Proud to be Ul’dahn

Progress on Imperator

Wow-64 2015-01-15 20-12-34-63 This morning I am struggling in a big way at getting anything started on my blog post.  As I run out of time to actually write I decided to just dig straight in.  Last night was our normal raid group time, and we cleared everything up to Imperator, and took some attempts on him.  I joked before the start of the raid that since I would not be there Thursday due to Pax, that they would totally defeat him while I was gone.  After last night I seriously think that is probably going to happen.  Essentially I feel like we have one last hurdle to get through which is the second intermission when three adds spawn.  We had one really amazing attempt where no one died at all until 15% or so… when the adds spawned and we got excited and sloppy and caused a bunch of bombs to blow up.  To the best of my knowledge no one died to the mark of chaos bullshittery, so all that is really left is getting through that one bit and we have a boss downed.

My general theory is that pending they have full attendance (minus me of course) that they will totally kill Imperator Mar’gok Thursday while I am driving.  I would love to be able to pop in for a bit but I am not sure I will even be in my hotel room before the raid ends.  We are stopping off in Austin to eat dinner with a friend of my wife.  I am a mix of excited and nervous about the whole PAX thing.  One of my goals today is to start on lists of things to pack so that I don’t forget anything.  I ran out yesterday to Target and picked up a few supplies that I had intended to bring like Beef Jerky and Cliff Bars.  Tonight will be devoted to a whirlwind round of cleaning just to make sure things are as nice as we can get for our neighbors to come down and maintain our animals.

Proud to be Ul’dahn

ffxiv 2015-01-20 17-53-29-59 The other big happening yesterday is that Final Fantasy XIV was back online after an extended downtime for the 2.5 patch.  My general theory was that I would get into game and get caught up on the new content that just released.  However it turns out that I did not actually finish off the story content from the last patch.  I guess I ended up never turning in after the big boss battle so I spent most of my time before the raid last night working through the tail end of the 2.4 patch content.  The odd thing about Final Fantasy XIV is the way it makes you care about the characters you interact with, and even the characters that are largely in the background of your conflicts.  There is not a single Scion that I don’t like, and while there are some that I am more fond of… like Y’shtola and the ever adorable pair of Papalymo and Yda, there is not a single one that I dislike.  This is an odd thing for me considering I am only a few hours into Dragon Age: Inquisition and already dislike Vivienne.

More important than that… I like the leaders of the various city states.  While my character is technically Limsa Lominsan, as that was the city state that I started my citizenship in…  I draw the strongest connection to Ul’dah.  Now I am going to try and tread lightly to keep from delivering any spoilers, but I am a huge fan of Nanamo ul Namo and the leader of the Immortal Flames Raubahn.  I’ve long though they were interesting characters, but the tail end of the 2.4 patch content has made me proud of both in different ways.  There were moments I honestly wondered if I would tear up with pride while going through the quest content.  If nothing else finishing that storyline has made me proud of be an adopted Ul’dahn and proud to be an Immortal Flame.  That is the magic of FFXIV, to be able to create factions that you care deeply about… without the feeling of needing to somehow be “against” another faction in the process. I wish more games could manage to do that one.

Subligars for Everyone

ffxiv 2015-01-20 19-09-45-21 Another quest series I seemingly did not wrap up was the 2.4 Hildebrand quest chain.  While trying to work through the first few steps of the new main story quest, I stumbled across a turn in for Hildebrand and just ran with it.  I have to say this is one of the more ludicrous conclusions of a Hildebrand quest in the series.  I am not really sure how much I can go into it, other than once again Godbert saves the day.  I was able to snap a questionable screenshot.  I will let you try and decode what is actually happening here.  Once again it was humorous, and a series of extremely well staged in engine cinematics.  The only thing that bums me is that more than likely I will not get a chance to play any of the additional content from the patch until after I get back from PAX.  Right now it is looking like tonight will be a packing night, and then during the actual convention when I get back to my hotel room I will be furiously working on blog posts.  The closer this gets, the more I realize this is going to be a working convention.

Right now the plan is that Friday I will be roaming around the booth space, trying to talk to as many people as I can.  I currently have a media appointment around noonish, but other than that my day is going to be devoted to playing demos and talking to the folks behind it.  Saturday there are a few panels I intend to go to, and that will be the day that Ashgar arrives.  So more than likely we will hang out a bunch since we have never actually met.  In between all of these happenings I am going to try and meet as many folks from the twitter/blogosphere as possible.  I plan on taking lots of photos with my cell phone, and jotting down lots of notes either the old fashioned way on a notebook or with my chromebook.  Battery life is a concern so probably going to use the chromebook sparingly throughout the day.  I kinda wish I had the forsight to arrange a spare battery.  I did pick up one of those extra cell phone power packs yesterday so I should be good from the random twitter aspect.  Similarly I am sure my 3DS will survive the day because they seem to have insane battery life.  Tonight I will most likely prep the post for tomorrow morning… because we plan on getting up early and getting on the road.  So much to do!

Restarting Inquisition

Final Fantasy XIV Downtime

ffxiv 2015-01-18 22-25-24-29 The is something strange about knowing you can’t play something… that makes you want to play it.  Right now this is happening for me with Final Fantasy XIV, especially since I knew that more than likely I would not really be able to sink my teeth into it until I got back from Pax South.  It sounds from the early reports that World of Darkness is absolutely not the cakewalk that Syrcus Tower has come to be.  Then again maybe at one point Syrcus wasn’t either…  considering I have never actually been around when one of the 24 man dungeons was “new”.  Both Labyrinth of the Ancients and Syrcus Tower were aging content when we came back to the game.  So it will be interesting to see how it works out.

Pax is going to pretty much eat all my time starting tomorrow with the planning and packing.  So I am not likely going to get to experience much of this patch until I come back Sunday/Monday.  In the Pax front I have some exciting but scary news.  I guess I totally have a media appointment with a game company.  It started with a conversation over twitter and lead to a discussion over email and an appointment.  It should be awesome, but it is a new experience for me so hopefully I won’t bore or annoy the devs too much with my questions.  I might end up doing more of these but right now this is the only one I actually have scheduled.  Its strange that my first convention, is in a way a working one since I will be covering the convention in part for a bigger site than mine.

