Uncoordinated Ramble

Yesterday I made what seems to have been a fairly controversial post, but also one that seems to be misconstrued to be more than it really was.  The key complaint of the post was the method in which Blizzard occasionally conveys information to the fans through a dose of condescension.  That isn’t good for the brand and isn’t good for the game as a whole.  The rest of the points that I used as examples…  well they were just me pointing out ways I felt the person delivering the message was doing so in a less than friendly manner.  Yesterday I had a bunch of valuable conversation with different folks on both the main point and the sub points, and also some not so valuable discussion.  I feel like any discussion line that follows something along the lines of “you don’t have to play the game” isn’t really valuable.  Sure there are folks who just want to throw stones, burn the crops and salt the earth after they have left.  I am not one of those people… I genuinely care about this game because it is like an old friend.  However it is a friend that keeps going through really strange phases that are maybe not so good for their health.  Ultimately I am just the sort of person who has to say something eventually, and when I do… I can more or less move on knowing that I said my peace.

Every year at work when it comes time for the performance review… there is always a question that boils down to following orders.  My boss always feels the need to make a point about how I will “eventually” follow orders, but that I have to explain my point of view first.  There have been a number of times throughout my career where I have had to implement bad solutions that I knew would eventually bite us in the ass six months to a year later.  I don’t do this cheerfully, and not without first explaining all of the reasons why this is a bad idea.  However if after making my case… it is still decided that we have to do whatever this thing is… I do so to the best of my ability knowing that I made my point known.  When I leave the work world I am this same person… I have to speak my peace in order to move on.  So when I see a game making decisions that I don’t agree with…  well I stand up and say something and do so in my own private vehicle for communicating that.  This is my blog ultimately, and if you are coming here you are going to keep getting me talking about whatever happens to be important on my mind.  I enjoy your visit, and I appreciate feedback… but at the end of the day this is my blog filled with my opinions and that isn’t really something you can judge “right” or “wrong”.

Ultimately the truth is I am not deluded enough to believe for even a second that anything I say here is going to change anything outside of the confines of the limited things I have control of.  I can make my point, and inscribe it on the pages of this virtual tome.  However that doesn’t mean my point is actually going to influence anyone as a result.  You have to understand most mornings when I sit down to start writing…  I largely forget that I actually have readers.  That is not to say that I don’t value each and every reader… it is just that I end up sitting here talking to myself.  Often times the points I make, are a way of me dealing with the thoughts and feelings that I am having at the time.  It is a way of me processing the complex melange of reactions that I have boiling up inside of me, and there is something about putting it down onto paper that seems to bring forth the truest version of whatever it was that I was thinking.  Ultimately we can disagree on whatever it is that I am talking about, and that is going to be okay.  We don’t have to agree to exist within the same space, and often times it is better if we don’t.  The internet and its ease of creating echo chambers is actually a really horrible thing, and so long as a view point isn’t one that I consider toxic…  I welcome it into my mind to swirl around with the thoughts that are already there.  My thoughts on any matter are a constantly evolving and shifting mess.

When it comes to World of Warcraft, I do question if I am compatible with the view the developers have for this game.  There was an interesting side note yesterday in a conversation with Nyn about social consequences of game changes.  I brought on a sequence of ramifications related to not having various aspects of the game be “bind on account” or at least collected at an account level.  Namely talking about the number of times I have wanted to play this or that alt, but my friends really needed me to be playing my main.  When that happens you are left with a choice… do you do the socially beneficial thing and play the character that is needed to help out your friends, or do you be selfish and spend your night working on the character you really want to be progressing.  The more things that are pushed to an account basis, the more these problems just go away.  If I can be running around on my main and collecting stuff that benefits my army of alts…  then that reinforces me playing the character that is needed at any given moment.  I think in the grand scheme of things this would also go a long way towards getting tanks and healers queuing for content… because they know that ultimately there is some benefit that can trickle down to my other classes.  To which she raised the point… that these aren’t really game mechanic problems but instead social problems.

I guess my stance is that the two are irrevocably connected.  Every game change has social ramifications, and every social change effects the way players view game mechanics.  Largely I judge World of Warcraft against the actions that other companies are taking in other MMOs.  Some of them do a phenomenal job of social engineering the player base to make shifts in behavior that ultimately benefit the health of the game.  A prime example is the way that Final Fantasy XIV keeps coming up with reasons that end game characters, want to be running lower level content by making end game rewards hinge upon the collection of items from lower level content.  This reinforces the cycle of constantly having a fresh supply of high level and geared players queuing for content, and the introduction of a first time bonus mechanic makes it so that high level players actually get excited knowing that their rewards from running the content are going to be multiplied by the presence of a new player.  This is absolutely bribery, but it is bribery that works extremely well… and shows a high level of understanding for the psychology of players.  So ultimately I think the more things that can be pushed back to the account level, the more willing players will be to bring what is needed instead of what they want to keep moving forward.

This also spawned a discussion about the design philosophy of “bring the player not the class” which in truth… doesn’t really work that well.  Sure it works great in cases of Paladins and Druids… that can field a dps, tank and healer but ultimately breaks down when it comes to pretty much any other class.  Now I will agree that any tank is swappable for any other tank, and for the most part healers are also equally interchangeable.  However when it comes to DPS, it doesn’t feel quite so much the case with so many fights punishing players for bringing too much ranged dps or too much melee dps.  If anything I think more things bound at the account level helps to get closer to the “bring the player” aspect of that equation because it rewards alting in a manner that isn’t really the case yet.    Alts are the thing that keep players engaged with the game during those slow spots where progression has either topped out, or is going much slower than expected.  Bolstering the reasons for players to roll that army of alts is I think a huge part of keeping players active and subscribed to the game.  There are still some sore spots with things that have gone to account based, like the upcoming transmog changes not really working 100% cross character…  but it was a step in the right direction.  Similarly account wide mounts, pets and achievements were extremely awesome and have increased the value of each of those things for me at least.  However it feels like we just haven’t gone far enough yet.  There are so many things like currencies and factions…  that just don’t seem to make sense at a character by character basis when it would be significantly more rewarding to have those things on any character you happen to be playing.  Anyways….  this ramble has gone on long enough and gotten way out of control.  Additionally I am out of time this morning and needing to head to work.  Thanks for reading if you actually made it to this point.

