I’m Catching These Again

Pokémon Shield, AKA The One With The Rainbow Pony Pokémon, marks my third time with the series.  I started with Pokémon Moon, which was more or less an impulse buy based on upcoming international flights that were going to have me stuck in airplanes for something like 20 hours, moved on to Pokémon Black 2 based on fan recommendations, and now I’m trying out The One For The Switch, though I suppose it’s actually the second one for the Switch.

I’m pretty sure that the way I play these games counts as Playing Them Wrong, because I tend to start at my humble home, get handed one of three otherwise-innocent beasts that I am going to whip into shape, pound the crap out of various kinds of wildlife for a while, and then see the end credits and stop playing.  I understand there is a whole crazy postgame, but that’s for people with way more time on their hands.

So anyway, from the perspective of a guy who plays these things for the story campaign, it’s a pretty neat upgrade, visually, from the older titles.

You get some Expansive Scenery Teasing Your Future Destinations

and some random cute details like these cutouts you can stick your face through

and in general the world is just a cheerful and pretty place to run around.

Unfortunately, it kept the thing I disliked most about Moon, which is that you start off by picking the cutest possible critter and it very quickly evolves into something less cute.  I want to roll up to the final boss and stomp him with the power of d’awww and the game does not want me to do this.

Still, while I now have Emo Teen Rabbit, I vaguely remember looking up the final form of Scorbunny and at the very least it doesn’t go full professional-wrestler like my kitten did in Moon.

I actually “started” the game a few months ago, mostly because I wanted to get some limited-time freebies while they were being offered, but only played up to the point where the Mystery Gift option became available so I could collect the freebies.  It wasn’t until yesterday that I finally got out of the starting town and started knocking off Gym Leaders.

Yes, and you have become something of a hot topic among fan artists, Nessa, and most of it exceedingly lewd.

Doing this has made me come to a realization, as well.  See, I’ve always seen the games described as painfully easy, and so it’s been a little embarrassing whenever I’ve gotten to one boss or another and just gotten curb stomped.  I don’t remember hitting any particularly hard roadblocks in Moon – just a couple times where I got sent packing and had to come back with a different team – but I had to resort to a strategy guide to get me through the final boss gauntlet in Black 2.

This time, however, I took advantage of the import features of the game.  This involved a painfully-obtuse series of apps to get my Black 2 Pokémon into the 3DS using the “Pokémon Transporter” app, then “Pokémon Bank” to get the Black 2 and Moon Pokémon into Nintendo’s 3DS online storage solution, and finally “Pokémon Home” to get them out of the 3DS online locker and into the Switch.

Not all of them came over, of course, but the effect is that I have hundreds of little bastards at all level ranges and that I pretty much have pre-leveled Pokémon of any type for when I need them.

So, when I rolled up on Nessa’s water gym, I didn’t need to go out and scour the countryside for Electric-types to counter her, I just one-shot all of her Gym Trainers with an imported Pikachu.

Then I stomped her team with the same Pikachu, this time like 50 feet tall. I had five other critters behind this one, just in case, but they turned out not to be necessary.

So… yeah.  It’s been kind of a cakewalk so far, and Nessa’s badge means that I can now use imported ‘mons up to level 40 and the next gym is a fire gym and OH LOOK I have two water types already in their mid 30s.

Anyway, it’s pretty good times.  I’m just hoping the story pops off a little beyond the “go become the best that ever was” schtick.

 

Posted in Switch, videogames | Leave a comment

Corporate Woes

Just a bit of a personal rant today. I apologize that this is not up to the typical standards of… I have no standards, do I? So that’s all right then.

My day job is, roughly speaking, technical support, but fortunately for my sanity it’s technical support at a very high level. Most of my time is spent reviewing log data for junior members of the team when they hit a stumbling block, and on the rare occasion I’m actually talking to a live human it is usually a network admin, architect or – on one memorable Sunday – a CEO who had come in to the office and discovered that they were in the middle of a network breach and took it on herself to lock things down so she didn’t need to call in her employees on the weekend.

