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.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

WOW Classic Social Expectations

I enjoyed the community that the original WOW fostered. But there were plenty of times when their wasn't enough community at all. LF2M Tank/Heals being spammed into chat was hardly a rare occurrence.
It's probably because of this that someone wanted to develop a LFG add-on for the game that replicates he one we see on retail. Blizzard, rather quickly, squashed this by eliminating parts of the API that it used. While I don't feel the smug superiority of heralding Blizzard's decision to mandate the purity of the experience, I do ultimately agree with it.

As Mage, my services were never particularly in high demand. In response I kept a notepad file where I listed every player I had grouped with categorized by tank, healer, and DPS. Every component run earned a player a "point; exceptional play earned two. Players who constantly afk'd or played particularly poorly lost a point. Anyone who went below zero got frozen on my list for a month.

It ended up being a good system. It acted as a quick way to find and message tanks and healers, and helped find exceptional DPS that could make up for other weaker players. When I eventually became an officer in a raiding guild in Burning Crusade, the list was a very quick way of finding recruits that I know were sound.

After my nightmare with raiding just two days ago in the modern day retail version, I'm hopeful that such a rudimentary list can  bring back an experience more akin to what I had. Maybe it will take time for slobby players to wash out of the game. Maybe it will become overrun with elitists and become unbearable. But WOW Classic is a fresh shot and creating the kind of dynamic that can foster communities. Doesn't mean it will happen, just means we can try a hard reset on the social dynamics of a game that's been pretty dysfunctional for a while.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Weekend Plans

My in-laws are coming for a visit so my ability to play World of Warcraft this weekend will be zero. This is perfectly fine, yesterday's post shows why my raiding ambitions took a turn for the worse. Also, Monday is the launch of WOW Classic so I'm sure I'll get more WOW this month than I can handle.

Unfortunately, said in-laws aren't leaving until Tuesday, a fact that my wife decided not to share with me until recently. This might save me from some of the server nonsense that will be happening on Monday although it does mean I'll probably be a bit left behind some of my other friends playing. Not a good situation as a warrior who will have trouble leveling on my own. At least I'm not on a PVP server.

This weekend will include a trip to Canada. Winnipeg to be precise. It'll be nice to be in a real city again, eating food made by people who can actually cook food, shopping in stores that aren't Wal-Mart. I'll be bringing my Switch, although nothing on the system is particularly speaking to me. I will also be bringing my 3DS, despite Nintendo's best efforts.

A couple of months ago I noticed that my two year old New 3DS was hard crashing at odd times. The speakers would be a crack noise and then the system would shut down. After some experimentation I found that pressing both the Left and Right shoulder buttons, or just jostling the system a bit, was causing this behavior. Opening up the 3DS I saw one of the ribbon cables had become dislodged and damaged. A quick Google search showed that this was a common problem.

A call to Nintendo left me mostly with a lecture. The lady on the phone wanted me to send my 3DS in, pay them 75 dollars, and if they deemed the problem their fault, they would refund me some portion of that money. I would pay for shipping.

"I know what the problem is, a ribbon cable came dislodged and damaged. It's a common problem, I want assurances that you will reimburse me the problem, it's under warranty."

"Sir, you're not allowed to open your 3DS."

I know Nintendo is an equal with Apple when it comes to their hostility towards customers, but i feel outright lying about the law is a bit bold. I decided a couple of months later to simply upgrade to a New 3DS XL on the used market for a similar price to "repair" my old one.

Unlike online stores made by competent companies, you can't simply log in to your new device and download your profile and purchased games. The 3DS ties your log-in to each individual system, having more than one is beyond the capabilities of Nintendo engineering. You can transfer this log-in between system if you have both physically in hand and on the same network.

My old 3DS had apparently gotten worse, as now the bottom screen completely didn't work. With no way to do the system transfer I then have to call into Nintendo's help line. 20 minutes later the customer service representative begins the process of transferring my profile. Sort of.

Instead you have to survive an interrogation first. What games do you have on your profile? When was the last time you played it, down to the exactly month and day? What regions have you taken your 3DS?

Then comes the kicker. With the process "complete" my friends says the transfer is almost complete, but they will need 3 to 5 business days to finalize everything.

Needless to say I was taken aback. I asked if I had done something wrong to incur this nonsense.

My friend did not hesitate, explaining that it was actually a legal "requirement"! I asked then why does the company's own Nintendo Switch not have to do this part. He did not have an answer.

Late yesterday evening I got the email that my 3DS is now ready for use thankfully. I know this problem will go away as the 3DS itself if phased out in favor the Switch. But this experience was so odd I really felt like I had to share it.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Well That Didn't Go Well

My desire to raid hit a pretty bad roadblock last night.

