Bloodlust Pays Off

What’s Wrong with TSW?

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

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

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

Bloodlust Pays Off

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

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

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

Oddly Oblivious

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

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

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

#ElderScrollsOnline #TheSecretWorld #WoW #TSW #ESO

Back to the Sewers

Jonquils say so

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

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

Back to the Sewers


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

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

It Runs on a Toaster

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

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

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

#ElderScrollsOnline #WayrestSewers

Growing Stronger

It Fit… Barely

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

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

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

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

Growing Stronger

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

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

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

The Big Alpha

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

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

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

#ElderScrollsOnline #ESO #HouseStalwart #WoW #WarlordsofDraenor

Wandering Osage County

Fridge Frenzy

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

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

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

Wandering Osage County

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

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

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

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

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

Clearance Lego Find

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

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

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

Ding Twenty

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

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

#Lego #Photography #ElderScrollsOnline #ESO #RealLife

Savior of Glenumbra

Awkward Ex-Coworkers

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

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

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

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

Savior of Glenumbra

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

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

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

Visiting a Friend

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

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

#ElderScrollsOnline #Landmark #Glenumbra #Stormhaven #ESO

Tanking Tamriel

A Shift in Tanking

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

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

Tanking Tamriel

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

1 – Fiery Grip

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

2 – Ransack

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

3 – Stone Giant

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

4 – Dark Talons

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

5 – Razor Armor

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

The Passives

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

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

The Pull

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

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

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

Combat Tactician

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

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

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

#ElderScrollsOnline #TESO #Tanking #Dungeons #DragonKnight

Banished Cells and Fungal Grotto

Life in Tornado Alley

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

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

Banished Cells and Fungal Grotto

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


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


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

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

Amazing Soundtrack

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

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

Spindleclutch’s Revenge

Wabbajack or Bust!

One of the last big decision points we had to make was picking our PVP campaign.  Essentially how Cyrodil works is that there are these campaign groups that are functionally like “servers” in that it represents one constant group of players from all three sides during a 90 day “season”.  These sides fight for control of Cyrodil and attempt to crown an emperor by holding all of the barrier keeps surrounding the White Gold Tower.  Each of these campaign groups is named after a weapon from elder scrolls lore.  Currently the most populated is “Auriel’s Bow” which is benefiting from “first in the list” syndrome… where people simply click the first option and go with it.  Oddly enough “Dawnbreaker” is another really high pop server, because for whatever reason a ton of serious Aldmeri Dominion pvpers decided to set up camp there.

As explained in my first video of the night, we have put our heads together and reasoned Wabbajack to be a good place to be.  For those who are not TES lore junkies or who have not played Oblivion or Skyrim…  Wabbajack is the weapon of the mad god Sheogorath.  You are just as likely to zap your foe as to turn them into a bunny…  or even rain down cheese from the heavens.  More importantly however it seems like quite a few of the more organized Daggerfall folks have chosen the server for their own, so I believe it will be a place where we might have a fighting chance against the Aldmeri and Ebonheart hordes.  We chose Daggerfall expecting it to be less populated, and as a result have an easier time getting into Cyrodil instances.  Unfortunately as the video states Slurms has ended up on Auriel’s Bow for the time being, but we are hoping he will get the ability to swap to us for free.

Spindleclutch’s Revenge

Last night my friends and I… or at least a slightly different group of friends… decided to go back into Spindleclutch in the hopes of completing the quest that had apparently bugged out the previous night.  The primary difference this time around was that we had two dps, a healer and a tank… the traditional dungeon makeup.  To complicate things, we had a player healing who had literally not had a healing staff in his inventory until a guild member crafted and mailed him one on the way to the dungeon.  So needless to say we had a few issues we needed to work out.  Overall we managed to make it through the dungeon, but at times it was through sheer force of will.  The above stream video documents our journey through the depths of spider hell.

For not having played a healer in ESO before, especially a night blade healer…  Kodra did a remarkable solo healing the dungeon.  Essentially we are realizing that the night before we simply brute forced a lot of the encounters with pure healing throughput in the fact that we had two healers who had rolled and were leveling AS healers.  This run through the dungeon was very similar to our first run through the dungeon almost a year ago.  There were many packs of mobs that flat out murdered us… especially once we got into the “corrupted” section of the dungeon.  Some of the group tactics were a nightmare and it was all I could do to try and juggle everything and also somehow manage to keep up enough stamina to be able to block power attacks.  At this point I am realizing I need way more stamina, and plan on dumping the next several skillups into that trait.

