ArcheAge Impressions

Peach Fuzz and Pretty Boys

ARCHEAGE 2014-05-08 11-36-43-71 As I said yesterday, a friend of mine hooked me up with access to ArcheAge alpha and throughout the day it downloaded and installed.  I came home over lunch to take a breathing treatment, and when I got there it was ready and waiting for me.  I didn’t get much time to play at that point, but I did manage to create a character.  I have to say at this point my hopes were a bit dashed.  I generally have a problem with the Asian and specifically Korean graphical style, in trying to create a character I really liked.  I had this problem with Aion, GW2, and to some extent Rift.  It very difficult in these style of games to create any form of a male that is not a “pretty boy”.  I went into FFXIV with the same fears but found myself pleasantly surprised that I could create a character aligned to western ideals with a very nice beard and everything.

ArcheAge unfortunately… this was not the case.  They have beard options but essentially they were choices between “Five O’clock Shadow”, “Peach Fuzz” and “Well Trimmed Peach Fuzz”.  There was not a single “real” beard option available.  This is a little bit disappointing considering from everything I have heard there are some massive configuration options available for the female models.  So Trion if you are reading…  not sure if this is something you can do but both ArcheAge and Rift for that matter need better beards for the human models.  The above character is as “close” to the standard Belghast appearance as I could get out of the system.  I can live with it, but I am not exceptionally happy about it.  I feel like my choices were as good as possible with the system.

Solid Combat

archeage 2014-05-08 21-09-30-888 Complaining about the character models aside, the game feels very good once you actually get into it.  The first several levels are the same as every fantasy MMO with a series of punctuation leading you around the map and showing you the things you should do.  Right now the experience feels a little disjointed since you are supposed to be getting treated to nice cutscenes… that happen to all be in Korean.  This also causes some odd shit to happen… at one point last night a rock on the ground was speaking korean to me… and I never quite figured out what was happening there.  It was some sort of a tutorial system, and I ended up disabling.  The world feels good, and combat feels responsive for standard MMO fare hotbar combat.

I chose to go “BattleRage” for my initial tree and it is pretty much standard warrior fare.  At level five I was able to pick a second tree, and I went for Defense… which is as you would expect the archetypal “tank” tree.  At that point I had a kit that included a ranged pull, a charge, a multi modal combat attack that could hit multiple targets and a really powerful long cooldown shield bash.  That is a pretty great start for any game that only a few levels in I feel like I have a complete enough kit to absolutely run wild with.  At level ten I was able to pick up my third tree, which I went Occultism with.  Basically this is the “Dark Knight” build from the Korean version, or as it is called here “Doomlord”.

ARCHEAGE 2014-05-08 19-34-56-27 My ultimate plan is to try and create a Shadowknight like tanky character with life drains to and maybe a cool summon or two.  Right now I have this really awesome attack called “Hell Spear” that impales every mob within a radius around me on a fiery spear that comes up from the ground.  They are rooted and take damage when it fades.  This honestly is one of the aspects of the game that most appeals to me, that I can build pretty freeform classes.  While it is zero shock that I ended up trying to create a Dark Knight given my love of Shadowknights and Deathknights…  I am happy that I am in fact able to craft it however the hell I want to.  Looking at the trees it looks like I will be able to build a tank with a charge and a deathgrip type yank ability, which should give me a pretty solid kit for tanking instances… if those even exist here.

Rift and FFXIV Had a Child

archeage 2014-05-08 23-11-41-738 One big take away from last night is that the world is gorgeous.  Not everything is amazing… and there are plenty of generic fields and forested nooks to explore.  However every now and then you are just awestruck by how breathtaking a vista is.  Overall like the subtitle says the game feels as though Rift and FFXIV had a child… and then spent time raising it with LoTRO and even an odd Warhammer Online feel to some of the quests.  That description will either make you think “man that sounds great” or like some of my friends cause you to affix a firm “NOPE!” sticker to it and move on.  I happen to like the mix and this is probably going to be my new “off night” game.  I still plan on playing the shit out of Elder Scrolls Online, but this game is probably going to fill that space that SWTOR has recently been filling.  The game world has plenty of downtime, so it doesn’t feel like I have to be “constantly on” like it does in ESO.

Granted all of this might change as I move out of the more themepark areas into the more serious sandbox ones.  At some point soon I will be turning off most of the channels.  I would say already it has one of the worst communities I have seen in a game.  At one point I was given a quest where I had to cross a bay on a shitty rowboat.  The folks with huge ships took a perverse sense of pleasure ramming into me and trying to capsize my boat as I moved across the bay.  Granted they could not actually attack me, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t make my life hell for a few minutes.  This “griefer spirit” seems to be infused with the game community so far, and ultimately will probably be the biggest problem I have with it.  If you look at most of the streamers, they seem to be almost entirely devoted to ruining someone’s day.  Although if you want to watch some streams that are not blatant griefing and high seas piracy… I highly suggest Kiwidream or IRLJasmine.

Systems Within Systems

ARCHEAGE 2014-05-08 20-16-55-61 That is the oddest thing about this game honestly, is that it can be so many different games to so many different people.  From my limited experience so far it is very much a straight forward themepark style game.  However after watching lots of streams on the game, I can see just how detailed the various systems are.  You could in theory live your entire life in game as a crafter, doing nothing but running trade deliveries and crafting goods for sale.  You could spend your time raising crops, or animals, or doing nothing but building really awesome houses for people.  However you can also spend your time adventuring or as the community seems to be doing… griefing other players.  Wading into this game is much like wading into Everquest 2 at this point.  There are just a ridiculous amount of systems to try and figure out, and even though the game gives you a summary introduction to each…  the depth there is almost staggering.

I still stand by my statement on the MMOPRG Game On podcast… I feel like this is going to be the game that has finally arrived for the Star Wars Galaxy player.  One of the hallmarks of that title, was that so many different play styles were embraced and supported.  ArcheAge so far feels like a spiritual successor, but with a really good combat system.  I’m sorry to the SWG fans out there, but combat in that game felt horrible, even compared to what was available in Dark Age of Camelot at the time.  What it had going for it however was all the open world goodness and player created content, and I feel like even with the seemingly asshole community…  there might be a place to carve out a niche among the lawless.  I know they are targeting free to play for this game, but it almost makes me hope that there might be a “patron only” server.  I feel like a game with this much potential to ruin your day, needs a more curated environment.

Final Thoughts

archeage 2014-05-08 22-38-21-246  I am starting to get used to the character especially now that I am starting to shift away from leather armor into plate gear.  I feel like there will be a point where I actually enjoy playing the character and the way it looks.  As far as the world goes… while it does not inspire me yet to go absolutely batshit crazy with the exploration like Elder Scrolls Online does… I figure as it opens up I will start to feel that way.  Right now I am most concerned with staying on the path, since I don’t know where the free for all boundaries are.  I want zero part in the pvp aspects of the game, so I will be doing my best to avoid them.  I really like the way combat feels, the animations are nice and the abilities while essentially spamming hotkeys… feels good.  I feel like it gives any wow-like combat system a run for its money.  It is not extremely deep, but what is there is enjoyable.  I feel as I keep unlocking skill points and subsequently new abilities it will keep feeling more “fleshed out”.  While I do not feel like abandoning all other games and declaring ArcheAge the one true king… I enjoyed myself enough to keep playing periodically and see where the journey leads me.  There is a lot to like in this game, and I feel as it progresses, that will increase.

#ArcheAge

Take on the Trinity

Maypocalypse

This morning I am struggling to get my act together and actually start writing.  Why you might ask?  Well I have been sitting here dwelling on just how much crap has to get done this month.  My wife is a school teacher, which means there are two absolutely hellacious times of the year for their spouses…  the beginning and the end.  Right now I am trying to make myself available for whatever she might need to be done, which means I am going to miss a lot of regularly scheduled playtime.  Additionally we have several landmines in our schedule throughout the month as we are expected to attend various weddings, graduation events, and mothers day all lumped into the mix.