Restarting Inquisition

DragonAgeInquisition 2015-01-19 17-47-30-79 When Dragon Age: Inquisition first landed it did so during a fairly bad time for me.  We were starting raiding in Final Fantasy XIV and I was just then coming back to World of Warcraft for the impending Warlords of Draenor launch.  To make matters worse I suffered some pretty crippling technical issues surrounding this game.  Every six to ten seconds there would be a hitch in the gameplay, like a record skipping.  There were numerous reports of this, and even more fixes but none of them seem to work quite right for me.  A few of them made things better but this hitch happened on even the lowest possible settings.  Finally I found the solution myself that involved playing the game in fullscreen windowed.  However at that point I was just flat out pissed at the game itself and really wanted nothing to do with it.  I listened as friends raved about the game but ultimately I would put it away for the time being.

With the force downtime in Final Fantasy XIV I used my day yesterday to restart the game fresh.  I feel like this “better” mindset has made so much of the game more enjoyable.  The first time I was trying to play the traditional “Belghast” character, aka a Human Sword and Shield Warrior.  The problem with that is that once again the first companion you meet up with… is a far better tank than you will ever be for awhile.  I wanted to be able to group with Cassandra, so on the second play through I opted to go for a Dwarven Two Handed Weapon Warrior.  So far the choice has been a good one, and I am enjoying the game much better.  The worst part about restarting is having to play through that section where it flips you into tactical mode.  Everything about that mode feels horrible, and it took me a bit to figure out how to flip back to the normal combat.  The first quality of life change I made was rebinding “search” from V to R making it significantly easier to hit while moving.

Faffing the Hinterlands

DragonAgeInquisition 2015-01-19 21-15-55-21 In spite of everything my friends have told me…  I faffed about heavily in the Hinterlands.  When planted down there with a blazing inquisition eyeball icon showing me the way I needed to go…  I chose to go the opposite direction.  This has always served me well in Elder Scrolls games and overall I think it was the right choice for me this time as well.  It gave me time to get used to combat and explore the world a bit before being locked into more serious dialog again.  I am very much a man of action, and the introduction to all games generally makes me deeply unhappy.  I keep saying to myself “why won’t it just let me play the game!”.  Dragon Age Inquisition was a fairly action oriented introduction, but still there were moments where I was more than ready to move past the talking about things phase.  So I puttered around exploring things, picking up quests and figuring things out before the game actually intended me to learn things.

During this time I was thrown directly into the fact that the mages and templars were at war with themselves… and everyone that happened across their paths…  including towns folk, the chantry, and the occasional farmer.  It was also during this time that I started to embrace the notion that maybe I was in fact the chosen one.  I think I did enough objectives to get to 8 or 9 power, closing several rifts before eventually meandering my way to my objective.  Ultimately I did end up leaving the Hinterlands before getting entirely mired in them…  but I did it in my own fashion without the feel of rushing through them.  The game feels better to me now, or maybe I am just in the right frame of mind to be playing it.  I’ve added several more companions to my crusade, including the very amazing Sera.  So far the only one I don’t really like is Vivienne, but that really isn’t terribly shocking.  What does amuse me is how much I actually like Solas, but then again I tend to get along far better with apostates than circle mages.  I picked a poor time to start playing, given that I am just about to lose a weekend to Pax, but hopefully I have made it far enough into the game to have the storyline cemented so I can pick it up again later.

Lalafell Pirate Time

The Dust Ruffle

Yesterday ended up absolutely nothing like I expected.  I had a super late night recording the double episode of Aggrochat.  By the time I had edited episode one, and made my way to bed it was roughly 2 am.  I knew two things needed to happen yesterday.  Firstly we needed to deep clean the house so it would be nice for the neighbor coming down to check in on the animals, and so that we would also have a friendly home to come back to.  So after finishing my blog post I went through a whirlwind of cleaning momentum.  I cleaned the livingroom, organized all the loose paperwork deciding what needed to be kept, what needed to be shredded and what could just be pitched.  It took about an hour of serious cleaning, some of which requiring both myself and my wife working together to accomplish.  We also organized a few areas that really needed help like our “pantry” closet that is really not a pantry not a full closet.

I grabbed a monster and collapsed into my desk chair when finished with the flurry of activity, and my wife did the same out in the loft.  I had just started trying to play something when pidgin the IM client I use, started blowing up with bings and bongs.  My wife had sent me a few links to look at along with what would ultimately end up being an ominous phrase “(10:01:04 AM) : bwt, I want to go buy a bed skirt today”.  For the record I hate bed skirts, and find them both superfluous and annoying when you try and make the bed… they keep getting picked up with your covers and inadvertently tucked places.  To my wife however it is a key piece of a bed… and ours has been in pretty poor shape for a few years.  Considering that I wouldn’t really get to enjoy myself with another trip looming over my head… I suggested we go shower and get ready and go in search of said dust ruffle.

The Storage Bed

storagebed There was another footnote to this story however.  For weeks we have been throwing around the notion of a getting a storage bed.  Both my wife grew up in the era of the waterbed, and it was pretty standard for those to have a number of drawers set into the pedestal base.  This would be perfect for keeping things like socks, scarves, various sundry other bits that need a place to be.  One of my wife’s friends mentioned a store in town that she had seen some at, so we started off our trip by going over there to look.  One of the problems that we found is that right now for some reason most of these style of beds only actually have drawers in the front.  The problem with that is we do not have a massive amount of space in front of our bed.  In any case we looked around through the store, found nothing and meandered our way back to the mattresses.  During fall break we had gotten pretty close to purchasing a new bed for us, because our previous one was purchased not long after we moved into our house in 1999.

For the most part we thought the whole “every eight years” thing was a marketing ploy… but in truth after about eight years your mattress has doubled in weight from the dead skin cells you have shed…  making it a smorgasbord for dust mites.  After the guy tried to set us up with a “Bellagio” bed, we snuck away and went on about our business of trying to find the dust ruffle.  On the way across town we passed this giant Mattress Firm showroom and opted to stop in.  We had a decent experience with the folks in our local store back over fall break…  so we figured might as well see what the big location had to offer.  After playing the “lay down on all the things” process we found a bed we liked that was the store brand.  The person waiting on us was awesome, and a few customers came back in that had apparently talked to her before so she excused herself to go fill out the paperwork for their purchase.  This left me to do what I normally do and open up my phone and start googling to see what I could find out about the model and the company.

