Burn It All Down

Diminishing Returns

Wow-64 2014-02-24 06-17-22-04 This morning I am feeling absolutely horrible.  My lungs have conspired to rebel against me again, and since there is a good chunk of weather on the way this weekend, I am hoping I can get it under control before then.  Yesterday the world was all a twitter about the blog post that Blizzard was going to release at 6 pm PST…  see what I did there?  Twitter was was full of speculations of what this news announcement might mean.  Some predicted the start of Warlords preorders, but eventually Rygarius the coffee bird eventually explained that it was going to be more of a roadmap type post.  With that I believe most of our fearless brits opted to get some sleep and just check it out in the morning.

At least I am really hoping that they ended up getting a good nights sleep, because what ended up posted really did not feel like it was worth staying up until 2 am for.  Don’t get me wrong I am not trying to disparage the blog post itself, but it was not the shock and awe that players were hoping for.  For me personally there were a few things that concerned me.  Firstly the tweaking of the Racial abilities.  I wholeheartedly agree that some racial perks are better than others… however many of us chose to PLAY those races for that reason.  When this goes love will they give everyone a free racial change for each character?  Some of the racial perks that I am personally most attached to are some of the fluff ones.  For example I am still reeling from the loss of Find Treasure on my dwarves…  but not sure how I would feel if we lost Explorer as well.  I mean I fully expect to lose Every Man for Himself, but I would hate to lose the fun traits in the process as well.

The part of the post that worries me the most however is the talk of crowd control.  It starts off with the statement “One other big takeaway from Mists of Pandaria is that there is currently simply too much crowd control (CC) in the game, especially when it comes to PvP.”.  Now are they only talking about removing CC for the purpose of PVP here?  Or is PVE once again getting the shaft for the sake of a game I have no interest in?  I have to say my favorite era of dungeon running was burning crusade, in part because crowd control was absolutely mandatory.  Even in tier 6 gear, you needed to CC or you would die.  The problem with that era however was that crowd control was not distributed equitably, and over the years each class has gotten some form of permanent or temporary crowd control.  Problem is the dungeon design has just not required doing anything other than smashing into objects with your face repeatedly.

My hope was with the return to Draenor, and the focus on heroics as a way to gear up for raiding…  that we would see a return to this more strategic era of dungeoning.  However if they feel that Pandaria had too much CC…  and by that I mean no one CC’d anything at all EVER…  it gives me great concern for what dungeons might look like going ahead.  Maybe I am coming off a bit half cocked here, since they did qualify the statement with PVP, but the diminishing returns changes would keep a fight like the PVP encounter in Crusaders Coliseum from really being viable in the future.  The one thing I did notice they left completely off the list of diminishing returns mentions…  taunt.  This was honestly the secret to us beating the crusaders coliseum fight, that the tanks would swap off taunting the hardest hitting mobs and kite them around.  A druid taunt, warrior taunt, deathknight taunt and paladin taunt all had unique diminishing returns stacks, so we could swap targets to keep them tied up.

Burn It All Down

As a programmer, I read these changes in a completely different light… because I have been them before.  When you get dropped into a situation where you have some severely outdated code, the knee jerk reaction is to burn everything to the ground and build it from scratch.  This reaction is in part because no one still exists that remembers why the code worked the way it did.  This is what this current phase of Blizzard development feels like.  No one remembers why they had hit and expertise and all these other things…  so lets just simplify everything and get rid of all things that are not strictly needed.  As a programmer I totally get this, because it feels like they are trying to minimize the variables that they have to deal with.

I figure at this point there has been a prodigious amount of turnover in the folks that are working day in and day out on World of Warcraft.  The guy that wrote this or that code is simply not around any longer to explain why exactly he named that variable “Football” when it is just passing data around.  My fear is that in this minimalistic approach we are going to lose some of the things that make Warcraft feel like Warcraft.  I am trying my best not to fall into “change is bad” mode, but in many ways the sequence of changes feels like knocking down a 300 year old building, to put up a mini-mart.  Maybe I will be wrong, and maybe the end result will feel fresh and shiny… in the same way that Diablo 3 2.0 has felt for me.  At this point… you can just file all of this in a bin called “concerns”.

Fun With Demons

Diablo III 2014-02-27 19-29-26-32 Last night my friends and I continued our trek through the demon infested realm of Diablo 3.  The big thing we have noticed is that the game gives players insane catch up experience when the level ranges are not even.  This accounts for how I went from 37 to 50 in a night, because most of the players were significantly higher level than that.  Last night the experience curve flattened significantly, so during the course of the evening I managed to go from 50 to 58 before I just felt too lousy to continue.  As a result however I am knocking at the door of 60 and have no doubts that I will finish off leveling my monk before the expansion.  Granted most of this weekend will be spent in Tamriel playing with the multitude of folks who are getting in for the weekend test.

Diablo III 2014-02-27 22-13-29-27 We managed to get a second puzzle ring, so for most of the evening both myself and my friend Warenwolf were running around with our treasure goblin pets.  We managed to get a ton of legendaries, but oddly enough I got three different versions of the same item… the Saffron Wrap.  Apparently the game thinks I need a lot of belts… maybe it knows that I actually only have one in real life… that I keep punching new holes in as I lose weight.  The score of the night came from when we beat Belial.  There were several points through the night where we learned just how impressive “ignores durability loss” can be, as we took a number of chain deaths to freezing, poison bomberman, electrical orb mobs.  The sad part of the evening however is that I no longer have my ghostly fallen champion pet, because I reached the point where I absolutely had to upgrade out of that axe.

The Final Factoid

Well as I was reminded by my wife, today is the final factoid.  I have somehow made it through an entire month of writing these.  As a result I think it is fitting that I close this factoid off with one relating to the purpose of this entire month.  I do not like writing about myself, at least I do not like talking about personal details.  Talking about gaming is a space of comfort for me, and I have no problem discussing me the gamer…  but I always shy away from talking about me the person behind the screen.  I guess in a way I feel like what I have to say about myself is pretty boring, and the more people know about me…  the more likely they are to reject me as a friend.  I grew up as an “only child”, and we lived just far enough out of the city limits to greatly limit the number of kids I had to play.

For years I craved having someone else to be there and play with, and that craving has carried through to my gaming life.  I end up trying to collect people into my little digital family.  I have deep anti-social tendencies that I struggle with, but online I can have just as much interaction with someone as I want, but then still be able to shut down the game, or twitter and walk away and have seclusion time as well.  2013 was a year of great personal growth for me.  I completed NaNoWriMo, started the daily blogging thing and ended up losing 70 pounds.  In a way Factoid February was a way of trying to get used to opening up and talking more about myself and my life in my blog.  For the most part I think it has worked, and I did manage to complete the month writing something new each day.  There were times I had to sit and think for quite a bit before deciding what to write about, but I struggled through.

The odd thing is… it seems as though people have enjoyed it.  Looking through the blog statistics, it seems as though my average daily readership has increased a bit during the month of February.  I am not sure if this is in part because I am writing more personally… or if I have just gotten more exposure thanks to the amazing folks who regularly retweet me like @RowanBlaze and @AlternativeChat.  It gives me huge fuzzies when I see people are reading what I have written, but I have to say at this point… even if I had zero readers I would likely keep doing whatever it is I am doing.  I find the process of waking up in the morning and dumping my thoughts onto the page while drinking my coffee amazingly therapeutic.  On the weekends when I am forced to vary my schedule a bit, the day just does not seem entirely right… until I have done my blog purge.  I want to thank all of you for coming along with me on this journey.  Not entirely certain where I am going next, maybe more features…  maybe more of the same, but I appreciate that you all are on the ride with me.

