On Thankless Jobs

Ok, so honestly I wanted to make the title of this post “Thankless Jobs, not with Mike Rowe”. Nobody said I was funny, but I amuse myself.

So over the last week I’ve been trying to post a bit more as part of the Blaugust initiative thing that my friend Belghast started up. I find daily blogging challenging because it is really, really hard to come up with a topic every day. Thankfully Bel is a swell guy and put up a list of topics people could use as talking points. So today I’ll be talking about what I feel is one of the more thankless jobs in gaming, at least from my personal experience.

The Enchanter

Now, this isn’t an entirely thankless job in the sense that people say “thank you” for enchanting their gear but I don’t feel like people really know what it means to be the person in charge of handling your entire raids enchantments. A little bit of backstory before I jump in this.

From time immemorial, otherwise known as for a long time, my main character was not in fact an enchanter. He started off as mining/engineering. It wasn’t particularly self sustaining. I just liked making the gadgets, and worked very hard to build the alliance side motorcycle mount. I still have engineering as one of my professions, because there is still plenty of stuff I want to make.

Eventually a point came in my raiding career that we found our raid without an enchanter. I honestly don’t know why we lost our enchanter but we did and they asked if someone could step in and take the role over and me being the guy I am volunteered. Keep in mind this was Cataclysm raiding, and I had to gofrom 0 enchanting to raid enchanting super fast. Thankfully my guild is awesome and I got a lot of help with materials and gold so that I could grind up to raid level enchanting. That’s still a lot of work.

The tricky part is that enchanting things takes mats, lots of them, and raiding level enchants specifically required epic level items to be turned in to mats. This meant constantly running heroics and rolling DE on everything, soloing and hoping for blues or buying materials. Our raid at least had a policy that any gear that no one could use would go to me to disenchant and then those crystals would go in to the guild bank until they were needed. In writing that doesn’t seem to bad, but in reality enchanting became my second job. Keeping in mind I work full time, then had to go home and farm when sometimes I just didn’t want to.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like enchanting. I still have it and I keep it up to date as best as I can without raiding. I might not have the top of the line enchants now, but I do what I can. That way if anyone ever asks in guild for an enchanter I can say I am and be of some use. I don’t farm heroics anymore, or raids. In fact I’ve only done LFR a handful of times, and I refuse to pug dungeons.

So the moral here is thank your enchanter, they do a lot more work than you might think.

Hearthstone

On a bit of a sidenote, I’m still enjoying Hearthstone. I’ve started playing almost every evening. This week saw the 3rd wing of naxxramas unlock which I promptly worked my way through last night. Did a little bit of ranked play afterwords and ended up hitting rank 19 which I believe is my personal best.

On Warlords

So here’s the thing, I pre-ordered the Warlords of Draenor expansion yesterday. I know, I’m weak. I have no willpower. Hal Jordan I am not. There has been some discussion related to what people call an “item squish” that is going to reduce stats to be more reasonable (no more 1 million hit points you silly tanks you). But that discussion is for another day. Mainly one where I have time to fully research it and talk knowledgeably about it. This was more just me making a confession.

So yesterday my buddy Kodra (from the Aggrochat podcast) posted what he considered a significant grouping experience, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I’ve told this story to people on voice chat a few times, and it always gets a good chuckle. So I figure I can share it here as it’s a short story, and I need something to talk about.

Keep in mind, at the time World of Warcraft had only been out for maybe a couple years and at this point I had no raiding experience what-so-ever. Most of my grouping experience came from doing the end game content. Which at the time was Scholomance. I knew my role, go pew-pew and tank the floor. I was good at it. Especially tanking the floor. But I also had some skill in crowd control, which sadly has become less useful as the game has progressed.

At the time my college friends and I were in our own little guild, not part of the larger guild that most of us ended up in. They were part of a raiding group consisting of older people who generally only could play in the evenings. You know, adults with real jobs. They had formed a group of people that did the raiding content, and did it well. I heard my friends talking about it at school and eventually I started doing some group content with a few of those people. One of which turned out to be my future buddy Belghast (he wasn’t playing as Belghast back then so I didn’t know).

