Protecting Sanctuary

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Tomorrow is the official launch of Blaugust and I am pretty freaking excited about it.  I think last I checked we had something in the vicinity of 52 blogs signed up and I am hoping once the first topics start rolling in that number will keep incrementing upwards.  July 25th through July 31st I have dubbed the Blaugust Prep Week, and what you can see from me and hopefully the other mentors is a series of posts talking about how to get started.  These may range from technical discussions of WordPress vs Blogger vs Tumblr to more general discussions of picking a format for your blog or coming up with a name you won’t immediately outgrow.  For the participants however, they should view this as a time to stretch their legs a bit and prepare for the month ahead.  Get some of those early posts in so that you can sort out your own personal blogging rhythms.

Since we had a few more folks sign up I figure I should link their stuff here as well.

New Participants

Once again if you have not taken the time to sign up, please do so.  Considering we have all been there before deciding if we should be blogging at all…  I promise you can do this thing.  When you have signed up make sure you pop by the discord and come hang out as we chat about bloggery things.

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One of the weird disconnects thematically that I have in Elder Scrolls games has always been the Dark Brotherhood.  For the uninitiated, the Dark Brotherhood is a group of assassins that answer the call of the Night Mother.  Around the game world individuals perform a ritual known as the Black Sacrament that calls on the Night Mother with a very specific prayer “Sweet Mother, sweet Mother, send your child unto me, for the sins of the unworthy must be baptized in blood and fear.”  This prayer is heard by the Night Mother and relayed to the Listener of a specific sanctuary which then goes and seals the contract.  We as players traditionally carry out these contracts that involve taking the life of someone who has generally speaking wronged someone else.

So you would expect that from within the Dark Brotherhood everyone would effectively be blood thirsty assassins ready to kill at a moments notice.  While the last bit is true…  the Sanctuary has a very different feel on the inside.  The Dark Brotherhood represents some of the most weirdly sweet content in an Elder Scrolls game.  The members all take care of each other like a family, and when you return home the various other assassins are generally happy to see you.  There is something almost weirdly wholesome about the whole situation, and ultimately I think that is what makes the experience all the more unsettling.

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Ultimately every tale of the Dark Brotherhood tends to end in the same manner, and I am wondering if the tale told in Elder Scrolls Online will be the same.  There are several characters that I genuinely like…  like the Nord who sheltered a scared werewolf girl and adopted her as his sister.  Every game seems to have some characters that you just feel protective over…  in spite of the fact that they are legitimately cold blooded killers.  It is a bizarre juxtaposition that makes me completely uncertain how to feel about any of it…  but it is also one of those guilds that I always look forward to seeing the storyline.  It is progressing much slower than the Thieves Guild did, and I can’t say I am any better at getting a kill in without being noticed.  That said it doesn’t really seem to matter much in the grand scheme of things as I can simply hide out until the heat and my bounty clears.  The thieves guild and dark brotherhood skill lines are amazingly complimentary…  and my only complaint so far is that I cannot assassinate folks during the thieves guild dailies without triggering “being seen” and reducing my timer.

May the dread father guide your blade.

Traders Row

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This weekend the Discord was super active with folks talking about their blog and various related topics.  I am traditionally super bad at following any sort of social media or chats over the weekend.  I barely respond to instant message or text either because I am generally engaged in something that takes all of my attention, either that or running around.  This weekend we went out junking for a bit which was extremely fun, and got this amazing ice cream at a “from scratch” sort of place a town over.  I had English toffee and my wife had cotton candy and both were phenomenal to eat while we roamed around looking through the various junk shops.  I mean they are all labelled as “antiques” but really…  if it isn’t a junk shop I am not terribly interested in looking at it.

We had a few more people sign up for Blaugust which is awesome.  If you have not done this and are at all considering it… please fill out the form link and join us in this madness.  Onwards to the new blogs… one of which has yet to get complete set up but we are going to mention her anyways.

  • Alli – To Be Determined…  but think the name “The Parent Trope” was chosen via the discord this weekend.
  • Void – A Green Mushroom

One of my favorite things this year is seeing us spread out.  We’ve got several sign ups that listened to either the Massively OP Podcast or Geek to Geek and then I am seeing other interesting references showing some word of mouth from folks I am not sure if I even know who they are completely yet.  The other thing I find interesting is several of the comments are written in a way as though they think maybe I don’t know who they are.  If you are a long time reader of my blog and a regular favoriter or commenter regardless of the venue…  blog, twitter, wordpress reader…  I promise I know who you are and am super happy anytime I see you pop up in my notifications.