Everything You Loved, Just Better

The Beauty of a Patch

Diablo III 2014-02-26 18-50-24-23 This past Tuesday we finally got the ever amazing patch 2.0.1 in Diablo 3 bringing us a slew of promised Reaper of Souls changes.  The first of these was something that I had yearned for since release…  a decent social system with the ability to form guilds.  While they call them clans, we have the basic structure now to build House Stalwart inside of Diablo 3 as well.  This was one of the first things we did Tuesday after the servers came back up, and now many of us proudly sport the <HS> beside our names.  It is funny how much more enjoyable the game is for me to see happy green spam from my guildies as they get cool stuff out in the world.  That second it takes to say the obligatory gratz changes the feeling of the game entirely for me.

Additionally there is now a functionality called Communities, which are in a sense a big chat channel.  It functions in many of the same ways as a guild, in that you can see who is online that is a member of the community for easier grouping.  My only real complaint here is that you have to manually join the community chat each time you log in.  I am really hoping they fix this so that you can toggle certain communities on.  Tuesday night we also created the Alliance of Awesome community, and it is now out there open for the public to join.  We have a few people in it, and last night I noticed that Scopique created a Combat Wombat guild, since he was sporting the <CWBT> clan tag.  So the functionality seems to be working well, sub clans but one big community.

Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys

Diablo III 2014-02-26 20-25-36-15One of the biggest changes we have seen so far is that the loot is much better.  Not only do we get more usable loot, with far more interesting statistics, but since the patch went live we are seeing more “legendaries”.  Last night I found what has to be the coolest one yet.  The Puzzle Ring, when equipped summons a treasure goblin pet that follows you around.  As you kill things he runs over and “eats” any white quality items that happen to drop.  Upon eating the thirteenth item in this fashion he drops something good on the ground.  I only had this actually happen twice during the play, but each time it was simply a yellow item.  However as the item says there is a chance of this being a legendary.  At this point I cannot see a reason why I would ever get rid of this ring.  I mean even if I got something significantly better stat wise, the effect and the coolness of having my own personal treasure goblin makes up for it.  The only problem is when we fight an ACTUAL treasure goblin, I maybe… sometimes… get confused and try and attack the pet instead of the real thing.

Diablo III 2014-02-26 20-49-29-45 So the puzzle ring was amazing, but the cavalcade of awesome didn’t stop there.  A little bit later after downing the butcher, I managed to get a legendary one-hander to drop.  Now just stats alone, it was better than anything I had…  but once again it is the special effect that makes it truly great.  While using this weapon there is a chance to summon a ghostly Fallen Champion, and while I don’t have any stats on this… it happens a lot.  It took us a bit to realize exactly what was happening, but my ghostly buddy seemed to help speed up our kills significantly.  At this point I have managed to pick up better damage weapons, but I am rocking this is my offhand just for the procs… which seem to make up the gap.  At some point I will pass this off to my Barbarian or Crusader, because it really is rather good. 

Everything You Loved, Just Better

Diablo III 2014-02-26 22-44-30-56 So last night I spent most of the night running around in either a three man or a four man group.  I don’t even know what difficulty we were playing on, but I know we ratcheted up a few times from normal.  Around 7 pm I was sitting at 37, and at 10:30 when we stopped playing I had just dinged 50.  The experience gain for grouping has significantly improved, and if we do another night of this I have no doubt that I will get my first Diablo 3 character to the present level cap.  A few months ago… I was deeply uncertain if this would happen before the expansion actually landed.  Everything about Diablo 3 just feels “fresher”, like the world has a shiny coat of paint… and in part this is the magic of finally getting meaningful drops.  Also there is the side benefit that the crafting system finally makes a marginal amount of sense.  So many things have been tweaked to make far more sense… like condensing all the flavors of heal pot into one… and making them stack to 100.

I still dislike click to move as a control scheme, but it feels as though the hours I have spent playing League of Legends has improved my dexterity at doing so.  While I still die a lot to standing in the stupid…. and man we got some seriously bad combinations of stupid at the same time…  there seems to be a far greater chance that I will come through it all successfully.  There were a few times last night where I ended up kiting mobs around when I was by myself, and were not for the little bit of experience I have laning in LoL… I never would have survived.  Granted I am still pretty freaking horrible at laning, but it has made me a much better Diablo player just in the bit I have done.  Hopefully tonight we can push our little team of characters to 60 and start gaining some Paragon levels.

Belghast the Altar Boy

I was raised Catholic in a very protestant area of the world, and this was an area for confusion during most of my childhood.  I still remember one day in elementary school one of the southern Baptist children coming up to me and asking me “why I don’t believe in god”.  Idiocy like that aside, I have never been very “religious” and at this point I am not a practicing anything.  I can’t even attest to having something that you could quantify as a formal doctrine of beliefs…  I mostly just spend my time trying to be a good person… and winging it.  However as any good catholic should be… I was an Altar Boy.  No this is not the beginning of a priest sex abuse tale, because really my priest was one of the coolest people I have ever known.  He would probably be classified as a heretic, but he was the first person that told me it was okay to question  my beliefs.

The funny thing about being an Altar Boy is that forever will it color the way you feel about the heart of the Catholic church… the Mass.  Before they started with the incense crap recently, forcing to simply not attend Christmas Eve Mass… I did so every year to appease my mother…  who refuses to believe that I am not a “good little catholic boy”.  Even to this day, I can hear certain phrases in the Mass, and immediately feel the instinct to do something… like walk over to pick up this thing, or move to this area of the altar.  As an Altar Boy you learn this oddly choreographed dance to prove the priest whatever he needs before he actually needs it.  I use the term “Altar Boy” but in truth our parish was pretty progressive and had plenty of “Altar Girls” as well.  The priest claimed that we simply didn’t have enough people, but in truth I think he just enjoyed shaking things up a bit.

I really don’t miss much about being a practicing Catholic.  We were a satellite parish attached to a significantly larger one, and as such we shared the same priest.  So each Sunday morning at 7 am he would come to our church, perform mass and then return to do the several masses there as well throughout the day.  Seven in the morning seemed like the ass crack of dawn to me as a kid, and while I write each morning at 6 am… it doesn’t mean I am actually fully verbal until about 9.  I do however miss the priest, he has long since retired but he really was a deeply interesting man.  Once upon a time in another life he was a fairly successful commercial artist, working for an advertising agency.  For reasons I never asked him, he decided to give that life up and enter the priesthood.  I always got the impression there was quite a bit of sex, drugs and rock and roll… and he just tired of the life and wanted something more meaningful.  So much of my outlook on life comes from this man being the first person who told me that religion was a deeply personal thing, and it was natural and in fact encouraged for me to question things and figure out my own path.

Eternal Pessimist

The Sick Kid

Growing up I was that kid that was sick all of the time.  During my elementary School Years it was a rarity that I was not in the doctors office at least once a week with something.  In part this was completely legitimate, because I was born without a fully functioning immune system.  Basically to put it simply I have a “lazy immune system” meaning that it takes a really long time before my body reacts to things it should be reacting to.  It is like that kid that hosts a party, then realizes way too late that shit is going to get out of control.  Then at that point, he can’t kick everyone out without calling the cops.  In this analogy the cops are antibiotics, of which I know by name and color and even oddly enough I associate some of them with their taste.