While there was quite a bit of faffing about before the dungeon, in trying to get over to Spindleclutch and get everyone zoned into it… I think we managed to run the place in roughly 45 minutes which is not too bad.  One of the things that would have really helped out quite a bit is the addition of crowd control.  I’ve considered spending a point and picking up dark talons, as being able to lock down a large group and at least keep it off the cloth wearers would have been extremely beneficial.  The other cool thing is that I somehow managed to get several viewers during the dungeon, one of which even congratulated us on our victory.  I am so used to no one watching my streams that it was rather odd knowing I had an audience that was not a guild member and likely not also in the same mumble channel as me.

Tonight there are already tentative plans to step back foot in the dungeon and see what trouble we can get into.  At this point I seem to be the only tank in the level range of the dungeon, and while I do not mind being the token tank…  there is only so much spelunking that I can take in a night.  My wife and I have made plans to start trying to walk around 10 pm, and this means I need to make sure I am not engaged in something around that time of the evening.  So essentially it cuts one potential dungeon run out for the night.  I am sure in the next few days we will have more tanks entering the level range to take the pressure off me.  My hope is that soon we can have multiple spindle groups going at the same time.

Feed your Claim

Landmark64 2014-03-29 17-08-24-87 Just a really quick and friendly reminder… if you are like me and now completely enthralled by Elder Scrolls Online…  don’t forget to log into Landmark periodically and feed your claim some copper.  The upkeep mechanic while not extremely brutal, is there and constant and could involve the repossession of your claim.  Since several of us managed to get in early enough to grab some pretty choice spots… I would hate to see any of us lose them to forgetting to feed the upkeep bank.  Currently you can have roughly 5 days worth of resources stacked up in your claim bank.  Every two to three days just to be certain, I have been logging in and depositing additional copper ore into the bank to keep it “topped off”.  I really wish I could farm up enough to keep it healthy for a month or so, but I can see their desire to limit it to a small amount so that players are constantly having to log in.

Spindleclutch Age

Tax Time

Last night my wife and I had agreed to get our taxes done.  Normally we do this over spring break but various reasons, one of which was a death in the family caused this to not happen.  Tax time is one of those things that causes undue stress in me.  While the only time we had to pay federal is when I was doing a lot of contract work, I still live in fear of someone having screwed something up.  The IRS are a truly humorless group, and I always picture the agents from the matrix when I think of them.  They would give zero shit that someone in HR screwed up our withholdings.

As a result we end up procrastinating until we reach the point where it is either April or almost April and we are pushed into action to finally deal with it.  Last night once again we were relieved when it was finished.  For once we somehow dodged the bullet of having to pay state taxes, and are getting a small refund back from there.  We ended up doing just fine, and like every year we ask ourselves why we were so frightened of the process.  In part I guess it is because there is some magic number we are supposed to have paid in taxes for the year, and I feel like it is pulled out of thin air.  That it doesn’t really feel like it is based on anything we have control over.  I guess I just hate the fact that some agency has complete and total control over our fate.

Hail Yes

hailyes While we were out and about we needed to run a few errands, one of which was a trip by Target.  I pretty much avoid Wal-mart like the plague… not for some higher social justice reasoning, but instead because it is nearly impossible to get out of there in under an hours time.  They have 50 cash registers and maybe 3 open at any given time.  The addition of self checkout has improved this a bit, but still it ends up severely damaging my cool having to deal with the store.  So I generally opt for a trip to Target and the Grocery store separately to make up for that one Wal-mart trip.  I did see a rather sad sight while at Target, they had a big stack of copies of Defiance that they had on clearance for $13 a pop.  I considered picking one up for the 360, but then remembered that I am far less likely to play anything if it is on a console.

As we were leaving the store, the wind smelled like rain and there was a massive storm front rolling in from the north.  My wife turned to me and said… in true Oklahoma fashion “It looks like it is about to rain.”  Granted we had a conversation earlier that there was no chance of rain listed in the forecast.  As we walked to the car I replied “nope, it’s going to hail” as I saw little pieces of ice bouncing off the pavement.  So yeah… bright and sunshiny out one moment, dropping ice on my head the next…  you have to love Oklahoma weather.  Another thing of note… getting hit in the head by hail hurts like a mother.  In fact right now I am remembering that we still have our stuff from target out in my wife’s car… because when we got to the house it was still pelting ice at us and we opted NOT to carry it in.

Limbscather

eso 2014-04-01 06-01-39-42 Just north of the city of Daggerfall in Glenumbra is a skull and crossbones symbol on the map.  When you see one of these it marks the location of a “world boss”.  This one in particular is limbscather, a named lurcher/treant thing.  At level 7 he is damned near impossible to solo as is the case with most world bosses.  You can tell a world boss by the special unit frame and the number of red dots to either side represent just how difficult the encounter is.  In theory you can solo most single dot encounters, as you get to double dots it starts to get rougher and then finally the triple dot encounters will damned near always kill you.  When I first logged in I was milling around finishing up some quests, when guild members talked about pulling together a limbscather group.

