Blade of Woe

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First off with some business to attend to that is Blaugust related.  The very awesome Chestnut has been maintaining a twitter list of all of the folks participating in Blaugust 2018 that are on that platform.  Next up I was asked to participate in a couple of blogs, one with recording a promo that they could edit in and another actually sitting down and talking a bit about the event.  Those have both made their way into production as it were, and first off you have my promo that appears near the tail end of Geek to Geek Podcast with Void and Beej.  Next up I recorded a bit with Syp at the tail end of the Massively OP Podcast, but in both of these cases you should totally listen to the entire show because they are excellent.  I always enjoy the conversations that happen between Void and Beej and then  Syp and Bree as well so two shows always worth listening to.

Over the last few days I have not done the whole morning Blaugust updates in part because the sign ups had slowed down a bit.  However with the spots on the two podcasts we seem to have had an influx of new folks.  On the sheet I ask where folks heard about Blaugust, and so far one of my happiest moments is when I get a submission that says something other than the equivalent of “Bel Told Me” because that means we are spreading out and expanding our reach.  At this point we have 48 blogs signed up to participate and we still have some time before the festivities actually start…  I am cheating a bit with that number because technically one has not signed up but I know it is incoming.  If you are wanting a list of all of the participants and mentors I am keeping a google sheet with only the relevant information in it for folks to use on blogrolls and the like.

New Mentors

New Participants

As always though there is plenty of time to get started.  Pop over and fill out the sign up sheet to get registered, and then pop by the Discord to hang out with other Blaugustans.

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In gaming news, last night I started the Dark Brotherhood series of quests and so far they are pretty freaking cool.  This was always one of my favorite guilds in the Elder Scrolls games because I like the whole Sithis and the Night Mother thing going on as well as the fact that in spite of being a bunch of blood thirsty killers…  there is this interesting family dynamic happening.  This sanctuary is no different and there are some really cool things happening from the sounds of it, and I am interested to see how the events fold out this time.  The Dark Brotherhood quest lines tend to go in a specific direction…  as do the Thieves Guild to be honest.  The Elder Scrolls Online Thieves Guild was in fact a traditional Elder Scrolls Thieves Guild story…  so I have certain expectations of how things are about to go here as well.

I am not very far into the quest line and have only done a few contracts, but I am absolutely and completely down with how Blade of Woe has been implemented in this game.  I like that it just gives me an assassination ability instead of making me wield a freaking dagger.  I am not a stealthy character, but the truth is…  Dark Brotherhood is probably going to make me one because I am not sure how long I can pay the upkeep of constantly having a couple thousand gold in bounties on my head.  Now the first trait in the DB skill line seems to reduce the amount of bounty gained when someone witnesses a murder…  but regardless I need to be at least a little stealthy in my hits.

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I do not really like forced stealth mechanics, and my brand is more about charging into battle in a nonsensical manner and as a tank gathering up all that enemy hate.  This is not conducive to the Thieves Guild, but you can absolutely go in that direction with the Dark Brotherhood.  If you want to complete a mission by making sure there is 100% body count… then by all means that is a thing that can happen.  However it becomes painfully obvious that every one of those kills is going to cost you in the long run, with a very tangible bounty associated with it.  I came out of one mission with roughly 5500 gold in bounty on my head…  and while I could have waited awhile for that to drop I made my way to the nearest outlaws refuge and took care of it rather than be hassled by the guards.

Now that I have gotten slightly better at using Blade of Woe I am doing a better job of getting those kills in unnoticed and as a result reducing that gold footprint.  This game is teaching me to be stealthy and while it is weird for me to say it…  I am actually enjoying it more than I have in pretty much any other game.  I was extremely proud of myself the first time I got into a building unnoticed and back out without having to use one of the magical stealth baskets.  The mission I ran at the beginning of the night involved roaming around a palace and it mostly felt easy to go where I needed to go because I am starting to develop the reflexes needed to sneak about.  There is a certain muscle memory that I am developing that I have never really had in the past.  In other Elder Scrolls Games the only reason why I ever used sneak…  was to land a bow shot with the damage multiplier.  This time it feels like it allows me to move around freely and avoid entanglements I might not want to deal with.  All in all… still having a blast even though I was initially grumpy with the forced stealth.

A Four Year Mission

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I realize this is a lot of images to link at the beginning of a blog post… but there is a good reason.  For the last four years playing Elder Scrolls Online I had a singular goal…  to see something in the live game that I have not seen since one of the last days of alpha.  I’ve talked about this before but I have been playing Elder Scrolls Online since February of 2013 when the first Friends and Family alphas began.  How I got in is because my good friend Tamrielo was one of the creators of a not insignificant amount of the quest content.  Every so often in Alpha we would be lead by him to go see something… that was a reference to one of us or one of our friends.  One of the final things I remember is running all of the way across the Ebonheart Pact area to The Rift….  and Nimalten to be specific to see an arrangement of NPCs in that town.  The date specifically was October 13th of 2013 as I have a stack of screenshots that I took at that time have have hoarded since.

Last night I managed to push my way through the Eastmarch storyline and upon zoning into the The Rift for the first time…  I couldn’t wait any longer and made a jaunt across zone to Nimalten to find what I had been waiting to see all of this time.  Granted every one of the NPCs made their way through a bit of a “Nordification” pass by the lore team, but enough survived that it is pretty obvious who they are if you know what you are looking at.  First up is my namesake aka Belgrod Sternblade (technically one of two namesakes that I know of) who has a throwaway line about his Stalwart Band of Mercenaries which is a reference to House Stalwart the guild I started in World of Warcraft back in 2004.  Next up is Waren the Wolf aka Warenwolf a long time friend of ours from the vanilla World of Warcraft days, phenomenal hunter and the target of my attempts to heal him with arrows in alpha.  Then we have Ashvorn Bear-Walker which is the slantwise namesake of Ashgar our perennial bear tank and general friend of anything that transforms into animal form.  Lastly we have Autrae Snow-Wing who is playing with her cat Dimi… that represent former AggroChat host Audrae and her then cat Dimitri.

