Category Archives: Video games

GL HF!

Well, I was going to write a long goodbye post. I did, but I decided against it. I might post it someday. Maybe, maybe not. Here are the highlights:

  • I’m still alive. More importantly, the bebe is alive. Happy, healthy, she’s a good baby.
  • I’m still not playing WoW. My wife plays (and is playing right now). A few hours a week. With videogames, I’m either all in or all out. I can’t do casual. I have nothing against casual players, it’s just not for me.
  • I’m still not interested in MoP.

So why the post if nothing’s changed? I wanted to wish everyone well before MoP dropped. I hope it’s a great expansion and that those who play it have a blast. I also wanted to say that the achievement guide is now obsolete and I will not update it unless I resubscribe. Doubtful that will be any time soon, but who knows.

Don’t expect any updates for a while. Life with babies moves fast. Not much time for anything else.

Review: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Review

[Note: I’ll try to avoid plot spoilers, but don’t hate me if there are some.]

First, let me say that Skyrim is not WoW. In fact, the Elder Scrolls series is about as far as one could get from WoW while still being a RPG videogame. Single player v. MMO. Exploration-based v. gameplay/mechanics-based. Generalist characters v. specialist characters. I might refer to WoW, but only so WoW peeps have a frame of reference. These are different games, both legendary and funtastic in their own right. Liking one does not mean you cannot like the other, but don’t feel like you must like one if you like the other.

Whereas Oblivion was Morrowind part 2, Skyrim is a completely new game. Skyrim retains the same focus on exploration, even more so than the condensed, generic map that was Oblivion, and far more gorgeous than the expansive yet bleak and dirty Vvardenfell. However, each Elder Scrolls game can be played and fully enjoyed without having played the previous games in the series. You might miss small bits of lore, but not having scaled Red Mountain or closed shut the doors of Oblivion will not impact your Dovahkiin experience.

Like previous Elder Scrolls incarnations, you begin life imprisoned for never-revealed crimes. The intro sequence thrusts you into the main plot while simultaneously acquainting you with the basics of the game. Once completed, Skyrim is your oyster.

Plot summary in one word: Dragons.

Plot summary in two words: Dragon killer.

Plot summary in enough words to be coherent: Dragons have returned to Skyrim, gone since ancient times. You are Dovahkiin, the Dragonborn, a fabled person capable of stealing the souls of dragons, which prevents them from being resurrected. You also have the ability to learn shouts, which have various effects including knocking opponents down and fire breathing. You can complete the main plot, some of it, or none.

But that’s just the tip of the main plot, which is one of many plots within Skyrim. There are guilds and factions to join, each with their own involved and intriguing stories. You can join them all, some, or none. And there are hundreds of side quests, some must be found, some are thrust upon you. You can do them…oh nevermind. You get the idea.

Like all RPGs, there’s a leveling system, which has been overhauled. The philosophy remains the same: you level what you do. However, the execution is much better in Skryim than in Oblivion or Morrowind. No more gaming the leveling system. There are 18 skills, each of which can be leveled to 100. To level a skill, you can train (book, trainer, or quest) or, the usual way, using that skill. Each time you level a skill, you get a notch towards your overall level. Once you have met the required number of notches, you ding, which grants you a boost to either magicka, health, or stamina, and awards a perk point.

Perks are Skyrim’s version of talent trees. Previously, leveling a skill made you more successful when using those skills: attacks became more powerful, crit more often, and missed less often. But that was it. No other rewards for leveling a skill. The perk system allows you to improve skills. Unlike WoW talent trees, you can improve any skill whether you use it or not (with some restrictions, namely “must be of skill level X to access this perk”.) This flexibility encourages players to try new skills. For example, I leveled Pickpocketing because of the Deep Pockets perk. I never leveled Pickpocketing in Oblivion and Morrowind because patience was not a virtual virtue of mine. Here, though, I had a reason to try it, and I found I really liked stripping people of their items while they wore them. That, and I never had an item that gave me +25% Pickpocketing success before. Like WoW talent trees, some perks are awesome (“Stagger when dual casting Fire spells? Done!”) and some are fail (“Prices are 10% better with the opposite sex? Who cares?”) Overall, the perk system greatly improves the game.

