No Love For Tanks

Good morning you happy people out in the verse…  yeah I just got finished reading a post about Firefly… ignore me.  This is another one of those “doing things under NDA that I can’t talk about” weekends…  so as a result I usually am pretty scant in what I feel I CAN blog about.  Thankfully SOE Live is still giving me news to react to so that is mostly what I will be doing.  Additionally I seem to be down another couple of pounds as of this morning which would make 54 total since I started this latest foray of sensible living.  I am fairly proud if I do say so myself.

No Love For Tanks

 

I have so much gratitude for Curse gaming for having the forethought to record all of the SOE Live sessions that Sony themselves did not have the foresight to live stream over twitch.tv.  As a result of their work I bring you the Class Panel video 1 and 2… and my commentary on it.  I watched this last night along with a few other friends and we pooled our comments over a shared chat channel.  My rabid fanboyism from Friday quickly turned into quiet terror when they started unfolding their vision for the game as a whole.  I have to say most of it sounded almost word for word like the pitch we heard leading up to the launch of Guild Wars 2.

To preface the part that scares me… they talk about a concept of “everyone taking care of themselves” and “No tanks or healers”.  Which always seems to read to me as the pipe dream of every dps that has ever played a game and been bitter that they are not treated as seriously as the tank and healer characters.  I am totally fine with not having a strict reliance on tanking or healing… but it scares me that they plan yet again to abolish these roles.  My mind is filled with nothing but visions of the giant chaotic mess that grouping in Guild Wars 2 was.

Tanks LIKE Tanking

EQNext_Tank

The component that designers bent on this path seem to completely miss…  Tanks enjoy tanking and Healers enjoy healing.  We do not feel like we are forced into those roles… those are the roles we assign ourselves happily and willingly.  I LEVEL as a tank because I enjoy tanking mobs, it feeds off my protective nature and I know many tanks that feel exactly the same way.  Additionally I have lots of friends who are extremely nurturing people, that will always gravitate towards playing whatever the feel to be the most supportive healing class because they want to in equal parts “nurture” their friends.

These are not some artificial roles that we have been forced into by bad game design… these are roles that fill our need to protect or nurture or support in a game.  Not everyone wants to wildly mash buttons and destroy the targets as fast as they can.  I feel as though there is a certain kind of game designer that just fundamentally does not get this drive.  At one point in the video one of the designers describes the gameplay as “one person is forced to focus all the damage on them, another is forced to heal that person, then everyone else pretty much gets to do whatever they want and have fun”.  It is almost as if the designer does not realize that tanking and healing ARE fun for the players that really like to do it.

I don’t view tanking as a sacrifice, I view it as feeding into my most primal nature and my inborn need to protect my friends.  I would be willing to expect that all of the amazing healers who have supported me over the years did not feel forced into that role.  Game design like this makes me think that these folks simply do not understand the amazingly symbiotic relationship between a tank and a healer, and how awesome it is when you get to a point that both players can predict the actions of the other.  Maybe I am just lucky that I have had a long line of healers that I got to this point with… and I simply wish designers understood this better.

Granted there are definitely times where I don’t want to tank… and I am sure there are times where the healers don’t want to heal.  That is completey cool and why we have modern gameplay that allows us to switch the roles around freely.  However I do not feel that the problem is the roles themselves.  Without roles combat feels like a chaotic mess, and simply something I do not enjoy.  I was on board with Guild Wars 2, until the moment I did my first dungeon and saw that zergging a boss down from the resurrection point was a completely valid tactic.  There is nothing fun about that kind of gameplay for me… and I am scared now that after seeing this amazing concept that we will end up with that sort of haphazard grouping.

A Solo Experience

EQNext_Landmark

Right now I feel as thought I will still enjoy playing Everquest Next, so much about the game seems completely amazing.  I just fear that it might be a completely single player experience for me.  If Landmark provides a random world with random storybricks encounters that I can explore freely… that might be seriously enough to keep me happy regardless of how the larger gameplay evolves.  If EQ Next is nothing more than Minecraft evolved I will play the hell out of it and be exceedingly happy to do so.  I just am not a huge fan of what sounds to be their design mantra of abolishing roles again… since that went so tragically wrong with Guild Wars 2.

I am extremely amped to get into the beta experience and build all sorts of nifty things in Landmark.  I still go on massive Minecraft binges where I will do nothing but that game for a weekend and build entire cities… only to abandon the map and start from scratch again when the next creative urge hits.  All I have ever really wanted is to have the Minecraft freedom with a better game wrapped around it.  Having that kind of randomly generated and ever changing world, with awesome MMO controls mixed in would keep me happy for hundreds of hours of gameplay.  I could not be happier if I logged into my email and saw a beta invite right now.

So I am very much still on board with the notion of EQ Next… but I just heard the first things that deeply concerned me.  Here is hoping that this turns out to be more marketing spin than actual gameplay.  I feel as though there are a lot of dps out there with chips on their shoulders against tanks and healers… and that every so often one of these design schemes that tries to undo the roles of teamplay comes along.  Here is hoping they will dial it back before release.  They did mention that they would support “defensive” gameplay, and depending on what that means I would be happy with the protector role in another fashion even if it is not gather up all the hate and soake the damage.  I guess only time and subsequent releases will tell how this shakes out.

Wrapping Up

Well I have the lore panels to view, and that might be fodder for tomorrows posts.  Additionally we need to pick up the house today and I want to get that done sooner than later so I can piddle around in Rift and the thing that must not be named.  I hope you all have had a great weekend and are prepared for the work week ahead of us.  Additionally I hope you have been as amped as I am to see all the yummy footage coming out of SOE Live, Quake Con and the Rift stream.  I love Norrath, so no matter how frustrated I might be with a given direction they seem to be taking… I will always give the game a shot because of my love of the world.

Livestream Rundown

Yesterday feels like a really odd occurrence, with three different major live streams…  that were in no way actually connected.  Currently SOE Live is going on right now in Vegas and QuakeCon is going on in Dallas.  From those two we had the huge EQ Next reveal and some really sweet live gameplay footage from a dungeon in Elder Scrolls Online.  Then adding to that stack we had the normal Friday afternoon live stream from Trion worlds announcing a bunch of nifty things coming up in Rift.  As a result I have so many things to say… but it is almost difficult to organize my thoughts around them…  I guess for simplicity sake I will just start in chronological order.

Fungal Grove

 

First up in the stack was some sweet live demo footage of The Elder Scrolls from QuakeCon.  Up to this point we had seen a lot of recorded footage of the game but to the best of my knowledge this is the first real live demo of a player just poking around in the game.  Instead of just having a guy on stage moving around they took it up a notch and decided to run a live dungeon, in this case apparently one in the Ebonheart faction area called Fungal Grove.  All in all the dungeon looked really cool…  it seemed to be story driven as they moved through it providing simple objectives that the group followed.

One of the cool things is that at some point one of the players died and Paul Sage the person moderating the game play mentioned that any player can resurrect any other player using a soul gem.  This should be handy as it removes the need to have resurrection being a class specific skill.  I have to say the first person mode looks exactly like it should… seeing them playing in that and all the animations looking right made me extremely happy.  Additionally the bows seem to work like Elder Scrolls bows should.  Bow sniping from stealth totally appears to be a thing, and that should make a lot of diehard Elder Scrolls players extremely happy.

Ultimately the game looks exactly like what it is supposed to be… Elder Scrolls but Online with other players.  Additionally it does not seem like they are trying to be any of the other MMOs on the market.  The problem I had with SWTOR was that it felt and looked like World of Warcraft in space.  The storyline was awesome, but ultimately you were left playing a vanilla era WoW experience apart from that.  This looks like Skyrim with people… which is all I really wanted while playing the previous Elder Scrolls games.  I am definitely looking forward to seeing this in person.

Pixar EQMinecraft

 

Okay if you did not have a chance to watch this all yesterday… stop what you are doing and watch it right now.  This is some seriously amazing stuff and I do not want to be the one that blunts the impact.  Watched the above videos?  SOE Trolled us… and trolled us hard yesterday.  If you watched the videos… there was roughly 20 minutes of filler ahead of the meat of the demonstration.  So much frustrating and bad jokes were flying over twitter as we all experienced it in person.  A lot of us, myself included started to feel like maybe they were putting up filler because they really did not have that much to show.  We all remember the filler content from Blizzcon a few years back that clearly were meant to be Titan presentations.

Once the trolling subsided… Dave Georgeson… quite possibly the happiest man on the planet EVER…  came on stage and started easing into the presentation by showing us some concept art.  Then like a master showman… he drops the bomb on us by showing us a bunch of screenshots that look almost exactly like the concept art.  Just to prove that the game really looks like that, he does a flythrough of the very painterly zone of Ashfang.  The world honestly feels like it is made out of clay… has a very claymation appearance to it.  I was pretty questionable about how the world would look until later when he got into demos that involved motion and characters.

