Gold Dust Woman

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Right now in Monster Hunter World there is a brand new type of event happening called a Siege.  The idea is that an entire 18 player session is working towards one objective… taking down a Zorah Magdaros style massive elder dragon.  In order to start the process you need to find a gold pile somewhere out in the wilds.  By default this should be somewhere near the start of any of the outdoor zones.  In talking to the AggroChat crew last night I was told to do an investigation…  which absolutely worked… but I believe that Tam originally intended to tell me to do an Expedition which according to Ash also works.  The pile will be very obvious and very out of place and by looting it you will then have a quest as soon as you zone into Astera.  From there the quest takes place in the Gathering Hub and will show up as a unique quest type called Siege at the bottom of the quest givers list.

From there you join a party in progress or start your own.  There is no SOS Roulette for this so my standard practice of joining a clan session to hang out only really works if you are all focused on doing the event.  The AggroChat crew apparently did this with only four players on Wednesday night when it opened, but I largely just kept joining public sessions until I found one with players actively doing the quest.  For the most part every instance I joined had two active groups so a total of eight players chipping away at the progress meter for the event.  Functionally all groups are working in their own separate instances with progress made each time you meet a milestone… like knocking off a specific part of the body.

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There are functionally four phases that I am aware of in the fight.  In the first phase Kulve Taroth moves around the zone completely oblivious to the players allowing you to hit it with canon fire perched atop cliffs much like the Zorah Magdaros fight.  During the second phase she is still covered in the gold plating but begins to take notice of your actions and will actively but very slowly attack you.  During the forth phase she enters a room where there are some magma eruptions that heat the gold up making her go significantly faster as well as allowing for better damage to knock parts off.  During the final phase she goes into a room where magma is dripping down from the ceiling and all of her armor is knocked off making her extremely fast and very Nergigante like in damage when she hits you.

Ultimately the goal is to survive until one of two things happens…  either she gets bored and wanders off “leaving the area” which counts as success weirdly enough.  The other option is that through the actions of all teams that her horns are broken…  which allows the team that broke them the ability to carve them for all sorts of tasty loot.  The other thing that makes this fight extremely interesting is that she is constantly dropping parts on the ground so you have to juggle fighting with looting on a regular basis.  Additionally there is a tribe Gajalaka that will constantly be getting in the way, throwing things at you, knocking you down…  so you will be dealing with this in additional to avoiding very wide sweeping attacks.  You can take them out however and the ones with gold shielding on their back drop Kulve Taroth bits… and the others have a reasonable chance to do the same.

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This is a massive time sink, given that it often takes a full instance two or three attempts to take down the dragon.  What makes it worth it however is the interesting semi-randomized loot drops that introduce the relic system that has existed in other games.  While you are in the fight picking up drops, there is a chance that you can get a relic weapon.  These then are appraised at the quest giver after you have exited the instance in a fashion similar to decorations.  Last night I ran three complete Kulve Taroth fights and walked away at the end of the night with 22 blue rank 6 weapons, 5 purple rank 7 weapons and 3 orange rank 8 weapons.  The above screenshot is an amalgam of all of the best items that I got from the fights.  Apparently that Insect Glaive is good enough to make Tam our resident Glaive master general drool a bit over it.

What I am more interested in however is the fact that this is giving me an infusion of weapons that I might have not actually tried on my own.  The truth is I have played with a very small subset of weapons in the game and there are others like lance that I have wanted to try… but had no clue which one to work towards.  Last night I got myself a reasonable sleep lance to start taking down things like everyone’s favorite target dummy…  Great Jagras.  More than this, it is giving me a smattering of different elemental damage types which gives me more leverage when we start looking at other fights in the game.  The other big thing I am working towards is being able to craft a full set of the Kulve armor because it too is really nice…  but will involve a lot of elder dragon farming since each piece requires a gem.

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Lastly there is both new layered armor and palico gear associated with this quest and I am wearing two pieces of the set… shoulders and waist in the above screenshot.  Kenzie my palico is wearing the full set of her gear.  This is crafted by combining Bushi Tickets that drop upon turning in the Kulve Taroth quest when your instance had defeated it and combining them with a bunch of varied monster parts.  I am working towards the Bushi Homare set which involves a bunch of elder dragon bits…  whereas the Bushi Sabi set has a broken down battle worn appearance and requires a bunch of parts from alternate high rank mobs like Black Diablos.  All in all I love the feel of this event because it is essentially Monster Hunter World doing a raid.  I’ve been extremely impressed with the sort of things they are continuing to patch into this game giving us reasons to keep coming back and interacting with content.  The event itself runs for a few weeks and I can already tell I will be spending at least some time each night farming Kulve Taroth for interesting weapon options.

Unintended Night

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What I was supposed to be playing last night is World of Warcraft as Wednesday is our normal mythical nonsense night.  Unfortunately we were down two people already and I myself wasn’t really in the mood to do it either.  I’ve been dealing with some stuff and yesterday was a bit of a bad mental health day.  When those situations happen I tend to turtle up somewhere quiet and hang out by myself until whatever it is has passed.  World of Warcraft is such an inherently social game that even the act of logging in ends up prompting a bunch of people to poke me and say hello…  and it feels bad to ignore them when I need to ignore them.

Sure there is now “Appear Offline” mode but even then that is not a perfect scenario.  For me at least there are a handful of people that I am generally okay with interacting with, because they know the drill.  They understand deeply because they go through their own periods of turtle time, and as a result there is no need to attempt to keep up appearances as it were.  However if you are in Offline mode and you reach out to one of those people who are on the closest rings of your monkeysphere…  they cannot respond.  You will be able to send them messages all day long but they will always get the offline message when attempting to respond back to you.  As a result when I am feeling like this I just avoid WoW like the plague because it isn’t worth the hassle.

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What I wanted to be doing was to sit on the couch and play some Everquest while watching some more Mighty Boosh streamed through the television.  Unfortunately they seem to have had a rather traumatic maintenance yesterday.  The servers went down at 5:00 am EDT on the 18th and did not come back apparently until 2:30 am EDT on the 19th.  I have no clue at all what was going on…  but I kept trying to fire up the launcher and getting the maintenance message.  I have been enjoying myself a shocking amount in Everquest, but I realize that I am riding the drug that is nostalgia.  I am not sure how long that drug will last but for the moment I am riding its high.

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What I did instead was play a lot of MTG Arena as I got it set up on my laptop.  Yesterday Scopique wrote an interesting response to my post about Arena…  or at least one that mentioned it because it wasn’t exactly a direct response.  The funny thing is I wouldn’t necessarily call myself much of a competitive gamer.  I traditionally shy away from player versus player situations, but games like MTG Arena or the Crucible in Destiny don’t seem to bother me that much and I am not entirely certain why.  I stumbled across a post from Tobold who very much did not enjoy his time with Arena, but for the moment I don’t mind at all that it is largely just a stripped down 1v1 client.  I think ultimately if you are going into Arena expecting Duels of the Planeswalkers or MTG Duels either one… you are going to be sorely disappointed.