Overdue Rant

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Internal Struggle

This morning I have stalled in sitting down to write my post, because I have a bit of a dilemma.  I try really hard to keep my blog overwhelmingly positive, with try being the opportune word there.  Over the last several years I have tried to limit the amount of negativity that I allow into my life.  That said every so often I encounter something that really pisses me off for a whole bunch of reasons.  Yesterday I encountered one of those things, and this morning I have been struggling with trying to find anything else that I would rather talk about in my morning blog post.  For the most part Legion has been an undiscovered territory for me, every now and then I see the echoes of drama happening in the World of Warcraft community but I have not dug further.  However yesterday some friends of mine were talking about the ramifications of the crafting system changes, and in a conversation I was not even directly participating in… they linked the above video.  Over twitter there have been like I said echoes of frustration about the changes, but not a whole bunch of details.  Now I guess in a way I can see the frustrations, namely centering around a new high demand resource called Blood of Sargeras that is going to be bind on pickup.  This feels short sighted honestly, but this isn’t really something that pissed me off.  Instead what frustrated me was the tone of the video and some of the phrasing of the answers.

One of the things I have mentioned before is a general feeling of condescension towards players that I receive when some Warcraft devs talk to the public.  Alex Afrasiabi has been really bad about this especially during Blizzcon, and apparently Paul Kubit has learned to represent the product from this same school of thought.  There are several moments during this video where the statement that is delivered feels like the equivalent of “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that”.  This came across big time in a discussion from this video that I am going to paraphrase about dual crafters being at a disadvantage in gaining Blood of Sargeras.  Which essentially gets answered as “we don’t feel crafters are disadvantaged” then a few moments later “we gave gatherers an advantage”.  If you give one class of player an advantage that a different class of player cannot get… that is pretty much the textbook definition of a disadvantage.  Other questions were not even really answered and just “Noped” out of existence, and the truth being I thought the collected questions that Josh Allen was reading off were pretty good ones.  The worst of these being the lack of any reason that might possibly matter about why they didn’t just make Blood of Sargeras bind on account, stating that they don’t want players to feel like they have to have an army of alts.  Which feels counter intuitive to how their game actually feels to play, given that after a point… if you want to stay invested you are going to ultimately roll up an army of alts.

There is a certain amount of paternalism that seems to be happening with the game design in World of Warcraft, that has honestly kept happening since around the launch of Cataclysm.  There is this general feeling I keep getting that “father knows best” and that we really shouldn’t want these things.  While the game keeps changing, I don’t really see any incarnation really being better than the last…  just that it is different and attempting to patch the holes in the previous design without fully understanding it.  It does not feel like we are building towards anything anymore, given that when a new system is introduced we know deep down inside that come next expansion  the devs will be backing away from it as quickly as possible.  So things like the Artifact weapons are awesome…  but so was the Garrison when it was first introduced, or the Half Hill Farm… or countless other things that were ushered it to create a new era of greatness in Warcraft only to be demolished two years later when the next “greatest thing” is released.  The myopic vision of the game hurts it, and makes it feel like nothing that came before the beginning of this expansion actually mattered.  That was not the way thing felt up through Wrath of the Lich King.  Back then it felt like we were building towards something, that we were unlocking new and interesting ideas with each content patch.  Now the entire experience feels shallow and lacking any meaningful depth that extends past the current patch cycle.

When all of this is the case or at least feels like it… the last thing you want to be told repeatedly by Blizzard staff is that you shouldn’t want more.  I realize that it is impossible to appease all of the fans, but to present folks that seem to have an adversarial tone about their obvious darlings… is not really a great option either.  I could do a super-cut of condescending answers to heart felt questions from the fans, knit together from videos like this one and countless Blizzcon panels.  All that would really do is to serve to make me even more sad.  Ultimately that is the problem I am having is that I want to get excited about Legion, but the more I hear about it the more I end up getting disappointed.  It is a foregone conclusion that I will play it however.  I always end up playing World of Warcraft expansions, but about a month and a half in the shiny seems to wear off and I remember the game I am playing.  I would stop trying, save for the fact that I still have a lot of friends that I care about… that are really enjoying this game in ways that I seem to be unable to.  This is precisely the sort of post I have tried to NOT make, but this morning…  I just couldn’t stop it from coming out of my hands on the keyboard.  I apologize now for all of the folks who are wrapped up the in thrall of Legion news.  I don’t want to rain on your enjoyment, and more so I am honestly jealous that you feel that way.  I wish I could bottle it and prescribe drinking whatever that is on a daily basis, because I would like to enjoy the game and play with my friends.  However this video and its tone… just sort of broke something inside of me that caused this rant to spill forth.  Tomorrow I will be positive and happy, and talking about the things that excite me once more…  but today I had to get a bunch of stuff that had built up off my chest.

Regularly Playing: June Edition

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Back in May I decided to make a monthly ritual of “truing up” my “Regularly Playing” widget on the sidebar to more closely represent the games I quite literally was playing on regular rotation.  Given that it is that time again… here is the list of things for June.  I added a few new games into the mix and also removed a few more… even if one is really only temporary.  Doing the thing where I write a blurb about what I happened to be doing in each of them.

Rift

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In a weird bit of nostalgia, I decided to come back to Rift and give it another push.  There has never really been a period of time when I have not actually at least dabbled in this game, but so many times I failed to gain traction.  This time around I somehow managed to push from 61 to 65 and have started on  this mad mission to raise all of my tradeskills.  Now having almost accomplished that I will be pushing into the Planetouched Wilds and giving it a real amount of effort.  On top of this I am focused heavily on my crafting dailies, which often times means I need to venture out into the world in search of Sarleaf and Thalasite.  With the shift of WoW to the Garrison for most of your farming needs… I had forgotten just how much I really did love going off and ore farming.  There is just something relaxing about wandering around a zone with a purpose, looking for the next ore pop and trying to get to it before anyone else notices.  It is this weird game within a game that actually seems to work well for me.  I spent many an hour flying circles around Icecrown or Sholazar Basin in Wrath… and now am loving doing the same thing for Gelboro Reef.  Largely I am focused on that zone since, firstly I know it pretty well… and secondly the mobs are low enough level that I can go afk as needed and make it back to the keyboard before something actually kills me.  I am certain that I could be farming ore while wandering around the Planetouched Wilds, but the mobs out there are truly brutal.  Whatever the reason… I am deeply invested in Rift and its community once more and loving it.