EQNext_HumanFemale_Emotions

If you were like me… a year or so ago you were perplexed when all the sudden SOEmote was introduced into Everquest 2.  It seemed like an extremely detailed system to build…  but made zero sense that they did it when they did it.  Apparently EQ2 was a test for what they were planning on doing with EQ Next.  The above shot shows a Human Female Caster going through all of the range of emotions.  The amount of squash and stretch in the faces gives it a very Pixar quality that I am amped to see in person.  Ultimately that was the only real aspect I was interested in about Wildstar, so EQ Next has completely blown that out of the water.

Additionally they went into detail to explain why the world looks like it does.  Apparently everything is made out of voxels, and as a result every single object in the world is destructible.  That means as you are going through a battle… you can knock out a bridge to keep forces from getting to you… or pound a mob into a column and the column breaks from the motion.  They did a few demos to show this off and it looks really cool.  The only concern I have is how jarring will it feel when the world heals itself over time (which was mentioned as a footnote in one of the demos).  I would hope that the healing occurs over a large expanse of time and gradually instead of everything magically flying back into place.

Additionally I have concerns about how this will lead to greifing.  There was a demo of the Kerran Warrior and Human Mage fighting a rock elemental… and it does some kind of giant slamming attack knocking a hole in the ground and dropping all three to a cavern below the main forest floor of Feerott.  Will players get pissed at each other and knock them down below eventually into the lava on the bottom level of the world?  Fully destructable world is awesome… but I realize there will always be a player willing to grief you, and this seems like an amazing mechanism for doing so.

I could go on and on for hours about the cool features of the game… but like I said at the start you really should just watch the video reveal for yourself.  If you believe the marketing spiel… EQ Next seems like it is going to be the game everyone has ever wanted to play.  Allowing you to just go adventuring in the world and respond to things as they happen around you.  The mobs apparently have storybricks style likes, dislikes and motivations… and the ability to grow a camp to a city over time.  So the world should be  constantly changing around you based on the influence the players have placed upon it.  There are several awesome demos that explain this concept.

The biggest part of the reveal for me is that December of this year we will be getting a taste of Everquest Next with the release of Everquest Next Landmark.  It essentially will give the players an ability to adventure through a procedurally generated world and the ability to build structures on their own private plot of land.  The details were a bit fuzzy but it sounded like they were essentially planning on crowdsourcing much of EQ Next through a series of contests that let them call out to the EQ Next Landmark builder community to help design various constructs of the game.  If they really use EQ Next Landmark as an incubation chamber for new content for EQ Next in general… they might solve the “not enough content” problem that plagues every game.

Essentially over the course of the demonstration I went from annoyed, to interested… to eventually TAKE MY MONEY NOW!!!  No matter how hard I threw money at the screen it never actually seemed to work.  If you are as intrigued as I am… you too can head over to the EQ Next homepage and sign up for beta.  I am really hoping that the fact that I am a long time EQ2 subscriber and a Station Access level member will influence when I get picked in the process.  I want to be playing EQ Minecraft now!  Ultimately I am not sure if this game will completely replace the Rift like games for me… but having a game like this would definitely replace Minecraft for me.

Rift Livestream

I am lazy and since the editor I use to write my blog posts doesn’t support twitch tv… you will just have to click the link here.  Like every Friday, yesterday Trion did their normal live stream, this time about Rift again.  As always they are a glorious rambling mess of Rift gameplay and conversation with the folks in game and on the twitch live chat.  Additionally like always there are little nuggets of information that slip out about what is coming down the pipe.  If you want to see a fully summary, head over to Rift Junkies as they have a pretty good rundown.  Be warned the stream is well over 2 hours long.

One of the cool things coming down the pipe is that they plan on revamping all of the level 50 elite dungeons to update them for level 60 players.  While I have so many mixed feelings about this, because of the crap that WoW continually did in recycling content…  it sounds like they may be doing it the right way.  The new dungeons will be treated like completely unique versions, and as a result the old dungeons will still exist in their former state.  The first of these will be “Twisted Realm of the Fae”, which is a darker more twisted version of the original dungeon.  They were pretty scant on details but I definitely like the direction they are going.

Additionally it sounds like there will be a number of new Chronicles coming out in 2.4, the first of them announced is apparently going to be a 2 man version of Infernal Dawn.  I absolutely love the Chronicles concept because one of the frustrating things about no longer being a raider… is that so much of the storyline content in these games is told over the course of a raid.  Chronicles allow two players to get in and experience the key storyline of a specific raid instance.  Apparently this one will be roughly the same difficulty level as the level 60 Queens Gambit one.

I was kind of disappointed that no more information was mentioned about the Rift 3.0 expansion and when it was slotted to arrive.  It was hinted that we might be seeing a level 60 set of Guild Quests and that would be extremely awesome.  I just hope these open up another three or so quests available to players instead of making it you do the early ones or you do the late ones.  I am still very much in love with Rift again.. and really enjoying the guild and everything it has become over the last few weeks.  So many proud feelings about seeing House Stalwart ride again in all its glory.

Wrapping Up

I got a super late start on the morning… didn’t end up waking up until 10 am… so as a result this came out extremely late as well.  I need to get on with my day and get up and around.  Here is hoping your weekend started a little bit more smoothly than mine.  I had a great night doing our first every guild League of Legends Beginner night.  While there were not that many people who partook, I am hoping if we do it again we will be able to drag more players in the moba madness.  It had been roughly 2 months since I had played, so it was fun breaking back into it.

Everquest Current

Good morning everyone, hopefully you got a bit more sleep than I did last night.  I ended up with another minor round of panic attacks and as a result did not actually make it to bed until after 1 am.  However I seem to be mostly functional.  Thanks a ton for all the warm wishes I received yesterday through either the blog, twitter, google+ or in game.  We didn’t do anything really insane… just went out to dinner and then came back and chilled out downstairs.  I piddled around a bit in Rift and eventually made my way over to the SOE Live twitch stream.

What Happens in Vegas

 

Normally we think of what happens in Vegas… stays in Vegas…  however at SOE apparently what happens gets live broadcast over Twitch.tv for free.  Having been a long fan of the SOE franchises, namely Everquest 2 I figured I would tune in last night for a bit and see if there was anything interesting happening.  I have been immensely curious to find out what is coming down the pipe with Everquest Next.  I have so many fears about how the game will turn out…  sandbox can mean so many things and not all of them good for the long time survival of a game.  So I like many tuned in thinking I might see a teaser for EQNext before the official unveil at Noon PST today.

You could tell that pretty much the only thing the crowd wanted to hear about WAS EQ Next and when Smedley took the stage… he did a pretty thorough job of baiting and teasing the crowd.  However he did bring out the very famous Jeremy Soule of Skyrim fame to showcase his work on the Everquest Next theme.  Within moments of it happening in the live broadcast the above theme was available on Youtube.  I have to say…  I am more than a little disappointed.  Granted this is “sketch” as they called it, an early synth only version of the theme… but quite honestly it feels a little generic for lack of the better word.

If you listen to the Everquest 1 and Everquest 2 themes… there is definitely a shared lineage there.  I expected this theme to carry on in a new way with the original “Everquest Notes” much in the same way that Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim take the same skeletal core of “TES Notes” and make them their own.  But what we have is something vastly different and really does not feel at all like “Everquest” music to me.  It feels way too ethereal, and not bombastic enough to represent an over the top franchise like Everquest.  Apparently however gauging opinion from twitter and Google+ I am in the minority of my opinion.

I listened to the track over and over trying to find some shared lineage back to the original themes… and I think maybe just maybe I figured out what Jeremy Soule was trying to do.  In the original Everquest theme… there is an odd little segment that always felt a bit out of place… that starts at roughly 0:46 and continues to 1:06.  The more I listen to the EQNext theme the more I think he chose this odd little section to expand into a larger theme.  I guess my hope is that Soule was starting with this segment and fading his way into the “EQ Notes”, and that the part that did the unfinished fade down is where the theme would pick up and grow into something we recognize.

I have a lot of faith in Jeremy Soule, I have a 4 disc set of Skyrim music that I listen to at work on a pretty regular basis.  I was just shocked at what I heard and how little it represented “Everquest” for me.  It also makes me afraid that they are really distancing themselves from the past, and kinda abandoning the Everquest lineage that came before.  I love Norrath and probably always will, and while I don’t think I could ever return to playing Everquest 1 I am still a huge fan of everything that Everquest 2 has become.  I want Everquest Next to draw upon this pedigree and not just completely abandon it.

