Blizzard snuck a new invasion in

This is what I witnessed at my Garrison gate this morning.  An invasion army more horrendous than any that has come before it!  Luckily I was able to beat it back.

WoWScrnShot_012415_073353

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Sun Setting on a Legend

Peyton ManningThis last weekend was pretty rough for me, as such a time will normally be.  I knew this day was coming, and actually had expected it before the season even began.  Sunday was the day where I definitively said that Peyton Manning should retire.  Sunday was the day where I could no longer overlook poor performances and shift blame to a myriad of other factors.  Sunday was the day where I knew beyond any remaining reservations that Peyton Manning is at the end of his career.

The last several weeks of the season showed a marked decrease in proficiency, accuracy, and velocity on his passes.  Which is no great surprise considering his age.  But compared to last year and even earlier in the season?  Manning attempted a handful of long passes greater than 20 yds on Sunday, not one of which were accurate enough to be caught.  I think all of them were overthrown.  Which leaves only his bread and butter crossing and underneath routes, and a run game.  But when good physical defensive units no longer fear the long pass, they have many options for disrupting the routes Manning relies on.  Not to mention stifling the run.

And that’s what we witnessed Sunday by the Colts Defense.  They played well enough to keep Denver receivers honest and gave up no wide open long passing opportunities, and shut down the run game.  Which left it all on Peyton’s shoulders to pull off the win with his patented ability to read defenses.  In days gone by Peyton still would have won, but not on Sunday.  With only short crossing and dumps to pass to, Denver averaged a measly 4.2 yards per passing play.   Which was actually less than the 4.4 yards per rush average Denver also established against the Colts. 3rd down conversions were an abysmal 25% because of it.  Denver left itself in horrible position on its possessions, needing long yardage to convert for 1st down and was rarely able to overcome.

Why?  Because with no long passing threat the Colts were able to artificially compress their defense.  Normally offensive teams would deal with that within the red zone, but Denver was essentially dealing with it the entire length of the field on every possession.

I’ve seen the reports that Peyton was dealing with a quad tear in is right leg and a quad bruise in his left.  Both suffered against the Chargers on Dec 14th and coincided with some of the performance drop off.  But by Peyton’s own words indicated neither injury was serious, and that his quads felt good going into Sunday’s game.  I do happen to think some of his late season issues are injury related, but that’s the point.  Similar injuries to younger men are more easily overcome.  When you’ve been in the league 17 seasons those bumps and bruises aren’t so easy to recover from, yet you know you’re going to get them.  Coupled with his reduced passing range, he’s not going to be able to carry a team as he once did.  Peyton’s mind remains as active and sharp as even, but his body is beginning to fail him.

From one of his greatest fans, to Peyton Manning, its time to hang up the cleats.   Time to go out with a large share of dignity.  Don’t be one of those players who limps on beyond all reason; who makes a caricature of himself and is laughed about, even if behind closed doors.   You have nothing to be ashamed of, it happens to us all.  And like the great QBs of previous years, join them in a well deserved retirement and eventually a coveted spot in the Hall of Fame.   Long live the king.

 

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So I guess you’re going to find another group

It’s wonderful having a supportive wife, but it would be just as wonderful if I had a supportive raid leader as well.  I’ve been busily looking for a local weekend D&D group to join, but so far no joy.  What is it with everyone wanting to play on Monday or Wednesday nights?  Starting around 6pm no less?  Monday and Wednesday nights are my raid nights in the World of Warcraft!  Not to mention 6pm is dinner and family time, and no matter how supportive my wonderful wife is with me jumping back into D&D, she’s not giving up her time with me.

But I was chatting up my raid leader this morning about the situation.  He plays D&D also, so one would think he’d be supportive and understand the need to de-conflict scheduling issues right?  One would think he’d be willing to help a brother out, and say, switch one of our raid nights to Thursday or Friday?  His simple answer was “So I guess you’re going to have to find another group”, referring to the D&D group.  Because, like my wife, he’s not giving up his time with me either.  That was his ever so kind way of telling me we’re not switching nights, and I’m not leaving the raid team.  Its so nice to be wanted!  Oh wait…

I was commenting on Twitter a couple nights ago how nice it would be if WotC had an online aggregating tool that helped players and DMs get together.  WotC does point you to registered groups near you, but its a simple tool that doesn’t tell you anything other than a group is located at a specific location.  I’m actually looking for something more.  A match making tool.  Haven’t found one yet for D&D, however I have run into a couple of additional online tools for group registrations, including meetup.com.  Which listed a few more groups that are playing in my geographical area.  One of which does play on Friday night starting at 6pm.  But Friday night is date night and I’m not silly enough to ask out of that.

