Archive for Talyn

Goodbye Dinklebot

#Blaugust Day 4

Finally, a gaming-related post!

This morning Game Informer published an article that surprised me with the news that Bungie is erasing Peter Dinklage’s voice acting as the Ghost, and replacing his work with that of veteran voice actor Nolan North. North is re-doing Dinklage’s lines as well as all-new lines for all the DLC expansions: The Dark Below, House of Wolves, and the upcoming The Taken King.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Nolan North’s work. Quite a bit. For my part, not having seen any behind the scenes footage (if any exists) of how Dinklage was directed for his work, I have always been under the impression that first and foremost the dialogue he was given was banal. That’s the most complimentary thing I can say about Destiny’s writing. I thought Dinklage did the best with the rubbish lines he was given, and listening to them repeatedly (I play Destiny a lot) it feels like he was given little to no direction of what was taking place. Nolan North has the advantage of coming in with the game already having been released for nearly a year and plenty of direction and feedback on the events in the game.

Even I noticed an improvement in Bungie’s handling of Dinklage’s voice-overs from Alpha to Beta to launch. Simply adding the mechanical audio filter helped quite a bit; the Alpha was simply Dinklage’s voice, which was odd but hey, it was Alpha.

Also, because as I’ve always said: Gamers are Hypocrites, I’ll go ahead and predict there will be some Destiny Conservatives who want things to remain as they are, or protesters who demand (because we’re entitled; we don’t politely request anymore) Dinklebot DLC to restore the original voice work.

 

One Off the Bucket List

#Blaugust Day 3

Another non-gaming post! I’m at work and writing this on my Nexus 7 tablet so it will probably be short. I took a lot of pics with my phone so I’ll see if I can manage to get them into the post prior to publishing or if I’ll have to wait till tomorrow when I’m home.

Not that I have an official Bucket List, and if I did this wouldn’t have been on it, but now that I’m here I can simultaneously add it and check it off that nonexistent list.

I’m in LA (technically I’m in Long Beach) for the first time at the new job. I’m told the prior LAX hotel was really old and this past winter had to hand out space heaters. You can guess what happened next… So the company’s been putting crews in the Queen Mary until a new permanent hotel is contracted.

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I’m not all that big on history or old things so I’d never even heard of the Queen Mary, hence not being on the Bucket List I don’t have. This is one old ship too! Built in the 1930s it used to be one of the premier cruise ships back then. When WWII broke out, it was refitted as a troop transport called the Grey Ghost. Then in ’47 retrofitted back to a cruise ship for the next two decades until being retired as an historic landmark and hotel here in Long Beach in 1967.

It’s kinda cool overall, something to say I’ve done once. Lot of old dark wood everywhere. They do have modern-ish amenities at least. They really need to do something about the water used for the toilets, though, because of my gawd the smell! I was questioning the wisdom of taking a shower but I spent about 5 hours walking around Long Beach today and there was no way I was going to work smelling like a locker room. I guess the showers use a separate water system or something?

Speaking of showers, I was a bit confused when I saw four knobs for the shower. Hot Fresh, Cold Fresh, Hot Salt, Cold Salt. Now, I live near the beach and I’m here to tell you, you shower when you’re home from the beach to get the salt off you because it makes your skin feel sticky and dirty. I don’t know what the deal was in the ancient early 20th century but why they’d want salt water showers is beyond me. Anyway, turns out those are just for display now, there’s a smaller central knob that controls the actual water.

I’m flying the “red eye” back to base tonight, and I still haven’t managed to figure out how to make that work for me. The flight out to the West coast is always fine because they depart anywhere from 1600 to 2100 Eastern. Left to my own devices, I’m up till midnight or 0100 anyway. But the “red eye” leg back East kills me flying all night, then commuting home to Florida and having a full day’s activity once I’m there. What I try to do is get at least 4 hours’ sleep beforehand, which doesn’t always work, and does always require the assistance of over the counter sleep aids. I’m writing this as I attempt to wind down, in fact.

That said, this is enough mobile blogging for one day. Catch you Blaugusters tomorrow!

RIP Roddy Piper #Blaugust Day 2

This past Thursday, legendary WWE performer “Rowdy” Roddy Piper passed away quietly in his sleep at age 61.

WWE_Roddy_Piper

I haven’t watched WWE or any other professional wrestling league in decades but Roddy Piper was always one of my favorites growing up. He made it cool to be the Bad Guy. He was easily the greatest “villain” I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. His in-character persona was so outrageous that you just had to watch and see what he was going to do or say next.

