Posted in Gaming Goals

Syp’s gaming goals for December 2022

Syp’s November 2022 in review

  • ‘Twas quite the month of gaming, in ways both expected and not. For starters, I spent the first week not gaming at all but on vacation. However, the rest of November made up for that gap.
  • New World’s fresh start servers flickered on, and I created a new character to go through Windward. I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed my time with this revamped lowbie experience, but even so, I wasn’t fully sucked in and pouring hours upon hours. As a result, I merely crept forward in progression rather than sprinted.
  • Lord of the Rings Online’s mini-expansion was delayed until the middle of the month, but when that happened, I took my fledgling Hobbit Lore-master down to Swanfleet and started to explore the new zone and quest lines. Had a good time, knocked up in levels, and didn’t stress about the speed of it. LOTRO is a game best enjoyed at a chill pace.
  • About all I really did in World of Warcraft was take advantage of the pre-expansion event to gear up three of my characters to full strength for Dragonflight. Oh, and I bought the expansion and four months of game time (I like to buy game time vs. subscribe if I can).
  • In retro gaming, I continued to push forward in Chrono Cross. It’s going well, but I started to feel ready to be done with it before boredom crept in.
  • Two gaming surprises happened this month: I got utterly addicted to Marvel Snap and then had to impulse buy Shadows Over Loathing when it released out of the blue.

Gaming goals for December 2022

  • Clearly, Dragonflight will be the centerpiece of the month in a lot of ways, and I’ll be spending some good time evaluating WoW expansion and finding my footing in it. I’m not going to make a “I want to be 70 and raiding” sort of goal, but I will be focusing on just my Death Knight for the first month.
  • I’ll continue on in Lord of the Rings Online, hopefully wrapping up the two new zones by the end of the month. After that, the plan is to use missions to get to 45 and then settle into the Volume 2 epic storyline while continuing to use missions to supplement XP.
  • I’d love to be more “stuck” on New World too, but that’s only going to happen with a good amount of additional play and finding a good guild. Both of those are on my to do list.
Posted in Retro Gaming

Chrono Cross part 8: Battle of the Bands

(This is part of my journey going playing through Chrono Cross. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Both back when I first played Chrono Cross and today, I really started to resent being shoved into the body of Lynx for so long. You get invested in a character and a party, and then this game strips both away from you for a good long while. It also starts to be eye-rolling how much everyone easily accepts that the body swap happened, like this sort of thing takes place regularly.

Ah don’t mind me… I’m probably getting to that point in a playthrough where I’m a little weary of the game and ready for it to be over and done with. I still have a ways to go, so I need to suck it up!

In any case, Evil Serge arrives with Kid to stomp on all of the heroes. Would be a great time for a boss battle, but no, we have to have a Miraculous Escape (via pirates). It’s at this point that the game lays out the big mission: to get six relics from dragons scattered across both worlds AND find the dragon tear to change Lynx back into Good Serge. Harle — fan favorite even so — starts to make a break from the group. That’s a shame, but oh well, I have like 97 other playable characters including an alien.

We took a detour to finish up the side quest to free Marbule from the spirits and whatnot. This meant a concert from the ship — and one of those JRPG specials, Super-Long Unskippable Cutscenes. Seriously, the bit with Nikki just goes on and on and on and on and on. I was checking news, responding to emails, raising a fifth child, the works.

And when all of that was done, it still wasn’t finished. Our party had to defeat nine groups of mobs and then a fairly tough grumpy dragon who’s no doubt rusty from being armor clad and sitting in a puddle for years on end.

Special note: So here I am going to bring my playthrough of Chrono Cross to an end. I have a standing agreement with myself that if I start to get too bored or frustrated with these older games, I can call it quits even though I haven’t finished. And at this point, I don’t feel like I’m going to get much more out of CC. I’m just playing it out of a sense of duty to this series than for fun, so that’s a good sign that it’s time to part ways. Thanks for reading through this!

