Happy Thanksgiving

Behind the Times

Wow-64 2014-11-26 17-35-51-85 There are times I am just extremely far behind the curve.  For weeks I had been seeing pictures of my friends characters with a little orange bird on their heads named Pepe.  I thought this was absolutely adorable since one of the things I have enjoyed so much is the way that certain pets in Final Fantasy XIV will come rest on your shoulder.  Turns out that this is a bit of a hack and not really pet interaction.  For those not already indoctrinated in the ways of Pepe…  he is a bird that will appear in one of the trees of your garrison.  Apparently he can appear in either the phase 1, 2 or 3 version.  I’ve started typing “/tar pepe” to find him and mark him with a symbol so that I can find him either.

In any case if you mouse over him you will see a gear icon meaning that he can somehow be activated.  If you click on him, he will ride around on top of your head for an hour as you go off adventuring in the world.  While adorable… it actually gets a little old since he is super talkative tweeting up a storm while you run around.  It doesn’t seem like he actually interacts with what you are doing… like I thought it would be awesome if he chirped a certain way each time we killed a baddie or something.  In any case it is a nifty easter egg found in your garrison, and one that I find myself using quite a bit.  There is something fun about being this armored badass, with a fat bird on top of your head.

Happy Thanksgiving

Pikachuparade1123 While the origins of the American thanksgiving tradition are somewhat suspect…  it has always been a favorite holiday of mine for its sheer simplicity.  It is a day where we are supposed to reflect upon the things we are thankful for, while sharing that time with our family.  There is just something so pure about sharing a meal with someone, and it has become my favored way of meeting with someone.  Over the years however Thanksgiving has turned into a sort of “Christmas Launch Party”, and this year my wife said one article was even referring to Thanksgiving as “Grey Thursday”.  Black Friday has become this temple of holiday shopping excess and a three ring circus has sprung up around it constantly pushing further and further into thanksgiving in an effort to somehow earn our dollars.  This year it seems like most stores will be open Thanksgiving night to start the Black Friday festivities.  We had to go grocery shopping for our meal prep and Target looked like this claustrophobic bunker, with new priced to sell product stacked up in giant piles all over the store.

I guess I get it, because if I were a store I would be doing whatever it took to get your money before you can spend it elsewhere.  As Americans we have become addicted to sales and clearance, which makes sense because our buying power has stagnated over the last decade.  The part about Black Friday that frustrates me is that it is essentially a scam, played upon us by the retail industry.  The items they sell for Black Friday are generally speaking not the same caliber as the items that they sell every day.  So while they might be selling a 40 inch television for only $150… it is sure to have some gimping feature like the fact that it can only display images in 720i or lacks an HDMI port.  The stores are giving you those cheap prices by selling you cheaply manufactured products.  The part that frustrates me the most is that it seems like the majority of things are not actually going to people who will actually use them.  Saturday morning I will be able to load our local craigslist and see half of the products offered as door busters being sold there as folks try and make a quick buck by flipping them.

All the while for me at least Thanksgiving is still a day about reflection and a day about sharing a meal with the folks who are close with, or the folks you wish you were closer with.  This is going to be a rough thanksgiving for me, because this will be the first one without having a grandparent to visit.  This past year my last grandparent passed away, and she was the glue that held together my mothers side of the family.  Without here there, all of the thanksgiving traditions were in danger of completely dissipating.  Thankfully my Cousin has stepped in and between her and us we are pulling together a grand thanksgiving feast.  My wife has been making this and that all morning, and I am convinced we are going to have way too much food.  We are taking care of the deserts and appetizers and are by ourselves bringing like a dozen dishes.  In any case this is a year I am really looking forward to, because I am hoping we can forge out a new tradition of family and food out of the ashes of the old one.

Classic Content

Wow-64 2014-11-26 21-03-23-52 Last night was extremely enjoyable.  I started the night with Wulf and Damai doing our daily group garrison assault quest out in the blackrock pits.  This was a bit insane because without a healer…  we kept trying to pull as though we had one and getting into trouble.  After that we made a trip into the Everbloom to knock out a few of the Garrison side quests.  This went significantly faster than the previous times we had been in there, in part because we ended up skipping quite a bit of trash.  After that and turning in all of the side quests, we randomed a dungeon and got the Iron Docks.  I had not actually done this one before on heroic, but overall it went pretty smoothly.  There were a few dicey places where I was trying to play while responding to texts from my wife about outfit finds…  but in any case we muddled through without issue.  It was around this point that I decided to step out of the group.  The actual raid off tank has not been getting in on many of the runs, and as a result could use the gear far worse than me.  I figured for the good of the raid, it was best to pull him in.

Wow-64 2014-11-26 21-47-20-98 In the meantime I ran off to Black Temple in the hopes of getting Illidans shield for transmoggy goodness.  I was pleasantly surprised to see just how easy it is now to solo everything.  At level 90 there were a few places, especially the reliquary of souls that caused issues.  However I was able to straight wreck the damage reflection face without issue.  In truth most of the trash was so far below me that it didn’t actually aggro.  I could walk almost freely between bosses, so the entire thing went extremely quickly.  On the way back out however I killed most everything because I decided the reputation gain was worth while.  After that I popped over to Tempest Keep in an attempt to get the mount, and between it and a Serpentshrine Caverns run that followed collected an entire set of Tier 5 warrior gear.  That was one of the tiers that I never actually had, because for the most part our raid blew up before getting through Lady Vashj.  It isn’t exactly my favorite set of gear, but ANY transmoggy bits that are unique are worth having.  I had a great night running old content, because I have so many memories of running the places legitimately that it just feels awesome to be able to wreck them.

A Loving Family

Today seems like it should be the culmination of my month of thankfulness, considering this is actually thanksgiving day.  I was completely uncertain what I would write about until yesterday I saw a tweet from a friend on twitter.  “My dad told me he will never love me as his daughter. I’m so heart broken right now.”  I have always taken for granted that a loving family is just a default thing that everyone has, but I guess in truth that is not always the case.  While I feel like that father is right up there with the worst human beings to every exist on the planet…  I am thankful that I have a very loving family that is always ready to embrace me when I need it.  I have an extremely complicated relationship with my family.  I’ve never felt like any of them actually “got me” as a person, but at the same time I have never once doubted their love for me.  Thanksgiving is one of those magical days where you can instantly become close to all the people you have not seen since the last Thanksgiving.  That is the way it is supposed to work, and it pains me that not everyone has that sort of relationship with their kin.

My thanksgiving wish for you all is that you find the family that makes you feel warm and safe and wanted.  Family is one of those amorphous things, that doesn’t directly mean blood relations.  If you have a horrible genetic family, then I challenge you to branch out and go find the real family you have always been wanting it.  My wife’s family for example this way of adopting complete strangers into their intimate family gatherings.  Everyone is always welcome at any of the massive family shindigs, and there will always be more than enough food to feed anyone that arrives.  If your biological family doesn’t love you the way a family should, then go off and make your own family out of your friends.  Everyone needs a happy core to build their life around, and while I am not as close to my family as I could be…  I have never questioned that they would be there for me if I needed it.  For that, I am extremely blessed and extremely thankful.

Looking For Molten Core

Rose Colored Lenses

moltencore_oldschoolclears I have talked about this before, but many of my beliefs about World of Warcraft are in truth a product of the fact that I started raiding during the period that everyone refers to as “Vanilla”.  The above screenshot is of our raid group the Late Night Raiders taking down Golemagg.  In fact if I am placing this picture correctly, this is moments before I won the Giantstalker chest piece.  There is so much nostalgia wrapped up in Molten Core for me, so much so that I pretty regularly returned there over the years to solo it just for that shot of nostalgia straight in the veins.  While it used to take three hours of my Sunday night, to clear this place in full… it was worth every moment of it.

You would think that with all of this experience rooted in 40 man raiding and nostalgia about it…  you would think I looked forward to a return to it.  You would in fact be completely wrong.  In many ways 40 man raiding was like a family trip, and you either bonded during it or learned to hate one another.  There are folks that I raided with that I talk to on a daily basis and have become part of my extended family.  There are additionally folks that I raided with that I would prefer never knowing they still existed, let along ever wanting to see them again.  40 man raids were this strange construct where 25 people who were paying attention, carried the 15 that were not to victory.  It was a place of great victory, but also a place of great resentment, and I am more than happy to see that era of raiding dead and buried.

