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Guest Post by Erawan, my “Blind Buddy,” On Being a Visually Impaired Gamer

July 30, 2014

Dear Reader,

Stubborn wanted me to shed some light on blind gaming, unfortunately I would need to see that light first.

It has been over a year now that I have been blind, well, legally blind (20/200 or worse), and I have more or less accepted the fact that my vision is unlikely to improve. I have gone through several procedures, including surgery on both eyes, to try to correct the damage that was done by diabetes.  I have received several injections directly to the eye to try to reduce the swelling on the retina but to no avail.

The next  step is an implant that time releases medicine to try to get the swelling down. I will also require cataract surgery, but if the swelling can’t be reduced significantly then my vision will only get progressively worse despite the fact that I have completely changed my lifestyle habits.  My vision has improved much since I first started having problems.  The vessels in the eyes get so damaged by the excess sugar that eventually blood hemorrhages into the liquid between the retina and the lens (vitreous).  

For months, all I could see were colors, but two surgeries to replace the vitreous and subsequent laser treatments will, with a little luck, prevent those hemorrhages from occurring again.  If someone had told me to stop guzzling the soda and shoveling the fried foods fifteen years ago I would’ve ignored them;  if there’s one takeaway I hope this post conveys is  that.  

That’s enough about my problems though; I’ll focus on the topic at hand.

My sight is such now that the only way I can see the computer screen is to pull the monitor less than the width of the keyboard. Even then I need to magnify websites to much larger type in order to see it.

A lot of games just aren’t viable for me to play anymore. Most FPS’s are out of the question especially when things are in the distance as I can just barely see the movement.  In a game like Monaco with the old school graphics I was unable to discern the characters from the backgrounds, especially if they weren’t moving.

Playing WOW can be a challenge too. In order to see pertinent information I have to squint and focus on one quadrant of the screen at a time.  Ground effects or dbm warnings in the middle, health bar in the corner, chat channels on the side or hotkeys on the bottom; I just can’t see them all at once anymore and it leads to slower reaction times and some frustration as well.  I frequently miss tells sent to me because I just can’t focus on that section of the screen.

We recently started leveling characters in Elder Scrolls Online (ESO).  I won’t get into a review of ESO, but it is valid in this discussion so I’ll briefly mention it.  I am frequently falling behind because I am slower reading the quest text and figuring out where to go via the map, pertinent character information, etc.  It can get disheartening when you miss a quest mob and everyone else is now a couple steps further on the chain. Then, of course, you get chastised for not being on the same step from one’s teammates.

Whether intentionally or not, Blizzard has implemented several visual enhancements that are invaluable to my condition.  Most lootable items in WOW have a sparkle which is glaringly absent in ESO.  It can be argued that the sparkle makes questing too easy; I can no longer apply this to myself.  Also, most ground effects have a pretty discernible border which makes it easier to avoid.  Stubborn recommended an addon that makes an annoying noise when you are standing in some ground effect; it is undeniably a must have one for the visually impaired.  Obviously, heroic raiding is way beyond my capabilities, but I have full cleared Siege of Orgrimmar on normal as tank.  I even successfully did the belt on Siegecrafter.  I don’t know what sadist assigned me to that but I got through it somehow!

Sincerely,

Erawan (siege belt superhero)

Guest Post by “Jacob” BuryNerds on Burnout

July 25, 2014

Dear Reader,

So as some of you may have heard, Stubborn has an excuse as to why he can’t write for this blog for a little while.  Something about moving halfway across the country and it being challenging or something.  Anyway, luckily for all of you I am here to fill the void.  On the Internet pretty much everyone calls me Bury and have been referred to on this blog as Jacob or new guild buddy in the past; you can all call me Bury though. Stubborn has asked me in the past to write a counter argument to his post about Dota and occasionally for my thoughts on other things.  So when I found out he was going to be abandoning his blog for a period of time I figured now was probably as good a time as any to give this a shot.  I have never written a blog post before so if it sucks you can all suck dirt; I don’t really care.

