World of Warcraft: Moose with blue paint

As we begin the multi-month countdown to Battle for Azeroth (or continue it, to be more accurate), I’m applying myself more diligently to pursuing goals that I want to see wrapped up by the time the expansion comes around. One of these is to unlock all of the four allied races that have been included in the most recent patch. This isn’t necessarily that I am dying to play them, but I do take a shine to the collection aspect that these races represent — and besides, every race comes with a free mount, so why not?

I kind of find it funny how some outlets were making it sound as if meeting the unlock requirements for these races ‘Tweren’t No Big Thing. “If you’ve been playing the game and doing all of your dailies and being as awesome as we are,” they say, “then you’ll already be there.”

Of course, we don’t all play MMOs the same way or for the same amount of time, and I think some people best keep that in mind. For me, I’ve been no complete slouch in this expansion, but my extended break a while back (especially in the post-Argus era) lagged me behind the pack, and when I turned to this goal, I found out that I only met one out of four of the requirements. While I had the Highmountain Tauren ready to go, I guess I still have a lot of the Suramar campaign (which was a surprise to me — I thought I was done there) and the two Argus factions. It’s nothing that I’m going to kill myself in pursuing, but a bit at a time and I should be there.

First up was to formally unlock the Highmountain Tauren. I really thought that this was going to be a lot quicker than it turned out to be. To its credit, Blizzard created fairly lengthy scenarios here, and my adventure in getting one of these Moose-men took the better part of an hour of cutscenes, travel, and questing.

It was definitely a joy to return to Mulgore and Thunderbluff. This area was always among my most favorite zones in the game for that western, wide-open feel. I have come to realize just how much I enjoy zones that are wide-open and favor unrestricted travel and lengthy line-of-sight versus the more cluttered and dense regions. And WoW does “dense” a lot, so places like Mulgore are more of a rarity.

Another thing that struck me with this quest was, as with the Silithus storyline going on right now, all of this is firmly Battle for Azeroth prelude versus Legion content. Lots of talk and fighting with old gods, which I’m totally fine with. Anything to change it up from fel green and demons at this point.

In the end, I finally got my Highmountain Tauren and rolled up a Shaman to see how it handled. The character creation options were a lot more interesting, which I assume is going to be an appeal of these races, and I enjoyed the moose antlers and blue paint as cow alternatives. It was kind of neat to be able to start at level 20 with a few perks — like bags, one talent point, the ability to use mounts, a halfway decent rotation — and yet be low enough that it didn’t feel like really skipping ahead. I don’t think I’ll really be playing much of this character, but it is satisfying to have it in the bank. One down, three to go.


DDO: Anniversary party hardy

So 12 years in to Dungeons and Dragons Online, and I’m only now playing the anniversary party. To be fair to myself, it’s only a few years old, but still, I feel a little ashamed that I’m literally late to the party. And it’s a good one, at that!

I joined back up with the crew from Onedawesome, the DDO guild that I helped found waaaaay back in the day (and to even more personal shame, I left our weekly sessions whilst they continued it for years and years now). We entered the party tent, where an odd and amusing celebration was underway…

My favorite bit from the central party was seeing classic D&D characters playing D&D and chatting about it. Very meta, but really, this whole quest is a seven-layer cake of meta.

Strahd showed up for the D&D session, but as one of those flat, moving Hogwarts paintings. Again, I could have probably sat there for a half-hour just watching them go through this banter.

But as for our group, we had a mission to perform, and that mission was to beat the living stuffing out of the developers. You see, in this quest, the first four bosses are all Turbine/SSG developers in weird forms. There is also a pit of skeletons with other dev handles, but we were fighting too fast to make a deep connection to each name.

“So Todd, it’s your eight-year anniversary here with the studio, and that means we grant you one wish. What shall it be? Cost of living increase? Dental plan? Four extra days PTO?”

“I’m going to go with ‘make my head into a giant bat boss’ instead. Always been a life dream.”


And if you’ve ever wanted to have a conversation with a door-that’s-not-a-door, welcome to DDO.

