Recovering from PAX Prime

ronnieI am bushed.

I flew back home last night after five days in Seattle for PAX Prime, and it was a relief to be back in familiar environs and to see my family.  I do like going on trips, but there’s something comforting about returning home.  From my own feelings and from talking to a lot of folks, four days for PAX is just too much.  By Sunday everyone was exhausted, vendors, media, and attenders alike, and Monday was like a ghost town.

Probably the highlight of the trip for me came last Thursday when I got to tour Undead Labs’ studio and chat up the development team for State of Decay and Moonrise.  Seeing the developers’ passion and hearing them talk about these games really makes you aware of how much like the rest of us they are.  It’s something that we occasionally forget when we’re vilifying them for whatever.

Most of my weekend there was spent ping-ponging between interviews.  Most MMO studios elected to hold off-site meetings — I think that only Blizzard, a few MOBAs, Shroud of the Avatar, and Wargaming were actually on the show floor.  It’s probably too expensive for the rest of the online gaming studios to be there unless they have something major to show.  And I actually prefer sitting down in a quiet hotel room with developers instead of trying to hear them over an incredibly noisy crowd.

There wasn’t any big game I was there to see, and it never ceased to amaze me how some folks would be standing in line for upwards of eight hours to get their hands on a single title.  I did check out Tales from the Borderlands (Telltale Games) and the indie megabooth.  World of Warships actually looks like something that would appeal to me, since it is incorporating RTS elements for those of us who are less twitchy.

I did go to a few parties, but really, parties aren’t much my thing.  The Trion party took forEVER to get into and was swamped with so many people that there was no food and you couldn’t play any of the games.  WildStar’s shindig had good food and some devs, but I can only stand around so long before I get restless.  One night I went to the Space Needle to be a total tourist, which was pretty neat.

It’s nice to soak in the nerdy gamer vibe and to see that many people come together to celebrate a mutual love of games, for sure.  I don’t know if I’ll be going back next year — I think it might be time to switch it up and try out a different venue.  We’ll see.

Bio Break’s State of the Gamer

swanI’ve had a whole lot kicking around in my head about what I’ve been playing, what I’d like to go back to playing, and what’s ahead that I’m looking forward to playing.  Might as well write it all down and slap it with an embarrassingly pompous title.

/looks up at the title

Whew.  Good.  So ready?  Here we go!

Currently Playing

WildStar is still going strong in my interest sphere(tm).  I think I’m going through it at a good pace so that I’m not butting my head up against the endgame right now, but am allowing for a few more months of additions before that happens.  Building up my house and fleshing out my Engie’s build are my main priorities.

I can’t see myself leaving Lord of the Rings Online either.  It’s one of those games that never compels me to log in, although when I do I generally enjoy myself greatly.  The new Beorning class isn’t going to change the game for me, but being able to continue the journey through Gondor is something that should fill up my winter months.

It’s probably obvious that I’m in a deep The Secret World lull.  This is mainly due to the glacial pace of new content releases.  I’ve been toying with starting up another alt in the meanwhile, but I’d rather have new stories than rehash old ones.  Whenever new updates come out, I’ll be going back into it, but for now it’s a rarely played title.

I’ve finished up my expedition into Dungeons and Dragons Online and won’t be continuing there.  Not a horrible game by any means, just not something I want to be playing right now.

Guild Wars 2 is another mainstay that’s fun if I push myself to log in, although I can let it slip by for days.  I feel a little unfocused in that game, although there is tons to do.  I need to finish up the new living world stuff, fill out the map, and become richer than the ten kings of Europe.  The intermission that Anet is taking is making me take an intermission as well.

Like to Go Back to Playing

I have room in my schedule for at least one other part-time MMO right now, although who that will be is really up for grabs.  There are three front-runners in that race: Star Trek Online, Neverwinter, and RIFT.

