The Gospel of Faff

The importance of pee

I just thought the sub heading would be humorous, but really it heralds some good news.  Yesterday my Grandmothers kidneys started working again.  Apparently when the body is dehydrated they completely shut off.  The body is all “nope!” no one can have any moisture at all.  This apparently was the last crucial step before she was mostly out of the woods.  She is still in pretty bad shape, but they have been waking her up periodically to make sure she is responsive.  They are keeping her mostly sedated however so she will sleep and rest.  All of the hospital staff have been impressed with just how much of a fighter she is.

So I want to thank all of you for your thoughts during the last few days.  This is the woman who at least gets half of the credit for raising me to be the person I am today.  I didn’t go to daycare, I went to Grandmas house, because she was local and available… and more importantly willing.  We’ve always known she is strong, but this whole episode just proved that to any shadow of a doubt.  So while we are not in the “all clear” yet, we are probably up to a 70% chance of her making it out of this little episode unscathed.  I am sure she will need some therapy after laying in bed for several days immobile.

The Gospel of Faff

This word has been in my vocabulary since I believe high school but I don’t really know how exactly I picked it up.  So when I encountered the Godmother of Faff, I latched onto it with both arms to represent a certain game play style.  However the more I use it, the more it seems to draw confusion among my friends.  Sometimes it gets misread with a certain “self flagellating” connotation, or if you are Scary you apparently read it as some kind of shorthand for flatulence.  So I thought I would spend a bit of time this morning clearing the air about all things faff.  Since this is essentially British slang, I felt we had to go to the official source…  the Oxford dictionary.

image So there is the definition, copied and pasted via greenshot from the oxford dictionary website.  The thing is…  this leads one to believe that it is a bad thing.  I tend to take a much more zen approach.  “Faffing about” is just another in a long line of words used to describe enjoyable but often purposeless activity.  I’ve used many versions of this over the years.  I’ve “piddled” and I’ve “dinked around” and occasionally “goofed off”.  I had a bit of an odd childhood, in that my mother to some extent lived vicariously through me.  She wanted me to do all the things she always wanted to do… but never could afford.  So as a small child I was drug through a series of activities like piano practice that I had no real interest in, but felt no less obligated to do.

As a result I felt like I never got to just be a kid, without purpose or direction.  When I was allowed that time I savored it.  Now as an adult, I am really cautious about anything that places undue burden on my “free” time.  While I feel like Godmother and I probably use the term “Faff” in different ways, our viewpoints are very complimentary.  For me “Faff” represents a play style of allowing myself to get lost in the minutiae of little things that happen along the way.  It is a freedom of not having to have a goal or a focal point for the evening.  That I have permission to log into a game and “mess around” for awhile without necessarily having a tangible reward at the end.

HDPlacard_BelFaffsAbout_720 So as I have begun to stream my game play when possible, I have brought this same idea there as well.  I am not doing something important or grand, but instead just doing what I always do.  I log into mumble, into a special channel called “Bel is Streaming” and then proceed about my normal business and what happens… happens.  Sometimes I do something really interesting, other times I just piddle around leveling.  Last night for example I recorded one of my normal Onyxia and Tempest Keep clear nights, where I run through characters through Onyxia and the two that can solo Tempest Keep all in search of mounts.  Sure there is purpose there, but it is not the kind of big overarching and soul crushing purpose that you feel forced to do it.  Before last night it had probably been three weeks since my last mount farm night… and I am perfectly okay with that.

As is the way with Faff

eso 2014-02-15 11-33-23-02 I had every intent last night to play some more Heroes of the Storm, however that simply did not happen.  Sometimes you get caught up in doing the things you are doing and next thing you know… it is bedtime.  Part of the “Gospel of Faff” is accepting that this is going to happen and being somewhat okay with it.  Some people thrive on goals, and lord knows I have a bunch of little ones.  But for me it is the journey that is so much more important than the destination.  I think in part that is why I have enjoyed The Elder Scrolls online so much.  The game presents before me a whole bunch of rabbit trails that I can get hopelessly lost following.  It is arranged in a way that keeps me from being able to “quest efficiently”.  WoW has made me really good at gathering a bunch of quests, and doing them all before returning to the hub to get more.

The freedom to wander around and get lost in the process of leveling is a really awesome thing.  While World of Warcraft is a really on-rails experience most of the time, I am trying to embrace ways to play it where the objectives don’t matter nearly as much as the journey.  This is far more about my mental state while playing, than what I am actually doing.  However I am trying really hard to always endulge the rabbit trails.  If my addon alerts me to a rare mob in the vicinity…  even if I am on my way to some important objective I try and pull myself from the path to try and track the foe down.  As a result I end up seeing things I may have never seen before in the process.  I had spent most of my time playing WoW trying to avoid the quagmire that is Kalimdor, and now I feel like I am trying to embrace it.

Heroes of the Storm

Odd Weekend

With all the excitement of the weekend, yesterday I needed to just recharge a bit and do a bunch of stuff around the house…  namely lots of laundry.  My wife got up early yesterday morning, as she had planned a trip to Dallas for the day with friends, so this left me completely up to my own devices all day long.  I ended up sleeping in until around 9:30 at which point I did my FTL Steampowered Sunday play, and the subsequent blog post.  Then it was lots and lots of laundry for several hours.  I feel like I might be coming down with something, so I really wasn’t much more useful than that.

On the Grandmother front, she is doing as well as could be expected.  She woke up yesterday for a bit before they sedated her again.  Her kidney functions have not returned, but she was severely dehydrated.  They have a nephrologist coming into the hospital today that is going to look at her and see what they can do to stimulate activity.  Once the kidneys start working again they will be much closer to “in the clear”.  Mostly they think she just needs to rest and let the body do its natural recovery.  She is a really tough woman, so I have faith that she is going to pull through this.  Her vitals all look okayish and seem to be improving by the day. so here is hoping time is really all she needs.

As far as the sick cat, she seems to be doing much better.  She was extremely needy of attention yesterday, and her appetite seems to have returned.  For the majority of the week she had not eaten much of anything, so yesterday whenever she acted hungry I was opening a cat of food for her.  I think she ended up eating five different times yesterday.  She had lost quite a bit of weight over the course of this ordeal so while I will taper back her feeding eventually… for now I am just happy she is eating.  She demanded attention, which is good… because while she was sick she was pretty scarce.  Preferring to just lay down on the couch by herself instead of wherever we happened to be in the house.

Elder Scrolls Final Beta Weekend

Since this past weekend is the final beta weekend before launch in a few weeks, and since we had been given leave to stream whatever we wanted…  I did as much playing and streaming as I could fit in.  All told I think I streamed a little bit over four hours, split up between four different videos.  Most of the time was spent faffing about on my Orsimer Dragon Knight in the Daggerfall covenant area.  I closed the weekend sitting a little bit away from thirteen.  However because of the absolutely illogical pattern I followed I know I missed a good number of the quests from the first area of Glenumbra.  I would love to say that the beta weekend was completely smooth, but it seemed as though a lot of the systems were bugged out.  Dark Anchors for example seemed to spawn, and then just stay active even after the forces had been defeated and a player got credit for destroying them.

One of the systems that was completely new to me, were the Dark Fissures.  These are essentially mini versions of the Dark Anchors and can just spawn almost anywhere around the map.  Think of these as “soloable” Rifts.  I say soloable in quotes because really unless you are prepared to take on boss level monsters they will be pretty freakin hard.  I defeated two of these and did so just barely.  If you go into them make sure you have your health potions hotkeyed and ready to go.  The awesome thing about the Dark Fissures is that they seem to drop really awesome stuff.  The final one I closed out yesterday evening dropped a level 12 blue fire staff, which I am sure would have been awesome… had I used staves.  If the beta weekend were going longer I would have tried to find that a good home.