Side note, I would probably help this woman hide a body if she needed it hidden, just on the assumption that anyone who treats their staff so well probably had a really good reason to have a body that needed to conveniently disappear.

It’s a pretty decent gig, actually, and pays well enough that my normal budgeting process for a new tech toy is “do I want it? Well, let’s just buy it then.”

(sent from my iPad Air 4)

There is, however, a problem. There’s always a problem, after all, and in this case it’s a VP who really dislikes the group of techs at my level. We’re …scruffy? I’m not sure if that’s the exact word I’m looking for, but it’s a start. We’re on the older side, most of us have been doing this job for a minimum of a decade, and – worst of all – we’re in Oregon and this VP really wants the work to be done out of his home state, to the point where he actually moved our department to his home state and moved all of us to remote work in what was universally understood as a temporary solution until he could hire people locally.

Then came the ‘Rona, or the Wu-Han Flu-Clan, or Corona-Chan, whatever you want to call the Great Pandemicing of 202X. Suddenly, EVERYONE was a remote worker. For extra fun, the people he had hired locally to train up to our level turned out to have career ambition and almost all of them moved on from their junior support positions after a little while… but to different companies, not to more senior support positions in the same company. So we have only become more valuable over the last year.

So, with no way to directly replace us and the sudden reversal of the stigma traditionally attached to remote work, he has had to find some new ways to demonstrate that we’re not as valuable as all that. To be fair, this isn’t entirely without merit. If you have any employee or group of employees who are valuable to the point where they can’t be replaced, then you have a potential point of failure that should be addressed.

The first thing he did was to pass down the directive that we should be measured through metrics typically applied to agents at a call center, with the most critical one being case closure. Again, this is fair. You want some evidence of output from your well-paid techs, and for several months my team cheerfully hit the case closure goals, defined as both direct cases, which we worked on directly, and indirect cases which represented every time we were called in by another team to help them with something.

…until last week, that is, when we were told that indirect cases would no longer count towards our case closure rates. Furthermore, this new measurement standard was applied retroactively to all previous months, meaning that the team now appears to have drastically missed our goals for every month for the last year. Like, at best we have hit about the 50% mark on what we’re supposed to be hitting. Our direct management has been falling over themselves to tell us how this may LOOK bad, but they understand that we do a ton of work that isn’t represented in this numbers anymore and we shouldn’t worry… but it seems pretty likely that their bosses are going to use this as an excuse to reduce headcount to match the amount of work represented by this new formula.

The really fun part of all this, if you think of it, is that it’s a move that incentivizes us to not help, or to actively refuse to help, any team that reaches out to us for assistance. After all, if they start regularly failing to solve problems, their cases will be moved to our team at which point they will become DIRECT work which we will get credit for.

So, frustrating week. And, since I want to continue getting paid, I need to figure out how to be on the right side of the see-saw when it gets cut in half, which necessarily means that I need to find ways to promote myself over people that I have worked with for years.

On the plus side, I binge-watched the entirety of “The Quintessential Quintuplets”, “Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs”, and “How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord” in the last couple weeks, and I am probably going to be grinning like a maniac for the next month or so just from the residual good vibes. It’s remarkable how far some high-energy high-fanservice anime can go to relieve stress.

Also, an old friend is dead-set on teaching me how to play about a dozen different variants of poker, and my eternally-suffering wife recently decided that she is going for her motorcycle endorsement so we can BOTH have scooters. Life outside of work is pretty much nothing but positives lately.

Posted in work | 1 Comment

Fatal Frame 20th Anniversary: Preparing for Disappointment

Considering how many big franchises saw their debuts – or at least highly significant entries – in 2001, this year is going to see a lot of “20th Anniversaries” that companies can use to extort some nostalgia-fueled dollars our of our collective wallets.

Fatal Frame will hit the 20 year mark in December, and – let’s be honest – Koei/Tecmo isn’t super likely to do anything to commemorate the occasion.

But what if they did?

