Computer Blues

Over the last few days I have been having what I term as “bad mental health” days.  I’ve been super stressed about various sundry things at work, and combine that with the fact that I just do not handle change well.  Every time my wife goes away during the summer for a conference, I go through this massive adjustment period.  So much of my life is intertwined with hers, that when she is gone… there is just a void.  I try my best to manage this “funk” but now and then it gets the better of me.  I am thankful that I have a lot of friends who are willing to cheer me up.

Computer Blues

It seems like over the last few days… my computers have been betraying me.  I have been having issues with my gaming laptop, where it is intermittently losing its power connection.  Fiddling with the cord brings back the connection for short periods of time, before going out.  I initially thought… this is likely a power supply issue so I did what I always do and went on amazon… found a replacement and got it shipped through prime.  I got the new power supply and it worked even worse.

After much research it seemed like the g73 model has had some issue with the power port getting lose itself.  After watching a few videos… I decided this was not something I wanted to undertake myself.  It involved pretty much a complete teardown of the laptop, de-soldering one port and soldering back in another.  I am essentially a software guy… I build my own PCs but that is mostly just assembling a bunch of parts that were designed to go together.  I have done soldering work before, but it was nothing I was ever extremely comfortable doing.

After digging around I found what appeared to be an extremely reputable guy here in my town that does this sort of thing.  He owns a “Nerds: We Can Fix That” franchise and as such is primarily a mobile pc repair truck, so we agreed to meet so that I could have him look over my laptop.  After doing various sundry tests his though process was that it really was a bad power supply.  After looking around he showed me a spot in the power connector one where of the prongs was most definitely crushed.  His suggestion was to find an original Asus power supply and try that.

After much digging I finally was able to get a real Asus power supply ordered… but unlike the speed I am used to with prime.. it wont be here until Thursday at the earliest.  As a result I am without my laptop and my ability to hang out downstairs while playing games.  I know I have blogged about this before… when I lost my Gateway FX laptop, but I never really appreciate how amazing that is… until I can’t do it.  After a long day it is so nice to just chill out on the couch with my laptop and half play games and half watch stuff off the DVR.  I am nervous however that this will not really be the issue, but I am willing to try it… and it is far less invasive than other possible solutions.

Another Betrayal

Last night I get home, and go upstairs to begin the evening ritual of playing something.  I get on mumble to talk to my friends… and in the middle of booting something up my gaming desktop locks up hard.  In fact at first I can’t seem to get it to boot…  which I later find that it is simply booting exceedingly slowly.  I go into diagnostic mode trying to figure out what exactly is wrong.  Everything seems to be operating as expected… voltage looks good… hard drive tests fine… memory tests fine.  So after much fiddling I am basically at square one as to what might have happened.

A lock up is common enough, but a lock up followed by not wanting to boot afterwards really floored me.  I am not talking windows booting… I am talking slow bios posting.  I am going to have to keep and eye on things, but last night switched from a gaming night… to a do maintenance on all the things night.  I went ahead and patched everything that could possibly be patched, updated all the drivers that could be updated… and did some registry maintenance.  Given my “bad mental health” state… having both machines down at the same time was a state I was almost unable to cope with.

I realize that these are all first world problems… and rather petty…  but having both machines potentially down at the same time sucked.  Luckily through all my fiddling whatever happened seems to be not happening now.  When a problem mysteriously goes away… it bothers the hell out of me though.  I am not sure what happened, have no log evidence of what caused the lockup/slow boot scenario and ultimately no evidence of what seems to have cleared it up.  My desktop is three to four years old at this point, so it might simply be aging hardware issues. 

Now that I think of it… it might be older than that…  I got it when we we were still raiding Wrath of the Lich King content in World of Warcraft.  It has been a trusty machine that has pretty much run anything I have thrown at it for several years.  It might in fact be time to upgrade…  but I would much rather do it on my own time than having a box just up and die on me.  Here is hoping that I have at least temporarily staved off whatever occurred.

Killing Psychos

I finally was able to get my machine in a state I was happy with around 9:30 last night.  At this point I got back onto mumble and decided to join some friends in Borderlands 2.  It was me playing Axton, Ash playing Zero and Rae playing a super bloodlust infused Maya.  Quite frankly the combination of Rae and I riding around in a vehicle together is probably a bad thing.  Especially when it comes to doing quests that have non-standard objectives.  There may or may not have been a few objectives we almost failed at… because we were both too busy shooting things to notice that was not the goal.

When the game first shipped for whatever reason I was not able to hook up with the crew playing it.  As a result I have pretty much only played single player borderlands 2 content.  Last night was an absolute blast, and having players to rez me…  really helped when I tried to play “tank” and bull rush a bunch of mobs.  I need to find some better weapons… because right now my assault rifle is a tap to fire model that seems to always need reloading at the wrong time.  I picked up an amazing sub machinegun last night, but it seems to go through bullets like water… and I am always scavenging to find more.

The combo of Axton/Maya/Zero seemed extremely formidable… but I think if you put ANY combination of different classes together you would have had the same results.  Looking forward to maybe getting back in tonight and finishing the quests we were doing.  Honestly I don’t really care if we even do quests…. I was just in the mood to roam around and kill things to satiate my “computer troubles” induced bloodlust.  Borderlands 2 is a really good game for that kind of mindless violence.  It is like the Saturday morning cartoon of death.

Rift Update

The other big thing going on today is the fact that it is the launch of the Rift Free to Play conversion.  It will be interesting seeing how this improves or damages the community.  My hope is that by lowering the barrier of entry it will be easier to get folks to try the game.  Additionally I am hoping for a path through the cash shop to pick up some dimension goodies… because quite frankly I have been way too poor thus far to really experience the dimension content properly.  In any case it will definitely be a massive change to the game… and as such interesting to watch unfold.

Additionally… it is really hard to type with a cat trying to balance on your arm.  I guess I should take that as a queue to wrap things up.  I hope you all have a great day, and that you are in a better mental place than I have been.  I think my body is betraying me as well.  This morning I am additionally having a “bad lung day” in that my asthma and allergies have decided to make my life hell.  Trying to decide if today will be a stay home and take breathing treatments all day occasion or not. 

Sony: Best Troll Ever

Last night was a truly odd occurrence for me.  I played a quick league of legends bots game with friends, and piddled around for a bit in Dragon’s Prophet managing to get level 20.  All of this was essentially “busy work” as for my inner circle of friends, the main event of the evening was the Sony Entertainment Pre-E3 stream.  After seeing it… there really is not much else I can talk this morning other than just how amazing the show was when contrasted with the Microsoft presentation earlier in the day.