Heroes of the Storm

I know I mentioned this the other day, but I am still pretty pumped that I am in the Heroes of the Storm technical alpha.  One of the really cool things about it is that it is completely sans-NDA.  This means that I can stream the hell out of the game, and I intend to.  I recorded a few videos over the weekend, the first of which was just me playing around in practice mode working on the weekly quests for getting victories with heroes from each of the franchises.  The second video however I dipped my toes into cooperative mode fighting bots with other players.  I have to say I found the jump in AI to be quite extremely between practice mode and cooperative.  I earned enough gold through the various quests to purchase two of the cheaper heroes Muridan and Raynor.  At some point I hope to pick up Falstad, because while he is in the free to play rotation currently… I am sure this will change similar to how it does in League of Legends.

Right now I am enjoying the game far more than I ever did League.  Basically it has all of the aspects of league that I really enjoyed… namely fighting people with awesome champions, and none of the aspects that I didn’t like.  League build path was always an enigma to me, and I tended to play champions that I could use the same build on over and over.  League gameplay is far more nuanced, but Blizzard has done for League what they did for the MMO genre.  Streamlined, simplified, polished and created something that the masses can latch onto.  Instead of a huge list of items for you to purchase, you build your character by making a few simple choices.  In the beginning at least all of these are either or choices like “survival” or “damage”.  Over the course of the map this ends up building a semi-custom champion.

However once you reach level 8, they open up these choices significantly.  While playing Muridan yesterday there was one of these levels where I had five different choices for how I wanted to proceed.  Each choice causes you to give up other options with no real way of getting those back.  For me… a player that found the item buying system of League completely unfathomable this works so much better.  For a player who wants a deeply nuanced and unique approach to each match… they are probably still going to favor League.  The champions as a whole feel more well rounded than League champions, in that they have a wider “kit” of abilities and the option to choose between two different “R” attacks really seems to help this.

Play 2014-03-14 10-13-23-03

The place where the game really shines is in their map creation.  At their core, each of the maps is essentially “Summoner’s Rift”.  That said each of the maps has a unique sub game to them, while League tries to do this with the various map types… it simply does not work as well as it does here.  For example in the map shown above Blackheart’s Bay… you have a really awesome coastal city/pirate theme going on.  When one team collects enough doubloons they can turn them in to call in a bombardment from the pirates on the enemy team.  In one map the mini game is all about controlling two shrines which allow you to waken the Dragon Knight.  When you do so the player transforms into this unstoppable juggernaut perfect for diving straight into towers and destroying the enemy resources.  I have only played the game a little bit, but I have to say I am deeply hooked.

Gamer Hangout

Another odd happening this weekend is that I ended up participating in Beau Hindman’s Gamer Hangout show.  I’ve been friends with the members for some time, and there was a week where they had asked me to join in the show… but I until recently I simply did not have a camera.  Now you will be able to see the WHY I didn’t have a camera.  I have always been pretty closed with separating the real me from the gamer me… so it took quite a bit of courage to appear on camera like this.  I am always far more comfortable behind the scenes than being out front and animated.  What was cool about the show is that in essence they based this week on one of my blog posts.

It just happened to be where I was available to join in and chat about it.  While most of us only actually got through two different games on our list, we somehow managed to talk over an hour about them.  They have apparently extended an open invitation for me to participate more in the future, so I guess that means I did not completely make an ass of myself.  My office is a pit, and if I do this more often I think  I would want to rearrange things some… however that involves me cleaning and moving and not sure how likely that is to happen.  It was really enjoyable, and the other folks were great.  Was very much an odd end to an odd weekend.  I just wish that youtube would not have picked a thumbnail of me talking for the video.

Technically Alpha

I Need an Off Switch

There are times I absolutely hate that my wife can sleep through almost anything, and get to sleep so easily.  There is this thing she does that drives me insane, where right before sleep she winds up my brain by revealing some tidbit of knowledge that my mind takes the next hour and a half to digest before it allows me to go to sleep.  Over the week we have had a really sick cat, and are treating her for her hyperthyroidism with a cream that I have to rub into her ear twice daily.  She is getting better, but doing so very very slowly, so I had planned on calling the vet this morning to see if she needs to be seen again.  Moments before my wife went into her nightly coma, she dropped the bombshell that she is not sure that “Little Shit” has been peeing.

Not only did this wake me up, but I went into a full blown panic attack playing the “what if her kidneys are shutting down game”.  There was absolutely nothing I could do to calm down and I was up half the night literally… I finally laid down around 2:00 and drifted off to sleep about thirty minutes later when “little shit” decided to join us in bed.  Her constant purring I guess clamed me down, because she “seemed fine”.  This morning one crisis was adverted when I saw her pee in a place she isn’t supposed to, and another one started when she vomited and there were little red spots in the mixture that looked suspiciously like blood.  All the while I am envious of the fact that my wife can sleep on command, and I end up fighting incessantly to get the few hours a night I end up getting.  There was one night this week, that I thought was a “normal sleep” and my fitbit told me I had 32 periods of restlessness throughout the course of the evening.

Woah We’re Halfway There

I guess that is a bit misleading since dinging level 30 is by no means halfway to 60 effort wise… but it is at least numerically!  Once again I engaged in leveling my Night Elf Mage while hanging out with friends on mumble.  These are starting to feel a bit like impromptu podcasts, since we end up talking about the days gaming news and various sundry bits of geeky information.  We seem to talk about everything other than the game I happen to be playing at the moment I am streaming.  Originally my intent was to stream some Landmark last night, however the servers did not come back up until the wee hours in the morning.  I know this because I also streamed some of that during my panic attack state to try and calm the hell down.

All in all as much as I hate to admit it, I am starting to like playing a mage.  I am beginning to feel more useful in dungeons now that I have some semblance of an AOE in the form of Cone of Cold.  It is still not my preferred method of game play, but I am not absolutely disliking the experience of pushing this character to 60.  Yesterday the Godmother of Faff herself, @AlternativeChat posted about a new contest of sorts.  The idea is with all the boosting going on, to level your way to 90 proudly with purpose.  While I am fully in support of this notion, I am not sure if I qualify for it.

I currently have 6 90s, 2 85+, 2 70+, and my baby mage that my intent was to push to 60 and boost the rest of the way to 90.  I feel like I have experienced the leveling content in World of Warcraft more times than most players.  So I don’t really feel any shame in using my free boost to jump the character class I am least likely to play to the finish line.  However I do feel that most of the folks who have never had a 90, and are using their boost to get there are missing something in the process.  Some of the quests you have to struggle through along the way become a shared cultural experience.  As much as I hate the “poop” quests of Burning Crusade, I like that I did them and shared in the same frustration as other players.  Maybe that is an odd thing to say, but there are very few moments that all players have experienced.  Anyways… you should definitely check out the post that sparked this discussion.

Like There is No Tomorrow

Also on the docket of last nights streaming, I decided to take a break from the mage after dinging 30 and play some Wildstar.  In truth, once again I checked to see if the Landmark servers were back up yet… and since they were not, I opted to play the thing with the most current NDA drop.  I have to say there are certain aspects of the game that are growing on me.  The “soldier” archetype and the quests associated have definitely nailed my personal style of game play.  Namely… explore the world and kill everything that gets in my path.  Once again the “impromptu podcast” aspect of my streams continued as we discussed lots of gaming tidbits.  I have literally considered stripping the audio from these videos and stitch them together into a podcast.

This is what nights on mumble are usually like, as we discuss more than just what we happen to be playing at any given time.  I still am not really used to hearing my own voice yet, but I will get over that.  As far as Wildstar goes… I cover this in the video, but after this weekend the Beta is significantly changing.  Up until this point I have had essentially 24/7 access to the servers, and feel like I have generally squandered that by not playing.  Once this change occurs I am honestly not sure what kind of access I will have.  I know preordering gives you something, but I do not believe that we will keep fulltime access unless we have a 32+ character when the transition happens.  Additionally I think those players will be unable to progress past level 17.  The whole scenario is rather complicated, and I am not sure yet if I really grasp it.  As the thread says, the only sign of a successful compromise is that no one is happy.

No Sleep Til…  Landmark!