On top of this I also have pretty severe asthma, but I grew up in a household where no bruise was just a bruise…  it might after all be the early stages of Necrotizing fasciitis.  My mother tends to be quite a bit of a hypochondriac, and as such passed along some of those traits to me.  My wife finds it funny, because I always go into a situation expecting the worse.  The problem is…  because I grew up in a doctors office, I have developed a severe hatred of going to the doctor.  So instead I deal with it until I absolutely cannot any longer, in part because I always fear it is going to be worse than it actually is.  In the end I am always relieved when I am not really dying of some dread disease… but getting me to actually go to the doctor to get that relief is extremely difficult.

Eternal Pessimist

Part of asthma is knowing when it medicate yourself to stave off things from getting worse.  I have a full arsenal of tools at my disposal to keep my lungs from going into a complete state of lockdown.  The problem is, I try and apply this same logic to everything else.  I always keep an arsenal of over the counter medications at my disposal and there rarely is a day where I am not taking something.  So I am an odd mix of actually being sick, but also making it far worse than it actually is.  For the most part on a day to day basis I am fairly healthy, but I am always looking for the next illness waiting around the corner.  I guess as a eternal pessimist I am always looking for the worst thing to happen, and then confused when it didn’t.

As a programmer expecting the worst is a really useful survival trait.  It means I always have a backup plan for when the shit hits the fan.  So this instinct of expecting the worst has been a really successful trait in my day to day working life.  The problem is in my personal life and my health especially it is not the best thing.  I am thankful I have a wife that calls me out on my shit, more often than not.  The only problem is, since I cry wolf so often…  it can be hard to get the severity of something across.  When I had my bathroom bleed out moment… since she is so used to me cutting myself on this thing or the other… she didn’t grasp the severity immediately as I stood there blood spilling out on the bathroom floor.  I am working on trying to freak out less about non-consequential things… so that the big ones actually are meaningful.  I am pretty prone to panic attacks, but they are getting better… as I learn to calm the hell down.

My Adoration of QuikTrip

Rest In Peace

A few weeks back I had an idea for another regular column of sorts.  The idea was that I would react to things I found on forums.  I had enough fuel for one topic, but that’s where things went off the rails.  It turns out that I really don’t read the various game forums as often as I thought I did, so Friday mornings became a mad dash for me to try and find something that inspired me in any way to write about it.  After spending a few minutes this morning trying to do the same… much like I tried last week…  I have reached the point where I am just filing this one away in the “bad idea” vault.  Essentially the crux of this is in order to make it work I would have to devote more time than I currently have to trolling the forums.

I might make another stab at a feature, because Steampowered Sunday seems to work pretty well.  Admitted it has been a few years since I have frequented the battle.net forums, and similarly with the rift forums as well.  There seems to be a drought of substantive conversation out there, or maybe it really never was and I just applied substance in my head?  I have heard for some time that forums are a dying thing, and by my attempts to find something worth writing about lately…  it would almost seem to be the case.  I am wondering if people have moved on to posting about things on the forums, and instead posting about them on social media or potentially sub reddits.  I would be curious to find out you guys take on this.  I know personally I tend to post things on my morning blogs rather than trying to find a home for them on a game forum.

Community Chest

Trove 2014-02-20 22-17-10-33 Last night I had a fairly spastic night again, but towards the end of the evening I patched up Trove.  Now I have not really followed the subreddit as closely as I once did, but they have been plugging away at this with high frequency.  They seem like they have posted roughly a patch a week, and keep adding more features and polish.  It had been roughly a month since I had last played it, and while Landmark has taken most of my “building game” focus, Trove is still very much an awesome game to play.  I always sell the game as “minecraft with MMO loot” but as a whole the game is so much more than that.  Right now I am loving the focus on the social community of a server, that really does seem like the ultimate win for trion is to make people care about the world.

One of the coolest additions that I saw last night was the community chest.  For some time at the spawn point there has been a giant version of the in game chests, but inside of it now is a storage system.  It allows players to donate items to noobies, and last night I was extremely thankful for this.  I was able to pull a good weapon and a good shield out of the bin and jump straight into doing cool stuff.  Another really cool thing is they added in /randomhead command, which you can see above I now have this really awesome engineer goggles appearance.  This was the first thing to go into game to make abandoning the Fez and Moustache worth it!

Trove 2014-02-21 06-18-35-45 The best quality of life change is the addition of a map.  You can see above that each of the various biomes is now marked.  I have not quite figured out what the red X icons are for, maybe dead bosses?  Your home is marked with a little sign post to make it easier to find it.  Of course this is still very alpha, and there are lots of bugs.  Last night for example I killed six golden beetles… which are now super rare, and not a single one dropped the golden soul.  Golden Souls are now needed to craft the gold torch, which in turn unlocks the ability to craft a robotic workbench opening up a whole new tier of crafting.  That change went in some time ago, but crafting is now a tiered affair where crafting this thing unlocks the ability to purchase another thing.

I spent most of the night playing as Gunslinger because I had not really spent any time leveling that up.  Right now I am level 12 Knight I believe, which gives me a good start each server reset, so I am hoping to bring Gunslinger in line to that same range.  So far I am really enjoying the “rocket jump” ability where the Gunslinger fires at the ground and propels themselves high into the air.  Really great for exploring areas.  Another cool thing are the random quests while out in the world that provide fuel to the star meter shown on the right hand of the screen.  This is something that the entire server works towards, so each boss you beat in the world helps leveling the world as a whole.  Not really sure what happens when the world “dings” but the world I have been playing on has 46 stars.

Trove 2014-02-21 06-26-23-20 Mostly my time spent playing last night has made me realize that I really need to devote more time to this game.  While it is not as mind bending as Landmark, it has so much charm.  Everything about the game, especially the user submitted weapons just drips “fun”.  Especially as the game gets fleshed out, it has started to feel more and more cube world like, which is awesome.  That game was a really great idea that was never really capitalized on.  I might ping the Alliance of Awesome and see just how many of us are in Trove currently.  Would be fun to have a night where we meet up on voice chat and wander about the world looking for mischief.  Saying this is making me realize that I never actually mentioned the AoA before now… I should remedy that.

Alliance of Awesome

The blogosphere and the gaming groups they are associated with is a really twisted up community.  Each of us have been the part of so many different groups that it became super evident with the launch of Landmark that we needed to come up with a way of standardizing some things.  There was a period of time when several of us were joining upwards of seven different social channels, each of them with a different subset of players in them.  I believe it was Scarybooster who first voiced the idea, but from there it spread quickly and the ever amazing Zelibeli became the ideas Champion.  The idea was simple… to create a super alliance of all the different multi-gaming groups that our little community was associated with.  After a few different tries we landed on using a subreddit as our “global forums” of sorts, and as a way for us to post about upcoming events in the various groups.  Also it acts as a nice call to action to figure out what people are doing in the various games.  Another big thing to come out of it is that we decided to start using “AoA” as our global social channel to span the various groups.

One of the challenges we have had in House Stalwart is trying to maintain guilds in each of the games we happen to be playing.  When there is a rush of players it is an amazing thing and we have 50 or so active members.  However after a few months this becomes a skeletal crew, and the question of whether or not it is actually worth keeping up arises.  As it stands right now House Stalwart will focus on World of Warcraft Alliance side, Rift, and The Elder Scrolls.  These will be the only “official” stalwart guilds, and for the rest of the games our members want to play we will be leaning on other AoA member groups to maintain them.  This does two things…firstly it makes my life less spastic for trying to maintain a presense in so many games.  Secondly it opens up so many more worlds to us.  You can just take a look at the right hand side of the subreddit to see which guilds have active groups in which games.  So when folks want to dabble in FFXIV or SWTOR or eventually Wildstar… they have a ready made home they can go to.  While this arrangement is still very much in its infancy… it gives me a lot of hope for the future.

