Axe to Grind

Lung Infections Suck

cottonwood I’ve been in a strange place the last few days, where I am still recovering from what has turned out to be an infection in my lungs.  It has been allergies central around here and unsurprisingly my lungs have reacted negatively to it.  I had been dragging along for awhile with what felt like a constant persistent dry cough.  Last Friday I finally decided to go to the doctor when I coughed up a small bit of blood.  Turns out my lungs were actually in far worse shape than I thought.  Since then I have been on a pretty heavy dose of prednisone and am on the mend, but man…  I have to say I am still drained as hell.  I attempted to go to work like normal yesterday but ended up coming home about halfway through the day.  Today I am making another attempt to go a full day, so I am hoping the strength stays with me.  What is so strange about this one is just how drained I feel as a result of simply existing.

Why are my lungs betraying me you might ask?  The above photo is not intentionally abstract but instead my my phones camera attempting to focus on what are ultimately hundreds of tiny particles of Cottonwood seed.  This is what we jokingly refer to as summer snow, and with all the rain we have been getting the Cottonwoods have been blooming in overdrive blanketing the law with a mat of white fabric and making the air look like it is quite genuinely snowing.  Thankfully I have a day or two of reprieve thanks to the recent round of storms, but I am sure as soon as things dry up again the bloom will begin a new.  Normally this happens around my birthday in June but I guess all the moisture moved up the time table.  In any case it sucks to live through and I am just hoping that I can limp through until it has finished.  In the meantime I will continue to take this high dose pack of prednisone and antibiotics and pretend to be a normal human being.

Axe to Grind

ffxiv 2015-05-11 22-18-55-06 For months now we have been slowly keying folks through the various primal fights in our Final Fantasy XIV free company.  While a chunk of us have been sitting on the Ifrit step, the final of the original set of Extreme primals… it seemed like every time we set out to attempt it we were missing a seventh or eighth that also had it unlocked.  So we would once again shift focus and do another round of Garuda or another round of Titan to get people caught up.  Last night, finally after a new round of Titaneers we managed to get eight people on at the same time with the ability to do Ifrit.  Now I realize I could have been pugging my way through the primal encounters, and with all of the mount farming parties this is a relatively straight forward prospect.  There is just something rewarding about doing a fight that is new to you, with nothing but your free company surrounding you.  It makes the kill that much sweeter and the experience that much more magical as you accomplished a new mission with friends.  Once again we went into the fight without much research, but managed to pick up the basics extremely quickly.

ffxiv 2015-05-11 20-43-37-55 It took us several attempts but by the end of our first night ever working on the boss we had downed an Ifrit and moved on to other things.  I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to get this quest out of my log.  I know the big push for this at least from Ashgar’s side was to get the sweet axe I am pictured holding in the first picture.  For those who have completed some of the later story, you will recognize this as the axe that Moenbryda wields.  It is just one of many weapons you get as a reward for defeating the original trio of Primals, but I went with the axe because it is probably one of the more unique appearances in the game.  Now I doubt if it will ever offset my usage of my Malignant Mogaxe, but it is still pretty awesome to have it as an option for when I decide to change up my outfit a bit.  Glamouring/Transmogging/Wardrobes are one of the simple pleasures of a modern MMO.  The ability to look like you want to look is what makes these games fun to play for me.  Gone is the era of looking exactly like every other player in the game, and here to stay is the ability to craft your own appearances.  After playing Everquest and being able to tell every single item a player was wearing based on its color and appearance…  I have to say I am happy to be living in modern times.

Back to Nael

ffxiv 2015-05-08 19-17-57-51 Yes I realize this is not a picture of Nael Van Darnus but I didn’t snap any pictures from our attempts on Turn 9 last night.  Instead this is a picture of me rocking the Garuda bow because I finally feel like I have an outfit floofy enough to support it.  This weekend I managed to finish getting my 120 set from World of Darkness which makes up a chunk of the outfit above.  Since picking up the Garuda bow I have been looking for a reason to use it, and finally I think the gold and white in the Bogartyr coat works well enough with the gold and white on the bow.  Now if anyone tells me that is really blue and black I will reach through the internet and punch them in their soul.  A few weeks back we set down on a new mission, which involved alternating between working on coil and working on other things.  Since then we have finished the original three primals, Leviathan Extreme and Odin and as a result feel like we are no longer beating our heads against the wall that is turn nine.  Coming back to Nael tonight felt far more fresh than it has in a long time.

I was somewhat concerned that we would have lost progress, but in truth we picked up right where we left off and started making fast progress.  Everything about the fight is smoother now and we have been making it into the final dance phase every single attempt.  The awesome thing about this is that it feels like last night we were finally getting the pattern down.  In fact the last few attempts we were making it to the dive bombs phase consistently.  Now if we can just master where the dive bombs need to go… I have a feeling we will be clearing turn nine finally and moving on to the final coil.  I love my static group, and I love the way folks just keep plugging away without getting frustrated.  We have been on this boss for a very long time, and no one seems to have any diminished desire to KEEP doing the boss, or keep trying to succeed.  In fact everyone seems to keep doing little things here or there to tweak their performance and make things work more smoothly.  I love my free company, and I love the raid we have built around it…  my hope is that we can keep trying to get more people into the mix and maybe with Heavensward expand to a third static because the two we have now are just awesome.

Back But Don’t Play

Supporting Kickstarter

wasteland2 This morning I am going to tackle the second talkback topic for the Newbie Blogger Initiative because it is actually one that has been on the hearts and minds of the AggroChat folks for the last few weeks.  For the April AggroChat Game Club game I chose Darkest Dungeon, and since then the topic of playing “unfinished” games has been somewhat of a recent discussion among us in private.  The fact that the game was unfinished caused numerous problems, not the least of which was the simple fact that we were never quite sure if this or that functionality was intended… or just unfinished.  So I feel like I was not able to give it a really solid testing, because I don’t know what might change between now and when the studio deems the game “finished”.  The prompt however for this talkback is pretty straight forward but my answer is going to be a bit more nuanced.

Early Access and Kickstarter – Do you support unfinished games?

