Amazing Community

Computer Meltdown

All that I really wanted to do when I got home was to log into my computer and play some Final Fantasy XIV.  Unfortunately my computer seemed to conspire against me.  Everything seemed happy when I first got home and I had just queued for duty roulette and begun working on a FATE when something odd happened.  The screen froze and turned black, and then moments later I was rebooting.  Now I am notorious for ignoring windows updates, and I know in Windows 8 there will reach a point where it simply will not let you ignore them.  Sure enough upon reboot it was installing new software, so I thought that maybe all that had happened is that I reached that threshold.

So I went ahead and booted up my machine and logged into windows.  Everything seemed just fine, nothing really seemed out of the ordinary until I booted into Final Fantasy XIV again and then boom… the same thing.  I thought for a bit that maybe it was my video card driver update that I applied last night, so upon rebooting I proceeded to roll back that driver.  Upon booting into the game again…  this time a brown screen then a black screen and then everything powers off.  The thing is that the video card never actually felt hot when I reached back and felt the air vent on it.  My initial thought was that the video card was just toast, which is disturbing because it was only a few months old.

As a test I swapped out to an older card and sure enough the machine booted right up.  Unfortunately however upon firing up a game I was back at the black screen cycle.  It was then that I noticed something.  I took the side panel off my case and watched it boot up, and the fan on the processor heatsink was not moving at all.  So I am guessing at some point it died, and potentially for awhile it was working intermittently.  Processor overheating would in theory cause all of the things that I was experiencing.  Here is hoping that there has been no permanent damage to it.  A heatsink/fan combo is a relatively cheap thing to replace, so I ordered a new potentially better one from Amazon and it should be here Friday.  Until then I guess I will be gaming on the laptop exclusively.

Meet Kenzi

kenziandshilohkenzi_alone Now other than my computer having a meltdown and throwing me into stress mode, there was some awesome that managed to happen yesterday.  We added a new child to our family, and unfortunately she moves so damned fast that this is the only picture I have managed to snap since bringing her home.  Thankfully the folks we got her from gave us a far better picture of her.  However as you can see she apparently loves the ferrets.  She has kept returning to the playpen to play with them through the bars.  They seem completely enthralled by her as well, and moments after snapping this albeit blurry photo of her and Shiloh she also woke up Bellatrix and they were both following her every move.  Being a kitten however she is rarely in one place for too terribly long.

We thought for a bit about a name and tried multiple characters from Harry Potter as well as Firefly, before finally settling on Kenzi.  She seems far more like that character than any other so far.  She is fearless and kenzishoulderdaring, and a little bit shifty at times.  Not to mention the whole dark hair thing works well also.  Kenzi was my favorite character from Lost Girl and really the only reason why I enjoyed that show for as long as I did.  So I feel like the name is fitting.  Right now she is batting my fingers as I type this and trying to hop up on the keyboard.  While I think it is absolutely adorable… I need to finish this post up so I can get on to work.  Here is hoping the ferrets wake up and steal back her attention.

So after writing my blog post she decided to crawl up on my shoulder.  I am officially in love, not that I wasn’t already.  I have always wanted a shoulder cat to hang out with me while I game.  Now she is curled up under the lapboard that my laptop is on grooming herself, but she spent a good long while on my shoulder.  This is totally going to work out… we just have to somehow figure out a way to stop the nibbling.  She seems to like to attack my beard and bite it right now.  Which is adorable, but will eventually get to be frustrating and potentially painful.

Amazing Community

ffxiv_07202014_212651 For the last week or so I have been spending most of my evenings playing Final Fantasy XIV on the Cactuar server.  I have to say I am starting to fall in love with the sense of community there, and on the entire Aether data center as well.  Thanks to my time in wow and just how toxic that environment can be… I have been extremely gunshy about branching out and playing with people I did not already know.  I’ve always been willing to group with my guild and their friends, but I had zero interest in poking my head out into the larger world.  Quite frankly when I had done this in the past, I dealt with so much abuse as a tank that I had no interest in ever attempting it again.  The problem is this negative attitude towards pugging carried forward into every game from that point on.  The moment someone wanted to do something, and we did not have the requisite number of people I would immediately remove myself from the equation.  This means I’ve spent an awful lot of time sitting around in games waiting for the magical number of people to log in so we could go do something fun.

Coming back to Final Fantasy XIV however I did so without much of my support structure.  For most of this past week I have been the only person online at night in my guild, and as a result I finally decided to brave the Duty Roulette.  This essentially is a random dungeon system that picks from any dungeon available to you.  The awesome thing however is that for leveling, you gain experience as though the mobs were your level not the level you have been scaled down to.  I went into this with the plan to attempt to be more social, so I started talking to the group the moment the instances started.  Funny thing is…. other people talked back, and in very positive ways.  Instead of running the dungeon in silence we started to banter back and forth much like grouping used to feel like during my Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot days.

So what caused this magical environment to appear in the face of so many games with toxic grouping environments?  I honestly think it is two fold.  Firstly at this point the only people who are playing Final Fantasy XIV are the players who are in it for the long haul, the players who are devoted too the franchise and willing to weather whatever storms might arise.  There is a sense of general camaraderie that I have not seen in many games, and I think it comes from a shared struggle.  I expected the servers to feel dead with the initial drop off of players after launch, but in reality while there are fewer overall players, they are just more focused in specific areas.  While you cannot go to any zone and run FATEs, the zones where you can… are extremely active.

The other part I think is a weird little system that Squaresoft put into the game.  Similar to league of legends, at the end of each dungeon or guildhest you can “commend” a player for their actions.  You only get one single commendation per dungeon run, so it forces you to think long and hard about who best deserved it.  Now there are some pretty significant rewards for having racked up a large number of these.  This I think causes players to want to seem friendly, and through the course of pretending to be… they end up actually being cordial.  I expected that the commendations would be almost exclusively reserved for the tanks and the healers, but it turns out that apparently I have made some appreciated contributions as well.  At this point I am sitting around 25 commendations, and there is rarely a duty or hest that I don’t walk out with at least one.  So apparently my banter, combined with the fact that I try my damnedest to interrupt everything as a DPS…  is appreciated and matters.

cactuarfashionshow I feel like Final Fantasy XIV is this strange time capsule where players have returned to the kinds of values that I used to appreciate so much while playing the games that existed before World of Warcraft.  While I have not poked my head out into the raid community yet, I find it really impressive that I am playing on a server that has actual community events.  This game feels like a crazy throwback… and I am loving it so far.  It seems like somehow we managed to actually pick the right server to be playing on all those months ago when we picked the server name simply out of our love of the cactuar.  The server even keeps track of the spawn times of hunt mobs, keeping a google doc to record when one last spawned and was killed.  Granted the other day when I looked it had gotten a bit out of date, but just the fact that the server cares enough to create something like that is pretty awesome.  I think the next thing for me is to try and find some social linkshells and meld into the broader community more.

Writing Prompts

Tomorrow is the official beginning of the Blaugust initiative, and as promised I will not leave you hanging.  I will be posting a series of writing prompts each day to help turn the wheels and get your creative juices flowing.  Please note of course that you do not have to write about any of the prompts I post.  I am just trying to provide inspiration if it happens to be lacking.

  • What was the first game that made you “feel” something.  I am talking about the first game that invoked a real human emotional response be it fear, love, outrage…  we’ve all had it happen and I am curious about your first time.
  • What is your favorite boss encounter in any game and why.  What makes that encounter stand out in your mind and what can be learned from it.
  • If you were an NPC in a video game, what type of NPC would you be.

Hitbox Frustrations

Back to Normal

This morning signals the return to my normal routine.  Over the course of the math camp I have allowed myself to veer significantly from the path I normally take.  This means a lot of things, including being far more sluggish about making my blog posts within a scheduled timeframe.  Additionally my diet and walking regiment fell completely apart in the face of eating out so many times.  That said it is time to buckle down and return the tray tables in their upright position and prepare for landing.  It feels so weird to be going back to work today, and I am dreading being deluged by a weeks worth of stuff that set unsorted out.

I have only slightly followed my email while I was out, and dealt with a few fires… and postponed a few others for this week.  I know I have an extremely full plate waiting on me, and hopefully my coworkers will be forgiving as it is going to take me a little bit to get back into the swing of things.  Unfortunately based on everything I read in my inbox, I really need to hit the ground running today and knock out several things.  I know of at least one project that needs to be out the door and ready to go by August 1st, and another that needs to follow closely on its heels.  Then there is our project list, and juggling in a new person into the group.  So it is going to be a stressful rest of the week to say the least.

Hitbox Frustrations

This morning I logged into Hitbox.tv and completed a ritual I have done for the last several days… so many times I have quite literally lost count.  I logged into my account, went into my pre-recorded video and attempted to push the videos to youtube.  Like always it gave me the popup message signifying that my videos should show up on youtube shortly.  As has been the case each and every morning, I am quite certain they will not actually show up there.  Right now I have half a dozen videos that I have recorded playing various games that are in essentially limbo.  While there are lots of awesome things about the service… right now you cannot download videos you have recorded, upload them to youtube or even embed them directly from the hitbox service.  Which basically means the videos are not accessible anywhere other than through the hitbox interface.

