Yesterday I decided to start “truing up” my “Regularly Playing” section of my hot bar. This area has been through many changes throughout the years and the whole idea was just to let readers know what I am actually playing right now. It originally started as me simply i-framing in the information from Raptr… but since I don’t actually use that server or any other equivalent games tracker that isn’t going to work. I shift games quite often, and I wanted a way to indicate what games are currently “on tap”. So this shifted from “Now Playing” to “Frequently Playing” and eventually wound up with the verbiage of “Regularly Playing”. The goal now is to evaluate the list once a month and make adjustments to keep it “mostly true”. I realize I am finger quoting a lot of shit in this post, but the truth is I come home and log into whatever seems enjoyable unless I have a specific activity planned that night. Over time some stuff fades away and other games get added, so I thought as part of this process I would talk a bit about where I am currently in each game on the list, as well as a bit about any that I might have removed or didn’t quite make the cut.
Destiny: The Taken King
I am still just irrationally enthralled by this game, though over the last week I have not played quite so much because I am starting to get back into MMOs once more. This week has been all about Iron Banner, because I am trying my best to get my Hunter to Rank 5… in spite of not being here for the weekend due to travel plans. The major goal of the month was to hit 335 light and I have managed to do just that on the Titan, however I am still lagging on the Warlock and Hunter with the primary slot that they need the worst being literally any legendary quality artifact. I need to sort out what I can do to get one of those because I have plenty of infusion fodder to feed into an artifact… they just have 320 blues currently equipped. The only real frustration that I have with Destiny right now is that Bungie is apparently shit at math. We were told that several activities would drop an item equal to your current light level of better. However now sitting at 335, there are still a truly silly number of activities that drop 334 items. From Challenge of Elders turn-ins last night I got both a 334 weapon and 334 arms, and from an exotic engram I got a 334 secondary… all while showing up in game as 335 light. This is pretty maddening since 334 is useful for infusion if you are desperate but what you want to see is 335s so you can bring up ALL of your gear to that light level. Regardless I am still loving the game and I am hoping that the next big patch will address this problem. Also hoping that when I get back from my trip I can finish the push to Rank 5 because I am roughly halfway to Rank 4 at the moment.
Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward
This marks the second week of me being “back” at least as far as doing the Tuesday night raid content is involved. I am still very much in “catch up” mode, but I am enjoying myself. As far as downtime activities I have started the grind to get elemental crystals for the first Anima weapon, aka the Relic 2.0 or 3.0 depending upon how you are counting. I am loving being Lala-Bel once more and I guess whatever funk I was going through that was keeping me from playing MMOs has passed because I am enjoying myself again. I very much need to be doing a nightly Expert but that has yet to happen quite yet. After yesterdays post however I found a whole slew of people willing to be tagged and pulled in for expert running. Now I just need to get back from this weekend and get started on this proper. Also apologies ahead of time for the nightmares that will be induced by the creepy-assed Calcabrina dolls.
Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls
Season Six is very much winding down to a close, and I have managed to accomplish pretty much everything that I could have hoped for… at the very least I got my additional stash tab. I have friends who still have things to knock out to get theirs so I am very much in a help as needed mode. That said I am still poking my head into the game on a regular basis to farm for Menagerist Goblins…. something I have yet to actually see. The highlight of the season was something that I did not even realize was a thing until it dropped. I guess the cosmic wings are among the rarest item this time around.. because it is RNG on top of RNG on top of RNG. You have to get one of the rainbow goblins to show up… and then have to get it to drop the Whimsydale portal… and then have to get a specific mob to show up in there to get them. In any case pretty much any time I get a Whimsydale portal I holler at anyone who happens to be on to come along with me now just in case they drop again. I’ve made it way further this season than at any other time… the only thing I am not looking forward to is trying to merge my current seasonal bank into my non-seasonal bank once more.
This is the newest addition to the list and also the one I have spent the least time playing. This week was the official launch of Overwatch, and my friends list has been completely on fire about this game. I played it enough in beta to know that I liked it, and then ceased to play it any further waiting for launch. Now that launch is here however… I have all of these competing priorities. The game is really good and so far I have yet to find a champion that I don’t like… pending I give them a serious chance. I was largely diametrically opposed to D.Va largely because the mech looked like a killer whale mixed with a guardian mode veritech. However after getting the carbon fiber skin from a loot box… and giving her a proper try I found out that I really enjoyed it. The game is probably the best designed shooter I have played in a very long time. The thing that is going to keep me from really sinking my teeth in however… is it has no PVE/Exploration gameplay like Destiny. If I could have Destiny set in this universe with character progression and collecting awesome weapons… I would be completely hooked. This will likely always be a game relegated to the “once or twice a week” column for me largely because I am just not that competitive. Earning loot boxes is a cool reason to keep playing, but eventually there will come a point where I run out of things I care about that came come from lootboxes.
World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
This is the backburneryist of backburner games for me right now. I’ve gotten in the habit of logging in daily and collecting my free money from the garrison… especially now that I put a massive dent in my finances and bought the Grand Expedition Yak. That said every now and then I do play one of the characters that I am still in the process of leveling. I have this grand idea that it would be fun to roll into Legion with a full list of level 100 characters, however I somehow doubt that is going to happen… much the way as it has never actually happened during any of the other expansions. However that said the alt of choice right now is my druid that I am slowly pushing up. In truth I am in a holding pattern until Legion and largely not paying a ton of attention to the game in the meantime.
Things Removed From List
Elder Scrolls Online
The truth is the MMO Funk hit and I never really returned to playing this regularly. I still very much want to, but it is going to need another lag in some other game for me to really sink my teeth into it. The game that exists today is amazing and they have done a really good job of keeping the content fresh. The biggest problem is I really don’t have anyone to play with over there on the North American server cluster. Now if I were playing on the EU side… I know lots of active and happy guilds. I would absolutely play with the Whitestar folks were that really a viable option.
While initially interesting to me, this game just did not sink its teeth into me the way it did the rest of the AggroChat crew. There is just something that I don’t like about it… and I have tried to reason out what exactly it was. I still have an account and still have some cool stuff on it, so I might at a future date return to it, but it never really replaced my love for Destiny.
While technically it was never actually on the sidebar… it probably should have been. I was all about The Division at launch and that excitement did not even manage to carry me through to the level cap. I am sitting around level 26 and I am just not sure what is holding me back. Largely the content at that level doesn’t feel nearly as interesting or rewarding as it did at lower levels. The packs of mobs out in the world seem to be scaled for group play, and when you down folks… they don’t seem to be dropping anything interesting. In theory I could hold my nose and grind through it… but what would I be grinding for? I am so far behind the curve in gear and it doesn’t feel like the game really gives you a lot of great options to catch up. There has been a sequence of changes that I really didn’t feel like had me in mind. At first I liked that it felt like you could progress through the game on many different vectors and end up at the same loot goal. However the crafting material nerf really hurt that feel for me. This is something I might return to later, once they offer some Destiny like catch up mechanisms to give players a hand up.
First off let me start this post by wishing all of you my readers a Happy New Year. During the course of this past year nearly 70,000 of you have visited my blog, and I am still scratching my head as to why. Whatever I am doing, I guess I will keep doing that in the next year. I do have some cool ideas for things to keep me moving forward, but I don’t really want to go into those right now…. mostly because it will involve some programming on my part to make it function. The thing I have learned over the years of blogging and this coming year will make seven… is that I am really really bad at columns. I will start a feature and then after a few weeks to months it peters out. The MMOs Worth Playing feature was one of my favorite so far, but it was also one of the more time consuming. That said in the coming year I would really like to bring it back, and maybe change its focus to be a little big more manageable…. sort of a MMO of the Month Club type thing. Each week during the MWP thing I was trying to log into that game, play it a bit to remember the things I liked about it… take fresh screenshots and get up a post every single Friday. As we got into the pre-Holiday crunch time it failed miserably. Maybe an MMO of the Month will work better because it gives me more time…. though honestly if the AggroChat Game Club is any evidence I will probably just end up waiting until the week before we record the show before attempting to play the game.
This morning the idea is to do my Awards for the year, since we have officially wrapped up a year now. These are not exactly your normal awards and more like the back of a high school year book… most likely to succeed etc. Though from what I understand…. there are a lot of schools who are no longer doing that for sake of potentially damaging students self esteem. More than anything I want to thank all of you for joining me on this continued journey. The last few months of the year were pretty rough on this side of the equation, but you all kept with me and kept supporting me, and for that I am immensely appreciative. Without further rambling… here is the inaugural edition of “Bel’s Game Awards”.
I absolutely did not expect to like this game, and in truth I probably never would have played it were not for the fact that my good friend Grace chose this as her aggrochat game of the month. I expected it to be largely played on a goof, and even went to the extreme of recording my first game play session because I expected it would be a maddening experience for me. The end result however was something I did not expect, I really enjoyed it. I laughed more while playing this game than I have laughed in a long time while playing any game…. maybe since initially playing Sam and Max Hit the Road. What is even more shocking is that I continued on after the initial play through and ended up getting six or seven different endings by the time we had recorded the AggroChat show. There has been a whole side discussion since about whether or not Hatoful Boyfriend is actually representative of Otome and Visual Novels in general…. or if it just lampoons the genre. I think more than anything it opened my eyes to the fact that this sort of “non-action” game can be extremely fun, and would make me at least try some other games. So kinda like WoW is an ice breaker for MMOs… this might be that sort of Icebreaker for Otome.
