Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A Weekend Full of Water and Vacuuming

I've not had a ton of time to enjoy any gaming these past couple of days. My basement partially flooded and I'm still spending hours vacuuming water out of the carpet. The carpet is probably a lost cause and that'll be about $500 to replace and install. The joys of home ownership.

Breath of the Wild
After finishing up the Xbox 360 version of Portal I renewed my efforts in Breath of the Wild. I finished up most of the side quests in Kakariko and Hateno Village as well as nabbing most of the Korok Seeds in the adjacent areas. I've been using the fantastic interactive world map from to track down all the discoverables in this game. I don't particularly enjoy aimlessly wandering around digital worlds, at least not ones as empty as the Breath of the Wild map, so being able to cut to the chase and get to the actual content in a reasonable amount of time is a blessing. Much like my Skyrim playthroughs, I'm in no particular hurry to get the main quest up and running.

ArcheAge Unchained
ArcheAge Unchained, the buy to play version of ArcheAge, launched today and I decided to throw my $25 in the bucket to see what it gets me. So far it's been this:

I never played any of the original so I'm curious to give this a shot. I honestly don't expect the developers/publishers of this title to behave and keep the usual microtransaction tricks at bay very long. My hope is that I'll get a couple of months out this before I get pushed out for the whales. A perfectly fine value for $25, and I might even get proven wrong.

It's my understanding that this is more a sandbox MMO than a theme park, and I can honestly say I have next to no experience with a sandbox. Hopefully this game represents this subgenre's best foot forward and I can see what I've been missing.

I did manage to find some time during the weekend to play a little Minecraft, although when you're spare bedroom is doing it's best swamp imitation my attention was a bit divided. Me and the wife are slowly building are humble abode. We aren't making any progress in the tech tree or whatever game system is there, we are simply building our house and the areas nearby. I've never really "decorated" in a game before, outside of emptying my bags of furniture into whatever free housing I got in Everquest 2. But this has been enjoyable. Maybe I'm just in the "nesting" part of my life. At least my Minecraft house doesn't flood.

It's a pretty standard grey block of a house because at this point I don't know how to do much else and I've felt no real compulsion to look up anything fancier. Ignore the zombie near the stairs; I evicted him soon after this picture was taken. The moochers never pay any rent.

Over the course of our relationship, my and my wife have collected a number of stuffed sheep.I often buy here one when she's feeling particularly stressed out so we've gained an affinity for the creatures. Happily, Minecraft let's us have our own digital flock. Apparently, dying their wool changes their color permanently. Video game logic.

I find navigating small elevation changes in Minecraft to be surprisingly clunky. I suppose that's the nature of game with very few curves in it. Much like the Romans, I enjoy building roads into territory that doesn't really belong to me. In the background you can see the much more impressive structure built by a coworker of my brother. We are not keeping up with the Jonses.

Nvidia might be bankrolling new PC Game Remasters
So shelling out the extra 50 bucks or so for a 'RTX' 2080 instead of GTX 1080Ti has proven to be not really worth it. These two cards are mostly comparable from a pure throughput standpoint, but the newer RTX line can do "ray tracing". So far, only a couple of games really support it. With the PS5 and next Xbox promising ray tracing support there is hope that this number will increase, but for now it's not doing me much. The only game I've played which really uses it is Anthem. Anthem probably would have looked damn good either way but also wasn't exactly a barn burner in terms of gameplay.

One thing I did enjoy though was the RTX enabled version of Quake II that Nvidia released. The game really did end up looking completely different and I ended up messing around with it for a couple of hours.

If Nvidia wants to remaster some old classics in order to advertise their graphics cards then i see that as a win-win. I haven't played Minecraft with ray tracing shaders on but they look pretty incredible from what I've seen. If you can make Minecraft look good then I'm pretty eager to see what we can do with the likes of Duke Nukem 3D or the the old Thief games.

Riot Announces 15 Years of Games At Once 
I have played exactly one game of League Legends in my lifetime. It was an introductory 5 vs. Bots match that was mandatory to continuing on into the real game. One helpful teammate was devastatingly unhappy with my character choice. Another called me a "bastardo" for stealing his kill. I suspect that's a Portuguese to English cognate, but I don't speak the language. We won decisively. I then played something else for the next 10 years.

More competition is always good, but since Riot makes Blizzard look like a competently run company, I'd rather steer clear of an unusually long burning car wreck. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

A Portal Back to 2008

Apparently abandoning WoW Classic has opened a mid 2000's sized hole in my heart because I played Portal all weekend. That was certainly not the plan. In my last post I mentioned that I like to be playing around 3 games at a time: a multiplayer game, a long-form RPG/strategy game, and a shorter 'actiony' game. We've all been on the 'overwhelmed by the backlog train' so I'll skip that discussion. I decided to simply list every platform I had either hooked up or installed into a notepad file and then use to randomly pick one out of the hat.

The winner was the Xbox 360 I keep hooked up for all the games that never made it to the Xbox One's Backwards Compatibility program. My 360 collection isn't particularly large, I tend to only buy Xboxs (Xboxes? Xboxii?) because my college friends use them for multiplayer games. So the few physical games I have either tend to be shooters that I would rather play on the PC, or long RPGs that don't fit my criteria. I logged on to the Xbox One to collect this half moth's Games with Golds and decided to look through the digital games on there. We had a couple of promising prospects, Ikargua and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but Portal struck out at me.

Portal should probably fit under 'game I would rather play on PC'. But while the end puzzles do ask for some dexterity, even my meager controller skills were up to the task.  Portal also isn't particularly 'actiony'. But it is a short and cohesive experience and I have a lot of room in my gaming life for that.

What attracted me in particular is the extra challenge maps added to this version of the game. The 360 version has 14 extra maps that weren't added to any other version and I wanted to give them a shot. I'm sure there is a mod to add these to the PC version but I didn't want to bother with any of that just for an evening long experience.

Except what was supposed to be an evening ended up being two evenings and change. I decided to play through the first couple levels of the campaign to get bearings and that turned into a full playthrough. Then on to the challenge maps which were pretty good. And now that you mention it, I never actually played through these developer commentary tracks...

It was nice, not just to play through an old favorite, but to unhook from the 'live services' machine. Two gameplay sessions without fussing about DLC or patch notes or bugs or busy work mechanics. Just pure distilled gameplay like momma used to make. It's nice to know that even though Valvue doesn't make games like this anymore, I can still go back and play it anytime without problem. Not true of a live service game where you either need to hope for a rerelease or hope that the game isn't deleted or altered forever.

Come to think of it, I never actually beat the Co-op missions in Portal 2 either. Now that we know how to change FOV sliders to avoid Mrs. Everwake's nauseous reaction to first person perspectives we may give that a shot this weekend.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Post WoW-Classic: A Breath of Fresh Air in a Blocky World

Boy after losing my daily driver in WoW Classic it's harder to be regular with the blog posting. Not that I've been playing less video games by volume, our first dumping of snow has seen to that, but because it's difficult to realize when I have "enough" material I want to post about.

Most of my group's playtime has actually shifted over to Minecraft. I have very little experience with the game. I played the new Windows 10 version for a couple of hours but I often wash out of sandbox games with no initial structure. We are playing the old school Java version off a server ran by my brother.

Much like my previous experience, things did not start well. I found a quick tutorial online for making the initial tools and off we went. I spawned not particularly near anyone else and had no idea for how to actually find them either. So I crafted up a sword and went exploring. I quickly came upon a room with four chests in a desert. Slowly but surely digging my way down I finally reached the bottom ... where apparently I set off some form of trap. This exploded me, the treasures chests, and all of my gear, erasing about two hours of gameplay and starting me back at square one.

Thankfully, before I decided to find the extent of Microsoft's refund program, said brother used his magical Admin-powers to teleport me to civilization. I began crafting a house, which I soon tore down to make an even bigger house. Said bigger house is incredibly empty because I use all of our resources just getting the house. The parallels with my real life weighed heavily in my mind. I tamed a dog. I accidentally killed a man and two llamas.

Overall I found the experience pretty engrossing. I am however a little bit stuck on what I should be doing next. In between bouts of college football I think I'll be spending quite a bit of time reading the Minecraft wiki and getting a handle on all the various systems the game has to offer. My wife is enjoying decorating and building the household but I barely have the energy to do that in my real house. What I do love is that there is no keeping up with the Jonses aspect to the game. I don't need to worry about keeping equivalent levels or trying to finish content before it gets invalidated by the patch. If it weren't for the hunger system, I'd never log off the world, simply keeping it idle in the background.

