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.