One of the things I am always down for is killing world bosses, regardless of how much lower level they are.  In part because you are almost always guaranteed a filled soul gem from killing them.  Additionally sometimes they drop really nice blue loot for the level.  Even if you can’t use it, you can always deconstruct it for the chance of getting a blue temper to upgrade your gear later.  That is one of the things I love about the system, that you can take temper from one item to upgrade the quality of another item later.  We killed him a few times before we all got bored of it and moved on.  A few people managed to pick up the blue staff he drops, which I mistakenly thought was a healing staff… but is apparently a frost staff.

Spindleclutch Age

eso 2014-03-31 22-13-58-89 The overarching goal of the evening for me was to be able to get to the level that I could reliably tank Spindleclutch, the very first dungeon in the Daggerfall Covenant.  Almost a year ago we tried the dungeon in beta and had never managed to pull together a group since.  At that time it was a truly brutal experience, so we wanted to make sure we were at least level 12 before zoning in this time around.  Thankfully in the months between the dungeon got a good tuning pass, either that or we were simply more prepared for what came with it.  Back when we ran it that first time, the first pull of the dungeon managed to wipe us without mercy.  This time around it went much smoother and while we got a lot more mobs than you would in a World of Warcraft style dungoen, we were able to manage it.

eso 2014-03-31 22-23-19-79 The interesting thing about an Elder Scrolls Dungeon, is that tanking in them is far less like a WoW style dungeon, where you gather everything up and hold onto it while the party burns it down, but instead more like tanking in a MOBA.  As a Dragon Knight Sword and Board tank I have various tools at my disposal to temporarily taunt a mob onto me, through either the ransack morph or fiery grip.  As a result I spend most of the fights trying to temporarily distract the encounters and get them to focus on me just long enough for the damage to get them low enough to be able to finish them off.  The result is that players need to focus fire specific mob types to make sure they go down first, in order to survive the fight.  The various encounters are really good at employing group tactics, and at one point last night we had two healers healing each other.

eso 2014-03-31 22-25-21-84 There were definitely times however when I was needed to truly “tank” a mob, and I was able to do this fairly well.  While the game does not have a traditional aggro table, there were plenty of things I could do to either knock down the boss, taunt it, or yank it across the room to keep it from tearing apart my team mates.  I would not say that the game necessarily has a strict alignment to the holy trinity, and we entered the dungeon with a sub optimal group… namely two healers, a dps and a tank.  However the extra healing seemed to make up for the fact that we were really low on damage.  I think you could probably run the dungeon without a tank but instead just have to rely more on knockdowns and snares to burn down the encounter before it killed you.  I really enjoyed the dungeon in beta for all its brutality, but I have to say I enjoy the better tuned encounters a heck of a lot more.

eso 2014-03-31 22-52-28-23 My absolute favorite feature however has to be the way dungeon loot works.  Just like every other mob in the game, each player gets a personalized roll on the loot table.  However unlike the world bosses, every bit of this loot is tradable.  So this meant after each boss we killed, there was much swapping of gear around to make sure the item went to someone who could use it.  I wound up walking out of there with two blue tanky rings, tam got a damned nice blue two handed axe, rae a mana regen neck I believe (after I had to toin coss to decide who got it….  seriously where is the effing /roll command people), and I believe Damai walked with something but I cannot be sure.  I am anxious to do the dungeon again tonight if we can muster the people.  The quest bugged a little bit when trying to complete the dungeon, so we still do not have full credit for the place.

eso 2014-03-31 22-49-33-37 If you have a fear of spiders… Spindleclutch is going to be a rather terrifying experience.  I don’t necessarily like spiders having grown up in a house with brown recluse…  but I managed to get through without much issue.  Also there is this area, where you have to cross a broken down bridge held together only by spider webs, that did kinda tweak my vertigo a bit.  The dungeon looked absolutely amazing and it had a fun design that was not as on rails as Warcraft, but still funneled you towards the destination.  The only negative is that the experience while good was not great, but that is to be expected.  I think had we been able to complete the quest it would have been really good.  They had to nerf dungeon experience, in part because testers were living in them during the beta weekends.  I remember one group that ran Spindleclutch from level 10 to level 30.  Hopefully as we get more people into the level range we can get a bunch more guild dungeon runs going.