Everquest Current

 

So much emphasis has been placed on Everquest Next, but last night was really about showing off Everquest Current.  Both Everquest and Everquest II are seemingly unstoppable juggernauts of content.  In the video above they announce the 20th expansion for the original Everquest, Call of the Forsaken.  It is completely staggering to think of any MMO in todays climate making its way through 20 separate expansion packs.  That is really one of the things that the SOE model has done… is allow aging communities to survive and be nurtured by what seems like extremely dedicated product teams.

I don’t really play Everquest other than occasionally logging in to my station account and remembering just how primate the old days were, so the first half of this trip down “everquest current” was interesting but had no real meat on its bones for me.  I started to get a little excited when the EQ2 portion came up.  While I am knee deep in Rift and living it… I will always have a deep nostalgia over EQ2 and all that it represents.  As a result I want it to be awesome, and I want to to successfully draw players.  In the above video they announce the 10th expansion for EQ2, Tears of Veeshan.

I remember spending a lot of time farming the North Temple of Veeshan for rep and gear back in the original game… and to some extend I always knew that EQ2 would take us back there.  Additionally they will be opening up High Hold Keep, a zone that I travelled through numerous times on my way to the Karanas but never actually leveled in the area surrounding it.  Apparently in the storyline we have dug too deep below the keep… and uncovered a band of Goblins that have taken it over.  As a result it looks like similar to Kaladim, it will be a former city turned dungeon as you “retake” the keep.

What I found extremely interesting in the talk of going to the “Nexus Core” supposedly an area that powered the Nexus on Luclin.  I have always hoped that one of the expansions would take us back to moon and see what remains of it, so maybe this will open the door to that actually happening.  I really loved Luclin, I guess in part because this was the first expansion I was actually a loyal player for the release.  I started playing Everquest just shortly after the release of Velious, and there was something magical about experiencing my very first MMO expansion pack.

The big reveal it seems was the addition of a 26th character class The Channeler, which is apparently on the SOE Live floor.  The shots they showed of the class looked pretty cool, but it also seemed extremely confused.  It is a priest archetype, but has a giant mage like elemental construct  but wears leather and wields a bow.  It will be interesting to see what the class plays like, and whether it feels like a ranger turned pet class or not.  The unique mechanic is that the construct is customizable with the ability to swap abilities and appearances to make it into whatever the player wants.  Again it will have to be something I see in action to be able to make sense of it.

Finally at the TAIL end of the video Holly Longsdale teased what was coming for expansion eleven.  Based on the images shown… I would guess that the Everquest 2 timeline will be discovering the lost continent of Taelosia as see in the Gates of Discord expansion to the original game.  I could be wrong… namely because I was not actually playing EQ at that time, but based on some of the artwork I remember…  these odd tribal lizardish men look to fit that theme.  I am not sure but I believe Taelosia is the last major landmass that has not made an apperance at least in part in the broken world setting.  It is good to see that they have a long range plan of where to take the game next.  I still would love to get a trip back to the moon however.

Wrapping Up

I am looking forward to seeing the actual Everquest Next announcement today around noonish pst.  Additionally from Quake Con there is supposed to be a live demo of Elder Scrolls Online at 1:30 EDT so that should be awesome as well.  I will likely be listening to both in the background as I work on various things today.  I really hope that both are as awesome as I have built them up to be in my head.  I hope you all have a great Friday, and that it leads to a great weekend.  Hopefully other than picking up around the house and doing a few chores mine is pretty relaxing.  Tonight at 8pm CDT House Stalwart is hosting a League of Legends beginner night for anyone that wants to get their feet wet, so that should be enjoyable.  It has been so long since I have played that I am really looking forward to doing it for a few hours.

Fifteen Years

This morning I am struggling a wee bit to figure out what exactly to write about… so as a result I am just starting typing hoping something good comes out in the process.  Yesterday was a fairly rough day as we were dealing with the fallout of rolling out a major system at work.  As a result I spent most of the day grinding away trying to fix a few issues that had sprung up in the process.  I rolled out one of the fixes, with another one for today that needs a lot of involvement from the customers.  I decided it was far too big a can of worms to delve into late in the day.

Raincheck

rift 2013-05-03 22-16-26-04

I will admit yesterday during the day I had some seriously grand designs on what Wednesday night would look like.  I had intended to pull together hunt rifts or even break up into 5 man teams and do some dungeoneering, but none of that really happened.  For whatever reason my dinner last night just was not really sitting with me all that well, and I as a result didn’t really feel up to rallying the troops in some grand adventure.  So as a result no real overarching mission for the night really occurred and I feel like I failed the guild a little bit.

What did happen however is that we knocked out two “kill 1000 planar creature” guild quests.  So while we were not all in the same place, guild members were all over the world assisting in that purpose.  I know Rae and I were camped out in Cape Jule at one of the source wells and we decimated what felt like thousands of fire elementals over the course of a few hours.  Additionally there were little pockets of guild members in other places working away on invasion mobs all of them contributing to the total kill count.

So while we may not have been doing what I had intended, the guild as a whole did end up working towards a specific mission it seems like.  After we knocked out the second of the planar creature quests, I joined up with Thalen and helped ferry out the lower level Rae and Tibuant to Steppes of Infinity to do an advanced crafting rift.  I am hoping that someday we can do an entire night of these.  They really provide a massive amount of materials for the crafters, and I can remember going out to Ember Isle before the expansion and doing entire nights of various people summoning thing.

The Best Loot

treasureroom

Since I was insanely busy yesterday… I really had zero time to catch up on my RSS feed.  This morning when trying to figure out what to write about I ended up flipping through a few posts.  One of them that caught my attention was from Keen and Graev posing the question… where should the best loot come from?  I have some very specific thoughts about this honestly, so I figured it would be a good thing to rattle on about for a few.  Ultimately I don’t think there should be one single place to get the best loot.  I feel as though that has been part of the problem all along in these games is that there is generally one specific place to get all the best gear.

I feel as though there should be multiple paths to obtain really good gear for your character.  Even if you are not raiding, you want to feel like you are constantly progressing your character to being able to doing bigger and better things.  So I feel as though there should be viable gearing options from raiding, pvp, questing and crafting.  Each path should provide similar quality rewards but involve vastly different activities.  I see Raiding and PVP as the brute force approach to gearing.. you get in… kill some stuff and get loot quickly.  Whereas the crafting and questing routes take far more time and commitment but you get to the end goal of nice gear eventually.

I remember how mystical the original Epic quests were in Everquest 1, and how they involved pulling together your entire guild to try and help one player get an item.  Similarly in Everquest 2 they rolled out the heritage quests and eventually epic weapon quests that involved going on these amazingly drawn out adventures to obtain a mythical item.  Why did this design stop?  Why are there not entire sets of gear that you can quest for that involve multiple steps, figuring out riddles, solving puzzles, and eventually collecting another piece of a fabled gear set.  This is really the gearing route that has been missing in games.

Additionally I see that crafting would be very similar but take a slightly different spin.  To get the “end game” gear you would go through a series of quests to gather and refine the best materials, learn recipes from ancient trainers, and maybe factioning up with some kind of crafting guild.  The end result would be the guild helping you craft the pieces that you could not yourself.  Again however the final result is a long process that lets a player build up to end game gear.  My biggest concern with crafting as the key to end game gear is that generally it means that a few crafters have access to the best patterns and the server as  a whole suffers in the pocket book from that.  I feel a more personal crafting path would benefit players more, like this NPC crafting guild approach.

Ultimately in my perfect game I would see all four of these paths to glory.  Raiding and PVP provide the quicker and easier way to the good gear, whereas crafting and questing provide a much longer and more arduous approach but still provide the same payoff in the end.  It is not to say that a player cannot mix and match these processes as well.  One of the biggest frustrations as a raider is when that one slot that you have needed for months refuses to drop.  If you had a way to embark upon a quest or rally crafting resources to fill that slot, I am sure most raiders would do so in a heartbeat.  I think the real challenge is to treat all players as equals, instead of giving the development nod to one specific segment of them.

Fifteen Years

Today is a fairly auspicious occasion, and I figure I will close out todays posting by sharing it with you.  Fifteen years ago today my wife and I got married in a very untraditional fashion completely fitting the two of us.  It boggles the mind to think it is that long ago.  We got together in 1996 and spent the last two years of college together, eventually moving in together when I woke up one morning to find my rat fink of a room mate moving out on me… because he had not been paying his half of the rent.  Me, my wife and her roommate all moved in together and I literally spent the end of my college days living out an episode of threes company.

