Wandering Auridon

Cheating on AggroChat

I don’t believe I said anything about this beforehand, but once again I was invited to guest host on Game On the MMORPG.com podcast hosted by @GameByNight and @Liores.  I guess this means I didn’t make an ass of myself the first time they had me on.  I have a lot of fun doing the podcast with them, because since I have known both for quite some time… it just feels like having a conversation with friends.  This time around they also invited @AppleCiderMage so it was awesome getting to properly meet and hang out with her as well.  The two of us have operated in the same circles for awhile, but never really had any direct interaction other than through twitter.

The podcast generally releases around Wednesday and I will post a link when it is up and ready to go.  I feel like we maybe derailed the podcast, because they had this long list of things to talk about and I think maybe we got through three of them in the allotted time.  Then again anyone who has listened to AggroChat should know that I can ramble on about nothing at length.  AppleCider held up her end of the rambling as well, and I feel like the two of us combined pushed the train good and solidly off the rails.  That said it was a blast to do it, and I look forward to maybe filling in again sometime in the future.  I have to say though that since we record AggroChat on Saturday nights, it was weird to get up the next morning and prepare to do another podcast.

Wandering Auridon

While waiting around on podcast time I decided to stream a little Elder Scrolls Online.  The other day I was absolutely shocked that someone posted on my youtube channel asking why I had stopped playing.  It made me realize just how much time had passed since I had streamed anything, let alone Elder Scrolls Online.  I guess maybe I am poking my head out of turtle mode, because streaming didn’t seem that bad yesterday.  I am still poking my way around Auridon working on the quests there.  In the video I play for roughly an hour and complete a couple of different quest chains.  Most of my morning however was spent trying to sort out my addons.  It seems like recently they had a patch that broke several of the addons that I was using.  The weird thing about it is that several of the addons were apparently working, but being suppressed by other addons that were not.

While I still really enjoy Elder Scrolls Online, it had been quite some time since I had logged in.  I of course logged into a mail message from my research assistant, but the one prior to that was from 19 days ago, so that means I had been offline for at least that long.  The pace of the veteran content is a bit of a problem to be honest.  While it is enjoyable to quest my way through the Aldmeri content that I had not seen…  in the video I complete a handful of quest chains and my experience bar makes no noticeable movement.  It gets frustrating to feel like you are making no forward momentum as you quest your way around the world.  I talk about that a bit on the Game On podcast but when you move into veteran content it feels like you get stuck on high center.  There are some rather sweeping changes coming in August, so here is hoping it improves the feel of the veteran experience.

Modding Fallout 3

Fallout3 2014-07-14 06-46-37-698 The other day I stumbled across a series of pictures of a completely modded out Fallout 3 install.  This combined with me playing some FO3 on the PS3 made me want to try playing the game with the same visual effects as shown in those photos.  While I am getting closer, I can’t seem to get the visual splendor shown there.  Right now I think I have all of the mods mentioned in the description installed and it looks much better than a default install, but something is still missing.  Namely the sky is still the ominous grey blob that it has been on previous plays of the game.  I am wondering if this is just a side effect of being in the Megaton area, and as I move out into the game proper maybe that changes.  In any case I am going to keep trying to mod it until I can achieve the kind of clarity that you see in the images.

Fallout3 2014-07-14 06-48-43-236 Other major change this play through is that I am trying to stick to using the Xbox 360 controller.  Basically I have reached a point where I feel like the mouse and keyboard artificially limit me in the number of games that I can play.  Right now the consoles seem to be the primary target for game developers, and the PC market gets ports namely, and that means all of these interfaces are designed with a controller in mind… and then later retrofitted to work with a keyboard and mouse.  I feel like at this point I need to teach myself to be better at using a controller or ultimately there will reach a point where my chosen way of gaming is no longer supported.  Hell to be honest it feels like the keyboard and mouse thing is already a rarity among anything that is not an MMO.  With games like Destiny looming on the horizon, I feel like training myself to get by with only the controller is going to be a good thing… and I will go through the growing pains with games that I am already very familiar with before branching out on new titles that I am not.

#Fallout3 #ElderScrollsOnline

We Kill Routers

Running About in OKC

randompenandpaper My wife and I first got hooked on Half Priced Books during a random trip to Dallas Texas.  I had heard of the chain before, but had never been to one.  At that point we had a Garmin GPS and we punched “book” into the POI search and happened to find one nearby.  From that point onwards when we went to a new area we immediately searched to see if they had any of the stores.  During a trip to Madison Wisconsin we managed to hit three different stores up there, and on our last trip to Dallas I think we hit around fifteen of them.  Tulsa unfortunately does not have any yet, but an hour and a half from Tulsa in Oklahoma City they have three of them in the metro area.  So every now and then we make a trip down there just for the purpose of hitting all three of them.

I was trying to explain to my coworkers what makes them special, and if you have never been… and especially if you not a bibliophile it just would never make any sense.  One of the most magic things about the store is they have a rather large used role-playing games section.  On past trips I have found all sorts of wonders, but just the simple fact that a store exists in Oklahoma with this sort of stuff makes me happy.  This trip I honestly didn’t walk away with much from HBP.  I picked up a Minecraft book by scholastic, that is obviously targeting children but manages to explain Redstone wiring in a simple enough manner that I think I can “grok” it.  Additionally I picked up the second book in the Odd Thomas series, and the Silent Hill Collection for the PS3 since I have never actually played 2 or 3 in that series but loved the hell out of the first one.

Carpet Jesus

carpetjesus Another thing we did yesterday was run around to a series of pawn shops in my search for “cheap” Xbox 360 and PS3 games.  I managed to stumble onto a cache of $5 a piece PS3 games here in Tulsa at a Cash America pawn shop, and I knew that in OKC they had at least 11 of them.  We tried to hit as many of them as we could while weaving across town to hit all three of the HBP stores.  The lesson of the day seemed to be that OKC wanted more for their stuff than I was willing to pay for it.  Locally the most you will ever pay for a game in a pawn shop is $15, and while wandering across OKC I routinely saw them for as much as $30 in the same pawn shop chains we have here in town.  I even managed to hit a Game XChange which is a chain that used to be really big around here… and there they were selling PS4 games that you can buy brand new at Target for $39.95 for $54.

whatadeal When I see a price like that, maybe it is horrible of me… but the first thing that goes through my head is “that’s adorable”.  I feel like maybe Oklahoma City in general just doesn’t know how to price things.  During our travels we stumbled across a fairly nice looking thrift store and the carpet jesus picture above hails from it.  Among the various baubles is a brand new sealed box for an Intel EtherExpress LAN Adapter.  The one pictured above is an ISA card… designed to go in an IBM 286/386 machine and Novell Netware that is advertised on the back side.  This is pretty much the best technology Intel had to offer in 1992, and seems to be pulled off the shelf of someone’s closet and donated to charity.  The pricetag is not a mistake… they apparently do want $59 for this mint in box artifact of the pre-internet age.  Oklahoma City apparently lives in a bubble where they don’t have a clue what anything is actually worth.

We Kill Routers

This morning I woke to the fun surprise of having no internet in our house.  Apparently between the time that I recorded our podcast and edited it last night, and this morning our Asus router died.  The thing is we are exceptionally hard on routers it seems, because it seems that at least once a year I end up replacing one.  I have to think it is because we have so many internet connected devices.  We have 5 laptops, 3 desktops, 2 phones, 2 tablets, 3 chromecasts, and 5 gaming consoles connected to our wireless router pretty much all of the time.  That is a lot of strain on any device and they seem to just explode after awhile.  So this morning I connected the internet directly into my main desktop and got on long enough to do some research and write this blog post.

