Thursday, December 27, 2007

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • On Christmas night, I joined one of the most horrifically bad groups I've ever played with to take on Ragefire Chasm, and we somehow still beat the dungeon. (I would put a "/sigh" here, but I'd feel like a complete tool doing it.)

  • I started a new character the other day, Nymeriah, a blood elf paladin, solely for the purpose of leveling a paladin again. I would have made a warrior if they were available to blood elves, but this is the closest to the sword swinging type I wanted to play.

  • I was happily chasing down quests in the Ghostlands when someone asked if I wanted to take a shot at RFC. In the spirit of charity, I figured "what the heck" and said I'd join. Soon enough I was grouped with two warlocks, a druid, and a hunter. "Uh oh," I thought. "Looks like I'm the healer here." As I said, I rolled a paladin to whack beasties with big swords so I've been investing in the Retribution talents. That's not the most conducive to healing, but since Ragefire is the newbiest of newbie instances, I figured things couldn't be so bad. How wrong I was.

  • I don't have anything bad to say about our druid. He certainly gave it a shot, trying to tank in his bear form. Sadly the rest of the group didn't cooperate much with that plan.

  • One of the warlocks in the group pulled aggro so often I spent more time healing him instead of the one trying to tank. The other warlock spent the whole time demanding I heal his pet, even though I had four actual characters to keep alive.

  • The worst was a low level hunter, that often ran ahead of the group to pull more bad guys before we were ready. And when she (the character was female, at least) did pull, she started with a full shot rotation without waiting for her pet to drag aggro first. She'd attack and then fall back through the group, dragging enemies with her. A couple of times I just let her die to see if she'd stop doing it. Never seemed to faze her.

  • A little way in, we had a full group wipe that saw the first warlock leave in frustration. I don't blame him, but it was still bad form. Luckily for us, he was replaced by another paladin, this one at level 21 who needed to complete a quest I didn't even know existed. Since he outleveled the party and the dungeon, it made the rest go smoother. At least, there were no more wipes which is all I could ask of this group.

  • My poor wife has to listen to me cursing at the computer for the hour I was in there. I did complete a few quests and I got a nice set of bracers so the night wasn't a total waste. But it sure was an eye opener seeing players perform so poorly.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • It has been an interesting time for me in World of Warcraft lately. And by interesting, I mean in both the good and bad ways.

  • I started raiding with Kryptonite, primarily a nice group of people who worked hard to learn the encounters in Karazhan. It has been nowhere near as smooth as my run with Represent as the level of gear is not always up to the challenge yet. But everyone was learning and coming back whenever things didn't go their way.

  • The problem I had with the guild is that those nice people were only about half the guild. There is an entire second group of folks who viewed the guild chat as a way to spew all of their spiteful, oft-times misogynist, humor, no matter who else was on. It came to a head Friday when the benefits of membership no longer outweighed the downside. I shouldn't have held my nose as long as I did, but standing on principles is not so easy a thing.

  • Luckily for me, I fell in with a new guild, Twisting Nether. Everyone is nice and helpful so far. Hopefully the guild keeps its current culture and does not add members just for the sake of padding out the roster.

  • So another Kara run is off in the distance now, but getting there should be more worthwhile.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Read Lately: Bound By Iron by Edward Bolme

  • This is going to be short and sweet, mostly because I don't have a lot of nice to say about the book. I really don't want to bash the thing or the author who took the time to write it. That would just be rude. This post is just to serve as a warning.

  • Speaking of warnings, here you go: don't buy Bound By Iron by Edward Bolme. Plain enough?

  • The sad thing is that this book is just about tailored to my tastes. A mystery set in a fantasy setting, it's in the same vein and the novel that I wrote (that languishes on my hard drive, all alone) so I should be interested in it. The problem is that the book is so artlessly written as to drag me out of the story time and again. Anytime I think "I could have written this better" is a failure on the part of the story. But I trudged on through to the end because I couldn't fail to finish a book again.

  • I don't mean to beat up on the author. I'm sure he's a fine guy, though his "my kids are cuter than yours" bit in the About The Author blurb is another strike against him. But this was not a good book and it reminds my why I generally don't read game-related fiction. You probably shouldn't either; it only encourages them.

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • Yeah, there are at least four other posts I could be writing that have nothing to do with WoW, but this is what I feel like typing now. Two relatively exciting things have happened over the last two weeks in the game that I wanted to share with you, my loyal readers.
  • First, Kryptonite has started making regular forays into Karazhan with an (almost) all guild group. This of course means that they have room to drag along a wayward mage such as myself. I do have to trade nights with another mage in the guild, but he's a good guy and I can't spend all my time in there or I won't have any time to spare for my lovely wife. We dropped Attumen, Moroes, and the Maiden after several attempts each, so the going is slow (unlike my earlier run with Represent). But it's very cool to be learning the encounters with friends and progressing together.
  • Then last night, I finally completed all the group quests that lead up to the Ogri'la quest area. I wrote before about what a pain this quest series was. However, my good guild friend Magah was in the same predicament. We had joined up to finish the initial Netherwing quests (all I need is 5000 gold to continue that, heh) when we decided to check if the same group was interested in the Ogri'la quests as well. Turned out that we had five of us all needing to do these quests. What luck! We completed all five in relatively short order and now have access to a load of new quests to occupy my time.
  • This of course means I had to stay up way too late trying out all the new quests. And I have a raid tonight. So tired.....

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • Remember in my last post where I mentioned the lows and the highs? Last night was definitely one of the highs. I have made a habit of sitting in the Looking For Group queue for Karazhan on the off chance that some group just happens to need a mage to fill out a group. Nothing ever comes of it. Often I forget that I'm even in the queue and just watch the LFG chat channel for anything else that I might be interested in. Last night was different.

  • I was wandering around Shattrath City, getting ready to do my daily quests, when I got a whisper from someone asking if I still wanted to go to Kara. Like I might have decided I had better things to do! I told him that of course I wanted to go. I put my inventory in order, made sure I had the right gear, and made my way to Deadwind Pass. Honestly, I figured that I would be joining some pick up group, we'd beat our heads on a boss, maybe two, and I'd call it a night. At least I'd finally realize my goal of seeing the inside of Karazhan.

  • My excitement was tempered, however, because of recent events. My current guild has been rebuilding after all the raiders took off, so I thought Kara had become a distant dream. I had been tentatively invited to fill in for a guild raid, but it never came off and I had spent Tuesday and Wednesday evenings quite disappointed that things never came off. So I went into this with a healthy dose of skepticism.

  • Lo and behold, the group I was joining was primarily filled with members of the guild Represent, which is the number two Horde guild on my server according to WoWjutsu. I was panicked. These are people who take this game seriously enough to raid regularly and have advanced quite a way through the raid progression. What was I doing here? Would they see right through my never-raided-before facade? Would I embarrass myself in front of these seasoned players and be asked to leave?

  • Thankfully they welcomed me in with very little comment, essentially assuming that I knew what I was doing there. Though I had never been inside, I had recently printed and read over all the boss strategies from WoWwiki. I at least knew what to expect from the dungeon and what was expected of me.

