DAW2016: Bioware

BiowareLogo

DAW2016_logo

Developer Appreciation Week is here!  For the uninitiated the concept of Developer Appreciation week dates back to 2010 and was started by Couture Gaming the Blogger formerly known as Scarybooster.  The idea was simple, spend a week talking about all of the things you love about various game development companies and studios.  As a blogger we spend plenty of time pointing out what is wrong in the games we love, and talking about ways that they could be better.  That said it is important to understand that for most of us this critique comes from being a huge fan of the games and genres as a whole.  So during this week we point out the things that are going right and make a point of mentioning all the things we really appreciate out there.  If you too are a blogger please feel free to join in by posting your own Developer Appreciation Week ideas.

BiowareLogo

This is going to be a difficult one to tackle, especially since I didn’t get a ton of sleep thanks to the tornado warnings.  However I am going to give it to good college try, and hope that the end result turns out at least not too shabby.  I first became aware as Bioware as a company with the release of Baldur’s Gate, or more so the existence of what I later came to know as the “Infinity Engine”.  I have been a fan of Dungeons and Dragons since I first found a players manual abandoned in a locker on the last day of school in second grade.  Finding that book spawned a lot of things, not the least of which was trying to hungrily gobble up anything TSR related.  I played the “gold box” series of games, namely because I had read the novels behind a lot of the stories.  There was just something missing with the game, and while I enjoyed them at the time they never really felt that good.  The story that was being told felt limited by the meager technology, and while I was happy enough with the end product…  that only lasted until I had played my first Final Fantasy game.  Baldur’s Gate was the title that brought me back from my console days into once again believing that the PC was a great platform for role-playing games.

Subsequent games were released…  Icewind Dale, Baldurs Gate II and even one of my all time favorites… Planescape Torment… all using this “Infinity Engine” I have to admit I got a bit of the wrong idea behind what exactly the company Bioware really was.  In my mind it seemed like Bioware was the tools company, and Interplay, Black Isle, or later the reboot Obsidian were the game creator.  It wasn’t until Neverwinter Nights was released that I really started to understand that Bioware was both the tools division and a lot of great storytelling wrapped into one package.  Neverwinter Nights was one of those revolutionary games for me personally.  While the original campaign was awesome… it was the inclusion of the aurora toolset that set my mind on fire.  At this time I was playing a lot of Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot so I tried to replicate some of my favorite features of those games using the Neverwinter engine.  I learned the C Script language and figured out how to code things like randomly generated loot from tables when you opened chests or killed mobs.  I also eventually figured out how to create a token based system along the lines of the one that allowed you to purchase armor in the Darkness Falls dungeon.  The end result was this amalgam of the EQ Plane of Hate and DAoC Darkness Falls that I called the “Plane of Spite”.  While I never did anything really interesting with it, I loved every single moment of working on it and figuring out the inner machinations of this engine.

It was not really until Knights of the Old Republic that I hopped back on the Bioware fandom, and I remember being crushingly disappointed when I learned that the title was going to be Xbox Exclusive.  Thankfully later that year it came out for the PC and I was absolutely thrilled to be dissecting that game world as well.  I loved Neverwinter Nights for its technical precision, and the Aurora and Infinity engines for giving me this awesome framework to go out and explore worlds in.  However KOTOR was the first time from Bioware that I was completely stunned by the storyline.  Last week we went into a discussion on AggroChat about the best Star Wars stories, and by the end of that show all of us pretty much came to the consensus that Knights of the Old Republic was if not the absolute best story, it was at least among them.  There are moments in this game that had shocking revelations that I have never quite recovered from.  Even though the engine is dated, and the graphics look like crap compared to what I am used to… I can still play this game happily over and over just because it was so damned well crafted.  I’ve bought it for others, and even own the mobile port of the game.  I feel like this game more than any set the tone for the modern incarnation of Bioware.

I ultimately for one reason or another skilled Mass Effect at launch, and instead picked up the Bioware banner once again with the release of Dragon Age: Origins.  During this period of time I was raiding in World of Warcraft rabidly… but there were a few weeks where I completely dropped off the face of the planet, and it was thanks to this game.  I was just completely enthralled with the world and the setting, and the concept of the dark spawn and deep roads.  I am a Dwarf at heart, so I loved every single moment of Orzammar.  My first play through was as a Dwarven Noble, and I have to say after all of the subsequent play sessions that is still the one I cherish the most.  Much the same as KOTOR, it was ultimately the characters that set this game apart from the others I had played.  They felt so fleshed out and three dimensional, and I actually cared about interacting with them.  I am a huge proponent of smashing things with a big weapon, and games that allow me to slaughter by the hundreds… but it is significantly harder to find a game that makes me feel.  Dragon Age made me feel so much, and during this time I had a really interesting encounter.  One of my guildies invited me to tank for some friends of his, and when I popped onto voice chat we had some of the usual getting to know a new person discussion.  I mentioned that I had been playing a ton of Dragon Age… and it was at this point that they started grilling me about this character or that, or what decision I made where.  It turns out that I was ultimately raiding that night with a bunch of the writers, and you could almost hear them beaming as they proudly chimed in that they wrote this or that as I gushed about various details.

With the release of Mass Effect 2, I later went back and became an addict of that series as well.  I still wish that someone would make that into a Walking Dead style serialized television show, because the story that is being told is among the best science fiction tales ever.  It just seems a crime that the only folks that will ever see the story, are the ones who have played through the game.  Then you of course have the release of Star Wars the Old Republic, that my friends and I tore through rabidly when it launched.  I burnt myself out on that game but recently a bunch of us ended up going back and remembering just how damned well written all of the story arcs really are.  At some point soon I want to go back and finish where I left off which is the start of the Revan content, and try out the new experience fallen empire content that I have heard so much about.  For sake of time though I am going to wrap things up, because otherwise I could probably carry on for a dozen more paragraphs talking about all of the things from Bioware games that I love.  It is a great studio, and while I was scared that EA would destroy its spirit… I have been pleasantly surprised that the core values of the company and the creative might seem to keep trucking along happily.  I look forward to more adventures be it with Andromedia or the next great IP that we have yet to experience.

Deep Roads

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It’s Over

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At this point I don’t know for certain if my character is weeping tears of frustration or joy.  Which ever the case I am just really happy that as of today and by the time I get home from work… the Love is in the Air event will be finished.  I felt so damned conflicted this year when it came to this event, largely because I don’t even know why I was participating.  I really really do not enjoy World of Warcraft holiday events, because they somehow manage to make something that should feel fun an exciting… into an obligation.  Then on top of that… I don’t even like the Love Rocket mount.  However because it is the rarest mount in the game, and I do not already have one… I feel somehow obligated to try for it every year.  I wish I could understand why I do it… and to the extent of pushing aside other games that I would enjoy more just so I can haplessly farm for a chase mount.  Sure it only takes a few minutes to do an attempt at the mount… but I felt obligated to run six different level 100 characters through it. Which by the time you check your garrison and shipyard on each, and queue for a dungeon…  you are talking about roughly an hour of your night gone…  chasing a mount I didn’t even really care that much about.