I remember when I first saw this game… it seemed like this amazing callback to the Super Nintendo era of RPGs where you had such oddball genre bending hits like Mario RPG and Earthbound. The problem is that in application… the game ended up as this soulless hull that simply was not fun to play. This was our very first AggroChat game club game… and none of us really liked it. This was the game that essentially we all unanimously voted that we wanted to play… and was also the game that caused us to change gears and start letting individual members pick a game for us to play, rather than trying to all decided together what the next game we would play might be. The game was frustrating from a technical level, but the level of grind needed to get very far just made the experience simply not enjoyable. The idea of being able to recruit hundreds of potential party members was amazing… until you realized that not a single one of them was interesting at all. The part that ruined it for most people was the fact that the main character, the mayor was so completely unlikable. I think it was Kodra that said that the game would have been salvageable if you could simply leave him at home and go off adventuring without him. The stereotypes were caricatures were humorous for the first fifteen minutes, and then quickly became painful to keep playing.
What can I say about Destiny the Taken King that I have not already said. I had no real hopes for this expansion because for the most part I had abandoned all hope for Destiny before the time the first expansion patch landed. Year one was a grindy mess whose light leveling system left me scratching my head and simply not caring anymore about trying to progress. I believe I managed to get to Light 26 before hitting a wall of resource gathering, that I simply lacked the desire to keep pushing through. In year one engrams in general felt few and far between, and you were constantly having to judge whether or not an item provided enough light to make it worth swapping it in, even if in other ways the item might be superior. Year two fixed a lot of this in the same way that the Diablo 3 2.0 patch just magically fixed that game, or at least made it FEEL better. That is the thing with me and games, the moment to moment game play has to feel good and also feel like I am getting something for my time spent. While I could say that technically there is way more grind in Year 2, it feels like you are at least getting something for your time…. even if it is just weapon and armor parts. I would rather see things drop… and all of those things be crap rather than never seeing a drop… and when you finally do it decodes into a lower level than the face value of the engram. The biggest change however is the fact that the Taken King has a story… and it is actually a cool one. Through both the quest narrative and the item descriptions that can be found on the website for each of the items you pick up… the game has started to tell this epic tale of both the Traveller and the Darkness, and how the two have battled through countless races and star systems since time began. For me, I patched up my game and tried the year 2 experience long before picking up the expansion…. and I highly suggest anyone who has not given it another shot do the same.
Game I Still Can’t Get Into
I love the Dragon Age franchise…. or at least I did. I’ve been a fan since Dragon Age: Origins… and I have beaten at least six different endings of that game. Which as a person who rarely if ever finishes video games… that should tell you something. I even managed to play through Dragon Age 2 a few different times, and largely enjoyed my experience. However when confronted with Dragon Age: Inquisition it feels like this insurmountable wall. Firstly I think the game just looks ugly out of the gate with its overuse of object shine and its strange playdough hair. The other big problem I have is that generally speaking I play roleplaying games on the sofa, where it is nice and comfy… and none of the laptops that I own are capable of playing this game with decent settings, or at least good enough settings to make it look not like shit. Recently I have picked it up for the Playstation 4 over the recent sales and it is my hope to maybe try playing it on the vita. The first statement anyone ever seems to make to me when I talk about my problems with the game… is that I need to leave the hinterlands. I promise I have left the Hinterlands… but the main storyline is just boring to me. It is nothing as awesome as Dragon Age Origins was…. and I think that’s because I just don’t like the Inquisition. I could get 100% behind the Grey Wardens… I believed in their cause and was ready to go into battle for them. I could give a flying fuck about being the Herald of Andraste. I hate this green shit that comes out of my hand… and I hate the feeling that I am constantly fiddling with the magic of the world… and my key goal in life seems to be to close rifts full of annoying demons. I like some of the characters that I interact with, but some of my favorite characters so far are characters you can’t take with you on missions like Scout Harding. My party of choice would be Cassandra, Sera, and Harding…. but instead I tend to go with Cassandra, Sera and Dorian. I wish I knew why this game is just so not enjoyable for me…. but I want to play it… I really do.
Lived Up to the Hype
The game this year that I was the most hyped about has to be Fallout 4, and that hype cycle started from the moment it was officially announced at E3. This game did so many things right, and really it was starting with the way it was announced. They held off to show any information on the game until it was already pretty damned polished, and then they hit it out of the part by saying that it would be in our grubby little hands only a few months later. In the meantime they gave us a pretty fun mobile game to keep us interested…. which I will talk about later. Fallout is one of those franchises that I place up on a pedestal for always giving me exactly what I wanted out of the game. A big open world with lots of little things to keep me interested, and a complete inability to ever truly “finish” the game. There is more content in Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas and now Fallout 4 than I will ever have time to see. Hell in the few days ahead of the launch… I played some more Fallout New Vegas and was still finding things that I had never seen before… and I considered that game pretty damned well trodden. As far as Fallout 4… everything about the game makes me happy… apart from maybe the main storyline. The thing is… I don’t play Fallout games for the story… I play them to go off and inhabit the wasteland and weave my own storyline around me as I go. I thought the voiced protagonist would annoy me… but for the most part I have been able to ignore it. I really like some of the companions this time as well…. namely Piper and Nick. I wish so much that I could adventure together with Piper, Nick and Dogmeat at the same time because I love them all. The biggest moment for me though was when I realized that in this game through the settlement system I could finally make the world a better place. I have a dozen or so different settlements at this point, and I have spent time building on each of them. I feel like I am making things work…. and improving live as I go. As far as the Storyline… I find parts of it frustrating namely that I did not see a good option to broker peace between the three main factions. I would have loved a “Can’t We All Just Get Along” ending option… and maybe it is there but I just have not found it.
Hype That Didn’t Last
If I had to pick a game of the year based on sheer amount of time I played it during this year…. the award would go to Final Fantasy XIV. It has been my constant companion… that is until the last quarter of the year when I started to lose interest. I can’t say I am disappointed in the game, because the content leading up to Heavensward… and the launch content was really amazing. The problem I have had is like after the launch of A Realm Reborn there just doesn’t seem to be that much to do to keep me engaged. I guess in truth the game has always been this way… because I remember us running into the same wall a few months after the launch of 2.0, that ended up leading us to un-subscribe shortly after. Coming back when we did July of 2014 meant we had roughly a year worth of content waiting for us to progress through. This content kept us busy up until the point of the Heavensward launch, with us not actually defeating Bahamut until we did it unsynchronized. With Heavensward we lack that backlog of fun older content to work through, and our casual gameplay style just does not really fit with the Final Fantasy XIV bleeding edge. So we managed to down Bismarck Extreme, Alexander normal, and made some pretty good progress on Ravana Extreme before we petered out and started to lose interest. What is making it extra hard is the fact that there are only two max level dungeons at a time this go around. Previous expansion each content patch came with three new dungeons…. and having to run experts by only alternating between the same two dungeons gets old really really fast. I am sure at some time I will get the bug and go back to playing this as my primary game…. but for now I am just basically only playing the new story and holiday content as it arrives and the rest of the time…. simply not logging in.
Shocked I am Playing
At the beginning of the year, I had quite a bit of fun raiding in World of Warcraft, but as Blackrock Foundry drug on…. and the launch of Heavensward loomed I simply lacked the care to keep playing like I have done so many times. In June I quit playing as the chart at the end of this post shows and focused solely upon Final Fantasy XIV, and I think maybe it is this single minded focus that caused me to burn out of that game so quickly. Blizzcon is a primal force of nature that no one can avoid… and I have to say it got me started down this nostalgia trip that ended with me playing the free version of the game on my sub 20 horde characters on The Scryers server. This ultimately ended up with me resubbing to the game and I have to say I am really enjoying myself. I am playing the game in a much more casual fashion than I am used to, and while I am raiding every single week…. I am doing so with a group that only raids on Sunday nights, and during a time slot when I am normally downstairs watching television anyways. I know there is technically no new content, but what can I say… I am having fun. Playing Horde has breathed new life into the game because it is allowing me to not only play with friends I never really got the chance to play with… but also see the world from a slightly different perspective. No clue how long this will hold out but I think so long as I am playing it and OTHER games at the same time… it might just hold for awhile. I think the key for me not getting burnt out is to allow myself the freedom to play whatever I feel like playing in a given moment and not really forcing myself to keep playing something that feels stale.