  • Initially, I was surprised that the entrance hall of Karazhan was empty of baddies. I'm so used to the five-man instances dropping you in the laps of the enemy. Here the entrance became a staging area, and a much needed one considering the amount of spells and potions used to get ready. Once the group was buffed up, we made our way to the stables. The first boss is Attumen the Huntsman and his horse, Midnight. He's the check for any guild that comes to Kara to determine if they really belong here. The group quickly went about clearing the ghosts and moved on to attacking the spirit mount. There isn't much about the fight. The tanks have to control the bosses as they arrive, the healers keep the tanks alive, and everyone else kills the targets as fast as possible without drawing their attention from the tanks. So of course I pulled aggro on Midnight and got killed for my trouble. The nice thing about this boss is that you can run from the graveyard and be back in the fight before it's over. So I ran back and got back to the spell casting. With little more drama, Attumen went down and I had defeated my first raid boss. I excitedly announced my progress to my loving wife who was so nice to put up with my game playing.

  • From here we went on to the main hall and, after clearing a number of ghosts, took on Moroes, the tower's steward. Even smoother than last time, I followed the assigned targets and soon Moroes joined Attumen in the ranks of the defeated. It all seemed so surreal that I was doing this, yet it seemed so ordinary too. There wasn't anything different about raiding that I could see, it was just on a larger scale. But here I was and I was enjoying myself.

  • From Moroes we moved onto the Maiden of Virtue, another straightforward battle, and then the famous Opera event. This night the event was Romulo and Julianne. In this fight, you have to defeat each boss separately, and then together within ten seconds of one another. Again I was killed, this time by Julianne, but there was no way to run from the graveyard and get back into the fight. So I watched until I could be resurrected. Finally they were brought down and I won the roll for my first raid epic gear, the Trial-Fire Trousers.

  • Already four bosses in, I was ready for the group to decide to call it a night. But the guild kept pressing on and I fought to keep up. From the Opera, we moved on the Master's Terrace and its boss, Nightbane. Here we faced our first raid wipe. It took three tries to finish the boss. By the time we made that third attempt, I finally had a hang of what I was supposed to do and it went much easier.

  • Ever on, we continued. Next was The Curator, followed by Terestian Illhoof, Shade of Aran, and Netherspite. By this time I was well beyond remembering the boss strategies I had studied. I still vaguely knew what was going on, but had to keep an eye on what the others were doing and follow there lead.

  • Finally we came to the Chess event and the final boss, Prince Malchezaar. The prince took three tries to defeat as well, but eventually he was killed. And like that, I had cleared the entire Karazhan raid.

  • In retrospect, I knew that I was being carried by superiorly geared raiders. But when I asked for an evaluation of my performance, they told me that I had not stuck out as completely useless. That was the best compliment that I could hope for. It took over four hours, but it was a great time. And by clearing the instance on my first time, I had achieved far more than I ever dreamed.

  • The only problem with all this was that I had planned on cooking dinner last night, but got so sucked in that I had to make a Del Taco run after midnight. Thank goodness for 24 hour drive-thrus!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • As in all things, there are high and then there are lows. Just because World of Warcraft is a video game (and thus, fun!) does not mean that it is excluded from this truism. In fact since they are such highly social games, MMOs are subject even more intensely this roller coaster. Since my last post, I've been facing those highs and lows square in the face.

  • On the high side, I finally completed my Master's Key, and thus can enter Karazhan. That is, of course, if I can get into a Kara raid group. That does not seem to be as easy as I hoped. Within days of receiving my Kara key, my guild disintegrated, leaving only the casual and pre-raid contingient behind. All the raiders fled to a new guild.

  • I also finished my Frozen Shadoweave set, decked in out in rare gems, and the best enchants I can get. Of course, now there is nothing to kill with my new goodies since I've run out of solo player quests. The most recent patch added a single new daily quest that randomly rotates the objectives, but one new quest does not a play experience make.

  • Finally, I have been playing on my alt. But not really that much. Sure there is new content to see with the revamp of Dustwallow Marsh and nerfing of pre-60 group quests that I never did before. However I'm finding it difficult to play another character that is going to face this casual player ceiling.

  • Here's a little proposal to Blizzard for opening things up for us casually: allow access to the Ogri'la and Netherwing quests to soloers. There is no reason a solo player should be forced to group up just to experience more solo content.

  • In the mean time, I'll be playing Mass Effect, maybe twice. Maybe I'll get back into Phantasy Star Universe. Maybe I'll give that Lord of the Rings game a second try. I've heard the new patches are pretty good.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

By Request: Bullet Points, a definition

  • Looking over the web stats, I've been dismayed to discover that people aren't coming to my blog for my scintillating wit or insightful views on video games and comic books. Evidently, most people are trying to figure out what a bullet point is. Not the audience I was seeking, but I feel that I must serve this accidental constituency just the same.

  • See that little dot of to the left? That's a bullet point.

  • The snarky part of me really wants to leave it there. And yet I'm oddly compelled to continue.

  • I don't use bullet points the way they're supposed to be used. Normally a bullet point is used to identify a single idea, thought, or concept in a few, concise words. Primarily this is because bullet points are supplementing another method of information transmission and the bullet point serves as a focus and as recall device.

  • Concise, I am not. Like I said in my first blog post, I just like having a device that allows me to throw a jumble of thoughts together while the appearance of continuity and adhesion between them. Not that I take advantage of that fact, but there you go.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • Now that I've hit level 70 on a second character in the current favorite, my thoughts automatically drift to the conundrum that in endgame content. The primary motivational driver in massively multiplayer role-playing games is gaining experience to increase your level. It's a strong motivator because it's easy to implement, easy to follow, and easy to expand when necessary. That's why just about every expansion pack ever released features an increased level cap. They're just hanging that carrot on a longer stick. But what do you do when you hit the level cap. I've already done so twice in WoW and each time it has made me reevaluate what I want to get out of the game.

  • The endgame, then, is really about finding alternate ways to advance your character. In many games, the secondary driver of advancement is upgraded equipment, the "phat lootz" and "purples" that improve your abilities without adjusting your level. In WoW, there are three primary ways to improve your gear: crafting, PvP, or raiding. Everquest 2 has an Alternate Advancement system in place to improve your abilities after you've capped out, though they introduce you to this quite early. Like gear improvements, they put you on training wheels for this endgame content while you're leveling so you know what you're doing once you hit the cap.

  • Some people will tell you that the endgame is the "real" game and leveling is just preparing you for that. It's a valid viewpoint, and games like Guild Wars readily embrace the concept. However there is something visceral about leveling up that can't be discounted as merely a grind.

  • This is the dilemma I'm facing again. How do I stay interested in the game when I'm running out of things to do on my own? This question has actually clarified a little in the last week so I'll just list what I'm working toward. This shouldn't be taken as a prescription for everyone, but might give you an idea of what options are available. Essentially, I'm doing a little of everything.

  • First, I set a goal to craft a set of Frozen Shadoweave armor. This three-piece tailored epic set is practically fated for my frost-specced mage and I've had a good time crafting the first two parts. The robe of this armor will be quite a challenge since I have to improve my tailoring skill and gather the resources to craft it, but the goal will be well worth it in the end. I did this with my paladin, crafting a Breastplate of Kings, though I didn't get much use of it when I switched to my healing role.

  • Second, I've joined a new guild with people that have similar goals and are relatively helpful in achieving them. My personal goal for the game (and I've probably said this before) is to see the inside of Karazhan. Funny enough, I'm at the exact same stage of my Kara attunement quest as I was with my pally, but I feel more assured of closing the deal this time. Now that Patch 2.3 has rolled out, I'm hoping the Kara will lead into Zul'Aman and more fun, but that is my "stretch goal."

