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Onward To The Past!

You know, if I really wanted to make this blog more popular, I could start with something along the lines of daily updates, but I have higher priorities: the way I procrastinate is painstaking work.  But I feel somewhat obligated to talk about what I was up to nonetheless and, as it turns out, I tend to log how I spend my free time with all the rapt fascination of a scientist observing a quantum singularity.

Tuesday, the 8th of July, I crawled out of bed to watch WildStar Weekly on Twitch.  Watching the WildStar developers talking about their game on their live streams on Tuesday and Thursday (11am PST) has become a welcome habit, neatly sandwiching Zero Punctuation on Wednesday.
Then I actually tried to play WildStar.  This initially went rather poorly.

I tried the Esper for a couple hours, saved the village of Hycrest, and was rather disappointed to see a dumpy looking Chua literally idolized, on larger-than-virtual-life holographic projection, by the town.  That Chua was my Esper, and seeing him presented in this manner underscored how little I identified with this avatar.  Maybe I shouldn't have rerolled my Cassain Esper?  With this in mind, I tried to play my Cassain Spellslinger a bit and was met with a feeling of overwhelming apathy: I'm just not clicking with the ways Spellslingers play, not now, maybe not ever.

After a real life errand, I tried revisited my Mechari Warrior.  He's a mighty-thewed death machine, literally, and his mechanical mind knows only justice as the Dominion sees it.  I could fathom him being idolized by Dominion plebeians readily enough.  However, I was bothered by the fundamental fact that my server seemed mighty quiet.  Where was all the idle zone chat?  Perhaps I was asking a bit much for there to be many night owls up at 9pm PST spamming away on a work night, but I had an inkling that, before I get deeply invested in a character, maybe I ought to jump server entirely!

I rolled a Cassain Engineer up on the Stormtalon server, whose forum activity suggests they are the busiest of PvE servers.  It took me only an hour to progress to the point where I could visit the Dominion capital city of Illium.  I did indeed see a bit more traffic idling about at 10pm PST in Stormtalon's Illium, but the channels were as dead as before.  So much for that idea.  I decided that maybe a quieter server is a good thing, as it meant less player competition for quest goals, and the group finder for dungeons and whatnot worked cross-server anyway.  Oh well, reconnaissance was not a bad way to spend an hour.

Yet, I had noticed something from my expedition to Stormtalon: the Engineer offers a really smooth play experience for me.  I rather liked how I could bind my MOBA mouse to sic my tank pet with the forward-left side button, my artillery pet with the forward-right side button - neither one had a casting time after it had already been summoned so it was like I had two free actions I could trigger at any time!  Thanks to my earlier Engineers, I was actually really good at playing this kind of character; I was a natural Engineer.

Fine, I could see the writing on the wall.  It was time for a reassessment of the primary tank and healer I would be playing as my mains.  The Engineer for when I was feeling like going with the flow, the Esper for when I was feeling like I wanted something complicated.  That these happened to the two least played classes (but not by much) jived well with my originality complex, too.  However, since I was keeping all my alts, no sense throwing out the fact that my Warrior was already an accomplished armorsmith, which left my Engineer free to be a weaponsmith.
Wednesday was pretty much exclusively spent starting up my new Dominion Engineer.  I decided on a Mechari Female because I already had a Cassain male and, frankly, Mechari Female Engineers look extremely badass.  This would be the third time I took a Mechari Female Engineer from level 1 to 15+, and I had grown excessively efficient at it.

