Media Consumption 11/28/2015


Rainy Morning

MediaConsumptionIt’s been a good morning, albeit a cold and rainy one.  I got up and made a beeline to the kitchen to fix some breakfast.  We’ve recently had a renaissance with the little triangle sandwich maker thing that became popular during the 90s.  Recently we started playing with making pancakes in it, and the resulting tiny triangles of pancake goodness are awesome.  So I fixed pancakes and sausage and my wife and I nommed happily.  From there I ended up popping into World of Warcraft for a bit to do some garrison stuff, and shortly thereafter found The Goonies on cable.  Around about this point my wife and I decided it was a good idea to go lay down and snuggle with the cats.  It was around this point where my wife asked me… if I had already done a blog post.  It had quite honestly slipped my mind.  I live my life based on a sequence of rituals, with each one kicking off the next ritual… and if any of them happen out of order all sorts of mayhem occurs.

So that folks is how one almost breaks a three year streak of daily posting…  not with tragic circumstances… but just a charming morning that made me forget that the internet was a thing.  As a result I am getting a really late start at the day, but have now officially had some coffee so I believe I can functional properly once more.  I’m back on the sofa wrapped in my blanket cocoon and tapping away on my laptop.  Generally speaking Thanksgiving is usually this difficult holiday filled with running around like crazy, but this year a bunch of things have happened ending up making it the most chill and relaxed time ever.  Firstly we wrapped up the work on the house just before the extended weekend, and with that there was a flurry of cleaning to make the house feel “finished”.  Then we were able to load all of our meals into an evening and a morning…  giving us the rest of the break just to chill.  At this point we are taking advantage of the constant rain and the cold temperatures to simply stay in doors and hibernate.

Jessica Jones


With the hibernation has come a lot of Netflix or equivalent digital streaming.  Over the past week I have been watching the new Marvel Netflix series, Jessica Jones.  I have to admit that this is a character that I only know of in relation to the other characters she surrounds.  I went through my “Kung Fu” phase where I read a lot of Powerman and Iron Fist, and ever since have had a certain affinity for the characters in that chunk of the Marvel Universe.  In truth…  after the amazing results of the Daredevil series, I would have watched anything produced for Netflix feature Marvel characters.  Jessica Jones however took a completely different tone, but one equally gritty.   While Daredevil shows the clear physical toll of being a hero…  Jessica Jones does a good job of showing the mental and emotional toll.  Jones herself is completely walled off from the world in her own emotional bomb shelter, trying to keep as many people away from her… because she is convinced that is the only way she can actually keep them safe.

The show also digs into a lot of themes of violation and betrayal but does so in a slightly different way than we are used to seeing.  The Purple Man has always been such a strange character in the comics, and I was not quite sure how they would end up making it work for the screen.  David Tennant’s portrayal does this excellent job of walking this razor line between making him completely horrific and likable at the same time.  There are times you think that maybe with the proper role model, he could change and be a force for good…  only to get those hopes dashed when you realize that this is a person without any sense of a moral compass.  The actor playing Luke Cage also does an amazing job of bringing that character to life, and I am hoping we see a significant big more of him in the future seasons and the supposed upcoming Luke Cage Hero for Hire show.  My favorite insider moment in the show was when Rosario Dawson’s Clare Temple, and it is setting her up to be the Night Nurse taking care of all the supers in trouble.  I could gush about Ritter, but really without her the show would have fallen apart completely.  I highly suggest watching it… and I am trying really hard not to do any serious spoilers here.

Inside Out


Last night I also finally got around to watching Pixar’s Inside Out.  I have to say that in all honesty there has yet to be a Pixar film that I have not loved, and that is saying something because in truth…  I can’t say the same about Disney animated films in general.  There is a certain magic that Pixar brings to the screen, and a certain timeless “realness” that they give their characters.  This film was a bit of an emotional roller coaster but I guess that makes since as it is kinda the “Feelings Have Feelings Too” movie.  There were so many moments where I laughed out loud, and several moments towards the end of the movie where I failed miserably to fight back tears.  Maybe the whole nostalgic binge I have been on served to deepen the experience of this movie.  There were so many profound messages like…  you can’t really be happy without also feeling sad sometimes.  There were moments I related to the dad, especially when he was straight up oblivious…  because so often I get lost in my own head and forget that I am supposed to be paying attention to the world around me.  One of my favorite bits came at the very end of the movie when it showed the inside of the cats head…  I am pretty sure that is exactly how it works inside our cats at least.  This morning while laying in bed… every so often one of them would go tearing through the house for no apparent reason… only to come back and snuggle a few minutes later.

Heroes Reborn


Another thing that I started last night was Heroes Reborn, which is the reboot of the much acclaimed Heroes television show from a few years back.  I say much acclaimed… and by that I guess I really just mean the first season.  The show as a whole went tragically downhill quickly after that, and I blame the writers strike on pretty much killing all hope of that show living up to its full potential.  I mean I realize strikes have to happen, but that managed to kill a number of would be amazing televisions shows.  This time around we have zoomed forward to several years after the events of the first series, to a time where the “Evos” as they are now calling folks with super powers are out in the open and an act of terrorism has turned the public against them.  The show has shades of the Mutant Registration act from X-Men, and the first episode centers on the dad from the first series, who has apparently forgotten any knowledge from the event.  The first episode was intriguing enough to get me to start watching it, and I figure at some point today I will continue on that process.  Will be interesting to see where they go with this one, and I hope that maybe just maybe they can live up to the promise that the first season started.

Thanksgiving Recap

Largely Charming

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I just had an awesome breakfast of tiny triangle shaped pancakes, with a couple of sausage patties…  and finished my cup of coffee so I think maybe just possibly I am ready to exist in the world today.  Hopefully all of my American readers had an awesome Thanksgiving, that had minimal if any awkwardness.  For the rest of my readers in other parts of the world…  I hope you had a good normal ordinary Thursday and are having an awesome Friday right now as well.  American holidays have to be really bizarre for anyone living in the rest of the country, because we get so hyped about them… and also dominate large swaths of the internet.  For me I had a really charming Thanksgiving but one that lasted quite a bit longer than normal.  Several weeks ago we technically had our first Thanksgiving with my wife’s father.  Traditionally we have a dual Thanksgiving and Christmas celebration on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, because they head down south for the winter immediately following.  For whatever reason they wanted to get an early start, so we had it several weeks ago.

Then this week we started our official festivities on Wednesday night around 7 pm.  I’ve been without grandparents for a few years now, and there was this period where most of us simply did not know what to do for the holidays without that glue to hold the family together.  That said lately there has been much effort in trying to make it work again.  When my Grandfather on my Dad’s side passed away, my Aunt ended up with the house, and she has done this amazing job of renovating it to make it feel modern and cozy again.  While Grandfather didn’t really like change much,  I feel like Grandma would have loved it and even more than that she would be tickled pink that we were still all pulling together for Christmas and Thanksgiving in their home.  The end result are these adorably charming meals that we have with my folks, my aunt and her husband, and my cousins.  It always has this feel like we are going away to a cabin or something like that, when I know it really isn’t the case at all.  I am really happy that at least a bit of normality has returned to the traditions on that side.  On my Mother’s side however things are still sorting themselves out.