One of the few times I ever went to see a live wrestling show, Roddy Piper was in one of the main matches leading up to the main event: Hulk Hogan. I don’t remember what year it was, but it had to have been between ’84 and ’87 I’m guessing. I got my driver’s license summer of ’84 anyway so it wasn’t before that. The match was Roddy Piper versus Tommy Rich. At the time, Tommy Rich was one of the “pretty boys” that everyone loved to cheer. Not that I didn’t enjoy some of his matches but hey, I was a teenager and teens can be contrarian just for the sake of being contrarian. So my friends who were into wrestling did just that. So Roddy comes in the ring while the announcer is still talking. I don’t remember if Roddy had grabbed the mic to do a pre-match monologue or not but the announcer said something and my buddy Todd and I loudly whooped and cheered for Piper. Guess what? HE HEARD US!!! Back then, it wasn’t cool yet to really cheer for the villain so it was pretty quiet in Hara Arena overall while the audience listened to the announcer and got ready for whatever was next. So Roddy Piper hears us cheer — we’re not that far from the ring, either — and turns to look at us. He gave us a combination legitimate smile as if to say “hey, thanks, I appreciate that,” but also a “what the hell are you idiots cheering the bad guy for?” look.  The fans around us at first just glared at us for daring to root against Tommy “Wildfire” Rich, then when Roddy Piper acknowledged us they were all “aww man, I hope Tommy Rich smiles at us.” Posers.

Anyhoo, Piper beats the snot out of Rich and they carry Rich out of the arena on a stretcher, his face all covered in fake wrestling blood. Todd and I are sitting right against the corridor where they’re taking him so Todd leans over the railing and yells right in his face “Bleed, Rich! Bleed!” to the horror of all the girls and Tommy Rich fans nearby. LOL

Anyway, that’s my one and only time seeing “Rowdy” Roddy Piper perform live.

Let’s not forget his starring role as Nada in John Carpenter’s cult classic 1988 movie “They Live,” either. Some classic lines in that film, and Piper had to have been one of the main inspirations for Duke Nukem. I mean c’mon: “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubblegum,” was lifted by voice actor Jon St. John in Duke Nukem 3D when he said “It’s time to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and I’m all out of gum.” Piper ad-libbed that line in the film, by the way.

Now retired from wrestling, Piper was still active podcasting and making appearances. He continued “Piper’s Pit” into his own podcast, which was recently yanked when a guest said something in Episode 63 that offended “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who has his own podcast on the same network, PodcastOne. Piper’s Pit is still available on SoundCloud, however.

He was active on Twitter until the end.

Outside the ring where he doesn’t have to be in-character, Roddy Piper has also been affiliated with Stand for the Silent, an anti-bullying organization.

Official Rowdy Roddy Piper Site

Rest in Peace, Hot Rod. Your antics during your performances gave me some good laughs and fond memories growing up.

#Blaugust Hey, told ya there would be non-gaming posts! I didn’t waste any time, did I!? 😀

Blaaaah-g-assed

blaugust_2015_logo

So. Was doing semi-OK (for me) about blogging this year. A few posts a month. That’s more than I usually do lately. But… it’s Blaugust and dammit maybe something insane like this is what I need to force me to write a little every day?

I often tend towards “meaty” posts. Sometimes “meaty” turns into “colossal wall of text” but hey, ya take what ya can get from me, right? Being obligated to blog daily means this month will contain some smaller posts and non-gaming posts because a) I don’t always have something gaming-related I feel the need to write about, and b) my job keeps me away from home half the month so I’ll be mobile blogging for those and I have pretty much zero patience for tapping out meaty posts on a phone’s teeny virtual keypad.

My concern — and for good reason — is that sure, today it’s August 1 and I’m all “Yeah! I’m gonna go for Blaugust!” Then I wake up tomorrow and either forget about it or completely change my mind about the whole thing. Hence the… hesitant… title of today’s Day 1 post. I’m afraid I’ll end up unintentionally half-assing it. Today though? I’m fired up about at least writing something here daily for one month.

I already have the topic for tomorrow’s post in my head, so that’s a start!

Xbox One: Full Circle

“I’m an Xbox kinda guy.” Been saying that for years now. I used to be a PlayStation guy, but that’s because PS1 and especially PS2 was where it was at. Then a buddy talked me into trading my PS2 for an Xbox (the original) and “that’s all she wrote.” Had a blast with the Xbox but when the Xbox 360 came around, whew, that just really connected (not Kinected!) with me. I was in a very anti-Sony phase in my life so I avoided every Sony product imaginable except their movies. Nothing specifically against the PlayStation division, though I certainly ragged on the inferior PS3 fairly mercilessly over its lifespan. It didn’t help matters that the PS division came off as very arrogant, which made it all the more satisfying when the 360 trounced it in sales for years.