This weekend for example I really deeply need to crash hard in a vegetative state on the sofa.  However instead we are going to run all over half of the state as we attend a big graduation event on Saturday, and then attempt to juggle our Mothers Sunday… making sure no one feels slighted in the process.  Thankfully I already have my Mother taken care of gift wise, but at some point soon… likely tonight we need to go shopping and figure out what to do for my wife’s two mothers.  I expect to end up a rather grumpy man by the time everything is said and done.  Right now I am just hoping that I am back Saturday night in time to record the podcast.

Take on the Trinity

Screenshot_20140411_214633 Yesterday I spent some time chatting with Syl and among the many topics was scattered in a brief discussion about roles in MMOs and more specifically the trinity.  I have long been a defender of the trinity, but even I fully admit that it is deeply flawed in a few ways.  The problem is that the game that try to completely remove it… end up with a chaotic mess when it comes to group based combat.  Games like Elder Scrolls Online have tried to blur the lines a bit, but it still very much requires a handful of things to get through a dungeon successfully.  We have not really landed on an ideal solution to replace the trinity with something else.  The moment you replace it however… you more than likely end up with a new kind of trinity.

Somewhere in this conversation I had an idea.  In a game like the Elder Scrolls Online you meet along the way a cast of really interesting and varied characters.  What if you collected these a sort of unofficial followers within your sphere of influence.  Games like SWTOR do this sort of things, but very much in a subservient “pet like” manner.  What would happen if you could call upon them for assistance, but instead of them following you around in a zone…  you assumed control of them.  The idea is that basically you would be able to become any of these characters temporarily, assuming their abilities and hot bars and by extension the role each of them fills.  Where I am getting at is if the party needs a tank, you just rummage through your NPC contacts and summon the spirit of the one that is a tank.

In Everquest 2 they have a very similar system to this, but it was put in place specifically for the dungeon maker system.  It allowed you to collect a series of avatars by adventuring out in the world and then run player created dungeons as these characters.  This would take this same concept but apply it to every place you might need a specific kind of character.  The idea is that each of the avatars would be a balanced but not quite optimized version of that role.  Essentially just “good enough” to get by with, but nowhere near as good as a player could craft the same role.  But it would serve a lot of purposes.  Firstly anyone could truly take over and heal, tank, crowd control or whatever role happened to be missing from a party.  Secondly they would serve as a kind of “try before you buy” for interesting mechanics.

For players familiar with the MOBA genre, this would be very similar to the Champions that you collect or purchase.  Each one would have unique strengths and weaknesses, and be able to fill specific roles in the party.  However the idea is that each one of these while interesting to play can be easily improved upon by the player.  However each one would be able to showcase a specific game-play mechanic or style, allowing players to see if they like that sort of thing before going through the lengthy and expensive process of recreating it themselves.  You obviously would need to have a smattering of character to tail to different player tastes, but it would almost become a new meta game as you go around the world influencing NPCs and collecting them into your “stable”.  There is a moment in the original Rift cinematic trailer where they visualize a player switching specs… and I figure switching avatars would have a similar look and feel.

Incoming Obsession

image I woke up this morning and saw an email waiting there notifying me that I had been added to the ArcheAge alpha.  I have been watching this game evolve with great interest, but have been on the fence about taking the buy in plunge.  Right now I have lots of games that I want to be playing, firstly I still have so much that I want to do in ESO.  However now that I am in I know I will be playing this as my “off night” game.  For awhile I had been dabbling with the notion of joining the Alliance of Awesome people in their Dominion Wildstar guild, however with this new game being piled on I doubt I will at this point.  In related news… the transition from Reddit to Anook for the Alliance of Awesome community site has been pretty seamless.  Folks are slowly starting to pick up momentum and trickle in.  I have done a piss poor job of promoting this on the Stalwart site but that will be changing.

For a bit I was considering just trashing Stalwart Online entirely and going to a Nook for our site, however I have backed away from that notion.  For starters I think it might be a bit too traumatic for people to have a second forum ripped away from them in a year.  It was around this time last year I think that I made the transition from the original Stalwart forums to the new Vanilla based one.  Secondly…  I really want people using Anook, but all directed in the same place.  As a compromise we have considered carving out guild specific areas on the Alliance of Awesome site, that way we are all in the same shared space and not fragmented off on a bunch of individual sub sites.  The big step in unifying the guilds will still be to transition to all using the same voice software…  but that has been a hill I was not ready to die upon.  However it is still very much one that I need to address.

ArcheAge definitely gives me something to look forward to tonight when I get home.  If you are in game and playing, ping me and let me know how to get a hold of you.  I feel like there is already a significant population of people I know in game right now.  I have severe reservations about the game, but after reading Liores post about what exactly can pvp flag you yesterday… I feel a bit more at ease.  I am still a damned dirty care bear, and as such try to stay the hell away from PVP.  That said I still very much enjoy my time spent in Cyrodil and want to get more of that happening soon.  Now that we have this handy dandy event calendar… thinking maybe about penciling in next Wednesday night for a grand Cyrodil excursion.  In the mean time I will be horribly conflicted as to what game I will be playing on a given night.

#ESO #ElderScrollsOnline #ArcheAge #Trinity #AllianceOfAwesome

Shores of Oblivion

Mornings Are Hard

This one in particular is extremely difficult for some reason.  I guess it could be the fact that I fell asleep at the keyboard last night, and as a result ended up getting to the actual bed far later than I had intended to.  Now as I attempt to jump start my brain with caffeine I am realizing how frustrating the act of a morning can be.  More than anything I am finding myself extremely easily distracted.  Of late several of us have been slowly migrating to Anook.com as a social site.  Primarily this is for the fact that it is ideally suited for a multi-guild meet-up site like the Alliance of Awesome.  At this point I am wondering if I could simply transplant my folks from the House Stalwart forums to the site as well making the whole experience more fluid.

For those who don’t remember… or were not reading my blog at the time, the Alliance of Awesome is a weird experiment that we have been running.  With the launch of Landmark alpha, several of us realized just how many different overlapping groups we were a part of.  So we proposed a grand alliance, and since then many of us have been laboring to make those efforts successful.  Right now the AofA as we call it, is a combination of Combat Wombat, Dark Religion, Mercy Gaming, Multiplaying and House Stalwart.  Elder Scrolls Online was the first game we really went into as a large amalgam guild and so far it seems to have worked extremely well.  I have been shocked at just how little drama has been involved, but I guess that is to be expected when most of us are “thirty somethings”.

Shores of Oblivion

Screenshot_20140506_195501

Last night was an odd sequence of events.  Firstly I was supposed to be doing a pen and paper thing with several of my friends.  However I did not want to get into anything too deep because I knew I would need to go do things with my wife when she got home.  As a result I ended up piddling around in Elder Scrolls Online while waiting in a holding pattern.  As the evening went on, the time of her arriving home kept slipping backwards, so in grand total I ended up playing and streaming my gameplay for a few hours.  The mission of last night as always was to finish up Bangkorai.  I have finally reached a point where I think there are just two objective areas left in the map.  However completely by accident I seem to have moved past the zone and into Coldharbor by following the storyline.


