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Oh, Hey, it was Monday – or – Weekend Normal Full Clear!

July 8, 2014

Dear Reader,

So a majority of my play time recently has been committed to Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall.  As you likely remember, I’m largely opposed to DLCs as a business practice, but this felt more like a true expansion to the game, so when it was on sale for about 5 bucks, I scooped it up.  I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it, but as I haven’t finished it, I don’t want to discuss it fully just yet.  Just know that it’s been very good, even better than the original, and it’s worth the cost.

In more interesting news, the somewhat on-again off-again Saturday raid was back on this week doing normals again, and it went very smoothly for the most part.  We got hung up on – of all bosses – Malkorok, but once we took care of the issues there, we went straight to Garrosh with relatively few problems.

Then there was Garrosh… Well.  It went a bit downhill from there.  I didn’t specifically time it, but I think we got through Thok in about 4 hours, then to Garrosh in another hour or so, and then we worked on Garrosh for like three hours.  Seriously.

First off, I really like the people in my guild I raid with; I would never raid for seven hours with people I don’t like.  Still, that’s a long raid; it’s like a day job.  By the end, I was making simple mistakes like running to the wrong raid marker and so forth.  It wasn’t a huge problem, of course, and it didn’t happen repeatedly, but still; it’s a little embarrassing to be mind controlled when you’re out in left field instead of stacked up like you’re supposed to be.

There was a serious tanking issue there, too; the guy who was tanking was trying to help the raid out, but he was in full monk dps gear, so the damage spikes were incredible.  He repeatedly died during phases where the healers needed to be  moving.  But he’d been there the whole raid on one toon or another, trying to help, so asking him to step out wasn’t really an option.

So I stepped out; I’ve killed Garrosh (I should say I was carried through a Garrosh kill) in the past, and I’m never really there for the loot, so I figured I’d free up the slot to get a real tank in so the monk “tank” could switch to dps.

They one-shotted after that, which I know everyone was thrilled about – myself included – because those Saturday raids haven’t gotten through Garrosh before, only to him.  Sure, it was a long raid nonetheless, but we finished.  My wife and I both have a normal mode Garrosh kill.  Hurray us!

Of course, my blind buddy “forgot what day it was” and missed the start of the raid.  Then, when we had a spot for him, he’d wandered away from his computer and missed getting invited.  So he missed the kill, but only through his own social ineptitude.  I’m sure he’ll get it in the future, though, and hopefully not after 7 hours.

So grats to all of us!

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and Ahead of the Curve)

Happy 4th of July!

July 4, 2014

Dear Reader,

Many of you are not in a country that celebrates the American Fourth.  That’s fine.  It’s Friday, so I’m sure you can find something else to celebrate.

It’s at that point in the summer where I’ve completely lost control of my bodily schedule; I just woke up about 20 minutes ago (around 1 p.m.), after having gone to bed at an unholy late hour.  I don’t like sleeping so late – or going to bed that late, for that matter – but in the summer, it seems to happen.  The schedule just slides later and later until we find ourselves here.

So today I’m celebrating earlier bedtimes, and other than that, taking the day off.

So find something to celebrate, whether it be through a #FF, with your loved ones (be they human or pets), or something on a more national scale.

See you Monday.

Sincerely,

Stubborn

DoTA 2

July 2, 2014

Dear Reader,

One thing I’ve experimented with this summer is DoTA 2.  Since my wife is very monocular when it comes to games, she’s been focused solely on WoW.  As a result, I’ve been playing other games with some of my other buddies from time to time.  One of them, the really friendly guy in our new guild, kept mentioning DoTA 2 as an alternative game we could try.  Since it was a MOBA, there was no way my buddy was going to be  interested, but eventually, I figured I’d give it a try.

It’s a medium-sized download from Steam, but it’s also free, so that was a huge plus.  I’ve only played three matches, mind you, so as I put forth my opinion here, keep in mind my deep ignorance to the deeper elements of the game.

