So, more about Everquest.
As I mentioned a few posts ago, I’m in an era-restricted guild that’s restricting itself to doing raid content in-order, at the appropriate levels, and with appropriate gear. I’ve also gotten a pair of characters to level 100, and I use two AI-controlled NPC mercenaries to give me some extra punch. It’s kind of sad in that it turns a massively multiplayer game into basically a single player game with chat, but it’s letting me actually do modern content in the current expansion at my own pace, which is pretty neat. It’s been a VERY long time since I didn’t feel left behind and I’ve been enjoying the heck out of it.
Anyway, the current expansion is very similar to an expansion from 2003 called Lost Dungeons of Norrath. That expansion featured short, fairly easy, instanced zones that you could round up just about any six players for and have a fair expectation that you would be able to beat the dungeon and earn a special sort of currency that you could spend at expansion vendors. There were loot drops too, of course, but the central idea was that you could basically punch a clock and eventually save up enough of the expansion currency to buy gear instead of sitting in a small corner of a room hoping for a rare monster to spawn and hoping that you would a) kill it and b) beat out the other five people in the group on getting the item you were there for.
It was amazingly popular with the majority of the population, so it was immediately followed up by Everquest’s Worst Expansion Ever, a mind-bogglingly difficult mess that wasn’t cleared by even the hardest-core of hardcore guilds until the expansion AFTER it raised the level cap by five levels.
But I digress.
Anyway, Call of the Forsaken, to put a name to the current expansion, has “Heroic Adventures”, which are basically the same thing. You can grab a few other random people, bash your way through an instanced dungeon with a pretty low risk of failure, maybe get a little loot in the zone, but mostly get currency for gear vendors. It has a couple of static zones to camp rare monsters in if that’s your thing, and those have some nice rewards, but the basic idea is that you should be able to log in, maybe spend an hour or so playing, and make real progress on improving your character.
Also it has bixies.
Bixies are, well, they’re half bee and half pixie and half murderous rage. They’re cute and a little weird and speak with a lot of buzzzzzzzzing and are notable largely for being willing to pick a fight with anything, no matter how one-sided the fight may be. They showed up in a few of the lower level zones in the original EQ (And made a very memorable appearance in one of the harder raid encounters), disappeared for a few years, got a new zone and a new look for The Serpent’s Spine expansion in 2006, and then disappeared again.
Part of the backstory to Call of the Forsaken is that the original bixie clan has gone SO far over the edge that a different clan has shown up to try to bring them back to *reasonable* levels of xenophobia and aggression. This new group of bixies would much rather send adventurers to do the actual dirty work, and that’s where the players come in.
The bixie zones are really, really pretty. They’re full of flowers and rivers of honey and bright colors EVERYWHERE and have a hexagonal / beehive theme to the architecture, and they stand in harsh constrast to the bleak brown ruins and grey dungeons that you tend to see a lot of in fantasy games.
Finally, the missions into the Bixie Warfront get to be a little quirky at times. There’s a particularly memorable bit in one of them where you’re tasked with “debating bixie philosophers”, which can be done either through attacking them or by talking to them. Sometimes talking to them works in your favor, and sometimes you talk them through a logical chain of steps that ends with them thanking you for pointing out that their only reasonable course of action is to try to eat your face.
At which point they try to eat your face.
I’m really glad they brought the insane little adorable homicidal maniacs back is what I’m trying to say.
A couple of years back, I watched an anime series called “Saki”, which was basically a hot-blooded sports show with the sports replaced with mahjong.
It also has AMAZINGLY cheerful music. It’s over the top and so earnest that it hurts and it’s all about doing your best and never giving up and always looking towards the future and it’s like a motivational speech set to really chipper music all in all. If I got one benefit from four years of college Japanese, this is it right here.
Last week, I realized that I had the ending song (well, it had three openings and three endings, so the FIRST ending song) stuck in my head, so I looked it up on YouTube and listened to it over and over again to try to get it out of my head.
