Reluctant Blogger

My First Blog

nbimmogames-666x271 This mornings blog post is inspired by a conversation I saw yesterday between two friends about the starting of a new blog.  There are many people that have this strong desire to start a blog, but for whatever reason lack the confidence to push them over the edge to actually putting a plan in motion.  Some people are gifted with a clear vision for what they want to write about, and a firm purpose to make it all happen.  That unfortunately is not most of us.  Most of us have this burning desire to write, but are also strapped with crippling self doubt.  While I might look like I know what I am doing, I am here to tell you that every single day is a struggle to keep making content.  While I have been doing this for six years now, and been doing the every day thing for two…  I still don’t really know what I am doing on a regular basis.  I take each new day as it comes and try and figure out exactly what I should be doing in the process.

This morning I want to tell you a story about another blog.  I started Tales of the Aggronaut in 2009 with a firm purpose, and a vision for what I wanted it to be.  The thing is..  I never would have gotten to that point had another blog not existed.  Back in 2005 I stared a blogspot blog because I had this overwhelming desire to write.  The problem being that I didn’t really know what to write about.  I mostly wrote about my misadventures, and a little bit about the ins and outs of our family.  But early on I knew there was a big part of my life that I just wasn’t talking about… because I felt like no one would want to hear about it.  So my first blog was ultimately a failure because it didn’t really represent my gaming.  Additionally Tales of the Aggronaut I feel was an initial failure because it failed to represent more than just my gaming hobby.  What finally ended up working…  eight years later…  was a blending of both.  Lots of gaming, but still the freedom to talk about whatever else happened to be happening to me.

Reluctant Blogger

My first blog was a blog that hardly anyone read, because I lacked the self confidence to talk about it publically.  It was very much a private journal that I let the occasional person know about.  The folks that did read it seemed to like it, and urged me to do more, but in the back of my head there was always this nagging voice.  “There is nothing you have to say that isn’t already being said… and  being said better.”  This is the voice you have to ignore to be able to keep blogging, because it never really goes away.  There is not a single day when I don’t hear it still.  Every time I hit the publish button I have to hold my breath and close my eyes and click it… because even after doing this for all these years I still struggle to defeat my inner doubt.  It would be amazing if I could tell you that it just magically goes away, but I can at least say that over time it lessens.  The voice has less sway over me than it once did, which I guess is a step in the right direction.

You might say to yourself that you have nothing to say, and that others are saying it better…  but the act of you saying it makes it special and unique.  I could read fifty blog posts on exactly the same subject and each and every one would have some nugget that the others did not.  While we might be espousing the same ideas… each of us is adding our own experience to that mix.  Right now, before you start down this journey you might believe that you don’t have a voice worth hearing but I am telling you that you do.  Be honest with yourself, and write about the things you want to write about…  and somewhere in between your voice will trickle to the surface.  Blogging is not about being controversial or brilliant, but instead about being honest and letting the world see who you really are and what think.  This act of sharing is precious, and makes whatever it is that you choose to share more than worthy of our attention.  We are this culmination of our emotions, experiences, actions and thoughts wrapped up together making anything you have to say on any subject uniquely nuanced.

Lets Get Started

As I wrote to the Wayward Bloggers a few days ago, this morning I am writing to the Reluctant Bloggers.    I am addressing the folks that want to start a blog but for whatever reason are being held back from doing so.  If you are watching the Newbie Blogger Initiative and feel that tiny tug trying to get you to start your own epic blog, I ask you to hop down off the fence you are sitting on and get started.  The Newbie Blogger Initiative is the perfect time to get things in motion because you have an entire community waiting her ready to give you that hand up.  There are an almost overwhelming number of ways to get started.  Most people start with either a WordPress.com or a Blogger.com and go from there.  Blogger is without a doubt the easiest way to get started, but WordPress will make transitioning to a self hosted site in the future less of a hassle.  In either case, the act of getting something started is the important thing.  If these seem “too real” for you to get your feet wet, then I suggest starting a blog on Anook.com and seeing how things work for you.