During this time, I decided to give the WildStar Addons a try, and installed three:
  • BijiPlates - This basically makes all PCs and NPCs on your screen have a visible health display above them.  By default, WildStar's GUI only allows you to see this if you are currently targeting them.  Armed with BijiPlates, I could now focus down multiple foes at once.  You can also identify them even without a line of sight, something you can't do normally... that's a tad cheaty, and I don't want to cheat, but I can turn on "occlusion" to prevent that from happening.  Anyway, BijiPlates is pretty awesome, I have already forgotten how I played this game without it.
  • Amp Finder - This provides in-game information on where you can find the AMPs for your class abilities.  Not that cheaty, it just saves you from having to Google it.
  • GalaxyMeter - Parses the combat log into graphical data.  This mostly handy to see who has contributed what when defeating a big monster.  Oddly enough, it says my Engineer tends to out damage everyone else at about 2 to 1, but WildStar disagrees when the actual in-game contribution panel pops up.  I wonder who's right?
  • FieldOfViewCalculator -  This lets you tweak your field of view setting in WildStar directly while providing a tool to calculate an optimal setting.
Somehow, all this coalesced in my feeling like I was really playing WildStar for the first time.  However, I knew that it was not to last, as I was expecting the nephew to come over for a visit and dominate my Thursday and Friday.  I wonder if I was feeling so in the zone because I knew my time was so scarce?  Maybe, maybe not... the human psyche is a strange beast sometimes.
I did one more thing of note Wednesday night: I took a break from Wildstar and ran through The Guild 2: Renaissance some more.  There, I noticed a critical flaw in it, even patched up to the latest and greatest of the Legacy Mod.  It's a simple enough double-whammy:
  1. The AI has a tendency to firebomb houses constantly, which inevitably spreads to the entire town, and damages everything.  
  2. The AI is not always very good at repairing badly damaged homes and businesses.  Maybe the dynasty they belong to is too poor to afford it, or maybe the check that is performed to see if they need to be repaired is done infrequently.  Either way, the result is that there will be a few badly damaged things laying around due to the frequent fires.
  3. Thugs can simply waltze into badly damaged property, wave around a flag a bit, and capture them, evicting whole families into the street.  Apparently this isn't counted as a crime, as it generates no evidence that I have seen.  The AI doesn't really put up a fight to prevent the capture, nor bothers to dispatch their own thugs to capture fire damaged buildings on their own.  
Thus, somewhat effortlessly, I became a landlord of a half-dozen plots.  I don't think I can run the Legacy Mod anymore.  By introducing a higher frequency of fires that the AI has no idea how to deal with, it pretty much breaks the game.  But then, The Guild 2: Renaissance was not terribly free of exploits to begin with.  I should play something else.
I had up to Thursday afternoon to myself, and this was spent advancing my WildStar Engineer about as far as the usual place I quit my characters upon first entering Auroria.  Then the nephew arrived and my free time was no longer my own.

The games we played caused me to leave my usual comfort zone of games, so I was able to learn a few things about games that I might not touch for quite some time, if ever:
  • The LEGO Movie Videogame - I honestly don't know why the reviewers didn't rate this game very high.  The visuals are actually remarkably good, and I did not find the levels to be nearly as plodding as I heard.  I guess the other LEGO games are better but, as stands alone, The LEGO Movie Videogame successfully extends the lore and experience of The LEGO Movie, even including a plethora of unlockables for replayability.  My only real complaint (aside from the console-friendly control scheme) is that it seems like a lot of the sequences are built around having two players to get the most out of them.  The nephew loved it, but he's a tad too young to feel comfortable playing it, so I mostly ended up playing solo as he watched.
  • Farming Simulator 2013 - Pretty much exactly what I thought it'd be: you get in vehicles and drive them around plots of land, harvesting, plowing, seeding, fertilizing, and repeat.  Sure, it might be more exciting if they introduced an actual conflict, but that's sort of the point: you play this game to relax.  Naturally, the nephew quickly bored of it.
  • Sir, You Are Being Hunted - I think this game's reception would have been improved a bit if it launched full-screen and did not have those obnoxious in-engine textual popups to get people to use things.  These factors soured what's otherwise a very immersive feeling game.  I told the nephew this was a game where you're being hunted by robots and it might be a little too scary for him, but he wanted to see it anyway.  He did not seem to understand why we were being hunted, and we did not play very long.
  • Steamworld Dig - This is a very clever hybrid of 2D platforming puzzle game and progression-based digging game.  The nephew liked it at first, but soon grew bored of it due to the frequency of having to return to the surface to empty pockets of harvested ores.
  • Pixeljunk Monsters - This game turned out to look a lot more crude and simplistic on the PC platform than it was on the PSP platform I initially had played it on.  As far as tower defense games go, this one sets itself apart with unique mechanics and a really mellow tone.  The nephew really enjoyed it, and I recommended to his mom that she look up an iPad version, as it's on virtually every platform.
So it is that my Thursday and Friday evenings went.  Saturday (today) I was too busy working to do anything of significance, and I mostly spent my free time writing this blog entry whilst engaged in idle Internet behavior (videos, forums).  Should I survive to see Sunday night, I'll have another reverse-weekend ahead of me, and we'll see about some quality procrastination.

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