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|Monday, December 14th, 2015|
|Last of the Morningsiders VI: The Ol' Switcheroo
Wow, I guess it's been a while since I made an update on this topic, huh? I guess I'm drifting away from LJ, not that I would bother to post stuff on, say, Facebook about WoW.
Completed the final boss, Archimonde, to wrap up the latest expansion this past weekend. My thoughts?
This expansion was kind of -- disappointing, frankly. It deliberately tried to evoke some Burning Crusade nostalgia by setting the whole thing in Draenor; sure, there were notable differences in some of the zones, but the "new" Nagrand was practically identical to the old one, especially in palette and atmosphere. (Hardly surprising, since Nagrand was the consensus favorite zone of the BC lot.)
(minor spoilers ahead)
It also evoked BC in another unexpected way -- the final villain was thrust on the story arc without a whole lot of warning or exposition. At the very beginning intro sequence, a well-crafted escape scene, we're led to believe that Grommash Hellscream will be the final villain. Then, as the story arc progresses, we get more of a sense that Gul'dan is the real power behind the scene and our true concern. Okay, still salvageable. Then, in the final patch, not only is Gul'dan not the final boss (some random demon he summons is), but Grommash and company are all buddy-buddy with us now! This is particularly hard to swallow since the end sequence practically shows him walking hand in hand with Yrel and the exarchs, after he's slaughtered countless numbers of their kin. In short, just like BC, I never got a firm foothold on the central conflict of the story.
On top of that, the world of Draenor seems strangely empty. The aforementioned intro sequence set a clear expectation that you're a ragtag army severely outnumbered by an entire world of hostile orcs, but practically all the world zones are bafflingly void of their presence. Not even a single city to the Iron Horde name! By the time I reached the final zone -- the one that includes the enemy citadel -- I got the uncomfortable sensation of feeling like a European power invading the Native Americans: a wildly overnumbered force plundering a nearly pristine wilderness.
That being said, there were some nice additions to the game this time around. Notably, the garrison and various follower missions added some personal mark to one's character (if only they would let you rename your followers and place decorations! Perhaps next time). The endgame raids were staggered very nicely, and for once, the midgame rep grind didn't seem like a waste of time this time around, probably because of resource rewards.
Lich King, unsurprisingly, tops the list of xpacs for me, followed somewhat closely by Pandaria. I'd put WoD just a notch above BC, and both above Cataclysm. I'm still looking forward to Legion, although I'm getting a little tired of old foes and really want some new locales. How long must we wait for the Emerald Dream?
EDIT: It occurred to me I should update folks about the status of the guild. Not many present, I'm afraid; even Corchlan has left for greener pastures (although I expect him to return once Legion hits). There are three current members aside from me active: Sweetfuri, Hottystuff, and Tankbuster. All of them old Aussies from the old guild days, brought in by the Phoiuy cohort. It's nice to see them around still, at least.
|Monday, November 17th, 2014|
|Last of the Morningsiders V: Murder Without the Hobo
And as anyone remotely connected to the WoW scene knows, the latest expansion came out last week. I haven't had much time to play with it, but I've logged on and off again and I have to say it's looking mighty fine.
By far the most overwhelming new feature of the game is your personal garrison/fort. Player housing has been called for since the game's inception, and while it's not quite the same thing (popular rumor has it that Blizzard is going to more-or-less quit updating the garrison when the next xpac comes out), it's pretty cool to build up your own personal space and add people of your liking to it. And there are occasional first-person invasions of your fort by the Iron Horde that are pretty exciting, as well as additional quests available through it. In fact, it's such an engrossing part of the game, for me, that I'm not really paying that much attention to the story, although the story seems okay.
Just murder, and a personal fiefdom to construct. What's not to like?
Update: As for the state of the guild -- Phoiuy is back, and his sister Soph is on and off again. Janola has recently logged on to an alt, and the Morningsider-from-way-back Scott is back as Plu/Ulp. That's about it so far other than Corch and myself, but we'll see if more people trickle back as time passes. I've seen Gonja around using battle.net, but I believe he's using it to play Hearthstone, hah.
|Sunday, May 11th, 2014|
|No looking back
Fifteen years ago, I wrote a fiction piece about the world of Alpha Centauri
and posted it on the Apolyton SMAC website. It was basically a Thomas Paine-style rabble-rousing pamphlet calling the citizenry to action (in this case, calling on the world to accept the peculiar ways of the Gaians, and why the Gaian way was superior.) The SMACers on Apolyton responded enthusiastically and my lengthy pamphlet spawned several threads. In fact, a good friend of mine was actually so impressed that he posted a link to the entire thing on his (now-defunct) group blogging site, and wrote positively of the "elucidating power of fiction". Most of all, I remember being quite proud of my prose and creativity.