My family and hers were like oil and water… with the primarchs of each family constantly butting heads.  I was raised Catholic and she Baptist… and my Mother and her Father nearly came to blows each time they were put in the same room.  We wanted a simple wedding, outdoors…  which quickly became insane as my mother started wanting to invite all sorts of bizarre guests like my fourth grade teachers.  Additionally my mother wanted us to have TWO weddings…  one with a priest in the Catholic church… and then the outdoor wedding.

Then there was the issue of which father would actually walk her down the aisle.   Her step father was a quiet and loving man, and was one of the most amazing men I have ever known.  Her biological father I have come to love, but at the time was extremely showy and overbearing… and would have made a very public spectacle if he did not get the honor.    Whereas her step father would have likely been extremely hurt were he not the one to do it… but never would have let on or shown it.  Essentially we had a logistical nightmare on our hands and no matter which way we turned… we were going to hurt someone.

Fifteen years ago today we took our first act of defiance as a couple and decided to piss everyone involved off and elope.  We gathered up all the necessary bits of information needed to get married in the state of Oklahoma and found a wedding chapel in town.  I jokingly say we were married at the House of Vacuums, because the chapel was a fairly nondescript building directly around the corner from there.  I called my cousin and my wife called her best friend, and they stood as witnesses, and after a short service with a very nice female minister we were wed.

While this is a fairly untraditional beginning it fits the two of us extremely well.  Neither of us are terribly showy people, and both of us rather severe introverts.  I’m a geek and she is a nerd and together we have made a pretty amazing life together.  I love her dearly and cannot imagine having spent the last fifteen years any other way.  I hope the next fifteen years go as easily as these last ones have.  There are times when I sit back and think to myself…  man you have an awesome life, and in a huge part it is entirely because of her.  She helps me stay grounded and is the voice of reason behind all my potentially poor choices.  We make a pretty great team.

Wrapping Up

Well I have a ton of things to do today, so I need to be getting on the road.  I have no clue what we will be doing for our anniversary, quite honestly it all depends on how both of our days go.  She is already back to school and working every day since she wears a bunch of administrative type hats.  At the minimum we will probably go out to eat together but not really do much celebration until the weekend.  I hope you all have a great day… and to my wife who I know will be reading this later…  I love you and happy anniversary.

Story Problems

Good morning cadets… welcome to the flight deck… err I mean… never mind.  It is in fact another morning, and I may or may not have actually gotten some sleep last night.  Enough that I was able to wake up ahead of the alarm clock and get a minor head start on the day… that I have gloriously squandered.  I have a huge day ahead of me, namely that I have to fix an issue that I did not realize was broken until yesterday.  The old process is a rats nest of ancient visual basic… so here’s hoping I can gut it and replace it with something that works better.

Story Problems

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Yesterday Syp from Bio Break posted an article that rang true for me, called Living Story, Dead Interest.  In the article he talks about how the whole “living story” construct in Guild Wars 2 seems to be lacking any real traction for him.  That the rapid fire biweekly story changes are happening too fast for him to really know what is going on in that world.  Based on the comments to the post including one from me… it seems like there is a wide variety of players that just are not getting into the direction that Arena Net has taken the game.

Ultimately for me my malaise with Guild Wars 2 goes a little bit deeper than this.  There are so many things I like about this game.  I think the world is gorgeous and does an amazing job of disguising that it is running on a relatively primate graphics engine compared to its peers.  I think the combat is fun and easy to get into and gives an almost arcade quality to the experience.  I love the changes they made to inventory management, and I love the ability to dump your crafting materials in the bank wherever you happen to be… and then later access your bank from every crafting machine in the world.

The problem is… even with all this good.. I just simply do not care about the world.  It is wild and expansive… and feels completely dead to me.  There are interesting races and locations, but I don’t feel like I know anything about them.  The game chose to abolish two things… roles and quests, but the problem I have is that in neither case did they really replace them with something anywhere near as engaging.  I am one of those people who actually does at least skim through quests as I am doing them.  I feel they give me a sense of purpose out in the world.

In the world of Guild Wars 2… I can’t even recall the name of the world mind you…  I feel like I have no purpose at all.  My entire gaming experience is about popping around the world and performing whatever task is needed to check off various flavored dingbats on my map.  The story just is not there for me, and the class quest line story is too few and far between to really matter.  I don’t really feel like I care about any of the cast of characters I am supposed to.  I don’t like the characters, I occasionally like that I recognize the person doing the voice acting.

Back to the problem at hand…  the Living Story.  My big issue is that Arena Net has chosen to create a series of disposable content, rather than fleshing out the world over time and making the entire experience permanently richer for it.  Additionally I hate all content that expires.. I hate feeling like I am in a rush to experience it.  The end result is not me being pulled into the content and running around in a mad dash to try and experience everything… but instead me simply giving up on the game entirely.  Right now I end up logging in roughly once a month when the whim hits me… I kill a few things and log out, never really finding a purpose for playing.

Battle Bards

I tweeted about this yesterday, and often times retweet each time a new Battle Bards post is made, but I feel like this does not give enough credit to just how amazing this podcast is.  One of my vices is gaming music, namely the grand sweeping tracks that are usually associated with massively multiplayer online games.  Twice a month the Battle Bards…  Syp, MMOGC, and Syl bring you a themed show delving into the truly excellent music that accompanies your gaming experience.  If you are not listening to each new show you are really missing out because this is one of the best podcasts out there.

This latest post was especially nostalgic for me in that they chose to focus on the music of Everquest 2.  I have so much love for the world of Norrath, and a good part of this is wrapped up in the music that has always been associated with it.  I fell in love with Everquest the first time I heard the opening theme…  it was so grand and sweeping and did not feel like any other game music I had experienced.  Sure it sounds dated now but at the time it was a midi masterpiece, and I love the way that Everquest 2 drew upon this same musical style for its opening theme.

One of the interesting side commentary I had while listening to this podcast surrounds their feeling about the theme for Antonica.  While everyone seemed to like the track, they did not feel that it sounded like an outdoor zone theme.  It was commented that it sounded like something from a movie soundtrack and not that of a video game.  While I agree with the last statement, I feel that EQ2 outdoor zones have a very movie aspect to them.

It would not be a fitting track for the scale of say a World of Warcraft zone, but for Everquest 2 it works well.  Essentially all of these outdoor zones are on a scale that just isn’t seen in other games.  Antonica for example is roughly 5-6 times the size of Elwynn Forest in World of Warcraft.  It encompasses numerous distinct biomes, is the entry way to half a dozen dungeons and instanced zones.  The sheer scale is very movie like and dramatic, so as you are roaming around it… this jaunty theatrical music seems to fit.

Ultimately this has always been the overwhelming thing that I loved about Everquest 2.  Everything about the world feels epic in proportions.  There is a dungeon out in in the Jarsath Wastes on Kunark called Chelsith that you have to approach by water.  As you are swimming out you approach what appears to be a rock partially submerged, but as you dip under the water you see that this is the tip of the head of an ancient Iksar statue that has been long submerged… and that the entrance to Chelsith is t the base of its feet.  There are so many moments like that, that just say over and over again… this world is massive.

Stalwart Online

Yesterday we soft launched our new guild website, and are super pumped that it is starting to get some traction among our users.  It is still very much a work in progress and there are various bits and pieces that we want to do to expand it.  The graphical style and skin work is 100% the product of my co-worker and our master guild hall decorator… Audrae.  I know she has some future plans like to make the background swap each time the page loads, and have it pull from a pool of user submitted scenic shots.  Right now we have a promotional shot from Elder Scrolls Online as a static background, but that should change before long.

Essentially to move to a more living and easier to use website, we needed to completely abandon our previous site.  As a result we are soft launching this site and will eventually set the old forums into a read-only mode.  They will always be accessible off the archives link in the menu, but this is only to keep from losing almost a decade worth of posts and material.  Once we have made this shift we will redirect housestalwart.com to point to the new site as well as stalwartonline.com.

Essentially this is a revision in a long line of attempts to move Stalwart from being a game centric community to a larger multi-gaming community.  We have had a presence in almost every game released in recent years, but the previous forums were extremely World of Warcraft focused.  Despite my efforts to juggle the content in a way to keep them from being that… the old format just did not work that well.  Now we are switching to a more discussion and category based system that lists all the new content equally without burying it under a series of folders.

Here is hoping that our members will like the switch and that the new forums will revitalize our community.  Over the last year or so the old forums have been completely dead.  As a result users have just stopped checking in over time.  Here is hoping that the new content and new approach can draw them back out of the shadows and participating again.  Our Rift guild has been wildly successful, and my hope is to harness this new energy to do some really cool stuff.  In the past two week we went from 5 members and questioning if this was actually a good idea… to over 40 members and wondering what exactly we are going to do with everyone.  It is definitely a good thing.