My Adoration of QuikTrip

QuikTripGeneration3Store1I am in love with a gas station station…  and have been since the first time I set foot in one.  One of the things people not from this area find hard to understand, is the love that Tulsans have for the QuikTrip chain of stores.  While I will use other Gas Stations, I will always go to a QuikTrip if one is available even if it is significantly out of the way.  A little over a year ago, a friend of mine moved to town to accept a job at my workplace.  She had heard me talk about QuikTrip but was skeptical, but within weeks of coming to town she was a devoted acolyte.  Quite simply the chain is unlike any other gas station.  Now I have had people sing the praises of Kumandgo, Casey’s, Flying J, PDQ… and many others that I have visited in my travels.  None of them compare to the awesomeness of the QT.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhy do we love it?  Well for starters even in the slummiest parts of town… QuikTrip is clean, well stocked, brightly lit and fully staffed 24/7.  On top of this… they have actual food.  Their breakfast offerings are especially awesome, but pretty much you can go into a QT any time of day and get fresh food that is not a “stomach bomb”.  They have really great donuts and muffins… and if they ever have their limited time Red Velvet Muffins…  you have to try them.  They have a half dozen flavors of Taquito, Country Sausage, Jalepeno Sauage, Buffalo Chicken roller, cheese burger rollers… and fresh steamed buns.  The newer stores have a place in store where they offer made to order food and coffee drinks as well.  My friend Rae pretty much stops by every day to pick up a sandwich for lunch, because they have fresh made sandwiches and wraps.

Another really awesome thing about the chain is that they guarantee their gasoline… and were the first place I can remember doing this.  It was their claim to fame back in the 80s, and has continued on to the current day.  If you ever have a fuel related problem with your car, QuikTrip with pay to fix whatever it is… pending I am sure you can back up receipts of purchasing gas from there.  Still however it is more than almost any other chain can say, and at the very least makes you feel better about purchasing your gas from them.  Admittedly this is a huge chunk of why I always gas up before leaving town in the hopes that the tank of gas will last me until we reach another QuikTrip.  Unfortunately their reach only extends so far, so once you leave the south central united states you have to rely on other chains.

The chain itself has really good cashiers, and the custom software they maintain is designed to be able to ring up I believe up to 16 customers at the same time.  Once I finish writing this blog post, I will go to QuikTrip this morning and get a drink and a jalepeno sausage roll.  I know that I can get in and out extremely quickly because there is a culture of efficiency that has sprung up around the store.  Expected protocol is for there to be two lines at each and every cash register, one to the left and one to the right.  As the QT employee finishes ringing up one, they immediately begin to ring up the next one on the other side, giving the first one time to walk away from the counter.  When this works, it is a thing of beauty… but you can always tell neophytes when they try and form a single line.

I think in part QuikTrip is so successful because they have really good working conditions.  They have managed to make the Fortune magazine top places to work list for 11 years in a row.  In part this is due to their really odd practice of after 25 years with the company, you can take a year paid sabbatical, to do whatever the hell you want to do with it.  This on top of paying significantly better than average wage allows them to keep good employees for the long haul.  It is the type of place that folks either thrive in or they wash out really fast.  As a customer and loyal devotee I really appreciate their attention to detail.  I have long said that I could never live in a city that did not have QuikTrip… so pretty much that leaves me St. Louis Metro, Dallas Metro, and Kansas City Metro.  Granted I am not sure if I would want to be without Taco Bueno, Arbys or Sonic Drive-In either… but the most important one is my beloved QuikTrip.

Corruption of My Youth

Confusing Dialog

2014-02-20 06_18_53-Steam - Error For the last week or so I have been having an odd issue connecting to steam on my desktop.  For random periods of time, steam cannot connect.  However if I wait an hour or so… it connects in just fine.  So far the online wisdom is that this has something to do with bad network drivers, but unfortunately nothing has changed on the system in the time it has occurred.  So right now I am at a complete loss for this intermittent behavior.  Would greatly appreciate any suggestions, especially if some of you have had this issue firing up the steam client… and better yet have found a solution.  At this point my plan is to try and dig up the reference driver for my network card and install that, wondering if maybe a windows patch jacked something up.

The odd thing is, steam only hates me sometimes.  Last night when I could connect I re-downloaded The Secret World and it was coming down at a peak of 10.5 megabytes per second.  It seemed like the download was only being throttled by my disk I/O.  Of note… I am really going to have to manually throttle steam because my system was really mostly unusable when it was downloading that fast.  The hard drive was going through periods of being busied out by it.  Games were completely unplayable during this time, so I am hoping that somewhere in steam there is a maximum speed setting I can ratchet down a bit.  It was nice to download 18 gig in 30 minutes though.

Black Screen Blue Logo

Win8RTM_10_Windows 8 Logo ScreenLast night the wild goose chase in search of bottles continued, and on the way home I had to hit both Michaels and Hobby Lobby to finish getting the last few of them.  So by the time I made it home I was just feeling out of it.  I had a bit of trouble with my gaming desktop, and then a bout of the reoccurring steam issues, and by that time I was just mentally drained.  I found out the hard way that Cyberpower PC, does the same bullshit that every manufacturer does.  Namely tries to put a 350 watt power supply in a PC designed for gaming.  I went to install a new video card, and noticed the size of the power supply, and didn’t even bother getting into the case.  I did however at that point unhook everything.

After connecting everything back up again, I went to boot the machine and it hung indefinitely on the black screen with the blue windows logo.  Thankfully I have a second machine beside this one, and I started furiously googling.  Internet consensus is that something was up with the power supply.  I had literally not doing anything other than unhook things… so after making sure the power cord was seated well a few times I got another idea.  I unhooked absolutely everything from the machine again.  This time only hooking up the monitor, mouse, keyboard, network cable and power cord.  Sure enough it booted up happily… apparently in the processes I had hooked one too many things to a usb jack on the machine and it did not have enough power to boot.

So the power supply issue is not only critical to getting this newer video card installed, but seemingly for day to day usage as well.  I realize it is a numbers game for companies, they try and put the smallest thing in a machine they can get away with.  I just don’t understand however why anyone would put something smaller than a 500W supply in a new machine.  Ultimately like it did me, it will bite the owner in the ass.  Long story short, I have a new Corsair power supply on the way and it should be here on Friday.  So I will be playing the swap power supplies game this weekend.  Generally speaking I like to pull one power supply with all the wires connected, then disconnect the PSU one connector at a time, replacing it with a connecter from the new one.  That way I am certain that nothing gets missed.

All Over the Map

Wow-64 2014-02-19 20-11-13-41 By the time I finally got to where I could start playing games last night… I was like a toddler desperately in need of a nap.  Nothing really seemed right, and in truth I should have just gone on to bed.  I played a little bit of everything last night, but only a few minutes of each.  I mined three or four resource nodes in Landmark, killed Onyxia and did Crown Chemicals in World of Warcraft, fired up Rift long enough to collect the weekly patron gift, played some of “that space game”, and finally spent the most amount of time playing some of “that elder game”.  But like Goldilocks, everything was either too this or too that.  I should have grabbed my 3DS and went to bed playing some Bravely Default.

The highlight of the evening was the fact that I picked up Chicken Tikka Masala on the way home from my errands from our favorite Indian place…  Desi Wok.  Even that just didn’t seem right, and I was only able to finish like half of mine.  Nights like that suck, where you don’t like the world and you are pretty sure that it doesn’t like you either.  Hopefully tonight I won’t have a bunch of running around to do before heading home.  I think that combined with the power supply issues are what put me in that mood.  What sucks is… I knew I was “in a mood” but I didn’t really know what I could do to snap myself back out of it.  I have yet to find my personal slider that allows me to back off on the “pissy” setting.

