle of your favorite power set potentially becoming the unplayable one.  The game had all the potential in the world… and just became grossly mismanaged.  Instead of understanding that this  constant state of power flux and un-playability was what was driving their players away…  they instead decided to streamline the content.

I really do not remember the timing, but I believe this happened around the time of the free to play conversion.  Previously there had been a pretty interesting storyline that had multiple paths your characters could take.  The end result ended up with everything being a big jumbled mess.  The thing that ended up as the nail in the coffin however… is that coming back as a free to play character… I could not play any of my existing characters.  Each and every one included some costume bits that were not open to free players.  This should be a lesson to anyone… grandfather existing characters…  because holding players characters hostage behind a pay wall is never a good call.

1 – Warhammer Online

warhammer-online-1 I had to put this one at number one… because really this game turning out the way it did is one of my biggest gaming regrets.  I love Warhammer… have since I was in middle school and painting my very first citadel miniatures.  I love the world and the lore… and the sheer brutality of the chaos gods.  They took a failing IP and placed it in the hands of MMO veterans… Mythic games… who had brought the world Dark Age of Camelot.  It seemed like a no-fail proposal.  I thought they knew exactly what players wanted… and could borrow from the success they had with DAoC and all the nuts and bolts that make a game work.

Unfortunately Warhammer Online is really the tale of two games.  The one to twenty experience was amazing.  The PVE content rich, the new public questing construct extremely fun, and the early battlegrounds extremely inventive and enoyable to play.  I still think that the early experience in Warhammer Online ranks among some of my favorite leveling experiences.  The problem is that when you hit about 20-25 the bottom fell out… the PVE content ceased to be interesting… and became increasingly more sparse.  The game changed from this fun questing experience to this “go grind pvp to level” experience.

I feel like the game as a whole was a clash between these two seperate games… one of which I enjoyed immensely… the PVE experience… and one I really could care less about.. the PVP experience.  Had they given me a pure PVE warhammer game… I would probably still be playing it.  The game as a whole did so many innovative things, and there were so many mysteries around the world to unlock for your book of deeds.  Additionally it shipped with an Addon system that was on par with World of Warcraft, and presented some extremely interesting class and race choices.

If only they had focused on giving equal time to both the PVE and PVP experience.  The only problem is… I feel like the makers of this game have come to completely different conclusions about why it failed.  Mark Jacobs has gone on to create Camelot Unchained… which serves to be a purely PVP game completely casting aside any PVE aspects.  I feel like his take away was that it failed because it just was not PVP enough.  In truth not a single friend that was playing left because of lack of PVP.  We had a guild of around 40 players… and all of us left when the post 20 forced pvp experience began.  Harecore PVP players are a niche within a niche, and I just don’t feel that you can really build any game solely around them as your target audience.

This is probably the game I feel would beneift the most from a free to play conversion.  Awhile back I signed up for a new free trial account just to give the game a spin and see if it really is as good as I remembered.  Overall the starter experience is still extremely fun, even though they have dumbed down the richness quite a bit by funneling everyone into the empire lands.  I feel like a free to play version, might pump a bit more life into the title and allow it to survive.  The problem is… this has become the textbook example for MMO failure… and I doubt EA would spend a dime on it going forward.  As a result I will always be left with the thoughts of what might have been had the direction been a bit more sound.

Wrapping Up

This post ended up going a lot longer than expected.  I’ve been typing for around an hour and a half now, but finally have reached a point where I have said what I needed to say about each of them.  Hopefully none of them came off as too terribly ranty.  I hope you all have great weekends, I will mostly be trying to relax a bit before Monday.  I am already stressing out quite a bit, because I know going back I will be having to fill in for my boss as he is going out of town.

The Ordeal

So much happy right now…  I am sitting at home on my comfy sofa typing on my laptop.  I cannot express in words just how good it feels to be here.  I am not a huge fan of travel, I don’t mind being other places…  but I greatly prefer being home.  Quite honestly… New York is probably the furthest I have been from home, and while it was entertaining I am elated to be back here.

The Ordeal

Travelling to Albany was rather un-eventful and everything essentially went nice and smooth.  My biggest complaint was the lack of free WiFi at Chicago O’Hare/  The trip home however… had lots of moments of annoyance.  First off I managed to take a wrong turn on the way to the airport.  As a result I ended up turning on my android navigation… which took us on quite possibly the most scenic route ever to get back to the Troy-Schenectady Road.  I drove through tons of residential neighborhoods having to take turns at almost every intersection… but eventually we met back up with the right road and we were on our way.

My wife had offered a lift to two other classmates that did not have transportation… so after dropping them off at the terminal we went to the car garage to drop off our rental.  This is singlehandedly the most poorly designed feature of the Albany Airport… and as a result cars just end up backing up as people bail out to meet their flight… often times leaving the keys in the ignition and the car running.  We were in no major rush… so we politely waited through the mess and were directed into a parking lot.

