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.

Social Justice

Happy Holidays?

Yesterday was a mixed bag, I am not going to get into the awkwardness that was Christmas with my family.  I should have taken a picture of the gallon jug of holy water that my grandmother for some reason seems to think she needs, however I did not as it would have been too obvious.  Suffice to say it was fine while it was just my parents and grandmother, but once people started showing up the fight or flight instinct kicked in and I had to get out of there.  We stayed long enough to be socially acceptable, or at least long enough to see everyone and then got back on the road.  I really don’t deal with large groups of people in confined spaces very well.

When I finally got home that night I went back to my LFR madness.  I really would have thought that the holidays would have made people better natured, but instead it seemed like only the worst people were running dungeons.  I guess it makes sense, as most of the “good” people probably have families and such that they would rather be spending time with.  The highlight of the evening, as far as horrible goes came when my Downfall group finally got to Garrosh.  We had a few people drop like usual, and one of the warriors  that joined in immediately started moaning that he had waited in queue for an hour and missed the entire dungeon.

Instead of doing the right thing, and just dropping group and taking the deserter debuff…  he proceeded to pull Garrosh while we were still getting prepared screaming “For Mother Russia”.  Obviously his ploy was to get us to kick him which doesn’t cause the debuff to happen.  He was running across the screen just about to aggro him again when the kick happened saving the day.  The problem is…  there needs to be a better way of managing this.  The systems in place don’t give us a way to flag this guy letting other people know that he will likely screw their group over if things don’t go his way.

Social Justice

TribunalCase League of Legends has had in the past the most notoriously toxic community in online gaming.  As a result they knew that this was ultimately hurting their product and keeping players from participating on a deep level with it.  Instead of sitting back and saying “pugs will be pugs” they took matters into their own hands and tried to devise a way of dealing with this.  As a result they created two systems that work hand in hand.  The honor system allows players to provide “endorsements” that are positive, such as Teamwork, Friendly, Knowledgeable, and at the same time provide a venue for reporting bad behavior.  When a player has received enough negative reports they go into another system called the Tribunal.

One of the problems with social reporting is that there is a sea of false positives and downright minor infractions that clog the customer support staff.  As a result the Tribunal system is innovative in that it brings each case before a jury of “peers” aka other players who have signed up to be willing to sit on these peer based juries.  You can view all of the results on the public Tribunal page if you are logged into your league account.  The image on the right side is an example of a tribunal ruling.  Of course warnings for language should apply as it states exactly what the player said during the match to warrant being reported.

Be Proactive Blizzard

These systems really do seem to work out in the wild, in fact with the big 2.1 patch in Final Fantasy XIV Squaresoft introduced a very similar endorsement system with some big rewards that can be gained through this positive behavior.  In the past there were unofficial systems on the servers that permanently labeled disruptive players as pariahs from the social circles.  There was a time where you could look at the guild a player was in and have a fair shot at gauging whether or not the player would be a positive influence on your group.  Additionally just talking to a player for a moment before inviting them to fill a group gave you a good idea of their future behavior.  When Blizzard introduced systems to automate these processes it completely removed the element of social ramifications, and such the “greater internet fuckwad theory” came true.

When it is perceived that there are no consequences for bad actions… players tend to behave worse.  Sure there are awesome people out there that are awesome all the time regardless of who is looking… but that is quite simply not the majority of people.  These systems work to bring a tally of someone’s misdeeds to bear each time they step into a group.  The guy who wiped the LFR because he didn’t want to be there… would bring with him a black mark from each and every player that flagged him for doing what he did.  I feel like blizzard does an excellent job of policing and banning players who are actively exploiting the game. 

However it is quite literally against their best interest to ban players who are paying them a monthly subscription.  Each time they ban one of these players they lose his money, and over time it adds up.  What systems like the tribunal do is introduce a neutral third party, the player.  The tribunal works because no only does it hold players accountable for their actions, but it also holds the players who are making these decisions accountable.  Every decision that is made, and the players who participated in making it is posted publicly for the world to see.  Since this relies on the players justice is usually far more swift than waiting for customer service to sift through their backlog of cases and deal with it.  It is my hopes that with the rollout of Warlords of Draenor, they will investigate a system like this, and hopefully make it applicable to ALL battle.net games..

Richer Than You Think

A Patch Awoken

Monday evening the Final Fantasy XIV servers were down to deliver the brand new 2.1 patch.  This is the one that everyone had been waiting for, that was supposed to deliver a ton of new content.  At one point I was anxiously looking forward to this update, because it held the promise of player housing as well as new dungeons to run to collect what we lovingly refer to as “bookrocks” aka Tomestones.  Now that the patch is live, I find that I can’t seem to be bothered to actually patch the game up.  Tuesday and Wednesday night I spent a bit of time hanging out in mumble with my friends who are still playing it, and they seem extremely excited about it overall.  The video below shows all the reported changes, and I will admit it seems pretty staggering.

