Amazing Community

Computer Meltdown

All that I really wanted to do when I got home was to log into my computer and play some Final Fantasy XIV.  Unfortunately my computer seemed to conspire against me.  Everything seemed happy when I first got home and I had just queued for duty roulette and begun working on a FATE when something odd happened.  The screen froze and turned black, and then moments later I was rebooting.  Now I am notorious for ignoring windows updates, and I know in Windows 8 there will reach a point where it simply will not let you ignore them.  Sure enough upon reboot it was installing new software, so I thought that maybe all that had happened is that I reached that threshold.

So I went ahead and booted up my machine and logged into windows.  Everything seemed just fine, nothing really seemed out of the ordinary until I booted into Final Fantasy XIV again and then boom… the same thing.  I thought for a bit that maybe it was my video card driver update that I applied last night, so upon rebooting I proceeded to roll back that driver.  Upon booting into the game again…  this time a brown screen then a black screen and then everything powers off.  The thing is that the video card never actually felt hot when I reached back and felt the air vent on it.  My initial thought was that the video card was just toast, which is disturbing because it was only a few months old.

As a test I swapped out to an older card and sure enough the machine booted right up.  Unfortunately however upon firing up a game I was back at the black screen cycle.  It was then that I noticed something.  I took the side panel off my case and watched it boot up, and the fan on the processor heatsink was not moving at all.  So I am guessing at some point it died, and potentially for awhile it was working intermittently.  Processor overheating would in theory cause all of the things that I was experiencing.  Here is hoping that there has been no permanent damage to it.  A heatsink/fan combo is a relatively cheap thing to replace, so I ordered a new potentially better one from Amazon and it should be here Friday.  Until then I guess I will be gaming on the laptop exclusively.

Meet Kenzi

kenziandshilohkenzi_alone Now other than my computer having a meltdown and throwing me into stress mode, there was some awesome that managed to happen yesterday.  We added a new child to our family, and unfortunately she moves so damned fast that this is the only picture I have managed to snap since bringing her home.  Thankfully the folks we got her from gave us a far better picture of her.  However as you can see she apparently loves the ferrets.  She has kept returning to the playpen to play with them through the bars.  They seem completely enthralled by her as well, and moments after snapping this albeit blurry photo of her and Shiloh she also woke up Bellatrix and they were both following her every move.  Being a kitten however she is rarely in one place for too terribly long.

We thought for a bit about a name and tried multiple characters from Harry Potter as well as Firefly, before finally settling on Kenzi.  She seems far more like that character than any other so far.  She is fearless and kenzishoulderdaring, and a little bit shifty at times.  Not to mention the whole dark hair thing works well also.  Kenzi was my favorite character from Lost Girl and really the only reason why I enjoyed that show for as long as I did.  So I feel like the name is fitting.  Right now she is batting my fingers as I type this and trying to hop up on the keyboard.  While I think it is absolutely adorable… I need to finish this post up so I can get on to work.  Here is hoping the ferrets wake up and steal back her attention.

So after writing my blog post she decided to crawl up on my shoulder.  I am officially in love, not that I wasn’t already.  I have always wanted a shoulder cat to hang out with me while I game.  Now she is curled up under the lapboard that my laptop is on grooming herself, but she spent a good long while on my shoulder.  This is totally going to work out… we just have to somehow figure out a way to stop the nibbling.  She seems to like to attack my beard and bite it right now.  Which is adorable, but will eventually get to be frustrating and potentially painful.

Amazing Community

ffxiv_07202014_212651 For the last week or so I have been spending most of my evenings playing Final Fantasy XIV on the Cactuar server.  I have to say I am starting to fall in love with the sense of community there, and on the entire Aether data center as well.  Thanks to my time in wow and just how toxic that environment can be… I have been extremely gunshy about branching out and playing with people I did not already know.  I’ve always been willing to group with my guild and their friends, but I had zero interest in poking my head out into the larger world.  Quite frankly when I had done this in the past, I dealt with so much abuse as a tank that I had no interest in ever attempting it again.  The problem is this negative attitude towards pugging carried forward into every game from that point on.  The moment someone wanted to do something, and we did not have the requisite number of people I would immediately remove myself from the equation.  This means I’ve spent an awful lot of time sitting around in games waiting for the magical number of people to log in so we could go do something fun.

Coming back to Final Fantasy XIV however I did so without much of my support structure.  For most of this past week I have been the only person online at night in my guild, and as a result I finally decided to brave the Duty Roulette.  This essentially is a random dungeon system that picks from any dungeon available to you.  The awesome thing however is that for leveling, you gain experience as though the mobs were your level not the level you have been scaled down to.  I went into this with the plan to attempt to be more social, so I started talking to the group the moment the instances started.  Funny thing is…. other people talked back, and in very positive ways.  Instead of running the dungeon in silence we started to banter back and forth much like grouping used to feel like during my Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot days.

So what caused this magical environment to appear in the face of so many games with toxic grouping environments?  I honestly think it is two fold.  Firstly at this point the only people who are playing Final Fantasy XIV are the players who are in it for the long haul, the players who are devoted too the franchise and willing to weather whatever storms might arise.  There is a sense of general camaraderie that I have not seen in many games, and I think it comes from a shared struggle.  I expected the servers to feel dead with the initial drop off of players after launch, but in reality while there are fewer overall players, they are just more focused in specific areas.  While you cannot go to any zone and run FATEs, the zones where you can… are extremely active.

The other part I think is a weird little system that Squaresoft put into the game.  Similar to league of legends, at the end of each dungeon or guildhest you can “commend” a player for their actions.  You only get one single commendation per dungeon run, so it forces you to think long and hard about who best deserved it.  Now there are some pretty significant rewards for having racked up a large number of these.  This I think causes players to want to seem friendly, and through the course of pretending to be… they end up actually being cordial.  I expected that the commendations would be almost exclusively reserved for the tanks and the healers, but it turns out that apparently I have made some appreciated contributions as well.  At this point I am sitting around 25 commendations, and there is rarely a duty or hest that I don’t walk out with at least one.  So apparently my banter, combined with the fact that I try my damnedest to interrupt everything as a DPS…  is appreciated and matters.

cactuarfashionshow I feel like Final Fantasy XIV is this strange time capsule where players have returned to the kinds of values that I used to appreciate so much while playing the games that existed before World of Warcraft.  While I have not poked my head out into the raid community yet, I find it really impressive that I am playing on a server that has actual community events.  This game feels like a crazy throwback… and I am loving it so far.  It seems like somehow we managed to actually pick the right server to be playing on all those months ago when we picked the server name simply out of our love of the cactuar.  The server even keeps track of the spawn times of hunt mobs, keeping a google doc to record when one last spawned and was killed.  Granted the other day when I looked it had gotten a bit out of date, but just the fact that the server cares enough to create something like that is pretty awesome.  I think the next thing for me is to try and find some social linkshells and meld into the broader community more.

Writing Prompts

Tomorrow is the official beginning of the Blaugust initiative, and as promised I will not leave you hanging.  I will be posting a series of writing prompts each day to help turn the wheels and get your creative juices flowing.  Please note of course that you do not have to write about any of the prompts I post.  I am just trying to provide inspiration if it happens to be lacking.

  • What was the first game that made you “feel” something.  I am talking about the first game that invoked a real human emotional response be it fear, love, outrage…  we’ve all had it happen and I am curious about your first time.
  • What is your favorite boss encounter in any game and why.  What makes that encounter stand out in your mind and what can be learned from it.
  • If you were an NPC in a video game, what type of NPC would you be.