Corruption of My Youth

I think I have told at least part of this tale, but I never had a chance to “not” be a geek.  One of the cool things about being a teachers kid was that at the end of the school year, we got to rifle through the stuff left in kids lockers.  The janitors would come through and dump everything out into the hall, and if it was not gone by that evening they would come through with a big dumpster and pitch it all.  I felt this was a bit of a consolation prize for being stuck there as my mom cleaned her own room to get ready for summer.  Over the years I found many prizes, but none of them were as life changing for me as stumbling across a Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook.  Mind you this was when I was in first grade, and upon receiving that book I absolutely obsessed about it.  While I didn’t fully understand much of it at the time, I started building games around the things that I found between its covers.

Marvel-Super-Heroes I wanted nothing more than to play a real D&D session… but I grew up deep in the bible belt and the popular consensus was that “D&D” would somehow make you into a mass murderer.  So all through elementary school I collected everything I could get my hands on, but had never really played any of it.  My parents obviously did not care, but the parents of my best friends at the time were absolute bible thumpers.  It was mid way through elementary school that I found another option.  Marvel Super Heroes by TSR was in reality a pretty damned crappy game system, but it was completely benign and with the little paper foldouts made it look like a board game and not something akin to D&D.  I kept all of the dice and such at my house, and for the most part their parents never questioned what they were doing.  I mean funny shaped dice would have been a dead give away… and something worthy of shunning.

penandpaper As I moved into my High School years I found friends with whom we could pretty much play anything… and we did, so many different systems.  While we didn’t really go back and play much D&D other than at conventions…  we did play an absolutely silly amount of the Palladium system.  The above image is a quick picture I snapped this morning of just a small sampling of the various palladium books I have accumulated.  The thing about that system that drew me to it, was the fact that if I or my friends could dream it up… we could find rules to build it.  The Rifts setting at the time completely blew me away, and I played it through most of high school.  Even though I don’t really play much anymore, because I don’t have a local circle of people to play with… I still pick up the books anytime I find them out and about. 

MMOs for the most part have become my new “D&D night”, and it just honestly fits my schedule better.  Occasionally I join in games run by friends over one of the various Google hangout pen and paper mods, but that is about as close as I get to the old tabletop experience these days.  So many of the things I have been into over the years, probably started with finding that first players handbook.  It got me interested in what that was all about, and got me into Time Warp comics for the first time in search of “more”.  It was through this connection that I go into Warhammer, Magic: The Gathering, and so many other geeky things.  While the bible thumpers seemed to think it would steal my soul, more than anything it enflamed my curiosity and creativity.  Pen and Paper games taught me it was completely okay to create my own reality.  That seems like a skill we could use a lot more of.

Rails Are What You Make of Them

Going Off Script

eso 2014-02-17 13-54-30-89 There was a topic yesterday that started with Tobold’s post and wound up in a G+ comment stream.  While I believe Tobold’s comments about on rails gaming were initially about a certain game that is still under NDA with a space theme…  it eventually wound its way to Elder Scrolls Online.  To which I added the information I posted yesterday on my own blog, about the fact that the majority of quests are skippable, and that there are a very few that actually need to be completed to move to the next area.  But the root of the problem here I think is that after a decade of playing themeparks…  we have gotten extremely good at seeing rails.  Moreso I think we are so trained to stay inside of the lines that we are afraid to break out of the little protective cage the themeparks have built for us.

For the longest time I fought the “quest to level” construct and then over time I managed to get extremely good at mindlessly grinding them.  There was a time when I could take a character from 1-85 in less than seven days in World of Warcraft.  The problem is… this is a thing I do to level quickly, and not something that comes instinctual.  I am constantly deviating from the path, and poking my head into places I shouldn’t be.  If I have 10% to go to a level, my instincts are not to grind some quests, but instead to go kill some really high level mobs.  You can blame Everquest for this type of “go kill things” upbringing, and I am still happiest when mindlessly slaughtering bad guys.  So when I am out questing, skipping that bad guy for the sake of speed is not usually a thing that ever enters into my mind.

So when I was plunked down on Stros M’Kai in the Daggerfall Covenant for the very first time… I willfully and gleefully ignored the quests that were given to me.  I wandered off and explored the island, gathered some crafting bits, found lots of treasure chests and leveled happily oblivious to the fact that there was a rail.  Sure eventually I reined myself in and did a few quests, but the vast majority of that first couple hour play through was aimlessly exploring.  If I found a cave I poked my head in to see what was there.  The little voice in the back of our head that says “don’t go there yet, you will have a quest for it later” is something that we end up doing to ourselves.

Rails Are What You Make of Them

eso 2014-02-17 13-36-59-84 For the most part I would agree with Tobold’s assessment of that space game, but since so many people love it I continue trying to give it a second and a third and a fourth chance.  I went through this same thing with Guild Wars 2, I kept trying to see what people liked about it… because I honestly didn’t understand it.  Over the weekend I maybe landed at how to enjoy it.  Once I finished the tutorial, I went completely off the rails, wandering around aimlessly killing lots and lots of things and getting nifty bits in the process.  That mode of play made the game enjoyable for me.  Quests are a really good way to level, and I think they also do an excellent job of telling the story.  However something we have forgotten along the way is that they are mostly optional.

We can blame World of Warcraft for this to be honest, but not in the way you might think.  WoW brought quests out into the open, where they had always been something for insiders before.  In Everquest you went around /hail-ing every single mob you encountered because maybe just maybe they might have a quest for you.  In Dark Age of Camelot, you did the same thing trying to locate the “Kill Task” quest giver for a specific area.  City of Heroes gave you specific contacts you needed to talk to that acted as a hub for running future missions.  Finally World of Warcraft gave us the now ubiquitous golden exclamation point… taking complete all of the subtlety out of it.  Still… even in WoW it was not until Burning Crusade that I really started to lean on quests as the crutch that they are.  I got a good number of my levels by going off the beaten path and looking for neat things out in the world.

To some extent it is also the fault of games that have stopped giving us things to find just over the next ridge.  There should always be things just out of the way for us to go looking for, because this act reminds us that there is another way to play the game than just mindless questing.  This self directed fun is crucial, and is what ends up making a game stay fresh.  I tend to cycle through two modes of gameplay…  aimless wandering and mindelss questing.  I find both to be really enjoyable when I am in the right frame of mind.  I think this is why I can return to WoW all these times and still be happy with what it is.  That said I am constantly going off script in that game as well.  There are so many nooks and crannies that often lead to treasure or at least interesting things to kill.  Basically… these rails that we keep seeing, are something we’ve allowed ourselves to see.

Dungeons of Belgrade

BelgradeKeep_Update With all the talk of ESO lately, I am still very much playing Landmark on a daily basis.  Last night I got in and worked on Belgrade Keep for a bit.  I tweaked the exterior a bit adding supports to the first balcony and then building out an entirely new balcony from the top of the castle.  Additionally I added some more of my custom columns to the corners of the ramparts to tie the visual theme together, as well as adding some to the ground floor to mark the entrances to the ramp leading up to the keep and the entrance to the crafting undercroft.  I thought I was nearing a point where I needed to simply grind out the various accoutrements to decorate the keep.  I was completely wrong however.

