Saving Bleakrock

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Lets get this update out of the way.  I am still struggling quite a bit with this death flu bullshit that has been going around.  Here in my home state of Oklahoma there have been 45 deaths since the beginning of Flu Season, and I absolutely understand why.  I religiously take the Flu Shot each year when work offers it, but some of the estimates I have seen say it is only 10-15% effective against what is actually out in the wild.  Due to my case getting misdiagnosed as a sinus infection early on… it mean’t I lost that time window when something like Tamiflu would be useful.  Now I am having to just slog through it in an attempt to get to the other side.  This weekend things started feeling worse as it triggered my Asthma in a major way, and instead of podcasting Saturday night my wife was making a mercy run to Walgreens to pick up more medication that the on-call doctor prescribed.  This meant that Friday night I wound up having to take six Prednisone pills in one dose in an attempt to shock my system back to normal.  It is helping but going way slower than I would have liked, I am now starting day three of a dose pack and I am really hoping that today is the day that I start to feel more human again.  Most of the weekend I was in this mode where I felt fairly reasonable so long as I was sitting perfectly still and not doing much of anything.  The moment I would get up and attempt to do something simple like get a drink, or swap a load of laundry…  and it felt like I had just finished some epic uphill slog through the tundra.  I hate feeling useless, and I hate that this has continued to drag on as long as it has.  Since the only time I felt reasonable this weekend was sitting on the sofa snuggled into a blanket with my laptop…  that mean’t I spent most of my time playing games.  With the current state of World of Warcraft feeling fairly awful until they make what is going to inevitably be a balance and tuning pass on World Scaling…  I needed something else to hold my attention.  I am still playing quite a bit of Neverwinter, but for whatever reason that game feels best to me when played in short focused bursts.  It was around Friday that I started playing Elder Scrolls Online regularly and it managed to get its hooks into my psyche.

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I have been extremely stubborn in the way that I play Elder Scrolls Online.  For the uninitiated, the base game has a really cool feature of having a build in new game plus and plus plus modes. What that means is that as you beat your chosen faction’s content, you walk backwards around the ouroboros taking on the next faction in sequence while you play through all three.  I originally rolled as Daggerfall Covenant, which mean’t my new game plus faction is Aldmeri Dominion and then new game plus plus would be Ebonheart Pact.  Where we get into the stubborn part is that I refuse to play any of the “expansion” content aka Imperial City, Orsinium, Thieves Guild, Dark Brotherhood, Shadows of the Hist or Morrowind until I have completed all three of the original factions.  Of note each one of these factions is designed to be 50 levels of content and now we get into where I have stalled out…  it takes a very long time to work through the original game three times.  Aldmeri Dominion originally seemed like pure hell to me because of my severe distaste for all things elves…  and that faction has both the Altmer (High Elves) and the Bosmer (Wood Elves).  That said…  I do have a very deep soft spot for the often times completely feral cannibal Bosmer, and I have always loved the moon sugar imbibing Khajiit…  so I thought on those two elements alone I could probably make it through the content.  What I was not expecting however was to completely fall in love with the storyline featuring a bunch of elves and their weird struggles to hold together what apparently as a very unlikely alliance.  With elements of the Wild Hunt and crazy drug induced visions…  Aldmeri Dominion turned out to be a really excellent ride and I am sure Tam is pleased as hell with himself because I know he was responsible for at least some of the content.  This weekend I managed to finish up the main storyline in Reapers March, but I will admit there are a lot of side quests that I simply did not deal with over there that at some point I will probably revisit.  Ultimately I would love to 100% every one of the zones…  but that will take time and I did not want to burn myself out doing so.