Arena is simply a Magic the Gathering Online that isn’t horrible.  Sure MTGO is serviceable but nothing about it is really intuitive and it feels like you are jumping through a lot of hoops to make anything work.  MTGO was absolutely less cludgy than the days of trying to arrange a game on IRC and then getting both parties to fire up and connect to each other through the Apprentice application.  However card gaming on a PC has changed drastically since then and Hearthstone more or less has led that charge.  Arena is that Hearthstone-esc interface for the far more seasons and complicated game of Magic the Gathering, and the thing is… it works amazingly well.

There have been a few times I have been bit by the game trying to move forward without me…  but in the grand scheme of things it seems to do 99.9% of the right things at the right time.  The other moments don’t bother me too much because I am not placing a lot of my personal ego into whether or not I am winning.  I am simply enjoying playing cards and occasionally I do really well.  I do feel like Tobold’s comment of not feeling like he could be competitive with the decks presented was a bit nonsense given that I have been entirely playing the stock Golgari Exploration deck.  I felt like I was able to pick it up and start winning matches almost immediately…  and sure as my rank has risen I am winning less matches but even that doesn’t bother me much.  I am still winning more than enough to complete daily quests getting me packs and gold…  to buy more packs.  All in all I feel like Arena is going to shape up to be a very solid version of Magic the Gathering Online…  but we need to stop the comparisons there for our own sanity.

MTG Arena Beta

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Yesterday was of course the ninth anniversary of the Tales of the Aggronaut blog…  and Wizards of the Coast got me a present.  Roughly halfway through the day I checked my mail and noticed that I got an email from WotC inviting me to the closed beta of Arena…  their attempt at making a modern Magic the Gathering client.  The truth is Hearthstone has been eating their lunch for several years now due to its extreme accessibility.  It also does the dual whammy of giving both a nostalgia buzz for magic the gathering and collectible card games in general…  while delivering a fatal blow of world of warcraft nostalgia at the same time.  It’s a good game… and honestly lately I have been playing quite a bit of the warrior rush deck, but even that said…  it is no Magic the Gathering.  There is just something about this game that causes me to follow the community and buy cards… even though I don’t get to play that often.

The biggest problem for me is that I don’t really have a LGS or Local Gaming Store to be spending my time at.  I live out in the burbs and the closest thing to me is on the opposite end of Tulsa from where I live…  making it not exactly convenient to go to in the evenings and play cards.  Where a game like Hearthstone or Arena comes in is it allows me to get that fix…  without the need to actually get hands on other players.  That said I am working on fostering a little community at work for lunch time gaming and am building up some balanced decks to sort of make an easy drop in and play environment.  All of that said… it is just so much easier to get online at the end of a day and get my gaming fix rather than trying to coordinate with other human beings.

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When you start up the Arena client you are given a handful of packs to start crafting your own decks with.  This assortment essentially encompassed the last two blocks of play…  Rivals of Ixalan, Ixalan, Hour of Devastation and Amonkhet.  I got a handful of decent cards and could have probably crafted together a serviceable deck from them.  I personally like these two blocks of play theme wise and together they give quite a bit of reasonable synergy.  I believe the plan going forward is to largely limit Arena to standard sets by default…  which seems a little if that were the case why Kaladesh and Aether Revolt are not included.  It was my understanding that when the Kaladesh block cycles out the Amonkhet block will as well in Q4 2018.  Quite frankly I struggle keeping these things in my head as to which sets are in and which sets are out because it doesn’t seem anywhere near as clear as it used to be.  I apparently am not the only person to think this because there is literally a website called What is In Standard.

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One thing that is going to be a challenge to get used to is that the pack structure is vastly different from live paper magic.  When you open a pack you get a grand total of 8 cards instead of 15 cards…  which I hope means they are going to charge a reduced price for the packs when the whole buying packs for money thing is eventually introduced.  You get a single rare/mythic, two uncommons, and five commons.  If you already have more than a play set of a card they replace it instead with a token as you can see underneath Samut in the above picture.  These can then be spent to fill out missing holes in your collection trading a rare for a rare or a mythic for a mythic.  At first I could not understand why I kept getting them since at this point in my head… I had only opened a handful of packs.

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Also in your collection are a wide variety of deck archetypes built and ready to go.  Personally I have been shifting back and forth between Golgari Exploration for which Green/Black has always been my preferred color set, and Legion of Dusk which similarly is heavy black and vampire themed enough to ignore the fact that I am using white mana.  I love the exploration mechanic and when it compounds with cards that do stuff when any card explores.  This means you can get some really big critters on the board that escalate rapidly.  Ultimately in a perfect situation I want a foul orchard out on turn one, Wildgrowth Walker on turn two, and then some combination of creatures that explore like Seeker’s Squire or Ixalli’s Diviner to pump up the Walker and start my assault proper.  What that works it is beautiful… when it doesn’t there seem to be enough alternate paths to victory to hang in for a very long time.

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For the most part the client itself plays exactly like you would expect a magic client to play.  It does a lot of things for you, like if you have no plays it goes ahead and skips to the next turn which is likely going to throw you off at first.  There is a way to flip the client into a more granular level having you verify each and every trigger that happens…  which would be important for more technical decks.  I do feel like the timeout is maybe a little bit long given how many phases you have to get through…  there have been times that matches have taken forever because the other player was just slow at evaluating their options…  or potentially just doing something else at the same time.  Unlike the Duels of the Planeswalkers clients I never felt like it was rushing me through things and causing me to lose card play opportunities.  It seems to have some intelligence built into the client and stalls anytime it thinks you might have a play option, and so far it has not missed a time when I needed to play a card in response to something.

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After each victory you are awarded a single random card, and there are various quests that you can be working on while playing matches.  For example you can see in the bar that I am at 8 wins of 10 needed for  my next pack of Rivals of Ixalan.  The pack quests seem to come at 5 victories, 10 victories and 15 victories…  and not sure if that trend continues on every 5 victories or if you are limited to 3 packs per week.  Similarly there are quests that I had already completed like Kill 13 of your opponents creatures or cast 13 white or blue spells, each of those rewarding 250 gold.  The in game pack purchasing mechanism allows you to buy a pack every 1000 gold, so essentially after doing four of these quests you can get some more cards.  I am assuming this gold currency will also eventually be used for drafting which sadly is not in yet…  but I believe they have talked about wanting that game play mode exists.

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The only real thing you need to know is the fact that I set up my account around 6:30 last night and the next thing I knew…  it was 9:30.  The game is extremely good and brought back all of the right nostalgia beats for sitting around playing magic the gathering and trying to figure out how to dig yourself out of a card draw hole.  There are times when things go extremely well…  then there are other times like the above match when things go south really quickly.  I just could not get the exploration cards I needed to power up my front line and managed to keep the other player long enough to get a recursive combo on the ground.  As a result they manages to gain up 183 life before finally finishing me off in a single round.  I could have conceded at any point, but I wanted to see how big they could manage to get their health pool.  Even in a horrible loss condition… I was entertained.  I look forward to seeing how this product evolves over time and I am likely going to start streaming it on occasion so you can laugh at me as I make obvious mistakes.