Honestly, considering the state of the Japanese console market these days, the most likely acknowledgement is going to be a Japan-only mobile game with heavy gacha elements somehow integrated.  If we get lucky, we’ll get a Switch reissue of Maiden of Black Water.  I’d actually be OK with that since it’s almost the last WiiU game I can’t play on anything else.

Hopefully with better box art.

Getting a reissue of Maiden of Black Water AND a new game?  Now we’re starting to get in to hell-has-frozen-over territory.

But, what if KT decided to really dig in and put out some remasters?  Well, the series has been pretty much inexorably linked with Nintendo since, like, 2008 so it’s likely we’d only see remasters of entries that came out on a Nintendo platform.  That’s Crimson Butterfly, Mask of the Lunar Eclipse and Maiden of Black Water.  That drops the first and third games, but is still a pretty good bundle.

The odds of getting a bundle of the first five games, all tied up in a bow and delivered as a convenient Switch download?  I’m not even sure I have a metaphor for how unlikely that is.  On the other hand, I got a collection of Saturn strip mahjong games ported to the Switch.  Fatal Frame has to be slightly more popular than that.

Maybe we’ll get the Xbox versions of the games added to backwards compatibility?

The only thing I think I can say for absolute certain is that “Spirit Camera” is going to remain completely forgotten as a one-off barely-above-tech-demo-level 3DS experience.

Eight months to go, anyway.  Lots of time to get ready to be let down.

Posted in videogames | Leave a comment

Console Names, Confusing:

I didn’t expect to be joining the ranks of next-generation console owners quite so soon after launch, because – what with the worldwide semiconductor shortage, Corona-chan keeping everyone at home, and stimulus money flying around – it seems like every console that rolls off the assembly line rolls right into the minivan of a waiting scalper for immediate listing on eBay or Craigslist.

On the other hand, I was out of soda, and that’s why I was in our local Fred Meyer this morning shortly before 8 AM, walking past the Electronics department at the right time to hear the following exchange:

“Hey, you guys have any PS5s?”

“No, but we do have the Xbox One X”

“Don’t need those, thanks”

…and I stopped, because Microsoft stopped shipping the Xbox One X months ago, and I watched one half of that conversation disappear towards the exit, and then I went in to talk to the clerk.

“Say, did you mean you have the Series X?”

“Whatever it’s called, the new one, we just got some.”

And that’s why I have this black obelisk-looking thing sitting on my desk, copying games to the internal SSD as I speak.

Last time we had new consoles launch, back in 2013, I pre-ordered a PS4 and had it on launch day and… well, I had Resogun to play, and Call of Duty: Ghosts, and my wife bought me the new Assassin’s Creed and the new Need for Speed for Christmas… and that was really all I had to play for most of the next year.  It was not a spectacular launch year.

In late 2014, I got a new Oneechanbara, which was pretty good, and then the floodgates really started to open in late 2015.

This time around, I plugged the console in, went through a frankly pretty cool setup routine consisting of “sign into the Xbox app on your phone.  Now have the phone near the Xbox.  Now go away, human, the electronics are having a conversation”, and when it was done it told me that I already had five games in my library that had Series X versions.

Plus Game Pass, of course.  It’s kind of a shame that I played through The Medium on my modestly-specced Windows laptop instead of waiting a couple of weeks, because I’m given to understand that it is quite the looker.

Anyway.  The first thing I plan to do, once everything has finished copying and updating and so on, is to load up the Series X version of the Master Chief Collection, and hopefully it will import my save, and then I am going to jump directly to The Silent Cartographer and shoot some random Covenant.  I can’t think of any better way to christen a new console.

Posted in videogames, Xbox Series X | Leave a comment

14 Years Blog

Big anniversary today.  Not, admittedly, as big as the 10th anniversary which Nintendo celebrated by releasing an entirely new console and a pretty decent Elder Scrolls knockoff, but still a day to commemorate.  I did so by walking to the local mom & pop sandwich shop and getting a turkey sub with some potato salad on the side.

Which is possibly the whitest lunch combination ever, in many ways.