At this point we had to wait again… for the single person who was handling all drop offs and requisitions for both Alamo and Enterprise.  I felt sorry for this guy… because he looked seriously stressed.  We waited around… got our receipt and apparently they had charged us for a couple of extra hours… stating that we had returned it late.  It was around this point that my wife went into attack mode…  because she had stated multiple times when renting the car that we would not be returning it until 5 pm on Thursday… as she didn’t even get out of her conference until 3.

When I say attack mode…  she was doing all of this as politely as possible… but still being extremely insistent.  Apparently the poor employee had just had enough of the place…  and ended up giving us a massive discount as well as removing the extra charges.  So that settled we made our way across the street… through the plumes of smoke left by people trying to get a last minute cigarette… and into the ticketing area.  I really wish that smokers should experience just once… what their addiction does to an asthmatic.  But since they are seemingly fine with poisoning others… I am guessing they just wouldn’t give a crap.

Nine Pounds

We waited in a line, and made our way up to the ticketing kiosk.  My wife went first since she is again the road warrior and can do those kiosks without thinking.  There was no real place to set our bag at first, but soon an employee came over and cleared the scale and I hoisted the big orange beast onto it.  The rather snooty employee informed us that we were nine pounds over weight.  We either had to remove nine pounds from the bag or pay an extra hundred dollars to check the bag.  I am not shitting you… one hundred dollars… for nine frickin pounds.

So my wife rifled through the bag because she thought she knew what the culprit was.  As a result of the conference she had gained this massive 3 inch binder full of course materials.  Sure enough after removing that it took the bag weight down to a level that the snooty ass would be willing to accept.  Since I only had one carry on… we just decided to bring the binder along and store it in the overhead bin.  So I spent most of yesterday carrying my laptop/camera bag and a huge three ring binder…  I did not look geeky at all… I swear.

My Awesome Bag

LaptopBag I want to take a few minutes to talk about my bag… now that I have mentioned it.  This thing is seriously amazing… and served perfectly for what I was needing.  Essentially I was looking for a way to carry both my laptop, camera and lenses in one compact form factor.  I ended up searching around and finally settled on this one from amazon…  the above image was taken of the bag fully loaded in the hotel room.  I was able to stuff a ton of tech in one bag…  and then carry it around with me.  Fully stuffed it was a bit difficult to cram in some of the overhead bins… but I managed to do so with a little bit of effort.

Just for reference… this is all the stuff in the above bag.

  • 15.6” Lenovo y500 Laptop
  • y500 Power Brick
  • Large Monoprice gaming mousepad
  • Logitech g600 MMO Mouse
  • Earbud Headphones
  • USB Cable and Brick for Cellphone
  • Sony PSP in Case
  • Sony PSP Charger
  • Two Cliff Bars – in case we got hungry while travelling
  • Canon t3i DSLR
  • 4 Lenses for DSLR
  • 6 Filters for DSLR
  • Wide Angle Adapter for DSLR
  • Fisheye Adapter for DSLR

So yeah… this bag holds a ton of stuff, and does so in a fashion that still makes it easy to carry.  While I mostly bought this for the trip… it actually makes a far better camera bag than my pervious one… because it gives rapid access to all the stuff in it.  With the laptop and chargers out… it is actually rather light.  This will definitely become handy whenever we start going up to the lake.  Additionally it would let me bring both my laptop and camera to work… if I wanted to end up going out over lunch and taking photos.

Airplane Juggling

So back to our tale…  after all the manipulation of our luggage and drama with mister snooty pants… we were finally able to just chill out at the gate waiting on the airplane.  We got to our gate…  and immediately realized that this was going to be one of those rare occasions where we had to walk out on the tarmac to load into the plane.  While we were sitting there… we noticed that pretty much every plane listed as coming from Newark was delayed.  Ours was currently on time…  but that didn’t stay that way for long.

We heard over the intercom that that our flight had not left the gate at Newark yet, and that they had a bunch of empty spaces on one currently loading at a different gate.  So we hustled upstairs and when we got there…  they called our names specifically.  Apparently they were giving higher priority to those with connecting flights once we arrived at Newark.  I have to say… airport workers catch a lot of shit…  and I dished out my own little bit about mister snooty pants….  but these guys upstairs were amazing.  I watched this lady fight with the registration system trying to juggle us off one flight and onto another… while her manager was constantly calling down to the baggage room to make sure they got each passengers luggage off of the other flight and onto this one.

After about thirty minutes of serious reservation system hackery… she managed to get us new passes for the plane that was already loaded and waiting at this point… and in doing so managed to get us seats side by side.  I cannot impress upon you enough just how awesome it was to see them working.  We thanked them profusely and boarded the plane.  It seems like most of the passengers that had connecting flights, even this very sweet girl who was flying by herself for the first time… and was more than a bit freaked out…  got loaded onto the earlier flight. 

