Things Did For Loot

AggroChat #32 – Azeroth, Mordor and Beyond

Normally Sunday mornings I talk about the happenings from the night before when we record our weekly episode of AggroChat.  However yesterday it just didn’t really fit the theme of the post, so I opted to push off advertising it on my blog until this morning.  We recorded for roughly two hours, but thankfully after I edited it was condensed to only an hour and twenty minutes… which is far more reasonable.  It is always strange when we go into a show with what we feel like is not a lot to talk about… and then a show happens and it ends up being a length one.  I feel like some of those are the most natural because the conversation just went where it needed to go without our direction.

We talked about a dizzying range of games from Shadows of Mordor and Tam and Kodras views on the game.  They both still say it is very much a “bel game” and at this point I am planning on picking it up hopefully when it goes on sale during the Steam Christmas Sale.  It does look really interesting, and I like the seeming focus on mechanics rather than story.  We once again delve into a discussion about 4X games namely Beyond Civilization, Civilization 5 and Endless Legend.  Similarly there is a length discussion about our feelings surrounding Dragon Age Inquisition and Kodra has finally made some progress in Dragon Age Origins.  Finally I talk at length about my experiences returning to World of Warcraft as I gush about finally having a strong female in World of Warcraft that is not also moments away from being turned into a raid boss.  Seriously if you have not followed the Yrel character you should check her out.

Things Did For Loot

WoWScrnShot_112214_172004 My focus this weekend entirely was getting geared up enough to be able to do Molten Core on Tuesday night with the guild.  Since this is a 40 man looking for group experience… and various members of them  guild have said it took upwards of three hours to complete…  we are wanting to try and pull in as many people as possible Tuesday night so we can hopefully carry the random players to a rapid victory.  The only problem is that in order to join in the fun, you have to have 615 ilevel.  Unless you had some extreme luck with item upgrades in Nagrand, it is not exactly easy to hit that kind of level without a lot of dungeoning.  Arria and several others kept telling me that I needed to PVP in order to get my ilevel up high enough to run Molten Core, but at first I rejected this notion entirely.  However after a period of time without a guild group online that I thought we could make dungeoning work… I resorted to queuing for battlegrounds.

Over the course of the weekend I ran enough battlegrounds to be able to purchase a neckpiece and bracers at roughly 1250 honor each.  I have to say… I actually enjoyed myself, and it shocks me just as much to be able to say those words.  Remember I have gone on length diatribes about how faction based combat destroys a sense of community.  The thing is…  battlegrounds are not open world pvp and I did not enjoy Ashran the open world pvp zone at all.  The strange thing is that I have quite literally not PVP’d in World of Warcraft since Burning Crusade other than once or twice here needed for some holiday achievement.  Once upon a time I was part of an Arena team if you can believe that, with the sole purpose of gearing my paladin in some healing gear.  It is strange how cyclical things are… in Burning Crusade PVP gear was extremely useful for PVE purposes… and now in Warlords the exact same thing has happened.  I guess I don’t mind PVP so much when I know there is a loot piñata at the end of my efforts.

Heroic-palooza

Wow-64 2014-11-23 13-11-44-29 Between the two pieces of PVP gear I was able to bump my ilevel up high enough to be able to  do Molten Core.  However yesterday I spent most of the day running Heroics with the guild.  The strange thing is that I tagged along as dps.  It feels so strange that sword and board gladiator is actually viable dps, and for most of the runs I was competitive with the person sitting in first place on the meters.  The awesome thing about this is that the gear needed to tank and needed to Gladiator dps are essentially the game.  Bonus Armor it turns out is just as much of a DPS boost for Gladiator as it is survival for Defensive.  All of this makes me wonder if we will see a resurgence of viable specs to allow tanks to tank as Arms or Fury like they used to back in Vanilla WoW.  In any case I ran Bloodmaul Slag Mines, Grimrail Depot, Auchindoun, The Everbloom and Skyreach and between them I managed to get several upgrades.

I feel like I need to take a moment to praise Blizzard for the changes to the way that personal loot works.  I made a comment the other day on twitter when they removed personal loot as the default for pugs, that going back to need before green only really helped the trolls.  It turns out that they just felt they needed to tweak personal loot a bit before returning it to the dungeons, which ultimately they hotfixed back in within a days time.  The new version is extremely awesome, because no matter how bad your luck is early in the dungeon… the final boss will always drop an item for your spec.  Mostly what makes the system great is there are no more instances of unusable loot.  Granted what you get may not actually be an upgrade, but we did several runs with nothing but plate wearers… and no leather rotted in the dungeon.

Finally a Worthy Helm

Wow-64 2014-11-24 06-17-17-22 Over the course of the weekend I went from 609 ilevel to a respectable 623 and I feel that I am fully ready for Molten Core tomorrow.  I am not sure if I will be called on to tank or to dps, but in either scenario I feel comfortable thanks to the fact that Gladiator dps is esentially just tanking without the taunts.  One of the things that I have tried to be religious about is doing my crafting and resource workorders in my Garrison.  The primary one is the Gearspring Parts needed for engineering, or in truth every single tradeskill that makes things seems to have a limited resource that can be sped up significantly through the use of your Garrison.  This expansion has returned to having an exceptionally useful helm gained through engineering, and this time it is upgradeable three steps to make it competitive with raid gear.

This morning I managed to collect the last of the 100 Gearspring Parts needed to craft it, and finally I have a helmet that is worth of displaying helm.  Traditionally I run around sans helmet, because in truth World of Warcraft has pretty much nothing but ugly helms.  These goggles however are fantastic, and I am proud to let my engineer flag fly high.  Unfortunately I am going to have to figure out a way to get savage blood, which I am afraid that I do not have a source of it in that I did not build the barn.  Since it is a tradeable resource my hope is that I will be able to obtain it through an alt.  Honestly my biggest hope is that eventually they add it to the primal spirit vendor at a significant loss, so that I can use my stockpile of those.  In any case I feel like I am fully ready for the rigors of raiding, but still have plenty of upgrades that I can get from heroics.

My Routine

There are mornings I have an idea immediately and others that I struggle to find purpose in my writing.  There is something about being under pressure to write a post each morning that makes it work for me.  I’ve long found that on the weekends I dawdle considerably more and struggle to get a post out.  Whereas in the morning as I am drinking my morning coffee if I just start writing a post materializes before I really know fully what I am going to write about.  As such for this mornings thankfulness post, I am thankful for my routine.  I am thankful that I embarked upon this journey over a year ago, and thankful that I realized that the morning would actually be a viable time for me to write.  Writing a post feels like I am starting the day having already accomplished something, which in turn I feel makes the day as a whole a better one.  May each of you also find the routine that works for you.

Happy 10th Anniversary

My WoW Story

lodin_warcraft Ten years ago today I started playing World of Warcraft.  In truth that is a bit of a misnomer since I technically started as of ten years ago 11 pm last night.  When World of Warcraft launched there was so much excitement surrounding it.  This was not my first MMO by any means and I had already played significant amounts of time of both Everquest (roughly 3 years), Dark Age of Camelot (roughly 2 years), Horizon (6 months) and City of Heroes (6 months).  Between those four games I had already amassed a large group of friends that all intended to play Warcraft at the launch.  That is the hard thing to explain these days, but World of Warcraft was this one game that every single player that played it… wanted to play more of.  I remember getting into one of the stress test betas, and that one weekend of playing the game completely destroyed my enjoyment of City of Heroes.  Just a few hours of play showed me that these games I already loved could be so much more.

When it came time for the game to launch, the GameStop in town was having a launch party.  I originally intended to get in line with the rest of the folks and wait it out.  This was in the days before I actually preordered games.  To some extent I liked the thrill of the chase, of having  to go out and forage for whatever new game release was the new hotness.  So World of Warcraft was no different, and I had intended on just picking up a copy like always.  When I go there that night…  the line wrapped around from Gamestop and all the way down the shopping center to Panera Bread and around the corner…  so half a shopping center for the sleepy little hamlet I lived in.  I was showing up moments before the  game was set to go on sale…  so I would have been waiting behind hundreds of other players waiting for the game.

Wal-Mart to the Rescue

stalwartfolks On a wild hunch I decided to pop into the Wal-mart just down the shopping center instead.  Sure enough when I got back to electronics I saw a pristine display full of copies of World of Warcraft.  I noticed that a handful of players were doing exactly the same thing as me.  So there I had my game in hand ready to head out, and by the time I got to the parking lot I noticed that not even a quarter of the line had been served at GameStop yet.  I found out later that they sold out, and did not have enough copies to serve the demand.  That in itself become a running theme, as you quite literally could not find copies of the game anywhere after those first days.  I remember spending my lunch hours going out to stores that I had not checked to see if I could scrounge up a copy for this or  that guild member who had yet been able to get in.  It was probably a good three months before copies actually became obtainable, and unfortunately a good month before the game was really playable.