We have now been in SOO since September.  This brings us to 10 months in Siege with a lot guilds – including mine – having had Heroic Garrosh down for 20 or more weeks.  Burnout is setting in hard across the game, and I am no exception.  My personal way of dealing with burnout has always been to scale back my weekly raiding commitments some.  Not permanently, but usually I will take a few weeks during the farm stage of the tier to only raid in my main raid which is usually down to 1-2 nights at that point.

Some guilds like to close their doors for the summer, and some raiders just drop off the map without another word.  Unfortunately this is something that I think isn’t talked about enough in high end raiding guilds.  A significant portion of guilds that I have been in simply didn’t acknowledge that burnout was a real thing and just expected raiders to push through and grind it out before the new content comes out.  This isn’t usually super conducive to keeping a raid together in my experience.   Sure there are a few players that will grind it out, but some will simply get so fed up, bored, frustrated, annoyed, and whatever that they just disappear.  On the same note I think that some raiders feel that being burnt out on a tier is something to be ashamed of.  They won’t bring the issue up to leadership and just end up fading off the roster because they are just not enjoying playing any more.

We all play this game to have fun, and even at the high tier level we play to enjoy ourselves.  As we reach the end of a tier – especially a longer tier like this one – burn out can start eat into that fun pretty rapidly.  If the guild isn’t addressing it, it can very quickly turn even the best of guilds into a guild that can’t field a full raid in the space of a few weeks.  I think communication from all sides is essential in keeping player burnout in check.  Without that, no one really understands where anyone else is mentally.  I also think allowing your raid team to become mentally fatigued doing the content even if you manage to keep everyone raiding until the next tier hurts your progression when you do get there.  Taking a guild break toward the end of a tier can help to get everyone in a place where they are hungry for the content when you start back up again.

So readers, how do you all deal with burnout?  Recently I have been enjoying my time outside of WoW with Stubborn, his wife, his (probably now our) buddy, and our Cubano friend playing Elder Scrolls Online or some Civilization V.  Part of the reason I have enjoyed those games as much as I have is that they are just breaking up some of the monotony of WoW as we come to the end of MoP.

Anyway keep your burnout and check and if you need to take a break take it.  Don’t abandon your team; let them know what is up with you and where you are at mentally.  I bet 9 times out of 10 you will be surprised how accommodating the leadership is willing to be for raiders with this issue.

Sincerely,

Bury (feeling a little crispy)

 

A Surprise Concert

July 24, 2014

Dear Reader,

So it was a very long day today involving both grading final exit exams that I wasn’t remotely involved with, cleaning out my office, taking care of termination paperwork, having a house showing, and, of course, the flex.

It wouldn’t have been a particularly noteworthy run except there was a surprise concert during it.  One of our raiders, Amereth, provided his vocal and guitar expertise over mumble.

It was surprisingly good.  Shockingly good, really.  Like you would pay to see this guy at your local bar.

I’ve been told it’s a very rare occurrence, but I also suspect he hasn’t had as interested and grateful an audience, so who knows; maybe it will become a regular thing.  If you’re interested in coming and finding out for yourself, look for Balkoth’s flex raids on openraid.us and sign up.  They’re always quick and fun, and now musical, as well.

On other notes, I suspect my days will be getting more busy before they get less.  I’m going to try to set up some guest posts, so don’t be surprised if you see some.  If I’m super-late like today’s, don’t be terribly surprised, either.  I’ll try to keep you up to date, regardless.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and moving)

The Joy of Civ

July 21, 2014

Dear Reader,

So, I haven’t gotten a lot of the superfluous WoW activities done this week, like my Firelands or ICC runs, because instead I’ve been playing Civ 5.  Surprisingly (or not, since it’s a very popular game), a lot of the people in my gaming circle turned out to already own it.  So when the nice guy in our guild, who has instructed that I refer to him as “Jacob” on this website, found out that so many of us owned it, he suggested we all put together a game and play.

So we did.  We’re only about halfway through it, but so far it’s been a lot of fun.  I see a very slow end-game, since we have 10 civs in the game and, by the time the whole map is revealed, each turn will take forever to process.