Newark: Eater of Souls

Newark is hands down the most poorly designed airport I have seen…  which isn’t saying much…  but my wife the frequent flier agrees.  Essentially the layout of the place involves three completely stand alone concourses.  There is an automated tram that runs between the three… but for whatever reason it loads on the OTHER side of the freakin security barrier.  So if you decide to use it… you have to exit security… and then pass back through the security checks to get in.  It seems like as a result the individual airlines have various workarounds in place.

United Airlines runs a shuttle bus that goes between the terminals.  How this works however… is that they have essentially given up a gate and built  a waiting room… and ramp that goes down to the tarmac.  About every 10 minutes a bus arrives and passengers can load onto it to go to either concourse A or B.  We missed the first bus since the waiting room was already packed when we got there.  So by the time we waited on a second bus… loaded it… took the not insignificant trip across to concourse A..  we only had a few minutes left before our plane was set to depart.

Three Hour Tour

After having just enough time to hit the restroom and sit back down… it was time to board our flight from Newark to Tulsa.  This was yet again a step down in size, so instead of two seats on either side of the isle… this plane had 1 seat on one side… and 2 on the other.  By the time wet got in… and found out seat it was occupied by a Chinese woman that spoke almost zero English.  We pantomimed that she was in the wrong seat and were able to go through the process of getting strapped in place for the duration.  On a positive note…  I apparently no longer need the extender thingy.

This flight was without a doubt the most chatty group I have ever encountered.  There were multiple conversations going on that often times spanned multiple rows.  I would have greatly preferred if everyone would have just sat in silence… but the amount of alcohol being imbibed pretty much made this an impossibility.  Also since all flights going into Newark were being delayed… I am guessing there was a lot of time spent in various airport bars along the way.  The worst example of this was the duo directly in front of me.

In the single seat we had a Country Boy CFO from a random company in Joplin, MO…  and to his side was a nice Indian gentleman that said he worked in IT… though from the cut of his suit… he had to be somewhere in management.  The two of them struck up a conversation… that managed to last all three hours of the flight… and got progressively more and more animated the more alcohol the CFO partook of.  By the time we neared Tulsa… country boy was full on dropping f-bombs every few minutes.  The last rant I recall was something about “effing welfare”.

At multiple points throughout the conversation he talked about how everything thinks he is dumb by the way he talks… but he is much smarter than they give him credit for.  To which I think to myself…  if you have to keep reminding people that you are smart… it becomes progressively less likely than it is actually true.  There were so many points during the flight that I wanted to hit him over the head with something large and heavy.  Especially when he went off on a tear about how not dressing up shows a lack of work ethic.  This is a feat of logic I just cannot manage to follow… I suppose it only makes sense if you are drunk.

About the last hour forward, the nice IT guy, kept trying to extract himself from the conversation.. eventually saying that he needed to catch some shuteye.  At which point he started fumbling under his seat to find a bottle that had fallen down… which instead turned out to be my foot.  When he realized this he profusely apologized and we all had a laugh.  Finally we landed in Tulsa… after what seemed like an eternity in good ole boy hell.  By the time I hobbled off the plane.. it was like after three hours in a cramped space I had forgotten how to walk right.

Wrapping Up

Ultimately we made it out to the baggage carousel, and of all amazing wonders our big orange bag had managed to arrive in Tulsa just fine.  I feel absolutely drained by the whole ordeal.  New York was an interesting place to visit, but I am extremely happy to be back in my wonderful home.  Apparently the cats missed us… because right now I have one on me… wife has one on her… and the other is laying between us.  Hopefully it will be a long while before I fly again… the next trip needs to be a road trip.  I hope you all have a great day and a great weekend.

Homeward Bound

This morning as I sit at the keyboard typing away… my laptop remains essentially the only thing not yet packed and ready too be loaded into our rental.  I have a mixture of excitement and trepidation…  excitement because I will be so glad to be home… and trepidation because I detest flying… and know I have to deal with a 3 hour flight from Newark to Tulsa.  Hopefully everything at home is just fine, and that our animals are all happy and healthy, and that the house sitter had no real issues.

Holding Pattern

The most frustrating thing about this trip so far has been that while I had all the time in the world to do anything I liked…  I did not have stable enough internet to do much of it.  Sunday night when we finally arrived at our hotel room, the internet was awesome…  while not quite up to what I am used to at home… it was more than sufficient.  Monday the cast of an off Broadway show arrived… and from that point onwards regardless of the time of day… most everything has been unplayable if I could even get connected in the first place.