The Important Meal

Then yesterday during the noon meal, we met with the family on my Wife’s mothers side.  This was a considerably larger group of people, and anytime there are large gatherings my anxiety starts going into overtime.  It was however really charming as well, and the food…  was amazing.  I am really particular about food… and generally speaking I do not like spiral sliced hams, because in my experience they tend to be on the dry side.  Whatever they did to the spiral sliced ham they had… it ended up juicy and moist and amazing.  From all accounts…  all they did was “follow the directions” so maybe that has been the problem all along?  Similarly they said they followed the directions on the Turkey and it wound up amazingly juicy as well.  I am guessing they may just have some magic touch because seriously… everything we ate yesterday was phenomenal.  One thing I do find funny is how recipes that started out on the back of packages… have become Thanksgiving staples.  The meal isn’t complete without Green Bean Casserole for example… and we had the cheesy sour cream potato bake thing too that also started on the back of some product package.  It makes me wonder how many of these dishes have been marketed to us as simply a way to sell their product in an otherwise slow period of the year.

Another big discussion from yesterday was the whole stores opening on Thanksgiving day bit.  One of the questions my wife and I had was that most of the stores didn’t open until that evening.  There has been a lot of gnashing of teeth on social media about this practice of opening on Thanksgiving day hurting families.  However what we wondered was… is it regional which meal of the day is important?  Growing up the only important meal on Thanksgiving is the noon meal, and dinner generally speaking is “fend for yourself” from leftovers.  This was the way in both sides of my family, and the same for all sides of my wife’s split family.  So obviously in our region the important meal is Lunch, which makes me wonder… are there some regions where the important meal is the evening meal?  The other side line discussion was how everyone seems to be concerned about big box stores opening on Thanksgiving…  but no one was ever really been concerned about the Walgreens of the world, the Restaurants and the Convenience stores.  Those have always been open on Thanksgiving, and none of those folks have ever gotten to spend the holidays with their family.  Similarly my nephew has to bail early as he is a Police officer and was just about to work a shift.

Limited Awkwardness

The thing I am most thankful of this year is the fact that I did not have to suffer through any cringe worthy borderline racist or sexist conversations!  Everyone was happy and healthy and seemingly stable… and we had a nice meal with some nice conversation all around.  There were absolutely zero occurrences of verbal sparring about this sports team or this product being better than another one.  We simply had a nice meal, and got lots of hugs from people we don’t see as often as we would like.  Once again there wre promises to get together more often, and I really hope we can follow through with them.  On the earliest thanksgiving we did make plans to meet up for dinner once a month on the first Friday of the month.  I think maybe we are going to make that one happen this year,  because we have a timeline to follow.  The others… I hope we can sort something out because it is sad that most of the family lives within an hour of each other, but we only ever see them at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  All in all it was a pretty great year, and I am hoping that each of you had a similarly great Thanksgiving.  My thoughts go out to the folks who are working retail today, and I am hoping you all stay safe and sane..  are getting hazard pay… and didn’t forget to pack your riot gear.

Positivity, Cynicism and Thankfulness

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On Thankfulness

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One of the problems with depression is that your brain lies to you.  It tells you that things are going horribly, that no one likes you… and that ultimately you are a failure in everything you do.  It is because of these lies that I find it extremely important to give myself a reality check every now and then, and really appreciate how lucky and blessed I really am.  The Thanksgiving holiday has become my favorite over the years, and the reasoning behind that… is pretty simple.  It cuts through all the pretense, and is just a holiday about sharing a meal and some conversation with your family.  Granted my particular view of Thanksgiving may be dictated by the fact that we never host… but for us at least it is showing up someplace with a few dishes of food in hand… and then sitting down to have a lovely meal with folks that you don’t see as often as you might like.  There are lots of times I wish we could convince our family to treat Christmas as Thanksgiving 2.0… because for me at least it is the getting together part that is the important bits… not necessarily the often times awkward gift exchange.

Thanksgiving is also a great time to sit down and review the past year.  I could look at this year as nothing special, but in reality I was surrounded by my support network of friends and managed to continue releasing daily blog posts and weekly podcasts without missing a beat.  That seems like a pretty great thing to be thankful for.  More importantly I am thankful for my friends.  There are so many of you that I talk to on a daily basis, and you are always there to offer a word of support or sometimes a much needed bringing down to earth.  I am also extremely thankful for my amazing wife…  who helps to center me… and keep me from going off the deep end sometimes.  I’m also thankful for my very excellent work family, because they too make the daily grind thing much easier.  I’ve been lucky to be under the same boss now for four or five years of my going on eight years at my current job… and I have to say he makes it enjoyable.  I am also thankful to this blog and its readers, because whether or not you realize it…  this daily writing routine and the interactions I have with you all about said writing is therapeutic.  There is something about reconciling my thoughts and putting it onto paper, that helps organize my cluttered mind, and I thank you all for joining in the journey with me.

On Positivity

I’ve always thought that Thanksgiving made a much better day for reflection and resolutions than New Years.  For me at least it has taken on this meaning of looking back at the things you did well, the things you didn’t do quite so well… and the things you would want to change.  I am not exactly sure when I set down the path I am currently on, but it has at least been a year now since I started purposefully trying to cut as much negativity as I could from my life.  I was tired of feeling bitter and frustrated with the world, and I set down a path of “fake it until you make it”.  As goofy as that phrase sounds… it really does work because as time has gone on… I’ve myself become a much more positive person in my interactions with people… and in return my outlook on the world.  I am a happier person today than I was a few years ago, and my hope is that I will be a happier person still in the coming year.  It isn’t like I have some gauge to measure happiness by, but I know at least that I have less days where I am struggling to drag myself out of bed and confront the day.

I will likely always have the darkness of depression hanging over me, but I am getting better at simply not listening to the little voice in my head that is constantly replaying all of the things that are wrong with me.  I doubt I will ever shut that off, but I’ve started to develop better coping mechanisms for blocking it out.  I want to be someone that makes the lives of those around me better, not someone who brings others down.  So even if that is just a brief message somewhere in the social media sphere, I want to leave a positive effect on those I interact with.  I am never going to be a full on Pollyanna, because I am just too jaded for that to ever work… but I do want to be someone who is actively making things better rather than consistently making them worse.  While what I do is not really important in the grand scheme of things, it is my hope that at least it is a legacy of good…  not one of suffering.

On Cynicism

By all accounts I was an almost painfully happy child, and based on all of the photos I have seen…  I am willing to accept that at face value.  Something happened along the way however to turn me into a fairly bitter, jaded and cynical person.  I am good at what I do, because I plan for failure…  because I don’t just accept it as a possibility… I expect it to happen.  So being an eternal pessimist has been great for a career in software development… but pretty horrible for my outlook on the world.  While I am not a doomsday prepper by any means, my mind just naturally works along the lines of preparing for the worst possible thing to happen in every single interaction.  I can tell you the constant battling of my brain is tiresome when you take this instinct and mix it with the depression.  My brain can make some pretty insane leaps, as failure to shake someones hand…  ends up leading to me being out cold and hungry on the streets.  There is a whole irrational segment of my mind that is constantly churning out doomsday scenarios out of average every day occurrences.  Maybe I simply took my Eagle Scout training a little to seriously, with the whole “Be Prepared” motto.