Made Me Almost Care About Mobile
As I said above, one of the things that Bethesda did right with the launch of Fallout 4, is that they gave us a fun app to play with in the meantime. Fallout Shelter is essentially Sim Tower or the later Tiny Tower mobile game…. set in a Fallout Vault. This was actually a lot of fun for a few weeks and gave me a reason to play games on my phone. The problem is I eventually got bored with it the same way I seem to get bored with all mobile apps. There were a lot of times I thought that I would keep playing it, were it for the ability to play on my desktop while doing something else. But for a brief period of time I found myself caring about a mobile game, and that deserves some recognition. My lifestyle just doesn’t really support mobile gaming, in that if I am going somewhere… I tend to be the one driving. Then when I am at work… I should be you know… working and not playing games. When I am out shopping… most games simple require too much to get into them and do a few moves before you need to move on to the next area. Then when I am home…. I would far rather be using my laptop, gaming desktop, or one of several different consoles than spending time on a mobile device. The one thing that might change this is the fact that I have started spending some time on my new Kindle Fire before going to sleep. Right now that time is mostly occupied with reading comic books… but I could see eventually playing a game like Fallout Shelter while trying to fall soundly asleep.
Game I Wish I Enjoyed More
If you were to write out every single feature that I would want in an MMO on paper… you would pretty much get the feature set of Rift. That said for whatever reason I have struggled to get into this game since the launch of the first expansion. I will come back and play for a bit but find it far too easy to walk away from. I love Trion, and I love the awesome people that work there. I love some of the awesome folks engaged in that community like Kiwi. All of this said… I just struggle to get into the game itself. I think it is several problems, namely that I just don’t have a large friendly and active community to be part of. I mean I have the House Stalwart guild but it has been dead since the last resurgence several years ago that lead me to go found it. For a long time my hope was Machiavelli’s Cat community, but during Storm Legion the Rift contingency pretty much died, and it lead us to merge into Alea Iacta Est…. who then also seemed to die out. During this awkward period I tried a few other guilds, and never found a home… eventually creating House Stalwart on Faeblight. The big problem that Rift has that WoW does not… is the fact that there is no cross account id system that you can use for communicating with friends regardless of what character they happen to be playing. However with the recent “Glyph ID” that is now showing up in the launcher… I am wondering if they are crafting that infrastructure. I feel like I simply have not put in the necessary legwork to find a new home, because it seems like so much effort. That combined with the fact that finding a workable spec itself is a challenge, has left me in this phase of logging in… playing for a bit and then fading out again. I want to love this game, but it has been a struggle.
Most Emotional Experience
This is a strange one for me… because I’ve technically never played this game. The game itself is more of an experience… a visual novel of sorts… than a true game. Sure there are gameplay elements and mechanics… but those remind me of the video game equivalent of one of those pop up books that has levers and such that allow you to move the characters or animate a specific story element. I watched a let’s play video on this game, and in that I pretty much experienced all of it. The end result evoked some of the strangest emotions in me.. and actually lead me to cry at a few points. I think any creative type can understand the emotions that you go through in the experience, and I know for myself…. who tends to suffer from a fairly unhealthy amount of imposter syndrome… it hit incredibly close to home. I am not sure if it was a positive experience, and for all I know given the timing… it might have been the start of my recent funk. The rollercoaster I went through… was not exactly healthy. That said I feel like I have to give the game credit, because it made me feel things… like deeply feel things. Very few video games can do that, and ultimately I ended up purchasing the game as a thank you for the experience…. even though I doubt I will ever actually install it or play it.
Game of the Year
The only thing I can really give you… is a hearty shrug. I don’t know what my game of the year would be. If you judged it on sheer excitement and the eventual execution… it would probably be Fallout 4. If you judged it based on the amount of time I spent playing it through the course of the year, then it would be Final Fantasy XIV. If you based it on the sheer shock that someone got me to play the game in the first place… then Hatoful Boyfriend. Basically every game on my list deserves its recognition, and for the most part that recognition is positive with the exception of Citizens of Earth. I played a lot of games this year… and I hope to play even more next year. Game of the Year is honestly a silly concept… and just like I can’t really give you a firm answer for “Favorite Movie” or “Favorite Song” I could never tell you my absolute favorite Video Game. My mood plays such of a huge role in what I want to play at a given moment…. and if I want mindless destruction right now Destiny is giving me everything that I could ever want. But as soon as my mood changes… so does my preference in games… and I often times fall back on sheer comfort gaming like whatever MMO I happen to be into. So yeah… all of the games on this list… I mentioned because they were important to me, so they are all my Games of the Year.
When I started this segment of my blog the original intent was to highlight games that are not getting a lot of press and talk about all of the things I like about them. That said since the column is called “MMOs Worth Playing” I knew eventually I would have to get around to talking about some of the bigger names. So as a result I am going to have a momentary lapse of purpose here… and go with serendipity. Today’s is coming on the morning that BlizzCon 2015 starts, and as a result it just felt natural to talk about World of Warcraft. There was never a point where I would not ultimately end up covering the game, given that in many of the discussions I end up talking about it. So here we go… my attempt to create an overly positive discussion about the benefits of World of Warcraft.
In every industry there is a leader that for the most part everyone gets compared to. In the MMO world this leader is World of Warcraft. Even though this has become the stuff of internet memes… it is by no means the first MMO, or in truth did it invent many of the things that folks attribute to it. That said it did manage to take the model that was burgeoning at the time of its release… knock off the rough spots and sand it to a mirror shine. Blizzard is really good at making games that appeal to the masses, and World of Warcraft is no exception. The problem is… the “appealing to the masses” has been a moving target causing the game to shift and dodge numerous times along the path. Each time it has changed course it has created a set of fans nostalgic for their imagined version of “the way things used to be”. So here we are today, with a legion of fan… some joyous, some in denial, and some begrudgingly along for the ride. Everyone has a World of Warcraft story, and if they don’t… they should. Every so often a questionnaire circulates through the community asking what game you would suggest a person with zero experience in MMOs should play… and the only actual answer you can give is in fact World of Warcraft.
This is the game that takes the complex concepts of an MMO and feeds it to players in bite sized chunks at just the right times to convert them from a MMO gaming neophyte to a seasoned veteran. The problem is that we have seen is that Warcraft is really good at creating Warcraft players, because many of these gamers never really venture out into other games. This is in many ways a failing of the other companies to embrace the same sort of low level educational campaign that Warcraft has. Sure to us long time players we see the Cataclysm revamp of the newbie zones as a travesty, but in each case they just work better… when you view them through the eyes of someone who has zero ancestral knowledge into the way that these games work. Each blatant breadcrumb, or cheese quest designed only to deliver you to the next quest hub… is honestly not for us, but instead for the players that NEED those clear indicators of what they should be doing next. We recently saw the subscription numbers for Warcraft and in part that number is due to the fact that a decade later they can still manage to induct brand new players into the tribe of WoW.
I am naming this section the Paradox because it highlights something odd in the game. When people leave Warcraft it is generally stated that they are leaving because they have “run out of things to do”. The problem that a game like WoW creates is that in order to keep the front edge of players happy, they have to keep cranking out content… something that Blizzard has proven to find difficult in the massive lags between end of expansion patches and the new expansion. The paradox comes in that one of the big reasons why I would suggest this game is that there is so damned much content to experience. Sure it might not be anything a veteran player wants to do… but for a brand new player this is a smorgasbord of brand new experiences and over a decade worth of sights and vistas to experience. World of Warcraft is by no means a gorgeous game at this point, because it feels a decade old at times… but there are still moments that are breath taking, like the first time you roll into Booty Bay and see the giant Goblin statue, or the first time you look down from the top of Thunderbluff onto the valleys below. These are important experiences that I feel like no one should rob themselves of.
So many of my good memories of this game however come from the interaction with the people. Part of my nostalgic chagrin however is realizing that so many of those players are no longer playing the game. Many of my best memories are tied to specific moments in the games history that will never come back. That however is not to say that each and every night new memories are not being made. People are still loving this game with all of their heart, and I have stated this before that I am more than a little jealous of them. I miss the types of experiences I used to have in World of Warcraft, but since many of those were tied to my “first time” doing this or that… I realize those are experiences I will never be able to have again. This is a game I was utterly devoted to for over half of that decade, and still have pangs of remorse when I think about those things I have lost. This game is powerful, and the experiences you have through it are equally powerful. Which is why I feel like everyone should step foot in the game and find their own version of those “first times”.
As I said many of those moments were because of the other players, but one of the benefits about starting World of Warcraft at this point… is that essentially everything is available to you as a solo player. That is not to say that I do not suggest that you find your way into a really good guild, because guilds make the entire experience better regardless of the game. However there really should be nothing locked from you because you did not bring a legion of friends into it. The game itself is subscription based, but you can get a free trial account to start and dip your toes into the water. If you end up liking it, the base game is $19.99 and will carry you through level 90, with the latest expansion Warlords of Draenor costing $49.99 on top of that. The later comes with a free boost to 90… which I highly suggest you don’t use at least not for your first character. There is a bunch of really awesome content to experience, and part of my frustration in the past is that it feels like these boosts cheapen the older content. Some of the best content in the game, is well below the level cap… so to skip over a Deadmines, Wailing Caverns, or Dire Maul would be a travesty. Then to maintain your account it is an older monthly subscription model of $14.99.
