The Year of 4102...

Zyngor | Wednesday, December 31, 2014 0 Comments
Well, seeing on how I don't know what iteration of the Internet we'll have 2088 years in the future, maybe I should just reverse that and start with the year of 2014 first. Anyways, after checking out several other "year in review" posts in the blogosphere, I felt like banging out a post of my own. While I certainly don't have much on them in terms of the amount of stuff I've done, I see that it has been roughly two months since I've done a post. Oops!

Anywho, for me this was mostly the year of the same 'ol, same 'ol. Not much has changed personally, of which I shall not divulge. Game-wise, I've been branching out a bit more, trying some additional titles/F2P MMOs. I've always been one to know that while I can certainly have an MMO to deck out as my homebase (with that still being LOTRO at the moment), I realize that these kinds of virtual spaces can be evicted at any moment. Since we really have no overall control for when this kind of stuff happens, it's always good to have backup e-lots to build a new empire.

Taking that literally, I was fortunate to try out Trion's Trove this year. Much like Landmark, this was one of the new voxels to enter the space. Trove takes its seat to basically be a F2P Minecraft, obviously with its own set of rules. This is a great choice for traditional MMO players who want to dip their toes into voxel builders, as it plays more toward the RPG elements of leveling up classes & action-oriented combat. Cornerstones allow the player to create their own home, block by block. Overall, a fun and simple voxel MMO (Landmark certainly takes the building aspect to a much more rich and technical experience). I started with the Gunslinger (DPS - mostly single target), then later started leveling the Knight (melee - defensive).

Several of my other regular MMOs saw expansions/level increases, including LOTRO and RIFT. While LOTRO's player population is in a bit of a wavering downward flux, I saw a bit of upward trend around various updates, and from the blip of preview we saw for the developer letter, I'm hoping it has a better upcoming year. RIFT released its Nightmar Tide expansion, with another five levels and region to explore. I have not reached 65 with my main yet (think he's 63), but I'm also not rushing it too much. Unlike LOTRO, I'm not really following the story. At least the new Minion system is really addicting to me, which lets you send out card-based allies on time-based missions to return with various goodies (yay, more artifacts and a TON of dimension items).

Other new titles I have dipped my toes into this year include LEGO Minifigures Online, Archeage, and Defiance, though I'm not sure how much I'll be playing any of these in the future.


LOTRO Players

I have continued to write some articles for LOTRO Players this year. I started with them around their launch last year, beginning with a revamp and release of my LOTRO reputation guide. My original intent was probably to keep writing and releasing periodical guides. I later decided to maybe try my hand at some creative pieces, and that has probably been my main form of content this year.

While I still went ahead and kept up with a guide for Gondor reputation, I have also been doing some other pieces. Particularly, after getting reacquainted with the free graphical program GIMP (man, I like a lot of stuff with all capital letters), I have enjoyed doing several mashups between LOTRO and the real world...or LOTROfications, as it has been coined.

I look forward to continue my contributions toward the site, and while I never really have anything planned, I shall see what the future divines with those endeavors.


Blaugust

This very blog had been sitting in dust and shambles at the start of this year...plus about four more Blaugust. This month-long blogging marathon, the child of Belghast, challenged its participants to create a blog post every day for the entirety of August. I had read about this through another blog, and after checking out the details, was first hesitant that I'd be able to accomplish this feat myself.
years on top of that. It wasn't until August that I decided to reboot this corner of the Internet for an event known as

It was the very end of July, and I'm sure several others were all set with their topics and possibly some posts heading into the event. Meanwhile, I think I had probably forgotten all about it, and was off likely causing some kind of havoc elsewhere. The next day ticked by, and August was upon us. I woke up, checked Twitter, and noticed someone had posted their very first Blaugust post. It dawned on me that, hey, I could give this a whirl. I had a blog that, while a little outdated, was available for my to attach the jumper cables and give it a shock.

So I was off, doing my first post, and as the fingers warmed back up to the concept of blogging, I decided to keep with it. While I didn't always have a topic ready for each day (very rarely did I, actually - most was done on the fly), Belghast fortunately had some ice-breaker topics I could use every now and then. Other days I would just whisk a game or topic from the far reaches of my mind and roll with it.

It was a pretty great experience to play along all 31 days and complete the challenge. I know some may be used to blogging/journaling on a daily schedule, but it was certainly something very new to me. Overall, it was something that I could probably do in the future, but I'm not sure I'd be something I'd want to always do. I'm not a huge fan of being forced to do something, and while I know I was never forced to continue, I felt like I had to keep my own momentum going. I'd much rather do something semi-regularly and have a sense of something I'd like to write about, so that's probably how I'd roll in the future. Still, this was a great event, and got me to meet plenty of other new individuals in the blogosphere.


Da Future

So, I guess 2015 shall be upon us in a couple of hours. A world where we shall be able to splurge for some Surge, munch on French Toast Crunch, and...get all wispy with M&M Crispy? We'll look forward to Marty McFly coming back to the future on October 21, 2015, and deal with the next barrage of nerd outrage that I'm sure will come with Windows 10.

I always seem to make a resolution not to make resolutions, and I plan to keep up with that tactic. Goals are great and all, but I'd rather not try and make some grand plan to schedule out my yearly well-being. If something good happens or I can manage to do something to positively further my life, then awesome, but I really just don't feel like trying to outreach what I can realistically accomplish. So, a bit of this, a touch of that, and I'll call you in the morning. Have a great new year, all.






Diving into RIFT

Zyngor | Thursday, October 23, 2014 0 Comments
After receiving plenty of emails and tweets that the latest RIFT expansion, Nightmare Tide, was undergoing beta testing and all that good stuff, I never kept track on when it'd finally be dropping. I saw a tweet the other day, announcing the release of this free expansion to an already solid Trion free-to-play MMO title. Boom - RIFT 3.0 is upon us.

I figured I'd at least get through the patching process, and perhaps give it a whirl on not launch day. I checked out the patch notes while the server was busy getting my set up with all the bells and whistles, and I guess something triggered me to hit "Play" once it was all downloaded. Perhaps it seemed a little exciting & overwhelming to see bits like "5 more levels of adventure," or maybe the "three brand new zones" of the Plane of Water (water-themed Goboro Reef, dream-themed Draumheim, and frozen-themed Tarken Glacier). Other details certainly sparked an interest, like the new minion system and further advancements in crafting. I'm neither a PvPer or raider, so I was indifferent to new warzones/dungeons.

Upon loading into the game, the first thing I noticed was that my health pool must have been doing some backflips, as it took a leap from about 14k to 41k health. I did see the patch note explaining this, in order to reduce the difference in health between tanks and squishies. What I didn't realize was quite how much this balance would ultimately affect my rogue's well-being (not that I'm complaining!).

Minions, a new activity in Rift 3.0
I had myself sitting in Meridian (home town for the Defiant faction), so I figured the first thing I would do was check out this new minion system put in place as a casual side-game. I had seen some comparing it to WoW, which I had no connection to, so I went into it with the Neverwinter "Sword Coast Adventures" in mind.

It is presented as a card game, in which you pick a minion (some starters are available for platinum purchase, other premium ones acquires in various means), and an adventure. It is usually best to try and match up your minion attributes to the detailed attributes within each mission, usually for a better result. Starting off, it seems best to just do the beginner adventures to level up your minions. It is a nice little side-game for those slow times, though I have not gotten far enough to tell how the premium minions compare to the starter selection.

After playing around with the minion game (or should I say, while - the minute adventures kept me on my lazy toes), I took the porticulum over to Goboro Reef, the first of a whole new page containing the three new zones within the Plane of Water. I will say that I'm still only about level 60.33, and have really just been running around the first zone a bit, discovering land & porticulums.

Goboro Reef, the first of three expansion areas

From what I have seen, the world builders must have been busy filling out this lush area. Meanwhile, the designers literally gave another dimension to combat by means of underwater combat (there was a preview of this in an earlier update, in a mini-region of content). It's a little jarring to deal with what is not just in front/back/sides of you, but also up and down. Fortunately, I have only actually needed to complete underwater combat in one smallish part of the region thus far. The rest has been designed to show you being in the Plane of Water, but plays as regular landscape combat. It looks like there is also a shark mount that can be used both on land and sea, though I'm not sure if it is only available for those who made the optional expansion purchase.

