Happy Blaugust

Blaugust2016

Blaugust2016

So this is really happening I guess.  It is funny how something can go from “I am thinking about not doing it” to a completely fleshed out and active thing over the course of a week.  As of this morning there are thirty two folks signed up to participate in Blaugust this month, and I think that is pretty great.  My wife has even spun the event off into her own thing within the MTBOS math community, and I created a completely separate logo for them.  This time around as I said before it is a greatly revised event, mostly focused on producing more content, rather than having folks attempt to run a gauntlet.  The gauntlet concept was cool, but a bit misguided given that the end result often times caused folks to take a few months off after the event.  I didn’t want the month of August to feel anywhere near as stressful as say NaNoWriMo for example, so as a result this year we are dialing it back a bit.

You can check out the full post over here where I announced that we were in fact doing it this year.  However a quick rundown of the rules are simple.  First just fill out this Google Form with pertinent information about your blog, to make sure it ends up on the radar of the community.  Next blog… and this time around set your own intended schedule.  Whenever you post your blog on twitter please use the hashtag #Blaugust2016 to make it easier to track and so that folks can simply subscribe to that and see all of the content.  There is also the Blaugust Nook for folks who want to hang out and share ideas and topic prompts, also a great place to share your post content.  Finally and most importantly…  get to know the other participants.  Common struggle makes a great means for bonding… and for those who are not used to posting on a schedule this might be a bit of a struggle.  Reach out to the other Blaugustians and get to know them, because it is a great time to make new friends and rekindle old friendships.

The Participants

I hit refresh on my google sheet just to make sure I am including everyone, but as of this very moment we have thirty two participants in the 2016 running of Blaugust.  There is still plenty of time to sign up an participate but for the moment these are the folks you can look forward to seeing content from.

Daily Posts

Weekday Posts

Three Posts a Week

Some Other Schedule

As Time and Inspiration Allows

I believe that is everyone represented that has signed up currently.  I cannot be 100% certain however because in true “Belghast” fashion I decided to complicate things at the last minute and attempt to list everyone out by the schedule they signed up for in the google form.  I believe however I have all thirty two blogs accounted for, and that no one is duplicated, however if I somehow made a mistake please let me know.  I look forward to the next month and seeing how this “kinder gentler” Blaugust goes.

[Edit] as folks sign up been adding them into the post as time allows.  Right now we are up to forty!

Blaugust Results

A Phenomenal Blaugust

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The time has come and as I said in my original post this year, I would tabulate the results and post them on September 2nd.  This month really was an absolute deluge of content, and there is really no other way to say about it.  I know I personally struggled to keep up with it all.  I have to say however one of the best moments for me was reading the many “last posts” of the challengers.  They all seemed to have a theme of “this is what blaugust taught me” or “I am proud of myself that I survived”.  Reading each of those was so amazing.  As I remarked yesterday I feel like the bulk of the community is not quite sure if they want to give me a hug… or flip me the bird.  It is interesting being both Hero and Villain at the same time.  After reading the posts… I can be perfectly fine with either distinction because the end result was pretty awesome.

This year we had far greater participation, and I am still completely floored by it.  In 2014 we had 52 folks participating, and of those 28 managed to “win” the challenge of posting something every single day.  One of my frustrations however is that because of the way I was running the contest, it kept someone from joining late, playing catch up, and being eligible for the final prizes.  This year I changed the guidelines to something I am much more happy with, which is simply getting thirty one posts during the month of August.  We had a grand total of 88 folks who signed up and participated in the challenge, posting at least one blog post.  From there I made a separate distinction to give folks some credit who at least made it to the half way mark with fifteen posts and in that group we had 76.  The most impressive thing however is that we had 56 people who managed to complete thirty one posts during the month of August.  For added benefit I also kept track of who happened to participate last year as well, and we had 24 who were returning.  Without further stalling… here are the lists!

The Challengers

The thought of posting something every single day for a month is a scary prospect, so simply signing your name on the dotted line and participating is pretty awesome in my book.  This list is folks that joined the Blaugust initiative and posted at least one blog post during the month of August.  Some of them however got really damned close to the halfway point.  So lets take a moment to recognize them.  You have all earned the right to use this badge in whatever fashion you like!  It is available in a full resolution version and a sized down version ideal for sidebars.

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Of this batch, there is a group that I want to give special recognition to.  These are folks that participated for the second year, and for them I have special versions of the badge also available in full resolution and sized down versions.

blaugust_2015_challenger_veteran

The Survivors

This year I made a special distinction for all of the folks that managed to make it through at least fifteen blog posts during the month of August.  We had some folks in the group that barely crossed the line, and others that damned near hit the final mark.  There were several that managed to hit fifteen only to decide that this daily blogging thing really was not for them.  In any case posting essentially “every other day” for a month is quite the feat as well, and I wanted to acknowledge this separately.  I’ve dubbed this group the survivors, and they have earned the right to use this badge and title in whatever form they wish.  Once again it is available in both full resolution and scaled down versions.

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Once again I wanted to recognize the folks who managed to “survive” the challenge this year that also participated last year, so we have a special badge for them available in full and scaled resolutions.

blaugust_2015_survivor_veteran

The Conquerors

I hate the term “winner” for a challenge like this, because it doesn’t really encompass the purpose.  Just the simple fact that you signed up and made an effort to be more active and create more content makes you a winner in my book.  So when I was looking for a new term, I decided to go with Conqueror, because really every person on this next list did just that.  They conquered fear, they conquered apathy, they conquered doubt, and they conquered Blaugust.  I am so irrationally proud of every person on this list that I struggle to put it adequately into words.  Once again they have a badge available in both full and scaled resolutions.

blaugust_2015_conqueror

Once again we have a special group of Conquerors that returned from winning the previous year, to kick this one in the face.  I find it pretty awesome that 13 of the 28 “winners” from 2014 returned.  I feel like I also need to give special recognition to the Mystical Mesmer who managed to complete Blaugust on two completely different blogs this year.  If that is not a microphone drop… I am not sure what is.  Regardless this group also has their own special veteran badge in full and scaled resolutions.

blaugust_2015_conqueror_veteran

 

The Prizes

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So now that all of the acknowledgement is out of the way… lets  talk prizes.  Since not everyone that crosses the finish line can actually win the grand prize, we have to unfortunately rely on random chance.  Last year I struggled with figuring out a good way to do this, and as a result this year I just wrote my own damned dice roller.  This allowed me to type in the number of folks who managed to get thirty one posts during the month of August, hit the big Roll the Dice button and get an output stream with one result per line perfect for pasting into a spreadsheet.  I sorted the thirty one club alphabetically and then pasted all of my results in a new column.  If you are curious what the final numbers looked like, I am working off of this spreadsheet as a award prizes.

