Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

Yadda, yadda.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Yep


Tuesday, December 02, 2014

GPU upgrade time: XFX Double Dissipation R9-290X-EDFD Radeon R9 290X

It was 2009 when I last upgraded my computers GPU (aka video card) to an EVGA GTX 260.  That little baby has served me for over five years and is still ticking away without problem.  However, it was becoming extremely noticeable in games like Guild Wars 2 and Bioshock Infinite that I was playing on outdated hardware.  Even though I had more ram and a SSD speeding things up the message was all but clear as my machine continued to come to a crawl during intensive graphical encounters.

So I waited all Black Friday and no great deals surfaced (at least ones I could get to before they sold out).  I checked all weekend.  I checked all of Cyber Monday.  Nothing.  Then the day after, Giving Tuesday as it is apparently called, an R9 290X surfaced for $299 after rebate via NewEgg.  Not as great as the $249 R9 290X deals I missed on Black Friday, but good enough for me to pull the trigger.

Proud new owner of this:


Friday, November 28, 2014

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens Official Teaser Trailer #1



Hell to the yeah.

Black Friday Gaming Deals

Its that fateful day of the year where our wallets scream in terror: Black Friday.

The fall Steam sale is already in full swing.  Check it out here.  General Steam sale reminders:
1. Don't buy a game unless its on the daily sale.
2. On the last day of the sale buy any game you wanted that was not on the daily deal.
3. Buy early as sometimes the number of copies of a game on daily sale are limited!
4. You can use http://isthereanydeal.com/ to see if a game is on sale cheaper somewhere else with a copy that will activate on Steam.

Another great place for Black Friday game deals is Amazon, albeit not as organized as one would like.  The first place to start is on the limited-time (aka lightning) deals page here.  You can set the category at the right hand side to PC & Video Games or Toys & Games (for board games).  Note: these things sell out fast, sometimes within a matter of seconds.  Keep an eye on the sales coming up in the future so you know when to be there to try and snag a copy.  If you see "Join Waitlist" that means it was gobbled up, but if a clicker does not check out with the sales price the copy will go back in the pool.

For board/card gaming it is best to keep an eagle eye on Board Game Geek's Hot Deals forum.  Users post deals all day long to this forum.  On Black Friday it can move quick so keep an eye posted.  Keep in mind for board gaming, shipping costs will often kill any great deals.  Look for sites that have free shipping on orders of a certain size like Cool Stuff Inc that has free shipping for orders over $100.

For anyone venturing into the real world; may you go bravely and return safely.  Also don't punch any kids...


...unless its for the last one on the shelf.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Be Thankful

Have a great day everyone and be thankful.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Why am I playing Archeage?

The question dawned on me last night: why am I playing Archeage?  I wasn't playing Archeage at the time.  I was playing Guild Wars 2 and rolling through the beginner Sylvari area as a level 59 Necromancer and I was having more fun than at any moment in 35 levels of Archeage.  I dinged 60 in short order, completed some more hearts (Guild Wars 2's version of quests), and tagged along with a few players running completing dynamic events.

Like Guild Wars 2 (GW2), I got into Archeage for the promise of the player contested end game.  In GW2 it was the end game World vs World vs World (affectionately known as WuvWuv).  In Archeage it is the end game promise of open sea pirating, castle sieges, home ownership, and exceptional breast physics.  The journey to get to these end game states was not going to weigh on me.  I am an MMO veteran since the days of MUDs.  Grinding is an accepted activity.  There is not game without pain first.

The actual truth of the matter is: I am an MMO veteran.  I'm sick of the grind.  I'm tired of chasing the plus one shiny.  Here is the heart of Archeage's problem.  There is literally not a game while leveling.  The questing and leveling is generic.  Quest givers are almost always situated within a split second walk of the end target.  There is no encouragement to explore off the beaten path.  In contrast, GW2 rewards me for every single thing I do.  GW2 guides players to explore everywhere and do everything and now with their megaserver technology there is always other people to play with.

Archeage questing and leveling is quintessential grind.  It serves no purpose.  I am not "learning the game" as so often is used as a defense for the leveling grind.  I don't feel like I am building towards anything.  I've been using the same four or so attacks since I first started the game.  There is no incentive for me to change up how I attack the content.  Target, 1, 2, 3, 4.  Repeat until dead.  It is mind-numbing.

