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An Unintentional Silence Broken

December 17, 2014

Dear Reader,

I’ve just been so busy!  And also, of course, somewhat irresponsible; not having a scheduled routine makes it quite easy to just disappear for a while.

The good news is that the time I’ve been gone has been extremely productive and fun.  I’ve been playing a load of games and doing some really fun things at school.  We’ll talk about the games first because really, that’s why you’re here.

For one, WoW is still occupying my time.  I routinely log on at least three times a day to manage my missions.  I mentioned before that I suspect it’s only a few months before that feels more like a chore than a privilege to a majority of the player base, but for me it’ll likely be longer.  I mentioned before that I continued the Star Trek Online and Neverwinter Online missions for months after I stopped playing the game.  There’s just something about the matching and optimizing that I like.

I’ve finally finished my 680 ring and am now working on the abrogator stones.  For the heroics, I found healing moderately easy, but I had a decently geared tank all the time I was doing it.  I found the hardest by far to be UBRS; my buddy disagrees vehemently with me and says it’s slag mines, but as a healer, I know I was panic-healing about half of the time in UBRS, but never panic healed the others.  Of course, we were “rushing” to get Leeroy Jenkins, but our dps was absurdly good, too, like two in the 20k range, so I’m pretty sure that balances out.

I’m enjoying healing again; I feel like whatever damage they did it by making it too easy at the end of LK and too weird in Cata has been largely undone.  I’m glad I leveled my druid first, too, since it gave me a chance to try a lot of different play styles.  Speaking of, I tried cat form for exactly one dungeon before I dropped it.  I had gone cat form for the snake boss in the Brawler’s Guild, which is basically impossible to do as a moonkin; I oneshotted it the first time I switched over to feral, even with the wrong gear in several slots and no practical experience at WoD feral.  I figured it was fun, fast, and stealthy, so I might as well stick with it.  Then I did heroic Grimrail Depot.  I switched back to moonkin right afterwards.

The healing feels good, though.  I’m not so geared that I can just double rejuv and sleep, though I suspect that will be an issue later with raid healing.  Of course, I haven’t done a “real” raid yet, let alone a “heroic” (normal) raid, so I really don’t know.  Only time will tell.

In other gaming news, I “finished” the current alpha of Crypt of the Necrodancer.  Long readers will know that this is significant in that I somewhat rarely actually finish games; about 38% of the time according to Steam.  Of course, the “real” game is doing all 12 floors in “hardcore” mode in one shot, which I have not done, but I’m not a young man any more, and that may or may not be possible.  We’ll see if it’s in the cards in the future.

Desktop Dungeons is on hiatus; I don’t know if I’ll be returning or not, to be honest.  It was just too hard, and I don’t feel like it gave me a good enough basic understanding of the game to know how to improve.  Sure, I could do a bunch of reading – it’s out there; I’ve checked – but I just don’t care to.  So for now, better options abound.

To replace some of the Necrodancer zealotry, I started playing Dungeon of the Endless.  I don’t like the title too much; I mean, I get it, but eh.  However, the hype around the solid gameplay was well-founded; I think it’s the best designed roguelike I’ve played in a long time.  Part of that comes from the fact that it’s a roguelike variant; you have a party of people, not just a single character, and there’s tower defense and RTS elements to it, as well.  Rather than all that jumbling into a mess, though, all the parts fit very neatly into a solid package; I would recommend it to anyone.  Seriously – anyone can play it and learn how it works.  Heck, I already beat the super-easy mode but am still working slowly through progressing in the normal “easy” mode.

I continue to bash zombies in 7 Days to Die, as well.  The game, like DayZ, has provided many hours of amusement, the best of which was during a zombie horde attack when my buddy slammed me in the face with a sledgehammer because he was so scared and reflexively attacked when I “snuck up behind him.”  Of course, he told me zombies were getting in, so I went to help him, so I’m not really sure there’s any blame on me, but whateve.  It one-shot killed me, but we both laughed a lot about it and still do.