Throwing the Xbone


Thankfully we have a lovely abridged version of the Xbox E3 conference that arrived on YouTube over night so I can link here for you all.  Basically the Microsoft conference was a massive improvement over the reveal event and its obsession with television.  They actually seemed like they might care about games… but then unfortunately they presented me with a bunch of titles I really don’t care about.  All of their big reveals seemed extremely unexciting.  While I am watching this I am desperately scanning the list for that one game that makes me want to own a console system.

Out of all of the games shown… the only title that stuck out for me… was Killer Instinct.  Don’t get me wrong, the idea of a new Killer Instinct game is pretty massive, as the original one was probably hands down my favorite fighting game ever.  I was like a kid in the candy store a few months back when I managed to successfully get the Killer Instinct emulator running and got to revisit the original arcade experience.  The problem is I just don’t feel like this is enough of a reason for me to spend $500 on an ugly black box.

Coming away from the presentation I still got the feeling that Microsoft doesn’t really care about games that much anymore.  I still feel like they intend this to be some convergence device that causes people to change the way they interact with television.  That is fine, but I already have a Roku… and it cost me way less than $500.  Most of their killer features just are not that killer for me.  I could give a shit about sports, and I never really seriously watch live television.  So combined with games I don’t really care about… and making a big deal out of games that have been on the PC for over two years…  I just really do not feel like Microsoft’s vision is where I want to be.

The Next Generation


I saw a tweet last night that essentially wondered what it was like to be Sony yesterday, having an entire day to soak in the Microsoft E3 presentation… all the while knowing that you were just about to nuke them back into the stone age.  It certainly must have been an amazing day for everyone involved with the PS4 in any way.  For as awkward and confusing at times as the Microsoft conference was… the Sony PS4 event was that much polished and keyed to the demographic that matters to them…  gamers.  There was an obligatory section giving someone floor time from the Sony entertainment division, showing off the movies and music libraries…  but every other component of the show was about their serious line up of games.

For as nonplussed as I was about the Microsoft Lineup… I saw game after game that I want to play right now.  The Order was this amazing steam punk meets diesel punk meets Victorian monster hunter game.  The demo that was shown was an in game engine rendered trailer, and that really doesn’t matter… because it looks far better than most fully CG trailers today.  In fact that was a huge theme with the show as a hole.  Almost everything took painstaking effort to mention that what you were seeing was in game or in engine rendered footage.  The end result is almost movie quality animation and brilliant special effects, there was just an unbelievable amount of eye candy being shown.

The Bumps

This is not to say that the presentation did not have its share of hiccups last night.  Ubisoft decided to go completely blind and do their demos as a person on stage actually playing the game.  They demoed both Assassins Creed VI and Watchdogs this way… and in both cases… AC especially they had some freezes in gameplay.  Watchdogs however that has been in development far longer… had a few moments of slowdown but no lockups.  This is the risk of actually doing anything live, because anytime I have had to demo software…  it never goes 100% smoothly.  I know the feels the guys on stage were going through… so to some extent this softens the blow of the fact that they had lockups.

Additionally there were some pretty awkward presenters…  but nothing nearly as awkward as the Microsoft “trash talk” examples… and the really bizarre rape analogy as the man and woman were playing Killer Instinct together.  Seriously Microsoft… what made you think it was okay to say something like that?  At first I was like man… this is awesome an actual woman on stage playing a game… that is not a super model.  Then you reduce her to a whipping boy as some jackass trash talks her and tells her to lay down and it will be over soon?  Xbox One:  The Console of Choice for Date Rapists everywhere!

Sony: Best Troll Ever


Anyways… essentially none of the bumps in the road for Sony were anything nearly as egregious as what we have seen from Microsoft.  The big takeaway for me from the Sony conference is the fact that the games look like they are going to be amazing.  Sony took every possible opportunity to troll Microsoft and make them feel bad for their current choices.  The above is a great video highlighting one of the biggest features announced last night.  Essentially you will be able to trade games for the PS4 the same as you could for any console previously.  No awkward restrictions… you can buy used games and swap titles with your friends the same as you have been up to this point.

This is a huge boon for Sony, as the lack of used game support was likely to completely rule me out of this generation of consoles.  I hate Game Stop probably more than most people, and I refuse to give them any business at all…  however I still buy most of my console titles second hand.  Very rarely is there a title for the consoles that makes me want to go out into the store and spend $60 on it day one.  Instead I love the scavenger hunt that is going to pawn shops, and more equitable secondhand game stores like Vintage Stock, Game Xchange and Half Price Books.  So the ability for a modern console to still give me that hunting for a bargain experience… is a huge boon.

Additionally the PS4 does not require an internet connection to work… however admittedly a lot of the features they were showing off in games were connected features.  The console though has been designed to work in a connection agnostic state, which is again is a huge boon for Sony.  There is no creepy Kinect eye always watching you, and with the recent flood of security concerns…  giving Microsoft a box in your house that was always passively watching what you did was more than a little dystopian for me.  I think Sony embraces the concept that actual gamers really don’t care much about minority report gimmickry… they just want to play the damned games reliably.

The biggest troll of the evening however was announced towards the end of the evening.  The PS4 looks like a better console in every possible way, and have far better developer support with new and interesting titles.  Playstation Plus is still far superior to Microsoft’s crappy gold program.. even after the announcement of getting 2 old titles per month.  All of this goodness… and Sony drops the bomb in that it is $100 less than the Xbox One.  While still expensive… the $399 price tag, and all the games that I want to play on it… really make this a buy for me.  I may not get it new at launch, but I will definitely be picking it up eventually.  I almost felt at the end of the night… that Sony should just drop the mic after the announcement and walk away…  because they schooled Microsoft in every conceivable way.

Best Thing About The Show


While I am experiencing a massive resurgence of console gaming right now and am really looking forward to the next generation of console games…  I am still very much a PC gamer at heart, and namely an MMO Gamer.  Last night Sony got a major coup in that they announced that Elder Scrolls Online was coming to the Playstation 4 and would be available Spring 2014.  Almost immediately Bethesda started in with the damage control and released the trailer above… showing that it would be coming to PS4, Xbox One, PC and Mac all within that Spring 2014 time frame.  Elder Scrolls Online is the game I am looking forward to the most of all the titles on the horizon… and we finally have a projected timeframe.