All of this boredom is occurring while I read about rifts, and open sea pirates, and castles getting claimed and all of the things that I don't get to do because I'm locked into immortal grinding hell with the next exclamation point.  Compare to Guild Wars 2; at any time I am a couple clicks away from a world boss or WvWvW match or a random walk away from engaging content.  Everything, again, rewards the player in GW2.  I really don't have any reason to want to skip to level 80.  I am actually "learning the game" as I level.  Archeage, as a freemium game, really needs an option to pay up to get to the end game instantly.  I have (had?) enough interest to pay up once and get to a point where I could start what interested me in the game: housing, pirating, breasts.

The irony of all this is that Archeage has huge issues with a burgeoning playerbase seeking more land, more boats, more everything that is not the leveling grind.  All of the questing areas could just as easily be turned into housing areas and land would hopefully open to the masses.  Give players the ability to put quest givers in their home.  There are so many other ways for Archeage to present itself so that all of the cool things that it offers are part of the game.

Why am I playing Archeage? I really don't know.  It's fun from the perspective of promise but the actual journey is one I am thinking I'd rather not take.  There are other games, like Guild Wars 2, which does the "free 2 play" moniker better justice by asking for my money up front and giving me a good experience on the back end.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Initial Impressions: Archeage

Whoa. Where did Archeage come from and why did I not know about it? It is has so many things I've wanted from an MMO. Housing? Check and its non-instanced. Territory control? Check. Open world PvP? Check. Boats? Check. Pirates? Check. Beautifully rendered breasts? Discount double check.

I've had a couple weeks now to play around with Archeage and I've determined two things: I'm going to like this game and I'm going to hate this game. It is that sort of love/hate relationship one has with their spouse. On one hand you love the idea of them, but on the other hand there are some details and quirks that are going to drive you crazy which in an odd roundabout way are what seal the deal.

The first item to be noticed is the ! and ?. I am still surprised to this day by this staple that seems to have been set by the behemoth World of Warcraft. Yet, it is intimately familiar to me at this point in my gaming life and I fell right into the rhythm of hopping from quest hub to quest hub. The quest design is basic: go here and kill X rats. In fact, Archeage’s base quests make any quest in the original World of Warcraft look like a masterpiece in comparison. Archeage quests are serviceable, but are uninspired. They serve best as a guide from area to area and as a medium to introduce some game mechanics. Past that the quests are painfully bland. Fortunately I’ve yet to find a quest that takes more than a matter of minutes to clear.

While doing quests it does not take long for a player to run face first into the labor point system of Archeage. Again, the love/hate relationship becomes apparent. In simplest terms the labor point system is a tertiary “mana pool” which allows players to complete actions. At first it seems like the system is limited to crafting and gathering as both require the use of labor points. However, it doesn’t take long to realize that labor points are a means for Archeage to artificially slow down players; specifically those not paying to play.

For a non-subscriber labor points are only regained while actively online. For subscribers, called patrons, labor points refresh while offline as well. Labor points are used for gathering, crafting, and most unfortunately for basic loot acquisition. Enemies drop coin purses which require labor points to open. As a non-subscriber I have hundreds of unopened coin purses. Labor points are a constant reminder that I’m not paying to play the game and are a limiting factor at every turn.

Yet, with all the negatives of the labor point system it is still conceptually brilliant. In fact, I fully applaud the system in regards to crafting. It makes gathering and crafting into a community project. No single player has the labor points to drive an entire industry. Time and number of participants is as important as actual components. Losses incurred on the open seas or in defeat can have actual weight. At a high level I cannot yet verify how the system plays out, but at face value it is promising and something I’d like to see developed further in the MMO sphere.

Another feature that new players run into fairly quickly is the housing system of Archeage. Throughout the world there are plots where players can place houses and gardens. An experienced MMO player will quickly realize these areas for what they are but I suspect newer players to MMO could wander through them without a clue in the world that what they are seeing is completely player driven. I don’t have many details on how the housing system works, but I do know it’s one of my goals playing. From chat channel spam about plots being sold to online arguments about hackers stealing plots it is evident that housing is serious business in Archeage.

Speaking of details; that is one of Archeage’s biggest weaknesses. The game provides the little in explanation in either pop ups or in game feedback systems. Yes, the basics are explained, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clicked something which cost me precious labor points which had I known would cost me labor points I’d never have clicked on.

There are other things that don’t make much sense. The Auction House is poorly explained and clearly subject to the abuse of bots that can outbid at the last moments of every auction. There are vendors for everything which makes me wonder how weakened the end game economy is in regards to player production. If everything I need can be purchased via a vendor and then grown in my own garden or a public garden somewhere then why would I ever look to the economy to provide me these items.