There are so many things I like about hitbox, but presently it is relentlessly buggy.  The streaming portion they have down pat, and I would say it is one of the best experiences since you can actually chat somewhat realtime with people watching your stream.  It is all of the little things that I have come to take for granted with Twitch that simply do not work at all.  Previously there was a really awesome twitter integration so you could have an automated message go out to your twitter feed when you were actually live and ready to go.  In the last few days since I had last streamed, this apparently broke as well.  Right now it feels like we have been sold a lemon, and while I am sure they are trying as hard as they can to straighten things out… they seriously need some better public relations.

The official pronouncement from hitbox support is that things should be fixed either today or tomorrow.  The problem is that “today” and “tomorrow” were three weeks ago.  Instead of following up with a legitimate estimate for when things will be fixed… they just keep giving out the same “today” and “tomorrow” statements.  Now as my friend Ashgar pointed out, I can in fact record local and upload to YouTube as a separate process…  which is fine for anything I do in the future.  I however tend to stream sequentially, in a way that someone could go back and watch the progress I made along the way.  This means a number of videos are now essentially stuck in hitbox jail and there is no way that I can get them to another service.  I took for granted that the estimates of when things would be fixed were actually true, so I kept recording expecting that someday I would be able to upload them to YouTube without issue.

Right now I am in a holding pattern and still using hitbox, because really the streaming functionality is excellent.  I just wish everything else about the service were up to the standards set by twitch.  I don’t really want to go back to twitch if I can help it, because having to live in a minimum of 30 seconds of lag, is frustrating to me and frustrating to anyone who might be viewing what I was doing.  I feel like my viewers are significantly different than the normal viewers that streamers get.  When I get someone in my channel it is a friend of mine, and I feel like I should interact in as timely a manner as I can, because we have connections beyond that of viewer and streamer.  Hopefully tomorrow will come, and they will fix their crap and let us start moving files again.  At the very least I would be happy with either the ability to download what I have already recorded or at the very least embed it directly into my blog.

Player Commendations

ffxiv 2014-07-28 21-50-54-546 After dropping off our British friend at the airport, and one of our ferrets to the vet… we went home and pretty much vegetated.  I had a rather glorious day playing some Final Fantasy XIV and even doing a little bit of streaming.  For the most part the day was spent working on my Dragoon in an attempt to get him to level 45 and acquire the awesome dragon armor set that waits for me there.  Right now my leveling method of choice is to run around a zone, this time Coerthas doing FATEs while waiting on the Duty Roulette to pop.  For years I have been completely gunshy about doing random dungeons, thanks in part to just how horrible and toxic the community in World of Warcraft dungeon finder can be.  That said I have to say that the community so far in Final Fantasy XIV has been an utter delight.

ffxiv 2014-07-28 20-38-52-506 Sure I have run into a few players that are relatively horrible at playing their class or their chosen role, but I have yet to find a single player that I would consider rude or abusive.  I can take playing with folks who struggle, but it was always the “internet tough guys” and general jerks that kept me away from the dungeon finder.  The most interesting thing for me is that apparently I have made a positive impression on the groups I have been in.  After I had left the first time, FFXIV introduced a system of positive reinforcement called “Player Commentations”.  The idea is at the end of each dungeon run each player gets to commend a single player for their actions in the run.  Generally speaking I assumed these would be limited to the tanks and healers, since they tend to run the show.  That said I have managed to rack up ten of them so far through the course of my random dungeon runnings.

ffxiv 2014-07-28 20-45-22-985 Granted I try to go out of my way to make the dungeon run smoother, interrupting all of the AOE effects that I can.  In Stone Vigil last night I even managed to double interrupt a pack using Legsweep for one and Spineshatter Dive to interrupt a second one moments later.  That said I expected this sort of thing to go unnoticed, or get attributed to the tank… since tanks also have stuns…  but at least in PUGs seem to rarely use them.  All of this said it feels like the community in FFXIV has reached a point where all of the negative forces have wandered off into other games, and what is left is a cohesive group of players who are bound together in their love of all things Final Fantasy.  This might be a great oversimplification but so far I’ve greatly enjoyed all of the random dungeons and guildhest groups I have been a part of.  People seem to be genuinely willing to talk through problems without resorting to name calling.

ffxiv 2014-07-28 21-04-58-384 I closed off the night sitting at 43.5 and working on the final Dragoon hunt.  Something awesome is that apparently when we were not looking they added in some extremely awesome rewards for completing the hunt logs.  When you complete your class hunt log you get a ring that is honestly as good as Darklight if not slightly better.  When you complete your grand company hunt log, you get a pet.  You can collect your rewards by telling Jonathas in Old Gridania a “tale” of your deeds.  I still think this is a pretty cool way of handling a epic turn in like this, that your character literally tells the NPC a story about how you succeeded in battle.  This is going to give me the drive to finish up my Immortal Flames hunt log, so that I too can get a pet from it.  So far I am really enjoying my time back in the game, and it is starting to stir the attention of some of my guildies.  Here is hoping that at some point we can return to doing 8 man content.  For now I will just settle with being able to do guild groups.

#Hitbox #FFXIV

We Survived Math Camp

British Vittles

britsnacks

I had said earlier in the week that the math conference I was working at not only represented teachers from almost every state, but also represented a handful of countries.  Among those were a couple of Brits, one of which decided to bring a bunch of items for us to try.  On the final day he set out a bunch of things that had not been consumed on a table for anyone to grab.  I nabbed a box of Jaffa Cakes initially, since I had heard about them from various people but never tried them.  This box represents the various things that were not taken, and since we were picking up the place to make it presentable they all came home with us.  I’ve had a Cadbury bar before, so I have not broken into it yet, but I have managed to try both “cakes” and “biscuits”.

I am not sure what I was expecting when it came to Jaffa Cakes, but the reality was absolutely nothing like I was expecting.  To put it into terms for the American palette when we think “sponge cake” we tend to think a Twinkie or one of the ubiquitous yellow cakes you buy to make strawberry shortcake.  This version of sponge cake tastes more like a stale vanilla wafer that has been sitting out on a table for a week and soaking up moisture.  The orange filling tasted a bit like a melted gummy bear, and the chocolate was more a kin to bakers chocolate.  The end result was not unpleasant but just not what I had been expecting.  I actually kinda like them, but I think that might be the fact that I am consuming something that I cannot otherwise get, so there is a bit of a forbidden fruit aspect to them.

On the other hand the Hobnobs or simply “biscuits” are rather good.  Like it doesn’t take any stretch of the imagination to wonder why they are popular.  It is like a cross between an oatmeal cookie and a saltine cracker.  More so almost like really good granola made into a cookie form.  While I doubt I would go out of my way to eat a Jaffa Cake, I would totally be down with biscuits in the future.  All of this time I honestly thought that British biscuits were just American cookies, but nope it is a completely different animal.  We have things here called digestive biscuits, so I am honestly wondering if they are related to these kinds of biscuits.  Now the cool thing is that if I ever get a hankering for either of these items… there is a British foods import shop in town that stocks all sorts of stuff like this.  I likely would not have gone out of my way to try these things, but I am happy that I now know what they taste like.

We Survived Math Camp

I have to say it feels good to be able to say that we survived math camp.  I feel like we need a t-shirt or something to commemorate the event.  I honestly have a massive respect for the individuals who have hosted the event in the other locations, because the amount of prep work and little details that went into this undertaking was a bit staggering.  On top of that the fact that my wife and I lived in a sort of split household during the course of the events, meant that neither of us slept really well.  The first thing we did upon getting home yesterday was taking a nap.  I was surprised at just how many people had arranged for trips to the airport of their own volition rather than needing to run multiple car loads this time around.  I ran a single load on Saturday evening, and then another yesterday.  I have one more to take this morning, but for the most part there was not the mass number of loads that we had as folks arrived.

While I feel like I really had little to do with it, it feels nice to see people talking about how much they enjoyed their time in our city.  It is weird how after spending all this time prepping…  I take comments about the school system with personal pride.  I found myself using the royal we throughout the course of the week, like I was actually part of it or something.  Granted I have done a lot of work for the school system over the years as my wife needed this or that, but I never really felt connected to it other than “that’s the place my wife works”.  After essentially living for a week out of the building, and supporting those inhabiting it… I feel a deep connection to it all.

In other news… I tried Chicken and Waffles yet again… and yet again I don’t really see why the meal is heralded as so awesome.  After the conference split up about 11 am all of the folks what did not need to immediately rush to the airport went out to eat.  There I ordered chicken and waffles, since it was a place I had never eaten before.  I’ve tried it three or four times now… and every time it is a rather bland chicken breast or chicken strips over a nice big thick waffle… with all of it drenched in syrup.  It is charming but nothing earth shattering and overall I find the meal rather bland.  I just feel like I am somehow missing some cultural touchstone.  Like maybe I am supposed to be enthralled by the absurdity of putting chicken and waffles together.  But considering growing up I made grilled cheese sandwiches with waffles…  it doesn’t seem that odd to me.

