Scattered Gaming

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This weekend was an odd one.  After a string of relatively nice weekends, we ended up getting one that was either cold and windy… or cold and rainy, both of which drove my instinct to stay inside and hibernate.  The only problem is… with all this play time I largely squandered it and spent more time staring without purpose at games… than actually playing them.  It feels like I am starting to go through another one of my “funks” because nothing seemed to fit “just right” as far as games go.  I flitted between lots of different titles, playing them for a bit before shifting to something else…  often times ending right back up in the game I started in.  For a good chunk of the weekend I had the desire to play Destiny…  but wanted to instead be hanging out downstairs which only left me the unofficial remote play app as a solution.  Then there were games that I felt like I needed to make progress in like Division where I am still not at the level cap.  Friday was largely devoted to Undertale, and I think after forcing myself to play that game… it maybe soured the rest of my weekend.  So this morning I thought I would run down some of the progress I made in various games.

Undertale

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I wrote about this at length but after hanging up my controller as it were… I opted to instead watch several of the different endings.  I still feel fine in my decision to just abandon this game in an undefeated state.  I guess I don’t have a primal urge to finish games, and more often than not I get to the ending and just don’t finish.  I reach this point where I have gotten out of the game what I wanted, and I don’t see the point in expending that effort to push it across the finish line.  In the case of Undertale the thing that was driving me forward was to understand the story, and now between the podcast and the various youtube ending videos… I feel like I do.  Once that carrot was gone, the game play itself doesn’t make me want to ever touch this game again.  On the podcast folks talked about ways to lower the impact of the mechanics, like the Temmie armor…  but that isn’t even really an interesting option to me.

Destiny

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I really did not do much in Destiny other than a little bit of Crucible.  I am constantly amazed at how much I actually enjoy player versus player content in this game, when traditionally that is just not my thing.  I think a lot of it is that in this game it feels like there is zero negative impact on the rest of the game.  It is just another option I have to play, and gives me the same sort of PVE rewards that I expect to receive elsewhere.  Other than specialty modes like Trials of Osiris it feels like I am rewarded equally for just doing whatever I happen to want to do at the time.  I started down the path of the crucible simply as a way to get more Legendary marks, and then recently when I was grinding out sword kills I came to realize…  I was actually legitimately enjoying myself.  What is great about the crucible is that I get the central game play loop that I enjoy of shooting awesome weapons and charging around… without zero downtime.  It seems like it is easier to get Three of Coins to proc on Crucible than it is while doing strikes… or it might simply be that Crucible itself is just about the perfect amount of time per coin use.  While I have not actually gotten any of the really cool PVP drops…  I do get a fair amount of strange coins, motes and random pieces of armor that end up getting deconstructed.  Tonight I will hopefully be finishing up the rest of the Kings Fall raid that we had to abandon on Oryx last Tuesday, and beforehand it is my goal to hang out upstairs and run some more Crucible.

The Division

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This weekend I managed to push Division a little harder than the rest of the games and caught up with my friend Tamrielo at least.  At the start of the weekend I was sitting at roughly level 20, and as of this morning I am just about a third into 22.  While I absolutely could play this and only give it partial attention at lower levels, as I have gotten into the twenties this is not really the case.  As a result this weekend I managed to die probably more than I actually managed to accomplish anything.  There are two missions that I know I attempted at least a half dozen times before finally giving it my full attention and pushing through.  My standard operating procedure while hanging out with my wife downstairs is that I essentially have one eye on the game and one eye on whatever we happen to be watching…  not literally but you know what I mean.  The problem with this is that in doing so I am not exactly paying attention to the best possible tactical spot that I could be in while shooting incoming mobs.  The addition of snipers really changed how the game works, and now that I have guys that rush me with shotguns as well..  I am having to be way more careful about how I take on content.  That said I feel like I made some decent progress, but most of it was in short bursts of me playing for thirty minutes to an hour… and then logging out and doing something else.  Thankfully much like Destiny… short batches of play time feel just as rewarding to me as multiple hour long sessions.

World of Warcraft

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The other major happening of the weekend was me poking around on my Forsaken Hunter in World of Warcraft.  Recently Blizzard added an achievement that you could unlock by leveling a character in WoW to 20, aka the free mode level cap.  For doing this you end up getting Lady Liadrin as an alternate Paladin hero in Hearthstone.  Not that I really play Hearthstone… and even more so… not that I really like playing Paladins in Hearthstone…  I have this drive to get the achievement and unlock the extra shiny bits.  The negative of this achievement is that it only counts if you have recently leveled to twenty after the launch of the achievement, that means my army of level 100s are doing me zero good for this goal.  As a result I opted to level something on The Scryers Horde side since that is where the bulk of my lower leveled characters are these days.  I largely played during the podcast on Saturday night, and as a result managed to get to I believe 18 before giving it up for the night.  The goal is to spend some time this week pushing it over the line, so that I at least can feel like I got this out of the way.  I honestly think this whole promotion is a brilliant idea to try and cross pollinate some of the players actively playing Hearthstone and get them to try World of Warcraft.  I know Hearthstone is a major nostalgia bomb for me… but I wonder if it is the same for a player who has ONLY played Hearthstone, now being able to see where those cards they love are actually from.

 

 

Kindle Arrives

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A New Toy

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Sunday I wrote a bit about my troubles with Amazon and shipping recently, and I guess maybe that complaining worked.  Not only did I get additional prime subscription time added to my account to appease me, but yesterday mid day my new Amazon Fire 7 inch tablet showed up.  As a result I spent a good deal of last night fiddling with it, and I figured I would write a little bit about it as a result.  The tablet I am talking about is the one that has been widely advertised as being sold in six packs…. and singles go for only $49.99 so that the marketing can say “under $50 dollars”.  Over the recent holiday consumer madness… they were selling the tablet for $34.99 which finally got me to jump on buying one just to see what it is like.  I already have owned several android tablets, and even got a used ipad 2 since my wife loved hers so much.  After all of that I had pretty much decided I simply was not a “tablet” person.  If I have time to use a tablet… I am probably at home and could just play on my PC, PS4, Vita, PS3…  you are getting the idea.  What I lacked though was a really good device to read on… because the iPad and Android tablets were just too bulk to use in bed comfortably without nodding off every so often and whacking myself in the face.

The first shocker is the size, because really when you think about it… 7 inches sounds like a large size.  The tablet as a whole feels more like a large phone… so something along the lines of a Samsung Note and less like a tablet.  The build quality is solid, and the device feels nice in your hand… but the plastic back makes it feel a little on the cheap side.  Then again this is a tablet that I just paid $34 for…  and in the past that would have gotten me some shanzhai reject and not a perfectly viable device.  There are some caveats to know going into it.  Firstly there is no Google Play store on the device by default, and in theory it is set up in a way to keep directing you at the Amazon ecosystem for music, movies and everything else related.  This is good in one aspect, especially if you are a Prime user… since well it has one of the better interfaces for actually watching the free streaming with Prime.  The whole lack of Google Play would have potentially been a deal breaker since, as someone already embedded in the Android world… I already own pretty much all of the apps I need to function there and have zero interest in repurchasing them from Amazon.  Thankfully I did a bit of research before jumping into this device and apparently it is a relatively trivial experience to load the Play store, it simply involves loading four different android apps on your device in a specific order.  Luckily however the above video shows you the appropriate order and provides what seems to be a clean link to the downloads.  I personally just downloaded them from my device to save having to try and swap them over through a computer.

