Sithmas Time Is Here

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Merry Sithmas

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It has been so surreal since the launch of the Force Awakens toy line.  Everywhere I go the world seems to be teeming with Star Wars enthusiasm and with that… comes a bunch of priced to own kitch.  While we have yet to reach anything close to the hype bubble we experienced before the release of Phantom Menace, it is still extremely noticeable.  A few weeks ago I wrote about re-watching the prequels and how I had wondered if maybe I was just too harsh on them at the time.  After re-watching I decided that no… they really were horrible films.  The problem is that for years I let them have control over my enjoyment of the Star Wars universe as a whole, and that frustrates me.  If you were to completely ignore their existence, then honestly the rest of the Universe is still pretty great.  Sure there was some strange stuff on the fridges of the Expanded Universe, but I cannot discount just how phenomenal the Old Republic Era has been.  I remember picking up one of the first Tales of the Jedi comics and being completely blown away at this concept of a universe set essentially 4000 years before the time of Skywalker.  Then as that universe blossomed over the course of sever comic series, and then came to life in the form of the Knights of the Old Republic game, I was absolutely hooked.  Now that I am back roaming around SWTOR, I am realizing I care about this universe far more than I ever realized.

When the game mentions Freedon Nadd or Exar Kun… I remember who they are and what they did in this worlds history.  I remember awesome characters like Nomi Sunrider from the comics, or Jolee Bindo from KOTOR.  When I see a reference to Casus Fett or Mandalore the Ultimate in game… I know who those characters are and can remember reading about them in the comics.  The thing is… it is not just the Old Republic era that is amazing.  Essentially each time another creative force has been given free reign in the fertile Star Wars universe… really awesome things have happened.  For example while the official Prequels are pretty horrible, the Clone Wars cartoon series is amazing.  No one can deny just how awesome Ahsoka Tano as is a character, and just how much more interesting the interaction is between her and Anakin…  than pretty much ANYTHING in the Prequels.  Now if we scan forward we have Star Wars Rebels… also being allowed free reign in the universe, this time within the constraints of the more well known modern era.  Similar to Shadows of the Empire it is weaving its way in and out of events we already know, and doing a great job of making us care about this new cast of characters.

Excitement Grows

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Which leads me to realize…  the times I have really loved Star Wars lately is when someone has been able to wriggle out front under the grasp of George Lucas and run freely creating their own plot lines and characters.  Essentially this is exactly what is happening with Force Awakens… it is all the goodness of the Star Wars universe with none of the harmful effects that Lucas has forced upon it in recent years.  In fact Lucas has been more than a little bit salty when talking about Episode VII and the fact that for the most part Disney ignored his plans to create a movie focused around teenagers.  What is happening is that Disney has become the most powerful marketing juggernaut on the planet, and at the core of their methodology is protecting the bottom line, and with it the long term profitability of the franchises they own.  I am sure there is some computer program somewhere that knows precisely what fans will like, and just how far they are willing to allow the themes to be stretched.  While at some point down the line this might be a bad thing for innovation…  I sincerely doubt they will allow anything even vaguely close to midichlorians to ever happen again.

The only frustration I have with the Disney approach however is that so much of the Universe became ruled “non-canon”.  There were characters like Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Thrawn that were absolutely amazing…  in fact I have action figures for both of them hanging on my wall as well as Clone Emperor Palpatine, Dark Jedi Luke, and Jedi Leia.  Those stories meant a lot to me, and while there were parts of the Expanded Universe that were completely unfollowable… most of it made a certain logical sense at least at one time.  The problem being like most fan centered fiction, it iterated on itself causing the characters to become more distorted and unbelievably heroic as time went on.  It is my hope that they will figure out how to work some of the best characters into the new tales.  There has been rumors that Mara Jade will be introduced as an Inquisitor instead of the Emperors Hand for example, which is fine with me…  so long as she is introduced at all.  Basically I find myself in a strange place, of having hope for Star Wars… when for so many years I lacked it almost entirely.  I imagine as we get closer to the December release of the movie, the cross promotions and Star Wars branded soup cans will start to get annoying.  However in the meantime…  I am reveling in Sithmas.

