Easy Targets

Heartfelt Thanks

I want to lead off this morning by thanking everyone that responded yesterday to wish me well on my five year blogoversary.  It still seems a bit strange that I have been doing this that long, well technically I have been doing “this” the whole daily blogging thing only a year.  All the support you guys have given me has been awesome.  I greatly appreciate you all in so many ways.  I still feel like I don’t know what I am doing, but I just keep doing it anyways.  At this point the blogging thing is so ingrained in me that I think I would continue to post daily even if I had nothing to talk about.  Thankfully I always seem to be able to at least incoherently ramble, and that tends to fill a page faster than anything.

While we are on the topic of blogging and thanks, I wanted to take a quick moment to talk about the Newbie Blogger Initiative.  I have touched on this a few times over the last few weeks, but it is approaching quickly.  May First is the official launch of the 2014 edition of the Newbie Blogger initiative, whether you are a veteran blogger or someone who has always wanted to create a blog… we need you.  This year proves to be a really interesting run as things are changing up quite a bit.  There are awards with prizes attached to them for various things.  Additionally we will have a return of the Syl’s ever fun NBI Poetry slam, as well as some event nights.  Right now a massive hearthstone battle royale has been confirmed, and you can check up the sign up information here.  There is also a great idea for a League of Legends night, that I hope gets enough support to make as well.

The thing about blogging is for every one of us that are blogging daily, there are another batch that have either abandoned their blog or are sitting by the sidelines trying to muster the nerve to start blogging.  I was one of those people five years ago, and a similar community got me started.  I implore you to embrace this opportunity and either reignite your blogging passion or light a brand new spark.  Folks are constantly saying that blogging is dead as a medium, but each of us that do so regularly are thumbing our noses at this concept.  We need fresh blood to keep this gaming blogosphere alive and healthy and events like NBI shine a bright light on new talent.  This will be my third year supporting the effort, and I look forward to seeing a new crop of bloggers step up and do a better job than I ever could do.

Lost in the Desert

Since I had not streamed on twitch in a few days I decided last night I would fire it up while I wandered around in the desert.  Alik’r is an interesting zone and almost feels like two zones.  There was a series of frenetic feeling quests in the town of Sentinel as you saved it from a zombie invasion.  All the while doing so there was a call to purpose, a feeling that you had to keep moving or something horrible would happen.  Now that I am out in the desert proper, the feeling of the zone has changed again.  Now as I sift through the dunes looking for various points of interest, the feeling seems to be much more relaxed and similar to the way Stros M’kai felt.  This is good and bad, good in that I feel like I can take my time through the content… and bad in that I am horribly prone to completely lose focus.

One of the things I am really loving are the creatures out here.  The game does a really good job of disguising the fact that you are often fighting the same damned creatures over and over.  The first time I really noticed this was in beta and playing the different starter zone experiences.  In Ebonheart you had the fiery Shalk, Aldmeri you had Thunderbugs, and in Daggerfall you had Assassin Bugs.  They were all essentially the same mob, but each performed slightly differently in the kinds of attacks they would do.  In the desert of Alik’r I noticed that Dunerippers were essentially crocodiles but vastly different in appearance.  They shared quite a bit of similarity in the base model and the sweep attacks, but also incorporated the mudcrab dig attack and a model swap.  Noticed the same thing happening with the Jackals, that look extremely different from wolves but behave almost exactly the same.

All of this give a feeling that the world is related, and that the various creatures of Tamriel evolved from the same core at some point.  I think that is the thing I love more than anything else, that everything in Elder Scrolls Online has a certain “sameness” to it.  It all feels like it is part of the same world.  While a Dwemer ruin in Skyrim might look vastly different from one in the Alik’r desert… they all feel like they were from the same race.  This adherence to a “racial stylebook” makes the game feel amazing.  One of my big fears with Elder Scrolls Online and the announcement of the three factions is that they would somehow destroy the natural diversity of the Elder Scrolls setting.  However thankfully you are just as likely to find a Dunmer or Argonian NPC in the desert as you are to find a Redguard in Riften.  The game has managed to maintain the jumbled mess that is the Elder Scrolls setting.

Easy Targets

After awhile hanging out in mumble by myself I was joined by the illustrious Zelibeli and Jabberant, who decided they were on their way out to Cyrodil.  This was to be Zeli’s first foray into the frontiers, so I decided to halt my questing and tag along.  I warned them that I sucked horribly at PVP, but still managed to love Cyrodil.  In every conceivable way it is the Dark Age of Camelot frontiers.  You have three different realms that border the region, with lots of objectives scattered around the map.  Just like Dark Age of Camelot there are also numerous other things to do out there than just PVP.  We attempted to meet up with one of the bigger conflicts at first, but ended up getting completely rolled by a veteran three player a few times.  One of the interesting things about Cyrodil is that it instant levels you to 50 for the purpose of the content.  The only problem is it bolsters you to the BASE stats of a 50… not a 50 with full gear.  This means that a bolstered character will always be significantly weaker than a true 50… and even weaker still than a veteran rank player.

