Real Life “Mons”

PokeCat

Garden Guardian

PokeCat

Yesterday was an interesting day for a bunch of reasons… not the least of which was the massive gale force storm that blew through downtown Tulsa.  Over lunch yesterday I decided to go for a walk in Woodward Park in a vague attempt to catch some new Pokemon.  Unfortunately the entire time I was there it seemed as though the servers were acting up horribly.  The park is littered with a dozen or so stops, and most of them were not loading for me when I attempted to spin them.  So I roamed around a bit in the 94 degree heat and humidity and finally wound my way around to the Linneaus garden where I met the adorable cat above.  I am guessing it belongs to someone in the neighborhood behind the park because it is very much obviously a pet… and obviously one that has been tagged to roam freely.  This is also where I encountered what I believe were my first geohackers.  Pokemon Go has had a few unofficial releases as folks have modded it like the somewhat humorously named Pokemon Go Anywhere that lets you click to move.  This is obviously a one way trip to ban city because it will be relatively trivial for Niantic to determine these folks are running an unofficial release of the game.

However there is a whole other batch of folks that have installed fake gps tools on their rooted android phones, that allow them to essentially teleport to anywhere in the world.  This is the sort of behavior I think I was experiencing yesterday at lunch.  The Linnaeus Garden is a Poke Gym and is out of range of any of the nearby parking lots and streets.  As a result the only real way to go over there and check on it is to get out of your car and walk up to the path leading into it.  While I was there it was just me and this cat, and no one else within range of the Pokestop.  When I rolled up on it the stop was Blue so I opted to plop down in a bench and do some battling to increase its prestige levels.  The adorable cat came up and was friendly and I managed to add a few hundred prestige points before I got bored and wandered off.  As I was walking out of the garden area, the gym flipped from Blue level 3 to Red level 3 instantly… still zero people around.  So either someone was registering legitimately wrong on the GPS, or someone was actually geohacking to take over the gym.  This makes me wonder just how many gyms are being flipped by folks cheating like this?

After this incident I made my way to the car and was just about to leave the park, when I gave the app one last check.  While I had really found nothing of interest the entire time in the park, suddenly there was a Bulbasaur within a single footprint away from my vehicle.  So I hopped back out of the car, locked it and began the search.  There are lots of supposed methods to make tracking down a Pokemon easier, but I largely just wander around aimlessly until I find it.  Within a few minutes of going the wrong direction I finally doubled back and found it rather quickly.  After that it was a lot of wasted Pokeballs before I managed to catch the orange border critter and make the trip to the park not a complete failure.  I grabbed lunch really quickly and headed back to the office where I was greeted with this giant wall of evil looking storm clouds.  As I pulled into the parking garage the tornado siren was blowing… and in true Oklahoma fashion there was some guy out there live streaming the storm rolling into the downtown area from his phone.  When I got up to my floor everyone had been told to stay in the central area and away from the windows.  Shortly after that they called the all clear on the tornado warning, but the storm still raged on for two and a half hours.  From what I hear there is quite a lot of damage in various areas of town from the straight line winds, that can be just as destructive as a tornado.

Big Bunny Returns

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I’ve talked about my love of our backyard and all of the critters that show up there periodically.  There is one however that I love above all of the rest… and that is big bunny.  Yeah I realize it is kinda a stupid name for him, but he is literally a massive bunny as seen above in the phone.  After the storms blew through apparently he decided to hang out in our backyard for awhile.  A few months back he essentially called our backyard home for a few days… and since then I have seen him all over the neighborhood so I am guessing this is a shared phenomena.  Firstly I am shocked and amazed that any rabbit would survive this long in our environment to get that damned big.  Secondly… we’ve wondered if he is a pet that someone let loose because he seems super chill around human beings.  All of this said… I may or may not have walked over to the grocery store with no purpose other than to buy something to feed the Rabbit.  When I got back he was nowhere to be seen, but I set out a pile of lettuce leaves on the deck and then thirty minutes later or so I peered out the window and sure enough… he had chomped down on the pile.  Afterwards of course I was told that lettuce was a less than ideal and often times dangerous food for Rabbits so I will have to adjust that.  Nonetheless I keep thinking that if we feed him, he might hang out in our yard more often.

Past that I took advantage of the cool evening and went out roaming looking for “mons” with little luck.  It was quite literally seventy two degrees last night, so given how often I had walked in near hundred degree temperatures… I figured I could not pass up that opportunity.  After striking out in my own neighborhood I hopped in the car and drove to a few parking lots that I have had luck in the past.  Not sure if they were scared away by the storm, or if the servers were crapping out again… but I found next to nothing.  That is until I pulled into the Aldi parking lot on a whim and found the bane of my existence… the Oddish.  I had managed to find one earlier and after a single Pokeball throw it ran away on me.  So this time around I was hoping that I would be able to catch it and finally fill that hole in my Pokedex.  The truth is the most important part of this game for me personally is catching new stuff, and when I can’t do that I get a little flustered.  So I threw a ball and it landed really well…  and got two twitches, before the damned Oddish broke out again and ran away.  So another close call but still zero luck in actually catching it.  As far as new finds for the day I did alright racking up a Bulbasaur, Koffing and Abra taking my total to 58 caught and 61 seen.

Lettuce Fairies

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Air Conditioning Saga

The last several day have been interesting to say the least, but in ways I have not really talked about in my blog.  We moved into our house in 1999 and at that time the air conditioning unit was original to the house circa 1980.  So the fact that our unit would fail has been this weight hanging over us for well over a decade.  For at least a decade it has had a slow leak which meant that roughly once a season it would freeze up solid, and the service folks would come out and top off the Freon and get us up and going again.  Each and every service guy has said essentially the same thing… keep the unit going as long as we can because “they don’t build them like this anymore”.  A few weeks ago we finally reached the endgame with our unit as something rattled loose and started trying to vibrate it to death.  The actual fix was going to cost over $1000 and that was simply something I could not in good conscious do given that the unit as a whole would still eventually fail sooner rather than later regardless of said fix.  I did however come up with a hedge fix that held us until them… which was essentially placing a huge sandstone rock on top of the unit which dampened the rattling enough to keep things going for a bit while we sorted out options for a replacement unit.