The Professional

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As of last night I have finished Balmorra and Nar Shadda on the Bounty Hunter and just went through the “intermission” that generally occurs there.  I didn’t really expect to be all that into this storyline, because essentially it was one of the ones that I never intended to actually complete.  While I enjoyed the Trooper storyline, the class itself was not that compelling to me.  Largely I think this was the reason why I ultimately fell out of love with SWTOR after pushing three characters to the then level cap of 50.  Bounty Hunter however feels completely different, and much more action packed.  There are little things like rocket punch and the jet pack charge that make it feel more brutal…  even if the attacks are essentially the same as my trooper vanguard.   The funny thing about the storyline is just how much of myself I can pour into it.  I am playing a very grey bounty hunter, who does not kill anyone for free.  Also as the story goes on I am becoming a bit of a softy, and I am wondering exactly when that will bite me in the ass.  Essentially it does not seem like a very “sith side” storyline so far other than the fact that essentially I am doing everything for the sake of payback… and for a girl.

I imagine over the next few days I will rip through the content quickly and before the end of the weekend start work on the last of two classes.  Not sure what I will be doing next, if it will be the Inquisitor and its constant shock treatment… or if I will go for the Imperial Agent.  As it stands now… I am starting to lean towards Agent.  Whatever the case playing all of these stories is making me fall in love with the Bioware writing all over again.  It is also making me look forward to Fallen Empire and its more story driven focus.  When you ONLY play the class quests, SWTOR becomes a much better game because it has a nice clean story arc that does not get muddied by repeating the same planetary quests over and over again.  At some point I will go back and play some of the quests I missed Sith side, but for the time being I want to push through the classes because each one feels like it adds another piece of a puzzle to the central story arc of this game world.  This is also making me want to go back and get KOTOR 2 working, and actually attempt to beat it this time.  It feels like there is a chunk of storyline that I am missing there, and with it several characters that I really only know by name.  Essentially I am saying by all of this… that once again I am proud to be a Star Wars junkie.

 

 

 

NBI Talkback 3 – What Made You A Gamer?

Early Beginnings

searstelegames I had an extremely strange couple of days, so instead of talking about that I thought I would tackle the third talkback challenge.  For this one my good friend Jaedia posted a prompt on the Newbie Blogger Initiative website asking “What Made You A Gamer?”.  This is one of those topics that I have thought long about for years, and I am not really sure what the answer is.  I am not sure if there is any one thing that makes someone a gamer.  I think you are either born with the natural proclivities in that direction or you are not.  My earliest memories of gaming are pretty clear however.  My parents had a Sears and Roebuck version of the Atari Tele-Games console system…  aka Pong.  I remember being completely enamored with being able to move the bar on screen to intercept the square bouncing around the screen.  I don’t necessarily remember playing this all that often because well… it was my parents toy and not mine, but I remember the desire being real.

A few years later thought my parents purchased an Atari 2600, and that is the system I remember being “mine”.  My mom was a teacher and I guess one of her students was selling theirs used.  This is important because it sets up a long tradition of me buying console systems second hand that I continue today with my Craigslist finds.  The console came with the base system, several well worn controllers and a dozen or so games for the big price of $50… which actually was quite a bit of money back then.  I was enthralled by the games and while they really had no story to tell on their own, it didn’t stop me from making up stories.  Even the most generic game could be a vehicle for me to tell tales of valor and bravery.  I remember for whatever reason that Sea Quest was one of my favorite games at the time, which was this simple game about going down in a sub marine to save divers.  In my head I was this crack submarine pilot fighting off sharks to rescue my troops.

Discovering Role-playing Games

DaveTrampierPlayersHandbook At this point we are going to take a bit of a detour, because I was happily an Atari kid for years making up stories to fill in the gaps that the games were not providing for me.  Then an event happened that literally changed my trajectory permanently.  As I have said before I grew up the child of a teacher, and that means a bunch of things.  Not the least of which is that you end up spending a lot of time up at school waiting for your teacher parent to “wrap things up”.  I knew all of the janitorial staff by name and they were a kind of family that I hung out with as they did their things, and I waited on my mother.  At the end of the school year there was a tradition, the great locker cleanout.  On the last day of school, anything that was left in the student lockers at 4 pm was going to get dumped in the ground and thrown out, to clear the lockers to be cleaned for the next school year.  I learned my scavenging instincts at a young age, and this was pretty much a magical time for me as I wandered around through the piles of debris picking up gems.