In large scale siege warfare this really doesn’t matter much since it is mostly a numbers game.  In one on one combat… the difference is extremely noticeable.  I felt like I simply could not deal enough damage to the veteran rank 3 player.  While I out survived both Zeli and Jabb this was simply to my tanky nature more than anything else, and still even after having fought two other players the guy completely wrecked me.  As a result we ended up varying our goals and we set our sights on a skyshard.  One of the add-ons I have apparently shows the locations of all of the skyshards in Cyrodil, so I figured this would be a valuable excursion.  So we made our way to this tower guarded by goblins, with the skyshard very clearly at the top.  It took a few tries to finally reach the goal, as the moment we reached the tower initially we got attacked by several folks from Ebonheart also after the same goal.

Screenshot_20140421_211127

One of the cool things is there at the tower we picked up a quest to deliver a doctors bag to a town there in Cyrodil.  We did not do this however as the town in question was deep within currently Ebonheart held territory.  That seems like a grand mission for another night.  After a lot of faffing about we ended up picking up another guildie, Barose and heading to a dungeon.  I think it is really awesome that there are full dungeons scattered around the map in Cyrodil.  This one was a really nifty vampire dungeon and I ended up getting so much loot that I had to “mail bank” a ton of it to Rae.  Apparently I ended up sending her 9 emails full of it before the night was up.  The PVP dungeons seem to drop loot as though they were a group dungeon, but overall seemed easier in scale.  I am guessing they are rewarding us for the risk of doing PVE content in a PVP zone, where any group of players could hop into the dungeon and slaughter us in the process.

Overall it was a really great night and there is talk of trying to create some sort of formalized guild Cyrodil night.  If nothing else last night proved that there is plenty to do in Cyrodil even if you do not necessarily engage in siege warfare.  While I am not opposed to defending a keep or claiming one for our guild, I also want to explore all of the other dungeons out there and collect more skyshards.  For the longest time I had a point where I simply did not know where to spend points, but having leveled up a lot of abilities I seem to once again have more opportunities to spend them than points to spend.  I had a great time and I hope Zeli and Jabb both did as well.  Was really fun just hanging out and being horrible at PVP together.  You should totally join us the next time.

#ESO #ElderScrollsOnline #Cyrodil #PVP #NewbieBloggerInitiative

Crypt of Revenge

Cold Snap

badweatherbrewin The above photo is from this past Sunday evening, taken right before a massive line of storms blew in.  During the day on Sunday it was around 80* outside and Monday morning it was 35 out.  Over the night last night it dipped back down into freezing temperatures.  One of the problems with living in Oklahoma is the constant and ever changing weather patterns.  At this point I just wish it would realize we are in spring and not winter.  When I went out to lunch yesterday… it was snowing.  Not the occasional snowflake drifting down from above, but enough that I had to use my windshield wipers on a pretty high setting.  It was of course melting the moment it touched anything, but it was more than enough to be annoying.

Down the road from Tulsa in Porter they are extremely concerned about this years Peach harvest.  They had been talking on the news about planning on using helicopters to push warmer air down into the fields to keep the crops safe.  That didn’t seem terribly cost effective but I am sure it would at the very least be interesting to watch.  We actually had to turn on the heat again last night, and even this morning in my office that is normally the warmest part of the house it is really freaking chilly.  Can it be spring yet please?

Crypt of Revenge

Screenshot_20140414_200714 When I last stepped foot in the Crypt of Hearts I was level 26, and since then I have dinged 30 and upgraded a good chunk of my gear.  Similarly the healer that was also 26 is now 31 and during the day yesterday we plotted our revenge on the dungeon.  While it was enjoyable to get our asses handed to us the first time, this time around we wanted to wreck the place for taking our candy.  I have to say the levels and the gear helped massively.  In fact there were several moments last night where I ignored proper elder scrolls dungeon etiquette and just charged into the packs pulling everything at once.  For the most part we could mitigate the combat with the fact that we had a 37 and 38 dps with us.  The fights all still required us to pay attention to what was going on, and the mechanics were still very punishing, but they were not impassible.

Screenshot_20140414_202848 The boss encounter above was probably the most brutal thing we had experienced to date.  Even with the slightly overpowered damage it took us a few tries to get through it.  Essentially the skeletal juggernaut alternated between two attacks, the first being a linear charge across the room, and the second being quite possibly the largest AOE attack I have seen to date.  You have to avoid both successfully or you end up getting wrecked.  The area of effect is so large that you have to be running in the right direction AND then dodge out to clear it.  This means you have to save plenty of stamina in reserve to always have a dodge available.  The damage you take seemed to lessen depending on how close to the edge you managed to get before the attack fired off.  While punishing, it was still a really cool encounter to experience.

City of Ash

Screenshot_20140414_203939 After defeating the Crypt we decided to continue our journey into the City of Ash.  This dungeon represents and entirely new kind of dungeon crawl from the other ones we had experienced in Elder Scrolls Online.  The back story for the dungeon is that you are trying to save a Bosmer city that is being assaulted by the forces of Mehunes Dagon.  For those not familiar with the name, he was the big baddie that you were fighting during the course of Elder Scrolls VI: Oblivion.  His plane of oblivion is one of fire and demons… and not surprisingly you end up fighting a lot of flame based Dremora inside the City of Ash.  What makes the encounters interesting is when you reach the city and start the quest proper… you are given the choice of a healer npc or an archer npc to guide you.

