Fixing Everquest 2

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Tale of Two Games

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Last week we had the somewhat bittersweet news that Everquest Next was officially being cancelled.  For those who were utterly confused about what Landmark,  Next and the rest of the EQ games actually are… here is a quick rundown.  Everquest of course is the granddaddy of the big hit MMOs.  Then mere days before the launch of World of Warcraft…. Everquest II came out as an attempt at rebooting the world.  Everything in that setting happened after a huge calamity that saw Luclin the moon shattering and sending shards to earth.  The world was changed, the land fractured, and in many ways it allowed for a much larger scale game world than the original.  Everquest Next was the concept for what was ultimately going to be the third Everquest MMO… so in truth you can just think of it as Everquest III.  Landmark on the other hand is ultimately the tool that they were using to build the world of Everquest Next.  After playing around with it the folks decided that this was actually a really fun thing to play with in itself, in the Minecraft style.  Landmark was really never a fully fleshed out game, but more of a sandbox toy that players could fiddle with.  Since its launch they have made it more “game-like” but it still is missing a lot of the core features folks expect in an MMO.

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Now in the above paragraph I mentioned a key fact… that Everquest II launched on November 8th of 2004… and then was completely overshadowed by the launch of World of Warcraft on November 24th of that same year.  The two games took significantly different paths, and produced really different results.  Everquest II was this rich tapestry of cultures and game systems that provided a really deep game play experience that worked on so many levels.  World of Warcraft was a much more streamlined experience that asked less of the player, but ultimately became easier to pick up and play without an excessive amount of research.  We all know how the tales goes… that WoW becomes the juggernaut of MMO gaming and EQ2 becomes this sheltered garden with an excellent community and lots of great content…  but always treated as a second tier experience.  Right now Everquest II feels extremely dated, like an artifact of a different era whereas World of Warcraft feels somewhat evergreen.  The major difference there is that each time WoW releases an expansion they do significant systems overhauls that cause some sweeping changes to not only the fidelity of the game client itself, but also the back end systems.  Everquest II on the other hand has been this “Weasley House” of MMOs with content constantly being tacked on top of the older foundation.  The new content feels like modern content, but you experience a sort of whiplash as you shift between the different layers of the content and see just how drastic and inequitable the improvements have been.

Renovation Is Due

EQ2Orcs

The above image has been floating around for a few weeks now and represents some work that the Everquest II team is doing to update the orc model.  It seems that the newest expansion content that they are working on heavily focus on orcs, and as a result they are just updating the base model to bring them up to modern standards.  Seeing this however made me realize just how bad the old models look.  I mean it has always been one of those things in the back of my mind, but when you see what the team is capable of producing today… placed against something that has existed since 2004 it is staggering.  Now that Everquest Next is no longer a thing… I would love to see them pour some of those resources into producing a graphical upgrade to Everquest II.  The big problem with the game are just how dated the models and the animations look, and going back there is always an adjustment period and largely just hand waving off a bunch of details that get under my skin because the content itself is so amazingly rich.  I realize this is a massive undertaking, and it is the sort of thing that could be rolled in over time.  If you remember the original Everquest went through the same problems and with the release of Luclin they released new and updated character models.  Unfortunately in the case of EQ2… we need a lot more than just characters.  I would love to see this great game get a second life, because for so many of my friends that I have tried to get to play this game…  the ugliness of the assets was a barrier they simply could not get past.

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Now fixing the graphics isn’t going to fix the game entirely… but it would go a long way into making it feel more playable.  Next up however we really need to talk about the user interface, that has always felt a bit cludgy.  I’ve not played the game in the last decade without first installing some sort of third party addon user interface.  For years I played with Fetish Nightfall, and within the last six years or so I switched over to being a Drums UI guy.  With these UI extensions the game becomes rather good, but the whole process of acquiring a UI and keeping it updated… feels needlessly arcane in a manner I have not experience in any other game save for maybe Dark Age of Camelot where they had no official support for addons.  So the entire User Interface could use a bit of a facelift.  Finally we have to talk about the way combat works in this game.  I feel like this is the step that would actually cause rioting in the streets by diehard Everquest II fans…  but I also feel like it is the point that is the most needed.  The game really really needs to simplify combat in a way that does not require me to use 30+ abilities in a combat rotation.  The above picture is of my Shadowknight, and at least 30 of this abilities are ones that I pretty much used in every single round of combat.  It was even worse on my Dirge and I had these super complex patterns memorized… that even today I can sit down at the keyboard and automatically cycle through them.

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The problem is…  it doesn’t really feel fun.  I feel like I am playing some sort of a musical instrument instead of actually experience reactive combat in a video game.  Now I am not saying water it down to the level that single hotbar games have done… or simplify it to the point of an action MMO.  I just would love to be able to have one primary hotbar of abilities that get used every round… and then a bunch of optional abilities that throw in for flavor or when special conditions are met.  The cooldown of EQ2 abilities is so long that you need something… anything… to fill in the gaps so you quite often are simply mashing the next button that is off cool down.  Please understand that I am a huge fan of Everquest II… but every time I leave it is the cludgy combat system that eventually drives me away.  For several months I can overlook it and just blend back into the rich and vast game world… but I always reach this point where I need to play combat that simply “works better”.  I think maybe this is a ship that has already sailed, and after doing several combat passes early in the game…  I am not sure if they have the intestinal fortitude to attempt another.  All of this aid… simply making the game look better would go a long way into making this a more attractive experience to new players, but in doing this post I am talking about all of the things that I wish were different.  Combat will always be a huge part of that.

