Remote Gaming

DragonAgeInquisition 2015-08-17 12-11-08-61

Distractions

deskCat

This morning is not going how I expected to go in the least.  About 3 am a massive storm blew in, and with it thunder, lightning and torrential rains.  This of course woke me up, because rain sometimes means bad things.  We have some issues with our wooden siding right now, and it is causing two leaks to happen when the rain is particularly vigorous.  We have contracted someone to come out and fix all of this… but that won’t happen until sometime in September when their next available slot is.  In the meantime each time it rains I either dread the potential for a leak, or like last night have to listen to the constant dripping from the top of our bedroom window.  Needless to say I did not exactly get an amazing nights sleep after that all started.  As a result I have been moving around this morning extremely sluggish and easily distracted.  I set out with the simple mission earlier of trying to find out what my Wizard 101 account name was… and wound up playing for about fifteen minutes.  The distractions are real, and plentiful and I am getting a very late start writing my morning post.

Then to make matters worse when I actually sit down to start writing, I find out that apparently WordPress has released its 4.3 patch, and I now have eleven updates waiting on me.  Instead of waiting until AFTER I have advertised a post, I decided to go ahead and update everything right then.  It is surprising how long twelve updates take when one of them is a new wordpress version, and a major version at that.  It is going to be an interesting day I can already tell it.  I have a cat on my desk right now stalking me,  because she thinks she is hungry and the kitten playing around behind my monitors which always freaks me out a little bit.  Thank god for coffee is pretty much all I can say at this point because otherwise I would surrender to the desire to curl up in a ball like my cats…. and join them in sleep.  The cats are absolutely not helping the distracted part however, because they are both being adorable.  This may or may not be the worst blog post I have written in years.

Remote Gaming

DragonAgeInquisition 2015-08-17 12-11-08-61

I guess in the grand scheme of things I should have known this morning would end up like this, because last night was equally spastic.  Instead of gaming, I spent a lot of time “trying to game remotely”.  I have this dream that someday I will be able to play games on my less than stellar laptop downstairs, from the gaming machine upstairs.  I know at this point you are preparing to interrupt me with “but steam in home streaming!” but quell that for the moment.  There are a huge number of games that I play that do not run, and ultimately don’t work right through steam in home streaming.  I know… I’ve tried.  One of them for example is Dragon Age: Inquisition that is locked behind the layer of bullshit that is EA Origin.  So instead last night I started trying a different route, namely Splashtop.  Some time ago I watched a video from Linus Tech Tips about creating a “Ghetto Shield” to play games from a phone/controller combination.  This is all fine and good…  but I don’t want to play games from a tablet or mobile interface.  I hate touch screen interfaces with a passion, and all I really want is to be able to treat my laptop as a thin client for gaming purposes.  The dream is simple, because in theory it would allow me to stop caring about getting a “gaming laptop” and instead just get a decent office type laptop and stream through my gaming machine.  The problem has always been that there is enough lag that it ultimately ends up pissing me off.

Last night I managed to get Dragon Age Inquisition largely working, but I ran into two issues.  I was running fraps on both my gaming desktop upstairs and my laptop so I could see the FPS of the two systems.  My gaming machine was running DA:I around 60 fps just fine…  Splashtop on the other hand was running in the 15 to 20 fps range which pretty much wrecked any playability.  To make matters worse, for whatever reason whenever I attempted to move “mmo style” while holding down the right mouse button to turn…  the mouse input lagged to painful levels making me pretty much abandon the mouse and start keyboard turning.  I kept trying this over the course of roughly two hours, and even tried to figure out a way to get it running smoothly through Steam Streaming without much luck either.  The reason why I was sent down this path yesterday is the updates to Windows 10 streaming from an Xbox One console.  That is cool enough, but for the love of god… will someone make it work between two windows machines without issue.  The last attempt was to try and figure out how to install the Splashtop gamepad driver, so I might try that again tonight.  Everything I have read online is that the mouse support in Splashtop is just bad.  I guess they are emulating the input instead of simply passing it through to the other machine….  which seems insane…  until you realize that the software was designed to allow people to connect from tablets to desktops… and not necessarily desktops to desktops.  I will say however it already out performs any remote desktop tool that I have played in the past.  I booted up World of Warcraft as a litmus test and it ran flawlessly.  There was some strangeness with the mouse cursor updating slowly, but the movement was nice and smooth.

Revisiting Tristram

Diablo III 2015-08-18 23-03-27-16

I am not entirely certain if it was my recent foray into Hellgate London, or my recent railing on click to move as a control scheme… but for whatever reason I have had an undeniable craving to play some Diablo 3.  Last night ultimately turned into a night of updating drivers and things, and in the process I installed a new Nvidia driver.  One of the things I do periodically is flip through what it is suggesting as my “optimized setting”.  Some of the suggestions are pure crap, because out of laziness they really have not tested any of the settings.  However every now and then you get one that is really well optimized, and that seemed to be the case with the configuration it was suggesting for Diablo 3.  My newest video card is capable of doing the spiffy trick where it renders the game at 4k and then down-samples it back to 1080p.  Nvidia Experience ultimately suggested this mode for Diablo 3 and I have to say playing like that is absolutely gorgeous.  I am not sure if you can actually see the difference in the screenshot but in game it just feels smoother than traditional anti-aliasing usually does.  On a whim I decided to create a Season 3 character, even though Season 4 is only a couple of weeks away.  Not sure what I am hoping to accomplish because I doubt there is any way in hell I will get a character to 70 before the season ends.

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I made it to level six and the blacksmith apprentice quest before ultimately deciding I needed to log for the night.  I could have likely stayed up for a few more hours playing, but I was hoping to prevent the level of groggy that is already well underway this morning.  Either I am getting better at click to move, or I am getting lazy… because in truth I didn’t really do that much clicking last night.  I mostly ran around with my left button held down allowing the game to auto attack most of the mobs, occasionally throwing in a shield slam.  I am still not a huge fan of the control scheme, and the announcement yesterday of Marvel Heroes 2016 introducing game pad control was welcome news.  That said I am maybe okay with playing it every now and then.  I have been feeling terribly disconnected and Diablo is the perfect kind of soloing but still having people to talk to type gaming experience.  I booted up Wildstar and attempted to play for an hour or so last night, but ultimately felt horribly lost in the expanse that is Whitevale.  Diablo 3 provided me tight and constrained corridors without much thinking, and that seemed to fit the bill perfectly.  Tonight however I will have to put on my productive adult cap, as it is raid night and we are likely going to be doing more tries on Ravana.

Ravana Attempts

Unbreaking Google+

Last night I had a message from a long time friend of mine, asking me why I was no longer posting my daily posts on Google+ to which I kinda gave a head tilt and went “huh”?  I had certainly seen my posts making their way to G+ anytime I checked my messages over there.  Then I took a closer look and saw that they all said “shared only with you” which kinda defeats the purpose of syndicating posts in the first place.  It turns out that nothing I have posted since July 28th has made it to G+ which is more than mildly frustrating.   I un-linked my account from Jetpack Publicize and relinked it a few times, but I never saw the prompt that I once saw asking me to select what type of sharing level for my posts.  So I took to the search engine to try and figure out what was happening.  Sure enough it seems like Google did something to change its policies with what level of access external apps have access to your account.  You apparently need to go into Settings > Manage Apps & Activities and then find the WordPress app or whatever else you are using for syndication.  This will allow you to edit the permissions for how it will be sharing to your feed, and like I said before apparently the new default is “Only You”.