The new footage looks absolutely amazing, and it includes some really solid first person game play.  I’ve never had a problem with the idea of third person… and when playing Skyrim I switch back and forth between first and third regularly depending upon the situation.  Having first never really seemed like a must have… but this is a huge boon for the Elder Scrolls purist crowd.  Additionally the first person graphic for that Dragon Knight chain attack thingy looked amazing.  This only further cements my desire to play one…  I want to be Scorpion from Mortal Kombat.  I wonder if like WoW… I can find an add-on that says “Get Over Here!” every time I press the attack.

Wrapping Up

I really need to get on with my morning.  Today is trash day, and I have to finish gathering it, as well as give my cat some medication… and get on the road.  The broad takeaway for the night is that Sony absolutely obliterated Microsoft.  There is next to nothing they can do to recover in my eyes from the brutal beating they received at the hands of the Playstation 4.  I want to start stockpiling cash now… so that I can pick one up in December when the console launches.  I hope you have an amazing day… and I hope I did not offend any stauch Microsoft fans out there.

Infertile Ground

On Thursday of last week Psychochild posted on his blog an interesting article, musing where did the MMO Bloggers go?  My immediate thought process is that they have not really gone anywhere.  There are lots of bloggers as evidenced by the fact that the Newbie Blogger Initiative brought droves of them out of the woodwork and a year after the fact roughly 35 were still actively blogging.  I think it is more an issue that the online community changes drastically on a regular basis.  Older bloggers have dropped off and newer ones come in to replace them.

The Lack of Community

I think one of the big problems at hand, and why it seems like the ecosystem is not nearly as fertile as it once was… is the fact that there is no one overarching community.  There is no single home base that bloggers check into, especially when it comes to blogs that are not so game-centric.  I started my journey into blogging thanks in part due to the massively supportive community that is Blog Azeroth.  Granted of the original batch of active bloggers, there are only a handful remaining, but that ecosystem has remained fertile thanks to the constant tilling of the volunteer staff and the works of podcasts like the Twisted Nether Blogcast always bringing new and upcoming blogs to the forefront.

The problem is… I no longer play wow as my primary game… and once I shifted away from that I lost my warm cocoon.  There are friendly people out there in the outer reaches of the blogosphere, but it is far less certain once you are no longer looking at a single game.  We have no broad gaming blogging community, because quite frankly we rarely get any form of consensus on anything out here in the black.  This frontier community is far less friendly to newcomers, and while I have been blogging off and on in spurts of activity since April of 2009 I still very much feel like an outsider in this community.  Instead of the attitude of "lets be lifelong friends" it usually feels a bit more like "lets be independent states with temporary alliances".

Infertile Ground

There is definitely a community out here on the rim of society, but it feels like it is mostly limited to the first pioneers to reach the outer rim.  So the same dozen or so blogs link to each other frequently, but seem very closed to newcomers on their territory.  Sypster did an amazing step forward by trying to reach a hand out through the cold black space, with the Newbie Blogger Initiative.  But for those bloggers that participated as mentors… I ask you… how many of those new bloggers do you follow on twitter or G+ or facebook or have on your blogroll and or RSS reader?  Basically I feel that we have made some steps, but have done nothing really to create a fertile colony out in the game agnostic reaches of space.

If we want bloggers to set down roots we have to make them feel a part of something bigger.  Blog Azeroth did an amazing job of this, and gave me the confidence I needed to venture out into the black once World of Warcraft was no longer giving me what I wanted.  But once I got out here in the outer reaches, I was just not prepared for just how different the community was.  Admittedly I have a bad habit of just assuming everyone I am friendly with, is an actual friend… but sadly out here in the black that hasn’t always been the case and minor conflagrations occasionally turn into full blown wars.  All of that said… I feel that the MMO and Gaming bloggers themselves could do a much better job of trying to help others out.

Shining Beacons

There are several examples of people out there doing amazing jobs to bridge the gap and found communities.  I have to give @Sypster massive amounts of credit for the Newbie Blogger Initiative program.  For awhile it felt like we were really gelling into a nurturing environment thanks entirely to his efforts in bringing disparate communities together.  Unfortunately as a community we seem to have dropped the ball in keeping that effort rolling.  I wonder what we could do to bring things back up and running and jump start some life back in that effort.

Another person that I have to recognize is Rowan.  He does the most amazing job of trying to retweet people and give them recognition.  I have no clue why he has latched onto my blog posts, but he does a great job of rewording things to make entertaining and original retweets.  As much as I sometimes disagree with the quotes they choose, MMO Melting pot in the past has done a pretty good job of rebroadcasting and aggregating various topics from within the community.  Lately however even they have seemed to be slowing down.

As of this Friday I have started my own little plan of sorts.  Each Friday I have decided to do 5 #FF tweets, each singling out a specific blogger or member of the gaming community.  Instead of a generic blast of a bunch of names, I am trying to write some reason why you should follow each individual person, giving them their own 140 characters.  I am not sure if it will work, or make any difference, but I felt like it was a good thing to try anyways.  Additionally making something routine is a way for me to keep doing it… and I have been pretty horrifically bad at doing the #FF practice in the past.

By Will Alone

As Psychochild states blogging is a lot of work.  There are so many times where you are throw up against a choice… of do I blog about games or do I actually play said games.  My problem is that in the past I too often chose to play the games, and then at the end of the night I lacked the oomph to actually cobble together sentences to say the words I wanted to say.  In April I started a new experiment, where basically I would force myself to write something every morning as I am drinking my coffee.  It might not be the best post ever, but it would at least be constant movement forward.  I have no clue if the experiment is working other than the fact that 46 days later I have not missed a day… and on some days I have done extra posts like this one.

I made a commitment to blog about something, and even if I don’t want to… or it is extremely inconvenient as it was this morning…  I have kept up the vigil.  There are definite days where I am brimming with ideas I want to talk about… then there are other days where I have to make a post happen by surfing through my blog roll until "talky words" appear in my mind.  I might be posting pure crap, but I am posting something… and for me that is progress considering I have had some pretty epic lapses in content during these four years of blogging.

Where to go from here

If we want to do something to offset those leaving the blogging community… we have to nurture those just entering it.  This is where we are really failing as a "community".  We have made some amazing efforts for short periods of time… but we really need to come up with a solution for the marathon.  Individual game blog communities are thriving, and that is awesome for that specific game…  but we need to come up with a global community that supports all the games.  My only thought is to maybe create a permanent forum similar to Blog Azeroth that acts as a central home for all gaming bloggers regardless of their chosen game.  I have no problem building such a forum community… but I want to make sure it would even be used before going through the effort.

