Rants tag

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

Monday, September 30, 2013

TSW: Saturday Shenanagins

Meanwhile, in The Secret World . . .
Kill it with FIRE!
The Whispering Tide continues to seep its way through Agartha. Intrepid Bees are doing their utmost to rid the World Tree of the this Filthy infestation, and significant progress has been made, though we're not out of the woods yet.
Calm, Cool, and Bubbled.
OOC: Thanks to ExceederEmDash, MithSadei, and JaySinn; LoneStarBelle is one step closer to facing Oscar. We ran the Slaughterhouse on Saturday afternoon, as well as running the Agartha clean-up mission, "Enter the Filth," several times. I'd say Slaughterhouse went fairly smoothly, considering two of us had never been though, and one of us was slightly under-geared. It speaks a lot to the communication and coordination we were able to achieve. By myself, I'm still struggling to consistently down the last boss of "Enter the Filth." There seem to be various approaches, none of which is working that great for me. I've managed to kill it a couple times solo, but mostly I wipe. The fight is orders of magnitude easier with even one other person.
One mob down, several thousand to go.
Given their outstanding track record for ferreting out nefarious schemes of an occult nature, I am not at all surprised to see that members of Mystery, Inc. are aware of—and participating in—the Secret World.
Scooby Doo, Where Are You?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Stats Obsession

Roger Edwards of "Contains Moderate Peril" posted on the Newbie Blogger Initiative site (very fancy) about the Perils of obsessing about stats, a subject near and dear to me. I commented thus:
I tend to look at my stats a lot, even though I know a certain number of hits are really bots. It was about a year before my monthlies even broke a thousand. And my readership was not even close to that (remember that regulars will hit your site several times a month). I still have a limited view of my regular audience. Many people use various RSS readers, making it even more difficult to track them.

The best advice in this post is to get involved with social media. Don't just post links. Strike up conversations on Twitter, FB, and/or G+; not to mention the forums of the games that interest you. Communities are made up of overlapping groups of friends, and the gaming blog community is no different.

You can find me on Twitter (@rowanblaze) and G+ (+Rowan Blaze).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Coulson Lives!! A Review of Agents of SHIELD

Like millions of Americans—and a few Canadians—I watched the premier Agents of SHIELD last night. The eagerly anticipated Network TV follow-up to Joss Whedon's The Avengers had big shoes to fill. I don't normally watch network television anymore, too much MMO gaming to be done. But anything from Mutant Enemy is worth having a look-see.
Seeing the show "live" reminded me of a few annoyances about TV that I had sorta forgotten. Like the commercials. Now, I do watch a few shows over Scooterz' shoulder, usually on Hulu. Hulu has a single commercial during normal breaks in the show. Most are unobtrusive. There was this one commercial on ABC last night. I don't even know what it was for; but the most annoying sound came out of my TV for about 30 seconds. I think it may have been music. I must be getting old.

The show itself was pretty good. Without going into too much detail here, after a brief action-packed teaser, the various major characters were introduced, including what had appeared in the previews to be the epic reappearance of Agent Coulson, who had supposedly been killed by Loki immediately prior to "The Battle of New York" in The Avengers. (Not a spoiler, unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past 6 months.) True to form, Joss, knowing that the preview would include the epic "Welcome to Level 7," turned it into a humorous moment. My office mate thought that bit was a little forced, but I found it amusing.
The characters seem a bit stock—company man, rebel hacker, Asian badass, "twin" lab geniuses—but then so were the characters on Firefly—at least on paper. But Whedon has a talent for fleshing out trope characters, so I am sure these will be no exception. Several have secrets and/or troubled pasts that I am sure we'll get glimpses of in future episodes. And it fits here, since SHIELD is a quasi-spy agency.