Bad News Day

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Goodbye Everquest Next

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Yesterday the MMORPG industry received a couple of really bad bits of news.  Firstly Daybreak Games has officially announced that Everquest Next is no more, and that they would be rushing Landmark into “launched” status this spring.  Firstly it really should not come as any surprise that this is happening because in truth we have not had any substantive news about “Next” since SOE Live 2014.  So when Storybricks parted company in February 2015 and SOE was sold to the holding company that renamed it to Daybreak… I fully expected we would never see anything further from Next. Storybricks was going to be the guts of this new approach at how to create an MMO and allow it o almost center around procedural interactions with he various factions and NPCs in the game.  With that core gone… I could not reason how the game would function, and deliver even half of the lofty promises it had made.  The other huge concern was the fact that Daybreak now seemed like a company desperately trying to survive under the yolk of evil overlords.  When a company known for grooming technology for sale purchases a game company…  it seems like creative freedom and the broad daydreaming that got SOE where it is today would be the firs thing to go.

The concerns I have is that it feels like Landmark is getting foisted upon us, in an unfinished state.  It had been a couple of years since I last played the game and I popped in last night to see just how different it is.  In truth it still feels like the prototype game that it has always felt like.  I roamed around and collected items and then logged back out because I wasn’t really drawn to stay. The thing I love about Landmark is the community, and I am just hoping that through all of this transition they can manage to keep that intact.  The problem I have with Landmark is that it is a fun sandbox that lets you build really interesting structures…. but I still wouldn’t really call it a game but instead more of a toybox.  Sure you have the trappings of combat now, but while wandering around in the zone the game dumped me in…. there was actually nothing to fight.  Maybe I need to dig down to find that, but the only thing I actually encountered that was potentially damaging were some exploding shrooms.  I am hoping that in the few months left before the official launch that they can somehow pull together some of the ideas from Next and make Landmark a proper game experience.

Wildstar Falters

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The other concerning news from yesterday is that roughly sixty employees were laid off in a “restructuring” within Carbine.  This has honestly been a topic among some of my friends for awhile now, but we were dreading some form of action to be taken.  Wildstar has not been performing amazingly well… in fact they are performing far worse right now than with City of Heroes was shut down by NC Soft.  As a company goes they are notoriously brutal when it comes to closing titles that they deem are not operating as well as they expected.  Wildstar is a significantly better game today than it was at launch, and the Free to Play conversion was more than just a payment model change, but an entire reworking and re-tuning of some of the game concepts.  The game felt fresh and new and was exciting…  for a period of time.  The problem is, that Wildstar is just not my game.  I have good friends who love it above all others, and for them it hurts a lot to see the company struggling.  Every now and then there is just a game that does not for whatever reason “click”, and that was this game for me.  On paper it sounds and looks like everything I could have wanted in a game, and I still think it has one of the best implementations of player housing I have ever seen.  Unfortunately I just don’t ever have the desire to play it, and always seemed to prioritize playing something else over it.

The scariest statement about the whole press release is this line. “These cuts are directly tied to WildStar’s evolution from a product in development to a live title“.  That right there seems to be signalling the end of active development on Wildstar and shifting the title into maintenance mode.  An MMORPG cannot thrive without fresh dose of new content, and while you can do things like add new quests and script events without a lot of active development….  you can’t do things like roll out new zones and raids.  Admittedly the game is getting fresh content with the release of Arcterra, and hopefully this will not effect that.  The other worrying statement is that apparently there were statements floating around that the employees were told to expect more layoffs in the future.  So much happens when layoffs are announced, and there is an internet dog piling of bad blood towards a game.  I have nothing but love for Wildstar and its community and I want it to weather this storm and somehow bounce back stronger.  I am clinging to hope because I know a lot of people who really need this game to succeed and thrive.  All of that said… the cynic an realist in me still keeps saying that this is not going to end well.

 

 

Disconnected Dragoon

Missing a Raid

WoWScrnShot_031815_063013 Yesterday was one of those days when I felt like I was moving through molasses the entire day.  In part it was the whole staying up late and babysitting servers bit, but also we had so much stuff going on during the day connected to the two outages.  It turns out that after much research they were not actually related.  I knew I was not exactly in “fighting shape” so I let my raid leader know that I would not be attending the WoW Raid that night.  This is in part a good thing because they were apparently talking about having to do a paired down raid due to limited healers, and it is probably a good thing to rotate folks a bit.  At this point I would never mind having to sit out for a night because I have so much other stuff going on that I could be doing.  When I got home I took a nap and that helped quite a bit, or at least made me feel something vaguely human.

I asked my wife not to let me sleep more than an hour, since I generally struggle with the concept of napping.  If I take a nap, it means I am not likely to get a good nights sleep.  My body plays this game with me, where it only wants to get five to six hours of sleep a night.  When I nap, it means I am going to have this massive bout of insomnia that night.  Thankfully the short nap managed to do what it needed to do and I was still able to sleep fairly well as a result.  I spent most of the night hanging out on the couch catching up on Better Call Saul.  The irony of be getting into this series is the fact that I have never actually watched Breaking Bad.  I mean I have watched the first episode, but since my wife showed some interest in the show I didn’t really want to start it on my own without her watching along.  Otherwise there would come a point where I would have to start back from scratch and watch everything over again.  I managed to catch up through episode seven, and that show is just  becoming more interesting as it goes.

Disconnected Dragoon

ffxiv 2015-03-04 19-29-18-85 When it came to actual gaming last night, I was a bit more distracted.  I spent some time logged into Final Fantasy XIV because our Free Company is just insanely vibrant, but I really didn’t do all that much gaming.  I ran a few roulettes, and managed to get yet another piece of 130 gear thanks to another carbontwine, but mostly I just spent a lot of time hanging out at the free company house when I got up from my nap.  It really is surreal to see the number of people online… and at some point I need to catch up with my whole guild census project and record all the new people in our spreadsheet.  One of the problems with FFXIV is that there is no good guild notes functionality so we are having to keep an external list of which character belongs to which personality.  Its tedious but for whatever reason I struggle to relate in game names back to twitter and blogger names.  I spend a lot of time thinking “I think  that is this person” but never fully committing because my memory is extremely fallible.  That is my deep dark secret, that in other games I remember everyone… because I can check the officer notes.