So that’s what I’ve been up to.  I hope to get back to you a little more quickly next time, but we’ll have to see.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and playing a lot)

A Quiet, Busy Week

December 5, 2014

Dear Reader,

The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas break are always the most stressful.  The kids are more on edge, the adults are more stressed out, and everyone seems to just be waiting out the clock instead of actually trying to spend that time getting something worthwhile done.  Hell, my neighbor-teacher was listening to “What Does the Fox Say?” loudly in her room.  I hope it was to teach onomatopoeia; it’s the only educational value I can think of for that song.

I bought a few games at the previous Steam sale and have been playing all of them.  Solo, I’ve been heavily invested in Crypt of the Necrodancer, which looked very silly at first but got my alpha-production support simply due to its creative approach: a rogue-like that works around rhythm.  We haven’t seen one of those before.

So far, it’s been a lot of fun; the music is good, the variety of weapons and enemies is good, and the challenge ramps up appropriately.  I would heartily recommend you give this game a chance if the video – one of the best game “previews” I’ve seen in a long time – catches your attention.

I also snatched up Desktop Dungeonsa game that sat on my wishlist for quite some time.  To put it mildly, I’m bad at it, and must be misunderstanding some core mechanic, because I haven’t been able to successfully complete a mission since the tutorial-level ones – even the “easy” missions to the west.  It’s a great game – don’t get me wrong – it’s smartly designed, great for micro-play sessions, and has a wonderful sense of humor, but I’m just missing something, probably because I’ve spent more time jamming with the Necrodancer.

Most of my non-WoW game time, though, has been spent playing 7 Days to Die (you shouldn’t start sentences and, by extension, names with numerals, by the way, but whatever) with my buddy.  It’s precisely the experience we’ve been looking for since DayZ; a survival horror in a brutal world that doesn’t pull punches.  We’ve both died repeatedly, partly because we’ve resisted looking up some basic things, favoring instead to figure them out on our own, such as Question: Can you drink water from the river?  Answer: No, you’ll die of diarrhea (which I eventually did).

I admit it doesn’t provide the abject terror of expecting, at any moment, to be PK’d for no reason, but on that note, it doesn’t provide the insane frustration of being PK’d for no reason.  Seems like a fair trade off.  To top that off, apparently it’s a Minecraft-style crafting game, which I didn’t know when we started playing, so we’ve been having a lot of fun figuring out how to do things within the crafting system, since neither of us has really played any Minecraft.

So that’s what I’ve been up to!

SIncerely,

Stubborn (diarrhea deaths: 1)

Hilarious Mishap

November 26, 2014

Dear Reader,

You may remember my Star Wars mishap involving knocking Lord Scourge – who needed to be “killed” according to the quest – down into a pit where he took a knee and then needed to be spoken to.  Since we could no longer reach him, my buddy had to redo the entire dungeon, which took about an hour the first time.  I was not asked to come along a second time.

Well, I did it again.  Apparently, one should not kill the drakes that the twilight sappers ride.  My buddy asked me to come along to Dragon Soul with him solely to act like a paperweight on the Spine of Deathwing; it kept flipping over on him in weeks past.  I agreed, and we blew up the first few bosses in hilarious manner.  But on the airship, my Starfall really shone; it killed the dudes and the drakes almost before they dropped.

WELL.  I got one of the twilight drakes that the sappers ride in on, and this was the outcomeWoWScrnShot_112614_000949

I instantly died.  No damage.  Just death.  Then my buddy finished the boss, and… it didn’t register as finishing.  It just stopped, with the captain offering to start the encounter for the boss we’d just killed, not for the Spine of Deathwing.

Well, my buddy was a bit miffed, as it seemed, again, that I had messed up his plans.  Of course, this time it wasn’t intentional, but still.  The only reason he’d brought me was for Spine, and now thanks to my odd bugging of the boss, we couldn’t do Spine.