I am interested and a little troubled with the way Coulson will develop as a character. As essentially a glorified extra in Iron Man, Coulson was a typically unflappable "Agent," played pitch perfect by Clark Gregg. This seems to be Gregg's talent: unflappable deadpan (cf The New Adventures of Old Christine). Not that he's not capable of anything else. On the contrary I think Gregg is an excellent actor. But as the leader of this team, Coulson the character will need to change and become more passionate (something we did catch a glimpse of in this premier). I'm thinking Hotchner from Criminal Minds. The big question will how passionate can he get and still BE Coulson.
The only other regular that really got some character development was Skye, the hacker/recruit played by Chloe Bennet. In many ways, she's the audience stand-in. And I look forward to seeing more of her.

It was pretty good, but the many of special effects don't hold up in HD. It's hard to transition the feel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the smaller screen (and budget) of episodic television. Honestly, it felt a lot more like Heroes. I just hope Mutant Enemy can keep the show from becoming the mess that Heroes ended up being.
Overall, I liked it. But I'll be watching on Hulu henceforth. Long commercial breaks are too irritating.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Beyond the Veil Take 59: We got DEVed!!

A very exciting episode, Beyond the Veil, Take 59 is now available to download on Holosuite Media. The BtV program got hijacked in the best way possible by TSW Lead Game Designer Tilty and Community Manager Sezmra. Listen as we (and our live audience) get answers to burning questions answered straight from the horse's mouth, plus a lengthy discussion on the choices for TSW’s Get Your Art in the Game Finalists.
Ten male and ten female designs were chosen by the Funcom development team from hundreds of email and forum submissions. The contest just ended with a vote from the players. Head on over to see the winning designs.
"Ballistic Veil" from BtV's own Xander Hayes.
You can also subscribe through Holosuite Media's [EDIT: new feed link] RSS feed, through iTunes (with older episodes here), and now through Stitcher. Be sure to catch the live show every Thursday at about 7p.m. EDT (11p.m. UTC) on Holosuite Excess.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Filthy Monday (slightly NSFW)

The next phase of the Whispering Tide event is upon us, and the Knights of Mercy were up to the challenge. With the filthy portal breached by the 3rd Age Guardian, Beestung members of the secret societies could investigate the source of the Filth in Agartha. Several creatures attempted to either prevent us from getting to the bottom of the problem, or maybe they were just looking for new recruits of their own.
Clean-up on Aisle Seven!
Mystery solved, we made our way to Kingsmouth to take the challenge posed by the Draug in the Lair area. Many deaths and repair bills later, we had gotten two of the three missions completed and were ready to call it a night.
Kingsmouth Beach Party
Ever fashion forward, Laeyn stepped out in style. . .
Très de la Mode!
. . . while Dexy and Dortmunder went with the more traditional Transylvanian Village Garb.
The Couple That Plays Together . . .

Beyond the Veil: Rowan Is Lazy Edition

I've been busy, OK?! So these updates are very delayed. Beyond the Veil, Take 57 and Take 58 have been available for quite some time now on Holosuite Media.
"From the Net" is a mind-bending experience with time travel and the August Director's Letter. Meanwhile, in "A Rosa By Any Other Name," the BtV crew chats with members of the bleeding edge Templar Cabal Rosa Kompaniet, and we discuss the Gilded Rage event.

You can also subscribe through Holosuite Media's RSS feed or through iTunes (with older episodes here). Be sure to catch the live show every Thursday at about 7p.m. EDT (11p.m. UTC) on Holosuite Excess.

NBI II: The Newbies Strike Back!

(Borrowed from Syp): We need both mentors and new/aspiring MMO bloggers to sign up for the Newbie Blogger Initiative 2!  Check out the official announcement at T.R. Red Skies and the official NBI 2 forums!
Whether you’re a vlogger, blogger, podcaster, artist or whatever …if you own a blog dedicated to video games, the Newbie Blogger Initiative 2 needs your support! A great number of bloggers supported the Initiative last year and we are calling on you again to participate as well as imploring new bloggers to snatch this opportunity as well. The goals of the NBI are simple:  Find, visit, and promote new video game bloggers.  Create a friendly network of support.  Increase survival of new bloggers. (This is a new area of focus this year!)
I participated in Syp's first NBI during May of 2012, and a lot of good advice and great new blogs came of it. Sadly, most are no longer active; however, quite few still post regularly. You can check out the advice and recent updates from NBI 2012 in the near-right column on this page. I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone has to say, and greet the new bloggers out there.