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This might seem silly but for me personally…  being able to see these characters legitimately in the final release of the game means a lot to me.  It also allows me to take stupid photos like the one above with the two Belghast-kin together.  Of course the moment I finished doing this nonsense I ported back to the start of the zone because I want to experience it through the natural flow instead of just jumping ahead to this one town.  I’ve been having a complete blast playing Elder Scrolls Online over the last couple of weeks and really the game has evolved to a state where it pretty much has all of the things that I think I once complained about it not having.  It has a really excellent housing system that I have been collecting patterns for…  and still what I would consider the single best crafting system in any MMORPG.  While a little costly I am a fan of their cosmetic system implementation as well as the various costumes available through either crown crates or direct purchase on the store.  The fact that subscribing to the game gets me access to all of the Expansion and DLC content, a stack of crowns each time it renews, and a magical crafting bag that lets me loot everything and not worry about bag space…  is all a “plus” in my book.  The full list of features for a subscription goes a little something like this…

  • Access to all DLC game packs in the in-game Crown Store
  • Free crowns for the in-game Crown Store
  • Access to the Craft Bag
  • Double bank space
  • Bonuses to progression
  • Extra furniture space
  • Costume dyeing
  • Double Transmutation Crystals

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I am very much in my MMO happy place at the moment, and completely oblivious to pretty much anything else apart from the occasional game of Diablo 3.  I am super excited that soon…  in one zones time I will be starting the first of the DLC content for Elder Scrolls Online.  I have purposefully delayed starting literally anything that came out past the original game… because I wanted to have beaten all 150 levels worth of content that the original game had to offer.  For the uninitiated that starts with the 50 levels worth of content in your starting faction and works its way through Silver and Gold… the new game plus, and new game plus plus that sees you travelling via Cadwell to the other two factions.  Sure it is a little weird to be helping the Ebonheart Pact fight off the Covenant while rocking the Covenant Hero title…  but whatever I can hand wave that away.

The thing that makes me the happiest about Elder Scrolls Online is how indistinguishable it is for me personally from playing any other Elder Scrolls game at this point.  I love the story arcs for each of the zones that evolve as you work your way around and help the other people…  and the little payoffs when you meet up with a character you have already helped out once before.  The amount of scripting work that went into making sure that each NPC recognizes you from every time you have interacted with that NPC before has to be staggering.  The fact that the final main story quest usually involves weaving in a bunch of characters that you met in the zone and each of them commenting on how you helped them in the past, is just so damned great.  The only thing that would push it over the top is if they introduced some Bioware style companions with romance story arcs…  because seriously the core story itself is as good as anything I have seen in a Mass Effect or Dragon Age game.

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I have an extreme amount of emotional investment in this game, not just for the fact that there are characters named after me roaming its world…  but also for the fact that I feel like I helped shape it.  I was a very active member of the alpha community and supposedly one of the more active bug reporters.  I love that there is still a core of players out there in an alpha-only guild that I am part of that has been playing off and on since the days we first got into the servers and kept reporting bugged doors.  I love the fact that there is still a hidden area on the official forums that only those first few testers have access to, and while it isn’t terribly active… feels like a little secret clubhouse that a handful of us have access to.  Every time I step foot into Tamrielo in Elder Scrolls Online it feels like coming back home, and each time I forget why I left in the first place.  The truth is…  I am an easily distracted toddler and I am sure at some point some shiny object with cause me to shift my gaze elsewhere…  but for the moment I am loving every moment of roaming this place that is both so familiar to me but still so fresh to explore.

Exploring Deshaan

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This is going to be a bit of a weird week for me personally, and as a result probably a weird week for the blog.  My wife has a friend in town for a conference and as a result it is causing us to vary our normal patterns…  and also as a result there is probably going to be significantly less gaming to talk about.  Now one major exception is that said friend is a Magic the Gathering player and tentatively Wednesday night we have plans to get together and play some casual decks for fun.  That will of course be probably something that I write about and I am going to attempt to take some “board state” photos as the matches go.  I have built up a box of four battle decks from card kingdom that are all themed and roughly the same power level thinking it would be a quick and easy drop in and play magic option.  The grand idea was to bring it up to work for some lunch time gaming, but it hasn’t actually happened yet.

Last night when we got home from Joe Momma’s one of our favorite downtown pizza places, I crashed on the sofa and played some Elder Scrolls Online.  I am essentially doing what I always do which is push into the corners of the map that I have yet to explore and complete whatever quests I happen across there.  I remember this game had a rather frosty reception… but in truth the longer it lives the less I can distinguish it from a normal numbered Elder Scrolls game.  I realize some players approached those games in vastly different ways than I did… but for me it was always about killing monsters, collecting loot, running quests…  and ABOVE ALL ELSE…  wandering around aimlessly and exploring the nooks and crannies of the map.  All of those game play styles are supported in ESO and as a result whenever I pick it back up it sorta feels like returning to an old friend.

One of my favorite parts about returning to the game is something that dates back to alpha.  The original alpha players were referred to as the Psijic Order, and on the official game forums there is still a hidden forum area that never got closed out from that area where we occasionally chat back and forth.  Similarly there was a guild formed on launch day made up of players from this same alpha pool and in truth it is one of the more active guilds that I have access to.  I am super thankful that after all of this time and all of my wandering away and back again that no one punted me from it.  I am deeply connected to this title because of my experiences testing it for so long, and I am happy to for some remnant of that early community that I still have access to.

I am cutting off the post short this morning as it is election day here in Oklahoma.  I am going to attempt to vote before work, and if you too are having a primary I highly suggest you drag your butt to the polls as well.

Old-Lady Suit

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Best Intentions

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I had psyched myself up yesterday to go off and do some raiding last night.  Some friends of friends had graciously offered to drag me along with them for the first part of Heroic Hellfire Citadel.  I thought to myself that this was an excellent opportunity, that could lead to gear and maybe even a moose at some point, so even though they raid PST, I figured I would make the good college try.  The problem being my body is still conspiring against me.  This is officially the sickest I have been in years, as we are now going on thirteen days for this crud.  Admittedly my wife had something super similar weeks before we went to PAX and while she got over the bulk of it… almost a month later she still has the constant cough.  The thing that is killing me at the moment is the sore throat, only exacerbated by the constant body shaking coughing fits and drainage.  So by the time the raid was starting around 9:30 my time…. I was already taking NyQuil and planning to slip into bed.  I politely begged off as best I could and if any of them are reading today… I sincerely thank them for the opportunity.  One which I kinda hope will still be available when I am not feeling like shit.

The problem I am in with Belghast is the fact that my item level is artificially low, because there are four pieces of gear that I simply cannot afford to get rid of.  I have the four piece normal Blackrock Foundry set, and every time I try and sim out swapping out of it for higher item level gear… it is a major dps loss.  The problem being that I am playing a special snowflake class that will be going away in Legion.  Gladiator just works strangely, and it feels like Blizzard inadvertently gave use the most perfect class set ever.  The two piece bonus is “Shield Slam has a 8% Chance to Automatically Cast Shield Charge” which is massive, and helps fill in those spots where I could not normally have Shield Charge up for the damage bonuses.  The four piece is essentially “Shield Charge increases the damage of Heroic Strike, Slam, and Revenge by an Additional 20%” which is the single best damage booster that I can get right now.  So I simply cannot abandon this set bonus, and the only real option right now would be to try and find a Mythic Blackrock group so I could get the Mythic four piece set.  Because of the way the Hellfire Dungeon set works… I can also squeeze in the two piece of that set giving me “Bonus Armor Increased by 145” which while not insane… is a decent dps boost since every point of armor translates to 2 attack power for Gladiator spec.  So needless to say I am stuck in a corner where my 686 gear score does not exactly equate to my performance…  but I don’t really have access to the upgrades that would actually help.  I mean as much as I hate to see it go, I totally see why Blizzard is getting rid of this special snowflake spec.  It is extremely hard to itemize for and gear for.

