On to Nazmir

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I feel like I need to be apologizing since you are not getting an awful lot out of me this week.  I am still recovering from whatever crud I seem to have caught, and my wife appears like she might be coming down with it too.  All this time I thought it was just super bad allergies but maybe it really did end up being some sort of a summer cold.  Regardless we ended up heading to bed around 9 last night because we were both sitting there fighting sleep.  That means I did not spend an awful lot of time playing last night, but I did managed to finish up the main story arc of Zuldazar which was very cool.  The only negative is there is a lot of stuff happening that doesn’t cleanly get resolved so I am expecting that once again the raids will act as finishing off bits of story.  It gives the players that would not normally run the raids a hook to go do them…  but at the same time it is a bit annoying that you are essentially forced to do them to see the end of story lines.

I got called out by Grace that she had not yet dinged 120, but I am going out on a limb and saying that she dinged last night.  I mean she said as much, but I also remember he saying as much the night before.  Basically at this point I cannot trust my brain because apparently whatever crud I have is effecting my memory as well.  I think I also said I was 117 going on 118…  which is not true as I dinged 117 last night.  It is little wonder that I had trouble following some of the story line throughout Zuldazar a bit.  It is my hope that this weekend I can push forward and ding 120 so I can start doing end game shenanigans.

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The real hope however is that I start to feel like a normal human being.  Yesterday was my first full day back at work since Monday, and it took an awful lot out of me.  This weekend also probably means we are going to run a lot of errands as my wife realizes things she needs for the classroom given this is her first day back with kids.  It is going to be busy… and I realistically need to be back a normal operating status in order to do all of the things that need to be done.  I’ve not done any of the Developer Appreciation Week posts but my hope is to do a few of them over the weekend.  This is really not a great time to be sick, so hopefully I get over this nonsense quickly.

Zuldazar Continues

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This morning I am doing considerably better than I was yesterday, but I am still not quite in fighting form.  Whatever crud I have has kicked my butt and I only managed to make it about three hours yesterday before tagging out and heading home.  What is annoying the most is that I feel just generally drained and awful and unable to enjoy pretty much anything I am doing.  I spent a good chunk of yesterday trying to catch up on Jessica Jones Season 2 and I think I made it to episode eight before giving up for the day.  The only negative about this is that I was probably not paying anywhere near as close attention to World of Warcraft as I should have.

I reached this point where suddenly there were Mogu everywhere and I am not sure how we got there exactly.  I’ve since pieces together some of the details but I have a feeling there is a quest somewhere in the chain where I simply wasn’t paying anywhere near enough attention.  It is around this point that I realized just how damned spoiled Elder Scrolls Online has made me.  It is very easy for me to glaze over a wall of text presented with a quest, but significantly less easy for me to ignore a character that is actively talking to me.  Voice acted content makes me forget that I am effectively just doing a fetch or a kill ten quest, and instead the character I am interacting with becomes intimately more “real”.

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I still largely look like a toddler that dress themselves for the first time… all I am missing is the inexplicable scuba mask and tutu.  I am trying to do this whole no transmogging thing…  but every night is a struggle.  It is funny that I am realizing how much of my enjoyment of my character is the way that it looks.  Right now I look like hot garbage and it is by reference making everything I pick up feel like it is utterly useless and disposable since it will make me look a brand new kind of awful.  It seems that there is way less loot as a whole from quests, and I think in part this is because of the upgrade-able items, however I have yet to find a weapon with Heart of Azeroth talents on it.

Ultimately this is meaning that I don’t have any gear for an offspec because each time a new weapon rolls around it is a significant upgrade to what I was wielding before and not something I can pass up for sake of balancing out my characters options.  I like the upgradeable gear, but right now I seem to keep getting the exact same three slots so I am presented with a series of lateral choices rather than building out a full set of gear.  That has always been one of my big complaints about World of Warcraft and leveling, is how piecemeal the gear ends up being and how you always have a few slots that are languishing with no direct upgrades.

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I legitimately thought I was nearing the end of Zuldazar, but some events transpired that have effectively thrown me into a “world two” sort of scenario.  Quest destinations that I thought I had finished now suddenly are springing up with brand new options.  I have a feeling that before the end of this I will have arrived at every destination twice…  which makes me realize just how damned bad I am at following main story quests.  The events that shifted everything into motion…  came from quite literally the last quest I had showing on the board.  I thought I was heading towards the end conflict of the zone…  not opening up a whole new one.

Tonight in theory I should be able to push through the end of Zuldazar.  I am artifact level 10 and about 1/5th of a level away from 117, so I am sure I will wrap that up before shifting to swampland.  Grace has of course already dinged 120 because she is better at not getting distracted by shiny objects… and by shiny objects I mean mobs that look at me funny and I have to charge into.  We did run a dungeon last night and that was pretty fun.  I have a feeling though it is not going to be super popular given that there is a functional repeat of the Blackrock Depths Torch Room in it.  I feel like every set of dungeons has an Oculus, and unless there is something more heinous hidden in the dungeons I have yet to run… I am guessing that this expansion it will be Temple of Sethraliss.

