Results of Un-Learning Invert Mouse

I noticed that I never reported the results of trying to un-learn the use of Invert Mouse.

After about two weeks, I was no longer fighting my muscle memory and could play MMOs unhindered.

After about a month, I felt like I could aim pretty well again in shooters where precision is important.

It’s now been nearly six months, and I feel like I’ve never played any other way.

So it is possible to switch, even if you’ve played with Invert Mouse all your life. I have not attempted to play any flight simulators since switching though. I suspect I would crash and die instantly if I did.

What’s The Best Subscription-Only MMO?

What’s the best subscription-only MMO out there right now? If you could only pick one to maintain, which one would it be? (By the way, the possible answers are: WoW, EVE, WildStar, ESO, or FFXIV.)

This is pretty easy for me to answer, actually: Final Fantasy XIV. Hands down. No need to even talk about it. It’s beautiful, it’s fun, there’s a lot to do, it’s updated often, it does every MMO mechanic (that matters) exactly right, and it’s cheaper than the others at $12/month. The only down side is that replayability is low if you ever want to make a second character. (You don’t need to, though, since you can play any class.)

Somewhere in Final Fantasy XIV.
Somewhere in Final Fantasy XIV.

In second place I would probably put WoW. It’s more expensive but it’s hard to beat the sheer magnitude of content available. For me, though, the lack of modern MMO features gets on my nerves and the gameplay gets repetitive after a month or so.

WildStar and ESO are both great games, too, but only for a limited time. Each one becomes repetitive quickly, so there’s no need to keep a subscription going all the time unless you have friends that play it.

EVE? Come on. Do I even have to say? That game is just not fun. It’s barely even a “game.” It’s more of a point-and-click adventure. The only reason to subscribe now is if you somehow got invested in the game years ago and built up tons of skills to the point that now you have to subscribe because you can no longer learn any skills in under 6 months.

This is not to say that I wouldn’t subscribe to WoW, EVE, WildStar, or ESO ever. I just would only do it for an occasional month here or there. What I’m saying is that FFXIV is the best one to stay subscribed to all the time. At least for me. Opinions may vary, of course. :)

WildStar – Addons I Use

I’ve seen some others reporting the WildStar addons they are using, so here are mine.

Overall I feel like WildStar addons are going to allow people to do “too much.” I mean, there’s an addon to automate the Simon games. Really Carbine? You put that in your API? I would not be surprised if we see aimbots very soon. But in the meantime:

Active:

AMP Finder. Pretty much mandatory if you want to locate AMPs within a reasonable time frame.

BijiPlates. Nice nameplate replacer that makes them a little less obtrusive. Too many settings though.

CameraSpeed. Yes! An addon that lets you adjust the camera speed down to something normal.

ClassicQuestText. Puts quest text into dialogs and most importantly allows you to set the font so you can actually read them.

CustomFOV. I set mine from the default 50 to 55. Probably not worth the effort, now that I think about it.

LocalTime. I only use this to change the time format from 24 hour to 12 hour heh.

XPS. A nice unobtrusive DPS meter that is a lot better than GalaxyMeter. It has tons of fancy graphs but I’ve turned all of them off.

Uninstalled:

GalaxyMeter. Awful. Just awful. And it’s the most popular one, of course. (I haven’t looked at the newer version yet.)

DeadLockExt. Meh. Too many options for something that doesn’t need any options. (I can’t stand it when addons make every little thing a configurable setting. Make a commitment! Take a stand!)

KeybindFreedom. Lets you bind actions to the left and right mouse buttons, something that cannot be done natively. Loved it, until I read the disclaimer that Carbine might remove this functionality in the future, so I decided to live without it.

Other than the above I haven’t seen very many that I feel the need to try. There’s a lot of “play the game automatically” types of addons out there that I just don’t want (for now, at least).

FFXIV – Trials, A Cheat-sheet For Ranged DPS

(Resurrected from my Drafts folder.)

Trials in FFXIV are cool little instances that consist of a single boss in an arena-like setting. The normal ones require four players, and you queue for them just like a dungeon. (Or if you actually know real humans who play games, you can go in with a pre-made party I guess.) I find them quite fun.

This is actually an 8-man Titan Hard Mode trial, but you get the idea.
This is an 8-man Titan Hard Mode trial, but you get the idea.