After posting about this last night it seems that this pretty much happened for everyone universally.  I thought I would take a quick moment and at least explain how to fix it.  As far as syndicating my posts… I tend to take the approach of broadcast what I write pretty much everywhere.  Each of the social networks kinda has its own vibe and while I greatly prefer using Twitter, there are folks that read my content that equally greatly prefer G+ or Facebook or even Tumblr.  My goal has always been to deliver my content as in as painless of a manner as possible for folks to read.  I personally am not a huge fan of Facebook, and in fact I went through the crazy process of deleting my personal account once upon a time because it annoyed me.  However when I started blogging I signed up for an account just for the purpose of reblogging my content because I know there are people who do prefer to use Facebook.  Granted it might get annoying as shit if you follow me on multiple platforms to constantly see duplicate postings, but I guess that is a chance I am willing to take because I don’t want anyone to feel excluded or left out of the process.  Maybe this is strange but my daily posting thing… feels like all of us are taking a journey together and I don’t want to leave anyone behind.

Ravana Attempts

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As is always the case last night was we gathered up the Monday team and did some eight player content in Final Fantasy XIV.  We started the evening by burning through all four parts of Alexander Normal for the folks who are not running it and capping out early like I am.  At this point my Warrior is sitting at level 190 and I have everything I can get out of Alexander other than the chest piece.  So as of today I will be largely running the place to help out the gear on my Dragoon.  At some point I hope to get the chest piece but largely for cosmetic reasons because the Alexander gear set looks amazing.  Last week we managed to burn down Bismarck Extreme and now both the Monday and Wednesday teams are keyed for the next primal encounter.  As such instead of beating the sky whale again we decided to make attempts on Ravana Extreme.  Now going into this place we had heard horror stories about how rough the encounter was and how it was another Titan Extreme where you had to move exactly at the right time and keep repeating a pattern.  Honestly I didn’t see that at all.  Instead I saw an encounter with a repeatable pattern but significantly more wiggle room  to adjust as we went.

We made some serious progress last night, and I think more than  likely we will be able to defeat him next week.  Each attempt we kept creeping closer to the goal, and essentially what is going to be the make or break moment is dealing with the Final Liberation phase.  If we can learn that particular dance we will have the encounter, and it honestly did not feel like we were too terribly far off from that process last night.  Granted at this point we are significantly better geared than the first groups that attempted the fight, but my hope is that we can get in and start farming this guy so that folks can get the really awesome weapons.  In truth I hope that we can farm both primals because there are absolutely weapons that come from both of them that I would like to see.  We had the two handed sword drop from Bismarck last Monday and it looked amazing.  It is the stupid things like getting glamour items that motivate me, and at some point I want to organize 2.0 extreme primal farming runs so that we can start to get folks their ponies.  As it stands we only have a couple of ponies in the guild, and I think my Leviathan pony was the first.  We need to figure out a method because really I would like to make sure everyone gets at least ONE primal pony before other people roll on it.  Granted eventually it would be awesome to have people get a full set, but I would be happy with having everyone with just one as a starter.

Entering Whitevale

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This morning I am having one of those mornings when I am easily distracted.  The cats are tearing through the house chasing each other like they have gone mad.  There is a dog barking and it sounds like it is coming from my back yard… even though it is really across the green belt.  I keep flipping over to twitter, and having to force myself to put my fingers back on my keyboard and type in my WordPress window.  Largely since this is Blaugust I wanted to include this little tidbit because it absolutely happens to me too.  There are days when you cannot keep your train of thought, and I have learned to just go with it.  Start writing the things that seem most natural and eventually somehow you will get back on track.  Last night was one of those nights for me as well, and I flipped back and forth between games quite a bit as the evening wore on.  Before the raid I spent time over in Wildstar with the purpose of trying to “finish Galeras”, which is a bit of a daunting task because there are a silly number of quests in that zone and many of them you will never actually find unless you go wandering around aimlessly.  Bit by bit however I explored the regions of the map that had yet to be explored and I am now relatively confident that I have at least gotten most of the quests out of the way.

That now means the moment I have been dreading is upon me…  and I had to take the flight out to Whitevale.  I guess in part the reason why I have been avoiding doing this is that Whitevale ultimately was the zone that broke me when I played the game at launch.  I am not sure entirely what it is about the place, but it felt like moving slowly through molasses.  I think in part it was due to the fact that Dominion side there simply were never that many players in the zone, meaning that I could never get a group to do any of the group objectives, and the mob density meant that it was super hard to move anywhere without having to fight a dozen mobs.  The zone also seemed to have a higher concentration of the challenger and superior difficulty mobs than the other zones.  It seemed like I could not move anywhere without seeing one of those horrible flashing red shielded mob types that I had to try and chew through in vain.  As a result I have honestly been scared of getting to this zone because it was my fear that once again it would break me.  I have actually been enjoying the content so far, and finding playing the game refreshing.  So hopefully maybe I can make my way through Whitevale because supposedly everything on the other side of it… is significantly better.

 

Social Robots

On Introversion

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Every so often I hear something that makes me stop in my tracks and evaluate my own personal feelings about something.  For awhile now there have been a chorus of folks warning us about the evils of technology and how we are losing our ability to relate to other human beings by replacing face to face conversation with a combination of text messages and email.  This has honestly disturbed me a bit, simply because my life is actually so much richer thanks to the ease of non-face-to-face communication options.  You probably don’t think that someone who can rattle out a post every single morning is an introvert, but in truth I am happiest when in my home with only my wife, the cats and the ferrets to keep me company.  I suffer from a truck load of anxiety when dealing with people out in the real world.  I do fine in social situations, but I also suffer from an irrational amount of stress leading up to it.  I know deep down inside that I will enjoy myself when we go out to dinner or a movie with friends, but up until the moment we are actually leaving the house…  every instinct in my body is telling me to call… cancel… and stay in the comfort and safety of my home.

There are times when I get this irrational fight or flight instinct, and I have learned over the years how to trick myself into ignoring it.  The problem is it is still there and no matter how minor..  face to face interaction and using the phone…  both stress me out beyond reason.  If I need to make a call, like something as simple as making a doctor appointment…  I will put it off until I have almost run out of time to do it.  So when I hear people talking about how non-face-to-face communication is degrading the fabric of society…  I get more than a little defensive.  The ability to chat with friends over instant messenger, or hang out with folks on Teamspeak…  give me a way of reaching out and hanging out with people without triggering all of the anxiety of sitting across the table from someone.  I am by no means frozen by my fears… because I get out every day and talk to people, and put on my best friendly southerner act.  The problem is I can only handle so much of this before my buffer of civility is drained and I need to get the hell away from other people.

Social Robots

So while listening to NPR over my lunch break, I thought I was preparing for yet another speech on how we just need to sit down and hang out together more often.  It was then when they threw me a curveball.  This discussion was about how we are interacting more with devices and how folks love talking to things like Siri or the new Amazon Echo.  They talked about how we are on the cusp of having “social robots” in our lives that interact with us.  Largely the discussion was about the dangers of interacting with things that have no empathy can have no ability to actually care about us as human beings.  They talked about a study where they introduced a child to a what they kept terming a “social robot”, essentially one that mimics and mirrors human behavior.  There were technical difficulties and after a few minutes of interacting the robot shut down.  The child saw this as rejection… as this device “not liking her” and was extremely distraught.

