Luck and Mini Bosses

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At this point we are up to 41 blogs signed up for Blaugust in one form or another, with a significant number of folks hanging out in the Discord just for the sake of fun that we may be able to sway one way or another.  I am super happy with this early participation, and in side conversations there are a bunch of folks on the fence trying to determine just how much they can afford to participate themselves this year.  In that always be plugging style of conversation…  if you are at all interested in starting up a blog now is the time to do it.  Pop on by the sign up form and let us know your information and we will do our best to support you through that early blogging experience.  This is of course also an open offer as well to folks who are currently blogging and just want to up their frequency of posting…  or really want to help mentor the next crew of bloggers.

Since I last posted updates there have been a few new entries and you can see the entire list in an easy to use google sheet that I have been maintaining.

New Mentors

New Participants

The official pre-week starts on July 25th so there is still plenty of time to get a blog up and running before the official August 1st start.

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There are times where I have the sort of luck that pisses my friends off.  For example I have pulled a couple of those ultra rare chase cards from Battle for Zenndikar and Kaladesh, just buying random single packs here and there.  Magic the Gathering just released its return to core sets with M19 and there are a bunch of interesting cards in it… namely a much needed reprint of Crucible of Worlds and brand new version of the classic legends era dragons.  Ultimately I would like to have a copy of each for eventual EDH brewing purposes, and as a result I picked up a fat pack on Friday in my post funeral travels.  Now a fat pack has 10 packs and seems to be for lack of a better term a partial piece of what would have normally been a full box.

They tend to be feast or famine, either you get the good end of the rare/mythic sheet or you don’t.  In this case I managed to pull 4 mythics out of those ten packs.  I took the above photo to show off everything that came out of that box, with the last two on the left side being just a couple of cool looking common foils.  I found it weird that I got a duplicate rare out of the batch so maybe they are doing the fat packs different than they have done before.  I was extremely excited that I managed to pull a Crucible of Worlds and at least two of the three color dragons.  Unfortunately I did not pull the big daddy of them all…  Nicol Bolas, the Ravager.  I still consider this an insanely lucky box, and walked away mighty happy with it.

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As far as the rest of the weekend… it was largely spent hanging out and playing some Elder Scrolls Online.  I have now officially finished the Orsinium content and wow… I am exceedingly impressed with the quality.  If that is at all representative of what I have to expect from the follow up releases, then I am going to be a very happy boy.  I’ve since started on the Thieves Guild which is the next content release in order…  having largely skipped Imperial City due to its PvEvP nature.  I did however spent a chunk of last night running around and collecting Skyshards out in Cyrodil..  I am sure frustrating someone who was there to try and take keeps and mile forts.  The only actual PVP I got into was being found by a roaming murderball of Ebonheart Pact players…  at which point my screen froze and I crashed out of the game only to come back very dead.

The most fun however was prior to that when I was roaming around in Coldharbor with Ashgar and Tamrielo doing the public dungeon there.  It all started simple enough…  the three of us on Voice Chat when Ash mentioned mostly to himself that he was going to ignore the Public Dungeon for now until he could come back with a group.  I said that I had not done the public dungeon there for the same reason and Tam chimed in that he had largely been avoiding any group content.  Before long the three of us were converging upon Ash’s location and doing the public dungeon which had two quests inside of it.  Additionally we realized that there were a bunch of optional bosses in various corners of the place and we set forth to take each and every one down earning us a conqueror achievement.

I kinda love that this game does not care at all about where a player is in the progression, and that you can pretty much just group in for whatever happens to be going on.  I abused this power to help Void get some crafting materials by porting myself to Windhelm and then letting him piggy back in on that to get the shrine there.  I love that this game has decided that horizontal progression is the way to go because it has allowed me to invest resources in a really nice set of gear knowing I won’t be upgrading it anytime soon.  I love that I can just do whatever happens to cross my path and still feel like I am moving towards a goal in the form of Champion points…  knowing that I am also adding progression to every single character as I go.  I am very happy with the current state of Elder Scrolls Online.