Ding 40

ffxiv 2014-07-27 22-23-10-700 When we finally got settled in for the night, I popped back into Final Fantasy XIV to work on my dragoon some more.  Since the last time I played the game actively, it has made a number of really nice quality of life improvements.  Namely the addition of the Duty Roulette system that allows you to get assigned to a random dungeon out of a large stack of potentials.  The best part about this is that the experience gain inside the dungeon seems to scale to your level.  That means you could get assigned to a level 15 like Halatali and still get the same experience you would running a much higher level dungeon like Cutters Cry.  For the purpose of leveling this means you have extremely rapid queues, and while the gear that drops inside may not be usable, the experience gain stays consistent.

ffxiv 2014-07-27 21-18-19-766 Another nifty thing that I learned last night is that apparently while we were gone, they added in some perks for having an account authenticator.  In addition to having the three discounted teleport locations, you can now set a single free location if you have you account set up with the authenticator.  Since my grand company of choice is the Flames, that made it an absolute no brainer for me to use Uldah as my freebie. This now allows me to move Coerthas to one of the discounted locations, since I no longer need it for Uldah.  For better or worse Coerthas seems to be the best place for running FATEs, and I will likely be there until at least level 46 when Mor Dhona really starts in proper.  In any case alternating between Duty Roulette and FATEs seems to be a rather enjoyable way to level, and if I get much play time today I will probably be able to push through to 45.

We have a number of errands to run today, and another math camp person to run to the airport.  However once I get back from that my plan is to work on the level 40 Dragoon quest.  Since the 35 quest so simplistic, I am expecting this one to be a major undertaking.  The warrior quest chain had some definite gimme quests, but others that took all the skills I had learned to that point to be able to push through them.  The cool thing is that it seems like we are starting to get a bit more activity in the game.  A number of friends were talking about firing it back up last night, so it will be interesting to see how active it gets in the coming days.  Cactuar is still an extremely populated server, as all weekend long it was barred from new character creation.  However as of this morning it was open again.  Hopefully the couple of new people can get in and create a character today.

#FFXIV

Podcast that Wasn’t

The Final Day

I am up bright and early for a Sunday morning, because today is the final day of the Math conference.  On the arrival day I had to ferry trips back and forth between the airport, and today I am having to do the same thing.  The conference only actually runs for two hours, but I imagine the school itself will be open a bit longer as folks wait around for their rides.  My hope is that everyone checks out of the hotels before heading to the conference, so I don’t actually need to make any trips between those.  That was the piece that actually slowed things down the first time was dropping folks off at the two different hotels.

At this point I am ready for it to be over, so that our lives can return to normal.  I fully appreciate the gravity of what this event is for the folks who are attending it, but each night I have had to go home and sequester myself.  I am not good at dealing with an overabundance of human beings, especially not ones needing something from me.  There are a lot of things I feel bad about, but one of the big ones is that I spent most of the conference hiding out in my wife’s cube in the collaboration room.  I watched twitter, and came out of my hiding place whenever someone needed something.  However it served as a bit of a safe space where I didn’t have to try and make small talk or “act normal”.

Podcast that Wasn’t

Well it finally happened, a weekend when all of the members of AggroChat were busy at the same time.  Because it didn’t really feel right to not do anything… I recorded a quick blurb that I am calling Episode 15.314 in honor of the fact that my entire week has been consumed by playing a supporting role in the math conference.  This week I simply did not have the time to plan for a full replacement cast for the podcast.  I could have maybe pulled something together last minute, but I was honestly too drained to carry the cast forward.  At least we made it to fifteen episodes before needing a week off.  Next week hopefully we all will return to normal and be ready to be entertaining.

The funny thing is… the moment I recorded and posted this…  Kodra showed up.  So in theory we could have maybe limped along last night with Me, Kodra and Tam.  But I figured it was better just to take the week off if I thought I was not going to be my normal charming self.  Like I said above… I have had to do so much glad handing this week, that my social normality buffer is just gone.  I am not sure if I could carry on an intensely direct conversation with two other individuals… even if said individuals are really close and long term friends.  The blurb I recorded hopefully is charming enough, and talks a little bit about what we all have been doing.

Svara Still Awesome

ffxiv 2014-07-26 20-01-18-829 Coerthas is still an amazing place to run FATEs in, and I spent most of my evening running around out here hopping from event to event.  The king of all FATEs will always be Svara, which for the undoctrinated is a series of three connected FATEs that tell the story of the Isgardian fight against the giant dragon Svara.  First off it is completely epic to follow the path of this dragon and fend off the Isgardians from all of her children, then finally down the big beast at the end of the sequence.  It is also epic the amount of experience you get, considering if you hit gold participation in all three fates it is worth around 40,000 xp which is a really nice chunk all at once for about 15 minutes of work.  What makes Coerthas extremely awesome as a zone is that there are a bunch of this heavy xp fates and you can pretty much spend the entire night running between them all soaking up as much xp as you can.  I figure I will likely stay here until I hit 40 before moving on to someplace else.

ffxiv 2014-07-26 19-09-48-884 I am already enjoying playing the dragoon so much more than playing the bard.  Don’t get me wrong, the bard is enjoyable… but it is also the class that everyone seems to be playing.  Every time I solo queued for a duty roulette I would end up in a dungeon with a bard as the second dps.  Playing melee is just much more my style, and the Dragoon delivers some seriously potent direct damage.  Its weakness however has always been the fact that it has little to no area of effect damage.  In fact if I remember correctly it has a single attack, that I do not even have yet.  However they seem to have fixed some of the problems that existed in early release with FATE contribution.  Back then spamming any AOE was the key to getting high contribution.  However it seems like you can focus down a few spawns and still get the same scores that you would if you were just AOEing everything around you.  My goal today after all of the madness is over with shuttling people back to the airport is to do some more duty roulette.

#FFXIV #AggroChat

Wildstar Woes

Crack Dealer

So my reputation as a gaming crack dealer is intact, as I spent part of yesterday teaching another gamer to play Magic: The Gathering.  I guess it is fitting that we taught him at a Math Conference, considering it was invented by a mathematician.  In my defense this time, the attendee asked for someone to tutor him in the ways of planeswalking, and considering I was not actually attending sessions but instead just waiting around to be needed, I volunteered.  We met yesterday morning at 9:30 in the third floor commons area and I brought my patented “box o’ decks”.  @Jay2thaVee was a complete rookie to the concepts of magic and had not purchased any decks.  Thankfully I had left a few of the various $14 starters I have picked up in their original states, as those are pretty much the easiest way to learn.

Unfortunately I take “devotion to black” seriously, and every single deck in my box save for one had black somehow mixed into it.  He played a white/black nyx prebuilt, and I was playing a black/blue theros prebuilt.  Basically for the first game I played with my hand on the table, so he could see what exactly I was doing and when I was doing it.  Additionally every so often when he seemed to lack a play I would nudge him a little bit to explain how the cards in his hand might be useful.  By the time we got around to the second match he was up and running and ready to kick ass… and in fact he did just that.  The second match was excellent in that it showed just how quickly fate can change with the play of the right cards.  We both had cards in play that helped us soak back up some health in each upkeep so for a long time we were in a bit of a stalemate as I could only do as little more damage than he could heal up each round.

Thanks to an artifact that gave all of my creatures lifelink I was able to soak up quite a bit of health during this long drawn out stalemate.  At this point I was starting to get a creature advantage on him as well as a health advantage.  Then with a single play he rocked my world.  Granted I had to explain how good the card he held in his hand was, and why he should play it… but when he plunked down Banishing Light.  Now I must have been extremely tired or something, but I completely misread the card yesterday when we were playing.  It says banish “target” and for some reason I read that as “all” non-land permanents.  So I played it as though it was a complete board wipe, which made the game more interesting.  He began to make progress on chipping down my extremely high health pool which was like 32 or something similar at that point.

Then I get the big guns onto the board with my Abhorrent Overlord.  So I once again start whittling down his health at the same time as he chips away mine.  I do 6 health, he regens 2, and so on until we get to a point where he has 11 health and a serious creature advantage on me, and I have my single big guy as he eats everything else I can get on the board and 9 health.  He manages to do 10 damage to me in one turn and it is pretty much over.  However of all the ways to learn magic this is one of the better matches I have played.  It shows just how tentative a lead can be at any point in the game.  When we misplayed the banish card, it looked like the game was over… but had i not had several rounds of getting crap to play I could have maybe pushed back to get the victory.  In any case I think he is hooked and going to buy a couple of decks for he and his son to play together.  Sounds like awesome times.

