New World and new hopes

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Last night the relatively new Amazon Game Studios unveiled its projects at last and did the unexpected: It announced that one of the three games would be a huge MMO called New World.

Even with the studio snapping up MMO devs, I didn’t have high hopes that we’d see anything more than a survival sandbox or MOBA. Instead, it unveiled what I think is a very solid line-up of titles: a 4v4 “sports brawler” called Breakaway, a last-man-standing survival title called Crucible, and the aforementioned New World. Obviously, it’s this last one that has me the most excited.

From the official description:

Carve your own destiny in New World, a massively multiplayer, open-ended sandbox game set in a living, cursed land. Choose how you play, what you do, and whom you work with or against in an evolving world that transforms with the seasons, weather, and time of day. Band together to reclaim monster-haunted wilds and build thriving civilizations, or strike out on your own, surviving in the face of supernatural terrors and murderous player bandits. Focused on emergent gameplay and rich social features – including deep Twitch integration with broadcaster-led events, achievements, and rewards – your only limit in the New World is your ambition.

Breakaway was the game that got the most press, probably because it’s closest to actual completion, but the mere announcement of a new, big-budget MMO is of significant value to the industry. It’s been years now since a major western MMO was announced, one with the backing of a big studio and deep pockets. Even long-time MMO studios such as Daybreak and Blizzard had cancelled promising projects (Titan, EQNext) in favor of plucking lower-hanging fruit instead.

I was just floored last night at this announcement, an act that was soon followed by some rather alarming hooting, hollering, and fist-pumping. Man, we MMO fans needed something like this. We needed to see that the industry wasn’t just reverting to small crowdfunded indie MMOs and eastern studios, but still had hope with the bigger studios as well. And it seems to me that Amazon could’ve gone in so many directions with its games, and yet it made a choice to go with this. Rock on.

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There’s a video too that should give a better idea too, with some concept art to boot.

I certainly want to hear and see more of New World before reading too much into its description, but it certainly sounds interesting. The 17th century-meets-supernatural angle could be potentially neat, although my mind worries about this period in regard to issues with North American native tribes and the conflict with Europeans.

From the description, New World sounds like a mash-up of survival sandbox and a larger, more persistent world. I like some of the details it mentions, such as the changing seasons, choice, and “rich social features,” while the mention of “player bandits” has me a mite concerned that the team is making the mistake of creating a massive gankbox that will turn off PvE players.

We need more information and we’re just going to have to wait to find out more, but it’s a good start and a welcome way to end the week.

World of Warcraft: Embracing grappling hooks and world quests

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Is there anything as fun in this expansion as the grappling gun? I want this in all zones, all of the time. So fun.

Since last we spoke of World of Warcraft, I’ve crested the hill of the pre-endgame and started coasting down the other side. Oh, it’s still a very long road ahead of me, but at least I’ve finally crossed the i800 barrier and unlocked world quests. That’s nothing for most of you, but for me? It’s a relief to at least be in the same ballpark as most players at this point. I felt like I was missing out on all sorts of daily rewards by not having world quests, and now? Now I’ve arrived.

Lots still to do, of course. But I have to say, I am really grooving on this world quest system, especially with the emissary quests. Plenty of rewards that I want and can use, plus a daily chance at a big one. I even scored a purple i845 trinket off of one of the chests the other day, my first purple of this expansion. Heck, I don’t think I had any purples in Warlords, which tells you how far I got there.

It all feels like you get on a fast track to fun and profit when you reach the world quests stage. For one thing, you can start going shopping for the rewards you want. For another, that whistle on a five-minute cooldown that takes you to the nearest flight master is a gem for a non-flyer. It’s made me go back and pick up the last few flight points that I missed along the way.

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Heck, I might be able to start running heroics in a day or so, which means that dungeons might start to become relevant again for me. I enjoyed the visuals of this “ship of the damned” one in particular, even if it still felt like a (wet) slog. Probably didn’t help that we had a deserter early on and had to complete the thing with four people.