It feels like so much has been going on this week, with the anniversary events happening in The Secret World and a release of a new content update.  Then over in Guild Wars 2 there is quite a lot of stuff happening as well.  Finally I am still in the thrall of my Rift resurgence… and for whatever reason this is the game that seems to hate the hotel internet the most.  I will start off with a decent ping, but very quickly it degrades into completely unplayable.  Often times I ultimately just ended up disconnecting and not being able to get back on afterwards.

Very quickly I realized that I would have to just wait to do much of anything until I got home today.  As a result I feel like I have been trying to find things that did not necessarily involve an internet connection to play them.  Unfortunately while my laptop is loaded full of MMOs… it is sadly lacking in the single player and offline departments.  With the Hotel Internet not being super stable… I can’t really download anything from steam that I have in my archives.

A Game of Cubes

Cube 2013-07-11 06-31-04-27 Cube World was released last week sometime… but the store went almost immediately offline… and stayed that way for the majority of the week.  When the ability to purchase the game came back… they had taken the new accounts sign-up feature offline.  So it became a daily activity of checking whether or not this was open for registration, and finally on Saturday night… before we left for Albany…  the registrations opened up and I was able to grab ahold of a copy.  This game has served as my mostly offline shiny new thing to play with on this trip.

The game as a whole is much harder than I was expecting it to be.  Initially I was thinking this would be much more Minecraft than it has ended up being.  Essentially you start out in a completely randomly generated world… with little to no ability to actually kill anything.  At first you end up following around packs of NPC adventurers that will help you combat the bad guys you encounter in the world.  As a result… the process of getting from “I suck at everything” to “I can survive mostly on my own” feels a little tedious.

I am not sure if this is just another game that loathes melee players or not, because generally ranged tends to be easier as a whole than melee in most games like this.  I detest finger wigglers. so of course I had to go for sword and board…  though over time I have migrated to dual wield.  The block mechanic works well enough… but only for insanely short periods of time.  When you are dealing with monsters that seem to be able to do non-stop special moves…  it just isn’t enough to make the difference.

My biggest complaint thus far is that the torch feels inadequate for illuminating anything really.  It creates roughly a 5 block by 5 block bubble of light around you…  but when it comes to exploring anything like a cave… it is extremely hard to see where you are going.  I am hoping that over time you can get upgrades that increase your radius of light similar to how you can in Terraria.  If you intend to craft metal upgrades… you will spend a lot of time looking for caves, fighting bats and destroying iron nodes.  As a result the lighting system feels extremely limiting.

The major complaint I have had with the system… is that I feel it would have been better if it supported a building system like Minecraft or Terraria.  I like exploring… but I also like having bases of operation that gives me a feeling that I am actually changing the world around me.  The exploration aspect of the game is great, and I love encountering monsters I have never seen before… and often times dying to them the first time.  But I wish I could be building things in the world as well.  If this game could be blended with Minecraft the hybrid would probably be the most addicting game ever.

Fort Belghast

javaw 2013-07-11 06-57-27-91 As a direct result of playing Cube World… and this feeling that I wanted to be shaping my world…  I have spent a lot of time alternating back and forth between exploring in that game… and building over in Minecraft.  I started a brand new world and the seed I chose had a really nice shallow cave system.  I started off boxing that in and using it as a prebuilt base until I started constructing a proper fort on top of it.  Right now the underground area has a few large chambers, with a structure growing up into the little fort that you can see in the image above.

I created an elevated bridge style entrance, because it allows me to see what is surrounding my base before exiting out into the dangerous world.  Also when there are a large number of zombies or similar around me… it funnels them into one single block place for farming.  Additionally if I absolutely have to… I can bail over the wall to escape something.  Right now I am quarrying stone from below the base to build up the tower system above.  As you can see in the above picture… the tower is currently woefully unfinished.

I hope to do some terracing eventually to clean up the area and make the approach to my fort a little nicer looking.  I have really not done that much exploration… my focus has really been on building up a solid base of operations.  Eventually I will start a mine system below my base where I can hopefully get plenty of ores and other special resources.  I mostly play Minecraft to build structures… but for whatever reason it feels more real to me.. if I do it on survival.  I could be just as happy playing on creative… since all I really want to do is build nifty things… but the world then feels completely dead.

Homeward Bound

I cannot express in words… how happy I will be to leave this area and get back home.  I miss essentially everything…  my animals… my comfy sofa… a world that makes sense to me.  I’ve found plenty of interesting things to do to kill my time…  but it was not really the grand voyage of discovery I was hoping for.  I know the workshop my wife attended, has been massively useful for her… and each night she has come home with pictures of the labs and activities they did.  So the major focus of this trip was a complete success… and my being here…  was just to make sure that happened.