Aggronaut Ninth Anniversary

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These posts are always really weird to sit down and write, because how exactly do you summarize something you have done this long.  Back in 2009 when the blog formally started I was helping to lead a raid in World of Warcraft as a Warrior Tank…  and quite possibly in the worst job I have ever been in.  I didn’t feel needed or respected at work, and this blog… and all of my guild/raid-leaderly duties were essentially my way of dealing with the maelstrom of chaos happening in the workplace.  As my work condition has improved my game environment has also changed… and it seems like the more responsibility that I take on in my work and home environments….  the less I actually want in my gaming ones.  Liore and I used to joke about starting and old folks home for old raid leaders, but there are times that it feels like I am absolutely a candidate.  These days I feel like I almost actively avoid the concept of raiding in the first place.

I realize this is probably an odd start to an anniversary post, but after going back and crawling through the last year of blog posts…  I am realizing that this is the first year when I did not have some form of active raid going on.  Sure we attempted to get something started in Final Fantasy XIV around the Stormblood launch…  and in Destiny 2 but neither of those really stuck that well and developed into a proper regular raid night.  Instead I have largely opted for solo play on a broader scale this year than I have in the past.  June saw the advent of the Robosquid Armada…  something we are loosely continuing with our Mythical Nonsense nights…  but that represents probably the most serious content that I attempted in this past year.  I am not sure if this is sign that I have changed in what I am wanting out of games… or if this was just a situation where no one actually wanted wear that raid leader hat permanently.

In the past year I also experienced a work transition, but it was one of those things that I largely just eased into.  For years I have been the unofficial leader of the development team at work, starting with a sort of “team lead” title that didn’t actually exist but very much was the role of assigning projects and figuring out our workload.  Around the beginning of this past year I was given the formal title of Supervisor…  and then last December my actual manager retired creating a vacancy that I moved into.  Now I managed not only the development team, but also data analysis and gis…  giving me fifteen other lives to watch after on a daily basis.  In many ways it sort of feels like going back to raid leadership…  but this time in the real world where I am sorta tanking for these people by dealing with the nonsense and meetings that are required to get forward movement.  Guild and Raid Leadership is not exactly one of those things that I would put on a resume…  but I will say that the experience does completely equate.

On the home front we are still in the same location we have been since 1999 and we experienced no major upheavals in the occupancy of our home.  We still have three cats:  Allie, Kenzie and Mollie and one ferret:  Shiloh.  There was a period of a few weeks when we thought a dog had adopted us… but luckily we found its home because we are just not really dog people.  Mollie is still skittish as hell, but has reached a point where she is my buddy instead of running from me whenever I entered the room.  She more or less was found as a kitten and grew up in a dog shelter for the first part of her life and wound up scarred from the experience.  Now she sorta follows me through the house as I do things…  letting me know she wants attention at various points along the route.  Kenzie is just as crazy as ever and is currently sleeping on the desk beside me.  Allie is still doing okay… but she is definitely entering the autumn years of her life and we are just trying to make her as comfortable as we can for as long as we can.  Shiloh is a sweetheart and gets lots of attention anytime she is awake…  but ferrets sleep an awful lot of the time which means I tend to give her lots of loving before work, when I get home from work, and before I go to bed…  because that seems to fit her sleep schedule.

The other day Tobold wrote a post talking about the decline of his own blog, and while I am not trying to do the same… it is noticeable the slow and steady bleed of readers.  I think this is far less a case of people simply getting tired of my nonsense and more a case that tastes are changing.  Personally I don’t have near the time I used to for keeping up with blog reading.  There used to be a morning routine that I had without fail… and now I never know who is going to ambush me on the way to my desk with some hot button issue that needs immediate attention.  Looking my analytics, it appears like my readership dropped by about eight percent…  which sounds bad but between the 15/16 year and the 16/17 year I lost sixty four percent of my readers.  It maybe seems weird to be happy that the bleed has at least been partially bandaged but the truth is…  what keeps me doing this on a daily basis is so much more than simple need to see the numbers go up.  I have talked about this before… but I think blogging for me is a form of therapy.

I feel like the “death of blogging” as it has been touted so many times is just a shift in tastes.  Folks are turning to YouTube for their gaming information whereas they used to bond with a forum or gaming blog in the past.  This sucks for those of us who prefer to read their information rather than have to watch a five minute video to get thirty seconds of information.  I first started encountering this myself when I would start playing a newer game… and find it completely impossible to find any sort of a blogging community that I should be reading.  When I started playing Destiny heavily… I found I had to trade blogging voices like Syp, Rowan, Liore, Syl and Grace for Youtubers like Mesa Sean, My Name is ByfHoltzmann and Arekkz.  As the gaming tastes have shifted so have the communities and maybe you can find a Reddit for a game like Destiny 2, The Division or Monster Hunter World…  but you aren’t actually likely to find a proper blog for them.  The truth is the era of YouTube might also be coming to a close as a lot of folks are preferring to just interact directly with the personalities they are entangling themselves with direction over Twitch.

The trend seems to be moving towards more and more access to the person making the content, and while I dabble in streaming and have been adopted by the very amazing Moogle’s Pom stream team…  it is still very much an ill fitting glove for me.  Blogging is about opening yourself up to the world with a comfortable distance from the reader.  Sure I sit down each morning and write my thoughts for you…  but I am not having to interact with you directly as you read them.  Comments exist and so does pinging me over twitter…  but there is a layer of separation between what I am doing and what you are doing that makes the experience feel more cozy to me.  When I have encountered a reader before in a game or something like that… I never quite know what to do, how to interact with them.  The same is true on streams…  interacting real-time with people is fine so long as those people already exist in my monkey-sphere of people I am prepared to interact with.  When someone new enters the room I never know how quite to do things…  that they might also find entertaining.