It isn’t often that I link my podcast from the weekend in my Monday morning post but maybe that is a thing I should do more often.  This weekend it is directly related to the sort of weekend I had, namely it is a show where we largely talk about Elder Scrolls Online and our recent renaissance with that game.  At this moment myself, Ash, Tam, Kodra, Void, Neph, Thalen and Lyle are playing it more or less in various states of “active”.  I believe ToadChild and Eliyon are also playing as well but I have not really seen them online…  either that or not as a name I would recognize them as.  We have a pair Miko and Uldane14 that seem to be leveling together in Morrowind because their levels stay synchronized but never respond to guild chat so not sure who they are.

One of the things you have to realize about House Stalwart in Elder Scrolls Online… is this represents the last great guild that I tried to build.  That is not to say that I have not done my fair share of recruiting for various guilds and continue to do so to this day.  Stalwart on ESO however was my last guild building experiment where I attempted to get all of the people who know me and all of the people they know together in one room…  and over night blossom into a guild of like 150 people at the launch of the game.  We had folks that I knew from various games I had played, folks who worked on said various games…  lots of members of the blogging and content creation community including Dulfy for a bit because we had bumped into each other during the alpha.  It was a massive thing and so long as folks were willing to abide by the three tenets they were welcome.

The only problem with that is there are a large number of people in the guild that I do not remember at all.  In fact there was at least one person I kicked recently that was the ex-husband of a good friend of mine who left her under some seemingly shady conditions.  When there is a situation like that I tend to punt the spouse as a precautionary measure just so at some point in the future there isn’t a moment when they are both online and forgot that they were both in that same guild.  Anyways this is not at all what I intended to be talking about this morning, but suffice to say there are a lot of people in the guild and since you can technically be in five guilds at once… not many have left.  I have two guild slots left, and in truth one of those could be easily pruned in a pinch because I think we only used it as a private extension of the guild bank.

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The thing I actually wanted to talk about this morning is how my opinion has shifted in relation to a topic from this game.  When it first rolled out I remember myself being extremely frustrated by their version of the Auction House system.  I had gotten used to games like World of Warcraft that had overarching global Auction House systems that allowed you to within moments search everything that was available for sale.  It felt extremely efficient, but in hindsight it also has lead to practices that I am not quite so down with like the various gold making schemes that involve playing the Auction House and looking for bargains.  This isn’t my jam… because I don’t really have that day trader instinct and as a result it always just seemed to unnaturally inflate the price of things making it harder for me to get what i wanted.  I remember receiving threatening messages in game from a bag making cartel when I dared to break their agreed upon price point and sold some bags for less to move them quickly.  I told them if they didn’t like it… buy my bags and relist them but otherwise I will do whatever the hell I want.

So for the uninitiated instead of an Auction House system, Elder Scrolls Online has a series of Guild Traders that are located throughout the world and in clusters that can be found in most towns.  I tend to personally refer to these areas as Traders Row and in most cases they are fairly close to the Wayshrine making it easy to pop over and check them.  Now each Trader is bid upon by various guilds in a blind bidding scheme for a fixed bid cycle, and then that guild is charged a weekly rate to maintain the guild store.  I have no real first hand experience of this other than one of my guilds regularly has an active trader somewhere in the world.  When your guild has a trader you have the ability to sell items on the guild store to anyone who happens across your trader and decides to open the inventory and purchase something.

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This has a lot of interesting side effects… namely that all traders are not created equal.  The traders that are in higher rent districts for lack of a better term…  areas of that have higher churn from the player base tend to have much higher prices.  So I am sure over in Summerset, the brand new expansion the prices of items on those traders would be artificially inflated to account for the fact that in order to win that trader… the blind bid that guild had to put up was likely extremely significant.  Now the inverse is true as well… if you find some trader in a backwater area that isn’t even a main city…  the items you find on that vendor are likely going to be extremely cheap.  This creates a cycle of being able to find bargains…  if you are willing to go do the leg work.  There is technically a search engine for items… but it isn’t very complete and requires that people be running an addon that updates the pricing.

Instead what I did on Friday night was spent roughly two hours popping around from town to town looking for deals.  I was ultimately trying to complete the Dwemer crafting set, but in the process I also completed the outlaw weapons and the rest of my mercenary armor pieces.  This process involved taking a way shrine to what I thought I remembered as one of the main towns in a region, making my way to the traders row and searching each of the vendors looking for any of the items I currently was hunting for.  What should have been tedium…  honestly felt pretty enjoyable.  Each region has its own feel and its own group of people that prefer to frequent it.  For example like I have talked about how Shornhelm is my home in this world…  there seems to be people that feel that way about almost every city.

Over the course of several trips to various guild traders, I found myself noticing a lot of the same names hanging out around them.  It feels like a trader may anchor a guild to a location and with it gives the world a tangible destination feel that has been lacking from other games.  The world is massive, but it also feels lived in…  populated with players who happen to prefer one area to another and go there to deal with their “upkeep”.  Just like I preferred Iron Forge for years… and later the Dwarven Quarter…  you can prefer Elden Root to Daggerfall and it is perfectly okay because there is nothing that you can get in one location or other other that makes one superior.  I guess that isn’t entirely fair… given that you need to go to a faction Capitol to get your Undaunted dailies but that really isn’t that big of a deal.

