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.

Yrel Is Awesome

The Weather Outside…

This morning I am going to try really hard to keep my blog post somewhat brief because I have weather to deal with outside.  Throughout the day yesterday it kept snowing and while the ground temperature was too warm to cause it to stick permanently to the ground, it has managed to coat every other surface…  like our vehicles.  So before this morning is up, after I finish up my blog post I am going to have to go out there and deal with the mess.  I am not looking forward to it, because last I checked the temperature and the wind were both still insane.  As a denizen of Oklahoma I find it far easier to deal with warm temperatures in excess of 110 than freezing temperatures.  So yesterday when it was in the 20s with an insane windchill…  I was not a happy camper.

In fact I got out yesterday morning to get breakfast, and then did not leave the house at all once the weather started in more insanely.  I had a grand old time hibernating either in my office under a blanket or downstairs on the new laptop…  under and even larger fuzzier blanket.  This combined with the fact that I seemed to have at least one cat on me at any given time kept me fairly toasty warm, or at least toasty in the ways that counted.  Unfortunately today I will have to brave the cold and head out into the world.  I am absolutely not looking forward to the commute now that there is “ice” on the road ways… because even the potential mention of it causes folks to drive insane.  The biggest thing I am not looking forward to is waiting on my jeep to thaw out this morning and melt some of the snow.

Yrel Is Awesome

Wow-64 2014-11-15 19-59-23-074 So far one of my favorite parts about the Warlords of Draenor expansion is the character of Yrel.  In part because she evolves along with your hero through the course of the game.  For an alliance player she is the person driving the narrative forward, and many times your partner in the thick of the battle.  What makes the character interesting is you watch her evolve over the course of the content from a very frightened Draenei who does not believe in herself and her abilities.  Over the course of the storyline there is a key moment where you try and bolster her spirit, and from that point onwards she evolves.  With each trip into battle she becomes more and more of a badass.  So while in the above screenshot she looks a bit doe eyed…  that quickly changes into a woman of determination and strength.

I don’t think the experience of exploring Draenor would be nearly as interesting to me were it not constantly moved forward by interactions with Yrel.  When the early cinematics were released I assumed this game from an alliance players perspective would be all about Maraad and his returning to his home land.  While I like the character of Maraad just fine, I feel like they made the right choice to switch focus and center the story on the much more interesting Yrel.  The thing the Warcraft universe needs more than anything are some strong female characters that play center stage, and not supporting characters.  Yrel so far does a really good job of being that sort of character.  Terran Gregory and team have done an amazing job with the in game cinematics, in making this entire experience feel so much more movie like.

Taking it Slow

Wow-64 2014-11-16 18-19-24-679 At this point I am trying to stop and smell the roses whenever I have the chance.  While the list of level 100 characters keeps increasing in guild, and the call of high level content is there…  I am trying to take it slowly.  That said the game seems to be conspiring against me, in that I am level 95 and have yet to make it out of Gorgrond.  There are just so many things to see and do in the landscape and my compulsion to completely every quest, kill every rare mob and gather every treasure…  is ending up leveling me more swiftly than I had expected.  I remember having the same basic feeling when I was leveling in Pandaria the first time as well.  The only negative is that my desire not to skip content means I am going to have to do a lot of questing at maximum level to attempt to gear myself.  The problem I ran into with Pandaria is that in order to get into the dungeons you really needed that quest gear from Townlong Steppes and Dreadwastes.  At this point I will ding 100 well before I have set foot in any of the later zones, so I am likely setting myself up for the same issues.

Wow-64 2014-11-16 12-46-14-985 Thanks to Final Fantasy XIV… I did something I never thought I would do in World of Warcraft.  Yesterday afternoon I queued as a tank for a random dungeon… in fact I ran two of them back to back.  Overall the experience was not nearly as bad as I would have expected it.  Sure I had one jackass in the first run that laughed at us as we wiped to something… but the majority of the time it went nice and smoothly.  Equally shocking was the fact that apparently Warrior tanking is a muscle memory task because I could still do it instinctively.  Granted I set up my hot bars much the same way as I have always set them up for years.  My fingers seemed to know precisely what to do at the right time, and honestly I found it an easier experience than tanking with a Deathknight.  It felt natural, and as the dungeons ran on I started doing things a lot more confidently.  Maybe the warrior tank inside of me really still is there, and was just waiting to come out again.  I look forward to ping ponging around dungeons with charge as the role begins to feel more natural.  Essentially Belghast Warrior tanking is open for business… and if you need a tank holler.

House Stalwart

This morning I am thankful that House Stalwart in World of Warcraft on the Argent Dawn server… continues to exist in spite of me.  While I founded the guild back in 2004, it has been years since I have controlled the destiny of this plucky guild.  In fact there are many times that I have actively tried to recruit players away from World of Warcraft into other games.  In spite of my constant attempts and my white panel van full of candy…  the guild still exists as strong as it ever was.  Over the last few nights we have had almost 30 people online, which is pretty damned good for a guild in a game that had been in a state of decline.  While I set the motions into action that started the guild and gathered people there… it is the people themselves that keep it going.  Every so often I will take back the reigns of the guild, and do a few tweaks here and there, but largely it is the people themselves that have kept the ship moving forward.

I also want to thank my good friend Rylacus.  He claims that he is just a “Bel Proxy”, but he has been all too gracious about wearing the crown when I am not around.  He provides the guild a sense of stability that I have not been able to since the launch of Cataclysm.  He is as much guild mascot as he is guild leader, and I appreciate the effort he has put into it.  He is also really damned good at denying my candy, as I have only ever gotten him to follow me into one other game.  He is all about his characters in World of Warcraft and the progress he has made with them.  Since both he and his kids play the game, he is as firmly rooted in it as anyone I know.  He still keeps trying to give me back the crown, but his willingness to wear it means so much to me.  He keeps things moving forward and makes sure the train never completely derails.  It has taken me awhile to reach a point of accepting that the House Stalwart that exists today is not the House Stalwart I created…  but is in no way less awesome or less interesting.  The guild has evolved beyond being a cult of personality dedicated to its leader, and has become a chain reaction that sustains itself.  I am thankful to no longer be needed to keep the fire going.