  • Third, I started an new alt, a blood elf warlock named Kesandru. When I got sick of my pally, I returned to leveling my mage. And now I have a warlock in case I get sick of Ashlynh. Again, Patch 2.3 has made the alt leveling experience better, but I'm hoping that I have too much fun raiding so I don't have to move on to a new character.

  • It is difficult to know if I am making the same mistakes as before. Maybe I'll hit my head on the endgame ceiling again and it'll be all alts, all the time. However I'm hoping that I will finally see this endgame everyone keeps talking about. Imagine me being the optimist. First time for everything I guess.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Read Lately: Astonishing X-Men, volumes 1-3

  • I'm secure enough in my manliness to admit without reservation that I love Joss Whedon. I am reasonably certain I'm not the only man to have made this declaration, but Google only turns up like one guy willing to admit it. (In the first hundred results at least. I'm lazy.) I mean, this is guy who did Buffy and Firefly. What more could a geek want.

  • Actually, he could want to write a comic of his own (I have the scripts to prove it.) John Cassaday is on the very short list of artists for which I would sell my (currently non-existant) first-born to work with. I've thought so ever since I first saw his work in Desperados, while Planetary went on to prove the point.

  • When it was announced that Joss and John would be working together on the successor to Grant Morrison's famed X-Men run, I knew it couldn't disappoint. Unless you're a big crybaby forum whiner, it doesn't. And if you are a big forum-whining crybaby, grow the eff up.

  • The first volume, Gifted, reintroduces this incarnation of the X-Men and gets them back in the super-heroing business. In doing so, they confront an alien bent on destroying mutantkind and face the discovery of a cure for the mutant gene. If that later sounds familiar, it is because the third X-Men movie borrowed that plot.

  • The second volume, Gifted, introduces another new villain, though it turns out to be someone we are all familiar with and would never expect. Sorry to vague that up so much. This story was not as strong as the first and would have been a week point to end on if JW and JC followed their original plan of 12 issues and out. However they decided to run out to 24 issues, which instead makes this a decent setup for future payoffs.

  • The third volume, Torn, gives us the trippy return of Morrison's villain, Cassandra Nova. The X-Men face psychological attacks the expose their greatest fears, though in Wolverine's case this comes across as extremely humorous. Each hero finally overcomes their decent into madness to help thwart the plot.

  • At the end of Torn, the X-Men are whisked off to outer space and the resolution of the plot initiated in the first volume. We're now 4 issues into this finally story line and and exciting conclusion is in the offing.

  • If you enjoyed the X-Men movies at all or superhero comics in general, this is a series that will not disappoint. Between the beautiful writing and art, the only weakness is that it will end all too soon.

  • Note: I started writing this post 3/24/07. In the meantime, I've reread these three books twice more in preperation of this post. It's that good.

Random Shots: Complete and Utter Failure

  • Although I'm not throwing in the towel yet, the bookies are already setting stupidly long odds on my completing the goal for NaNoWriMo. This should not be surprising to anyone, least of all me. Since I've already written a book of similar length that took me eight months to complete, 50,000 words in 30 days is the very definition of a pipe dream.

  • There are two things working against me in this. First is that writing, as much as I enjoy it, is very much work to me. When I sit down at a keyboard to write, it feels like I'm tacking sentences together, one agonizing word at a time. Sometimes a particularly nice phrase will just slip out. But usually I'm fighting to get all them words to line up right. When I was really writing, my goal was 600 words a day. On a bad day I'd usually get 300; on a good day I could do 1200, sometimes more. Consistantly hitting 1667 words a day (and being happy with those words) is pretty much beyond me.

  • The second thing against me is World of Warcraft. I just can't stop playing the game. Hmm. I keep trying to say that this doesn't mean I'm addicted, but all my denials come off as me being in denial. So either I'm not addicted to WoW, and you can just accept that or I am, in which case who cares.

  • Either way, this novel sprinting business was a fun lark, but the high is over and I'll just have to finish at my own pace.

  • P.S. Stand strong, WGA.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

News Filter: Dollhouse

  • In what has to be the best television news since Firefly got turned into a movie (which wasn't strictly television news at all), Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku are launching a new television series. Dollhouse, will portray Echo, a character who is loaded with a personality to fulfill any client's particular fantasy. When the job is over, her personality is completely erased. She lives in the titular Dollhouse with others like her. The big twist comes as Echo starts to remember bits of herself that should have been erased.

  • Joss Whedon is amazing. I pretty much follow him anywhere his creative journey takes him, from Buffy to Firefly to Astonishing X-Men and more. So I'm very excited to see how this turns out. The fact that the studio is skipping the pilot and jumping in with a seven episode orders means they must have been impressed with the show's potential.

  • Fingers crossed everyone.

  • Oh in other news, I'm unofficially participating in National Novel Writing Month. I'll share updates here as I go.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Read Lately: The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

  • ...or at least the first one and three quarters thereof. And I'm really not sure if I want to keep going.

  • I started reading The Farseer trilogy based on the recommendation of a World of Warcraft guild mate. I haven't read any fantasy since the last George R. R. Martin book and I'd been getting restless for another. Since my wonderful wife had a number of Robin Hobb's books in the To-Be-Read warehouse, and I'd enjoyed one of her short stories before, I thought I'd give it a shot.

  • I got through the first book okay, if a little slowly. It was nice to read a well written fantasy (and Hobb is a good author), though the plot did not have the drive and excitement that I look for in a fantasy. As a matter of fact when I finished the book, I did not have much desire to continue with the series, even with many dangling plot threads. Like so much fantasy now, the book was written to fill out a trilogy, never intending to make a satisfying standalone experience. Instead I went on to read other things.

  • However that same guild mate eventually asked me if I'd finished the series. Instead of saying what I felt about it, I just said I was about to start the second. I wish I hadn't. I got three quarters of the way through the book before my anger at the characters got the best of me. The entire plot drives on the fact that no one will do act against the interests of a demonstrably evil character due to their personal strictures, insecurities, and just plain idiocy. By the three quarter point, I was so frustrated by the characters that I could not take it any more.

  • I turned to the last page of the book.

  • I know that doing so is blasphemy to a serious reader, but I couldn't help it. I wasn't doing so because I couldn't take the suspense. I just had to know if I was right all along and my frustration with the characters was justified. Turns out I was right. As a note to the authors out there, I don't want to read a book about a character that fails due to inaction! Thus, the book is stuffed in my desk (bookmark still in place, just in case) and going unread. I've read a few things since then, better things. Hopefully better reviews will follow.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Played Lately: Everquest 2

  • Every time I start this post, it takes on the tone of a confessional. I'll just have to go with that.

  • Everquest has always held a strange fascination for me. As the first massive RPG to bring in huge numbers, I could not help but wonder what it would be like to join the adventure in an online world. Of course, I didn't have the computer for it and struggled under the burden of a dial-up connection, so playing was out of the question. But the time I had the resources to barely meet the requirements to play, I discovered that barely was not really enough. Additionally I discovered that in an online RPG that is years old, the areas dedicated to new players become a barren wasteland. I played long enough to know the phenomenon had passed me by. I cancelled my account and looked for something else.

  • But the fascination was still there. I bought a Playstation 2 for the sole purpose of playing Champions of Norrath, the Dark Alliance inspired game set in the world of Everquest. I bought several pen-and-paper role playing game books for the same reason. And just recently, Sony released an online card game called Legends of Norrath. I love collectible card games, though I don't play them. I was immediately hooked on this.