Looking For Molten Core

ragnaroshammer I have long held the belief that the people who have been clamoring over the years for a return to 40 man raiding, never actually raided in a 40 man environment.  Either that or they did it once or twice with a really successful group that had everything “on farm” but never experienced the crushing defeat of having forty people doing something really stupid.  I am struggling to find the exact tweet, but someone summed it up like this.  Folks begged for 40 man raiding, and Blizzard did not want to return to it.  As a result they gave us a 40 man raid, and made it LFR so we too would remember just how horrible it was.  Last night as a guild we queued with roughly 25 members, hoping that if we brought all of the tanks, most of the DPS and a handful of heals… we would be able to turn what is normally sheer chaos into something functional.  For the most part it worked, and in roughly two hours time we cleared all of the core.  We had a few issues, like players pulling for us…  which was pretty awesome because we had more than enough people to rapidfire kick them from the raid group.

The disturbing thing about the experience however was how much it felt EXACTLY like the actual thing.  The experience of 25 people that know what they are doing, dragging along a bunch of people who are actively working against the strategy of the raid…  that happened every single week.  The problem with 40 man raiding was that almost no one had a stable of enough people to make sure it happened without fail every single week.  As a result you had this grey area of folks that knew someone in the raid and could be pulled in when we were short.  The truth is we were always short something, and always breaking in someone new that had never seen the content.  LFR is pretty much the perfect representation of that shit storm of chaos, and to continue what the tweet said…  whoever thought of making Molten Core an LFR needs a raise…  and then a swift punch in the crotch.  Thankfully my hope is that this will dispel the myth that 40 man raiding was somehow more epic and meaningful, because the way it feels in LFR is exactly how it felt actually living it.

Lava Puppy Mount

Wow-64 2014-11-25 22-13-53-11

All of the above said, it was still a fairly enjoyable night and it was fun showing people who had never actually run Molten Core “for real” the ropes.  It was shocking just how fast the various things came back.  Also it was shocking just how well they replicated the feel of the original.  There is some trash that happens immediately following Garr and before Geddon that has been lovingly referred to as “pain packs”.  Thing is… they are still just as painful.  The moment I pulled one, folks were simply not ready for the amount of torture that was about to be dished out, and both me and the other tanks simply evaporated wiping the raid.  We had to adjust our strategy a bit, but it was a reminded of just how deadly that place was.    There were things I remembered exactly how to handle, and then there were fights that I did not remember at all… like Shazzrah.  Apparently as Rylacus said that was a fight where the melee didn’t actually engage the boss, so that is likely why I don’t remember much about it.

There were so many “greatest hits” of dumb things done in the core last night.  Some jackass warlock tricked half a dozen people into peering through the crack behind Golemagg to try and see Ragnaros.  Someone fell off the bridge and aggro’d Golemagg as we were clearing the trash.  It was shocking just how stealthy a big damned core hound can be, because they almost always add to packs at exactly the wrong time.  Fortunately however the other super common thing of getting knocked off the bridge near Lucifron by a Lava Surger didn’t actually happen.  Neither did the ever so fun experience of having a lava spawn constantly duplicate to the point of overwhelming the raid.  As such I am thinking that more than likely some of the really heinous effects were toned down for LFR.  For example there were no longer 8 flame walker priests with Sulfuron Harbinger, but we still did the “Drag one out and kill it” method.  For the most part all of the bosses went extremely smoothly, but it was the trash that took the longest amount of time… and caused the most deaths.

Death of 40 Man Raiding

This morning I am supremely thankful that I have now finished the Molten Core LFR, and that I have a very awesome Core Hound mount to show for it.  I am also at the same time extremely happy that 40 man raiding is a thing of the past.  I realize that Wildstar attempted to revive this concept, but I really feel that this was a massive mistake.  That is just too many people to have to be responsible for as a raid leader, and too large of a pool of players to constantly have to keep refilling.  While I will still solo Molten Core for fun, when I get the twinge of nostalgia… I have no desire to ever return to the way it actually felt.  Same goes for any of the other 40 man content we did.  I am thankful that I got to experience them when they were legitimately rough experiences, but I am also thankful that the era is long past.  My hope is that 40 man LFR will let the folks who have always pined for this era to realize that it was not actually a magical time..  instead it was something we slogged through because it was all we knew.  While we may have “raided uphill both ways in the snow”…  I most definitely know we are  better off not having to do it.

Angriest Red Ball Revisited

Bridge Refresher Course

ffxiv 2014-11-24 21-04-25-83 With all my recent posts about World of Warcraft, you would think that I had switched allegiance entirely, but this is not the truth by any means.  Right now it is new and shiny and  I am attempting to claw my way to a reasonable foothold of raid preparedness.  That said I am still very much playing Final Fantasy XIV, and for the last few weeks we have been pulling together “raid” content on Monday nights.  We really want to see the new Ultros fight, but unfortunately Thalen still had yet to do Battle at Big Bridge, so last night we started the evening off knocking that out of the way.  It made a rather nice high point to start the evening on since that fight is so amazing.  The majority of us are Final Fantasy V fans, so seeing the fight is like watching the bridge fight play out in that game.

The strange thing is that as many times as we had run it, I had never actually tanked it.  Not that there is actually anything to tanking the fight.  For the tank at least it is as tank and spank as they really come in Final Fantasy XIV.  The only challenge was the various adds between the two phases of the boss, and even then it is was only because we have some extremely overgeared dps for the fight that just melted them.  While I attempted to hold aggro it was pretty much futile.  In any case it knocked that out of the way so that hopefully this week the folks that needed it can catch up on the Hildebrand storyline and get ready for Ultros.  I would really rather do that fight for the first time as a guild, so we can have the experience of figuring out the content on the fly.

Angriest Red Ball Revisited

ffxiv 2014-11-24 21-48-02-32 Turn Five of Binding Coil of Bahamut has been looming over our group for some time.  I have to admit there has been a sense of fear about it, because in truth it has been content than killed many a static raid team on our server.  It is the notorious gatekeeper to turn 2, and there are many folks that have cleared one through four never to actually manage to get in a turn five kill.  The fight itself just has this insane array of mechanics that are almost impossible to memorize before going into the fight.  Since it had been months for us clearing the first four turns we opted to start with those as a fresher course.  Overall it went nice and smooth and we burned through the first few coil instances getting the folks who had not been there realm exploration achievements.  I managed to get the Heavy Allagan chestpiece to go with my other two pieces of Allagan gear.

ffxiv 2014-11-24 22-44-02-14 When we downed turn four after a few baubles here and there we decided to use that momentum and push us forward into a couple of attempts at Twintainia the boss of turn five.  There is a lot of stuff to focus on during this fight.  However we did manage to get to roughly the halfway point in the fight after a couple of attempts.  I mark this as pretty damned good progress, and a pretty good night overall for us to down Big Bridge, four turns of coil and make that much progress on five.  I feel like as a whole we have way more confidence in regards to our success chances at turn five.  It is no longer this looming and scary target that we have not actually experienced.  Folks talk about it with so much frustration and reverence, but I feel like we can totally down  this.  Now after seeing the fight I also feel like I have a far better point of reference for doing my own research in the coming week.

Up Too Late

Wow-64 2014-11-25 00-14-27-80 After our evening of raiding in Final Fantasy XIV, I popped out and got into World of Warcraft in an attempt to find a group to run Auchindoun with.  Much like there was a legendary cloak chain in Pandaria, there is a legendary ring one in Warlords.  The first phase is actually relatively simple and only actually requires that you run Skyreach and loot and item off the final boss.  This nets the player a really nice ilevel 640 ring for there troubles, which is a much needed gear level boost for getting into content.  The next steps require you to clear four heroic dungeons, gather up a silly amount of apexis crystals and then complete a solo event of sorts.  Last night I was up to the final step in this sequence which requires a trip into Auchindoun to loot an item off the final boss.  However there was another player that required one more “core” the step before Auchindoun, so I agreed to run that heroic first before we ran the one I actually needed so that both of us knocked out the final step at the same time.