Over the years I have said a lot of hurtful things on this blog about Blizzard and World of Warcraft, and in many case those were about specific problems I had… that most players would never even care about. If I were creating a Facebook profile about my relationship with Warcraft… the only thing I could possibly pick is “complicated”. Similar to my feelings about Star Wars, with all of the hype and disappointment… I also hold in my heart a lot of frustration and disappointment with all of the possibility that was squandered. I’ve also come to realize that I wholeheartedly love Blizzard as a company, it is just one of there franchises that I have some issue with. Diablo 3 and Heroes of the Storm are both amazing… and what I have played of Starcraft 2 was really fun… even though I am not really an RTS player. I anxiously look forward to Overwatch and seeing how it does… and occasionally I break out a Hearthstone game even though that is not a regular occurrence. With World of Warcraft… I know that eventually I will go back and resubscribe because I always do. This game has a hold on my heart that even though I have tried to purge it so many times… it stays there clinging tightly. No matter what my current feelings are for the game, that power cannot be denied. So regardless of what the current hype cycle thinks… this is a great game and has so many excellent experiences that you would be robbing yourself of it you did not experience them. That is not to say that I don’t also think there are so many other amazing games out there… but when creating a column called “MMOs Worth Playing”… Warcraft had to be included among that number.
So yesterday I originally set out to write a post about World of Warcraft, and I am guessing this morning I will actually make good on that threat. Last night we raided Blackrock Foundry, and overall it was an enjoyable time. I managed to actually pick up a second piece of “tier” gear giving me the two piece set bonus. Unfortunately each of the pieces I swapped out was significantly higher level than the 670 normal gear level. For gladiator however I have a feeling that the two piece set is going to make the difference since it means the occasional free shield charge proc. I am still finding joy in playing with my friends while raiding, the problem is right now I am not finding much joy in anything else is World of Warcraft. As I said yesterday and a few other times… were I not actively raiding in this game I would probably be unsubscribed once more. There are a lot of reasons why Warlords of Draenor simply is not working out the same way as Pandaria did, and I thought I would take this mornings post to write about some of my frustrations.
Firstly the big one seems to be that Warlords destroyed the dungeon running culture. In my guild no one runs dungeons, at all. Largely because there is no real point to running them. What I mean by this is that through clearing Nagrand and mixing in a few crafted items you can get any alt ready to run LFR without having set foot in a single heroic. I’ve proven this on both my Deathknight and my Hunter, and if I bothered leveling another character to 100 chances are that is the path I would be taking as well. The gear gained through heroics just is not enough of a carrot to deal with the frustrations of running the dungeons. I ran the hell out of heroics on Belghast until the first wing of Highmaul LFR opened, and then never again other than the complete some of the Inn quests. I love running dungeons, but there has to be some reason to be running them… some reward waiting at the end of the frustration. The sad truth is that heroics are far harder than Highmaul LFR, so the risk versus reward equation is out of whack. Without the need to cap some token currency each week, we no longer have the incentive to keep running them with the guild.
Garrisons and Ashran
Garrisons have been this mixed bag, that in some ways I really like because it gives me my own private Stormwind that I can do my banking and trade skills in peace. Unfortunately that is also a double edged sword since no one is actually venturing out into the hub cities. We log into our Garrison, and live there until time for us to venture out into the world for raiding. The most social activity is when we invite other guild members into our Garrisons for the purpose of doing an invasion. This feature could have been something to bring players together rather than keep them apart. I feel like there is this missed opportunity where they should have connected the hub city to our Garrison, in that our garrison was like a “quarter” of the hub. This would mean that sure players would spend a lot of time in their Garrison but there would also be the incentive to pop out to the larger city for the resources they are lacking at home.
I also feel there was a massive missed opportunity for guilds in that there should have been another “quarter” that was a “guild garrison”. This would allow guilds to have some common goal to pull towards, bringing them closer and allowing this guild garrison to have better resources that could be shared by the entire guild. Instead we have our Ashran hub located in a PVP zone, that at least at the start you could not even queue for instances from. It is quite literally a town we all go to on Tuesday to collect our weekly raid tokens… and then never set foot in again. Compared to Shattrath, Dalaran, The Shrine, or even the revamped Orgrimmar and Stormwind… Ashran hub cities are abject failures. They don’t bring players together, and only serve as a jumping off point for pvpers waiting on the next match. The previous hubs have felt like these grand cities that had a personality of their own, and begged you to come explore them. Ashran just looks like a lazy camp hastily thrown together on the edge of a battlefield.
Disappointment in Draenor
There is a lot that Warlords does right, and I really did enjoy questing my way through the new content. The problem is there is a lot more that it seems to do wrong. Once upon a time World of Warcraft was this game that had something for many different play styles. While not all of them were as well supported as others, there were still many supported methods of play. The problem that I keep coming back to with Warlords of Draenor is that it feels like Blizzard thinks there are only two types of players now. The first are the raiders, and they are giving them plenty of loving this expansion with a mix of awesome flexible raiding modes and the super hardcore Mythic raiding. Blackrock Foundry is one of the best instances they have designed in a really long time, and Highmaul was this fun romp as well. The other type of player Blizzard seems to recognize… are the folks who wished they had the time and devotion to raid. For these players they have given them the current “tourist mode” LFR content, allowing them to collect shiny baubles, see the storyline and feel like they accomplished something once a week.
There are more than those players however trying to play the game. There once was a very rich and diverse crafting and harvesting ecosystem, and both were routes to both financial success and enjoyment. The problem is that Garrisons have essentially decimated this play style by replacing it with a daily login “facebook game”, where you flip a few switches every day and get candy as a result. Harvesting is now utterly meaningless because you can level and army of alts and receive far more resources in 15 minutes of logging in multiple characters than you can in three hours of serious farming. On top of this, since the majority of serious tradeskill items are linked to garrison resources it devalues their creation. Also placing a three item cap on the number of crafted items you can have, takes away the value of trying to craft a full set of anything. After the first few weeks I stopped doing my crafting cooldowns, because it didn’t really feel like there was any point to all of it. I was not building towards any larger goals, because I accomplished almost all of them within the first month. Now my time in World of Warcraft is largely spent around me logging Belghast in each morning, and each night to flip the switches and keep the Garrison humming… all for the promise of my next loot crate and potentially some upgrades to support my raiding habit. Which cause me to question why I am even logging in at all.
This morning I am going to try really hard to keep my blog post somewhat brief because I have weather to deal with outside. Throughout the day yesterday it kept snowing and while the ground temperature was too warm to cause it to stick permanently to the ground, it has managed to coat every other surface… like our vehicles. So before this morning is up, after I finish up my blog post I am going to have to go out there and deal with the mess. I am not looking forward to it, because last I checked the temperature and the wind were both still insane. As a denizen of Oklahoma I find it far easier to deal with warm temperatures in excess of 110 than freezing temperatures. So yesterday when it was in the 20s with an insane windchill… I was not a happy camper.
In fact I got out yesterday morning to get breakfast, and then did not leave the house at all once the weather started in more insanely. I had a grand old time hibernating either in my office under a blanket or downstairs on the new laptop… under and even larger fuzzier blanket. This combined with the fact that I seemed to have at least one cat on me at any given time kept me fairly toasty warm, or at least toasty in the ways that counted. Unfortunately today I will have to brave the cold and head out into the world. I am absolutely not looking forward to the commute now that there is “ice” on the road ways… because even the potential mention of it causes folks to drive insane. The biggest thing I am not looking forward to is waiting on my jeep to thaw out this morning and melt some of the snow.
Yrel Is Awesome
So far one of my favorite parts about the Warlords of Draenor expansion is the character of Yrel. In part because she evolves along with your hero through the course of the game. For an alliance player she is the person driving the narrative forward, and many times your partner in the thick of the battle. What makes the character interesting is you watch her evolve over the course of the content from a very frightened Draenei who does not believe in herself and her abilities. Over the course of the storyline there is a key moment where you try and bolster her spirit, and from that point onwards she evolves. With each trip into battle she becomes more and more of a badass. So while in the above screenshot she looks a bit doe eyed… that quickly changes into a woman of determination and strength.
I don’t think the experience of exploring Draenor would be nearly as interesting to me were it not constantly moved forward by interactions with Yrel. When the early cinematics were released I assumed this game from an alliance players perspective would be all about Maraad and his returning to his home land. While I like the character of Maraad just fine, I feel like they made the right choice to switch focus and center the story on the much more interesting Yrel. The thing the Warcraft universe needs more than anything are some strong female characters that play center stage, and not supporting characters. Yrel so far does a really good job of being that sort of character. Terran Gregory and team have done an amazing job with the in game cinematics, in making this entire experience feel so much more movie like.