It Plays Hearthstone

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The other thing that I would really like to do with a tablet is to be able to quickly get into Hearthstone and play it from bed.  Previously most of my Android devices simply performed like crap in Hearthstone, with the best possible version being on my Samsung Galaxy S5… and even then it was super sluggish.  This device however, took a bit of time initially to boot into Hearthstone and sign into Battle.net the first time, but from that point on I have been able to get in and doing stuff pretty quickly.  The interface ends up being a little small, so things like the settings gear can be a bit awkward to click on at first, but the base interface of the game performed smoothly.  I played a few games last night, and experienced real issues, and even as multiple effects were firing on screen I didn’t see any noticeable lag.  So for my purposes the device passes with flying colors when it comes to gaming.  At some point I will throw other games on it and test those out as well, but since I was mostly concerned about running what is normally a fairly intensive mobile game like Hearthstone…  that is what I went with first.  Please excuse the kinda crappy photo but I wanted to take a photo of me running hearthstone ON the device…  which meant taking a photo with my phone since I have not figured out how to do a screenshot on Kindle Fire OS yet and the normal methods from my phone did not work at all.

As far as the other purpose of the device, it also passes with flying colors.  Any device can read a book, so that wasn’t really what I was concerned about… so instead I booted into my Marvel Unlimited account and attempted to read some comics.  I wanted to see if a full comic page was readable with the small screen size and my less than perfect eyes.  I have to say I was pretty happy with the end results, and the slightly strange format as you might expect fits a page size perfectly.  Laying in bed last night I read around a dozen or so comics and my eyes never felt like they were being strained.  The only time things got awkward is when I needed to read a double panel spread, at which point I had to mostly zoom in and move around the screen to read the panels.  These were still awkward as shit on my full sized iPad, so I am not really too shocked about this.  These are one of those things that only really works well in a physical book.  The next step will be to load the puppy up with books, since right now our Amazon account is loaded up with quite literally thousands of books that I have zero interest in… since my wife and her mother are the primary users of that account.  In the past I always preferred reading through Aldiko so I will have to install that and test it out as well.  All told though… I am really happy with my $34 purchase… which after using some built up Discover cash back bonus…  ended up covering the entire cost.

Best Laid Plans

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Last night I had every plan of running a bunch of LFR in the hopes of getting a main hand weapon.  However in the middle of piddling around in Tanaan jungle I got a Baleful Armament to drop for me.  Unfortunately… it turned into the lowest possible version I could get.  That said it is better than nothing and matches the 650 shield that I have as well.  I am at the very least “viable” as a tank, though I need to do some stuff to set up my bars.  It is my hope that at some point I will get a decent sword and shield to drop in normal that I will roll offspec on.  In the meantime I need to get used to tanking as a Paladin, and this at least gives me the ability to run the daily heroic relatively easily for Valor.  As to how much pug tanking I will be doing… that is an entirely different question.  The main problem with last night however… is that I did not really sleep well Sunday night.  So by the time I spent awhile fiddling with the Kindle, my wife suggested that it was bedtime… and for once I agreed.  Admittedly I went to bed and continued to play with the Kindle, but sitting on the couch was invoking the most furious of yawns.  At the very least tonight I want to run the Black Gate on both characters, in the hopes that Tuesday night LFR is still the best possible time to run it.  In theory I should probably do the entire LFR on Belghast in the hopes of getting an upgraded weapon before the Wednesday night normal raid with Jed and crew.

 

Media Consumption – Blizzcon 2015 Edition

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Interesting Day

MediaConsumptionLast week I had this grand plan of hanging out at home and watching BlizzCon 2015, so I took the day off work.  Then as we got closer to the day, it suddenly filled up with other things I needed to do.  Our house looked like madness yesterday with three vehicles of the contractors working on the siding and minor renovations, and another truck for the heating and air company.  All of this while my wife and I were being forced to park in the next door neighbors driveway.  Thankfully they were not here the last few days, otherwise I have no clue what we would be doing for parking.  I am sure the neighbors are wondering what manner of insanity we are up to… as at one point yesterday we had a guy stop and gawk for a few minutes without asking anything.  I guess that is the benefit of not actually knowing half of your neighbors is that you don’t have to make the same small talk over and over when something like this happens.  This morning in honor of BlizzCon however I am going to talk about the things that interested me.

Diablo 3

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I am leading off what was I originally thought going to be the big disappointment of the day.  Blizzard did what they always do and rolled out everything that was new and shiny in their opening ceremony.  The problem being… they said absolutely nothing about Diablo 3 which has turned out to be probably the game in their lineup that I care the most about.  I had hoped they would announce another expansion this year, but alas that didn’t happen.  However I am completely fine with this because the Diablo 3 panel later in the evening pretty much showed me that the team is quietly doing awesome stuff, in spite of apparently being ignored by Blizzard as a whole.  The presentation was essentially a rapid fire series of announcements of new features.  The one nearest and dearest to my heart surrounds the season play functionality.  They have essentially sorted out that they are going to make seasons three months long, meaning at the end of that three months there will be new content leading into the next season.  They said this gives players enough time to really deeply experience it… and also fits players like myself that swoop in… play enough to get the easy rewards and stop playing for a bit.

The biggest announcement as far as I am concerned is the “Rebirth” feature, which will allow you to essentially reboot a previous character and turn it into a new seasonal character.  All of the gear that was on the character gets mailed to the account, and that character gets dialed back to level 1… but keeps achievements, hours played etc.  It sounded like maybe there would be a special set of achievements for reboots, but essentially it solves the problem I always have of feeling like I have to create something brand new to be able to play along in the season again.  They are also adding additional stash space… and the ability to earn slots by completing the seasonal journey on a character, up to 10 slots total.  This all honestly would have been enough for me, but they are revising the buff system, changing the way damage is shown…  adding a whole item set dungeon functionality where specific dungeons will require you have an item set equipped and then have challenges based on the strength of that set.  On top of all of this… new zone and some expanded areas which makes 2.4 pretty damned awesome and it apparently goes up on the PTR next week.