Gospel of Blaugust

What is Blaugust?

With the beginning of August rapidly approaching, I thought it would be a good time to do another general rundown post for the Blaugust Initiative.  The idea is really simple, and honestly was inspired by my wife doing something similar in the math blogging community.  This all springs out of something I decided to do 442 days ago that I called the Grand Experiment, where I got up every morning and made a post… even if I didn’t really want to.  Through doing this I have learned a lot of things about myself, and as a result the community as a whole has learned a lot about me.  I feel like at this point I have almost transcended writer block, in that I can sit down at the keyboard and start a stream of conscious flowing and at the same time make it somewhat relative to the purpose of my blog.

Thanks to cramming together of blog and august, Blaugust was born, and the idea is to take the challenge during the month of August to write a new post every day.  More than anything this is about pushing you out of your comfort area and into undiscovered territory.  When you have to produce posts without being able to rely heavily on multiple days of pre-writing it can be a scary thing.  What happened for me is that I also began to allow more of my personal life to slip into my posts.  As a reader, I am far more interesting in the people behind the screen than what they might happen to say.  I’ve never been a big fan of building myself a personal echo chamber filled with only people who think like I do.  As a result I am interested in whatever my friends and fellow bloggers have to say, and I think free writing like this really brings that point home.

The Topic

One of the questions to come out of the whole contorted process of this initiative being born, was if we had to write on a specific topic.  Ultimately you can write about anything that happens to suit you on a given day.  You can diverge from gaming in any fashion if you like, and your blog doesn’t even have to be gaming related in the first place.  Liore gave a really excellent example early on of writing a gaming related Foodie blog, and this would be an amazing thing and should totally happen.  The purpose is to get used to writing on a schedule and not so much dictating what you happen to be writing about.  Inspiration can be an extremely fickle thing, and if you want for it there end up being some massive lapses in your posts.  The plan here is to make you realize that you don’t really need the muse to crank out interesting posts.  If you allow yourself to do it, your personality will inhabit the writing and inspiration will find you mid paragraph.

The Guidelines

Since I also decided to make this a proper contest and give away some prizes among those who manage to finish I realized that I really needed some basic guidelines.  I am not trying to bog this initiative down in rules, but at the same time the only way to have a fair ending is to make sure that everyone has followed some really basic guidelines.

  1. Write A New Blog Post of no less than 10 sentences in length.  This is essentially two large paragraphs, and feels about right for the minimum size.
  2. Include a link back to the Blaugust Initiative Page.  My hope is as this starts others will join in the challenge and play catch up.
  3. Advertise the post on the Blaugust Blog.  You will be given “blogger” level permissions to do this.  More than anything this simply serves as a central repository for all of the awesome posts.  Some folks have mentioned that they want to write some deeply personal journal style posts on occasion, and with these just make sure I have access so I can credit you.
  4. If you advertise the post on Twitter, please include #Blaugust hashtag.  Again trying to help spread the word and get folks to join midmonth.
  5. Over the course of the month, repeat this process 31 times.
  6. ????
  7. Profit!

The Rewards

I will be keeping track of who has posted a post each day during the course of August.  On September 1st I will be holding a drawing for several prize packages.  I hope you like games, and want to acquire more of them… because that is what is going to happen here.  As someone put it.. write awesome stuff and get games!  Over the course of a few years of the various bundle series, I have accumulated a bunch of duplicate game download keys.  I can think of no better way to give away some of these than to reward the hard work of participating in this grueling challenge.

  • Grand Prize!

    I hope you follow me on Steam, because I will be picking a game off of your Steam Wishlist and purchasing it for you.  In addition to this I wil be letting you pick a game from my Humble Bundle surplus list as well.  For this prize specifically I will be looking for someone who has actually posted a post on each day individually, rather than someone who has posted 31 posts in the month, but not necessarily one a day.  This prize should represent the truest form of the challenge.

  • Three Also-Awesomes

    Additionally I will be picking three individuals at random from the total pool of contestants to win the “Also-Awesome” award.  To qualify for this you have to have started your posting on August 1st, and have written a total of 31 posts over the course of the month.  I will have each of these folks in order drawn pick two games a piece from my Humble Bundle surplus list.  I am varying the requirements here a bit to allow someone to have missed a day here or there but still have posted “catch-up” posts to be in the running for something.

  • The Catch-Up Artist

    – Anyone who joins the initiative late is going to be in the running for this prize.  To quality you have to have joined after August 1st, but managed to catch up and still write a total of 31 posts in the month of August.  You can procrastinate however long you like, but I am expecting 31 well formed posts to get this one.  After the above prizes have been picked from my Humble Bundle surplus list, the winner of this prize gets the chance to name one of the games for themselves.  I promise the surplus list is more than big enough to support a wide variety of choices from all of the winners.

  • All Participants

    I will be crafting some sidebar badges and banners that can be affixed to your website showing that you won the Blaugust challenge.  Additionally you will be able to bask in the warm afterglow of knowing you accomplished something really awesome.  Depending on the number of participants I reserve the right to make up a bunch of other awards along the way.

The Sign-Up

I have honestly been staggered by the amount of interest I have received since concocting this loosely strewn together plan in the first place.  For ease of maintenance I am asking that all participants sign up on the Blaugust nook.  All you have to do is go there and click the join button, and of course have an Anook account…  but everyone should at this point because it is an awesome site.  Right now we have several members ready to go, but I am hoping this last push for people will help get us a few more.  I really appreciate each and every one of the people who have shown interest in participating in the challenge.  Through the course of the month I will be posting some prompts on a daily basis that you can use if you like to help you out with coming up with something to post about.  The goal right now is to give you two to three a day at the bottom of my own blog posts for the month.  I know I risk forgetting someone in the process, but here is the list of the folks that I know have mentioned interest in the process.

There is still plenty of time to add your name to the big long list of folks who have already mentioned they are interested in the process.  Even if we get no more people, this is more than enough to make sure we have an awesome month.  I thank you all for following me down this path to madness, and I hope we make it out the other side unscathed.

#Blaugust

Hitbox Frustrations

Back to Normal

This morning signals the return to my normal routine.  Over the course of the math camp I have allowed myself to veer significantly from the path I normally take.  This means a lot of things, including being far more sluggish about making my blog posts within a scheduled timeframe.  Additionally my diet and walking regiment fell completely apart in the face of eating out so many times.  That said it is time to buckle down and return the tray tables in their upright position and prepare for landing.  It feels so weird to be going back to work today, and I am dreading being deluged by a weeks worth of stuff that set unsorted out.

I have only slightly followed my email while I was out, and dealt with a few fires… and postponed a few others for this week.  I know I have an extremely full plate waiting on me, and hopefully my coworkers will be forgiving as it is going to take me a little bit to get back into the swing of things.  Unfortunately based on everything I read in my inbox, I really need to hit the ground running today and knock out several things.  I know of at least one project that needs to be out the door and ready to go by August 1st, and another that needs to follow closely on its heels.  Then there is our project list, and juggling in a new person into the group.  So it is going to be a stressful rest of the week to say the least.

Hitbox Frustrations

This morning I logged into Hitbox.tv and completed a ritual I have done for the last several days… so many times I have quite literally lost count.  I logged into my account, went into my pre-recorded video and attempted to push the videos to youtube.  Like always it gave me the popup message signifying that my videos should show up on youtube shortly.  As has been the case each and every morning, I am quite certain they will not actually show up there.  Right now I have half a dozen videos that I have recorded playing various games that are in essentially limbo.  While there are lots of awesome things about the service… right now you cannot download videos you have recorded, upload them to youtube or even embed them directly from the hitbox service.  Which basically means the videos are not accessible anywhere other than through the hitbox interface.