In a game with instant travel…  it has been interesting to see how many things are there to keep you connected to one location over another.

Blade of Woe

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First off with some business to attend to that is Blaugust related.  The very awesome Chestnut has been maintaining a twitter list of all of the folks participating in Blaugust 2018 that are on that platform.  Next up I was asked to participate in a couple of blogs, one with recording a promo that they could edit in and another actually sitting down and talking a bit about the event.  Those have both made their way into production as it were, and first off you have my promo that appears near the tail end of Geek to Geek Podcast with Void and Beej.  Next up I recorded a bit with Syp at the tail end of the Massively OP Podcast, but in both of these cases you should totally listen to the entire show because they are excellent.  I always enjoy the conversations that happen between Void and Beej and then  Syp and Bree as well so two shows always worth listening to.

Over the last few days I have not done the whole morning Blaugust updates in part because the sign ups had slowed down a bit.  However with the spots on the two podcasts we seem to have had an influx of new folks.  On the sheet I ask where folks heard about Blaugust, and so far one of my happiest moments is when I get a submission that says something other than the equivalent of “Bel Told Me” because that means we are spreading out and expanding our reach.  At this point we have 48 blogs signed up to participate and we still have some time before the festivities actually start…  I am cheating a bit with that number because technically one has not signed up but I know it is incoming.  If you are wanting a list of all of the participants and mentors I am keeping a google sheet with only the relevant information in it for folks to use on blogrolls and the like.

New Mentors

New Participants

As always though there is plenty of time to get started.  Pop over and fill out the sign up sheet to get registered, and then pop by the Discord to hang out with other Blaugustans.

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In gaming news, last night I started the Dark Brotherhood series of quests and so far they are pretty freaking cool.  This was always one of my favorite guilds in the Elder Scrolls games because I like the whole Sithis and the Night Mother thing going on as well as the fact that in spite of being a bunch of blood thirsty killers…  there is this interesting family dynamic happening.  This sanctuary is no different and there are some really cool things happening from the sounds of it, and I am interested to see how the events fold out this time.  The Dark Brotherhood quest lines tend to go in a specific direction…  as do the Thieves Guild to be honest.  The Elder Scrolls Online Thieves Guild was in fact a traditional Elder Scrolls Thieves Guild story…  so I have certain expectations of how things are about to go here as well.

I am not very far into the quest line and have only done a few contracts, but I am absolutely and completely down with how Blade of Woe has been implemented in this game.  I like that it just gives me an assassination ability instead of making me wield a freaking dagger.  I am not a stealthy character, but the truth is…  Dark Brotherhood is probably going to make me one because I am not sure how long I can pay the upkeep of constantly having a couple thousand gold in bounties on my head.  Now the first trait in the DB skill line seems to reduce the amount of bounty gained when someone witnesses a murder…  but regardless I need to be at least a little stealthy in my hits.

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I do not really like forced stealth mechanics, and my brand is more about charging into battle in a nonsensical manner and as a tank gathering up all that enemy hate.  This is not conducive to the Thieves Guild, but you can absolutely go in that direction with the Dark Brotherhood.  If you want to complete a mission by making sure there is 100% body count… then by all means that is a thing that can happen.  However it becomes painfully obvious that every one of those kills is going to cost you in the long run, with a very tangible bounty associated with it.  I came out of one mission with roughly 5500 gold in bounty on my head…  and while I could have waited awhile for that to drop I made my way to the nearest outlaws refuge and took care of it rather than be hassled by the guards.

Now that I have gotten slightly better at using Blade of Woe I am doing a better job of getting those kills in unnoticed and as a result reducing that gold footprint.  This game is teaching me to be stealthy and while it is weird for me to say it…  I am actually enjoying it more than I have in pretty much any other game.  I was extremely proud of myself the first time I got into a building unnoticed and back out without having to use one of the magical stealth baskets.  The mission I ran at the beginning of the night involved roaming around a palace and it mostly felt easy to go where I needed to go because I am starting to develop the reflexes needed to sneak about.  There is a certain muscle memory that I am developing that I have never really had in the past.  In other Elder Scrolls Games the only reason why I ever used sneak…  was to land a bow shot with the damage multiplier.  This time it feels like it allows me to move around freely and avoid entanglements I might not want to deal with.  All in all… still having a blast even though I was initially grumpy with the forced stealth.

