Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

QOTD: Scarybooster's Back

We interrupt this blog with an important bulletin. Scarybooster has returned to the blogosphere, on our very own Blogspot network:
Don't expect anything. Expect everything!
Scarybooster, Hotdog Social
 That about sums it up. :D

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Zane the Magnificent

Blurry tail
While I usually restrict the posts on this blog to gaming related stuff, it is my main venue for other things I want to put out there. Slice-of-Rowan's-Life posts. This one is tragic, so if you want to skip it, I understand. Thank you to everyone on Facebook and Twitter who posted condolences. I have read every one, but don't have the heart to respond to all of them individually.
His first portrait, at the shelter
In May of 2011 (not a prolific time on the blog), I personally shopped for a dog for the first time ever in my almost 40 years. The house had been broken into a couple times, and my teenage daughter was not feeling safe, so we decided to get a canine companion. Up to that point in my life, I would say I was tolerant of animals, but I'd never really gotten attached to any.
Always happy

After encountering a complicated adoption process at the local no-kill shelter, we decided to check out the city pound, where we met a beautiful Queensland Heeler "mix" (I think he may have been a purebred). In a kennel with a rambunctious Lab, we saw this unflappable dog with eyes of two different colors. We decided he was perfect, naming him "Zane" after the main character in Piers Anthony's On a Pale Horse, a favorite of both my daughter and me.
Workin' on his tan

I didn't realize how lucky we were. Zane was just about the most well-behaved dog I know, able to learn quickly and responsive to commands. Despite his initial calm (a result of nervousness we think), he was full of energy, loving to be outside, playing and sunning himself. Often when he slept, he would twitch and make funny barking noises. We'd joke that he was chasing bunnies in his dreams.

Being a cattle dog, he was ever watchful of his herd, as it continued to grow from just my daughter and me to include my new bride and her daughter, their two dogs, the two dogs we took in from a coworker who was moving, and finally a stray Scooter rescued, gravid with two pups.
Zane's pack of precious
True to his compassionate namesake, Zane formed a special bond with Bella and her puppy, perhaps sensing they needed more protection than the others. Lucy and Zane were inseparable.
Sweet Lucy
loves her Unca Zane
Over the past few days, Zane had seemed out of sorts. He'd vomited a couple times, and was listless. He'd had bouts like this before, but had recovered. We figured something he'd eaten had disagreed with him. Then yesterday morning, he refused to eat, and soiled himself and his blankets during the day. By 4 o'clock, Scooter was concerned enough to call me at work to say we needed to go to the vet. Our local vet, suspecting a possible rat poisoning, directed us to a pet hospital about an hour away, where they discovered an autoimmune condition had destroyed virtually all of his platelets. He had lost a lot of blood through his digestive tract and probably elsewhere, leaving him weak and severely anemic. We had to make the decision to end his suffering. Scooter and I bawled, feeling like we'd lost a child—and guilty that we couldn't do more for him. My daughters were inconsolable.

DoubleUnder said on Twitter that "Dogs are so wonderful." Zane was the one who taught me the truth of that. He was precious to me. Before Zane, I was not a dog person. Now I have a pack of them.

The house feels empty now, even with the rest of the pack intact. Our other dogs seem to be searching for Zane. Though they may have picked up on his illness long before we did, none of them really understand where he's gone. I'm not sure I really understand either. Or why he had to go, especially so young. I'd like to think he has joined our tiny Ivory, chasing bunnies in open fields. . .
One of my favorite pictures: Zane on the move

Friday, December 20, 2013

Winter Wonderland

I spent some time last night hanging out with my friends from Beyond the Veil, recording the last episode of the year. While we were talking about the latest event, Krampusnacht, I bought some festive garb for my clotheshorse, LoneStarBelle. I even got her to pose for a pic in Carpathian Fangs, although she wasn't happy about it:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Secret Monday: Dortmunder's Destroyers

Far be it for me to claim ownership, but the Knights of Mercy did pretty well this past Monday evening. A hiatus from the Slaughterhouse may have helped, but two smooth runs through the Ankh Elite and Hell Eternal boosted our confidence. In addition, we checked one more block on Syp's Elite dance card, and finished off Ocho's, who [EDIT]is now ready to confront ran circles around Uncle Oscar. Not much say about the fights, but I got a couple screenies.
Mogsy didn't take kindly to Dr. Klein's shenanigans, and taunted him into coming down and fighting Dortmunder's Destroyers himself, upon which the team lived up to its name. Game. Set. Match.
With a slight change to the line-up, the Destroyers quelled an attempted overthrow of Hell, leaving Theodore Wicker to pick up the pieces. (We kind of look like Power Rangers in this pic.)
In this pic, we see just how unimpressed Wickedtryx is with the soon-to-fall angel, Eblis.
Since Everything Is True, you can't go wrong with wearing a Secret World T-shirt in the Secret World.
A little bit of de la mode, even though these weren't from Monday. First, Dortmunder sports a tropical vacation get-up, while Dex-y wears an outfit that reminds me of a rainy afternoon.
In the last week, we also finished the last of the issue achievements: Digging Deeper (Issue 2). Dex-y wears those headphones much of the time now, so she doesn't have to listen to Dortmunder.

Monday, December 16, 2013

LoneStarBelle: The Phoenician Agenda

This picks up where this other tale by Katzushima leaves off. Katzu already had something published by the time I got this "on paper." But you know what? We're all the hero of our own story. :) Not sure how we'll continue this, I may edit and reuse some of this later, but wanted to get something out for Action Monday.