There are so many things I like about hitbox, but presently it is relentlessly buggy.  The streaming portion they have down pat, and I would say it is one of the best experiences since you can actually chat somewhat realtime with people watching your stream.  It is all of the little things that I have come to take for granted with Twitch that simply do not work at all.  Previously there was a really awesome twitter integration so you could have an automated message go out to your twitter feed when you were actually live and ready to go.  In the last few days since I had last streamed, this apparently broke as well.  Right now it feels like we have been sold a lemon, and while I am sure they are trying as hard as they can to straighten things out… they seriously need some better public relations.

The official pronouncement from hitbox support is that things should be fixed either today or tomorrow.  The problem is that “today” and “tomorrow” were three weeks ago.  Instead of following up with a legitimate estimate for when things will be fixed… they just keep giving out the same “today” and “tomorrow” statements.  Now as my friend Ashgar pointed out, I can in fact record local and upload to YouTube as a separate process…  which is fine for anything I do in the future.  I however tend to stream sequentially, in a way that someone could go back and watch the progress I made along the way.  This means a number of videos are now essentially stuck in hitbox jail and there is no way that I can get them to another service.  I took for granted that the estimates of when things would be fixed were actually true, so I kept recording expecting that someday I would be able to upload them to YouTube without issue.

Right now I am in a holding pattern and still using hitbox, because really the streaming functionality is excellent.  I just wish everything else about the service were up to the standards set by twitch.  I don’t really want to go back to twitch if I can help it, because having to live in a minimum of 30 seconds of lag, is frustrating to me and frustrating to anyone who might be viewing what I was doing.  I feel like my viewers are significantly different than the normal viewers that streamers get.  When I get someone in my channel it is a friend of mine, and I feel like I should interact in as timely a manner as I can, because we have connections beyond that of viewer and streamer.  Hopefully tomorrow will come, and they will fix their crap and let us start moving files again.  At the very least I would be happy with either the ability to download what I have already recorded or at the very least embed it directly into my blog.

Player Commendations

ffxiv 2014-07-28 21-50-54-546 After dropping off our British friend at the airport, and one of our ferrets to the vet… we went home and pretty much vegetated.  I had a rather glorious day playing some Final Fantasy XIV and even doing a little bit of streaming.  For the most part the day was spent working on my Dragoon in an attempt to get him to level 45 and acquire the awesome dragon armor set that waits for me there.  Right now my leveling method of choice is to run around a zone, this time Coerthas doing FATEs while waiting on the Duty Roulette to pop.  For years I have been completely gunshy about doing random dungeons, thanks in part to just how horrible and toxic the community in World of Warcraft dungeon finder can be.  That said I have to say that the community so far in Final Fantasy XIV has been an utter delight.

ffxiv 2014-07-28 20-38-52-506 Sure I have run into a few players that are relatively horrible at playing their class or their chosen role, but I have yet to find a single player that I would consider rude or abusive.  I can take playing with folks who struggle, but it was always the “internet tough guys” and general jerks that kept me away from the dungeon finder.  The most interesting thing for me is that apparently I have made a positive impression on the groups I have been in.  After I had left the first time, FFXIV introduced a system of positive reinforcement called “Player Commentations”.  The idea is at the end of each dungeon run each player gets to commend a single player for their actions in the run.  Generally speaking I assumed these would be limited to the tanks and healers, since they tend to run the show.  That said I have managed to rack up ten of them so far through the course of my random dungeon runnings.

ffxiv 2014-07-28 20-45-22-985 Granted I try to go out of my way to make the dungeon run smoother, interrupting all of the AOE effects that I can.  In Stone Vigil last night I even managed to double interrupt a pack using Legsweep for one and Spineshatter Dive to interrupt a second one moments later.  That said I expected this sort of thing to go unnoticed, or get attributed to the tank… since tanks also have stuns…  but at least in PUGs seem to rarely use them.  All of this said it feels like the community in FFXIV has reached a point where all of the negative forces have wandered off into other games, and what is left is a cohesive group of players who are bound together in their love of all things Final Fantasy.  This might be a great oversimplification but so far I’ve greatly enjoyed all of the random dungeons and guildhest groups I have been a part of.  People seem to be genuinely willing to talk through problems without resorting to name calling.

ffxiv 2014-07-28 21-04-58-384 I closed off the night sitting at 43.5 and working on the final Dragoon hunt.  Something awesome is that apparently when we were not looking they added in some extremely awesome rewards for completing the hunt logs.  When you complete your class hunt log you get a ring that is honestly as good as Darklight if not slightly better.  When you complete your grand company hunt log, you get a pet.  You can collect your rewards by telling Jonathas in Old Gridania a “tale” of your deeds.  I still think this is a pretty cool way of handling a epic turn in like this, that your character literally tells the NPC a story about how you succeeded in battle.  This is going to give me the drive to finish up my Immortal Flames hunt log, so that I too can get a pet from it.  So far I am really enjoying my time back in the game, and it is starting to stir the attention of some of my guildies.  Here is hoping that at some point we can return to doing 8 man content.  For now I will just settle with being able to do guild groups.

#Hitbox #FFXIV

We Survived Math Camp

British Vittles

britsnacks

I had said earlier in the week that the math conference I was working at not only represented teachers from almost every state, but also represented a handful of countries.  Among those were a couple of Brits, one of which decided to bring a bunch of items for us to try.  On the final day he set out a bunch of things that had not been consumed on a table for anyone to grab.  I nabbed a box of Jaffa Cakes initially, since I had heard about them from various people but never tried them.  This box represents the various things that were not taken, and since we were picking up the place to make it presentable they all came home with us.  I’ve had a Cadbury bar before, so I have not broken into it yet, but I have managed to try both “cakes” and “biscuits”.

I am not sure what I was expecting when it came to Jaffa Cakes, but the reality was absolutely nothing like I was expecting.  To put it into terms for the American palette when we think “sponge cake” we tend to think a Twinkie or one of the ubiquitous yellow cakes you buy to make strawberry shortcake.  This version of sponge cake tastes more like a stale vanilla wafer that has been sitting out on a table for a week and soaking up moisture.  The orange filling tasted a bit like a melted gummy bear, and the chocolate was more a kin to bakers chocolate.  The end result was not unpleasant but just not what I had been expecting.  I actually kinda like them, but I think that might be the fact that I am consuming something that I cannot otherwise get, so there is a bit of a forbidden fruit aspect to them.

On the other hand the Hobnobs or simply “biscuits” are rather good.  Like it doesn’t take any stretch of the imagination to wonder why they are popular.  It is like a cross between an oatmeal cookie and a saltine cracker.  More so almost like really good granola made into a cookie form.  While I doubt I would go out of my way to eat a Jaffa Cake, I would totally be down with biscuits in the future.  All of this time I honestly thought that British biscuits were just American cookies, but nope it is a completely different animal.  We have things here called digestive biscuits, so I am honestly wondering if they are related to these kinds of biscuits.  Now the cool thing is that if I ever get a hankering for either of these items… there is a British foods import shop in town that stocks all sorts of stuff like this.  I likely would not have gone out of my way to try these things, but I am happy that I now know what they taste like.