Taking it Slow
At this point I am trying to stop and smell the roses whenever I have the chance. While the list of level 100 characters keeps increasing in guild, and the call of high level content is there… I am trying to take it slowly. That said the game seems to be conspiring against me, in that I am level 95 and have yet to make it out of Gorgrond. There are just so many things to see and do in the landscape and my compulsion to completely every quest, kill every rare mob and gather every treasure… is ending up leveling me more swiftly than I had expected. I remember having the same basic feeling when I was leveling in Pandaria the first time as well. The only negative is that my desire not to skip content means I am going to have to do a lot of questing at maximum level to attempt to gear myself. The problem I ran into with Pandaria is that in order to get into the dungeons you really needed that quest gear from Townlong Steppes and Dreadwastes. At this point I will ding 100 well before I have set foot in any of the later zones, so I am likely setting myself up for the same issues.
Thanks to Final Fantasy XIV… I did something I never thought I would do in World of Warcraft. Yesterday afternoon I queued as a tank for a random dungeon… in fact I ran two of them back to back. Overall the experience was not nearly as bad as I would have expected it. Sure I had one jackass in the first run that laughed at us as we wiped to something… but the majority of the time it went nice and smoothly. Equally shocking was the fact that apparently Warrior tanking is a muscle memory task because I could still do it instinctively. Granted I set up my hot bars much the same way as I have always set them up for years. My fingers seemed to know precisely what to do at the right time, and honestly I found it an easier experience than tanking with a Deathknight. It felt natural, and as the dungeons ran on I started doing things a lot more confidently. Maybe the warrior tank inside of me really still is there, and was just waiting to come out again. I look forward to ping ponging around dungeons with charge as the role begins to feel more natural. Essentially Belghast Warrior tanking is open for business… and if you need a tank holler.
This morning I am thankful that House Stalwart in World of Warcraft on the Argent Dawn server… continues to exist in spite of me. While I founded the guild back in 2004, it has been years since I have controlled the destiny of this plucky guild. In fact there are many times that I have actively tried to recruit players away from World of Warcraft into other games. In spite of my constant attempts and my white panel van full of candy… the guild still exists as strong as it ever was. Over the last few nights we have had almost 30 people online, which is pretty damned good for a guild in a game that had been in a state of decline. While I set the motions into action that started the guild and gathered people there… it is the people themselves that keep it going. Every so often I will take back the reigns of the guild, and do a few tweaks here and there, but largely it is the people themselves that have kept the ship moving forward.
I also want to thank my good friend Rylacus. He claims that he is just a “Bel Proxy”, but he has been all too gracious about wearing the crown when I am not around. He provides the guild a sense of stability that I have not been able to since the launch of Cataclysm. He is as much guild mascot as he is guild leader, and I appreciate the effort he has put into it. He is also really damned good at denying my candy, as I have only ever gotten him to follow me into one other game. He is all about his characters in World of Warcraft and the progress he has made with them. Since both he and his kids play the game, he is as firmly rooted in it as anyone I know. He still keeps trying to give me back the crown, but his willingness to wear it means so much to me. He keeps things moving forward and makes sure the train never completely derails. It has taken me awhile to reach a point of accepting that the House Stalwart that exists today is not the House Stalwart I created… but is in no way less awesome or less interesting. The guild has evolved beyond being a cult of personality dedicated to its leader, and has become a chain reaction that sustains itself. I am thankful to no longer be needed to keep the fire going.
Last night we recorded yet another episode of AggroChat, and I was joined by Ashgar, Kodra and Tam. Still no signs of Rae, but she has been absent in a lot of things lately. I think she is just going through one of those periods of seclusion, that I occasionally find myself in. I went into last night not thinking we had a whole lot to talk about, but once again we managed to ramble on for an entire show. This week Ashgar, Kodra and Tam have been spending some time playing Endless Legend a relatively new 4X game that spawned from a rather steam early access program. From what it sounds like it is a really interesting take on the traditional civilization game model. Throughout the discussion it reminded me in no small part to Age of Wonders but with more original fantasy race combinations.
Thanks to a sale on Steam Tam delved into the rather critically acclaimed Shadows of Mordor. When I originally saw the trailer I thought… “man this is a Tam game”. He loves all things stealthy, and by the same token I thought “man this is not a Bel game”. At least the second part of that statement might have been wrong. It sounds like there is plenty of carnage and mayhem, and a super interesting nemesis system to keep players busy. Essentially if I could manage to struggle through the stealthy bits, there is probably a really enjoyable game there waiting. One of the cooler ideas is that apparently your friends nemesis characters… will join your game and hunt you down too. So in theory you could unleash some living nightmares on your friends if you end up letting them level up too much.
Finally I delve into the topic of Warlords of Draenor and my return to the game. I still stand by my original statement that if you have no interest in World of Warcraft, this expansion will do little to change that. However if you are like me and still have at least a passing interesting in the game, or have a huge vault of nostalgia towards the Burning Crusade era… this is going to be like crack. Right now I am finding the game extremely interesting, and we ramble on talking about it at length. So while I thought we didn’t have a whole lot to talk about, it turned out as the night went on that we still managed to fill up a show full of verbal faffing.
Burning Crusade Nostalgia
One of the points we landed on last night that I find extremely interesting might also be the reason why I am enjoying this expansion, but I don’t feel like someone like Tam would. Ultimately I think it depends on how you felt about your experience in Burning Crusade as a whole. For me Burning Crusade was really the expansion where I came into my own as a player, and became “Belghast”. I started my WoW raiding life as a Hunter, but that was a class I had never actually intended on playing. Originally I wanted to play a tanky paladin, but the bait and switch when they replaced the strike system with the seal system… and the fact that at low levels paladins were frustratingly slow to level solo caused some problems. I had a death in the family shortly after the launch of the game, and when I came back most of my friends had shot far ahead of me, leaving me to have to solo almost entirely.
At that point the Hunter was the king of soloing all things, and as such I picked it up and caught up to my friends rather quickly. I can’t say I disliked playing Lodin my hunter, but it just wasn’t the class I had ever intended or imagined myself playing. Then one thing lead to another, and a good friend needed a hunter for his raid… and bam I ended up becoming a raiding hunter. I loved the Late Night Raiders group of hunters, and many of them I am still close with even today. However i never really excelled as a hunter, because my heart was not fully into it. I could do better than average damage, and had decent enough reflexes and was reliable as part of a rotation… but I had no passion for it, at least not the way the other hunters did. However as I started accepting gear from the raid, I felt bound by loyalty to keep playing that character as long as they needed me.
The Raid Crash
With the launch of Burning Crusade it was this great reset button, and I seized the opportunity with both hands. I half heartedly tried to level Lodin at first, but quickly found myself exclusively playing Belghast my protection warrior, and became a much needed tank as we all leveled up. The Burning Crusade could be thought of as the great raid killer, because all of the changes… all of the moving characters around and dropping the standard raid size from 40 to 25 man ultimately was the final blow to many raids on our server that had only been limping along for some time. Here is where the perspective comes in because while I was just an admittedly well liked member of the raid… Tam was one of the leaders of it. So while I viewed everything as this grand opportunity to do the things I had always wanted to be doing… his viewpoint had to be decidedly different. I know when my second raid “No Such Raid” fell apart around me it took a lot of our me personally. I had that raid dumped in my lap, and with the figurehead in its cult of personality gone… there was really no amount of duct tape to keep the ship afloat.
So while I personally view Burning Crusade as this expansion where I got to finally move into the role that I had been designed for… others might not have quite the hopefulness that I did. I remember when the expansion hit, there were a lot of raid members that were frustrated by the gear reset. In fact they were down right mad that all of this work that they went through and effort they put into getting just the right items… was to be immediately erased the moment they stepped foot into Hellfire Peninsula. Expansion are the great equalizers… they give players the opportunity to shift focus, and pick up something that they had always wanted to play but were never given the chance to. With the launch of Warlords of Draenor I am doing just that myself. I felt it was fitting for me to be setting aside my Deathknight and once again taking up the mantle of Protection Warrior.
Sell Me on Warlords
Last night during the course of the podcast, Tam uttered the words above.. “Sell Me on Warlords”. In truth I couldn’t nor would I really want to. Warlords of Draenor is more of the same, with a prettier coat of paint and some nifty casual friendly features like the Garrison. I feel this is an expansion that only those who still begrudgingly feel love for World of Warcraft in their hearts should ever try and play. The game has some serious shortcomings still as compared to more modern MMOs. It pisses me off on an almost nightly basis that it doesn’t have a mentoring system, nor does it have a content scaling system for dungeon runs. I greatly prefer that Final Fantasy XIV sizes down the players to fit the dungeon, so that there is never a case where you straight up roflstomp the content. This came up the other night when Zeli and Jabberant started characters and used their boost to 90 to create them on Argent Dawn. Jab asked if there was a way to go back and experience the old dungeon content… and sadly unless you mean by soloing with great ease… the answer is a resounding no.