I had attempted to sleep for about thirty minutes, and then I realized that I was on the verge of going full blown panic attack… I opted to get up for a bit to try and calm myself with the dulcet tones of gaming.  Generally speaking in the past when I have needed to relax like this I would play Minecraft, and since Landmark is my new Minecraft…  I was thankful the servers were back online.  I figured while I was running around anyways, I might as well stream some of it.  I didn’t broadcast the fact I was doing so, because really I did not intend to be entertaining or talkative.  What the video does show however is the inside of my claim and my latest project… completely redoing the dungeon.  I have to admit at this point… it had been a few weeks since I had played Landmark.

Essentially I had gone high center on some of the crafting requirements.  In order for me to get better machines and better tools it involved absolutely silly amounts of Burled Wood farming.  For those of you who need a refresher, Burled Wood was a rare drop from almost any tree.  You originally needed 100 to make a single Burled Wood plank, and then most of these extremely high end crafting machines and tools required 50 or more of these planks.  This was one of the worst RNG grinds you could imagine.  I simply reached a point where I could not bring myself to chop down the number of trees that it would need to get the things crafted that I wanted crafted.

Thankfully in yesterdays patch they completely turned this mechanic up on end.  Now when chopping down trees they drop a single guaranteed “Heartwood” drop, with a rare chance of dropping more than one at a time.  These are now the items needed to craft machinery and tools, and Burled Wood has been relegated to a “lesser” and also more reliable drop crafting material off of certain trees.  What this means is if you need 27 Heartwood, you know that you will have to farm a maximum of 27 trees to craft that item.  Even if you need 90 Heartwood…  still having a fixed point that you have to farm is so much better than relying entirely on luck to get the drops you need to complete your projects.  Thank you so much for taking this one back to the drawing board.

Technically Alpha

Play 2014-03-14 00-40-29-95 Another very exciting thing happened yesterday…  I received an invite to the Heroes of the Storm technical alpha.  One of the more interesting tidbits about this, is that there is apparently no NDA.  We can blog about it, stream it… do whatever we want, with the caveat that we treat it like the alpha that it is.  I am perfectly fine with this notion because I have been looking forward to “HotS” as it is lovingly referred to… for some time.  Essentially Heroes seems to be set up to fix one of the problems I have with League of Legends.  I am all about team play, and when I am playing as a team I only really care about the end objective… our win.  When I play shooters I tend to be heavily objective and role based shooters that focus on the win condition and not individual player stats.

So much of the way game play works in League seems to be counter intuitive to playing as a team.  Progression is almost solely based on personal performance, not performance of the team.  One of the most frustrating mechanics I have experienced is that of “last hitting”, and this concept is entirely gone from Heroes of the Storm.  Granted I don’t have a lot of first hand experience with the game play… since I did not realize I even HAD access to the Alpha until about 1 am in the full force of my panic attack.  I think I made it about halfway through the tutorial before I made another futile attempt to sleep.  So far everything feels like I expect it to, and the tutorial character of Raynor was rather fun to play.  I look forward to cracking this open and experiencing the content for real over the weekend.  I hope to stream some of it, but with the last beta weekend going on in Elder Scrolls Online… not sure how much of that will actually happen.

Wildstar Impressions

The NDA Drop

WildStar64 2014-03-12 21-23-23-03 The big news from yesterday is that Wildstar dropped the NDA and announced an official launch date and that preorders start March 19th.  I have been in closed beta testing for quite some time now, and as a result have tried my best to maintain radio silence about the title.  I have occasionally referred to it as “that space game” when I absolutely needed to, but generally speaking it is just safer not to say anything at all.  Granted I have not played a ton of hours, in part because the game really doesn’t move me to play a ton of hours.  Every so often there is a game that just doesn’t feel “right” to me, and Wildstar falls into that category firmly.  Of note the other major release that also did was Guild Wars 2 and a few days ago I wrote about my feelings there.

For a long while I simply had trouble playing the game.  For whatever reason there was a specific graphical glitch that would cause my frame rate to absolutely tank.  So the game itself became extremely hard to play at 5 frames per second.  However the last several builds have fixed the issue and I have tried to poke my head in several times to continue to give it the old college try.  In part much like with Guild Wars 2, I keep wanting to try and figure out what everyone sees in this game that is so spectacular.  For a long while segments of my friends list have been completely devoted to it.  Combine that with the fact that a friend of mine now works for Carbine… and I really want to know what it is about this game that makes it special.

The Las Vegas Strip

WildStar64 2014-03-13 06-05-29-86 One of the things that distracts me about the game is just how “busy” it is.  The design ethic the Carbine has employed is one where something is going on in every possible corner of every screen.  So the above picture is on the Dominion starship, and while you can’t really get the full effect in a still frame, there is literally motion everywhere.  While this makes the game feel more dynamic and alive, it also makes the game feel a bit like the Las Vegas strip, with lights and sounds and motion everywhere.  While playing I get a sort of sensory overload most of the time.  This would be fine if this was just a city phenomena, but even when you are out in the world there are doodads and holograms floating about waiting to be clicked on.  The “more is more” design ethic almost gives me a headache at times.

The characters are well crafted, and the voice acting is at times extremely good… and even when it is not it is at least passable.  One of the weird disconnects is that the dialog the npcs are voicing, rarely syncs up with what is actually saying in the chat box.  So this adds a bit to the feeling of too much going on screen, since I have to watch the chat box and listen to the npc at the same time.  Additionally the UI feels like it needs a bit of work, namely in the minimap.  I find it hard to determine where I need to go to reach my next objective without constantly opening the main map.  There are symbols and indicators on the minimap, but it is simply not clear to me what they mean.  I have not really noticed something akin to an arrow off one side of the map to show me where the next quest I have highlighted is.

Confused Control Scheme

WildStar64 2014-03-12 21-33-30-45 The game employs a rather unique combat style, in that the game does not rely heavily on hard targets but instead involves a lot of cone and arc based attacks that fire in front of the character hitting everything in the path.  This in itself is really cool, but the experience while playing the game feels really odd to me.  I feel as though Wildstar really wanted to be an action combat MMO, but stopped just one step short of doing so.  For a long while I was using an addon that allowed you to toggle on permanent mouselook, and it drastically improved my enjoyment of the game.  I feel like the game overall would be more enjoyable if it had a control scheme more like Neverwinter or Elder Scrolls Online, where mouselook controls the view and primary attacks are on left and right mouse buttons with a targeting reticle in the center of the screen.

The combat itself feels too busy for the wow style movement interface.  Maybe this is not as evident with the games ranged classes, but as a melee class I feel like I am always working at cross purposes to get out of the big red “stupid” on the ground, while still trying to keep my attack facing at the right target at the right time.  Controlling the game makes me feel like I should have an extra pair of hands.  Last night when I streamed for a bit, I did not bother downloading the latest version of my mouselook addon, and it greatly diminished my enjoyment.  Since it is not likely that we will see an action combat interface this far from launch, it would be great if they simply added in the ability to turn on perma-mouselook by default instead of having to rely on a third party addon for it.

Extremely Content Dense

Last night I had all sorts of technical difficulties, so I ended up getting a late start.  As a result I did not stream for terribly long… and for whatever reason Twitch decided to stop recording 20 minutes into the stream.  However you can see enough footage to get a feel of the game.  I feel like I have been a “wet blanket” so far this morning, but I don’t really intend to be.  This is just one of the few MMOs that I was not immediately in love with… and like usual I keep trying to figure out why.  One of the big positives is that the game itself is EXTREMELY content dense.  While this gives the game the busy, almost migraine inducing characteristics… this also means there is a hell of a lot of stuff to do.  I was swimming through a lake at one point last night, and ended up engaging a lake race minigame similar to the one in Moonshade Highlands in Rift.

