Author Archive: Isey

Savoring Andromeda

I am thirty one hours into Mass Effect: Andromeda and have barely scratched the surface. Yet all 31 hours has been interesting and exciting for me. Discovery, unexpected encounters, learning about alien life forms – I am fully engaged in the universe. As far as game completion goes I have the first planet, Habitat 7 (Eos) at 98% viability (you completionists cringing at that?) and the second, Habitat 6 (Voeld) at 42(ish)%. Games like these I always start out slow and really pay attention to the little details. This game rewards that mindset in spades.

Lovely view of the mountains

Besides the rewards of lore, and personalization, it really fleshes out the world. I was in a Kett base (above) and when I walked by the window one of my squadmates said “Check out that view”. And I did. Right next to here was a terminal that had notices and emails to the Kett from their home world and it was interesting reading them to better understand their society and how it works. Heck, when I scan a new mushroom or mineral in the wilderness I find myself reading the description of what the scan found out. There is just so much to see and do, and all of it makes me feel like I am doing it in the name of helping humanity find their place and expand their knowledge in this new galaxy.

A lot of the gems you have to actively seek. I have been talking to anyone who is interested in a conversation. Many of them have the option for you to ask why they made the trip and joined the initiataive.  Hainly here, on Podromos (our first settlement/camp on Eos) used to be Stephen and used the 600 year trip to get a true, fresh start on life. This is the first transgender character that I had  ever met in any video game and I felt it was done very nicely by Bioware. Hainly doesn’t even give a quest, there is no giant star over her head, she is just one of 20,000 humans who came on the Ark in start of a new life, and she has her own story. I wouldn’t have learned who she was if I didn’t stop and take the time.  Taking the time to talk to the colonists really humanizes the entire project. I am not just shooting hundreds of bad guys, I am helping people build a new home. Hooked, I tell you.

I mentioned the onboard message boards on the Tempest (your smaller away vessel) and thought it would be fun to show a small piece of that. Angaran’s are a new species you meet fairly early, and one joins you in your efforts. Here, Jaal is giving the Angaran word of the Day and the individual squad mates respond in a tone and way that fits what i have learned of them so far. On the left you see other posts and most of them are light-hearted and fairly mundane but these posts are the types of things that make the characters come alive. It is a very nice touch.

Dramatic concerned look. Or Blue Steel?

I am playing mostly as an Infiltrator (Sniper/Tech) and the customization is great.  I sometimes think I would have responded even more favorably to this game if I didn’t have the expectations of the prior Mass Effect games. Unfortunately I think that you need to spend at least 10 hours to really get into the world, there is so much going on and so much to sort out that it is overwhelming (and confusing) at the beginning. Sure, it’s not perfect – but I know if there is to be a sequel it is probably years away, so I am going to savor every conversation, every container, every datapad write up, every nook and cranny to explore. Mass Effect Andromeda has earned that attention.

Exotic life forms are a bit too few and far betweem

I have been down this road before where a game grips me at first (Pillars of Eternity) only to find myself losing interest at some part and racing to the finish to get it done. I think I spent a total of 30 hours in PoE so already this has me at a different level. I loved the first zone of Dragon Age Inquisition only to lose all interest soon as I met the villain and when I kept ketting lost trying to find my squadmates to talk at the keep. This may not be a popular opinion but Andromeda really is a step up from the other Mass Effect games in terms of graphics, controls, world size, and exploration and even the story is starting to take shape. One small afear I have is that they will make this plot too big which does not leave much room for a sequel. The other trilogy was paced quite well escalating from stopping a villain, to discovering the true threat, to saving the galaxy. I hope we aren’t just jumping into saving the galaxy in the first installment.

I’ll find out, in my own sweet time.

Skeptics Guide to Mass Effect Andromeda’s Plot

While the “on the box” story line presented for Mass Effect Andromeda does seem trope-ish and unimaginative I wanted to present a- “I have actually played the game and there is some promise…” post – there is more going on beneath the surface.  While I personally do not expect there to be a huge depth or surprise to the fourth edition of the space opera series known as Mass Effect, far too many smart people are taking far too much at face value without exploring deeper into the game or knowing enough about the ME universe.

Part of this is the way the Mass Effect series was built. There is a TON of backstory, history, intrigue, etc. in the first three installments but most of it was not easily accessible. The game was built so players could zoom through the main plot line plus DLC in 20-30 hours per installment. Others who more fully explored the world and side quests could spend 40-60 per. That is a lot of content differential. There are also 4 pre-Andromeda novels and a printed Galactic Codex plus the in game codex (which sometimes differed from the print version, but hey, that is why they stopped printing game manuals a decade ago, right?).

The plot lines that people are misinterpreting or not critically examining (often writing off as cliche) have a lot of interest. I am going to make this as spoiler free as possible (after the picture) but keep in mind, much of what I have here is speculation from what I know, and what I have experienced up until finishing off the main story plot line on Eos. (10 hours for me, doing everything, reading every datapad, etc. Guessing some could finish it in 3-5 hours). Also important to note here that I haven’t finished all of the side quests on Eos yet, but did do some.

Mild Spoilers after the pic. Again, if you have played more than 5 hours they won’t be spoilers, and they are things you may have actually missed out on if you sped through the game.

Don’t Ask

Travel 600 years away, for what, really?

People need to start appreciating that the PR based Andromeda Initiative is a front. For what, we don’t know yet – but even the  recruiting website is very fluffy and explorer based. While the Andromeda galaxy may be “resource rich”, we haven’t even discovered 1% of the Milky Way galaxy (as per the Codex on council space):

Citadel space is an unofficial term referring to any region of space controlled by a species that acknowledge the authority of the Citadel Council. At first glance, it appears this territory encompasses most of the galaxy. In reality, however, less than 1% of the stars have been explored. Even mass-effect-FTL drive is slow relative to the volume of the galaxy. Empty space and systems without suitable drive discharge sites are barriers to exploration. Only the mass relays allow ships to jump hundreds of light years in an instant, the key to expanding across an otherwise impassable galaxy.

Whenever a new relay is activated, the destination system is rapidly developed. From that hub, FTL drive is used to expand to nearby star clusters. The result is a number of densely-developed clusters thinly spread across the vast expanse of space, connected by the mass relay network.

Really, there is a LOT of closer galaxy to explore which may also have some nice rich resources. Clearly there is a bigger reason to go to the Andromeda galaxy, yet discovered by our protagonist. One theory is the Cerberus theory who believed in the Reaper threat early on as a way to ensure that human kind lived on if the Milky Way was cleansed of all life. Cora Harper, Alec Ryder’s (your dad) second in command does share the last name as Jack Harper, the last known identy of “The Illusive Man” who runs the pro-human shadow group Cerberus. Quite the coincidence to write in if it wasn’t meaningful. It will be interesting to see how the Initiative’s true motives play out.

what is that thing in the middle, hrm?

You become the hero with little explanation

It really isn’t that much of a stretch when you dig into it. You are already a part of the exclusive Pathfinder team. Your dad is the Pathfinder. Cora Harper is the Operations Specialist. Liam Kosta is the Crisis Specialist. You play one of the Ryder kids, Scott who is a Recon Specialist, and Sara who is a Scientist (both served in the military). When the mantle of Pathfinder (the leader of the expedition team) skips Cora and goes to you by Alec (dad) there is that moment where you wonder why – although Cora does accept it because she accepts Alec’s judgement. It quickly becomes obvious that Dad is hiding something and left breadcrumbs for you to discover what that is. Perhaps he doesn’t want Cora or other Andromeda Initiative members to know and that is why he chose his son/daughter to be the next Pathfinder.  Alec Ryder was dabbling in advanced AI, which was banned in Citadel space. He has locked away information in the AI that you have to push forward to unlock and discover. What Mr Ryder did for the Andromeda Initiative and the human race will be a major story arc, and I believe that is part of why you were thrust into a leadership role early on. Look, without needing rocket science, the Andromeda Initiative short form is AI. Could it really be that simple after all?

Why hasn’t technology advanced in 600 years?

From Mass Effect 1:

“Your civilization is based on the technology of the mass relays. Our technology. By using it, your civilization develops along the paths we desire.” – Sovereign (Reaper)

The gist of the argument is that the Reapers pushed the tech to a place where current Milky Way sentient beings could only grow so far, so fast. Humans caught up to races who had access to the technology hundreds of years prior. There is a tech plateau of sorts, with the next, logical step being the formation of AI. Which is banned.  The Reapers left the technology there to be exploited and used, and around every 50,000 years or so they would do a full cleanse of the Milky Way. You are almost at that 50,000 year apex (Andromeda ships leave just as the attack is about to begin) so yeah, things are pretty tight. A Reaper is essentially “billions of organic minds, uploaded and conjoined within immortal machine bodies.” – so yeah, we aren’t going to be updating that technology anytime soon. At least, not in the Milky Way galaxy.

