Bad Medicine

A Good Nights Sleep

Monday night I did not sleep well at all.  I was up late futzing and waiting on a print job for my wife, that ultimately ended up printing the wrong thing.  As a result neither of us got to bed until after midnight.  After that I don’t think either of us really got solid sleep, and next thing we knew it the alarm was going off at 5:30.  As a result I spent most of yesterday sleep walking through it.  There are just some hazes that not even caffeine can clear, and this is only compounded by the fact that my allergies are still killing me.  Even the smallest task seemed like a struggle, and last nights raid was pure hell to suffer through…  in part because of my present state of mind.  I realistically should have just bowed out and headed to bed, but that didn’t happen.

I did however managed to get to sleep around 10:30 and last night was probably the most luminously glorious night of sleep I have had in a long time.  Granted I woke up before the alarm by about twenty minutes…  but I did the correct thing and just got on up instead of trying to struggle for those last few minutes of sleep.  The end result is I feel more human than I have in a long time.  Who knew I needed this sleep thing after all?  Now if only I didn’t have to go to work I could actually enjoy my day.  Today in particular is going to be a strange one as I have to go to lunch with a vendor.  Working lunches make me grumpy, especially since during this one we will be grilling the vendor for information.  At least maybe I get a free meal out of the deal.

Rough Raiding

Wow-64 2015-04-21 20-48-48-06 Last night I was not in the right frame of mind for raiding.  That is the simple fact but the end results of the night didn’t really help either.  As a whole the night felt like we were beating our heads against a wall.  We had fourteen people, two healers and opted to run Blackrock Foundry Heroic.  I am not the raid leader so I am sure there was a reason, but it felt like we were just setting ourselves up for failure.  We managed to eek out a victory on Hans and Franz with that configuration.  Then we lost one healer and gained a different healer, and someone healing in their off set.  We pushed forward and managed to down Beastlord Darmac in this fashion, before heading on to do some attempts on Flambender Ka’graz.  There we made some swaps to the layout that seem like they might have worked, but it required a lot more work adjusting on the tanking side, so overall it was a wash and we wiped horribly.

This stagnation and continued throwing ourselves against heroic when it seems like on some level we are just not ready for it is completely destroying any desire I have to log in.  I am not sure what is going wrong honestly.  I am not sure if our tanks are undergeared, or if our healers are undergeared… or if the dps are just taking too much “could be avoided” damage making the healers heal someone other than the tanks.  All I know is that we are having to battle rez tanks constantly, and as a matter of course which makes all of our attempts sloppier than they should be.  Our Tuesday WoW raid is generally bad at adjusting to the conditions on the ground which is maddening to me, because this is precisely the strength of the Monday night Final Fantasy XIV raid.  If things don’t go according to plan we seem to lose our shit completely, and end up flailing wildly…  or standing in shit and dying.  So I am not sure if we just have a massive case of tunnel vision or if there is some gearing problem at hand.  I know for me personally I am still wearing 640 pants because nothing better will drop.

Bad Medicine

Wow-64 2015-04-10 06-18-41-75 The problem is right now I am right back in that old familiar place.  I dread logging into World of Warcraft Tuesday and Thursday to get a raid invite.  I’ve reached that point where I am just frustrated with the whole raiding in wow experience.  I have been here so many times before, and I am not quite sure how to fix it.  I feel committed to “take my medicine” and log in for the sake of my friends, but I question…  are any of us actually having any fun right now?  Monday was one of the funniest nights of raiding I have ever experienced, and we spent it wiping like nubs to turn 9 after having taken a month off of it.  So it obviously is not progression that ultimately dictates how I feel about a raid… it is the attitude of the raiders and the atmosphere of the raid.  We spent Monday laughing and joking, and at the same time we made some serious progress.  That is when I love to raid, when it feels like we are pulling together as a team even if we are wiping horribly.

The Tuesday/Thursday night raids just feel broken.  They have about as much mirth as the waiting room of a battered women’s shelter.  I log in and join the raid and I feel worse, because there is an unspoken tension going on.  No one talks anymore, because key players in the raid are easily distracted by chatter.  What is frustrating is, this is not the raid I joined.  This is not the raid I saw at the end of Siege of Orgrimmar, or even during High Maul.  That raid was excited about the prospects of this expansion, and enjoyed their evenings spent together.  This raid just feels stressed and burnt out… and I have no clue how to rehabilitate it.  I wish I did know honestly, because I miss that raid that existed before we set foot into Blackrock Foundry.  That is a raid I enjoyed spending two nights a week with.  This one…  I just end up zoning out and waiting for the night to be over.

Thriving Community

Oklahoma Conventions

superbitcon Pax South was my first real gaming convention, and I have to say I had an absolute blast there.  Don’t get me wrong I had been to a few conventions in the past, even worked a few comic book conventions when I worked at a comic book shop, but they were nothing like Pax.  This got me thinking about what I might be missing out on here locally.  It turns out we have a not insignificant number of conventions that happen within a short driving distance.  In fact at the tail end of this month a pretty big retro gaming convention is happening in the Oklahoma City area.  As you can see from the handy little button thing on the right it is happening March 28th and 29th at the Oklahoma Expo Hall of the Oklahoma State Fair Park in Oklahoma City…  Oklahoma.  Yeah that was a lot of Oklahoma in a row, even as a lifer I thought it was a bit excessive.

Super! Bitcon is going on its second year, and seems to be a pretty cool place to go especially if you are into “retro” gaming…  or as I like to call it “my childhood”.  They have several well known guests on the docket like Smooth McGroove, Alpha Omega Sin, and Patrick Scott Patterson.  They also apparently have a fairly large exhibitor hall with several local and regional companies showing off the games they have been working on, as well as a free play arcade and gaming museum.  There is this #IamSuperBitcon thing from social media where folks talk about their experiences last year that is really interesting to watch as well.  The absolute best part of all of this is that you get a two day pass for only $10 and for this… I thought it would be a sin for me to pass up going.  Oklahoma City is only an hour and a half drive for me from Tulsa, so not a big deal at all.  One of my new goals this year is to try and hit up as many of these smaller conventions as I can to tide me over until the next Pax.  As we get closer to time I will talk about the Heartland Gaming Expo and the XPO games convention both in the Tulsa area.  It just excites me that we have this thriving games culture seemingly in my own back yard.

Thriving Community

ffxiv 2015-02-18 18-07-31-65 One of the topics that I have been mulling over in my head is why exactly we have manages to stay happy and engaged with Final Fantasy XIV for the better part of this last year.  So often we pop into a MMO and last a few months only to flit off to another title a month later.  At the same time I have been examining why I stayed in World of Warcraft for over seven years, and continue to return to it.  I think the answer to Final Fantasy XIV is two fold.  Firstly we returned to the game after a sequence of boom bust cycles in MMOs like Elder Scrolls Online and Wildstar.  I was personally looking for a place to “settle down” for awhile, and Final Fantasy XIV had been the only title that all of my friends seemed to leave “on good terms” with.  So we set down roots, and I started getting involved in the Cactuar community as did the rest of my guild.  This process was aided by the fact that we had nothing on the horizon to draw our attention away from the game.  As such we have been able to play the game without the distraction of shiny new objects and their promises of a better gaming experience.