As far as gaming goes this past year… I did a quick run through of what I seemed to be playing the most for each of the months since the last Anniversary…

  • April 2017 – Star Wars the Old Republic
  • May 2017 – World of Warcraft
  • June 2017 – Final Fantasy XIV
  • July 2017 – Final Fantasy XIV
  • August 2017 – Guild Wars 2
  • September 2017 – Destiny 2 (PS4)
  • October 2017 – Destiny 2 (PC)
  • November 2017 – Destiny 2 (PC)
  • December 2017 – World of Warcraft
  • January 2018 – World of Warcraft
  • February 2018 – Monster Hunter World
  • March 2018 – Monster Hunter World
  • April 2018 – Project Gorgon

Not shockingly I tend to be extremely MMO-Centric in my gaming habits.  I tend to have some primary game that is my central focus at any given time and then a bunch of other games that I am also sorta playing.  Weirdly enough I spend so much more time playing an MMO solo… than I ever do actually playing solo story games.  I think the core reason behind that is two fold…  firstly I don’t like when games end.  I find the ending of the game to be the most sad time because it is over.  MMOs never end…  so I can never need to worry about running out of ways to interact with that world.  Secondly I find single player story driven games to be a very lonely experience.  Even if I am not interacting with other people… I like knowing they are out there and changing my gameplay in sublte and interesting ways.  Just seeing chat scroll by in the background makes me feel like I am part of something bigger than the tiny window into the world I have carved out for myself.  In theory streaming single player games can provide a similarly multiplayer experience…  but I never know how to handle that.  I don’t like reading out all of the text outload…  and it feels weird to pause what I am doing to read text as it scrolls by on screen while there are other people “in the room”.

I realize this is a bit of an odd anniversary post but it is what happened to come out of my mind this morning as I sat down to type it up.  One thing that I completely have not addressed is the amazing artwork that I have above at the top of this post.  That is of course by the very awesome AmmosArt who is more or less the official unofficial artist of all of my en-devours.  Since I am a member of the Moogle’s Pom community,  I wanted a few streamer moogles to use for decoration elements… and having seen her moogles before I knew it would work out swimmingly.  I have not actually used them in the method that I was intending yet…  but regardless they are amazing and I thought I would use this opportunity to share them with the world.  It’s time for me to wrap this up and head to work, but I wanted to close with one last thing.  Rather you are a regular who reads my post religiously, or a random drive by…  thanks for nine years of this interesting experiment.  I do this each day…  because in some way I am having an open dialog with each of you and the fact that you are out there somewhere is very important to that formula.

Boosh and Barroth

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It was a pretty great weekend as far as gaming goals go.  Saturday I largely roamed around aimlessly in Everquest while hanging out with my wife downstairs watching various stuff on the television.  Then at some point before the podcast I headed upstairs to see if I could knock out the megaman event.  This entails fighting the most laughably small Odogoron you have ever seen…  and one that is slightly larger than normal.  In truth I am not completely sure it is larger than normal…  or if it just seems massive compared to the tiny tiny one you fight first. Ultimately you need to get five tickets to get your full palico armor and I managed to finish mine up in three events…  with the last one dropping three event tickets…  something I was not sure could actually happen.

After the Podcast Thalen and I wound up hanging out and working on our Ryu costumes, which entails doing a challenge arena where you fight a massive Barroth.  This thing is so large that really your only option is to wail away on the legs until it falls over….  then start scoring hits on other parts of the body.  This event scores event tickets based on how fast you get the kill…  if I am remembering right getting it in less than 5 minutes nets you a gold and three tickets, less than 9 minutes a silver and 2 tickets, and finally finishing at all before the 50 minute timer is up earns you bronze and a single ticket.  You need seven tickets in total so we wound up running it four times in a row allowing us to craft the Ryu suit…  that in all honesty we will probably never actually wear.

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When Thalen and I both got on I created an open chat channel and we both joined the Greysky Armanda clan session, and at some point during our Barroth nonsense our good friend Shiana joined us in both.  Thalen and I were talking for a bit about both needing Kirin and what sort of gear we were prepping for the fight.  It was around about this point that Shiana offered to help us get some attempts in seeing as he was in the 90s rank wise himself.  Granted this is like at 11 pm we are starting this madness…  but my desire to kill the stupid unicorn was greater than my desire for sleep.  So we continued forth with me wearing my mostly Xeno’jiiva set that nets 40 lightning resist with a veggie platter buff.  In truth with multiple people the fight already seemed way easier because I was not having to spend my entire time trying to shed aggro from the lunatic horse.

One by one we each got carted…  with me taking the last hit and closing out our first attempt somewhere around the 25 minute mark.  On our second attempt we managed to get feline insurance, and in truth only managed to get carted the one time if I am remembering correctly.  We had better luck as far as where exactly Kirin decided to fight us, shifting back and forth between two relatively open areas.  When we managed to whittle it down to enough hitpoints to make it run back to it’s “nest” we barrel bombed it into oblivion then threw on our thunderproof mantles and proceeded to wale away on it.  All the while this was going on… I was still very much on edge… afraid something would go terribly wrong and we would fail the fight once again.  So when I saw the above screenshot…  crediting a kill for Kirin I was ecstatic…  making getting to sleep when I finally crawled into bed a little after midnight a bit harder than normal.

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Sunday I spent the day swapping laundry and hanging out upstairs playing Monster Hunter while watching The Mighty Boosh on my second monitor.  I am not exactly sure what prompted me, but for some reason I fired up Hulu to see what was available and it suggested to me this show.  Now I had watched most of it some time ago when reruns were being played as part of the adult swim block late at night.  This was back during my wow raiding days… and many of the sayings from the “Old Gregg” episode became constant quotation fodder during fights… especially “Fuzzy Little Man Peach”.  So yesterday I hung out watching the Hulu feed of the episodes while doing random nonsense in Monster Hunter World.  It was a day truly well spent.

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I’ve been slowly adding weapons to my repertoire and then learning how to use them.  It seems extremely bizarre but I have been crafting purple and orange versions of weapons that I have maybe never actually used…  because I figure as I learn them I at least have an “end game” version to get used to rather than mess with all of the steps in between.  For the moment I have solid versions of Charge Blade,  Switch Axe, Great Sword and of course the Longsword of which I have developed quite the collection.  One of the weapons that I have kept wanting to try is the Dual Blades which seem really cool when I see someone using them, but for whatever reason I have never actually tried.

I really really like the look of the Sin dual Chain Kama looking weapons, and thanks to farming the Odogoron quest I managed to get not only one but two gems.  This allowed me to craft the weapon and the complete set of Alpha Odog gear to go with it.  Sure it might seem weird that I have a full set of gear largely because I think its cool looking…  but whatever.  Now I am setting my sights on getting the Zorah blast lance…  before giving that weapon a go.  Sure I could just go into the training room…  but as I keep being reminded I am the patron saint of bad decisions and that simply would not be my way.

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Another project for this weekend was finishing farming the Anjanath claws needed to upgrade my weapon I can’t pronounce into the final form of said weapon I can’t pronounce.  I then took the firey axe and shield out on a few test runs having really great luck with it.  It could use a few more ranks of handicraft to give me more time in the blue zone, because it takes an awful lot of sharpness loss as you use it…  but it also dishes out a lot of damage and is crazy fun to use.  I am sure there are probably better options for sword and shield, but I like this one and it at least gives me an end game suitable weapon in that category.  All in all it was a pretty great weekend…  apart from one incident…  but that is a tale for another day.