Gameplay is improved via the favorites system. On the 360, hit the d-pad and up pops a menu with your favorite spells and items for quick equipping. No more opening the full menu to find the sword with Soul Trap on it. Up, select sword (left- or right-hand equip), back to the action.

Combat mechanics remain much the same. Swordplay is a bit more user-involved than in Oblivion, but hacking and slashing like a spirit-stacking warrior will get the job done. Spells function like before though they seem slower. Might just be my memory. Sneaking is much improved: no more instant and permanent discovery unless you’re at or above lvl 75 Sneak. There’s more of a continuum, a scale of hiddenness. When you’re discovered, you’re discovered, but you actually have a chance at not being discovered instantly upon entering an area unless you’re a master of Sneak.

The addition of shouts is a positive change as it gives players fun, unique cooldowns. We have powers, but they’re on a 24-hour cooldown; waiting a day (game time) after every fight is annoying. Shouts also reinforce that we’re special. Oh sure, everyone calls us Dragonborn or Dovahkiin and we vacuum dragon souls, but shouts make us awesome. Morrowind and Oblivion didn’t have any mechanics that made us feel like the unique butterflies we are; Patrick Stewart tried, but for all we knew, he was thinking of Marina Sirtis when he told us we were the one from his dreams.

Another improvement is the killing blow animations. I was surprised the first time my character—a sneaky mage who uses one-handed weapons as back ups—struck a killing blow. In Oblivion and Morrowind, the only time the camera switched to third-person was to show the opponent’s killing blow on you. In Skyrim, you get to see your death as well as your enemy’s. My favorite was when I hopped on a dragon’s neck and bashed his face in with my Molag Bol. Awesome.

The character information screens could use some help. Equipping weapons and spells is faster, but the inventory system is painful, a major downgrade from Oblivion. As bad as it is for my character, the inventory system is particularly terrible when I store stuff in cupboards and chests in my house. Whereas other inventories have categories (weapons, armor, potions, books, etc), my home storage containers do not. Tis a pain in the ass finding the one item I need among the 100+ items in my cupboard. Almost feels like Bethesda either didn’t care about character storage or couldn’t code it in time for release.

Not being able to make arrows is annoying, but there are ways around that

I play on the 360. I played Morrowind on the XBOX. I bought my 360 so I could play Oblivion as the computer I had back then could not handle Oblivion. Although I miss the additional functionality that the PC version offers, playing on the 360 means I get to play it on my high-def TV. Boo ya. Being in the living room means I can help with the baby instead of being sequestered in the computer room; marital harmony ftw. Also, controller trumps mouse.

And yes, there are bugs. Some are minor annoyances that require reloading the previous save, some are funny (I’ve seen mammoths fly), some prevent you from completing quests. They’re an unfortunate “feature” of all video games, open-world games in particular. If you cannot handle bugs, if you can’t stand such breaking of the fourth wall, then stop playing video games perhaps Skyrim isn’t for you. If you still want to play it, get the PC version as the PC’s console function will allow you to fix or bypass many problems and updates from Bethesda are more easily downloaded. If it’s any consolation (no pun intended), Skyrim has a fraction of the bugs that Oblivion had, which had a fraction of the bugs Morrowind have (God bless that gloriously buggy game.)

My character is a sneaky Dark Elf destruction mage who loves blacksmithing so much, he married a blacksmith. My playstyle is basic: sneak attack openers, fireballs for closers, make weapons and steal all the things when not tromping through dungeons. I haven’t made any alts yet as I’ve been working on achievements, namely the lvl 50 achievement. I’ve completed the main quest, am grand master of the Thieves Guild and arch-mage of the College of Winterhold. I helped the Stormcloaks conquer Skyrim (because fuck Altmeri.) I started the Companions quest chain, but stopped. I haven’t started the Dark Brotherhood quest chain. I’m saving both the Companions and Dark Brotherhood stories for my next character. I have bought houses in Whiterun, Riften, Markath, and Solitude. The house in Windhelm would be mine, but I can’t ever seem to find the guards required to start the chain. I’ve got some Draedric items, but I’m saving most of those stories for my alt; achievements ftw.