Would such a community get used?  Is there a community that already exists that is acting in this manner?  I am open to suggestions… but these are the problems as I see them.  Thanks for reading.

The Rat Trap

By necessity this is going to be one of my shorter early morning posts.  I am in process of drinking some coffee, and before much longer I will need to run my wife to the airport.  I’m awake roughly 30 minutes ahead of when I normally wake up… but for whatever reason it feels like I am missing 3 or 4 hours of sleep.  I always find it extremely hard to shut my brain off when I know I NEED to be sleeping… and last night was no exception to this rule.

The Prophecy

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I am still finding myself very much inexplicably drawn to this game.  The more I play it, the more nuanced the combat becomes…  but at the same time everything about it is deceptively simple.  It is essentially all the same clicks and key presses, but when you do them in timing with what other abilities produces entirely new results.  This feels extremely liberating in that I can get all the same warrior like abilities that I enjoy in other games with a handful of key presses just varying my timing for different results.  This guy feels like I have always wanted a warrior to feel… brutal and imposing but also controlling the battlefield.

My biggest problem so far is the fact that I seem to always receive the quest to do something… moments after I have done it.  The game has these public quest areas that are very reminiscent of Warhammer Online.  They involve killing a bunch of things, and then finally an insanely difficult boss spawns and taking it down rewards treasure and completion of the public quest.  In every single instance of a public quest in game… I have completed it, and then shortly thereafter gotten a quest to kill the final guy in the public quest.

Some of these were extremely difficult to solo… like the Subject 18 public quest area, and I have not been amped to try and do it again.  So as a result these public quests kill tasks sit in my task list undone until I finally get frustrated enough to go over and repeat the process.  This is the one thing I really wish they would change… instead of unlocking the public quest kill task at the end of a chain… just give it to players up front similar to the wanted posters were in World of Warcraft.  That way if you are already in the area and are feeling your wheaties you can make a stab at the big boss.

The Rat Trap

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The other aspect of the game that is quite literally killing me… is the fact that killing rats of ANY kind is a trap.  Basically when I play any game I thoroughly believe in a scorched earth policy.  If it is killable… it should probably die and die often to give me tasty tasty loot.  I find myself ping ponging across most maps killing everything in my wake.  The problem is… in Dragon’s Prophecy this is a brutal trap.  Rats are generally non-aggro neutral mobs, that have a nasty habit of wandering into AOE attacks and adding onto whatever you happen to be fighting.  They rarely have much hit points so the immediate thought is… this is no big deal.

The initial thought process… is so deadly wrong.  While rats don’t do much attack damage and are fairly week… they pack the single strongest attack I have encountered in this game…  Bacterial Infection.  This appears to be a percentage based damage over time ability… that can take me from alive to dead in like 10 seconds.  I have yet to really find a good way to counter this.  Right now I take on of the strongest potions I have and pray I will survive.  I would say that 90% of my deaths so far… have been to a damned stray rat.

This has lead me to play the game completely different than I normally would.  I end up carefully picking my way through packs of mobs… drawing them around corners to try and fight in areas that are not so rat infested.  It is so difficult for me to quell my “kill all the things” instinct and carefully pull my way through content.  This basically has flipped me into dungeon tank mode…  tanking an instance is the one time I am super cautious about my pulls.  Everything about the guardian feels like the WoW Warrior on steroids, with more nuanced controls.

I am still not 100% sure why I am enjoying the game so much.  It just feels like it is perfect for whatever state of mind I have been in.  I am sure my enjoyment will fade over time, but right now the dragon taming aspect with some really amazing tanky gameplay has made this a real win for me.  I always find it interesting when a game like this completely takes me by surprise.  Everything about the setup for this game, sounds like something that would annoy me.  I never really cared for runes of magic so the constant assertion that this was developed by the same people… was only taken as a negative by me.  What we have instead is an extremely deep and subtle game, that I feel like I have just barely scratched the surface of its systems.

PK Comes through Again

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Last week in response to a post talking about playing a Ranger again in Rift and farming cloth, PKDude99 the guy behind my favorite warrior solo build… posted a link to his favorite rogue build.  This one is called the “Granpa said knock you out” build and is comprised of 41 Nightblade, 21 Riftstalker, and 4 Tactician.  I have to say once again PK is completely right.  The build works amazingly well, has extremely high damage output and next to no downtime.  I can routinely take mobs 2 or more levels than me without any issue or added difficulty.  I played with it quite a bit this weekend and was burning through the quests I worked on.

The funny thing is… as melee centric as I tend to be.  This is the first time I have ever really seriously played a melee rogue in Rift.  For whatever reason I was always drawn to the ranger/marksman builds that mimicked the WoW Hunter.  I think it is mostly that traditionally I do not get along well with stealth classes.  It always feels so tedious stealthing around and setting up the perfect moment to attack…  then the combat itself is usually over in seconds.  If you do not stealth around, usually you die horribly for your poor life choices.

Fortunately stealthing in Rift is completely different than my experience playing stealthers in the past.  Stealth is a 30 second buff that you use only as a setup immediately before combat.  Additionally you do not slow your movement speed, so combat still feels fast paced.  Additionally it seems to not really matter if I open with a stealth attack or not… I can still chew through mobs just as effectively without a big opener.  I feel like the Rift rogue is the “warriors” rogue…  for someone who prefers fast paced combat to fiddly stealthy nonsense.  I am sure most rogue types are ready to throttle me at this point… but I am enjoying it.

Wrapping Up

I need to wrap this up so we can get on the road.  We need to get to the airport, and then me on to work.  I hope you all have a great day, and hope that you all go as much sleep as needed…  unlike me.  Not really sure what this week will bring, I tend to completely vege out on video games during these periods.  I am sure I will play a good deal more Rift and Dragon’s Prophet…  and I would like to get back in to some more SWTOR as well.  Hopefully the week goes quickly.

The Dragod Comes

The bed felt extremely good this morning… and it took just about all effort I could muster to leave it, shower and go fetch some breakfast.  As a result it is after 10 am and I am finally sitting down to blog.  This morning I am listening to Red Hot Chilli Peppers as an attempt to block out the world and focus on my writing.  So far it is having mixed results because at the same time I am downloading Dragons Prophet to my laptop… and I am getting the occasional cut out, as I am streaming the music from my network attached storage.  Apparently I am flooding my wireless cards capacity with that 8 gig download.

