Blaugust: Get to know each other!

blaugustrebornlogo2018Belghast has kicked off this week of Blaugust by reminding us that it is “get to know each other week” and sharing a bit about himself and his childhood. I don’t usually share a lot of personal information about myself here because I prefer to focus on the gaming. Today I’ll make an exception so I can join in the Blaugust fun and games.

I talked a bit already about my earliest introduction to games with my uncle’s Atari. I never had a console of my own until much later, when I saved up my allowance and got a Nintendo (NES). In between, however, we had something that fundamentally set me up for both my favorite hobby and my eventual career. It was a well-loved, hand-me-down Commodore 64.

I don’t really know how my parents got interested enough to obtain it. I certainly didn’t have anything to do with that. My mom did a lot of typing for newsletters and things. She had a nice typewriter and eventually a word processor, so maybe she wanted the computer so she could use it for writing. Or maybe my dad just wanted it to mess around and see what all the fuss was about. It is my dad that I remember using it the most. He taught himself BASIC so he could program a simple hockey game on it.

That silly little game was a revelation to me. I played lots of games on that old C64, either shareware passed along by my many cousins, or ones bought from the clearance bin from the computer store in the mall. Seeing my dad make his own game made me realize that was something people could do. Games didn’t just appear fully formed on a floppy disk; somebody made them up and wrote all the code that made them work.

I learned how to program from my dad and by copying code from computer magazines. I never made anything very complicated, but the process opened up a path for me that I’ve followed the rest of my life. Today I leave making games to somebody else, but I do still use my coding skills. I’m lucky enough to get to do science using a ridiculously powerful supercomputer for a living, all thanks to that humble C64 and a dad who unknowingly helped me get started on my true path.


Player investment

For a game that has been around as long as World of Warcraft, there must be something special that keeps players coming back year after year. But from a design and story perspective, how do you make things new and exciting while keeping the essence of what keeps your players invested in the game? It’s a question I don’t have a great answer to, and I don’t envy the folks at Blizzard for having to find that delicate balance.

Over the years I’ve seen my friends and the greater blogosphere get worked up over changes in gameplay and mechanics, but even mores over changes to the world and the direction of the story. The response I felt to some of the things that happened during the War of the Thorns was a visceral thing at times, and judging from the conversations I’ve seen I’m not alone. Yesterday’s post shattered my record for most comments [thank you, my beautiful readers!], and the discussion was very thoughtful and sometimes emotional. People are trying to help each other navigate their feelings about the game and find a way to keep enjoying it.

My own feelings have definitely evolved over the past couple weeks. I’m in a place where I don’t fully trust the writers with the story, but I do trust that I’ll be able to find fun things to do anyway. My excitement for this expansion is low, probably just a bit better than I felt about WoD, but there are specific things I am looking forward to. As long as Sylvanas and Jaina stay away from becoming raid bosses I’ll eventually make my peace with the rest.

Let’s be honest, the most important part of the expansion is the fact that those extra levels will let me farm WoD and maybe Legion raids for transmog. And if Blizz wanted to give me my very own arcane pirate ghost ship, that wouldn’t hurt either…

Tales from too many pugs

I wanted to try to keep from completely bouncing off of WoW after all my feelings about the War of the Thorns content. I decided that leveling something new from scratch would be fun and would keep me far away from the pre-expansion stuff for a while. Because I’m full of terrible ideas, I’m trying to level a priest via pugging dungeons.

WoWScrnShot_080518_235455This is DiscGrace, my new blood elf disc priest. It’s been a few years since I really played a priest, but in my heart my undead priest will always be my main. Now I’m trying to re-learn how to disc while subjecting myself to the best and worst of pugs in WoW. Either I’m going to get super good at priesting, or I’m going to ragequit MMOs for a while. At least I’ll get some good blogging out of it.

I leveled to 15 questing in the blood elf starting area. I like how quiet it is there, and how much has stayed the same since I first started playing the game. Once I could queue for dungeons I started running them and only questing a little to fill in the down time. I’m going to try to run them all in order if I can.

Deadmines: This was a reasonable group. I had a very nice bear tank. I was frustrated for a while because you don’t get atonement until around level 20, so I had to heal “properly” for this one. I hadn’t run many dungeons since the leveling changes last patch, so the time to kill the bosses was surprising to me. Other than that this was a smooth run.

Ragefire Chasm: Another reasonable group. I could get used to this. I had a monk tank this time. They were a little bit slow to pick up aggro but other than that there were no problems. People even said thank you when we were done!

Shadowfang Keep: My first wtf moment of this experiment. I’m amazed it took this long. Had a pally tank and a monk that kept rushing ahead and pulling. I finally had atonement at least and kept everybody alive fine even through some big pulls and various kinds of stupid. The wtf moment came about halfway through when the pally asked me “don’t you know how to atonement heal?”. That’s…what I was doing the whole time? Apparently they were mad that my largest heal on the meters was my shield, and nothing I could say seemed to placate them so I just gave up. Even the annoying monk that kept pulling stood up for me which was a shock. I ended up keeping my mouth shut for the rest of the run and just kept healing the same way I had been the whole time. Very odd.