Do

  • Explore. Wander off the path. Pick a direction and start walking.
  • Stop and smell the roses…er, red mountain flowers.
  • Enjoy the beautiful vistas.
  • Save early, save often.
  • Play the main quest line through on your first character. It will take you to the far corners of the map, and is a lot of fun.
  • Turn on subtitles and read the quest texts.
  • Read the in-game books.
  • Empty bags regularly.
  • Pick up items that have high value/weight ratios.
  • Do the Whiterun quests and buy a house. It’s the cheapest house in the game (5000 gold) and it’s good to have a place to dump all your stuff.
  • Get married. Some spouses are better than others, but marry who you want.
  • Use a perk calculator.
  • Take Smithing and Pickpocketing for quick levels
  • Join the giants’ space program
  • Level a combat skill to 100. Fire Storm ftw.
  • Level a profession skill to 100. Dragonscale armor ftw.
  • Join a faction and become its leader.
  • Find a powerful item and modify your playstyle around it.
  • Pick every lock.
  • Go on a murderous rampage then reload from your last, pre-rampage save.
  • Kite a dragon to a town and let the guards kill it.
  • Or better yet, kite a dragon to a giant encampment for some giant+mammoth v. dragon action.
  • Practice Archery on the birds flying above Solitude.
  • Find all the Stones of Barenziah (I’m up to 8/24)
  • Become a werewolf.
  • Become a vampire.
  • Shout someone to death.
  • Conquer Skyrim for the Empire.
  • Reclaim Skyrim for all true Nords.
  • Activate a useful Guardian Stone, such as the Steed Stone. (Thanks, Jay!)

Don’t

  • Try to game the leveling system because you can’t. This isn’t Morrowind or Oblivion.
  • Fast travel everywhere. At least not at the beginning. Skyrim begs to be explored. Fast travel is the antithesis of exploration.
  • Fret over crashes and bugs. Accept them and move on with life.
  • Min/max. This isn’t a gameplay-driven game. Find an enjoyable playstyle and go with it.
  • Do everything on one character. Save quests for alts.
  • Kill everyone. Murder leads to the Dark Brotherhood, sure, but wanton slaughter leads to quests that cannot be completed.
  • Buy a horse. Save your money.
  • Use the Elder Scrolls wiki as a crutch. Try to complete as much as possible on your own.
  • Feel bad using the Elder Scrolls wiki when you come across a bug or tedious quest. Search underwater for a small treasure chest with only vague clues to guide me? Yeah, I’ll let someone else with more free time than me find that.
  • Avoid Skyrim because you haven’t played Morrowind or Oblivion. The series is connected, but not nearly as much as other RPG series. They are more stand alone games that share common themes, but missing a game does not put you out of the loop. So you may miss out on some of the depth of the Dwemer storyline. No big loss. Read the Elder Scrolls wiki to get up to speed.

Handy perks

These are utility perks that most characters can use. Some have prerequisite perks, but none require leveling the skill past 50.

  • Unhindered (Light Armor) = Lighten your load means you can carry more and you don’t get fatigued as quickly.
  • Extra Pockets (Pickpocketing) = Increase carrying capacity by 100? Yes please.
  • Haggling, Merchant, Bribery, and Persuasion (Speech) = Haggling and Merchant equal more money, Bribery and Persuasion allow you to keep that money or at least your freedom.
  • Cushioned (Heavy Armor) = Great for the occasional misstep.
  • Quick Reflexes (Block) = I haven’t tested this myself, but a slow-time effect while blocking would be handy even if you’re a caster.
  • Magic Resistance (Alteration) = Takes the edge off those nasty fireballs.
  • Recovery, Regeneration, and Respite (Restoration) = Heal stamina and health simultaneously? Faster magicka regen? More healing? Yes, yes, and more yes.
  • Impact, Intense Flames (Destruction) = Impact, which staggers enemies when you hit them with a dual-cast Destruction spell, is the sweeter of the two. Intense Flames only works with fire spells.
  • Stealth (Sneak) = 20% harder to detect while sneaking is quite nice especially on Thieves Guild quests (Thanks, Jay!)
  • Eagle Eye (Archery) = Also good for scouting, surveilliance, and spying (Thanks, Jay!)