So my quest to find a D&D continues!

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Nostalgia Comes With a Price

D&D Players HandbookIts been a wondrous week for me as I trod down memory lane. I’m still busily readying the latest editions of the Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide, but it got me wishing I still had all my old books and materials. I honestly don’t recall what befell my original 1970/1980’s editions of D&D books, and dungeon folios. I’d had the original D&D hardback versions of the Players Handbook, Dungeons Master Guide, Monster Manual, and the original Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook, Dungeons Masters Guide, and Monster Manual as well.  Plus several other books, folios and the Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms campaign boxed sets.

Most of of which appear to be selling for premium prices on Amazon and Ebay if you want to buy any in decent condition.  Especially the 2nd edition Players Handbook which is selling for $100 or more.  The original 1st editions seem to be quite reasonable by comparison, which I take as a measure of popularity.  I admit, I loved the 2nd edition. Guessing everyone else did too judging by the prices I’m seeing.

Be that as it may, I find myself wanting to own them again.  For sentimentality as well as genuine curiosity.  The original rule set was pretty good, and the 2nd edition rule set was even better.  I’m curious why WotC released edition 3, 3.5, and 4.  I know why they released edition 5.  I’ll pick up editions 1 & 2 and eventually compare them against the others.  Besides, they’ll all make wonderful resources for making up home rules.

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Admissions Aplenty

I’ve been a fantasy and Science Fiction fan from an early age, a love that has now lasted for a few decades. I may be aging myself, but it was probably 1977 when it all started for me; when I saw the original Star Wars in a drive through with my Aunt and uncle. I loved it from the start, and few things would supplant Star Wars (Han DID shoot first) in my thoughts for the next several years. That is until Dungeons and Dragons came along in my life, and I discovered the writings of JRR Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, Robert Howard. Later on I’d count the likes of Frank Herbert, Tracy Hickman, Margaret Weis, RA Salvatore, Isaac Asimov, Robert Aspirin, and Piers Anthony as pivotal influences in my early years as well. There are probably others I’m just forgetting at the moment, but together these influences changed the direction of my life, and placed me on a trajectory upon which I still find myself all these years later.

It was never very “cool” to be a gamer, or a fantasy or science fiction fan growing up. Not like it is today, where gaming, fantasy, and science fiction are accepted, and in fact, are valued in today’s society. Gamers were a cliched and mocked sub-culture when I was a kid. But I didn’t care. I loved what I loved, and I wear my nerddom as a badge of honor. But I’m glad my son’s generation is more accepting of certain things, like being a gamer. Though the term “gamer” doesn’t specifically denote table top RPG players today as it did in my generation.

Unlike in my own childhood, my son has had a steady influence of fantasy and science fiction from his earliest days. Our children are but a mirror of ourselves, so it was no great surprise for me when he and I played our first MMORPG together and he loved it. It was Star Was Galaxies by the way, and he’s been an avid computer gamer ever since. I was never much of a computer gamer prior to Star Wars Galaxies, I must admit. Sure, I played several computer and console games previous to that, but nothing truly captured my heart. Certainly nothing like Dungeons and Dragons in my earlier years, though the World of Warcraft is as close to it as I think is possible.

A game that if someone had told me in the 80’s or early 90’s that I would stop playing I never would have believed. But I did. Adulthood and career forces certain decisions. By the time I got back to serious game playing in the early 2000’s Dungeons and Dragons just wasn’t among my activities. But my son has finally discovered Dungeons and Dragons, and in fact has been playing it for the last several months. Something that makes me tremendously happy and has also made me tremendously nostalgic of late. And more importantly, has given me the incentive to re-connect with the game myself.