Conquering the Dunes

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Today is the official start of developer appreciation week in Blaugust Reborn, but I am not sure if I can muster any measure of a post that requires that much forethought.  I am not entirely certain if I am just dealing with allergies or if I have picked up some sort of a summer cold… but whatever the case I am miserable.  I wound up going home around one yesterday when the meeting that I had to be there for…  got rescheduled.  I am in that state where my throat is so raw that it is gagging me, which is not super fun to randomly find yourself in that state.  I’ve largely been avoiding doing anything serious and instead just casually leveling on the warrior.

It is unfortunate because I know I have friends who are chomping at the bit to chain some dungeons…  but I am just not confident in my ability to function in a group setting right now.  At this point I have finished Vol’dun and managed to get 113.5 roughly in levels and 5 in artifact power.  I have not done the faction campaign stuff at all, and in truth have largely been avoiding it.  I went into this expansion expecting for it to be pvp all the time… and have been pleasantly surprised by the lack of faction nonsense that I have had to deal with at this point.  I am afraid doing the faction specific campaign will ruin that little bit of joy I am having.

I am absolutely loving seeing what the Troll Empires were like during their strength rather than the broken down outposts that we usually encounter in game. I say outpost…  because seriously Zul’Gurub feels like a backwater as compared to Zuldazar.  The temple city is amazing…  even though I keep finding myself getting lost trying to traverse it and remember where the various things are that I need to interact with.  I spent ten minutes last night trying to remember how to get back to the throne room for example.  We largely picked Vol’dun as a way to get the desert content out of the way, since those zones tend to have a lot of oppressive sameness.  However as you can see from the above screenshot… there is a lot of stuff going on in that zone that makes it feel less like the traditional MMO desert.

The outfit I am wearing is supposed to be plate armor…  so I am not exactly sure why there is a prominent target telling the monsters fighting me where exactly to strike.  I am sure on male characters this looks like awesome troll armor, but instead I sorta get a cool looking dress….  with midriff exposed.  I started playing my Orc Female characters largely because I got tired of the Horde Hunch, where pretty much most of the traditional male horde races have a hunched over thing going on.  It has been a great experience other than dealing with the fact that so much of the plate armor has weird pieces missing for no apparent reason.  Maybe I am secretly protected by the mystical power of the male gaze?

I am trying really hard not to transmog as I level, but that may or may not last much longer.  I wonder if you poke her in the belly if she will go “Tee Hee” like a really gruff orcish Pillsbury Doughboy.  Video linked for the sake of anyone who has no clue what the Pillsbury Doughboy is… and why you would be poking one.

Dolly and Dot Are My Best Friends

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Last night was the launch of Battle for Azeroth the new expansion for World of Warcraft, and as I said yesterday it sort of snuck up on me.  Blizzard was doing a global release for the first time in my memory meaning that while a lot of the world did in fact get the game on August 14th…  the United States got it in the evening of the 13th.  So it was in fact midnight CEST on the 14th for Europe but for me personally it launched at 5pm my time.  I was not however sitting at the keyboard waiting for the gates to open as it were…  because it was 5 before I managed to get to town from work.  That then triggered the whole list of things I need to do when I first get home as well as nomming some tasty noms…  finally ending up at the keyboard around 6ish.

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At that point I was pleasantly surprised that I got right in with zero queue or waiting.  There were reports of folks having some issues with the login server, but thankfully I had none of those issues and effectively sailed right in.  I even tempted fate about 8:30 last night and decided to swap from my desktop upstairs to my laptop downstairs…  and even at that point I was able to log straight in without much issue.  I am not sure if this is a smaller than normal launch day, or if they were just really that prepared for the launch.  Whatever the case it went smoothly and collectively myself, Grace and Mor decided to get the desert zone out of the way first and spent the rest of the evening roaming around Vol’dun.

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For my troubles I managed to get my amulet-of-not-artifact-power to level 2 just barely shy of level 3, collected 2 pieces of the upgradeable gear that has talent point unlocks on it, and dinged 111 with about halfway to 112.  I consider it a very productive night given that I did not take any time off from work and really didn’t “grind” that hard at anything.  I believe both Grace and Mor are further ahead than me, but at some point I will catch up and hopefully reach the first dungeon unlock, though in truth I didn’t notice if there was one we could queue for already or not.  I am surprised at just how much story there is in this expansion… like not just text story but I seem to be drowning in really awesome cut scenes.  If the rest of this expansion carries on the same way as the beginning has… it is going to maybe be one of the better expansions in World of Warcraft history even with the questionable PVP narrative.

The above video is going to be a bit of a spoiler, but if you care to watch… it features my favorite moment so far in Battle for Azeroth.  Meerah the awesome Vulpera responsible for driving the caravan around Vol’dun serenades her pair of Alpacas.  Dolly and Dot are the best and are probably going to be the break out hit from this expansion.  It reminds me a lot of the singing Quaggan from Guild Wars 2, and is similarly memeable.  Meerah herself was apparently voiced by the very amazing Deva Marie, so extra awesome bit about the quest.  ~Dolly and Dot are my best friends~  ~they pull my wagon through dunes of sands~  ~they have small teeth and they love to eat…~  then sadly the song is cut off by a mean ole troll who doesn’t appreciate awesomeness.

I am hoping we get a lot more Meerah, Dolly and Dot as I go further into this zone.