With more and more AI entering our science fiction, with movies like Her, and the television show Humans…  this is going to come up and ultimately we are going to have to deal with issues we have never dealt with before as a culture.  The problem I have with this whole line of thought though, is that she kept saying that robots were incapable of empathy.  As a programmer by trade I think maybe I just have a different line of reasoning behind this.  What is empathy but essentially our way of decoding a series of inputs from another human being.  What we call empathy is realy not that unlike what computers do with every single decision they make.  They read in a set of data points, and then make a decision based on a predetermined matrix of possibilities.  Without realizing it we are doing this every time we determine what someone is feeling or thinking… we are unwittingly taking posture, facial expressions, vocal intonation, and comparing to our own experiences to break down that sequence of data into a “feeling” or an “emotion”.

Human Machines

I would go so far as to say that essentially we are machines in the most basic sense of that word.  Granted we are exceeding complicated machines, but every single function of our bodies is a system built upon a system built upon the encoding that we received at birth through our genetic make-up.  We consume nutrients to power the cells in our body that are then programmed to behave in certain ways just like the code of a computer.  While we have yet to delve into genetic hacking on a large scale, it has been happening in the lab for over a decade to produce new medicines.  While there are ethical dilemmas standing in the way, I feel like by the end of my life time we will be treating diseases by rewriting segments of our internal “code”.

All of this said… since we are basically machines running custom hardware, executing custom code, and reacting to a lifetime of custom data inputs…  doesn’t it seem naive to think that robots will forever be incapable of empathy?  Machines are good at analyzing data, making assumptions on that data, and then reaching a decision.  Since what we think of as “empathy” is essentially us doing exactly that thing… I cannot believe that eventually we will have machines that can mimic those processes that we consider as “unique” or “special”.  I know this is a strange topic for a gaming blog, but every now and then one of these topics happens and I want to write about it.  For ages these topics have just gotten filed away in my head for a later discussion… that never actually happens.  Since this is Blaugust the month of pushing people out of their comfort zone I thought to myself…  go for it, post it.  Futurism is a past time that I love to indulge in, and I had an excellent discussion about it while recording one of the Bel Folks Stuff episodes.  I think dreaming and envisioning these ideas helps us to formulate ways to deal with it when it ultimately becomes a reality.  I would love to hear folks thoughts about this…  or honestly if you just want me to shut up about these side topics and stick to game blogging.

[Edit]

Real quick edit to embed the Aspen Institute talk that inspired this post.

Herald of Andraste

Endless Faffing

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It is funny how a conversation can set someone down a path.  During the Saturday night recording of AggroChat 70, we got onto the topic of Ashgar playing Mass Effect again, which not surprisingly lead to some discussions of Dragon Age as well.  For whatever reason I have struggled to play Dragon Age Inquisition, and in truth I had the same issue getting started in Dragon Age 2.  It was a good year and a half after the release of that game before I finally managed to play my way through it, and I was beginning to wonder if the same would be true for Inquisition.  At face value the game seems like the perfect mix of Dragon Age storytelling with Skyrim-esc open world exploration.  The problem is the mixture together seems to be a confusing mess for me personally.  Even though every single person I have talked to says to leave the Hinterlands…  I struggle bringing myself to do this.  The Elder Scrolls player in me wants to wander about seeing what all I can find in this nook or that cranny.  Which means I have spent twelve hours so far playing the game and have not really accomplished much.  Yesterday however I started trying to force myself to knock things off my quest list rather than wandering around and seemingly gathering up an endless number of them.

Not surprisingly as you can see above I am playing a Dwarven Two-Handed Warrior.  That pretty much means I will always be grouped with Cassandra, because of the two tanky options I have encountered she is preferable to Blackwall.  I don’t mind the character of Blackwall at all, in fact I kinda like it… but compared to Cassandra…  well there just is no comparison.  For most of last night I ended up playing with Vivienne as my mage, and quite frankly…  I think I am switching back to Solas.  Vivi apparently disapproves of my whole wanting to help the Mages thing, which is something that happens while I am playing Dragon Age.  Normally I am more than happy to see Mages slaughtered by the dozens…  but this game mythos actually makes them into characters I can sympathize with.  It feels like they have simply drawn an unlucky lot in life, and are oppressed for it.  Those Tevinter however… I am still more than happy to slaughter them by the handfuls.  I guess ultimately last night I turned some sort of a corner and managed to get into the game just enough to make me want to keep playing it.  Previously it was a pretty if not slightly awkwardly controlling Skyrim clone…  but last night it finally became a Dragon Age game for me.

Herald of Andraste

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I did not mention my favorite party member yet I guess.  You can see in the background Sera, the awesome elvish archer you pick up in Orlais.  She is sassy, irreverent…  randomly shakes her ass at Vivi…  and is having absolutely none of my shit.  Grouping with her reminds me of the many nights Tarantella has hung out with us on voice chat, and I mean that in the best possible way.  I’ve reached the point finally where I just want to play more of the game, and I had to pull myself away from the screen last night in the middle of a big action sequence because otherwise I would be non-functional this morning.  The only negative is that the next few nights are largely spoken for.  Tonight I have my original Final Fantasy XIV raid team, and Wednesday I have a second Static…  with Tuesday sandwiched in between which I have been attempting to devote to some Wildstar play.  My fear is that if I wait too long I will lose the momentum that I have going right now.  I am not sure why this game in particular has been such a struggle for me to get into.  I think part of it honestly has been that generally speaking I play single player games on my laptop downstairs.  Dragon Age Inquisition will functionally run on said laptop, but it looks like shit and suffers from the shiny hair syndrome that occurs when you attempt to play the game on crappy hardware.

Instead I need the firepower of my full gaming machine upstairs to do the game justice.  I am just not used to playing 50 to 100 hour games on my desktop.  I guess in the grand scheme of things I am going to have to get used to it, because Witcher 3 suffers from pretty much the same issue.  My laptop while more gaming oriented than a lot of them, is just dated at this point.  It will run most of the MMOs I want to play decently, but the GTX 660m card in it just cannot handle the PS4/Xbox One era of gaming.  At some point I will upgrade it and everything will be fine, but for as little as I have actually used my laptop of late… I just can’t see that as a sensible expense.  I have a fairly checkered past when it comes to laptops.  I’ve owned several “gaming” laptops over the years and each one dies a fairly spectacular death after a year or two of use.  As such I pretty much have resigned myself to picking up cheap second hand laptops, because each time we have spent full price on one…  it has lasted just long enough to get out of warranty before suffering some catastrophic and largely un-repairable error.  The laptop I have now has been a trooper and in spite of it having a dated video card runs most everything that I want to play.  It will run FFXIV in DX11 at around 40 fps which has made up the bulk of my recent game time.

Blame Origin

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I am honestly not really sure why it has taken me this long to boot up Dragon Age Inquisition, and why it required the AggroChat show to remind me of its existence.  I think part of it is the fact that it is on Origin, a client that unlike Steam I never actually have running.  When I have a game on steam, I see it sitting there in the list mocking me…  so I end up booting it up periodically.  Origin however is in a completely different client that only really has Bioware games for me.  I have been going through this down cycle lately where I am largely keeping to myself.  Inquisition would have been the perfect game for this sort of activity, but out of sight out of mind.  Honestly Origin works perfectly fine from what I can see, but as a testament to how little I use it…  I had not actually added a single person to my friends list until last night when I imported my PSN network.  I only did this because at some point we are going to try both some Mass Effect 3 multiplayer and some Dragon Age Inquisition Multiplayer.  In spite of Origin doing a fair job, it still annoys me that I have to use it at all.  Steam for me is a value add, because it gives me quick access to all of the games I want to play and represents a generally cheap and ubiquitous portal for purchasing them.  Origin however falls in the same category as UPlay… as that piece of software that I am required to use but constantly frustrated by.