A Four Year Mission

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I realize this is a lot of images to link at the beginning of a blog post… but there is a good reason.  For the last four years playing Elder Scrolls Online I had a singular goal…  to see something in the live game that I have not seen since one of the last days of alpha.  I’ve talked about this before but I have been playing Elder Scrolls Online since February of 2013 when the first Friends and Family alphas began.  How I got in is because my good friend Tamrielo was one of the creators of a not insignificant amount of the quest content.  Every so often in Alpha we would be lead by him to go see something… that was a reference to one of us or one of our friends.  One of the final things I remember is running all of the way across the Ebonheart Pact area to The Rift….  and Nimalten to be specific to see an arrangement of NPCs in that town.  The date specifically was October 13th of 2013 as I have a stack of screenshots that I took at that time have have hoarded since.

Last night I managed to push my way through the Eastmarch storyline and upon zoning into the The Rift for the first time…  I couldn’t wait any longer and made a jaunt across zone to Nimalten to find what I had been waiting to see all of this time.  Granted every one of the NPCs made their way through a bit of a “Nordification” pass by the lore team, but enough survived that it is pretty obvious who they are if you know what you are looking at.  First up is my namesake aka Belgrod Sternblade (technically one of two namesakes that I know of) who has a throwaway line about his Stalwart Band of Mercenaries which is a reference to House Stalwart the guild I started in World of Warcraft back in 2004.  Next up is Waren the Wolf aka Warenwolf a long time friend of ours from the vanilla World of Warcraft days, phenomenal hunter and the target of my attempts to heal him with arrows in alpha.  Then we have Ashvorn Bear-Walker which is the slantwise namesake of Ashgar our perennial bear tank and general friend of anything that transforms into animal form.  Lastly we have Autrae Snow-Wing who is playing with her cat Dimi… that represent former AggroChat host Audrae and her then cat Dimitri.

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This might seem silly but for me personally…  being able to see these characters legitimately in the final release of the game means a lot to me.  It also allows me to take stupid photos like the one above with the two Belghast-kin together.  Of course the moment I finished doing this nonsense I ported back to the start of the zone because I want to experience it through the natural flow instead of just jumping ahead to this one town.  I’ve been having a complete blast playing Elder Scrolls Online over the last couple of weeks and really the game has evolved to a state where it pretty much has all of the things that I think I once complained about it not having.  It has a really excellent housing system that I have been collecting patterns for…  and still what I would consider the single best crafting system in any MMORPG.  While a little costly I am a fan of their cosmetic system implementation as well as the various costumes available through either crown crates or direct purchase on the store.  The fact that subscribing to the game gets me access to all of the Expansion and DLC content, a stack of crowns each time it renews, and a magical crafting bag that lets me loot everything and not worry about bag space…  is all a “plus” in my book.  The full list of features for a subscription goes a little something like this…

  • Access to all DLC game packs in the in-game Crown Store
  • Free crowns for the in-game Crown Store
  • Access to the Craft Bag
  • Double bank space
  • Bonuses to progression
  • Extra furniture space
  • Costume dyeing
  • Double Transmutation Crystals

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I am very much in my MMO happy place at the moment, and completely oblivious to pretty much anything else apart from the occasional game of Diablo 3.  I am super excited that soon…  in one zones time I will be starting the first of the DLC content for Elder Scrolls Online.  I have purposefully delayed starting literally anything that came out past the original game… because I wanted to have beaten all 150 levels worth of content that the original game had to offer.  For the uninitiated that starts with the 50 levels worth of content in your starting faction and works its way through Silver and Gold… the new game plus, and new game plus plus that sees you travelling via Cadwell to the other two factions.  Sure it is a little weird to be helping the Ebonheart Pact fight off the Covenant while rocking the Covenant Hero title…  but whatever I can hand wave that away.

