World of Warcraft: Do Druids poop in the woods?

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The long journey back to Druid life

In a recent WoW post, I talked about how I was searching for purpose and a goal in the game now that I’ve gotten Broken Isle Pathfinder Part One and pretty much have my Death Knight on auto-pilot doing daily emissary quests. There are some odds and ends to tie up with her, but until 7.2 arrives, my attention is starting to turn elsewhere.

The natural outlet would be an alt, but settling on one has been more difficult than expected. I’ve experienced this in MMOs, where I end up playing a class that’s so perfect for me that when I go to try others, I find them severely lacking and end up rejecting them all.

I gave several of my mothballed level 100s another try: The Beast Master Hunter felt dull and lacking a punch, the Shaman is just a mess and so much less interesting than it was in Draenor, and I can’t get into a good rotational groove with my Warlock. Then I got all fired up for a few days to create a new Monk — a class I’d really never tried before — and see what healing with that was like. Turned out that by the time I was running Deadmines, I found myself wistful that I didn’t have all of my Druid healing skills at my disposal. And that led me back, in a very roundabout way, to my Druid.

I have to say that I absolutely hate her name — Syppe — which I think I must have been punch-tired or something to not figure out a better version of the Syp nomer legacy. I might actually have to pay to change that one if I stick with this character. But it’s been pretty neat to come back to her and get things sorted out.

She just hit 101 last night and is in the early steps of opening up her class hall (such a confusing design, by the way) and forging through her first Broken Isles zones. It’s going to be… interesting to play a healer spec while questing, but I think I’ve figured out a good approach. She’s got the balance affinity, so that gained me the Moonkin form and some nice ranged spells. I’m not burning down things super-fast, but at least I can take them on at range and cycle through groups pretty well. Plus, I’ve figured out which healing spells I can use in Moonkin form (yay renewal), so I’m kind of hard to put down.

Star Trek Online: Tzatziki saucers

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Since it’s Star Trek Online’s anniversary and the launch of a new season and all, I figured I owed the game some time. Even though I have a few episode arcs to catch up on, I went ahead and jumped into the new Season 12 mission, Of Signs and Portents.

Plus, as with most new episodes that STO releases, there are some limited-time rewards for running it, including a couple coming up in, um…

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1999? Is this Cryptic’s way of saying that the studio has mastered time travel? Are we to be sent back to the Clinton era? Gotta brush up on my Matrix memes and warn the world about the Nokia N-Gage!

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As this is the first of a line of eventual quests, there’s very little meat to it. I’m sent in along with the Klingons and some other alien race that I have yet to meet in the episode arcs to investigate some planet-destroyin’ that’s going on with protomatter bombs. Those are the BEST bombs, by the way. So much better than antimatter, doesitmatter, and promatter bombs.

The big baddies this time around are the Tzenkethi, or as I like to call them, the Tzatziki, because I love my Greek food. Can I just admit that one of my pet peeves is how annoying most Star Trek alien race names are? It’s like the writers gave up after the 189th race and just started slamming letters and apostrophes together in the hopes of creating something mysterious-sounding.

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I don’t think these aliens are all bad, not really. For one thing, they’ve got these sweet cyber-armor outfits that look like something an alien extra from Mass Effect would wear. For another, the first time you see them, one does a cannonball into a pool. Dude just wants to party.

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Hey, it’s a bomb! Looks like the whatever-they-are are trying to get rid of crystals, so I’m guessing that it’s a big fake-out and we’ve yet to meet the real threat going on. I hope these lizard guys end up being on our side. Would love to recruit one for my bridge crew.

There’s more ground combat in this mission than space, and I think I’m coming to terms with the fact that my shotgun, while cool to look at, is a poor weapon in this game. It just doesn’t shoot fast enough or handle quite right. Alas.

Anyway, happy birthday Star Trek Online!

Star Control 2: The end

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(This is part of my journey going checking out Star Control 2. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

I wasn’t expecting too much at the conclusion of Star Control 2, but the designers apparently had a great final reward in mind. During the end credits, most of the alien races appear to spout  off all sorts of jokes, fourth wall-breaking comments, and story conclusions. It’s simply hilarious, as one would expect from this game. So without commentary, here are some choice screenshots from the credits sequence. Thanks for reading this playthrough series!

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Star Control 2: I’m da bomb

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(This is part of my journey going checking out Star Control 2. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

As the Utwig head off to war against the bad guys, I feel like I’m running against the clock to get that bomb and do my own Death Star trench run before all of my allies end up being space fodder.