Destiny: The Taken King

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While I have slowed down considerably in this game, there are still regularly sessions of it… namely because I have been trying to get fellow AggroChat member and good friend  of mine Grace settled in game.  Monday night we managed to get her to level 40, and pushed through the Taken King quest content… which means that there is an entirely new world waiting for her of endgame stuff.  With Iron Banner going on this weekend, I highly expect that the two of us will be working on that or at least attempting to show her the ropes of the event.  We also have several more steps in the recruit a friend process, but as we get her gear level up there it should get easier to do cooler stuff.  Other than that other games have taken priority over the last few weeks, namely with my return to active duty in FFXIV and running stuff in Rift.  Hopefully the Iron Banner will be a good event to get me back into focus and moving forward in Destiny once more.  I feel pretty disconnected, and I miss the Thursday night Challenge of Elders stuff horribly, I just had a few crazy weeks with the St Louis trip, and Kansas City trip… and a bunch of other random occurrences that knocked me out of my schedule.  Hopefully I can start to rebuild said schedule and get moving forward once more.

ArcheAge

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In a similar fashion to Rift, I have suddenly become involved and attached to the ArcheAge community as well.  Right now I am largely focused on leveling, but at some point I plan on doing all the tradeskilly things in this game as well.  Last year the AggroChat crew made a serious push into this game, and while we faded into the background… I still found it extremely enjoyable.  Additionally like I said yesterday, many of the early toxic aspects of the community as a whole seem to be gone.  Right now I am trying to get back in tune with the game and try and remember how the hell to do half of the things.  On the positive as I grind away at questing I seem to keep getting really nice drops for weapons and armor…  however I remember that most of the best stuff I had was crafted.  I just happened to time my return to coincide with some welcome back campaign, and I keep accruing rewards into my inventory that at some point I will figure out how to use.  Mostly I would like to hit the level cap before worrying too much with them, but I believe some of them are xp bonuses that I might as well use now.  If you are actively playing I am Belglaive on the Tahyang server, but I am not sure what all it requires to actually friend someone in game.  I am not sure if cross server friends lists are a thing there like they are in Rift.

Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

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I spent most of the month deeply frustrated with this game, namely because I was sitting at what felt like an artificial gear cap and being prevented from progressing in the story.  Since then however I managed to get a Void Ark run with some friends and got over whatever anxiety I happened to have about tanking it.  As a result I am now sitting at 205 gear score, and bumping up against the Nidhogg trial in the story.  It is my hope that at some point this week I can get a few friends together and run this and hopefully complete the 3.3 patch story.  I am still enjoying the game, but I lack the drive to play it… that I have in say Rift or ArcheAge right now.  For at least the foreseeable future my activity in game is probably going to be limited to our Tuesday night activities, or the occasional expert or other event that I organize with friends.  I love playing this game… but right now I only seem to love playing it with a group of friends logged in at the same time.  It is still an amazing game, but it has shifted into the sort of role that World of Warcraft has been in the past… that game that I only played when there was an organized activity.

World of Warcraft

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This one admittedly is barely making the list, and keeping its space on my sidebar.  Right now I am occasionally logging in to run Garrisons and get my free gold, but not doing much more other than that.  There has been talk of myself, grace and a few others doing random old world content for transmoggy bits and honestly…  that right now is about all I am interesting in World of Warcraft as a whole.  I feel like I am in a “desperately waiting for the Legion pre-patch” mode.  Largely because I am tired of not having any bank space, and removing any of my outfits is simply not an option.  I am not joking when I say that right now the only important thing to me in this game… is looking cool with my collection of old raid gear littering my bank vault.  If the new transmog system were actually patched in… I would more than likely go through a flurry of activity as I once again do awesome old world content for cool threads.  However I quite literally have hit a point where I maybe have 15 bag slots total between inventory, bank and void storage…. so I simply cannot play Belghast anymore without risking removing something.  So instead… I run the occasional garrison mission as I alternate through my army of alts… and then log out once again.

Things Removed From List

Overwatch

Zero clue why on this one… but the game released and I just have had no desire to really play it.  I am amped about just how excited everyone else seems to be about this game, but honestly it feels like I am more interested in talking about the world and the characters… than actually playing it.  If the player versus bots game were more compelling I would likely play it more often, but right now it feels like to enjoy it I need a group of friend to play it.  Ironically I have a huge group of friends playing it… but I think I am going through a “quiet time” phase where I just want to piddle around on my own in games rather than do a lot of organized play.  The few nights I rode along with people… I lasted 3 to 4 games before feeling the need to run and hide again.  I am certain at some point I will once again get the Overwatch bug, but the truth is I am just not that into competitive games.

Diablo 3

Removing this one again temporarily because well…. the season is over.  I have accomplished everything I could ever hope to accomplish, and now is the quiet time until the next patch.  This will be returning once again as another season starts and we all go through the crazy happy madness that is a season launch.  For a bit I was still farming for pets and such, but with the addition of several games this got removed from the docket.  I still very much love this game and look forward to adding it back to the list, but for the moment we are in the off season and the game for me at least is dormant.

 

Revisiting Old Ideas

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ArcheAge Resurgence

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I have been on quite the Trion Worlds games kick lately after coming back to Rift, and that has how officially spilled over into ArcheAge as well.  ArcheAge and I have a bit of a torrid past, or at least it was not a game that I really latched onto from the moment I first played it.  In fact in those early Alpha and eventual Beta days… the game had a less than stellar community.  That however has changed with time and a significant amount of effort by Trion staff, and the community that exists today is pretty great.  I blame Kiwi entirely for me starting to poke my head back into the game, and right now I am largely focused on leveling.  Right now I am playing a Firran Bloodreaver on Tahyang server, however as soon as the 3.0 patch lands I will largely be restarting as a Dwarf which will place me on the Nuia faction instead of Haranya.  Because of the lag between the South Korean and American versions of this game, we have known that Dwarves and Warborn would be something that would more than likely eventually cross between versions…  so I have been patiently waiting.  Of the starter races the Firrans were by far my favorite…  but if you put Dwarves in the game there is zero contest.  So I will have to bid a farewell to the crazy oriental steampunk land that I have grown up in on my cat, and get used to a more european fantasy setting once again.  Not necessarily a bad thing, just different.