Raid time came around and I made my way to the Eternal Palace. Loaded up voice coms on Discord and waited for everything to assemble. Cleared trash to the first boss and prepped by potions/food buff/etc. The raid leader then decided to set the tone for the night.

"Okay if any of you fucking retard newbies don't know how to do this, stand on the green marker if you have the green debuff, stand on the blue marker if you have the blue debuff."

Needless to say my desire to be part of this guild lessened considerably and immediately. The boss did die at least, although most of the raid died. I'm not sure how considering the raid lead provided such a robust strategy. Commander Sivara is not a particular difficult boss, but it is a coordination check and with a raid full of people who didn't know this raid's particular strategy for organizing most people were lost.

On our way to the second boss the raid leader made it very clear that as far as Classic servers were concerned, it was both going to be too easy to bother with and that everyone would roll a Warrior and do it poorly because everyone is "fucking retarded".

Additionally, he made it crystal clear that the Legendary Weapons in Classic were all to be his, no discussion.

Charming fellow.

Blackwater Behemoth is next. Lots of people die. Several healers die quickly and I need to blow all of my cooldowns to keep the tank up, end up not making it to the Bioluminescence in time, and die myself. "Someone get the fucking priest up." I accept the battle rez. Then I hearth.

I've been part of some pretty toxic pick up groups before. I've even wandered into a few nasty guilds. But my willingness to put up with this behavior hasn't ever been great, and it's certainly not expanded with time.

Raiding is fun when you and tens of other people are throwing yourself at a challenge, changing strategies, hashing out ideas, covering for other's mistakes while trying to limit your own. I've been part of that. I miss that. But I don't think I miss it enough to expose myself to that again.

I miss the community, not necessarily the raiding itself. The raiding is an excuse. I'm not sure what the best way to go about finding a group of raiders who aren't just a collection of society's rejects, but I'm not confident I have the will to find out.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Pre-Raid Nerves

As I mentioned before I haven't raided seriously since late Burning Crusade, and most of that was confined to Karazhan and both the Tier 5 raids. So as I'm studying the strategies for each Eternal Palace boss I'm struck with a deep sense of forbodding. These bosses seem much more dense mechanically than what I remember dealing with back in the day.

I've seen it mentioned over and over that raiding in Classic will be trivial for a lot of established raiders and I believe it. The first boss in Eternal Palace seems to have as much movement and coordination attached to as I remember Prince Malchezaar (the final Karazhan boss) having.

I think I'll be fine playing as my class. There are a couple of "feel" issues I'm anticipating. Shadow Mend uses more mana than relying on Atonement and damage but it's also a much quicker and responsive heal. How much Shadow Mend spam can I get away with in a longer raid boss fight? That's going to come down to "feel" and is just going to take experience.

That ability to react is going to be crucial. Discipline Priest isn't the best at reacting to big damage. This is a problem going into new content where I'm still learning when these big damage moments are going to be. Discipline is better at anticipating and damage and mitigating it, so now I'm reliant on the other players to pick up slack until I get it together.

That's a difficult place to find myself. I've not been very adventurous with my game playing lately so I'm not often finding myself in a situation where others are more experienced and skilled than I am.

I need practice at being unpracticed.

But trying new things is hard for everyone, and this is a video game so the worst thing that happens is that 20 or people think I'm bad at World of Warcraft. There are worse things.

Nonetheless I'm still a bit anxious. Wish me luck.

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.



Pass.



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

Ugh....People

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.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

There Has to Be a Better Name Than Auto-Chess.

My gaming experience hasn't been overly varied recently, mostly I've just been grinding out World Quests in World of Warcraft for various reputations. But I think I like this blog better when it's acting as more a video gaming journal, so today I want to get back to that.

I gave DOTA Underlords a try. I was keen to see what this new fad for Auto-Chess was. I played through the tutorial and was immediately hit with several thoughts:

  1. This is way too long, even just curb stomping the easiest AI. I can't imaging how long a game must take with real people.
  2. This doesn't seem to have anything whatsoever to do with "Chess".
  3. The skill seems to be mostly memorizing the heroes, their costs, abilities, and the various synergies. Then use those memorized tidbits to construct your own team and counter-construct against your opponents.
 Competitive gaming hasn't been my thing for a while now, so the chances of me getting into the Auto-Chess genre were never great. But there really isn't anything here that appeals to me. It seems like Auto-Chess games probably take somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour, and I would really gaming sessions that I can build in increments of 20 minutes or so. Having another bunch of gaming related items I need to memorize just doesn't appeal to me. I have no previous experience with DOTA or League of Legends so I'm starting from ground zero for both.