Some people are gifted with the ability to start writing quality content from day one.  In my permission to suck post from last year I talk about the fact that I was not one of those people.  I struggled for a long time to find my format and to find my voice.  My blog itself has gone through so many transitions from WoW Blog, Rift Blog, to ultimately becoming a fairly game agnostic blog about me as a person and my gaming habit.  The truth is that you should expect to hate the first dozen posts you make within a years time.  Like I said there are the occasional folks that can crank out amazing stuff, but I personally would be happy never to see the first several years worth of posts on this blog.  The awesome thing about being human beings is that we are able to change and to adapt, and expect your blog and your writing to do the same.  Just like learning to ride a bike was wobbly at first, your blog will be a bit wobbly and that is okay.  You are doing something that you are going to get better at, and we as a community will be here to help you.  Now you simply have to get started.

Class of 2014

Class of 2013 Revisited

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

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

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

Class of 2014

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

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

Gaming Lite

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

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


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

Not as Hard as it Seems

So You Want to Blog

This will be my third year participating in the Newbie Blogger initiative, and each year I have lead off with a post along these lines.  Without a doubt the hardest part of blogging is some how conquering that little voice in your head that says that you shouldn’t.  If you can ever defeat this inertia you can do truly wonderful things.  The problem is, this is the step no one can really help you with.  If you are like those of us who are already blogging…  you have ideas and thoughts that you feel like sharing with the world.  Chances are you started out as a poster on your guilds forums and then worked up courage to posting on your game forums.  Maybe you are the “social network pundit” that comments on various topics when someone else brings it up.

Essentially at this point you are this bottled up fountain of ideas.  I am here to tell you there is a cure for what ails you.  There is nothing quite so cleansing of these ideas as trying to write a post.  You can go from having thirty million things to say on a variety of topics, to not having a single thing at all to say when presented with the blank page of your own blog.  For the past year I’ve engaged in Mortal Kombat with the blank screen every single morning, and for better or worse made my mark on it.  When you finally wrangle an idea out of your head and break its will transforming it into written word…  it is a miraculous thing.

The hardest battle however is actually hitting that publish button.  There are many mornings I simply close my eyes and hit publish and then walk away from the screen for a few hours.  In truth this is helped by the fact that I write at 6 am as I am drinking my coffee and have a natural built buffer to keep me from fiddling with it otherwise known as my drive into the office.  There are going to be days where you write something you thought was great… and no one seems to care.  You are going to have topics that you threw together in five seconds that get way more hits than the rest of your blog combined.  But at the end of the day you get to call yourself a blogger, in a completely real fashion.  You are a content creator, you put words out into the internet and even if no one knows who you are…  eventually those words will reach someone thanks to the sorcery that is Google… and hopefully touch them in some way.

Not as Hard as it Seems

There are a lot of decisions to be made about your blog, but the most important one hopefully is that you have decided to make one in the first place.  There are tons of great free options that you can have started and running in a few minutes.  I happen to be in the WordPress camp and I choose to host my own version of the software.  However there are many people who have great results with Blogger, including my own wife.  I personally suggest you create a little proto-blog on each of the services and get a feel for how the tools work.  They each offer unique benefits, but also have some unique constraints as well.  I’ve personally found WordPress to be more flexible and more easily modified to do exactly what I want, however if Google already controls your life… then Blogger more easily integrates with G+ and Drive.  In either case you can literally have a blog up and running and open to the world in less than ten minutes.

There are as many ways to write a blog as there are people.  Some folks like to stage the entire post in a word processor and cut and paste bits into the blog software when they are ready to post.  For a few particularly tricky posts I have done this with a Google doc that allowed me to “chew on” the topic for awhile before finally entering it into my blog.  Other people like to stage their posts ahead of time in the blog software and schedule a specific post time.  This allows you to write an entire weeks worth of posts in a Saturday afternoon and have them trickle out throughout the week.  I’ve never been a huge fan of this, but it works well for a lot of people, especially those who write for multiple blogs.  Ultimate you have to find the option that works best for you.  I highly suggest you try lots of different things.  If you read my early posts they look nothing and feel nothing like they do currently.  This was a slow evolution over time where I found what I liked and didn’t like and started to develop my own blogging style book of sorts.  Ultimately you will end up doing the same thing for your blog whatever it might be.

