Finishing Stormhaven

2048: Sign of the Beast

2048isevil For those of you who are not currently playing this game, I suggest you skip ahead to the next section.  I feel like a crack peddler by even mentioning it, and this is from someone who is “lovingly” referred to as the “games pusher” by some of his friends.  It was a few months ago when one of my game developer friends stumbled across this simple but deeply nuanced game and it made the gamut of my friends.  I suck at number puzzles and even I played it quite a bit.  The problem is each time I started down the path towards the mythical 2048 I would get to the point where I wanted to throw my phone across the room.  I managed to get 1024 numerous times but could never seal the deal and get the other half of that equation.

It was much to my horror that I awoke this morning to find my wife laying in bed beside me playing this game on her phone.  As a math teacher I was honestly surprised how long it took for this craze to cycle around to her, but apparently it is now infecting her “community” as well.  The only cure is to NOT play, but that seems to be harder than it sounds.  She said some of her students have actually lost sleep trying to reason out how to get to the magical 2048.  As a result I have now decided to dub this the devils game…  I am sure that Advanced Dungeons and Dragons will be disappointed that it has lost the title.  I realize this is just a rework of the existing threes game, but there is something inherently more addicting about it.  We NEVER count in 3s, but each time we sit down at a computer everything we do is based around binary… so 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, etc etc are all numbers we are so damned used to looking at in terms of memory or whatever we happen to be doing on a computer.  Threes just looked at the problem from the wrong angle, and this little freeware version is better than it in every possible way.

Finishing Stormhaven

Screenshot_20140411_223404 I was absolutely taken aback at just how gorgeous this screenshot came out.  Anyone who says something negative about the graphics in Elder Scrolls Online has likely not actually played it.  Last night I dinged 27 and am still finishing up the last few things in Stormhaven.  I technically should have moved on around 25, but I have a hard time leaving a zone until I have at least made an attempt to turn all of the black icons on the map to white ones.  I got the last Skyshard last night, and now I think I just have one quest line to follow before I can happily move on to Rivenspire.

The above armor I am wearing is the tier 3 Imperial heavy armor, and I have to say it looks pretty damned awesome.  Right now I am trying to gather up enough orichalcum to craft a new onehander, but I upgraded my two hander last night.  I have reached a point where I desperately need Orichalcum, but can’t seem to find much in Stormhaven… whereas before I couldn’t find the High Iron I needed.  I have literally dumped a few 100 bar stacks into the guild bank since I don’t really need them.  Hopefully it will help out some of the up and coming smiths in the guild.  What I am desperately in need of is tempers… especially Dwarven Oil.  I feel like I need to farm some of the world bosses in an attempt to get items to deconstruct.

Getting our Asses Kicked

Screenshot_20140411_223848 Up until this point my friends and I had managed to make our way through the six dungeons to this point on a mixture of luck, skill and determination.  However last night we hit a hard and absolute wall.  The Crypt of Hearts is a dungeon in the next zone up… Rivenspire.  It is scaled for level 30, and last night we had two at 31, and two at 26.  We just did not have enough healing, damage, survival…. to push through the content.  We managed to down the first encounter, but got completely gummed up on the second.  We put in a bunch of attempts on Archmaster Siniel, and while we improved we always seemed to hit a point where we just could not survive the damage.

There is a lot of stuff going on in that zone, and it involves a lot of adjusting to what is happening.  I think we finally had the right way to handle the fight, but just were hitting a gear wall.  Can I tell you how damned refreshing it is to completely fail at a dungeon?  That might sound odd, but to have a game with dungeons that can absolutely break our group is pretty damned impressive.  Normally we steamroll content in these games, and after a few deaths we have figured out whatever “trick” there is to a fight and then from that point on have mastered it.  To have our asses handed to us so thoroughly gives us a mission to figure out how to beat the place.  This dungeon is going to become our new “sand giant” and we are going to want revenge.

#ElderScrollsOnline #StormHaven #CryptofHearts #2048 #RivenSpire

Cyrodil Bound

Prouds, I has them


Yesterday was the second day in a row I managed to hit the default goal of 10,000 steps since I got my fitbit.  While I normally clock in at the 8,000 steps range I have actually hit 10,000 four times so far.  As I wrote when I got my fitbit, it makes interesting tweaks in the way you look at the world.  These last two days I mostly performed a simple tweak to my routine.  I spend most of my life pushing as many things as possible to autopilot, and as such… unless it is super important I try and make things absolute routine.  As a result I prefer to park in exactly the same place every day, so I don’t have to think about where I parked.  The only place that is reliably open is the roof of the parking garage, and while I do try and find a covered place when there is bad weather… it works for me.

Normally speaking I have been going up and down the stairs from the roof for a while now, but I opted to make a slight tweak in this routine.  Instead of walking the stairs, I decided to walk the long winding ramp between the 6th and 4th floor.  This is a large number of new steps to add to my routine, and I think is really the difference between consistently having 8,000 days and 10,000 days.  My other friends that are also using the fitbit tend to skew the results by walking in place at night or pacing the halls to try and finish off their steps.  I however wanted to try and tweak my routine to a point at which it was sustainable and repeatable, and slowly over time I am getting there.

A new thing my wife and I have been doing in the evenings is attempting to walk to dinner.  Granted we live in the suburbs and it is not exactly designed for walkability… but we are making it function.  There are a number of restaurants that are within a mile of the house and Wednesday night we walked a grand total of 4200 steps to RibCrib and back.  Last night she got home super late so we didn’t do this, but instead walked around the corner to the grocery store to buy a ream of paper and some advil.  It seems that if we are walking someplace with a purpose in mind, it is easier.  This is still very new to us, but so far we both seem to be adjusting well.  The only negative is that I seem to have developed shin splints which hurt like hell, but hopefully they will lessen over time.

Cyrodil Bound

Screenshot_20140410_210456 If you remember some weeks back there was a question as to which campaign to choose.  After much discussion we ended up picking Wabbajack, and apparently this was a very good choice.  It seems as though the Daggerfall Covenant is doing extremely well there, and when I logged in last night we had the faction wide buff indicating that we had crowned an Emperor.  In addition we managed to hold all of the elder scrolls, but as my friend Kodra reported it looked like we were about to lose one of the keeps holding a scroll.  I feel a little bad that as cool as Cyrodil seems, last night was the first night since the mandatory pvp testing weekends that I had set foot in it.  I completely skipped the tutorial quests, which are apparently really good, and worth a lot of skill points… and jumped straight into combat.  I had more fun than I have really had in PVP ever… or at least since Dark Age of Camelot.

We successfully defended the keep, and took several objectives around the keep.  What was nice about defending the keep is that we were able to consistently push Ebonheart Pact away from the siege weapons and destroy them, giving our keep time to repair.  I died a ton, but also managed to get in my fair share of killing blows thanks to being able to shield charge into targets.  I pvp’d as sword and shield and overall I was pretty pleased with the results.  I might tweak things up a bit, to add a bit more annoyance to my toolbar.  I managed to get three skill points and at the end of the night was halfway through realm rank two.  All in all it was a fun little outing and something I could see doing again in the near future.

Podcast In the Air

For some time I have been streaming in the evenings from time to time, and in doing so I hop on mumble and join a channel called “Bel is Streaming”.  Folks pop into the channel and we end up chatting about damned near everything but the thing we happen to be playing.  When I went back and listened to some of the videos…  they almost sounded like impromptu podcasts.  This started a discussion among a few of my friends and is slowly working its way towards a real podcast.  There is a group of friends that I have been hanging out on mumble with on an almost nightly basis.  Over this time we have developed a really good chemistry, and the goal is to take that same chemistry to a podcast.

