Weekend Hibernation

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It was a truly bizarre weekend for a whole lot of reasons.  Primarily because whatever illness my wife had seemed to strike with a vengeance during the tail end of last week.  As I said before I was originally planning on going to RiffTrax with work friends on Thursday night but by the time I left work I realized there was no way I could make it through an entire evening.  Instead I begged off and went home and crashed on the sofa in my fuzzy blanket cocoon.  By the time Friday came around I was really doing considerably worse and took a sick day…  which in turn screwed up  our evening plans.  We were originally slotted to do this monthly family dinner thing, but we rescheduled it for next weekend because I was not sure how well I would be to drive.  Instead I returned to the blanket cocoon once more and was as a result available for our normal Friday night Emerald Nightmare clear run.  I wound up tanking it, with the stipulation being that I was not going to talk at all.  In fact to  prevent myself from doing this I muted my microphone…. which lead to a weird run since I am fairly vocal as we make it through the content.  To make it even more odd, we were without the OTHER vocal leader Kylana which meant a whole slew of people had to step up to the plate and help make sure the run went smoothly.  So seriously huge thanks to Mort, Phy, Beist, Bledd, and I am sure a whole slew of other people who also were chatty and helpful but I am not remembering at this very moment.  It was once again a super clean run, and in the end I wound up swapping off for Erry for the final encounter since it generally requires a bit more vocal tank coordination.

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Past that night I spent a lot of time piddling around in stuff by myself.  Namely this meant an awful lot of Final Fantasy XV, and I think maybe just maybe I am finally to the point where I am willing to move on past “world 1”.  As I said before there is a point where the game warns you that if you continue on you might not be able to return for awhile.  I took this warning to heart given that I just came from playing Final Fantasy XIV where this sometimes means that a two and a half hour long cut scene is about to happen.  Instead over the weekend I found out from some of the other folks playing it that at least in this case… the game is talking about a ten minute process and not a thirty hour long one.  In past games these warnings often times meant that you would not be able to return until you found the airship, and I am pleased to find out that this is not the case.  At this point though I am running out of things I can actually do in the starter world, and all of the hunts are of a significant level difference from my current level so I think the game is not so subtly telling me to move the hell on.

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Another thing that took up some time this weekend is that I tore down a chunk of my office and set up my new Xbox One.  For awhile now I have been interested in owning an Xbox One to be able to play the titles that don’t exist on the PS4.  Similarly there is an entire group of friends that I have that are on the Xbox path, and I have not been able to play with them.  Unfortunately there were really no titles that supported Xbox 360 crossplay with Xbox One, so as each of them has upgraded…  my options similarly narrowed.  While I have had this latent desire… I also just could not justify the street price for the console given that I am primarily a PC gamer first… and a Console gamer second.  However on Black Friday I actually partook of a deal on Dell.com for an Xbox One, Extra Controller, Headset, and Five Games:  Halo 5 Limited Edition, Farcry 4, Ryze Legendary Edition, Sunset Overdrive, and Metal Gear Solid V Ground Zeroes all for right at $200.  For this I was willing to jump on it and the box arrived at my house Saturday during the day… and I wound up setting it up after editing the podcast on Sunday morning.  There was another deal on Cyber Monday to pick up a copy of the Destiny Collection for the Xbox One for I believe $25 and I jumped on that too, so while I was installing other things…  I ported over my Xbox 360 copy of Destiny.  Firstly since I am largely a digital only gamer on PS4… I did not realize the whole download after installation was as much of a tedious chore as it actually was.  Halo 5 took a good three hours worth of download time, which I found insane and shocking.  Is this what disc copy gamers on the PS4 have to deal with as well? or is this largely just an Xbox One thing?  In any case… I was kinda happy to see that my PS4 clan tag ported over to the Xbox One, and while I will still primarily be playing Destiny on PS4, I want to level something to hang with my friends playing on the Xbone.

I’ve decided to start linking the podcast on Monday mornings in what generally ends up being a weekend rundown post.  Not that I think there is anyone who doesn’t have access to it… but just in case the youtube version embeds nicely.  The other big take away from the weekend was all of the food that we cooked.  We wound up having a weekend full of comfort food, cooked in the crock pot.  So Friday night before going to bed I threw our breakfast casserole on to cook so that when we woke up Saturday morning it was ready.  This dish consists of egg, cheese, potato, ham and sausage and it amazing.  We wound up eating on it for breakfast and lunch on Sunday as well…  and still have a bunch left over.  My wife had the bright idea to turn it into a breakfast burrito with a little salsa.  We also cooked our Chicken and Cheese Tortilla soup, which we only got two meals out of…  well and an extra helping or two.  Finally on Sunday we tried out this Orange Chicken thing…  that is close but not quite there.  It was good enough but it needs something to make it work properly…  and I think I screwed it up by putting the rice directly in the sauce and letting it cook.  I should have simply made a couple cups of rice and then ladled the sauce over it instead.  In any case…  my wife and I are both largely on the mend but we pretty much spent the entire weekend hibernating.  We started taking some OTC meds when it initially hit and I think it helped out quite a bit.