Old Unit vs New Unit
Old Unit vs New Unit

Now in some parts of the country air conditioning might be an optional thing… but in Oklahoma with our regular over one hundred degree fahrenheit days it is an absolute necessity.  So Monday and Tuesday we had workers in the house installing the new unit, and the last several days we have been trying to get used to the way it works.  Traditionally AC units are either on or off, meaning you either get 100% power or nothing at all.  This new one has a stepper motor that goes from 35% to 100% in 1% increments, which is really odd to get used to because it rarely ever shuts off completely.  It just sort of cycles down to next to nothing at times, but essentially tries to maintain a stable temperature at all times.  The other thing this unit has is a built in dehumidifier, which means we have been going through this adjustment period when we are trying to figure out what the new norm is.  Previously we kept the house around 73 degrees, but that is honestly way too cold now… so for the last bit we’ve landed somewhere around 75 degrees and that seems to be working out okay.  Finally the unit has a built in hospital filtration system, which means all of the air in the house is almost completely allergen free…. which was almost immediately noticeable the first time I stepped foot outside of the house after sleeping a night under the new system.  I was like walking out and hitting a wall of pollen and humidity.

Goobbue Rider

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Chompy Teeth Monster FTW!

Needless to say the last several days this has taken most of my energy, and as a result my gaming has been extremely scattered consisting of some Pokemon Go and a bunch of logging into various things and doing maintenance type tasks and then logging out again.  One of those tasks that I have been trying to do religiously however is the Sylph quests in Final Fantasy XIV… or as we usually call them the “Lettuce Fairies”.  Since the moment I saw that there was a Goobbue mount I have wanted one, but the Slyphlands in general and the daily quests they offer are probably the most annoying set to grind.  So during the 2.0 content I nibbled away at them but never really made a concerted effort to work on them.  However at level 60 they are insanely easy and actually when everything is not aggroing out… the Sylphlands are rather charming.  So over the last bit I have been focused on pushing through the reputation grind so that I could be a tiny Lalafell on a giant monster.  Last night I managed to complete the last of the quests and now I am riding tall on my big buddy.  Next up I am working on the Sahagin quests for no particular reason other than the fact that they were the next highest.  I really did not know how much faster the quests go when you hit the rank three quests and can start doing nine a day.  If nothing else this gives me a solid purpose to be in game and see folks every night even if I am not necessarily running complicated content.

Descending Further

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Last night I also played quite a bit more Necropolis, and I think I finally get the comparison to Dark Souls.  Both are games that when you encounter a completely new type of monster, you are likely going to die a lot.  A number of my deaths have been caused by me learning how to properly battle a specific type of critter, and since my attacks are rather slow and deliberate it is not like I can simply spam my attack key and pray for the best.  I’ve also found myself needing to bait monsters to keep them from swarming me at the same time.  So those Everquest/DAoC body pulling skills are coming in handy.  All of this said I am still not terribly far into the game.  Last night I made it through the first floor and managed to transition to the second floor… where the mocked me for this achievement.  Then moments later I encountered a brand new type of monster and died horribly within moments.  I think the worst thing about restarting each time is going back to the original crappy starter weapon.  I wish I could somehow carry my loadout into the next life, but I guess scavenging usable equipment is a large part of the game play.  I think this is very much going to be one of those “play a bit each night” type of games for me, because I cannot really see grinding my face against it.

 

Zubat Infestation

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So Many Zubats

Screenshot_2016-07-11-13-50-05I’ve slowed down a bit on the Pokemon Go namely because it is getting harder and harder to find new ones.  At this point I have captured 49 different critters out of the 52 I have seen, and I’ve noticed an extreme deficiency in the number of electric, fire and plant types.  I’ve spent my lunches roaming around to other areas of town, attempting to sort out where they might be hiding.  I would assume that plant types could maybe be found in a park, but as far as Electric and Fire types…  I have no clue at all.  The single Fire type that I have managed to pick up comes from a Chilli’s parking lot… which I found more than a little hillarious.  As far as electric types I have been near the electrical switching station in our neighborhood with little luck, but past that there is really nowhere that streams “electrical types”.  I’ve heard rumors that they often times come out during thunderstorms, but considering we have had several and I have not seen any yet I am doubting that one.  The reality is there are as many rumors for how to find specific Pokemon as there were for how to summon the Ancient Cyclops in Everquest, and I figure none of them are really true.  Given that this is a map based game, in theory everything should be based on some sort of obvious landmark.  Following that logic I keep wondering if I can go to a graveyard to find Ghost types, but I have not been willing to cross that line yet.

The huge truism however is that we have an over abundance of Zubats.  Right now they are way more common than quite literally any other type of Pokemon.  There was a point where I recently had 25 that I had captured and had just been too lazy to hand them in to the trainer.  I’ve made six different Golbats, and now am simply just ignoring the flappy critters when I see one.  Someone has been pretty much chain summoning lures on one of the Pokestops that I walk past on the way in and out of work… and every single time I get within range it is loaded with nothing but Zubats.  As I walk through the parking garage… more Zubats.  All of this is hilarious when I hear from Ashgar that he has yet to even catch a single one.  Then things that are super common for other people like the Oddish…  are next to impossible to find around me.  At some point I am thinking I need to make a trip over to Fayetteville because my friend TangerineDada has all sorts of Pokemon that I have not seen anywhere near me.  Then I ask myself… is it silly to take a road trip just for capturing Pokemon? Almost certainly but it is nonetheless entertaining.