All of these have new content, either Neverwinter’s recent module 4 or the other two’s upcoming expansions.  I still have much love for RIFT and am quite intrigued by the tease of the minion system with Nightmare Tide, although I know that if I go back into that game I’ll be rerolling once more.  It’s probably the most time-intensive of the three in terms of what I’d need to play to get to the new stuff.  The expansion does look pretty awesome, tho.

I was all on fire to return to Neverwinter with a new Scourge Warlock when I logged in the other day and logged out after three minutes.  Maybe it’s been too soon?  Maybe I have my fill with action combat and fantasy?  I’m not sure what it is.  Could be I just need to give it another shot.

Star Trek Online is a good bet then.  It’s Cryptic, so it’s really easy to play in short bursts — a mission or two here and there.  And while the expansion doesn’t have me on fire, it is more interesting than Legacy of Romulos to me and will give me more to do with my crew.  I rolled up a new captain the other night and rediscovered how much I enjoyed the visuals and different style of gameplay that comes with space combat.

Looking Forward to Playing

There are three non-MMOs that have my full attention for this fall: The Sims 4, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Wasteland 2.  All of those have great potential to be fun alternatives to online gaming, and I will probably be getting each at some point.  Man, I can’t believe Sims 4 comes out tomorrow!  Of course, with me and every Sims game following the first I’ve had a tradition: buy it, play it for three days, and never play it again.  They’re games I really should like, but something about them eludes my attention.

So let’s move on to MMOs, shall we?  The only big question marks for the remainder of the year are probably ArcheAge and Landmark.  I’m willing to give Landmark a serious go, but only when it’s feature-complete and in a non-wipable state, so that might be several months.  And who am I kidding, I’d only be playing it because EverQuest Next isn’t out.  Landmark knows it comes in second, and it’s only by virtue of releasing first that it’ll get as much attention as it will.

ArcheAge?  Hm.  My feelings on the PvPish nature and the reports of toxic community still have me leery about this.  I’m curious how people have told me how “weak” and lacking the PvE content is while stressing how you never have to play the game so that you bump into any PvP situations.  Seems like a lot of folks that I read playing the game are pretty much 100% into the PvE side of it, which sounds robust to me.  I guess it’ll come down to trying it out at some point, seeing what Trion does with the launch, and gauging the post-launch situation.  It looks promising for a lot of reasons, but if I never played this I wouldn’t feel empty in side either.

My wish list right now is mostly Skyforge and EverQuest NextH1Z1 is a good candidate as well, although I’ll hold out to see what kinds of servers they’re releasing.  Survival sandbox is all well and good, but I’m not doing that with ganking jerks crowding out the zombies.  I’ll keep an eye on the space sim wars to see how Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen shake out, and as for the big fish, that’s probably it.  Shroud of the Avatar got my attention at PAX for its unusual combat system and surprisingly good looks, so I’ll be keeping a closer eye on that.

So what are your plans for gaming going forward?

Month of DDO: Weed whacker

u1For my final — yes, final — excursion for the Month of DDO, I wanted to get back to the roots of doing actual group content instead of just going through quests solo.  But even with the group finder going and myself flagged for LFG, I couldn’t find anything level-appropriate.  So instead I took on a quest to clear out the Uthe Lodge, a place that’s big on moody rays of light and overgrown flora.  Lots of weed whacking in the Forgotten Realms, I gather.

u2Have I mentioned that I love the descriptions in the game?  It helps that it’s not bound by the confines of a quest text box, but is free to pop in and out of quests as appropriate.  Would love to see this in other MMOs.

u3This whole lodge is full of murky green fog, so it’s not the best picture-taking environment.  Anyway, this Woad Troll is the first enemy that gives me any serious trouble, mostly being a meat shield that takes a long time to take down.

Actually, it got so dicey there that I had to give up my quarterstaff and revert back to my two knives after this fight, since my knives have a chance of healing me with every hit.  It actually feels overpowered to fight with them.

u4This instance is just about as straight-forward and mindless as it can get, at least on the solo normal level.  I’m not too fond of the lightning-spewing wisps, since they evade a lot of attacks.

