Launch Hype Cycle

The Perfect Amount

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One of the subjects I have thinking about quite a bit this week is the video game hype cycle… namely the time from when a video game is announced to the time you can have it in your grubby little hands.  There are a lot of times that a game is announced with great fanfare and then when it actually releases two years later… the excitement has died down to a point where I rarely realize it has launched.  This is especially true with games that have an early access system, because quite literally in my mind they have been “out” from the moment they started taking money for the game.  I’ve come to a line of thinking that Fallout 4 pretty much represents the perfect amount of hype leading into a game launch.  While all manner of information was leaked about this game for a few years… there was no official acknowledgement of the game, nor any media floating around about it until June 2015 at E3.  At which point they announced that the game would be available in November of that same year.  This gave the game a focused four months to hype it up and get people read for it.

The truth is that most of the hype was fan created.  Bethesda themselves continued to release a slow trickle of information and trailers… large parts of which were simply recompiled from the demos given at E3.  But this constant trickle served to keep the fires ignited long enough that by the time the game actually launched a few months later… folks were still very much at the peak of excitement, rushing out into the store and buying damned near anything even vaguely related to the game.  As an example of this fever pitch I give to you exhibit A… the fact that the extremely limited edition Nuka Cola Quantum cases are going for over $1200 on Ebay.  They announced a game with lots of new features, and then delivered it a short period of time later as promised.  This sort of brevity is refreshing when it comes to video games, because we are simply used to it dragging on over the course of several years including extended alpha and beta phases which only serve to get the players bored with the title before they even lay their hands on it.

Beta is Not Beta

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Another huge problem that plagues the industry is the fact that Beta testing really doesn’t mean what it says it means.  What is ultimately spurring on this post is the launch of the World of Warcraft Legion Alpha yesterday to the press, streamers and a few fan sites.  While Fallout 4 had this nice clean short cycle, Legion is already setting up to have a considerably longer one.  We first got the official announcement of the rumored expansion at Gamescom in August, and post Blizzcon in early November we received our potential launch window of September 2016.  Now that we have an alpha circulating, we will now have plenty of hype inducing articles and videos circulating…  with ten months to go until the potential launch window.  While this is awesome to stoke the fires, the flames will have died down significantly by the time the game actually releases.  Right now I myself am riding this nostalgia buzz that has lead me to resubscribe to the game, but there is likely no way that the game can sustain my excitement until next year to keep the love going.

What I meant by the Beta not meaning what it used to, is the fact that we no longer have these cloistered NDA protected testing environments.  So in essence Beta becomes this time to allow streamers and the press to hype up the game for Blizzard, rather than the period of deeply focused testing.  Sure it is frustrating to be in something that is under NDA, and not be able to talk about it…  but games need an incubation period before the world gets to see them.  When I was testing Elder Scrolls Online I was quite literally in the closed testing process for a little bit over a year before the launch of that game.  I tested the hell out of it, and myself and Ashgar apparently developed a reputation for our prolific bug noting.  There were lots of things that I saw that would have freaked the hell out of the press and public if they saw them, but I simply calmly noted it and described as many details as I could and moved on.  As the builds changed we saw many of those bugs disappear… and often times other ones arise that we continued to note.  For me at least it was not about getting to play the game free or having something to fill my site with articles…  but instead about trying extremely hard to make sure the best possible game launched.

A Challenge


So now is the point where I present a challenge to anyone with access to the World of Warcraft Legion alpha client.  Test the hell out of that game and submit bug notes for anything that even seems vaguely out of place.  I want each of you to be so prolific in your bug notes… that the developers behind the scenes know you by name and immediately start predicting what you might say.  The Warlords of Draenor testing process was not taken seriously by the developers or by the players… and most of us just used it as a way of showcasing what was coming out from the game.  What we ended up with was an expansion that did not quite feel right on so many levels, all of which were things that could have been addressed during the Alpha testing process.  By the time a game makes it into Beta… it is essentially in a polish phase, where the content gets the spelling errors ironed out, and cosmetic blemishes are fixed.  Alpha is the time when you can actually effect the way a game will play like at launch, and now that you have access to this client I expect each of you to do your job.  After all testing is a job, not a perk… or something that elevates you above other players.

Quite literally if Legion is not the best expansion that World of Warcraft has ever seen… we are in a lot of trouble.  You can have a single bad expansion and still turn around…  namely I am looking at Dark Age of Camelot and the horrible Trials of Atlantis expansion here.  They continued on to do a lot of really interesting things, but they absolutely had a misstep.  I feel like Warlords was without a doubt Blizzard’s misstep when it comes to the Warcraft franchise, and Legion is their chance to redeem themselves.  The problem being they need you the players to give honest and sometimes brutal feedback on what is working and what is not working.  There is a huge difference between the live client and the alpha client… and the alpha forums are this magical place where people actually talk about the serious issues of the game without resorting to hyperbole.  I expect each and every one of you that have access to this alpha to put that time to good use, and find every single bug in the game.  Sure you only have access to the Demon Hunter starting experience, but I expect you to help make that starting experience the best “newbie zone” in the game.  Now what are you doing reading my post… get to making bug notes people!

Nostalgia Continues


Eleven Years


At this point eleven years ago I was spending the morning with a friend and coworker desperately trying to raise the money to buy a guild charter on one of the two original roleplaying server… Argent Dawn.  I remember we rolled a set of toons that we had no interest in playing, and wound up selling literally everything we got from quests and drops all in the hope of hitting that magic number.  From there I mailed all of this to my would be main character and started the guild, running back to Coldridge Valley to get signatures.  At which point a bunch of people made Dwarves or Gnomes and we got our charter up for House Stalwart in rapid fashion.  WoW was the first game that I had a planned entrance into, because it was that one game that everyone seemed to be able to agree upon.  So we pulled folks from Everquest, Horizon, Dark Age of Camelot and City of Heroes all together into one large organization.  We had noble amibitions of having both an Alliance guild on Argent Dawn and a Horde guild on Silverhand.  Most folks that have worn the House Stalwart tabard probably don’t even remember that the crusader cross that has become so recognizable… was not even our original design.  You can see in the screenshot to the side that the colors were similar… but instead we went with the tree logo.

It was not until the first “reboot” of the guild that we went with the crusader cross, as a bit of a way of signifying that things had changed.  Hell there was a period of time when I didn’t even have my mains in the guild.  About six months into the game I took a hiatus and went off to play Everquest II, which I talked briefly about during my MWP post a few weeks back.  When I came back to the game pretty much the entire guild had disappeared.  Later I found out that some of those that remained ended up going and creating their own guild, and rather than shaking the boat I decided to move most of my characters there as well.  We had some good times, but it didn’t last and before long I was asking my friend Finni to help me move my characters and pass back the leadership from my bank alt to my main once more.  Before we knew in… within twenty four hours we went from being a guild of essentially one… to a guild of like sixty players again.  This began the golden age of the guild, and with it we started dipping our toes into regular raiding with what was our sister guild at the time… Silent Strike.  Granted we never really did anything much more serious than Zul Gurub and AQ20, but we had a lot of fun doing it when we raided as a guild.