I am not sure how I really made it through the sequence of Labyrinth of the Ancients, Syrcus Tower and World of Darkness… but I am guessing at this point I can just do those on auto pilot.  I am hoping I was not “that dragoon” in most of the instances, because I managed to get several commendations.  Generally speaking if I go in, and manage not to die… I get commendations.  I should have spent the night working on botany, but instead I mostly stood around a lot staring blankly at the screen.  I feel like over the last several nights I have been particularly antisocial.  Largely when I am watching something on Television I stay off voice chat, and go for large periods of time without reading free company chat either.  I know at some point Arkenor asked for a group, but it was not until it had actually formed that I noticed.  I have been a less than stellar “Bel” lately, and I am hoping tonight I will be feeling back to my normal self.  I feel like I have missed a lot of what is going on, and I am hoping to remedy that.

Time to Landmark

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-17 17-36-42-66 It has been well over a year since I last played Landmark in any fashion.  That game has evolved in such a way that if you are not playing constantly you fall behind in the number of changes.  At this point I simply feel behind the curve and it has been a real barrier from me jumping back into the game.  This morning I read something interesting however, that Landmark plans to have one more major character wipe before opening its doors to the public.  My theory is that this might be precisely the ideal time to pop my head back in and see how the game has progressed.  Right now this wipe is slotted for sometime around April 29th.  So my hope is that I can pop in and experience all of the new content fresh and not be so entirely out of touch with it.  Honestly the most enjoyment I had in the game was the process of “leveling up” which was completing a series of arbitrary goals to keep moving up through the different types of picks and tools you can create.  Once I had access to everything the game quickly became stale for me.

For reference when I last played the game… the Caves system was not yet patched in.  So this means I have that and all of the player combat to experience fresh.  The problem is I am torn on the whole Daybreak thing.  I am still rather pissed about the layoffs, but at the same time the folks who are still on staff there are struggling to make this whole thing work.  My Landmark account is a sunk cost as I purchased it so long ago.  I might as well get some use out of it, and see what this game has become in the months since I let my claim get repossessed.  There was a point where I realized I was only logging in just long enough to mine copper to pay the upkeep on my claim.  This is one of the things I don’t like about upkeep systems.  If you are only playing the game to pay upkeep, are you really playing the game at all?  I am actually looking forward to the character wipe now and hopefully I will be able to reignite the spark I once had for this game.

Doubling Down

Still Frustrated

EQ2_000006 Yesterday I broke my self appointed rules and made two posts because I felt the news warranted it.  I said my peace but the problem is… I am still frustrated this morning.  At the time of posting yesterdays blog piece I really only knew about a few of the people who were let go.  As last night wound its way onwards, more names trickled out and at this point I am absolutely shocked by the scope.  While I am not sure about the numbers, it feels like roughly half of the folks I was aware of over there were let go.  Granted the actual numbers could be anywhere, but I am basing it simply on the faces that have shown up on twitter saying they were no longer Daybreak employees, versus the ones that have said they still are.  In any case this will be a massive blow to Everquest, Everquest II, Everquest Landmark and whether or not we will ever actually get Everquest Next.  For awhile on Aggrochat we have joked about Next being vaporware, and that we would only ever get Landmark…  but now I am starting to really wonder if that is closer to the truth.

Everquest will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first footsteps into the MMO world.  Similarly I am drawn to Everquest II in ways that I cannot quite understand, and while I go for large swaths of time without playing, I often return to it was the gaming equivalent of “comfort food”.  It is this strange mix of a world that I am absolutely in love with, and a combat system that I hate beyond words.  If I had to create a list of “favorite games that I am not playing” I would put Everquest II at the top of that list…  so I guess I ultimately am part of the problem.  I love this world but I am not inhabiting it on a nightly basis, and as such not giving it money to grow.  I’ve bought into Landmark and H1Z1 but I am not really playing those either.  I remember feeling the same way when City of Heroes closed its doors, that I had so many fond memories… but that I had also ultimately moved past that game as well.  I guess we want the things we once loved and enjoyed to stay protected in a bubble forever, never to change…  but when we move on are we not also ultimately to blame?

Doubling Down

Gw2 2015-02-05 19-08-06-25 Before the events of yesterday I had a topic kicking around in my head about the worlds that we play.  I am not sure how the events of yesterday feed into the narrative, but I am going with it in any case.  I feel as though the era of the “new mmorpg” is all but over.  There will of course be new games that identify with the “mmo” ideals, but they won’t be quite the same as the worlds we have had had in the past.  I feel like we are going to see a lot more games like Destiny, that is “mmo-lite” or another genre with mmo features.  I feel like the worlds that were crafted during the golden age of massively multiplayer online role-playing game launches, are the worlds we will have to live with for better or worse.  When Blizzard cancelled Project Titan, we can look at that in so many different ways.  We could say that it was a sign that MMOs were dying, and that they no longer believed in the genre.  We could however take that as a sign that they believed that the worlds we had already were worth saving.

So many of the games that we love are not broken toys, at least not yet.  Each of them if given the devotion and the development resources could be transformed into a truly magical place.  I am looking at the transformation of Final Fantasy XIV from 1.0 awkwardness to 2.0 and beyond splendor as proof that a game can change for the better.  I’ve played each of the major MMOs for some length of time, and have experienced that each have exactly the same problem.  How do they keep the player engaged on a daily basis, rather than in bursts of activity each time new content is released?  I feel the problem is that games right now are mired in the construct of expansion releases, pooling up major features until they can sell another box of the game.  This means the best features tend to either get bottled up for years time, or never actually make it into the game at all.