Wildstar Woes

WildStar64 2014-07-26 08-21-14-508 Last night I got a rather frank question from a friend of mine regarding Wildstar.  Some time ago another friend had handed him one of the free trial codes that we got for preordering.  He just now got around to trying it a month and a half after launch.  While he enjoyed the game, it wasn’t like the most enjoyable thing he had ever played.  His question was how many of the Stalwart crew were still playing, and if he should pick it up.  He followed us into Elder Scrolls Online, and while he loves that game, he finds it extremely solemn to be playing by himself all the time.  The big thing is that he didn’t want to jump into Wildstar and it to be the same experience for him.  His question was, should he buy the game.  Now I could have put the hard sell on him and lead him down a path that would have ultimately lead to disappointment…  but I was honest with him.

For the most part in the circle of friends that he is part of… Wildstar has come and gone.  There are a few of us who log in periodically but this game had probably the briefest of “glory days” of any title we have played to date.  I only made it to 26 before slowing down and to the best of my knowledge none of us actually made it to the level cap.  I enjoyed aspects of the game, namely the dungeons…  but for whatever reason as much as I should love this game… the drive to play it was just missing.  I am still piddling around, this time on the Exiles side on Evindra but running into the same lack of drive to log in.  Everything about this game should be something that I really enjoy, and you could not ask for a better community team or company supporting it.  But when I ask myself what I want to play in a given night, this game never seems to come up on its own.  To be honest most of the time I was leveling my Chua Engineer it was the boom boxes that kept me logging in every night more than anything else.

So while I think there is a great game here, I had to be honest with him that he probably should give it a pass if he is only interested in playing with the Stalwart/Masks crew.  I think one of the things that really hurt this title was the fact that we simply rolled on the wrong faction for the wrong server.  Dominion side on Evindra is dead… like when I got to Whitevale I sat around for two hours waiting for someone else to wander by so I could take out one of the world mini-bosses and not so much as another adventurer came by at any point during that time.  To be truthful it feels like wandering around Illium you might see a dozen other players at any given point, whereas on the Exiles side you are constantly bumping into people.  The problem is with only 6 slots per server, it really negates the concept of playing both factions.  Within a few days all of the people who were primarily Exile, had deleted their Dominion alts to free up space for more Exiles.

So once again we are stuck at the problem of having all of my time devoted into what has essentially become a non-starter character.  So when confronted with the idea of re-rolling…  I just can’t be bothered to put much effort towards it.  Ultimately if my immediate circle of friends is not playing…  then what exactly am I rushing around to get leveled to be able to do?  I am sure I could roll with any number of the guilds on the exiles side, but I just am not sure if I have the social oomph left in me to start from scratch without being able to rely on the folks I hang out nightly with on voice chat.  I feel like Wildstar might have run its course through the internet as well.  I am seeing a lot of folks who claimed diehard loyalty to the game “taking a break”, which we all know is the beginning salvo in the “quitting the game” conversation.  I am not ready to cancel my subscription yet, but I am just struggling to find reason to log in.

Dragooning It Up

ffxiv 2014-07-26 08-06-32-335 Lately I have been back playing quite a bit of Final Fantasy XIV.  I feel like I parted with that game on really good terms and it has always been extremely charming.  When not working on hunts I have been working on leveling the dragoon.  If we can convince a repeat of the other night to happen, when we all logged in to run a dungeon, that place me playing a DPS character.  Ashgar unfortunately only has two tanks to 50, and I have a Warrior and a Bard.  That said I have never really felt deeply connected with the bard.  It does amazing damage and is super useful, and mostly was easy to level through Fates.  The class I would far rather play dps wise is the Dragoon, so lately I have been taking advantage of the Duty Roulette option and running some random dungeons.  I have to say the groups I am getting randomly are actually extremely friendly and communicative.  I feel like maybe this game has crossed the threshold of shedding all of the folks who were caustic and toxic… and now really has devoted fans left.

I guess the real challenge will be what this game feels like trying to tank it with random groups.  At some point I will work up the nerve and tank a random as my Gladiator seeing as I would really love to get to Paladin conversion levels.  There is still a lot to like in this game, and it is the only Asian inspired title that has managed to create a male character I actually enjoy playing.  There are proper beards here, and you have options other than “pretty boy” as far as facial features go.  We will see how long it take for me to get this game out of my system this time, but so far I am really enjoying myself.  I feel like at some point I need to dig up a list of what all new content is available, as there have been three rather large patches since I last played the game regularly.  FFXIV is pretty horrible about advertising what is new from the game interface itself, so I think there are probably some other ways to level that I am just missing.

#MagicTheGathering #FFXIV #Wildstar

Hunting Malboros

The Night Before

This mornings post is going to be a little scant on visuals so I am just going to leave you with this amazing cinematic trailer that Riot released yesterday called A New Dawn.  You should totally watch it and marvel at just how awesome Graves is.  If you watch the making up they talk about the whole video having a meme running through it “Graves is not impressed”.   Onwards to the real post.  This morning is the beginning of the Mathematics conference, and throughout the day today I will be playing chauffer to a group of folks who need ferried from the airport to the hotel.  As a result we spent some time last night cleaning out my wife’s Pontiac Torrent since it has the most comfortable seating for a large number of adults.  The thing that makes that vehicle awesome is that it has a sliding bench seat so you can push it back for extra leg room but still have a significant amount of cargo space.

coffeeandmonster I went comatose around 10:30 last night, but apparently my wife is having schoolgirl jitters.  As a denizen of twitter as well…  I guess I would probably be jittery about meeting a bunch of folks all at once from the twitterverse.  Granted this is the third running of this conference, but it has never been anywhere near as large as it is this year.  We have apparently completely sold out two hotels and they are booking in a third overflow hotel now.  To give me fortitude to get through a day of meeting all of these people I don’t know but will be expected to be cordial with…  I am leaning on both coffee and a monster ultra.  Mostly I just wanted to show off this awesome WW2 Dalek poster coffee mug we found the other day.  My wife actually spotted the Doctor Who mugs first, and there were a bunch of designs to choose from… but I have always been partial to the WW2 era propaganda poster from Victory of the Daleks.

So while I conked out completely around 10:30 my wife was apparently up until 1 am.  Then when I woke up this morning at 5 to get around and showered, she was awake again and responding to tweets.  I think its adorable that she can be all hyped up on nerves and I will likely be the same way when January rolls around and I go to Pax South.  I am not sure if  have mentioned that on my blog or not yet, but as of right now I have tickets for all three days to Pax South.  I may or may not be attending Sunday, but I am definitely going to try and be there for Friday and Saturday.  I figure the last day of a con is likely the “anything you missed” day and all the major stuff will likely occur on Friday and Saturday.  I might be completely wrong, but that would at least give me Sunday to drive home.  If you are also going to Pax South give me a shout, because I would love to arrange some sort of a twitter/blogosphere/whatever meetup.

Attack on Deathshead

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-07-22 18-59-17-748 I made it a bit further in my play through of Wolfenstein New Order but I am still struggling with crash to desktop issues.  I had a spot in the moon base that was doing it, and now am having a spot in Deathshead compound that is kicking me out.  Last night I gave it a few attempts but just didn’t have the patience.  I think next time I try it I might shut down EVERYTHING, including DXtory that I generally have running so I can take screenshots.  I know some games get a little pissy about overlays, or it might simply be that I need to disable the steam overlay.  In any case this game is really amazing and it gives me totally unrelated hope.  This past weekend at Quakecon, ID Software gave an exclusive peak at Doom 4 that has apparently just be renamed Doom and is somewhat of a reboot.  If Machine Games can give us a game as awesome as Wolfenstein… I have high hopes for what Doom has in store for us.

As my friend Kodra has said before, Wolfenstein is very much exactly what games felt and sounded like in the 90s.  Everything was industrial metal…  and we liked it.  I am perfectly fine with this throwback syndrome, because the modern FPS is nowhere near as much fun as the first generation of them used to be.  We have come so far in trying to make everything more and more realistic, and I think in that struggle we lost sight on what actually made the games fun.  If Wolfenstein and the reboot of Doom herald in an era of interesting level design with secrets and multiple paths to the objective… then hell yes I want to return to the 90s.  Right now my goal is to make it through Wolf one way or another by this weekend, so we can potentially talk about the ending on the podcast.  We will of course warn people ahead of time before the spoilers start flying.

Hunting Malboros

ffxiv 2014-07-22 20-18-24-344

This is one of those moments when I really wish Hitbox.tv knew what “today” and “tomorrow” actually meant.  For the last several days they have said that they would have the export to youtube functionality back up and running today or tomorrow.  I realize they are a small company and this is a beta product, but at this point it is seriously making me consider going back to Twitch.  I don’t want to, but I also like having the ability to embed video recorded from the night before in my mornings blog post.  Complaining aside…  one of the things that I have been enjoying since coming back to FFXIV is the hunt system.  Each day you can go to a hunt board in your grand company offices and grab a new set of wanted posters.  They call them bills…  but “handbill” hasn’t really been used popularly in the United States in decades.