I found a device at our local Best Buy that looks like it might do the job.  It is supposedly designed to handle multiple devices at the same time, so we will see if we end up killing this one as well.  The last one only manages to survive 6 months… and honestly it might still be under warranty and I will try and dig that information up and try and replace it.  It would make a nice little router for the lake to be honest.  I did the in store pickup option on the new one, so right now I am just waiting on the email to let me know it is ready to go.  I had heard really good things about the Netgear Nighthawk, so we will see if it lives up to the marketing hype.

Exclusionary Subcultures

Last night we managed to get the entire AggroChat podcast crew together once again for another broadcast.  Tonight we talk at length about the various things we have been doing including Minecraft, VVVVVV, Adventure Time Battle Party, and a few other things.  The bulk of the show however is a discussion about various subcultures.  Gaming and geekdom in general can be a very exclusionary place.  Not that we solve any of the worlds problems, but we at least have a discussion about them.  We ran a bit longer than normal this time, but we had a lot of stuff to talk about.

Tunnel Works

Hurry Up and Blog

This mornings blog post is likely going to be a quick and abbreviated one as we need to get on the road soon.  The wife and I are going off to Oklahoma City today in search of the illusive Half Priced Books store and my mission for the day… lots and lots of Cash America pawn shops.  Last weekend I managed to pick up some amazing deals on used PS3 games at that chain, and there are far more of them in OKC than here in Tulsa.  Basically I am cheap, and I would love to pick up more PS3 and Xbox 360 games… but I only really want to pay $5-$10 for them.  I had a blast playing Fallout 3 on the PS3 even though I had played it countless times on the PC, so I would be interested in visiting lots of titles I had played on the PC as well.

In part because playing on a console is so easy… you pop the disc in and go.  The negative however is that you can never really improve the experience.  Example here is a modded up version of Fallout 3 that greatly improves the look and feel.  Seeing this yesterday pretty much guarantees that I will play through the game at least one more time on the PC as well.  Another prime example of better living through software is the whole Skywind project, where they are completely redoing  Morrowind using the Skyrim engine.  These things will never be able to function on a console, but I have to admit there is something nice about the simplicity of just pressing play.  My only complaint right now is that I wish the modern generation of consoles would allow me to install the disc to the hard drive and then not have to worry about having the disc any longer.  That is the thing I like the most about my PlayStation Plus titles, the ability to have lots of them “on tap”.

Tunnel Works

2014-07-12_07.52.34 Most of last night was spent working on my extensive tunnel network…  or what will soon BE an extensive tunnel network.  Across a bridge from my main building is the first area I started out that I am using as some what of a stone quarry.  At base floor I started a tunnel to see just what I might intercept digging in a straight line.  Generally speaking I dig 3×3 tunnels because they feel about right, not too closed in and not too open.  After quite a ways of torching every 7 blocks I came out on the other side in what appears to be a riverside valley.  There is a cobblestone wall there so I am not sure who has been building in the area.  Hopefully I am not impeding on someone else’s land too badly, but I like as many entrances and exits from my area as possible.

2014-07-12_07.54.35 I built up a really simple fenced in area so that hopefully I won’t end up with too many creepers lurking there.  One of the interesting things about the lockette mod we are using is that supposedly if you lock a wooden door it makes it so that zombies cannot beat it down.  Traditionally I have used fence gates to bar entrance into my areas, because villagers cannot open them and zombies cannot break them.  However I have started trying out the whole locked door thing to see if it works.  I am not purposefully really trying to keep people out of my stuff, but more that I don’t want to come home and find everything full of mob spawns.

Cactus Shield

2014-07-12_07.55.51 The other thing that I worked on last night was redoing the approach to my house.  I ended up extending the path to make it far less likely for me to kill myself trying to leave it by hitting lots of cactus.  This almost happened a few times as I seem to be unable to walk a straight line.  Essentially I started the dual tier row of cactus a block further out so I have a 3 block walkway to get in and out of my area.  I might add a third row of cactus because I actually managed to have a creeper make it through earlier.  Granted the creeper only took a single hit to kill after being chewed up pretty badly by the cactus to get to me…  but this in part was because some of the cactus has not fully grown to 3 block height yet.  The creeper was able to hop up onto a single block height one and use it to make his way in.


Now that I feel like my base is fairly defensible, it is just about time for me to start back working on the “mine to bedrock” project.  Essentially in every build I have done in Minecraft I eventually create a tunnel network that goes all the way to bedrock and start branch mining for diamonds.  It is my hope that I picked a decent spot to mine, because so often you get down to bedrock and struggle with lava.  Right now the project has been derailed in that I hit a fully enclosed cave system, but I need to build my way through it and continue digging.  So far I am finding playing on the Alliance of Awesome server to be fun and refreshing, since more or less I am having to play legitimately again.  If you are interested ping Zelibeli and she can get you white listed… but of note this is open to existing members of the AofA community and its requisite groups.

Base Building and Wormholes

Zombie Shamble

This morning I am shambling around the house in a zombie like state.  For whatever reason I seem to have not slept well last night.  I remember waking up at many moments to either kick the covers off or freezing and cover back up.  My wife has wondered if she is coming down with something, and I am honestly starting to wonder if this is something more than just allergies.  All I know for certain is that I could not seem to regulate my body temperature last night, and the constant pile of cats didn’t really help with the ability to get comfortable.  I generally had one pinning my legs down and another stopping me from rolling over, while a third fought for control of my pillow.

I enjoy the hell out of my wife.  She can fall asleep without any preparation and tends to sleep all the night through.  She can fall asleep at like 8 pm and then transfer to the bed and continue sleeping the rest of the night through.  I wish I could do that, but if I take a nap it completely destroys my ability to sleep that night entirely.  Additionally I never can seem to functionally get more than four to six hours of sleep in any given night.  The result of too much sleep is pretty much the same as not enough sleep for me, resulting in a morning much like this one where I have trouble stringing contiguous thoughts together in my head.

Base Building and Wormholes

2014-07-10_22.11.32 Last night I spent most of the evening plugging away on building my base on the Alliance of Awesome server while watching season four of Farscape.  I had a simple mission last night, to figure out a way to protect my base from invaders that all too easily could drop down from the cliff above or jump across from the trees nearby.  As a result I harvested copious amounts of wood surrounding the cliff to remove the ability for them to perch on top of the trees and drop down from above.  The main mission of the night was to find some cactus.  The area the spawn is near is a mixture of heavy forestation and to a lesser extent swamp land.  While we have an ample supply of cows and horses there was no readily available desert biome.

As a result I started going on these daytrips out as far away from my base as I could before eventually teleporting back using the /home command at the last possible moment before nightfall.  While the majority of these were mostly futile it did allow me to stockpile the various things you can get from killing animals and I have a 50 stack of steaks that should hold me for some time as well as a lot of chicken and ham.  In fact I brought home so much of it that I had to break down and build several more furnaces so that I could cook each meat at the same time.  During my evenings in game I would work on harvesting out the hillside quarry that links up to my fort out on the water.

Cactus Finally

2014-07-10_20.59.04 On the four trip out I was getting to the point where I thought maybe just maybe there was not a convenient desert adjoining the biomes in any direction.  I had crossed every other imaginable biome, except maybe deep jungle when I started to stumble into what looked like a savannah.  Then on the far side of that I started to see some sand dunes.  I was starting to get a little edgy however as the sun was extremely low in the sky, which mean I did not have very long at all to harvest any cactus I happened to find.  So as night fell I wandered around the desert gathering up whatever I could get.  A warning for anyone who heads to that desert… it seems to almost entirely be spawned with endermen.