There was a slight monkey wrench thrown in my original plans as to how to give out awards.  This was a good monkey wrench in the form of a bunch of prizes from Kings Isle entertainment.  This actually gave me more “big prizes” to spread around which was really awesome as they gave me three prize packs from Wizard 101 and three from Pirate 101.  Sometimes random chance is serendipitous.  I had said from the very beginning that I would purchase a steam game for whoever managed to get the grand prize.  It turns out… today is the birthday of this years winner.  The dice were in the favor of Paeroka from Nerdy Bookahs.  For winning the random number generator she got a Steam game of her choice… and she chose Valhalla Hills.  Additionally since Kings Isle was so damned cool to chip in prizes, I also gave her one of the Wizard 101 and Pirate 101 packs.

That left me four more codes to hand out… so starting last night I messaged folks and had them give me their preference of Wizard 101 or Pirate 101.  The next four in line were…

The Prize Closet

Since we had so damned many people manage to complete the challenge, I am going to try and give out as many prizes as I can.  I have a stack of various game codes largely left over from humble bundles gone by.  I have a spreadsheet that I am starting to circulate down the list of folks who managed to “conquer” Blaugust.  I may not have enough codes to get through everyone, but I am going to try!  So expect in the next few days to get a private message from me with a link, asking you to tag one of them items with your name.  This was a pretty crazy month, and I want to thank all of you for participating.  Next year I am going to start planning significantly ahead of time and am hoping to get more game companies to chip in goodies for the prize vault.  I know at this point you are saying “What about Anook?”.  Lonrem was up late last night tabulating the results, and since that prize is based on community participation on Anook I will be letting them make their own announcement.  I am really happy that they have been so supportive of us essentially taking over a chunk of their website during the month of August.  Blaugust will return next year and hopefully be even bigger than before!

Paragon Levels with Friends

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Blaugust Administrata

Blaugust is officially over…  I mean it… put your pencils down and turn in your papers.  Now begins the fun part of actually attempting to “grade”, and by that I mean tabulate the results.  I started doing this yesterday afternoon with some of the early finishers, and if everyone that was a day away crossed that finish line… we have a pretty huge bunch of winners.  Equally impressive as of yesterday we had 76 “Survivors” meaning that during the course of the month they managed to get in at least fifteen posts.  Mostly I wanted to say a little bit this morning about just how proud I am of everyone who attempted any length of posts this month.  The concept of daily posting is rather daunting and there are still days where I question my sanity as I plunk away at the keys each morning trying to make sense of the jumble of thoughts in my head.  So while I will be terming people as “winning” the challenge you are all winners in my book even if you didn’t make it to fifteen posts.

My goal all along has been to get more people creating more content about the things they love doing.  After a point folks stop caring so much about what you are writing, and focus in on the fact that it is YOU behind the screen that is writing it.  The whole idea behind Blaugust is if you can prove to yourself that you can churn out thirty one posts in a single month…  then posting a handful of posts every week on a fixed schedule is really not that terribly daunting.  Whether or not they realize it, people crave consistency.  I started this blog with a decent boost of readers, but over the years of my lack of posting…  I pretty much pissed all of those regular readers away.  When I became consistent, folks started tuning in every morning to read all of these seemingly useless thoughts I was dumping out of my head…  and apparently enjoying it.  Today is my day for calculations, but I wanted to close Blaugust with one thought.  Don’t let Blaugust be this marathon that you run once a year and then stick back on the shelf until the next year.  Let Blaugust be a spirit that you embrace every day, and an excuse to create regular posts throughout the year.

Boys Will Be Boys

First off I have to say that I have always hated this phrase… but sometimes it absolutely fits.  Last night I talked to my mom on the phone, because it had been a few days since I had called my folks.  They have had to deal with the fallout of a flood in one of the bathrooms, and this weekend they got into my childhood bedroom.  My closet backed up to the bathroom so it was a assumed that pretty much everything in it would be ruined.  The funny thing is… my Mom expected me to remember what I had in my closet over two decades ago.  Luckily it seems that for the most part all of my comic books, and various sundry cards that I never bothered to “move out” were left untouched.  Apparently some plywood seems to have wicked up the bulk of the water that made it through to the closet.  As she was pulling stuff out of the closet she kept stopping and asking my dad what various things were.  Then she got to an item that threw her for a loop.

I was a little skater kid, and there was a phase in my life where everything that mattered about anything…  was skateboard related.  She pulled out this baseball bat that was scrawled with all sorts of skater terminology and logos in a combination of sharpie and paint pen.  She wanted to know why this bat was all scarred like it had been hitting concrete and “defaced” in such a way.  My Dad just said that it looked like “little boys were playing”.  So I had to explain to my mother what the bat was used for.  We used to go to the tennis court with our skateboards, as much padding as we had, and baseball bats.  My friend and I would ride towards each other, each of us on one side of the tennis net like we were “jousting”.  At which point we would put as much padding on our left arms as we could and use the right arm to swing the baseball bat at the other person.  The goal of course was to knock the other person off their skateboard and the padding was in a vague attempt to block the blows.  It is a miracle we didn’t do serious harm to each other.  This apparently did not phase my father, because it turns out his childhood friend and he would fire arrows at each other from recurve bows…  so I guess in the grand scheme of things getting beaned with a baseball bat doesn’t seem that dangerous?