Watch live video from Belghast on TwitchTV
At some point soon.. or at least as soon as I can find a wayshrine in Coldharbor I will be venturing back to Bangkorai to finish up the last few things on my map.  I find it almost impossible in this game to “skip” content.  It drives me absolutely insane that there is still a black skull on my Alik’r map from a world boss that was bugged out.  I feel like I have to explore every corner of the map before I finally and reluctantly move on to the next area.  At this point I am just a stones throw away from 47, so I figure that I will ding 50 well before I even come close to finishing Coldharbor.  That zone looks equally huge as compared to Bangkorai.  When I posted the above picture on Anook, someone commented about the Mudcrab.  That is “Butter” my faithful companion that has been with me the entire journey.  I am not sure why I bonded with the brown mudcrab pet over the Monkey, Bantam Guar or Red Mudcrab… but I did and he has been at my side throughout all of this.

Crush the Resistance

swtor 2014-05-05 21-28-00-26 I love the Elder Scrolls Online with every fiber of my being, but the game requires a lot of focus.  This past weekend and the last few days I have struggled a bit in trying to maintain that focus.  Wandering around the world requires you to be constantly aware of your surroundings, because an afk in the wrong area can end up with a hefty repair bill.  As such I need a game that doesn’t quite matter so much.  For a long while this has been landmark, but I have reached a point of builder burnout there for the moment.  On a whim this weekend I decided to fire back up SWTOR and I have been piddling around on my Caithar Sith Juggernaut.  I never really got to see the Sith side of things, so overall it is pretty enjoyable.  I opted to go Light Side Sith, which seems to be far more my style anyways.  I am this island of honor and nobility in a seething mass of evil.

swtor 2014-05-06 23-32-23-94 To be truthful… this specifically is the reason why I logged in over the weekend.  On “May the Fourth” they gave everyone that happened to log in an adorable astromech droid pet.  I could not pass this up, because of my friends… I am the only one who ever seems to be nostalgic enough to re-up a game subscription and revisit games the guild has moved on past.  So while it started out as “get this thing while it was available”, I am actually finding myself enjoying the game again.  It is no real competition for ESO, but it scratches the itch that most everyone seems to be satiating with Wildstar beta weekends.  Additionally… after all this time I finally have a machine that will run SWTOR on maximum everything.  This client is so poorly optimized that even on my laptop with dual video cards… it runs like complete shit.  No clue how long I will piddle around with SWTOR, but I might even stream some of my adventures.

From the Desk of Doctor Hannah

Another good friend of mine decided to enter the Newbie Blogger Initiative fray.  Dallian, otherwise known as Doctor Hannah from twitter… has had a blog for ages, but for the most part it had lived in a dormant state.  I think both the blog and the twitter account started as a joke reference to the now infamous Tabletop episode where Felicia Day creates this massive backstory of Doctor Hannah while playing Last Night on Earth.  So while the blog started off as a joke, at some point during its life it morphed into being Dallian’s personal space.  With the NBI he is taking the step of rededicating himself to blogging more regularly, and about his gaming side as well.  In this post on the forums he mentions wanting to do at least a post a week, but so far he has made like four posts this month.  I will do whatever I can to help support this effort, but in the meantime you should totally pop over to his blog and check it out.

#ESO #ElderScrollsOnline #SWTOR #DoctorHannah #NBI2014

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD

Steampowered Sunday #12

This weeks episode of Steampowered Sunday is chock full of self indulgent cheatery.  Firstly we have plans on going out and about Sunday morning, so I am technically playing the game and doing this review Saturday night shortly before recording AggroChat.  The second bit of cheatery is that normally I play through a game in my steam back catalog.  That however is not the case this week as currently steam is having a sale on all Activision titles.  Among the list was one that caught my eye.  I had noticed it a few times in the past but was never at a price point I was wiling to snap it up for.  However yesterday for $5 I figured it was well worth that just for a trip down memory lane.

THHDGame 2014-05-03 19-32-02-65Something you need to know about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise is that I played the hell out of it.  I was one of those little skater kids, and I even went so far as to have the “Tony Hawk” style “hangover” haircut.  As a result when this came out for the original Playstation I latched onto it with both hands.  One of the things I always wanted was a really good skating game, however we were stuck with either Skate or Die that at least had a free style ramp mode, or 720* which lacked any kind of free skate option… and if you took too long you were chased by an angry swarm of bees.  No game gave me what I wanted, which was the ability to faff about without a timer ticking and do all sorts of nifty tricks.  This game franchise had exactly that, and I spent countless hours playing and it and it’s higher resolution cousins on the Dreamcast.

Memory Lane

THHDGame 2014-05-03 19-34-59-10 When the I got my Playstation 2 one of the first titles I picked up was Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3.  So I knew one of two things was going to happen.  Either I would have a wonderful romp down memory lane, or I would be severely disappointed by the crappy remake.  Thankfully the game is pretty much a 1080p remake of the original playstation title, and this is a good thing.  Playing the game with a XBOX 360 controller on my PC feels almost exactly like I remember playing it on the PSX.  All the tricks worked essentially the same, and I struggled with the same problems I ever did.  The game works the same way, each map has a ton of objectives and as you move your way around the area you get bonus scores for collecting them.  As always the first objective I generally go for is for grabbing the letters S K A T E scattered around the room.

THHDGame 2014-05-03 19-35-37-03 Additionally all of the old secrets are exactly where I remember them, and accessed through the same kind of tricks.  I really was not expecting anything more than a graphical update, so I was not terribly disappointed to find that literally nothing had changed.  I got the same enjoyment crashing through the room on top of the ramp as I ever did.  One of my favorite things about the series was trying to find all the named “gaps” and a lot of these work the same as they always did.  The only thing that is confusing really is that the game is like a remix of all of the Tony Hawk titles.  There are maps from the early THPS games as well as the later Underground games.  Overall this gives you a good mix of things to go and explore, and Free Skate mode is just as much of a guilty pleasure as it ever was.

Stripped Down Game

THHDGame 2014-05-03 19-34-43-14 My biggest complaint about the game is that it is greatly stripped down.  Gone is the ability to create custom skaters, and also gone are the weird unlockable characters like the Neversoft eyeball guy, and Spiderman.  The lack of ability to create your own skater really hurts my overall enjoyment of the title.  I liked creating a skater that was a reasonable facsimile of myself and customizing his stat package to be only the things I cared about… namely street skating.  I found that overall Eric Koston has the closest stat package to what I would want, so I have been using him.  The game has been out for two years, so I doubt that we will be seeing any kind of DLC that adds in the missing functionality.  My only hope is that maybe just maybe someone cares enough to create a mod that lets you do the same thing.

The other missing feature is the skate park creator.  I spent hours building interesting skate parks to go explore, and I remember THPS 2 for the Dreamcast had a wide variety of items you could choose from.  I realize this title was released not only on the PC but also tablets and phones… so there is a limited amount of stuff they could realistically squeeze into the game given those constraints.  Even with these missing features, I have definitely gotten my $5 worth of fun.  Sure I still have my playstation, playstation 2 and dreamcast…  but I am not going to go dig them out of the closet and hook them up just to play Tony Hawk.  This little download has allowed me to relive some of those memories without having to do that.

Watch Me Suck at THPS!

As has been the trend lately, I recorded the entire play though of THPS, or at least a good chunk of it.  You can see just how bad I suck at the game these days, and how many jumps and tricks I miss.  I had a blast doing it, and I need to figure out a better option for a push to talk key while playing a game that requires a controller.  As a result there are huge blocks of time where I say nothing.  But it is fun nonetheless.  If you had good memories of the game like I did, you might check out the sale while it is still going on.  Well worth the few bucks, and the game performs extremely well.  I didn’t notice anything glitchy about it, so it seems like a pretty solid experience.