I love that the various wanted posters just list a bounty and a basic location for where the mob will spawn.  In general I can remember where in each zone that type of mob already exists, and usually the type you need is intermingled within the pack.  This system would totally be a quick enjoyable jaunt out into the world if it were not for the two FATE based encounters each day.  Here you are either super lucky or have to wait around for hours.  Last night I streamed a fairly boring stream, because it was me killing Malboros and Dark Sylphs while waiting on an apparently rare fate to spawn.  The positive is this is causing me to actually level my chocobo.  As of last night I dinged level 3 on it and made a goodly dent into 4.

The big thing I have noticing is it is super horrible about standing in stuff.  Like I had to do all sorts of crazy to try and position the Malboros in such a way as to not let the Daedalus (my chocobo) get breathed upon.  Hint… I am pretty horrible at this and probably went through a dozen gysahl greens during the course of the night resummoning him.  I find this game extremely relaxing compared to the spastic pace of Wildstar.  I have lots of love for that game, but just watching the world absolutely wears me out.  Coming back to FFXIV and its more sedate pace felt like crawling into a warm bed.  Granted the combat system is still interesting in that I am constantly having to move out of stuff while keeping up my combos, but it is far less button mashy since everything has a sizeable cool down.  In any case I am enjoying myself, and at some point I am going to get brave enough to do Duty Roulette for the big prizes.

#WolfensteinNewOrder #FFXIV

Fear of the Tonberry

Unexpected Enjoyment

ffxiv_07202014_212651 This weekend was an odd one, in that I had to devote pretty much all of Sunday to helping set up for the upcoming conference.  Since we recorded so late Saturday night, that meant that pretty much as soon as we finished with the podcast I crashed hard.  Normally I stay up that night and edit away on the podcast getting it posted round or about midnight generally speaking.  What this meant in practice is that my entire day was pushed by by a number of hours yesterday.  So by the time I had finished with that, played my SteamPowered Sunday title and knocked out yesterday mornings blog post… it was 11 pm.

At this point I struggled to find anything to settle into, in part because playing Frog Fractions was such a weird experience.  Before long my wife and I decided to go run some errands and get lunch.  By the time we made it back from that my day had pretty much dissipated.  When it came time to finally play something I settled into Final Fantasy XIV and quested my way through the daily hunt.  After finishing that I opted to work on my gladiator a bit, which meant trying to remember where the hell the optimal area for level 27 was.  It turns out that FATE running isn’t quite like it used to be.

Previously you would jump the gun 25-30 and go straight to Costa Del Sol.  The problem with this is that you no longer have the huge wandering mass of players needed to make an army of under level characters work in a zone.  As a side effect however FATEs have become far more enjoyable in that running across a zone to get to one is no longer an act of futility.  They are no longer up for a matter of seconds but instead feel like real epic battles with big monsters.  So for me at least this makes it a far more enjoyable prospect for leveling, in that I feel like I actually have to work to get my experience.  The single best addition to FFXIV though is the ability to have your Chocobo out to get it experience, and then turn around and mount it again when you are finished.  This instantly improved the enjoyment of the game for me ten fold by no longer having to make the choice of leveling my Chocobo, or moving at a snails pace.

Fear of the Tonberry

ffxiv_07202014_203225 Something interesting happened while I was sitting there playing Final Fantasy XIV.  One by one various friends opted to download the game or at the very least patch it back up, given that it was a free weekend.  Before we knew it we had the beginnings of a group.  Tam first started the idea of running a dungeon, and after I had fixed some dinner for my wife and I that is precisely what we did.  Sadly at this point Warenwolf had to leave because he gets up at a truly insane hour in the morning, this coming from someone who gets up every morning at 5:30 am.  We decided to roll the dice and pug in a fourth player to run Wanderers Palace.  This served two purposes, firstly Ashgar needed it for a grand company hunt log and secondly this is one of the easier max level dungeons.  We figured it was a good way to break us back into the game.

ffxiv_07202014_201342 Surprisingly it went really smoothly, with only one wipe happening… and that was in the not terribly surprising “rush to climb the tower” phase.  We had two things happening at the same time that proceeded to make it a difficult thing.  The first thing was the fact that for whatever reason myself and Tam were having some massive lag spikes, that even went so far as to cause him… our healer… to disconnect a few times.  Secondly I really did not remember how to bard.  The muscle reflexes came back instantly for playing a Warrior, since I spent most of my time in this game tanking, but Bard was a relatively new thing and while I had completed up through Hard Mode Ifrit as a bard…  it took me a bit to remember what exactly I should be rotating through attack wise.

During the course of this run is when we started to remember just how enjoyable the dungeon content is in FFXIV.  Of all of the games I have played over the last few years, I think I have enjoyed these dungeons the most.  They seem to be the absolute perfect blend of challenge and reward and are beautifully done.  I am sure we will remember why we all faded away from this game, but at the moment all we are able to do is remember just how much fun we had.  Ultimately where things will either click or fall apart is if we can manage to find enough things to do to level our alternate jobs.  That is the point at which I started to lose interest.  I leveled one job through questing, and the second job through FATE grinding… and at that point I felt like I had exhausted all of the ways to level in that game.

The thing is Square has been quietly plugging away on this game in the year we have been gone, and as a result there is a ton of new content.  I just hope I can find some mix of it that makes the leveling process enjoyable.  There seem to be a ton of quality of life changes, like being able to repair gear to past 100% durability without actually switching to the profession needed to repair it.  Also while you are out harvesting nodes you can get treasure maps, which open up a new minigame of trying to find the treasure.  They seem to have finally added in some Gold Fountains to counteract the Gold Sinks.  The daily hunts for example will earn you a grand total of 7,000 gil pending you do not spend too much of it teleporting across the world in search of the next mobs.  In any case there seems to be a way to finally earn some money, instead of constantly being broke.  I have a feeling I will be mostly leveling through dungeons, as the overall community of the game seems to have been massively improved.

Blaugust Update

Over the last few days I have received quite a bit of interest in this whole Blaugust thing.  However along with this has been quite a bit of confusion over what exactly I mean by a new post a day.  Since this is coming from the gaming blogosphere, many folks are assuming that I mean it has to be a gaming post.  Additionally there has been some discussion in exactly I consider a post.  Wilhelm for example keeps a photo blog updated, and he wondered if this classified as a daily post for the purpose of the contest.  Now if you wrote a couple of paragraphs about the image, then totally this is a post…  if it is simply a bunch of pictures, then no sadly I have to say it doesn’t qualify.  I figured I would post some ground rules today.  I will be expanding on these further on the Blaugust Anook since that is the official headquarters for this initiative.

The Topic

Since this is the biggest point of questions, I figured I would get it out of the way.  You can write about anything you want to write about.  You can diverge from gaming in any fashion you like, and your blog doesn’t even have to be gaming related.  Liore for example was talking about making a gaming foodie blog, and that would totally count for the purpose of this event.  The idea is to get you used to writing on a schedule, and not so much dictating what you are writing about.  Inspiration can be an extremely fickle thing, and if you want for it…  there end up being massive lapses in your posts.  The idea here is make you realize that you don’t need the muse to crank out interesting posts.  If you allow yourself to, your personality with inhabit the writing and inspiration will find you mid paragraph.

The Guidelines

  1. Write a New Blog Post no less than 10 sentences in length.
  2. Include a link back to the Blaugust Initiative page
  3. Advertise the post on the Blaugust blog – you will be given permissions to do this
  4. If you Advertise the post via twitter, please include #Blaugust hashtag
  5. Over the course of the month, repeat this 31 times.
  6. ????
  7. Profit!

The Rewards

I will be keeping track of who has posted a post each day during the course of August.  On September 1st I will be holding a drawing for several prize packages.  Firstly I hope you like games… and want to acquire more of them, because basically that is what is going to happen here.  Over the course of a few years of the Humble Bundle series, I have accumulated a bunch of duplicate keys.  I can think of no better way to give away some of these, than to reward the hard work of participating in a challenge such as this.

– Grand Prize

I hope you follow me on Steam, because I will be picking a game off your Steam Wishlist and purchasing it for you.  In addition to this I will be letting you pick a game from my Humble Bundle surplus list as well.  For this prize specifically I will be looking for someone who has actually posted a post each individual day, rather than someone who has posted 31 posts in the month.  This prize should represent the truest form of the challenge.

– Three Also-Awesomes

Additionally I will be picking three individuals at random from the total pool of contestants to win the “Also-Awesome” award.  To quality for this you have to have started your posting on August 1st, and written a total of 31 posts over the course of the month.  I will be having these folks in order drawn pick 2 games a piece from my Humble Bundle surplus list.  I am varying the requirements here a bit, to allow someone to have missed a day here or there but posted a catch-up post to still be in the running for something.

– The Catch-Up Artist

Anyone who joins the initiative late, is going to be in the running for this one.  To quality you have to have joined after August 1st, but managed to catch up and still write a total of 31 posts in the month.  You an procrastinate however long you like, but I am expecting 31 well formed posts to get this one.  After the above prizes have been picked from my Humble Bundle surplus list, the winner of this prize gets to nab one of the games for themselves as well.  I promise the surplus list is big enough to support all of these people… and still allow them quite a bit of variety in the choices.

