DDO: Made to Order

This past week’s Dungeons and Dragons Online adventure was the House K quest “Made to Order.” If you like fighting giant robots and having your butt handed to you on a silver platter, it’s the perfect dungeon for you.

The quest involves an inventor named Haywire who whipped up a bunch of golems in his foundry that have since turned against him. He’s not too concerned, being protected in his panic room and all, but now I’ve got to go rescue him from his folly.

Easier said than done.

Check it out, we’re fighting Cylons in this quest!

If the above picture didn’t tip you off, this mission is pretty hardcore. I think I have to resign myself to the fact that I’m done with the era of doing hard-mode dungeons solo, because even on normal mode, this quest was just brutal. It’s a long, looping path through a foundry filled with giant golems (clay and iron), packs of hard-hitting Dwarves, electrified rails, and scads of these nasty little landmine traps.

The traps were of particular frustration, because I was not getting the normal heads-up on spotting them until I was standing right on top of them. This could have been because the mission was level 11 and I am still just 10, but still, I hit far too many of these traps. My poor dog suffered the most of it, spending a great portion of the dungeon dead, and if I hadn’t brought a Cleric hireling along, there would have been no chance of making it through.

As it was, plenty of sections had me backwheeling and firing frantically as packs of mobs descended on my head. I also had the joy of getting to the final locked door and finding out that I had only three of the four required crests — I had missed the very first one and had to backtrack all the way down and back to the start. Go Team Me!

On the plus side, the Foundry was incredibly cool-looking. I kept looping through this middle section with rails and lava, and every time it pleased me with the visuals. The path design is pretty clever, as you start low and gradually loop and ramp up to the top, which kept this dungeon feeling tight and purposeful.

Hey, at least I’m not fighting in those dull sewers any longer.

The final fight… ugh. It hated me.

It pitted me against “ARN-01D,” a giant golem who is a cheeky take on Schwarzenegger’s characters, especially with his final line riffing on the classic “I’ll be back.” But at the time of the fight, I wasn’t laughing, because it completely felt unfair. It was me, this hulking monstrosity, and four additional golems in a rather small room.

I was down to a single application of my machine gun bolts, so very shortly after the start of the fight, I was in survival mode, backpeddling, firing, and just trying to stay out of the range of these golems. The only thing I had on my side was the fact that none of them could attack at range, although ARN-01D could lock me down with a powerful stun and blind if I got too close.

Hooray for me, I won. Take a moment to pat myself on the back for this one.

Probably my favorite part of the quest is after the boss fight when I approached Haywire’s safe room. He’s behind probably 10 different types of locked doors, and the game keeps opening them one by one by one by one by one until it just gets ridiculous.

Guess the guy is turning himself into a construct, but as someone who has at least theoretically done so to my own character through an enhancement, I’m in no position to judge.


Project Gorgon: Early access, fresh start

I have long held the position that I would finally commit to playing Project Gorgon when it reached a certain point of stability and development — namely, early access. Normally I’m not incredibly enthusiastic about early access, but Gorgon is different in that it’s been letting us play the alpha for years now and allowing us to retain our characters. Even now through launch will be character — but not item — persistence. So it’s as good of a time as any to start.

One thing I noticed from my previous brief excursions in the game is Project Gorgon’s new user interface. It’s sharp, my friends, and a lot better looking than the old functional but extremely crude-looking setup. I appreciated how easily I could resize the UI, resize windows, and reposition everything. It’s slick and money well spent.

While merging my new Steam account with my old Gorgon account allowed me to continue with one of the two previous characters I made (including one that had been stuck as a cow for a couple of years now), in the spirit of the moment I decided that it would be best to delete everything and start fresh. Alas, the faeries still aren’t in the game, and as soon as they are I know I’ll be rolling one. Until then, I’ll be boring human trotting around on the tutorial island.