The pull of my Druid is getting stronger and stronger. I really do want an endgame healer and as long as her time-to-kill isn’t ridiculous, it could be pretty fun to level. Then again, I have just so many regular quests, class hall quests, and so on to finish on my DK that it feels irresponsible not to forge forward under full steam there.

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Some of the quests continue to really impress with storytelling and variety. I liked this one in which you got to take on the role of a questgiver (for once) — to a group of kobolds, no less. Yes, candles were involved.

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My seven-year-old asks me every day if he can fly my “owl” (my Druid). I turn off the interface and let him explore all he likes. Usually he’s looking for dragons, although on this particular day he got caught up in investigating a volcano. But not TOO close, because we’d burn up!

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Uh, Blizzard? That is either the most buoyant shark in history or your programmers need to fix a little bug here. Also, how is me turning water under my feet to ice help me to walk on it? Shouldn’t this circle of ice just tip me right off?

Adventures in Organizing Part II

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Another entry into my publicly boring but personally interesting journey to becoming better organized! Unbuckle your seatbelts, my friends, because it’s going to be one dull as dirt ride!

So after going on the other week about my great four-point organization system, I started to feel like that was probably two, if not three, points too many. I’ve been enjoying getting into the groove of getting stuff done and feeling less stressed now that more of my life is coming under the umbrella of organization (versus “sure hope I remember it!” that my brain cannot do as well any more). But the tools weren’t quite there yet.

It felt a little redundant to have both a weekly to-do list and Evernote handling my long-range projects and dates. So I started doing research (ie, googling) applications that could handle tasks, dates, and syncing between devices. Oh, and also it had to be free or pretty cheap, because I am not hopping on board the whole “renting programs for money” train.

What popped up in a few places was Wunderlist, a clean organizer that works in browser, desktop, and mobile devices. It’s nothing extremely fancy, but it is well done. You can schedule tasks for specific dates and also set them to repeat (daily, weekly, yearly, custom, etc.), which I found to be helpful for many things I need to remember yearly and monthly. You can also have the program email you and notify you of tasks, although I disabled most of that because it got really annoying to have all of those popping up at me when I already have Wunderlist pulled up on my computer.

After a couple of days of evaluating it and finding it pleasing, I went ahead and put everything into Wunderlist. All my to dos, all of my dates, everything going out a year from now. That way I can wake up, look at my list for the day, and get a plan going. For a guy who has had problems procrastinating with big projects or annoying little ones, I find that if I put it on the list, it gets done. And I’m thrilling to that.

I think in a way, tools like Wunderlist are allowing me to become my own boss. I function well when someone tells me, “Here, do this,” and I do it. Freeform motivation is less helpful. I don’t like wasting a day or putting off the jobs that need doing, and this is combating that in my life.

Battle Bards Episode 83: Triumphant Victory!

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Triumph and victory — are they the same thing? Sometimes, but not always. On today’s breathtaking episode of Battle Bards, the team tackles triumphant (and victorious!) themes from MMORPGs, trying to nail down what, exactly, makes a track fit in this category. Also, Syl totally breaks the rules of the show’s format and she doesn’t even apologize. That’s how much of a rebel she is.

Episode 83 show notes (show page, direct download)

  • Intro (feat. “High Price of Victory” from ArcheAge and “Veranas City” from Runes of Magic)
  • “Battle of Pelennor Fields — Final Victory” from Lord of the Rings Online
  • “Hail the Victor!” from Lineage 2
  • “Victory Banners” from Guild Wars
  • “Argent Tournament: Joust Event” from World of Warcraft
  • “Victory Theme” from Overwatch
  • “Victory” from Firefall
  • “Spark of Hope” from Dragon’s Prophet
  • Which one did you like the most?
  • Jukebox Picks: “On the Wings of Adventure” from Pixelmon, “Hyperspace” from Star Control 2, “Main Theme” from Song of the Deep
  • Outro (feat. “Knighting Ceremony” from Lineage 2)

Try-It Tuesdays: World of Fishing

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Try-It Tuesdays is a (semi) regular weekly feature in which I take a break from my current roster of games to play something else for an evening. You can check out past Try-It Tuesday adventures here or submit a suggestion for a future title in the comments!

