Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Afternoon Delight

Time to try something different.  Obviously my previous plan is not leading to posts; I think in part because I generally have started writing pretty late at night and posted just before heading to bed.  Problem is, lately it's been hard to make myself prioritize writing over sweet, sweet slumber.  Today I'm starting this post on my lunchbreak with the intention of thinking about it a bit over the afternoon then finishing it up right after work.  If you're reading this, it worked, at least for today.

Part of the problem has been the immense amount of stuff available for me to do in FFXIV.  Between daily crafting quests and hunts, getting my relic weapon, and continuing the story, I've been playing later than I honestly should be.  I suppose that has positive implications for my longevity in the game; I'm not bored of it yet.

Last night I wrapped up the relic weapon quest for my fancy bard bow with a little help from Rae, Damai, and Bel.  I had already completed the Hydra trial the previous night, so all that was left were the hard versions of the Primals: Ifrit, Garuda, and Titan.  Titan in particular was not easy, though the fact that we ended up with two black mages in the party neither of whom were very useful didn't help.  The first wasn't even wearing appropriate gear, he had put on gear with strength stats to meet the item level requirement.  The rest of the party was less than pleased about that, though I was impressed that noone was actually mean about it.  More chiding and dissapointed.  I guess Bel really was right about the community being better in FFXIV.

I also won an absurd Warrior axe from the Titan fight, so I guess I need to level my Marauder class now.  It was on the short list anyway since I'd like to have tank and healing roles available to me.  My retainers apparently want me to level Arcanist as well, since they've brought me a high level Scholar book and pants.

Friday, September 12, 2014

So Many Games

Well, Destiny is out and it seems like everyone is busy with that.  Apparently it's already sold enough to turn a profit, so I'm sure we can expect to see a glut of class-based FPS MMO thingies in the near future.  Me, I'm not all that interested.  I've got more games than I know what to do with as it is, and shooters just aren't at the top of my list.  Ask me again if I ever get around to finishing Borderlands 2.

Hack 'n' Slash also launched, or at least came out of Early Access, and that's much more my cup of tea.  Even if I wasn't an inveterate Double Fine fan at this point, a Zelda-like game where you modify the monsters and environment to solve puzzles scratches about three different itches all at once.  I haven't had time to actually play it yet, but I'm hoping to spend some time with is this weekend.

I haven't played much Marvel Heroes the past couple weeks.  Only so many hours in the day, and FFXIV has been monopolizing my online gaming time.  I'm sure I'll dial back on it here in a bit, but for now I have more leveling to do, and storyline to see.  I still have an 8-man mission sitting in the road staring at me, but I'm sure I'll get that done in the next couple of days.

Finally, I picked up John Scalzi's new novel, Lock-In.  I've been following his blog for years and moved from that to his novels, starting with Old Man's War.  He's often compared favorably with Heinlein, and I can't argue.  He's got a real knack for writing compelling science fiction that's thoughtful without sacrificing accessibility and excitement.  I'm about 2/3 of the way in, and there's a good chance I may just have to power on through before I go to sleep tonight.  Everything's starting to come together, and I need to know how it all turns out.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I'm Back

I didn't specifically intend to take a break the last few days, but it turned out I kind of needed one.  I think going forward I may try for a weekday posting schedule.  We'll see if that gives me sufficient time to recharge the idea tank from week to week.

The past few days have mostly been spent in Final Fantasy XIV, trying to get caught up with the rest of my Free Company.  I made it to level 50 in the bard job on Sunday, and have already upgraded most of my bard equipment to item level 90 gear with currency from daily and weekly hunts.  I'm at the second 8-man quest in the final bit of the storyline.  Another player in the company also hit 50 today, so I think we may try to do those quests as a company tomorrow.  We'll see if that works out.  Tonight the rest of the company was busy running the Bahamut's Coil raid for the first time, so I busied myself doing my crafting dailies and today's hunts.

When I wasn't playing FFXIV this weekend, I was reading through the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition Player's Handbook.  I'm going to be playing in a campaign with some friends from college to give it try.  Mostly it's a bunch of the same people who participated in my first 3rd ed game back when that system was brand new.  Most of us are in the same area, but one's in Shreveport and another's way up in Delaware, so we'll be using Roll20 or something like it to handle things.  Between the system looking really solid and the people I'll be playing with, I'm really looking forward to it.  I'm betting I'll get some amazing stories out of it too.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Who Are the Creators?

Zubon at Kill Ten Rats wondered how much meaning "From the Makers of" really has.  It's a good question, especially with the way the software industry works.  Big layoffs after games ship are not uncommon; case in point, ZeniMax's recent layoffs.  Which parts of Elder Scrolls Online were the devs who are no longer there responsible for?  If another company ends up hiring a decent subset of those devs, does that mean the project they work on next is "from the makers of Elder Scrolls Online?"