Zone events on launch days in the expansion starter area are...touchy.
Playing launch days on an MMO expansion is always a gamble. It's a new fresh experience, so that's cool, but then you have to remember that the floodgates are now open for ALL players on that server. Many of whom have been waiting around for this to launch. So you pop open into the new land, and you realize there are probably several hundred avatars standing in the same spot as you. It becomes more apparent as you start questing, and if spawn times aren't on their game, it can become a waiting game (good time for Minions, at least!). Another highlight of RIFT are the zone events - dynamic occurrences that are randomly activated on various zones. So a zone event pops for one of the new areas, and now a good percentage of the server's level 60+ are now working together en masse to complete this sucker. We reach the final boss, a 600 million (I think) health demon. When everybody is crammed at the same place at the same time, our biggest enemy became the lag monster. Skills fired off at least 5-10 second later, allies would flash in and out of existence, all that good stuff.

I also got the chance to take my first bite of the new nightmare rifts. Another staple of RIFT, portals (known here as...you got it, rifts) open up all around each area in the game, as enemies from another plane attempt to infest the lands of Telara. Normally, rifts have a set number of stages that can be completed, several of them on timers to advance. Nightmare rifts, introduced with the latest update, take it to another level by having an endless number of stages. They run on timers, and must be completed in time to proceed to the next. They also increase in difficulty as you progress, and are also scaled depending on the number of allies you have in your vicinity to the rift. I joined one in progress, probably somewhere in the 30-50th stage, and went another dozen stages before the enemy health was a bit too tough to take down in time. It looks like a nice way to pick up a swath of goodies, and if you can get the right group, would be interesting to see just how far the player-base could reach.

Overall, my limited time with the latest RIFT expansion has been a pretty good time. I have not really gotten far enough to give a better opinion, but first looks are leaning on the positive side of the board. There also appears to be a new equipment slot (2x earrings), which can be unlocked by either purchasing the Nightmare Tide optional pack, or paying some huge amount of earnable currency (assuming it's possible for any subscription type to gather that amount). I believe there is also a new bag slot available, though the 5 bag slots (with the larger size bags) that I have at the moment seem to suffice (especially when I can access and sell vendor trash anywhere I am in the world via the RIFT store).

If interested in trying out the game, head over to the RIFT site here and give it a whirl. In general, I think Trion is fairly successful in producing free-to-play models with a large amount of content to be enjoyed without immediately attempting to whisk their fingers into your wallet.



Revisiting my LOTRO Goals

Zyngor | Sunday, October 12, 2014 0 Comments
Goals and resolutions can be a pain in the rear to attain. Those big, lifetime changes you'd like to make to improve the quality of your life can take years to accomplish, generally through the means of baby steps.

While browsing my Twitter feed this morning, I passed a "Daily Grind" link from Massively, which serves to probe the player-base with a question to answer in their comment section. Today's post dealt with long-term MMO goals, and made me remember my goals I had left in LOTRO Academy's "Goals for 2014" episode. Below are the following LOTRO goals I have left for myself to accomplish:

1) Get both my Riddermark lore-master (currently 44) and my Arkenstone captain (currently 46) to at least level 75. Alas, no combining their levels, or I’d be done already! ;)  
2) In honor of Pineleaf’s “Skirmisher of Middle Earth” (SoME) goal, I’d like to get ONE character (most likely my main, Riddermark hunter) to attain the SoME title. I think he already has decent progress, so finishing it off would be great.  
3) I would like to complete at least one raid that I have not done before (BG, any OD wing, Flight or Smaug [Erebor], Saruman [ToO], or DN), and two 6-man instances that I have not done before (Roots of Fangorn, Foundry, Lost Temple). Level does not matter – it’s the experience that counts.

Thus far, I have not fully accomplished any of these goals. Then again, I had basically forgotten I had these running goals for many months this year, so no specific focus has been made toward their completion. With roughly 2.5 months left until 2015, I guess I should start giving it the old college try. Running through each proposed goal, individually...

1) Leveling Challenge: One of the bigger problems with this challenge lies in the fact that neither of these characters were in existence during my month of VIP. As such, neither of them have Swift Travel, which allows for MUCH quicker travel while leveling. Adding up all the times you need to travel here and there across the world (especially for the Epic story quests), having Swift Travel accessibly is a pretty huge boon to leveling in LOTRO. Not having it kind of makes it a turn-off to leveling those characters, so I have not focused my efforts in their leveling. As it stands, my lore-master is level 48 , and my captain is level 51. This is likely the most difficult of my listed challenges for me to complete.

2) Skirmishing Challenge: This is the goal that I had probably forgotten most about. I do not skirmish that often, and as such the information about my progress on skirmish encounters is something I have not looked at in forever, on any character. On my main (hunter), I believe I have 20 encounters remaining to complete the SoME deed (out of 18 skirmishes, each containing anywhere from 5-9 encounters). Considering you'll only get about two random encounters per skirmish, this is a rather RNG-based challenge. I think I'll be happy enough if I can get to 10 or under encounters remaining.

3) Instance Challenge: Combined with my general "whatever" attitude toward completing group instances, and the dwindling server sizes on which I play, I'm not sure I would honestly fully complete this challenge. I have done Dar Narbugud (DN) at least twice with a group, but that is probably the easiest of the raids I have listed. I have not fully completed any of the 6-mans I mentioned, though I did get to the end of Lost Temple solo...aaaand promptly died due to DPSing too quickly.

Anyways, these goals should be less important than my real-life laundry list, but there's something about virtual goals that make it more desirable to attain. I assume it's the fact they are generally easier to accomplish, plus there is no real downside to not quite making it to the finish. That just makes it that much more fun to add it to next year's gaming goals!

Do you generally make MMO/gaming goals for yourself, or do you simply pat yourself on the back when you finish something and say "Well done, me. Well done!" ? Share in the comments below!




Please Bear With Me - Beorning Play

Zyngor | Saturday, October 11, 2014 0 Comments

Note: All pictures and information are subject to change - all come from Bullroarer Update 15, Build 1...at least the non-photoshopped ones...

So yesterday I decided to check out the first LOTRO Update 15 beta build on Bullroarer, the preview server. This update boasts two fairly big pieces of content: the continuation of our journey through Gondor (Central Gondor), and arguably the bigger feature - a new class! The Beorning marks the 10th class to be introduced to the game, and the second time we've seen a class added (Moria brought us the Rune-keeper & Warden).

Beornings are explained as "skin-changers that can change into the form of a bear in combat." Their roots descend from the big fellow himself, Beorn. They are mainly a reclusive type, though the ensuing struggle of enemies pouring into the lands have pushed these people of the forest to lend their claws to rip the enemy open like the tasty honey pots they are.

As I sat in line to patch the server, I could only imagine how many Beornings would be rampaging the lands in both beta and launch day. Bears, bears, everywhere! Not to mention the plethora of puns that would no doubt strike the name box. Step aside, Honey Boo Boo!

There was a fair amount of talk about how the Beorning was a "race" and not a "class," and as such would cause a tizzy of shaking fist pumps and heresy heckling. I think that it was at least half-settled when it was revealed at character creation screen that the Beorning is also listed as a separate race option from Man (from which they were descended...at least ancient man). I guess it will be kind of strange, since the only kind of racial Beorning you can create is...a Beorning class. Though I guess it would also be kind of strange to create a "Beorning Skin-changer," since that is equally redundant. The Beorning class was purchasable in the LOTRO store for a BETA PRICE - SUBJECT TO CHANGE YADDA of 1000 Turbine Points, which seems roughly what I'd imagine it to cost.


Character creation screen - Beorning Beorning hype!

Sorry ladies...no pink hair...or facial
hair for that matter. [CONCEPT]
At least there is no gender restriction in the creation of a Beorning, so there is no Dwarvish inequality going down. Another pretty neat bit is that an extra detail tab is available to adjust your facial war-paint/tattoo (one of the options being to remove it, should you decide to act as the rebel plain-faced Beorning). You make also pick from a fairly wide selection of colors for both that tattoo, and eye color. Other than this, the available hair and facial choices are basically the same as those available via the race of Man (which makes sense).