Similarly there are always “hold the line” type events out in the wild where you help the citizens of an area defend against baddies.  So the game itself is exceedingly rich and for 100%ers it will take you a long time to unlock all of the secrets in an area before moving on to the next.  Problem being, I have not been a “must get all the achievements” person for a really long time.  However I do find myself wanting to do the little combat challenges along the way as I unlock them.  In the video above I kill a single snail and find out that I need to kill a certain number within a time limit to get a bonus prize.  My goal from that point on became finding more snails so I could get the doodad.  The bonus prizes are never that good, but just the fact that I get to kill stuff with a purpose is enough for me to enjoy it.

Extremely Torn

WildStar64 2014-03-12 22-12-38-45 Right now I am completely up in the air as to whether or not I will play this game.  There are certain aspects I really like, and certain aspects that turn me completely off about it.  It is like a pair of ill fitting shoes, that look really cool… but no matter how many times you wear them they just don’t quite fit.  At this point I am not sure if I could honestly say what would need to change to make me love the game.  I plan to keep playing the beta off and on and seeing if I can reach a point where the game just feels like magic.  I think if I can ever reach the housing system, that may in fact be the hook for me.  I do love that as I am out and about in the world various housing things can drop.  The gameplay is not “un-fun” but it is not the type of thing that just drives me to play more and more of it.

Right now the biggest deterrent to playing is the price tag and the subscription that goes in tow.  I have no problem with a subscription model, in fact I tend to prefer them for a game I am really serious about.  The problem is, Wildstar is not a title I am extremely serious about.  Were it like Guild Wars 2 where I could pre-order my copy and play it at my leisure with no strings attached I would gladly do so and have my order in on day one.  However knowing that I have 30 days to decide if I like the game well enough to continue playing, means I really need to time playing the game in the first place during a time when I have a lull in other games.  The June launch date is likely too close to Elder Scrolls for me to really get into it seriously.  I think they are planning to pick up the people for whom ESO was not that great of an experience, and also grab the people who are tired of waiting on Warlords of Draenor to launch.

Wish Them Luck

WildStar64 2014-03-12 22-07-35-97 Ultimately I wish them the best of success.  I still stand by the statement that I have made multiple times that we need a lot more success in the MMO world in whatever form it comes.  Specifically we need more stable games that are not named “Warcraft”.  When a game launches, specially one with friends working on the staff…  I feel personally invested in its success.  I feel like they are launching at the best possible time this year.  I just hope they have enough time to set their hooks into players because Warlords of Draenor comes along and pulls people back into a new World of Warcraft adventure.  I feel like so many games are vying for the same pool of players that has not really gotten much larger over the years.  Someone is going to lose as a result of this, and my fear is this game is more likely than anything to pull players away from Rift than it is from WoW.

Being Bad at Mage

Big Damned Beta Weekend

eso 2014-03-04 18-57-08-03 This coming weekend that leads into Spring Break here in the United States, represents the last public beta weekend before the 4/4/2014 launch of the game.  Now the beta client you will be getting to play has a significant number of changes in it.  For point of reference the one that was used during the last public beta weekend was from early December, and lacked a ton of the polish changes that have gone in since.  As a result even if you had completely written off the game based on past public beta experiences… you really owe it to yourself to patch the game up and give it another go this weekend.  While December doesn’t really seem that long ago, what has happened between now and then is what I like to refer to as a “hallelujah” build… aka the one that fixes so many bugs and makes the game feel nice and tight and polished.

So many of the quests that have been perennially bugged out during the beta weekends should now be fixed and working smoothly.  In many cases this involved subtle tweaks to the flow of the quest to make it work more reliably.  Additionally this build is the one that introduces mob collision and the ability to skip the starter island.  The mob collision seems to fix some of the complaints about “floaty combat” that players have made, and the combat animations themselves have tightened up considerably as well.  There are still a number of features missing that are in the private test build, but overall I think players will have a more enjoyable experience.  The game is very much an Elder Scrolls experience, but unfortunately if you were hoping it would morph into a standard MMO interface… that has not and likely will not happen.

Another cool thing about this weekend is with my dabbling in twitch streaming with my “Bel Faffs About” series, I recieved an email from support saying that I could stream the entire weekend if I wanted to.  Granted we likely have quite a bit of things to do over the weekend, and Saturday since it is going to be nice out we hope to go out and do some photography.  However as much of the weekend as I can, I will be streaming out my gameplay.  I am not sure at this point if I will be starting a fresh character, or picking up where I left off on my Orsimer Dragon Knight from the previous beta.  For those who have not already tested the content, they are asking each of us to start a new character and test the new starter experience sans islands.  It works pretty well but is considerably more difficult since at the level you fight some of the encounters, you really don’t have a full set of gear yet.

Technicolor Voxels

I am still very much learning this streaming thing… and I feel like I still have so much more to learn.  I was having some issues with FFSplit, namely in the inability to stream Trove.  So after a suggestion or two from friends I loaded up Open Broadcaster Software overall I like the way it is set up, and it seems more intuitive to me.  However it has copious amounts of settings, and I made the mistake of just accepting the defaults.  The above video is passable at times, but pixellated as all get out anytime there is action going on.  After some tweaking I improved the results with the WoW stream later in the evening.  Additionally I am noticing that I really need to drop the volume of the game by about half so that I am not fighting to speak over it.  I was honestly being fairly quiet last night… and I need not to do that.

It had been awhile since I had patched up Trove and played around on the server.  With all the excitement over “pretty voxels” and Landmark… my enthrallment with Trove’s simplicity fell by the wayside.  This is one of those games where if you stop playing for a bit, you are absolutely shocked at just how much has been done the next time you play.  One of the coolest things from the above video is when I find a tree fort in a higher tier zone, and go hunting for the mushroom king that rules it.  Last time I played they did not have real “dungeon bosses”, and they actually do hurt significantly.  I cheat quite a bit in that the community chest was stocked full of rainbow weapons.  However in my travels last night I did manage to pick up an upgrade that looks like the gun from Portal.

The gunslinger class is extremely fun, and it feels more responsive at times than the Knight does.  Granted the Knight was their “first class”, so I figure at some point down the line they will apply a round of tweaks to make it feel more unique.  If you watch through the video, you can tell I am heavily addicted to using the “rocket jump” attack, that shoots your character up into the air.  I am one of those players that jumps constantly, so this only adds to my enjoyment when I can hurdle over big obstacles.  One of the things I never could find however was the snow biome full of robots.  I am wondering if they made robot parts significantly harder to farm, by only making them drop off punch bots and the dungeon boss robots.  I will try doing another stream soonish with fixed settings to make sure the pixelization is gone completely.

Being Bad at Mage

So as I said above, by the time I got around to streaming World of Warcraft last night, I had tweaked my settings significantly.  While the gameplay in WoW never includes the kind of spastic jumping that Trove does, it seems to be smoother and not pixellated.  I continued my quest to push my Mage to 60.  Night Elf Mage is pretty much the least possible “Belghast” character in existence.  I have always had a problem with Night Elves, and I do not do amazingly well at “Finger Wigglers” as I call them.  That said I have this silly idea that I want to get one of every class to the level cap, and I figured the only way I would actually do this is by using my free boost to 90 on a Mage.  Traditionally the characters I was least interested in playing were the Mage and the Priest.  When I accepted a scroll of resurrection some time ago, I made an instant 80 priest.  So that just left the mage, that I have never really managed to level past about 20.

Firstly I am fundamentally bad at playing a Mage.  I know this.  I had been using Frostfire bolt all this time… because it was “the prettiest”.  Really though the animation does look amazing as compared to the stock Frostbolt… so that meant it had to be better right?  Wrong… apparently it is a spell that no self respecting frost mage would ever cast except in the rare case of a mob being frost immune.  Last night oddly enough I had one of the best mages I have never known watching the stream.  Helkim was commenting over twitter, since I fail at using Twitch chat and gave me the realization that I should never press frostfire bolt again.  Sure enough my damage went up to respectable levels in dungeons…  viva la shorter cast time!