So for the first part… yes I wholeheartedly support the backing of unfinished games.  I’ve backed more than I can count at this point through either Kickstarter or company specific initiatives.  I think Kickstarter is a pretty awesome thing, and it has caused a lot of things that I care about to see the light of day.  I’ve backed both software and physical merchandise projects through it, and have been relatively happy with pretty much every project I have ended up chipping in on.  Kickstarter does a lot of things, but the biggest one to me is that it allows me to vote with my dollar on what I think is going to be an idea worth making.  I rarely back very far into a given product tree, and the end result is me usually getting a cut price copy of the game at launch.  While many of these games offer a double platinum early access alpha program…  that is not so much what I am interested at least not any more.

Tired of Alphas

Once upon a time I wanted to be playing every single game I could get my hands on.  I reveled in the fact that I had alpha and beta tested most of the MMOs out there.  For a period of time this was something that was achievable because at any given moment there were a very limited number of Alpha and Beta test programs available.  Somewhere along the line I noticed that playing an Alpha seriously adversely effected my chances of staying with a game for very long after release.  In essence I would burn myself out playing the Alpha, so that when launch happened the game felt very old and tired to me.  The pinnacle of this problem happened for me with Elder Scrolls Online.  I seriously cared about the release of this game, and I took my Alpha testing duties seriously.  I was told at one point that I was in the top 1% of all bug reporters in the game, and every single time we played I spent most of my time reporting and re-reporting issues I saw.

The problem here is that I had been alpha and beta testing builds of this game for a good year before the game actually launched.  So while I only managed to play about three months after the launch of the title, in truth that was around 17 months of me actually playing the game.  Huge chunks of the content I had literally seen hundreds of times, and remembered each of the different incarnations.  The additional problem is I had trouble letting go of the past.  There were some changes made in that game that I considered “for the worse” and myself and many of the other early testers rather vehemently pined for the imagined “good ole days” of early alpha.  Memory is always an incomplete state, and what we remembered was this or that feature that stood out in an ocean of an otherwise broken game.  The final product was so much better than the one we were requesting they return to, but we got hung up on the minutiae of this or that feature that we missed.  Basically I learned that Alpha testing ultimately ruined my enjoyment of the final product… and it only took me twenty some years to wake up to this fact.

Back But Don’t Play

Ultimately I have a very nuanced stance on Kickstarter.  I am more than happy to donate money towards a cause that I believe in like the creation of a brand new Wasteland experience on the PC, or any of the other games I have backed that let me wallow in the nostalgia of my youth.  Generally speaking I now back just far enough into it to give myself a cut rate copy of the game at launch.  Then when I get said copy and any bonus trappings… it seats neatly in my Steam account until I am ready to play it.  I might boot it up periodically to check on its progress, but ultimately I am not going to start the game for real until I see that note from the developer talking about how the game has launched.  The problem is this also means I am phenomenally bad at tracking the progress of games on Kickstarter.  I almost always have a message that needs to be responded to about this or that game but this is what works for me.  It lets me feel like I am backing things that I believe in, but also gives me the piece of mind of not actually starting a game play session until the game is “finished”.

As far as other games that are in a permanent state of development like Minecraft…  once again my feelings are a bit more nuanced.  Paying to play an alpha does not really bother me, if the experience and the enjoyment itself is worth paying to play said alpha.  I got into Minecraft for example during its pre-beta days when you could pick up a copy for well under $10.  I have gotten easily $1000 worth of enjoyment out of that game.  Similarly while I don’t play them nearly as often I have gotten more than enough happiness out of both Trove and Landmark to recuperate any costs I might have put into them.  Ultimately backing an unfinished game, and playing said unfinished game is not an entirely bad idea… so long as you go into it with the thought process that you are playing something that isn’t quite done yet.  Early Access games are in essence paid betas, and if you can live with that… awesome…  if not wait for the release of the game.  I personally have found that the games I played heavily in Alpha and Beta get more enjoyable over time, and going back a year after launch I end up really enjoying myself.  So that is to say that the games I ruined through Alpha testing…  are not in a permanent state of ruined as evidenced by my recent travels into Guild Wars 2, Wildstar, and Star Wars the Old Republic.  Ultimately you have to figure out what works for you, and the amount or risk you are willing to take.  If I feel like I am going to care about a game, I try my best not to burn out before launch.

Botany Mastered

A Very Cardgamey Show

It seems when I think we have nothing to talk about… we end up talking for two hours finally having to force ourselves to stop talking to close out the show.  Last night was one of those night as I was joined by Tam, Kodra, Thalen and Ashgar.  Sometimes a clear theme is presented and last night inadvertedly this happened.  As we rambled through the various things we have been playing, it turns out that a lot of us had been playing card games in one form or another.  We got this interesting peak into the secret underground gaming scene of Seatle that Kodra has now apparently gotten his ticket into.  He recorded this weeks AggroChat on a quick jaunt away from this all day gaming event that was happening in a nearby hotel.  The kind of event that isn’t advertised, and that you apparently have to know someone to get into.  This is not starting to sound like fight club at all is it?

Other than that I shift things around a bit in the show and I actually go first.  Usually by the time we get around to the games I have been playing my co-hosts are bordering on being asleep so I opted to talk about my stuff first.  Which was a large course of Echo of Souls, and beating Wolfenstein The Old Blood which is an absolutely enjoyable but exceptionally short version of the original Wolfenstein game redone in New Order style.  Machinegames has somehow created this magical mix of the glory days of the 90s era shooter mixed with the narrative power of modern gaming.  Ashgar once again is going through his DS collection and playing things that he had not beaten before, this time jaunting down a time travelling avenue.  Thalen extolled the joys of Hand of Fate, and Kodra rediscovered Heroes of Might and Magic 3.  More than that however we talked a lot about card games and board games in general.  Was a fun and chill show to record and hopefully that comes across in the production.

Botany Mastered

ffxiv 2015-05-10 10-28-39-32 Last night while recording the podcast and editing it I spent my time in Final Fantasy XIV working on Botany.  For some time I have been working on pushing up the two critical harvesting abilities Mining and Botany before actually starting the Disciple of the Hand push.  I figured having the ability to go out into the world and gather things would be beneficial when making the push to level all the other things.  The Disciple of the Land classes also gave me a bit of a buffer to psyche myself up for diving headlong into the pit of madness that is crafting.  At this point begins the money grind and thankfully I am up to almost 2 million gil to help support this push.  I guess the first order of business is to level all of the professions to 15 so that I can get the best cross class abilities to help with the rest of the grind.  My original thought was to take everything to 15 in no particular order, and then start walking them up 5 levels at a time.  So take everything to 20, everything to 25 etc.  This also allows me to convert all of the crafting gear along the way hopefully keeping my vaults from overflowing.