However. When the current generation came around, I was all set to get an Xbox One up until I started watching those pre-launch hype presentations from E3 and the like. Like many people, I was left scratching my head wondering “what about the games?” Cable TV? Multimedia box? What the hell? I just want to play awesome games. Then came the hardware specs. It seemed this time, the roles had reversed, and Sony was more humbled and just wanted to put out a gaming console whereas now Microsoft was the arrogant party who assumed they could just coast by on the 360’s reputation and do whatever they wanted, inferior technology be damned.

So, thanks to heavy persuasion on the part of a few social media friends, Pete from Dragonchasers in particular, I went with the PlayStation 4 first this time. I already own and enjoy a Vita which helped me get over that initial “I Can’t Believe I’m Buying Sony” hurdle. I’m glad they did, and again, Pete in particular. I feel like, to some extent, I’ve “gotten over myself” a little bit when it comes to PS vs Xbox and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing the handful of PS4 titles I have.

Today, however, I took advantage of the final day of Microsoft’s trade-up program, and traded in my 360 Slim for a new 1TB Xbox One!

It feels so great to be back in Xbox land! Oh, the One isn’t perfect by any means, but it feels like home. Mostly. I can use my bumper buttons to scroll between “category tabs” (my term) again. PS4 won’t do that. Not that it matters, really, since on PS4 you have to intentionally scroll up to the menu bar. The Metro (-esque?) UI on the Xbox One in my opinion fits a console much better than it does a desktop PC environment. I’m not sure exactly what the new OS will look like this fall, but they keep saying it will be a dramatic improvement in performance. Which will be great. The Xbox One UI has a bit of lag to it. Nothing like the Xbox 360 at least, but it’s still noticeable. The Achievement overlay in particular is noticeably taxing the CPU; if you didn’t notice the Metro lag, you will certainly notice the difficulty it’s having giving you an achievement notification.

By far the most annoying “feature” I’ve come across in my few hours fiddling with the One today is there isn’t really a cutoff to the “go back” clipboard. Normally in Xbox applications, the B button is for Back. However, if you back out of whatever you’re doing and pressed the B button again (spamming it, or in my case simply not having each facet of the UI memorized) it will re-launch the last application or game you had running. I’ve lost count how many times today I’ve swore then had to press the Xbox Guide button to “tab” out of the game then exit the game. I don’t know who thought that was a good idea, but that person deserves a Gibbs Slap to the back of the head.

Gripes aside, if I’m being totally honest with myself, had I gone with the Xbox One at launch like I’d originally intended, I probably would have been perfectly happy with it and just stuck with it as my only console. Now, thanks to Pete and a few others, I have both consoles and can enjoy each platforms exclusives. The only downside now is that I will have to actually choose which one to get the multiplatform games on! Which friends are getting which game on which platform? Ugh! But that’s not a bad “First World Problem” to have is it? :)

 

Bethesda E3 Showcase

I happened to glance at Google Plus last night while trading in Elite Dangerous and saw that Bethesda was doing a showcase stream at E3. “What the heck,” I thought, nothing else on TV.

For me, the only two interesting bits — for different reasons — were Doom and Fallout 4. I didn’t play Dishonored so the sequel holds no attraction, and Battlecry looked like something that will be dropped and forgotten just as quickly as it was picked up. Judging from the polite golf clap applause after the presentation, I’m not the only one who felt that way.

DOOM

So. Doom. They didn’t even bother saying Doom 4, just plain Doom. I know the name “Doom” is nostalgic for a lot of people, so that was probably a good title to start the show off with, but for me it was an incredibly unexciting presentation. First off, I was never a Doom fan. At all. I first got into PC gaming (coming from Amiga) right when Doom and Duke3D were big. I played them both, and preferred Duke. Each had equally horrible graphics and sound, but Duke had stupid tongue-in-cheek humor which, for me, gave it an edge up. I didn’t become an id fan until the first two titles in the Quake series. However, despite Quake and QuakeWorld getting me heavily into the first person shooter genre, and playing competitively in Quake 2, I’ve said for years that id makes great tech, not great games.