Let me also preface that the really friendly guy who got me willing to try DoTA 2 is a bit of a fanatic; he vehemently insists that the game is special and good and not at all like LoL.  He does admit to some of the weaker elements of DoTA 2, as well, but for the most part he’s a zealous defender of the game.  And he hates League of Legends.  I assume there’s some sort of community v. community mindset here, like rival sports teams, but I don’t know.  I never knew anyone zealous about LoL, so I can’t really be sure.

All that said, he’s been very helpful and patient as I learned the game, which has a much steeper learning curve than LoL does.  That, in fact, is the one criticism I really have of the game: it’s hard as hell to get into.  That’s the one deficit which he acknowledges, too; the game is not open to new players.  As much as one might talk about fighting games as closed communities nowadays, communities that study frame rates and pixel distances and so forth, DoTA 2 was much less accessible than League.

There’s two primary reasons for this.  First, all the champions are available all the time.  When you first get into League, you can only really afford to purchase a few champs, and there’s only ten free a week.  If you play a reasonable game or two a day, you can try each of those champs.  In DoTA 2, there’s hundreds of champs to wade through on day 1.  That’s not a great strategy, really.  I like the “fairness” of equal access for all, but it’s dangerously overwhelming.

Second, there’s a hell of a lot more buttons in DoTA 2.  A lot of League has been streamlined, but in DoTA 2, it’s not.  There’s the basic 4 attack and 6 item buttons, but then there’s more.  You have to hit a button to level up.  You have a mule (referred to as the “chicken” by “real” players).  You have the ability to click and target others, which removes your own action bar as you “inspect” them.  You can create target groups, like in the RTS games on which DoTA was originally based.  It’s goddamn overwhelming for someone used to League or any new player to the genre.

The map, too, is far more complex than League’s.  It’s not perfectly symmetrical, for one; each team has two short and one long lane.  The long lane is terrifyingly spread out between towers, and players find themselves far away from any kind of help.  Additionally, the jungle is far more complex.  Instead of two sets of jungling “paths” on each side of the river, there’s hundreds of nooks and crannies in which to get lost or mis-path and end up wandering into the wrong place.  There’s also jungle areas outside the outer lanes, which I keep forgetting about and getting ganked from.  These changes make a seemingly similar game incredibly confusing.

To top all of this off, the game is a lot burstier and longer range than League.  In my first game, I was being hit by abilities that I couldn’t identify the source of.  Sure, this can happen in a very limited way in LoL: Ashe’s ultimate arrow, Lux’s light beam, Gangplank’s ship barrage – there’s a few.  But it seems in DoTA that many champions have off-screen ranged abilities.  This is partially because you cannot zoom out in DoTA 2.  I feel like I’m a chiropractor treating my champion’s back the whole time, while claustrophobically trapped inside this tiny screen box.  Since CC is stronger and attacks longer-range, you’re often dead before you could possibly react.

I realize these are all just differing playstyles, not actual problems with the game.  I’ve grown accustomed to one play style, and the other one’s a bit stifling.  My vast knowledge of League toons is gone, too, so I don’t know what my competitors can do to me when I’m facing them.  On the other hand, most of the abilities in DoTA 2 are reflected by abilities in League, so once I see abilities in action, I can usually say, “Okay, that works like Tristana’s attack speed boost,” which helps me understand the new toons.

All in all, it’s enjoyable, but I’m not to the depth of play to see the real differences between the games.  I can see the increased complexity allowing for much greater finesse and subtlety in DoTA 2, but I’m barely able to control the mule, so tiny hiding spots and teleport ganks and river buffs are lost on me.  I’ll stick with it, nonetheless, as I assume once I begin to adapt to the button and map differences I can begin to at least dip my toe in the 100 champion differences, but it may be a while before I get there.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (Sand King / Windranger / Lion)

Deja Vu

June 30, 2014

Dear Reader,

It seems that every time I have a computer error – every time – it’s a hard drive failure.  I’ve only once had a problem that wasn’t a hard drive crash; pink lines were appearing in my game of Fallout 3.  It was pretty obvious it was the graphics card in that case, so I replaced it – like that – and was back to fighting the Legion.  Hard drive failures, though, are much more expansive problems.

So far be it from me to be surprised this morning when my computer wouldn’t boot.  It would turn on, try to boot, then flash a blue screen and try again.  I figured it was the hard drive, but ran a system diagnosis.  Sure enough, the only error was the hard disk.  Lovely.