I came on this trip just because I wanted to make sure my wife could attend this workshop.  While she is a trooper and an amazing road warrior… she would have struggled with driving in this environment.  She doesn’t really like driving period… and Tulsa traffic is far more sane and rational than anything I have experienced here.  Her lack of depth perception would have been a major issue in this environment where I am essentially constantly scanning both sides of the street watching for some idiot that is about to dart out into the middle of traffic (as has happened so many times I have lost count).  So ultimately regardless of how I have felt about this vacation…  I feel like my role in it was a success.

So essentially today I have to check us out of the hotel at noon and then figure out a way to kill 3 hours of time until I pick my wife up from class.  We are ferrying two other classmates to the airport… turning in our rental… and catching a 5 pm flight to Newark.  We have a 45 minute wait until we catch another flight to Tulsa that should take 3 hours.  So hopefully by about 9:30-10ish tonight I will be home in my own bed.  After the hotel bed all these nights…  our comfy bed at home will be amazing.

Wrapping Up

This has been an interesting experiencing even if it has not been super exciting.  Time for me to do some googling to figure out how exactly I will kill the rest of the day.  Thinking I will play some Minecraft until around noon… pack up the rental and then set off and do something for the rest of the afternoon.  Elo was telling me about another mall with another game store… so I will likely set my sights on that.  I hope you all have a great day, and that it is relatively uneventful.

Bilgewater Trade Cartel

Why is it… that a bed that is uncomfortable at 10 pm… can become the most comfortable thing in the universe at 6 am?  Feeling very creaky as the hotel bed seems to not agree with my back, but that is nothing a few Tylenol will not cure.  It feels like the time shift thing is catching up with me… last night I could not for the life of me get to sleep and this morning I simply do not want to wake up.  Luckily however just one more morning of this before I am back home.  I miss my comfy spot on the couch a lot when I try to game here in the relatively uncomfortable office chair on a table that is just a tiny bit too high.

Bilgewater Trade Cartel

Trade-Prince-Gallywix Yesterday it was confirmed by Bashiok that in 5.4 they would be adding in a cash shop for the World of Warcraft.  Apparently to some in the WoW community this is shocking and disturbing news, and Rowan wrote up a nice piece covering his thoughts on the matter.  Much the same as him… I am an outsider watching this situation evolve as I have no real vested interest in the game any longer.  I still have a good number of friends playing it, in and theory I am still leading House Stalwart over there by proxy.  I gave up the guild leader crown, but the person I handed it off to consults me on most major decisions…  not that I really expected that… but that has been what happened in practice.

What I don’t understand is why this is such a shock to the installed player base?  I am honestly surprised this has not happened before now.  The fact that you could go to battle.net and hit the store and purchase lots of in game items right away… means that essentially for years World of Warcraft has had a cash shop.  Placing this in game just streamlines the process, and makes it more of an impulse buy.  Additionally it allows them to expand their product offering to include different sorts of items.  Again…  I am shocked this has not happened before now…  as they already have a large catalog of items and services available for a fee.

I’ve said this before… and I will say it again…  I feel all of this is leading to Blizzard announcing a free to play conversion.  Right now it is just them, Eve Online, and Final Fantasy XIV that have subscriptions…  the last not even fully re-released yet…  so that could change.  Everything I have heard is that Blizzard has lost favor in China, and that World of Warcraft is no longer the cool thing it once was there.  As a result they have taken serious losses in player base there, if not completely losing that market.  This has been the thing that seriously overinflated their subscriber numbers, especially since WoW Asia already had a vastly different payment model than the United States monthly subscribers.

I feel like since it does not seem like they have much else in the pipeline… they will be making the big announcement at Blizzcon this year.  I feel like this is a decision they are going to have to make with the changes in the market, the constant trickle of player losses, and the fact that there is nothing on the horizon for at least another year.  This is pending an expansion announcement, which would at least be a year out.  If not another expansion… then the next big thing on the horizon is Titan in 2016.  There is just nothing there to ignite the player base and make them care about the game, so if nothing else I feel like a free to play decision might bring back existing players and get them to spend some money on the game.

I feel like Star Wars the Old Republic and Rift have both made the Free to Play conversion a much more palatable one for Blizzard.  In both cases they proved that they could make the switch and become more profitable in the process.  For a company with a deeply aging game, aging infrastructure and no clear content ark for storyline progression…  it has to be something that looks mighty tantalizing right now.  The only possible reason why Blizzard would not make this call is big stubborn pride.  But as they start to lose more money…  the pride thing eventually goes out the window.  Whatever is good for the bottom line of the company… and keeps the doors open… is ultimately good for the most dedicated player base.

Old Friends Renewed

rift 2013-07-10 07-14-34-08 Elowynn, Falconwing and Egan are folks I have known for roughly eight years of playing online games.  Back in vanilla wow, my guild House Stalwart and their guild Silent Strike were close allies and did a ton of content together.  There were many joint Zul’Gurub runs that I can remember fondly.  As Stalwart moved through Burning Crusade we got more and more “serious” about the content, our guilds started to drift apart as our focus was just in a difference place.  But during this time, there was not a period where I was not in communication with these folks… and if we needed subs for a raid I always threw a query out to them.