Another thing that I really need to start doing is working on my beast tribe daily quests.  One of the things that Ashgar talked about on the podcast was the interesting quest that comes at the end of maxing each of the factions.  There is apparently a storyline that somehow joins up all of the rebellious beast tribe factions into a “Justice League” of sorts.  I would really love to see this storyline before Heavensward launches, but at this point I have right around a month to accomplish all of this.  I am not sure if I have given myself enough time, especially given that I keep dinking around in other games at the same time.  I am starting to feel under the gun with wanting to accomplish so many things before I officially say goodbye to “A Realm Reborn”.  So far FFXIV 2.0 has been an amazing ride and I am amped about what Heavensward and 3.0 has to offer.  I guess tomorrow night the 2.57 patch will be going in, and I am wondering what exactly it will bring as well.  I would be extremely happy if they uncapped Poetics gains… but I somehow doubt that will be the case.

Bad At Shadowrun

Dragonfall 2015-05-09 14-21-57-95 Yesterday I spent a good chunk of time working on Shadowrun Dragonfall and I have decided that I need to just start over.  I spent too much of my time on my main character too focused on a specific tree.  I was planning on going all melee all of the time and quite frankly that is a poor choice to go with.  I spent most of combat running around the room chasing down mobs that would move away from me and attack from ranged.  Additionally I am going to have to throw out some of my instincts because I straight wiped my party trying to stay and fight against unwinnable odds.  All of that said there are aspects of the game I am really enjoying, but right now I am just pretty horrible at actually doing it.  I also need to learn to save far more often because this game will straight kill you at times with a smile.  It is going to be an interesting show when we ultimately talk about this game but I am really wanting to make it further than I did with the previous games.  I would love to beat this one because in many ways the gameplay reminds me of the Fallout series.

The thing is the game gives you one of every classes so I guess what you end up playing is just for flavor.  I will probably go Street Samurai once again because that was always my favorite character to play in the actual Shadowrun campaigns I have been in.  I didn’t really care that much for the little dwarf I rolled so I will probably go something more generic like a human this time around.  All in all I was a fun several hours I spent yesterday, and as it is raining insanely outside… I plan on going downstairs and hanging out on the sofa all day while watching Netflix.  Shadowrun is precisely the perfect kind of game for a day like today.  So I will either be doing that or be working on tradeskills in final fantasy.  In any case I have a gloriously lazy Sunday ahead of me.  These are the types of days that gaming was made for.  This massive lung infection has gotten me out of having to travel for Mother’s Day so right now we are planning on having a re-roll there next weekend when the world is not actively trying to kill us.  Hopefully you have an awesome day too.

Finding Your Time

Writing Blocks

This morning I am trying to knock a post out quickly before “Rainmageddon” gets here.  While I don’t really believe it  the neighbor across the street said we are likely to get “ten inches” of rain during the course of the day.  That would be absolutely insane.  My wife’s theory however is that she just misheard and the news actually said “two inches”.  In any case starting at noon today we are likely not going to want to be out in the world.  This is awesome because it means I can binge on video games.  What is not so awesome is the fact that I need to get a post out quickly rather than my normal lazy Saturday and Sunday posting schedule.  So I have a video game soundtrack on to block out the world, and am in beast mode!  Sadly my beast mode is more like a sleepy kitten, but in any case…  I am making things happen!  For those curious I am listening to the State of Decay soundtrack that is available on Google Play.

Normally Storytime Saturday is the day when I tell you some tale about myself, and I try really hard to make it one I have not already told.  The problem there is that I have shared so many intimate details of my life with you all, and that I have zero recollection of what I say on any given day.  Hell there are days I get to work and I will see entire sections of a post that I don’t remember writing.  In the spirit of the Newbie Blogger Initiative this mornings “Storytime” is more than likely going to be a free form rambling mess as I share indiscriminant tips and tricks I have learned over the years.  The key to thriving as a blog is to be predictable in your posting schedule, and in order to make this happen it means you need to set aside specific blocks of time to write.  How big of a block of time depends entirely on the style of post you make.  When I write a post that requires lots of research those are usually done over the course of several days, with me keeping notes in a Google drive document.  My “normal” style of posting however takes anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour of me sitting down at the keyboard and physically writing it out.

Finding Your Time

When I launched this blog in 2009 I spent a lot of my lunch hours writing posts.  For the most part this worked great because it was a fixed block of time when I was not really doing anything else.  The problem is as work got busier, and I started actually going out for lunch… my noon writing block evaporated.  There were more than a few days when I was working on a problem that I could not set down long enough to write a post, and by the time whatever had been fixed… I was usually too drained mentally to produce something worth reading.  I wont say this was the reason behind some of my larger lapses but it was certainly a contributing factor.  When I started on my “Grand Experiment” I knew I was going to have to figure out something else to do.  I had gotten in the habit of going upstairs with my morning coffee and piddling around in a video game for thirty minutes to an hour before actually going into work.  This “boot up”  time greatly improved my cognitive ability by the time I got to work, so it was actually something that turned out to be pretty beneficial.

When finding your own block of time you have to evaluate your own schedule.  Where is a block that you are doing something every single day, or every few days…  that you could tweak a bit to turn that into a time to write your blog posts?  For me I happily sacrificed my morning game time in an effort to give myself a regular place to write words and things.  This however has been a double edged sword.  I literally cannot start my day without writing a blog post, and the days when I have to do something differently and stage the post the night before…  I feel like something is off the entire day.  I have incorporated this writing phase into my morning boot up routine and when it is missing, I am just not fully functional.  Additionally the problem of writing while you are not entirely awake means sometimes entire blocks of text don’t really make much sense.  Thankfully the frequency of my posting makes up for some of this.  When you are posting every single day, your readers cut you a lot more slack for having an “off day”.

Keep a Contract

The other nice fringe benefit of morning writing is that you feel like you have accomplished some thing.  No matter how south the rest of the day turns, you will have at least had a tiny victory that morning.  For years my wife has done something that I just did not understand until I looked at my own blogging.  When we clean the house we usually divide and conquer, meaning I take certain rooms and she takes certain rooms.  One of the rooms she always wants to do is the Bathroom and I have never understood why she tackles it first thing.  She has always said it made her feel like she had accomplished something, and I guess in a way gets those good vibe endorphins flowing making the rooms that are more painful a little easier to do.  I can definitely see this whole process working because I absolutely see these same kind of benefits with my own blog posts.  No matter how frustrating the rest of the day is… I at least accomplished writing another post and I continued the chain of daily postings by one more day.