The end result was that I ran two heroics back to back and did not actually make it to bed until almost 1 am.  The other result however is that other than 100 apexis crystals and a solo event, I am really super close to the next step in the ring quest chain.  As a result in theory I should be able to knock out the 680 ring before we step foot into Molten Core as a guild tonight.  I am really looking at venturing forth into Molten Core, it has been years since I last experienced the raid “for real”.  I remember there was a time where a “good clear” took about three hours of my life.  I am hoping we can manage to do it in a far shorter time.  That said I have prepared myself for the potential of it taking that long if not longer.  I know we are going to try and go into it with as many tanks and healers as we can so that we can potentially control the pace of the run.  If everyone other than a handful of dps are with us on voice chat… hopefully things will go more smoothly.  In any case hopefully at the end of the night I will have a spiffy mount.

Furry Children

I’ve always had a soft spot for animals.  In this age of global strife and suffering, I’ve become rather accustomed to it… but the moment that Sarah MacLachlan animal charity video plays on  the television… and it is like a sucker punch to the gut.  There has never been a time when we have not had several furry children, and each of them is unique and special.  This morning I am thankful for all of them that have shared our life.  Presently we have four cats, which I think officially qualifies us for “crazy cat lady” status.  Our eldest came home with me years ago on a Thanksgiving day, so this time of year is all the more important to me.  She is getting up there in age and has many issues but I am so thankful for each year we have with her.  In addition to our cats we also have two amazing ferrets, that are both as sweet as can be and are always clamoring for our attention.  They both know exactly what it takes to get daddy to play with them, and they are the source of many delays while getting ready in the morning.  Animals enrich our lives in ways that I cannot fully account for, and this morning and every morning I am thankful to have them.

Things Did For Loot

AggroChat #32 – Azeroth, Mordor and Beyond

Normally Sunday mornings I talk about the happenings from the night before when we record our weekly episode of AggroChat.  However yesterday it just didn’t really fit the theme of the post, so I opted to push off advertising it on my blog until this morning.  We recorded for roughly two hours, but thankfully after I edited it was condensed to only an hour and twenty minutes… which is far more reasonable.  It is always strange when we go into a show with what we feel like is not a lot to talk about… and then a show happens and it ends up being a length one.  I feel like some of those are the most natural because the conversation just went where it needed to go without our direction.

We talked about a dizzying range of games from Shadows of Mordor and Tam and Kodras views on the game.  They both still say it is very much a “bel game” and at this point I am planning on picking it up hopefully when it goes on sale during the Steam Christmas Sale.  It does look really interesting, and I like the seeming focus on mechanics rather than story.  We once again delve into a discussion about 4X games namely Beyond Civilization, Civilization 5 and Endless Legend.  Similarly there is a length discussion about our feelings surrounding Dragon Age Inquisition and Kodra has finally made some progress in Dragon Age Origins.  Finally I talk at length about my experiences returning to World of Warcraft as I gush about finally having a strong female in World of Warcraft that is not also moments away from being turned into a raid boss.  Seriously if you have not followed the Yrel character you should check her out.

Things Did For Loot

WoWScrnShot_112214_172004 My focus this weekend entirely was getting geared up enough to be able to do Molten Core on Tuesday night with the guild.  Since this is a 40 man looking for group experience… and various members of them  guild have said it took upwards of three hours to complete…  we are wanting to try and pull in as many people as possible Tuesday night so we can hopefully carry the random players to a rapid victory.  The only problem is that in order to join in the fun, you have to have 615 ilevel.  Unless you had some extreme luck with item upgrades in Nagrand, it is not exactly easy to hit that kind of level without a lot of dungeoning.  Arria and several others kept telling me that I needed to PVP in order to get my ilevel up high enough to run Molten Core, but at first I rejected this notion entirely.  However after a period of time without a guild group online that I thought we could make dungeoning work… I resorted to queuing for battlegrounds.

Over the course of the weekend I ran enough battlegrounds to be able to purchase a neckpiece and bracers at roughly 1250 honor each.  I have to say… I actually enjoyed myself, and it shocks me just as much to be able to say those words.  Remember I have gone on length diatribes about how faction based combat destroys a sense of community.  The thing is…  battlegrounds are not open world pvp and I did not enjoy Ashran the open world pvp zone at all.  The strange thing is that I have quite literally not PVP’d in World of Warcraft since Burning Crusade other than once or twice here needed for some holiday achievement.  Once upon a time I was part of an Arena team if you can believe that, with the sole purpose of gearing my paladin in some healing gear.  It is strange how cyclical things are… in Burning Crusade PVP gear was extremely useful for PVE purposes… and now in Warlords the exact same thing has happened.  I guess I don’t mind PVP so much when I know there is a loot piñata at the end of my efforts.

Heroic-palooza

Wow-64 2014-11-23 13-11-44-29 Between the two pieces of PVP gear I was able to bump my ilevel up high enough to be able to  do Molten Core.  However yesterday I spent most of the day running Heroics with the guild.  The strange thing is that I tagged along as dps.  It feels so strange that sword and board gladiator is actually viable dps, and for most of the runs I was competitive with the person sitting in first place on the meters.  The awesome thing about this is that the gear needed to tank and needed to Gladiator dps are essentially the game.  Bonus Armor it turns out is just as much of a DPS boost for Gladiator as it is survival for Defensive.  All of this makes me wonder if we will see a resurgence of viable specs to allow tanks to tank as Arms or Fury like they used to back in Vanilla WoW.  In any case I ran Bloodmaul Slag Mines, Grimrail Depot, Auchindoun, The Everbloom and Skyreach and between them I managed to get several upgrades.

I feel like I need to take a moment to praise Blizzard for the changes to the way that personal loot works.  I made a comment the other day on twitter when they removed personal loot as the default for pugs, that going back to need before green only really helped the trolls.  It turns out that they just felt they needed to tweak personal loot a bit before returning it to the dungeons, which ultimately they hotfixed back in within a days time.  The new version is extremely awesome, because no matter how bad your luck is early in the dungeon… the final boss will always drop an item for your spec.  Mostly what makes the system great is there are no more instances of unusable loot.  Granted what you get may not actually be an upgrade, but we did several runs with nothing but plate wearers… and no leather rotted in the dungeon.

Finally a Worthy Helm

Wow-64 2014-11-24 06-17-17-22 Over the course of the weekend I went from 609 ilevel to a respectable 623 and I feel that I am fully ready for Molten Core tomorrow.  I am not sure if I will be called on to tank or to dps, but in either scenario I feel comfortable thanks to the fact that Gladiator dps is esentially just tanking without the taunts.  One of the things that I have tried to be religious about is doing my crafting and resource workorders in my Garrison.  The primary one is the Gearspring Parts needed for engineering, or in truth every single tradeskill that makes things seems to have a limited resource that can be sped up significantly through the use of your Garrison.  This expansion has returned to having an exceptionally useful helm gained through engineering, and this time it is upgradeable three steps to make it competitive with raid gear.

This morning I managed to collect the last of the 100 Gearspring Parts needed to craft it, and finally I have a helmet that is worth of displaying helm.  Traditionally I run around sans helmet, because in truth World of Warcraft has pretty much nothing but ugly helms.  These goggles however are fantastic, and I am proud to let my engineer flag fly high.  Unfortunately I am going to have to figure out a way to get savage blood, which I am afraid that I do not have a source of it in that I did not build the barn.  Since it is a tradeable resource my hope is that I will be able to obtain it through an alt.  Honestly my biggest hope is that eventually they add it to the primal spirit vendor at a significant loss, so that I can use my stockpile of those.  In any case I feel like I am fully ready for the rigors of raiding, but still have plenty of upgrades that I can get from heroics.

My Routine

There are mornings I have an idea immediately and others that I struggle to find purpose in my writing.  There is something about being under pressure to write a post each morning that makes it work for me.  I’ve long found that on the weekends I dawdle considerably more and struggle to get a post out.  Whereas in the morning as I am drinking my morning coffee if I just start writing a post materializes before I really know fully what I am going to write about.  As such for this mornings thankfulness post, I am thankful for my routine.  I am thankful that I embarked upon this journey over a year ago, and thankful that I realized that the morning would actually be a viable time for me to write.  Writing a post feels like I am starting the day having already accomplished something, which in turn I feel makes the day as a whole a better one.  May each of you also find the routine that works for you.