Misplaced Intentions

wowscrnshot_012406_220132One of the more interesting things about this game is that I became known as a tank, but even now there are folks like my friend Eralia that still call me Lodin my original Late Night Raiders main.  I played a hunter for the better part of Vanilla, but I never intended to do that as my role in the game.  It was shortly after the launch of the game that we had a pretty horrific death in the family.  So while I was keeping up with my Paladin for a long while… I quickly fell behind and when I came back… the only thing I could seem to level quickly was my hunter.  I pretty quickly realized that the class was not really for me once I started raiding.  However my good friend Shiana needed a replacement for a less than reliable hunter, so before I knew it I had become a regular cog in the Late Night Raiders machine.  Once I was geared… I felt like I simply could not swap to another class.  It was during this time that my fellow hunter Ailah decided that she really would rather level a priest… so we rolled Belghast the Warrior and Finni the Priest and started leveling them as a duo to make life easier on both of us.  At that point the hardest possible thing to level was a Holy Priest, and the second hardest was a Protection Warrior… and we figured as a duo we could burn through the content quickly.

It was not terribly long before both Belghast and Finni had become our “unofficial” mains, so when Late Night Raiders disintegrated at the end of Vanilla, I took that opportunity as my change to be the class and role I had actually wanted to play.  I tore through Burning Crusade with a vengeance and became one of the folks that people relied on to make dungeons happen.  When LNR finally called it quits I transitioned over to another raid group that I had been tanking for on the side.  NSR or No Such Raid became a second family, and through that raid I met so many of the people that I keep in contact with on a daily basis.  We had a really great run with the raid and made it to the start of the Tier 6 raid content before various things happened, and the leader dumped the raid in my lap.  I tried to make it work as best I could, but week by week we were hemorrhaging folks.  We started with baring being able to pull the group together, then the next week we were down around five people… and the bleeding continued at that pace until three weeks in I just called it.  I felt like a failure and honestly was uncertain what my future would bring.  I talked to a handful of the highest tier raid guilds on our server… and had essentially made my way through the recruitment process on a couple of them.

Durable Nubs


It was around this time that a good friend of mine from the days of Late Night Raiders pulled me aside to talk about an idea that he and some of his friends had.  The theory was simple… pull together a raid group in the style of Late Night Raiders and go off and tackle the content on our own.  There were a lot of things about the methodology of NSR that never set right with me.  I’ve never felt like yelling orders at a team was really that effective.  Basically I had a choice… do I go with my friends and start a brand new raid, having to train people up from Tier 4, or do I go off and join a hardcore raid guild and continue my progress into Tier 6.  If you have read this blog much, it would be pretty obvious which choice I made, but I have  to admit that choice haunted me.  As we wiped to Gruul or later Leotheras the Blind…  I kept thinking…  what did I give up to make this happen.  I spent a good deal of Burning Crusade being grumpy about my decision but in the long run I absolutely made the right one.  When Wrath of the Lich King launched we were prized to be a real force for awesome raiding.  The atmosphere that evolved was awesome… but we did a few things that I think ultimately hurt the raid.  We had this policy of “never let the children see the parents fight”, so while we raided the entire group of officers remained connected to a second voice server.  The problem being is that when heavy deliberation was going on… the normal raid chat could be deathly quiet as we sorted out what we needed to do to fix the situation.

To the members this felt like a vacuum of information, and we also failed to take into account the possibility that some of those folks might have some really good ideas that would help solve whatever problem we were having.  LNR was the example that we were following, because almost all deliberation there happened in a separate and private server channel.  The problem being… we had no clue just how contentious that channel could end up being.  I had zero intention of being the voice of the raid… but over time that is precisely what happened.  The thing is… as burnt out as I eventually became…  I still look back on the moments of us raiding together in a positive light.  Namely because so many of the people from the raid groups I have been in… make up the folks that I converse with on a daily basis.  Like all things…  Duranub came to an end, but this time it was only slain by the Cataclysm release and the shift of focus to guild based raiding.  There are several moments that I wish I could go back to, and several raider line-ups that I wish I could pull together again.  With Cataclysm we ushered in a plot by some of my friends to create the raiding dream team… the problem being… it wasn’t my dream team.  It ended up feeling like a really forced thing, and while the team was called “MellyBelNore” it felt like neither myself, Elnore or Melyloss really had any control over where the team was heading.  This frustration… combined with a brand new shiny game on the horizon called Rift, ultimately got me to leave WoW on a semi-permanent basis.

Always in Your System

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The problem being… that World of Warcraft is one of those games that I can never seem to fully flush from my system.  Over the weekend I spent chunks of it playing around on my Blood Elf Warrior that I rolled ages ago on Scryers… as a way of having both Horde and Alliance characters on Argent Dawn.  Once upon a time I was a forum junkie, and with that came pretty frequent postings on the Argent Dawn server forums.  Through them I met lots of horde players on my server, and cultivated a pretty great relationship with many of them.  I’ve never had a lot of faction loyalty, I just tended to prefer the look and feel of alliance races and cities.  I’ve never had that streak for playing “monstrous humanoids” to borrow the dungeons and dragons term.  One of my big regrets has always been that I never really got a character high enough to be useful on the horde side.  I have an account that I no longer play that managed to catch up during Wrath of the Lich King, and I raided a bit with the Batteries Not Included raid…  of which lots of folks are in the guild that I am hanging my hat in currently.  For years we had a relationship with Bloodmoon Chosen, and I guess there was a bit of a major dramasplosion there.  As a result the folks I was actually friends with ended up leaving and creating their own guild called Facepull, and as a result I moved my characters there over the weekend.

I’ve been having a lot of fun, because there is just something about leveling in World of Warcraft that makes me happy.  I’ve not spent much time on the House Stalwart side of the fence, namely because I have no clue yet how long I will actually be around.  I always feel like a dick when I have one of these relapses and folks start saying things like “Yay! You’re Back!”.  I don’t like letting people down, because for all I know I will be gone  in two weeks time when something else catches my fancy.  If you were to look at my subscription history since the launch of Rift, you would see each expansion there are two or three of these relapses, and of all of them… only two managed to stick for any length of time.  What is ultimately going to hurt this time is the fact that I really don’t have much of a guild to return to.  That also feels like my fault, because when I left again this time after us defeating Blackrock…  a large chunk of folks followed me into Final Fantasy XIV.  In the resulting vacuum, the guild as a whole just vanished.  I am looking forward to us ramping back up to doing things as a group in Eorzea, and this past Saturday night before the podcast was a lot of fun.  That said… WoW right now is like slipping into a warm sweater…. or fixing a hot cup of soup.  It is comfort gaming, and works perfectly for being wrapped in a blanket cocoon on the couch watching stuff on Netflix.  It is the mode of gaming that I need right now, and I have stopped fighting the desires for the moment.  Only time will tell if this is just another outbreak of nostalgia, or if I really truly want to be playing the game.


Week in Gaming 11/22/2015

Missing Breakers

During this segment I generally run down the gaming I have done during the previous week, however this week I am going to regale you with a story from last night.  As I have talked about a bit on my blog we are currently going through some minor home renovations.  We seem to be nearing the end however, and other than a few minor problems that they are working on…  things seem to largely be done.  During part of this process we had a big extension cord coming out through the garage door so they could do work on the front of the house, and as part of their wrapping things up they asked me to go inside and raise the garage door so they could unplug it.  When I got out to the garage however…  the door would not open, and around about this same time I noticed that our freezer was off.  Thus began the mission to try and sort out what breaker was flipped.