I remember spending the next day with my friend and co-worker Vernie leveling a night elf character that I had no intent of ever playing.  We sold every item that dropped all of the purpose of getting that single gold needed to buy a guild charter.  At that time it seemed like an insurmountable amount of money.  By mid-day on the first day we managed to get the money and got all of our friends to create level 1 Gnomes or Dwarves and collected signatures in Coldridge Valley.  By noon House Stalwart was born on Argent Dawn and at launch we had around fifty people that we knew from a combination of the other games we had played in it.  Shortly thereafter we got a charter started on Silverhand and the Burning Scar was born there as well.  Our original plan was to Alliance on Argent Dawn and Horde on Silverhand… the two role-playing servers that were available at launch.  Over time and the inability to get logged into the game… folks self sorted into playing the faction they liked the most, and the vast majority of us ended up in House Stalwart and the Alliance faction.

The Hunter Phase

ailahlodinshiana My intent was to play a tanky paladin, because I had so much fun playing one with my friend in beta.  I would debuff the target against holy damage, and then he would come in and smite the hell out of them.  It made an amazing synergy and was absolutely fun to level together.  The problem being when I installed the game and created Exeter for the first time…  that was the moment I realized they played a last minute bait and switch.  While I was not on voice chat at the time… this predates those days…  I quite literally said a verbal “What the eff” when I wandered around Coldridge Valley I could not figure out what the hell the seal system was doing.  This was strike one against the class.  Strike two was that not long after the launch of the game I had a pretty traumatic death in the family that ended up with me being completely gone for a long period of time.  When I got back everyone had shot ahead of me in level, and quite frankly the paladin just could not solo easily at that point in the game.

As a result I ended up rolling a Dwarven Hunter, Lodin because they could solo phenomenally well and it would allow me to catch up to my friends.  I am just not by nature a hunter, and there is a whole series of time I attempted to play a melee hunter through the use of the survival tree.  Yes I was one of those guys, but it worked well enough to level my way to 60.  Which for reference took me about six months to get there finally.  During Cataclysm I leveled a Worgen Druid from 1 to 85 in less than seven days of actual time, so a lot has changed in both the game and proclivity for grinding up alts.  One of my friends who started in House Stalwart went on to found one of the most prosperous non-guild raids on the server… the Late Night Raiders.  He happened to be in need of a hunter to replace one, and I happened to be interested in raiding having done some of it in Everquest.  As I started getting geared, I felt obligated to play Lodin as my main and keep it in tip top shape for the sake of the raid.  The problem is I never really felt like a hunter, in spite of just how amazing the LNR hunter crew was.  Many of those folks I still talk to on a weekly basis, and even the ones I don’t… it is always a happy occasion when I see them.

Birth of Belghast

belghast_diremaul The problem is that the hunter just didn’t fit my personality, and I had intended on playing a tank when I started World of Warcraft.  Originally the intent was to play Exeter my paladin as defensive, but there were just too many problems at that time with the whole “Seal of Rage” debacle as a way of holding aggro.  A good friend of mine had expressed interest in leveling a priests, and I had wanted to level a warrior… so we decided to go for it and Belghast was born.  The character Belghast originally came form when we were playing Dark Age of Camelot.  He was my Celt Champion and I played the role of dps and occasional off tank.  It felt fitting to recycle the character name, and since Human warriors had both mace and sword specialization I made the choice for aggro generation reasons.  Leveling as a team was awesome, I learned to trust my healer because it allowed me to focus entirely on making things mad at me.  I looked up to the LNR tanks at the time, especially my friends Rakrul and Giulietta and I feel like I learned tanking from the best.

It was not long before I was tanking regularly the LNR “fun” raids like Zul Gurub and AQ20.  When The Burning Crusade expansion launched, I took it as my opportunity to switch to the role I felt more natural playing.  The gear reset was a point of frustration with many in our raid, but for me it was a golden opportunity to switch focus to Belghast and not be years behind the curve.  Switch focus I did, and I got a reputation for being willing to tank for almost anyone that I knew.  I spent my evenings helping folks get the bits and baubles they needed to gear up, and eventually lead a Karazhan run.  While LNR was a casualty of the expansion, I moved into a tanking role with No Such Raid another non-guild based raid on our server.  When it eventually died as well I helped to found the Duranub Raiding Company that stuck around through both Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, ultimately dying off when the changes coming with Cataclysm shifted the focus away from non-guild raiding.

A Fitting End

WoWScrnShot_112314_010544 So there is something fitting that I am back playing World of Warcraft again, and playing Belghast once again.  When I first set foot on Draenor, it was this grand opportunity to finally be a “real tank”, and as I set foot on Draenor again I am feeling overcome with nostalgia.  While I doubt I will be a raid main tank again, I have been enjoying relearning how to tank in World of Warcraft.  There was a time at which I knew all the tricks to keep mobs from doing stupid things, and much of that knowledge has faded away.  However as I enter the phase of tanking Heroics I am looking forward to relearning it all.  There is something sublime about returning to the warrior after tossing him aside with the release of Cataclysm.  Cata was the expansion that killed World of Warcraft for me, and since then I have played for a few months at a time before fading away again.  Maybe playing the character that my name comes from…  will ultimately be a source of revival.

World of Warcraft

For those who might ultimately find this post through means other than my regular readers… during the month of November I have been posting something I am thankful for each day.  Today I have to say that I am very  thankful that World of Warcraft exists, because through it I have met so many awesome people.  If I think about it, there are so many people that I love having in my life that I never would have met were it not for this game.  So many of those people I talk to on a daily basis, and if not daily… weekly or monthly.  My life had been enriched by hundreds upon hundreds of people that I have encountered through this game.  While I have had a complicated relationship with it… going through periods of love and periods of hatred… it is much like a family member now, and I am thankful that it has existed and continues to thrive in its own way.

If you really think about it, this blog would not exist were it not for World of Warcraft.  It originally started as a Warrior Tanking blog devoted to my thoughts about tanking and raiding and over the years has morphed into a blog a bout “me”.  Similarly all of the people that I podcast with weekly, I would never have known were it not for World of Warcraft.  Kodra and Tam were both members of the Late Night Raiders, Ashgar I met as a friend of theirs… ultimately through World of Warcraft, and Rae while she is now a co-worker of mine… I originally met her through raiding.  These are all folks that are extremely important in my life and every single one of them ties a lineage back to this one game.  To take a step further, I likely would have never joined twitter, or google plus, or any of the other social connections I have now… were it not for this game and the blog that I created about it.  I feel like this one game has acted as a fulcrum to enable so many awesome people to meet other awesome people, and if nothing else you have to give your utmost respect to that.  Thank you Blizzard for creating World of Warcraft.

Garrison Resource Drought

The Search for Food

This morning I really did not want to leave the bed.  I was surrounded by warm and fuzzy cats, but as it got later both my wife and myself started to get hungry.  My wife and I are both relatively intelligent individuals, and friends have postulated that we must have really interesting conversations.  That is not entirely the case…  here is a snippet from this morning

Wife:    I’m Hungry
Me:      Me too…  I will go get breakfast.
Me:      I am leaving right now *staying there snuggled into covers*
Wife:   Are you there yet?
Me:      No… its a really long trip, will take awhile
Wife:    It will probably go quicker if you leave the house.
Me:      That is just a theory, there is no scientific evidence of that
Wife:   If we look at the evidence from the last fifteen years, leaving the house points to getting food.
Me:      Maybe the food just shows up on its own?
Me:      Lets test that theory.
Wife:    I’m Hungry

I did in fact have to leave the house to make food show up, but there is still no direct cause and effect evidence… other than the whole I gave someone money and they gave me food in return.  How the food actually arrives at our house is a mystery because I don’t actually remember leaving the store or arriving home.  I do however remember observing the feeding ritual of the cat gods upon arriving at home.  Maybe the cat gods are somehow connected to the acquisition of our food…

Garrison Resource Drought

Wow-64 2014-11-21 22-03-42-712 I may have made some poor choices as to the sustainability of my Garrison, as I have reached a point where I am struggling to get the resources needed to keep developing it.  I finally managed to upgrade to the rank 3 Town Hall yesterday, giving me access to another small, medium and large plot.  Unfortunately I lack the resources to actually fill them.  Right now my Garrison has a t3 Town Hall, t2 Mines, t2 Engineer, t2 Enchanter, t2 Dwarven Bunker, t2 Inn, t1 Garden, t1 Storehouse, t1 Trading Post, and t1 Fishing Shack.  I lack the pets to actually be able to get the Pet Menagerie but at some point I want to actually level some battle pets so I can get that.  I have failed miserably at playing WoWKemon.  It just feels so damned tedious to level your pets past a point.  The one thing that would make everything better is if they would implement XP Sharing like they have in the actual Pokémon these days.