My first introduction to Dungeons and Dragons was in the Summer of 1980 while I was visiting a cousin’s house for the 4th of July week. He tried to explain what Dungeons and Dragons was, certain that I would love the game. But try as I might, I couldn’t understand what he was trying to describe. As I would come to find later, it was more his lack of understanding of the game and lack of source materials to show me than my inability to learn something new. But that’s all beside the point. By 82/83 I was a full fledged and hardcore player. My friends and I would stop off at the public library after school and game for a couple hours before heading home for dinner; we’d commandeer a meeting room at the library on the weekends and game; and by 85 we were binging on all-weekend game-a-thons at friends houses. Nerd cred was running super high in those days, but it makes me smile thinking about it now.

In the early days we played in the world of Greyhawk, but switched to the Forgotten Realms setting when it was released. Fortuitous since a goodly part of my favorite D&D related stories are set in that world. I never did play in Kyrnn, though its the setting of more of my favoirite D&D related stories. I’m elated that all settings are still around. Forgotten Realms still appears to be the primary world after 27 years, which must make Ed Greenwood a very proud man.

I hadn’t kept up with the current events of the game over the years, but it appears that the rule set has been in something of disrepute since I played. I genuinely liked the 1st edition rule set of AD&D, and had just picked up the 2nd edition rule set prior to quitting. So luckily I missed the 3rd edition, 3.5 edition, and 4th edition rules. I’ve been busily reading the latest edition — 5th edition, since Christmas and I recognize a lot though there’s been quite a bit added that’s new to me. Nothing stands out to me right now that I wouldn’t like, but I do see a number of things that are new to me that I know I’ll like. Like the new classes, and Druid in particular. And the new races. There’s a couple new and very interesting additions to the list of races since I played. Maybe in the not too distant future I’ll them out.

In the mean time I’m skimming the manuals and digesting it all. My son has a group of friends he plays with and I was teasing him by hinting strongly how much I used to love to play. The poor kid, it looked like the blood drained from him face when he told me I was welcome to join him. I’m so bad. The shop he plays at isn’t that far from home and is always full of people, so my next task will be to meet some new folks and find a group of my own to play with. Maybe later I’ll get to play with my son when he decides I’m cool enough to bring among his friends. A dad can dream, right?

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Completing Dragonwrath, Tarecgosa’s Rest

So I just got this and it took me months:

I stopped playing WoW for a while immediately after Firelands was released. Think I was gone about 5-6 months, so we were onto the next raid when I did come back. Looking back on it I’m surprised I took a break at that particular time, considering the few things I really wanted from Firelands.  One of which was this Legendary.

Who knows if I would have gotten it when the tier was current, but I started slowly working on the lengthy quest chain at some point after I came back.  Then I stopped progressing for a long time and picked it back up again several months ago.  Every week I religiously ran Firelands, looting both mounts, Fandral’s staff, and today Dragonwrath.  I don’t care if its a bunch of pixels, it feels great to complete something I’ve worked so hard and for so long to complete.

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Highmaul LFR May Need a Tuneup

Time has a habit of playing tricks on us when we’re waiting for something to happen.  It seemed like forever since raiding started last week, yet it’s only been seven days.  What am I talking about?  Highmaul LFR, which opened up to the masses last night.  Even if only the first “wing” of it.  Despite a relatively bad experience in LFR in MoP I feel compelled to continue running LFR for gear because it could give me incrementally more power when we’re running Normal and Heroic.  At least until I replace my remaining 530/520 pieces.’

So there I was last night, waiting until after dinner to queue for LFR.  Simultaneously dreading and looking forward to the coming experience.  Dreading it because it’s night one and I remember all too well the horrible experience I walked into when SOO first opened.  That horrible experience carried on for some time, and didn’t get markedly better until later in the expansion.  But I was also looking forward to running LFR last night because of the hope for gear.  Hope springs eternal in WoW when progression is concerned.

As I sat in the queue I steeled myself for what was to come.  I told myself that as long as I did what I needed to do, things would be fine.  Well, fine as long as our tanks and healers weren’t completely terrible.  I could make up for at least another DPS or two, right?
As it turned out, I was steeling myself for naught.  Our raid leader announced in guild chat that we’d be running LFR around 8.  I think I broke records removing myself from the queue, but I don’t think I’ll worry about it next week.  Turns out LFR is so easy even a cave man can do it.  Tourist mode I believe is what Ghostcrawler called it?

About half of the raid ended up coming from the queue, but after the run last night I’m completely convinced that even a full queue raid could complete at least the first wing without any trouble what so ever.  Our two main healers were complaining on vent last night that there wasn’t anything to heal, and were letting their passive healing affects do all of the healing for them at various points.  And someone on vent commented about us ignoring fight mechanics.  So yeah, tourist mode.  Enjoy your ilvl 640 pieces everyone!