Madness and Cheese

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So after getting frustrated that there was very little I could do to improve my lot in life on my Warrior, I ended up logging over into Elder Scrolls Online for some nice and peaceful questing.  I actually managed to catch Solaria on at the same time, and I spent a little bit of time attempting to help her get started in crafting.  The only problem being that during prime time it seems like all of the ore is heavily farmed down.  Since I have the insane “see it from a distance” glow effect, I am wondering about dropping down to Betnikh and helping farm up a bunch of ore for her.  She decided to go with a Heavy Armor Two-Handed Templar…. which was one of my favorite paths from alpha testing.  It feels a little bit like a WoW Retribution Paladin in the burst damage department, and has some really high survival when running around questing.  It also greatly simplifies the crafting, since Blacksmith can literally make everything they would need to use from the weapon to the armor.  The problem there is Blacksmithing honestly seems to be the most useful profession, and as a result ore is always in high demand.  I could in theory just pass over a bunch of bars, but she really needs the skill-ups from refining the bars right now, so I would be better served just going out and farming ore for her.

One of the things I had forgotten about Elder Scrolls Online was just how well written the quests are.  I completed a sequence in Grahtwood where I ended up encountering my favorite of all Daedra… Sheogorath the Prince of Madness.  You never know if he is going to attack you… or offer you cheese…  and then attack you.  What makes this sequence so great is the fact that I have tangled with Sheogorath in the past of this game.  He remembers my interactions and even seems to comment based on my decisions….  in this completely unrelated quest line.  The amount of time that they put into making sure that the dialog trees had little gems like this, is just awesome… and I am still really impressed by them when I find them.  All of the content was designed knowing that your single character might be completing all three factions worth of it.  There is just something warm and fuzzy about playing this game…  and while at one point I was disappointed in it…  I think most of that was really just me trying to make it into something that it was not.  As a largely solo experience the game is exemplary, and honestly I look forward to trying to scramble enough people together to do a dungeon or two and see if that experience improved as well.  Cheese for everyone!

 

 

 

 

Reaping What We Sow

Pax Packing

Tonight is my last night at home before heading towards PAX.  As such our world pretty much revolves around packing up the things that need packing and cleaning the house some more to make it nice for the house sitter.  I think at this point I have everything that I am going to need to both enjoy and “work” pax.  This is going to be an odd experience for me, because in theory I am the eyes and ears of MMOGames.com during the course of this trip.  In addition to that I am going to try my best not to let my streak of daily postings slip either.  As such I am writing this and planning on posting it in the morning… which while cheating is something I have accepted in the past.  In truth most of my posts during this trip will be along these lines as I intend to write up what I saw during that day from my hotel room.

The oddest experience for me is that I am going to have some actual media appointments, as in sit on the couch and talk to devs about their games.  I have a ton of questions, but at the same time I am feeling extremely self conscious.  Its like I am expecting them to immediately realize that I am not really a professional writer, and get kicked off the couch or something.  Sure I blog each and every day, and that has been one hell of a marathon, but for whatever reason this suddenly seems that much more real.  I would love to be doing stuff like this for a living, but I learned long ago that writing simply does not pay enough to even come close to offsetting the salary of a programmer.  So instead I will just pretend to be a “legitimate writer”, and simply be thankful that someone is letting me indulge that fantasy.

Buy To Play

eso 2014-05-09 18-41-57-458 For the several quarters it has seemed to me that Elder Scrolls Online and Wildstar were like two kids sitting waiting on the bottom of a pool.  Each of them trying to hold their breath as long as humanly possible before admitting defeat and swimming to the surface.  Today Elder Scrolls Online swam to the surface and admitted defeat, announcing that they would be abandoning the subscription model in favor of a new “buy to play” strategy with an optional premium subscription.  That said I absolutely expect Wildstar to swim to the surface themselves rather quickly confident that they won this game of chicken… but no less battered for the challenge.  This was the year that the subscription model gave its last hurrah, and ultimately proved that the buying public simply was not willing to pay on a month my month basis.

I say this but it is not entirely true, given that World of Warcraft, EVE Online, and Final Fantasy XIV are each doing better than they have in years.  The subscription model is still very much alive and kicking, but unfortunately the folks willing to pay a monthly fee… seem to already be committed leaving only the game hoppers and nomads shifting from  title to title.  Awhile back I wrote an article calling Elder Scrolls Online my disappointment of the year… and in many ways it still very much is.  That said I hate to see them having to shift payment models like this.  I still like the idea of a subscription, but a game has to earn the right to see my monthly payment.  Final Fantasy XIV does this by providing a constant stream of new content.  World of Warcraft earns my dollar by simply being the first breakout hit to claim the market share and thus addict swarms of my friends who refuse to leave it.  Elder Scrolls Online just lacked the glue to keep me playing, and after my initial six months worth of subscription time I let my account go dormant expecting to play again when it hit the consoles.

Reaping What We Sow

Today I made a tweet, and as luck would have it my fingers got faster than my brain…  and it of course has a typo.  That said I pretty much stand by the statement… once corrected for spelling of course.  Game Companies are after all companies.  Developers, Designers, Artists and Writers all have to get paid for their work, and at the end of the day no one can afford to work for free.  Hell I couldn’t do half of the stuff I did with my blog, podcasts and the sort without a really nice paying job to back me up and fund my hobbies.  At the end of the day these companies have to make money, so they can turn around and invest in those resources that support their games., and that’s not even taking into account the serious costs associated with keeping up a server farm.  Sure single servers are relatively simple and cheap to operate… but when you are talking an online game you are literally talking about thousands of servers working together to maintain the structure that we demand be not only up 24/7 but also be relatively lag free.

So if we complain about blatant money grabs like the air drop scandal in H1Z1, or the constant limited edition loot box bonanzas in Star Wars the Old Republic and Rift.  We have to realize that all of it is entirely our faults.  The subscription model was nice and honestly and for the most part was a contract between the players and a company.  We pay them to keep rolling out new content, and keep the lights on… and we would get to play their games.  However at some point during the line that contract was broken, and we the players started wanting more for free.  I have gotten so tired of seeing comments like “I like the game, but I will play it when it goes free to play”.  If you like the game, and want to play it… you should be willing to support it.  I’ve subscribed to games for months after I stopped playing them, just because I believed in the mission of the company or the game.  If we don’t help the companies… they are going to keep  taking progressively more desperate measures to try and stay afloat and keep making salary.