Picking a Format

Now we start getting down to the more difficult decision territory.  Your blog is this “thing” and that thing needs to have a hook that will draw people in.  What is your “thing”, are you supremely devoted to this one game or even this one niche of this one game… or are you more of a generalist wanting to talk about lots of different things.  Tales of the Aggronaut for example started its life with the intent of being a World of Warcraft blog.  More so than that… the intent was to be a World of Warcraft Warrior Tanking blog.  A niche within a niche within a very specific game.  I have to say there is a beauty and a simplicity of writing a blog about one specific thing.  When someone asks you what your blog is about you have a very handy answer, that immediately makes sense…  at least to anyone who has ever played World of Warcraft.

I quickly realized that I had boxed myself in a corner, because it meant that from that point onwards… I would have to write about World of Warcraft Warrior Tanking.  The biggest advice that I can give you after five years of blogging… is to pick a “thing” that is livable.  Essentially you want to try your best to quell any excuse you might have NOT to post a blog post.  For the first few years of my blog there were some massive lapses in posting, and each one relates to a period where I just was not feeling the theme of my blog.  I didn’t want to be a rant blog, and if I didn’t have anything that made me excited about something… I stopped writing about it at all.  This was the achilles heel of being about a specific thing.  So I went through a series of “format changes”.  For awhile I tried to be a blog about raiding, or a blog about World of Warcraft in general.

Finally I had a massive reboot and become an official Rift Fansite for a bit, when I was hot and heavy over that title.  Thing is it wasn’t just my site that was changing, but it was me as well.  I had played this one game for seven years and I was entering a phase in my gaming where I didn’t really want to be tied down to this one thing any longer.  I am so thankful that early on I picked a pretty ambiguous title for the blog.  “Tales of the Aggronaut” can be so many things, and regardless of the game I am playing I always seem to have Tanking tendencies…  so Aggronaut always makes sense.  Had I been thinking properly at the time I would have simply named my blog Belghast.com and been done with it, shedding all illusion about what it would be.  Having an open ended name to the blog has allowed me to shift the format around a bit to fit whatever felt right at the time.

Now five years on you have a blog that is vastly different than where we started.  I am now habitually and happily poly-amorous when it comes to gaming, and my blog has become a cult of personality of sorts.  People are interested in reading what I write more than what I happen to be writing about.  I feel grateful and lucky to have reached that point, however in the beginning after watching lots of new bloggers hit the scene… it is probably better to try and be a blog about a “thing”.  Those blogs seem to have far better traction because they are easily relatable and more importantly easily integrated to an existing community that is whatever that “thing” happens to be.  All that said… when you name your blog, I highly suggest you give yourself an escape clause. Name your blog something that will make sense as this “thing” you want to write about, but also make sense as something else too.

Accessing the Community

I know the irony that is me writing about community after various posts I have made in the past about blogs and community.  However if your blog is going to get traction you need a community to support it.  This can mean different things, but ultimately you want to find a niche in the “thing” you are writing about, and also a niche in the community of bloggers that share that space.  This is the aspect of the Newbie Blogger Initiative that makes it so helpful.  By starting a blog right now, you are getting dumped into a shared space with lots of other budding bloggers, and a huge chunk of the blogging community is paying attention to you.  For example within the next few days I will be starting up a special blog roll again just for the NBI Class of 2014 giving each new blogger prime placement in my visual blog roll.  Similar lists are going to be spread throughout the verse showing you as someone they should be checking out.

One of the hardest things I find about making a successful blog is the self promotion aspect.  It is the piece that feels the least genuine and the most needy.  By entering the Newbie Blogger Initiative you are getting a bit of a pass on this one… at least for a little while.  We the established bloggers are going to be doing your promotions for you.  All you need to do is sit down and focus on producing great content.  There has been talk over the last few years that blogging is a dying art form.  While I don’t necessarily agree with the dying part… I do agree that we are in desperate need of fresh blood in our community.  So much of what we do is fed by interaction with others, and we need an ever widening circle of people to talk with.  There are moments when I swear I have had the same discussion with the same bloggers multiple times… and the more of us IN that conversation the less that is going to happen.  Won’t you please join the madness that is blogging, and leave your mark upon our community?