The last time I played any game competitively was either World of Warcraft Arenas  or Counter-Strike 1.6. So that's been nearly a decade then. Unless I undergo so major change in interests, it seems my competitive gaming days are likely done.



I have been going a bit ham on various WOW achievements though. Battle for Azeroth seems to have packed their overworld with treasures, rare mobs, and various bits to find. Now that I can simply fly to those areas I'd like to try and get those done. There was also a rare mount in Nazjatar that could be had today in a complicated process. The first step requires playing some trading mini-game among 5 murlocs in the zone hub. 4 of the murlocs have several items for sale. Each one has 1 item that can be bought with gold, and everything else requires items from each other murloc. The process quickly becomes convoluted. Thankfully, there is a website known as Mrrl.io that handles all the critical thinking for you. The final step for the mount requires a rare mob known as Murloco. According to general chat I had in fact just missed him, so I set up camp at his spawn and began making myself lunch. Thankfully, however, I had the good sense to check the LFG tool and see if he was up on someone else's server. Eventually he was and that mount was secured.



The Crimson Tidestallion is an underwater only mount, so while it is useful, it just won't get used that much. It's not an unhandsome mount, but I do wish the Crimson was much brighter. At this point, our poor guy looks like he was left in the sun.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Party Like It's 2004

Between today's name reservation for World of Warcraft Classic and me putting the finishing touches on my classic gaming room, I've been thinking a lot about the late 2004 period in gaming.

Every holiday season sees a huge uptick in gaming releases. But for me personally, holiday 2004 held an unusually large number of games that dominated my play time for years to come:

10/25 - Ace Combat 5. One day I'll have to wax poetically about my love for the Ace Combat franchise. I eagerly awaited the follow up to my still beloved Ace Combat 4. It didn't turn out quite as good, but I'm going to replay through the whole series in order coming up soon and I can't wait.

10/26 - Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. Probably the game I played the least on my list, but its simply too important to leave off.

11/1 - Counter Strike: Source.  At some point Steam forgot all of my tracked playtime up to a certain date. I realize now that this was less likely a bug as it was an act of mercy.

11/8 - Everquest 2. It may always be my "#2" MMO, but hearing that theme song transports to Norrath every time. Just typing this has the Commonlands background music in my head.

11/16 - Half Life 2. On any given day it's my favorite game of all time. Yearly play through with its older sibling, no question.

11/17 - Metal Gear Solid 3. I actually never finished and never liked it. Not for lack of trying. I probably have more hours played in the first few levels than I do for entire MMOs. I should try again sometime soon and see if the years have changed my perspective.

11/21 - Nintendo DS. I resented it at the time because despite Nintendo's insistence I knew this would usurp the Game Boy Advance. Ended up being my daily driver in college and long afterwards. The Switch is nice, but the clamshell design that actually lets me put a console in my pocket is what I miss most about contemporary gaming.

11/23 - World of Warcraft. I've talked enough about this game in the past couple of days but it always struck me that even during such a busy holiday release season, everyone knew just how important WOW was when it released. This game basically doubled as my instant messaging program in my high school and college years.

12/28 - Gran Turismo 4. I have 100% four different Gran Turismo games including this one. I don't even like to drive in real life. I drive a base model Subaru. I don't understand why I love, only that I do.

Going through the Wikipedia article on 2004 in gaming shows so many other important titles that I've never even played. It's probably just luck, but I always felt that this two or three month stretch had such an outsized influence on both me and the gaming industry as a whole. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Reminisce About the Mists

Reading through Bahgpuss's post on Mists of Pandaria had me thinking about when was the last time I truly loved playing World of Warcraft. I had mentioned in an earlier post that while I didn't think Battle for Azeroth was bad, I really felt no need to quantify it as good either. Expansions since MoP have had their ups and their downs (and worse). But only Classic, Burning Crusade, and Mists of Pandaria ever felt "magical" to me.

I've always defined "magic" as when a work feels like more than the sum of its parts. A mediocre expansion hits what I call the "bullet point" features. Raise the level cap, add a new spell to each class, new zones, new dungeons, etc. Battle for Azeroth does all of that. What Battle for Azeroth doesn't do is expand the idea of what World of Warcraft is.

For me, Mists expanded Azeroth in a way I never really though Blizzard would go. Classic was nearly my first foray into a proper MMO world, and carried with it the inherent magic of being a literal new frontier for millions. Burning Crusade felt like an event, a movement even, that created for me a sense of community that online interaction I had only seen shades of previously.