It gets a little easier to anticipate what you'll get when you start paying attention to individuals.  Of course that only works with the relatively rare superstar developer who makes a name for himself.  If Peter Molyneux, or Richard Garriott designs a new game, you'll have a pretty good idea of what that game's genereal feel will be before you play it.  When Double Fine was founded after Lucasarts decided to quit making games that weren't Star Wars, I knew that these were the guys that made Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango, so I could feel pretty certain that whatever they made next, I would enjoy.  And sure enough, Psychonauts is one of my all-time favorite games.

 You see the same thing in other collaborative media, such as comic books.  Marvel Comics puts out a lot of books, and they vary greatly in feel.  Most readers aren't going to like every single thing they publish.  You can follow specific characters, but you'll find that as the creative team in control of a particular character changes, the feel of that character's adventures will change too.  Spider-Man written by Todd McFarlane was vastly different from Spider-Man written by J.M. DeMatteis.  If you want stories with a particular feel, you're better off following creators from book to book.  I know if I pick up a story by Mark Waid, or by Kurt Busiek, that I'll likely enjoy it, no matter what characters are involved, or even which publisher it's from.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Gamers Behaving Badly

I really didn't want to have to talk about this.  I'm not a confrontational person by nature.  I much prefer to be diplomatic and avoid saying anything that could be divisive.  But ignoring the problem is part of what's led to things getting as bad as they have.  So we're going to talk about it.  Or at least I am, right here and now.

You've probably already guessed what I'm referring to.  I'm not going to use the stupid term that's been coined for the whole mess because a) The original 'scandal' that it refers to is a tempest in a teapot and b) I refuse to contribute to the tired nomenclature.  Watergate was called Watergate because the apartments that were broken into were the Watergate Apartments.  Slapping 'gate' on the end of something to make it a thing is just old and tired now.  Please stop.  I digress.

A woman made a game.  Already this was enough to get her harassed by the scum of the internet.  It happened to Jade Raymond nearly a decade ago and now it happened to Zoe Quinn.  Then her ex-boyfriend decided to drag their personal past out and throw it up on the internet, and the hate parade really got going.

The level of hate on display is absurd, and at the same time nothing remotely new.  This has been going on for years.  Those responsible for the harassment claim to be trying to defend gaming from some horrible feminist-led conspiracy to control the gaming press.  A lot of them probably even believe what they're saying. Conspiracy theorists usually really do think they've uncovered a secret truth.  But what this is really about is fear.

Video games have historically been viewed as a male space.  In reality, there've always been women playing video games, but men have been the majority and the medium primarily served that audience.  Over the years that view has been challenged.  More and more women are playing games, making games, and talking about games.   At the same time, women in general have been less willing to silently endure the constant background radiation of sexism that society exposes them to.  Put that together, and the He-Man Woman Haters contingent of gamers find their sacred space in danger.  In response they lash out, desperately trying to protect their ability to be sexist pigs on the internet, and just make things worse for everyone.

But here's the thing; they're going to lose.  These toxic gamers are a tiny subset of gaming as a whole.  They seem bigger than they are because of their bluster and bombastic rhetoric, but they're in the minority.  And I think they've finally gone too far and shown the rest of us that this isn't something that can just be ignored.  It won't be quick, and it won't be easy.  It'll take those of us who just want to play games and have fun getting out of our comfort zone and confronting them.  But it'll happen.  I have faith.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Days of Ultima Online

This post about MMO culture and how it shifted in Ultima Online reminded me of my time playing UO, specifically my very first day in the game.  This was before the Trammel/Felucca split, when you couldn't play UO without being at risk of attack by PKs at pretty much any moment.  The Ultima series had been one of my all-time favorites for years, so the idea of playing a new online game set in Britannia was amazing to me.  A friend of mine had played previously and already had an account, but didn't have a computer capable of running it at the time, so he ended up installing it on my PC.  I played way more than him, and ended up taking over the account before very long.  But I digress.

I started out in Ultima Online in the town of Moonglow.  I ran around a bit, killed some rabbits, harvested some reagents and so forth.  Eventually, my character started getting hungry.  Okay, I thought, I have rabbit meat, I have wood.  I will build a campfire and cook the meat so I can eat.  I sat down to cook my meat, and a few seconds later another player rode up and killed me.  I found at later that campfires exercised the camping skill of anyone near them, which meant their camping skill would go up, removing points from the skills they had maxed.  So build campfires was a common griefing tactic.  I didn't know this, though.  I was a total noob just trying to cook some dinner.

Despite that, I kept playing.  When the Trammel/Felucca split happened, not too long later, I got out of PvP land immediately and never came back.  Not only did I no longer have to worry about PKs, all the new land opened up in the new world meant I could find a decent place to put a house.  If the split hadn't happened when it did, I probably wouldn't have played much longer.  Instead I stuck around for about a year.