We talked at length about this phenomena over the weekend on the podcast, and largely why this works… and why it also frustrates us.  Tam suggested that it was because it feels like the game is not respecting our time…  and that is absolutely part of it.  I think for me personally a good deal of my frustration is that this madness is actually working.  This game knows my triggers so well, and it feels as though I have no control in the process.  There is a certain measure of excitement in the chase, and were this something I could normally farm on my own… it would fall into the same category as my attempts to get rare mounts from raid bosses.  However the fact that it is only available for a limited time…  triggers the “fear of missing out” that if we don’t become mindless drones we might miss that one opportunity to get something cool.  Even when in this case the something cool is not something we actually wanted in the first place.  It is just frustrating to see a company working so effectively against my nature and getting me to follow along in their scheme each year in trying for “the thing”.  Now granted I know without a doubt that come Halloween I will once again be chasing like mad in trying to get the Headless Horseman mount.  At least I can rest comfortable in the knowledge that it “could be worse”.  I mean it could be something as heinous as the Rift cash box chase mounts 🙂

Dwarf in the Deep Roads

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I don’t have a whole lot to say here, because I didn’t get terribly far into it…  however I did manage to start a quest chain leading me into the Deep Roads.  The Deep Roads are my happy place in the Dragon Age universe because if it were really possible…. I would absolutely live completely underground.  If you venture into any of my Minecraft settlements, you will see a pretty simple structure above ground… that leads to a massive snaking catacombs underneath.  I just feel safe underground, and I have loved being down in every cave I have been able to.  I still think having a structure that was mostly buried in a mountain would be my ultimate situation.  I wonder if some of my reaction of safety to being underground… comes from the fact that I live in a state where the wind comes sweeping down the plains…. and takes out an entire city every now and then.  In any case… we also got into a lengthy discussion about the Deep Roads on the podcast…. and I was shocked to find out that pretty much everyone other than me… unanimously hated them.  They just seem like a badass concept… here are these roads and warrens deep underground that you have to fight the Dark Spawn which natively live down there.  That pretty much sounds amazing…  constantly having a fresh flow of Dark Spawn to fight.  Then again…. I might not be normal when it comes to combat in video games.  The Deep Roads are like the most metal part of Dragon Age, and I am hoping together to get time to venture forth again down there.

 

 

 

Man With the Hand

The Man with the Hand

The Struggle

The Man with the Hand
The Man with the Hand

For over a year now I have desperately tried to get into Dragon Age Inquisition.  The game starts really slow and throws your character in the middle of a conflict that I did not really care for.  Be warned that there are going to be a few minor early game spoilers here, but I am going to try really hard not to say anything super spoilery.  During Dragon Age II, you are constantly getting vignettes of Varric being in essence tortured and questioned by a figure that is identified as “The Inquisitor”.  In Dragon Age Inquisition (and the anime if you had chance to watch it) you are introduced to Cassandra Penteghast…. the same Inquisitor who you learned to kinda hate during Dragon Age II.  The thing is…  in truth I actually rather like Cassandra, but the initial set up of the game places me squarely on the side of some epic side-eye when interacting with her.  Not to mention that my character is apparently being blamed for some catastrophe as a result.  Then with a huge amount of narrative whiplash I go from being the pariah and prisoner….  to quite literally the chosen one of Andraste.  At no point did I want ANY of this…  in past games I have only feigned interest in Andraste to get Leliana to like me.  I am generally fairly anti-religion in games… and in this case especially since my preferred method of playing Dragon Age games is to play a Dwarf that believes we all spontaneously came from the stone and will return back there again someday.

Then on top of that… we basically find out that there is a war breaking out between the Mages and the Templar, and I am not terribly fond of either side.  The entire game seemed to focus on my least favorite aspects of the Dragon Age world… and somehow got rid of the parts that I loved.  I absolutely love the concept of the Grey Wardens.  I was all about drinking demon blood and fighting dark spawn, and I would have been completely happy if we just had more games where I fought lots of bad things to save kingdoms.  With Dragon Age II…. it took a big detour, but even then I got to fight self righteous asshole red lyrium Templar…. and was mostly okay with it.  The thing that carried me through that game were the characters that I got interested in…. but the problem thus far with Dragon Age Inquisition…. were the fact that I simply was not really feeling the characters at all.  I like Cassandra just fine, and Dorian and Solas were both growing on me.  Varric felt like a caricature of Varric from Dragon Age II…. which bothered me from the start.  Leliana changed for the worst, and was not the character that I came to adore….  lost all of the soft spots and became this battle hardened zealot.  Blackwall is cool enough but I already had Cassandra to tank so quite literally had zero use for him.  The only character I completely and wholeheartedly loved…. was Sera, but that didn’t really feel like enough.  Mostly the grouping did not feel like “my team” in the same way as the other Bioware outings did, and more so felt like a bunch of characters that I just happened to get thrown in the same room with.

The Turning Point

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A Better Horizon

As I said at the beginning of my post… this has been a struggle for over a year now.  I will sit down… play for a few hours….  not get drawn into the game and then log out once more.  With the new laptop I have been in the process of trying to play games that I for one reason or another struggled with.  At the top of that list was Dragon Age Inquisition, and last night I finally realized that I was sitting at a pretty major turning point in the story.  I had been putting off the assault on the breech, thinking that it might lead me down a path that would ultimately lock me into the “end game” in a same way as attacking the collector ship does in Mass Effect 2.  Sure I was only 20-30 hours into the game, but Dragon Age II was really short… so far all I knew the base game here was short as well if you simply steamrolled your way through the story.  Last night Dragon Age pulled a “Link to the Past” on me…  and bam all of the sudden I saw everything that everyone was talking about this game.  Essentially I now view everything that I did up to this point as largely “the tutorial level” and now it feels like the real game is finally beginning.  I have to tell you I am really excited to be “into” this game.