Can I Get a "Hell, Yeah"?

At times like this, I am sadly reminded that—while I am clever—I am not really particularly creative. Or at least that quick on my feet. I would love to have a whole RP story going on for this post. But in the interest of posting it this year, I decided to just give the rundown and thanks to those involved.
Lecturing Wicker, or he was lecturing us.
Remember how I went through Hell this past Secret Monday with the Knights of Mercy? Well on Saturday, I was at it again with members of the Beyond the Veil crew: BlueEyedOne, EmDash, Mith, and Galactrix. Galactrix caught wind that I needed to run Elites and we got a group together. I feel kinda bad because we didn't get to run all three. Blue still needed Hell Eternal, but I had to run to a meatspace affair that evening. Yesterday, Galactrix, Xander, Antida, and I ran the Ankh, leaving only 3 more elites before I face Oscar.
The memories of dying fade, though I'm sure I did at least once or twice. With her gun-totin' dance-hall cowgirl outfit. LoneStarBelle has achieved a certain aura of badass, though; doncha think? I also picked up some new abilities, thanks in part to the "Magnum Opus" Double XP Perfume I sprayed on. My Quantum Brace arc is almost full, and I am within 10 SP of being able to wield all the regular weapon types.
Meanwhile, EmDash looks like a punk prom queen, Exceeder (Galactrix) is takin' in the rays with clashing Hawaiian print beach wear, and Mith is dressed to kill. Literally. You can see Blue in the top pic dressed almost conservatively in Dragon greens.
But victory was achieved, thanks to these fine folk, and I got the "Tonight We Dine in Hell" achievement and the Dandy Hellraiser to boot. With all the (almost) bare chests in this pic, Blue decided to go ultraconservative and cover up almost completely. Wicker certainly appreciated our efforts to assist in his goal of a paradise in Hell.
I find it interesting that the male characters all have the thoracic surgery scar like Wicker, but the females do not. I am reminded of Wesley's line in the Princess Bride about there being a shortage of perfect breasts in the world and it would be a shame for Buttercup to ruin hers.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Filthy, Filthy Holes

OK, there's really only one right now, besides the one to Tokyo, which is inaccessible. But The Whispering Tide event is in full swing; I suspect there will be more. This time, the "War Effort" centers around farming Pure Metal and crafting "Ambrosia of Supernal Quicksilver" to fuel the the capacitors which are supposed to be preventing the spread of the Filth. I can't help wondering if the Beestung are being misled though, much like fighting the Guardians of Gaia seemed counter-intuitive.

Subscribers are getting "free" event currency tokens, apparently, that non-members do not receive. There's also a free 8-hour (played time) XP boost available in the claim items section of the "Secret Store."

On a side note, the Get Your Art in the Game fashion design contest has been narrowed down to the top ten for male and female characters. Make sure you go check those links out and vote for your favorites. The winning entries will be made available later in the Secret Store.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Secret Monday: . . . and What Are We Doing in This Handbasket?