Thinking back, I found myself wondering if I would keep playing now in the same situation of getting murdered so early in a game.  I'm not sure if I would.  Back then, UO was this amazing new thing, and pretty much the only game in town.  Now, I have more games available than I know what to do with.  I'm not likely to invest much time in a game that unfriendly to new players.  Better to find a place where I can learn and grow as a player without someone waiting to kill me and take my stuff at any moment.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Dungeons & Dragons

I've been playing Dungeons & Dragons for a very long time.  After my best friend when I was a kid introduced me to it, I went on the hunt for books of my own.  This was in the late 80s, so there was actually a split between two separate sets of rules.  There was Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and there was Dungeons & Dragons.  Two similar, but definitely different, sets of rules.  AD&D was the more complex of the two, and was where settings like Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance lived, while D&D used the setting of Mystara and was closer in tone to the original game, to the point of making Dave Arneson's Blackmoor setting an integral part of the history of the world.

I was originally going to get a copy of the AD&D player's guide, which was what my friend had, but was directed to D&D by the bookseller at Waldenbooks.  I ended up purchasing the Basic Set and a copy of In Search of Adventure, which collected most of the existing low level adventures released for D&D at the time.  That was just the beginning of a long love affair with the Mystara setting and everything connected to it.  Over the years I hunted down every publication I could related to Mystara, first buying them new as they came out and later searching eBay for out of print adventure modules and Gazetteers to complete the collection.  There are still a very few adventures I don't have copies of, and my copy of the Immortals boxed set is missing the box, but I've very nearly got it all.

With the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons having come out, and looking like a pretty decent set of rules; much more in the vein of 3rd Edition and, yes, classic Dungeons & Dragons than 4th Edition was, I'm feeling the urge to run a game again.  If I do, I think it'll be time to revisit Mystara.  Maybe I'll finally send a party to meet the cat-people who live on the moon.  Not the moon you can see. The invisible one.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A New Month

Blaugust is done, the prizes have been awarded, and now we can rest.  But here I am writing a post anyway.  Has it become a habit?  Perhaps so.  After a month of posts it would feel strange now to go to bed without having written something.

The free week of Final Fantasy XIV has ended, and I didn't have any qualms about resubscribing.  I even went ahead and ponied up for three months.  I don't have any difficulty believing I'll continue playing at least that long.  Resubscribing also got me the first few veteran's rewards, so now I have a terrifying flying eyeball to ride around on and a pet flying glove cursor to follow me around.  This game can be just a little weird at times.

This does not seem terribly secure

Also, the Lightning Strikes event was brought back this week, which is nice.  I missed it the first time around since I was no longer playing by the time it occurred.  It's basically a quick series of quests to go out and participate in public events that feature Lightning for FFXIII.  Completing the whole set gets you an FFXIII styled outfit and weapon to use as cosmetic gear.  The final quest in the line is level 45, and I'm just now level 44, so I haven't finished the lot yet.  The event runs til the 10th though, so there's no real danger of me missing out.

New Television Acquired

As it turns out, Best Buy had a pretty good deal on a Sharp 50" TV for Labor Day, so we now have a brand new television to replace the sad old one that died last night.  I need to get another HDMI cable for my PS3, so that get the full benefit with that, and at some point I should order a (sadly proprietary) Wii HDMI cable, but otherwise it's all hooked up and performing nicely.  We did have to search through the menus to figure out how to turn down the motion smoothing.  I had seen people talk about how it made movies look like soap operas, but I'd underestimated how extreme the result was.  I found Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom while flipping through the channels and was amazed at how much weirdly smooth and bright everything was.  It looked like I was watching a stage reenactment of the movie somehow.  Happily, turning the feature down a couple of notches seems to have fixed the problem.

My other main pastime today was, again, Final Fantasy XIV.  Yesterday I reached the point in the storyline where I needed to run the Stone Vigil dungeon to continue the main questline, so today Belghast, Ashgar, Tamrielo, and I ran that dungeon and two others.  That got me caught up on my Grand Company hunt log and opened up more quests.  Apparently the next big group fight I have to look forward to / dread is Garuda.  The way everyone talks about it, it's way more difficult than previous stuff.  We'll see if that remains true; I wouldn't be all that surprised if it's a bit easier a year later than it was when they all ran it originally.

And finally, Blaugust has come to a close.  It's been a lot of fun, and amazingly enough I managed to post every day throughout.  I'm not sure yet whether I'll try to maintain the pace going forward or not.  I definitely feel like I need to post on a regular schedule if I don't want to end up procrastinating, falling behind, and ultimately letting the blog lie fallow.  But something like 3 days a week or the like might be more realistic for me to maintain.  We'll see.