Now all of these instincts that I am talking about are pretty deep rooted, but it doesn’t mean I think they are good things.  It is my hope over the next year to work towards being less cynical.  I write about video games, not industrial accidents.  I should have more child like joy about the things I am doing, rather talking about how this or that is a portent of a big coming failure.  I am tired of seeing the bad in my hobby, and I am tired of feeling like everything is going to shit… and quickly.  I mean the world around us does a pretty good job of eternally bumming me out on a regular basis, I really don’t need my hobby to do it as well.  So along with the methodology of faking it until I make it… I am going to try applying that positivity more thoroughly and hopefully root out some of my cynicism towards everything.  I want the coming year to be an awesome one, and I want to spend more time enjoying the awesome things around me… rather than worrying about the things that aren’t.  I can’t say that I think it will be easy, but I think it will be good in the long run for my own mental health and happiness.

In closing… I hope each of you has your own personal day of reflection upon all the ways you are lucky in your life, and all of the things you would strive to change.  I hope you enjoy your time with family and friends, and enjoy the ritual of sharing a good meal.  Thanksgiving is this day that has a special meaning for me, and it is my hope that it develops a special meaning for each of you.  May you have a very Happy Thanksgiving, and even if you are not celebrating it…  may your day be excellent as well.

We’ve Got Cows

Another Realm

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I have briefly talked about this in the past, but I’ve lived in this strange place when it comes to World of Warcraft.  Sure I played lots of Alliance because that was where most of my characters that I cared about existed…  but I’ve always been one to bridge the gap.  It was thanks to my involvement in the Argent Dawn server forums, and the later unofficial server forums that I created and hosted that I got to know tons of people on that side of the fence.  For years I said I would level something on Horde to play with my “other” set of friends, but that never really panned out.  During Wrath I ended up pushing a Deathknight to 80, but unfortunately the account it is on… is not the account I play most of the time.  When it was announced that Scryers would be merging into Argent Dawn… I went somewhat crazy and created a full account worth of Horde characters because quite honestly… I had no clue how the merger would work.  I did not know if all of the sudden there would just be this one amalgam server… and we would have 22 characters on it.  The end result however is that both Argent Dawn and Scryers exist as distinct worlds…  but everything from guilds to the zones themselves spans across the two realms allowing me to officially guild up with my old school Horde friends.

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This has allowed me to do some utter madness… and ultimately have both a Horde and Alliance version of every single character.  The big problem came with the fact that I had one of each on the Alliance that I did not want to lose access to.  So now after some juggling Argent Dawn has become the server I play Alliance on and Scryers the server I play exclusively Horde.  The only challenge is the fact that I had nothing leveled on Scryers, whereas on Argent Dawn as you can see above all but two of my characters are over level 90, and even then the lowest is 53 which is still a significant amount of levels.  Prior to this week on Scryers I had managed to get an Orc Deathknight to 60, and a Tauren Paladin and Blood Elf Warrior to around 20.  With the announcement of Legion came the pre-order process, which I went ahead and did giving me a boost to level 100.  I was extremely torn on this one… do I take the boost and potentially get to do some stuff with my friends now… or do I level it the old fashioned way.  Having not seen much of the Horde content, I actually do want to level there eventually.


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Essentially I arrived at a thought process that is level the Blood Elf Warrior and Orc Deathknight legitimately…  but boost the Tauren Paladin giving me access to do “big kid things” right away.  I largely went with the Paladin because I really do enjoy both Protection and Retribution, but more importantly it gives me a character that I can in theory fill three different roles on.  While I don’t really like healing as a Paladin, I have done it in the past and in a pinch I could do it again.  I am however completely comfortable doing LFR and the likes as a Retribution Paladin allowing me to hopefully gear up both my Retribution set and eventually get a Protection set.  The problem is… I knew if I was ever going to play the character for real I had to look cool doing it.  This means I had to find something that I could enjoy to transmog into for the time being.  My go to set for Paladins is the Tier 6 Lightbringer set, because it is relatively easy to farm.  So last night I set off to go do Black Temple, Mount Hyjal, and finally Sunwell.

I am convinced that the game goes out of its way to screw with players trying to farm a full set of gear in a single attempt.  It seems like there is always a single piece of gear that refuses to drop… and generally speaking it has been the helm token for me off Archimonde.  This is extra insulting because as far as a raid goes… I HATE running Mount Hyjal.  This is namely because you are a slave to the timers… and it seems to take significantly longer than most any other raid due to this aspect.  Namely it is the Horde section of that raid that drives me insane… because I tend to play Melee focused characters, which makes knocking Gargoyles and Frost Wyrms out of the air a major pain in the ass.  All told I was pretty happy with the results, and the only piece I did not manage to get were the legs from the Illidari Council fight… because for some reason it glitched and only gave me two pieces of loot including a single leg token.  I have zero problem farming Black Temple to get the legs, and in the meantime I got a drop from Sunwell that will fill in well enough for the time being.  At some point I need to get a better weapon, but for the moment I am rocking the big damned glowy orange axe from Black Temple, which makes me happy enough.

Onwards to Tanaan

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My guild suggested that I spend some time digging into Tanaan Jungle to get some upgrades from the 640 set they start you out in after being boosted.  I also really want to start the Legendary Ring quest, which I just picked up last night.  From there I plan on throwing myself at the LFR and seeing if I can get some decent upgrades, and hoping to complete the ring quest along the way.  It is really my hope that they upped the drop chances of those items out of Highmaul that are needed for the ring, because otherwise… this is going to be a thoroughly frustrating experience.  I remember how long it took to get those on Belghast when we were actively raiding every week.  In any case I seem to have sorted out how to actually play a Paladin again, and gearing my Moocow is pretty much my side gig from this point onwards.  It is my hope to be able to get geared enough to actually join in some of the reindeer games happening on this side of the server.  The only footnote there is that I really need not to raid actively, and I am hoping that won’t be a problem.

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For a period of time I was really damned happy playing both Final Fantasy XIV and World of Warcraft.  I enjoyed the mix of the two games because they both scratched a distinct itch.  World of Warcraft is this really enjoyable experience when played casually.  I enjoy doing older content for transmog bits, or casually leveling alts…  but when I was raiding both Warcraft and FFXIV…  the differences just started frustrating me.  Ultimately I prefer the FFXIV raid game better, because it feels like the boss encounters are simply messaged better.  Granted if they just added telegraphs with clearly identified edges of effects like they have in both Wildstar and FFXIV it would go a long way to my enjoyment.  Ultimately I think I simply got burnt out by trying to raid two different games at the same time… and ultimately ended up choosing the one that was causing me less frustration.  So now… I am hoping to go back to playing both games casually… and in theory maybe starting to raid once again in FFXIV.  We have started doing this Saturday thing again, where we do older content and it was a lot of fun this week.  My hope this will ease me into doing more content in that game as well, and in the mean time I am planning on diving into LFR on the Paladin in WoW.  Granted I won’t be doing any of it tonight… because this is the first of our Thanksgivings, and I also need to stage a proper Thanksgiving post for tomorrow.


