Wednesday, September 30, 2009

R.I.P. Kev

This episode of Kev & Alice brought back some painful memories, although 4 1/2 years later they don't hurt quite so much. Life goes on.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Trade Chat..

Trade Chat is usually not much better than the infamous Barrens Chat, but sometimes there's a diamond in the rough, like this:

"A young woman sits down beside you and places her hand gently on your thigh. She's not beautiful, but you find her oddly attractive. Slowly she leans in toward you and whispers seductively in your ear, "You know, I can enchant that for you, if you'd like..."

As I and many others were cracking up, someone with a fast wit and faster fingers responded, "Honey, sorry, but you just aren't enchanting enough for me."

Monday, September 21, 2009

DDO's bard, and WoW's Paladin - the early years

I ended up rolling my Bard and I might even consider dropping some cash in the store, if only because rumor has it that it unlocks a few more character slots, and being restricted to two characters is rather...restricting, especially for an Altaholic like me. But I'm intelligent enough to realize that it saves server/hard drive space by not allowing free-loaders (like me, so I can call us that) to create countless characters...then again, that's what multiple accounts are for ;) I was going to add that it's sort of like WoW's 10-day Trial, except that's a 10-day Trial after which you pony up the cash for a sub, or you create a new 10-day Trial. I wonder about all those Trials and characters I created. I don't delete them before the Trial expires, so, does that mean they're all sitting on a server somewhere, waiting for me to subscribe and bring them back to life? Are Blizzard really not deleting them, at all? That's the big reason why the free version of DDO limits you to 2 characters. That, and they know people who like the game will pay to unlock more slots. It's a smart move because there's a very good chance that strategy will work on me ;)

My Bard plays not unlike my Ranger (or at least that's how I'm playing him), as in I plink away at Mobs from a distance with my Bow, then slice them up with my Fiery Rapier when they get in close. But where my Ranger had a couple of special Melee attacks my Bard has a 4-minute Buff that...does something. I think it helps me make Saving Throws or something. I tend to forget it's there though so last night when I did the very first soloable Instance (the Crypt) it wasn't until right before the Boss's room that I remembered to buff myself.

I also took a look at the FAQ while trying to work out how to sheath my sword because as much as I love hitting Z & taking out my weapons in WoW, it looked odd (I thought) to be running around town with a flame-engulfed rapier in my hand. It's not that everyone (literally) has a Fiery weapon (and they practically all do)...or maybe it was. Isn't that a quote from The Incredibles? If everyone was a Super, nobody would be super? So having a Fiery weapon is a cool trinket to have almost right from the start (after completing the Tutorial), but when you see every single person in town has a fiery weapon...not such a big deal.

I read the FAQ and didn't find any Hotkey to let me sheath my rapier, instead I discovered how to unlock/separate the Hotkey bars so I can have more than just one visible and not have to scroll up through them. Now I have two Hotkey bars in my UI, one above the other. My Bow & Rapier are Hotkeyed on the bottom bar so I can switch between them with a key press, as are my Buff spell and Cure Light Wounds spell. My non-essential abilities went on the other bar, which includes the special weaponless weapon-set ability I made. So I cannot actually sheath my melee weapon, but I can take out a non-existent weapon which replaces my physical weapon. I'm choosing to fight unarmed is what I'm really doing, but it has the effect I wanted such that I'm no longer walking around with 3-feet of flaming steel in front of me. On a side note, I'm sure these two guys would like to know how to magically enhance steel weapons with fire ;)

On the WoW Trial front, after Tobold rolled a Paladin and briefly discussed his initial experiences with the class, I finally decided to give them another try. The Paladin never particularly grabbed me when I first got WoW, probably because I was a Noob! but over the years I'd roll one every now and then, only to delete it to make room for something else. And...it's still not my cup of tea. Zubon (of Kill Ten Rats) describes the early Paladin levels quite eloquently, and very accurately, as the Zero-Button Phase.

A level 1 Rogue starts with Sinister Strike, a Mage with Frostbolt, a Shaman with Lightning Bolt, a Druid with Wrath. Even the Hunter (IMO erroneously) gets Raptor Strike, so every Class gets an attack that they can spam (to some degree) during combat...except the Paladin, who gets Seal of Righteousness (a 30-min Buff) and Holy Light (a Heal). As a former Hunter/Rogue/Mage, combat as a Paladin is almost as interesting as watching paint dry.