So sometime in the very near future we will be recording our inaugural episode.  I will be joined by my good friends Rae, Kodra and Ashgar.  Between us we each have just enough overlap of tastes to make it work, and just enough divergence to hopefully make for differing points of view.  Rae is currently working on some really amazing Chibis of us to eventually become a logo.  Special thanks to Sypster to answering some questions and helping me pick a libsyn package.  We don’t really know what we are doing…  but that is okay, we all have to start out not knowing what we are doing.  Right now the gameplay is to keep a google doc going with potential topics, and then just see what happens on air.  Hopefully it will be something worth listening to.

Elder Dungeons

H1Z1 Preview

h1n1 Yesterday was the big reveal of the new SOE game H1Z1.  While it should surprise no one… this is a zombie survival MMO.  With the name there is literally nothing else that it could have been.  Right now the details are pretty sketchy, but details are being collected on the official reddit.  It really looks like it is going to take what Rust and DayZ are doing, to the next level and make it massive and persistent.  While all of this intrigues me…  I think it is pretty much in the “not for me” camp.  I am amped about exploring a zombie filled world, and building bases with my friends to protect against the hordes.  Dealing with additional players in a PVP scenario in that same world… pretty much destroys my enjoyment.  Ultimately I am all about community and working together, and unless there is some unofficial co-operative server there really isn’t much pull for me.

I played quite a bit of the DayZ mod for Arma 2, but the thing that ultimately stopped me from playing it more was the fact that I didn’t need to worry about the zombies, but instead worry about getting sniped from a massive distance by other players.  I realize that it is more realistic to have players be fighting other players for survival, but in these games there are often times far more players in the world than zombies.  I feel like ultimately what I am looking for is State of Decay co-operative mode… which sadly is not in the cards.  I want to explore a purely PVE world with my friends, and scavenge from potentially NPC factions.  I guess the proof will be in the pudding and how things are set up.  What would really kill the game for me is if other players can loot your corpse, similar to DayZ.

So long as if I die to players I get to keep my progression and my inventory, I might be okay with this.  The other big concern is, that Smedley already talks about players coming along and burning down the bases of other players.  As a kid I loved to build with blocks, but it would piss me off when another kid would come along and knock down my intricate structure.  That is precisely what it feels like to me, when you have a base building game… that allows other players to come destroy yours.  Some time ago Smedley said there was another game on the horizon that SWG players would love.  I keep wondering if this is it, because it is supposed to have the whole player created town aspect.  Knowing what I know about the SWG community however, I don’t really see them being terribly enthralled by this.

The Evil Within

A game I have been watching with some interest for some time is The Evil Within.  Essentially it brings the world famous Shinji Mikami, creator of Resident Evil.  During the early days of the playstation, I absolutely ate up survival horror titles.  I played the shit out of Resident Evil, its sequel, Parasite Eve, and even Dino Crisis.  However for me the genre reached its peak with the release of the original Silent Hill.  There was something so perfect about that game and the way it blended between the relatively sedate “normal” world, and the absolutely twisted “nightmare” world.  The game absolutely blew me away from the opening chords of its theme song.  As the Resident Evil series wore on, it became ever repetitive and boring, as you rehashed the same old t-virus saga again and again.

What The Evil Within does is pair the mind of Shinji Mikami with the publishing might of Bethesda Softworks.  Now granted this is not the same team that brought us the Elder Scrolls, or even Fallout…  but so far they have managed to prove that when one of the Zenimax studios creates a title…  I am ultimately going to be interested in it.  The above trailer is brand new for Pax and I have to say I am super interested.  It feels far more like Silent Hill than Resident Evil, and this is an awesome thing to me.  I want another game where I wander around a nightmarish landscape that I can’t quite wrap my head around.  The title is slotted to ship at the end of August, and I am super excited about it.  If you loved the original Silent Hill as much as I did, I figure you have reason to be excited as well.  If nothing else the trailer is really freakin cool.

Elder Dungeons

Screenshot_20140408_195314 I finally put my finger on what exactly I am loving about the dungeons in Elder Scrolls Online.  In many ways it feels like a return to the dungeons of Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot.  World of Warcraft did something to MMOs that has seemed unrepairable until now.  It was really the first game to begin to treat dungeons as though they were wholly separate from the rest of the world.  It walled the dungeons off in instances, filled them with special dungeon mobs, and applied abilities to them that you would see in no place OTHER than a dungeon.  The dungeon became its own unique game, that required a completely different set of skills than play out in the world did.  Every game since the launch of World of Warcraft has taken this lead and filled their dungeons with “elites” that for the most part require players to focus fire them down, since an individual player could not possibly solo one at level.

This was not always the case, dungeons used to be filled with the same kinds of mobs you might encounter out in the “real” world, just in larger numbers and higher frequency.  So stepping into Elder Scrolls Online, I admit I was freaked out when we first encountered and 8 to 10 mob pull.  I am only now realizing that this is essentially the same 8 to 10 mobs you would encounter while roaming around the world.  What makes this challenging and not just “trash packs” is the fact that these mobs fight smarter.  From the moment you step into the dungeon, you encounter “group tactics”.  Healers will heal the lowest target, including other healers…  Necromancers will raise the dead, melee will go after your squishiest party members.  The mobs are treating you like dungeon encounters, and trying to take you down as a team.

What makes this so refreshing is that these tactics are not solely reserved for “dungeons” but the same kind of thing you start encountering as the game ramps up difficulty.  In Stormhaven it is getting rare that I am not involved in three or more mobs at a time.  Almost always this will include a healer of some sort, a “tank” of some sort and a “dps” of some sort.  The first time a mob tried to kite me, it was a really cool moment.  Why this is great is because Elder Scrolls is somehow managing to teach players the skills that they will need for later content, in the content they are actually playing.  So while yes, there is a massive learning curve… I feel like we will not have the same problems we have with the PUG scene in World of Warcraft in the eventual Elder Scrolls Online end game.  If you can make it through the veteran content, you likely can make it through any of the content in the game.

It is refreshing to have a game that does not try to coddle the player.  Shit happens, and if you do not react appropriately to it… you get punished and punished hard.  The game is not some brutal Dark Souls type experience, it plays fair and within a set of established rules… but even after playing it as long as I have… I still die, and die often.  I really look forward to the adventure zone combat, because it feels like it is going to be something akin to the old Everquest planes.  I loved breaking the plane of hate and the plane of fear, both of which were unforgiving and brutal… but also immensely rewarding.  While Craglorn sounds like it is much more structured than the planes were, it feels like it might offer a similar style of gameplay.  It will be a long while before I am Veteran Rank 10, but hopefully when I get there we will be able to wander about the zone finding adventure.

#H1Z1 #TheEvilWithin #CragLorn #ESO #ElderScrollsOnline

Bloodlust Pays Off

What’s Wrong with TSW?

TheSecretWorld 2013-06-04 22-55-41-12 There are a couple of really interesting posts by Sypster and Rowanblaze that talk about the problems with The Secret World combat system.  Mostly Syp’s post is him trying to articulate the way he feels about it, and then Rowan breaks down those points and tries to speak to each.  Combined they provide a really nice bookend and are extremely worth reading.  It is really nice to see someone try and put into words what is wrong with the combat other than “it’s clunky”.  I have my own love/hate relationship with the combat in The Secret World.  For the good I love how flexible the character build system is especially at lower levels, but there seems to be a point where all of that breaks down.