Episode 4:  Mentors for Everyone

Last night we recorded Episode 4 of the AggroChat podcast, and once again we had our regular cast in place.  Kodra was back from his business trip, and Rae was no longer trying to join the circus.  I tried a little experiment last night, that I probably won’t repeat again.  I had been concerned that I had been overly directing the flow of conversation, so I tried to take a step back and let the rest of the hosts introduce topics.  The end result lead me to do way more editing and massaging on this episode than normal as I deleted a ton of awkward pauses.  The end result is still fairly interesting.  We ended up talking about the current state of Elder Scrolls Online with its launch and remaining bugs.  We talked quite a bit about ArcheAge and how intrigued I am by it.  Finally I nudged the rest of my panel into talking about League of Legends.  They had been threatening for weeks to derail the podcast, and I encouraged it… and the end result was not terribly derailed after all.

#SteamPoweredSunday #AggroChat #TonyHawkProSkater #ElderScrollsOnline #ESO

A Path Not Taken

A Question Answered

I am getting a super late start today, or more so I am sitting down to write my blog post this morning later.  I dropped the dry cleaning off yesterday morning, and then shortly after decided I felt entirely too bad to exist in the real world.  So I went home and took breathing treatments throughout the day, in an attempt to convince my lungs to stop being assholes.  It has mostly worked, but this meant that I needed to get up relatively early this morning and go pick up the dry cleaning so we would have it for Monday morning.  I still have plenty of shirts in the closet to cycle through, but my wife had reached the limits of her wardrobe.

It seems like at least once a year a new social media technology is released, and the internet zeitgeist all flocks to it.  I generally sign up for these the moment they happen in an attempt to stake my claim flag and then they sit dormant for years until I finally decide that I want to start using it.  One of these is Anook, and I asked a very simple question last night on twitter.

image While I was expecting someone like Maeka who has been posting on the site for a good deal of time to chime in, I did not expect to be drawn into a length conversation with the Community Lead.  As you can see, we talked a lot and I started to buy into the vision.  The problem that they see it is that there are all these services, that you load up with content once… and then forget about.  Facebook is this way for me, I have a profile because I know that certain people would rather be notified of my content through that vehicle… but I don’t actually USE facebook.  I hate the service, I hate the way it feels, so I feel bad each time someone sees the content that somehow got set up to syndicate from twitter… and thinks I am actually using that as a means of communication.

I know going into this that Anook is not what I have been longing for.   I would love to have a gamer focused site that acts as a social glue for everything else I have content on.  A single point of syndication for G+, Twitter, Steam, Raptr, Battle.net, Glyph, Playstation Network, Xbox LIve…  whatever services I happen to have accounts on including my own blog and podcast.  I think this is a niche that if someone fills it, will be amazing.  What Anook is instead is trying to focus on creating a community with the ability to talk about disparate topics.  I see this as trying to be a social network, but almost from a guild website type of approach.  In the short time I am going to start populating it with my content, be it youtube vids, the podcast or my daily blog posts.

In the long term I could see maybe starting to try and use this for some of our other ventures like Stalwart Gaming or the Alliance of Awesome.  When I first signed up for the site at launch, it felt fairly primitive, and I really did not grasp the concept.  It just felt like Raptr or Steam without the nifty automation and game tracking functionality.  Now I can see what it is trying to be, and while I may not be 100% sold on it, I definitely appreciate their goals.  More than that I appreciate the kind of specialized attention this Community Lead gave me in trying to win me over to their vision.  Hell that along is going to make me loyal to the cause more than anything.  I will always reward amazing service with my patronage.

A Path Not Taken

This morning is going to be a bit “gaming lite” again, but with the hustle and bustle of the Newbie Blogger Initiative I’ve sat on a tale for a few days.  I wanted to make sure I got the posting underway proper before taking a lot of screen real estate for something personal.  My wife is a teacher, and this year her schedule aligned just right to allow her to attend the junior assembly.  This is one of those deals where someone inspiration comes and talks to the kids about the dangers of the world.  This is the sort of thing I as a teenager used to ignore, taking a sketch pad and doodling up in the bleachers instead of actually listening.  I am sure for some of the kids there this will definitely be the case.

As the speaker was introduced, my wife thought the name sounded familiar but shrugged it off.  Then he started talking about living in a town of 3500 in Northeastern Oklahoma.  At that point she started to wonder if maybe he lived in her hometown.  Finally when he started talking about his son… it hit her like a sack of bricks.  Growing up I was best friends with two other guys, and for the most part we were inseparable.  The man on the stage telling his story was one of those two boys father.  He had been almost a surrogate parent to me, as much time as I had spent over at their house throughout Middle School and most of High School.  When we first got together in College I was still telling stories about him and his son with fondness.

The thing is something changed along the way, and his son was getting into some pretty bad stuff.  Alcohol changed to Marijuana changed to Cocaine binges… and eventually I had heard he was even dabbling in Heroine… not that you can actually dabble in that.  Two things happened my junior year, one I started distancing myself from him… and two I got really sick.  The combination of the two ended up with me picking up some new friends, ones better for my well being… and while we had no falling out or anything… we just faded apart.  At some point after graduation we had managed to get back in contact.  He was running a record label out of Ohio, and prided himself in sending me lots of indie recordings of the bands he was working with.

Every so often he would call and we’d end up talking for a few hours.  When he moved back to town he got married, had a couple of kids and settled down as the director of an area Arts festival.  I thought that things were going pretty well for him, or at least on the surface he seemed to have gotten his shit together.  I visited him at least once at his office, and we went out to lunch, and then at our ten year reunion we of course hung out.  So it was with complete shock that a few years later I hear that he was not okay at all.  At some point the drugs had returned, and one day while driving home at lunch to get a fix he hit a special needs kid who had been riding his bike along a busy thoroughfare.  The report is that my friend didn’t even stop the car, and the cops followed him to his house an arrested him on the spot.

They say he was going fast enough when he hit the kid, he practically exploded.  They had to cremate him because there simply was not enough to bury.  So as my friends father was retelling this tale, my wife is sitting there in shock because she knows the other side of a lot of the tales he is telling.  She has this cold realization that had I not made a change and distanced myself… that it could have very well been me.  I hung in the same circles, but there was just a point where their behavior was getting a bit too risky for my tastes.  My friend deserves his fate, he did not get there over night, but over a course of multiple years of bad decisions.  However I feel horrible for his parents, because as parents go… they were awesome.  They were always so good to me, and treated me like another member of their family.

Once the assembly was over, my wife rushed up to the stage and introduced herself to his father, and apparently he just gave her a huge hug.  Then asked how I was doing and how things were in our lives.  He really was like another parent, and I feel like I need to get a hold of him.  He lost his son, in ways that he will never get him back, but maybe I can reach out and be a little closer to him and his wife.  They were always so good to me, that I want to be there for them however I can be.  So what makes the whole situation that much more odd, is that I was one of those kids who didn’t pay attention to this sort of thing.  I ignored more than my fair share of drug assembly, and ditched them whenever I could.  However I am living proof that changing the path you are going down can make all the difference in the world.  I could have easily been my friend, and that alone is pretty sobering.

Bangkorai is Huge

Screenshot_20140430_212918 Last night I spent most of the night streaming some Elder Scrolls Online gameplay.  Bangkorai is freakin huge.  Each time I feel like I might be nearing the end of the zone, I keep finding a pocket of stuff that I have missed. At this point I am extremely overleveled for the content at level 45, and the highest mob I have found at all has been 43.  This is a thing that keeps happening to me, I seem to move extremely slowly through content.  My whole general approach to Elder Scrolls Online is to kill every single thing in my way.  This means I probably kill far more badguys than the average gamer.  I have watched my friends play through content, and they go out of their way to skip combat.  This game gives you really good ways to skip combat in the form of “disguises”, however I NEVER use them.  The only time you will actually see me wearing one is when the quest literally cannot be completed without one.