I love taking screenshots in MEA

Why is there always a mysterious all powerful race? (Remnants)

Because in all worlds and societies in, all life forms there is a top of the food chain.  Until there is a new one. In Mass effect it was the Leviathans who, after years of universal dominance, made the Reapers to help manage artificial intelligence that organic life would eventually create (and in turn would wipe them out). The irony is that that is exactly what the Reapers did to the Leviathans, which is what started them on their cleaning cycle to begin with. It isn’t that hard to imagine either, considering that on modern day earth Humans are the apex predator –  from the view of any other mammal on the planet. If humans were wiped out someday, and an alien species landed on earth and found our buildings and technology there would be little doubt who was top of the food chain on earth. It’s something we can all relate to. Sure, it doesn’t mean it is treading on new ground but it isn’t exactly unbelievable either. By the time you identified probable hospitable planets and arrived to find them all changed by mysterious technology during your 600 year journey there is an easy investigation to put into the story – but doesn’t make it any less interesting.

The big plot points – the Andromeda Initiative, the Pathfinder, the Missing Remnants, your father, the true purpose of the mission – none of these things are clear 10 hours in – but there are hints that something much bigger is afoot. I do not expect the writing in MEA to win a pulitzer. I do expect it to have some interesting twists and turns and give us some surprises along the way – a big step up from the simplicity expressed by some reviewers. Is Bioware showing an obvious and simple premise so they can pull a sleight of hand? Early indications say yes. Maybe though, that is just a part of big optimism by me. If you look hard enough for something you will find it, right?

Smaller is still better

Outside of the big themes, I am really enjoying getting to know my squad mates. They are a balance of personalities and one of my favourite is Drack, who is a Krogan. I used Wrex a lot in my away teams in Mass Effect so had a natural affinity with the Krogan in the new series. ME:A has an email terminal (and a slack-esque based one too, which is pretty amusing) and this gives a bit of a chance for small personality quirks to shine through. Here is an email from my good Krogan buddy.

Look ma, no typos!

For those who don’t want to click on the image and can’t read it scaled down:

“To Ryder

From Drack

Vetra told me what happened to your dad. I’ve lost a lot of people over the years. Figured you could use some cheering up. Or at least a distraction.

This usually helps me:

[Drack has attached 37 images of various rifles and shotguns. Two are duplicate images. Many are low-res or watermarked]

Drack

That seems like something your high school jock-buddy would send if you were having a bad day. The other emails were also very personality specific. It was a nice touch to add some flavor to the personal side of your team. In the end the ties to your character and your team will be the thing that keeps me playing. Hopefully the deeper themes exist and reveal themselves through game play. Even if they don’t I feel like the team itself might be enough to build a solid game around.

I have barely scratched the surface of Andromeda but the itch is getting intense. The way the game is designed after all the hectic missions on Eos I spent almost two hours just conversing with people on the Tempest (my ship) and the Nexus (the Andromeda Initiative’s outpost) learning about people, running small side missions, checking in on my sister… so much to do and experience. The longer I play Andromeda the better it gets. Shame to think many won’t give it that chance based on surface reviews but there is a rich experience to be had for those willing to explore.

I Hacked My Own Blogroll

Well, that was a pain in the ass.

I loved my WP Social Blogroll plugin. It updated who and when blog posts were written from my links. Whenever I need a break from work, or whatnot, I can log into my site and see if any blogs I follow have written any updates. It was beautiful, easy, and magical.

It also wasn’t updated for four years but still worked – until WordPress did an update. Sure enough, finally broken. All of the “free” RSS blogroll plugins were years old and didn’t work. I did find one and managed to make it work, but it kept crashing my site and I lost a ton of traffic over a week away with it up. I googled like crazy to find an option, and preferably a free one. I write once or twice a week, and do not get any income from blogging so did not want to have to invest much, if any.

I finally found a RSS Aggregator that was up to date (cleverly named WP RSS Aggregator). There is a free version, but very limited. The downside is the sidebar widget is $25 per year. I didn’t really want to pay that based on use alone, so I had to make a new page with my RSS feed. You can see it in the tab above alongside my other pages (Blogs That Feed). I then got to thinking that while I didn’t have a native plugin widget for it, that perhaps there was a free plugin to turn a page into a widget – and sure enough, the cleverly named “Page to Widget” was there. I installed it, and poof – magic! I now have a working blogroll updater in the sidebar again.

Sure, it doesn’t look too pretty but it works. I’ll mess around with some settings and see what I can come up with on the visuals.

I was going to make a separate tab for my “Writers Resting In Paradise” section where I keep a list of blogs I used to follow but who no longer update as well. I like that list as a reminder of how many people blogged and the relationships I had built in the past, but I also liked it because if someone came back after a hiatus it would also update and let me know there was a new post. Kind of a (non?) creepy way to stalk people. Surely, my free/basic aggregator with pay for more options would have a way to categorize the RSS links – should be an easy, simple thing, right?

Turns out it is!

For $30 a year.

I’ll see if I can find a workaround, but for now, the WRIP list will be static.

Mass Affect

Typo, for once, was purposeful.

I subscribed to Origin for $4.99 for a month to get a 10% discount on my $79.99 pre-order special edition of Mass Effect: Andromeda. For you non math savants out there it was a net ~$3 savings but that is only a cursory amount compared to how much this game is going to hurt my time and productivity. Also, as an Origin subscriber, you get  to pre-play the game for 10 hours prior to the launch tomorrow. Best $4.99 I have spent in a while.

The short synopsis is: great for Mass Effect fans. Like best game in five years great for ME fans (ME3 came out around 5 years ago for you non-players). Of course, that is only after five and a half hours of play, and barely scratching the surface of the game. I have read that there is easily 150 hours of content in this game for big fans to play through and that is how I plan on playing through it. Every little side quest, explore everything and talk to everyone – fully immerse and experience myself in the Andromeda galaxy. And holy $h*t are the graphics awesome. (Click on pictures to enlarge in a new window throughout this whole post)

I am playing on a gaming laptop but the play is smooth. The graphics this time around make the models almost too human, with smile lines, sweat on brows, it’s a bit crazy. I am not going to show any pictures that spoil the story line but I have been thoroughly impressed with the graphics.

It is a lot to take in. Even how imperfect his teeth are, for example. And while I have been impressed with the graphics, the game play is also a huge improvement from older Mass Effect titles. They added a Z axis with the jump pack which adds a whole new dimension to combat and fighting, including a jump / hover / scope in and shoot move. It’s a step up. In my short time, I have also enjoyed the scanning feature in which you use your Omni-tool to collect information on plant, mineral, and alien life. It’s interesting to see the thought and focus behind this new part of exploration.

Magic Mushrooms

It makes sense when you are exploring new worlds to use a tool like this and to learn more about the environments. My initial hours into Mass Effect: Andromeda has been a huge, amazing fun success and I fully expect to enjoy my time there over the next several weeks as I further explore the mysteries of this galaxy.

As far as story goes there are some potentially amazing plots already hinted at and while I don’t want to guess “out loud” at anything specifically (to ruin / spoil it for people planning on playing), especially this early on, let’s just say that I expect there to be no less than four or five major story arcs all intertwining. The initial stages of them that I have so far discovered have me believing they will be fun to more fully explore and experience.

What I haven’t been enjoying is the media coverage for ME:A so far. My google feed has been populating a lot of stories surrounding it and the more I read the more I shake my head and lose faith in the internet generation. Let’s cover some of the joyous topics I have read, shall we?

Animations are terrible: Not on PC, at least, nothing major I have noticed. A few weird eyeball angles here and there, but general movement has been smooth. I know a lot of these arguments stem from mouth movements and I believe this is a byproduct from how realistic the models look – causing the “uncanny valley” effect. While it is easy to make things look like people / uh, aliens, than it is to make them move and/or fidget like them. No one really stands perfectly still in any state, and building in those mannerisms would be extremely difficult. So while I have noticed a few things here and there, not once has it pulled me from immersion to the point that it stood out as a negative. Everyone jumping on the hate bandwagon is a reminder of another great game, Lemmings!

You can’t make your character white enough: This is a hilarious argument, and I actually came across several articles about this. Assuming this is Gamergate inspired but supposedly (again, guessing consoles?) the lightest you can make your skin is Hispanic / Asian, according to some. Really? Check out Mr. Whitey McWhiterton:

Casper-itis

Really, he is so white not only does he have less rhythm than the table he is sitting on, but he also can’t jump. This is my character in ME and I wanted to see how white I could make him after reading the articles complaining how diverse programmers excluded white as an option. I spent very little time customizing him, but he is absolutely, very white. Almost unhealthily so. Time to go out and find a planet with multiple suns – white. But really, is complaining about skin color really a thing any more? I am more impressed at the wrinkles, dimples and skin bumps and holes than the color. Such great detail. Terrible haircut, sure, but I chose that to be a snowflake.

The game isn’t a proper reflection on the dangers of colonialism as it pertained to historical USA: (ie: Christopher Columbus is a racist murderer, and this game should give lessons in how evil of a past that was, not celebrate colonization by playing a game a couple hundred years in the fictional future that is also about colonization.) Although I do think ME:A2 could be nifty if it was all about scholars and politicians sitting around working on how much reparations humans will be providing to the displaced and killed Kett during the events of this game.