I gathered up around 30 blocks of cactus and ported out of there with the /home command.  I wish I had taken more screenshots but I was in a rush to get the resources I needed and get out of there.  In the Savannah region there was what looked like an abandoned safari hut.  I would think it was a player creation, but there were absolutely no torches anywhere and it was completely open up on one end.  I am wondering if this is a new type of prefab since I last played the game.  There were no resources in it other than a crafting table that had been embedded into the floor.  That is one of the things that I find most interesting is that since I have not played much minecraft in a long time, there will likely be a ton of things that are new to me.

Defensive Position


As you can see in the above photo I installed a row of cactus as a defensive barrier to stop things from either being able to scale the sides of my base or drop down from the cliff above.  It doesn’t stop the spiders from trying, because every night there is at least one that suicides down on the cactus dying well before they make it into the base.  Right now I have a pier or sorts that connects the door into my base to the landmass and I am thinking about putting a line of cactus there as well.  It does an amazing job of blocking bad stuff from getting to your base.  Right now I am also trying to tunnel towards the spawn so that I can hopefully have a route to get back there if needed.

2014-07-10_22.28.19 I’ve started my mine down to try and harvest some diamonds, but that plan fell apart completely when I broke into a rather shallow cave complex.  There is still a ton of iron and coal that I need to harvest out of that at some point and sure up the stairs so I can continue to go down past it.  Like any Minecraft session I have more projects that I have focus to complete them.  At some point I want to expand the main tower structure to go up into a lighthouse of sorts.  In order to carry that off I am going to need either some lightstone or some netherrack…  which both mean a trip into the nether.  Which also means that I need to find plenty of diamond, and use it to harvest obsidian.  There is quite a large amount of surface spawn lava nearby so that shouldn’t be a huge ordeal to safely harvest obsidian.  In any case…  I seem to be obsessing about Minecraft again.


Return to Minecraft

When it Rains…

The old euphemism “when it rains it pours” is fitting today because it is absolutely drenched outside… and additionally we have been dealing with all sorts of issues this week.  Over the weekend we had to deal with my wife’s vehicle and the tensioner going out in a rather dramatic way.  For those that don’t remember we were driving Sunday and the bolt essentially sheared causing pretty much every light on the dash to come on at once and us to barely make it home before the engine overheated to the point of no return.  Monday during the day we got that issue fixed and it was a rather simple mistake that lead to it.  I thought we were done with our auto troubles for the time being, but reality seemed to have other ideas.

Yesterday over lunch I ran to Target to pick up cat food and while I was out something to eat.  When I started up the jeep there was a very loud mechanical whirring noise that I didn’t recognize, but otherwise the vehicle seemed to perform fine so I tried my best not to think about it.  As I was heading back from lunch and entering the edge of downtown I noticed that the red battery light had come on.  At this point I am not really sure what to do… I’ve had a few alternators go out, and generally speaking that light combined with the whirring noise I heard earlier probably meant mine was dying.  I parked in the garage and went into the building calling the shop to see if they could work me in.  Sure enough they could, so I thought I would try and make my way there, hoping I did not get stranded along the side of the road.  I mean we have AAA so in theory there was never really the chance that I would truly get stranded…  but I crossed all my things in hope that I made it through successfully.

When I got out into the jeep I turned everything off that could possibly be drawing power.  So by the time I made it to the shop I had a rather sweaty windblown hairdo that I am sure was extremely attractive.  Thankfully the shop we use is around the corner from my house so I could drop the vehicle off and walk home.  Just about the time I walked in the front door my phone was ringing.  They had been able to assess the issues and said it was in fact the Alternator, that the bearings were bad and it would need to be replaced.  About three thirty they called back letting me know the vehicle was ready for pickup.  It is probably a bad thing that the girl behind the desk addressed me by name when I walked through the door.  That means we have been in there entirely too often lately.  Good news is that my Jeep appears to be fine now, and since both of our vehicles are paid off… I guess paying a car payment a piece worth of repairs is not too bad in the long run.

Return to Minecraft

javaw 2014-07-10 06-26-05-352 A few days ago Zeli mentioned that she would be setting up an Alliance of Awesome Minecraft server so that her child could have a safe place to play the game.  It is a whitelist based server, and since my Minecraft name is pretty easy to remember I asked her to go ahead and set me up.  Last night I finally got around to logging in and playing.  For some time House Stalwart has had a Minecraft server run by a member, and at this point we have conquered pretty much all of the land surrounding the spawn point for a few days worth of travel. While this huge sprawling city is awesome to behold, it doesn’t leave much room for you to go out and tame the wilds.  So I opted to start fresh on a brand new server, since really the “taming the wilderness” phase of a new server is the most enjoyable for me.

Zeli started us off with a stack of steaks, a steel pick and steel sword, which is a pretty good toolset to gain a foothold in the wilderness.  I however squandered this horribly.  Having been so long since I played on a server, I forgot about all of the controls like /sethome and wandered around at night for awhile and down into a cave managing to get myself killed… and as such losing all of the nifty baubles that I started with.  I really had no clue where I was in relation to the spawn point, so I pretty much set out to start fresh.  We have a village near the spawner, and I managed to find it… which means that we also have the village trackstar zombies at night spawning near us.  It took me a lot of deaths to finally get to a place where I had enough tools to defend myself.

I did not get terribly far, but right now I have the start of a mine dug into the side of a hill, with a bridge extending from it out into the water where I am slowly building a tower of sorts.  I figure the mine will feed my need for resources and the tower out in the middle of a pond will give me plenty of defense.  Just going to have to come up with a clever way to get in and out of said tower.  The area I am in for some reason has a couple of golems spawned near me, which do a fair job of keeping the baddies away at night.  I am guessing someone spawned the golems at the spawner and they just wandered off.  Additionally there are mass amounts of horses and cows where I am set up at, meaning I have eventual transportation and a ready source of meat and leather.  This time I did remember to type /sethome.  Right now I am very much in the “locking things down” phase, trying to create something that will protect me entirely during the nights.


farscape_characters While playing Minecraft last night I opted to hang out downstairs and watch Farscape.  This is one of my favorite television shows, but I have not actually made it all the way through the series.  I was at the very tail end of season three when Netflix lost the license to the show the first time.  For awhile I was having them ship me individual DVDs but that process got rather frustrating.  I could have of course gone out and found the episodes otherwise, but I got sidetracked.  At some point in the last few years they managed to get the licensing set up again and all of the episodes are now ready for streaming in all their glory.

The thing I love the most about this show is that it actually has some pretty diverse aliens that are both a member of the crew and ones that you encounter along the way.  The claim to fame of the show that it was done by the Jim Henson creature shop, and because of this the aliens that are brought to life by master puppeteers just have a realness to them that you cannot get with CGI.  Dominaar Rigel feels like a real character and not a small puppet, and because of this the show has held its production value, whereas most science fiction feels cheesy a few years after it is made as our graphical standards keep increasing.

At this point I have just finished season three and am ready to start the fourth and final season.  If minecraft continues to hold my interests, I will probably spend a few more nights watching Farscape and building away in the Alliance of Awesome server.  In fact I think that is what I did last time I watched Farscape…  build away on the House Stalwart server.  Minecraft and watching television seem to go hand in hand for me.  If you’ve never seen Farscape I highly suggest you check it out, as it has this whole Buck Rogers meets Star Wars feel to it.  I pretty much like all of the characters except for a late addition to the crew … Jool.  It is not that I mind her character, it is that I mind the sonic assault that is having her in any sort of action situation.  When she gets freaked out she emits this high pitched scream that drives me up a wall.