DoomE3

Doom today is the same as Doom then, just prettier. (Although I was dismayed that idtech still has very plastic-looking textures.) High-speed arena combat and power-ups… everything I got sick and tired of two decades ago. When they showed the multiplayer part, all that came to mind was “oh, it’s Quake 3 Arena with Doom textures.” But that’s ok. I’m a firm believer that not every game has to be for everyone, just like not everyone plays a given game the same way. There are still fans today of the original Doom gameplay and this is for them, but perhaps more importantly there’s a whole new generation who did not grow up on arena shooters. I am not the target demographic for Doom, and that’s fine with me.

The flip side of the first sentence of the previous paragraph is “well, of course it’s the same now as then.” Any given franchise, despite changes for better or worse, always has a few key elements that define that franchise. An Assassin’s Creed game without the acrobatic combat, parkour, blending into crowds, etc. wouldn’t be an Assassin’s Creed game anymore, for example. That’s a sentiment I wish Hollywood would realize: when you “reboot” a franchise and the end result bears no resemblance to the original, it’s no longer that franchise — it’s something different and would have been better served being treated as such.

Not to be totally negative on Doom, I did like that they recognize recent trends in shooters and added a variety of melee moves that looked brutal and interesting. I felt they could have gone the extra step and added similar moves for the jumping and climbing a la Far Cry 3 and 4 but all in all, good stuff.

FALLOUT 4

The main event! I’ll be honest, I’m not all that much of a Fallout fan. I never played the first two 2D games. I still own Fallout 3 on Xbox 360, and two summers ago I was going pretty heavy on purpose to try to finish it but obviously that didn’t happen. That said, I definitely see the attraction.

Now, last week when Bethesda released the teaser trailer, I was less than impressed. I mean, it’s 2015, those flat textures on that dog and hell, you can practically see the polygons and meshes for the model… ugh. It looked more like a Fallout 3 mod than anything, so I can’t say I had high hopes for Fallout 4. Last night, however, alleviated all those worries. Their next-gen Creation Engine (still unfortunately with some legacy Gamebryo code, but whatever) looks fantastic, the world looks more varied than what I remember from Fallout 3 and I’m exceedingly happy that Bethesda is finally embracing the third-person view with quality animations. Something that definitely could not be said about Fallout 3. Skyrim was mostly playable in third-person except for narrow dungeon corridors and a few combat bits, and what we saw of Fallout 4 is a drastic improvement over Skyrim’s third-person.

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I’m looking forward to what Bethesda has done with both the narrative story aspect and having your character voiced. Todd Howard mentioned it was a big decision for them to go with a voiced protagonist. I usually enjoy that, at least more often than not so I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like.

One new feature that really caught my eye was the addition of the base building mechanic. Build your own city, defenses, etc.

fallout4-e3-building

I’ve recently tried a handful of games in the so-called “Survival” genre. Savage Lands. Rust. ARK: Survival Evolved. The first thing that came to mind when I saw the crafting and building part of Fallout 4 was that Bethesda should totally wait a few months after launch then release an official Fallout 4-based multiplayer survival game priced around $25 to $30.

Bethesda’s little mobile game Fallout Shelter looked like a cute little time-waster, and something I possibly would have been interested in trying but they chose to make it (at least for now?) iOS-exclusive. That’s a shame, given iOS is down to 36% market share in the US but Todd Howard pretty much admitted they were Apple fanboys, so whatever.

Let’s see what the rest of E3 2015 has to offer!

My (Current) Wishlist for Elite: Dangerous

The beta for the “Power Play” Update 1.3 just went live this week, and it looks like it should add quite a bit of nuance to the game. Frontier Developments definitely seems anxious for player feedback and have already made several changes to the beta based on that feedback. Mind you, I’m just reading the forums and reddit; I can’t access the beta as I did not support the Kickstarter.

Power Play is already adding a handful of things that were on my wishlist, but I certainly have more. Things which potentially have an affect on my game on a daily basis, based on the way I am currently playing anyway. Here are my Top 4 as of today:

Group Chat

I play probably 99% of the time the Mobius private group. I wish there was a “global” (galactic?) channel for when you’re playing in Private Group mode. Currently there is only Local, Wing, or Direct messaging another player. I see Mobius pilots from time to time (especially this week as many of us are working on the bounty hunting Community Goal) but it sure would be nice to be able to chat with them at will. Supercruise is by far one of the most boring aspects of the game, you’re just sitting there aiming at your destination, twiddling your thumbs. In an MMO, the “boring” or “downtime” aspects of the game is especially where I want to see players chatting, whether I only read it or if I participate in the conversations. Makes the game feel more “alive.” Elite isn’t an MMO per se but I see no reason a larger scale chat couldn’t be feasible.