At some point or another they needed an extra dps to fill in for a night when they were running Zul’Gurub and they asked me to come along. This was back in the day when that was still a 40 man raid, not an entirely soloable 5 man dungeon. I don’t remember the entire run, other than things were going pretty smoothly up until the point I almost wiped the raid. We were in the middle of some trash pull and I was clicking buttons as I do when I accidentally cast a portal to Stormwind. Some people, not paying attention clicked on said portal and were whisked away right out of the fight. Back then all the portal spells were separate in the spell book, and I had them on my hotbar so I could get around without having to look them up.

So I learned a very valuable lesson that day. Don’t have portal or teleport on your hotbar. EVER.

I also didn’t get to raid for awhile. But they eventually let me come back. A while later Bel bribed me in to joining his guild which had a lot of those people and I started doing raid content with them. I don’t raid much anymore, but that one experience is up there in my all time favorites, even if all the details on it aren’t clear. Namely, I’m only fairly sure we were in combat when that happened, it might have just been a funny accident outside of combat.

On Hearthstone

So if you follow me on twitter you’ll have noticed the last few days I’ve mentioned hearthstone quite a few times. This is because I’ve been playing it quite a bit more the last week or two. Blizzard recently launched the “Curse of Naxxramas” expansion that gives players 3 NPC boss battles per week for around 5 weeks. Each week 3 bosses unlock, and defeating each of them gives you a new pair of minion cards. Defeating all 3 unlocks a boss minion, challenge modes and the heroic versions of the bosses.

Out of all the card games I’ve played, which granted is not extensive in size, I feel like I like Hearthstone the best. At least at the moment. Eventually HEX will release their game with the CO-OP dungeons and avatars that you can get gear for. But until then I like Hearthstone better. It’s free to play, which is always a bonus, and any additional decks can be purchased for gold earned by playing the game. Even paying cash the cost of packs of 5 cards is not terrible. I think it is $2 per pack of 5, but you can get the same pack for 100 gold. It is definitely easier to just pay real money, but if you’re good enough it is entirely possible to fund all your packs via gold.

Like any card game the majority of the time will be spent playing against other players, which is something I normally avoid due to a dislike of PVP. That stems a lot from PVP chat which I’ve never found pleasant. In Hearthstone there is no player v player chat other than a select list of emotes. Since I don’t have to worry about someone talking trash or saying insulting things I find it a bit funner to do. Plus the matches tend to go fairly quickly. I’ve rarely had a match last over 10 minutes. I might not win all the time but it’s still fun. And with the release of additional content (for $20) there is more single player content to do.

Now there is one thing I think could be improved which is that I wish the chat feature was not garbage. I’m not sure why they couldn’t allow me to have a regular chat window to talk to my friends while I play. I understand this might be because this is a tablet/mobile friendly game but I don’t feel it is to much work to detect the device being used and then set which chat feature is used.

That being said, I enjoy playing the game and have dropped money on card packs so that I could find a play style that suits me.

On Sniper Elite 3

So over the weekend I finished up Sniper Elite 3 on the PS4, and I have to say I enjoyed this game. It isn’t a long game, at least not for me. I’m used to playing RPG style games that take 40+ hours to complete, and I think my total campaign time for my playthrough was around 17 hours. According to How Long To Beat website, it is possible to burn through the story in 6 hours. I can see that happening if you know what you’re doing and you skip all the optional stuff.

Before I picked this up I played through Sniper Elite v2 on the PC and enjoyed it, so when this game was released I decided to pick it up. Comparatively speaking the games are pretty close to each other mechanics wise, and the graphics seem to only be slightly improved over the previous version. Not that the graphics are bad in either game, and 3 does look better, it just seems to me like they are pretty close graphically. The controls are the same as far as I can tell, I played Sniper Elite 2 with an XBox controller and Sniper Elite 3 with the PS4, but the layouts are close enough that it wasn’t confusing.

If you know nothing of the series, it is a 3rd person, over the shoulder stealth game. Well, you should stealth. You don’t get much ammo for anything other than your sniper rifle so it’s in your best interest to, you know, snipe. The feature that (as far as I know) is unique to this game is the x-ray kill cam. Most of the time when you snipe a target you are treated to a short cinematic of the bullet destroying your targets insides. For me this involved a lot of faces exploding, cause headshots. On most difficulty settings you have the option to have a form of “assisted aiming” that lets you see where your bullet will hit when you use the breathing technique button to steady your aim. There are setting to take this off, but I don’t think I’m that good of a shot.