So after lunch I went to the local computer store and bought a replacement – an upgrade, actually, since conveniently the mid-line drives were out of stock.  Whatever.  It’s just money.  It’s not like I have a house to sell and a cross-country move coming up or anything.

So now I’m writing from my wife’s computer while mine finishes installing Windows, which will be followed by an enormous about of system updates, since the Windows I’m installing is wildly out of date.  After that, I suppose I can install Steam and download a game to play while I’m installing all the gigantic pieces of software on my computer.  Then, of course, come all the peripheral programs like the Curse client, virus protection, and so forth.

Hopefully I’ll be caught back up by tomorrow night, but in the meantime, I’m stuck wondering which of my games save information server side and which I’ll be starting from scratch.  I hope the Steam Cloud is as prolific as I’ve heard mentioned; otherwise, I’ll likely not be finishing some of the games I’ve invested so much time in simply because I don’t want to have to go through them again.  It’s not that they weren’t fun; I just don’t usually get much out of playing a game a second time; playing the first seven hours of a game just to see the last hour or two isn’t a good investment in my book.

So that’s where I am, today.  I’ll go swimming here in a bit to give my computer time to get the Windows updates, but other than that, I see a lot of sitting and waiting in my future.

Hope your day’s going better!

Sincerely,

Stubborn

P.S. I suspect it’s my power company’s fault, by the way.  There were zero – ZERO – power issues for two years when I first lived here, and now the power seems to go out about once a month for an hour or two.  I have no doubt that the sudden outages have contributed to my hard drive death.  Good luck proving that, of course, for any kind of compensation.  The most recent power outage – this morning – immediately preceded my computer’s failure to boot.  Thanks, Ameren!

Hey! It’s Friday!

June 27, 2014

Dear Reader,

Deep in the throws of summer, it can become hard to keep track of days.  Apparently, Friday has sneaked up on me.  Luckily, I’ve had plenty to do, so I can pick quickly and give you the rundown on yet another Steam purchase from this sale.

I mentioned before State of Decay, which was a lot of fun, so much so that I blew through it in only a few days.  Gunpoint, my second purchase from the sale, was similar, except it was much shorter.  Much, much shorter, like “finished it in one sitting” shorter.  Of course, your “game playing” sittings may not be 3 or 4 hours like mine sometimes are, but nonetheless, it did NOT meet its Ed Value; I got about 4 hours for 5 bucks.

Those four hours were fun, though.  The level of difficulty and scaling up of challenge were very well tuned.  The story was nicely thematic, adding to the atmosphere of the game.  It played on its own silliness a little; part of the game’s conceit is that you have super-pants that allow you to jump very high and fall safely.  Since those pants become a central figure of the investigation in which you’re taking part, the whole reflexive silliness builds on itself nicely.

On top of the platformer aspect of the game, there’s also a puzzle-solving aspect.  You use various wires and switches to accomplish tasks like opening doors or shocking guards into unconsciousness through wall sockets.  I have no doubt that each level had a variety of approaches one could take to solve it, but, as I usually do, I went for stealthy and nonlethal as often as I could.

I see why it got the very good reviews it got, and I agree with them, but I simply wish there were more content.  It’s depressing to be done with both of my Steam purchases before the sale’s even over.  Of course, that’s partially a pacing issue on my end, but it’s summer.  I’m a teacher.  What else do I have to do?

The game partially makes up for its short campaign by having an active modding and content-generating community.  If you’re into that sort of thing, I’m sure the longevity of the game could be increased indefinitely, but I tire of sorting through the partially-dones and mostly-lousies to find the really good ones.  I already do that for Shadowrun Returns; I’ve no interest in doing it for a second game.

So if you like puzzle platformers like Mark of the Ninja, I’d heartily recommend the game, but be aware that you’re not getting a lot of hours for you money.

Sincerely,

Stubborn

Revisiting Old Posts

June 25, 2014

Dear Reader,

So, the seasonal question of “What Next?” in WoW has come back up.  In preparation for this, I’ve moved over my tanking pally and my rogue to my current faction and server.  The tank is largely just a lark; I don’t really expect to be doing any serious tanking any time soon; he was more of just a “move package” with the rogue.