This week for the Knights of Mercy Secret Monday event, our fearless leader, Maric (aka "Solaris") needed to finish just one more elite before taking on Oscar the Gatekeeper: Hell Eternal. Since we had five people on and LoneStarBelle needed the dungeon, as well, I jumped at the chance to join up. Mogsy and Mr. Mogsy jumped on a bit after we started and did their own thing. We're tiny but mighty.
Knights of NoMercy, l-r: Chucho, Solaris, Piddy-Cent, LoneStarBelle, WickedTryx
We started out with me in the healing role—using my new Necromancer Deck—and Chucho tanking. That worked OK for the first couple boss battles, though Piddy-Cent's mega-DeePS got him one-shotted a couple times. Unfortunately, since the Necromancer depends heavily on Assault Rifle damage to set up leech heals, but many of the later bosses have damage reflecting shields, Necro was not an effective combination. LSB doesn't have enough healing gear to support a Blood/Fist build, so Pid took on the healer role, while I switched to AoE/DPS Support (a role I am very comfortable with).
Supporting the battle against the Prime Maker
It took a while to get through all the fights (with several wipes). But in the end, we were victorious! Tententacles (Chucho) commented on how great it is to run through these dungeons with a patient group of people. I find my patience lasts much longer when folks are pulling together than when they are playing the blame game. I know I had to re-examine my build a couple times, and discovered that LSB has a 10% Purge chance on a certain passive ability I'd never looked very closely at. Chucho had plenty of self-criticism, but he did a fine job tanking. I wish I could have healed better. Thanks go out to Chucho, Piddy-Cent, Solaris, and WickedTryx for a fun run through Hell.

You've seen the other pictures, but here is my ensemble for Monday de la Mode. I call it Kentucky Kick-Ass: brown and white strapless blouse and corset; hat and jeans from the New West outfit, all available from the "Secret Store"; brown ruffle heels from Pangaea; and sunglasses from the Lumie Bounty Hunter Deck.
All Outta Bubble Gum

Monday, September 16, 2013

Optimizing My Time

This morning I have read two posts on Guild Wars 2, one from Syp on reaching the end of the character story, and the other from Kleps, comparing GW2 "hearts" with quests in WoW.

As I commented on Syp's post, Scooterz and I became bored with the storyline quest about the time we entered Orr, and after helping some Guildies from the Knights of Mercy with the endcap dragon battle instance, we basically stopped playing.
Scooterz has a very organized way of playing any game. In TSW, she has written down all the mission givers with their missions, checking them off as we complete them. In GW2, she tracked the hearts we had done in each zone so we could complete them before moving onto another one. Left to my own devices, I am generally more off-the-cuff in my playstyle. I tend to wander hither and thither, relying on UI elements in the game to track such accomplishments.

I loved doing the heart quests and dynamic events in GW2. But I started concentrating on the daily achievements in order to get the rewards. Allowing myself to get caught up in the loot grind (because that's what it was) instead of just helping out where I was "needed" may have ruined the game for me. Even now, reading about the constantly changing events—each with daily rituals to perform—is a huge turn-off.

I realize that this is entirely my own problem, and I am not necessarily criticizing ANet for their game design, other than how it feeds my obsessive need to "work" for said achievement rewards. I was much happier wandering around Tyria helping folks out before I realized there were "dailies."
This personal feeling, this desire to help out, bleeds into my characterization of my two main characters in TSW. Samantha and Karl are both inclined to help individuals in dire straits despite the big-picture admonitions of their superiors in their respective Secret Societies. Hinageshi, on the other hand, is all about slaying monsters of every stripean archetypal knight templar, despite being a Dragon.

Kleps defends GW2 hearts and dynamic events, with the quite reasonable explanation that they are about "keeping the world from collapsing, rather than raising it up." I agree with this assessment and am reminded by his post of why and how I enjoyed GW2 in the first place. As I said on Syp's post, I liked the non-epic early chapters of the personal story far more than the later, "world-changing" chapters. I think the relatively penny-ante picking of apples, culling of spiders, and routing of bandits are a much better design of activities and fit a fairly static world; much like our own, truth be told.