Wrapping Up

Well I have rattled on again and squandered whatever time I gained by getting up before the alarm.  I need to get off here and  finish getting ready.  This morning I need to wake my wife up and make sure she is getting ready because she has a few things that she needs to get done today.  I have a mountain of work awaiting me when I get to the office, and I feel like it is going to take every last bit of it to get through the day.  I hope you all have great days… and feel free to check out our new website.  I feel like the majority of my readers are guild members already.

Hot Tub Party

Morning again all you readers in readerland.  I actually managed to get some sleep last night, and actually slept pretty soundly.  As a result I no longer feel like death warmed over.  Making it through yesterday was a bit of a struggle, and having sit in meetings and think intelligible thoughts a constant challenge.  There was one point when I was in the middle of a diatribe about some programming theory….  when I just lost my train of thought.  Poof it was gone… and I had to fumble around a bit to try and figure out where I was going with what I had just said.

Hot Tub Party

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Last night was a pretty crazy night for House Stalwart in Rift.  Firstly earlier in the day I found out that longtime Stalwart member Nikajah plays on our server, so I got to catch up with her and her new mommy-dom.  She is not sure yet about abandoning the guild she is in, which is completely understandable… but she is at least now joining the Stalwart server channel.  Additionally her husband Ceredith is playing as well, but he seems to be in a much more serious guild.  Very cool to have contact with them again nonetheless.

A little later in the night I noticed an unfamiliar and unguilded face lurking in the server channel.  After taking a moment to query… I found out it was in fact a MoxieDoodle.  I remembered her talking about popping by in a Twitter conversation last week, so I quickly snagged her into the guild.  I got her acclimatized and introduced to the guild… and tried to force some upgrades on her like a good crafter.  She was pumped that we had also managed to snag a Cortical…  who is very much awesome people.

It was around or about this time that Nubzy started bemoaning the fact that Valkkon, Ilyenna and Arilith were playing on another server.  I told her that she should totally fix that, and next thing I know…  she did.  The three of them were longtime Stalwarts or at least members of our extended community of friends over on Argent Dawn.  The guild as a whole has been so much like rebuilding the best possible home we have ever had.  Its like this crazy pipe dream of having everyone awesome in one place at the same time… and it seems to be working out.

Since the three of them are serious roleplayers, I knew they had to see the Guild Hall.  First they were shocked that Rift had such a thing… next they were amazed at every turn they took as we explored it together.  The above photo is an impromptu Hot Tub party as we explored one of Rae’s newer additions to the Hall.  It was kinda funny… everyone just automatically sat in the pool…  well admittedly I tried /sleep first… but realized my head was underwater.  We hang out up there catching up for awhile before continuing on with the tour.

I am so immensely happy at how well the guild has worked out.  At first I had my doubt as to whether or not our guild would gain traction, and if breaking away onto our own was a good thing.  Any of those doubts have long since exploded as we are growing the way we have always grown… organically through friends and family.  Delevax quoted field of dreams to me the other day “build it and they will come”… and to some extent that is exactly what has happened.  To give evidence of how awesome the guild is… at one point last night there were four women involved in a rather heated discussion about who the best Doctor was over guild chat.

Forum Reboot

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One of the things we have been working on over the last week or so is a ground up reboot of the Stalwart forums.  Previously Housestalwart.com was designed to be an extremely WoW-Centric website, and over the years as we have flitted from game to game I have attempted to make it less so… but never really succeeded on that goal.  Ultimately we had a divide between the players that ONLY cared about World of Warcraft and the nomadic group of players that cared about everything else.

With the reboot we are trying to make the forum feel much more holistic and discussion based.  There will be topics you can assign a discussion to, but not the hard folder structure that a forum usually has.  Additionally there is a really nifty “Activity” feed that is somewhat like a guild specific twitter, as players can post quick blurbs and other players can comment on them.  I feel as a whole it will be a much more social aware design.

To that goal, instead of signing up for a forum specific account we have wired it to allow players to log in with their Google accounts in addition to being able to a forum login.  The Google account would be used only for authentication, and it would allow you to alias out the name to whatever you are more comfortable using.  For example I log in with my named Google account and it gets Aliased on the forum to Belghast.  I feel this is going to work much better for the majority of players, making it easier to remember their forum information.

Our hope is that over the next couple of days we will have the site ready to soft launch.  At that point it should be open for business more or less.  Eventually the goal is to lock down the previous forum into read only mode… and it will then become the “Archives” allowing players to browse old conversations if they choose.  When this happens the HouseStalwart.com will redirect to the new forums and WoW.Tulsagamers.com will be the permanent address of the archives.  I will of course post again when it is ready for use.

Resolution… of a sort

It turns out that when you subscribe to Rift you do not in fact get your bags and character slots unlocked.  This is extremely frustrating and I feel that this whole process should be better explained or at least more transparent.  The problem at hand was that we had a guild member that was caught in limbo, and subscribing pretty much spent all the disposable money she had for the month.  I mulled around a bit to try and figure an option and finally landed upon one.

There have been multiple times in the past that Trion has given away complete copies of Rift at various conventions.  I know for a fact that they have done this a few times at Pax and at least once at GenCon.  Since I have a bunch of friends that are convention goers… I thought I would throw out a call and see if any of them still had one of these codes.  Sure enough, yesterday evening Tam did some digging through his bins of old convention swag and found a code for a full version of the game.

I passed this off to the player in Limbo and sure enough… boom she had full bag slots and character slots again.  The frustrating thing however is that without our deep network of friends…  this would not have been possible.  There needs to be a much clearer way to purchase the game and apply the code to your account.  I found out this morning that we have another guildie in this state of limbo… and while I was able to get ONE Pax code out of my network of friends… I sincerely doubt I will be able to find a second one.  However if you are reading this and have one… please let me know… he will be equally appreciative I am certain.

Morning Timeouts

Over the last few weeks something odd has been happening to me… and I just confirmed with CorticalScrub that it is happening to him as well.  Essentially as I start my morning post, I alt tab and fire up the Rift client.  This has been habit for some time, because often times I need to take a screenshot that I may have forgotten to… or at the very least it lets me claim my daily gifts.  However over the last few weeks in the morning I get what seems to be a timeout.  So I spend my time working on my post and flipping over periodically trying to reconnect.

This seems to continue every morning until 6:30-6:45 central time, and then magically goes away.  I have never had this issue at any other point in the day.  I have done some searching on the forums and have yet to find a definitive explanation.  If anyone knows what exactly is happening here I would love to know.  Do we have just a ton of non-US primetime players out there that are busying out the login server?  Is this just a case of everyone waking up at the same time?  I am super curious what is causing the phenomena.  If I ever find an answer I will post it.

Wrapping Up

Well I have a few other topics that I had originally planned on writing about… but I will save those as ammo for another day.  I need to get up and around and gather the trash.  Additionally since my cleaners was without power the last time I went… I really need to take the big blue bag of dirty work clothing there to get processed.  I hope you all have a great day, and please let me know if you have any spare Pax or GenCon keys.  I will be sure to find them good homes as players are dismayed by the fact that subscribing to Rift does not in fact make your account whole again.

Spires of Bone

Good morning all you people in internetland… that’s right the forced cheerfulness means I had another one of my bouts of insomnia.  Last night it was not so much that I had another panic attack, it was more one of my classic “can’t shut brain off” nights.  I wound up getting back out of bed and coming upstairs and building in Minecraft.  After about an hour that calmed me down enough to be able to actually sleep.  But of course this will put me a little over an hour under my normal sleep schedule… and I am feeling immensely groggy this morning.  Coffee… take me a way!

Scavenger of Hunts

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Yesterday I essentially did what I stated I was going to do.  I knocked out my guild harvesting daily and then proceeded to start working my way through the old world summerfest scavenger hunts.  Overall they were pretty fun, a few of them were more tedious than others.  Several of them taught me things about the zones they were in that I didn’t know.  For example I had no clue that all of the lakes in Moonshade are actually connected by a series of waterways, and that you can swim from one end to the other without breaking the surface.

The most annoying of them was a quest that starts in Iron Pine Peaks at the Chancel of Labors and involves taking ice cream to a NPC in Shimmersand before it melts.  You can teleport between the zones without issue, but my problem is that I always seem to get lost in Shimmersand and never can figure out which path goes where.  So it took a couple of tries for me… and after failing the first time I spent a little bit of effort trying to figure out the best route to the quest target.