Breaking Silence

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After the challenges of last week, this past weekend was largely a time to chill out and relax.  On the “paw” front I am pleased to announce that the round of IV antibiotics seemed to work pretty well given that the swelling is largely down as is the redness.  There is one spot that is a bit troubling, but we are watching it.  I am guessing that the location went a little deeper than the rest and as such might take a little longer to recover.  There is always the fear that the bite penetrated a tendon or something else, but we will continue to watch it as it hopefully heals.  On the gaming front… I had all of these grand ideas about running nonstop dungeons, but what happened in reality is that I wound up chilling with the wife downstairs and watching various stuff on the television.  It felt like it would be an invasion of the peace and quiet to get on voice chat and start talking “strategery” and such.  What happened instead is that I queued up a few times as a pug dps, and spent time working on older stuff in the meantime while waiting on that lengthy queue to pop.  Of note on the Ruin server group, the queue time for a DPS is about 45 minutes, which means I had plenty of time to work on other objectives while waiting on the queue to pop.  I spent some time in Warlords farming spawns attempting to get my Shatari Defense reputation up… because I am admittedly a bit jealous of Grace and her amazing fire mammoth mount that she keeps running around on.  The only problem there is it seems with the opening of Tanaan Jungle at least one of the farm spots has been nerfed into the ground… and Shattrath city has spawns really far apart making it hard to gather things up and AOE them down with whirlwind spam.

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Another queue I wound up spending on the Isle of Giants in Pandaria where I learned a few key things.  Firstly once again it is hard to gather everything up and AOE it down… because my aggro radius is minuscule now with the dinosaurs.  Second I can apparently now easily solo Oondasta as Fury, so that is going to go on the mount farming list.  The white raptor mount has been something I have worked on for awhile, and yesterday I ground out the last 2000 bones roughly.  The queue popped before I could actually turn in, so I had to finish things up after the dungeon.  The real takeaway from the weekend however is…  my theory of treating World of Warcraft like Final Fantasy XIV seems to largely be working.  Upon entering a dungeon, be it as tank or as dps… I do my customary “Hey Folks” which seems to unjam the conversation mechanism.  Then throughout the dungeon folks tend to be willing to talk, but if I don’t say anything… it seems like folks are willing to just ride along in silence because there has always been the wowism that silence is preferable to dealing with assholes.  The thing is… I think we can do better and a lot of the negative opinion folks have of this community is due to the fact that folks are willing to either put up with bullshit in dungeons because they want it to be over and don’t want to have to deal with another 45 minute queue.  I am not sure if it is going to help, but I am absolutely making an effort to talk to people be it in my Class Hall fielding questions like I did yesterday… or running a dungeon, or even out in the world while doing an objective.  I think most of us just simply assumed that no one was willing to have conversation, and I am trying to flip that assumption on its head.

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The other big thing from the weekend is that I started work on my second character.  Some time ago I started Exeter my Paladin off by getting Lightbringer.  However after swapping Belghast to tanking, I am finding it way easier to quest like a madman in that mode.  So as soon as I hit 102 I did the quest chain to pick up the second artifact, and had been holding artifact power items in reserve for awhile.  Unlike Belghast I have a clear path that I am planning on working towards first, which I guess makes the experience feel more purposeful.  On the Warrior protection tree there were so many cool things that I wanted, but none of them seemed to be clearly better than any of the others.  Paladin it feels like there is one right choice for survival, and I am going in that direction first.  Largely I devoted the time spent during the podcast to working on this guy, and by the end of the night I had hit 102 and was off into tanky land.  I apparently also unlocked one of the appearances so I quickly swapped to the purple look and used it as an excuse to rock my purple judgement set.  The one set that I wish existed in game is the yellow judgement set that you see one of the NPCs wearing.  As it stands I have normal, Blue from the opening of Wrath event, and purple from the BC era heroics.  This really is the best looking tier set in the game, and I wish more recolored sets would show up in dungeons, which reminds me… at some point I really need to work on farming up the turquoise wrath set.  In any cases it was a good weekend and fairly relaxing, but it is my hope that with the week I will be back doing dungeons with friends again.  I am now up to 823 item level on Belghast, which means I need to be hitting up those heroics.

 

Back to Tanking

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It always feels strange sitting back down at the keyboard to blog after an absence.  This weekend was of course the Labor Day holiday weekend here in the United States, and our plans caused me to miss Saturday.  Since I was taking a single day off, I decided to go ahead and take the entire weekend off to just chill out and enjoy the goodness that is Legion.  When we last spoke I was sitting at level 105 and knee deep in Azsuna.  Since then I have dinged 110, which for some reason took me starting the final leveling zone High Mountain to accomplish.  Most of my friends hit the new level cap without touching that fourth leveling zone, but I am thinking some of it might be coming from harvest experience.  Additionally I seemed to get all log jammed up in my Class Hall quests, because it seems the order in which they would love you to level for Warriors is Stormheim and then High Mountain.  However I did Stormheim, Azsuna, Val’sharah, and finally High Mountain…  and even then the Warrior quest was buried deep inside of the content so much so that I finally said screw it and went out trying to find the location only to wind up terrain hacking my way onto the appropriate path with Heroic Leap.  Have I mentioned how bad I am at following the path?  This is my downfall in many games… that I see that a path exists, but the first thing I want to do is go running off into the wilderness on either side of said path.  As a result I miss so many quests because quest givers tend to be…  on paths.  Also as a result my first time through a zone takes me easily twice as long as literally any other player because I keep ending up backtracking trying to find that quest I missed.  On the positive however this expansion seems to FINALLY reward folks getting way the hell off the path.

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This screenshot… is the result of getting way the hell off of the path.  This is quite possibly the most enjoyable quest I have done in a really long time… and I didn’t understand a damn word of it.  That is right, you end up doing a quest for a Murloc… who only speaks Nerglish which I had to google to find out what the hell their language is called.  The result is a bunch of quest objectives that are “0/1 ?????” that you have to sort of figure out on your own what the little guy is wanting you to do.  This quest is something that none of my friends seemed to know about, and I only managed to find because I was completely off the path and wandering aimlessly along the coastline of Suramar.  This expansion more than any to date seems to be the expansion that Blizzard finally learned a lot of lessons, or at least reflected those lessons in their design process.  In the past there was always a problem of folks ONLY doing the boss that was required for a quest in a dungeon run, and then pugs often times dropped immediately after that kill.  So there was a high likelihood that you would get randomed into an instance with the boss you needed already dead.  Now anytime there is a collect X item or kill X boss from an instance quest, it also requires you to kill the final boss in order to get credit.  Similarly they seem to have learned the lessons of what made Garrisons feel horrible, because the Class Order Hall while deeply related in design…  feels nothing like the Garrison did in the daily requirement of logging in and doing wizard chores.  To make this even better it was announced over the weekend at Pax West that there was a mobile companion app on the way that lets you handle the Class Hall bits without ever needing to play the character swap game.