As I previously — as in, 2016 — spent a lot of time on the tutorial island creating a guide for it, this early part of the game came back to me quite quickly. There wasn’t any linear path to follow but rather a series of self-ascribed quests, mostly to get all of the skills that I could unlock here. Anatomy, psychology, mycology, unarmed, bow, teleportation, and so on.

I wasn’t in a great rush. It was certainly nice to be back, and I didn’t have to wait long before I was invited into a welcoming guild.

While the new user interface was a wonderful addition since my last stint in the game, Project Gorgon still suffers from a couple of issues I hoped would have been fixed. No, not the graphics — I’m OK with the graphics. My two primary issues are the floaty jumping and the loose, disconnected combat. Both don’t feel as snappy and responsive as they should, with the former not seeming to operate in any gravity well that I’m familiar with and the latter featuring little bits of lag from input commands so that combat felt disassociated from my actions.

Another big change — BIG one, this time — was the newbie island dungeon. Previously there was a dungeon, but it was pretty small. Now we have this three-floor monstrosity of a public dungeon which was actually pretty fun to explore. There’s a lot of lore and little story bits here, and if Gorgon has taught me nothing else, it’s that you really do have to slow down and soak in this game’s details. Plus there are rats to tame (I love my rat pets!) and brain bugs for some reason and a dead tree that makes it snow.

The bottom floor is a somewhat frustrating maze that isn’t helped by the minimap. There is a treasure room in the back for those who persevere and light all of the torches, so it’s worth doing. Plus, I found out that there’s a sort of click-to-move auto-pathing system in PG, so if I was getting turned around and couldn’t figure out how to get on the other side of a gate, I would right-click the ground outside of it and my character would figure out the optimal path to get there.

Project Gorgon: Being snarky for a half-decade now.

Probably the most surprising part of this dungeon was that it connected to a HUGE spider cave. I definitely don’t remember this, and I was assuming that this cave was just a small little place to explore. Nope, it’s extensive and these spiders don’t mess around. I got killed a half-dozen times trying to map out this place, and at the end I found out that the exit actually dumps you into the game’s first main zone. So I guess there are two ways to get off the island now?

But I didn’t WANT to get off, because I had unfinished business. So I had to backtrack through the spider cave, figure out how to open back up the door (hidden switch, thanks general chat!), and crawl back through the dungeon to the top. It took me far longer than I would have liked.

I love this game.

Anyway, I’m about done on the tutorial island and ready to make my way in the game proper. I’m going to avoid guides for a while and just explore and see where the game leads me. I’ll probably turn into some hideous animal. I’m crossing my finger for bat.

Novel: Was writing always this hard?

So I’m writing a book.

I don’t usually discuss my personal life much on this blog because it’s not a therapy outlet and you don’t get paid to listen to me whine about my petty problems, but this past year has been a rather difficult and uncertain period especially when it comes to my work and future career. It has been stressing me out, and as much as I lean on God, some days it gets to me. I’ve grown weary of not knowing what to do and what the future holds, so while I’m having to be patient, I’ve decided to channel some of this frustrated energy into a productive project.

Hence, book.

I also don’t usually talk about writing fiction here, I guess because I used to think it was bad luck or something. Probably the truth is that I would be embarrassed to tell you that I was writing what would most definitely end up being a poor, half-finished book and then awkwardly avoid all future inquiries as to the progress of said poor, half-finished book.

But right now it’s one of the few things in my life that genuinely excites me, and I want to share that. Perhaps jotting these thoughts down will help to prompt me to write more and persevere to the end.

I always have a few ideas for novels bouncing around in my furry head — who doesn’t, really? — but as of late one particular idea kept nagging me and poking me, saying, “C’mon, write me already!” I won’t go into specifics, but the general catalyst for this story comes from the fact that about 90% of all fantasy fiction that I read tends to be about the same types of characters: coming-of-age wizards, assassins who are really, really good at killing, battle-scarred veterans with a heart of gold, and anyone who discovers that they’re secretly a werewolf/vampire/c’thulu and feels conflicted about that. Some of it is good, and occasionally a writer will impress me by giving me an unusual protagonist, but I see a lot of common threads of “hero killbot” running through these.