It is important to note the color of your hair during character creation. Depending on your choice of a lighter of darker hue, your bear-form's fur will echo this selection. Choose a light color, and your bear will likely try to migrate north and take up chugging cola. I'd love for them to add an option to see what your bear-form will look like from this screen, to allow us to make a more informed decision.

Jumping into the game will take you to a new solo instanced starter area for the Beornings, in the Vales of Anduin (specifically, Grimbeorn's Lodge). Getting through this area will introduce you to the basic mechanics of the class.

Grimbeorn's Lodge - Beorning starter area

Basically, you will generally find yourself starting combat in humanoid-form. There are a set of skills dedicated toward building Wrath (what I'd imagine as honey-infused bear mana). Once you feel you have a sufficient amount of Wrath, you can activate a skill to swap over to your bear-form. The set of skills only available to use in bearmode will then use up Wrath (as well as a Wrath being spent just being this fearsome creature). Once you are out of juice, you will shortly return back to your bipedal form. It is a pretty smooth transition between the two modes, but I can imagine it will take some work to get a good flow between the two forms. Sorry South Park fans...there is no pig-form.

Battle transformation - I hope that's honey the combatant is bleeding, yum!
One of the parts that felt a little weird was that upon the completion of the short starter area, my character was level two. After my character hop, skipped, and jumped to post-burning Archet, she must have had some tasty rabbit protein bars along the way, as she loaded in at level five. I understand the purpose of auto-leveling our characters to better fit the starter quests and to be in line with other classes making their way out of the starter, but it still felt a little jarring. I know that I'll keep in mind that this is just the first build of the public beta, so as always, anything is subject to change.

Overall, it seemed like a good start. I had to put in a report on the apparent clipping of a couple of the male Beorning beards, and several placeholders seemed to be place in the starter area for this build. I'm sure I'll go ahead and try out the Beorning class come the live launch of Update 15, assuming I have acquired the proper TP cost. The hard part? Deciding the craft. Maybe I'll craft large holes in trees, enough to sneak in and grab the precious honey.




The Splendor of Gender Pretender

Zyngor | Tuesday, September 23, 2014 0 Comments
Well, I had planned on getting a blog post out a couple days ago, but Trion was so kind as to put out a new server for Archeage. While open PvP is not my cup of tea, free-to-play is, so I figured I'd give the game a shot...at least until level 30 or so (which I hear is roughly when the hostile player combat starts to pick up). At that point I'll likely play it by ear...perhaps see how much PvE content I can do while keeping under the radar? My original plan was to just do fishing, but I realized it wasn't quite as easy as picking up a fishing pole from an NPC and heading to a body of water.

While listening to an episode of LOTRO Players News (LPN) a week or so ago, they were talking a bit about how one goes about picking their character's sex, when the choice is available (this mainly would occur in an RPG title, whether it be MMO or single-player). The answers were pretty varied, from some males picking basically males (to others creating mostly females), females mainly creating females; others taking on a more scientific approach by splitting their characters to have a half:half split of male & female.

Some games may make the query a bit more one-sided, thrusting
"you" into one choice even before "you" are created
As for my male-self, I'd say that, when given the choice, my first character in most RPG titles are male - whether or not this character will end up being my main-player character. Perhaps this choice lets me connect a little closer with my playable avatar as I take on my first experience with the unfolding adventure embodied within the game. When/if I decide to roll up another character in that same game, my second character is female probably at least 75% of the time. Some games offer a slightly different set of dialogue, or perhaps the character animations offer something a bit varied based on the gender choice (yes, I said gender...I don't feel like filling my entire post with "sex" a thousand times).

Beyond the second character, I'd probably say that I fall into the mathematical approach of gender choice. My characters in LOTRO probably display the best example of this phenomenon. My toons displayed on the page at the top currently show those characters I am leveling/own - there are six male characters, and five female characters. The Beorning class will hopefully be released Update 15 (which I believe is supposed to be released before the end of the year), and I will likely create a female to even out the selection.

Though I usually try to customize the cosmetic appearance of my role-playing characters to some degree, I will generally not pick certain pieces to flatter the character's sex, male or female. Some game titles will put more effort into displaying certain aspects of character models, and armor alike, so it is sometimes hard not to end up with a rather voluptuous model under your control. However, from a backside perspective (which is how you'll generally see a character during gameplay), most of the games that I play don't really have too big of a difference between choosing male or female. I mean, have you seen elves from the rear in...basically any game?

As such, I suppose my choice to try and split gender choices is so that I can end up with a varied "army" of equal sexes. Whether that is subconsciously my views on the real world (peace, love, nerd hippy power) or not is beyond my current train of thought. Like I mentioned earlier, it's also nice to switch things up a bit, as some games may offer slightly different choices/dialogue based on gender.

Like I always say, gaming is a form of entertainment, and you gotta have fun with what you're doing, or it's time to switch it up. All of the hosts on LPN made solid reasons why they make certain gender choices when it comes to character creation, and I am not opposed to how anyone decides to make those choices. Even if it comes down to wanting some extra...jiggle physics, or perhaps those female beards are just not making the cut, you gotta choose what works best for you. As long as game designers don't create negative effects for selecting one or the other (when the choice is available, of course), we all get to be heroes in our own worlds.




It's a Mod, Mod World

Zyngor | Friday, September 05, 2014 0 Comments
Falskaar is a new lands mod for Skyrim (no DLC required), created by Alexander Velicky. This adds an entirely new map to explore, with additional quests and all that good stuff. I have not put too much time into Falskaar yet, but what I have experienced so far feels very polished. The features list this size of the territory (which is independent from Tamriel, allowing you to port to and back from Skyrim with a boat system) as "roughly the size of 2-3 Skyrim holds." I've spent most of the time within dungeons, which have served to make it feel even more expansive. It also contains new voice-acting and a soundtrack created just for the mod, and boasts at least 20-30 hours of gameplay. Basically, Falskaar is a free content add-on that serves as unofficial DLC, and should probably be on your go-to list if you choose to check out some Skyrim content mods.

Map of Falskaar - still plenty of dungeon delving to do!

Storywise, I wouldn't want to spoil too much, but after accidentally arriving on this land, you are asked to assist the locals with some of the not-so-friendly bandits. I've probably spent most of my time thus far with side quests; helping a boy with the local mudcrab population (as well as investigating why they are suddenly so large), and am currently assisting his parents with separate anniversary present quests. I'm sure the likely bandit attacks can wait, or they'll have to answer to my bow (I suppose they'll eventually need to do so anyways).

In my many hours of Skyrim (don't have an exact number, but I'm sure it's 100+) so far, this is only my second game modification - the first being SkyUI (a nice overhaul to the basic UI, making things more simple and efficient). I am pretty random when it comes to deciding if and what I'd want to find a modification for any given game, though I can likely say it's not all that often (note I am referring to modding, or alteration of the game code...programs like plugins for an MMO do not fall under this umbrella of discussion).

I think the desire to modify my game experience will usually revolve around having played a certain title for a total large amount of time, but not quite yet wanting to put that game on the back burner. As such, if the game allows for mods, and there is a fairly well-known community, I may delve into the all-mighty Google and research what exists out there that will tinker with my gameplay.

As it stands, what I probably love most about modding itself is that it can extend the life of a game on my shelf, without instituting a burden on my wallet. While Skyrim already contains an unquantifiable truckload of things to do, the vanilla experience may eventually become stagnant. If the DLCs do not fall within your budget, there is a free mod like Falskaar that is simple to install, and *poof* hours are now added to explore a new land and hopefully keep the fun clock going for a little while longer. Some types, such as total-conversion mods, serve to almost re-invent the game by replacing nearly all assets with an entirely new coat of paint, so to speak. This may serve as a means to inject a well-known franchise within the walls of a non-related game, such as the Lord of the Rings-inspired Third Age - Total War mod for Medieval II.

Also known as Lake-town, as depicted in Third Age - Total War (LOTR-inspired total conversion mod for Medieval II)

Another neat thing about modding is the possible extension of lore within a game (if applicable). For those lore-junkies, your game of choice may have its own set of lore-enhancing content mods. From what I have seen in a couple games, modders are often a creative bunch that seem to have a good grasp of their project's connecting game world. As such, some mods serve to build a richer lore-appropriate environment.