The thing that makes me the happiest about Elder Scrolls Online is how indistinguishable it is for me personally from playing any other Elder Scrolls game at this point.  I love the story arcs for each of the zones that evolve as you work your way around and help the other people…  and the little payoffs when you meet up with a character you have already helped out once before.  The amount of scripting work that went into making sure that each NPC recognizes you from every time you have interacted with that NPC before has to be staggering.  The fact that the final main story quest usually involves weaving in a bunch of characters that you met in the zone and each of them commenting on how you helped them in the past, is just so damned great.  The only thing that would push it over the top is if they introduced some Bioware style companions with romance story arcs…  because seriously the core story itself is as good as anything I have seen in a Mass Effect or Dragon Age game.

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I have an extreme amount of emotional investment in this game, not just for the fact that there are characters named after me roaming its world…  but also for the fact that I feel like I helped shape it.  I was a very active member of the alpha community and supposedly one of the more active bug reporters.  I love that there is still a core of players out there in an alpha-only guild that I am part of that has been playing off and on since the days we first got into the servers and kept reporting bugged doors.  I love the fact that there is still a hidden area on the official forums that only those first few testers have access to, and while it isn’t terribly active… feels like a little secret clubhouse that a handful of us have access to.  Every time I step foot into Tamrielo in Elder Scrolls Online it feels like coming back home, and each time I forget why I left in the first place.  The truth is…  I am an easily distracted toddler and I am sure at some point some shiny object with cause me to shift my gaze elsewhere…  but for the moment I am loving every moment of roaming this place that is both so familiar to me but still so fresh to explore.

Lantern Light

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Last night went absolutely nothing like I had originally intended.  The initial goal I had in mind was to go home and attempt to pull myself back into a mindset where I could play Final Fantasy XIV.  Instead I hit a few detours along the way the first of which being that shortly after I had finished doing all of the stuff that I need to do when I first get home…  the power went out.  Now I realize this is mostly an irrational fear, but the first thing that always goes through my head is…  did you pay the bill?  I am not sure exactly why I have this fear because we have never actually been disconnected from any utility, but it is still something that happens.  I was already in my “not suitable for public” clothing, but I did stumble outside long enough to notice that all of my neighbors were also lumbering around by flashlight.  I called in the outage and reported it through the menu driven system and then spent the next little bit trying to sort out how to see reported outages without logging into the damned electric company page with an account that I didn’t have.  There is a local facebook group that serves as the closest thing we have to a city wide “water cooler” and my second place was to go check there knowing that there would already be a thread of a hundred or so posts about whatever was going on.  The lights went out around 6 pm and if the group was to be believed the estimated time for the fix was 11:30 pm…  which meant it was about to be a really long night living by lantern light.  It was around this time that I remembered I had the Switch and grabbed it from my office settling into the sofa to play some games.  I had played some Super Mario Odyssey and was about ten minutes into the Octopath Traveler demo when the power was magically restored at roughly 8 pm.

From there I did all of those things I had been avoiding… like opening the fridge to get a drink and settled down to play some Final Fantasy XIV.  Upon logging in I got greeted by friends… roamed around Limsa Lominsa and then promptly logged out because I just did not have it in me to do the group activities I need to do in order to make any semblance of forward momentum.  Instead I popped into Elder Scrolls Online and continued work on Stonefalls.  This zone is like a giant immovable object for me and the sooner I get on the other side of it the better.  It has singlehandedly killed every attempt at playing an Ebonheart Pact character because even though it has gone through a ton of changes since alpha…  it still is not what I would call a good zone.  The weird shape and geometry of the zone makes everything a bigger chore than it should be.  Objectives that might look really close on the map instead require you to backtrack half the way across the zone to find the proper entrance into the region you need to go.  All of this is just the functional reasons…  but there is also the fact that it is bleak.  The quake color palette and the constant smokey haze and falling ash make it not exactly the most visually exciting place to be.  I did however feel like I made a bunch of progress in the zone last night and checked off a bunch of areas.  I am not even sure where I am in the zones main story quest, and if I could change one thing about Elder Scrolls online I would make it so that those primary quests required to move to the next area were somehow highlighted differently in a FFXIV style manner.