Health okay? Check. Buff okay? Only 27 minutes left, better refresh it. Ok, now we're ready to go. Run into position, right-click Mob to enable auto-attack, or press 1 if you didn't remap it to something more exciting (like Holy Light), then...sit there and watch as your avatar and the mob exchange blows until one of them is dead. Which will always be the Mob (unless you get severely out-numbered) because you have a Heal spell.

If you can sit through the boredom until level 4 (trust me, it doesn't take too long) then you'll get your first really offensive Spell, Judgment of Light, a 10-yard ranged attack spell that puts a debuff on your target which gives any attackers a chance of being Healed (it's a small Heal, but any Heal is better than none, just ask your friendly, neighborhood BM Hunter). Finally, something to do other than rebuff yourself because your Seal of Righteousness has just 27 minutes left. Unfortunately, without spending Talent Points, Judgement spells come with a 10-second Cooldown, so it's still not a Spammable attack spell, but at least it lets you feel like you're doing something other than sitting there on your arse watching a cartoon. Not a lot more, but a little bit.

That said, I did put the time in to get my Paladin to 20, at which point I discovered something interesting. When you complete quests while level 20, the Trial acts much like when you complete quests at Cap in full game, that is you get rewarded with moula in place of XP. This was good because never having played a Pally before, I didn't realize that Pally Mounts are like Warlock Mounts and trainable for a mere pittance. So I ran around completing several quests to raise funds then dropped 3g50s on Riding-75 and 90s on a Mount when I only needed to fork over (IIRC) 20s to learn Summon Warhorse. But I'm glad I got my Pinto because I think it's a more fitting horse for my female Human Paladin than the Pally's Warhorse.

I ran into a 23 Spacegoat Hunter in Deadmines and we grouped up to complete the Oh Brother! quest (and the other one the same Dwarf in SW hands out) but when he wanted to head on into the Instance itself I had to beg off. To his credit (or doom) he still went in. I don't know how his Ravager pet handled the Mobs but I never heard from him again. While he would definitely have fared better with my Paladin along, I'm still not sure we could have successfully Duo'd Deadmines the Instance, but the kid and I had a movie to go see so I wished him Good Luck and with Quests done Hearthed out of there.

So once I got my first Judgement spell the Pally got a little more interesting, but it was still not as complex of a character to play as some others. What did make it fun was testing the Paladin class on Hogger, which wasn't much of a test because I ended up smashing his face in at level 14. Bellygrub, however, at 4 levels above my capped 20, was extremely interesting. I tried it at 19 and got crushed, then dinged 20, got my new spells, and back I went for more. I pulled out all stops, even switching from 2H Hammer to Sword & Board while I regained Mana for a Heal, then switched back to 2H for the final few blows. In retrospect, I should have used Blessing of Wisdom for Mana Regen instead of Might, as this really was a battle of attrition, and if I'd had the Mana for a couple more Heals or another Judgement, I might have had more than just 9 Health when I delivered the fatal blow. Yep, just 9 Health. Now that's what I call Living!!!

When I was still a subscriber I soloed the RFK Quests on my level 30 Druid, including solo-killing the Crone. That was a fun fight which, like Bellygrub, also came down to a Sudden Death situation that I won by the skin of my teeth. IIRC I had less than 100 health when the Crone and I got off our final attacks; her attack missed, mine didn't. Nothing like an OMG! That was close! moment to get the blood pumping.

I actually wrote the first part of this entry a week or so back, then finished it now, tonight, and since then the boy and I have duo'd the first DDO dungeon on Normal, which wasn't that tough as I've solo'd it on Normal myself. As he said he'd probably play on his own sometimes, too, we rolled a Paladin for him instead of a Rogue. As I have the Bard who can learn some Rogue skills, including (I hope) Pick Locks and Disarm Traps, we should be fine. DDO is still a fun game, but it doesn't yet have the polish of WoW. Then again, when Blizzard have had years to polish WoW, why would it? I did notice a few things in WoW that I'm wondering if they're new, or if they've been there all along and I just haven't been paying attention. Small things of little consequence, like the way my Paladin's torso actually moved as she breathed. And when she exhaled (and only exhaled, mind you) her breath condensed into vapor in the chill air of Dun Murogh. That was pretty cool to see, and shows just how much work Blizzard have really put into this game. They've set the bar extremely high, not just for their competitors, but for themselves. They've done so much since launch that I'm not even sure Blizzard can create a WoW-killer. I think they've created a monster that they can only kill in one of two ways: by completing ballsing up an expansion, or just calling it quits and pulling the plug. It makes one wonder.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

When courtesy causes accidents

Drive long enough and you'll run into them, hopefully not literally.