#NewbieBloggerInitiative #NBI2014 #GettingStarted #JoinUs

Sponsors Unite

Class of 2013

nbilarge

Yesterday the 2013 Newbie Blogger Initiative officially kicked off and the new blogs are starting to trickle into the forum.  Yesterday I updated my blogroll to include the five blogs that had signed up to date, and over the night another two have joined the fray.  Here is hoping that the effort will continue to grow throughout the month.  Last time we ended up with I believe 110 new blogs starting the process, so we have a long ways to go before we see those numbers.

I will update my blogroll accordingly later today… but currently this years crop looks a little something like this…

Check them out and give them some link love.

Sponsors Unite

Similarly, yesterday kicked off quite a number of “advice” posts from the sponsors.  Like always these varied in topic greatly covering general tips, where to find inspiration, and various technical tidbits.  I am sure in the coming days we will be seeing a lot more of these posts but so far here is the run down of topics that were posted as of this morning.

I am sure as the month rolls on, we will see quite a few more sponsor posts as well.  I think for the first day, the program was pretty well represented.  My goal is to do a short daily synopsis of what all has been happening on the days I am not posting an advice article myself.

Heroic Characters

EverQuest2 2013-10-02 06-22-05-44

A few days ago I had posted about the fact that October 1st was the beginning of the ability to create a free Heroic Character in Everquest 2.  Most of us initially thought this was for subscribers only… or in EQ2 nomenclature “Gold Members”.  However yesterday Stargrace of MMO Quests pointed out that ANYONE can log in and create a free level 85 character during the October 1st – October 15th period.  Additionally they have once again tightened the reins of the free to play restrictions.  Previously it was extremely frustrating to play a free to play character, because you could not equip Legendary or higher items…  which meant that essentially you could not equip anything that came from a dungeon or most world drops.

With the introduction of Heroic Characters, all of these item locks are gone… as are the various items that were sold on the store to unlock the ability to equip them.  Additionally as of yesterdays patch… much like they did in the past with other expansions… Destiny of Velious is now included for free.  This gives you access to content up to level 95, and covers all of the newer zones added into the game.  They have also broken up the Age of Discovery features into bite sized chunks that allow you to gobble up only the pieces you want, for example you can buy access to mercenaries only, or just the beastlord class.  Since they are removing some of the appeal for remaining a gold member, they have added in a permanent +15% coin loot bonus and +10% mount speed bonus to all existing gold members.  They have also mentioned they will be adding more perks into the equation to keep maintaining gold level a valuable thing.

The Swash and Berserker

EverQuest2 2013-10-02 06-37-39-56

Wanting to take advantage of the free promotion, I logged in both of my accounts last night and created and or upsized characters on each.  For some time I had been trying to level a dps character on my main account, and had created Belgrifter a Ratonga Swashbuckler.  Namely the Swash is a very high survival dps, and I was having a decent time leveling him.  Ultimately I ran into the same roadblock I ran into with all of my characters however.  Once you have had flight in EQ2, you simply do not want to level a character without it.  So essentially I was stuck with a decision… either grind up tradeskills or grind up levels.  I managed to push him up to 55 before something shiny caught my eye and I abandoned the effort.

Since I could not really see myself returning to playing him until I had flight… I decided to go ahead and use that accounts token to super size my Ratonga.  The gear that they give you is extremely nice… far nicer than the gear I have ever started velious content in before.  I seriously doubt if I will replace any of it during the Othimir quests, it seems to be on par with that level of item.  The weapon choices were a little wonky, giving me a sword and a mace… but I can live with that.  The big problem is I have NEVER used a mace on my rat… but they auto leveled all of my weapon skills for me… so that really is not a problem.

If you look at the image from the above paragraph you will see Belglaive my new 85 Iksar Bezerker.  On my second account I mostly had support classes, as I used to regularly dual box before the release of Mercenaries.  As a result I really did not have anything “tanky” on that account.  If I ever wanted to dual box again, I figure it would end up extremely handy to have access to a tank, and Bezerker is the one I have never really played to high levels.  I have a very small dwarven one on my main account, but I think he is somewhere in the 30s.  The best thing is… the changes give me full access again to my Dark Elf Warden, since I had stopped playing him due to the item restrictions and not wanting to maintain a second subscription.