Wrath of the Lich King took steps backwards for me. Raiding got complicated and then eventually disappeared from life. Real life friends who played drifted off. The easier mode of play was welcome as I left college and turned to adulthood, but also took a lot of the mystique off the game for me.

In a hot take that nobody else will ever share, I think Mists of Pandaria was the game I had been wanting Verant/SOE/Daybreak to make with the money (and talent) they never had.

Whereas Wrath of the Lich King felt like a user interface to Dungeon and Raid Finder match making skinned as an overworld, Mists of Pandaria felt like a an actual world to me. Maybe it was the amazing soundtrack that I still listen to once a month. Maybe it was the setting, previously unexplored cannon that Blizzard could create without the worry of any expectations. Some of it was the expansion of side-material such as Fishing quests, Timeless Isle, and other modes of play that weren't collect 15 boar bladders.

It's often commented that Mists was the breather episode in the World of Warcraft. And honestly that's exactly what I want from my MMO. I log in for many reasons, but I don't log in to conquer the next big evil. Mists didn't even really have a big bad until the last patch. In fact, we didn't even finish him off.

A world of constant menace is both fatiguing and desensitizing. I know the Old Gods are coming, but I hope in the next expansion every agrees to take a little vacation first

Saturday, August 10, 2019

What's Next?

With the assistance of the Darkmoon Faire reputation buff, my ability to fly in the World of Warcraft has once again been restored. So naturally I celebrated by leveling up my fishing, a process that doesn't really require flying at all.

After yesterday's blog post being one big moan about mob density, let's turn things around and talk about how great the game feels now that it doesn't feel like the digital equivalent of Tokyo station.

I feel like I've opened up the entire game. Professions are no longer too annoying to do. World Quests are no longer too annoying to do. Pet battles, achievements, alt leveling, the list goes on. Flying really does feel like a baseline to me in WOW and my excitement has completely returned for the game and becoming dangerous close to quitting this week.

I want to clear all of the cooking achievements for this expansion. I don't know why I always go so hardcore into cooking in this game. I don't actually do any content that needs cooking buffs, and I rarely remember to use them when soloing. There's not much there role playing wise either. A priest in WOW seems more likely to be served their meals to make them. And I'm confident Forsaken don't actually eat food at all. Outside of Cannibalize of course.

Perhaps it's my real life fascination with cooking. I just like assembling things and cooking is a practical everyday version of that. Cooking in WOW is the same really, just minus any of the actual art of it all that I wasn't any good at anyways. I have both the World of Warcraft and Hearthstone cookbooks. There's a macaroni and cheese recipe in the Hearthstone book that's to die for.

I'm a bit burned out on World Quests, ability to fly now or not, but I desperately need War Resources in order to keep doing the Mission Table. I love the Mission Table. It's such a simple minigame but it feels great to simply log in and accomplish something immediately. Particularly if I'm still getting settled in for the play session and only have one hand and half an attention span available.

I suppose this is a roundabout way of saying that WOW feels like a fundamentally different game now. Perhaps that's by Blizzard's design but I suspect my patience for this sort of grind is going to become less and less as the years go by. It's one thing for Classic to move at much slower and procedural pace, that's what I signed up for. But modern day WOW feels different. It's less about being an experience and more about gamifying every square inch that they can. Modern WOW shows the "seams" in a way Classic WOW was consciously trying to avoid. And when you're constantly smacking me over the head telling me that I'm playing a video game, the obstacles are seen less as challenges, and more as the work of developers desperately attempting to stretch a finite amount of content.

Those concerns are less of a problem now that I can simply fly over them.

Friday, August 9, 2019

I Don't Care for Nazjatar

3 Days Until Flying in Battle for Azeroth. Nazjatar and not Mechagon is going to end up being the limiting factor.

When Nazjatar is finally in my rear view mirror I will rejoice.

I think like a lot of players, I was relieved to see the Blizzard didn't take the unforced error and make Nazjatar an actual underwater zone. What we got instead was a typical zone that is so filled to the brim with mobs that actually getting anywhere has become a chore I'd really rather not do.

It's a pretty typical Blizzard copout. Creating interesting overland mobs is difficult. Adding more isn't. It's not a problem you'll always notice if there are a sufficient number of players around. But whether it's because you have warmode on or play during off hours, the zone becomes boderline unplayable.

Blizzard wants to try and create a sense of "danger", but actually dying pretty much never happens. I have an extremely average gear level of 410 and can pull multiple elites without dying, it just takes forever to kill them and the several adds they will inevitable pull or will spawn on top of you. World Quests that require defeating "1" mob? As long as you're cool with killing 10-15 mobs in order to get to it.