Necropolis

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For a little bit now my friend have been talking about Necropolis, a new dungeon crawler from Harebrained Schemes the makers of the very awesome Shadowrun tun based RPGs.  This game keeps getting compared to Dark Souls, but I am not completely sure why the reference.  Essentially this is a rogue-like dungeon crawler with procedural generated levels.  This is the sort of game where you are not designed to get terribly attached to your character, because more than likely you are going to die quickly and often.  Similar to Rogue Legacy it has a mechanic built into the game where your deaths serve a greater purpose in that your actions garner favor with the deity of the labyrinth.  You can then purchase abilities at the scriptorium which tweak your experience allowing you to have more health, or hit harder all in an attempt to fine tune your character experience.  The concept of the game seems right down my alley, and the art style is reminiscent of Journey or any number of not quite realistic cartoon shaded games of late.

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The game however has a bunch of problems, that I am not sure if they are intentional or if they are simply bugs that will be patched out later.  Combat feels more than a little bit maddening at times in that there seems to be no limit to the number of things that can be registering attacks on you at the same time.  So this means that if you are unlucky you might round the corner and get six or seven mobs swarming you at the wrong moment.  Normally speaking in brawler type games this is manageable in that the game gives you invincibility frames in the form of being staggered… so that not every thing attacking you can actually register damage on you at the same time.  In Necropolis you can absolutely get surrounded and watch your health go from full to zero in seconds.  However for all I know there might be a scriptorium ability that changes how that works.  The other slightly frustrating thing is that combat feels a little sluggish.  I played with an xbox controller and right bumper is the light attack and right trigger the heavy.  Even light attacks are nowhere near as responsive as I would hope them to be, and heavy attacks require near perfect timing because of the extremely lengthy swing animation.  All of this said…  I enjoyed the little bit that I played and I want to figure out more of the game.  There are two kinds of unfair gameplay… the ones that make you just want to throw your controller across the room, and then the ones that make you want to figure out how to avoid the pitfalls of the system.  This at least for me appears to be the later, so I fully expect to play a bit more tonight and get a bit further.

 

Playing Together

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This has already been an interesting morning so far, and it is only 6 am.  I got up and did my normal routine of making coffee for my wife and I.  I heard what sounded like rain so I took a peek outside like I often do, because the pool is an amazing indication of rain.  All of those tiny droplets breaking the water show up far better than they do on land.  As I stared out at the pool I noticed something moving around in it that I could not quite identify, so I took my cup of coffee outside to investigate.  In the pool was this poor little field mouse that looked as though it had been swimming desperately trying to find a way out of the pool for awhile.  I basically had two options… either help him now, or fish him out of the skimmer basket later once he eventually lost his battle with treading water indefinitely.  I of course opted for the first, and started looking around the yard for something I could use as a ramp to help him get up and out of the water.  I finally landed upon using a shovel and then began the battle of trying to convince him that I was actually trying to help.  Once I finally got him up and out of the water he essentially collapsed on the shovel making it extremely easy to get him up and out of the water and over onto our deck.  The little guy sat there for a bit before realizing that he should be afraid of humans, and eventually scurrying off in the general direction of the green belt behind our house.  Sure he was what most people would consider a pest, but to me he was cute and fuzzy and in desperate need of assistance. I am absolutely a sucker for such things.

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Last night also was a super interesting night.  I had talked about events serving as a bit of a catalyst to get a large number of us back and engaged with Final Fantasy XIV.  Part of that was “getting the band back together” as it were, and namely that meant reconstituting our raid team.  So we spent last night working through some of the things many of us had sitting unfinished namely The Final Steps of Faith and Containment Bay S1T7.  Before going into the fight Morehnai had warned us that the Nidhogg battle is little overtuned, and might be a bit difficult given that a bunch of us were sitting at exactly the 205 item level cap. He was really the only one of us that could be considered even the slightest bit over-geared with the rest between the bare minimum and just shy of 210.  We also largely insisted on going into the fight completely blind, so this meant a handful of wipes as we started to learn the mechanics.  The first wall was the add phase dps check, which we quickly sorted out and figured out ways to optimize our dps including me shifting to Deliverance stance for that big.  Other than that it was largely working through the moving parts, avoiding damage that we didn’t need to take and ultimately more optimization before we ended up getting the sweet sweet kill.  Sure normal mode Nidhogg is not exactly extreme raiding, but it felt like a good return to working together as a team.

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After that we went through the Sephirot encounter, which was not surprisingly an awful lot easier.  With that once again mostly being use learning what various things meant and how to avoid the damage.  Sephirot being interesting in that there are a ton of non telegraphed attacks, namely the one where he turns to face a direction and then does a potentially platform wide attack.  Other than that it was also learning the dance of his knock back attacks, and within a couple of attempts we had a dead member of the warring triad.  Finally since we were short on time we popped back into Bismarck and killed us a sky whale earning Thalen a spiffy looking bow and the rest of us more Expanse Totems.  Next week we are going to kill us a giant bug and hopefully clear the second half of Alex.  Past that the sky is the limit, but it felt really good to be together and working as a team once more.  Past that I wrapped up the rest of the story and it very much feels like we are saying goodbye to everything we have known over this expansion.  I am seriously beginning to think that when Fan Fest happens in October that we will be getting the announcement of a new expansion, and not only that but that it will only be a few months away.  The Deep Dungeon will serve as something for us to play with in the meantime and a vehicle which allows us to catch up all of those jobs that we never got around to leveling.  In any case it feels like a really good time to be back in Final Fantasy XIV and back working together as a team.

Adorableness and Agitation

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Mixed Weekend

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This weekend was a bit of a mixed bag.  One the positive side we decided to go visit the adorable kitten that is being taken care of by my Mother in Law.  The little guy still seems to greatly favor me, and wandering around my beard…  but this is a photo of him asleep behind my wife’s neck.  To be truthful just a bit before this photo he was asleep behind my neck but she wanted kitten snuggles and swiped him.  Unsurprisingly he settled right down and went back to sleep, having just finished a big meal a little beforehand.  The kitten is almost heartbreakingly sweet, but is otherwise doing amazingly well.  I also thought that maybe while I was in a new area and around a lake I would find all new sets of Pokemon, but for the most part on that front it was a complete bust.  I found a handful of Pidgeys but that was honestly just about it.  Which honestly I guess I am not terribly surprised given the cry on the Reddit about the need for better distribution of critters in deeply rural areas.  Being around said kitten honestly was a bit of a mixed blessing, because on one level he is so adorable.  On the other level it is a little bittersweet knowing that he will more than likely never come home to stay with us.  The kitten is more more less already spoken for, and then there is the problem with his gender.  After having a tom cat that had massive issues with spraying…  we don’t ever want to live through that again.  So for the last several years we have largely sworn off male cats.  I just have no clue how to make sure a kitten never turns into a sprayer, because nothing we did to try and rehabilitate Mac ever seemed to make a difference.