Luck and Mini Bosses

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At this point we are up to 41 blogs signed up for Blaugust in one form or another, with a significant number of folks hanging out in the Discord just for the sake of fun that we may be able to sway one way or another.  I am super happy with this early participation, and in side conversations there are a bunch of folks on the fence trying to determine just how much they can afford to participate themselves this year.  In that always be plugging style of conversation…  if you are at all interested in starting up a blog now is the time to do it.  Pop on by the sign up form and let us know your information and we will do our best to support you through that early blogging experience.  This is of course also an open offer as well to folks who are currently blogging and just want to up their frequency of posting…  or really want to help mentor the next crew of bloggers.

Since I last posted updates there have been a few new entries and you can see the entire list in an easy to use google sheet that I have been maintaining.

New Mentors

New Participants

The official pre-week starts on July 25th so there is still plenty of time to get a blog up and running before the official August 1st start.

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There are times where I have the sort of luck that pisses my friends off.  For example I have pulled a couple of those ultra rare chase cards from Battle for Zenndikar and Kaladesh, just buying random single packs here and there.  Magic the Gathering just released its return to core sets with M19 and there are a bunch of interesting cards in it… namely a much needed reprint of Crucible of Worlds and brand new version of the classic legends era dragons.  Ultimately I would like to have a copy of each for eventual EDH brewing purposes, and as a result I picked up a fat pack on Friday in my post funeral travels.  Now a fat pack has 10 packs and seems to be for lack of a better term a partial piece of what would have normally been a full box.

They tend to be feast or famine, either you get the good end of the rare/mythic sheet or you don’t.  In this case I managed to pull 4 mythics out of those ten packs.  I took the above photo to show off everything that came out of that box, with the last two on the left side being just a couple of cool looking common foils.  I found it weird that I got a duplicate rare out of the batch so maybe they are doing the fat packs different than they have done before.  I was extremely excited that I managed to pull a Crucible of Worlds and at least two of the three color dragons.  Unfortunately I did not pull the big daddy of them all…  Nicol Bolas, the Ravager.  I still consider this an insanely lucky box, and walked away mighty happy with it.

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As far as the rest of the weekend… it was largely spent hanging out and playing some Elder Scrolls Online.  I have now officially finished the Orsinium content and wow… I am exceedingly impressed with the quality.  If that is at all representative of what I have to expect from the follow up releases, then I am going to be a very happy boy.  I’ve since started on the Thieves Guild which is the next content release in order…  having largely skipped Imperial City due to its PvEvP nature.  I did however spent a chunk of last night running around and collecting Skyshards out in Cyrodil..  I am sure frustrating someone who was there to try and take keeps and mile forts.  The only actual PVP I got into was being found by a roaming murderball of Ebonheart Pact players…  at which point my screen froze and I crashed out of the game only to come back very dead.

The most fun however was prior to that when I was roaming around in Coldharbor with Ashgar and Tamrielo doing the public dungeon there.  It all started simple enough…  the three of us on Voice Chat when Ash mentioned mostly to himself that he was going to ignore the Public Dungeon for now until he could come back with a group.  I said that I had not done the public dungeon there for the same reason and Tam chimed in that he had largely been avoiding any group content.  Before long the three of us were converging upon Ash’s location and doing the public dungeon which had two quests inside of it.  Additionally we realized that there were a bunch of optional bosses in various corners of the place and we set forth to take each and every one down earning us a conqueror achievement.

I kinda love that this game does not care at all about where a player is in the progression, and that you can pretty much just group in for whatever happens to be going on.  I abused this power to help Void get some crafting materials by porting myself to Windhelm and then letting him piggy back in on that to get the shrine there.  I love that this game has decided that horizontal progression is the way to go because it has allowed me to invest resources in a really nice set of gear knowing I won’t be upgrading it anytime soon.  I love that I can just do whatever happens to cross my path and still feel like I am moving towards a goal in the form of Champion points…  knowing that I am also adding progression to every single character as I go.  I am very happy with the current state of Elder Scrolls Online.

A Four Year Mission

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I realize this is a lot of images to link at the beginning of a blog post… but there is a good reason.  For the last four years playing Elder Scrolls Online I had a singular goal…  to see something in the live game that I have not seen since one of the last days of alpha.  I’ve talked about this before but I have been playing Elder Scrolls Online since February of 2013 when the first Friends and Family alphas began.  How I got in is because my good friend Tamrielo was one of the creators of a not insignificant amount of the quest content.  Every so often in Alpha we would be lead by him to go see something… that was a reference to one of us or one of our friends.  One of the final things I remember is running all of the way across the Ebonheart Pact area to The Rift….  and Nimalten to be specific to see an arrangement of NPCs in that town.  The date specifically was October 13th of 2013 as I have a stack of screenshots that I took at that time have have hoarded since.

