Racing Snail

rift 2016-06-15 19-17-13-84

Out of Advice

This month is of course the rescheduled Newbie Blogger Initiative… and I have been horrible at supporting it so far.  Normally I have filled my blog with various sundry related information about blogging, and if you really want you can probably still take some of that as completely valid.  I know this event works, but the problem is… at this point I just feel like I am out of advice to give without simply rehashing a bunch of old themes.  The truth is I really don’t know what I am doing, and while sometimes I put on the front that I do…  I spend the majority of my time winging it.  Sure before I wrote a single line on Aggronaut, I had planned a lot of stuff like the domain name and hosting provider, but that is not to say I didn’t have a much earlier not fit for public consumption blog on blogger.  Back then… I just started blogging, and it is I feel honestly good to just go make some mistakes on your own without the intervention of others.  My original blog was a semi-private ordeal talking about my life, my family, and all sorts of random events in large part surrounded on our sudden and bizarre desire to start camping.  I say camping… but what I really mean is hanging out at a lakeside resort in an RV.  It was real and snarky and sometimes raw… but it had a very specific audience of folks who actually knew me in real life.  Those people didn’t care about my gaming, and in most part would probably find it strange.

So when I created Aggronaut it was by purpose designed to be completely divorced from my real life.  The idea was I would have the real world blog for people who knew me… and then the other blog to talk about my passions.  That didn’t exactly work because I’ve found that while I can write in a mostly anonymous fashion talking about people and events from my real life setting…  I can’t exactly keep them out of my topics.  I’ve tried not to name names in my blog as a sort of “protect the innocent” fashion in part because my wife works in a very skittish profession.  I never wanted anything I might say to reflect badly upon her.  I would say that I probably filter myself a lot, but the truth is I really don’t have that many inflammatory opinions.  What I personally consider ranting about subject… I’ve often been told is just polite but impassioned discussion.  So as I sit down and try and thing of advice to give a budding blogger, I am really finding myself completely empty this year.  Just because I have been doing something longer, doesn’t mean I have any better grasp on how things should work.  I don’t know what I am doing… and it is perfectly okay to not know what you are doing.  I’ve somehow made that work for over seven years now, and I suppose I will continue to make it work for the foreseeable future.  I lack the ego however to tell you t hat my way is the correct way, because I know I don’t even know if it is right for me.  Next week I might get new information that makes me question everything about what I have done for the better part of this decade, and that is also okay.  Basically if you want to write…  just go write.

A Good Note

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Over the last few days I have become progressively more active in the Rift community.  There is something comfortable about coming back to this game, and I find myself obsessing with all of these little details.  The experience has been something akin to catching a movie on cable television that you have not seen at decades… and then having a sudden swell of feelings for how much you used to love that movie.  Coming back to Rift this time feels very much like dusting off a favorite tome and reading it again with new eyes.  There are some things I am coming to terms with, namely that unlike so many games… it is unlikely that I will find many of my closest friends interested in joining me.  As I have learned time and time again… Rift is not really their game and especially the AggroChat crew can rattle off a list of reasons why.  That said… it has always sorta been my game, and been something that I supported regardless if I was actually playing with it.  I’ve said time and time again that Rift is essentially all of the features I ever wanted in a video game compiled in one game… and they just keep adding more features as time goes on.  That said it is also a much harder game than I have grown accustomed to, and as a result for the last several years since the launch of Storm Legion I have struggled a bit to find my place in it.  I was extremely slow getting to level 60, and I am just now getting to 65, so the speed and difficulty of leveling was something I had a difficult time reconciling now that I am extremely used to the fast pace and ease of leveling in the “modern” mmo.  I’ve long said that my favorite time period in World of Warcraft was Wrath of the Lich King, and I’ve just realized that Rift is as though you stopped the clock in a time period before content started to get watered down to appeal to a wider audience.  That is not to say that Rift does not have a lot of solo-able features… but if you intend to play at the highest levels of the game you are going to need a group and dedication to your character.

