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ESO and the Job Hunt

August 13, 2014

Dear Reader,

As I mentioned before, I’ve been playing a little bit of Elder Scrolls Online.  I’ve also recently moved, and, as a result, am job hunting yet again.  In ruminating about what to write today, an interesting overlap struck me about both these tasks: they can appear to be group tasks, but really, they’re solo.

My wife really wants to help me in my job search, you see.  I know she’s pained by the constant unfairness of the process.  As I’ve harped on before, my credentials are pretty good – even better, now, since I’ve got the community college experience, a conference presentation on motivation, and a co-directorship of a regional college readiness alliance.  Yet I don’t get called for interviews.  That’s the most mind-boggling part to me; if I got an interview but not a job offer, at least I could deconstruct it and try to figure out what went wrong.  When I don’t even get a call, it’s a lot harder.  Do I look too expensive?  Is it because I’m not a local?  Does my cover letter come off wrong?  I’ll never know.

So my wife watches this and wishes she could help, but really, there’s nothing she can do.  I know how to find the jobs, how to write the letters (or so I think), how to construct a résumé for a particular position.  Heck, these are some of the skills I’ve been teaching at my community college position.  All she can really do is provide emotional support from the sidelines, which helps, but isn’t really a direct influence.

Elder Scrolls feels a lot like that.  I’ve read plenty of reviews on the good and bad in the game, reviews that span from its excellence to calling it a “trash game.”  From my point of view, I feel like the combat is a little meaningless and slow.  I like the very open character development, but realistically, it’s only a matter of time before, like in every game, the “best” builds are “solved.”  

The crafting system is also quite open, which is good, but it’s also very tedious.  Each point becomes a grind to pick up enough raw materials to make an item, then break it.  I realize this describes a large majority of MMO crafting systems, but I’d just like something a little better, really.  Making 10,000 vats of bug soda don’t really make you a better cook, just better at making bug soda (yes, this is a thing in the game, though it goes by a more formal name.  It contains bugs and mash, though, so it’s bug soda).  

Exploration, which was one of the Elder Scrolls games’ selling points, is pretty meaningless, too.  There are mechanical rewards – skyshards – but they’re almost entirely in places you’ll go for quests, anyway.  I haven’t really found anything that’s out of the way and discovered only be exploring, but perhaps I’m just not far enough into the game yet.  Questing, too, is pretty tedious.  It combines the narrow focus of being able to only track one quest at a time, like Secret World, with the laundry-list questing of WoW, which is a terrible combination.  The game also lacks a minimap, but has a “normal” map screen, which makes little to no sense; it only forces players to stop more often and open the map screen, which does nothing but waste time.  

Most importantly, and most relevantly to this post, is that the questing feels like a solo game, like Skyrim, even.  There are many quest objectives that are not shared, including tasks (like cleansing altars), collections (like picking up gargoyle gall bladders), and NPC interrogations (like having to talk to a town guard about his meth addiction).  This creates an environment where everyone is questing in a parallel fashion but not really together, and since the monsters that inhabit the world have to be tuned to solo players, there’s no challenge in soloing them.  We often get split up during a quest and have to just wait for the slowest person to catch up, rather than being allowed to cooperate and stay together.

The one exception so far has been the 4-man dungeon, but of course that would require some collaboration.  Here, though, the tuning was so low that we were able to pretty easily three-man it, only wiping a few times to each boss as we figured out the mechanics and how to avoid them.  The last boss was the exception to that, but we found a way to deal with him, too, by dragging him away from where some healing mechanics were taking place.  I’m glad the game allowed for that creative solution, but that doesn’t offset the fact that a lot of the time I feel like I’m playing by myself.

So in that way, job hunting and ESO are pretty similar: they both seem like they should be group activities, but they’re not really.  That’s not a reason not to play ESO, by the way; it’s enjoyable enough, but be aware of the limitations of the system.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and hunting)

Post-move Gaming

August 11, 2014

Dear Reader,

To be honest, the title is a little deceptive; most of my pre-move gaming is the same as my post-move gaming.  I’ve been playing some Civ; I actually beat it on the hardest level, Deity (“Only the best players in the world will beat it at this level”) with Jacob/Burynerds.  Twice, actually, since my blind buddy wanted to be an ass and say the one win was a fluke.

I’ve been in and out of WoW; I’m getting the late-expansion boredoms.  I’ve been leveling my rogue ostensibly to do PvP at 90, but I just haven’t gotten over that 90 hump yet.  I really don’t want to quest, so I’ve been slogging along slowly, doing a few pet battles here and there, just killing time.

I played a little LoL the other night with an Illinois friend, too.  It was nice to be back in a familiar setting with a friend, but a lot of my skills had rusted up, so I played rather poorly.  Not badly, mind you; I was still about 4:1 kill to death ratio, but still.  I can do better.

Jacob/Burynerds jumped into Magic: The Gathering Online, too.  I predicted that within a month he’d be making decks too good to play against my buddy and me.  It took more like a week, actually.  Part of that is the persistent power creep of the new cards; there’s a lot of cards in standard right now that just seem like cheap bullshit.  I’m sure there’s other cards to counter that cheapness, but since my buddy and I don’t have those cards, we’re essentially screwed.

