Democratizing Access

Democratizing Access

Trove 2014-01-29 06-10-34-60 Over the last few weeks there has been a subtopic that has sprung up several times in blog comments threads and occasionally over on twitter regarding the selling of beta access.  More so a lot of the discussion has centered around the trend of the public paying to beta test a product for a company.  For me I tend to lump all of these schemes together be it a kickstarter you might support, or steam early access or something like the trove or landmark presales.  In all of the cases you are giving the company a stream of funding on the promise of getting early access to their game so that you can play it first.  Quite honestly I am completely fine with this trend and think it is overall a good thing.

At this point I have been over a hundred alpha and beta programs for various games.  I used to try and keep track of them all but to be honest I simply cannot.  Every time I turn around I am in a new beta program with a new NDA.  Previously getting into these programs, especially the more coveted ones involved knowing the right people or being extremely lucky with a random roll of the dice.  I will admit I have talked to a friend of a friend who got me on that desired friends and family list more than a few times for a game I was extremely interested in.  To be honest, the system that existed just is not fair to the gamer, and involved a whole lot of cronyism…  did I abuse this fact to get access to what I wanted?  Hell yes I did.

For the the concept of buying into a program just seems more just.  If you care enough to plunk down your money in support of a game, then by all means you should have access to alpha and beta testing.  I think it changes more than just that, in the programs I have been a part of recently that really worked well… the company is more accountable to its paid testers.  They have been all the more responsive with feedback and taken bug submissions all the more seriously.  Additionally in each of these games where I have been essentially a paid tester, I have seen a faster development of new feature sets and rapid patching schedules.  Trove for example it is unusual that we go a week without a major feature being added.

For me at least, who is someone that does not mind adding my support to a title I believe in before I have seen it…  this trend is a good thing.  If you think about it in a certain light, this is really no different than preordering a game months in advance.  When you decide to purchase that collectors edition, you are taking a gamble on the game being something you will want to play for the long haul.  When The Secret World came out, I took a gamble and purchased the lifetime membership, thinking it would be a game that I would enjoy for a good time to come.  While I do not play it every week, I still feel like I got my value out of that initial purchase, and log in frequently enough to feel like I am still using it.  I think like most things, all of this is a matter of perspective, but I feel like this shift in systems is far more fair than the previous ones.

Cough Syrup Gems

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-11 06-29-12-29 Last night I managed to find enough sapphires to be able to craft my cobalt pick.  Unfortunately it is a pretty crappy one, but so far the ones my friends have made have all been lousy.  My hope is that once I can craft the indigo pick I will once again get a blue or better quality.  For now however I am using my viridian pick on anything it can mine out, and then only switching to my cobalt pick to actually consume the rubicite and ruby veins.  Speaking of which… if I thought sapphire was frustrating I feel like I am in for a long haul when it comes to finding the 120 ruby needed to craft the indigo pick.  Right now the only way to find ruby is at the bottom of a surface spawning rubicite vein.  Unfortunately like the above image shows… most rubicite you find on the surface is really just an upside down cobalt vein.

So whereas seeing red used to make me a sad panda… seeing blue in my rubicite veins has the same effect.  Right now I have managed to gather up 45 of the 120 rubies, but I still need a large quantity of elemental rubicite as well.  Luckly I have a ton of side projects that I want to complete, and as a result I still need large quantities of gold and tungsten and to be truthful cobalt and sapphires to be able to complete several of the upgraded crafting benches.  Right now I have upgraded to the amaranthe forge, but the rest of my machines are at the lowest possible level.  It is funny how often my machines get used by my neighbors.  That is one of the aspects I love about this game, I will be in my little keep crafting away and next thing I know someone comes by to say hello and either ask if they can use my machines, or compliment me on the building.  There is already a small but budding community happening in the various islands.

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-11 06-45-18-18 Between sessions of looking for sapphires and rubies I put in quite a bit more work on the Forest Temple that has now turned into more of a Forest Keep.  I completed the wood brace beams in the ceilings of most of the floors, and started working on the basement “undercroft area”.  Now all of the machines are located there and I decided to only display the most current machine to ease confusion.  Additionally I built a “vault” area where I wrapped my vault portal in stone so that it just looks like a portal in the wall of sorts.  I am almost to the point where I will begin fine detail work.  I am considering trying to make some mosaics using the triangle block to inset in the walls, but I am not 100% sold on that notion.  Essentially I would use the various ores as a sort of stained glass.  I uploaded another album of photos to show the recent progress.

I’ve Never Used My College Degree

The title of today’s factoid is a bit misleading, since any college degree gets used to some extent at least in being able to check off a box on a resume search, however I have never been employed in a field that has actually used mine.  Throughout High School I was torn between two loves, that being Art and Computers.  There was a point in my senior year where I was enrolled in four different college degree programs for the coming year, because I simply could not make up my mind which path I wanted to choose.  Being somewhat pragmatic, I chose to attend a junior college and get my basics out of the way on the cheap as I tried to make up my mind… the whole “what do you want to be when you grow up” question.

I decided to take an associates program that was brand new that year called “Desktop Video Production”.  Primarily it consisted of lots of 2D and 3D animation work on the Amiga/Video Toaster, a fair amount of computer science and programming classes, and some old school production video work and classic video editing technique.  Being a brand new degree program, everything was experimental and when a few of the classes didn’t make I had to get substitutions made so I could get out of there in two years.  At this point I was greatly leaning towards art, so I opted to transfer into a four year university and enter the commercial art program.  Since I had an associates, they decided to transfer any computer science hours that did not specifically map up to something they had as a computer science minor.

It was here that I made a shift again, the more into the art curriculum I got, the more and more I shifted to doing as much as I could on the computer.  I became the lab manager for the fine arts lab, and tutored folks through Photoshop, Corel, Quark Xpress and a few 3D animation packages.  It was around this point when I started looking at the job market that I realized exactly what the term “starving artist” meant.  While in college I got a job as the system administrator and webmaster for a small internet service provider.  It was here that I managed to get the “by the bootstraps” education in networking, server administration, and a good bit of serious web programming.  I realized that if I wanted to be making a decent living, that I would be far better off following my computer tendencies.

Straight out of college I got a job as a webmaster for a fairly large company and over the years that morphed into more serious programming.  At this point I’ve shifted back and forth between web and windows programming, even doing a small a bit of low level device driver programming on occasion.  All the while almost entirely abandoning the Bachelor of Commercial Arts degree that I ended up with.  Sure especially on the web there is a good aspect of commercial art that you end up doing, so this is why I say my factoid is a bit misleading.  However it is very true that I have never once worked as an artist, at least for profit.  The interesting thing about being a programmer without having a serious computer science background, is that I think it gives me a slightly different perspective.  Often times when sitting in a room with computer science majors, I will come up with an off the wall solution that ends up saving the day.  I guess in the end I am thankful for my non-traditional background.

Saddest Sight Ever Seen

Saddest Sight Ever Seen

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-10 06-07-39-53 If this image is not enough to ball up your fists in rage and scream out “why god why!” then you are not yet to the cobalt pick grind in Everquest Next Landmark.  The moment you see red in a cobalt vein you know that your hopes and dreams have been dashed on the rocks in front of you.  As I entered the cobalt era I was certain that the problem would be elemental cobalt as it had been in every other tier.  I have never been so wrong in my life.  Up until this point the gem component of your items has been the “easy” thing to get, since gems tend to be surface spawns that you can zip around the map looking for.  This all changes with Sapphire… and name you will come to hate.