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The other thing on my radar is that at the time of taking this screenshot we were roughly 17 hours away from unlocking Monster Hunter World on the PS4.  Granted I have no actual intent of staying up until midnight to play this game, but I do plan on playing Friday night.  This is going to be my first real attempt at playing a Monster Hunter title while it is in the public zeitgeist and I am hoping that by doing so…  I will be able to grok what the fuck is going on.  I’ve attempted the PS Vita version and purchase Generations for the 3DS…  but largely chocked up a lot of my problems to the fact that I am just not much of a handheld gamer.  World however is coming to the PS4 which will allow me to play it on this nifty 43 inch 4k television (even though I don’t have a pro and can’t do the higher resolutions really) and my hope is it will be a much more compelling experience.  I’ve always thought this was the sort of game I could get into if I had the proper introduction, because the core loop of grind random stuff to make yourself stronger to take down big bad monsters is one that I can likely get behind.  I am hoping I can rely on those who have come before like Ashgar and Stormrazor to get me over the adjustment hump.  I am also super excited that Arekkz is devoting a series of videos to easing beginners in.  I most definitely need the assistance.  Needless to say I will be on the PS4 giving it a whirl tomorrow.

Saving Bleakrock

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

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

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

 

On The Mend

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I am mostly among the living.  Yesterday was a federal holiday here in the United States and with me being off work… it also mean’t that I largely treated it as part of the weekend for blogging purposes.  I am still fighting the same crud that I had last week, but it feels like at some point on Monday I turned the corner.  While I still have the vestiges of whatever bronchial mess has inflicted me, I am starting to feel better and less like an appendage of the couch and or bed depending upon the time table.  it truly was a miserable weekend and while I attempted to game I was not terribly successful at anything until yesterday.  I spent most of the break working on the Tauren Hunter who has now finished the Outland and is knee deep in Northrend just starting the Grizzly Hills area.  My hope is that when I ding 74 the bear spirit beast will be up and I can collect it for my pet.  Up until this point I am mostly running a Fel Corehound that I got from the Blasted Lands.  I took the Beast Mastery talent that allows your pets to shadow step… so it is entertaining watching him leap up on targets rapidly.  At this point however I can kill most mobs well before my beast even has time to interact with it…  which is the life of running full heirlooms.

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Sunday I indulged a really weird whim and decided to reinstall the Arc client and give Neverwinter a spin.  I’m on the PR feed still from Perfect Worlds and they are constantly putting out press releases about content releases to this game.  It got me wondering what the current state of matters is when I have literally not heard anyone talk about it in almost two years.  It turns out the game is in pretty great shape as far as actually logging in and playing it.  As far as doing its best to feel insidious from a loot box standpoint…  it is also working on winning some awards.  I don’t remember much about the game if I am being very serious, but you know that thing that we chastised Call of Duty WW2 for doing at the beginning of the year?  Where if you get a drop the game announces to the rest of the world what you just got?  That apparently happens in Neverwinter as most of my time spent in the central hub area was a constant stream of people getting loot drop rewards.  In the very short time I played yesterday I got somewhere around 25 loot crate drops from random stuff while doing quests.  Each one of these crates would require a key which runs roughly $1.25 each without any of the “buying in bulk” discounts applied.  Through the quests I wound up getting three free keys to open three sample crates and if the ones that drop in the wild are at all similar to what they gave us as “examples” for why we should buy into this system…  they were full of utter garbage.  If you can however do what I started doing and just vendoring the damn crates for a few copper each time you saw one drop…  and loot past the money grubbing nature of the game…  the core feedback loop is actually rather enjoyable.  I think when I logged in last night I was around 16 left over from my initial push around launch and I believe I logged out for the evening around 25/26ish.  During all of that time I enjoyed the core game quite a bit so long as I completely ignored the multiple currency cash shop nonsense.  If you can do the same then you too will probably enjoy yourself.