After wrapping these up I started in on the newer scavenger hunts, starting with the continent of Dusken.  The first couple were relatively easy and just involved roaming around until you found the correct item.  When I got to Seratos things got considerably more annoying.  That task involved collecting a “Mystic Skull”, and pretty much all of them in the zone are hidden behind some sort of jumping puzzle.  I got mine from above a Storm Legion camp, that involved a mixture of off mount and mounted jumps to reach the prize.  I never could actually get up where the skull itself was… but I was able to get within reach of being able to loot it.

From what I have read, it seems as thought Steppes of Infinity is the king of all jumping puzzles…  so that one pretty much halted my progress for the evening.  Tonight hopefully I will get in at some point and continue on with doing the Brevane Scavenger hunts.  I just reached a point where I was done with mini-games for the day.  I am honestly shocked that each individual scavenger hunter quest does not reward better than it actually does.  When you complete each zone objective you only get 25 Summerfest Merit Badges.  This seems a bit daunting when the extra happy spiffy rings are 3000.

Spires of Bone

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Seratos… otherwise known as “I hope you like random spires of bone and flesh and the color purple”.  This zone is pretty much a love song to a Death Rift.  So much of what is going on here… would give me nightmares if I stopped to think about it.  Pretty much the most creepy thing in the zone are these mountain ridges… that when you get up closer to them turn out to be giant molars.  Essentially this is the land of the shapers, that harvest flesh and then repurpose it into new shapes.  Originally you are thinking… okay they build undead abominations and such…  but no it doesn’t stop there.

Pretty much EVERYTHING in the zone is made of bone or flesh.  Nothing says death like a nice rotting flesh armoire.  I have this odd relationship with the zone… so much of it tweaks the “cool” factor for my inner thirteen year old that still wants everything to be covered in skulls and crossbones.  On the other side, the adult in me finds this whole theme deeply unsettling and something out of a Lovecraft or Barker novel.  At least there are no skinless corpses walking around, because seriously that would push it over the edge for me.

My favorite of the abominations… are these creepy floating things with two giant arms and a scorpion like tail…  and instead of a head they have another small pair of arms holding a weird china geisha mask in place where a head should be.  Whoever designed that thing is seriously disturbed… and also rather brilliant.  Quite honestly every single thing in Seratos is equally twisted, and it gives the entire zone this deeply disturbing feeling as you level through it.  After I finished with the warm and happy summerfest adventures…  this is where I chose to go to work on Belgrave my rogue.

Seratos also has the distinction of being the first major step up in content difficulty on the new continents.  I noticed this on my warrior, and it even seems moreso on my rogue.  The mobs seem to have more hitpoints, take longer to kill and do nastier things to me.  I remember a similar step up in difficulty around 58 in Morban or Kingsward.  The game is not playing around, and will happily dismember you…  which is fitting for the zone I am leveling through.

I managed to ding 55 and hopped over to Belghast and crafted myself a nifty set of swords.  You can see them in the above screenshot… the Insidious Vicious Karthite Saber.  They have a crazy glowing techblade feel to them, which feels fitting for the forbidden tech aspect of the entire Storm Legion expansion.  They look especially slick when I have them enchanted with my lighting graphic planar dexterity buff.  I pretty much worked on this guy up until the point I took my evening walk.

No Trials, No Tricks, No Traps?

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Normally I am the biggest cheerleader for Trion on the planet.  While I have played Rift off and on over the last two years… there has only been about a three month period that I was not actively subscribed to it.  I can go on and on about how awesome a company it is.. and how good of an experience it is playing it.  But be warned I have a bit of a rant to get off my chest.  There is still a support ticket in play mind you… so this all may resolve itself, but I still feel like I need to say something.

I am an organizer of people…  I seem to have the ability to gather up a bunch of awesome folks and get them working towards a focused goal.  As a result in the last week or so House Stalwart on Faeblight has gone from 5 people to roughly 35.  A lot of these individuals were former Rift players, and their transition has been fairly seamless.  Something of note… almost every single one of our guild members is an actively paying Patron.  The problem I have run into is with the transition of players who never played Rift before, and are just now giving it a shot.

It was the assumption of pretty much everyone in my guild that when you started paying for Patron, you would unlock a lot of the ways your free to play account is gimped.  That it would give you access to the bank and to the auction house… and more importantly restore full access to your character slots and bag slots.  Having only 2 character slots and only 3 bag slots is pretty significantly and painfully gimped…  but it is something you would expect for not being a paying customer.  However when you start giving a monthly commitment of money… you expect those shackles to go away.

This was the assumption I had… and the assumption the other members of my guild had.  So last night when one of our new to Rift members chose to bump up to Patron level access and start subscribing to the game… we were all greatly perplexed to find out that while it unlocked her bank and auction house access… it did absolutely NOTHING for her gimped number of bag slots and character slots.  We all suggested that she try logging out and back in… and that did nothing.  We had her submit a service ticket… and got back a completely bullshit brushoff answer linking to two topics that had nothing to do with what was going on.

We told her to resubmit the ticket, because seriously the support answer was bullshit and not related in any way at all.  After doing this she started doing some reading.  Quite honestly everything on the forums was confusing… but it sounded like to restore her full access she would need to buy something they kept referring to as a “game pack”.  The problem is… there is no way through the accounts page or the in game store to actually “buy” the game.  This whole thing is a bit of a mess… if you become a paying customer in a free to play game… you expect to be restored to the same level as other paying customers.

I still love Trion… and I still feel overall that the free to play conversion is extremely good for former Rift players.  However it is starting to seem that the “No Trials. No Tricks. No Traps” mantra is a bit hypocritical when dealing with brand new players.  This needs to be fixed.  When a player starts subscribing to your game, they should have their account restored to a level that any sane and rational person would expect.  Either that or allow them to have a one stop easy access to bump their account up to the same level as someone that has paid for the game.  Buying those extra character slots and bag slots is a little egregious when someone is already committing to pay you a monthly fee for access to your otherwise free game.

Here is hoping that the second support ticket will get some resolution, and that this really is not the way they choose to do business.  As a guild leader and organizer of people… I have to say this will seriously throw a massive monkey wrench in my ability to get friends that have never tried the game into it.  I will now have to tell them that it will cost X dollars to restore your account to a state that you will be able to play it normally with bag slots and character slots that players expect to have with a paid membership.  Here is hoping that they will listen to some reason and modify the way this works… or at the very least be a good deal more transparent about what subscribing doesn’t mean.

Wrapping Up

Well I have ran significantly over in time… and need to get on the road.  I will update you guys tomorrow either way if the support ticket was successful.  I hope you all have a great day and a great beginning of the work week.  Tonight I had planned on popping into The Secret World since there is always a critical mass playing on Monday nights.  We will have to see if I actually follow through with this, or if I instead end up back in Rift.

Viva Summerfest

Good morning folks.  It’s Sunday and I am already beginning to dread the start of another work week.  I did in fact get drug out into the world kicking and screaming yesterday.  Somehow my wife talked me into a trip to the ghetto for school supplies.  However luckily it was over almost as quickly as it began, as the one Dollar Tree we went to actually had everything she had on her list for her classroom.  I will admit that after Albany, the ghettos of Tulsa feel quite a bit more posh.

Viva Summerfest

rift 2013-07-28 10-16-25-84 It’s Summerfest time again in Rift and with it comes the scavenger hunts, that have now been updated to include the Storm Legion content.  This is my first year participating, and while I have not spent a ton of time working on them yet, it is my goal for today.  I have to admit that there are so many different quest lines and scavenger hunts that it is a little bit weighty to try and wade in as a first timer.  Thankfully yesterday Rift Scene released a really amazing guide to the new content.  For first timers like me, there are additional guides that cover the previous years little and great scavenger hunts as well.

If you follow the new guide it has a listing of all of the items available for purchase with the summer merit badge tokens.  Personally I am drooling over the level 60 epic rings… and hopefully after completing all the scavenger hunts today I will have enough currency to buy one for Belghast my almost raid geared main.  Additionally as always while the event is going on, every rift has a change of dropping the summer merit badge currency.  We have found the sweet spot is to take storm legion characters onto Ember Isle and open Major rifts.  These seem to be much easier than the Major rifts in the Storm Legion zones, but drop similar rewards.

The Hidden Temple

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Last week I posted some pictures of the guild hall, in it was a shot of the hidden temple area at the top of the waterfall.  Rae has once again been hard at work, and the above image is the current state of that same area.  I personally find them almost unrecognizable.  She figured out some cool tricks to do with tile to make the really intricate flooring you see above.  Additionally she built a pergola from scratch over the pool in the corner.  What I love is the level of depth our guild hall has.  We even have a hidden cairn that no one has actually found on their own yet.