Happy 10th Anniversary

My WoW Story

lodin_warcraft Ten years ago today I started playing World of Warcraft.  In truth that is a bit of a misnomer since I technically started as of ten years ago 11 pm last night.  When World of Warcraft launched there was so much excitement surrounding it.  This was not my first MMO by any means and I had already played significant amounts of time of both Everquest (roughly 3 years), Dark Age of Camelot (roughly 2 years), Horizon (6 months) and City of Heroes (6 months).  Between those four games I had already amassed a large group of friends that all intended to play Warcraft at the launch.  That is the hard thing to explain these days, but World of Warcraft was this one game that every single player that played it… wanted to play more of.  I remember getting into one of the stress test betas, and that one weekend of playing the game completely destroyed my enjoyment of City of Heroes.  Just a few hours of play showed me that these games I already loved could be so much more.

When it came time for the game to launch, the GameStop in town was having a launch party.  I originally intended to get in line with the rest of the folks and wait it out.  This was in the days before I actually preordered games.  To some extent I liked the thrill of the chase, of having  to go out and forage for whatever new game release was the new hotness.  So World of Warcraft was no different, and I had intended on just picking up a copy like always.  When I go there that night…  the line wrapped around from Gamestop and all the way down the shopping center to Panera Bread and around the corner…  so half a shopping center for the sleepy little hamlet I lived in.  I was showing up moments before the  game was set to go on sale…  so I would have been waiting behind hundreds of other players waiting for the game.

Wal-Mart to the Rescue

stalwartfolks On a wild hunch I decided to pop into the Wal-mart just down the shopping center instead.  Sure enough when I got back to electronics I saw a pristine display full of copies of World of Warcraft.  I noticed that a handful of players were doing exactly the same thing as me.  So there I had my game in hand ready to head out, and by the time I got to the parking lot I noticed that not even a quarter of the line had been served at GameStop yet.  I found out later that they sold out, and did not have enough copies to serve the demand.  That in itself become a running theme, as you quite literally could not find copies of the game anywhere after those first days.  I remember spending my lunch hours going out to stores that I had not checked to see if I could scrounge up a copy for this or  that guild member who had yet been able to get in.  It was probably a good three months before copies actually became obtainable, and unfortunately a good month before the game was really playable.

I remember spending the next day with my friend and co-worker Vernie leveling a night elf character that I had no intent of ever playing.  We sold every item that dropped all of the purpose of getting that single gold needed to buy a guild charter.  At that time it seemed like an insurmountable amount of money.  By mid-day on the first day we managed to get the money and got all of our friends to create level 1 Gnomes or Dwarves and collected signatures in Coldridge Valley.  By noon House Stalwart was born on Argent Dawn and at launch we had around fifty people that we knew from a combination of the other games we had played in it.  Shortly thereafter we got a charter started on Silverhand and the Burning Scar was born there as well.  Our original plan was to Alliance on Argent Dawn and Horde on Silverhand… the two role-playing servers that were available at launch.  Over time and the inability to get logged into the game… folks self sorted into playing the faction they liked the most, and the vast majority of us ended up in House Stalwart and the Alliance faction.

The Hunter Phase

ailahlodinshiana My intent was to play a tanky paladin, because I had so much fun playing one with my friend in beta.  I would debuff the target against holy damage, and then he would come in and smite the hell out of them.  It made an amazing synergy and was absolutely fun to level together.  The problem being when I installed the game and created Exeter for the first time…  that was the moment I realized they played a last minute bait and switch.  While I was not on voice chat at the time… this predates those days…  I quite literally said a verbal “What the eff” when I wandered around Coldridge Valley I could not figure out what the hell the seal system was doing.  This was strike one against the class.  Strike two was that not long after the launch of the game I had a pretty traumatic death in the family that ended up with me being completely gone for a long period of time.  When I got back everyone had shot ahead of me in level, and quite frankly the paladin just could not solo easily at that point in the game.

As a result I ended up rolling a Dwarven Hunter, Lodin because they could solo phenomenally well and it would allow me to catch up to my friends.  I am just not by nature a hunter, and there is a whole series of time I attempted to play a melee hunter through the use of the survival tree.  Yes I was one of those guys, but it worked well enough to level my way to 60.  Which for reference took me about six months to get there finally.  During Cataclysm I leveled a Worgen Druid from 1 to 85 in less than seven days of actual time, so a lot has changed in both the game and proclivity for grinding up alts.  One of my friends who started in House Stalwart went on to found one of the most prosperous non-guild raids on the server… the Late Night Raiders.  He happened to be in need of a hunter to replace one, and I happened to be interested in raiding having done some of it in Everquest.  As I started getting geared, I felt obligated to play Lodin as my main and keep it in tip top shape for the sake of the raid.  The problem is I never really felt like a hunter, in spite of just how amazing the LNR hunter crew was.  Many of those folks I still talk to on a weekly basis, and even the ones I don’t… it is always a happy occasion when I see them.

Birth of Belghast

belghast_diremaul The problem is that the hunter just didn’t fit my personality, and I had intended on playing a tank when I started World of Warcraft.  Originally the intent was to play Exeter my paladin as defensive, but there were just too many problems at that time with the whole “Seal of Rage” debacle as a way of holding aggro.  A good friend of mine had expressed interest in leveling a priests, and I had wanted to level a warrior… so we decided to go for it and Belghast was born.  The character Belghast originally came form when we were playing Dark Age of Camelot.  He was my Celt Champion and I played the role of dps and occasional off tank.  It felt fitting to recycle the character name, and since Human warriors had both mace and sword specialization I made the choice for aggro generation reasons.  Leveling as a team was awesome, I learned to trust my healer because it allowed me to focus entirely on making things mad at me.  I looked up to the LNR tanks at the time, especially my friends Rakrul and Giulietta and I feel like I learned tanking from the best.

It was not long before I was tanking regularly the LNR “fun” raids like Zul Gurub and AQ20.  When The Burning Crusade expansion launched, I took it as my opportunity to switch to the role I felt more natural playing.  The gear reset was a point of frustration with many in our raid, but for me it was a golden opportunity to switch focus to Belghast and not be years behind the curve.  Switch focus I did, and I got a reputation for being willing to tank for almost anyone that I knew.  I spent my evenings helping folks get the bits and baubles they needed to gear up, and eventually lead a Karazhan run.  While LNR was a casualty of the expansion, I moved into a tanking role with No Such Raid another non-guild based raid on our server.  When it eventually died as well I helped to found the Duranub Raiding Company that stuck around through both Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, ultimately dying off when the changes coming with Cataclysm shifted the focus away from non-guild raiding.

A Fitting End

WoWScrnShot_112314_010544 So there is something fitting that I am back playing World of Warcraft again, and playing Belghast once again.  When I first set foot on Draenor, it was this grand opportunity to finally be a “real tank”, and as I set foot on Draenor again I am feeling overcome with nostalgia.  While I doubt I will be a raid main tank again, I have been enjoying relearning how to tank in World of Warcraft.  There was a time at which I knew all the tricks to keep mobs from doing stupid things, and much of that knowledge has faded away.  However as I enter the phase of tanking Heroics I am looking forward to relearning it all.  There is something sublime about returning to the warrior after tossing him aside with the release of Cataclysm.  Cata was the expansion that killed World of Warcraft for me, and since then I have played for a few months at a time before fading away again.  Maybe playing the character that my name comes from…  will ultimately be a source of revival.

World of Warcraft

For those who might ultimately find this post through means other than my regular readers… during the month of November I have been posting something I am thankful for each day.  Today I have to say that I am very  thankful that World of Warcraft exists, because through it I have met so many awesome people.  If I think about it, there are so many people that I love having in my life that I never would have met were it not for this game.  So many of those people I talk to on a daily basis, and if not daily… weekly or monthly.  My life had been enriched by hundreds upon hundreds of people that I have encountered through this game.  While I have had a complicated relationship with it… going through periods of love and periods of hatred… it is much like a family member now, and I am thankful that it has existed and continues to thrive in its own way.