Much as she wouldn't have minded kicking Majors in the ribs herself, Samantha was not about to stand by while the Phoenician leader beat the shit out of him. She strode up behind the man and put her hand on his shoulder. Summoning a bit of elemental power, she deadened his nerves, which rendered his arm useless. As he turned in reaction, he found one of her Colt Pythons pressed against his rib cage.
Samantha leaned in close to the Phoenician and whispered in his ear, "Y'know, I don't think anyone here besides your friends would particularly mind if I made a corpse o'you."
The Phoenician's cohorts started to draw their weapons, but not before a pinstriped figure stepped out of the shadows, guns akimbo.
"Now, now, lads. That'd be a very poor choice of action," Alasdair said affably, letting his pistols provide the menace. The Templar nodded at Sam.
The Phoenician delegate already at the reception came over just as Consigliere Castiglione appeared, a small contingent of Council security personnel close behind him.
"What is the meaning of this?" asked the Italian.
The Phoenician thug spoke first, gesturing at the Golden Way agent. "This woman has stolen something from us."
"I believe you may have misspoken, sir," said Castiglione. "The report I received was that she has stolen from the Council. Therefore, Council Security will investigate the matter. But I thank you for your concern."
The Phoenician delegate fumed, "This is outrageous! The Brotherhood cries for justice!"
"I assure you that justice will be served. Meanwhile, your men have disturbed this gathering, and if they cannot abide in peace I must ask them to leave."
Glancing around, the Phoenician leader assessed the precariousness of his position.
"Very well, Consigliere," he moved out of Samantha's grasp, and turned to her. "You I will not forget." He spat on Majors, who was still on the ground.
With that, the Phoenician glanced at the Golden Way agent, who had been taken into custody by two Council security officers, and stalked out of the Library.
Castiglione glanced an order to the security guards flanking the girl, who frogmarched her towards their offices. Nodding at Samantha, he stalked off. With an amused expression, Alasdair reached down to help Majors get up.
Taking the gesture of help, Majors quipped, "Nice suit, Fairholm. Where'd you pick it up, Couturier Corleone?"
Alasdair pushed his hat toward the back of his head. "Soprano & Sons. I love your cologne. Lynchburg Musk?"
"Touché." Majors turned to Samantha. "Hawthorn, I oughtta string you up. When are you going to learn to follow orders?"
"You're welcome," she said sarcastically. She looked around to find the Golden Way delegation had melted away into the now remixing crowd. "I follow orders, just not yours. Thanks for backing my play, Alasdair."
"Anytime, Sam. Even if it means saving this clown's ass." Alasdair wandered off into the stacks again.
Majors huffed. "I'm not kidding, LoneStar. If you fuck up this mission, you won't see fresh air until Ragnarok."
"Aw, Katzu," she smiled in mock sympathy. "Ragnarok has already started. Now if you'll excuse me, I have an assignment to complete, one you yourself arranged." And with that she walked off in search of Lugosi.
Majors stared at her as she left, fuming. Xander came and stood next him.
"She is so damn aggravating," Majors said. "What does the Eye see in her?"
"Well," said Xander. "She gets results, despite—or maybe because of—the drummer she marches to. And—except Antida, of course—there isn't another person on this planet I'd rather have watching my back."

Monday, December 9, 2013

Beyond the Veil: Stir of Echoes Redux

Not everyone stuck around for the photo session.
On Saturday night, the BtV crew had an exciting event (well exciting for us, anyway), a reprise of "Stir of Echoes," the investigation mission we presented on our Anniversary show. Due to other (official) events going on at the time, many people didn't have the opportunity to complete the mission in July.

The BtV crew warmed up by running Slaughterhouse Elite, and I have a better idea now how to organize this evening's NKL-107 fight with Dortmunder and the Knights of Mercy's Fire Team Bravo. Pumped up by a successful run, we got in position to start the "Stir of Echoes—Redux."
Wildfire is the new Black.
A large (for us) crowd had gathered in Agartha by the currently unused portal "down the hill" from Seoul. We were joined in game and on the show by TSW's Lead Designer Tilty, Community Manager Sezmra, and Lead Writer Scrivnomancer, who all played through the mission, as well. I was especially nervous about Scrivnomancer's participation because, while Xander outlined the plot of the mission, much of the text was written or refined by this humble blogger. But Scriv reassured us that we had done well in capturing the feel of TSW and particularly the "voice " of Mme. Rogêt.
A giant among menSamantha, rockin' the new T
All in all, about 40 people ran through the mission over the course of two hours, with members of the BtV crew serving in the roles of various NPCs. They braved zombies, haunted houses, and the dreaded boss encounter, "Error 500," in search of a lost soul with a dark destiny. Everyone who completed the mission received a brand new "Beyond the Veil t-shirt, black" directly from Tilty himself. And a special congratulations goes to our winner, Alicia "Momentary" Villicana, who not only completed the mission first, but also beat the BtV crew record by about ten minutes. She would have been done even sooner if I had been in position a little earlier, myself. Momentary received 1200 Funcom points to spend in the Secret Store, a $10 value.
Please dont let J.J.Abrams direct the film.
Thanks again to everyone who participated, we had a blast that night and were very humbled by the enthusiastic response from the totally awesome TSW community.