I've noticed the developer's beloved "dazed" effect is back this expansion. Considering it's actually difficult to find roads in this zone that aren't also patrolled by monsters makes this even more aggravating. I know that mount's can be equipped with anti-daze equipment, but that means eschewing water walking. Pick your poison.

Antorus had similar issues when it launched, but it was one zone, concentrating the player base and making the scale and desnity of the mobs make sense. 8.2 splits the playerbase between two zones.

I know this a rant post, but Nazjatar has overstayed its welcome. Many of my issues will be solved in three days. But if this is what Blizzard sees as the future of zone design, it's a problem I'm gonna have a lot of going forward.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

7 Questions

I woke up this morning to find that Naithin had given me homework some questions to blog about. This was actually really fortuitous as today was the first day I felt like I didn't have a topic jumping to mind when I sat down to write.

Naithin is good people who said nice things about Blog Boar so you should read his blog!


What hobbies or interests do you have that you might not regularly include on your blog?
 My problem is that I have too many interests and hobbies and it keeps me from really diving in as much as I'd like into any one particular interest. So far I haven't mentioned cooking yet at all. In college I got burned out from politics related job and literally took the first job I was offered, a prep chef and one of the school's cafeterias. I went to a very large school in Ohio State and this particular cafeteria would serve thousands of meals everyday. It was my job to have the 20 pounds of onions, 15 pounds of potatoes, etc. prepared and ready to go. Needless to say, I got pretty handy with a knife and they eventually let me move on to making some actual dishes. I also did the customer-facing grill every weekend morning, so if you need 8 omelettes  made at a time I'm your man. Ever since then I've enjoyed cooking a lot, although it seems I always have more energy to do it during breakfast and lunch than I do dinner, so I haven't cooked as much as I'd like.


Are you learning any skills at the moment? If not, what would you like to learn?
 I'm learning to sit down afternoon and write. As I mentioned in my previous bullet point I have too many interests and I get distracted easy. Now that I've moved and have had a pretty major life change, building up some daily habits that I actually want to have is a pretty big priority for me.


If you were invited on a one-way trip to Mars to establish a new colony, would you go?
 No, as much as Raid Finder make me feel otherwise, I rather like this planet and the people on it. My wife is terrified of the idea of going to space and I'm rather fond of her. Also I live in the middle of nowhere so I basically already have this experience.


What is the one thing that you most want readers to come away from your blog with? A feeling, thought, or understanding.
To be perfectly honest, the "user experience" of my blog hasn't actually been a priority for me yet. I feel so rusty as it come to writing or even just interacting with people over the net that I feel like I'm treading water just to hit that Publish button in the upper right of my screen.

I'm still writing my way towards a thesis for this blog. Right now it's more a journal, and I'd like to expand that to include more feature writing and column-style posts.

So I guess I want people to feel mildly entertained until I have something better or more coherent come along.


What excites you most about having a blog?
At first it was the feeling of hitting Publish and having accomplished my goal of writing for the day. But now, the feeling of interacting with people either through the blog or on the Blaugust Discord has begun to overtake that. I've moved several states away last year so making new friends that actually share my interests has been very nice.


If you could make one thing from a book, TV show or movie real, and in your possession, what would it be?
 This is a question with too many powerful answers! A time machine would fix pretty much all of my problems. Some sort of elixir of immortality? Star Trek teleporters? Millennium Falcon with faster than light travel?

I want an Infinity Gauntlet from Marvel so I can run around and collect all of these things in one handy device. That might actually be what the soul stones functionally do, actually. I'll be honest I tend to turn my brain off for movies.


They say everyone has at least one book in them — if you were to write a book, what would it be about?
A geopolitical thriller about a kingdom of sheep after Wool War 2.

Joking.

(Not really.) 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Squire, Attend Me

It's been six days since I started blogging and I have received neither the fame or the fortune I was expecting.

I'm as disappointed as you are.

It's pretty clear that I need to ratchet things up around here. We need a gimmick, a slogan, something that we need to separate this blog from the rest of the pack.

(Growing a readership with sustained and thought provoking entries for a long period of time is obviously not an option. Perish the thought.)

We need something bold, something marketable, something that we can hopefully print on t-shirts.

We need a mascot.

I present to you, Tuskarr the Blog Boar.
















An Internet Journey requires an Internet Squire. Particularly a cute one.



My wife crocheted me this little guy back during the Hearthstone launch when my favorite go to move was playing a Stonetusk Boar with charge and then buffing him with two Power Overwhelmings and sending him on into my opponent's face. 

I understand that this was not a particularly clever combo but I've never claimed to be a particularly clever man.

I fell off the Hearthstone treadmill years ago and have zero interest in spending the money needed in order to catch up. But those few several months during the beta and after launch we're a special time and it's nice to have a lasting souvenir. 