I'm also making headway in the main story of Breath of the Wild. I have real tendency to go off in search of Korok Seeds and Side Quests in lieu of actually making progress ... and then dropping the game because I don't like the pacing of it. I'm going to try to keep my eye on the ball here and keep progressing towards the Divine Beasts. It's honestly been a decade since I last beat a Zelda game as I couldn't stand either Wii iteration and the motion control nonsense. But with a sensible control scheme and a comfy aesthetic I think I'm ready to dive into this game.

So I have a multiplayer game and a long-form RPG going. I really do like to have a third game to play in bite sized pieces. Usually it's more of an actiony game but with most RPGs trending towards ARPG rather than turn-based that's less of a requirement. I did get a supporter pack of some sort from a contest my Destructoid. I don't actually remember signing up for it but I'll take free stuff. I haven't played Planetside 2 since it's launch but it can't hurt to check out Daybreak's latest offering this weekend. I'll give 3-4 hours and then make a judgement.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

TLDR: I Quit the Blizzness

Well this one kinda hurt.

Off and on Blizzard has taken to selling some of their old servers. I've wanted one forever but never had the money went they went up for sale. There aren't very many opportunities in our hobby to own an actual physical piece of a game we love. I was pretty excited to frame this on the wall next to an old Warcraft III poster over top of my gaming PC.

Then this morning happened.

Blizzard isn't close to the top 100 most corrupt businesses in the world. In the grand scheme of things not letting their platforms be hijacked by a contractor's political message isn't "that" big of a deal. A company that's continually falling flat on their faces in the West and is desperate to find growth in China and will play by the CCP's rules in order to do so isn't new. A lot of companies do that.

It's a silly thing. Nothing Blizzard is doing is different from what western companies have been doing for the past 3 decades. But we care more about this one because Blizzard was special. It created games, worlds, and memories that we could pour ourselves into. Turns out Blizzard wasn't really worthy of that love. Or at least it became unworthy. Blizzard has always courted and received this expectation that they were special and worthy of our loyalty. A lot of us ended up treating Blizzard as an organization we respected and high hopes and expectations for.

People can have whatever opinion they want on all this, but the fact is that I just feel a little dumb. Blizzard is a big nameless, faceless organization that I put a bunch of emotional expectations into and expected it all to work out. But it doesn't work. Blizzard, or the people in charge thereof, decided that expanding their economic foothold into China is worth so much more than the freedoms and lives of a couple million people. I'm sure they wouldn't put it that way! 'In the long run these economic moves will create a better world for everyone' is a thing we've kept saying since 1997 with not much fucking proof yet.

So I ended the purchase order on a thing I've been wanting for a long time. That sucks. I uninstalled all the Blizzard games on my computer. Feels bad. I'm going to need to find a new way to keep in touch with my family now that WoW Classic is off the table. That really, really sucks. But it's all still selfish at the end of the day. None of this will bring freedom and prospecrity to the globe. It's not even going to make Blizzard rethink their position. I just don't want a reminder of the hours I poured into a company expecting anything other than what I got.

I have the memories. I have the fun I had. I have the feeling of accomplishment and all the people I've met through their games. But what I don't want is a reminder of the time I asked for more than what strangers would ever give. In the eyes of this company I'm also nameless and faceless; just another money pinata.

I want to refocus up. My bookshelves and hard drives are filled with the blood, sweat, and tears of people who worked their asses off to make a thing they really liked. I've been in a rut of playing the same things over and over again because it was familiar. I've went through a lot of life changes recently and I took refuge in the familiar. This is a perfect opportunity to change that.

I want to expand the experiences I get, whether that be in media or the dreaded metaspace. I want to focus on the game I've got in my hands more than they game I want the next patch to make it be. I want to focus more on what someone has made rather than what they should have done instead. And I want to accept that the work itself is more important than the people who made it, not because I want to accept dealing with shitty people, but because I want save that kind of investment for the people who are actually in my life.

I'll be back one day. Diablo 3 didn't magically become a bad game this morning. But this whole brouhaha was a nice reminder to be more selective on the people and groups that get to matter to me. Blizzard is a generic video game company who deserves no more loyalty than any other. And they don't deserve a place on my wall.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

WoW Classic - Level 42, Mounts, and Fishing Quest

The misery of past years of have finally passed. For now we traverse through the mists of Azeroth in style.

With the auction house's economy still fairly anemic, scraping together the coin for my kodo took some penny pinching, not buying the last 8 levels worth of abilities from my trainer (thank God Mortal Strike is given from the talent tree, and thus, free), and a generous 6 gold loan from Mrs. Everwake.

The extra speed has immediately seen itself useful. I was able to make the (now) quick trek to Feralas and Dustwallow Marsh to finish off the Fishing Quest. This opens up Fishing all the way to 300 skill points and returns some blessed bag space. My Blacksmithing sits at 165, lagging behind all my other professions, and desperately needs an infusion of Iron Ore to get back into shape. Normal leveling has ceased to provide enough of an ore drip to sustain profession leveling and now I need to focus on farming. A task much easier done on the back of a kodo.

In more meta news, me and my crew of 3 ended up accepting Blizzard's offer of a server transfer from Pagle to Windseeker. Assuming the census record websites are correct, Pagle heavily favors Alliance, probably on a 3:1 scale. Questing in Stranglethorne Vale was quickly becoming a problem as a member of the Horde. Blizzard is desperate to get rid of layering on its servers but its clear this is going to leave some servers a mess. Not only is questing and resource imbalances going to continue spiraling out of control, but world bosses and PVP are going to be adversely affected as well. Windseeker is definitely a smaller server but its more balanced and seems to still have plenty of population. If we can get the gates of AQ40 open and battlegrounds don't become too one-sided then I suspect Windseeker will make a fine home.

I'm starting to pull ahead of Mrs. Everwake in the leveling game, so it makes sense for me to concentrate on other projects at the moment. I'm going to get Cooking and Fishing as close to 300 as possible this week, and get the 225 First Aid quest done as well. From there, I can start leveling my Alliance mage in retail to 120 and possibly knock out out some of the first levels in the Warcraft 1 campaigns.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Gaming Goals - October 2019

Technically I'm writing this on October 2, not the 1st like most blogs do it. But I've looked all over this blog's organizational flowchart and nowhere does it say you're my supervisor.


1. Get to 60 in World of Warcraft Classic
We're not pussyfooting around this one. It's been my primary game for a month now and it's time to see it through. I obviously have no idea how fast the different phases of Classic will be rolled out and I really do want to see this content while it's "current". This isn't because such a thing will be particularly important in WoW Classic, but it's been so long since I've been ahead of the curve in a game and I don't want to squander this opportunity.

All of my other goals really flow through this one. I rolled a tank so I could run group content and I want to see raids at max level that I really never got to see back in the day. I want to collect as my profession recipes as possible and craft for myself the more powerful Blacksmithing recipes. I want to level a bunch of alts and that will be much easier if I have gold flowing from a high level character.

Also WoW Classic has just been a tremendous joy and two months later I want to keep going.

2. Level an Alliance Character to 120 and Experience BfA Alliance Content in World of Warcraft Retail
The last time I didn't experience at least most of the story in a WoW expansion was probably Warlords of Draenor for understandable reasons. I've completed all story content horde side but now it's time to take care of all this Alliance side. I had actually began leveling a Human Mage right before WoW Classic hit but even I didn't expect just how much I would be playing Classic to the detriment of Retail. My mage is around level 68; helpfully boosted by some Brewfest quests. With full heirlooms cracking on through to 120 shouldn't be an issue. And with the recent patch removing reputation requirements from most of the story content I think this can actually be done pretty casually this month. Even if I don't finish it before October ends, the goal is to have this done before 8.3 hits.

3. Begin Warcraft 1
This is turning out to be a very Warcraft-centric month! Slightly before WoW Classic's release, Blizzard partnered with to release some of their older games. Now that WoW Classic is here, I want to go through the Warcraft storyline in chronological order. This includes not just the RTS games but also the books, comics, etc. This will be a much slower process but I think it will be fun. I've never actually played all the way through Warcraft 1; it's obviously a bit bare bones. Warcraft 2 is vaguely recall using cheat codes to beat back in the day. But I remember almost nothing about the experience. We had a copy of the game in the big box PC format they use to come in, so it must have been nearly 20 years ago. I'm also ashamed to say I've never beaten either Warcraft 3 or the expansion. But I've already got my pre-order of the remastered version. I expect it to release around Blizzcon so I'm sure it will be out long before I'm ready for it.

