Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Putting on My Sunday Best

So looks like I might actually be raiding again.

I've joined a guild on a trial basis with the intention of doing some heroics on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. I haven't raided properly since Burning Crusade and one thing that has certainly changed is the application process. The days of a dedicated guild website seems to have gone away. Instead verbal interviews over Discord while linking your Raider.io and other 3rd party websites seems to be the normal. At the point, voice chatting with random strangers has been a standard experience in gaming for over a decade now. But for me, it still feels really intrusive.

Enchanting and gemming your gear has been pared down quite a bit. It seems you only need to enchant three pieces of gear in the endgame (two rings and your weapon). Gear with sockets are highly desirable, so naturally I only have two of those. I have max level cooking and Alchemy so bringing my own buffs and potions doesn't cost much either.

My UI however is a bit of a mess. I like that Blizzard has added actual raid frames into the game. They feel more or less identical to using Grid circa 2009. But they don't seem to interact with mouse macros that are bound to my mouse keys. I think downloading Clique will fix that, but it seems like a very odd issue to have. I'm hesistant to set up Weak Auras yet, it's a lot of work to get those just right and I suspect my raid awareness is going to be hurt by poorly set up timers rather than helped at this point. Once I get my raiding legs back underneath me then I'll go ham with the customization.

I'll start my deep dive into the specific raid information I'll need to be ready for. (My first job is to remember what the darn raid is called, I just refer to it as the Azshara raid). I haven't had homework in ten years, I'm not quite sure if I'm looking forward to it.

One thing the guild leader mentioned was the need for an off-spec available to raid. I tested the new Shadow Priest in Legion and I can't say that I found it improved. They've completely overhauled the spec and introduce a mechanic called "Insanity". The goal of the spec is to reach a point of Insanity that does major DPS, and then balance the whatevers in order to keep it there. It felt very clunky to me and I just didn't bother, if I wanted to DPS I would roll an actual DPS class. I'll keep a guide up on my second monitor in case I need to make the switch, although I suspect a raid that has too many healers is the sort of problem that most raid leaders wish they had.

I believe tomorrow is the first raid I'll participate in. Hopefully I remember how to still drive this thing.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Developer Disappreciation Week!

According to the 2019 Blaugust calendar it's Developer Appreciation Week!  It only makes sense to give my thanks to the developers of World of Warcraft, the game I've played much of this month.


So that was all I was planning on writing in regards to Developer Appreciation week, but after reading Bahgpuss' entry on the topic I decided I should expand a bit more.

Making a game, being a public-facing personality, project management and marketing are all hard jobs. And for that every developer on Earth has my sympathy. But jobs can be hard for many reasons. When you remove Tier sets (one of the few universally popular aspects of your game) in order to focus on "Heritage Armor" and then fail to deliver on a promised date, you make your job harder for no reason. My biggest issues with Legion and BfA is that both expansions are "developer" expansions, the vast majority of the gameplay decisions exist to make life easier on the developers with little regard for how it affects the players.

Endlessly grinding world quests isn't fun. But it's easy and repeatable content for the developers. Endless grinds for Artifact Power isn't fun. But it's a way to create progression without the developers having to actually do anything. Farming Azerite gear to get preferred traits and warforged stats isn't fun. But it allows the developers to stretch out a loot grind without having to come up with an actual compelling reason to do so.

BfA in particular was very clearly designed with both business and development needs first while everything else gets filled in around those goals. It's not a Blizzard specific phenomenon, it's not even a video game industry specific phenomenon. I don't necessarily take it personally, a bad video game is certainly preferable to, say, a power company being indifferent to whether I have electricity available to my house.

But when your team lead starts dropping gems like "[t]he only metric we care about as a development team is whether you're having fun" then you've got a problem. This is some John Smedley/Peter Molyneux/Dave Georgeson-esque level of disingenuous bullshit that make me detest and distrust everything about this company. 

Having a goal and failing to achieve it isn't bad. I've played and enjoyed many games that were ambitious but rubbish. An entertainment product that sacrifices enjoyment for business needs? If it's still fun enough than I'll play it. 