But it got me thinking that Blizzard may have tuned LFR a tad too low.  We went from one extreme to another, though “extreme” is perhaps not the best word to use in this specific circumstance.  There needs to be some level of difficulty in raiding, but there just isn’t in the part of Highmaul LFR I witnessed last night.  I’d be very much surprised if anyone wipes on those bosses, which I think, will reinforce the core problem we’ve had in LFR all along – the lack of accountability and preparation by players.

The LFR tier should be easier than the other tiers, but it should rightfully act as a preparatory tier to higher level raiding.  Players won’t learn how to properly raid if they can mostly ignore mechanics and the healers can easily keep everyone topped up.

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Who has time for alts?

At no point in the nearly 10 years I’ve been playing WoW have I not played significant amounts of time on alts; Including raiding on multiple toons.  Until now.  Warlords may be a first for me.  There is so much to do in Warlords that I am seriously considering not playing any alts, what so ever.  And by that I mean do nothing with them other than Garrisons.  And even that, on only my alts that will be profession producers for me.

Compare that to MoP and previous expansions where I had a full slate of alts running.  I didn’t raid on them all, but I think I raided on 7 different characters at some point.  Often several of them at the same time.  So why the change now?  In simple terms, I’m a completist.   I want to finish all the things.  If Blizzard introduces a rep I must level it to Exalted.  If there’s an achievement, I must complete it.  And don’t give me any of this “it’s not mandatory” stuff.  It’s in the game!

That hasn’t been much of a problem in the past, but Warlords is a bit on the grindy side.  Reputations gains are earned while leveling in each zone, but you’ll need to kill mobs to finish them each off.  There will be lots of grinding for that, but luckily I can bring my wingman in training along with me and knock out that achievement at the same time.  Don’t even get me started on Nat Pagle and Lunker fishing.

Cooking and Alchemy will require either significant forays to the AH or a lot of hunting and fishing.  Most people I think will go the hunting/fishing route, if not for themselves, at least to help out their guild.  I also need to gear up all four roles (Druid) for both PVE and PVP, finish treasure hunting, exploration, get ready for raiding, and more.  Finding time to level each of my alts to 96 will be hard enough as it is, I just won’t have time to actually play them.

On some levels I like that Blizzard is keeping us extremely busy.  Or at least those of us who venture toward the completist side of things.  But on the other hand I know I will miss playing my other alts.  Quite a bit different from my preparations in the weeks leading up to WoD where I had grandios plans to play four characters to max level, raid, etc.  Two weeks into the expansion and I’m thinking I just didn’t know what I was preparing myself to get into.

Ahh well, onto more achievements and grinding.

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End of the Beta

The WoD Beta ended a couple nights ago to much fanfare.  I wasn’t there, though I was following along on Twitter as best I could.  Looked like Blizzard and the players had great fun, and was the perfect end to a very well ran Beta.  All else aside I’ve never believed anything but that Blizzard, as an organization, has a deep and abiding appreciation for its players.  The open dialogue Blizzard keeps with its player base, the way it runs its Beta’s, and extravaganza’s like last night show it.  It’s no coincidence that WoW continues to dominate the market.  I just wanted to take a moment to thank Blizzard, and the many developers, customer service reps, and team leads individually for all that they do.  Thanks guys!

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I Love This Time In An Expansion

The troubles of the current expansion are all but forgotten and exuberance for the next expansion begins to bubble over. Many people traditionally take time off from playing in the final weeks or months of an expansion, but start to come back and work feverishly to finish up the final tier. But for me it’s a time of relaxation and achievements.

I generally stop raiding which leaves me a lot of time to pursue those remaining expansion achievements I don’t have, as well as catch up on the achievements I’ve either ignored or just haven’t had the time to complete. I’ve said it many times before, but I love achievements and think it’s one of the best things Blizzard has introduced to WoW. For goal oriented people like me, it’s pure candy and right now I’m chomping them down like they’re going out of style.

It’s a busy but so very relaxing time for me. I’m raiding old content on four characters weekly, working on mount drops and legendary weapons. And I’m working on the last four zones I need for Loremaster, and collecting the remaining battle pets for those achievements along the way. It sounds like a lot of busy work to some people, but collecting and pet battles are just two of the mini-games available in WoW that help make it what it is. As well as why it continues to dominate a crowded MMO market after 10 years.