The Pause Button

It’s Not You, It’s Me

WildStar64 2014-06-25 20-39-45-594 Right now I find myself struggling to get excited about anything in the MMO genre.  I think I part I am feeling this overwhelming feeling that there are so many games that are not MMOs that I want to be playing.  For years I have just defaulted to playing an MMO for so many different reasons.  For starters it was more or less my social lifeline and the primary way that I kept in touch with all of my friends.  The guild House Stalwart that I lead and still do lead more often than not in absentia of late…  was a vessel in which I collected all of my friends in one place.  During the heyday of World of Warcraft this was a glorious thing, and kept me tied to the game because it was the place I could hang out with everyone at once.

When I entered the twitter and blog community this shifted considerably, and I started wanting to hang out with new and different people and had pure hell trying to incorporate all these new friends with my old friends as well.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t and the end result has been a series of games played with a small subset of friends each time something new came out.  I guess over the last few weeks I have realized that I no longer need the crutch that is MMOs as a way of capturing my friends and hanging out with them.  At this point I pretty much have contact with everyone I have ever gamed with seriously outside of said MMO.  Just because I am not playing the same game doesn’t mean I no longer have access to those people.

The Pause Button

eso 2014-06-25 06-08-35-784 At this point I really want to indulge my absolutely insane steam backlog, and start playing my way through it.  In part this is because a single player game has something that an MMO will never have…  a pause button.  Over the last few months my wife and I have gotten more serious about exercise, especially since getting our fitbits back in March.  Neither of us necessarily like doing it, but we know we need to and the payoff in the long run will be a much improved life.  So much of my gaming life has been about getting home and getting everything done that needs to be done before gaming “primetime”.  The problem is our exercise routine doesn’t fit into this plan, since in general we need to wait for things to cool off before going out and about.  Sunday I made a walk in a heat index of 110 degrees, and that is not something I want to do again anytime soon.

What this means in reality is that I really cannot get involved in anything at all until I get back from my walk.  This also means that for sake of sanity sake…  this only gives me an hour or two to do anything structured and still be able to get up and around in the morning in a non-zombie state.  So right now my exercise routine has pretty much destroyed my ability to do group MMO content, which is the primary reason why I plan MMOs in the first place.  I don’t mean grouping to quest or grouping to PVP… but grouping to run Dungeons.  Without the drive to do the next dungeon, the MMO experience I am finding is rather bland.  At the very least that thing that used to drive me higher and higher in level just isn’t there right now.

The Treasure Trove

EoCApp 2014-07-06 22-20-27-002 I am not saying anything dramatic like I am done with Wildstar or Elder Scrolls Online or World of Warcraft or MMOs in general.  Instead I am giving myself the leverage to not care about them if I so choose.  I am sitting on what feels like a gold mine of narrative games that because of the feeling of having to log in nightly to whatever my current MMO was… I did not play.  So you are likely going to see a lot more single player game coverage… and significantly less multiplayer coverage.  I guess this is the good thing about having a blog format that revolves around my whims and not necessarily a specific game in it.  I might end up losing some readers in the process, and I guess I am okay with that.  I have become known for being an “MMO Gamer” and while I won’t stop being that, I will probably focus on more of the content that I would normally talk about during Steampowered Sunday.

Right now I want to actually finish some games.  I have this horrible habit of getting near the end of a game, generally within an hour or two of beating it and losing the drive to push across the finish line.  It is like I had so much fun playing the game that I don’t want the experience to end, and if I never go back and finish it up… it never has to.  Right now I am within two hours of being the new Wolfenstein game for example, but I have been reluctant to do so…  because I really enjoyed the experience on the way to the end.  I am honestly the same way with novels and my bedside table is strewn with a ton of half finished books.  In games the journey has always been so much more important than the destination…  so I guess I avoid finishing the journey.  All of that said it is something I would very much like to change.  Back in the era of Nintendo, I had challenges with friends to see who could beat a specific game the fastest…  so I know that me is somewhere deep inside waiting to get out.

Autopilot Gaming

Wow-64 2014-07-09 06-37-39-536 All of that said… what did I end up doing last night?  Playing World of Warcraft while watching movies.  I was in the mood to hang out downstairs and watch stuff off Netflix, and after making a couple of attempts to play various games I settled to playing WoW.  I have lost the ability to ONLY watch Television, after having done it as an activity while I was doing something else for so long now.  That said games like Divinity: Original Sin require too much of me to be able to play them and keep track of a movie at the same time.  WoW on the other hand is almost pure muscle memory at this point… I don’t have to think about the game to play it.  So I decided to fire up one of my army of new hordies over on Scyers and at least get one of them into my guild of horde friends Bloodmoon Chosen.  For years I have made an attempt to play Horde, because I have a large number of friends over there as well as Alliance.  However because of my desire to have all of my slots available for Alliance, I kept relegating the horde to an alternate account.  With the merger of Argent Dawn and The Scryers server, this gives me the ability to have 11 Alliance characters and 11 Horde characters.

The first movie of the night was Odd Thomas… which was familiar sounding but I did not have a clue why.  It was staring Anton Yelchin… aka Chekov from the new Star Trek series, and more or less I have liked him in everything I have seen him in so far.  Turns out that maybe somewhere deep in the bowels of my mind I realized this was a book series by Dean Koontz, but when folks on twitter informed me of such last night I was surprised.  I really enjoyed the movie in a more action hero Donnie Darko kind of way, which likely makes zero sense anywhere other than my own head.  It was good enough that it makes me want to track down a copy of the novels and read through them.  I’ve never been a huge Koontz fan, and generally I tend to consider his novels a bit on the cheesy side…  but I dig this protagonist.  I like the whole unlikely crusader for good aspect of the story, and it tends to be a trope I enjoy in most movies.

the-raven-dvd-2d The second movie of the night however was not nearly as enjoyable.  One of my guilty pleasures is that I like John Cusack.  I am a huge fan of movies like Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity, but the unfortunate truth is that Cusack tends to play exactly the same character in every movie he is in.  Edgar Allen Poe likely was a neurotic mess… but Cusack’ particular brand of neurosis doesn’t quite work here.  Additionally while I can get behind the transformation of the cerebral Sherlock Holmes into the Robert Downey Jr. badass action hero…  this doesn’t work at all for Cusack and Poe.  I am honestly not sure what I was expecting, but after the high that was Odd Thomas I was just looking for something else and this movie showed up in one of my Netflix streams and I figured what the hell.  Unless you are supremely bored and have literally watched everything else of substance in your movie feed…  I would highly suggest skipping it.

Impressive but Still Beta

Auto Update

“Wow, I’ve never seen that happen before” is generally something you never want to hear uttered from an auto mechanic.  That said at this point my wife’s vehicle is fixed and ready to go and seems to have no negative impact.  Apparently on the Pontiac Torrent there are two different sizes of bolts that can be used to attach the tensioner.  Quite simply when they replaced that part they used the wrong one, and as we were driving Sunday the vibration and force sheared the bolt off completely causing the serpentine belt to shread, and at the same time stopping the flow of motion to both the water pump and the alternator.

The good folks at Hibdon were more than willing to fix the problem, and after getting the vehicle towed there yesterday morning they had already fixed everything by mid day.  It is one one of those “honest mistake” type situations, and I don’t fault them for it… especially since they are also the ones responsible for making it right.  It was a grand inconvenience but thankfully my wife really had nowhere that she needed to go yesterday.  I cringe when I think how much worse this could have gone had the bolt sheared and she lost power to major systems while out on the highway with no place to really pull to the side of the road.  We were likely saved by the fact that it happened so close to our home and we did not drive it long enough to cause a radiator boil over.