Before every mission you can choose your weapons and items that you will start with, called your Loadout, of which you can save four different combinations. To be honest having more than one seemed a bit pointless, but might be more useful in multiplayer mode. I pretty much stuck to the same one the entire game, swapping out rifles as they were unlocked. You have three main weapons, sniper rifle, assault rifle, and pistol along with medpacks, grenades and a couple types of mines. I think throughout the game I used only 4 of the items, and I used my silenced pistol almost as much as my rifle.

The game is pretty challenging in that you can’t just fire a gun repeatedly without the guards coming at you full force. If you fire you have to move, and fire and move. The only way around this is the times when there is a loud enough noise that it will cover up your shots. If you find one with a good vantage point you can clear a good area of guards before you have to move. Since these masking sounds are not guaranteed you have to be extra careful. This usually led me to sneaking around using melee stealth kills or my silenced pistol. This becomes increasingly difficult when you start getting guys in groups.

Once you finish the campaign there is some replayability. Finding collectibles, doing challenge modes and multiplayer if you are a PS+ subscriber. I tried the challenge mode last night, but I don’t plan to play multiplayer at all, and I don’t think I’ll play through a second time. It’s not because it isn’t a good game, I just don’t feel like there is enough sandbox to play through a second time.

I feel like I had more to talk about here, but I got interrupted with work meetings so I’ve lost my train of thought. So I’m going to leave off with a video of me playing the “Hunt For the Grey Wolf” aka “Kill Hitler” DLC.

On Divinity

Well today is the start of August, or as some bloggers I follow are calling it Blaugust. I’m not sure where it came from, but the idea is to try and post every day of the month in August. Now I’ve been slacking a lot since the summer started, due to work and other factors, so I don’t know if I’ll necessarily post everyday, but I’ll try to do a better job at keeping the blog updated.

Lately I have been playing Divinity Original Sin CO-OP with a friend of mine that I’ve known for at least the better part of a decade. Both of us are pretty big on gaming, though this is the first time we’ve really done a co-op game together. We both had pre-ordered Divinity and thought it would be good to play with someone else. I simply join my friends game and she takes care of all the game saving and hosting duties. Which gives me my first point of topic. I wish both players could save the game, not just the host. I’m not sure how much of an issue it would be for the game to merge save states, and I can understand why it isn’t available. I just would like to be able to handle inventory tasks and crafting while we’re not playing together.

Other than that I think I love every aspect of the game (almost). The sound track is excellent, the voice acting has been great so far, and the story is interesting and keeps you moving. One of my favorite aspects of the game is how elemental damage and different damage types affect different enemies. As a melee character I always try to have a crushing weapon and a slashing weapon on hand to handle every situation.

Our party make up right now consists of two casters and two melee characters. I handle both melee and my friend handles both casters. Between her two casters we have all four elemental type spells, which you can often use in conjunction with the environment. One of my favorite fights in the game came at the end of the first area where you are fighting an undead boss and several minions. The boss was standing in a pool of water which my friend cast a frost spell at and made it in to a slick ice patch. When the boss attempted to move the next turn he slipped on the ice and fell, taking him out of the fight for three turns.

I could probably go on and on about what I love about this game (seriously have fun each time we play), but there are a couple issues I have with it. The biggest issue I have is the camera. There isn’t much ability to move the camera around to get a better angle on what you’re doing. If you’re in an enclosed space, such as a bedroom, and you are looking for a specific thing it is very difficult if that thing is on a wall that you can’t turn the camera to see.

The other issue I have is minor, and that is the crafting system. It seems overly complicated to learn how to craft items, which usually only involves putting two items together to make a new item. The problem is this either requires you to spend a lot of time doing trial and error, or doing a google search to see what other people have discovered. I wish there was a crafting interface where you could at least have a recipe list to craft from, even if you had to discover crafting books to learn them.

That all being said, I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys turn based strategy games.

I wish I had some screenshots to post on here, but they are all on my home computer. I’ll try to remember to upload them to my Anook gallery later tonight when I get home.

On Destiny

So, I’ve been a slacker and it’s been nearly a month since my last post. What can I say, things happened. I’ve been busy at work, and have been spending a good portion of my lunch breaks drawing which doesn’t leave me time at work to post. I could still post after work, but I’ve been doing kickboxing almost every day after work which tends to leave me a bit drained.