I decided that Belgrade keep needed a proper dungeon, so I spent the majority of the night watching episodes of Arrow on Netflix and hollowing out the basement by hand with the remove tool.  One of the things I have noticed that removing large blocks of material with the select tool often ends up leaving weird fragments.  So I tend to do it manually simply because I like the results better.  After having spent hundreds of hours hollowing out tunnels branch mining for diamonds in Minecraft… I find I have an affinity for that sort of work.  The plan is to divide up the sub basement into cells, maybe with a torture area…  but that all depends on how creative I am.  I am curious if I have enough room for a second sub basement to be honest, because I can seemingly dig down further.

My Father the Builder

I really need to sit down and brainstorm out the rest of the month, because when I am not staring at a blank page I am full of ideas with factoids.  However when I sit down to write at 6 am, my mind is mush and devoid of any good ideas.  So today’s factoid is going to be a little odd, be warned.  I am not a terribly handy person, as in I am not a manly man builder type.  I can watch a youtube video and figure out most things, but I have a bit of a mental block about things that are mechanical.  In part I think it is because my father is so damned amazing at it.  I realize he grew up in an era when if you didn’t fix it yourself it stayed broken, and my grandfather was the king of tinkerers.  For me however, since I spent most of my childhood sick… I just simply was not exposed to it…  apart from getting to be the loyal “flashlight holder”.

At a young age I think I told myself I couldn’t do this.  There are things that are well in the realm of my mastery.  You give me a few boxes, scissors, magic markers and tape… and I will build for you a GI-Joe base that will make you weep.  However you dump a heap of mechanical bits on the table and I cannot see the same possibilities.  Growing up with a machinist for a father was a really interesting and awesome thing.  When I broke a wheel off one of my hot wheels… he would take it away to a magical land where it would come back with a shiny new wheel better than the previous.  He would take it over to work and machine out of scrap aluminum a wheel, then carefully wrap it in electrical tape for traction…finally carefully attaching it back to my hot wheel.  My father could make magic happen.

I just wish I appreciated it more at the time.  When Star Wars was all the rage, I wanted nothing more than the Death Star play set.  I did not grow up with a lot of money, so spending $100 on a cheap plastic and cardboard play set was really out of the question.  That Christmas instead my dad hand crafted me a Death Star that was far cooler than anything store bought ever could have been.  I am still not sure exactly how he built it, but he had some long screw running down the back of the unit with a crank up top. and a machined elevator that rode up and down on the screw.  So that I could crank my action figures up and down between the floors.  Now I appreciate just how ingenious it was, but probably at the time I wished I had the “real thing”.

As my father is getting older, I am starting to have to figure these things out on my own.  I know at some point he won’t be there to call for advice.  Someday I will have to learn the lessons he had to learn.  I admit it scares me, to think about a world where a master builder like my father doesn’t exist.  I don’t think he really knows how in awe of his abilities I am, and how much I wish I had his natural intuition for how things should go together.  I should really remedy that, but my father is a lot like me, and not really great at saying these sorts of things in person.  There are times I think that maybe he DID pass on his legacy to me, but that it just changed over the years.  I am good at computers and hacking around with software to get it to work the way I want it to work.  Then when I can’t find whatever it is that I am looking for, I know that I can crack open Visual Studio and build it myself.  So maybe just maybe I have some of that same magic too.

Late Night Doctor Who

Mad Man with a Box

Since today is Steampowered Sunday, I thought I would do my factoid as a separate post again, simply because if feels really odd to tack on personal bits on the tail end of “feature”.  Since I vowed to finish this month with a factoid a day, this seems like the best way of handling that.  Anyways… as I have stated before I grew up in a really small town.  There are smaller I am sure, but 2500 people is pretty damned small especially for being a county seat.  As a result I did not have cable until I went to college.  The cable ran to within a quarter mile of my house growing up, but because of that we were limited to six channels.  Essentially an NBC affiliate, CBS affiliate, ABC affiliate, Fox, UPN and the local PBS channel.

Since network television has always been crap, I spent a good chunk of my childhood watching Public Broadcasting like Mister Rogers or Nova.  Late at night however the PBS channel changed and brought into our living room all these excellent British television shows.  They varied over the years from Are You Being Served, Faulty Towers, Monty Python, Keeping Up Appearances, Benny Hill, Blakes 7, The Tripods… but the constant was always Doctor Who.  Some of my fondest memories of my father were staying up late to watch Doctor Who.

Late Night Doctor Who

fourthdoctor I realize it is not much of a shocker that me… a notorious geek… loves Doctor Who.  It goes deeper than that.  The first Doctor I can really remember is Jon Pertwee aka the Third Doctor.  However to me Doctor Who will always be the fourth doctor, Tom Baker.  Seeing that hat and that scarf still gives me warm fuzzies.  Doctor Who above all represented what was good and right in the world.  The solemn defender that used his mind rather than brute force to solve problems.  While I love the modern incarnation of Doctor Who as well, it is simply a different animal.  For as crappy as the special effects were, even rewatching the old episodes on netflix, everything from that era felt more fantastical and hopeful.

Doctor Who also gave me and my father a time to bond together.  It was not something my mother liked at all, so she gave us the time to hang out together.  More or less I was raised by my mother and grandmother, in that they were the people who I spent most of my time with.  My dad was almost always working, and when he was off work he was busy with his photography business.  So the moments when I got to just hang out with my dad felt few and far between.  Even today when we get together, the topic will eventually lead its way back to whatever is happening in the current series with the current doctor.

While there are a lot of things that I am nostalgic about, and am willing to geek out over…  Doctor Who just feels more pure.  While the show has better special effects and has ratcheted up the horror factor a notch or two… it still feels very much the same show at its core.  It will and always has been about a mad man with a box, who deeply loved what he saw special and different in humanity.  That gives me hope for us as a species, that this lonely man from Gallifrey could care about us that much.  I hope that the series continues on forever, infecting each new generation of viewers with the same spirit of wonder.

Belghast Hates Crowds

Mixed Up Day

eso 2014-02-15 17-55-35-41 This has been a really odd day.  I am doing a second post today so that I can do my factoid.  I didn’t really want to include it as part of the previous one… because the previous one was pretty epic.  I woke this morning to find that the NDA had lifted for Elder Scrolls Online.  I have seriously been waiting for this day for so long, but oddly enough I was relatively unprepared.  I didn’t have all my ducks in a row, and tons of material ready to post once the embargo had dropped.  I guess it makes sense, as winging it is more my style.  Hopefully over the coming weeks until the release I will keep posting little tidbits.  The NDA lift was only relating to the beta weekend content, namely the first 3-4 zones for each faction.  As a result there are still a few things I can’t really talk about fully yet.

Nothing at all really went as planned today.  Originally we were going to get up and around, and I was to take my wife to meet a friend.  Then they were going to my mother-in-laws to pick up a baby goat.  Yes that does sound strange I know… but it was a thing that was happening.  Basically the goat would go to our friends house and be able to roam freely on what is ending up as being a pseudo livestock sanctuary.  Things happened however and we wound up spending the entire time killing time…  only to find out about 4 pm that it was not going to happen at all today.  Had I know all of this to start off, I would have blogged in the morning.

Belghast Hates Crowds

It was an absolutely lovely day, so while we were stuck in a holding pattern… we at least got to run most of the errands that had been stacking up.  Since it has been below freezing for what feels like a month, everyone was out and about with the same basic idea we had.  The problem with this is the fact that every single place we went was crowded.  Crowds are something that causes extreme anxiety in me.  If people are packed in too tightly in too small of a space, I get this severe fight or flight instinct.