Towards the end of the video someone took the bait.  I made this channel on our guild Mumble server called “Bel Is Streaming”, and since my friend Drathis has no self preservation instinct… he decided to join me.  Within a few minutes several other friends had popped into the channel, and I think before too much longer we had all pretty much forgotten I was streaming.  As a result you guys get a glimpse into what our mumble sounds like on an almost nightly basis.  This might be confusing to the listeners because we end up often times playing completely different games, and there will be cross conversations going on about each.  Everyone else in the channel that was not me, was playing Diablo 3 torment mode I believe.  If I did not have this burning desire to get my mage to 60… I would likely be doing the same.  Basically I decided that I would far rather level a character to 60, than level tradeskills to 600.

Booster Gold

King of Mondays

As I said yesterday, I struggled with the time change like I normally do.  As a result this tends to be the worst Monday of the year.  Of course that would be the Monday my wife’s sister decides we need to go out to eat.  By the time we finished work both of us simply wanted to go home and crash.  However we felt obligated to go act normal and attempt to enjoy dinner.  Thing is we don’t get to see my wife’s sister that often.  She works this really odd job where she cleans nuclear power plants when they go into shutdown periodically.  So as a result she and her husband drag their RV all around the country, and it can literally be years before we see them again.

So I did my best to pretend to be normal and pleasant, when all I really wanted to do was go home… climb upstairs to my office and decompress.  Since the night was already pretty much shot we decided to run a few errands when we got back to town.  Dinner was at least relatively enjoyable, and by the time we arrived home I had gotten a bit of a second wind.  Over the years we have been to three different Ruby Tuesdays.  One in our town that just closed this past week, one in Joplin MO and another one in Upstate NY.  It seems like they were doing it wrong.  The one we ate at last night was really rather nice, and had free biscuits and salad bar.  Maybe the one in my town would have survived if they also had this.

Watching Me Sleep

fitbit_sleeppattern I’m a fat man, and I will likely always be fat.  I have reached a point of acceptance with that.  However my wife and I have been trying to be “less” fat.  Over the course of the last year I lost 70 lbs, and my wife has lost an amount that I have not kept up with as closely… but as much if not more than I did.  She looks absolutely great, and I pretty much still look like myself.  We have done pretty well with diet and while I have fallen off the wagon a bit in keeping track of my food intake…  I have managed to remain the same weight…  so the habits seem to have stuck.  One of the things we both struggle with is exercise.  So for awhile now we have kicked around the idea of getting a Fitbit.  Yesterday we picked up a couple and now I am under constant surveillance.

One of the interesting features is that it keeps track of your sleep patterns.  When it comes time to go to bed, you rapidly tap your bracelet until it buzzes and it knows you are going into sleep mode.  I have often wondered why I feel like shit after getting what seems to be an otherwise good nights sleep.  Apparently last night for example I woke up ten different times through the night.  Some of these I remember, but the majority I do not.  This also explains why the covers on my side of the bed are always fubar.  Granted last night it was a bit odd trying to sleep in what is essentially a watch band, but I will get used to it.

Booster Gold

warlords_preorder The big news yesterday that I have somehow neglected to talk about until just now… is that while I was off at lunch running errands, it seems that Warlords of Draenor preorders went live.  Granted this weekend there was a leak of a boost to 90 trailer video.  So we mostly assumed that at some point this week the preorders would go live, as well as the boost to 90.  The other thing that caused quite a bit of a ruckus was that a “release date” has been entered into the systems for 12/20/2014.  However minutes later Blizzard came out saying that this was not the final launch date, but that the game would be launching sometime during the Fall.  So that begs the question… what exactly does “Fall” mean.  Some are saying September, and at last years Blizzcon they stated that we would be playing Warlords by the time the next Blizzcon rolled around.

My friends have suggested that we are likely going to see a significantly truncated beta cycle, but even at that… it would be nice if that actually started.  I would feel significantly better about the projected launch if I knew that friends and family alpha was at least going on.  Not that I am expecting to be in it mind you, but just knowing it is happening is a good sign.  Now that I have a free boost to 90 that came with my preorder, I am not exactly in a huge rush to use it.  For some time now I had planned to use it to boost up a mage to 90.  I figured this was the one class that I was least likely to level on my own.  I had been playing my little Warlock, and even streamed the hell out of it on Sunday.  Demonology is essentially the “faff about while your demon kills things” spec, and I was perfectly okay with this.

However it is starting to seem like Frost is the “faff about while your elemental kills things” spec.  At one point last night I ended up having to afk in a cave to take care of something… and I fully expected to log back in dead and have to run back to my corpse.  Turns out my elemental killed everything that got anywhere near me.  I am sure this will not last for long, but it was entertaining to watch for a few minutes before I took back control of my character.  At this point my plan is to level the mage to 60 and then boost him to 90 with the doodad.  Essentially my logic is this… I would far rather level to 60 in the cataclysm old world content, which I enjoy…  than level three tradeskills all the way to 600.  If you boost a 60+ character you get your primary and secondary tradeskill to 600 as well as First Aid.  So last night I proceeded to strip my warlock of all of his heirlooms and am now in serious mage leveling mode.

Another Experiment

Yesterday I talked about my experiment over the weekend with streaming through FFSplit to my Twitch.tv channel.  It seemed to work pretty well, and the overall video quality was acceptable.  Now it is time to take it to the next level…  the one where I actually unmute my microphone.  To go a step further, I have created a channel on our guilds mumble server called “Bel Is Streaming” and my hope is to coax my friends to join me in the channel and be entertaining… so I don’t have to.  I can’t say I will have the most exciting stream in the world, and I don’t even hope to do it as well as the Qelric…  but it might be fun.  I decided to name this endevour “Bel Faffs About!” in honor of the Godmother of Faff who raised the consciousness of all things faffing over the last year.  My plan is to post on twitter anytime I am streaming something, and just let the chips fall where they may.  I’ve heard rumor that this weekend is another big ESO beta event, and if that is the case I will stream it as much of the weekend as I can.  In the meantime, expect me leveling my mage to 60 and playing some Diablo 3.

Faffing in the Fjord

Losing Time

It seems that no matter what I do to prepare for it, Daylight Savings time still kicks my ass every year.  This go round I purposefully started trying to get more sleep from about Thursday onwards, in an attempt to get used to the earlier bedtime.  Saturday night I even started referring to things based on EST instead of my normal CST time… to attempt to trick my brain into thinking that was normal.  So last night… I hoped above hope that my brain would be able to power down and go to sleep at a decent hour.  But instead there I lay in bed trying to get to sleep.  I ended up taking some nyquil and playing Bravely Default in bed until I fell asleep.

I am sure Daylight Savings time made sense when we were primarily an agrarian society, however I have no clue why it still exists.  Why do we as a country do this to ourselves each and every year.  To be honest I do like having a lot more sunshine in the evenings, but since that is the case why not stay offset an hour permanently instead of shifting back in the winter?  I mean the days are so short that it really doesn’t matter at all in November if we offset back or not.  For whatever reasons even falling back and gaining the hour still seems to screw with my internal systems.  I realize that bitching about it will do exactly nothing…  but it makes me feel better.

Faffing in the Fjord

So yesterday thanks to the time drain I was feeling a little bit out of sorts.  I got up like I do every Sunday morning and played through my Steampowered Sunday game pick for a few hours, then wrote my review of sorts over it.  This week was of course Brutal Legend, and if you were interested in winning your own copy… make sure you click the extremely obnoxious vote here button at the bottom of the review.  Once I got finished up with all of that silliness I began the massive chore of laundry for the week.  Actually in truth it had been a few weeks since we had done laundry, so I knew I needed something that I could walk away from and check on the loads periodically.  Generally speaking solo leveling fits the bill perfectly.  I am not sure exactly why, but I decided to fiddle with FFSplit and try and figure out this live streaming business.

Normally speaking I always end up leveling my characters through Northrend in Borean Tundra.  While it is extremely boring and grindy, it just seems quicker.  The zone itself is laid out in more of a hub and spoke pattern and you can progress your way through the zone without a ton of travel time.  However since I had not done so in a really long time… I opted to move my little dwarven Warlock to Howling Fjord.  A few hubs into the zone I remembered why I stopped doing this…  so much travel time.  I figured I would share my pain by streaming it so the world could see.  The above video is not terribly interesting, but is me spending my afternoon… or at least roughly two hours of it going through the paces of leveling a warlock in Howling Fjord.  You can watch me playing video games badly!