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Additionally our guild hall now has a bartender, and as a result our bar area has been tweaked here and there a bit.  The above shot doesn’t necessarily show off all of the features, but I had to use it because of the impromptu Stalwart dance party that happened while I was in the hall taking pictures.  In addition to these area there have been a lot of little additions that make the whole area look more “lived in” and furnished.  The upstairs is slowly coming together but I dont think Rae really has a firm direction yet.  I fully expect to log in one day and everything be completely different up there as she had gotten some wild inspiration.

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I love the above screenshot.  I backed up all the way to the zone boundary to take it, and it shows off OUR take on the Granite Falls area.  You can see we added a Regulos Ballon to our “Bazaar” area, which has had a little bit of tweaking here and there, and the path to the temple up through the waterfall is far less hidden.  Additionally little bits of flair have been added all along the path making it feel more finished.  All I really want now is for Trion to add in vendors that we can sprinkle throughout the bazaar making it feel like a real zone.

They mentioned during one of the recent live streams that this has been a point of heavy debate amongst the development staff.  The whole question is… will having functional guild machines and vendors make the hub cities depopulated.  My theory is no…  so long as they limit what we can place in our dimensions.  Personally I would like to see a varieity of vendors and access to all of the crafting machines.  Additionally I would love to see a functional mailbox that we can place outside our Inn.  What I am okay with not having is access to auction house and banks.  These are completely things that should be left in hub cities and will make sure players go back to the hubs to access them.

Love My Guild

Yesterday I played a bit in the morning and then late afternoon we went out to run errands.  Before I left I queued up the guild for the “Kill 700” pvp quest, as we had completed all of the available PVE ones.  I was gone roughly two hours and when I got back I noticed that we had no guild quest at all.  I was pumped… that meant we had completed the PVP quest in record time.  When I started asking people about it, and logging over to my Guardian to grab the “Win X Matches” quest… I found out that no…  we had not only completed the Kill 700 quest… but also completed the Win X matches.

Apparently while I was gone… my guildies spontaneously organized a PVP team and knocked them all out in what felt like crazy time.  It seems as thought Rae, Tibuant, Delevax and Liani(@CorticalScrub) pulled together a group and ground them out together.  If I have missed anyone that participated… please forgive me… but those are the people who chimed in when I was asking about it.  I would not be surprised if this ended up being an entire guild pvp affair.  I have to say I had and still am having such a “proud papa” moment over this.  Anyone who has lead a guild realizes just how rare it is that your members freely self organize and do stuff together.

Currently thanks to this flurry of activity we are sitting a good chunk into level 6.  Here is hoping that frequent guild harvest quests can ding us before the wednesday reset.  If not we will have 7 and 8 next week easily.  It feels like we are just flying through the levels, and the perks we are gaining for the guild are really awesome.  Right now we are working on the perk that increases the amount of gold gain for all players… which will in turn feed the 3% tithe gold duplication that is happening already and going into the guild vault.  Here is hoping that eventually we can fund that third guild vault.

Chasing Hellbugs

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Granted… the above picture is not a Hellbug rift, but it is of guildies closing a Rift.  At least once a day Tibuant has been pulling together a guild group to go out and open fire rifts in the hopes that we will get the ever illusive “invasive species” rift for a shot at pets and mounts.  Tib has had some rather shitty luck thusfar to be honestly, and I think this is what has spurred on his quest.  Currently I believe he has gotten 6 of the Skitt pet, and not seen a single mount drop.  I have had 2 red mounts and 3 red pets and 1 purple pet thusfar but am still always game to do it… for a shot at the purple or green mounts.

The one thing I have noticed… people are extremely rude when it comes to tears.  There is a guild on our server called Vox Populi… which is neither very original… nor something I think most people would aspire to be given the Bioshock Infinite reference.  So far their MO seems to be running around a zone, opening major fire rifts… and then abandoning them if they are not the Invasive Species one.  Firstly this is kind of a dick move, but secondly it is self defeating… since every zone has an upper limit of rifts that can be open at one time.  By not closing the rifts they are opening… they are just screwing themselves over in the long run.

All of that said… we have tried to be good stewards of the land.  If a rift is up… we close it period… regardless if it is the magical happy hellbug rift or not.  Additionally if there are naturally spawned rifts we often close those as well, since it will free up space for new tears to form… that we can then open and hopefully GET a hellbug.  Bitching about that guild aside it has been a blast just running around with guildies and wrecking things.  I am a simply monkey and mass carnage makes me happy.

Wrapping Up

I have rattled on enough for this morning and I want to get on into game and work on things there.  I hope you all have a great end of the weekend and that the beginning of the week is pretty calm.  Additionally since I have been talking about House Stalwart quite a bit, I thought I would throw this out there.  If you are on Faeblight or currently unattached to your server and are looking for a good home… you might check out this post that covers our guild rules.  If it sounds like something for you feel free to look me up on Faeblight on either Belghast, Belgrave, Belglaive or Belgaroth.

Blizzard Edition

Good morning you happy people in internet land… I am struggling horribly to get up and around today.  I gathered up breakfast but did so while wearing a skullcap to hide my disheveled and unkempt hair.  This is feeling one of those screw the world days… it is nice out but I don’t really want to go out and experience it.  I am perfectly happy sitting on my comfy couch with my laptop and chilling out.  The week had an odd amount of stress for nothing major actually occurring, and last night I had a temporary relapse of the panic attacks.  Jury is still out on whether or not I will be drug out into the world to experience today kicking and screaming or not.

Blizzard Free?

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The big semi-shocking news of yesterday is that Actiblizz managed to bail itself out of ownership by Vivendi and now is a relatively free agent.  Granted for me so long as Activision is tacked on front of Blizzard it will never actually be a “free” company, but I feel that ship has sailed and the two companies will forever be joined at the hip.  There have been a lot of news reporting that Blizzard is now the largest “indie” company…  but I feel like these same outlets have zero clue what that term even means anymore.

Do I think it is good overall for Actiblizz to control its own fate?  Sure… I feel that Vivendi was directly responsible for pushing out games before in an “unprepared” state in order to recuperate some of its money.  Additionally there were several stories floating around just prior to this announcement talking about how Vivendi was planning in raiding its cash cow to try and repair its own bottom line.  In essence this move fixes both problems… Blizzard is free from pillage, and Vivendi got a shot of money in the process.

The Footnote

Almost as a footnote the press release also casually announced that the subscriber base of World of Warcraft had fallen once again to 7.7 million.  After watching the two stories play out in my RSS feed yesterday, there was a significant delay as individuals got over the shock of the first and began to Grok the second.  Basically this was no real shock to me, because somewhere… and I am seemingly unable to find the source I saw a quote after their last big drop…  that they were fully expecting to be at 6 million by the end of the year.  Another 600,000 subscribers seems like they are on course for that possiblity.

This is more “Bel talking out of his ass” time, because I don’t really have references to back myself up… but essentially what I have heard thus far is that Blizzard is losing China.  These losses are essentially the fallout of that problem.  What happened in China then?  Essentially there are so many WoW clones in the Chinese Market, that simply market and hit the culture touchstones better.  Even more… WoW is no longer an aspirational game in the way it was.  It used to be a brand that Chinese consumers wanted to identify, even Coke drew upon it to sell soda.  From everything I have heard… this has changed and WoW is simply “not cool anymore”.

A Change in Model

I have said it multiple times… and I will continue to say it until November when I may or may not have to eat crow… but I believe this year at Blizzcon we will see the announcement of some form of a free to play model.  They have already publically confirmed that a cash shop is on the way, and usually going hand in hand with that is a switch to one of the many now viable free to play options.  My only hope is that they choose to follow the lead of Rift and giving players a Carrot, instead of following SWTOR and bashing players down with a stick.

Do I think going to Free to Play would help?  Honestly I am not sure.  I would likely poke my head in every now and then pending the model is not egregious.  I figure there are lots of people with a mild interest in the game that would return every now and then and maybe spend a little money there.  What I do think however is that there are probably still enough extremely devoted fans that the model would still be profitable for them.  At this point I feel the subscription model is just no longer viable.

As I said yesterday a huge chunk of why I will not be playing Final Fantasy XIV is because I just don’t feel it is worth a monthly fee.  Right now we have only a handful of holdouts still charging a monthly access fee, and the vast majority shifting to pay as you go or pay for perks schemes.  I feel that regardless of when it happens, sooner or later World of Warcraft will convert and do so in a big way.  Given their flair for showmanship and ability to spin something that would normally play as bad, into a positive for the Blizzcon audience…  I feel that all the signs are right for them announcing the shift.