  • Then a funny thing happened. My excitement for the Guild Wars expansion had come and gone. And as I've already chronicled here (and here) my love for World of Warcraft had waned substantially. So I was looking for something new. So I thought, "What the heck? Why not Everquest 2?"

  • I started doing some research and discovered that EQ2 bit the bullet and created several quest series that would take a solo player from start to maximum level, much like WoW. Even better, it looked like they had done one better by including solo instances, something WoW is sorely lacking. Since the game was a few years old and had three expansions under its belt, I thought I might as well give it a shot.

  • In the pro column, it was a new experience for me, but familiar enough that I did not feel lost. I started my adventure in Kelethin, the latest expansion zone, and was soon overwhelmed with the number of options available to me. Thankfully, that was overwhelmed in a good way. I was never at a loss for things to do. That includes the inventive crafting system. With WoW, you kick a button and the thing done. In EQ2 you can do that, but you won't produce nearly the quality of product. I would not mind seeing this system emulated in other games.

  • However there are a few negatives that I should cover as well. Although the game will run, I have to run in in High Performance mode for it to run with any chance of smooth play. Thus I'm missing out on what should be a very attractive game. Also, I've suddenly hit a level of difficultly in my missions where the quest have outpaced my level. Now I'm faced with grinding for experience so that I can outlevel the quests, just to bring them to a difficulty where I can complete them.

  • One final problem I have with the game is that there is direction is limited. You get a great feel for how expansive the world is, but the quests are not very explicit in guiding your experience.

  • So while I've enjoyed my time playing, it has only made me appreciate WoW more. It's nice to have a competent alternative, though.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Top Five: Comic Book Series

  • Astonishing X-Men: I'm already writing an article about AXM but I'll indulge in a few words here. If you like Joss Whedon, if you liked the X-Men in any prior form, or if you just like beautiful pictures, there is something for you here. If you fit all of the above, try not to drool on the pages of this series. This is the only costumed super-hero book I read anymore.

  • Criminal: I told myself that I wouldn't choose this series since Sleeper already appears in my top five. That was seven months ago when I first started writing this post. (Yes, I'm a winner.) Criminal is a pitch perfect crime drama with tough and evocative writing by Ed Brubaker and subtly expressive art from Sean Phillips. I can't recommend this book highly enough. Criminal is the one comic book that I absolutely have to pick up on New Comic Wednesday.

  • Mage: When I was young, comics were all about superheroes and toy licenses. I read my Spidey and my G.I. Joe. Then along came Mage. A retelling of the Arthurian legend in modern times, it captured my imagination like none before. This was the comic that taught me that comic books don't have to be for kids. Matt Wagner, if you're out there, isn't it time for you to get started on book three?

  • Queen & Country: If you told me that I would end up liking a comic book series about a British secret agent, the various politically charged missions she goes on, and the turmoil that brings to her life... actually that sounds really good. And it is. Greg Rucka even got a couple of great prose novels out of the deal. So if you want espionage without the movie cliches, this is the book for you.

  • Sleeper: Like all good things, I got into Sleeper late. But the old saying applies here: better late than never. Sleeper is the story of a deep-cover agent in a criminal organization. His problem is that his handler is in a coma, so no one knows he's undercover. He constantly has to balance maintaining his cover against sinking to low into the moral quagmire, knowing all the while that there may never be anyway for him to get out. And while the story is set in a superhero universe, this is a story about good and evil and the thin line between the two. Anyone who likes action and espionage will like Sleeper. A bold statement, but true nonetheless.

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • Just a short update to geek out a little. Last night while playing my blood elf, Ashlynh, (while I should have been asleep), I was happily questing along when I found a Jack O'Lantern. Amazingly, this item is an 18 slot bag, a size which is very hard to come by in the game. If you know anything about MMORPGs, you know how important it is to have big bags for hauling all your loot around.

  • I know it's silly to be happy about replacing a 16 slot bag with an 18 slot, but it's the little victories that keep you going.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • Wow, that last post went so long, I forgot that I had a second point to make. Which is funny, too, because I'd worked up a whole head of steam over this topic and then spent all my time blathering on about the daily quests. In retrospect, I didn't know how pissed off I was about that. However I remember exactly how pissed off I am about this. Welcome to "Kicking the Hell out of World of Warcraft: Part Two." Let's start with a couple of stories:

  • When I play WoW lately, it's as my Blood Elf mage, Ashlynh. Just recently, she made the final grind to level 58 and ran for the Dark Portal. Everyone else seems to have the same idea because suddenly there were actually other people around to interact with. And all of them want to run the Hellfire Citadel dungeon instances. Which is cool because the instances can be fun and provide excellent rewards if you get a good group.

  • Did you catch what I did there? I feel like I should go back and highlight, bold, and underline that phrase.

  • "If you get a good group." This is the crux of my problem. The very first instance you encounter, and presumably the easiest, is Hellfire Ramparts. There is nothing particularly difficult about this dungeon. There are no difficult pulls as long as you watch for patrols. The bosses aren't particularly tricky as long as you stay on the ball. But for some reason, I can't find four other people that know their class from a hole in the ground.

  • As a mage, my role is pretty straight forward: 1) blow stuff up and 2) keep one bad guy "sheeped". The only thing I have to worry about is doing too much damage and therefore causing enemies to charge me. I do a pretty good job of that because, honestly, it's not that hard. But a bunch of kick ass mages does not an instance group make.

  • Unfortunately, WoW requires that all groups subscribe to the "Holy Triumvirate" setup or you will never, ever take down a boss. (The Holy Triumvirate for those of you just joining in is Tank/Healer/DPS. DPS is a damage dealer; the acronym is Damage Per Second.) If you don't have a tank, everyone dies. No healer, the same. No DPS and you can't kill things fast enough before the healer can't keep the tank from going down and you're back to everyone dies. Me, the mage, fall squarely in the DPS catagory. But like I said, my part is the easy one.

  • What I keep running into over and over are tanks and healers who don't wear the proper gear, don't use the correct talents, and don't really know how to do their job properly. The problem with these dungeons is that the learning curve is pretty steep at the end. Sure, you can get away with some half-assed pulls as long as there is enough crowd control (that's me with the sheeping) to focus on one bad guy at a time. You can't do that with the boss and hope to survive. Nazan, the dragon-like thing at the end of Hellfire Ramparts, killed my group five times before we decided that enough was enough.

  • I have been trying to get through Shadow Labyrinth with my human paladin, Kyralahn, for a couple of months now. My professed goal in the game has been to step foot into Karazhan with a raid group. Unfortunately for me, "SLab" has proven unbeatable. As a paladin, I have dedicated myself to being the best healer I can. I've collect the best healing gear I can find (so far), I've set my talents to optimize my ability, and I have practiced. But still, the dungeon is unforgiving.

  • I suspect I'll never complete my Karazhan key. This feeling is part of the reason I turned away from WoW recently and started looking for other games to occupy my time. I really like to have fun in my games, and these frustrating instances do not meet that need.

  • On a side note: Kyralahn just recent completed another level 70 instance, The Botanica. Amazingly enough, a decent group with an exceptional tank got us all the way through the dungeon with only one wipe and a minimum of deaths. A good time was had by all. If only all my groups were that lucky.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • And now, I beat the hell out of World of Warcraft.

