Compy is Limping

Well things have been quiet as of late.   My gaming laptop, which is my primary work and play computer, bit the dust less than a week after my last post.  I was able to resurrect it only to have it die again.  We’ve now gone through that process three times.  It has not been pleasant.

Long story short, after running every diagnostic and repair known to humanity, I have concluded that my motherboard is dying, albeit slowly.  And quite frankly, I don’t have the cash on hand to replace this thing, particularly since it hasn’t hit the 3 year old mark yet.

So, color me initially very happy and now very unhappy with the Lenovo Y500 series.  I’m open to suggestions for the future, but for now, I have to limp this guy along until August on a wing and a prayer.

This has limited my ability to game, obviously, as a lot of evenings have been spent troubleshooting and fidgeting with software and hardware.

We do have a family desktop, which has mostly been subsumed by my wife’s day job and photography business.  But I elbowed out some space this week and loaded SWTOR and Shadowrun Chronicles up onto it, since that tends to be what I play with my son and brother most often.  But obviously, I don’t have access to it eveyr night.

I have downloaded Armored Warfare onto it and my laptop as well, since we are in the middle of the spring marathon there and it seems to be stable.  I seem to have had some sort of break through too.  Because things like this seem to happen once a night now.

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Heck, I even got a bonus in that match – someone calling me a hacker.  That checks all sorts of internet gaming bingo boxes doesn’t it?

Anyway, I have to admit that’s part of the reason its found its way into my regular gaming rotation.  I thought World of Warplanes might have been a fluke – the one game I was destined to be good at or something.  But it looks like I may have the chops to do well here too, and I’d like to see what that’s like.  Plus, the game hits all sorts of childhood nostalgia for a kid who grew up with nearly the entire collection of these:

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You know you had some of these too…

In any case, while my posting here has already slowed down, it may now slow even more.  We will see what happens in the next couple of months.

 

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All the Way To The Top

While Syp has been expanding his base of low level heroes during the incredible boosts that Marvel Heroes has showered us with in the last week, I went the opposite road. I have a passing familiarity with all the characters, but a real interest in playing only a handful of them. And I know one of those will be coming down the pipe later this year (War Machine), so I decided to take the three I have actually spent money to acquire and spend a lot of quality time with them.

With all the boosts that quality time resulted in me hitting the level cap last week – twice.

Rogue, who I bought because of her unique gameplay: her abilities come from stealing/borrowing them from others, which allows you to design some pretty unique and fun combos. I settled on a version of rogue using the combined powers of Pyro, Mandarin, Magneto, Iron Man, Gorgon, and Nova. Basically, she was a Ranged Energy build with some wicked passives that gave me a nearly limitless pool of Spirit and crazy boosts to damage. I literally floated through any area I pleased smashing and electrocuting things into oblivion. Anyone who did manage to get close got a taste of my Magik’s blade (my chosen Team Up hero). I rolled her from level 40 to 60. But I wasn’t content.

Level Up

No, I wanted a brawler as well. Someone who waded into the thick of it could take on all comers. That is clearly a Moon Knight agenda. So Moonie I started out with at level 30 from some previous adventures. And it took awhile. Melee is tougher than ranged to level, and some of Moon Knight’s abilities, true to his comics, rely on him getting trashed before he reaches his full potential. Not like, drunk, but like, punch-drunk. He is really a hero that you want taking damage, and it took awhile to get the rhythm of that and find a nice combination of abilities that made it work. It was pretty satisfying to just deliver a solid beat down, and it was so fun I did it for 30 straight levels. And then to cap it all off, his ultimate ability is sort of a Indiana-Jones-Pulls-A-Gun moment: After all those beatdowns and fist punching, you can click a button and have the Moon Copter drop a load of rockets and autocannon fire in an area for total devastation.

And now I have a pair of 60’s. I spent the rest of the weekend cleaning out the bank, making sure my newly crowned kings had a full suite of uniques, and then fondly packing them away.

I have two more characters on the docket that I really want to spend time with (Dr. Strange and Taskmaster), and two more I’m interested in after that (the newly buffed Scarlet Witch and Psylocke). Assuming all these other games don’t distract me – we are still on XP boosts for TOR and TERA both, and I need to spend a little time if I want to extend this whole level-cap attitude to other areas of my gaming universe!