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All of this aside I am in this position where I am really enjoying the depth of this game, and finding myself with this entire list of things that I want to accomplish.  One of the best parts of the game for me personally is the way that they have changed the wardrobe system.  Now when you pick up an item, you collect its appearance and can then assemble outfits out of these appearances without needing to fiddle with any of the actual loot.  The fact that there are also zero negatives like a gold sink associated with it, means I am constantly changing my wardrobes around, and I guess at times this is a positive.  Within the Rift forums and Discord there was a contest called “Planetouched Style”, the idea being that you assembled an outfit that represented a certain planar theme and then went out into the world and found a location that fit the theme to take a screenshot.  The first image was my entry, going for a sort of “Papa Legba” feel for it… and then finding an area out in Seratos that really shows off the deathyness.  Much to my shock… I apparently nabbed second place in the contest.  So I am now the proud owner of the 5th Anniversary edition racing snail…  completely with flames decorating the shell.  This goes nicely with my 4th Anniversary mount that I already spent damned near all of my time riding.  I am excited and humbled to somehow have managed to win, but it was a great note to end the day on yesterday.

 

Letter to New Bloggers

NBI2016

A Newbie Month

NBI2016

This is one of those mornings where I apparently forgot to set my alarm clock and am damned thankful that apparently I only woke up thirty minutes late.  So everything feels rushed and it is not exactly the proper mood for a contemplative post.  Today marks a few things… firstly it is my mothers birthday and I have already remembered to send her a text so she would have a message waiting on her when she wakes up.  I will of course follow up later with a proper phone call…  but I wanted to get that early strike in there first.  Secondly this is the beginning of the rescheduled Newbie Blogger Initiative month.  This is something I have participated in since 2013, and feel a sense of obligation each year to do so again.  The problem is that after all these years I am questioning if I have any fresh wisdom to give out to the participants.  Blogging is one of those things that while we can commune as a group…  there comes a point where you are sitting in front of the tyranny of the blank page and only you can push through it.  We all have mornings when thinking let alone blogging is a difficulty, and for me this is one of them.  However as per my own statement… I am going to push through and make something happen.

So You Want to Blog

It seems like almost every year I start the proceedings off with something along the lines of that paragraph.  The truth is, only you can really look inside of yourself and see if there is a blog there waiting to spring forth into the world.  For me personally… I guess I was always a blogger and just never quite realized it.  I was extremely prone to posting “big damned walls of text” in on any subject I happened to be passionate about.  Early on the topic of choice were the White Wolf World of Darkness role-playing books or the Palladium system.  Later it became games as I even started writing reviews of Saturn and Playstation games for a small emulation and general gaming website.  I really came into my own when it came to MMOs and I haunted the forums of pretty much all of the games I played be it Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot, City of Heroes or eventually World of Warcraft.  I had this burning drive to talk about the things I was interested in and to share my ideas, and while a lot of my topics were fostering the community…  a lot of them were just talking about my experiences.

On the forums for the server I used to play on… I became one of the white hats that regular rode in to chastise the evil doers, but at the same time freely shared game advice if I had any to give.  If you have ever found yourself doing these things…  chances are you really do have a blog inside of you waiting to get out.  Now the real challenge is trying to direct that unfocused information into a meaningful form.  Many bloggers will tell you that the secret to success is to pick a niche and stick with it… and become the be all end all site to go to for that subject.  That is probably some absolute truth, but it is also something I was never terribly good at.  This blog after all launched as a “Warrior Tanking Blog” just about as niche as you can possibly get… but the problem is I felt like a fraud doing that.  I was no real expert in being a warrior, nor was I an expert in tanking.  Both were things that largely came naturally to me, and it was baffling for me to try and explain what was largely pure instinct.  So I took a step back and decided to refocus on Raiding… until I realized that I wasn’t a particularly brilliant raider either.  We did what we did to win and at our own pace, which isn’t exactly a sterling example of the craft.  As a result I kept setting up branding and then knocking them down… until I finally wound up with this simply being “my blog” without any other pretense, because “bel saying things” was a focus that I could actually stick with.