The episodic construct is a bit better, but you have to be careful that you are not adding “expiring” content into your game, making players feel rushed to somehow grind through it all before the next patch hits.  The problem I had with the Living Story in Guild Wars 2 was that when I fell behind, I didn’t feel like there was a point to actually try and catch up… since I had missed so much already.  The fact that the content was expiring made it feel less “real” to me… that they weren’t permanently improving the game, but instead running a series of limited time events.  I feel like the shift needs to be moved away from both of these constructs and instead the focus placed on fleshing out the world.  Do you know how frustrating it is to me in World of Warcraft that there are five portals below Wyrmrest Temple but only two of them go anywhere?  Each world we play is littered with these forgotten expansion ideas, and all I really want is for a game world to quit teasing us and start living up to its full potential.  Now is the time for these companies to double down on the content they have, fix the issues with their game systems… and try and make their games worth our copious time and devotion.

A Simple Night

ffxiv 2015-02-11 19-54-39-33 Because of the news yesterday, and because of other events leading me to question myself and my connection to other people… I was not in the best of places emotionally last night when I got home.  I have to say my mood was improved by hanging out with my extremely awesome free company in Final Fantasy XIV.  For a few nights I had promised to help my friend Solaria work on knocking out some stuff, since she was fairly new to 50 and in doing so also spent a good deal of time running dungeons with Thalen and Asha.  I have not had a night where we tore through multiple dungeons in a night, and I have to say it was good for the soul.  Granted I felt a bit wobbly, since I have not really tanked much of anything other than our raids, and dungeon tanking ends up so drastically different.  That said we managed to unlock a few dungeons for both Thalen and Solaria, and in the process get some Tomestones of Soldiery and Poetics.

I’ve missed logging in, getting pulled into a group and then spending the rest of the night tromping through dungeons.  It is like connecting with my most basic instincts of trying to make sure everything in the dungeon hates me equally.  I really enjoy the pace of Final Fantasy XIV, and its particular brand of tanking.  The Warrior just “feels” right, and I am hoping I will be equally at home with the Dark Knight.  If nothing else I will always have the Warrior to fall back on if the Dark Knight ends up not being the class I have wanted all along.  I know Thalen has several more dungeons yet to unlock to qualify for high level roulette, so I am going to try and force myself to build groups more often.  I get stuck in my own little world, and spend most of my time soloing… but I know when I do group content I feel so much better at the end of the night.  While last night did not cure me completely… it did make me feel significantly better.

Night Falls

Unfortunate Bonus Round

This is going to be a bit of an oddity for me, I am breaking my normal one post per day rule.  I feel like the gravity of the situation warrants it, because right now I am feeling so many different emotions at the same time.  By now most of you will have heard the news that I believe first broke over on the newly erected Massively OP website.  Today Daybreak Games, formerly Sony Online Entertainment has chosen to make some sweeping cuts to staff.  Among the individuals caught in this madness were none other than Dave “Smokejumper” Georgeson and and Linda “Brasse” Carlson.  I cannot fathom a chain of consequences that would lead to this happening, but I will get into that later.  For me and many others these two individuals along with Scott Hartsman before he left to join Trion…  were the face of the Everquest franchise.  They were the spirit of the game, and the lifeblood that kept the player base constantly engaged, because never once did you question their sincerity or devotion to making the game world awesome.

Last Tuesday when the news broke that SOE was to be no more, and they would be taking up the new name of Daybreak Game Studio I tried to keep things in stride.  After all I had gotten used to Everquest transitioning from Verant to being called Sony Online Entertainment hadn’t I?  When I found out they had been purchased by what seemed to be a cold and faceless financial holdings company, I tried to keep a positive tone in that it seemed that they were holding most of the companies rather than chopping them up into pieces.  I held in the back of my mind the possibility that the future was in fact going to be positive, that maybe out from under Sony they could reach previously locked off markets like the Xbox One.  After all this same company owned both Rhapsody and Fiverr, surely they knew what they were doing right?

Night Falls

Today it seems that my worst fears have been realized, and that things really can’t stay the same.  As online gamers we get lost in the worlds created by the games that we love to play.  Part of that world are the names and faces of the individuals who act as the conduit between our normal mundane lives, and the magical realms we spent our free time in.  At least in a small part they act as civil servants to the virtual cities we inhabit.  As we watch public presentations and read patch notes and press releases, it is amazing just how quickly we can rattle off the names of the key players that are relaying the information to us.  Even though we may never know them, we develop an almost personal relationship as they take the stage to give us tidbits of information about the future state of “our” game.

The problem is…  we get extremely close to these personalities, so that when one leaves either by their own hand, or by circumstances the shock waves reverberate through the community.  Today a mighty shock wave happened, and I am still not quite sure how to talk about it with any intelligence.  For many years, Brasse has been the public face of the Everquest community team, and Smokejumper the face of the future of that franchise.  It was impossible to watch either of them and not see just how excited they were to be representing this game that they too loved.  I find it exceptionally hard to try and imagine a future that does not involve them, and I have to say a lot of my faith that there will even be an Everquest going forward is more than a little tarnished.

The Survivors

This has been the month of senseless corporate action.  First with AOL killing off their blogs, and now the selling of of Sony Online Entertainment.  I am deeply concerned about the future of these games, in part because the gravitas of Sony…  allowed for SOE to be a little “funky”.  They devoted time to building a lot of unique and quirky features that we were not likely to see come out of any other company.  Do you think that any other company would have given us something truly strange like SOEmote?  Sure I never used it, but I thought the tech was extremely cool especially for the roleplaying community.  The tools that I did love, like the robust housing system and the dungeon builder…  likely would not have come to fruition in a company not quite so willing to chase rabbit trails.