Sell Me on Warlords

AggroChat 31 – Endless Legend of Draenor

Last night we recorded yet another episode of AggroChat, and I was joined by Ashgar, Kodra and Tam.  Still no signs of Rae, but she has been absent in a lot of things lately.  I think she is just going through one of those periods of seclusion, that I occasionally find myself in.  I went into last night not thinking we had a whole lot to talk about, but once again we managed to ramble on for an entire show.  This week Ashgar, Kodra and Tam have been spending some time playing Endless Legend a relatively new 4X game that spawned from a rather steam early access program.  From what it sounds like it is a really interesting take on the traditional civilization game model.  Throughout the discussion it reminded me in no small part to Age of Wonders but with more original fantasy race combinations.

Thanks to a sale on Steam Tam delved into the rather critically acclaimed Shadows of Mordor.  When I originally saw the trailer I thought… “man this is a Tam game”.  He loves all things stealthy, and by the same token I thought “man this is not a Bel game”.  At least the second part of that statement might have been wrong.  It sounds like there is plenty of carnage and mayhem, and a super interesting nemesis system to keep players busy.  Essentially if I could manage to struggle through the stealthy bits, there is probably a really enjoyable game there waiting.  One of the cooler ideas is that apparently your friends nemesis characters… will join your game and hunt you down too.  So in  theory you could unleash some living nightmares on your friends if you end up letting them level up too much.

Finally I delve into the topic of Warlords of Draenor and my return to the game.  I still stand by my original statement that if you have no interest in World of Warcraft, this expansion will do little to change that.  However if you are like me and still have at least a passing interesting in the game, or have a huge vault of nostalgia towards the Burning Crusade era…  this is going to be like crack.  Right now I am finding the game extremely interesting, and we ramble on talking about it at length.  So while I thought we didn’t have a whole lot to talk about, it turned out as the night went on that we still managed to fill up a show full of verbal faffing.

Burning Crusade Nostalgia

Wow-64 2014-11-15 20-00-32-716 One of the points we landed on last night that I find extremely interesting might also be the reason why I am enjoying this expansion, but I don’t feel like someone like Tam would.  Ultimately I think it depends on how you felt about your experience in Burning Crusade as a whole.  For me Burning Crusade was really the expansion where I came into my own as a player, and became “Belghast”.  I started my WoW raiding life as a Hunter, but that was a class I had never actually intended on playing.  Originally I wanted to play a tanky paladin, but the bait and switch when they replaced the strike system with the seal system… and the fact that at low levels paladins were frustratingly slow to level solo caused some problems.  I had a death in the family shortly after the launch of the game, and when I came back most of my friends had shot far ahead of me, leaving me to have to solo almost entirely.

At that point the Hunter was the king of soloing all things, and as such I picked it up and caught up to my friends rather quickly.  I can’t say I disliked playing Lodin my hunter, but it just wasn’t the class I had ever intended or imagined myself playing.  Then one thing lead to another, and a good friend needed a hunter for his raid… and bam I ended up becoming a raiding hunter.  I loved the Late Night Raiders group of hunters, and many of them I am still close with even today.  However i never really excelled as a hunter, because my heart was not fully into it.  I could do better than average damage, and had decent enough reflexes and was reliable as part of a rotation…  but I had no passion for it, at least not the way the other hunters did.  However as I started accepting gear from the raid, I felt bound by loyalty to keep playing that character as long as they needed me.

The Raid Crash

lnrmountbattle With the launch of Burning Crusade it was this great reset button, and I seized the opportunity with both hands.  I half heartedly tried to level Lodin at first, but quickly found myself exclusively playing Belghast my protection warrior, and became a much needed tank as we all leveled up.  The Burning Crusade could be thought of as the great raid killer, because all of the changes… all of the moving characters around and dropping the standard raid size from 40 to 25 man ultimately was the final blow to many raids on our server that had only been limping along for some time.  Here is where the perspective comes in because while I was just an admittedly well liked member of the raid…  Tam was one of the leaders of it.  So while I viewed everything as this grand opportunity to do the things I had always wanted to be doing…  his viewpoint had to be decidedly different.  I know when my second raid “No Such Raid” fell apart around me it took a lot of our me personally.  I had that raid dumped in my lap, and with the figurehead in its cult of personality gone… there was really no amount of duct tape to keep the ship afloat.

So while I personally view Burning Crusade as this expansion where I got to finally move into the role  that I had been designed for…  others might not have quite the hopefulness that I did.  I remember when the expansion hit, there were a lot of raid members that were frustrated by the gear reset.  In fact they were down right mad that all of this work that they went through and effort they put into getting just the right items…  was to be immediately erased the moment they stepped foot into Hellfire Peninsula.  Expansion are the great equalizers… they give players the opportunity to shift focus, and pick up something that they had always wanted to play but were never given the chance to.  With the launch of Warlords of Draenor I am doing just that myself.  I felt it was fitting for me to be setting aside my Deathknight and once again taking up the mantle of Protection Warrior.

Sell Me on Warlords

WoWScrnShot_111414_183551 Last night during the course of the podcast, Tam uttered the words above..  “Sell Me on Warlords”.  In truth I couldn’t nor would I really want to.  Warlords of Draenor is more of the same, with a prettier coat of paint and some nifty casual friendly features like the Garrison.  I feel this is an expansion that only those who still begrudgingly feel love for World of Warcraft in their hearts should ever try and play.  The game has some serious shortcomings still as compared to more modern MMOs.  It pisses me off on an almost nightly basis that it doesn’t have a mentoring system, nor does it have a content scaling system for dungeon runs.  I greatly prefer that Final Fantasy XIV sizes down the players to fit the dungeon, so that there is never a case where you straight up roflstomp the content.  This came up the other night when Zeli and Jabberant started characters and used their boost to 90 to create them on Argent Dawn.  Jab asked if there was a way to go back and experience the old dungeon content… and sadly unless you mean by soloing with great ease… the answer is a resounding no.

So I can’t really sell Warlords as the next best thing since sliced bread.  I still think that functionally Final Fantasy XIV is a better game.  That said I am happy that I don’t really have to make the choice between them,  In fact I have been extremely thankful to have FFXIV that I am still deeply connected to as Argent Dawn has burned down around me.  What Warlords represents is a game with the charm and grace of any Blizzard title.  The recent performance issues still do not degrade the fact that the game is extremely well crafted.  At the end of the day it is an old game, with a fresh coat of paint…  but it is a very enjoyable game still.  The content itself I am finding more enjoyable, because they took the lessoned learned with the Timeless Isle and extended them out to the world as a whole.  There is so much to see and find, and so many neat rare mobs to take out along the way.  It is like they gave me carefully crafted crack just for me… because I love getting interesting loot and killing interesting things.  If you hold a special place in your heart for Draenor… it might be a worthwhile time to return as well.  At this point I still have not actually renewed my account…  but signs are pointing to that I will be doing so.