Friday, December 6, 2013

They Changed It, Now It Sucks

I endeavor to point out that games I used to play were fun, even if I don't think they are any more. But I have ranted about changes or disappointments in games, even here on this blog. I try to temper that with the acknowledgment that things I don't like about MMOs comprise my own opinion of the genre and not fact, as some people are wont to do.
I'd say you lose the right to call a game bad after it's entertained you for 100 hours. Or 1000. ~ Chris, Game by Night
Chris over at Game by Night wrote a post questioning the attitudes of many gamers toward games they used to play. Specifically, those gamers who are now full of negativity toward games they once enjoyed. Tobold answered, giving his opinion that these negative-nellies are making excuses, rationalizing why they left, blaming the game instead of themselves.
We are unable to admit that falling out of love with the game might be our fault. ~ Tobold Stoutfoot, Tobold's Blog
While I agree that there is often an excess of rage rants by former players, Chris' perplexity and Tobold's glib response oversimplify the situation, when there is indeed plenty of blame to go around.

MMOs, especially long-running ones like World of Warcraft or EverQuest II, are not like single player games like Mass Effect or Grand Theft Auto. I might like Mass Effect, but I might think ME3 sucks. (In reality, I have no opinion on the matter.) Maybe the gameplay is too different, or the developers introduced characters or storylines I don't like. No one really questions the validity of an opinion that a franchise has decayed—though they may disagree.
There is a thin line between love and hate.
MMOs don't generally have sequels, they have expansions. But in many ways, expansions create a different game than the original "Vanilla" version, and as time goes on, incremental changes may become drastic. Changes to character progression, talent/ability systems, etc., may eventually prove too much to tolerate, and the player stops playing the game. Simple boredom with a game doesn't engender the impassioned "The game sucks now!" that Tobold claims it does. I should think that only someone still passionate about a certain version of their favorite MMOs would rage so completely about changes to them. If they claim that the game always sucked after playing for those hundreds of hours Chris mentions, that's a different story, and he certainly has a point in that case.
Ducklings and Design Debates
In human-computer interaction, there is a phenomenon called the Baby Duck Syndrome, that condition under which people resist changes to interfaces even if the new interfaces are measurably more efficient. For instance, I am currently typing using a demonstrably inefficient 135-year-old keyboard design, even though there is a debatably more efficient design available to me right now. Why? Because it's what I am used to. Another is the "ribbon" introduced into MS Office with the 2007 edition, a design element I deal with on a regular basis in the software I train, despite it taking up a substantial bit of real estate on the laptop monitors we are required to use.
It seems that with every MMO design change, there are winners and losers. Those who feel the change is an improvement, and those who feel it interferes with or destroys their enjoyment of the game. Unfortunately, unlike those people who were still able to play Dungeons and Dragons using earlier editions of source-books when newer, revised, rule sets came out, MMO players have few legitimate venues for playing earlier versions of their favorite game.

So while they may reach histrionic levels in their rage against games they once loved, be sympathetic to such forlorn players. You never know when the game company will make a change that will break the game for you, sometimes literally. There, but for the grace of the devs, go you.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Another BtV Double Feature!

Beyond the Veil Takes 68 and 69 are now available for download.

In "Skins" the BtV crew get excited about the weapons skins now available in the Secret Store. Also, Funcom recently took a stand against exploits in what we considered an even-handed manner.

In "Thanks Giving in TSW," we muck around killing giant golden hoodlums while talking about what we are thankful for.
You can subscribe to the show through Holosuite Media's RSS feed, through iTunes (with older episodes here), and now through Stitcher. Be sure to catch the live show tonight and every Thursday at about 7p.m. EDT (11p.m. UTC) on Holosuite Excess. Beyond the Veil is produced by "Xander Hayes" and Holosuite Media.

Secret Monday: Slaughtered

This somewhat delayed post is brought you at the behest of my BtV crewmate, Galactrix, who doesn't want to go a week without an update from Secret Mondays and the Knights of Mercy.

As I mentioned last week, the only thing standing between Double D* and the Gatekeeper is the Slaughterhouse, which Tententacles had graciously volunteered to tank for us. After making some plans on Twitter in the morning, Fire Team Bravo met up outside the Agartha portal at 8:30 CST and plunged in. Tenten tanked, of course. And I healed while Scooter, Ocho, and Syp brought the pain. We made short work off the first boss, Psychoassailant. Well, after wiping once or twice.
Have you ever tried to get blood out of a hoodie?
NKL-107 was a different story. This boss is notorious for being the hardest in the Elite Dungeons. Reading up on the forums, there are, of course, people who say he's not that hard and the rest of us just need to learn to play. Those people are assholes. Of course we need to learn to play. However, just because they may have figured it out already doesn't give anyone the right to belittle other players looking for help. Not that I think NKL needs to be nerfed or anything, but it is weird that this fight seems more difficult than the rest of the Elite dungeons, by a wide margin—including the rest of the Slaughterhouse.

Anyway, I had been through the dungeon at least once with LoneStarBelle and members of Beyond the Veil, led by Galactrix. The tactics we used were different than what Tententacles was accustomed to. Tenten's strategy involves ignoring the adds (here I am assuming you are familiar with the fight) until NKL goes into his kill-everything plasma burst, then drag the adds into the "meatlocker" at one corner of the room. This seems like a viable tactic at first. But then we always seemed to get too many adds and a few would break loose and kill the healer, or one of NKL's other abilities (10,000 Volts) would one-shot the tank and then the healer. We tried many times to do it his way; Scooter said it was about two hours.