  • Well, you know, sort of. It's still World of Warcraft, so any criticism I make now has to filtered through the lens of "I've played and enjoyed this game so long that it actually counts the amount of time played in total days because the number of hours and minutes won't fit in the little chat box". But anyone who has played for that long also knows exactly what it is that pisses them off. Here, then, is the picking of the nits.

  • If there is one thing that WoW is renowned for (and maybe reviled in certain camps) is that they gave it a solo option. You can literally raise a character from level 1 to level 70 without ever relying on the assistance of another player. Sure, you'll miss out on the group quests and their nice rewards (though going back at a higher level to solo them is an option). You will miss out on all of the instances as none of them are turned for a solitary player. And you'll never see the inside of a raid encounter. But there is never a time on the trip to the level cap when you lack for options.

  • So why does Blizzard hide solo content behind a barrier that requires a group to unlock? Really, what is the point? Are they saying, "We'll give you this fun new stuff to do with great rewards, but only if you choke down this bundle of crap that we know you hate?" Is that it?

  • Specifically what I'm talking about is the daily quests in Outland. One of the quest chains, the Sha'tari Skyguard, is accessible just as soon as you hit level 70 and buy a flying mount. But for some effing reason, the Orgi'la and the Netherwing factions are unavailable unless you complete a long series of group quests. And these aren't the kind that you can wait until you get more powerful, then go back to solo later. These are hardcore, 5-man level 70 bosses you have to fight. While the Netherwing only force you to complete one of these quests, you have to down five of these idiotic quests to get into Ogri'la. That may not sound too bad for the Netherwing, they also require you to have a 300 Riding skill at a cost of 5000 gold. If I play every day, I'll probably make that much in about half a year.

  • Someone please explain to me why this is fun?

  • Look, I like people just fine. However I want to do my own thing in my own time. Making friends and interacting with a guild will give you a different online experience. But at the same time, the game goes from fun to an obligation just as soon as I have to subvert my goals at the behest of others.

  • Plus I'm really tired of that one guy asking me to help him out every time I log in.

  • Maybe I won't ever see the inside of Karazhan, the noobist of the noob raids. I won't ever get a purple that I didn't craft myself. But I don't really care that much. If you're going to give me an anti-social option, expect me to want to see all of it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Played Lately: Guild Wars

  • I finally succumbed to the inevitable and started playing Guild Wars again. It's become my latest excuse for not posting regularly/at-all. The Eye of the North expansion was released at the perfect time, i.e. just when I got completely bored with World of Warcraft. (Complaints to follow.)

  • I got warmed up for playing (and Guild Wars needs a warm up) in the week prior to the preview by, of all things, farming the Ferndale region for Kurzick faction. I don't think I stepped outside of the area bounded by Lutgardis Conservatory at the south and House zu Heltzer in the north the entire time, except to peek into my guild hall. I did enough to earn the first level of the Kurzick Allegiance title, and with it access to the PvE-only skills.

  • Why not leave the dark environs for Echovald Forest, you might ask? Well, it comes down to the fact that I can't stand to drag another character through Nightfall again. I got my Kira through the game once and a paragon got all the way to the Realm of Torment before giving up on the game before and I sure as hell aren't going to do that again without a seriously imbalanced build. After playing the first half of the game, which includes the Istan and Kourna regions, I thought Nightfall might be the best game yet, with the Consulate Docks mission as one of the best in all three games. Then I hit Vabbi and the game started to suck. The Desolation lived up to its name and the Realm of Torment was more horrific to me than the god it was built to imprison. Don't even get me started on the Domain of Anguish. What a complete failure of a game!

  • Sorry about that rant. Turns out things look up with this expansion.

  • With the preview weekend only one week prior to game's launch, I didn't feel too bad about exploring as much of the expansion as I could. Especially since all accomplishments would carry over, unlike prior previews. So my brother and I (who long ago surpassed me in Guild Wars fanaticism) plunged head-first into the Far Shiverpeaks. It was like returning home, in a way. The Shiverpeaks were always one of my favorite areas in the original campaign and this excellence was only amplified by the years of experience the designers have accrued since the originals were made. While this branch of the storyline was the only one available for the preview, it was more that this was game I loved playing returned to me.

  • The Norn introduced me to the first reputation track of the expansion and I was hooked by the mechanical, just as I'm sure they expected it to. Ingeniously, you can take a challenge that earns you a single reputation for your earliest kills. If you hurry through an area, you won't earn much. However, it seemed to me that just when you got to where you wanted to go, the challenge increases its reward, earning three points per kill instead of one. Something goes off in my head at that points that says, "I can't stop now! I'm getting triple points per kill!" Further improvements to four points soon follows just when you think about turning back. Then, as is my usual luck, the final five point version usually happens far too late to matter. By then I've killed everything in the instance and have to move on reluctantly.

  • This is also where I earned my first PvE-only skills of the expansion. For my ranger, these Norn skills have proven to be the most useful. "I Am The Strongest!" and "You Move Like a Dwarf!" quickly found a home on my skill bar, adding much needed knockdown ability and additional damage. Once the preview weekend was over, I knew it would be a long week before I could get back the abilities I was now so enamoured with.

  • The Norn lands were also the setting for my first dungeon experience. In this case, that was the Sepulchre of Dragrimmar. (Okay, I had to look up the spelling, but I was close.) It was at this point that I realized the expansion was a winner. Here was something that, though not new by any stretch, gave the rush of anticipation like I had not felt for the game in about a year. I can see myself returning to those challenges often in the future.

  • Eventually the expansion finally launched and I got to play through to the end. Beyond a couple of very hard bits (clearly marked as Master level, so I was warned), there were no missteps with the difficulty as were found in Nightfall. I played through to the end and enjoyed every step of the way. If Eye of the North was Arena.net's way of bridging the gap with Guild Wars 2, I can't wait to see what they come up with next.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • A lot has happened in the World of Warcraft since I last wrote. So lets get started. I hope you're all comfortable and used the restroom recently. I'm not pulling over until we get there.

  • It took the better part of a month, but I finally leveled my paladin to 70. Starting in Hellfire Peninsula at level 58, I also cleared Zangarmarsh, Terrokar Forest, almost all of Nagrand, and a sliver of Blade's Edge Mountains before I heard my final "ding." I celebrated by immediately by hightailing (what does that really mean?) it to the gryphon vendor to purchase my flying mount. Thanks to my beautiful wife for disuading me from buying the ugly onyx gryphon that everyone else seems so enamored with.

  • One thing I've done that I didn't do a lot of before is run various instances. The Outlands instances are so much better designed so it doesn't take forever to work through them. I've tackled Hellfire Ramparts, the Blood Furnace, and the Underbog several times. I also made it through Sethekk Halls twice and got my Shadow Labyrinth key. I also took unsuccessful runs at Mana-Tombs and Slave Pens, but I'm sure I'll be back for them.

  • I'm kind of sad that I'm not earning experience points anymore. Hitting max level is most obvious goal in the game. Having that carrot removed has left me adrift. This means I have entered the end game, where my goals are my own and if I'm not having fun, it's my own damn fault. Thankfully there are plenty of goals I can strive for.

  • My primary goal is complete all the quests in Blade's Edge, Netherstorm, and Shadowmoon Valley. That is a lot to do, with a lot of money and new equipment to earn. Once you hit level 70, there is no other way to improve your character than through equipment upgrades, so there is still a little bit of carrot out there. It's just broken into fairly small pieces and scattered all over the map.