What I saw I did not like at all.  On Consumer Affairs the company as a whole had a one star rating, with huge stacks of complaints… and the final nail in the deal was the fact that on the BBB.org they have a F rating… and are unaccredited.  While we had a really nice saleswoman…  when I see something like that I back away very quickly.  We excused ourselves and said we were going to go eat dinner.  Which is not entirely a lie, because we did in fact go eat dinner… but we also started driving towards Denver Mattress.  That is where our current mattress came from, and other than the fact that it is very old… we have loved it.  While there we found a Mattress we liked, as well as the storage bed above.  However after some deliberation decided not to do the storage bed… because it was pretty intense.  I am 6’4” and I had to lift myself a bit to get onto the bed… so that would make life hell on my slightly shorter wife.  So while we set out to get a dust ruffle… and finally did get that about 7 pm last night at Wal-Mart…  we also purchased a new mattress that is being delivered today.  As I started off this conversation…  yesterday went nothing like we had planned.

Lalafell Pirate Time

ffxiv 2015-01-18 21-01-02-98 When I finally did manage to get home, I opted to pop into Final Fantasy XIV because today there is the big 2.5 patch going on… and the servers will be unplayable.  I figured I would run some Syrcus Tower in an attempt to get the rest of my set of bard gear.  Sure enough after a 30 minute long wait to get in… my queue popped and I had a pretty relaxed run with no real issues.  When it came down to the final boss Zande, there waiting for me was my hat.  My friend Thalen I am sure is jealous considering he has run this place on a daily basis trying to get it for months.  While I had not officially gotten every piece of gear, I at least had all of the cosmetic ones.  The above photo is in me with the full Amon outfit…  and I have to say it lasted maybe 10 minutes at most before I was glamouring the hideousness away.

ffxiv 2015-01-18 21-40-43-02

After sifting through my bags and looking on the market board, I settled on a set that I liked for barding.  The Buccaneer’s Tricorne, Shirt and Boots are the basis for the outfit.  From there I mixed in Foestriker Mitts because they matched and looked awesome, and the Lalafell Gaskins “went” with the outfit given their greenish grey appearance.  I needed to shift to something after my recent holiday outfit, and I have to say I am pretty pleased with how it worked out.  I am the most adorable pirate ever.  After all the outfit shenanigans a guildie was complaining about the lack of luck she had with Garuda.  At which point I volunteered to tank it for her, and within a few minutes we had assembled a guild group.  Lesson learned for the night…  Normal Mode Garuda is NOTHING like the other modes.  It took us about four attempts to remember how the fight worked, but was a small price to pay to help out a friend.  While the day went nothing like expected, it ended in a really happy way surrounded by friends in Final Fantasy XIV.

Nostaltic Americana

Aggrochat #40 – Hexcells and H1Z1

It feels a little insane to be saying that we recorded episode 40 last night of our podcast.  It just doesn’t seem like we have been running that long, but quite honestly at this point we have outlasted a large number of podcasts so I guess that’s a thing.  We still manage to meet up each week to record a conversation about games… and then manage to like each other enough to do the same thing almost every night throughout the week.  So I guess that in itself is an accomplishment.  Last night was an absolute insane show, that in it’s content but in the fact that we recorded two shows back to back.  So yes we are going to be perpetrating a dirty dirty lie, and releasing the shows a week a part as though it were fresh content.

Next week Kodra was going to be out anyways, and Ash, Rae and myself are going to Pax South and as such won’t have any of our normal recording style equipment.  So the first episode we recorded last night follows the normal format, but the second episode is going to be announcing a new thing we are doing.  However unfortunately I am going to make you all wait until next week to find out what it is.  As far as the show proper yesterday we uncovered a recent addiction to a game called Hex Cells which if I am to believe Tam, Kodra and Rae is this super chill minesweeper like game.  The fact that they mentioned minesweeper pretty much flagged me as not interested at all.  Additionally we talk about the upcoming 2.5 patch in Final Fantasy XIV and finally I talk about my experiences playing H1Z1 in Early Release.  Then I descend into my frustrations about the Early Access model and why if you are taking money for a game… your game is “Release” but you just released a broken game.

In Search of Vitamin D

sewcool Lately the weather here in  the Tulsa area has been absolutely atrocious, not necessarily in precipitation but in the fact that it has rarely gotten above freezing for the last week.  This means that the likelihood of us venturing outside of our house in a major way was next to nil.  Now I have a love / hate relationship with the sun.  I have super sensitive eyes and being out in bright sunlight pretty much gives me an instant headache.  My wife on the other hand LOVES the sun, and during the winter months suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder or “SAD”, so I know so many times I will be pushed out into the bright light for her health and well being.  Yesterday was one of those days because the temperature actually managed to climb up into the 60s.  We juggled a few different ideas for how we would spend the day but finally landed upon “junking”.

kennerbuildingsetOne of the towns nearby has this really historic main street district where almost every building has been carved up into an “Antique Mall”.  For those not familiar with the concept, it is basically where someone renovates a huge old open floor plan, and carves it up into little booths that they then rent out to folks wanting to sell their wares.  Generally speaking they have an all too clever name like the image above,  that is some sort of pun on what they are selling.  The problem is when EVERYONE has a “clever” name it loses much of the desired effect and just becomes a painful cliché.  Mixed in among the dross and “upcycled” furnishings are some interesting relics from the past.  THIS is why I enjoy going junking, because you never know quite what you might find.

I mostly am interested in relics of my own past, namely interesting toys that I can remember and ones that I didn’t even know existed.  Sometimes you find some quirks of branding… for example yesterday I saw an Archie Bunker themed baby doll, and this awesome construction set by Kenner.  Mostly I snapped a photo of it because there is this really awesome twitter thread where they tweet various photos of kenner products.  We spent the entire day roaming around, and the odd thing is at the end of the day we had purchased exactly nothing. Mostly for us at least it is getting out and doing something rather than just sitting at home, and in that we accomplished our mission.

Nostalgic Americana

tallys While roaming around yesterday I got the “hankering” for some traditional American south “comfort food”, and the best place for something like that is Tally’s Cafe.  It is one of those places that has always been there that I can remember and is somewhat of an icon for Tulsa food.  It is seated on Historic Route 66, and gets a lot of traffic from folks traveling the old highway.  What makes Tally’s so interesting to me is the fact that it is this strange nostalgic version of Americana that likely never existed other than in movies like American Graffiti.  The owner Talal Jalil Alame aka “Tally” came to the United States during the 1979 Civil War in Lebanon, and after some time purchased the current restaurant opening on a Friday 13th in 1987.  What makes the restaurant special is two fold.  The decor is this idealized version of the 1950 that could only exist in the mind of someone who grew up watching 1950s movies.  Lots of chrome, neon, and clean tiles give the appearance of this tribute to the mystique of Route 66.