We then attempted to use Galactrix' method. I may not have explained it very well, having only seen it in action once or twice. But it involves having a second tank drag two or three adds off right away and shut them down with DPS in the meatlocker, then rinse and repeat until most or all of them are kaput. In this method, little damage is done to the boss until the adds are all out of the way. This also seems to delay the plasma burst boss ability until near the end of the fight, but that only be my perception.

In both strategies, controlling the number of active adds at any given time is critical. Too many adds can overwhelm the tank's ability to keep aggro, and the healer is usually next in line on the aggro table. I don't know for sure, but the 10 Kilovolts one-shot may hinge on the number of active adds, as well.

In any event, we were unsuccessful in bringing down NKL-107 on Monday night, even after Mogsy stepped in to tank, with a minor shuffling of roles. We'll make another attempt this coming Monday, if my KoMies are willing.
Cleaning up Egypt took a little elbow . . . grease.
This week's Mon de la mode is brought to you by Aten Glitch, the amazing new fashion sensation that renders part or all of you invisible. Yes, as you can see, donning my Desert Dress Casual shirt led to the disappearance of my elbows. And you know it was real because even my shadow had no elbows. This was seen by my compatriots and was verified by Tenten on his own character, Chucho.

*Dex-y and Dortmunder

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

LoneStarBelle: The Sunken Library

I highly recommend this short story by Katzushima. The following continues from it and The Masquerade.
Sam loved the smell of old books. No matter how much information could be obtained online these days, there was nothing quite like wandering the stacks of a great library.
Venice's Sunken Library was one such place, though Sam was surprised at the humidity levels, wondering if there weren't a better place for these treasured tomes. Guests from the reception had filtered down into this maze, discussing various topics. On a lark, she'd talked Drake Kipling into chatting up John Majors about "the merits of the Templar approach" before seeking out Lugosi again. She laughed to herself, imagining John in misery listening to the Templar pontificating. Rivals though they may be, it paid to have actual friends in the other factions.
Majors' voice crackled over the tiny comms device in her ear. "Hawthorn, do that again and I'll have you steri-wiping the surgical suite for Zurn."
Sam rolled her eyes, but feigned innocence, "What? Isn't that what the Council is about; fostering understanding?"
"No. It's about providing us all a semi-legal eye on what the others are up to." And with that he cut comms.
"Pompous ass," Sam said to dead air. Steri-wiping the surgical suite!
She'd come around a bit to the Lumie philosophy, especially since the vote of confidence from the Pyramidion—over Kiki's objections at that. Sam often did not toe the party line. Not that the Templars were complete saints, either. Firebombing entire villages when more surgical methods would be appropriate didn't fit her definition of a reasonable group of people. But Majors had fully drunk the Illuminati Koolaid. The Eye appreciated that not all Visionaries had the same vision, even if Majors did not.
Chuckling to herself, she resolved to repay Kipling soon. Right now, she had a mission to complete. Presently, she found Lugosi refereeing an animated discussion about order and chaos between a Dragon and a Templar. She slipped her elbow into the crook of his.
"Signore, how about that tour you promised me?"
His eyes lit up, and he absently smoothed his comb-over. "I would be delighted, Dr. Hawthorn. If you'll excuse me, sir, madam."
Despite what she'd heard from Geary and others, the Council Archives weren't completely mired in the eighteenth century. In fact, that was about where the Archive digitization project had reached. They'd maintained original copies of centuries- and even millenia-old documents and tomes, but most of the information since the 1700s had been catalogued and was available on the Council intranet. In many ways, that made Sam's job easier.
"Signore Lugo—"
"Please, Doctor, call me Antal. And may I call you . . . ?"
She smiled, pouring on a little Southern charm. "Samantha."
Dazzled, he returned her smile. "Ah! what a beautiful name."
"Thank you, Antal. The work you are doing is amazing."
"Thank you, Samantha, we have a relatively small staff. There's not much prestige in cataloguing the exploits of others, even if it is necessary and sometimes distasteful."
"Oh, yes. For instance—" Lugosi briefly searched the books in the stack they were walking past, before pulling a book off the shelf. "—have a look at this."
Samantha opened the book, a fourteenth-century report in the Venetian dialect tracing the course of the Black Death. Samantha read little Italian, but grasped the gist.
"Does this say what I think it does? The Plague was engineered?"
"Yes, and the anti-Amina component strongly resembles the infection on your Solomon Island."
Sam felt slightly ill. Lugosi took the book and returned it to the shelf. He put his hand on her shoulder.
"Samantha, are you all right? You're very pale."
"Y-yes." Accepting his support, she took a deep breath "The Black Death was a turning point in European history. But . . . all those people. . ."
"Yes. All those people, all those family lines, snuffed out."
"But why?"
"I have a theory that it relates to the device recovered from that train in Egypt, the twin of that which defiled Tokyo. Come, let me show you something we have been working on. Something a little more cutting edge than these old tomes. Arturo likes to call it 'The Room.'"
He led her deeper into the Library. Moving around a wall emblazoned with the Council insignia, they entered an expanded chamber filled with server racks. Lugosi stepped to a console and typed in a keycode.
"Our field agents have been feeding us data on various locations around the world for this project."
Samantha adjusted her glasses as schematics flashed past on the terminal monitor.
Lugosi continued, "I'm not fully familiar with the technical aspects of the Room. Like you, I am more at home with books than computers."
"Yes. Well, university libraries are far automated than they used to be. But I understand. I'm not a computer expert either."
Just then, Sam's earpiece crackled. "LoneStarBelle, this is Katzushima. . ." Sam listened for a moment, then turned to Lugosi.
"We need to find Minister Castiglione."