Since getting the platinum in Dark Souls II a couple weeks back, I really haven’t been playing many games.  When there’s a new event in Love Live! School Idol Festival, I boot that up and play it enough to get the event UR and SSR, and a side effect of that is that I managed to finally finish the last “collection” goal.  That’s not too notable to anyone who doesn’t know how much goddamn grinding it takes to get six-hundred-and-fifty-freaking-cards to max level, though.

It’s a lot.

I’ve also been playing The Medium, though I haven’t upgraded to a Series X yet so I’m playing it on my Windows laptop, which was – I thought – a fairly powerful piece of kit.

The Medium is putting that to the test in a lot of ways, so I’m going to fall back on blaming the game for not being very optimized for current PCs.  It will probably look gorgeous  in five years or so.  If anyone can actually buy a new GPU in the next five years.

Even at 1080p and – no joke intended – medium settings, it’s a decent looking game, and if you have Gamepass Ultimate there’s no reason not to give it a spin for free.

The funny thing for me has been that I associate Eastern European developers – and Bloober is from that big swath of “used to be part of the USSR” countries – with Hidden Object games, which The Medium is objectively NOT… until it’s asking me to go and find a screwdriver that I can use in place of a door’s handle so I can open the door so I can get to the dumpster behind the door and use it to climb up on a ledge so I can get through a broken window.  That’s pretty much a sequence that could be taken from any Artifex Mundi game ever.

Later in the game, I had to follow instructions on a note to assemble a photo developing station and then develop a photo at it.  I present this factoid without further editorial comment.

Anyway, happy fourteenth birthday to Baud Attitude.  Next year is going to be the big fifteen, which coincidentally is the age I was when I thought that “Baud Attitude” was a cool nerd pun.

Posted in PC Gaming, videogames | Leave a comment

Desk: The Revenge

I’ve been a little obsessed with desk setup videos on YouTube lately.  It doesn’t take much. Once you watch one or two of them, your recommendations feed fills up with dozens more, vaguely sortable into three categories:

1) I AM GAMER, SEE ME STREAM with lots of RGB lighting everywhere.

2) I AM SRS BZNS, SEE ME PRODUCTIVE with a bunch of monitors attached to a sit/stand desk and usually a poster with a motivational quote about how everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.

3) I AM MINIMAL, SEE ME NOT HAVE STUFF, which is sort of a humble brag about not being bogged down by THINGS and only having roughly six to ten thousand dollars worth of Apple hardware and a single dried flower in a vase on top of a tiny desk.

Of the three, I find myself definitely more fond of the third, so that’s where I took my motivation from for a recent office makeover:

The thing I wanted to focus on was having less stuff on top of the desk, where possible, and trying to make some sense of the massive rat’s nest of cables underneath.

So… technically, yes, this is a lot of Apple products on a desk, but I do somewhat fail in that I don’t even have a single dried flower in a vase.

Not using an external monitor has taken a little getting used to.  Using the Ikea cork desk pad has helped a lot with the transition, because it lets me sit down and slide the laptop forward to a comfortable viewing distance.  The Macbook is connected to a hub under the desk by a 2 meter Thunderbolt 3 cable, and the iPad also connects to the hub with a decently-long Ikea-branded USB-C cable.

The only downside to the long cables is that they do kind of stick out when you look under the desk, but it’s nice to have lots of slack in them.

The wireless charger that I built in to the desk top is also from Ikea, and I decided where it goes by keeping track of where I naturally tended to put my phone when I sat down.

The cables up to the Edifier speakers and to the Google Nest Hub run down behind the pegboard.  They’re not invisible but I’m happy with how hidden they are.

Finally, there’s a HomePod and a Switch.  I’m really not terribly impressed with the HomePod as a smart speaker and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone over the much more affordable Google options.

Underneath, we have the Caldigit TS3+ hub and an eGPU.