So, since the pamphlet has long-since disappeared from teh Internets, I decided to consult the ever-handy wayback machine
to dig it up again and see what I thought.
It's...really bad, I thought. Holy cow. Ah well, no looking back.
|Friday, January 17th, 2014|
|Last of the Morningsiders IV: That's a Wrap
So, I finally finished up the expansion by completing all the raids and the last battle with Garrosh Hellscream. The ending was a little disappointing -- I find it very
hard to believe that Varian Wrynn would spare the life of an orc, much less a vile one like Hellscream -- but I was anticipating it to some degree, since the spoilers for the next expansion included Hellscream as a villain.
was a pretty satisfying expansion, for me. It isn't as strong as Lich King
, but it definitely tops the other two. Definitely the best visuals and music of the bunch, and the narrative was decent (even if it lacked the sense of urgency that LK had and Cata attempted). Looking back on it, despite the colorful scenery and the inherent playfulness of the pandaren, there is an overhanging atmosphere of melancholy that pervades the expansion. One of the constant refrains is the idea of the old ways and the old people dying and giving way to the new, something that struck an odd chord in me in my encroaching middle age.
As for the state of the guild? Yeah, it's pretty much deserted now, I'm afraid. Phalangy and his crew shoved off for a different server, and he appointed Corchlan as GM since he's the only one aside from me who's still around. (Although kokoinai
still pokes his head in every now and then.) Unfortunately, that was kind of foreseen with the addition of the "Looking For Raid" tool. Still, like I said, I have a strange attachment to the guild and want to try to play as long as possible just to see things through. If/when in ten years or so, WoW shuts down, I'm sure I'll still be around to watch it go.
|Monday, October 28th, 2013|
|Lou Reed and Memory
Okay, my Lou Reed story, now that he's dead.
My first exposure to Lou Reed was on MTV, and it wasn't the Velvet Underground, but an obscure tune called "The Original Wrapper". Saw it when it first premiered in 1986, and even though it's arguably one of the worst songs Lou Reed has ever released, I was immediately struck by it. I loved the pun on the word "rapper" and the audacity that this guy had in indirectly declaring himself to be the first to actually rap. The lyrics, of course, remained poetic and gritty like the typical Lou Reed.
And so I found myself reciting the refrain for the song for the next few weeks or so, and hearing the staccato rhythms of the verse in my head. I slowly got into Lou Reed's back catalogue and eventually left "Wrapper" behind. The strange part is, I never ever saw that video again or heard that song again.
So, now that Reed's dead, I decided to revisit that song and video by consulting the oracle of YouTube, a video I had not heard or seen for nearly thirty years.
And I got the lyrics and the rhythm section TOTALLY
wrong! It actually kind of floored me; thanks to the fact that I have perfect pitch, my "music" memory is usually much more reliable than my regular memory -- almost unimpeachable, in fact. Or so I thought. But not only did I get the lyrics wrong (I was singing to myself "make sure the gum's in the original wrapper"), but I even managed the neat trick of misplacing Lou Reed's voice...I always remembered him as singing/rapping it in his typical baritone range, but he sang this one an octave up from that.
So Lou Reed's death brought me in touch with my own mortality and decaying abilities, but not nearly in the way I expected. I'm still a little shocked I got it so wrong; at least I remembered the key (E major) correctly, but it's a little cold comfort to me.
Anyway, if you're curious, here's the video. It fairly blares out This is the 80s MAN deal with it
, but if you can get past that, it's mildly entertaining.
|Thursday, October 3rd, 2013|
|Last of the Morningsiders III: Sashai The Anti-Griefer
So, the last installment of Pandaria is out and I dutifully have been running through it -- slowly, of course, as is my usual wont. I could use the kinda-brand-new Raid Finder to skip right to the end and kill Garrosh Hellscream, but I feel obligated to run through each of the scenarios leading up to that point to see how the story leads us to a joint(!) Horde-and-Alliance raid on Orgrimmar. Thus, I have no idea what the ending looks like or what will ensue from that point on... (I'm also tempted to jump on one of my Horde alts to try and experience it from the other side.) From what little I've played of the story, though, Garrosh's turn from merely bloodthirsty to ZOMG Demonic is a little bewilderingly abrupt. Ah well.