We Survived Math Camp

I have to say it feels good to be able to say that we survived math camp.  I feel like we need a t-shirt or something to commemorate the event.  I honestly have a massive respect for the individuals who have hosted the event in the other locations, because the amount of prep work and little details that went into this undertaking was a bit staggering.  On top of that the fact that my wife and I lived in a sort of split household during the course of the events, meant that neither of us slept really well.  The first thing we did upon getting home yesterday was taking a nap.  I was surprised at just how many people had arranged for trips to the airport of their own volition rather than needing to run multiple car loads this time around.  I ran a single load on Saturday evening, and then another yesterday.  I have one more to take this morning, but for the most part there was not the mass number of loads that we had as folks arrived.

While I feel like I really had little to do with it, it feels nice to see people talking about how much they enjoyed their time in our city.  It is weird how after spending all this time prepping…  I take comments about the school system with personal pride.  I found myself using the royal we throughout the course of the week, like I was actually part of it or something.  Granted I have done a lot of work for the school system over the years as my wife needed this or that, but I never really felt connected to it other than “that’s the place my wife works”.  After essentially living for a week out of the building, and supporting those inhabiting it… I feel a deep connection to it all.

In other news… I tried Chicken and Waffles yet again… and yet again I don’t really see why the meal is heralded as so awesome.  After the conference split up about 11 am all of the folks what did not need to immediately rush to the airport went out to eat.  There I ordered chicken and waffles, since it was a place I had never eaten before.  I’ve tried it three or four times now… and every time it is a rather bland chicken breast or chicken strips over a nice big thick waffle… with all of it drenched in syrup.  It is charming but nothing earth shattering and overall I find the meal rather bland.  I just feel like I am somehow missing some cultural touchstone.  Like maybe I am supposed to be enthralled by the absurdity of putting chicken and waffles together.  But considering growing up I made grilled cheese sandwiches with waffles…  it doesn’t seem that odd to me.

Ding 40

ffxiv 2014-07-27 22-23-10-700 When we finally got settled in for the night, I popped back into Final Fantasy XIV to work on my dragoon some more.  Since the last time I played the game actively, it has made a number of really nice quality of life improvements.  Namely the addition of the Duty Roulette system that allows you to get assigned to a random dungeon out of a large stack of potentials.  The best part about this is that the experience gain inside the dungeon seems to scale to your level.  That means you could get assigned to a level 15 like Halatali and still get the same experience you would running a much higher level dungeon like Cutters Cry.  For the purpose of leveling this means you have extremely rapid queues, and while the gear that drops inside may not be usable, the experience gain stays consistent.

ffxiv 2014-07-27 21-18-19-766 Another nifty thing that I learned last night is that apparently while we were gone, they added in some perks for having an account authenticator.  In addition to having the three discounted teleport locations, you can now set a single free location if you have you account set up with the authenticator.  Since my grand company of choice is the Flames, that made it an absolute no brainer for me to use Uldah as my freebie. This now allows me to move Coerthas to one of the discounted locations, since I no longer need it for Uldah.  For better or worse Coerthas seems to be the best place for running FATEs, and I will likely be there until at least level 46 when Mor Dhona really starts in proper.  In any case alternating between Duty Roulette and FATEs seems to be a rather enjoyable way to level, and if I get much play time today I will probably be able to push through to 45.

We have a number of errands to run today, and another math camp person to run to the airport.  However once I get back from that my plan is to work on the level 40 Dragoon quest.  Since the 35 quest so simplistic, I am expecting this one to be a major undertaking.  The warrior quest chain had some definite gimme quests, but others that took all the skills I had learned to that point to be able to push through them.  The cool thing is that it seems like we are starting to get a bit more activity in the game.  A number of friends were talking about firing it back up last night, so it will be interesting to see how active it gets in the coming days.  Cactuar is still an extremely populated server, as all weekend long it was barred from new character creation.  However as of this morning it was open again.  Hopefully the couple of new people can get in and create a character today.

#FFXIV

Podcast that Wasn’t

The Final Day

I am up bright and early for a Sunday morning, because today is the final day of the Math conference.  On the arrival day I had to ferry trips back and forth between the airport, and today I am having to do the same thing.  The conference only actually runs for two hours, but I imagine the school itself will be open a bit longer as folks wait around for their rides.  My hope is that everyone checks out of the hotels before heading to the conference, so I don’t actually need to make any trips between those.  That was the piece that actually slowed things down the first time was dropping folks off at the two different hotels.

At this point I am ready for it to be over, so that our lives can return to normal.  I fully appreciate the gravity of what this event is for the folks who are attending it, but each night I have had to go home and sequester myself.  I am not good at dealing with an overabundance of human beings, especially not ones needing something from me.  There are a lot of things I feel bad about, but one of the big ones is that I spent most of the conference hiding out in my wife’s cube in the collaboration room.  I watched twitter, and came out of my hiding place whenever someone needed something.  However it served as a bit of a safe space where I didn’t have to try and make small talk or “act normal”.

Podcast that Wasn’t

Well it finally happened, a weekend when all of the members of AggroChat were busy at the same time.  Because it didn’t really feel right to not do anything… I recorded a quick blurb that I am calling Episode 15.314 in honor of the fact that my entire week has been consumed by playing a supporting role in the math conference.  This week I simply did not have the time to plan for a full replacement cast for the podcast.  I could have maybe pulled something together last minute, but I was honestly too drained to carry the cast forward.  At least we made it to fifteen episodes before needing a week off.  Next week hopefully we all will return to normal and be ready to be entertaining.

The funny thing is… the moment I recorded and posted this…  Kodra showed up.  So in theory we could have maybe limped along last night with Me, Kodra and Tam.  But I figured it was better just to take the week off if I thought I was not going to be my normal charming self.  Like I said above… I have had to do so much glad handing this week, that my social normality buffer is just gone.  I am not sure if I could carry on an intensely direct conversation with two other individuals… even if said individuals are really close and long term friends.  The blurb I recorded hopefully is charming enough, and talks a little bit about what we all have been doing.

Svara Still Awesome

ffxiv 2014-07-26 20-01-18-829 Coerthas is still an amazing place to run FATEs in, and I spent most of my evening running around out here hopping from event to event.  The king of all FATEs will always be Svara, which for the undoctrinated is a series of three connected FATEs that tell the story of the Isgardian fight against the giant dragon Svara.  First off it is completely epic to follow the path of this dragon and fend off the Isgardians from all of her children, then finally down the big beast at the end of the sequence.  It is also epic the amount of experience you get, considering if you hit gold participation in all three fates it is worth around 40,000 xp which is a really nice chunk all at once for about 15 minutes of work.  What makes Coerthas extremely awesome as a zone is that there are a bunch of this heavy xp fates and you can pretty much spend the entire night running between them all soaking up as much xp as you can.  I figure I will likely stay here until I hit 40 before moving on to someplace else.

ffxiv 2014-07-26 19-09-48-884 I am already enjoying playing the dragoon so much more than playing the bard.  Don’t get me wrong, the bard is enjoyable… but it is also the class that everyone seems to be playing.  Every time I solo queued for a duty roulette I would end up in a dungeon with a bard as the second dps.  Playing melee is just much more my style, and the Dragoon delivers some seriously potent direct damage.  Its weakness however has always been the fact that it has little to no area of effect damage.  In fact if I remember correctly it has a single attack, that I do not even have yet.  However they seem to have fixed some of the problems that existed in early release with FATE contribution.  Back then spamming any AOE was the key to getting high contribution.  However it seems like you can focus down a few spawns and still get the same scores that you would if you were just AOEing everything around you.  My goal today after all of the madness is over with shuttling people back to the airport is to do some more duty roulette.