I think this lull in MMO releases has helped a lot of games that were stable get more so.  When I came back to Final Fantasy XIV last July they were at I believe 2.5 million subscribers, and last week they announced that they had blossomed up to 4 million subscribers.  That is a fairly significant growth over what is essentially two quarters, and I think that in part it has a lot to do with the fact that there is really nothing out there to pull attention away from it.  Don’t get me wrong Warlords of Draenor happened, and I have been playing it…  but that is only a draw to players who still have warmth in their hearts for the World of Warcraft franchise.  I think the answer to why we have stayed is that we were given enough time to set down roots.  We not only have friends in our free company, but are members of several active linkshells that give us access to raiding and grouping beyond our own numbers.  This sort of environment is contagious and has made recruiting more members to the fold exceptionally easy.  All of which builds upon itself giving me the piece the kept me coming back to World of Warcraft all of this time…  a stable and thriving community.  The awesome thing is… I can have my cake and eat it two, because at this point my community in World of Warcraft is vastly different than my community blooming here in Final Fantasy XIV.

The Botanist

ffxiv 2015-03-12 06-46-29-58 I had every intention to come home and have a quiet night of powering through the early levels of botany.  In fact that is precisely how my evening started, with me brute forcing the level 10 trees near Bentbranch in the Central Shroud.  Right now I am working towards the level 10 quest, which will require 99 Crow Feathers.  My goal is to be able to have 99 waiting and ready for when I ding 10 and can immediately turn in that quest and move on to the next sequence.  However last night it was only a matter of moments before someone in guild needed something… and the adventurer inside me leapt at the chance to do something “not crafting”.  My friend Arkenor needed a run of Haukke Manor, and another group needed a run of Copperbell and thankfully we had the right mix of people to make both happen.  I tanked Haukke on my Paladin and another run when smoothly.  I have said this before, but I keep having to say it over and over.  I love how damned easy and rewarding it is to run lower level content with your friends.

Once the crafting thing was tossed aside I spent most of the rest of the night running content.  We moved from Haukke into a random Expert Roulette picking up Cav to add to Ash, myself and Thalen.  Once finished there I ran a few trials roulette and a hard roulette… and before I realized it was 9:30 and I was starting to get a bit tired.  This is the way an evening can evaporate in Eorzea, with a bunch of chain events that make you wonder where the time went.  So sadly I did not make much progress on Botanist, but I am feeling that Sunday I will have another “catch up on television” day downstairs on my laptop and push forward again.  At some point I need to run a good deal more content however because I would really like to cap my poetics this week, and I have barely put a dent in them.  If I keep running a few roulettes each day, I should be able to do it without much difficulty.  The only monkey wrench in this plan is the fact that most of Saturday I will be out of town, leaving me only Sunday to really work on such things.  In any case… I had a fun evening with my Free Company and have zero regrets of not making any flower picking progress.

Highlights of Pax South

The Day After

sleepybelondrivehome This mornings post is coming out super late because…  I slept in.  After feeling like I had worked the last few days, I was super thankful to have taken Monday off.  The positive is that since I had gotten up every morning at 5:30 it should not be too hard to shift back into work mode tomorrow.  To the left is a photo I took yesterday when we were gassing up at the altar of excess… the New Braunfels Buc-ee’s.  We decided since it was a short distance from San Antonio that we would stop there for breakfast and gas up for the trip.  So here you have a very sleepy Bel who had not slept terribly well the night before.  When I came back to my hotel room I was kind of riding an adrenaline high from day two.  This meant that nothing that I did seemed to be able to calm my mind down enough to sleep.  Normally this is the point when I get up and play some game, but our hotel internet connection was fairly slow, and I did not really want to go through the process of having to verify to WoW or FFXIV that I was connecting from a foreign IP…  also I had already packed up all of my gear in preparation for getting up early the next morning.

Because all the pre-packing we managed to get on the road about 6:30 am and drove through to Waco before taking our first stop (other than Buc-ee’s) which bought us quite a bit of time.  One of the things I want to ask my Texan friends…  what the fuck is with the lean beef sausage?  I thought maybe the BBQ joint in Austin was an aberration, but upon stopping at Buc-ee’s I got two Kolaches and both were this super lean, super dense beef sausage.  Firstly sausage should be pork, but even that aside it should be a FATTY meat… because otherwise it is just like eating this dry meat log.  That said compared to my beloved QuikTrip I was not terribly impressed with either my or my wife’s breakfast choices.  They got a massive strike from my wife in that they did not have any donuts…  they had EVERYTHING you could imagine, but no donuts.  Anyways lackluster breakfast and fairly insane prices aside…  we had a pretty chill trip back.  I think in part it was the desire to get home that kept me going.  So we stopped in Waco, Allen, Durant to hit a Gas Station, Atoka to hit an old school non-supercenter style Wal-mart and then pushed straight through to home.   So we were on the road from 6:30 am until somewhere between 4:30 and 5 pm.  Considerably better time than the trip out.

Highlights of Pax South

ashgarandpip I have to say hands down the best thing to come out of Pax South was getting to meet my long time friend, guildie, and podcasting compatriot Ashgar in person.  There are always those awkward moments when you see someone in the flesh that you already know their vocal mannerisms as your mind adjusts to seeing a body attached to them… but that faded extremely  quickly.  I snapped a photo of him dominating a cool indie game, and I believe it was snapped without him really knowing I took it… but considering he didn’t seem to mind the picture from yesterday going ahead and posting it anyways.  For the last several years this man has been one of my closest friends, and I cannot wrap up the magic that was meeting him in person and realizing that yup he is in fact exactly like how I expected him to be in the flesh.  I am of course sad that we only got to hang out that one day… but it was a pretty awesome day.

oldgregWhile I didn’t stop and take pictures of many of them… I have to say seeing all the people dressed up as things they loved was another huge plus of the experience.  The entire convention has this entire vibe of “everything is awesome”.  The past year has been a rough spot for gamers as a whole, and I was pleasantly surprised that I did not witness any creepy or reprehensible behavior.  I did witness a socially awkward kid addressing a woman dressed as Teemo as “hot teemo” but a random guy from the crowd stepped up to say “man you are being a little creepy” and the socially awkward kid apologized and walked away.  The thing that made me the happiest were the pairs of fathers and daughters roaming around the convention… when you could tell the daughter was the one who was really excited to be there.  Pax South gave me a lot of hope for the future, and I am sure there were bad things that came out of the con, like there are anywhere…  but it did not at least seem to be super prevalent.  The photo to the side was so spectacular that I stopped and asked the guy if he minded me taking it.  For those who are not familiar… this is a spot on “Old Gregg” from The Mighty Boosh.  To make things even better… he pretty much nailed the Old Gregg voice and mannerisms as well.  Was kinda bummed that he did not offer me warm baileys from a shoe.