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Another thing that I spent a significant amount of time doing this week is exploring the various dungeons.  Yup you guessed it that also means that I have once again shifted focus to tanking, and have for the most part put my two-handers away for the moment.  Both protection and fury artifact weapons are at rank 13… which means any further progress is going to be completely silly as far as the artifact power cost goes.  I am however largely focusing now on the sword and shield, and am even considering doing some pvp to unlock that specific appearance.  The above screenshot is extremely special because Belghast and Finni were started at exactly the same time back in Vanilla.  Both my friend and I really wanted to level a Warrior and a Priest, but had minimal luck getting traction in leveling them solo.  So we made a leveling pact and we quested our way through the old world content as a Holy Priest and a Protection Warrior… and it was a blast.  All of my bad tanking habits probably started here, because she enabled my horrible instincts.  I would roll up into a Gnoll camp and pull the entire thing… knowing that she would keep me alive while I whittled them down slowly.  Once I hit the level cap I started tanking the alt raid nights for the Late Night Raiders, and with the release of Burning Crusade I shifted focus to tanking as my primary gig.  However due to motherly responsibilities, Finni just doesn’t get the amount of playtime that she used to so it is always awesome when we can run relevant content together.  The way this expansion levels content so that it is perfectly viable for a 100, 105, and a 110 to be in the same instance is really nice.  While other games have done this well for quite some time, I am happy to see Warcraft catching up here.

Embracing the Fel

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Confronting the Legon

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This week on “the twitters” I said something to the effect of Legion might be the first World of Warcraft expansion that I never managed to get into either Alpha or Beta.  Then almost like queue on July 15th I found an email in my inbox notifying that my account had been flagged for Beta access.  As a result I installed it on both my Desktop upstairs and my Laptop downstairs, and spent a good deal of the weekend poking about around the fringes of the new expansion.  The truth is I was not all that excited about Legion prior to this weekend, namely because I am stuck in another down cycle with this game.  There are plenty of things I could be doing, but just nothing I felt terribly compelled to do other than log in a few times a week to collect “free gold” from the garrison chore masters.  Even more maddening in a way is the fact that I desperately need the transmog system changes yesterday.  I think a huge part of why I stopped playing so frequently is because one of the activities that I absolutely love is farming old content for interesting bits.  The challenge there is that I have my entire bank, void storage and all but a half dozen slots in my inventory taken up with appearance gear.  So I just really have no more place to store anything and with transmog changes so damned close… there is no way I am going to get rid of anything that might be cool looking.  So as a result I think I just largely stopped playing, thinking that eventually Legion would arrive and I would be able to have a massive spring cleaning… or in this case late summer.  Well that time has arrived almost and tomorrow the patch lands that is going to see me spending my entire evening sifting through shit trying to figure out what I can pitch and what I should actually keep.

Blood Deathknight

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A huge part of the reason why I wanted into Beta was to fiddle with the class changes.  Yes I realize that at any point in the last several weeks I could have installed the PTR client, but without having access to more than just those changes it didn’t really feel worthy of the 28 gig install.  Throughout late Wrath of the Lich King up until Warlords of Draenor I was a huge fan of the Blood tanking spec.  Then in Warlords alpha a whole bunch of that changed, because the feel of the class changed.  Sure the rotation was similar, but the inclusion of Blood Boil as part of the standard rotation made the class start feeling too casterly for my tastes.  It is funny how class fantasy can really effect the way you feel about a set of changes, and at least in this case it was a bridge to far.  On the other hand the Warrior changes for Warlords were amazing, and I loved being able to indulge in a different player fantasy… which was dpsing with a sword and shield thanks to the Gladiator spec.  While I mourn the loss of that option, I completely get why they had to make the change for balance reasons, because quite frankly Gladiator was just too much of a one off special snowflake.  It was my hope that Blood on the other hand would be appealing again, and for the most part I think I like the changes.  That said something is still off with the class and I am struggling to put my finger on it.  Deathknights in general have undergone some pretty shattering changes, and while the feel of the class is right… there are a bunch of empty spots in the rotation where you are waiting on either runic power or rune regeneration.  That is not to say that there is absolutely the chance that I might be playing it wrong.  However in my experience so far there seem to be some pretty significant lulls in the action, and at the same time the class feels like it has lost a whole lot of survival.  On my fresh 100 test character I struggled to get through the quest that ultimately earns you the artifact weapon, because I kept dying with no real way of keeping myself alive.

Demon Hunters

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After a bit of a false step by accidentally choosing a talent that turned my resource builder into an auto attack key…  I’ve decided that I really love Havoc Demon Hunters.  Much like Deathknight was the Belle of the Ball in Wrath of the Lich King… it feels like Demon Hunters are the class that has the most new toys to show off.  For starters… any class with a double jump is something that I am going to pay attention to.  Better than that they have a built in wing glide, which is similar to using the goblin glider… but just as an intrinsic ability.  Then there is the movement… this class has the ability to dart around the battle field like crazy… and those same abilities have allowed me to explore maps in ways that you really could not in previous expansions without copious amounts of wall hacking.  The only negative so far is that I hear by creating a level 100, I somehow am missing a huge batch of abilities that you pick up from quest chains in the starting mission.  The only negative of the class… is that you have to be an elf.  I kinda hate elves, and will likely always hate elves…  however ironically I have always loved Illidan and the concept of the Demon Hunter.  I am seriously contemplating making Demon Hunter my new main for the expansion, even though I realize that will make me yet another member of the Legion of players doing that…  pun only partially intended.  The gameplay however feels fun and fresh and like this strange amalgam of Combat Rogue and Fury Warrior.  Ultimately I need to spend some time with the tanky variety of the class to see if I like that as well, because if so you might be looking at a newly minted Demon Hunter.