They're the drivers who are so over-cautious in trying to avoid accidents that they drive 10mph below the speed limit (or even slower) and piss off everyone else on the road who wants to drive at (or above) the legal limit.

They're the drivers who pull up to 4-Way Stop Signs or Roundabouts and refuse to take their turn. Instead they wave everyone else through the intersection ahead of them until not a single other car is waiting...except of course for the furious drivers behind them.

Today I came across a car waiting to pull out of the Gas Station, which is not an unusual sight. In this situation someone will inevitably leave a spot for the driver to pull out, usually when the light turns red, and that's what happened in this case when an Overly Cautious Driver left a space for Gas Station Man. But just as GSM was about to pull out a pedestrian walked up so, with GSM's car blocking the sidewalk, he considerately backed his car up and allowed the pedestrian to pass in front of him. Now that is an unusual sight. Most drivers aren't that respectful of pedestrians.

The light ahead of us went green and the first couple of cars drove through but not OCD (that's how I know he was an OCD and not just a Good Samaritan); OCD had offered to let GSM out ahead of him and Green Light and Pedestrian be damned! OCD was staying put until GSM pulled out so he could receive his karmic brownie points.

The pedestrian finally crossed in front of the car and I could see OCD still waving to GSM. "Come on! I'm letting you out! Come on!"

GSM & OCD maintained eye contact and exchanged Thank You! waves and You're welcome! waves and because GSM was doing this and looking at OCD instead of being cognizant of his surroundings...he completely failed to see the two kids riding their bikes on the sidewalk.

The front kid began to ride in front of GSM's car, just as the pedestrian had done just seconds before, except GSM was no longer looking out for peds and he gunned his engine and his car leaped forward. The kid was quick and he jerked his front wheel to the right but GSM was halfway into the road before he realized he had a new hood ornament. Luckily the kid managed to keep his bike upright and stay on it or he would have gone underneath GSM's car.

Once again GSM reversed his car back into the gas station while the kid wheeled his bike around and rejoined his friend on the sidewalk where they began exchanging angry words with GSM.

Seeing GSM was going to be occupied for a while OCD finally gave up on letting GSM out in front of him and, in the way of OCDs the world over who help to cause accidents but are never actually involved in them, finally drove through the intersection like he should have done in the first place.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Playing the WoW Trial

Pros - It's WoW, and it's free :)

Cons - Level Cap is 20, at which point you stop earning XP. But you can get your first Mount at 20 and they're cheaper than ever (yes, that's a Pro...I think. WoW; now EZier than ever before.)
It's only a 10-day Trial so you need to hit Cap within 10 days or start over. Actually you're starting over either way :P
You cannot use the Auction House, neither to buy nor sell items, so if you want coin you need to grind it (i.e., don't take two Crafting Skills. In fact I'm not sure why I sometimes take even one Crafting Skill, because they cannot be leveled higher than 100.)
Crafting & Gathering Skills can not be leveled higher than 100. (Didn't I just say that?)
You can't Trade with other players, that includes Enchants, Glyphs, etc.
You cannot Join a Guild or sign a Guild Charter.
You cannot talk in any of the Chat Channels, but you can use /S to talk to folks standing next to you.
You cannot Whisper other players unless they Whisper you first.
You cannot Invite other players to Join a Group, but you can accept Group Invitations.
In other words, if a group is forming for an Instance and they announce in General Chat that they have one spot left, you're screwed unless you're standing on top of the Group Leader.

Things I've enjoyed about playing the Trial (other than it being Free ;)

Leveling is reasonably quick and I can ding 20 inside 20 hours if I don't waste time being an Explorer. Much of what you're denied in the Trial prevents you from playing WoW as an MMO anyway, unless you're really determined to do so, but as I'm mostly a solo-player that's fine with me.