But when you start gaslighting me is where you earn my ire. It's a feeling I get every time I return to a Blizzard game, and not surprisingly, these returns are less and less every year. I don't know if I'll stop playing Blizzard games completely. I do have that old English-degree sitting somewhere that taught me to separate the artist from the work, and I prefer to boycott companies that are up to much heinous bullshit then lootboxes. But at a certain point, the general numbskullery of a developer starts to creep into the product itself. 

I wonder if my and many other's excitement for Classic is based on not much more than returning to a time when Blizzard simply released a proper experience, instead of desperately convincing us it had.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Odds and Ends

No real theme today unfortunately; just the culmination of several projects in WoW.

My Alliance mage is level 30 and still very handsome.

A couple of random achievements:

I finally got the last crafting materials to drop to finish my Mechagon quest mount, the Scrapforged Mechaspider.

Doesn't fit thematically with a Forsaken Priest so I doubt it will see much use, but it's one less thing in my quest log which I always appreciate. Also, it's not a flying mount curiously enough. Doesn't seem like to much of a stretch for such a contraption but Blizzard's thinking on these things has often been inscrutable.

I also took this opportunity to finish up the Eche'ro archeology quest. For those not in the know, Legion Archeology quests last for two weeks and rotate on a 6 month basis. This particular quests rewards a rather handsome mount so I was sure to get this time. Especially, since who knows if I'll still be playing in 6 months.

It's very difficult to take a picture of a transparent moose. Also, this mount IS a flying mount. Robots flying is a no. Ghost moose yes. Inscrutable.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

An Alternative Point of View

With the Zandalari Empire maxed out and now officially part of the Horde, I've finished the 8.0 and 8.1 War Campaign. So now it's time to sail onto 8.1.5 and 8.2 right?

Except I kind of don't want to.

You don't get much in the way of a structured quest line for the opposite faction's zones in Battle for Azeroth. So what I've seen of Kul Tiras looks, snowy, woodsy, and and a bit witchy. I'm rather fond of those first two (could take or leave the witches).

I mean the Horde storyline is pretty flat. But say what you will about the tenets of pointless evil, dude, at least it's an ethos. The Alliance storyline feels completely hollow from what little I've been exposed to it. But the zones give me the old Grizzly Hills feeling, a zone I've never heard a cross word about. And a snowy, mountainous woods gives me a comfy Skyrim vibe. I've 100% Skyrim twice now, 120 odd hours or so each, so dumping some into the Alliance zones is something I'd quite like to try.

The problem is that I don't really have an Alliance character ready for that. I've got a couple of 90s, and an Alliance monk at 100 but no real desire to get those guys rolling. So I've launched a new character, getting back to my Mage roots that I started this game with nearly 15 years ago.

He's a handsome devil ain't he? I also finally have a character in WOW whose name matches the blog's title, so that's good. I'm sitting in an inn at Redridge as a level 21 fire mage. Can I get him to 120 and finish the BfA Alliance questline before Classic launches in two weeks?

The race is on.

Friday, August 16, 2019


Kill me please.

Gearing my Priest has become a battle of diminishing returns. With an item level of 419 that vast majority of solo content doesn't upgrade my gear. It's time to consider a question of great importance.

To raid or not to raid.

Technically, pugging mythics will still drip feed me gear. But while finding a group is easy as a healer, not wanting to shoot myself during and after is the real trick. I've dealt with DPS who are magnetically attracted to any and all damage mobs have to offer. I did a +2 with a tank who had less health than me. I've been second on the dps charts. To the tank.

Pugging mythics no longer appeals to me. I suspect pugging raids will be the same boat but different harbor.

But raiding is it's own set of frustrations. I do have the free time to dedicate to a set schedule now a days. Finding the right guild is going to be a problem as always. The population in WOW tends to skew towards "aggressively youthful dumbassery" that I didn't have much patience for back when I was a youth. It's easy to mass ignore most of trade chat, harder to do in raid chat. Socializing is a point of friction for me anyhow with people that I actually like. Making new friends, or at least acquaintances, is never something I'm looking forward to.