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As a result last night I finally started Bleakrock Isle and Ebonheart Pact.  This is without a doubt the content that I tested most thoroughly over the course of the year or so that I was in various alpha and beta tests.  It was the content I could essentially do in my sleep…  along with Stros M’kai.  The funny thing is… time had clouded my memories and left me with vague idea for how the flow of the zone was supposed to go…  but left me struggling to remember how to get 100% of the refugees off the island.  I realize I could have easily skipped the intro area and moved straight on to Stonefalls, but in truth I have always found the intro areas to be extremely strong content.  I know they were a huge problem for players who wanted to log in and just start running amok, but for me personally… they were this great guided tour into the game.  That is one of the things I constantly find myself amazed by is just how damned good this game really is, and how relatively shunned it was by the broader Elder Scrolls community.  Each time I return I get immersed completely into the world and am right back where I left off mentally and wandering around completely interesting quests.  That honestly is a double edged sword because what ultimately causes me to wander away is that it is almost at times too immersive.  Much like playing the story in SWTOR I get engrossed in the game and have trouble doing anything else while playing it.  There is always more dialog to listen to and more quest chains to complete, and my ability to binge Netflix and play this game is largely a nonstarter.  If I want to Netflix… my game of choice is something like World of Warcraft that is so familiar and almost mind numbing that I can play it almost entirely with muscle reflexes.  Elder Scrolls is largely still a game about muscle reflex for me… but still one that I need to accurately read the tells that the mobs on screen are giving me to be able to react correctly to in order to stay alive.  I cannot simply blindly run around mashing buttons… or I will end up dead exceptionally fast for someone who has just shy of 200 champion points as of logging out last night.  I know I am probably playing less than optimally, but I have a build that works for me and feels reasonably well and I am afraid to dig too deeply into it past that.  Optimization is often times the path of misery for me and drains the fun out of the experience.  I do however need to perform a little resource to figure out exactly what the gear level breaks are and how soon I should be looking to upgrade out of my 160 CP gear into something else.

 

Honor the Green

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Last night I managed to wrap up Greenshade and move on to the next zone Malabal Tor.  The funny thing about “leveling” through content in the post 50 game is that you lose all focus of how far you have actually come.  When I started playing again recently I was sitting about Champion rank 115, but at this very moment after doing the introductory quest line in Malabal Tor I am sitting at 141.  Both numbers seem like utter nonsense in the grand scheme of things, other than the fact that I am constantly getting incrementally more useful.  That said the mobs around me are getting incrementally more crafty at all times as well, but I am uncertain where the theoretical “max level” at least for gear advancement sits.  As of right now the highest level thing I have seen on any of the guild vendors is 160, which doesn’t really tell me if that is the actual max, or just the maximum that is reasonable to craft.  I have done a shockingly minimal amount of research so far during this return to Elder Scrolls Online, because in truth…  I had a path laid out before me already and that is to simply keep questing.  It might be madness but I really would like to finish up Aldmeri Dominion and then quest my way through all of Ebonheart before starting any of the DLC content.  Considering that the DLC lets you start it at literally any moment… I am guessing this is pure madness and not something most players do.

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Back to the whole having no basis on how far I have actually come in progress…  I was absolutely thinking that Malabal Tor was going to be the last zone in the AD content, and apparently I was completely wrong.  After this zone I still have Reaper’s March which is fine by me because I am actually enjoying myself in this content way more than I ever thought I would.  It is not exactly a surprise to anyone who has read my blog for very long… but I am not a huge fan of elves.  My friend Tam has this theory that every player is inherently either a Dwarf of an Elf and the two paths rarely cross.  I am absolutely a Dwarf and I tend to love all of the normal aesthetically wonderful things about Dwarfdom.  That said the Elder Scrolls setting as a whole does some weird things with what is and is not an Elf…  since technically both Dwarves and Orcs are elves in this setting.  Essentially in Elder Scrolls you have the races of “men”, the races of the “mer”, and then the beastmen which probably have a similar name or at least should.  Now in Skyrim… I go out of my way to kill Thalmor on sight… even if it is ultimately going to cause me issues.  In The Elder Scrolls Online I find out that the Thalmor are largely a militant group of “Elven Supremacists” that most people don’t like… and often times actively hate.  This subtle difference makes it significantly easier for me to actually like the elves while playing through the elf dominated content.

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That said… I have also found a certain Kinship with the Khajiit… which was to be expected, but also the Bosmer which I was not entirely prepared for.  I mean I have always liked the concept of the Green Pact and the existence of cannibal elves.  However while actually questing through the Bosmer centric story content, it has been interesting to struggle with the same weird thin line that they do…  of choosing what is common sense and what is honoring “The Green”.  It is a testament to just how damned good the storytelling is in this game to get a notorious elf killer like myself…  to convert to if not love…  but at least a begrudging respect for the folks that don’t belong to the Thalmor.  Of note… if given the chance I would still absolutely run around cheerfully slaughtering Thalmor.  I am extremely happy though that the game has given me ample opportunity to at least embarrass a few of them for showing them to be the unsteady zealots that they really are.  The only thing that I would have liked to have seen the game do… is throw in additional options for acknowledging the fact that you are an outlander while questing through the other two factions content.  The highlight of yesterday however was dealing with Hermaeus Mora, one of my favorite of the Daedra…  but also one of the more deadly.  He presented me with a deal that I could not refuse…  that I really wanted to refuse but felt the ramification of not taking it would be far worse.  While at some point I know turtle mode will finish… I have a feeling that I will still remain engaged to the storytelling of this game for the near future and this is about to be my “off night” game of choice.