Last night I actually took some time and poked around the Origin store, and I came to the stark realization that honestly… the only EA games that I care about are the Bioware games.  For the most part everything else is either a franchise I have grown out of like Battlefield, or one I have never quite gotten into like Sims…  or a string of sports games that I have never had any interest in.  EA largely produces games that I don’t care about, and I guess that is why having my beloved Bioware games blockaded behind the service feels so wrong.  The funny thing about it is that the supposed core reason behind EA pulling out of Steam, was that they did not like having to discount their games on a regular basis.  It seems that EA is having to discount their games even further than Steam generally did to get people to nibble.  I noticed last night that Titanfall, the game that was supposed to herald in a new era of Xbox One supremacy…  is down to $10 for the Deluxe digital collectors edition that once sold for $100.  The only real positive however is that Origin also has cloud sync, so when I installed Mass Effect 3 it synchronized all of my save game data from the Bioware servers and it remembered everything that I had unlocked.  All of this Origin ranting aside… I expect my solo gaming to continue on for a bit longer as I get some more Dragon Age Inquistion gameplay in.  In truth I have reached a good pausing point in Final Fantasy XIV as I have essentially finished getting gear on my Warrior from Alex normal (minus the chest piece) and have upgraded every slot on my Dragoon to 180, giving me two viable characters for endgame shenanigans.

 

 

Blaugust Halfway Check-In

Tabulating Results

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We are now at the halfway point of Blaugust, and I thought it would be cool today to take note of who has achieved their “Survivor” rank or not.  As a refresher I have changed the requirements slightly from last year, and you can find the entire rules post here.  Last year a significant portion of the contest was about not missing a single day, and quite honestly there were a bunch of people who got their 31 posts in… but had not done them contiguously so it felt dishonest to rule them out just because they missed a day.  Instead this year I am judging the contest based on number of posts, which allows people to play catch up if they need to.  At this point we are technically on day 16, and I had said I was going to classify anyone as a survivor who had managed to make 15 posts during the month.  There are a lot of folks on this list, and a lot more than are only one or two posts off from it.  That said I thought it would be awesome to celebrate those who have already reached the halfway point.

I am going to pick on SoulTamer a bit because she made this tweet yesterday.  When I see something like this is makes me exceptionally happy inside.  Blaugust is a strange ordeal, for some people it gives them strength and they reach the other side a more prolific blogger.  For others it defeats them and they go for month or more long lapses afterwards.  It was for that second group that I considered not actually doing it this year.  I didn’t want to be the cause of anyone dropping off the radar in our game blogging community.  However there were enough people constantly asking me if I was going to do it that I reluctantly said yes.  I am happy that I have and I am immensely proud of the progress everyone has been making towards the final goal.  Another note… just because your name does not currently appear on this list does not mean all is lost.  You can still reach 15 posts and you can still reach 31 for the month, and I think this is the aspect of the 2015 running that I like the most.  Instead of demoralizing someone for missing a day, there is always hope that you can catch up and cross the finish line as well.  So I challenge all of you folks who are not on the list to get there!

AggroChat 70 – Calibrating “Main Gun”

massEffectGarrus

This week we are joined by Ashgar, Belghast, Grace, Tam and Thalen, with Kodra having to deal with some family stuff.  I was not certain how much we would have to talk about, but like always we managed to fill a show full of all sorts of games that we had been playing.  Thalen starts it off talking about his further adventures into the Magic Duels free to play game.  Similarly with the launch of Fallout Shelter for android he has started playing that as well.  Finally he talks about the recent Fantastic Four event in Marvel Heroes and how The Thing is the tankiest of tanks.  Tam spent the day at an Infinity Tournament and talks about just how awesome the Seattle minature gaming scene has been.

Grace talks about her recent swap to spending most of her time in Wildstar and the excitement surrounding the impending free to play drop that is now on the public test server.  Additionally she talks about her recent foray into the PVP system, and how generally cool the community seems to be surrounding it.  While board games are normally the territory of Kodra, Grace mentions the Exploding Kittens card game and how much fun she has had with it since receiving it.  Ashgar has followed in Tam’s footsteps and talks about his experiences playing Sword Art Online Hollow Fragment.  Ash has also started on a brand new playthrough of Mass Effect with the intent of carrying one save game from one all the way through three.  This of course spawns a conversation where we talk about our experiences with the Mass Effect series.

Finally I talk about my recent return to Rift, and my obsessions with Hellgate London.  Additionally we talk about next weeks show, where we plan on talking about the storyline of the Final Fantasy XIV Heavensward expansion.  We have purposefully kept discussion of plot points to a minimum, but we feel it is generally safe enough to start talking about where we think the game is going.  We are announcing this ahead of time for the purpose of letting our listeners and readers join in the fun.  Do you have any interesting theories or are there parts of the story that you didn’t quite grasp?  We are taking in questions via email for this coming show, and we will go over them on the air.  I should be a lot of fun and it is our first real attempt to do something like this.

[Download Podcast] [Play on AggroChat.com] [iTunes] [Stitcher]

 

War Against Demons Never Changes

Tales of WoW Tourism

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Once upon a time in another life I was a thoroughly devoted World of Warcraft player.  Thoroughly devoted in that it was my home base of operations, and I would go off on these short jaunts into other titles.  The term “WoW Tourism” was apt because when I ventured out I would often go on these excursions with a large chunk of my House Stalwart friends and raiders.  We would set up temporary bases on the shores of these new game worlds and then within a month or two we were all back thoroughly devoted to Warcraft again.  To be truthful I think this constant flow of games to keep going off and exploring helped keep us planted in Azeroth for as long as we did.  It gave us the opportunity to go out and see what was available, only to fall back into the comfortable rhythm of the familiar.  There were so many different games that fell into this bubble like Lord of the Rings Online, Warhammer Online, Champions Online, Star Trek Online…. I am seeing a pattern here that apparently during the 2000s you could just graft the word Online onto anything and make it sell a couple of million copies.  The jaunt that I was most likely the most devoted to however was Hellgate London.  The story behind the game is something of legend, as a bunch of folks parted ways with the Blizzard mother ship and set out to build a better mousetrap.  It had an awesome storyline, and great futuristic MMO meets Diablo gameplay.  The problem being is it had a bunch of issues at launch.

As was our usual fashion we had like fifty people in the House Stalwart guild at launch, and then a month later only a handful of us were still regularly playing.  I was one of that handful and I actually subscribed to the game for quite a while.  Its key problem however was it had some extremely messy network infrastructure.  At this point I am not sure if it was bad code or lack of servers, but in any case its key promise of massively multiplayer diablo… never really panned out.  In our experience if you grouped with more than one other player, the game started to lag to a point where it was completely unplayable.  Since we were an MMO guild, the fact that we could not regularly group together pretty much killed our experience, and before long everyone was back in World of Warcraft.  The thing is I have always held a torch for this game because you would be hard pressed to find an experience that was more “me”.  Killing random zombies and demons that drop all the colors of the rainbow in loot rarity?  Fuck yes sign me up.  The tragedy of the tale however is that by the time Hellgate launched, Flagship studios was already in trouble and news of that was starting to leak out around the seams.  The studio closed around a year later and with it both Hellgate London and the unreleased game Mythos went up in smokes.  Throughout that year I was still playing my characters on a semi regular basis in single player mode, but I took got pulled back into the draw of World of Warcraft as I started raiding more seriously as a main tank for the group NSR.