The Dragod Comes


Last week this video was released about the new SOE game Dragon’s Prophet, and as silly as it sounds… this prompted me to download the game.  Anyone who could  create a video this awesome… had to be up to some good.  I am a rather simple monkey, and if you give me a big dude in armor with an even bigger sword… and I am generally pretty happy.  I figured this would be the kind of game that I play for a few hours and forget about forever.  Funny thing is… the game is really good and is extremely fun to play.  I expected the game to be a big dumb beat-em-up and what I found instead was a strangely nuanced game.

Belghast the Dragon Tamer

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Belghast lives again as a Guardian… which is essentially the big heavy armored warrior type.  My first issue with the game was the character creator.  This is another one of those games that for whatever stupid reason links hair style with facial hair style.  So essentially I got to choose between guy with mutton chops and handlebar moustache… or member of the duck dynasty cast with dreadlocks.  I thought it was kind of bullshit that there was not an option for a nice clean goatee and moustache.  Stupid as it might sound… this is almost always my major issue with Asian MMOs… they seem to have nothing but clean shaven options. 

If you have been following me for long, you will notice that almost every single character I make in any game looks the same.  Ultimately Belghast is an idealized version of myself with black hair, goatee and Adrian Paul ponytail if the game supports it.  I get grumpy when I cannot look the way I want to look, so this was an initial major strike against the game.  Luckily as I got into the  game itself I quickly forgot about this woe…  and after spending some of my stockpiled station cash on cosmetic armor… you can no longer see the lower part of my face anyway.

Smashing Things

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The game itself reminds me of a mash-up of TERA, Neverwinter and Guild Wars 2, as it has  aspects of all of the above with its own spin on each.  Combat is pretty much controlled with left and mouse clicks and various combo abilities on Q, W, and Number keys.  Your second mouse button varies based on how many times you have swung your main weapon.  This produces some pretty interesting gameplay and offers a lot of variance of abilities without having to hit a lot of different buttons.  For the guardian parry is R and charge is V… but I am sure some of these abilities change greatly based on your class.

There are various bugs with combat, namely the charge has a lot of issues.  Sometimes you will charge directly to the mob you are wanting to attack, but other times you teleport across the screen… the screen freezes and when you get control again you have a bunch of friends on you.  Essentially I have learned not to really rely on charging… and unfortunately that takes away some of my enjoyment.  Instead of I have started using my Q ability which is a Guile like sonic boom attack.  It travels a short distance and hits any mobs in the path, which I can then pull back and fight safely without aggroing other things.

The zone design reminds me a lot of Everquest 1.  In that you have town hubs, with a ring of lower level mobs around it… but as you get further away from a town the mob levels increase.  It is interesting to see zones designed specifically for early flying mounts, in that these mob level radius extend out from each little hub town.  If you travel the path between towns you will see a progression of mobs that looks something like this… town 1, level 5, level 6, level 7, level 8, level 15, level 14, level 13, level 12, level 11 town 2.  Essentially it seems like from ground up they are expecting players to charm a flying dragon and use it to hop back and forth between towns.


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Another interesting concept with the game is the fact that you can charm a mount extremely early.  I managed to get a flying mount at around level seven, pretty much as soon as I found a dragon out in the landscape.  Essentially as soon as you get the “capture” ability unlocked you can whittle down a dragon in health and attempt to capture them.  It might just be my imagination but it seems to get easier to capture them the more damage you have dealt to them before firing the command.  At that point you mount the back of your dragon and have to play a mini-game in order to complete the capture.  Essentially you have two bars… red meter that starts empty and fills, and a yellow meter that starts full.  The goal of the mini-game is to keep your reins icon in the center of a circle on screen.  If you get out of the circle, the yellow meter goes down rapidly… if it empties before the red bar fills you fail at the capture.

So the simple fact that you can capture a dragon is not as far as the Pokémon metaphor goes…  you also inherit new abilities from the various dragons you capture.  I am not 100% sure if I understand this all yet, there is a lot to figure out and not a ton of tutorial to do so.  However it seems like every dragon you tame has new abilities, these range from attacks, to harvesting and crafting abilities.  Eventually it seems like your dragon dictates whatever ability you have on the 1 key.  My current dragon has this lightning leap attack which is extremely powerful.  Additionally you seem to be able to stable your dragons and get them to learn new abilities.  Obviously I need to figure more of this out… but the takeaway is… there is a lot of hidden depth in the game.

I seem to have won the lottery when I picked starting in Sibernia.  I have been watching my friends talk about getting their first flying mount for a few weeks now… and the very first dragon I tamed had full flight.  In fact it was not until I got into the level 12ish area that I found a pure ground mount.  Having a wide array of flyers definitely has helped the enjoyment of this game, because seriously who doesn’t love riding a dragon?  Two of the dragons I captured came from a dungeon and were somewhat akward to get to… so it seems like there are common and less common versions of the various dragons.  My “emerald purple dragon”, definitely came with more abilities than any I had seen to that point…  we will just ignore the fact that it has emerald in the name but has absolutely no green or yellow on it.

Station Cash Drain

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One of the good things about this game is that it is by SOE, and uses the standard Station Cash system for micro transactions.  As a result, I have a Station Access account, and have been accruing station cash for some time.  The bad is that almost everything in this game has the option to spend SC in place of game money.  This means not only cosmetic stuff, and stat boosts, but enchanting items, crafting etc.  Everything has a slow money drain factored into it… but honestly I was expecting this from the company that brought us Runes of Magic.  Most of my SC expenditures have been what I term quality of life.  Essentially you can increase your bag and bank and stable space with station cash… all of which have made the game more enjoyable for me and less about micromanaging my inventory.  The negative is I had about 7500 sc going into this and am sitting right at 3000 now.

The one thing I am surprised about is that so far I have not encountered the ubiquitous cash box, or anything even vaguely similar.  Right now all of the station cash outlay seem to be on speeding up gameplay and buffing your character… but not necessarily direct money for items transactions.  Those might be there… I may just not have encountered them.  Additionally I have seemed to be able to live just fine off vendor and dropped gear, without need for anything more.  I’ve decided that once again I prefer sword and board to two hander… but this is probably not a shocker to anyone.  I look badass in my frosty/deathknighty armor… so I am completely happy running around and beating things down like a proper tank.