The second aspect of the restaurant is the fact that the food is really good.  Yesterday I had the boneless fried chicken which is precisely what it sounds like.  These three huge pieces of fried chicken, deboned and served with two sides and a dinner roll.  Quite literally two plates of food, for like $8.  Tally could easily get away with charging far more than he does, but in truth he is more than a small part humanitarian.  Each year during Thanksgiving he fixes this massive meal, dinner with all the fixings.  Anyone can walk in off the street and have a meal, and you quite literally pay whatever you can afford.  Honestly when we were not sure what we were doing for thanksgiving, I had seriously considering trying this out and massively overpaying to support the cause.  In any case Tally’s definitely fit that comfort food desire and I ended up taking a good chunk of it home for pre-podcast leftovers.  All in all it was a pretty great day.

The Fallacy of Alpha

Dehydrated in the Rain

H1Z1 2015-01-16 18-52-34-64 Last night I was finally able to get in and play some H1Z1 and I have to say…  I am fairly impressed with what I have seen.  While the game world is not as pretty as the current generation of FPS games… there is a real world charm to it.  Everything feels bleak and gloomy befitting a world rampaged by the living dead.  I have been playing on the Willamette server which is of course a full on carebear server.  It is in fact the very last PVE server in the list, and I am not really sure what my logic was in doing that…  I likely would have been better off picking something in the middle as it seemed like a lot of other people thought the same thing as me.  When I spawned into the game I was quite literally in the middle of nowhere.  In all seriousness I spawned into a forest and walked to the nearest clearing… and could see the texture distortion of the “end of the world”.  On the positive however this belt on the far side of the forest was populated with nothing but blackberries… something that would come in handy later on.

The problem I have with the game so far is it feels like the deck is stacked too much against you.  There is a point in Minecraft where you can reach equilibrium, and are able to gather enough resources to allow you to explore with greater freedom.  In H1Z1 I felt like I was always moments away from death, really limiting how much I was able to go out and explore.  Which in itself is a catch 22… if you are not exploring, you are not finding resources, and therefore dying more quickly.  One of the most humorous things about the game is the dehydration gauge…  which continued to happily tick down as I was standing in the freaking rain.  I did figure out how to capture rain water with a bottle…  but the end result was “dirty water” which seemed a little counter intuitive.  In the real world if you are able to catch fresh rain water, that is about as pure as you can possibly get since our cycle of precipitation is a massive filtration system.

Zombies Mean Business

H1Z1 2015-01-16 18-15-53-37 Early on I found a branch, so that ended up being the first weapon I went out exploring with.  It was horrible but did more damage than my fists so in theory… a much better choice.  When I first encountered a zombie I was wandering back through the woods to try and find my way to civilization.  I was able to knock it down in a single blow of the branch, but it just laid there…  and I should have followed the “double tap” rule.  Instead it got right back up and proceeded to chomping on me.  I was able to kill it after a few more swings of the branch, but I found it far harder to avoid the attacks than say the zombies in 7 days to die.  In that game you can do this whole bob and weave motion and pretty much avoid taking any damage.  In H1Z1 if you tangle with a zombie… no matter how good the melee weapon you have…  you are going to take some damage.  Later on I found a Machete and a Combat Knife…  the best of which seemed to be the Machete because it was able to knock things down.  The Combat Knife technically did a lot more damage but it forced me to get closer to the zombies to stab them to death.

The biggest problem I had with zombies is the fact that they did not seem to drop shit.  Again I am used to 7 days to die, when zombies are a smorgasbord of interesting object for you to repurpose.  The zombies I killed… and ultimately I killed a lot of them…  only seemed to drop cloth scraps.  After some time I made my way to a city that was already swarming with other players.  At this point I was on the verge of starvation… only having found blackberries to eat, which do not offer much reprieve.  After a point I started feeling like a zombie myself, desperately looking for my next meal and finding nothing.  I am not sure if resources really are that scarce… or if the place had just been picked over by the other scavengers.  In any case the game play felt very dark and hopeless…  which I think is probably what Sony is going for.  There are a lot of issues with the world, but they seem to have a firm base to build upon.

The Fallacy of Alpha

H1Z1 2015-01-16 07-18-28-49 Everything about the world is in a state of flux at this point, because the game is in its Alpha state.  The problem is this word does not mean what it used to mean.  Alpha used to be this phase of the game limited to only friends of the company, when they worked out the game breaking bugs in private before letting progressively more players into the game turning it into beta.  We live in this strange world of “pay to alpha”, which to me means “not alpha at all”.  The Alpha phase was the one that was done internally that we have been watching for the last six months.  This phase that we are in now..  is simply a “broken release”.  I have various maxims that I live by, some of which are simple like “anything that gets in the way of me playing with my friends is bad” that no one can really argue with.  Others like “If you are taking money for your product, it is release” are probably the cause of some debate.  To me H1Z1 is a released game because they are actively taking player money for it.

The problem with the Alpha and Beta system is it acts merely as a shield for the developer to deflect criticism.  They can fall back on the bulwark of “its only alpha” to explain why things aren’t working the way players want them to work.  It gives them time to dodge and weave before the official reviews start showing up, since the Metacritic score has become this all important metric that is ultimately meaningless… but I can rant about my hatred of metacritic another day.  However if you are taking money for a product I feel like you are completely culpable for criticism.   I will always give SOE credit for the fact that both for Landmark and H1Z1 they have offered refunds for players who were angry about the product.  That said I feel it is still completely valid for me to complain about the things I feel are broken in an alpha product, and as such while some of them are absolutely hilarious… I feel like every single one of the almost 2700 negative reviews on steam are also valid.  Game developers have decided that opening up the alpha process gives them a trickle of money, and early exposure to build hype.  However they also have to realize that every action is being watched, they are on camera now and if they screw up… even if it IS supposedly alpha…  it now matters.