Screenshot_20140414_205238 We took the healer, because we assumed that any game that would offer you a healer… means you are just about to start taking massive amounts of damage.  We were for the most part right as the encounters mostly pulled themselves for large chunks of the dungeon.  I am not entirely certain if the mobs were actually linked, or if the healer bot was instead pulling for us.  In either way the crawl through the burning “Ewok Village” was fast paced and frenetic.  Bosmer architecture is really interesting, as they seem to be able to convince the trees to grow in shapes that support their city.  Considering how seriously they take the Green Pact the inhabitants had to be freaking out when the first started around them.

Screenshot_20140414_210056 This is probably going to go down as one of my favorite dungeons, in part because the zone looked amazing… but more importantly because there was a giant burning oblivion gate at the very end.  Oblivion is probably the Elder Scrolls game that I have spent the most hours playing, and gave us the amazing Shivering Isles campaign.  You could drop an oblivion gate in an otherwise boring dungeon and I would still have to go there just to defeat it.  Fortunately the City of Ash is not a boring dungeon, and had some of the more interesting boss fights I had experienced to date.  The games dungeons honestly just keep getting better.  Each of them has a very unique feel and vastly unique mechanics.  What I find amazing is how nothing really feels “recycled”.  The bosses do what you would expect them to do based on how they are and what their environment is.

Arx Corinium

Screenshot_20140414_211149 So during the course of the night, we had started in a skeletal crypt, moved to a burning bosmer city… and finished it in the Black Marsh.  At each tier so far the different dungeon environments have been extremely varied which is a good thing.  At this point in the evening I was starting to get a bit drowsy so might recount of the tales might be a bit spotty at best.  The main mission here at Arx Corinium is to help a Nereid save her sisters from the Naga that control the dungeon.  What this means to the players is that you are going to have to fight a ton of things at the same time.  One of the more interesting things is that there are also huge Lurchers lumbering about the dungeon.  These are not connected to the Naga packs and seem to be non-social.  It gives them the feeling of a Big Daddy from the original Bioshock.  Throughout the night we tried our best to either pull them before or after the rest of the pull.  At one point one of them just wandered up from somewhere unseen, so they seem to have pretty long paths.

Screenshot_20140414_213219 There are many of these “leap of faith” moments where you have to jump off cliffs and waterfalls hoping that you survive the drop.  While we managed to survive each, there definitely seems to be a high chance that you might bounce enough on the rocks to kill yourself.  There were fights in the dungeon that reminded me more than a little bit of Polaris from The Secret World… and not really in a good way.  I am sure that over time we would be able to adapt to the encounters, but there were a few fights that we only made it through because Shiana is 38… and really good at kiting.  On at least two of the encounters he was the last person standing and managed to drag us over the finish line.  I felt bad for Waren and Shiana… because they were essentially just along for the ride and the repair bill.  In Elder Scrolls Online you need to be within five levels of the encounters you are fighting or you no longer get loot.  That said Tam and I managed to walk away with a lot of nice things and I think it was a great night overall for all of us.

#ElderScrollsOnline #ESO #CryptofHearts #CityofAsh #ArxCorinium

Life in Castlevania

Keep Progress

Landmark64 2014-04-13 22-04-18-30 Last night I popped into Landmark for a bit and continued work on Belgarde Keep.  At this point I have burned through around 1 million stone and still have so much more to do.  One of my friends chastised me for building with stone.  He said that I could do this much more easily with dirt and then come back over and paint in the stone texture.  For whatever reason that just feels like cheating.  Right now I can carve out bits of detail as I so choose and I still have stone underneath.  With dirt I feel like I would be playing a constant game of trying to keep the facade looking right.  The irony of my structure is that in a game with a pretty prolific smooth tool… I go out of my way to try and keep from anything getting smoothed.  I don’t like the way it mushes up the textures to be honest.

Landmark64 2014-04-13 22-03-23-53 I was feeling pretty good about my progress until I saw this picture…  it looks like maybe my structure is a voxel off somewhere when it comes to what is currently the upper tier.  So that means I will likely have to rip it out and start over from scratch placing stuff up there.  However for the time being I think I will leave it as is until I get the “oomph” to go on another massive stone farming mission.  The section I am standing on in this above photo… I am thinking about removing large chunks of it and making it a low balcony.  Giving it more of a ramparts feel to it.  Right now I am pretty pleased with how things are going, I just need to pull myself away from Elder Scrolls Online more often to do more work on it.