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Beauty of a Smorgasbord

Like the awesome side dishes at a Thanksgiving feast, Syp is wondering how to fit all the games he wants to play onto his plate. He talks about "invested" games, that seem to require a great deal of played time to make any real progress. Others are "buffet" titles, games that you can jump into, have fun, play for a bit, and not feel bad when you don't.

"I can’t lightly play a sub game without feeling like I’m wasting my money." ~Syp
For years I was invested in this way to World of Warcraft. I never played the original Guild Wars for precisely that reason. I was locked into WoW by my wallet. I certainly don't regret the time and money I invested in the game. It was fun—until it was not. Over the past year, I've changed my mind about F2P titles, or at least subscription-optional games. I no longer think you need subscriptions to create great content. F2P doesn't have to be a ghetto. I am thoroughly invested in The Secret World, but that everything to do with how much I enjoy the game, and the community that has sprung up around it. It helps that I am in a position to interact directly with the developers on occasion.

"Some titles get preferential treatment and some end up collecting dust." ~Syp
Like Syp, Guild Wars 2 is more of a buffet game for me, as it is easy to jump in and do something quick with no real regrets about not logging in all the time. While I have dabbled in quite a few games this year, none have really caught fire with me. And that's OK. Unlike Syp, I don't have a dozen games I want to be playing. There are a few on the horizon I am interested in, like Wildstar and EQNext (and Landmark), but I am content with what I am playing right now.

I can't say I regret too much leaving games like STO or Rift, they'll be there for the foreseeable future. And, while there is some social pressure to return; ultimately, it is my leisure time. And the last thing I want is for my fun to turn into a dreaded social obligation.

If all I want is Scooter's dressing and green bean casserole, that's my prerogative.

Friday, November 29, 2013

"What Kind of D&D Character Would I Be?"

I hope all my readers in the U.S. had a great Thanksgivukkah, and that everyone else enjoyed their Thursday. We had a house full of food, people, and puppies for about four hours, before I settled into a pleasant evening chatting with anyone on the Beyond the Veil crew who had not succumbed to a Tur-coma.

I was listening to a fresh episode of "The Pulse" the other night, and Graydol and Jaysinn brought up an interesting questionaire that supposedly helps answer the question, "What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?" I decided to take the survey and this is what it came up with:
I Am A: Neutral Good Human Wizard (5th Level)
(c) 2004 Niki Harless
Ability Scores:

A Neutral Good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.
One funny thing about questionnaires like this is that I can usually tell what answers will get me what sorts of scores. They're not subtle, in other words. The other thing is that I tend to be fairly moderate in my conscious positions, so I end up with I consider to be muddled results:
Detailed Results:
Lawful NeutralXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (15)
Chaotic NeutralXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (15)
Neutral EvilXXXXXXXXXXXX (12)
Lawful EvilXXXXXXXX (8)
Chaotic EvilXXXXXXXX (8)
On the other hand, these scores make perfect sense if each response is weighted, rather than an all or nothing proposition. I am more good than neutral, and more neutral than orderly, chaotic or evil. Scooter might dispute the chaotic part. I'd say the doing-good-without-respecting-authority description may be the defining attribute of my TSW solo character, Samantha Hawthorn, as well as my SWTOR main, "Versteckt." Both characters actively subvert(ed) the aims of their neutral- or lawful-evil organizations.
Law or Chaos:Good or Evil:
ChaosXXXXXX (6)EvilXX (2)
This seems more like a different representation of the information given above. Although having not played D&D (Sacrilege! I know), I have only a cursory understanding of what each of these mean in relation to such characters.
SorcererXXXX (4)ElfXXXXXXXXXX (10)
FighterXX (2)HalfingXXXXXXXXXX (10)
RangerXX (2)Half-ElfXXXXXXXXX (9)
Cleric(0)DwarfXXXXXX (6)
Barbarian(-2)GnomeXXXXXX (6)
Bard(-2)Half-OrcXXXXXX (6)
I wonder what I might have ended up with if I had filled out this questionnaire a decade or two ago. My faith used to be a much bigger part of my life; even now, I tend to lean toward faith-based (Priests/Paladins) classes when they are available in MMOs. The high intelligence/wizard thing is not so surprising either. I totally identified with the intellectual Ravenclaws of Hogwarts.

I also wonder what questions led to the racial scores. For most questions about my physical appearance, I gave "average" answers. For instance, I consider myself reasonably good looking, but I'm no supermodel. I also may also be more physically imposing than I usually perceive myself. That pesky residual self-image at work again, telling me I'm a scrawny nerdling. I was thinking I might have Scooter complete the questionnaire with me in mind, just to see if I fit in different categories from someone else's point view.

