Wednesday, October 30, 2019

ArcheAge and Subscription Services

I think like a lot of people, I juggle various hobbies in my day to day life. What I have been noticing is that I tend to cycle through hobbies pretty consistently based on the year. The months of August-through October tend to be a pretty slow period for me when it comes to video games. I suspect the rise of college (American) football and enjoying the Fall weather tend to be the major culprits. Video game releases seem to be pretty slow usually as well, waiting to until the last week of October and November to release the big hitters.

The difference nowadays is that I have a video gaming blog so there is a new voice in the cacophony of my head telling me to pay more attention to the hobby so I have something to write about.

ArcheAge was an attempt at making that happen and it just didn't.

As I expected, the mandatory world PVP pretty much ended my time with the game. The main gameplay loop of very short battles followed by a whole lot of running wasn't endearing. Both the overarching storyline and the individual stories in each zone are so generic as to not exist. The housing and crafting weren't anything special either. Having overworld housing versus instanced housing doesn't really seem to change anything fundamentally in how I played. I just bought a real house in the past several months so all of my "nesting" efforts are going to that, not a digital equivalent.

The mandatory world PVP is honestly just bizarre. Like every other game with world PVP it comes down to numbers > ganking > gear to determine the outcome of every incident. It's been several decades now and it's still one of the most boring formulas we have in gaming today. ArcheAge brings nothing new to the table. It's clear the developers held no desire to make a good PVP game, they needed to distract from the anemic gameplay and give whales a since of purpose.

The positives of a game with an upfront cost and no subscription fee is that I can change my mind at anytime. I already emptied my bags and placed my character at the beginning of a new zone to ensure little to no friction when I start again. There's also effectively no storyline to care about, so there's no reason to worry about getting lost in the quest text. Compare this to Everquest II, a game possessing charm ArcheAge can only dream about, that I don't play because of the perquisite chores needed to get a character up to questing speed again. Clearing out full 55 slot bags, rereading through 6 hotbars of abilities, and skimming storyline summaries from the Wiki is a to do list, not a distraction.

Like many in my RSS feed, I took Microsoft up on its $1 Game Pass offer in order to get a hold of Outer Worlds. With only a couple of hours in the game I see no need to yet offer my thoughts, but I did want to talk about the concept of Subscription game services.

This weekend I bought yet another hard drive, an 8 TB external HDD that I will likely pull out of it's external enclosure and hook up internally inside my computer's case. I like to keep large portions of my game library installed so I can just jump in at any time. I'm also a bit of digital hoarder. I have about 100+ games on GOG and I keep them all backed up on a hard drive. I also run a Plex server and keep several terabytes of content ready to go at all times.

But I also have subscriptions to most major streaming services, Google Play Music, YouTube Red, Netflix, Amazon Video, PBS, HBO, etc. I usually rotate in an extra niche video streaming service when I can. The local library fills my need for books. And now add the explosion of gaming related subscription services to that list. I tend to use these subscription services as a content discovery system. Most stuff I watch/listen/play will just be consumed. But I will purchase a hard copy of anything I love.

Sometimes it's messier than that. I have zero problem paying for media, but not every industry and company presents their content in a consumer friendly way. I often use a site called MangaDex to read most Manga even though it's technically piracy. A subscription service for ten dollars a month that works on my Kindle would be a no-brainer for me. But that service doesn't exist. So instead, I read fan-translated copies and then hit Barnes and Noble for officially published work when they have their 2-for-1 sale. It's tough to feel bad for the Manga industry, if MangaDex and it's predecessors didn't exist than I would have simply ignored the whole industry and it would never have saw a dime from me, instead of the several hundred dollars I spend a year on it. Help me to help you and all that.

Video games were in a weird place when it came to subscription offerings before this year. The model had been tried before. I would subscribe to GameTap back in the day, even though it's shady business practices regularly got my credit card flagged as attempted fraud But the ability to try out a large number of games for a low monthly fee was an attractive proposition even in the mid-2000s. Brick and mortar rental stores (and GameFly) were also effectively the same thing, but those were in my childhood and college years, a low monthly fee wasn't for content discovery, that was just all the money I had.

Steam sales and Humble Bundles were effectively my subscription service. Purchasing decisions feel a bit less fraught when you could pay $2.50 for a 40-hour AAA title that was only 2 years old. Video game prices aren't quite as slim as they used to be, but you can get quite bit of quality hours/dollar ratio in the video gaming world.

But the equation has changed in a very decisive way now that video game subscription services are either the same price or less as a month of World of Warcraft. And I welcome it. I have nearly 2000 games spread across multiple digital frontends plus hard copy console games. I would own probably a tenth of that amount if subscription services had existed this past decade. Effectively, it's easier to know what I want when you make it easier to know what I want. No matter how cheap these games were, weeding out the "losers" for 15 a month would have been a valuable service.