On a more serious note, and not attempting to minimize legitimate discussion about the historical significance of Columbus, discourse is great to have but it also needs to be placed properly. Mass Effect is the equivalent of the Avenger movies in terms of depth and critical thinking. It’s not meant to be Shakespeare. If you are a true fan and look deeper at things you will learn quickly that humankind has not done a great job integrating into the new universe: considered brash, pushy, and impatient. There is a lot more to it on deeper levels – there are fair and interesting critiques on humans and their place in the galaxy that goes beyond killing and getting it on with aliens. All of that is core game play though. The average player will rush 40 hours to the end without exploring things on a more nuanced level. That is okay, and I have done that in the past as well.

If you are going to use this series to discuss historical events and reference certain plot points in prior Mass Effect titles please do a little research. One piece I read discussed how the Geth were an unfair example of evil because they attacked a human colony in the immediate events of ME:1. Anyone who knows the history of the Geth know that is is much more complex there – that they were servant robots who developed a collective mind, and then slaughtered their Quarian masters to gain their freedom, conquering Rannoch (planet of their former masters) and forcing the Quarians to a nomad life upon the Migrant Fleet (also known as The Flotilla) It’s an interesting twist on emergent AI and far deeper than the characterization they used based on a syndicated blog post they may have read and tried to force it to represent their personal agenda. Many have not even played the game (or it’s predecessors) – it’s clear in their writing that they have a rudimentary knowledge of the series and pushing critical, modern day themes onto that rudimentary knowledge can make you sound smart when your audience doesn’t know any better either.

Hey, I am all for expecting more of games, but at least do the research. It is readily available with a bit of Google-Fu.

Timely grumpy Krogan

At this point people are just hopping on the bandwagon of negative reviews for the sake of fitting in and or getting a laugh at the fabricated gifs out there. Some ARE funny, but they aren’t representative of the game as a whole.  I also suspect there is a bit of Bioware / EA bashing (“The Man”) which is not always unfounded (I also make fun of EA on this blog for their many awards of Worst Company in the USA, etc.).

Either way, let a game stand on its merit for what it is. And currently that is an amazing, engaging space RPG with promise. Will the game continue to stand on the fifth planet of scanning and quest running? Only time will tell. It definitely has that new car smell right now and I will be giving it a go. And while my voice here may sound like rabid fanboy-ism I’ll be quick to point out if the game doesn’t last, or if things don’t stick/stop sticking.  Right now most of the negatives brought up about the game feel like a reach, or maybe platform specific but that hasn’t been my experience. It is a bit frustrating to read others using the game as a platform for their personal/political agendas without much evidence or demonstrated knowledge of playing or understanding it – and i think that is where the difference is. If it was critically done as a gaming piece that could be interesting.

Playing Clash Royale?

Mass Effect will have big shoes to fill and I fully suspect that some people will be let down by the hype. My personal experiences early in the game are overwhelmingly positive and if anything, I wish they went backwards with the title and did a prequel of how Earth found the first Prothean base and how they integrated into galactic life originally. Much of this is in book and wiki form already but that would have been a great backdrop to show human’s first steps into an existing galactic community and the challenges that would create, and some interesting writing and dilemmic choices.

Instead we have a civilian lead, cross species Andromeda Initiative convincing 100,000 explorers to cross galaxies and resettle 600 years away. I am certain the exact reasons why will grow more than “just because” and that in itself may be one of the grander plot arcs, but until that all sorts itself out I’ll be focusing on searching for a new planet to call home.

Without any pretext.

Change of Plans

I am going on vacation (again, yes, lucky me) someplace warm again (Cuba)  to escape the cold, Canadian winter. Well, it’s mostly been mild here this winter for the most part but supposed to get a deep freeze next week which coincides with my escape that much better.

My plan was to finish off the Mass Effect series before the 20th which won’t happen now – I had to travel overseas on an emergency and just got back in time to go on vacation.

Trains, Planes, Automobiles, no Mass Effect. When I get back the new Mass Effect will be out and I am very much looking forward to that.

I am sure you missed me this past week and I know you will this week.  Have no fear, I will return and start posting again. With a tan.

Enjoy the week!

#NOGOODWAY

Today the #NOGOODWAY campaign launches.

Here is the video:

And the Facebook page, explaining it.

https://www.facebook.com/nogoodway

I find the video game community is particularly bad at using the R-word inappropriately, as part of everyday gaming language in forums, online, etc. I see it used too frequently. Which is why I am glad  I have a gaming based blog to support this initiative.

Changing Gears

Fixing I HAS PC

My web site has been loading like crap after I replaced my broken social blogroll links. I love that feature – it is one of my favorite things about having this blog, the quick, easy view of when my favorite blogs have been updated.  I have disabled it for now, and will start looking for a replacement. WP Social Blogroll was broken with a WP core update, and the RSS Blogroll Updater was crashing the quick loading of my site, plummeting my readers over the past two weeks by 50%. (I am certain that had nothing to do with the compelling content I share here…) So, here I am again, without a working “latest post” blog feeder widget. I will continue to scour the interwebs for one that works and doesn’t slow my site down to 1999 levels.

SWTOR out

I bought 60 days of sub in SWTOR when I realized how much fun I was having playing the game. It cost me $29.99 and had some other goodies, including both expansions and some level help items. Chapters 1-3 of the Jedi Knight story line was great – I really enjoyed it. I did the Interlude chapter (Ilum) and moved on to Chapter 4) (Makeb) and that is when the fatigue hit in. Spoiler free, I have saved the entire galaxy 4 or 5 times already (really, who is counting?) and not only is that exhausting but I can’t imagine doing it again. And again. My main goal was to get to max level and complete all of the story chapters but that was when I was really loving logging in. Once saving the galaxy (yet again) started feeling like a chore, I did the assessment. I am level 67 (of a possible 70). I have nine +25% XP boosters left (which last for 3 hours each), and judging by Google in order of what is left, I have the following:

  • Conflict with the Hutt Cartel
  • The Fall of Czerka
  • The Dread War Ends
  • Forged Alliances
  • Shadow of Revan
  • Rise of The Emperor
  • Knights of the Fallen Empire

Really… another Emperor? Won’t they just stay dead? Anyway – that is a lot of content and I don’t feel like they paced out the story very well. Too much, too big, too soon.  With my being so close to the cap and with so many +xp consumables I can easily walk away and take a break and return later with a lot of content to complete and no rushed timeline to complete it in. It was definitely worth the foray and I know I will go back to finish the adventure in time. I wish they spent more time focusing on fleshing out your team of characters and their relationships, rather than galaxy saving as the primary game mode. Where can you go from there to up the ante?

MASS EFFECT in

Mass Effect is my favorite gaming trilogy of all time. Mass Effect: Andromeda is but a few short weeks away and I am very excited for the title – heck, “pre-order” excited – which is something I don’t do often. Sure, I am not “take off days of work” excited, but to me that is just a bit crazy to begin with. In the spirit of reliving my joy in the game I decided to go back and play the original three. I do not have my copy of Mass Effect 1 anymore, my ME2 is on my bullshit banned EA account, but my ME3 is on my clean EA account. It is a mess. I decided to take a quick look at Origin to see if they had a three pack, or whatnot, for a reasonable price. It was a nice surprise.

First off, paying Origin $4.95 (per month, no month minimum) gets you 10% off any game you buy in Origin. The Mass Effect Andromeda pre-order that I want is $80 – right off the bat I saved money. Mass Effect 2 is free right now (that’s right, free on Origin – you don’t even have to be a paying member!) so go grab it. Arguably one of the best RPGs of all time. You just need a free Origin account.  Click on the digital deluxe version for some more free add-ons, because that is also free if you choose the option.( Did I mention free?) Lucky me as well, that Mass Effect 1 is in the EA Vault right now meaning you can play it for free (ahem) as a paid subscriber.

Things lined up nicely, I got the trilogy back, in one place, for $4.95.

All of my screenshots were corrupted (unfortunately!) something to do with the .bmp based format ME1 uses not storing the .raw data. I will try a better way to capture next play through. For 10 years old, I am quite impressed with how well it is holding up.  I do recall some of my old choices, and I am saddened to already know the outcome AND know that these choices have zero impact on the new installment – but I am enjoying revisiting my old friends and crew mates aboard the Normandy.

If you haven’t played the series, I highly recommend it.

Timely Coincidence

I finished chapters 2 and  3 of the Jedi Knight story arc in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and from what I can tell is the “original” content that launched in 2011. First impressions is that it was very Star Wars-y. No huge surprises but it fit the general tone and theme of what I have come to expect from the Star Wars universe. I have been playing the game completely as it should have been made (single player RPG) and as noted in a previous entry here it took me almost exactly 12 hours to finish Chapter 1 of the galactic saga. Oddly enough, to complete chapters 2 and 3 it took almost exactly an additional 12 hours. My character has played 23 hours, 49 minutes through the single player story line. This includes no side missions but does include the story mode flash points which further expand on the main story line.

Is that a beautiful co-incidence? Semi attractive one? A coincidence having nothing doing  with looks at all?? 12 and 24 hours are just such nice, sensible targets for a developer to strive towards that I find it really interesting wondering if that was on purpose or not. Only time will tell, as I push on to the next series of content. I had to google it to ensure I had the order right but looks like it goes Chapters 1-3, then Ilum, Makeb, Riven, Ziost.