Players Are Now Investors

I will be the first to admit that steam early access or paid alpha and beta programs are frustrating riddled with problems.  Ultimately I feel like that extra transparency bogs down the process and ultimately produces a confused product designed by committee.  The problem is…  we are quickly becoming the investors in the games we are playing.  Why are we now investors you might ask yourself?  Essentially the repeat failure of AAA MMOs means that a lot of the institutional funding is simply not available.  Would you want to fund an MMO after the state of Rhode Island was stuck holding a multi-million dollar bill for the failure of Copernicus?  Kickstarter has been an interesting catalyst for games development.  It has placed a power in our hands that we have never had before…  and it is not entirely a good thing.  As investors… we feel entitled to have our say in the way the process works.

I honestly miss the days when I could look at the games industry like it was some magical engine of creation.  When I could view it as being something that simply turned out the games I wanted to play without any real consequences attached to it.  The problem is… I know the consequences in the faces of friends that have been effected by the closure of studios, and the “cutbacks” in staffing as subscriptions faltered.  How do you build a family when you aren’t sure where you will be living in six months?  Maybe I shouldn’t care about the human costs behind these things, but unfortunately that isn’t really a luxury I have.  I write my blog and I make my quips, but at the end of the day I have nothing but the utmost respect for the folks that make the games I care about.  I can be petulant just as much as the next person, but sometimes I lose sight on the truth behind it all.  They make the games that we are supposed to have fun playing… and in doing so it is up to us the players to uphold our end of that bargain.  I am not addressing the people that didn’t enjoy a game, because that is the way it works…. I am talking about the folks that loved a game… but were unwilling to subscribe.

Savior of Glenumbra

Awkward Ex-Coworkers

spicychicken We are having some minor issues with my wife’s vehicle, so as a result I had to get up crazy early yesterday morning to drive her into work.  Crazy early because I still wanted to be able to blog like normal, and she generally leaves when I am about halfway done with my morning post.  As a result it made the entire day feel sluggish.  After work we made plans to go eat at one of my favorite restaurants near her workplace so I could get cheese tots and spicy chicken.  The above shot is what the dish looks like… I snapped a photo some time ago to brag on her for bringing it home to me one night.  We hung out and ate with another teacher friend of hers and it was a pretty awesome time…  until something happened to taint it.

We had been there for a little bit, and our order had not arrived when I noticed someone walk in that looked vaguely familiar.  While trying to place him I saw his wife walk in and immediately the combination of the two faces together snapped in my memory.  These were some ex-coworkers and while they were nice enough…  they came from a period of time when I was at the worst place I have ever worked.  To make it worse they are both extremely good friends with what I considered to be the boss from hell.  So it is not exactly the situation where I want to go over and “catch up”.  Thankfully they were with what looked like parents and too busy with their own conversations to notice me much.

I hate that anyone associated with that workplace is immediately flagged as an enemy in my head, and I am not really sure how to get past it.  Every place I have ever worked I have been the group rockstar, and the current environment is no less true…  although in my present situation we have three rockstars working on the same team.  This workplace however, from day one there was nothing I could ever do right.  The boss would loosely stub things out in a project website, with roughly a single sentence describing what needed to be done.

If I asked questions as to what the hell he meant by that…  I would catch hell for not taking initiative.  If I figured things out on my own, and just got the job done… I would catch hell for not doing it exactly like he wanted it to be done.  There was seriously a no win situation, and the two people that walked in represented that time period in my life.  Every time I see someone associated with that period I just want to scream how much of an asshole that guy was and how he made my life complete and total crap.  But instead I smile and nod and try my damnedest to ignore them and hope they walk away.

Savior of Glenumbra

Screenshot_20140404_220811 Last night we got home fairly late from meeting the friend for dinner, so by the time I made it upstairs it was almost eight.  At that point folks had already paired up into dungeon runs, so I opted to simply focus on finishing up the rest of Glenumbra.  I feel like I am moving super slow, because I simply cannot chew through the Elder Scrolls content as fast as others seem to be able to.  I have friends who have been “finished” with Glenumbra for some time, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they are nowhere near 100% on the zone… and quite truthfully as much time as I have spent there I seriously doubt I have gotten everything either.  I do have all of the icons on the map turned from black to white, and have gotten 100% of the skyshards… so I feel like it is “good enough” for me to move on.  Last night after finishing Crosswych I got the “Savior of Glenumbra” achievement.

Screenshot_20140404_220734 I have to say… Stormhaven means serious business.  I managed to get to level 18 in Glenumbra before moving on, but when I moved into Stormhaven that is supposed to be a 15+ zone I noticed everything hit considerably harder.  Granted this could be in part to the fact that I am still mostly wearing level 14 gear, since I need High Iron which cannot be found in Glenumbra.  More so I think that they have just ratcheted up the difficulty.  Instead of fighting random bandits, you are now fighting random daedra.  While they might not have the hitpoint pool…  Clanfear are Clanfear…  they all seem to be just as hard to kill.  The new zone is just as lovely, if not slightly more damaged by the conflict.  The screenshots are from the first town, which is a lovely little port just a ways inside of the zone line.  I look forward to meandering my way across the zone like I did in glenumbra.

I swear this game was designed specifically for me, because it is littered with things to find and interesting things to kill.  I love that crafting can be leveled without having ever crafted a single item.  I am constantly bringing back bags full of gear that I got from killing baddies, and through doing nothing but deconstruction I have managed to get Woodworking to 10, and Clothing to 9.  While I have been making plenty of blacksmithing items, I still have gotten most of my levels from deconstructing “found” things.  This is the only game system I have ever played that supported leveling crafting through mass slaughter.  I have to say I love it though, it lets me play the game the way I want to play it, and limit my time hovering over the forge.

Visiting a Friend

Landmark64 2014-04-05 09-02-04-73 This morning I saw a tweet from Scopique thanking me for reminding him to feed his claim in Landmark… which in turn reminded me to log in and feed my own.  As much as it might annoy me that we can only store five days worth of copper in our claim banks, it is in the very least forcing me to log in every few days to make sure I have it fully stocked.  Right now I am in a weird place with my own claim.  I need to go on another massive stone harvesting run, but I have not been able to bring myself to do so… because I would rather be playing Elder Scrolls Online.  For a few days however my friend Syl has said that I should pop by her claim and see the progress.  As a result I ended up with a pretty cool screenshot of the pair of us overlooking her claim.