Its little things like pet battles that make me really appreciate WoW. People have been collecting non-combat pets in WoW since vanilla, but in true Blizzard style, they took it several steps forward such that you can now literally collect hundreds of pets. And actually do something with them, other than have them just walk around behind you as you move. And expect that Blizzard will support the mini-game in perpetuity by adding more new pets every expansion.

Pet battles are kind of fun, though I haven’t played with them more than on and off throughout MoP. But what I genuinely like about the mini-game is the ability to collect new pets. That I truly like, and so I’m enjoying running around collecting one of every pet available in the game. I’ve completed the Eastern Kingdom and have maybe 10 more to collect for Kalimdor before I move onto the other continents. I wish every pet had some fun animation or something but I realize that would a lot of artistic work that is probably better spent elsewhere.

Especially right now where the art team is finishing up the next expansion, working on the last tweaks to race models, and working on the next expansion. Speaking of, Blizzard apparently recently trademarked “the Eye of Azshara”. Which may, or may not be someone’s troll. Or it may, or may not be the name of the next Hearthstone expansion rather than the name of the next WoW expansion. Either way I’m hoping Blizzard sorts that out at Blizzcon this weekend.

I was actually surprised Blizzard was holding Blizzcon this year, considering it doesn’t line up with Warlords release and it may be too early to discuss the next expansion. But a little piece of me is holding out hope that Blizzard will indeed release some preliminary information about the next WoW expansion, though most of Blizzcon appears to be taken up with Blizzard’s other games. Blizzcon is about WoW in my own personal world. I know in reality it isn’t, but you know what I mean. I want WoW information, and unfortunately in this year’s Blizzcon it doesn’t appear we’ll be getting much of it.

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How will Garrisons not Destroy Server Economies?

I simply don’t understand what Blizzard is trying to do with the Garrison’s.  They serve an RP purpose to be sure, but the ready access to all professions is destabilizing and is so apparent that I can only reason that I’m evidently missing something important.  The profession buildings are bad enough, but the a Garrison with a Trading Post is the worst of all.  I have yet to see a combination where the Trading Post doesn’t lead to infinite resources. And at a profit in terms of Garrison Resources.  I haven’t seen anything about the Trading Post being removed, or the GR costs being adjusted.  But perhaps I missed it.  if not, this needs to be seriously adjusted or removed outright.

Here’s some examples:
– Gatherers:  make gold by herbing and mining and selling the mats on the AH.  It can be quite profitable, and profitability rises with time investment.  However, anyone with a Garrison will not only have a farm and mine they can herb and mine from but will also be able to spend an infinite number of GR at the Trading Post to buy whatever herbs or ore they need.  Result will be a large impact on Gathering professions.  Players with multiple characters, all with Garrison/TP set up will compound this issue exponentially.  I can see prices on herbs and ore being in the extreme low silver or copper range if the current trading post and GR costs goes live.

– Enchanters:  Selling enchantments can be quite profitable but is limited on live by material availability. However with Garrison/TP a character can spend an infinite number of GR at the Trading Post to buy as much Draenic Dust they need. For non-enchanters this is all that’s needed, though characters with the Enchanting professions gain access to higher level patterns which require additional resources.  Those resources must be gathered though DEing, but players without the Enchanting professions can easily access those materials as well through the Enchanter’s Study DE ability.  There’s likely to still be some market for the higher level enchanting materials, but since virtually everyone will have access to all the enchants, save the highest level ones, I suspect the ability to sell enchants on the AH will be severely impacted.

– Jewelcrafters:  Virtually everyone I just wrote about Enchanters can be said about Jewelcrafters.  Non-Jewelcrafters can make everything except the highest level patterns and need only ore and Taladite which they can get from work orders.  The ore can be mined or purchased from the Trading Post.

I needn’t go on because you see the point.  A player who has only a single character can be almost self sufficient with their Garrison.  A player with multiple characters, and particularly with characters who have professions such as Enchanting, Jewelcrafting, and Alchemy should never need to use the Auction House.  Or at the very least, use it so sparingly that their impact on the server economy is so small as not to matter.