Heroes of the Storm

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The highlight of the Heroes discussion is the fact that we are getting Genn Greymane as a playable champion.  This is absolutely hands down my favorite Alliance leader… that isn’t given the respect of having his own damned town to govern.  I am still a little sore that Gilneas never became someplace we could actually use as a capitol city.  I would seriously bank in that town all of the damned time if they allowed me to.  All the same however it is awesome to have him as a champion and it looks like the gameplay is going to be based around changing in and out of Worgen form.  The other interesting tidbit is that it seems like they are introducing ARAM for Heroes of the Storm.  The details were pretty scant and I have not watched any of the panels for Heroes yet… but from the sounds of it, the mode seemed to put a random group of champions against another random group of champions just like “All Random All Middle” mode in League of Legends.

I am honestly all about that because ARAM is probably my favorite mode to play in League.  Mostly because it takes all of the pressure off in that if you are getting randomly assigned a champion… no one can complain too much about you not being able to play it terribly well.  I’ve found it a great way to get my feet wet and get used to how a champion performs under actual combat situations.  The other interesting thing from the show was the introduction of Cho’Gall the two headed ogre.  This is a champion that is literally played by two different players.  I am assuming that one controls the movement and the other controls the combat at least to some extent.  Everyone with a BlizzCon virtual ticket will be getting it added to their account… and then they can play matches with other players to pass the character on.  After two matches a player will earn their own copy of Cho’gall and after I think they said four matches the original player gets a sack of gold for spreading the madness.  It sounds cool and it is awesome to see this game thriving.

Hearthstone

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The highlight of this announcement was awesome new Brann Bronzebeard artwork.  Hearthstone is one of those games that I like, but rarely actually boot up to play.  I am not sure what it is about the game, but essentially I keep playing the same deck over and over without changing it up much.  It is like this game requires too much of me to actually get in and sort out the decks I might want to build.  I am happy that it seems to be doing well, and I am happy that it has a meta that is very much alive.  That said I felt generally meh when listening to them talk about the gameplay.  I feel like maybe if it ran for shit on my iPad I would play it more, but I struggle with this game in the same way that I struggle with so many mobile games.  It requires too much of me to pop into it while waiting on something…  but it just isn’t sticky enough to make me choose to play it over literally any other game I have installed on my computer or consoles.  There just is rarely ever a situation where I am going to pick this over an MMO or a single player game experience.  I have so many other games to play… and honestly most of the time too damned many.  The hearthstone fans seemed to be really happy, so I am never going to rain on their parade with my own “meh”.

Overwatch

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I won’t lie the highlight of the Overwatch presentation for me was seeing just how awesome the Mercy Wings are in Diablo 3.  Other than that I loved the Mei reveal, because she was freaking adorable… and also looked like a really fun zone control champion to play.  Similarly I thought D.Va was a pretty cool concept, but I doubt I could ever see myself playing her.  The boot up sequence of her HUD was awesome, in that it showed a cute bunny icon while it was loading.  I really don’t care for the design of her Mech, which is my main problem with her as a champion.  There is just something wrong looking about it… I get they were going for a jet with legs after the reboot that allows her to fly…  but a Guardian Mode Veritech is a better version of what they were trying to accomplish.  Though I think the design they came up with was largely a compromise to save space on the screen.

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I have to admit I was largely tempted when they announced this would be coming to PS4.  The problem there is that the Xbox and PS4 Blizard games are disconnected from Battle.net.  That is my biggest problem with playing Diablo 3 on the PS4 is that I am stuck with only having access to my PSN friends… which are in no way as long of a list of Blizzard fans as the Battle.net account.  So even though I am going through a bit of a renaissance of console gaming… I am ultimately going to go with the mouse and keyboard of the PC and essentially have to reacquaint myself with that sort of game play.  I agree with Kodra in his belief that playing with a controller on a PC is a trap when it comes to a competitive FPS.  There are times I have even considered picking up a XIM4 for my PS4 so I have the option of playing with a keyboard and mouse there as well.  The PS4 natively supports USB and Bluetooth keyboards and mice… but very few games actually support that.  Mostly right now I just want to get into the Overwatch beta… and I am hoping that will be a thing that happens soon.

Warcraft Movie

I have to admit on this one that before this trailer I had not really given much of a shit about the Warcraft movie.  But man…  those feels while I watched this.  I have just been burned in the past when a franchise that I love was turned into a movie… at least from the gaming side of things.  Does anyone remember how horrible the Dungeons and Dragons movie was?  or Doom?  This however…. looks like it is going to be a really good movie and revitalize the Warcraft franchise for a whole new generation.  Maybe it is just the hype I am feeling about Star Wars spilling over into Warcraft… but I am feeling like now is the time to set aside old grudges and just embrace any fandom wholeheartedly.  Both Durotar and Lothar were awesome in the trailer, and I think they were probably right to make this a Warcraft movie… and not a World of Warcraft movie.  My hope is that along with this we maybe see a rebooted version of the original Warcraft RTS franchise.  In any case regardless I know what I will be doing next June… sitting in the theater and watching this movie.

Legion Expansion

Now we finally get to the low point of Blizzcon… which I guess tells you how far my tastes have changed.  I was completely amped about most of the above announcements other than maybe Hearthstone.  I wholeheartedly love Blizzard games… but I have just reached the point where World of Warcraft is my least favorite of them.  The cinematic trailer was nice… but I honestly had hoped that maybe we would have seen Varian die during it…  or at least I thought that was what we were going to see for a bit.  For years Varian was supposed to be “our thrall” but he has always been this paper thin super one dimensional character.  His son on the other hand… Anduin has gone through some actually interesting changes especially during Pandaria.  So my hope was that we would see Varian dying during this siege and passing the banner to his son who is more than likely far more capable a leader.  The trailer also gave me hope that maybe just maybe they would finally be retiring the tired old shtick of Alliance versus Horde and giving us the ability to play with friends from both factions.  Look… it is a dream that I am not going to let go of ever… I hate faction bullshit.

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For the most part there is a lot of interesting things at work here… but I lack the faith that they are going to be carried out in a fashion I am going to like.  It is my honest hope that I get into the beta testing process so I can see if I like it or not.  I big nail in the coffin for Warlords was how badly they made the Deathknights feel…  so I guess there are a lot of things that sound good on paper but never quite work right when you put them into practice.  I am absolutely willing to give this game a shot, but I want to know that I will actually like it before I plunk down that pre-order.  The new zones do look absoultely amazing however.  They are pushing this aging engine for every ounce of oomph that it can muster, and I love that.  The way WoW looks right now, reminds me of the way late in a generation console games look… when they have really figured out how to make the most of the resources they have to work with.  This expansion is a bunch of really good ideas, that just don’t seem to be connected by enough tissue to hold them together.  My disappointment largely was that the game didn’t really give me that moment of “fuck yeah!” that I have had in previous expansions.  It did however give me a lot of moments of “that sounds cool”, especially when it comes to the non-linear leveling process for the new content.  Unfortunately that same level scaling won’t apply to the rest of the world… so we are again creating this walled garden of “good” content and everything older will feel like crap as a result.