I encourage you, Dear Reader, to go take the quiz and see what sort of results you get. Be sure to at least leave the basic "I Am A:" in the comments below, if not a link to your own D&D self-analysis.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Secret Monday: Cast Off Works of Darkness, and Put on the Armor of Light

I wasn't going to write about Secret Monday because I felt like I was barely on last night, but Ten Tentacles and MMO Gamer Chick inspired me. Scooter and I finished two of our last three Issue missions on Dex-y and Dortmunder, just as the rest of the Knights of Mercy were coming online. For Dortmunder, I still needed Darkness War Elite, and both Dex-y and Dort need Slaughterhouse before confronting the Gatekeeper. With Thanksgivukkah this week, our schedules are a little wonky, and Scooter bowed out of the KoM speed-record-breaking trip through Darkness War. I felt a little bad getting help from my friends and then not sticking around, but my departure did make room for Ocho to join the group for a breezy Ankh run.
Hey! That's not my Interface!
According to Tenten and Mogsy, the conversation after I logged off turned to the Augment system and the enormous grind for AP it is. Like me, Mogsy is not really focusing on it right now, because she is not finished with the regular ability wheel either. While I am sure there are obsessive fans who will have their Augments complete before Tokyo opens, I believe the developers' intent is for the Augment system to serve as a point sink for the foreseeable future. That is, player characters will not need to be decked out in full top tier augments and gear to do well in Tokyo. Missions in Tokyo will also be a significant source of points, so players will have the opportunity to fill in their aux and aug wheels organically rather than grind specifically to get them.

Props to Tilty and crew for fixing a few quality of life issues and player requests in the latest patch, including the proper stacking of disassembled mats, weapon skins in the Secret Store, and (ironically) hiding weapons out of combat.
The Power of my Shotgun compels you!
Mon de la mode was not that avant-garde for me, as I spent the evening in Exorcist garb, even though I was not the group healer. Thanks to Mogsy for the top pic, and Tenten for the one directly above. Also, thanks to Maric and Thermic for filling out the DW group.

Tenten promised to tank a Slaughterhouse run next week for me and Scooter. I'll likely heal, rather than DPSing as I did for DW. Then I am planning to do the Healing version of Gatekeeper, since I did DPS on LoneStarBelle. I think I will also research a bit more prior to meeting him, so I can optimize my build and strategy ahead of time.

Monday, November 25, 2013

LoneStarBelle: The Will

Most people go through life on a sort of auto-pilot. Not that they can't make decisions, they just don't—beyond the trivial. They have no problem deciding what shirt to wear this morning, but then simply fall into love affairs, careers . . . parenthood; perhaps even believing they are happy. They lack the Will to do otherwise. They follow instructions, they do what they're told. These are the sort you find are easily turned. They succumb to the Will of other, more powerful, forces, like sheep for the shearing—or cattle to the slaughter—realizing too late that they've never had the option in the first place.
A rare few have the power to exert their Will—their "Anima"—to withstand the influences of forces beyond the capacity of the rest to comprehend, or even perceive. In a population of billions, they perhaps number in the thousands. These few "Animated" individuals are all that stand between the sheep and the long cold night of oblivion.
"It's like shooting fish in a barrel," Xander Hayes quipped. The blond, blue-eyed Canadian took aim at the barnacle encrusted behemoth over the sea wall where he and Sam and taken cover. Whereas Sam's rifle was a up-converted M4 MWS, Hayes sported an Orochi Occultech rifle. ("I like to call it Hard Rain," he'd said.) On semi-auto, he made short work of the incubators that had begun to advance on their position. Sam focused on the big one. The red and gray creature screamed in pain and anger, recoiling briefly before renewing its advance.
Unlike the zombified former residents of Kingsmouth, the beast they fought now was clearly from the depths. It towered at least four meters, with giant lobster claws and a gaping, saw-toothed maw in its torso. And still it advanced, despite Sam emptying a full clip into it. Almost within striking distance, it reared up.
"Time to go," said Hayes, as he dodged to his right, out of the blast wave. Sam wasn't so quick, and the spray of water knocked her on her back. Chunks of seawall went flying. Sputtering, she looked up as the creature raised its claw to impale her. The small hairs on her arms stood on end as a tendril of brilliant white flashed into view, enveloping the creature and causing it to seize up for an instant. Momentarily forgetting Sam, it turned toward the source of its new pain, Xander. As it lumbered toward him, Sam dragged out her own claws and leapt onto the beast's back.
She failed gain purchase and tumbled off. But the Canadian was driving fireballs into the creature's maw. Sam jumped again–more determined this time—and drove her claws into the creature's back, using them to climb higher. The beast screamed in pain and anger, but Sam made it to the shoulders. With one set of claws embedded for leverage, she stabbed into the creature's head. Over and over, she drove in her claws as the beast flailed its pincers, but unable to reach her. Xander kept up his fiery assault as the creature stumbled and fell.
The impact threw Sam clear of the carcass. As she lay there trying to catch her breath, Xander came and stood over her.
"You all right?" he asked, lending a hand to help her up.
"Yeah, I think so." She looked down at her slacks and jacket, formerly so professorial, now drenched in seawater and gore.
"You ever read Harry Potter?"
She looked at the Canadian askance. "Yes, why?"
"Remember what it said about the Killing Curse, Avada Kedrava? You've got to mean it! I don't think you meant it until you got up on that beast's back.
"Yeah, I guess you're right."
Hayes peered at Sam intently. "I'm telling you, when you really mean it, you won't even need bullets in that gun." He then flashed her a grin. "Meanwhile, you'd better reload."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

BtV Double Feature: The Venetian Zone!

Beyond the Veil Takes 66 and 67 are now available for download.

In "The Venetian Agenda," we welcome TSW Lead Designer Tilty and Community Manager Sezmra to the show to discuss Issue 8 and other (upcoming) developments in our favorite Conspiracy.