I’ll be honest that there is A LOT for me to learn about the game. I haven’t even touched PvP. My experience of boating is limited to a single quest. I don’t know why my mount has to gain experience. I see folks rolling around in tractors and at a level I know they are performing trade runs of some sort. I see flashes in the chat log that areas are going to war. I see senior artisans proclaiming their 45,000+ crafting skill level and looking for work. I watch Youtube videos of epic open seas warfare between pirates and non-pirates. I hear there are castle sieges and I see LFG broadcasts for folks going to war. I think I’m part of a certain faction but that’s not really clearly explained during character creation. I have randomly seen “reds” in towns I’ve been to which has resulted in a flood of whooping and hollering.

There appears to be a lot of things I will like in Archeage. I just need to get through the leveling and gearing up and determine how much I can enjoy as a free 2 play member of Archeage society. If I am driven to subscription in order to capitalize on many of the features I want to enjoy then the deal is likely broken. If through my moderate play time I can remain free 2 play then I am likely to stick around and drop a few dollars here and there on transactions.












Sunday, August 31, 2014

Long time, no post


Good question.  What do I do here?  It certainly isn't anything to do with posting bout playing video games anymore.  Of course I haven't played much of any video game lately.  My time in Guild Wars 2 is just flipping items on the trading post to amass gold I will never spend.  My Solforge time is just for the daily rewards.  I've given up playing Solforge due to the rate at which cards are released and the inability to efficiently collect them to keep pace with the trending deck archtypes.  Ditto that sentiment for Hearthstone.

So what would you say I do here?  I'd like to know if anyone is still awake out there in blogger land.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Guild Wars 2: Trait Guide by Level and Zone

With the recent changes to Guild Wars 2 the process to acquire traits changed from a model of buying skill books at certain levels to gathering the traits from the world via various means.  The traits are available still from a vendor but they cost gold and skill points; both of which are sparse for the average player in Guild Wars 2.  Fortunately a reddit poster has put together an excellent guide for the traits broken down by zone and level.

The text is inserted after the jump:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Guild Wars 2 MEGASERVER Impressions

The Guild Wars 2 April 2014 feature pack (aka patch aka update aka the "new" shiny) hit clients this week and along with it Arena Net unleashed the MEGASERVER (yes; you have to type it in all caps because it contains the word MEGA).  Now, the technology has not enveloped all zones at this time, but a few zones got the early MEGASERVER treatment.  I was able to venture into the MEGA version of Brisban Wildlands and experience the technology first hand.  Here are my impressions.

"WTF!? someone just helped me back up"  The statement was odd for me to make in /map chat.  I had spent a lot of time in the Brisban Wildlands as of late eating dirt and it was fairly odd to have another player present to help me back up this time.  There simply wasn't supposed to be more than a few players in this zone at any given time and there certainly wasn't supposed to be any working on the event the same event at the same time.  Let alone was there supposed to be one there to save my warrior from a tough tangle with a veteran.

In fact, Brisban Wildlands was hopping.  It was a happening place, if such a thing means something.  I was absolutely in awe of the number of players moving through the zone and elated at the pace of events occurring.  My map was full of orange circles and rapidly depleting orange bars appeared in my notification area.

What kind of bizarro world was I in?  This wasn't Queensland!  This wasn't a living event zone!  This was the boring and forgotten Brisban Wildlands!  There shouldn't be anything more than those one or two newbie Asura players that don't know any better!  Truth be told I was learning very quickly that the MEGASERVER technology was at work ensuring my lonely adventuring was no more.

Color me impressed with the MEGASERVER.  It was my most anticipated feature with the patch (unlike the majority that were hyped on the wardrobe system which has turned into a complete mess post-patch) and it has lived up to my expectations.  It is a truly marvelous change for the game and Arena Net should make sure 100% of their effort is placed behind rolling this out to every zone in the game.  I can't help but believe there are players leaving every day because they get sick of boring game play in empty zones.  Dynamic events sell Guild Wars 2 and with zones full of people those events are almost always happening.

In conclusion, the MEGASERVER is MEGA awesome.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Guild Wars 2 MEGA MEGA MEGA MEGA SERVER

THIS SUNDAY ONLY.  MONSTER MONSTER MONSTER TR... OOPS I MEAN... MEGA MEGA MEGA SERVER!

If this was posted on a April 1st I would have suspected shenanigans, but as it is now April the second and impossible for me to be tricked any longer I must declare that the Guild Wars 2 Megaserver is a real thing.  Traditional MMO servers are gone and in their place is one super megaserver that will host all users via various instances of each zone.  World vs World vs World will still be separated along old server assignments.  This is an exciting change for Guild Wars 2.