Supporting Wife

One of the recent sagas in my life that has somehow managed to stay mostly out of my blog is the ongoing issues I have had with my laptop.  I feel like at this point I deserve an honorific of “laptop killer” because I seem to be exceptionally hard on them.  My Asus Republic of Gamers laptop lasted about two years, and I loved it dearly…  until something went wonky with the motherboard and kept it from charging the battery.  Then I got the SLI configuration Lenovo y500 laptop… and I too adored it.  Ultimately I think it was pretty much my perfectly laptop, until a few weeks ago I went downstairs to boot it up… and it refused to go past the Lenovo splash screen.  I realized unfortunately that it was out of warranty, so I ended up posting on the Lenovo support forums.. and as of yet have not received a response.

So over the last few weeks at my wife’s urging we have been watching craigslist to see if we could find something interesting.  In the past when I have been without my laptop, I have been in a state of utter panic…  however this time around I have tried extremely hard to be zen about it.  We saw a few interesting things but either the poster wanted more than I was willing to pay for it, or after some exchanges of texts I found out that the video card would be too underpowered for my purposes.  All of this while I did not realize that my wife had also been searching craigslist on a daily basis.  Thursday night she happened across a post on the Oklahoma City craigslist, for someone selling a Lenovo y580 a model slightly newer than mine… for a ridiculously cheap price.

My wife did not even bat an eye at the thought of us making a trip to Oklahoma City, entirely for the purpose of getting me a laptop from some random seller on Craigslist.  I am exceptionally lucky and thankful that I have a wife that is so supportive of all of the random otherwise meaningless activities I engage in on a daily basis.  She knows all of this is important to me… and while she doesn’t always grasp the reason why…  she constantly surprises me at just how much she is willing to do in support of my madness.  So yesterday went took a two hour trek to Oklahoma City, looked over the laptop… and today it is sitting beside me downloading various things.  Of course we made a trip through all of the Half Priced Books stores in the area, since we don’t have those in Tulsa… so it was not entirely about the laptop.  Still I am extremely thankful to have a partner willing to jump through so many hoops for my happiness.

Amon’s Pants

Bel Folks Stuff Episode 2

Since I was sick yesterday I decided to go ahead and wrap up the last bits of editing needed to push the latest episode of Bel Folks Stuff out the door.  While editing I had this strange trip into the past, as I had recorded the podcast a few weeks ago.  We talked about news…  in speculative terms that have long since been resolved.  So my important lesson is that I really should not sit in a show as long as I have with this series.  The end result feels a little strange, like we are looking into the past and seeing what our thoughts were like on a subject a couple of weeks ago.  In any case it was an enjoyable episode to record, and I am fairly proud of this side project as a whole.  However it is causing me to rethink my plans to record the next episode now… that I wouldn’t actually release until mid December.

In this episode I am joined by the illustrious Rowan Blaze of the I Have Touched the Sky blog and a frequent guest on the Beyond the Veil podcast covering The Secret World.  In an interesting change to the format of the first show… we also had a second guest with us… thought due to some technical constraint she was not extremely chatty.  Scooter is Rowan’s awesome wife and constant companion both in game and out.  Since one of the more interesting tidbits of his blog is the fact that he is almost always chronicling their adventures together rather than apart.  He suggested we include her in the discussion, and I think it turned out to be a fairly brilliant idea.  Once again there was not a really strict format, and as I said before… some of the information is a bit dated now…  but in any case I think it was a good effort well worth your time.

Amon’s Pants

ffxiv 2014-11-14 21-27-51-829 In the weeks after the release of the 2.4 patch, I have been spending most of my time in Syrcus Tower.  On the average night I have been running it between 2 and 5 times an evening.  At this point I can literally run the place in my sleep… and on more than a few of the runs I am pretty sure I dozed off at some point around Sylla and finally woke up when we were taking down Amon.  I’ve been running the raid for several reasons… but primarily to complete the ilevel 100 dragoon set.  I started off with extremely good luck, gathering up most of a set within the first few nights.  This all had a side benefit of also gathering up quite a few Sands and Oils and enough Unidentified Allagan Tomestones to outfit an army of alts.  I reached a point where all that was left were the pants, and that had been the state I was in for the last three weeks.  I managed to see them drop a few times, but in all three of those occasions… there was another dragoon and the RNG gods decided to smite me.

Normally speaking Syrcus Tower goes extremely smoothly, as most of the server has reached a point where they are using it as a way to farm oils and sands… and the occasional piece of alternate job gear.  In truth most of these runs are actually rather friendly, with folks willing to lend a hand to those just learning.  This particular run however was the exact opposite of the spirit I normally experience.  For a moment I thought that maybe I was in another game, because I saw the same sort of petty name calling and infighting that I had experienced so many times in the World of Warcraft Looking for Raid tool.  It took us no less than four times to finally be able to beat Amon… and when we did there sitting in the loot window were my pants.  This time however there were no other dragoons in my party to ruin my day.  Never again do I have to run Syrcus Tower as a Dragoon…  but that just means I will likely start running it as a bard and working on that set of gear.  I might have an issue with grinding things.

Garrisons are Great

WoWScrnShot_111414_175514 I reached a point last night with my Garrison where I finally decided it was a pretty amazing thing.  Not that you can really clearly make out what I am doing in the above screenshot…  but this is Belghast my Warrior Engineer Enchanter…  mining ore.  For years I have struggled with my decision to level both enchanting and engineering on the same character.  The lack of mining has always been something I have struggled with…  but there is a long story behind how I ended up in this predicament.  Primarily Belghast started his life as an Enchanter/Tailor because that was a combination of trade skills that I was missing.  Then I got serious about raiding… and hit a drought when our raid was clearing Tier 5 content in Burning Crusade.  I could not for the life of me get a helm upgrade… and there sitting on the crafting table was the insanity of engineering goggles.  At that point they were Tier 6 equivalent… so I made the decision to gather up all the resources and in a single afternoon I dropped tailoring and leveled engineering to the then cap.