 

 

 

 

Instant Relevance

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King of Match Three

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Yesterday morning was the Activision Blizzard earnings call for investors, and much of the focus has been on one particular tidbit of information.  They announced that they are acquiring Candy Crush maker King Digital for the sum of $5.9 Billion dollars.  The reaction to this announcement has been pretty varied, because in truth…  many “core” gamers loath the concept of games like Candy Crush.  First off there is some confusion to clear up.  Activision Blizzard is not the same thing as Blizzard Entertainment, so early reports I saw talked about Blizzard buying King Digital…  which caused some outrage.  Activision Blizzard is the big parent company that pulls all the strings of the various products from Call of Duty to Skylanders to of course the Blizzard franchises.  At first I have to admit I was taken by surprise by the announcement but that pretty much went away immediately when I thought about it.  In doing this deal ActiBlizz is essentially buying instant relevance in the traditional mobile gaming market.

Now you might be saying to yourself… But Bel, Activision and Blizzard already doing mobile gaming.  Sure they do… but they do it in a way that attempts to appeal to “core” gamers that are wanting something on their phone to play when they don’t have access to their normal gaming platforms.  This is a vastly different market than the one that King Digital generally focuses on which are for lack of a better term “casual” and “mobile exclusive” users that would never in a million years… consider themselves gamers.  Essentially King Digital targets people like my wife, that spends plenty of time playing games on her iPad but does not in any fashion think of herself as a gamer.  So in essence with this one… albeit expensive acquisition, they now cover a market that they did not serve in any fashion.  Sure Hearthstone is a great mobile game… but it really only draws in people who already are in the fold of “gamers”.  The big thing is all of these “non-gamers” have prove time and time again that they are in fact willing to spend money on micro-transactions.

What This Means

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In truth I doubt for the short term it really means anything.  Activision will continue releasing big budget shooters like Call of Duty and Destiny… and Blizzard will continue flirting with e-sports while still not quite certain what to do with World of Warcraft.  Another big chunk of this earnings report was a note that the WoW subscription numbers have more or less stabilized from their post Warlords of Draenor free fall.  I feel like there is some fuzzy math at work here, but according to the official figures they have dropped from 5.6 Million to 5.5 Million.  There was a strange little definition that was released to explain what they determined a subscriber.

Subscriber Definition: World of Warcraft subscribers include individuals who have paid a subscription fee or have an active prepaid card to play World of Warcraft, as well as those who have purchased the game and are within their free month of access. Internet Game Room players who have accessed the game over the last thirty days are also counted as subscribers. The above definition excludes all players under free promotional subscriptions, expired or cancelled subscriptions, and expired prepaid cards. Subscribers in licensees’ territories are defined along the same rules.

This makes me think that these subscription numbers are in fact counting WoW Token players… seeing as how that would count as “prepaid” access.  So the actual month to month subscription numbers would be a bit lower.  To some extent I wish they would have broken those numbers out separately… since a monthly sub is semi-guaranteed income, and a token is a one time purchase.  The other big news however is that they plan on this being the last month they actually announce subscription numbers.  Instead they have a new sort of engagement number formula that they are working on to determine the health of the game.

At first glance this sounds a bit odd… and maybe like they are trying to hide losses within the cloak of mathematics.  However… we are just days away from Blizzcon and it makes me wonder.  Will this finally be the year that they announce World of Warcraft going to a free to play model?  Cutting the ties of relying on subscriptions to convey the health of the game… would at least be one step in that direction.  If I were Blizzard I would be seriously considering it… because honestly Free to Play seems to work.  With the recent high publicity relaunch of Wildstar… that game is doing significantly better now than it was, and the same was essentially true with Star Wars the Old Republic went to the model.  Free to Play has been the salvation of otherwise dying games… and even though World of Warcraft is far from dying…  I still think they would benefit from the switch.  It would be a massive shift in methodology and would probably change the way content is delivered, but it would also bring back a bunch of players that want to dip their toes in the game every now and then… but not feel like they are chained to a subscription.  Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone are both wildly success as Free to Play experiences… and with Overwatch starting to ramp up and following that same model…  it just seems like Blizzard has wrestled with how to make it work.

What I Hope Happens

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So while I don’t think anything will change for a bit… my hope is that through this deal there is some cross pollination of skillsets.  I would love to see better integration of mobile platforms and traditional games.  As you know I have been playing a lot of Destiny… and quite honestly the way that game works is just not as clean as it should.  There are a lot of things that you can do through the website…  slightly different things that you can do through the mobile app… and even a different set of things through the game itself.  The entire process feels cludgy as hell… but an attempt to move in the direction of giving players access to tools outside of the game.  Now if you take that basic desire and match it with a company that has proven that they can spin the same old match three schlock into infectious gold…  you can maybe create really interesting experiences that span traditional platforms and mobile gaming ones.

What I would love to see is a better mobile app for World of Warcraft.  Why can’t we fish on our mobile phones and have it grant skill-ups and materials for our characters in game?  Why can’t we do the normally tedious action of Archaeology in a mobile mini-game?  Garrisons themselves were essentially the same sort of thing as a tiny tower like mobile game…  why didn’t exist on mobile platforms allowing people to do the upkeep and maintenance activities when they couldn’t otherwise play the game?  Why can’t we have a significantly better auction house integration system?  Essentially…  give players a reason to stay in the game by making them feel more connected to it.. on their own terms.  A big part of my frustration with Garrisons is that I knew I had a one to two hour ritual waiting on me every time I logged into the game, before I could feel like I was free to do interesting things…  like slay internet dragons.  If I could do Garrisons while walking to my car at night, or on my lunch break… it would take some of that burden away so that I knew once I got home… I could do the fun stuff without having to worry about the “paperwork”.  Essentially we live our lives on our phones…  and the games that integrate better with how we live our lives are going to feel more “real” to us.

 

 

Week In Gaming 8/30/2015

Diablo III 2015-08-29 21-48-57-149

Stressed but Still Here

This week turned out to be a shockingly stressful one, but thankfully all of said stress happened at work… and I could more or less leave it there as well.  There has been a twinge of sadness as well because months ago I had hoped to be able to attend Pax Prime and get to hang out with friends there.  However that didn’t quite work out, and since I lacked tickets to go there…  because AggroChat was not apparently qualified as a media outlet, I stopped pushing quite so hard.  The beginning of the school year is especially rough on my wife, and it would have been even more stressful to be travelling during this time.  As such I am doubting that Pax Prime will ever really be in my cards unless for some reason they decide to move it either earlier or later in the year.  I will always have Pax South however, and I fully intend to go this coming year.  I am going to be trying to talk as many people into attending as I can, and hopefully can organize a meetup or something while there.  There were plenty of people at Pax South last year but I was completely overwhelmed by it being my first real convention, and the internet was pretty horrible…  so I missed most of them.  Anyways…  on with what is I hope becoming a Sunday tradition, where I review the games I played over the past week.