H1Z1 Early Access

Bel Folks Stuff #4 – An Evening with Petter

This month the Bel Folks Stuff podcast focuses on the amazing Petter Mårtensson.  Petter has been an extremely busy man, and has had a ton of side projects over the years.  In his normal fashion he even offered to guest on Aggrochat if we could ever work out the time zone issues.  Our listeners could know him from any number of places.  For several years he worked for the european gaming magazine GameReactor both as a writer and as an on-air anchor.  Similarly while dormant for several years, he is the man behind the Don’t Fear the Mutant blog.  On the podcasting front he has been extremely active in the CSICON network serving as a host on several different shows including Claims the Normal, Three MMOSketeers, Enochian Frequency and most recently Who’s Who.

In addition to all of this he was involved in creating the A Tale of Internet Spaceships documentary talking about the culture behind EVE online.  Now he is also writing a monthly Final Fantasy XIV column for MMOGames.  Like I said… he is an extremely busy man and I am thankful he took the time to sit down with me and have a length conversation…  mostly about non-gaming stuff.  I think the most interesting thing about the conversation was the delve into Futurism and the things we would love to see.  We also geeked out a bit about Doctor Who, which apparently is something that happens on every podcast now that he hosts the Who’s Who show.  Definitely was an interesting conversation, and I hope you all enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed recording it.

Listen to the Show

H1Z1 Early Access

H1Z1 2015-01-15 22-48-18-17 Yesterday Sony Online Entertainment launched the H1Z1 early access.  This was originally supposed to go live on Steam around noon, but various delays pushed it back into the late afternoon.  When I got home from work it was available and I figured $20 but satiate my curiosity was a fair price.  However the game apparently is very much “not quite ready for primetime”.  The above screen is what greeted me when finally after my World of Warcraft raid I fired the game back up.  Early in the evening I was not able to get into the server select screen at all so I guess in a way it is progress?  I am sure this is another case of “underestimated demand” and I seriously cannot blame them.  Throwing a game up on Steam early access as your initial forray into alpha… is pretty damned daring.  Right now the game has roughly 2000 reviews, roughly half of those are positive and half are negative, so if only a small fraction of the population comments…  that means they sold a ton of early access copies.

I love the concept of a zombie survival game…  the problem is I don’t want to have to deal with the world pvp aspect of games like Rust and Dayz.  So when this game was announced I had zero interest, until it was confirmed that there would be PVE only server environments at launch.  Hell I didn’t even mind that the original icon in the server browser list was a teddy bear.  I am a carebear, and I am okay with this notion.  While it is immature to taunt the player base that has proved to make up the overwhelming majority of MMO players…  I can deal with it.  I am sure H1Z1 is going to be a mess for the near future, but hopefully at some point it will be playable and interesting and allow me to play a base building game in a walking dead style world.  If it gives me that… then I am largely going to be happy with it and will consider it $20 well spent.

Mar’gok Attempts

Wow-64 2015-01-15 20-12-37-89 Early in the week on Tuesday we had a really phenomenal night or raiding, meaning we cleared 6/7 on normal and 2/7 on heroic.  This freed up last night to work entirely on Imperator Mar’gok.  While we got a bit of a late start due to key players running a bit behind, we accomplished just that, an entire night of attempts.  Mar’gok is one of those fights with a lot of moving parts, and it is simply going to take a lot of repetition before we have our “click moment” when everything falls into place.  We however did make good strides in that direction.  Essentially there is one transition that is wrecking us… that we need to figure out how to do more smoothly.  Once we have that transition down I think we will down the boss.  All of that said we did manage to start getting him down into the 40% range each time, which tells me we are likely on the cusp of victory.

It feels really good to be doing current content in World of Warcraft.  During my time back in Pandaria I attempted to raid with a group that was in theory several content patches behind.  There is just something demoralizing about doing that, and especially since we never seemed to make any real forward momentum that would lead me to believe that at any time we were likely to get to current content.  When LFR served as my primary source of upgrades…  I had to ask myself why was I even bothering with the constant nights of wiping.  This expansion however has been a completely different experience.  I really want to kill Mar’gok but I have the utmost confidence that we will, and likely before the Blackrock Foundry raid opens.  I am just bummed that I won’t be around Thursday night next week… because more than likely after reviewing the logs we will make some tweaks and finish this raid.

Pax Virgin

Finger Wiggler Bel

WoWScrnShot_011515_063102 When I came back to the game during the tail end of Cataclysm, my account had been dormant for long enough to be eligible for that “welcome back” program that blizzard was running.  One of the perks was to get a free level 80 character on the server that your friend recruited you back into the game on.  Since I was recruited back by a friend in my own guild… I decided to spend the free 80 token on a character I thought I would never actually enjoy so I created a Worgen Priest.  Over the course of Pandaria I managed to level it to 85, entirely so that I could park it at the silk fields for daily tailoring cooldowns.  All of this time Belglorian has lived in this awkward place where he was essentially a glorified bag maker.  One of the tasks I have been trying to do is to make sure I had every tradeskill represented in the Garrison system.  Belglorian was the character that needed the most effort to get to 90ish and as such he was the last one to make it.

WoWScrnShot_011515_063332 Over the course of the weekend I got him to 90, but as of last night he is now 92 pushing him higher than several of my other Draenor alts.  I am not sure how or why… but I have actually been enjoying Shadowpriesting.  This is like the least likely class for me to ever be playing, but I find myself having fun.  Granted I hate the fact that I have no health and can take no damage, but the rhythms of the actual attacks are pretty enjoyable to me.  At this point I have every class over level 90 apart from Warlock and Monk.  More than likely those classes are going to be the next thing I try and push to Draenor levels.  This expansion more than anything has been an odd case of me enjoying mechanics that I have not in years.  I am playing Belghast my warrior as my main again, and Lodin my hunter is quickly becoming my chief alt.  The other day when I was playing my Warlock I was really enjoying that as well, so who knows what I ultimately end up leveling.

Pax Virgin

By this time next week I will be in transit to my very first gaming convention.  I have this mix of excitement and extreme anxiety about the concept of going to a big convention like this.  Granted growing up I went to a few of the local sci-fi or gaming conventions… but never anything of this scale.  For my readers and listeners that are savvy convention experts, what tips do you have for me?  Right now I am starting to plan what all I am going to bring.  As per my friend Ashgar, I plan on having my 3DS set to street pass so I can play the “collect the countries game”.  Other than that I picked up a pretty badass messenger bag that I plan on carrying around the necessaries in.  I’ve already been warned that food is going to be insane there so I plan on packing a few Cliff bars to tide me over until I can get “actual” food, similarly planning on having a water bottle handy that I can refill from a water fountain.