Eventually, I start to spot this Bard darting ahead of me — I find out later that he’s a member of the Harpers, an organization that’s revered by fans of D&D and a shoulder shrug from me.

u5“My spidey-sense is telling me that there’s a hidden door around here somewhere.  Good thing that I have this large glowing patch of wall to light up the place for my search!”

u6Eventually me and Mr. Harper find the (ahem) root of the problems in this lodge: an underground passageway that connects to an evil tree and its evil druid caretaker.  Killing this tree is the best part of the quest, because how often are you charged with tree-slaughter in MMOs?  I’m not talking about those ambulatory Ent-like beings — just normal, sit-in-one-spot trees.  KILL IT!

And with that, the quest is over, as well as my month in DDO.

Overall, it was… nice to come back to DDO.  I had forgotten how the game felt, and it was good to be reminded of some of its better qualities.  The dungeon master narration and the inventiveness of the instances are easily the game’s strongest suits.  The boring combat (particularly for the Shardar-kai — click click click click click) and stat flood are its weakest.

While I appreciated being able to see the Forgotten Realms stuff with an iconic character, heck if I actually knew anything about my character’s stats, build, or equipment.  It’s one thing to grow into a character and learn the game as you go, but to be thrown into the deep end requires a lot of previous knowledge and experience.

My DDO sessions never grated, but they lacked the “just one more run” addiction they once held.  I don’t regret dabbling back in this title, but for now, I’m laying it to rest.

Quest for Glory: Fifty shades of apples

(This is part of my journey playing through Quest for Glory 1. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

eq1I get the feeling that I’m being followed… must be my imagination, though.

More general wanderings in the wilderness for this adventurous chap!  I truly wish that this game had some sort of built-in map, maybe one that would fill in as you explored.  Sometimes I get lost and disorientated and have no idea how to get back to town.

I pick up some mushrooms and run the heck away from an armored guy with a spear and shield, because I’m pretty sure that I’m toast if he fights me.  I do get ambushed by the sneaky goblins, and then this happens:

eq2How did I do that?  I have no earthly idea.  It amuses me greatly that my character faces me and takes a bow.  Bravo, sir, bravo!

eq3Ugh, I am SO lost right now.  What’s worse is that I’m being almost constantly followed/attacked by bad guys, and my health and stamina is almost depleted.  Really need to find a safe area to rest and recoup.

The good news is that after I finally stumble back to what I think of in this game as “civilization,” I’m able to sell a couple of items to the healer and see that my piggy bank is now 7 gold and 64 silver.  No dog food for Victor tonight!

eq4Even better, I’m able to fence the old lady’s stolen necklace for a cool 500 silvers.  See, fencing is something more video games need for the thievery angle.  Makes you really feel like you got away with something big.

eq5More aimless wandering.  If you haven’t gotten it by now, Quest for Glory is very non-linear.  It gives you a bunch of quests and then throws open the door to the world and says, “Have at it.”  So I come upon this frost giant who wants a bunch of fruit in exchange for a glowing gem.  That’s easy enough: I return to Hilde, buy a ton of apples, and make the exchange.

eq6Further explorations turn up the home of ‘Enry the ‘Ermit.  He’s been hermiting it up for a long time now, although he does seem quite desperate for company.  I really like his cute little cave, although his theme music is even better.

‘Enry doesn’t tell me a lot I don’t know, mostly stuff about being a hermit, about spells (which I’m not interested in), and how he gave a mirror to a murderous warlock OOOPS.

Wacky Wandom Wednesday

eyeI’m heading out to PAX Prime tomorrow, so I’m mostly focused on preparing for that, but here are a few nuggets of gaming goodness that have been happening in my life lately:


My new helmet has a flaming eye on it.  ‘Nuff said.

I also hit level 25 last night, which was a great milestone level — I not only got my hoverboard (HOVERBOARD) but access to the tier 4 skill abilities.  I rejiggered my entire attack sequence to take advantage of this, using flak cannon to quickly get my volitility to 30+, then fire bio shell instantly (thanks to its tier 4 ability), then have so much volitility that I can let off several bolt cutters in a row.  It’s a huge damage dump, although I had to take off my stun to make this work.