More than anything I used this as a way to test how well streaming directly to Twitch.tv works, and then using that to upload to Youtube.  So far so good, but I kept my microphone muted during this trial.  I was feeling fairly antisocial, but at some point soon I hope to livecast something meaningful.  I still need to figure out a good size to put my postage stamp video feed into the stream.  At this point I am juggling back and forth between 320 wide and 240 wide, but before I do this for real I want to pretty up my twitch stream a bit with some artwork.  Right now this is just stock FFsplit with no real alterations.  However credit goes to Scopique, who told me this would be a much easier way to record videos…  it just took me months and months to actually fiddle with it.

Belazon Lives!

Diablo III 2014-03-08 18-41-05-93 The other big thing to come from this weekend is that I managed to push my Barbarian to 60 in Diablo 3.  The irony of this is thanks to a certain drop, I have completely shifted focus in the way I play it.  Previously I had been all about dual wield and cleave, using rend to soak back up some health.  However it was either Friday or Saturday night that I got a truly amazing drop that caused me to completely change my build for it.  I ended up getting the level 59 version of the “Three Hundredth Spear” to drop, which buffs my throwing damage by 55% and my ancient spear damage by 59%.  So as a result I completely rearranged my abilities to be able to use this and now I am more of a hoplite build with spear and shield.  Funny how my pure melee class ended up turning into a ranged.

Overall it works extremely well, and I can throw out some truly silly damage on a boss fight.  At one point Saturday the trio shown above were working our way through the various bosses in the game, letting Ashgar get the achievement for killing them all wearing nothing but blues.  At this point I was using the Boulder Toss rune for Ancient Spear, and it was insane to watch the bosses health move significantly each time a boulder landed.  The only problem with this rune is that it changes the functionality of ancient spear significantly.  The thing I like the most about it is that it acts almost like a League of Legends skill shot, in that if you can line up a bunch of mobs in a “wave” you can burn through them quickly as your ancient spear will hit each of them in a row.

Diablo III 2014-03-08 22-42-21-30 I was never really a big fan of the Amazon in Diablo 2, but so far my Belazon build seems to be pretty enjoyable.  While on a “role”-bending trick, I decided to start a baby mage and attempt to go for the melee mage build.  While functional, it just doesn’t feel like a class I would really enjoy.  I don’t really like feeling like a glass cannon, and apart from a few shield abilities the class has really weak survival.  In my few minutes of playing with my friend Tibuant, I died several times… when I have maybe died twice in total on my Barbarian.  I think it might be a class that is enjoyable to solo on, because many of my deaths were simply because Tib and I were not really in sync while playing.  He would be off in one direction and I would be off in another, which always ended up with me getting swarmed.  I think until the Crusader actually gets unlocked I will mostly piddle around on my Monk and Barbarian attempting to get paragon levels.

Savior of the Heavens

War of Guilds


A few days ago on a whim I decided to reinstall Guild Wars 2 and patch it up, which is not an insignificant process at this point.  Last night before getting into anything else I decided to give it a spin.  I have done this a number of times since launch, with essentially the same results.  After a few minutes of running around I decided that I still don’t like the game.  I figured this post is relevant with all of my recent Elder Scrolls fanboyism…  that yes it is perfectly okay for you not to like a game.  Guild Wars 2 is one of those titles that I want to like, because so many people have so many great moments with the game.  However for whatever reason I just cannot see the magic in it that others can.

Guild Wars 2 stands alone as the only alpha program I have ever resigned from.  I just did not like what the game was, and how it deviated from all of things I had read into their manifesto about the game.  When it came close to release I got into beta and had a marginal amount of fun, and with it launching in a relative dead spot I decided to take the plunge and try it.  On the initial play through I managed to make it through to about level 40 before running out of care to continue pushing forward.  This is round and about the place most of us dropped out of it.  Largely it was the chaos that is GW2 group combat that soured the milk for me.

All of that said… I want to see the magic that others see in this game.  So every few months I patch it up and give it another try.  I have always prided myself in being able to see the good in something despite its flaws, and as a result it drives me absolutely insane that I cannot grasp why people love this game.  I don’t want the game to change to fit my desires, so after a bit of playtime every few months we agree to disagree and I end up uninstalling it again.  Other than the chaotic game play, there is just something about the game that feels largely pointless… and I can’t quite put my finger on it.  I love faffing about as much as the next person, and I do so happily in many other games…  but there is just something about this games style of faffing that seems hollow.

I am not going to rage against this game and bash it for being bad… because it very obviously is NOT bad if so many people seem to be enjoying themselves.  It is just not a game for me.  I don’t pretend to believe that I could have built it better, nor would I even know where to start to make it feel more like a game I would want to play.  So I guess in writing this… I want to show that it is perfectly okay to not like the game that everyone else likes.  In doing so you can not like it, but also not seek to spoil the fun of those who really do enjoy it.  There are a long list of games that I just don’t “grok” for one reason or another, but it is okay.  They exist, and people like them… and it is just fine for me not to.

Savior of the Heavens

Diablo III 2014-03-06 22-18-57-78 Last night I finished my play through of Diablo 3 this time on Hard mode.  I am not sure why, but for whatever reason I prefer to level my characters linearly.  I know I can jump around a bit after beating the game ages ago on my Monk, but it seems pleasing to see the story play out in front of me as I trudge through it.  Last night I played with a handful of friends, and managed to get a few nice legendary drops.  Traditionally I have stuck with dual wield, because in general I prefer that in most games.  However last night I managed to get an early 50s version of the Zweihander and it good enough to get me to abandon my dual wielding ways…  at least temporarily.

Diablo III 2014-03-06 22-41-41-28 I am pretty sure at some point I flipped a slider and the game decided I needed “more spikey bits”, as I now am this bladed lord of death.  The appearance is growing on me, and when you see it in small form on screen I look a bit like I imagined the Shrike looking from the Hyperion series.  Upon defeating Diablo I promptly restarted the game, this time bumping the difficulty up to expert.  As a result I have had to tweak my build a bit to add in a bit more survival.  It is not quite as faceroll as it was during my run through Hard.  Mostly I am noticing that my healbot spec Templar is starting to struggle to keep up, or at least allowing me to drop quite a bit before topping me back off.  Wondering if this will change as I upgrade his gear a bit.  I have been trying to keep it upgraded, mostly with my handmedowns.

Diablo III 2014-03-06 22-07-22-52

At the close of the night I managed to ding 56, so hopefully tonight I should be able to finish off my push to get this character to 60.  At this point, I can’t really see playing up another character until the crusader.  I am sure the Witchdoctor, Demon Hunter and Wizard are cool in their own way… but each of them is very much a ranged/finger wiggler class.  They are just not the type of character I enjoy playing.  I realize you can tweak them a bit to make them play in different ways, but at the core they will still be more glass cannonish than I care to play.  I enjoy tanks and tanky dps…  and I feel like the Barbarian, Monk and Crusader fit that bill just fine.  If I continue to struggle a bit I might switch to a sword/board build on my Barbarian as I have done in the past.  For the time being it is working, but I am having to finally start using my heal pots on elites and champions.

Steampowered Sunday Bioshock Contest

Just a quick reminder that I am running a contest of sorts to let you guys pick what I will be playing this Sunday for my Steampowered Sunday feature.  The idea behind Steampowered Sunday is to get me to install and play a game from my steam backlog.  Then I will write about the game play experience.  Sometimes it is extremely glowing, other times not so much.  This week I decided to mix things up a bit and post a google form that allows you guys to vote on which title I will be playing the following week.  I have had a handful of votes to date, but I am really hoping for more.  As of this morning it looks like if nothing changes I will be playing Alan Wake.  Tomorrow when I blog I will be tabulating the results and declaring a winning game.