Life in Castlevania

Screenshot_20140413_230742 I spent most of yesterday faffing about in Rivenspire, and as was my expectation from yesterday… it is very much Castlevania.  Stuff is going horribly wrong in zone, and it is mostly due to the fact that we have free roaming vampires everywhere.  There are few things I like more than slaughtering malformed vampires, but apparently one of them is killing Trolls.  I remember in Skyrim the first time I was attacked by an Ice Troll.  It felt completely epic seeing this lumbering shape charging at me through the blowing snow.  That feeling apparently never gets old because I spent a good chunk of the day yesterday avoiding finishing a quest just so I could kill loads more trolls.  Fire is traditionally the weakness, and I am not sure if that is still the case…  but I as a Dragon Knight I applied loads of it just in case.

Rivenspire in the way it is laid out seems to be designed to keep me moving around in circles.  There are so many things I still have to do in the zone to be able to move on… and I have already dinged 30.  I am afraid I will be at least 35 before I manage to gather up the presence of mind to focus on the task at hand.  This game for whatever reason is almost my kryptonite.  There are so many shinnies and rabbit trails that I cannot keep from following.  One minute I will be on task riding towards an objective, then a dark tear will open up from the sky and dump things down onto me…  then I spend the next forty minutes on a mindless rampage across the country side only to realize I am back where I started and no closer to my objective.  Thing is… I might get frustrated over my constant state of distraction, but I am enjoying each and every minute of it.

Faffing About Bleakrock

In an attempt to let people catch up a bit I decided to run around on my little Bosmer Nightblade in the Ebonheart Pact.  Nothing terribly exciting but I thought I would stream my adventures.  I had not streamed in awhile, and I end up joined by my friend Pazz.  Over the course of an hour I make my way through the Bleakrock quests.  If you’ve already played through Bleakrock there is nothing terribly exciting to see here, other than me roaming around aimlessly with a big sword.  I really like the Bosmer for some reason, they feel more “feral”.  In a way I am purposefully rolling things that would not be seen natively in an area.  I plan on making an Argonian when I roll a character in the Aldmeri Dominion.  You can listen to Pazz and I rattle on for awhile, and since he apparently does not understand how to make a push to talk key you get to listen to his inane water bottle noises that sound rather “questionable”.

You Apparently Like Us?

I am absolutely floored over the support we have gotten so far on the podcast.  Embedding it again because it seems like the thing to do.  Honestly I expected to post the podcast and then maybe have a dozen listeners that took pity on us enough to download it.  Instead I have gotten some pretty positive comments.  I know that it is currently pretty low quality, but that is something we can improve on over time.  I had a friend ask me what bitrate we encoded at… and I literally had no answer.  I just saved it out without really paying attention what I chose.  I also want to fiddle a bit with the actual recording next time around.  The positive is that I do believe there will be a next time.  We all had fun doing it, and even if no one else was listening I think we would still continue recording.

I had a few people offer to be guests, and another few people offer to have us on their podcasts for some cross pollination.  I think for the short term we need to lock down exactly what it is that we are doing before changing the mix significantly.  I think it would be fun to record a show where we completely open things up similar to my podcasts, but then again that might be a little odd fighting to stay on task with people constantly popping in and out.  For the time being what we did works, so I expect to keep tweaking that a little bit to improve the quality.  I’ve already worked on a new version of the intro, and hopefully by next week Rae will have our awesome Chibis finished.  This is starting to feel like a “real” thing… and while that is odd, it is also pretty damned cool.

#Landmark #ElderScrollsOnline #AggroChat #RIvenspire #Bleakrock

Finishing Stormhaven

2048: Sign of the Beast

2048isevil For those of you who are not currently playing this game, I suggest you skip ahead to the next section.  I feel like a crack peddler by even mentioning it, and this is from someone who is “lovingly” referred to as the “games pusher” by some of his friends.  It was a few months ago when one of my game developer friends stumbled across this simple but deeply nuanced game and it made the gamut of my friends.  I suck at number puzzles and even I played it quite a bit.  The problem is each time I started down the path towards the mythical 2048 I would get to the point where I wanted to throw my phone across the room.  I managed to get 1024 numerous times but could never seal the deal and get the other half of that equation.

It was much to my horror that I awoke this morning to find my wife laying in bed beside me playing this game on her phone.  As a math teacher I was honestly surprised how long it took for this craze to cycle around to her, but apparently it is now infecting her “community” as well.  The only cure is to NOT play, but that seems to be harder than it sounds.  She said some of her students have actually lost sleep trying to reason out how to get to the magical 2048.  As a result I have now decided to dub this the devils game…  I am sure that Advanced Dungeons and Dragons will be disappointed that it has lost the title.  I realize this is just a rework of the existing threes game, but there is something inherently more addicting about it.  We NEVER count in 3s, but each time we sit down at a computer everything we do is based around binary… so 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, etc etc are all numbers we are so damned used to looking at in terms of memory or whatever we happen to be doing on a computer.  Threes just looked at the problem from the wrong angle, and this little freeware version is better than it in every possible way.

Finishing Stormhaven

Screenshot_20140411_223404 I was absolutely taken aback at just how gorgeous this screenshot came out.  Anyone who says something negative about the graphics in Elder Scrolls Online has likely not actually played it.  Last night I dinged 27 and am still finishing up the last few things in Stormhaven.  I technically should have moved on around 25, but I have a hard time leaving a zone until I have at least made an attempt to turn all of the black icons on the map to white ones.  I got the last Skyshard last night, and now I think I just have one quest line to follow before I can happily move on to Rivenspire.