As far as Pokemon Go is concerned, we recorded pretty much an entire podcast this weekend devoted to the game.  However for whatever reason I didn’t really play much of it this weekend.  During the podcast I burned an incense only to find out that I have a really hard time paying attention to that and podcasting at the same time.  While I ended up getting a Psyduck after chasing it around my neighborhood for ages…  I know for certain  that I missed out on a handful of critters given that while the incense will draw them close, it doesn’t actually make them stay around for terribly long.  I know for certain I missed out on a second Goldeen this way, and probably several others because I kept getting lost in talking and forgetting entirely that I had a timer ticking down.  Friday night I did a little parking lot hopping, driving to different parking lots and walking around looking for anything interesting.  Doing this I managed to catch a Snorlax, which apparently is super rare and I get why given how rough it was to actually capture.  It started doing this thing that seemed like it was blowing the Pokeball to the side making everything curve out of the way.  I wound up feeding it a berry, and getting some curve ball action going on to counteract it finally seeing that magical third twitch of the ball meaning I had successfully captured it.

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The bulk of the weekend though, and yesterday especially I was just frustrated and filled with rage.  I would love to be able to make sense of it but really there was no real reason for it.  I just woke up Sunday morning with a horrible headache and everything seemed to anger me.  I tried to isolate myself as much as possible because the moment I was actually around someone, like my poor wife I was snapping at them.  The headache was intense, but not so much as to cause that sort of reaction.  I struggled with finding something to really settle down and enjoy, that is until late Sunday afternoon I settled on finally watching through the tail end of the episodes of The Magicians.  The uncomfortable sensation of wanting to play something, but nothing quite fitting the bill was maddening.  I swear over the course of the day I booted up literally every game installed on my laptop only to log right back out a few minutes later frustrated.  Probably the best thing I could have done was taken a nap… but given my less than friendly relationship with sleep that would have only lead to more problems.  Basically for most of Sunday I was in essence a fussy baby, with my pacifier finally being mindlessly watching a television show.  After I found something that actually seemed to keep my interest, I was then apparently able to log in and play something… and I finished the night by wrapping up my crystal grind for the new Relic weapon in Final Fantasy XIV.  Now I am apparently in need of running a series of dungeons to “harden” the weapon or some such.  Which makes me wonder if I can now do Snowcloak unsynced and solo it.

Pokemon By Night

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No Seriously… Walking Simulator

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Screenshot_2016-07-07-17-23-48I named yesterday’s blog post “Walking Simulator” half jokingly, but after two days of Pokemon after dark…  it is really a truthful statement.  You can look at my activity tracker and see very clearly the impact of the launch of Pokemon Go.  While my wife thinks I am insane, I am however outside and getting exercise without really noticing it.  Last night for example I walked quite literally for an hour without really realizing it.  Sure I had broken a sweat because it was 94* outside, but thankfully there was a nice wind to greet me oddly enough in pretty much any direction.  The best part about this is… I am not the only one doing it.  This is the second night I have gone wandering, and Wednesday night I was really hoping I would not run into server issues.  However for the most part starting around 8 pm the server seemed to be more or less stable, or enough so for me to risk trying to find some of the night spawning critters.  Additionally bolstering that confidence, my friend Void had posted a link to a fledgling server status page for the Pokemon Go gateways.  So with all bars reporting green I ventured out into the world.
I had barely made it into the neighborhood next to mine when I saw a couple walking along staring at a phone…  and a few minutes later I saw the unmistakable action of throwing pokeballs at some critter.  I smiled and held up my phone and they held up theirs as a sign of recognition, which caused a round of chuckles from all of us.  It turns out they too were trying to take advantage of the shockingly good server connectivity and had just managed to catch a Pidgeot.  Unfortunately the critter did not seem to still be around but a few minutes later I found my own rareish Pokemon in the form of a Weepinbell.  I say rareish, largely because don’t know how common this or that Pokemon is… but the pre-evolved forms seem to be significantly rarer than the base forms.  I found this list last night which attempts to list the pokemon caught in beta based on relative rarity.  Which also made me super happy about one of my finds earlier in the day.  For the last several weeks I have been going by after work each evening to water the flowers of a friend of ours while she is out of town.  I had just pulled into the parking lot in front of her apartment and thought… I should probably check to see if there are any cool Pokemon around.  Sitting right there almost literally in the parking space was a Tauros, a critter I had never actually caught in any of the games.  It took a bunch of tries but sure enough a mixture of RNG and finger crossing got me that third little twitch that meant it was captured.

Screenshot_2016-07-07-08-14-53At this point I have seen twenty eight different pokemon, and captured twenty six of them.  I missed a Butterfree on that first lunch outing, and then failed to catch the Fearow Wednesday night due to server issues.  I say not bad at all for two days worth of effort and doing all of this legitimately… aka not using the cash shop items to “attract” Pokemon.  Some things I have learned through hitting Pokestops apparently forty seven times based on the stats kept within the app.  Pokeballs are plentiful… I now have over 140 of them so don’t fret too much about tossing several to catch a single Pokemon.   Potions and Revives are also plentiful given that I have 54 and 36 respectively.  Pokestops also seem to have the rare chance of giving you some cash shop type items given that I have received at least one incense off of a stop, and one of the 3 charge extra incubators that let you keep more than one egg going at once.  Things I have learned from friends is that apparently you can bolster the defenses of a gym held by your team if you place Pokemon on it as well.  Right now the gym in my town is held by the team I ultimately chose, Mystic aka Team Blue.  So on my way out of town this morning I plan on stopping by just long enough to slap that hefty Weepinbell I got last night on the roster.  I have no clue if I will lose said Pokemon or if it will return to me if fallen, or if I can heal it with potions etc.  I do however know that if you hold a gym for your team you can earn pokecoins the cash shop currency as well as other in game items.