If you really think about it, this blog would not exist were it not for World of Warcraft.  It originally started as a Warrior Tanking blog devoted to my thoughts about tanking and raiding and over the years has morphed into a blog a bout “me”.  Similarly all of the people that I podcast with weekly, I would never have known were it not for World of Warcraft.  Kodra and Tam were both members of the Late Night Raiders, Ashgar I met as a friend of theirs… ultimately through World of Warcraft, and Rae while she is now a co-worker of mine… I originally met her through raiding.  These are all folks that are extremely important in my life and every single one of them ties a lineage back to this one game.  To take a step further, I likely would have never joined twitter, or google plus, or any of the other social connections I have now… were it not for this game and the blog that I created about it.  I feel like this one game has acted as a fulcrum to enable so many awesome people to meet other awesome people, and if nothing else you have to give your utmost respect to that.  Thank you Blizzard for creating World of Warcraft.

Garrison Resource Drought

The Search for Food

This morning I really did not want to leave the bed.  I was surrounded by warm and fuzzy cats, but as it got later both my wife and myself started to get hungry.  My wife and I are both relatively intelligent individuals, and friends have postulated that we must have really interesting conversations.  That is not entirely the case…  here is a snippet from this morning

Wife:    I’m Hungry
Me:      Me too…  I will go get breakfast.
Me:      I am leaving right now *staying there snuggled into covers*
Wife:   Are you there yet?
Me:      No… its a really long trip, will take awhile
Wife:    It will probably go quicker if you leave the house.
Me:      That is just a theory, there is no scientific evidence of that
Wife:   If we look at the evidence from the last fifteen years, leaving the house points to getting food.
Me:      Maybe the food just shows up on its own?
Me:      Lets test that theory.
Wife:    I’m Hungry

I did in fact have to leave the house to make food show up, but there is still no direct cause and effect evidence… other than the whole I gave someone money and they gave me food in return.  How the food actually arrives at our house is a mystery because I don’t actually remember leaving the store or arriving home.  I do however remember observing the feeding ritual of the cat gods upon arriving at home.  Maybe the cat gods are somehow connected to the acquisition of our food…

Garrison Resource Drought

Wow-64 2014-11-21 22-03-42-712 I may have made some poor choices as to the sustainability of my Garrison, as I have reached a point where I am struggling to get the resources needed to keep developing it.  I finally managed to upgrade to the rank 3 Town Hall yesterday, giving me access to another small, medium and large plot.  Unfortunately I lack the resources to actually fill them.  Right now my Garrison has a t3 Town Hall, t2 Mines, t2 Engineer, t2 Enchanter, t2 Dwarven Bunker, t2 Inn, t1 Garden, t1 Storehouse, t1 Trading Post, and t1 Fishing Shack.  I lack the pets to actually be able to get the Pet Menagerie but at some point I want to actually level some battle pets so I can get that.  I have failed miserably at playing WoWKemon.  It just feels so damned tedious to level your pets past a point.  The one thing that would make everything better is if they would implement XP Sharing like they have in the actual Pokémon these days.

The problem I am running into however is that I am flat struggling to get the resources needed to keep developing my stuff.  I have yet to plunk down a second large building, because I simply lack the resources to do so.  Unfortunately as well… I have basically hit the point I am at by farming down the Garrison Resource caches in the various zones.  Sure there are a few still out there  but I have pretty well gathered all of the low hanging fruit.  The Trading post should help out considerably but right now it keeps requesting herbs… and the only ones I can actually feed it are the ones coming from my Garrison.  My hope is that soon it will want a mining resource, because I seem to have plenty of those.  So I guess my question is… other than Follower missions and the slow and steady tick of resources… is there another in world renewable resource for Garrisons?

Dungeons for Gear

Wow-64 2014-11-21 20-39-07-968 Last night in an attempt to get my last few points of gear needed to hit ilevel 615, and in an attempt to get Rylacus so he could actually do heroics…  We ran several dungeons as a guild.  I believe we ran three but at this point I have lost count.  I know for certain we did the newest incarnation of Upper Blackrock Spire and we did one called the Shadowmoon Burial Grounds.  I was actually pleasantly surprised at just how challenging the level 100 normal dungeons have turned out to be.  Most of the mechanics are arguably pretty cheap, in that they stack dots on the players or drop damned near instant kill piles of stuff on the ground.  All things considered however they were actually really fun.  They are not nearly as good as the dungeon designs in Final Fantasy XIV, but I feel they are considerably better than  the Pandaria dungeons at least.  The reliance on crowd control reminds me more of the order of business during Wrath and Cataclysm, which is a good thing… just not something I am really used to.

It is my nature when I play a warrior to want to charge ahead into the next pack.  Unfortunately I need to give my rogue time to sap things, and I need to get back into the habit of marking crowd control targets.  The other thing I am struggling with is how loosey goosey mob movement is in World of Warcraft.  In FFXIV mob placement is relatively predictable thing.  The mobs move where I want them to… back in WoW I found it absolutely frustrating everytime Zul’jin would iceskate around me.  I am going to have to relearn the tricks I have apparently forgotten for making mobs stop doing stupid shit.  Moving him around felt like having a wobbly shopping cart tied to my waist that I was dragging around with me.  All of this said I look forward to relearning the finer points of fighting with the system and getting it to do what I want it to do.

Drinking Water

This morning I woke up with a horrible cramp in my shin.  At first I attempted to walk it out, but it didn’t seem like it was just going away.  I have always struggled to some extent with dehydration, and muscle cramps are one of those early signs.  So as such I got up and went to the kitchen, grabbed a huge 32 oz glass filled it at the tap and drank it all in one setting.  Within a few moments the cramp seemed to be lessening so I went back to bed.  At which point it struck me, just how lucky I am that I have really good tap water.  In fact I greatly prefer our tap water to bottled water in almost every single case.  Tulsa actually has award winningly good water, and as such we are pretty blessed.  It never really hits me just how rare this is, until I go somewhere else and without thinking try and take a big drink of tap water.

So while it might sound odd to be thankful for it…  I am extremely thankful I can turn on the tap and get something that actually tastes good.  Speaking of which… I think I am going to go fix myself a large glass right now.

Gearing for Heroics

Stutter Gone

DragonAgeInquisition 2014-11-20 19-07-40-672 So as you know over the last several days I have been struggling with Dragon Age Inquisition.  When I initially booted up the game the stuttering was so jarring that it would sound like a record skipping and freeze movement for a fraction of a section… just enough to bring you out of the  game entirely mentally.  Nvidia released and updated driver and this helped the stutter but it was still there, and still just as frustrating to try and play the game with.  Since then I have tried what felt like every possible combination of settings, none of which removing the problem.  That is except for one apparently.  Last night I finally landed on the solution to the problem and the stutter is gone.  For some reason my machine prefers to run games in windowed borderless, this has always been the answer to a performance boost.  I thought I had tried this initially but apparently not… because the moment I shifted things into windowed borderless the hitching went completely away.

DragonAgeInquisition 2014-11-20 19-00-34-952 Now I feel like I can finally play the game in peace and actually experience it.  Unfortunately last night I just was not in the mood for this sort of game and moved on to working on gearing my warrior in World of Warcraft.  That said with the stutter gone the game is a much more enjoyable experience.  There are times the game is absolutely beautiful to behold… I still feel like I need to spend some time tweaking the settings because I had fiddled with almost everything trying to get the game to function…  and now I have a few strange choices picked here and there.  The interface feels a bit cludgy for melee, so it is going to be one of the things that I have to get used to as I play the game.  So far I am not a huge fan of my companions, and even Varrack a character I really enjoyed in Dragon Age 2 is getting on my nerves.  I think maybe I just need to put this game aside and let the frustration from the back and forth with settings fade before I attempt to play it again.

Gearing for Heroics

Wow-64 2014-11-21 06-29-01-629 Last night I had two goals… one of which fell by the wayside.  I figured there was no real point in attempting the silver proving again until I actually had the gear level to matter.  So as a result I crawled through the wowhead item listings and made an effort to complete every single quest in Nagrand that had even the slimmest chance of dropping something that would improve my ilevel.  Additionally I poured the rare spawn and treasure drops to find anything that might give me a little boost.  I also spent some time pouring over the auction house, which was as I would expect completely insanely overpriced for what was actually available.  After hours of painstakingly trying to incrementally improve my gear score I was sitting at 609.  One stinking point away from heroics.