The Takeaway

Essentially my takeaway at the end of the day, is this is a game that I had essentially written off as something that I was not likely to enjoy.  However upon playing it, I am really having a blast doing so.  Basically if you liked TERA, but were turned off by just how horrible the questing experience was… then this is the game for you.  The combat is fun and strangely nuanced… and the dragon taming aspect throws something fresh into the mix.  This is definitely gaming junk food, but the experience is so worth the calories.  The game reminds me of so many other games, that combined it becomes its own very unique experience.  The game is pretty brutal at times as well… I have died an innumerable amount of times… but there seems to be no punishing effect of it other than the slow bleed of repair costs.  Download the game and give it a try, I figure you will find something in it you like.

Less of Me

It is officially the weekend and I’ve made my trip out to get sausage rolls once more.  We have a bunch of stuff to do to get ready for my wife going out of town for a week..  So I am assuming that I really need to speed my way through this mornings blog post, so we can get on with that stuff.  Additionally I forgot to pick up the cleaners on the way home… so we have to go do that as well.  I’ve had breakfast at this point, showered, and had a 5 hour energy… so I am ready to confront anything.

Less of Me

This morning is a pretty monumental day for me.  Not the date or anything about the day itself… but the fact that I weighed this morning and I am at my lowest point since I can remember.  Back in 2003 we went on a pretty epic diet and were extremely successful with it.  However we went on a cruise… and with in ability to really watch what we eat we fell completely off the bandwagon.  We maintained a decent weight until a death in the family, then we completely fell apart.  At that point we lost all the progress we made and then some.

Last year as a new years resolution we attempted to get back on the wagon… but for reasons that I honestly cannot remember the fell off the wagon again.  The first week in march this year we started a new, and treated it as a completely new process.  We have not been doing much of anything special, other than just religiously keeping track of our food intake.  The process has finally reached a point where it is ingrained in our nature now.  For once I feel like I am not really missing anything, and I have been able to log the food without actually feeling shame about what I am eating.  If I eat something expensive calorie wise, I can still be okay with being under for the week.

This new view towards food and out intake has really paid off.  The reason why today is so monumental is the fact that as of this morning we are on week 14 and I have lost 42 pounds since starting.  That is an average of 3 pounds per week, which has been a fairly breakneck process.  There have been so many changes as a result of this.  In general I feel better about myself, and I think the result has been my willingness to continue to blog daily… and open up more about myself.  I will never be small, it is just not a thing in the cards for me.  I come from a family of big people, but I can be smaller.  The stupid thing is… the only thing I really want is the ability to wear geeky t-shirts…  which is ironic that they don’t really make those in big and tall sizes.  You can get them in big sizes… but at 6’4” there will never be a time at which I do not require that T added onto whatever size I wear.



Last night I spent some more time with the  survivals of State of Decay.  I have to say the more I play the game the more I love it.  This game really tweaks whatever instinct there is in me that comes out when I play Fallout and Skyrim.  I was given a task of meeting up with some other survivors at a church…  the objective was marked on my map… but I had hell bringing myself to keep driving the station wagon I had pilfered past all the houses I could be clearing.  The whole “I wonder what is in that building over there” is so ingrained in me at this point.

The two big negatives I have encountered… and just personal ones.  First off… melee weapons will always be what I favor for ease of use and ability to keep from drawing extra attention with gunshots.  The only problem is melee weapons break super fast… I am really hoping that I either find a way to repair them… or find stronger melee weapons.  I have an assortment of guns, but since ammo is so limited I really don’t want to use them.  The second negative is that night is really dark… you can turn on a flashlight but it really doesn’t do much of anything to help you out.  It is really only effective when you are exploring a building during the night.

One resounding positive is the fact that I managed to successfully make my way to the church without a melee weapon at all.  I ended up just taking it very slowly and relying on kicks to finish off the zombies.  I am sure there would have been no way for me to deal with a horde of zombies… but so long as I took them on one at a time I could kick them down without much issue.  I found the flashlight extremely helpful as a way to draw attention to random shamblers that happened to be in my path.  I could flash them with the light, and get them to charge me… at which point me and my entourage finished the job.

So another huge thing I have to say about the game… is how gracious and personal the response from Undead Labs has been to the success so far.  I watched twitter for awhile yesterday afternoon… and sent my congratulations to Undead Labs for just how overwhelmingly positive the response has been.  Before I knew it I was being tweeted by Annie Strain… wife of Jeff Strain the founder of Undead Labs… thanking me for my kind words.  This has only made me want even more success for them… because that kind of personal touch is really unheard of these days.

It added a completely different dimension to this whole process… it feels very much like I am rooting for the little guy and when they win it feels like we win as well.  The game really is amazing, and so far I have only encountered a couple of bugs.  The entire experience is extremely polished and feels better than most traditional AAA release titles I have played.  If they can follow up with a PC release, multiplayer, and DLC content packs… I feel it will continue to be an amazing success.  The figures I saw floating around yesterday put it at just over 130,000 sales on the first day, which I believe puts it in the  top ten of XBLA releases.

Come Back Haunted


So another big thing that happened this week, is that the new Nine Inch Nails single has been released… Come Back Haunted.  This was a massive surprise since at one point Trent Reznor had said that Nine Inch Nails was essentially over.  The upcoming album is the aptly labeled “Hesitation Marks” which is scheduled for release September 3rd.  NIN will always have a special place for me, it is one of those projects that has been so much to me over the years.  There always seems to be something that speaks to me, regardless of which “Halo” we are listening to.  Every doubt, every fear, every indecision seems to be reflected somewhere in his library of songs.

I’ve been a loyal devotee since the Pretty Hate Machine days, and Down In It is still among my favorite songs.  This new era feels like a blending of everything that has come before, into a new sound…  almost retrospective.  More than anything it feels like a strong mix of the Downward Spiral era mixed with the Pretty Hate Machine.  Whatever it is, it feels fresh, vibrant and new… and I am in love with it.  I will be anxiously waiting for September when we can get the full Halo.  Here is hoping that a few more tracks get leaked in the process.

Wrapping Up

So in the name of full disclosure… I have been listening to Nine Inch Nails Year Zero while writing this mornings post.  I have found that if I listen to something, I can tune out the television and other background noise and focus on what I am writing easier.  The same thing goes for when I really need to crunch through  code at work… but in that case I tend to listen to movie and video game soundtracks.  Otherwise I find myself naming my variables after songs… the same way I named the SoD section above after a NIN song.  Anyways… I hope you all have a great day… and I hope we can find all the things needed to get my wife on her way this week.

Shinobi Jones

I am struggling with existence this morning.  I have always thought the saying “Thank God Its Friday” was a little trite, but I have been telling myself for the majority of the week “all you have to do is make it through Friday”.  I am not really sure what about this week has made it so stressful, but I am certainly feeling it.  It might be the fact that I know I am just about to be completely alone for a week as my wife has to go to a conference thingy.  Have I mentioned that I don’t really embrace change well?