Warrior

The class that I spent the least amount of time playing this weekend was Warrior, but everything I saw made me feel like tanking as a warrior was going to be just as stable and reliable as it always was.  Unlike Blood Deathknight, I had zero issue completing the quest chain to get my artifact weapon, the only problem being… that the protection warrior artifact is boring as hell.  I have a vault full of amazing one hander and shield combinations… and for the most part all of them are cooler than the artifact weapon.  It seriously looks like leveling trash, and I am hoping that some of the mutations later will at least give me something I am not embarrassed to be using.  With the absence of Gladiator though, it is going to be hard for me to really consider being a Warrior main this time around.  I have to say however that some of the changes in animation for Fury looked amazing, so at some point over the next few days I want to give that a proper whirl…  once again pun only partially intended.

Tanking

Generally speaking I tend to gravitate towards tanking, and if you plunk me down in a brand new game that is almost certainly what I will roll.  That said I think Final Fantasy XIV has spoiled me when it comes to tanking.  Their version is just head and shoulders more enjoyable than pretty much any other form I have played since then.  As a result I think I might be hanging up my tanking hat when it comes to World of Warcraft at least.  I tried to tank for some of my friends late in Warlords, and I just didn’t like the way it felt in the least.  Now I am sure I will still play things that have a tank spec…  and be able to swap in for specific encounters or for copious dungeon runs, but more than anything I just don’t think I want to be a raid tank anymore in this game.  So knowing that, I am trying to find the class I enjoy dpsing the most or hell I might even try out some healing.  Mostly I have a feeling that I will never again be completely stable and reliable as a player when it comes to World of Warcraft, so I am trying to make sure I pick classes that are useful when I feel like attending something, and not a burden when I don’t.  For all I know I might really love Demon Hunter tanking, and that ends up changing my mind… but I am prepping myself to no longer be a go to tank at least when it comes to this game.

 

 

Getting Unstuck

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Not-Castlevania

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It has been an up and down week for kickstarter games.  Namely I am talking about just how bad Mighty No. 9 has been received.  I own this on the PS4, and while the gameplay itself is not too horrible…  the biggest problem that I have is that it feels like an odd throwback to the GameCube.  Which I guess makes sense given that the game has released on a silly number of systems including the 3DS, which makes me think that quite simply all console versions…  are the 3DS version.  The saddest part about this is at various points during its development cycle the game looked really good, but the end result is this lifeless mess of flat color.  Now earlier in the day I had commented that this whole debacle over the “Not-Megaman” game made me extremely concerned about “Not-Castlevania” which is my not so subtle jab at the fact that so many of these kick-started games are simply recreations of whatever game made the developer famous in the first place.  Almost as summoned from the abyss… I got an email with a key to the E3 version of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, which I didn’t even remember being part of the funding level I backed the game at.

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It was a little late and I only played the demo long enough to get up to the first boss… I failed miserably at even coming close to defeating it namely because I entered the fight after a lot of backtracking.  There are certain things that work extremely well, then there are others that I was largely confused about.  The primary point of confusion is that for whatever reason I could not seem to get the game to do jump attacks… which are of course a staple of the Castlevania gameplay.  I was playing on my PS4 controller which I happened to have hooked up at the time to my PC, and notoriously it tends to map things oddly, so I might give it a shot with the defacto Xbox 360 controller.  As far as every other aspect of gameplay…  this is very much the spiritual successor to Symphony of the Night, but done with cell shaded 3D models instead of 2D pixel art.  It works, and it works well.. and gives you the feeling of the Castlevania art style.  The game has some really strange creatures that you end up fighting, which is cool and something vastly different from the standard zombies and werewolves and vampires oh my genre.  I am assuming that the demo leaves off after the boss fight that is pictured above, but nonetheless I am really happy to see this game at least appears to be still on the rails.

Catching Up

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Last night I got drug into Final Fantasy XIV by Ash and Grace… and admittedly they didn’t have to pull too terribly hard.  Largely they wanted to run some Void Ark, which is the thing that I needed to do to get caught up in gear levels.  I am not sure why this was such an impassible obstacle mentally for me, because I had some serious anxiety about solo queuing for it.  Memu had made an offer to help me out, but we failed miserably at coordinating a time to run it together…  mostly because I fell into a Rift shaped hope and wasn’t around all that often over the last week.  In any case all of my concerns were essentially for naught, because Void Ark is extremely easy…. but unfortunately not the gear bonanza I had hoped it would be.  Over the course of the night I ran the Ark three times, two times with Ash and Grace and one time by myself later after getting back from a walk.  In all of those boss kills I managed to get two pieces of gear… only one of which actually replacing a slot I had something lower in.  I did however get plenty of Esoterics which allowed me to keep upgrading jewelry until a combination of the that and the Mhachi Farthings pushed me over the item level 200 barrier.