Wow-64 2014-11-20 23-17-57-827My friend Damai asked me to do a weapon enchant for him, we ended up partied as he started pulling together a group to try and help Rylacus get some gear.  A bit later I found myself tanking Skyreach since that had the lowest ilevel requirements, and the only one we were able to queue with Ry.  It turns out there are two quartermasters in the Ashran Town Hall, each of which sell 615 trinkets, and both of which bumped me up just enough to get over the 610 heroic gear requirement.  Running Skyreach however also allowed me to start my Legendary ring quest chain, rewarding me a 640 ilevel tanky ring that was almost twice as good as my previous best item.  Now it is just down to me getting through my silver proving, so that I can be ready to tank heroics for the guild.  I don’t have a lot of fear because I made it through seven of eight rounds last time, and it was really only because I got tunnel vision and stopped paying attention to my own health that I actually failed the first time.  I have gotten quite a bit more gear since that point… so hopefully tonight I can knock that out first thing.

WoW Anniversary

Wow-64 2014-11-21 06-38-34-619 This morning the WoW Anniversary content officially began, but if I am remembering correctly… the actual launch date was November 23rd.  I remember being frustrated that it was right before the Thanksgiving Holiday… which would mean I would be tied up with family and such.  A decade ago I had so many houses to visit on thanksgiving that it lent itself to being a a crazy all day occasion.  We would start early in the morning and travel throughout the day, and then repeating the process to a lesser extent on Saturday.  Its funny how things change in a decade, because now we only have a single house to go to, as everything is happening around the noon meal.  When I logged in this morning I had a Molten Corgi pet waiting on me in my mailbox.  I find it odd how Corgis have become such a video gaming mascot.  The game Rift has at least half a dozen different Corgi pets in game for example.

The primary reason why I have been pushing to gear up so quickly… is that this coming Tuesday we are planning to run the Molten Core LFR as a guild, or as close to “as a guild” as we can realistically get for a 40 man.  The LFR itself will have an ilevel requirement of 615 and completing the event will reward you a helm appropriate for your main spec so for plate it would be something resembling this one.  Completing the event also earns you a Core Hound mount, which looks really cool.  Then there are a few items that have a chance of dropping like a doodad that embues any weapon with the Flames of Ragnaros effect… at least cosmetically.  I guess with this expansion they have made it so you can transmog over enchantment effects, which is cool because some enchants look way better than others.  Basically I want to be  able to participate in all of the Reindeer games… and Damai was gracious enough to move it to Tuesday after telling him that Monday was the FFXIV raid night.

Gladiator’s Resolve

This is absolutely the hardest part of any blog post this month, is to come up with something new that I have not already talked about on the preceding 20 days.  As we near the end of the month I am pretty much going to be grasping at straws here, but I feel committed to carry out the experiment.  Since this morning I am talking about World of Warcraft, I want to say how happy I am to have the Gladiator’s Resolve talent.  Essentially for those who do not know what it does… it replaces battle stance for protection warriors, giving them a brand new gladiator stance.  When in that stance you lose the innate  survival and threat generation benefits of defensive stance… but gain a 20% damage increase.  Essentially this makes you sword and board dps, and from what I have seen in my own tests I deal a TON of damage.

This is essentially what I have wanted the entire time I have played MMOs… to be able to effectively dps while using a sword and shield.  I like the iconic look of the sword and board warrior, and while two handers are cool… they never really fit my personal style.  I used to get frustrated that games would always make shields being entirely about defense… when in real life shields have always been extremely effective weapons.  Now that I have this option…  I actually want to try pvp in Ashran.  In the past warrior pvp for me at least felt impotent, because I couldn’t be the badass heavily armored tank that I was in the dungeons.  This one talent I think changes that.  I am still extremely sturdy, and still have access to all of my protection trickery…  but this time around I can simply deal some damage with my shield as well as my sword.  So this morning I am thankful for someone finally giving me this talent, it makes me extremely happy.

Level 100

Feeling More Human

mucinexfastmax This morning I am still not feeling amazing, but I am doing sizably better than I was yesterday.  At least I feel marginally human now instead of a walking malady.  This is mostly due to my wife and her being able to tell me what to do… and actually have me do it.  I have been feeling lousy for a bit over a week, and yesterday she exclaimed “you have to call the doctor” and then she relented and gave me a secondary line of action “or at least get some mucinex”.  I called the doctors office and unsurprisingly (because I waited until like 9:30 to do so) they were already booked up for the day, and said that they would call me back if there were any openings.  So in the meantime I got dressed and ready and went to Walgreens around the corner from the house.  Mucinex is something that the doctor has suggested I take, so I was no stranger to it.

Actually there are many times I have had success taking a one two punch of Mucienx and Tylenol Cold and Flu to clear various issues up.  It turns out that in the constantly rush to get more products to market, Mucinex has created just this thing.  Granted you have to take it every four hours for optimal relief…  but in any case the stuff is pretty miraculous.  Within a few hours of taking it I was already feeling noticeably better and all the gunk in my chest clearing up.  Granted it still has the nasty taste going down that Mucinex always does however the drug lives up to its claims, and I think I just found a new go to for these situations.  This gentlemen is why we need wives… I was more than willing to muddle through without doing much to fix the root problem.  My wife however got tired of me moping around and told me to do something about it.  Apparently there are in fact times where I “don’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain”.

Level 100

Wow-64 2014-11-19 16-25-15-664 Yesterday I spoke about having a dilemma of whether or not to do Spires of Arak or just jump straight into Nagrand.  Having done a little of both, I can clearly say that there are definitely some story elements and quests that make Spires of Arak worth the hassle.  That said it is also the new Bladesedge Mountains, in that the terrain is a pain in the ass to move around and the quests are scattered all over the zone in small pockets.  If you are wanting to jump straight into being dungeon ready however, I highly suggest going to Nagrand as soon as possible.  While I was able to bump up my ilevel a bit in Spires, I did not actually hit the 600 normal mode dungeon target until I reached Nagrand and spent a bit of time questing there.  As of last night I was able to push my ilevel to 603 inching me closer to the heroic starting point of 610.  I completely bronze proving grounds and made it to round 7 of silver until I screwed up and did not actually pay attention to my own health.  Hopefully tonight I can knock out silver proving grounds and maybe bump my ilevel a bit more with questing or dungeons.

Wow-64 2014-11-19 17-55-01-340 Among the strangest quests that I completed was one for a little Goblin kid wanting you to retrieve his “treasure”.  It turns out the kid is a perv and you are essentially recovering a calendar of goblin pin-up girls.  I had to stop and take a screenshot when the big reveal happened.  Sure I found it funny, but also at the same time super cringe worthy.  I mean I get the humor in it, but just like the Granok bed in Wildstar… it feels a bit over the top for something so casually slipped in there.  Throughout the night as various other members got to the quest you would see comments in guild chat like “Did I just retrieve a Goblin nudie mag?”.  Yes… yes we did.  What I found surprising is just how at home Nagrand still feels.  This was my favorite zone in Burning Crusade, and for the most part they managed to get the look and feel just right… even without the floating rocks.  Ultimately that has been the payoff with this expansion for me, being able to see things before everything fell apart.  Burning Crusade was a really important expansion for me, and because of it I have so many fond memories that just keep getting refreshed as I do this content.

Nostalgia Bomb

Wow-64 2014-11-19 15-44-40-801 I can’t really judge clearly how good the content in Warlords of Draenor actually is, because I cannot peel away the shiny coat of nostalgia long enough to actually evaluate it with a clear mind.  We ultimate are an accumulation of our memories and emotions… and this expansion is managing to bring all of those down to bear upon me.  Will the magic fade?  Almost certainly it will, and probably quicker than it came on in the first place.  At that point I will be able to see the flaws where they stand, but for the time being I am doing what I hope to do in any game…  have fun.  Ultimately this game was designed for me, and my play style specifically.  There is tons of super dense content, and even though it is content with a little c…  it is still cool objectives.  There seems to be an endless array of little doodads to find in the world, and interesting named mobs to kill that drop interesting treasures.  Thankfully I chose to level my disenchanter first, because this has been an amazing source of shards for my future enchanting endeavors.