I did get a laugh out of the fact that Jeets, that cheeky rogue from the tutorial, returns as the big bad boss who’s trying to become a kobold overlord to impress Malicia. It’s… not the worst idea I’ve ever heard.

And making a guest appearance, the Dementors! Definitely a wicked awesome mob design.

All in all, a great quest — quick, funny, and full of details and conversations for those who want to take their time. I even got a couple of gear upgrades, so now I’m sporting a few more spell points and hit points to keep my sorry gnome butt alive.

Try It Tuesdays: Rimworld

Every so often, I break out of my gaming routine to try something new and different. These turn into my Try-It Tuesday sessions, and they are a mixed bag indeed!

My doctor was a hard worker, but she was subject to fits of depression — and then she got dumped by her boyfriend, Wolf, which sent her into a downward spiral. A timberwolf trailed one of my miners home and ambushed him, leaving him bleeding out on the country side. The blight started running rampant through my crops… and then the tornado came.

This is Rimworld. This is pretty awesome.

I had long been meaning to pick up this colony simulator, but I was also cheap and waiting for it to go on sale. Finally, I said what the hay, and I got it at full price. Considering just how many hours I’ve dumped into the game so far, I feel like I got a good deal here.

A more visually pleasing (if only just) Dwarf Fortress with a dash of The Sims tossed in, Rimworld starts you out by handling a crash-landed crew of three on an alien world. From there, you give orders and try to corral your “pawns” (as the community calls them) into creating a sustainable colony. It’s not easy, as dangers can come from the group itself, the difficulty of trying to provide all of the necessities, and from various natural and manmade threats. One bad fire, one small infection, one psychopath biding his time in your midst… and it can all go to pot real quick. Shockingly quick.

And yet Rimworld isn’t frustrating or mean so much as it is engrossing. Every game is a layered story where group survival unveils in a myriad of ways. There is a deep level of strategy going on, and during my first few attempts, I kept starting over once I realized that I had been doing something wrong (or sub-optimally) for a while now.

While you don’t get to outright tell each pawn what to do, you are the overseer who makes priority lists, sets up tasks, and can even draft characters into a shooting war if necessary. I had to keep track of so many variables, from terrain to temperature to moods to the best materials to use for what — and yet when it all comes together to make a colony work, it’s pretty satisfying. I have not stopped being amazed at all of the factors that my characters take in during their day-to-day lives. They can get freaked out by seeing a corpse, scared if they sleep in a room in the dark, and spontaneously throw a party just for fun. Having one get shot and then desperately trying to save her before she bleeds out can be a nail-biting venture, especially if one disables the ability to load previous saves.

I find a deep satisfaction in setting up everything Just So and then watching a colony tick, from the food production cycle to having the power come on to training animals to assist you. There’s a lot of research into more items that can help, but the threats start to ramp up and choices have to be made on the fly.

Probably my only complaint is how slow everything goes at the start. It feels like there are all of these mood debuffs that I’m powerless to address because I haven’t enough research or building supplies to make the items needed. I also kind of wish I could see or hear my colonists talk to each other or see moodlets above their head instead of having to constantly evaluate their character screens, but that’s pretty small potatoes.

There’s so much in terms of options, here. You can choose different biomes, different levels of difficulty (just try surviving on an ice sheet), and there’s a massive modding community that I haven’t even begun to research. I’m hoping to get my colony (Hill Valley) to its second year at some point without starting over, but I keep learning something that I feel will help me more if I just had another shot.

Anyway. Rimworld amazing. A must play.

Sea of Thieves thinks you are too delicate to handle character customization

Guys, I’m starting to become a bit concerned about Sea of Thieves.

Last week, I listed it as one of the games that I’m definitely looking forward to playing when it comes out on the 20th, but I’ll have to admit that a lot of enthusiasm for this multiplayer pirate game is bleeding off. My three biggest concerns right now are thusly:

  1. That there isn’t enough content to provide a deep and long-lasting experience, especially without many typical forms of progression. The team is putting a LOT of weight on rep grinding for cosmetics as the key carrot here, as there will not be any stats, usable loot, levels, character talents, and the like. We know that Rare held back on showing all of its content in the open beta, so I think it is prudent to reserve judgment on this.
  2. That this title is ripe for off-the-hook griefing that goes above and beyond the PvP encounters that the dev team envisioned. Wolfy lays out a good argument here from his personal experience.
  3. That the devs don’t even trust players to make their own pirates but have inexplicably turned the character creator into a random pirate generator from which you will choose your toon.