The biggest thing I have yet to sort out is what exactly I want to do.  The schedule is a rather nebulous thing, but there are a handful of panels I know I will already be attending.  Most of the events I am really interested in are happening on Saturday, so I am hoping Friday I can hit the floor before the big crush of people appear on Saturday since that day is completely sold out.  While I am not a huge fan of Guild Wars 2, I am interested in attending their panel because the speculation is they are going to announce and talk about the expansion.  There is even more speculation about what Riot might be announcing on the main stage later that afternoon as well.  From what I understand Riot almost always shows up at Pax, but rarely has a main stage presence so it might be interesting.  The other big thing that I have to see is the panel with Linda “Brasse” Carlson.  Its got Brasse, Lum the Mad and Sanya Weathers in the same room… so it has to be epic right?

More important than any of this…  I want to meet awesome people.  I’ve put a few queries out to my twitter feed but had minimal results.  I am hoping to meet up with various folks from my online connections.  If you are going to Pax let me know, and what days you are going to be there.  I want to at least do a drive by meet and greet if nothing else.  My plan is going to be simple…  I intend to post a picture of what I am wearing each day so that if folks see me, even if I don’t know them they can feel comfortable saying “Hi Bel!”.  This conference is going to push me far out of my comfort zone.  I am generally a deep introvert when it comes to face to face interaction.  I psyche myself up that something is going to be awesome… and then right before the time to do whatever it is…  I start feeling like it is the worst possible idea in the world.  I am sure I am going to go through this cycle on Wednesday and Thursday next week but I am hoping I can power through it and be amped for Pax South.

Square Outage

ffxiv 2015-01-05 21-01-50-66 One of the major frustrations over the last few days has been a series of rolling problems with Squaresoft and their servers.  The symptoms seem to be at least partially localized around the server cluster that Cactuar, our server, happens to be in.  As a result none of us have been able to log in and play.  This has lead one friend to renew World of Warcraft, and live in complete and total denial that they actually have done that.  For me it has been a nuisance since I actually have wanted to play. With the big 2.5 patch dropping next week it has me pumped about my member of the Lalafel Master race.  Also there have been a bunch of new folks filter into our guild, and I want to hang out with them.  I really hope they can get things sorted out soon because it is getting super frustrating.  Right now I am not sure if this is another DDoS or something more systemic.  In any case especially for my friends sake I hope it clears up before the weekend.

Before the Fall

A Good Night

WoWScrnShot_011315_215731 While tensions were at times a little high, and a handful of people were on edge… I have to say last night in Highmaul was as close to a perfect night as we have seen.  Everyone just did the things they needed to do and we started knocking down one boss after another.  All told last night we cleared 6/7 normal mode bosses and 2/7 heroic bosses with some end of the night tries on heroic butcher.  We still need to work on the specifics of that fight but I feel like we made more progress last night than we have in previous attempts on him.  I also managed to have a decent night loot wise finally picking up some piece with Bonus Armor on them.  Brackenspore dropped a significantly upgraded neckpiece, Tectus a significantly upgraded ring, and through the course of the night I picked up a trash drop cloak.  So while I only actually gained a single ilevel gear wise… I gained significantly better itemization across the board.

The other thing that felt better last night was my dps as a whole.  A few raids ago I switched to using Weak Auras, and it has honestly taken some getting used to in order to rely on them rather than watching my hotbar.  Last night felt like I reached a point where I was mostly watching the auras and their timers.  As such I did a much better job of making sure I kept Shield Charge up without overlapping it into the territory of a previous one.  Additionally after some reading I started prioritizing Revenge over Shield Slam if both were up at the same time.  The end result was a significant boost in damage output.  On most fights last week I was doing between 18k and 19k depending on the circumstances.  This week I was doing more in the range of 20k to 22k with cleave heavy fights of course giving me a damage boost.  Essentially this gives me hope for the viability of Gladiator dps in the long run, since with some “proper” gear I am competitive.

Before the Fall

The other cool thing that happened yesterday was that in the morning Square Enix dropped the trailer for the “Before the Fall” patch in Final Fantasy XIV.  In truth it looks like the patch is going to be a combination of three parts 2.5, 2.51 and 2.55 with various features coming in phases.  The trailer was another one of their infamous ten minute long tours of all the content being placed in the game.  First off in 2.5 we are getting three new dungeons including Hard Mode Wanderers Palace… where form the looks of it we might just be helping out the Tonberries.  We are also getting a Hard Mode version of Amdapor Keep which looks like it is going to have more than a few rough spots.  Finally we are getting a completely new location called he Keeper of the Lake as we fight what appears to be a ruined Magitek facility with some sort of god sleeping in it.  The big bad boss at the end looks something like Leviathan, but crawling through my Final Fantasy ancestral memory I am really not sure who it might be.  The only “snake” boss that is not Leviathan popping into my head is Midgar Zolom but I doubt that is it.

[Edit] upon posting this I just saw a post talking about who this boss is likely.  Supposedly “The Keeper of the Lake” refers to the remains of Midgardsormr aka the god of the Dravinians from what I understand.  So with the upcoming expansion set in Ishgard, and focusing on the war between that nation and the Dravinians, then it totally makes sense that we the players will unwittingly wake Midgardsormr.

Probably the portion of the video I am most looking forward to is the opening of the World of Darkness raid.  For those not familiar with Final Fantasy XIV raiding, there are essentially two basic paths.  You have the serious raiding core that is the “Coil of Bahamut” instances which are strict 8 man battles, and then you have the casual raids that are the “Crystal Tower” instances.  I have it under the authority of Ashgar that all of these fights so far have been based on events, places and bosses found in Final Fantasy 3.  As a result he hinted at the “World of Darkness” raid some time before they actually announced it.  Right now Labyrinth of the Ancients, and Syrcus Tower are fun…  but with World of Darkness we see a greatly improved ilevel available for casual 24 man raiding.  The only hard part will be getting used to only being able to snag a single item per week.  The other big bonus is that more than likely these will drop the items needed to “un-weather” the level 120 gear and turn it into level 130 gear.  The hope is that they do in fact let us loot a single upgrade item and a single actual item per run like has been hinted at.