Power Play is adding a live GalNet stream to our ships so we can keep up on current news, so taking that into consideration I see no reason a Galactic Relay Chat (GRC) could not be a game feature. I almost never play in Open but I suppose that makes (even more?) sense there, as well. Conversation and coordination. Hell, right now I am up for promotion within both the Federation and the Empire, but those promotions are to assassinate generals who are flying elite Anacondas. I doubt I can pull that off solo, but there’s no way in-game to recruit assistance.

Repair Drones

Power Play is adding Cargo/Mining (collection) drones, Fuel Transfer drones, and Prospector drones. I’m going out on a limb and assuming that the fuel transfer drones allow a player with drones equipped to fly to another player who has ran out of fuel and transfer some fuel to him? I’d like to see Repair drones added as well. Just yesterday while working on the Community Goal, an Anaconda (forget the pilot rank, might have been elite because he was crazy good) targeted and destroyed my Viper’s thrusters. So I went spinning off into space, the rest of my ship fully healthy but no thrusters to get myself to a station. I tried the Reboot/Repair option (added in the 1.2 Wings update) but that also repeatedly failed to fix the thrusters. So I had no choice but to self-destruct, losing roughly 4 million credits in bounties plus the re-buy cost for my Viper.

Wouldn’t it have been nice if upon reaching 0% on my thrusters, my ship had sent out a distress beacon over N light years and a player or NPC could get a job to come repair me? Repair (and Fuel Transfer also) jobs could be added to the revamped mission structure and would be an additional path for non-combat jobs for both credits and potentially reputation as well, if the customer was a high-ranking NPC (or player?) in whatever faction. Starpoint Gemini 2 has a lot of jobs to repair structures, so why can’t Elite have jobs to repair ships? I’d say to even tow the ship back to port but apparently in 1200 years we still haven’t invented tractor beams.

Ship Transportation

I currently have two ships: the Viper which I use for bounty hunting, and a Lakon Type 6 Transporter which I recently bought for trading. I bought the Type 6 at whatever system the Community Goal was a couple weeks ago, which means that’s now a permanent “home” base. Though as it turns out, it’s a rather inconvenient location for doing anything other than the one trade route someone gave me. I would love to have the ability to pay a fee to have my ship transported to a system of my choosing. It can take real-time, and either require that I fly a different ship or that I be offline during the transport. Either is fine by me. I like having choices, and what I’m finding is that apparently I should have done a ton of homework out of game and decided on a “home” system before buying a second ship. I wish there was some means of accommodating the transportation of player ships at a cost. I don’t think there are any player ships capable of transporting another ship so that would have to be an NPC function.

Rank Notification

Power Play is adding progress bars so you can see how close to the next rank of Combat, Trade or Explorer you are but I haven’t heard anything about actually notifying the player that a new rank has been achieved. Either a simple notification from your ship’s computer or GalNet or whatever would suffice, but if they really wanted to beef things up, perhaps a special job to officially attain the new rank? I see promotion missions for the major powers (as I mentioned above, I’m due for both Federation and Empire promotions) so why not additional job paths for non-Power-related ranks? Regardless, seriously, at a bare minimum there should be some sort of notification so the player can do a little “yay me!” right then and there, instead of when he randomly happens to check that panel and notices the change.

Just this morning I saw my Combat rank is now Expert. No clue exactly when that happened; either last night or this morning. I think? Would have been great to have been notified of that!

Cooperative Gaming and Being Sociable

Earlier this month, Texas Tech University published a highly questionable study about the effects of “violent” video games and cooperative play versus competitive play. I only read the article once, and very quickly at that, but one take-away was that it was pre-disposed toward an anti-videogame bias from the get-go with the overuse of the word “violent” at every turn. While they kept using the term “pro-social behavior” what they were really measuring were the subjects’ level of aggression — or empathy — toward their fellow players. Unsurprisingly, the subjects were drastically less aggressive to their cooperative partners. No duh, right?

So yesterday, Engadget picked up on the study and wrote about it with the headline Gaming cooperatively makes you more sociable, scientists say. But apparently being a paid writer does not give you the knowledge that headlines are to be capitalized. Anyway.

Really? Being less aggressive, or perhaps more empathetic, equates to being sociable?

: liking to be with and talk to other people
: involving or allowing friendly and pleasant social relations

Source: Merriam-Webster

: inclined to associate with or be in the company of others
: friendly or agreeable in company; companionable
: characterized by agreeable companionship

I don’t know about you, but pretty much any definition of “sociable” doesn’t necessarily equate with aggression levels.