Whatever your block or your schedule I think the absolute most important thing is to treat it like a contract.  It becomes extremely easy to give yourself an excuse for not writing one day, that turns into not writing for an entire month.  Before I ventured down the path of daily writing there were so many times when I told myself “I just am not feeling it” and let myself off the hook without writing a post.  Then as months went by of “not feeling it” it became harder to actually start the process again.  In order to keep a schedule you need a certain amount of rigor in your life, and a willingness to sacrifice other things to make sure the ball keeps moving forward.  I know this might sound like an odd statement, especially for something that we all consider a hobby.  The problem is you can’t really treat it like a hobby and achieve the predictable regularity that your readers will want.  In many was blogging is a second job, admittedly one you do out of love… but there still needs to be some constraints on your time.  At this point I have blogged every single day for over two years… so I have this pressure built up in NOT missing a single day.  I have motivation to keep going, and keep writing… and I think it is this motivation that you have to find for yourself.

Talkback Challenge 1

Avoiding a Topic

First off I have to say I am a huge proponent of the Newbie Blogger Initiative, and try my best to do whatever I can to support it.  Unfortunately I do a pretty bad job of actually participating in anything that is going on the forums.  This year I had told myself that I would try really hard to participate more and do more of the various writing prompts.  You know that whole “lead by example” type argument.  The problem is the very first topic is something that I find both repulsive and deeply scary at the same time.  Izlain seems to love to revel in controversial topics, and has recorded podcasts on various incendiary topics in the past, so I really should not be shocked this ended up as a writing prompt.

The aim of the Talkback Challenge is to engage new bloggers on a topic and provide contrasting views on that specific matter. It is also designed to encourage follow-up discussions and blog posts which further widen the level of interaction. The goal is to generate discussion on newbie blogs, raise their respective profile and share traffic. The NBI has run such activities for several years now and they have proven both informative and engaging. The opening topic for debate this time round is “how did GamerGate affect you”?

The prompt itself is pretty straight forward.  How were you effected by GamerGate, but the answer as always is far more nuanced.  I just finished writing my Bonanza post over on MMOGames and during the course of it I ran through all of the responses to this question that were available at the time of posting.  I was somehow bolstered by the fact that the majority of these posts seemed to have no real effect.  The problem is…  for those who were effected this is a really touchy subject.  The fact that someone actually wants to be talking about this makes me realize that in truth they were largely left unscathed.  All of this said, I am going to tackle this topic because I promised myself that I would actually do the writing prompts.

Talkback Challenge 1

GamerGate cycled through the community like nothing I had ever seen before.  It was swift and it was obnoxious…  and quickly moved into the realm of the really damned creepy.  Folks were using the tag without really understanding the consequences.  The claim of the movement is that GamerGate is “About Ethics in Journalism” but this claim has never really matched up to the effects seen in the community.  So much so that this has become a meme and filed away in the internet as yet another meaningless phrase.  What I saw instead was a lot of my friends getting really scared to speak their mind.  This hive mind of hatred seemed to be going after anyone who was “different” from what they saw as the cultural norm.  This meant that women and the lgbt community seemed to garner the brunt of the assault.  I talked to lots of friends who considered just stopping blogging because of the fear and paranoia that was rampant.

The problem is I am by nature not extremely combative.  You can make personal attacks against me and it really usually doesn’t phase me.  However when you take on my friends, and make them feel less than what they are…  then I start to get upset.  In the grand scheme of things I didn’t speak out as harshly as I probably should have on the subject.  I made a pretty general post about how I wish we would “Be Awesome Human Beings”.  Which drew the attention of a Gater that followed me and proceeded to try and argue with me about ethics in journalism in the comments.  I didn’t want to get drawn into his discussion and he kept trying to bring me back to his personal brand of right wing philosophy.  Ultimately I ended up un-following and blocking the person on twitter.  Within a few days of posting this relatively straight forward article, my blog came under fire of a DDoS.  At first I thought nothing about it, since hosting companies get denial of service attacks all of the time.  The thing is… it seemed to be targeted at ONLY the server cluster my blog was on.

Message Delivered

A short time after that my twitter handle appeared on a list of supposed “Social Justice Warriors” that were to be avoided.  Granted half of the people I know ended up on that same list, but while it was a point of pride… it also felt a bit like a veiled threat.  It felt very much like a list of people who “thought wrong” and should be targeted.  When you combine that with the DDoS I won’t like it freaked me out a bit.  I tried my best to exorcise my social networks of any Gamer Gate sympathizers, or at least the ones who were loudly supporting it… and I moved on with my life.  I tried my best to support those who were getting attacked, but I didn’t feel like I supported the other extreme either.  Ultimately I just wanted us all to get along and stop being assholes to each other.  That is the mission I have kept trying to move forward.  I am a tiny blue dot in a very read ocean, but I manage to get along with most of my friends, coworkers and neighbors because we respect each other not enough to try and jam our own personal philosophies down each others throats.

The problem is Gamer Gate has left me scarred.  When someone new follows me on social media the first thing I do is scan down through their posting history to make sure they are not somehow a GG leaner.  I don’t want to make people out to be the bogeyman of the internet, but I also don’t really want that sort of influence screwing up my relatively happy place.  I have tried my best to limit the about of negativity in my world.  It ultimately makes me a happier person, and GG and the vehemently Anti-GG communities both are something I can do without.  That said I am by no means trying to be neutral anymore.  I am not a supporter of the GamerGate community by any means, and the whole situation deeply saddens me.  I don’t want to be made to feel like shit for anything I do, from anyone.  So I am going to keep doing what I am doing, and keep enjoying the things I enjoy and try my damnedest to forget the negative forces still exist.  You cannot get me to believe like you do by yelling at me louder, and you cannot convince me of your point with circular logic.  Ultimately I hope the internet and gamers in particular mature and learn to make decisions on their own merit and not connected to some larger agenda.