The other thing worth talking about this morning is that through a combination of friends and a super helpful Reddit post I finally have a handle on what the tracking system in the game means.  When you click in the lower right corner of the screen you can see which Pokemon are near you.  Each of them will show a number of tracks out beside them with the default seeming to be three.  Number one thing I learned is that the list is sorted in order of distance from you, meaning the ones at the top of the list are closer than the ones at the bottom.  Second thing I learned is that if you click on a Pokemon it begins to track that specific one.  If while tracking your bar flashes, that means you are walking in the direction towards the Pokemon, and as you get closer the number of tracks will start decreasing.  When you eventually get down to zero tracks it should spawn near you, and allow you to try and capture it.  This would have been extremely helpful to know last night as I seemed to be wandering around trying to find one of two Psyduck in my neighborhood.  I will say years of seeing silhouettes of Pokemon have greatly prepared all of us for knowing precisely what might be in our neighborhood based on the outline.  Last night there also appeared a blip of a Tentacool for a bit, but I never found it either.  Hopefully you too are getting out and walking and finding your own stash of critters.  If you are curious what I have actually caught I am for the moment keeping a crappy spreadsheet until I figure out what I want to do properly.

Walking Simulator

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Gotta Catch Em All

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If I had any topic to talk about today, it was immediately erased from my mind as soon as I got my grubby hands on Pokemon Go.  I was in fact one of those bastards that went through the relatively simple process of installing it to bypass the region lockouts.  First off I want to address something that is frustrating me, is that for some reason people seem to think defeating region lockouts is “hacking”.  Region lockouts are dumb, and at least on Android devices, any time you download anything you are already downloading the APK as that is how anything installs.  The beauty of the android platform is there isn’t just one app store, in fact on my device I currently have Google Play, Amazon Underground, and APK Pure all installed and living happily together.  These are especially handy when confronted with a device that for whatever reason is trying to block the actual Google Play store and instead keep redirecting you to their carrier run store.  Anyways with that out of the way, I downloaded the APK and had it sitting on my device while I ran out to lunch yesterday.  On my way out of the building I caught my first Pokemon which was one of the original three starters….  Go Team Squirtle!  Then before I had even left my building I also happened to encounter a Staryu…  things were getting off to a great start.

Screenshot_2016-07-06-16-23-51I had errands to run so I drove out to one of the nearby hubs of shopping that houses a ton of big box stores.  I needed to pick up some cat
food and cat litter from Target, and also wanted to pop by Rackroom shoes to see if I could find any sandals that I did not hate this season.  When I pulled into the parking lot of Target I opened up the app and noticed several Pokemon nearby where I parked.  When you are anywhere, you see critters within the vicinity of you… and when you get close enough to one you can attempt to capture it.  Sadly I have no screenshots of the capture process because it goes quickly.  Essentially it is playing Skeeball, and for those who don’t have that cultural frame of reference… you are flicking the Pokeball with your finger and trying to hit essentially a target that represents the sweet spot for capturing each specific Pokemon.  If you tap on the Pokemon you will see a set of rings with a green spot being the best possible place to land your hit in order to capture.  You have a limited number of attempts before the Pokemon runs away and cannot be seen on your map.  Of note all of this stuff tries to place your Pokemon in your surroundings using Augmented Reality via your phones camera.  I however didn’t really want to see the real world and would far rather have a cartoony Pokemon world to be wandering around in and capturing critters.

Screenshot_2016-07-06-12-33-01So there I was wandering around a Target parking lot, I am sure looking like an idiot… but you know what I didn’t care.  I was having fun and capturing all sorts of cool Pokemon.  By the time I left that parking lot I had managed to gather up a whole bunch of new critters
including a really nice Eevee.  Now each Pokemon you catch has a CP level…  which doesn’t mean much to me as of yet because well I just started playing this yesterday.  However from what I have been able to tell the higher the number the better, and this factors into what sort of stat package that they have.  So my Eevee in question came out of the box as it were with 104 which is significantly higher than any other Pokemon I have seen yet.  Ironically the hardest capture yet was my Magikarp, namely because it kept flipping around aimlessly anytime I tried to toss the Pokeball.  Not only do you have to try and land the sweet spot, but most Pokemon will move around on you while trying to do this.  Similarly I utterly failed at capturing a Butterfree because apparently it is a little stronger willed than others.  I captured it three times… and all three times it broke out of the ball… eventually flying away never to be seen again.

The reason why I titled this post Walking Simulator, is because that is a genre name that folks have tacked onto games that are about walking around and exploring virtual worlds… but without any combat to speak of.  Pokemon Go however is quite literally a game about walking.  The world has all of these objectives out there in the form of PokeStops and Gyms that seem to appear based on the previous Ingress player portal locations according to Thalen who had apparently played that game way more than I ever did.  So for me I have one right around the corner from my house in the form of a statue.  So last night I convinced my wife to go for a walk… under the guise of exercise but she knew that really I just wanted to go out and capture Pokemon.  Now we get into the larger problem of Pokemon Go right now… the servers and uptime.  For most of the day yesterday things were crashing in spectacular ways, likely because Niantic was simply not ready for the crush of folks who like me decided to bypass the silly region lockouts.  This immediately started a ban rumor floating around that anyone who downloaded the APK was going to get banned from the application.  Yet in all of the threads I never saw anyone reporting anything other than normal intermittent service issues.