All these years later, I am finding out that they have a very active guild presence over on Faeblight.  Since I am on crappy hotel internet… I decided to roll a low level character to go visit with them.  I have to say it is in many ways like coming home.  While a lot of the people are different, the core of Elo, Falcon and Egan make the Silent Strike guild over on Faeblight feel all warm and fuzzy.  I am really wishing I had known about it when I came back to the game some time ago.  I love my friends that are in Outcast Misfits… but I have to admit I have a pull towards trying to transfer over to Faeblight.

Ultimately when it was just me… it was no big deal.  But over the course of the last several weeks I have gotten a large number of the Stalwarts and various other friends playing Rift again.  We’ve used the Stalwart channel to organize things… but it would be awesome if we could end up all in the same place.  The Misfits are nice folks, but I am just used to a role-playing environment… namely because of the naming rules.  The Misfits have some members I have literally reported for offensive naming violations… and that is just not something I am used to having to stomach within the guild I am in.  They have provided an extremely friendly place to hang out, but I keep wondering if our folks would be better served with Silent Strike on Faeblight.

Ultimately I have stayed with the Misfits, because it opened a lot of doors for my people.  If any of them decided they wanted to raid… then they would have those options.  But honestly I find myself mostly sticking to the people I know… and the server channel we created.  Silent Strike at least are extremely similar to the type of environment we had with House Stalwart.  I guess ultimately I have been looking for that type of environment all along.  Catari Honor Guard was it… until the membership stopped playing…  but since then I just haven’t found anyplace I feel comfortable calling a home.  I would be nice to feel like inviting someone to a guild… without having to give them a bunch of disclaimers about how the members are a little “rough around the edges”.

Breakfast Hard Roll

20130710_074443 For the last few mornings… I have ended up going into Stewart’s a Upstate New York convenience store to get a pop in the morning.  Near the checkout they have had these bins with a sign above it that says “Hard Rolls”.  They are divided into neat little bins… one for Butter, one for Peanut Butter, and one for Peanut Butter and Jelly.  As I waited in line… I would watch people grab 2 or 3 at a time… and it all seemed amazingly odd.  So that after experiencing this enigma for a few days… I decided I had to try one this morning.

It is apparently truth in advertising…  a Kaiser roll or Hard roll as people here apparently call them… sliced down the middle and covered in butter.  After doing some figuration… it is roughly 300 calories… and is the dirt cheap price of $0.85.  I guess this is a relatively cheap way to get fast and easy sustenance.  Quite honestly… the roll itself was rather tasty… nice and soft on the inside and nice and buttery and crusty on the outside.  The butter inside as well was of a seemingly good quality… or at least it did not taste like fake butter.

I still do not fully get why people seem to be buying multiples of these at a time… other than the fact that maybe since I am I  staying in the ghetto… it is a cheap way to get some calories in you.  Maybe they are going to have them for lunch?  It was tasty enough for me to eat it again, because I have always had a weakness for bread and butter.  I just find the concept of that being normal convenience store fair a little odd.  In Oklahoma you expect to have Hot Dogs, Nachos, Taquitos, little Breakfast Sandwiches… maybe donuts…  but not fresh rolls.

Wrapping Up

I have zero idea what I am going to do with myself today.  I know at some point I should probably leave the room so that the maids can work freely without trying to move around me.  I guessed the time at which they would clean the room wrong yesterday… and ended up back here before they had done so.  I had a nice conversation with the maid however, and she apparently does not really like Schenectady either.  She misses working in Florida… and I suppose I would too.  I also get the impression she was extremely happy to have someone willing to talk to her.  Anyways I hope you all have great days… and I will endevour to figure out how to kill another day.

No Place Like Home

Good morning all you happy people in internet land.  Today I am going to try and catch up on sleep, since I have not really been sleeping well in a foreign bed.  Additionally it would be nice to make some progress on my “How To Rift” series… and since I have nothing but time to kill until we fly out of here Thursday…  it might be the perfect time to do it.  I feel like I just need a chill day to recuperate from the travel, since I have been operating at roughly 5 am on my body’s internal clock.

A Wild Lummy

The highlight of yesterday without a doubt was meeting up with a longtime gaming friend Atonal/Lummy.  I’ve played with him off and on in various games since the original Everquest.  So I have literally known him over a decade, but never thought we would actually meet face to face.  There is sometimes awkwardness when you meet someone for the first time after knowing them for years online.  So I suggested we meet up for lunch, since that in my experience is about the perfect amount of interactivity.