Wrapping Up

The ability to create a free level 85 character is an extremely amazing offer.  If you have ever considered playing EQ2, I highly suggest you make an account during the 1-15 period and create a level 85 even if you do not intend to play it right now.  You can do a lot of cool stuff with an 85, and even use it to feed lower level characters items.  I have always loved EQ2, and I will admit the prospect of fresh high level characters has gotten me pumped about playing it some again.  Just not sure how often I will do so… given my current addiction to Final Fantasy XIV.  If you do end up rolling characters, I highly suggest Antonia Bayle the Roleplaying server.  It has probably the best community I have seen in any game… other than potentially Landroval in LOTRO.

Bring On The Storm Legion

It is the beginning of a new month, and with it closes the #NBIMMO fun.  As a result Syp has posted a poll for the NBI Awards on Bio Break.  You can cast your vote in categories like “Promising Star, Game Specific” and “Most Interesting Angle”.  The categories have narrowed down the field with five blogs competing for each award.  I am not really sure how long the voting is set to run, but get over there are show all these new blogs some love.

Entering the Storm

There had been some rumors circulating about this, but yesterday Trion dropped a 100 megaton bombshell on the community announcing their upcoming feature rich expansion: Rift: Storm Legion.  The announcement of a new expansion is never that huge of a surprise. We have come to expect them roughly a year after release. However this is one of the most ambitious and feature packed expansions that I have seen in recent memory.  Some of the features include:

  • Two huge new continents, reportedly more than tripling the size of the existing game world.
  • Dual-faction island city of Tempest Bay.
  • Four new souls, one for each of the callings
  • Level cap raised to 60
  • Ability to “Instant Adventure” your way from 1-60 if you choose.
  • Greater variety of onslaughts, rifts, and events.
  • Seven new dungeons zones.
  • Three new raid zones.
  • A new single player Chronicle.
  • Massive colossus battles that supposedly effect the world in ways we have not yet seen.
  • Personal dimensions:  Guild and Player Housing.
  • New “Cape” inventory slot.
  • New Grandmaster tier of crafting.
  • New puzzles, artifacts, collectables, achievements, mounts, pets, titles and more.

The Past Year

screen_img3A little less than a year ago, I made on post on this blog titled “It’s Not You, It’s Me”, where basically I admitted to cancelling rift and outlining some of my reasons for doing so.  There are multiple reasons, some of which I have come to realize really were about me, and my lack of wanting to commit to doing any form of organized gameplay.  I can’t hold any game responsible for that, because honestly it has been an evolution I have gone through, from very serious raider, to very serious casual player.  Since then I have played a ton of EQ2, LoTRO, gotten bored with SWTOR, and been dabbling in Guild Wars 2 and Secret World betas.

The primary problems I had with Rift, was the lack of “fluff” the world had.  Nothing in Telara seemed to exist, just for the fun of it.  All things seemed to be tied to some purpose, or needed by the single questing patch per faction.  I enjoyed the game, but just ran out of things I felt worthy of doing.  There were plenty of collections and achievements that I could have gone after, and I had many factions I could be running dailies with, but when I ran out of quest storyline, I just ran out of things I was interested in.  Rift events were a blast, but after a point they also became old.

Trion Listened

screen_img5I can’t say that Trion listened to me, I don’t have the ego to even imagine that, but what I can say is that my entire guild seemed to go through the same gradual leaving that I did.  We went from having 50 active players, to 10, to 5, to none.  So while they may not have listened to me, I can tell they heard the community as a whole that wandered off, because in the last year they have been insanely busy.  I stopped actively playing the game sometime last June.  Here is a list of some of the major content achievements as taken from this amazing “welcome home” thread, for folks coming back to the game.

  • PVP Rifts.
  • Cross Server Looking For Group.
  • 3 “Sliver” 10 Man Raids.
  • Chronicles Solo/Duo Instances Added.
  • Planar Attunement Post 50 Advancement System.
  • Master-Mode Dungeons.
  • Support for player made Add-ons.
  • Ember Isle – New questing zone for level 50 characters.
  • Instant Adventures – LFG open world adventures.
  • Cross-Faction Auction House.
  • Rift Mobile App.
  • In-Game Character Weddings.
  • 6th Role Slot.
  • Crafting from bank.
  • Mercenary System to balance the sides in PVP Matches.
  • New Fishing and Survival Trade-skills.
  • New “Seal” crafted Inventory Slot.
  • Nameplates for mobs and players.
  • Streaming Client.
  • Guild Finder system.
  • Leaderboards.