Launch Hype Cycle

The Perfect Amount

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One of the subjects I have thinking about quite a bit this week is the video game hype cycle… namely the time from when a video game is announced to the time you can have it in your grubby little hands.  There are a lot of times that a game is announced with great fanfare and then when it actually releases two years later… the excitement has died down to a point where I rarely realize it has launched.  This is especially true with games that have an early access system, because quite literally in my mind they have been “out” from the moment they started taking money for the game.  I’ve come to a line of thinking that Fallout 4 pretty much represents the perfect amount of hype leading into a game launch.  While all manner of information was leaked about this game for a few years… there was no official acknowledgement of the game, nor any media floating around about it until June 2015 at E3.  At which point they announced that the game would be available in November of that same year.  This gave the game a focused four months to hype it up and get people read for it.

The truth is that most of the hype was fan created.  Bethesda themselves continued to release a slow trickle of information and trailers… large parts of which were simply recompiled from the demos given at E3.  But this constant trickle served to keep the fires ignited long enough that by the time the game actually launched a few months later… folks were still very much at the peak of excitement, rushing out into the store and buying damned near anything even vaguely related to the game.  As an example of this fever pitch I give to you exhibit A… the fact that the extremely limited edition Nuka Cola Quantum cases are going for over $1200 on Ebay.  They announced a game with lots of new features, and then delivered it a short period of time later as promised.  This sort of brevity is refreshing when it comes to video games, because we are simply used to it dragging on over the course of several years including extended alpha and beta phases which only serve to get the players bored with the title before they even lay their hands on it.

Beta is Not Beta

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Another huge problem that plagues the industry is the fact that Beta testing really doesn’t mean what it says it means.  What is ultimately spurring on this post is the launch of the World of Warcraft Legion Alpha yesterday to the press, streamers and a few fan sites.  While Fallout 4 had this nice clean short cycle, Legion is already setting up to have a considerably longer one.  We first got the official announcement of the rumored expansion at Gamescom in August, and post Blizzcon in early November we received our potential launch window of September 2016.  Now that we have an alpha circulating, we will now have plenty of hype inducing articles and videos circulating…  with ten months to go until the potential launch window.  While this is awesome to stoke the fires, the flames will have died down significantly by the time the game actually releases.  Right now I myself am riding this nostalgia buzz that has lead me to resubscribe to the game, but there is likely no way that the game can sustain my excitement until next year to keep the love going.

What I meant by the Beta not meaning what it used to, is the fact that we no longer have these cloistered NDA protected testing environments.  So in essence Beta becomes this time to allow streamers and the press to hype up the game for Blizzard, rather than the period of deeply focused testing.  Sure it is frustrating to be in something that is under NDA, and not be able to talk about it…  but games need an incubation period before the world gets to see them.  When I was testing Elder Scrolls Online I was quite literally in the closed testing process for a little bit over a year before the launch of that game.  I tested the hell out of it, and myself and Ashgar apparently developed a reputation for our prolific bug noting.  There were lots of things that I saw that would have freaked the hell out of the press and public if they saw them, but I simply calmly noted it and described as many details as I could and moved on.  As the builds changed we saw many of those bugs disappear… and often times other ones arise that we continued to note.  For me at least it was not about getting to play the game free or having something to fill my site with articles…  but instead about trying extremely hard to make sure the best possible game launched.

A Challenge


So now is the point where I present a challenge to anyone with access to the World of Warcraft Legion alpha client.  Test the hell out of that game and submit bug notes for anything that even seems vaguely out of place.  I want each of you to be so prolific in your bug notes… that the developers behind the scenes know you by name and immediately start predicting what you might say.  The Warlords of Draenor testing process was not taken seriously by the developers or by the players… and most of us just used it as a way of showcasing what was coming out from the game.  What we ended up with was an expansion that did not quite feel right on so many levels, all of which were things that could have been addressed during the Alpha testing process.  By the time a game makes it into Beta… it is essentially in a polish phase, where the content gets the spelling errors ironed out, and cosmetic blemishes are fixed.  Alpha is the time when you can actually effect the way a game will play like at launch, and now that you have access to this client I expect each of you to do your job.  After all testing is a job, not a perk… or something that elevates you above other players.

Quite literally if Legion is not the best expansion that World of Warcraft has ever seen… we are in a lot of trouble.  You can have a single bad expansion and still turn around…  namely I am looking at Dark Age of Camelot and the horrible Trials of Atlantis expansion here.  They continued on to do a lot of really interesting things, but they absolutely had a misstep.  I feel like Warlords was without a doubt Blizzard’s misstep when it comes to the Warcraft franchise, and Legion is their chance to redeem themselves.  The problem being they need you the players to give honest and sometimes brutal feedback on what is working and what is not working.  There is a huge difference between the live client and the alpha client… and the alpha forums are this magical place where people actually talk about the serious issues of the game without resorting to hyperbole.  I expect each and every one of you that have access to this alpha to put that time to good use, and find every single bug in the game.  Sure you only have access to the Demon Hunter starting experience, but I expect you to help make that starting experience the best “newbie zone” in the game.  Now what are you doing reading my post… get to making bug notes people!

Nostalgia Continues


Eleven Years


At this point eleven years ago I was spending the morning with a friend and coworker desperately trying to raise the money to buy a guild charter on one of the two original roleplaying server… Argent Dawn.  I remember we rolled a set of toons that we had no interest in playing, and wound up selling literally everything we got from quests and drops all in the hope of hitting that magic number.  From there I mailed all of this to my would be main character and started the guild, running back to Coldridge Valley to get signatures.  At which point a bunch of people made Dwarves or Gnomes and we got our charter up for House Stalwart in rapid fashion.  WoW was the first game that I had a planned entrance into, because it was that one game that everyone seemed to be able to agree upon.  So we pulled folks from Everquest, Horizon, Dark Age of Camelot and City of Heroes all together into one large organization.  We had noble amibitions of having both an Alliance guild on Argent Dawn and a Horde guild on Silverhand.  Most folks that have worn the House Stalwart tabard probably don’t even remember that the crusader cross that has become so recognizable… was not even our original design.  You can see in the screenshot to the side that the colors were similar… but instead we went with the tree logo.

It was not until the first “reboot” of the guild that we went with the crusader cross, as a bit of a way of signifying that things had changed.  Hell there was a period of time when I didn’t even have my mains in the guild.  About six months into the game I took a hiatus and went off to play Everquest II, which I talked briefly about during my MWP post a few weeks back.  When I came back to the game pretty much the entire guild had disappeared.  Later I found out that some of those that remained ended up going and creating their own guild, and rather than shaking the boat I decided to move most of my characters there as well.  We had some good times, but it didn’t last and before long I was asking my friend Finni to help me move my characters and pass back the leadership from my bank alt to my main once more.  Before we knew in… within twenty four hours we went from being a guild of essentially one… to a guild of like sixty players again.  This began the golden age of the guild, and with it we started dipping our toes into regular raiding with what was our sister guild at the time… Silent Strike.  Granted we never really did anything much more serious than Zul Gurub and AQ20, but we had a lot of fun doing it when we raided as a guild.