Like always, my little circle of regularly group mates rushed headlong into the content of The Secret World, and were starting in on Nightmare content only a few weeks after launch.  For the most part we found normal and elite content in The Secret World to be overly easy.  However facing nightmare content felt like slamming our faces into a brick wall at 60 miles per hour.  The transition was brutal and unforgiving and seemingly unfairly stacked against melee players.  I had managed to stubbornly limp my way through the Gatekeeper encounter with my Shotgun/Blades build, but when it came to nightmares I abandoned it quickly in favor of a pure ranged Shotgun/Pistol build.

The game went from being super forgiving and open to any build you could dream up, to being extremely punishing and narrow focused over night.  So yes while the combat is essentially an overly repetitive use of “wow rogue” tactics over and over until you finish the battle, it was the fact that playing melee was a detriment to my groups survival that ultimately did the game in for me.  We all return to the game to play the new content every now and then, but Nightmares were the point at which the game stopped being fun for many of us.  Our creative builds that were super personalized were force culled into the few builds that “worked well” for nightmare level content.

Bloodlust Pays Off

Screenshot_20140408_202457 Last night I had every intention of just quietly questing away in Elder Scrolls Online.  However I logged in to a message from my friend Tam, wanting to know if I was down for running some dungeons.  What can I say…  I am a sucker for spelunking my way through bad guys.  At the beginning of the night we were trying to figure out why I was a level ahead of them with the “dungeon” faction… aka the Undaunted.  We ended up sifting through our achievements and found that I had already hit the “kill 1000 monsters in dungeons” achievement and they had not.  I may or may not have issues with bloodlust, and as a result I have been tanking pretty much any dungeon someone asked me to.  We started off the night with Wayrest Sewers again, and honestly I was expecting a rough time.  However I found that I was able to split the packs much the same as I did the very first time I had run the dungeon.

I am guessing maybe in the previous group I had someone “helping” me by pulling something other than the one I was yanking with my chain.  This is a super important point that needs to be addressed, and while I covered it in my tanking post… I figure it bears underlining here.  When you are running these dungeons, let your tank pull and do not touch ANYTHING until you see the mobs run up at the group.  The way combat packs work in Elder Scrolls Online is that all of the mobs in a pack will aggro you, but not all of them will actually engage you in combat.  Touching them, means they will be doing so and you can quickly get overwhelmed.  Let the tank pull and watch to see what actually starts attacking you.  Then do not touch the ones that are just standing around cheering on the fighters.

I was not feeling like streaming last night, but I wish I had been… because after finishing off Wayrest Sewers we also ran the other two dungeons in the level 20 range.  Darkshade Caverns and Elden Hollow were both really awesome.  However in the case of Darkshade Caverns there is a bit of a surprise involved with running the dungeon that I really don’t want to spoil.  Darkshade had some of the coolest fights to date, and I look forward to running it again.  The loot seems to be improving as well as we go up.  Granted it is still fully luck based, but several of us managed to pull out blue set pieces from the dungeon, as well as the normal unique loot drops.  The lighting and effects in the dungeons are just superb.  Final Fantasy XIV had some really amazing dungeon encounters, but I have to say so far at least Elder Scrolls Online trumps them.

Oddly Oblivious

I guess right now I am simply preoccupied with Elder Scrolls Online, but right now I am pretty oblivious to the news coming out about Warlords of Draenor.  I still very much care what happens there, because even though we have this insane guild right now in ESO, there are still a batch of diehard Stalwarts that will likely never leave WoW.  I want the expansion to be awesome for them as much as anything else.  I have to say that the new Draenei female is nice… but not really the night and day difference that you see with the Vanilla model makeovers.  I guess the Draenei and Bloodelves were in a better state already than the previous models, so they were not quite so primitive looking.

I have been phenomenally bad at keeping up with my RSS feed since coming back from my grandmothers funeral.  I guess I rushed headlong into ESO, and have simply not come up for air.  Things have just been going so well over there that I have not needed additional diversions.  I am still listening however, and occasionally things creep into my consciousness about Warlords.  Story from yesterday was that MMO Champion got DDoS’d for not giving credit to the folks running the private servers where he collected the alpha zone screenshots.  Now all of those shots are down from the site, with a disclaimer saying that Blizzard had asked them to take them down.  While I can’t confirm anything about the DDoS, I am guessing the image take down is more related to that instead.

At this point I will be far more interested when someone I know actually gets into Alpha or Beta.  The rumors that I am hearing about the garrison sound intriguing and a fun minigame to keep me engaged in the expansion content long after I have finished leveling.  My real hope  however was that the garrison would be shared among all of your characters.  I have an army of tradeskillers, and it would be nice to have access to ANY of their trades, from ANY of my characters.  It feels like Blizzard is always one step away from making something really awesome.  For whatever reason they always stop just short of what I would like to see from them.  Hopefully we will continue to get more official news, since really at this stage in the alpha…  anything that gets datamined is mostly bullshit and likely to change before beta.

#ElderScrollsOnline #TheSecretWorld #WoW #TSW #ESO

Back to the Sewers

Jonquils say so

jonquils Here in Oklahoma we have had more than our fair share of ping pong weather of late.  This weekend I was happily running around in shorts, however when I went for my walk last night that same choice was rather chilly.  I wish the world would make up its damned mind to be honest, and preferably warm up.  I am afraid that once again we will go from cold to hot without much of a middle ground like we did last year.  We have a patch of Jonquils on the side of the house and they seem to think spring time has arrived as they are in full bloom and gorgeous as always.  We had these growing up as well, and they were always the heralds of springtime.  When they bloomed things were going to start warming up significantly.  I really hope the weather gods are watching my flowers, because seriously I am tired of the cold.

This morning I am more nervous than normal, and for good reason.  Our eldest cat has a thyroid problem, and today she is supposed to go into surgery to have hers removed.  This is supposedly going to fix the imbalance that is causing her to be sick all of the time.  For awhile now we’ve done a practice I like to refer to as “greasing her ears”, where I rub some thyroid cream (while wearing latex gloves) into her ears.  This was all to get her thyroid levels stabilized enough to have the surgery.  However I am wondering if this is something we can just do indefinitely now.  I don’t really mind doing it, at least not as bad as trying to feed her a pill.  She doesn’t really like it but she tolerates it well enough.  I am just wondering since she is a fifteen year old cat, if doing this a few times a day would be better for her quality of life than a surgery.

Back to the Sewers

Watch live video from Belghast on TwitchTV
Yesterday evening some friends and I decided to delve back into the Wayrest Sewers in search of loot, glory… and attempting to avoid the mess.  We had run the dungeon Saturday evening and it seemed much easier than the others we had run.  Thing is apparently this was not the intent of the dungeon, and seemingly in an effort to break the trend of chain running the place… yesterdays patch changed several things about the place.  Firstly there were a large number of packs that previously could be split, this is no longer the case.  There were instances where you had a Rat Feeder human npc in a pack of rats… and you could fiery grip the human out by himself then deal with the rats.  Now when you yoink the human the rats properly come with him, no longer trivializing the encounter.  Similarly there were humanoid pack mobs that you could single pull, or pull without engaging the boss they were attached to.

All of this lead for a much more difficult run than we were expecting.  The above video is still uploading to youtube, so I’ve embedded the twitch broadcast instead.  Several things were happening… firstly I am generally horrible at explaining fights.  Secondly for everyone but myself, this was their first time into the instance.  Thirdly two of our members were slightly under level for the dungeon.  The result meant that at least one of the boss fights seemed far more difficult than it really should have been.  The Garron encounter is rough, but it involves figuring out how best to deal with the adds… and it took us several tries to arrive at a strategy that was working.  Namely killing things in the same order as not to break the CC.  It was a good time had by all, and we got our youngins specifically some tasty loot.

