Posted in Gaming Goals

Syp’s gaming goals for November 2019

October 2019 in review

  • This month got really crazy about midway through and derailed a lot of my plans, mainly due to the #BoycottBlizzard that happened after the Hearthstone controversy. So yeah, I stepped away from World of Warcraft for a good long while. That meant that there was a vacancy open for other games, which I sampled.
  • I managed to get into Fallen Earth for one last romp around the wasteland before tearfully saying goodbye. Fortunately, I had Fallout New Vegas to keep me occupied for most of the month as I made my way through Obsidian’s 2010 cult classic.
  • I tried out ArcheAge for a few sessions. Wasn’t great, wasn’t bad, didn’t stick… yet. I am not giving up on it, but it wasn’t as instantly amazing as I was hoping from others’ testimonies.
  • Yes, I did return to Final Fantasy XIV after all. That wasn’t really expected, but what else was this month? I changed my character’s look, job, and free company and then started on the Patch 2.1 content.
  • I was happy to fully finish Vales of Anduin for Lord of the Rings Online on live and get to the Great River on the progression server.

November 2019’s gaming goals

  • Until Minas Morgul launches in LOTRO, I’ll see how far I can get in the Great River zone. After that? It’s probably going to be back-and-forth between the live and progression servers. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if I was at the new level cap by the month’s end, of course.
  • My overarching goal for FFXIV right now is to plow through the Seventh Astral Era quests, get to Heavensward, and switch over to Mechanist. I am betting I can do that by the middle of the month, after which I’ll make a genuine effort to journey through the first expansion.
  • More Fallout New Vegas. Probably won’t finish this month. Maybe next? It’s a big game and there are lots of side quests.
  • Even though I have tons of games on my backlog, I really, really want to get The Outer Worlds. I wish it wasn’t so pricey — these days I’m very stingy on $60 game purchases — but it sounds like this might be a good thing that I wouldn’t want to miss.
  • Continuing to keep an eye on Torchlight Frontiers for a possible (but not probable) 2019 launch.
Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

My weirdest LOTRO pet peeve

I think that all of us who have extensively played a particular MMO over several years develop very specific pet peeves due to our intimate knowledge and observation of these titles. So today I want to share the one thing that bugs me more than anything else in Lord of the Rings Online. Ready for it?

I give you the LOTRO NPC Stance.

This is the default standing pose of what I would say is about 50% of NPCs in the game (more earlier on, fewer later on). And once you notice it, you’ll never UNnotice it. It’s a stance that looks a lot like the pose that artists use for character design and mockups before animating them and adding them to the game, except that here, they were just plopped in like this.

The LOTRO Stance is a character who is standing with arms jutting down at an angle, not touching anything, with legs spread apart, knees bent, and a back that’s ramrod straight. The bent knees is what gets me, because looking at this pose, I cannot imagine anyone actually standing in this position without losing one’s balance or developing horrible cramps.

It just looks slightly off and unnatural, which is not what you want your players to be thinking when they’re constantly interacting with your NPCs and trying to get into this world. It’s always bugged me how their arms never touch their sides, just float out there while they start taking a squat. It also makes me think of this:

What is especially aggravating is that the LOTRO devs have shown that this squatting, spread-eagle pose doesn’t have to exist at all. There are some NPCs and enemies — just not enough — that sport far more natural stances.

Here’s Gandalf (and his Mighty Eyebrows) from the same instance that I took the snaps of Galadriel above. This is a great stance. It looks natural. It looks like something you might do if you had a giant walking stick. And it even communicates a bit of his character and tone.

So yeah, there you go. My big LOTRO pet peeve. Am I alone in this?

Posted in Music, Podcast

Battle Bards Episode 155: FFXIV Shadowbringers

Welcome to the “Cursed Episode” of Battle Bards, where you’ll be risking bad luck and poor RNG rolls just by hearing it! But it is totally worth it, because this week the trio is tackling the astounding Shadowbringers soundtrack and it’s impressive addition to the FFXIV music library. Also, if you listen very, very carefully, a certain “la-HEE” might make a cameo!

Episode 155 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Prologue,” “Amaro Mount Theme,” and “Figments”)
  • “The Source”
  • “Civilizations”
  • “Kholusia Night”
  • “The Dark Which Illuminates the World”
  • “Vamo’ alla Flamenco”
  • “Unwound”
  • “Insatiable”
  • Which one did we like most?
  • Listener notes: Zinn and Katriana
  • Jukebox Picks: “Hear Our Call” from Ancestor’s Legacy, “Gateway Galaxy” from Super Mario Galaxy, and “Menu (Ramp Mix)” from Tron Run_r
  • Outro (feat. “Hades Theme”)
Posted in Retro Gaming

Fallout New Vegas: Giant dinos, space suits, and rocket ships

(This is part of my journey going playing through 2010’s Fallout New Vegas. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

The journey from Primm to Novac ended up being surprisingly long, taking several gaming sessions and not just a few detours while in the wasteland. My favorite part was coming across two battling groups that I let kill each other so that I could loot their corpses in peace.