Last night I managed to push my way through the Eastmarch storyline and upon zoning into the The Rift for the first time…  I couldn’t wait any longer and made a jaunt across zone to Nimalten to find what I had been waiting to see all of this time.  Granted every one of the NPCs made their way through a bit of a “Nordification” pass by the lore team, but enough survived that it is pretty obvious who they are if you know what you are looking at.  First up is my namesake aka Belgrod Sternblade (technically one of two namesakes that I know of) who has a throwaway line about his Stalwart Band of Mercenaries which is a reference to House Stalwart the guild I started in World of Warcraft back in 2004.  Next up is Waren the Wolf aka Warenwolf a long time friend of ours from the vanilla World of Warcraft days, phenomenal hunter and the target of my attempts to heal him with arrows in alpha.  Then we have Ashvorn Bear-Walker which is the slantwise namesake of Ashgar our perennial bear tank and general friend of anything that transforms into animal form.  Lastly we have Autrae Snow-Wing who is playing with her cat Dimi… that represent former AggroChat host Audrae and her then cat Dimitri.

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This might seem silly but for me personally…  being able to see these characters legitimately in the final release of the game means a lot to me.  It also allows me to take stupid photos like the one above with the two Belghast-kin together.  Of course the moment I finished doing this nonsense I ported back to the start of the zone because I want to experience it through the natural flow instead of just jumping ahead to this one town.  I’ve been having a complete blast playing Elder Scrolls Online over the last couple of weeks and really the game has evolved to a state where it pretty much has all of the things that I think I once complained about it not having.  It has a really excellent housing system that I have been collecting patterns for…  and still what I would consider the single best crafting system in any MMORPG.  While a little costly I am a fan of their cosmetic system implementation as well as the various costumes available through either crown crates or direct purchase on the store.  The fact that subscribing to the game gets me access to all of the Expansion and DLC content, a stack of crowns each time it renews, and a magical crafting bag that lets me loot everything and not worry about bag space…  is all a “plus” in my book.  The full list of features for a subscription goes a little something like this…

  • Access to all DLC game packs in the in-game Crown Store
  • Free crowns for the in-game Crown Store
  • Access to the Craft Bag
  • Double bank space
  • Bonuses to progression
  • Extra furniture space
  • Costume dyeing
  • Double Transmutation Crystals

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I am very much in my MMO happy place at the moment, and completely oblivious to pretty much anything else apart from the occasional game of Diablo 3.  I am super excited that soon…  in one zones time I will be starting the first of the DLC content for Elder Scrolls Online.  I have purposefully delayed starting literally anything that came out past the original game… because I wanted to have beaten all 150 levels worth of content that the original game had to offer.  For the uninitiated that starts with the 50 levels worth of content in your starting faction and works its way through Silver and Gold… the new game plus, and new game plus plus that sees you travelling via Cadwell to the other two factions.  Sure it is a little weird to be helping the Ebonheart Pact fight off the Covenant while rocking the Covenant Hero title…  but whatever I can hand wave that away.

The thing that makes me the happiest about Elder Scrolls Online is how indistinguishable it is for me personally from playing any other Elder Scrolls game at this point.  I love the story arcs for each of the zones that evolve as you work your way around and help the other people…  and the little payoffs when you meet up with a character you have already helped out once before.  The amount of scripting work that went into making sure that each NPC recognizes you from every time you have interacted with that NPC before has to be staggering.  The fact that the final main story quest usually involves weaving in a bunch of characters that you met in the zone and each of them commenting on how you helped them in the past, is just so damned great.  The only thing that would push it over the top is if they introduced some Bioware style companions with romance story arcs…  because seriously the core story itself is as good as anything I have seen in a Mass Effect or Dragon Age game.

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I have an extreme amount of emotional investment in this game, not just for the fact that there are characters named after me roaming its world…  but also for the fact that I feel like I helped shape it.  I was a very active member of the alpha community and supposedly one of the more active bug reporters.  I love that there is still a core of players out there in an alpha-only guild that I am part of that has been playing off and on since the days we first got into the servers and kept reporting bugged doors.  I love the fact that there is still a hidden area on the official forums that only those first few testers have access to, and while it isn’t terribly active… feels like a little secret clubhouse that a handful of us have access to.  Every time I step foot into Tamrielo in Elder Scrolls Online it feels like coming back home, and each time I forget why I left in the first place.  The truth is…  I am an easily distracted toddler and I am sure at some point some shiny object with cause me to shift my gaze elsewhere…  but for the moment I am loving every moment of roaming this place that is both so familiar to me but still so fresh to explore.

Exploring Deshaan

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This is going to be a bit of a weird week for me personally, and as a result probably a weird week for the blog.  My wife has a friend in town for a conference and as a result it is causing us to vary our normal patterns…  and also as a result there is probably going to be significantly less gaming to talk about.  Now one major exception is that said friend is a Magic the Gathering player and tentatively Wednesday night we have plans to get together and play some casual decks for fun.  That will of course be probably something that I write about and I am going to attempt to take some “board state” photos as the matches go.  I have built up a box of four battle decks from card kingdom that are all themed and roughly the same power level thinking it would be a quick and easy drop in and play magic option.  The grand idea was to bring it up to work for some lunch time gaming, but it hasn’t actually happened yet.