The reality is that I'm not getting any younger. I recently moved away from my home state of 30 years to brand new place where I know very few people. Making new friends and keeping in touch with old ones are skills I need to focus on right now just to keep my sanity.

So the motivation is digital gear and real life growing. It's time to spit shine my enchants and start filling out some guild applications.

I'm probably going to hate it.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Failure to Launch

Yesterday I wrote that I wanted to spin a new game to play, preferably something on my newly bought Original Xbox.

I did not.

I'm a day or two behind on my RSS feed so I ran into Sandarian's blog post about Indecision in games. They describe a feeling that hits close to home:

Logging into Final Fantasy XIV or World of Warcraft seems like a chore, unless I actually sit down and start playing. Then it’s fine. It’s more the whole having to sit down and actually start playing part that is bothering me. I have the same when it comes to single player games. A few months ago I managed to (finally) finish Kingdom Hearts 3. The reason I managed to do it was because I forced myself to just sit down and start playing. 

This describes my process in a nutshell. Once I'm started on something I can be fantatical about finishing. But getting the actual ball rolling is difficult. This blog itself is in fact a stratagem against this; I want to develop the habit of writing a little bit everyday in a low stakes environment so I can transition into more "serious" writing much easier. You don't need to get a ball rolling if it's already in motion.

I think this phenomena is why I tend to fall back into the Battle.Net launcher so often. Blizzard is fanatical about trying to reduce the friction between not playing their games to playing their games an awful lot. I'm in the mood to getting into a new RPG right now, but just the thought of installing another game, sitting through a ten minute opening cut scene, a forty minute tutorial level to show me how to jump, etc. just makes me not want to bother. I'm not really feeling the magic in World of Warcraft right now, but it's a very quick transition from hitting the Play button to actually playing a video game.

My best bet would be start a new game early in the morning, where my energy levels and willingness to try is at it's highest, and not in the evening when I'm looking for more of the same old thing.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A Pleasant Sort of Grind

You know what doesn't lend itself very well to blog posts? Fishing. Outside of pushing Zuldazar reputation so I can continue the Zul'jin storyline, my game playing has mostly consisted of fishing up Redtail Loach and Frenzied Fangtooth in order to cook up 30 more Bountiful Captain's Feast to complete the Catering for Combat achievement. 900 total fish with a 50/50 chance of being caught per cast means ~1800 casts.

I don't know how to make that compelling in a blog.

It shouldn't be compelling in the real world either but multitasking is actually making this process enjoyable. I'm either writing up my daily blog post (like this one!), struggling through my RSS backlog of other Blaugust participants, or stopping once every 10 catches or so to scrub a "zone" of my kitchen. It's all stuff I wanted to do, but now I get a nice little counter to go along with it and eventually an achievement most are probably smart enough to simply ignore.

Sometimes I'm just in a mood for a good grind, which has actually gotten harder to find in World of Warcraft in a "pure" sense. Sure there are reputation grinds, currency grinds, gear grinds, etc. but a lot of the good old fashioned stand in one place and kill everything you see for hours on end has been excised from the game. This is probably a great design choice, but sometimes I just want something to do with my hands while I'll focus on something else. Outside of a couple of remaining pet and mount drops, fishing and archeology are probably the closest thing left in modern day WOW.

I'm confident I'll regret every word of this post in two weeks when WOW Classic launches.

I'm suffering from some Decision Paralysis on what game to play next. I have access to every console since 1999, god knows how many PC games at this point, and of course ever present emulation. It's an embarrassment of poor spending habits riches, but it's also overwhelming. I never feel like I'm just picking out a game to play. It  always manifests into a decision but who I am as a person and what type of games does that person play. Video games don't cause violence, but they may cause a very specific kind of madness. Hopefully tomorrow's post will be about some unearthed hidden gem that has languished on my shelf (physical or digital).

I recently bought an original Xbox ,and while I don't own much for it, I want to give that a spin. That neon fluorescent green is so demonstrably 2000s that I hunger for it.