Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Online

DDO: Warlocks are OP

It’s halfling Paul Revere! “The nerds are coming! The nerds are coming!”

The nerds are coming indeed, Paul. It’s time for another weekly DDO group, and this time, we’re going to wreck Waterworks and tag the place with Kool-Aid Man graffiti.

Ever since my early days of playing DDO around launch, I had it burned into my brain that Waterworks = awesome loot for the full run. I’m all for that, especially as I’m trying to cobble together as strong of a healing kit as I can.

After our group combed through the non-private instance portion of Waterworks for possible rares (finding only two), we dove into the first two quests on Reaper 1. I think the current plan is to try to be at least two levels above the quests we’re doing so that we can run them on Reaper, so we didn’t do the third or fourth in the chain. Yet.

I understand the challenge and loot appeal of Reaper difficulty, but it doesn’t make me happy as a healer. My heals are significantly nerfed in that mode, especially when applied to myself. I have a nice heal-over-time spell that does one round of strong healing and then a longer round of weaker healing. With the nerf, that second long round does absolutely no healing whatsoever, making the spell all but pointless.

“Great, we’ve armed the giant spider with fire. Way to go, guys.”

One of our three regular lizardmen is a Warlock, one of the many DDO classes I’ve yet to play. It finally struck me this night that he was chain-casting his green balls of death without any worry for his mana, and after inquiring into this, I found out that because Warlocks are OP, they don’t have to worry that much about running out of spell points. That seems like the way to go, honestly. I feel I have to watch every spell point in my bank and continually do mental calculations as to how many spells I have left and how hurt people have to be to use them.

I do have a cape with a single feather fall charge on it, so I’m going to take the quick and easy way down while others run. Of course, probably not the best idea to do this when at the bottom are death traps, a reaper, and very agitated spiders.

Probably the toughest part of my self-designated role as chronicler of our adventures is trying to get interesting screenshots while everything is going nuts and people are moving or killing too fast. So sometimes I activate full-screen mode, hope that nobody dies for the next few seconds, and then dart right into a fight or at a mob in first-person perspective to try to get a good cap. I think that this attack pose from Redfang proved to be the best of the night for me.

Posted in World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft features Elf fights!

Last week finally kicked off the lead-up quests for Battle for Azeroth, giving us content-starved players something to do. It’s too bad that it was, all in all, not that interesting in the least, nor beneficial for advancement or rewards. If you’re going to have story for story’s sake, it’s pretty important to make that tale count.

I can tell already that the story — at least the initial “phantom menace” tale of Alliance vs. Horde — is not going to be anywhere near as interesting as Legion’s conflict. I feel like I speak for a lot of World of Warcraft players when I say that the factional friction doesn’t matter and hasn’t mattered for a long time now. Blizzard is twisting itself up in knots to try to reignite this feud, and nobody’s really buying it.

SPOILER: This whole expansion is going to be about the Old Gods. I know it, you know it, everyone knows it. So why go through this facade? Why remind us how fickle all of the leaders of this world are? They’re allies, they’re enemies, they’re frenemies, whatever.

At least there was one bright spot to this, which is that the first series of quests involved elf deaths. A LOT of elf deaths. I can get behind that. Sure, this whole Horde invasion into Night Elf territory really comes out of nowhere, but if it thins the population of these purple nincompoops, then I can lend it my support.

It also reminded me how little I know of the game’s core lore and key figures. I have a vague shape here and there, but I’m already having a hard time remembering all four of my kids’ names, so I don’t feel bad that Feather Arms up there doesn’t have dedicated space in my brain for a six-page biography.

The quest chain went on pretty long with a lot of very standard quests. I guess I did get the sense of an army campaign moving forward, but it all seemed very small and inconsequential. Plus, having done both sides, I can say that the Horde version is far more interesting than the Alliance.

Plus, you get to actively kill Elves on the Horde. That’s great. Just great. I could do this all day.

I’ll praise the repurposing of older zones for this storytelling, however. It is nice to go back and revisit these previous areas (which still look weird to me post-Cataclysm) while having newer tales happen. It was also a good excuse to grow more familiar with the changes to my different classes. I’m still not firing on all cylinders for the Warlock, but it’s coming along.

Who would have guessed it? Maybe you would have? Because you’re a sort-of Elf? Have you not been to the conventions lately? There are forty-six panels on just trees alone, lady. That should tell you something!

Anyway, here’s hoping that this week’s entry will ramp up action and excitement, because it takes the wind out of my sails to have to do dull content numerous times to bring all of my characters up to speed.