I finished the first part of the Pathfinder achievements in World of Warcraft last night. The only thing separating me from flying in the current expansion is a couple of more days of Mechagon and Nazjatar dailies. 

For some reason I have been fanatical about getting my ability to fly "back". I don't actually know what I'm motivated to do once I get a hold of it. Ironically, finishing Pathfinder back in Warlords of Draenor was the exact moment that I quit the expansion. Legion was able to hold my interest as Antorus would come out only a week later. I wonder if Battle for Azeroth has enough mileage to keep me interested this time or not.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Maybe Battle for Azeroth....Isn't Bad?

Maybe Battle for Azeroth isn't the worst thing in the world. I honestly feel like I can't tell on these things anymore. I'm definitely not feeling joy when I play, which seems to disqualify it from the description of "great".

I've definitely hated World of Warcraft before. I've definitely found it boring. I've even found it to be the culmination of everything I've disliked in a hobby before. I'm definitely not feeling any of that, which seems to disqualify it from the description of "bad".

So what is it? At this point it's something to do, but I have a lot of things I could be doing. We've went over my stupidly large backlog in previous posts, there's no reason I need to spend this much time on one game that I have to pay a subscription for. So what's gripping me to it? At this point, none of my friends or family are really playing the game (although that might change in less than a month with the release of Classic).

It's certainly familiar. In the past year I've moved several states away from friends and family for the first time in 30 years. I've bought a house and fundamentally started a new life. Azeroth, no matter what new lands they add or features they bring out, is fundamentally the same game that I've been playing for about 15 years.

I don't know if that's a very good reason to bring a game. It certainly lacks a sense of mindfulness.

Battle for Azeroth is a very mediocre experience. But I think it was the right experience at the right time.

This is Blaugust 2019 Post #6. I felt like I should probably start labeling these things for whatever reason.

Monday, August 5, 2019

It's very hot today.

My air conditioning is functionally broke and my brain is melted.

Having just bought this house and now needing to make major repairs to the HVAC means that my wallet is about melted too.

My desktop is located in the upstairs and warmest part of the house. So actually playing the games I want to right now is uncomfortable at best.

Nonetheless, Blaugust waits for no man.


On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode One
Platform: Steam
Time to Beat: ~5 Hours
Completion: Storyline Completion

This isn't a fresh review as technically I completed this game right before I started this blog. I have altered our deal, pray I do not alter it further.

Every night as I fall asleep I have been doing a reread of all the Penny Arcade strips and accompanying blogs posts. About a week ago I made it to the 2008 portion of their archives when their first go at making a game was released. Remembering that this was a fairly quick playthrough, I decided it was worth a quick tour.

I vaguely recall playing this when it was new. But Steam didn't have achievements then and it doesn't seem to keep track of hours played from that far back. I don't actually recall beating it then.

And having just finished it now I can see why maybe I abandoned it. There simply isn't a lot of meat on these bones. The art is pretty good but held back by the realities of a late 2000s indie game budget. The writing is...there. I enjoy Jerry Holkin's writing as a rule, but what's here feels very much like Sam & Max-lite, instead of Holkin's usual style. There's flavor text all over the game but the actual main story line just serves to shuttle the player from MacGuffin to another.

It's also lack depth as far as being an RPG. The combat is system is mostly a standard turn-based affair, but special attacks require the execution of a Quick Time Event. There are no random battles; in fact, there are a limited number of battles in the entire game. Getting "Overkills" by doing specials on enemies that are almost dead provides a permanent stat boost for a character, up to 15 times. But if you miss too many opportunities to get these Overkills then the limited number of battles means they are lost forever. This is exactly what happened to me as the mechanic is never explained and you have to pick it up on your own. Having my progression artificially limited in a RPG is one of my biggest pet peeves.

This is episode one of what eventually became a three part series. My player character is supposed to carry over to the second episode, but the third episode dropped this feature and was created by another developer.

I'll give the second episode a try. I already own it and the run time for these games is only an evening of play. I do hope the team learned from the mistakes of this game, and that the story line, combat, and character progression pick up the pace.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Inventory Management and Backlog Culling

Yesterday, and I anticipate today, will apparantly be video gaming administration day.

My bags in World of Warcraft are full, and have been for as long as I remember. Battle for Azeroth seems to have even more odds and ends you pick up than usual. The Mechagon zone seems particularly cruel in this regard, with the zones currency requiring trips to the main hub in order to stack them properly. Additionally, crafting mats for the zone-specific items all get their own stack as well. I have 24 slot bags in every slot, and one bag will apparantly be dedicated to Mechagon for the rest of the expansion.