Most of the treasures I found were in the realm of nifty “stationary” items like binders or notebooks, but I remember during second grade I stumbled upon a book that quite literally changed my life from that point onwards.  That seems like a fairly bold statement but finding a dusty well worn copy of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook was like opening a whole other world to me.  To say I was obsessed with this was a bit of an understatement.  I poured over the pages of the tome soaking in everything I could from it.  While I didn’t understand anything about the game itself, it provided for me a structure of types of heroes, types of weapons, types of magic that imprinted upon me.  I loved the artwork and the next year at school it dominated the recess games I played with my friends.  We were a band of warriors, and the fact that the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon started around this same time only served to fuel the fire.  The only problem being that we lived in the bible belt, and “Dungeons and Dragons” was an evil thing.  So instead I got wrapped up in the Marvel Super Heroes game also by TSR.  For some reason my friends parents could stomach them playing a game based on comic book heroes, so long as we never referred to or referenced it as being “like” D&D.  We had to go so far as to hide the dice needed to play it, so as a result I became the game master because my parents were cool with all of this.

The Nintendo Christmas

nintendo-nes-mario-console-boxed The next major event in my game development came with the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System.  Up until this point I had been doing everything I could to squeeze the joy out of a combination of the Atari and my scattered pen and paper role playing games.  Then my cousins came to town with their Super Mario Bros and completely destroyed my world.  Everything about the NES was just better.  There were stories being told through the games, and with characters that you could actually recognize as characters.  I grew up in a pretty small town and the arcade was a less than savory place.  So my exposure to Arcade games to that point was pretty much limited to the occasional lobby of a department store.  While I craved playing them, and begged my parents for a quarter anytime we were near one… it was not something I really got to do all that often.  When the NES came on the scene I was completely blown away by the graphical fidelity and my entire existence became about getting one.  This was the Christmas that the Nintendo was universally sold out around the country.

I had to be the most annoying kid because I kept tabs on which stores had them, which stores were rumored to have them… and which stores were sold out.  I kept my parents up to date on my findings, in hopes that they would rush out and get one.  So as Christmas rushed towards us and there was no Nintendo shaped box under the tree…  I was completely devastated.  Then Christmas morning happened… and I had put on a good face and was prepared to swallow down the disappointment.  There under the tree was sitting a gleaming Control Deck box just like the one above.  This was probably the most joy I had experienced to that moment, and if my parents had a video camera it probably would have looked a lot like the N64 kids.  This was the single best and worst Christmas I had ever experienced.  About two hours after getting my Nintendo…  we lost power due to an Ice Storm that was raging… and we did not get power back for three days.  So while I had the object of my desire…  I had no power with which to actually enjoy it.  The rest is pretty much history, games like Final Fantasy were able to merge my love of RPGs and my love of games, and now I spent most of my time playing MMOs.  I still think however that people either are inherently game lovers or they are not, and there isn’t really much that can “make” a gamer.

Santa RNG

The Sidewalks Roll Up

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This holiday is considerably different than most.  Always there is a natural flow to the events, but due to my Aunt needing dialysis it has completely changed the order of things.  Traditionally last night I would have been up with my family, as they have always celebrated on Christmas Eve.  Traditionally we would go to “midnight mass” that actually happened about 7 pm, and then retire to my grandmothers house afterwards for awkward conversation and eventually even more awkward gift exchange.  During this my uncles would get into the cherished conversation of “why this random thing I own, is better than this other random thing you own” or “who hates ethnic groups more” or even the more recent “random insane government conspiracy theory”.  One of my uncles spins these grand tales of conspiracy that are delivered in way that they almost sound cogent… until you realize that the keystone of his argument is completely batshit crazy.

Now however the game has changed, as we did not spend last night with them… but are instead supposed to go up today.  Which pushes aside my wife’s family gathering… but that is a tale for another day.  This left us at home, by ourselves for the first time in years on a Christmas Eve.  We did not exactly plan well for this occurrence and as about 7:30 rolled around we decided we were hungry, and that nothing at all in the house sounded good.   Which is slightly insane, since we keep silly amounts of food on hand that could be prepared with minimal effort.  I got bundled up and went out into the cold night in search of sustenance. 