Enkidu Arrives

ffxiv_enkidu It is impossible to talk about this next section without at least dropping some spoilers about the Hildebrand quest storyline.  If you have not done it and care about being surprised when people show up…  you maybe shouldn’t read forward.  Granted the Hildebrand quest storyline as a whole will only really make sense to folks who have played a lot of different Final Fantasy games.  One of the characters you meet fairly early on in the Hildebrand storyline is Gilgamesh who is a fairly storied comedic character in the Final Fantasy universe.  Generally speaking he is accompanied by his imp friend Enkidu.  My personal first encounter with Gilgamesh was in the game Final Fantasy V but I am uncertain if that was his actual first appearance.  In that game he plays the role of a major bad guy, but at the same time…  comedic relief often times as inept as he is deadly.  Enkidu often feels like the “straight man” in their act, the one that keeps Gilgamesh in line.

As you encounter Gilgamesh in Final Fantasy XIV he is alone which is explained when he first introduces himself to the character. But where are my manners? I have yet to properly introduce myself. I am Gilgamesh, and that is my companion, Enkidu! …Well, not really. It has been many moons since last I saw him, so to ease the burden of loneliness, I tamed a rooster and painted it green.  So at this point we know Enkidu does exist in the universe, we just have yet to meet him.  Now we zoom forward to this patch, sure enough when they are doing the Hildebrand quest line they show a character that looks very much in every way like the traditional image of Enkidu.  So this likely means that we are going to see Gilgamesh in the storyline again, but more important than that… that hopefully we have yet another awesome boss battle to look forward to.  While I have actually only done the Ultros fight once… it was extremely fun and serves for a nice diversion from our progression through Binding Coil.

Ignorance Was Bliss

Tale of Two Raids

ffxiv 2015-01-05 21-58-42-48 Last night I spent the evening in Final Fantasy XIV with my raid of friends working our way through figuring out Turn 1 of the Second Coil of Bahamut…  that is universally known as “Turn 6”.  I know its confusing, but the “Coil of Bahamut” all three parts are treated as though they were one big raid, in spite of the fact that they do occur in three different locations.  One of the interesting things about our Monday night group is that we specifically try and do as little research as possible before going into the fights.  A lot of the joy we have found has come from figuring out the mechanics on the fly and last night was no different.  Granted last night specifically it probably cost us a kill, since we had the boss down to the 10% territory and simply ran out of time for more tries because we spent so much time trying to figure out how to even do the fight.

On the other hand you have the raid group that I am part of that meets tonight in World of Warcraft.  There we attempt to do all research humanly possibly, watching video of the fight from multiple angles and reading as much information about the fight as we can to be prepared for anything.  I can’t really say which way is better, since they are so vastly different.  I feel like maybe way number one works better in the long run, because so many times I feel like there is a lot of conflicting information when you attempt to “research everything ever”.  While it might take a lot of otherwise meaningless wipes, we in the first method we seem to ONLY learn the way that works for us.  Whereas in the second method we seem to have to discard a ton of information before we can find the path that actually works for our group.

Ignorance Was Bliss

Wow-64 2014-12-09 23-04-17-285 This has the side effect of playing into a theme that has been running in my head for some time, that maybe “more information” isn’t always “better”.  As gamers we have started demanding almost absolute transparency from the developers of the games we play.  We want to know the moment something is being planned, and how it is going to be implemented… and for the love of god how it ultimately will effect all of the work we have done to that point.  We get so caught up in the minutiae of the games we play, and sites like MMO Champion are all too happy to data mine all the tid bits of information even before the companies can tell us.  It is human nature to love feeling like we have insider information, but if everyone knows… is any of it really insider information?  The problem is I think we get lost in a sea of data points and miss the fact that the entirety is far more beautiful than the assemblage of parts.

I love Hotdogs and Bologna, but my continued love of both is dependant upon me not getting hung up on the fact that in both cases they are essentially a congealed slurry of all of the meat parts that have been deemed “unprofitable” for sale in other forms.  Sometimes it is absolutely better to not know how the things you love are made, and as a result I feel like knowing all of this information sets us up for a great pitfall.  There is a gulf between what we as players THINK happens behind the scenes at a game company and what actually does happen.  Just like oil prices can crash if someone murmurs about rumored political problems in an oil rich reason… our enjoyment of the game can also come crashing down if we hear rumors about “problems at a studio”.

Trying to Find Magic

belgrod_sternblade I have been fortunate or unfortunate… depending on your point of view to have had many friends that work for different game studios.  As a result I get to see a completely different side of the industry that most players can see the effect off, but not really understand the way things actually work.  The above picture if of Belgrod Sternblade in Elder Scrolls Online, a character based on my long line of “Bel”something characters in the games I play.  It is awesome to have a namesake in a game, but I am not sure if it was worth the price I paid by being inside the circle of knowledge regarding ESO before it launched.  By the time the game released I had been playing the game in one form or another for over a year at that point.  We as players have the tendency to latch onto the way things used to be, rather than the current state and I was absolutely guilty of that.  From a polish and functional standpoint the game improved leaps and bounds from the moment I started playing… to the moment it launched.

The problem is I could not let go of the fact that I liked the user interface so much better several revisions before the version that actually launched.  Similarly there are players that cannot let go of the fact that we never got the “Path of the Titans” alternate progression path in Cataclysm, or the Dance Studio in Wrath of the Lich  King.  When a developer gives us too much information, especially when features are in a state of flux and “not quite ready for primetime” they are only setting up for player disappointment later when for whatever reason that feature is not nearly as shiny as the “oversold” version.  The fact that I played Elder Scrolls Online through so many revisions absolutely damaged my overall enjoyment of the game when it launched.  So much of the content felt “old” by then, when in reality the game had only been out a few weeks.

Box Art Decisions

Mega_Man_1_box_artwork As a child I can remember purchasing games on a regular basis without any prior knowledge other than the fact that it “existed”.  Admittedly the box art and the images on the back of the box played a massive role in my choosing habits.  This caused me to miss some really awesome games… I am looking at you Mega Man with the worlds worst box art.  However there were other games that I picked up because they had awesome artwork…  but had some really rough edges that I came to love, only because I was forced to sit there and “enjoy” the $50 that I had just spent.  As such games like Lagoon that admittedly have a ton of problems… are ones I think upon fondly because I stuck with the game long enough to work past the rough spots.  Sure there was the fact that I had sunk my money into a game that was maybe not as awesome as I thought it would be…  but I feel like I also had more of a willingness to put up with the rough spots of a game to try and find the good in it.