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Last completely random thing I did last night…  is patch up and log into Elder Scrolls Online.  This game is in fact the same as I remember it and still rather enjoyable.  The biggest problem I will have is trying to sort out exactly what I was doing when I was last playing.  I am still being insanely stubborn and wanting to finish all of the original three story arcs before doing any of the newer content.  As a result I believe I am somewhere in the middle of Malabal Tor during my Aldmerri Dominion play through.  From there I will at some point venture forth into Ebonheart where maybe just maybe I can play long enough to see the character that was inspired by me and some of the folks we play with.  I think the fact that I jumped around so much last night… but still managed to get a bunch of play in with each jump…  is probably proof that I am on the mend.  In truth a good chunk of this weekend was spend with me just staring blankly at things without really doing a lot of interaction.  There were several times that I would start up a YouTube video that would then cycle through a whole bunch of things before I even realized I was still watching something.  Now however I need to go warm up the car and prep myself to venture forth into the frozen tundra (for Oklahoma at least).  Tonight will likely either be more Neverwinter or ESO because I had a lot of fun playing both.

 

Chateau Belghast

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This weekend was a bizarre one.  We are still very much under the gun of a release date, and I attempted to do whatever I could to further that goal.  However for all of Saturday our building was without power, and I was instead on call just in case something went wrong.  The building power went down at 6:30 in the morning, and by the time we started recording AggroChat we had not yet gotten the all clear.  I was just hoping that things would cycle off of the generators as successfully as they did cycling onto them, and that I would not end up getting interrupted during the podcast.  Sunday was a mixed bag of work and doing all of the other things that we ultimately put off until Sunday like laundry and various errands.  The weekend as a whole wound up being a very random mix of games as I played whatever I could during the brief moments of downtime.  As you can see by the Chateau Belghast image above, I started fiddling around with Fallout 4 once again, and scrapped my old house and built this one instead.  The inside is largely unfurnished but I am digging the outside quite a bit.  It took me far longer than it should have to sort out how best to attempt centering the neon text, but in the grand scheme it seems to look okay.  The frustrating bit with their neon font is that is is in no way monospaced with the characters all varying pretty wildly in width.

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In Final Fantasy XIV I am still very much getting back in the swing of things, and have fallen into the pattern of doing Beast Tribe dailies.  In theory I started down this path because I wanted a reliable source of ventures for my retainers, so that I could keep sending out my gatherers on field exploration.  However I also really like mounts, and over the course of the last week or so I have been pushing up the Sahagin, not necessarily because I love the mount, but more because it was the next closest faction.  For a long period of time, it was the faction I was spending the rest of my daily allowance on while working on the Sylph.  Yesterday however I managed to push Sahagin across the finish line and now have my truly bizarre Sapsa mount to ride around on.  I figured what better place to take a picture of it than in the waters of The Mists, where the Free Company house is located.  Next up should be the Kobolds as once again…  they are the next closest given that I had been spending my extra ventures on them while working on the Sahagin.  I mean I know there are lots of other things I SHOULD be doing… but I just can’t bring myself to pug dungeons yet.  After a string of bad experiences with Palace of the Dead… I don’t much feel like pugging that one either.  The problem there is as we talked about on the podcast, is that if you fail…  you lose all progress gained which seems deeply punitive for a random group activity.