The problem is obvious.  If the profession buildings must stay, then something needs to be done with the Trading Post.  The least intrusive solution is to remove work orders from it.  In that way players can still purchase resources but with a finite pool or GR, at least there is some mitigating force that should help the economy.

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Assault on the Dark Portal

Something is stirring in the Blasted Lands.  The Dark Portal is thrumming with new energy, and the omens tell us something evil is about to be set loose upon us.  Unfortunately we can’t see that part in the Beta yet, and perhaps never will so you’ll have to imagine all of that has happened (along with the tumultuous battles between Iron Horde Orcs and the Alliance) it when you see me click on Khadgar in the video and magically appear on Draenor.  I’m looking forward to patch 6.0 so I can see what lead up what I go through in the video.

As with Blizzard’s recent design trend, there’s a short introductory quest chain to the new expansion.  It takes about half an hour if you know what you’re doing, and there aren’t too many other players around to compete for mobs.  I’d rather Blizzard used personal phased instance areas, or for groups, but since its not you can expect something similar to the initial experience in MoP’s initial quest chain with regard to the crowd for at least the first week or two.  Though the Assault on the Dark Portal area of Tanaan appears to be larger than the area SW of Paw’Don Village in MoP, the track is very linear and circular and isn’t as big as the geography might appear at first.

None of the quests in the chain should be a challenge for anyone. I’ve performed the chain in both starter ilvl 500 gear, as well as ilvl 566 and ilvl 580 gear.  Obviously things dies quicker with higher ilvl gear, but ilvl 500 greens are perfectly adequate.  Blizzard isn’t attempting to challenge players, so much as they’re simply introducing the RP elements necessary to more seamlessly move you into the new expansion.

Insofar as the quests are concerned, and particularly the role play of it all, I didn’t feel they were the strongest.  I loved the sense of great battle in the initial part of the chain — when you step through the portal and see the fighting for the first time. That’s what I expected and Blizzard didn’t disappoint.  But once you move behind the portal and start working around the area I felt the story was a bit weaker.  I’d call you filler.  It isn’t until I got back around to the other side of the battle that I again felt the large scope of the fighting again.  I wished Blizzard was able to make us keep that sense of scope throughout.

Towards the end of the chain you take control of an Iron tank and turn its defenses against the Iron Horde.  But just when you feel things are starting to go your way you’re unceremoniously dumped out of the seat and Khadgar starts yelling for everyone to run to the docks.  There’s no real explanation as to why and I feel that’s a weakness in the chain that particularly needs to be propped up.  Likewise with the docks sequence where we’re shuttled along to Shadowmoon Valley.

There’s the barest of mention about needing to hook up with the “natives” and then we’re told “to Shadownmoon Valley”.  No real roleplay between Khadgar and Maraad that I feel would go a long way toward flushing this part of the chain out as well.  Once the boat starts moving, you next appear on the shores of SMV and the Assault on the Dark Portal chain is finished.

If you watch the video you’ll see there are a number of visual bugs.  Some objects can be seen strait on from a short distance away, but once you get close to them they disappear unless you change your viewing perspective from behind the object.  All of those, and the obvious mini-map issue along the north west side of the area should be fixed by release.  Or at least I expect them to be.  Other than the bugs and the nit-picky RP elements I mentioned it’s a pretty standard and solid introductory quest chain.  Nothing too flashy, and certainly nothing very difficult.  See ya in there release night!

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Lag Comes With a Cost

In spite of being an avid gamer for a number of years I’ve never owned a true purpose-built gaming system. The systems I’ve owned have generally been mid-tier (performance wise) desktop workstations, though I have almost always upgraded the video cards. And at least in the past 15+ years those systems were off the shelf purchases. It’s been three years since my last purchase, which I actually made because of SWTOR. The system was at the minimal level for running SWTOR but ran WoW just fine until MoP.

Prior to MoP I experienced no lag or frame rate reduction while set to “Good” video settings. I used to regularly record various activities with FRAPS, and even large fights were no issue while FRAPSing. But in MoP things changed. I found FRAPSing always caused noticeable frame rate reduction, and FRAPSing during any significant activity was simply out of the question. Even when not recording I had to set my video settings down to fair, but even then still experienced some lag and frame rate reduction on many boss fights or during large PVP encounters like the workshop on IoC. The initial Malkorak and Ordos encounters (and even more so with heroism popped) were just killers. I’d be playing along in a slide show.