Steam In Home Streaming

steamstreaming One of the problems with having multiple machines is that ultimately the game you happen to want to play is not installed on the machine you are sitting at.  Yes I realize this is a first world problem, as I am extremely lucky to be able to have both a nice gaming laptop and gaming desktop, but this is something I have tried to deal with for some time.  I’ve tried gaming over various versions of remote desktop, and none of them work well enough to offer a passable experience.  I am not sure who mentioned it first, but the other day I said something about steam logging you out when you tried to log in a second machine.  Apparently this has not been the case for some time.  What happens now is that you see all of the games available installed from all of the machines you happen to be logged into on your network.  The cool thing about this is instead of the play button you now see a Stream button as shown above.

Last night I decided to try this out, and I had some mixed results.  This all started because I decided that I wanted to play catch up on True Blood which meant needing to hang out downstairs with my laptop.  True Blood is one of those shows where about halfway through the third season it went off the rails and I stopped caring about it.  That said at the same time I felt like after spending that much time watching it… I felt committed to seeing it through to the end.  Like if I stopped my choice to watch it in the first place would have somehow been invalidated.  Sadly this is how I end up feeling about most television, and why I am still watching Bleach after all these episodes… when essentially every season is EXACTLY THE SAME.  All that aside the game I wanted to play last night was not installed on my laptop, so it was either steam streaming or a 10 gig download over wifi.

Impressive but Still Beta

I have to say that the actual game play was rather impressive.  The game I was streaming was not exactly fast paced and action oriented… in that I was playing Divinity:  Original Sin.  There was a minor input lag, but I seriously might be the only one who actually would have noticed it.  For example I refuse to use a wireless mouse because I can feel the slight hesitation of the wireless lag…  whereas none of the rest of the world seems to be able to.  The biggest thing I noticed is that it felt like I was watching YouTube video.  Since you are in essense streaming video across your network, there was a certain measure of blurring and artifacting of the screen.  This was most noticeable when confronted with large areas of a dark color, but it was not bad enough to be anything more than an annoyance.

The deal breaker for me however was that every time I tried to alt+tab out of the game to check something… the stream would crash out, and in a game where saving your progress is important this meant that a couple of times last night I lost a bunch of progress.  Alt+tabbing is something that is just habitual at this point, and I have done it before I even realize I did it.  So all of the problems I had with Skyrim apply here, in that either I have to force myself to NEVER alt tab… or I have to deal with the consequences of my actions.  As a result I decided to just simply deal with installing yet another game in two places.  Unfortunately since Divinity: Original Sin does not use the steamworks cloud save functionality… this also means I will be manually copying saved games between the two machines each time I decide to switch systems.

Steam in home streaming is of course still very much a beta product, and hopefully they will fix the alt+tab thing.  When they do I can see myself using it quite a bit more often, especially as my laptop ages.  What this really gives you is the ability to play games using the full horse power of your gaming machine, while on another machine that simply acts as a viewer and input device.  I’ve even seen video of someone playing games at full frame rate using a chromebook with linux side loaded onto it.  If they ever get internet streaming working, and manageable lag wise… this means there might be a time when you could play all the games on your home machine from your tablet while travelling.  What I would love to see is for this to work in a more universal fashion, so I could play the games from my PS4 while sitting at my PC or versa vicea.  I don’t think we are anywhere near there yet, but it gives me hope that maybe at some point we will be.

Old Addictions

GameCapture 2014-07-08 06-38-41-777 Over the weekend there was a point where my wife needed to get out of the house and do anything.  She had been sitting in the house for over 72 hours at that point, and just needed to see something other than the walls around her.  While we didn’t really have much in the way of errands to run, I decided to co-opt the trip and run around and visit a few pawn shops.  I’ve always loved going to pawn shops, because you really never know what you might find there.  Since I hate paying full price for anything, they are a smorgasbord of potentially awesome things for cheap.  One of the various ones we went to had a bunch of their Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 games for as low as $5 a piece.  I picked up used copies of Tekken 6, The Simpsons Game, Metal Gear Solid 4, Heavy Rain and a copy of Fallout 3: Game of the Year edition.

One of the things I have always been curious about is playing Fallout or Elder Scrolls on a console, so for $5 I could not pass the the chance to see “how the other half lived”.  When we got home I had this grand idea of testing out all of the games… but never actually made it past Fallout 3.  I booted up the game and spent the next three hours playing it before I realized how much time had passed.  This is one of those games that I can play over and over and never quite get bored of it, and I always thought it was the ability to modify it that made it so intriguing to me.  Playing on a console I have no modding at all available, so I realize it really was the game itself.  I am completely happy to wander around with wastes with nothing but a pistol, dispensing justice.

Last night after we finished our walk I went back upstairs to cool down, and made the mistake of turning on the television and continuing the journey into the wastes.  Next thing I know it is 12:30 and I am scrambling to get back to Megaton extremely encumbered, but at the same time completely unwilling to drop any of my plunder.  This will be interesting to say the least.  One of the “mods” I always install when playing the PC game is something that removes encumbrance, because I absolutely hate playing the inventory management simulation that is a Bethesda game.  That said at this point I feel committed to seeing just how well the Fallout 3 experience translates to a console.  Additionally it has been a really long time since I have played Fallout 3, as more recently I tend to play New Vegas when I get the fallout itch.  It is amazing just how much more I like Three Dog, than Mister New Vegas.

#SteamStreaming #Fallout3 #PS3

Divinity Weekend

Auto Excitement

For the most part we hung out around the house yesterday and devoted most of the entire day to working through the mountain of laundry.  As the day drug on, my wife had a few errands that she wanted to run so around 3 pm we got ready and took her vehicle as it needed gassing up.  For some time it had been squealing mercilessly, but she took it to an auto place Thursday and they replaced what I believe was the main serpentine belt assembly and tensioner.  At this point I am just parroting the talky words they told us, because I am very much not one of those guys that knows anything at all about cars.  Miraculously the squealing went away and we were super happy to no longer have to listen to it.  Yesterday for the most part was the first time we had driven it since that day.

As we were heading back to the house we were driving along our street and a pickup truck passed us, and at the same time we heard this noise.  To me it sounded like when you drive over a hot tar road and some of the chat flies up into the undercarriage.  I didn’t really think much about it, and my wife thought maybe the truck threw something out at us…  until she noticed that the battery light came on… and at the same time our engine started overheating.  We were really close to the house so we limped along and pulled in.  The engine fan was working harder than I had ever heard one work, so when we got in the driveway I popped the hood to let it get more air.  Thankfully there wasn’t the smell of anything burning, so I think that part at least is good.

We were maybe a block from the house when it happened, so we decided to go walk down to where we heard the noise to see if we could find any evidence.  I was already overheated at that point and the walk did not help.  We found no evidence of anything in the road, but while walking my wife called the auto place that we took it on Thursday, and they said that pretty much the only thing that could have happened was that the serpentine belt had broken.  Now we have to have the vehicle towed to this this morning so they can work on it again.  Luckily since they did the work, pretty much everything should be covered.  I am just thankful it happened while we were running errands and not while my wife was driving 45 minutes to work… stranding her on the side of the road.  Thankfully we have AAA and they will tow us for free, we just have to arrange that to happen this morning.