Expansion before the expansion

screen_img6So in one year they have added an entire expansions worth of content already.  I’ve always respected the folks at Trion, and thought given time, they would turn the product into a really amazing place to be.  I subscribed for roughly a years time, even though I only played the game roughly 4 months.  I had faith in the team, and figured my subscription was a “donation to the cause” of sorts.  Seems like that “donation” has been repaid in massive amounts of hard work.  Even before the expansion proper launches, 1.9 is waiting in the wings and seems to fill up any of the remaining gaps in the game.

The two big things for me that are coming in 1.9 are Conquest Mode, and Mentoring.  Conquest promises to take us back to DAoC style 3 faction PVP.  I have long held the opinion that what is wrong with PVPin general, is the fact that games focus on the Red Vs Blue mentality.  I can remember in DAoC, the factions to some extent self balanced.  If one team was a bit stronger, the other two would temporarily gang up to even out the odds.  I think the Conquest mode will be a shot of adrenalin to a languid PVP culture.

If you’ve read my blog at all, you have heard me go on and on about mentoring and how great it is.  Literally this is the one feature that I think every game needs.  Being socially focused, it gets frustrating when new friends start and you can’t really help with out without absolutely steamrolling content for them.  This is really no fun for anyone, for you laying waste without consequences is boring.  For your friends, they end up just following you around aimlessly never actually learning how to play their classes.  When you can mentor down to your friends, and run the content for real, you get to relive the experience and do so with your buddies.

A Pat on the Back

It is so easy to focus on the negative things in the game industry.  Trust me there are plenty, and I have been a bitter ass for a very long time when it comes to the flaws in games.  That said, I feel that it is all the more important that we point out what is going right in the industry.  With the expansion, Trion will have added in every single one of the “must have” features I could even muster.  On top of that, it triples the size of its game world, and with that comes a flood of new content for players to experience.  Essentially they have answered the challenge posed by all of us who unsubscribed, and have done so in really heroic fashion.

I still very much love Norrath, and am having a blast still in Everquest II, but I almost feel like I need to resub to Rift just to applaud them for their efforts.  At this point I have been gone long enough that essentially I will need to completely re-roll to remember how the hell anything works.  That said I think I will be doing just that, and taking a tour of all the changes first hand. 

I had already decided that I would not really be playing Guild Wars 2 or Secret World anymore until the launch.  I played enough of the games to realize I liked it, so I don’t want to wear off that new game smell.  So between the ever present EQ2, Rift, Diablo 3, and piddling around with SWGEmu… I think I will have plenty to do for the foreseeable future.  It needs to be said:  Great job Trion.

NBIMMO: Resources and Final Thoughts

#NBIMMO

nbilarge

Well apparently it is that time, the end of the Newbie Blogger Initiative month.  I think overall it has been a great success for the community.  Syp has a nice wrap up post, and a list of all the blogs and articles over on his site Bio Break, so rather than copypasta, I will just send you guys there.  Huge thanks to Syp for pulling this all together, and it cannot be sheer consequence that this all culminates on his birthday.  So in addition to the thanks, sending a bit Happy Birthday your way.

The Cutting Room Floor

I’ve had a stack of posts kicking around in my skull for the better part of a month, but my schedule has been insane so none of them actually made their way to paper.  However since this is still technically within the month, I wanted to throw together a post I had been meaning to for a few weeks.  Essentially without really meaning to, I have come at my posts from the stance of helping bloggers through some of the more technical aspects of hosting your own blog.

In the process there have been several items I wanted to talk about, resources I wanted to share, that have just been left on the cutting room floor.  Pieces of debris that never quite made it into a fully realized topic form.  So as a warning, today’s topic is going to be a bit more freeform than normal for me.

Gaming Tooltips

One of the coolest inventions of the post-wow world is the tooltip script.  Essentially multiple websites now allow you to easily add a script snippet to your blog template, and then when you link to a given website it shows a nice mouse over popup of the items description.  These really add a nice level of detail to your posts, your readers can see exactly what an ability does when you talk about it, without you needing to devote time to actually explaining it.  If you want to talk about a nice piece of loot, you get instant access to the stats without needing to come up with some arcane formatting for it.