Not that I’m bored as of late or have an abundance of extra time on my hand, but I never want to get stuck in such a gaming rut that I only play one or two games all of the time. Plus, I like to branch out in blogging about other titles, which convinced me to resurrect my idea for Try-It Tuesdays: A weekly sojurn into other games (some MMOs, some not) that I’ve either never played before, only played lightly, or haven’t played for quite some time. I have a three-month list of titles ahead of me, but feel free to make some suggestions below!

To kick us back off for the fall season, I’m going with… World of Fishing. Yes, Syp is going fishing. Why? Well, I was perusing the Steam massively multiplayer category for ideas and this one at least had the virtue of looking pretty different from games I’ve played in the past. Plus, I’ve been pretty loud on the subject of how boring and pointless I feel most MMO fishing is, so why not do a little penance for my mouth by spending a whole evening doing nothing but?

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As far as I can tell, World of Fishing is an overseas game where fishing must be a much more exciting video game pasttime than it is here. It’s a genuine MMO, at least in terms of size and mechanics, although I won’t vouch for the worldbuilding and lore part. The ocean looks pretty wet, that’s all I got out of the world per se.

Character creation is… odd. Instead of making your own character, you choose from one of eight premade people, each with their own generic description and background. I went with “The Veteran,” because why wouldn’t you want to play a grizzled old fisherman with dreams of starring in Jaws? Also, he spends half his time on the character creation screen picking his ear and then flicking off the earwax, which I found charming.

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HOLY TOOLTIP TSUNAMI, BATMAN!

I felt like the game was throwing an entire manual onto the screen at once with a sarcastic, “Got it? Now go!” Happily, there was a very simple tutorial that did a fine job walking me through the basics of fishing, complete with condescending praise when I landed a fish that probably couldn’t get away even if I let it.

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Finally I was out on the open water in my basic starting boat with a starting reel, starting lure, starting hook, and an unlimited supply of shrimp. I figured that if I didn’t catch any fish, I could survive indefinitely on shrimp cocktails.

I like how when you drive the boat, your guy stands on the prow while the captain’s chair is noticeably empty. Who’s driving the boat? Ghost bear is driving the boat! Oh no!

I guess the point is to travel around to “fishing spots” (ie, red dots that move around the water), cast your line, and wait until a dumb fish wanders by. Then you have to hook it quickly and engage in a kind-of-fun minigame that involves fish stamina, line tension, and line slack. It’s not the worst fishing system I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen at least… four? I liked that pretty much everything was controlled with the mouse and the left mouse button.

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It was about the time where I was catching my second fish that all of my ambulatory children wandered over and got… hooked (YEAHHHHH) at what Daddy was playing. Seriously, they got WAY into this game, demanding that I keep switching to the underwater view so that we could spy which fish was going to bite our line next. At level 1, it was “cuttlefish” this and “goby” that, so I hope they weren’t expecting a great white or a dolphin pod.

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Other than leveling up, I couldn’t see any point to what I was doing. Is it better to release or put it in a “livewell?” I had no idea. What could I do with these fish, sell them? When did I get better clothes? Do I fish those up? Why don’t these fish have loot on them? Could I jump off the boat and live in that lighthouse forever? Will the old grizzled veteran ever find true love on the high seas? Are there pirates? C’mon, there has to be pirates.

As I whiled away the hours fishing, I kept thinking of what Syp’s Awesome to the Max World of Fishing would be like. For starters, you would be harpooning whales and giant squid from the start. Every so often you’d have a typhoon event in which you would jump into the wall of the storm with a net and try to catch dinner while flinging around at hundreds of miles per hour. Submarines would be a huge factor, and you would often be visited by Neptune, god of the sea, who would hang out with you and occasionally toss tridents through passing ocean liners.