The breakers are in a horrible location in our house, which is on the garage wall…  but someone in their infinite wisdom decided to build a table and attach it to the wall in front of the breaker box.  When I say table… I mean it is a 4 foot deep and 8 foot across shelving unit made out of full sheets of plywood.  Sure it is sturdy as hell but it is super awkward and fiddling with the breakers means I have to essentially crawl up onto the table.  The problem being… none of the breakers were flipped which began a hunt through the house because the contractors were convinced that this could not be the ONLY breaker box on the house.  Please note that at this point we have lived in the house going on eighteen years….  we were absolutely certain this was the only breaker box.  Finally after running around and flipping the damned house main in the back yard…  someone noticed that the outlet in the garage that the opener was plugged into… had a ground fault switch.  We flipped that and magically everything started working again.  So yeah…  that was a fun way to spend a good chunk of my night.

Final Fantasy XIV

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This week finally saw my return to Final Fantasy XIV as it also announced the release of the 3.1 content.  I talked about this a bit during the week, but it feels a little bittersweet.  The content was really good, but also really really short.  Usually we have some big boss fight as the pinnacle of the content patches, and this time around….  nothing.  Sure there was a big fight but it wasn’t on the same level as a new Primal or an encounter like Gilgamesh.  Also there is the fact that we still don’t have a new segment in the Hildebrand chain…  or nothing to really replace the hole it has created in the content.  I feel like they spent a lot of time on the Lords of Verminion minigame and as a result a bunch of other stuff slipped to the 3.15 patch later.  I still have yet to do any of the dungeons, but hopefully I can get that going soonish.

The bulk of my final fantasy time consists of me logging in, and doing my Beast Tribe dailies for the new Vanu Vanu tribe along with some of the old world quests.  What makes this pretty great is the fact that at the current level cap… all of the old world quests are super easy to do.  So essentially my daily pecking order is… Vanu Vanu > Slyphs > Sahagin.  Mostly I just want to be a tiny lalafell riding along on a giant goobue.  Last night we also revived the tradition of doing stuff on Saturday nights as we ran bits of First and Second coil with the guild.  I was not there for Turn 5 but I got pulled in on the second coil fun.  We managed to get all the way up to turn 9, and put in a few attempts before Ashgar and I had to leave to prep for the podcast.  My hope is we can get people in the habit of showing up on Saturday nights to do stuff like this and pony farming.  That would go a long way towards revitalizing the Final Fantasy experience for me.


I am continuing to play Destiny but a significantly reduced pace.  Each Sunday afternoon we do a Star Wars pen and paper game, and right now Destiny seems to be my game of choice to play while doing that.  It is something I can play on a machine that is not my main computer, and still be able to pay attention to what is going on in the roleplaying.  Destiny is for the most part muscle reflexes at this point, so I am spending the time doing bounties and missions and such.  I did however play quite a bit on Wednesday, or at least long enough to do my various weapon missions.  I still very much love this game, but Fallout 4 has largely taken the place it held of the game I am spending most of my time playing.  There are still a lot of things I want, but more than likely I am going to mostly do the Armsday/Xursday thing each week and then focus if there are objectives and goals that I really want to accomplish.  There are a few interesting looking weapons this week that I am hoping turn out to be pretty awesome from the Gunsmith.

Fallout 4

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I am still slowly wandering my way through the commonwealth.  I am roughly sixty hours into the game and have yet to go to Diamond City.  That said I have done a whole slew of side quests, but more often than not when I get one… I have already been to that location and cleared it out.  When I went to help the Brotherhood of Steel for example… I had already completely cleared that location other than the areas that the Brotherhood ends up unlocking for you to go explore.  As far as the Minutemen, I am tasked with taking back the castle, but the castle is a long ways off from where I am.  Right now I am largely exploring the Cambridge area and delving into the ruined buildings that you find there.  The hospital at Cambridge was one of the more interesting areas, so if you have not been there I highly suggest checking it out.  There has been some crazy shit happening there… but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.  At this point I am still largely using my crappy pipe gun, that has been upgraded as much as possible…. but that is largely because I have a truly silly amount of ammunition for it.

World of Warcraft

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I am weak…. and nostalgia is strong.  Over the last few weeks I knew deep down inside that I was fighting a losing battle.  Finally yesterday I gave in and started playing my sub level 20 horde characters since I could do that for free.  When Scryers and Argent Dawn merged, I ended up creating an entire accounts worth of Horde alts with the thought of playing with some of my Horde friends on the Argent Dawn server.  I tried to create one of every race and class… and some of them I am probably going to simply re-roll.  For my Warrior… I ended up going  Blood Elf because I remember at launch Warrior was not an option for them.  Also I have gotten kinda sick of playing Orcs, and my Deathknight is an Orc, and my Paladin is a Tauren.  Maybe I am mellowing in my old age, but the whole “elf” thing is annoying me far less right now.  Maybe it is the nostalgia of him wearing what is essentially a set of Wrath armor from Molten Core.  In any case I am poking my head around World of Warcraft, and we will see how well that takes.

Tinfoil Hats and Legion

Nostalgia is Strong

Once again this week I have not really consumed much media, so I don’t have enough material to really do one of my normal Saturday morning columns.  Additionally I am still mired in this nostalgic bomb that is World of Warcraft Legion information.  I’ve still managed to stay “clean” but I know at this point it is only a matter of time before I renew my World of Warcraft account, and at least take a “taste”.  As quietly as Alt seemed to think, yesterday information about the Legion Beta client started trickling out on the data mining sites, and I have to say there is a bunch of interesting information.  So this morning I thought I would talk a bit about some of the theories I have running around in my brain.  Firstly there seems to be a much more heavy Vrykul theme than I originally thought.  I realize that one of the islands we will be visiting is essentially run by the Vrykul, and since they have more or less lost their connection to the Lich King, I am assuming we will not longer have the Valkyr resurrecting them and creating undead versions.

Much of the armor we have seen datamined has that same feel, which only serves to damage my calm all the more.  This expansion is starting to seem like an amalgam of Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King which pretty much represent the pinnacle of my enjoyment of the game.  I feel like this is absolutely what they had intended, and then when you combine actually letting us venture into the Nightmare…  they are essentially throwing everything at the screen and hoping that we love whatever it is that they come up with.  There are so many warning klaxons going off in my head telling me that the end result will never live up to the hype.  The problem is there is a hyper kid in my head on a sugar rush telling me how awesome it COULD be…  and is slowly winning out.  Basically the adult in me is losing and I am finding myself paying closer and closer attention to Legion beta information.  More than anything I am just hoping they give me a Death Knight that is fun to play again.

King Anduin


I’ve said before that in the Legion trailer, I thought we would be witnessing the death of Varian Wrynn because for a few moments… you think exactly that is going to happen.  That is not in fact how the trailer ends up…  but as I was preparing for it… it started me thinking that I believe over the last several expansions Blizzard has been preparing us for this.  Bit by bit they have been grooming Anduin to take the throne, and in the datamined information we can see that once again he is getting a significant upgrade in model.  Similarly we see Anduin not Varian as one of the avatars we the players get to play.  I think it is pretty much an inevitability that something will happen to Varian and cause Anduin to take the throne, bringing with him a much more three dimensional and reasoned character than that of his father.  I like Varian just fine…  but he was always sold to us as “our” Thrall, but that promise has never really materialized.