I ended up getting India, which is great for me since I love to make a lot of culture, and its civilization bonus allows big cities with fewer penalties, making culture progress a bit easier.  However, I ended up in a huge, empty area near an enemy Civ, so if I didn’t fill it, the enemy might.  So I actually ended up in a position where I have a ton of cities, instead.  Bleh, but it was better for the team that I do it.

The AI, though, is behaving oddly; half of their team made a settler but never founded a second city.  We’re blowing them out of the water as a result, but I haven’t a clue as to why they behaved that way.  I feel like capturing their cities just to destroy their stupid settlers, which I’m tired of seeing sitting there doing nothing.

On a separate note, I’ll be moving two weeks from today.  In a few posts, you should expect to see a hiatus note; I can’t keep this going when things get really busy here.  Be prepared.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (Jacob is the pet’s name)

Tanking SoO a Second Time

July 18, 2014

Dear Reader,

So after last week’s flex debacle, I was pretty unsure about my capability to tank anymore.  However, my mother didn’t raise a quitter, either, so I figured I’d give it another shot.

I had hoped it would be easier for a few reasons.  First, I had a better weapon.  Instead of the 476 I was sporting, a 540 had dropped the previous week (the only loot drop on 16 rolls, you might remember).  Of course, after I’d gemmed and enchanted it, I remembered that I might have gotten a tanking heirloom, and when I checked, sure enough, there it was.  So I gemmed and enchanted that one and went in swinging a 556 this week.  It made a huge difference, though the DK tank that was in there – not my buddy – had to stop attacking not to pull threat back.  Since fully buffed he had like 1.2 million hp, I assume his gear was a tiny bit better than mine.  I kept making jokes about him being the off tank, but I don’t think he got them; he just seemed confused.  I didn’t have threat issues against dps, though, so that was a major improvement.

Secondly, I had a better idea of when to use defensive cooldowns.  I don’t think I died on any of the early bosses, and I only died a few times on the later ones, which again was a major improvement.  Knowing how to reduce the damage on abilities that had killed me the previous week certainly improved my life expectancy, and I additionally respecced into Eternal Flame instead of Sacred Shield, which seemed to help keep me up, as well.

Lastly, I had actually seen the boss fights.  I didn’t know what to do in the “other” realm of Norushen the first week, but I did this time.  I still struggled to pick up adds again on Norushen (I really hate that fight), but I was better about it this week than I was last.  I had towers on Galakras stolen from me by the DK tank who didn’t listen to the raid leader, but it’s not like that add fight is particularly rough, so I improved there.  I didn’t mess up bombs on IJ like I previous had, and so forth.  Overall, it was a much easier week all around.

I will say that Spoils seems like a fight solely designed to punish tanks, especially when two different people on my side were opening boxes at cross purposes from one another on opposite sides of the room.  I’m not sure if it was a hazing ritual or some kind of test, but I don’t think I let anyone die, so I guess I passed.  Perhaps, though, the fact that I started opening my own boxes towards the end of the fight (which only stopped one of them) was their real goal; I may not know the order, but by god I’d rather pace the fight myself.

So I enjoyed my tanking this time, and no longer assume it’s my old age and rusty practice that was contributing to last week’s abject failure.  I’m happy to report that I’ll likely keep tanking when they need a tank or heal if they need a healer in those flex runs.  The Saturday raids will still be getting Iambic’s dps unless otherwise requested, but I’m perfectly fine doing that.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and contributing to all three roles)

Spoiled for Shortage

July 16, 2014

Dear Reader,

From a gaming point of view, things are pretty good here.  Too often, I’ve had more than enough to post due to guild issues.  I have been accused in the past, in fact, of generating issues with guilds to have something to write about.  That’s not true, of course, but at the moment I find myself with a dearth of topics because things are, in fact, going so smoothly.

I’m in a position where I’m comfortably playing 4 characters in a guild with people who enjoy doing a wide variety of things and are very open minded about allowing participants to bring whatever character they want.  No “serious” guild would have allowed my to bring most of my characters on their “first” raids.  The irony, of course, is that this is a 14/14H both 10 and 25 guild, so they’re very serious about some things.  Yet they allowed me to take my shaman, which probably had less than 100k dps on my first raid, for example, and you read last week, dear reader, about my first experience tanking in flex.