Where’s my kickstarter? Star Citizen would have nothing on me.

In the end, I was left with a so-so fishing game with visuals from 2008, playstyle from kindergarten, and a whole mess of very small fish in a bucket. Also, I learned that no matter where you go online, World of Warcraft will follow:

kek

Can MMO desert zones ever be cool?

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Hope you like sand, because you’re in for a lot of it!

The other day an unnamed party and I were recording an unnamed podcast in while we were discussing the music that played in MMORPG desert zones. I can neither confirm nor deny that you will hear this conversation in the future, but boy did it trigger a few nasty memories. In Syp’s hierarchy of most-disliked video game biomes, the list goes:

  1. Volcano & lava zones
  2. Desert zones
  3. Jungle zones

There are different aspects I hate about each, but what sets desert areas apart is simply how boring most of them are. There’s only so much you can do with a desert, since its very definition means “lacking anything cool.” Developers probably can’t be blamed for dumping the desert area design on the interns, because the their toolbag is pretty limited here. Cacti? Sand? Scorpions jumping up out at you from the ground? A tan rock? A brown rock? Spiders? The one token oasis? TAN. BROWN. BROWN. TAN.

Yawn.

I guess I can’t blame MMO devs for working deserts in — after all, it’s easiest to draw upon actual earth biomes for inspiration, and deserts are pretty prevalent on our planet. But can they ever do anything neat with them? I doubt it. At least, I can’t say that I recall any that have made me go, “Ooh, that’s cool, I want to spend a whole bunch of time questing here!” No, usually I feel like I’m being punished for some unknown crime that dogs me from game to game.

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Now of course, I’m mostly speaking of a classical desert that seems to be the go-to type for video games. When devs aren’t being totally lazy by creating zones with a whole lot of nothing in them, they attempt to emulate two popular desert concepts.

There’s the Egyptian motif, with pyramids, more green (thanks, Nile!), large statues, and all of that ancient world feel. It’s not a terrible theme, and it’s probably the one desert type that I will gladly tolerate. I kind of regret that I never got to see Warhammer Online’s Land of the Dead, which was (from what I understood) old Egypt meets undead horror. Often this gets paired with the Indiana Jones/archaeology flavor.

Then there’s the Arabian Nights collection, the enjoyment of which depends on how much you like that source material. Me? Not really. I don’t like the architecture, the over-reliance on camels, and genies who have never really granted me the wishes I wanted in video games.

My preferred desert, although it is rarely labeled as such, is the western Utah badlands design. Lots of picturesque rocks, a wild west feel, deep canyons, and the like. Maybe it’s the addition of a wider color palette — especially those dusky reds — that helps make it a more enjoyable desert.

Still, if given a choice between a desert zone and anywhere else (save Volcano Land), I won’t give my exit from the desert a second thought. Luke Skywalker couldn’t wait to leave Tatooine, after all, and I don’t blame him.

Can MMO desert zones ever be cool? Can’t see it happening. Include it so that you have the whole earth collection if you must, but you’ve got a massive uphill climb to ever getting me to gush about such an area.

Retro Gaming note on Quest for Glory III

So just putting out there a note that I’ll be ending my run through Quest for Glory III as of yesterday’s post. I wanted to briefly explain why so that the series didn’t end with a big question mark hanging over it.

Essentially, the game isn’t letting me progress any further. It’s a problem that I’ve had before with this finicky title, but after an hour of trying all sorts of different approaches and looking up guides and solutions, I’m at my wit’s end. I cannot get to the point where I marry the prisoner and I don’t see a way forward at all.

And to be honest, I’m ready to be done with this particular game. Quest for Glory 3 has been pretty underwhelming, even with the graphical upgrade, and I’ve been doing the Quest for Glory games in my retro gaming playthroughs for months now. I need a change, and I have my sight set on a much different title for next weekend.

Quest for Glory 4 (if not 5) will still be open for future play, as I’ve heard that the fourth installment is one of the best. But it’s time to move on and I hope you understand. Thanks for reading!