The matter isn't helped by the fullness of my personal bank and guild bank. I have 24-slot bags in every slot for my personal bank and my person guild bank has every slot unlocked. My goal is to have self-sufficient crafters on both Horde and Alliance side and as such I have kept nearly every crafting mat that I have come across. But the relative alt-unfriendliness of both Legion and Battle for Azeroth have kept me from really seeing that through. There are also many individual items for reputation and pet battles that eat up a ton of space too.

So yesterday was mostly dominated by administration of my virtual stuff while my real life stuff in my house remains mostly scattered. This is, to put it concisely, not a great feeling.

I mentioned yesterday my backlog and I feel the urge to begin organizing and culling that as well. Steam is the biggest problem, I have access to 1600 games or so. There are programs that can help at least tag and categorize these games, but they never seemed to work with the family share games I have with my wife, brother, and sister.

The fragmentation of the digital download market on PC also contributes to this. I have double digits games on Epic, GOG, itchio, Windows Marketplace, UPlay, Origin, Twitch, and various other DRM-free games. I also own pretty much every console and handheld release in the past 30 years or so. Digital and physical games that at this point I can't even begin to ballpark a number on.

I've been accepted to the GOG Galaxy 2.0 beta which attempts to bring as much of these libraries as possible under one roof. I hope to give it a try today and see if it can help bring this madness to an end.

It would probably help if I stopped buying video games until I've finished the ones that I got. Probably.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Backlog

I have too many games. Way too many games. It's clear that as much as might like gaming, I seem to like collecting even more. It doesn't help that my collection is mostly made up of longer RPG-esque titles that do not take to being beat in one sitting. Couple that with a desire to 100% many games and I end up losing ground on my backlog pretty consistently.

So in addition to the general MMO focus on this blog I want to chronicle my efforts towards slaying this beast of my own making.



Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
Platform: PS4
Time to Beat: ~110 Hours
Completion: 100% with Platinum Trophy

NOTE: This is a quasi-review with some mild spoilers.

I won't lie, this got to be a bit of a slog near the end. I haven't played a modern Dragon Quest, having only complete the first two in their NES incarnations. On sale at a Best Buy I happened to be in for only $20 I decided to give it a shot.

Discussing the story is weird, mostly because while there isn't much meat on these bones, the structure of the story is very clever. The world is in peril, you are the chosen one and you grab a band of adventurers to save it. The game takes the typical RPGs cliches and then does try to expand and subvert them to a bit. But this is a 70-80 hour game even without going for 100% completion and that's a lot of runtime to put on top of a not particularly sturdy base. It's difficult to go into the story without going too much into spoilers but the game takes the idea of a post game and introduces it in a very organic way, I appreciated that.

The music was catchy and the character and monster design are iconic even if you don't really follow the series. The ever present slimes are mostly what I will take away from this game. I bought a fairly large plush slime in Japan last year and it's goofy smile still brings me joy whenever I look at it.

It was refreshing to play an honest to goodness turn based RPG again. I vastly prefer this setup to the direction the Final Fantasy series insists on going. I don't actually want an RPG desperately pretending to be an action game to appeal to the cool kids. The combat in DQ11 can be a bit rough around the edges, particularly when it comes to it's Pep Up powers (DQ11's version of "Limit Breaks"), but there was both enough depth and character building here to sustain it the length of the game.

DQ11 was good, not great. The upcoming Nintendo Switch release with expanded content doesn't appeal to me. It was a nice, steady adventure to come back to over the course of a month where I bought a house and made a very stressful move. But in a vacuum, this might end up being a mostly forgettable experience.



The Dragon Quest 11's hero was also released to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate about two days ago. The character is fun enough but I think I may played all I really want out of the game. I did spend some time making custom characters though. The cosmetic DLC that accompanies the Dragon Quest Hero update allows you make a fairly accurate portrayal of Veronica from DQ11. Unfortunately, they pigeonhole her as a melee brawler. As a black mage type, the gunner Mii option had abilities that were far more appropriate, but it's not a huge issue.

I also tried making a Goku from Dragon Ball Z, but the Mii face customizer doesn't give you the iconic spiky hair necessary to really sell it. Oh well.

Friday, August 2, 2019

World of Ennuicraft

Well that certainly didn't take long. A week into my World of Warcraft return and it already feels like a part time job.

Yesterday I had to spend several hours at the local DMV getting my driver's license and car registration transferred over to a new state. This involved not just a bunch of paperwork, but actually setting down and taking a standardized test (bubble sheet and grumpy middle aged proctor included!).