The thought I had was of a protagonist who lived in a fantasy world but wasn’t involved in killing whatsoever. He wasn’t a warrior, he didn’t have super-incredible magical powers, he just had one of the many other jobs that happened to exist in such a landscape. It’s an interesting job, at least to me, it’s just not one that will pit him against a dragon.

A few weeks ago, I decided that enough with just thinking about it, I would sit down and hash out a world building document. I knew enough about my previous writing ventures that I would lose myself in the weeds if I didn’t have a sense of how the world and characters were constructed prior to getting into the narrative. And over the span of a few hours, a rather lengthy document emerged. It kind of just exploded out of my head and I was pretty surprised to see it sitting there. It wasn’t completely unique — what is? — but it felt fresh and different.

Then I started to write. Probably one of my favorite parts of fiction writing is when the narrative and characters take me to unexpected places. I have some general ideas of what’s going on, but these chapters are starting to take a life of their own. That keeps me writing because I want to know what’s next.

So far, I’m four chapters in. I’m trying to rearrange my schedule a little to accommodate regular writing, but I’m still working on that. I need to do this every day, I think, so as not to stall out and so that I can keep momentum going. It’s good fun thus far, all first-person narrative with a strange guy that goes back and forth in a timeline, but it’s not going to be any instant best seller. I have a lot of difficulty with inserting natural-sounding dialogue — I tend to shy away from dialogue, period — and I keep wanting to move the story along to the point where I neglect proper descriptions. So I’m trying to force myself to work those in and not rush.

I did purchase myself a cheap Chromebook, because I want a writing device that’s a little more portable and that won’t tie me to my desk. I can see writing a bit before bed instead of watching TV, as long as I can do it on the couch.

Anyway, that’s what’s going on with this weird little section of my life. I might periodically write down some updates on how it’s going, or I might awkwardly avoid your glances for a while. As long as I’m enjoying it and improving my writing abilities, I consider it time well spent. Plus, my kids found out that I’m doing this (my wife knows not) and they’ve been pestering me to read it.

RIFT: From sunny to gloomy

With two character rerolls, a lot of early nights, and plenty of other projects to keep me busy, it’s pretty amazing to me that I managed to finish up Silverwood by the end of Prime’s second week. But here we sit.

At times it was a little slow going, especially when facing those early XP gaps, but I started to make up for it and eventually found my groove. A few more skills and talents on my Bard tree helped as well, and while I’m no killing machine, I’m doing respectable enough that it’s not a slog.

I saw someone mention on Twitter last week that Silverwood was “officially dead” because the Prime crowd had moved on. I would like to submit the above picture as Exhibit A that this is patently untrue, as well as my personal observations from a pokey puppy who is lagging behind the 20s and 30s that are surging ahead. There are PLENTY of players in the 1-20 bracket, and we were never hurting for invasions, rifts, and zone events. Those zone bosses were like magnets, drawing hundreds of players in, and I got a thrill out of each battle I was a part of.

I think the criticism shouldn’t lie there but instead with the abysmal performance of the server. Some days are good, while others have seen the Lag Monster devour all and leave us pressing keys and hoping our characters will take action in the next five seconds or so. For a game of this age, to have lag issues like this is embarrassing.

The last day in Silverwood saw everything picking up steam. I was shooting down quests left and right and racking up achievements like nobody’s business. It was definitely satisfying to cross off so many quests all at once and tidy up the zone as I wrapped up my business.

At the end of Silverwood, I sat at level 19.5 with 210 void stones, 6 plat, a 60% mount, two roles, and a decent start for my planarite wallet. I’m stocking up for planarite gear, so I’ll resist blowing it on lesser essentials. I even have a good handful of blue gear and a pair of shiny new blue daggers from a reputation unlock.