Disappointment Comes From Love

The Room

the-room-oh-hi-mark This is the point where I admit that I had never actually made it all the way through “The Room” before last night.  I’ve sat down several times to watch it, but it was just too bad and too awkward for me to struggle through it.  I feel like this is the sort of movie that is just more fun with a large group of people.  So when I saw that Rifftrax would be doing it, I thought it would be a blast.  I’m getting to be a regular at this whole Rifftrax live thing, and by live I mean sitting in a theater as the show is live simulcast from where they are actually at in Nashville.  So far I have seen Godzilla, Anaconda, and a strange 1950s Santa Claus movie from Mexico.  This season they have dubbed the “Crappening” with The Room, Sharknado 2, Miami Connection and Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny.

As far as The Room itself…  they commented last night that it was a movie made by a man who had never actually seen a movie…  or another human being.  This film is just so out there, and the funny thing about it is that I still don’t think Tommy Wiseau realizes quite how bad this movie is.  I mean at this point it has brought a relative state of infamy to all of the actors, but that isn’t exactly the same thing as fame.  So as insane as the movie is, you can imagine that it gets cranked up a notch when the Rifftrax folks are lampooning it.  The only problem with going to this movie with co-workers… and being named Mark… is that from now on I am going to be hearing a lot of “Oh Hai Mark” as I walk around the office.  To which I will of course have to respond… “Oh Hai Doggy”.  It was a great  evening though and I look forward to the next one.

Subscription Drop

wowsubspostwod Yesterday the Quarter 1 earnings call happened at Blizzard/Activision and it should shock exactly no one that the World of Warcraft subscription numbers are once again down.  With the launch of Warlords of Draenor the subscription numbers spiked at around 10 million players and has now dropped once more to the 7 million range.  Each expansion gives the subscribers a spike and then things taper off from there, so this was going to happen no matter what.  I will admit that I did not expect the bleed to happen quite so quickly.  That said given my own feelings about the current state of the game, and the general rumblings within the community I guess it should not really surprise me.  I agree with something that Alternative Chat said yesterday on twitter, that what we are seeing is a lot of people who came back and played the game for the month that came with their boxed copy, decided that they did not really like what they saw and left again all without actually subscribing.

If nothing else this seemed to be the trend within my own guild.  Folks would come back and were extremely active until they got their first character to level 100, and then tapered off their playtime ultimately leaving again shortly after that point.  My own time with this expansion is not all that different, and were it not for the fact that I am still raiding I would have left a long time ago.  I leveled three characters to 100, and got the rest of my army of alts to “garrison” level.  I spent the first month logging every single character in religiously and doing their garrison chores, and now I cannot be bothered to do them on more than just my main.  The first character ran a lot of heroics, and now subsequent 100s jump straight to the LFR queue for gearing.  During the launch we had 30 to 40 people on each and every night and it was insanely active.  Now when I log in nightly to run my garrison stuff there are at most three other people on during non-raid times.  While my guild is not exactly a bellwether for the game, it does at least show that something is fundamentally wrong.

Disappointment Comes From Love

Yesterday I made a comment on twitter and this morning it still seems very true.  This time around the folks that are complaining about Warlords are not necessarily the people who simply want to watch Blizzard burn down around them.  This group are players that still love the franchise but are disappointed at what it has become.  Ultimately you cannot be truly disappointed in something, unless you really do love it.  I mean if you hate something, then it is impossible to be disappointed because it simply doesn’t matter that much to you.  The problem is I am not exactly sure how this ship can be righted.  Blizzard seems to be committed to the path it is on, because the 6.2 patch is largely just “more of the same”.  The problem being that I see nothing in that patch that is going to keep people glued to the game for another quarter.  The naval missions seem interesting, but at this point folks are just sick of the lost potential that is the Garrison.

Wow-64 2015-05-05 22-04-20-51What we need now is an expansion announcement to bolster hope in the faithful, the problem there is I am seriously doubtful that we will see an announcement until Blizzcon.  November is two quarters away, and I am just wondering if whatever does get announced is going to be too little and too late to keep from another subscription drop.  Lots of people are talking about an expansion tying into the movie, but that movie is still a full year away.  The 16 month lag in content between Pandaria and Warlords is still very fresh in everyone’s minds and quite frankly Blizzard does not have the luxury of waiting that long.  They need a new world for us to start daydreaming about now, rather than waiting for a movie that may or may not be successful.  The positive is that Blizzard is still doing remarkably well in spite of World of Warcraft.  Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, Starcraft II, and Diablo 3 all seem to be doing awesome.  So maybe they just don’t care as much about their MMO as they once did?  If nothing else these months leading up to Blizzcon 2015 are going to likely forever shape the face of Warcraft.

Night of Primals

Juggling Games

Wow-64 2015-05-05 19-30-34-21 One of the challenges for me during the Newbie Blogger Initiative is determining which days I should make NBI related posts and which days I should do my traditional thing.  It is a bit of a juggling act because I want to keep pumping out articles in support of the initiative but I also don’t want my blog to stop being… well “my blog”.  As always I am juggling a silly amount of games.  Right now as it stands I raid Tuesday and Thursday in World of Warcraft, Monday and Saturday in Final Fantasy XIV and for the time being I am also filling in on Wednesday nights with another free company static group.  I would not mind staying with them indefinitely but I would love to get to a point where I am more optional than the current tank role that I am playing.  Finally on Friday nights I have been trying to join in the festivities with the Black Dagger Society as I play some Wildstar.  Other than this I am also trying to juggle playing Marvel Heroes and some Rift… and needless to say I feel like there is always something I want to be playing.

Last night was a WoW night and we once again stepped into Blackrock Foundry.  I did not place the sign above but I was wondering if it was going to foretell my evening.  At the beginning it did seem like maybe it was prophecy, because we had a rough start.  We wiped several times on heroic and tempers were flaring a bit.  Our raid leader made the right call and took us back outside flipping the difficulty to normal.  From there the night got significantly better.  I was once again being frustrated by Flamebender Kagraz not dropping pants or a sword for me, but that has now been par for the course so I really wasn’t that upset.  Last week we made serious progress on Furnace encounter so I was extremely happy when our raid lead said we were heading that direction.  Apparently we had not forgotten the progress we made because in a single attempt we downed our first new boss since March 19th.  While heroic difficulty is where we will find upgrades, there is a huge part of me that wants to be able to say we cleared at least normal difficulty before the 6.2 patch.  We are now two bosses away from being able to say that.