Quest for Glory III: Warriors, come out and play!

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(This is part of my journey going checking out Quest for Glory III: Wages of War. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

To recap the recent events in Quest for Glory 3: The Simbani captured a Leopardman, which I doused with a potion and revealed it to be an attractive girl, which — for some reason — I must marry now. She’s still in the cage and seemingly gets little say in the matter. Also, I’m a hero.

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So the chief has set the “bride price” of the prisoner pretty high to keep his son from marrying an enemy. He’s totally cool with me doing it, provided that I can unload a lift pallet full of Costco goods and go through an initiation ritual to become an official warrior of the tribe. Nevermind that I’m a genuine prince that’s fought Baba Yagas and genies and elementals, I gotta go do his obstacle course before I’m considered a warrior. Where’s the option to initiate combat with this doofus?

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Fine. I’ll go kill a dinosaur for its horn. Some might call that poaching, but this game sees it as a part of proving what a stud I am. And in the end, isn’t that more important than conservation?

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I bring the horn back to the village, but the game won’t let me give it to the chief, so I’m in another one of these weird sequential stalemates. Dejected, I go to the prisoner, who gets surprisingly chatty after her long silence. Good for her for sticking up to this whole “forced marriage” thing.

Also, “magic-less cow person” will be used in my vocabulary today.

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In all seriousness, I was about ten seconds away from rage quitting and uninstalling this game at this point. I couldn’t seem to get past where you had to give the chief the horn, as the game wouldn’t let me progress. I tried talking to him with and without the horn, I went back and killed a second dino, slept a night, put the horn in a chest, took the horn out… and then finally, right when all hope was about gone, something triggered the next stage of the story.

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This means that I get to go through the initiation rite to become a warrior, finally. Also, hooray. That’s a deadpan “hooray,” dripping with sarcasm and reluctance. You people have no idea what being a hero entails. It’s so many tests.

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The initiation rite is quite lengthy and consists of several bouts of running (automatic), two minigames (wrestling and spear-throwing), and two adventure game sequences that prize brains over twitch gaming. I rule at the last category and categorically stink in all of the others compared to Yesufu.

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Good sportsmanship is seen, as I help Yesufu get up after he falls into a hole. Then he beats me in a foot race, because I can’t even win against a guy who is hobbling. The nice thing — and I’ll give the game this — is that I become a warrior whether I win or lose against Yesufu. I guess if I win I get more points, but who has ever cared about points in a Sierra adventure game? I just want to move on with the tale.

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At least with all of that nonsense over and done with, the tribe sees me as a fellow warrior and Yesufu peddles his influence to get me the Leopardmen’s drum o’ magic for the peace accords. I guess that was worth throwing a spear or two, right?

Book recommendation: The Palace Job

First of all, if you love reading ebooks and you’re not already hooked into Bookbub, please rectify that as soon as possible. Basically, Bookbub asks you to create a profile in which you select your favorite book genres, and then every day it combs through Amazon’s Kindle library looking for good deals on (usually) popular or high-rated novels.

I really love this service, because every day I get that email and scan through the three or four books it has found. I’d say at least once a week I end up picking up a cheap (or free!) book through this service, and I’ve discovered several new series through it. Great stuff.

I mention this because a few weeks ago I was informed that there was this fantasy trilogy, Rogues of the Republic, that had gone on sale. I think I got all three novels for $12 or so, although the first was just two bucks. They looked like lighthearted fantasy fare, which I welcome after too many of the recent wave of ultra-gritty, grim epics.

It turns out that this was a good buy. An extremely good buy, as evidenced by the fact that I’m excited enough to write a blog post about it. The first novel, The Palace Job, had me hooked from the first chapter on. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before — it’s basically Ocean’s Eleven in a fantasy realm, with a ragtag assembly of thieves trying to pull off a master heist. Yet as it often is with novels, it’s in the presentation.