The game manages to pull together a sequence of events that not only cements your motivation and why you care about the events of the world…. but also serves to cement your team.  I went from feeling this was just a group of people that I was stuck with….  to being a group of MY people.  I am also completely bought into the Inquisition as an organization, because after last night I realized that I am the person shaping the fate of this organization.  I can make the Inquisition be this brutal force similar to its namesake…. or I can make it into an organization that cares about people and tries to save them in the process.  Bioware I am sold…. and I am ready to get started playing this game. What is frustrating about all of this is… Dragon Age: Origins had an AMAZING introduction… or at least it did if you played a Dwarf.  By the time I completed that opening sequence I was completely sold on the setting and the characters and ready to go out into the world and carve my niche.  Dragon Age II had a much rougher start, but even though it felt more forced and pushed down a single hallway… I eventually reached a point where it felt I was changing the world.  Inquisition though… feels like the worst of those two options…. where you have only the most vestigial of control over your own character as you are forced down a path.  Thankfully it seems that the skies are clearing…. and I am ready to step forth into the new world.

Bunny Samurai Returns

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Half Undressed

I am back on the wagon as far as cutting out caffeine during the evening.  During my post PAX illness without really intending to, I quit drinking pop.  Any time I attempted to it hurt my already ungodly sore throat so I switched to mostly drinking water, juice or fake koolaid.  As a result my intake of Caffeine seriously plummeted, causing a few side effects.  Firstly my operating range… was greatly stunted, and by that I mean that I am able to stay awake until 10 pm max instead of my normal Midnight to 1 am sleep times.  Additionally I noticed that I actually slept better and fell asleep easier…  so after all of these years of thinking caffeine had little to no effect on me…  I am guessing I was completely wrong.  Monday night I was being lazy and ended up drinking Mountain Dew, instead of making something else to drink and when I finally tried to go to bed around 11 pm I found it significantly harder to actually get to sleep.  As a result last night I opted to drink mostly water, and once again returned to being able to fall asleep easily.  This however has some strange side effects…  like my body is still used to getting 4 to 6 hours of sleep a night, and for some reason when I go to bed at 9 pm I end up waking up again sometime around midnight.

So last night I ended up waking up around 11:30 pm and my body apparently thought I had slept a full night.  The television was blaring because it seems that I crashed hard and forgot to turn it off.  In my brain I am guessing that I equated the television to the alarm clock, and I started going through the routine of grabbing underwear and taking off my night clothes and heading for the bathroom to take a shower…. only to realize that it was not in fact 5:30 am part of the way through that process.  It is one of those moments when I was glad my wife was still completely conked out… because I am sure I looked like an idiot… half undressed, holding my underwear stumbling for the door.  The point at which I realized was when I went to turn off the alarm clock only for it to finally dawn on me that it was the television.  Now I am not saying I am giving up caffeine completely… because I just finished a tasty cup of coffee.  I am however trying really hard to not drink anything with caffeine once I get home from work, and I have absolutely cut energy drinks out of my life completely.  I am still very much going through  the phase where every time I pass a cooler in a store that is loaded with them…  I get that desire to purchase one.  The positive however is that for the most part I don’t “need” one, and other than yesterday after not sleeping terribly well the night before… I haven’t had any real moments during the day where I was fighting drowsiness.

New Machine Thing

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For the next few days I will likely be installing games on the new laptop, playing them once or twice and then moving on to installing another game.  This seems to be my tradition when it comes to getting a new machine, because ultimately I am wanting to see how much better everything seems to perform.  Last night the first game on the menu was Dragon Age Inquistion, which I finished installing Monday night.  It ran beautifully and using the Geforce Experience settings it picked reasonably high settings, or at least high enough to NOT have playdough hair.   After that I played some Fallout 4 and once again… it ran beautifully on reasonably high settings.  The thing I am noticing is that there seems not to be nearly the gap in performance between the gtx 960m and the gtx 960 as there has been in previous generations.  For the most part I am able to run things in the same sort of fashion I have come to expect on my desktop machine upstairs…  which honestly makes me even happier.  I was fully expecting the 960m to perform something akin to the 760/860 which had always been the case before… where a mobile card was roughly a full generation behind the desktop equivalent.  Maybe Nvidia realized that this felt shitty and was also deeply confusing to the customers?  The next game on tap will be to install the Witcher 3, which was another in the long list of games that my laptop simply would not play.  At some point I will settle down and actually begin to play some of these games… rather than just launch them to see how pretty they look.

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Towards the end of the night however I did manage to settle into a single game… that is at least until sleep claimed me.  Yesterday was the release of the 3.2 patch in Final Fantasy XIV and I have honestly been fairly scarce in the game since well before the launch of 3.1.  I always said at some point I would get drawn back in, and I guess last night in installing the client that started to happen.  I am not sure yet if I will stick around for a long period of time… or if this will simply be another one of my “content locust” passes where I gobble up all of the new stuff and move on to something else.  I do however want to see the new story content in 3.2 before someone online spoils any of the key plot points, which considering that is already happening to folks…  I need to move fast.  Last night I didn’t get much more accomplished than the first few steps of the continuation of the main story quest.  I did however see several other quests that I am guessing are the new Hildebrand and new dungeon starter, that I will at some point have to pick up.  The thing is… there hasn’t been a moment where I didn’t care about this game…  I just wanted to play other things instead.  I have a feeling that it will be up to the MSQ to determine if I really want to stick around after finishing the content.  It seems like they also made some significant changes to the game, that I will have to sort through and determine how they effect me.  One of my guildies last night told me to respec out of Strength because apparently Vitality is now literally the only stat that applies for tanking, so thankfully I had enough company marks to do that.  This makes me wonder just how deep the rabbit hole of changes actually goes.

Week in Gaming 8/23/2015

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Stealing Ideas

This morning I am absolutely stealing an idea from Grace who happened to post something today called “What I’m Playing”.  Sunday is traditionally a rough day for me as far as posting goes.  One of two things has happened, either I have stayed up way late on Saturday night to finish editing and posting the AggroChat podcast, or I am rushing around Sunday morning to finish it.  This ends up making the morning feel like a big hassle either way, as my body thinks I just went through this epic struggle to get our podcast posted.  My brain is telling me… isn’t that enough?  Do I really have to make a blog post too?  At which point I tell my brain to shut the hell up and stop being so whiny, and btw give me a topic to write about while you are at it.  So now I am latching onto this week in review post idea like a life raft and just going with that.

Final Fantasy XIV

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A subtitle for this week could easily be called “failing to accomplish goals” because there is a lot of that going around.  Monday night we made solid attempts on Ravana Extreme, and Wednesday we didn’t quite have the people to pull anything together.  Other than that I have honestly been pretty scarce in game.  I get like this after finishing a grind to accomplish one of my goals, and for awhile now I had been grinding in so many different ways to gear both the Warrior and the Dragoon.  I had all intention of capping Esoterics this week, but as of last night I just have seventy five.  I could spend my day grinding to play catch up…  but I highly doubt that is going to happen.  Hopefully we can return to our normally scheduled Final Fantasy XIV play schedule next week.