We did eventually get it worked out with character switches and rezoning, but it took as long as basically the entire instance.  So a word of warning – don’t kill the sappers’ drakes.  It will go poorly.

DING!

November 19, 2014

Dear Reader,

I’m again sitting in a computer lab while my creative, intelligent children take a soul-draining test on the computer.  To be fair, though, it’s a relatively short one, and the questions are pretty good about focusing on critical thinking.  Still, I could be doing something meaningful for the students instead of something to quantify their learning for the admin.

So it goes.

I set a goal to ding 100 over the weekend but didn’t make it.  Instead, I enjoyed watching The Walking Dead with my wife and taking a nice, long nap.  I would have made it, I think, if I hadn’t done those things, but I have no regrets.  I came into work Monday morning at 98, so I just decided to get a level a day and ding on Tuesday, which I accomplished.  I might have been able to ding faster, but I found myself getting sidetracked a lot.  This is actually a good thing, though, as it means I had more impetus to explore and just take in the sights.

I liked the treasure and “hidden” follower system quite a lot.  It encouraged exploration a bit while not making it completely mandatory (at first).  I also feel like I did a pretty good job finding the “hidden” followers.  I looked at the end of each zone to see who I’d missed, and I only missed one or so in each zone.  The garrison, too, is fantastic, though I’m willing to bet the novelty of it will wear off for a lot of people in a month or two.  We’ll see.  I wasn’t able to level my garrison to level 3 right away because I didn’t know to save my resources (I didn’t look up anything ahead of time to avoid spoiling it), but I’m sure I’ll get it today.  I’m excited to see what new opportunities it brings.

One minor detail I didn’t like about the follower tab is that it shows followers that are mutually exclusive; for example, it shows all three from the early quest, even though you choose only one, so it looks like I “missed” those other two.  It also seems to show horde-exclusive followers (Pleasure-Bot 8000, specifically), which makes me wonder if it’s mis-reported as horde only or just shouldn’t display there. I hope they fix that in he future to only show followers you missed and can actually get.

One of my favorite things about the expansion is simply encountering old friends again.  I bumped into Lunk, for example, the ogre who used to sit in Shattrath and who began (IIRC) the Ogri’la chain.  I saw Lantressor the Blade and learned a bit more about him.  From a lore perspective, I really feel like this has fleshed out BC even more while simultaneously adding a new storyline of its own.  The one problem I’ve been having – and I read all the quest text the first time through – is keeping track or who came through the time shift with me and who’s original to the this timeline.  Maraad, for example, I think he came with, but shouldn’t he have a counterpart here?  Where the hell is Thrall, for that matter?  He’s probably just a kid, but shouldn’t he be around?  Someone said he’d been born less than 25 years ago, but that doesn’t sound right.  I don’t really know, though, and that’s what’s bothering me.

Overall, I’d rate this as the second best expansion after BC.  I’d put BC at the top, and while I know a lot of people complain about it, I don’t think it’s fair to judge it equally against later expansions.  For its time, it was pretty ground-breaking: flying, heroic dungeons, better “hubbing” of quests, etc.  Sure, there were elements we’d not consider a bit out-of-date, but I think they worked then, even if we have a better system now (like gating heroics behind rep as opposed to gear score or proving grounds achievements).

I think this expansion is light years better than the last two, both in terms of story, integration into the previous game, and leveling.  Of course, I can’t really judge the end game just yet, so we’ll have to talk more about that later.

What have you all liked or disliked about it?  I’m curious to hear your feedback.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and 100)

WoD and Donations

November 13, 2014

Dear Reader,

So while I’ve been silent about it, I have been pretty excited about the Warlords of Draenor release.  I had to decide which character to level – or so I thought – as it turns out that I’d forgotten that I’ll likely be leveling several of them, since I’ll need one to play alone, one to play with my wife, and one to play with my buddy.