And how to get to the ending raid? Gear up, nancy boy! Although thankfully the process of gearing up is surprisingly simple. On the new area that's opened up, the Timeless Isle, there are a handful of respawning level 90 elites that walk around -- and they drop epic level gear appropriate for joining the final raid. Ordinarily that would be a pain in the tuckus to grind for, except that a) every armor piece that drops is Bind to Account instead of Soulbound, a godsend for alts; and b) it doesn't matter if another player has tagged the elite, if you do a little bit of damage to it in the battle, you can loot it.
So Sashai has been walking around Timeless Isle, in stealth, camping out at the elite spawn points and waiting for some other unsuspecting players to come by so she can draw out her knives and... help them kill the 90 elite so she can participate in the looting. Kind of the anti-griefer -- and it's fairly profitable, funnily enough.
|Sunday, July 21st, 2013|
|Friday, May 17th, 2013|
|Monday, May 6th, 2013|
So I've been playing quite a bit of the Neverwinter MMO open beta, and I must say I've been having a good time. The rules are loosely based off DnD 4th edition in the same way that the original Neverwinter was loosely based off 3rd. The world is fun to walk around in, and it's free to play. Of course, free to play means there are costs for things one takes for granted in WoW -- respecs, epic enchants, fast mounts, extra character slots, extra bag slots, etc. But the costs are generally of the "pay-to-shortcut-the-time-sink" variety, so I don't mind as much.
Of course, the true draw and main attraction for me is the Foundry, the user-created adventure/instance tool. The Foundry almost singlehandedly revived the fortunes of the Star Trek MMO (by the same company, Perfect World), and it looks enticing here. I wrote of my user MMO dreams
in this space before, and the Foundry is a worthy attempt. I especially like how user creations are handled -- it first goes into a "Needs Review" bin, to be played through and judged by other players, then placed in the "New" bin.
Yes, XP-farming creations exist. But they're oddly not as attractive because a) there is much less emphasis on the endgame at this point and b) PWE features a daily rotation of "featured dungeons" that reward 1000 astral diamonds(!) upon completion. And at present, astral diamonds are waaaaaay more valuable than xp, since astral diamonds can be converted to Zen, the buyable currency.
Maybe I'll even write some long campaign of my own...
|Thursday, April 25th, 2013|
...son's on the way, and still nervous.
I know I shouldn't be worried absent a life-threatening condition, but still.
|Thursday, October 11th, 2012|
|Last of the Morningsiders II: Sounds Like a Quest
An update from my previous post
I'm continuing to enjoy my fairly slow levelling process, and while I haven't gotten the full impact of the xpac yet, I might as well update with a couple of comments.
First, the characterization of the NPC's is definitely better. In too many instances in the past, WoW characters were as bland and flat as cardboard, from the evil-just-cause-I-feel-like-it types like Illidan to the Mary-Sue-archetypes like Bolvar. One of the opening zones has you quest alongside the legendary Chen Stormstout (the only pandaren mentioned in game before MoP), and he's good-hearted and a kick-ass martial arts master... and slow, beer-soaked, and damn lazy. It's a refreshing change.
And the immersion is a bit better, as well. It wasn't until I gained a level that I discovered a key component of this immersion: an astonishing number of the NPCs have fully voiced dialogue options and quest narratives. A small thing, perhaps, but welcome.
The music is...well, I'm of two minds about the music. Part of the music is a little corny; the new Pandaren inn theme (one of them, at least) has a kazoo duet backed by tuba. And the questing music, while appropriately epic, is...well let's just say that it takes off from Hayao Miyazaki movies so much that Jo Hisashi would be well in his rights to demand royalties.
Still, if you're going to steal you might as well steal from the best, and there are worse ways to spend your time than soaring over a gorgeous landscape to the strains of Hisashi-esque music.
|Saturday, September 29th, 2012|
|The Last of the Morningsiders
Well, back I go to the Mists of Pandaria expansion to World of Warcraft; I am the last of the founding community of our humble guild to be playing, so I feel an odd duty to continue to the best of my ability, subscription cost or no. It is also something I've noticed throughout the Moonrunner server; not that many folks around, hardly anything resembling the BC (or even LK) crush on opening week. I have no access to numbers, but I wouldn't be surprised if Blizzard didn't see much of a jump in subscription numbers for this expansion.