Night of Primals

ffxiv 2015-05-04 21-02-18-84 One of the things our Monday night group has decided to do is to spend no more than two nights in a row on any one encounter.  It has felt like we have ground our faces against turn nine for awhile now, so it is refreshing to get to see something else.  Monday night was our first “off night” in this rotation and we opted to get the folks that missed Leviathan Extreme their kill.  This fight went smoothly and by the numbers and other than some of the folks who were new to the fight struggling to stay on deck, we were able to make some serious progress.  I want to say it was on attempt four that we managed to push through and defeat Levi Ex unlocking Ramuh for a large number of the folks, and getting a nifty summoner book.  From there we moved on  to Odin as our group had not actually downed it before.  We made one night of attempts but then got enthralled by the push for Turn 9 never to return.  We shifted things around a bit this time and had me tanking it and Ashgar dpsing, hoping that my insane health pool would help soak the horrible Sangital attack.

ffxiv 2015-05-04 21-03-32-20 The assumption seemed to be correct as it would take me down to around half health instead of almost killing me.  The thing is… we have gained a lot of gear since when we last tried this fight so I am pretty sure Ashgar as a Paladin would have been fine as well.  We managed to take out Odin and get a piece of the armor set.  I believe it was the gloves, but I really want to take this guy down more because I need to be a Lala-Odin.  From here we opted to take on Titan Extreme in part because it was standing in the way of us working in Ifrit Extreme and finishing the first set.  When we downed Titan before we were missing a significant number of the folks that we had on last night.  This fight has been the bane of our existence for awhile because it is precisely the kind of fight we are generally bad at.  If a fight requires us to adjust to conditions on the ground, then bam we are on top of that.  If it is a fight that requires us to do the exact same thing over and over with laser precision…  went tend to fail.  Fortunately we managed to catch up to speed quickly and on I believe our fourth attempt we downed Titan once more keying a whole new batch of players for Ifrit.  It was one of the most enjoyable nights of raiding I have had in any game, because each of the primal encounters were so drastically different.

The Old Blood

WolfOldBlood_x64 2015-05-05 22-23-01-08 This game I honestly forgot was releasing yesterday, that is until in the middle of the raid I had someone message me over the steam client asking me if I was having trouble with the game.  After the raid I opted to boot it up and give it a look see.  I have agreed to play this game in part to let Kodra know if I think he would be interested in it.  He and I both loved Wolfenstein: New Order… but completely different reasons.  I loved the game because it felt like a throw back to the 90s shooter era, and he loved it for the complex character interaction and development.  It was awesome that the game supported both things so completely, and by the looks of “The Old Blood” it seemed like the 90s shooter part.  Essentially this game is a loving reworking of the classic Escape from Castle Wolfenstein game that I spent so many hours playing during High School.  If it is nothing more than Machine Games redoing that game… I would be completely fine with this.

WolfOldBlood_x64 2015-05-05 22-13-18-63 While I have only played a few minutes of the game right now, I have to say I am amped about it.  The game is just as gorgeous as New Order, and seems to have the exact same kind of dialog between characters.  The problem being that I have a feeling there is a much smaller cast given that the entire game takes place inside of Castle Wolfenstein.  This next bit is going to include spoilers because the introduction is pretty short, but still extremely fun.  Essentially the start of the game centers around this plan between you and a British agent to sneak inside Castle Wolfenstein and steal the blueprints to Deathshead’s compound… aka that thing you are storming at the beginning of New Order.  The problem being that when you get into the offices of occultist Helga Von Schabbs, the plans are missing.  There is nothing in the safe in the wall, and you and Wesley quickly draw unwanted attention and a firefight ensues.  While trying to make your escape you are captured by Rudi Jager and thrown in the cell that you in theory begin the original Wolfenstein in.  From there you have to escape the castle… and quite honestly I did not make it much further.  The game is rather short, supposedly only two chapters, but for the price that seems more than reasonable.  I think I am going to love this game, but I still question if there is enough story in it to appease Kodra.

Reluctant Blogger

My First Blog

nbimmogames-666x271 This mornings blog post is inspired by a conversation I saw yesterday between two friends about the starting of a new blog.  There are many people that have this strong desire to start a blog, but for whatever reason lack the confidence to push them over the edge to actually putting a plan in motion.  Some people are gifted with a clear vision for what they want to write about, and a firm purpose to make it all happen.  That unfortunately is not most of us.  Most of us have this burning desire to write, but are also strapped with crippling self doubt.  While I might look like I know what I am doing, I am here to tell you that every single day is a struggle to keep making content.  While I have been doing this for six years now, and been doing the every day thing for two…  I still don’t really know what I am doing on a regular basis.  I take each new day as it comes and try and figure out exactly what I should be doing in the process.

This morning I want to tell you a story about another blog.  I started Tales of the Aggronaut in 2009 with a firm purpose, and a vision for what I wanted it to be.  The thing is..  I never would have gotten to that point had another blog not existed.  Back in 2005 I stared a blogspot blog because I had this overwhelming desire to write.  The problem being that I didn’t really know what to write about.  I mostly wrote about my misadventures, and a little bit about the ins and outs of our family.  But early on I knew there was a big part of my life that I just wasn’t talking about… because I felt like no one would want to hear about it.  So my first blog was ultimately a failure because it didn’t really represent my gaming.  Additionally Tales of the Aggronaut I feel was an initial failure because it failed to represent more than just my gaming hobby.  What finally ended up working…  eight years later…  was a blending of both.  Lots of gaming, but still the freedom to talk about whatever else happened to be happening to me.

Reluctant Blogger

My first blog was a blog that hardly anyone read, because I lacked the self confidence to talk about it publically.  It was very much a private journal that I let the occasional person know about.  The folks that did read it seemed to like it, and urged me to do more, but in the back of my head there was always this nagging voice.  “There is nothing you have to say that isn’t already being said… and  being said better.”  This is the voice you have to ignore to be able to keep blogging, because it never really goes away.  There is not a single day when I don’t hear it still.  Every time I hit the publish button I have to hold my breath and close my eyes and click it… because even after doing this for all these years I still struggle to defeat my inner doubt.  It would be amazing if I could tell you that it just magically goes away, but I can at least say that over time it lessens.  The voice has less sway over me than it once did, which I guess is a step in the right direction.