#FFXIV #AggroChat

Wildstar Woes

Crack Dealer

So my reputation as a gaming crack dealer is intact, as I spent part of yesterday teaching another gamer to play Magic: The Gathering.  I guess it is fitting that we taught him at a Math Conference, considering it was invented by a mathematician.  In my defense this time, the attendee asked for someone to tutor him in the ways of planeswalking, and considering I was not actually attending sessions but instead just waiting around to be needed, I volunteered.  We met yesterday morning at 9:30 in the third floor commons area and I brought my patented “box o’ decks”.  @Jay2thaVee was a complete rookie to the concepts of magic and had not purchased any decks.  Thankfully I had left a few of the various $14 starters I have picked up in their original states, as those are pretty much the easiest way to learn.

Unfortunately I take “devotion to black” seriously, and every single deck in my box save for one had black somehow mixed into it.  He played a white/black nyx prebuilt, and I was playing a black/blue theros prebuilt.  Basically for the first game I played with my hand on the table, so he could see what exactly I was doing and when I was doing it.  Additionally every so often when he seemed to lack a play I would nudge him a little bit to explain how the cards in his hand might be useful.  By the time we got around to the second match he was up and running and ready to kick ass… and in fact he did just that.  The second match was excellent in that it showed just how quickly fate can change with the play of the right cards.  We both had cards in play that helped us soak back up some health in each upkeep so for a long time we were in a bit of a stalemate as I could only do as little more damage than he could heal up each round.

Thanks to an artifact that gave all of my creatures lifelink I was able to soak up quite a bit of health during this long drawn out stalemate.  At this point I was starting to get a creature advantage on him as well as a health advantage.  Then with a single play he rocked my world.  Granted I had to explain how good the card he held in his hand was, and why he should play it… but when he plunked down Banishing Light.  Now I must have been extremely tired or something, but I completely misread the card yesterday when we were playing.  It says banish “target” and for some reason I read that as “all” non-land permanents.  So I played it as though it was a complete board wipe, which made the game more interesting.  He began to make progress on chipping down my extremely high health pool which was like 32 or something similar at that point.

Then I get the big guns onto the board with my Abhorrent Overlord.  So I once again start whittling down his health at the same time as he chips away mine.  I do 6 health, he regens 2, and so on until we get to a point where he has 11 health and a serious creature advantage on me, and I have my single big guy as he eats everything else I can get on the board and 9 health.  He manages to do 10 damage to me in one turn and it is pretty much over.  However of all the ways to learn magic this is one of the better matches I have played.  It shows just how tentative a lead can be at any point in the game.  When we misplayed the banish card, it looked like the game was over… but had i not had several rounds of getting crap to play I could have maybe pushed back to get the victory.  In any case I think he is hooked and going to buy a couple of decks for he and his son to play together.  Sounds like awesome times.

Wildstar Woes

WildStar64 2014-07-26 08-21-14-508 Last night I got a rather frank question from a friend of mine regarding Wildstar.  Some time ago another friend had handed him one of the free trial codes that we got for preordering.  He just now got around to trying it a month and a half after launch.  While he enjoyed the game, it wasn’t like the most enjoyable thing he had ever played.  His question was how many of the Stalwart crew were still playing, and if he should pick it up.  He followed us into Elder Scrolls Online, and while he loves that game, he finds it extremely solemn to be playing by himself all the time.  The big thing is that he didn’t want to jump into Wildstar and it to be the same experience for him.  His question was, should he buy the game.  Now I could have put the hard sell on him and lead him down a path that would have ultimately lead to disappointment…  but I was honest with him.

For the most part in the circle of friends that he is part of… Wildstar has come and gone.  There are a few of us who log in periodically but this game had probably the briefest of “glory days” of any title we have played to date.  I only made it to 26 before slowing down and to the best of my knowledge none of us actually made it to the level cap.  I enjoyed aspects of the game, namely the dungeons…  but for whatever reason as much as I should love this game… the drive to play it was just missing.  I am still piddling around, this time on the Exiles side on Evindra but running into the same lack of drive to log in.  Everything about this game should be something that I really enjoy, and you could not ask for a better community team or company supporting it.  But when I ask myself what I want to play in a given night, this game never seems to come up on its own.  To be honest most of the time I was leveling my Chua Engineer it was the boom boxes that kept me logging in every night more than anything else.

So while I think there is a great game here, I had to be honest with him that he probably should give it a pass if he is only interested in playing with the Stalwart/Masks crew.  I think one of the things that really hurt this title was the fact that we simply rolled on the wrong faction for the wrong server.  Dominion side on Evindra is dead… like when I got to Whitevale I sat around for two hours waiting for someone else to wander by so I could take out one of the world mini-bosses and not so much as another adventurer came by at any point during that time.  To be truthful it feels like wandering around Illium you might see a dozen other players at any given point, whereas on the Exiles side you are constantly bumping into people.  The problem is with only 6 slots per server, it really negates the concept of playing both factions.  Within a few days all of the people who were primarily Exile, had deleted their Dominion alts to free up space for more Exiles.

So once again we are stuck at the problem of having all of my time devoted into what has essentially become a non-starter character.  So when confronted with the idea of re-rolling…  I just can’t be bothered to put much effort towards it.  Ultimately if my immediate circle of friends is not playing…  then what exactly am I rushing around to get leveled to be able to do?  I am sure I could roll with any number of the guilds on the exiles side, but I just am not sure if I have the social oomph left in me to start from scratch without being able to rely on the folks I hang out nightly with on voice chat.  I feel like Wildstar might have run its course through the internet as well.  I am seeing a lot of folks who claimed diehard loyalty to the game “taking a break”, which we all know is the beginning salvo in the “quitting the game” conversation.  I am not ready to cancel my subscription yet, but I am just struggling to find reason to log in.

Dragooning It Up

ffxiv 2014-07-26 08-06-32-335 Lately I have been back playing quite a bit of Final Fantasy XIV.  I feel like I parted with that game on really good terms and it has always been extremely charming.  When not working on hunts I have been working on leveling the dragoon.  If we can convince a repeat of the other night to happen, when we all logged in to run a dungeon, that place me playing a DPS character.  Ashgar unfortunately only has two tanks to 50, and I have a Warrior and a Bard.  That said I have never really felt deeply connected with the bard.  It does amazing damage and is super useful, and mostly was easy to level through Fates.  The class I would far rather play dps wise is the Dragoon, so lately I have been taking advantage of the Duty Roulette option and running some random dungeons.  I have to say the groups I am getting randomly are actually extremely friendly and communicative.  I feel like maybe this game has crossed the threshold of shedding all of the folks who were caustic and toxic… and now really has devoted fans left.

I guess the real challenge will be what this game feels like trying to tank it with random groups.  At some point I will work up the nerve and tank a random as my Gladiator seeing as I would really love to get to Paladin conversion levels.  There is still a lot to like in this game, and it is the only Asian inspired title that has managed to create a male character I actually enjoy playing.  There are proper beards here, and you have options other than “pretty boy” as far as facial features go.  We will see how long it take for me to get this game out of my system this time, but so far I am really enjoying myself.  I feel like at some point I need to dig up a list of what all new content is available, as there have been three rather large patches since I last played the game regularly.  FFXIV is pretty horrible about advertising what is new from the game interface itself, so I think there are probably some other ways to level that I am just missing.

#MagicTheGathering #FFXIV #Wildstar

The Search for Internet

Gopher Belghast

Yesterday was the first official day of the conference and it went far more smoothly than we could have hoped for.  Everyone seems so full of excitement and just brimming with ideas that when put together with the other teachers seem to cause random outbursts of inspiration.  When you see the number 180 written out it doesn’t seem like that many people, but when you are confronted with that many at one time…  it seems like a rather large group indeed.  The conference has folks from around the country and many from outside of it.  There is a pretty huge contingency from our neighbor to the north, and a few from across the pond as well.  I’ve heard there is an Irish teacher here, but I have not met her.  While watching the twitter hashtag during the day everyone seems to be getting so much from the process.