I believe the level cap is somewhere in the 50s, so I still have a good ways to go since I am sitting at only 36 and that leveling in general does not go terribly quickly in this game.  It seems like my return was well timed, given that they gave me some sort of a welcome back package.  It included a quest that opens every 24 hours for various rewards, and a bunch of tokens that can be spent on Mirage Island, but I have not ventured back out there to see what all I can purchase with them.  At this point I am sorta waiting until I hit the level cap before being too tempted by the shiny baubles.  The game has so many little systems and currencies and things that can be done… but I feel like I would need to do a bunch of research to even begin to start taking advantage of half of it.  That is why in the meantime I am largely focusing on the leveling game, because combat is something that I understand… and honestly enjoy quite a lot after settling on the Bloodreaver class that is a mixture of Battlerage, Occultism and Auramancy.  One of the big concerns I can remember having about this game is the fairly open PVP system, but for the last several zones I have been in “High Tension” zones and really have remained largely uninterrupted in my pursuit of leveling.  The ArcheAge community staff deserves some pretty major Kudos for turning the course around in this game, and fostering what appears to be a real sense of community in its players.  Looking forward to delving further into it the longer I stick around.

Working on Something

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Last night was largely devoted to helping a friend of mine get to level 40 in Destiny and through the Taken King storyline missions.  However after I logged out of that game I poked my head back into Rift.  I worry that maybe folks reading this blog are getting tired of me talking about the game, but then again I am certain they also felt that way about Destiny, The Division and Diablo 3…  or any of the other games I have latched onto and obsessed over.  The weird thing about Rift is how much it has felt like “coming home”.  What you have to understand is that there has never been a period of time where I did not log into Rift, but for a good chunk of it I was honestly confused by the options.  What I mean by that is there are just so many different things that you can do in this game, and I felt like I was missing any real sense of bearing.  I would log into the game… see my insanely full bags, see the fact that I was nowhere near the level cap and struggle to sort out exactly what I wanted to do with myself.  Then like a sad little puppy I would log right back out feeling confused and frustrated because I had the desire to play… but somehow lacked the force to break the inertia of standing around in the Tempest Bay Canals district.  Granted right now… I still spend a good deal of my time in that location…  however current it is out of a sense of feeling like I belong there, and not out of a sense of being trapped there.  I go out into the world and explore all manner of new stuff, but I wind up returning back to my home base in the crafting area.

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A little over five years ago when Rift launched I did a series of posts called “Why You Should Be Playing Rift”.   The purpose of these posts was extremely misguided, and was my way of rebelling against “the man” at that time… aka trying to convert the folks still playing World of Warcraft to being Rift players.  It worked for some, and others it just caused them to delete my blog from their blog roll, and un-follow me over on social media.  The other day I started thinking about these posts and what I was trying to do with them, and decided that it might be interesting to revisit that concept.  However instead of writing them in spite, as a way of trying to show the world what they were missing…  the idea this time is for me to tell you all what I see in the game.  Rift is like that friend in high school that you have maybe drifted apart from…  but when you get back together it is like no time has passed.  Except in this case your friend has quietly evolved and developed a bunch of cool new things they know how to do.  Rift has remained trucking along in the background, seemingly ignored by a lot of the MMORPG players as a phase they maybe went through at some point.  It is a game that seems to keep figuring out new quality of life tweaks to make the game more enjoyable.  However it is also a game with a bunch of scary looking monetization methods that I think frighten too many players, and keep them from spending more time and getting to know the game the way I do.  So while I am adopting the same sort of name that I had the first time… as a sort of revisiting effort, the purpose is completely different this time.  My goal is to show you my readers why I feel the way I feel about various aspects of this game.  I am still working on the first part, but hopefully soon it will make its way to the front page and kick off the sequence properly.  More than anything I guess I wanted to warn my long time readers, that you are going to likely be reading a lot more of Rift and ArcheAge content in the near future.

Of Obsessions

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In Search of Trays

I could start this post off with a grumpy rant about changes to a game that I found out about over the weekend.  However that would just end up creating a general down point for the coming week, so instead I am opting to try my best and push it out of my mind.  Instead I am going to focus on the fun that I had this weekend and the positive points.  The weekend also involved quite a bit of chasing wild geese, which in itself was a little interesting.  My wife is of course a teacher, and over the summer she does what I figure most teachers do…  obsess about the upcoming school year.  For the last several years Target has had some multi colored trays that serve well as hand in baskets, but unfortunately the last set became brittle after sitting in the incoming sun for an entire year.  So one of the things we have been watching for is them to start stocking them once again, and while we were in Kansas City we found two of the six colors, but did not end up picking them up because we assumed they too would be plentiful in our area.  That however was not the case and this past week over lunch I went to check a few Targets, ultimately finding none.  Saturday we wound up at our own local store and they happened to have four colors, allowing us to pick up most of a set.

The challenge with the Target dollar spot… is that every teacher ultimately stocks their classroom with the stuff located in it.  That meant that we had a very limited window to be able to get the last two colors of trays.  So Sunday after my wife got back from church we went roaming around the Tulsa metro area hitting quite literally every single Target store looking for a yellow and a purple tray.  Fairly early on we found the yellow tray, but it was not until the very last store we went to that we managed to find purple.  Ironically it was at the last store… the one furthest away from us…  that they happened to have all six colors in one place.  Had we reversed the order it would have likely been the one closest to us that had all six.  As I commented this weekend on twitter, this is the life of a Teacher’s spouse.  I cannot count the number of times we have made such trips hunting for this specific item or that…  be it office supply stores, dollar stores or in this case a Target.  Over the years I’ve spent many an hour sifting through disheveled bins of stuff looking for that one item that matches whatever other item we happened to be looking for.  The sheer dedication that the average teacher has is just phenomenal, and even more so is the rapid sharing of tips that happens when you get two together.  In Kansas City we rolled into the Target dollar spot and found the obvious signs of other teachers… and before we knew it folks were sharing tips on best ways to clean white boards or where you could find this or that item at a better deal.  Long story short… we managed to complete the set of bins which marks this mission off the list…  which I am certain will only be replaced by a dozen other similar adventures before school starts back up in a month and a half.