Last night when we got home from Joe Momma’s one of our favorite downtown pizza places, I crashed on the sofa and played some Elder Scrolls Online.  I am essentially doing what I always do which is push into the corners of the map that I have yet to explore and complete whatever quests I happen across there.  I remember this game had a rather frosty reception… but in truth the longer it lives the less I can distinguish it from a normal numbered Elder Scrolls game.  I realize some players approached those games in vastly different ways than I did… but for me it was always about killing monsters, collecting loot, running quests…  and ABOVE ALL ELSE…  wandering around aimlessly and exploring the nooks and crannies of the map.  All of those game play styles are supported in ESO and as a result whenever I pick it back up it sorta feels like returning to an old friend.

One of my favorite parts about returning to the game is something that dates back to alpha.  The original alpha players were referred to as the Psijic Order, and on the official game forums there is still a hidden forum area that never got closed out from that area where we occasionally chat back and forth.  Similarly there was a guild formed on launch day made up of players from this same alpha pool and in truth it is one of the more active guilds that I have access to.  I am super thankful that after all of this time and all of my wandering away and back again that no one punted me from it.  I am deeply connected to this title because of my experiences testing it for so long, and I am happy to for some remnant of that early community that I still have access to.

I am cutting off the post short this morning as it is election day here in Oklahoma.  I am going to attempt to vote before work, and if you too are having a primary I highly suggest you drag your butt to the polls as well.

Backyard and Banana

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Last night was a pretty chill night and was spent either gaming or hanging out on the patio off our bedroom.  Here is a photo from my chair as I waited to top off the pool and played Monster Hunter Generations.  There was a nice breeze and it was making the wind chimes do all sorts of happy sounds.  My wife was hanging beside me doing school work…  because unfortunately it is both hobby and job rolled all in one.  I love our backyard even though I don’t spend anywhere near as much time as she does out in it.  Last night however was a perfect storm of overcast and cool which is about my sweet spot for outdoors.  My eyes are super sensitive to light and there are times where while I am sitting in the shade… the world itself is just too bright for my tastes.  The flowerbabies of course are doing okay still, and I need to wrap up this post soon so I can go out and give them all a drink.

As far as Monster Hunter Generations…  I am largely playing it over 4 Ultimate because of the impending release of Generations Ultimate for the Switch.  Monster Hunter is way too complicated a game for me to really enjoy playing it on a tiny screen with a thinkpad trackpoint nub serving as my second thumbstick.  That said I do know that whatever effort I make is going to transfer over to the Switch so it feels like it is allowing me to have a bit of a headstart as it were.  There are still three months until the release of Generations Ultimate and that gives me some time to casually work on leveling my Palicos and progressing through the quests to a point where I might not be completely on ground one at launch on August 28th.  I am super looking forward to having a newish to me Monster Hunter experience to sink my teeth into…  that I will be able to play on my 43 inch monitor upstairs.

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The tail end of the evening I settled into playing some Iron Banner in Destiny 2 as I had not honestly played much of that since Curse of Osiris.  I am nowhere near as good at Crucible as I once was because I am simply out of practice, but then again I never was terribly good in the first place.  I did manage to turn in a couple of packages, one of which getting me the Auto Rifle that looks like Scathelocke.  I am super pumped about it because firstly I love Auto Rifles and secondly…  I had really wanted to try that weapon out and was afraid that I lost my chance when the season changed.  There is another auto rifle available as faction rewards so I am wondering if I want to try grinding out 30 packages…  and I pretty much figure the answer is no.  I do however want the super high rate of fire weapon because it has auto loading holster and high impact rounds and seems like a much better version of Perseverance/Valakadyn…  which are both weapons that I hated on the console but have come to enjoy with a mouse and keyboard.

I have significant problems with Destiny 2… but damn does that mechanical loop still feel fun.

Elves I Don’t Hate

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Yesterday I pulled an example from World of Warcraft and after doing so I realized that I never actually talked about the character that was hiding underneath the fold of the Destiny 2 image.  I am extremely late to the party when it comes to Allied races, the Horde races were super easy to unlock but the Alliance ones required a level of commitment that I was simply not willing to offer them.  They were one of those things that I worked on off and on as I had time or wanted something mindless to do while watching television or a movie.  It was a few weeks back when I realized that I was actually getting pretty close to exalted with both of the factions required to unlock them.  Even then I largely failed at doing the quests on a daily basis because I really am not a huge fan of Argus.