Posted in General

Why I don’t feel inclined to buy a smartwatch

When I was a kid, watches with extra abilities were the bomb. I had so many amazing watches, from ones that were little transformable robots to watches with a multitude of functions (stopwatch! notes! simple songs! multiple alarms!) to the holy grail of watches — the game watch.

But by mid-college I stopped wearing one, preferring instead to carry around a timepiece in my pocket. Then, once I got a cell phone — and, later, a smartphone — I felt that we as a society had long since abandoned any need or want for timepieces strapped to our wrist and giving us sweaty tan lines.

But then smartwatches started showing up — fitbits, apple, samsung, the whole enchilada. It didn’t appear to be an overnight technological revolution, but rather a gradual creeping back in of watches. Even today, I don’t see a ton of people wearing them, but there are far more than there used to be. Yet I haven’t felt the slightest inclination to return to an era of watch-wearing.

Maybe it’s because I’m old enough to remember being shackled to watches and then being freed of them, whereas younger generations might find it more of a novelty or a progression from a naked wrist to one adorned with precious technology. But seriously, it feel so backwards to me to have everything I needed from a watch back in the day — and then a whole lot more on top of that — jammed into a phone, only to add a superfluous technological appendage on top of that.

I’ve thought about smartwatches and read up on them, but their main selling points aren’t so much for me. Having a constant heart monitor? Honestly, that would stress me the heck out to see my heart beat being tracked. Being able to access messages/music/notifications 0.5 seconds faster than taking my phone out of my pocket? That’s not a $300 time saver for me. What about as a status symbol? I seriously doubt that anyone will revise their opinion of me if I’ve got a glassy black slab strapped to my arm.

Besides, the downsides of having an extra device to charge and having to tether a watch to a phone seems to me slightly onerous.

Not every piece of technology is for me, nor am I poo-pooing smartwatches because I’m not on board with them. Many people who have them have told me (upon me asking them) that they’re pretty happy with the watches and find them useful in some way. But for me, the watch-wearing portion of my life went out the door in 1996, never to return. I’m OK with that.

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: A pipe of Old Toby

A prepared hobbit is a well-dressed hobbit, and prior to Before the Shadow, I spent a little more time improving my winter outfit to something I was a lot happier with.

But before you knew it — even with a vacation and a one-week delay — the mini-expansion was upon us. And away I go!

I was pretty gratified to see that it was very easy to hop on a stable master and take my hobbit down to Mossward, the starter village of the Swanfleet zone. It was a step back for me in terms of questing levels, but considering that I was only 15, I knew that it would catch up with me before long.

Last week was particularly busy and stressful (especially when Buffalo got slammed with a winter storm), so I didn’t get nearly as much time to blitz through the opening part of the patch. Instead, I really took the time to poke around, taking screenshots, and actually reading quest text. There’s a lot of personality with these missions, too! I was smiling and chuckling during a few of them involving kids and some quirky residents.

It also helps that Swanfleet is a pretty place. Maybe not exotically so — few LOTRO locations are in that category — but it’s quite easy on the eyes. It’s like a Better Bree-land for You and Me. Lots of long-distance views, easy navigation, even some Stoor hobbits!

I am eager to explore the new storyline and see my Lore-master evolve. As usual with this class, I can’t wait until I get to 30 to get lynx, which I feel is the first really good leveling pet.

Posted in World of Warcraft

Gears of warcraft (or, how I learned to love the timer)

One of my pre-expansion goals for World of Warcraft was to dust off my old roster of characters and settle on what I wanted to play going into Dragonflight. While new alts are always a possibility, I am pretty content to hang out with my core three: Draenei Unholy Death Knight, Worgen Balance Druid, and Gnome Beastmaster Hunter. The last of these I got up to level 60 before I went on vacation, which checked off another to do item for me.

Most likely, I’ll be leading the charge with my DK, as she’s always been “first” in my mind since Legion. It’s a pretty hardy class with a lot of pets, AOE, and low-stress combat.