4. Finally finish Breath of the Wild
I've been saying this for a year now and it's never happened. While the purchase of a Switch Pro controller does make this slightly more likely, I'm just going to be too busy with other projects this month to worry about it.

5. Get the Japanese PS2 Up and Running
A couple of years ago I purchased a broken all-white PS2 while in northern Japan. The goal is to fix it up and have a way of playing some of the Japanese PS2 and PS1 games that I own. I've not actually opened it up yet, but I suspect it's that the laser is broken. Replacement parts for that are cheap and I should finally get this one checked off my list.

I've never actually done one of these 'Gaming Goals' post before so this is a bit of a test. My interests also tend to be varied and go off on tangents. I'm also a sucker for limited time events and with the holidays coming up I'm sure their will be no shortage of those. I'm also considering changing these posts from a monthly thing to a weekly or even shorter thing. I tend to think of my video game playing in chunks of about one play session. I usually sit down and decide what it is I want to accomplish during this particular play session. Maybe that's something I begin incorporating into a standard blog post. Not sure, I guess we'll keep trying it and figuring it out.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

WoW Classic, WoW Retail, and Overwatch | A Weekend Recap

Who knew cooking 350 fish would take a while?

These past couple of days have been the eye before the storm. I haven't focused much on leveling recently, I'm still sitting at 35. But I have raised all my secondary professions up to about 225, main professions to 180, and finished off all the various Warrior quests.

I love WoW's secondary professions (first aid, fishing, cooking, and in retail archeology). I don't really know why. I don't even use the end products from these professions all that much. But on every character I sink serious time into I also dedicate time to get these skills up. Granted, in classic WoW having high level first aid and cooking is a boon for a warrior. A bandage is quicker than eating, and stamina buffs from cooking keep me alive better.

I had forgotten that the last hundred skill points or so in each secondary profession is actually gated by a quest back in those days. My fishing will be stuck at 225 for a while as the fishing quest requires fishing up a rare drop in four different zones before moving on. First aid has a minigame at 225 that requires you to bandage up an emergency ward of war casulties and perform triage by bandaging the worst hurt NPCs first. Cooking isn't so bad as it's basically a bog standard kill quest in Tanaris. Although you do have to buy a stack of cheese from somewhere else. But I already anticipated that.

Having barely got my mage to max level before the Burning Crusade hit, I never experienced much in the way of individual class quests. I can't quite remember what the Mage's class-specific quests were and I don't recall ever doing any for any other class.

Most of the Warrior quests aren't actually useful to me. I'm pretty well geared from all the dungeons we've been running and most of these quests give greens. They are also incredibly slow and inconvenient. The four quests require traveling back and forth between both continents and a dungeon run through Razorfen Kraul. But it was nice to do these quests anyhow. They were obviously designed as time sinks but I enjoy having some Warrior-specific armor in the bank. It's not the gear I need, its having the trophy and the experience.

Additionally, there is also the Berserker stance quests. These are a bit more straight forward. Swim to an island just off Ratchet, join a Fight Club-esque crew and fight your way to the boss for your Berserker Stance and Intercept abilities.You get this quest at level 30 but I didn't bother to do it until level 34, so the gauntlet was a piece of cake. The follow up quest is a bit more annoying. This one requires you to travel to both continents again and kill level 40 mobs. For a quest you get a level 30. We will go ahead and sit on this one a while regardless of how good the weapons you get from it are.

And lastly I played a bit of Overwatch over the weekend. They gave out a Lego-themed skin for a character that I never play, but I always treat these events as excuses just to give a game I don't play often a try. In a recent patch Overwatch added a role queue very similar to what you find in WoW Retail's Looking for Dungeon tool, allowing you to pick between a tank, healer, or DPS. If you play as a much needed role (i.e. tank or healer) than you get a bit of boost win or lose. This is usually 20-25 of the game's currency or even an entire loot box which are usually only given out on level ups.

Much like Warcraft's PVP, I'm not much interested in playing a DPS. This is especially so in a shooter. I've been shooting baddies in FPS since Wolfenstein 3D and I've pretty much had my fill. Being able to play a different role, and get nice bonuses for doing it anyhow, had me stick out all 9 wins needed to unlock the promo skin.

I dare say I had fun. Quite a bit of fun. More fun than I've had in a multiplayer FPS since Counter-Strike 1.6. This weekend I primarily played the healer Mercy and analogue to the Medic in Team Fortress 2. All of the interesting bits I've explored in the past about healing in WoW PVP were absolutely true here in Overwatch as well.

This leads to an odd idea I've had off and on: from a PVP standpoint, Blizzard has kinda been making the same game since Starcraft 1. The interaction of complex abilities from a variety of classes/factions and how they interplay with certain map objective types. Obviously lots of video games do this, but Blizzard tends to do them in a very similar way but in different genres. This is something that really needs its own blog post with specific examples so I'll end things up here. But this week's Retail Wow's weekly event is a PVP battleground bonus event, but I have no motivation to play it when I can go onto Overwatch and get the updated experience.

Friday, September 27, 2019

WoW Classic/Retail | Brewfest and Pigboys

Today was a big day of gaming!

My morning was dominated by retail WoW's Brewfest holiday. For some reason I'm simply in the mood to grind out all of these toys/pets/transmogs. I've completed the introductory quests on six different characters now. I think that should be enough characters to eventually purchase every item I care about. The first day of Brewfest will give each character about ~180 tokens. Each subsequent day I believe gives ~50 tokens. With nearly a week left I think we will comfortably get them all.

Ram Racing is the main draw here. You get put on a ram vehicle that requires you to whip the mount a certain amount to get to speed and maintain it. For the actual racing, you simply jam the button about once a second and refill your "energy" by running into barrels of apples, apparently these rams eat very quickly. The key is to figure out the fastest racing line between point A to point B and back again while running into enough Apple barrels to not run out of energy and end up stuck going painfully slow. Both the Horde and the Alliance have a different layout, but the racing line for both is very close to a straight line, albeit partially disguised as more complicated by the terrain. Wowhead has a perfectly good guide for both factions.

There's also another ram racing quest that asks you to bark for one of two rival brewing companies by riding to 4 checkpoints in Orgrimmar or Ironforge. There are no apple barrels so you stuck at slower speed going through a city you've seen a million times before. These are boring.

Lastly, there is a very quick boss each character can kill once a day for a chance at various prizes. This is done through the Looking For Group system like many holiday bosses, and each kill takes literally under a minute. The main prizes here are two Brewfest specific mounts, a kodo and a ram. I've got the kodo thus far, and I'm hoping for the ram soon. Each mount has about a 2% drop rate which is not as bad as it seems since you'll get so many chances at it each year. There are also some transmog items. Notably, there is an on-use item drop that will create an Iron Drill in the ground. Anyone who clicks on this will get teleported to the bar inside of Blackrock Depths. Curiously, this item isn't a toy, so it takes up inventory space. Also, I don't know why anyone would want to go to the middle of BRD that badly.

The new addition this year is the Brewfest Chowdown. Each game requires four different players before it will begin, and only one person will win. Kinda like the water squirting games you see at amusement parks. You start with a plate of 2-4 sausages. Pressing 1 will eat one of the sausages but also cause a random amount of your "choke meter" to go up. If you get to 100 choke points, you will be locked out from pressing any buttons for 3 seconds. Sometimes. It's random if eclipsing 100 points causes you to choke or not. It seems to happen the closer you were to 100 in the first place. Pressing 2 will let you drink a brew that will cause your choke meter to go down by about 40 points. You get three charges on this with a 10 second cooldown. Once you finish your plate, you press 3 to get another one.

Someone come play with me!

It's unfortunate that their is so much randomness in the minigame. It's not that difficult to play it perfectly so Blizzard is clearly relying on the random chance to differentiate winners and give slower players a chance to win. Blizzard relying on randomness to give a simplistic system more robust gameplay has been pretty much World of Warcraft's problem from it's inception. My server's chat was complaining about it pretty hard. Can't say I wholly disagree. Either way, 5 wins gives you a trophy.

It's a damn big trophy and also gets your character a little drunk. I plan on breaking this out after killing a flag carrier in a battleground. Feels like the right about of obnoxiousness.