But that's just me. What do you think? Do you prefer the small "help out the farmer" quests, or the epic "slay the grand villain" quests?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Gilded Glee

It's taken a few days, but I am now the proud owner of a Shem of the Solar Metal. I've managed to get some of each of the other loot types (Signets, Flares, Bullion, etc.). Plus, this weekend will be VERY busy IRL, so I don't know how much more of the event I intend to participate in.
Healing Galactrix
I was kind of whinging a bit about not having gotten all the parts. But fellow Beyonder Galactrix (known in-game as "Exceeder") was generous with both time and Genizahs, and I managed to get three of the six parts tonight during the Show, along with the achievement "Some Assembly Required," and the gilded top hat.
My Hero!
So here I am. I almost wish I had the whole set of shems on a single character, but that's not a huge deal to me. I am excited to have this little guy, though. Now all I need to do is sneak into Fusang and get that Lore. . .

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Necromancer, Or, Rediscovering My Inner Healbot

I've often spoken of my love of healing classes or builds, but I haven't been doing a ton of it lately for various reasons. However, on a recent whim, I started devoting points to the Necromancer Deck, a Lumie healing build (AR/Blood). Over the weekend, thanks to the double points boost, I was able to complete the entire last section I needed for the Deck and got the outfit.
Since I have been participating in the Gilded Rage event and I don't have many healing pieces, I didn't think to implement this new healing build until last night after having gotten a little bored.

What a difference! Even though I wasn't grouped up with anyone, I was able to target folks who needed it (ctrl+tab) and use my leeches and barrier healz to good effect. The other awesome thing was that—able to heal myself—I died only once. And that was because Goldzilla moved after stunning me, and I got caught in the second AoE, as well. The fight was more exciting because I was constantly healing defensive targets and then switching to new ones, rather than focusing on Goldzilla's sloooowwlllyyyy diminishing health bar. I went through two battles with this build before calling it a night. Afterwards, I felt that I'd contributed more effectively to the fight, even though I saw no one specifically thank me or anything in chat.

What was the truth? I need more healing gear. It doesn't really matter to me, I felt better about myself, happy in a role I love filling.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Secret Monday: In the Shadowy Forest, Goldzilla Hunts You

Laeyn (Mogsy) and LoneStarBelle, Tossed by "Upheaval"
The Golden Weekend is over, but the Gilded Rage event goes on. Samsu Nasiru is no pushover, as the Knights of Mercy discovered tonight. Secret Mondays start a bit late in the evening, and much of the TSW crowd is winding down at that hour. So while the first Golden Golem we fought together went down without too much fuss, it took a little longer than the couple of fights I participated in before most of my KoMies had logged in. Then, relatively few people showed up for the fight in the Shadowy Forest, and the fight stretched on for almost an hour.

Luckily, it's mindless zerging from the Anime Well, unless you can get the rhythms of the two AoE spells Samsu casts. It was fun chatting and joking with my fellow Mercy Gamers: Tenten, Mogsy, Mr. Mogsy, Ocho, Pagan, Piddy, and a new (to me) friend, WickedTryx. If you're wondering what I wore for the fashion show, it wasn't flashy, just my new outfit for completing the Lumie Necromancer Deck.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Beyond the Veil Take 56: Solomon Island

Beyond the Veil, Take 56 is now available for download on Holosuite Media. The BtV crew does a whirlwind tour of the first main region, Solomon Island.
Also up, Feii’s Big Deck and Fee’s fashion weekly, withupdates on the “Get your art in the game” contest and the Twitterverse Experiment!
You can also subscribe through Holosuite Media's RSS feed or through iTunes (with older episodes here). Be sure to catch the live show every Thursday at about 7p.m. EDT (11p.m. UTC) on Holosuite Excess.

Illuminata: Visionary

In character as Samantha Hawthorn:

So I've been at this whole Bees-ness for a while now, following KG's orders to the letter—if not the spirit—and basically doing what I think is right despite her. After dealing with the mess in Egypt, I was kind of feeling unappreciated, to be honest. But KG's acting like I had any other choice but to stop the Heretic King. She says I'm an "Instigator." I really don't give a crap whether the Orochi Group got their nose bent outta shape. They were messing with things they clearly couldn't handle.