If you want to complete the main story quest, you have to go through four of these things (as well as numerous dungeons). (Yes, the game does, in fact, force you to group with other players to do the main story. The LFG tool is relatively painless, though.)

I recommend studying the mechanics of these trials for a bit before attempting them, unless you think you’ll be in a group that won’t yell at you. Since the introduction of the low-level roulette, a lot of impatient people are just farming them. Here are the highlights for a ranged DPS:

The Bowl of Embers (Ifrit). The first trial, and the easiest of the three by far. 1) Avoid the ground AoEs (there are no red circles). More appear in the second half of the fight. 2) Make sure to switch to the fragment that appears about halfway through. That’s about all you need to know. If you have trouble with this, you can pretty much forget a career in running dungeons or raids.

The Navel (Titan). The second trial, much harder, and some PUGs aren’t going to make it. 1) When he jumps in the air, run close to the red ring but not past it or you’ll get knocked off. 2) Get out of the way of Titan’s column attack quickly. (Make sure you compensate for any lag. Sometimes it looks like you’re clear, but you still get clobbered.) 3) Switch to Titan’s heart when it appears about halfway through the fight and burn it quickly. 4) Break out any party members that get encased in stone during the second half of the fight.

The Howling Eye (Garuda). The third trial, and oh man, what a pain it is. Many PUGs will fail this. 1) Hide behind stone columns when Garuda disappears. Remember she comes down on the opposite side the second time. 2) When you’re not hiding, stay away from the columns; they take damage from Garuda’s attacks if you’re too close to them. 3) Burn down the flying adds quickly with an AoE because they’ll peck at your columns. 4) Don’t forget to run closer to Garuda to get out of the big tornado AoE near the end, after the columns are gone. 5) Good luck. Your success at the end depends on how well you do at the beginning.

Cape Westwind (Rihtahtyn sas Arvina). This is where you finally learn why all of your dungeons have said, “Light Party,” because this one requires a “Full Party” of eight people. (Before this, I wondered if there was a “Dark Party.”) I honestly do not even remember this one. I feel like because there were 8 people, it was pretty easy.

There’s a lot of cut scene action in and around the trials. I don’t understand why they put so much of that into these group activities. I want to watch the movie, but I feel like I need to skip past them quickly because the rest of the group is waiting for me. And unfortunately cut scenes dealing with the trials are reeeeeally loooong. (By the way, I found out you can re-watch all the cut scenes in an Inn.)

Blogging The Hardest Way Possible

In honor of the Newbie Blogger Initiative, in this post I’m going to talk about “how” I blog for Endgame Viable. That is, the actual process. I don’t recommend doing it this way. :)

First, I play some games. Usually they are MMORPGs. This typically happens on weeknights and weekends.

After I’m done playing games, the next morning I often go to a place where I can’t play any games, which is a place that rhymes with the surname of a famous Star Trek captain. There, if I have time, I read some blogs and tweets about what else is going on in the gaming world.

By this time I have some ideas of things I want to write about. I might want to make an observation or vent about something that happened in my last play session. I might want to report about something new I did. I might have an opinion about something I read on the Internets. Most of the time, these are not particularly earth-shaking thoughts, and quite possibly not in any way unique or unusual.

I open a plain text editor window and resize it to be fairly small. It usually stays open throughout the day. (At this time, I’m using WriteMonkey, but it doesn’t really matter.) I prefer writing in plain text like this because it’s unobtrusive on the screen and I’m a software developer by trade, so I’m very comfortable using text editors.

I start writing with some topic in mind, possibly with some point I want to make. Most of the time I write a little bit, then I stop and do other things, then write a little bit more, then stop again. Sometimes this happens over the course of a whole day. Sometimes I write a lot more than I need to, and I ramble and get side-tracked on unrelated topics. I try to write in a casual tone that is easy to read, possibly even understandable to people who aren’t gamers, and I usually try to inject some dry humor. I imagine that I’m talking to an audience, and anticipate what kinds of questions that audience might ask about what I’m saying, and answer them in the text. (This whole post is an answer to a completely fabricated question about my blogging process.)

At some point I will stop writing about the topic. Then I’ll read over it a number of times and try to make it better with some editing. This is where most of the grammatical changes happen. There’s usually a fair number of typos and … what’s the word for thinking one word but writing a different one from muscle memory? Interposing? Juxtaposing? Anyway, it’s when I write “you” when I meant “your,” or “the” instead of “then.” I’m also very bad about putting in too many fluff words, so I edit out tons of pointless modifiers like “really” and “kind of” and “sort of” and “mostly” which sometimes work in verbal sentences but don’t translate to writing. (Example: “The gameplay is really kind of awkward.”)