All of this said… I think it is important to also think about the people who were left behind.  They are reeling from the layoffs, and seeing their friends gone.  Having been through more than one layoff, it completely changes the feel of the office.  Every action becomes questioned, and every motive suspicious, making it almost impossible to focus on doing the excellent job that the “citizens” are expecting you to do.  It is easy to say you are done with the Everquest franchise, because of these rather rash actions…  but in truth you are just going to punish the people who are still there, still trying to create the game worlds you love.  Hopefully we can all take a deep breath, grieve the loss, and try and figure out how to move on without being bitter.  I really hope this next week gives us some really good news, because this month so far has turned out to be a fairly tragic one.

Play What You Love

AggroChat Episode 18

This week on AggroChat I am joined by regular hosts Rae, Ashgar and Tam which means we are unfortunately without a Kodra this weekend.  He is off enjoying the sights, sounds and gaming opportunities of GenCon.  I swear one of these years I want to go to this, because it has been like the pinnacle of all gaming shows in my head since I was a youngin reading Dragon magazine.  I realize that in reality it is a fair bit smaller than likely even PaxSouth that I will be going to in January, but there is just something extra epic about GenCon.  In honor of this convention we talk at length about the latest rendition of Dungeons and Dragons…  the fabled Fifth Edition and why you should be excited for it.  Wizards of the Coast at this point pretty much knows that they made some serious mistakes with fourth edition, allowing for the meteoric rise of Pathfinder.  In 5th Edition it feels like they are trying to pay for the sins of the past with awesome.

In addition to D&D 5th, it was a pretty significant week in gaming in that GamesCom, the Blizzard Warlords announcement and SOE Live were going as well as an event for EVE and SWTOR.  I talk about the things that really stuck out to me from the GamesCom feed, including the PS4 Shareplay system and the controversy over Tomb Raider exclusivity.  We talk about the World of Warcraft Warlords launch announcement and the subsequent trailer, and the general feeling of “blah” we seem to have towards it.  Finally we talk about Everquest Next and that it does in fact seem to be a game they are actually working on and not just vaporware.  Additionally we talk about the upcoming changes in Landmark, and how it is a step in the right direction but not enough to get Ashgar interested again.  It is a pretty packed show so hopefully you will tune in.

Play What You Love

ffxiv 2014-08-13 22-38-20-747 Since coming back to Final Fantasy XIV and the release of the 14 day trial program, I have had a number of friends give it a shot.  A good number of them have gone ahead purchasing and subscribing to the game and this is awesome.  However for a handful of players it just didn’t click for whatever reason and they sent me heartfelt apologies for not being able to get into the game.  This is perfectly natural, not all games are for all people… and in the current gaming climate we are in there is more diversity than ever, so there really is no excuse to play something you don’t enjoy.  So I feel like each of us owes it to ourselves to play whatever it is that we love, and never apologize for doing it.  Life is too short to spend time playing something you just don’t enjoy for some reason.

Right now I am enjoying the hell out of Final Fantasy XIV, and I feel like this is a game I could settle down in.  However if I reach a point where I am not enjoying it any longer, you can bet I will move on to whatever seems to “feel good” to play at the time.  If you stick around and play a game you just aren’t enjoying it only really leads to you either getting completely burnt out, or extremely bitter about the fact that your friends are forcing you to play something you hate.  If you allow yourself to glide along through a whole bunch of different fun experiences…  I feel like we all end up happier as a result.  So please if you try this game or any other and you really don’t enjoy it…  go play something else.  All you ever have to tell me is that it just “wasn’t for you” and I will completely understand.

Blaugust Prompts

I have been rather slack with a lot of the Blaugust related things, but the biggest of these is my original intent to collect a bunch of writing prompts. While the threat on the forum has a ton of these already I still need to add a bunch more.  So today here goes a few related to this weeks podcast and this weekend post.

  • What game do you love that none of your friends seem to enjoy?  Is there a game that you keep returning to but wish your friends were playing along with you?
  • For me GenCon is this fabled event, what is yours?  What is the event that you would love to attend but have never had the opportunity to do so for whatever reason.
  • What makes a good community?  What aspects of a game or social community do you enjoy, and what aspects detract from it?

I am extremely proud of all the bloggers who are participating daily in the Blaugust event.  Thanks for making this a truly awesome month.

#FFXIV #AggroChat #Blaugust

Dead Rising in Desert

Finishing The Spire

Screenshot_20140416_220811 One of the things I love the most about Elder Scrolls Online is just how epic their zones feel.  Last night I finally wrapped up Rivenspire and I had literally working my way through the zone for over seven days of serious playtime.  At this point according to Raptr I have logged 113 hours of playtime at am just now level 36.  When is the last time a game has managed to offer that much gameplay for the same level?  I don’t want to embark upon spoilerdom but Rivenspire introduced me to a new cast of characters, with their own epic conflict.  Some of them I really liked, and hope to see again as the overall storyline progresses.  As I am writing this post I am listening the Castlevania: Syphony of the Night soundtrack, which seems fitting.  Rivenspire is a zone about a battle against evil vampire overlords, and somehow they made the entire experience feel fresh with a few interesting plot twists on the standard mythos.

What is even more awesome is in wrapping up the zone… you are left with a feeling of unease.  In Elder Scrolls Online you never quite “get the girl and save the kingdom”.  There are always uncomfortable consequences that arise from your sequence of choices… consequences that you know you will have to life with in later zones.  I am not at all at ease with the final decisions that lead to me finishing the Rivenspire.  I most definitely saved the day, but I wonder at what cost.  I fear what the ramifications will mean to the overall fate of Tamriel and Nirn as a whole.  In any case I get to say good buy to the brooding and moody Rivenspire for the time being, and venture forth into the blazing deserts of Alik’r at the personal favor of Queen Maraya.