But I've also run into a few people and we've helped each other quest, and I've always been up-front and told them I'm on a Trial. Some people don't bat an eye lid while others are shocked that a Trial can play so well, until I reveal that I played for 3 1/2 years. "I knew you weren't retarded," was one comment, which I found flattering rather than insulting.

Sometimes it's fun playing on my own because I can challenge myself by attempting quests as soon as I get them. Hogger is a lot of fun and I've found some Classes struggle with him while others can Solo him with ease. Okay, maybe not with ease, but he is going down. Hunters are good at Soloing him, as are Mages, Warlocks, and a Priest with a Wand. Unfortunately Wands are hard to get at low levels w/o access to the Auction House, so if you want a Wand as a Trial I recommend you take up Enchanting and make one. But leveling Enchanting w/o access to the AH is a problem so you may want to level another Crafting Skill first to give you the Green items to DE for the Mats to level Enchanting, but by the time you've gathered sufficient Mats to do that you'll probably be at a level when you can just buy a Wand from a Wand Vendor. I don't think that's quite a Catch-22.

What I'm saying is that playing WoW as a Trial and Single Player game can take a lot of planning ahead. Want to take up Engineering for the Flying Tiger Goggles? You'll need two Tigerseye gems. How do you get them without access to the AH? Luck. Sheer luck. And Mining. Luck when opening Chests, and luck while Mining. Mining and Engineering compliment each other anyway, but without those Tigerseye gems you're not getting your Goggles so there's almost no point taking up Engineering until you have them.

Am I getting bored, replaying the same content over & over again? Does it look like I'm getting bored constantly rerolling Alts every 2 weeks or so?

Not really, not yet. Although I don't have access to the Dranei or BElf starting areas, that still leaves me with 6 starting areas between the two factions, with a combination of 8 Races and 8 Classes to choose from (not to mention Crafting Skills to level to 100 if I want to go that route). That's a lot of variety even if level 10-20 often takes me to the same areas (Barrens for Horde, Westfall for Alliance). Actually the Alliance have three teen-level areas to choose from (Westfall, Loch Modan, and Darkshore), while the Horde only have two, being The Barrens and Silverpine Forest/Tarren Mill. I'm combining SF & TM because you can't go straight to TM w/o doing some of the SF quests (or leveling up in the Barrens).

So no, I'm not bored. Also, even if I am (and I'm not saying I am ;) a couple of the Blogs on my Roll reminded me that today is the day DDO:Unlimited goes F2P.

So what I might do is set up two Free DDO accounts, one each for my son and I, and then we can play DDO together, for free. He's getting pretty good with his computer games and I think he'll enjoy Dungeons & Dragons:Online. So, does anyone with prior DDO experience have any suggestions for what two classes we should roll? I'm thinking a pure DPS class for the boy (perhaps a Ranger), with a DPS/Healer-hybrid for me, such as a Bard, which I'd probably enjoy playing anyway. Any other suggestions?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Office Space

Sunday was my Thirty-tenth birthday, Monday & Tuesday I was out of the office (recovering from my son's Cub Scout Camp on Catalina Island combined with the Bunny's first day of Kindergarten) so my first day back at work was Wednesday. The gang were going to take me to lunch but M had an afternoon meeting, SG had an upset tummy, and A had to go to Personnel (not located in our building), so everyone decided to do breakfast the next day, instead.

"That's cool," I said, "let's go to The Pantry." (Because I looooove their huge slabs of sourdough toast dripping with butter (real butter) and slathered with orange marmalade.)

This morning B, F, L and SG head down to the ATM to get some cash, while M (my supervisor) comes by my cube to get me. "By the way," he says, "we're going to Denny's."

"Not The Pantry?" I ask.

ST chimes in that F (her cube-buddy who apparently started a diet this week) has already picked out her low-cal Denny's breakfast of choice.

M also cites economic reasons behind choosing Denny's over The Pantry. I'm not too sure about that, The Pantry has some low-priced breakfasts, but I decide to keep the peace and go along with them.