Misplaced Intentions

wowscrnshot_012406_220132One of the more interesting things about this game is that I became known as a tank, but even now there are folks like my friend Eralia that still call me Lodin my original Late Night Raiders main.  I played a hunter for the better part of Vanilla, but I never intended to do that as my role in the game.  It was shortly after the launch of the game that we had a pretty horrific death in the family.  So while I was keeping up with my Paladin for a long while… I quickly fell behind and when I came back… the only thing I could seem to level quickly was my hunter.  I pretty quickly realized that the class was not really for me once I started raiding.  However my good friend Shiana needed a replacement for a less than reliable hunter, so before I knew it I had become a regular cog in the Late Night Raiders machine.  Once I was geared… I felt like I simply could not swap to another class.  It was during this time that my fellow hunter Ailah decided that she really would rather level a priest… so we rolled Belghast the Warrior and Finni the Priest and started leveling them as a duo to make life easier on both of us.  At that point the hardest possible thing to level was a Holy Priest, and the second hardest was a Protection Warrior… and we figured as a duo we could burn through the content quickly.

It was not terribly long before both Belghast and Finni had become our “unofficial” mains, so when Late Night Raiders disintegrated at the end of Vanilla, I took that opportunity as my change to be the class and role I had actually wanted to play.  I tore through Burning Crusade with a vengeance and became one of the folks that people relied on to make dungeons happen.  When LNR finally called it quits I transitioned over to another raid group that I had been tanking for on the side.  NSR or No Such Raid became a second family, and through that raid I met so many of the people that I keep in contact with on a daily basis.  We had a really great run with the raid and made it to the start of the Tier 6 raid content before various things happened, and the leader dumped the raid in my lap.  I tried to make it work as best I could, but week by week we were hemorrhaging folks.  We started with baring being able to pull the group together, then the next week we were down around five people… and the bleeding continued at that pace until three weeks in I just called it.  I felt like a failure and honestly was uncertain what my future would bring.  I talked to a handful of the highest tier raid guilds on our server… and had essentially made my way through the recruitment process on a couple of them.

Durable Nubs


It was around this time that a good friend of mine from the days of Late Night Raiders pulled me aside to talk about an idea that he and some of his friends had.  The theory was simple… pull together a raid group in the style of Late Night Raiders and go off and tackle the content on our own.  There were a lot of things about the methodology of NSR that never set right with me.  I’ve never felt like yelling orders at a team was really that effective.  Basically I had a choice… do I go with my friends and start a brand new raid, having to train people up from Tier 4, or do I go off and join a hardcore raid guild and continue my progress into Tier 6.  If you have read this blog much, it would be pretty obvious which choice I made, but I have  to admit that choice haunted me.  As we wiped to Gruul or later Leotheras the Blind…  I kept thinking…  what did I give up to make this happen.  I spent a good deal of Burning Crusade being grumpy about my decision but in the long run I absolutely made the right one.  When Wrath of the Lich King launched we were prized to be a real force for awesome raiding.  The atmosphere that evolved was awesome… but we did a few things that I think ultimately hurt the raid.  We had this policy of “never let the children see the parents fight”, so while we raided the entire group of officers remained connected to a second voice server.  The problem being is that when heavy deliberation was going on… the normal raid chat could be deathly quiet as we sorted out what we needed to do to fix the situation.

To the members this felt like a vacuum of information, and we also failed to take into account the possibility that some of those folks might have some really good ideas that would help solve whatever problem we were having.  LNR was the example that we were following, because almost all deliberation there happened in a separate and private server channel.  The problem being… we had no clue just how contentious that channel could end up being.  I had zero intention of being the voice of the raid… but over time that is precisely what happened.  The thing is… as burnt out as I eventually became…  I still look back on the moments of us raiding together in a positive light.  Namely because so many of the people from the raid groups I have been in… make up the folks that I converse with on a daily basis.  Like all things…  Duranub came to an end, but this time it was only slain by the Cataclysm release and the shift of focus to guild based raiding.  There are several moments that I wish I could go back to, and several raider line-ups that I wish I could pull together again.  With Cataclysm we ushered in a plot by some of my friends to create the raiding dream team… the problem being… it wasn’t my dream team.  It ended up feeling like a really forced thing, and while the team was called “MellyBelNore” it felt like neither myself, Elnore or Melyloss really had any control over where the team was heading.  This frustration… combined with a brand new shiny game on the horizon called Rift, ultimately got me to leave WoW on a semi-permanent basis.

Always in Your System

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The problem being… that World of Warcraft is one of those games that I can never seem to fully flush from my system.  Over the weekend I spent chunks of it playing around on my Blood Elf Warrior that I rolled ages ago on Scryers… as a way of having both Horde and Alliance characters on Argent Dawn.  Once upon a time I was a forum junkie, and with that came pretty frequent postings on the Argent Dawn server forums.  Through them I met lots of horde players on my server, and cultivated a pretty great relationship with many of them.  I’ve never had a lot of faction loyalty, I just tended to prefer the look and feel of alliance races and cities.  I’ve never had that streak for playing “monstrous humanoids” to borrow the dungeons and dragons term.  One of my big regrets has always been that I never really got a character high enough to be useful on the horde side.  I have an account that I no longer play that managed to catch up during Wrath of the Lich King, and I raided a bit with the Batteries Not Included raid…  of which lots of folks are in the guild that I am hanging my hat in currently.  For years we had a relationship with Bloodmoon Chosen, and I guess there was a bit of a major dramasplosion there.  As a result the folks I was actually friends with ended up leaving and creating their own guild called Facepull, and as a result I moved my characters there over the weekend.

I’ve been having a lot of fun, because there is just something about leveling in World of Warcraft that makes me happy.  I’ve not spent much time on the House Stalwart side of the fence, namely because I have no clue yet how long I will actually be around.  I always feel like a dick when I have one of these relapses and folks start saying things like “Yay! You’re Back!”.  I don’t like letting people down, because for all I know I will be gone  in two weeks time when something else catches my fancy.  If you were to look at my subscription history since the launch of Rift, you would see each expansion there are two or three of these relapses, and of all of them… only two managed to stick for any length of time.  What is ultimately going to hurt this time is the fact that I really don’t have much of a guild to return to.  That also feels like my fault, because when I left again this time after us defeating Blackrock…  a large chunk of folks followed me into Final Fantasy XIV.  In the resulting vacuum, the guild as a whole just vanished.  I am looking forward to us ramping back up to doing things as a group in Eorzea, and this past Saturday night before the podcast was a lot of fun.  That said… WoW right now is like slipping into a warm sweater…. or fixing a hot cup of soup.  It is comfort gaming, and works perfectly for being wrapped in a blanket cocoon on the couch watching stuff on Netflix.  It is the mode of gaming that I need right now, and I have stopped fighting the desires for the moment.  Only time will tell if this is just another outbreak of nostalgia, or if I really truly want to be playing the game.