Dead Rising In Desert

Screenshot_20140419_000750 Another thing that I have always loved about the Elder Scrolls franchise in general are the unique little quirks that all of the races have.  The Bosmer for example strictly abide to the green pact, which states that they cannot harm any plant life.  This has the interesting side effect of making them strict carnivores… and on occasion cannibals.  As we move into the deserts of Alik’r we find that a necromancer has raised an army against the capital city of Sentinel.  The problem is… for the Redguard they revere their ancestors so much that they believe it is sacrilege to strike down the risen dead.  This means as you arrive at the docks of Sentinel it is being overrun by Ra-Netu (zombies) and the Redguard are unwilling to defend themselves against the ravening horde.

As a foreigner you save the day by doing what they cannot and will not do… strike down their ancestors.  So far this has given the quests I have completed in the Sentinel area a “call to action” feel, like everything I am doing is all the more urgent.  It is a bit of a refreshing change from the otherwise meandering zones I have experienced.  I am sure once I have left the immediate sentinel area the aimless wandering will begin again.  In truth it already has a bit, I realized I had been killing zombies for 45 minutes at one point yesterday and had no clue at all what objective I was supposed to be doing.  I had a similar moment happily bouncing from assassin beetle to assassin beetle, so the zone is definitely prone to my random fits of bloodlust.

Potentially Lovely Day

Landmark64 2014-04-13 22-04-40-22 I need to wrap this up because it looks to be a lovely day out in the real world.  I was off work yesterday, and while I enjoy lazing around immensely… I didn’t get much walking in.  So hopefully today we can go out and do something that involves copious amount of walking to make up for the fact that I closed the day yesterday with only 2 dots on my fitbit.  My wife and I have both experienced this moment recently where we have hit a plateau, but have greatly increased our exercise.  I think we are essentially swapping fat for muscle, and that eventually we will begin to lose weight again.  At the very least I hope that is the case, I have noticed that I have a lot more definition in areas I didn’t really before, and I seem to still be losing inches by the fact that I keep having to synch my belts tighter.

I wanted to post a real quick reminder to pay your upkeeps in Landmark.  I just logged in really quickly to check on that while writing this post and found I was 9 hours from losing my claim.  I’ve had numerous friends who have lost their claims and have simply abandoned the game because of it.  I highly suggest you log in and check on it just to make sure you have plenty of copper to pay the fee.   I’ve put a ton of work into mine and roughly 600,000 stone so far and it would have been devastating to lose all of that.  Granted when you lose your claim they do template the entire structure, but I have had numerous issues trying to place a template that large, needless to say I managed to get a pretty choice spot in the world and I would hate to lose it.

#ElderScrollsOnline #ESO #RivenSpire #Alik’r #Landmark

Life in Castlevania

Keep Progress

Landmark64 2014-04-13 22-04-18-30 Last night I popped into Landmark for a bit and continued work on Belgarde Keep.  At this point I have burned through around 1 million stone and still have so much more to do.  One of my friends chastised me for building with stone.  He said that I could do this much more easily with dirt and then come back over and paint in the stone texture.  For whatever reason that just feels like cheating.  Right now I can carve out bits of detail as I so choose and I still have stone underneath.  With dirt I feel like I would be playing a constant game of trying to keep the facade looking right.  The irony of my structure is that in a game with a pretty prolific smooth tool… I go out of my way to try and keep from anything getting smoothed.  I don’t like the way it mushes up the textures to be honest.

Landmark64 2014-04-13 22-03-23-53 I was feeling pretty good about my progress until I saw this picture…  it looks like maybe my structure is a voxel off somewhere when it comes to what is currently the upper tier.  So that means I will likely have to rip it out and start over from scratch placing stuff up there.  However for the time being I think I will leave it as is until I get the “oomph” to go on another massive stone farming mission.  The section I am standing on in this above photo… I am thinking about removing large chunks of it and making it a low balcony.  Giving it more of a ramparts feel to it.  Right now I am pretty pleased with how things are going, I just need to pull myself away from Elder Scrolls Online more often to do more work on it.

Life in Castlevania

Screenshot_20140413_230742 I spent most of yesterday faffing about in Rivenspire, and as was my expectation from yesterday… it is very much Castlevania.  Stuff is going horribly wrong in zone, and it is mostly due to the fact that we have free roaming vampires everywhere.  There are few things I like more than slaughtering malformed vampires, but apparently one of them is killing Trolls.  I remember in Skyrim the first time I was attacked by an Ice Troll.  It felt completely epic seeing this lumbering shape charging at me through the blowing snow.  That feeling apparently never gets old because I spent a good chunk of the day yesterday avoiding finishing a quest just so I could kill loads more trolls.  Fire is traditionally the weakness, and I am not sure if that is still the case…  but I as a Dragon Knight I applied loads of it just in case.

Rivenspire in the way it is laid out seems to be designed to keep me moving around in circles.  There are so many things I still have to do in the zone to be able to move on… and I have already dinged 30.  I am afraid I will be at least 35 before I manage to gather up the presence of mind to focus on the task at hand.  This game for whatever reason is almost my kryptonite.  There are so many shinnies and rabbit trails that I cannot keep from following.  One minute I will be on task riding towards an objective, then a dark tear will open up from the sky and dump things down onto me…  then I spend the next forty minutes on a mindless rampage across the country side only to realize I am back where I started and no closer to my objective.  Thing is… I might get frustrated over my constant state of distraction, but I am enjoying each and every minute of it.

Faffing About Bleakrock

In an attempt to let people catch up a bit I decided to run around on my little Bosmer Nightblade in the Ebonheart Pact.  Nothing terribly exciting but I thought I would stream my adventures.  I had not streamed in awhile, and I end up joined by my friend Pazz.  Over the course of an hour I make my way through the Bleakrock quests.  If you’ve already played through Bleakrock there is nothing terribly exciting to see here, other than me roaming around aimlessly with a big sword.  I really like the Bosmer for some reason, they feel more “feral”.  In a way I am purposefully rolling things that would not be seen natively in an area.  I plan on making an Argonian when I roll a character in the Aldmeri Dominion.  You can listen to Pazz and I rattle on for awhile, and since he apparently does not understand how to make a push to talk key you get to listen to his inane water bottle noises that sound rather “questionable”.