The problem I am running into however is that I am flat struggling to get the resources needed to keep developing my stuff.  I have yet to plunk down a second large building, because I simply lack the resources to do so.  Unfortunately as well… I have basically hit the point I am at by farming down the Garrison Resource caches in the various zones.  Sure there are a few still out there  but I have pretty well gathered all of the low hanging fruit.  The Trading post should help out considerably but right now it keeps requesting herbs… and the only ones I can actually feed it are the ones coming from my Garrison.  My hope is that soon it will want a mining resource, because I seem to have plenty of those.  So I guess my question is… other than Follower missions and the slow and steady tick of resources… is there another in world renewable resource for Garrisons?

Dungeons for Gear

Wow-64 2014-11-21 20-39-07-968 Last night in an attempt to get my last few points of gear needed to hit ilevel 615, and in an attempt to get Rylacus so he could actually do heroics…  We ran several dungeons as a guild.  I believe we ran three but at this point I have lost count.  I know for certain we did the newest incarnation of Upper Blackrock Spire and we did one called the Shadowmoon Burial Grounds.  I was actually pleasantly surprised at just how challenging the level 100 normal dungeons have turned out to be.  Most of the mechanics are arguably pretty cheap, in that they stack dots on the players or drop damned near instant kill piles of stuff on the ground.  All things considered however they were actually really fun.  They are not nearly as good as the dungeon designs in Final Fantasy XIV, but I feel they are considerably better than  the Pandaria dungeons at least.  The reliance on crowd control reminds me more of the order of business during Wrath and Cataclysm, which is a good thing… just not something I am really used to.

It is my nature when I play a warrior to want to charge ahead into the next pack.  Unfortunately I need to give my rogue time to sap things, and I need to get back into the habit of marking crowd control targets.  The other thing I am struggling with is how loosey goosey mob movement is in World of Warcraft.  In FFXIV mob placement is relatively predictable thing.  The mobs move where I want them to… back in WoW I found it absolutely frustrating everytime Zul’jin would iceskate around me.  I am going to have to relearn the tricks I have apparently forgotten for making mobs stop doing stupid shit.  Moving him around felt like having a wobbly shopping cart tied to my waist that I was dragging around with me.  All of this said I look forward to relearning the finer points of fighting with the system and getting it to do what I want it to do.

Drinking Water

This morning I woke up with a horrible cramp in my shin.  At first I attempted to walk it out, but it didn’t seem like it was just going away.  I have always struggled to some extent with dehydration, and muscle cramps are one of those early signs.  So as such I got up and went to the kitchen, grabbed a huge 32 oz glass filled it at the tap and drank it all in one setting.  Within a few moments the cramp seemed to be lessening so I went back to bed.  At which point it struck me, just how lucky I am that I have really good tap water.  In fact I greatly prefer our tap water to bottled water in almost every single case.  Tulsa actually has award winningly good water, and as such we are pretty blessed.  It never really hits me just how rare this is, until I go somewhere else and without thinking try and take a big drink of tap water.

So while it might sound odd to be thankful for it…  I am extremely thankful I can turn on the tap and get something that actually tastes good.  Speaking of which… I think I am going to go fix myself a large glass right now.

Gearing for Heroics

Stutter Gone

DragonAgeInquisition 2014-11-20 19-07-40-672 So as you know over the last several days I have been struggling with Dragon Age Inquisition.  When I initially booted up the game the stuttering was so jarring that it would sound like a record skipping and freeze movement for a fraction of a section… just enough to bring you out of the  game entirely mentally.  Nvidia released and updated driver and this helped the stutter but it was still there, and still just as frustrating to try and play the game with.  Since then I have tried what felt like every possible combination of settings, none of which removing the problem.  That is except for one apparently.  Last night I finally landed on the solution to the problem and the stutter is gone.  For some reason my machine prefers to run games in windowed borderless, this has always been the answer to a performance boost.  I thought I had tried this initially but apparently not… because the moment I shifted things into windowed borderless the hitching went completely away.

DragonAgeInquisition 2014-11-20 19-00-34-952 Now I feel like I can finally play the game in peace and actually experience it.  Unfortunately last night I just was not in the mood for this sort of game and moved on to working on gearing my warrior in World of Warcraft.  That said with the stutter gone the game is a much more enjoyable experience.  There are times the game is absolutely beautiful to behold… I still feel like I need to spend some time tweaking the settings because I had fiddled with almost everything trying to get the game to function…  and now I have a few strange choices picked here and there.  The interface feels a bit cludgy for melee, so it is going to be one of the things that I have to get used to as I play the game.  So far I am not a huge fan of my companions, and even Varrack a character I really enjoyed in Dragon Age 2 is getting on my nerves.  I think maybe I just need to put this game aside and let the frustration from the back and forth with settings fade before I attempt to play it again.

Gearing for Heroics

Wow-64 2014-11-21 06-29-01-629 Last night I had two goals… one of which fell by the wayside.  I figured there was no real point in attempting the silver proving again until I actually had the gear level to matter.  So as a result I crawled through the wowhead item listings and made an effort to complete every single quest in Nagrand that had even the slimmest chance of dropping something that would improve my ilevel.  Additionally I poured the rare spawn and treasure drops to find anything that might give me a little boost.  I also spent some time pouring over the auction house, which was as I would expect completely insanely overpriced for what was actually available.  After hours of painstakingly trying to incrementally improve my gear score I was sitting at 609.  One stinking point away from heroics.

Wow-64 2014-11-20 23-17-57-827My friend Damai asked me to do a weapon enchant for him, we ended up partied as he started pulling together a group to try and help Rylacus get some gear.  A bit later I found myself tanking Skyreach since that had the lowest ilevel requirements, and the only one we were able to queue with Ry.  It turns out there are two quartermasters in the Ashran Town Hall, each of which sell 615 trinkets, and both of which bumped me up just enough to get over the 610 heroic gear requirement.  Running Skyreach however also allowed me to start my Legendary ring quest chain, rewarding me a 640 ilevel tanky ring that was almost twice as good as my previous best item.  Now it is just down to me getting through my silver proving, so that I can be ready to tank heroics for the guild.  I don’t have a lot of fear because I made it through seven of eight rounds last time, and it was really only because I got tunnel vision and stopped paying attention to my own health that I actually failed the first time.  I have gotten quite a bit more gear since that point… so hopefully tonight I can knock that out first thing.

WoW Anniversary

Wow-64 2014-11-21 06-38-34-619 This morning the WoW Anniversary content officially began, but if I am remembering correctly… the actual launch date was November 23rd.  I remember being frustrated that it was right before the Thanksgiving Holiday… which would mean I would be tied up with family and such.  A decade ago I had so many houses to visit on thanksgiving that it lent itself to being a a crazy all day occasion.  We would start early in the morning and travel throughout the day, and then repeating the process to a lesser extent on Saturday.  Its funny how things change in a decade, because now we only have a single house to go to, as everything is happening around the noon meal.  When I logged in this morning I had a Molten Corgi pet waiting on me in my mailbox.  I find it odd how Corgis have become such a video gaming mascot.  The game Rift has at least half a dozen different Corgi pets in game for example.

The primary reason why I have been pushing to gear up so quickly… is that this coming Tuesday we are planning to run the Molten Core LFR as a guild, or as close to “as a guild” as we can realistically get for a 40 man.  The LFR itself will have an ilevel requirement of 615 and completing the event will reward you a helm appropriate for your main spec so for plate it would be something resembling this one.  Completing the event also earns you a Core Hound mount, which looks really cool.  Then there are a few items that have a chance of dropping like a doodad that embues any weapon with the Flames of Ragnaros effect… at least cosmetically.  I guess with this expansion they have made it so you can transmog over enchantment effects, which is cool because some enchants look way better than others.  Basically I want to be  able to participate in all of the Reindeer games… and Damai was gracious enough to move it to Tuesday after telling him that Monday was the FFXIV raid night.