WoWScrnShot_111414_181358 While the mine respawn seems extremely long… it still gives me access to gather ore and slowly progress my engineering a little bit while I level.  Additionally I am finding the follower missions to be extremely enjoyable.  Last night I managed to reach rank two with my town hall, which allowed for a larger selection of plots.  As such I now have placed an Engineering plot, Enchanting Plot, replaced the Barracks with a Dwarven Bunker, and kept the Inn with the hopes of upgrading it to rank 2 and recruiting random followers.  Essentially on Belghast I am pretty much trying to go with all the “killing stuff in the world has interesting effects” buildings.  Since well… I like charging around the map killing things.  My hope is that with things like the Dwarven Bunker giving me an increased chance of getting Rares and Epics… I will actually get some stuff I can use.  I feel like I have a much larger post entirely devoted to Warlords of Draenor in me, so I will save further information for tomorrows post.  Needless to say I am enjoying myself.

That Dad is Okay

I really did not talk much about this next thing, but today I am thankful that my father made it through surgery fine and seems to be improving.  For the last several months my father has had a rather scary condition that they originally thought was causing his eyeball to swell up in size.  After much investigation, and a slew of specialists it was determined that what was actually happening was that his eye was being pressed forward… giving it the appearance of growth.  As it got worse however, he lost his ability to do most things like drive… as ultimately he was always trying to manually reconcile the two images he was seeing at all times.  He tried not to let on that it bothered him, but as the months drug on you could tell he was absolutely miserable.

Finally this week a specialist provided a plan of attack, and he went from having a consultation on Tuesday to having full blown surgery on Thursday.  Thankfully everything went as planned and to the best of anyone’s knowledge there were no complications.  I talked to dad over text this morning and his vision continues to improve.  In fact I was shocked that moments after the surgery he was able to see normally again and read signs.  It has been a scary time for my family, not knowing quite what was going to happen.  As such I am so thankful that things turned out well.  One of my biggest fears is the loss of my sight, and I know my father shares that fear.  While he never wanted to let on just how frightened he was… I am sure he must have been.  I am also thankful that once again we get to share our love of books.

Game Launches

Big Damned Chocobo

bigdamnedchoco I have to start off this mornings post by showing off my pride and joy.  Some time ago Final Fantasy XIV put in a player reward system for recruiting new players.  Since then I have had a number of folks use codes to get themselves a +25% xp helm while leveling.  It seems as though one of them has finally reached the 90 days of subscription time point because in my mailbox there was sitting a Draught Chocobo Whistle.  This is a two player mount allowing any group member to hop up on the back of your Chocobo with you.  What makes it even more awesome is the fact that it does not scale down for small races.  This means unlike my real chocobo… this one towers over the landscape making me feel epic.  In theory it can’t scale as it has to support the largest of the player models… the Roegadyn.

If my calculations are correct this wonder of nature is thanks to the very awesome Solaria Neferim aka @CatInGlasses.  The only sad thing is that I could not bring myself to wait until she logged into use it.  It would have been fitting if my first passenger was her.  In any case I am super grateful to have this awesome mount, and while I have already thanked her multiple times…  I figured I would also post about it here in my blog.  There are a few times where this mount will come in extremely handy… as did my two player rocket in World of Warcraft.  Supposedly when they put in the marriage system they are also adding in a mount from going through the “Eternal Bond” ceremony.  I am hoping they allow same sex marriage…  which I believe they have already said they would.  Thalen and I are already talking about gaming  the system…  because we like free mounts.

Game Launches

Wow-64 2014-11-13 07-00-03-480 Yesterday morning while I slept the second dark portal to Draenor opened, letting players spill into the unspoiled planet to begin the Warlords of Draenor expansion.  So as I slept and while I worked folks ground away madly trying to level to 100.  By the time I reached home last night two of my guildies had managed to push across the line and ding 100.  One of course questions why exactly they rushed to hit the finish line, given that they just spent over a year waiting on new content…  but that is beside the point.  For the most part the servers were largely unstable last night which has lead to much raging on the forums.  Maybe it is just that I have lived through so many of these at this point, that I just expect things to go poorly.  Blizzard is claiming that a major Distributed Denial of Service Attack is going on against their servers.  It may very well be, considering that they came out against GG rather vocally at Blizzcon… and those folks seem to really like resort to this sort of behavior.  By the same token it seems that every game launch lately has claimed to have a DDoS, which is a handy excuse because it means it is out of the companies control.

Ultimately at this point while I understand the frustration of the players, and I feel like Blizzard should have been better prepared…  most game launches are just not smooth at all.  Trying to be prepared for a stampede of wildebeests hitting your server, knowing that in a few weeks time most of them will have disappeared…  feels like sheer madness.  I think companies have done the math and realized that it is simply better for them to weather the first few days, because the most demanding players aren’t likely to be sticking around in any case.  The players who are in it for the long haul will sit there waiting out the issues and keep plugging away slowly.  Ultimately the problems seem to be revolving around the new systems they introduced like the Garrisons… and given time patches will arrive and problems will be fixed.  It has been years since there has been a significant problem in World of Warcraft that was not remedied within days if not hours.  All of this said, given the debacle that was the Diablo III launch…  you would think they would be better prepared for the onslaught.

Slowly Plugging Away

WoWScrnShot_111314_183052 I had apparently quit messing around with the Warlords Alpha before they put in the Tanaan Jungle “fight for the dark portal” sequence.  I have to say I am sufficiently impressed.  The arrival through the Dark Portal feels like you storming into a new world, and establishing a foothold.  When we first stepped through the Dark Portal into Outland… the war was already waging and we were but a pawn in the larger plan.  This time we are a hero of the alliance and feel crucial to the war strategy.  Some folks have a problem with this, but I have enjoyed the fact that my stature seems to keep improving from expansion to expansion.  If you contrast the openings of Wrath where we were very much still a trooper, to the opening of Pandaria where we start as just another soldier and elevate towards a significant hero over the course of the first few zones.  Warlords of Draenor feels like it is aware of that past and builds upon it.