And so I move on to one of my favorite zones in the game, Gloamwood. I love this classic horror-themed region, with its murky fog and funky vampire questlines. Pretty much as soon as I was able to empty out my quest log from Silverwood, I was filling it all back up with quests and carnage tasks here.

All in all, I’m still rocking RIFT Prime pretty hard. It’s been a really fun, enjoyable leveling experience with the added oomph of the increased attention this game has been given and the excitement in the community. I also just have missed leveling characters in World of Warcraft, so this is a good substitute, especially as we head into spring.

My biggest concern right now — my biggest question, really — is how the progression server is going to develop. Trion is still biding its time before giving us any sort of concrete details, most likely watching the speed of the crowds and where everyone is. But still, it’s a bit nerve-wracking to not know if I should be pushing harder and faster in my progression or if I have plenty of time to catch up with those above me before the next batch of content unlocks. Do we have a week? A month? Three months? We just don’t know, and it makes it difficult to smell the roses and enjoy the journey if there’s that fear that I’m going too slow.

So my two wishes are to see the lag addressed and an outline of the progression server unlock going forward. Here’s hoping!

Secret World Legends: South Africa, eh?

Well, that’s settled then: Flappy and Company are heading to South Africa!

Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in. First there was the allure of Northern Mirkwood in LOTRO, and now Secret World Legends has finally (FINALLY) announced the start of season two and the first new story content of this reboot. On April 4th, we’ll be heading to South Africa, a locale that I think surprised a lot of people. From the hints that the game was giving us, I think most players assumed Antarctica, the Congo, or the moon. I can’t even recall if South Africa was mentioned anywhere in the game up to this point, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if Funcom slipped it in under the radar.

We know a bit here, but not as much as I would like. For instance, we don’t know how big this zone is or how many quests will be involved. But we do know that this will take us to the cult compound of the Morninglight, a prominent cult in the game that’s emerged under many names and in many locations (including the Fear Nothing Foundation in Tokyo). There is just nothing good with the Morninglight and everything to give us the extreme heebie-jeebies.

Probably the biggest question that we have left to answer — or the biggest reveal — is the person of Philip Marquard, the cult’s leader. We’ve never seen his face in the game to date; one quest shows John meeting him, but his face is obscured in a bright light. I did do a Google search and it turned up this piece of concept art showing a Morninglight temple and some portraits of what looks to be a very South African-looking man.

So we know that we’ll be infiltrating New Dawn as a prospective member of the Morninglight, which is definitely an interesting angle to go. Although I’m a little wary of the potential for sabotage missions out of the wazoo; I’d prefer a straight-up fight, especially now that I have my angel wings.

We also know that South Africa will bring some new creature types inspired by the region’s folklore. So far this looks to be a grinning hyena-thing and a bird-thing. Sort of reminiscent of the Filth creatures but not as goopy and droopy.

Anyway, it’s free, and there is just about no reason I won’t be there on Day One to explore the first part of the post-Tokyo storyline. Here’s hoping that Funcom can really crank up its narrative machine and start delivering new content on a much more frequent basis than what we’ve seen so far with Legends or even in the past couple years of The Secret World.

DDO: The Prisoner

This week’s Dungeons and Dragons Online adventure was The Prisoner, in which I saved one elf from another elf’s incompetence and validated my suspicions that this race is too dumb to live.

In this case, Mistress Orphne — or, as I called her, Little Orphne Annie — has had her mind hijacked by some of her countrymen. So it’s into the mind of an elf I go to free her, because that’s the sort of pop psychology I subscribe to!

So what will we find in the mind of an elf? Probably a pillow fort made of haughty arrogance.

Orphne’s mind is pretty messed up, although mostly in a way that feels like the developers wanted some freedom to get wacky with level design. Lots of stuff floating in midair unsupported, ladders that go on for three minutes at a stretch, and plenty of beholders popping in for pep talks. They went down so fast that they barely had time to get out their taunts.