And frankly the plan to dramatically increase polygon counts in WoW models in WoD had me worried about my ability to continue playing with my current system. I’d been looking at upgrading or replacing my system outright for a number of months and finally made the decision a couple weeks ago that I’d had enough. I finished putting the remaining touches together on a new system yesterday and I’m completely happy I finally made the decision to move on from my old system, which is now relegated to file storage, processing, and other menial tasks on my home network.

Instead of buying a system off the shelf as I normally do I opted to piece one out. I went with an Intel I7 4790 based system with 16 GB of SDRAM, an ASUS Z97-A motherboard, GTX 770 video card, and a split SSD/SATA drive system. I loaded Windows 7 on it because, frankly, wild horses couldn’t drag me toward Windows 8. After a number of streams and recordings, with my video settings set at Ultra, there’s simply no lag. It’s wonderful and cost a lot less than every similar “gaming system” I reviewed. Frankly the cost of those gaming systems is why I balked at upgrading for as long as I did. It’s not that I couldn’t afford the systems I was looking at, but I just didn’t feel the value was there. I couldn’t justify paying that kind of money for a system I felt should actually be much cheaper. In the end I may not have every bell and whistle that some of the gaming rigs have, but I have every bit the performance. And frankly, that’s all that matters.

I’ve commented in the past on Twitter how the other Feral in my raid always seemed to be 30-50k+ DPS ahead of me even though we have similar gear and are within a few ilvls of each other. I know he does some snapshotting, which I don’t generally do, but I couldn’t put my finger on anything else really tangible that would contribute toward such a spread. Until I recently started to regularly reload my UI, and with my video settings on fair, began to notice a decrease in the separation. On some fights I was even ahead of him. Over the course of a night I could see a dramatic swing in my DPS as my lag increased or decreased.   In the week I’ve had my new system I’ve seen a 30k DPS increase on training dummies. I haven’t been able to compare my DPS on Heroic fights yet, but the lag is gone so I suspect I’ll see a similar DPS increase in real fights as well.

The moral of the story here is what I knew it to be. While there are definitely limits involved, you get what you pay for.

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Malaise and its affect on my blogging

I haven’t been very active on my blog in recent months, I know. The drudgery of more than half a year of Siege of Orgrimmar, the prospect of a full year of it before Warlords of Draenor is to be released, our raid leader’s unwillingness to take a break from raiding, and little to do other than PVP in WoW has largely robbed me of the mood to write. Couple with the fact I don’t follow the WoD Alpha news all that closely, I haven’t been very active in other games, and that I’m still reeling from my Super Bowl loss, it’s been a pretty boring period for my blog.

It’s not that I absolutely haven’t had things to discuss, just that I haven’t been all that motivated to talk about anything. Recently though I did start playing Wildstar. As MMOs go I was surprised how flushed out the game was at release, so high marks to NCSOFT for that. It’s a refreshing break in a trend from major MMOs in recent years which should help to maintain subscription numbers. Unfortunately I haven’t reached the level cap yet and can’t speak to the other major issue that regularly dooms new MMOs – lack of end-game content – but I’m sure we’ll be hearing all about that soon enough.

However I’ve already decided to eschew spending much more time with the game. There are many very interesting things about the game, for one it’s the first MMO with the ability aiming system I’ve played, but it just hasn’t elicited the excitement in me I would need to keep me long term. I’d probably spend more time in the game if it were free to play, but not if I have to pay a $15/month subscription fee. In spite of my current level of boredom in WoW, WoW continues to be the gold standard in my view and serves my fantasy MMO needs quite well.

I also started playing SWTOR again several weeks ago but quickly recalled why I’ve previously only played the game for short periods before quitting again. Bioware simply hasn’t addressed the plethora of issues surrounding the game, which I won’t re-hash now. Of all the MMOs out there today, SWTOR was the one I wanted to succeed the most, the one I truly wanted to invest in, and the one that has most disappointed me. Such a shame considering what could have been.

Which leaves me with my other perennial fallback –EVE Online. EVE is a game I play for several months and get bored before heading back to play WoW full time. Not because EVE is a boring game, because it’s certainly not. But EVE is a game you don’t play solo. Every time I start playing EVE again I tell myself I’m going to find an active Corp and dive in. Last Fall I thought I had hooked up with an old Corp that used to be active but at that point had migrated out of Nullsec and became very inactive. By last November things were so inactive and I had become so despondent I quit again. And yes, in spite of also telling myself I would never again let my accounts lapse, I did in fact allow them to lapse again. Consequently I’ve made no training progress in the intervening seven months, something I’m kicking myself for again as I look at the state of my character my training plans.