Eventually, however, I arrive at this fabled town and bear witness to its dominating landmark: a giant dinosaur statue (that also doubles as a gift shop). I also learn that “Novac” is short for “No Vacancy,” as in a modified hotel sign. Ah. Gotcha.

Bizarrely, Victor the Cowboy Robot shows up, having felt led to cross the desert and beat me here… for some reason. He doesn’t know what, and I get the feeling that there is so much more to this machine than he is letting on. I do not trust it.

One great running joke of Novac is that the wastelanders inherited boxes and boxes of small T-Rex souvenirs that nobody (rightly) wants to buy now. There are desperate signs all over the place to this effect, and the store even has 1,000 unsold dinosaurs waiting.

I did not buy one. What I *did* buy, however, was a very special pistol that had a big bonus to critical chance. It also looks all space agey.

Novac isn’t in any immediate danger, but the few townsfolk are concerned about a bunch of ghouls (Fallout’s version of zombies) that are holed up in the local rocket factory. Guess what job I’m given? Let’s go clean house!

I would love a tour, but I assume that I am too late. On the road to REPCONN, a guy accosts me and says that he’s been following me because I picked up a blue chip somewhere (which I don’t remember) and he wants to tell me about this fabulous treasure hunt that collecting such chips puts me on. Then he runs off. Okay, then, thank you for that nonsensical interlude!

REPCONN itself is one of those large, ugly, and maze-like Fallout dungeons that I’m not as fond of exploring. It was dark and not very photogenic, so just believe me when I say that I killed a lot of ghouls and stealthy supermutants (called “Nightkin” in this game). The ghouls try to get me to help them out, saying that they’re actually peaceful and need to have the mutants gone, but there’s a bunch of armed rockets in the basement that say otherwise.

At least I got myself a genuine spacesuit for my troubles. I look awesome! Might just wear this for the rest of the game.

With the ghouls’ obstacles overcome, they’re finally able to go on a “Great Journey” to some wonderful place via rocket ship (naturally). I mean, if you were looking for a game where zombies become astronauts, well then, you’re in luck here. I just felt bad for Chris, the human ally who thought he was a ghoul, since he had to get left behind (radiation danger, you know). I resettled him in Novac.

All of the hard work of clearing out the REPCONN facility paid off nicely once I got to see the rockets take off to the Ride of the Valkyries on the radio. Godspeed, zombienauts!

One thing I realized going through this playthrough is that I really haven’t been doing much in the way of side quests. And that’s not good, so I’m going to try to ferret at least some of these out and backtrack to finish some I’ve missed along the way. There is one in Novac that has to do with the kidnapped (and subsequently killed) wife of the town sniper, Boone. It takes some detective work — including interviewing the local crazy man — to finally discover that it was the nice desk lady that sold her (and her unborn child) into slavery for 2,000 caps.

This upbeat quest is resolved by dragging her out in front of the dino, where Boone shoots her. Justice?

At least I got to level 7 and obtained my first companion in the game. Boone isn’t much of a talker, but I’ll be glad for his firepower. To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about companions or pets in the game up to this point.

Posted in Final Fantasy

As a dog returns to his vomit, so Syp to FFXIV

Yes, Syp of the past, I know. I read your note. I even heeded it at two separate occasions this past summer, cautioning me away from a FFXIV return. I know I place myself in a position of mockery for both Syp-of-the-past and commenters-of-the-now, both of whom are undoubtedly shaking their heads at my love/hate relationship with this game.

But Bio Break is a place, if not free of judgment, then freeing for me to be honest. I’ve come back to Final Fantasy XIV, and I’m even having a (cautiously) good time so far as I’ve played for over a week now. Sure, I could just not be honest and decline to write about it, but this blog is more for me than anyone else. I don’t want to lie to myself.

So what happened is the whole Blizzard boycott/leaving World of Warcraft thing. That set into motion a couple of weeks of wild experimentation in which I tried out new MMOs and loaded back up old ones, seeing what might hit the spot as a second-slot game (in addition to LOTRO) and fill that WoW void. I’ve also been going through a very crazy and stressful time that increased the need for some solid relaxation at the end of the day, so at some point I said, “Huh, well, what’s the worst that could happen?” and subbed back up for another round of FFXIV.