So far I’ve made it to level 22 with only one relatively small incident. I’ll call that a win. I’m sure things will keep getting more interesting as I move into more complicated dungeons. Anybody want to take bets on how far I get before I get sick of pugs and give up?

Childhood games

Atari-2600-Wood-4Sw-SetI’m stealing one of my own topic ideas here, and talking about how games left an impression on me from my earliest childhood.

I’ve been playing video games for as long as I can remember, really. My uncle bought an Atari and kept it at my grandmother’s house for all his nieces and nephews to play when they came to visit. I was quite young at the time, and my favorite game was the Smurfs. My fond memories of that console are tied up with family: The smell of my grandmother’s cooking, the sound of my uncles and aunts telling stories, the burning desire to be as cool as my older cousins. Even though I can barely remember the games themselves, the nostalgia I feel from just looking at this photo is strong.


Steambirds Alliance

I’ve been playing in the beta of Steambirds Alliance this weekend. I got on Spry Fox’s mailing list back when I was playing a ton of AlphaBear, and signed up to try out new stuff as it came out. Steambirds Alliance isn’t anything at all like AlphaBear, but it is right up my alley.

This game is a MMO shmup (aka bullet hell), which is not something I’ve ever heard of or tried before. From what I’ve seen so far it is quite fun! I especially like the fact that they are intentionally trying to design this game to promote co-op play rather than competitive. There’s no friendly fire, and all loot is “personal loot” so trolling has been at a minimum. There is perma-death, which is sometimes a turn-off for me, but so far it hasn’t been too onerous. I believe they are still handing out some beta keys for folks on their mailing list or for people watching them stream. Their release date is listed as “sometime in 2018 (probably)”, so if it seems interesting I suggest you try to snag a key or at least put it on your Steam wishlist!

Expedition Buddy: Quiet Downs

Note: This post was originally published on the now-defunct Wildstar-Core. Although it will be a while until Shade’s Eve starts back up again, I wanted to archive this here for posterity.

Quiet Downs is the Shade’s Eve seasonal expedition. It is a great way to earn seasonal goodies like decor, costumes, and mount flair! To get the most enjoyment of the spooky ambiance, I’d recommend trying it once before reading this guide. Spoilers ahoy!



What: Escape from a spooky forest, and discover the spooky mysteries of the town of Quiet Downs.

When: Only during Shade’s Eve, available at level 10.

Where: Thayd/Illium

Gold Timers: No overall timer, but there is a 5 minute timer to find the fountain in the first section.

Expedition Buddy Says: This expedition has 3 major sections. First, you need to escape the woods, then investigate the town, and finally wreck up an evil lair. Let’s get started!

If you are doing this for the daily quest you currently need to enter through the portal in Thayd/Illium for it to count. Otherwise you can use the group finder to queue like any other expedition. After the cutscene, you will spawn in a very dark wood. There are multiple different spawn locations, which are chosen randomly. If you enter with a group you will likely all spawn in different places and have to find each other. Your goal is to make it to the fountain, which is roughly in the center of the map. To make it extra difficult, your minimap works but doesn’t highlight the fountain, and pressing “m” to bring up the full map will show your location but not any of the details of the terrain.

This dark ominous path actually leads directly out of the woods

This dark ominous path actually leads directly out of the woods

This is the part where you’d probably like me to tell you exactly how to find that fountain, but since the starting locations are always changing and everything is super dark that’s very difficult! I will tell you that you are aiming for the center of the map, and that the fastest path is often slightly hidden or small. The fountain is also slightly higher up than the starting points, so keep an eye out for changes in elevation. There are a few places where the “correct” path might involve a switchback up a small hill. If you start running into bear traps you’re getting close! It will probably take you a couple runs to learn the maze, and that’s ok! The other helpful thing is that after the 5 minute timer expires, the Angel will start helping you. Just follow the big glowing will-o-the-wisps and they’ll lead you to your destination.

Your flashlight, Anti-shadeling flare, and signal beacon

Your flashlight, Anti-shadeling flare, and signal beacon

You’ll also lose access to your normal abilities for this section. Instead, you have 3 new ones, a flashlight, a small anti-shadeling flare, and a signal flare/beacon. The flashlight is your best friend. It will illuminate a small region in front of you and help you avoid the many many traps and dangerous plants on the ground. It will only last for 20 seconds, and then you’ll be stuck in 5 seconds of darkness waiting for it to recharge. The flare will stun shadelings and buy you time to escape from them (more on this in a moment). The signal beacon places a large pillar of light that in theory should help your companions find you. In practice it is still pretty difficult to see from a distance.

Shadelings are jerks.

Shadelings are jerks.

Shadelings patrol the darkness, and you need to avoid them as best you can. If they catch up to you they’ll turn you into a shadeling too, and you’ll need to use your one ability to attack one of the ghostly humans wandering the woods. Placing an anti-shadeling flare will stun them, but use them wisely since you only get two. Yes, there are more boxes of supplies scattered about, but they are generally not worth the time to open versus just getting the heck out of the woods.