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While I have permission from the Utwig to go get the precursor bomb from one of their planets, the Druuge show up and seem to think that it’s still theirs. Or it should be theirs. It’s aggressive mercantile strategy, and I’m going to have to counter it with aggressive starship punches to the faces.

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With the Druuge fertilizing outer space with their remains, I land on the planet and claim the bomb for my own. Totally seems like a good idea to be carrying a massive bomb around in my cargo hold, right?

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I head over to meet the last undiscovered alien race, the Umgah, but they’re having a Bad Day. Apparently they rescued one of the Ur-Quan’s “talking pets” and bioengineered it into sentience, whereupon it used its psychic powers to take over the Umgah and force them to do its bidding. It tries the same on me, but one of my devices shields me from the psychic attack.

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This guy is flat-out hilarious, by the way. After beating his ships, he pretends to have turned a new leaf, but then gets real and promises to help as a member of my crew against the Ur-Quan. His psychic powers could come in handy and he has a grudge against them, so why not?

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It’s time for the final showdown! The Chmmr install the bomb on my ship, which unfortunately takes a LOT of slots and disables my emergency warp-out ability. The good news is that I now have unlimited funds to outfit the rest of my ship and build a fleet for the confrontation. Next stop: the heart of the Ur-Quan empire!

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This really is the point of no return. The Ur-Quan’s super-weapon is surrounded by a massive fleet, and the aliens are so incensed that I defy them that they pronounce genocide against all humans.

But they got to get through me, first.

I discuss the plan with the talking pet, and he uses his psychic powers to clear out that massive fleet orbiting the planet. With those ships distracted, I swoop in and attack the remainders around the weapons platform.

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My bird allies swoop in (so to speak) in the midst of the battle to deliver much-needed reinforcements. BAWWK!

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Here it is, the precursor weapons platform. It’s a tough nut to crack, as it’s protected by a shield. I have to knock out eight generators before making my bombing run.

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My escape pod detaches and the ship/bomb explodes, taking out the Sa-Matra and effectively destroying both alien races.

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Fan service!

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I wake up in the hospital above earth in time to see the red slave shield finally come down. We did it! I am victorious! And I have a cute blue girlfriend to boot!

That’s the end of one of the best retro game experiences I’ve had to date. Star Control 2 holds up remarkably well even today, thanks to its fun space sim and RPG mechanics, the weird and wooly alien races, and the witty writing. I can see why it’s been regarded as a classic.

It might be the end of the game, but not of this playthrough series, because I have an interesting coda coming for you tomorrow!

The great music overhaul of 2016

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So if you’ll excuse my extreme nerdiness and self-indulgence today, I wanted to talk about my music collection.

Ever since I started collecting digital music in the early 2000s, I had my own organizational system. It’s nothing fancy, just a dozen or so folders devoted to various musical genres (pop, video game, comedy, Christian, etc.), into which I would put songs that I generally liked. I used to keep EVERYthing, but having long since realized that there are tracks I will never listen to ever again, I stopped doing that and only saved songs that I liked for one reason or another. The only exception to this plan these days are MMORPG soundtracks, which I have kept in full due to the projects that I use them for.

So as I listen to and sort tracks, I have thrown the best into a folder that I’ve called “Mobile Mix.” Since I have too much music to fit on most mobile devices (first iPods, later the iPhone and my car’s flash drives), I wanted to pull music that I would listen to the most while I was on the go. A favorites mix, if you will, which is something that I imagine many people have.

Over time, I kept throwing files willy-nilly into the Mobile Mix folder to the point where it started to buckle from being too big. At the start of this week, the folder contained over 4,500 tracks, which I had come to realize was causing issues. Firstly, it takes my car almost three minutes to index all of those and start playing them after I turn it on, which has caused a few hilarious moments when music abruptly started blaring while we’re already driving and my wife jumps out of her seat. Second, many of the songs that I had thrown into that folder were no longer appealing to me. I might have liked them at one time or included them because I thought they were noteworthy, but they weren’t “listen to all of the time” candidates any more. The whole idea of this mix is that it’s Syp’s personal radio station, and I should never want to skip a song of it because I don’t like it for whatever reason.

Because of this realization, this week I sat down and started a lengthy project to go back through all 4,500 tracks, listening to them one by one, and culling the songs that don’t have high replay value. I’m also taking the opportunity to fix spelling, capitalization, and other formatting errors.