Another moment that was absolute magic was sitting in the crowd waiting for the Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns announcement.  I am not even a fan of Guild Wars 2 really… and I even felt pumped to see what was going on.  They had left these inflatable “thunder sticks” with the Guild Wars 2 logo on them.. and folks were using them to great benefit.  The noise was deafening so I attempted to take a video to give folks an example.  Moments before Jennifer Hale took the stage the crowd had started a slower rhythmic thump which was awesome.  I’ve seen a number of expansion announcements before but it is difficult to grasp the hype of the moment while watching a twitch stream from the comfort of your home.  I was roughly six to eight rows back in the dead center of the auditorium and the excitement was just infectious.  I have no clue if I will play Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns at launch, but having Jennifer Hale come out to work up the crowd was an awesome choice.  She as always is a badass.  Even if I don’t play the game, I am happy I got to participate in its announcement.

Belle of the Ball

I have to break this photo out again, because it makes me so happy to have a picture of Rae, Ash and Me playing Gigantic.  This game was really my own personal “best in show”, in part because it was not something I expected to like at all.  They really did an outstanding job both in the staging of the product, their booth, and building buzz around the convention.  They also had what looked to be a pretty awesome party Saturday night.  I swung by for a bit to say hi, but knowing I had a long drive ahead of me I simply did not stay for long.  That party honestly was the only time during the entire weekend that crowds got to me… but that was in part due to the fact that it was quite literally standing room only.  Finding enough free space to move around between the various areas of the room was a bit of a challenge and folks had spilled out onto the nearby balcony as well. giganticbooth Everyone I dealt with from Motiga the company behind Gigantic was simply awesome and welcoming.  It was so many things that made them my pick of the show, for starters it is a game I had no real interest in but only sat down to play it due to my personal connection to Lonrem who was helping them out that weekend.  The booth downstairs was impressive, and really dominated the floor which is saying something considering both Twitch and Intel had some pretty intense booths as well.  On top of that… the lines to play this game were insane.  At one point Saturday the line almost wrapped around twice.  I’ve never been one to watch other people play games… I don’t watch a lot of twitch unless the caster is a friend of mine.  While my circle of friends are big into watching the LCS play in League… I get bored within a few minutes of a match starting.  However at various points during the weekend I found myself hanging out upstairs in the scrimmage room just watching the various teams playing.  I found myself drawn to this game in ways I can’t quite grasp.

gigantic_scrimroom2 Largely I think this is in part because the game is visually exciting to watch.  There is constant action and the characters are animated beautifully.  Every attack you perform feels important, because there is weight to the animations that make them feel epic.  Another huge thing for me was just how “at home” I felt with the controls.  During the first match I picked up the controls of The Margrave within a few seconds and landed the first kill of the game.  It felt and controlled exactly like I thought that character should.  In my second game I wanted to try a champion, only to find it was already taken… so picked Roland on a whim.  I don’t normally like ranged characters, but I felt Roland’s mid to short range game play compelling with the hookshot escape mechanism to get away when things went bad.  So there I was playing a ranged character and loving it, in spite of it going against everything I traditionally like in games.  I have a feeling I could probably pick up ANY character and find something I liked about it.  The skill sets just seem to have a lot of depth to them, and the various specializations give players way to tweak them and make them their own.  I am really looking forward to seeing more of this game as it moves forward towards the planned late 2015 release.

An Evening With Alternative Chat

Bel Folks Stuff Episode 3

This morning sees the release of the third episode of my experimental side podcast, Bel Folks Stuff.  For those who have not followed this development, as the title graphic says I have conversations with interesting people about the stuff they are into.  So far I’ve had such conversations with Gypsy Syl and Rowan Blaze and his wife Scooters.  Both of those were really awesome conversations and I suggest you go back and listen to them at your convenience.  This morning however I am releasing an episode that I have been looking forward to with another good friend the Godmother of Faff behind Alternative Chat.  As a strict devotee of the Faff lifestyle, or at the very least an aspirant to the lifestyle… I always appreciate her bringing the term to public consciousness.  The funny thing is… we really didn’t even talk about this during the podcast.  I believe in letting the conversation go where the conversation goes and we filled up an hour of time chatting away about various bits, and probably could have filled up another hour doing the same.

Of note for this episode I also wanted to make sure that the podcast was available on both iTunes and Stitcher radio to help those folks out who prefer to listen to podcasts through those avenues.  I admit I was nervous with this episode because Alt herself has such an amazing production quality for her own podcasts. I felt like there was no way I could live up to that standard.  That said I feel like this episode is really solid, and that maybe just maybe I am starting to get a hang of what exactly this thing is going to be all about.  I don’t really sit down with a fixed number of questions or anything of the sort, but instead just try and keep the conversation flowing as best I can.  With Alt the conversation flowed naturally even though later in the cast she admitted to having notes of her own.  I still feel like we maybe got more than a few moments of genuine spontaneity there nonetheless.  Speaking of spontaneity, I am always trying to evolve as a person and as such would love to hear your comments on how this side project is working.

Rifftrax and Raiding

With the shit storm that happened Tuesday with the Argent Dawn server, we didn’t actually get to start raiding as a group until last night.  Unfortunately I had other plans, and had to miss the raid.  Some of my co-workers and I have started this tradition of sorts of going to the RiffTrax live shows whenever they happen.  Granted they are not truly “live” for us as in performed in theater.  Nonetheless each time I go I think to myself “I have never laughed this hard ever” and then the next one trumps it.  This go around they were riffing on a show they did during the 5th season of MST3K, a strange version of Santa Claus that involves Santa, Merlin, and some Christmas Devils…  you know the standard fare.  It turns out that apparently the film originally hailed from Mexico where maybe it made more sense?  The final product is this insane dubbed over feature with so many absolutely absurd moments that they had pretty much endless ammunition to make fun of it.  If you are really curious you can check out the MST3K version that someone has dumped on youtube, but apparently it was edited down heavily… and they had all new jokes to make at the movies expense.

As far as the raid goes they apparently had a pretty great night of their own right.  It seems as thought they managed to two shot Kargath, and then down The Butcher a well.  The sounds like they made some good progress on Tectus as well, so they are hoping to easily down that next Tuesday and progress to the next boss.  We apparently ran the raid on personal loot and the RNG gods were good to a lot of players.  I know Rylacus walked away with three pieces of gear, which means he can officially no longer complain about “never getting drops” for the remainder of this expansion.  Admittedly he has always had pretty shitty luck with getting drops he actually needs, but the moment a rare assed mount drops… his dice immediately improve.  I can’t really complain because I too have a collection of rare mount drops, but most of those were diligently farmed… and the only one I actually won when it was relevant was the Fiery Warhorse Reins.