It Runs on a Toaster

ESO_MInimumSettings My friends and I have joked for some time, that the Elder Scrolls Online engine is so damned optimized that it could probably run on a toaster.  I posted this a few days ago on twitter, but I still find it insanely amusing.  This is from the ESO Reddit, and is apparently Elder Scrolls Online running at the absolute minimum settings which is 320×200.  The game looks oddly playable, even if you can’t really make out who exactly you are interacting with.  It looks oddly similar to a super pixilated adventure game from the 1990s.  Thankfully my machine will run the game in its full Ultra setting 1080p glory…  but I do find it awesome that the game can technically be run on some pretty ancient hardware and perform just as well.  I honestly don’t notice much of a difference running it on my laptop as I do running it on my more serious gaming desktop.

Screenshot_20140407_183815 The thing is… so many companies overlook this as an issue.  One of the reasons why World of Warcraft has been so easy to spread as a game, is that it has super minimal requirements.  You can dial back the settings and run it comfortably on a netbook.  I feel like more than likely you could do the same thing with Elder Scrolls Online.  I’ve heard rumors of it running through a virtual pc emulator on various tablets, as well as natively on the Microsoft surface.  The important thing is, since the client is that optimized, it means when you have friends that want to join you… you can likely get them into the experience without them needing to shell out for a dedicated gaming machine.  At the end of the day this is a social experience, and being able to play with your friends will ultimately be the key to longevity.

One of my good friends, Scarybooster is having some real life stuff going on, and as a result he doesn’t expect to be able to play the game again until June.  He jokingly said that he hoped we would all still be playing by the time June rolls around.  Considering the longevity most of us tend to have with games…  that is a fair question.  I really hope that this title is not another in a long line of “three monthers”.  I would love this game to be a much longer lived title, because I feel like it has what so many of them have been lacking…  depth.  The world is deep and nuanced and almost strangles you with lore.  The thing that I have always loved about Elder Scrolls is that it works much like our own world.  There is no one clean lore path through the setting… but instead it is told through little tidbits spread across thousands of books… some of which are directly contradictory.  History is a messy thing, full of partial accounts and factual inaccuracies… and the world of Tamriel gets this right.  Here is hoping we will all still find the world compelling a year from now, let alone a few months from now.

#ElderScrollsOnline #WayrestSewers

Growing Stronger

It Fit… Barely

fridgefit Yesterday was crazy busy but we got up and around and dealt with all of the things that needed to be dealt with.  If you remember yesterday morning I was blogging in a lull between the flurry of activity, and waiting on the folks from Lowes to deliver the new fridge and haul away the old one.  We had measured the slot in the wall and the unit in store what felt like a dozen times, and we thought it was going to fit, but just barely so.  Turns out yes, we were in fact right, and as you can see from the picture to the right it is a snug fit up against the cabinet above the fridge.  Granted this cabinet now becomes completely useless since the only person who can reach it is me… and the stuff that generally got stored up there was for my wife.

It is so tight of a fit that the fridge scraped the top left side of the fridge every so slightly as it was sliding into place.  The only problem with the installation is that the hookups we have for the in door water…  are from 1980.  Meaning the equipment they sent out was completely inadequate to connect it.  However it turns that what we have is bad practice anyways… and that you can get much purer water these days.  So we are going to call the plumber and have them swap out our connection for something that will take the 10 foot braided cable that they brought with the unit.  We have lived for over sixteen years without ice and water in the door… we can live a little while longer.  We have been dealing with some issues with the washing machine that we will have them look at the way it is hooked up as well at the same time.

This means however that we are going to need to clean more.  Recently we went through our dishes and pots and pans and gave damned near everything we had to the neighbor kid that roomed with us last summer.  He got a place of his own, and for years I had been wanting to just get rid of all of that and buy back our pots and pans a single pan at a time.  Really there are very few things that I actually need to cook, and I have a really nice deep skillet that I tend to cook everything in already.  This way I can buy only the things I specifically need, and of much higher quality than we had back during our college days.  The pots and pans we had were the kind you get an entire set of for 15/20 bucks.

They exceeded their lifespan, and all of them were scratched and marred from years of cooking.  I figure they are good enough to make spaghetti in for a bachelor pad of a bunch of guys.  If we apply that same logic to the rest of our cabinets we should be able to pair everything down nicely.  We have stuff that we have never used in all the years we’ve lived in this house.  Which tells me it is high time to donate it someplace and get it out of the house.  The only real negative is, this means another weekend is going to be taken up by this sort of stuff rather than gaming.  This is the unfortunate truth of the summer, we end up either doing little projects… or leaving the house to go wandering about.  In either case… not a lot of gaming happens, and similarly I am not sure when I will return to regular Steampowered Sunday posts.

Growing Stronger

Screenshot_20140407_063112 This weekend we somehow hit 103 members in the Elder Scrolls division of House Stalwart.  One of the things over the years that we have tried to do is grow organically through friends/family and word of mouth.  This allowed us to continue growing with tight knit individuals and a shared ethic.  The launch of Elder Scrolls has seen our largest guild ever to date.  Granted in World of Warcraft we have 265 accounts in the guild, but that since the launch of the game in 2004.  At the very least this is our larges game launch.  Both Rift and SWTOR I thought we were doing pretty damned well, but in both cases the guilds were only around 40-50 players.

What I find staggering is that we just keep growing.  I have half a dozen players already waiting in the queue for me to talk to them about the guild and make sure they are a good fit for our guild ethics.  This seems to be one of those games where each person is roping several of their real life friends into playing it.  In some ways it reminds me a bit of the way World of Warcraft was at launch, and I am really hoping that reference is not a curse.  So far things are going extremely well, and I have to say were it not for the Alliance of Awesome we would still be that 40-50 member guild.  I feel like so much of this growth has nothing at all to do with me, and I am okay with that.

So far everyone seems to be getting along just fine.  Folks are either swapping stuff freely by dumping it in the guild bank, or posting things on the guild store.  In either case everything seems to be peaceful and drama free.  Guild chat is constant and lively even at 6:40 in the morning when we have seven people online.  I feel like there is a certain contingency of us that log in each morning before work, and I am guilty of specifically that this morning.  The real challenge of course is going to be what we look like in three months.  However I feel like I will still be chewing away on veteran rank 1 content at that point.  So far I am loving the quests and loving the dungeons.  Over the last few days I have not been streaming, in part because of how busy my life has been.  Hoping tonight I can get back in the swing of things and stream some more, maybe even a Wayrest Sewers dungeon run.

The Big Alpha

The rest of the gaming world that is not obsessing over finding the next skyshard has been obsessing over the slow trickle of news coming out about Warlord of Draenor.  With the launch of Elder Scrolls Online, I made a statement over twitter that I thought they would announce the start of Alpha on launch day.  I was partially right… it was leaked and verified that the alpha was starting on 4/4 but the official patch notes did not post until 4/5.  There is a lot there to talk about, and this was likely a brilliant move by Blizzard to keep themselves in the news cycle competing against the good news coming from the Elder Scrolls Online launch.  I would love to be able to say that I will ignore WoD and still be happily playing Elder Scrolls Online at the end of the year when Warlords is likely to launch.  I probably will be be honest, but I am also not a “one game guy” any longer.  I know I will pop back in and play some Warlords because it lets me hang out with the OTHER half of House Stalwart… the folks that are diehard WoW players.