The Dragon Knight Comes

The morning after

Screenshot_20140330_182433 Yesterday was a really exciting day, and today I am in somewhat of a stupor from all the festivities.  As I talked about in my last couple of posts, yesterday was the beginning of the Elder Scrolls Online five day headstart.  Thing is this is definitely not my first game launch, in fact there is rarely a game launch that I do not participate in…  but this one just feels more personal.  I’ve known various people that have worked for various game companies, but this one is just different.  Elder Scrolls is a monumental franchise for me, and I started my fandom back with Daggerfall.  However never before has one of the people who I hang out with on an almost nightly basis…  part of the creation of something I love.

So more than anything I wanted this launch to go smoothly, for the health of the guild and the health of the game in general.  The launch of a new guild in a new game is an extremely stressful time for me.  Trying to get all the people going in the right direction is a challenge but more or less things seem to have gone extremely smoothly.  We’ve only had a few people who did not heed my bajillion posts about faction, and ended up rolling the wrong one.  I feel bad that they essentially have to start over now, but by being the wrong faction they will never be able to group with the rest of the guild.  This is one of the few confusing points, in that characters can live in multiple guilds… but functionally you can only group with your own faction.

The Dragon Knight Comes

Screenshot_20140330_200220 It’s odd for me to try and be objective about a game launch, when I have been playing the game in one form of another for over a year now.  The fact that I have played as much of it as I have, and that I still want to participate says as much as anything I could.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the “3 month mmo club”, but for whatever reason this is different.  Since I have reported so many things and watched them get fixed in subsequent builds, it feels as though I have more at stake here than I have in the past.  As of logging out last night I was just a little shy of dinging 11.  Honestly getting to level 8 or so is really easy, but from there on it slows down considerably.  Additionally for most of the day yesterday I was trying to stay in lock step with my friend Audrae.

The problem is I am fundamentally bad at questing as a group.  I am all about doing hard objectives with friends, but the piddly little things, it is rough to stay in step.  At one point yesterday I had to take an extended break, and I laid down for a bit.  When I came back we had no Rae, so I am guessing she fell asleep as well.  I piddled around after that, did a few things, grouped a bit and killed a world named mob as well as ran some other friends through Bad Mans Hollow.  At this point I am feeling very tanky, and my survival is probably as good as it has ever been in ESO.

Once I leave Glenumbra I will finally set out into mostly untested territory.  The characters that I have made it past the first real zone on were all Ebonheart, so for the most part Daggerfall Covenant will be fresh.  Towards the end of beta I purposefully tried to test only the early content, as to keep the later stuff fresh for me.  It was wierd, that so many people struggled to figure out what path they were going to take, or how they would create their character.  For the most part i have created “Belghast Sternblade” the Dragon Knight over a dozen times scattered among various beta tests.  It was the one character that really spoke to me, so I kept returning to playing it over and over… never tiring of the game play.

Guild is Hopping

Screenshot_20140331_061118 I will admit, when the betas opened up a bit more and folks started breaking out some negativity regarding the game… I was a bit concerned to say the least.  There is a fairly significant threshold of 50 members of the guild in order to open up the Guild Store.  There was a time where I wondered if we would actually be able to hit that in House Stalwart, but apparently those fears were completely unfounded.  As of this morning I am looking at the guild roster and we have 65 accounts in the guild.  The place is absolutely hopping and at this hour of the morning there are already a half dozen people in and playing.  Apparently all the work trying to make sure this was happening paid off, and I am starting to think about the various things we will be able to do if we even maintain half of these members at veteran levels.

Thing is… this is just the Imperial Edition and folks who ordered direction through Zenimax.  There will be another batch of players starting Tuesday, and another batch starting on the 4th again that didn’t pre-order for whatever reason.  As a result I still expect the guild to grow significantly.  When all is said and done we might be sitting around 100 members, which would make this one of our largest game launches in House Stalwart history.  The thing that is helping this time around is the Alliance of Awesome.  This has helped to funnel so many new and good people into Stalwart for the beginning of this game.  At this point I am going to have to start figuring out what the final guild infrastructure is going to look like, and who I will tag to be officers.  I tend to treat each game as a unique animal, and just because someone is an officer in one game does not immediately mean they will be in another.

Since we have a blended “family” going on right now, I also feel it is crucial to reach out and tag people from all the various camps, as well as the traditional stalwart folk.  So far I have to say everything seems to be blending nicely.  I was talking yesterday that while a lot of us know each other from twitter, this was the first time we had really been in the same guild.  I am thankful that everything has gone so smoothly.  For at time yesterday we had a dozen or more people hanging out in the “Bel is streaming” channel on mumble, and later today I should be posting the various stream segments up on youtube and adding them to the Elder Scrolls Online playlist.  However in the mean time you can go to my twitch streams past broadcasts tab to see them all.  All in all I think it was a very successful launch day, and one of the more successful ones I have experienced.  The real tests will be as they start adding more players.