Follow Up to Yesterdays Post

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As a follow up to yesterdays post about Monster Hunter World PC… when I took a break to move downstairs to the laptop I decided to fire up the game there to see what sort of settings I would have to play on to get the game functional.  What you are seeing is MHW on Low settings and 720p resolution and even then… I was only managing to see about 25 fps.  For reference the gaming laptop I have is in the top bar of the site but also linking it here.  As far as the stats go… it has:

  • Intel Core i7 4th Gen 4720HQ (2.60 GHz)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 2 GB GDDR5
  • 16 GB Memory
  • 1 TB HDD
  • 128 GB SSD

The game is effectively unplayable given that I am only seeing 25 fps in town and even then it wildly fluctuates down into the teens and up into the thirties.  Essentially hopefully you can make your own determinations as to how well the game is going to run on your system between the two baselines I have given you.  Now the positive is…  steam does allow you to return games if you end up trying it out and it simply not working at all.  Personally right now I am streaming Monster Hunter World through Parsec on my gaming desktop upstairs when I am playing downstairs on the laptop.  This is honestly the way I am gaming most of the time these days and is probably going to keep me from upgrading that laptop anytime soon.

 

Monster Hunter World PC Thoughts

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This weekend I played a significant amount of Monster Hunter World on the PC.  This morning I am going to talk a bit about my thoughts related to it and why it maybe isn’t the dumpster fire that the internet seems to think it is.  First off you are not going to get much general Monster Hunter commentary since I have belabored that point at length on this blog.  I love the game and think that for the most part everyone should give it a shot on whatever platform seems most comfortable for you personally.  I played the hell out of it on the PS4 and only backed off a bit when I got bit by the Elder Scrolls Online bug again…  which has moved recently into desperately trying to prepare for the World of Warcraft expansion.  Basically don’t ever take me moving on from a game as a reason not to play it because quite honestly I am fickle as hell when it comes to game.  I play a lot of different things and shift wildly between them as the mood suits me.

You can get a link to my current PC build up in the menu of this site but for those reading via RSS I will summarize the high points.  The relevant information:

I technically have an SSD in this system but have long since run out of space to run games from it…  so for the most part I linked the drive that the game itself is running on.  For sake of reference I attempted to screenshot all of the relevant graphical settings I am using.

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Essentially I set the resolution to 1080p and attempted to max everything out to see what sort of gameplay that would give me.  For the most part I get 60 frames per second, with the occasional dip into the 55ish territory as you can sometimes see sub 60 numbers in the lower left hand corner of these screenshots.  However it feels very smooth given that I personally cannot seem to differentiate between about 40 fps and 60 fps that well.  Ultimately I wanted to throw these numbers out there however  I have a 5th gen x99 setup running a still fairly beefy GTX 980 graphics card.  Your mileage may vary wildly if you are using a system less capable than that, but I am not really sure how far below.

The game looks infinitely better than it did on the PS4 and had I the time this weekend I would have installed it on my laptop to see what sort of concessions I needed to make it get it running on a far lower end machine.  The laptop being a 4th Gen i7 which is the generation of processor in the recommended settings, and a mobile gtx 960M… which given the rules of mobile cards means it likely performs about the same as a desktop 700 series since the desktop did not get the 800 series.  Regardless it is further testing I want to do so that I could give some estimates of what the game would run like and look like on a lower end machine.  The truth is I played most of the weekend on the laptop, but I did so using Parsec streaming off of my gaming machine upstairs.  I still am deeply in love with that software.

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The biggest takeaway for me personally is just how phenomenally good the game looks on the PC.  On the baseline PS4 everything felt very muddy for lack of a better word.  There were lots of moments when everything seemed like there was a thin coat of vasoline on the lens and you couldn’t quite focus on anything specific.  This means that a lot of the vistas in this game were completely lost to me and might as well have been static background images.  However on the PC there have been numerous points where I just stop and stare the the scenes in awe of just how cool everything looks.  I have a hard drive full of screenshots already and according to steam I am only twelve hours into the game.

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It is highly likely that this is an experience that the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro players have already had… but for use plebs still stuck on the lower end machines in this generation…  the difference is extremely noticeable.  Now all of that said…  my awe of the game comes from a console player getting to see the world I already love in much higher detail.  From the general standpoint of a PC gamer… the game still has some wonky stuff going on in the way that the world looks and it is the same sort of stuff you see in a lot of console ports.  Textures don’t always look as crisp as you might expect and what appears to be in focus versus blurred out is all over the place.  Notice in the above image who the background appears so much crisper than the character in the foreground for example, just random goofy stuff that you don’t notice in motion but do notice when the action stops.

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One of the weirder revelations for me personally is that the game is completely connected into steam groups… and seems to rely on your steam friends list and the groups you are a member of in place of the clan system.  This means that I already happen to have a Greysky Armada group ready to go and you can see me up in the gathering hall flying the colors of our guild…  even taking into account the custom imagery we uploaded for it from FFXIV.  The only problem here is…  I think those of us who have lots of groups and massive friend lists at this point…  are maybe bogging down the network?  It seems to take forever to bring up a friends list dialog, or to browse the sessions that your friends are in.  This seems to have improved over the week, but is still way more sluggish than it felt on the console.