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Finally I spent a good amount of time this weekend playing Elder Scrolls online.  I failed to take any screenshots so instead you get an interior shot of my home.  I pushed forward the story line in Malabal Tor a bit, but the big problem with ESO is that I tend to wander wildly.  I find it extremely hard to stay focused and instead I wind up going after the next object on the horizon that looks interesting, and as a result never seem to end up getting my objectives accomplished.  There is always a fallen log to harvest, or an outcropping of ore to mine.  Whatever the case I find myself continuing to move steadily towards 160 champion levels, which is the current item cap.  Unfortunately I have a feeling this is probably going to change with Morrowind, but for the time being getting there.. and being able to craft a set of gear that will last me for a bit tends to be my focus.  The other thing that I am realizing is that 160 champion levels is just a drop in the bucket given that quite literally every build I find expects you to have at least four or five times that amount.  There is a part of me that wishes I had never actually faded away from this game, because at this very moment I am so impossibly behind the curve.  Then again I think that overwhelming amount of content is what has been drawing me there much in the same way as it did for A Realm Reborn until we caught up.  I know there is more to do than I have time to do it… and in some way that is insurance from ever really getting bored.

Be The Battery

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Yesterdays post was a little more bleak than they usually are, and the bizarro thing is…  I think writing it helped a lot.  It helped putting the frustrations and dread into a single post and sending it out into the world.  Its almost as if typing the words lessened the hold the malaise had on me.  Then again the activities of last night helped quite a bit as well.  However I will get to that shortly.  First off I want to show off my home in Elder Scrolls Online.  I went back and forth on a few different homes before finally settling on Mournoth Keep in the Halcyon Lake area of Bangkorai.  I remember being extremely fond of the main campaign in Bangkorai so that fit for me as well as the fact that since I chose Daggerfall Covenant as my original faction… I wanted something to call home in the same area.  In truth I have not done much with it since getting it, largely because I have not had much luck in getting pattern or furniture drops.  I am being told that looting furniture seems to be the best way to do that.  In theory I could resort to stealing, or instead just fine one of the many towns controlled by enemies and run amok looting there.  I have a feeling through with the focus on housing there is going to be a lot of competition for lootables.

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Now on to the events of last night and how they seem to have turned around my spirit.  For awhile now Squirrel, Jex and myself have had an informal Thursday night thing where we go off and do small group content in Destiny together.  Originally this was the night when we took on the Challenge of Elders, but more recently we have been running all three of our characters through the weekly nightfall.  I have yet to get an icebreaker, so I largely think they are humoring me until I actually get one.  Whatever the case it is a lot of fun, but due to the bizarre schedule since coming back from PAX it had been a few weeks since we last did one of these nights.  In truth I had not actually played Destiny since probably January 19th now that I am thinking about it.  I was extremely rusty, and by the sheer number of times that they had to rez me it showed… but regardless I think we all had a lot of fun.  This week the Nightfall is Dust Palace which is something that has been in the rotation since year one… and that everyone has memorized at this point.  As a result we were able to run through three characters worth of Nightfalls in way less than an hours time.  During the Nightfall runs they asked me where I was on progress on the quest line to unlock the Outbreak Prime weapon, which requires you to group together in a fire team with a Titan, Warlock and Hunter to make forward momentum.

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The truth is I had not really made it terribly far other than picking up the occasional progress from our Thursday night runs when the stars happened to be aligned and we wound up choosing to play different classes on a given run.  Like they often do… they set out to change that and we ran a sequence of Archon’s Forge to finish out the step I happened to be on since those apparently count as “public events”.  It was around this point that we realized that we did not have three characters with the devices needed to do the decoding step of the quest chain.  There is a phase that needs to be completed in a social area where a titan, warlock and hunter input a sequence on this item that drops from the quest chain.  If all three sequences are correct you can click through and get to the next step.  After a little shuffling we realized that Jex’s warlock had already completed the quest, and Squirrel’s hunter was on the step I had just completed.  So we continued on to catch Squirrel up in the process and ran a sequence of three heroic strikes, and then three public events to get us all on the same stage of the quest.  After that back to the social area to complete the matrix and move on to the next step.