Wildstar

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I am still very much playing Wildstar, but similarly to Final Fantasy XIV I didn’t really spend much time actually playing it this week.  I made a minor dent on Whitevale on Tuesday, but I spent more time talking about Wildstar with friends this week than actually playing it.  I am not really sure what was up this week but I was overly tired pretty much every day.  We had one horrible night where the storms woke me up and I never could get back to sleep fully, and I think this lack of sleep pretty much pushed the rest of the week out of whack.  Each night I felt like I lacked the mental fortitude to concentrate on an MMO, so ultimately just ended up playing something else.  I want to continue my climb on the Warrior because I am finding the game more enjoyable than I did at launch, and am actually really looking forward to the free to play drop.

Dragon Age Inquisition

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I spent an awful lot of time playing this game over the week, but my overarching goal was less about actually playing and more about figuring out how to play it from my laptop.  I maybe obsess about stupid shit sometimes.  As you can see from the screenshot I finally left the Hinterlands!  I am actually enjoying the game quite a bit now, but for whatever reason I am not finding it nearly as “sticky” as the previous Dragon Age games.   In Origin and even in 2 I had these moments where every fiber of my being just wanted to see what happened next.  It was like turning the pages of a really good novel, and this game doesn’t have that same feel.  It very much feels like I am playing levels in a video game and I find I care less about the story than I have in previous games.  That is not to say the game is not enjoyable, because I am absolutely having fun… but it is just a different sort of fun.

Diablo III

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I apparently worked the Hellgate London out of my system, but instead it has given me a desire to play Diablo III.  For most of the week this has been my go to game, as it has just the right amount of friction for my mental state.  I don’t have to think about it much, I can just push buttons and kill things…  and that works.  In the continued theme of setting myself up for failure, I apparently decided that creating a Season 3 character from scratch was apparently a brilliant idea.  Now in order to get any of the Seasonal rewards I need to get a character to 70…  before 5 pm PST tonight.  This is not a thing that is going to happen since I am just now sitting at 27 as the above screenshot shows the ding.  The positive is… I am actually really enjoying playing the Crusader.  I figure when Season 4 starts I will make another seasonal character and see what I can make it to with a full three months or so of playtime available.

Hatoful Boyfriend

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I curse everyone involved for introducing this game into my life.  It is so damned crazy, but I can’t seem to stop myself from playing it.  At this point I have now seen six different endings for the game.  From what I can tell I have yet to actually scratch the surface, but at least I feel like i have a lot to talk about for the upcoming show.  I imagine that I will play it some more and go for a few more endings.  The ending that I have not seen is the supposed “bad ending”, which I guess means you have to play the game without much thought taking random birds to do things.  At this point I have taken the approach of setting my sights on a specific bird during each play session.  I have a few more left to do that with, so that is probably going to be my focus in the sessions between now and the aggrochat show.

Heavensward Mega Episode

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For awhile now the AggroChat crew has deliberately put off talking about the events of Final Fantasy XIV Heavensward in an attempt to allow folks to catch up on the content.  However this week the gloves are coming off and we are dipping into a full spoiler episode where we hash out the events that have occured since the 2.55 patch show.  We trace the steps of our characters from setting foot into Ishgard to the final conflict of the expansion, with as much details as we can think about in between.  This is a roughly two hour long show because of the truly large amount of content to go over.  We considered chopping this into two halves, but figured we would release it uncut.  We talk about our favorite characters, our most emotional moments and what we are looking forward to with future content patches.

[AggroChat] [Direct Download] [iTunes] [Stitcher]

Restarting Inquisition

Final Fantasy XIV Downtime

ffxiv 2015-01-18 22-25-24-29 The is something strange about knowing you can’t play something… that makes you want to play it.  Right now this is happening for me with Final Fantasy XIV, especially since I knew that more than likely I would not really be able to sink my teeth into it until I got back from Pax South.  It sounds from the early reports that World of Darkness is absolutely not the cakewalk that Syrcus Tower has come to be.  Then again maybe at one point Syrcus wasn’t either…  considering I have never actually been around when one of the 24 man dungeons was “new”.  Both Labyrinth of the Ancients and Syrcus Tower were aging content when we came back to the game.  So it will be interesting to see how it works out.

Pax is going to pretty much eat all my time starting tomorrow with the planning and packing.  So I am not likely going to get to experience much of this patch until I come back Sunday/Monday.  In the Pax front I have some exciting but scary news.  I guess I totally have a media appointment with a game company.  It started with a conversation over twitter and lead to a discussion over email and an appointment.  It should be awesome, but it is a new experience for me so hopefully I won’t bore or annoy the devs too much with my questions.  I might end up doing more of these but right now this is the only one I actually have scheduled.  Its strange that my first convention, is in a way a working one since I will be covering the convention in part for a bigger site than mine.

Restarting Inquisition

DragonAgeInquisition 2015-01-19 17-47-30-79 When Dragon Age: Inquisition first landed it did so during a fairly bad time for me.  We were starting raiding in Final Fantasy XIV and I was just then coming back to World of Warcraft for the impending Warlords of Draenor launch.  To make matters worse I suffered some pretty crippling technical issues surrounding this game.  Every six to ten seconds there would be a hitch in the gameplay, like a record skipping.  There were numerous reports of this, and even more fixes but none of them seem to work quite right for me.  A few of them made things better but this hitch happened on even the lowest possible settings.  Finally I found the solution myself that involved playing the game in fullscreen windowed.  However at that point I was just flat out pissed at the game itself and really wanted nothing to do with it.  I listened as friends raved about the game but ultimately I would put it away for the time being.

With the force downtime in Final Fantasy XIV I used my day yesterday to restart the game fresh.  I feel like this “better” mindset has made so much of the game more enjoyable.  The first time I was trying to play the traditional “Belghast” character, aka a Human Sword and Shield Warrior.  The problem with that is that once again the first companion you meet up with… is a far better tank than you will ever be for awhile.  I wanted to be able to group with Cassandra, so on the second play through I opted to go for a Dwarven Two Handed Weapon Warrior.  So far the choice has been a good one, and I am enjoying the game much better.  The worst part about restarting is having to play through that section where it flips you into tactical mode.  Everything about that mode feels horrible, and it took me a bit to figure out how to flip back to the normal combat.  The first quality of life change I made was rebinding “search” from V to R making it significantly easier to hit while moving.