But let’s take the TTU article out of the equation and just take the statement in Engadget’s headline at face value. “Gaming cooperatively can make you more sociable.” I can attest the truth of this statement for myself. For all my textual chatting over the years, from BBS to USENET to IRC to instant messaging to email to texting to Twitter and other social media, I’ve always been far more “sociable” via typing than any other means of communicating.

I’m relatively certain I’ve written similar things before, probably even here on this blog but hey, that’s what we do on blogs: occasionally re-hash topics, right? :)

At the risk of appearing to pat myself on the back, I’ll go ahead and state that I was one of the more popular regular IRC help-deskers back in the mid-90’s because I always had some funny quip along with boatloads of knowledge. I helped the people who asked for help as best as I could and in the downtime I was very chatty and we all kept each other entertained. I still keep in touch with a few of the other help-deskers today.

The same went for my early days of online gaming. Probably starting with Air Warrior, as I seem to recall being active on their “forum” (was it even called a forum back then?) but certainly with my foray into MMO’s, with Star Wars Galaxies and World of Warcraft being tops of my list for “how sociable was I?” Next would be Lord of the Rings Online, as I was not only playing pretty hardcore but very active in my guild chat, the GLFF user chat, and other custom channels for other guilds and friends I was acquainted with. Then things went downhill for me and being sociable in MMOs. Until Star Trek Online anyway, but even then, the past year or so I still read all the chats but I very rarely participate. But I do enjoy that feeling, and via text I still have… I suppose that vague sense of anonymity might be a factor but it’s mainly that I’ve never felt I’m a very good conversationalist. If I’m typing my reply, well that takes time, and I can take advantage of that time to think of what I want to say and how I want to say it, perhaps even edit myself a time or few before pressing the Enter key. But face-to-face or voice-chatting? Whoah, now I’m back to feeling a bit more insecurity about my self-perceived lack of conversation skill. I’ve known people like say, Chris over at LevelCapped.com or Pete at Dragonchasers.com for years online. We type at one another daily on Google+ or Twitter. We’re all quite loquacious. But stick me on a voice chat with those same people, and I’m quiet to the point of them wondering if I’m still there. Because, while I “know” them via typing, for me putting a voice and realtime communication into the mix, it becomes more “real” for lack of a better term. I stumble and stutter and freeze up a lot of the time because I don’t know them as well in that more “real” environment as I do in a more “distant” text-based environment. Or something.

The good thing is that’s something that gets better the more I do it. I was equally as quiet several years ago when Aaron from Anyway Games and Oakstout and I were heavily into gaming together on our Xbox 360s. But we did it so often that it wasn’t long before I was just as talkative over voice as I am over text. For any number of reasons, I’ve obviously gotten away from that and my “online social confidence” (as I phrased it in my Hopes for 2015 section of last year’s final post) has waned dramatically.

So what am I doing about it? To start off, I’ve done quite a bit of Toukiden Kiwami co-op with a couple guys from AGE. Also some Marvel Heroes 2015 over Steam Voice chat with some other online friends. The main guy I played Toukiden with got me into my first Destiny raid (Crota’s End) recently, where we took down Crota and me being the brand-new guy, I won the best rocket launcher the game had to offer. LOL! I’m trying to be more active (posting video clips, screenshots and comments) in the Forge Early Access client. I’ve already committed myself to playing Elder Scrolls Online and The Old Republic this summer, and that includes the group content so I’ll be working on making a few in-game social contacts plus doing the queues and seeing how things go with pick-up groups. From there, hopefully I’ll find new guilds that are friendly and that I click with. Ideally, I’d like to find something that Chris, Pete and I all enjoy and are each willing to play cooperatively because out of everyone on my social media feeds these days, those two are the ones I type with the most and whose opinions I respect the most, yet we’ve spent the least amount of time doing coop-with-voice so I’m still the most nervous or insecure around them. That needs to change!

Conan Had an Anniversary and No One Noticed

Yesterday marked the 7th anniversary for Funcom’s Age of Conan. They’re celebrating it with the release of the Hyborian Tales: Shadow of Vanaheim content pack. Far as I could tell from my Twitter feed and my Google+ circles, no one noticed whatsoever. Even I didn’t find out until later in the evening. Kinda sad, really, especially when many of appear to get a kick out of being semi-on-top of MMO “news” or developer releases.

But even here on my own blog, the last time I wrote about Age of Conan was in 2010 when they announced the offline leveling mechanic. I like the game. Always did. It just never got any traction with me because not a single one of my online friends played the game and I never bothered finding an AoC-native guild.