Magical Moose

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Luck and Friendship

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Over in World of Warcraft, there has been an item that has lovingly started to be referred to as the Friendship Moose…. and there are good reasons behind it.  The mount itself is pretty damned majestic, and makes me feel like Santa Claus when I ride it.  It comes from getting the Ahead of the Curve achievement for Heroic Archimonde….  well in truth Archi drops a quest but same basic difference.  The reason why it has become known as the friendship moose is the fact that there have been an extremely large number of people in the WoW Community who are going out of their way to try and get people the mount.  To the best of my knowledge it was originally @Thomicks that started the #FriendshipMoose hashtag, and then it kinda just went out of control from there.  I know @Zelse007 for example has been really knocking these out and as of last night he has gotten 639 Folks their moose.  I won’t lie that the thought of getting a spiffy mount is partially what drove me back into raiding in World of Warcraft recently, but more than anything it was to be able to hang out with Horde friends that I had never really raided with.  Quite honestly I never expected to get the Reins of the Grove Warden.

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The thing is…  I have some really amazing friends.  Earlier in the week I was pinged by Damai to see if I wanted to join in with his raid for a farm run.  The plan was to clear a bunch of bosses on Thursday and then pop in really quickly early in the evening on Saturday and take down Archimonde.  Generally speaking I cannot participate in this raid because it happens to coincide almost exactly with our podcast recording session.  However this time they planned on being in and out of the raid roughly two hours before our podcast was set to go.  I ultimately had to beg off on Thursday, because I kept going into uncontrollable coughing fits, but I was however able to attend yesterday….  which was good enough to get me a moose.  I was carried extremely hard last night, the above image is of me being the only dead member of the raid…. from when I tried to run my fixate to the edge and happened to run right in between two folks firing their lasers.  Not only did I walk away with a moose but I also picked up a couple of sweet upgrades, one of which is REALLY amazing for my special snowflake Gladiator spec [ Worldbreaker’s Resolve,  World Ender’s Gorget].  I gotta say I am happy beyond reason… because I absolutely thought this was far beyond my reach.  I want to give a special shout out to Damai, Errya, Pugnodeum, and the rest of the Praetorian Guard crew for dragging my but along.

No AggroChat

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So now that the warm and fuzzy bits are out of the way… I have to tell you that right now I am feeling like a complete and total failure.  Sure being the only person to die on Archimonde should have done that already, but this is something different.  We’ve been recording AggroChat for a little over two years now I believe, and during that time we have missed two episodes.  This week being the second episode, and for the most part…. this time is completely because of me.  While raiding last night, I was on listen only mode because I quite honestly had no voice to talk with.  Throughout the day yesterday, as it went on my voice kept getting weaker and weaker until the point where I simply became a squeaky whisper.  On top of this…  Tam is out of pocket this week, Grace is out of pocket this week… and yesterday was Kodra’s birthday…  leaving it up to Thalen and Ashgar to hold up an entire show.  As a result throughout the day we simply decided to call it, and I really hate the fact that it was my fault for doing just that.  This crud that I have picked up is driving me insane… I am so ready to be “better” but as the weeks go by it keeps dragging on.

I know last week when I went ahead and recorded… it was probably a bit of a set back.  Because prior to last weeks show I was feeling a bit better…. and then afterwards I was pretty much dead to the world for a few days.  What is killing me the most is that when I am in this condition I just don’t want to do much of anything.  As a result I have been focused heavily on Elder Scrolls Online, which is a game that I am largely playing by myself.  Sure there are a handful of awesome people playing with me like Ammo and Sol, but even then my interaction is mostly that of answering the sort of questions that new players have…. and not so much active grouping.  I can zone out and zone into the storyline… and as a result I am probably enjoying it more than I have since I first played alpha.  Part of me wants to at least push through the rest of the Aldmeri Dominion content before resigning the game to the back burner again.  Another big thing that I want to do at some point is pick up where I left off in SWTOR, and play through the Reven content that I never actually got around to doing.  I have this feeling at least in the near future that I am going to be focused on story games, less than I am going to be on raiding and grouping activities.  The Final Fantasy XIV 3.2 patch might change that, and in part I hope it does…. because I would love to feel the drive to play that game again.  However in the meantime I am going to quietly be piddling over here without my voice.