Faffing the Hinterlands

DragonAgeInquisition 2015-01-19 21-15-55-21 In spite of everything my friends have told me…  I faffed about heavily in the Hinterlands.  When planted down there with a blazing inquisition eyeball icon showing me the way I needed to go…  I chose to go the opposite direction.  This has always served me well in Elder Scrolls games and overall I think it was the right choice for me this time as well.  It gave me time to get used to combat and explore the world a bit before being locked into more serious dialog again.  I am very much a man of action, and the introduction to all games generally makes me deeply unhappy.  I keep saying to myself “why won’t it just let me play the game!”.  Dragon Age Inquisition was a fairly action oriented introduction, but still there were moments where I was more than ready to move past the talking about things phase.  So I puttered around exploring things, picking up quests and figuring things out before the game actually intended me to learn things.

During this time I was thrown directly into the fact that the mages and templars were at war with themselves… and everyone that happened across their paths…  including towns folk, the chantry, and the occasional farmer.  It was also during this time that I started to embrace the notion that maybe I was in fact the chosen one.  I think I did enough objectives to get to 8 or 9 power, closing several rifts before eventually meandering my way to my objective.  Ultimately I did end up leaving the Hinterlands before getting entirely mired in them…  but I did it in my own fashion without the feel of rushing through them.  The game feels better to me now, or maybe I am just in the right frame of mind to be playing it.  I’ve added several more companions to my crusade, including the very amazing Sera.  So far the only one I don’t really like is Vivienne, but that really isn’t terribly shocking.  What does amuse me is how much I actually like Solas, but then again I tend to get along far better with apostates than circle mages.  I picked a poor time to start playing, given that I am just about to lose a weekend to Pax, but hopefully I have made it far enough into the game to have the storyline cemented so I can pick it up again later.

Gearing for Heroics

Stutter Gone

DragonAgeInquisition 2014-11-20 19-07-40-672 So as you know over the last several days I have been struggling with Dragon Age Inquisition.  When I initially booted up the game the stuttering was so jarring that it would sound like a record skipping and freeze movement for a fraction of a section… just enough to bring you out of the  game entirely mentally.  Nvidia released and updated driver and this helped the stutter but it was still there, and still just as frustrating to try and play the game with.  Since then I have tried what felt like every possible combination of settings, none of which removing the problem.  That is except for one apparently.  Last night I finally landed on the solution to the problem and the stutter is gone.  For some reason my machine prefers to run games in windowed borderless, this has always been the answer to a performance boost.  I thought I had tried this initially but apparently not… because the moment I shifted things into windowed borderless the hitching went completely away.

DragonAgeInquisition 2014-11-20 19-00-34-952 Now I feel like I can finally play the game in peace and actually experience it.  Unfortunately last night I just was not in the mood for this sort of game and moved on to working on gearing my warrior in World of Warcraft.  That said with the stutter gone the game is a much more enjoyable experience.  There are times the game is absolutely beautiful to behold… I still feel like I need to spend some time tweaking the settings because I had fiddled with almost everything trying to get the game to function…  and now I have a few strange choices picked here and there.  The interface feels a bit cludgy for melee, so it is going to be one of the things that I have to get used to as I play the game.  So far I am not a huge fan of my companions, and even Varrack a character I really enjoyed in Dragon Age 2 is getting on my nerves.  I think maybe I just need to put this game aside and let the frustration from the back and forth with settings fade before I attempt to play it again.

Gearing for Heroics

Wow-64 2014-11-21 06-29-01-629 Last night I had two goals… one of which fell by the wayside.  I figured there was no real point in attempting the silver proving again until I actually had the gear level to matter.  So as a result I crawled through the wowhead item listings and made an effort to complete every single quest in Nagrand that had even the slimmest chance of dropping something that would improve my ilevel.  Additionally I poured the rare spawn and treasure drops to find anything that might give me a little boost.  I also spent some time pouring over the auction house, which was as I would expect completely insanely overpriced for what was actually available.  After hours of painstakingly trying to incrementally improve my gear score I was sitting at 609.  One stinking point away from heroics.

Wow-64 2014-11-20 23-17-57-827My friend Damai asked me to do a weapon enchant for him, we ended up partied as he started pulling together a group to try and help Rylacus get some gear.  A bit later I found myself tanking Skyreach since that had the lowest ilevel requirements, and the only one we were able to queue with Ry.  It turns out there are two quartermasters in the Ashran Town Hall, each of which sell 615 trinkets, and both of which bumped me up just enough to get over the 610 heroic gear requirement.  Running Skyreach however also allowed me to start my Legendary ring quest chain, rewarding me a 640 ilevel tanky ring that was almost twice as good as my previous best item.  Now it is just down to me getting through my silver proving, so that I can be ready to tank heroics for the guild.  I don’t have a lot of fear because I made it through seven of eight rounds last time, and it was really only because I got tunnel vision and stopped paying attention to my own health that I actually failed the first time.  I have gotten quite a bit more gear since that point… so hopefully tonight I can knock that out first thing.

WoW Anniversary

Wow-64 2014-11-21 06-38-34-619 This morning the WoW Anniversary content officially began, but if I am remembering correctly… the actual launch date was November 23rd.  I remember being frustrated that it was right before the Thanksgiving Holiday… which would mean I would be tied up with family and such.  A decade ago I had so many houses to visit on thanksgiving that it lent itself to being a a crazy all day occasion.  We would start early in the morning and travel throughout the day, and then repeating the process to a lesser extent on Saturday.  Its funny how things change in a decade, because now we only have a single house to go to, as everything is happening around the noon meal.  When I logged in this morning I had a Molten Corgi pet waiting on me in my mailbox.  I find it odd how Corgis have become such a video gaming mascot.  The game Rift has at least half a dozen different Corgi pets in game for example.

The primary reason why I have been pushing to gear up so quickly… is that this coming Tuesday we are planning to run the Molten Core LFR as a guild, or as close to “as a guild” as we can realistically get for a 40 man.  The LFR itself will have an ilevel requirement of 615 and completing the event will reward you a helm appropriate for your main spec so for plate it would be something resembling this one.  Completing the event also earns you a Core Hound mount, which looks really cool.  Then there are a few items that have a chance of dropping like a doodad that embues any weapon with the Flames of Ragnaros effect… at least cosmetically.  I guess with this expansion they have made it so you can transmog over enchantment effects, which is cool because some enchants look way better than others.  Basically I want to be  able to participate in all of the Reindeer games… and Damai was gracious enough to move it to Tuesday after telling him that Monday was the FFXIV raid night.

Gladiator’s Resolve

This is absolutely the hardest part of any blog post this month, is to come up with something new that I have not already talked about on the preceding 20 days.  As we near the end of the month I am pretty much going to be grasping at straws here, but I feel committed to carry out the experiment.  Since this morning I am talking about World of Warcraft, I want to say how happy I am to have the Gladiator’s Resolve talent.  Essentially for those who do not know what it does… it replaces battle stance for protection warriors, giving them a brand new gladiator stance.  When in that stance you lose the innate  survival and threat generation benefits of defensive stance… but gain a 20% damage increase.  Essentially this makes you sword and board dps, and from what I have seen in my own tests I deal a TON of damage.