I’m told that you shouldn’t chain an eGPU off a hub, for performance reasons, but I still get 60fps in WoW and FFXIV with it set up like this so I’m good.  I’ll likely be moving away from the eGPU once the 16″ Apple silicon-based Macbooks come out, and that will get rid of the most annoying remaining cables.

This also shows off the one thing that annoys me about the Caldigit hub, which is that the analog audio out is on the front panel and the back panel only has SPDIF outputs.  Edifier DOES make a pair of speakers with an SPDIF in, but it was like 50 bucks more which didn’t seem worth it at the time.  So I just run a right-angle adapter to the analog out on the front of the hub.

A closer look at cable management for the stuff connected to the Caldigit.  I screwed a drawer pull to the bottom of the desk to run cables through.  This was only a couple of dollars and it prevents them from dangling in ways that would be enticing to cats.

The hub is mounted with a 3D-printed mount from eBay.  Technically I could have downloaded the 3D printer file and taken it to the local makerspace, but I’m not even sure if they’re open these days what with the pandemic and all.

Also under here are two SSDs, one for extra storage and one for use by Time Machine.  I was looking at under-desk-mountable drawers to give them somewhere to live, and then I realized that I could simply take some cardboard, bend it into a U shape, and staple it to the bottom of the desk with heavy-duty staples.  Score one point for borderline-redneck engineering solutions.

Finally, power.

The powerstrip is mounted on to two wood screws, and there’s also a long strip of industrial-strength velcro tape holding it to the bottom of the desk.  Either of these would PROBABLY have been enough to hold it in place, but using both of them gives me confidence that this thing will resist gravity’s clarion call for a while, at least.  The cable running to the wireless charging pad is prevented from drooping with the aid of some command hooks.

Putting all of this together took the best part of a weekend, mostly because I kept looking at the bottom of the desk and making significant “hmmmm” noises and then walking away for a half hour before I came back to make more “hmmmm” noises before finally deciding on where stuff should be mounted.   I’m pretty happy with the outcome, because I can quickly tuck the MacBook and iPad under the stand the HomePod is sitting on and suddenly I have most of the desk surface completely bare.  I can also go portable very easily if need be.

Most importantly, I was able to reuse things I already had, for the most part, and only spent a little money on the drawer pull and on the Caldigit mount.

Posted in organization | Leave a comment

One More Platinum

No posts in a while, sorry about that.

I hit the point in WoW where I was just logging on for the chance to make my numbers slightly bigger, then I resubscribed to FFXIV to prevent my house from being demolished and so I could get caught up on the story before the big digital event they had the other day.  Neither of those seem particularly noteworthy, though I did very much enjoy the way they wrapped up the Shadowbringers storyline.

I did have a Memorable Tank Moment in FFXIV where I queued for one of the 8-man trials, intending to slack off and leave tanking duties to the OTHER tank, and it turned out we were both doing the trial for the first time and that he was even less confident than I was.

We cleared it, anyway, though it wasn’t EXACTLY smooth.

But let’s not talk about that.  Let’s talk about this:

About two weeks ago, I had a nasty health scare.  Fortunately, I managed to get a doctor’s appointment on very short notice and it turned out that it wasn’t actually anything to worry about, but there were a few days where I was, to use the vernacular, freaking out.

When I’m stressed, one of the ways I deal with it is to sit down with one of the Souls games, because the mindset you have to be in for them is one that I find extremely calming.  I’d originally played Dark Souls II back in 2016, then replayed it in the “Scholar of the First Sin” edition on the PS4 in 2017, so it felt like a good one to pull off the figurative shelf and put through its paces again.

Also, I had deliberately chosen NOT to start an NG+ run back in 2017, just in case I ever felt like going back for the remaining trophies, and that’s what I decided to do.

In hindsight, this wasn’t my best plan.  Getting the majority of the remaining trophies was simple enough and just running around and talking to a few NPCs was enough to get me to about the 90% trophy completion rate.

Then came the final four trophies.  The “collect all of the spells in the game” trophies.  The “how hard could they be?” trophies that you don’t realize include needing to kill two of the hardest optional bosses and do a ridiculous amount of grinding for rare drops.