Also, a throwback to last post, I did find my Wampa finally. No awesome cave though, just wandering around the frosty regions of Hoth.

And it was interesting to note, on the next planet, yet another familiar creature from the Star Wars movies used as a roaming mob in game. Clearly they have it easy with so much visual material to pull from. One of these almost ate Anakin on that planet when tied to the pole thing with all those bug people before a bunch of good Jedi show up. My power of recollection is amazing.

The visuals are on point and the gameplay and lightsaber fighting options feels great. The MMO aspects of this game keep getting in the way of making it spectacular but you learn to ignore those. In case you were wondering what those are, in no particular order:

  • Seeing 5 Kira Carsens attached to 5 other Jedis in the same area, is immersive ruining. Hey, she is  a romance interest and *your* companion. No one said anything about cloning. That doesn’t happen until what, Episode 2?
  • Any human being that can take a dozen slashes from a lightsaber is more powerful than the emperor himself.  “Imperial Medic _002” can take that.
  • Running past mobs inside a star ship, in full view, outside of an “aggro” range while alarms go off due to the full attack.  If this was single player there wouldn’t need to be a certain mob density and all mobs could be on high alert. “Oh listen, alarms. Oh look at that non-imperial with a lightsaber cutting down those guys over there. Well, he’s not in our guard area, so let’s just watch…”

A lot of the game feels like “must add this because MMOs have this” instead of “let’s make an awesome Star Wars game and let it stand on its own”. That view of this game is hardly surprising to anyone who has criticized it in the past (or present), but I will continue to argue that it would have been a far bigger success (both commercially and critically) if they went the Mass Effect route with it.

Speaking of Mass Effect, I think I am going to play through the trilogy again once I am done the SWTOR expansions. It was one of the best ever made, if you ignore the ending.

Familiar Territory

Hoth.

I love Hoth. The starting planet of The Empire Strikes Back, Han wielding a lightsaber (to gut a Tauntaun), AT-ATs, Snowspeeders, Probe Droids.. LOVE that (fictional) planet. It was with much enthusiasm that I traveled to Hoth for some missions for my Jedi Knight in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Would they give homage to the films? (of course). Would there be Tauntauns? (yes, and you can buy one as a mount). In fact, they put the Tauntauns and respective vendor right where you get off the shuttle. Clever commercialism.

Why hello, you marvelous meat blanket

Being Canadian and growing up in a rural snow belt I have strong and positive memories of 8′ high snow banks, driving a snowmobile to school, making snow forts and the like. Outside of Star Wars nostalgia I also have a personal affinity for the crisp white snow. Stepping out of the base (during the day of course, I mean, you freeze really fast at night on Hoth) did not disappoint.

the cold, crisp air

The mountains, snow, short and fat AT-AT (ok, stretch there) but there I was, on Hoth. Amazing. I didn’t expect to see any Snowspeeders (it was a different era after all, that tech is WAY in the future) but there was something so familiar, comfortable and exciting about having adventures on this planet if only by knowing what was to come a few thousand years in the future. Seeing how it is in the present timeline versus the desolation in 3600 years was enjoyable from a lore and personal joy perspective.

Would there be any other familiarities? I haven’t found a Wampa yet, but I am early in the story line. I did take a look around on my speeder to see what I could find of of course, Ion cannons! They were an important escape tool in The Empire Strikes Back and nice to see that the Republic used them on this planet way back when as well.

There are few other MMO worlds that can get me excited about an environment like SWTOR.  Do you have any favorite places in your MMO that just gets you feeling all good and excited to visit? Where does that stem from for you?

24.9% More Important

Well, I caught up to my F2P Jedi as a full subscribing Jedi (completing chapter one of the Knight story line) and I shaved 3 hours off of it. That is a decrease of time of 24.9%. This was completely non scientific but most of that time was saved by being able to use quick travel, and having a better land mount to zip past mobs to quest completions. That number is too close to 25% to not assume that the masters of the galaxy decided that a subscriber should have a 25% more efficient time of playing. I know it is anecdotal and such but still, so close to what would seem like a logical conclusion that it is hard not to draw.

Screenshot of my riding my speeder (on my old Jedi, with the non-toggle-able hat unless you pay $10 option).

SWTOR does a good job of immersing you in the Star Wars Universe and the single player campaign is fun. I typically don’t play many games with sound but hard not to do it in SWTOR for the light-saber sounds alone, not to mention familiar riffs in the background as they set the mood as you transition to different story arcs. I am a big fan.

The sudden drop of World of Warcraft was “just because”. I still praise it as the best WoW expansion since Wrath of the Lich King but I was in that rut of nothing really to do but grind out the daily quests in hopes of yet another legendary. My sub dropped at the same time I dipped my toe in SWTOR  and the amazing XP gains are too hard to ignore. I have long waited for the opportunity to zip through the single player stories there.  I will most likely go back to WoW in a future patch (or two) as I want to play out the story campaign there as well as getting that cool new druid form. It looks as though the Token is settling in around the 80k mark for the next little while and I am remiss that I didn’t buy the tokens at 25k (or 60k). I don’t see what sort of other announcement can make the token price jump further (free pizza with a WoW token?) and I am curious if it will drop if/when subscriptions start dropping. With the rate of content being pumped out and planned I know there is plenty to keep most WoW players subscribed.

I’ll be back when the whim hits me. I have the next 60 days to play in a galaxy far, far away

I Would Walk 500 Light Years

Being a big fan of Bioware games in general and also of Star Wars it may come as a surprise that I haven’t played much of SWTOR. When it was sub based only I didn’t have much time to game, so lacked investing in it. When I played the FTP version it was in it’s early and horrendous version – at one point, I couldn’t get an item upgrade from a low level quest unless I was a subscriber. That, and a punishing XP penalty for non subscribers made the game an unfun crawl. You couldn’t even sprint unless you paid. That scared me off. Besides  – the game always would have been better suited as a single player game to begin with.

I just checked and I have 7 old posts under the SWKOTORMMORPG category (the tag was to make fun of MMO acronyms) from 2008 and 2014. I’ll do a quick recap of each to review where my mind was about the game at any specific time (in order) before revisiting my foray into the title over the weekend.

KOTOR – A New Hope (December 2008): This was pre much anything out there about KOTOR and having picked up the Mass Effect Franchise I was cautiously optimistic about how an MMO in the Bioware style would work. The post covered off gameplay elements in ME, and how they may better translate over into MMO land. None of them did, of course.

Pre Marketing Hype Gone Wild (July 2009): One of my favourite short posts here, really. In it I dissected an exclusive interview where the devs basically declined to say anything at all while participating in a 4 page interview which had me questioning why in the heck they would agree to do an interviewin the first place. Bare minimum pre-screen questions, at least – or actually answering something players were interested in is not a bad idea. It was a joke, and a sad state of affairs to how companies hype games.

Lambs to the Slaughter (December 2010): After reading players expectations for the game during a SWTOR QA I realized that player expectations for this title cannot possibly be met as people were hoping for unique experiences and individualism in an “on rails” MMO world.

Star Wars the Old Republic: Hopes and Dreams (September 2010): Two years into the hype cycle I review the things I loved about Mass Effect and Dragon’s Age: Origins and allow myself a brief moment of optimism for the future of SWTOR. Yes, yes, pie in face, laugh at me, whatever you want to do. Hey, they had the building blocks to make something special!

Feast or Famine (July 2011): With the game nearing release but many playing beta I quick hit a note about having less interest in buying the game at release due to reviews from trusted and respected bloggers in BlogNation

Fun Police for Jedi (August 2011): This quote captures my angst in this article:

“… they are releasing a PVP warzone based on a neutral planet where the good guys and the bad guys pause their intergalactic conflict (oh, that silly thing?) to partake in something loosely resembling football set in a fantasy world“.

Yeah. Nothing screams end of the galaxy like copying the NFL.

Against My Better Judgement (October 2013): I tried to get into SWOTOR but the F2P issues were completely rediculous coming from a long stint in League of Legends (who does F2P extremely well)

How to Lose a MMO Gamer in 10 Ways (September 2014) was probably my most commented on article here (at a whopping 25) but I listed the things that make me not care about MMO games and the companies that make them. This wasn’t specific to SWTOR except they were tagged in it, probably because they hit 6 of the 10 items listed at some point in their development cycle.

I ran the emotional gamut on Star Wars: The Old Republic. Hope, to absurdity, to bitter sarcasm, to more hope, to disappointment, to more absurdity, to resignation, to frustration. All of that and I don’t think I put more than 20 hours into the game over that 6 year period. I did do a beta phase and remember playing the Agent story line and getting to mid 20s but I didn’t ever write about that (which is weird for me). I had to triple check that I didn’t mis-tag a post or two.