NBI: Advice From Chandler

No, no, no. Not the one from that TV show.

Yes. The one that wrote all those detective novels.

Critics have been alternatively kind and critical of him over the years, but much of his writing advice is sound, and believe it or not, fits very well within the genre of blog writing. I wanted to share two of those tips with you.

The first is perhaps my favorite quote from a man who was eminently quotable, and is known colloquially as Chandler’s Law:

“When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.”

Now, of course, you are probably not writing fiction. Though some blog writers like Kirith Kodachi and Rowan are well known for their excellent fan fic, even for them, its not their bread and butter, not their regular post.

But Chandler’s Law is not actually about writing fiction. Its actually a tool for beating writer’s block. And the goal is to force the author to ruminate on what they have just written. That is the part of writing that tends to be hardest for people. We already know what we know, but taking the time to slow down and say it to someone else in a logical and coherent manner is tricky and sometimes time consuming.

By adding/throwing a wrench into the story like that, the story itself becomes unfamiliar territory to the writer. Now, even the guide has to stop and work his way through it.

And the same is true of blogging, because ultimately blogging is about ruminating on the games you are playing. Eleven million (no, wait, nine million) (nope, now like seven million) (I think) people play World of Warcraft. How many of them stopped to ask themselves why Tauren culture looks a lot like the culture of Native Americans? And of those who actually asked themselves the question, how many took the time to really answer it? And of those that really took some time to answer it, how many of them wrote about it and shared their opinion with the world?

If you are a blog writer, you are that person. That doesn’t have to be all you are – see the fiction writing examples above, or the highly biographical writing styles of the likes of Wilhelm or Syp. But everyone, whatever their penchant, does the rumination thing. Don’t believe me? Go look at Wilhelm’s tagline below the name of his blog. Go on, I’ll wait….

See? That is blog writing in a nutshell.

Don’t worry about whether or not its interesting. Don’t worry about how many people will read it. I learned a long time ago, if its good (technically or entertainment value) people will read it, no matter what the subject is.

And for that, I want to leave you with Chandler’s second piece of advice:

“Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.”

Just write it baby. And when you are done, read it. Force yourself to. Change whatever you want to change, hit the publish button, and move on.

Blogging is the long game. Longevity is success as much as hits and page counts are. It doesn’t have to be every morning, but throw up into your browser or word processor on a regular basis. Worry about quality later.

In fact, even if you don’t have the answer, sometimes the blog post can just be the question itself. Even that is enough, to ask the question out loud, even if you haven’t yet written the answer.

TL;DR: Ask the question, write an (not the) answer, rinse, repeat.

Good luck!

#blogging, #NBI, #2015

Blog, You Fools!

That’s how I feel every years, because every year the New Blogger Initiative sneaks up on me!

But this year will not be the like the rest!

If you want to blog, go sign up here:

We already have new blogs rolling! Go read them here:

Chaotic Pixels
Soultamer
Gaming Adventures

Initial advice to new bloggers:

1) Be utterly up front and in face about having a blog. Leave a comment on a current blog and say “Hey, loved your post, if you get a chance, I just started blogging here.” (and leave some linkage). Any forum you are a part of: make a link to your blog your signature.

2) Use Twitter. I am not a Twitter guy, but right now, everyone in the blogging world and their sister and their pet poodle have Twitter accounts. If you want to be part of the “in crowd” you’d better have an active Twitter account.

3) Nothing wrong with a 100 word blog post. In fact, sometimes its easier to read and reply to those. Nothing wrong with a 1000 word blog post, most of us appreciate a tasty meat sandwich of gaming thinkeration from time to time.

That’s it. Go blog. More from me later. Right now I’m off to read the new blogs….

#blogging, #NBI, #2015

A Few Random Thoughts on The Return To SWTOR

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~ Its the little things that I appreciate in the game. That big knife sticking in the torso of the defeated barbarian master belongs to me. Most games that animation would disappear on death, but not here. The adaptive armor that allows you to achieve almost any look for any character without sacrificing stats or gameplay advantage. Are you a Sith Inquisitor using dark side heals but want to look like Cade Skywalker, rocking the trench coat vibe? No problem. Elite Republic Commando but you can’t enough of Leia in that bikini? Done. Have particular or conversation choices in mind but you don’t like the companion affection or dark side/light side changes? There’s an app a crew skill for that. Want to know where your apartment is on Dromund Kass? Well, they actually coded the building into the landscape.