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It felt like the night was still relatively young, so instead of hanging it up for the evening we pushed on into the next quest which involved collecting a bunch of SIVA tech by killing splicers.  This also required us to run the Sepiks Perfected strike, which we knocked out in short order by simply doing the 320 light version.  From there it was back into Archon’s Forge to complete three events, and farm up the rest of our SIVA Tech fragments.  All of which went extremely quickly and before we had finished the three events, we had gotten 100% of our fragments.  Watching those things scroll by 2 at a time on the right side of the screen was madness as we tore apart the forge event.  Finally it was another trip back to a social space, this time to solve a four by five matrix.  It took a half dozen attempts but we finally got the right numbers on all three of us, allowing us to move to the final step.  Now both Squirrel on his hunter and myself on my Titan are on the step that requires us to simply kill any three bosses in the Wrath of the Machine raid.  Then I will have my very own Outbreak Prime pulse rifle, and can do silly damage to SIVA targets with my nanites.  All it all it was exactly the sort of concentrated fun that I needed to pull me out of my funk, and even though I am staring down the barrel of what will almost certainly be an extremely stressful day…  I suddenly found a new packet of spoons with which to confront it.

Restless Weekend

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This weekend was a bit of an odd one, because at least for me it centered around recording our “Games of the Year” show on AggroChat.  This is generally speaking a huge ordeal given that our show is made up of six very different minded people.  Back during the days when we had four regular hosts it was less of a proceeding but now that we essentially have six people each picking three games a piece… that means we wind up talking about 18 games, which as it turns out divides neatly into two 9 image panels.  The above image is the first of these and serves as the backdrop for our normal show card of sorts, however with the text over it you can’t necessarily make out all of the images involved so I decided to post it here.  You can as always find the show on AggroChat or my method of choice for sheer simplicity of listening…  YouTube.  The reason why this largely dominated my weekend is because we ultimately recorded two podcasts that were both two hours long before I set down to edit them.  Post edits they both clock in around an hour and twenty minutes, which really is shocking given that I did not actually time anything out in an attempt to make them work as relative set pieces.  I guess however if you set out to record nine games per show… the end result comes out fairly evenly.  I did make an attempt to shuffle the deck in such a way as to put the games I thought we would most likely talk the longest about divided evenly among the shows.

So we recorded from 8 pm CST until just after midnight, and then I got up around 7:30 Sunday morning and edited until 12:30…  and as a result every other element of the weekend felt like it was shoved to one side or the other.  Of course all of this madness has a purpose since the double episode is timed perfectly to cover the absence of myself and Ashgar as we go to Pax South.  Now in theory Grace, Kodra, Tam and Thalen could record without me… but that would mean I had the forethought to have the mess that is our show in a state that I could easily hand over the reigns to an understudy.  I have not planned ahead that far, and while I do have a series of Audacity and Photoshop projects to speed up the process…  I am not sure if I could even properly explain what exactly I do each week.  It is my hope however that I managed to not only publish yesterday, but also schedule everything else to publish next Sunday while I am driving home from San Antonio.  Staging a publish to happen without me is always a fraught thing for me… because so rarely does it actually work as intended.  Even if it does… I am literally stressed beyond reason until I see the tweets show up in my timeline from the publish process actually doing its thing appropriately.  In the grand scheme of things however…  it is not the most important thing in the world… but it is important to me.

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As far as gaming went this weekend that was equally scattered.  I patched up Final Fantasy XIV and made it far enough to hit the first instance gate, before ultimately walking away.  Similarly I patched up Wildstar, created a Chua Warrior and played to around level seven before once again walking away like a bored child.  As far as gaming that managed to last for more than an hour…  we had World of Warcraft where I finally hit 35 points on my Protection Artifact and started pushing up Fury instead.  I have gotten back in the habit of logging in each day to do my Emissary quest because now there is also a potential legendary upgrade waiting at the end of the grind.  I started doing my Time Walking dungeons… but only managed to make it through the first one tanking it before once again wandering away.  The game that seemed to stick the hardest was Elder Scrolls Online where I completed a good chunk of Malabal Tor, a zone where I am already completely enthralled by the storyline…  even though it involves largely nothing but elves and their internal politics.  I’ve decided that the Bosmer are what it takes to make me really enjoy Elves.  I am really enjoying the whole lore regarding the Green Lady and the Silvenar, and I guess in truth that was an aspect of the lore that I had either forgotten or ignored in playing other Elder Scrolls games.  I even managed to have a few emotional gut punches last night, when I lost characters that I actually really liked during one quest chain.  In truth all I want to do right now is hide in my blanket cocoon on the couch and play more ESO, but that said I do want to at some point get a Mythic+ in for the week since I have a +5 Maw of Souls key.