I just don't think the self-centered, what's-in-it-for-me corporate culture of the Illuminati is my cuppa tea. I don't fit in with the backstabbing politics going on at HQ. Katzu can have his Manhattan lunches, wrapped around KG's finger. I'd rather be out in the field doing actual work, helping actual people where I can. I have managed to help a few people—I hope—and even made some historical discoveries, like the Loyola Manuscript and the Darkness War. But . . .
After recovering the Orochi data for Senator Cicero, I guess I got a little leverage. I got this call, from the the Eye-in-the-Sky, Mr. "Pyramidion" himself:

"Where there is no vision, the people perish. I spy with my All-Seeing Eye, a New and Improved! woman of vision. It's a Small World After All. I love it when a plan comes together. There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow. Thank you for your support."
KG wasn't particularly thrilled about it, but she has made some concessions to my style. "Yes-people have their place," she said. "They make neat dogs. But sometimes the Company needs Instigators."

I may just fit in after all.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Brief Follow-up on "Barriers to Entry"

I came across this reddit thread while trying to figure out why my "Barriers to Entry" post from a week or so ago is suddenly a hot topic again. The reddit thread is a few months old, but more clearly expounds on the reasons that it is hard to make a gold profit from the Trading Post in Guild Wars 2.

TL;DR: In an economy with perfectly distributed information on prices, no barriers of entry and exit, and zero (or uniform) transaction costs, you will end up with "normal profits" (i.e., no one will get rich but no one will lose their shirt, either.)
Most of the profit in the real world (and certain in-game economies) result from market "stickiness" and imperfect knowledge of prices. For instance, "arbitrage" which I mentioned in my previous post, is the profit that can be made from the difference in price of the same goods in different markets. For example, the difference in price of pork bellies on the Chicago commodities exchange, versus the New York commodities exchange. In the modern global economy and Internet, this sort of arbitrage is harder (but not impossible) to accomplish.

In WoW, the segregation of the Horde and Alliance Auction Houses made arbitrage very easy to take advantage of with a little coordination of friends through the neutral AH. I've been away from WoW long enough that I am ignorant of whether those exchanges have been integrated or not, but I know other games, like Rift, SWTOR, TSW, and GW2, all have common Player Exchanges, some across servers as well, so the possibility of such arbitrage is reduced or eliminated.
One big Shovel
Mike Nelson, University of Utah.
Factors of Production
Another cause of "excess" profit in the real world is the immobility of the "factors of production." For example, the machinery required for modern mining is far beyond affordability at any individual level. This combined with other barriers like mining rights, means I cannot simply go out and start mining for copper or iron, even if I had the knowledge required to recognize the ores. Most MMOs limit the number of gathering or crafting knowledge and skills a single character can possess, thereby immobilizing the factors of production somewhat and increasing the potential for profit; especially if the player can corner the market for the item in question.

In GW2, by contrast, all I need to gather materials is to purchase the appropriate tool to do the gathering. There is no barrier to obtaining the items I need to craft, or to sell those items at the Trading Post. The conditions of the GW2 Trading Post are such that I know the price everyone is selling or buying for, and there is no barrier to posting that is not there for everyone else (e.g., the deposit). Now, because the TP disallows posting at prices below what vendor would buy items for, there is always a minimum price. Now,  it is possible to take loss versus that vendor price, when you factor in the TP transaction fee. But since there was virtually no cost to obtain the goods in the first place (only the the cost of the pick, or sickle, etc.), this loss is an opportunity cost that the player is either ignorant of or willing to accept for convenience.
Heh, So Much for "Brief"
Psychochild commented on my other post that this perfect competition isn't "fun," at least not for those that are inclined to to play off market inequalities and thereby make gobs of in-game currency. I can only say this game is not for them. We may as well complain that the spaceship combat of GW2 is somewhat lacking. It is simply not that sort of game.

Something that we haven't discussed is how this market of almost pure competition is somewhat immune to the inflationary pressures introduced by the Real Money Transactions of the Gem Store. But that would be a whole 'nother post.