The one with the docking garage, just above the tail end of the speeder.
The one with the docking garage, just above the tail end of the speeder.

~ Its also the little things that are frustrating. My Agent has a blaster pistol in every cut scene (and uses it in more than one), but I can’t equip or use one at all in the game. My companions are interesting, but my use in them is limited because I have to trade them out based on my in game need. Doctor Lockin (pictured above) can only come out when I’m in a group. Vector Hyllis, a fascinating character, never travels with me at all because he is locked into two different DPS stances. The word was that early on, you could give companion’s “kits” that changed their available gear and skill loadouts. I really wish we still had that. I would love it if I could make 2V-R8 tank for me, while he complains that he is not programmed for disintegration (a la C3PO in Clone Wars). Speaking of which, the ship droids need to be fully fleshed out. We need customization and conversations options for them, if you ask me. Though I suppose that might cut into Bioware’s profits from selling HK clones at however many $$$ a pop. And those giant, beautiful worlds? Well the game gets you running from place to place so fast because of its slow leveling curve (downright abyssmal if you are F2P) that you end up missing all the cool little tidbits they programmed in, like this conversation I overheard in a seedier section of Coruscant (you may have to enlarge to read it):

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~ Some things Bioware has done have improved the game. The one that nearly made me weep with joy was the removal of people shooting each other to heal them. It was not only not canonical in any way, it was just plain stupid. Just think of all the friendly fire accidents from forgetting to change to the right cylinder. Shooting darts at someone still remains, but that I can sort of see. It was unloading your gatling cannon on a buddy to heal them that made me cringe. Also the credit drop rate is now reasonable rather than deeply stingy (I remember when paying 100 creds for a jukebox token was the pinnacle of luxury spending). The game has been nicely optimized (it runs nicely on my son’s computer, which does not have dedicated graphics). Strongholds are a nice touch, and they also gave a way to cut down on load screen hopping as you try to group up around the galaxy – you can always travel directly to the stronghold and from the stronghold you can (without expending a precious travel cooldown) head to the fleet, the city the stronghold is located in, or your previous location. It still takes a bit to get to a new place, but settling your character in for the night got a hell of a lot easier. And the decoration “hook” system is nice for those of us who want a nice looking home but stink at decorating (or just don’t have a lot of time to put into it).

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~ That system does take a while to learn though. I burned my free prefab and some Cartel Coins for stuff that I could have gotten for free if I had known a little more about what I was doing. Which brings me to some of the things that haven’t changed that are hilariously irritating. SWTOR is the king of awkward animations, with nobody even close to second place.

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~ That last one just sums it all up. My gun magically moves itself to its invisible back holster while my kolto droid is shooting snot colored healing dust in my companions face. And I didn’t even put up any from the conversations because…surprise(!), they still have fixed the bug they introduced in beta(!!) that disables the screenshot key when you are in dialogue mode (!!!). MMO gods help us Bioware, you are reaching Sony Daybreak levels of cluelessness.

Still, we are enjoying our return to the game. So long as I play the stories with a bit of camp and frivolity, they are bearable, almost like an MMO version of Galavant. The subscription seems to offer a turbo boost to leveling, which puts it just this side of glacial (two nights on Alderaan = half a level of 30). If you are playing every night, that’s probably not bad. But for those of us playing once or twice a week, I should finish up my main character sometime this summer, and my alt somewhere in 2016. Meanwhile I will start a new character in STO next month and it will probably be my fourth to cap, which will happen probably in 4-6 weeks on a similar play schedule.

And I will say that the player base seems to have bled off a lot of the undesirables, perhaps because of how harsh the F2P climate is. My son rescued a fellow player from a bad pull the other night on Coruscant and got a big thank you in general chat and a gift of 200,000 credits – maybe more, since that’s the escrow cap on his account! And my interactions with other players have been constant and pleasent. Helping hands and patient waits for pulls have been the norm since my return.