Not knowing the area… I asked him to suggest a place… so we met up at the Park Pub in Troy, NY.  The food was phenomenal.  At his suggestion I had the peanut butter and jelly wings…  which I was slightly skeptical at first but man they were amazing.  They were unbelievably messy… and there is no way to eat something like that without getting copious amounts of sauce in your beard…  but amazing nonetheless.  Additionally I had green bean fries… that I had heard of before but never actually had… or at least not had in this fashion.

We hung out there and talked for awhile.  We shot the shit about games and the like… and various fish out of water experiences I was having here in New York.  Afterwards I roamed around Troy a little bit before making a beeline back to the hotel.  I had to get back so I could pick my wife up from the conference for the day and run around.  He mentioned getting together today to catch a single A ball game, but honestly I am just too dead to do much of anything constructive today.  Would have been enjoyable, but I doubt he wants me falling asleep and snoring in the ballpark.

No Place Like Home

The longer I am here, the more I realize just how lucky I have it in Tulsa, and just how amazing that town is.  I always assumed that the Albany area was a much larger market than Tulsa…  but each time I search Google to see if they have a this or a that…  they lack anything that Tulsa lacks…  and also a lot of the things that Tulsa does have.  Additionally when we have gone into stores… they seem to carry far less than the ones we have near us.  It is just an odd mental shift for me… I went into this little adventure thinking I would be going to a much larger market… and realize now that they are quite a bit behind Tulsa in most aspects.

By my friends assessment, we are essentially staying in the slums of the Albany area… and this has been an odd adjustment as well.  The hotel we are staying in is rather nice, but the area surrounding us is very much not.  Each night we have heard gunshots, and last night there was what sounded like a major firefight concluded by some screams.  This is all definitely not something we are used to… two times now we have seen someone get arrested in the vicinity of where we were.  Last night in Latham we watched a guy behind us get pulled over… 3 cop cars, two cops with guns on him…  as he surrendered a gun on the roof of his car and was handcuffed all while waiting on a traffic light to turn green.

I can’t say I am necessarily frightened by any of this… the reality may not have fully sunken in.  Its like watching some surreal show playing out in front of me.  The only thing I am afraid of however is that I will hit one of the idiots that keeps darting out into the street to cross the major thoroughfares down here.  I have damned near hit 3 men on bikes… and come close to hitting 4 or 5 kids as they darted out into traffic.  This effect is the worst in the area near our hotel… and as we move away from it, the problem lessens.  But we have yet to really find anything I would say is the “good” area of town.

That has been an odd concept for me… we are in this area surrounded on all sides by untamed land essentially.  But I have yet to find any “new” construction… nothing resembling the looming housing editions we are used to, or the shiny and new shopping centers.  Everything seems to be built on top of essentially existing areas.  Last night we roamed from all around the metro area and made a circuit between Albany, Troy, and Schenectady…  and while we found a lot more of the same thing we had been finding before… we have not really found what I would call suburbs, or at least not what we are used to in Oklahoma.

Homesick

Maybe I am just a bit homesick.  Normally when we travel it is to some new and magical place, filled with new sights and interesting new attractions.  This delays the fact that I really don’t like travelling much, and that would rather just be in my comfy home.  It eventually hits… that feeling of “man I just want to be home”, but it usually takes awhile to get there.  Here in the Albany metro… there are not that many new things to experience.  While I am still having fun and enjoying myself… I will definitely be ready to go home to my house and my animals… and my bed.

Downtown Albany was extremely majestic… but the problem we keep running into is that every place we would like to take photos at… is either in a horrible area of town, has copious no trespassing signs… or there is no real good place to park and take a photo.  So while the views downtown were amazing… there was no real place to stop that could even vaguely take in the view.  All these old industry giant era buildings look more like castles than they do civic structures.  I guess that is part of it as well… there are so many remnants of past greatness that it is a bit sad to see the state the town is in now.

Everywhere you go there are signs of just how amazing a place this area used to be.  I took a trip up to Rotterdam and they have this massive factory… bigger than I have ever seen.  But the town surrounding it is this giant sprawling slum.  I guess I am saddened in a way but a lack of civic pride on an epic scale in these areas.  It feels like they have such amazing heritage, but have grossly squandered them.  Maybe this comes from the fact that in Tulsa we have been on a major downtown revitalization program, and every inch of these past structures is being reclaimed and renovated by businesses.  So our cool old stuff is becoming cool new stuff on a nearly monthly basis.

Wrapping Up

Well it is just about time for me to run my wife into the conference.  Going to try and find some breakfast and then come back to the hotel… crash for a bit and maybe work on the “How To Rift” series.  I hope you all are having a great day… and I hope none of the Albany area readers are now pissed at me over my assessment of the town.  I will be thankful to be heading home on Thursday… because I miss my place in the world.

Why Albany?