The Hills have Dead


One of the games I have really been looking forward to on the Xbox 360 is State of Decay.  This is the open world exploration based zombie game from Undead Labs.  It was available as of yesterday on the Xbox Live arcade for 1600 points… aka $20.  Additionally it seems that Undead Labs is trying the failed 38 Studios approach of launching a console game and then bankrolling that success into a MMO version.  So as I look at the game, I am also in the back of my head thinking about how well this will work in MMO form.

Basically in a quick sound byte…  State of Decay is Dead Island but done better.  You are given a more interesting world to explore, populated with less random encounters and a stealth mechanic should you choose to deploy it.  I am about as subtle as a hurricane, so this is usually lost on me… but stealthier folks will love being able to sneak up on the shambling dead and get a silent take down.  There is a lot going on in the game, and most of it really good… especially for a Xbox live title.

The premise is simple, you are at a campground when the world falls to shit… and you and your friend Ed (poor bastard) agree to go around searching for survivors.  By saving other characters you essentially end up building a pack of stalwart zombie hunters.  I believe later on you can develop an enclave of survivors and protect them, building influence with each of them.  This influence seems to dictate the type of things you can do.

There are some really cool mechanics as you go out and explore the world.  One of the niftiest things is that you can at any point essentially fortify your position.  While this defies reason a bit, because as you fortify your position you magically brandish a hammer, nails and a stack of bedraggled board.  However this function allows you to protect yourself from zombies busting through windows to come attack you and the human target… Ed.  This will buy you more time to rifle through the bags and chests in an area to scavenge for materials.

So far I have encountered two kinds of undead.  The first is your normal shambling kind that if they hear you comes running but can pretty much be beat down with a bat easily unless they swarm you.  When I was searching the camp I discovered a maintenance shed that was guarded by a half dozen of a completely different kind of undead.  These were far more dexterous and had an almost demonic appearance with glowing eyes.  As a result these were much harder to take down… and quite honestly damned near killed me.  However as I said earlier… the game really rewards risk taking, because the maintenance shed was completely loaded with stuff to scavenge.

At this point I have not really played the game for very long, as I had some things I was planning on doing in The Secret World.  However the content I have played has left me wanting to play it more.  If you like zombies and you like Fallout style open world exploration… then I would give this game a look.  Additionally it has some pretty good voice acting and writing so far, even though I have not really experienced a lot of it.  As a whole it very much feels like Dead Island meets Fallout meets Walking Dead by Telltale.  If that sounds like an enjoyable combination… then you should totally check this one out.

Shinobi Jones

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Last night we lacked our quorum of five members, so nothing really coalesced in the game around a “group activity”.  Since I had not yet done the “Last Train to Cairo” sequence, I figured it was as good a time as any to go get my whip.  First off I have to give Funcom major kudos because this is hands down the best issue they have released.  The feel of this mission goes above and beyond everything we have experienced to date.  It makes me extremely anxious to see what seven and eight are going to be like… especially with seven supposedly having a 007 flair.

I am going to try to keep from spoiling any of the content… but essentially the mission pack is a wild ride of sabotage, puzzles, stealth, and the most epic train sequence you have ever seen.  All the while you have these great flavor references to the Indiana Jones movies.  This is made all the more surreal by the fact that of late I have been rocking a combination of the shinobi outfit… with the glowing draugr mask… to produce a ninja with glowing blue eyes.  Jones. Shinobi Jones…  with my subtle rocket launcher combat style.

As always the puzzles are extremely puzzling.  There was one deadly floor trap that took me over thirty minutes and probably a dozen deaths to get the hang of.  All of the risk however is well worth the reward, as you not only get your spiffy new whip… but also get a 10.1 epic helm in the process, as well as some currency with a new faction of the Council of Venice.  I have heard rumor that through the upcoming expansions, there will be similar 10.1 epic items, all designed as a way to ease someone into being able to do the NY raid content.  If so I fully support this notion of gear through truly epic quest sequences.

I really need to go back and complete the Tyler Freeborn sequence of quests, as I have left that one hanging as well.  Quite honestly I am sure there is a lot of content I have missed, as the only issue that I have fully explored was the first one, with the awesome prom night sequence.  Carter is still one of my all time favorite protagonists in this game, but after taking the train to Cairo…  I am starting to really like combo of Nassir and Said.  Quite honestly almost all of the content is extremely well written and memorable.

The Secret World has been one of those games that I fired up every few weeks and piddled around a bit in.  However it has been months since I had actually played the game seriously.  Each time I come back for awhile, I marvel at just how well crafted it is.  It still has some very rough spots around the edges, but they have improved a lot in the last year.  I hope that they manage to find that point of equilibrium at which they are able to continue producing introducing content, and as the same time sustain their work force.  The game always gives me some awesome experiences.

Wrapping Up

I have more things I could talk about, but honestly my head is killing me and I want to wander off and find some headache medicine.  Additionally it is already getting late in the morning, and I need to gather laundry for the cleaners.  I might do a few bonus posts this weekend, because I have a few ideas that need to congeal in my head for awhile before throwing out onto paper.  I hope you all manage to survive the coming work day, and that it ends up turning into a weekend quickly.  Ours is going to be dictated by preparation for my wife to travel, and by myself mental preparation for being alone for a week.

Lair of the Beast

Mornings are starting to become an exercise in cat juggling.  We have one cat that is significantly older than the others, and has special dietary needs.  As a result we have been trying to get her locked into the bathroom with us as we shower so we can feed her a can of special food.  The problem is… the other cats and her alike have now come to expect this.  So before I do anything in the morning… I have to shut her in the bathroom… go into the kitchen and set out some wet food for the other two cats… then return to feed her.  Hungry cats are very good at dive bombing your legs… making it extremely hard to walk when already groggy.

Bagmaker in Chief

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Over the last few weeks I have had quite a few friends become active over in Rift.  Other than answering questions and getting them into the guild I am in..  I have been trying to provide for their gear and equipment needs as well.  As a result I had set aside yesterday evening to try and farm up enough Lanzan cloth to make a set of 24 slot bags for Rylacus (or Rylakus as he had to go with in game…  apparently the other name has become popular).  It seems like I go through cloth like water, and the 14 bolts requirement is pretty hefty to be able to make a single bag.