The rogue, though, I have plans on leveling.  A really friendly guy in my new (is it time to be putting current instead of new?) guild does some arenas, and I thought I might jump in on those, should he be interested.  Arenas can be frustrating, of course, but the few I did with my old Arena partner, Baelstrom, on our team “Bael’s only Okay” (this is what comes from forcing me to do things like choose names – the HR term is “hostile compliance”) were actually pretty fun.  He was far better than “only okay;” he was, in fact, very good, and not only knew how to play his character, but how to manage the whole team, acting as a leader and an exceptional dpser.

Back then, I was pvping on my tank pally (as holy), and I did okay.  I realized my main goal was to keep Bael alive while CCing the enemy when I could.   There were less CC options back then for a pally, so it wasn’t too hard of a job.  He killed things; I healed him or others on the team.

I learned a lot about arenas I didn’t know before: pillar humping, for example.  How to use surprise AoEs to reveal stealthed starters.  I think I still have a relatively good concept of those things, but we’ll have to see.  Of course, I have to get to 90 first, then get at least a starter set of pvp gear.

Of course, that’s in the background to the flex raiding I’m doing and occasional Saturday raids.  I had been healing flexes, but I just don’t know if that’s what I want to do any more.  I don’t feel like it’s as visceral as it used to be; I feel like it’s a lot more micromanagement now.  I can play Civ 5 if I want that.  So I’m not sure yet who will be my main for the next expansion; I may go back to tanking again or continue with my shammy.  Only time will tell.

If you’re a frequent arena-er (arena participant?  What’s the term here?), particularly one with a rogue, and if you know some good strats or sites to check out, please let me know, dear reader.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (future arenaer)

State of Yay!

June 23, 2014

Dear Reader,

As I’m sure many of you are aware, the Steam Summer Sale is in full swing.  Early on, I scooped up a game that caught my eye a few months back, but I’d never acted on that eye-catching due to the game’s price, my extreme cheapness, and my fear that this game was yet another copy of another popular game with little ingenuity that would end up providing little fun.

However, when the price fell to five dollars, I really couldn’t avoid purchasing State of Decay.  I have been happily surprised that I did.  You may be aware of the feature in Steam that shows you your game completion rate; mine’s 30%.  Not terribly below average, but not very impressive, either.  The facts behind that rate are simple.  I don’t feel obligated to play games that end up being a let-down.  I don’t feel obligated to finish games that I know I can finish.  I don’t feel obligated to push through grinds or trial-and-error style games.  I stop when I’m ready to stop.

As a result, when I report that I finished a game, it carries some weight.  I finished State of Decay in about 5 days, playing a total of 21 hours over those five days.  That gives State of Decay a 4x Ed Value, which stipulates a game should provide at least one hour of entertainment per dollar spent.  That’s a great ratio, and even better, I paid two bucks for the “endless campaign” DLC that will allow me to keep playing it and racking up a higher and higher Ed Value.

To put it simply, this game is a Saints Row / Grand Theft Auto style open-world exploration game with targeted storylines that takes place in a zombie apocalypse.  From what I saw, it was extremely well conceptualized.  I played it with a controller and found that the gameplay was smooth; my hard-of-sight buddy is playing with a mouse and has had few overall complaints.

I don’t often to get to play those GTA style games because I don’t play games that glorify crime.  As a result, I’ve missed out on a lot of that genre; this game more than made up for it.  You get to build a base, make decisions as to what to do with your resources, go out and fight zombies or stealth, gather resources of your own, and develop your character with special qualities.

The fighting system is nicely complex, too, and advances as your fighting skill improves.  Each button and button combo allows for different moves, but you can often get by with just pounding or slashing away if you’re not interested in learning the more in-depth fighting.  There is a good variety of zombies, too, though all but one are often a pushover; that one, though, is devastatingly dangerous, as are large hordes and infestations.

So overall, the game offers a complex fighting system, character advancement, base operation, exploration, and questing.  If that sounds like something you’d like, check out the price on the Steam Sale.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and Decayed)

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