A good chunk of the night was spent working on a series of quests in an occupied town.  I could have skipped almost all of the combat entirely by wearing the disguise.  However I ignored the fact that it was in my inventory and proceeded to lay waste to everything with a red diamond on it.  Which is a big funny considering my character is racially imperial… but apparently I like killing my own kin?  I am still enjoying the hell out of the game, and while I am super interest in ArcheAge I keep telling myself… to wait until I reach a point in Elder Scrolls Online where I am not quite so in love with it.  The game keeps giving me sufficient reason to log in every night and play, so until it stops doing that I will keep playing it.  ArcheAge will always be there when things start to get dull and I want to do some full on sandbox… however as time consuming as it seems based on the few streams I have watched…  maybe I am better off with Themebox or Sandpark.

Contest Entry


Watch live video from Belghast on TwitchTV
Toward the end of the night Rae pulled me over into Landmark.  She has been working on the big contest that they have going on and wanted some feedback on her building.  So far I think it looks pretty great, but this has been where she has spent all of her effort of late.  Personally I still have so much to do on my temple complex that I am almost mired in a building funk because of it.  Towards the end of the video I end up traipsing back into my own claim.   I am not really sure where I am as far as the game is concerned.  I like the game so much, but right now there is not something about it making me to want to log in regularly.  I think maybe once there is combat or something other than “Lego mode” I might feel more strongly about the game.  Quite truthfully lately I have enjoyed Trove more… and it is far more primitive.  The reason behind that seems to be that there is more to “do” in trove.  Definitely going to be active in the Landmark community, but right now past the initial rush of wanting to build something… there just isn’t much “stickyness” to the community.

#PathNotTaken #ANook #Landmark #ElderScrollsOnline #ESO

Class of 2014

Class of 2013 Revisited

Now that we are officially underway in the Class of 2014, I thought it would be interesting to look back and see just how well the fruits of our efforts with the 2013 have paid off.  I have to say based on past experiences I was expecting to see about half of the blogs either no longer resolving or not having been updated in months.  However it appears that the class of 2013 was one of the most productive to date.  Looking up my blog post from the close of NBI 2013, I counted 23 blogs that finished the event.  Out of those fifteen are still updating fairly recently, or have at the very least had a blog post in the last few months.  A handful have even been updated semi-weekly for the past year.  I think this is pretty cool that the Initiative was able to create some really dedicated bloggers.

Here is a quick rundown of the folks who beat the odds and have kept up with their blogging habit on a regular basis.

All of you out there that are still updating your blogs regularly… take a well deserved bow.  There are some massive lapses in posting in the history of this blog, so the drive to keep making content is something I truly respect.  Last year seems to be the most successful year to date, and here is hoping that going into 2014 we can top that.

Class of 2014

It is still pretty early in the process but I wanted to get some link loving started already to the folks who signed up right out of the gate.  I expect as the month rolls on we will have significantly more participants, but already we have an extremely impressive crop.  So if the group we have gathered already are any indication for what we are likely to see in 2014 as a whole… I feel like this is going to be a really great year.  One of the big challenges when the Newbie Blogger Initiative was rebooted last year, was to not only get new bloggers into the community, but also to retain them.  It seems to be working and I tip my hat to the folks who have been making sure this happens.  Without further ado… on with this years list of blogs.

A few of these folks I have already engaged with via Twitter, and I am hoping to be able to do the same for the others as well.  If you are not already there, twitter is somewhat a vital too for maintaining the sense of community as a whole.  Generally speaking that tends to be how the majority of the gaming blogosphere communicate with each other on a regular basis.  My contact information is at the top of the right side bar and I welcome anyone to approach me in any venue I happen to be using.  If there is anything I can do to help make your blog more successful, please let me know.

Gaming Lite

The last few days I have been all over the place as far as gaming goes.  I recorded a new Trove video the other night as I tried to figure out all of the changes… which are pretty massive.  Adventuring now seems to revolve around the creation of portals that take you to various tiered worlds.  Additionally there seems to be a system now that prevents you from equipping too high of level of a weapon.  I end up screwing myself over by upgrading the one set of weapons I could equip… too high to actually equip them.  So now I am back at square one, working on leveling up my Knight and finding weapons to do so with it.  The pace of the game seems to be significantly slower, and I am going to have to figure out exactly what all has taken place since I last played.  I still really dig trove in that it is a funky and friendly little world full of random adventure.

Another random thing I did the other night was decide to record a walkthrough of our guild hall in Rift.  I still love what she did to the place and how awesome it looks.  I have been pining for Rift lately, so I will likely start poking around over there again.  I wish I could get some elite groups honestly, but the random dungeon finder queue is insane.  I might end up working on my tank spec and doing some streams of me tanking for random pugs.  I am just not sure if I really want that kind of stress.  Surely as long as the queues are… folks will be appreciative of tanks right?  At least that is the theory and I hope they don’t rip me to shreds.  There are a few other streamers that I might be able to connect with that also seem to want to do elites, so maybe I can get that going.  Right now both my Warrior and my Rogue are geared almost entirely through the free patron chests that we get every week.


Watch live video from Belghast on TwitchTV
Lastly I am still playing a ton of Elder Scrolls Online on a nightly basis. I streamed for about an hour last night as I wandered around in Bangkorai trying to finish up objectives that I still have out there. I ended up completing a few major quest steps, and generally faffing about killing lots of imperials. I show off my new armor and my new fast pony. I finally gathered up the 42,700g needed to buy the +25% speed mount, and while it is not necessarily the color I would have chosen… I am happy enough with it. It seems like the campaign against bots is actually working, as the few places I went last night with bosses… the traditional gathering of bots was absent. I feel like Zenimax is trying hard to combat the gold spammers and botters, but it is a constant and ever changing battle. Right now they have shifted almost entirely to using the email system… which is a bit more manageable. I am religiously reporting each and every spam email I get, hoping that over time they can lock down on these accounts. I am super interested in ArcheAge, but right now honestly I am still having a ton of fun playing ESO.

Nerd on Nerd Violence

Hipster Glasses

hipsterglasses Living in Oklahoma is absolutely insane sometimes.  We have been having a string of 80 degree days lately, and it has been fairly glorious.  When we went for our walk in the evening it would be in the high 70s and absolutely wonderful outside.  Last night the temperature dropped again and this morning it is 48 degrees outside.  I don’t like turning the AC and Heater off and on, especially for a short cold snap like this, so instead last night we simply piled the blankets on.  I am so thankful for our cats , because Chloe our fattest and fuzziest cat somehow managed to squeeze between us and under the covers keeping us both nice and toasty through the night.

Yesterday I happened to snap the photo on the side on a whim.  The previous day I had gotten some new glasses, so I snapped a photo to send to my wife to show her.  Well yesterday morning we had some absolutely amazing looking skies.  When I went to snap a photo I noticed that the camera was still turned the wrong way, and using the front facing one.  At which point I noticed that it looked pretty cool to see my head surrounded by the halo of clouds.  This is the first photo I have seen of myself in years that I actually kinda like.  I have had a lot of issues with the way I look and in part it has been due to the weight issues I have had.  Just like I am starting to get used to my own voice through all the podcasting I have been doing… I am starting to become more comfortable in my own skin.

The willingness to try something new as far as glasses go is probably just a side effect of this.  I have literally work the same hair cut, and same glasses for damned near two decades.  While they aren’t always the same frames they are as close to the same thing as I can get at the time.  I like to keep things simple, and I have always reasoned with myself that this is in part because I am trying to not have to think about things.  In part I think it is this lack of comfort in my own skin that had lead me to simply think it didn’t matter what I wore or what I looked like.  I kind of dig the new glasses, my friends have been giving me shit about them.  When I like something they say it is because I am being “ironic” or if I dislike something they claim it is “too mainstream”.  That however will fade, and each of them has begrudgingly said that they like them as well.