This last one might be the most inconsequential when compared to the first two, but it’s also the point that gets me the angriest. I watched this recent dev video in which the team kept patting themselves on the back for this system, defending its inclusion because sliders are hard and they’d been working on it for four years.

Yeah… so?

Do you think we are too delicate to handle sliders? Are there solid metrics out there showing gamers who get to a character creation screen and get so frustrated at picking their own looks that they run from the computer screaming? And do you not see the hypocrisy in advertising this as a game where players can be the pirate of their choosing when you don’t trust the player to be the pirate that they perhaps really want to be?

Actual quote from the devs on this:

“We wanted a way to get cool characters in the game without making a million sliders and toggles and a way for everyone to have a cool character that represents themselves even if they have no artistic skill.”

Yes, because there is NO OTHER GOOD WAY for players to create a personalized character unless you thrust mandatory RNG into our faces. Which, by the way, pretty much all MMOs offer anyway if you want to randomize your look. It’s not a new thing. It shouldn’t take you four years to do. And it’s stupid that this is the only path to picking your character, because now we are all going to have to repeatedly reroll the looks until the game somehow guesses what would best represent us.

The studio also seems to think that this will speed up the entry into the actual game, which ignores that (a) some of us really do enjoy character creation and (b) we’re only going to be sitting there hitting refresh on the generator for the same amount of time that it would take to pick and choose our looks.

Or as one commenter said, “How can I be the pirate I want to be with an RNG system? With that type of system I’ll be the pirate I pick after giving up looking for the pirate I want to be.”

It’s so insulting and condescending that it boggles the mind. And here Rare is just grinning as if this is the best thing ever, because it knows that we gamers would hurt ourselves if we got real scissors instead of the rounded ones that can’t cut butter.

Planning for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

With all of the alpha testing and news pouring out of the test server these days (most of which I am trying to ignore), Battle for Azeroth is increasingly on the mind as we truck our way through 2018. September 21st is still a ways away, but there will be a pre-launch patch before that, so everyone’s starting to shift their mental gears away from Legion and toward BFA.

I’m no different. Even as I dutifully go through my daily routine and keep making that bankroll, I’m increasingly given to thoughts and plans of what I want and need to do before the expansion arrives.

Probably the most important decision, at least for me, is to settle on a main character. During Legion, I’ve been going back and forth between my Hunter and Death Knight, with each character accomplishing different swaths of content and working on differing trade skills. While I’m not going to abandon my roster come BFA, I do know that it helps to have a single character for that first month or two to advance through the beginning content and get to know the ins and outs of the expansion.

After some evaluation, I think I’m going to focus on my Death Knight going forward. She’s done the most content out of the pair (including the full Suramar quest chain), and when it comes down to it, I just enjoy the look, feel, and playstyle of the DK over the Hunter. I’m going to miss some of my Legion artifact abilities, but we’re still waiting to see how the classes are going to shape up come BFA. I’m not going to stress about it.

Aside from my continuing project of making enough money to buy up tokens and secure my subscription for a good long while, I’m making a list of what I want to accomplish between now and the expansion. Working my way through leftover quest chains is important to me, but there are some other odds and ends that need addressing. Like maxing out rep with the Argus factions to unlock the classes (and mounts).

I still have that 110 level boost sitting around and no real pressing need or desire to use it. Actually, what I may end up doing is “wasting” it on a 110 horde character so that I can access the unlocks for the other two allied races. I keep mulling around the idea of a Highmountain Tauren Shaman, perhaps as a summer activity, and that’s the fastest way to getting one that I can think of at this juncture (all of my other characters, aside form a 60 Warlock, are Alliance).