The game as a whole is still to some extent dominated by the evolution of “Green Jesus”.  Maybe this expansion will be different, and maybe this expansion we will see Varian as something more than a dude with two badass swords and a penchant for war.  That has always been the problem with playing Alliance, it never felt like we had a really strong focus to rally around.  The horde have such a strong identity, and that reverberates with the players that love that faction.  The alliance on the other hand, has no shared struggle…  no central driving focus that they can rally behind.  We have a bunch of really interesting secondary characters, consistently rallied behind a significantly less interesting central character.  I had hoped that we would exit out of Warlords with Yrel, but all signs seemed to point to her staying on Draenor.  Then we have awesome characters like Genn Greymane that never actually got the promise of being a true and proper leader with their own city.  You can see that Genn also got a really nice model update, but my working theory is that this has something to do with one of the artifact weapon quests… and sadly not that we might be able to actually use Gilneas as a proper city.

Lava Man


I find it hilarious that after all of these years… the model is still called “Lava Man” in the back end, instead of Bolivar or even the Lich King.  This is obviously an updated version of the Lich King model, and I am wondering where exactly he will factor into the new content.  My theory is that this is probably related to the Artifact weapon quest chain, but then a part of me wonders…  if we are essentially creating an expansion with the best parts of Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, are they going to set the Lich King up for a return as well?  We are after all seeing Illidan as part of this expansion, and it is a high likelihood that after all of these years Bolivar would lose his control over the power of the Lich King.  I always questioned the sanity of allowing Bolivar to hold this position… even though it seemed pretty badass at the time.  Surely eventually the power of the throne and the helm would overwhelm him… and he would in fact turn into a proper “new” Lich King.

With Legion could we be setting in a chain of events that would end up triggering a reboot of the Lich King content essentially?  Where the Scourge under the direction of the new Bolivar Lich King would once again ravage Azeroth?  There is part of me that doubts they would do something that blatant… but then again I never expected to see Illidan again.  There is of course another option.. we might end up fighting along side the scourge under the control of Bolivar as they serve as a nearly limitless army to take on the Burning Legion.  I guess it all depends on just how big this conflict gets before the end of the expansion.  The problem is… as I let all of these theories and ideas out of my head… the more I am wanting to log into World of Warcraft in its current state and play.  I know that the same game is there that I left several months ago, and that most of the things I am really interested in wont be here until Legion.  The stranglehold of nostalgia however is absolutely a thing.

Be Nice to the People

Bad Luck

This looks totally legit right?

Traditionally I do this Friday thing where I talk about one of the many “MMOs Worth Playing” but honestly…. today I am just not feeling it.  I am feeling more annoyed and frustrated about MMOs than I am feeling the love right now, and in this current mindset it is probably best that I simply don’t talk about a game.  The purpose of the column is to highlight a game and talk about the things I love about it, in the hopes that it might nudge people into giving it a try.  In order to really do that I have to be feeling happy and enjoying the world around me… and right now I am kinda grumpy.  Granted I am grumpy over a stupid reason.  Right now I feel like I am one of a handful of people who didn’t get into the Overwatch beta weekend.  I am largely annoyed by this, because I am in fact one of the people who went ahead and pre-ordered the game knowing eventually that I would want to play it.  You would think… that if you have a bit single weekend only stress test that you might want to include the people who are already signed up to spend money on your game.

Maybe that is screwed up in my logic, but it seems to me that they should have pulled from the pool of sign ups first for this one in particular.  I am not saying that about the normal always on Beta process… that one is completely luck of the draw.  This one however… when you are testing a game for a short period of time… it might be cool to thank the folks who have already pressed that button and said “Yes, I want your game”.  Frustrations aside, I am hoping all of my friends who are going to be playing it this weekend will enjoy themselves and have lots of things to talk about.  Honestly this test will give me a better feeling of how I am going to like the game, since a lot of the AggroChat folks seemed to have gotten in.  This is the hardest part about Betas is standing on the outside watching your friends have fun…  and then trying really damned hard to be happy for them… and not sad that you got left out.

People Behind The Thing

So even though I am frustrated, I am directing my frustrations at an entity…  the game Overwatch and or the company Blizzard behind it.  I realize that that company is made up of people, and it has to be super tiring to hear people raging at them constantly.  I realize over the years I have said some pretty caustic and even pyroclastic things about video games and or the companies behind them.  At no point however did I aim that criticism at the people themselves.  I never joined the chorus of “I Hate Ghostcrawler” nor will I join any other personally targeted witch hunt in the future.  I can dislike a thing… but still have the utmost respect for the people for whom it is their job.  Much of this week has felt like I have been attempting to give lessons in how to treat people with simple human dignity… and yesterday continued that trend.  These companies have people working there, that go to work every single day hoping to do something cool… and often times get met with this constant wall of negativity.  It is no wonder when someone reads one too many “fuck you” posts targeted at them that occasionally community staff snaps.  Ultimately how good of a job, and how much satisfaction in it… would you have if someone stood over your desk heckling you the entire day?

Now you can take the path of “they willfully accepted the job”, but that too is utter bullshit.  They probably took the job for the same reason that any one of us who are gaming addicts would jump at the chance to do the same thing.  The folks that work at games companies do so because they love games with every fiber of their being, so much so that they are willing to sacrifice basic things like stability, and normal working hours…  for the chance of being part of something they at least once felt was awesome.  So if this week I happen to be complaining about Overwatch… I know that behind the scenes there is a crew of people who are working insane hours right now, and trying their damnedest to please as many people as they can… while at the same time desperately fighting to roll out the best possible product that they can make.  I’ve been lucky to know enough people that work at enough companies to know that all of these fine people are grinding themselves into the ground all in the hopes of making each of us happy.  So the next time you level an attack at a thing… please make sure it is targeted at the thing… and not the voice of the person hanging out in front of it for whom it is their job to represent said thing.  I most definitely don’t believe that games should be above criticism… but I do believe that we shouldn’t be targeting our bile at a human being.

Hoping For a Great Friday

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My hope is that I can go into this Friday and not see anything else that makes me sad about humanity.  For those of you in the Overwatch beta weekend…  have a blast, take lots of screenshots, record lots of video… because I expect some really amazing content as a result.    For those of us watching from the sidelines… there are dozens of other things we should be doing.  I personally am now 55 hours into Fallout 4… and have yet to make it to Diamond City.  I’m also in a strange place when it comes to Final Fantasy XIV where I am logging in each day to do Beast Tribe dailies, but not finding much drive to do anything else.  I am in that strange place where I took a long enough break from the game to where I am completely out of touch with what I was doing before I left, but have not been away long enough to make me super nostalgic enough to dive back in with vigor.  I am also still fighting the urge to play World of Warcraft, and I am scared that sooner or later I will be giving into it… if for no reason other than to get it out of my system again.  I am in a place where I want into the Legion beta more than any other beta in a long while, mostly because I hope beyond hope that Deathknights are fun again.  The fact that I had to switch back to my warrior during Warlords honestly was a bit of bummer, and I would love to be a Worgen DK once more.  Anyways…  that was a long “outro” but hopefully you have a great weekend, and stay safe and happy and warm.