Paragon Levels with Friends

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Since a good chunk of our raid was still doing the whole Pax Prime thing, we were not able to put in any attempts on Ravana Extreme last night.  Instead I spent a good chunk of time fiddling with Bitdefender and ultimately uninstalling it.  I guess I should have known better when my good friend Wulf struggled to keep it from blocking the Final Fantasy XIV game client, but I went ahead and gave it a shot.  This time around it was the Glyph client for Trion Worlds that I could not get it to unblock.  I finally uninstalled it and went back to AVG because at least I am used to it.  That of course killed an hour, so by the time I finally logged into Diablo 3 it was fairly late in the evening.  Grace was already hard at work doing rifts and such so I joined her until she left to go eat dinner.  Then there was a block of time when the server was rebooted and patched, and I could not get reconnected to save my life.  All the while I am watching The Strain on Hulu, which is a show I would absolutely suggest if you like Horror.  The added benefit is you get to see Argus Filch playing a Van Helsing like badass… and yes I know the actors name is David Bradley but he will always be Filch to me.

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The big take away of the evening is that we managed to get Mor to 70 on his Crusader, and I managed to get up to 47ish Paragon levels before the end of the night.  I still cannot deal anywhere close to as much damage as Grace can at this point so I feel like I need to do some research into how best to gear and spec out a Barbarian.  I mean I do respectable damage but I think my gear just isn’t quite at the same level as hers.  She is still absolutely carrying both of us hard when it comes to doing group content.  Though last night I did manage to stay alive most of the time, I think I took two deaths throughout the night, which is significantly better than previous outings.  We spent most of the night on Torment IV, and I can personally solo Torment I pretty effectively… it is just that bosses seem to take forever.  I am not sure how long this current addiction to Diablo 3 will last, but for the time being I am rolling with it.

Blaugust and Nephalem

Last Day of Blaugust

As the subheading says, it is in fact the last day of Blaugust and as such very soon I am going to begin tabulating the results.  It has been an interesting month, but also a very quick one.  It seems like just yesterday I was kicking off this challenge, and now we are staring at the finish line.  It has also been interesting just how many people have participated in one way or another.  Even if you did something as simple as retweet a Blaugust post, you are part of this and I thank you.  In truth I was not really sure how the turn out for year two would end up looking.  The biggest surprise honestly was just how many year one folks came back for this year.  You’d think that they would have learned better by the time the second event rolled around.  As I sift through the results it is going to be interesting to see just how many folks have completed both years at this point.

The big take away this year is that we have already reached a point where we are just too big to be planned somewhat “on the fly”.  Up until July I was still questioning if I would actually go through with a second Blaugust.  I was somewhat shocked at the number of people who were looking forward to it.  So I pulled things together and we ended up with this year, that went significantly more smoothly than the first.  As a result I think for the 2016 Blaugust I will be starting to pull things together about four months in advance.  Folks offering to sponsor prizes was a brand new concept to me, and this year we had Anook and KingsIsle Entertainment both chipping in prizes.  I greatly appreciate them both, but I am hoping if I start the wheels moving several months ahead I will be able to get a few more people to come on board.  It would be awesome to get some game keys donated for a sort of “Blaugust Game Club” like our AggroChat Game Club.  Where every Blaugust writer has the opportunity to play a specific game and write about it, because it is super interesting when you collect a bunch of opinions on the same title.  I realize we are just how wrapping up, and folks are I am sure sick of it for the time being…  but I am already thinking about how to make next year better.

Nephalem Ascended

Diablo III 2015-08-31 00-01-16-066

Friday night when I got home from eating with friends I started a brand new Female Barbarian, and as of last around 8 pm I managed to hit 70 securing at least some of the Season 4 rewards.  While I managed to get drug along for a handful of levels, this is still the fastest and most dedicated I have ever leveled in Diablo.  In part a huge chunk of it has been that I have largely been leveling with my friend Grace, who keeps pushing me to go do content rather than just piddling around like I normally do.  Pushing is the wrong word because she was not even insistent… she just gave me a reason to keep grouping up and doing interesting things.  The other big change this season is that I pretty much completely ignored the story line.  In Season 3 I attempted to level my way through the story, which is apparently the worst possible way to level these days.  Instead I largely started adventure mode from the moment I created the character, and the result is as I leveled I tended to always have legendary weapons that I could craft for my character.

diablo3Season4Journey

One of the big changes that came with Season 4 was the introduction of the “Season Journey” interface that serves as a way of unlocking the various rewards.  Just for hitting level 70 on a seasonal character I unlocked the transmogrification pieces, but in order to get the Portrait Frame and the Pet I have to complete all four Chapters of the Season Journey.  As of last night I have completed the first three and they were honestly all pretty easy.  The final element that I needed was to defeat one of the major bosses on Master difficulty or harder.  Since Belial is the fastest to get to on Adventure mode I popped over there and took him out with relative ease.  Now I have to do some of the more grindy things like taking out each of the key masters on Torment difficulty.  I also need to finally use the Kanai cube to extract a Legendary power, but I am trying to sort out what sort of power I want to keep.  Honestly I feel like I need to read up on how exactly that process works before making any decisions surrounding getting powers from it.  I know that once you do this you can choose at least one power as a permanent buff, and I have a few that are really nice.

Diablo III 2015-08-30 21-57-05-55

I really did not spend much time playing Reaper of Souls, and as such I had never actually done a Rift of any sort until this weekend.  Grace on the other hand is an expert at such things and as a result I spent some of my “post 70” time last night with her working on Rifts and then the Greater Rifts that follow.  I have to say they are crazy amounts of fun, and I am trying to sort out how best to use my legendary gems.  Right now I have two of them, and I need to run more Greater Rifts to power up the second one.  The first one is now at level 6, but once again I think I need to do some research in how best to utilize them.  The game is so much more intricate than I remember it being, and in truth I have never played Diablo 3 seriously.  I am having a blast so I guess that is really all that matters.  My hope is that tonight our Final Fantasy XIV raid can down Ravana Extreme… but after that… I hope to put in big ole dent in some of these Chapter IV objectives.