Nerd on Nerd Violence

stillabetterlovestory Since getting my fitbit I have done all sorts of little things to hack my life and try and add in more exercise where I could.  While I have always parked on the roof, I’ve begun walking up and down the ramps from the 6th floor to the 4th floor where the skywalk is.  As a result I have started noticing various vehicles and one of them has stood out.  There is a green Honda “something” that has a cute little demon skull and cross bones on it and a “twilight girl” sticker.  My feelings about that sticker have evolved over the last few weeks as I have passed it.  I think we can universally agree that the Twilight series is pretty horrible.  My wife had been given the books by a student, and she read them… then when the first movie came out we struggled through it.  We both agreed it was a horrible idea and one we would never repeat again.

Thing is… somewhere along the line this morphed in culture from “twilight is horrible” to “people who like twilight are horrible”.  As I have spent the last weeks walking past this car I had a revelation.  This person is a geek, and they have proudly emblazoned their vehicle with something they obviously care about.  While we might not like it, we have to respect the fact that they stepped up and announced that they loved something… anything.  This is no different than my Doctor Who lanyard, or my co-workers collection of my little ponies, those things are just “socially acceptable” geekdom.  At one point or another throughout our lives we have been picked on for those same geeky traits, and if you have not… then you’ve lived a truly charmed life.  It just feels like picking on someone for liking a horrible novel, is fairly hypocritical.

The other night I friends and I ended up having a fairly epic discussion after I had stopped recording the podcast about the decision to completely jettison everything in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.  As we started discussing it, the initial reaction was “how dare they” and it faded more into a “makes sense” as we started to recount the various aspects of the Expanded Universe.  For each thing that we loved we managed to pull out five or six fairly horrible and badly written constructs from the comics, novels or video games.  Most of it was no less “horrible fan service” than the Twilight novels.  As much as I loved Dark Empire for example… you have to admit it is a pretty dumb story arc when it involves the fact that there are millions of clone emperors hidden throughout the galaxy.  Not to mention the fact that while Luke spent an entire series of movies fighting the Dark Side, he decides to give in within a couple of comic books.

We are all guilty of loving something completely moronic that has no literary merit.  So I say to the “Twilight Girls” out there… rock that shit and ignore the people who will hate you for it.  To the rest of us…  we need to realize that this person is a geek just like we are, they just happen to like different things.  Geekdom is not a thing we own, there are no rules of entry.  While I might rage on “Brogamers” and what they have done to my beloved gaming community… they have no less right to be there than I do.  For us 30 and 40 something’s, who spent our lives getting excluded from pop culture…  it really is not cool that we try and do the same thing to others.  I am proud when I see anyone let their geek flag fly… even if it is not something that I particularly care about.

Prophet Loves Jewelry

Screenshot_20140429_204839 I was all over the place last night gaming wise.  I popped into Trove for a bit and streamed it, and I decided to do the same for Rift and show off our awesome guild hall.  When I finally settled on a game and played for a bit it was once again Elder Scrolls Online.  Over the course of leveling I seem to have completely ignored the main story.  This is in part because you keep having to go back the harborage to keep accepting the next step, and for whatever reason I have simply not taken the time to do this.  As a result I spent a good chunk of last night trying to play catch up and do both the level 35 and 40 main storyline quests.  My big takeaway… is that at some point during his history The Prophet managed to knock over a jewelry store.  He seems to have this endless supply of necklaces and rings.

At this point I am a stones throw away from 44 and I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of Bangkorai.  Normally I do a pretty bad job of following quest chains through the zones in Elder Scrolls, but this zone… I have done worse than normal.  I have objectives scattered all over the place some of them completed, others still dark and unfinished.  I am getting cursed quite a lot because I cannot stop myself from charging packs of werewolves and vampires.  I’ve had the “Sanies Lupinus” curse more times than I can count, but it seems to just go away on its own rather rapidly if you do nothing about it.  I had one guy rather mad at me the other night named “Raper of Souls”, which was convenient since I had already paused to report his name.  Yes I am one of those people… I report bad names, and do so on a nightly basis.  I am not going out of my way to troll people who are trying to turn into a werewolf or a vampire… I am simply playing the game as I always do.  Namely I charge first and ask questions later.

Thankfully we have plenty of werewolves and vampires in guild if someone needs to get bitten.  Personally I would far rather choose neither and be a hunter.  In fact I have already morphed my silver bolts attack to also effect werewolves.  I’ve always had a love of werewolves, so in theory I would totally become one were it not gimped.  Right now werewolf seems a bit underwhelming, considering all of its buffs only actually take place when you are in Crinos form.  Yes I just called it Crinos form…  I played a lot of Werewolf: The Apocalypse, so it will always be known as Crinos to me.  Vampire on the other hand has all sorts of passive benefits that are active all the time, but the weakness to fire seems far more problematic than the werewolf weakness to poison.  As a result… I am just walking the line between and hunting both equally.  Though oddly… I seem to be going out of my way to save both werewolves and vampires in the storyline.

#ElderScrollsOnline #ESO #HipsterGlasses #NerdOnNerdViolence

The Achilles Heel

The Struggle

Most mornings my posts flow freely from my fingers as I sit here typing away at my keyboard.  This morning however is not one of them.  For whatever reason I feel completely drained of anything that makes sense.  Over the weekend I spent quite a bit of it at a severe sleep debt, and I think for the most part I am still trying to recover from that.  When I am in doubt I turn to my RSS feed, but after thumbing through the pages I have yet to really get the inspiration to write anything either.  I am in a really weird place right now.  I am still very much loving Elder Scrolls Online, but I also feel like most of what I say about it is just repeating something I said earlier.  So instead I think this morning I will talk about the points that frustrate me.  I’ve been more or less accused of being a cheerleader for the game, or at the very least our podcast as “full of fanboys”.

The Achilles Heel

Screenshot_20140415_214158 For as awesome as the game is there is one massive and glaring hole in the game.  It is simply too damned hard to group up with your friends.  This problem is multi-faceted, but revolves around a few variables.  Firstly content “trivializes” when you are five levels over the level of the actual mobs.  This means you get no experience, gold or any other form of loot from killing the monsters.  This also means that the experience that you gain from completing the quests is significantly reduced.  While I have said that content is still relatively challenging a good deal over level, that also means you are taking risk with zero reward.  This becomes a massive problem when a guild member happens to need a low level dungeon.  The first time someone completes an Elder Scrolls Dungeon it is pretty much a given that there will be wipes.  For the on level players this is really not a huge deal, but for the higher level players that have been drafted… it is pretty significant.

I feel like once I have gotten my 42,700 gold mount this will be less of an issue for me, but right now as it stands I am taking zero risks when it comes to my bank account.  I am a stones throw away from the mount, and right now just trying to build up enough of a cap to afford a repair if I need one after buying it.  By repair right now that means roughly 2000 gold each time I do it.  This is always the problem as players age through content, trying to keep enough money inflow to pay for the money going out.  Having mobs completely trivialize and stop being worth any loot is a big problem when I consistently out age the content of a given zone.  Bangkorai for example is a zone that seems to cap out mob level wise at 43.  I just dinged 43 last night and I have not even completely half of the content in the zone.  This means that my need to turn all the black dots white on my map will easily cause me to stop getting loot long before I finish the content.

For a game that already has significant problems with bots hanging out in dungeons and farming bosses over and over, this is a hard problem to solve.  My immediate suggestion would be to make the group-able level range something more like ten levels, rather than five.  Encounters ten levels under you can still a challenge especially in a dungeon setting.  That would also ensure that you gain loot the entire way through a zone, regardless of how much you manage to dawdle around.  I realize the whole trivialization thing is not going to be an issue once I enter the veteran levels, however that is setting up the same problem every MMO has ever had.  If the “real” game begins at 50, then why even have the pre-50 game.  I don’t necessarily believe this, but I am playing devils advocate here.  My problem is I happen to love the leveling game in every game I play, and the Elder Scrolls Online is no different.