Mourning The Past


Another Time


Lately I have been struggling with fits of nostalgia, mostly surrounding World of Warcraft and in the middle of it I had a revelation.  I know the moment I started to distance myself from raiding, and the events that lead up to me ultimately checking out mentally.  When the Cataclysm patch went live, Blizzard in their infinite wisdom decided to deeply incentivize guild-centric raiding.  This was probably a no brainer for them, because in truth this is more than likely how the vast majority of people raided.  If you wanted to raid… you went and found a raid guild… and life moved on normally from that point onwards.  Since the early days of Vanilla however…  we never really raided like this.  There was a clear distinction between “The Raid” and “The Guild” that was significantly harder to maintain after Cataclysm.  The reason being that we raided as an entity that was distinct from any of the guilds that came together to make it up… we raided as a coalition of sorts.  In Vanilla it was the Late Night Raiders, in Burning Crusade it was mostly No Such Raid… and from late BC through Wrath we formed the Duranub Raiding Company.  In each case the “raid” was an organization with a distinct leadership, made up of a bunch of people from different styles of guilds, with the one thing in common… that they wanted to clear content.

There was relatively no pressure to join any of the guilds, though folks did from time to time filter back and forth between them…  nor was the fixed and set number of guilds that made up the roster.  It allowed us to recruit people to fill slots, without asking them to give up everything they knew about the game from that point… just to raid.  It also allowed people who were far more comfortable in five or six player guilds to remain in their small close knit groups, while still having access to a larger raiding life.  It also solved some of the problems that you run into with guild based raiding, where individuals have the impression that if they join X guild they will have an automatic guaranteed spot in X raid.  We were able to keep a completely separate infrastructure, with its own rules and tenets, and then fall back on our larger social guild for non-raiding interactions.  It was a structure that felt so natural to me, and it almost seemed like a personal affront when the Cataclysm changes showed that they would be shifting focus away from this style of raiding, and only crediting kills to the guild with the largest number of members.

Death of Duranub


When Cataclysm launched we tried an experiment that ultimately failed.  House Stalwart, the guild I had lead since the day World of Warcraft launched… attempted to consume all of the smaller satellite guilds for the purpose of “keeping the raid together”.  So over night we quite literally went from a 600 character guild to an over 900 character guild.  With this came so many different cultures and so many different “norms” that it rapidly became a jumbled mess.  We also made the decision to focus on 10 player raid groups, and ended up splintering the raid into a bunch of teams.  The problem there is that not all teams were created equal, and some of the teams had the deck stacked heavily including more of the seasoned raiders.  So when the progress was not equal, it caused strife and competitiveness between the groups, where it had never existed before.  Previously we were there Duranub Raiding Company… we were a group that made the easy things look hard… and the hard things look easy.  The phrase “Duranub” tied lineage back to a saying that Shiana the leader of my first raid group said about the Late Night Raiders… that we were a “Durable Pack of Nubs”.  In fact Duranub was our attempt to pull out the best things we experienced during Late Night Raiders and congeal them into a modern raid group.

In the process all of the officers sacrificed a lot of their time… and for me a lot of my sanity to keep it going.  So when that disolved and we splintered into smaller raid teams…  it introduced a whole mix of things that I just didn’t care about any more.  I have never been a competitive player, and I have never cared about clearing content first.  I am all about working together with my friends to make bosses dead, and to get new and interesting pieces of gear.  So when I felt like I was in a competition with those same friends, it somehow tarnished the experience.  When Rift launched it became all too easy for me to walk away from World of Warcraft, because the thing that had been keeping me in the game for so long… was this concept that I believe in so deeply.  That you could gather up a bunch of disparate parts and make them into a raid group…  and have fun doing it.  The problem with raiding as a guild… is often times there are people that you end up raiding with…  that you don’t want to share a guild with.  They are great raiders, but lacking in the human being department.  The end result causes you to make compromises…  and either diluting the atmosphere of your guild… or sacrificing talent for the sake of culture.  This is the part that I was never really able to put into words before now.

Extended Family

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I have been nostalgic lately, and it seems to be far less about what we did in World of Warcraft, and more about who I was doing it with.  When I said the other day that I didn’t wan’t World of Warcraft, I wanted the WoW that existed in 2009 during the Wrath of the Lich King patch cycle…  I meant more than just the game.  I experienced that game with a certain set of individuals and a certain feeling of togetherness… and that is the game that I want back more than anything.  So many of the people I’ve raided with, I keep in touch with today on a regular basis…  definitely more that any other group of people that have been in my life.  I don’t talk to anyone from High School, and there is only a couple of folks from college that I keep in touch with other than my wife.  I have a notoriously bad track record at keeping in contact with folks I have worked with in the past… but when it comes to folks I have raided with…  three of the five other people in the AggroChat podcast are folks I have raided with since Vanilla.  Rae and Dallian I’ve raided at least on some level with since Burning Crusade.  Other than that there is a huge list of people that I have raided with in one fashion or another that I talk to on IM or Slack, which shows how much more important this group is to me than pretty much any other.

When you spend year after year with these people, even though it is only on voice chat… you develop a bond that is forged in shared struggle towards a goal.  Having never really been serious about sports, maybe this is the same sort of bond you develop between your team mates, or the same sort of bond that soldiers come out of conflict with.  Whatever it is, it is important to me… and what Cataclysm and our decision to abandon 25 player raiding did was to force me to choose between which group of friends to play with.  House Stalwart forged on without me, and when I came back during Warlords out of the ashes of numerous groups was forged a really fun raid team.  I got to experience the content with people that I had not played with in years.. and for a moment it was magical.  The problem being… even then, it just wasn’t quite the same.  It is impossible to sort out guild drama and raid drama… when both are mixed into one big amalgam.  So as I sit back being nostalgic… I miss the era of non-guild raiding.  If I could bring back any one element of the past, it would be that… and even put in systems like formal raid alliances to bolster that style of game play.  If there is one thing I have learned throughout the years… it is that raid guilds are just not for me.  What I want is to be able to have my friendly social guild… and raid effectively at the same time.  While that might sound like wanting it all at the same time…  I did have it for years, which is why I miss it so much looking back upon it.


Mixed Emotions

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One of the big problems with last week is that quite literally I had too many things I wanted to play.  Not only did Fallout 4 release… and give me a franchise of shanty towns to look after….  we also had the launch of Final Fantasy XIV 3.1 patch.  Now I have complained a bit that the lag between 3.0 and 3.1 was entirely too long.  Basically from 2.1 onwards they kept a schedule along the lines of a major patch every 3 months and a minor patch every month.  Instead this patch took about five months to release… and it was a long enough lag to get me completely out of the habit of logging in on a regular basis.  That said I knew whenever 3.1 landed I would be back, albeit a bit rusty from lack of playing.  Fallout however took precedence and over the last two nights I have finally consumed I believe all of the new quest content.  Now we get to the mixed emotions part… because in one way the content was really damned good.  It managed to hit us in the feels a few  times and introduce a new to this game character… that we are VERY familiar with from Final Fantasy V thanks to Ashgar and his constant cheerleading for the Four Job Fiesta.  The problem I am having is it did nothing really to re-ignite my desire to log in on a nightly basis.