We have a saying here that the “sidewalks roll up” as a way of saying that the town is completely quiet and no business is being transacted.  Last night it quite literally felt as though the sidewalks had rolled up.  The only businesses open were Walgreens and Taco Bueno… and the line there extended quite a long ways across the now empty Reasors grocery store parking lot.  Seems like there were other people trying to find food on Christmas Eve.  Slightly forlorn I returned home and cobbled together something to eat out of the banquet of things we have laying around the house.  This morning when I went out to forage I was feeling no more positive that it would not occur again, however I successfully scrounged two sausage rolls and a jump start of caffeine to get us both going.

Santa RNG

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I would have thought that maybe last night players would have felt a wee bit more charitable since it was in fact Christmas Eve.  However if anything it seemed to make the assholes more assholish, and the clueless even more lacking.  I got to listen to more than one variation of the “you all suck” speech, but I dealt with it, because like I have said before playing DPS lets me compartmentalize my world.  I only care about the objective and achieving that objective, and since I am not tanking or healing and by default only responsible for myself… I can just zone in on that job and perform it.  I have lamented over the last few weeks how I have been unable to get weapons for my Enhancement Shaman.  So yesterday I soldiered on in the effort of trying to fill those gaps.

It might have been in the spirit of the season,  or maybe I just finally hit a lucky spot in the random number generator… but for whatever reason Santa RNG paid out big-time.  First I managed to pull the extremely cool looking Softfoot’s Last Resort from the protectors event.  Not very long after that I managed to pull the Seismic Bore mace from the Iron Juggernaut encounter.  So in one night I managed to bump both of my weapons up to decent levels and can now actually chart on the damage meters.  Thing is… Santa RNG was not finished quite yet.  Over the course of the evening I managed to pick up two pieces of the Tier 16 Shaman set the Shoulders and then finally the Chestpiece.  I still have a few slots that have 496 gear in them, but at this point there are not that many.  I have reached the point where Throne of Thunder really has no benefit at all for me, so I can simply focus on doing Siege each week.  I might have to do one last run however to pick up my final sigil of power.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

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So while I might sound sullen at the moment, I am sure as the day moves on I will enjoy myself.  Right now we are trying to get up and about and out the door so we can be long gone from my grandmothers house by the time my uncles show up.  As a result I need to finish this post up, get showered and ready and gather up the gifts.  I hope you all have a really awesome holiday, and that if you didn’t get what you wanted… you at least got what you needed.  I personally got exactly what I needed…  some time off work and the freedom to mill about the house peacefully.  Other than that anything else I gain from the holiday is gravy.  Hopefully you have a wonderful day surrounded by loved ones and blanketed in goodies.  I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and if you don’t read my blog again before then…  have a very Happy New Year.

I Hate People

Plans are a Crutch

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I had these plans yesterday of running the last part of Siege of Orgrimmar, but didn’t actually do that at all.  I queued for it at one point, but after seeing it would take an hour I bailed and gave up.  After being iced in for several days, we were out of a few things… not the least of which was toilet paper and paper towels.  The above picture is to show the extent of the icing… for years I have gotten in the habit of raising my wiper blades so they don’t get frozen to the window.  As you can see it is like everything had been sealed in plastic to preserve it for eternity.  If nothing else I knew I had to clear the vehicles so we could leave if we absolutely needed to. 

It actually did not take as long as I expected.  I went outside in my pajamas and started my jeep, then went back inside to take a shower and get ready for the morning.  When I got back out the heater inside and engine had managed to warm the ice up enough to where I could start breaking it off rather easily.  Roughly 20 minutes later I had cleared my Jeep and was headed back inside to let my wife’s vehicle warm up.  I could barely feel my fingers…  but it was at least clear.  When I cleared my wife’s vehicle I had the foresight to actually wear gloves.

We made it out of the house pretty easily, and I have to say this is the weirdest ice storm I have ever experienced.  Everything is absolutely coated in a layer of ice… the trees, the vehicles, the grass, anything elevated even slightly off the ground.  However the roads are almost completely dry.  It is like the perfect ice storm… all of the pretty with none of the consequences.  Granted some parts of the city are out of power as the ice snapped powerlines… so they would definitely question my assessment of no consequences.  All in all however it could be been and likely should have been much worse.

I Hate People

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I mean this in the nicest possible way… but I hate people.  When you put me in a room with more than a half a dozen people a severe fight or flight instinct triggers.  Now imagine how that instinct multiplies when you put me in a busy store during the holidays filled with hundreds of people.  I am generally pretty good at swallowing down that feeling, but the more stores you expose me to… the more of an asshole I become.  I am thankful that my wife realizes this because by the time we reached the last two stores of the day I am sure I was an absolute bear to be around.  We had several things still to pick up on our list, so while we were out and about… and since we were both going a little stir crazy we decided to try and knock as many things off the list as possible.