It turns out that Sapphire can only spawn at the tail end of a cobalt vein.  In my experience however this is a one in twenty type occurrence as almost every single cobalt vein contains the crystallized cough syrup known as Rubicite.  Don’t get me wrong, I get happy shivers at the fact that I will eventually get to mine up Rubicite… and maybe just maybe make it into an amazing set of armor.  I loved Temple of Cazic Thule, and I was a bit too late to soak up the Rubicite armor from there when I started in Velious but it was a thing of mythic proportions that I lusted after.  The problem is… since we need 80 sapphire to make our cobalt pick I am beginning to curse the sight of it.

At this point I have found exactly two Cobalt veins that had sapphire at the end, which has netted me 28 sapphire in total.  On the other hand I have 25,000 cobalt ore and 170 elemental cobalt to show for my best impression of dig dug.  From what I hear it only gets worse when you start needing Ruby, which can only be found at the tail end of ground spawn Rubicite veins.  Most of the ground spawn rubicite is sitting beside cobalt generally meaning they are all part of the same mega vein.  My friend Rae managed to power through the sapphire level in about three hours, but based on my experience yesterday this seems like she managed to get lucky.  Since each of the tier 3 zones tends to have a little bit of a mix, I might just need to abandon my beloved Pingo for a bit and search elsewhere.

The Root Problem

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-10 06-24-23-91 Notice something weird in this picture?  Yup that is right, it is in fact silver spawning in Pingo a Tier Three zone.  The problem right now is that Tier 3 has become a dumping ground for everything that is high end.  This means to find your rarer spawns you are having to sift through a ton of Iron, Silver, Tungsten, Gold, Marble and all of the associated tier 2 and 3 gems.  At some point I am sure they will add tier 4 and 5 zones, but until they we have to scrounge to find the higher tier resources in one massive melting pot of a zone.  I realize this is all extremely temporary, as they have mentioned already on the forums that tier 4 and 5 are coming, so I am not so much complaining and just venting my frustration… and warning those who have not reached this point yet that they might want to slow down and smell the roses a bit.

There are still a lot of things I want to build, so while I am out soaking up all the cobalt I find in hope of sapphires… I am also trying to gather up as much gold as I can since there are still a few nifty things I can build with it.  I have heard that the Viridium Grappling Hook is much better than the bronze one, so I am anxiously looking forward to having enough elemental gold to craft it.  Similarly I have a bunch of crafting machines that I can work on upgrading.  I plan on making my Cobalt pick at one of the communal crafting hubs rather than trying to craft the Amaranthine forge for my own claim.  Though to be honest… since the forge takes no sapphire I might end up with more than enough resources to craft it first.

The Silver Lining

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-10 06-05-53-24 The silver lining is of course that I now have more stone than I know what to do with.  This has allowed me to take breaks from all the farming to work on my temple.  At this point calling it a temple is maybe a bit of a misnomer since depending on the angle you look at it, it may or may not look like a castle.  The biggest thing on my wishlist right now is the ability to completely remove a tree.  I have several that keep respawning in awkward places…  like the stairwell between the second and third floor for example.  At this point I have added a third and fourth floor and have started working on a tower on the upper ramparts.  Trying to figure exactly where I want to go from here.  I am considering making the undercroft stone rather than its current dirt, but in any case I have more than enough resources to do whatever at this point.

House Husband

I was at a loss for what to write about as my factoid for today, so going to one I have held in reserve for awhile.  I have never been terribly big on traditional gender roles in my marriage.  I tend to believe that a marriage is a shared voyage and whatever it takes to get through together is what needs to happen.  As a result I tend to be the “Mr Mom” of our household.  My wife is a teacher, and for those of you who have teachers in your life… they are grossly underpaid for their work.  My wife happens to be one of those rockstar teachers that refuses to accept anything but the absolute best for her kids.  As a result she quite literally works 70-80 hours a week between classroom, lesson plans, grading, and the plethora of councils that she sits on as a member and the extra duties she has willingly taken on.  Most nights I am home by 4:30pm and she doesn’t get home until after 7.

The truth is I have much more disposable time than she does, as evidenced by the fact of my gaming.  So as a result during the school year especially I take on the lions share of household chores.  This means I cook, clean, take care of the animals, do laundry, do almost all the grocery shopping and anything else that happens to need to get done during the week.  The only chore that I do not do, is the dishes… but I could and I have in a pinch.  My mother was a Home Economics teacher… and as a result she was tired of seeing boys come through her classroom that were completely incapable of taking care of themselves.  Her mission in life was to make sure that I could do whatever I needed to do to be self sufficient.  While I suck at using a sewing machine, I can even do that in a pinch…  though I am far more comfortable with needle and thread.

The original plan was simple.  I have lots of disposable time so I would pick up the slack during the school year, and then over the summer I get a break… and do nothing.  This however has not quite worked out as well as we had planned it.  The problem is part of being a rockstar teacher is going around the country to various conferences over the summer.  My wife has even gone so far as to work with a group of other teachers and found her own summer conference.  So several weeks out of the summer I do get to do absolutely nothing, but the majority of it these days is business as usual.  I really don’t mind too much, but there are days where I do get sick of keeping the household running.  So all you folks who juggle family and house and still try and find some time for yourselves…  I know those feels.

Blame it on Lady Vox

This is happening a little out of the normal order.  Since I wanted to devote a long post to Everquest Next Landmark for Steampowered Sunday, I decided against cluttering the bottom of the post with a factoid.  So today I am doing a second really quick post as a sort of addendum.  On the days when I have an already existing “thing” for that day, I might start doing this.  The Friday Forum Fodder felt a little odd to have a factoid glued to the bottom.  I still question if this feature is worth doing, or if folks are going to get bored of me talking about myself.

Blame it on Lady Vox

Since I posted a big long lovestory to Everquest Next for my Steampowered Sunday post, it feels only fitting to chain this factoid on the same day.  My first real MMO experience was Everquest, and like I said in the other post it will always hold a special place in my heart.  I love the setting of Norrath and its places, peoples and legends.  That said I would have likely never gotten into the game on my own.  I was one of those people that watched the game as it was being developed with great interest, only to get a bit soured at the thought of paying a monthly subscription.  On my Amiga I had flirted with playing Air Warrior and EGA Battletech a bit over the GEnie service, and had already felt the sting of paying an hourly rate to play games.  So the thought of doing that again really didn’t set well with me.

So it was very reluctantly that I accepted a request from a friend and co-worker of mine to come to his house one night after work and run his second account during a Everquest raid.  The guild he was in had been preparing to take on the great dragon Lady Vox in Everfrost, and that night after work they were going after her.  He normally dual boxed Everquest with his Iksar Monk and Halfling Druid, but since he would be pulling the mobs clearing up to Lady Vox he really needed to concentrate on doing that one thing.  So I got what ended up being a few minute explaination of how to control my character, how to memorize spells… and which spells to cast… and we were off clearing our way through the ice giants and goblins on the way to the dragons lair.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  I had never really played an MMO at this point, and very much never been on a raid of any kind, but I thought it was amazing how everyone in the party worked together towards a common goal of clearing the lair and finally battling the dragon.  I stood back and cast nukes, occasionally throwing a heal here or there when someone looked like they were getting low.  The battle was absolutely insane, with so many things going on at once that I had no clue what happened.  At some point things started to get really hectic when folks started dying left and right.  Sooner or later it was my turn, and my friend rather hurriedly explained where i needed to go to get back tot the fight.  Luckily a ranger died about the same time so I followed her back into the lair.