Similar to the lore, immersion is often a huge boon when it comes to creators producing a more in-depth mod which serves to enhance the gameplay. The realism becomes even more real, the combat becomes even more combative, and the fantasy becomes even more...fanatical? Whether the mod raises the difficulty bar, or creates improved graphical assets (the grass is now even grassier!), immersion mods serve well to root the player deep into the game world, and gives them a reason to keep up the good fight.

OH YEHHHH!! What do you mean, not lore appropriate?
Naturally, not even mod is going to be well-received, and others may gain more of a shock value rather than respect (cult-classic mods, anybody?). Some may create wacky graphical assets that are extremely non-lore appropriate, while others may be geared toward a more mature, adult audience. Please do your research when finding mods online, make sure you are downloading from somwhere reliable, and try to know roughly what you're about to change with your game. You know, for the kids and all?

Additionally, it is very important to read up on the installation. Many mods are often sharing or replacing your vanilla (original) game files, and some may be much more tricky to set up than others, so it's always a good idea to know exactly where you are placing or swapping around when it comes time to set up a mod. It is often recommended to back up your original files somwhere - including any save files. You wouldn't want that 200+ hours of Skyrim to suddenly go poof 'cause some mod decided to go on a corruption spree, would you?

Once set up correctly, game mods can be a pretty awesome experience. Some may really stand out to you, making you wonder how those modders got this shot...make that a keg of creativity, and if you can have a double order. Others may end up being a quick try and uninstall. That's a cool thing with mods - just like the games themselves, some people may prefer different things out of their modded gaming. Perhaps one really wants some new textures, while another would like a different feel to combat. Some play it more aggressively, seeing how many mods they can install in one game before it decides to pick up its belongings, go to the safety of home, and do something that doesn't involve you playing it until you back off (perhaps a relaxing puzzle...as long as it's under 1k pieces and interlocking).

The Just Cause 2 multiplayer mod adds a whole new layer to the game - other people

Some gamers prefer not to mess with mods, whether it possibly be the quantity of titles they have to run through, non-desire to mess with game files, or perhaps they simply don't wish to stay from the original gameplay feel. It's just another of the many freedoms that gamers have. Not all developers create their games with the thought or desire of user modding, while others almost expect their players to express their creativity through additional user-made content. However you float on the modding boat is your decision, though I'd probably recommend that you at least take a look at what adventures may lie out there for mod-friendly titles.

Do you enjoy playing game modifications? Why or why not? Any specific mods you love, or perhaps you feel modding tarnishes the vanilla gameplay? Share in the comments!



Last Stop, Blaugustville!

Zyngor | Sunday, August 31, 2014 2 Comments

I guess this makes it lucky 31. Three decades, plus-one, of blog posting, all in the constraints of a single month. Well...you know what I mean. Kinda.

I'd like to thank Belghast for masterminding this blogging marathon and all the awesome people from the Blaugust Nook for the companionship along the way. I've been introduced to many cool bloggers, and look forward to trying to keep up with more blog browsing.

Regardless of quality, I've always had an interest in writing. Before this month, however, I was in a bit of a lull, and didn't feel inspired to buckle down and get some writing done. I had read about this event prior to the start, but I had scoffed at the notion that I'd be able to keep up for the entire month. In a last-minute switcheroo, I decided to take on the challenge on August 1, and so jumped right into the fray.

It's been a great experiment blogging on a daily basis, especially when this blog had been sitting around, collecting dust, for several years. I strapped on my easy template-tweaking sandals and made some necessary changes to the layout. That was the simple part - it then came down to the actual blogging.

I think the biggest thing I learned was time management in making sure I put aside a certain period to perhaps browse other blogs to possibly come up with an idea, or maybe a spot of gaming to inspire me with the topic. I also printed out a basic calendar to keep track of my topics, which also served as a reminder should I wake up one morning and suddenly forget what the Internet was.

As for the actual writing, I can't say for certain that continual blogging has ramped up my quality or speed of writing as a whole. I think it has generally altered on a post-to-post basis, and even depending on my progress with a single post. An idea within a post may flash in my mind, and my fingers can barely keep up with what I'd like to convey. At other times, my brain would fizzle in the midst of typing, and I'd probably find myself popping up Youtube for a humorous distraction. Either way, I can say that as compared to the posts on my blog I had prior to this month, I was much more proud of those I had written during Blaugust (perhaps a combination of quality & quantity).

Would I do this again? Well, I think that would depend entirely on my schedule for that month. I'm currently on a pretty loose time in my life, though that could definitely change depending on how much I get my life in order (as well I should be doing). Some days have been a bit more struggle than others for posting, but I think that as a whole, it was a fairly smooth process to create daily content - enjoyable as well. From here, I think I'll try to aim toward at least one post a week. If it's more, then great - if it's less, than I'll deal with it. Casually blogging is a fairly stress-free activity for me, and at least for now, I'd like to keep it that way and not force myself to blog beyond my means.

Well, I suppose that shall wrap it up for the month. Thanks again to Belghast for running this challenge, and thanks to all Blaugustinianites for their continued efforts and great blogging. I'd say long live Blaugust, but I suppose that'll have to wait a mere 12 months. Cheers!




Why so Pleasant?

Zyngor | Saturday, August 30, 2014 0 Comments
Well, I'll tell you, Joker.

In his blog, "I Have Touched the Sky," Rowan asked an interesting origin question as we come close to the end of Blaugust.
Why did you title your blog what you did? Do you think the name still fits?
My title is probably fairly obvious, but I suppose I can still give it a whirl. "Life of a Pleasant Gamer" was created roughly seven years ago, in the desire to have a personal blog to call my own. Two years passed, in which I'd post fairly infrequently (averaging maybe a post a month), then it became even more infrequent, eventually tossing it aside like a dirty bandaid. Blaugust came around, which inspired me to reverse cold turkey and go all out, posting daily.


I've always been a fairly positively-tempered individual. I guess I figure being happy just feels better, so I strive to keep that attitude. This has translated pretty well over to gaming, and as such I think I'm a fairly pleasant gamer. Boom - there ya have it, simple as Top Ramen.

Does the name still fit? Indeedly doodly, neighbor! While I'm not playing the same exact games as I did when I started, I think it's more about the attitude I take toward gaming than the titles themselves. I'll admit I'm not a heavy competitive gamer type, whether or not that contributes to my casual nature toward gaming, though this is not to say I am adverse to playing a multiplayer shooter every now and then. If I happen to lose such a game, I don't fret - I had chosen to play for entertainment, and I am content with such a decision.

Because I think the title still fits who I am, I do not currently have plans or thoughts about changing the name. If anything, I could cut out the "life of a" bit (I partially went this way in creating my current blog banner), but that may or less just be a means to cut down the mouthful of the full title. I'm fine with anyone calling it either name - the first part really just denotes it as a personal blog. As this is really just something for me to do to get some writing practice, I don't expect or have plans to go pro, so I'm not too worried about its success.

Thank you Rowan for a good personal topic as we get to the close of the month. I'd like to give props to anyone who gave #Blaugust a try, whether or not they were able to make it on a daily basis. Even if it got you to update your blog with a single post, that's +1 more than you had prior to the month. Gotta think blog half written!





Safely Burnin' Rubber

Zyngor | Friday, August 29, 2014 3 Comments
Hey there, so I suppose my loose topic for today was inspired by one thing I've feared doing for awhile in real life, and have finally taken the first step - driving. While I suppose I may be a decade older than several of the other folk in the DMV, I've just never really ran across an overabundance of situations where my feet couldn't take me there, and just the thought of me operation a motor vehicle gives mes the jitters. Anyways, figured I could revel in my permitness and think about some of the racing games I have played.

God bless the mute key.
I'd say one of my first experiences with virtual racing came in the form of those Tiger Electronic handheld games. I can remember playing Road Race, a Formula One/Indy/whatever racer. There may have not been flashy graphics, but it was one heck of a speaker on that thing (almost deafening). The premise of the game was basically more of a "dodge duck dip dive and dodge" the other vehicles on the race track, or game over. Still, I was young, and a game was a game (which, I pretty much feel still the same way). I also played (runs upstairs to check) Off Road (rally racer) and Speed Boat (self-explanatory). What I think I liked best about these at the time was that it simply gave me the freedom to play it anywhere: in bed, outside, in the car. As long as the AAs had enough juice, they were a good complimentary with the Game Boy (of which I don't think I really played any racer titles, of which I can recall).