Landmark64 2014-04-05 08-55-26-26 I hope she won’t be cross with me for posting a picture of her Inn “in progress”.  I have to say the interior is coming along extremely well.  I love the fireplace and the basin, and on a rack behind me is a really cool lance that she made from scratch.  I love the way the house is wrapped around the tree.  Makes me realize just how much work I need to do on my own.  I am really good at roughing out massive structures, but I always lack the drive to go back in later and do the fine detail work.  She however seems to excel at it, putting the finishing touches on rooms as she builds them.  Super impressed with what she has done so far, and hopefully at some point this weekend I will get the drive to log in and go on another massive stone farming expedition.  If nothing else was cool to pop over and see her claim for a bit before logging to work on this here blog post.  Is that blogception?

#ElderScrollsOnline #Landmark #Glenumbra #Stormhaven #ESO

Tanking Tamriel

A Shift in Tanking

Screenshot_20140403_214617 I had a conversation the other morning about Dragon Knight tanking, and what abilities I use.  As a result I thought it might be a useful blog post in waiting.  The big thing about Elder Scrolls Online is that as a tank we have to throw a lot of our preconceived notions away.  In previous games our mission in life has been to generate as much threat on as many targets as possible, and somehow through the grace of your healer manage to stay vertical.  This is very much not business as usual in the Elder Scrolls.  The moment I stepped into a dungeon I admit that I tried to do this, and found that my healer simply could not handle keeping me alive.  There really are no AOE “threat” tools, nor is there really even a concept of threat as we know it in other games.

Instead of focusing all of the healing on a single player, the ESO method is more to try and spread the damage out among multiple targets at the same time evenly.  As a tank you still play a crucial role as you can handle the hardest hitting targets while the healers/dps deal with the squishier targets.  It takes some getting used to, but when it works it just works seamlessly.  The group make up is far less important than it has been in other games.  We’ve managed to make dual healers, and dual tanks work… which would have been a recipe for disaster in other games.  The biggest thing is that the ESO dungeons require you to play in a much more fluid manner than before.  Since a lot of the mob interactions are not static, you need to be able to adjust to changes as they happen.

Tanking Tamriel

Screenshot_20140403_064618 I thought I would start off by talking a bit about the abilities that I use while tanking dungeons.  Please note, that Belghast Sternblade my main is an Imperial Dragon Knight, and I have focused on Sword and Shield and Heavy Armor obsessively.  I don’t even have an alternate weapon loadout because I have been purely focused on this one thing that I like doing.   Here I am going to walk you through my hotbar, and some of the choices I have made to support being “tanky”.

1 – Fiery Grip

This is the most archetypal Dragon Knight ability and generally one that people take immediately when they get their first skill point.  I used to do this but now end up taking it as a second pick due to reasons I will explain later.  Who does not love Deathgrip and feeling like Scorpion from Mortal Combat.  This will become the most crucial ability you have in that you can use it to gank mobs away from squishier targets and will use it to pull with.  I have not spent any points on morphing the ability, and at present I am leaning towards Extended Chains, the morph that increases distance.

2 – Ransack

This ability morphs from Puncture, and is literally the first thing I always choose when I am building a tanky DK.  The reasoning behind the first pick is that whatever you pick first… will ultimately be the ability you are able to morph first since skills begin leveling the moment you place them on your hotbar.  This is the bread and butter tanking ability.  Ransack taunts the target for 15 seconds, deals damage, decreases the targets armor, and buffs your armor by the amount decreased.  As a result this will literally be your most useful key to press ever since it does four different things at once and increases your survival while doing it.

3 – Stone Giant

Stone Giant is a morph of the ability Stone Fist from the Earthen Heart tree.  At face value it is an extremely useful ability because it knocks the target down for a short period of time.  This will allow you to interrupt abilities that normally could not be interrupted.  Additionally it has a slightly longer than melee range allowing you to knock a target down and reduce damage on someone else.  When you morph it however you get a short term armor buff after casting it allowing it to also function as somewhat of a survival ability as well.

4 – Dark Talons

This ability allows you to lock a number of targets down by encasing them in a cage of bone.  While at face value this does not make a ton of sense for a tank build, since you are going to be up close and personal anyways… it does when you realize that it is a short term CC allowing you to control the flow of the mobs at the beginning of an encounter.  I tend to hang back and as the first group of mobs comes running in, case this locking down most of them and giving the healer and dps time to acquire targets.

5 – Razor Armor

This ability is my one size fits all damage reduction buff morphed from Spiked Armor.  I try my best to keep this on me at all times during a fight, or at least during the times when I am tanking the heaviest of hitters.  Namely this ability increases your armor for 20 seconds and deals damage to your attacker while doing so.  The morph makes it so you get an additional 25% armor increase for the 2.5 seconds.  This is more in the line of pre-emptive triage when you know you are going to be taking more damage.

The Passives

That is my toolbox abilities and pretty much the only ones I use other than swapping in a view situational abilities.  If I know we are going to be fighting Daedra or Undead I tend to swap in Silver Bolts for Stone Giant, since the effectiveness of that ability greatly eclipses the minimal survival you get.  If I am soloing, I swap out Dark Talons for Shield Charge, because I like ping ponging around the map and I don’t generally need to lock down targets.  Occasionally I will swap in Consuming Trap if I know I will need healing after combat.  For the most part these are the only active abilities I have, and I am completely fine with that.

What I do focus on instead are the passives.  I take the opinion that I would rather be awesome all of the time than some of the time.  If you look at the heavy armor, racial, and sword and shield trees… there are a number of amazing abilities that passively increase your resistance and general sturdiness.  Essentially if it passively improves my ability to survive, I want it, and I will prioritize it over picking up an active ability since you can only use five at any given time.  Were I rebuilding my level 16 character, I would have gotten the five abilities above and simply not touched another ability period until I had soaked up all of the passives.

The Pull

Setting up the pull for the fight is likely where you will have the most trouble adapting to the way Elder Scrolls Online works.  Generally speaking I gank a priority target over to the group using Fiery Grip.  In doing so you want to make sure no one else in the party touches anything else.  A large group of mobs will run at you, but if you take the time to notice not all of them will be attacking your group.  In fact if you are fighting humanoids some of them will stand back like a crowd in a Kung Fu movie and cheer the combatants on.  It is important to be able to evaluate the situation and deal with only the targets that are actually engaged in combat.  If you accidentally hit one of the more passive opponents they will engage and give you one more add to deal with.

This is why I feel that abilities like Dark Talons are so important.  As the tank I hang back after ganking that first target to me and see who comes running up after the squishies.  As that pack of mobs comes into combat range, I tap Dark Talons locking them in place and giving my group time to figure out what the kill order will be.  All of this is of course improved by having access to voice chat, but in theory each dungeon is going to have certain priority targets.  Healers mainly will be the thing you need to focus down first, then likely Evokers or other mage types as they can do a large amount of AOE ground effect damage making it harder to stay out of the fire.  As a tank you will focus on the harder hitting melee targets.  If it has heavy armor, it is going to try and tank down your healer… stop them from doing that.