I almost logged right back out when I saw what had happened. Since the last time I played was pre-Shadowbringers, I haven’t been around for all of the class changes that happened with the expansion. I guess that Yoshi P declared war on Scholars in my absence, because I came back to a class that was gutted and decidedly Not Fun. I gave it a few rounds, trying to come up with a better rotation, but the huge dip in DPS and the evisceration of my pet drained me of any interest in pursuing this job.

But that was, like leaving World of Warcraft, strangely liberating. Since playing a Scholar wasn’t an option for me any longer, I was free to pursue alternatives. I looked at where I was at in the game and what I had unlocked, and decided on a two-phase approach: To level a Red Mage through the Seventh Astral Era slogfest, and then get to Ishgard where I could switch over to Mechanist. After doing a lot of research, I think the Mechanist may be a really good fit for me.

That day, however, will be a while from now. When I came back, I realized I was at the very last quest of FFXIV 2.0 (why I stopped there, I don’t know), and because of my previous journey, I knew I was in for a whole lot of dullness with the next 100 main story quests. But the change of class, the use of a fantasia potion to give me a new look, and the discovery of a pretty friendly guild all helped to change my perspective somewhat. It’s still the same FFXIV with its very deliberate pace, excessive nodding, and “pray return to the Waking Sands,” but sometimes it helps to hit a game at a new angle.

I’m hopeful that if I power through the 2.1-2.5 quest series and get to Heavensward, get the Mechanist, and then embark upon the expansions, I might find some traction that I haven’t had in a while. At least it’s giving me a relaxing and dependable experience for late at night.

Posted in Music

Sunday Serenade: Johnny Cash, Double Dragon, Zac Brown Band, and more!

Time for another Sunday morning dose of random songs that I’ve been listening to this past week! Welcome to Sunday Serenade — now let’s crank the jams up with…

“Knee Deep” by Zac Brown Band — I think Alexa played this one day and it caught my attention because of Jimmy Buffett. It’s got that trip-troppy happiness to it that makes it the perfect relaxation song.

“Ending” from Amberstar — This totally sounds like the last victorious moments of an ’80s movie soundtrack. The sports team won! The kids saved their neighborhood from the evil developers! The alien found his family!

“Intro” to Shadow Warriors — This Amiga tune perfectly sells the action-packed lifestyle of an on-the-go ninja. It’s quick, it’s snappy, and it’s way cooler than you. Or me.

“Main Theme” from Double Dragon II (Amiga) — Honestly, I’m kind of tired of the overused Double Dragon theme, so hearing this radically different Amiga version was thrilling and unexpected.

“Hard Bass” from FlixMix (PC-98) — NEC’s home computer is another repository for incredible game music, and I grooved on the sharp beats of this one.

“Ghost Riders in the Sky” by Johnny Cash — Sometimes you need a good dose of Cash, and this seemed to fit the season well. Yeehaw.

Posted in Retro Gaming

Fallout New Vegas: The long road to Novac

(This is part of my journey going playing through 2010’s Fallout New Vegas. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

You can’t see it, but my eyes behind those goggles are hollow. My lips are cracked from the screams. And that burning town behind me? That’s the horror show that was Nipton, California.

Let me back up a bit. Right now I’m making the very long journey from Primm to Novac. It’s a trip that literally spans two states and a whole lot of deadly between Points A and B. I’m overloaded with gear I’d like to sell and probably greatly underleveled (I’m inching my way toward level 6), but it’s where I need to go.

And then I arrived at Nipton.

The storytelling that happened in Nipton is actually well told. You don’t know it when you arrive, but it starts in reverse, with the very end of things. This loony guy comes running at you, extremely jubilant that he’s won some “lottery.” He doesn’t explain it, but goes running into the wasteland all giddy and out of his gourd.

I walk past him and enter the town, which looks like a scene from Dante’s Inferno. Everything’s broken, burning, or dead. Lots of folks hanging from crosses.

And the game tells me that these people, who are obviously still alive, can’t be cut down because that’d kill them. So? I’m sure they’d rather one final moment of mercy than to leave them up there. For shame, New Vegas.

Anyway, a crippled man in the general store fills me in on what happened here. The Legion came in and backed a guy to become “mayor” if he’d just betray everyone. Kind of a Trojan horse situation. Then the Legion took over the town, rounded up everyone (mayor included), and ran a “lottery” to see who lived, who would be horribly maimed, and who would die in various ways.

This guy ran the show, and if it wasn’t for the six guys and multiple attack dogs around him, I would have taken him out on the spot. As it was, he let me go to “spread the word” of what happens to lowlifes.

Suppressing the urge to run away, I did a very careful looting of the town left behind. There were a few interesting houses, such as one with an aggressive floating robot and another with numerous traps, but in the end I walked away with plenty of upgraded weapons and ammo.

I also got to fight a whole ton of dogs, including this one up here who thought that he’d attack me by running over a mine. How’d that work out for you, Fido?