Travelling Through Time

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Over the last few days I have felt that itch of nostalgia about this game, and I had known for awhile that the original was purchased by the Korean developer HanbitSoft that later got gobbled up by T3 Entertainment.  I had also heard that they released an expansion of sorts for the game called Hellgate Tokyo, and that more or less the game was playable for free.  I’ve known for a bit that there was a Steam Greenlight page for Hellgate but to the best of my knowledge that has gone no further in actually getting it onto steam and making it a viable modern experience.  Instead I found my way out to the T3 Fun Hellgate download page, where you are given a selection of awkward methods to get the client.  The first option was one of two torrent links, that no one seemed to be seeding.  The second option was the download of four RAR files directly from T3, or a series of mirror sites…. none of which seemed to actually work.  The only real option seemed to be to download the RAR files and hope everything completed successfully as they were each roughly 2 gig in size.  The first archive was a self executable but there was no way in hell I was going to run that, so thankfully 7zip was able to extract the whole package safely to a sub directory.  From there we get to the client install which took a truly excessive amount of time for a roughly 6.5 gig game.  From there I started running into problems with the game launcher itself, which had some of the most curious engrish I have seen in awhile.  You run again little patcher, you run to your heart is content!  I am still thinking we need to make the above statement into an inspirational poster.  After letting it close and reopen a few times it finished patching up and I was able to get into the game.

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I have to say if I did not know that this was in fact a legitimate version of the game I would assume I was running on some sort of emulator server.  When the game first loads you are thrown into a sort of tutorial room that has vendors allowing you to use TCOINS the cash shop currency to pay your way past some of the obstacles.  You are given an assortment of freemium items to try out, which mostly is an assortment of boosts and convenience items that you don’t really need.  Once I got through the awkward lobby it joined the game proper that I was most familiar with, and started questing through the first few areas.  It seems like some of the scripting is broken, in that I got a series of quests that rewarded me the exact same item over and over which was the equivalent of “Wirt’s Leg” from Diablo.  There is also a strange amount of Engrish going on in some of the messages, largely strange because it seems like this game was translated from English to Korean… and then back to English when they launched the client here.  I mean all of the quest dialog was originally in English, so it makes me wonder if no one actually saved a backup of that dialog when localizing it?  All of the awkward patches aside the game runs remarkably well, and while it is a decade old it still looks passable.  I am notorious for not really reading dialog messages, and apparently one of them told me that none of the changes I made would take effect until I restarted the client.  As a result most of the screenshots that I took have exceptionally muddy textures, and for the most part that was my big complaint.  However it seems that after restarting the client as the game suggested the textures don’t look half bad…  once again considering the ages of the client.  The above screenshot is with all of the sliders set to max, and I can accept the way that looks.

War Against Demons Never Changes

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The game for the most part plays just like I remember it playing.  I started a Templar Guardian which is their tanky class and proceeded to wander around killing demons and getting a silly amount of loot.  The primary difference that I remember from the original is that HanbitSoft seems to have inexplicably decided to code it so that these insane named epic spawns happy called “Messengers of Hell”.  You get a broadcast when it happens and more often than not they spawn in right beside you and proceed to start wrecking you.  The very first one of these that I fought I barely survived, and there have been a few other close calls.  The positive however is that they are essentially giant loot bags.  When you kill one they erupt into a shower of gear and I have managed to pick up several orange quality upgrades off of them.  At any given point they are dropping several tiers higher gear than is available from the surrounding mobs, so I make a beeline to get to them and take them out as quickly as possible.  The other thing that I had forgotten was the mingame.  If you look in the screenshot above there are three icons hovering above my secondary weapon attack.  I never quite figured out how they worked back when we were originally playing, but if you get a certain combination a random shower of loot spawns and places a nifty sound effect.  There was apparently a guide on Massively that is still available through the Engadget site that does a pretty good job of explaining how it works.  If nothing else it adds for momentary excitement when the loot explosion happens.

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The funny thing is… the game still does it for me.  It triggers all the happy endorphin releases that a video game should, and it has made me lament what might have been.  Hellgate London was just such a cool franchise, and with it spawned a series of novels that were actually enjoyable reads.  Really it was like roaming around in a MMO Doom universe where the world has been sacked by demons and the survivors all struggle to exist in the remnants of the abandoned subway system much like the Metro series of games.  It scratches all of the right itches as far as an post apocalyptic game goes, and I would love to see what Hellgate would be like in a modern context.  The problem being…  that is never going to happen.  It seems as though HanbitSoft/T3/Redbana don’t really care much about this game.  From reading on the forums it seems like exploits are common and widely used, and they don’t much care one way or another about it.  I had a lot of fun playing however and I managed to spend roughly three hours in the game last night.  I know this because there is a little warning  that kept popping up explaining each time another hour had passed that “Excessive game play may affect your lifestyle.”  The other glimmer of hope is that there is apparently something called the Hellgate Revival project, which attempts to take the original Single Player mode and decouple it from needing a server and update it.  I am going to try and apply all the necessary patches to the original game to get it to a state where I can test out the revival mod and see how well it works.  Hellgate really was a damned fun experience, and I am happy that I am able to play it in any form.  Excuse me while I continue to wallow around in nostalgia for a bit longer.

Exploring Draumheim

Great Sell-Off

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Normally this morning I would go into my new game picks for the coming week to serve as alternate writing fodder to Blaugust.  However that is not going to happen because I am not really feeling like writing that post today.  I am struggling right now with a mix of allergies and asthma that have conspired to make me miserable.  One of the things about being sick is that you tend to surround yourself by things that feel comfortable or nostalgic.  Just as there is comfort food, there is also comfort gaming… and when I feel like shit I find myself wandered off into games I have pushed to the side.  Essentially when I am feeling my worst I am lease capable of dealing with the stress of interacting with other people.  As such yesterday and last night I ventured into a realm where almost nobody knows my name anymore…  Telara.  Rift was one of my games of the week for this past week, and with it comes a series of problems. Namely when I log in I am staring at a bag and bank full of dimension items and crafting materials.  I am not sure if you are the same as me in this aspect, but if my bags are a mess there are so many times I will log in and then log right back out because I cannot be bothered to fix that situation.  Honestly if I don’t do something quickly in Final Fantasy XIV I will be nearing that point as all of my retainers are clogged and my inventory continues to get more and more semi-permanent additions.

With Rift however I finally did something drastic.  Last October Rift released the Nightmare Tides expansion, and I still don’t have a character to the new level cap of 65.  During this time I have been accumulating crafting materials from doing the Minions minigame, and quite honestly I have more than I will ever actually use.  By the time I actually get around to hitting the level cap I will more than likely have just as much materials I do now.  So instead I decided to reinstall BananAH and post every single crafting material on the Auction House.  It cost a lot of plat to post everything, but luckily by the end of the night I had managed to quadruple the amount of plat I had going into this experiment, and there are still a bunch of auctions up there that may or may not have sold over night.  The money gained was a side benefit, the real mission was simply to clear the shit out of my inventory.  At some point I will do the same with the various housing bits, because there are some things I will quite literally never end up using in any design.  With the bags clear however I finally felt like I could actually go out into the world questing, and it improved my outlook on the game considerably.

