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.`

Rebooting Minecraft

Guild Meeting

I have an exciting evening planned that I have been looking forward to for a few weeks.  One of my long time House Stalwart guild members is here in town, and tonight we plan on having a board game night.  Dallian/Doctor Hannah appeared on Episode 5 of AggroChat, and we mentioned the upcoming visit there.  He lives in the Little Rock area which makes him a neighbor of ours as far as the internet is concerned.  I always think its cool when I get to meet someone in the flesh that I have gamed with for ages.  I think the plan tonight is to play loads of Munchkin and eat pizza at Rae’s house.  We’ve tried to invite several of the locals to meet up, so it should be really fun.  I am contemplating bringing some magic starter decks, but that might be a little too involved.  We’ve been talking with a co-worker about maybe trying to play some magic over lunch soon.  Apparently his wife is super into the game and would probably even come up over lunch to play it.

chickenandtots I don’t really do this sort of thing that often.  I guess the last guild member that I met up with was Lummox who happened to be about fifteen minutes away from where I happened to be staying in Albany.  It is always interesting to see how someone is in real life verses their in game persona.  For the most part, a lot of the people I have met have been fairly similar.  I have to say the closest was probably Urcasio and Ravener, who were pretty much exactly the people I would have expected based on in game interactions.  Since I generally find it easier to meet over food, Dal and I are meeting up before this evening for lunch.  For years I have been talking about how amazing Ron’s Hamburgers are, and more importantly their hot and spicy chicken and cheese tots.  So we are meeting up at my favorite location today around 11ish.  I would love to somehow steal him to town like I managed to do with Rae.  I feel like I am trying to build this little gamer community, one person at a time.

Rebooting Minecraft

Last week one of my new friends Missysmojo decided to try her hand at playing Minecraft. I joked with her that she would end up losing the next three months of her life.  She opted to stream a little bit, and it got me thinking.  It has been years since I have played Minecraft with any regularity.  There have been a few times I patched up my client and connected to the guild server just to see what folks were doing, but I had felt like I had “beaten” Minecraft for some time.  In this last year there have been significant changes in the game, and probably even more before that I really never noticed.  So I thought I would start a brand new game and play completely legit.  No mods, no helpful minimap… just the vanilla client and a texture pack (because yeah that is necessary).  The above video is the results of that process last night.  I am not really sure yet how often I will be streaming Minecraft, but I expect to continue where I left off each time.

For starters…  I am really not used to the game any longer.  I kept trying to “suck in” blocks and drops like you do in Trove.  The low performance of the game frustrated me, because I am not used to it “chunking” and loading in parts of the game slowly freezing my client momentarily when it does.  I am sure this is something I can tweak, because I probably just don’t have enough memory flowing to the default client.  There used to be a tool called Magic Launcher that handled a lot of the memory allocation for me, so I might look into that.  Another dumbass move is I totally thought I was on “survival” mode for the first little bit, running scared from potential monsters… only to find out that I actually was in peaceful mode on the client.  Once I noticed that and changed it things started to get interesting.

For starters, it seems like the creeper spawn rate is insane.  I maybe saw one or two zombies and skeletons the first night after flipping it to a normal mode, but I saw what felt like half a dozen creepers.  I managed to trap four chickens inside my base and I dug a pit like I often do and have them down there for a constant source of eggs, feathers and meat.  At some point I want to try and drag a couple of cows and pigs in there as well so I have all of my livestock needs handy.  Most of the video involves me setting up “base” as I hollow out a mountain, search for coal and finally start digging down into the earth in search of steel.  I encounter a cave with a skeleton spawner in it… and have a pretty epic battle trying to break the cave and torch it off.  I had quite a bit of fun, or at least more fun with Minecraft than I have had in ages.