It didn’t work. Also it was getting annoying hitting refresh every 5 minutes.
On the other hand, there’s also a video on YouTube that is basically all the opening and ending songs stitched together with some static art that changes every couple of minutes, so I would start that in one browser tab and switch back to another tab to get work done. Thus I was only hitting refresh when that ended, about every half hour. Video not entirely safe for work by the way, as I realized when I flipped to the tab to pause it at one point and the on-screen picture was an onsen scene. Fortunately nobody was in my cube, but if I get a talking-to by our sensitivity department, I’ll know why.
Also I now have SIX songs stuck in my head.
But I’m feeling way better about life in general.
Holy carp, I just realized that this thing is 7 years old today. It doesn’t get as much posted to it since I’m spending my days in an MMO-induced trance but I still see a little traffic.
If you’re reading this, thanks for visiting.
So I found out today that there is a PS3/PS4/Vita remake of Cel Damage in the works, and I think that’s kind of neat. I had a lot of fun playing the Xbox version with friends and am glad to see it brought back to life.
What I am currently having difficulty with is the concept that the original game came out 13 years ago. It doesn’t FEEL like it’s been 13 years.
I was going through a big stack of miscellaneous papers and receipts that had piled up when I found this three-or-four-year-old Toys R Us receipt.
It’s momentous because I’ve actually played and completed EVERY game listed. None of these are languishing in the backlog, none have been sold off as “never going to get around to this after all”, none were started and put aside. Done and dusted, all three of these.
OK, that’s a little pathetic maybe. But I’m going to count it in the Wins column of life.
Well, technically, I watch an awful lot of stuff from the none-too-comfortable seat of our exercise bike, so it’s not really being a couch potato so much as it is a way to distract myself from probably-futile efforts to fight off the effects of age and a slowing metabolism.
But, couch potato is a good way to say “I’ve been watching a lot of video entertainment lately” though honestly not as good as just saying that and avoiding inflicting multiple run-on sentences upon the few people unlucky enough to read this site.
So I’ve been watching a lot of video entertainment lately.
I finished Beyond the Boundary and thought it was a good watch. I don’t know if “Urban Fantasy” is an actual genre label, but I seem to be watching an awful lot of stuff that can be described as “It’s modern life but weird stuff happens that most people aren’t aware of”. This show qualifies in spades – the main characters are fighting monsters and saving the world and there’s Mysterious Conspiracies afoot, but everyone else in the town is completely unaware.
It’s a little angsty and the last couple of episodes are designed to mess with you on an emotional level, but they’re balanced out by one pants-on-head-INSANE funny episode about halfway through the run.
I’m following up Beyond the Boundary with season 2 of Oreimo, which has absolutely no supernatural elements. Like the first season, it’s pure slice-of-life comedy / light angst with – at times – a little too much fan service for me to be entirely comfortable with it. I’m pretty sure that the ending is going to have me furious with how dumb the main character is, but that’s nothing new.
Friendship Is Magic, the show that never should have been as good as it was, is having a bit of a shakey fourth season (and honestly had a shakey third season), but still manages to entertain. The rumors that Hasbro was taking a much closer look at what gets on-screen may be true, but the animators still manage to stick in a ton of did-I-just-see-that? moments. It’s a show where paying sharp attention is vastly rewarding.
On my mother-in-law’s recommendation, we sat down and watched the recent Lone Ranger movie. She usually has quite good taste in film, but this is a movie that got widely panned and has a 37% on Metacritic… Let’s just say that I wasn’t expecting much from it beyond Pirates of the Caribbean On Horses. What I GOT was a Wacky Western Action Comedy with occasional scenes that I was quite startled to see in a Disney movie, especially one with a significant merchandising tie-in. It’s a bit of a whiplash moment when you have to adjust from Silly Tonto Antics to seeing native Americans getting gunned down by gatling guns as they futilely charge US Army troops and then back to Johnny Depp being silly.