It's like Ferris Bueller, but even more days off...fun!
Jump some years later, over on the PC. This was probably when the Need for Speed series was all that in a box of cookies and glass of milk on top. I got hooked on Need for Speed 2: SE. For me at the time, there was nothing quite like going over a big incline at high speeds, and basically taking a joyride to space. You could get some sweet air in that game, though it usually resulted in some horrible crash landing. Ah well, that's what respawn is for. I think I can also recall it being one of the first games where I got to play around with cheat codes, of which it has a pretty lengthy list. Wanna ride around in a log? Sure! How 'bout a Wild West wagon? Saddle up partner. I was also big into dinosaurs at the time (paleontologist was my dream career, then I had to go and get an English degree...), so racing around the track as a T-rex was pretty ecstatic.

I never really went to many arcades, so unfortunately there weren't too many cabinet racing titles I've given a whirl. There was one I'd play at a frequented restaurant, but I can't recall the name. It was a pretty generic sports car racer...looked like it took place in some tropical location. Other than that, I guess I was pretty cheap as a kid, and would rather stick with home entertainment I didn't have to keep feeding quarters.

Fast forward some more years, and for awhile I became interested in some different racing games that were either a bit different from the norm racer (like Star Wars Episode 1: Racer, a pod racer), or I guess not really a racer persay, but some of the Grand Theft Auto games. Hey, it's got auto in the title, it MUST be wholesome entertainment!
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
I think after that came another NFS title, this time Need for Speed: Underground. This got me back
into playing some good 'ol street racing, and I rather enjoyed the career mode in this, which basically allowed you to start from humble beginnings and race your way up the charts. You could also purchase vehicles and add upgrades and decals to your sweet ride, so a bit of RPGish elements in the pot. I have since played several others from the NFS franchise, from Porsche UnleashedShift, to may favorite of the trio, Hot Pursuit. I think it's just cool to play as both sides of the street racing experience, and performing maneuvers as the police to take out the racers is just a blast.

Probably around that time of Underground was when I heard about Trackmania, a F2P racing game
Yep...physics at its finest.
by French developers Nadeo. Besides being free (the base game, at least - they have since released several other TM titles for charge), it just has a very clean and simple feeling about it. What's also neat is that it comes with its own track editor, so there are a ton of maps you can either play (or decide to try out your constructive flair). I believe the base game comes with the traditional open-car racer, but the expansions have since released other vehicles, like rally cars, alpine 4x4s, and muscles. Because it was F2P and had downloadable maps, I have thrown a good many hours into that one.


There are a couple other titles thrown in the mix that I've revved myself up to try out. There's Burnout Paradise, an open-word racer with plenty to discover, and plenty of cars to unlock on the way. I probably can't have mentioned the GTA bit without mentioning one of my favorite Dreamcast titles, Vigilante 8: Second Offense, a straight up vehicular combat game. Like I said, not racing persay, but they still used the feeling of speed with the ferocity of combat to create an interesting shooter experience. There was also Dirt, a pretty solid rally racer and part of the Colin McRae Rally series, who was a big time rally racer. As such, the game feels like a more authentic rally experience, at least when you have your partner in the passenger seat, feeding you directions.

All in all, I think I've played a decent amount of racing games, and while mostly on PC, got the chance to give some other consoles/handhelds a whirl at the time. While I was never really competitive enough to go head to head with other players, I think virtually driving the car around the track is a pretty safe way to at least get the feeling I'm a drone hovering behind the car, feeding it directions. Which...I suppose I really am doing. In any case, I wonder what would be more difficult: legitimately and carefully driving the entirety of Grand Theft Auto III, or actually making it through my real-life driving experience.

Any driving games you dig? Was there an era you think have made the biggest virtual driving successes? Share below!

I've also done a little work on the blog. Changed up the banner (stretched the design across the top, kept it fairly simple), moved a couple post bits around, yadda yadda. Seem good enough for now, considering I'm not HTML guru?




Free to Play or Free to Pay

Zyngor | Thursday, August 28, 2014 2 Comments
OK, first off to get something out of the way. I hereby present Sean of Gaming Conjecture with his super official badge of MMO bloggership for covering his take on the whole free-to-play model thingy. Well done, Sean, well done! You can tell it's legit official by the exclusion of any Comic Sans, and the proper use of a lens flare, not to mention clashing colors abound. Awards like these are quite rare, but your deservedness was well-noted.

Anywho, Sean brought up some great points about his issues with the developers behind free-to-play titles pushing to find new ways to create systems that are dipped into the monetization paint bucket. Whether they may sometimes rely on our laziness to go and purchase some form of a booster, or perhaps changing previously-stated plans to needlessly monetize a mechanic or system, I can imagine he had a rough time handling several of the free-to-play decisions made by Turbine, ultimately waning his interest with LOTRO.

If you've seen any of my previous posts, you may have picked up on the fact that all of the MMOs I play are indeed under the umbrella of the F2P model. The biggest factor behind this decision is due to my current finances. While my pockets may be penniless and filled with regret, the road is paved with plenty of free-to-play MMOs whose only stipulation to enter their gates may be to receive a mailing every now and then (and abiding by the ToS and all that fun stuff we read ever so carefully).

I suppose I shall selfishly gear this a bit toward LOTRO, as it has been my longest-played MMO yet. Yep, this is that weird MMO that involves talking trees and seeing how crazy you can cosmeticize a hobbit. When they rolled out their F2P model in 2010, I think it was a great opportunity to introduce many into the world inspired by J.R.R Tolkien, myself included. I knew the basic characters, and I've seen the movies that were out at that time, but I had not read the books or knew much more about the lore. Well, the lore bit can still go over my head, but at least the book part had been taken on.

As you can tell by the graphs and charts, I am AOK with F2P.
But I digress. I'm cool with microtransactions and set limitations put on the game...especially when there are ways to accrue or get by these issued barriers via doing what you hopefully would want to be doing anyways - playing the game. I think this is one of those things that I find makes LOTRO really shine as the F2P hybrid model - accruing the premium currency in game feels so much simpler and intuitive than other F2P titles (ex: for Neverwinter you'd need to first sell a huge chunk of Astral Diamonds - a tradable currency - for their Zen, premium cash currency for store, and the same kind of thing with Rift for hoping to find someone to sell your platinum for their REX credit thingy). If you keep doing in-game activities,you're bound to get a good number of Turbine Points straight up.

Then again, while it's fairly easy to gain TP, there certainly is a lot you'd like to purchase in the store. From quest packs to extra character slots to trait slots, I won't argue there is a good amount of monetized items to help aid your journey. What I would argue is that you don't need it all, at least right away. Perhaps grabbing key quest packs to get you through certain tiers of levels could work, but there is no essential need for every upgrade that pops on the screen.

As yes, popping on the screen, you say. Developers aiming at monetizing something in specific will sometimes create an obtuse UI that projects the sales pitch. This is where I remind myself that I'm playing a free title by choice (skipping the little ditty that I had picked up a couple of the xpacs, shhhh), and as such I think I can manage to tweak my gameplay and attitude a bit to accommodate this. Is this Hobbit Present thing a gamble-mongering scam? No - I see it as a free daily item, thanks for free stuff with my free stuff! It's like getting a free side of curly fries with that free spicy chicken sandwich I never ordered. No complaints here.

F2P also means I am not bogged down by a scheduled subscription. While I love LOTRO, MMO exclusivity is really not my thing. Unless you are suddenly bailing on friends who were expecting you to be on to level or raid (or whatever people do in groups these days), I see nothing inherently wrong with jumping around to play on different MMOs during a week. This can sometimes let you remember what you missed (or perhaps didn't miss?) on your "main" game, and make going back to replay it all that much more special and fun.

That's really all I'm trying to get at in the end of the day. Have fun. If playing games without a subscription is your way of having fun, by all means go ahead. If you'd rather be offering a subscription to a company for a hopefully more stable and "full" experience, go for it, and don't forget to enjoy it. For those that would love to experience the ride of a subscription, but where money is the issue, I'd say just try to have a good time figuring out how to navigate your favorite F2P world with confidence, and don't be afraid to test the MMO waters in different areas - you might just find a cool spot!