Bunny Doom

Hex 2014-05-15 23-48-43-201 I love everything there is to love about the Shin’hare, and the fact that they exist makes Hex so much more enjoyable than Magic the Gathering ever could be.  It’s an entire race of adorable evil samurai bunnies…  you could slap that into ANY game and I would play it.  As a kid one of my favorite comic book characters was Usagi Yojimbo… so everything about this deck feeds my enjoyment.  Not to mention that my favorite deck combination in Magic the Gathering was Green and Black… and the Shin’hare are exactly that…  Life and Blood aka Green and Black.  In some ways it reminds me of playing my thalid deck circa Fallen Empires.  I would constantly use that deck to feed my black “sacrifice or I feed” cards.  While I am lacking some of the cards in Hex to make this work really well, the starter deck mixed with a few cards I got from my packs seems to be working okay.

Last night I got in and played a few hands against the AI, mostly because it was getting late and I didn’t want to deal with people.  I am anxious for when trading comes into play, because of my group of friends I think I am really the only hardcore bunny player.  I should be able to help some of them out with cards they are looking for and bolster my bunny army.  My all time favorite card is still the Uzume, Grand Concubunny.  Not only is the artwork adorable, but the card is insane when you get it out into play.

When I first read this card, I assumed it would start dropping the 0/1 battle hopper tokens that the other Shin’hare cards do on the table.  While that would have been good enough, considering the normal concubunnies you have to expend resources and tap them to get this effect.  The real effect however is so much better, in that it summons a random non-unique bunny card into play.  This can be ANY card, even ones you don’t currently have in your deck.  It is literally generating cards for you, but the problem is this makes the card and insane aggro magnet.

I need to formulate some ways to protect the card, because really it is too damned valuable to not have it on the board for more than a few turns.  Hopefully soonish I can get together with my other friends currently in the closed beta and play some actual matches.  I feel like Kodra is in a completely different league with me, and like to play a style of magic that I do not… but this will not stop me from attempting to beat him.  He royally kicked my ass in hearthstone, but it didn’t stop me from coming back for more.  These type of games for me are about the moment to moment play and not whether or not I win.  In fact that can pretty much be said with any game I play, I am just not that competitive.  It is about the journey not the win conditions.

Party Like it’s 1995



I have been fairly oblivious to the world for the last few days, and as a result I had fallen behind on my news reader.  The thing that I found most interesting was this article on Massively talking about a potential League of Legends Universe online TCG.  I feel like I would love any game set in the League universe that is not League.  The world they have built up around the MOBA has some pretty awesome lore, and in part that is why I continue to play the game in spite of my problems with the control scheme.  My friends and I have talked about how successful we thought a single player game would be set in that world, but I could see an online TCG working as well.

Party Like It’s 1995


A friend and I were talking about this news, and he made the comment that it is 1995 all over again.  In a way that is exactly what it seems like to me as well.  For those who were not part of that scene during the TCG boom during the mid 90s… suffice to say every potentially marketable property got made into a card game.  I like a sucker probably played most of them out of sheer love and nostalgia for Magic the Gathering the one that started it all.  Some of them stuck around and gained a life of their own like Pokémon or Yugioh because they were driven by external motivators… and some were really amazing and died on the vine like Rage and Vampire: The Eternal Struggle.

However during the 90s… you could find a card game for any property you wanted to play, and I think among my friends we at least bought a starter deck of most of them.  Magic the Gathering has had an online component for years, but for the most part it has never gained traction because it was arcane to get into, and Wizards of the Coast still very much favored the physical market.  In essence it was a cheap copy of a physical property and the company seemed fine with that.  What we are seeing now is a new crop of games conceived for online play, and that offer rule sets that would never really work in a physical card game.

The Next Boom


Much like we have seen for MMOs and MOBA… we are going to see a lot of companies entering this marketplace, trying to TCG-ize their existing intellectual property.  Even though neither has released, it seems like the two leaders going into the marketplace are Hearthstone by Blizzard and Hex by their TCG business partner Cryptozoic.  While they will be competing in the same space, and have quite a bit of overlap… I feel like each of these games is going after a slightly different player.  Hearthstone is going after the “easy to learn, hard to master” demographic, with a deceptively simple mechanic that leads to extremely fast paced duels.

While I have not actually played it (hey Blizz flag my account already), I have watched more than a handful of youtube videos and live streams.  Essentially it seems like a really straight forward rage style duel mechanic.  The thing that I initially am not a huge fan of is the way that combat works.  It seems like there is no real defense mechanic, or at least not one in the way I have come to expect from Magic: The Gathering.  As a result the gameplay is extremely in your face and aggressive, but does not feel terribly nuanced.