In "Danger Zone" the BtV crew get down to brass tacks analyzing the Scenarios: what we don't like, what we do like, and what takes our breath away.
You can subscribe to the show through Holosuite Media's RSS feed, through iTunes (with older episodes here), and now through Stitcher. Be sure to catch the live show tonight and every Thursday at about 7p.m. EDT (11p.m. UTC) on Holosuite Excess. Beyond the Veil is produced by "Xander Hayes" and Holosuite Media.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dex-y's Midnight Runners Ride Again

Tag Team Tenten Tossing
Scooter and I are still working through the TSW mission achievements. On Sunday evening, we ran through "All Roads Lead to Rome," from Issue #4, Big Trouble in the Big Apple. The Roman ruins are my nomination for the creepiest place in The Secret World. Running around through pitch black halls with undead familiars suddenly scurrying past (granted, without attacking you) is definitely up there past the Black House and the Nursery in my book.
Dortmunder Creeped Out
Secret Monday was another rousing success, with the Knights of Mercy fielding two full teams in the Venetian Scenario rooms. We decided that Duo Elite is a great way to farm "Oreos." We tried to queue for Nightmares (which had been done successfully by Ocho, who has yet to meet the Gatekeeper), but the Scenario console would not permit it. Meanwhile, Syp may or may not have forgotten something. . .
Yeti: Is it a little drafty in here?
We switched it up slightly this week, with Grace joining Fire Team Bravo (Hey Tenten! how did we end up second string?), and Syp going over to FT Alpha. Knowing the fights (even with variables) shows in our successes, with Scooter and I earning more than enough Oreos to get our Council certification on Dex-y and Dortmunder.
Fireteam Bravo, led by Bret Michaels
Mogsy then swapped with Grace to tank The Facility as Laeyn, with Dex-y, Ocholivis, and Chucho running guns, and Dortmunder healing in the Blood-Fist Way. We had some fun at the end, bouncing off the windows as seen in the pic at the top of the post; though Mogsy got a better shot. As you can also see from the pics, Mon de la mode was a mixed bag of TSW awesome. I didn't get any shots just of Dex-y and Dortmunder, but this way you can get feel for how we roll in KoM. [Edit: I do want to point out Dex-y's Warlock outfit, which she completed just before we started running Scenarios.]
Seconds before the Facility broke into the Harlem Shake
After several wipes, we decided the Contact Core fight required a change of costume, which you can see below. Unlike some recent trips through Elites—including Scenarios earlier in the evening—the Facility proved difficult to get through. But we did finish, sometime after midnight, local; hence the post title. In addition to the above-mentioned window bouncing we did one last pose before returning to Agartha. When I asked for an action pose, this is what Laeyn gave me:
That's how she taunts the boss.
P.S. Like Ocho, if you're not checking my pic mouse-overs, you may miss something.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Tiny Death Star

Last Friday, chatter on my Twitter feed turned to a new smartphone game by NimbleBit, the makers of Tiny Tower, called Tiny Death Star. I do not normally play mobile games, I don't even have Angry Birds on my phone, and some other "action RPGs" left me remembering why I never cared for old games with crappy graphics like Zelda. (Don't deny it! You know this to be true!) However, I loved the old SimCity games, including SimTower. That, combined with the Star Wars theming and price (FREE!), led me to download TDS on Friday evening. I didn't really get into it until Saturday morning, when Scooter had installed it on her phone, and proceeded to become engrossed for a couple hours.
As you might expect, it has Astromech droid sound effects and "8-bit" versions of tunes like the Cantina Theme. There are fun little elements like the ever-jogging Nautolan on the Workout Center (see below), and animation humor reminiscent of the Lego series of console games. For collectors, there is an album of species and (in)famous visitors. Most Bitizens get a randomly generated mix of Star-Wars-y names; however, that does occasionally lead to a Duct Worker with a recognizable appellation.
Naturally, she had to go. The memory was just too painful for one poor Sith Lord.

The gameplay is an oddly compelling (not engaging) mix of inventory management, construction planning, and elevator operation. There are micro-transactions, but they mostly involve speeding up some process. With patience, you need not spend a dime. Though I'm sure the developers will appreciate it if you do. As of this writing, I have ten commercial levels seven Imperial levels and seven residential levels including one just under construction with almost NINE hours to go—unless I get a worker in to speed up the process.
Since the weekend, my time with the game has dwindled to fun little breaks between doing other things throughout the day. On Wednesday, Syp put out some strategy tips that would make a Sith Lord proud. But you know what? They're effective. I jettisoned more than two thirds of my Bitizens and now only accept new Bitizens who really want to work at my shops. By the end of the day Wednesday, I'd filled almost all my openings again, with Bitizens that want to be there and are therefore more effective.

Anyway, it's a fun little diversion. I've heard some others have buggy copies, but mine seems to be running just fine.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Secret Monday: Just What Are These Venetians Up To?

Ermagerd, 500th Post!!
Fezzik said people in masks can't be trusted.
Because of busy weekend activities, Scooter and I didn't get around to running the new Scenarios until last night. As it was, even though normally we're online quite a bit earlier than the rest of the Knights of Mercy, it didn't work out that way last night, and we basically only had time to organize/empty out inventories before starting the big event. The usual suspects trickled on and we formed like Voltron. Able team consisted of Tenten, Syp, Ocho, Scooter, and me. Baker team was headed up by Mogsy, with Grace, Pagan, Pid, and Mr.Mogsy in tow. LOL We have such awesome Matrix names. We seem to have divided up this way a lot lately, I think Able works well together, and I appreciate them putting up with my occasional noobishness. (Noobality? Noobosity?)
Let's just go with idiocy.
In any event, Able ran through the normal duo version of each Scenario. In case you haven't done them yet, they are roughly the same Scenario in different locales, find and protect two or three groups of survivors from several waves of nasties, at either the Hotel Wahid, the Franklin Mansion or the Castle Dracula. We did OK, getting Silver for the first two, and Gold for the Castle, once we had a better handle on how things flow. As Tenten said last night, "Any Scenario you can walk away from is a success." But considering we were running a group of five through a Scenario supposedly tuned for two, saying the scenarios are difficult is an understatement.