Wow-64 2014-11-20 06-52-43-421Speaking of Enchanting… it seems exceptionally expensive this time around.  Enchanting work orders give temporal shards… which you then turn around and use 10 of at a time to get a temporal crystal.  I finally saved up enough daily tokens to purchase a “real” enchant, and I did so to grab the one that looks to be the new go to for tanking.  As you can see it costs 15 Temporal Crystals and 10 Sorcerous Earth.  Far as I know I have yet to actually get any Sorcerous Earth, but it seems to be a random drop when disenchanting or mining.  Thankfully I do seem to be getting plenty of primal spirits that I can then trade for the materials I actually need with a vendor on my garrison.  In any case folks will not be handing these enchants out willy nilly, because that is a lot of resources to pour into a single weapon enchant.  For the time being I have the comparatively extremely cheap  Mark of the Shattered Hand enchant, just to have something on my weapon.

Wow-64 2014-11-20 06-52-56-426 Unfortunately engineering is an equally time consuming boondoggle, mostly because I was not really paying attention and didn’t realize that I had two daily cool downs this expansion instead of just the one.  This means that I have gotten a slow start on getting my tanking helm.  As of this morning I am 40 parts into my 100 total needed.  That is in part because I only just started doing the more expensive 4 parts a day cooldown.  I am running the maximum number of work orders allowable but unfortunately my engineer follower is not quite 100, so I can’t start getting double parts just yet.  In any case it will still be awhile before I get my tanking helm, let along actually have the materials to seriously level engineering, though with the rank 2 mines I am starting to get enough spare bits to keep both cool downs and work orders in the black.  I just forsee that I have a lot more daily cooldowns ahead of me before I can start doing interesting things with crafting.

Coffee

As a child one of the movies had a massive impact on me was Dune.  I remember watching it in elementary school and being enthralled by the fact that the book was co complicated that it needed its own glossary of terms.  I remember reading over the glossary, memorizing details of it… long before actually being able to struggle through the epic prose contained in the front part of the book.  Since I watched the David Lynch movie first, before reading the book… I will always have certain visuals in my head associated with things.  One of the things that stuck with me that was a complete fabrication of the Lynch movies… was the mantra that the Mentat Piter De Vries chants before taking Sapho juice.

It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.

There is a little voice inside of me that says this every single time I drink a cup of coffee.  I will always be enamored by the near instant quickening effect coffee has.  I feel like a Mentat gaining focus when I sip a cup.  Maybe this is the effect of the caffeine, or maybe this is just something I have built up for myself by making a little ritual of it in my head.  In any case it is a magical thing.  Energy drinks have a similar effect, because I think in part I have moved this same pseudo religious ritual over to them as well.  Either by trick of my own mind, or by actual chemical effect… I am thankful that I live in a world where coffee exists and can do magical things.

Talador Completed

Frustrating Stutters

DragonAgeInquisition 2014-11-17 23-05-09-482 This morning I am feeling relatively miserable.  In truth I have felt extremely lousy since mid way through last week.  The hacking and coughing and clearing of my throat just wears me out, and as a result of all of it my lungs are extremely pissed off at me.  That said since the weather outside is brutal with lows in the teens each morning… I am perfectly content to stay bundled up inside.  Yesterday it was my hope that I would be playing Dragon Age Inquisition, but even with a driver update there are still some issues.  The issue I am having is that the game will quite literally be running at a locked 60 frames per second… then all the sudden it will freeze for a moment causing everything to stutter including the audio…  then resume back at 60 frames per second as though nothing happened.  The game is still playable, but extremely annoying since this seems to happy about once a minute.

The most frustrating thing is that it doesn’t seem to be settings related.  I have dialed down the game to extremely low settings and the hitching still occurs.  This means that essentially I am not able to join in any reindeer games for the time being.  My hope is that an early patch will either come out for the game, or another updated Nvidia driver that resolves the issue.  If it is not fixed by this weekend however I am likely to just such it up and deal with the pauses.  The game itself, what little I have seen of it…  seems really cool.  Overall it feels far more like Dragon Age 2 than it does Dragon Age: Origins…  which itself is a mixed bag.  I wish my character had been silent, because it doesn’t really feel like my character at all… when there is a voice talking instead of me.  That is just one of my personal quirks however, but I figure most people prefer to have a voice acted character.  Ultimately when I play games like this it is all about the big damned hero fantasy, and saving the kingdom…  not the narrative of the actual characters.

Talador Completed

Wow-64 2014-11-18 18-59-52-329 First off I have to say that I love this screenshot.  It does not give away any details about the quest chains in Talador other than the fact that Blackhand is involved.  However if you have completed the quest chains in the zone you know exactly what this screenshot is from.  In any case I am happy that I managed to catch it at just the right moment.  Yesterday I was contemplating just completely skipping the quests in Talador to move forward into Spires of Arak.  My friend Rylacus begged me not to do this, because there was a moment in the game  that I just had to see.  Thankfully I followed his advice and man…  that zone was freaking amazing.  Granted there was a lot of faffing about in that zone unrelated to anything…  but the four chapters were all excellent.  Terran Gregory and team have don an amazing job with the cinematics in this expansion…  and I am constantly floored at how nice everything looks.  When one of these scenes cuts in… it manages to make me forget this is a decade old game.

Wow-64 2014-11-18 19-12-45-733 Now I have another dilemma to decide.  Once again I am at the breakpoint of a new zone, as last night I managed to ding 98.  I have all of the precursors leading into Nagrand, or I could go start the Spires of Arak.  In either case it will ding me, but Nagrand will actually give me gear that I need to get into normals and heroics. That said… so far each of the zones has provided important bits of the puzzle letting me understand more of the expansion as a whole.  The Spires however are the zone that everyone seems to think drags a bit… and just in the look of it, it reminds me so much of Blades Edge mountains… which had massive pacing problems thanks to the horrible terrain.  Part of me wants to jump straight to Nagrand, since it was my favorite zone in Burning Crusade.  However the other part of me realizes that if I don’t do Spires of Arak while it is relevant… I will never likely go back and do it because the terrain looks frustrating.  At this point I am just not sure which direction I am going to go…  but in any case I am only two levels away from 100.

An Excellent Moment

ffxiv 2014-11-17 18-29-06-953 I’ve talked at length about just how phenomenal the Final Fantasy XIV community is, but when I have concrete examples I still feel like I need to share them.  Monday before our 8 man raids, I was attempting to cap out my poetics earned for the week, and as such decided to run a completely random expert roulette.  Now I queued as DPS, and was shocked at just how fast the queue actually managed to go.  We got into the instances and everyone said hello as is  the FFXIV custom, and then some actual chatter started up.  Things seemed to be going smoothly but within a few minutes the healer asked us if we were experiencing any lag.  I was not but as the run progressed I started to see small bits of it with my actions.  However I have totally seen times where even among our little circle of friends… one of us was experiencing some crushing lag.. and everyone else was just fine.  During a pull the healer disconnected and the ninja and I managed to hold out just long enough after the tank died to finish off the pack.

Now were this any other online game, when the healer got back… they would have been chewed out by the players and called horrible for having a “bad” internet connection.  I’ve seen that play out many times in the past in several different games.  However in Final Fantasy XIV the healer came back, apologized and the general consensus of comments from the  group was “stuff happens” and “thanks for trying”.  As the run progressed the were several moments where the healer lagged out of disconnected, often times causing the tank to die.  In every single time  the tank took it with grace and thanks the healer for fighting through the issues so we could keep going.  Upon completing the run everyone thanked the healer for valiantly “sticking it out” and I am certain that I was not the only person to give her my commendations.  She sounded thoroughly frustrated by the events, but every player in the instance was supportive of her situation.  What other game have you ever seen where that happens?

Awesome Boss

This morning I am thankful for an awesome boss.  As I write this… I am feeling absolutely horrible, and have sent my boss an email saying that I would not be in today.  That I would be taking the day and resting.  I’ve had bosses in the past that would have had a problem with this, bosses that the only thing that mattered was that I was sitting at my desk during the hours of 8 to 5.  I am very fortunate to have a boss that is more family than administration.  Prior to this current environment it had been a very long time since I had anything resembling a work family.  Maybe it was the fact that my first environment straight out of college was so close knit, but it essentially spoiled me for other places I worked.   While I still feel close to a lot of the people I have worked with over the years…  in part it was either through shared interests or shared struggle in horrible situations.  This team that I am part of now…  I feel like I belong to something bigger than myself and it is entirely thanks to the support of our boss.