You Apparently Like Us?

I am absolutely floored over the support we have gotten so far on the podcast.  Embedding it again because it seems like the thing to do.  Honestly I expected to post the podcast and then maybe have a dozen listeners that took pity on us enough to download it.  Instead I have gotten some pretty positive comments.  I know that it is currently pretty low quality, but that is something we can improve on over time.  I had a friend ask me what bitrate we encoded at… and I literally had no answer.  I just saved it out without really paying attention what I chose.  I also want to fiddle a bit with the actual recording next time around.  The positive is that I do believe there will be a next time.  We all had fun doing it, and even if no one else was listening I think we would still continue recording.

I had a few people offer to be guests, and another few people offer to have us on their podcasts for some cross pollination.  I think for the short term we need to lock down exactly what it is that we are doing before changing the mix significantly.  I think it would be fun to record a show where we completely open things up similar to my podcasts, but then again that might be a little odd fighting to stay on task with people constantly popping in and out.  For the time being what we did works, so I expect to keep tweaking that a little bit to improve the quality.  I’ve already worked on a new version of the intro, and hopefully by next week Rae will have our awesome Chibis finished.  This is starting to feel like a “real” thing… and while that is odd, it is also pretty damned cool.

#Landmark #ElderScrollsOnline #AggroChat #RIvenspire #Bleakrock

A Wild Podcast Appears!

The Birth of AggroChat

aggrochat_obnoxious_placeholder This mornings blog post is going to be heavily related to what we did yesterday.  Firstly… I have long thought that some of the conversations we had on the House Stalwart mumble sounded pretty damned close to many of the podcasts I listen to on a regular basis.    While I did not think we would ever be as polished as Alternative Chat, or as awesomely thematically focused as the Battle Bards…  I thought our people had something interesting to add to the mix.  This is happening super fast to be honest, but that is probably a good thing.  I was afraid that this would end up being yet another idea we had, that we never quite capitalized on.

We first talked about doing this on April 9th, and here it is the 13th and we have our first show up.  I am sure at this point it is somewhat awkward of a recording but we will get better.  Additionally at some point I will lean how the hell to use audacity and make a better sounding introduction.  We have a super ghetto libsyn page up right now, and that will also be changing hopefully over the coming weeks.  Rae is working on some really awesome chibi versions of the co-hosts and she would likely kill me if I posted the pencil versions before she has time to pretty them up.  If you guys did not know it was Rae that drew the original Belghast chibi that adorns this blog, so the new ones are truly awesome.  Since libsyn needed a 1400×1400 square image I threw together a truly obnoxious placeholder image.

A Wild Podcast Appears!

As I alluded to above… last night at 8pm EST we did our very first recording.  It was a little awkward starting out, but as the night went on things felt more natural.  There was a point at the end where I finally looked at the clock and noticed we had been rambling on for an hour and decided to cut things off.  In truth we hang out on mumble damned near every night, so I knew that once we got over the hump of doing this “for real” things would begin to flow again.  We covered a pretty wide gamut of topics from ESO Craglorn Adventure Zone, to Heroes of the Storm, to My Little Pony Card game and many many stops in-between.  I will leave it up to you guys to determine if it is a worthy pursuit.  I am pretty happy with the way things turned out, for it being our very first podcast… and none of us really know what the hell we are doing.  Leave a comment and tell us what you think of the end result.

Right now we are very much in a “finding our format” mode.  Functionally we have been keeping things really simple.  We all share access to a google doc that is a running show topics of sorts.  In this first episode we barely scratched the surface of all the things we ended up brainstorming.  Mostly I would like to see us keep things pretty lose, but we might start doing a section for news after the what we are playing bit.  While the “what everyone is playing” thing is pretty generic, it seems to work really well to break the ice and get things rolling.  I’ve seen numerous podcasts and video casts do that one… so I felt not shame in blatantly stealing it.

Rivenspire is Serious Business

eso 2014-04-13 11-41-51-01 Yesterday morning pretty early I finished up the content in Stormhaven and moved up into the Rivenspire area.  The transition between Glenumbra and Stormhaven was pretty extreme, but there seems to be an equally steep divide between Stormhaven and Rivenspire.  Single pulls are pretty much a thing of the past, and it is very unlikely that I now find smaller than a three pull when I am running around.  As a result of this and a result of the fact that I have a really awesome onehander right now… I am back to mostly playing as sword and shield instead of two hander.  I am still really enjoying the content, and if you played through SWTOR at all…  Rivenspire feels a lot like Alderaan.

You have these competing families vying for control of the land, with one of them having gone completely off the deep end.  Additionally there is a very “Castlevania” feel to the zone, which tells me as I get deeper in I will like the content even more.  Few things make me happier than slaying Werewolves and Vampires….  and the zone also has a pretty heavy contingent of Daedra to boot.  In fact one of the public dungeons I ventured into thinking I could solo it… and ended up getting bailed out by my friend Warenwolf.  It easily had to have a dozen different bosses in it including the ones associated with the quest chain.  It is truly insane the amount of loot you get in a group public dungeon like that.   We both had to resort to “mail banking” where we mail the items to a friend and they return it back to us later.