  • I also want to run the heroic instances and eventually, Karazhan. I was so excited to learn that this was the long term goal of this guild too. (Can you imagine me excited? It doesn't look much different than my other moods.) This is the longest of the long-term goals. Until then, there is plenty else to do.

  • One goal that was decided for me was that I needed to craft a Breastplate of Kings, the first epic quality blacksmithing armor. After getting the recipe, I mentioned in guild chat that I was interested in building one for myself sometime. My friend, Mesia, decided that the right time was now. I'm actually a fair bit along toward getting it now, which is nice. Just a few more primals to go.

  • Along this line, I want to max out my various professional skills. Mining was easy, and I had first aid done before leaving Hellfire. Cooking isn't that hard, but the high end recipes are a pain to get ingredients for. Blacksmithing just needs lots and lots (and lots and lots and lots) of ore to make the engine run. Only 25 more points to go on that. The tough one will be fishing. Even with the shorter guaranteed timer, you still have to take time out from everything else you're doing and dedicate your time to fishing. And it's the only profession that makes you switch equipment to use. Such a pain, but I will do it. Eventually. Maybe.

  • So I'm still moving along and having fun. Time to get back to the quest.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Random Shots: Where The Hell Have You Been?

  • In case you're concerned, that title is not meant for you, gentle reader. Instead, the interrogative is directed at myself, though I suspect you already know the answer.

  • I've spent a lot of time playing World of Warcraft. A lot. A follow up post will expand upon that.

  • Did a little reading. Since Greg Rucka is one of my favorite authors, I thought I should actually read one of his books. This time it was Finder, the second of his Atticus Kodiak series. Very good, almost as brutal as the first. I'm currently working on Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb, on the recommendation of a WoW guildie. So far it's a paint-by-the-numbers fantasy novel, just a fantastically executed one. It's really hard to do anything original in genre fiction, but Hobb makes you forget that you've read this all before.

  • My lovely wife and I watched the first season of The Wire. Thank goodness for DVDs or I'd never have seen this amazing show. Also picked up season three of Deadwood for good measure, but haven't gotten to it yet.

  • Also saw a couple movies: Knocked Up (which was better than I expected) and Ocean's Thirteen (which I still enjoyed even though it fell out of focus twice and off frame once).

  • So what have you been up to?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Random Shots: While The Cat's Away

  • I see no one tracked mud in the house while I was away. Though next time you should clean up the empties if you're going to throw a party. I'm back for the time being and I have a few things to get caught up on.

  • First of all, I'm pissed off at someone. Sorry for the strong language as I'm sure the person I'm mad at doesn't even read this blog. But if, in some cosmic joke, the arsonist who started the wildfire in the Griffith Park is reading this, I have a question for you. "Why did you make them preempt Veronica Mars? Couldn't you have waited until, say, Friday when people aren't watching TV anyway? Ass." I'm really annoyed.

  • I've been spending a ludicrous amount of time playing World of Warcraft as of late. I'm sure that what you all assumed I was doing. I hit level 58 last week and headed to Outland, which is the expansion zone. It's just as amazing as everyone says it is. And thus, no blogging. Mea culpa.

  • My desire to read dropped to nil after finishing that Michael Connelly book. It's not that the book put me off reading, it just that I can't read three series books in a row without the third book coming off badly. The problem is that I'm not sure what I should slot in between Michael Connellys. Maybe this? Or this? Any ideas?

  • My lovely wife was gifted with a pair of tickets to see the Los Angeles Galaxy match this weekend. Never seen an MLS game, live or on TV. I enjoy soccer, so I'm expecting to have a good time.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Read Lately: The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly

  • I am a very selective reader. Whether it's in words or pictures, there are too many options for me to slog through something I don't enjoy. So when I find an author that hits my buttons correctly (Can I still use that phrase in a non-ironic way?), I become a very loyal reader. Michael Connelly has become one of those authors.

  • The Last Coyote, the fourth book of his Harry Bosch series, is an exemplary example (whee!) of the detective mystery genre. As it starts, Bosch has finally gone over the line with the LAPD and is on disciplinary leave. He may be freed from the burden of day-to-day casework but he is still driven by his mission to right the wrongs in his city. One wrong in particular, the murder of his mother.

  • Any good mystery tells us as much about the detective as the crime being solved. In this case, the crime informs Bosch's character so much that to take him out of the story would destroy it in every way. The three previous novels in the series have only cement the groundwork upon which this tale plays out.

  • Michael Connelly has by this point (I mean 1995 when the book was published. Duh.) already developed a natural writing style that is spare, but still evoking the look and feel of modern Los Angeles. His prose is fast moving and relentless in its pace. However character development does not suffer from the speed with which the book reads. Instead the intensity of the mystery casts his characterizations into high relief, sharpening their personalities and propelling their growth throughout the novel.

  • My only nitpick is more due to the nature of the genre than with this book in particular. I much prefer for mysteries to be solved at the climax of the book. However in this novel, the tension peaks too early. Instead of resolving the mystery, you get a build to a second, much weaker climax before the end. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it feels forced more than anything. And for a novel that has done so much right to that point, it is a little disappointing.

  • Nitpick aside, Michael Connelly is now on my list of go-to authors for when I need a new mystery. Thank goodness there are so many of his books I haven't gotten to, yet!

Monday, April 9, 2007

News Filter: We Need Another Fire Hydrant, Again

  • For the second time since we moved into this house, someone collided with the fire hydrant outside the neighbor's house in a solo accident. Both times in the middle of the night. Last time, the guy was killed. This time the driver was able to continue about three or four houses down the road and seems to be okay.

  • In both cases the vehicle had to cross from the opposite side of the street to collide with the hydrant. What is it about that hydrant that people just have to take a crack at it ever so often?

  • The twenty foot geyser outside is kind of cool, though. The sounds reminds me of our vacation to Niagara Falls.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Random Shots: All Alone At Work

  • Not to give anything away about my personal life, but the place I work is nothing but rows and rows of cubicles. We're not exactly stacked like cordwood, but there is a dreadful efficiency to the whole affair. When that system breaks down, it is often amusing, though of the head-shaking, world-weary sort. On the row to which I was recently moved and which has room for 15 people, there are three of us.

  • The other two are sick today.

  • So there is no one to watch me goof-off, at least not in any appreciable way. There is always the random, long distance surveillance to which we are all accustomed, so I won't be using my computer for pirating any recent theatrical releases. But I do have the time to post my ponderings on this perfectly portentous... um, blog. Maybe I should try that again.

  • I did take the time to balance the ol' check book. It seems like a worky thing to do. If I'm going to work, I might as well get paid for doing so. I'll also pay bills here if I have the inclination and the cash, the latter being the important part. Debtors don't really care much about inclination. I once received a tersely worded letter from the cable company stating that they had to return my inclination as they could not accept it as payment, but would kindly send a pair of large, hairy men with limited vocabularies to help me produce an unreasonably required check. So much for thinking outside the box, guys.

  • When I really want to goof off, I usually troll my favorite web-comics and various computer game message boards. I'd list them here, but why deprive myself of a potential future blog post? Talk about your cliffhangers!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

News Filter: It's Official - Guild Wars 2

  • PC Gamer finally hit the shelves at the local bookstore. And thank goodness because the folks at the local Ralphs, CVS, Waldenbooks, and Borders were tired of me coming in every day without buying anything. That I found the issue at Barnes & Noble is beside the point.