Screenshot_2016-07-06-13-56-40Pokemon Go is a deeply connected application.  Not only do you need to stay in fairly constant communication with the Niantic servers over what I am guessing is some sort of a Web Service call… you also have to have unfettered connectivity to GPS satellites in order to keep your positioning true.  This means two things…  namely that gameplay can be unpredictable, and that your battery will weep in misery at the drain.  When I went out to lunch I had about 85% on my battery… and after about an hour of running errands and capturing Pokemon I was sitting around 52% if I remember correctly.  Ingress players are notorious for carrying a bunch of portable battery packs just to make sure that their gameplay is uninterrupted and truthfully that is probably going to be the standard operating procedure with Pokemon Go as well.  So in the middle of my walk last night I encountered a Fearow in the grocery store parking lot.  When I went to try and capture it however I threw the ball… and the screen locked up with the ubiquitous spinning Pokeball icon in the left corner of the screen working madly on trying to reacquire a signal.  I finally had to shut down the application, and reboot my phone… to restore any semblance of connectivity… and even then when I got to the PokeStop outside of my Neighborhood I couldn’t actually retrieve anything from it.  While the game has launched officially now… it is very much not without issues.

However what exists is extremely awesome.  For me Pokemon was always a game about capturing interesting critters, and the combat and story always took a backseat.  When I caught all of the available Pokemon in an area I stopped caring about it and simply wanted to move on to the next area so I could see fresh critters.  For me… this game is likely going to be crack, but also going to be an excellent excuse to get out of the house and walk around my neighborhood.  Where I work downtown there are a couple dozen different PokeStops within easy walking distance so more than likely I am going to start venturing out at lunch to go find them.  What is disturbing is the level of saturation this app has already gotten.  There are four or five different gyms located in downtown Tulsa, and by noon yesterday when I went out to run errands… each and every single one of them was already claimed by a player.  Now these might be beta players or “Beaters” as the community has taken to calling them, but it might also be folks like me who grabbed the APK and just started playing.  There are so many aspects of the game I can’t really talk about yet… because I have not experienced them.  There is apparently a whole team mechanic that will happen at some point, but as I am sub level 5 that is not something I have encountered yet.  I do plan on going Team Blue, and I believe that is where the rest of my friends are leaning as well.  In any case… if you have ever loved Pokemon I suggest at least checking it out.  I have this feeling that it will be something I obsess with for a few weeks… and then never touch again…  much like the other Pokemon games I have played.  However it does at least make walking and running errands a far more interesting experience.

New Beginnings

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Turning A Bad Situation

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Yesterday was an extremely odd day, where a good deal of it I spent sifting through horrible IRS interface documentation, and then the rest googling phrases in said documentation to try and find better documentation.  That alone had me at the literal end of my wits… which we all know are of limited supply in the first place.  Then something happened… something that could have been extremely bad.  I had an interaction with with a player that I really do not like, that I finally had to distance myself from to keep from losing my shit.  Several years ago I wrote about the infamous “Bunny Incident” and I felt like I was nearing the threshold of unfocused profanities flying freely.  So I stepped away and went to lunch, then when I finally came back to a device I found out that apparently I was not the only one who had been feeling that way.  So what could have been a horrible incident… actually turned into something completely different.  I know I am vague-booking here a bit, but I don’t really want to drill too far into the who and what because that isn’t terribly important in the truth because I am focused on what happened afterwards.  For awhile now I have been back playing MMOs after what felt like a several month long break from them, but I have been back largely playing by myself.  I have been enjoying my time in Rift and ArcheAge, but enjoying things as a solo venture is just different from playing with a large group of people who seem to be equally happy to be playing with you.

So this negative event has seemingly acted as a bit of a catalyst, in a measure that I wasn’t sure was possible.  What happened last night is that a large number of us logged into Final Fantasy XIV and spent almost the entire damned evening running content together.  It was truly glorious, and was originally focused around the concept of getting people caught up in the storyline but eventually filtered into so many different areas.  So from the moment I got home from work, until about 10 pm I spent that entire time hanging out with friends and tanking various things that people needed.  I lost track along the way what all we ended up running but I was literally down for anything anyone needed.  I helped people get caught up in 3.2 story content, 3.3 story content, the Void Ark, Alexander four…  basically a bunch of stuff that folks didn’t want to do solo but were more than willing to tackle with friends.  The end result was this amazing blur of laughter and the best aspects of what can happen when you are playing with your friends.  Instead of letting one negative event pull us down, we have seemingly galvanized that one interaction into something that I hope will last past the one night.

In talking with my friends throughout the night it seems like we were all waiting for the same thing.  For the bulk of our original group to return to playing the game.  When you have spent a year and a half struggling together…  playing without those folks seems like a hollow proposition.  I am thankful for the folks who have kept the home fires burning in the Greysky Armada during this extended absence, because it means we have a free company to come home to.  The bulk of yesterdays strife is rooted in a simple miscommunication, like so many conflicts seem to be.  Namely there were ground rules set that were never communicated to those of us who had been returning, around what was expected.  So when the person in question gave some rather ham-fisted edicts and unfortunately we took them in the worst possible way.  I am not really ready to bury the hatchet completely here, and for the time being I really want nothing to do with that person.  However what happened as a result has reinvigorated my feelings about Final Fantasy XIV as a whole.  I am certain to keep playing Rift, ArcheAge and Destiny… but for a bit I am focused on trying to help my friends get back engaged in the game.  Last night really felt like we were getting the band back together, and it was seemingly noticed by the social structure of Cactuar.  Tam and I were both welcomed back with open arms by a bunch of folks that we used to interact with on a nightly basis.  Just like returning to Rift has felt very much like returning home… coming back last night and playing Final Fantasy XIV with my friends was also very much returning home.  There is a level of joy in gaming that I felt last night that I have not felt in so many months… and it was intoxicating.