KingsIsle Blaugust Prizes

KingsIsle is Awesome

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Some of you may know KingsIsle games as the creator of the wildly popular Wizard 101, Pirate 101 and the upcoming mobile monster destruction game Rise and Destroy.  For those who do not they occupy a unique niche in the MMO industry.  They create these awesomely rich cartoon worlds populated with tons of content, and all of aimed at being appropriate for pretty much all ages to play.  I’ve not spent a ton of time playing these games but on a whim one weekend some of the AggroChat folks spent it rolling brand new characters in Wizard 101 and wandering around together.  The game just exudes charm and I had enough fun that weekend that I decided to spend a little money on the game even though I really didn’t intend to keep playing it regularly.  I’ve always heard they have an amazing community, and that KingsIsle in general does a lot to try and foster this.  However I was pleasantly shocked when I was contacted by a representative from KingsIsle yesterday and handed some prizes for our Blaugust event.  They handed me several codes for special bundles in both Wizard 101 and Pirate 101, each bundle having a retail price of between $29 and $39 bucks.  That is absolutely awesome, and I actually spent a bit more time playing my Wizard 101 character yesterday.  For those curious, I dug up the release videos for each of the trailers.  I have yet to decide how I will reward these but it is awesome to have more options in the prize pool.  If you interact with any of the KingsIsle employees, seriously give them a huge thank you!

Grand Tourney Gauntlet Bundle for Wizard 101

HooDoo Bundle for Pirate 101

Exhaustion Hits

Diablo III 2015-08-19 21-31-38-91

Last night is traditionally the raid night for my second static group in Final Fantasy XIV.  However we were missing a significant number of the key players, namely our second healer and tank.  For a bit we considered other options, and were on the verge of just running an expert for the day and calling it good.  Problem being as I sat there at the keyboard waiting for things to happen I kept dozing off while leaning forward, literally waking up when my head banged my boom microphone.  So instead of doing Final Fantasy XIV shenanigans I retired to the couch to peacefully doze in and out of consciousness while waiting on my wife to get home.  I didn’t really want to go to bed for real yet, because once I conk out I am often times dead to the world… and I wanted to make sure she made it home safely and didn’t have car trouble or anything out of the ordinary like that.  Before the attempt at raiding, and a small bit afterwards I continued playing some Diablo 3.  The game worked mostly because I had no one relying on me, and quite frankly I was playing on normal level which means I can doze off for a second here and there and suffer zero consequences from it.  After I beat the normal storyline and unlock the content I will end up dialing up the difficulty as I attempt to level to 70 before the 23rd.

This is really a stupid mission I have set out on…  largely because I really need to be in Final Fantasy XIV instead capping esoterics for the week.  The interesting thing about Season play in Diablo 3 though is it feels like they have ratcheted up the drop rates of everything.  While my profile has not updated to show it yet… at level 13 my crusader already has three legendary drops… including Genzaniku the awesome axe that summons a spirit to fight for you.  When I entered into this seasonal thing I fully expected to lose my character at the end of the season…  because I didn’t actually do any research before saying “sure” and clicking on the seasonal button.  I guess however everything you earn in season just rolls over into your normal characters at the end of a season which is pretty frickin cool.  So even if I don’t make any real progress in season 3, I will absolutely be starting a fresh season 4 character to play as well.  I guess in the coming days I will be popping into Final Fantasy XIV to get in an expert or two and then popping into Diablo 3 because it makes an excellent way to wind down for the evening.  I mostly enjoy soloing over there, but I am always looking for people to chat with while I am doing it.  I finally got around to adding my friend Byx last night to battle.net and I know there are tons of other people that I should as well.  I am finding that I am really enjoying the crusader, but in truth all of the classes I have played so far have been enjoyable in one way or another.  I just find it so bizarre that at this point, World of Warcraft is probably my least favorite Blizzard game.

Our Own Convention

Noble Aspirations

This is potentially going to be one of the stranger morning blog posts I have made in awhile.  Yesterday during the midst of another conversation entirely I planted a seed, and got a significantly more favorable response than I had expected.  Essentially I have thought for awhile how awesome it would be to have some event that let all of the great people I know through gaming or blogging to meet up, hang out, and cause mischief.  This year it was my hope to be able to make Pax Prime since there are a significant number of people in the Seatle area now.  The problem being by the time I even knew the tickets had gone on sale, they were already completely sold out.  Our backup plan was to try and get AggroChat qualified for press passes, but we were summarily rejected without much notice as to why.  Every major convention has this same issue, with having way more demand than there are tickets available for folks to attend.  So this sent me down an alternate line of thinking…  maybe we just need to create our own convention.  I know that sounds crazy at first glance but bear with me for awhile.

My wife is heavily involved in the twitter math community, and five years ago they were lamenting how every single professional development workshop they have been to was essentially a waste of time.  One discussion lead to another, and the idea was mentioned that what they really needed was a way to get together so that they could share ideas.  From there they organized the very first Twitter Math Camp in St Louis, and it was a huge success.  That first year only around fifty teachers attended, but each additional year it has grown to this year in Los Angeles there were over 200 teachers.  So seeing this go from someones vague idea to fruition maybe gives me a different perspective than the average person when it comes to the thought of forming our own convention.  I mean ultimately that is how most gathering start, with a basic idea and then just branching out from there.

Our Own Convention

GiganticScrim

 

I loved Pax South, but not really because the convention itself was this magical place.  The floor was busy, and there were so many people wandering around that it became hell to find a quiet spot to yourself to think.  What made the convention awesome was getting to hang out with people that I had only ever talked to online.  When I realized this… I realized that I didn’t actually need a convention to have fun, but in truth could potentially have more fun if I just somehow managed to gather up a bunch of people in one place and time.  Even if we quite literally did nothing but hang out and play board games and talk about life, it would still end up being an amazing experience.  That said I do think we could convince enough people to show up to make it an interesting experience for all of us.  Think about the sort of things we go through with the Newbie Blogger Initiative each year, and ultimately how much we learn from one another.  It would be easy enough to throw together a series of panels discussing the finer points of various blogging skills that we have.  I mean it would be pretty awesome to record an impromptu live Podcast for example, or a technical discussion in how to get the most out of WordPress.  There are real things we could talk about, and with that many game bloggers in one spot we might even be able to talk some game companies into showing up as well.  Maybe I am brutally naive… but I think it is a thing that might be doable.