At this point I decide if the post is finished or not. Sometimes I run out of time to write, so the decision is forced upon me. To me, a finished post not only has a completed subject, but also has at least three or four moderate-sized paragraphs. I would say a minimum of around 250 words, but rarely as long as 1000 words unless I have a lot to say. I prefer to have a good ending sentence, but sometimes I just stop as if the post has a cliffhanger.

If I feel like the post is finished, I will then add in some WordPress post-by-email shortcodes for title, category, tags, excerpt, and delay. That last one is the most important: I add a [delay +10 days] tag so that it’s not posted immediately. I then copy and paste the text from WriteMonkey into Google Mail and send it to my WordPress Post-by-email address. The post will then be scheduled to publish ten days later and go into my Posts list. The important thing is that it isn’t posted right away.

If what I’ve written isn’t finished, then I copy and paste it into an email and send it to myself. Most of the time I never look at it again, but occasionally I resurrect them. (This very post was resurrected more than once.)

Once the text is emailed, I delete the text out of the editor document and start again. Sometimes I write one post a day, sometimes I write three or four a day, sometimes I don’t write anything. I usually write more on Mondays and Fridays, because I had more gaming experiences over the weekend, and Fridays are usually very quiet and boring.

As I said above, when I’m writing these drafts, they are 100% plain text with some Markdown formatting. I use the WordPress Jetpack module for Markdown to translate into HTML, but it is finicky and sometimes does weird things. I have major problems with links, for example. The typical Markdown syntax for linking randomly does not work, so sometimes I just paste the link into the text directly, with the intention of going back later and editing the post to fix it up the way it’s supposed to be. This is one reason my posts rarely have many links in them. (Another reason is that it’s too time-consuming to look up web references.)

Sometimes I remember that I took a screenshot to illustrate something I’m writing about. (Screenshots or game visuals will sometimes inspire a post, but not often, because at the time I take the screenshot, I am not thinking about writing.) In that case I put a little note in the text that creatively says “(insert screenshot showing the thing here).” Because I don’t have access to any screenshots at the time I’m writing post drafts, and I’m quite sure that I wouldn’t be able to insert them correctly with Markdown syntax anyway.

After writing many posts and scheduling them by email, I end up with a decent-sized list of future posts collected on WordPress. Back at home on my MacBook Air, or sometimes on my smart phone with the god-awful WordPress app for Android, I look over that list and decide the order to publish them in, and set them all up for weekdays at 11:00. I try to move time-sensitive things like launches up so they publish sooner, and push general “have you ever noticed” posts farther away. I also read over them and do another editing pass. (A lot of times this is when I notice text that is “too volatile” and try to tone it down.) Sometimes I decide that a post is terrible or irrelevent or incomplete and remove it from the schedule entirely. Those posts tend to sit in Draft status forever.

I mentioned that I usually write and edit posts on a MacBook Air. This makes it somewhat inconvenient to add screenshots. If a post needs a screenshot, first I move the image from my gaming PC to a folder on Dropbox. Sometimes I have to convert the screenshot to JPEG before I can use it (I’m looking at you, BMP-saving ESO). Then I move over to the MacBook. I use the Add Media feature and select the screenshot from the Dropbox folder to upload and insert it. I find this process dreadfully awful and time-consuming, so I don’t do it very often. I wish it was easier, though, because I know I should attach some kind of image to every post. Plus I find it amusing to put funny captions on screenshots.

By the way, if I didn’t have Big Brother watching me all day, I would probably look for something like Windows Live Writer to use on the Mac, and it would simplify this process considerably. (It’s not so much that anyone would care about me writing blog posts, it’s that I don’t particularly want anyone to know I’m writing about gaming.)

That, in a nutshell, is my blogging process. It sounds horrifyingly complex, but for some reason it has a rhythm that I find relatively easy to keep up with. Much easier than trying to sit down and write a new post every morning, or something like that.

Scheduling Posts

I saw this excellent post from Belghast a while back: Thumper Logic.

The first part of his post got me thinking about my own publishing schedule, and as it is NBI month I thought a meta-blogging post would be a good topic.