You’ll Need a Name

Ultimately where I am going with this… is that you are going to need a name to call your blog.  Some people have created perfectly brilliant names… that they quickly outgrow when they go through a similar digression like my own blog did.  I am lucky that “Tales of the Aggronaut” was fairly generic and that I could keep adapting it pretty easily to whatever I happened to be doing.  Aggronaut was my attempt at a clever name for a tank… and since I rarely don’t tank at least a little it has continued to work.  Other folks have created a perfectly lovely name for say a Warlock blog… only to find out later that playing a Warlock is not their primary calling in life and as a result they have to come up with something else.  Ultimately my advice I guess would be to come up with something that represents you the writer, and not necessarily the subject.  Clever names are awesome, but only so long as they actually are something that you feel comfortable sitting down and writing posts behind.  There are an awful lot of famous blogs out there… with completely boring or descriptive names.

I think most people envision brilliant branding of their website from the starting gate, but in truth you are probably better of just picking some minimal window dressing until you get a feel for where exactly you are going.  I maybe jumped into this whole concept with two feet hitting the ground in that I bought my domain name and had it completely set up and ready to go before I wrote a single post.  I guess that makes sense given that I write code for a living, but in truth you don’t need to do any of this quite yet.  Your best option is to simply lean on good ole WordPress.com or Blogger.com rather than to try and do the self hosting thing right out of the gate.  I lean heavily towards WordPress simply because you have a lot more options for if you decide to transition to self hosted at a later date.  Technically you can do the same thing with Blogger but the process is less seamless and from what I have read in “how to” articles way more hassle than the other option.  There is of course Tumblr as an option, but you are exposing yourself to a way more problematic community right out of the gate than I would suggest for any fledgling blogger.

You’ll Need Readers

Now for the hard part…  you’ve named yourself and set up a site…  now you need to hang out yours “open for business” sign and wait.  This is the part of the equation that can drive you completely insane when you realize that no one is actually reading what you are writing.  This is going to happen to everyone, but the positive of starting a blog during this month means that the other bloggers are going to at least help try and get you started.  Self promotion is one of those things that I am particularly bad at.  In theory you want to put your blog in front of as many eyeballs as you can, which means syndicating it to pretty much all of the available options.  I syndicate my posts each day to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Google Plus… and this is essentially like casting a net out into the water.  If you get a nibble more than likely folks will add your blog to their RSS feed and be done with it… and then you have a potential reader for life.  That is unless you do something so horrific as to cause them to go through the effort of actually removing a blog.  For me at least… once a blog makes it to my RSS feed I am pretty much going to read them forever.

The problem is… your stats will always seem insignificant.  You can drive yourself completely mad looking at them for too long when you watch as this post that you spent five minutes on got ten times the readers than that gem you spent several days on.  Amassing regular readers is a bit of a waiting game, but I will say that there are a few factors that seem to factor in.  Firstly you need to have some sort of a schedule.  Since taking my recent breaks my readership has gone to shit, but previously when I was doing the post every single day thing I had a fairly steady stream of readers each and every day.  Secondly you have to give them something interesting to read, and this can come from several different directions.  My personal theory is that if someone is going to read you for long one of two things are going to be happening.  Either you are posting such a wealth of information about a very specific subject as to turn yourself into the “resource” for that community, or they are sticking around because they care about you as a person.  I’ve tended to focus on the second part of that statement, and as a result have shared some super personal information with my readers.  It sometimes works, but ultimately you are going to have to figure out the points that work for you.  The problem with giving blogging advice is no two blogs are the same… nor do they even have the same goals.  We can throw information at you, but you will have to figure out which bits are relevant to you.