I can already tell this is going to be a bad expansion for me.  Don’t get me wrong… I am amped to return to Draenor and see it in the “un-screwed” state.  The problem is that from the weapon art leaks, I basically get to choose from two different kinds of weapons.  Either bedazzled with crystals and jewels…  or primitive as hell with horns and shit lashed on for no apparent reason.  Neither are really things I go for in the weapon department.  My absolute favorite sort is the Death Knight starter weapon, and a close second is Ashkandir… so I like well defined and crafted blades.  Neither the Draenei or the Orc art styles are really something I have ever liked, so I feel like this expansion is going to involve me constantly transmogging away the offending graphics.  Then again… I guess that is why we have the transmog system.  I had just hoped to add some nifty new graphics to this mix.

Right now I am just glad that I am not in the Alpha, because I would not wanting to be trying to split time between Elder Scrolls Online and something else.  I am thankful that I am wrapped up and enthralled in ESO, because otherwise I would be like the folks waiting with baited breath for the next MMO-Champion data mine extravaganza.  That said I am periodically checking the site and seeing things like the weapon graphics, so I am still interested.  Warlords of Draenor can stay comfortably “in the future” for me for the time being.  I will always have amazing folks like the Godmother of Faff to keep me informed with what is going on.  The only thing that I regret right now is not spending more time in Landmark.  That game totally deserves more of my attention.

#ElderScrollsOnline #ESO #HouseStalwart #WoW #WarlordsofDraenor

Wandering Osage County

Fridge Frenzy

frigidaire-refrigerator-interior I don’t really deal with change well, even if it is a positive one.  As a result this morning I am a bundle of nerves and will maintain that state until the big event of the day is over.  As the title might suggest, we are getting a new fridge today.  We reached a point of equilibrium in determining that it had to happen immediately if not sooner.  For awhile the freezer was not cold enough to keep ice cream, but cold enough for pretty much everything else.  As a result we had been trying to eat up as much stuff from the freezer as we could to make the inevitable cleanout that much easier.  I believe it was Thursday at lunch, I went home to take a breathing treatment… and since I was already home decided to fix some taquitos to help empty that box out.

I pulled them out of the package and they felt cold but definitely not frozen.  This is the point at which I should have said to myself…  self don’t eat this.  However I am dumb… and this little warning klaxon never chimed in my head.  As a result I got insanely sick starting about thirty minutes after finishing them off.  Basically our food in our freezer was starting to go bad, rather than just not be fully frozen.  As a result this morning we got up early… which 6 am is super early for me on a Sunday, and cleaned the house in preparation for the refrigerator to arrive sometime between the hours of 8 am and noon.  The picture to the side is one I was able to find on the web of the fridge we ended up going with.  We have a friend that works for Lowes and it seems as though he was able to hook us up with his employee discount.  We purposefully wanted something simple… because generally speaking simple lasts.

The previous fridge we had was a wedding present, and we’ve had it happily chugging away for sixteen years.  It was as bare bones as you can get, and it worked well for a long time.  This one is not quite so bare bones, but has something we’ve always wanted…  ice and water in the door.  However my wife purposefully wanted one with separate slots for ice and water, again trying to keep the mechanism behind each as simple as possible.  At this point we are just praying that one it does in fact fit the hole in our kitchen, and two the water line that exists works and everything hooks up nicely.  Until those things happen… I will be a bundle of nerves.

Wandering Osage County

hominy_flowers_depot Yesterday it was absolutely gorgeous out, and as such my wife and I both had a serious case of wanderlust.  There were certain things that needed to get taken care of, namely dropping her car off to get an oil change.  The funny thing about having a FitBit is that it changes your behaviors in an effort to get more steps in.  As a result we drove the car around to the Hibdon Tires location around the corner from our house, and walked back home through our neighborhood.  We gathered up our cameras and were on the road after a pitstop a nearby QuikTrip.  At first we had no real idea where we were going, then like so many of our other trips… this one started with a simple question.  What happens if you go past Skiatook on highway 20.  We could have looked on a map sure, but since we had never really been past the statuary on Skiatook’s main strip… we opted to just drive over there and see.

sniders_soda For a long while there is absolutely nothing, then all the sudden you arrive at Skiatook lake.  Now we knew this existed, because you hear about it on the news, but I always expected it to be rather small.  Instead you have a pretty huge lake, with what seems like a focus on fishing.  There are lots of areas where there are submerged trees that would make for amazing bass fishing.  There were a few boats in places that I wondered how in the hell they navigated around to that area.  I am sure it was extremely careful use of a trolling motor and a lot of patience.  We continued on past Skiatook lake, because again the road was way too nice for it not to go someplace.  As a result we ended up in Hominy.  Now mind you… in 1999 we lived in a town next door to Hominy, so this was not the first time we had been there.  In fact we had a friend that lived there, and got our very first ferret as a rescue from the town.

hominydepot Hominy was not completely foreign territory, but we had not really explored it in ages.  We saw the semi-renovated train depot that now serves as the chamber of commerce and parked my jeep there.  Like most small towns in Oklahoma, Hominy is visibly struggling to keep business.  However they seem to have more pride than most.  Instead of letting buildings set vacant and become a danger, some local artist had taken to painting murals to cover up the empty glass windows.  Most of them are devoted to patriotic themes, and there is a store front “branded” for each of the branches of the armed forces as well as the coast and national guards.  In addition there seems to be an Native American artist in the town who is similarly painting murals on the sides of buildings.  While nice, this is not the sort of stuff that interests me.  I love taking pictures of broken down buildings and urban decay.

brokenglass The people in the town were super nice, and we ended up having conversations with a few strangers.  There was this really nice lady that runs the Napa auto parts store that gave us the lay of the land.  We also carried on a conversation with the guy that runs the nearby cafe, and watched him precariously teetering on a ladder… in a fashion that the ladder was not really designed to be used.  He had just moved into the cafe had was putting up a new sign that would be easily seen from a tall hanging post.  The town had a lot of potential, with these little areas where they had torn out a dilapidated building… that could be turned into nice little courtyards for outdoor dining, or even parks.  In any case Hominy was a nice and safe place to wander around for awhile, and no one seemed to find it terribly odd that we were walking the town on foot with camera equipment.

You can see the full album full of photos I took in Hominy here.

Clearance Lego Find

lego_find I love summertime for the insane clearance deals you can find at various stores.  Namely each and every Wal-mart seems to have complete autonomy on what they actually put on clearance.  As a result if you are willing to hit multiples of them, you can find some pretty amazing stuff.  From Hominy the easiest way to get back to the Tulsa area is to go through Cleveland… another town we were familiar with due to friends living there.  While Hominy is pretty much your standard small town, Cleveland is pretty much just a bedroom community for Tulsa.  That said they do have a newish Wal-mart, and at that point I was desperately in need of a bathroom.  The prospect of clearance Legos was just a nice fringe benefit.

Just like it is up to each Wal-mart to determine what goes on sale, it is up to each to determine where exactly in the store it will be located.  Some stores dedicate an isle or two to clearance, others jam it out in their garden centers, and the worst just mark down items on the shelf mixed in with normal priced stuff.  Cleveland Wal-mart had one of the better setups that I have seen mostly in small town stores.  They had two full isles dedicated to a mixed jumble of non-clothing clearance items mixed from around the store.  This place seriously was the Lego motherlode.  The above sets were originally $55 to $65 dollars, and I picked them up for $30 to $35 dollars.  This is where I love having a smart phone.  I end up looking up the sets and then determining if it is good enough of a deal for me to pick them up.