You might say to yourself that you have nothing to say, and that others are saying it better…  but the act of you saying it makes it special and unique.  I could read fifty blog posts on exactly the same subject and each and every one would have some nugget that the others did not.  While we might be espousing the same ideas… each of us is adding our own experience to that mix.  Right now, before you start down this journey you might believe that you don’t have a voice worth hearing but I am telling you that you do.  Be honest with yourself, and write about the things you want to write about…  and somewhere in between your voice will trickle to the surface.  Blogging is not about being controversial or brilliant, but instead about being honest and letting the world see who you really are and what think.  This act of sharing is precious, and makes whatever it is that you choose to share more than worthy of our attention.  We are this culmination of our emotions, experiences, actions and thoughts wrapped up together making anything you have to say on any subject uniquely nuanced.

Lets Get Started

As I wrote to the Wayward Bloggers a few days ago, this morning I am writing to the Reluctant Bloggers.    I am addressing the folks that want to start a blog but for whatever reason are being held back from doing so.  If you are watching the Newbie Blogger Initiative and feel that tiny tug trying to get you to start your own epic blog, I ask you to hop down off the fence you are sitting on and get started.  The Newbie Blogger Initiative is the perfect time to get things in motion because you have an entire community waiting her ready to give you that hand up.  There are an almost overwhelming number of ways to get started.  Most people start with either a WordPress.com or a Blogger.com and go from there.  Blogger is without a doubt the easiest way to get started, but WordPress will make transitioning to a self hosted site in the future less of a hassle.  In either case, the act of getting something started is the important thing.  If these seem “too real” for you to get your feet wet, then I suggest starting a blog on Anook.com and seeing how things work for you.

Some people are gifted with the ability to start writing quality content from day one.  In my permission to suck post from last year I talk about the fact that I was not one of those people.  I struggled for a long time to find my format and to find my voice.  My blog itself has gone through so many transitions from WoW Blog, Rift Blog, to ultimately becoming a fairly game agnostic blog about me as a person and my gaming habit.  The truth is that you should expect to hate the first dozen posts you make within a years time.  Like I said there are the occasional folks that can crank out amazing stuff, but I personally would be happy never to see the first several years worth of posts on this blog.  The awesome thing about being human beings is that we are able to change and to adapt, and expect your blog and your writing to do the same.  Just like learning to ride a bike was wobbly at first, your blog will be a bit wobbly and that is okay.  You are doing something that you are going to get better at, and we as a community will be here to help you.  Now you simply have to get started.

Marvel Heroes Binge

A Truly Amazing Day

avengers-age-of-ultron-art-poster-133238 One of the huge positives about where we live is that we are close to an awful lot of things that are within reasonable walking distance.  Over the last year or so we have tried to take advantage of this fact by walking to dinner more often.  This weekend however I did something I should have done a very long time ago and walked to the movies.  There is a theater literally less than two blocks away from my house, but I’ve never actually walked there before.  Granted when walking to dinner we walk past it all of the time.  Sunday I decided to go to the 10:30 am matinee and watch the new Avengers movie.  The movie itself was pretty great, and i feel like I need to watch it again to really take in all of the sights the movie had to offer.  This is a very “busy” film packed with some absolutely insane action sequences.  I feel like it is a toss up between the Hulk and Black Widow as to who stole the show, but I have always been partial to both of them.

As I was exiting the theater I texted my wife to let her know that I would be on my way home.  However when I poked my head out into the light there she was waiting on me.  She walked down hoping to surprise me, and then the two of us walked over to get lunch.  It was a really beautiful day, and she is constantly telling me that I need to get more sunlight.  While I am still not the biggest fan of the sun, she is probably right because I feel better today after having done all of this yesterday.  We had some errands to run, but by the time we got back to the house we both decided it was nap time.  After getting back up we ran to target really quickly and then she went outside to read in the rocking chair, and I played games.  It was a pretty great day, and I am hoping to take advantage of the movie theater being so close in the future.  There are a lot of movies that I want to see that she has no interest in.  Walking down makes it feel less of a hassle for some reason, and also serves as some exercise.

Marvel Heroes Binge

MarvelHeroes2015 2015-05-03 19-40-14-108 It was probably because of the awesome Avengers movie, but when I got home I ran a quick expert roulette and then logged to play Marvel Heroes.  This game has really grown on me and I am feeling like a massive failure for not giving it a chance before now.  Normally the whole Diablo thing is a bit of a turn off anymore, but for whatever reason the combination of Super Heroes and Diablo works well for me.  I have been accumulating a lot of various boost potions, because they give you plenty of them as part of the daily login reward system.  Yesterday I opted to take several of the various 2 hour boosts and see what all I could accomplish.  I pushed Captain America that has become my main from 22 to 27 almost 28 over the course of those two hours.  Right now there are a lot of things working in my favor since there is an event happening that gives Avengers a boost.  The only bad thing is that the cosmic gear I am wearing has yet to be replaced which bums me out slightly.  I guess I might have to try my luck again at the cosmic boxes from Adam Strange.

I am just starting the Savage Lands which according to my friend is one of the more frustrating areas of the game.  I personally found that the tail end of Stryker’s camp to be extremely frustrating with Sentinels dropping on me every five seconds.  I keep feeling like I should probably play other characters up since I now have this whole synergy thing unlocked…  but really I am still having a blast playing Cap.  His skillset is almost perfect suited for my particular play style.  I can charge through a bunch of mobs taking them out, and then when I get into the center of a pack twirl my shield around taking all but the blue or better mobs out.  Then I just mob up with shield throws or punches and repeat.  It feels very enjoyable, but I am actually looking forward to seeing what the new heroic difficulty that I unlocked is like.  There are absolutely times that the game feels mindlessly simple, so I would be curious to see if Heroic is like hard is for Diablo 3… aka the new “normal”.

Closing in on Botanist

ffxiv 2015-05-04 05-52-41-84 Another thing I worked on last night was pushing Botanist up a bit more.  I really want to finish leveling this to 50, and have felt the need to do just this before really starting in on crafting proper.  I realize this might be a bit strange of logic but it works for me.  I spent my evening catching up on Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley, both shows that I had not really watched for the last few weeks.  While doing this I ran a whole slew of Botany leves and managed to push from 35 to 45 which hopefully means I can finish off the leveling process at some point this week.  I will be happy to have finished leveling the two harvesting professions that I am going to need to most while leveling my other  crafters.  Right now however I have to collect 20 high quality mistletoe to turn in to the quest giver.  This is going to be a fairly daunting task, given that I cannot simply buy my way through it.  It seems HQ mistletoe is in short supply as there was absolutely none on the market board.    As a result I will be spending the next little bit in the Whitebrim area harvesting like mad trying to complete the 45 quest.