Less Communicative

Last night after my post yesterday, I had a friend check in on me to make sure I was doing okay.  It made me realize that I am doing a pretty bad job of reaching out to say “hey” to people lately.  This friend has been logged into WoW at the same time as me for many nights, but I have been stuck in my own little world quite a bit.  Right now I have a batch of things that needs to be wrapped up at work before going on my holiday vacation after the 19th.  Then there is the daily blogging, and the two podcasts that I am keeping going… one of which records weekly.  After that it seems like I always have some OTHER side project to work on, like my upcoming post for Syl’s Bloggy Xmas.  Someone started a conversation the other day with “I know you are busy but” and I thought…  am I busy?  It seems like I very much am, and as a result when I get busy I tend to encapsulate myself in a little bubble or just shift into “speak if spoken to” mode.

Mostly this morning I wanted to take a moment to say that essentially “its me not you”.  I feel like I am failing miserably at keeping in contact with people during this holiday season.  I promise I still care, and I promise I am still interested in what’s going on in your worlds… but at this point I feel painfully behind in everything.  I’ve always taken the Stanley Spadowski “Drink from the Firehose” approach to information intake.  The problem is I seem to be falling further and further behind as my blog reader consistently has hundreds upon hundreds of posts to read.  Between that and trying to juggle playing World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV and entertain semi-focused raiding in both of them… my attention circuits are maxed out.  I promise I am still out here and still caring… I am just not taking it upon myself to engage directly nearly as much as I previously did.  All of that said… if you need help with something I will do my best to assist in any way I can.  Hopefully after the holiday break things will calm down a bit and I can reach a point of equilibrium.

10 Years :: 10 Questions

Mission for Godmother

This mornings post is going to be a little bit different than my normal fare.  One of the Blaugust bloggers the acclaimed Godmother of Faff posted a challenge of her own.  On her blog Alternative Chat she is wanting anyone who has played World of Warcraft at any point during the ten years it has been in progress to take a quick survery.  Being a blogger… this screamed a blog post to me.  I will of course post my responses into her handy google form after I have finished this process, but I wanted to share my responses with the world as well.  There is hardly any gamer that has not been touched in some way by Blizzard and the World of Warcraft… so I highly suggest you all participate in the event as well.

10 Years :: 10 Questions

tenyearstenquestions

1. Why did you start playing Warcraft?

I was indoctrinated into the world of MMO gaming during Everquest, and from that point onwards I was always on the look out for the next awesome game.  I spent three years in EQ, another three in DAoC, a year in Horizons and was playing City of Heroes when I first got my taste of beta.  I admit when I first heard about World of Warcraft, I wondered how in the hell they would have enough storyline to make a game out of that.  I remembered Blizzard mostly as a company that made awesome games, but with only enough storyline to keep them from absolutely falling apart.  I just couldn’t imagine something as detailed as say an Everquest coming out of that company.  Then I got my first taste of the game and I was hooked.

World of Warcraft was so evolutionarily better than anything out at the time.  It was a pulling together of all of the best characteristics of all of the games I had played to date and melding it together with this awesome cohesive narrative.  I had some bad experiences with the Everquest guild I was in, and the leader being extremely domineering, so I knew going into a new game that everyone was excited about like WoW… I didn’t want that to happen again.  I figured the only way I could stop it from happening was to accept the mantle of leadership myself.  Roughly a year before the game actually released we started a forum, pulling together the small pools of players that we had played with in all of the games along the way, and through it House Stalwart was born.  At launch we had around fifty players, and it continues to be a large multi-gaming guild to this day.

2. What was the first ever character you rolled?

My first character was my paladin Exeter, who began his life as a dwarf.  I had fallen in love with the Paladin in beta, and especially the synergy between my Paladin and the Priest my friend had been playing.  The problem is by the time release came around they gutted the extremely enjoyable strike system and replaced it with the extremely cludgy seal system.  I gave it the good college try and so long as I was leveling with my friends I did just fine.  The problem is my ability to solo was dismal, and I felt like I was getting pulled into another “forced grouping” situation like Everquest.  Then tragedy struck…  there was a death in the family and I was absent from the game for a good time.  When I came back all of my friends were a good 10 to 20 levels higher than me, and I knew there was no hope of catching up on the paladin.

I ended up rolling a new character a Dwarven Hunter Lodin, and with him I was able to solo until my heart was content and catch up to my friends.  He was the main I never intended to have, and while fun ranged dps was never really my cup of tea.  The problem is that some of my good friends had formed a raid group on our server, and they needed another hunter.  From the moment I started raiding as a hunter, I felt obligated to STAY a hunter since they were going to the efforts of gearing me up.  I played all of Vanilla as a survival hunter rocking the dragonbreath hand cannon for my main weapon.  Belghast was not actually born until I decided that I wanted to be the best tank I could be… and rolled a warrior to level with my friends priest.  But that is a story for another day.

3. Which factors determined your faction choice in game?

In truth when House Stalwart first launched we made a failed attempt to play both factions.  We had House Stalwart of Argent Dawn on the Alliance side, and we had the Burning Claw of Silverhand on the Horde side.  We split between the two roleplaying servers that existed at launch.  For the first few months everything was fine.  We pretty regularly alternated between the two sides, but the problem is as we got deeper into our characters we self sorted.  A small faction of our guild preferred to play horde and the vast majority preferred the alliance.  For me I have always been partial to dwarves, so it was an easy pick for which side to go on.

Because of this however I don’t really feel like I have massive faction loyalty, and ultimately would rather the factions simply not exist.  Having a wall between the players feels like a poor design choice, and one that keeps getting repeated out in other games.  I’ve always preferred how Everquest series handles faction, in that it is a personal choice and determines what areas you can go into… but not who you can associate with.  As far as my not really playing horde regularly since… I guess I have gotten used to the easy life of the alliance.  PVP only happens if you go and look for it, and since I am by nature a massive carebear I like this aspect of my faction.  Additionally I have never really enjoyed playing “Monstrous Humanoids” to borrow the Dungeons and Dragons term.  I would rather be a valiant knight in shining armor than a noble savage.

4. What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why?

Sindragosa_Mockup I have a whole string of memorable moments, but probably the one that will always stand out for me is the first time we killed Sindragosa in Icecrown CItadel.  This was a fight that we absolutely struggled with for weeks.  The raid I was helping to lead at the time, Duranub Raiding Company was aptly named.  We were in fact a durable pack of nubs… which is a phrase that ties back to an even earlier raid group the Late Night Raiders.  We were one of those groups that struggled to get down the basics of an encounter… then all the sudden the moment you beat it you never wipe on it again.  Same was the case with Sindragosa, we struggled to deal with people getting frozen and people breaking them out.  On the time we actually downed her one of our best hunters Thalen, landed the killing blow mere seconds before getting put into an iceblock himself.  So the boss was down and there were 25 little icicles spread throughout the room.  The above image is my “artists recreation” of the fight.