 

I wish you luck and look forward to reading your blog

Bel

 

 

NBI Talkback Four – Deadly Gamer Sins

As part of my continued attempt to complete the writing prompts as part of the Newbie Blogger Initiative, this morning I am tackling Talkback Challenge Four.  This one is a bit different than most because it is actually a series of questions about the “Seven Deadly Gaming Sins”.  This concept is courtesy of Joseph Skyrim who has outlined the series of questions as a way of getting to know our gaming habits better.  I have not done terribly many questionnaire type posts so this might be a little interesting.

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Lust – Do you enjoy games more if they have scantily clad and “interestingly proportioned” avatars? Do you like playing as one of these avatars? Why or why not?

Nope!  I am being honestly with this one because quite honestly there is this awkward uncanny valley thing going on when it comes to nudity in games.  It always feels extremely cringe worthy in part because developers have yet to figure out a way to do mature content without it either being soft core pornography or incapable of also showing human emotion at the same time.  As far as playing Avatars, that isn’t my shtick either.  Pretty much all of the characters I willfully play are like the ultimate version of myself, or more so how I wish I might be.  As a result I am always going to go with the heavily armored character, with badass armor plates everywhere.  While the subligar in Final Fantasy XIV is humorous, I am not the type of person to walk around in one.

Gluttony – Do you have a game backlog of unfinished games but still buy new games regardless? Why or why not?

I have a truly massive backlog of games that are unfinished, and I am mostly okay with this.  When I buy a game I don’t necessarily view it as “just” buying a game.  I also view it as me supporting the development of that game with my dollars.  Maybe that is a strange concept, but there are a lot of games that I am happy that exist whether or not I ever get around to playing them.  Additionally I am a sucker for a good sale, and sometimes I pick games up in the hopes that I will actually get around to playing them because they were pennies on the dollar of the original price.  When I pay full price for a game I always play it, pretty much immediately.  The bargain basement games however, sit in the stack waiting for me to find the time and the drive to dig into them.  I really need to resurrect the Steampowered Sunday concept again and start digging through my backlog.

Greed – Do you enjoy hand outs in a game? Have you ever opted to NOT do an action / in game activity because the rewards were lacking? Why or why not?

Oh absolutely on this one, as far as opting out of not doing something because there was no reward in it.  I am most guilty of this in World of Warcraft, because when I reach a point where I can no longer receive upgrades on a given character…  I lose all desire to keep doing  the content.  This is more than just a loot issue however because there are games where the content itself is the reward.  Some games are only valuable to me so long as there is a carrot being dangled in front of me.  For example I generally love running dungeons, but the hassle of running heroics in World of Warcraft is not worth the non-existant rewards that can be gained from doing it.  On the other hand in Final Fantasy XIV I am almost always down for running a dungeon (except Aurum Vale because fuck Aurum Vale) and there is quite literally nothing of use that I can get from most of them.  The experience is worth my time even when the rewards are not.

Sloth – Do you ever leech or AFK in a party? Do you discourage others from attempting things that you feel are difficult? Have you ever seen someone that needed help, but decided not to help them? Why or why not?

I’ve never leeched experience or AFK’d in a party other than you know…  to go do something important in the real world for a brief period of time.  There are times though that I do get pessimistic when I don’t feel like we can defeat a given content.  I tend to play MMOs and there is a hard fact that sometimes there are simply gear checks that a group is not ready for.  So while I see myself as being a pragmatic voice of reason… there are some who could see me as discouraging the group.  As far as seeing someone in need of help… if someone is struggling with content I will almost always try and lend a hand in a game setting.  I am one of those people who runs over and helps attack random monsters, because it is in my nature to do so.  As far as dungeons and raids and such, it all depends on what my overarching mission for the night is or how much time I might have.

Wrath – Ever get angry at other players and yell (or TYPE IN CAPS) at them? Have you ever been so angry to stalk a person around in game and / or in the forums? Why or why not?

