Gearing Up For Blaugust

This past weekend I spent some time gearing up for Blaugust next month. It’s a little daunting because July has been a very light gaming month for me and there’s no reason to think next month won’t be the same. I’ve been pre-occupied with a lot of work stuff. So what the heck am I going to write about?

Mechanical Counter

One thing that I think will help me is giving myself permission to write shorter posts. I generally don’t feel like I’ve written enough unless I get to 500 words, but most of the time I don’t have that much to say about a topic. Thankfully this new Yoast SEO plugin that I’m using tells me my posts only need to be 300 words or more. And the Blaugust guidelines say I have to write ten sentences, which at the recommended average of 15-20 words per sentence comes out to 150-200 words, which is pretty short, but when you have nothing to say, it might as well be 10,000 words. (This post, as of this sentence, is still a bit shy of 200 words.)

So in conclusion, I will need to think of some creative ways to wrap-up posts with concluding sentences that extend the length of the post a little bit.

Skyforge 2-Hour Scorecard

I spent a few hours with Skyforge. I didn’t buy any of the founder’s packs or anything so this is the totally free-to-play experience.

Business casual is the way to go in Skyforge.
Business casual is the way to go in Skyforge.
  • Character Creation: Okay
  • Lore: Meh
  • Dialog: Meh
  • Visuals: Good
  • Performance: Good
  • Sound: Okay
  • Music: Meh
  • Voice Acting: Okay
  • UI: Fantastic
  • Customization Settings: Minimal
  • Ads: Subtle, except for the launch window
  • Free-to-play disadvantages: Less “sparks” so I guess you advance slower
  • Classes: Okay (3 to pick from initially)
  • Combat Style: Action, Button Mashing
  • Difficulty: Surprisingly challenging for a game these days
  • Progression Style: Skill Tree, Gear Upgrades
  • Crafting: Unknown
  • Endgame: I doubt I’ll ever see it
  • World: Small zones and instances that you travel to from a hub, like Neverwinter
  • Costumes: Plentiful
  • Appearance: Change anything at will (only the first one is free)

Things that stood out:

  • You can select your running animation and idle stance in Skyforge’s character creation, that was pretty cool.
  • Because Skyforge locks you into mouselook mode, I couldn’t figure out how to activate a mouse pointer to minimize or hide general chat, or dismiss the help tooltips. (In other games it’s Alt or Z or something like that.)

Overall, Skyforge is fun in short bursts, but there’s not a lot of depth to it for an MMORPG. It’s more of a video game than a virtual world, if that makes sense–the kind of game you play, beat, and put away.

UPDATE: Some edits made based on the advice of this spiffy new Yoast SEO plugin I got.

Dark Souls – Eat It, Bell Gargoyles

Almost exactly two years ago I first played Dark Souls on the PC, and a few days later I defeated the Taurus Demon, the second boss. Now I can finally say that I’ve defeated the third* boss: The Bell Gargoyles.

Seen here with newly-acquired Zweihander.
Knight with newly-acquired Zweihander.

After weeks of enjoying the crap out of the hard-difficulty combat in The Witcher 3**, I decided to install Dark Souls again. Two years later, thanks to a Steam beta and DSfix, Dark Souls runs a thousand times better on the PC than when I first played it, and using an Xbox controller works a lot better than a PS3 controller did. It’s really a gorgeous, atmospheric game.

Last time I played a Sorcerer, but this time I played a Knight. Thanks to my experience with The Witcher 3, and combined with the tougher Knight class, I had much less difficulty getting through to the Undead Parish than I did two years ago. Then I got to the Bell Gargoyles and remembered why I gave up there last time.

So my strategy for defeating the Bell Gargoyles was pretty simple: Keep doing it over and over and over again until I finally got lucky. By the end I could melee with one of those gargoyles all day long, but they always killed me by ganging up on me after the second joined the fight. On the last try, for whatever reason, the second gargoyle remained farther away. It breathed fire from a distance four times and almost entirely missed me each time, giving me the opportunity I needed to finish dispatching the first gargoyle. (I was wielding a Battle Axe +4 and a Hollow Soldier Shield +1 for the kill. The upgraded axe helped a lot.)

I don’t know exactly how many tries it took me, but I would estimate 35-40 tries over the course of three or four days (I can’t remember if I started Saturday or Sunday). You can see in the video that I had 16,166 souls built up from my last blood stain, and you get a minimum of 640 souls each time you travel from the spawn point to the boss, so that’s about 25 tries right there, and I could have easily lost another 10,000 souls from accidental deaths.

It feels like I’ve beaten the game, but in reality I’ve still only scratched the surface. This wiki page tells me there are twelve required bosses to defeat, and I’ve only done two on that list.

After defeating the Bell Gargoyles I went exploring some areas that I had never seen before. I fought my way past a nifty Prowling Demon (which was a challenging mini-boss but after the experience of dueling with the Bell Gargoyles for days I dispatched it on the first try) to get to the Darkroot Garden, where I sparred with some plant creatures for a while before heading back to a camp fire. Later I went back to the Firelink Shrine and tried going down to the The Catacombs but I did not enjoy dealing with the skeletons that never die. (On the way I picked up the awesome-looking Zweihander sword though.)

* I suppose the bosses aren’t really in any set order, but it was the third boss for me.

** Oh, I finished The Witcher 3, by the way. As always in open world games, once I finish the main story, I find I have zero desire to continue playing any of the side bits. Fortunately this time I put off finishing the main story for a long, long time so I could do a lot of the side bits first.