Location, Location, Location

I literally have thought about this for awhile now, and those thought processes were just made more concrete after returning from Pax.  I’ve long thought that the best place for a meetup would be in a central state.  Conventions have this problem of being super convenient for people living on one particular coast, but damned near impossible for anyone else to attend.  So after a lot of thinking basically I came up with two potential locations.

  • St Louis, Missouri
  • Chicago, Illinois

Both locations have strengths and weaknesses, but both are also fairly centrally located making it not too horrible from pretty much anywhere in the United States, and potentially even doable for Canadians.  St Louis is significantly easier for me personally… because I know the town decently well and have several friends in the area that I could potentially recruit to help.  Chicago on the other hand… other than flying through O’Hare I know nothing about it, and I really have zero support structure to help out with the planning and the details.  Its biggest strength however is O’Hare airport, because essentially it is a straight flight from any major airport cutting down the overall travel costs.  That said St Louis hotels, venue rentals, and pretty much everything else would be significantly cheaper which might offset the travel costs.  All of this said… they both have strengths and weaknesses, but as I said my personal leanings are towards St Louis simply for the familiarity point.

I guess the ultimate question is…  would some sort of convention/meetup be something that our community would even be interested in?  We would have to set a date well into the future and begin planning now to make it work, but before any of that… I need to know if people would actually come.  I think it could be a really awesome experience, and if nothing else let a whole bunch of people that have only ever communicated online hang out and get to know each other.  I also think there is a lot of cool stuff we could learn from each other, so I feel like it could be more than just a “gathering”.  Over the last several years we have gone from being a vague connection of island states, to being a serious and formidable community constantly welcoming new people.  Blaugust while stressful, is an amazing event and just one in a long line of events that we do each year.  While I jokingly referred to this as BlaugustCon… it is more than just that.  I think we could build something amazing in the real world in addition to all of what we are doing in the virtual world.  Like I said.. the real question is do people even want this?  I don’t often ask for feedback, but in this situation I absolutely need it.  Leave me a line and let me know your thoughts.

Blaugust Games of Week – Week 2

Another Week Down

EverQuest2 2015-08-07 06-27-43-01 One of the things that I find easiest to blog about is when I am experiencing a new game, or re-experiencing a game after some time has passed.  As a result last week I started doing the Blaugust Games of the Week thing, and for the first week I posted  three vastly different titles.  While Marvel Heroes 2015 has been in my gaming rotation for some time now, Everquest II and Dirty Bomb were not and as such I spent a bit of time this past week playing both.  While I didn’t really talk much about any of the games this week, I hope some of you out there at least gave them a shot.  I spent the most time playing Everquest II on the Stormhold Time Locked Server.  It has been so strange starting from scratch without having some of my favorite leveling spots.  The later leveling zones like Darklight Wood and Iceclad Ocean are just better designed than the original Everquest 2 leveling process was, and as a result you could tear through them so much more quickly.

As of last night I hit level 10 on my Iksar Shadowknight, and in part I think I was doing things the hard way because I stormed right out into the Commonlands and attempted to start leveling off the mobs out there that tend to be significantly higher than my level.  One of the things that I had forgotten about the Commonlands were all of the Small Chests that drop additional quests.  At this point my quest log is full of level 15-20 Far Seas supplier quests that essentially ask you to kill X of a thing and then turn in the end result at an NPC.  I remember these being the bread and butter of early leveling, but I have to say the thing I miss is all of the individual neighborhoods of Freeport.  I think it was a huge disservice to the game when the revamp of Freeport got rid of these completely.  They are now instanced zones that you can only enter on specific quests, but I have to say these zones made up a lot of the feel of both Freeport and Qeynos and did a good job of explaining why the cities were the way that they were.  Of the three titles from this week, this is the one that I am most likely to keep playing because I am finding an odd enjoyment out of retracing my EQ2 roots.

Trion Theme

Since it is once again Friday it is time for me to pick another three games to talk about and suggest.  This time around I decided to go with a theme and as a result I am picking three games from Trion.  Again I am limiting my selections to games that you can download and start playing immediately without having to purchase a game client or pay a subscription fee.  My goal is to make it so folks who are stuck and in need of inspiration can pop into one of these games and get instant “blog fodder”.

Rift

rift 2012-05-31 20-38-58-07 Considering the announcement of the World of Warcraft expansion yesterday, I thought it was fitting to lead off this morning talking about Rift as it was the first game to actually pry me away from the WoW Juggernaut.  The game is designed in such a way so that in theory you can play one character and provide every possible role in the game.  This was not necessarily the case at launch but over time they have provided additional talent trees or “Souls” to help flesh out the missing abilities.  So now you can absolutely be a healing warrior or a tanking mage.  This game has an absolutely phenomenal early leveling game, and the first fifty levels are an absolute joy to level through.  The expansions however are a completely different thing.  I personally found both leveling in Storm Legion and Nightmare Tides to be extremely tedious, and found myself wishing they had not abandoned the early game that I enjoyed so much.

The core of the game though is great, but there are various things you are going to have to content with especially along the lines of ability bloat.  One of my key complaints about Rift has been that you end up with a lot of abilities where ability 2 and 3 are absolutely better than 1… but have long cool downs.  The end result is that you usually end up macroing all three together, which can lead to some fairly uninteresting game play.  That said the game excels at letting you literally branch out in any possible direction and build a character out however you want to.  There are some less than optimal options, but in theory any combination of three Souls will make a potentially viable character, which gives you a lot of freedom to customize things as you see fit.  Fortunately the game has an excellent set of prebuilt specs to at least get you going in the right direction.  As far as the free to play goes… it is among the least restrictive and there are not really any pay walls standing in your way.