What makes the whole ordeal worse is that I put all this effort into something that I already had. I've driven for 15 years without so much as a speeding ticket but I still had to waste an afternoon proving to the state of Minnesota through a paper test what was already obvious.

World of Warcraft is giving me the exact same feeling when it comes to earning the ability to use my flying mounts in new content. World quests have become a drudgery that has me staring at that WOW desktop icon and looking to do anything else.

This week is a world quest bonus week, which should make getting these quests done an even bigger priority but I didn't even bother. Other options in the game haven't hooked their claws into me either:
  • Dungeons and Raid Finder are the same "gogogogogo" as they've always been, a boring existence when you're a healer with nothing to heal.
  • Crafting certainly seems more detailed than in the past, but as someone who likes to be a self-sufficient and earn these skill levels instead of throwing gold at them, leveling and collecting materials feels arduous when my competitors all have flying mounts.
  • PVP is mostly fine. My Discipline Priest seemed able to stay alive long enough to actually have an impact in both Battlegrounds and Skirmishes. But with abilities pared back so much it feels like I'm playing a lower level character. I find myself missing Prayer of Mending, oddly enough, and I don't know why.
Since WOW Classic comes out in a month, I'll likely keep Azeroth on the back burner for a little bit. Which means that at least temporarily I'm in the market for a new MMO. Tomorrow is a weekend for me, and researching what the MMO industry has been working on for the past decade or so that I was out seems like a good project.

I did also want to mention some of the other projects I'm currently working on that might rear their head up on this blog in the near future:
  • My original Xbox Component cables finally came in from eBay (smelling like an ash tray) and my sixth generation "classic" game room is nearly complete. The Xbox, PlayStation 2, and GameCube will be hooked up through a receiver while the oddball Dreamcast hooks up through a VGA connection. I'm still waiting on the receiver from Amazon, however, so the tedious task of switching five very snug connections behind a cramped TV are still my near future. I'd also like to track down a Game Boy Player addon for the GameCube, and have the handheld portion of the sixth generation covered as well.
  • Getting the old Plex server back on its feet. Now that I have a more permanent residence, it makes sense to start thinking about using dedicated hardware for a server instead of simply using my desktop's poor beleaguered hard drives. I'm not sure how much horsepower I actually need to run Plex. I suspect not a ton since my connection and networking hardware are powerful enough to run my media natively, but I need to research into this more.
  • And lastly, why Blogger seems perfectly fine as a Blogging platform, I did want to use this blog as an excuse to update my web development skills that stopped somewhere around HTML 3/4 and CSS 2. I'd also like to run my own server for this website, and I suspect the newly released Raspberry Pi 4 would make an excellent host.
So far this blog has been mostly a journal. Which I suppose is fine, but it really isn't what I want and I suspect its not the most fun thing in the world to read if your not my mother. My goal for week 2 of Blaugust is to focus more on the "feature" writing I've enjoyed so much from other blogs.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

One Foot Forward is Technically a Start to Anything

Well, there's two things I've wanted to do for a long time: write consistently and learn how to make a web page. These have been on and off again goals for me since my teenage years. Since a recent move has left me with both ample free time and a "distraction-free" environment by dint of having moved to the middle of nowhere, it only makes sense that I pursue both of those goals.

Blaugust comes around at a convenient time for me, then. This project feels a lot more completeable with all the structure and advice going around this time of year. (And boy do I like structure.) I'm going to try to blog every single day of August while learning enough to put up my own site. For now I will focus on using Blogger, but I at least want to make an attempt to build my own site from the ground up and then include the blog posts inside of that. But my primary goal is the writing and I don't want a distraction to get in the way of that.

Blizzard's offer of 3 days of game time for World of Warcraft not only managed to rope me back in, but my wife and my brother. (Additionally, my sister had been playing as well of her volition.) I've played WOW off and on since Classic, taking it seriously at times and ignoring it completely at others. But it's familiar and could prove a nice constant as I get my feet set underneath me here. Depending on my willingness to suffer longer loading screens on my HDD, I'll probably try to get other MMOs involved as well. I've played quite a lot of Everquest 2 and Rift in my time, but I'm also eager to try some other games. I haven't paid much attention to the MMO space outside of reading Massively articles for the past few years so I'm quite excited to get some hands on experience this month.

I will talk more about this in tomorrow's post but I wanted to mention it here. A few days in the World of Warcraft are feeling more like the same old slog that caused me drift away years ago. If there are any recommendations for "WOW-adjacent" games that are trying to do something new and interesting please let me know. Bhagpuss's recent posts about Riders of Icarus have caught my attention and that might be my next stop.

I want to focus on posts that are short, sweet, and often so I'll wrap this up for now. Let's hope for a positive August.