The other big take away I had from the story content is it felt like a trickle compared to what we have seen in the past.  I know at the very least the quest to unlock Void Ark was significantly shorter and less involved than the quest to unlock Crystal Tower.  Similarly the main story line, lacked a big boss fight like they have in the past… because there was no introduction of a new primal.  Also part of what I think is the feeling of it being small… is the fact that we did not get a Hildebrand story to go with it.  So while I enjoyed the experience of the new quest content…  I felt like it was over far too quickly, and took part of an evening to complete in total.  That is including unlocking the new Vanu Vanu beast tribe quests and done two rounds of those.  I don’t want to have this “let down” feeling but I can’t help it I guess.  Maybe it is just that I had built up 3.1 as being this point of my grand return to this game…  and like Tam has said in the past we simply lack the huge backlog of content to slowly work our way through that we had during 2.0.  Maybe there has always been a very limited amount of content… and I just never actually caught up completely until this expansion.

The Dungeons

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All of this said… I have yet to do the two new dungeons, and have yet to run Void Ark, so maybe my feelings will be different after seeing those.  Dungeons have always been the lifeblood of the game for me, but I have simply not been sleeping well the last few nights, so I felt more than a little out of it.  Also Tam spent time playing Lords of Verminion last night, and I am hoping he writes up a quick guide because what I saw of it… looked like madness, but a fun sort.  Mostly I just need to get back into the habit of logging in on a regular basis.  I was in last night at least long enough to run my Vanu Vanu dailies before disappearing back into the Commonwealth, and at a minimum I plan to be doing that each night.  I want my flying snake and I want my sundrop dance.  I spent some of my stockpiled MGP one one of the new dances there as well… the “Gold” dance, which looks hilarious when my Lalafell does it.  I also need to get back in the swing of tanking, because I was a complete slacker when it came to esoterics gear, and I need an awful lot of it.  I also need to start running Void Ark to get items to upgrade with.

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Is it wrong that I feel a little disappointed though?  Maybe it just feels like a let down after the amazing ride that Heavensward was, and maybe the patch content is on par with what they have done in the past.  Final Fantasy XIV has always been this happy place, and logging into the free company brings that point home.  It is amazing that the guild has managed to keep trucking on and being active in spite of a large chunk of us taking an extended break from the game.  I was just so ready to hop back in the saddle and be wowed by the experience… and instead I feel a bit melancholy about it.  It just feels like the team might be resting on their laurels a bit, and maybe spent too much time working on Verminion that would have been better suited putting in more content for the patch.  It really bothers me that there is only two dungeons in this patch cycle, because the whole Fractal/Neverreap thing got super old… super fast.  Having only two dungeons means there is the one you enjoy… and the one you don’t…  and it always feels like the only thing you get is the one you don’t enjoy.  For us it was non-stop back to back Neverreap, and my fear is that once we start the dungeon cycle one of them is absolutely going to be “That” dungeon for us again.  It is funny how much of a difference that extra dungeon seems to make… but man it does.  Maybe they will add another dungeon in with 3.15 which is supposedly right around the corner.  My hope is that they will also be adding more Hildebrand content… with another boss fight, and potentially a new primal.  Mostly I guess it just feels like we got half of a patch, which makes me a little sad after the length five month wait.


Return to Hitbox

Streaming Providers

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I am a fairly horrible streamer, mostly because I do it so infrequently.  Before I jumped to Windows 10 I had Virtual Audio Cables set up and working awesomely to exclude Teamspeak from my stream.  Then the upgrade to 10 seemed to bork all of that.  As a result I am finding myself less likely to stream random stuff, because quite honestly I don’t want to accidentally catch someone that does not want to be recorded.  What ends up happening is that I only actually stream on “special occasions” when I know I have a block of time where i can just leave the mic open.  The problem I continue to struggle with is the choice of providers.  YouTube gaming had peaked my interests… until I participated in Liore’s stream during Extra Life.  Considering I was on voice chat with her, the lag between the stream and what was actually happened seemed painfully bad, and the stream itself would go loopy on us.  I would load it up and suddenly it was trying to play what was happening thirty minutes ago instead of what was happening now.

Twitch seems completely ubiquitous but the problem there is that it is equally painful to try and chat with people while using.  I get so few people popping into my channel that when a friend does pop by I want to be able to hold a conversation with them.  Even when you are running Twitch with the limited delay options… there is still a painful delay when you try and hold a conversation with anyone.  I ultimately switched back after some experiments of trying to stream to both Hitbox and Twitch at the same time.  When given a choice people always picked Twitch because it was the interface they were familiar with.  The truth is however… when someone fires up my stream it is because they are there to hang out with me…  not because they really care about what I am streaming.  I never get random people popping in my channel because it truth I don’t tend to play the sort of games that people care enough about to go hunting for.  For awhile I was using Twitch primarily as a way to export my streams to YouTube, and their interface just works so much better than Hitbox.  Now however I record the video separately and then do some minimal editing in Adobe Premiere before uploading, so that functionality no longer matters.

Team Green

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I am a Blogger first, Podcaster second…  and I dabble poorly in both YouTube and streaming.  Those are just not my native mediums and will likely never be, so long as I have a deep aversion to being on camera.  So I will never have the sort of followers that would allow me to become a partner and have the better streaming options, nor will it ever really matter…  considering I am super adverse to turning on advertisements on even on my YouTube channel.  The truth is… I have always liked Hitbox better.  The dashboard is significantly nicer, you can have “teams” without being a partner… and the fact that there is little to no delay between the video stream and chat means I can actually have  a comfortable conversation with someone watching my stream.  I realize that I am essentially exiling myself to the service that no one is really using natively…  but really…  what is the difference?  I have a clear preference towards one or the other, and it is not like I am looking to be some streaming internet celebrity.  Streaming for me is a way to share what I am doing with my friends and pretty much nothing more than that, and in a way that is more custom than would offer.

Basically I feel like I am choosing BetaMax over VHS, which is not far from the truth.  The experience I have while streaming on Hitbox just feels better than when I use Twitch.  In part it is because the Hitbox interface has to be better in every way to get someone to even consider using their service.  I realize there are third party tools that I can run that add in a lot of the functionality that the Hitbox dashboard has…. but I don’t want to have to.  My favorite stupid feature from Hitbox is the fact that when I get my stream set up and I am happy with it… I can press a single button to have it broadcast my stream to social media.  Twitch can do this for you automatically, but the problem I have there is it sometimes takes me a few tries to get things where I am happy with them, which ends up spamming the living hell out of twitter which gets frustrating.  I really do want to start trying to stream more… which means I need to sift through the arcane machination that is virtual audio cables once more.. to see what it takes to get it set up and properly working for Windows 10.  In the meantime I am probably going to switch my setup over to my Hitbox profile and just accept that I am picking the less popular pony… but its the one I enjoy better.