I too have tried to write one post a day–in the past. I applaud the effort, and anyone who can do it is far better at this than I am.

The problem I encountered when trying to write a new post every day was: Not everything I write is publishable. Sometimes I can write for hours and produce thousands of words of nonsensical dreck. In fact, that’s pretty common. (You could probably make the argument that what I publish isn’t publishable either.)

I completely agree with the philosophy that one should practice writing every day. That’s the only way to get better. But pushing myself to write something publishable every day is more than I can deliver without stressing myself out.

That’s why I try to maintain a “buffer” of posts by scheduling in advance. A lot of times I do write a post every day. And sometimes I write two or three posts a day. But sometimes I write two or three posts a day and throw them away, leaving nothing. Sometimes I don’t have time to write anything.

You might wonder why I would care about missing days. There’s a few reasons. First, I’m trying to practice being a writer who can deliver a reliable stream of content.

Another reason is that this is still a fledgling blog. If I were a famous blogger with thousands of devoted readers, it wouldn’t be a problem to miss days. Readers would probably still come back. But since I’m still a nobody, missing posts is more of a big deal. Nothing will drive away site traffic more than failing to post new content.

And while I’m not trying to create the blog of the century here, I am at least trying to create the opportunity for a successful blog. I’m not sure what “success” means quite yet, but at the moment it means publishing something at least moderately entertaining or informative every weekday at 11.

So keeping a buffer of scheduled posts is the best way for me to achieve that success, because it eliminates all of the pressure of writing “on demand.” If you’re curious, I try to stay three or four days ahead. Longer if possible. (That’s why my topics aren’t always “timely.”)

Writing ahead also gives me a second or third or fourth chance to re-read and re-edit my posts before they are published. I try not to do a lot of editing, because I’m also trying to train myself to write better on the first try, but sometimes it’s necessary. (Basically my editing involves removing unnecessary modifiers from my writing. Like that word “basically” back there. Actually, I’m really quite fond of “actually” and “really” too. And “quite,” apparently.)

Know Why You’re Blogging

There’s a lot of great advice going around about blogging this month for the NBI, and if you are new to writing or blogging (or not), you should read all of it. Thankfully many of them are summarized in the Newbie Blogger Initiative Week #1 Roundup, so I don’t have to. The only thing I can add is my own personal philosophy on this blog.

But first, if you want to start a blog, just start it, and do whatever you want, and to hell with everyone else and what they think. It’s your blog and nobody can tell you how to run it (unless you violate the terms of service, that is). I mention this only because a lot of “how to blog” guides tend to focus on the “business” aspects of blogging. They tend to assume you want to blog to make money through advertising. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not the only reason to blog.

For this blog, I have a fairly specific focus. I imagine the target audience to be gamers at work looking for something to read when they can’t play. I have set myself a goal to post something related to the games I’m playing every weekday at 11:00 Eastern, which will allow most people to have something to read over their lunch break. I know I’ve always liked reading blogs about MMOs at work, so I figure somebody else out there might, too. Hopefully my posts will be mildly entertaining and occasionally relevant to what’s going on in the gaming world.

The goal is one thing. But it’s not enough (for me, at least). I’m not getting paid for this. I haven’t even taken the first step toward trying to get paid for this. In fact, it actually costs me money to blog, because I bought a domain name and I’m using a web hosting service. There is no tangible reward for having this blog whatsoever, so why bother?

Knowing why you’re blogging is very important, in my opinion. If you try to blog (or write) for the wrong reasons, it probably isn’t going to last.

For me, I like to write. I want to get better at writing, or at least not get worse at it. The only way I know to maintain and improve one’s writing ability is to read and write regularly, and blogs are one way to do that.

Another reason is that I want to practice and get better at writing on a schedule. That is, forcing myself to write X amount for publishing on Y date and time. I have long-simmering aspirations of someday getting paid to write, and I sense that meeting deadlines is a crucial job skill in the field.

A third reason for this particular blog is that I have nobody else to talk to about MMORPGs. (Cue sad violins.) I’m the only gamer I know in real life, and having a hobby that everyone else finds at best weird or at worst an alarming sign of depression is an awkward, lonely position to be in.

So in a nutshell, this blog serves me as much as it might provide entertainment for readers.

In another post I’ll talk about the torturous physical process I use to write this blog. If I ever finish that post.