My morning was extremely busy, as I played gopher for any teacher that had forgotten something.  I did a lot of runs to the store to pick up this or that and deliver it to their class room.  From a tech support standpoint everything seemed to go smoothly, as the morning sessions tended to be put on by folks who are already seasoned presenters.  After lunch they had the keynote session and twitter blew up after that, so I am guessing the guy was extremely dynamic.  In the afternoon I finally sprang into action with a few last minute games of “trace the cable” to figure out what exactly had gotten unplugged in the shuffle.  A number of the issues were ones we simply could not resolve due to the fact that my wife’s school employs a rather draconic web filtering system.

The Search for Internet

I admit much like a student I spent a good chunk of my time yesterday in search for a way to circumvent the web filtering system.  It seemed like every other site I attempted to hit was either blocked for partially malfunctioning because some content delivery network they use as actually the thing being blocked.  You find out just how many things you read are hosted off things like Imgur when you encounter a web filtering system like this.  A few weeks back we lost our router, and I am still in the RMA process with Asus to get a replacement, but one of the nice features of the Nighthawk is that it comes with a really cool OpenVPN client.  So a good chunk of my morning was spent trying to configure this.

For starters I could not remote into my machine at the house, as apparently RDP was blocked by the draconic filters.  So I did one of the most truly contorted things to gain access to it.  Apparently my workplaces web based SSL vpn worked just fine, so I remoted into work… and then turned around and remoted into my machine at the house.  I was pretty sure I was moments away from ripping a hole in the internet.  There I configured the client the router, and when it came to downloading the OpenVPN client… I had to do that on my home machine and gmail it to myself, since the OpenVPN website was blocked as well.  Finally when I got everything installed I fired it up… and for a moment I thought it might be going to work… but the packets kept timing out.

So not only did they have a web filter in place but they also had a packet inspection firewall in place that was knocking down the packets coming in that it recognized as OpenVPN.  In utter futility I flailed around a bit trying a different combination of port, maybe hoping I could disguise the traffic as something common.  The problem is since I am on Cox internet, all of the common and benign ports are being blocked on my end since they don’t want you hosting a web, ftp, or mail server at your house.  So after trying a dozen or so ports and going through the contorted process of transferring the configuration over gmail just to make sure it was working…  I gave up and resigned myself to playing some Bejeweled 3.  This is how you can tell I am really bored…  I play Bejeweled because at this point I can play it on auto pilot.

Towel Day

After giving up for a bit and playing a few rounds of bejeweled I had another idea.  For some time I have known exactly how to root my Samsung Galaxy S5, but didn’t do it for one reason or another.  Like I felt like that was just a mess I didn’t want to deal with, and any of the potential ramifications of doing it.  I want to be able to fiddle with my device freely, but at the same time I have no interest in doing a lot of the reasons why you root an android in the first place.  Essentially I wanted to hold off doing it until I had a solid reason to.  The complete and total lack of decent internet at the school was apparently that reason.  The Samsung S5 has a built in Wifi hotspot but in their infinite wisdom AT&T seems to have installed a piece of software the blocks it anytime it tries to start.  You have to be on one of the metered plans to use it, and since we are on the old grandfathered unlimited plan…  this means we cannot.

The thing is I see the reasoning for blocking it.  They don’t want someone using their phone as their ONLY internet provider and doing all sorts of random stuff like bittorrent over their wireless network.  For me however I want to be able to use is as a backup network when I cannot for some reason connect to one.  I feel like if I am paying for this device, I should be able to use its internet connection in any way I see fit within reason.  The rest of the world can do this without problem, and carriers outside of the United States don’t throw up these artificial restrictions.  So emboldened by my frustrations… I installed the Towel root on my phone, and turned to the dark side.

It still took me a little bit of doing, but right now I have my phone connected to my laptop via bluetooth and PDAnet and the connection is amazing.  I figured all of this out pretty late in the day but I was able to get out and play some FFXIV with little to no lag.  I just have to figure out how to also connect it to my chromebook, and then I will have a way to use it when I do not have access to WiFi.  Even cooler this also means I should able to finally use a Dualshock 3 controller with my android to play some emulator games!  Everything that I have heard tells me that the android is a truly amazing emulator system, but in order to get it working well you need root access.  Now that I have finally crossed that threshold I figure this is dawning a new age of random crap I use my phone for.

Through the Looking Glass

Human Trafficking

tables_settingup Yesterday to some extent was the pre-game show for today’s beginning of the conference.  I got up at 5:30, blogged, ran out and got breakfast and then played a very small amount of Injustice on the PS4 while my wife got up and around and ready.  Once we left the house we had a whole list of things that needed to be done before the people started arriving.  The first thing was to swing by the hotel and make sure that they were ready to start receiving people and that the room we had rented as a social room was set up.  There were 15 tables that we would need to find table cloths for.  They of course had table cloths that they were willing to rent us…  but at $7 a table for a conference that already runs entirely on donations…  that was pushing it a little much.

After this we ran by the High School to make sure that everything was set up there.  The conference room we spent Saturday setting up, had gotten completely torn down Monday because of a meeting that was not on any of the publically available calendars.  They made promises to set the room back up after they were finished, but when we arrived yesterday morning it was only a few rows away from being done, so instead of hoping and praying that it was finished… we opted to roll up our sleeves and finish the job.  I figured a few minutes worth of work was well worth the piece of mind knowing it was completely finished.  From here I dropped my wife off at Staples and ran across the street to Dollar Tree, where I went table cloth shopping.

They did not of course have round table cloths, by my wife had the idea to simply lay one over the center of the table and another one over the center in the opposite direction.  She did the math and thought it would worth out perfectly, and sure enough in practice it did work great.  I opted to pick up a bunch of different colors, the idea being that this was a mixer and it would be easier to remember what table you were at if folks were up roaming about if you could remember “the blue one in the back”.  I started setting up the tables after our first run to the airport of the day, and had gotten a few done when the cavalry arrived.  Being the math teachers that they are… they figured out a scheme so that no two colors touched and finished the job for me as I headed back to the airport for round two.

Towards the end of the day we joked that I could add human trafficking to my resume, because surely someone there was starting to get suspicious since the same person kept showing up and collecting more new arrivals.  Over the course of the day I ran three loads to the hotel from the airport, and another load from the main hotel to the overflow location.  For the bulk of the day my wife was there at the airport playing welcoming committee as folks arrived, and making sure they had either a rental car or a ride with someone else.  It is really damned good that she was doing this, because as the day went on a number of plans fell through.  While we thought we would be hauling a single passenger on the final leg of the trip, we ended up with a full load of five in the car.  For the most part everyone was extremely appreciative of the impromptu shuttle service.

Through the Looking Glass

I still believe that at some point my wife was abducted and replaced by a doppelganger.  I guess this is fine since the one she was replaced from seems to be absolutely bubbling over with excitement and enthusiasm.  There were several points during the day where I thought to myself…  who is this woman beside me that is visibly bouncing at the thought of meeting new people.  My wife and I are both introverts, and for the most part home bodies.  However in our own little online circles we are the social glue that often times holds groups of people together, and play the role of welcoming new people into the fold.  So at some point it dawned on me… that she had become the visual embodiment of her online personality, much in the same way as I guess I would were I around a bunch of my twitter friends.