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The real problem however is that the network connectivity seems to be extremely fickle, with Match Making generally not working at all…  and the browsing of existing sessions working about as well.  You are going to see this window a lot with a 50382-MW1 error being throw which is essentially the “cannot connect” generic error message.  Spawning your own instance however seems to work reliably well, and joining an instance a friend is in also seems to work fairly well.  I’ve managed to play with my friend Wolfy at several points during the weekend, but just go into the situation expecting things to be less than reliable.  I feel like the PC is a leap forward overall given that it allows you to integrate with your existing list of Steam friends…  but the overall way that grouping works in Monster Hunter World is still extremely awkward.  This is one thing that Dauntless has going for it, is that grouping as a whole just feels more natural.

If you want to see me fail miserably at a hunt and mash the shit out of my keyboard and mouse here is the stream from Sunday morning.  The keyboard is getting more comfortable as I go but I will say it was a challenge to get used to after being fairly comfortable with the PS4 controller.  For the most part I have rolled with the default keybinds, but you can in fact remap most everything.  The only thing that I really have changed is that the initial set up for Longsword was Left Mouse for basic attacks, Right Mouse for thrust, and Ctrl Key for Spirit Blade…  which was functional but not exactly fitting with the priority that I have those attacks.  I swapped Right Mouse and Ctrl to give me something that feels more natural given that I rarely actually thrust, the only negative however is that it makes it more challenging to do the leap out of the way slash attack.  My fingers are long however and for the most part I can hit any ability that I need to.  Your mileage may vary given how comfortable you are reaching into odd spots on the keyboard.  I do however need to sort out something other than F1 + Number to get to the quick bar items because that really doesn’t work for me right now.

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All in all I am really happy with the PC port and especially if you have been waiting in the wings due to a lack of console…  you should totally pick this up.  From what I am hearing it is both the biggest selling Japanese Steam game of all time, and the biggest Steam launch of 2018 so far…  so much of the issues that are happening currently are probably just compounded by that fact.  As the crush of players coming in to hunt some monsters dwindles a bit…  I think a lot of the network weirdness is going to mysteriously go away.  It is 7 am CST and right now Steam Charts is showing 245,535 concurrent players…  with an all-time peak of 329,333 which was also achieved apparently in the last 24 hours.  Basically it is super popular right now and as a result there are going to be some growing pains.  If you cannot deal with that maybe wait a month before picking it up, however the game does always default back to a single player state allowing you to get in and experience the game play regardless of the current network conditions.

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If you found yourself on the fence about this title I hope this post offers some wisdom.  Like I said I need to get in and actually install the game on my laptop to give it a lower end impression as well.  I will try and do that over the coming days…  but not likely tonight given that apparently Battle For Azeroth launches at 2pm CST?  Talk about that game release sneaking up on me.  I hope you have a great day and an awesome week.

 

Dealing with Absences

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Yesterday was crazy.  It was one of those days when moments after checking my phone I realized things had gone south with the patch cycle from the night before.  I tried remoting into things from home and had no luck, so I hurriedly shower, dressed and drove into work to see if I could raise anyone to get the matter resolved.  I left so rapidly that I freaked my poor wife out who was out on a walk…  and she came home to my vehicle being missing from the drive way.  The other bad thing is that I didn’t actually get breakfast meaning I was probably more grumpy than intended during the entire day.  The problem with running on adrenaline is that there is an inevitable crash…  which came about noonish.  All of this said…  I didn’t get to do a morning blog post yesterday and I was not in the proper frame of mind when I got home to do one either.

As a result this morning I am going to use this incident as a teaching moment.  There will be times when you just cannot force a blog post out of yourself…  and that is okay.  When I was doing my “Grand Experiment” that involved posting every single day I managed to make it 1121 days without missing a post or a little over three years.  That streak sorta developed a life of its own as time went on, but I knew sooner or later I would need to break it for my own sanity.  Knowing that regardless of the day that you had to get up and write something was fairly oppressive.  I would literally day dream about stopping cold turkey, and then ultimately talk myself back down off that ledge.  Ultimately when the time came I made a compromise and switched the blog for the last couple of years over to week days only, that way I could have the weekends to myself to leisurely do whatever comes along.

The truth is…  I would have probably been a lot happier with my streak of posts if I had allowed myself to have the occasional day off.  The thing with posting is that you need to be doing it regularly to gain reader traction, which for me at least translated into forcing myself to post something regardless of circumstances every day.  The truth however is that you simply need not to allow yourself to fall completely off the wagon.  It is fine to take a few days off here or there but for me at least the most important aspect is to get back to posting as soon as you feel able to.  The early days of my blog were a tale of a flurry of posts with massive gaps in between…  some of them months long.  The longer I was away the harder it seemed to create a post worth the justification of how long I was gone.  It was as though I needed to come up with some epic reason why I just wasn’t feeling up to writing about myself or the games I was playing.

In my experience however you just need to post something…  anything…  to get yourself over the hump after an absence.   You could post about what you had for breakfast…  or in my case yesterday the lack thereof.  You talk about whatever stressers caused you to need to duck your head back into your shell and turtle for awhile.  You could write about something on the horizon that you are looking forward to, or about something that you just accomplished that you are still thinking about.  The point is just to write something to get yourself over that initial gap in content and back into the habit of regularly posting again.

One of the things that I like about my current schedule is I feel like it gives me the room for these gaps.  Is it an extended weekend that includes a few days of vacatrion?  Then I have the option of writing on those days or just saying screw it and taking the entire time off from the blog.  Is there a time when life has just become too much and I cannot fit proper writing in?  Then a gap in the middle of the week is honestly no worse than a gap at the end of it.  Basically the schedule that allows for absences and not holding myself to some nonsense like those 1121 posts in a row…  makes the blogging experience far more livable.