Gladiator’s Resolve

This is absolutely the hardest part of any blog post this month, is to come up with something new that I have not already talked about on the preceding 20 days.  As we near the end of the month I am pretty much going to be grasping at straws here, but I feel committed to carry out the experiment.  Since this morning I am talking about World of Warcraft, I want to say how happy I am to have the Gladiator’s Resolve talent.  Essentially for those who do not know what it does… it replaces battle stance for protection warriors, giving them a brand new gladiator stance.  When in that stance you lose the innate  survival and threat generation benefits of defensive stance… but gain a 20% damage increase.  Essentially this makes you sword and board dps, and from what I have seen in my own tests I deal a TON of damage.

This is essentially what I have wanted the entire time I have played MMOs… to be able to effectively dps while using a sword and shield.  I like the iconic look of the sword and board warrior, and while two handers are cool… they never really fit my personal style.  I used to get frustrated that games would always make shields being entirely about defense… when in real life shields have always been extremely effective weapons.  Now that I have this option…  I actually want to try pvp in Ashran.  In the past warrior pvp for me at least felt impotent, because I couldn’t be the badass heavily armored tank that I was in the dungeons.  This one talent I think changes that.  I am still extremely sturdy, and still have access to all of my protection trickery…  but this time around I can simply deal some damage with my shield as well as my sword.  So this morning I am thankful for someone finally giving me this talent, it makes me extremely happy.

Level 100

Feeling More Human

mucinexfastmax This morning I am still not feeling amazing, but I am doing sizably better than I was yesterday.  At least I feel marginally human now instead of a walking malady.  This is mostly due to my wife and her being able to tell me what to do… and actually have me do it.  I have been feeling lousy for a bit over a week, and yesterday she exclaimed “you have to call the doctor” and then she relented and gave me a secondary line of action “or at least get some mucinex”.  I called the doctors office and unsurprisingly (because I waited until like 9:30 to do so) they were already booked up for the day, and said that they would call me back if there were any openings.  So in the meantime I got dressed and ready and went to Walgreens around the corner from the house.  Mucinex is something that the doctor has suggested I take, so I was no stranger to it.

Actually there are many times I have had success taking a one two punch of Mucienx and Tylenol Cold and Flu to clear various issues up.  It turns out that in the constantly rush to get more products to market, Mucinex has created just this thing.  Granted you have to take it every four hours for optimal relief…  but in any case the stuff is pretty miraculous.  Within a few hours of taking it I was already feeling noticeably better and all the gunk in my chest clearing up.  Granted it still has the nasty taste going down that Mucinex always does however the drug lives up to its claims, and I think I just found a new go to for these situations.  This gentlemen is why we need wives… I was more than willing to muddle through without doing much to fix the root problem.  My wife however got tired of me moping around and told me to do something about it.  Apparently there are in fact times where I “don’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain”.

Level 100

Wow-64 2014-11-19 16-25-15-664 Yesterday I spoke about having a dilemma of whether or not to do Spires of Arak or just jump straight into Nagrand.  Having done a little of both, I can clearly say that there are definitely some story elements and quests that make Spires of Arak worth the hassle.  That said it is also the new Bladesedge Mountains, in that the terrain is a pain in the ass to move around and the quests are scattered all over the zone in small pockets.  If you are wanting to jump straight into being dungeon ready however, I highly suggest going to Nagrand as soon as possible.  While I was able to bump up my ilevel a bit in Spires, I did not actually hit the 600 normal mode dungeon target until I reached Nagrand and spent a bit of time questing there.  As of last night I was able to push my ilevel to 603 inching me closer to the heroic starting point of 610.  I completely bronze proving grounds and made it to round 7 of silver until I screwed up and did not actually pay attention to my own health.  Hopefully tonight I can knock out silver proving grounds and maybe bump my ilevel a bit more with questing or dungeons.

Wow-64 2014-11-19 17-55-01-340 Among the strangest quests that I completed was one for a little Goblin kid wanting you to retrieve his “treasure”.  It turns out the kid is a perv and you are essentially recovering a calendar of goblin pin-up girls.  I had to stop and take a screenshot when the big reveal happened.  Sure I found it funny, but also at the same time super cringe worthy.  I mean I get the humor in it, but just like the Granok bed in Wildstar… it feels a bit over the top for something so casually slipped in there.  Throughout the night as various other members got to the quest you would see comments in guild chat like “Did I just retrieve a Goblin nudie mag?”.  Yes… yes we did.  What I found surprising is just how at home Nagrand still feels.  This was my favorite zone in Burning Crusade, and for the most part they managed to get the look and feel just right… even without the floating rocks.  Ultimately that has been the payoff with this expansion for me, being able to see things before everything fell apart.  Burning Crusade was a really important expansion for me, and because of it I have so many fond memories that just keep getting refreshed as I do this content.

Nostalgia Bomb

Wow-64 2014-11-19 15-44-40-801 I can’t really judge clearly how good the content in Warlords of Draenor actually is, because I cannot peel away the shiny coat of nostalgia long enough to actually evaluate it with a clear mind.  We ultimate are an accumulation of our memories and emotions… and this expansion is managing to bring all of those down to bear upon me.  Will the magic fade?  Almost certainly it will, and probably quicker than it came on in the first place.  At that point I will be able to see the flaws where they stand, but for the time being I am doing what I hope to do in any game…  have fun.  Ultimately this game was designed for me, and my play style specifically.  There is tons of super dense content, and even though it is content with a little c…  it is still cool objectives.  There seems to be an endless array of little doodads to find in the world, and interesting named mobs to kill that drop interesting treasures.  Thankfully I chose to level my disenchanter first, because this has been an amazing source of shards for my future enchanting endeavors.

Wow-64 2014-11-20 06-52-43-421Speaking of Enchanting… it seems exceptionally expensive this time around.  Enchanting work orders give temporal shards… which you then turn around and use 10 of at a time to get a temporal crystal.  I finally saved up enough daily tokens to purchase a “real” enchant, and I did so to grab the one that looks to be the new go to for tanking.  As you can see it costs 15 Temporal Crystals and 10 Sorcerous Earth.  Far as I know I have yet to actually get any Sorcerous Earth, but it seems to be a random drop when disenchanting or mining.  Thankfully I do seem to be getting plenty of primal spirits that I can then trade for the materials I actually need with a vendor on my garrison.  In any case folks will not be handing these enchants out willy nilly, because that is a lot of resources to pour into a single weapon enchant.  For the time being I have the comparatively extremely cheap  Mark of the Shattered Hand enchant, just to have something on my weapon.

Wow-64 2014-11-20 06-52-56-426 Unfortunately engineering is an equally time consuming boondoggle, mostly because I was not really paying attention and didn’t realize that I had two daily cool downs this expansion instead of just the one.  This means that I have gotten a slow start on getting my tanking helm.  As of this morning I am 40 parts into my 100 total needed.  That is in part because I only just started doing the more expensive 4 parts a day cooldown.  I am running the maximum number of work orders allowable but unfortunately my engineer follower is not quite 100, so I can’t start getting double parts just yet.  In any case it will still be awhile before I get my tanking helm, let along actually have the materials to seriously level engineering, though with the rank 2 mines I am starting to get enough spare bits to keep both cool downs and work orders in the black.  I just forsee that I have a lot more daily cooldowns ahead of me before I can start doing interesting things with crafting.

Coffee

As a child one of the movies had a massive impact on me was Dune.  I remember watching it in elementary school and being enthralled by the fact that the book was co complicated that it needed its own glossary of terms.  I remember reading over the glossary, memorizing details of it… long before actually being able to struggle through the epic prose contained in the front part of the book.  Since I watched the David Lynch movie first, before reading the book… I will always have certain visuals in my head associated with things.  One of the things that stuck with me that was a complete fabrication of the Lynch movies… was the mantra that the Mentat Piter De Vries chants before taking Sapho juice.

It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.

There is a little voice inside of me that says this every single time I drink a cup of coffee.  I will always be enamored by the near instant quickening effect coffee has.  I feel like a Mentat gaining focus when I sip a cup.  Maybe this is the effect of the caffeine, or maybe this is just something I have built up for myself by making a little ritual of it in my head.  In any case it is a magical thing.  Energy drinks have a similar effect, because I think in part I have moved this same pseudo religious ritual over to them as well.  Either by trick of my own mind, or by actual chemical effect… I am thankful that I live in a world where coffee exists and can do magical things.