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Ultimately I am probably going to keep running this place until I run out of slots to upgrade, and even then…. it is still a decent source of gear to help pull my Dragoon up in item level.  I guess I am officially off high center, and soon I can pick back up the quest chain and at least be expert viable once more.  My hope is that tonight, I can get together with Grace and run the new dungeons who now also needs them since she too broke the 200 barrier last night.  I feel better about the game in so many ways considering how frustrating it was to hit this gear wall in the questing.  I guess in truth this is something that never happened to me during 2.0, or at least once we got back and started really moving forward.  We were always just good enough to keep pushing into the next set of dungeons, but at the same time I was also spending a ton more time grinding out tomestones to make sure I was the best possible tank I could be at all times.  That is the piece that has been missing, because I really have not been able to push myself to do that the way I once was.  As our little rag tag Tuesday night group is contemplating doing more “Real” content I guess that will start to matter significantly more in the coming weeks and months.  Time to get over the hump and gear up a bit, and for the moment Void Ark seems like an easy place to do just that.

Tricksy Shotgunner

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Surprise Banner

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This weekend as I have said before I will be going to visit friends in St Louis, or more literally Lake St Louis.  As a result we will be taking the weekend off from the podcast, and I will be taking the weekend completely off from my blog.  I am not sure if I will be making a post Monday or not…  because in theory if things work as intended we should be back Sunday night.  One of the things I was mildly relieved about was the fact that I would not be missing an Iron Banner.  There is a nasty bug going on right now that happens in a certain circumstance… which primarily involves the rocket launcher from the raid… if it happened to roll with the Clown Cartridge perk.  It combined with Cocoon meant that you could have limitless regenerating ammunition and be able to fire rockets long before the heavy ammunition showed up in crucible matches.  As a result they completely cancelled Trials of Osiris, and looked like they were going to cancel this months Iron Banner.  However yesterday unexpectedly Lord Saladin showed up at the tower, and just like that Iron Banner was on for the month of May.

I know without a doubt that there is no way I can manage to get three characters through to rank 5 this time around because I will be out of town for most of it.  However I decided to focus on my hunter that is my second highest light character.  The hope being that somewhere in this process I get some decent infusion fodder if nothing else.  This go around the weapons are the Fusion Rifle and Sidearm… neither of which I am actually interested in.  As far as armor we have Chest and Arms again, both of which are pieces that my Hunter has.  In theory I should probably be doing this on the Warlock because he could use both of them.  I did however manage to ALMOST hit Rank 3 last night on the Hunter and knocked out some of the harder achievements like “top score” for a match.  It was a lot of fun, and a whole bunch of that I chock up to the Lord of Wolves Shotgun.  I had not really fallen in love with this weapon, but I had moved it to the hunter at one point because it was 335 light and I needed something to get my light levels up.

What makes this weapon awesome is that it works unlike pretty much any other shotgun.  Firing it feels more like a pulse rifle, and at least now… no one seems to be expecting it.  So many times I managed to pick people off just outside of normal shotgun range with a single burst to the head.  While it doesn’t hit quite as hard as a traditional shotgun…  it still hits plenty hard and the perfect balance perk seems to help quite a bit with the otherwise nasty recoil.  This feels like one of those meta breaking weapons, that will probably only work well against untrained players.  There are plenty of ways to counter it… and lord knows last night several people figured it out.  However for guarding flags… this combined with Trip Mines seemed to be super effective.  Hunters are just brutal in any of the PVP modes, and that throwing knife… so much fun to use, so much cursing when it is used against you.  I am certain that I pissed off a handful of people during the night, because there was this one guy that seemed to make it his personal mission to seek me out and kill me…  not always effectively which probably only added to the frustration.  Its my hope that maybe I can push to Rank 5 tonight and then maybe try pushing the Warlock when I get back from my trip.

Goal Failing

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As stupid as it might sound… this is the thing that I have missed the most from Final Fantasy XIV.  The whole standing around and interacting while in the at the Free Company thing.  Unfortunately this is also something that doesn’t really happen that often.  It feels like with Heavensward there are not as many reason to keep returning to the Free Company house as there used to be.  Also the FC is going through that pre-patch doldrums with not that many people being on within a given night, unless that night is Tuesday.  I have been trying to clear my schedule so that I can participate in Tuesday night shenanigans and this week was no exception.  For whatever reason however we struggled quite a bit, and in part I think that was because we were way short of a standard 8 player group.  Towards the end we were down to five players… 1 tank, 2 healers, 2 dps which for most of the classic Extreme Primals was doable but considerably more difficult.  As a tank I had to start dealing with mechanics that I usually never see like weight of the world.  The other bummer was that through all of this struggle… we didn’t see any pony drops… and no real interesting weapons either.

As far as failing at my goal… it was my intention to get in every night and run at least one expert.  The problem being… nobody has been around and my desire to solo queue is minimal.  It is one of those hurdles that I need to push myself over, because I realize that it is not terribly likely that I will run into one of the “git gud” idiots.  Most of the community is pretty damned chill, but there is a small fraction that feels just as toxic as any other.  It was one of these people that halted another friends queue frenzy, and I guess I am afraid I will bump into one of those and have my happy reunion with this game halted.  If you can bring two players into a four player group… you can mitigate a lot of frustration and if nothing else kick the offending party.  However I wish I had a regular group of people to queue with for nothing more than a single expert, because god knows I need the currency to buy upgrades.

 

Bunny Returns

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Samurai For Hire

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Another happening over the weekend is that I appear to have fallen back into the habit of logging into Final Fantasy XIV on a regular basis.  It had been roughly six months since I was last regularly playing the game, and in that time I went from being just about as well geared as you could be… to being woefully and insanely behind the curve.  So much so that the gear coming out of the expert roulette is often times an upgrade over the piece I was wearing.  The positive however is that the game does a pretty damned good job of helping you catch up, and I now have a huge amount of content I could be running.  I’ve been trying to do an expert a day to get back into the swing of things, but I still greatly prefer to wait and do said expert with friends.  The other interesting sequence events is something that I talked about on the AggroChat podcast this weekend.  Not long ago I had returned to World of Warcraft and was attempting to be part of a raid group run by some friends of mine.  So much so that I even managed to recruit a bunch of other friends who were not actively raiding.  All of this sounded amazing on paper, until we actually sat down and started raiding.  From the first outing… I kept wondering what I was doing wrong because it just didn’t feel all that fun.