 

Everquest For Reasons

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Last night I did some nonsense “for science” or mostly to refresh my mind so that I was no longer talking completely out of my arse about Everquest.  Prior to last night the last time I had played was apparently in 2013 if my screenshot archive was to be believed.  So not exactly the most up to date information about the game considering it is still receiving updates and tweaks.  Prior to starting up… or more correctly as the game downloaded I watched a video from Cohh to sort of re-familiarize myself with the game.  This video included a link to Brewall’s Everquest Maps pack… which I then installed to have slightly better guidance than the default options.

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The game presented a series of servers… some of which were flagged as preferred…  something I am not completely certain what it actually means.  However it did get me to end up rolling on Vox instead of one of the classic servers that slowly got joined over the years.  This is technically a newer account than the one that I had while playing the original Everquest, but it is the one that I have the vast majority of my EQ2 characters on…  so if I am going to sub somewhere it would be here.  On my older account however my characters are spread between Veeshan and Xegony…  neither of which sounded like an amazing option for starting fresh so I just went with Vox the new standard ruleset server that was being presented in the preferred list.

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Originally I created a Gnome Shadowknight…  but the fact that I could not change the color of the eyebrows from grey to something else caused me to ultimately delete that character and roll something completely different.  This time around I went with a Troll which  was a more min-maxery choice given that the latent regeneration has always been a little broken.  Essentially there are three races that are large enough to be able to Slam…  or essentially shield bash without the requirement of having a shield.  So you if you play a Troll, Ogre or Barbarian you can interrupt casting while using a two handed weapon…  which always seemed to fit the feel of a Shadowknight better than sword and shield.  Yes these are things that I was somehow able to dredge up from the past and summon forth to advise my judgement.

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The user interface still makes me deeply frustrated because it is sort of a much worse version of Everquest 2…  and I have never thought the EQ2 interface was that brilliant.  After about thirty minutes of tweaking I managed to get things moved in a way that didn’t make me quite so frustrated…  though still not entirely happy.  The hardest part was the mouse but after tweaking both the X and Y sensitivity I managed to get mouse look feeling a bit more normal.  The next step was trying to figure out how to get tab targeting to work properly which lead me out onto the forums to sort out which of the keybinds would actually do what I wanted it to do.  It turned out that basically I wanted to bind two things to tab…  nearest npc and cycle extended targets…  which combined sorta give me the style of tab targeting I am used to which is target the nearest thing or cycle through the things I am currently engaged with.

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Over the course of the evening things started feeling significantly better as I got adjusted to this window on time.  The combat is still largely non-interactive at low levels for a melee character and it was not long before I set up my old “Taunt and Slam” macro so that I could have a single button to train both abilities up with.  Originally I had lumped Sense Heading in there but it seems that you maybe no longer need to train that like you did before.  Most combat involved me pulling with my single spell Spike of Disease then starting up the auto attack and hitting my single ability button anytime taunt or bash/slam were up.  It was not glamorous…  but also pretty chill to hang out downstairs while watching television.

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Unfortunately as of writing this…  I am finding out that they apparently moved the spells so you start to get something new every level instead of not giving Shadowknights much of anything until around level 10.  So I just bought Sense the Dead, Locate Corpse, Invisibility vs Undead, Disease Cloud and Siphon Strength which should serve to make combat significantly more interesting.  The other thing that makes this entire experience more reasonable is the introduction of mercenaries… so I am running around with I believe a Human Cleric allowing me to do my tanky nonsense almost indefinitely receiving the occasional heal to keep me alive and functional.

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All in all it is not a bad experience so I do need to back pedal a bit regarding some of my comments the other day when talking about Project Gorgon.  That said I do think the interface for Gorgon is leaps and bounds ahead of this one, and it is probably the single most frustrating part of the experience for me.  I feel like I will spend some time soon trying to clean the interface up a bit or seeing if I can hide some of the interface elements to reduce the size of everything.  I am linking in a picture from Project Gorgon for reference…  as there is just way less stuff on the screen but providing most of the same information that the Everquest screen does.  Regardless it was interesting enough for me to get to level 8 and it is highly likely that I will keep leveling for a bit just to see how the experience expands once I leave the newbie cave.

 

 

Smash Royale

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Sometimes I get something stuck in my head and I cannot dislodge it no matter how hard I try.  You as my readers occasionally are forced to indulge in whatever this nonsense is…  so that by hopefully sharing it I can move on with my life.  This mornings post is one of those cases.  Yesterday I talked about Radical Heights and how it would have been much more interesting were it to change the Battle Royale genre in some way rather than just attempt to hit all of the high points.  This is when I went down a path leading to… Smash TV would be interesting to reboot as a Battle Royale game.  What I mean by this actually is the concept of Smash TV which was a room based dungeon crawl with randomly spawning nonsense, big bullet sponge monsters and showers of cash and prizes.  After finishing yesterdays post this idea clung onto the brain and I started piecing together what something like this would look like.

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As a result you have the above nonsense which is my attempt at sketching out what the setup of the game would look like.  In this configuration 48 players spawn into the game in little rooms off of a grid of battle chambers.  There are four color based cohorts of players that are ultimately fighting to arrive at the purple central region.  The sequence of play looks a little something like this….

  1. Exit Starting Room
  2. Make your Way to the Key Room
  3. Collect Key
  4. Make your Way to the Mini Boss Chamber for your Color
  5. Defeat Mini Boss
  6. Make your Way to the Final Boss Chamber
  7. Defeat Final Boss
  8. Profit

Key Room and Grouping

The Key is a shared resource in that the first person who unlocks the Mini Boss Chamber unlocks it for their entire cohort.  Where things get weird is that each cohort has the option of either grouping together or competing against each other.  When a new player enters a room where an existing player is already at both are giving 5 seconds of invulnerability and are prompted to make a choice “Friend or Enemy”.  If both players choose friend they are dynamically grouped together and from that point the victory condition is shared.  If one player chooses Enemy both are flagged as targets to each other when the invulnerability shield drops and now they are officially competing.  This continues as players move through their own cohort with the option to set a match default of either a sort of Carebear mode or Ganker mode.  Important note… there is no way to group up after this flagging period so it is a fast decision that sets the fate of the rest of the match.

Battle Chambers

Now we move on to the battle chambers themselves…  each of them spawns a semi-randomized encounter.  It could be a spawner full of small easy to kill, but also easy to overwhelm you trash mobs.  It could spawn in a single champion and with a couple of minions that requires some measure of tactics to take out.  It could also be an agility room where you have to avoid a pattern of damage for a certain amount of time before the doors open again.  Regardless of what type of room it is… it enters a lock down within 10 seconds of the first player arriving there and then prevents any new players from entering or exiting.  After defeating the encounter you have 30 seconds to clear out before the room resets and signals that it has “reloaded” and will begin the cycle of a 10 second lockout and encounter spawn.  As you move away from the starter rooms towards the key room the encounters increase in difficulty, and similarly as you move towards the final boss room in the central area.