Talador Completed

Frustrating Stutters

DragonAgeInquisition 2014-11-17 23-05-09-482 This morning I am feeling relatively miserable.  In truth I have felt extremely lousy since mid way through last week.  The hacking and coughing and clearing of my throat just wears me out, and as a result of all of it my lungs are extremely pissed off at me.  That said since the weather outside is brutal with lows in the teens each morning… I am perfectly content to stay bundled up inside.  Yesterday it was my hope that I would be playing Dragon Age Inquisition, but even with a driver update there are still some issues.  The issue I am having is that the game will quite literally be running at a locked 60 frames per second… then all the sudden it will freeze for a moment causing everything to stutter including the audio…  then resume back at 60 frames per second as though nothing happened.  The game is still playable, but extremely annoying since this seems to happy about once a minute.

The most frustrating thing is that it doesn’t seem to be settings related.  I have dialed down the game to extremely low settings and the hitching still occurs.  This means that essentially I am not able to join in any reindeer games for the time being.  My hope is that an early patch will either come out for the game, or another updated Nvidia driver that resolves the issue.  If it is not fixed by this weekend however I am likely to just such it up and deal with the pauses.  The game itself, what little I have seen of it…  seems really cool.  Overall it feels far more like Dragon Age 2 than it does Dragon Age: Origins…  which itself is a mixed bag.  I wish my character had been silent, because it doesn’t really feel like my character at all… when there is a voice talking instead of me.  That is just one of my personal quirks however, but I figure most people prefer to have a voice acted character.  Ultimately when I play games like this it is all about the big damned hero fantasy, and saving the kingdom…  not the narrative of the actual characters.

Talador Completed

Wow-64 2014-11-18 18-59-52-329 First off I have to say that I love this screenshot.  It does not give away any details about the quest chains in Talador other than the fact that Blackhand is involved.  However if you have completed the quest chains in the zone you know exactly what this screenshot is from.  In any case I am happy that I managed to catch it at just the right moment.  Yesterday I was contemplating just completely skipping the quests in Talador to move forward into Spires of Arak.  My friend Rylacus begged me not to do this, because there was a moment in the game  that I just had to see.  Thankfully I followed his advice and man…  that zone was freaking amazing.  Granted there was a lot of faffing about in that zone unrelated to anything…  but the four chapters were all excellent.  Terran Gregory and team have don an amazing job with the cinematics in this expansion…  and I am constantly floored at how nice everything looks.  When one of these scenes cuts in… it manages to make me forget this is a decade old game.

Wow-64 2014-11-18 19-12-45-733 Now I have another dilemma to decide.  Once again I am at the breakpoint of a new zone, as last night I managed to ding 98.  I have all of the precursors leading into Nagrand, or I could go start the Spires of Arak.  In either case it will ding me, but Nagrand will actually give me gear that I need to get into normals and heroics. That said… so far each of the zones has provided important bits of the puzzle letting me understand more of the expansion as a whole.  The Spires however are the zone that everyone seems to think drags a bit… and just in the look of it, it reminds me so much of Blades Edge mountains… which had massive pacing problems thanks to the horrible terrain.  Part of me wants to jump straight to Nagrand, since it was my favorite zone in Burning Crusade.  However the other part of me realizes that if I don’t do Spires of Arak while it is relevant… I will never likely go back and do it because the terrain looks frustrating.  At this point I am just not sure which direction I am going to go…  but in any case I am only two levels away from 100.

An Excellent Moment

ffxiv 2014-11-17 18-29-06-953 I’ve talked at length about just how phenomenal the Final Fantasy XIV community is, but when I have concrete examples I still feel like I need to share them.  Monday before our 8 man raids, I was attempting to cap out my poetics earned for the week, and as such decided to run a completely random expert roulette.  Now I queued as DPS, and was shocked at just how fast the queue actually managed to go.  We got into the instances and everyone said hello as is  the FFXIV custom, and then some actual chatter started up.  Things seemed to be going smoothly but within a few minutes the healer asked us if we were experiencing any lag.  I was not but as the run progressed I started to see small bits of it with my actions.  However I have totally seen times where even among our little circle of friends… one of us was experiencing some crushing lag.. and everyone else was just fine.  During a pull the healer disconnected and the ninja and I managed to hold out just long enough after the tank died to finish off the pack.

Now were this any other online game, when the healer got back… they would have been chewed out by the players and called horrible for having a “bad” internet connection.  I’ve seen that play out many times in the past in several different games.  However in Final Fantasy XIV the healer came back, apologized and the general consensus of comments from the  group was “stuff happens” and “thanks for trying”.  As the run progressed the were several moments where the healer lagged out of disconnected, often times causing the tank to die.  In every single time  the tank took it with grace and thanks the healer for fighting through the issues so we could keep going.  Upon completing the run everyone thanked the healer for valiantly “sticking it out” and I am certain that I was not the only person to give her my commendations.  She sounded thoroughly frustrated by the events, but every player in the instance was supportive of her situation.  What other game have you ever seen where that happens?

Awesome Boss

This morning I am thankful for an awesome boss.  As I write this… I am feeling absolutely horrible, and have sent my boss an email saying that I would not be in today.  That I would be taking the day and resting.  I’ve had bosses in the past that would have had a problem with this, bosses that the only thing that mattered was that I was sitting at my desk during the hours of 8 to 5.  I am very fortunate to have a boss that is more family than administration.  Prior to this current environment it had been a very long time since I had anything resembling a work family.  Maybe it was the fact that my first environment straight out of college was so close knit, but it essentially spoiled me for other places I worked.   While I still feel close to a lot of the people I have worked with over the years…  in part it was either through shared interests or shared struggle in horrible situations.  This team that I am part of now…  I feel like I belong to something bigger than myself and it is entirely thanks to the support of our boss.

Previously we were a group of self starters, and functioned well as independent islands more or less left along by every boss we had been under.  Our current boss was a member of that team, and saw the disconnectedness of the group as a whole as something of a challenge.  Over the last several years he has worked to bring us all closer together, and as such make us mesh more tightly.  I know that I can go to any one of my team members with a problem and they will do everything in their power to fix it, and they know the same is true for me.  Its the stupid little things like bringing a cake to our staff meeting on the months we have a birthday, or going out to see a movie together as an after hours team building activity.  All of which by themselves are silly or minor…  but adding up to be an awesome environment to work in.  So I am thankful I have such a great environment to call my work home.

A Tale of Three Games

Cold Snap

ffxiv 2014-11-17 21-15-23-635 Our Final Fantasy XIV group has ended up taking about a month long break following the launch of the 2.4 patch.  For various reasons we have not rallied the troops on Tuesday nights, and as such we have opted to move our group content night.  Tuesday has turned out to be just as bad a day to do anything serious as it was in every other MMO.  For some reason it seems that Final Fantasy XIV patches more often than not late Monday night leading into Tuesday morning.  This means along with the normal weekly reset we are often times dealing with marginally unstable servers.  Since Monday tends to be a night where most folks focus on getting the last poetics needed to cap for the week, we figured it was also a relatively low volume raid night.  So going forward we are going to try and pull together 8 man group content Monday nights with whomever we can muster at the time.

ffxiv 2014-11-17 21-53-20-145Often times who we have available will dictate what we can do.  Last night we started off with Shiva Hard Mode, since most of us had not actually completed it.  I have to say the fight was rather enjoyable, and it was kinda like a strange mishmash of titan and ifrit.  It took us a couple of tries to see all the mechanics and then we straight stomped her.  Granted this is just a hard mode and we are used to mostly attempting extremes.  After that we went back and did Garuda Extreme again, because there was at least one member of the party who had not completed it.  Traditionally we would be working on Titan Extreme, but it was good to go back and see that we could in fact repeat our victory.  Granted it had been well over a month since we had last done the fight, and as such all of us were a bit rusty.  However after a few wipes we nailed it like we actually knew what we were doing.  Hopefully by next week everyone will have unlocked Ultros so we can take that on as a group, and this should have keyed most everyone for Garuda… so we can make attempts on Titan Extreme again.

To Skip or Not to Skip

Wow-64 2014-11-18 06-15-39-104After our group broke apart in Final Fantasy XIV I opted to poke my head into World of Warcraft and see what mayhem I could cause.  I apparently was significantly closer to 96 than I realized, because upon entering the game and beginning work again on the Gorgrond content…  I dinged within doing a few of the bonus areas.  I still have a handful of bonus content areas to complete, but now this gives me a dilemma.   I am at an ideal point to transition to the new zone that unlocked at 96… Spires of Arak.  The problem being I have yet to do anything at all in Talador other than set up my garrison outpost.  It looks like a really cool zone…  but I am wondering if doing it will basically screw me for getting into normal mode dungeons.  The problem that I ran into with Pandaria is that I leveled significantly quicker than the content would normally allow… and this means that I ended up needing to skip entire zones in the process.  Normally I would keep plugging on, but I would really like to be available for at least a normal mode tank when I reach 100.  The gear level that I came into the expansion with is just not going to hold long enough for me to do meaningful content.