In the end, I decided to level my druid solo, simply because I like how much versatility druids have.  I’ve only done a little bit so far – I only just opened up my Garrison before my bedtime and the lag made me decide to take a break – but I’ve enjoyed it a lot.  I like the crisper graphics.  I have run into some trouble with starfall; I’m going to have to really manage that button a lot better.  The nigh-infinite respawn in some of the areas mixed with starfall means that there are times that I just don’t get out of combat.  Sure, I could stop hitting starfall at some point in there, but that seems like it would be an admission of defeat!

I didn’t really read anything about WoD because I didn’t want it to be spoiled.  I knew there were garrisons, of course, but didn’t know anything about them.  Since I only just sent my first lady off to do something, I still don’t really know anything about them, but they certainly seem like the kind of fun I enjoy.  I always liked the officer missions in Star Trek Online and the follower missions in Star Wars (though there were some funny bugs in there), so I assume managing this will become a bit of an obsession, too.

On a really sweet and a bit weird side note, after my last post about gambling on a rare pet and having invested all my 25k in it, someone anonymously sent me 25k gold in the mail.  To whomever that was, I want to give you a hearty thank you, but I also feel a bit weird accepting charity like that.  I won’t be so crass as to ask to give it back, but it’s certainly a strange first for having written this blog for so long.  The best treasures this blog has provided have been the friendships its engendered with a variety of awesome people all over the world.  The 25k was a very different benefit, so thank you, anonymous donor, for both the money and the experience of having a patron (;

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and patronized – in the good way!)

More Bundling

November 4, 2014

Dear Reader,

So another Humble Bundle came along of which I didn’t have any games.  That’s getting increasingly rare, though to be honest, I’m willing to double-purchase a game in the bundle and just gift it.  I snatched the purchase up and have been trying out the various games included.

One real gem I found so far was Betrayer, a first-person “shooter” that’s really much more about narrative and exploration.  The game seems to defer to the type of game play I prefer; I spend plenty of time checking nooks and crannies while sneaking around to kill monsters with sneak attacks.  The default weapon is bow and arrow, as well, which I like; having limited ammo and needing to judge distance on my long-range shots to adjust the angle of fire is a real pleasure.  Its setting and art style are unique, as well.  I suggest, should you get a chance to play it, that you do so.

In WoW news, I made my own Halloween terror by making a huge investment in an attempt to double my money.  I’m getting quite nervous that I made a mistake, though, so I’m living in perpetual terror of having lost my money.  You see, dear reader, a Crawling Claw showed up for about 25k on the AH.  They’re often 60 or 90k, and the leveled Claws are more like 120k.  I’m not greedy, but I saw an opportunity, so I bought it, spending virtually all my money (yes, I’m bad at making money in WoW).  I power-leveled it in a half hour or so and put it back up on the AH for 50k – still cheaper than the next level 1 Claw.

Then another 25k Claw appeared.  Yes, it’s level 1, but still.  It’s been a few days now with no bites, and while the market hasn’t changed at all in that time, well… THE MARKET HAS CHANGED AT ALL IN THAT TIME, meaning mine is still the second from cheapest and no one has purchased any of them.

So I don’t know.  This wouldn’t be the first time I got burned trying to play the AH, but it would be the first time I left myself nearly destitute to do so.  I’ll tell you more when I know more.

In other gaming news, I’m still playing X-Com, and have had a minor realization.  If I just keep not capturing an alien, I may be able to keep leveling and improving without advancing the story.  I must have “rushed” the last games I played; i always did what I was told (make the arc thrower, capture a live alien, capture a commander, etc) as soon as it was available.  I was a good little soldier in that way.  Now, I’m just trucking along, getting better and better armor and weapons, shooting down scrub UFOs when I can and looting them.  I’ve mostly controlled the panic, though I did lose Australia or somewhere like that.  Nowhere important (;  (Sorry Navi!).