Honor the Green

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

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

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

Deep Turtle

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Lately I have been going through an anxiety ridden period where I just find it super stressful to be around people on a regular basis.  This started over the break, and for some extent I pulled myself out of it a little bit around the time I went back to work.  However increased stresses in that realm seems to have caused a relapse.  As a result I am firmly back in what I refer to as “turtle mode” where I duck my head into my shell and largely forget the world exists.  As a result I am taking every possible excuse to avoid doing things that have lots of people involved with them, and I missed both raids this week…  both with completely reasonable reasons but reasons that I probably could have avoided were it not for my anxiety desperately clinging to them.  Sure I had a window to fix, but I could have probably been done in time for the raid.  Sure I dozed off on the sofa, but had I drank a monster or some coffee I probably would have been fine there too.  The excuse was too convenient not to take it when the reality was I am simply having trouble processing existing around other human beings.

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When I am in deep turtle mode it is all I can really do to exist on a daily basis, let alone have to pretend to be a normal human being.  Which I realize is a bit odd given that I am generally a gregarious and welcoming sort, and have become famous for opting people.  There are times where I just can’t be “rockstar bel” as one of my friends has referred to it.  There is time when I just need to hide out and pretend the other human beings don’t exist.  Generally speaking when I am in this mode I play a lot of Minecraft or Skyrim…  or in the case of what has happened over the weekend return to playing an MMO that I really don’t have much of a social structure in these days.  Awhile back I reinstalled Elder Scrolls Online and this weekend I stared playing it extremely seriously.  I am enjoying myself immensely and other than the occasional message from folks who are also dipping their toes in as well and just happy to see a familiar face.

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I have to say the game feels amazing coming back to it after a significant time gone.  The game has released a ton of DLC/Expansion content since release and there are basically two ways of playing it.  Either you buy the DLC outright, where there is a deal that can be had that includes the four major DLC packs for 5500 crowns… which is $39.99.  The other option is to subscribe to the game which immediately unlocks all of the content…  so long as you keep an active subscription.  However there is another reason to go for the ESO Plus subscription option…  because it magically fixes your bag situation.  At launch one of my key problems was trying to keep enough bag space to be actively looting crafting ingredients, while at the same time picking up gear that drops from things I was killing.  With the subscription plan it adds what seems to be a separate bottomless crafting inventory, that items simply go to automatically when you loot them.  This means you can finally afford to loot all of those random crates and barrels full of fish and berries because it all gets whisked away off into the ether into a storage bin you never actually have to mess with.

The other awesome thing that has happened in the period of time I have not really be playing is that they have shifted the Veteran Rank system to be the Champion Point system.  At first I thought this was a one for one swap over to a sort of Skyrim-esc celestial system based around the Thief, Warrior and Mage.  However it seems to be way more than that, in that they are essentially an account wide system of alternate expansion much like the Planar abilities in Rift or Paragon points in Diablo 3.  That means if you log into your level 7 alt like I did yesterday…  I had 130 champion points to spend making me able to do some pretty insane stuff at low levels.  Sure this greatly trivializes the leveling process for alts…  but I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing.  In truth it makes me far more likely to level alts knowing that I have a lot of the same benefits, on them as I do on my main character.  That said the collections and cosmetic systems also exist at an account level so you can keep using your favorite mounts and pets… or anything you have unlocked through the crown shop.  All in all I have been happy to fade quietly back into a game that I still fine immensely immersive at least from a single player level.