To that end, I’m seriously contemplating something I haven’t done with any MMORPG since December of 2011, when SWTOR launched: buy a six month subscription. While I subbed to TESO for seven months in total, I never had the courage to run a multi-month sub like I have done with WoT/WoWp and WarThunder. The game still has its flaws, but the ability to play with my son seems to have helped me hit the reset button on the game. And that has been the biggest surprise, so far, of 2015.

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#swtor, #mmo, #2015, #surprise

Once Upon…

I’ll just leave that title there and see who a) speaks Spanish and b) gets the joke(s).

Thanks to Rowan of I Have Touched The Sky, I have been nominated for the Liebster Award, which means that I have been given explicit permission by another blogger to bore you all by talking exclusively about myself. Thank you !

liebster

I jest, but I am grateful. We all enjoy sharing a bit of ourselves or we wouldn’t be doing this. But for me its a genuine treat. In my vocation, rarely do I get asked about me. Usually, its the other way around, and the rare question directed at me is a question about the nature of my community. So, while I detest chain letters and glurge, this one seems to have the proper context and fun attached to make it something more than it is.

I checked the OFFICIAL RULES to make sure I was doing this right, although there are apparently several variations, so it may not be quite the same as you would see in other places. But enough intro, here we go:

11 Random Facts (completely different from other random facts I’ve given you before):

1) If I could make a perfect day from all the places I’ve lived, it would look like this: Georgia Mornings, Florida Days, Carolina Afternoons, California Evenings, and Tennessee Nights.

2) I listen to Dubstep. Like, a lot. Currently I’m hooked on Feed Me’s new stuff. Is that weird for a thirty something? Probably. But as a drummer, I get caught up in the beats and rhythms pretty easily.

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3) I’ve written articles for this blog on five different computers: three laptops and two desktops.

4) I’m the only pastor I know that has a model of a Rifter sitting on his desk. Its a conversation starter. Or ender.

5) Dr. Pepper is my drink of choice.

6) I am a part time collector of rare old books. My most recent (and currently oldest) acquisition is from 1814.

7) I am a graduate and proud alumni of Oglethorpe University. Go Stormy Petrels!

8) I still have my warm up jacket from JV soccer. I’m not sure why other than it actually still fits and is warm, so I hate to pitch it.

9) I’m an excessively picky reader. I read only the authors I like and then only the books or series of theirs that I think are interesting. Despite that, I never seem to have a shortage of reading materials.

10) Before I started writing this blog post, I spend an hour counseling a Grammy-nominated artist on the loss of a close friend. Because in Nashville even the famous people put their pants on one leg at a time.

11) My dad was an engineer and my mom was a math teacher, so it was obvious from a young age that I was destined to do something as far away from numbers as possible.

And now, on to Part Two: Rowan’s Questions –

Why did you start blogging?

My comments on Wilhelm’s blog were getting to be too long-winded.

What is the origin of your blogging name?

Harbinger = bearer/herald. Zero = nothing. I bring you nothing new. And if I do, you can be pleasantly surprised. Set the bar low, I always say.

What was your very first MMO character and why did you choose that race/class?

High Elf Magician, EQOA. While I didn’t play Everquest Proper, I did know a great deal about it, and I had the d20 books for it, so I knew all the classes. I loved that the Magician was this guy who could get you things. Summon supplies, gear, monsters, and yes, even weapons and armor. A magical jack of all trades. And it touched on my favorite DnD spell, Mordakainen’s Mansion (sp?) which summoned this extraplanar house. I always loved the idea of having everything you might need right at your fingertips, even if the cost was that you were not as (relatively speaking) powerful as some other classes.

Did you stick with that character as your main as long as you were playing that game? Why or why not?

For the most part, until a series of developer changes nerfed the class. In those days, camping was king and with a lot of classes, you needed to do something well. Originally, the Magician schtick was the best summoned pets. The changes basically meant that now Necromancers had the hardest hitting pets…and they had a resurrection spell as well (a nice backup if your healer goes down). So nobody wanted me in group in a game where you could really only level by group camping. So I rolled a Bard and a Shadowknight and played them for a while. I enjoyed both, but never as much as the Magician class.

What is your favorite zone in any MMO?

Too many to name honestly. I love lots of different places. The one I probably miss the most though would be that starting island in EQ2. It really was a fun little zone with a great deal of charm to it.