And, you know, that's okay. In fact, it could be that I'm enjoying the world and the game more because of the relative paucity of people. Instead of the game being OMG RUSH TO MAX LEVEL YOU N00B, I've been settling back, idly picking at the odd quest here and there, and just exploring the place. No doubt, the main strength of Pandaria is that it's absolutely beautiful, much more visually appealing than previous xpacs.
Perhaps after three straight invocations of "save the world", it's fine to just relax a bit.
|Saturday, September 1st, 2012|
|City of Heroes is ending!
I never played, but CoH is officially over
Take pictures of your anatomically ridiculous avatars before they disappear...
|Monday, July 23rd, 2012|
|Melt the Guns
So. Now it's basically a fait accompli that the Aurora massacre won't change anything in terms of enacting gun laws, I ask this:
What tragedy would have to happen in order for significant (or heck, any) gun control laws to be enacted? It seems like the assassination of Obama would do the trick, but I'm not sure. (To the naysayers, I offer that the last presidential assassination attempt, against the Gipper, produced the last significant gun control law, the Brady Law; and that was only an attempt.)
|Tuesday, July 10th, 2012|
|One fail to rule them all
So, on the heels of Wizards' announcement that they are scuttling their virtual table
, Paizo counters that their table will be free to use and available at the end of summer.
I'm starting to wonder whether D&D is in the hands of just too large a company (Hasbro) to look out for their interests, or to do things properly. The 4e character builder was awesome, and against all odds, got steadily worse
as time went on. The initial virtual table looked promising, and not only did not improve over the course of its 2 year development, but actually stripped out the 3d element (which automatically gave it a leg up on the roll20 and maptools competition).
It's really befuddling.
|Thursday, April 26th, 2012|
|Wednesday, April 18th, 2012|
So, latest word from the D&D podcast is that the core set without modules is going to include only six spells per level for casters. I suppose there are worse ways to balance casters with melee -- it does have the echoes of Moldevay about it -- but then the question becomes: which six? My stab for the most "iconic" wizard spells would be:
1st: Sleep, Magic Missile, Silent Image, Detect Magic, Ghost Sound, Shield
2nd: Charm Person, Stinking Cloud, Acid Arrow, Invisibility, Levitate, Pyrotechnics
3rd: Fireball, Fly, Lightning Bolt, Haste, Dispel Magic, Suggestion
4th: Dimension Door, Stoneskin, Charm Monster, Polymorph, Ice Storm, Wall of Fire
5th: Teleport, Cone of Cold, Cloudkill, Rock to Mud and Back, Feeblemind, Wall of Fuck You
6th: Flesh to Stone, Disintegrate, Project Image, Geas, True Seeing, Animate Object
7th: Prismatic Spray, Astral Projection, Mordenkainen's Sword, Greater Teleport, Power Word Stun, Limited Wish
8th: Otto's Dance, Horrid Wilting, Symbol, Polymorph Any Object, Bigby's Fist, Maze
9th: Disjunction, Wish, Gate, Shapechange, Meteor Swarm, Time Stop
Now if I
had my druthers about the list, I'd alter it so some spells wouldn't make the list despite being "iconic" -- many spells like teleport and gate could function as rituals, and wish-like spells might properly belong in the epic spell realm.
|Friday, April 13th, 2012|
Today, since Elly's clothes were almost all in the laundry queue, I had to dress her in clothes that we'd bought before her birth, when her gender was still an open question. No pink clothes today! In fact, not only were her clothes not gender-neutral, they were almost aggressively boyish -- dark brown sweater with a bear's head on the front, and brown pants. She looked, for all the world, like a boy.
So I take her for her daily excursion, and something felt different, although I didn't realize what it was until more than halfway through -- not one
person commented on how adorable Elly was, or how pretty. (Not to brag, but she is fairly inundated with such remarks on her daily walks.) This crystallized for me when a cashier at Fairway said, "Oh hey! What an adorable
baby! How are you, cutie?" and I turned to respond when I realized she wasn't addressing Elly, but the baby girl standing in line behind us.
Obviously, Elly did not morph from a squee-worthy baby to a totally nondescript one overnight, so there is only one conclusion that can be drawn from this. I'm left mulling over whether I should be legitimately worrying about how much her role is shoeboxed by society, or whether I'm overreacting as only a new parent can.
|Thursday, March 29th, 2012|
|Friday, March 23rd, 2012|
Not much to add, but the illustrations
from the article are utterly fantastic. If this is the art direction 5e/Next/whatthefuckever takes, I'll be pretty pleased.
As for 5e, I was skeptical at first but have warmed to it. With a summer free, maybe I can get in on a play test on the West Coast...