Mixed Mode Grouping

Screenshot_20140421_224612 Another huge problem the game has is that grouping is somewhat piecemeal as you level.  You are constantly flowing between quests that allow multiple players to complete them together, and quests that require you to solo them in a private instance.  Additionally the system is confused about players getting credit for things.  You can simply ride by someone fighting a the last mob in a quest chain and accidentally get a quest completed, but when it comes to anything that requires gathering… each and every party member has to get their own items.  This generally lends to frustration as you end up waiting around for respawns to allow the character that is lagging behind to complete that step in the quest chain before progressing to the next item.  It feels like this whole system could have been better thought out.  Duoing is a very common tactic for couples and friends leveling in a new game, and this game seems to support this extremely well at times, but really badly in a few cases.

Where this gets compounded is when a duo happens upon a solo instanced quest.  Inevitably one of the members will breeze through the content, and the other will struggle.  I’ve seen more than a few duos derailed by Doshia already in our guild, and I am sure as a whole it is probably even worse.  The game has very particular skill check moments, and this ends up locking a single player away behind that quest so that they cannot progress further in a given quest chain until they solo it.  What does the other half of the duo do at that point?  Do they twiddle their thumbs and wait around for them to complete it…  therefore putting more pressure on the member that isn’t quite able to grasp the fight as quickly?  Do they wander off and kill random stuff potentially causing them to get ahead in level.  These gates are awesome in theory, but hell on people trying to keep at the same level.

The Game Needs Mentoring

Screenshot_20140405_210040 This game is in desperate need of mentoring.  I realize at this point I have banged this drum so damned many times that the skin on it is close to cracking from the abuse.  However I feel like every game is better off with a mentoring system.  For those not familiar with the concept, mentoring is a system that allows a high level player to drop their level to that of the player.  If you group a level 50 character with a 20 character, this functionally makes them both level 20 characters.  Scaling always makes it so that the mentored down character is “better than” their level, but it works better than not having it.  Generally speaking a mentored character receives loot as though they were at the level of the group and the difficulty is something similar to level as well.  This is a magic bullet, and has worked to make every game that has it better.

This was my key point of frustration with the game when I heard it did not exist.  It is never the right answer not to ship with both Bolstering, like you see in Cyrodil and mentoring.  I have a maxim that is getting tired at this point… but it is no less true today than it was when I first started posting about it.  Anything that gets in the way of you grouping with your friends is bad.  These games are social experiences, and as such should have every possible tool to allow friends to group freely together.  This game unfortunately has a ton of barriers between players.  Firstly there is the issue of level gaps and trivialization of content, that I have talked about here.  We also however have the frustration of not being able to group across faction, even for instanced content.

Globalization

Screenshot_20140404_220811

Finally there is always the problem of region lockout, and while I can understand the logistical need to have both a North American and a European mega server… my hope is that at some point they will choose to merge them.  I should not be penalized for having lots of friends who do not happen to live in the United States.  What is happening in practice is that my European friends are simply accepting the fact that they will be having lag and rolling on our megaserver just to be able to participate with their friends.  The concept of a region lock needs to die in a fire.  In an era when we can communicate instantly across the entire damned planet, thinking of things in a country centric means just doesn’t fly anymore.  Please note that this is not specifically an Elder Scrolls Online problem, but a problem with each and every game system out there.  I am looking at you Sony and your players locked behind the ProSiebenStat.1 wall as well.

I have spent weeks talking about the things that the Elder Scrolls Online has done really right, so it is only fitting that I spend at least one day talking about the things that it has done “less right”.  I am hoping with time they fix some of these problems, especially the inability to group with people in a meaningful way once things have trivialized.  The answer that they would give us is that after level 10 we should be going out to Cyrodil… which is fine and good and an option I will probably start taking more often, but that is such a SMALL part of this game, that it just feels like a cop-out.  You have created this amazing world, and crafted a really fun dungeon experience.  Let me show it to my friends in a meaningful way, because right now I don’t want to run lower level content because it just isn’t fun trying to be the high level in a dungeon.  Adding mentoring would solve almost all of the problems I mentioned other than the region lockout.  Here is hoping that someday they add it in, before it is too late for the folks who were NOT in the initial leveling rush and will fall by the wayside as they realize they can’t do anything meaningful with their friends.

#ESO #ElderScrollsOnline #Mentoring

The City of Crows

The Second Year

This morning I am feeling more than a little groggy, but this isn’t unusual coming back into the working world of Mondays.  Today I feel like I should be extolling you all with some great wisdom, considering this is the beginning of a second year of daily Tales of the Aggronaut posts.  However I am pretty empty of anything that seems close at all to wisdom.  So instead I am going to continue to ramble on like I always have and hope people are still willing to listen to it.  Honestly at this point I am shocked and amazed that I still have a decent number of readers each day.  I keep thinking that the novelty is going to wear off sooner or later.  The biggest thing I do know is that I am helped in ways you won’t likely even understand by the fact that I do have readers to keep me honest.

I figure I will get the inevitable Monday morning plug of the Aggrochat podcast out of the way.  I am honestly pretty damned proud of the fact that we have managed to record three episodes in a row in spite of some scheduling difficulties.  In light of the fact that I am beginning my second year of daily posting, I am really hoping at this same time next year we can look forward to celebrating the anniversary of a year of weekly podcasts.  I have a lot of fun recording these, but then again I also have a lot of fun recording my game stream whenever folks decide to join me in the mumble channel.  One of the things I have always been about above all other things… is gaming with friends, and I guess a part of me is trying to capture that and bottle it in either podcast or game stream form.  Though honestly the connections have been a little off lately as we’ve not run a dungeon together in weeks, so here is hoping this coming week we can all remedy that.

The City of Crows

Screenshot_20140428_061028 In spite of not being able to really play much Friday night and having to program on an application most of Saturday, I seem to have made up sufficient ground most of Sunday.  I started the day at 39 and working on the tail end of Alik’r and I finished the night dinging 42 and starting to make a dent in Bangkorai.  Right now I am questing out of Evermore and something odd is going on here.  The town is absolutely deluged in crows, and for those who have been through the Ebonheart Pact zone Crows Wood… I am beginning to wonder if it is for similar reasons.  If that is the case I will be extremely happy, because I love all things relating to that Daedra.  If not… it is at the very least a very cool and brooding locale, and thankfully a return to Breton architecture.  There is a kind of beauty to the harsh Redguard landscapes…  but their “cities” never really feel like proper cities to me.

If you are so inclined you can watch me faff about for awhile yesterday afternoon working on finishing a few quest chains in Alik’r.  Unfortunately I cannot “100%” the zone, due to the fact of a few bugged areas that I will have to come back for.  I am however happy enough to be moving on.  The desert is gorgeous, but also very spartan… and I will be happy to be roaming around areas with grass and trees again.  Bangkorai in general feels like a wrapping up of things.  This could be in part because the finale of both the Mages Guild and Fighters Guild quests chains occur within the city of Evermore.  I am rather happy with the conclusion of both to be honest, even though at least in the case of the fighters guild it took more than a few ziggzags to get there.

The Earth Forge

Screenshot_20140428_061721 One of the awesome things about both quest chains is that they unlock locations that were previously unreachable.  In the case of the Fighter’s guild you can then travel to the Earth Forge at any time, and I have to say… if they ever open up player housing… I am really hoping I have the option of getting a room here.  The Earth Forge is pretty much my ideal location.  It somehow blends a rocky pine filled mountain climate with the skeletal remains of a massive Dwemer machine.  This pretty much combines two of the things I love the most in Elder Scrolls games in one place.  If not I hope I can at least get a portal in my house to the Earth Forge, because I have a feeling I will be going out of my way to visit here regularly.