Earlier in the day my wife wanted to run by our local Goodwill, which is a pretty small store in the first place.  To make things worse they were apparently having some insane half off sale or something.  The result was that you could barely move around the store.  I had run over to the convenience store to get us drinks for the road, and thankfully by the time I fought my way inside she was ready to go.  The moment I stepped inside this massive panic set over me, and as I pushed through to where she was it was like my skin was crawling.  In most times by sheer power of will I can reset the desire to run screaming away.  That is not to say that the instinct is not there and is not strong.

This seems to be something I inherited from my father, and his father before him and so on down our family line.  I grew up in a town of 2500, and my grandfather refused to go to the grocery store, or to the sonic drive in… because there were too many people there.  My father, cannot make it for more than a few minutes in most stores without having to return to the car and wait for my mother.  The fact that I can exist in society and live a pretty normal life is a real boon.  The older I get however, the worse it seems to get.  The place that it bothers me the most is a crowded elevator.  Being a big guy already, trying to squeeze into a standing room only metal box is something I can barely handle.  There was a time at which I could go to concerts, but now that many people assembled in one place just is an impassible barrier.

For the most part I have found ways to mitigate my anxiety.  Movie theaters are a huge problem, with people crammed in tightly.  So to get past that I tend to go to matinees where there are simply not that many people.  If I can get an entire row by myself I can normally make it through the experience just fine.  For example this past Friday I got out to see the Lego Movie at the 4:15 showing… giving me pretty much free reign of the place.  So knowing that the instincts will set in, I can just avoid situations that will make me try and climb the walls.

Married at the House of Vacuums

Belgarde Keep

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-14 06-11-05-53 Over the last two days there have been a couple of significant patches to Landmark.  You can check out the patch notes herehere for more information.  The most exciting of the changes is the fix to the way trees/plants/rocks kept respawning on our claims with no real way to remove them.  In previous shots of my forest keep the overall view had been obstructed by a couple of giant trees.  Now you can see a fairly clear view of the place.  I have given up on calling it a temple, because really it no longer looks anything at all like a temple.  Instead I have officially renamed it to “Belgarde Keep”.  Last night I spent quite a bit of work starting to flesh out the details.  You can see in this image that we now have the wooden posts sticking out from each floor as though they were coming from the ceiling beams.  Additionally I have started replacing my main columns with ones that include some inset stucco.

Another really cool thing of note last night is that with the patches Sapphire and Ruby have been more sane and rational to collect.  In fact if you are lucky you can now find surface spawn nodes.  Over the course of a couple of these nodes I managed to gather up more of each gem than I had gotten to date allowing me to finally craft the Indigo Pick.  Of course I got a rather crappy one on my first attempt, but all the excess sapphires allowed me to craft another cobalt pick, and after a little bit of farming tonight hopefully I will make a second shot at the Indigo.  While they have reduced the amount of burled wood you need slightly to convert from raw to the craftable material…  this still seems to be the bottleneck in almost everything that I want to craft.  I made another attempt at a better axe last night and managed to get one just slightly faster.

At this point my focus over the next few days is to attempt to get a better Indigo pick, gather the materials for upgraded machinery and continue to work on fine detail for the keep as a whole.  I need to start gathering the tier 5 resources but to be honest I am not even sure what they look like at this point.  Right now the biggest thing I am not quite happy with in my keep design is the single pillar that supports the balcony.  I expect now that the tree is out of the way I will rework that design feature extensively.  I might try a curved balcony, I have ideas in my head on what that would be to craft but not sure exactly yet now to go about it especially since I would need to curve both the railing and the flooring.

Toxic Love

Wow-64 2014-02-14 06-28-16-80 Earlier in the week I posted about the ongoing Love is in the Air event happening right now in World of Warcraft to coincide with Valentines Day.  I had pretty much ignored the event until the last few days because in general, I queue for the dungeon each day and I walk away each day with nothing but a stack of useless Love Tokens.  In past years I have queued faithfully each day only to somehow miss getting any of the pets and mounts.  So this year I was not any more expectant of something cool…  but since everyone else was doing it I felt I should probably start running them each day on all 6 of my 90s.

Giant-chu-chu Finally last night my streak of nothing changed… at least to some extent.  While I did not manage to get one of the mounts, I did however get the toxic wasteling pictured above.  I realize it is just a ball of slime, but I find it far cuter than the other oozeling that I have.  This is one of the newer models and minus the insane eyes… it kinda reminds me of a ChuChu from the Legend of Zelda series as pictured on the right.  At least I feel like this years queueing was not a complete and total waste.  While I would love to get the a Swift Lovebird I simply did not start the event soon enough to gather up the needed 250 tokens.


I have to share this image really quickly that @ManaBrownies posted over on twitter yesterday of ALL THE LOVEBIRDS.  The thing that tickles me the most however is not the fact that you have multiple love birds and mini pet versions… but instead their guild name.  I love that name so much, and if you don’t get the reference…  which is probably likely since it is totally esoteric.  I suggest you watch Empire Records, which oddly enough is on the long list of favorite movies.

Married at the House of Vacuums

In honor of Valentines Day I have another related factoid.  My wife and I were Married at the House of Vacuums.  Before we get to that point I have to explain a bit about our wedding in general.  All we ever wanted was a very simple wedding.  In college when we began planning it, we pictured this simple outdoor wedding with just the immediate family.  However over time this plan morphed to nightmarish proportions.  My mother took ahold of the guest list and started wanting to add everything under the sun, including my fourth grade teacher.

Then there was the fact that an outdoor wedding was simply not good enough.  Since I grew up catholic, apparently you are not really married in the eyes of the church unless it happens inside of a catholic church.  So she wanted us to have two weddings… the real outdoor wedding and then another smaller service in a catholic church so we were “legitimate”.  I have never been really big on rules and regulations, and there was no way in hell I wanted to have two separate weddings just to make some religion happy.  Especially one that I do not abide by myself and have not been a member of since I had the freedom to choose my own path in life.  She was getting entirely too involved in the process and planning something neither of us wanted.

Finally there was the issue of who to walk my wife down the isle.  She is from a split household, one that split years after her birth.  So she had two complete households and as a result two fathers.  Her step dad was a quiet and unassuming man, and would do literally anything for her… often making excuses to plan a trip up to college to come see us for the silliest reasons.  Her biological father at that point in her life was not terribly engaged, and while I have come to love him… was very pushy and brash.  So her step father would have been quiet about it, but wounded for life if he did not get to walk her down the isle.  Whereas her biological father would have made a grand scene likely disowning us if he was not the one to walk her down the isle.

image We had set and unset the date many times, but as the three ring circus careened off in a direction we were not willing to go with it, we decided that we needed none of it.  All that mattered was that we were together, and as a result we opted to elope.  That conjures visions of romantically running away to some fabled location, but in truth we simply managed to run around town and gather all the necessary things to be legally married in one day.  We found a little marriage chapel in town, that had an opening the next day.  While we were not technically married at the House of Vacuums, the marriage chapel we went to was around the corner in the same strip mall.  My cousins and our best friend at the time stood up for us as witnesses, and we had a nice simple wedding service presided by a female minister that I cannot for the life of me remember the name of any longer.

Parts of our family, namely my mother was I am sure pissed at me for years over robbing her of her big day.  However like everything else in our lives we managed to get married “our way”.  My wife and I are both very non-conventional and pragmatic, so eloping to the House of Vacuums was simply “our way” of dealing with the challenges at hand.  There has not been a single day I regretted our decision, and now I have an interesting story to tell.  At the end of the day that is worth far more to me than having been crammed into a tuxedo and forced to go through a series of events we didn’t really want in the first place.  At one point her biological father offered us a large sum of money to elope… but he never actually made good on that promise.  I guess it was a good thing we did it because we wanted to.