EQpic_Kaladim My friend told me to “mem a nuke” and it was a few minutes before it dawned on me what exactly he was saying.  I did just that and ran back in just in time to land the killing blow.  So on my first night playing any MMO…  I managed to slay an internet dragon.  On that night I also got to see my very first instance of loot drama…. as there was an argument that erupted over who got the “zero weight backpack”.  I have to say I was hooked, and the very next day I picked up a copy and rolled my very first character… Exeteroth the Dwarven Cleric.  Turning around upon exiting Kaladim and seeing the giant dwarven statue still is one of the most epic experiences I have had in a game.  Nowadays it looks so primitive, but at the time it was just staggering that something so big could exist in a video game.  While the forced grouping and frustrations that it caused ultimately lead me to quit the game after a few years, Everquest will always hold a special place in my heart, as will my very first dragon raid.

Everquest Next Landmark

Steampowered Sunday #4

This morning I have scarfed my tasty oatmeal and downed my huge skull mug full of coffee.  Now I am ready to break some of my own rules.  Namely I am writing this morning what I had intended to write last week.  At the point of last Sunday I had Everquest Next Landmark in my hands for roughly 48 hours, so that in itself was a bit rule breaking since previously my Steampowered Sunday posts were literally me playing the game and then writing my impression of it.  However since the Landmark servers spent most of Sunday down, and I could not gather up the screenshots I wanted, I ended up writing a different post and skipping Steampowered Sunday all together.  This week, I am picking up where I intended.  Next week we will return to my normal slapshod impression posts of a game from my steam list, but this week is devoted to Landmark.

Everquest Next Landmark

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-09 11-52-01-26 Firstly before digging into this post, you have to understand something.  Everquest was my first real MMO.  While I had played quite a bit of Phantasy Star Online over on the Dreamcast, EQ was the game that got me hooked on the genre.  As a result I have this massive soft spot in my heard for all things Norrath.  I love the setting, the pantheon of gods, the racial tension…  and while I just cannot bring myself to go back to the original Everquest, I always keep EQ2 installed and at the ready for when I need a nostalgic binge.  So back in August during SOE Live 2013 when they announced Everquest Next, the game they had kept pretty well under wraps until that point… to say the least I was extremely interested.  While I had deep concerns about the class design for Next I was absolutely pumped at the prospect of this new thing they called Landmark.


EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-09 11-57-07-44 I believe it was Jesse Cox that called Everquest Next Landmark, Minecraft on Crack… but in truth that is neither fair to Minecraft nor Landmark.  It is very much the case that a game like this simply would not exist were it not for Notch and his vision to create a fully destructable cube world in Minecraft.  Landmark is more akin to Minecraft Evolved or to use the codemonkey term…  Minecraft++.  The world feels completely different at first, but as you dig into it, the same kinds of logic that we adapted to while branch mining for diamonds in Minecraft mostly apply here to.  The difference is, that with Landmark it feels like they are only scratching the surface of what they can do with the engine.  They have grand plans to use Landmark as a testbed for ideas that will eventually work their way into the eventual Everquest Next product.

The world of Landmark is arranged as a group of “Islands” assigned to a specific server that are connected by a network of the Combine Spires.  First I have to say how pumped I am to see the Combine Spire concept visualized so wonderfully in this world.  It just wouldn’t feel like a EQ game without the spire travel network.  My only desire would be for them to eventually give us a hearthstone type construct that lets us fast travel to our claim.  For those of us who were not lucky enough to get claims near the spires, it becomes a trek each time we want to get to our claim to do work. 

Your Claim in the World

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-09 12-32-18-01  Right now the claims system works pretty well, but each of the worlds is so full that it become a crapshoot to try and find anyplace to set down roots.  Every grey colored flag represents some players claim on Liberation/Pingo where I set down roots.  The blue flag represents my home, and it is a fair clip from the teleport spires.  When I managed to get into game the Saturday after release, all of the tier 1 and tier 2 zones were essentially full, and there was nothing at all even vaguely close to one of the spires.  Right now the game allows you to plunk down a claim in a freeform fashion so long as it is a certain amount of space away from any nearby claims.  The problem with this is it allows for some inefficient use of space.

What I would love to see is a system more like Trove with fixed claim points that you  just walk up to and take over.  This does two things that are really important.  Firstly it allows for the space to be divided up for maximum efficiency letting a fixed number of players inhabit each and every map.  Secondly… and this is huge… it allows for a “No Vacancy” sign of sorts to be placed on the islands that simply have no room left at all.  Right now a brand new player has to teleport from island to island until they find one that looks like it has a bit of free space… sometimes running out there only to find that a new claim cannot be placed.  My friend Rae went through this process yesterday and I have to say it sounded extremely frustrating.

Your Pick and A Dream

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-02 20-11-11-59 You are dropped into this world with only the most basic of supplies.  Currently everyone playing the game has the founders pick, which is a combination of the lowest pick axe and a pretty high tier axe allowing them to mine copper, stone and dirt and chop down all but the largest trees.  Once this goes beta however, most players will enter the game with the Stone Pick and Stone Axe, much slower versions of the founders pick.  In order to progress you have to gather a seriously large number of resources.  Currently the conversion rate is generally 100 raw resources to 1 finished resource.  To make your first upgrade, the copper pick you need to gather 1000 copper, be lucky enough to get 10 elemental copper a rare drop, and gather up 1000 plain wood logs.  Then on top of that… not all Copper Picks are created equal.  They range from very slow green quality picks to truly amazing legendary quality picks that cut through stone like butter.

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-09 12-01-55-34

At this point I feel like a lot of the resource costs need to be balanced but they do give a player something to shoot for.  For example my next tier upgrade of pick requires me to gather up 6,000 plain wood, 90 sapphire, 30 extremely rare elemental cobalt, 500 also rare burled wood, and 3000 cobalt ore.  To make it worse… to even craft this I need to upgrade my crafting machines to the next tier.  You start off with access to a basic forge at the combine spires, and then after that you need to craft your own machines… or find a very kind member that has all of the crafting machines out in the open on their own claim.  This is one of the things I am loving the most about Landmark so far… it is building a little community.

I am going to draw a comparison that rarely gets drawn in a positive light.  The crafter camaraderie reminds me so much of the early days of Horizon.  That game was ahead of its time in so many ways, but primarily in the great crafting system that made it a positive thing for crafters and adventurers alike to work together on these massive scale public works projects.  I remember spending hours as a Reaver guarding crafters as they brought loads of materials to be applied to one of the big bridges that would then connect up to a brand new untouched island.  The crafter gear was not suited for combat, and was needed to be able to carry the maximum amount of materials to the work sight, so an alliance sprung up so that these crafters could be ferried safely from the nearest resource field to the very dangerous work sight.

In a very similar spirit, players are dedicating their claim to becoming a crafting hub for their island.  The above claim is just off the spires in Liberation/Hollows and belongs to a player that I don’t even know named Linerra.  But she has so graciously opened it up to the public, and every night this place becomes a hub of players crafting up new bits for their own claims.  I am not sure she will ever fully know how much I appreciate what she is doing.  While I want to make the latest machines, when it comes time for me to craft my cobalt pick I will likely visit her hub, instead of gathering the 80 Elemental Cobalt, 8000 Cobalt Ore, 9000 Tungsten Ore, and 6000 Amaranthine to craft the Amaranthine Forge needed to create it. 