The me that existed around Lich King absolutely did this thing.  In fact I have a lengthy post about the “Bunny Incident” if someone is interested in reading about it.  The current me… I try really hard to be overwhelmingly positive.  Mostly I went through a bad spot mentally for awhile… and then I took the advice of “fake it until you make it” and quite literally it did help.  Over time I became  a much happier person and additionally more balanced.  There are some people though that seem to hate me and I do find myself obsessing about them a bit.  Trying to figure out exactly what I might have done to them to make them so upset with me.  I have this overwhelming need to be liked that no matter what I try I cannot quite shake.  I am working on it, but it is like the polar opposite of Wrath.

Envy – Ever felt jealous of players who seem to be able to complete content you can’t? Do you ever suspect they are hacking or otherwise cheating? Why or why not?

For the most part no on this one.  I don’t really see myself as some pinnacle of gaming skill.  I am just a guy that enjoys piddling around in video games.  I am not a terribly competitive person, and as such when I get bested in skill I just move on knowing that the player was better than me.  I do take pride in things like tanking, but I think that is slightly different.  As far as Envy goes…  I don’t ever get jealous of content that people are able to complete.  There are times I do get frustrated when players are at a level that I know they did not earn themselves, but are bragging about it.  Anyone that worked their way up through the content on their own merit and through the blood sweat and tears that comes from weeks of wiping…  those folks earned every last drop and I would never be jealous of anyone who put in the effort I did not.

Pride – Are you one of those people that demands grouping with other “elite” players? Do you kick players out of your team who you feel are under-performing? Why or why not?

Nope! I love my “scrubs” and “casuals” for the most part.  Now on the raiding side I do tend to demand that players put in some effort.  That said I am more than willing to teach someone the ropes, and explain fights.  This has been one of the great things for me when it comes to the Final Fantasy XIV community.  Overall folks have been more than willing to stop and take the time to explain the encounters when someone says they are brand new to it.  As far as raiding goes you ultimately have to do what is best for the team.  If you have a player that is simply not performing, and even though you have spent time working with them… simply cannot compete at the level the rest of the team is.

Under those circumstances then yes, absolutely I would trim that player from the raid and replace them with someone that was able to “keep up”.  That is the thing about raiding is that essentially it is a “team sport”.  On many fights you are only as good as your weakest link, and even though it might suck to do it… you have to do what is needed for the raid group to progress.  That does not make the person a bad player or a bad person… and outside of the raid environment I would not think any less of them.  I like to keep a line of separation between “Guild” and “Raid” for this reason.  The guild is a social structure and the raid is a working group designed to complete a task.  Folks have to be understanding that while everyone can be in the guild, not everyone is ready to put out the effort needed to be in the raid.  I don’t necessarily see this as a “pride” thing but more a “taking the needs of the team” into account.

Talkback Challenge 1

Avoiding a Topic

First off I have to say I am a huge proponent of the Newbie Blogger Initiative, and try my best to do whatever I can to support it.  Unfortunately I do a pretty bad job of actually participating in anything that is going on the forums.  This year I had told myself that I would try really hard to participate more and do more of the various writing prompts.  You know that whole “lead by example” type argument.  The problem is the very first topic is something that I find both repulsive and deeply scary at the same time.  Izlain seems to love to revel in controversial topics, and has recorded podcasts on various incendiary topics in the past, so I really should not be shocked this ended up as a writing prompt.

The aim of the Talkback Challenge is to engage new bloggers on a topic and provide contrasting views on that specific matter. It is also designed to encourage follow-up discussions and blog posts which further widen the level of interaction. The goal is to generate discussion on newbie blogs, raise their respective profile and share traffic. The NBI has run such activities for several years now and they have proven both informative and engaging. The opening topic for debate this time round is “how did GamerGate affect you”?