  • The point is that Guild Wars 2 is official. Although I knew in my gut that the rumors were true, it was hard for me to really get my head around it. Guild Wars the First was a certified success, with over 3 million units sold. So why would they give that up?

  • If I was ever going to write a post titled "Why Anjin Doesn't Play Guild Wars Anymore?", this article just blew it out of the water. The folks at Arena.net essentially admit that, although the game is a success, they've made enough mistakes with the design that going the best recourse is to start over with a new game. I whole heartedly concur.

  • Also official is Eye of the North, the first expansion pack for my first online gaming love. I swear, that World of Warcraft hussy doesn't mean a thing to me. Looks like I'll be updating my other blog sooner than I thought.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Read Lately: Heartbreak Soup

  • If you are at all interested in independant comics, you've probably heard of Love and Rockets. I have many, many reasons for never reading the series before. First, it took me a good long while to shake off the superhero-centric bias. Not that it was ever that bad. But indy black-and-whites weren't on the radar back in the day. Second, anytime I did see a collection, it was some odd little slice of the story and I hate to jump into anything in the middle.

  • That's two. I swear there were many, but I lost the rest when Blogger timed me out. Really.

  • While age and maturity took care of the first problem, Fantagraphic Books took care of the second by producing this wonderfully designed collection of the first half of Gilbert Hernandez's Palomar epic. And I'm not throwing epic out there lightly. Heartbreak Soup tells the story of small town in an unnamed South or Central American country. It starts with the town banadora woman, Chelo, who is remembering her time as a midwife and the children she brought into the world. This one simple tale lays the groundwork for a story about the interactions of those children and the rest of the town that covers the next thirty or so years. And it's all right there from the beginning.

  • If you're wondering, banadora is a professional bather. That means she gives men baths for a living. Who knew?

  • The only problem I have with the book is the dead stop the story comes to at the end. The second half of the tale, Human Disatrophism, is set to be released in July 2007. Oh, how I loathe the waiting.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Top Five: Cancelled TV Series

  • Angel: I was a latecomer to the Buffy-verse, having avoided watching until season 4. This was the same year Angel launched. And since I'd never seen the title character in Buffy, I didn't feel any burning desire to watch a spin-off before I'd experienced the main series. Thank goodness for the all-mighty DVD box set (a sentiment I'll be repeating often during this list). After getting all caught up (and desperately needing a Buffy fix of some sort), my wife and I settled in for season four of Angel. Which they cancelled at the end of the season. The story of my life right there, folks.

  • Firefly: That very same year, Joss Whedon decided he wanted to try something different. He grabbed his producer from Angel, Tim Minear, and gave us: outer space, grown up, and with the space-as-western metaphor made much more explicit. I'm surprised we got as much as we did. Fox did no one any favors by showing the episodes out of order, though I can understand them wanting to shift a couple of the weaker episodes (they are!) until later in the run. Oh well. At least we got Serenity, even if my expectations for the film were too high.

  • The Inside: This is actually Tim Minear show number 4 on this list, since he didn't do his shows in alphabetical order. After coming off Wonderfalls, Fox asked him to take over a floundering show that was essentially 21 Jump Street all over again. Tim drew on his Buffy roots and turned it into a monster-of-the-week show, though this time it was the FBI against human monsters. Six episodes we got before it was crushed by Dancing with the Stars. If this blog were written on paper, the tear stains would show up right about here. And in case you're curious, no DVD for this. You'll have to devolve to web-piracy if you're curious about this show.

  • Sports Night: This show would make the list even if Tim Minear had a fifth show cancelled out from under him, it was that good. Sports Night was Aaron Sorkin's (of West Wing and A Few Good Men fame) first foray into network television. This show about a cable sports show called Sports Night was an odd concoction: a half hour drama that had to fight to lose the laugh track forced on it. It ran for two years and has some of the best comedic and dramatic moments on television. So of course no one watched and it was canned. Once again, DVD to the rescue (and my wife for making it my christmas present a few years back) and I was able to experience it in its entirety.

  • Wonderfalls: Here's Tim Minear's tv career: part three. After Firefly was put down by Fox (the network), 20th Century Fox (the studio) asked him to help get Bryan Fuller's new show back onto the rails. And he did an amazing job with a snarky sense of humor and a genuinely interesting premise. Four episodes and then poof. Again, the DVD shows us that people are idiots for not watching in the first place. Incidently, between this and The Inside, Tim Minear learned the painful lesson that the general public does not want an (initially) unlikable main character that is going to develop over time. They want their likability and they want it now!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • I have previously established that I like World of Warcraft, the very definition of the massively multiplayer online game genre. Therefore it may seem counter-intuitive to you that I don't like to play my video games with other people. I dislike it to such an extent that this blog was temporarily named Solo Gamer before I came to my senses, limited as they may be. I don't have anything against other people, per se, though I have run into the requisite number of net-idiots. It's just that people sometimes form attachments with those they play with and I am allergic to responsibility in any form. I'd rather play when I want to play without dependencies to anyone else.

  • Here's the implication you might be picking up: making friends in an online game can actually make me avoid playing that game! How weird is that?

  • This is why World of Warcraft and Guild Wars before it were perfect for me. You can do just about anything you want without interacting with anyone else. WoW has balanced the quests so that the majority can be completed by a single, carefully played character. Grouping just makes the quests fly by faster. GW has the heroes and henchmen to fill out a party when you don't want to worry about other players. They aren't as smart as a real player, but they aren't nearly as dumb, either.

  • I told you all that so I could tell you this: I finally joined a pickup group to run the library wing of Scarlet Monastery. That just happens to be one of those things that you can't do solo, at least not until it's no longer worth doing solo. I quite proud of myself. We went in, killed a bunch of crazy people, picked up some nice loot. And not once did they ask if they could put me on their Friends List. Whew!

  • If you just so happen to play the game, you might be interested to see how my main character is progressing. No cracks about my weak gear, please. Me and Ms. Dolly Parton could tell you a thing or too about being proud of what you have to wear.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Played Lately: The Sims 2

  • I mentioned earlier that my old computer had gone to met its maker. No, I don't mean Hewlett Packard; I mean it's dead. Whenever this has happened to me in the past (and it happens with alarming regularity), I take the opportunity to reacquaint myself with many games that I haven't played in a long time. Maybe it's because I just gave up on it. Maybe I got distracted by the next shiny thing that gave my way. Or maybe my last system didn't have enough juice to help a game reach its full potential. That is how I found myself reinstalling The Sims 2.

  • Like any good sandbox game, there is no wrong way to play The Sims 2. The game even rewards you for picking an appropriate goal and having at it. My wife loves maximize her sim's skills and reach for the top of the career tracks. Our mutual friend, Stefanie, establishes enormous family structures and guides her multitudes through the stages of life.

  • I play to have attractive women make out. I know there are other ways to play, but I haven't gotten past the kissing yet. I've spoken with my male friends at work and we pretty much agree that women kissing other woman is a major selling point of the game. I'm surprised they don't put that on the box. It's not there; I checked.

  • The other thing I found out is that I like to buy new clothes for my sim. And not just the slutty clothes that seem so popular online. I even downloaded a wedding ensemble recently.

  • Um, yeah. Too much information? Probably.

  • So with that, I'm off to bed. My personal Energy Desperation icon just popped up.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Read Lately: Fallen Angel - To Rule In Hell

  • I first became aware of Fallen Angel the same way I hear about most good comic books: I read about it being cancelled. There is nothing like the lamentations of a loyal, if tiny, fanbase to draw my attention.