Budgie Week Fiasco

Another Friday, Moar Fodder

Well another week has passed and it is once again time for Friday Forum Fodder.  I have admittedly not been following the discussion around the interwebs as closely as I usually do during the week.  I have a massive backlog of unread blog posts in my reader as spending the first half of the week sick and the second half desperately trying to play catch-up has left me with less lollygagging time.  I did stumble across a couple of things that I found interesting so the topics are primed and ready to go.

WoW Up to 7.8 Million Subscribers


Apparently yesterday Blizzard had their Q4 2013 earnings call, and announced that they were currently sitting at 7.8 Million subscribers, which surprisingly is a 200k subscriber bump over the 7.6 announced in the Q3 2013 earnings call.  Of course we all know that Blizzcon happened between those two calls, and that we had the announcement of the Warlords of Draenor expansion.  However 200,000 players seems like an awful lot to simply account for the “Blizzcon Bump”.  On Argent Dawn I have said before that we have been experiencing a bit of a renaissance with a large number of players coming back that I have not seen since Wrath, and some of them not even since Burning Crusade.  This feels like something more substantial than just interest in the new and shiny bauble called Warlords.

With the release of Rift, something happened in the populace, a fracturing of sorts.  That was the very first time I saw people leave WoW in a semi-permanent fashion.  Always before when a new product released, players would drift away from the game only to return a month or two later.  Something was different with the release of Cataclysm that broke the inertia of players to stay in one place.  I myself was gone for a little over two years, and during most of that time I never saw myself seriously returning.  For whatever reason I think a lot of us are resigned to the fact that the “wow-killer” simply will never exist.  All of this effort spent trying to find a better experience than World of Warcraft just wound up leading us right back to the original.

I personally have come to realize that what WoW provides just does not exist in the same quantity or quality elsewhere.  Sure various games do various components of the total WoW experience better, but no one game hits as many high points as Blizzard does.  I have reached a point where I am mostly okay with the games flaws… and while I wish that it did certain things better, I can accept the fact that what it does is for the benefit of the many not the few.  There are niche games out there that will scratch the various itches I have that WoW simply cannot.  So while I am back in WoW I am also still very much playing Rift, TSW, Everquest Next Landmark and will be adding Elder Scrolls Online to that lineup.  I have reached a point where I am okay with playing multiple games at the same time.

The beauty of World of Warcraft is that it is the game of consensus.  It is that game that everyone plays when they can’t get anyone to agree on any other game.  People play WoW because people play WoW.  More than anything the large community that comes part and parcel with playing the game was the thing I had been missing since leaving it.  When you play wow, you are instantly a member of something larger than yourself, and that is just an experience that is lacking with any of the other games.  Don’t get me wrong, the other game communities are great, especially the fledgling Everquest Next community bolstered by SOE’s new sense of transparency.  However it is still lacking in sheer size and volume of players.  The Blizzard gaming community is big enough to support everyone, and that is a really rare and special thing.

Budgie Week Fiasco


Firstly I want to say, this is less about the specific thread but more about the Budgie Week event.  I latched onto the guide threat by Seatin mostly because it was the only really active thread out there that coalesced all of the viewpoints in one place, whether or not he actually intended that to happen.  Seatin does a great job of supporting the community with his guides and videos, so nothing I say should be held as a reflection on that.  Additionally I love the folks at Trion, especially the team that is presently working on Trove.  That is such a great game and the open process is so refreshing, including the use of Reddit as their primary forums.  Additionally when Rift went free to play, I considered it to be one of the more just and equitable models.  However some of the things they have been doing with the cash shop are feeling more than a little shifty.

Awhile back some of my friends were frustrated over the Squirrel mount that was released, in that they missed the ridiculously short window it was available for purchase outright in the game.  This was really the beginning of a new trend, offering a cool mount for a very short time, and then putting a similar mount in a cash shop lootbox as the primary means of obtaining it.  This was the case for the Squirrel mount, the Mech mount, and now looks to be the same basic thing going on with the Budgie mount.  The shifty part this time is that they introduced a world event to make it seem as though you can actually acquire the mount that way. Problem is… with this being only a 7 day event it is simply impossible to gain enough of the “bird seed” currency doing these quests alone.

According to Seatin’s guide, if you got in on the first day of the event there is a maximum of 210 bird seed that you can obtain.  The mount costs 850 bird seed on the vendor, meaning there is simply no way to obtain it without somehow augmenting your seed count.  It turns out right now they are offering a limited time cash box that has a chance of dropping a different colored budgie mount, and you are guaranteed between 6 and 10 birdseed per box.  The average seems to be 8 per trove, so in theory you need roughly 80 of these cash shop boxes to be able to purchase the bird.  Granted you have a chance from each to get the OTHER budgie mount, but we aren’t even taking this into account.  Essentially even doing your quests religiously every day, you would have to spend roughly $300 on the cash shop to be certain you get this mount while it is available.

Now Daglar has posted on the forums that this is a promo event, and they intend to run it several times a year, and by participating in all of them you should be able to get the mount.  Even saying that… it still feels extremely bad seeing this unfold.  This is the same kind of crap that I see over in SWTOR with making most of the truly unique looking mounts only available through the random chance of a cash shop box.  The difference there is that you can actually post the items once you have gotten them on the auction house… whereas the cash shop loot in Rift is either soul bound or bound to your account.  This whole event just leaves me feeling a little dirty for having supported their shirt to free to play so actively.  I still think Rift is a great game, and I still think more or less it is a good value… they are just doing a few unsavory things that make me a little sad inside.

Bel Goes to Nasa

This mornings factoid digs pretty deep into the annals of time.  Once upon a time I wanted to grow up to be a Scientist.  I am not really sure what happened along the way to change that life ambition.  If I had to guess it was probably the fact that AP Chemistry ate my lunch, but I managed to get out of it with a B, which seemed pretty damned good at the time.  All that aside, I did really and truly want to be a Scientist, so I took the yearly ritual of the science fair extremely seriously.  Through boy scouts I had gotten into model rocketry, so when it came time to pick a project I thought it would be interesting to do something related to that.  With copious help from my father, we constructed a wind tunnel that ran on a shop vac, and proceeded to test the effects of airflow based on various model rocket fin shapes.

I think the key to winning a science fair is to have something cool to look at in your booth.  I am sure there were many students that had more scientifically sound studies than I did, but I had cool photos of the pattern each of the fins had made.  We tied string to each of the fins so that we could watch the pattern the thread made based on the airflow.  The contrails that were created gave a clear picture of how each shape varied and was something nice and concrete that the judges to latch onto.  I won the local level science fair and managed to move up to regional’s, but this was not something really new to me, because my pantograph had done the same my six grade year.  In all honesty repeating a victory at the local level would have been more than enough for me.

When I got to regional’s however I was shocked at just how excited the judges seemed to be about my exhibit.  So when it came down to time to present the awards, I don’t really remember what place I got in the main competition, because it was quickly overshadowed by the “special” award that I won.  I got a trip for me, my family and my science teacher to NASA’s Johnson Space center.  I have to say it was one of the cooler things I have experienced.  A lot of the trip is a haze at this point, but I remember walking through a prototype of what would eventually become the international space station.  I also remember getting to play around in the shuttle flight simulator, and meeting actual astronauts.  All of which were pretty heady things for my little wannabe scientist seventh grader mind.  But of course, High School happened… and I discovered computers and programming… and I jettisoned the thoughts of being a scientist out the airlock and moved on.