I think ultimately that is why I have shifted things around this year for Blaugust is that I realized over time I was trying to get people to sign up for something that was largely unrealistic.  After that first Blaugust I noticed that the majority of “winners” that managed to get in all 31 posts in a month…  also wound up taking a full month off as a result.  A not insignificant number of those blogs simply ceased to exist afterwards…  or maybe had a few false starts at getting back at posting without ever really returning.  Basically Blaugust and that schedule had killed blogs…  which was the exact opposite of what I was hoping would happen.  I kept shifting around the format until in 2016 I simply couldn’t handle taking anything else on that year…  as was apparently the case with all of the events in our community.  So now as Blaugust has returned…  my hope has been that the focus be on just posting more regularly and also participating in the community…  rather than trying to run some race.

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I am not entirely certain if this post will help anyone, but I thought it was worth talking about the mindset I now take towards dealing with absences.  I hope you are having an awesome day and I highly suggest getting out and checking some of the other blogs participating in Blaugust.  Here are some resources to help you get started…

There is still plenty of time left in the month to participate.  If you are interested check out some of these links.

Side note:  The images don’t mean much of anything but I played some Monster Hunter World on PC last night and am getting tired of just posting the Blaugust logo over and over on these.

 

Jason Jessee Board

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This week was originally designated as “Get to Know Each Other Week” in my master scheme but I feel like that is well under way in part thanks to the existence of the Blaugust Discord.  If you have not joined the discord I highly suggest doing so, also if you have not signed up for the event then there is still plenty of time to get involved.  For as generally open as I am with my readers about a lot of things… I still find it fairly hard to actually talk about myself in any sort of directed way.  Sure while I am in the middle of writing about a topic there are a bunch of real life details that end up getting thrown into the mix for flavor, but to sit down and write a specific topic about me as a person…  that is a whole other challenge.

I was born in 1976 on the wane of the seventies and the cusp of the eighties…  then spent my high school and college years in the nineties giving me a really odd blend of cultural experiences.  Each of those decades left its own indelible mark on my psyche.  Another piece of the puzzle is the fact that I was the only child of a machinist by day and occasionally professional photographer by night and weekend…  and a home economics teacher.  I grew up in Rural Americana in the middle of the part of Oklahoma aptly referred to as “Green Country” in a town with a population of around 2000 give or take a few.  We lived just far enough outside of the city limits to prevent us from getting cable…  or me having many kids to play with.

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That means a good deal of my life was spent entertaining myself through copious amounts of imagination and a strong dash of public television.  I’ve talked a bit about my attachment to Mister Roger’s Neighborhood but I was equally attracted to adult programs like Nova.  For the first several years of my life I spent the majority of my time with my grandmother and grandfather who served as a babysitter while my folks worked.  My grandmother also doubled as my companion on so many adventures from learning how to cook, to roaming around in the pasture…  to playing rousing games of candyland.  There were many times come Friday night when my folks came to pick me up, that I would announce that I was staying the weekend.

As time passed and I aged those weekends with my grandparents were replaced with staying over at friends houses.  There was a circle of two other close friends that I had and it seemed like every single weekend we were gathered together at one of the houses.  I always enjoyed the act of getting out of my own family and melding into another one for the weekend.  In late middle school one of the trio moved away and we were left with a duo.  By the time high school rolled around things started to get a little strained, since my partner in crime was largely forced into sports by his father who wanted him to follow in his own footsteps…  and I didn’t really have the equivalent pressure pushing me in that direction.

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We all saw each other pretty often because around about this time skateboarding was a massive thing.  My first “real” deck that I planned for and bought on my own was the Jason Jessee Neptune deck, and I wish I still had it if for no reason other than to hang it on the wall.  I’ve contemplated buying one of the modern reproductions to do that, but its an awful pricey expense for a piece of kitch.  Skating lead its way to other drift compatible activities…  like playing in a band that ultimately formed around the nexus of a few of us that hung out frequently.  I played the drums, the friend from middle school played the bass and patterned himself after Flea of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and the other friend with seemingly unlimited means bought a sweet telecaster and played lead guitar.  We never really coalesced on a proper band name… we were FSU for awhile which we thought was edgy because it stood for Fucking Shut Up.  Later we performed under the name Jive Daddies… which I always thought was kinda dumb but was overridden by the other two.

During my junior year however I got really sick.  I started having these black outs and managed to park my car perfectly in a ditch down from my house once.  It was ultimately sorted out that I had a pinched blood vessel in my neck, that was the side effect of getting rear ended in a car wreck and developing a minor case of whiplash.  However it took awhile to sort that out and during this time I sorta drifted away from that circle of friends and built a new one.  One of the truths of small time life is the lack of things to do… leads kids towards copious amounts of alcohol and drug abuse.  My original duo of friends found their way into more serious paths leading towards hard drugs, and that was not a journey I was willing to follow them on.  So really my illness became a convenient excuse to simply stop participating and extract myself from that situation.