I still kind of liked it but I don’t think it’s a rewatch. It kind of feels like it had a couple of different hands in writing it, so I’d actually be interested in finding out what the creators had intended and whether that was anywhere near what they got.
Finally, we watched The Adjustment Bureau, which I suppose falls more-or-less into the same Urban Fantasy genre as Beyond the Boundary. It got kind of mixed reviews, and if you like your conspiracy theories and mysterious happenings to be explained at the end of a movie you’ll probably hate it, but I liked the way it slowly mixed the Weird and Unexpected into the main character’s everyday life and left most of the explanations up to the viewer’s interpretation.
Next up, I finish Oreimo, scream some at the main character for being an idiot, and then start something else.
Hey, this thing still works. Crazy!
So I’ve been playing, well, far too much EQ. Normally I would have burned out by now, to be honest – I don’t seem to be able to stick with any MMO for more than a month or two, even if it features bunnyzerkers, and EQ doesn’t have bunnyzerkers. In fact, it pretty much still has the same really terrible models from 2001. They’ve added some new armor looks, which only took a decade or so, but the overall game is still downright ugly.
What’s kept me interested is running into a bunch of people who are obsessed – and any MMO lends itself to obsession – in a very particular way. Specifically, they’re obsessed with playing through the game from the beginning, beating every encounter in era-appropriate equipment, at an appropriate level for the encounter, and only advancing to the next expansion (And Everquest has had 20 expansions, don’t forget) only when they have finished an expansion. They are very hard core about following these rules, which is exactly the sort of environment I like being part of.
I was a pretty dedicated player up until EQ’s 10th expansion, but drifted in and out of the game afterwards. I joined this particular bunch just as they were starting the content from the 12th expansion, got to see all of that, and we’re only a couple of encounters away from finishing the 13th expansion.
So I guess that’s still one expansion’s worth of content that I’m missing, but that was a particularly awful era for the game so I won’t feel bad about it.
One great thing about this particular sort of guild is that there’s much less drama. Normally raiding comes with feuding over loot drops and ranting about which items you “deserved” but were cheated of and herp derp derp derp.
There’s really no point to that in a progression guild, because any of the gear we get from raids is stuff that’s been obsoleted by newer expansions. The only reason to loot anything is because you are prohibited by rules from wearing anything newer, so you are intentionally choosing to limit yourself. It’s amazing how much more fun this makes the game.
Things are also a little lower stress because, since this is older content, there’s more details available online about the encounters. It’s rare that you get complete writeups, and the old truism that execution trumps strategy most definitely applies, but it’s nice to hit a stumbling block on an encounter and be able to look up how other people did it six years ago while it was current content.
So that’s most of what I’ve been up to. Playing an MMO with extensive house rules designed to make it harder for ourselves.
I’ve started being able to break away a little bit since I’m doing the office Biggest Loser competition again. I won last year by dropping from 240 to 195, and then down again to roughly 180 by myself after the competition ended. 189 is the break-even point for a “normal” weight for my height, as an aside.
In September, I made a intentional decision to not worry about what I was eating until after the holidays, so I went back up to 195. Not too bad – I’m not growing out of any clothes – but I’d like to get back down to 180 and the structure of the competition helps with that.
This means that I’m spending a fair bit of time on the exercise bike, which gets me away from the computer, and I’m using this as an excuse to catch up on some anime from the last couple of years. Right now I’m watching Beyond the Barrier, charitably described as Yet Another High Schoolers Fighting Supernatural Beasties anime, and I’m finding it to be surprisingly fresh despite all the baggage you’d expect to come with a show in that genre. There’s no “perfectly normal Japanese schoolgirl accidentally stumbles into a mysterious supernatural world” about it – all of the characters are, well, they’re entirely aware of the existence of the supernatural world and the associated beasties and having a massive chewbacca-looking thing run through the halls of your high school is Just Another Tuesday And We’d Best Get On Killing That Now So We Can Get Back To Math Class sort of event. The majority of their classmates are blissfully unaware of the supernatural and that’s OK because we don’t really need to know much about them.