Divinity Weekend

Divinity2 2014-07-04 09-47-42-646 For me finding the Divinity Franchise has been like discovering that Fallout or the Elder Scrolls had been hiding under my nose all this time.  One of the things that drives me forward in games is the rich setting, and Rivellon has been built up to be this really cool thing over the course of several different games at this point.  While I have not played the original Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity… you are given a lot of the lore that comes from that game in Divinity II as you play through it.  So essentially I know the basic elements that happened, as you are dealing with the ramifications of them throughout your play as the Dragon Slayer.  Friday during the day I pushed forward with Divinity 2 and go to the end of the game.

Divinity2 2014-07-04 10-34-22-097 I don’t want to give any spoilers, because you really need to pick this game up on steam and play through it yourself.  But I have to say the ending is an absolute sucker punch.  I did not see it coming, nor did I expect any of the ramifications of it.  That said thankfully Divinity II:  Flames of Vengeance quite literally picks up moments after the ending of Divinity II:  Ego Draconis.  The only problem there is that after the fever pitch of the ending of the first half of the game… I just could not take playing any more in Rivellon for a bit.  So after beating it I played a little Bioshock Infinite and then Saturday I worked my way through as far as I managed to get in Tomb Raider.  I know at some point soon I will pick up Flames of Vengeance because I want to know where the story goes from there.

Back to Rivellon

DCApp 2014-07-06 08-13-00-53 Saturday I returned to the setting of Rivellon, this time decades before the events of Divinity II during the war that ensued after the death of the King Sigurd.  Essentially all of the half dragon children of the king fought for control of the land, and you play a nameless, faceless character under the tutelage of the greatest wizard of the setting… Maxos.  If you want a full and proper review you should totally check out my SteamPowered Sunday feature on the game from yesterday.  As I said in my review… the game is deeply confused as to what it wants to be.  At times it is a Civilization clone, other times a Starcraft II clone, and in still other times a dragon air combat game.  All of these disparate parts are wrapped together in a really interesting narrative firmly rooted in the conflict and setting of Rivellon.

I feel like Larian had this story that they wanted to tell about the period of strife after the death of King Sigurd, and didn’t quite know how to tell it.  Since they have never really been bound to only creating one specific type of game or another…  they opted to use the best vehicle for them to tell the story of a war… and that is the 4X and RTS genres.  The game is deeply rooted in the roleplaying fabric of their setting, and as you move through it you make decisions that effect your council of generals and the allied races assembled.  Additionally for the first time you get to see a proper map of what the world looks like and which races control which territories.  There is so much fertile ground here for future games and setting that have not been explored in any fashion.

Shortly before our eventful trip out to run errands I managed to finish the main storyline.  Unlike many other conquest type games, there is no big cinematic however as you wander around the ship you get to listen to how each of the various members of your crew feels about the events.  The overall experience was enjoyable for me, but I don think it would have been had I not had a firm grasp of the lore of the game before sitting down to play it.  This is very much a conquest game for Divinity fans, and nothing else.  It is enjoyable enough on its own and the assemblage of parts leads to a fun game play experience… but the hook for me is the storyline and nothing mechanically that I am doing.  The real payoff in playing this game is that it filled in a few more puzzle pieces in the evolving narrative of Rivellon.

Original Sin

EoCApp 2014-07-06 19-29-50-035 After the excitement with the automobile, we were so ungodly hot after our hike that we went for a swim.  When I got back upstairs I wanted to chill out a bit, so I broke the “turtle” for a bit and hopped on voice chat.  Kodra was online and we decided that we should try and play Divinity: Original Sin as a duo.  This apparently is the superior way to play the game, and since the release Tam and Ashgar has been working their way through the content talking about how awesome it was.  The game uses steam for match making, but doesn’t actually use steamworks as a server.  Instead one player starts the game and controls it, and the other player connects into that game.  This means that the player that begins the game will be the one that saves, and has the actual game files on their machine.

EoCApp 2014-07-06 19-21-47-476 I created my traditional “Belghast” character based off the fighter archetype, and was pleasantly surprised that even with the limited customization options I was able to create a character appearance I was happy with.  Another surprise is that as a fighter, apparently I also have one of the better heals in the game with cure wounds.  So not only would I be the tank for our group but also be a healer when we needed one and could not rely on potions.  We set off into the world and decided to do the tutorial dungeon.  For the most part everything was going really well, and then the connection issues started.  At first I got disconnected from Kodra’s server, and when I reconnected I was sitting in the boss chamber with no way to return to him.

EoCApp 2014-07-06 19-36-55-790 I didn’t even make it through the dialog before I got another disconnect.  We manages to get through the boss fight, and open the door for him to make his way into the encounter to join me.  On the way to the first town I got disconnected again.  At this point we ran a ping test for both of our connections.  Mine tested out almost perfectly 0% packet loss, 21 ms ping and 1 ms jitter whatever that means.  Kodra on the other hand kept getting varying results and the second time he ran it he was up to 3% packet loss, and 15 ms jitter.  Additionally while my ISP was rated at 4.39 out of 5 for quality, his is rated at 2 something.  So while so many of his problems were in fact coming from a six year old machine… there is also most definitely an ISP component happening there as well.  Rather than continuing on frustrated… we just gave up on the co-op notion for the night.

EoCApp 2014-07-06 22-58-35-411 I created my own game and started playing through the tutorial.  I have a feeling that Divinity: Original Sin is really Larian’s magnum opus.  This game is so ridiculously content dense that I cannot fathom just how many hours of playtime it will take to be able to see even vaguely close to everything in it.  I spent a good two hours faffing about, and I have quite literally done nothing past the first town.  I am still meeting and engaging with every single person in it.  This game brings back the proud RPG tradition of talking to everyone being important.  One person in a line of four might have a single tidbit of information the moves your quest forward.  Additionally you want to barter everything that has the option, because you never know what someone might be carrying and willing to part with.  I’ve seen otherwise generic NPCs carrying around blue quality items already.  This game is going to be a blast, and is likely going to cause me to stay out of the MMO scene for a little longer at least.

#Divinity #DivinityOriginalSin #DragonCommander #DivinityII

Dragon Commander: Divinity

A Cursed Bread Maker

Last night we recorded our thirteenth episode of AggroChat.  In various cultures the number thirteen can be either a positive or a negative, and going into the show I was not quite certain how that would shake out.  Apparently for us however, thirteen is a very unlucky number.  Last week Ash, Kodra and Tam were off hanging out together, and one of the activities was to build Kodra a brand new machine.  All of this time we thought his intermittent problems were related to running on six year old hardware.  Apparently whatever demons infested his previous machine have jumped ship and are now residing in the new one.  We had trouble keeping him online and when he was online he seemed to have issues broadcasting.

All of that aside I think we had a pretty good show last night.  We talked about a hole bunch of topics including Tomb Raider and the fact that I maybe just maybe finally enjoy narrative gaming experiences.  We also talk quite about about Thomas Was Alone and how that game manages to get the player emotionally attached to a red colored rectangle.  We also talk about Rob Pardo leaving Blizzard and the potential effects, as well as the idea that no one person is really that responsible for anything in a game.  Additionally we talk about the Divinity series of games, and how the publisher seems to be able to stick to just one genre.  We did pure madness this time, due to some confusion on my part we ended up with five guests.