I had to find four items within Orphne’s mind to shake her out of this stupor, and pretty much all of them were high up various platforms. While I had feather fall to assist me in a quick way back to the start, at once point I got hung up on the terrain and ended up suspended in midair with no way to get down. I used the /stuck command (after a stern warning from the system not to abuse it) and went on my merry way.

Ladder Diary, Minute 524. Still climbing. Have splinters in all fingers and toes. Cursing the birth day of each and every developer in this place. Why don’t I have rocket boots?

Probably the most interesting section, at least to me, was a maze stuffed with minotaurs and traps. Neither were particularly dangerous, and at one point a minotaur stumbled right into a trap and got skewered right before my eyes. I extended grace and pity by laughing mercilessly and saying, “You idiot cow.”

After a fight with a giant — wasn’t quite sure WHY there was a giant in her mind, but no matter — I fought shadow Link here and won the day. Of course, I tinkered around with her brain to make her think that she was a ferret for the rest of her life, but that’s standard operating procedure in an elf memory rescue.

RIFT Prime: I can see my dimension from here!

It’s not a return to RIFT if I’m not making my traditional pilgrimage to the top of the highest peak in Silvermoon Forest for the achievement — and the view. I’ve been doing this with each new Guardian character since 2011 that it’s unthinkable not to keep the tradition alive.

Besides, I’m not in a rush. Even with the XP bump on the servers, it’s still a slow go with slow fights, and so Prime for me has become more of a sightseeing and screenshotting tour as I make small, incremental progress toward my goals. Or, you know, the completion of the very first zone. As usual, I was probably behind most of the pack after Minute Ten of this server. Such is life.

At least I crossed one minor milestone, which was scraping together enough money to buy a basic mount. On one hand, this is easily the slowest horse I’ve ever owned in any MMO. I think it’s only a 60% speed boost, and the horse’s running animation is slowed such that it looks like it’s running through quicksand. On the other hand, that’s 60% faster than I’ve been running, and I’ll take any speed boost I can get at this point. Having a mount makes me feel less vulnerable and noobish.

Air rifts at night are gorgeous. Like funky nightlights with mini-tornadoes.

With the increase of XP for rifts and other dynamic events, there is increased incentive to seek out and run these. And frankly, with a large enough public group, I don’t mind. Rifts are dull work solo or with only one or two others, but they’re a breeze with a mob at your back. And even though the planarite rewards are meager in this zone, there are some gear drops and it’s kind of enjoyable to do for its own sake. My kids were still oohing and ahhing over the rift exit animations, so there’s still some visual magic left here.

And then, because I’m apparently allergic to making progress, I rerolled my character. Again.

So what happened is that as I was nearing level 20, I just wasn’t feeling it with my Cleric. I was running Realm of the Fae with some friends and one was going on and on about the Bard, and that just flipped a switch in me. I became mad for the idea of maining a Bard, something I don’t think — to my knowledge — I’ve ever done in RIFT. I’ve used the Bard as a secondary or support profession, but not as a leveling character.

I always love the *idea* of Bards but rarely stick one out. So why not now?

While the notion of rerolling and falling further “behind” stuck in my craw a bit, about an hour into this character and I knew I had made the right decision. It just clicked a lot more than the previous two characters had. The plan with her is to dump most of my points into Bard, with some into Ranger to keep a combat pet in the mix. I also splashed Marksman in there for the zero-point sprint, which is handy while questing.

I also really like what I came up with for her looks. I went back to a Dwarf — sue me — and contrasted a light tattoo on dark skin.

At least now I’m pretty used to these opening quests and can blitz through them quickly. I am also picking up as many rifts as I can, now that XP is better. I hope to stay with the XP curve this time around.

One wonderful part about questing in Silvermoon, other than the general beauty of the zone, is that the regional quest has to do with confronting and killing Elves. It’s a terrible sacrifice on my part, but I will do my honest best to step up and wipe out these freaks with a vengeance.