Of Artifice

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As far as gaming goes I spent the bulk of my weekend running around in Rift, shifting back and forth between several different activities.  Out in Twilight Highlands there was a limited time event called Arclight Ascendancy that allows players to run a couple of quests to get a currency… that can ultimately be saved up to purchase an Arclight Rider or Lifter mount.  At some point I have apparently completed this event… either that or some account entitlement gave me a slew of currency.  Essentially this event allows you to slowly gather the currency needed to purchase what would normally be a store only mount.  In the past I have participated in similar events for the Budgie mounts, and in the grand scheme of things these are not intended to be completed in a single pass but instead over the course of multiple events.  The interesting thing about them however is that one of the daily quests requires you to mentor down to within the 25-30 level range to accomplish it.  As far as that goes Rift’s implementation of that system is probably the best I have seen because you simply right click your name and choose a new level… and then bam you are functioning at that level without having to give up any of your abilities.  The other thing that I am enjoying about doing the quests is that it puts me back in Twilight Highlands and Scarlet Gorge on a daily basis… two zones that I absolutely loved from Telara.

The other big thing that I worked on this weekend was leveling my Artificer skill.  This is of course slowly bankrupting me, but nonetheless I still felt the desire to keep pushing forward.  I spent many an hour this weekend roaming around Gelboro Reef doing quests that I never finished out there… and farming up Thalasite ore and Sarleaf that would ultimately be converted into fuel to feed the fires of industry.  Yesterday evening I managed to push ahead and get to the current level cap of 450.  Now will I actually do anything with that level other than daily crafting quests?  I honestly am not sure… I’ve never had a max level artificer before now.  At this point in the cycle I doubt there is anything I can craft that is not better than the gear I can get from a combination of weekly patron chests and instant adventures/experts.  However having a whole slew of crafters means that I can rapid-fire through the crafting dailies and get patterns quickly.  I need to some time researching what if anything I can craft that is a damage upgrade… or more importantly a hit upgrade.  Now that I have finished with another crafting obsession I really need to get back into the process of digging into the Planetouched Wilds.  That area is huge and full of all manner of weekly quest opportunities, and I have barely scratched the surface.

 

 

MMOs and Steam Sale

lordgaben

The Sale is Here

lordgaben

It is that time once again, for the Steam summer sale… one of two major sales that seem to happen each year on the Steam platform.  Over the years however it has changed significantly.  The first one I actually participated in was just a bunch of bundles, that allowed you to get the entire game library of a specific company for insane discounts.  I remembered I picked up the entire THQ library at the time including something silly like 40 games for $30 dollars.  As the years have gone by the sale has morphed multiple times, often times incorporating mini-games into it, and even saw the introduction of the trading card product.  The other thing that has changed… is that the discounts are nowhere near as insane as they once were, but instead the same basic price throughout the entire week.  So instead of catching a four hour window of a game being 75% off, it might simply be 50% the entire duration of the sale.  I guess this is both positive and negative, in that those flash sales inspired a ton of impulse buying…  but also a ton of frustration in that if you didn’t happen to be watching the site at 3 am you maybe missed that one game you really wanted to pick up.  Instead now it is just a good time to pick up those games that you had on your wish list, but for one reason or another never got around to picking up.  Last night for example I picked up The Witness and Firewatch, because both are games we have kicked around as possible AggroChat game club titles in the future.  Neither were really things I was in a rush to pick up, but I might as well catch a bit of a break in doing so.

How About MMOs?

Over the last several years a good number of MMORPGs have filtered their way onto the Steam library as a method of expanding their base, so while you won’t find Star Wars the Old Republic, or any of the Blizzard products because they are locked behind their own digital distribution systems…  you will find a good number of other games.  I thought I would poke my head around this morning and see what kind of deals are out there for those who heavily favor MMOs like myself.  The result is a pretty mixed bag, and to be honest I just clicked on some of the games that interest me.  There are likely deals out there for titles that I have never even heard of because Steam has been the great equalizer in expanding this genre.  Additionally the term MMO has become utterly meaningless… which means you have everything from a MOBA, an Area Shooter, a Creative Building Game, and traditionally MMORPGs all sharing the same generic banner these days.

Final Fantasy XIV

I figured I would start this off with what I consider to be one of the better deals.  Final Fantasy XIV is a huge game, and right now you are able to pick it up for half off the already fairly low starting price these days.  You can pick up the base game for $9.99 and the Heavensward expansion for $19.99.  The collectors edition version of the game is also available but you are only going to get a %20 break there.

Elder Scrolls Online

A similarly good deal is ESO which offers both the base game and the Imperial Edition at 50% off currently.  The thing that I did find surprising however is that none of the DLC is actually sold through steam, which means you will have to watch the Crown Store if you want a break on those.  The way to skirt all of the DLC issues is to of course subscribe, and still with only the base game you have a bunch of play time there.  You can pick up the vanilla version for $19.99, but I would highly suggest just going ahead and grabbing the $29.99 Imperial Edition because it has enough perks to make it worth the little bit extra.

Warframe

Warframe is of course a free to play title, and you can grab it from Steam at any point you like and start playing.  However at some point you are going to want to spend some money, and in our brief experience playing the game… the Steam bundles seem to be a phenomenal deal.  There always seemed to be some little perk that pushed them ahead of what you could get for the same amount of money from the in game cash shop.  During the summer sale all of these bundles are 50% off making them even better deals.  Generally speaking you get some in game currency, a bunch of really nice weapon and armor mods… and then some boosts which I never actually used.  Well worth checking out if you play Warframe.

The Secret World

The Secret World has morphed payment models over the years and is now a “Buy to Play” title, which the base game being extremely cheap, and every few months them releasing a new “Issue” that includes new content.  I ended up getting in on the ground floor of this game and purchased a lifetime subscription account, and as a result there is honestly no reason for me to ever buy anything else.  That has been a double edged sword for Funcom, because it got them quite a few big purchases in the beginning… but a good number of the most devoted players these days are also Lifetimers so not really adding much cash flow to the product.  All of this said… this game goes on sale rather frequently and each time I make a big production of spreading the word because it is a really amazing game.  It has some of the best storytelling I have experiences in any MMO full stop.  Right now you can pick up the base game for roughly $10 and the Ultimate edition that includes a ton of the Issue based DLC content for $20.  If you do not own this game stop what you are doing and buy it now… that is all.