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Another thing that happened around this time is that my family finally got a computer.  It was a 386SX 16 MHz without a math co-processor with 2 meg of ram and a 90 MB hard drive that at the time seemed like all the space I would ever need.  It had no sound card because those simply did not come with computers standard at that point and was largely designed for business products running Windows 3.0 originally…. and later upgraded to the revolutionary 3.1.  I learned computers through necessity, because I kept doing something to jack the machine up and then needing to figure out how to fix it before my dad got home.  Largely these interludes involved me trying to sort out how to get more than 16 colors in windows paint…  it was simpler time.

The new circle of friends and I vacillated between two activities…  pen and paper gaming and pouring over whatever bootleg games we managed to get from someone that had a relative in college and would ship us home boxes of pirated games.  Getting anything new was pretty much out of the question because at this point we had no access to stores that sold anything even vaguely related to PC gaming.  At some point I stumbled upon a bookstore that happened to have 5.25 inch floppies with shareware on them and got my first copy of Wolfenstein 3D and an editor that someone made for it.  We obsessed over building levels to the game and the result was usually one person building a level and another person trying to run through it.

I feel like at this point I have already typed too much information about myself, so I am going to cut things off at this point.  We are now circa 1992 and on the cusp of Magic the Gathering being a thing.  I’ve recently gotten back in touch with one of the members of the little crew that I played table top games with, so I fully expect him to respond here at some point.  I do miss those days when things were so much simpler and it seemed like we had all of the time in the world to hang out and do stuff together.  Time moves so much faster as you get older, and busier, and have your attention fragmented by dozens of things at the same time.  I might pick up tomorrow with some more details that I maybe glazed over, but like I said…  getting any sort of coherent narrative out of me about myself is a challenge.

 

Mining The Past

blaugustrebornlogo2018

blaugustrebornlogo2018

This week was at least in part supposed to primarily be about generating topics for your blog that you can sustain yourself on for the rest of the sprint.  Unfortunately only one of my posts has actually accomplished this.  I brain stormed together a list of topics on August first and never really revisited it because I was ultimately dealing with some of my own things.  However one of the general pieces of advice I can offer you is to be willing to mine your own experience for topics.  Each of us tends to think our own experiences are banal and not actually worth writing about.  The thing is…  those experiences are unique to you and tell the reader an awful lot about your own feelings on a subject.

This is where I break into a story to illustrate this point.  I started leading guilds with the launch of World of Warcraft in 2004 and since then have been the helm of many offshoots be they connected to House Stalwart or later Greysky Armada.  In addition to that there has been an awful lot of experience leading various communities from the Argent Dawn Exiles that I started when the Blizzard mods made the official server forums completely unpalatable to the things like BelEffect that I largely started as a joke but developed a life of its own.  Every single bit of that experience, while I didn’t necessarily know it at the time was relevant to what I would ultimately do for a living later.

While I have never listed it on my resume, that solid decade and some change has been a hardcore training ground for management in the real world.  I first had my taste for managing others at my first job back in 1999-2000 and I did not like it at all.  The whole setting the vision for the group was fun, but what ultimately broke me was a situation that happened with one of my employees.  I had been placed in a position of power because I was the one with the answers…  not with none of the training to actual manage others.  I had a boss at that time for whom the most important thing you could do was be sitting at your desk at 8 am.  I didn’t believe this and still don’t for that matter…  and was put in the awkward position of having to discipline an employee for an infraction that I didn’t myself believe in.

This bad taste made me actively avoid taking on the mantle of supervisor or manager for a significant time.  However in the gaming space I found myself pushed into that role because no one was willing to take it upon themselves to create the sort of gaming environment I wanted to play in.  So out of necessity I became the Guild Leader and set forth the build the best possible guild I could…  and immediately stumbled about six months into the game.  However I learned how to deal with different personalities and outlooks on the game play experience and about a year and a half into World of Warcraft we picked ourselves back up and rebuilt House Stalwart.

Throughout Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King we forged the guild and the raid associated with it into a strong community.  So strong that when my account got hacked while raiding Ulduar and said hackers disbanded the guild and moved my main off server…  we immediately picked back up the pieces that night.  The community had the guild up and running before I managed to get my account restored, and then handed back over the crown willingly.  The hack itself is a story that is buried somewhere in the annals of this blog, but I had somehow managed to forge something strong enough and loyal enough to keep on going without me even being in the picture.

So much so that all these years later without me really at the helm since Cataclysm…  the guild continues on through a succession of leaders from Elnore, Rylacus and now Kylana keeping things alive and actually in a constant state of growth.  I admit it was a bit of a hit to my ego at first to see that the guild was doing well without me.  However over time I came to appreciate the fact that I built that organization and it managed to survive succession which is a truly rare occurrence in either the gaming world or the business world.  While I spend significantly less time playing Alliance right now, I am still happy each time I hear about them downing some new boss or getting some new achievement.  I am proud of what that guild and community became.

When my boss moved up from Manager to Director, I was presented with another challenge.  Did I stay in the comfortable development lead role I had carved out for myself, or did I step up to management not quite knowing if I would be able to make it work.  The truth is it was the years of experience I had leading other people in situations where I often times had no actual power of authority to use as a crutch…  that gave me the confidence that maybe i could do this thing.  If you can convince forty strangers to work towards a singular goal, then you have a significant bit of work experience there leading people and understanding how to adapt your message so that others will be able to consume it.