Oh, and you have to play through the game in NG+ mode, 70% harder than the base game which is already plenty nasty, and then play through about half the game again in NG++ which bumps up the difficulty even more.   There’s a workaround for that, I’ll get to it.

It took me just over 39 hours to get these last four trophies.

I would not recommend doing this, except…

See, I don’t really collect platinum trophies except for games I really enjoy.  I figure this is pretty normal.  So, when I look at someone’s PSN profile, I tend to see their platinum collection as being a fairly personal reflection of their likes.

Sometimes these are very confusing.  I have a former boss whose sole platinum trophy is for Assassin’s Creed: Unity.  This is not a particularly quick or easy platinum to collect, so this is someone who decided to put a lot of time into – arguably – the worst modern AC.

As far as I can tell, he is in all other respects a perfectly sane individual.

So, in the extremely unlikely event that anyone cares enough to look at MY profile, I want them to see the Bloodborne, and Nioh, and Dark Souls platinums, and also the Senran Kagura and Love Live platinums, and I want them to go away convinced that two people are sharing the same PSN ID and that both should probably be on a watchlist if they’re not yet.

Anyway.

In addition to the general sense of elation that came with taking out those nasty optional bosses, I had a truly Peak Dark Souls Moment that I wanted to share.  This is where I get to the workaround to playing through half of the game on NG++ that I mentioned before.

There is a door in Dark Souls II that only opens once you have killed four, basically, demigods.  You need to go through this door because it is the only way around an obstacle consisting of a fallen pillar in the middle of a path.

Yes, you need to commit multiple counts of deicide because you can’t step over a rock.  I’m just going to move on without further comment.

If you don’t want to kill all four of these demigods, which involves clearing through all of the stuff BETWEEN you and the demigods, you can simply farm souls until the door decides that you can open it.  This takes three million souls, which is quite a lot if you try to do it by killing random monsters that give anywhere between 500 and 3000 souls per kill.

Alternately, you can clear the path to any one of the four demigods and just fight it over and over again, because THAT nets you at least 300000 souls per win.

Upside: This is much faster.

Downside: Every time you kill a given demigod, it gets harder the next time.  Hits harder, has more health, that sort of thing.  Technically there is a cap, but that cap is quite high – and once you’ve hit that cap, there is very little room for error.

Here is that Peak Dark Souls Moment I mentioned earlier, as a study in four pictures.  Note that my health bar is in the upper-left corner and that the boss health bar is the practially-empty health bar at the bottom of the screen.

Boss is nearly dead.  I’ve even managed to sever its right arm, so most of its attacks at this point consist of it flailing the useless stump vaguely in my direction.

It may be quite difficult to make out as this is a largely-brown boss fought in a largely-brown room and the lighting is rather poor, but you may be able to tell that the nearly-dead boss has raised his LEFT arm threateningly.

I did not notice this in time.

This WOULD have been the final time needing to kill this boss.  I am not ashamed to admit that this did test my calm just a little bit.

So. Between my initial clear of the game and then going back for trophies, I spent nearly a hundred hours at this.  I’m not entirely sure that this was a good use of time, and I have instructed my wife to not let me play any other Souls games until, at the earliest, April.

 

Posted in PS4, Souls | Leave a comment

Densha De Go! Densha De Go! Densha De Go Go Go!

I bought another train game.

Much like the last train game I played – Densha De Go! Pocket Yamanote-Sen – this game is all about driving a commuter train in a big circle around Tokyo, carefully adhering to a timetable and trying not to jostle the passengers too much in the process.  Also you can honk your horn at children waving from overpasses.

If you are not immediately wondering how you can get your own copy, you’re not my kind of people.

Coming from the PSP version, there is obviously a massive graphical jump.  I’m not sure what the resolution is – I’ve seen a fair number of jaggies on my 4k screen – but the lighting effects are pretty sweet.  One thing that does detract somewhat from the experience is that, while I’m pretty sure it’s got all of the buildings you would normally see from the train, it lacks the massive advertisements that would normally be plastered on any available vertical surface.   So it’s not EXACTLY like driving a train through Tokyo but I’ll give it a pass on that.