 

Nevertheless, I decided to give it the old college try. Here are the weekend bullet points as I experienced it over the weekend

  • Zones are gigantic. Need speeder to move around. Non subs get at 20, subs at 10. With 250% xp boost you get a speeder by the second planet which makes it not a gigantic deal, but it would really suck to ahve to walk it all on your own. I do like the zone size (when proper travel options are available) as it really gives a grand scale in game. This inspired the title. I was on autorun most of the time to get around, slowly. Painfully slowly.
  • $10 to toggle helmet off/on. Choice between looking stupid (ranger helmet) or Jedi cool (hood). I chose stupid for the stats, but wish I could toggle for in free, or in game credits, or something. Another basic QoL smashed by bad F2P
  • Weapon stuck at 50% power because weapon quest rewards require an expansion to use. I can’t really die, but I kill really slow. I don’t remember Jedi sucking so bad in the SW universe. Don’t give expansion rewards in base game. SMH.
  • You get 2 quick slot bars. You fill those up by level 30. You have to pay to get anymore. The rumours were true.
  • Jedi Knight story is well done. I am enjoying that aspect.
  • NPCs you help may email you later on. This was well done and a nice surprise. they pace it out from when you actually helped them so you kind of forget about it, until you get the in game mail notification. Nice follow up. I can’t delete the email from my first (ex) girlfriend even though we can’t see each other ever again. Jedi code BS.
  • You could cut game time in half with reasonable travel modes. Giant zones and lack of speed travel stretches this out. Feels like 50%+ is just getting place to place. I have mastered how to avoid mobs to get there faster. Fun mini game. Maybe not that fun, but making the most of it.
  • Quick travel on 26 minute timer. Subscriber it is on a 6 minute timer.
  • How many airports look the same in the world? Why does every spaceport look exactly the same? Missed opportunity to rationalize differences and cool spaceports based on the planets. These could be omitted completely without missing a beat, but would by default increase travel time. SWTOR loves slow travel.
  • Chapter 1 took me 11 hours, 21 minutes as a full F2P player to complete, and I ended up at level 35.
  • I had a fun 11 hours. SWTOR, despite their F2P Fu@kery, deserve some money. I don’t mind paying for my entertainment.
  • Confusing as hell. Buy expansion? Subscribe a month? Buy coins? So many options, no clear path to what makes sense. Research time.
  • Turns out if you buy anything, you get “Preferred” status for life which means you can just sub one month and get F2P benefits for evah!
  • Bought 60 days plus goodies by buying the expansion pack. Good value for the enjoyment.
  • It still should be a single player game. Many MMO things ruin the single player experience. It’s weird, because you can’t group for the story missions, which is 90% of the low level game.

Now that I am subbed, for research, I am going to do the same Chapter 1 story and see how much faster it is as a subscriber. Will be interesting to see the difference! If you ever wanted to experience the single player story lines of this game now is the time, the XP gains mean you far out level the story even just doing the main story line. I know I am missing out on some good content but can always go back and experience side quests when I am done the main one. The game levels you down to make content playable.

New Metrics – WoW Sub Edition

I remember fondly when bloggers and gaming media roasted Turbine for reporting the millions of characters made in gameto show how successful they were doing.

Then Activision reports this gem:

World of Warcraft MAUs for 2016 grew 10% year on year, with fourth quarter MAUs spiking to 20% year on year growth. In terms of hours played, the MMORPG saw figures better than Legion’s launch month, and better than any non-launch month in the franchise’s history.” (courtesy link here, italics are mine.)

In terms of hours played – the new subscription metric! Sorry, made me giggle. Just say how many active subscribers you have by region, will you? I am sure it is a hefty number that will make everyone proud. Especially investors.

That number is going to go down by about 10-15 per week as I am now finally completing story missions in SWTOR since they have upped XP gains by 250% until April 10th – even for free to play accounts. I finished Tython in about 1 hour yesterday. Looking forward to seeing how many class story lines I can complete in the time frame – it’s my dream single player RPG outside of Mass Effect. I like Star Wars. And old Bioware single player games. This XP boost makes the game playable for me as the way it always should have been.

Happy Friday!

Blizzard is a Currency Manipulator

Yay, a faux Donald Trump quote as my title! Finally! Dreams do come true.

Yesterday Blizzard launched their fake in Azeroth money for other fake Blizzard games / item money pyramid scheme and the value of the WoW token exploded. BOOM!

Yes it crashed right back down to earth quite quickly but last night when I checked at 11pm and it was pushing 100k I was disappointed. I have around 250k saved up, and in normal token times that is 4-5 months of subs. To see that evaporate to two and a half months did not make me happy. Things seemed to level down this morning. If you were on top of all the Blizzard news and views and had a ton of 50k tokens saved you literally could have doubled your fake money with Blizzard.

I know real money comes into play at some point (for me, I paid for my first two months with cash and have played “free” ever since) but I still don’t trust the token system. There is no regulation. Blizzard can do whatever they want with it, they can inflate the price, flood the market, etc. etc. They are not real goods that they can ever run out of so I find it hard to believe that every token bought is a token sold by a player. It makes more sense that they are just made digitally by Blizzard on demand to ensure the cash sales can keep flowing.

If I was a market person (I am not) and if I didn’t care about not paying a subscription to play WoW (I do) it could have been a fun moment to take a shot at a big gamble. I bet some players did, and at bare minimum this is a good lesson to pay attention to what Blizzard is doing with their token to gain some personal benefit. I have totally screwed this up – I had enough gold to buy 6 tokens at 30k, before the market jumped and settled in around 60k. Who knows where it will settle in now? If it goes back to 60k I’ll probably unload my gold into tokens to make sure it doesn’t climb again and stay. I keep expecting it to fall to some other level as at some point subs should decline, but I suppose that won’t really happen until content slows down. As it is, with another wing of LFR open this week, there is too much to do and not enough time to do it.

Rescue Time

In my last post I talked about how Tuesdays were a fun day in Azeroth, and made some claims about my play time. Prior to that thought I had already installed “Rescue Time” on my laptop which logs all of your activities while actively using your laptop. I assumed that doing everything I had planned listed would take me around 10 hours a week. I was pretty close!

Yes there is no Sunday or Monday (which is because it wasn’t installed  at the time  and funny to see how big Tuesday is for me in game. The rest of the week it seems I spend between an hour to an hour and a half per day, which would but my weekly time (last week, anyway) at closer to 11.5 hours. I will also run it this week to have a look to see how accurate my guesstimate was.

As for the program that tracks this itself – it is free. It breaks down your productivity and gives you visibility on where you are spending your time while on your device. You can also install it on multiple devices to get your full aggregate. Think you check Instagram just a few minutes a day? This will break it down for you exactly. It doesn’t seem to measure idle time, so a program in the background that is not being worked on / read / used doesn’t count (I tested a few things to see. multiple windows in the background, Excel, Tableau, etc to gauge how it measures.)

They assure your privacy, whatever that means this day! (FBI if you are reading this, this is my gaming computer *mostly*, I promise I do more work on the other one!) Pretty big eye opener on where I spend my time on the computer – a few minutes checking something here and there adds up. It even tracks how much time you spend on websites. Outside of my post on Monday, I only spent 16 minutes 44 seconds on my own site the rest of the week. Mostly because I use it as a launching pad on my blog-roll updater to read my favourite posters when they write something new.

Oh, and not because it would affect you, but because you are probably just curious, for you know, your cousin or something…. by default it does not track anything on adult websites. Again, so I hear… I don’t even know what those are anyway. It was mentioned in some sort of pop-up window/option.  Figured you might want to know.

Christmas Tuesday

Tuesdays are a wonderful day in the world of the (filthy!) casual WoW player.

First off, you get your Class Hall chest (free lootsz!!) for completing Mythic + the 7 days preceding. There is joy (and misery) as people open their chest and link to their lastest and newest legendary item. Much like Christmas, many groan as they get yet another piece of coal (or worse, a “utility” legendary. Which is stupid by all means, but that is an argument for another day…). The other joy is that the Raid ID resets which means you can run your LFR Raids again. This is much like a class trip where you don’t particularly like or know many people in your class, but you get to go see something neat and interesting and maybe get a reward just for showing up. If that doesn’t scream “fun” I don’t know what does.  There is a new World Boss up to kill for other, basically free loot. It’s a joyous day.

Okay, sure,  it is just another day where the casual check boxes get unchecked so you get to check them again. And that is why I love Tuesdays in the WoW world. All of my level 110 characters are past running Emerald Nightmare or Trial of Valor for good chances at loot but Nighthold does have more effort-efficient upgrades. Last week I ran Nighthold on all of them on Tuesday. That left a lot of gaming for the week to do. Unlike the author of this article (to save you from reading it if you don’t want to – he argued that because you CAN do something in the game, in this instance, grind AP, that players feel compelled to do it, so Blizzard has to change it because players have no self-restraint. I engaged him – to deaf ears – that I prefer having too much content and the onus is on players to play responsibly. He did a bad food analogy, I did a better one, he is stubborn, I am enlightened, blah blah blah. It’s all there if you want to read it, but after realizing he was not open to any contrary viewpoints I disengaged. ) I only do activities that grant me a chance to upgrade my character. This means I have a weekly routine to my gaming.

  1. Do the main story line quest, on my main (Couchon) to stay up to date on the story (currently finished, until 7.2)
  2. Do daily Emissary Quests for a legendary chance (Druid, Paladin, Rogue)
  3. Do weekly World Boss
  4. Do weekly quest (Druid, Paladin, Rogue – Druid only if it is PVP based)
  5. Do LFR wings (last week only the first week was only one wing – Druid, Paladin, Rogue)
  6. Check to see if there is a Mythic + in LFG (Druid, Paladin)
  7. Level alts with Rest XP, until Rest XP is gone (Shaman, Monk, Demon Hunter in that order currently)

That is my systematic approach to WoW currently. Last week I did exactly that, and burned through all of my rest exp on those three alts. Once I get a few more of them to max level I won’t be able to sustain that playtime but it will be nice to have options.