I don’t think I’ve ever been comfortably rotating so many characters essentially on a daily basis, either, and I strongly suspect that’s because of my level of comfort with my guild.  When I was server transferring all over, looking for a home, it would have been too costly to take everyone to each new server, so I was pretty limited in my play choice simply by the financial restrictions of character migration.  Now that I’m pretty comfortably situated, I can slowly and surely consolidate my characters in one place, giving me a variety of characters from which to choose.  It’s certainly kept the play a lot more fresh and allowed me to fool around with different roles, specs, and professions.

In fact, I’ve been leveling my two new professions on my rogue: engineering and mining.  Some of my early posts were about how terrible leveling engineering was, but this time, the process has been much smoother.  I don’t know if they’ve streamlined the process, am using a better guide, or am just more familiar with the profession, but this time the engineering has flown by.  On the other hand, the mining has been a pain.  I’m fine with throwing money at the problem, but there are stages in the leveling progression where you can only get skill ups by actually gathering the mining nodes.

Now, to be fair, I admit that it’s not really a huge issue.  I can fly wherever and mine the stuff, hearth back, and be done in maybe a half hour.  It’s not a huge deal.  But still, I find it odd alongside a system that can allow you to purchase a level 90 with zero professions which will then, obviously, be power-leveled up.  It seems to me that those “gray areas” of skill ups should be smoothed out so that there’s always other options.  That way, if you want to sit around in town and buy your ore and smelt it to 600, fine.  If you want to fly around and save all your money by mining yourself, fine.  Either way, you have a choice.

So overall, I’m very comfortable and enjoying the juggling. Hopefully it will last.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and content)

A Dark Room

July 14, 2014

Dear Reader,

I’ve made it known that I’m a fan of Extra Credits.  While I may not agree with everything they publish, I’ve found a majority of their episodes interesting and discussion-generating.  I particularly like their episodes on the relationship between games and education, an area of study close to my heart.  Additionally, I like that they bring games to my attention of which I might not have otherwise heard, which broadens my gaming opportunities beyond just what I or my buddy come across.

In their most recent episode, they discuss some games that develop over play time.  I’ve now tried all three of the games they mention, and for my part, I found A Dark Room to be by far the most interesting and fun.  I won’t go into great detail about the game itself, as the discovery of the game is part of the enjoyment, and I wouldn’t want to rob anyone of that.

I will say that I was afraid it would take a while for the game to get going, considering its starting screen is so sparse, but it really didn’t.  About two or three minutes into the game, I was hooked, and I played it consistently over the next few days until I finished it – the first round of it, anyway.  It’s an excellent game to play while doing something else; I have recently began to level my mining and engineering on my rogue, and when I had a large stack of ore to smelt, I could happily switch to A Dark Room and play for a few minutes, then switch back.  In fact, at one point, I was playing Candy Box, A Dark Room, and Dungeons of Dredmore all at the same time.  The whole “waiting” aspect of the game(s) worked well in that regard.

I mentioned it to my buddy, who I suspected would enjoy it, but I was overheard by my new buddy, the nice guy from my guild.  He’s a very high-energy player; he categorizes himself as “wanting maximum actions per minute.”  He has sniffed haughtily at the turn-based strategy games I play, and he has puffed out his superior chest (phrased intentionally) at my volume of rogue-likes.  He has turned up his nose at any side-scrollers, as well.  In other words, he’s a bit of a gaming elitist.  He’s young, too, so I assumed that a game like A Dark Room would hold less than no interest for him.

But I was wrong.  I’m not sure if my buddy talked to him about it and its quality or he tried it out on his own, but he, too, has been playing and enjoying it.  He said, “I’ve never played a text-based adventure before!” and he seemed to be really enjoying it.

So if I, my buddy, and my nice-guy friend from the guild can all enjoy A Dark Room, I think that you likely can, too, dear reader.  I realize that this is in no way a “useful” review, but like I said, the discovery within the game is part of the joy, so give it a try and let me know what you think!

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and proprietor of a raucous village)

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