What was happening was this was my first time tanking in Warlords of Draenor other than a times where I had to fill in without notice.  It just didn’t feel the way I remembered tanking in World of Warcraft to feel.  Even more so I had started wondering if I just wasn’t really a tank at heart anymore.  I spent the majority of Warlords as a DPS, and I really enjoyed doing that…  even though I never really hard the drive to put up big numbers.  In fact while we were raiding Blackhand, I even went so far as to uninstall my DPS meters because I didn’t want to be bothered with the guilt of not topping the meters.  Ironically not having meters made my performance go up significantly.  All of this said I started to wonder if I just was not a tank main at heart anymore.  I developed this mental block against tanking, and started looking for ways to avoid it.  Then last Tuesday I participated in the Pony farm night, and the only gear set I was certain of happened to be my tank set.  My hope was that muscle memory would take over and it did… and ultimately I had a blast tanking again.

The Feel Matters

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The reality is that I still very much like tanking… its just that I don’t enjoy taking in World of Warcraft.  In part I think it is because I have gotten used to a game where the fights are messaged extremely clearly.  In Final Fantasy XIV there is never a question of “did I move far enough out” of this or that effect because there is a clear line on the ground showing you the effected radius.  In World of Warcraft there is never really this line because the areas of effect generally extend out quite a bit further than the graphic being drawn, meaning that as a tank you are constantly second guessing.  WoW also still feels very “mash a bunch of buttons and pray” at least while playing a Warrior, whereas FFXIV feels more deliberate and purposeful.  Maybe its just that I fell into bad habits over the years, and cannot seem to break myself of them.  Whatever the case I have been having a blast tanking in FFXIV and am thinking that while I will probably level tanks in WoW… I won’t return to actively filling that roll in group content anytime soon.  It just doesn’t feel right anymore, however if you need an Expert tank in FFXIV I am your man!

Also as you can see from the above image… I have started down the path of madness that is the relic 2.0 weapon… or 3.0 depending on how you want to count it.  As a result I spent a good deal of my weekend running FATEs and have suddenly remembered…. that I actually LOVE doing FATEs.  I checked and I am actually dangerously close to the 3000 FATEs achievement, which should tell you something.  This step in the weapon is reminiscent of the Atma step in the previous weapon, but it feels a lot less egregious.  You need to get three of each elemental drop… however the drop rate of each individual crystal seems significantly higher than Atmas.  At this point I have 3 earth, 3 ice, and 1 fire…  and have been spending time out in Churning Mists as of last night not having any luck getting a single one yet.  I did however decide this was a perfect opportunity to do something I had been considering for a long while.  As of last night I am not longer an Immortal Flame but now a proud member of the Maelstrom.  I’ve made decent progress already in pushing up my rank and I believe I am currently sitting at the 5000 seal step.  However doing doing these FATEs for the weapon the grand company seals seem to be coming insanely fast.  Hopefully before long I will be sitting at max rank yet again.  The only negative is… all of that awesome Immortal Flames gear is now essentially dead to my alts… until I repurchase the Maelstrom equivalents.

Hellfire Assault

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Weekends are Bad

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One strong constant in my life is that weekends are bad for me when it comes to making plans.  This is counter-intuitive since for MOST of the living world… weekends are the time they can regularly commit to doing stuff.  The truth is that weekends are really the only time that my wife and I are both together and pointed in the same direction for any lengthy period of time.  During the week she has a mixture of responsibilities, commitments, and spur of the moment activities that often times keep her from getting home until eight or nine in the evening.  Whereas I tend to have a fairly predictable schedule, that gets me home by 5 pm CST most nights.  This means that the only time we actually get to do anything as a couple is on the weekends, and as a result I have tried really hard to be pretty sparse with committing myself to things that occur on Saturday or Sunday.  I am already breaking that rule heavily with the recording of AggroChat Saturday nights… but generally speaking by the time our 9pm CST start time rolls around we are home anyway.  There however have been a long list of activities that have happened on Sunday and Saturday afternoons that I have flaked like mad on.  There was the whole pen and paper role-playing game that happened at 2pm CST, that by some freak occurrence I managed to make four or so of… before life caught up with me and I started being unavailable.  Then similarly I thought “Sunday is TV Night” and started trying to raid with my friends Horde side… only to find that I am just barely making it into my chair some nights before Walking Dead.  As it gets nicer outside… we push back our range of activity further… so pretty much the entire summer months are a no-go for planned activities on the weekend.

As a result I thought I was pretty much done raiding in World of Warcraft at least until Legion hits.  Then my good friend Carth decided to pull together a casual raid group and after everyone voted on the best day of the week…  I lucked out and it landed on Wednesday nights.  This is pretty much the perfect raid night for me, given that my wife is already committed to church that evening and I can pretty much do whatever I want to do without causing a major imposition.  Last night was the first official outing, and we planned on raiding from 7:30 pm cst to 10 pm cst but wound up going a little over due to the overall successes of the group.  We absolutely had a few “ringer” dps in the mix, but even accounting for that… I think we did really well.  For a bit we would end up having to pug some people… but we managed to pull together a 10+ player team.  The roster was super comfortable and included so many long time friends:  Carthuun (on Aalis), Tick (on Taavish), Giulietta, Kylana, Edana (@catinglasses), Jasmynne (Carth’s Wife), Bleddwen (@KerynWeylan)…. with myself and Damai tanking and a mixture of ringers that cycled through for which I don’t know all of the mains from Praetorian Guard.