This is essentially what I have wanted the entire time I have played MMOs… to be able to effectively dps while using a sword and shield.  I like the iconic look of the sword and board warrior, and while two handers are cool… they never really fit my personal style.  I used to get frustrated that games would always make shields being entirely about defense… when in real life shields have always been extremely effective weapons.  Now that I have this option…  I actually want to try pvp in Ashran.  In the past warrior pvp for me at least felt impotent, because I couldn’t be the badass heavily armored tank that I was in the dungeons.  This one talent I think changes that.  I am still extremely sturdy, and still have access to all of my protection trickery…  but this time around I can simply deal some damage with my shield as well as my sword.  So this morning I am thankful for someone finally giving me this talent, it makes me extremely happy.

A Tale of Three Games

Cold Snap

ffxiv 2014-11-17 21-15-23-635 Our Final Fantasy XIV group has ended up taking about a month long break following the launch of the 2.4 patch.  For various reasons we have not rallied the troops on Tuesday nights, and as such we have opted to move our group content night.  Tuesday has turned out to be just as bad a day to do anything serious as it was in every other MMO.  For some reason it seems that Final Fantasy XIV patches more often than not late Monday night leading into Tuesday morning.  This means along with the normal weekly reset we are often times dealing with marginally unstable servers.  Since Monday tends to be a night where most folks focus on getting the last poetics needed to cap for the week, we figured it was also a relatively low volume raid night.  So going forward we are going to try and pull together 8 man group content Monday nights with whomever we can muster at the time.

ffxiv 2014-11-17 21-53-20-145Often times who we have available will dictate what we can do.  Last night we started off with Shiva Hard Mode, since most of us had not actually completed it.  I have to say the fight was rather enjoyable, and it was kinda like a strange mishmash of titan and ifrit.  It took us a couple of tries to see all the mechanics and then we straight stomped her.  Granted this is just a hard mode and we are used to mostly attempting extremes.  After that we went back and did Garuda Extreme again, because there was at least one member of the party who had not completed it.  Traditionally we would be working on Titan Extreme, but it was good to go back and see that we could in fact repeat our victory.  Granted it had been well over a month since we had last done the fight, and as such all of us were a bit rusty.  However after a few wipes we nailed it like we actually knew what we were doing.  Hopefully by next week everyone will have unlocked Ultros so we can take that on as a group, and this should have keyed most everyone for Garuda… so we can make attempts on Titan Extreme again.

To Skip or Not to Skip

Wow-64 2014-11-18 06-15-39-104After our group broke apart in Final Fantasy XIV I opted to poke my head into World of Warcraft and see what mayhem I could cause.  I apparently was significantly closer to 96 than I realized, because upon entering the game and beginning work again on the Gorgrond content…  I dinged within doing a few of the bonus areas.  I still have a handful of bonus content areas to complete, but now this gives me a dilemma.   I am at an ideal point to transition to the new zone that unlocked at 96… Spires of Arak.  The problem being I have yet to do anything at all in Talador other than set up my garrison outpost.  It looks like a really cool zone…  but I am wondering if doing it will basically screw me for getting into normal mode dungeons.  The problem that I ran into with Pandaria is that I leveled significantly quicker than the content would normally allow… and this means that I ended up needing to skip entire zones in the process.  Normally I would keep plugging on, but I would really like to be available for at least a normal mode tank when I reach 100.  The gear level that I came into the expansion with is just not going to hold long enough for me to do meaningful content.

It was my experience in Pandaria that if you could get into Townlong Steppes and Dreadwastes at the level cap to enter them… you could end up getting enough gear upgrades from questing that you were more than ready to set foot into normals… and quite possibly you were within an upgrade or two away from being able to do heroics.  I guess in theory I could keep plugging away at Talador and simply finish all the content in the game before worrying about doing dungeons.  Ultimately I do want to finish the content, because this expansion actually has a storyline that I care about for once.  I guess my only desire to rush to 100 is so that I can get in on the initial wave of folks needing to run dungeons.  While tanking for strangers was not as bad of an experience as I had expected…  I feel like once everyone hits cap that experience will degrade significantly.  Ultimately I will need to make a decision and move forward.  Right now I am leaning heavily towards just skipping Talador entirely for the moment and diving into the Spire of Arak for maximum upgrade potential.

A Tale of Three Games

DragonAgeInquisition 2014-11-17 23-23-02-356 At midnight of last night another game launched that will be fighting for my attention, or significantly earlier than midnight if you know how to use a VPN to cause yourself to show up as another region.  This once again is proof positive that region lockouts are dumb, because they are so painfully easy to circumvent if you really want to.  I however did not care enough to do this, and my Monday night was already pretty full so I just waited until 11pm my time to get in and play the game.  Dragon Age: Inquisition is a game with so many hopes wrapped up in it, that can either be booned or bashed within the first few hours of game play.  Will this game return to Dragon Age: Origin style game play, or will it be more akin to Dragon Age 2.  Quite honestly I don’t have an answer for you yet because I just have not seen enough of the game.

I am however already questioning my choices, and thinking that maybe I should not have gone sword and board tanky.  The game unfortunately gives you a tank for your very first character, and while I have not even completely the introduction… I am already having flashbacks of trying to make two tanks work to keep Alistair in my party.  The description mentions having proficiency with a two hander as well, so hopefully one of us can equip one of those and be done with it.  Quite honestly the game felt a little sluggish, but I think maybe I had something installing in the background when I made my attempt to play it.  For whatever reason it seemed to run silky smooth.. and then absolutely thrash the hard drive every so often without much rhyme or reason as to why.  My hope was that it was just a background process thing… and not the game doing something dumb like trying to dial into the dragon age servers periodically.  The game took a significant time to load… which I do think we can probably blame on busy servers as everyone was trying to launch the client at exactly midnight.  Hopefully as the week goes on, I will have more to report on it… other than it exists.