Mini  Bosses

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The Mini Boss rooms are some sort of large bullet sponge juggernaut that requires you to hit some sort of a weak area to deal damage to it, all the while avoiding its attacks.  I linked in an image of one of the Smash TV Bosses for reference but I wouldn’t necessarily say that these juggernauts look anything like this.  Basically the idea is to have an encounter hard enough that it rewards players choosing to group up together to try and take it down.  Similarly it needs to be largely avoiding a pattern so with enough skill and execution prowess you could solo the encounter if someone is feeling super murdery and decides to go it alone.  That is a constant tug of war… incentivizing both solo and group play in different ways.  After the mini boss room has been cleared the way to the central area opens for everyone in that cohort… with one caveat.  There can only be one group alive…  it is a dual condition of both boss down and only one active group…  before moving into the central zone.

Boss Rush or Buffs

Once you enter the central purple area you have two main choices to make.  Do you rush the boss and try and get it down before the other teams…  or do you go collect one of the buffs scattered in the four corner rooms of this area.  Each individual buff can be collected only once so there is a high likelihood that two teams may be going after the same buff given that there is no clear buff for each cohort to collect.  You can only collect one buff and it is an aura applied to your entire team from that point forward.  It scales based on the number of players you currently still have in the game…  so the fewer players you have it attempts to give you a buffer to compete against larger teams by making each player a little more bullet-spongey.  So if you clear your cohort with only five players alive… then chances are you are going to want to go for a buff.  If you instead have all sixteen players alive and well… then you are probably going to want to rush the central chamber and attempt to take down the boss.

Essentially there are two possible win conditions…  either every other player is eliminated or your cohort has taken down the Final Boss.  The only way the elimination condition can be triggered is if you are playing in solo play…  literally you have to be the last player standing and if you are grouped you are not the last player standing.

The Drops

So you are immediately thinking now…  sure there is one central path that you need to take to cross the least number of rooms possible to get to each objective and that is obviously the golden path.  Well that gets complicated in the fact that every time you take down a battle chamber you are getting loot and that loot is ultimately what is going to make you strong.  Each player enters the arena with a single six shot sidearm with unlimited reserve, giving them a fairly low damage but always available option.  As you traverse the map you start picking up weapon drops and buffs that make you stronger as you zero in on the objectives.  Since the rooms get harder as you go… there may be some benefit in farming a few of those early rooms to get kitted out before trying the harder encounters.  Loot starts as instanced to a specific player, but if for some reason they discard an item it becomes essentially free for all… showing up for all players regardless of cohort.  Here is a quick rundown of the sorts of things I thought would be drops.

  • Weapons – very obviously different types of weapons that have different damage to rate of fire mixtures.  There are no ammo drops but picking up the same weapon twice will refresh its ammunition back to full.  Players can carry three weapons at once and have to discard a weapon if they choose to pick something new up.
  • Auras – these items when picked up apply a short term buff to the entire cohort.  You can have three auras at a time and attempting to pick up a fourth aura item will simply fail and leave the drop on the ground.
  • Consumables – these are items that can be held in reserve and used on demand.  Each player can hold three of these and they range from granting auras to med packs to providing some additional effect to your weapon.
  • Cold Hard Cash – Since this is a game show when you kill anything it erupts in a shower of cash upon death, and this serves as both a scoring mechanism and a spendable resource.  Occasionally when a room clears a vending machine will appear allowing you to spend a bit of your cash to buy some of the things you could get as drops.  Each machine has six items for sale…  three weapons and three consumables… which are randomly pulled from the total number of those available in the game.  At the end of the game any cash you have still in your inventory gets converted to a sort of savings bond currency that can then be spent outside of game….  but there is a pretty hefty tax at the conversion.
  • Favor Chests – if you do particularly well in a specific encounter there is a chance of the viewers watching you fight… providing a favor chest showing how much they appreciate your prowess.  These are by nature fairly rare but directly reward some of the cosmetic nonsense that you can collect like outfits and weapon skins.

Changing the Genre

Ultimately this is all I was talking about with Radical Heights… is that they could have taken that Battle Royale formula and changed it significantly.  This concept of “Smash Royale” still feels like Smash TV, but is also still very much a Battle Royale genre game in that the playing field slowly funnels players towards a central showdown.  This one however throws in a heavy PVE encounter focus in that killing things rewards loot… which then makes you stronger as you make your way to the final boss showdown.  Once opened that Final Boss chamber remains open with no lockdown period…  so as you start the fight you could have the other cohorts showing up in the middle of it sniping you as you attempt to finish off the boss and collect the loot.  I also feel like maybe I have not given enough concrete reasons why you might want to go that final boss encounter solo…  ultimately it is greed.  The final boss might drop 2 items per player in a maximum sized cohort and this is a fixed point….  so the final boss will always drop 32 items in this scenario.

That means if you go into that final encounter with fewer players…  then each individual player serves to benefit significantly more from the win condition.  It becomes a balancing act…  how many players do you really need in your group in order to be effective in the final encounter.  Only one group can emerge from the cohort area… but while in that area you could for example form 8 individual 2 player teams…  or 3 4 player teams.  Ultimately you as a player need to determine what your best course is when it comes to the Friend/Enemy decisions and how many additional players you need to make the final push.  There is no betrayal, but also no second chances…  from the moment you make that first binary decision you are locked into a specific path.  This is my idea for a Battle Royale game…  and I think it would ultimately play extremely well given that there are a bunch of points where a meta could develop.

I think to add pressure… there would be global callouts when an event has happened…  for example Red Mini Boss Down would tell every other cohort how much progress that they had made, or if Green picks up the buff.  I think even something like a “Blue Team Finalized” might be interesting because it could be one of two things…  either all of blue team decided to band together or one group managed to eliminate all of the other players in their cohort.  Since monetization is so damned important in a game like this right now…  I think the best option is a mix of limited time direct purchase cosmetics along with the ability to purchase directly the savings bond currency allowing players to buy anything currently “not on sale”.  The savings bond currency also serves as something that players can gradually save up over a large number of matches and be able to purchase the same “cash shop” cosmetics through copious amounts of grinding in game.

Those are my thoughts on how to tweak the genre and make it more interesting while also wallowing heavily in nostalgia in the process.  If you have actually made it this far down in the post… I thank you.  Mostly I just needed to get this out of my head and onto paper.

 

Its Too Late

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I don’t really have a ton to talk about this morning.  I played some Gorgon last night but was in truth mostly out of it.  I feel like maybe I am coming down with something, either that or it is simply just allergies going nuts with the start of spring.  Whatever the case I have been sitting around in large part numb and hazy.  None of these make for great writing fodder.  Instead I am going to talk a bit about Boss Key productions and the track record they are starting to develop for creating uninspired “also ran” titles.  Lawbreakers was not a great game…  it wasn’t horrible but it also really didn’t add much in the way of unique and interesting game play that made it stand out among the already large pack of “Arena Shooters” or whatever you want to call the “Overwatchian” genre that seemed to evolve rapidly and then quickly devolve into Overwatch and everyone else.