And that’s a wrap

I finally went and did it…

 

 

 

 

We got new credit cards last week and had been procrastinating/avoiding/stalling/whatever on this. It was bound to happen sooner or later. Kellwin cancelled her subscription a couple days ago. I had some free time tonight, so I logged on, parked my characters in the most appropriate inn, and sealed my account’s fate.

Lyraat got a little more love than my other alts. I transmogged my shoulders and ranged weapon (Gronnstalker’s and Golden Bow of Quel’Thalas, respectively), few to the Exodar on my Purple Netherdrake, rode up the ramp on my Purple Elekk, hugged Snarley one last time, and logged off.

Will I return? Possible. Maybe. Highly unlikely that I’ll return to my previous level of activity. Who knows what the future holds.

Because I was curious…

  • Lyraat = 239 days, 2 hours
  • Lirrat = 19 days, 2 hours
  • Ninek = 3 days, 21 hours
  • Thorler (my bank alt) = 1 day, 15 hours
  • Other alts (yes, I have other alts) = 2 days, 1 hour

Total /played = 265 days, 17 hours

Site updates = Guide to 9K Achievements for 4.3

I futzed with the site over the weekend and noticed that WordPress did some weird stuff with comments, specifically self pingbacks. “You just viewed a two-year post that you linked to six months ago. Approve/deny comment? Approve? Cool. By the way, that two-year old post is now your most recent post! Congrats!” Err…Whatever.

Changes:

  • The layout has been changed. I kept the same theme for three years (yes, this WoW blog is that old. I didn’t do much with it for the first six months of its existence.) I changed the theme last week, and just changed it again. Like Ramona Flowers’s hair color, expect the theme to change on my whim for the next couple months until I settle on something.
  • The LFM Fail Stories page has been moved to the Old Stuff page. I don’t play, so no new stories.
  • I redid the post categories. Before, they were (almost) all WoW-related. Now, they better reflect what the site will be about.
  • The Guide to 9000 Achievement Points received its final update. I will leave the guide up until WoW 5.0 drops, at which point it will be moved to the Old Stuff folder. Why? 1. I’m not playing any more and will not play MoP; 2. If MoP adds the same amount of achievement points as Cata did, fewer than half of the total points will be needed to get the feat of strength, which makes a guide fairly useless.

A little sad to think the guide is done. Been working on that since Wrath. Keeping it updated and useful was difficult, yet worth the effort. “I’m missing one dungeon and raid achievement!” “Why can’t anyone make an exportable list of achievements? Is that so fucking hard?!” “Seriously, Blizzard: hiding individual achievements under the highest moves you on today’s DIAF list.” I *cough* may have gotten frustrated and flustered at times. But like much of my life right now, time to transition away and into the next big project.

Upcoming posts:

  • Baby story, part 2: the birth
  • Skyrim review
  • WoW memories/memoirs
  • Annual “Year X -> Year X+1″

Redo the foundation, resume building.

20 seconds until log out…


Tying up some loose ends. Heavy stuff comes later.

Raiding: After nearly four years of constant raiding, I am hanging up the crossbow. Sunday the 6th was our last night. Kellwin, who hasn’t raided an entire night in almost a month, hopped on and said her goodbyes before the raid began. I helped get our raid’s first H-Majordomo kill, subbed out for Ragnaros, and said my goodbyes when the raid ended.

Closing this chapter in our lives was sad. All the friends we made, the struggles we endured, the triumphs we shared…All memories now. Well, not all our friends, but we just won’t seem them as often nor will we make any more raiding memories with them. We will miss the camaraderie the most. Some people have bar buddies, some have reading circles, some have Facebook friends, we had raidmates and guildmates. Luckily we live in the era of social media, so our friends are never that far away. Yet without that twice/thrice-weekly get-together, the relationships will change. Life moves ever onward.