Funny how I am on vacation… but I am still getting up at five thirty in the morning.  In this case it is so that I can take my wife to her conference.  Quite honestly I went to bed pretty early last night, so I am more awake than I would normally be at 5:30.  Additionally I have already finished getting ready for the morning… so I thought I would have enough time to knock out a blog post.

Search for Food

So far Upstate New York is vastly different than anything I would have expected.  Firstly we have found what seems to be a residential wasteland, with housing everywhere you can see…  but no restaurants and very few stores.  We ate breakfast around 4 am yesterday… and had a stick of beef jerky in Chicago O’Hare…  but other than that we had not had anything at all to eat when we got here around 4-5 pm.  As we started to roam around town we were absolutely ravenous.

We expected to drive around through the residential areas and eventually find some newer shopping developments which have familiar food options.  This was the theory… but after about 2 hours of driving around we really found nothing.  Finally we found a shopping center with a Target, Lowes, and various other big box stores…  and in it they had a Ruby Tuesday, Panera, Taco Bell and a Five Guys.  This is quite literally the first places we had found to eat that were recognizable in any fashion.

We opted for Ruby Tuesday… and while grossly overpriced it was tasty and familiar enough.  The way this area is laid out just boggles the mind.  I was expecting what seems to be the ubiquitous development model everywhere else I have been in the united states… of commercial areas along the major roads with residential areas between.  I feel like I need to spend some time looking at Google maps trying to get a lay of the land by air.

Another nuisance we have discovered is that apparently this part of the state does not believe in road signs… or at least not well marked ones.  Additionally the same street will change names numerous times…  so on one side of an intersection it will be one name… but on the other side of the intersection something completely different.  The entire area feels like some giant city planning rube goldberg machine…  and we are the little ball bearing making its way through it.

Why Albany?

Rowan asked the question as a comment on my blog yesterday, but I guess I have never really clearly explained why the heck I am in Upstate New York in the first place.  I usually don’t give a lot of details about my wife on my blog, just as a courtesy because she works in a profession that is always under scrutiny.  This coming school year she will be tag-team teaching a Forensics Science class at her school, whereas she does the mathematics instruction and she teams up with a science teacher.  We are here in Albany for a Forensics Science workshop, and the other teacher was supposed to be attending with her. 

However at the last minute they backed out… and I did not want my wife having to navigate Albany completely by herself.  So I took the time off and we are trying to make a vacation of it.  While this may not be the most touristy destination we have been to… there are definitely some interesting things to look at.  Our hotel is in Schenectady, and just down from it is a really cool downtown area full of interesting buildings.  We are hoping to have a few nice days to wander around down there and take photos.

So far however it has been overcast and rainy.  Apparently New York State rain means serious business.  We were driving around yesterday when the sky opened up on us… and remember…  I am from Oklahoma…  we are used to thunderstorms…  but these were literally some of the largest rain drops I have ever seen.  Everything went from clear to flash flood conditions in moments.  I just kept driving because quite literally I was afraid I would drown the car if I attempted to turn off the road.  Again I am no stranger to flash flooding… but this was pretty crazy… usually the clouds move off quickly but this one just seemed to hang over the top of us for a good thirty minutes.

Chicago O’Hare

I know I bitched about this one yesterday a bit… but I have to bring it up again.  My wife travels a lot during the summer, and as a result she has experienced most of the big airport hubs.  Chicago O’Hare is literally the first airport she has ever been in that did not have free WiFi.  It is complete crap that what gets touted as the nations busiest airport does not have free internet.  Hell even when we landed in Albany… they had free WiFi, and that Airport is hands down the most dysfunctional one I have ever experienced.

When we landed in Albany, the route to the baggage claim was rather contorted winding us through what felt like half the airport just to get to it.  When we arrived there seemed to be only one baggage carousel servicing any of the incoming flights.  This one area was trying to serve up luggage from 8-10 flights… quite honestly they were scrolling past on the monitor too fast for me to get a good count.  We waited and watched as luggage went past…  including bags for the rest of the passengers on the plane we just arrived on.

But we did not see our bag anywhere… and during this time I am going through my mind trying to figure out what we would need to do if we had a lost bag.  Once the crowd cleared… and quite literally it had been shoulder to shoulder as we waited for our bag…  I was able to look around the room.  Across the room I spotted our bag at the unclaimed luggage area.  I am guessing our luggage arrived on an earlier flight and was just sitting there waiting on us.  So the forty five minutes we spent standing around watching for it… were essentially useless… but I could not see across the room.

Wrapping Up

Well it is time for me to run my wife to the conference.  I hope you all have a great day.  I will likely be coming back to the hotel room to do some googling and try and find something to do during the day.  If all else fails I will just boot up Rift or Cube World and entertain myself just fine.  I find it funny that I have a ton of people on twitter and G+ but not a single person in this area so far.