 

Wildstar

Wildstar has been down its own rocky road lately, and it is pretty new to the steam platform.  As a result there are a lot of the offerings that are not participating in the summer sale.  However if you missed out on the madness that was purchasing cheap retail boxes of the game to turn them in for subscription time and bonus goodies…  then I highly suggest you check out the Cute and Cuddly pack.  This includes both the Glitterkitty Hoverboard and the Snarflyx mount… and several other things.  The discount is only 20% but right now Wildstar needs your love so if you are at all interested check the bundle out.

Eve Online

I have tried to play EVE and it just doesn’t click with me.  It is the best asteroid mining simulator ever created, but I can never seem to break myself out of doing just that.  It is one of those games that is extremely interesting to read about, but just not that interest for me to actually play.  Once upon a time I was supposed to write a four part article series on this game, but I failed miserably to get past part two.  All of that said… if you are an EVE player there are some extremely interesting deals during the Steam summer game.  The base game is 75% off and the premium edition %50 off…  but in addition since this game requires an active subscription steam apparently sells those too.  It is hard to tell if those subs are actually on sale, or if they are just showing you the traditional “buy 12 months” discount.  In any case it is not a bad time to buy into the game if you have always wanted to give it a shot.

Rift

Rift is another one of those games that has seen wild mood swings in the payment model department, however as it currently stands the game is entirely free… with a few caveats.  Each time they add new content as in zones and dungeons and systems… those are completely free and you can go from level 1 to the currently cap of 65 without spending a dime on the game.  They do however offer you a plethora of methods for giving them money for little incidental things.  Where the DLC packs come in is that you enter the game with a base set of souls, and over time they have released a new set with Storm Legion, Nightmare Tides, the recent Ascended Pack and entirely new class with the Planetouched Wilds.  These are not included in the base game and have to be added on piecemeal, and this is largely the sort of thing that is being offered on Steam.  There is also the grand daddy of all DLC packs the Rift Ultimate edition that packages up and includes everything you can get from the other packs.  During the Summer Sale these are all 25% off, so its a good time to catch up on whatever souls you might be missing like the new Ascended Pack which is currently $26.24.

YMMV

There are also a bunch of games that are not participating at all, like the Perfect World titles Neverwinter Nights and Star Trek online for example.  While Rift and Trove are participating, ArcheAge does not appear to be.  Basically this morning I wrote this post because at least for me personally… I rarely think of using the Steam sale as a way of catching up on my MMO content that I might have neglected.  For those who only have the base game of Final Fantasy XIV for example… right now is a damned fine time to pick up Heavensward even if you have not gotten to that point in the story.  Similarly like I said above if you were going to pick up various souls packs from Rift, you might as well do them now at a cost break.  The Steam tagging system is often times a pretty horrible thing, but you might check out the Massively Multiplayer tag because it shows most of the deals that I was talking about above and much more.  MMOs are kinda the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to gaming, and all of them you will be playing for months and potentially years ahead.  It is well worth checking out during the madness that is the Steam sale.

Getting Unstuck

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Not-Castlevania

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

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

Catching Up

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

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

Tech Triage

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Fallout4 2016-06-21 22-46-50-82

Last night went a bit off the rails early on.  Traditionally I participate in the Final Fantasy XIV pony farm night on Tuesdays, and every since I showed up and won two mounts on my return…  I have felt committed to be there and help more folks get theirs.  However last night something else happened that precluded that obligation.  When I got home sitting on the coffee table was my shiny new GTX 980 graphics card.  I managed to make it through dinner successfully, but as soon as that was over I was upstairs tearing into my case to install it.  First however I had to clean said case out… it is shocking just how damned dusty a computer can get so I had to drag my vacuum upstairs.  I could have of course done the canned air thing, but firstly it would have choked me up horribly and secondly…  said dust would just eventually end up right back inside the computer case.  So for a period of time that was probably way shorter than it seemed I meticulously cleaned off the vans and interior surfaces of the case with the vacuum wand.

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I get the card seated and tightened into place, and the only real frustration was the two 8 pin connectors.  My power supply doesn’t actually have 8 pins… but instead it has six pin connectors with this little two pin that you sort of wedge in beside it.  Trying to guide two different connectors in at the same time is extremely maddening but with some effort I finished the job, all the while anxious to boot things up and see purty graphics.  Now this is the point where things start to spin out of control.  Firstly I am bad at doing windows updates… and in rebooting my computer I had a whole slew of them apparently queued up to install and thanks to the glory of Windows 10 you don’t really get a reprieve.  You reboot your computer for any reason and by god they are going to take that moment of weakness to install every fucking thing under the sun.  After a sequence of three or four reboots, Windows decided to do two things that were maddening.  Firstly it decided to uninstall the lovely Nvidia drivers that should have worked just fine since I was going from a 960 to a 980… and instead installing its completely useless stock driver.  Secondly after a sequence of reboots I loaded into a game… and quickly realized I had no audio.

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Some time ago I purchased an Asus Xonar DG audio card, and I really have enjoyed it.  It sounds significantly nicer than the default Realtek on-board audio, with the only negative being that on my current motherboard it is sandwiched right up against the video card.  Windows jettisoned the drivers, and I didn’t even get a little angry “no audio device found” message when it tried to load the tray icon tool.  The tray icon tool for the Xonar drivers was simply gone.  I guess in the grand scheme of things this probably makes sense, because the Xonar drivers I was running were some unified third party drivers that fix the faults in the card that the default Asus drivers still seem to have.  In any case… I had no audio…  which is the point at which I start trying to configure my damned onboard card once more.  This of course took another series of reboots… the first being that I didn’t remember what the hell the MSI bios hotkey was.  The second being me actually managing to mash the delete key at the right time to enter the bios, and finally the third being to install the damned drivers.  Life was more or less peachy, until I once again began fiddling to try and make the on-board sound, sound considerably less horrible.

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I started this process around 6 pm, and finally got to a point where I could start playing something around 9:30 pm.  This is always what happens when you decide to open up your case and do quite literally anything.  One thing leads to another, which leads to a desperate sequence of events… which finally leads to success but several hours past when you expected.  I hopped on Teamspeak to sort out if the audio was set up properly and thankfully both Ashgar and Tam were there to help me test.  Then I did what you do anytime you upgrade literally anything in your machine….  you start launching every game you have installed to tweak the settings.  The new card does not of course make everything magically better.  I still have a woefully outdated Motherboard and Processor, which I will have to address at some point, however I have more than enough graphics card to be able to run damned near anything I care to throw at it.  The fun thing I learned last night is that Nvidia Experience is woefully confused as to what my system can actually run.  I’ve often used their optimization as a baseline to then go in and further tweak until things are a good mix of pretty and performance.  However thanks to the outdated CPU it just sort of throws its hands up and chooses low at times.  Whereas pretty much everything I have thrown at it since last night has been able to bump on up to ultra settings regardless of the outdated processor.