Dragon Commander: Divinity

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-24-29-89 As has been the case so many times… I added a game to my wish list in part as a way of tracking to see if it goes on sale… and then another friend comes along and griefs me by adding it to the pile of unplayed games.  I say grief in the nicest possible sense of the word, because Ashgar has supported this thing I call Steampowered Sunday so many times in the past with an interesting game that he would like to see me play.  This time around he ended up purchasing a four game pack and decided he would not play Dragon Commander for some time.  As always I am extremely thankful of his generosity, and the fact that it pretty much determined what game I would be playing this week.  I am still pretty new to the Divinity setting, but so far I have to say I love the universe that it is set in.  I am glad that I played my way through Divinity II this week, otherwise I would have been completely clueless playing this title.

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-27-53-25 At face value this game is a rather pretty 4X title, and were it only for that the game would be forgettable.  The game is extremely confused as at times it is a Civilization clone, other times an RTS like Starcraft, and other times yet a flight simulator.  What makes the difference however is the narrative of the game and the lore of the franchise backing it up.  As a result the game takes you on this deep quest to win the hearts and minds of a kingdom and at the same time defend it from your mad half dragon brothers and sisters.  The game itself is set before the events of Divine Divinity, Beyond Divinity and Divinity II: Ego Draconis.  As such you play out the events of your quest alongside Maxos the wizard that is spoken of in Divinity II in an attempt to liberate the world.

You’re Going to Need Friends

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-26-36-21 The storyline centers around your command carrier the raven, a ship that holds many dark secrets… not the least of which is the fact that the ship itself is a bound demon.  In order to power the infernal machine, Maxos has bound Corvus the Raven demon in a special chamber that eventually you can enter.  The rest of your ship is made up of ambassadors from each of the races of the games setting, as well as a number of gifted generals that you can call upon to guide your troops in battle.  At various points these ambassadors will want to meet with you, an the above picture shows a three way discussion happening between the generals Edmund and Catherine and the Dwarven ambassador Falstaff Silvervein.

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-42-10-10 On board your ship you have representatives of the Dwarves, Lizards, Elves, Undead and Imps…  and each time you do something that benefits one faction you inevitably piss off two others.  Like so many of these games it quickly becomes a juggling game to try and keep most of them happy in the process.  Making the advisors of the various races happy seems to earn you cards that you can play that can turn the tide of a battle.  These give you surprise troops, or a tactical advantage or even there is a card called “Genocide” that lowers the population of an area before attacking it.  I’ve not actually used this one, but had the enemy play it on me multiple times and it can be rather devastating.

Taking Territory

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-28-30-99 Through the bridge of your ship you have access to the map view of your territory.  From here you can assign one building per area be it a War Forge that allows you to build units, or one of many other buildings that gather some form of resource in a turn by turn basis.  From here you try and gain a foothold against your siblings that you are locked in a land war to control as much of the Rivellon heartland as you can.  Combat is resolved in one of three ways.  You can pay one of your generals to lead your forces for you, giving you some tactical advantage in the process.  You can let your army lead itself, which seems to only be advisable if you have an extremely superior tactical advantage, or you can take up the banner and lead your forces yourself.  The limitation is that you can personally lead only one battle per turn, and similarly you can only have a single general lead your forces per turn as well.  This means that you want to limit combat to as few volleys as you can per turn.

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-35-50-40 When you choose to lead your own forces the game changes yet again.  This time around you are presented a real-time strategy playing field where you conquer resources on the map and use them to churn out more troops to eventually overwhelm your opponent.  The interesting thing about this mode is that I tend to leave it in reserve for battles where I do not have a very obvious superior tactical advantage.  There have been fights that I came into the conflict with a single unit, but through the RTS game play get the best of my opponent and push forward with a victory.  If this were not enough, you also have the ability to quite literally manifest yourself on the battlefield and take your dragon form to attack the enemy.

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-38-09-29 When the map starts there is a counter in the center of the HUD counting down how long before you can take flight and join the fight as a dragon.  When you do, you become a nearly unstoppable killing machine with a series of dragon powers that either hurt enemies or help your fighters.  From the air you can wreak havoc on enemy buildings, or hover over your troops and heal them from above.  To make things feel even cooler…  you are a Dragon with a freaking jetpack.  Personally as enjoyable as this mode is…  I tend to try and RTS my way through combat as much as possible without taking to the skies.  There are moments where you think that this game is ultimately four different games that they built, but couldn’t really decide on which one to finish.  However each of these elements is integrated so well into the whole that it just feels natural.

Embracing Controversy

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-26-58-98 There are some really odd events that play out on board of your ship, and a number of conflicts that you will be called to resolve.  Early on you are chosen to pick from one of four princesses paraded before you, and I opted to go for the one that seemed the “sweetest” which oddly enough… was the undead princess Ophelia.  Moments after tying the knot she confides in you that she is wracked by a debilitating disease that will eventually eat her bones from the marrow outwards.  There is no known cure, and her father the Undead Advisor forbids her to research any of the options as such things are considered to be heretical.  However with your permission and the protection of your ship…  there are a number of increasingly twisted things that you can do to resolve the issue.  All of them with some pretty severe moral implications as you are tested to find out just how far you would go to save your bride.

DCApp 2014-07-06 08-13-32-84 Similarly you have to deal with all manner of moral and ethical decisions as you engage with your crew.  Some will attempt to bribe you to look the other way as various things happen.  There is one specific event where an undead artist is revealed to have been a lesbian, and after her death the undead have taken to the streets trying to purge all of her art as heretical.  Do you step in and preserve her works, or do you let the course of undead society go unimpeded.  Similarly there is a general who is by nature a very misandrist character.  She comes to you telling you that she and the other female general are not making near as much as their male counterparts.  Do you do the right thing and increase their pay, while at the same time angering all the males on your ship?  The game does not shy away from presenting issues pulled from our own times, including the ratification of gay marriage.  All of which gives the setting and lore that much more of a living feel.

Sum of All Parts

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-40-07-38 If you  were to take apart all of the different games that make up Dragon Commander, you would end up with a passable but uninspired civilization clone, a passable but uninspired starcraft clone, a political intrigue and romance sim, and a dragon flight combat game.  None of the parts is really that amazing on its own, but when combined together with the woven narrative of trying to save your kingdom from the hands of your insane siblings the game becomes extremely compelling.  This is a truly ambitious title, and it is carried out with such charm that you tend to overlook the rough spots here and there.  The hardest part honestly is the fact that the tutorial could use a bit of refinement.  It took me a couple of games before I felt like I was getting the hang of it enough to survive for long.  If you like Age of Wonders and Starcraft and have ever wanted to fly a dragon with jetpacks, I highly suggest you check this one out the next time it goes on sale over on steam.  It has definitely managed to eat the better part of two days for me, and as soon as I finish with this post I plan on going back to the game and playing some more.

#DragonCommander #SteampoweredSunday #AggroChat

Raiding Tombs

Process Automation

One of the things I have figured out over the years is that things work really well only if you aren’t thinking about them.  For example if I have a repetitive data entry task, I can seem to do it awesome and at full speed…  only until I actually stop to think about what I am doing.  Hell even typing itself works amazingly well and I can compose perfectly at the keyboard with zero typos… until I stop to think about what my hands are doing.  At that point I screw everything up and get the sequence completely out of whack.  As a result I try and commit as many things as I can in life to a sort of ritual.  This frees me up to daydream about whatever the hell I want to, while still performing the task at hand on autopilot.  My morning routine is much like this, a sequence of events that happen essentially on their own, and works awesomely until I am forced to think about it.  When I do have to think about whatever I happen to be doing the process breaks down completely.