Lord of the Rings Online

I’m sitting on a pile of gold earmarked for a second age legendary weapon if I see one on the auction house.  Actually, I did see a second ager great club, but really, who uses great clubs in that game?  Super dorky looking.  Just give me a two-handed sword or possibily a halbred, and I’d be happy.

Mostly these days I log in to do four or five quests in Gondor, although lately I’ve been concentrating on the epic book before going back to the rest of the content.  My daughter was quite concerned that the Nazgul dragon was “bad” and needed to be wiped out, even though the game wouldn’t let me.

Star Trek Online

So yup, I reloaded STO because I’m having a hard time ignoring the upcoming expansion news.  It’s one of those “who knows if this will come to anything” game dabblings, but why not.  I started up a new Engineer and went through the first quest.  It’s good familiarity, although I kind of forgot how much the starter ship is horrible in both looks and performance.  Oh well, if I stick it out I have a free rear admiral ship in the bank for later on.

Guild Wars 2

The 25th was the two-year anniversary of GW2’s head start, which is pretty amazing to me.  Has it really been that long already?  Since I still have the character I created that day, I got my birthday gifts.  Nothing super-helpful to me right now, but a skill and level booster for a possible alt, as well as a gun that shoots birthday cake.  It doesn’t shoot AT birthday cake, it shoots birthday cake OUT.  That’s a gun we all should have.  If everyone in the world had that gun, universal happiness would instantly break out.  Also, lots of food fights.

Battle Bards Episode 34: Feature that instrument!

While many soundtrack pieces are a collaboration between an entire orchestra, once in a while a single instrument will take the forefront and steal the spotlight.  Those tracks are the theme of today’s show, in which the faithful Bards choose seven MMO songs that feature a dominant instrument.  Also, there is much whining because that is what we do best.

Episode 34 show notes

  • Intro (featuring “Breton Melody” from Dark Age of Camelot and “ARK Theme” from Anarchy Online)
  • “Map Music 1″ from The Sims Online
  • “Sarutabaruta” from Final Fantasy XI
  • “Below the Asteroids” from EVE Online
  • “Sanctuary” from TERA
  • “Ogrimmar” from World of Warcraft
  • “Flibbertigibbet” from Final Fantasy XIV
  • “Age of the Dragon” from Guild Wars Factions
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Outro (“Disband Deed” from Wurm Online)

Listen to episode 34 now!

WildStar: Putting a bow on Galeras

My goal during this past weekend was to put a wrap on Galeras with my Engineer and move on.  Galeras isn’t a horrible zone… but it isn’t my favorite, either.  The “pretty” parts don’t really stir any feelings in my soul, and the war-torn battlefields and grey canyons are depressing.  All the more so that I know that gorgeous Whitevale lays ahead.  So I pressed on and finished up the last dozen or so quests.

All I had to do after that was to finish up my Scientist path missions.  I try to be vigilant in doing these as I go through the zone, but I had three unfinished, with one of those being 14/20 datacubes found.  Big sigh and then I hunkered down with an out-of-game map to track down everything, do a puzzle to open a door, ta da, I’m done.

It actually was pretty beneficial.  I got to level 15 with my Scientist and level 24 with my Engineer (hello bolt cutter!).  I’m feeling so much more confident with this class than I was in the first month after launch, not to mention that I’m settling in well with my house and guild.

I poked my head into Whitevale this morning before work and my daughter climbed on my lap and helped me spot pearls as we went on a diving mission.  She really likes to be my game “spotter”, so I’ll tell her to point out giant spiders and clickies and so on.  It’s a good wake-me-up when you have a four-year-old shrieking “THERE!  THERE IS ONE!” in your left ear.

It really will be nice when my Engine laps my Medic and forges on to a part of the game that I haven’t seen yet.  I’m not feeling incredibly anxious about it or anything, but I’ve rerolled enough as it is.  It’s time to see new frontiers.