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-07 01-18-10-83 I have been surprised that my own claim has become a hub of sorts for my area of Pingo, so I have the motivation to eventually upgrade all of my machines to the highest level.  I have since moved the crafting machines from my porch to the undercroft, but I left a note in my claim banner indicating where they can now be found.  Awesome thing is, I have struck up a friendship with a few of the players who visit my home regularly to craft.  This sense of being neighborly is a really interesting dynamic to me.  Yesterday as I was working on the third and fourth floors of my forest temple I was constantly having players swing by and say hello.

Building Tool Progression

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-02 22-13-44-02 One of the things that is drawing mixed reception is the gating of building tool mechanics.  When you start the game you are given a package that contains the Add, Remove and Heal tools that can be used to build on your claim.  The above image is of me clearing the voxels from my claim with the remove tool.  These can be scaled and changed in shape and the material and texture they apply, but represent a very rudimentary “minecraft esc” way of building.  Later there are much more powerful tools like the selection tool that allows you to apply a material to a much larger section, or use the really powerful cut and paste functions.  There has been a bit of grumbling that it takes so much farming before you get these more advanced tools.  I however think this is probably a good idea.

Sticking with the three simplest tools forces you to “learn the basics” before getting into something that can cause issues if you are not careful.  Selecting large areas lets you do something really quickly, but at the same time you can also make some pretty big mistakes with it.  Most of my building is still done with the add/remove tools, and I tend to use the selection and smooth tools extremely sparingly.  I have heard that the line tool is even more powerful when you get it, but similarly if you don’t have a basic understanding of how to get the most of using the fixed tools on and off the grid, it becomes easier for you to make mistakes when handed the really game changing tools later on.

The above video is a really good resource for showing off the basics of crafting with tools on your claim.    While I have been piddling with this game for a little over a week now, I still feel like I am constantly picking up tricks.  The best thing about the system is that it is so simple and easy to gasp, especially for anyone who has ever played Minecraft.  At the same time it is infinitely complex in the number of things you can do with it.  People are creating some really crazy things, especially using the smooth tool to even go so far as to create massive sculptures.  When they finally open the player studio, it will be interesting to see just what sorts of widgets players have constructed.  Right now the only thing of any worth that I have crafted is a prefab staircase that I have used multiple times in my forest temple to move between levels.

Only Scratching the Surface

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-09 11-53-03-37 It really feels like we have only begun to scratch the surface for what Landmark can be.  I know they plan on adding in a full combat system with randomly spawned encounters, as well as multiple tiers of exploration to each of the islands.  They showed digging down into caverns and lava chambers in the launch video, and from all I have heard that is still very much planned for landmark.   Even without all of that the game is extremely addicting and is scratching every builder itch I could possibly have.  That is not to say however that it is a finished product in any fashion.  The thing I warn players before they plunk down their money to buy their way into the Alpha process… remember that this is an Alpha in every sense of the word.  Stuff is broken at times… and that is okay.

I grumbled a bit last week as I had my claim completely wiped five or six times before they got to the bottom of the issues with saving voxel changes to the database.  I expect this, I knew what I was getting into… and I have begun building in a really large way knowing that at some point down the road it is all going to get wiped into oblivion.  By building and testing I am ultimately helping to make a better finished product.  I’ve alpha and beta tested hundreds upon hundreds of games at this point, and this is something that I just take as part of the price for helping to shape the end result.  But for players who are used to the “almost finished game being called an alpha” definition of recent years…  expect things to go haywire.

After saying all of that, I fully believe that this game is worth investing in.  The game that is there is extremely fun, but we will be seeing so much more over the coming months.  In the week we have already seen a handful of patches and new featured added in like the ability to hit the down arrow in the crafting window to easily craft the maximum number of items.  Each time I log in, I find something new that got patched in when I was not paying attention.  I love watching a game get created before my eyes, and the level of transparency the SOE folks have been giving us is phenomenal.  I look forward to working together to help craft what eventually ends up being Everquest Next and beginning a epic gaming tradition.

Beardly Dedication

Press NDA Lifted

There has been a lot of confusion in the last 24 hours as Zenimax has lifted the NDA just far enough to allow a bunch of press outlets to post stories.  Massively crafted a really poorly worded tweet stating that the ESO NDA Had lifted.  Even though they followed up almost immediately with a correction stating that it only applies to the press and media beta…  it has caused massive amounts of confusion.  As a result there are so many video leaks going on right now, a good number of them seem to have an axe to grind with the game in general.  I am still very firmly under a gag order but I feel that is a bit of a disservice to the game as a whole.

Most of the albeit scathing reviews of the game seem to be missing the general point.  I feel like right now a lot of people are going into this game with the expectation of it being something that it is not.  This is the problem of a broad game like The Elder Scrolls.  Every player has a certain way that they want to play the game, and if their chosen game play isn’t supported then obviously it is a horrible game.  Apparently there are players out there who legitimately do nothing but steal stuff from stores, or players who do nothing but kill quest giver NPCs.  These are just a few of the fringe game play styles that I have seen mentioned on the more public forums that certain fragments of the population are up in arms over.

Thing is… the game seems to be selling extremely well.  The game has firmly been on the top 10 best sellers list on since releasing.  So lots of people still have interest in the game despite the sour grapes reviews that are coming out.  At this point I feel like Zenimax needs to open the flood gates and let the actual fans who have been sticking by the title speak for it.  This is not an insignificant number of players mind you, but each of us is bound by the same NDA gag order, and unable to say a single thing in defense of the title.  Keeping the NDA in place, and stating that there will not be a fully open beta before release… only serves to give the public the impression that the game has something to hide.  The game has absolutely nothing to hide, and I look forward to the day when I can talk about it without hedging everything I say in grand generalizations.  The video I linked above is my favorite of the batch of “reviews” and Dan Bull seems to “get it”.

Forest Temple that Isn’t

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I have still been plugging away on building my “Forest Temple” and posted some photos the other day yesterday on the EQ Next Reddit.  Turns out my name is a bit controversial.  I am building a temple in a deeply forested region of the Pingo island, so to me that is a Forest Temple.  But apparently to a lot of people that has a specific meaning, which is the Forest Temple from Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time.  I am just too old for this to have a significant meaning  to me I guess.  Ocarina of Time came out when I was in college, and while I played it and enjoyed it… it really didn’t imprint on me as being anything more than a fun game.  A Link to the Past is my Zelda game and the one I hold up as the pinnacle above all others.  For me the Zelda franchise is best in its 2D form.

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-07 01-16-57-89 So to clariify… I will try and come up with a better name for my place, because I don’t want to give the impression that I am trying to build “The Forest Temple”.  At this point I have massive amounts of resource farming to complete the temple.  I want to do one more floor and a ramparts area at the top, as well as build out the undercroft more fully.  Right now I am planning on moving the craft machines from the porch area to the undercroft.  I hope I can unlock the paint tool because I think with that I can help to age the temple with little bits of mossy grass on the stone.  I also want to do some work to make things more intricate, but i figure over time I can work out the fine details. I posted an album of pictures of my most recent progress.