The above video is of us running Fungal Grotto, and it was shortly after starting this dungeon… after running several other dungeons… that we made the connection to how the mob behavior is working.  My friends and I are learning this from scratch just like you guys are, so I do not claim to understand everything about the pull behavior.  That said I feel confident that our working theory is going to test out.  Fungal Grotto was immensely easier thanks to our wait and see stance on the pulls, and adjusting to only the mobs that actually decided to attack us.  It is tank instinct to charge into the fight and try and make everything angry at once…  this instinct will get you killed rapidly.  This is a thing I have had to stop doing myself, and as much as I hate to admit it… we are far better off for this change in my personal behavior.

Combat Tactician

Screenshot_20140331_195315 The most crucial skill we have noticed yet is the need to be able to adjust to things as they are happening.  The problem with the way mob packs are designed, is it is damned near impossible to determine what mobs are going to aggro and engage at any given time.  Similarly you have to be able to shift focus to pick up new high priority targets as they engage the battlefield.  You might be fighting five trash mobs, and when you take one down… the boss of the encounter might engage even before the rest of the trash is finishes.  It is crucial to be able to calmly shift focus to what just became the new highest priority for you as the tank.  This involves a lot of faith in your team mates, that they will also similarly adjust.

Another instinct that you will have to completely obliterate is the “burn down” mentality of hopping on the boss and damaging it at all costs.  Generally speaking this is always the wrong answer.  Dungeons in the Elder Scrolls are for the most part about mitigating the amount of damage incoming to the party, and in a big pull the easiest way to do this is to knock out a hard hitting but squishy target.  In fact I would say that more than likely damaging the boss is always your LAST priority.  You want to try your best to clear all adds before you focus on the boss at all.  Think raid encounter, and prioritize the things that can kill you and your friends over the big thing that hopefully the tank is going to deal with.  Additionally as the tank make sure you are doing everything you can to reduce the amount of damage you are taking.  This means juggling cool downs, and making sure you block, dodge and interrupt everything that you can.

The Elder Scrolls is already one of the more difficult tanking experiences I have encountered in an MMO.  That said it is also one of the most empowering.  I am no longer a big dumb meat shield that’s entire purpose is to piss off everything equally and somehow survive.  I became just as valuable and tactical as other party members because what I choose to taunt, and choose to stun matters greatly in the overall success of the dungeon.  My decisions matter, and not in a ham handed tank all the things way any longer.  If you are familiar with MOBAs, this style of tanking will feel similar.  As tank you are essentially there to direct the flow of combat, and interrupt whatever it is that the enemies are trying to do.  If you master it, the dungeons will become far easier.  I am so far from mastery at this point, but I feel like I am at least stepping down on the right path.

#ElderScrollsOnline #TESO #Tanking #Dungeons #DragonKnight

Banished Cells and Fungal Grotto

Life in Tornado Alley

A few days at it was 40* out, and now it is 72* this early in the morning.  While yes I live in Oklahoma, where the weather pattern can change in the blink of an eye.  However even for us this seems a bit abrupt.  It seems that Tornado season has snuck up on us.  Over the next several evenings we have a chance of a Tornado each and every night.  The high today is supposed to get up to 83* and it reminds me all too much of last year.  When we jumped from temperatures in the 40s to temperatures in the 90s over a few weeks.  It seems like we are getting less and less of a “spring” to enjoy.  Thankfully nothing has really materialized yet out of the Tornado threat, but we still have several more nights of watching the local station to make sure nothing is going on.

Today is the day we purchase our new refrigerator.  We ended up deciding on a side by side, because it gives us more freezer space.  We eat an inordinate amount of frozen foods, and really don’t keep much in the fridge side apart from leftovers.  Additionally I have always wanted ice and water in the door.  Growing up we never had a fridge that was not the traditional over/under kind, and I coveted going to friends houses where they had cold water “on tap”.  We’ve spent most of the week eating up anything from our freezer to attempt to make the transition that will likely occur this weekend “easier”.  We waited this long primarily because we have a friend who works at the appliance store, and they are starting a 10% off sale today.  It will be nice to just have this over with and have a new and fully functional fridge in its place.

Banished Cells and Fungal Grotto

Screenshot_20140403_062627 In MMO gaming there is what is “doable” and then there is what is “optimal”.  Folks have relied on the Holy Trinity mixture of 1 healer, 1 tank and 2-3 dps for years as the “optimal” build.  However in Elder Scrolls Online the lines get blurred a bit.  So far we have made two healers, a tank and a dps work fairly well, and struggled a bit with the 1/1/2 combination that would seem optimal.  To mix things up a bit we decided to try running a few dungeons with 2 tanks, 1 healer, 1 dps.  It was somewhat painful, but once Kodra and I got the hang of working together it actually went pretty smoothly.  I feel like in Elder Scrolls there is not really a viable option that does not include healing… however there are several different ways to build a high survival dps.  Similarly I think someone with crowd control would be able to make up for there being a tank.


Watch live video from Belghast on TwitchTV
The next mixture I would like to see is now that several of us are 15 and can do weapon swaps… to throw on a two hander or dual wield and run the dungeons to see if we can get by without a “true” tank.  Another interesting thing we figured out is that apparently after running Spindleclutch, we had access to all three dungeons via the waystone network.  So as a result we ended up running the Banished Cells in the above video, and Fungal Grotto in the below video.  I am not sure what was going on with either Twitch or OBS for for whatever reason both of the videos exported to youtube SUPER jerky.  If you watch the twitch version it seems to be just fine, so I might try deleting the youtube version and re-exporting.


Watch live video from Belghast on TwitchTV
One of the interesting things we learned is along the same lines as what I was talking about yesterday regarding splitting the pulls.  It seems like the mobs in these dungeons fight in “Kung-Fu Movie Mode” of sorts, in that when you pull one, a number of them will engage you, but not ALL of the pack.  The others will sit back and cheer on the ones fighting, but if you engage them… they will engage you back.  This means that things like charge and dragon’s leap are really bad ideas in the Elder Scrolls Dungeon infrastructure.  As a result we changed up our methods and started pulling with me yanking a single mob out with fiery grip.  Then working on the fly to lock down whatever happens to come with the pull.

After figuring this out… Fungal Grotto went remarkably smooth as did a Spindleclutch run that we did afterwards.  I think we finally figured out the “plan” of the dungeons, and it is pretty damned awesome.  I like that the mobs seem to interact, and while you may aggro an entire pack… they won’t necessarily all come at once leading you to have significantly longer and more endurance sapping fights than short term brute force ones.  We managed to make it through a lot of those huge pulls, because we had more healing than we needed.  Now that we know the “real” way to run the dungeons, I feel like we could mix up the group make up quite a bit and come up with lots of potentially winning combinations.