Kittens and Gaming

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Tiny Babby

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It was a good weekend, if not a very rainy one as a whole.  This made for an extremely humid evening last night for fireworks and festivities.  Our plans largely backfired because in the past we have been able to see the fireworks from the comfort of our back yard.  This time around however they apparently switched locations, and the bulk of the fireworks were hidden behind a stand of trees.  All of that aside however the highlight of my weekend was the little guy that I am feeding above.  Now to clear up some confusion… we did not adopt him but did however drive like an hour and some change to go up and see him.  My Mother-In-Law found this little guy abandoned, but I am a bit fuzzy on the details.  All I know is zero sign of mother and probably about a week old when she found him.  She has been nursing him with a bottle as pictured, and at this point we think he is somewhere between two and three weeks old.  Completely sweetheart who seemed to really like my beard.  He would curl up under it and start kneading the underside of my chin.  My wife took lots of pictures of me feeding him…  as to why it ended up with me feeding him that is anyones guess.  He seemed to take the bottle better from me, and growing up we had barn kitties… who sometimes were not that keen on being a proper momma.  So I remember occasionally having to nurse a litter by hand so I guess that muscle memory just kicked in.  We have no plans to adopt this little guy because he seems to be in just fine hands already.  Though I will admit… it was hard not to try and take him home with us.

Forty Five

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I spent a good deal of my weekend playing ArcheAge and as of last night I am level forty five.  This means that for the last two zones I have been leveling exclusively in the mixed faction regions that are more or less open PVP.  This was a huge point of anxiety around launch that ultimately I could not hit the level cap without venturing out into zones where folks could gank me.  As it turns out…  everyone seems to have something better to do with their time.  I’ve spent many an hour out in the mixed zones and while I have seen a ton of “red” players not a single one has bothered me.  Granted that might be simply because I am higher level than they were, or it might also be that they are focused on more important things.  So essentially I have leveled the same as I did before, and enjoyed questing…  with just the slightest awareness in the back of my head that I am not entirely safe.  Largely I just shifted to a point of view where if I am going to go afk… I go find a Nui shrine to do so near because of the peace aura surrounding them.  As far as leveling goes… I am slightly ahead of the curve more than likely thanks to the Patron buffs.  I am largely ignoring crafting and spending a meager pittance of labor points on opening lootbags and gear, which has kept me outfitted and is a shocking amount of experience.  I tend to let the bags collect while I am working on a quest hub, and then before moving to the next open them all and stash the crafting materials in the warehouse before moving on.  I had honestly wondered if I would hit a wall when I moved into the open pvp zones, but so far the game is just as fun as it was beforehand and I am moving along smoothly.

Taming Familiars

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Another game that I have been poking around in is Riders of Icarus after talking about it over the week with the AggroChat crew.  The character on the right is my Beserker, and the character on the left is Tamrielo’s rogue of some sort.  It is shocking how when left to our own devices… we end up creating pretty similar looking characters.  In both cases we even purposefully decided to go with a hairstyle that is unlike what we normally choose…  yet we still seemed to have chosen the exact same alternate appearance.  The game as a whole is doing some interesting things, with the central feature that makes it special being that you can go around taming mounts and combat pets.  Unfortunately unlike ArcheAge you cannot have both a mount and a combat pet at the same time… or at least I couldn’t figure out how to make that work.  There are certain aspects of the game that remind me of a whole slew of other games, but more than anything they seem to be focused on the player fantasy of mounted combat…  namely mounted aerial combat with a crossbow or lance.  This so far is the least enjoyable part of the game for me, because well… so far I suck horribly fighting in the air because it feels like I lose all situational awareness and often back into another mob while dancing around the one I am currently fighting.

Launcher 2016-07-04 23-39-04-29  Last night I managed to get to some sort of a proper dungeon and was pleased to see that you could complete it in a solo fashion, or with a full group.  The feel of the zone is extremely similar to Ragefire Chasm in World of Warcraft, but nonetheless fun and interesting.  I am wondering if on higher difficulties you have more than the single boss at the end of the cavern which is the golem pictured above.  I’ve played this game quite a bit and I am still not sure if I like it or not.  I think I might need to play the Guardian tank class a bit to see if that is maybe more my speed, because generally speaking I enjoy playing dps… but my heart is never really in it.  The game can be set up to run in a traditional action bar combat method or through left/right mouse button action combat style.  What I find personally works best is a bit of a hybrid between the two… namely setting the game into Action Mode but also using hotbar combat.  The biggest challenge for me right now is the fact that all of my attacks are fairly slow… and animation locked so dodging and avoiding attacks becomes a challenge.  I am enjoying the game enough to keep playing, but just not sure if it is different enough from the other games I am playing to keep my attention for the long haul.  If you are out there playing Riders of Icarus feel free to throw Belghast a friend invite.

Crafting Away

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As for Rift I am stuck in a bit of a holding pattern for the moment.  Each night I focus largely on completing all of the daily crafting quests for the various purple, blue and green currencies.  However I guess I have reached a point where I should probably venture into the world for real.  Over the weekend I managed to cap both the purple and blue currencies, and even though I spent them down a bit… that tells me that maybe I have focused too intently on this one aspect of the game.  I’ve been making almost nightly trips out into Goboro Reef…  that I found out from Captain Cursor I have been calling by the wrong name all of this time.  The zone was one that I did not really like a first, but for Karthite and Sarleaf farming I find it extremely relaxing.  At some point I need to just break the pattern and focus on pushing my way further into the Planetouched Wilds.  Either that or start up with the running of experts again, because I am still far from ideally geared.  However I am not sure if Experts or Intrepid Adventures are the better option at the moment.  I am really looking forward to the change to the Warlord soul that is up on the PTS, because I have always enjoyed playing it… at least significantly more so than the Paragon soul that I am currently using.  I always liked the rhythm of landing Piercing Thrust after a combo point dump attack.  It feels good to see a single attack deal that sort of damage, and supposedly the PTS changes restore the soul to general viability, which I am absolutely looking forward to.