The above armor I am wearing is the tier 3 Imperial heavy armor, and I have to say it looks pretty damned awesome.  Right now I am trying to gather up enough orichalcum to craft a new onehander, but I upgraded my two hander last night.  I have reached a point where I desperately need Orichalcum, but can’t seem to find much in Stormhaven… whereas before I couldn’t find the High Iron I needed.  I have literally dumped a few 100 bar stacks into the guild bank since I don’t really need them.  Hopefully it will help out some of the up and coming smiths in the guild.  What I am desperately in need of is tempers… especially Dwarven Oil.  I feel like I need to farm some of the world bosses in an attempt to get items to deconstruct.

Getting our Asses Kicked

Screenshot_20140411_223848 Up until this point my friends and I had managed to make our way through the six dungeons to this point on a mixture of luck, skill and determination.  However last night we hit a hard and absolute wall.  The Crypt of Hearts is a dungeon in the next zone up… Rivenspire.  It is scaled for level 30, and last night we had two at 31, and two at 26.  We just did not have enough healing, damage, survival…. to push through the content.  We managed to down the first encounter, but got completely gummed up on the second.  We put in a bunch of attempts on Archmaster Siniel, and while we improved we always seemed to hit a point where we just could not survive the damage.

There is a lot of stuff going on in that zone, and it involves a lot of adjusting to what is happening.  I think we finally had the right way to handle the fight, but just were hitting a gear wall.  Can I tell you how damned refreshing it is to completely fail at a dungeon?  That might sound odd, but to have a game with dungeons that can absolutely break our group is pretty damned impressive.  Normally we steamroll content in these games, and after a few deaths we have figured out whatever “trick” there is to a fight and then from that point on have mastered it.  To have our asses handed to us so thoroughly gives us a mission to figure out how to beat the place.  This dungeon is going to become our new “sand giant” and we are going to want revenge.

#ElderScrollsOnline #StormHaven #CryptofHearts #2048 #RivenSpire

The Dragon Knight Comes

The morning after

Screenshot_20140330_182433 Yesterday was a really exciting day, and today I am in somewhat of a stupor from all the festivities.  As I talked about in my last couple of posts, yesterday was the beginning of the Elder Scrolls Online five day headstart.  Thing is this is definitely not my first game launch, in fact there is rarely a game launch that I do not participate in…  but this one just feels more personal.  I’ve known various people that have worked for various game companies, but this one is just different.  Elder Scrolls is a monumental franchise for me, and I started my fandom back with Daggerfall.  However never before has one of the people who I hang out with on an almost nightly basis…  part of the creation of something I love.

So more than anything I wanted this launch to go smoothly, for the health of the guild and the health of the game in general.  The launch of a new guild in a new game is an extremely stressful time for me.  Trying to get all the people going in the right direction is a challenge but more or less things seem to have gone extremely smoothly.  We’ve only had a few people who did not heed my bajillion posts about faction, and ended up rolling the wrong one.  I feel bad that they essentially have to start over now, but by being the wrong faction they will never be able to group with the rest of the guild.  This is one of the few confusing points, in that characters can live in multiple guilds… but functionally you can only group with your own faction.

The Dragon Knight Comes

Screenshot_20140330_200220 It’s odd for me to try and be objective about a game launch, when I have been playing the game in one form of another for over a year now.  The fact that I have played as much of it as I have, and that I still want to participate says as much as anything I could.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the “3 month mmo club”, but for whatever reason this is different.  Since I have reported so many things and watched them get fixed in subsequent builds, it feels as though I have more at stake here than I have in the past.  As of logging out last night I was just a little shy of dinging 11.  Honestly getting to level 8 or so is really easy, but from there on it slows down considerably.  Additionally for most of the day yesterday I was trying to stay in lock step with my friend Audrae.

The problem is I am fundamentally bad at questing as a group.  I am all about doing hard objectives with friends, but the piddly little things, it is rough to stay in step.  At one point yesterday I had to take an extended break, and I laid down for a bit.  When I came back we had no Rae, so I am guessing she fell asleep as well.  I piddled around after that, did a few things, grouped a bit and killed a world named mob as well as ran some other friends through Bad Mans Hollow.  At this point I am feeling very tanky, and my survival is probably as good as it has ever been in ESO.

Once I leave Glenumbra I will finally set out into mostly untested territory.  The characters that I have made it past the first real zone on were all Ebonheart, so for the most part Daggerfall Covenant will be fresh.  Towards the end of beta I purposefully tried to test only the early content, as to keep the later stuff fresh for me.  It was wierd, that so many people struggled to figure out what path they were going to take, or how they would create their character.  For the most part i have created “Belghast Sternblade” the Dragon Knight over a dozen times scattered among various beta tests.  It was the one character that really spoke to me, so I kept returning to playing it over and over… never tiring of the game play.