So I can’t really sell Warlords as the next best thing since sliced bread. I still think that functionally Final Fantasy XIV is a better game. That said I am happy that I don’t really have to make the choice between them, In fact I have been extremely thankful to have FFXIV that I am still deeply connected to as Argent Dawn has burned down around me. What Warlords represents is a game with the charm and grace of any Blizzard title. The recent performance issues still do not degrade the fact that the game is extremely well crafted. At the end of the day it is an old game, with a fresh coat of paint… but it is a very enjoyable game still. The content itself I am finding more enjoyable, because they took the lessoned learned with the Timeless Isle and extended them out to the world as a whole. There is so much to see and find, and so many neat rare mobs to take out along the way. It is like they gave me carefully crafted crack just for me… because I love getting interesting loot and killing interesting things. If you hold a special place in your heart for Draenor… it might be a worthwhile time to return as well. At this point I still have not actually renewed my account… but signs are pointing to that I will be doing so.
One of the recent sagas in my life that has somehow managed to stay mostly out of my blog is the ongoing issues I have had with my laptop. I feel like at this point I deserve an honorific of “laptop killer” because I seem to be exceptionally hard on them. My Asus Republic of Gamers laptop lasted about two years, and I loved it dearly… until something went wonky with the motherboard and kept it from charging the battery. Then I got the SLI configuration Lenovo y500 laptop… and I too adored it. Ultimately I think it was pretty much my perfectly laptop, until a few weeks ago I went downstairs to boot it up… and it refused to go past the Lenovo splash screen. I realized unfortunately that it was out of warranty, so I ended up posting on the Lenovo support forums.. and as of yet have not received a response.
So over the last few weeks at my wife’s urging we have been watching craigslist to see if we could find something interesting. In the past when I have been without my laptop, I have been in a state of utter panic… however this time around I have tried extremely hard to be zen about it. We saw a few interesting things but either the poster wanted more than I was willing to pay for it, or after some exchanges of texts I found out that the video card would be too underpowered for my purposes. All of this while I did not realize that my wife had also been searching craigslist on a daily basis. Thursday night she happened across a post on the Oklahoma City craigslist, for someone selling a Lenovo y580 a model slightly newer than mine… for a ridiculously cheap price.
My wife did not even bat an eye at the thought of us making a trip to Oklahoma City, entirely for the purpose of getting me a laptop from some random seller on Craigslist. I am exceptionally lucky and thankful that I have a wife that is so supportive of all of the random otherwise meaningless activities I engage in on a daily basis. She knows all of this is important to me… and while she doesn’t always grasp the reason why… she constantly surprises me at just how much she is willing to do in support of my madness. So yesterday went took a two hour trek to Oklahoma City, looked over the laptop… and today it is sitting beside me downloading various things. Of course we made a trip through all of the Half Priced Books stores in the area, since we don’t have those in Tulsa… so it was not entirely about the laptop. Still I am extremely thankful to have a partner willing to jump through so many hoops for my happiness.
Last night was another prime example of the odd weather patterns here in Oklahoma. When I got home from work it had managed to heat up enough to kick on our air conditioning. Then over the course of one of the worst wind storms I can recall, that pretty much wrecked the gate to our backyard… it dropped from a balmy 80 degrees to 33 degrees and still really windy this morning. Being veterans day, and being that I am off work today… I had planned on having the Heating and Air guy out today to do our yearly “winter” inspection. I am guessing that I picked the perfect day because tonight it is supposed to plummet even colder. I realize that all of you northerners are thinking that the temperatures I am describing is nothing… but for someone raised to live in 70 degree to 115 degree climate this is pretty cold.
The problem with the heating and air folks coming out is the fact that my office was a mess. I have a bad habit of just tossing empty boxes in the corner and over the course of a year the pile of boxes had gotten pretty epic. It made me realize just how much stuff we order from Amazon. While we do not have curbside recycling here, we do however have these little bins called “Mr Murf” that I can take the cardboard to. So I have loaded the back of my jeep with the various assorted boxes, condensing them as best I could. In addition I went out into the backyard and unhooked the hose from the house in preparation for a hard freeze. The last step was to gather up all the trash and put the bin out next to the curb, feed the cats, feed myself and sit down to blog. All in all I have had a damned productive day and it is only 7:30 in the morning.
I rushed around so much this morning so that, one it would actually get done, and two I could spend the rest of my day leisurely farming for bookrocks in Final Fantasy XIV. Before I finished the night last night I managed to cap my Tomestones of Poetics, and similarly I am close to another piece of armor with my Tomestones of Soldiery. Generally speaking running content on reset day yields some of the best results, so I will more than likely be hitting a mixture of Labyrinth of the Ancients, Syrcus Tower and Expert Roulette in an attempt to get the precious precious bookrocks. At this point I really want to get my pants drop out of Syrcus Tower so I can stop running it as a dragoon. Ultimately I would rather be running it as a class that has a higher likelihood of getting drops like my Bard. However given my past luck with MMOs, I know the moment I take anything other than the class that can roll “need” on them… they will start dropping every single time.
In The Burning Crusade I raided Karazhan every single Sunday for over a year. During this time tanking it, I managed to get Attumen’s mount, but never managed to get the tanking necklace that eluded me. After a years time I got tired of dragging a character in there that only needed a single item, so I started healing it on my paladin… letting another up and coming tank take my space. The first time I was in there as a Paladin… the tanking neck dropped. That has always been the case for me… I have exceptional luck early on and then there are one or two items that will not drop no matter how many times I attempt to get them. Then there are super rare items that everyone seems to be able to get but just end up taunting me. I am looking at you Headless Horseman mount. When I was farming that regularly, almost every time someone in my instance would get their mount… but I would not. I guess it could be worse… I could be Rylacus or Tamrielo… who simply don’t get drops at all.
I am still completely up in the air as to whether or not I will be playing Warlords of Draenor come Thursday. Had you asked me two weeks ago I would have said an absolute and resounding “Nope”. Then Blizzcon happened… and the extreme heartstring tugging of the Looking for Group documentary. That thing crit me straight to the feels for 9999… yeah I am still thinking in Final Fantasy numbers here. Unfortunately I felt things that I have not felt stirring in me about World of Warcraft since probably I last set foot on Draenor or at the very least last set foot in Northrend. This started an unraveling of my resolve against playing World of Warcraft. Basically there are two important pieces of data. The first being that my subscription does not officially run out for another 19 days. The second being that thanks to them opening preorders what seems like a year before the expansion actually launched… I’ve already pre-purchased the game and used my boost to 90 to push up my Night Elf Mage.
So there you have it… I have both access to my account to play, and the expansion already sitting there waiting on me. The problem is my problems with the expansion are still there. There is an excellent video from Qelric condensing her views about the Death Knight class in the expansion, and while I have never been able to be that concise she sums it up nicely. All that I have been able to say… is that they just felt wrong somehow. Like I never could quantify exactly what that meant. All of that said… if I do end up coming back I will more than likely do so on Belghast my warrior, with a return to protection tanking. I managed to get into Belghast a little bit right before I quit playing before the launch of Elder Scrolls Online and was having a reasonably good time with it. The protection changes seem to be mostly good, and the feel is solid. I would be kinda nice to set foot in Draenor on the character that came into its own during the Burning Crusade expansion. BC was the era where I transitioned from Hunter main to Warrior Tank main, so there is a whole bundle of nostalgia wrapped up in that setting.
The one thing I know for certain… I will never be leading the World of Warcraft House Stalwart again. When I came back last year, I fought hard to try and mend the rift that had built up in the guild in my absence. I tried desperately to get the two factions to talk to one another, but no amount of me acting as a bridge between… managed to actually help. This broke my resolve, and eventually the problem child in the equation left… and things apparently have been rather blissful in his absence. World of Warcraft is not a game I can play seriously any more. I tried to go back to raiding regularly with this last expansion and it just did not fit with the way I want to play the game. So long as I was a damned dirty casual I seemed to be enjoying myself, but the moment people started relying on me for anything… I was back in the position that I fought so hard to escape the first time. If I do play again, it would be as a secondary game the same way that I continue to play Rift. It is time for the Warcraft branch of House Stalwart to have a true leader, not just a figurehead that long ago stopped loving that position.
Given that it is Veterans Day here in the United States, I thought it fitting to show my thankfulness for the service of our men and women in the armed forces. This actually means quite a bit to me, because while I have never served in the Military myself… both of my grandfathers did. We lose sight on just how hardcore World War 2 must have been. The Grandfather on my fathers side was wounded during the D-Day invasion, and had a machine gun emplacement shoot down his back as he was trying to duck into a foxhole. Had he not happened to quite literally fall on a medic, he would have died as the machine gun and sliced through his lung and it was collapsing. They bandaged him up just enough to send him back out into battle, where he eventually participated in the Battle of the Bulge. During that leg of the campaign it was so cold that he lost half of his toes to frostbite.
My Grandfather on my Mother’s side was in the Tunisian front and captured during the Battle of Kasserine Pass, and spent time in a prison camp. Eventually he joined in with others and staged and escape managing to eventually get back to Allied lines. While on the run he was aided by various farming families in the Italian countryside. My wife’s step father on the other hand was a veteran of the Korean Conflict. He was a member of the Chosin Few, a group of service men trapped on a peninsula in the Chosin Reservoir that held off Chinese forces. The thing that I found the most interesting is that all three men were completely stoic about their service. Not a single one of them wanted any recognition for what they had done for our country. In fact none of them really wanted to talk about it at all. It was only later in life that each was willing to give us little tidbits of information regarding what all they had been through. I quite literally cannot imagine what they had to go through to survive, and I am thankful that I will never have to know. So on this Veterans Day I am thankful for all of the men and women who have served our country so that I can have the life of safety and personal freedoms that I lead.