Instead of spending $60+ on cable TV with ads, I can simply watch Netflix. Instead of driving to a Blockbuster that reeks of smoke to pay my late fees on a movie I can simply pull up Amazon Prime. Ten years ago I didn't even know what manga was, now I read it nearly every night as I fall to sleep. YouTube lets me watch highly polished videos about obscure topics that interest me. A service that flatout didn't exist when I was a boy. Today's entertainment landscape, at least for me, is in such a better place. This paradigm genuinely enriches how I spend my leisure hours.

I suppose this is just a long-winded way of saying that I'm genuinely very excited about the rise of subscription services in gaming. Granted, I reserve the right to withdraw my statement if this ends up killing traditional single-player games, but I suspect it will not. There are cracks in the armor. Nintendo killing off it's virtual console releases for the Nintendo Online subscription is worrisome. But those games were better off emulated anyways. But in general, I think this is the biggest change in the video game industry since the rise of Steam and digital storefronts. I think this will have a positive impact on how I play games on a day to day basis. And maybe I'll be less likely to fall into my yearly rut when it comes to excitement about video games.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

ArchAge Unchained

So I went in blind on the recent ArcheAge Unchained released. I know next to nothing about the game and never played its previous incarnation. In brief my thoughts on the game are simple: every time I sat down to write a blog post I ended up wandering away and doing something else. Needless to say, it's not made much of an impression.

That's not entirely fair, but it's close enough. I had to actually log in again real quick to figure out what level I had reached (28). So far the game has been as cookie cutter as one can get. Accept a quest from a NPC, walk 100 feet to kill or collect, walk back and turn in, get breadcrumb to next quest, repeat.

There are some storyline missions about people who find a magical door and become gods and then screw everything up. This is mostly told through cutscenes of static images with a Ken Burns effect applied. My own character's motivation seems to change on a whim, looking for revenge against man who killed the friends and family I don't recall every actually meeting. I learned that skimming the quest text is the more prudent option.

I'm also a bit disappointed graphics wise. The game looks quite bad for only being a couple of years old. The textures are PS3/Xbox 360 level and no amount of anti-aliasing seems to get rid of all the jaggies. At max settings the game never dips under 100 FPS and the view distance is quite good. Like most MMOs the UI doesn't scale for 4K displays and I'm forced to play in either cumbersome Fullscreen  mode or Windowed with too small to see UI elements. No matter what I do, I can't get the game to play on my 1080p monitor either.

As I'm playing, I'm struck by the fact that Rift looks just as good as this game. Maybe that won't hold up to a side-by-side comparison but I'm very underwhelmed by how ArcheAge looks on good hardware.

There's also a nasty sound bug. At some point in your gameplay session you will hear a loud pop and all game sound and music will go out until you restart the game. Turning your sound quality to the lowest seems to fix it, but now my character continuously makes the same grunt every 0.5 second I'm in combat. The music is odd but catchy. This has lead to me muting in game noise while keeping the game music on full volume. That's a new one for me.

Character skills are interesting enough. Character creation asks you to pick a starting skill tree, analogous to an individual talent tree or spec in World of Warcraft. By the time you are level 15 you'll have three trees you can pick skills and passives from. I think it works well and I've built a sword-and-board warrior who alternates between one-shotting mobs and killing them in less than 7 seconds. I don't recall ever having died.

One thing I appreciate is that your "filler" abilities don't need to be spammed like in most games. You simply hold the appropriate button down until you need to cast something else. Both my wrist and 'R' key are thankful.

I didn't take part in the land grab on Sunday. ArcheAge doesn't have instanced housing but simply allows you to grab materials and money and plop a house down in the overworld. It's a neat idea but so far there has been no in-game explanation of any of it. Or of crafting for that matter either. Or what the ArcheAge Pass even does. Or what any of the currencies mean either. I was able to figure out how to upgrade my equipment from a combination of trial and error and reading general chat. I still have no idea what most of the buttons on my (tiny) UI even do. To say the game is non intuitive is an understatement. Google searching for answers is also often not helpful. There just isn't very much info out there for ArcheAge and a lot of it is out of date or needlessly verbose. I'll get to experimenting eventually, but I've simply not been in an experimenting mood yet.

Apparently level 30 is when I'm whisked way from the comforts of the leveling zones to the warfields on forced world PVP. Needless to say I did not know about this when I bought the game. Perhaps it won't be a big deal and I can mostly level in peace. But it probably will just be a giant pain in the ass and will mark the end of the ArcheAge experiment. It's not 2004 and there's just no real need to stick with a game that's underperforming. I want to make an honest effort at the leveling cap, see what the big deal is with farming, and see if the game has anything else to surprise me with. But so far things aren't looking bright.

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.