All of the most memorable moments I have from the game came either through raiding or through dungeon runs, and I have come to the realization that they have little to do with the actual game itself.  Sure the game provided me a backdrop to do interesting things with other people, but it was the interaction with said people that made it interesting.  From the raid singing the “Crotch Pocket” jingle anytime Furnace Master Ignis shoved someone into his belt mounted crucible, or the struggles with “OmNomNomITron” and our shouting of “KIds!” anytime the plague one would spawn adds.  It was the people that made everything interesting and all of the memorable moments I have are something you can never actually get back.  They were awesome but they were fleeting and you can make new memories, but you can never fully relive the old ones.

5. What is your favourite aspect of the game and has this always been the case?

My favorite aspect of World of Warcraft or any MMO for that matter are the dungeons.  I love delving into ancient ruins with friends in the search for fabled treasures.  For starters I have a massive bloodlust when it comes to gaming, and I will go out of my way to kill mobs.  In a given night there are lots of moments where my friends will ask “Where is Bel?” and sure enough I will be a ways off killing something that we didn’t actually need to kill.  So I love running dungeons with friends and during the era of WoW before the dungeon finder I used to build groups regularly from random strangers on the server.  This was the primary way I met new people to join our raid and often times my guild.

The problem is with the dungeon finder the dungeons changed into something that I didn’t like very much at all.  It all became about getting through them as quickly as possible and avoiding as much content as you could to rush to the end boss and “Finish”.  This mentality just seemed like a travesty to me, because for me the dungeon itself was the reward and the time spent with new and interesting people in it.  Unfortunately this dungeon mentality has infected so many other game communities that if you log in and run a dungeon in say Rift, they have the same expectations.  While there are a few games like FFXIV that seem to have been forgotten by time and have really charming dungeon running cultures, my biggest fear is that WoW opened a Pandora’s box and ruined dungeon running in the process.

6. Do you have an area in game that you always return to?

There are a few areas of the game that I never skip, for example if I have the opportunity I will always level through Duskwood.  Yes it is a frustratingly laid out zone, but I love the vibe of it.  If there is a zone in a game that has werewolves, vampires or zombies… chances are I will deviate my leveling path to make sure I go through there.  The problem with Duskwood however is Elwynn Forest and Westfall have so many issues.  On a role-playing server, Goldshire is still ERP central…  so I have long since stopped leveling any character in Elwynn.  Westfall got considerably better in Cataclysm but is still a fairly boring slog in a pretty ugly zone.  So generally speaking if I am working on a new character I will make a beeline to Duskwood around 20… complete the zone and then run the hell away and get back out of the human areas.

As far as areas I return to, I admit that I return to past raids often.  Even though I spent three hours of every sunday for years in first Molen Core and then later Kharazan…  I still enjoy soloing both zones.  I am also extremely partial to the Black Temple, as I love the look and feel of the encounters.  Basically if it is a raid and I can potentially solo it, I will likely do it on a semi regular basis.  In a way I know I am wallowing in the nostalgia of the good times I had in that place, so once again it is less about the place itself and more about the experiences I had there.  Each time I take down Nefarian for example I remember one of our paladins screaming “Use the Fucking Force” over teamspeak as all the healy paladins cast holy wrath.  I have so much nostalgia tied to so many zones at this point, that revisiting any of them is enjoyable.

7. How long have you /played and has that been continuous?

I am am really hoping you mean how long we have played the game in time, not actual /played hours.  Firstly it will take forever for me to compile a list of just how many hours I have played this game spread out among my army of alts.  Secondly I really don’t want to confront just how big that number will be.  Suffice to say I have 7 level 90 characters, 2 85+, 4 80+, 2 70+ and enough 10-30 characters scattered on so many different servers that I have long since hit my 50 character limit and have to delete something to roll anything new.  Belgrave became my “main” while we were starting Crusaders Coliseum 25 and I just looked and his /played is 86 days so I cannot fathom just how many physical years I have spent when you add everything up.

As far as how long have I played…  I was in beta before the launch of World of Warcraft and House Stalwart was a day one guild.  I played pretty solidly until Cataclysm when I feel out of love with the game in a big way and wandered off into Rift and then a string of other games.  It seems like I renew interest in the game a few times a year now.  I came back at the tail end of Cataclysm and stayed for the first few months of Pandaria, long enough to raid a little bit.  Then most recently I came back for about six months and raided a bit of Throne of Thunder/Siege of Orgrimmar.  At which point I took back the crown of my guild and have at the very least kept my account active from that point onwards.  I love the guild and the people in it, and I am always willing to log in and check in on things even though I am maybe only playing once or twice a month.  It is easy to quit the game, but it is extremely hard to quit the people playing it.

8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?

I freely admit that most of the time I do not.  There are two distinct kinds of questing for me… busy work and epic quest chains.  The busy work like Kill X things, deliver this to that, retrieve this doodad…  I really don’t pay attention to at all.  In general I try to skim every quest I get to see if it is going to be an interesting one or not.  If something catches my eye in this skimming process I go ahead and read the entire thing.  I have gotten really spoiled by modern games with voice acted content.  I will stop and listen to every last acted word when a quest is delivered like that, however if you are giving me a wall of text I skim it for the relevant bits and then move on.  The primary time I end up reading every last line is when you get one of those quests that doesn’t work the way you think it should.

If you can believe it I am actually better about reading quest text today than I used to be.  During the early days of WoW I would far rather grind mobs than do quests at all.  This was the side effect from coming through a long line of games where the quests didn’t really matter.  Everquest was a massive misnaming of that game, because in reality you never encountered quest unless you dug for them by “hailhumping” every mob in a zone until one of them responded with a keyword that signaled there was a quest.  Instead I preferred to just go out and slaughter entire zones rather than hunt for the one clue that started a quest that was more than likely just a “bring me X things” that you got from killing mobs anyways.  It also depends on the game, in a game like The Secret World I read every last bit because I know not doing so will come around to bite me in the end.

9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?

I am sitting here trying to think of something, but really nothing major comes to mind.  I know there have been times where I wished things had ended better with various people regarding the games.  When you lead a guild and lead a raid there is always drama surrounding it.  There are various events brought on by the game, and raiding that I wished would have maybe ended on better terms.  However I don’t really dwell on them enough to consider them regrets.  For the most part everything I have experienced through games, has lead me to be the gamer  and blogger I am today.  I tend to focus on the journey and not the goals.  Sure there are little baubles and trinkets along the way that I kinda wish I had gotten, but for the most part I can always go back and obtain them later.