Figuring Logistics

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While the great sell-off took care of one issue keeping me from playing Rift, I still had another big one standing in my way.  Rift has quite possibly one of the most complicated character creation systems, namely that for a given class you can have any combination of three different souls from a pool of ten potential souls for each slot.  If my math is correct… and I would seriously question that… but I believe that gives us 120 possible combinations with a pool of 76 talent points to distribute between your three trees.  What I am trying to say is that basically every time I decide to play the game it requires a bunch of research on my part to determine what the current “viable” builds are and what purposes they serve.  To say that Rift changes a lot is an understatement…  they are constantly patching the game and tweaking things and often times these have ramifications have effects that trickle out and make or break the last patches specs.  The class that I tend to care about the most however is the Warrior, and while I have a level 60 rogue and a level 60 cleric…  I tend to mostly focus on Belghast first and foremost.  So over the last week I have poked around the Class Guide forums and stumbled onto one that looked promising titled:  Warrior Solo Leveling (61-65).  Luckily it was not too far off from the build that I had tried leveling with before, so I was able to tweak out my hot bars without much issue.

One of the big strengths of Rift is also one of it’s great weaknesses.  The macro system is excellent and allows you to do some really interesting things with it.  The problem being the game also gives you so many sideways and optional abilities that you feel like you are required to macro everything together for fear that you miss some opportunity for not having 32 fingers to hit abilities with.  The big thing I like about this incarnation of the soloing build is that essentially I am really only using one macro, and all that does is chain a series of high cool-down single target abilities onto Empowering Strike.  The combo point dump abilities are on my bar separately, as is the main reactionary ability that I hit after using one of them.  The feeling is that things are less random than they have felt before when I have played a suggested spec.  I am hitting buttons largely because I know what the effect is going to be, and because I want to use it at that moment.  Sure I still have one single mixed bag ability, but it feels like it is less important than the things I am not macroing.  The other big thing is that it seems like my survival has gone up significantly, which was a huge problem I had previously.  I am still under level for the region I am hunting in, but I am wondering if that just means that I missed something important in the previous zone.

Exploring Draumheim

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At this point I had a spec and I had clean enough bags to be able to venture out into the world.  I had two ports available in Draumheim so I grabbed one and hoped that I had picked the right one.  It seems that I did as when I landed there were numerous quests available.  The zone is extremely cool with all manner of nightmarish abominations wandering around in the midst of the ocean that is being drained away.  The coolest thing about Draumheim is that it seems to be a nightmarish echo of Telara.  There are numerous places in the zone that represent areas from the game, for example there is absolutely a version of Meridian and Sanctum as well as a nightmarish version of Port Scion.  Similarly I ran into a copy of the great toad-like Greenscale, who represented the aspect of hunger.  When I first attempted to play Nightmare Tides I was not sure if I liked it or not, largely because I am not the biggest fan of underwater settings in MMOs.  Now almost a year later the subtlety of the expansion is starting to sink in.  It is less about us traveling to the physical plane of water, and more about us traveling into the physical manifestation of dreams and nightmares.  Nothing in the zones are quite what they seem, and last night I ended up helping out a series of existentially confused hay bales…  and I am not making that up… they are quite literally named that.

I still wish we had a more directed questing experience similar to the old world.  I know they went in this direction as a way of distancing themselves from the standard questing format of MMOs, but personally I find it somewhat lacking.  The story that is there is really good, but there just doesn’t feel like there is enough of it.  Mostly it feels like you can’t get through the content by only following the quests.  Instead of feeling like questing is optional it feels like I have to do every single quest, and do every single carnage quest that pops up when you kill any mobs…  and still do some dungeons or instant adventures or you run into the situation I am in… where I am one to two levels below the content I am  trying to do.  The leveling experience is much less directed, and this is a change that went in with Storm Legion… but the end result in both expansions was me constantly wondering what I am supposed to be doing next.  For most MMOs the leveling experience gets better over time, but I feel like Rift went in the opposite direction.  I get it that quest content is fairly expensive to create, and without the subscription model they don’t have that stable source of monthly income to keep said quest content coming.  The quests that are here however are really good, and one I did last night took me through a series of “computers” that showed little recorded vignettes from the past, all of them fully voice acted.  I like all of the things they have done to make finding quests more interactive…  but I wish we had more hub based quests as well to fill in the gaps in content.  I don’t want it to sound like I didn’t enjoy myself however, because I absolutely did.  I needed a game where I could be anonymous and lose myself in the experience of playing an MMO, and that is precisely what Rift gave me yesterday.  I still very much love Trion and the team behind Rift, and it is one of the games I will continue to suggest people check out on a regular basis.  I feel like they did the absolute best job of a free to play conversion that I have experienced to date, and I am willing to keep giving them more of my money.  I am just nostalgia for the way that questing used to feel in Rift is all.

Tam’s Liebster Questions

I posted yesterday a bit about the backlog of posts that I have had that I wanted to make.  Yesterday I was also called out by Tam about not responding to his Leibster post, but in truth I just had not gotten down to it.  Since tomorrow will be another Blaugust Games of the Week post, I had planned on getting his Liebster post either out today or Saturday, but since he is getting antsy I guess I am going to make sure it happens today.  For those who don’t know the Liebster is this well intentioned “award” that is essentially the blogosphere’s version of a chain letter.  Normally it is supposed to float around with a cover page full of rules outlining how you are supposed to proceed, and explains things like that you are supposed to choose a candidate that has never been Liebstered.  This seems to go around once a year, and based on some of the questions I have seen… I am guessing this is a continuation of last years “strain” because at least one of the questions I have seen floating around is one I came up with.  All of this said I am absolutely not down on the concept of the Liebster.  I think it is a pretty awesome way to introduce people to new folks, but at this point this will be the third time I have been Liebetered.  I am going to ignore the “rules” of the award and not name any successors because by the strictest of rules I should not be getting this again.

Onwards to the Liebster Questions

1 — What is the best spell to cast?

Anything that buffs my melee ability or causes me to take less damage.  In truth however… I have to say Resurrection would be the best spell to cast most of the time.  Considering how much death I have had to deal with in my life, I have a feeling that is the one I would end up using the most.

2 — What food item(s) from a game do you want to eat above any other?

Nothing from any Fallout game ever…  In truth I am not sure if I have ever salivated over any in game food, but I will say I have always wanted to eat a Tel’Abim Banana since they are supposedly sentient beings from another land.  Wondering if they taste significantly different than a normal Banana.

3 — You’ve got an infinite supply of one consumable, and can never carry any others.  Which consumable do you choose?

That one is simple… Health Potion.  Seriously there is no reason for any other consumable if you have an infinite supply of health.

4 — You have to choose a race and class that you’ve never played seriously before.  What do you pick?

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Honestly this one is hard because I have played most roles seriously in the past.  The one class that I always thought I would like but could never really get into was the World of Warcraft Warlock.  At face value it seems like a very “Bel” class summoning demons and shit, but the whole damage over time aspect has always baffled me.  After starting to get used to the Arcanist a bit, I am going to say that Warlock is something I have been interested in giving a more serious try.  I have one somewhere in my 60s in WoW but I largely got there because the leveling curve in that game is laughable and I just made my demon beat things up for me.  I would like to try playing it as a proper dot dropping madman.