Guild is Hopping

Screenshot_20140331_061118 I will admit, when the betas opened up a bit more and folks started breaking out some negativity regarding the game… I was a bit concerned to say the least.  There is a fairly significant threshold of 50 members of the guild in order to open up the Guild Store.  There was a time where I wondered if we would actually be able to hit that in House Stalwart, but apparently those fears were completely unfounded.  As of this morning I am looking at the guild roster and we have 65 accounts in the guild.  The place is absolutely hopping and at this hour of the morning there are already a half dozen people in and playing.  Apparently all the work trying to make sure this was happening paid off, and I am starting to think about the various things we will be able to do if we even maintain half of these members at veteran levels.

Thing is… this is just the Imperial Edition and folks who ordered direction through Zenimax.  There will be another batch of players starting Tuesday, and another batch starting on the 4th again that didn’t pre-order for whatever reason.  As a result I still expect the guild to grow significantly.  When all is said and done we might be sitting around 100 members, which would make this one of our largest game launches in House Stalwart history.  The thing that is helping this time around is the Alliance of Awesome.  This has helped to funnel so many new and good people into Stalwart for the beginning of this game.  At this point I am going to have to start figuring out what the final guild infrastructure is going to look like, and who I will tag to be officers.  I tend to treat each game as a unique animal, and just because someone is an officer in one game does not immediately mean they will be in another.

Since we have a blended “family” going on right now, I also feel it is crucial to reach out and tag people from all the various camps, as well as the traditional stalwart folk.  So far I have to say everything seems to be blending nicely.  I was talking yesterday that while a lot of us know each other from twitter, this was the first time we had really been in the same guild.  I am thankful that everything has gone so smoothly.  For at time yesterday we had a dozen or more people hanging out in the “Bel is streaming” channel on mumble, and later today I should be posting the various stream segments up on youtube and adding them to the Elder Scrolls Online playlist.  However in the mean time you can go to my twitch streams past broadcasts tab to see them all.  All in all I think it was a very successful launch day, and one of the more successful ones I have experienced.  The real tests will be as they start adding more players.

Elder Scrolls Online Headstart

Prelaunch Countdown

At the point I am writing this blog post we are roughly 24 hours from the launch of Elder Scrolls Online.  If you are really curious about the exact time… someone has created a page dedicated to that… with Europe Final Countdown playing embedded of course.  Last night I made it to bed at a normal hour… or at least normal for me, but this morning my body conspired against me and decided that 4 am was time to wake up.  While I had not planned this, it is actually going to feed into my idea of being up for the launch the moment the servers open.  So tonight I will be heading to bed early, and trying to wake up in time for the launch in the morning.  I normally get up at 5:30 in the morning during the work week, so really this will be good in the long run since Monday will not be quite so hellacious.

I have to say at this point I am completely amped, but also nervous.  One of my favorite and least favorite things about a new game is pulling together the guild.  It is always a struggle to make sure everyone is rolling in the right place, with the right faction.  There are always opening day adjustments as you shift this thing or that, and trying to deploy the logistics to be able to get everyone moving in the right direction.  This is by no means my first launch pulling together a guild, and likely it will not be the last either.  No matter how much experience I have in making things work…  I still get the jitters hoping it all goes off without a hitch.  SWTOR was without a doubt the smoothest, since we were able to create the guild before launch through their web based tools, but even then there was plenty of confusion among the folks that were too lazy to sign up before the guild placement happened.

Elder Scrolls Online Headstart

eso 2014-02-15 11-38-45-72 I thought I would devote this mornings post to getting everyone ready for the big event.  There are several things about this launch that should make things significantly easier.  Firstly there are no servers to worry with, there is the North American mega server and the European mega server.  I do not however know if characters cross over between the two.  We will be focusing on the North American mega server for this, and I am hoping that our European friends will have decent lag there or even be able to roll there at all.  Have I mentioned how much I hate regions in video games?  House Stalwart will be aligning ourselves with the Daggerfall Covenant, as was decided in a poll that ran some time ago.  This means that in order to play with the guild and group easily, you also need to roll Daggerfall Covenant.  Guilds span factions, but it is logistically impossible to group together at low levels if you are of two different factions.

Thanks to the preorder bonuses however you will be able to roll any race in any faction.  If you did not preorder, then grats… if you want to play with the bulk of the guild you have to play either a Redguard, Breton or Orsimer.  Really if you were interesting in this game at all, you should have preordered to long before this point to make sure you could have that very important preorder perk.  Those who did preorder… I am sure we will see plenty of elves in our guild as a side effect.  Most of the people I know going cross faction classes are doing so in order to play a Bosmer, Dunmer or Altmer.  I personally will be rolling an Imperial because it is the race that best fits the character of “Belghast”.

Getting Invited to the Guild

As I said earlier, my goal is to be up at the time the servers go live and get the guild created asap.  One of the cool things about Elder Scrolls Online is the fact that you can friend people at an account level.  The easiest way to get invited to the guild is to friend @Belghast, as the game uses a system similar to twitter.  My goal is to get several people who can do invites in the interim and then deal with creating a formal “officer” structure later.  Additionally I will be using the Alliance of Awesome Reddit thread to organize invites for the “new to Stalwart” crowd.  For those who have access currently to our mumble server, I will be streaming the launch tomorrow in the “Bel is Streaming” channel.  So that is a really quick way to get invited is just to pop into the channel and ask for one.