The first website I can ever remember doing this was Allakhazam, but over time more and more websites have adopted the practice.  Originally it was pretty contorted to get this information into your website, but now most of these sites offer a simple one line script include.  It is likely that whatever game you play, has someone offering a similar service, but below are some of the more common ones by game.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Torhead

Torhead offers for SWTOR the same level of support we are used to from WoWhead.  Updated constantly, should have pretty much any tooltip you would want to link to.  To include them in your site, just add this snippet somewhere in the header of your template.

   1: <script src="http://tor.zamimg.com/tooltips.js "></script>

The links that are produced look a little something like this:  Jolee Bindo’s Lightsaber

DarthHater DB

DarthHater really hit the ground running, and early on claimed a huge share of the item database traffic.  Does not seem to be nearly as complete as Torhead, but still definitely a viable option.  To include the links in your site, just add the snippet somewhere in the header of your template.

   1: <script type="text/javascript" src="http://db.darthhater.com/js/extooltips.js"></script>

The links that are produced look a little something like this:  Jolee bindo’s Lightsaber

KnoTOR

KnoTOR honestly seems to be abandoned, or at least they update extremely slowly.  I am including them however because they really had the nicest looking links available when it was being developed on actively.  To include the links in your site, just add the snippet somewhere in the header of your template.

   1: <script src="http://i4.knocdn.com/assets/tooltips.js "></script>

The links that are produced look a little something like this:  Jolee Bindo’s Lightsaber

World of Warcraft

WoWhead

Really as far as wow item databases go, the only one of any real significance at this point is WoWhead.  They came from out of nowhere and have continued to kick ass expansion after expansion.  To include the links in your site, just add the snippet somewhere in the header of your template.

   1: <script type="text/javascript" src="http://static.wowhead.com/widgets/power.js"></script>

The links that are produced look a little something like this:  Shadowmourne

Multi-Game Support

ZAM

The Allakhazam network has been around in one form or another since the opening days of the original Everquest.  They support pretty much every game that comes out.  The side effect of supporting everything however is that they may not support a specific game as good as another content specific provider.  However they are an add once, use many juggernaut for tooltips.  To include the links in your site, just add the snippet somewhere in the header of your template.

Supported Games
  • Everquest
  • Everquest II
  • Final Fantasy XI
  • Final Fantasy XIV
  • Lord of the Rings Online
  • Rift
  • Warhammer Online
  • World of Warcraft
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic
   1: <script type="text/javascript" src="http://zam.zamimg.com/j/tooltips.js "></script>

Some example links:  Sedition, Sword of the Bloodmoon, The Soul Reaper, Panzer Shield

Experimental

I wanted to include this one, despite the fact it is somewhat more experimental.  Ask Mr. Robot was an amazing resource for World of Warcraft gear planning.  They seem to have shifted focus over to Star Wars: The Old Republic, and with it they have a really cool item database in the works.  The integration process is not yet as simple as the others, but they have a blog post on integrating it with wordpress.  I personally have not gone through the trouble myself, but including this out there in case someone else wants to.

Those Amazing Fonts

nbi_fonts

Sooner or later you want going to want to do some work with interesting fonts, either to label images, or create logos for various post series.  The problem is the fonts included in windows are boring as hell.  Something a good number of users do not realize is that fonts are licensed, and the various font foundries have teams of rabid lawyers crawling the web looking for violators. 

The safest option is to simply stick to using nothing but freeware or open source fonts.  The big problem is, that if you type “Free Fonts” into Google you get a complete mess of sites that are sometimes a bit questionable at worst, and at best full of low quality fonts.  There are a few websites I have used for years, that have consistently high quality fonts.

Blambot

nbi_blambothttp://www.blambot.com

If you read comics at all, be they digital or print, chances are you have run into Blambot fonts and never knew it.  Personally I think they are the best font shop out there.  They sell their fonts for a pretty reasonable price, but even better they offer a good number of their more recognizable faces completely free.  All of the fonts in the above image are from Blambot, as are the fonts I use in the Tales of the Aggronaut logo.