It was my experience in Pandaria that if you could get into Townlong Steppes and Dreadwastes at the level cap to enter them… you could end up getting enough gear upgrades from questing that you were more than ready to set foot into normals… and quite possibly you were within an upgrade or two away from being able to do heroics.  I guess in theory I could keep plugging away at Talador and simply finish all the content in the game before worrying about doing dungeons.  Ultimately I do want to finish the content, because this expansion actually has a storyline that I care about for once.  I guess my only desire to rush to 100 is so that I can get in on the initial wave of folks needing to run dungeons.  While tanking for strangers was not as bad of an experience as I had expected…  I feel like once everyone hits cap that experience will degrade significantly.  Ultimately I will need to make a decision and move forward.  Right now I am leaning heavily towards just skipping Talador entirely for the moment and diving into the Spire of Arak for maximum upgrade potential.

A Tale of Three Games

DragonAgeInquisition 2014-11-17 23-23-02-356 At midnight of last night another game launched that will be fighting for my attention, or significantly earlier than midnight if you know how to use a VPN to cause yourself to show up as another region.  This once again is proof positive that region lockouts are dumb, because they are so painfully easy to circumvent if you really want to.  I however did not care enough to do this, and my Monday night was already pretty full so I just waited until 11pm my time to get in and play the game.  Dragon Age: Inquisition is a game with so many hopes wrapped up in it, that can either be booned or bashed within the first few hours of game play.  Will this game return to Dragon Age: Origin style game play, or will it be more akin to Dragon Age 2.  Quite honestly I don’t have an answer for you yet because I just have not seen enough of the game.

I am however already questioning my choices, and thinking that maybe I should not have gone sword and board tanky.  The game unfortunately gives you a tank for your very first character, and while I have not even completely the introduction… I am already having flashbacks of trying to make two tanks work to keep Alistair in my party.  The description mentions having proficiency with a two hander as well, so hopefully one of us can equip one of those and be done with it.  Quite honestly the game felt a little sluggish, but I think maybe I had something installing in the background when I made my attempt to play it.  For whatever reason it seemed to run silky smooth.. and then absolutely thrash the hard drive every so often without much rhyme or reason as to why.  My hope was that it was just a background process thing… and not the game doing something dumb like trying to dial into the dragon age servers periodically.  The game took a significant time to load… which I do think we can probably blame on busy servers as everyone was trying to launch the client at exactly midnight.  Hopefully as the week goes on, I will have more to report on it… other than it exists.

My Cousin

No matter how smoothly this Thanksgiving goes… it was going to be a rough one regardless.  This is going to be the first dinner without my grandmother, who has been such a fixed point and an anchor in our family.  She represents that last in a long line of degrading family events that pretty much means all of the normality that I grew up with as far as family and holidays goes is gone.  When my grandmother on my fathers side passed away, those meals just stopped in any semblance of order.  We would say that we would try and get together, but ultimately we each made a quick visit in private to my grandfather… and that reason for maybe passing each other in the drive way even left when he passed away.  Similarly with my wife’s family… when he step dad passed away the era of having big family meals went away… and folks opted to break apart into much smaller units.  The last bastion of the big family get together was my Grandmother on my mothers side… and this past year she passed away.  Predictably holiday plans have been non functional.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, because it is one of the last pure ones.  Sure the day after thanksgiving is this black mass to consumerism… but thanksgiving day itself has remained relatively pristine.  It was a day about getting together and having a meal with your family, and that mission was just simple enough to stay pretty true to its original goal.  There is something about sharing a meal with friends and family that is just special to me… and for years I tried to convince my family to turn Christmas into Thanksgiving 2.0… where we just got together and shared conversation and food… and forgot the presents.  My grandmothers house was this focal point of all of the family activity.  She was such a strong matriarch and she is as much a reason for why I am the person I am… as anyone in my life is.  I spent the majority of my childhood at her house, with her as my companion and friend.  So this Thanksgiving was always going to be a hard one, no matter what happened.

The interesting thing that I have noted as we have gone through a series of recent funerals is how well my generation seems to get along with one another.  When my grandmother passed away, I stayed long after most of the folks had left just talking to my cousins.  My generation just does not fit into our family as a whole… we went out into the world and for the most part all did something with our lives beyond the boundaries of the small town my family hails from.  The other day my wife was lamenting how strange Thanksgiving would be without my grandmother on facebook, and at this one of my cousins announced that she was intending to invite us to have the meal with them.  Apparently she had gone through the same malaise and similarly they had a few deaths in their family that pretty much ended up with the holiday decimated.  So as such here we go trying to start our own new traditions.  Hopefully Thanksgiving will go smoothly, but in any case it will be better than spending it without family.

Yrel Is Awesome

The Weather Outside…

This morning I am going to try really hard to keep my blog post somewhat brief because I have weather to deal with outside.  Throughout the day yesterday it kept snowing and while the ground temperature was too warm to cause it to stick permanently to the ground, it has managed to coat every other surface…  like our vehicles.  So before this morning is up, after I finish up my blog post I am going to have to go out there and deal with the mess.  I am not looking forward to it, because last I checked the temperature and the wind were both still insane.  As a denizen of Oklahoma I find it far easier to deal with warm temperatures in excess of 110 than freezing temperatures.  So yesterday when it was in the 20s with an insane windchill…  I was not a happy camper.

In fact I got out yesterday morning to get breakfast, and then did not leave the house at all once the weather started in more insanely.  I had a grand old time hibernating either in my office under a blanket or downstairs on the new laptop…  under and even larger fuzzier blanket.  This combined with the fact that I seemed to have at least one cat on me at any given time kept me fairly toasty warm, or at least toasty in the ways that counted.  Unfortunately today I will have to brave the cold and head out into the world.  I am absolutely not looking forward to the commute now that there is “ice” on the road ways… because even the potential mention of it causes folks to drive insane.  The biggest thing I am not looking forward to is waiting on my jeep to thaw out this morning and melt some of the snow.

Yrel Is Awesome

Wow-64 2014-11-15 19-59-23-074 So far one of my favorite parts about the Warlords of Draenor expansion is the character of Yrel.  In part because she evolves along with your hero through the course of the game.  For an alliance player she is the person driving the narrative forward, and many times your partner in the thick of the battle.  What makes the character interesting is you watch her evolve over the course of the content from a very frightened Draenei who does not believe in herself and her abilities.  Over the course of the storyline there is a key moment where you try and bolster her spirit, and from that point onwards she evolves.  With each trip into battle she becomes more and more of a badass.  So while in the above screenshot she looks a bit doe eyed…  that quickly changes into a woman of determination and strength.

I don’t think the experience of exploring Draenor would be nearly as interesting to me were it not constantly moved forward by interactions with Yrel.  When the early cinematics were released I assumed this game from an alliance players perspective would be all about Maraad and his returning to his home land.  While I like the character of Maraad just fine, I feel like they made the right choice to switch focus and center the story on the much more interesting Yrel.  The thing the Warcraft universe needs more than anything are some strong female characters that play center stage, and not supporting characters.  Yrel so far does a really good job of being that sort of character.  Terran Gregory and team have done an amazing job with the in game cinematics, in making this entire experience feel so much more movie like.

Taking it Slow

Wow-64 2014-11-16 18-19-24-679 At this point I am trying to stop and smell the roses whenever I have the chance.  While the list of level 100 characters keeps increasing in guild, and the call of high level content is there…  I am trying to take it slowly.  That said the game seems to be conspiring against me, in that I am level 95 and have yet to make it out of Gorgrond.  There are just so many things to see and do in the landscape and my compulsion to completely every quest, kill every rare mob and gather every treasure…  is ending up leveling me more swiftly than I had expected.  I remember having the same basic feeling when I was leveling in Pandaria the first time as well.  The only negative is that my desire not to skip content means I am going to have to do a lot of questing at maximum level to attempt to gear myself.  The problem I ran into with Pandaria is that in order to get into the dungeons you really needed that quest gear from Townlong Steppes and Dreadwastes.  At this point I will ding 100 well before I have set foot in any of the later zones, so I am likely setting myself up for the same issues.