I have Parent/Teacher conferences today, which has allowed this brief mid-day post.  I have all of 4 parents coming to see me out of 75.  In NYC, we didn’t give out report cards; parents had to come and pick them up.  I vastly preferred that, as it forced parents to engage with the school, and most of them, while they were there, figured they might as well talk to some of the teachers.  I probably had about 75% participation in the P/T conferences there, as opposed to a piddly 5%.

At any rate, I hope you’re all doing well!

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and conferencing)

Flitting Around

October 29, 2014

Dear Reader,

Last week was – well – it was a rough one.  You read all about it.  By comparison, this week has been pretty sweet.  My back’s feeling back to normal (pun intended – if that were quality enough to be a pun), my schedule’s much more clear, and I’ve had a lot more time to game.

I’ve become sort of a “niche” gamer in some ways.  For one, I have games I play with each of my friends and wife: World of Warcraft with my blind buddy, Civ 5 with Balkoth, Wildstar with my wife, and, well, nothing really with my other buddies, at least not recently.  My other buddy has been playing Divinity: Original Sin and really liking it, adding to the list of very positive reviews I’ve heard about the game, though, so I’m intrigued and hoping for a sale.

I’ve also become a bit of niche gamer because I’ve been playing a lot more of the “little known” games due to Humble Bundles.  Okay, most recently I’ve been playing X-Com (I haven’t fully rage-quit just yet, though I was close the other night when two 90% to hit rocket attacks missed their mark followed by an 88% sniper shot missing, causing one of my people to be killed the following round, but I held it together and played on).  X-Com isn’t exactly a “lesser known” game, but I mostly played that because it works well in the side screen when I’m playing something else that requires waiting in the main screen (like Civ 5, as I’m a lot less tactical and intelligent about it than most of my play partners).

I’ve been enjoying this gaming “circuit”, too, for the variety of activities I get to do.  My wife and I leveling in Wildstar has no meaningful overlap with playing WoW (for now – check again when I’m leveling in WoD), so that’s been a very light-hearted jaunt into a silly setting.  I’ve also enjoyed decorating my house; this should be no surprise because of how much I liked it in Lord of the Rings, but I’m still vexed by the fact that no other MMO has used the trophy system from LotRO!  I loved hanging up my Ring Wraiths Rusted Mail from this boss or having the Tentacle in the Well from that boss.  It was a lot of fun.

Civilization 5 has been great, too, but I’m wondering now whether to upgrade to the new one or wait.  I didn’t wait with Civ 5, and it meant I had to learn the game repeatedly as patches and expansions came out; I’m a bit tired of that business model, really.  I’m tempted just to wait a few years before I pick it up, but we’ll have to see what my play circle says.  At any rate, I just won an Immortal (next to hardest) level one-city challenge (meaning human players can only have one city whereas the AI can have as many as they want).  It was tough, but we won both through diplomacy and through domination.  I don’t really like war, so I mostly let Balkoth handle the late-game war stuff, but in the process, I learned a lot about the capabilities of units that I’d never really paid attention to before.  It was quite enlightening both about the game and about Balkoth’s penchant to find broken advantages.

In WoW, I’m mostly grinding old raids for mounts with my buddy.  I’m slowly and rather indirectly pursuing some legendaries, too; I got to the last step of the Tarecgosa staff only to find out it wasn’t the last step: I was just ignorant of the quest line.  That was a bit of a bummer, but oh well; it’s not like two mounts will drop in the next few weeks, so I’ll be going anyway.  I started the LK axe on my paladin, too, for largely the same reason: I’ll be going there, so why not do that as well.  I just bought most of the primordial saronite (which set me back about 4k), so the wait for that step wasn’t too long.  Now the main hiccup will be getting 4 people in there to do bites on the Lana’thel stage.

So that’s what I’ve been up to.  I’m itching for a new solo game, too; X-Com’s nice and all, but it’s only a matter of time before I reach the “F THIS!” stage, so I’ll need a fallback.  I’ve played through most of my “pending” library.  Any suggestions?

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and about to be a blue dragon)

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