I've gotten both of the mounts to drop, if you're curious as to what they look like:

Great Brewfest Kodo

Swift Brewfest Ram
Unfortunately, they are very simple reskins of two very common mounts. I doubt I'll break these out very often.

In Classic me and my group just finished up Razorfen Downs. I'll go ahead and say it was quite boring. I'm quite well geared at this point as the tank and with a competent healer and two dps who can CC there just wasn't much challenge. We had one bad pull where we ended up with 6 mobs and I was able to tank without even hitting Shield Wall. In fact I haven't hit Shield Wall at all. I have no idea what the move even looks like. Perhaps it's time we either got more aggressive with our pulls or started taking dungeons that are much higher levels than us. Even with us four manning everything, we just aren't feeling the challenge I'm craving.

And last but not least, I finished Molten Core and am now Exalted with Hydraxian Waterlords ... on retail.

I doubt anyone will be Exalted in Classic for several more months. I've been farming Molten Core for a long while now in order to finish the last Classic Reputation achievement. Feels good to have that one off my gaming checklist, it's been on there for a while.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

WoW Retail | 7.2.5 and Brewfest

My weekend was admittedly not as focused on gaming as usual, as I ventured into the terrifying realities of the meatspace in order to acquire a companion pet.

Herberta would not make a good hunter pet. She doesn't seem particularly interested in fighting and mostly seems to sleep a lot. She does follow you around however. Dismiss Pet does not seem to be an ability I've learned in real life.

I did get some gaming in these past couple of days. I finished off all the Battle for Azeroth reputations and grabbed the last of the Essences I'm going to bother targeting. Technically I need to do the "Paragon" mechanic where I can continue to earn reputation with a faction. Every 10,000 additional reputation gives you a loot chest with about 4,000-5,000 gold, some war resources, and occasionally a faction specific toy/mount/pet. In the cases for the Tortollans, they have two additional cooking recipe ranks that I'm interested in. I enjoy collecting as many of a professions recipes/ranks as possible but I'm just too burned out right now. The Tortollans are already the slowest faction to level in BfA, made worse by the incredibly poor variety of world quests they have. The "Another Turtle Made it to the Water" minigames are grating at this point, the Concentration mini-game is insulting to my intelligence, and the walk the disappearing sparkly path is just dumb. The 2x reputation buff week will return again in a couple of weeks. Perhaps I'll be more likely to give a shot then.

The Brewfest holiday has finally arrived and allowed me to finally finish the year-long meta achievement for my proto-drake that everyone else got nearly a decade ago. There are a variety of cosmetics and pets available so I've been running some of the ram racing dailies on alts, but I just don't feel committed to get everything. Transmog tends to be something that I set and forget on my characters. The Brewfest transmogs only last for the duration of Brewfest themselves, which makes them feel useless.

 7.2.5 dropped today and with it the conclusion of the War Campaign. Everything after the line break is spoiler territory.

The "Battle for Azeroth" ends with a fizzle and another enjoyed lore character bites the dust. I'd say this beginning to feel like Hamlet but Shakespeare meant to tell his jokes. The 7.2.5 quests are all about gearing up for another invasion of Orgrimmar followed by....nothing. The cinematics were nice but World of Warcraft is a video game, not a movie. The actual gameplay here was so laughably token that I don't know why they bothered.

7.2.5 hints at some promising gameplay changes. The dissolving of faction warfare makes sense. We've had it for 15 years and can always enjoy it again through Classic now. The trick of course is that you have to replace it with something interesting. I have some doubts that this current dev team is capable of that. I'd genuinely love to be proven wrong, both Legion and BfA had some interesting changes to the WoW formula. But I suspect whatever is coming next will be closer to what we saw in War Mode. A change that seems to have been made to make the developer's lives easier than an actual interesting change for players.

The storyline at this point is just whatever. I've been slowly reading through the three original Dragonlance novels lately and the tone feels very similar. These are stock fantasy tropes and nobody at Blizzard seems particularly keen to move beyond that. The 7.2.5 cinematics seem to be preparing us for something huge and game changing and I actually feel disappointed about that. I would rather they take a page from Classic's playbook and play to their strengths, which is world building, not story writing. BfA went for a very cinematic tone but that's never once been Blizzard's strength. Use their expertise in game play, systems, art, and music to create the canvas from where players tell their stories. Easier said than done but at this point the storyline in World of Warcraft feels like the storyline in a Call of Duty game. It's there, I'm confident there are some people who love it, but at a certain point it became a developer's bullet point rather than something inherent good on it's own. Blizzard either needs to do what it takes to make WoW a narrative based game like FF14, or get back to having it in a supporting role that simply gives context for our character's actions.

With that said and done, I think it's time to take the pupper out for a walk.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

WoW Cl....Retail?

My Warrior in Classic is still level 31 and I don't think I've done anything more robust than checking a few auctions and turning in a couple of quests that had sat completed for a while.

Retail has two important events happening this week. Firstly is the double reputation on world quests event. I've had the various BfA reputations sitting close to exalted for some time now. I had made a concerted effort to reach revered with all of them in order to obtain flying. Since then, I've been logging in once every three days or so to clear out the emissary quests and get the free rep/gold/resources for little effort. With normally annoying reputations like the Tortollans and Rustbolt Resistance suddenly much less of a problem, I've been logging in every morning to clear the maps of world quests.

As of today I have everything but those two reputations on exalted. The Rustbolt Resistance should be done in two days time and Tortollans done tomorrow. Additionally, I finished the achievement in Nazjatar that unlocks the third rank of that particular essence as it's minor trait so prove to be a decent boost for my character. Unfortunately, I realized I don't actually have enough currency to purchase that essence until tomorrow. Bad luck.

The second major reason I'm logging into retail is the Brewfest event. Turns out, I never play World of Warcraft during the month of September. I know that, because I've every other holiday achievement completed since 2011. I'm not sure what it is about the fall that makes me WoW averse but its been pretty consistent for a while now. I'm guessing its the combination of Fall weather and college football that makes me less likely to sit in front of a computer for long stretches at a time. Maybe fall has just lacked tantalizing updates on the WoW front. Either way, I have WoW Classic to thank for helping finish the meta-achievement I've been sitting on for closing in on a decade.

Tomorrow should also be the end of my interest in Brewday stuff. The meta-achievement is what I'm after. The large amounts of pets and transmog gear isn't overly important to me. The mounts with a 2% drop chance are never something I'm particularly fond of grinding out.

So I suppose that leaves the question of my interest in retail after my reps are done. I suspect I will be on the sidelines until the next pet xp bonus event. I might not stick my head in the door and see if the Timewalking stuff is interesting but next week is Warlords of Draenor dungeons, not exactly an expansion I have nostalgic feelings for.

For reasons, that I can't actually remember, I had preordered the Link's Awakening amiibo some months back.

He's undoubtedly a handsome fellow, but I've never had the fondness for The Legend of Zelda that others have. My plan was to eventually get the Link's Awakening remake but I wasn't necessarily in a huge hurry to do so, particularly since I still haven't completed Breath of the Wild.

But tomorrow will be spent with me and the wife in the car for a ten hour trip. I expect my next couple of days will be a bit busy as well. I don't want to spoil the details, but the impact on my free time could be a bit ruff.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

WoW Classic - Level 32

As I finish up a run of Blackfathom Deeps with the Familia de Everwake, I'm struck with a reminder as to why the Scarlet Monastary dungeons were so popular.

It's because they were short.

My neck and shoulders are stiff and I've got a case of the grumps. The dungeon run went well, we only had one wipe, but that's just a lot of time sitting for me. Out of all the things I missed form WoW Classic, the time commitment required from basic dungeons isn't one of them. I've always preferred shorter but more often play sessions. That's really the one major design choice of Retail WoW that I unilaterally preferred over Classic.

Granted there are a lot of great reasons to have super duper long dungeons in the game. It makes them feel like real honest to God dungeons and not just another level in a linear video game. It's a good choice, it's just one that's a literal pain in my butt. I'm going to start keeping the foam roller in the computer room if this keeps up.

With all that said and done I'm a healthy and hearty level 32 now. The best part of doing all these dungeons with our group is that I'm the only mail wearer/melee attacker. My little guy is rocking blues in about every slot a level 32 can have in Classic.

But good God this gear is so ugly. Leveling has always left characters looking like clown fiestas but usually there is a certain charm to it. Casters just look like absent minded academics who were really late to work. Blizzard's 2004 rendition of chain armor looks like snake skin after it's been shed.