Posted in The Sims

The Sims 4: The new Addams Family

One thing that I’ve liked in sandboxes like The Sims 4 is that you can come up with a vision and attempt to see how closely you can execute that vision in the proper game. For instance, if you wanted to make an Addams Family-like house and family, could you?

Turns out, yes, you could. Finger snaps and all.

I didn’t go with a straight-up copy of the Addams Family for my Graves fam, but there are inspirations. The father is a romantically-inclined dapper gent with a moustache while the mother dresses very fancy and mopes around the house. The girl Lydia is more inspired by Beetlejuice’s character of the same name.

I hate the initial money limitations, because I really couldn’t build the full house that I had imagined. I did get a nice parlor started up there with a long floor rug that led to a fireplace. Everyone seems to enjoy dancing more in that room, which does not help propagate the gloomy reputation of such haunted houses.

If Sims 4 was a cheese cracker commercial targeting goths, I’d have it made.

Anyway, the family is coming along so-so. The mom and dad get way too gooshy on each other, much to the disgust of their eccentric daughter. I didn’t really have much money left for entertainment, so mostly it’s dancing and snowmen-making right now. They did celebrate Christmas by singing together…

…and trying to burn the house down, because that’s a tradition for my Sims Christmases.

Anyway, I thought I’d quickly discuss one of the reasons that I have a hard time sticking with any Sims game. There’s a great start to it, what with creating characters and building the houses, but then comes the day-to-day flow. And that’s fine, but at the start it’s also kind of limiting because of funds. Nobody’s making much money, so after food and bills there’s very little left to add on to the house unless you made it really small to begin with. So it ends up being day after day of trying to rush Sims through routines and work schedules with the hopes of making enough money for expansion.

It just feels like a lot of set up and then very, very slow execution for a while. Maybe I need to start even smaller, leave a larger nest egg or something.

Posted in World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft: Loot legacy mode, engage!

So after the fallout of Patch 8.0 settled last week and players were actually able to get into the game, one large question loomed: What now? What was there to do?

I guess that’s two separate questions, but you get the gist.

In any case, until the pre-expansion scenarios went live, there wasn’t actually a lot to DO with Patch 8.0 other than figure out your new classes, mourn the loss of gold-making missions (and why did you have to nerf my companions’ bonus skills, Blizzard?), and wait until addons got fixed. That is, unless you consider loot legacy mode.

This was a really welcome change and one that offered up an attractive alternative activity, which was to go through old dungeons and solo them for transmog and sellable green loot. I mean, you could always do that, but now you get even more boss loot as if you were running it with a full group. So I decided to hightail it to Northrend and spend some time chain-running Wrath dungeons from back in the day.

Northrend is still so very, very pretty. Far more pretty than it has any right to be, considering how old it is.

Other than the inconvenience of having to physically travel to the dungeon’s starting point (LFG has spoiled me), this went surprisingly well. I’d run a dungeon once on heroic then a bunch of times on standard, vacuuming up loot and unlocking appearances here and there. For this kind of speed run, I decided that my Death Knight was the best for this activity. With three easy-to-use AoE fields, I could lazily round up a ton of mobs (who couldn’t touch me) and then pop a field and watch them all instantly die. Rinse and repeat.

I did fill up my bags with some nice items to sell, although nothing too expensive. Just enough to pay the bills, you know? I had a vision of going through each expansion and chain-running each dungeon about five or six times before moving on, but I don’t know how well that will go. In any case, it’s a nice mindless activity that feels beneficial while touring me through some of the more impressive set pieces that the developers have created over the years.

As an aside, I am also very tempted to play around with a new Shaman (I had since deleted my old Dwarf one for a reason that seemed good at the time) now that Enhancement has a pet back. Probably don’t have the time to level an alt right now. Can’t we just have the expansion already?

Posted in Blaugust

Blaugust 2018: The prepper’s guide to survival blogging

Learn more about (and possibly join) Blaugust Reborn!

With the official start of this year’s Blaugust blogger event next week, us participating sites have been asked — demanded at gunpoint, really — to chew on the theme of “preparation” for new bloggers. As I’m sure that many of my contemporaries will be covering blog setup and the like, I’m going to take a different tack and discuss my approach to post preparation.

Probably the most difficult and challenging aspect of blogging is keeping the posts coming. It’s a constant, ongoing event, unless you don’t care about building up an audience and want a once-in-a-blue-moon post frequency. Everyone gets excited about writing at first, but consistently churning out posts requires discipline, effort, routine, and — pertinent to this article — strategy.