Additionally to make this more interesting, I have decided to use this as a way to get rid of some of the duplicates I have in steam and have gotten through the various indie bundles.  This week I will be giving away a copy of the original Bioshock for Steam.  So when you vote, make sure you let me know if you want to be entered in the running for the copy of Bioshock.  If so make sure you include your steam id in the form.  Saturday morning when I blog I will be picking a winner for this as well and sending off the free game.  So get out there and vote… and decide my Steampowered Sunday Fate.

Vote Here!

Ninja Grouping

Content Void

carebearstare This morning I am completely struggling to find purpose in writing.  I suppose I could try and counter point Scree’s post about my post yesterday.  But honestly I don’t really feel the need, as he didn’t really shoot down any of the points I had made, but instead provided his own points for why he won’t be playing ESO and moreover why he feels like it never should have been made.  They are some pretty drastic points, but they are his points and he has every right to his own opinion.  Additionally each and every one of you have the undeniable right not to buy Elder Scrolls Online and not to love it.  But again yesterdays post was spawned out of what I felt were some factual inaccuracies about a few points.  However after reading his post this morning it also feels a lot like “I really hate this game, and here is why you should too.”

I feel like that is the problem with the community right now.  We have so much hatred but very little genuine love for anything anymore.  Where is that child like sense of wonder that we can roam around and exist in fully fleshed out 3D worlds?  If gaming doesn’t give you that, then really what is the point of playing?  There are still moments in each and every game I play where I am wrapped up in awe of some moment that just happened that I was not expecting.  It might be something cool over the horizon or it might be some interesting turn of a phrase.  I play these games and I write about them because I love them…  not because I hate them.  Even when something frustrates me to the point of spawning a rant, like I have done so many times about World of Warcraft… it comes from a place of disappointment for not being as good as it could be.

I love the games industry for all of its flaws, and I love all the ways it manages to keep me enthralled and entertained and waiting for the next thing to happen.  From the moment I first got a controller in my hand this has been my story, and my “thing”.  While sometimes it is pen and paper or miniatures or even card games… I am in love with games at the root of my being.  So when I see someone take a crap on something and exclaim that it doesn’t deserve to exist… it depresses me that we have come to a point where that is an accepted stance.  All ideas even if you do not like them, deserve their moment in the sun.  Yeah I realize this top of today’s post is the equivalent of me responding with a “Carebear Stare” to a rather targeted attack… but fuck it, that’s how I roll.

Ninja Grouping

Diablo III 2014-02-27 19-29-26-32 Last night I really did not do a lot of gaming, which is in part why I am bereft of content this morning to talk about.  Over the last few days I have felt pretty crappy, so I am taking the initiative to try and improve things a bit.  Namely I am going to try going cold turkey on energy drinks… because while they help wake my sleepy butt up…  they also tend to cause me to crash pretty damned hard later.  I had gotten to the point where I was starting to drink four or so a day… and that is a bit too much.  So last night I went to bed around 8:30 and crashed after a few minutes of playing bravely default.  Thankfully I was able to sleep all night long, but partially that was nyquil assisted.  The last two nights I have woken up at 4:30 am and 3:30 am… so I was running on a serious sleep deficit.

What little I did play last night was Diablo 3.  One of the aspects of the game that I absolutely adore is just how easy and seamless it is to group up with your friends.  While the above image is old… because I didn’t think to take any new ones…  my friend Rae ninja grouped with me while I was working on the beginning of Act 3.  We did about five levels in a really short period of time and had I stuck around any longer I would have suggested popping out and bumping up the difficulty to expert.  Hard really is the new normal, and none of us play the game on anything lower than that now even solo.  When you add in additional people, it feels like the scaling just isn’t quite enough to compensate for the new gear fountain so we end up bumping the difficulty up a ways.

Rae managed to pull a couple of legendaries during our time grouping, but after getting three in a row last night I think the loot gods were frowning on me.  For the most part I got no upgrades, but I am wearing a really nice green suit of crafted gear, so it might be a long while before I upgrade out of Aughild’s Victory.  At the close of the night I was just a stones throw away from 50, which means I should be able to push through to 60 on my next big play session.  I am really surprised at just how much crusader specific gear I have been getting.  I even managed to get a crusader only legendary flail the other night.  My only worry is that the Reaper of Souls launch is pretty much happening at the same time the head start for Elder Scrolls is, so I am not sure how much time I will really devote to leveling a crusader until I have hit a lull in ESO.

Plea for Larger Battle.net Friend List

image For the love of god… can we please get a significantly larger friends list for battle.net?  At this point I am actively or at least semi-actively playing three different blizzard titles.  I have friends scattered between them all, some of them playing multiples, some of them playing only one.  I am the guild leader of a wow guild with over 900 characters, and have a big twitter/social media community that I want to be able to play with and communicate with while in game.  The current size of I believe 200… is just too damned small.  It has become a weekly thing to try and prune out people that I have not played with in awhile to be able to accept friend invites from new people.  I hate doing this… this goes against every instinct in me to “delete” people that I care about.

At this point we have had multiple upgrades to the battle.net infrastructure… so can we please get a significant increase in the number of people we add?  Bumping it up to 1000 seems like a safe place to be, even 500 would be significantly better than where we are currently.  I am sure someone is going to post and ask me if I really need that many people…  yes… yes I do.  Sure I might not talk to each and every person every day, but I am constantly pinging someone I have not talked to for awhile and we end up spending the evening catching up.  Gaming for me is a social thing, and anything that helps me in that mission is a good idea.  One of my favorite features of Rift is the fact that I can take my entire twitter feed with me.  So please Battle.net do something to help out the people for whom 200 is just too small.

Elder Controversies

Icy Fire Drill

Yesterday here in Tulsa it was roughly 13* Fahrenheit… aka really freakin cold.  About 9:30 in the morning the fire alarms went off, and since we had just gotten chastised for not taking them seriously, myself and another coworker made a brisk pace to the stairwell and descended the 6 flights to ground floor.  Problem is… the sidewalks we were supposed to follow as an escape route were an absolute death trap.  In Oklahoma we barely clear snow from the roads, let alone the sidewalks and parking lots.  At 9 am we had not gotten enough melt to clear them, and what did melt the day before had turned to a solid sheet of glaze ice.  As we penguin walked the three blocks to the parking lot we are supposed to meet in, I was certain that any moment someone would fall and hurt themselves… and I was hoping it wasn’t me.

In front of me there was a woman in a walking cast, and as crappy as the traction on those are… I expected that  any moment she would slip and go down.  So as I walked I was trying to be prepared to grab her if she started to slip.  Remarkably she navigated the ice rink just fine, but the lawyers in front of me in slick bottom shoes struggled a bit in a few places.  We get to the corner near the parking lot, and one of the floor wardens is there waving us back into the building.  Apparently it was not a fire drill but instead a malfunctioning fire alarm on the 5th floor.  So I suddenly had to jettison all the righteous indignation I had built up over the course of our ice skating trip around the block.  Knowing where I work, I was just absolutely certain that this was a case of a poorly planned fire drill.

Elder Controversies

eso 2014-03-04 18-57-08-03 I spent a good chunk of last night playing Elder Scrolls Online and working my way through the Daggerfall quest chains.  While the starter islands are very much optional in the new build, I still plan on doing them just because it gives you a significant level boost.  By the time I completed Betnihk last night I was roughly halfway through level 8.  As compared to previously when you would be roughly level 6 about the time you completed the starter island experience.  I know a lot of people hate Betnihk for some reason, but to me it was a blast.  I love “dances with orcs” as I refer to it.  It has really awesome Orsimer architecture, plenty of undead, and lots of ancient ruins… all of which are things I look for in a zone.  Hell if they put in player housing, I would probably locate myself on Betnihk if possible.

One of the things that is frustrating having played this game for so long, and watched it evolve is to see new players spin up all sorts of tinfoil hat controversies about the game.  I watched a back and forth on twitter that left me absolutely baffled, so I wanted to take a few minutes to address a few of the more egregious ones.  I am not trying to call anyone out here, because I have seen these so many places from so many different people.  So without further ado… lets begin.