In more alarming news, I'm 8 levels away from my mount and currently stuck at 8 gold. I think we may be hoofing it for a while as the mount plus riding skill cost 10 times that. Back in the day when Classic was current content, I got the money for both my level 40 and level 60 epic mounts by playing the auction house. This was before auctioneer was an add on and you could make pretty good money by buying materials in the morning when demand was lower and then selling them for more in the evening; this is particularly true if you buy out every competitor and immediately relist that stock at a much higher price.

I got impatient for the last 100 gold I needed for my epic mount so I took a more direct approach. I would look up Darkmoon Faire cards on the AH, note their prices, and then immediately offer them in trade chat for 20% more. Someone would whisper me, I'd buy the card off the AH, and then teleport to whatever city they were in.

Unfortunately, the economy at this point in Classic just isn't robust enough to support these kind of shenanigans. Drops are still so rare and buyers so few that there isn't enough confusion and laziness to take advantage of yet.

Oh well, 60% increase in movement speed matters but it's not the end of the world if I end up hoofing it into my mid 40s. It might kill me a little inside as I get passed by someone lower level than me on their mount but that's just how it's going to be.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

WoW Classic - Lazy Sunday Edition

WoW is hitting that perfect pace for me. Nice, slow, gradual leveling. Killing anything and everything in my way. Occasionally get a nice XP boost with the turn in of a quest. Enjoying the music and ambience. It's a beautify, steady drip of nice.

Which makes for terrible blogging material.

Progress on my warrior is still a bit slow. I've only hit 29 this morning. Instead, as I had predicted in my previous blog post, I have become enamored with my Alliance mage. Compared to a warrior the leveling is just crazy easy. Killing from range and the easier pulling makes the content trivial. I can count on one hand the number of times I've died on mage. My kill count on my warrior is a number to high to contemplate.

There is more downtime; drinking for mana is slower than bandaging damage on my warrior. But I also like that bit. It lets me throw a couple of dishes in the dishwasher, tidy up the living room, answer chat messages on Discord. The very design of warrior is "go go go". Use lose rage if you dwaddle between pulls.

The mage is much more my preferred style of pace. If I wanted action I would play a real video game. That statement isn't totally fair, PVP I think holds it's own as a competitive action game. But day to day overworld work does not.

I'm playing on Pagle, a US server with an apparent lopsided Alliance-Horde ratio. Finishing quest objectives Horde side is difficult sometimes. On the Allliance side, Westfall is borderline unplayable. More players than potential spawn points was the norm making some quests only completable during offpeak times. Whatever effect layering is supposed to have simply isn't getting the job done.

Shadowfang Keep is in the bag. Gameplay wise the instance is a pretty standard experience. The setting is one of my favorites though. The spooky undead vibe the first two Forsaken zones have is always a treat to me. Additionally, SFK is the first real plot line in Classic I've come across that actually has some payoff in the future. While I always felt that the Cataclysm version of SFK was a let down, the role the Worgen curse and the Gilnean Kingdom have on many of the future expansions was really neat to see.

The one downside: The narrow confines of the instance made playing as a Tauren claustrophobic. Having to readjust my camera several times a pull was quite uncomfortable. Combine that with a hunter with a minimum range for her shots and it was difficult to position some pulls in a way that made everyone happy.

Either way things seem to be chugging along just fine. The vast majority of my gameplay has been WoW Classic. I played a couple hours of Breath of the Wild in my never ending quest to get into that game. I found the purchase of a Switch Pro Controller to greatly impact my enjoyment of the game. Those Joycons have the buttons positioned just like the DS and 3DS, which is to say far to close together for a normal sized human adult. The Switch, which should have come in the damn box with the console, actually makes playing on the system for longer than an hour at a time possible without hand cramps.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

WoW Classic | A Conundrum

One of my biggest problems with retail World of Warcraft was that they never seemed to work on the features that would have actually made the game more approachable and sociable. Guild features, for instance, were never fleshed out to anything meaningful. Eventually, we got guild perks (for a while) and guild banks but those really are the bare essentials.

It's been 15 years and Blizzard is only just now talking about a mentoring system. Just the ability to temporarily drop down in level so that you can play seamlessly with your friends. We know they have the technology to do it, the Timewalking events make that much clear.

That said, it wouldn't really help my situation in WoW Classic. My Tauren Warrior sits at level 27 while my family's characters sit at levels below that. I primarily rolled this character to try out tanking with a group that includes no randoms and it's gone great. Unfortunately the other people in my life aren't complete shut-ins and don't have as much free time as I do to keep leveling up. If I want to group and do content that is still somewhat relevant to us then I'm essentially forced to stop playing.

We've finished up Wailing Caverns now about two times. Its the only dungeon we can reasonably access that can handle our current 12+ level gap. I have no real interest in doing it again but it was a nice little romp. A couple of thoughts:

  • I greatly underestimated the maze it used to be back then. Or maybe I just have a poor sense of direction. It's a good thing I live in a time where Google Maps exist.
  • I greatly oversitmated the "platforming boss". If you don't know, there is a small gap about 3/4 of the way through the dungeon. Failing your jump means you have to walk a bunch to try it again. I keenly recall this being a massive chasm 15 years ago that required pixel perfect platforming skills. Turns out it's very much not. It's like a foot across. Sometimes I can't tell if I really sucked at this game or not.
  • The shield from the turtle never drops. Never dropped then. Never drops now. #nochanges
  • Tanking is very easy when your 8 levels higher than everything else in the dungeon. 
  • 3 manning and 4 manning these dungeons, even at the appropriate level, really isn't that big of a deal. Seriously, these dungeons use to be multi-hour affairs me and my friends would congratulate each other on. I really do used to suck.
  • Playing with real life friends is so much better than randoms. This was already known but I really forgot just how much better life is when you're experiencing it with people your constantly worried will go on a barrage of hate speech any minute. Crowd control! Focused targeting! Not going afk for 20 minutes! I'm never playing a game with randoms again!

Now, about the inability to level; this isn't that huge of an issue. I can, after all, level my professions (done), do low level quests (also done), or level an alt.

So an alt is now in my future. I'm struggled deciding which class though. I have zero desire to group with randoms in any sort of committed way, so dungeons are mostly out. So strong soloing classes are mandatory. I've also done a lot of the early Horde quests, so something on the Alliance side makes sense as well. At this point I'm strongly considering pushing forward on a Human Mage.

I actually started leveling a Human Mage on retail right before Classic came out. Mage was my second main (although an Undead one) and Classic seems like a good time to remember those old memories. My first ever character was actually a Warlock, but I found the gameplay so boring I quit WoW for about a year. ( I was also convinced Everquest 2 was going to win the MMO war of 2004. It didn't.) Pet classes always feel fiddly to me. DoTs feel even more indirect. Soul shards and life tap management feel like paperwork. Not to mention that Warlocks spent a decent portion of Classic as rogue-fodder on PVP servers and not much else.

Anyhow, what drew me to mage at first was the flavor. An undead who can light people on fire is as aspirational a career goal as any. Wizards were stuffy old dudes with long beards who had to memorize their spells everyday. But WoW Mages felt different. Druids, Hunters and Shamans were all naturey. I lived in a rural area and hated it; if I wanted outdoorsey nonsense I could have left my bedroom. Warriors were as bland as you could make a thing. Literally everyone on my server was already a rogue. Priests and Paladins were some Alliance bullshit. So a wizarding we would go.

What made me fall in love with the class was, oddly enough, movement. Playing a mage in PVP always felt to me like playing a game of basketball. It was about movement, restricting your opponents movement, and area denial. Blink, Frost Nova, Cone of Cold, Polymorph, etc. Instead of an elderly man chanting and drawing on the ground in sidewalk chalk, I felt like an athlete hauling ass around the battlefield and controlling the show. This was the end of my high school, and therefor, athletic career. WoW doesn't have the physicality of a real sport, but it showed me that video games could certainly have the same mental approach.