My Cousin

No matter how smoothly this Thanksgiving goes… it was going to be a rough one regardless.  This is going to be the first dinner without my grandmother, who has been such a fixed point and an anchor in our family.  She represents that last in a long line of degrading family events that pretty much means all of the normality that I grew up with as far as family and holidays goes is gone.  When my grandmother on my fathers side passed away, those meals just stopped in any semblance of order.  We would say that we would try and get together, but ultimately we each made a quick visit in private to my grandfather… and that reason for maybe passing each other in the drive way even left when he passed away.  Similarly with my wife’s family… when he step dad passed away the era of having big family meals went away… and folks opted to break apart into much smaller units.  The last bastion of the big family get together was my Grandmother on my mothers side… and this past year she passed away.  Predictably holiday plans have been non functional.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, because it is one of the last pure ones.  Sure the day after thanksgiving is this black mass to consumerism… but thanksgiving day itself has remained relatively pristine.  It was a day about getting together and having a meal with your family, and that mission was just simple enough to stay pretty true to its original goal.  There is something about sharing a meal with friends and family that is just special to me… and for years I tried to convince my family to turn Christmas into Thanksgiving 2.0… where we just got together and shared conversation and food… and forgot the presents.  My grandmothers house was this focal point of all of the family activity.  She was such a strong matriarch and she is as much a reason for why I am the person I am… as anyone in my life is.  I spent the majority of my childhood at her house, with her as my companion and friend.  So this Thanksgiving was always going to be a hard one, no matter what happened.

The interesting thing that I have noted as we have gone through a series of recent funerals is how well my generation seems to get along with one another.  When my grandmother passed away, I stayed long after most of the folks had left just talking to my cousins.  My generation just does not fit into our family as a whole… we went out into the world and for the most part all did something with our lives beyond the boundaries of the small town my family hails from.  The other day my wife was lamenting how strange Thanksgiving would be without my grandmother on facebook, and at this one of my cousins announced that she was intending to invite us to have the meal with them.  Apparently she had gone through the same malaise and similarly they had a few deaths in their family that pretty much ended up with the holiday decimated.  So as such here we go trying to start our own new traditions.  Hopefully Thanksgiving will go smoothly, but in any case it will be better than spending it without family.

Wrestling with DRM

Laptop Weekend

Here in Oklahoma it is a rainy nasty weekend.  I pretty much rained all day yesterday, and this morning when I went out to get breakfast I ended up completely soaked.  As such I have declared this weekend a “hang out on my laptop while curled up in blankets” weekend, and so far it has been pretty glorious.  Unfortunately a good chunk of it has been updating my laptop, since it has probably been six month since I have regularly played down here.  All in all it is not going terribly badly as I have had both my Vita and phone to play on while the laptop downloads patches and such.  I have to say I have so much frustration over allowing myself to get sucked into a mobile game.

Dragon-Coins-27 Years ago my wife and I used to play a game at the state fair that involved throwing tokens in the path of a sliding shelf that pushes coins off of the edge.  I had always enjoyed this game, and that first year at the state fair we spent way too much money getting the swing of it.  We played for hours and after about $50 spent all we had to show for it was a bullet keychain.  In successive years I got better and started learning the little tricks, like you can trade in the crappy little gifts for more tokens to collect these poker chips in order to buy bigger prizes.  That second year we walked away with a nice sized stuffed animal, and I think the third year we walked away with like five as we had figured out how to game the system.

Unfortunately Dragon Coins by Sega is exactly this game, but made even more addictive.  You take the already addictive coin pusher mechanic and attach it to a pokemon like monster collection and evolution minigame… and you have a recipe for constant mobile addiction.  Right now I am cursing Liores and Aro for talking about this game on the Cat Context podcast several times because finally I got curious enough to try it.  Now I am afraid I am hooked.  Thankfully as far as games go this one doesn’t feel too egregious yet.  There is a ton of “free” content to play and so far I have not encountered any roadblocks that absolutely required me to purchase anything.  It at least gives me something to play when I am out shopping with my wife.

Wrestling with DRM

daorigins 2014-10-11 10-25-41-983 One of the things that I spent last night installing and updating was Dragon Age: Origins.  Since I intend to be spending a bit more time downstairs I figured playing DA:O while catching up on television was a good activity.  I did not even have Origin installed on my laptop, so I went through the motions of doing that last night and then set to downloading Dragon Age Ultimate Edition.  For whatever reason the DRM on that game and I have struggled throughout the years.  It worked miraculously well upstairs when I reinstalled it a few weeks back so I thought maybe, just maybe Origin had worked out the kinks.  When I went to set it up on the laptop apparently there are still issues because while it downloaded the base Dragon Age… it did not seem to download any of the addons.

To make matters worse windows 8 does not appear to like the Dragon Age Updater program and it just simply is not running on my laptop at all.  So all of the directions from the Origin support site for restoring access to your addons does not appear to work at all.  What I finally ended up doing was manually copying all of the addons from my desktop upstairs to the laptop over the network.  Now when I boot up the game it appears to see everything just fine.  But I could see someone with less patience giving up long before we reached that point.  Dragon Age seemed to be a problem child, because I never went through any of the issues while playing any of the Mass Effect games.  So here is hoping the DRM scheme for Dragon Age: Inquisition is equally unobtrusive.

Of note for those who have not played Dragon Age: Origins before and would like to in preparation for the launch of Dragon Age: Inquisition… it is now apparently available for free from origin.  This game is well worth your time spent, and going back and playing it has made me remember just how much I loved the original game as compared to Dragon Age II.  Honestly I am not in the “I Hate 2” camp, but the first game is simply better in every possible way.  I figure just playing through the first one is more than enough to introduce you to the setting and its characters and conflicts.  More than anything that was what I was trying to do while replaying the game, is to remember all of the intricate struggles.

The Grim Dark Future has Tradeskills

Destiny_20141009231722 One of the problems I am having with Destiny is the fact that you reach this point in the end game where your entire life becomes about grinding otherwise meaningless things.  There are folks who will farm level 2 mobs over and over for five hours in the rare chance of getting drops, or return to previous content areas feverishly hunting for spinmetal or any number of other crafting materials.  Unfortunately these are not extreme players, but representative of the expected gameplay that games at the end of your twenty level story arc.  The end game of Destiny involves the collection of otherwise unimportant bits that you then use to upgrade your armor slots, in hope of getting enough “light” out of it to push yourself up yet another level.   Right now my life is about getting Spirit Bloom, Relic Iron and Plasteel… so it has me wandering aimelessly through the hunting zones in search of ground spawn nodes and chests.

My tolerance for mindless grinding is considerably higher than that of my friends, so while I am still able to find fun in this process… most of them have long since tapered off their play time.  I have managed to push myself up to level 25 after doing a ton of upgrading.  The problem is even I am not sure how much further I care to take the game when the end result is  so damned repetitive.  I suppose I could start trying to do the crucible, but I didn’t really get into this game for its player versus player gameplay.  I realize I likely expected something out of Destiny that it will never really deliver, but up until the point I hit 20 I have to say I enjoyed all of the content from that point on.  I even enjoy running the patrol missions because they give me little bursts of purpose… I just wish the patrol missions had a chance of rewarding you the crafting materials you need to progress.  That ultimately would be a massive improvement that would breathe new life into the game for me.  As of now Destiny is that game I play while waiting on something else, either waiting on my wife to get home, or waiting on something to spawn in Final Fantasy XIV.