They had some of the really huge sets on clearance too, but even though the set might have been $90 originally… it sitting there for $70 is still a good chunk of change and not really worth it for me.  Similarly there are times where the smaller sets are just not good enough for the price.  THey had a Star Wars lego set, that was some sort of a probe droid.  The only reason why I would have really wanted it were for the unique Jedi minifigs.  But the realist in me had to think that really… the probe droid was made almost entirely out of otherwise not so cool pieces.  So while you got a few nice minifigs, you also got a bunch of junk that you would likely never use again for another building.  I am super happy with the sets I managed to pick up, and I am at least halfway to having all three TMNT minifigs.  The other really awesome thing is that I didn’t even notice until I got home that the Star Wars set comes with Cad Bane… who is awesome.

Ding Twenty

Screenshot_20140405_222806 Finally after all of this excitement I managed to get home and actually sit down to play.  At this point I have played 46 hours of game time on my Dragon Knight since launch.  I feel as though every level has been an accomplishment.  At this point I am twenty, and I am pretty damned proud of that fact.  Twenty feels like an actual accomplishment, instead of something you manage to get on your very first day of gameplay.  One of the things that Elder Scrolls Online has managed to do… is to bring back a sense of accomplishment with each and every ding.  In many ways so much of the game feels like a throwback to an earlier time when each and every thing was hard fought.  When you step into a public dungeon, you can feel the Dark Age of Camelot and Everquest roots.  This is the concept I wish I could convey properly to people, because I Think a lot more people would enjoy the game if they saw just how deep and nuanced it is.

Screenshot_20140405_210040 The big event of the night is that we pulled together a group and delved into the Wayrest Sewers dungeon.  So far other than the fact that it takes place in a sewer… and that you are slopping around in a lot of rat filled muck… I have to say this was my favorite to date.  It feels in many ways like the Deadmines of this game, in that there is a really nice fight the rebels style storyline going through it.  I won’t go into much detail, because I don’t want to spoil the storyline, but the quest reward at the end is a really nice heavy armor chest piece.  Additionally a spiffy ring and sword dropped that I managed to talk my healer out of.  That has been my favorite thing about these dungeons, is that folks are more than willing to swap gear around to whoever needs it.  Like I managed to get a really amazing two hander, that I happily swapped over to Waren who is currently using that as his main weapon choice.  As of today… we are exactly a week into the game, and I have to say I am still loving every minute of it.

#Lego #Photography #ElderScrollsOnline #ESO #RealLife

Savior of Glenumbra

Awkward Ex-Coworkers

spicychicken We are having some minor issues with my wife’s vehicle, so as a result I had to get up crazy early yesterday morning to drive her into work.  Crazy early because I still wanted to be able to blog like normal, and she generally leaves when I am about halfway done with my morning post.  As a result it made the entire day feel sluggish.  After work we made plans to go eat at one of my favorite restaurants near her workplace so I could get cheese tots and spicy chicken.  The above shot is what the dish looks like… I snapped a photo some time ago to brag on her for bringing it home to me one night.  We hung out and ate with another teacher friend of hers and it was a pretty awesome time…  until something happened to taint it.

We had been there for a little bit, and our order had not arrived when I noticed someone walk in that looked vaguely familiar.  While trying to place him I saw his wife walk in and immediately the combination of the two faces together snapped in my memory.  These were some ex-coworkers and while they were nice enough…  they came from a period of time when I was at the worst place I have ever worked.  To make it worse they are both extremely good friends with what I considered to be the boss from hell.  So it is not exactly the situation where I want to go over and “catch up”.  Thankfully they were with what looked like parents and too busy with their own conversations to notice me much.

I hate that anyone associated with that workplace is immediately flagged as an enemy in my head, and I am not really sure how to get past it.  Every place I have ever worked I have been the group rockstar, and the current environment is no less true…  although in my present situation we have three rockstars working on the same team.  This workplace however, from day one there was nothing I could ever do right.  The boss would loosely stub things out in a project website, with roughly a single sentence describing what needed to be done.

If I asked questions as to what the hell he meant by that…  I would catch hell for not taking initiative.  If I figured things out on my own, and just got the job done… I would catch hell for not doing it exactly like he wanted it to be done.  There was seriously a no win situation, and the two people that walked in represented that time period in my life.  Every time I see someone associated with that period I just want to scream how much of an asshole that guy was and how he made my life complete and total crap.  But instead I smile and nod and try my damnedest to ignore them and hope they walk away.

Savior of Glenumbra

Screenshot_20140404_220811 Last night we got home fairly late from meeting the friend for dinner, so by the time I made it upstairs it was almost eight.  At that point folks had already paired up into dungeon runs, so I opted to simply focus on finishing up the rest of Glenumbra.  I feel like I am moving super slow, because I simply cannot chew through the Elder Scrolls content as fast as others seem to be able to.  I have friends who have been “finished” with Glenumbra for some time, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they are nowhere near 100% on the zone… and quite truthfully as much time as I have spent there I seriously doubt I have gotten everything either.  I do have all of the icons on the map turned from black to white, and have gotten 100% of the skyshards… so I feel like it is “good enough” for me to move on.  Last night after finishing Crosswych I got the “Savior of Glenumbra” achievement.

Screenshot_20140404_220734 I have to say… Stormhaven means serious business.  I managed to get to level 18 in Glenumbra before moving on, but when I moved into Stormhaven that is supposed to be a 15+ zone I noticed everything hit considerably harder.  Granted this could be in part to the fact that I am still mostly wearing level 14 gear, since I need High Iron which cannot be found in Glenumbra.  More so I think that they have just ratcheted up the difficulty.  Instead of fighting random bandits, you are now fighting random daedra.  While they might not have the hitpoint pool…  Clanfear are Clanfear…  they all seem to be just as hard to kill.  The new zone is just as lovely, if not slightly more damaged by the conflict.  The screenshots are from the first town, which is a lovely little port just a ways inside of the zone line.  I look forward to meandering my way across the zone like I did in glenumbra.

I swear this game was designed specifically for me, because it is littered with things to find and interesting things to kill.  I love that crafting can be leveled without having ever crafted a single item.  I am constantly bringing back bags full of gear that I got from killing baddies, and through doing nothing but deconstruction I have managed to get Woodworking to 10, and Clothing to 9.  While I have been making plenty of blacksmithing items, I still have gotten most of my levels from deconstructing “found” things.  This is the only game system I have ever played that supported leveling crafting through mass slaughter.  I have to say I love it though, it lets me play the game the way I want to play it, and limit my time hovering over the forge.

Visiting a Friend

Landmark64 2014-04-05 09-02-04-73 This morning I saw a tweet from Scopique thanking me for reminding him to feed his claim in Landmark… which in turn reminded me to log in and feed my own.  As much as it might annoy me that we can only store five days worth of copper in our claim banks, it is in the very least forcing me to log in every few days to make sure I have it fully stocked.  Right now I am in a weird place with my own claim.  I need to go on another massive stone harvesting run, but I have not been able to bring myself to do so… because I would rather be playing Elder Scrolls Online.  For a few days however my friend Syl has said that I should pop by her claim and see the progress.  As a result I ended up with a pretty cool screenshot of the pair of us overlooking her claim.