Beardly Dedication

This is one that my wife suggested so I am running with it.  Early my Sophomore year in High School I started growing a beard, and unlike my friends who were cursed with the inability to do so… I was able to grow one rather successfully.  From that point until today I have only been clean shaven twice… and both of those times were horrible mistakes.  Granted I vacillate back and forth between a full beard and a moustache/goatee combination… but for the majority of 22 years I have been proudly dedicated to beardom.  Basically my beard started as a way to make me look older, because I suffer from a baby face.  If I were to shave right now at age 37… I would look like I was about fourteen.  Well maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it is not a good thing to say the least.

The first time I shaved my beard was during my Junior year.  I was completely smitten with a girl who barely knew I existed.  I asked her out to the prom and she accepted, but she really pressured me to shave off my goatee at the time.  I should have stuck to my guns, because quite honestly nothing about that night was worth the pricetag of shaving my beard.  I did not realize I was mired quite so deeply in the friend zone as I actually was, and at least if I had my beard I could have stroked it while pondering the situation as she danced with someone else the majority of the night.  Beard stroking apparently is a legitimate thing, and it actually spurs on mental activity.

The second time I shaved it… I did it mostly by accident.  I took off a little too much from one side while trying to even out my beard.  Rather than shaving down to a goatee, I decided that my wife had never actually seen me clean shaven.  At that point we had been together five or six years, and she was polite about it… but told me to grow it back as soon as I could and to never do it again.  Apparently the beard suits me, either that or she couldn’t handle the fact that she looked like she was married to a teenager.  I figure at some point when I do actually want to look younger I can instantly loose 20 years by shaving, or at least this is my planned exit strategy.  The actual secret to my beard is more akin to the fact that I simply hate shaving and will do whatever I can to avoid doing so.  At one point this year I was sporting a beard that would make the guys of duck dynasty take notice…  but that was more a test of just how long I could let it go than anything else.

Budgie Week Fiasco

Another Friday, Moar Fodder

Well another week has passed and it is once again time for Friday Forum Fodder.  I have admittedly not been following the discussion around the interwebs as closely as I usually do during the week.  I have a massive backlog of unread blog posts in my reader as spending the first half of the week sick and the second half desperately trying to play catch-up has left me with less lollygagging time.  I did stumble across a couple of things that I found interesting so the topics are primed and ready to go.

WoW Up to 7.8 Million Subscribers

Apparently yesterday Blizzard had their Q4 2013 earnings call, and announced that they were currently sitting at 7.8 Million subscribers, which surprisingly is a 200k subscriber bump over the 7.6 announced in the Q3 2013 earnings call.  Of course we all know that Blizzcon happened between those two calls, and that we had the announcement of the Warlords of Draenor expansion.  However 200,000 players seems like an awful lot to simply account for the “Blizzcon Bump”.  On Argent Dawn I have said before that we have been experiencing a bit of a renaissance with a large number of players coming back that I have not seen since Wrath, and some of them not even since Burning Crusade.  This feels like something more substantial than just interest in the new and shiny bauble called Warlords.

With the release of Rift, something happened in the populace, a fracturing of sorts.  That was the very first time I saw people leave WoW in a semi-permanent fashion.  Always before when a new product released, players would drift away from the game only to return a month or two later.  Something was different with the release of Cataclysm that broke the inertia of players to stay in one place.  I myself was gone for a little over two years, and during most of that time I never saw myself seriously returning.  For whatever reason I think a lot of us are resigned to the fact that the “wow-killer” simply will never exist.  All of this effort spent trying to find a better experience than World of Warcraft just wound up leading us right back to the original.

I personally have come to realize that what WoW provides just does not exist in the same quantity or quality elsewhere.  Sure various games do various components of the total WoW experience better, but no one game hits as many high points as Blizzard does.  I have reached a point where I am mostly okay with the games flaws… and while I wish that it did certain things better, I can accept the fact that what it does is for the benefit of the many not the few.  There are niche games out there that will scratch the various itches I have that WoW simply cannot.  So while I am back in WoW I am also still very much playing Rift, TSW, Everquest Next Landmark and will be adding Elder Scrolls Online to that lineup.  I have reached a point where I am okay with playing multiple games at the same time.

The beauty of World of Warcraft is that it is the game of consensus.  It is that game that everyone plays when they can’t get anyone to agree on any other game.  People play WoW because people play WoW.  More than anything the large community that comes part and parcel with playing the game was the thing I had been missing since leaving it.  When you play wow, you are instantly a member of something larger than yourself, and that is just an experience that is lacking with any of the other games.  Don’t get me wrong, the other game communities are great, especially the fledgling Everquest Next community bolstered by SOE’s new sense of transparency.  However it is still lacking in sheer size and volume of players.  The Blizzard gaming community is big enough to support everyone, and that is a really rare and special thing.

Budgie Week Fiasco

Firstly I want to say, this is less about the specific thread but more about the Budgie Week event.  I latched onto the guide threat by Seatin mostly because it was the only really active thread out there that coalesced all of the viewpoints in one place, whether or not he actually intended that to happen.  Seatin does a great job of supporting the community with his guides and videos, so nothing I say should be held as a reflection on that.  Additionally I love the folks at Trion, especially the team that is presently working on Trove.  That is such a great game and the open process is so refreshing, including the use of Reddit as their primary forums.  Additionally when Rift went free to play, I considered it to be one of the more just and equitable models.  However some of the things they have been doing with the cash shop are feeling more than a little shifty.

Awhile back some of my friends were frustrated over the Squirrel mount that was released, in that they missed the ridiculously short window it was available for purchase outright in the game.  This was really the beginning of a new trend, offering a cool mount for a very short time, and then putting a similar mount in a cash shop lootbox as the primary means of obtaining it.  This was the case for the Squirrel mount, the Mech mount, and now looks to be the same basic thing going on with the Budgie mount.  The shifty part this time is that they introduced a world event to make it seem as though you can actually acquire the mount that way. Problem is… with this being only a 7 day event it is simply impossible to gain enough of the “bird seed” currency doing these quests alone.

According to Seatin’s guide, if you got in on the first day of the event there is a maximum of 210 bird seed that you can obtain.  The mount costs 850 bird seed on the vendor, meaning there is simply no way to obtain it without somehow augmenting your seed count.  It turns out right now they are offering a limited time cash box that has a chance of dropping a different colored budgie mount, and you are guaranteed between 6 and 10 birdseed per box.  The average seems to be 8 per trove, so in theory you need roughly 80 of these cash shop boxes to be able to purchase the bird.  Granted you have a chance from each to get the OTHER budgie mount, but we aren’t even taking this into account.  Essentially even doing your quests religiously every day, you would have to spend roughly $300 on the cash shop to be certain you get this mount while it is available.

Now Daglar has posted on the forums that this is a promo event, and they intend to run it several times a year, and by participating in all of them you should be able to get the mount.  Even saying that… it still feels extremely bad seeing this unfold.  This is the same kind of crap that I see over in SWTOR with making most of the truly unique looking mounts only available through the random chance of a cash shop box.  The difference there is that you can actually post the items once you have gotten them on the auction house… whereas the cash shop loot in Rift is either soul bound or bound to your account.  This whole event just leaves me feeling a little dirty for having supported their shirt to free to play so actively.  I still think Rift is a great game, and I still think more or less it is a good value… they are just doing a few unsavory things that make me a little sad inside.