I've mentioned in a previous post that I was attracted to playing my Priest because healing was such a compelling and different way of playing. We've all played how many hundreds of hours of killing things. When a video game lets me choose a different paradigm completely it has my interest. And a mage in World of Warcraft offers that. Granted, they are still really good at killing things. But take dueling a rogue:
  • each player strategically using and reacting to each cooldown, 
  • mentally keeping track on the timing of each other's abilities, 
  • carefully controlling positioning (me as far as possible from the rogue, them on my butt for backstab damage), 
  • using abilities in odd ways (like using Counterspell to keep a Rogue in combat and preventing a free restealth),
  • looking for tells in their actions (is he trying to get to my front instead of the back? He wants to gouge me and reset the fight).
 So in the end it was still a thinking man's class, but a type of mage that wore sneakers and not flip flops. This sort of memory feels very personal and very in the moment. Some of WoW Classic's nostalgia was going to still be effective. The background music in the Barren's, old Orgrimmar, etc. I'm not sure if the memories of playing my mage will be the same.

I guess we'll find out as long as my squad keeps dragging their feet.

Friday, September 6, 2019

I Cheat | WoW Classic - Day 11

Stonetalon Mountains are complete and my handsome Tauren Warrior is 26 going on 27. Leveling has slowed to a crawl for a couple of reasons. Mostly it's because I play a warrior, I die a lot, it's kinda their gimmick.

I tend to be "well-rounded" in my gaming interests. There are few genres I don't enjoy, and very few modes of play I can't stomach. The major exception to this "exploration". I rarely get the urge to simply wonder a digital landscape. I have to be in the right frame of mind, and when I am, I'd rather go explore the meatspace around me. It's usually a sign that I need to start planning a vacation.

 So when I play a game like World of Warcraft I use a guide. Frankly, I use a guide for every game. But for World of Warcraft we get the benefits of add-ons as well. For as far back as I remember I used a website called The sketchy gold selling name is noted. Falling back into my old habits I tried to use the add-on version of this site but I began running into roadblock after roadblock. The guides never did a great job of acknowledging the different capabilities of each class. Some quests just aren't doable at certain levels for certain classes, namely warriors who struggle to solo elites or huge packs without the corresponding gear.

So now I've downloaded another add-on named Questie. This one basically imports the newer quest marking features from retail WoW, telling you where you can pick up quests and where the objectives to complete them are. You can customize the addon as well. I know of several people who turn off the objective markers, for instance.

This works well for me. I don't want to tedious run about at the speed of slow looking for a quest that may or not be somewhere. It holds no value to me. I want to see the content. I have the Lorekeeper titles for both Alliance and Horde on retail. I use Wowhead's uploader tool to see if there are quests that I missed.

In video games I like structure. I like to know what it is I need to do, and I like to do it until I'm good enough at it to pass on to the next stage. My favorite game is Mega Man X. Go right, jump and shoot. Love it. Shooting at various breakables until you unearth the hidden powerups? No, that's what I use a guide for.

Occasionally I get grief for this. It's unpure or whatever. I don't care. I've learned a while ago that I'm much happier when I take from a game the parts I like and ignore the parts I don't. I'm not cheating on a workout or on a diet. It's a game, it's fine.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Nintendo Direct Reactions

Nintendo came out of left field with a massive Nintendo Direct and I had thoughts on it. So many thoughts I decided to give my brain a rest and regurgitate them out of my mind and into cyberspace. This frees up space for things like deciding what I'll do for lunch. Which is probably a sandwich. Maybe some soup.

People who play first person shooters with a controller should be put on a list. People who play multiplayer first person shooters with a controller should be put on the list in bold lettering. I don't know what should be done with that list once we have it, but I want to know who these psychos are.

Luigi's Mansion 3 Multiplayer
Sounds cool, but the chances of me convincing the three people I know with Switches to buy a copy of this game at release and playing with me is asymptotically close to zero.

Trials of Mana
Never got into the series, but would really like to. I'm a sucker for "archive" releases like this. I will definitely buy this at some point. I will probably even play it too!

Super Kirby Clash
"Free to start" is fine by me. I miss the day of game demos and and it always scores bonus points for me. Will give this a try.

Banjo-Kazooie in Smash
This was already known so no surprise here. We had a Nintendo 64 growing up but I honestly can't say I remember if we own this game or it's sequel at any point. 3D platformers were never my cup of tea. Babysitting the camera feels like the developer's job, not mine. The Banjo Games are playable on Xbox Game Pass and I've given them a shot, but I don't feel they particularly age well. I got two unexpected niche characters in Joker and Dragon Quest Hero so I'm glad to see a character other people are excited for.

Terry in Smash
I don't think anyone was actually excited about this. That's not true, there are hundreds of Fatal Fury fans still around and they just got their moonshot. Happy for them, and I'm glad an important game series is getting a bigger platform like this. He's in Capcom vs. SNK 2 which I played for about a month on my Dreamcast. I don't expect that to help me in actually playing the character as I'm still bad fighting games.

Doom 64 on Switch

Jedi Knight 2

Tokyo Mirage Sessions Ported to Switch
Nintendo's war on the value of my WiiU collection continues unabated.

Deadly Premonitions 2
I don't know what this is, but "cult horror mystery game" seems right up my wife's alley. She likes murder things. It worries me.

Divinity Original Sin 2
An all-time Hall of Famer on my "One-Day I Will Play This or Anything Else in This Series. Probably."

SNES Games on Nintendo Switch Online
This is the part I'm most excited for. 30 year old games I rent for a year. Sometimes I suspect the modern day games industry isn't really aligned with my interests.

SNES Controller for $30
I've had terrible luck with knock SNES USB controllers I've bought off Amazon. If this thing actually works on for emulation on my PC it's an instabuy. I know there are some other reasonable wireless SNES controllers out there, but I'm counting Nintendo's usual superior build quality here.

Tetris 99
I like Tetris. I hate Tetris Battle Royale. Tetris isn't improved my multiplayer, only it's business model. Fleshing out Tetris 99 into an actual Tetris game makes me happy. Not sure there's enough here to warrant a purchase yet though. I know there's a "retail" release that comes with a year of Switch Online coming out soon. Seems like something I would buy with a good promotion on Black Friday.

Xenoblade Chronicles Port
I can't tell if Xenoblade Chronicles has become the Skyrim of Ports or if there are several hundred Xenoblade titles being released with similar names.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons
This will be World of Warcraft Classic, Part 2 for me. Love love love. Me and my boy Scoot are going to Zip Zoom all over this game.

Plus I'll get to play with my wife, she loves the series as much as I do.

Sans from Undertale in Smash as Mii Gunner
Never played Undertale, love the soundtrack though.

Devil May Cry 2 Port
What? Even more inexplicable since the PS4 and Xbox One got the trilogy as one disc.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Curry Dex
You can collect all the curry, but not all the Pokemon. Game Freak has to keep making Pokemon games and it seems like they're getting sulky about it.

Puzzle Quest HD
A bad game in disguise as a good one. I've almost wrote a review twice on this game since I've started this blog. It's tedious, it's too simple to be interesting, and there's so much randomness that you end up with limited agency when actually playing the game. But Puzzle RPG sounds so cool people will buy it anyways.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

WoW Classic: Getting Comfy Edition

My gauntlet of social obligations are completed and have left me feeling ... dehydrated. And in surprisingly good spirits. My ability to operate socially can be limited. A couple hours here and there and I can be one smooth operator. But anything more extended than a night out and my batteries quickly drain to zero.

So today (and much of last night) are when I revert to my beloved shut-in status. A cloudy mid-60s mood has taken over the Casa de Everwake. I have a campfire scented candle rolling, a plate of hotdish leftovers, and a Tauren Warrior who just completed the Barrens at the dizzying level of 22.

Right now WoW Classic is very much in my wheelhouse. It's familiar, it feels good to play it, it feels good to have a goal in my life that both feels important and without real consequences. There are very few experiences that can consistently bring me into the mental state of flow.

The feeling of just "locking in" to a task and pushing until I reach my goal or have my flow broken is a feeling that I've been chasing all my life. I guess I'm a flow junkie. I think everyone knows what I'm talking about, although I'm sure we all experience it much differently and from different sources.

Unfortunately for me, I tend to receive this flow from experiences I can't always recapture at will. Growing up it often came from sporting events, baseball in particular. But when I decided against pursuing the sport in college those opportunities dried up (slow pitch softball beer leagues don't really hit the same spot). Writing once served that place for me as well, but doing something professionally, particularly under the duress of the 2010 Great Recession, knocked a lot of the enjoyment out of that for me.

And playing World of Warcraft used to get me there as well. For me, WoW has unraveled in a lot of ways. The story lines no longer interest me, thematically the world feels bland and uninspired, and the sociability of the whole thing isn't. But at some point the beautiful second to second gameplay just took a nose dive. It's hard to get a handle on exactly when that happened. The obvious perpetrator is the ability prune. Classes simply got too simple to be interesting anymore. And while that's true to an extent, playing Classic is proof that for most specs the day to day overworld rotations are more complex in retail than they are live.