Wow-64 2014-11-13 07-05-24-225 The other thing that the introduction does extremely well is introduce you to the title characters of this expansion… the Warlords of Draenor.  One by one you encounter the various characters from the wallpaper as you fight to gain purchase in this new realm.  By the time you finally reach Shadowmoon Valley or if you are Horde Frostfire Ridge…  there is a sense of urgency that you must prepare for the incoming Iron Horde invasion.  The game does a good job of instilling the player with a sense of purpose and a reason why they are here in the first place.  Unfortunately a lot of this was completely wrecked by the fact that the servers were barely playable last night.  There was a point fairly early on where I got completely derailed by the fact that entire regions of the map were locked in a time frozen state.  Moving forward into another region would suddenly allow time to catch up, all of which became extremely disconcerting… but I am sure over the coming days this will clear up.

Poetics Ho!

ffxiv 2014-11-14 06-43-40-498 Instead of hanging out and waiting on the servers to improve, I logged figuring I would lessen the server load by at least one… and played some Final Fantasy XIV.  I managed to pull together an Expert Roulette group with my friend Spiral Sun and Warenwolf healing.  This and a couple of Syrcus Tower runs managed to push me to my goal of 825 tomestones of poetics, and the Ironworks Trousers of Fending.  This takes Belghast Sternblade my character on Cactuar to ilevel 111 which makes me extremely happy.  In addition to that I managed to pick up another Sands of Time and another Oil of Time, which will always come in handy.  The only negative thing is that I still have yet to get the Dragoon pants from Amon.  At this point it is more a point of pride than anything, because I have more than enough Tomestones of Soldiery to just buy that set of pants.  For the time being I figured I would just save up until I hit 1300 and get another weapon… since the 110 weapon seems to be the most beneficial item you can really get.

I still need about 100 Poetics bookrocks to cap for the week, but a few more expert roulettes and I will be there without much issue.  Right now my weekend is going to be a bit of an odd one.  Tomorrow we are travelling to Oklahoma City to look at a laptop.  A few weeks ago mine started having issues, and in spite of all of my trouble shooting… and posting on the Lenovo forums… I have yet to find an answer to resolve it.  Unfortunately it is also about six months out of warranty.  I did however like it so much that I am looking at a slightly newer model.  The cool thing is that the second video card that is in my current laptop, will fit in nicely with this new model, as well as give me a swappable BluRay drive.  In any case I am doubting I will get in much play time tomorrow other than what I happen to do during our normal podcast time.

Perspective and Experience

This morning I am thankful for the gift of perspective and past experiences.  There have been more than a few rage-y posts that I have made over the years regarding the launch of new games and new expansions.  The one that I remember the most recently is the 1017 debacle that was the launch of Final Fantasy XIV.  After a point it becomes easier to resign yourself to the mantra “this too shall pass”.  Companies always fix problems, server loads always lessen, and leveling is not a race.  I think one of the smartest things that Blizzard could have done was remove the concept of a World and Server first for the purpose of leveling.  It encourage players to engage in self destructive behavior, burning themselves out within hours of a new expansion releasing.  My hope is that while there are obviously some players rushing headlong towards oblivion… that this will cause players to level at a more sedate pace.

While the server frustrates are real, and they seem epic at this point…  I am thankful for the perspective that in the grand scheme of things…  this can’t even be termed as a rough launch.  With the recent launch of Rift’s Nightmare Tide expansion… I quite literally lost 24 hours of progress made on my characters and tradeskills when they suffered a catastrophic hardware failure that caused a rollback.  With the launch of Final Fantasy XIV they were so wholly unprepared for its success that the game did not even include a queue system, and players were force to set up hardware macros to keep trying to log in… and as such unintentionally DDoSing the lobby servers.  When World of Warcraft initially launched it was a good solid month before the game was really reliably playable.  I remember waiting thirty minutes in the mines around Elwynn forest for loot from a kobold corpse to show up in my inventory.

Sure you might have a queue on your server, but it is nothing compared to the reported 20 hour login queues that players experienced during the recent launch of ArcheAge.  Nor does it really compare to the fact that when the Landmark paid alpha rolled out…  I rebuilt my claim four separate times before I actually managed to get one that stuck around for more than a day… as they kept having to wipe the voxel data due to bugs that caused corruption.  Admittedly… that was an alpha, but one players paid to get into…  and caused equal amounts of frustration.  All of these things taken into account… I can’t even call this a bad launch yet.  Granted over the coming days things are either going to improve… or they are going to  get drastically worse.  In either case I will re-evaluate, but for the time being I am thankful to have the presence of mind to just go play something else for awhile.

Collaborate Not Compete

For Azeroth

Wow-64 2014-11-13 06-14-58-122 Last night while I slept Warlords of Draenor launched in the United States.  Once again the launch time was based on Pacific Standard Time meaning that it occurred at 2 in the morning for me.  I actually got to see some play last night from Qelric, due to the fact that this time it actually launched ahead of time for our European friends.  I think it is pretty awesome that finally it launched for them at the same time it was slotted to launch in other territories, it just meant that they technically got a head start.  In part I think this decision was influenced by the fact that with this expansion they have completely removed the concept of world and server firsts.  So while folks are hustling around like mad, presently there are nine people online in guild for example…  there really isn’t much of a broader point to it.

I think removing the world and server firsts was a good step, but I think it is so ingrained into the Warcraft culture to rush headlong towards the finish line.  My hope is that this will at least cause some of the players to slow down and enjoy the journey.  That said I realize I will probably level quickly… because I always seem to level quickly.  This is more of a necessity this time around since I am actively juggling two different games and trying to be available for grouping in both.  Unfortunately I will not really get to experience Draenor until after work, though I have popped in this morning to at least take a screenshot of the trio standing outside the Dark Portal.  I must admit that while I played in Alpha… nothing I did actually felt real.  This time around I will be actually working on things like Garrisons permanently, so I think a lot of the stickiness of this expansion will have more effect.

Awesome Communities

laladanceparty_uldahedition The other day I made a connection that I had failed to grasp until then, when a friend from twitter pointed something out to me.  For weeks I have been talking about just how amazing the community has been playing Final Fantasy XIV.  It is the little things, like the fact that the other morning I zoned into North Shroud looking for the B Rank Phecda.  It has been common place for me to /shout in zone asking if anyone has seen the spawn.  I had a pretty quick response from a player who not only gave me the location, but also hung out at the spawn point to help me kill it…  even though she didn’t need the kill.  Then a good ten minutes later, another person sent me a tell asking if I still needed it, because they just ran past the big bear.  This little Vignette plays out over and over… and I have added so many random strangers to my friends list through casual interaction like this.  There is this global sense that we are all in things together that I cherish.