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So that is my fun evening and I have peppered the post with various screenshots taken in the games I loaded up… and happened to think to take a screen shot.  I am sure I will likely tweak each of them further, and also try flipping various games to Dynamic Super Resolution which seems to work awesome now, when it only barely worked before.  Huge apologies to my friends in FFXIV, but thankfully I did warn them that it was a possibility yesterday.  Hopefully everything went off over there without a hitch and I will join them next week like normal.  In the meantime… I am probably going to continue spending the next several days… launching games and logging out of them just to see what the difference is.  I am also wondering if somehow when I installed the Video card… if I managed to unseat the audio card.  I will probably give that a shot tonight, but I made that realization way too late in the evening for me to venture back inside of my case that night.

Scrap Collector

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The Wastelands

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The Rift resurgence continues and this time around I find myself working on tradeskills.  Every so often I find myself stuck in a loop, that winds up with me leveling one thing like mad.  The focus currently is pushing as many trade-skills up as I can manage…  and honestly afford.  I went into this little mission with roughly 1600 platinum, and as of last night I had dropped under 500.  Please not this is just on reagent costs and pattern training costs, as I have been going out into the wild to gather materials on a pretty regular basis.  The above image was taken on one of these many trips, this time to find Rhenium nodes in the Steppes of Infinity.  I am not sure if this is even the best place to look for these, but I figured the highest level zone in Storm Legion would probably have the highest chance of these nodes.  Currently I am working on Artificer which as of last night is I believe sitting at 360 of 450, but thankfully it was one of my lowest trades.  When the game went free to play, one of the things that I spent a bunch of my “free” currency on was adding tradeskill unlocks to my main.  The goal is to eventually turn Belghast into an omnicrafter, which is a term that is common in FFXIV but not possible in most games.  Currently my trade-skill load-out looks a little something like this…

  • Armorsmith – 450
  • Butchering – 450
  • Foraging – 450
  • Mining – 450
  • Outfitter – 450
  • Runecrafter – 450
  • Weaponsmith – 450
  • Dream Weaver – 390
  • Fishing – 375
  • Survival – 375
  • Artificer – 370

So like I said Artificer is the lowest of my skills or at least the last of my “make gear” skills so I have been focusing on it.  Fishing and Survival hopefully I will be able to level in tandem as I have done in the past.  Dream Weaver I probably have more than enough material to start pushing it up there in level given that I salvage every single artifact that I get that I already have…. which at this point is a considerable number.  The worst part of the artificer grind right now is trying to acquire gemstones which is namely why I am out in the Steppes farming Rhenium for those every so lucrative Heavy gem nodes.  The only problem I foresee however is that a some point soon I am simply going to run out of money, probably long before I actually hit the goal of leveling all of these things.  I am also lacking one tradeskill on this character, and that is Apothecary the one I have never actually successfully leveled on any character.  At some point I will end up picking up one more tradeskill unlock and start working on that, but I think that will ultimately happen at a later date.  The only real disappointment so far is that apparently this awesome 38 Slot Cosmic Bag pattern that I picked up can only be crafted with a drop from Tier 3 raid bosses, with no other way to acquire it.  That is a bit of a kick in the pants…. but hopefully they will add it to the cash shop or something at a later date.

Low Key Activity

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I think that after coming back from our whirlwind birthday weekend… I have just needed something super chill to do and crafting became that activity.  The biggest problem is that if I keep on this course I am going to ultimately bankrupt myself.  Tonight is going to be a night of fiddling with my desktop upstairs, because in theory I should have a shiny new graphics card to install.  If I can manage to get that done in time I will probably end up participating in the FFXIV pony farm and miscellaneous activity night.  If I do not get finished with machine upgrades until after the start time, I will likely just piddle around in Rift.  I need to get back to doing some Intrepid Adventures because it turns out that they are still a pretty damned good source of upgrades.  I also need to get some more Expert dungeons in, as in a perfect world I would do at least seven a week so that I get all of my currency bonuses.  As far as raiding goes I am still up in the air as to what I want to do there.  There are supposedly a good number of pick up raids, and I would love to see some of the content at least once… namely the new Comet of Ahnkhet raid.  I would also love to get some of those bag reagents to craft up a few 38 slotters… but I would imagine that even now those items are in high demand.  I wish they dropped form the Mind of Madness bosses in Intrepid Adventure, but as I have not seen one yet… I would assume that is not something that happens.  For sheer gear acquisition Hammerknell seems way faster for getting cache drops, but then again that could simply be that people are just more used to those encounters.

At some point I also want to begin leveling my rogue, but in the past my key reason for doing this… was to have a bag maker.  Since going all omnicraftery that reason went out the door so ultimately I need to find a spec that I can really enjoy.  I somehow down the “grandpa build ” is still as effective as it once was for soloing content.  For doing Instant Adventures I am currently running around as Marksman, because standing back and plinking tends to require less focus than getting up close and personal with the mob encounters.  Similarly at some point I do want to level a character on the European servers, and I have gotten my Zaviel character up to 22.  Right now I am largely just opening patron caches on him every day in the hopes of getting extra loyalty, but at some point I want to start pushing him in levels again.  At some point I left the tracks and entered the Instant Adventure zone and it is unlikely that I will ever return to proper leveling with quests on that guy.  The IA is a bit of a trap… in that the experience you gain seems so much faster than anything you can get while questing…  but as a result it ends up with you being severely under-geared for your level.  It also make sure that your tradeskills are woefully behind, and at some point I will have to go on a gathering binge to even begin to catch up.  In any case…  its been a little over a week now since my return to Rift and I am still finding so many of the things compelling.  Even more so I have dove back into the community and am hanging my hat on discord, so if you have any interest in Rift I highly suggest you check it out as well.