The only thing I really wish I had done was complete my shadowmourne.  I am up to the part where I need to collect the various bits from the different encounters in Icecrown, but I have never actually gone back and made an effort to do it after the close of Wrath.  Ultimately it just didn’t seem important enough to hassle a bunch of people into doing.  It is not the sort of thing I really dwell upon but it would have been nice to complete that legendary eventually.  I would still love to see a set of bindings drop for Thunderfury, but that is less about me or more about me wanting to make sure SOMEONE from LNR gets some.  We raided Molten Core every single week for two years and never saw so much as a single binding drop.

10. What effects has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming?

Other than it making my wife occasionally grump and want to pull the plug from the back of my PC, I have to say overall the experience has been a positive one.  There are so many friends that I would not have today were it not for this game.  My blog for example started entirely out of a love of World of Warcraft and over time morphed into a love of all gaming.  My twitter community, my blogger friends, the massive group of people that makes up House Stalwart and even the Blaugust event that is going on right now and is so amazingly successful…  none of this would have happened were it not for World of Warcraft and the connections I made while playing it.  As a result, even if I fall out of love with the game, I have to respect the effect it has had on my life and the great lives I have met in the process.

Fear of the Tonberry

Unexpected Enjoyment

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

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

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

Fear of the Tonberry

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

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

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

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

Blaugust Update

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

The Topic

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

The Guidelines

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

The Rewards

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

– Grand Prize

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

– Three Also-Awesomes

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

– The Catch-Up Artist

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

– All Participants

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

The Sign-up

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

Working as a Group

Different Expectations

WildStar64 2014-06-20 22-10-26-608 Lately there has been some discontent in the guild, and it has made me painfully aware that different people are looking for vastly different things.  There is no right or wrong answer here, but simply a case of wildly different expectations of what they have come to expect out of a guild and MMO relationship.  I am not speaking for the guild or anyone in it in making this post, but I thought it might be useful for me to outline how I personally view a guild.  Like I said just because I see something this way doesn’t mean there are not a wide variety of other opinions on what is proper and good in guild etiquette.  However I’ve learned the fastest way to resolve any rough spots is to simply outline what you are expecting out of an arrangement.

Each of us comes to MMO gaming and guilds from a different set of past experiences.  While some of these overlap many times they do not, and that is where the misunderstandings stem from.  Massively Multiplayer games are not this monolithic experience, regardless of how we might think of them as such.  For me I come from a raider background, and even though I am mostly “casual” these days it still colors everything about my gaming experience.  Some players approach a guild from a PVP standpoint and then get frustrated when not everyone embraces the aspect of the game they enjoy the most.  Similarly role-players could feel left out in the cold when the guild as whole does not share their interest for deep personal character development.  While we might all think we play exactly the same game…  that is almost never the case.

Working as a Group

Belghast.140616.233202 I love doing big epic things with my guildies like raids or dungeons or even some pvp encounters.  The problem is… that while I love grouping up for these few cases…  I don’t ever want to quest with another person.  I did Star Wars the Old Republic as a dedicated Duo… and found the experience to be both rewarding on one hand, but deeply claustrophobic on another.  I’ve always found the group leveling experience, and especially the group questing experience to be extremely chafing.  Someone is always a quest ahead of the group and someone is always one or two quests behind.  There is a constant awkward struggle to try and keep this many armed abomination moving forward efficiently.  As a result my preference will always be to quest alone, and have my personal time.

That is not to say I am not willing to group up at a moments notice… but I want there to be a “purpose”.  If you need help killing this or that objective, or if there is an over world dungeon that you just can’t quite survive by yourself…  those are awesome times to group.  That said I like there to be a fixed duration of the grouping and a fixed goal in mind.  I am a truly horrible group mate, because I will wander off on my own constantly.  I’ve spent so much of my gaming time with other people depending on me for this or that, and when I level it is my time where I get to not give a shit about the needs or wants of others.  When we are in a dungeon and I am tanking however… I am all about the needs of the group and the goal of getting us through the dungeon successfully.

The Reality Check

WildStar64 2014-06-20 06-18-00-159 For most of my gaming experience I figured most players felt like I did, and preferred to quest alone.  However over the last few weeks I’ve come to the realization that there is a specific group of player that wants to literally be grouped up 24/7 and working together towards everything.  I think this is both noble and cool to have a leveling buddy like that… but I want no part of it at all.  What is cool is that there are enough of these folks that they should be able to form their own little “band of brothers” and conquer the world together, but they lack the spark to do just that. I guess in part I didn’t even realize players wanted this since the ability to solo at all for me at least feels like a hard fought battle.  In the early generations of MMO games, grouping was required to do anything at all, and it often meant a multiple hour long commitment.

I cut my teeth playing Everquest, and as a Dwarven Cleric…  trying to solo anything was an act of futility and my nights were often dictated by whoever happened to be tanking for the group.  I felt helpless and completely out of control, being forced to depend on someone else for my fun.  It was a feeling I did not like one bit.  So when I entered more modern games, I would pick whatever archetype could solo well and be relatively self sufficient.  Thankfully these were almost always tanks, since they mostly had the survival ability to take whatever the game threw at them.  So I decided that I actually liked being able to solo on one hand, and being the cornerstone of a group on the other.  The further into management I have gotten in my real life, the more I have craved my “solo” time in MMOs, where I can just do whatever the hell I want to do without having to worry about the needs and wants of the many.

Role of a Guild

WildStar64 2014-06-02 06-30-06-146 So I am sure at this point you are asking yourself…  why do I focus so much on the importance of guild and community.  Well honestly the guild gives a foundation and friendly faces that I see on a daily basis.  It gives me the sense that even though I am off on my own doing whatever I want to do… that I am working together with others towards a common goal of progressing the guild.  It is both friendly chat group and a constant source of inspiration and support when you need it.  Additionally it gives you access to a lot of really great people when it does come time to group up and do something meaningful in an MMO.  The guild shines when it comes time to run an Ship quest, Adventure, Dungeon or PVP match.  The other night we had a grand night of doing pvp and it was extremely fun… even though I traditionally shy away from player versus player gameplay.

I’ve always seen my role as a community organizer to be that of laying the ground work and collecting the awesome people all in one place, so that they too can take fate into their own hands and do cool stuff together if they choose to.  There lies the problem however, is that so many players want to sit back and have a “Cruise Director” plan events for them to attend.  I on the other hand counter that it is the responsibility of each player to take responsibility for their own fun.  If you want to do something, do it and convince people to come along with you.  I’ve posted a few times about what I term the art of Groupcraft, but I will link it here again.  One of the most empowering things you can do for yourself is to learn how to be confident in the assembly of a team that will work.

There are absolutely more successful ways of pulling together a group and making something happen when you want it to.  Essentially in my experience you have to talk to people directly to get them to actually notice that you are trying to do a thing.  This is much easier on voice chat, since you get the immediate feedback, however I did this same thing for years without the advent of voice chat.  The critical knowledge however is what exactly you need to be successful.  If you are a tank, then you need to find a healer and a few dps.  In order to find the healer, you have to know what classes CAN heal and who in the guild falls within those search parameters.  Basically for me a good guild is a friendly group of people that you like chatting with, but also a way to ease the finding of people to do something with.  A hand crafted guild group will always be more enjoyable than a PUG, and usually more successful.