But they are not more fun.

They are more complicated, but to me they also feel way more fiddly. Every DPS class seems to have some form of combo points or some standard "Long Cooldown > DoT > Medium Cooldown > Situational Ability > Filler" rotation. The pacing to every fight in retail simply feels off. Fights either take too long or aren't long enough. Rotations are either glorified quick-time events or brain dead stupid. Classic, for whatever reason, seems to be interesting with every mob I engage. (Except for Ret Paladins. They were always boring to play.) I'm sure there are other outside factors affecting this feeling, but moment to moment Classic just feels better. 

These "core gameplay loops" don't have to be complicated: at their core Mario games are about pressing A to jump. I think WoW Classic rotations are just complicated enough to be interesting while being somewhat brainless enough that you can multitask watching Netflix or chatting with others. WoW Retail asks enough from you to make multitasking difficult, but isn't interesting enough to complete hold your attention.

When I originally played WoW, I leveled while chatting with friends on AOL Instant Messenger or while chatting with my college roommates as I played on my laptop. Nowadays I play while talking to my wife or watching a Twitch stream. WoW Classic hits that sweet spot for me in so many different ways that no development team could ever really be expected to accommodate. But I'm glad I got an opportunity to get my flow back.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

The End of Blaugust

My friends from college have flown up to my new house for the weekend, a long standing tradition we call "Friends Weekend", so I'm typing this post in a state of what one might call slight inebriation.

Very slight.

So it's probably a good coincidence that I'm feeling reflective as we wrap up Blaugust (even if my typing is a bit unsteady). My goal with this blog was two fold: 1) get into the habit of getting my thoughts on paper and a steady clip every single day and 2) participate in a culture of blog MMOs that I have been reading for over 15 years but never contributed to myself.

I feel like I was half way successful on both of these fronts. I did successfully set aside time each day to get a blog post out. I'm genuinely proud of myself. This has been a busy month for me and I had very many opportunities to give myself an excuse to not write. I did it anyhow.

What I don't like is the overall effort I put forth during the month. Some of these blog posts were just "throw something up to get my daily credit". I can do better than that. Some of the posts about things I was excited about were not as well written as I am capable of. Rust can only count for so much, I can put more effort into this.

I also think the writing everyday is a great idea. Posting everyday is not. Going forward, I want to focus on one hour of blog writing a day. If I have a post come of that, good. If not, it's important to me to hold back until it's ready.

On my second point, I got to interact with some really cool people. I've read more MMO blogs than I ever have. Some bloggers that I've been reading for many years commented on my posts. It's damn cool.

But I could also give a little more. I want to leave more comments on people's blogs. It feels great when I get them and I want to return that. I want to participate more in discussions that other blogs take up as well. WoW Classic fit that bill this time but I want to continue more of that.

A goal I wasn't expecting, but stumbled upon was this idea of mindful gaming. A number of authors this month commented on how having blog makes you play games much differently. You're constantly looking for blog ideas. I think that's a good benefit, but what I want is a more thorough understanding of what I'm doing anyhow. I'm in my 30s now, life is picking up speed and I feel like I'm getting more days and weeks where I can't frankly remember what happened. I don't like that. We've only got so many days on this Earth and I want to do a better job of not taking that for granted. Gaming is important me, and I want to do a better job of finding that value in it. This blog is a hell of a tool for doing that. It's also going to be great as a diary when I go back to read it.

I have to say that this Blaugust was a huge success. I reached my goals, and I feel invigorated to go even harder. I really want to thank everyone who organized and participated in this. It's been an incredibly opportunity, and it's added honest to God value to my life. I'm thankful for that.

Here's to keeping it going.

Friday, August 30, 2019

WoW Classic: Day 4

So it's probably not the most amazing thing anyone has every seen. But I saw the best example of social design in a while last night.

In the Barrens there is a not particularly well designed-quest called Ignition. It's a quest that you find in a random area of the world, where you talk to a NPC, get the required quest objective items and then come back. Then you get a second quest where you then do a short escort quest. Doesn't sound too bad so far.

Unfortunately, it's a quest that makes you reconsider if Blizzard even knew they were making a multiplayer game when they added it. Once you turn the quest it, you have about 5 seconds for everyone else in your group to also accept the escort quest or they get left out. The NPC then has about a 15 minute respawn timer.

So last night, knowing that this quest was going to be a problem, I sought out other local players to help complete it. One player had already been bitten by this quest design and grouped up quickly with me in order to give a second try. We then filled out the rest of the three members of the group of hopefuls. 

We were waiting for the NPC to spawn and started a nice conversation. One player was watching Matt Mercer's Critical Role channel on Twitch, a Dungeons & Dragons show. I hadn't seen the show, but this led to a conversation about D&D, miniatures, and other similar streams. 

Finally, the NPC spawned, we began the quest and off we went. Except for one thing. One player wasn't quick enough and didn't get credit. It was the original guy I had grouped with who hadn't gotten credit before. I felt legitimately heartbroken for him and offered to stick around another 15 minute respawn cycle to help out. 

And so did everyone else. And we just talked. Two of the members turned out to be from Florida and were concerned about the impending hurricanes. We commiserated about our histories of natural disasters and other topics as well. Eventually the NPC spawned again and our final player finally got the quest credit.

So it was a small moment of half an hour in a night where I had played for hours. But it illustrated what I loved about World of Warcraft and was everything that I had hoped Classic to be. I want to be clear, this quest was terrible design. Nobody should try to make a game like this. But it happened to work out because 5 people were already invested and willing to dig in and do a quest twice despite the experience/hour ratio.

Whether Blizzard wanted it or not, whether Blizzard honestly realizes it or not, it's reintroduced the game that I've been missing for oh so very long. And I can't wait to log in to play it again. I honestly can't remember the last time I felt this way about a game.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

WoW Classic: Day 3

Unfortunately, I didn't get to make much progress in WoW Classic today. I'm hesitant to keep leveling too much as I don't want to leave my family behind. I'm 17 and already very close to leveling out of Ragefire Chasm. Unfortunately, my abundance of free time is not shared.

One thing I've noticed is just how much one dies in this game. Granted, I'm dying because I'm a warrior and that's just the class. But every time I hit the graveyard I see 5-10 other people on the way to retrieving their corpses. It feels more like respawning in a battle ground than the overworld.

It's really amazing to me how my interest in playing Retail just plummeted. Retail feels so disposable. I don't care about any of the gear, the storylines, or the content. Dailies are just a thing you do because that's what you do when you log in. Retail feels like a solved puzzle. Group content is just this thing you do as fast as possible with as little talking as possible. Failing incurs social derision and nothing else.

Everything just means more in Classic. The difficulty and the "purity" of it all just makes people buy in more. Failure here is a social opportunity, a chance to bond over the difficulty of the content.

Classic is so much better because it has Retail has a foil. When Everquest launched it's progression servers I was interested but never really got involved in it. Everquest, despite the tremenouds changes it's taken over the years, is still Everquest. Retail WoW is an 180 degree change in design philosophy from Classic, and they stand in contrast to one another.

Classic launching during Blaugust was pretty opportune; a way of looking both back and forward for me. I'll have more company over this weekend so I won't get to play very much, but my I'm looking forward to my last couple of blog posts this month being retrospective about both this month and the last 15 or so years.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

WoW Classic: Day 2.

Well the Orc/Troll starting area is certainly proving to be more busy than the Tauren area was. Competition was getting fierce in Durotar while Mulgore was mostly cooperation. Some of that was due to the quest design though. Durotar has several more quests with low drop rates and/or mobs with slow respawns. I forgot how uneven the questing really is between zones.

Of course I didn't need to be in Durotar at all. I finished Mulgore a healthy level 12 and ready for the Crossroads and Barrens. But my wife and sister have been sidetracked work and school and haven't been able to play at all. I don't want to level too far past them.

So I've completed all the quests in Durotar, it's given me three extra levels up to 15 and a couple thousand reputation with Orgrimmar and the Darkspear. If I recall, the benefits of increasing reputations with the capital cities is cheaper vendor prices and being able to ride their mounts when your exalted. Granted, with each mount taking up precious bag space in Classic, I doubt I'll go too crazy with the mount collecting.