The final line…

Karazhan: 11/11
Serpentshrine Cavern: 4/5, 5/5 post-3.0 nerf
Tempest Keep: ¾, 4/4 post-3.0 nerf
Mount Hyjal: 4/5, 5/5 post-BC
Black Temple: 4/9, 9/9 post-3.0 nerf
Zul’Aman (original): 6/6, 3 chests
Sunwell: 0/6, 6/6 post-BC
Naxxramas: 14/14 10m, 14/14 25m
Sartharion’s Lair: +3D 10m, +3D 25m
Malygos: 10m and 25m
Tier 7 drakes: No on both 10m and 25m
Ulduar: 13/13 10m, Yogg+3, Yogg+1 post-tier; 13/13 25m Yogg+3, Yogg+1 post-tier
Tier 8 drakes: Yes on both 10m and 25m
Trial of the Crusader: 5/5 10N, 4/5 10H, 5/5 10H post-tier; 5/5 25N, 4/5 25H, 5/5 25H post-tier
Onyxia’s Lair: 10m and 25m
Icecrown Citadel: 12/12 10N, 11/12 10H, 12/12 10H post-Wrath; 12/12 25N, 11/12 25H, 12/12 25H post-Wrath
Tier 10 drakes: Yes on both 10m and 25m
Vault of Archavon: 4/4
Blackwing’s Lair: 6/6 normal, 0/6 hard, 1/6 post-tier
Throne of the Four Winds: 2/2 normal, 0/2 hard
Bastion of Twilight: 4/4 normal, ¼ hard, ¼ post-tier
Tier 11 drakes: No
Firelands: 6/7 normal pre-Firelands nerf, 7/7 post-nerf normal, 4/7 hard mode post-nerf
Tier 12 drakes: No
Baradin’s Hold: 2/2

Transmogging: I gave up on it. Real life and WoW ennui intervened; I had neither the time nor desire to run MH/BT/SW for my Gronnstalker set. I have the shoulders, that’s all I care about (and they match my Firelands suit.) I still run Kara for Attumen’s mount and Legacy. Oh, I forgot: I have the fist weapons from Mt. Hyjal. And honestly, I like T12. I’m happy logging out in it.

Ninek notes

/played = 93.5 hours
Level 84
160 achievements
1645 achievement points
4522 HK’s

Whoa. Been over a month since I last regaled the WoW blogosphere with news of my little alt.

I’m officially terminating the project. Ninek has his XP locked at lvl 84 so I can blitz people in the 80-84 bracket. Whee!

At the close of the project, I was averaging just over 17.5 achievement points per hour played (17.59 pts/hr played). If I maintained this rate, I would reach 9000 achievement points in 511.7 hours, which is 21.3 days of play time. At 15 points/hour played, that number increases to 600 hours, which is 25 days of play time; at 12 pts/hr, 750 hours, which is 31.25 days; at 10 pts/hr, 900 hours, which is 37.5 days.

One month of play time seems reasonable based on those numbers. Fifteen points/hour played is tough to sustain: three ten-point achievements every two hours. Twelve is more doable: six ten-pointers every five hours. For some, that may sound insane, but for achievement junkies, it’s manageable.

I could have pushed more. Obviously, I could run dungeons: just doing the Classic and BC dungeons and raids nets me about 650 points. I could have worked harder on PvP achievements, I could have been more diligent about cooking and fishing dailies, I ignored my professions, I could pick up a couple mounts, I could have bought more companion pets, and heck, I could have gotten a haircut. Still, I think I pushed as hard as anyone trying for 9000 would.

Incoming Hate

The screenshot below is true. It has not been photoshopped in any way. Take a close look at the chat window, my achievement list, and the highlighted toolbar icon.


Yes, my project alt, who has never stepped foot into any dungeon, who cannot enter any Burning Crusade heroic dungeon, has the Reins of the Raven Lord.

How? Satchels.