What gaming innovation are you looking forward to or hoping for most in the next twenty years?

Full realization of cloud based gaming and improved periphereals/control. I’d love to be able to use my cell phone to play all my regular games. But I need to be able to have reliable connection and also reliable control without a mouse. If we can make those things happen, I could start leaving my laptop at home and be a happy camper.

What is your favorite pastime besides video gaming or blogging?

I enjoy boardgames with family and friends, as well as reading. Love painting miniatures as well, but this section of live, with the kids at the age they are, well, its just not a hobby I can really do – I don’t have time or space for it. Once the kids are out of the house and/or I’m retired, I will probably pick it back up.

What house would you be sorted into: Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, or Slytherin?

I have no idea. I’ve never read a single line of Harry Potter. I think I did see the first movie, and I’ve seen a scene here and there of some of the others. Yep, time to get out the torches and pitchforks. If I had to answer, I guess I’d say Ravenclaw. My son assures me that’s his favorite and that they are “the coolest.”

What is your favorite holiday?

Veteran’s Day. Which is actually Armistice Day. Which is actually St. Martin’s Day. Which is also the saint’s day of a) Martin Luther and b) Soren Kierkegaard. The respect shown to our veterans, the salute to peace, and the inclusion of (and derivation from) three of my favorite theologians all together. Love it.

What is your favorite vacation spot (or dream vacation)?

I love Callaway Gardens. I’m not sure I can describe just how at peace I am wandering through the woods or on the beach there. If I could buy a house or chalet there, I would do it in a heartbeat and make it my second home.

What brings you joy?

Oh, lots of things I suppose. My kids and my wife do. Getting to be a pastor does. Playing some of these amazing games, most of which I could, as a kid, only dream about, also qualifies. Mostly though, just being alive gives me joy. Life is broken, to be sure, and I know that first hand. But because of that (and not in spite of it), I love it even more.

And now on to Part Three: Nominations –

I hereby nominate:

1) Flosch. Missing in Action for 4 months now. You must come back and blog more my friend. Your views and posts are always a welcome read. Maybe this will get you rolling again.

2) Ysharros. You will write a wall of text and you will like it. And so will we.

3) Kirith Kodachi. Put down the EVE client and slowly back away. Then answer the questions.

4) Psychochild. Because I have to call out someone actually in the industry. Its in teh rules. I think.

5) The Scree. Because now that he is done designing his guild for a game that won’t be out for another three years or so, he needs something to do.

Part Three-Two: My Questions –

1) Do you have a favorite sexual fantasy? Would you like for it to be fulfilled?

Haha! Just kidding.

I took that from The Book of Questions, where I am stealing some of these (real) questions from as well. Hope you enjoy:

1) What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

2) Would you rather be overdressed or underdressed at a party? Why?

3) If you could actually live in one of your MMO character’s homes, which would it be? It can also be one that your character doesn’t directly own, but that is available in the game.

4) What is the best compliment someone could pay you?

5) Which NPC would you enjoy having dinner with? Could be from an MMO, or it could be from a book/movie/tv show.

6) If someone offered you a substantial sum of money to stop playing MMO’s forever, would you take it? What’s your price point? A million? A billion? Nothing?

7) You get a VIP pass to spend the day at a developer’s offices, hang out with them, form inside contacts, see some stuff behind the scenes, and get cool swag. Which developer is it that you are going to?

8) You and your friends get sucked inside an MMO. The bad news is you are stuck here for 24 hours (of real time), the good news is you have unlimited lives. What MMO are you in and what are you doing while you are there?

9) What’s the first movie you remember watching in the theatre?

10) A Magic MMO Genie appears and grants you the power to host a private server for one MMO of your choice: past, present, or future. Will you take him up on the offer, and if so, what game do you choose and why?

11) Best Campy 80’s Sci-Fi: Flash Gordon, Buckaroo Banzai, Ice Pirates, Outland, Megaforce, Runaway, Masters of the Universe, or some other one I’ve forgotten?

There ya go. Thank you again Rowan for the blogging opportunity. Tomorrow: Either some SWTOR reflection, another installment of Dominions, or maybe something else. Depends on how I’m feeling.