That is the part that has been the strangest for me.  I often talk about the Twittersphere and Blogosphere like it is some sort of monoculture, but in reality I am only ever referring to a very small slice of the community as a whole.  So this week as I am watching all these twitter folk interact, it feels absolutely foreign to me… because there is absolutely zero overlap with my own community.  It just feels strange that there could exist two completely different countries inside of the same online service.  This country is solely based on a love of Mathematics education, and looking for ways to better themselves and their classrooms.  I mean there is a reason why my wife and I do not follow each other on twitter, because our twitter timelines are completely packed with a specific kind of information about our passions.  It is absolute irony that I would end up married to a Mathematics teacher, considering throughout school that was the only subject I did not effortlessly excel at.  I guess in the best relationships we look for people with the qualities we ourselves lack.

Growing up I spent a lot of time with my father at weddings.  He we a professional photographer on the side, and from the moment I showed any sign of aptitude with a camera I got drafted into a life as a photographers assistant.  I always struggled with being in weddings, because as the wedding photographer you are adopted into whatever family unit exists for that day.  You become a crucial and vital member of the wedding party, and have to learn the ins and outs and how to get the pictures you are paid to take while everyone there wants to simply hang out and converse.  You are brought into the vortex of this deeply personal moment in someone’s life, but at the same time you have absolutely no meaningful connection to it.  This to me has been Twitter Math Camp.  These teachers all know each other in deeply personal ways after years of interaction on twitter, and I feel like I am just a passing interloper peering in on the proceedings.

That is not to say that I don’t already know several of them, or at least know OF them from conversations my wife has regarding her math circles.  I am sure by the end of the conference I will know several more considering I am acting in the role as tech support monkey.  Given that this a twitter group, I suggested that folks just tweet me when they have issues.  So I expect I will see a bunch of new faces showing up in my feed.  I am trying really hard to be cordial and outgoing and meet the onslaught of new people with a smile.  This conference has just ballooned since its start in 2012.  I have no clue what the numbers for Philadelphia were like, but the first conference in St. Louis was around 30-40 people.  This year we set up 180 chairs in the conference room and we might have people standing in the back of the room as it feels like we are probably going to end up with considerably more than that.

Board games a Plenty

tableofgames I feel like this is a group I could get along with just fine, were it not for the fact that there were so many of them.  By the time we made the third run to the airport, there were enough people in the hospitality suite that my fight or flight instincts were starting to kick in.  I have this thing, that has been passed down through the generations from my grandfather, to my father, and now the older I get the worse it is getting in me.  I do not handle crowds at all.  Like I can handle twenty or so people in a really open area, but the more tightly packed the people get… the more on edge I get waiting anxiously for my opportunity to bolt and get free from the pack.  In my father it has gotten so bad that he cannot stand to be in a store for any length of time.  I luckily have not gotten to that point, but I definitely have issues… especially with a tightly packed conference room or elevator.

Last night I was having a battle with myself.  I wanted to stick around and play board games and possibly even Magic the Gathering.  However two things were at work here.  Firstly being cordial and friendly in person has a severe toll on me.  I had reached my saturation point for humanity and I just needed to get away.  I could have handled a small group of twenty or so playing board games, but based on the pictures I saw posted in twitter later in the night… the room was apparently packed with people and a huge success.  So no only was my buffer full, but had I gone back to the hospitality suite I would have definitely struggled with the whole fight or flight instinct thing.

I always feel horrible when my antisocial tendencies keep me from having fun.  Like I don’t want to be known as that malfunctioning person that is never part of anything fun or entertaining.  I didn’t want to seem rude or standoffish to all of these guests… which I at least feel partly responsible for since my wife and I are representatives of the host city as it were.  Unfortunately there are just some things that no matter how much I will it… I simply cannot push past psychologically.  As a result I am sure I missed out on a really fun time, but instead I had the needed time to recharge my batteries and prepare for what is more than likely going to be an extremely frenetic and stressful first day.  Wish me luck!

Hunting Malboros

The Night Before

This mornings post is going to be a little scant on visuals so I am just going to leave you with this amazing cinematic trailer that Riot released yesterday called A New Dawn.  You should totally watch it and marvel at just how awesome Graves is.  If you watch the making up they talk about the whole video having a meme running through it “Graves is not impressed”.   Onwards to the real post.  This morning is the beginning of the Mathematics conference, and throughout the day today I will be playing chauffer to a group of folks who need ferried from the airport to the hotel.  As a result we spent some time last night cleaning out my wife’s Pontiac Torrent since it has the most comfortable seating for a large number of adults.  The thing that makes that vehicle awesome is that it has a sliding bench seat so you can push it back for extra leg room but still have a significant amount of cargo space.

coffeeandmonster I went comatose around 10:30 last night, but apparently my wife is having schoolgirl jitters.  As a denizen of twitter as well…  I guess I would probably be jittery about meeting a bunch of folks all at once from the twitterverse.  Granted this is the third running of this conference, but it has never been anywhere near as large as it is this year.  We have apparently completely sold out two hotels and they are booking in a third overflow hotel now.  To give me fortitude to get through a day of meeting all of these people I don’t know but will be expected to be cordial with…  I am leaning on both coffee and a monster ultra.  Mostly I just wanted to show off this awesome WW2 Dalek poster coffee mug we found the other day.  My wife actually spotted the Doctor Who mugs first, and there were a bunch of designs to choose from… but I have always been partial to the WW2 era propaganda poster from Victory of the Daleks.

So while I conked out completely around 10:30 my wife was apparently up until 1 am.  Then when I woke up this morning at 5 to get around and showered, she was awake again and responding to tweets.  I think its adorable that she can be all hyped up on nerves and I will likely be the same way when January rolls around and I go to Pax South.  I am not sure if  have mentioned that on my blog or not yet, but as of right now I have tickets for all three days to Pax South.  I may or may not be attending Sunday, but I am definitely going to try and be there for Friday and Saturday.  I figure the last day of a con is likely the “anything you missed” day and all the major stuff will likely occur on Friday and Saturday.  I might be completely wrong, but that would at least give me Sunday to drive home.  If you are also going to Pax South give me a shout, because I would love to arrange some sort of a twitter/blogosphere/whatever meetup.

Attack on Deathshead

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-07-22 18-59-17-748 I made it a bit further in my play through of Wolfenstein New Order but I am still struggling with crash to desktop issues.  I had a spot in the moon base that was doing it, and now am having a spot in Deathshead compound that is kicking me out.  Last night I gave it a few attempts but just didn’t have the patience.  I think next time I try it I might shut down EVERYTHING, including DXtory that I generally have running so I can take screenshots.  I know some games get a little pissy about overlays, or it might simply be that I need to disable the steam overlay.  In any case this game is really amazing and it gives me totally unrelated hope.  This past weekend at Quakecon, ID Software gave an exclusive peak at Doom 4 that has apparently just be renamed Doom and is somewhat of a reboot.  If Machine Games can give us a game as awesome as Wolfenstein… I have high hopes for what Doom has in store for us.

As my friend Kodra has said before, Wolfenstein is very much exactly what games felt and sounded like in the 90s.  Everything was industrial metal…  and we liked it.  I am perfectly fine with this throwback syndrome, because the modern FPS is nowhere near as much fun as the first generation of them used to be.  We have come so far in trying to make everything more and more realistic, and I think in that struggle we lost sight on what actually made the games fun.  If Wolfenstein and the reboot of Doom herald in an era of interesting level design with secrets and multiple paths to the objective… then hell yes I want to return to the 90s.  Right now my goal is to make it through Wolf one way or another by this weekend, so we can potentially talk about the ending on the podcast.  We will of course warn people ahead of time before the spoilers start flying.