I am also switching over my Hunter from tailoring back to herbalism. I still have a lock churning out hexweave bags for profit (I’ve long since maxed out the bag space on my two main characters), but I think herbalism would be more beneficial at the start of a new expansion anyway. Plus, I like collecting Felwort right now and the occasional herb farms.

What are your plans to get ready for Battle for Azeroth? What would you like to accomplish between now and then?

Syp’s Gaming Goals for March 2018

February in review

  • The big theme of the month was “Final Fantasy,” since I got bit by that bug for some reason. I started playing through Final Fantasy IX on my tablet (the first time I’ve touched that game since my first on the PlayStation) and subbed up to a month of Final Fantasy XIV to see what there was to see. It was pleasant but perhaps not sticky enough to keep me around.
  • World of Warcraft’s gold making enterprise continued, with just a few tweaks and some throttling back on the time I was spending. I did make enough gold for three WoW tokens and managed to pre-purchase Battle for Azeroth for free because of it. I focused on my Hunter and Death Knight, trying to level up their order hall champions and clear out their quest logs, to varying success.
  • It was time to say goodbye to Lord of the Rings Online, at least for a while. Mordor had beaten me into the ground and I realized this month that I had so little interest in logging in to see it through — even with the promise of Northern Mirkwood ahead of me.
  • I only played a handful of Dungeons and Dragons Online sessions this month, but I had fun doing so with friends and solo. I’ve been dawdling in House K, trying to wrap up these last few quests, and I finally dinged level 10 on my Artificer.
  • I followed through on my promise to give Closers a look, but found it really awkward and not that interesting at all.
  • While I didn’t achieve my goal of finishing up Knights of the Old Republic 2, I did get through an astounding two (2) planets, which is kind of a record for me and this game. The end is in sight!
  • In the latter days of the month, I gave in and purchased Rimworld, and there went all my free time.

March’s goals

  • There are two big releases this month that I’m tracking: Sea of Thieves and Shroud of the Avatar. I will most definitely be playing and blogging about the first, although the second still has me on the fence. I think I need to properly evaluate it, though.
  • There’s also the RIFT Prime server launch on March 7th, and I’m totally game for that. Kind of wish I didn’t have to subscribe, but I guess that’s the whole point here.
  • I’m going to continue working on shoring up my two main World of Warcraft characters as I try to get them ready for Battle for Azeroth. I keep kicking around the idea of rolling up a Priest, but I don’t know when I’d have time for it. I would like to make at least two WoW tokens during the month.
  • Once I finish up House K in DDO, I’m going to scoot on over to the Mists of Ravenloft content (if I can buy it… I should look into that) and get my horror on.
  • Again, I want to finish up KOTOR 2 and start a new retro gaming series. I haven’t decided what yet, though.
  • I’ll also be giving Villagers and Heroes on the iPad a try. I’d love this to take off!
  • If Project Gorgon does indeed go into early access, then that probably sounds the starter’s pistol for me.

Battle Bards Episode 116: There be dragons

Mighty and majestic, scaly in hide and shrewd of mind, smoking with fury unabated… these are the Battle Bards! Also, dragons. Yes, in today’s episode, the Bards tackle the soundtracks to one of the most iconic fantasy creatures of all time. So call over your good luck dragon and get your best Sean Connery voice on as we loot the musical hoard of these beasts.

Episode 116 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Bash the Dragons” from Guild Wars 2, “Shinryu’s Theme” from Final Fantasy XIV, and “Drakonspire Depths” from Aion)
  • “Sindragosa” from World of Warcraft
  • “The Valley of Dragons” from SUN
  • “A White Dragon Fallen into the Earth” from Dragon’s Dogma Online
  • “Mordremoth” from Guild Wars 2
  • “Dragon Considers” from The Secret World
  • “Spirit Island” from Istaria
  • “Tiamat’s Requiem” from Aion
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener notes: Frazleytastic, Pandalulz, Jdub, Mylin1
  • Jukebox picks: “The Valley of the Blinding Mist” from The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, “Milton’s Tower” from What Remains of Edith Finch, and “Ave Maria” from Hitman: Blood Money
  • Outro (“Here Be Dragons” from Guild Wars 2)