First it is worth noting that this is NOT equivalent to EVE Online's single universe.  In EVE there is only one copy of each "zone".  In Guild Wars 2 (GW2) the world size is limited so there will be copies of each zone which will be referred to as instances.  It would be crazy to even think about all GW2 players being stuck in the same tiny maps.

The biggest benefit to this systems is that lower popularity zones will now be more populated.  As I've recently returned to Guild Wars 2 after a hiatus from video gaming in general (and this blog if you've noticed my lack of 2014 activity) I immediately noticed how few folks were in the starting and mid-level zones.  Aside from the "champ trains" rolling over Queensland I was pretty much flying solo on my warrior and necromancer on the dynamic events.  That certainly doesn't feel massive or multiplayer.

The apparent downside is trying to get grouped correctly with your friends and guild mates, but Arena Net seems to have some plans to avoid this problem.  Players will be able to join parties and then get placed in the same instance of a zone as their fellow party members.  The overall system will aggregate data on players such as language preference, playing habits with guild members of friends, and every time a zone is entered those variables will be weighed to hopefully place the player in the most logical instance.  For a solo player like myself this won't really matter other than the fact I may actually see a friendly face and get to complete some of the harder events in the less visited zones.

There is a great chart from Arena Net's testing of the system showing the increase in player activity per map instance (yes that is +225% for each map instance on average):
MetricChange
Average population per map copy+225%
Player goes to the same map as his or her party+25%
Average population from the same party as the player on joined map+36%
Average population from the same guild as the player on joined map+5%
Average population from the same home world as the player on joined map+6%
Average population speaking the same language as the player on joined map+41%

Tagging along with that this addresses one of my biggest heartaches with Guild Wars 2 and it's dynamic events system.  So much of my playing time was spent in the same zone because that is where the players were and that is where the events were being chained together.  It was a terribly boring existence in almost any other zone.  Now at least there is hope that every zone will be packed with players as I suspect worldwide there will always be a good number of folks looking to be in every zone of the game.  It will be very cool to experience a new trip to level 80 on my new characters than what I experienced last time I leveled to 80 by literally never moving outside of Kessex Hills and Harathi Highlands.

The most amazing part about this change is that it is not the only big change happening for Guild Wars 2 this month.  There are several big system changes slated for the April 15th patch.  It is indeed an exciting time to be playing Guild Wars 2 (though I still maintain the combat is crap... but I can still have fun with it).

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Viewed: Free 2 Play

Long time, no post.  Yes, this is my first post of 2014.

Free to Play, Valve's documentary trailing the stories of various competitors from DOTA2's first global tournament dubbed "The International", is now available for viewing on Steam.  I had a chance to watch it this weekend and wanted to share some thoughts.

From outside view one might mistake this as just advertainment for DOTA2, but just a few minutes into the film it is very apparent that this is much more a human interest story about eSports and the athletes that pursue them than it is anything about DOTA2.  In fact, you would be hard pressed to find anything of interest from the actual game of DOTA2.

With the actual game out of the way we are left with a very well shot and edited  documentary that follows several of the players through the trials and tribulations of competing in the first million+ dollar tournament.  True to the name of the tournament, players from different countries are followed.

The film does an excellent job of giving watchers a glimpse not only into the lives of professional gamers, but also the culture surrounding those players in their home countries.  It is every interesting to see how the gaming culture is perceived in Asian countries vs countries in the west.  However, even with dramatically different cultural movements in regards to eSport gaming there was a consistent trend of doubting family members, specifically parents.  Yes, even in the gaming obsessed China the athletes mothers and fathers were just as disappointed in their children's investment into professional gaming at the cost of traditional education as the parents from the USA.

The core message of the film seems to be sacrifice.  The sacrifices are well documented throughout the film and whether its a lost girlfriend, a missed semester of school, or hard thoughts of a father no longer with a son they all hit home with the viewer.  These are real people pursuing a dream and I think most people can identify with that rare opportunity so few of use get to take that we can't help but cheer on those being followed in the film.

Of course it all comes crashing down for most of the competitors.  Most teams left The International with nothing more than expensive bills for plane tickets, hotels, and meals.  Unlike traditional sports there is no salary being earned by most eSport athletes.  If the team doesn't win, they don't get paid.  This adds up to interesting and heartwarming realizations from the participants after the tournament has come and gone.  There is in fact more to life than just games.

I can't recommend this documentary enough to gamers and nongamers alike.

Embedded copy below:


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