Cryptic Gameplay


On the other side of things you have Hex: Shards of Fate by Cryptozoic… which is a oddly fitting company name for their approach.  It feels like they are trying to be Magic: The Gathering 2.0 with an evolved rule set and extremely cryptic and nuanced gameplay.  This is the type of game you go into already at a massive debt of knowledge, but as you learn the rules and uncover strategies you are rewarded for your ability to assimilate the information.  It looks like it will support some extremely long running duels, much in the same way Magic did, with players coming back from the brink to snatch victory out of defeat.

Personally while I really want to play Hearthstone, Hex seems more my style.  It is less Pokémon and Yugioh and more Magic: The Gathering… the game that started the craze and still has a honored spot in my heart.  Currently I think there is more than enough market share for both of these games.  However all of the late comers that are creating online TCGs… are likely going to get left out in the cold the same way all the other boom economies have worked.  Mainly I don’t see anyone else bringing something truly unique to the table.  During the physical card game boom, we saw lots of different themed versions of M:TG, and to a lesser extent I figure we will see this again.

Been There Done That


Currently both games are very fantasy oriented, so I expect the other genres to get on the act shortly.  Since DC is working on a MOBA… I fully expect to be seeing a DC themed online card game.  To be honest… the VS system that incorporated both DC and Marvel had a decent amount of success during the physical card game wars… so it might be a property worthy of resurrection in an online form.  Additionally I fully expect there to be a Star Wars themed product offering with the upcoming 7th movie entering production.  Then I am sure there will be other properties that jump on the bandwagon that we can’t even fathom being a card game…  just like last time.  The problem is… all of this has a feeling of “been there done that” for me.

I experienced this rush of excitement and crushing disappointment several times before during the 90s, as a property I cared about was turned into a truly un-inspired card game amalgam.  To some extent we are still living through this each time an MMO spins up only to sputter out a year or so later.  Another tidbit from my news feed yesterday was that Mummy Online was shutting down… I literally did not even know it existed in the first place.  So MMOs are currently coming and going without me even realizing it.  Basically I am bracing myself for a lot of shoddy card games to be released in a short period of time, trying to cash in on the “new” craze of digital collectible card games.  So as much as I look forward to Hearthstone and Hex… I am entering what I feel will be a new trend with quite a bit of trepidation.



HexPatch 2013-10-10 06-25-35-83

As you can see from the above image I am almost 80% finished downloading the Hex: Shards of Fate Alpha client.  Starting late yesterday Alpha invites began trickling out as the servers came up.  They of course are starting off with the highest supporters and working their way down the list, only allowing small bits in at a time to keep from cratering the servers.  As a result I figure it will take a few days for them to reach us plebeians that only supported enough to get INTO the alpha in the first place. 

However at one point yesterday they stated that it would likely take a few weeks to get down to the “slacker backers” aka folks who supported the project after the kickstarter finished.  If that is the case it should be a matter of days not a matter of weeks, which is good.  I know there were a large number for $250 backers and that is the tier that is starting invites now.  The majority of my friend are all like me and in the $60 mere-human range.


I have to say I am really looking forward to getting some playtime with this.  Everything about it feels like a different take on Magic: The Gathering for the online age.  I am already pretty fond of the Shin’Hare… which happen to be a combination of Wild (green) and Blood (black).  That was the deck combo I always relied on in MTG so here is hoping it will be equally effective in Hex.  Besides any race that has a card called Bun’jitsu has to be amazing right?  I just love the concept of these crazy twisted anthropomorphic bunny rabbits.

They released a PDF with all of the initial cards in it yesterday to backers and almost immediately someone took that and broke it out into an amazing deck builder site, so you should totally check that out.  Additionally on Reddit there is a Hex Alpha FAQ thread that is worth checking out as it has a number of useful links… including the downloader for the alpha client.  Like usual we have a pretty decent sized community that will be playing this off and on so I expect it to join the ranks of League of Legends as one of our regular non-MMO games.  If you are part of this madness as well let me know!  I am always looking for more people to hang out with while playing various titles.