Needless to say, the Scenarios require yet another re-analysis of one's deck and talismans. DPS used to "all attack all the time" in Elites and Nightmares will find their health woefully inadequate, since normal group mechanics don't apply. Tanks won't have too much problem, but may need to up the DPS ante and grab a few self heals. This is definitely where a hybrid "Unity" build will be handy. Healers probably already know they need to switch it up.

But even with that understanding, the Scenarios are difficult. So much so that the forums have blown up with criticism of the design that Joel Bylos himself has seen the need to respond. Unfortunately, his response was tantamount to "L2P nubs," which the playerbase didn't take kindly to. I pondered it a bit after having run through last night, and here's my thought: these Scenarios are supposed to prepare us for Tokyo. Much like Elites, the Gatekeeper, and Nightmares, players will not be able to stroll in and Pwn the content the first time through. Where would be the fun in that? The gear (Augments) and skills necessary to excel in the Scenarios is contained in the scenarios themselves. Purple 10.4 gear would probably help, too. Perhaps a fully augmented team with plenty of experience will have not trouble with it, but folks going through for the first or the tenth time will not be so fortunate. Nor should they be.
I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts!
Not that I don't have issues with the Scenarios. The whole thing reminds me of The Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland, a ride touted as a grand new thing with random variable elements that meant no two trips through would be the same. Except that all the random elements were dressing, and some were so complicated that the ride frequently broke down and remained closed for hours and even days. Eventually, the variables were pared down. Not that it's not a fun ride; I go aboard whenever I visit Disneyland. But from a rider's perspective, I don't think it was that innovative, and Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion are still my two favorites.

So far, we only have one basic Scenario: Round up survivors and protect them from the angry hordes. The scenery changes and there are other variables, but it's all the same ride. I have to assume there are more waiting in the wings, because even with random weather and other variables, I can't imagine this holding anyone's interest for long before it turns into an unpleasant—yet unavoidable—grindfest.
Guarding the survivors . .  in STYLE!
For those of us who have not completed the Ability Wheel or the Skill Table, the Scenarios and Augment system present a dilemma: where to devote SP and AP. If my theory of the scenarios requiring Augments for major pwnage is correct, I don't know if it would be better to perfect and Augment a Scenario Deck or continue plugging away at the Wheel. One hundred ten AP can go a long way around. I also have yet to find out if the augments are permanently tied to individual abilities, or if they As Magson elucidates in the comments below, Augments can be swapped in and out like talismans, weapons, and abilities themselves. Of course I prefer the latter case, because 110 AP is also a lot of points to waste on an accidental misapplication.

All in all, though, I think the Scenarios are a great addition to the available activities in The Secret World. I just hope that Funcom quickly builds on this momentum. Again as Tenten has said, "Welcome to Venice, bitches."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Virtual Worlds, Real Friendships

I happen to be listening to "Forever Young" by Alphaville as I write this. It makes me nostalgic for my teen years where the last song of seemingly every dance was this anthem of youth. It reminds me of the great friends I had in high school, having fun, hanging out, talking about love and life.

But I've grown older, and my high school buddies are not as close as they once were. Work associates, even my fellow soldiers when I was in the Army, are just not quite the same. I am lucky that I have managed to marry my best friend. But where do I find the sort of friendships I had in high school?
I'm happy.
Online? Perhaps. One of the topics of the Newbie Blogger Initiative Talkback Challenge was "Guilds: What for?" I have been part of several different guilds over my MMO "career." I don't envy guild leaders. They say it's like herding cats, and I have never aspired to be in a leadership position in a guild. While pretty much every guild I've been part of did some progression group activity (raiding), I never joined any for the express purpose of tackling group content. From my first guild in WoW—that I can't even remember the name of now—to Mercy Gaming, House Stalwart, and Beyond the Veil, I am part of guilds because of friendships. To me, that's what guilds are for.
Even purple cats are hard to herd.
I may not be as close to all the members as I was to my buddies in high school. Heck! I've met less than a handful of online friends in person. But I know a little about them and their lives. I share their joys and sorrows, if only through the strands of copper and fiber-optics between us. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of my closest online friends are fellow bloggers. We can't help but share a little bit more of ourselves than we might intend for a gaming blog. We learn about each other, as we learn a bit about ourselves, typed out in black and white.

I'm not sure how long I've been aware of Big Mikey Ocho of Casual Aggro. He was one of the NBI Class of 2012, but it feels like I've known him longer. What do I know about him? In addition to MMO and Tabletop gaming, he's an avid frisbee golfer. He loves Jimmy Buffet. He's involved in the Special Olympics and other charities, as well as local politics; and I admire him for that. He's one of my favorite bloggers and guildmates. He grew up in southern New Jersey, close to Philadelphia, PA. He also grew up near Rowan University. And one day recently, while passing the school, Ocho decided he would pick up a T-shirt for an online buddy who uses a pseudonym.
Thank you, Ocho. I will wear it proudly.