Screenshot_20140428_061328 The Mage’s Guild quest line similarly opens up permanent access to the lost island of Eyevea that Shalidor once controlled.  If you are into mages and such you should really like this place.  In a similar fashion to the Freeport Enchanters guild in Everquest, you travel around the island through a series of portals.  You can of course do it by foot, but the place is massive.  From the architecture and the environmental details I would guess this area is technically in the Ebonheart Pact somewhere, specificially in Morrowind.  The buildings are all mostly Dunmer architecture and the flora are mostly large mushrooms.  The best part about both unlocks is that they now give you access to two new crafting stations per location, that each creates an extremely powerful set of gear.  The only drawback is that each of them requires eight traits to be learned per item slot in order to craft them.

Grindless Crafting

Last night a discussion spawned in guild chat from one of our members talking about how much he disliked the way crafting worked in this game.  First off I was shocked a bit, because I personally could not describe a better system.  It is like everything I always wanted in a crafting system, and as I started digging into the reasons for why he didn’t like it, every point I brought up seemed to be something he enjoyed about it.  Finally I got down to the root of the problem… he felt that leveling tradeskills was a painful undertaking.  To some extent I agree, it feels like you are not making any progress, but then you learn that this is not the type of system you would ever “grind” your way through.

This is a negative side effect of the World of Warcrafts of the MMO world, in that it feels like you should grind your way through crafting to make sure you keep up.  So far I have not really made it my missing to level crafting at all, but instead have simply played the game as I normally would.  Multiple times a night I wayshrine back to a crafting hub, deconstruct any gear that I have gotten and go on about my business.  As a result my Blacksmithing is level 28, and Clothing and Woodworking 24.  Please note that the only thing I have ever crafted is sets of gear for myself and the occasional set of gear for a guildie.  I’ve never crafted a single Clothing or Woodworking item at all, and those skills have both progressed nicely.  This is the aspect of the game that I like almost more than anything else, crafting just happens as you play the game.

We’ve learned that the best way to level crafting is through deconstruction of gear.  At low levels you don’t get very much of it to be truthful, but as you move through the game the amount of drops that you get increases wildly.  Simply by playing the game and deconstructing everything you get, your tradeskills will more than keep up with where you need them to be.  It is hard to get used to this concept, and that progression through the ranks of crafting is more about how you spend your skill points and less about raw tradeskill level.  Mostly I just wanted to take a moment to address this today, just in case anyone else out there was trying to “grind” their way through crafting.  If you are doing this, you are on a path of madness because crafting and deconstructing your own items is without a doubt the least efficient way to level.  If you feel the need to “grind” at the very least find a crafting buddy.  You get far more experience deconstructing gear that someone else has crafted, so if you both craft items and swap you will both end up better off.

#AggroChat #ESO #ElderScrollsOnline #Alik’r #Bangkorai

Grand Anniversary

No Free Lunch

Last night was Saturday night, and that means we recorded another episode of the Tales of the Aggronaut podcast…  AggroChat!  We had a few odd things going on last night.  Firstly Rae was off travelling in world visiting her longtime friends Ahi and Bez.  This means she was completely unavailable.  Additionally Kodra was travelling, and connected in from crappy hotel wifi in San Francisco… leading him to be a little bit robotty.  However we pushed through all of this and picked up a 4th player in the form of our good friend Tam.  He had been talked about plenty of times on the podcast already, and it only seemed fitting to have him sub in.  Super thankful for him to be willing to do it in a pinch.  We talked about all manner of things including Hex Closed Beta, ArcheAge and the concept of selling entry into the beta process, and our ideal scenarios as far as character building and abilities in MMOs go.

We are going to have to find a way to stay more on topic, because each episode has increased every so slightly in length.  The first one was right at an hour, the second an hour and fifteen minutes, and this one roughly an hour and thirty minutes.  We could have formal topics that we push through, but I personally like the meandering format, because it means it is more like the natural conversations we already have.  I wish I had kept rolling because moments after I cut the podcast off we had a pretty epic conversation about how Lucasfilm is disavowing the entire Expanded Universe concept… and while we will miss some things maybe it isn’t so much of a bad idea.  There were some really odd fan service things about the Expanded Universe that don’t really hold up story wise.

Steampowered Sunday #11

When Elder Scrolls Online released on a Sunday, it pretty much put a severe halt to my blog series known as Steampowered Sunday where I take some time and play a game from my backlog of titles.  Last night during the podcast we were talking about a game that Ashgar had been playing this week that fell firmly into the Bullet Hell genre.  Kodra seemed to think this was madness, and having been a big fan of Ikaruga I totally understood the draw.  There was a time period when I used to play lots of bullet hell shooters and pre-hell shooters.  Gradius, Darius Twin, Raiden Trad… all games I remember fondly.  I was never particularly good at them, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.  I remember playing 1942 on the nintendo for hour upon hour trying to make my way through all the stages.

At some point I just stopped playing them.  I think it was during the death of the dreamcast, but when I bought my PS2 I just simply stopped picking up the games anymore.  While I have Gradius 5 on my PS2, I guess my tastes in games changed a bit.  This honestly more than anything represents a period of time when I stopped playing consoles very much and started consuming games almost exclusively on the PC.  Every now and then I would flirt with a new shooter like the ever amazing Jamestown, but I never really got heavily into it again.  Last night in an attempt to cold boot this series again, Ashgar griefed me by gifting me a copy of a really rather awesome bullet hell shooter on steam.  At face value Danmaku Unlimited 2 reminds me of a less technical cousin to Ikaruga.  The soundtrack is in part what makes the gameplay, and helps you do what is needed to make it through the levels.  The secret to a bullet hell is to zone out and focus only on the pattern and not so much about the rest of the noise on screen.  Only a few things can actually hurt you, so you focus in on those things.

The hilarity of my play through is that after years of not playing these games my reflexes that had built up are completely gone.  In addition I am playing this game roughly thirty minutes after waking up.  So yeah I do pretty bad.  Ashgar tried to make me feel better by saying that I did significantly better than he did the first time.  Essentially the gameplay video is roughly seventeen minutes and the point at which I ran out of lives to keep going.  I made it to about the mid point of stage four.  All in all I think I did a pretty good job.  The awesome thing about the game is it is really cheap.  So for the price you cannot beat this kind of bullet hell goodness.  I feel like there is a lot of customization in the way you set up the game.  I went with pretty generic options and was playing on easy, so I think there is a lot more depth to be had there if I dig into it.  Probably going to stream some more of me trying to play it later.  In any case… I have successfully rebooted the Steampowered Sunday feature.  Long live me playing through my steam backlog!

Grand Anniversary

Last but definitely not least… today is the one year anniversary of the Grand Experiment… my attempt to blog something each and every day.  This means as of today I have made a post every single day for a year.  That is a pretty significant feat and I am really damned proud of myself for sticking with it.  At this point I figure I am going to try and make it another whole year without letting the beat drop.  It hasn’t been the most easy thing to do, but I want to take a moment to thank my wife who has been extremely supportive in this adventure.  There have been days where I might not have made it through the post without her just assuming that it was going to happen and giving me time and space to do so.  Additionally I want to thank my friends who have supported me in this madness and my readers.  There have been moments when I felt alone in my mission, and was surprised at how many of you have reached out your arms to help me along the way.  Somehow I have gone from being the least regular of bloggers… to the most regular, and it is a pretty insane transition.  I feel like I have grown a lot in the past year, and I thank you all for helping me with it.