Nevertheless I managed to push across the finish line and unlock them both a few weekends back and as a result I have been poking around on a brand new Void Elf hunter during the AggroChat podcasts.  I’ve found it super relaxing to just roam around and take things down at low levels and for whatever reason Void Elves don’t trigger that “I hate elves” instinct that I have built up over all of these years.  In part I think they mostly register as Drow to me, which is something I occasionally played in D&D or the games like Everquest that had decent implementations of them.  Honestly it weirdly makes me want to go back and farm the single piece of Dragonstalker that I am missing, because in all of my years of running Blackwing Lair…  I never got the boots to drop off Broodlord Lashlayer.  The only thing keeping me from soloing it each week is the fact that I really hate doing the Razorgore event.

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I realize that I recently started a Tauren Hunter, but the whole being assigned a pet at the start of the game thing still seems a little weird.  On the Tauren your start with a Plainstrider which isn’t really my sort of pet, but even then I kept using it for a significant amount of time before taming anything else to replace it.  As Void Elf though you start with Voidstalker… that is both my kind of pet and also extremely cool looking.  I’ve found myself with zero drive to go out and tame something else, but that might change as I am now interesting Stranglethorn Vale.  I might grab something rare if I happen across it but for now I am more than happy to run around with my void pal…  even though I have yet to give her a proper name.

It is weird to me that I have lost any forward momentum in World of Warcraft thanks to Battle For Azeroth and the direction they are taking the game.  However I still enjoy dinking around on low level characters because to me that is the purest version of the “WoW Experience”.  BfA really has been a let down as far as the information coming out about it.  Additionally my time playing beta…  hasn’t really done anything to hook me on the direction the game is going.  For years I thought that maybe Metzen was what was holding the game back…  but now I wonder if he was a force of stability keeping the game from dropping off a cliff.  Note I loved Legion “for the most part” but the one bit that I could push right into the sea was the factional nonsense that happens in Stormheim.  Battle For Azeroth feels like an entire game made out of those factional nonsense moments and I am not really looking forward to it.

Chat Goes On Left

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One of the things I am realizing is just how bad I am at responding to messages some nights.  Last night for example I was mindlessly grinding away in Destiny 2 while watching video full-screen on my second monitor.  All the while various folks were messaging me on lots of different platforms including battle.net, slack, discord, and even some resorted to twitter.  All of which I was largely oblivious to as I happily ground public events and took down high value targets pushing the warlock up in level so that I can start doing the weeklies on that character as well.  The problem is really two fold, firstly that I am so used to soloing at this point that I am not really watching messages like I used to for the sign of someone else popping online.  The second issue I will get into shortly.

At this point my Warlock is level 28 so nearing 30 but apparently completely capable of wearing gear of decent level because I am now rocking an energy weapon that is 350.  It is super hard going back to the warlock after only really playing the Titan for a good deal of time.  Hunter is simple…  multi jump will always be multi jump.  Warlock on the other hand has the wrong version of Titan jump and no matter how long I play it I never can quite get used to it responding the opposite way that I am expecting.  I feel like folks either bond with Titan or Warlock jumps…  and from that point on the other one just doesn’t feel like a jump should feel.  Hunter on the other hand always feels like you are riding around on a midair pogo stick.

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Now the other problem I was talking about earlier is that Destiny 2 UI design is designed wrong.  What I mean by that is in literally every MMO I play the chat box location is on the left hand side of the screen as illustrated above by my UI in World of Warcraft.  The chat you care about appears on the left hand screen, and in this ElvUI layout the chat I don’t care about at all ever…  appears on the right hand side of the screen.  This is pretty much how I lay out every MMO that allows me to shift around the UI, but I cannot remember a game off the top of my head that does not default to having the chat left justified for lack of a better term.  Destiny 2 on the other hand creates a super spammy loot window that you cannot remove on the left hand side of the screen and gives you the chat you actually care about on the right hand side of the screen…  that will constantly minimize to just a tiny notepad document looking icon.  When you receive a message it does not de-cloak and show you said message…  however any time some jackass loots some random item the game takes every opportunity to make sure you know about it.

This is a broken design and causes me to simply ignore that chat exists because it does not conform to the cultural standards I am used to.  By culture I mean the general cultural design of MMO games, of which Destiny 2 is a part of regardless of how Bungie feels about that label.  To make things worse…  Bungie themselves taught us that the only place that matters for text was the left hand side of the screen in Destiny 1 as they placed all of that spammy nonsense there.   There is in theory a sound that is supposed to play when someone messages you, but whatever sound that is is either inaudible to me personally…  or just blends into the din of everything else happening in game because I never notice it.  \

Ultimately what my inability to notice chat cost me last night was a run through the raid as my friends over in TQMB were trying to reach out because they needed one more to get started.  I am hoping when they put in the clan chat they also give us the option to swap the locations of the two chat panes so that the spammy nonsense goes on the right and the important chat goes on the left.  Otherwise I am honestly not sure if I can ever fully train myself to look for chat in a weird location.  After over two decades of online gaming… I am just too indoctrinated into a “chat on the left” mentality.