After what seemed like forever, I finally left Nipton and California to enter Nevada and a lot of empty desert. As a player who vastly prefers wide-open spaces to dense urban crawls, this was a relief.

Still a very long way from here to Novac, but I have hope that I’ll see it through. Some day. Maybe next week.

Posted in General

5 abandoned MMOs that I would have loved to seen finished

For me, what’s worse than MMORPGs that were launched, played, and cancelled are the ones that never launched at all. Correction, interesting-looking MMOs that never launched. These torment me, and today I want to quickly list five games that I think I would have loved to play — if they had actually been finished and released to the public.

The first up is Ultima X Odyssey, which was the second of two abandoned Ultima Online sequels. The graphic style was vaguely cartoony in the vein of World of Warcraft, but the gameplay had a decidedly Ultima twist to it. I loved the idea of moral choices in a fantasy world, and it bugs me that this one got pretty close to being done before EA canned it.

Then we have Project Copernicus, which was dragged down in the abyss by the horrible financial handling of 38 Studios. This game and its makers talked a big talk, and I would have been very interested to see how it played for real. The graphics in particular looked amazingly lush, and the single-player prequel game had some decent reviews to it.

Stargate Worlds got close, very close indeed, to an actual launch, including a playable beta. But the studio collapsed and took this promising MMO with it. I wasn’t the biggest Stargate fan, but I’m all about getting more scifi RPGs out there, especially ones that tried hard to go beyond straight-up murderboxes.

Was it fun? Was it a dud? We have only Daybreak’s word and extrapolation based on Landmark to answer this about EverQuest Next, but let me tell you that I adored how ambitious this next-gen MMORPG was trying to be. The mix-and-match classes, the shapable world, the flexible NPC system… yeah, that had me really intrigued. Now I sincerely doubt that Daybreak will ever release a new EverQuest product, and that is a shame.

Am I alone in wishing that we had been able to see what Interplay would have done with Fallout Online? Maybe it would have been a disaster… but maybe not. This was the original Fallout studio, and it promised more of an MMO than Fallout 76 manages to be.

Posted in Music, Podcast

Retro Reprise Episode 19: The music of Halloweens past

Do you remember what Halloween looked like when you were a kid? What about what it sounded like? In today’s special edition of Retro Reprise, Syp returns to the Halloweens of the past to listen to some of the best themes from horror video games. It might not all be scary, but don’t let your guard down too quickly — your doom might lurk just around the next note!

Retro Reprise Episode 19: The music of Halloweens past (direct download, show page)

  • Intro
  • “The Attic” from A Nightmare on Elm Street (NES)
  • “Main Theme” from Alone in the Dark (PC)
  • “Boss Battle” from Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES)
  • “Don’t Cry, Jennifer” from Clock Tower (SNES)
  • “Demon Forest” from Super Castlevania IV (SNES)
  • “Stage One” from Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins (Arcade)
  • “Save Room” from Resident Evil 2 (PS)
  • “Not Tomorrow” from Silent Hill (PS)
  • Outro (feat. “Ending Credits” from Night Trap)
Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: Looking down at the fires of war

I’m happy to report that my efforts to catch my LOTRO Lore-master up to the current content cap have gone much better than expected. At the very least, I’ve finished the Book of Mordor interlude, which puts me right at the start of Minas Morgul when it (hopefully) comes out at the end of the month. Probably should pre-order, but I keep putting that off.

I’m pretty sure this guy (whose name I keep forgetting so I call him Sir Melty) will continue to be a major figure in the upcoming expansion. He’s sort of interesting but I think I need a recap on him and what’s his deal because I keep coming and going with his storyline.

Weren’t you leaving Middle-earth, Elf? You NEVER LEAVE. It’s like you’re on a farewell tour that will never, ever end.

The Vales of Anduin have some very impressive vistas of the misty mountains. Seriously, the screenshots never seem to do it justice.

Well then. Probably should start being very afraid.

There’s a neat twist with the Vales storyline that I was not fully expecting. I won’t spoil it, but it kind of has to do with a famous ghost being held hostage (somehow).

Over on my Minstrel, I’ve been making really good progress through the landscape quests of Dunland. The quest density is very high in this region, so that’s a good claim in and of itself. I’ve amused myself by taking up-close shots of grotesque enemy mobs. This guy looks like he went to Yale.

There’s a moment of body horror in the swamps that I missed the first time around. These villagers are getting turned into abominations. Don’t seem to happy about it. Look at that model!

Do you even go to the gym, brah? Do you lift? Cause this guy definitely does. I’m just happy he’s got pants on.

Here’s some eyewash to cleanse the soul after the above few pics. Beauty still endures in Middle-earth!