Also, it makes use of analog controls for acceleration and braking, which has taken a little getting used to.  My co-pilot/tutorial voice chides me frequently for my rough stops.

I’m not very far into playing it at all.  I went through the tutorial a couple of times and then  went into the game’s Free Mode, which allows you to pick a train, departure and arrival stations, time of day, weather and passenger load.

So in this example, I’m going from Hamamatsucho to Akihabara, in the evening, with clear skies and few passengers.

Every time you stop at a station, you get a little replay of your arrival, with notes on how early or late you were and how far off you were from the mark.  I am still getting used to the game again and this atrocious example here is actually one of my better stops.

16 seconds late and nearly a meter off the mark.  I would be walking the tracks and pulling up weeds on my day off if I did this badly as an actual train conductor.

Once you’re done with the chosen route, you get an overall status screen.  In free mode, you don’t also get a grade or any points, it seems mostly just a for-practice mode and I’m not sure you can fail out of it even if you’re doing terribly.

Setting the free mode aside, however, it has both “Arcade” and “Career” modes which I will delve into later.  There’s even a VR Mode where you can look around while driving, and this tempts me mightily. For now, however, I am having a very specific itch scratched.

 

 

Posted in PS4, videogames | 1 Comment

In which, I play more WoW and make a career change.

By career change, I naturally don’t mean in real life.  I continue to earn my paychecks in my role as a random IT grunt.  No, I mean in my current MMO.

See, I enjoy playing healers.  It’s great fun to make the green bars stay mostly green, you usually don’t have to know a lot of complicated mechanics because that is almost always dumped on the shoulders of the damage dealing classes, and you’re in high demand.

Except.  In the current WoW expansion, I have the misfortune of playing a healing class that is pretty good in PvP situations but which is considered the bottom of the bottom tier as far as the raid and grouping meta goes.

And the WoW community is pretty prone to slavishly following the meta, even if they don’t always know why.

The result has been that I have found myself to be somewhat… lacking in demand.  And a healer who can’t find groups doesn’t have green bars to fill.

On the other hand, switching from a healing Paladin to a TANKING paladin only took swapping out a couple of pieces of gear and watching about eight hours of videos on How To Tank WoW Dungeons.  That is more hours than I typically devote to studying serious real-life stuff, and I am not blind to how silly that is.

Plus I changed my look to something more EDGY and TANKY to befit my new role.

Real tanks wear super emo armor.

Now that I’ve done that, and tanked my way through all of the dungeons in the Shadowlands expansion on Normal mode, and repeated it on Heroic mode, and AGAIN on “Mythic” dungeon mode… I have started running dungeons on the “Mythic Plus” modes, which are just harder and harder versions of the highest difficulty dungeons, but with better loot and with a completion timer ticking away while you try to clear.  My best so far is finishing a “+7” Mythic dungeon inside the time limit, which is a far cry from the top end but which is still much better than I would ever have expected for me.

I also tried tanking a single raid boss. It was a tedious experience, and I will not be repeating it.  WoW “raid tanking” seems to be a complicated affair of tanking just long enough to build up a debuff that will kill you if you tank any longer and then handing off the tanking duties to your co-tank until THEY have a debuff on them that will kill them at which point you take aggro again.  It’s … well, it’s obviously designed to make sure that raids always have to make spots for two tanks, and it works at that, but it’s just so far removed from anything I enjoy.

I am loving the dungeons, however, and am going to keep at those for a while.

I have also gotten geared up to the point where I can steamroll the lower-end dungeons, and I have taken to watching my in-game notifications for “guild member has joined the queue for X” at which time I jump in with them and do my best to ruin them for other tanks.  I’m awful that way.

 

Posted in mac, MMORPG | Leave a comment

OK, I’ll say something about Shadowlands now.