 

Uncoordinated Ramble

Yesterday I made what seems to have been a fairly controversial post, but also one that seems to be misconstrued to be more than it really was.  The key complaint of the post was the method in which Blizzard occasionally conveys information to the fans through a dose of condescension.  That isn’t good for the brand and isn’t good for the game as a whole.  The rest of the points that I used as examples…  well they were just me pointing out ways I felt the person delivering the message was doing so in a less than friendly manner.  Yesterday I had a bunch of valuable conversation with different folks on both the main point and the sub points, and also some not so valuable discussion.  I feel like any discussion line that follows something along the lines of “you don’t have to play the game” isn’t really valuable.  Sure there are folks who just want to throw stones, burn the crops and salt the earth after they have left.  I am not one of those people… I genuinely care about this game because it is like an old friend.  However it is a friend that keeps going through really strange phases that are maybe not so good for their health.  Ultimately I am just the sort of person who has to say something eventually, and when I do… I can more or less move on knowing that I said my peace.

Every year at work when it comes time for the performance review… there is always a question that boils down to following orders.  My boss always feels the need to make a point about how I will “eventually” follow orders, but that I have to explain my point of view first.  There have been a number of times throughout my career where I have had to implement bad solutions that I knew would eventually bite us in the ass six months to a year later.  I don’t do this cheerfully, and not without first explaining all of the reasons why this is a bad idea.  However if after making my case… it is still decided that we have to do whatever this thing is… I do so to the best of my ability knowing that I made my point known.  When I leave the work world I am this same person… I have to speak my peace in order to move on.  So when I see a game making decisions that I don’t agree with…  well I stand up and say something and do so in my own private vehicle for communicating that.  This is my blog ultimately, and if you are coming here you are going to keep getting me talking about whatever happens to be important on my mind.  I enjoy your visit, and I appreciate feedback… but at the end of the day this is my blog filled with my opinions and that isn’t really something you can judge “right” or “wrong”.

Ultimately the truth is I am not deluded enough to believe for even a second that anything I say here is going to change anything outside of the confines of the limited things I have control of.  I can make my point, and inscribe it on the pages of this virtual tome.  However that doesn’t mean my point is actually going to influence anyone as a result.  You have to understand most mornings when I sit down to start writing…  I largely forget that I actually have readers.  That is not to say that I don’t value each and every reader… it is just that I end up sitting here talking to myself.  Often times the points I make, are a way of me dealing with the thoughts and feelings that I am having at the time.  It is a way of me processing the complex melange of reactions that I have boiling up inside of me, and there is something about putting it down onto paper that seems to bring forth the truest version of whatever it was that I was thinking.  Ultimately we can disagree on whatever it is that I am talking about, and that is going to be okay.  We don’t have to agree to exist within the same space, and often times it is better if we don’t.  The internet and its ease of creating echo chambers is actually a really horrible thing, and so long as a view point isn’t one that I consider toxic…  I welcome it into my mind to swirl around with the thoughts that are already there.  My thoughts on any matter are a constantly evolving and shifting mess.

When it comes to World of Warcraft, I do question if I am compatible with the view the developers have for this game.  There was an interesting side note yesterday in a conversation with Nyn about social consequences of game changes.  I brought on a sequence of ramifications related to not having various aspects of the game be “bind on account” or at least collected at an account level.  Namely talking about the number of times I have wanted to play this or that alt, but my friends really needed me to be playing my main.  When that happens you are left with a choice… do you do the socially beneficial thing and play the character that is needed to help out your friends, or do you be selfish and spend your night working on the character you really want to be progressing.  The more things that are pushed to an account basis, the more these problems just go away.  If I can be running around on my main and collecting stuff that benefits my army of alts…  then that reinforces me playing the character that is needed at any given moment.  I think in the grand scheme of things this would also go a long way towards getting tanks and healers queuing for content… because they know that ultimately there is some benefit that can trickle down to my other classes.  To which she raised the point… that these aren’t really game mechanic problems but instead social problems.

I guess my stance is that the two are irrevocably connected.  Every game change has social ramifications, and every social change effects the way players view game mechanics.  Largely I judge World of Warcraft against the actions that other companies are taking in other MMOs.  Some of them do a phenomenal job of social engineering the player base to make shifts in behavior that ultimately benefit the health of the game.  A prime example is the way that Final Fantasy XIV keeps coming up with reasons that end game characters, want to be running lower level content by making end game rewards hinge upon the collection of items from lower level content.  This reinforces the cycle of constantly having a fresh supply of high level and geared players queuing for content, and the introduction of a first time bonus mechanic makes it so that high level players actually get excited knowing that their rewards from running the content are going to be multiplied by the presence of a new player.  This is absolutely bribery, but it is bribery that works extremely well… and shows a high level of understanding for the psychology of players.  So ultimately I think the more things that can be pushed back to the account level, the more willing players will be to bring what is needed instead of what they want to keep moving forward.

This also spawned a discussion about the design philosophy of “bring the player not the class” which in truth… doesn’t really work that well.  Sure it works great in cases of Paladins and Druids… that can field a dps, tank and healer but ultimately breaks down when it comes to pretty much any other class.  Now I will agree that any tank is swappable for any other tank, and for the most part healers are also equally interchangeable.  However when it comes to DPS, it doesn’t feel quite so much the case with so many fights punishing players for bringing too much ranged dps or too much melee dps.  If anything I think more things bound at the account level helps to get closer to the “bring the player” aspect of that equation because it rewards alting in a manner that isn’t really the case yet.    Alts are the thing that keep players engaged with the game during those slow spots where progression has either topped out, or is going much slower than expected.  Bolstering the reasons for players to roll that army of alts is I think a huge part of keeping players active and subscribed to the game.  There are still some sore spots with things that have gone to account based, like the upcoming transmog changes not really working 100% cross character…  but it was a step in the right direction.  Similarly account wide mounts, pets and achievements were extremely awesome and have increased the value of each of those things for me at least.  However it feels like we just haven’t gone far enough yet.  There are so many things like currencies and factions…  that just don’t seem to make sense at a character by character basis when it would be significantly more rewarding to have those things on any character you happen to be playing.  Anyways….  this ramble has gone on long enough and gotten way out of control.  Additionally I am out of time this morning and needing to head to work.  Thanks for reading if you actually made it to this point.