 

However several of these things seemed to be tarnished by somewhat bad design.  The biggest of these that I have heard of is the housing system.  Currently it is oppressively expensive,  the day it was released I saw a tweet (that I seem to be unable to find at this moment) stating that they gained the first million gil towards their house… only 99 more to go.  That apparently is cheap… here is a listing of the housing prices on the various servers.  We are in group three, on Cactuar so right now it would cost 125 million gil to purchase the largest home… aka the one suitable for a guild house.  Considering prior to 2.1 there really was no way to make money at 50 other than crafting…  this seems insane.  The highest I have ever gotten with my character was 200,000 gil, and repair bills and components for my artifact weapon whittled that down to around 75,000 gil the last I checked in on the game.

Supposedly they have added in a bunch of new ways to earn money, which I guess is a positive.  However it does seem silly to roll out such an expansive and impressive system…  that no one can actually use on day one.  Supposedly over time the housing prices will fall, but that still puts the large house at 100 million gil at the absolute cheapest possible price.  Listening to my friends, they seem to be enjoying the new content.  The new dungeon Pharos Sirius seems to be genuinely difficult and to the best of my knowledge they have not beat the final encounter.  That was one of the interesting things about FFXIV dungeons, is that they had a 2 hour timer to get through them.  I feel like I should be excited about the prospects of the patch, but I just fine myself not caring at all.  Whatever magic I felt towards FFXIV seems to be gone for me, in the same way it has flickered away for so many other games.

Richer Than You Think

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This morning I achieved a personal goal… too bad it comes 2 expansions too late to be terribly impressive.  I have never been extremely successful at making money in MMOs.  I guess in the grand scheme of things it just has never really been a priority.  As a result I have always thought that I was broke, or at did not have a ton of liquid assets in game.  While I am still not anywhere near some of my guild members, I am was apparently doing better than I ever thought.  Awhile back I installed Titan Panel again, to help organize a lot of my informational gadgets in one place.  In trying to keep track where I was with all of my tokens I installed a Currency addon.  Interesting thing about it… is that it started to keep track of all of the money spread across all of my characters.

As of last night it showed that I had 25,000 gold distributed among all of my alts… five of which are 90 and in various stages of “raid ready”.  No character had more than 5,000 gold on them specifically, but spread out among all of the characters it added up.  Because of this I decided to realize something that had long been a goal for me.  With Wrath of the Lich king they added what has been ubiquitously referred to as the “Repair Mount”.  Since I do a lot of random killing out in the world, and solo farming of dungeons/raids… I find myself constantly searching for a repair vendor.  So many times I have thought to myself “man it would be awesome to have that mount”, but even with faction and guild discounts it was still 14,000 gold… which seemed like an insane amount.

I never would have purchased this back in the days before account-wide mounts… but the idea that I just gave every single alt the ability to repair whenever they hell they felt like it?  Sure 14,000 seemed like a reasonable price, especially considering I have branched out onto a second account of characters.  So this morning before sitting down to write my blog entry I shifted back and forth between all of my characters and began pooling my money on Belgrave to make the purchase.  I knew for certain he was exalted with Kirin Tor, the faction the mount vendor is sold on.  I have to say… I am freaked out a little that I just spent all that gold on a single mount, but within a few days that will pass and I will be happy with my decision.  There really is very little I want to purchase in the game at this point that my army of alt crafters cannot eventually make.  So I figure thanks to the mount I will be able to farm up more goodies to fill the coffers again.

Lucky Streak

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Most of the yesterday evening I spent working my way through Siege of Orgrimmar.  The first section of the dungeon went extremely smoothly and the loot gods seemed to be smiling upon me.  I managed to get a usable drop off three of the four bosses there.  Of course the first drop of the evening was a neckpiece… after purchasing the one with honor last night.  That seems like it is always the way however… when you upgrade a piece, you end up getting a better one almost instantly.  The second part of Siege however went extremely slowly as I had to complete it in two passes.  I was on the second boss of the first pass when my wife came home last night and needed my assistance.  After killing Iron Juggernaut I bailed from the LFR and did what she needed for a bit.

After coming back that meant sitting through another 30-60 minute queue and repeating the first two encounters without loot.  However that second run went far more smoothly than the first, and we had no wipes at all until folks lost focus during the Nazgrim fight.  That is not the type of fight that you can “burn down at the end”, since the not dealing with the adds means he very rapidly heals back all of the damage you are dealing to him.  During the second attempt however, folks stayed focused on the adds and we managed to defeat him in near record time.  My hope is tonight to come back and finish out the last two parts.  At 11pm I attempted to queue for the third, and it looked like roughly an hour queue so I gave up and went to bed.  Still no love for a weapon, but this next segment has the chance of dropping a weapon I believe.  So between it and my nightly habit of running a Heroic Scenario… I might have a chance.