Wow-64 2014-11-16 12-46-14-985 Thanks to Final Fantasy XIV… I did something I never thought I would do in World of Warcraft.  Yesterday afternoon I queued as a tank for a random dungeon… in fact I ran two of them back to back.  Overall the experience was not nearly as bad as I would have expected it.  Sure I had one jackass in the first run that laughed at us as we wiped to something… but the majority of the time it went nice and smoothly.  Equally shocking was the fact that apparently Warrior tanking is a muscle memory task because I could still do it instinctively.  Granted I set up my hot bars much the same way as I have always set them up for years.  My fingers seemed to know precisely what to do at the right time, and honestly I found it an easier experience than tanking with a Deathknight.  It felt natural, and as the dungeons ran on I started doing things a lot more confidently.  Maybe the warrior tank inside of me really still is there, and was just waiting to come out again.  I look forward to ping ponging around dungeons with charge as the role begins to feel more natural.  Essentially Belghast Warrior tanking is open for business… and if you need a tank holler.

House Stalwart

This morning I am thankful that House Stalwart in World of Warcraft on the Argent Dawn server… continues to exist in spite of me.  While I founded the guild back in 2004, it has been years since I have controlled the destiny of this plucky guild.  In fact there are many times that I have actively tried to recruit players away from World of Warcraft into other games.  In spite of my constant attempts and my white panel van full of candy…  the guild still exists as strong as it ever was.  Over the last few nights we have had almost 30 people online, which is pretty damned good for a guild in a game that had been in a state of decline.  While I set the motions into action that started the guild and gathered people there… it is the people themselves that keep it going.  Every so often I will take back the reigns of the guild, and do a few tweaks here and there, but largely it is the people themselves that have kept the ship moving forward.

I also want to thank my good friend Rylacus.  He claims that he is just a “Bel Proxy”, but he has been all too gracious about wearing the crown when I am not around.  He provides the guild a sense of stability that I have not been able to since the launch of Cataclysm.  He is as much guild mascot as he is guild leader, and I appreciate the effort he has put into it.  He is also really damned good at denying my candy, as I have only ever gotten him to follow me into one other game.  He is all about his characters in World of Warcraft and the progress he has made with them.  Since both he and his kids play the game, he is as firmly rooted in it as anyone I know.  He still keeps trying to give me back the crown, but his willingness to wear it means so much to me.  He keeps things moving forward and makes sure the train never completely derails.  It has taken me awhile to reach a point of accepting that the House Stalwart that exists today is not the House Stalwart I created…  but is in no way less awesome or less interesting.  The guild has evolved beyond being a cult of personality dedicated to its leader, and has become a chain reaction that sustains itself.  I am thankful to no longer be needed to keep the fire going.

Sell Me on Warlords

AggroChat 31 – Endless Legend of Draenor

Last night we recorded yet another episode of AggroChat, and I was joined by Ashgar, Kodra and Tam.  Still no signs of Rae, but she has been absent in a lot of things lately.  I think she is just going through one of those periods of seclusion, that I occasionally find myself in.  I went into last night not thinking we had a whole lot to talk about, but once again we managed to ramble on for an entire show.  This week Ashgar, Kodra and Tam have been spending some time playing Endless Legend a relatively new 4X game that spawned from a rather steam early access program.  From what it sounds like it is a really interesting take on the traditional civilization game model.  Throughout the discussion it reminded me in no small part to Age of Wonders but with more original fantasy race combinations.

Thanks to a sale on Steam Tam delved into the rather critically acclaimed Shadows of Mordor.  When I originally saw the trailer I thought… “man this is a Tam game”.  He loves all things stealthy, and by the same token I thought “man this is not a Bel game”.  At least the second part of that statement might have been wrong.  It sounds like there is plenty of carnage and mayhem, and a super interesting nemesis system to keep players busy.  Essentially if I could manage to struggle through the stealthy bits, there is probably a really enjoyable game there waiting.  One of the cooler ideas is that apparently your friends nemesis characters… will join your game and hunt you down too.  So in  theory you could unleash some living nightmares on your friends if you end up letting them level up too much.

Finally I delve into the topic of Warlords of Draenor and my return to the game.  I still stand by my original statement that if you have no interest in World of Warcraft, this expansion will do little to change that.  However if you are like me and still have at least a passing interesting in the game, or have a huge vault of nostalgia towards the Burning Crusade era…  this is going to be like crack.  Right now I am finding the game extremely interesting, and we ramble on talking about it at length.  So while I thought we didn’t have a whole lot to talk about, it turned out as the night went on that we still managed to fill up a show full of verbal faffing.

Burning Crusade Nostalgia

Wow-64 2014-11-15 20-00-32-716 One of the points we landed on last night that I find extremely interesting might also be the reason why I am enjoying this expansion, but I don’t feel like someone like Tam would.  Ultimately I think it depends on how you felt about your experience in Burning Crusade as a whole.  For me Burning Crusade was really the expansion where I came into my own as a player, and became “Belghast”.  I started my WoW raiding life as a Hunter, but that was a class I had never actually intended on playing.  Originally I wanted to play a tanky paladin, but the bait and switch when they replaced the strike system with the seal system… and the fact that at low levels paladins were frustratingly slow to level solo caused some problems.  I had a death in the family shortly after the launch of the game, and when I came back most of my friends had shot far ahead of me, leaving me to have to solo almost entirely.

At that point the Hunter was the king of soloing all things, and as such I picked it up and caught up to my friends rather quickly.  I can’t say I disliked playing Lodin my hunter, but it just wasn’t the class I had ever intended or imagined myself playing.  Then one thing lead to another, and a good friend needed a hunter for his raid… and bam I ended up becoming a raiding hunter.  I loved the Late Night Raiders group of hunters, and many of them I am still close with even today.  However i never really excelled as a hunter, because my heart was not fully into it.  I could do better than average damage, and had decent enough reflexes and was reliable as part of a rotation…  but I had no passion for it, at least not the way the other hunters did.  However as I started accepting gear from the raid, I felt bound by loyalty to keep playing that character as long as they needed me.

The Raid Crash

lnrmountbattle With the launch of Burning Crusade it was this great reset button, and I seized the opportunity with both hands.  I half heartedly tried to level Lodin at first, but quickly found myself exclusively playing Belghast my protection warrior, and became a much needed tank as we all leveled up.  The Burning Crusade could be thought of as the great raid killer, because all of the changes… all of the moving characters around and dropping the standard raid size from 40 to 25 man ultimately was the final blow to many raids on our server that had only been limping along for some time.  Here is where the perspective comes in because while I was just an admittedly well liked member of the raid…  Tam was one of the leaders of it.  So while I viewed everything as this grand opportunity to do the things I had always wanted to be doing…  his viewpoint had to be decidedly different.  I know when my second raid “No Such Raid” fell apart around me it took a lot of our me personally.  I had that raid dumped in my lap, and with the figurehead in its cult of personality gone… there was really no amount of duct tape to keep the ship afloat.

So while I personally view Burning Crusade as this expansion where I got to finally move into the role  that I had been designed for…  others might not have quite the hopefulness that I did.  I remember when the expansion hit, there were a lot of raid members that were frustrated by the gear reset.  In fact they were down right mad that all of this work that they went through and effort they put into getting just the right items…  was to be immediately erased the moment they stepped foot into Hellfire Peninsula.  Expansion are the great equalizers… they give players the opportunity to shift focus, and pick up something that they had always wanted to play but were never given the chance to.  With the launch of Warlords of Draenor I am doing just that myself.  I felt it was fitting for me to be setting aside my Deathknight and once again taking up the mantle of Protection Warrior.

Sell Me on Warlords

WoWScrnShot_111414_183551 Last night during the course of the podcast, Tam uttered the words above..  “Sell Me on Warlords”.  In truth I couldn’t nor would I really want to.  Warlords of Draenor is more of the same, with a prettier coat of paint and some nifty casual friendly features like the Garrison.  I feel this is an expansion that only those who still begrudgingly feel love for World of Warcraft in their hearts should ever try and play.  The game has some serious shortcomings still as compared to more modern MMOs.  It pisses me off on an almost nightly basis that it doesn’t have a mentoring system, nor does it have a content scaling system for dungeon runs.  I greatly prefer that Final Fantasy XIV sizes down the players to fit the dungeon, so that there is never a case where you straight up roflstomp the content.  This came up the other night when Zeli and Jabberant started characters and used their boost to 90 to create them on Argent Dawn.  Jab asked if there was a way to go back and experience the old dungeon content… and sadly unless you mean by soloing with great ease… the answer is a resounding no.