DaFont

nbi_dafonthttp://www.dafont.com/en

While Blambot represents one amazing font studio, DaFont is essentially a massive search engine for awesome free fonts.  There are many websites out there that serve a similar purpose, but what sets DaFont ahead of the competition is the fact that it breaks fonts down into stylistic categories.  If you are looking for a fantasy font or a Sci-fi font, within moments you can instantly jump into long lists of similar styled fonts.  You are given a preview of the font in the main list, and can jump into a complete display of the entire alphabet for each.  They have a huge selection of open source versions of familiar type faces, so there should be something to fit any of your design needs.

Smashing Magazine

nbi_smashinghttp://www.smashingmagazine.com

I did warn you ahead of time, that this post was going to be pretty free form.  I am including this resource here because they do occasionally link awesome fonts.  More than anything this is just a great web design resource.  I have it in my RSS Reader and they cover everything from WordPress Tips, to Free Graphic resources, to of course great open source fonts.  If you are running a website in any form you need to watch this page periodically.

Software Resources

Gimp

nbi_gimphttp://gimp.org

Personally I am a Photoshop user, started using it somewhere around version 2.5 (circa 1994).  While it can do amazing things, it has an equally astonishing price tag associated with it.  It quickly becomes hard to justify the cost, if you are not using it professionally.  Luckily for the rest of the world, there is a great image manipulation software that is open source.

Gimp can do pretty much anything you will ever need to do from photo retouching, to painting, to really nice logo work.  It has a pretty rabid community supporting it, and there are plugins out there to do any manner of effects.  The biggest problem for me, is that coming from Photoshop, it has a very different user interface.  With the 2.9 release (not yet available for windows) supposedly it brings things more in line with the “Photoshop” standards.  However luckily for the Photoshop natives out there, there is a custom fork of the gimp project called Gimpshop.  Essentially it sets up the shortcuts and windows into a much more Photoshop like arrangement.

Inkscape

nbi_inkscapehttp://inkscape.org

If you are more familiar with vector graphics like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw, I have you covered too.  I am actually just starting to use this a bit myself.  I have been looking for a more simplistic vector program, and so far while I am still learning this one, it feels very robust.  I never actually learned Illustrator very well, and was a longtime Corel Draw user.  So far the controls and tools feel clean and familiar.  You have the ability to export your graphics as either an SVG directly for use on the web, or rasterizing it as one of many image formats.  Would have come in extremely handy back when I was trying to diagram WoW Raid strategies.

Windows Live Writer

nbi_livewriter

http://windows.microsoft.com/is-IS/windows-live/essentials-other-programs

I cannot express how much I love this software.  Writer used to be a stand alone project, but is now included as part of the Windows Live Essentials package.  While Windows Movie Maker is pretty awesome, the only part of this package I really use is Writer itself.  Essentially it acts as a WYSIWYG editor for your blog.  When you configure your blog with the software, it logs into your website and downloads all the CSS information for your theme.

If you look at the image above, that is side by side screenshots of my Secret World impressions post.  On the left is the site as I composed it in Live Writer, on the right is the site in Chrome.  This completely frees you from wondering what a given post will look and feel like when you publish.  The real money feature is the image manipulation.  You can resize the images freely, set the alignment, word wrap, margins, borders all without any manual manipulation.

Basically for me it frees me up to just write, without having to worry if it is going to look right or not.  Over the years I have noticed a good number of other bloggers using it.  People seem to either love it or hate it.  It supports a wide number of common blogging platforms.  I use it for example on my custom hosted WordPress, but I have also connected to a blogger and had equally good results.

Final Thoughts

While personally I have not participated in the NBIMMO as much as I would have liked this month, it has spawned an amazing number of quality blogs in the process.  Often times lately, my schedule has dictated that either I get to play the games, or write about them.  I more often than not choose to play, and as a result I go for weeks without posts.  Luckily however a good number of these new blogs have been extremely prolific.

I still think this was an amazing idea, and I hope as we officially exit NBIMMO month, the community sprit will continue.  While there are tons of us out there, we are at the end of the day a pretty small community.  I never would have started up my blog in the first place were it not for the great support of other game bloggers.  So I hope as time goes on, each of us can continue to offer support when others need it.