Add to that I complete the daily Hearthstone quest and keep chests rolling unlock in Clash Royale, plus I eat, sleep, work out and go to to work. My life is very scheduled.

All of this will come to a screeching halt when the new Mass Effect game comes out, which is the release I am most looking forward to in *years* for a game. Here is to hoping the recapture the magic of the first 2.5 in the series.

Enjoy your WoW Christmas today, may the legendary items rain from the sky. Peace on Azeroth and goodwill to all player kind.

Character Immersion

I have mentioned before I have a stable of alts in every level bracket and that current Legion content has not given me a ton of time or focus on them – although mechanics exist to help them “get into the endgame” activities quickly, there is so much to do that on my play schedule I only have time to play one or two “seriously” at any given time. Right now that is my Druid and Paladin, with my Rogue taking a backseat. I still have a lot of interest in experiencing other Class Hall quests and especially the expansion from the Horde side view and last night I started thinking about leveling yet another character. While pondering, I realized that I am more connected to my characters that in a fantasy sense I can “be”. I play both female and male characters and I naturally am more attached to my male ones. Taking it further down this thought path, I have an awesome new Gnome Death Knight with the name “Shiver” (which I think is awesome and appropriate for a DK!) and I have a hard time playing him because, well to be blunt, I have a hard time being a Gnome in WoW.

I am starting to realize that more and more  I “am” my characters in my games, I am not playing one. I like to imagine that I am the Druid, shape shifting and saving the day. It is *me* in the game. This is very different than being able to roleplay any race or combination that may be on your whim. I feel this is limiting and am not sure how to break out of that mindset and enjoy some of the different characters I have built and played with specific ideas in my head as to their personality. My Worgen Coosh (female) hates being in Worgen form out of combat. She is in human form in neutral cities and on flight paths. It was something about who she was when I created her, and I have her human form hot-keyed so I revert her back to that form outside of combat. When I play her, however, I default that the things I am experiencing and the decisions being made are of me, the human being, behind the keyboard. Which is a reality struggle since I am not a werewolf nor a woman. At least, not last time I checked.

It’s odd for me to think about because I don’t believe I have always limited myself to this in the past. In EQ my main was a Troll warrior, and I am neither stinky or green or naturally “evil” in real life either.  My other characters in EQ were often Gnomes, because I loved the starting area. I wonder if this is something I have developed as I have aged, as I moved away from pen and paper role-playing games and into online ones that the sights and sounds of controlling a character more directly has changed my mindset in how I play them. I am not  fully defaulted to being my characters though as I do not want to race change my Draenai Paladin due to the nice, 20% racial heal, and I dislike the male Draenai models enough that I keep female. The flavour and toolset of the Paladin class really speaks to me personally though which is why I enjoy playing that class. Historically I have always liked playing the protector. If you can’t tell, I am uncomfortable trying to sort through how I feel about all of this. Am I limiting my potential enjoyment?

Very think aloud post for me this morning as it struggle through the thought process.

When you play a character in a video game, do you become them, or do they become you?

Better Late Than Never

During  my regular WoW playtime this weekend and paying attention to what is coming down the pipeline in Legion patches I realized that Blizzard has been doing an awful lot to ease-in playing alt characters. Make no mistake about it – there is a TON to do with just one character alone – more than most could ever accomplish if they truly wanted to do “everything” WoW has to offer. Still, this alt-realization hit me when doing the Weekly quest on my Paladin (alt). First off, the weekly quest was “time walking” Wrath of The Lich King 5 mans, which is a whole lot of love for me.  WOTLK was one of my favourite expansions, I was still involved in the end game – raiding – at the time, and 5 mans are still my favourite MMO activity. So much win in one event for me. Bonus to this happiness is that it drops gear around the 830 item level, and my 820 (ish) Paladin could use pretty much all upgrades.

Before embarking on the time walking dungeons I did my daily Emissary Cache quest – and got a legendary item. WoW recently buffed all new legendary items to drop at item level 940. Originally they dropped at 895 and then got a free boost to 910. My Druid has three of those. In order to get your old legendary items up to 940 you have to run a quest that, with my play time/style, will take 2-3 weeks per legendary – so I am a few months away from upgrading those items on my main. In comparison, my Druid who has done all current quest content, LFR Emerald Nightmare, LFR Trial of Valor, Mythics weekly (up to +6), Emissary Quest daily, Weekly quest weekly (basically, all non-raiding content available) sits at an 872 item level and gets another single digit on progress every week or two. I have played a lot of good old Couchon and it has been a blast.

After my Paladin got her first Legendary item and did the Weekly quest which granted an 885 belt as the Nighthold (newest raid, not open for LFR yet) chest as the reward, she jumped from 820ish to 852 (including other drops from the instances). Heck, she had 790 shoulders until yesterday. Also, with the Artifact Knowledge catch up mechanic her main weapon is almost with full traits. – something that Couchon just accomplished himself after months of work playtime.

It dawned on me after all of this that there is a real good possibility that if I play Couchon and Isee equally that Isee will surpass him in item level due to the new mechanics and available drops that are now in game. Couchon needs to catch up on his legendary growth and the odds are the Paladin will get a second before that happens. None of this couldn’t have been accomplished if I didn’t have a max-content character to begin with but it did make me realize that getting alts up to speed for current content is much easier than I expected. Keeping them current is probably going to be the real slog. Item level isn’t everything but I do enjoy progressing – this is a part of MMOs that I enjoy. Whether it is through story content, leveling, PVP or gear as long as I am moving forward I get satisfaction from the game.

I don’t remember this being the case in WoW in the past but it definitely is keeping me enthusiastic to keep playing and building up my stable of characters in the game.

Blog Therapy – Cleaning out old Drafts (Part 4)

There’s a zen like state to it, I tell you. I originally titled these “Spring Cleaning!”, but it was never spring and there is a far more cathartic feel to these posts for me. Like letting go of the past. Or, getting really drunk and forgetting to go to work!

My other posts in this series are Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

#Listmas – My Favourite Raiding Moments – (12/17/2014)

Murf (we miss you Murf! Come back to the interwebs! And by we, I mean, I, at least for sure.) had a hashtag of list style posts during the holiday season and encouraged others to do the same. Here is how far I got into detailing the raiding moments that stood out for me since I started them back in the 90s.

“Murf is making a list and checking it twice and as a OneNote fanatic, lists are in my wheelhouse. I work by lists, I do personal life by lists, I even shop with lists. So this December redux on last year’s initiative is something I am excited to do.

As an old raider who hasn’t raided since Burning Crusade (le sigh) I still have very fond raid moments. In the spirit of Listmas, I am going to list my top 5 memories. The irony is not lost that these are complete nostalgic memories, I am clearly an ex-raider and pulling an uncle Rico here, but hey, they are my memories!

I can throw this football right over them mountains…

Nothing screams “I am in hook line and sinker” with raiding than when good old Ragnaros pops up for the first time. The culmination of the 40 man raid didn’t disappoint with enough moving around, adds, and attacks to keep everyone engaged. I don’t even recall what items dropped when we got him down, but I will never forget that *feeling* of winning with a team. It was incredible…..”

I didn’t even finish my #5, Ragnaros. Most of these moments that I fondly remember had little to do with the bosses or mechanics, but the feeling of accomplishment (or failure) with a group of gamers I considered serious friends. Some still are on facebook, or what-not, but in the end, when you are spending 20+ hours per week with people – in person or online – you build connections. Those are mostly all gone now. Very similar to how I moved on from (most) of my High School friends too. While I wish I would finish this post the list style of it is far over and with Murf done bloggin’, I can safely send this one into the BlogVoid. Outcome: Au Revoir. En Permenance.

Experiences (2-26-2015)

This post draft, after reading and re-reading a few times, is a tad confusing.

“Corpse runs – awesome to experience but never want to experience again.

Farming Karnor’s Castle

Cobalt Boots -lost roll
Cobalt Gloves – lost roll
Locust Lustre-Won roll (Velm)
ES Vambraces – Won roll (Wildlotus)
ES Vambraces – Won roll (Drainc)
Howling Harpoon – Won roll (Roncor)
Singing steel gloves – Won roll (Lvis)

DAOC – keep fight, building rams, dying on the last boss

Going through the MMOtions – login do stuff, log out. Not much connections.

What we want vs what we can do. Even better:

What we want vs what we can handle.”

I didn’t give myself a lot to work with there, but reading the final couple of lines is in step with my current thought that the game I say/think I most want to play right now is one that wouldn’t be possible for me to commit to, so the ideal MMO is a dream. The first few parts (up to MMOtions) look like recollection of various experiences I had frequently during my MMO early days. I suspect I was going to build up that the things we remembered as being great (or important) are the same reasons that we wouldn’t (and don’t) play the same games anymore. Outcome: Confused and pointless, this one gets a big, hefty deleta-mundo.