We’ve been playing three-way free for all games, too, which were much deeper than the typical one-on-one.  I won two of the three, but only because in one of them Jacob/Burynerds was forced to save me because he knew he couldn’t kill my blind buddy on his own.  In the end, though, I eliminated both of them.  That’s the kind of deeper strategy I’m talking about; are we sure he’d have lost if he didn’t save me?  Was it the right play, or was there even a right play for him at all?

The largest change has been Elder Scrolls Online.  I mentioned before that the three of us had started playing it; it’s been okay, so far, but I’d mark it below The Secret World for quasi-modern MMOs.  I said at the start I didn’t think we’d even get to max level with it, and frankly, I stand by that now, 15 levels in.  It’s not that it’s unenjoyable – it’s quite fun at times, particularly 3 manning the 4 man dungeons – but it’s really a solo game that you happen to have a few friends around you playing at the same time.  I’ll write more specifically on it later, but let it suffice to say that I like the game, but it’s not enough MMO-y enough.

So that’s what I’ve been up to during the move.  See you Wednesday!

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and moved)

The Move is Complete(ish)

August 8, 2014

Dear Reader,

I am sitting now in my new office in my new house in Virginia.  All things considered, the move was very smooth; my only real avenue of complaint is the sheer exhaustive requirements of such a cross-country endeavor.  Other than that, things went pretty much as expected.

We did the drive in two days, stopping over Monday night in Lancaster, Ohio.  We drove through three big cities that first day: Indianapolis, Dayton, and Columbus, and I have to say that Indianapolis was a terrible hellhole while the other two were quite nice.  Get good, Indiana.

The second day was largely unexciting until the last two hours of the drive, which were entirely spent pumping the clutch as I went up and down the Appalachian mountains and around hair-pin turns while clenching my butt and hoping my brakes didn’t fail.  It was an – exciting – drive, but once it was over, it was smooth sailing into town.

The town itself is a tiny little nowhere except for the college at which my wife is to be employed.  We live on the campus in a standalone house owned by the college; my wife can walk 8 buildings down to her office each day.  The town is one of those throwbacks from the 1950s where you can – and many people do – leave their doors unlocked all the time.  In fact, in one of many misunderstandings with the property manager, the house was left unlocked for a week prior to our arrival with the house keys on the counter.  No families had moved in, nor axe murders hid in the attic, nor vandalism occurred.

It’s a lot smaller than the palace I used to live in; in fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s a room short of my needs.  But it’s not really a need to have a guest room; it’s a want, so when I’m being objective, I can say it’s a size I can live with.  It’s not terribly larger on the main level than my 1-bedroom New York apartment, which I was fine with the size of.  It has a few perks of its own, too, like ceiling fans in most of the rooms, a full-sized shower (I’ve been dealing with a standing-room-only shower for 4 years), and a pricetag reminiscent of my two-bedroom townhouse apartment I lived in in South Carolina a decade ago.

In the meantime, I’ve been unpacking and playing a few games.  I did get to do my flex on Wednesday, but I was so tired from the move that I just dpsed.  Against my suggestion, I was assigned the engineer on Garrosh, which I performed perfectly well – except I ran to the wrong side, since we use a different strat in flex than I’m used to in normal.  The raid very quickly shifted in response and no one died, until I completely failed to get the second engineer on either side and everyone died.  Ah well.

I’ve played some Civ 5, as well, and won again on Diety mode with Jacob/Burynerds/whatever he wants to be called this week, and he began to play some Magic Online with my blind buddy and me; three way games are much more strategically challenging, which is a nice change of pace from the usual blowouts one way or the other between my buddy and I.

I expect to return to the normal schedule next week, so keep an eye out on Monday!

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and Virginian, now)

Guest Post by Anistazia on Good Moments in WoW

August 2, 2014

Dear Stubborn’s Readers,

I wanted to take some time to talk with you about some funny and good moments in WoW that I have had over the years I’ve played.  Of all the games that Stubborn and I play together, WoW seems to be the one that we come back to time and again.

As I play my boosted warlock (life is so much easier as a warlock, why did I never play one before?), I’ve been wondering what is so good about WoW that keeps drawing us back.

Visually, WoW is one of the most beautiful games I have ever played.  I remember this moment in Theramore waiting for the boat and thinking how beautiful it was waiting on this dock looking out at the ocean.  It was calming.  I recently have had that calming on Isle of Thunder when you hear the waves against the beach.  Growing up near the beach, it is nice to hear it again, calming and amazing in a game.

What draws me back is the friends.  I enjoy the social aspect of WoW.  I’m not an achievement junkie, I don’t collect, I just play with my friends.  I really enjoy solving problems in WoW, like a raid boss where we need some new ideas.  I really enjoy talking it out and discussing different options.  I have always enjoyed being a part of those conversations.  Every great raid leader often has people in the background who are problem solving.

I really noticed how much friends are important to me in games when I was talking about this amazing girl I used to raid with, Valerius.  She was amazing, funny, and a fellow girl who enjoyed downing bosses.  I enjoy the in-game conversations and the life conversations with people.  People make the game for me.  I enjoy the different personalities, how the same and different we all are.

So if I could recommend something to you readers, take time to hear the waves, take time to see the beauty and take time to have a genuine conversation with your fellow raiders or guildmates.

Sincerely,

Anistazia (Mrs. Stubborn, as she is occasionally known, though more often I get called Mr. Anistazia)

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)

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