Vanilla Servers

Yesterday there was an interesting post by Syp over on Bio Break, asking if we would play on a Vanilla server if Blizzard created one.  Essentially the post was spurred by comments that Drysc apparently made back in 2008 that hey had been seriously considering the model.  Since that time however…  Everquest has made a killing by creating Retro servers that allow players to experience the game through the eyes of history.  Essentially SOE has proven that the model is completely viable, and viable enough that at last count I believe there were three different “retro” servers. 

The most interesting part about Syp’s post however is the large batch of comments that occur afterwards.  It seems like the majority of the posters essentially said “take my money now”.  A few of us however were more “sounds awesome, but not for me”.  I definitely fell into the second camp.  I like the concept of a Vanilla server, but I feel as if it is probably best leave our happy memories in the rose tinted past.  When I think about just how much WoW progressed as it went through its expansions… what would exist as a Vanilla server would feel like a primitive shell of what exists today.  So while you would lose heinous inventions like the dungeon finder… you would also end up losing quality of life changes such as the ability to trade BOP loot in dungeons and even the “Need / Greed” loot system.

Ultimately while I am still interested in the advancement of that game… as evidenced to the fact that I devoted an entire blog post this morning to little blips about Blizzard in general…  I just think I am done with the World of Warcraft as a game.  I might return every now and then to check in on it… but I am not returning for the game itself… I am returning for the few people that are still there and rabid about it.  I feel as if I have just moved past the limits of that game, and want more.  In my “MMO Must Haves” series of posts, I rattled out all the features that I wanted in a game… and expectantly WoW has very few of them.  On the converse Rift has damned near every one of them… so it is no shock that I am playing that these days.

I think eventually Vanilla servers will come to fruition, because there will come a time when Blizzard is trying to wring out every last drop of cash from an aging brand.  I do not however think we will see it until they change their business model.  There will likely be some access fee that you add to your account that allows you to roll characters on the closed Vanilla servers.  I think the same kind of people that find the Everquest Retro servers alluring will also find the old world WoW servers that way also.  I will admit… I would be more tempted if they started releasing servers for each era.  Wrath of the Lich King was my favorite time in the game, and after we killed Arthas… everything felt tarnished.

Wrapping Up

I have a feeling that my wife is going to want to go out and explore the world… and as much as I do not want this at all… I figure I will end up being a good guy and aggressing to it.  As a result I really should get up and around and get ready for the day.  It is a lovely day outside at least, and the temperature is an unseasonable 80*.  I just have zero interest in the outside world and would prefer to sit at home on my sofa.  I hope you all have great weekends, and that you get accomplished anything you need to.

Goodbye Chocobo

Last night was a fairly good night.  It was cool outside so we decided to go for our evening walk pretty early.  After we got done with our loop of the neighborhood I decided it taking a dip in the pool sounded absolutely awesome.  So after cooling down in the pool, I finally settled in for some serious Rift time, and luckily by then the servers had mostly stabilized.  There was apparently an issue with the backhaul for the Trion datacenter that was generating a ton of lag for certain players.

Goodbye Chocobo

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Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn releases on August 27th, and a good number of my friends are extremely pumped about this.  As a result I got a bit caught up in the hype myself and had preordered the game through Amazon.  I got into the beta and enjoyed myself and even wrote a relatively positive review.  The problem for me is that once the nostalgia wore off, I was essentially left playing a game that was very much rooted in the wow era traditions and really didn’t push the bar forward much.  With each successive beta test I found myself with less and less desire to actually log in and play it.

Don’t get me wrong… there is nothing wrong with the game, nor is it a bad game.  In fact it is a really good game, and if you are deeply rooted in the Final Fantasy Mythos and/or really like the JRPG style of artwork and graphics…  it is likely going to be an amazing game for you.  That said.. I normally do not like the JRPG art and character style… and while I have a good chunk of nostalgia towards the Final Fantasy franchise… all of that comes from the 2D era of the game.  I feel as though that nostalgic buzz has worked its way through my system.

Additionally right now I am really trying to set down some semi-permanent roots in Rift.  The House Stalwart guild is hopping every night and people are friendly and happy and engaging.  I don’t want to go off and play anything else, even on a lark and take a chance of jinxing this awesome thing we have going.  I also lack the desire to really play Final Fantasy XIV.  It was a game I was definitely going to play because I had several friends who were really excited about it.  However my fear was that it would be another TERA for me, I play it one week and then cancel my account never to play it again.

For all of these reasons… yesterday I went into my Amazon account and cancelled my preorder.  The biggest detractor for me, and the point that made me go ahead and pull the trigger…  is the subscription fee.  It is funny how things have shifted for me… and I have gone from being a player who didn’t want to play a game without a subscription option… to being one who really criticizes any game that ONLY has a subscription model.  Ultimately the game was just not fun enough for me to be willing to pay a monthly fee to play.  If it was buy the box, I would have gone ahead and picked it up and piddle around in it whenever I felt like.  However knowing that I only had 30 days of playtime to decide if I liked the game enough to pay a monthly fee for it… was a massive hindrance.

I hope the game does well, and it finds its niche after all the work they have put into it.  It really is an enjoyable experience, but for me just not compelling enough to pay for.  I feel like I want the game to succeed, because at this point ANY MMO failure is a negative thing and causes the number of companies willing to fund a AAA MMO to shrink.  Based on the number of people that are truly hyped about the game, I figure it will be a modest success which will hopefully be enough to keep the ball moving forward.

Night of the Hunt

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Yesterday I ended up writing a piece in response to a blog post, and did not really go over what happened Wednesday night for the guild.  For awhile now we have been trying to make Monday and Wednesday nights a time when we pull something together.  The Monday side of the equation has been faltering, however most every Wednesday night we at least do something as a group.  Monday has long been The Secret World night amongst a large group of my friends… and I am thinking we might simply need to start doing that as well.  Wednesday night however we usually have a critical mass of players, and this past one I had huge plans.

In the Storm Legion concept there is something called a Hunt Rift that you can purchase from the Torvan Hunters.  Essentially you are helping the Torvan Hunters capture dangerous planar beings.  You open the special lures at any planar tear, and it starts a little multiple stage event that works somewhat different than a normal rift.  During the first stage you help the hunter build the machine to trap the being, then you defend it against an onslaught of planar mobs trying to stop your efforts.  Finally after defending the machine for several phases the mini-boss is summoned and you defeat them.  The reward is lots of Torvan Hunters rep, a chest full of goodies, and being able to check off one hunt from the achievement that eventually unlocks Great Hunts.

The lures are roughly 5000 planarite each, and I decided I would purchase the first dozen that make up tier 1 of the torvan hunts.  The plan was simple…  we would grab whatever available level 50+ characters we had… grab the few 40+ players we had and teleport them to storm legion content via a rally banner… and wreck the hunts.  This was an awesome theory… but was thwarted by the fact that apparently the Rally Scroll has limits on being able to teleport too low a character to the Storm Legion content zones. 

We opened a single rift and closed it, but I made the call that it would just be more enjoyable if we could do something we ALL could participate in.  It is never fun to be sitting on the bench when you perceive that other players are off doing amazing things.  I searched my brain for an idea… and finally landed on the fact that myself and Tibuant had a decent stock of old world elite lures laying around.  These were challenging encounters designed for 10 players at level 50, and our original Rift guild had many Elite Rift nights.  As a result I had half a dozen lures still taking up bank space, and Tib had another couple himself.

We spent the rest of the night bouncing back and forth between the yellow elite tears in Iron Pine Peaks and Stillmoor opening the encounters.  While most of the gear has long since been replaced with better Storm Legion greens, our youngins were able to pick up a few pieces of epic quality gear that might hold them for a little bit once they start into the new content.  Honestly however that was just gravy, the real fun was just running around as a group and doing something out of the ordinary together.  I am glad I made the choice to pick something we all could do, rather than excluding a batch of players due to level.

There will be other guild nights and other times we can finish the tier one hunt rifts.  Each of the lower level players we toon along got one or more dings over the course of the night.  So we slowly but surely moved them forward towards being able to participate in bigger and grander things.  I am not saying there will not be nights that we run things higher level that some of our crew may not be able to participate in.  But my hope is to be able to include the largest batch of players in the process.  I am just enjoying running around together doing whatever the hell we end up doing.

Wrapping Up

I normally do three segments, but these two segments seem extra long to me.  Additionally the time is getting late and I need to be getting on to work.  This morning I need to run laundry by the cleaners and that always takes up a bit of time.  Last night we had a lot of fun closing Rifts for the guild quest and hopefully we can finish off the second “close 100 rifts” quest tonight.  We dinged level 5 yesterday but are a long ways from level 6.  I hope you all have a great Friday and that it is the start of an awesome weekend.  Tonight we will be picking up a printer from some folks on craigslist, and hopefully I will get on before too late.