Tag Team Farming

Landmark64 2014-04-13 11-50-04-84 While recording the podcast last night, Rae and I spend most of it faffing about in Landmark.  The thing that has had me high center in my building project is a complete and total lack of stone.  My structure is almost entirely made of stone and it took over 200,000 to get to the point at which it is today.  Last night I went out into the desert and dug down, as underneath sand is generally a solid bed of stone as far as you can possibly dig.  Before I knew it Rae had joined me and we were carving out a massive swath of stone beneath the ground.  While recording we managed to harvest up over 300,000 and as a result I went back and added in floors/ceilings to my stone superstructure.  This makes me happy as I was getting tired of seeing the grass growing up in the middle of my keep.  From here I am not quite sure where I am going next but I have a few ideas.

Landmark64 2014-04-13 11-52-59-18 If you are in game you should totally swing by Liberation/Levee and check out Rae’s adjoining claims.  They are located on a hill southeast of the spire, and the low settings I have to run the game on for my laptop to not completely die… are not doing it justice.  She has this really awesome garden area, and then down the hill she has a guest house.  Her main house is carved out of the hillside and a subterranean area.  If you are in need of a crafting hub she also has pretty much all of the machines.  She has another super secret project, but I won’t be showing it since i think she is going to try and enter it in the “Landmark’s Landmarks” contest.  Here is hoping she does well because it is looking really cool.

Elder Scrolls Launch Day

Steampowered Sabbatical

Normally this morning you would have been reading about my misadventures playing a new to me game from my steam backlog.  However we are taking a week off from that feature, mainly because I knew I would be busy this morning with something else.  However we will get to that later, and the reasons why I got up at 5 am this morning to be prepared for it.  Instead today we are going to talk about a few games and the highlight of my day yesterday.  For awhile now I have been doing the “Bel Faffs About” thing where I stream a game as I play it, and invite people into my “Bel is Streaming” mumble channel.  The usual suspects are my guildies who come online and are entertaining so that I don’t have to.

Yesterday I got to hang out with some of my favorite people from twitter, namely @Gypsy_Syl, @NexusRangers, @GameByNight and after awhile the very awesome @TipaDaKnife.   I got to hang out the longest with Syl and it was a blast.  The only problem is I am so used to listening to her talk about video game music thanks to the amazing Battlebards podcast… it was a little weird to be talking about anything else.  Everyone was great and it made for a fun afternoon, even though after getting up at 4 am I was quite a little slap happy as the night went on.

Mithril or Bust

Landmark64 2014-03-29 17-44-37-40 Yesterday we played a lot of Landmark as we hung out, and the missions of the day were really two fold.  Firstly I wanted to try and finish my work on gathering the resources for the Mithril pick.  Currently this is the highest in progression you can go as far as mining, and thanks to the changes they made to the Founders Pick being able to harvest ANY tree… there is not a resource mining or wood that I cannot consume.  The other mission was to be able to craft the rest of the basic machines for my claim so that others can use them.  One of the odd things that was different from alpha is that there are both public and private machines.  The private machines are labelled as “Refining stations” and allow you to work resources at a progressively better rate, returning more finished materials than went into creating them.

Landmark64 2014-03-29 18-19-05-58 For some time now I have felt a little bit bad for grabbing such prime real estate, but not having done anything on it but clear the ground.  In the above screenshot you can see the foundation for Belgarde Keep from the spire, so it really is a very short run away.  The problem is as I progress through the crafting tiers I am in constant need of stone.  Yesterday at one point I decided to dig down in the desert for as long as I could and harvest as much stone as I could.  Unfortunately that happened to be exactly the same time @GameByNight decided to use the “teleport to friend” option.  I had been down there long enough that the ground above me was respawning leaving us essentially trapped underground.  Thankfully the evac to safety option works remarkably well.

Landmark64 2014-03-29 17-31-12-88 What you are seeing in the pictures represents roughly 350,000 stone worth of building.  I managed to gather 200k doing my “big dig” and poured another bit into it over the course of several trips.  Sometime soon I will have to do another one my grand harvesting missions and try and make some more progress.  Essentially I am building a greatly scaled up version of the building I created in alpha.  I am changing up the design significantly but not the overall building type.  I like big open air temple like spaces.  Essentially I am building much the same type of structures that I used to build in Minecraft.  The smooth tool and the ability to craft curved shapes is nice, but I really prefer straight and chiseled edges.

Elder Scrolls Launch Day


Watch live video from Belghast on TwitchTV
Last night I went to bed seriously early for me, after having gotten up at 4 am the day before.  I had heard rumor that the servers would be opening this morning for the Elder Scrolls Online slightly early, but was not certain that was going to be the case.  I ended up waking up about 4:45 and by the time I made coffee and got upstairs, there were a few other guildies also sitting on mumble waiting for things to open.  Sure enough a little bit after 5 am CST I was able to log in and create Belghast Sternblade for real.  Thing is… it did not take me terribly long on the character creator because I have created this character literally a dozen times now throughout a years worth of testing.  I am a simple person, and tend to create the same basic character in each game that I play.  So I managed to get in extremely quickly and create the guild long before anyone else logged in.


Watch live video from Belghast on TwitchTV
Since early this morning I have been hanging out in the “Bel is Streaming” channel as lots of other people have popped in to join me.  Honestly far too many to list here, but it has prove to be a really enjoyable and entertaining day.  I will be exporting the stream to youtube eventually but here I am posting the various twitch links.  If nothing else they are fun to open up and listen into our conversation in the background like it was a podcast.  I am for the most part live streaming all day long.  While this is a headstart, this is one of the smoothest launches I have participated in.  THis folks is why they had us stress test the hell out of stuff during the weekend betas, and every indication shows that they learned a lot of information.  The mega server tech seems to be holding up and scaling well.


Watch live video from Belghast on TwitchTV
Right now I am having a blast, so if you have access to the House Stalwart mumble server, pop by and say hi.  I plan on going right back to the game, that is open in the background and continuing my odyssey.  However I wanted to take a moment and make my post before it got any later in the day.  Hopefully you all are having as great of a weekend as I am.