– All Participants

I will be crafting some sidebar badges and banners that can be affixed to your website showing the world that you won the Blaugust challenge.  Additionally you will be able to bask in the warm afterglow of knowing you accomplished something awesome.  Depending on the number of participants I reserve the right to make up a bunch of other awards along the way.

The Sign-up

While there has been quite a bit of interest, only a handful of you have actually joined the Blaugust nook.  For ease of maintenance on my part, I would really appreciate it if you all went out there and clicked the Join button.  This and the whole advertising on the nooks blog thing is going to help me account for all of the posts, and also turn around and advertise them myself easier.  I am trying to make this work but at the same time not make August a hellacious month for me.  I appreciate the desire to participate, and I appreciate everything you are doing to make my life easier as well.  As I said before I will be posting some prompts before the start of the initiative.  Right now I am shooting for 60, but that number might change.  I look forward to reading all of your entries during the month!

Follow the Shiny Bauble

Too Many Things

So for whatever reason this weekend has conspired to have a bajillion competing things happening at once it seems.  Firstly this weekend is like the prep weekend for the conference that I will be taking off from work next week to help my wife with.  Three years ago her and several of her twitter buddies decided to make a conference appear out of thin air, and this year it is being hosted here in the Tulsa metro.  As a result I am being a dutiful husband and helping out however I can.  That means today I will be moving things and testing out the various technology in each of the classrooms that will eventually host random speakers.

Right now my only fear is that the systems are designed to be hooked up to a VGA out and 3.5 mm jack.  Some of the newer laptops only actually have HDMI out…  especially the Mac laptops.  So here is hoping those people bring their own hookups because otherwise we might be pantomiming some of the power point presentations.  Needless to say my entire day today will be spent running around like a madman trying to get things set up as much as we can.  The problem is there are lots of other things going on this weekend.  Honestly I think game companies do this shit on purpose…  where they should time their events to be on opposite weekends as a thank you to the fans.

Destiny Beta

Destiny Beta_20140719081821 This weekend is the return of Destiny to my PS4.  I wish I could embed some video from my play sessions to date, but alas the Hitbox export to Youtube is still on the fritz and I have not figured out how to embed videos directly.  But if you are so inclined you can check out the first and second videos.  At some point this weekend I want to record some more footage in the hopes that someday I can upload it somewhere meaningful.  The second video is especially hilarious because I did not realize that it was picking up teamspeak while I recorded as well as my PS4 chat.  However once again it seems like the PS4 only picks up MY side of the conversation even though I am picking it up from an external capture card.  I really wish I knew a way to hang out on teamspeak, but have my voice from teamspeak get transferred as mic input to PS4 party chat.  I have some ideas but it involves a massive rube goldbergian effort.

Destiny Beta_20140719082406 I have to say I still very much love this game, and compared to the Alpha weekend… it seems extremely polished now.  A lot of the issues with voice acting are gone and the end product feels really good.  Similarly I seem to get items that are way over my level a lot less, so I am actually able to use and equip the various ingrams I find.  Ingrams for un-initiative are basically like unidentified loot from Diablo or similar games.  You get them while out in the field and you have to take them back to town… or in this case Tower to have a scribe identify them for you.  Most of the time the items you get are way better than anything you have access at that level, and they often have the side effect of “leveling up”.  When an item reaches a certain point they unlock special abilities that you can purchase on the item.  I have a pair of gloves for example that greatly increases the striking power of my grenades.

Destiny Beta_20140719082201 Everything about this game is awesome if you really want to get down to it.  You take a really good shooter, probably one of the best I have played in years and wrap it in a warm blanket of MMO style progression… and you have a game that is right in my wheelhouse.  My only question is just how many of the traditional Call of Duty/Battlefield crowd will be jumping ship.  I really don’t feel like the game is for that demographic, but instead for the players that absolutely love Borderlands 2.  While the loot doesn’t drop quite as frequently as it does in BL2, all of the leveling options feel really good.  The one thing I wished from BL2 was that I would have a persistent character that existed on the server, instead of one that existed in my local save game, with all of the things that come along with that.  Destiny gives me that, and I really think we are looking at the new model for MMO gaming.  Player Interaction light, action oriented co-operative and competitive environments.  That is not to say that grouping is not key in Destiny, but it is on a scale that is much more casual friendly in that you only need two other people to really tackle the most intense of situations.

Destiny Beta_20140719081907 Once again I am playing a Titan, because it fits my personality.  I want to be able to rush in, gun things down and throw them the hell back with a shockwave.  I don’t remember the name of the attack but you get it around level 5 or 6 and it is executed by pressing left and right shoulder buttons at the same time.  There are few more satisfying things in a game than jumping up in the air and watching everything fly away from you in brilliant slow motion ragdoll physics.  This class makes me feel powerful and mighty, and about as subtle as a nuke.  All of which fit me perfectly in how I like to play.  Kodra was playing through Wolfenstein last night… and to make a point Tam asked if I could remember what the crouch button was.  Kodra immediately chimed in “you mean the most important button?” and I was like “Nope! I have no clue what crouch is… I just baited the enemies to come attack me in the open and gunned them down.”  Subtlety feels like a complete waste of time when you could just kill every last thing that moves.

An Old Friend

ffxiv 2014-07-19 08-45-57-846 Another thing going on this weekend that is fighting for my attention is that they are having a free weekend for Final Fantasy XIV ARR.  For whatever reason lately I have been missing the game, and I feel like it is one of those games that I parted on good terms with.  I simply ran out of things that I wanted to do.  Right now the biggest problem I have with the game is that the people I know that are still playing it… are spread out in various tiny puddles scattered across a long list of servers.  When I first connected to the game it had me choose my Data Center, which temporarily gave me some hope that they had done something to consolidate the long list.  Apparently that is not the case and each server is still its own little island as far as grouping and guilding, but instead the Data Centers serve the purpose of the Battle Groups in World of Warcraft.  They are essentially your pool of players for doing anything that requires a group.

ffxiv 2014-07-19 08-46-45-762 The game is just as enjoyable as it ever was.  The hardest thing so far was remembering where the hell I kept my abilities and getting my hotbar back in order.  I think I got most everything to a place where my fingers can return to muscle memory for hitting.  I am sure a few things are out of place but the key combos that I hit constantly are all in the right places.  The main thing I did last night was participate in a hunt, which is a kind of daily event that appeared in a patch while I was out.  Basically each day you got to a hunt NPC and they give you this card… which is a physical item in your inventory with a bunch of wanted posters for the day.  These involve wandering around the world and killing specific mobs that appear in specific places.  The first three were pretty easy, and then the tedium set in for the last two.  Apparently these mobs were part of rarely occurring FATEs so I had to just sit around waiting for it to spawn.  For the most part it wasn’t too bad except one of them occurred in a level 3 area…  so I couldn’t even work on leveling my chocobo while I waited.  I am not sure if there is enough here to keep me for very long, but I am enjoying playing for the time being.

The Path Not Taken

archeage 2014-05-08 22-34-42-478 Another big thing happening this weekend is the beginning of ArcheAge closed beta.  Up until this point there were only two ways to get into Alpha testing.  Either you had to know someone like I did, or plunk down your $150 and buy the most expensive founders pack.  This weekends the floodgates have opened letting everyone in that has bought even the cheapest of founders packs.  The problem is I feel like I have been burned by my experiences in Alpha.  The community was so heinous and toxic that I just don’t want to have anything to do with it.  At this point Glyph is running in the background right now downloading the 21 gig patch that is needed to get it up and running in closed beta, but that said I am not sure if I will play it much.  There are a lot of problems I have with the game, not all of which can be improved.

I still have a fundamental problem with the character design.  While I managed to find one I could live with, I am still not terribly happy with it and the lack of “real” beards in most Korean games.  I do want to give it a try to see if letting in all of the closed beta players may have fixed some of the problems with the community.  One of two things is going to happen… either the super toxic voices are going to be drowned out in the sea of not so horrible…  or they will adapt to the “young eating” culture that is the Alpha game.  I know Trion is working hard on trying to find ways to moderate the toxicity, but I am just not sure if it will be enough for me.  At the end of the day I am a huge carebear and want to spend my time collaborating with other players… and not competing with them.

Follow the Shiny Bauble

The thing that frustrates me the most about this weekend and weekends like it when it seems like every single company is fighting to steer the hype train, is that it trains us to be flighty.  I feel like what is happening right now is that each of these companies is trying to fight for front page presence against any news that might be coming out of QuakeCon.  The problem is…  your player base is nowhere near as loyal as you might want them to be.  By constantly dangling shiny baubles in front of our faces… all it really does is train us to constantly be on the look out for the next shiny bauble.  So many weeks when it comes to gaming I feel like the James Woods character from Family Guy “Oooh a piece of candy”.  Ultimately I feel like the constant vying for our attention is only serving to make us less interested in staying any one place for terribly long.