Landmark64 2014-04-05 08-55-26-26 I hope she won’t be cross with me for posting a picture of her Inn “in progress”.  I have to say the interior is coming along extremely well.  I love the fireplace and the basin, and on a rack behind me is a really cool lance that she made from scratch.  I love the way the house is wrapped around the tree.  Makes me realize just how much work I need to do on my own.  I am really good at roughing out massive structures, but I always lack the drive to go back in later and do the fine detail work.  She however seems to excel at it, putting the finishing touches on rooms as she builds them.  Super impressed with what she has done so far, and hopefully at some point this weekend I will get the drive to log in and go on another massive stone farming expedition.  If nothing else was cool to pop over and see her claim for a bit before logging to work on this here blog post.  Is that blogception?

#ElderScrollsOnline #Landmark #Glenumbra #Stormhaven #ESO

Tanking Tamriel

A Shift in Tanking

Screenshot_20140403_214617 I had a conversation the other morning about Dragon Knight tanking, and what abilities I use.  As a result I thought it might be a useful blog post in waiting.  The big thing about Elder Scrolls Online is that as a tank we have to throw a lot of our preconceived notions away.  In previous games our mission in life has been to generate as much threat on as many targets as possible, and somehow through the grace of your healer manage to stay vertical.  This is very much not business as usual in the Elder Scrolls.  The moment I stepped into a dungeon I admit that I tried to do this, and found that my healer simply could not handle keeping me alive.  There really are no AOE “threat” tools, nor is there really even a concept of threat as we know it in other games.

Instead of focusing all of the healing on a single player, the ESO method is more to try and spread the damage out among multiple targets at the same time evenly.  As a tank you still play a crucial role as you can handle the hardest hitting targets while the healers/dps deal with the squishier targets.  It takes some getting used to, but when it works it just works seamlessly.  The group make up is far less important than it has been in other games.  We’ve managed to make dual healers, and dual tanks work… which would have been a recipe for disaster in other games.  The biggest thing is that the ESO dungeons require you to play in a much more fluid manner than before.  Since a lot of the mob interactions are not static, you need to be able to adjust to changes as they happen.

Tanking Tamriel

Screenshot_20140403_064618 I thought I would start off by talking a bit about the abilities that I use while tanking dungeons.  Please note, that Belghast Sternblade my main is an Imperial Dragon Knight, and I have focused on Sword and Shield and Heavy Armor obsessively.  I don’t even have an alternate weapon loadout because I have been purely focused on this one thing that I like doing.   Here I am going to walk you through my hotbar, and some of the choices I have made to support being “tanky”.

1 – Fiery Grip

This is the most archetypal Dragon Knight ability and generally one that people take immediately when they get their first skill point.  I used to do this but now end up taking it as a second pick due to reasons I will explain later.  Who does not love Deathgrip and feeling like Scorpion from Mortal Combat.  This will become the most crucial ability you have in that you can use it to gank mobs away from squishier targets and will use it to pull with.  I have not spent any points on morphing the ability, and at present I am leaning towards Extended Chains, the morph that increases distance.

2 – Ransack

This ability morphs from Puncture, and is literally the first thing I always choose when I am building a tanky DK.  The reasoning behind the first pick is that whatever you pick first… will ultimately be the ability you are able to morph first since skills begin leveling the moment you place them on your hotbar.  This is the bread and butter tanking ability.  Ransack taunts the target for 15 seconds, deals damage, decreases the targets armor, and buffs your armor by the amount decreased.  As a result this will literally be your most useful key to press ever since it does four different things at once and increases your survival while doing it.

3 – Stone Giant

Stone Giant is a morph of the ability Stone Fist from the Earthen Heart tree.  At face value it is an extremely useful ability because it knocks the target down for a short period of time.  This will allow you to interrupt abilities that normally could not be interrupted.  Additionally it has a slightly longer than melee range allowing you to knock a target down and reduce damage on someone else.  When you morph it however you get a short term armor buff after casting it allowing it to also function as somewhat of a survival ability as well.

4 – Dark Talons

This ability allows you to lock a number of targets down by encasing them in a cage of bone.  While at face value this does not make a ton of sense for a tank build, since you are going to be up close and personal anyways… it does when you realize that it is a short term CC allowing you to control the flow of the mobs at the beginning of an encounter.  I tend to hang back and as the first group of mobs comes running in, case this locking down most of them and giving the healer and dps time to acquire targets.

5 – Razor Armor

This ability is my one size fits all damage reduction buff morphed from Spiked Armor.  I try my best to keep this on me at all times during a fight, or at least during the times when I am tanking the heaviest of hitters.  Namely this ability increases your armor for 20 seconds and deals damage to your attacker while doing so.  The morph makes it so you get an additional 25% armor increase for the 2.5 seconds.  This is more in the line of pre-emptive triage when you know you are going to be taking more damage.

The Passives

That is my toolbox abilities and pretty much the only ones I use other than swapping in a view situational abilities.  If I know we are going to be fighting Daedra or Undead I tend to swap in Silver Bolts for Stone Giant, since the effectiveness of that ability greatly eclipses the minimal survival you get.  If I am soloing, I swap out Dark Talons for Shield Charge, because I like ping ponging around the map and I don’t generally need to lock down targets.  Occasionally I will swap in Consuming Trap if I know I will need healing after combat.  For the most part these are the only active abilities I have, and I am completely fine with that.

What I do focus on instead are the passives.  I take the opinion that I would rather be awesome all of the time than some of the time.  If you look at the heavy armor, racial, and sword and shield trees… there are a number of amazing abilities that passively increase your resistance and general sturdiness.  Essentially if it passively improves my ability to survive, I want it, and I will prioritize it over picking up an active ability since you can only use five at any given time.  Were I rebuilding my level 16 character, I would have gotten the five abilities above and simply not touched another ability period until I had soaked up all of the passives.

The Pull

Setting up the pull for the fight is likely where you will have the most trouble adapting to the way Elder Scrolls Online works.  Generally speaking I gank a priority target over to the group using Fiery Grip.  In doing so you want to make sure no one else in the party touches anything else.  A large group of mobs will run at you, but if you take the time to notice not all of them will be attacking your group.  In fact if you are fighting humanoids some of them will stand back like a crowd in a Kung Fu movie and cheer the combatants on.  It is important to be able to evaluate the situation and deal with only the targets that are actually engaged in combat.  If you accidentally hit one of the more passive opponents they will engage and give you one more add to deal with.

This is why I feel that abilities like Dark Talons are so important.  As the tank I hang back after ganking that first target to me and see who comes running up after the squishies.  As that pack of mobs comes into combat range, I tap Dark Talons locking them in place and giving my group time to figure out what the kill order will be.  All of this is of course improved by having access to voice chat, but in theory each dungeon is going to have certain priority targets.  Healers mainly will be the thing you need to focus down first, then likely Evokers or other mage types as they can do a large amount of AOE ground effect damage making it harder to stay out of the fire.  As a tank you will focus on the harder hitting melee targets.  If it has heavy armor, it is going to try and tank down your healer… stop them from doing that.

The above video is of us running Fungal Grotto, and it was shortly after starting this dungeon… after running several other dungeons… that we made the connection to how the mob behavior is working.  My friends and I are learning this from scratch just like you guys are, so I do not claim to understand everything about the pull behavior.  That said I feel confident that our working theory is going to test out.  Fungal Grotto was immensely easier thanks to our wait and see stance on the pulls, and adjusting to only the mobs that actually decided to attack us.  It is tank instinct to charge into the fight and try and make everything angry at once…  this instinct will get you killed rapidly.  This is a thing I have had to stop doing myself, and as much as I hate to admit it… we are far better off for this change in my personal behavior.