It’s going to be a slow process, to be sure, but I’m glad I’m finally getting around to it. It’s that satisfying feeling of cleaning out a room that you’ve neglected for too long. Plus, it’s a chance to reaquaint myself with some of my old favorites and remember when I had added these. Also, I’m realizing just how weird my tastes are. As my wife said the other day when we were driving, “Is this the theme to the Snorks?”

Yes. Yes it is. Have some fun with the Snorks, my dear.

LOTRO: The breathtaking beauty of Gondor

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Through the Paths of the Dead

The standard format of MMOs goes that the higher up in levels you go, the uglier and more visually oppressive zones get. Naturally, there are exceptions to this, and this trope does seem to be changing these days, but that’s the rule of thumb. Happily, LOTRO seems to go back and forth between attractive and dismal settings, and being able to explore the beauty of Gondor makes getting up to these high levels worth it.

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Even though this is my second time going up through the levels, I’m still incredibly impressed with what the devs did with Gondor. Rohan was admittedly gorgeous and got a lot of press, while Gondor seems to be an expansion that was chopped up into smaller parcels and never given its full due. But it really is a terrific region, with its own music, architecture, and narrative. It even worked in some Elves, if you go for that sort of thing. I don’t, but hey, it’s a break from wall-to-wall Man stuff we’ve had ever since Dunland.

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Behind in levels, ahead in spirit

My Lore-master has been racing behind the level curve of these new areas and quests. I could only just get into the new volume of the epic quest at level 91 (it starts at 95 and quickly ramps up to 100). I decided to slow down for a bit in the first area of Gondor to do a bunch of side quests and knock out a few more levels. I think it’s paid off: I’m level 94 and I figure that if I can at least get to 96, I’ll be able to go through the next few books of the epic with no worries (books 2-4 are all level 100 content; book 5 starts going from 101 to 105).

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Ugh. So, so pretty. I loved this brook, especially when the daylight hit it. I am still bowled over by the sense of world that LOTRO gives. It’s not just wall-to-wall mobs and quests, but there’s a lot of wilderness and places to explore. It feels big, but not in an “I’m totally lost” sort of way.

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I’m not as big of a fan of the Gondor interiors as I was of Rohan, but both are lightyears ahead of the younger region of Bree and those houses.

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The Elven cave city is one of the more interesting locales of the game, I have to admit. Seems like a lot of work was done in it for a relatively small payoff. I do have a lot of questions about those Christmas lights and how the Elves put them up there and keep them lit.

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A new look

I have hundreds of mithril coins (thanks, lifetime sub for all of those TP), so I splurged at the market and equipped myself with a snazzy new outfit for my Lore-master. Some black die made it look sharp, and I really like the hood design that sort-of covers one eye. I also used a low-level ash staff as a cosmetic weapon, since I prefer that natural look to those weird, funky LI staves.

Syp’s classic video game trivia!

Last night in RIFT, I had the pleasure of running our weekly trivia night. I themed my questions around classic video game trivia, and so to get the best bang for my buck, er, efforts, I thought I’d post them to see if any of you would like to try your hand answering in the comments:

  1. WHAT ARE THE NAMES OF THE FOUR GHOSTS IN PAC-MAN (you must name all four)?
  2. WHAT WAS MARIO’S ORIGINAL NAME (from Donkey Kong)?
  3. WHAT CLASSIC VIDEO GAME HAS THE SAME NAME AS A PLAY BY SHAKESPEARE?
  4. WHAT WAS THE JAPANESE NAME FOR ITS VERSION OF THE NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM?
  5. WHAT WAS THE FIRST HOME VIDEO GAME CONSOLE?
  6. WHAT FAMOUS TECH INDUSTRY FIGURE HELPED TO CREATE THE GAME BREAKOUT?
  7. WHAT NOTORIOUS PHRASE WAS UTTERED WHEN YOU BEAT 1986’s PRO WRESTLING?
  8. WHAT WAS THE PASSWORD FOR METROID THAT LET YOU PLAY THE GAME AS SAMUS WITHOUT HER POWER SUIT?
  9. WHAT WAS THE FIRST VIDEO GAME TO BE PLAYED IN OUTER SPACE?
  10. WHAT WAS THE SIZE OF THE LARGEST LICENSED NES GAME?
  11. BONUS: WHAT IS WIDELY CONSIDERED TO BE THE FIRST “KILLER APP” OF VIDEO GAME CONSOLES?