Week in Gaming 11/22/2015

Missing Breakers

During this segment I generally run down the gaming I have done during the previous week, however this week I am going to regale you with a story from last night.  As I have talked about a bit on my blog we are currently going through some minor home renovations.  We seem to be nearing the end however, and other than a few minor problems that they are working on…  things seem to largely be done.  During part of this process we had a big extension cord coming out through the garage door so they could do work on the front of the house, and as part of their wrapping things up they asked me to go inside and raise the garage door so they could unplug it.  When I got out to the garage however…  the door would not open, and around about this same time I noticed that our freezer was off.  Thus began the mission to try and sort out what breaker was flipped.

The breakers are in a horrible location in our house, which is on the garage wall…  but someone in their infinite wisdom decided to build a table and attach it to the wall in front of the breaker box.  When I say table… I mean it is a 4 foot deep and 8 foot across shelving unit made out of full sheets of plywood.  Sure it is sturdy as hell but it is super awkward and fiddling with the breakers means I have to essentially crawl up onto the table.  The problem being… none of the breakers were flipped which began a hunt through the house because the contractors were convinced that this could not be the ONLY breaker box on the house.  Please note that at this point we have lived in the house going on eighteen years….  we were absolutely certain this was the only breaker box.  Finally after running around and flipping the damned house main in the back yard…  someone noticed that the outlet in the garage that the opener was plugged into… had a ground fault switch.  We flipped that and magically everything started working again.  So yeah…  that was a fun way to spend a good chunk of my night.

Final Fantasy XIV

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This week finally saw my return to Final Fantasy XIV as it also announced the release of the 3.1 content.  I talked about this a bit during the week, but it feels a little bittersweet.  The content was really good, but also really really short.  Usually we have some big boss fight as the pinnacle of the content patches, and this time around….  nothing.  Sure there was a big fight but it wasn’t on the same level as a new Primal or an encounter like Gilgamesh.  Also there is the fact that we still don’t have a new segment in the Hildebrand chain…  or nothing to really replace the hole it has created in the content.  I feel like they spent a lot of time on the Lords of Verminion minigame and as a result a bunch of other stuff slipped to the 3.15 patch later.  I still have yet to do any of the dungeons, but hopefully I can get that going soonish.

The bulk of my final fantasy time consists of me logging in, and doing my Beast Tribe dailies for the new Vanu Vanu tribe along with some of the old world quests.  What makes this pretty great is the fact that at the current level cap… all of the old world quests are super easy to do.  So essentially my daily pecking order is… Vanu Vanu > Slyphs > Sahagin.  Mostly I just want to be a tiny lalafell riding along on a giant goobue.  Last night we also revived the tradition of doing stuff on Saturday nights as we ran bits of First and Second coil with the guild.  I was not there for Turn 5 but I got pulled in on the second coil fun.  We managed to get all the way up to turn 9, and put in a few attempts before Ashgar and I had to leave to prep for the podcast.  My hope is we can get people in the habit of showing up on Saturday nights to do stuff like this and pony farming.  That would go a long way towards revitalizing the Final Fantasy experience for me.


I am continuing to play Destiny but a significantly reduced pace.  Each Sunday afternoon we do a Star Wars pen and paper game, and right now Destiny seems to be my game of choice to play while doing that.  It is something I can play on a machine that is not my main computer, and still be able to pay attention to what is going on in the roleplaying.  Destiny is for the most part muscle reflexes at this point, so I am spending the time doing bounties and missions and such.  I did however play quite a bit on Wednesday, or at least long enough to do my various weapon missions.  I still very much love this game, but Fallout 4 has largely taken the place it held of the game I am spending most of my time playing.  There are still a lot of things I want, but more than likely I am going to mostly do the Armsday/Xursday thing each week and then focus if there are objectives and goals that I really want to accomplish.  There are a few interesting looking weapons this week that I am hoping turn out to be pretty awesome from the Gunsmith.

Fallout 4

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I am still slowly wandering my way through the commonwealth.  I am roughly sixty hours into the game and have yet to go to Diamond City.  That said I have done a whole slew of side quests, but more often than not when I get one… I have already been to that location and cleared it out.  When I went to help the Brotherhood of Steel for example… I had already completely cleared that location other than the areas that the Brotherhood ends up unlocking for you to go explore.  As far as the Minutemen, I am tasked with taking back the castle, but the castle is a long ways off from where I am.  Right now I am largely exploring the Cambridge area and delving into the ruined buildings that you find there.  The hospital at Cambridge was one of the more interesting areas, so if you have not been there I highly suggest checking it out.  There has been some crazy shit happening there… but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.  At this point I am still largely using my crappy pipe gun, that has been upgraded as much as possible…. but that is largely because I have a truly silly amount of ammunition for it.

World of Warcraft

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I am weak…. and nostalgia is strong.  Over the last few weeks I knew deep down inside that I was fighting a losing battle.  Finally yesterday I gave in and started playing my sub level 20 horde characters since I could do that for free.  When Scryers and Argent Dawn merged, I ended up creating an entire accounts worth of Horde alts with the thought of playing with some of my Horde friends on the Argent Dawn server.  I tried to create one of every race and class… and some of them I am probably going to simply re-roll.  For my Warrior… I ended up going  Blood Elf because I remember at launch Warrior was not an option for them.  Also I have gotten kinda sick of playing Orcs, and my Deathknight is an Orc, and my Paladin is a Tauren.  Maybe I am mellowing in my old age, but the whole “elf” thing is annoying me far less right now.  Maybe it is the nostalgia of him wearing what is essentially a set of Wrath armor from Molten Core.  In any case I am poking my head around World of Warcraft, and we will see how well that takes.

Tinfoil Hats and Legion

Nostalgia is Strong

Once again this week I have not really consumed much media, so I don’t have enough material to really do one of my normal Saturday morning columns.  Additionally I am still mired in this nostalgic bomb that is World of Warcraft Legion information.  I’ve still managed to stay “clean” but I know at this point it is only a matter of time before I renew my World of Warcraft account, and at least take a “taste”.  As quietly as Alt seemed to think, yesterday information about the Legion Beta client started trickling out on the data mining sites, and I have to say there is a bunch of interesting information.  So this morning I thought I would talk a bit about some of the theories I have running around in my brain.  Firstly there seems to be a much more heavy Vrykul theme than I originally thought.  I realize that one of the islands we will be visiting is essentially run by the Vrykul, and since they have more or less lost their connection to the Lich King, I am assuming we will not longer have the Valkyr resurrecting them and creating undead versions.

Much of the armor we have seen datamined has that same feel, which only serves to damage my calm all the more.  This expansion is starting to seem like an amalgam of Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King which pretty much represent the pinnacle of my enjoyment of the game.  I feel like this is absolutely what they had intended, and then when you combine actually letting us venture into the Nightmare…  they are essentially throwing everything at the screen and hoping that we love whatever it is that they come up with.  There are so many warning klaxons going off in my head telling me that the end result will never live up to the hype.  The problem is there is a hyper kid in my head on a sugar rush telling me how awesome it COULD be…  and is slowly winning out.  Basically the adult in me is losing and I am finding myself paying closer and closer attention to Legion beta information.  More than anything I am just hoping they give me a Death Knight that is fun to play again.