Next up was taking advantage of the primal storm invasion event to gear up as fast as possible. Two weeks should be more than enough time for three toons, but the need to get them all geared up and the time limit put a lot of pressure on those first few days until I got the sense of how long this should take. And since I spent a good chunk of this time in the Badlands, I also got in a bit of mining for if/when I go back and do classic engineering.

Fortunately, gearing up comes swiftly and without much sweat in this event. The first night, I got my DK up to 252 with plenty of currency left over. I appreciate that you always have a chance to get gear drops, but if you don’t, you can spend currency to fill out the rest of your slots.

And having the main event take place in the same location allowed me to take a much more laid-back approach for alts #1 and #2.. I’d log in, wait until the boss popped, help defeat it, then set timers for 20 minutes after it died. Then I’d tab out, get some other stuff done, and come back three times an hour for a quick boss fight, a handful of tokens, and a chance at a gear drop.

Additionally, I used the downtime to do some more guild shopping. I’ve been trying out a few different oufits, but none had that right mix of friendliness, chatter, and personality that I was seeking. I finally found it in <Socially Distorted>, which made a big deal out of “kindness” being its core virtue. The folks have been great, and I’m encouraged to spend an expansion with them.

Posted in Music, Podcast

Battle Bards Episode 219: Peace and quiet

Episode 222: World of Warcraft Dragonflight Battle Bards

Will our fascination with giant, skyfaring, flame-belching lizards subside? World of Warcraft bets not, as it's currently soaring through its Dragonflight expansion. Will the music also ascend to lofty realms or fall to the earth with a dud? You'll have to listen to the Battle Bards as they figure out the answer to that question! Episode 222 show notes  Intro (feat. "The Dragon's Hoard," "Riverbends," and "The Isles Awaken") "Take to the Skies" "Giants of the Span" "Windsong" "Tyrhold" "Ramparts of Valdrakken" "Gardens of Unity" Which one did we like best? Listener Notes: George and Bullwraith Jukebox Picks: "Encounter Elite" from Sea of Stars, "Jubilife Village Theme" from Pokemon Legends Arceus, and "Density" from Citizen Sleeper Outro (feat. "Life Pools") Talk to the Battle Bards on Twitter! Follow Battle Bards on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Google Play, iHeartRadio, and Pocket Casts! This podcast is produced using copyrighted material according to Fair Use practices as stated under Section 107 of the 1976 Copyright Act.
  1. Episode 222: World of Warcraft Dragonflight
  2. Episode 221: LOTRO Before the Shadow
  3. Episode 220: Guild Wars 2 End of Dragons

If anyone’s ever told you to “take a chill pill,” then the Battle Bards have your full dosage in today’s episode. Exploring peaceful and serene tracks from MMORPGs, Syl and Syp find their inner calm — before the inevitable slaughter.

Episode 218 show notes (show page, direct download)

  • Intro (feat. “A Farmer’s Life” from WildStar, “Dream of Peace” from Lineage II, and “Silverfrost Mountain” from Blade and Soul)
  • “Aro to the Sun” from Runes of Magic

  • “Settler’s Campsite” from Aion

  • “Serenity” from TERA

  • “Ammon Vale” from World of Warcraft

  • “Shire Nights” from LOTRO

  • “Aquarium” from RuneScape

  • Which one did we like best?
  • Jukebox Picks: “Be’elze Territory” from Valkyrie Elysium and “Closing Medley” from Space Quest III
  • Outro (feat. “Fishing” from Lineage II)
Posted in Retro Gaming

Chrono Cross Part 7: Shopping in the past

(This is part of my journey going playing through Chrono Cross. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

The crew continue to penetrate deeper into the Dead Sea, where we get an increasing picture of a monumental disaster paused right at its peak. Massive waves are frozen as they crash through high-tech-looking buildings, and we’re just strolling on top of the surf like nobody’s business. We also fight “robo duckys” here, because why not?