Why I Didn’t Buy H1Z1 For $10

H1Z1 is one of those early access games that I have a mild interest in playing, if for no other reason than that it looks pretty. In the recent Steam sale, it was discounted 50% to $9.99, which is under that magic $10 mark where I will buy just about anything in any condition. I hovered over the Buy button…

But then I started to think.

I wondered what my reward would be for buying now–what cool stuff I would get after the game launches. How many “credits” or “gems” or “zombie points” I would get, what costumes or guns I would get, what titles I would get, etc. Because obviously there should be some tangible incentives for me to buy a game that’s buggy and broken and not finished.

So I went looking. And looking. And looking. And found… nothing. There is no indication on the official web site that H1Z1 will ever launch, let alone any listings of post-launch rewards I might get for buying now. The web site gives every indication that the game is live now, and you’re buying a finished product now, and the whole “early access” thing isn’t important at all. In fact, it might even be a feature.

So I didn’t buy it, even for that measly $10.

Progression Report – June 2015

There were only two games I played any significant amount in June: Final Fantasy XIV (28 hours) and The Witcher 3 (18 hours). The latter is not an MMORPG, but since it feels exactly like an MMORPG I’m going to count it in my progression report.

In FFXIV I started in on Heavensward, but to be honest I’m still a bit burned out from all the catching up I did in May, so I haven’t played that much into the expansion. I’ve only managed to level my Bard class from 50 to 53 52, and completed the first dungeon Dusk Vigil. It’s a great expansion…

… but it’s not as great as The Witcher 3, where I reached level 23 and played to the point in the story where the curse was lifted from Uma. I’m really glad I stuck with the hard difficulty. Once I got to level 12 or so, I no longer had any trouble with it. The main thing to keep in mind is that you have to be patient and fight defensively until you get stronger and get the hang of the controls. I don’t know how much more story is left in this game, but I’ve seen swords and armor that require at least level 37, and I still have a crap ton of question marks left to explore on the maps.

Finding Heavensward

Normally everything related to FFXIV is an absolute pleasure to deal with, but getting into the Heavensward pre-order early access has been quite an unexpected challenge.

FFXIV was down all day Thursday for the big 3.0 patch which I downloaded Thursday night. I had absolutely no idea that I would have to do anything special to see Heavensward. I just assumed the patcher would know I had ordered it, it would download it, and it would magically appear the next time I ran the game after the servers came up.

So I logged into FFXIV before I went to work on Friday just to take a very quick peek at Heavensward. Well, the game didn’t look any different. Oh, I saw a few changes to the UI so I knew something had happened, but that was about it. I was puzzled, but I had to log out and go to work.

When I got home I logged in again to look around more thoroughly. The game still didn’t look any different. I went to Camp Dragonhead to find a quest to start my adventures in Ishgard, but there was no quest. I entered the little intercessory to find a quest-giver standing there with a level 50 quest I couldn’t get.

That’s when I knew something was definitely wrong and I logged out to figure out why I wasn’t seeing Heavensward.

It turns out I had left out the crucial step of applying a “bonus code” to my account to get into the Heavensward early access. Buried at the bottom of the order confirmation email I received from Square Enix early Friday was a link to “Click here to get access to your products.” That took me to a page where I could click a button to make an “activation key” for my pre-order bonus code.

With the activation key in hand, I had to go to another page–the pre-order page–to register the activation key, which then in turn gave me the actual bonus code. The big problem with this step was that, Friday afternoon and evening, the pre-order page was buggy as crap and it took a few hours of re-entering my login information, one-time passwords, and the activation key before it finally got to the end and coughed up a suitable bonus code.

Then it was off to another page in the Mog Station to actually apply the bonus code to my account. As with everything in the Mog Station, the first challenge is finding the right place to go to do the thing you want to do. After a scavenger hunt of clicking, I found a place where I could enter a code that matched the format of my bonus code (naturally I could not just cut and paste it in), and of course it said it was invalid. Whoops, I was trying to redeem a Heavensward code, not a Heavensward early access code. Those are two totally different pages, it turns out, with two totally different-shaped buttons to click. Don’t go to the big giant button that says “Enter the Registration Code for the Expansion,” instead go to a smaller button on the side that says … something I can’t remember because it’s gone from my account page now. On the second try, I successfully applied the pre-order bonus code to my account!

I ran the patcher, eagerly anticipating that I would now be able to log in and see all the cool stuff that I had downloaded the previous day. And then I discovered that I had not yet even downloaded Heavensward. I had only downloaded the 3.0 patches that applied to the old world. I watched helplessly while the patcher cheerfully started in on another 4-5 GB download.

Now, as I type this, the patcher is “Updating” and the Time Remaining is “Unknown.” Windows tells me the patcher is “not responding” and suggests that I either close the program or continue waiting for it. I’m not yet sure what I’m going to decide. Perhaps I should plan on doing something else tonight.

P.S. I stopped the patcher and re-ran it.

Heavensward

Success at last!

Besiege – Failing Is Fun

I found a hilarious physics/building game in the Steam summer sale… Besiege. There’s something about it that just makes me laugh and laugh. It’s pretty unique in that the most fun part of the game is failing. The more spectacular the failure, the more fun it is. It’s still early access but I give it a thumbs up.

I’ll be honest, in the following videos, I was more concerned about running over the chickens than anything else.

Blaugust Plans

Interstaller Tidal Wave

To hold myself accountable, I’m going to announce publicly that I’m going to try to participate in Belghast’s Blaugust this year. That means posting at least 31 times during the month of August (once a day).

Fortunately for me, I’m sure I have at least 31 half-finished posts in my Drafts folder that I can choose from. So don’t be surprised if you see posts about very old topics that everyone’s long forgotten. :)