Misfortune Mordren

Boring Post Material


This morning I am struggling a bit to remain conscious.  Neither myself nor my wife managed to get much sleep last night, because in our partially finished state…  the rain kept dripping off a metal plate just outside our window.  Which meant either try and sleep through this loud irregular dripping pattern, or sleep with the television loud enough to hopefully drown out the noise.  We did the later which means we never really slept that deeply, kinda like we do when there is a tornado warning and we end up with the weather blaring all night hoping we would wake up if we needed to take shelter.  As a result I am struggling a bit when it comes to stringing together thoughts into a sentence.  This is absolutely the sort of day that I would just say screw it and not blog…  but after several years of this madness I don’t really want to break the chain.  That’s the funny thing about doing the daily blogging thing… is after a point you really don’t want to do something to break the pattern of posts.  It is like the pattern itself becomes the important thing and not so much what I am writing about.

This weekend also was one where I did a surprisingly small amount of gaming.  We recorded the latest episode of AggroChat on Friday night this week, and during that I piddled around in Fallout 4.  Then as usual I stayed up way the hell too late wrapping up some minor details on the podcast.  Then Saturday we had the very first of our family “Christmas” activities, I say it in quotes because it is technically a dual purpose Thanksgiving and Christmas that we have with my wife’s dad and step mom.  They are snow birds and spend the winter in warmer climates… so for the last decade or so we have had this dual holiday day around Thanksgiving.  Thing is they keep pushing it up so they can get down South “before it gets cold”, and admittedly they have a really nice place down there so I don’t blame them.  It just ends up making for a strange holiday get together… when I am absolutely not even in Thanksgiving mode yet.  When I got home from that… I had every intent of taking a nap, but instead the contractors were banging on the wall of the bedroom which would have made sleep impossible.

As a result I pretty much sleep walked through the day until we went to bed that evening relatively early.  This is the point at which we realized that the drip was a thing… which woke us up about 4 am Sunday morning.  My wife just stayed up, and I attempted to sleep through it…  which I am guessing I eventually succeeded because it didn’t wake me up again until around 7:30.  Over the last several years we have pretty much ignored we had a back yard.  The siding had gotten bad and honestly everything back there was just overwhelming in that it all needed attention.  With the bedroom door thing leading out there, my wife has become determined to fix the problems back there and reclaim it as usable space.  Since we had a dumpster thanks to the construction folks…  she was damned determined to use that to take care of some stuff.  We had a few hour break in the rain, so my wife and I were trudging through the muddy back yard picking up things and carrying them to the dumpster.  I am surprisingly sore from this, even though all I really did was act as the person moving stuff from the backyard to the dumpster, and she did a lot of the brute force gathering stuff into piles for me to move.

Star Wars Pen and Paper

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The highlight of yesterday has to be our Star Wars pen and paper game.  The AggroChat crew and a few friends have been doing a fantasy flights Star Wars system game through Roll 20.  The way that game integrates with Roll 20 is amazing, and quite literally if you fill out your character sheet correctly all you have to do is push a single button when you want to do an attack.  I am assuming there is a lot more going on behind the scenes that Tam is doing to run the game, but for the most part… this is the best possible remote pen and paper experience.  Essentially we are a group of force users during the A New Hope era, with one significant monkey wrench thrown in.  My character is the one that does not fit…  I am not a nice person…  I never claimed to be.  My character has pretty much spent his entire life working as a Bodyguard/Hired Gun/Enforcer for one Hutt cartel after another.  The problem is… I get these “bad feelings” and often times my employers don’t heed my warnings and end up dead.  As a result I’ve developed this persona in the underworld of “Misfortune Mordren”, and it has been interesting to see how that is working out.

I built this persona because I thought it would be interesting to play… but apparently I am some sort of underworld bogeyman.  We had an instance yesterday where our craft was about to get boarded by some pirates, and the mere mention of my name…. and some really high deception rolls on the part of Kodra…  caused them to back off because they wanted absolutely nothing to do with me.  Apparently I am considered to be so “Bad Luck” that even after interdicting our ship…  it was not worth their time to try and take us on.  Then again there is a whole other side to this tale, because I am racking up quite the body count.  While I am playing a character from Edge of the Empire, we decided to make things easier and put me on the Force and Destiny conflict system.  I feel like I am not understanding this system… because every time I take conflict I cheer out loud.  Much to the horror of my otherwise party of “goody two shoes” that are trying desperately to avoid the Dark Side.  We walked into a gang base yesterday, and I opened fire before they had time to even speak.  To my defense though… I figure if you are in a gang on Nar Shadda you have made some poor life choices anyways.  Also to my defense Kodra did ask me to create a diversion…  so yeah I was just doing that.

Essentially I am becoming somewhat of the conflict sponge for my party, and I am perfectly fine in that role.  The thing is… I never said I wanted to be a light side character… and additionally I never said I was a “good guy”.  My character has spent his entire life living in Hutt territory, and in truth I am turning over a new leaf.  As a Hutt enforcer I would have been expected to torture every single one of these people I took down… just for good measure, because that is what Hutts do.  I have yet to feed a single one of them to some bizarre creature we are keeping in a pit to entertain the boss.  So simply taking them out cleaning… is a bit of a mercy from what I have been used to.  It is going to be interesting to see how my character and the rest of the party play out… as they so carefully use their stun settings…  and mine has dust on it because it has never been used once.  The game usually runs for several hours… and by the time it wraps up I just have enough time to grabs some food and head downstairs for my Sunday evening television time… including Walking Dead, Talking Dead… and now maybe Into the Badlands.  I watched the first episode last night and I have to say so far I am digging it heavily.



Week In Gaming 11/15/2015

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Two Times the Monday

I’ve mentioned this before, but this week we got off in the middle of it for Veterans Day.  While I completely support this holiday, I question the good of cutting a week down the middle.  What it basically created for me at least was a whole lot of time I seemed to be occupying space in a chair but not getting much accomplished… because individuals smarter than me ended up taking either the entire front half of the week off… or the entire back half of the week off.  Those people apparently did not coordinate well, which meant there was a skeleton crew on board and few of the people you actually needed to talk about this item or that available and ready to discuss.  My hope is this coming week we can make up ground for all of the perceived lost time from this fractured week.  On the gaming front though… this was a week entirely about Fallout 4.  However while prepping the AggroChat episode I watched another sequence play out on twitter that I am going to get into towards the end of the post.

Irrational Desire

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I am admitting here again that I am still struggling with an irrational desire to log in and play World of Warcraft.  I think part of it is simply because I know that as much as I loved Gladiator… it will be going away in the coming expansion.  Part of me wants to spend some more time playing as a DPS sword and board warrior while it still exists.  Then the rational mind kicks and tells me that there is still nothing really there for you.  The raid is gone, the guild is mostly gone…  there just isn’t an infrastructure to return to.  Similarly I realize that other than faffing about and running old content… there is nothing much there that I would really want to do.  This reached its peak over the weekend while I was anxiously wanting to play Fallout 4, but not able to do it yet without VPN hackery.  The problem is even though I am wallowing fully in the goodness that is post apocalyptic Boston…. there is still a bit of nostalgia tugging at my coat tails telling me that I would really like to log into World of Warcraft still.  I have a slew of new content to go experience in Final Fantasy XIV as well, so hopefully between it and Fallout 4… I will slowly quell this desire.  I am still really damned interested in seeing how Legion feels, so not giving up hopes on maybe being able to wrangle a beta invite somewhere…  but unfortunately I think my past points of access are no longer available.  If I had them I would have definitely tried to exercise one for access to Overwatch.