The only other real decision looming on the horizon is what campaign we want to choose for Cyrodil.  There is a thread up on the Elder Scrolls website listing the various campaign names.  At this point they are all named after the iconic weapons that you get in the Elder Scrolls series by doing quests for the various Daedra.  As a result some of them are going to be far more popular than others.  I would imagine that Wabbajack would fill up before any of the others, thanks to the fond memories of Sheogorath.  Other names will appeal to the “sounds cool” crowd, and Auriel’s Bow will be full for the “I pick whatever the first name is in a list” crowd.  Right now I am thinking either Volendrung or Dawnbreaker might be good options.  Both are iconic weapons, but also not as iconic as say the Wabbajack.  However this is something we can decide later.

Big Easy Summary

Where?
  • Daggerfall Covenant Faction
  • North American Mega Server
How?
When?

If you have any questions feel free to post them here, or over on the Reddit Thread, or via Twitter, or ask them the day of via Mumble.  It is my goal to make this as clean and orderly a process as possible.  There are always some issues with any game launch, but hopefully thanks to the copious amounts of stress testing we have done to this game… it will go nice and smooth.

Caroling in Ulduar

Tis the Season

It is that time of the year when we naturally reflect upon what was good and not so good from the previous year.  I myself am planning a post like this in the not so distant future.  However this blurb is not about that at all.  Yesterday the amazing Queen of Faff, Alternative Chat posted her very on audible review of the previous year.  It is most definitely worth a listen, but then again everything she does is worth a listen.  I have to say that while I knew of her before this year, it was a few months ago that I first listened to her podcast.  I have to say I am truly thankful for discovering it, because now along with several other podcasts I look forward to hearing each episode.

She brings a deeply thought out quality to the air that reminds me in many ways of NPR.  I am very much an NPR junkie so I think this soft spoken and rehearsed manner suits me very well.  In the podcast she has declared that 2014 will be the “Year of Faff”, and I wholly support this notion.  Before her I tended to view “faffing about” as a generally negative thing.  Now I have embraced my inner faffitude and find myself doing odd little things on a regular basis.  I look forward to seeing what directionless madness comes form this new venture.

Caroling in Ulduar

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Early in the week my good friend Rylacus, and the warden of House Stalwart while I was away… asked me if I would be willing to do an Ulduar run.  He needed a single meta achievement to get his 25 man proto drake.  I told him initially that I was not sure if I would be around, but if I was most certainly I would help out.  I have had both the 10 and 25 man versions of the drake for quite some time, but as I know the achievements pretty well I am always willing to help out.  Since last night ushered in yet another icebound weekend here in Oklahoma, I was most definitely available for faffing about in Ulduar.

My only requirement was that we try and get EVERYONE that came along their drakes.  No one seemed to mind and as a result we filled the ranks with tons of folks hopefully seeking their own.  Additionally we managed to knock out Algalon, who’s room is pictured above.  Most of the achievements quite honestly were pretty easy at 90, or at least easy if you knew what you were needing to do.  Yog’Saron of course takes a few tries mainly to remember exactly what we need to do.  The three of us that went into the portal went insane because we could not remember how to exit.  We then proceeded to murder everyone else in the raid.

After that little set back we pushed forward and got him on the next try earning everyone on their drakes.  Currently the only really annoying meta achievement is the “kill 25 dwarves with razorscale” one.  Initially we had this idea of just gathering up all of the dwarves and letting Razorscale enrage…  theoretically killing them all.  This would in theory kill us all, but we should have also gotten the achievement at the same time.  Two things we found out… firstly the enraged flame breath is still not enough to kill a dwarf that is sitting at full health.  Secondly we can easily survive the enraged form and ended up going four rounds after that in order to get all the dwarves.

Desperately Seeking Weapon

While I managed to walk away with some really cool transmoggy bits and two pieces of the tier 8 set, I did not further my overarching mission of finding some weapons for my shaman.  Granted I didn’t really expect to do so in Ulduar, but the Heroic Scenario that we ran beforehand proved both painful and fruitless.  My hope is today that I can finish running Siege of Orgrimmar and that the loot gods will smile on me and let me win the axe that can drop in the final part.  If this continues to prove futile I may just run Throne of Thunder as well.  I need to farm up the magical happy luck coins so I can turn them into extra roll chances for Siege, but I do not have the stockpile on my Shaman that I have on my other characters.  Other than this… I am going to try my best to stay warm and hopefully continue having power since the entire world outside is coated in an inch of ice.

A Guild Divided

Nostalgia Won

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If I remember correctly the last time I wrote a real post before my Nano recess, I was talking about the upwelling of nostalgia brought on by playing Hearthstone.  I fought valiantly to resist but before long  I was staring at the account section of the battle.net page and renewing my subscription.  I had put this off because really I assumed this decision would end in tears.  The odd thing is so far it has not.  I have been enjoying the hell out of playing, and have even resumed raiding a bit.  I don’t want to jinx it by saying I am back, but so far it feels like at least a possibility.