Target was both the worst and the best place we went all afternoon.  It was the worst because it was inanely busy and as I rounded the corner near the seasonal area… the instinct kicked in harder than it has in years.  There was this huge zombie-like shambling mass of people migrating back and forth between toys and electronics.  I gave up on any notion that I was going to go check the Lego isle and got out of there as soon as possible. It became a logistical exercise to even navigate my shopping cart through the narrow passages left by gawking customers.  I suddenly realized why a lost child just sits down and cries… because at that point I seriously did feel like surrendering to the hopelessness that was all of those people pressing in on me.

That was the worst part… the best part however is just how efficiently they were managing the checkouts.  They had roped off the area in front of the cash registers and while this caused the line to snake all the way down to the pharmacy area, it did make it move faster.  They had a worker acting like a traffic cop to funnel people down the little shoots and to the next waiting cashier.  Additionally they gave us a 10% discount as an apology for the whole credit card fiasco.  Since we were actually hit during that event…  I felt like we had more than earned it.  Last weekend my discover card was off in Oklahoma City and Norman making purchases without me… and we are assuming since we still have our credit cards… it is tied to the whole Target event.

I probably would have gone postal at some point during yesterday, but we went to eat at Monterry, a Mexican chain restaurant we go to regularly.  When I say regularly… I mean it, because the waitresses know our order by heart and often times fight over who is going to wait on us.  Yesterday we had Daisy, who is extremely awesome and has the same pen fetish that my wife does.  Over the time we have been going there, we have become rather social with them… and eating there act like a reset of my buffer.  It was a happy place that helped me cope with the madness that was stores like Old Navy.  Still by the time we ended our tour at Big Lots, I was so far past going that I am sure I was acting like an ass.

Relaxing with Friends

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Yesterday before the madness began, I noticed that my good friend Vernie had managed to hit 90 on his mage.  I did my normal song and dance about how awesome the Timeless Isle was for catching up, but as a very squishy class it seemed that soloing out there was just not something viable.  We made tentative plans for me to grab one of my characters and help him get some gear after I got back from the holiday craziness.  It was shortly after I got home that he logged back in and we did just that.  At first I tried to use Exeter my paladin, but I quickly realized that I already had gotten the weekly chests when I swam him out to get the chest in the pirate cave.  I grabbed Belgarou my druid, because I knew I had not really played him in a few weeks. 

It turns out that this was a great call as I ran out of leather some time ago and could greatly use a run to replenish it.  We faffed about the island for several hours and in the process we managed to get him Helm, Chest, Bracers, Belt, Gloves, Back, Legs, Ring and Trinket.  Which in itself was a pretty amazing haul for our first outing.  He had not really played since Cataclysm, so there are a ton of systems that simply did not exist back then.  The big one is the LFR system, so as we hunted for gear on the island we queued for Mogushan Vaults.  The queue was surprisingly short and we managed to make it through the three boss raid in extremely quick time.

I guess the game did not want him to have an unrealistic view of how the LFR system worked, because when we queued up for the second part of the raid… it went horribly.  Someone pulled the boss too quickly, the tanks had no clue what they were doing… and we wiped.  Moments after the wipe the raid just disintegrated in a matter of seconds.  I told him that sadly that was also extremely common.  While we waited for that raid to officially die we went out to Dinosaur Island… or more properly Isle of Giants.  We had zero luck in both pets and eggs, but we killed quite a few and I got some more leather.  I am not sure if it was in the first raid or the second… but at some point Vernie managed to pick up shoulders.

During the course of our faffing about he managed to go from 450 something to 474 and if we can get him a few more upgrades he should be able to start doing Throne of Thunder…. which I think is one of the more enjoyable instances of the expansion.  After we finished the second raid, that went surprisingly successfully.  Elegon managed to eat a half dozen people to the “floor boss”, but all in all we pulled out a win.  Will of the Emperor was a wipe at first, namely because the tanks didn’t really know what they were doing.  However someone luckily explained to them and we managed to pull that victory out as well.  All in all it was a really fun night, and I was happy that we got Vernie a ton of upgrades in the process.  Once again Faffing about pays off.