Viva New Vegas

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Monday night I got so low that I booted back up Fallout New Vegas and spent a good deal of time wandering around there.  I only managed to get as far as the Vikki and Vance casino before finally attempting to get Fallout 4 going.  I have to say…  it might be nostalgia talking… but I still absolutely love this game.  I even popped in for a bit this morning to get this screenshot… and there is absolutely a direct lineage between Fallout 3, New Vegas and 4.  The world feels the same… albeit considerably prettier in the newest incarnation.  I guess this is why in part folks who hated Fallout… still hate it… and the folks that loved it… are having some of the best times of their life.  New Vegas really raised the bar for the way the world felt, and it seems like Bethesda rose to the occasion and answered this narrative call.  That said… there is a part of me that kinda hopes that we end up with a DC Metro and New Vegas reboot using the Fallout 4 engine… much the same way as we have one of those under works for Morrowind and Oblivion using the Skyrim engine.  I would love to be able to roam around these areas with the fidelity that the new engine provides.  Even then…  I could still see myself returning to New Vegas time and time again…  and loving every moment of it.

Critical Mass

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The bulk of my week has been spent wandering around the Massachusetts area in the new Fallout 4 on the PC.  Firstly I have to say… I am pleased and amazed at just how good this game looks and how well it runs on my fairly aging hardware.  The game auto selected Ultra for me, and I have been playing on that since… with limited hick-ups.  The game runs between 50-60 fps at all times and just works flawlessly.  Folks are reporting all sorts of bugs… and honestly I haven’t really seen them other than the usual floating objects type issues when you are dealing with a complex open world game.  For example… if you remove a table out front under a vase…  there is a chance the vase will just hang there indefinitely rather than fall to the ground.  This sort of stuff does not bother me at all, and I come to expect it when a game has physics and the ability to place objects.  That said there are apparently a number of the traditional day one Bethesda bugs but I am happy to say that I have not encountered any of them… game breaking or not.  Maybe I am simply lucky, or maybe I just have not gotten far enough into the game to experience them.

According to steam I am roughly 50 hours into the game… the problem with that is that I accidentally left it running one day while at work… so you can discount about eight hours of that time as that event happening.  The rest of the time however is absolutely real… and I have built up at least partially every settlement that I have come across.  That is the part of the game that is the real hook for me… especially now that I have trade routes going between the towns.  I’ve said this before, but my big take away from why this game is more enjoyable than the previous incarnations is that it feels like I am actively making the world a better place.  In other Fallout games… you were the good guy, simply because you were killing off all of the bad guys in the world.  There was very little you could do to actually improve the lot of the other denizens of the wastes other than the occasional donation of money or fresh water.  In this game… from the very beginning you are actively improving segments of the world and making it a decent place to live in.  Sure the world is dangerous… but you are making it far less so for a group of settlers.  That right there is the hook, and when I am out in the wastes… every hotplate  and desk fan… excites me because I can go back and build something really cool with the parts.

Streaming and Games


While prepping this post today I watched a little exchange on twitter.  Essentially one of my friends challenged streamers to do more with the games they are streaming.  That it would be nice to have streamers take a mostly educational stance on either showing other gamers how to do something… or working through problems.  While I think that might be pretty cool, the truth is that is not at all why game companies seek out streamers.  I am going to give an analogy that is going to be a bit long winded, but stay with me.  I grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, and in this part of the land there are few things more important than High School sports.  I have my own damage thanks to this fact, and having no interest in sports at all… but that is a tale for another day.  In a small town the team is the center of pride for the community… and while high school athletics has the possibility of making money for a district… in a small town it is mostly a giant hole that you pour money down.  So when it came to maintaining facilities, it was always a struggle… and knowing this soft drink companies would often times ride in on a white horse to save the day.

There was not a small town anywhere near me that did not have either a big Pepsi logo or a big Coca-Cola logo on their score board.  Of note I have no clue who’s scoreboard this one actually is, but I am just using it to illustrate my point.  They would offer to sponsor the scoreboard, make sure the school district had a free supply of cups, lids and straws… brand new pop machines…  and a discounted rate on the soda itself just so long as they would sign an exclusive contract with the brand and only allow their products to be sold at school events.  The schools needed the goods they were offering… and could make money selling the product which then would end up supporting the school.  Pepsi got advertising out of the deal and more than likely converted a good segment of the townsfolk into loyal Pepsi or Coke drinkers for life.  My small town had Pepsi and it is probably no small coincidence that I grew up in a household that drank Pepsi and still drink predominately Pepsi products.  The indoctrination works, and goes back for generations… so much so that when a school changes affiliation there is often times an uproar in the community.

But What about Streaming?

So you are asking yourself… Bel… you just told us an elaborate story… but you said it was about streaming?  This is precisely what is happening with game companies and streamers.  There is a natural symbiosis at work.  The gamers need a fresh supply of whatever happens to be the hotly contested games to stream, in order to keep the eyeballs on their channel, and the companies need to have their games placed strategically on as many channels with as many eyeballs as possible.  So even if there is no payola happening under the table… the streamers are actively promoting the products of these games companies.  In fact there is a not so subtle desire on the part of the streamers to keep from burning any bridges with a company… because that could very well mean that they would lose their privileged access to new releases.  On the part of the company… all they really want out of the deal is for this streamer to look like they are having a really good time playing their product, that way someone leaves the channel and gets convinced to subscribe or pre-order because it looked so appealing.

Sure it would make sense for them to serve a greater educational purpose… but honestly…  the big popular streams aren’t doing this.  The popular streamers are entertainers first and foremost.  They are selling themselves playing this game more than the game itself.  They build up loyal followings because the people are interested in the person, not so much what they are doing.  The advertising still works however because it is subtle.  They might have their back wall decorated in products of the company they are streaming for, or be wearing branded merchandise that the company provided…  or even giving away items for the game on their streams.  While all of these seems fairly natural and filters into our subconscious as benign… it is absolutely planned branding and ultimately we are the dollars that the companies and the streamers are trying to get.  Once upon a time… game companies cared deeply about what the blogosphere was saying about their game.  That time unfortunately is over, and over the last few months I have come to realize something.  Blogging is not dead by any means…  and nor is Podcasting really…  but in the gaming sphere neither are they growing.  Once you leave the land of MMO gaming… you are hard pressed to find ANY blogs devoted to games.

For example I have crawled the internet trying to find a source of news and information about Destiny other than Reddit.  There is simply no one out there blogging on a regular basis and producing content explaining how the finer points of the game work.  There are however hundreds of YouTube channels and streamers devoted to this niche.  There are almost no blogs devoted to Call of Duty, but similarly there are thousands of channels devoted to it.  While blogging was the comfort zone of my generation that grew up reading game forums…  and podcasting is the natural extension of that…  the next generation no longer really cares about it.  They are completely connected to YouTube and Twitch as their game information sources, and as a result…  I feel like the bloggers really don’t have much sway.  I am not trying to do this as a living, so in the grand scheme of thing it doesn’t matter too much other than the fact that I don’t have much of a shot in hell of getting into this exclusive alpha or that limited beta.  The companies know exactly what they are doing… and quite simply they are playing the numbers.  They are putting their product in front of as many eyeballs as they can, and doing so in the medium that has the largest majority of those eyeballs…  Twitch and YouTube.