One of the awesome things about coming back at the tail end of the expansion is that Blizzard tends to give players many different ways to catch up gear wise.  I have spent a ton of time out on the Timeless Isle and have been collecting sets of level 90 heirloom gear for each of my alts I intend to level.  Since coming back I have caught my Deathknight Main Belgrave and Druid Belgarou up a bit in gear, leveled my Shaman Tallow and Warrior Belghast to 90, and am within a stones throw of 90 on my paladin Exeter.  There is part of me that wants to push as many toons to 90 as I can before the release of Warlords of Draenor.

I have to say despite all of the negativity flowing around it, I am really looking forward to the expansion.  They said during Blizzcon that the majority of the content would work more like Timeless Isle, and that was pretty much music to my ears.  I love the way the content on the isle works, and I can spend hours both there and on the Isle of Giants tearing about the mobs with Belgrave.  I think my happy medium is a mix of quests to give me purpose, and then found objectives along the way to force me to stop and smell the roses.  If they can strike a balance, I think the content will be just about perfect for me.  Not to mention that Garrisons sound amazingly fun, like a mix between player housing and the crew skill system in SWTOR.

A Guild Divided

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At the beginning of Cataclysm I got a serious case of wanderlust.  I would like to think it was because Rift was so amazing, but in reality I think I just needed a break from WoW.  At that point I had played it for almost eight years straight without significant pause.  But the sad thing is, that while I played it for seven years, I have yet to play a single game since for more than seven months.  When I wandered off so did a lot of other guild members who were feeling a similar drag on their time.  The untold story however is the fact that the vast majority of the guild stayed in World of Warcraft and in spite of my recruitment to other ventures… seemingly thrived.  In fact I would say that right now Stalwart WoW was experiencing a bit of a renaissance with folks coming back that have long been dormant.

You can say this is the “Blizzcon Bump” but it seems a bit different for some reason.  On my server Argent Dawn, I am seeing people showing up on my friends list that had disappeared years before I left the game.  Even seeing familiar names popping into channels that out of nostalgia I am still joining.  As much as I wanted to deny the fact, World of Warcraft is still thriving at least in pockets of players that have kept the embers of the community burning brightly.  In my absence Rylacus has done a phenomenal job of “not messing with things” as he puts it.  He has always been one of my closest and most loyal friends, and as I have been gone he has simply tried to continue on with what he thought I would do.  It seems to have worked, because on week nights we tend to have 20-30 or more people online and active in doing something.

The only problem is that this maintaining the status quo has only caused to further some divides that started back in Cataclysm.  When I said “A Guild Divided” in the section heading, I was not referring to the nomad gamers and the wow loyalists… but instead a rift that was always there but has deepened in my time away.  Essentially our guild right now is a tale of two raids, the haves and the have-nots essentially.  One raid has thrived clearing content and racking up the loot, while the other has floundered struggling to fill.  There has been no intended malice, but the lesser performing raid has lost a lot of its brighter members to the better performing raid as folks sought out the path of easier loot.  As a result there is more than a bit of bitterness and bad blood that has developed towards the alpha team.

Cleansing the Way

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In the past I had served as a bridge between the two worlds, a bit of a buffer to lower the frustrations and aggressions.  Rylacus has tried hard to fill these shoes but he simply does not have the volume of playtime that I do.  Now that I am back at least for a bit I am trying my best to bridge this rift and hopefully mend the way between.  As a result I have started tanking for the lesser progressed raid, and it seems like I am the difference between failure and success.  The first week we downed new content, and it seemed so easy that I had no idea it wasn’t already on farm.  The other tank is amazing to work with, and I am adjusting rapidly to this whole new concept for me of “no main tank”. 

Additionally I am trying to attend the events sponsored by the alpha team to build the social equity there.  The “big kids” have been gracious enough to host an open flex raid night on Mondays and this is getting betters of both teams in the same space.  It is a bit awkward at times, but so far I think it has been an overall positive experience.  The flex gear will help bolster both raids.  The holidays have taken a big chunk out of our schedules, but I am hoping this week we can return to normality.  In a sort of serendipity… several of my blogger and twitter friends have characters on Argent Dawn or are rerolling there.   Going to try and get as many of them as I can into the open raid nights.

When I had come back for Pandaria the guild felt wrong to me.  No one talked, no one worked together… and I really did not know how to fix it.  Now coming back things are just different.  Guild chat is full of lively conversation.  Folks seem happy, and willing to help one another.  Stalwart had survived all these years on a shared spirit, a feeling that we were all working together towards a greater good.  During Cataclysm it feels that this spirit lost its way as we absorbed so many of the smaller satellite guilds that made up our non-guild-based raiding alliance.  It feels though that in the midst of all of this a strong community has evolved.  Here is hoping that I can be a catalyst towards solidifying this community into something truly great.  If nothing else, I have been remembered and I still very much feel loved by my WoW family.