And The Palace Job’s presentation is superb. The worldbuilding is fascinating, kind of a high fantasy meets magicpunk, with ogres and spells and the like. The characters are individually interesting, with definable characteristics and funny quips. The best thing is that this book meets my standard of having every chapter be interesting and important. It moves along at a fair clip, with the thieves outwitting the bad guys while doing and saying lots of pretty hilarious things. There’s a shape-shifting unicorn (can’t say I’ve read a lot of fantasy with a unicorn as a main character), a death priestess with a talking warhammer, an expelled magician, a couple of escaped prisoners, a nerdy lockpicker, a Spock-like contortionist, and Dairy, a 16-year-old virgin doof who is as sincere as he is prone to messing up the plan.

Anyway, I’m really glad that there are three books, and after being so impressed with the first one, I read up on the author, Patrick Weekes. Turns out that he’s a writer for BioWare, having done a lot of stuff for the Mass Effect series. The guy wrote Tali, my favorite character from that series. Now the quality of the writing makes sense, eh?

World of Warcraft: Ninja class first impressions

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I am no longer playing a Death Knight in WoW; I am Ninja, now and forevermore! See her slash! Dash! Spin! Jump! And then vanish into the night!

I’ve gone against the grain of DK’s sporting these giant two-handed slabs of metal called “swords,” electing instead to transmog Apocalypse into a stylish and slim katana. It’s amazing what one little change does, because now I see my character as lithe and precise instead of clumsy and huge. I keep wearing a red bandana to help with the illusion, which is the best I can do considering that plate wearers don’t have a lot of ninja hoods on hand.

So what is Ninja Syp up to? I’ve been plowing through several Suramar quests and generally found myself agreeable to this endgame zone, which is fortunate considering how much future time I’ll probably be spending in it. I also ran a dungeon last night that was a little too long thanks to a poky tank and a couple of unfortunate wipes. Yet it did pay off, as I was rewarded a pair of titanforged 820 pants. Hey, for me, anything over 800 is very much appreciated these days.

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Let’s talk about Suramar’s Nightfallen for a minute, because I feel this should be addressed. I’ve actually seen some calls from the community to make the Nightfallen a playable race, which elicits such a deep, groaning sigh from me that it shakes the very foundations of my house.

Really, people? You want to play not only another Elf, but an emaciated heroin junkie Elf that kind of looks like the offspring of Voldemort and Dracula? Yeah, nothing like pronounced rib cages and hip bones to shout “sexy!” and “heroic!”

And here we are, being asked repeatedly to spoon-feed them mana for their addicitons when the craving gets too bad and they stop being functional. Are we enablers? I feel like we’re enabling. We should ship ’em all to a detox clinic — preferably run by Gnomes — and get some hearty broth in them. Nurture them back to real health. Show them a bright future. And then teleport them all to the planet’s core, because they’re Elves and all.

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Hey, I found a Death Star pipe in Suramar! I think I can see Emperor Palpatine down there. How’s it going, man? Still falling?

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Once I hit friendly with the Nightfallen (oh, this is just a sham of a friendship), I put a bookmark in Suramar activities and started in on Stormheim to get the last friendly rep that I needed for the world quest unlock thing.

There was a nasty bug that I encountered early on that is apparently quite common. The whole battle in the skies quest kept shutting down on me until I logged out, logged back in, and dismissed my pets. Oh, the quest itself was pretty cool and a great way to be introduced to this final leveling zone.

I even enjoyed being paradropped into the action, although I have to wonder why the army, which has spent gobs of gold on building these flying fortresses, can’t afford parachutes without obvious rips and holes in them. Also, why are we using parachutes? Isn’t this a world where mages can zap you with slow fall and that’s that? Shouldn’t there be an intern in the jump bay whose entire job is to cast a spell so that you can float like a feather down to the ground?

My progress continues to be slow, mostly due to the fact that I am so tired these days. There gets to be a point in the evening where I have the time to game but my body just goes, “Nope! To bed with you, mister!” and I must obey.