My last post about WoW was talking about how it would not be the first MMORPG I would recommend to anyone, and that my recommendation would absolutely be that a newcomer to the genre should try FFXIV instead.

On the other hand, one thing WoW DOES definitely do better is that it makes playing a healer feel more like you’re playing a healer and less like you are playing a mediocre wizard who occasionally stops throwing out damage spells and casts a token heal spell before returning to damage.

Having a couple more weeks of WoW under my belt, I would like to postulate that WoW outdoes FFXIV in three other ways, all of which are fairly niche and none of which should really be construed as a particular endorsement of the game as a whole.

I’ll set two of them aside as possible future post topics, because what I want to talk about is the current state of PvP in WoW, which can be summed up as “hella fun” but I should probably write more words.

Again, keep in mind this is all from a healer perspective, and moreover from the point of view of a player who really enjoys a chaotic environment because PvP is the very definition of chaotic. There is a tremendous amount of damage and dehabilitation being thrown around, and at any given moment you generally are deciding which of two or three teammates should live and which should be sacrificed, with of course the added twist that your teammates generally have no idea where you are and may be running AWAY from you, to their deaths, rather than towards you so they can be healed.

This isn’t anything unique to the new expansion, however. What’s changed is the reward system.

Now, I am all for the idea that playing a healer is its own reward. There is a definite satisfaction in turning a losing situation into a winning one, or even just making it so that your teammates are spending longer alive, which is fun, and less time sitting at the graveyard waiting to respawn, which is not fun.

Healers: Fun Enablers.

That’s great and all, but let’s talk about the real reward, which is new gear for your characters that you can use to make the numbers bigger because bigger numbers are also fun. In WoW, the critical number is “iLvL” or “item level” which is a rough measurement of how powerful your character is.

The last time I was playing WoW regularly was during the “Legion” expansion, which was about four years ago. At the time, the way that PvP worked was that characters on each side had their stats and abilities adjusted to a PvP Template, meaning that someone who was brand new to PvP had a bit of a fighting chance against veterans. It took the Gear Factor out of PvP, which definitely has its merits.

On the other hand, since Gear wasn’t really a Thing, PvP didn’t often reward you with new armor. The way it worked was that, if you WON a PvP match, you would get a box of rewards that would occasionally include a random piece of gear. Losses didn’t give you this reward, so losing meant that you didn’t even have the chance of randomly getting some new armor and making your numbers bigger.

It also meant that the process of getting a complete matched set – because fashion is important – took AGES.

Shadowlands, on the other hand, has a system where you earn a special PvP currency every time your team scores a kill and another hunk of currency at the end of the match. You get about twice as much for a win, but even the losers walk away with something.

Unlike Legion, you can convert this PvP currency directly into gear. Not cosmetic gear, not PvP-specific gear, but stuff you can put on your character that makes them more effective in ALL content. The traditional WoW gear curve of getting random quest rewards, then doing regular dungeons (iLvl 158) until you can do heroic dungeons (iLvL 171) so you can get gear so you can do MYTHIC dungeons (iLvL 184+), so you can then be geared enough for raiding… you get to bypass that entirely, if you like.

So that’s what I did. With the exception of one piece of crafted armor that I needed to do some solo PvE to get the materials for, I geared my character entirely through the process of logging in, getting into one of WoW’s “Epic Battlegrounds”, and trying my best to kill the guys on Team Red while keeping the guys on Team Blue alive. This earned me a ton of PvP currency, which I used to kit myself out entirely in epic gear, and I eventually managed to put myself a set of gear at iLvL 185, which was more than enough to get me a raid spot for groups tackling the new raid zone.

Additionally, since the queue times for PvP are practically non-existent, there was no sitting around waiting to get a group for a dungeon to kill bosses that MIGHT drop upgrades. You can’t even queue for Mythics, so you have to go through a messy process of actually talking to other humans to do those.

So for basically the first time in the twenty+ years I have been wasting my life away in MMORPGs, I’m actually a little ahead of the curve.

Feels good!

 

Posted in MMORPG, videogames | Leave a comment