The prompt itself is pretty straight forward.  How were you effected by GamerGate, but the answer as always is far more nuanced.  I just finished writing my Bonanza post over on MMOGames and during the course of it I ran through all of the responses to this question that were available at the time of posting.  I was somehow bolstered by the fact that the majority of these posts seemed to have no real effect.  The problem is…  for those who were effected this is a really touchy subject.  The fact that someone actually wants to be talking about this makes me realize that in truth they were largely left unscathed.  All of this said, I am going to tackle this topic because I promised myself that I would actually do the writing prompts.

Talkback Challenge 1

GamerGate cycled through the community like nothing I had ever seen before.  It was swift and it was obnoxious…  and quickly moved into the realm of the really damned creepy.  Folks were using the tag without really understanding the consequences.  The claim of the movement is that GamerGate is “About Ethics in Journalism” but this claim has never really matched up to the effects seen in the community.  So much so that this has become a meme and filed away in the internet as yet another meaningless phrase.  What I saw instead was a lot of my friends getting really scared to speak their mind.  This hive mind of hatred seemed to be going after anyone who was “different” from what they saw as the cultural norm.  This meant that women and the lgbt community seemed to garner the brunt of the assault.  I talked to lots of friends who considered just stopping blogging because of the fear and paranoia that was rampant.

The problem is I am by nature not extremely combative.  You can make personal attacks against me and it really usually doesn’t phase me.  However when you take on my friends, and make them feel less than what they are…  then I start to get upset.  In the grand scheme of things I didn’t speak out as harshly as I probably should have on the subject.  I made a pretty general post about how I wish we would “Be Awesome Human Beings”.  Which drew the attention of a Gater that followed me and proceeded to try and argue with me about ethics in journalism in the comments.  I didn’t want to get drawn into his discussion and he kept trying to bring me back to his personal brand of right wing philosophy.  Ultimately I ended up un-following and blocking the person on twitter.  Within a few days of posting this relatively straight forward article, my blog came under fire of a DDoS.  At first I thought nothing about it, since hosting companies get denial of service attacks all of the time.  The thing is… it seemed to be targeted at ONLY the server cluster my blog was on.

Message Delivered

A short time after that my twitter handle appeared on a list of supposed “Social Justice Warriors” that were to be avoided.  Granted half of the people I know ended up on that same list, but while it was a point of pride… it also felt a bit like a veiled threat.  It felt very much like a list of people who “thought wrong” and should be targeted.  When you combine that with the DDoS I won’t like it freaked me out a bit.  I tried my best to exorcise my social networks of any Gamer Gate sympathizers, or at least the ones who were loudly supporting it… and I moved on with my life.  I tried my best to support those who were getting attacked, but I didn’t feel like I supported the other extreme either.  Ultimately I just wanted us all to get along and stop being assholes to each other.  That is the mission I have kept trying to move forward.  I am a tiny blue dot in a very read ocean, but I manage to get along with most of my friends, coworkers and neighbors because we respect each other not enough to try and jam our own personal philosophies down each others throats.

The problem is Gamer Gate has left me scarred.  When someone new follows me on social media the first thing I do is scan down through their posting history to make sure they are not somehow a GG leaner.  I don’t want to make people out to be the bogeyman of the internet, but I also don’t really want that sort of influence screwing up my relatively happy place.  I have tried my best to limit the about of negativity in my world.  It ultimately makes me a happier person, and GG and the vehemently Anti-GG communities both are something I can do without.  That said I am by no means trying to be neutral anymore.  I am not a supporter of the GamerGate community by any means, and the whole situation deeply saddens me.  I don’t want to be made to feel like shit for anything I do, from anyone.  So I am going to keep doing what I am doing, and keep enjoying the things I enjoy and try my damnedest to forget the negative forces still exist.  You cannot get me to believe like you do by yelling at me louder, and you cannot convince me of your point with circular logic.  Ultimately I hope the internet and gamers in particular mature and learn to make decisions on their own merit and not connected to some larger agenda.