Pre-Endgame Game

Limited Time Stuff

First off I guess let me open todays post with a complaint.  I really had nothing much to talk about as I sat down at the keyboard, so I did what I normally do and sifted through my RSS feed.  I spent most of yesterday super busy and really did not have time to read anything much.  One of the first posts was over on Rift Junkies talking about how apparently there was a new mount available for only four hours on the Rift store.  They are apparently calling this unstable artifacts, which is a clever excuse to make something super limited that costs a hell of a lot on the store.

I am not against the 2700 credit price tag, but I am against the concept of limited time items.  I hate when something goes into game only to be pulled out swiftly keeping anyone else from getting the item.  I honestly don’t care about the red Kirin at all, because I think the mounts are ugly, but for me it is more a principle of it.  When a game starts doing one time only things, I really lose interest quickly.  I get extremely frustrated anymore when I am asked to play a game on someone else’s schedule.  With the recent rapidly expiring world event each phase lasting only two days… this seems to be the direction that Rift wants to move in.

The more of this type of content goes into the game the less and less interested I am in it.  There are so many things about Guild Wars 2 that I think I would enjoy, but the fact that content expires roughly every two weeks keeps me from wanting to dig in and try it.  I don’t want to ONLY play this one game, and in order to farm up every new thing in the world… I would really have to do just that.  The whole playing the same game every single night concept just seems foreign to me.  There are so many different games I want to experience, so knowing I will go into a game missing out on things… makes me think my time is better spent elsewhere.

Pre-Endgame Game

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I guess while I am complaining, I might as well not stop with Rift.  Onwards to FInal Fantasy A Realm Reborn!  We absolutely lucked out as a guild and had eight of us reaching 50 within a few days of each other.  Well that is not true I guess, we had one super impatient gamer rush through to the end game and sit there without any additional support for about two weeks.  However the majority of us arrived at the end game at roughly the same time.  This made the sequence of three eight man instances seem not that horrible in part because it was fresh content for all of us.  However now that we have another three characters up to 50, I am realizing what a slog it really is.

So much of the end of the main storyline in FFXIV reminds me of the trials and tribulations of having to key players for various raid instances in both EQ and WoW.  Be warned there will be some spoilers, so if you care about that sort of thing, I would stop reading.  I will try my best to do as few as possible, but it is going to happen.  Essentially when you hit 49 you start down a sequence of events that leads to the finishing of the main storyline.  The first of these is Cape Westwind, yet another trial.  We have done this now three times… and quite honestly I cannot tell you exactly how the mechanics work.  The biggest pain is getting eight players online at the same time.

Next you run through a few quests and end up unlocking Castrum Meridianum…  which is surprise surprise another eight man dungeon.  This takes a little over an hours time normally if you are not doing the speed run chicanery… and now that every mob in the instance drops decent money there really is no reason why you would.  These places are decent money.  Once you finish up in there, you do a few more quests and wind up stalled on The Praetorium… yet another 8 man dungeon.  This one takes quite a bit longer than the previous one and is a wee bit trickier at times.  Finally after finishing this sequence of events you can finish the main storyline and unlock Amdapor Keep.

We have been working our way through these for Cyl, Opo and Tivo… and the problem with an eight man dungeon is trying to accommodate eight different play schedules.  We really only seem to have time to do one of the dungeons in the sequence per night.  Last night we were trying to figure out when we could pull together a group next…  and the problem is we are unlikely to be able to get ALL of the necessary players online until next week sometime.  As we started going through the days, there was one player that could not attend on each of the nights.  While the final storyline is extremely cool… it just seems like a lot of bullshit to have to slog through to even begin the end game grind.

Norrath Calling

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Towards the end of the night I ended up logging out of FFXIV and popping into EQ2 for a bit.  I have said it before, and I will say it again… sooner or later I always return to playing EQ2.  I am not sure if I am ready to be back in it yet, but I did some questing out in Withered Lands and enjoyed the relaxed pace.  My friend that recently returned was telling me excitedly about the guilds plans to start doing heroics, and while I think that is cool I don’t want anyone to factor me in their gaming decisions yet.  I already have a game where I am a key resource for running instances… I really don’t want another one.

That is not to say that I don’t enjoy tanking dungeons, because I do… otherwise I wouldn’t keep returning to playing that role.  I just find that tanking takes more out of me than it used to.  I cannot chain run instances like I once could.  So I find myself needing something else to play so I can have a bit of peace and quiet… and more importantly downtime.  Everquest 2 has always been a good filler of this niche.  I would like to get my Shadowknight up to 95 so I can be prepared for the new content when it releases as well.  I still feel like in many ways I am running from WoW, because I know that will only end up in tears of frustration.  I continue to ignore its sirens call by playing other things… just not sure how long that will work.