Amazing Soundtrack

Another really awesome thing from yesterday is that the Elder Scrolls Online soundtrack is now available for purchase.  At first I was a bit pissy when I found out that neither the collectors edition or digital deluxe editions included the soundtrack.  However upon seeing it, I am guessing a big part of the reason why is just how big the soundtrack is.  Right now you can get it for $8.99 on Amazon and it is a whopping 47 tracks.  I guess if you are so included you can pay what seems to be the iTunes tax and get it for $16 bucks there as well.  Apparently it is also up on the Google play store for $9.49, and as such available through their Google Music streaming service if you are so inclined.  Whatever your venue of choice… I highly suggest you grab this.

Elder Scrolls Online is a gorgeous game, and similarly has an amazing soundtrack… however in the game you are under a constant state of sensory overload.  Listening to the soundtrack I was in awe of just how great some of the tracks were, that I knew i had heard snippets of in game… but simply was not able to fully appreciate.  I am hoping that the Battle Bards do an upcoming episode on the soundtrack, as with 47 different tracks… there really is something for everyone on it.  I don’t care… I am definitely a fan boy here, but that is perfectly okay.  This is now pretty much on my permanent “coding” and “writing” music selection.  Over the years I have found myself listening to more and more game/movie soundtracks and less and less traditional music.  I feel like it is easier to zone into whatever I am doing when the track is primarily instrumental.

Spindleclutch’s Revenge

Wabbajack or Bust!

One of the last big decision points we had to make was picking our PVP campaign.  Essentially how Cyrodil works is that there are these campaign groups that are functionally like “servers” in that it represents one constant group of players from all three sides during a 90 day “season”.  These sides fight for control of Cyrodil and attempt to crown an emperor by holding all of the barrier keeps surrounding the White Gold Tower.  Each of these campaign groups is named after a weapon from elder scrolls lore.  Currently the most populated is “Auriel’s Bow” which is benefiting from “first in the list” syndrome… where people simply click the first option and go with it.  Oddly enough “Dawnbreaker” is another really high pop server, because for whatever reason a ton of serious Aldmeri Dominion pvpers decided to set up camp there.

As explained in my first video of the night, we have put our heads together and reasoned Wabbajack to be a good place to be.  For those who are not TES lore junkies or who have not played Oblivion or Skyrim…  Wabbajack is the weapon of the mad god Sheogorath.  You are just as likely to zap your foe as to turn them into a bunny…  or even rain down cheese from the heavens.  More importantly however it seems like quite a few of the more organized Daggerfall folks have chosen the server for their own, so I believe it will be a place where we might have a fighting chance against the Aldmeri and Ebonheart hordes.  We chose Daggerfall expecting it to be less populated, and as a result have an easier time getting into Cyrodil instances.  Unfortunately as the video states Slurms has ended up on Auriel’s Bow for the time being, but we are hoping he will get the ability to swap to us for free.

Spindleclutch’s Revenge

Last night my friends and I… or at least a slightly different group of friends… decided to go back into Spindleclutch in the hopes of completing the quest that had apparently bugged out the previous night.  The primary difference this time around was that we had two dps, a healer and a tank… the traditional dungeon makeup.  To complicate things, we had a player healing who had literally not had a healing staff in his inventory until a guild member crafted and mailed him one on the way to the dungeon.  So needless to say we had a few issues we needed to work out.  Overall we managed to make it through the dungeon, but at times it was through sheer force of will.  The above stream video documents our journey through the depths of spider hell.

For not having played a healer in ESO before, especially a night blade healer…  Kodra did a remarkable solo healing the dungeon.  Essentially we are realizing that the night before we simply brute forced a lot of the encounters with pure healing throughput in the fact that we had two healers who had rolled and were leveling AS healers.  This run through the dungeon was very similar to our first run through the dungeon almost a year ago.  There were many packs of mobs that flat out murdered us… especially once we got into the “corrupted” section of the dungeon.  Some of the group tactics were a nightmare and it was all I could do to try and juggle everything and also somehow manage to keep up enough stamina to be able to block power attacks.  At this point I am realizing I need way more stamina, and plan on dumping the next several skillups into that trait.

While there was quite a bit of faffing about before the dungeon, in trying to get over to Spindleclutch and get everyone zoned into it… I think we managed to run the place in roughly 45 minutes which is not too bad.  One of the things that would have really helped out quite a bit is the addition of crowd control.  I’ve considered spending a point and picking up dark talons, as being able to lock down a large group and at least keep it off the cloth wearers would have been extremely beneficial.  The other cool thing is that I somehow managed to get several viewers during the dungeon, one of which even congratulated us on our victory.  I am so used to no one watching my streams that it was rather odd knowing I had an audience that was not a guild member and likely not also in the same mumble channel as me.

Tonight there are already tentative plans to step back foot in the dungeon and see what trouble we can get into.  At this point I seem to be the only tank in the level range of the dungeon, and while I do not mind being the token tank…  there is only so much spelunking that I can take in a night.  My wife and I have made plans to start trying to walk around 10 pm, and this means I need to make sure I am not engaged in something around that time of the evening.  So essentially it cuts one potential dungeon run out for the night.  I am sure in the next few days we will have more tanks entering the level range to take the pressure off me.  My hope is that soon we can have multiple spindle groups going at the same time.

Feed your Claim

Landmark64 2014-03-29 17-08-24-87 Just a really quick and friendly reminder… if you are like me and now completely enthralled by Elder Scrolls Online…  don’t forget to log into Landmark periodically and feed your claim some copper.  The upkeep mechanic while not extremely brutal, is there and constant and could involve the repossession of your claim.  Since several of us managed to get in early enough to grab some pretty choice spots… I would hate to see any of us lose them to forgetting to feed the upkeep bank.  Currently you can have roughly 5 days worth of resources stacked up in your claim bank.  Every two to three days just to be certain, I have been logging in and depositing additional copper ore into the bank to keep it “topped off”.  I really wish I could farm up enough to keep it healthy for a month or so, but I can see their desire to limit it to a small amount so that players are constantly having to log in.

Spindleclutch Age

Tax Time

Last night my wife and I had agreed to get our taxes done.  Normally we do this over spring break but various reasons, one of which was a death in the family caused this to not happen.  Tax time is one of those things that causes undue stress in me.  While the only time we had to pay federal is when I was doing a lot of contract work, I still live in fear of someone having screwed something up.  The IRS are a truly humorless group, and I always picture the agents from the matrix when I think of them.  They would give zero shit that someone in HR screwed up our withholdings.