There’s nothing wrong with coming up with a good posting strategy and preparing for your upcoming days. While you can surely write up posts the morning they go live, that can become stressful quickly as you feel pressured on a daily basis to get something, anything, out on the site.

My strategy? I work ahead.

The busier I am in my life, the more I work ahead with projects, and that includes writing for Bio Break and Massively OP. I don’t need the stress of “this has to go out NOW” if I can avoid it, which is why I often write and schedule my posts a week or more out from the current date. For Bio Break, I start writing for the next week on Wednesday evening, trying to go for one post a day through Friday (which gives me Mon-Wed). Then two additional posts are written up on Saturday, and wowzers, I’m done for the next week. It’s a good feeling and quite helpful if there’s a day or two of writer’s block.

But what if there’s a timely issue or event that needs to be written about right here and now? Then I just do it and bump a non-essential post to the following week. Recently, I took two weeks off for vacation, but I doubt anyone noticed from my blog. That’s because for the month before, I slightly increased my scheduling output so that I ended up with a three-week buffer. Let me tell you, it was a great feeling to not have to worry about writing or disrupting the regular posting schedule during those weeks!

One other strategy — a tip, really — that I employ is that if there’s an idea that pops into my head, I try to write it up right away. I find that, at least for me, jotting down the general idea to write up later ends up filling up my drafts bin but never getting done.

Anyway, good luck preparing your blog wherever you’re at, and enjoy writing and reading Blaugust this year!

Posted in Music, Podcast

Battle Bards Episode 125: Archlord

The Battle Bards are always on the prowl for overlooked soundtracks from overlooked MMORPGs, and this week, they might have found a new one to share. Meet Archlord, a Korean title from 2005 that made very little waves in the west. Yet the music is pretty good and worthy of a listen. If you like epic high fantasy, then you’re going to love today’s episode!

Episode 125 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Main Theme,” “Shinewood,” and “Thrilgard”)
  • “Tullan”
  • “Limelight”
  • “Cie Selva”
  • “Elan Jines”
  • “Battle 2”
  • “Delfaras”
  • “Hariel”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener notes: Zalfig, Gamhuin, Minimalist Way, Rowan
  • Jukebox Picks: “Top of the World” from Steep, “Primitive Rage” from Descent, and “The Synapse” from Deus Ex,
  • Outro (feat. “Battle 1”)
Posted in World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft: Getting a grip on 8.0’s class changes

As the first day of Patch 8.0 proved to be impossible to actually access — why break tradition, really? — I had to wait until last Wednesday to get into the game and see what Blizzard did to my core trio of World of Warcraft classes. Here’s what I found:

Beast Master Hunter

I had gone from hating the BM build in Legion to maining it, so obviously I had found a great balance that worked for me. Any changes were going to break this flow, but the question was, how bad?

So far, it isn’t that terrible at all. In fact, there’s a lot to like here. I’m excited that I’m able to have both barrage and murder of crows simultaneously, as both are my favorite BM skills. Goodbye Hati and hello a second pet from my stable, which turns out to be Oz, the spirit wolf that I tamed way, way, way back in Wrath. With my spirit moose, I have a peculiar theme going on here.

Combat flow has changed. Now there’s barbed shot, which with crows means that I’m slapping on two quick DoTs on at the onset of any fight. I’ve gained a spitting cobra (anything for more pets!) and another defensive ability (survival of the fittest), but otherwise it’s more or less the same rotation. The only thing that displeases me greatly is that some skills, like bestial wrath, are now on the GCD, and that just trips me up every time I go to use a previously instant spell. I took her out for a spin and didn’t have any problem taking down elite mobs and the like.

All in all, it’s a class that I can take into Azeroth and feel like I’m going to be effective while having fun.

Unholy Death Knight

Blizzard has a REALLY annoying habit of changing up key pets for classes between expansions, and as someone who gets attached to my critters, these seemingly arbitrary adjustments are frustrating. I got TWO of these this time around, and both really irk me.

Unholy DKs have, for some reason, gotten rid of the abomination (who really grew on me) and gone back to the ghoul (who I have transformed into a geist). Even worse, in my opinion, is that air support has reverted from the truly awesome valkyrie back to the gargoyle. Whyyyy. Why.

Anyway. It’s good to see Unholy Blight return, as I’ve always liked that spell for AoE chaos. Defile is a great talent with a lot of synergy with another talent (grip of the dead) and scourge strike. I still have apocalypse, I still have army of the dead, and I still have outbreak. Those are the most important skills for me right now, so that’s all well and dandy.