Just My Point of View

WildStar64 2014-06-20 22-30-01-908Please note, like I said before this is just my point of view on the subject and what I am looking for out of a guild and the people in it.  This is not some maxim that I will not cross, because lord knows I am liable to turn around this afternoon and end up grouped with someone for a long period of time and enjoy myself.  These are just my tendencies and I thought it might be useful to open a dialog about what folks are expecting, by outlining what I am actually expecting.  The Alliance of Awesome has been an interesting experiment because it is this big glorious amalgam of a bunch of different communities with their own rich traditions.  House Stalwart had a shared guild culture that had been built up over the course of a decade, and it was pretty much expected that everyone in the guild felt the same way.

Going forward into this new experiment, we can no longer afford to expect that.  Each of us comes from potentially different backgrounds with some shared and some disparate experiences.  We have to come up with a brand new cultural norm as a result.  I don’t feel this is the time for anyone to throw their hands up and walk away in a huff because they did not get whatever it was they were looking for.  Instead it is time for folks to talk clearly about what exactly they are expecting out of this larger relationship.  I think we are on the precipice of having something truly amazing, that we can all benefit from.  We just need to take the time not to nurture it as it grows.  I would not have poured so much effort into it so far, if I didn’t think it could be great for everyone involved.

Alliance of Awesome

Multigaming Community

allianceofawesome On January 31st a few interesting things happened.  Firstly Sony Online Entertainment released the alpha for Everquest Next Landmark…  now just known as Landmark.  More importantly this set a chain of events into motion.  For some time there has been a group of loosely affiliated guilds and gaming  communities tugging on essentially the same pool of players.  So we might end up getting this mix of players for a specific title and then having a similar mix of players for another title down the road from this huge twitter/g+ gaming community pool.  With Landmark this reached a bit of a head and someone was brave enough to stand up and say it was silly.  In the opening days of Landmark, since there were no guilds (and still arent for that matter) each of these communities opted to start a chat channel.  The problem is this left some people joining as many as six different channels at a time.

Scarybooster proposed a simple idea, that we all agree to use one common chat channel, and with that the Alliance of Awesome was born.  It started simple in scope, but from there Zelibeli and I kinda ran with it and over the last four months we’ve built a rather large loosely connected gaming alliance.  Currently we have five different groups in the AofA community: House Stalwart, Multiplaying.net, Combat Wombat, Mercy Gaming, and Dark Religion.  Lately I have been talks with Liore about maybe having the already awesome Machiavelli’s Cats community join the fold as well.  I have to say so far that over the last four months things have indeed been awesome.  For the most part everyone has seemed to get along swimmingly and I’ve watched this group of disconnected pieces merge into a community in every sense of the word.

A Simple Idea

One of the big problems with being habitual multigamers is the fact that guilds are often transistory and it is hard to constantly muster a new batch of people to play whatever game is coming down the pipe.  Additionally since not every game will end up being ideal for everyone, this means you have massive amounts of fragmentation as folks leave a given game for something new.  The idea was that each individual guild would take responsibility for the reigns of the games that they were most into, and then that way as gamers we would have access to a good and familiar guild regardless of the game we choose to play.  Over the coming months I would like to see this formalized into a sort of Rosetta stone for who has which guilds where and just how active each of them are.

The problem is that since we each have our own guild identities, it felt odd to constantly ask players to register an account on a new forum for each group.  As a result we tried a few different things to have a shared neutral ground between the communities.  The first of these efforts was the Alliance of Awesome reddit… and while it worked well enough, it caused as much frustration as it solved.  Then I stumbled onto Anook and it seemed almost perfectly suited for us.  It offered public and private forums, an events calendar and was more gamer social network than private site allowing folks to link everything up to the games they are streaming into the shared hub… or in the verbiage of that network a “nook”.  This also lets the bloggers in our midst share our posts easily on the nooks blog, and so far that seems to also be working well.

A Unified Approach

Over the last few months we have been melding significantly.  Elder Scrolls Online launch for example was the first real “Alliance of Awesome” foray, and while we still kept to the branding of House Stalwart… it was very much a shared occasion.  With the launch of Wildstar, we had no real forerunner guild wise that looked to be taking up the reigns.  Instead we opted to drop any specific guild branding and simply go with the “Alliance of Awesome” for our guild name.  Honestly I have to say it feels very natural and I can see eventually we may drop the individual guild monikers and just do things from that standpoint.

The biggest problem I forsee moving forward is the fact that right now we are still very much utilizing two completely separate voice servers.  A good chunk of the House Stalwart guild is still very happily playing World of Warcraft and doesn’t really care about any other game on the market.  The rest of us are pretty nomadic, but we still are far more used to and comfortable with mumble as a communication platform.  Multiplaying, Dark Religion, and Mercy Gaming have all standardized on a Teamspeak 3 server run for free by the ever amazing Saia.  So I would really like to make a move to trying to use that as well and simply dropping the mumble.  That said this feels like a landmine because I have no clue how to convince the WoW-only contingency to abandon mumble and make the shift over to Teamspeak 3.  Also I hate to abandon Mumble myself until they have done this, because while I am not playing World of Warcraft on a nightly basis I still hold the guildmaster position and get called on to resolve issues.  I want to make sure I am reachable by folks even when I am not in the same game.

Shared Ethics

The other rough spot is that we need to come up with a shared set of rules and codes of conduct.  For years House Stalwart has followed a simple “three tenets” approach, and relied on guild leader and officer judgment to fill in the gaps.  Zeli tends to favor spelling things out, and considering the large volume of people she has dealt with not completely organically connected… I can totally see why this would be a good thing.  After years of trying to “keep things simple” but then having to deal with explaining nuance… I am starting to favor Zeli’s approach to be honest.  I hate writing rules, and as such that’s why I came up with the somewhat ambiguous three that we use.  I figured that using common sense folks would realize what they meant… problem is not everyone “common” is the same.  The further away from the same core of friends you get, the more confusing the interpretation becomes.

Going forward I think we are going to have to just agree upon a shared set of rules, and I think so far the batch Zeli came up with for the Alliance of Awesome guild seems like a great place to begin.  The biggest thing I hope out of this is that we are a living community.  That we will continue to grow as we adopt other awesome people from twitter, anook, g+, or that we happen to stumble across in game.  Also I hope that we do in fact get the Machiavelli’s Cats community to join the fold, and keep finding other like minded groups to rally to the cause.  I would really like Alliance of Awesome to not only have an ostentatious name, but also have awesome actions to back it up.  I want us to be part of the solution in the games we play, and not part of the problem.  I would love to see us better each of the gaming communities we are in.