Messing Around with WordPress Themes (2-27-2015)

Finally, a title I can work with!

“For some reason my blog has always been orange. Orange isn’t even a color I particularly love – however after 6 years at looking at an orange blog it just

Yes, that’s it. And yes, my blog is still orange. I do frequently play with blog themes but never really find one that I love enough to switch. So orange and simple it stays. (Is there a politician joke in there somewhere?) Outcome: Delete, and keep the same theme because change is bad.

Ending with n Losing Note (3-07-2015)

Spelling is not fun for me on this one, and it is another short and sweet starter that never went anywayer (I did that on purpose)

“Last game of the year, win/lose, wait to while year”

There are a few posts on here about my son and parenting, and I do recall when I started writing this one and why. He had just played his last game of the hockey season and they lost. He made the comment that now he has to wait until September to win again – which is six months of being a loser. (ok, that was a joke, that even sounded harsh to write!). I started thinking about how things end in many parts of life and what that does to how you think and feel about yourself. This had nothing to do about gaming and was firmly in the “Life” part of the “Life and Interwebs” tagline up top. Outcome: Too deep, bad spelling, not in the right mood/mindset to further explore.

Developer Appreciation Week (3-27-2015)

Finally, more than one line to work with to think back on what I was thinking at this time. Although the title makes that pretty simple already, Somewhat.

“http://ihavetouchedthesky.blogspot.ca/2015/03/axes-to-grind.html?showComment=1427478576313#c1626406155774811668

My post in support of developers is to become a better industry. Treat your people better. Care for them.

Link to past posts of shitty workings of publishers/layoffs

Talk about things we do in our business”

This post was a suggestion from I have Touched The Sky to write a post about Developer Appreciation week – instead of our normal grumbling and griping at game developers. My first line gives you a pretty good clue about how I feel about most gaming companies – how they churn and burn good people, eschew loyalty for short term gain, cut corners and generally under service customers. For the most part. I know that is more in Electronic Arts land (and I have some very specific posts bashing them!) but those are the things that stick out when I think of gaming companies. I know Valve is very opposite to that so credit should go where credit is do. Basically if it was any other type of industry they would be out of business. (Picture an Automobile company with that kind of track record..)

This post was going to explore both sides of previous posts (Valve’s employee manual is awesome, EA’s track record is not) here on I Has PC and truly wish we would vote with our wallets. Myself included. Which I somewhat do, but not enough to  make a difference. If there is a good game I want to play I pay for it, regardless of who made it. Maybe my New Years Resolution should be to Pirate games from developers I don’t align with. Outcome: Delete, DAW is long gone and I was too narrow focused on the bad there anyway. This is a happy place, for the most part. My happy place.

Five more Done!

Another five posts cleaned out of my Drafts folder, and well into 2015. I don’t have that many left and as mentioned at the top it feels really good to do, like cleaning out your garage. I have to stay vigilant or it will just get messy again. There are some further insights on things I have thought about and pieces of what I thought about them, that never made it to full post status. None of these ones will either. If you are keeping track (you aren’t) I am 1-20 for future post keeping.

Vacation Catch Up

The Vacation

I was on vacation last week, somewhere sunny, on the ocean, with 30 degree (Celsius) weather everyday. I had started to write up some posts to auto-post during my vacation but the whole point of why I blog is to interact with people – and doing so in an absentee fashion seemed counter to why I am here in the first place. So I let the joint go quiet and enjoyed my vacation. One thing that I struggle with in the Caribbean is the abject poverty you see on your way to your all inclusive, glutton-fest  five star resort. I actually start to feel guilty as the bus shuttles us in and around broken down towns and shacks, to the safety of our secured resort where luxury awaits. I know that if I didn’t go that would pull out a good chunk of money out of their economy, and their jobs, but really, where does the bulk of my money go? Not to the locals, that much is for sure. The resort we were at also had a very strict no tipping policy to the point that the employee would get fired if they accepted tips.  I felt conflicted, but overall had a wonderful time. Did some Scuba diving, sailed, swam, ate, drank, relaxed.

The Druid

I won my druid! He is artifact level 25 which unlocks the alt catch up mechanic and is the current max. I have my main spec weapon (Guardian) completely filled out on traits as well as my secondary spec (restoration).

Claws of Ursoc

G’Hanir, The Mother Tree

There is a lot of Artifact Power flowing with nowhere to put it (reasonably, you can jack them up still at almost 2,000,000 AP a pop) but I have been spending them on my third and fourth artifact weapons as you can flesh those out quickly. I still don’t even know if I am going to play either spec but might as well get them prepared for if that happens.

I have also been fortunate enough to 3 of the 4 hidden appearances. The one I am missing is for my main, and it drops off the first boss in the Emerald Nightmare (a raid) which is available in the LFR. I can do it once per week and I also feel bad a bit for this because I queue up to tank the raid but there is no point in my continuing after the first boss, so I drop. A lot of druids are doing this (most likely looking for the same thing) so it is a bit of a Druid dance. Here are the three hidden appearances:

Of the three, my favourite is the Scythe. It is pretty cool looking in my opinion.

The Paladin

Isee finished the Paladin quest line. It was pretty neat and involved spaceships and unexpected allies. I am not done the Order Hall but I have seen most of what I have needed to with the Paladin. I will probably muck around on her to finalize the Hall upgrades but I do not have much of a plan to continue regular play. I will need to get the Hall fully upgraded (as well as the followers) to get the big money missions, which are giving 2000 gold per hit.

The Rogue

Coosh is on the back burner too now – I keep enough game play on her to keep order resources to keep pumping out gold. I continue to enjoy the Rogue playstyle and World Quests go by quickly. It feels like a management sim right now with Couchon the Boss, staying up to date on the main quest line and latest content and my go to everyday play. Coosh is second in command and Isee is climbing the ranks of middle management. That just leaves my new hire, either my 100 Hunter or my 101 Demon Hunter. They are the closest and will be the next to join the ranks of Couchon Inc. Gold Collection and Free Subscription Provider-er. Spelling error intentional.

The Blog

For some reason my “Blogs that Feed” sidebar is not working on my end – is it working on yours? Everything in the internal setup is pointing to it working correctly and I haven’t changed anything else (and everything is updated.) Let me know if it is showing blogs updating for you. I love it as it keeps me up to date with all the community links that I follow regularly!

It’s nice to be back and writing again. I hope you didn’t miss me too much.

Old Dog, New Trick

I know I am not fooling anyone here anyway, but I am really not a “cool” gamer.

I am a (filthy!) casual. No RAID OR DIE, max content pushing here.

World of Warcraft is my current game of choice. And I don’t hate myself for it (I used to in the old days, when I hated what it stood for and what it wasn’t, before NAMASTE)

I am a (rotten!) keyboard turner. There, I said it. They say acceptance is the first step…

Except I don’t accept that anymore! (The keyboard turning part, anyway). Due to the Weekly Quest mechanic I found myself doing Battlegrounds and Arena skirmishes over the past month. They were a lot of fun and I am Honor level 24 now. KBTS (key board turning syndrome) is a debilitating syndrome in PVP. Thankfully for the most part I heal in PVP and since I use Clique and Grid I don’t think KBTS hurts as much in that situation. I tend to just leave my back to the enemy and heal through it even though that is not optimal – even in LFG PVP. I need to get better. Plus, I do want to do Damage in PVP at some point which will require a change in how I control my character . Tanking is a joke and healing (while fun, and a game changer) is a bit repetitive after awhile. I like flavour and different ways to try things.

I am going to train myself out of KBTS.

I read some articles and I get the idea behind it – move with mouse, keybind everything else.To best accomplish this I think I should just level a new character. Hopefully via that mechanic I will get some comfort and confidence in it and I can start implementing that style of character control into my max level characters in solo activities, then onto group PVE activities, and finally, onto group PVP activities. I have no clue how long it will take me but I am dedicated to learn.

First, I am going to turn my hotkey bars from this:

To this:

This layout will help as a good reference for me while I am playing. The left side of the grouping is my hotkeys – with my hands on the keyboard (SDFG) I can comfortably reach one key on either side (AH), which gives me 6 actions on my main line. I can also reach the six above it (QWERTY) comfortably and easily. The 6 below aren’t as comfortable to reach – X especially. ZCVBN aren’t so bad. Based on that I know my main hotkeys go in the middle, secondary on top, lesser used on the bottom. I laid them out offset just like a keyboard.

The 9×9 grid on the right is my mouse. I have 12 buttons there, but can comfortably and easily reach 9 with my thumb – so those are additional keys I can use. It’s WoW, if I cant get by on 27 keys then I am failing. Well, 25 I guess plus strafe keys, which need to go somewhere.

I am a bit nervous about this for the sole reason that I know it will feel unnatural. For over 20 years I keyboard turned. This is definitely out of my comfort zone.

Do you Mouse turn or Keyboard turn? If the former, do you have any suggestions for me to make this as painless as possible?

Third Time’s the Charm

So, this happened on the weekend. Quite by accident, and I was somewhat not trying to, but being so close to it I figured I might as well put in the effort and level up my third Legion character.