Bel Goes to Nasa

This mornings factoid digs pretty deep into the annals of time.  Once upon a time I wanted to grow up to be a Scientist.  I am not really sure what happened along the way to change that life ambition.  If I had to guess it was probably the fact that AP Chemistry ate my lunch, but I managed to get out of it with a B, which seemed pretty damned good at the time.  All that aside, I did really and truly want to be a Scientist, so I took the yearly ritual of the science fair extremely seriously.  Through boy scouts I had gotten into model rocketry, so when it came time to pick a project I thought it would be interesting to do something related to that.  With copious help from my father, we constructed a wind tunnel that ran on a shop vac, and proceeded to test the effects of airflow based on various model rocket fin shapes.

I think the key to winning a science fair is to have something cool to look at in your booth.  I am sure there were many students that had more scientifically sound studies than I did, but I had cool photos of the pattern each of the fins had made.  We tied string to each of the fins so that we could watch the pattern the thread made based on the airflow.  The contrails that were created gave a clear picture of how each shape varied and was something nice and concrete that the judges to latch onto.  I won the local level science fair and managed to move up to regional’s, but this was not something really new to me, because my pantograph had done the same my six grade year.  In all honesty repeating a victory at the local level would have been more than enough for me.

When I got to regional’s however I was shocked at just how excited the judges seemed to be about my exhibit.  So when it came down to time to present the awards, I don’t really remember what place I got in the main competition, because it was quickly overshadowed by the “special” award that I won.  I got a trip for me, my family and my science teacher to NASA’s Johnson Space center.  I have to say it was one of the cooler things I have experienced.  A lot of the trip is a haze at this point, but I remember walking through a prototype of what would eventually become the international space station.  I also remember getting to play around in the shuttle flight simulator, and meeting actual astronauts.  All of which were pretty heady things for my little wannabe scientist seventh grader mind.  But of course, High School happened… and I discovered computers and programming… and I jettisoned the thoughts of being a scientist out the airlock and moved on.

Rocky Horror Rejection

Of Large Templates

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-05 22-30-24-99 After piddling a bit in Rift and running Onyxia on the three character that can easily solo her, I settled into Everquest Next Landmark and attempted to recreate my forest temple.  I had managed to successfully template the entire structure and suck back up all of the material night before last, so my hope was that it would in fact be as simple as plunking down the template and moving on.  The problem is, large templates are extremely hard to work with.  After spending an hour placing and undoing the template trying to get it just right, I finally said screw it and started from scratch again.  The above shot shows a rare moment when my claim is flooded in sunlight.

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-05 21-01-38-14 The biggest problem I have noticed with templates is that they seem to align to the smallest block size instead of whatever block size you happen to have set as your tool.  When you are trying to move a template that takes up your entire claim… it becomes extremely hard to determine when exactly it is in the right spot.  I managed to get it pretty damned close at times, but never quite perfect.  In the above image I had run out of stone while working on the flooring, but I have since fixed that and finished the first floor for now.  Eventually I will build a staircase up to the second floor, but until I have enough stone to make a second floor that point is moot.  The temple as it is right now has taken roughly 200,000 stone.

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The last thing I was working on last night before logging was building out the front porch area.  There is a ramp leading up now that I smoothed out and a stone railing of sorts.  My plan is to keep all of my crafting machines out here so that anyone who happens to be moving past my claim can use them.  That has been one of the really cool things about Landmark is that all of these player towns have sprung up.  It reminds me quite a bit of Horizons, in that a little crafting community is starting to spring up here and there.  It would be really cool if they added some large scale public works type projects that they players can work on.  I remember guarding crafters as they carried loads of ore and stone to the various bridge projects in Horizons.  While there were so many flaws in that game, it really was innovative in its social crafting systems.

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-02 20-28-19-62 Right now my chief mission is to gather enough gold and burled wood to be able to craft the Golden Axe.  I have heard you can gather wood much faster using it, and I am really hoping that it will also allow me to fell the largest of trees.  I know it is possible to take them down, because I watched someone doing it the other night.  Essentially to truly complete the first floor I will need lots and lots of trees.  I want to put wood braces to support the second floor and have them jut out slightly from the sides of the building.  I have always liked that look but to be able to do them I need a ton of wood.  Additionally while searching for the gold ore needed… I hope to gather enough stone to begin construction on the second floor.  Finally there are a few machines that I am missing from my porch, so I want to gather up the bits to make the one that can finish marble especially.

Rocky Horror Rejection

For anyone who has ever been to a live performance of the rocky horror picture show, you know that it is a really raucous occasion.  Would you believe that I managed to get kicked out of a showing?  While I was in High School the local performing arts theater thought they would be edgy and host a showing of the movie.  For starters it was a far more sedate version of the Rocky Horror Picture show.  There was no live group dressed as the characters and performing all of the scenes, and no virgin sacrifices.  Everyone however did show up with a bag of items needed to do the various tributes to the scenes.  Even in its lesser form it was still pretty fun, albeit greatly sanitized.

Things went south when we got to “Over at the Frankenstein Place”.  This is the point where everyone in the audience raises their lighters into the air swaying back and forth slowly to simulate the “there’s a light” portion.  Not being a smoker, I didn’t have a bic lighter on me… so I decided to improvise.  Gathering up a bunch of news paper we had to protect ourselves from the water guns… I decided to craft a torch.  I bound the newspaper together tightly and lit that bad boy.  This was a classic bad move, because I did not expect it to flame up quite so brightly… and quickly.  It was only a few seconds before we realize this was not going to be a good idea in any fashion so we stomped it out.

Moments later a security guard showed up and in his remarkable intellect muttered “all right who did that?”.  We gave him our best confused look, and then one of my group pointed down to the rows below us and told him that it was someone down there.  The thing you need to know is that we are in a huge concert hall style performing arts theater.  We sat roughly midway up the main seating, and everyone else in the theater were bunched together down by the stage.  There were a good 25 rows of empty space between us and the next person.  The security guard proceeded to go row by row, searching the entire space for the hidden arsonist.  All of this time we were absolutely rolling, but trying to keep it down just enough to not tip our hand.  Fifteen minutes later the winded guard came back to our row and proclaimed “Very Funny… You are all out of here.”

So the bulk of us all got punted from the show unceremoniously.  Looking back now, I could have theoretically started a theater fire, but at the time it sounded like a great idea.  No one really seemed to mind getting forced out of the proceedings, since it really was a watered down version of the “real thing”.  We wound up driving around for awhile and finally ended up milling around in a park for a while before taking our dates home for the evening.  We probably had far more fun loitering than we would have had attending the rest of the show, so I guess in the grand scheme of things everything worked out okay.  I just find it funny now because I can state that I got kicked out of the Rocky Horror Picture show.

Belghast: Wedding Photographer

Belghast: Wedding Photographer

Most kids growing up end up working food service of one form or another, but I somehow lucked out and missed that experience during my formative years.  Honestly I had a pretty good string of jobs throughout High School but probably the most bizarre would be that of Wedding Photographer… or more so the Photographers Assistant.  My father was a machinist by day and professional portrait photographer by night and weekend.  Essentially I grew up in the darkroom and was extremely comfortable around photographic equipment before most kids had learned to ride a bicycle.  As I got older and needed an allowance, I often got drafted into helping out with the “family business”.