As a result we end up procrastinating until we reach the point where it is either April or almost April and we are pushed into action to finally deal with it.  Last night once again we were relieved when it was finished.  For once we somehow dodged the bullet of having to pay state taxes, and are getting a small refund back from there.  We ended up doing just fine, and like every year we ask ourselves why we were so frightened of the process.  In part I guess it is because there is some magic number we are supposed to have paid in taxes for the year, and I feel like it is pulled out of thin air.  That it doesn’t really feel like it is based on anything we have control over.  I guess I just hate the fact that some agency has complete and total control over our fate.

Hail Yes

hailyes While we were out and about we needed to run a few errands, one of which was a trip by Target.  I pretty much avoid Wal-mart like the plague… not for some higher social justice reasoning, but instead because it is nearly impossible to get out of there in under an hours time.  They have 50 cash registers and maybe 3 open at any given time.  The addition of self checkout has improved this a bit, but still it ends up severely damaging my cool having to deal with the store.  So I generally opt for a trip to Target and the Grocery store separately to make up for that one Wal-mart trip.  I did see a rather sad sight while at Target, they had a big stack of copies of Defiance that they had on clearance for $13 a pop.  I considered picking one up for the 360, but then remembered that I am far less likely to play anything if it is on a console.

As we were leaving the store, the wind smelled like rain and there was a massive storm front rolling in from the north.  My wife turned to me and said… in true Oklahoma fashion “It looks like it is about to rain.”  Granted we had a conversation earlier that there was no chance of rain listed in the forecast.  As we walked to the car I replied “nope, it’s going to hail” as I saw little pieces of ice bouncing off the pavement.  So yeah… bright and sunshiny out one moment, dropping ice on my head the next…  you have to love Oklahoma weather.  Another thing of note… getting hit in the head by hail hurts like a mother.  In fact right now I am remembering that we still have our stuff from target out in my wife’s car… because when we got to the house it was still pelting ice at us and we opted NOT to carry it in.

Limbscather

eso 2014-04-01 06-01-39-42 Just north of the city of Daggerfall in Glenumbra is a skull and crossbones symbol on the map.  When you see one of these it marks the location of a “world boss”.  This one in particular is limbscather, a named lurcher/treant thing.  At level 7 he is damned near impossible to solo as is the case with most world bosses.  You can tell a world boss by the special unit frame and the number of red dots to either side represent just how difficult the encounter is.  In theory you can solo most single dot encounters, as you get to double dots it starts to get rougher and then finally the triple dot encounters will damned near always kill you.  When I first logged in I was milling around finishing up some quests, when guild members talked about pulling together a limbscather group.

One of the things I am always down for is killing world bosses, regardless of how much lower level they are.  In part because you are almost always guaranteed a filled soul gem from killing them.  Additionally sometimes they drop really nice blue loot for the level.  Even if you can’t use it, you can always deconstruct it for the chance of getting a blue temper to upgrade your gear later.  That is one of the things I love about the system, that you can take temper from one item to upgrade the quality of another item later.  We killed him a few times before we all got bored of it and moved on.  A few people managed to pick up the blue staff he drops, which I mistakenly thought was a healing staff… but is apparently a frost staff.

Spindleclutch Age

eso 2014-03-31 22-13-58-89 The overarching goal of the evening for me was to be able to get to the level that I could reliably tank Spindleclutch, the very first dungeon in the Daggerfall Covenant.  Almost a year ago we tried the dungeon in beta and had never managed to pull together a group since.  At that time it was a truly brutal experience, so we wanted to make sure we were at least level 12 before zoning in this time around.  Thankfully in the months between the dungeon got a good tuning pass, either that or we were simply more prepared for what came with it.  Back when we ran it that first time, the first pull of the dungeon managed to wipe us without mercy.  This time around it went much smoother and while we got a lot more mobs than you would in a World of Warcraft style dungoen, we were able to manage it.

eso 2014-03-31 22-23-19-79 The interesting thing about an Elder Scrolls Dungeon, is that tanking in them is far less like a WoW style dungeon, where you gather everything up and hold onto it while the party burns it down, but instead more like tanking in a MOBA.  As a Dragon Knight Sword and Board tank I have various tools at my disposal to temporarily taunt a mob onto me, through either the ransack morph or fiery grip.  As a result I spend most of the fights trying to temporarily distract the encounters and get them to focus on me just long enough for the damage to get them low enough to be able to finish them off.  The result is that players need to focus fire specific mob types to make sure they go down first, in order to survive the fight.  The various encounters are really good at employing group tactics, and at one point last night we had two healers healing each other.

eso 2014-03-31 22-25-21-84 There were definitely times however when I was needed to truly “tank” a mob, and I was able to do this fairly well.  While the game does not have a traditional aggro table, there were plenty of things I could do to either knock down the boss, taunt it, or yank it across the room to keep it from tearing apart my team mates.  I would not say that the game necessarily has a strict alignment to the holy trinity, and we entered the dungeon with a sub optimal group… namely two healers, a dps and a tank.  However the extra healing seemed to make up for the fact that we were really low on damage.  I think you could probably run the dungeon without a tank but instead just have to rely more on knockdowns and snares to burn down the encounter before it killed you.  I really enjoyed the dungeon in beta for all its brutality, but I have to say I enjoy the better tuned encounters a heck of a lot more.

eso 2014-03-31 22-52-28-23 My absolute favorite feature however has to be the way dungeon loot works.  Just like every other mob in the game, each player gets a personalized roll on the loot table.  However unlike the world bosses, every bit of this loot is tradable.  So this meant after each boss we killed, there was much swapping of gear around to make sure the item went to someone who could use it.  I wound up walking out of there with two blue tanky rings, tam got a damned nice blue two handed axe, rae a mana regen neck I believe (after I had to toin coss to decide who got it….  seriously where is the effing /roll command people), and I believe Damai walked with something but I cannot be sure.  I am anxious to do the dungeon again tonight if we can muster the people.  The quest bugged a little bit when trying to complete the dungeon, so we still do not have full credit for the place.

eso 2014-03-31 22-49-33-37 If you have a fear of spiders… Spindleclutch is going to be a rather terrifying experience.  I don’t necessarily like spiders having grown up in a house with brown recluse…  but I managed to get through without much issue.  Also there is this area, where you have to cross a broken down bridge held together only by spider webs, that did kinda tweak my vertigo a bit.  The dungeon looked absolutely amazing and it had a fun design that was not as on rails as Warcraft, but still funneled you towards the destination.  The only negative is that the experience while good was not great, but that is to be expected.  I think had we been able to complete the quest it would have been really good.  They had to nerf dungeon experience, in part because testers were living in them during the beta weekends.  I remember one group that ran Spindleclutch from level 10 to level 30.  Hopefully as we get more people into the level range we can get a bunch more guild dungeon runs going.