I feel like we are bombarded on a daily basis with reason why we “shouldn’t” like this or that, and I myself do it constantly.  I started down a diatribe on twitter yesterday about how much I disliked our Capitol cities in Ashran, and how they feel so much worse than any expansion city to date.  At no point did I mean that the fact that Ashran has shitty cities is adversely effecting my game.  To be truthful I simply don’t go there apart from picking up “roll tokens” once a week, and then maybe if my hearthstone is down.  Otherwise I spend my time in my Garrison, or using the Shrine in Pandaria as my transportation nexus.  The fact that Blizzard has not given me sufficient reason to care about the new “main” city doesn’t stop me from enjoying other aspects of the game.  That said I enjoyed blowing off steam about a small thing that was bothering me.  The problem is… my voice just added to the chorus of negativity surrounding a game that has been out several months at this point.  I feel bad because ultimately I am still having a fun time in part because I am trying not to get hung up on the small details and keep looking for the larger beauty.

Priestcraft

Podcasting Weekend

This weekend was a little bit crazy in that I recorded podcasts both Saturday and Sunday.  In theory had things not fallen through I would have actually recorded a third one Friday.  Podcasting is one of those things that is both soothing and stressful at the same time.  I like having conversations and hitting the record button, but the follow up that results in editing what I just recorded…  that can be the stressful part.  I feel like Podcasting is very much a labor of love, that you either get or you don’t get.  I would be curious to find out how many avid podcasters are also avid listeners of talk radio in one form of another.  I personally have my car tuned to NPR pretty much 24/7 and donate each year during their big fund drive.  I see the shows that I record as a bit of a logical extension of that.

The strange thing about once you start podcasting… is that it seems like you could end up recording on someone’s show every single day if you really wanted to.  I’ve had to turn down several “gigs” because I felt like I was just spreading myself too thin.  In fact this is one of the things that I talked about last night when recording the Bel Folks Stuff podcast with Petter Mårtensson.  Ultimately I would love to be able to say yes to every single offer I got to co-host or guest host a new thing.  I am in love with the idea that I am in essence making radio on subjects that are important to me.  For the time being I am going to stick with weekly AggroChat, monthly Bel Folks Stuff and then guesting as the opportunities present themselves.  I don’t think I have the energy or bandwidth to ever try and add a third permanent or semi permanent show to the lineup.

Priestcraft

WoWScrnShot_011115_160152 My primary goal for this week was to be able to push my hunter Lodin to 100 and run LFR before the reset.  This was achieved Friday and I was able to knock out the LFR Saturday morning to some pretty phenomenal success as I wrote about in yesterdays blog post.  After completing that mission my goals shifted to a new target.  There are two classes that I never though I would have at high levels..  the first of which is the Mage and as such I used my Warlords free 90 to get one.  The second class however is the Priest, and when I came back to World of Warcraft at the tail end of Cataclysm… I had been gone long enough to qualify for a free level 80.  This character I decided to make my tailor, and during Pandaria I managed to get it to 85 where it pretty much sat as a tradeskill alt parked in the Dwarven quarter of Stormwind.  With the garrison system, currently the only craft that I do no have access to is tailoring, so I set my mind to fixing that.

As a result Saturday and Sunday I spent my time in game, apart from that doing my “Wizard Chores” working on my priest.  I started off leveling as Discipline, because the last time I played the game this felt like the “survival” option for leveling.  Things died relatively quickly and I didn’t spend all of my time healing myself back up after every fight.  Shadow for whatever reason had never actually worked for me.  Upon coming back however I found leveling as Discipline to be pure pain.  I managed to get from 85 to 87 before I finally said screw it and decided to give Shadow a try again.  Whatever changes and tweaks they have made, seem to have greatly improved shadows survival and I managed to knock out 87 through 88 in no time. So before I went to sleep last night, I had dinged 100 and equipped the set of Timeless Isle items that I had sitting in my bank.  It is shocking just how many of these tokens I still have laying around, more than enough for all of my alts.

Pandaria Frustrations

WoWScrnShot_011215_063211 The recent leveling excursions on both Lodin my hunter and Belglorian my priest have made me realize just how much I did not enjoy Pandaria as far as expansions go.  Mind you it is not worth $60 to me to be able to skip it, but I am definitely finding myself taking the shortest possible path to get there.  Right now my leveling process goes a little something like this.  I try and milk as much leveling time out of Jade Forrest as I can get, because overall I like that zone about the best of anything to offer in Pandaria.  My ultimate goal is to get to 87 through whatever means possible, and in theory most of the time I can hit that well before I leave Jade Forrest, worst case I have to do the quests leading up to Halfhill with Chen and LiLi to get there.  Upon dinging 87 I ignore whatever quest line I happen to be on and make a beeline for the Path of a Hundred Steps, and take the quests there that lead you into Kun Lai Summit.

From this point on I am only in a zone as long as is required to unlock the quest that takes me to the next zone.  So in Kun Lai I complete Binan village, Westwind Rest, Shado-Pan Fallback…  which then gives me access to Winter’s Blossom granted me the quest chain that starts Townlong Steppes.  In Townlong I don’t have an exact path really, I am essentially just waiting for the flight path to the Serpent Spine to open up as that grants access to the quest chain leading to the Dreadwastes.  Generally speaking this means I will need to complete Gao-Ran Battlefront and Rensai’s Watchpost quests in Townlong before moving into the Dreadwastes.  The goal of this path is to keep moving every time you can go into an area with quests for higher level mobs.  Higher level quests mean better gear, better experience and a shorter amount of time in that zone before moving on.  You have to essentially throw out all ideas of being a completionist with this method.

Granted this is something I only do to steamroll up alts to the level cap.  When I am working on my main or characters in general that I deeply care about…  I end up doing everything and prodding my way through zones.  At this point however I have leveled so many characters through Pandaria that I just want to rip the bandaid off as fast as possible and move on to quest content that I am not bored with yet.  In theory I will have to do Pandaria two more times on my alliance characters, and an unknown number of times on Horde characters if I actually get around to leveling some.  I am not sure what it was about Pandaria that made me dislike it, but I have similar feelings about the Cataclysm.  Draenor on the other hand has been awesome.  I can choose to be a completionist and move my way through the content more methodically, or I can jump every two levels to a new zone to maximize my experience gain.  There is no need to try and complete X number of hubs to unlock the hubs in the new zone.  I feel like Cataclysm and Pandaria were both failed experiments in “quest gating” content, and my hope is that Draenor will become the new norm for future expansions of being less particular about completing certain quests before moving on.