ArcheAge – Founder’s Packs, Resisting Temptation

As announced on Trion’s live stream Thursday, ArcheAge Founder’s Packs are now available.

They are expensive. $149.99, $99.99, and $49.99 for Archeum, Gold, and Silver, respectively. Archeum gets you into the game right now, playing until launch day, otherwise you only get to play in beta “events” starting in June.

So let’s discuss. With myself.

My first Russian glider!
My first Russian glider!

I think they are fair prices.

Based on the laws of supply and demand, it makes perfect sense that it costs $150 to get into the ArcheAge alpha. If you’ve seen any of Trion’s live streams, you know that the hype and demand for ArcheAge is through the roof. I can’t remember the last game that I saw such blind, ravenous hunger for. (I’m not quite sure it’s justified but that’s another story.) People will do anything to play this game. It’s more of a cultural phenomenon now, I think. Like waiting in line to buy the first iPad.

There was a time when I might have waited in line to play ArcheAge. Instead, I went through the hassle of downloading the Russian client for ArcheAge RU. (Which was actually pretty easy at the time.)

Um, yeah, whatever you say. I guess? Don't mind me.
Um, yeah, whatever you say, I guess? Don’t mind me, I’m just a foreigner in this land.

In fact, if you’re dying to play ArcheAge and you don’t have $150 to plunk down for Trion’s alpha, I would highly recommend getting the Russian version from Mail.ru, if it’s still possible. It’s free. (It’s also incredibly restrictive, but hey, it’s free.) If you have any kind of experience with previous MMOs, you can play it without knowing a lick of Russian. I am living proof of this. In fact, it’s been an interesting exercise in observing core MMO game mechanics.

Of course, after playing around with ArcheAge RU for a while, I now know that the game is, while pretty good, not worth selling one’s kidneys for. The hype is a classic case of idolizing something that’s out of reach. So to all you people out there dying inside because you can’t pay $150 to get into the alpha right now – perhaps it will ease your mind to know that you are not missing the game of the century. You are only missing the cultural status of being one of the “chosen ones.” Okay, maybe that didn’t help ease your mind. Because you probably want to be a “chosen one” more than you want the game itself.

So having said AA isn’t quite all that and a bag of chips, it’s still really tempting to plunk down $150 for the Archeum Founder’s Pack. Because it looks like a great value. And omg y’all it’s ArcheAge in English!!

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “But UV, you’ve spent the last few months ranting and raving about how SOE ripped you off with that $99 Trailblazer’s Pack. You’re a filthy hypocrit!”

Well, yeah. But this is different! I swear!

Landmark was a poorly thought-out impulse buy, I admit it. It was a completely unknown commodity. I knew nothing about it except what I’d seen in a couple of highly-staged gameplay videos.

But I have actually played ArcheAge (in Russian), and I like what I’ve seen so far. I can make a much more informed buying decision here. Unlike Landmark, I know that ArcheAge is finished and running in two countries, ready to play. Trion’s testing for ArcheAge is mainly for translation issues.

Also, I have a lot more faith in Trion Worlds than SOE, just on general principles. They did an awesome job with Rift. I like Defiance too even though I don’t play it very much. And Trove is kind of cool. So I don’t feel bad about rewarding them.

Still, the majority of the “value” in that $150 Archeum Pack is getting to play in English right now, months before launch (I’m just going to guess a launch date in August, given they’ve said that the beta is planned for June). Most of the other perks are just cosmetic fluff. The value of the useful post-launch items (3 months of Patron status and 11,250 credits) only adds up to $120, and $75 of that can presumably be obtained by normal playing in-game.

Therefore I need to consider how much getting to play right now is worth to me. Maybe not very much, because I am already playing ESO, and I’m planning to play at least a little bit of WildStar in June. Not to mention that I want to play some Rift 2.7 whenever that comes out. In light of that, getting to play ArcheAge early is not that much of a benefit for me, since I wouldn’t have that much time to play it. If one could dedicate all of their time to ArcheAge, that $150 would have a lot more value, because you would have three or four months to develop characters on alpha (as a Patron, even) before launch.

So I think I’ve talked myself out of an ArcheAge Founder’s Pack. If I ever feel an overwhelming desire to play, I can always jump into the Russian client for a quick fix.

On the other hand, the Russian version does have a lot of annoying restrictions…