But it's just nice to see the content again. I suppose I should save it for alts, particularly as I'm itching as always to have complete coverage of the professions on each faction side. But I think I'll try to be realistic for once and stick to one main for a while. At least one character for both factions.

I have every profession up to 50 or beyond now. I'm taking mining and blacksmithing on this Warrior, because that's what you do. Mining has not been nearly as competitive as I thought it would be.

I made a sound decision to grab skinning and mining at first. The extra stacks of leather brought in in another 50 silver on the auction house that have made paying for skills and professions a breeze. I even had enough for some much needed health potions.

It's nice to have first aid back after retail nixed it this expansion. Granted I never used it on my main as I'm a discipline Priest, but I always found it useful during leveling. In Classic it's even more viable as a quick way to heal while competing for mobs. The Tauren's warstomp stun into a quick bandage has been just enough healing to save me from death three times now. It's these little opportunities for skilled play that I miss because they just don't exist while leveling in retail anymore.

Playing in the evenings is probably too buys to bother with most nights. But I see myself sinking a couple of hours into this every morning for at least a couple of weeks. My poor main on retail probably feels like he's collecting dust on his brittle exposed bones.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

WOW Classic Journal Log: Stardate 2019.08.27

In fours of World of Warcraft Classic I've experienced more please and thank yous than the last four expansions combined. I'm sure everyone's experience is different but I really am flabbergasted at the difference I've experienced so far. 3 times I formally grouped with someone and enjoyed pleasant chit-chat. Twice we formed parties to hunt down rare quest mobs. I was getting Druid buffs thrown on me left and right.

At one point someone got to a treasure chest a second before me. They apologized and then offered me the mail bracers in the chest if I could use them.

I've made it to level 11 and am wrapping up the final Mulgore ans Thunder Bluff quests on my Tauren Warrior. I may stick around the area longer to level up mining and maybe do a little fishing. Also, I'm pretty well convinced The Barrens are going to be one of the most populated zones in the game so I'm not in a huge hurry to head over that way. In fact, I'm considered running through, grabbing the flight paths and maybe seeing what experience I can eek out of Durotar.

As a Warrior I'm dying a lot. I simply don't have a lot of tools yet. I can't actually range pull yet as I can't afford the ten silver to train gun skills in Thunder Bluff. Face pulling two mobs is very dangerous. Pulling three is guaranteed death.

I find myself not minding the incoveniences yet. I do wonder how long that will last. Not being able to seamless switch between weapon types is pain I haven't felt in a while. Dying as a warrior because I simply don't land any hits on a mob one level above me is still pretty infuriating.

This morning had no queue at all, and the one hour maintenance was closer to half an hour. Tonight, the hour long queue returned. Playing during the day lines up more with my preferences anyways. I was surprised at how little the population affected my play this morning. There was some fighting for mobs sure, but not a lot and it wasn't even close to cutthroat.

I'm ready to pour myself into this game. I do have my old college friends flying in from out of state for the American 3-day weekend, but after that I am prepared to no-life this game to 60 and beyond.

Assuming the servers will let me in of course.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Reflections While in Queue

I've just gotten back into town and haven't been able to read the rest of the MMO blog-o-sphere. I'm going to guess it's mostly people posting pictures of their time in queue.

This isn't anywhere near as bad as I anticipated, but I'm also not playing on one of the higher population realms. This might be the first time that I've had to wait in a queue that spanned into the thousands (or tens of thousands). I spent most of my time on a PVP server named Darkspear, which apparently gained a small amount of infamy as a "streamer" server, but spent most its life as backwaters.

I eventually grew frustrated with the PVP play style. I don't really require structure in my PVP, but it does need to be something other than faceroll. I think it was late Burning Crusade, after my real life friends had abandoned the game, and my raiding guild had imploded, that I was stuck on a low population server and feeling pretty glum about it. I think I was trying to farm Primal Mana is Area 52, got corpse camped by a random hunter, and then just transferred my mage to low the population realm I could find, Blackwater Raiders, an RP server.

PVP, even corpsecamping or getting corpse camped felt a lot better back when I was still part of a community back on Darkspear. Being part of a competent guild where I could call for back up and that would eventually result in a zone-wide all out brawl between several allied guilds. It was also fun having kill-lists of players or other guilds. It could be lighthearted, finding someone from an enemy guild while leveling, killing each other as you leveled or farmed, jumping into their Ventrillo and giving each other light-hearted banter about it. It could also be petty where I had the misfortune of interacting with some of the biggest egos I've ever met in my life.

But when I lost that sense of community then it was really just other players being in the way of what little I still wanted from the game at that point. I transferred to a role-playing server to just not have to deal with people any further. But this was ultimately a mistake, it wasn't the PVP really (although it had mostly just gotten annoying), I was just burned out from the game.

Ironically, PVP is what actually got me back into the game. While I still find world PVP to be a chore, battlegrounds and arenas can be honest fun if the designers have the right balance ticking that expansion. Near the end of Burning Crusade I started leveling a Priest as a healer. The goal was to do dungeons, but those eventually got stale. At low level you simply don't have enough tools or challenges to make healing interesting, especially in the early days of the game.

Battlegrounds became my jam. Healing was so fundamentally different in a PVP setting is set my mind on fire with the freshness of the approach. Killing things in multiplayer is the most common thing in the world. You kill units in Starcraft, shoot other players in Counter-Strike, punch each other in Street Fighter, but no where else had I ever experienced the idea of "support" in a multi-player game.

As I learned later, this wasn't a fundamentally new idea in the games world. But it was new to me. I loved not only a break from the mindless repetition of DPS, but the huge effect I could have on the outcome of games. Keeping up a flag carrier as they made a wild dash across the coverless expanse of Warsong Gulch felt great. Holding the line in Alterac Valley or defending an Arathi Basin node against a superior force felt impactful. There was a real difference in the game's outcome in how I played. And people I healed often displayed a genuine sense of gratitude. A feeling I genuinely had missed while playing World of Warcraft.

A lot of the novelty of healing has worn off by this point. And healers are a common sight in all forms of PVP to the point where it's really just expected. I also ended up consolidating my characters on Thrall, a not-so-surprisingly Horde heavy server that seems to be reasonably popular. The old-school honor system grind is not something I want to subject myself to. It's not fun and, frankly, unhealthy to try for High Warlord. But as wait for this interminable queue to go down, I do hope I rediscover that fun.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Pinball and World of Warcraft

I'm still in the Peg for the weekend so my gaming has been mostly limited to World of Warcraft's mission table on my laptop and Puzzle Quest on my 3DS.

But I want to talk about Ikea. A three hour, linear gauntlet filled with an unimaginable amount of mobs and I ended up getting none of the loot that I wanted. I'm stiff, grumpy, and I just want meatballs. So basically this trip is training for Blackrock Depths.

We ate dinner in an area here called the Forks. It's a common feature for cities here in North America (and maybe elsewhere) where they take a former warehouse or factory and turn into a common area with food stalls and some shopping. The Forks is home to probably 20-25 pinball machines and a few arcade machines. They had a Neo Geo MVS that even my wife commented on. But I really found no desire to go in there and play a couple of games.

First I actually have to go make some change. I use my travel card for everything so I've never handled Canadian currency and I rarely keep American money on me either. Then I have to find an open machine as they were pretty crowded (which is awesome in general though). Then, when I eventually die/lost my ball/get bodied by a teenage I have to pony up my money again. Compare that to just pulling my 3DS out of my pocket and opening the lid and playing however long I feel like.

WOW Classic will have a certain amount of friction as well. But that's friction that I'm mentally prepared for. It's friction that I welcome, or at least understand is a tradeoff for a social and gameplay experience that I want.

If I was ten years older and grew up next to an arcade, instead of the MMO explosion of the mid-2000s I would probably feel a bit differently. That made me wonder if WOW Classic really had to narrow in a certain type of player, from a certain type of demographic, looking for a specific type of gametype at this specific point of their life.

But the pinball room wasn't filled with bearded guys in their 40s. Everyone I saw in there was 10 years younger than me or more. The games were obviously a draw but they were all obviously having fun together as well. It was obviously a social situation. With attention concentrating affect that streamers and social media can provide, plus a very soft video game release schedule this month, I think WOW Classic might just become the social hub for another generation. I know these things are fickle. Maybe WOW Classic will last up until Christmas video game releases begin appearing and that will be that.

It's interesting to see how niches can be found, lost, and found again by different demographics. Hopefully WOW Classic ends up positively.