TLDR, you should check out Gaming Conjecture - has plenty of great posts to check out. Meanwhile, I'll still enjoy dipping my toes into F2P games, roll with the punches, and find a way to make it worth the fun-o-meter that was implanted in my brain after that freak carnival accident in which someone actually won the ring toss game. Oh, and if parts of this post don't make sense, totes not my fault - totally was not me that had no sleep followed by hours of sorting books. Nope - sharp as a misplaced thumbtack here.


Leveling and Alien Plants

Zyngor | Wednesday, August 27, 2014 0 Comments
Well, posting late in the day hype! I had a busy enough day, paired with not having a set topic in mind, so I decided to wait until the last three hours of the day like a champ. Well, I'm not quite as busy now, but I still don't have a topic in mind. I was hoping the time of day would cause my brain to suddenly click, as I sometimes feel like I have a bit more mental acuity at nighttime. My demons get to leap from my eardrums and party like it's 2999.

Leveling is tiring business!
LOTRO Leveling

I went back to leveling my champion in LOTRO. He's currently sitting at 91, in West Rohan. I am normally not too worried about gear while leveling, figuring quest/current gear is good enough for the time being, I did opt to update his jewelry via 90 crafted pieces. Some of the content in W. Rohan can be a bit of a wake-up, usually some of the instances that bring a whole bunch of enemies at once, so figured the extra 3k morale & bit of a damage boost would serve me well.

I'll swap between focusing on one character and jumping around to level various alts at different times, though for now I am mostly just focusing on one when I decide to level. Maxing this guy out will make my third level 100, and I'll probably either move to get the last five levels on my minstrel, or 15 levels on my rune-keeper. I'd also like to try and get my hunter on another server to 100 soon. So much leveling, so much time.

TV Time

Last night I was watching the film adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors, starring Rick Moranis & Ellen Greene. I've always enjoyed a good musical, and both the comedic and bizarre aspects of this one just does it for me. Moranis has the whole awkward geeky character down pat, as we've also seen evidenced in Ghostbusters. His singing reflects this character, and pushes that out to sound like an average Joe just singing his heart out. In combination with Greene, a very emotional singer, the feels are real.

Here he was in his cheeky light-hearted ballad to his botany project, Audrey II, which (who?) drove the story's plot.



Well, I think I might actually have a topic in mind for tomorrow - guess there's a first for everything (except Youtube comments...can't win that one). I guess we'll see tomorrow what I do to try and put it off as much as possible.


Sociability in Platforms for Gaming

Zyngor | Tuesday, August 26, 2014 2 Comments
Power overwhelming
Last night I meant to start playing through Bioshock on a higher difficulty, but does it count if I instead watched the guys at Sourkoolaidshow do that, while I went out plundering for loot and undiscovered locations on my Skyrim map? I did manage to find another of those stones you can activate for a passive ability, so that's another trick to hide up my sleeves. I also managed to take my Sneak skill up to 100, after having previously done so and making it "legendary," so I suppose another reset of the skill is in order.

While checking out some other fellow Blaugustians, I came across Isey's post on their observations about ages of those that blog. They noted that it seemed a good population of bloggers seemed to lean toward the older population, and was curious "where the 20somethings are talking about their games." As a "20something" myself, I found their curiosity about gaming discussion platforms for the younger generation of interest.

So when I'm not doing my spurt of blogging, where am I discussing gaming? Well, when I was an even younger youngin', and many of the social media experiences were not around, I'd say I could be nestled pretty well in the adventurous world of forum discussion. With its arms still stretching wide around the web today, forums were the ultimate close-knit experience. Once you found your niche and joined the community (and possibly wait for the admin to give you the proper permissions), you were in - simple as that. Assuming you weren't there to troll, you were usually welcomed by the members, regardless of age. I have met all sorts of cool people through my heavier times with forum involvement. This was the OG social media experience!

Eventually, through either site closings or changes in gaming interests, my forum chatting has since waned, though I'll still lurk several forums for discussions or information. After that time, I did start writing in a blog...this one in fact, as writing had always been a sort of passion for me, and I wanted somewhere to post my musings. This started out as a gaming/personal blog, and although I had abandoned the content for a couple years, I suppose it still remains as such. There may or may not have been a Myspace thrown in those years, but I better pass that over to retain my coolness....yeh. Facebook came, though I rarely used it as a means to discuss gaming. This place started as a means to connect with my actual friends...in an organized virtual means. This is not to say I didn't enjoy my share of Facebook games - I certainly did, and my involvement with a couple even led to a resurgence of my forum posting days (one in a more professional manner, others for fun).

Probably a couple years past my Facebook creation was my start with Twitter...extreme micro-blogging at its finest. I believe my start there was triggered by my involvement on Youtube. Oh ya, guess I forgot to mention YT in the mix. I was once a content creator on YT, where my content was more of either recorded video gameplay, or vlogging. The majority of those that I was kind of in contact with and kinda in the "circle" were vlog content creators, so that was more of playing around with video creation and virtually meeting another group of individuals.

Anyways, back to Twitter. I guess this was my first medium since forums and blogging that I was more free to discuss gaming stuff, if I so desired. This was minimalist journalism, so it's not like it took much of an effort to throw out some musing, or perhaps post a link to a gaming article. I had abandoned it for a couple of not-so-fun years, but eventually came back...maybe I missed it? Sure, comments may be a bit compact for some that prefer a more drawn-out platform, but the applications of twitch blogging seem to have worked, and you can get so much of a variety in content, depending on those you decide to follow. Conversations are nestled pretty well, though can sometimes get a bit weird when you have more than two conversing, some of which may not be following one another.

Speaking of twitch, I suppose this leads into what is probably my latest medium of an obsession. Twitch is a video game livestreaming platform, allowing anybody with the proper (can be free) software, and possibly a webcam/mic the ability to stream their video game experience in real time. Streamers log which game they are playing at the time, making it easy for users to search for a title they'd like to watch. Users can enter a channel, and not only watch/listen to the streamer, but converse with one another via their chat channel.
I know watching others play games live is not something everyone enjoys, especially when they could perhaps instead be playing that same game themselves. As for me, I prefer to not watch the competitive games that often receive the largest number of consumers on Twitch (such as a League of Legends stream), and instead I'll sometimes watch a stream that has an interesting game, or more often, a community better suited to my tastes. Many of the streams I watch on a more regular basis fit into that last category just seem to have a better feel with their community, and are more interactive with their watchers. I think the medium is also excellent for streaming indie games, which usually only helps to market these titles, especially if the streamer is able to promote the game well (links, possible on-air Skype calls with the developers, etc).

So I suppose I've been a kind of connoisseur for many of the e-social experiences on the web, especially when it comes to gaming. As for these days in gaming conversations, I have been maintaining a daily blog schedule as part of Blaugust, as well as writing occasional content over on LOTRO Players. Other than that, Twitter has been more of a conversation-joiner than starter, and Twitch is more of a wild card, as I'll often just lurk and enjoy the content produced while I'm gaming or surfing the web. All in all, I think I'm a bit of the old and a bit of the new - I dance the Charleston upon the lines of virtual conversation!


My Dusty MMO Road

Zyngor | Monday, August 25, 2014 0 Comments
Immersion can means all sorts of things when it comes to an MMO. While it may traditionally refer to the length in which you feel drawn into the virtual world (a la roleplaying), some may simply say it could be how much fun you are having with your MMO experience. I could see it as a mixture of both. By enjoying your time and having fun, you may get yourself sucked further into the world. If you enjoy roleplaying, but do not enjoy the game at the same time for what the developers have produced, how much are you really going to be immersed while you struggle to enjoy the mechanics?

While LOTRO takes its place as my current top MMO (probably followed by Rift), it was not my first true MMORPG experience. That honor would likely go to Silkroad Online (SRO, by developer Joymax). This was a F2P fantasy game released in 2005 (I believe I started playing around this time), which I was casually hooked to for a couple of years. As the title may suggest, this game has pretty heavy eastern cultural themes. The game also had a fairly rich PvP system, which was linked with either protecting or attacking trade routes (you know..that whole Silk Road thing). I suppose Archeage could be a loose contemporary, give or take.