Steam DownloadDirect Download

Trove

Trove 2014-09-25 19-18-33-410 I was lucky enough to get in on the first wave of Alpha invites for Trove and having played it that long… has been an interesting experience.  The game has changed massively in that time, and the key elements have shifted and morphed but the basic game is still the same.  I tend to think of Trove as Minecraft meets Diablo, and my recent Bel’s Big Adventure series of Minecraft videos has made me appreciate how important this really is.  Minecraft has a fairly horrible combat system, that is passible but frustratingly bad if you are going to spend much time fighting anything.  Trove on the other stand decided to go in a direction that allows you to pick one of several classes that each have their own built in abilities and a MOBA style character design.  I tend to have a natural synergy with the base Knight class, but have spent significant amounts of time playing the Gunslinger and Neon Ninja as well… and they are all extremely well built.  The core gameplay loop in Trove centers around going out into the world and fighting baddies to find interesting stuff in level ranged based worlds that steadily increase the challenge.

On top of this however there is a very awesome building system where you can build extremely complex custom worlds for your “Club”, or you can build out your cornerstone which is a traveling spawn point that you can move with you as you go out exploring the world.  I love this aspect of the game because it feels like I am able to take all of my most important resources and keep moving my base of operations as I go exploring.  The other thing that makes this game amazing is the community support, and the vast majority of the weapons that you will get were created by fans just like you.  The game has a silliness to it that is contagious, and I will forever cherish my Dapper Raptor mount that you can see above.  Another favorite of mine is the ability to collect item appearances and then make ANY piece of gear that you get look like that, so as you keep exploring you just keep opening more and more unique looks for your character. If you have never played Trove I highly suggest you download it and give it a shot.

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ArcheAge

ARCHEAGE 2015-06-18 11-13-03-53 ArcheAge and I have an extremely checkered past.  I was in the early Alpha process of this game and found the community to be among the most toxic I have ever experienced in any game genre.  As a result I pretty much actively ignored the game for some time.  However with some of the AggroChat folks started testing the waters and playing it… I decided to give it another shot.  The end result has been a pretty enjoyable leveling experience and allowed me to see just how subtle and nuanced the game really is.  I am not a fan of open world ganker style pvp… and early in the game that seemed to be extremely prevalent.  More so than that, the players seemed to revel in griefing others in non-combat ways as well.  If you AFK’d in town, someone might come along with a tractor and push you out into the middle of a dangerous area just to watch you die.  However all of those elements seem to have gotten bored and moved on, and what is left seems to be a bunch of generally nice folks.

The game play itself is also rather good, and while the quests are pretty basic the world is gorgeous and huge, and the class designs are really interesting.  While Rift has an issue with duplication of abilities, ArcheAge seems to be designed in a way so that there is natural synergy between talent trees without giving you a bunch of abilities that you will never actually use.  I have gone full circle on my opinion of this game and you can track the progress if you flip through some of my blog entries.  The game is absolutely playable on the free to play model, but there are some serious constraints.  Namely it is very difficult to do more than just one thing as a “free” player because every action is throttled by your abysmal labour points.  As a Patron player your labour regenerates when you are offline… as a free player you have to be logged into the game waiting on your points to come back.  The other huge constraint is that free players cannot own land, which means if you get very serious about this game you are likely going to end up subscribing.  However in the meantime the free model does allow you to get your feet wet.

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So Much Better With People

The AMA Experiment

Yesterday my good friend Syl started a thread over on the Blaugust Nook with a very simple purpose.  The idea was to generate writing prompts by asking the person above you in the thread a question.  It seemed like an awesome idea, so I joined in the fun asking the first question, which then left me open to be asked a question.  Wilhelm from The Ancient Gaming Noob chimed in after me and gave me a really excellent question, because it is honestly one I have thought about before but never actually written anything on.  Without more rambling… here is the prompt.

For a lot of people, starting off in MMORPGs changed the way they viewed and interacted with video games. I often defer single player games in favor of online games now due to the fact that games with other people are… or at least seem… more interesting, even when I am playing them solo. Did starting off with MMORGPs change your relationship with video games?

Brief History of Belghast

PSOBetterSo I feel like in order to answer this question appropriately we have to go a ways back into my history.  I grew up in a small town, but more so than that… I grew up a significant distance outside of the city limits.  This compounded with the fact that I had no siblings, meant that I really didn’t have anyone to play with.  As a result I got extremely adept at entertaining myself, but when we hit middle school… the prime era of sleep overs, I pretty much took every opportunity to stay over at someone else’s house or have someone at mine.  It was awesome to be able to play games with friends, but my reality was that I was mostly a single player gamer the majority of my time.  As such I tended to favor mostly single player titles like role playing games, and zelda like adventure games.  These would let me explore worlds by myself without the need of an additional player to bring the fun.

In college I did my fair share of LAN gaming, but the majority of my time was still spent playing single player titles like Fallout on the PC.  My first real “MMO” experience was Phantasy Star Online on the Dreamcast, and I ate that game up.  Even though communication was not that big of a deal, I spent so much time exploring the worlds with other players.  I even went so far as to get a PC keyboard adapter that I could hook up to my Dreamcast so I could make communication easier.  During this time I was still playing a significant amount of single player games on the PC and devouring every single Japanese Roleplaying Game that was released on the PS1, PS2 or the Dreamcast.  Then my “jumping into” Everquest happened, as I was asked to play a friends secondary character during a Vox raid… and from that point on I was pretty much hooked.  Gradually I just stopped playing anything single player and instead devoted every single moment of gaming time to whatever my current MMO crush happened to be as I moved through EQ, DAoC, Horizon, and City of Heroes.

So Much Better With People

ffxiv_dx11 2015-08-05 19-43-27-08 Something else happened during this time, that ultimately disconnected me from single player game experiences.  Games became so much more cinematic, and quite honestly this was not a good thing as far as I was concerned.  There were so many times I wanted to plunk down in front of a game, boot it up and just start playing.  When I played my role playing games, I absolutely expected to have a serious time commitment.  I did not however expect to have to wade through cut scene after cut scene just to play a platformer.  So I became even more immersed in my big online worlds that let me wander aimlessly and find my own enjoyment.  I also found myself favoring games that were extremely similar to the online worlds I was playing in.  Games like the Elder Scrolls or the three dimensional Fallout games provided me that big open world I craved but allowed me to explore offline.  The problem is there was always something missing.  These are games that I have devoted hundreds of hours to playing, but there is always a point where I start thinking to myself…  this world would be so much better with people.