5 — What game did you think you would hate but actually loved?

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This one was a little tough, but I finally came up with an answer I am happy with:  The Saints Row franchise.  You are thinking… but Bel it is a crazy game where you get to beat everything up with dildo bats… that absolutely sounds like a game you would be interested in.  Sure but you have to understand something key here… I really do not like Grand Theft Auto games.  Well I take that back, I found one and two good mindless fun, but I could not stand GTA 3… and then each of the games afterwards that I played I also found frustrating.  In all fairness I have never really given GTA 4 a fair shot, which I need to do at some point.  I am getting off track here, but essentially I always thought of Saints Row as a GTA Clone, and I guess in truth that is precisely how the series started out.  What it has morphed into is this insane “no rules” sandbox, and THAT aspect I absolutely love.  Saints Row 3 and 4 are both amazing, and I really need to devote more time to playing them.

6 — What game did you think you would love but actually hated?

Citizens of Earth…  which coincidentally ended up being our first AggroChat game club game.  Everything about that game sounded awesome… until we actually started trying to play it.  Hate is a strong word, but really…  I never want to play that game again.  It was just the worst of smarmy repetitiveness and laughing at itself jokes I have experienced in awhile.  Additionally the combat really was not fun at all.  I was so amped going into that game, and those hopes were dashed within the first hour.

7 — Pick a zone from any game to live in.  Why?

Moonshade Highlands from Rift without a doubt.  Gorgeous storms, awesome Dwarves, and big mountain highlands full of little pools and rivers.  The crazy woods filled with murderous Fae I could deal without, but the rest of that zone…  absolutely perfect for me.  Again other than the whole nightmare demons thing I would absolutely love to live in Hammerknell.

8 — You can excise one class from every future game.  Which?  Why?

Probably anything with a stealth mechanic.  It is probably going to surprise people that I did not say “Mage”, but in truth I find stealth mechanics to be among the most frustrating experience I have ever had in any game.  The truth is I like the “rogue” archetype, I just don’t want them to be stealthy.  I am all about the swashbuckler type character slashing away at things furiously with two swords.  Probably the best stealth mechanic as far as I am concerned is that of the Nightblade in Rift because they just used it as a limited time opener, not something to stay in for long periods of time.

9 — What’s your favorite story?

Hmmm this question is so ambiguous.  My favorite set up for a game has to be Hellgate London.  In fact yesterday was lamenting how awesome the opening cinematic for that game and the subsequent story was.   The problem is the game was not really worthy of it, and I would love to see it rebooted into a movie or a television show with its own new game.  I have to say though of all of the game stories I have played, the one I most want to see made into a television series is Mass Effect.  Imagine that story told over the course of five or six seasons of a high budget television show?  Would be amazing.

10 — What hobby does no one (yet) know you have?

The problem with having a blog for as long as I have had…  everyone pretty much knows everything about me at this point.  In fact I did Factoid February a few years back where I spilled the beans on a lot of these details.  I really don’t have any hobbies that would shock someone.  The hobby that I need to get back into doing more of however is Photography.  It has been a few years since we were regularly going out on photo shoots each weekend, and that needs to change.

11 — What is your favorite secret shame?

Again I can’t really think of something that I have not already talked at length about here on the blog.  I am a sucker for John Hughes films, so that would probably be about the closest thing to a “guilty pleasure” that I have…  that and I love 80s pop music.  It just reminds me of my childhood, when everything seemed possible.  As a kid I thought John Hughes films were about the underdog getting their way in the end, but as an Adult they have a much darker theme, namely you can have whatever you want so long as you change everything about yourself in the process.  Think back to the Breakfast club…  you have Ally Sheedy playing this girl that just wants to be loved by hear parents…  and everything is set right in the world by a make over turning her into Molly Ringwald 2.0.  Even with the darker interpretation… I still can’t help but love those movies.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I am breaking the chain here and not naming a victim.  I still think the Liebster is a good idea and something pretty cool, but at this point I am getting tired of doing them myself.  However Tam put a lot of thought and effort into his questions, so I felt obligated to answer them.  In fact I think his questions would make a pretty great Blaugust prompt if anyone else wants to answer them.  For now I am signing off because I spent way more time writing this out than I expected to, and am now late for work!

 

A Quiet Night

Second Time Just as Sweet

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Every now and then things get left on the cutting room floor for one reason or another.  For example I really wanted to make my post about the possibility of making our own convention…  but I had lots of other things to talk about as well.  In Final Fantasy I am presenting sitting in this interesting position being a part of two very different static raid groups.  Last week in the Wednesday night group we managed to get Bismarck Extreme, and I was absolutely over the moon about it.  This had been one of those challenges that we had struggled with over the course of a few weeks, namely in getting enough geared people online at the same time to take it down.  That has been the biggest challenge for Wednesday nights honestly is getting people to commit to regular attendance.  With my original raid group on Monday nights, attendance was never the issue.  The struggle there was mostly gearing, or at least the fact that we did not have two geared tanks for awhile.  However that changed as soon as Ashgar got his Paladin to 60, and geared it in record time.  Over all the gearing levels of Monday still lag behind Wednesday, but we found out this week that it apparently doesn’t really matter all that much.

Last Monday we finished up turn 13 of the Final Coil of Bahamut and started the first turn of Alexander Normal.  This week I figured the plan was to run all four phases of Alexander normal, mostly to help folks get some gear pieces.  I did not realize that we had intended to do attempts on Bismarck at the end of the night.  After struggling so much to get through that fight on the Wednesday group, I honestly expected us to walk away with a lot of experience but no kill under our belts.  I was absolutely wrong, and I am shocked at just how amazing getting a first Bismarck kill felt with my second raid team.  In the past in World of Warcraft, the first kill of a boss is special, but additional kills feel significantly less so.  I remember getting my first 10 man Arthas kill several months ahead of us getting it as a 25 man raid and that blunted the excitement considerable.  I have to say getting through Bismarck Extreme a second time is just as sweet as it was the first time.  My hope is that both groups can start doing this on a semi regular basis which will give me access to so many expanse totems.  Now I guess I really do have to get serious about the Ravana Extreme fight.

A Quiet Night

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I had every intent of coming home and working on getting my Alexander drops for the week, but that didn’t really pan out.  I hit somewhat of an irrational low spot yesterday, and as a result I didn’t really feel like being around all that many people.  As such I avoided logging into Final Fantasy XIV and instead played a few other games.  Mylin started a discussion over twitter about the Everquest II Time Locked servers, which I guess was responding to some comments I had made earlier in the week.  The problem being that I was spending the evening downstairs on my laptop, and I guess I had never actually installed Everquest II on it.  There is a streaming client for these occasions, the problem is that the EQ2 streaming client is horrible.  The performance halts every few minutes as the game downloads more assets, making the game experience nigh unplayable.  I should have simply waited the thirty minutes to an hour that it would take to download the full thing…  but I was being impatient.  The end result was a frustrating stutter stop experience as I attempted to quest my way through Freeport.  Honestly this is a dual problem for me, because no matter what I try the new Freeport always performs like shit.  I really miss the old multi-zone Freeport because I never had these issues back then.  Now I generally want to avoid going to that town like the plague.  I noticed both the Neriak and Gorowyn ambassadors were offering me a switch in my allegiance, but I was uncertain if Gorowyn even existed in this version of the game.