Final Fantasy XIV

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Currently “The Rising” event is going on in Final Fantasy XIV that marks the yearly anniversary festival.  This year the quest that goes along with it is one of the most touching quests I have experienced in a game before.  I don’t want to spoil too many details about it, but suffice to say there is a little bit of fourth wall breaching going on.  Diehard Final Fantasy XIV fans have this hero worship for Naoki Yoshida and the rest of the team, and it is absolutely well earned.  It feels like there is very much a symbiotic relationship going on there, and they understand fully just how important the loyal fans are to the continued success of the title.  The game is in this interesting place where it is extremely humbled by the fact that it launched in 2010 and failed to capture hearts and minds.  They are putting everything into the game and leaving nothing on the table, and it shows.  Other than the anniversary event we worked on Ravana Extreme attempts, and I have every hope that we will be able to down him this coming Monday.  Past that I have honestly been taking a bit of a break from Final Fantasy XIV, or at least not really logging in every day.

Diablo 3

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If you are wondering where the bulk of my game time was spent, you can look no further than Diablo 3.  I am not sure if it was my time playing Hellgate London, or the fact that I finally pulled my head out of the sand and realized there was such a thing as a “season”.  Whatever the combination I have been pumped to be playing Diablo 3 again and have been spending a lot of time with my friend Grace was we worked on pushing up our seasonal characters.  At the beginning of the week I managed to get my Crusader from last season to 70 with the help of Grace and her crazy torment farming ways.  Then Friday when the new season opened I started work immediately on a female Barbarian.  As of last night I am now level 60 and making the final push to 70.  That is really what I intend to spend most of my time today working on, and hopefully by tonight I will be sitting at 70 and starting to work on gearing up for doing torment and beyond.  I am having a blast, and I am not sure whatever mental block cleared that has allowed me to get involved once more with the click to attack madness.

Wildstar

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I can’t say that I have made stellar progress since last week, but I am continuing with my new tradition of trying to play Wildstar Tuesday nights.  At this point I am level 25 still in Whitevale but I think maybe I can see the end of the zone.  My hope is to move on past it this week and hopefully into something less desolate.  I feel about Whitevale the way I feel about most desert zones in MMOs.  I have come to realization this week that it is never the biome necessarily that I like or dislike, but instead the zone design.  I was warned that Malgrave is coming up, and a desert… but from what I have seen of the imagery inside it seems like something I will enjoy.  I want to devote more time to this game, but for now I am going to settle with making it a Tuesday night thing.

Hearthstone

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The game that I played that shocked me the most this week was Hearthstone.  I have not really spent much time playing it since release, and with the addition of a new expansion of cards I decided to poke my head in.  This is where I found a brand new game mode called Tavern Brawl.  Apparently you have a different weekly challenge, and this week was essentially playing with a randomized deck.  I played hunter and had a good amount of success.  Playing with a random assortment of cards, including many of the brand new Grand Tournament cards gave me a nostalgic feeling much like the early days of Magic the Gathering.  I used to love the days when I was limited based on the  cards I physically owned and as a result made some odd decks to try and weave in my favorite elements.  In truth I would probably play Hearthstone more often if this random brawl option thing was a fixed item.  I know this coming week there will be a completely different Tavern Brawl, but I will likely poke my head in to see what it is and give it a shot.  This might breathe new life into the game for me, and for that I am kinda pumped.

Fallout Shelter

FalloutShelter_ScreenShot

My week in review would not be complete without at least talking a bit about Fallout Shelter.  Now I have been technically playing this game for awhile now but since I do not regularly use my iPad, the sessions were limited and I went weeks between opening the app.  With the release of Fallout Shelter for android I have been playing it far more often on my phone, and it has now become my default “moment of downtime” game as I check in on my little post apocalyptic ant farm.  All things said I learned a lot of lessons playing it on the iPad that I have now applied to this new vault.  Where Vault 999 was a relative failure, Vault 861 is pretty damned idyllic.  Through a bit of luck of drops, and some careful planning I have managed to create a pretty safe environment that can absolutely shred raider attacks.  I had a random person show up at the vault that was fairly warriorly, and once I equipped her with power armor and a plasma pistol she has been roaming the wastes dispensing justice.  At the same time she has become a major source of income and the gear she brings back I am slowly outfitting all of my settlers in.  I have jokingly started calling the restaurant on the first floor Cafe Death, because the raiders always go there…. only to get shredded by all of my shotgun toting vault dwellers.  The only thing that I feel bad about is that I essentially  have one couple that is slowly populating my vault.  I have left them in the room for weeks now and they have half a dozen offspring roaming around as a result.

Hatoful Boyfriend

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The last game that I played a significant amount of this week was of course Hatoful Boyfriend, and last night we recorded the AggroChat game club show for it.  This was Grace’s pick and I think a lot of us went into this assuming that we would end up hating the game.  We were mostly wrong as the vast majority of us had lots of good things to say about the game. To make it even crazier this is the first game that the majority of us have actually played through more than one… but given that an individual play session tends to only be around the hour long mark that makes sense.   If you want to hear our length discussion about dating “Birbs” after the apocalypse you should totally listen into the show.

[AggroChat] [Direct Download] [iTunes] [Stitcher]

Blizzard Does Not Need WoW

The Elephant in the Room

WoW-64 2014-01-14 06-28-25-45

I figure this morning I would cut with any sidebar discussions and get straight into the topic that was on everyones lips yesterday…  the Blizzard Q2 Earnings call.  If you remember during the Q1 2015 earnings call they announced a drop to 7.1 million subscribers after a peak of 10 million during the Warlords of Draenor launch bump.  I think we all knew that the numbers would be down, at least incidentally based on our own experiences from the game.  I have to say that I thought WoW token would be more of a game changer, and when they announced that World of Warcraft was down to 5.6 million subscribers I figured that the Token numbers would bolster this amount.  However based on further information it appears that this number does include token subscribers as well.  In truth this number likely does not fully account for the actual loss.  Personally I would consider myself no longer playing World of Warcraft, but my account does not actually die until mid September.  There are several folks in similar holding patterns in our guild waiting on their time to tick down as well.

MMOChampGraph As always MMO Champion has a spiffy graph charting the subscription numbers since the release of the game.  To put things into proper perspective, the subscription numbers are exactly what the subscription numbers were in December of 2005 roughly a year after the initial launch of the game.  This has lead some folks to point out that when you iron out the outliers like the Warlords of Draenor bump you end up with a standard curve that you might expect for a game of this longevity.  There was a lot to be gleaned from the earnings call, but one of the major points I got out of it.. is that while they have already announced that the World of Warcraft expansion would be revealed Thursday at Gamescom, they left it off of the list of products planned for the rest of the year.  That tells me that at the very best the expansion will be a Q1 2016 release.  That means that there will be at a minimum of a six month lag between content patches, and at worst…  honestly who knows what the worse case scenario could be.  Hopefully this will not be anywhere near as long as the content drought after 5.4, but I am seriously hoping that they reconsider Hellfire being the final patch of the expansion.