My goal in EVE this time around is to stay away from industry (at least for a while), and to do no mining. I want to get involved in combat. I really enjoyed flying Bombers last year and will finish that bit of training I have left on my main account before finishing up the remaining training I need for Marauders. After that I’ll see what I need to train. But on my second account I intend to interrupt my Carrier training to finish up the skills I need for Logistics. I’ll take both toons with me out into Nullsec as soon as I can.

I know I don’t yet have the skills for a lot of the doctrines I’ll find out in Nullsec, but I figure I can at least participate as a Bomber and in most of the missile boat doctrines now with my main, and can start training Amarr and Minmatar sub-cap doctrines after that. And I would have to think logi is always in demand, and if I can fill that on my second account, I’m glad to do that too.

When I joined my current corp a year ago I was really looking forward to getting back out to nullsec space, but it just never worked out. The corp had just recently left nullsec but did rent other space. Unfortunately there was never a large presence in that rented space. It was basically just a couple of guys ratting and some ice mining ops going on. There was no real supporting infrastructure to help with neutrals, which led to periods of days where nothing happened in the space as well as a high level of frustration amongst those few that did venture out to the space.

Even with that I had been working toward moving some equipment out to a system where it could be jumped over to our space, but that happened to coincide with the corps implosion and so I never made it out. Then a few weeks later I stopped playing also. I could have put more effort into finding another corp at that point, but guess I was just too disillusioned to do it. But the prospect of finding a bustling corp is very appealing to me right now, so with that motivation in hand I’m sure I’ll find the right fit before too long.

Where normally the rest of my free time would usually be spent watching basketball or watching/playing golf during the Summer, I just haven’t been that motivated. I didn’t watch a single basketball game all season long, and haven’t even watched a full playoff game yet. Though I have now watched parts of three games, including just last night. But with Tiger out of the running this year I haven’t been that interested in golf at all. Tiger’s influence on ratings is well documented and his absence this year has had a pretty decided impact.

I’m sure my sport malaise won’t last much longer, as I couldn’t imagine the NFL season starting in September and me turning my nose up to it. Whether I’ll get the enjoyment out of this season as I did last season is yet to be seen however. How do we top a season like that when everything was seemingly going our way, and lose so badly in the Super Bowl?

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EA Commits the Ultimate Sin

I’ve mentioned I’m starting to get bored in WoW because its that point in the expansion where very little is going on, although OpenRaid.us has filled some of that void for me admirably.  Yet there are still large gaps of time where I’ve got essentially nothing to do and I hate leveling characters for the sake of leveling.  And so I’ve been considering playing EVE Online in my spare time but instead opted to play SWTOR again.  It’s been a year since I last played and there’s been a some new content added so I figured I could easily play a few hours a week with a couple new toons.

But the F2P model has some restrictions I really dislike — kind of the point I’m quite sure — such as an inability to transfer credits between characters.  Under F2P you must wait until level 25 to get your speeder, but I’m legacy so that skill opens up for me at level 15.  But since the skill still costs 35k credit I’ve had to transfer credits from my higher level character to my alts previously.  Legacy or not, I’m not a paying customer currently and therefore can’t transfer the needed credits.  I was going to sub while I played anyway, but I’d sub for this issue alone.

But unfortunately I can’t.  Literally can’t because there’s a technical issue with the SWTOR website that causes an inability to log in from the United States.  If not the entire United States, large enough areas of it where it’s affecting a lot of people.  I tried several browsers on two different computers, my iPad and my iPhone and finally called customer service this morning to find out the problem is a known issue with no current ETR.  I just have to keep trying to log in.

Being in the IT industry I understand things sometimes happen, but this problem has apparently been a known issue for a week or more.  Gaming companies are service oriented, and money is the lifeblood of all service oriented ventures.  I don’t know what the issue is specifically, but when you’re a company that spent a reported $200 Million on a game that ended up going F2P within a year of release and has been eking out an existence in the F2P marketplace ever since, you fix problems that cause your customers an inability to spend money like yesterday.

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