The good-for-nothing Mayor of Quiet Downs

Mayor Goodthorpe. He’s a very bad man.

Once you make it to the fountain, you’ll get your normal abilities back and the rest of the instance is much more normal. Talk to the mayor and two other citizens of the town, and then you’ll be presented with a choice. You can either help the villagers prepare for their “celebration” or you can help Eva Courtly investigate the town. Your choice determines your tasks in this section of the instance. In order to get the achievement for killing all the villagers you will need to do both, and specifically you’ll need to get the attention of all of the patrolling villagers in the “Investigation” pathway.

Your four potential "guests of honor"

Your four potential “guests of honor”

The objectives of both pathways are very clearly marked on your map. As you near the end of this section you’ll have to fight some townsfolk and also the Mayor for the “Helpful” pathway. Once that’s done you’ll be heading down into the underground bunker at the northwest edge of town for the final portion of this expedition.

The last phase of the instance is a straight up dungeon crawl. You need to kill 22 cultists, and have optional tasks to kill the 3 plaguebearers and destroy their equipment. If you’re lower level or undergeared, be sure to pull carefully. The groups of cultists can spawn in slightly different locations and it can be a bit easy to catch too many of them at once. Bringing lots of interrupts is definitely helpful too. If you are alone or with only one friend they will not have interrupt armor which makes things simpler.

Stay away from those bubbling pools of green goo.

Stay away from those bubbling pools of green goo.

You may notice bubbling green puddles on the ground. These will spawn shadelings if you get too close. Most of them can be avoided if you are careful. There’s also plenty of lore to be found on your first time through, so be sure to check out all the hallways if you are interested in filling your lore log!

The man of the hour.

Jack Shade himself.

Once you’ve completed your objectives, it is time to enter the morgue and finally face down “Jack Shade”.  The fight has 3 phases, with bits of dialog in between. If you manage to interrupt most of his abilities the fight is nice and easy. If not, fortunately the Angel will sometimes turn his spells against him and help heal you. After you kill him, he has one last trick in store for you. The whole underground lab is rigged to explode and spread the shades. You’ll have to run straight down the hallway as fast as you can while avoiding the clouds of disease spreading around. Once you reach the end the Angel helps you escape and you’re all done!

Differences between normal and vet: None! There’s currently only one version of this instance. If you’re below level 50, you will get scaled up based on the ilevel of your gear.

I love the epic feel of the plague tanks exploding around you as you run down this hallway!

I love the epic feel of the plague tanks exploding around you as you run down this hallway!

Other Thoughts: This expedition is quite a lot of fun! While it is technically soloable even on lower level characters it can be difficult to do so. You are much better off grouping below 50. You can run the instance as many times as you like to keep earning goodie bags and shade silver. A gold run will earn you 50 shade silver (62 with the subscriber bonus). Even if you get turned into a shade, as long as you find your way out of the woods in the time limit you can still get gold. You’ll be riding that Shade’s Eve hoverboard around in no time!

Blaugust: Topic Brainstorming Week

blaugustrebornlogo2018Blaugust is off to a strong start! This week’s theme is Topic Brainstorming, to help generate some ideas that everyone can mine for posts for the rest of the month.

First I want to talk a bit about three categories of blog posts that it is useful to think about if you’re a newbie blogger. I like to mix and match different kinds of posts so I don’t burn out too much. The three main types are:

Diary: These are the easiest kind to start with. They’re the catalog of what you’ve been up to, in-game or irl. They can be as simple as a few screenshots with captions, or as detailed as the full RP write-up of what your character was thinking as they explored their world.

Dialog: The meat of most blogs. These are where you expound on a topic of interest, or respond to something you saw elsewhere in the blogosphere. Share those opinions and hopefully you’ll start a discussion.

Deep-Dive: Guides. We all love them. We should all show their creators a little love too. Writing guides and walkthroughs is time-consuming but it can be really rewarding. You don’t have to be an expert to write one, either. Your creative solution to a problem might be exactly what someone needed to help them succeed.

Now let’s brainstorm some topics for Dialog posts!

  1. Talk about the first game system you remember playing, or a favorite game from childhood.
  2. Single-player or multiplayer games? Why? What are the exceptions?
  3. What gets you hyped about an upcoming game?
  4. Do you have gaming insecurities? Something that makes you feel like a “fake gamer”?
  5. What is your gaming environment? A messy desk? A comfy sofa? What would your perfect gaming setup be?

August 2018 Gaming Goals

Happy Blaugust everyone! Before I dig into this week’s theme, I wanted to keep up my monthly tradition of evaluating my goals, seeing how badly I failed at meeting them, and then steadfastly creating new ones anyway. Note: I wrote most of these goals before seeing the new quest content in WoW yesterday. I’m not sure if I really want to follow through with them anymore but I’m putting them here anyway because I don’t have any other goals in mind right now.

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