Sometimes I wonder if AoC would be more successful if they did yet another revamp — this time to Buy-to-Play (B2P) like The Secret World? Maybe not, since Funcom can’t seem to catch a break (see their 2015 Q1 Financial Report) and even their latest LEGO Minifigures Online is proving challenging to monetize. The report states they will be converting LEGOMO (ha! — I could easily make a parody of a Styx song… but I won’t) to a B2P model as it’s F2P model isn’t working out and TSW and AoC are still the company’s biggest moneymakers.

I have an idea. Well, a concept. The nucleus of an idea.

I’ve already committed my summer — MMO-wise — to Elder Scrolls Online and The Old Republic. Perhaps in the fall or winter, I’m thinking I’d like to try to connect with at least 6 other like-minded individuals within my little social network spheres and setup a “static” group. Meaning we only adventure together. Which therefore means everyone will be at the mercy of my schedule, something I’ve been very much against doing to anyone else, but for this idea I don’t see any way around that, unfortunately. What I’d like to do is ideally take our low- to mid-level characters (no sense starting new ones and prolonging things unless everyone else insists?) and try to get through all the Age of Conan content, including the dungeons, though not the raids.

I know some people still have fond memories of Age of Conan, I wonder if over the coming months I could convince enough people to make a temporary stop to fully enjoy the content the game offers?

Reloaded: Double-Barreled

I don’t get me, sometimes. Really, I just don’t. I’ve been in an MMO Malaise yet again for quite some time now. I did re-subscribe to Elder Scrolls Online a few months ago when they announced the whole Buy2Play and Console Character Transfer stuff. I logged in once when I first re-subbed, ran around town, logged out. Think I logged in again maybe a month later, and did the same thing.

I just haven’t been in the mood whatsoever for the “traditional” MMO, or MMO questing, or much of anything else.

Then last week one of the big discussions on Google+ was that Star Wars: The Old Republic brought back their 12x XP for Story Quests. The MMO Hopping Bandwagon jumped right on that, and for reasons I’ve yet to explain to myself, somehow I wound up over on my BioWare account page resubscribing to TOR despite less than zero interest in actually playing an MMO.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Mind you, I never disliked TOR like some people have. I had a few gripes with the game — and still do — but overall I thought it was a perfectly fine take on the traditional MMO, and for my two cents all the cinematics and voiceovers make me want to do the side quests whether or not I or my character care about the side quest narrative. I think the main reasons I’ve stopped playing so quickly in the past are two-fold: The previous times I was headed into an MMO Malaise phase and TOR just happened to be the last straw that broke my camel’s back, and that the guild I joined imploded, which is typical for MMO Blogger Guilds in my experience.

This time, maybe the MMO Malaise is wearing off and I’m coming into a more positive mindset where MMOs are concerned because TOR is really clicking with me this time. I’ve been doing every side quest I can find interspersed with my Sith Warrior’s story quests, learning more about how some of my class mechanics work and how gear modding works so my Juggernaut is now quite the badass! He finished up Balmorra yesterday morning and is continuing his story on Nar Shadaa, currently at level 29 and very happily using Malavai Quinn as his new questing companion. I’ve only had Vette up til now and while she’s fun, I spend time after every fight using the Channel Rage ability to heal my Juggernaut for the next fight. Quinn is a healer companion and a darn good one so far; I haven’t stopped to heal myself a single time since Quinn joined the crew.

I’ve learned quite a bit the past week, and now that I’m leveling up and getting more abilities I’m starting to sorta-kinda get what I hope is a decent tanking rotation down. One major derp I had yesterday was very impulsively deciding to get into crafting. D’ravendaar previously had Bioanalysis (gathering) and Biochem (crafting) but without looking anything up whatsoever I decided no, Synthweaving sounded cool because D’rav uses the Force after all so why not craft his armor? So I switched. Then I heard about Artificing, which is crafting stuff for lightsabers. Ok, he definitely needs that, so I switched again. Then two things happened back-to-back. First, I used my head after the fact and remembered TOR is a traditional MMO, which means “themepark” which therefore means the best gear is from dungeons or raids, not crafted. Then I was taught about moddable gear because I just happened to hit the right level to start using some then learning that gear can stay with you because the mods you install determine the gear’s level. Then I asked Google what crafting profession is best for Juggernauts. You guessed it: Biochem for potions to help keep me alive, and of course by switching professions, I just lost all my progress! So a trip back to the first two low-level planets was in order to gather materials to re-level the crafting and gathering skills. In the meantime, I used commendations on the Imperial Fleet to get mostly orange moddable gear, only missing a couple pieces now, but could not for the life of me find a main-hand lightsaber. A player offered to give me one so we grouped up, he visited his bank and brought me a brand-new “level 1″ orange quality lightsaber and I promptly went to the mod vendor and cranked the lightsaber up to my level with tanking stats! He hung out for awhile giving me more tips and answering my questions. Friendly players for the win!