I’m not a fan of the nerf to wraith walk, so I decided to trade that for death pact and gain another heal. I have no idea how brutal the start of BFA is going to be, but it never hurts to have a full array of defensive skills at the ready.

All in all, my DK still plays pretty much as she had throughout Legion, and that’s a very good thing. I just miss my big fat guardian and my angel air support.

Demo Warlock

Demonology got the short end of the shift in Legion and made me all but hate playing a Warlock in that spec. Pretty much nobody liked it, which is why it’s seeing extensive renovations for BFA. First impressions? I’m on board with this demon-summoning pain machine.

Two great changes out of the gate: I now regenerate three soul shards automatically between combat and also passively keep summoning wild imps. That helps get combat off to a great start in my book. The trusty Felguard and Dreadstalkers are there (along with the aforementioned imps), but now I also have a Vilefiend (above) and Demonic Tyrant to add to the mob. The total effect gives that pleasing “gang up on the bad guys” feeling that I love from pet classes, and it definitely flows much better.

I’m glad to see the old demonic empowerment gone, and the new demonbolt is pretty interesting in that it can eventually be insta-cast thanks to the imps. I’m very much looking forward to playing this class in the expansion, and I hope that it’ll emerge as one of the strong contenders for my affection again, as I used to love my demo lock back in the day.

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Online

DDO: Serene Cerulean Hills

For this past week’s DDO group outing, we decided to change up our normal routine of non-stop dungeon runs with a romp through an early wilderness area — Cerulean Hills. This place continues to be one of my favorite zones in the game, moreso for its nighttime atmosphere. How can a game that came out in 2006 still be this pretty? I guess skyboxes are an easy way to impress me.

As the group took off at a sprint toward various explorer objectives, I found myself distracted by nighttime butterflies. Pretty! But sinister too. What are they up to? Why are they fluttering about at night?

One of the benefits of running with a very experienced group of players is that they know exactly where to go and the most efficient way to get there. It’s kind of nice to slightly shut off that part of my brain that worries about pathfinding and simply enjoy the sights, engage in action, and heal when needed.

The joke was that I was a good luck charm that week, as we bumped into six out of the seven rares that had a possibility of popping up in this wilderness zone. Mostly we were dashing between points, swinging our weapons wildly and hoping that they’d connect. Combat in DDO can go so fast and feel so loose sometimes. It would be a much different game if it was tab-targeted, that’s for sure.

I’d like to think that this gargoyle went on to live a good life full of public service and charity.

Obligatory Group Is Awesome shot. I told them that if I was tipped enough, I would prominently feature that person and give him or her a heroic account. Nobody did this week, so they’re all chumps that stumbled over their own shoes and rolled ones on everything.

We did take time to do the two quests that branched off of Cerulean Hills. First up was Nash’s farm, which we attempted at Reaper 3. That wasn’t impossible, but it did cause a few deaths and very cautious advancement. It’s pretty interesting how jiggering with the difficulty slider can turn lightning-fast runs into slow dungeon crawls. I like the slower pace, actually.

We also had to make strategic use of our shrines, as you can only use each once during an adventure. Since last time, we had all leveled up to 5, which meant that I got a new tier of spells. This meant that I finally got a second healing spell (a HoT) and became slightly more useful. I did have to ration my spell points carefully during these runs, since Reaper difficulties reduce healing power. Sometimes I just had to let people hang with some injuries that I judged weren’t life-threatening because I didn’t want to blow through all of my spell points and be left dry without a shrine.

Posted in The Sims

The Sims 4: A Christmas story

Upon the advice of counsel — which is a term that I’m using for “internet friends” — I did pick up the Seasons expansion for The Sims 4. This brought my grand total of Sims expansion packs ever purchased to (drum roll) one. I’m pretty happy with the purchase, since seasonal changes and holidays add a lot to the feel and flow of the game over time. It also makes for some interesting stories.

My neighborhood right now is pretty small; I bulldozed every lot except for a couple of small houses and families that I’ve created. My daughter asked to make a house with just me, so that’s her and me sharing our little four-room pad up there. One day after moving in, Christmas (or whatever The Sims calls Christmas) arrived, which set my virtual daughter off like crazy.

While I didn’t have much money left (or a job, for that matter), I did splurge on a tree and a small pile of presents. We opened them, she sang off key, and we tried to get into the spirit of the season as a blizzard raged outside.

I noted that there were icons representing what my character loved best about the holiday, and one of those for myself was making a great feast. Why not? We might starve tomorrow, but we’ll eat like kings and queens tonight! I set to making it.