The above is a clip that my friend Ashgar loves to link when we start talking about derivative games in a genre… and it is bookmarked to the important part.  For those without YouTube access when you are reading this I will do my best to quote Graham Stark from Loading Ready Run.

The Following is a public service announcement for any game publishers trying to get in on the Battle Royale craze now…  you are too late.  If you’re already in progress you might be okay if your game has a compelling hook like the team at automaton promising a cloud-based server structure that could support up to a thousand players on a map larger than Skyrim…  but if you’re just starting it will be too late and we need only look to the multiplayer online battle arena genre for proof.

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Why this is all coming up this week is that Boss Key after failing to gain traction with Lawbreakers…  set its sights on the next big thing the “Battle Royale” genre and cranked out a game show based 80s inspired game called Radical Heights.  The problem I see however is that it doesn’t really seem to offer something new that Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds or Fortnite are currently offering.  Fortnite became popular for two reasons… it added a Minecraft aspect to the already popular Battle Royale genre and was free to play allowing players to hop in quickly and start playing with zero cash outlay.  Radical Heights is free to play and available through steam…  but seems to lack the “building stuff” hook.  The 80s/90s hybrid theme feels lazy as well…  because there are ways to do genre nostalgia that are amazing…  Blood Dragon for example…  and then there are ways that feel like cheap neon colored pandering.

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The most frustrating thing about the “Gameshow” trappings that the game seems to be draped in is the fact that it is a giant missed opportunity.  1990 had an amazing battle game that was inspired by the moving The Running Man, and pitting players against waves of oncoming enemies for cash and prizes.  Smash TV seems like a game that is just begging to be converted to the Battle Royale genre, and could also serve to change it significantly in the process.  Imagine that each player or group of players starts in their own room and are slowly working their way to the center of the maze.  The rooms all start off as PVE encounters as you have to face waves of encounters and varying obstacles, then as you get further you may or may not start encountering other players where you have the choice to group up and split the loot or take each other out.  In both of those scenarios to make it interesting you need to present palpable reasons why you might want to group up, and other reasons why you might want to go it alone and try and take out the interlopers.

Not all of the rooms need to be mindless waves from a spawner… some of them could be puzzles that need to be solved or crazy environmental effects that are going on that you need to survive a certain amount of time before the door opens.  All of which happening in a behind the back/over the shoulder third person shooter interface with the rooms being large enough to make that not feel completely claustrophobic.  In the end you wind up creating something that is a riff on the battle royale genre that comes at from a different direction…  rather than just cranking out another game going after all of the same beats.  The best thing about this specific formula is it would allow for massive boss battles similar to how the original Smash TV did… and tweak the “map gets smaller” thing into something infinitely more interesting.  Additionally it could hit all of the 80s/90s nostalgia beats without feeling like a costume that your game happens to be wearing.

Regardless of all of this…  I think the core of my frustration comes from having a lot of hope in Boss Key when it was initially founded.  Unfortunately it feels like the Cliffy B brand doesn’t mean anywhere near what it used to.

 

Wandering Aimlessly

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Right now I find myself struggling a bit to gain purchase in most of my MMO options right now.  World of Warcraft I am back and active in because of the Wednesday night Mythical Nonsense thing we are doing.  I was logging in every night to try and eek out the last bits of experience needed to unlock the Void Elves and Lightforged Draenei but even then…  I have faltered considerably.  I really do not enjoy Argus, so logging in every night and grinding every single quest available just seems grossly unpalatable.  Final Fantasy XIV failed to catch my attention with Eureka, and I lost momentum catching up on the main story quest patched in with the latest expansion.  Destiny 2 is sitting there largely untouched because when I log in…  there is really nothing that I want to be doing which is ultimately where that game falls short of the original..  there are no long running breadcrumbs for me to follow when I spin out and lose purpose.  Monster Hunter World is always easy to get back into…  but there are nights that I just don’t want to spend my evening upstairs and the fact that my PS4 is there limits my play time.

In the end I keep coming back to Project Gorgon and its weirdly charming neostalgic experience.  On the podcast Tam talked about the game feeling like the way we remember playing Everquest.  While this might sound confusing at first… this is exactly what this game feels like.  We have incorrect rose tinted feelings about how Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot for that matter felt to play.  If you go back today you end up with a cludgy mess of a game that feels ancient and quite honestly not that enjoyable.  However our in our memories the Everquest experience is still vibrant because we have edited out the rough spots and filled in the way those actions made us feel in place of the hard facts of just how limited that game actually was.  Project Gorgon remembers those things that were lacking in Everquest and has supplied the spackle and paint needed to make those memories feel true and vibrant.

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Sure I am doing the same kill ten rats quests I have been doing my entire MMO gaming career, but the fact that I seem to have a relatively limitless quest log…  and the fact that I can complete the quests by killing ANY ten rats…  not just the ones five feet away from the quest giver makes the experience feel more open ended.  If I have a quest to kill wolves…  Sickly Wolves, Mangy Wolves, Supporting Wolves, just plain wolves…  specific named character wolves…  all count towards a quest that says “kill wolves”.  This means you can do the quests while roaming around the world and exploring… rather than feeling tethered to a specific location to be able to clear out your log.  There are quests I picked up on my first day that I just managed to finish two weeks later because I had not actually encountered the thing I was needing to find yet.  I dig the long tail that this cycle has and the fact that it feels like you are “questing” for something more than just completing a task list.

I am sure some of this is just my inherent lack of familiarity with the world or the fact that the maps don’t really have locations marked on them, or my habit of running the opposite direction I need to go.  Whatever the case the specific combination of broad objectives and happy accidents along the way lead to a very immersive experience in spite of the fact that you spend a good deal of time running along and encountering nothing at all.  The only real complaint I have so far is the fact that most of the gear that I use looks like complete nonsense…  like right now it feels like I am wearing thermal long-johns…  but they were unfortunately the best item I had and finally got rid of that horrible yellow bandage appearance.

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At this point I have managed to hook two more people on this game, in part because I knew it would be down their alley.  For the most part I am limiting myself to just Sword and Psychology…  but I am contemplating trying out a few other secondary skills.  I spent the 2000 councils aka gold to learn beast taming so it might be interesting to try a pet secondary for awhile.  Similarly I now have the ability to learn fire magic, so that might also be interesting to shim in over top of Psychology.  The one thing that I am finding weird… and cannot quite reconcile is that our hotbars have six abilities on them…  but right now I have seven in both psychology and swords.  I cannot however seem to be able to replace the spells from my bar…  so how exactly do we use that last one?  I might try dragging it to the optional bar and see if it becomes usable that way.  Among all of the other games that I have access to at this very moment…  this one feels the most comfortable and suited to whatever I am needing at this very moment.  I’ve not really streamed much because nothing I am doing right now seems interesting enough for someone to watch.  Grinding factions in WoW is boring as hell… and I am afraid me wandering around aimlessly in Gorgon will also be boring to watch.