Significant Progress

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We did significantly better than I expected on our first outing.  We managed to clear up to Iskar in a single evening, and the only boss we really struggled a bit at was Kilrogg.  That is pretty much the first fight where the mechanics really start to matter, and as a result it took us two attempts for folks to get the whole visions thing down solidly.  On the second go however everything seemed to just work like plan.  It was a bit messy at the end, but any kill you walk away from with a victory is a good kill in my book.  The awesome thing about all of this as well is that we got a lot of gear for people who needed it.  Bleddwen one of the two healers… that was quite literally drafted last night on the spot…  walked away with I believe eight pieces of gear.  Our other healer walked away with three pieces, but one of those was a tier set piece.  I managed to pick up my first piece of tier gear as well, and I am hoping next go round Kormrok will be nice and drop the Warrior piece so I can throw on that two piece bonus.  As much as I loved raiding with my Horde side family, I have to say it felt good to be Belghast again in a raid.  I mean I have done Gladiator dps for awhile now, and it is really fun…  but what I mean is Belghast the tank.  It kinda felt good to go back to my roots with the character that was my main through most of those really memorable fights.

It doesn’t hurt that the folks that we raided with… are for the most part the folks I play all of these games with.  The two healers we had… have healed me many times in Final Fantasy XIV so it felt natural to see that relationship shift to World of Warcraft.  The awesome thing about this as well is that it seems like we have two tanks and two healers locked down solidly.  That means we probably need a shift healer and potentially a shift tank to fill in the gap, but otherwise we have a really solid team.  There is a certain amount of learning mechanics on the fights, like Iskar…  but I forsee us being able to start Heroic before too long.  It would be amazing if we could push through it as well and get folks some Moose loving.  In any case it was a nice, relaxing and casual raid night, with the folks I probably would have been hanging out with anyways.  The only gotcha seemed to be that we were having trouble with our normal Teamspeak server, and as a result are probably going to be migrating to Discord for next week.  I had been wanting to give Discord a real world trial, and this seems as good as any time.  I love the concept, and I just wish that it were a slack plugin rather than a completely separate application.  For text chat purposes, I still like Slack and their notification system just works better…  however for voice… at least based on testing last night Discord is seeming to be the new way to go.

 

Om Nom Dance

A Late Start

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-25 16-00-09-11 I am getting a super late start this morning on my blog post… well because things and reasons.  Last night when we finished recording AggroChat, my wife asked if it was time for bed or if I needed to stay up and edit the podcast.  I thought to myself… that bed sounded like an amazing idea and just straight up crashed.  This meant that this morning however I had to rush around a bit and edit the post while consuming breakfast.  Another thing I noticed is that apparently Final Fantasy XIV patched out their idle kick, because I was still standing in there in the middle of the Dravinian Lowlands afk all night long.  I was apparently similarly lazy in logging out from Teamspeak, which meant as folks started trying to pull things together… I went ahead and agreed to tank a few things.

Also I finally got around to doing my Minotaur Om Nom Nom Dance video voice over.  One of the dungeons that you unlock at 60 is the Fractal Continuum which includes a really strange fight.  At face value the Minotaur works just like pretty much all of the Cyclops encounters you have fought to this point.  He alternates between doing a frontal cone attack that you need to dodge and a full 360 degree sweep attack that you also should avoid.  Where it differs however is he will start channeling a group wipe attack, that you can only break… but essentially feeding him a mob.  While doing this he does a goofy little dance of sorts…  which I have taken to voicing over when I tank the dungeon.  This generally throws Grace into a fit of hysterics laughing… so I decided I should really edit together a video of the “dance”.

AggroChat 67 – The Astebreed Show

Astebreed 2015-07-25 12-08-56-63 This week we record yet another AggroChat Game Club game featuring the game Astebreed, which is an interesting mix of strange Anime Storytelling and Bullet Hell shooter. What makes the game very unique is that you are a mech… with a sword as well as your laser weapons. As far as the story goes, I think several of us were equally confused so we rely on Tam to decode it all for us… because he apparently was able to follow it the entire way. We have a lot of conversation about the tone of the game, the boss fights, the controls that may or may not have worked… and the total package.

Since adding Grace and Thalen to the podcast they were not in the initial rotation of AggroChat picks, so we did the most gamer thing ever… and rolled some dice before the show to graft them into the rotation. That means for the month of August Grace got to pick a title and we will be playing the bird dating sim… Hatoful Boyfriend… and Kodra was happier than I have ever heard him be. He loves this game, and drove us slightly mad with it when he was playing it. Now we are going to get to experience this madness for ourselves, and I am willing to bet that Game Club Seven is going to be one of the more interesting episodes of AggroChat in our history.

In Search of Esoterics

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-20 21-02-13-11 I have been a massive slacker this week when it came to grinding Esoterics, and as such am sitting at around 180.  As a result I need a whole bunch today and tomorrow in order for me to have a shot in hell of hitting the 450 weekly cap.  Generally speaking if you log in every day and run an expert roulette dungeon… you can cap fairly easily.  Guess what I have not been doing at all.  Essentially I have just not been up for group content and as a result I have been playing an awful lot of SkyForge in the meantime which is almost entirely a soloing experience for me.  However after dropping a bunch of stress last night, and finishing the paperwork on our impending home renovations I am starting to feel a little less “under the gun”.  Sure I could stress about it some more, but in my mind the decision process is over and now we just have to wait for everything to happen.

I did however have a nightmare scenario run through my mind this morning, that makes me wonder just how they are going to deal with our cable connection while ripping off the siding.  I really hope I will not be without internet for two weeks.  This afternoon my plan is to sit here and grind expert dungeons for anyone who is willing to run them with me, and as a result whittle away my missing esoterics.  I would really like to be able to get that tasty level 200 weapon within the first three weeks.  If not there is always the next two weeks I can cap to make that happen, but preferably I would like to be getting as many as I can at least until I get a few pieces of gear under my belt.  The rest of the time however I am still working on pushing my Dragoon higher and at this point I am still roughly 3/4 of the way through 58.  It kinda sucks to have dueling priorities, because I would really love to get him at 60 and geared so I have other options than just tanking.