Each morning I get up out of bed, walk across the room to turn off the alarm clock.  I turn on the television, make sure it is on the local news channel, walk to the kitchen and turn on the keurig and then hop in the shower.  When I am out of the shower I get dressed, make coffee, deliver a mug to my wife and take mine upstairs into my office where I sit down at my computer and do a blog post.  After I’ve finished that I head back downstairs, feed the animals, give our eldest cat her medicine, run back into the bedroom to say goodbye to my wife, grab my chromebook and then leave the house.  At which point I head to QuikTrip, grab breakfast and consume said breakfast while I drive to work.  Finally about the time I reach work I am capable of physical exertion because my body is for the most part finished “booting up” and I walk leisurely the 1000 steps or so it takes to get into my office.  After sitting at my desk for thirty minutes or so checking email and catching up on my blogroll, I am finally at that point ready to engage in conversation.  All of this happens pretty much on its own, and any false step along the path causes the whole sequence to fall apart.

The weekends have naturally had an abbreviated version of this process, as a lot of the activities simply do not need to happen.  However the last two mornings I have decimated this process entirely, and I have been paying the price.  At first yesterday I thought maybe I just was not awake enough to go walking.  So I got up, sat up in bed and watched an entire episode of Pokémon, thinking that surely my body was fully awake at that point after having to explain why Ash Ketchum cares about collecting gym badges to my wife.  But still, even after that prep work…  my body had no clue what in the hell I was doing to it.  I feel like maybe I could add a walk into my existing process…. but essentially that would defeat the purpose, since I doubt I would be awake enough to perform until I have at least had a shower and some caffeine.  I think today will be the end of this experiment and I will return to my modified weekend process tomorrow, because right now I feel completely out of sorts.

Raiding Tombs

GameCapture 2014-07-04 21-46-03-894 I have to admit that I was never a big fan of the Tomb Raider franchise.  Maybe I am not “male” enough, but I didn’t find the previous incarnation with its two big breasts and two even bigger guns that amusing.  There were so many times in the games where I had no clue what was going on, and rarely made it more than an hour into the game before giving up.  So when the 2013 reboot happened I had no real fondness for the series, and was not even really paying attention to it.  That said something interesting happened… all of my friends raved about just how amazing the game was.  Even more interesting to me was how most of said friends raving about the game… were Female.  So I knew at some point I wanted to give it a try, but that said I have technically owned this game in one form or another for the better part of a year, but this weekend was really the first time I had given it a play.

GameCapture 2014-07-04 14-21-02-228 Traditionally I do not go in for this sort of game.  I have tried multiple times to play Uncharted, but the whole “playing a movie” aspect has always been a massive turnoff for me.  Something I just realized last night is that for the better part of the last two decades I have had my head firmly in one MMO or another.  During that time I have nibbled at single player experiences, but never really sat down to to the buffet.  In that time we moved from the golden age of 90s sandboxy rpgs like Baldur’s Gate and Fallout…  to a world where most games are cinematic on-rails experiences.  The dissonance of this cultural shift honestly took some getting used to.  I would poke my head out of MMOs long enough to consume the more free form gaming experiences like Fallout, Elder Scrolls and even to some extent Mass Effect that allowed me to go off the rails and wander freely, but I have resisted giving myself over to the “narrative experience”.

Stop Fighting It

GameCapture 2014-07-04 18-08-21-027 Basically I give up…  I cannot fight the direction my beloved game industry has gone in.  I have spent my time resisting it, and as a result have essentially turned into an old man yelling at the kids to “get off my internet”.  So after hearing yet another friend talk about just how amazing this game was… I decided to give myself over to the experience.  To get the full effect, and keep myself from trying to use the old crutch of “mouse and keyboard”, I opted to play this game entirely on my Playstation 3.  It was given away some time ago as part of the Playstation Plus package.  For awhile I considered trying to pick up the double special extended deluxe remastered edition available for the PS4, but I really don’t care about how pretty her hair is… or how realistic her sweat movement is.  The game looks gorgeous regardless of what platform you play it on, and in truth I kind of prefer the “clump” of hair rather than being distracted by seeing each individual particle.

GameCapture 2014-07-04 17-58-01-887 I like this Lara Croft so much better than the previous one.  Firstly she seems to have human proportions as well as human emotions.  The previous incarnation was essentially Wonder Woman with guns, and felt like playing a guy with tits at times.  I actually enjoyed the series of Angelina Jolie movies, but this Lara feels like a product of her circumstances, rather than someone trained and bred to be mind numbingly amazing.  In the course of this game, your character goes through some truly horrific things… things no one should ever have to.  Each time she becomes stronger for it, and you start out as this visibly naive girl and turn into a woman with razor will and a desire to survive at all costs.  Quite frankly… everything about this franchise is just better than the previous incarnations.  This is a Lara I would love to see in a movie, but in reality that is essentially what we are seeing…  movies played out through our actions.

Many Narrative Elements

GameCapture 2014-07-04 17-35-03-972 One of my favorite constructs in the game is that of the “day camp” system.  Every so often in the game there is a camp spot, be it a formal camp or just a clearing with a makeshift fire ring.  When you are at camp all of these interesting interludes happen.  Sometimes it is interaction between two characters, other times it is Lara talking to herself… and then there is a series of asides that involve her watching pre-shot footage from the video camera of another of the characters.  These little moments help to flesh out the story, and the character interactions making them all far more three dimensional in the process.  This combined with the various journal entries you find scattered throughout the levels helps to create a very three dimensional feeling of Yamatai and the characters that inhabit it.

GameCapture 2014-07-04 17-22-49-054 I think another aspect that has helped to make me fall in love with this game quickly, is that the setting itself is extremely familiar to me.  Playing Tomb Raider is like playing out what happened to Oliver Queen on the island of Lian Yu in the television show Arrow.  The fact that the best weapon Lara has at his disposal is a make shift bow… that slowly improves over the course of the levels really underlines this feeling.  So it gave me a point of reference that I already cared about that I could latch onto with both hands and use to pull me closer to the story.  The funny thing about surrendering to the narrative, is that it has allowed me to do something I rarely am able to… Play a female character and enjoy it.  Most of my game play experiences have been about inserting myself into character character I happened to be playing.  So as superior as the writing of “Femshep” might be, I could never disconnect myself enough from the character to make that work.  Now it is not like I am playing a character, but instead watching a story unfold in front of me… and it is working.

Old Dog Learns New Tricks

GameCapture 2014-07-04 22-32-07-552 Now at this point I want to go back and try again some of the game that did not work for me in the past.  So often times I wanted them to “let me play the game” and stop with all the “cutscenes” never really grasping that the game had changed, and I was simply not prepared for that sort of a game play experience.  Another thing that has helped this process is that I have forced myself in many cases to start playing with a controller.  Earlier this weekend I was playing Bioshock Infinite with a controller, and not absolutely hating it.  I still feel like a controller does a poor job at fight targeting control, but for the most part it works well enough, and I have now reached a point where controlling my character with two thumbs has reached a place where I no longer have to think about it.  Movement and Aiming is starting to become “ritual” and as such I am rejecting it considerably less.

Not every game is going to work out to be better because of this little revelation I have gone through.  I tried to play the original Witcher again last night, and realized that “nope, it still sucks”.  That game has one of the most uncomfortable and unorthodox control schemes I have seen in some time.  No matter how awesome that storyline is…  I will likely never play it, because I cannot get past how horrible it feels.  This is the sort of game that I guess “lets play” videos exist, because while I would love to know what happens storyline wise… there is no way I am going to play it.  I’ve given it three tries, at separate times and come up with the same rejection.  I guess this is literally a case of three strikes and you are out for me.  There are many games however, namely console titles that I look forward to dusting off and trying to play again.

#TombRaider #PS3