The other thing I really want to do soon is push my Arcanist from 22 to 30 so that I can become a scholar.  If I manage to do that I can get to 50 relatively easily doing the fast healer dungeon queues.  Depending on how many leves it takes me to get to 50 Botanist, I might follow this interesting guide posted on the FFXIV Reddit.  Ashgar pointed this out, and it seems like a perfectly reasonable way to level.  I actually like chain running leves because it is also a decent source of retainer tokens.  I would love to see myself level a few more classes to 50 before the expansion, because I have 100 level weapons waiting on them.  I have been dumping my excess soldiery into buying the various weapons, and just have one left to purchase, which admittedly is a little insane.  The problem is… what else was I going to use that soldiery on?  I am actually right around the point where I need to buy the final weapon, which makes me feel like a slacker for not leveling all of those classes to 50.  Final Fantasy XIV has way more content than I could ever hope to do… so at times I just feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that I want to be doing.

Enjoying Wildstar

AggroChat 55 – Calling All Bloggers

This week I start off the show, and even title it with a pretty massive plug for the Newbie Blogger Initiative. What is the NBI you ask? Well this is the time of the year when Veteran bloggers support new folks wanting to get started in this madness. This year we are making an extra special push to try and help new podcasters, youtubers, and streamers along with the bloggers. Additionally I myself am making a special push to try to rekindle the fire in some of our wayward bloggers who are no longer as regular as they used to be. The entire month of May is dedicated to helping folks get started and find their niche, and since most of the AggroChat crew have participated in the past, it is time to get the word out.

As far as the rest of the show we had myself, Tam, Ashgar, Kodra and Grace. As always we spent a good deal of time talking Final Fantasy XIV since we are all still heavily playing it. Right now Greysky Armada our Free Company is back holding the bronze medal again for being the third most active Free Company on our server Cactuar. This week also saw myself and Grace spending some more time playing some more Wildstar. The Black Dagger Society the guild I am connected to has been having a guild night on Fridays and as such I have started joining in the festivities. Additionally there was talk of Marvel Heroes, Diablo 3, Ashgar returning to his Gameboy Advance roots, Tam winning his first Infinity tournament since the move, and similarly Kodra beating VVVVVV for the first time in his new place. Since this month is devoted to Shadowrun for the Gameclub we are also starting to play some of this. It was a fun show in spite of being in that pre-E3 gaming doldrum.

Making Progress

Wow-64 2015-04-30 20-57-40-40 I’ve been down a bit on raiding lately in my posts so I wanted to take a moment to give a bit of an update of sorts.  The Tuesday before last was very seriously one of the worst nights of raiding I have had in a very long time.  It really made me question if I wanted to keep trying to raid in World of Warcraft, and I posted this long discussion about it.  It seems like I actually gave voice to some of the same feelings that many of our raid had been having, but for whatever reason had not actually talked about.  As a result a dialog has started among some of the members, and I have to say I think things are starting to improve.  Tuesday this week was still a pretty rough night, but it felt at least somewhat better.  Thursday however on the other hand felt really good.  We were a much trimmed down group due to some absences but I also felt like we were working better as a team.  We lowered the bar slightly and worked on normal content again, clearing everything we had ever cleared before in a single night and putting in some serious work on the forge encounter.

If we had another hour of attempts I feel like we probably could have downed the encounter.  Things were flowing so much better than they ever had before.  We were getting through to the second phase, and then approaching it with a sense of direction and purpose.  We were alternating between burning down the Elementalists and focusing down the waves of adds.  We managed to push through to the final phase, and if we were at our full numbers we might have been able to defeat it.  I think we learned a lot of good lessons that we can hopefully apply this Tuesday.  The thing is… I am feeling something that I have not felt in a very long time… the desire to get back in there and give it another shot.  I am actually looking forward to raiding in World of Warcraft this week, and that is a pretty awesome thing.  Maybe just maybe we can make the changes necessary in the raid to make it a better experience for all of us.  At this point I am glad I said something, and started the discussion.  I guess the truth is if you are not having a good time, chances are you aren’t the only one.

Enjoying Wildstar

WildStar64 2015-05-01 21-07-54-46 Similarly this week I have been enjoying quite a bit of Wildstar.  I am still taking it nice and slow, but at this point I am level 16 with just a short ways to go to 17.  I have officially finished the Algoroc zone and will be moving into the next area.  The Black Dagger Society has been awesome to me, and I am super thankful to Chestnut and Chaide for giving me a friendly home to hang my hat in.  It turns out that Friday nights are somewhat of a guild night for grouping, and they have been working on lower level content.  Currently I do not have any other commitments Friday nights, so I am going to try and make that my Wildstar day.  This week they ran me through the earliest Protostar dungeon, and it does a pretty great job of teaching you what you need to do to succeed in a Wildstar instance.  Honestly I wish that this would have been the first dungeon when we were playing at launch, because I feel like it would have cleared up a lot of the frustrations had by many players.

The group we went into Wildstar with was made up of some pretty disparate points of view and skill levels.  For some the extremely frenetic pace of the dungeons was a point of frustration especially as we were trying to learn “on the fly” all of the various things we were supposed to be doing.  This dungeon eases the player in teaching them the various mechanics and then building upon them as the phases go, finally culminating in a boss fight that is fairly representative of what I saw in the “real” dungeons.  While the dungeon is essentially a giant tutorial, it is still extremely fun and when a random stranger asked me if I wanted to join them… I happily ran it again.  The other big switch I have made is previously I was focusing entirely on tanking as the warrior and now  I am starting to build out my dps abilities as well.  In most games I level as tanky as much as anything else in an effort to be as survivable as I can be for fighting the named encounters.  In this game I feel almost more survivable playing DPS as I do as a tank.  Essentially the amount of damage I deal more than makes up for the extra damage I might be receiving.  I am still pleasantly surprised that I am enjoying Wildstar as much as I actually am.  Pretty happy I decided to give it another shot.