If I had to rattle off the four best server communities I have been part of it would have to be Cactuar in Final Fantasy XIV, Landroval in Lord of the Rings Online, The Secret World (mega server), and Antonia Bayle in Everquest II.  In each case there have been so many positive random encounters that make living in those worlds enjoyable.  I’ve had completely random strangers run up to me in Bree on Landroval offering me crafted goods to help my leveling process.  I’ve had folks offer me a group during the various Everquest II holiday events, that then turn into multiple hour long treks through the world.  I’ve had random strangers stop me in the Secret World to tell me that they liked my outfit, and ask where I got various bits of it.  These casual interactions remind me of the way servers used to feel back during the early days when the MMOs were a little less “massive”.

Collaborate Not Compete

ffxiv 2014-11-03 22-25-26-826 It was around this time in our conversation that my friend pointed a thread of connection between all of these games that I had never really noticed myself.  None of those games have real and meaningful faction rivalries.  Sure in The Secret World and Everquest II you have certain alliances, but largely this work out to be personal choices.  Being Templar versus being Illuminati is largely just a flavor choice, since from the moment you get out of London or New York you are grouping together and communicating freely.  Games like Final Fantasy XIV and Lord of the Rings online don’t even have these artificial divisions.  From the moment you start playing any of these games, you are instilled with this spirit that all of the players are ultimately battling something more sinister than they can imagine.  So it makes perfect sense to lend another player a helping hand along the way, since you are not competing against each other in any meaningful way.

There might be a certain measure of self sorting going on when it comes to players of these games as well.  Since none of the four really have a strong PVP aspect, that flavor of super competitive player is just not interested in playing them.  That means you are left with a more collaborative “role-playing server crowd” type player.  Ultimately this shared struggle, and spirit of cooperation has always been why I have self sorted myself onto Role-Playing servers, because in general this type of player is more prevalent there.  Essentially what I am coming to realize is that the awesome communities that I have held out as paragons against normal online gaming horribleness…  all exist for pretty similar reasons.  They are all environments that teach the players to get along with each other, rather than compete.

Collaborative Environments

To tie into today’s post, I am thankful that games exist that teach players to work together rather than work against each other.  So many games set up an artificial conflict between players, and try desperately to draw them into it.  As I said in my “Sandboxes and Sheep” post, these artificial faction boundaries have no meaning to me personally.  I have no real emotional ties to the Horde or the Alliance, other than the fact that I mostly chose Alliance because that is where the Dwarves were.  However this decision did not immediately make me hate the horde, in fact I have 11 Alliance characters on Argent Dawn… and 11 Horde characters on The Scyers… the realm that is connected to Argent Dawn.  Over years of playing on that server I made just as many friendships across the faction barrier as I did within my own pool of players.  In fact one of my key problems with World of Warcraft has always been that it made us choose sides in a war that was largely meaningless to us.

All of this is the reason why I am thankful that there are games that have transcended faction.  I was hugely impressed when Rift decided to abandon the artificial conflict with their “Faction as Fiction” patch removing the hard lines between Defiant and Guardian.  I think as a whole that game has been greatly improved for doing so.  More than that however I am thankful for the games that never put up those walls in the first place.  Eorzea is this wonderful land where the races don’t always get along, but they are not openly warring either…  because the writers have created a threat so great that in its face…  squabbles seem petty.  After  talking this whole situation through, I feel like this sort of environment really does breed a player willing to help others freely.  It is for that spirit,  that I am thankful for.  If you are actively making your community better, you are doing awesome work.

Carried through Garrosh

Strange Days

ffxiv 2014-11-11 13-08-27-393 Of all of the things that I had planned to do yesterday, the events that unfolded were completely unforeseen.  As it was Veterans day yesterday, I was off and took care of a few things around the house.  Namely considering the extreme dip in temperature I wanted to get the heating and air guys out to do our winter check up.  We have an air conditioning unit from 1980 the year our house was built, and it continues to limp along valiantly.  At one point we had discussed getting a new unit, but the good folks from our heating and air company informed us that we were simply better off to just keep limping along with the one we had.  Apparently they do not make units quite like the one we have any longer.  So as a result we have paid for a yearly maintenance contract that mostly involves a winter and spring checkup.  When things break, and they have in the past we get deep discounted parts and labor while under contract.  The cool thing is that there have been a lot of little things that they simply did not charge us for, so I feel like overall it is a good plan.

Wow-64 2014-11-11 09-42-42-476While waiting on the heating and air guy to show up, I spent a good deal of time running dungeons and raids in Final Fantasy XIV.  Since Rae was off as well we managed to get her a Sunken Temple of Qarn run and would have gotten Snowcloak but she had still not done the Ramuh fight, so at last check was still catching up to the main storyline.  Since I had been kicking around the notion of playing some World of Warcraft with the launch of Warlords of Draenor, I decided I should probably poke around in game and at the very least do the precursor quest out in the blasted lands.  The quest chain itself was rather enjoyable, as you assist Murad in staving back the tide of Iron Horde that have come through the portal.  I think Murad is going to be the character we get the closest to during the course of this expansion.  Essentially I feel he is going to be this expansions Chen Stormstout as it were, and I am okay with this notion especially after seeing the motivation behind why he acts he way he does.

Carried through Garrosh

Wow-64 2014-11-11 21-06-08-214 While fiddling around in game I bumped into so many people that were shocked to see me online.  I joked that they were just seeing a shadow, and that I wasn’t really playing World of Warcraft.  Mostly I don’t want people to think I am “back” because the last two times I have showed up in game… it didn’t last for terribly long.  I was just there long enough for folks to get accustomed to relying on me for things again, and I really don’t want to disappoint them once more.  Damai has done an awesome job of holding things together in the guild.  In the time since the launch of Warlords of Draenor he has fallen into the role of General, keeping the raid group moving forward and organizing weekly flex raids to help pull up folks that didn’t quite have the gear to do larger things.  He popped into the game while I was roaming about and said “you should really come get your Garrosh weapon tonight.”  I of course protested, saying I was unprepared and undergeared…  but he waved away all of this notions and said that I just needed to show up.