So this morning I had sat down and mined a bit of my own experience to convert it into a blog post.  Each of us has deep reserves of information just sitting there waiting to be harvested, talking about past experiences in games or how they have effected you in the real world.  The challenge however is being willing to open up and talk about your past and present it with a new perspective.  I would say most of what I write about draws deeply upon all of the decisions that I made to get me to where I am today.  Often times when I write about things I omit details here and there to clarify the narrative that would otherwise muddy the presentation, but the core of the experience is still effectively what happened.

With time you develop your own personal methodology for which things to talk about and which things to skip over because it won’t translate into words that well.  However the only way to really sort this out is to start trying to adapt your own life story.  Our experiences also change over time…  because how you view something at age 20 is going to be different than how you view an experience at age 40.  In all of my time working there has only been one boss that did not like me.  While I was going through those experiences it was a very dark time for me…  but after exiting that shroud I have come to realize that even that horrible experience was a blessing in disguise.  Effectively it gave me the piece of experience that I was missing…  how not to lead others.  I had a use case of the exact wrong way to do leadership and I have been able to mine it as well to make sure I was not following in his footsteps.

Basically mining your past experiences allows you to dust them off and view them from a different perspective, which is helpful for you to grow personally…  but also can be exploited to make something relate-able for your readers.  Like I have said before… there comes a point where the readers stop caring about the subject matter you are writing about and start caring about you as a human being.  These are the posts that effectively set that process in motion.  When you share of yourself… it makes others more willing to share of themselves.  I realize this has probably turned into a really contorted esoteric topic, but I still feel like it is useful information.  So often we look outside for assistance when occasionally the answers we need are buried deep down inside of our own experiences.

Shovel Cow

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wow-2018-08-06-06-23-28-831

I am in this really weird place because I am both disconnected and connected to World of Warcraft at the same time right now.  I am disconnected from the storyline because of the events of arsonist Sylvanas, but I am also finding myself enjoying the simple act of leveling.  On the alliance side I have one of every class up in the 100-110 range, but on the horde side I am severely lacking in a bunch of columns.  As of right now I have a stable of 110s on The Scryers in the form of my Warrior, Paladin, Demon Hunter and Warlock and then a 110 Deathknight over on Eonar.  That said there are a bunch of spots left in my roster to level something and with the introduction of the prestige races I thought it would be really funny to make a High Mountain Tauren Monk.

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So lately I have been spending most of my time in game rolling around…  figuratively and literally…  on the Monk.  The highlight of the weekend was when I found out that I had a one handed shovel graphic in my transmog collection and that if I turned both of my weapons into them…  they would sling across my back.  This only really works because monks don’t actually use weapons at all and they just sit there strapped across my back as I punch and kick things.  Now I am also just realizing that I can probably do a shovel knight transmog of some sort on a heavy armor character.

I’ve always found the leveling game to be one of the stronger points for World of Warcraft and as screwed up as the 60-80 leveling bracket seems to be right now…  I do feel like them slowing things down a bit and blunting the effect of heirlooms was probably a good idea.  Sure it means I can no longer solo world bosses, but it also means that I can have an experience that feels a little closer to what it actually felt like to level something originally.  I am still flying through the levels however, but the ability to sit down and finish an entire zone without the need to move on in order to satisfy the part of me that wants to be “optimal” is a good thing.

It had been years since I had finished the entire Hillsbrad>Arathi>Hinterlands crawl always dropping out of each zone at some point as soon as the next zone lit up as having a quest available.  Now I am doing the Plaguelands which honestly I feel like is one of the zones that benefits the most from Cataclysm.  However on the podcast this weekend we largely talked about the big problems with World of Warcraft storytelling… and eventually drew a conclusion that Cataclysm was the expansion that derailed what seemed to be an arc of really solid story.  If you are curious the above embedded video is that show… but be warned we bash Warcraft pretty hard.

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In other news… I appear to no longer be allergic to casters in video games.  I recently started playing my Warlock a lot and have even been considering maining it in Battle for Azeroth.  This weekend I started a brand new Nightborne Shadow Priest and spent a few hours really enjoying myself leveling it through the Ashenvale content.  I am not sure what snapped inside my head but I actually sorta find casters relaxing.  I’ve always said that “me and finger wigglers don’t get along”, and that was sort of my shtick.  The truth however is that I never really enjoyed that style of game-play and recently something changed.  I find myself enjoying this game of “can I kill it before it touches me” that I have never really gotten into before.

I think we can blame Final Fantasy XIV for this because that is really the game I first seemed to get into the caster thing, or at least the gameplay style of “dot all the things”.  I had a shockingly enjoyable time leveling Arcanist and then Summoner, and put quite a few levels into my Thaumaturge/Black Mage as well.  I went through this thing where I leveled every single class to 50 just to help get rid of a bunch of gear, and in doing that…  I arrived at a sort of truce with playing a caster.  Recently however that truce has turned into a comfort level that I have never really experienced before.  I don’t necessarily get it myself and my friend Grace thinks I must be ill… but whatever the case I had a lot of fun running around on the new babby Shadow Priest this weekend.