So. Two problems. I have virtually no cooking skill and really shouldn’t have been trying to make a big dinner, and I forgot to install a fire alarm. Quickly, a fire burst out of the oven like it was transforming into a dragon, and we hightailed it out of the house and into the blizzard.

I did try to extinguish it, but I didn’t have that option (yet), so all we could do was freak out while standing in the snow. Burning or freezing to death? We might do both before the night was over!

Then, Sims Santa shows up and starts freaking out about the fire as well. I thought that maybe he would go in and save the day by putting it out, but no, he just started yelling and gesturing like the rest of us.

After a while, though, Sims Santa got bored of that and wandered into the house to add some presents to the pile. Good thinking, Santa — that fire was in danger of going out!

Really, I had no idea how a fire in this game works, so this is what I found out: It kind of burns up an area and gradually goes out as it moves along, leaving behind damaged and unusable furniture and a big mess.

Finally, I had the option to rush in and extinguish the fire. Seeing as how it was now 3:00 a.m. and all of our meters were bottoming out, I figured it was the best course of action.

Naturally I set myself on fire, because that’s how this day was going.

I extinguished myself, extinguished the fire, and looked at the sad ruin of our brand new little house.

My daughter was so exhausted that she couldn’t even make it to my bed — hers was burned to a crisp — before collapsing on the floor. Merry Christmas, everyone!

P.S. — My actual kids were watching all of this and were absolutely transfixed by the story that was unfolding, laughing and shouting non-helpful suggestions. It made for a nice bonding moment over games.

Posted in General

Batman: Telltale Games review

As I mentioned yesterday, we recently went to family camp and enjoyed a fun week spent mostly outside and unplugged. There was no wifi or cell phone service in our cabin, so when the kids and my wife were asleep at night, I had to rely on preloaded games to keep me occupied. Actually, the bulk of the week was spent with just one game: Telltale Games’ Batman.

I’m seriously backlogged on my Telltale titles right now. It’s not that I don’t love them, it’s just that they kind of need extended periods of attention to really get the most out of these interactive movies. I seem to need a lot of motivation to get into one, but once I do, I quite enjoy them.

Anyway, kind of went into Batman without knowing much about the game itself. It turns out that it embraces one of the franchise’s greatest trends, which is to reboot and retell the origin of this universe. How many times has Batman begun at this point?

In any case, it kind of works out really well here, because there is both familiar ground and room for the writers to play out things a little differently. At the start of the game, Batman is starting to make himself known to Gotham but hasn’t gone up against any supervillains nor endeared himself to the police. Gordon is but a lieutenant, Harvey Dent is a mayoral candidate, and the Joker is a “John Doe” cooling his heels in Arkham Asylum.

The familiar structure of Telltale emerges — limited-time dialogue options, crucial choice junctions, and the occasional quick-time event — although it’s augmented by a kind of neat (if shallow) detective mode in which Batman combs through a crime scene and pieces together what happened.

What’s probably the most interesting (if somewhat flawed) aspect of this game is that there’s a lot of juxtaposition between Bruce Wayne and Batman. You spend as much time as either, and Bruce kind of emerges as an actual character rather than an interlude for Batman’s adventures. Naturally, the player has some agency in shaping the attitude of Bruce/Batman over the game, making him as noble, violent, or cranky as desired. While all of this was appreciated from a storytelling perspective, all too often I was reminded that the game was on a linear track that wasn’t going to deviate much from the main narrative no matter what you said or did.

I really got into seeing this game’s version of the Gotham universe, especially with its villains. There aren’t too many here — Lady Arkham, Falcone, Catwoman, Penguin, and Harvey Dent are the main ones with few others given cameos in Arkham — but all seem a little more real and threatening than I’ve seen in some other mediums (Penguin most of all). The bat tech was cool (especially Batman’s transforming car) and at least one twist caught me by surprise.

And the combat, while simplistic, felt “cool” with all of the slow-motion moves that kept Batman’s prowess as a scrapper intact from start to finish.

Complaints? The story kind of kept leaping all over the place with the bad guys emerging victorious even when Batman saved the day. I lost count how many places were instantly taken over by the bad guys with no resistance, a trope that got very worn by the fifth episode. And the performance of the game (loading, switching scenes) was often atrocious. The sequel works so much better on my phone, so I know the fault was more the game’s than my hardware. Finally, there was one revelation that felt very much out of canon — at least, I had never heard that particular angle on Bruce’s parents before. I’m hardly a Batman expert, however.

When I was done with it, I instantly booted up The Enemy Within, the sequel series, to see what happens next. I liked how you could import your choices from the first game into this, so we’ll see how my promised favor to the Joker goes…