Notice the awesome Bumblebee helmet and the mismatch of all the other gear from questing, time walking dungeons, etc. The thing that pushed me over the edge to finalize the level and get things rolling with my Paladin was rooted in the thought that I could actually make money in Warcraft. Not real money, mind you, but gaming money. With Couchon (Druid) and Coosh (Rogue) at max level, appropriately geared for all content I am interested in, with legionaries (2 and 1 respectively) and fully upgraded class halls, they are now making me in game money through the app. That’s right, I am pulling in around 3000 gold a day just by using the app. That is enough to pay my sub monthly and then some. Also, with the rumour that the WoW token will soon be able to be used for other things, hopefully other Blizzard titles, I am making my own virtual sweat shop of 110s.

Hitting 110 is no small feat, as it is the beginning of doing some “work”. You need to update your Class Hall, and followers, and have a steady stream of Order Resources to print the gold. This means doing daily quests when needed to stock up on OR. Coosh is in this pattern. Couchon is my main, who is on top of the storyline and running the major content.

The other good thing is that I get to finalize the Class Hall and Paladin campaign, which is my true motivation. Oh, they even have an achievement for this!

I am not sure if that is new for legion or if it was always there. I don’t really pay attention to achievements.

Blizzard was nice enough to give you your flight whistle and world quests immediately upon hitting maximum level if you already have a character at maximum level. There is just one small drawback to that…

That’s the map, and I have none of the flight paths. It is not a huge time killer or major gripe but you would think that by this point there isn’t even a good in game excuse to not have all flight paths unlocked. There is nothing new to discover, the Alliance and Horde are working together to push back the legion, they might be open minded to share where the transportation is. They might as well build in that quality of life improvement.

With every new alt at max level this gives new meaning to WoW life. My next step is to sort out which Horde character I am going to take to max level. I was going to do the Demon Hunter for the short trip but I have an itching to do a character that can do it all which is pushing me to my monk. I like to tank. I like to heal. I like to DPS. Having the full suite on one character will be helpful on a side I have no friends on. In the meantime, I am off to combat the legion from yet another viewpoint.

Cool Feature – Destiny

Remember that Bah Humbug the day before? Well, it still rings true. I did find something cool about Destiny quite by accident while surfing Tales of The Aggronaut – that Destiny has a web browser to look at your characters, stats and stuff. They have your characters done in a stylized cartoon way that really works  that was probably done for poly counts and load times. In game the models are much more realistic and high def. Since I found it (Thanks Bel!) here are my three Destiny characters.

My Character Sheet(s)


Titans are the big brutes in the Destiny world, heavily armored and an in your face kind of combatant. My Titan currently has my lowest light level (*316)  as I haven’t played on him much in the expansion. Although, I have played with him the most overall. Time Played counters have a way of making you feel like you haven’t dedicated enough of your life to something else. Two days I’ll never get back. But hey, at least it helps provide compelling content to readers! The interesting breakdown on my time played is spent is Strikes (3 man PVE instances) and Story (around 50%). The PVE is great in Destiny and that is what I enjoy most in game.

I actually share the account with my son, since you need a Playstation Plus membership to play online. He didn’t like Titan but made a Hunter instead.

Maybe somewhat embarrassed to see he has played almost a full day less than I, but it is interesting to me to see that the far majority of his time was spent in strikes – roughly 50%. Whereas mine is 25% strikes and 25% through the main story missions. Fun to see where he gets his most enjoyment. Hunters are medium armored, agile fighters.

Once both of those characters were Maximum light for us (Raids were out of reach) we both started sharing in on one character since we figured we might as well round it all out with the third class, the Warlock.

The Warlock is a light armored casting class. There are no true healers in Destiny but at least they covered the three DPS types. Warrior, Hunter, Mage. This is the character I have chosen to play more of in the Rise of Iron expansion which is why he has the highest light level. Also interesting is to see the balance of how Story mode takes precedent over Strikes when you are in new content/leveling mode.

Destiny feels similar to Legion WoW in terms of loot – you get items (engrams) that are blue or purple and get decoded into a Rare, Legendary, or Exotic item that is close to your overall light level. There aren’t too many giant jumps in gear in Destiny it is more of an incremental, slow climb. Each rarity of engram does have a cap. Sometimes when playing and I catch a familiarity from one of Blizzard’s other titles it makes me wonder if they are talking to one another with best practices or if it is pure coincidence. That’s a whole other post, however.

There is a little flavour on the style and look of Destiny, through I has PC’s customization style.

Bahs and Humbugs

Ghost of Christmas Past (Tis The Season!)

I haven’t really been a holiday season type for much of my formative time here on earth.  It was a life made up of phases. Kid phase, awesome of course. The presents, the mystery, the joy. Young adult phase, awesome too. Parties with friends, travel, excitement. In my second year of University, disaster struck. I had three friends die over a 10 day period, and I spent my Christmas holidays going from funeral to funeral. One suicide, one accidental, one by sickness. The third was somewhat expected at some point but that didn’t make the pain any less – remember, at that time in our lives (low 20s) we felt absolutely invincible. This made the holidays not a fun time of year. Not based on cheer, but loss. Looking back of course it was silly to allow that to ruin the holiday season for my but youth, and lack of wisdom, and all of that.

It was hard.

Of course, when I had my own son  I got to relive the joy of the holiday season through his eyes and actions. Looking forward to seeing him party it up and travel with friends as he turns into a teen (few years left!) and then hopefully he skips the sad phase and goes straight into his own adult phase. It has made the holiday season much better.  I had a good holiday, but I have some gaming humbugs out there that I am in the mood to get off my chest. Call me Scrooge.

Ghost of Christmas Present (Destiny)

My son We got Destiny: Rise of Iron for Christmas. I had a great run with Destiny but held off on this expansion. My serial nature of gaming, and being waist deep in WoW leaves little extra gaming room. I was excited to play it, spent about 3 hours doing the main quest line only to realize this is probably the worst expansion I have played for any game – ever. While that is scathing (it is meant to be) the expansion didn’t improve on anything about the game. In fact, it just feels like a re-skin of old areas and a new mob type and exactly the same otherwise.  I know they are working on Destiny 2 but they should have put some resources into this. It’s terrible. Maybe it gets better (?) but not sure if I will be playing this long enough to find out. The Taken King felt like a whole new game in many ways. This feels like a new side mission. They didn’t even expand the classes.

The story, sucks as ever. It’s so frustrating. This could be a fantastic, amazing universe to be a part of. Instead it makes no sense, it’s confusing, and it is largely incoherent.  I know there are great writers out there that given the time and investment could fix all of that even in its current state.

The shooter elements are slick. The classes are unique and fun. The PVE nature of it is incredible. The game fails for the sole purpose that it doesn’t come close to realizing it’s potential and this expansion was a gross cash grab. I believe Titan was cancelled because it would have beat out Destiny because the shooting elements were there, but story as well. Activision was worried to lose / split such a huge pile of cash so turned it into the lobby competitive shooter it is. If another PVE shooter comes along I will ditch this game in a heartbeat. Oh, there isn’t anything? Oh, sure, I am still playing it. There is nothing on the market better than it in what it does. Yes, irony or some-such. I can hate it and play it at the same time, given the alternative. Plus three hours is not a ton to judge a whole expansion on. Those are just my first impressions.

Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Game Designers of My Generation)

With Smedley’s closure of Pixel Mage is there any doubt that game design is as much luck and timing as personal ingenuity? I grew up in awe of Lord British (UO: Revolutionary. Tabula Rasa: “fail”, Shroud of the Avatar: too early to tell), Mark Jacobs (DAOC: Amazing. Warhammer Online:”fail”. Camelot Unchained:behind schedule), Brad McQuaid (EQ:Best ever, Vanguard:”fail”, Pantheon:too early to tell). “Fail” is in quotes because some of those games were important to some gamers and had some success, but they did not have the same commercial and critical acclaim that their initial offerings and what was expected. Version three of all of their work may be the triumphant return as they have “learned their lessons”, or it may be final proof that lightning doesn’t strike twice. My generation (40’s) that grew up on those titles have held expectations.  It’s frustrating to see them fail, and I hope the best for them in their new titles. I just have little optimism. That may be unfair, but in my current mood I am not overly optimistic.

There, the lumps of coals are out. I will now return to my cheery, regularly scheduled programming. I hope you had an awesome holiday seasons sans Bahs and Humbugs!

Rogue One

I love Star Wars. I even love the prequel trilogy. They are a wonderful chain of films set in an adventurous and interesting galaxy. Disney bringing it back, and in a big way, is exciting to me. I am really pleased to know that I have another decade ahead of Star Wars movies. Having a child reignites this passion as we watched all six of the original movies together before the new one came out last year, and we both had a high excitement level for Rogue One. I like that Disney is more deeply exploring the non-force side of the universe. I watched Rogue One last night, and what I can tell you before I head into spoiler warning territory is that I felt really uncomfortable at the end of the movie. A feeling far different from any Star Wars universe based movie, ever, for me. Now, I am going to put in a “jump” button if you have not already seen the  movie (or care not to, heathen) and I can share more about why I felt/feel that way, and what it all means to me.

WARNING : BIG SPOILERS AFTER THE JUMP (to Lightspeed)….

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