This was not as glamorous as it might sound.  Essentially it usually meant sticking me up in a balcony somewhere during the service with a zoom lens and getting the nifty overhead shots that my father could not get from the ground.  By my teen years I could name all the basic parts of a wedding, and could spot little variations coming before they actually happened.  This whole experience has caused me to loathe weddings.  Being the wedding photographer is a really uncomfortable experience, for a few hours you become part of the family and have to figure out how to wrangle your way through getting the shots taken.  Thanks to tradition no one wants to take the photos before the wedding… and then after the ceremony it becomes a sheer struggle of wills to keep everyone in their clothing and willing to line up in the various shot arrangements that the bride and groom will want.  Everyone wants to mingle with family because they go away…  and while the photos don’t seem that important on the day of the event…  they will certainly catch the fact that you didn’t get a photo of them with uncle bob afterwards.

This summer I had to reprise my role of Wedding photographer as I got asked by the same neighbor who cleaned up my blood mess to photograph her wedding.  I mean seriously… how could I say no?  So I gave it the good ole college try and I think overall the photos turned out pretty well.  Within a few minutes of the ceremony ending I remembered all the reasons why I hated doing this in the first place however.  We couldn’t keep the groomsmen from changing out of their clothing into shorts.  This was an outdoor wedding in the middle of a August Oklahoma heatwave.  I feel like I got the workout of my life trying to wrangle a bunch of people who did not want to stand still for photos.  All in all however it was pretty successful and over time I managed to get everyone together.  It did not help to improve my hatred of weddings however.

Giving Up, For Now

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-04 05-53-33-00 For the time being I am going to give up on building anything in Landmark.  This is the fourth time in recent days that the servers have gone down and I have logged back into my claim being fully reset.  I could clear it fast enough again with the select tool, but it feels absolutely futile since I know I will likely be logging back in again to nothing.  Dave Georgeson posted this tweet last night which I seems positive… but we have had some optimism in the past as well.

I ended up clearing a little bit this morning so if things are still clear by the time I get home this evening I will consider that a positive sign and maybe just maybe start building again.  Someone can correct me if I am wrong, but it seems as though if you use ctl+v instead of delete when you have a large area selected… it appears that you harvest the materials contained within that area.  I made the mistake of clearing the last time with the delete key, meaning I likely lost all of my props permanently.  Honestly right now I wish I could figure out how to make torches, that is really the only prop I need to be able to craft a whole bunch of.

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-04 05-48-19-47 Another huge plus is that I managed to figure out the lightstone.  Essentially unlike Everquest, it must be equipped in a slot.  Since the slots are not marked at all, you just have to keep dragging them into each slot one by one until it finally fits there.  You can see in the above picture the light radius that it gives off, which is more than enough to be able to see what you are doing.  Really that is all I was wanting since my claim is mostly cast in shadow all the time.  I like that aspect of it, and once I actually get my temple ruins built it should look really cool.  Before I can really do that however I need to figure out how to make torches.  I realize at this point I only have two crafting machines and based on what I saw yesterday there are like half a dozen or so that someone had out on their claim for people to use.

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-04 05-59-09-46 Since I can’t really craft I have been working on upgrading my tools.  This morning I managed to craft the Heavy Silversteel Pick shown above.  I am not sure if it is always a legendary item, or if I just lucked out in the randomizer.  Previously I had been using the starter pick to clear any tier 1 material away from what I was actually wanting to harvest since the Pick/Axe combo was so much faster than any of the upgraded picks I had gotten.  However this one seems to finally be roughly the same speed.  Now that I can harvest another tier higher of material I am hoping I can craft the next set of crafting machines, and maybe even the next tool which I think is terrain paint, but I am not really sure.  At this point mostly I am looking forward to the voxel database stabilizing enough for me to start building again.

Belghast and the Severe Asthma

Bel is a Sick Little Monkey

Right now I am feeling like a failure, for several reasons.  For starters Steampowered Sunday never happened yesterday, because I kept waiting on the Everquest Landmark servers to stabilize enough to get in and record some gameplay.  I thought it was going to be a cool idea to do SPS over a brand new alpha game that lots of folks were interested in.  More so than that… I completely forgot that I had a raid last night, so I owe a lot of apologies to my raid group.  I was feeling pretty shitty Friday night during the raid, and over the course of the weekend I just got to feeling worse.  Yesterday was a bit of a haze and since the snow came down and my wife’s school was cancelled… I guess the day was lacking the normal sense of pressure that a Sunday has.

By the time I got drug down to our neighbors super bowl party, I had lost touch on what day it actually was.  Sweet mother of god the food there… so much of it and so tasty.  She had made these little bacon wrapped smoked sausages caramelized with brown sugar.  I could have seriously made a meal on that alone.  Like always she cooked for an army, and there were only 7 or 8 of us there.  We left around halftime because we walked down and didn’t want to slip and fall on the way home through our poorly lit sidewalks.  The food coma that set in just left me in a bit of a stupor.  As a result I literally could not remember that I was supposed to tank a raid that night.

I am really hoping they had enough to pull the raid together but since the other regular tank was also slotted to be gone… I am seriously doubting they were.  So I am posting it here, and I will post it elsewhere and say it in person…  I am sorry I flaked on you guys.  This is out of character for me, but it quite literally slipped my mind.  I didn’t even realize I had done it until I got up this morning.  Today I plan on trying to sleep as much as I can, because sleep heals.  As a result I got up at 5:30 and emailed my boss saying that I would not be in and then slept until 10:30.  I will be taking dayquil and breathing treatments to try and break the gunk up so that I can breathe again.  I really need to be viable for work tomorrow.  We are supposed to be getting a lot more snow and ice tomorrow, so we will see what exactly that means.

Belghast and the Severe Asthma

Since I am sick right now, I kinda wanted a factoid that blended with that.  I have touched on this a few times but it is worthy of factoidization.  I have extremely severe asthma, it has gotten slightly better over the years but there are times where my body still completely breaks down on me.  I have a number of triggers ranging from weather changes, to strong perfumes and smells, and the worst of all is smoke both second hand and smoke from fires.  This has been a thing that I have struggled with my entire life.  My very first asthma attack happened before the age of one, when my mother heard me wheezing in my basinet at the end of the bed.  My father had been an extremely severe asthmatic growing up and spent many a night under an oxygen tent… which was the 1950s treatment for such things.  I don’t think I was officially diagnosed however until after age one, because the pediatrician kept saying “babies don’t have asthma”.

To make things even worse I have what they call a “primary immune system deficiency”  which basically means I have a lazy immune system.  So I tend to catch everything that is going around and it takes significantly longer for my immune system to wake up and realize there is something bad inside of me that it should be fighting.  So this complicates the first thing significantly, as I almost always have some sort of a cold.  If they drag on long enough there is a moment where it wakens the beast and my lungs start shutting down on me.  This weekend is one of those times where a “nameless crud” has finally lingered long enough to trigger my asthma.  Most of the time I can take a bunch of breathing treatments and be just fine.  Every now and then it triggers a downward spiral that requires much more severe intervention.

Probably the worst of these was the 2005 Thanksgiving Holiday, over which I spent five days hospitalized.  I know I mentioned this event in the little letter I wrote a few weeks back to some smokers in my building, but this is the worst case scenario that I am always worried about in the back of my head.  Of course this was created by an unlikely chain of events.  One of our friends had a house fire, and I went down to the house long enough to be handed prescriptions to take to Walgreens to fill.  That was enough to trigger a negative reaction that lead to me going to the Emergency Room.  They hooked me up to a BIPAP machine that would help me breathe, or at least force air into my lungs, and since my lungs were so swollen shut… it caused me to respirate insanely fast.  So fast that they were scared I might have a heart attach that night, since my pulse was racing.