King Anduin


I’ve said before that in the Legion trailer, I thought we would be witnessing the death of Varian Wrynn because for a few moments… you think exactly that is going to happen.  That is not in fact how the trailer ends up…  but as I was preparing for it… it started me thinking that I believe over the last several expansions Blizzard has been preparing us for this.  Bit by bit they have been grooming Anduin to take the throne, and in the datamined information we can see that once again he is getting a significant upgrade in model.  Similarly we see Anduin not Varian as one of the avatars we the players get to play.  I think it is pretty much an inevitability that something will happen to Varian and cause Anduin to take the throne, bringing with him a much more three dimensional and reasoned character than that of his father.  I like Varian just fine…  but he was always sold to us as “our” Thrall, but that promise has never really materialized.


The game as a whole is still to some extent dominated by the evolution of “Green Jesus”.  Maybe this expansion will be different, and maybe this expansion we will see Varian as something more than a dude with two badass swords and a penchant for war.  That has always been the problem with playing Alliance, it never felt like we had a really strong focus to rally around.  The horde have such a strong identity, and that reverberates with the players that love that faction.  The alliance on the other hand, has no shared struggle…  no central driving focus that they can rally behind.  We have a bunch of really interesting secondary characters, consistently rallied behind a significantly less interesting central character.  I had hoped that we would exit out of Warlords with Yrel, but all signs seemed to point to her staying on Draenor.  Then we have awesome characters like Genn Greymane that never actually got the promise of being a true and proper leader with their own city.  You can see that Genn also got a really nice model update, but my working theory is that this has something to do with one of the artifact weapon quests… and sadly not that we might be able to actually use Gilneas as a proper city.

Lava Man


I find it hilarious that after all of these years… the model is still called “Lava Man” in the back end, instead of Bolivar or even the Lich King.  This is obviously an updated version of the Lich King model, and I am wondering where exactly he will factor into the new content.  My theory is that this is probably related to the Artifact weapon quest chain, but then a part of me wonders…  if we are essentially creating an expansion with the best parts of Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, are they going to set the Lich King up for a return as well?  We are after all seeing Illidan as part of this expansion, and it is a high likelihood that after all of these years Bolivar would lose his control over the power of the Lich King.  I always questioned the sanity of allowing Bolivar to hold this position… even though it seemed pretty badass at the time.  Surely eventually the power of the throne and the helm would overwhelm him… and he would in fact turn into a proper “new” Lich King.

With Legion could we be setting in a chain of events that would end up triggering a reboot of the Lich King content essentially?  Where the Scourge under the direction of the new Bolivar Lich King would once again ravage Azeroth?  There is part of me that doubts they would do something that blatant… but then again I never expected to see Illidan again.  There is of course another option.. we might end up fighting along side the scourge under the control of Bolivar as they serve as a nearly limitless army to take on the Burning Legion.  I guess it all depends on just how big this conflict gets before the end of the expansion.  The problem is… as I let all of these theories and ideas out of my head… the more I am wanting to log into World of Warcraft in its current state and play.  I know that the same game is there that I left several months ago, and that most of the things I am really interested in wont be here until Legion.  The stranglehold of nostalgia however is absolutely a thing.

Be Nice to the People

Bad Luck

This looks totally legit right?

Traditionally I do this Friday thing where I talk about one of the many “MMOs Worth Playing” but honestly…. today I am just not feeling it.  I am feeling more annoyed and frustrated about MMOs than I am feeling the love right now, and in this current mindset it is probably best that I simply don’t talk about a game.  The purpose of the column is to highlight a game and talk about the things I love about it, in the hopes that it might nudge people into giving it a try.  In order to really do that I have to be feeling happy and enjoying the world around me… and right now I am kinda grumpy.  Granted I am grumpy over a stupid reason.  Right now I feel like I am one of a handful of people who didn’t get into the Overwatch beta weekend.  I am largely annoyed by this, because I am in fact one of the people who went ahead and pre-ordered the game knowing eventually that I would want to play it.  You would think… that if you have a bit single weekend only stress test that you might want to include the people who are already signed up to spend money on your game.

Maybe that is screwed up in my logic, but it seems to me that they should have pulled from the pool of sign ups first for this one in particular.  I am not saying that about the normal always on Beta process… that one is completely luck of the draw.  This one however… when you are testing a game for a short period of time… it might be cool to thank the folks who have already pressed that button and said “Yes, I want your game”.  Frustrations aside, I am hoping all of my friends who are going to be playing it this weekend will enjoy themselves and have lots of things to talk about.  Honestly this test will give me a better feeling of how I am going to like the game, since a lot of the AggroChat folks seemed to have gotten in.  This is the hardest part about Betas is standing on the outside watching your friends have fun…  and then trying really damned hard to be happy for them… and not sad that you got left out.

People Behind The Thing

So even though I am frustrated, I am directing my frustrations at an entity…  the game Overwatch and or the company Blizzard behind it.  I realize that that company is made up of people, and it has to be super tiring to hear people raging at them constantly.  I realize over the years I have said some pretty caustic and even pyroclastic things about video games and or the companies behind them.  At no point however did I aim that criticism at the people themselves.  I never joined the chorus of “I Hate Ghostcrawler” nor will I join any other personally targeted witch hunt in the future.  I can dislike a thing… but still have the utmost respect for the people for whom it is their job.  Much of this week has felt like I have been attempting to give lessons in how to treat people with simple human dignity… and yesterday continued that trend.  These companies have people working there, that go to work every single day hoping to do something cool… and often times get met with this constant wall of negativity.  It is no wonder when someone reads one too many “fuck you” posts targeted at them that occasionally community staff snaps.  Ultimately how good of a job, and how much satisfaction in it… would you have if someone stood over your desk heckling you the entire day?

Now you can take the path of “they willfully accepted the job”, but that too is utter bullshit.  They probably took the job for the same reason that any one of us who are gaming addicts would jump at the chance to do the same thing.  The folks that work at games companies do so because they love games with every fiber of their being, so much so that they are willing to sacrifice basic things like stability, and normal working hours…  for the chance of being part of something they at least once felt was awesome.  So if this week I happen to be complaining about Overwatch… I know that behind the scenes there is a crew of people who are working insane hours right now, and trying their damnedest to please as many people as they can… while at the same time desperately fighting to roll out the best possible product that they can make.  I’ve been lucky to know enough people that work at enough companies to know that all of these fine people are grinding themselves into the ground all in the hopes of making each of us happy.  So the next time you level an attack at a thing… please make sure it is targeted at the thing… and not the voice of the person hanging out in front of it for whom it is their job to represent said thing.  I most definitely don’t believe that games should be above criticism… but I do believe that we shouldn’t be targeting our bile at a human being.