Wow-64 2014-11-11 20-11-02-666 I figured what the hell did I have to lose.  I knew the Siege of Orgrimmar raid at least somewhat form doing the LFR incarnation, and I had no firm plans for that evening.  Last night was to be their final time running Garrosh, and one of the final times available to get the heirloom weapons from it.  So after not having played WoW for at least six months I found myself getting pulled into the final raid of this current expansion.  To make matters even more interesting, apparently we were doing Heroic Siege of Orgrimmar.  In Damai’s words “Heroic is the new Normal” and as we got underway it certainly seemed as such…  that is until I actually attempted to dps anything.  Essentially it was through a combination of skill and gear that they were able to make everything look this easy, and clearly I had neither.  In fact I brought Belghast, one of the last characters I had managed to push up to 90 organically and had not really geared much.  He was sitting at 496 ilevel before walking into the instance, and through the course of the evening that improved to 540.  I quite literally soaked up almost a full set of gear, and now he is in a far better place for the purpose of leveling in the expansion.

Rift Repaired

Wow-64 2014-11-12 06-06-52-735 I’ve talked some about the Rift that existed when I returned to the game last time.  I fought hard to try and mend it, but ultimately failed.  What I did do apparently however was start to break down the walls between the factions within.  It seems that once the two warring captains had moved on to other things…  one of them to a mythic raid, and another to move on to his own guild…  things seem to have repaired themselves.  It seems as though there has been somewhat of a “Pax Stalwartia” as folks have flourished once the drama went  away.  I would like to think it was the forcing of sides to talk that helped this along, but really I think I was more of a hinderance than a help.  I actively tried to keep the pieces of the puzzle together, when I should have surgically cut the damage limb from the guild.  I have a problem with never quite wanting to give up on someone, that I keep seeing the best intentioned version of them buried deep under the bullshit.

Maybe if I had never shown back up, we would have reached a state of peace faster, or maybe the guild would have quite literally cleaved in two…  I will never actually know.  That is the fate that the guild seemed to be heading towards when I returned… two factions, one of which would win the guild, and the other would be exiled.  Instead now we have the bulk of the guild cooperating together, and only a few ended up leaving.  In any case I was extremely proud last night to see everything going so amazingly smoothly.  It was a supremely odd sensation to be carried to victory on the backs of the guild that I founded ten years ago.  I can’t take responsibility for last night, other than that long ago I set the wheels in motion and caused these people to meet each other.  More or less I have been gone since the beginning of Cataclysm, and in that time they have really done amazing things as a team.

Pax Stalwartia

Wow-64 2014-11-11 21-01-32-181

Maybe last night was what I needed to see.  For some time Rylacus had told me that things had improved in the guild, but I didn’t want to believe it.  I have talked many times about never being able to go back.  If I could teleport to  those days in Late Night Raiders, or Duranub Raiding Company…  or even No Such Raid…  I would have.  Last night felt like a mix of all of these rolled together.  Folks were jovial and happy, and not a single person got grumpy when we wiped.  They enjoyed the presence of one another, and enjoyed what they were doing.  There was so much excited talk about what was to come in the expansion, and tentative plans to raid come December 2nd when the raid opens.  It did my soul good to see this happening.  I feel like they deserve me going into this with an open mind, because maybe home does still exist after you leave it.

ffxiv 2014-11-05 22-00-23-313 All of this said, my heart still belongs to Eorzea, and the amazing community that I have found on Cactuar.  I have so many goals that I want to accomplish there, and we have this amazing mass of folks gathered.  I am never going to play just one game, it isn’t in my nature.  So while I am “playing” Rift, and by that I mean logging in every single day to run my minions on missions… I am not really “playing” the game.  Nor am I really playing most of the games I log into periodically.  For the time being I think I am going to be playing Final Fantasy XIV and allowing myself to also play some World of Warcraft at the same time.  I find it comforting that both House Stalwart and Greysky Armada exist… and both are completely different guilds.  I’ve left my mark permanently on both, and I think both are really amazing places to play.  What I find the most comforting however is that in both cases I am not responsible for their destiny.  That in both cases the guilds are taking care of themselves.

Old Friends

Last night was this strange trip down memory lane as I experienced folks in a way that I have not since the beginning of Cataclysm.  So many of my friendships from World or Warcraft were forged in battle, and in a way it took battle once again for me to really remember why we were friends in the first place.  I am thankful to have a group of friends that are still out there, keeping on without me.  That seem to be willing to accept me for whatever I happen to be at the moment, and welcome me back time and time again with open arms.  I am extremely lucky to have lots of pools of these kinds of friends scattered from game to game, that are happy to see me show up, and don’t hold a grudge against me when I ultimately leave.  It is comforting to know that the universe is just fine in the absence of your presence.

I realize that might sound like a strange thing, that I am happy to not be needed.  You have to realize however that all I ever wanted was for House Stalwart to give them a framework upon which to do awesome things.  So much of my time in Vanilla, Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King was spent being a catalyst, and enabling things that didn’t happen when I wasn’t around.  The guild was absolutely a cult of personality, and when the personality went away…  people didn’t interact at all.  So to see this guild that functions entirely without me being around, makes me happier than anyone would really know.  I am thankful to have all these awesome people step up and take over the mantle of leadership.  I have never been happier to be obsolete in my life, and it is my hope that I can continue to be so for a very long time.

Hunting Bookrocks

Deep Freeze

Last night was another prime example of the odd weather patterns here in Oklahoma.  When I got home from work it had managed to heat up enough to kick on our air conditioning.  Then over the course of one of the worst wind storms I can recall, that pretty much wrecked the gate to our backyard…  it dropped from a balmy 80 degrees to 33 degrees and still really windy this morning.  Being veterans day, and being that I am off work today… I had planned on having the Heating and Air guy out today to do our yearly “winter” inspection.  I am guessing that I picked the perfect day because tonight it is supposed to plummet even colder.  I realize that all of you northerners are thinking that the temperatures I am describing is nothing… but for someone raised to live in 70 degree to 115 degree climate this is pretty cold.