Why? Because opening the satchels counts as looting them, so the gold inside is counted as gold looted, which contributes to my Got My Money on My Mind achievements. It’s one of the reasons why Lyraat is well on his way to the 100K GMMoMM achievement, the big reason why Ninek is almost to 1K, and the main reason I log in on my tank alt.

Random Ninek notes

  • World events helped tremendously. Brewfest was a nice 100-point bump towards 9000 (110, if you count The Captain’s Booty world event achievement that occurred and was achieved during Brewfest.) I banked 190 points thanks to Hallow’s End. Sweet.
  • I did Wintergrasp twice, my first WG battles since Cataclysm. What a change. Our server has about a 10:1 Alliance:Horde ratio, which is why I gave up on Tol Barad: I can never get into TB. Wintergrasp is still an option as it seems each side gets a minimum of five players regardless of how many the other side has. Ninek’s first Wintergrasp had five Alliance and zero Horde (I never saw any), and the second had five Alliance and three Horde. Twas a new experience being the low-level “n00b” in a PvP raid with 85’s fighting Horde 85’s. “I hope your backs are okay!” A little sad as I remember the epic Wintergrasp clashes, such as our first Wintergrasp battle on Sen’jin. My wife and I racked up over 300 honor kills each in that massive brawl. Wandering around a nigh-empty zone
  • Misdirection, how did I miss thee? Let me count the ways. Better yet, let me round up one mob for each way I have missed thee, and I’ll MD them all to my bear. MD + iSrS + SrSpread + Multi + Thunderstomp = This is simply unfair.
  • I locked my xp at 84 to run battlegrounds as I found the 80-84 bracket mimicked Wrath PvP the closest. The stat inflation nullifies the resilience on the higher end of the bracket, and lvl 80’s in PvP gear die quickly; 20K crit minus 33% is still nearly half of a well-geared lvl 80 PvPer’s total health. I like watching people explode.

Thoughts on random WoW topics

  • Stat inflation: I say, leave the numbers as they are. The numbers at endgame don’t matter: be it 30K dps against a boss with 60M health, 2K against 4M, or 750K against 1.5B, it’s all the same. It’s not worth the effort to recalculate every item, mob, boss, and NPC in the game just to make the endgame numbers more manageable. Or, if the numbers are too much, go back and squash the item levels for raid drops at previous endgames. Don’t eliminate items, just drop the stats on all raid items to equal the items of the first tier of that expansion’s raids. For example, all Wrath raid items would become iLvl 226 items, be they from Naxx, Ulduar, ICC, etc. Going back to Classic and working from there, we might see a 150 iLvl drop on Cata items when MoP drops; Wrath alone added over 50 iLvls. Either way, though, it’s all relative.
  • H-Ragnaros: Congrats to everyone who manages to kill him. Very impressive. Those whining about having to put in 300, 400, 500+ attempts…well, be careful what you wish for. Seems like every tier since Ulduar, there were people complaining about how easy hard modes were. Now we get a soul-killing boss, a boss that nearly broke the uberguilds, a boss that nobody can say was too easy, and people are complaining about H-Rag being too hard. Blizzard can’t win.
  • Darkmoon Faire has some nice rewards, but it’s just another daily quest hub. Can’t do it. Don’t have the energy or desire.
  • Congrats to Saeor who nabbed our guild’s first Dragonwrath yesterday. Yay!
  • I used to love the Two Bosses Enter series, but it jumped the shark by having the Cardboard Assassin in Cata’s first tourney. WoW Insider should have known or at least guessed that the internet masses would troll the contest and push the dummy to victory; Sanjaya, anyone?
  • I bought a Guardian Cub for just under 6K gold. A going-away present, if you will. I suspect more items such as this will appear in WoW and other games.

What now?

First, the baby. She’s coming very soon. Pics when I can.

After that, Skyrim. I would have slowed down on WoW anyway to play Skyrim. The full-stop means more time for the latest Elder Scrolls edition.

As for this site, I’ll do some revamping over the next few weeks. Not sure what it will look like, but it does need to be freshened up a bit. I’ve got some big, personal posts I’m grinding out, something along the lines of my WoW memoirs. Should be fun.

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