Ultimately I need to do some reading because I will more than happily pop to the Darklight Woods starter experience if given an option.  I consider it the absolute best starter zone in the game.  I’ve burned through my stockpile of station cash and I feel made some awesome decisions.  I ended up picking up a handful of the bags that are being offered since I did not really want to go tailor just to make bags, and I ended up picking up a set of shadowknighty looking cosmetic armor.  I have long felt that if you look good you feel better about playing your character.  Finally I spent the last of it picking up the tanky rhino mount, but I’ve never really cared for the way mounts look in this game…  so I tend to have it permanently hidden.  As a result I feel like a bard in that I am just running irrationally fast for no apparent reason.  Mounts can make moving around cities awkward as you ultimately end up blocking some of your view as you try and get into buildings and such.  I am still only level 11 because really… I had forgotten how slow progression used to go in this game before all of the assorted experience bonuses.

Saving Farmers

WildStar64 2015-08-11 21-56-11-60

I could only handle the stutter and stop gameplay of the streaming client so long before I jettisoned Everquest II for favor of Wildstar.  This is a game I want to devote more time to playing because I am really enjoying myself.  It scratches the World of Warcraft style game itch pretty well, and playing the Exiles has this fun firefly vibe to it.  Quite honestly I think had I started Exiles I probably would have stuck around longer than the initial month.  I was not a huge fan of the Dominion, but the Chua made playing them tolerable for awhile.  Personally I still think red versus blue faction divides are extremely dumb, and this game is just another reason.  My friends wanted to play Dominion, so I joined them there and had a fairly miserable time being a cartoon bad guy.  If I could have grouped with them on my Exile it would not have been a problem.  Instead there was a faction wall, and I am pretty much universally against faction walls.  The difference this time however is that no one I know actually plays Dominion on Entity.  This is actually somewhat sad as I can log into my Chua and the Dominion capital city is an absolute ghost town.  I roamed around for a good ten minutes one night before seeing a single other player, and when I finally did it was because there were a few people hanging out at the bank.

As of last night I dinged twenty two and finally can use a spiffy sword that I had been holding in my inventory for awhile.  There is just something about a weapon upgrade that is special.  I could be wearing ten levels lower of gear in every other slot, but if I have a current weapon… I feel good about my life.  There were some oddities going on with the server, because it seems like the opening of the free to play beta made more people realized that the game still existed.  I admit I am guilty of forgetting to log in.  I get caught up in Final Fantasy XIV and doing Eorzean things, but I think I am going to make an effort to start logging in more.  Since I have friends playing over there already it might be easier to remember.  I am trying my best to push through the Galeras content as fast as I can because I am just ready to see new areas.  I did move into the desert region of the zone so that was a bit of a welcome change, although as of last night I was back in rolling hills and farm lands.  At some point I need to do the two dungeons I recently unlocked to see if I can get any spiffy upgrades.  The highlight of the night however was getting to the next Shiphand mission, because so far those are my absolute favorite part of Wildstar.

 

 

Our Own Convention

Noble Aspirations

This is potentially going to be one of the stranger morning blog posts I have made in awhile.  Yesterday during the midst of another conversation entirely I planted a seed, and got a significantly more favorable response than I had expected.  Essentially I have thought for awhile how awesome it would be to have some event that let all of the great people I know through gaming or blogging to meet up, hang out, and cause mischief.  This year it was my hope to be able to make Pax Prime since there are a significant number of people in the Seatle area now.  The problem being by the time I even knew the tickets had gone on sale, they were already completely sold out.  Our backup plan was to try and get AggroChat qualified for press passes, but we were summarily rejected without much notice as to why.  Every major convention has this same issue, with having way more demand than there are tickets available for folks to attend.  So this sent me down an alternate line of thinking…  maybe we just need to create our own convention.  I know that sounds crazy at first glance but bear with me for awhile.

My wife is heavily involved in the twitter math community, and five years ago they were lamenting how every single professional development workshop they have been to was essentially a waste of time.  One discussion lead to another, and the idea was mentioned that what they really needed was a way to get together so that they could share ideas.  From there they organized the very first Twitter Math Camp in St Louis, and it was a huge success.  That first year only around fifty teachers attended, but each additional year it has grown to this year in Los Angeles there were over 200 teachers.  So seeing this go from someones vague idea to fruition maybe gives me a different perspective than the average person when it comes to the thought of forming our own convention.  I mean ultimately that is how most gathering start, with a basic idea and then just branching out from there.

Our Own Convention

GiganticScrim

 

I loved Pax South, but not really because the convention itself was this magical place.  The floor was busy, and there were so many people wandering around that it became hell to find a quiet spot to yourself to think.  What made the convention awesome was getting to hang out with people that I had only ever talked to online.  When I realized this… I realized that I didn’t actually need a convention to have fun, but in truth could potentially have more fun if I just somehow managed to gather up a bunch of people in one place and time.  Even if we quite literally did nothing but hang out and play board games and talk about life, it would still end up being an amazing experience.  That said I do think we could convince enough people to show up to make it an interesting experience for all of us.  Think about the sort of things we go through with the Newbie Blogger Initiative each year, and ultimately how much we learn from one another.  It would be easy enough to throw together a series of panels discussing the finer points of various blogging skills that we have.  I mean it would be pretty awesome to record an impromptu live Podcast for example, or a technical discussion in how to get the most out of WordPress.  There are real things we could talk about, and with that many game bloggers in one spot we might even be able to talk some game companies into showing up as well.  Maybe I am brutally naive… but I think it is a thing that might be doable.

Location, Location, Location

I literally have thought about this for awhile now, and those thought processes were just made more concrete after returning from Pax.  I’ve long thought that the best place for a meetup would be in a central state.  Conventions have this problem of being super convenient for people living on one particular coast, but damned near impossible for anyone else to attend.  So after a lot of thinking basically I came up with two potential locations.

  • St Louis, Missouri
  • Chicago, Illinois

Both locations have strengths and weaknesses, but both are also fairly centrally located making it not too horrible from pretty much anywhere in the United States, and potentially even doable for Canadians.  St Louis is significantly easier for me personally… because I know the town decently well and have several friends in the area that I could potentially recruit to help.  Chicago on the other hand… other than flying through O’Hare I know nothing about it, and I really have zero support structure to help out with the planning and the details.  Its biggest strength however is O’Hare airport, because essentially it is a straight flight from any major airport cutting down the overall travel costs.  That said St Louis hotels, venue rentals, and pretty much everything else would be significantly cheaper which might offset the travel costs.  All of this said… they both have strengths and weaknesses, but as I said my personal leanings are towards St Louis simply for the familiarity point.

I guess the ultimate question is…  would some sort of convention/meetup be something that our community would even be interested in?  We would have to set a date well into the future and begin planning now to make it work, but before any of that… I need to know if people would actually come.  I think it could be a really awesome experience, and if nothing else let a whole bunch of people that have only ever communicated online hang out and get to know each other.  I also think there is a lot of cool stuff we could learn from each other, so I feel like it could be more than just a “gathering”.  Over the last several years we have gone from being a vague connection of island states, to being a serious and formidable community constantly welcoming new people.  Blaugust while stressful, is an amazing event and just one in a long line of events that we do each year.  While I jokingly referred to this as BlaugustCon… it is more than just that.  I think we could build something amazing in the real world in addition to all of what we are doing in the virtual world.  Like I said.. the real question is do people even want this?  I don’t often ask for feedback, but in this situation I absolutely need it.  Leave me a line and let me know your thoughts.