Blizzard Does Not Need WoW

HeroesOfTheStorm_x64 2015-06-03 23-26-08-94

I feel like the takeaway from the earnings call is not that World of Warcraft has fallen by 1.5 million subscribers in a quarter.  Anyone who was not expecting this was living in a rose colored world.  Quite honestly I half expected it to be a bigger drop just based on my own experiences.  The real take away for me however is that in spite of losing this many players Activision Blizzard had one of its strongest quarters yet.  During the earnings call there were repeated mentions of “diversification of product offerings”, which tells me that Blizzard no longer considers themselves the “World of Warcraft” company.  They see the writing on the way, that their juggernaut is winding down, and they have replaced its revenue by more agile games that are significantly easier to support.  The hard truth is that Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm are making them lots and lots of money.  When Overwatch launches you can damn well bet that it is also going to make them equally large piles of money, further diluting the need for World of Warcraft.

There was a time when Warcraft was the prize bull, but that is simply no longer the case.  If you think of it from a pure numbers perspective it makes sense.  Hearthstone for example is a digital card game, and the bulk of the assets that are created for it are two dimensional images.  Granted they are awesome looking but they do not require the amount of time it takes to create three dimensional textured models and even more so huge three dimensional worlds for players to explore.  The type of content that goes into games like Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm is just simply cheaper to produce than the amount of time that goes into building an entire world filled with hundreds of quest givers that have to be debugged and cross checked to make sure they are not breaking something else.  To make matters worse… this expensive content is something we are extremely good at either avoiding or burning through as quickly as possible.  The hunger for new content is never changing, there is never a point where we the players will ever be satiated.  Adding a new playfield to Heroes of the Storm changes that game and its meta for months, and requires only a faction of the work that a single zone would take in a traditional MMO.

The Movie Tie In

warcraft-movie-logo The timing of all of this seems to coincide with the release of the Warcraft movie, but I question what exactly that means for the franchise.  All of the details behind the movie so far seem to point at this being a “Warcraft” movie and not necessarily a “World of Warcraft” movie, meaning that it takes place in a time before the MMO is set.  So does this mean that we will be doing more “timey wimey” stuff with the expansion, and we are somehow trapped in the timeline that we created by following Garrosh to Draenor?  Are we going to play a role in trying to stop a new invasion of Azeroth by Guldan and the Burning Legion?  The bigger question is… if all of this is going to happen are players going to stomach yet another storyline retcon?  These are all questions that I really don’t have an answer for.  I feel like if Blizzard has a shot in hell at rekindling the love of this game, they have to take us someplace new and unexplored, but do it in a way that feels epic like never before.  I still mark Wrath of the Lich King as the best expansion to date, and it built upon the success of Vanilla and the Burning Crusade polishing both to a mirror sheen.

This is simply something that going back in time cannot provide for me.  We’ve done the reboot of the world thing before with Cataclysm, and I found the whole process frustrating and annoying that places I once loved… simply no longer existed.  I feel the only real option is for us to take the fight to the Legion, and have an expansion where we are the ones laying siege for once.  What I want to see is an expansion where the Alliance and Horde finally put aside their difference, and with it the artificial barriers between players fall down.  I want to see an expansion that places us squarely in the path of epic battles as we lay siege to the worlds that the Legion has conquered before, slowly working our way back to their base of operation and banishing their evil from the universe.  That is the adventure that will bring players back, and anything less than that I think will ultimately feel hollow.  We have run out of villains that we care about… and the whole “Dances with Orcs” feel of both Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor has been infuriating for anyone who really doesn’t care a damn about Orcs.  Blizzard needs to prove to us that it can still create an opposition that is worth of the lineage of Arthas and Illidan, and I feel the only way they can do that is by having us take on the Burning Legion on their own territory.

Blame Acti-Blizz

Closing in on Turn Nine

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-28 17-42-52-03 Monday night is traditionally the raid night of our static group in the Greysky Armada Free Company.  I had been wondering if we would actually raid since… well the expansion was released and we are all busy leveling.  We were wondering just how a lot of things would work out, how our gear levels would scale appropriately and how effective we would be down leveled back to 50.  It turns out I was pleasantly surprised on almost all counts and we stepped foot into turn nine once more making some of the most progress we have ever made.  We actually managed to make it through a dive bomb phase unscathed, so at least now we know what that feels and looks like.  The problem is shortly after doing so…  we started our normal “death by simple mistakes” meaning we were all getting too tired to continue on.

I have hope however that maybe this weekend or next week we can step back in there and finally get a damned victory.  Right now turn nine is our white whale…  which is ironic in a game that literally has a giant flying white whale for a boss.  This is one of those things that I just want deep down in my bones now, to move past this barrier and be able to say we have beaten it.  I realize at this point it is outdated content…  but that doesn’t matter to me.  What matters to me is taking down Nael and being able to move into the Final Coil of Bahamut.  I am hoping that we will continue plugging forward and taking down this stuff even when it is no longer relevant.  It makes me happy that the game continues to be challenging even though some of our members have long since reached the new level cap of 60.  I however was on my dragoon last night which is still only level 51.

Blame Acti-Blizz

activision-blizzard I was having a conversation yesterday with a good friend of mine, about the 6.2 patch and what has worked and what has not worked.  During the course of this chat, he threw something out there as though it were just fact… that surprised me a little bit.  This friend of mine is as diehard a World of Warcraft fan as they come, and both he and his son play on a daily basis.  So to hear it from him really took me back to an earlier conversation he and I had back in 2008, to the announced merger of Activision and Blizzard.  His comment was, that the current state of the game and the seeming lack of forward momentum… is entirely to blame on the merger with Activision.  Back when this happened he said that his greatest fear was that it would change the way Blizzard interacts with its games and with its players.  Last night he said that essentially all of his worst fears have been realized, and that the game we today is a direct result of this merger.

While we cannot say this with any certainty for me at least Blizzard has been on a downhill slide since the release of Wrath of the Lich King.  That was the last “great” expansion for me personally, and represented the closing of an era when I was completely enraptured by the game.  Granted lots of things have changed, and so many other games have hit the market… but it feels like Blizzard stopped being the revolutionary market leader… and started trailing behind in the days post Activision merger.  My question is more did they simply shift focus… did they no longer care as much about the World of Warcraft community as they did their other product offerings?  It feels like WoW is a game that has been left to largely fend for itself.  There is a large amount of hype drummed up each time a new expansion releases, but then that quickly dies down and we are thrown right back into the cycle of doing just enough to keep hope alive in their player base that things will eventually get better.  The problem is… this sense of hope is fading as players are staring down the barrel of potentially another Siege of Orgrimmar like lapse in content.