Moving on though, this past weekend saw two beta tests come up. The Destiny beta for those that had pre-ordered the game, or knew someone who had an extra code (like I did). The other beta was the first closed beta weekend for ArcheAge, a game I’ve talked about a few times. Today I’ll be talking about the Destiny beta a bit.

First off, I think Destiny has the potential to be a great game, maybe even a system seller. The graphics are amazing, and the soundtrack and voice over work was excellent. I did have a few issues with the game, and they are things I’m not sure are just due to the fact that this was a beta, or if this is how the game is.

I guess if you haven’t heard of Destiny you might not give two cents about what I’m saying so I’ll explain what I know. The game was produced by Bungie (of Halo fame) and is being marketed as an FPS MMORPG. I’m not super sure about the RPG part, as the beta doesn’t let you get very far, but the elements are there. Class selection, talent trees, gear and questing. Most of the questing only occurs when you opt to go to the open world exploration of the map, not the story missions. Non story missions are found by exploring the map looking for green lit beacons. These are your typical MMO style quests that give you some minor objective like retrieving some data or killing enemies. The story missions usually set you on a set path and ends in a boss fight.

There is a social hub called “The Tower” where you can go between missions to do social stuff and talk to faction vendors and upgrade your ship. The main difference between the two is that in the social area you are in third person perspective versus the first person you use 95% of the time when exploring.

The game offers three main classes. The Titan, which is your tank class and is there to absorb damage. The Hunter, which is your ranged dps with some melee dps. The final class is the Warlock which has some form of energy based “magic” attacks. These all have subclasses, and talent trees, but from playing the beta I didn’t get that far as the beta doesn’t let you progress past the level 5 story mission.

I have two big complaints about the game.

The first is a lack of extensive character customization. At least in the beta all you can customize appearance wise is your characters race, sex, and some facial features. You have your standard humans, elvish looking people and androids. You can’t name your character either. It is based on your PSN name, so whatever that is is what you will be displaying to people. Which makes me want to have a secondary PSN named YouKnowNothingJonSnow. I’m a private person so I don’t want my PSN being displayed publicly if I’m streaming.

The second complaint is essentially requiring the Playstation Plus subscription to do certain content. Playing in the beta this wasn’t really an issue, other than the one mission I couldn’t access because I don’t have a Playstation Plus membership. If I’m going to pay you $60 for your game don’t lock out dungeons until I pay a subscription.

While I haven’t decided if I want to pick the game up yet, the Playstation Plus semi-requirement is a big put off for me. I’ve been shying away from subscription based games lately and that is a big issue to hold off content that comes with the game. I don’t think they are required missions, and I may never do them, but that isn’t the point.

So I’m not entirely sold on the game, but it was fun to play. The controls were good, and I enjoyed the story. I might still pick it up, but I’m not sure yet.

On Summer Sales

So another summer has started up and with it have come the now annual Steam summer sales. I’ve heard a few people talking about how the offerings this year are kind of lackluster and that there haven’t been very many good games worth buying. I’d tend to agree with this at least in regards to the major publishers, but overall I think there have been some good buys. Heck I’ve made a few myself. More than I was really expecting too. Granted almost every game I bought was under $5 but the point is that there have been some things worth getting, at least for me.

A side effect of the various Steam sales has become that any game that I want on PC is usually just added to a wishlist and I wait to buy it until it is on sale. There are some games I’m fine with buying right away, but these are usually games that I’ve done a lot of research on and really want to play. As I get older I find it harder and harder to want to part ways with $60 for a new game. Especially when the content length of these games are getting shorter and shorter due to the amount of memory it takes just to have better textures and full voice-over work.

That is why I don’t mind picking up the cheap indie titles. Even when they’re not on sale they’re usually cheaper by comparison and there is a good chance the story will be better. That isn’t to say you might not find a dud. I picked a game up yesterday and tried playing it last night and even though I only spent $2 I’m not sure it was worth that. Normally I think the game goes for $20 and the game is certainly not worth that much.

There are also several charts going around trying to explain the “best” way to make purchasing decisions, but I don’t really subscribe to any of those. I just look at whatever is on sale and do a little bit of reading. If the game sounds good and it’s got enough of a discount I might pick it up.

I mean, it’s not like I can’t afford to waste $5 on a game.