Only thing I haven’t done yet is group activity: Heroic quests and Flashpoints. I think I’m comfortable enough with the skills to be able to pull it off now so those are on the agenda for next week when I get back from work. That’s really the only downside I see to choosing this class: tanking is stressful for me, especially for public groups where players brutally and viciously blame the tank for every little thing. Healing is way less stressful. I never really understood why groups evolved to have the tank lead the group, either. Back in my “vanilla” World of Warcraft raiding days, I could lead just fine on my healing-spec druid because she was standing out of the way. Tanks are friggin’ busy, who has time to handle the aggro, the positioning and lead the entire group or raid while being face-first into a huge boss’ torso? I was the same in my Lord of the Rings Online hardcore days, I could lead wonderfully with my Lore-master because, again, she’s out of the way with a way better picture of the overall fight than being down in the middle of it. I would even make some of the pulls because I had long-range but very low-damage abilities and could position myself to have the mobs pulled directly to where the tank wanted to pick them up. Those were the days… But whatever, now everyone relies on the tank to do everything for them. I’d love to have a friendly guild, and maybe that will have to be on my agenda too. The 12xp is rumored to last until Autumn so the current plan is to maintain the subscription til it’s over, then decide where my headspace is and whether I want to continue or move along to something else.

Elder Scrolls Online

Talk about unexpected! As I’d mentioned above, I’ve been subbed to ESO for two or three months now but the most I’ve maybe done is complete one quest? TOR was down for a patch and maintenance this morning and for whatever reason my mouse wandered over the ESO icon. I stuck with it for awhile and did a few quests on my Templar. I never really had a plan set in stone for that class other than I wanted to be able to do my quests and switch to heal in groups. The Templar seems like a very amorphous class which can handle pretty much every Trinity role, and consequently I’ve had a mismatch of light, medium and heavy armor pieces and primarily using a bow to hopefully kill things from range. I have a little time using one-handed plus shield but I stuck mostly with the bow just like in Skyrim.

I was getting by with the bow and all my whatever-the-hell-drops gear but that’s about it. A lot of fights were very close, with me barely getting off a heal plus using my healing potion quickslot. But at some point the bug hit me again and now I have an interest in actually playing ESO! I suspect this is also two-fold: first, because my Templar is DPS and Healing so the stress level is so much lower for groups, and also because the console launch of ESO is coming next month. Either Bethesda or Zenimax Online Studios had a promotion going on last month where PC players who had pre-ordered the Imperial Edition (that’d be me) could get a console edition for a mere $20 so I jumped on that for PlayStation 4. On PC I’m still in Belghast’s Stalwart guild but that guild has also imploded except for me and one other guy. On PS4 I’ll have all the AGE guys to guild with. Either way, I now own both and the game is B2P so far as I’m concerned I can switch back and forth, just my PS4 character won’t have the same progress if I continue playing on PC as well.

Anyway, once the bug hit me to actually try playing the game, that entails actually learning a bit about the class too and being more effective that merely “getting by” with the bow. I went with the Omega Templar leveling build by Deltia, one of ESOs most prominent livestreamers on Twitch.tv. I asked how to respec and got several offers to teleport me to a nearby city with the appropriate shrine to respec my skills. I picked a player, and that ended up being a great decision because not only did he give me the teleport and show me exactly where the shrine was, he also gave me tips on playing the class and the game overall, then looked up that Omega build and crafted all the gear on the list at no charge! All that took an hour or so between the initial answering my question about respec, handling the teleport, fielding my questions than switching to his main to craft all the gear, switching to his other alt to craft me two stacks of food for magicka buffs then traveling back to me for the trades. I mean seriously, in two days back-to-back I hit the jackpot for finding awesome, friendly and helpful players. Gives me a little bit of hope for the genre’s playerbase yet after twelve years of cynicism crusting over my soul.

So, completely out of the blue, I just got a double-barreled whammy of MMO goodness! Guess I know where I’ll be spending my MMO time this summer now! Oh, I still have plenty of other non-MMO games I will keep in my rotation on both PC and PS4 but I’m oddly happy at being taken by surprise at playing MMOs again the past week! Two of them now! Told ya, I just don’t get me sometimes…

 

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