Combat Tactician

Screenshot_20140331_195315 The most crucial skill we have noticed yet is the need to be able to adjust to things as they are happening.  The problem with the way mob packs are designed, is it is damned near impossible to determine what mobs are going to aggro and engage at any given time.  Similarly you have to be able to shift focus to pick up new high priority targets as they engage the battlefield.  You might be fighting five trash mobs, and when you take one down… the boss of the encounter might engage even before the rest of the trash is finishes.  It is crucial to be able to calmly shift focus to what just became the new highest priority for you as the tank.  This involves a lot of faith in your team mates, that they will also similarly adjust.

Another instinct that you will have to completely obliterate is the “burn down” mentality of hopping on the boss and damaging it at all costs.  Generally speaking this is always the wrong answer.  Dungeons in the Elder Scrolls are for the most part about mitigating the amount of damage incoming to the party, and in a big pull the easiest way to do this is to knock out a hard hitting but squishy target.  In fact I would say that more than likely damaging the boss is always your LAST priority.  You want to try your best to clear all adds before you focus on the boss at all.  Think raid encounter, and prioritize the things that can kill you and your friends over the big thing that hopefully the tank is going to deal with.  Additionally as the tank make sure you are doing everything you can to reduce the amount of damage you are taking.  This means juggling cool downs, and making sure you block, dodge and interrupt everything that you can.

The Elder Scrolls is already one of the more difficult tanking experiences I have encountered in an MMO.  That said it is also one of the most empowering.  I am no longer a big dumb meat shield that’s entire purpose is to piss off everything equally and somehow survive.  I became just as valuable and tactical as other party members because what I choose to taunt, and choose to stun matters greatly in the overall success of the dungeon.  My decisions matter, and not in a ham handed tank all the things way any longer.  If you are familiar with MOBAs, this style of tanking will feel similar.  As tank you are essentially there to direct the flow of combat, and interrupt whatever it is that the enemies are trying to do.  If you master it, the dungeons will become far easier.  I am so far from mastery at this point, but I feel like I am at least stepping down on the right path.

#ElderScrollsOnline #TESO #Tanking #Dungeons #DragonKnight

Banished Cells and Fungal Grotto

Life in Tornado Alley

A few days at it was 40* out, and now it is 72* this early in the morning.  While yes I live in Oklahoma, where the weather pattern can change in the blink of an eye.  However even for us this seems a bit abrupt.  It seems that Tornado season has snuck up on us.  Over the next several evenings we have a chance of a Tornado each and every night.  The high today is supposed to get up to 83* and it reminds me all too much of last year.  When we jumped from temperatures in the 40s to temperatures in the 90s over a few weeks.  It seems like we are getting less and less of a “spring” to enjoy.  Thankfully nothing has really materialized yet out of the Tornado threat, but we still have several more nights of watching the local station to make sure nothing is going on.

Today is the day we purchase our new refrigerator.  We ended up deciding on a side by side, because it gives us more freezer space.  We eat an inordinate amount of frozen foods, and really don’t keep much in the fridge side apart from leftovers.  Additionally I have always wanted ice and water in the door.  Growing up we never had a fridge that was not the traditional over/under kind, and I coveted going to friends houses where they had cold water “on tap”.  We’ve spent most of the week eating up anything from our freezer to attempt to make the transition that will likely occur this weekend “easier”.  We waited this long primarily because we have a friend who works at the appliance store, and they are starting a 10% off sale today.  It will be nice to just have this over with and have a new and fully functional fridge in its place.

Banished Cells and Fungal Grotto

Screenshot_20140403_062627 In MMO gaming there is what is “doable” and then there is what is “optimal”.  Folks have relied on the Holy Trinity mixture of 1 healer, 1 tank and 2-3 dps for years as the “optimal” build.  However in Elder Scrolls Online the lines get blurred a bit.  So far we have made two healers, a tank and a dps work fairly well, and struggled a bit with the 1/1/2 combination that would seem optimal.  To mix things up a bit we decided to try running a few dungeons with 2 tanks, 1 healer, 1 dps.  It was somewhat painful, but once Kodra and I got the hang of working together it actually went pretty smoothly.  I feel like in Elder Scrolls there is not really a viable option that does not include healing… however there are several different ways to build a high survival dps.  Similarly I think someone with crowd control would be able to make up for there being a tank.

Watch live video from Belghast on TwitchTV
The next mixture I would like to see is now that several of us are 15 and can do weapon swaps… to throw on a two hander or dual wield and run the dungeons to see if we can get by without a “true” tank.  Another interesting thing we figured out is that apparently after running Spindleclutch, we had access to all three dungeons via the waystone network.  So as a result we ended up running the Banished Cells in the above video, and Fungal Grotto in the below video.  I am not sure what was going on with either Twitch or OBS for for whatever reason both of the videos exported to youtube SUPER jerky.  If you watch the twitch version it seems to be just fine, so I might try deleting the youtube version and re-exporting.

Watch live video from Belghast on TwitchTV
One of the interesting things we learned is along the same lines as what I was talking about yesterday regarding splitting the pulls.  It seems like the mobs in these dungeons fight in “Kung-Fu Movie Mode” of sorts, in that when you pull one, a number of them will engage you, but not ALL of the pack.  The others will sit back and cheer on the ones fighting, but if you engage them… they will engage you back.  This means that things like charge and dragon’s leap are really bad ideas in the Elder Scrolls Dungeon infrastructure.  As a result we changed up our methods and started pulling with me yanking a single mob out with fiery grip.  Then working on the fly to lock down whatever happens to come with the pull.

After figuring this out… Fungal Grotto went remarkably smooth as did a Spindleclutch run that we did afterwards.  I think we finally figured out the “plan” of the dungeons, and it is pretty damned awesome.  I like that the mobs seem to interact, and while you may aggro an entire pack… they won’t necessarily all come at once leading you to have significantly longer and more endurance sapping fights than short term brute force ones.  We managed to make it through a lot of those huge pulls, because we had more healing than we needed.  Now that we know the “real” way to run the dungeons, I feel like we could mix up the group make up quite a bit and come up with lots of potentially winning combinations.

Amazing Soundtrack

Another really awesome thing from yesterday is that the Elder Scrolls Online soundtrack is now available for purchase.  At first I was a bit pissy when I found out that neither the collectors edition or digital deluxe editions included the soundtrack.  However upon seeing it, I am guessing a big part of the reason why is just how big the soundtrack is.  Right now you can get it for $8.99 on Amazon and it is a whopping 47 tracks.  I guess if you are so included you can pay what seems to be the iTunes tax and get it for $16 bucks there as well.  Apparently it is also up on the Google play store for $9.49, and as such available through their Google Music streaming service if you are so inclined.  Whatever your venue of choice… I highly suggest you grab this.

Elder Scrolls Online is a gorgeous game, and similarly has an amazing soundtrack… however in the game you are under a constant state of sensory overload.  Listening to the soundtrack I was in awe of just how great some of the tracks were, that I knew i had heard snippets of in game… but simply was not able to fully appreciate.  I am hoping that the Battle Bards do an upcoming episode on the soundtrack, as with 47 different tracks… there really is something for everyone on it.  I don’t care… I am definitely a fan boy here, but that is perfectly okay.  This is now pretty much on my permanent “coding” and “writing” music selection.  Over the years I have found myself listening to more and more game/movie soundtracks and less and less traditional music.  I feel like it is easier to zone into whatever I am doing when the track is primarily instrumental.