Hunting Malboros

ffxiv 2014-07-22 20-18-24-344

This is one of those moments when I really wish Hitbox.tv knew what “today” and “tomorrow” actually meant.  For the last several days they have said that they would have the export to youtube functionality back up and running today or tomorrow.  I realize they are a small company and this is a beta product, but at this point it is seriously making me consider going back to Twitch.  I don’t want to, but I also like having the ability to embed video recorded from the night before in my mornings blog post.  Complaining aside…  one of the things that I have been enjoying since coming back to FFXIV is the hunt system.  Each day you can go to a hunt board in your grand company offices and grab a new set of wanted posters.  They call them bills…  but “handbill” hasn’t really been used popularly in the United States in decades.

I love that the various wanted posters just list a bounty and a basic location for where the mob will spawn.  In general I can remember where in each zone that type of mob already exists, and usually the type you need is intermingled within the pack.  This system would totally be a quick enjoyable jaunt out into the world if it were not for the two FATE based encounters each day.  Here you are either super lucky or have to wait around for hours.  Last night I streamed a fairly boring stream, because it was me killing Malboros and Dark Sylphs while waiting on an apparently rare fate to spawn.  The positive is this is causing me to actually level my chocobo.  As of last night I dinged level 3 on it and made a goodly dent into 4.

The big thing I have noticing is it is super horrible about standing in stuff.  Like I had to do all sorts of crazy to try and position the Malboros in such a way as to not let the Daedalus (my chocobo) get breathed upon.  Hint… I am pretty horrible at this and probably went through a dozen gysahl greens during the course of the night resummoning him.  I find this game extremely relaxing compared to the spastic pace of Wildstar.  I have lots of love for that game, but just watching the world absolutely wears me out.  Coming back to FFXIV and its more sedate pace felt like crawling into a warm bed.  Granted the combat system is still interesting in that I am constantly having to move out of stuff while keeping up my combos, but it is far less button mashy since everything has a sizeable cool down.  In any case I am enjoying myself, and at some point I am going to get brave enough to do Duty Roulette for the big prizes.

#WolfensteinNewOrder #FFXIV

Moon Raider

Edition Madness

2014-07-22 06_07_13-Save 81% on Two Worlds II_ Velvet Edition on Steam I feel like the colorful descriptors that companies tack onto iterative versions of games has hit an all time low.  Since the 80s we have been forced to play a progressively extreme number of versions of a game.  During the 90s the Street Fighter franchise for example proved to us all of the ways it could not actually count to 3.  We’ve suffered through Super, Hyper, Ultra, Zero, Alpha, Game of the Year, Ultimate, Legendary and innumerable other hardcore and extreme versions of the games we love.  This morning as I idly checked Steam I spotted something that made my eye stop dead over it.  We really have a game that is a “Velvet Edition”?  What is next suede or cordura?

I keep thinking maybe this is a translation error somehow, but “Samten” doesn’t really sound much better.  Maybe it is me, and I just have a negative connotation towards the word velvet, and maybe it is completely normal for someone to use that word in place of say “deluxe”.  This is just a first for me, and I think maybe this whole descriptor thing has gone a bit far if we have arrived at fabrics now.  I mean even though “game of the year” bundles are completely inappropriately named, considering very few of them have actually won a “game of the year” award…  at least for awhile they were something standardized.  I personally would rather they go with something like “complete edition” considering that is what we are talking about… the version that includes all the damned DLC in one place.  Though I guess game companies would probably frown on admitting they have been rationing game content to us for years.

Moon Raider

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-07-21 21-02-13-441 We had a few errands to run last night, and by the time I got home I was not sure what exactly to play for the evening.  Since this weekends podcast, Kodra has been urging me to finish up Wolfenstein so he could have someone to talk about it with.  So I opted to work on that, and while I did not quite make it through the game I figure I am pretty close to the ending.  I suffered a series of technical difficulties where I would crash out and have to load back in restarting me at the previous save point.  When this happened the last time I figured I would call it a night, as it seemed like I was probably going to have to repeat a significant chunk of the previous level.  It seems to be related to when I go into a cutscene and then come back out of it.

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-07-21 21-50-29-397 It is really hard to find screenshots that I can show off that don’t really give away anything major about the game.  Well other than the fact that you get to experience Nazi’s on the moon…  but that doesn’t really give much away plot wise.  I feel like that is the aspect of the game I enjoy the most is seeing how this alternate reality evolved without the influence of the United States.  So much of everything we experience today is because of the global export of American goods and American values.  As a culture we have had a death grip on the entertainment industry and the internet as well… and as a result everything that comes from other countries often feels like an odd remix of something we would see in the United States.  So to see this reality that evolved entirely in a different direction is interesting to me.  I applaud the level designers because all of the little details feel like they come from a completely different place.

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-07-21 21-05-26-813 This game is definitely going to warrant a second play through, because there is a single decision that you make early on that causes the game to go in different enough directions that from that point on the chapters of the game branch depending on your choice made.  It seems that Kodra and I picked completely different routes, and I think it will be interesting to talk about the differences between them.  I don’t feel like this is probably a discussion we can really have on AggroChat because it would be impossible to do this in a way that is not spoilerific.  I really hope all of you took advantage of the QuakeCon pricing and picked up this awesome game when it was essentially half price.  I have a feeling that this game is going to experience quite a bit of third party modding, and I hope that sooner or later they bring out a multiplayer addon.  One of the more enjoyable game play and narrative experiences I have had in awhile.

Sparse Next Few Days

The next few days are going to be interesting for me.  Today is technically my last day at work this week, but just because I am off does not mean I won’t actually be working harder.  My wife is part of a crew putting on a mathematics conference here in town, and I have opted to take off from work to help her with it.  I know Wednesday for example I will be operating an impromptu shuttle service, and then the other days I will likely be filling in a tech support role and general “gopher”.  With all of these constraints it will be interesting to see what I end up blogging about, as I doubt I will be playing that many games.

Magic-2015-M15-Core-Set-Fat-Pack That said it sounds like at least one of the conference attendees is a Magic the Gathering fan, so I will be bringing up a box of decks just in case that happens.  Speaking of Magic…  I really have no clue what Wizards of the Coast was thinking when they came up with the 2015 product designs.  Once upon a time the off brand products that you can get in your grocery store that are branded as Always Save or Best Choice or even Sam’s Choice were simply called “Generic”.  They featured white labels with start sans-serif writing on them, similar to government commodities.  So I cannot look at this magic the gathering set without thinking “oh its generic magic”.  I feel like we arrived at this point out of some sort of hipster minimalist design ethic…  but yeah it is just not working for me.  I guess they have used every other color of the rainbow lately for the primary theme of a set…  so sooner or later they were going to get around to white.

It will be interesting to see how the next few days shake out.  Likely you will be getting some more personal posts.  Right now the plan is to take my laptop and work on editing my NaNoWriMo novel between times I am needed.  The only problem with this is that the guest wifi at the school is horrible.  My phone will allow me to tether to it, but not sure how much I can do that without AT&T getting pissy with me.  We are grandfathered in on one of the unlimited plans, and I don’t really want to do much to jeopardize that.  The positive is that the Galaxy S5 shipped with unlocked tethering software, and it is not like I had to do anything to get it up and running.  I just expect that all of the websites I would want to look at would be blocked without it.

#Wolfenstein #MagicTheGathering