More Warmind Impressions

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desktop-screenshot-2018-05-11-06-06-11-41Last night I managed to hit the first soft cap of 345 through doing some of the content that happens immediately following the completion of the main story.  I am still a bit dismayed at how short it ended up being.  The core problem with the experience is there was a disconnect between how the NPCs were acting and the events that were actually occurring.  What I mean by that is when we took down Ghaul…  he had done enough to interfere with our lives to make us really hate him by the time we reached the point of final confrontation.  With Warmind…  they end up treating the Worm God we are fighting with similar contempt…  even though we only found out one exists on Mars a few minutes earlier.  Sure I get the fact that the Worm Gods are one of the galaxies great sources of evil and they were key in creating the Hive in the first place.  I’ve read the Book of Sorrows and understand that all…  but the average player has not.

The average player would be going into that scene wondering what in the hell a Worm God is and why these two NPCs seem so freaked about it.  The problem being that the game didn’t really give us enough run up to reach this supposedly epic conclusion.  It feels a lot like the campaign in Rise of Iron where you have some epic things going on…  but nowhere enough lead up to make them feel like that epic nature is earned.  Sure taking down a giant SIVA enfused Iron Lord was a slick final fight just like taking down a Worm God was a slick final fight…  but in both cases it felt like we lacked significant reason for what we were doing.  I mean the “Guardian” is the Deus Ex Machina to fix all problems much like the Warrior of Light is in Final Fantasy XIV.  The problem is it feels like that role is earned in FFXIV whereas we sorta just magically are able to best everything in Destiny without really knowing why we are so much better than apparently every other Guardian out there.

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Tam and I get into these discussions a lot and he is usually the one raising these points.  The funny thing is they generally revolve on why he quit playing a game, and for me this is an annoyance but by no means a game breaker.  I feel like there is a magic formula that keeps me engaged in a game.  First you have to have a core mechanical loop that I enjoy, for example in Destiny I love the gun play and the movement which makes me feel awesome as I traverse this beautifully rendered world.  The second point of that magical formula is that there has to be something in the game that I want to do.  There needs to be some objective out there that drives me forward and keeps me engaged with the game when the shiny newness of the mechanical loop wears off.

Please note what I said there…  something I want to do.  For example in a game like World of Warcraft there can never be a possible way that I would ever run out of things to do and content I have not actually seen.  Similarly in Final Fantasy XIV there is just too much content to ever find a true end to it.  The problem is in both of those games I have rather regularly reached a point where there is simply nothing left that I care to do.  Either the content left involves something I don’t much enjoy like Player versus Player interactions or it feels like it has more stick than carrot attached to it.  I reached this point after Trials of Osiris in Destiny 2 where the mechanical loop simply was not enough and the repetitive and unrewarding nature of the Infinite Forest made it so that I just didn’t feel like logging in anymore.

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While Warmind is an extremely short expansion… it feels like it might be a fairly intricate one.  What I mean by that is there are already a bunch of post credits items that the game is asking me to do that spawn new opportunities to go off on adventures.  I am sure there will be an end to this, but in some ways it reminds me of the style of interaction that happened on the Dreadnaught in The Taken King.  There are puzzles to be solved and items to interact with in ways that I have not quite figured out.  There were weapons to collect that are associated with questing, and others that folks don’t even know how they work as of yet.  There are drops that can be used to improve most of the exotic weapons, and in it a bunch of interesting ways to feel like I keep moving forward.

On the other end however the new grind is real.  After hitting 345 and finally accepting my Milestones for the week…  each one of those rewarded a 351 item…  6 levels of movement off the base whereas before we were regularly getting upwards of 15 levels of movement from the same milestones.  This means that journey to 385 is going to be an extremely long one when you have a very finite number of weekly options to give any sense of movement.  This means that if I find myself engaged in this game again I will by nature need to push the Hunter and the Warlock through Curse of Osiris so that I can have three sets of weekly upgrade options instead of one.  Sure the armor won’t swap over but those weapons can keep pushing up slowly over the course of multiple characters.

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The game needed something and in truth at this point I am not sure if this is what that need was.  The problem with Destiny 2 is that on paper it looks like the sequel I wanted for Destiny.  However in practice it has always felt lacking in part because it felt like we sacrificed so much cool stuff from the first one to get this as a result.  Nothing I have seen from this game justifies the reasons why we had to reset back to ground zero.  I know they felt like they wanted a fresh start, to shed any bad blood from the first title.  However I feel like that plan backfired horribly.  I’m interested to see where they can go with Warmind and if they can give us justification going forward to buy the “Comet” expansion that has been looming on the horizon and leaked via the Canadian Walmart website.  The one act that would go a long ways to building good will for me personally…  would be to port the old patrol zones to Destiny 2 and make it feel like we didn’t abandon half the world to get this game.