Heading downstairs we pass A coming back from Starbucks. Yesterday it was a visit to Personnel, this time he holds up the Starbucks cup and asks for a raincheck...which will never be called in.

We pick up the rest of the gang and head outside to wait for the Dash, which in typical un-Dashlike fashion takes forever (also typically, while waiting two Dashes going the other way pass by on the other side). We finally give up on the Dash and start walking to Denny's (yes, there are Angelenos who walk...sometimes ;) I've never been to this Denny's (they're not exactly one of my favorite places to eat) but apparently it's on Figueroa St. between 8th & 9th. If you're not an Angeleno, that's right across the road from The Pantry.

As we're walking I'm chatting with B, SG & L while the slower walking M, ST & F lag behind. It turns out B would also prefer The Pantry to Denny's because she likes their Portuguese sausage.

I mention how I was looking forward to The Pantry's slab-like slices of sourdough toast (which is nothing like Denny's little squares of sourdough toast).

L and S are both miffed to hear that we're going to Denny's even though I'd wanted to go to The Pantry. "That's not right," they say, "it's your birthday. Let them go to Denny's on their birthday."

I decide that if S and F want to go to Denny's they can, but I'm going to go to The Pantry like I originally wanted. I put this to S, L & B who laugh, but are not quite ready to split up the group.

We get to 9th & Fig. Denny's is halfway up the block on our right, The Pantry is across the street. I make a beeline for the corner while gesturing to M: "I'm going to The Pantry."

M points up the block to Denny's and I point back to The Pantry. The light changes to green and I begin crossing. S and L follow my lead, while B stays behind to talk to M; they miss the light and stay on the other side.

M makes eye contact with me and points up the road to Denny's. I point behind me to The Pantry. M beckons me over and makes a talking gesture. I point to the now red light, beckon him to The Pantry side and also make the talking gesture. M smiles and nods his head.

The light takes a while to change back to green and I can see them talking on the other side. I know B is probably going to bat for me because it's my birthday and I'd requested The Pantry, only to have the location changed on me at the last minute. F is probably being passive aggressive and even though Denny's was most likely her idea is adding little to the conversation. Without F's support ST is probably going to go with whoever is the more vocal. Likewise M will probably yield to B who, like me, wants to eat at The Pantry.

The light changes and they cross over to our side (where we have cookies).

"Here's the thing," says M, "because we thought we were going to Denny's, F & I don't have cash." (This despite F making the earlier trip down to the ATM.)

"That's okay," I say, "I've got $25." I'd checked before putting my plan into action. "That should be good for 2, maybe 3 of us."

M notes that as it's my birthday they're supposed to be paying for me. I agree and say they can pay me back when we get back to the office. I add that if they really want to do Denny's they're welcome to go there, but I was really looking forward to eating at The Pantry. M finally yields and into The Pantry we go.

M, who had breakfast already, orders a slice of apple pie, which looked and smelled delicious, while I gorge myself on 3 giant slabs of sourdough toast, butter & orange marmalade. Everyone seems to have a good time, even (eventually) F, who spends most of the breakfast playing with her Blackberry. (I figure if a Crackhead is addicted to crack then a Blackberry addict should be a Blackhead, but despite my best efforts the gang persist in calling her a Crackberry...I digress.) The bill arrives and breakfast for 7 people comes to $51+tip. Split 6 ways that's a shade under $10 each which, IMO, is more than reasonable when one person is eating for free. Especially considering if we'd gone to Denny's I was going to order their most expensive steak & eggs breakfast >:) so I think they got off lightly.

On the walk back we fall into the same groups as on the way over, and again B, SG, L & I leave M, ST & F in our dust. When we cross at a light which they miss they fall even further behind.

Now safely out of earshot B mentions that she'd talked earlier to ST & F, who chose Denny's because they were on a diet and it offers low-calorie meals. Knowing that they'd be taking me out to lunch (or breakfast) this week, B asked why they hadn't waited to start their diet. Apparently they're on one of those 4-week fad diets, the end of which coincides with F's birthday later this month. Go figure.

Sometimes I feel like Dilbert or Wally. This morning I felt like Office Space's Milton, right up until I pulled a Peter. Or perhaps I was still Milton, just after he was moved to the basement and had the lights turned off on him.

"And if...if they take my stapler...I will...I will set this building on fire..."