 

HPB Tourism

HalfPricedBooks_Tourism

Forty On Internet

2016-06-17

This weekend was an extremely interesting one for a whole bunch of reasons.  Firstly instead of my wife flying home from her week grading AP exams in Kansas City I decided to go up and meet her.  KC is only a 3 1/2 hour drive, and the roads are great…  albeit travelling across Kansas is a boring mess with both spotty cell phone and radio coverage.  While travelling I played this game called “find the radio station with the least static”.  I have not joined the realm of paid radio, because around Tulsa I prefer to listen to our NPR station.  Once I got close to the KC Metro I thankfully found one located in Topeka that seemed to come in just fine, which oddly turned into a Classical Station in the metro proper.  I took a half day Friday and after piddling around the house and doing a few last minute chores I managed to leave around 2:30 which put me pulling into the hotel around 6 pm.  Firstly I have to say that we had never stayed in a Drury Inn before, but it is definitely a hotel chain I would be interested in within the near future.  Not that I partook of it but they offered a free dinner buffet each evening from 5pm to 7pm coupled with happy hour at the same time.  We did however hit up the free breakfast Saturday morning which consisted of biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, sausage patties and a plethora of pastry options.  It seemed like a shame that quite literally we just slept there the one night, but I think when we go to Pax South next year we might see where the Drury Inn locations are in that town because it was pretty spiffy.

The other big thing that happened on Saturday other than running around Kansas City was the fact that I turned Forty.  Having a birthday on the internet is a really interesting thing and as we roamed around town, each time I stopped to check my phone I had another deluge of well wishers.  I cannot say enough how much I appreciate this, because wow it was just overwhelming in a good way.  There are times you wonder if you have much effect on other people, and then there are other times where they completely collapse upon you with feels.  This was one of the later times, and I thought about a proper way to represent this feeling on the blog but failed miserably.  The good is the warm fuzzies I felt all day long… the bad was the fact that my phone battery died at some point during the day before we got home from all the notifications.  Turning Forty feels so damned strange because in truth I don’t feel that much different than I did in my 20s.  I am maybe a little slower to anger, maybe a little less impulsive… but overall I think I am the same “Bel” I have always been.  The internet has been a strange equalizer, because I don’t feel nearly as out of touch as I thought my dad was when he turned Forty.  It feels like I am still very much on the first wave of memes, before they enter the public conscious.  The one place I feel like I am lagging behind horribly is in music, but namely because I don’t listen to a lot of it anymore.  I stumble onto new music via YouTube or google music, but I am not actively engaged in the indie scene the way I once was.

Bibliophiles

HalfPricedBooks_Tourism

I would say that you could tell our ages by our activities, but then again we aren’t really do anything we have not always done.  When it comes to wandering around a town we have a pecking order of priorities.  The number one being hitting old bookstores, and namely finding out if a town has any Half Price Books locations.  It is extremely hard to describe this store to the uninitiated.  To call it a used book store is a bit of an understatement, and to call it anything else…  well I lack the proper words.  Essentially it is the best bookstore chain my wife and I have ever found, and namely because of the breadth of material they have within them…  that and the extremely high turnover rate.  We could easily hit the same HPB every single week and keep finding new stuff.  I personally go there for the SciFi, RPG, Comics and Software sections…  all of which are generally amazing, and my wife goes there for teaching materials which are also amazing. Then there are all of the little neat incidentals that they have like Doctor Who memorabilia, LEGO stuff, and a random assortment of cool action figures and other geek accouterments.  The highlight for me will always be the pen and paper section because I am constantly looking for gems.  When we were in St Louis I found a copy of the unofficial Headhunter expansion for Rifts, which I picked up because it was extremely cheap and also pretty.

This time around I mostly window shopped finding a neat Menzoberanzan boxed set, that was sadly incomplete missing several maps…  and an original “Cthulhu” version of the Deities and Demigods book.  The last bit would have been something I picked up… were it not $75.  It was cool but not that price tag worth of cool.  The thing I was a big shocked about was the lack of Palladium stuff, which makes me wonder if that system never really caught on in KC… or if it caught on so much that no one ever sold their books.  My friends however lacked onto the GURPS books when I tweeted out the pictures, which is a system that always seemed interesting but I never really got into.  I figured I only had room for a single one size fits all pen and paper system in my life, and I went down the Palladium route.  The truth is… we go to a lot of HPB locations.  There are none in the Tulsa area, but several times a year we head down the turnpike to Oklahoma City just to hit the three locations there.  We’ve been to most of the Half Price Book locations in the Dallas area, including the giant flag ship store downtown.  In addition to that we have been to Kansas City, St Louis MO, Every Location on the way to San Antonio TX, Madison WI, and if we make it to any of the other towns where they exist… you can bet we will go there as well.  Other than HPB I hit up a Micro Center…. which was way smaller than the St Louis store, and a few Targets and Toys R Us looking for the new Destiny Megablocks that are supposedly now out in the wild.  Then there was of course a trip to IKEA to try and find the one thing that was out of stock when we were in St Louis.  It was a great day and according to my Pebble Time we wound up walking around 14,000 steps.

The Homefront

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On the home front, all of the animals missed my wife… and when she has not been outside partaking of the back patio… she has had two or three of them surrounding her.  On the flower front I regret to say that the heat claimed our first victim.  We had this hybrid mini petunia plant that was a mix of red and white flowers.  Several weeks ago when we were in St Louis the heat and potentially the change in watering habits claimed the red flower from that pot.  The white one however seemed to be holding on, and we had removed the dead red plant hoping that it would be able to spread out and claim the extra area for its own.  Life was going peachy until this week when the extreme temperatures had a serious effect on the plant.  When we got home Saturday night it was pretty crispy, and while I am still watering it hoping that maybe it will spring back… we’ve replaced it for the time being with the above pictured plant.  The greenhouse around the corner from our house is currently having a 20%-50% off sale on all plants, so we took that as a good sign that we should go ahead and replace it with something else.  So far it is happy, but the blue plant has only actually been seated in our back yard for less than 24 hours.  Like always I have no real clue what the plants are by name other than the made up names that I end up calling them.  My neighbors probably think I am absolutely insane because I talk to them while I water them.  I treat my flowers the same way I treat my other pets…. which might be odd or insane but screw it… it makes me happy.

All in all it was a great weekend, and I am thankful that I took today off to recuperate before heading back to work.  Other than the above… I have been spending a lot of time in Rift but that is a story for another day.  Thanks again for all of the Birthday wishes.  Each and every one of you out there are amazing and I am thankful to have you in my life.