Hoping For a Great Friday

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My hope is that I can go into this Friday and not see anything else that makes me sad about humanity.  For those of you in the Overwatch beta weekend…  have a blast, take lots of screenshots, record lots of video… because I expect some really amazing content as a result.    For those of us watching from the sidelines… there are dozens of other things we should be doing.  I personally am now 55 hours into Fallout 4… and have yet to make it to Diamond City.  I’m also in a strange place when it comes to Final Fantasy XIV where I am logging in each day to do Beast Tribe dailies, but not finding much drive to do anything else.  I am in that strange place where I took a long enough break from the game to where I am completely out of touch with what I was doing before I left, but have not been away long enough to make me super nostalgic enough to dive back in with vigor.  I am also still fighting the urge to play World of Warcraft, and I am scared that sooner or later I will be giving into it… if for no reason other than to get it out of my system again.  I am in a place where I want into the Legion beta more than any other beta in a long while, mostly because I hope beyond hope that Deathknights are fun again.  The fact that I had to switch back to my warrior during Warlords honestly was a bit of bummer, and I would love to be a Worgen DK once more.  Anyways…  that was a long “outro” but hopefully you have a great weekend, and stay safe and happy and warm.



Mourning The Past


Another Time


Lately I have been struggling with fits of nostalgia, mostly surrounding World of Warcraft and in the middle of it I had a revelation.  I know the moment I started to distance myself from raiding, and the events that lead up to me ultimately checking out mentally.  When the Cataclysm patch went live, Blizzard in their infinite wisdom decided to deeply incentivize guild-centric raiding.  This was probably a no brainer for them, because in truth this is more than likely how the vast majority of people raided.  If you wanted to raid… you went and found a raid guild… and life moved on normally from that point onwards.  Since the early days of Vanilla however…  we never really raided like this.  There was a clear distinction between “The Raid” and “The Guild” that was significantly harder to maintain after Cataclysm.  The reason being that we raided as an entity that was distinct from any of the guilds that came together to make it up… we raided as a coalition of sorts.  In Vanilla it was the Late Night Raiders, in Burning Crusade it was mostly No Such Raid… and from late BC through Wrath we formed the Duranub Raiding Company.  In each case the “raid” was an organization with a distinct leadership, made up of a bunch of people from different styles of guilds, with the one thing in common… that they wanted to clear content.

There was relatively no pressure to join any of the guilds, though folks did from time to time filter back and forth between them…  nor was the fixed and set number of guilds that made up the roster.  It allowed us to recruit people to fill slots, without asking them to give up everything they knew about the game from that point… just to raid.  It also allowed people who were far more comfortable in five or six player guilds to remain in their small close knit groups, while still having access to a larger raiding life.  It also solved some of the problems that you run into with guild based raiding, where individuals have the impression that if they join X guild they will have an automatic guaranteed spot in X raid.  We were able to keep a completely separate infrastructure, with its own rules and tenets, and then fall back on our larger social guild for non-raiding interactions.  It was a structure that felt so natural to me, and it almost seemed like a personal affront when the Cataclysm changes showed that they would be shifting focus away from this style of raiding, and only crediting kills to the guild with the largest number of members.

Death of Duranub


When Cataclysm launched we tried an experiment that ultimately failed.  House Stalwart, the guild I had lead since the day World of Warcraft launched… attempted to consume all of the smaller satellite guilds for the purpose of “keeping the raid together”.  So over night we quite literally went from a 600 character guild to an over 900 character guild.  With this came so many different cultures and so many different “norms” that it rapidly became a jumbled mess.  We also made the decision to focus on 10 player raid groups, and ended up splintering the raid into a bunch of teams.  The problem there is that not all teams were created equal, and some of the teams had the deck stacked heavily including more of the seasoned raiders.  So when the progress was not equal, it caused strife and competitiveness between the groups, where it had never existed before.  Previously we were there Duranub Raiding Company… we were a group that made the easy things look hard… and the hard things look easy.  The phrase “Duranub” tied lineage back to a saying that Shiana the leader of my first raid group said about the Late Night Raiders… that we were a “Durable Pack of Nubs”.  In fact Duranub was our attempt to pull out the best things we experienced during Late Night Raiders and congeal them into a modern raid group.

In the process all of the officers sacrificed a lot of their time… and for me a lot of my sanity to keep it going.  So when that disolved and we splintered into smaller raid teams…  it introduced a whole mix of things that I just didn’t care about any more.  I have never been a competitive player, and I have never cared about clearing content first.  I am all about working together with my friends to make bosses dead, and to get new and interesting pieces of gear.  So when I felt like I was in a competition with those same friends, it somehow tarnished the experience.  When Rift launched it became all too easy for me to walk away from World of Warcraft, because the thing that had been keeping me in the game for so long… was this concept that I believe in so deeply.  That you could gather up a bunch of disparate parts and make them into a raid group…  and have fun doing it.  The problem with raiding as a guild… is often times there are people that you end up raiding with…  that you don’t want to share a guild with.  They are great raiders, but lacking in the human being department.  The end result causes you to make compromises…  and either diluting the atmosphere of your guild… or sacrificing talent for the sake of culture.  This is the part that I was never really able to put into words before now.

Extended Family

Wow-64 2015-03-05 21-06-19-69

I have been nostalgic lately, and it seems to be far less about what we did in World of Warcraft, and more about who I was doing it with.  When I said the other day that I didn’t wan’t World of Warcraft, I wanted the WoW that existed in 2009 during the Wrath of the Lich King patch cycle…  I meant more than just the game.  I experienced that game with a certain set of individuals and a certain feeling of togetherness… and that is the game that I want back more than anything.  So many of the people I’ve raided with, I keep in touch with today on a regular basis…  definitely more that any other group of people that have been in my life.  I don’t talk to anyone from High School, and there is only a couple of folks from college that I keep in touch with other than my wife.  I have a notoriously bad track record at keeping in contact with folks I have worked with in the past… but when it comes to folks I have raided with…  three of the five other people in the AggroChat podcast are folks I have raided with since Vanilla.  Rae and Dallian I’ve raided at least on some level with since Burning Crusade.  Other than that there is a huge list of people that I have raided with in one fashion or another that I talk to on IM or Slack, which shows how much more important this group is to me than pretty much any other.

When you spend year after year with these people, even though it is only on voice chat… you develop a bond that is forged in shared struggle towards a goal.  Having never really been serious about sports, maybe this is the same sort of bond you develop between your team mates, or the same sort of bond that soldiers come out of conflict with.  Whatever it is, it is important to me… and what Cataclysm and our decision to abandon 25 player raiding did was to force me to choose between which group of friends to play with.  House Stalwart forged on without me, and when I came back during Warlords out of the ashes of numerous groups was forged a really fun raid team.  I got to experience the content with people that I had not played with in years.. and for a moment it was magical.  The problem being… even then, it just wasn’t quite the same.  It is impossible to sort out guild drama and raid drama… when both are mixed into one big amalgam.  So as I sit back being nostalgic… I miss the era of non-guild raiding.  If I could bring back any one element of the past, it would be that… and even put in systems like formal raid alliances to bolster that style of game play.  If there is one thing I have learned throughout the years… it is that raid guilds are just not for me.  What I want is to be able to have my friendly social guild… and raid effectively at the same time.  While that might sound like wanting it all at the same time…  I did have it for years, which is why I miss it so much looking back upon it.