Giving Back

File:Child's Play Logo updated.pngOne of the things that Zeli and I have been talking about lately is that we would really like to enter Alliance of Awesome in this years Child’s Play marathon.  Far as I can tell this will take place on October 25th, and the idea is to have 25 hours of live streaming for charity.  I have wanted to participate in this for years, but I thought it would be more interesting if we signed up a whole bunch of streamers from the Alliance of Awesome community and have one shared channel for the purpose of the event.  We have quite a number of people who stream already, and it would be awesome to give each of us like a 4-5 hour block of time to play whatever the hell we want to.

Also lately we have been holding a lot of events in various games.  Right now Wednesday nights are “Faff About in Cyrodil” night, and those are pretty much only to anyone in the Alliance of Awesome community.  Additionally we have been holding a Thursday night “League Beginner Night” to let folks ease into the League of Legends game.  So far both events have been a blast and I would love to see them grow beyond the small number of people that we have.  I am sure we will be doing something similar for Wildstar, especially with the focus on grouping in that game.  I can only see the community as a whole getting better.  So here comes the thing I am sure you have all been waiting for.  If you are not already a member of the Alliance of Awesome community… head over to the website and join our nook.  We don’t have any real requirements for membership other than wanting to be around a bunch of awesome people, and striving to be the “white hats” in gaming.  If you have a large community, track down myself or Zelibeli and we can see if the entire group would be a good fit for us as well.  Growing up as an only child, I always wanted to be surrounded by friends… and on the internet I try my damnedest to surround myself with as many awesome people as I can.  So far I think things are going pretty well.

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.

Too Themepark

Crazy Fox-Wolf-Thingy

ARCHEAGE 2014-05-12 16-43-17-70 I find myself enjoying ArcheAge far more than I had really expected to.  I have not really even gotten to the “open world” aspect of the game, but I find the questing and combat systems really enjoyable.  At some point I managed to pick up the animal to the side of me that is some sort of a fox-wolf-thingy.  I am not sure if it was from a quest or if I looted it from a mob, but in any case I have a pet now.  My friend Errn informed me that this is my battle pet, but I had reasoned that much by noticing that it was fighting for other players.  Thing is… when I got it, it was already like level 30.  This means the thing probably kicks more ass than I do to be honest.  One of the weird things about the game is that you can either have a mount or a pet out, but not both.

As a result I tend to run around with my battle pet out, and then use the glider poorly to manage to get around quickly.  I really have no clue what I am doing when it comes to the glider.  No matter how I try and control the thing, it seems like I am just falling through the air gracefully.  I’ve watched various streamers be able to control where they want it to go, and I am completely in awe of their skill.  Right now the closest I can get is to hover over the area I want to go and then fold up the glider by hitting R, causing me to plummet through the air.  Obviously this works grand if you are close to the ground, but not so much when you have leapt off of a huge cliff with it.  In the later case, I end up cursing the screen as I seem to flail around in midair on the glider.

I feel bad that I have almost entirely ignored anything going on with any of the quests.  Since all of the cinematic are in Korean still I just end up skipping thing, which has lead me to feel like the quest dialog itself is completely meaningless as well.  So I have zero clue what is going on in the world other than I am helping a series of villages defend against all sorts of things, and I am perfectly fine with that.  The more killing I get to do in the course of the leveling the better, and right now I am really enjoying the “Over Achieve” and “Hidden Quest” options gained by going on a murderous rampage.  While I seem to be swapping out gear pretty frequently, it doesn’t really feel like I am progressing my character along that easily.  I’ve yet to figure out the rhyme or reason behind getting skill points, but I could really use a lot more of them.

Too Themepark

WildStar64 2014-05-12 22-29-17-945 Firstly I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression from this title.  I love Themepark MMOs, for what they give me…  a carefully curated trip through an interesting world.  I find that I enjoy both Sandbox and Themepark MMOs equally, at least generally speaking.  However there is just something about Wildstar that maybe takes it a step too far.  While playing this game, I literally feel like I am at Six Flags with so many things fighting desperately for my attention.  When I walk into an area that I just explored and hear the “Challenge!” sounder it reminds me too much of a midway barker trying to get my attention.  I’ve compared the visuals of the game to the Vegas Strip before, but really it reminds me a lot more of an actual real world Themepark.  Everything is bright and polished to a shine, with every single inch of space covered with something designed to get my eye to look there.  The above screenshot is of one of the rare sparse moments, and when the game is like this… I actually enjoy it.  However I had to wait for a few minutes to take this shot for various mobs and players to move out of the way.

I am basically in the same place I have been for a couple of months.  I recorded the above video on March 13th and I have had zero forward momentum since then.  I’ve gotten on each beta weekend so far to play for a bit, but just found the overall experience lacking.  There is a lot about the game that I think I would like, but something just doesn’t sit right with me each time I sit down to play it.  The last game I felt this conflicted about was Guild Wars 2, and the end result of that experience is a game that even though I have free access to play it… I never have any desire to do so.  With Wildstar I put in my pre-order in part to lock in my goodies for if I ever decided that I DID want to play it.  Each day I consider cancelling it, because I am just not “feeling” this title.  It isn’t the setting or the races or the goofy character models, but something more deeply set into the game itself.  The funny thing is, I have been back playing Star Wars: The Old Republic and enjoying the hell out of it…  but Wildstar that is a very similar experience just feels really odd to me.  Time will tell if I shun the internet zeitgeist and sit out of this one.

Blue Water Land

Screenshot_20140513_061222 I am still working my way through Coldharbor in Elder Scrolls Online, and last night I hit 48.  The quests out here feel more epic than the ones leading up to them, in part because everything in Coldharbor seems to be absolutely dripping in lore.  One of my joys in any Elder Scrolls title has been killing the various Daedra, and here I have an entire zone full of almost nothing but them.  What is interesting is finding all of the inhabitants of the zone that have been tricked into the service of Molag Bal in one fashion or another.  Last night I had a really cool moment where I helped out some Argonians and their Hist tree, and another where I gained the trust of a feral pack of Bosmer.  This section of the game feels very much like Mass Effect 3, where I am wandering around this zone building an army to fight the daedric prince.

I am trying to decide if I am going to hold out with my level 44 gear until I ding 50.  I have a really good daedric shield that just dropped, as well as my prismatic weapon that I am unlikely to replace until I leave cold harbor.  Wondering if I can limp along until 50 and then craft an entire set of nice gear then.  As of the close of the night I managed to make it roughly halfway to 49, and I still have large swaths of Coldharbor that have been completely unexplored.  Still very much loving the experience of the game, but I am definitely finding that I need breaks from playing it.  The gameplay towards the end of the game gets really intense, and if I am not feeling 100% I end up taking a lot of un-needed deaths.  As a result I have been perforating my long play sessions with trips into ArcheAge, SWTOR and now a little bit of Wildstar.  So far I really seem to be enjoying this mix.

#ESO #ElderScrollsOnline #ArcheAge #WildStar #Themepark