Any Race in Any Faction is Lore Breaking

skyrim_khajiit_by_jd1680a-d4i0r46 Honestly I have seen two versions of this, firstly that it is lore breaking and secondly that it erodes “faction pride”.  I call a massive bullshit on both of these points.  I wonder if the players who are saying this have ever actually played an elder scrolls game.  In Skyrim, most certainly the Nords were front and center, but you could not go through Whiterun the archetypal Nord town without also seeing at least one Altmer, Bosmer, many Redguard, a Breton or two and the ubiquitous group of Khajiit nomads.  The Elder Scrolls universe has always been a melting pot of races, and while there are most certainly groups like the Thalmor that are essentially racial supremacists, they are very much not the majority.  It is expected that you will have a Nord fighting alongside a Breton fighting along side a Bosmer, all working to take down a greater evil.  While Elder Scrolls has purposefully conflicting lore, just like there are different sides to a tale in real life, there is no place one could ever say that racial exclusivity is a “Elder Scrolls Value”.

Now to the second point bout breaking down “Faction Pride”.  If you wanted to play only with your factions races… then quite honestly Elder Scrolls is not a game series for you.  The Factions we have in ESO are relatively artificial constructs and most of the alliances do not get along at all.  They have banded together to fight greater forces in a bid to try and claim the Whitegold throne.  Lets take the Ebonheart… the faction that most people will play….  because Skyrim.  The Dunmer view the Nords and country bumpkins that are barely intelligent enough to pick up a weapon, and they view the Argonians in the same way they view Guars.  The Argonians view both the Nords and Dunmer as oppressors, and the Nords view anyone that can raise a weapon as a potential enemy…  especially other Nords.  Granted this is a great over simplification of things… but suffice to say the races do not really like each other, and the alliance they have formed is barely holding together.  Alliances in this game series are not racial boundaries but instead political organizations, and the sooner players realize this the happier they will be.

Personally I wish there were not faction walls, because I hate having to decide which group of friends I get to play with, on which characters.  I feel like the Horde/Alliance red versus blue bullshit is the absolute worst thing about World of Warcraft.  However I realize I am in the minority here.  The bonus with Elder Scrolls is that I can at least tell my friends that if they preorder they will be able to play whatever race they want to play in the Daggerfall faction that the guild voted on and chose.  After living through the launch of WoW and how it split my friends between two different servers and two different factions… I welcome this olive branch with open arms.  While they have not said anything about it, I am sure at a later date you will probably be able to pay to unlock this functionality as well.  For the time being however it is a really awesome perk for those players who bet on the game at launch time.

Imperial Edition is Paywalled Content

familyshot-pcmac While I cannot really go into details because some of the testing is still covered under NDA, I can firmly call bullshit on this one as well.  While the Imperials are a different race, they are very much a cosmetic one.  At least I think I can say that much, if not many apologies to the ESO community staff, but the information needs to be out there.  The feeling on the ground however is that Imperial Edition has something that players will not be able to get otherwise.  Sure the racial graphic for imperials and all the armor styles are unique… but they are just cosmetic.  It is not like you cannot be effective in the game without access to the Imperial race.  I personally plan on making Belghast an Imperial but that is for mostly Lore reasons, and the fact that I can make an Imperial look exactly like how I always make Belghast look.

Players with access to the Imperial Edition are not getting anything that you cannot get otherwise in the game other than what amounts to some cosmetic skins.  What I don’t get however is why this is somehow more angst inducing than a World of Warcraft collectors edition, or any other MMO collectors edition when you get exclusive items that you cannot ever get any other way.  They have already mentioned that you would be able to upgrade to Imperial Edition at a later date if you wanted to unlock the Imperial race and its gear styles.  The rest of the argument against the Imperial race seems to go back to point one.  While Imperials are in fact native to central Tamriel, they have never been uncommon in ALL parts of continent as you have encountered them in every single game to date.  The Elder Scrolls setting is extremely racially diverse, so it makes complete sense that you can be an Imperial anywhere in the world.

Elder Scrolls is Triple Dipping

eso 2014-02-15 17-53-30-40 Essentially this controversy stems from the fact that Elder Scrolls has a box price, a monthly subscription and there has been talk of an in game cash shop.  I have no clue why this is a big deal, because until the Free to Play model rode in with its promise of something for nothing… this was pretty much the model of every single AAA game.  Even today World of Warcraft is doing this exact same thing.  You pay for the game, then you pay a monthly fee and then on top of that they have the audacity to offer additional cosmetic stuff for more money in an easy to use cash shop?  Those blasphemers.  they should bow down to the god of something for nothing!  Pardon me if I get more than a little bit hyperbolic here, but that is generally how I view the cult of free to play, as a bunch of people who are wanting something for nothing.  If you are not actively supporting a game, either through a monthly subscription or regularly buying stuff from their “priced to own” cash shop… you are actively a drag on that game.

I realize that is a controversial stance, but these are not charities running the games you want to play.  They are companies with staff and that staff has families they need to feed.  Everyone gnashes their teeth and laments the death of an MMO, however had they given some monetary support to the game rather than just lip service it might have not died in the first place.  Granted sometimes there are situations like Star Wars Galaxies that were absolutely doomed from the start.  Lucasfilm wanted their license back, so as a result a game that was marginally successful had to die on the process.  However City of Heroes and Vanguard are squarely on the shoulders of players who love those titles but just stopped paying for them.  If we love games we have to put our money where our mouths are and show them the only kind of support that keeps the lights on in the building… our cash. Granted this little rant is going off in a completely different direction than I had intended it… but that is the side effect of writing my posts on the fly.

Back to the “Elder Controversy” at hand.  Why shouldn’t Elder Scrolls have a cash shop?  Everyone else does.  So long as they limit thing to cosmetic unlocks and game services like character renames… it seems like business as usual to me.  If we accept this as “normal” when World of Warcraft is concerned, I feel like we have no real ground to stand upon when another game wants to do the exact same thing.  There are many people who are going to “wait for free to play”, and if it goes that direction I am fine as well.  So when a game converts from subscription to free to play I have never felt “robbed” of the time and money I spent on it when it was a subscription.  In fact I tend to continue to subscribe to these games after their conversions.  While I may not play Rift as much as I have in the past, it is always a game I return to and as such I keep a yearly patron account subscription.  I view it as my way of supporting a game that I love, even if I am not actively playing it.

Can of Worms

Firstly I feel like I should apologize for some of the tone I have in this post.  It has ended up being a bit more vitriolic than I had intended it to.  As a fan of the Elder Scrolls franchise and a fan of Elder Scrolls Online, I can completely accept when someone tells me “meh, it just isn’t for me”.  What frustrates me is when someone decides that for some reason Elder Scrolls Online has stolen their puppy.  Then decides to come up with a complex lattice of paranoid reasons why NO ONE should play the game.  In this post I tried to address a few of these “elder controversies”, but in fact I got more than a little bit hyperbolic myself in the process.  I am passionate about gaming, and I am passionate about the games I want to play.  Some of that passion spilled out onto the page today.

This gets back to an overall problem I have with the gaming community.  We tend to view it as a zero sum game.  There are many who view the world in terms of… if I want my game to be successful I have to take a crap on the competitors.  While I am 100% on the Elder Scrolls bandwagon…  I also really want to see Wildstar succeed and Everquest Next succeed…  because quite frankly we NEED more successes in the MMO genre that are not named “Warcraft”.  That is not a jab at the juggernaut in the room, because I play WoW as well… but we need to see more equitable sharing of the love if we hope to salvage this genre.  I feel like free to play works for games that have already repaid the costs of development, but it just simply does not work for every game… nor should it be the cure all to every gaming ill.  Free to Play feels like a death spiral for the genre, and while the fact there is a subscription cost will likely keep me from playing a game I only marginally cared about like Wildstar.  It most definitely is not a substantial barrier between me and a game I am passionate about like ESO.