#Destiny #DragonAge #DragonCoins

Death to Darkspawn

Lost in a World

daorigins 2014-10-04 01-29-53-900 One of the aspects of a good game that I have always been amazed by is just how lost you can become existing in that world.  With the upcoming release of Dragon Age: Inquisition mid month, several of us have started re-playing origins in an attempt to get a new save file to import into Inquisition.  I realize that the process for importing works a little differently than it has in previous Bioware games, and is done through an intermediary program called Dragon Age Keep that also allows you to choose the decisions you would have liked to have had from previous games.  However with some experience with the Mass Effect 3 “comic book” tool, it tended to also make a lot of really horrible decisions for me.  One of the most enjoyable experiences I have had with a game was playing through the entire Mass Effect series in sequence over the course of a Christmas break…  so while the games in the Dragon Age series do not connect as tightly, I am hoping it will still be very rewarding.

Belghast_1 Over the weekend I said that I had decided to start the “least” Belghast character possible for this play through.  That I guess is not correct… the least recognizable character would have been me starting an Elven Mage.  We all know  that one is never going to happen, as I tend to be allergic to playing finger wigglers.  Instead I basically picked something other than the high born warrior I always tend to play, and in this case that was a Dwarven Casteless Rogue.  I love the Dwarves of the Dragon Age series, and having my very first play through be the Noble rogue pretty much ruined every other introduction storyline for me.  That said the Casteless introduction is pretty great as well, and especially after having played through many of them…  you see hints of the other introductions as you play.  Like I know the events that are going on with the noble houses, and while they are only loosely alluded to in the casteless introduction… they are still very much there and very much the way they play out as a noble.  I like thinking that there is a fixed story arc with multiple windows out onto it.

Death to Darkspawn

daorigins 2014-10-03 23-58-27-939 This game has always hit every trigger for me… in a good way.  I love dark ominous demon filled landscapes where I am the only person with the tools to dispatch them.  I love the political infighting and backstabbing and the identification of a truly wicked person that I can focus my anger and rage towards.  But I also like that apart from that central story arc, nothing is really certain and the game doesn’t judge you much for dabbling in the grey areas.  It is an absolute feat that this game manages to make me NOT side with the mage haters.  Given my feelings towards finger wigglers, it would make sense that I would want to help the Templars eradicate the “Mage Threat”, but instead each and every play through I cannot bring myself to go against the Circle Mages.  Maybe it is because I like the character of Wynne too much, or maybe they just manage to create a narrative that makes me actually care about magic users.

Belghast_204 Granted personally I greatly prefer the side of the Apostates, and generally their cause is one that I can get behind whole heartedly.  I am a huge fan of Morrigan, but I have found her character to be extremely polarizing even among my close friends.  She is dark and brutal and abrasive…  but I always enjoy listening to her quips.  One of the things I am doing this time around that I have not in previous plays is varying my group composition based on what I know my intended action will be.  Generally speaking if you make Morrigan happy…. you won’t make Alistair and Leliana happy for example.  So I hedge my bets and end up simply not bringing the person that I know I will end up pissing off.  It is a strange line to walk but at this point I have some duplication of most of the roles I might need.  There are certain characters that I just absolutely cannot stand…  I am looking at you Zevran.  Though this time around I am finding myself softening to that character, especially after seeing him in Dragon Age II.

Slowly Progressing

Belghast_273 I am taking my sweet time moving through the game.  At this point I am just shy of 20 hours spent and have saved the Circle of Mages as well as Redcliffe Castle.  I am however trying really hard to do every single side quest in a given area.  This means that while I can just blow through Lothering… I am trying to do all of the little side missions which end up dragging out that area considerably longer than you might think.  In a way I am treating this as though it were my last time playing Dragon Age ever.  I realize that is likely not going to be the case, but I guess I am trying to make every choice count since I will ultimately be importing this game into Awakenings and Dragon Age II before finally importing the entire mess into Dragon Age Inquisition next month.  On this play through I am more acutely aware that I am building a world around me, a series of consequences that lead to other consequences later down the line.

Belghast_272 This is a strangely different feeling than when you do the same process in the Mass Effect series.  There you are living the legacy of one person, your version of Shepard… and it is a direct lineage from game to game.  The choices you make on one game, are effect the relationships you have in the next game because you were the person that made them both times.  Here you are setting up a conflict that spans multiple generations, and while you are creating ripples it is somewhat uncertain how the final events will play out.  It is also playing through a game knowing the beginning and the ending but having the steps between be rather fluid and changing.  This will make my fifth play through of Dragon Age Origin since release, and I am still finding little details that I don’t remember from previous plays.  That and the fact that I am not bored with the game, really are a testament to just how good the writing is.

Sneaking into Denerim

Belghast_314 Right now I am tempted to save my game and then make a run at getting to Denerim before completing any other areas.  I would really like to resolve the whole Urn of Sacred Ashes business before moving too much further in the storyline.  I have also never actually gone to Denerim this early in the storyline before.  I have no clue what the rammifications of doing that are, but I already have several quest chains that take me there.  So I think that might be the order for tonight, to create a good clearly labeled save game so I can roll back if I am not happy with the consequences started by my actions.  That is one of the things that is interesting about Dragon Age is just how unforgiving it is when it comes to your choices.  It is super easy to close off a quest chain to you by picking the wrong answer… and there will never be another way to get that option back.  In some of the later Bioware games they have given us the ability to escape out of a dialog tree, but this being a fairly early one has really strictly binding choices.  As such it is making me super careful about what I end up choosing.

Belghast_208 If it has been awhile since you last played Dragon Age then I highly suggest you dust off your copy and give it a proper play again.  I am currently playing the “Ultimate” edition that comes preloaded with all of the DLC… and there was quite a lot of it.  I’ve found this game plays significantly better through Origin than it does through Steam, as anytime I have tried to play through Steam I have issues with it not recognizing my DLC as being “genuine” and the official Bioware answer to this is to hack the save game file to turn off the protection bit.  I would rather just play the game without doing all of that so I am using Origin and overall the experience is not too horrible.  I have to say that Origin as a whole has gotten considerably better since its launch, and right now the only problem I really have with it… is that it is not steam.  I still to some extent resent having to have a separate launcher just for Bioware games but the experience is worth it so for the time being I just deal with the frustration.  Thankfully Ubisoft is taking steps to move towards better integration with steam so that the entire process will be transparent to the users.  Unfortunately with the rather public falling out between EA and Valve… I doubt that will actually ever happen.  In any case… I am having a blast with Dragon Age and look forward to completing it.

#DragonAge