Last night I did something a bit different than my normal fare and actually hung out with several of my coworkers. While I hang out with Rae at least in the virtual sense almost every night, this was a bit different. For my boss’s birthday his brother took him to a thing called Rifftrax put on by the guys from Mystery Science Theater 3000. They do the same basic thing, but they do it live and stream it to theaters all over the country. Since he had such a great time he decided it would make an excellent group activity. So last night we met for dinner and then continued on to the nearby theater to watch the Matthew Broderick version of Godzilla ripped apart by the MST3K guys.
First off this is a much bigger deal than any of us realized, as we spent probably a bit too long at the restaurant and had maybe 20 minutes before the start of the film. By the time we all got to the theater and inside the place was absolutely packed. Apparently if you want to get seats together you have to arrive well ahead of time, and it almost has a tail gating mentality. Instead we all split up mostly into groups of two to find a place to sit. So this ended up with me being down on the front row leaning back in my seat and trying to watch the movie. Thankfully we didn’t really CARE about the movie… but instead the commentary. Afterwards they said that it was a bit hard to hear the dub over as you got further back in the theater so I guess the awkward angle was worth it.
This is totally something I would do again, and it has been a long while since I have laughed this hard. I guess I had completely put large sections of the Broderick film out of my memory. I mean I remember it being bad at the time, but I didn’t remember it being THIS bad. If you have the chance to see Rifftrax in a nearby theater I suggest you take up that opportunity. They do this apparently as a semi regular thing here, so I will have to follow the schedule and see what is next. It seems like the next showing is November 4th where they do that campy classic Anaconda. I will have to see what is going on but I would really like to maybe try and go.
We Have the Date
Yesterday was the big announcement for the Warlords of Draenor release date and now we know exactly when to expect it to land. Some time ago Godmother ran a contest to see who could guess the date, and I apparently came the closest along with River. I remember at the time River saying something to the effect that I looked lonely on the spreadsheet so he decided my guess was as good as any. Now that said I did have some logic behind my guess, I was not just randomly picking numbers. My general theory was that we would not see a World of Warcraft expansion until after Blizzcon. So knowing the Blizzcon dates I figured they would want to take advantage of the Blizzcon-Bump but get product out there before Thanksgiving and the holiday madness begins. I apparently was right but Blizzard threw everyone for a loop by making the release a Thursday. I don’t think anyone was expecting that.
Once again the good folks at Blizzard have managed to craft together a really awesome cinematic. Were I a horde player I would probably be cheering the awesome orc action. Instead it just seems like another really awesomely animated feature explaining the premise of the expansion. The events play out a little different than I would have thought. All along I thought that Garrosh would actually stop Grommash from drinking the blood, but it seems like good ole Grom was already making that decision. Garrosh however just gave him the backup he needed to defeat Mannorath. I feel like the events of this expansion will serve to set up for the long fabled Burning Legion expansion, since we obviously screw with the way things were supposed to work out. I figure you can’t kill a demon like Mannorath without having some pretty negative repercussions.
Like I said, were I a horde player I would likely be heralding in yet another overwhelmingly horde focused expansion. Thing is I am not, and I have never cared a single bit about any of the horde lore. It was just that faction filled with monstrous humanoids and a handful of people that I cared enough about to roll alts to be able to play with. Nothing about the horde is really my thing, apart from the whole “everything has spikes” aspect. I expected yesterdays event and subsequent trailer to pump me up and prepare me for what was inevitable, my temporary return to World of Warcraft. The thing is it seems to have had the opposite effect. I am even less interested in the expansion than I was going into the day, and I can’t really put my finger on the why.
I have been in Alpha/Beta for some time now, and all in total I have played somewhere between six and eight hours. During that time I have just felt like I was forcing myself to play the game. I felt obligated to test the content since friends had gotten me into it. Nothing I was doing however really did it for me, and even with the existence of some interesting ideas like the Garrisons, it all felt rehashed. The Burning Crusade was one of the most exciting expansions for me, and it was the era of so many cool things for me as a raider. I expected to be wrapped up in this whirlwind of nostalgia upon returning to it… albeit in a pre-destruction state. While Draenor is gorgeous and I can see the underpinnings of the areas I used to love… it all just feels really old at this point.
This expansion is going to be amazing for those players that are currently enthralled with the game. There are going to be a handful of other players that maybe quit wow but didn’t really play other games in the meantime… that will return and fall back in love again. However I fear for those of us who have gone nomadic and played every game that has come down the pipe… the overall game is just starting to feel its age. The systems don’t quite work as well as other games on the market, it isn’t the culmination of the best ideas any longer. Instead it is a combination of what they could get to work within the existing framework of the game. It will definitely breathe new life into the game a whole and introduce a bunch of new doodads for the players to get involved with, but so far it has all felt very hollow to me. As much as I want to be excited, I am wondering if I have actually truly outgrown the game. I had more fun doing Godmother’s survey than I have had actually playing the game in a very long time… so that tells me I was pretty much living off nostalgia to this point, and maybe that font has been exhausted.
One of the biggest challenges about this whole “blog every day” concept is that some mornings there is just nothing at all in my head to talk about. When I am sick like I was yesterday, I tend to turtle and pull my head up inside my shell, disconnecting me from the interwebs and all of you fine people. Unfortunately when my biggest source of inspiration is gone, I can get a little bit of writers block. It is mornings like this that I feel outline the importance of just allowing yourself to write whatever happens to pop into your head. It might not be epic and exciting, but it is staying true to the mission as a whole. Unfortunately we are well based the NBI 2014 initiative, otherwise I would spin this into some sort of an inspirational post about struggling through.
This is not a slight in any way to the previous NBI groups, but I have been really impressed with just how tenacious the Class of 2014 has been. Generally speaking there is a significant drop off the month after the initiative as folks take a massive breather after having survived being the focus of so many folks attention. When the spotlight fades a bit, it is rough to keep posting when you inevitably notice fewer people are reading. However this group either is blissfully oblivious to the existence of blog statistics, or they really are writing for themselves, because they seem to still be going strong. A few of the “newbies” are among the most prolific posters in my blog reader, and I am amped to still see them enjoying the whole experience.
Right now I have come to realize that I am playing entirely too many MMOs to feel like I am making any significant progress in any of them. Over the last two months I’ve played Warlords of Draenor, Rift, ArcheAge, Wildstar, Star Wars the Old Republic, Elder Scrolls Online, Defiance, Everquest II, Landmark, The Secret World, Diablo 3, Lego Minifigures Online and Trove. While I embrace the whole polygamerous thing, I think even for me this is a bit too much especially when you throw in League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm on top of those… and occasionally some Hex and Hearthstone. Mostly I think I need to drop some of the games that feel similar to me from the rotation, or at least games that scratch the same itch.
I feel like I have to keep testing Warlords of Draenor in part out of remembrance for River, and him being so damned excited to have gotten into the alpha process. While I won’t be playing with the same wide eyed amusement that he would have, I am trying my best to enjoy the experience in his honor. However I can safely say that I will not be playing the actual live World of Warcraft anytime in the near future. I think maybe WoW has run its course with me for awhile, and Wildstar has stepped in to take its place in my heart without me really wanting it to. Wildstar really is a much better version of WoW, and I am just embracing that fact. As a result Rift and SWTOR are also losing out, because to me they still fill the same “wow-like” niche. As a result I won’t be renewing my patron account in Rift.
The Non-WoW Itch
It was fun trying to get into Defiance, but the problem is I got into the Destiny alpha… and it was pretty much everything I had hoped Defiance would be. So I won’t be spending much more time trying to get into that game when I know there is something I will like much better coming later this year. ArcheAge I want to like, but it has without a doubt the worst community of griefers I have experienced anywhere. So unless Trion comes out and announces there will be a co-op server… it is pretty much a nonstarter for me and no sense really spending much more time on it. Landmark on the other hand has an amazing community, but right now there just isn’t much game there for me to play. They have built this amazing crafting sandbox, but without combat it isn’t all that interesting to me past the initial build phase. They have added caves so I figure at some point I will poke my head back in, but exploration without combat just sounds boring to me. I’ve officially allowed my claim to be repossessed at this point.
I still have a special place in my heart for Everquest II, and I can’t say I won’t return to it in the future… but for now I think there are just too many other options. EQ2 was one of those games where I hated the combat system but loved everything else about it. Wildstar with its systems within systems is really filling the niche that EQ2 always did, which might be why it is feeling so sticky considering it is replacing both EQ2 and WoW for me. The Secret World is one of those games I love to remember fondly, but never seem to have a desire to log into on a regular basis. I know there is a bunch of storyline that I have yet to participate in, and I keep thinking that some weekend I will play through all of it. That weekend just has yet to arrive, and lately the only time I seem to log in is when I get new hardware and want to test how it performs.