Following the Money

HeroesOfTheStorm_x64 2015-06-03 23-26-08-94 I think the problem is that quite literally World of Warcraft is no longer Blizzards most important asset.  You can see that pretty clearly as you look at the attention paid to each of their product offerings.  The favored children of Blizzard right now are Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, and this is evident by how much attention they seem to be getting by the company.  You have to think about the simple economics behind that decision.  If you can create a game where people will gladly plunk down $4 for five virtual cards, and potentially do so multiple times a month…  what is the pure money benefit of spending much effort on a game where the players are ONLY paying you $15 a month.  Similarly with Heroes of the Storm you have a game where you can churn out multiple new heroes a month and sell them for the priced to own rate of $10 a piece roughly, not including the skins which are also often around the $10 price point.  I saw a recent article stating that it would cost around $1000 to purchase everything that is currently available in the in game Heroes of the Storm store.

Don’t get me wrong… I don’t begrudge them either of these games because I play both of them.  The problem is… if you can churn out a few champions a month, or a new hearthstone expansion… the potential investment of time to the money it makes the company is far greater than spending the year it takes to make a brand new World of Warcraft expansion.  Even factoring in the box sales it is no wonder that the Warcraft team seems to be starved for resources when the rest of this company is thriving.  So I guess I get back to my friends point…  that the Activision merger shifted the focus of this company from making great games “whenever they were ready” to making games to maximize investor profits.  I cannot be so naive as to believe that the Blizzard of old didn’t care about profits, but I think for a long period of time they were simply shocked and baffled by their own success.  I’ve said for awhile that when you start to believe your own hype… you are setting yourself up for the fall.  I think with the Activision merger…  Blizzard saw their valuation and consumed their own hype completely.  Ultimately as I watch the company change, I fear for the state of World of Warcraft, this game that in spite of all of my better sense…  that I still care about.

Pairing Down

The Struggle

One of the biggest challenges about this whole “blog every day” concept is that some mornings there is just nothing at all in my head to talk about.  When I am sick like I was yesterday, I tend to turtle and pull my head up inside my shell, disconnecting me from the interwebs and all of you fine people.  Unfortunately when my biggest source of inspiration is gone, I can get a little bit of writers block.  It is mornings like this that I feel outline the importance of just allowing yourself to write whatever happens to pop into your head.  It might not be epic and exciting, but it is staying true to the mission as a whole.  Unfortunately we are well based the NBI 2014 initiative, otherwise I would spin this into some sort of an inspirational post about struggling through.

This is not a slight in any way to the previous NBI groups, but I have been really impressed with just how tenacious the Class of 2014 has been.  Generally speaking there is a significant drop off the month after the initiative as folks take a massive breather after having survived being the focus of so many folks attention.  When the spotlight fades a bit, it is rough to keep posting when you inevitably notice fewer people are reading.  However this group either is blissfully oblivious to the existence of blog statistics, or they really are writing for themselves, because they seem to still be going strong.  A few of the “newbies” are among the most prolific posters in my blog reader, and I am amped to still see them enjoying the whole experience.

Pairing Down

WoWScrnShot_061314_062051Right now I have come to realize that I am playing entirely too many MMOs to feel like I am making any significant progress in any of them.  Over the last two months I’ve played Warlords of Draenor, Rift, ArcheAge, Wildstar, Star Wars the Old Republic, Elder Scrolls Online, Defiance, Everquest II, Landmark, The Secret World, Diablo 3, Lego Minifigures Online and Trove.  While I embrace the whole polygamerous thing, I think even for me this is a bit too much especially when you throw in League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm on top of those… and occasionally some Hex and Hearthstone.  Mostly I think I need to drop some of the games that feel similar to me from the rotation, or at least games that scratch the same itch.

rift 2014-02-13 06-28-10-40 I feel like I have to keep testing Warlords of Draenor in part out of remembrance for River, and him being so damned excited to have gotten into the alpha process.  While I won’t be playing with the same wide eyed amusement that he would have, I am trying my best to enjoy the experience in his honor.  However I can safely say that I will not be playing the actual live World of Warcraft anytime in the near future.  I think maybe WoW has run its course with me for awhile, and Wildstar has stepped in to take its place in my heart without me really wanting it to.  Wildstar really is a much better version of WoW, and I am just embracing that fact.  As a result Rift and SWTOR are also losing out, because to me they still fill the same “wow-like” niche.  As a result I won’t be renewing my patron account in Rift.

The Non-WoW Itch

ARCHEAGE 2014-05-08 20-13-50-11It was fun trying to get into Defiance, but the problem is I got into the Destiny alpha… and it was pretty much everything I had hoped Defiance would be.  So I won’t be spending much more time trying to get into that game when I know there is something I will like much better coming later this year.  ArcheAge I want to like, but it has without a doubt the worst community of griefers I have experienced anywhere.  So unless Trion comes out and announces there will be a co-op server… it is pretty much a nonstarter for me and no sense really spending much more time on it.  Landmark on the other hand has an amazing community, but right now there just isn’t much game there for me to play.  They have built this amazing crafting sandbox, but without combat it isn’t all that interesting to me past the initial build phase.  They have added caves so I figure at some point I will poke  my head back in, but exploration without combat just sounds boring to me.  I’ve officially allowed my claim to be repossessed at this point.

EverQuest2 2013-10-02 06-37-39-56 I still have a special place in my heart for Everquest II, and I can’t say I won’t return to it in the future… but for now I think there are just too many other options.  EQ2 was one of those games where I hated the combat system but loved everything else about it.  Wildstar with its systems within systems is really filling the niche that EQ2 always did, which might be why it is feeling so sticky considering it is replacing both EQ2 and WoW for me.  The Secret World is one of those games I love to remember fondly, but never seem to have a desire to log into on a regular basis.  I know there is a bunch of storyline that I have yet to participate in, and I keep thinking that some weekend I will play through all of it.  That weekend just has yet to arrive, and lately the only time I seem to log in is when I get new hardware and want to test how it performs.

The Also Rans

Diablo III 2014-03-06 22-07-06-52 Diablo 3 is enjoyable, and at some point I would really like to get a crusader to 70…  hell I would like to get my monk to 70.  I just struggle to find any drive to play it when my own personal internet zeitgeist… aka the folks I hang out on voice chat nightly, are not also playing it.  It was really fun up until the release of Elder Scrolls Online and then boom we all vacated the premises.  For the time being I am pretty much crossing it off my list until there is another upwelling of desire among my friends to play it.  Trove is similarly really fun, but without a lot of people that I know playing it on a regular basis I have fallen back out of love with it.  I will likely continue to poke my head into the game irregularly but when I do play… so much has changed that the experience feels very off-putting.  The game is in a pretty much constant state of flux, which is awesome if you are devoted to this game, but confusing if you are a “sometimes” player like me. Play 2014-03-14 10-12-29-25 League of Legends will be a permanent fixture in my gaming rotation so long as I have friends who are devoted to playing it.  I don’t necessarily love the game, but I enjoy playing with my friends.  I personally like Heroes of the Storm so much better, but the problem is with it being in a limited release “technical alpha” state there just are not enough people around regularly to play with.  The MOBA genre is really only fun for me if I am playing with a group of friends, and in this scenario League wins out every time.  That is not to say that I won’t keep poking my head into Heroes especially as they add new waves of players.  As far as Hearthstone and Hex…  I am back playing Magic the Gathering in real life with friends at lunch time…  so the draw of these games is minimal right now.