Lastly…  my friend Chestnut had this idea as part of Blaugust to do a bunch of mini podcasts asking some questions about how we got started.  It took me awhile but I sat down yesterday after editing AggroChat and before I editing the weekly sermon podcast from the church my wife attends.  I tried very hard to keep it under 10 minutes and managed to do so…  which is a miracle in itself since AggroChat is sort of known for long shows.  I thought I would share it here and I believe Chestnut has a master plan for some other use for these as well.  Hopefully you have an awesome week and I am sure I will get back on doing some Blaugust related topics tomorrow.

 

Thanks Folks

blaugustrebornlogo2018

blaugustrebornlogo2018

Yesterday I made a blog post with one intended purpose, but it wound up being interpreted in a completely different way.  I thought I might talk a little bit about this because as a blogger this is going to happen.  We all view our posts through the lens of our experiences.  No one can actually be inside your head or completely understand what it was that you meant by something.  This is in part why I spend a lot of time retracing things I have already talked about in my blog posts because in my head…  no one actually reads my content.  The corollary of that however is that I feel like I need to write something that would make sense to someone who is hitting my blog for the first time.  I do a lot of things like “for the uninitiated” call outs where I back track and explain why a thing is important to this topic.  Granted this ends up increasing the length of my posts, but the hope is to keep someone from needing to furiously crawl through my back log of now over 1800 posts.

Ultimately for me personally, when something is so widely interpreted in a way I stop to think…  is that ultimately the post I wrote without intending to.  There are so many times that once fingers get started on the keyboard that posts sort of develop a mind of their own.  I know there are writers out there that carefully choose every word and sentence to build a strong discussion about the topic they are referencing.  Then there are others like me that get started and let the post develop as they go.  The problem with that method however is that things can veer off in unintended directions.  My intent in yesterdays post was to be some sort of a positive post about “these are my demons that I deal with but I still manage to get up and write every single day”.  The idea was to share my personal struggle so the folks out there who are going through the same thing can know that they are absolutely not alone.

However I feel like maybe a little too much of those demons were on display, and the post maybe came out a little true to life.  The hard truth is that I do not see in myself the person you all see in me.  I find it as impossible to reconcile that as it is to develop the internal infrastructure to accept a compliment.  That said… there were many times yesterday where I was almost brought to tears as the comments came in throughout the day.  I had every intent to sit down and respond to each and every one of them…  but I am still to this very moment a little too overcome with emotion to try tackling that task.  I didn’t write a post with the intent of getting reinforcement from my community, but that was ultimately the result.  I got a virtual war-cry from my friends to the equivalent of “we got your back!” and I appreciate it greatly…  even though I am not entirely certain how to process it.

There is no real hyperbole intended in yesterdays post, because I sorta accidentally opened the door a little too wide to the self doubts that I hear inside of my head every single morning.  That said I still hold my breath and hit that publish button.  I am glad that there are people out there however that apparently believe in me so much more than I believe in myself.  So many of the things that I have done in my life I did only because I felt like there was no one else out there to do them.  I lead my first guild because I was concerned about what the future might bring for me if I didn’t step up and do that.  I moved into a leadership role at work, because no one else was and the challenges that we were dealing with required more management than a bunch of independent developers.  I stepped up to my current management position only because I was afraid for what might happen to the unity of our team if someone else took the reigns.  A lot of the decisions I make are not out of a faith in my own abilities, but a fear in what might happen if I don’t do the thing that appears to need doing.

I was afraid that if I waited much longer that whatever was left of our community what fade away.  It was my hope that it was not yet too late and by the fact that we have now tied our best year in participation it seems like I might have accidentally picked the right time to do this.  The last couple of years have been extremely rough on this community, and my ultimately hope was that we could get back some of what we lost.  There are blogs that are gone and likely never coming back, but we are bolstering those holes in our wall with brand new bloggers that will hopefully infuse us all with a level of excitement.  I think it is impressive how far we have come in so short of a time.  Each year the initiative has picked up steam as the process has gone on and the flood of topics pulls people out of the woodwork.  Here are the numbers of past years…

  • 2014 – 52 Participants
  • 2015 – 88 Participants
  • 2016 – 62 Participants
  • 2017 – 0 (I failed to get it organized)
  • 2018 – 88 Participants (so far, it is not too late to join in)

Also impressive at this point is we have 92 members active on the Discord with a large number of people who have just joined to participate in the conversations even though they may not be officially participating in the event.  I do believe…  we may have a community again and an extremely active one.  Ultimately that was the thing I was missing the most, being part of something much larger than myself.  There have always been some of us that spun topics off one another, because quite honestly we refused to accept the pronouncement that blogging was a dead art.  It is my hope however that this version of Blaugust will be more forgiving when it comes to the after effects on the community.  There are a lot of bloggers that in the crush to get their 31 posts in…  have burned themselves out in the process only to close up shop shortly after the event ended.  My hope with this year is that we are providing folks the tools to run the marathon, not the sprint and keep going for the rest of the year.

There are so many mornings that I feel like a little kid pretending to make a newspaper or sitting in a hollowed out cardboard box pretending to be on a television show.  The truth is however that people are out there reading this and I am thankful of the kind words that you have shared with me.  I will do my best to try and figure out how to accept them.  I have more of a support structure than I deserve, and I am extremely thankful to everyone who has joined me in this madness.  We are on a really interesting journey together and I don’t quite know where it is going…  but I feel like it is going somewhere very special.  So in so many words… thank you so much for the help and love and support and random hugs.  Thanks for having my back.  Lets go do awesome things together!