Alexander Ready

Assorted Updates

TardisShowerCurtain First up I want to thank everyone for checking in on me after my Saturday post.  I am doing largely okay myself, but I wanted to talk about my own struggles in the hopes that it might bring someone out of the woodwork and let them know that they really aren’t as alone as they might think.  I am still processing the information about my friend, but again I am more concerned about another one of my friends for whom the news is much closer.  I was absolutely overwhelmed by the support you all gave me though, and I am consistently amazed at just how loving a community the twitter and blogosphere communities can be.  Sure there are people out there that make these places toxic environments, but I seem to have filtered out any possible negative elements from my own feed so that all I really see is positive people who have always been willing to embrace me when I needed it.  In part I am hoping that if someone is struggling…  they also see the overwhelming response I got… and maybe it convinces them that it is worth reaching out and talking to someone.

This weekend was very much the “last call” for the dumpster, as it should get picked up today.  The weekend before we tackled both of our offices, and Saturday we tore into the upstairs bathroom.  For several years now it had gone neglected, and the upstairs shower room was essentially a catch all of big things that we “intended” to take to good will but never actually got there.  As a result that room had probably not been opened for roughly a decade.  We fixed that… and did a bunch of little things throughout the weekend as well.  This is also seemingly the weekend of finally taking care of things we intended to do.  Over the course of Saturday I took three full loads to goodwill, and at the end of the day we were finally able to deploy this amazing Tardis shower curtain that I have had for a few years, with the intention of going in that bathroom.  The cats are confused as hell with the constant changes in their world.  The upstairs bathroom also serves as the littlebox room… and our eldest cat just sat in there Saturday evening confusedly meowing… because she didn’t recognize the place.

Office Improvements

mynewsetup A week ago I posted an “in progress” shot of my office and this weekend I continued to refine it.  One of the side benefits of Saturday was getting a cabinet that would fit under the printer table, that now serves as my toolbox.  This allowed me to sort the various tools that I found while cleaning and organize them in one place.  Sunday however became the day I tackled hooking up the consoles again.  Below the television that is proudly displaying Street Fighter Alpha 3 (we will get to that in a bit) is a cabinet that contains my PS3, PS4 and Xbox 360.  I had to cut holes in the backing board of the cabinet to fish the cords through but in the end in works pretty well.  While I had my PS4 torn apart I also performed the upgrade from the stock 500 GB hard drive to a new Samsung 2 TB one…  and the nice thing about this setup is that it is close enough to the router that I can actually hard wire the network instead of relying on wireless for everything.  My hope is that this improves the performance of remote play through both the Vita and the PSTV.

All of these are hooked into an HDMI switch box that then goes through my Elgato capture card into my PC, allowing me to capture video from any of the devices.  The new device that is playing SF Alpha 3 however is a side project that I started a couple of years ago.  I had purchased a Foxconn Netbox PC some time ago for the purpose of turning it into an emulator machine.  Problem being in my old setup there was never really a good place to hook it up, and while I managed to get an operating system loaded on it…  I never did the required fiddling to make it all work.  In the meantime I had been searching for a more turnkey solution and finally landed upon Lakka, which is a custom Linux distribution designed entirely around running the RetroArch emulator platform.  The awesome thing about it is that it also has Samba set up so it mounts each of the required directories as windows shares so you can simply copy files to it over the network.  So as of yesterday I got it up and running and have NES, SNES, GB, GBA, DS, Genesis, Master System, Game Gear and a few Arcade games running on it.  Really happy with the way it is working, the only negative is that apparently the N64 emulator will not run at all on 32 bit hardware…  so I can live without that.

Alexander Ready

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-12 14-55-34-01 From a gaming perspective my world has revolved around getting to item level 170 in Final Fantasy XIV.  This is the magical breaking point that allows you access to the new Alexander raid, and can be attained through a combination of law gear and clan hunt based upgrades.  As of last night I am sitting at 173 with every item upgraded to 170 or better except for one of my rings.  Yesterday afternoon I managed to get into turn one of Alexander with Wulf and Grace and on our second attempted pushed through the encounter.  It was a really fun fight to tank along side Wulf, and while he continued on into the progression… I dropped out to help folks with dungeons.  My hope is that maybe tonight I can get in some more of Alexander because supposedly at the end of the quest chain, you end up getting a “Bolt” the item that can be exchanged for an accessory slot.  This would ultimately make it so that I didn’t need to somehow purchase a second tomestone of law ring, but instead jump straight to the 190 equivalent.

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-12 21-45-55-08 I am really happy that in theory my gear grind is coming to a close at least on the Warrior.  This is largely because I really want to start pushing my focus to the Dragoon so I can get it up to level as well.  Right now I am roughly half way to 55, and honestly a few more dungeon runs would get me there quickly.  Right now however every waking moment in game has been spent making sure I do all of my duty roulettes so that I can get all the bonus law I can manage.  Even with a shift in focus to the Dragoon I will still probably end up getting a bunch of law, simply because I get called on by my friends in the free company to tank random stuff.  I quite literally could be happy if I did nothing but run dungeons, because this set of dungeons is freaking amazing.  The last few days I have managed to get The Vault as my low level roulette, and I am perfectly fine with this because that place is so much more enjoyable than doing another Brayflox or god forbid Aurum Vale.  While I am still struggling inside with the news I got on Friday, the weekend as a whole was pretty successful in at least taking my mind off of it for large blocks of time.