Those Who Made the Cut

WildStar64 2014-06-20 22-30-01-908 So after spending all of this time culling games for this or that reason, I figure I should talk about the games I am deciding to keep in the rotation.  Warlords of Draenor I am actually enjoying when I do manage to get in and play it.  So yes I am partially doing it in honor of River, and his desire to be in the Alpha, but there is something charming about the new content.  I don’t feel like it will be enough to keep me in WoW, but for the time being I am enjoying it while I can.  Wildstar has pretty much filled the corner of my heart that desire to play a theme park MMO, and it really is the most glorious theme park of experiences once you give yourself over to it.  I feel like I have barely scratched the surface on what it has to offer, and I am intrigued at the schedule they have put out before us.  I really like that they are choosing to put in “hardmode” single and small group content before augmenting the raid game.  That says a lot that they understand that they need to focus on both going forward to keep players.

eso 2014-02-23 12-41-25-63 I still feel like I have so much more that I want to do in Elder Scrolls Online.  I want to finish the Aldmeri Dominion content and see the Ebonheart Content, as well as spend time exploring Craglorn.  I love this game even though I am not playing it much, and I can’t see dropping it from the rotation anytime soon.  I realize that not many players feel the same way about the game as I do, but really for me it is like the best possible version of Skyrim.  I have been out so long at this point that I feel like I am going to be extremely rusty.  There game has problems, namely it is awkward as hell to do anything as a group other than Cyrodil.  They really need to fix this, and I hope that the good folks at Zenimax are looking into things like mentoring.  Right now it is a really awesome single player experience, but gets cludgy when you start adding in more people.  That said it still does have amazing dungeon design, and there are so many of them that I have yet to experience.

LMO 2014-06-23 06-41-14-037 Last but not least is a game that has come in and taken my heart by storm.  Lego Minifigures Online is absolutely adorable and I love everything about this game.  Last night this was the only thing I actually played, and grouped up with Rae she managed to catch me up almost to her level in experience.  Right now we have a vastly different set of mini figures, and it is really enjoyable to group together.  We have both opted to get memberships, and the pocket dungeons are awesome… some of them ending up extremely challenging like the Dragon’s Lair dungeon with I think five different boss fights in it.  I’ve already gotten more than my moneys worth of enjoyment out of it, so this is definitely going to be in my weekly rotation for a long while.  It basically scratches the itch that Diablo 3 did, and cashes in on my absolute love of all things Lego.

So there you have it, going forward I am mostly going to be focused on Wildstar, Elder Scrolls Online and Lego Minifigures Online.  I of course reserve the right to change my mind and undo all of these in the blink of an eye.  That said I do have a ton of single player games that I want to play through, and both the PS3 and PS4 ready to stream content.  I spent a good chunk of the weekend playing Assassin’s Creed 4 for example… and I am absolutely horrible at it, but enjoying myself quite a bit.  As far as online games, I am going to try and limit myself to just these games above for the time being.  I know in September I will be digging into Destiny and playing that online with friends quite a bit, but it doesn’t directly conflict with the types of games I chose above.  Maybe with this abbreviated list, I won’t constantly feel overwhelmed when I sit down at night and try and figure what exactly I am going to do.`

Bucket Update

Not As Bad As Could Be

Northrend

So yesterday was my first day back from vacation, and I have to say it was nowhere near as painful as I had imagined.  Sure over the last few days I had set an alarm for 7 am to start getting my body back in the swing of things, however there is still a large difference between that at the normal 5:30 am I wake up each day.  Sure the morning itself sucked, and I think I grumbled a bit about it yesterday, but as the day moved on I found myself doing mostly okay.  Of course it is still absolutely silly cold outside, but then again so is the rest of the country.  In the grand scheme of things our near zero temperatures are “mild” compared to the areas that are legitimately in the negatives.

The drive in was surprisingly tame, sure there were a few slick spots here and there but as the northerners say… snow is actually not that bad to drive on.  I feel as though I could deal with snow being on the road, and not our normal inch or two of ice.  Granted supposedly there is some ice under the snow, so if you start losing traction there is absolutely nothing to gain footing on… but if you drive rationally it seems to be just fine.  The problem is I live in Oklahoma… and we are not known for driving rationally.  I watched a redneck on the way home purposefully spinning his tires and fishtailing all over the street outside of my house.  I halfway expected him to end up hitting a house or something the amount of movement he was making around out there.  Here is hoping I can get out on the roads and have a similar safe driving experience this morning.

Bucket Update

WoW-64 2013-12-27 08-24-56-75

Yesterday I finished leveling Archaeology to 600, and I knew without a doubt that was something on my wow bucket list.  So this morning I thought I would take a moment to cross a few things off.  I have actually made quite a bit more progress than I had originally thought.  Seems as thought I have knocked the following things off the list.

  • Level Gloam to 90
  • Level Alchemy to 600 on Gloam
  • Level Tailoring to 600 on Belglorian
  • Get Traveler’s Tundra Mammoth
  • Level Archeology to 600 on Belgrave

To be truthful I have not really worked that hard on knocking things off I just piddled around or as @AlternativeChat says “Faffed”.  I have to say hands down the best money I have ever spent in any game is the 14,000 gold to purchase the Traveler’s mount.  I use the thing constantly, especially when I am out farming resources.  On my lowbies, like my Horde Warrior it has made leveling him so much easier as I am always near a vendor… and it seems like the Barrens now drops a truly silly number of patterns.

As of last night we have tentative plans to start working on some of the old world mount achievements.  Here is hoping with that I can start knocking out various other bits from my list.  I have to say I am still very much enjoying the game and keep finding new things I want to do.  Right now I am running a truly silly amount of LFR as I have 6 characters that could use gear.  However when I need a break from LFR I am slowly working my way to 90 on my Disc Priest Belglorian.  I really want to get him up to the cap so I can start doing the daily tailoring cooldown.  Currently 81 is a bit too low to be able to survive Pandaria.

Slow News Day

I honestly do not have a lot going on this morning to talk about other than these few updates.  I am woefully behind on reading my RSS feed, since I really did not keep up with it at all while I was off work.  Why would I be reading webpages when I could be playing games?  I feel bad that I am this far behind.  I know there is a lot of gaming news that I am missing out on, so hopefully I can spend some time to day catching myself back up.  In the meantime I will leave you with this awesome fan trailer by Qelric.  There has been a thread going around the community requesting a Diablo universe version of Hearthstone, called Soulstone.  I fully support this notion, and I really should be playing more hearthstone myself.

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.