Ultimately even if I am in “alone in a crowd” mode, I enjoy seeing people roaming around in the same world I am inhabiting.  Maybe this is an artifact of my early desires to have someone to play with, or a side effect of being recruited into Everquest in the middle of a bustling and thriving guild.  In any case I always end up missing the people when I am playing other games.  So as a result there are lots of single player titles that I want to play through, to experience the story…  but they ultimately sit in my steam library unfinished and in some cases not even started… because I would rather be online interacting with people that I care about.  Fairly recently I have found that hanging out on Teamspeak while playing single player games helps a bit.  It allows me to chat with people and feel like I am part of a larger community, while still indulging in single player worlds and experiences.  Similarly streaming a single player game to twitch feels like I am in some way making it a multiplayer experience by sharing it with others.  So to answer the original question… yes MMOs have changed the way I play single player games, by simply making me not satisfied with being in a world without other human beings to interact with.

69 Challengers

The Anook Thing

Blaugust is officially upon us, and with it comes a deluge of people posting to the Nook.  I just wanted to take a few moments to highlight a few things as far as that goes.  First off Lonrem made an awesome post on how to get the most out of posting on Anook.  Also of note the very awesome Green Mushroom aka Void has been creating forum posts each day to collect the various daily posts.  This is a pretty great idea as it makes it easy to read everything that has been happening for that day in one place.  While this is amazing idea I also highly suggest that you advertise your post separate from this forum thread.  The Anook Community prize is going to be solely based on how many hearts various posts get from the Anook Community as a whole.  Our forum is a great place for collaboration and communication with other Blaugustians, but the only people that will actually see it are people who are following the nook.

Basically you have two options to make a post see larger circulation.  You can either create a blog post on your profile page, which will allow you to attach images and keywords as well as associating it with a game.  This however takes some time, and feels a little repetitive when you are already writing a separate blog post.  What I tend to do however is to click through to the Blaugust Nook, and at the top of the screen is a box that says “Share What’s on Your Mind”.  Generally speaking I open this box, link to my blog post… write a quick blurb about the post and then associate it with a game.  This will create a post automagically shared with the Blaugust nook and also associated with the individual game nook.  From there if you so choose you can click the Megaphone icon to share it with any other nooks that you might think would be interesting.  My key problem generally is that I tend to write posts that cover multiple games… which makes it really hard to determine which to associate it with.

69 Challengers

At the time I am writing this Saturday morning… we currently have 69 Challengers.  As we went on through the month last year we picked up steam, so that at the end of the proceedings we had fifty people who had either participated or won the challenge.  I am completely blown away by the support I have seen thus far, and I am amped to see what the end of the month will see our numbers at.  I have to admit there was a period of time when I didn’t think I would do Blaugust again.  For some people it was this amazing experience, and others… it ended up causing them to take several month lags in their posting.  The last thing I wanted to do was contribute to bloggers…  not blogging.  However as we got closer to August this year more and more people asked me if I was running it again because they were really getting excited.  At this point… I am absolutely happy that I did because apparently this challenge strikes a primal chord with folks.  The happiest moment however is that I am watching it branch out of my little circle of blogger friends and helping to discover brand new circles that I didn’t even know about.  I think we are going to have really great things happen this month.  Now…  for the updated list of participants as of Day One.

Returning to Norrath

EverQuest2 2015-07-31 18-21-14-24 As I mentioned during the Games of the Week post, I plan on diving back into some of the games I am linking to as well.  I am mostly focusing on free to play games, that have no barrier of entry for folks to pop in.  That said however… as I delved back into Everquest II last night…  I had a barrier of entry.  It turns out that the time locked progression server Stormhold is for subscribers only, so for the moment… I am once again subscribing to EQ2.  This has always been one of those games that I have had rose colored lenses for, because I have this deep connection to Norrath.  In many ways it was my first MMO World, because in truth… Phantasy Star Online doesn’t really count when it comes to the whole “rich lore driven world” aspect.  It had been since March 2014 that I had poked my head into Everquest II, which is a bit of a long absence for me.  This is one of those games that I have tended to play every few months, and in spite of having it installed I really have not given it much loving.  I have to say…  maybe that was for a reason.

In many ways this game is a time capsule locked in a different graphical era.  I’ve never been a fan of the “new” models that they released in an attempt to sell the game in Asian markets, but I have to say the original models look extremely dated at this point.  It isn’t so much the models as the fact that they are animated so poorly as compared to modern titles.  I guess in the time I have been away I have gotten accustomed to the way the other worlds looked.  In truth this game ties back to a time when the fact that we were playing online at all… was miraculous and as a result we simply accepted that a lot of things didn’t look nearly as clean as the console counter parts because we were getting huge worlds to explore.  Another thing that nostalgia does is makes you look back upon experiences as better than they actually were.  I remember having all of these fond memories on the Isle of Refuge…  but unfortunately the act of playing through it again is something entirely different.  The later start zone experiences work so much better than the Isle, and I found the whole experience of leveling through it again to be cludgy and annoying.  Even worse was the transition to Freeport, because quite honestly I am not a big fan of the redone versions of Freeport and Qeynos.  I miss the small dungeon zones attached to Freeport as way of leveling through to 10 and being able to survive the commonlands.

For the time being I am running my Iksar Shadowknight just outside the gates of Freeport in the Commonlands, and I am able to take down level 9 and 10 mobs at level 6.  My working plan is to grind my way to 10 and then start questing in the commonlands proper again.  The problem being…  I just ran out of drive to make this happen last night.  I finally logged into Final Fantasy XIV and worked on my hunts there instead of continuing the leveling process.  Another thing I had forgotten, is just how slow the leveling curve in EQ2 used to be.  Getting to 10 is going to feel like a significant accomplishment, since I am not dual boxing this game the way many other people are.  Basically this time locked server experience is reminding me that you can never actually go back home.  You change and your home changes… and things are never quite the same.  I still had some fun poking my head into Norrath again, and if I can get over this hump I think I will enjoy myself again as an “off night” game when I am not feeling like much human interaction.  I have definitely been going through one of those slumps lately, where I am perfectly fine to chat with people over twitter but somehow grouping up and doing content together just seems to taxing.  I need to get past this however because I need desperately to cap Esoterics this week.