The problem with the heating and air folks coming out is the fact that my office was a mess.  I have a bad habit of just tossing empty boxes in the corner and over the course of a year the pile of boxes had gotten pretty epic.  It made me realize just how much stuff we order from Amazon.  While we do not have curbside recycling here, we do however have these little bins called “Mr Murf” that I can take the cardboard to.  So I have loaded the back of my jeep with the various assorted boxes, condensing them as best I could.  In addition I went out into the backyard and unhooked the hose from the house in preparation for a hard freeze. The last step was to gather up all the trash and put the bin out next to the curb, feed the cats, feed myself and sit down to blog.  All in all I have had a damned productive day and it is only 7:30 in the morning.

Hunting Bookrocks

ffxiv 2014-11-10 21-34-48-178 I rushed around so much this morning so that, one it would actually get done, and two I could spend the rest of my day leisurely farming for bookrocks in Final Fantasy XIV.  Before I finished the night last night I managed to cap my Tomestones of Poetics, and similarly I am close to another piece of armor with my Tomestones of Soldiery.  Generally speaking running content on reset day yields some of the best results, so I will more than likely be hitting a mixture of Labyrinth of the Ancients, Syrcus Tower and Expert Roulette in an attempt to get the precious precious bookrocks.  At this point I really want to get my pants drop out of Syrcus Tower so I can stop running it as a dragoon.  Ultimately I would rather be running it as a class that has a higher likelihood of getting drops like my Bard.  However given my past luck with MMOs, I know the moment I take anything other than the class that can roll “need” on them… they will start dropping every single time.

In The Burning Crusade I raided Karazhan every single Sunday for over a year.  During this time tanking it, I managed to get Attumen’s mount, but never managed to get the tanking necklace that eluded me.  After a years time I got tired of dragging a character in there that only needed a single item, so I started healing it on my paladin… letting another up and coming  tank take my space.  The first time I was in there as a Paladin… the tanking neck dropped.  That has always been the case for me… I have exceptional luck early on and then there are one or two items that will not drop no matter how many times I attempt to get them.  Then there are super rare items that everyone seems to be able to get but just end up taunting me.  I am looking at you Headless Horseman mount.  When I was farming that regularly, almost every time someone in my instance would get their mount…  but I would not.  I guess it could be worse… I could be Rylacus or Tamrielo…  who simply don’t get drops at all.

Rapidly Backpedaling

Wow-64 2014-11-11 07-56-07-885 I am still completely up in the air as to whether or not I will be playing Warlords of Draenor come Thursday.  Had you asked me two weeks ago I would have said an absolute and resounding “Nope”.  Then Blizzcon happened… and the extreme heartstring tugging of the Looking for Group documentary.  That thing crit me straight to the feels for 9999… yeah I am still thinking in Final Fantasy numbers here.  Unfortunately I felt things that I have not felt stirring in me about World of Warcraft since probably I last set foot on Draenor or at the very least last set foot in Northrend.  This started an unraveling of my resolve against playing World of Warcraft.  Basically there are two important pieces of data.  The first being that my subscription does not officially run out for another 19 days.  The second being that thanks to them opening preorders what seems like a year before the expansion actually launched…  I’ve already pre-purchased the game and used my boost to 90 to push up my Night Elf Mage.

So there you have it… I have both access to my account to play, and the expansion already sitting there waiting on me.  The problem is my problems with the expansion are still there.  There is an excellent video from Qelric condensing her views about the Death Knight class in the expansion, and while I have never been able to be that concise she sums it up nicely.  All that I have been able to say… is that they just felt wrong somehow.  Like I never could quantify exactly what that meant.  All of that said… if I do end up  coming back I will more than likely do so on Belghast my warrior, with a return to protection tanking.  I managed to get into Belghast a little bit right before I quit playing before the launch of Elder Scrolls Online and was having a reasonably good time with it.  The protection changes seem to be mostly good, and the feel is solid.  I would be kinda nice to set foot in Draenor on the character that came into its own during the Burning Crusade expansion.  BC was the era where I transitioned from Hunter main to Warrior Tank main, so there is a whole bundle of nostalgia wrapped up in that setting.

The one thing I know for certain…  I will never be leading the World of Warcraft House Stalwart again.  When I came back last year, I fought hard to try and mend the rift that had built up in the guild in my absence.  I tried desperately to get the two factions to talk to one another, but no amount of me acting as a bridge between… managed to actually help.  This broke my resolve, and eventually the problem child in the equation left…  and things apparently have been rather blissful in his absence.  World of Warcraft is not a game I can play seriously any more.  I tried to go back to raiding regularly with this last expansion and it just did not fit with the way I want to play the game.  So long as I was a damned dirty casual I seemed to be enjoying myself, but the moment people started relying on me for anything…  I was back in the position that I fought so hard to escape the first time.  If I do play again, it would be as a secondary game the same way that I continue to play Rift.  It is time for the Warcraft branch of House Stalwart to have a true leader, not just a figurehead that long ago stopped loving that position.

Given that it is Veterans Day here in the United States, I thought it fitting to show my thankfulness for the service of our men and women in the armed forces.  This actually means quite a bit to me, because while I have never served in the Military myself…  both of my grandfathers did.  We lose sight on just how hardcore World War 2 must have been.  The Grandfather on my fathers side was wounded during the D-Day invasion, and had a machine gun emplacement shoot down his back as he was trying to duck into a foxhole.  Had he not happened to quite literally fall on a medic, he would have died as the machine gun and sliced through his lung and it was collapsing.  They bandaged him up just enough to send him back out into battle, where he eventually participated in the Battle of the Bulge.  During that leg of the campaign it was so cold that he lost  half of his toes to frostbite.

My Grandfather on my Mother’s side was in the Tunisian front and captured during the Battle of Kasserine Pass, and spent time in a prison camp.  Eventually he joined in with others and staged and escape managing to eventually get back to Allied lines.  While on the run he was aided by various farming families in the Italian countryside.  My wife’s step father on the other hand was a veteran of the Korean Conflict.  He was a member of the Chosin Few, a group of service men trapped on a peninsula in the Chosin Reservoir that held off Chinese forces.  The thing that I found the most interesting is that all three men were completely stoic about their service.  Not a single one of them wanted any recognition for what they had done for our  country.  In fact none of them really wanted to talk about it at all.  It was only later in life that each was willing to give us little tidbits of information regarding what all they had been through.  I quite literally cannot imagine what they had to go through to survive, and I am thankful that I will never have to know.  So on this Veterans Day I am thankful for all of the men and women who have served our country so that I can have the life of safety and personal freedoms that I lead.

#FFXIV #WoW