Eventually they were able to get things under control but it was five days before my blood oxygen levels came up enough for me to be able to go home.  By day two I was absolutely stir-crazy in the hospital.  All I really wanted was someone to bring me a laptop.  This whole event has made me super aware and conscious of irritants in my area, and before this happening I probably never would have had to courage to tell the smokers what they were doing to me.  With my large amount of weight loss, it has improved my asthma quite a bit.  However there are still moments where something triggers that chain reaction and I go down for the count.  I think this current situation is an accumulation of weeks of breathing colder than normal air mixed with some bug that is going around.  But there you have it… a relevant factoid for a day when I am pretty sick.

Liberation Pingo

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-02 19-53-24-37 This post has already gone on pretty long at this point, but I didn’t feel like I could truly make another post without at least mentioning EQN Landmark.  Friday evening late the Alpha keys went out to all of the founders, but I personally did not get it launched until Saturday morning after I made my blog post.  At that point it was extremely hard to find a plot of land that was claimable.  So I wound up in the middle of nowhere on the Liberation server and the tier 3 Pingo island.  I feel like this may be a positive thing in the long run as there seem to be more than enough tier 3 resources to be had there.  However this has involved a lot of my bouncing to other areas to pick things up.  Right now I am building cautiously as during one of the server resets this weekend we lost all progress and I lost my crafting machines in the process.

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-02 22-13-44-02 The important thing to note… that if your tolerance for bugs is low.  Save your money and wait until this enters beta.  The game is very much an alpha product, but what is here is extremely fun.  Essentially at this point it is much like the early days of minecraft.  You wander around a very pretty world looking for resources that you can then take back to your claim and craft with.  The area my claim is in rests deep in a forested valley and as a result very little natural light reaches it… so all of the pictures on my claim tend to be cast in shadow.  Hopefully I can craft enough torches to fix that problem over time.  The key progress I have made is I have been able to upgrade to the Iron Pick allowing me to harvest some higher end stuff, and I have been able to craft the selection tool as well as replacement crafting machines.

EverQuestNextLandmark64 2014-02-02 13-38-34-12 Right now the only frustration really is the long queues.  At one point yesterday I waited for two hours in a queue, only to have the game crash out at 50% as it was loading.  However as the evening went on this improved drastically.  I just want to thank the EQN Landmark team because they really went above and beyond with this launch.  I am pretty sure Dave Georgeson for example was up almost 48 hours straight working on the problem along with the rest of the team.  So I have to say kudos for the work well done.  I am already enamored with the game, enough that I have upgraded from Explorer to Trailblazer.  There are a lot of systems simply missing right now, like it seems you can send a friend request… but the other party cannot respond nor is there a friend list.  As a result we are using server channels so I have created a house stalwart one.  Typing “/join stalwart” should get you in, and everyone that is friendly is more than welcome.

Me and My Tentacle

I Hate the NDA

Trove 2014-02-01 09-26-43-06I know you are thinking, “of course you hate them, you are a blogger” and to some extent yes that is the source of my frustration.  However more than that I feel like in the internet age they are defeatist.  We are in an age when people are actively ready to hand you their cash to participate in a pretty buggy experience.  Look at how popular the Steam Early access process has been to date, and just how many people are actively playing games that are not close to being launched yet.  I started playing Minecraft during really early beta and it was roughly two years before the game “officially” launched… all the while there was so much enjoyment to be had in the process of the alpha.  Each step of the way it was the constant stream of videos that got people pumped to be playing it.

At any given time I am in a number of alpha and beta testing processes for video games.  It has been a thing that I have done for years, and it seems like the more you test the more you get to test.  In the case of two of those I am amped and ready to be gushing about those games and posting cool info about them.  The problem is both of those are under pretty strict NDA processes.  They moment they lift however I will be off to the races with information in hand ready to post.  What the NDA seems to cause right now is an era of disinformation.  Folks who you assume are in testing can make comments like “I wouldn’t get your hopes up” here and there… without actually touching their NDA guidelines and cause a negative buzz for the game before it even launches.

The Open Model

The negative seems to stick with us more than the positive, and it seems like everyone knows someone who knows someone who doesn’t like this game or that game and is more than willing to give you their laundry list of reasons in private.  This I guess is why Trove has been so unbelievably refreshing.  The official forums are Reddit, and from day one we have been able to post whatever the hell we wanted about the game.  They know it is alpha, but they also are super transparent about the information.  Yesterday they released the Gunslinger class seen above, and sure it is buggy but it is damned cool seeing the first additional class in the game come to fruition.

Thing is… we’ve known this was coming for some time.  They have talked about it in the live streams, on reddit… posted various tidbits of information.  So the community that has sprung up around this game was ready and waiting with open arms to see this new class and the new batch of player created weapons that would spring out of it.  What this open model does is general some serious evangelism for your game, which is a good thing.  People what to play games that other people are having fun playing.  The above video is the entire reason why I started playing Minecraft.

Were it not for the X’s Adventures in Minecraft series of videos, I probably never would have gotten onto the Minecraft bandwagon at least not until EVERYONE was playing it.  There was something so simple about the game play I saw and infectious but only because the person doing the lets play videos was so open and engaging about what he was doing.  Games can really benefit from this simple grass roots support, and I feel like this is going to play a larger and larger role in getting folks into new games over time.  I am sure we are also entering the era of the video casting shill…  and we have seen a certain measure of that in the media recently with the payola scandal going on within the xbox one videocasters.  All of this said… I just feel like right now the NDA does more harm than good.  When a new game comes out, people crave information about it… and if the game company themselves won’t provide it, this is a great niche for the evangelists to fill.

Me and My Tentacle

Wow-64 2014-01-29 23-06-53-81 I admit it… I just wanted a reason to name this post something goofy.  Over in WoW I have spent a lot of time soloing old content for fun and profit.  Namely I have been seeking the pets and mounts that drop in older content.  I believe i spoke about my surprise that I could actually solo the Twin Emperors finally in AQ40 which had been the only road block from regularly soloing this instance.  When I took down C’Thun I got one of those items I had always wanted to get back when we were raiding.  The Vanquished Tentacle of C’Thun is a trinket that on use summons a Tentacle of C’Thun to come fight by your side for 30 seconds.  Even back in the day this was mostly a novelty item… since it was stationary and as a result really not that useful unless you were fighting a mob that stood completely still.  However how freakin cool is it to summon a tentacle on demand?

Another bit of madness I have engaged upon recently is trying to work my way through the Argent Tournament.  Look I know you are all saying… why did you not do that in Wrath?  Well I am bad at doing daily quest grinds…  I always have a million other things I would rather be doing than dailies.  So I piddled at them from time to time… but mostly I just hated the jousting mechanic.  Now however it seems like that mechanic can be cheesed by the fact that I am a well geared level 90.  Luckily I think I only have Gnomeregan and Darnasas left before I can get the tabard, which it is cool to have a port to Northrend.  However this is something I am doing mostly for the large number of pets and mounts you can get.  Not sure how super seriously I will take this, I doubt it will become a daily ritual like the Netherwing grind did.  Right now I have a lot of different games that I ant to be playing, but this is my next faction “goal”.