I won't beat around the bush - the main reason I was attracted to SRO was because it was a F2P title. I know some a little eh about the model, but as a fairly non-competitive gamer, others' thoughts on the whole "buy to win" bit that is sometimes associated with some F2P premium stores means diddly-squat to me. Why do I care if other people are "winning" when I can just have fun playing the game and not worry about how they are doing? If that means they are that much stronger if I happen to do any group content (although when I played, SRO was very light on the group stuff), wouldn't that work in my favor?

The glowier, the better
Anyways, off that mini diatribe, SRO was a pretty nice-looking game at the time. Different areas may be representing different cultures (such as Chinese, Islamic, European, etc), so there was a variety of architecture to come across as you progressed. Combat (from what I can recall) would likely be pretty lackluster as compared to today, and I will say the game was very grindy. It was not uncommon to be required to kill hundreds of an enemy type to progress with some quest or find gear, so I can imagine it may not be everyone's cup of tea.


This was not an uncommon sight in towns
What I thought was one of the neat features that made SRO stand out was their implementation of a stall system to auction your items to others, in lieu of an actual auction hall. This meant that you would toggle on your stall in town, queue up the items you'd want to sell, and others could come up and either bid or purchase your goods. While this made selling your goods in this means a static activity, I think it added a nice level of immersion to what was otherwise just "another" MMO in the mix out there. I can recall putting up items for sale before going AFK for class, hoping I'd come back a few gold richer.

Silkroad Online servers are still going and receive maintenance, as far as I know. You can head on over here should you want to try out the game.

What was your first MMO experience, whether it be RPG/shooter/etc? What was it that made you decide to play it, and how doe sit compare to your modern MMO titles? Share in the comments below!


Sunday e-Musings

Zyngor | Sunday, August 24, 2014 0 Comments
Well, it's a fairly lazy Sunday, so no set topic for today. I did wake up with a dragon carcass at my side...or should I say a paused Skyrim with a slain dragon laying pathetically on the screen. It still has not gotten old taking these and other creatures of the north out...not to mention the plethora of bandits just lining up to receive an arrow to the kne...head. Eventually I would like to delve a bit into modding my experience - the only mod I picked up and have been using was SkyUI, which aims at making the UI much more resourceful and easier to manage. Who knows, maybe Randy Savage does know Dovahzul!

I was playing around with StrangeClimber last night, and finally made my way up a tower (after plenty of trial and error). There was no flag or "finish line" that I saw, so it seems that (at least in its current developed form) this game is all about the journey, and not necessarily the finish. On a couple other maps, I was noticing those same issues making a full jump (that I had mentioned in my review) were occurring more frequently the higher I got. This seemingly halted what could have been a full scaling once or twice, though perhaps this is an intended mechanic to add challenge to the final section? On the bright side, the procedurally-genererated levels make it a fun experience each time. Also, what I thought would be a repetitive soundtrack has happily been a soothing listen since I started.

Not so Big anymore, eh Daddy?
As I generally start many of my first-time playthroughs of games on a fairly low difficulty setting, I decided that I may go and re-play some games on a more challenging mode. I figure this'll give me a chance to get that fresh feel of a game, without having to go out & buy a new title. First game on the list? Bioshock. This game was a really cool experience, because it not only has pretty neat shooter & character development mechanics (plasmid hype!), but the environment was pretty jaw-dropping on my first playthrough. When I reached those tunnels that connect buildings, you really got a good glimpse of Rapture, and what happened to this once-rich utopia. So...save or harvest the Little Sisters? ;)

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's...a whale?

Anyways, I'll wrap it up there. Hope you all have a great Sunday...anyone want to come and mow my lawn?


StrangeClimber, a Virtual Playground

Zyngor | Saturday, August 23, 2014 0 Comments
I was checking out my Twitter feed earlier today when I saw PC Gamer posted their best free games of the week. Naturally, my eyes widened in gaming greed when I saw "free," so I decided to check it out. After checking out the selection of five games, the first one on the list, StrangeClimber, interested me enough to give it a whirl. Perhaps it was their shoutout to Far Cry 3's radio towers that did it?

Anyways, StrangeClimber, developed by Strangethink, utilizes procedurally-generated geometry to create your very own Aggro Crag to master. Well, other than the smoke and falling obstacles. The  objective is simple - climb. There are always multiple ways to get to the top, and because it is randomly designed each time, you'll always have a new tower to scale.


First off, there is no fall damage, so if (and/or when) you teeter off an edge, the only penalty is having to start back from square one. If you are having difficulty with a certain layout, pressing "G" on the keyboard will reset the current design with a new one (and start you back on the ground). Controls are very simple: WASD + mouse for movement and camera panning, Space Bar/Left Click for jumping, and Shift/Right Click to sprint. Holding the jumping key longer will result in a higher jump, which will be necessary in order to make vertical and horizontal jumps possible.

There is a pretty mellow trance-like tune in the background, which is soothing at first, but may become monotonous over a length of time. As for the gameplay, this may not be the game for you if you are easily prone to raging. Because of the touchy controls, it is fairly easy to misplace your footing and plummet toward the ground. There were times that I felt like I should be able to make a full jump (didn't see any geometry above me), but I was only able to make a partial jump. The game textures can also sometimes make it a little difficult to tell exactly how objects are extending, though panning the camera with the mouse should help alleviate this.

I'd love for there to be perhaps another mode or option to make quick saves during your journey up the tower. I think this would help to ease those with less patience that may otherwise just ragequit after a couple falls (especially as you get far up). I have not yet made it up a tower myself, though I've only had about an hour of experience with the game thus far.

Overall, this is a great virtual parkour climbing experience. This kinda feels like one of those games that could work on the Oculus Rift. It'll take a little while to get a grasp on your jumping limitations, and you'll experience plenty of those critical jumps where it's "all or nothing," but I find this to be an enjoyable free-to-play jungle gym. I'm not totally sure what happens when you make it to the top, but based on what I've experienced along the journey, I can imagine it'll certainly be rewarding either way.

You can either play StrangeClimber online here (it uses the Unity engine, and you'll need to have to have the web player downloaded), or you can scroll down a bit and download the standalone game on the same page.

And miles to go before I leap...




Goooooooooooal!

Zyngor | Friday, August 22, 2014 0 Comments
I was catching up on a couple of posts via the Blaugust reel when I came across a post on Byx's Lock and Bolt blog about to-do lists in gaming. She remarked on re-discovering a gaming notebook that contained many of her WoW notes and goals which had been lost by time. Naturally, we all will generally have some goal in mind should you decide to play a certain title long-term, but do you actually write them down?

I find MMO titles much easier to put together certain goals which you'd like to accomplish. This genre of gaming usually adopts a large set of systems in place in order to cater to a large group of players, and seemingly overwhelm users with a crap-ton of stuff to keep us entertained and playing that specific title. While other games do have their own ways to keep us playing, MMOs seem to pick and choose various elements from other genres, and ball them together with a fresh roll of duct tape.

That being said, most of my goal-forming with LOTRO has been associated with an annual episode of the LOTRO Academy podcast in which Branick, Pineleaf, Mysteri, and Draculetta discuss how/if their goals from the prior year had been met, and explain goals which they'd like to accomplish for the following year (listen to the 2014 episode of this here). Listeners can then post their goals in the comment section below. It's nothing necessary, but it is kinda fun to see what others come up with, and how close they were to reaching their prior goals. At least it certainly reflects on your gaming habits, and what kind of time you can devote toward reaching those goals.

Outside of MMOs, I used to do a decent amount of note-taking when it came to Diablo 2. This mostly came in the form of the online play via Battle.net, and while it was not heavy on the goal-making, did include a lot of items I had on mule characters (switching toons too often/quickly would sometimes kick you off the server). If there was a particular boss I was farming, I would sometimes write down the loot for each run. I can remember in particular doing a fairly large project where I would continually grind the Countess in Act 1, and take note of the rune(s) that dropped. I suppose these aren't really good examples of a to-do list, but I would often relay the noted data on a forum, so I guess it was more of a to-post list. Still, notetaking is notetaking.