Look at me for example… I already play a long list of games with no real signs of landing in any one place for terribly long.  This weekend I am looking at playing three more games that I was not really playing before.  But I didn’t start out this way, because I played Everquest for 3 years, Dark Age of Camelot for 3 years, and then World of Warcraft for a solid 7 years before the launch of Rift and the beginning of my rampant nomad phase.  Now I just follow whatever happens to suit my mood, and as a result I am popping between games on a weekly basis.  I feel like in part I was trained to be this way by the game industry constantly dangling an every tastier steak in front of me.  So I feel like stacking all of these events on the same weekend is just the highly of how frenetic things have gotten.  I decided long ago that life was too short to be playing something I was not enjoying, so I doubt I will be changing my nomadic ways any time soon…  but folks have to stop and thing that the constant fight over the hype cycle is only serving to make more people nomadic in the process.

#Destiny #FFXIV #ArcheAge

ArcheAge Impressions

Peach Fuzz and Pretty Boys

ARCHEAGE 2014-05-08 11-36-43-71 As I said yesterday, a friend of mine hooked me up with access to ArcheAge alpha and throughout the day it downloaded and installed.  I came home over lunch to take a breathing treatment, and when I got there it was ready and waiting for me.  I didn’t get much time to play at that point, but I did manage to create a character.  I have to say at this point my hopes were a bit dashed.  I generally have a problem with the Asian and specifically Korean graphical style, in trying to create a character I really liked.  I had this problem with Aion, GW2, and to some extent Rift.  It very difficult in these style of games to create any form of a male that is not a “pretty boy”.  I went into FFXIV with the same fears but found myself pleasantly surprised that I could create a character aligned to western ideals with a very nice beard and everything.

ArcheAge unfortunately… this was not the case.  They have beard options but essentially they were choices between “Five O’clock Shadow”, “Peach Fuzz” and “Well Trimmed Peach Fuzz”.  There was not a single “real” beard option available.  This is a little bit disappointing considering from everything I have heard there are some massive configuration options available for the female models.  So Trion if you are reading…  not sure if this is something you can do but both ArcheAge and Rift for that matter need better beards for the human models.  The above character is as “close” to the standard Belghast appearance as I could get out of the system.  I can live with it, but I am not exceptionally happy about it.  I feel like my choices were as good as possible with the system.

Solid Combat

archeage 2014-05-08 21-09-30-888 Complaining about the character models aside, the game feels very good once you actually get into it.  The first several levels are the same as every fantasy MMO with a series of punctuation leading you around the map and showing you the things you should do.  Right now the experience feels a little disjointed since you are supposed to be getting treated to nice cutscenes… that happen to all be in Korean.  This also causes some odd shit to happen… at one point last night a rock on the ground was speaking korean to me… and I never quite figured out what was happening there.  It was some sort of a tutorial system, and I ended up disabling.  The world feels good, and combat feels responsive for standard MMO fare hotbar combat.

I chose to go “BattleRage” for my initial tree and it is pretty much standard warrior fare.  At level five I was able to pick a second tree, and I went for Defense… which is as you would expect the archetypal “tank” tree.  At that point I had a kit that included a ranged pull, a charge, a multi modal combat attack that could hit multiple targets and a really powerful long cooldown shield bash.  That is a pretty great start for any game that only a few levels in I feel like I have a complete enough kit to absolutely run wild with.  At level ten I was able to pick up my third tree, which I went Occultism with.  Basically this is the “Dark Knight” build from the Korean version, or as it is called here “Doomlord”.

ARCHEAGE 2014-05-08 19-34-56-27 My ultimate plan is to try and create a Shadowknight like tanky character with life drains to and maybe a cool summon or two.  Right now I have this really awesome attack called “Hell Spear” that impales every mob within a radius around me on a fiery spear that comes up from the ground.  They are rooted and take damage when it fades.  This honestly is one of the aspects of the game that most appeals to me, that I can build pretty freeform classes.  While it is zero shock that I ended up trying to create a Dark Knight given my love of Shadowknights and Deathknights…  I am happy that I am in fact able to craft it however the hell I want to.  Looking at the trees it looks like I will be able to build a tank with a charge and a deathgrip type yank ability, which should give me a pretty solid kit for tanking instances… if those even exist here.

Rift and FFXIV Had a Child

archeage 2014-05-08 23-11-41-738 One big take away from last night is that the world is gorgeous.  Not everything is amazing… and there are plenty of generic fields and forested nooks to explore.  However every now and then you are just awestruck by how breathtaking a vista is.  Overall like the subtitle says the game feels as though Rift and FFXIV had a child… and then spent time raising it with LoTRO and even an odd Warhammer Online feel to some of the quests.  That description will either make you think “man that sounds great” or like some of my friends cause you to affix a firm “NOPE!” sticker to it and move on.  I happen to like the mix and this is probably going to be my new “off night” game.  I still plan on playing the shit out of Elder Scrolls Online, but this game is probably going to fill that space that SWTOR has recently been filling.  The game world has plenty of downtime, so it doesn’t feel like I have to be “constantly on” like it does in ESO.

Granted all of this might change as I move out of the more themepark areas into the more serious sandbox ones.  At some point soon I will be turning off most of the channels.  I would say already it has one of the worst communities I have seen in a game.  At one point I was given a quest where I had to cross a bay on a shitty rowboat.  The folks with huge ships took a perverse sense of pleasure ramming into me and trying to capsize my boat as I moved across the bay.  Granted they could not actually attack me, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t make my life hell for a few minutes.  This “griefer spirit” seems to be infused with the game community so far, and ultimately will probably be the biggest problem I have with it.  If you look at most of the streamers, they seem to be almost entirely devoted to ruining someone’s day.  Although if you want to watch some streams that are not blatant griefing and high seas piracy… I highly suggest Kiwidream or IRLJasmine.

Systems Within Systems

ARCHEAGE 2014-05-08 20-16-55-61 That is the oddest thing about this game honestly, is that it can be so many different games to so many different people.  From my limited experience so far it is very much a straight forward themepark style game.  However after watching lots of streams on the game, I can see just how detailed the various systems are.  You could in theory live your entire life in game as a crafter, doing nothing but running trade deliveries and crafting goods for sale.  You could spend your time raising crops, or animals, or doing nothing but building really awesome houses for people.  However you can also spend your time adventuring or as the community seems to be doing… griefing other players.  Wading into this game is much like wading into Everquest 2 at this point.  There are just a ridiculous amount of systems to try and figure out, and even though the game gives you a summary introduction to each…  the depth there is almost staggering.

I still stand by my statement on the MMOPRG Game On podcast… I feel like this is going to be the game that has finally arrived for the Star Wars Galaxy player.  One of the hallmarks of that title, was that so many different play styles were embraced and supported.  ArcheAge so far feels like a spiritual successor, but with a really good combat system.  I’m sorry to the SWG fans out there, but combat in that game felt horrible, even compared to what was available in Dark Age of Camelot at the time.  What it had going for it however was all the open world goodness and player created content, and I feel like even with the seemingly asshole community…  there might be a place to carve out a niche among the lawless.  I know they are targeting free to play for this game, but it almost makes me hope that there might be a “patron only” server.  I feel like a game with this much potential to ruin your day, needs a more curated environment.

Final Thoughts

archeage 2014-05-08 22-38-21-246  I am starting to get used to the character especially now that I am starting to shift away from leather armor into plate gear.  I feel like there will be a point where I actually enjoy playing the character and the way it looks.  As far as the world goes… while it does not inspire me yet to go absolutely batshit crazy with the exploration like Elder Scrolls Online does… I figure as it opens up I will start to feel that way.  Right now I am most concerned with staying on the path, since I don’t know where the free for all boundaries are.  I want zero part in the pvp aspects of the game, so I will be doing my best to avoid them.  I really like the way combat feels, the animations are nice and the abilities while essentially spamming hotkeys… feels good.  I feel like it gives any wow-like combat system a run for its money.  It is not extremely deep, but what is there is enjoyable.  I feel as I keep unlocking skill points and subsequently new abilities it will keep feeling more “fleshed out”.  While I do not feel like abandoning all other games and declaring ArcheAge the one true king… I enjoyed myself enough to keep playing periodically and see where the journey leads me.  There is a lot to like in this game, and I feel as it progresses, that will increase.

#ArcheAge

2013 Retrospective

Grand Experiment in Review

2012 was an extremely horrible year for me and at least professionally I would rank it as quite possibly the worst year I have ever had.  I would put it as worse than the year I was out of work for six months after the dotcom crash.  On September 11th 2012 my company suffered what they thought was a network attack, that only later the security guy pulled his head out of his ass and realized it was a regularly scheduled security scan… that he himself authorized.  The results of this was a massive overreaction that caused me and my team to spend the rest of the year and a good chunk of the beginning of this year rebuilding damned near everything that touched the web.  Why did we have to do this?  Because they quite literally pulled the servers out of the racks and sent them to the FBI, leaving us next to nothing to work off of.