So I can’t really sell Warlords as the next best thing since sliced bread.  I still think that functionally Final Fantasy XIV is a better game.  That said I am happy that I don’t really have to make the choice between them,  In fact I have been extremely thankful to have FFXIV that I am still deeply connected to as Argent Dawn has burned down around me.  What Warlords represents is a game with the charm and grace of any Blizzard title.  The recent performance issues still do not degrade the fact that the game is extremely well crafted.  At the end of the day it is an old game, with a fresh coat of paint…  but it is a very enjoyable game still.  The content itself I am finding more enjoyable, because they took the lessoned learned with the Timeless Isle and extended them out to the world as a whole.  There is so much to see and find, and so many neat rare mobs to take out along the way.  It is like they gave me carefully crafted crack just for me… because I love getting interesting loot and killing interesting things.  If you hold a special place in your heart for Draenor… it might be a worthwhile time to return as well.  At this point I still have not actually renewed my account…  but signs are pointing to that I will be doing so.

Supporting Wife

One of the recent sagas in my life that has somehow managed to stay mostly out of my blog is the ongoing issues I have had with my laptop.  I feel like at this point I deserve an honorific of “laptop killer” because I seem to be exceptionally hard on them.  My Asus Republic of Gamers laptop lasted about two years, and I loved it dearly…  until something went wonky with the motherboard and kept it from charging the battery.  Then I got the SLI configuration Lenovo y500 laptop… and I too adored it.  Ultimately I think it was pretty much my perfectly laptop, until a few weeks ago I went downstairs to boot it up… and it refused to go past the Lenovo splash screen.  I realized unfortunately that it was out of warranty, so I ended up posting on the Lenovo support forums.. and as of yet have not received a response.

So over the last few weeks at my wife’s urging we have been watching craigslist to see if we could find something interesting.  In the past when I have been without my laptop, I have been in a state of utter panic…  however this time around I have tried extremely hard to be zen about it.  We saw a few interesting things but either the poster wanted more than I was willing to pay for it, or after some exchanges of texts I found out that the video card would be too underpowered for my purposes.  All of this while I did not realize that my wife had also been searching craigslist on a daily basis.  Thursday night she happened across a post on the Oklahoma City craigslist, for someone selling a Lenovo y580 a model slightly newer than mine… for a ridiculously cheap price.

My wife did not even bat an eye at the thought of us making a trip to Oklahoma City, entirely for the purpose of getting me a laptop from some random seller on Craigslist.  I am exceptionally lucky and thankful that I have a wife that is so supportive of all of the random otherwise meaningless activities I engage in on a daily basis.  She knows all of this is important to me… and while she doesn’t always grasp the reason why…  she constantly surprises me at just how much she is willing to do in support of my madness.  So yesterday went took a two hour trek to Oklahoma City, looked over the laptop… and today it is sitting beside me downloading various things.  Of course we made a trip through all of the Half Priced Books stores in the area, since we don’t have those in Tulsa… so it was not entirely about the laptop.  Still I am extremely thankful to have a partner willing to jump through so many hoops for my happiness.

Amon’s Pants

Bel Folks Stuff Episode 2

Since I was sick yesterday I decided to go ahead and wrap up the last bits of editing needed to push the latest episode of Bel Folks Stuff out the door.  While editing I had this strange trip into the past, as I had recorded the podcast a few weeks ago.  We talked about news…  in speculative terms that have long since been resolved.  So my important lesson is that I really should not sit in a show as long as I have with this series.  The end result feels a little strange, like we are looking into the past and seeing what our thoughts were like on a subject a couple of weeks ago.  In any case it was an enjoyable episode to record, and I am fairly proud of this side project as a whole.  However it is causing me to rethink my plans to record the next episode now… that I wouldn’t actually release until mid December.

In this episode I am joined by the illustrious Rowan Blaze of the I Have Touched the Sky blog and a frequent guest on the Beyond the Veil podcast covering The Secret World.  In an interesting change to the format of the first show… we also had a second guest with us… thought due to some technical constraint she was not extremely chatty.  Scooter is Rowan’s awesome wife and constant companion both in game and out.  Since one of the more interesting tidbits of his blog is the fact that he is almost always chronicling their adventures together rather than apart.  He suggested we include her in the discussion, and I think it turned out to be a fairly brilliant idea.  Once again there was not a really strict format, and as I said before… some of the information is a bit dated now…  but in any case I think it was a good effort well worth your time.

Amon’s Pants

ffxiv 2014-11-14 21-27-51-829 In the weeks after the release of the 2.4 patch, I have been spending most of my time in Syrcus Tower.  On the average night I have been running it between 2 and 5 times an evening.  At this point I can literally run the place in my sleep… and on more than a few of the runs I am pretty sure I dozed off at some point around Sylla and finally woke up when we were taking down Amon.  I’ve been running the raid for several reasons… but primarily to complete the ilevel 100 dragoon set.  I started off with extremely good luck, gathering up most of a set within the first few nights.  This all had a side benefit of also gathering up quite a few Sands and Oils and enough Unidentified Allagan Tomestones to outfit an army of alts.  I reached a point where all that was left were the pants, and that had been the state I was in for the last three weeks.  I managed to see them drop a few times, but in all three of those occasions… there was another dragoon and the RNG gods decided to smite me.

Normally speaking Syrcus Tower goes extremely smoothly, as most of the server has reached a point where they are using it as a way to farm oils and sands… and the occasional piece of alternate job gear.  In truth most of these runs are actually rather friendly, with folks willing to lend a hand to those just learning.  This particular run however was the exact opposite of the spirit I normally experience.  For a moment I thought that maybe I was in another game, because I saw the same sort of petty name calling and infighting that I had experienced so many times in the World of Warcraft Looking for Raid tool.  It took us no less than four times to finally be able to beat Amon… and when we did there sitting in the loot window were my pants.  This time however there were no other dragoons in my party to ruin my day.  Never again do I have to run Syrcus Tower as a Dragoon…  but that just means I will likely start running it as a bard and working on that set of gear.  I might have an issue with grinding things.

Garrisons are Great

WoWScrnShot_111414_175514 I reached a point last night with my Garrison where I finally decided it was a pretty amazing thing.  Not that you can really clearly make out what I am doing in the above screenshot…  but this is Belghast my Warrior Engineer Enchanter…  mining ore.  For years I have struggled with my decision to level both enchanting and engineering on the same character.  The lack of mining has always been something I have struggled with…  but there is a long story behind how I ended up in this predicament.  Primarily Belghast started his life as an Enchanter/Tailor because that was a combination of trade skills that I was missing.  Then I got serious about raiding… and hit a drought when our raid was clearing Tier 5 content in Burning Crusade.  I could not for the life of me get a helm upgrade… and there sitting on the crafting table was the insanity of engineering goggles.  At that point they were Tier 6 equivalent… so I made the decision to gather up all the resources and in a single afternoon I dropped tailoring and leveled engineering to the then cap.

WoWScrnShot_111414_181358 While the mine respawn seems extremely long… it still gives me access to gather ore and slowly progress my engineering a little bit while I level.  Additionally I am finding the follower missions to be extremely enjoyable.  Last night I managed to reach rank two with my town hall, which allowed for a larger selection of plots.  As such I now have placed an Engineering plot, Enchanting Plot, replaced the Barracks with a Dwarven Bunker, and kept the Inn with the hopes of upgrading it to rank 2 and recruiting random followers.  Essentially on Belghast I am pretty much trying to go with all the “killing stuff in the world has interesting effects” buildings.  Since well… I like charging around the map killing things.  My hope is that with things like the Dwarven Bunker giving me an increased chance of getting Rares and Epics… I will actually get some stuff I can use.  I feel like I have a much larger post entirely devoted to Warlords of Draenor in me, so I will save further information for tomorrows post.  Needless to say I am enjoying myself.

That Dad is Okay

I really did not talk much about this next thing, but today I am thankful that my father made it through surgery fine and seems to be improving.  For the last several months my father has had a rather scary condition that they originally thought was causing his eyeball to swell up in size.  After much investigation, and a slew of specialists it was determined that what was actually happening was that his eye was being pressed forward… giving it the appearance of growth.  As it got worse however, he lost his ability to do most things like drive… as ultimately he was always trying to manually reconcile the two images he was seeing at all times.  He tried not to let on that it bothered him, but as the months drug on you could tell he was absolutely miserable.

Finally this week a specialist provided a plan of attack, and he went from having a consultation on Tuesday to having full blown surgery on Thursday.  Thankfully everything went as planned and to the best of anyone’s knowledge there were no complications.  I talked to dad over text this morning and his vision continues to improve.  In fact I was shocked that moments after the surgery he was able to see normally again and read signs.  It has been a scary time for my family, not knowing quite what was going to happen.  As such I am so thankful that things turned out well.  One of my biggest fears is the loss of my sight, and I know my father shares that fear.  While he never wanted to let on just how frightened he was… I am sure he must have been.  I am also thankful that once again we get to share our love of books.