Previously we were a group of self starters, and functioned well as independent islands more or less left along by every boss we had been under.  Our current boss was a member of that team, and saw the disconnectedness of the group as a whole as something of a challenge.  Over the last several years he has worked to bring us all closer together, and as such make us mesh more tightly.  I know that I can go to any one of my team members with a problem and they will do everything in their power to fix it, and they know the same is true for me.  Its the stupid little things like bringing a cake to our staff meeting on the months we have a birthday, or going out to see a movie together as an after hours team building activity.  All of which by themselves are silly or minor…  but adding up to be an awesome environment to work in.  So I am thankful I have such a great environment to call my work home.

A Tale of Three Games

Cold Snap

ffxiv 2014-11-17 21-15-23-635 Our Final Fantasy XIV group has ended up taking about a month long break following the launch of the 2.4 patch.  For various reasons we have not rallied the troops on Tuesday nights, and as such we have opted to move our group content night.  Tuesday has turned out to be just as bad a day to do anything serious as it was in every other MMO.  For some reason it seems that Final Fantasy XIV patches more often than not late Monday night leading into Tuesday morning.  This means along with the normal weekly reset we are often times dealing with marginally unstable servers.  Since Monday tends to be a night where most folks focus on getting the last poetics needed to cap for the week, we figured it was also a relatively low volume raid night.  So going forward we are going to try and pull together 8 man group content Monday nights with whomever we can muster at the time.

ffxiv 2014-11-17 21-53-20-145Often times who we have available will dictate what we can do.  Last night we started off with Shiva Hard Mode, since most of us had not actually completed it.  I have to say the fight was rather enjoyable, and it was kinda like a strange mishmash of titan and ifrit.  It took us a couple of tries to see all the mechanics and then we straight stomped her.  Granted this is just a hard mode and we are used to mostly attempting extremes.  After that we went back and did Garuda Extreme again, because there was at least one member of the party who had not completed it.  Traditionally we would be working on Titan Extreme, but it was good to go back and see that we could in fact repeat our victory.  Granted it had been well over a month since we had last done the fight, and as such all of us were a bit rusty.  However after a few wipes we nailed it like we actually knew what we were doing.  Hopefully by next week everyone will have unlocked Ultros so we can take that on as a group, and this should have keyed most everyone for Garuda… so we can make attempts on Titan Extreme again.

To Skip or Not to Skip

Wow-64 2014-11-18 06-15-39-104After our group broke apart in Final Fantasy XIV I opted to poke my head into World of Warcraft and see what mayhem I could cause.  I apparently was significantly closer to 96 than I realized, because upon entering the game and beginning work again on the Gorgrond content…  I dinged within doing a few of the bonus areas.  I still have a handful of bonus content areas to complete, but now this gives me a dilemma.   I am at an ideal point to transition to the new zone that unlocked at 96… Spires of Arak.  The problem being I have yet to do anything at all in Talador other than set up my garrison outpost.  It looks like a really cool zone…  but I am wondering if doing it will basically screw me for getting into normal mode dungeons.  The problem that I ran into with Pandaria is that I leveled significantly quicker than the content would normally allow… and this means that I ended up needing to skip entire zones in the process.  Normally I would keep plugging on, but I would really like to be available for at least a normal mode tank when I reach 100.  The gear level that I came into the expansion with is just not going to hold long enough for me to do meaningful content.

It was my experience in Pandaria that if you could get into Townlong Steppes and Dreadwastes at the level cap to enter them… you could end up getting enough gear upgrades from questing that you were more than ready to set foot into normals… and quite possibly you were within an upgrade or two away from being able to do heroics.  I guess in theory I could keep plugging away at Talador and simply finish all the content in the game before worrying about doing dungeons.  Ultimately I do want to finish the content, because this expansion actually has a storyline that I care about for once.  I guess my only desire to rush to 100 is so that I can get in on the initial wave of folks needing to run dungeons.  While tanking for strangers was not as bad of an experience as I had expected…  I feel like once everyone hits cap that experience will degrade significantly.  Ultimately I will need to make a decision and move forward.  Right now I am leaning heavily towards just skipping Talador entirely for the moment and diving into the Spire of Arak for maximum upgrade potential.

A Tale of Three Games

DragonAgeInquisition 2014-11-17 23-23-02-356 At midnight of last night another game launched that will be fighting for my attention, or significantly earlier than midnight if you know how to use a VPN to cause yourself to show up as another region.  This once again is proof positive that region lockouts are dumb, because they are so painfully easy to circumvent if you really want to.  I however did not care enough to do this, and my Monday night was already pretty full so I just waited until 11pm my time to get in and play the game.  Dragon Age: Inquisition is a game with so many hopes wrapped up in it, that can either be booned or bashed within the first few hours of game play.  Will this game return to Dragon Age: Origin style game play, or will it be more akin to Dragon Age 2.  Quite honestly I don’t have an answer for you yet because I just have not seen enough of the game.

I am however already questioning my choices, and thinking that maybe I should not have gone sword and board tanky.  The game unfortunately gives you a tank for your very first character, and while I have not even completely the introduction… I am already having flashbacks of trying to make two tanks work to keep Alistair in my party.  The description mentions having proficiency with a two hander as well, so hopefully one of us can equip one of those and be done with it.  Quite honestly the game felt a little sluggish, but I think maybe I had something installing in the background when I made my attempt to play it.  For whatever reason it seemed to run silky smooth.. and then absolutely thrash the hard drive every so often without much rhyme or reason as to why.  My hope was that it was just a background process thing… and not the game doing something dumb like trying to dial into the dragon age servers periodically.  The game took a significant time to load… which I do think we can probably blame on busy servers as everyone was trying to launch the client at exactly midnight.  Hopefully as the week goes on, I will have more to report on it… other than it exists.

My Cousin

No matter how smoothly this Thanksgiving goes… it was going to be a rough one regardless.  This is going to be the first dinner without my grandmother, who has been such a fixed point and an anchor in our family.  She represents that last in a long line of degrading family events that pretty much means all of the normality that I grew up with as far as family and holidays goes is gone.  When my grandmother on my fathers side passed away, those meals just stopped in any semblance of order.  We would say that we would try and get together, but ultimately we each made a quick visit in private to my grandfather… and that reason for maybe passing each other in the drive way even left when he passed away.  Similarly with my wife’s family… when he step dad passed away the era of having big family meals went away… and folks opted to break apart into much smaller units.  The last bastion of the big family get together was my Grandmother on my mothers side… and this past year she passed away.  Predictably holiday plans have been non functional.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, because it is one of the last pure ones.  Sure the day after thanksgiving is this black mass to consumerism… but thanksgiving day itself has remained relatively pristine.  It was a day about getting together and having a meal with your family, and that mission was just simple enough to stay pretty true to its original goal.  There is something about sharing a meal with friends and family that is just special to me… and for years I tried to convince my family to turn Christmas into Thanksgiving 2.0… where we just got together and shared conversation and food… and forgot the presents.  My grandmothers house was this focal point of all of the family activity.  She was such a strong matriarch and she is as much a reason for why I am the person I am… as anyone in my life is.  I spent the majority of my childhood at her house, with her as my companion and friend.  So this Thanksgiving was always going to be a hard one, no matter what happened.

The interesting thing that I have noted as we have gone through a series of recent funerals is how well my generation seems to get along with one another.  When my grandmother passed away, I stayed long after most of the folks had left just talking to my cousins.  My generation just does not fit into our family as a whole… we went out into the world and for the most part all did something with our lives beyond the boundaries of the small town my family hails from.  The other day my wife was lamenting how strange Thanksgiving would be without my grandmother on facebook, and at this one of my cousins announced that she was intending to invite us to have the meal with them.  Apparently she had gone through the same malaise and similarly they had a few deaths in their family that pretty much ended up with the holiday decimated.  So as such here we go trying to start our own new traditions.  Hopefully Thanksgiving will go smoothly, but in any case it will be better than spending it without family.