  • I've done my share of lamenting: Firefly, Wonderfalls, etc.. In spite of what most people say, there is not a big audience for good entertainment. What everyone wants is comfort. Don't be clever, don't challenge them, and for goodness sake don't make them think. Just make them happy. Okay, I'll turn down the bitter faucet.

  • To Rule In Hell is the second volume of the IDW series of Fallen Angel, itself the follow up to the cancelled DC Comics series. If that sounds like an odd jumping on point, I will admit to reading the first DC trade and the first few IDW issues. Here we get to see Lee, the titular fallen angel, in her first adventure upon arriving on earth (I think). Then as the story comes back to the present, we see how those actions still resonate today. The volume raps up with a more conventional story wherein Lee travels with a virtoso singer to Tibet so he can be cured of his fatal illness.

  • While Fallen Angel may not be the most amazing comic being published, it is one that deserves a much wider recognition than it gets. It easily stands up with anything Brian K. Vaughan and Bill Willingham is writing. Heck, I've already asked the local bearded comic guy to order me the first volume. I can't wait.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

News Filter: Rumors of Guild Wars 2

  • Okay, now I'm confused. Excited, but confused.

  • You see, there is this site that is not the most highly regarded when it comes to gaming news. But you throw enough rumors at the wall and eventually one of them is going to say, "I'll talk, just stop throwing me at the wall!" Then, of course, comes the non-denial denial to fan the flames. What am I to think? Will there really be a Guild Wars 2?

  • Honestly, I've been pretty straightforward about my decent disillusionment with Guild Wars. Over the course of three chapters, I think enough errors have crept into the system that just can't be fixed. And enough limitations have shown up that creative coding just can't get around. If Arena.net takes the opportunity to give Guild Wars a fresh start, I'll be right behind them.

  • Unless it's subscription-based, which as I discussed before, is an abomination that cannot be borne.

  • As far as the potential for a fourth chapter for Guild Wars, I am in for the long haul with the game. I can't let my Kira sit bored for too long.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Admin: My First Hiatus

  • Only a couple posts in and I've already taken my first hiatus from the blog. There's got to be some sort of award for that, right?

  • Not that it was my fault, per se. I didn't want to hiate at that particular moment. It's just that my computer died and it was a very trying time. Not that I should make excuses. I could have found another computer to post from. But a man doesn't cheat on his computer, not while there is still hope she'll recover. Of course when she died, I immediately forgot about the old hag and upgraded to the newer, sexier model. Thus, I post. Everyone rejoice while my new computer and I get acquainted.

  • I wonder what my wife will think of this post? Maybe Hiatus Part Two will start sooner than I'd like.

  • In the meantime, why haven't I heard about this until now? I do love me some Talisman.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

News Filter: Mercenaries 2 for Xbox 360

  • I loved, loved, loved Mercenaries for the Xbox. No, I never finished it, but I never finish most games. Which is a rant for another time.

  • Anyway when Mercenaries 2 was first announced, I was truly disappointed to learn that it was a Playstation 3 exclusive. The height of stupidity, I thought, since I do not own a PS3. What is the point of making a game I want to play for a system I don't own? Stupid people.

  • I have learned to live with little disappointments like this. The Legend of Zelda has trained me well in that regard.

  • But today, this news story brought a little light to my cold, dark heart. I can't wait to blow stuff up again.

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • Having played Guild Wars for as long as I have must tell you something about me. Several things even, depending on how long you've been grinding levels of geek. Heck, all you have to do is read one preview or review to know what the primary draw for most people seems to be: no subscription fees.

  • Subscription fees for video games are an affront to man and god.

  • Nonetheless, you can only read about how World of Warcraft is like onto the returning messiah in electronic form everyday for a couple years without wondering what all the fuss is about. I'd grown somewhat disillusioned with Guild Wars, I knew I needed something else to feed the game addiction. Plus, I figured twenty dollars to start up an account wouldn't kill me if I played for a month and cancelled my account.

  • Big mistake.

  • WoW, like any other MMO, gets under the skin like an itch that only gets worse when you scratch it. I tried out a Guest Pass way back in July of 2005, but escaped only slightly scarred since I was still fiending for GW at the time. Heck, I barely made it past Northshire Abbey before I gave up on my fledgling warrior.

  • The funny thing is that what actually got me to take a second look at World of Warcraft again was the impending release of the Burning Crusade expansion. There is a feeling that expansions are about keeping the current player base happy while reminding potential or lapsed players that the game still exists. In this case, it worked.

  • I started my account on New Year's Eve while I was waiting for the big ball to drop. I had just spent several days getting sick of City of Heroes and I wanted to start the year with a game I actually wanted to play.

  • Now I have a level 39 human paladin and a level 24 blood elf mage and I can't stop myself from playing. Take last night for instance. I knew my pally had a couple of quests I could polish off quickly, so I jumped into the game and had at it. After completing the quests, I had a bag full of ore and the itch to work on my blacksmithing. So I took a quick flight to Theramore, the boat to Menethil Harbor, and the another flight to Ironforge to work the Great Forge. While I was there, I realized that level 39 was a great time to work out my PvP and bulk up my honor. See where I'm going with this? That's right: 2 AM.

  • Sleep is for the weak. I've got experience to grind.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Top Five: PC Games

  • Guild Wars: Didn't see this one coming, did you? Never before has a game so completely engulfed my life. My enthusiasm for Guild Wars has waned some in the last couple of months, but a solid year and a half of gameplay is nothing to be sneered at. And yes, I will be preordering the next game when it is announced.

  • Fallout: Maybe the greatest single player role playing game ever created. Fallout was the first game where I felt that I could do just about anything I wanted and it would be considered a valid option. This is the gold standard against which every non-linear game should be measured. It's too bad that the makers of every single sequel utterly failed to understand what made the first game so great.

  • Master of Orion: While many will point to the Civilization series as the pinnacle of the 4X strategy genre, this is the game that won me over. Master of Orion was the first game that ever made me lose track of time. I still remember staying up late at night, trying to finish "just one more turn", only for my bleary-eyed father to knock on my bedroom door the next morning to ask if I'd slept at all.

  • Daggerfall: While it has since been overshadowed by future installments in the Elder Scrolls series, Daggerfall was the first game that compelled me to attempt a user modification. I am emphatically not going to link the mod, though it is still out there, but I am proud that I did by bit for the mod movement. Also, on a personal note, this is the game where my character, Kira, first came to life. Poor girl has so many worlds to save.

  • Master of Magic: Why, oh why (I lament), did Heroes of Might & Magic get all those sequels and not this masterpiece? So, yeah, it took a few patches to get just right. But it was so very right. *sob*

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bullet Points, The First

  • I'm Anjin and this is my introductory post. Hi.

  • Yes, I know that the user name shows up as Kira Lanfier. That's the name I used for my first blog, Guild Wars Kira and I can't be bothered to do anything about that. Okay?

  • I think that bullet points are the single most perfect method of conveying random bits of information in a way that implies a connection without ever making those connections explicit. And since I named the blog Bullet Points, you should just assume that you'll be seeing a lot more of them.

  • I will be using this space to talk about any old thing. But since I'm most likely to be thinking about games and comics, that is what you are most likely to find here.

  • But who knows? I might just surprise you.

  • Yeah, fine. Go ahead and laugh.