I expected to be farming most of the night to make his set.  Funny thing is… apparently Rift has done the same thing that WoW did.  They have made it so that cloth drops so much faster when you are farming it on an outfitter than when you are on anyone else.  The only negative is that this meant I needed to do the farming on Belgrave my bag maker.  Since the release of Storm Legion, I made one small push to level him… ran into issues chewing through the mob hitpoint pools and have not really tried since.  As a result his specs were somewhat in a state of disarray.

I quickly pulled together a very rudimentary Ranger/Marksman spec and proceeded to start playing again like a WoW hunter.  Luckily this seemed to work better than the last time I tried it, and I could shred mobs and manage to keep my pet up at the same time.  Sure enough the drop rates were considerably better than when I had tried this little exercise on my warrior.  In roughly an hour and a half I accumulated enough cloth to make a full set of 4 bags.  Additionally I crafted Ry a set of 19ish leather gear for him to grow into, though since I taught him how to play the “scratchers” game he has managed to stay fairly well outfitted in planar goods.

I still want to find a time when both Rylacus and Thalen can be on, and anyone else we can manage to gather up.  Would be fun to run them through a couple of dungeons… even though Thalen is now over 50 at this point and Ry is not even 20.  I guess this is the reason why the mentoring system is in.  I think it will be interesting when Ry sees Rift dungeons.  So far it has been a very eye opening experience for him.  He has until now been pretty much a wow loyalist, other than a jaunt into SWTOR.  Now he finally gets why I say that Rift is hands down the best of the wow-like games.

The Keymaster

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After gathering up the materials and crafting some bags, I pinged my friends over IM and decided that we would make another push and finishing the Gatekeeper requirements for Rae.  Once again I was playing the part of Shinobi Belghast, and after checking her achievements… we determined that the only thing she was still missing was the achievement for Elite Hell Eternal.  This is one that we specifically avoided the night before last, because of the time commitment it took previously.  When we were running elites regularly, Hell Eternal had several bugged fights and usually took the longest to get through.

Fortunately all of the buggy moments have been ironed out and the experience was extremely smooth start to finish.  I really love the Hell series of dungeons and the story they tell.  I have always been partial to the writings of Clive Barker… and the story of Theodore Wicker definitely parallels some of these stories.  I could see this tale fitting as a footnote in the “Great and Secret Show”/”Everville” series.  Not to mention that the hell skinned weapons are hands down my favorite in the game… so I am always game to collect more of those skins.

I have been enjoying the Shinobi skin immensely.  There is just something fundamentally wrong with running around in a ninja costume with a rocket launcher strapped to your back.  It is this great juxtaposition, and pretty much represents what happens when I attempt to play a stealth class.  I attempt to sneak around and ultimately end up just pummeling the opposition with superior force.  There is something so satisfying about watching a rocket fly off towards the target, and this is all the more satisfying seeing a ninja fire it.

We wrapped up the dungeon rather quickly, and Rae was off to her date with the Gatekeeper.  We had set her up for the harsh reality that we experienced when each of us did the trial.  At that point, hands down the hardest was the dps encounter… and of the five of us… only 2 of us even attempted the fight.  Either they have nerfed the encounter a bit, or Rae is just fundamentally better than we were.  It took me 20-30 tries to get through the encounter, and Waren two days of attempts…  last night Rae managed to beat the Gatekeeper on DPS mode in less than 20 minutes.

Lair of the Beast

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Instead of starting in on the nightmares last night we decided to take an alternate path.  In our absence from being active in the game, Funcom had introduced quests for all the various monster lairs.  So we made our way to what we perceived as the “starter lair” in Kingsmouth.  Upon entering the burnt out region on the map, we were greated with a brand new visual effect announcing the lair.  The edges of the screen became roped in the veiny filth graphic and a title appeared in the center of the screen announcing the lair name (which I cannot for the life of me remember).

The lairs themselves are just as difficult as before.  We started off working on them with just 3 players… 1 tank, 1 healer and me as the single dps.  We were able to chew through the equivalent of “trash” but when we attempted to fight a Draugr they tended to rip us a new one.  Now this might have been that we were not quite used to the various mechanics to avoid… but in any case as we got our 4th and 5th player the experience became much more enjoyable.  Essentially the first two lair quests that we did were the standard kill and collect type fair, but it gave us a sense of purpose as we wandered around the dangerous area.

It was getting late when we wrapped up the first two quests… and picked up phase 2 of one of the quests and unlocked a harder one.  Since we were standing near the exit to the area… and based on the late hour… we decided to tackle the other two missions at a later date.  Previously when we had made an attempt at the various summoned lair bosses, the drop rates were abysmal.  They seem to have improved this, as we were getting a summon boss part on almost every other kill.  We designated one player to collect the bits, and he die an amazing impression of a pack mule throughout the night.

We seem to have slightly misunderstood the goals however, as we were thinking we needed to get all the parts of a specific kind of piece… aka Beta, Theta, Xi.  But it turns out that each monster is crafted out of multiple named pieces… and in any given lair there are 3 different monsters to summon.  We were feeling rather disheartened as we had 3 of one type, 2 of another, and the rest were singletons.  However I would be wiling to bet that after last nights journey, we should be able to summon at least one complete monster.  Hopefully we can get together tonight and give it a shot.

Wrapping Up

In the time off from The Secret World, it seems as though they have made a not insignificant number of changes to the game to tweak the abilities and the overall balance.  As a result I think we are all really enjoying the game more than we did before.  Each player has finally found a spec that they seem to enjoy, and of the five of us… only Ash has yet to completely abandon the concept of playing anything melee.  That is still a major shortcoming of the game to me, the way it unfairly punishes players for  attempting to melee.  I gave up long ago and switched to Shotgun/Pistol for instances over my beloved Shotgun/Blades.

If you were like us and had not seriously done much group content since early in the game.  You definitely owe it to yourself to give the elite, nightmare and lair content another look.  Our little group has been having a blast, and for the most part the game feels very fresh.  I find myself looking forward to getting into group content each night, and that has been a feeling that has been missing for a few months.  Anyways… the time is ticking on and I need to be really wrapping up instead of rambling more.  I hope you all have a great day and relight whatever spark has been dimming for yourself.

Making Horrible Choices

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

Unplanned Adventure

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

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

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

Making Horrible Choices

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Reaches of Inner-Outer Space

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

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

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

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

Wrapping Up

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

A Secret to Everybody

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

A Secret to Everybody

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

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

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

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

Greenshot Down

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

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

All Roads Lead to Rome

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

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

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

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

Wrapping Up

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