Blaugust Games of Week – Week 1

Pre-emptive Thank You

Yesterday I freaked a lot of people out by calling it the Blaugust Eve.  As I have explained on twitter, I was accounting for my amazing time travelling Aussie and Kiwi friends for whom… right now IS the start of Blaugust.  For the rest of us at the time of posting this we have a little more wiggle room before the festivities kick off.  I have to say last year was an insane ride for me, as much as it was for the contestants.  The intent was to run everything through the Blaugust Nook but that didn’t exactly happen, and it quite literally made my life hell.  I ended up spending a couple of hours a day trying to sort out who posted what when and in what time zone they were posting from…  and then the people who posted after midnight in their own time zone…  only served to add to the complication.  There were numerous times I tried to track down people on twitter or IM to ask if they meant X post to be on Y day or not.

This year it seems like most everyone has registered on the Nook which is going to help, but what is going to be even more important is advertising your daily posts there with the day number you are intending it to be.  On your side that is a small amount of work, but on my side that is saving me literally hours of scouring… and is hopefully going to allow me to actually read blogs during the course of the event.  As soon as things start I have to flip into book keeper mode, and while I might be “reading” posts I was not necessarily enjoying them last year because of all of the technical foibles.  So I am thanking you ahead of time for complying with the list of rules, because it is going to make my life not horrible over the next thirty one days.  I’ve been a fan of Anook for awhile, so much so apparently that yesterday someone thought I worked for them.  I just think they do a great job of giving me guild forum like functionality but also giving the ability to interact with other gamers.  I am amped this year about them sponsoring the Community Award, and we will ultimately sort out the specifics of that as the event goes on.

Games of the Week – Week 1

Yesterday we launched the writing prompts forum, and I thought it was pretty amazing that Void spent a good chunk of the day yesterday populating it with a bunch of ideas.  I plan on adding a new writing prompt to this post every day during the course of this event, but I wanted to go a little bit further.  Nothing makes more interesting posts than exploring a new game, or revisiting one that you have been fond of in the past.  As such I plan on highlighting three free to play games a week, with an attempt to mix up the styles a bit.  My hope is that if you are lacking inspiration, you can download and install one of these games and find plenty of things to write about.  Lets get on with the games!

Dirty Bomb – Nexon/Splash Damage

dirtybomb This is a game I played a bit in beta but have not really played much after it officially launched, and I am actually looking forward to playing it some more.  I have long been a huge fan of games by Splash Damage, and I spent many an hour playing Wolfenstein Enemy Territory.  Hell I even joined a competitive clan while playing it, but never really did much more than scrimmage other teams.  Splash Damage creates a shooter quite unlike anyone else makes, and they tend to focus on these complex objectives that require multiple classes of players to complete them.  I always focused on the “Engineer” archetype because it made the game play more enjoyable for me as it gave me a higher purpose.  I am not big into “death matching” but I loved rushing headlong into a firefight trying to stay alive long enough to build a bridge or repair a tank.  This game is the logical extension of Wolfenstein Enemy Territory, Quake Wars Enemy Territory and even to some extent the critical failure Brink.  I think I am one of the few people out there that wholeheartedly enjoyed Brink, and lately I have been feeling the itch to play some FPS action… and Dirty Bomb seems like it is going to fit that bill perfectly.

Download From SteamDownload From Nexon

Everquest II – Daybreak Games

EQ2_000008 I will always hold a special place in my heart for Norrath, the setting of the Everquest universe.  When World of Warcraft launched I was torn because part of me wanted to be playing Everquest II.  Instead I went where the bulk of my friends went, but continued to periodically visit the setting of EQ2 throughout the years.  It has some of the best world building I have seen in any game, and the scope of the zones just feel so massive compared to almost anything else on the market.  They innovated in so many ways, and had so many rich systems like one of the best Mentoring systems out there for the time.  As the years have ticked by the game has felt more and more like a dated relic, however there is a simple nostalgic charm to it that I still find appealing.  They seem to be banking on taking this nostalgia to market, as they have opened a time locked progression server allowing players to go back and experience the world as it was during the early days.  This is making me seriously consider re-rolling and starting fresh on this new server, but I have had so many other competing goals that I just have not done it yet.  My goal is this week to roll a character and check it out, but unfortunately that means I am going to have to buy a new character slot on my already loaded account.  If you are looking for a world loaded with inspiration… this is a good place to start.

Download From SteamDownload from Daybreak

Marvel Heroes 2015 – Gazillion

MH_SCREEN_042314_013 Another game that I really enjoy but find myself not playing a lot of right now is Marvel Heroes.  This game provides Diablo II style game play, with a rich class based system in the form of all of the different heroes that you can play.  One of the coolest features of this game is the way that the you pick your first hero to level.  The game allows you to play a long list of champions to level 10, and then you get to unlock one of them and take it all the way to level 60.  This gives you plenty of time to get a feel for how they each play and their different abilities.  I personally tend to be a Captain America player, but there are heroes that fit just about any imagined play style.  The other thing that I really appreciate is the way that for the most part, the game gives me a pathway to unlock the things that I might want without hiding it behind an overly painful grind.  Champions are purchased with Eternity Splinters which drop fairly frequently while doing content in the world.  One of the complaints I have seen from friends is that the game play is extremely easy, and this is absolutely the case while you are playing on normal mode.  However after defeating the main storyline you can ratchet up the difficulty  much in the same way as you can in Diablo 3.  This is absolutely a really fun game and the freemium nature is not egregious in any fashion, so if you want some old school Diablo game play with MOBA inspired style character design…  you might check this one out.

Download From SteamDownload From Gazillion

Daily Prompt

Since I more or less posted a series of games that I have some connection to, or would like to have a better connection with.  The writing prompt for the day is somewhat connected to that.

What game that you are not playing, do you still have a deeply nostalgic connection to and why?

Let us hear what game you keep returning to even if you aren’t really actively playing it… or likely will never play it with quite the same fervor.  For me personally that game is absolutely Everquest II, and I still hold a torch for it even though at this moment I have not really played it over the course of the last two years.