On one of the monitors, we get yet another one of these infuriating sort-of (but not clearly explained) connections to Chrono Trigger, as Lavos is directly called out. There’s also an Enerton device (“but you’re still hungry…”) later in this level. But this isn’t a sequel, oh no!

At the center of the Dead Sea is the tower of Geddon — actually, several towers fused together somehow. Maybe the robo duckys have been busy over the past thousand years?

It is a really neat place — maybe one of my favorites in the game so far. It’s like a fusion of subway, shopping mall, and even dinner theater jammed together.

We keep encountering what looks like the shades of Chrono, Lucca, and Marle, but as kids.

They then encounter Nadia’s Bell (from 1000 A.D.) smashed on the courtyard floor. Argh, this game is so infuriating with these vague teases. Anyway, the shades accuse Serge of ruining the planet and messing up the victory from the previous game, which is explained in further detail by a friend of Serge’s father, Manuel. Manuel said that the aversion of future disaster by Lavos was somehow undone by Serge surviving a storm a decade ago, so now the planet is on track to be ruined again.

One of the fun little things about this game is that you can sometimes have the same characters from the two worlds encounter each other. There tends to be a lot of head-scratching and paradoxes afterward.

Before there was ever “Pray return to Waking Sands,” there was “We gotta go to Viper Mansion AGAIN?!?” Hey, Chrono Cross’ world is only so big, so the devs obviously liked getting the most out of every location. So yeah, we’re back in the mansion, this time trying to rescue Viper’s daughter Riddell and pick up a few more recruits.

The whole affair in the mansion this time ends in — naturally — a dinosaur stampede over the oppressing military. As these things often do.

Posted in World of Warcraft

Blizzard and NetEase end World of Warcraft in China

As the hoary saying goes, the only thing that could kill World of Warcraft was Blizzard itself. And as the events of this past week go to show, this is more or less true.

Last week we got the news that NetEase and Blizzard are by and large terminating their working relationship in China, which means that World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Hearthstone, and everything that isn’t Diablo Immortal is going dark in that country as of January 24, 2023. That is, of course, unless Blizzard can figure out another solution to this incredibly undesirable situation.

There are two facets to this tragedy here. The first is the business side, which is the latest and most serious breakdown of the relationship between these two game companies. This past year hasn’t been great for Blizzard-NetEase, with Diablo Immortal’s poor critical reception being blamed on NetEase’s design and the cancelation of a mobile Warcraft game. But now it’s gotten so bad that they couldn’t even hack out a publishing agreement for some of the largest online games in that region, and now both sides are going to lose a whole lot of money because of it.

I am deeply curious the conversations that are going on at Activision-Blizzard’s board level and what hell to pay will be caught from the investors. I also wonder what effect this may have on the upcoming Microsoft buyout.

Maybe it’s recoverable. Maybe another round of negotiations might find a solution, or Blizzard might find another local operator. But even if that’s the case, the fact that all of this degraded so badly shakes everyone’s confidence in both companies and the future of these titles in China.

The other side of the tragedy is the playerbase losing their online worlds. By some reports, China made up half of WoW’s global population, which is not inconsiderable. And all of those players are about to see the MMO go dark and their characters disappearing into the void — just weeks after Dragonflight’s release, no less. I can’t imagine what that does to the mindset of a player. If it happened in North America or Europe, the meltdown would be immense. And when it comes to China, I’m not even sure if there are ways with VPNs and whatnot to get around the government’s firewalls and play in other regions.

It stinks for those players caught in the crossfire of this deal gone wrong, and I do feel quite sorry for them. If I was there, I don’t know if I’d keep on playing WoW while hoping that a last-minute solution might be found or if I’d simply jump ship now.

Word is that a lot of this can be laid at the feet of one “jerk,” as NetEase’s boss put it, which most have taken to mean Bobby Kotick. Or Sylvanas. One or the other. If so, it goes to show that those in positions of power and authority have immense responsibility to consider and care for those under them rather than trample them down.