So next to that year, this year has seemed like an absolute dream.  However it has been more than that for me.  2013 has been a year of personal growth and exploring new things.  In April when I finally pulled my head above water after the “faux” security incident, I really wanted to make a break back into blogging.  I fell off of the planet shortly after the security event and simply could not bring myself to write about anything.  Coming back I devised what I called a “grand experiment”, namely to blog each and every day even if I didn’t think I had much to write about.  At this point there are 237 posts categorized as “The Grand Experiment”, and without fail I have blogged every day even when it was a struggle to do so.

Has the experiment worked?  Well functionally yes I have managed to blog every day, but more importantly has it provided an interesting stream of content?  Quite honestly I don’t know.  Most of the time I feel like I am a little kid writing to a make believe audience.  When I talk to someone who mentions something I have written… I am always shocked.  I feel like no one actually reads my stuff, that I am mostly just writing it for my own benefit.  People seem to enjoy what I write, and I have a regular stream of readers… but I will never have the type of audience that the bigger bloggers have.  I am just too rough around the edges for that sort of thing.  For the most part I am happy with the results of a year of blogging and my long-term goal is to make it at least one full year of posts without pause.  That of course will be up April 26th of 2014, which seems like it is far in the future right now.  However I don’t see myself losing steam at any point soon.

A Healthier Me

Another big change in my life over the course of 2013 is that I am considerably lighter.  In March my wife and I began to shift the way we relate to food.  I say it in terms like that because really we have completely changed our relationship to food as a whole.  To say we went on a diet doesn’t really encompass the level of change.  Diets are about the short term, but we wanted to make permanent and long-term changes in the way we ate.  Namely we focused on trying to find a new and sustainable way to live.  At this point I am 70 lbs smaller and have hit a bit of a plateau over the last month.  However the fact that I survived both Thanksgiving and Christmas without breaking that plateau makes me happy enough.

My wife on the other hand continues to lose at a steady pace and is now down roughly 60 lbs.  At some point I need to get super serious again, as I have become lax of late.  However the current weight seems to be a place I can comfortable stay without any real intervention.  I have reached my goal and it is time for me in this new year to refocus myself and set a new one.  I will never be a small man, I come from a long line of really big people.  I am however happy enough being able to say I am a “smaller” man.  The thing I was not expecting to be honest were the health benefits.  As a whole I am far healthier than I was a year ago, and the primary benefit is that my Asthma that I have struggled with my entire life… and have even been hospitalized for… is really a mere nuisance these days.  I can go months on a single inhailer, and that is not a thing I have ever been able to do in my life.

Professional Growth

In the last year I have grown more into the role of the manager of my group.  I have learned to delegate more, which is something I have always struggled with in my life.  I was good at accepting assignments, but never very good at passing them on to my troops, instead trying to take them all on myself.  My team is pretty amazing and I would be lost without them.  I guess in some small way I have learned to have more faith in them, and trust that they will do as much diligence with an assignment as I would have.  As a result I have shifted more into the architect role for my group and part-time project manager and full-time traffic cop.  Making sure all of the assignments are going to the right places and all seeing at least some progress.

We usually have 50-60 active projects for a team of three people.  So it involves lots of juggling.  Various forces in my company want me to move up into a permanent management position.  However I simply do not want to distances myself from the “real work” enough to take them.  Additionally right now I am responsible for three extremely highly functional people, and I don’t think I  could cope with being put over less functional people that I would some how have to whip into shape.  I am not really great with confrontations, and as a result I think I would flounder.  Either that or it would be similar to me as a raid leader, and I would turn into a real asshole.  For the time being I think I am happy with where I am and what I am doing.

I Wrote A Novel

One of the things I have always wanted to do in my life was to write a novel.  I made several false attempts at various times over the years but never could seem to push myself to do it.  This November I joined the NaNoWriMo event, and over the course of the month knocked out my first novel.  I have no idea if it is actually any good, because honestly I have not even read it since finishing it up.  I plan in the new year to tear it asunder as I edit it, and fix any issues.  However regardless if it completely sucks, I have accomplished a goal.  I managed to write a novel, and that is a thing most people can’t say about themselves.  I didn’t do it to get famous, or be published, I did it mostly just to prove to myself that I could.

The weird thing about it is, November seems like a lifetime ago.  The whole concept of writing 1500 words per night was just absolutely draining.  My entire life revolved around that novel for those thirty days, which is honestly longer than I have stuck with anything like that in my life.  More than anything I feel like it was a venue of personal growth.  I did a thing I never thought I could, and I did so in a methodical way in which it felt like success was assured from the moment I started.  Sure I faltered a few times along the way, and there were a few days I didn’t write a blessed thing.  However I kept moving forward towards the eventual 50,000 word count goal and I achieved it.  I think more than anything I am proud of this accomplishment from 2013.

A Year of Gaming

This is a gaming blog afterall, so during 2013 I played a lot of games.  I played way more games than I can ever manage to remember, but I will try and run down a few of the big ones.  The list of major titles is as follows.

Oddly enough I am beginning this new year not entirely differently than I began the last year.  January 2013 I was still involved in the launch of Mists of Pandaria, and it was not until April that I really began to distance myself from that game entirely.  World of Warcraft and I have this love/hate relationship.  I get frustrated with it so much, because it seems that they always seem to take the most short sighted solutions to problems, and there are so many games that there that do various things it does…. so much better.  However as a total package I feel like the game is unbeatable.  It offers the most good things in one package.  The realization for me however after my 2+ years of absence from being serious about the game is that it is not about the game at all.  World of Warcraft is about the people playing it, and I had missed the ragtag group of people known as House Stalwart immensely.

The game I probably played the most often during the year however was Rift.  I want to love rift so badly, the promise of the game is really great.  The problem is it just lacks something that I can’t quite put my finger on.  It is a technically superior game in every aspect, but it is like it lacks a cohesive narrative that makes me care about the world every single day.  The dragons were a thing I thought I  could get behind.  But now that we have systematically killed each of them off, I cannot say in a single sentence what the world of Rift is.  I think that might be the problem, there is no one clear narrative to the game.  You cannot say “this game is” and have even half of the people agree on it.  I still play it occasionally and there is still an incarnation of House Stalwart there that Psynister and Fynralyl are keeping alive.  I thank them so much for being there, but I just can’t seem to care about the game right now.  I am sure at some point I will again.

Final Fantasy was another major force for the year.  This was a game I never intended to like because really I feel like me and Japanese RPGs had a messy divorce quite some time ago.  I had a group of friends actively wanting to play it, so against my better judgment I went along for the ride.  What I found however was a really well crafted narrative and dungeon experience.  If I could have kept experiencing new bits of immersive content, I would have likely stuck around.  However once you reached the end of the game, it was exactly that…  the end.  All paths lead to massive amount of grinding, and for whatever reason… while I can stomach grinding all day long in World of Warcraft… I could not stomach the particular FFXIV brand of grinding.  Namely I blame this on the overall lack of meaninful drops in the game.  If I have a chance of getting something cool while killing mobes, no matter how remote the chance… it feels exciting to me each time I open a loot window.  There was nothing that could drop from mobs in the world that I would ever care about.  Additionally gearing up to get to a point where we could raid, was just not a bridge I was willing to cross.

Games for 2014

There has been a game I have been in super secret closed door testing since February.  I cannot name the game by name, but I have to say I am still extremely excited about it even after most of a year testing it.  I have watched the game grow from something that felt polished to something that really is amazingly rich and polished.  I don’t think I will quit WoW this time for another game, because I have set down some pretty solid roots there again.  However I know I will also be playing this game, at the very least two to three nights a week.  It is probably the least wow-like game I have played in a long while, and because of that I feel like there is room in my heart for both games to have a unique space.

Past that I am really not certain what 2014 will hold.  I know that I am not really interested enough to purchase a PS4 or an XBox One, so I think I will be exiting the console mainstream once again.  I am mostly a PC gamer to be honest, and since my gameloft has been taken over by my wife I am okay with not having access to the consoles.  More than anything I am looking forward to the various stores beginning to liquidate their stocks of PS3 and XBox 360 games, so I can pick up the titles I always wanted to play but didn’t have the desire to pay for.  Additionally there are still a lot of things on the DS/3DS that I want to play, and I am looking forward to picking up the newest Zelda game.  I am sure there will be a number of surprises along the way, games that catch my fancy enough to deserve lots of blog posts.

I hope that 2014 will be as positive force in my life as 2013 has been.  Additionally I hope each and every one of you out there can say the same.  My friend @AlternativeChat has declared 2014 the “Year of Faff”, and I am down with this notion.  I think we all need to learn how to faff about in the game worlds we are in, because stopping and smelling the roses is the only real way I know to break the cycle of burnout.  I have tried my best to embrace this concept, and hope to continue to do so in the year to come.  More than anything, I feel like I am sick of jumping games every three months, and I get the sense that the gaming world as a whole is somewhat sick of that as well.  I hope we can each embrace our own faff, whatever that might mean.