At my current stage of casual gaming, I am not really doing any to-do lists on a physical notebook space (nor really on a virtual one). With technology these days, it feels just as easy to open up Notepad or something and jot any tasks down, but as someone who occasionally goes on a jaunt of writing, I can still appreciate a good notebook by your side. I think in-game goal tracking has also improved as we get more intuitive UIs introduced into games (or are introduced through game mods), next to much simpler systems in the past (some of which may necessitated the need for an out-of-game journal to keep track of stuff).

As gamers, we pick up that goal-oriented trait through our gameplay. Some virtual worlds are designed to make those finish lines very linear, while others (ie open-word games) are much more loosey-goosey and allow for flexible strategies to reach those goals. Either way, we become rather apt at identifying the situation, and address as such with our gamer tact. Whether you are there for the journey or its conclusion, we all seem to have some goal in mind. Hopefully a big part of that is just having fun with the experience.

Check out Byx's blog, Lock and Bolt!


Gaming Questionnaire Hype!

Zyngor | Thursday, August 21, 2014 0 Comments
Well, I've seen several others complete this gaming questionnaire created by Jasyla over at Cannot by Tamed, so I decided to jump onto the bandwidth...err wagon, of which many Blaugust members have completed. There could be some things I say here that I have previously mentioned, but this is a pretty broad set of gaming questions, so that'd probably be expected. Anyways, on to the queries!

1) When did you start playing video games? 

The the best of my knowledge, I started with educational titles in my elementary school computer lab, so that was probably early-mid 90s. I know, I'm kind of a youngin', deal with it.

2) What is the first game you remember playing?

If you're counting educational titles, the ones that stick in my head are Math Blaster and Word Munchers. If not, one of the first I can recall was Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, though I may have played some kiddy games before that.

3) PC or Console? 

PC...I have owned a couple of consoles, but the time spent consoling it up is likely a drop in the bucket next to the time spent PC gaming.

4) XBox, PlayStation, or Wii? 

None of the above. The latest console I own is the Nintendo Gamecube. I do think the Wii was pretty revolutionary at the time, and liked how it was geared toward family entertainment.

5) What’s the best game you’ve ever played?

I think the best games I've played are not just those that I have enjoyed playing, but also go beyond the in-game barrier. Diablo 2 was not just a title that I'd enjoy spending countless hours mashing on my mouse and keyboard, but it also gave me my first true experience with a forum community. I was not only a member over at D2Sector, but also moderated for several years. As such, it was akin to a volunteer experience that I feel helped give me a better ability to deal with people through online conversations, through the good and the bad (still love reading a good bit of drama, get your popcorn ready!).

For the same kind of feeling, LOTRO is also one of the best games I have played. Being an MMO, it gave me a good chance to meet all sorts of new people, both in and out of game. LOTRO generally has a more mature crowd, so my experiences have mostly all been good. I have also been fortunate enough to join up with the good peoples at LOTRO Players and do a bit of writing and all that good stuff, which would have never been possible if I never had played LOTRO.

6) What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?

Hard for me to pinpoint this one. I generally always look at the good in the game, and because I do not usually participate in gaming that had been a burden financially, I usually don't feel like I was ripped off by buying or acquiring the game. However, Duke Nukem Forever was a little "eh" for the 15 years or so it had of development. I was not too hot with the limit on weapons, when I wasn't exactly sure what I would need for the challenge ahead.

7) Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like. 

Not sure of an exactly game, but I do know that real-time strategies are not my cup of tea. The couple I have tried (most just a demo thing) generally made me think more than I'd like to for a gaming experience. I have nothing against people that do like them...like I said, just not my cup of tea. Maybe one example of this is that Starcraft is probably one of the biggest strategy titles I've played, and I spent a good chunk of that playing their Use Map Settings (UMS) maps that involved RPG gameplay. Go figure.

MOBAs are another genre I'm not too hot over...maybe it's because both of these genres are so competitive, and I am not a competitive gamer.

8) Name a game that was poorly received that you really like. 

While I don't think it bombed per se, I rather enjoyed Hellgate: London. Once again, an RPG shooter stole my heart (or at least a nice big chunk of gaming time). This post-apocalyptic shooter was later made into a F2P online title (at least in Korea, I believe), and I'm not sure of its current status. I always stuck with the original offline CD-ROM like a boss. I enjoyed both RPG and shooter elements, and there was plenty of ground to cover (and re-cover, and re-cover...love me some grinding).

9) What are your favourite game genres? 

I would say my favorite genre is the RPG. There's just a cool feeling when you start from nothing, and can acquire new skills and equipment throughout the entirety of the gaming experience. By slowly building your abilities up, you can basically control the difficulty. I also like hybrid RPG titles, like the action RPG (Diablo series) or the similar shooter RPG (Borderlands series).

10)Who is your favourite game protagonist? 

Well, I suppose most of the story NPCs (part of the epic) in LOTRO could fall under this umbrella, and even just some that you meet in the quest zones. Aren't Horn and Nona a-dork-able? While I have not even played Bioshock Infinite, but from what I've seen (including the ending...woops), I think it's safe to say that both Booker and Elizabeth are pretty neat characters.

11) Describe your perfect video game. 

Toss me an open-word experience that is constantly in flux, add some humor and well-enriched NPCs, don't make me think too much, and I'm good.

12) What video game character do have you have a crush on? 

If I said Borderlands, you'd probably assume Moxxi. What if I said Tannis? Sure, she's a little...out there. But hey...uh...yeh.

13) What game has the best music? 

I'll admit that I do not listen to in-game music as much as some others may, but when I do, the background to the Elder Scrolls games are pretty sweet. I really don't listen to the music/any in-game sounds in LOTRO, but don't tell anybody about that. It's not because it's bad (from what I've listened to, it's enjoyable), but I usually either have my own music on in the background, or I'm multi-tasking and maybe listening to a podcast/Twitch stream.

14) Most memorable moment in a game: 

The first time I beat Diablo in Diablo 2. I have discussed it in the past, and while I have had many great moments in gaming, I think it was just my age and the environment I was in that gave me such a cool memorable impression. I have also beat Diablo in the first game since, but because it came several years later, it did not give me that same experience.

15) Scariest moment in a game: 

Yep, I'm looking at you, F.E.A.R. Never had I seen something usually so innocent turned in a mind-wrecking horror, exacerbated by playing in the dark. Needless to say, I only hoped I didn't dream of descending ladders, only to be met by Alma that night.

16) Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:

I'm not sure I have a specific moment in time. Now if you are talking about my run of Bioshock where I went all out with the wrench, then there you have it. Wrench Jockey for life!

17) What are your favourite websites/blogs about games? 

With #Blaugust, I have been reading more blogs than I have in the past (many/most which are gaming related). Prior to that, I was pretty partial to LOTRO Players, and other than that, I just Google stuff when I want to know.

18) What’s the last game you finished? 

Hard to say when I play so many open-ended games, plus MMOs (which really don't have endings...until they pull the plug). I've technically finished Skyrim, but that's not gunna stop me from raiding more dungeons and caves, and do more unnecessary leveling as much as I can. I'm also doing another run of Far Cry 3 on a higher difficulty, and have mostly been just messing about lately.

19) What future releases are you most excited about?

I do not necessarily hype over new releases. I'll normally get around to playing games once they are discounted enough, or free (Oregon Trail hype!). That being said, I am looking forward to free-to-play games such as Trove, and I think I may be interested in trying out Everquest Next.

20) Do you identify as a gamer? 

Of course I identify myself as a gamer. I play games, and as such can call myself a gamer. I don't go around in public shouting at everyone, "HI THERE I'M A GAMER, MAN IT'S PRETTY WARM TODAY," but that doesn't stop me from enjoying video games on my own time.

Similarly, I don't go around telling everyone that I'm a breather, eater, and a sleeper, but I do all those too. Well, at least the first two.

21) Why do you play video games?

I think that I enjoy participating in an interactive virtual environment, where I don't have to be a professional or perfect to enjoy. If I screw up, oh well - there's a respawn. Overall, it's just something fun to do to escape the realities that exist outside the door, plus I sometimes get to meet some cool people along the way. While I can't say I've met m(any) outside the real door, just chatting or talking to what are allegedly actual humans has been a blast. Sure, it's not traditional human contact, but I figure we'll all be robots in five years anyways.