Half Priced Books Sale

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This weekend was a bit of a crazy one, but also extremely fun.  So for those who know my wife is a Teacher, and has been at the State Capitol building every single day this past week protesting.  Originally the legislature was supposed to be out on Friday so I decided to take that day off myself so we could go do something to relax from the madness.  Unfortunately the situation at the state house is a very fluid one and they opted to have a very short session on Friday morning.  This left my wife in a bit of a dilemma wanting to go and be there for all of her coworkers…  and also not wanting to cancel our weekend.  In the end we compromised because Oklahoma City can in fact be on the way to Dallas if you go the Highway 35 route.  So around 1 pm…  much later than I had intended on doing so…  I found my way through the nonsense that is 30,000+ educators inhabiting the Capitol grounds and picked my rain soaked wife up and we went about our weekend trip.

The drive up to OKC was a bit of a nightmare in itself and took significantly longer than I had originally expected.  There were several times where I was just driving based on the lights of the vehicle in front of me because we had white out rain conditions where so much was being blown up into the air by the big trucks that I could not see the route.  In fact I accidentally turned into the midway area of the turnpike…  just because I followed the semi in front of me and I had no clue that it wasn’t the way the road was naturally turning.  However once we cleared OKC the weather improved greatly and by the time we got down to the DFW area… it was 84.  We however apparently brought the cold front with us because by the time we checked into the hotel and prepped to go out for the evening… it had dropped down into the 40s.

The other thing that I feel like I should talk about… is that apparently we brought a Tornado with us…  or at least that is what the DFW area thought.  We need to talk about the difference between the National Weather Service in Oklahoma… and the National Weather Service in Texas.  For us a Tornado Warning is not called until there has been a funnel cloud spotted….  and shortly after checking into our hotel a Tornado Warning flashed across our phones and the sirens started blowing.  After flipping on the local news and listening to a weatherman…  he kept stating that conditions were favorable for a Tornado…  which should have been a Watch not a Warning.  Whatever the case the storm had passed where we were and being Oklahomans very used to Tornado time…  we went on about our business and headed to IKEA to hopefully get that in while the store was less busy.  The folks at the hotel however seemed fairly rattled.

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The real focus of the weekend however was a big Half Priced Books sale happening at the Arlington Convention Center, which is another tale…  when you tell me something is happening at a convention center I look for the largest building in an area.  The Arlington Convention Center however is probably the smallest building in the surrounding area flanked by the Texas Rangers and AT&T Stadiums.  After passing the building the first time… we looped back around and found that quite a line has formed of folks trying to get into the parking lot.  After paying our $5 for parking we walked through the wind and rain to find ourselves in a giant Half Priced Books clearance sale.  The photo does not really give it justice as to how much was there laid out crudely on tables garage sale style.  Everything there was priced between $0.50 and $2 meaning that there were a ton of folks loading up entire shopping carts full of stuff.  On either side of the main area there were boxes of books that had yet to be put out on the tables, so in theory you probably needed to come all three days of the dale to really feel like you saw everything.

Now one of the reasons why we love Half Priced Books so much is how amazingly organized it is.  For the purposes of this sale…  that largely went out the window as things were lumped into giant categories like Fiction, Non-Fiction, Coffee Table books, etc.  One of the things I tend to focus on are the pen and paper gaming books…  which were occasionally sprinkled in with art books, music tour folios, and other large format coffee table style books.  My wife was looking for educational resources…  which were in this large heap called Non-Fiction and a few in the Science section… that turned out to mostly be computer books.  Now something of note…  another great thing about HPB is that they seem to shift their inventory around quite a bit.  In each store there is a Clearance section that we often make a beeline to as soon as we get inside the door.  This sale appears to be the dregs of whatever didn’t sell on potentially multiple last chance clearance aisles.

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We spent about an hour and a half in the sale and this is the only thing that I personally walked away with.  Even then I only made the purchase out of sheer nostalgia for Dark Age of Camelot…  because this was a far bigger compendium than I had ever seen for that game.  The book is about three inches thick and covers Darkness Falls as well as the core of the three realms.  I have a handful of these MMO guide books that I never actually used, but have kept because they are little snapshots in time when the game existed in that form.  I find them interesting to flip back through and remember just how things were before later patches changed them.  My wife however walked away with a half dozen books meaning the trip was largely worth it.  It was one of those things that I am glad we did so we know what to expect, but maybe wouldn’t make a special trip for in the future.  It felt a lot like a book sale that a local prep school has every year, which is fine but if you go to it looking for a specific thing you are likely going to walk away disappointed.  I kept asking myself “do I actually need this” and if I do get it “what exactly will I do with it” which kept me from picking up many things.

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From there we plotted a course out of Dallas hitting up several of the Half Priced Books on the  way out…  first going over to the flagship store and then to Richardson and McKinney before finally getting back on Highway 75 and heading home.  I feel like most people won’t understand our attachment to this store chain, but whatever.  They have lots of interesting stuff and you never quite know what you are going to find when you go to one.  Each and every store has a vastly different flavor to it, and tends to be really good at carrying one or more specific things.  The other part of the equation is that we have none of these in the Tulsa area.  There are three in Oklahoma City which gives us hope that maybe just maybe they will make their way to our neck of the woods…  but even then a few times a year we make a trek to OKC just to hit the ones there.  This is literally the first thing we look for when we travel to a new area…  have have visited most of the HPB locations in Dallas Fort Worth Metro, Kansas City Metro, St Louis Metro, Austin Metro, and Madison Wisconsin area.

The reason in part why we are so attached is because they carry a wealth of educational resources.  Even though my wife has spent the entire week protesting at the State Capitol for more educational funding…  she is still always thinking about her classroom.  She is one of those teachers that never recycles her curriculum.  Each summer she essentially tears down every single prep she has and builds up a new structure based on the best ways she knows how to teach each of the concepts.  This year she knows she is going to be teaching Geometry again, and as a result is on the hunt for new resources to help explain concepts.  Granted in her office at home we have five massive bookshelves full of materials…  but she is constantly looking for new and novel ways to explain things.  So as a result we keep hitting bookstores looking for the next great concept she can glean.

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While it was a lot of driving condensed into a very short amount of time…  there are always interesting things to be seen along the way…  like a graveyard of past editions of Warhammer 40k for example.  I have both of these in my bookshelf here at home but it is always cool to see them in the wild… or in this case several of them.  It was a fun weekend and I was glad we managed to get back in time on Saturday night to record aggrochat.  However the whole having multiple people able to record thing meant that the show could in fact go on without me.  We have also started time boxing our shows trying to shoot for 90 minutes of recording time…. which after editing comes down to roughly an hour.  I think this week might be one of the better shows we have recorded yet because compressing things into that time frame seems to help the conversation and keep us from zoning out during the second hour of recording.  I highly suggest you check out this weeks show and let me know what you think about the shorter format.