The Also Rans
Diablo 3 is enjoyable, and at some point I would really like to get a crusader to 70… hell I would like to get my monk to 70. I just struggle to find any drive to play it when my own personal internet zeitgeist… aka the folks I hang out on voice chat nightly, are not also playing it. It was really fun up until the release of Elder Scrolls Online and then boom we all vacated the premises. For the time being I am pretty much crossing it off my list until there is another upwelling of desire among my friends to play it. Trove is similarly really fun, but without a lot of people that I know playing it on a regular basis I have fallen back out of love with it. I will likely continue to poke my head into the game irregularly but when I do play… so much has changed that the experience feels very off-putting. The game is in a pretty much constant state of flux, which is awesome if you are devoted to this game, but confusing if you are a “sometimes” player like me. League of Legends will be a permanent fixture in my gaming rotation so long as I have friends who are devoted to playing it. I don’t necessarily love the game, but I enjoy playing with my friends. I personally like Heroes of the Storm so much better, but the problem is with it being in a limited release “technical alpha” state there just are not enough people around regularly to play with. The MOBA genre is really only fun for me if I am playing with a group of friends, and in this scenario League wins out every time. That is not to say that I won’t keep poking my head into Heroes especially as they add new waves of players. As far as Hearthstone and Hex… I am back playing Magic the Gathering in real life with friends at lunch time… so the draw of these games is minimal right now.
Those Who Made the Cut
So after spending all of this time culling games for this or that reason, I figure I should talk about the games I am deciding to keep in the rotation. Warlords of Draenor I am actually enjoying when I do manage to get in and play it. So yes I am partially doing it in honor of River, and his desire to be in the Alpha, but there is something charming about the new content. I don’t feel like it will be enough to keep me in WoW, but for the time being I am enjoying it while I can. Wildstar has pretty much filled the corner of my heart that desire to play a theme park MMO, and it really is the most glorious theme park of experiences once you give yourself over to it. I feel like I have barely scratched the surface on what it has to offer, and I am intrigued at the schedule they have put out before us. I really like that they are choosing to put in “hardmode” single and small group content before augmenting the raid game. That says a lot that they understand that they need to focus on both going forward to keep players.
I still feel like I have so much more that I want to do in Elder Scrolls Online. I want to finish the Aldmeri Dominion content and see the Ebonheart Content, as well as spend time exploring Craglorn. I love this game even though I am not playing it much, and I can’t see dropping it from the rotation anytime soon. I realize that not many players feel the same way about the game as I do, but really for me it is like the best possible version of Skyrim. I have been out so long at this point that I feel like I am going to be extremely rusty. There game has problems, namely it is awkward as hell to do anything as a group other than Cyrodil. They really need to fix this, and I hope that the good folks at Zenimax are looking into things like mentoring. Right now it is a really awesome single player experience, but gets cludgy when you start adding in more people. That said it still does have amazing dungeon design, and there are so many of them that I have yet to experience.
Last but not least is a game that has come in and taken my heart by storm. Lego Minifigures Online is absolutely adorable and I love everything about this game. Last night this was the only thing I actually played, and grouped up with Rae she managed to catch me up almost to her level in experience. Right now we have a vastly different set of mini figures, and it is really enjoyable to group together. We have both opted to get memberships, and the pocket dungeons are awesome… some of them ending up extremely challenging like the Dragon’s Lair dungeon with I think five different boss fights in it. I’ve already gotten more than my moneys worth of enjoyment out of it, so this is definitely going to be in my weekly rotation for a long while. It basically scratches the itch that Diablo 3 did, and cashes in on my absolute love of all things Lego.
So there you have it, going forward I am mostly going to be focused on Wildstar, Elder Scrolls Online and Lego Minifigures Online. I of course reserve the right to change my mind and undo all of these in the blink of an eye. That said I do have a ton of single player games that I want to play through, and both the PS3 and PS4 ready to stream content. I spent a good chunk of the weekend playing Assassin’s Creed 4 for example… and I am absolutely horrible at it, but enjoying myself quite a bit. As far as online games, I am going to try and limit myself to just these games above for the time being. I know in September I will be digging into Destiny and playing that online with friends quite a bit, but it doesn’t directly conflict with the types of games I chose above. Maybe with this abbreviated list, I won’t constantly feel overwhelmed when I sit down at night and try and figure what exactly I am going to do.`
As I talked about at the beginning of the week, my wife the teacher has started her whirlwind summer tour of the country and she ping pongs between various mathematics related conferences. As a result I am holding down the fort here at home, and at the same time having to take care of our neighbors pets. In the past there has always been this mad dash the few days before my wife gets home to pick up and house and make sure everything is in proper working order. However this time around I have been doing a much better job of picking things up as they happen. Here is hoping there will be no 11th hour cleaning fest… which admittedly is mostly just picking up trash around the house that I have allowed to stack up when I reverted to full on bachelor mode.
The hardest thing about being home alone has been maintaining my walking regiment. I am letting it split a bit, in that I am not walking a “three loop” around the neighborhood each night, but instead I am simply adding additional steps into my day so I don’t really have to. Admittedly I should be pushing myself harder and doing the loops anyway, but without my walking buddy I have lost a good chunk of the reason why I walked past 10,000 steps in the first place. So for now I am getting to 10,000 and then calling it good… even going so far as to walking loops around the living room one night to get the last couple of hundred steps in. All in all I am pretty proud that I have survived thus far and not really let any balls hit the ground. This weekend however… who knows how well that is going to work since it will be hard to fight the desire to be sedentary.
Enter the Warlords
Several days ago I apparently got into the Warlords of Draenor Alpha program. Based on the time that passed between the launch of it and me getting in, I am guessing I was in the second wave of invites overall. With all the excitement of my wife getting ready to go on her trip, I had stopped checking my inbox for such things… and it ended up getting filed away under “promotions”. So I did not actually get in and attempt to play it until the night before last. Since for some time I had settled on Blood Deathknight as my “favorite” wow class, I opted to create one of those. Right now the only content available is the Horde content that centers around a campaign to build your Garrison in Frostfire Ridge. As a result of this I created an Orc Deathknight given that generally this is my favorite Horde Race when I actually play that faction.
Wednesday night was our regularly schedule “Faff About in Cyrodil” night, and as such I got over to actually booting up World of Warcraft pretty late in the evening. So I was tired and probably a bit confused… so when they landed me in Frostfire Ridge with a toolbar full of abilities that made no sense… I had a very much “wtf is this shit” moment. I knew going into the Alpha that they had removed Blood Boil and merged it with Pestilence. I did not however know that they also removed Rune Strike and Heart Strike… and even Blood Strike. So I could not for the life of me that night figure out how to set up a Deathknight Rotation. After consulting the Sage Qelric, I managed to reason out a rotation once you filled in the missing bit of the information. They are apparently expecting us to use Pestilence as our Blood Rune consumer now.
Getting Into Things
Once I figured out the rotation and remembered how I normally set up the rest of my bar, things started to fall into place. Its funny how many abilities I didn’t even remember using but where just muscle memory for playing a Deathknight. Each time I used one of these… I had to track it down and put it on my bar in the “correct” place. This would have likely been less jarring if I had essentially not been playing much wow for the last five months. I made another attempt to play last night before our League of Legends night, and found it still pretty lousy feeling. However afterwards I finally started to get back into the swing of things. I still keep wanting to do things that wildstar allows me to do, and I keep trying to sprint… but overall I have managed to get through the first few quests and ding 91.
I have an Inn and a Barracks in my Garrison and my very first follower that I can send away on missions. So far I am digging the way Garrisons are just integrated into the storyline. At first I was concerned that they might be this big mini-game that was entirely skippable. However they have managed to integrate it into the storyline of building a base in this foreign land. I managed to find an ogre merchant that I could bribe to come trade with me at my Garrison. I am wondering if he will eventually show up there and become a merchant that I can buy and sell from. For the time being as far as I know that has not actually happened. I will probably play some more tonight and stream some of it. The Deathknight rotation still seems off somehow… like there is way too much downtime waiting on my runes to recycle. I guess it gives me plenty of time to weave in Soul Reaper and Death Siphon… which I am finding I like considerably more than Death Pact.
Warlords of Draenor
For at least some of tonight I will likely be playing some Warlords of Draenor. Since I am one of the few people in Alpha Currently… I feel like I need to do my job as a tester and… test content. When I say few… that is a bit of a misnomer because it seems like everyone and their brother are in the friends and family alpha. Blizzard has without a doubt the biggest family I have ever seen. If you are also in Warlords Alpha, you should totally throw me a Battletag invite (Belghast#1752). If you do so however please tell me how the hell I know you. It would be nice to have some friendly faces on the alpha server until they hook it up to the “real” battle.net accounts. Going to also start joining an “AofA” server channel if any of the other Alliance of Awesome community members happen to be playing.