Wednesday 20 November 2013

SWTOR: Dun dun dun

Is has been a while since the last post. I didn't even make my golden one-post-a-week goal, oh my! The worst part is that I even can't seem to feel guilty about it.

The last couple of weeks I've had to digest some bad news. In fact, I'm still digesting it. No, don't worry, I won't fall over and die (yet). I usually keep my personal stuff out of the way of this blog, but I guess in this case it's relevant in the sense that I've spent little time in games lately - simply because I just do not care so much about games right now. I want to spend the time I have on things that I consider meaningful: my studies and the people I care about (uhm, maybe not necessarily in that order!). I guess my life is just a bit more off-line than in games right now and it is hard to find enthusiasm to write here as a result.

School time: priorities in life, anyone?

Oh, I do know games are meaningful. After all, how could they not be when I met my Tiger in an online game? The whole gaming blog network itself is prove that they have meaning. However, for me at this moment other things provide more meaning.

For the record: this does not mean I'm quitting this blog. My posts just might be a bit less numerous right now, because there is enough stress in the world without having to worry about posting schedules. And this is just so that you know.


Okay, Rav, enough of this emo-shit already. If you're not providing me with happy stories on your in-game experiences, where should I go else? Besides, why are you taunting me with these sexy vanguard pictures?

I have to admit that I did play *some* Star Wars in the past weeks, although not as actively as usual. I've attended the progression team runs of Obviously on Imp side, and I've played some lowbie PvP on my vanguard Xialin with Tiger and friends. I finally finished chapter 2 of the class story on her, which meant I received my last legacy-wide buff. I now have all four class buffs on every character, so that's worth a little hurray.

Unfortunately, my XO Elara got injured during the chapter, and much to my dismay I found that she is now greyed out from my companion panel! As she is still recovering, I'm forced to play with other companions in her stead. The whole operation had already been quite the challenge because the story forced me to play with Yunn and then Vik as my companions, and they walk around in the green gear I got them with (so they basically just fell over and died in each fight). Normally, I only play with Elara, as I like both her healing and her character. As a result, she is the only one properly geared for my level.

In a rush to get Elara back, I completed the next part of the story and freed some diplomats. However, this still turned out not to be enough: her character is still greyed out on the companion panel. In the meanwhile, Elara's companion bribes gifts keep piling up in my inventory.

Seriously though, I got super scared when I saw Elara lying down like that, I thought she was dead! Even though my virtual crew assured me that her injuries were bad but she was going to be okay, I'm still worried. I guess even in games as much as in life, all I want is just a happy end.

Thursday 7 November 2013

LOTRO: The Balewood

Help, I'm surrounded by Ents!

I wasn't disappointed when Tiger and I ventured into the Balewood: it was full of Ents. In fact, we seemed to be surrounded by them!

A good wood

Har har, that rhymes! I really love the look of this wood. It has a pastel green-blueish teint that is very pretty, and the trees are done in a manner which makes you really feel like you are walking through a wood. I don't know if you remember the first large wood that the developers made, the Old Forest? It is still my favourite wood up until this day, and it created the illusion of being one big maze very well (I always got lost in there, but I did not mind), but Balewood is in all ways its superior. Here there are no impenetrable "walls of trees", a cheap way of filling the forest up, but every single tree is there. It truly feels like walking through a real forest, with dense and less dense parts, although it's sometimes a bit heavy on the computer and trees may appear right in front of you at the last moment. 

My heart broke at the Ent's tale of the bringing down of one of the oldest trees of the Balewood by orcs. The tree fought back and many orcs died because of it, but eventually it was brought down. It was such a terrible thing to have to look at.

This conflicted and helpless feeling only became worse when I had to do a Nurzum session play and actually had to play the monster, having to kill Ents left and right. But but... I don't want to kill Ents! Yet I had to, to continue the story. I also felt a bit sorry for Nurzum, because he had only three skills in total. It must be such a boring existence, you're bound to get frustrated and violent like that, right? I guess it's all to mentally prepare us for our 'challenging' skill trees with Helm's Deep. /sarcasm

We finished all the quests in Balewood, and I must say that I found this the most awesome part of Wildermore. The quests were fun and the wood itself with all the Ent tales felt very immersive. A good ending of the long and very elaborate Wildermore region.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

SWTOR: I have saved the galaxy

To jump or not to jump - can the voices in my head please shut up?

It's been over a month or so since the new raids on Oricon have been launched, and yet I haven't spoken a word about it. What is happening? Have I grown fat and have I retired from raids? I can comfort you and tell you that this is not the case. In fact, I have been meaning to write something about our raid progression, but I always end up feeling that my writing about raids is so utterly boring. Somehow it seems more fun to write about trivial things such as a funny billboard or in-game fashion, and thus you all believe I'm frisking about, looking at flowers while sometimes participating in a raid, while it is actually more the other way around.

As my Republic guild has ceased to do progression raids for now, my actual 'main' in terms of who I play the most and accumulates the best gear has switched from sage Ravanel to my sorcerer Fárah. It is a nice feeling to play with great players and discover the new raids with them. The Dread Fortress was easily overcome (I'm not counting getting terribly lost in the crystal-maze here!) on hardmode, with the exception of the last boss, the one with those arms and fingers randomly emerging from the ground.

It took us a couple of tries to conclude that our unintentional handicap of having four melee DPS was really holding us back in this case. Somehow our best DPSers tend to play marauders (3x) and operative (1x). Not a conscious choice, but something that just came to be as a result of personal preference of the players. At the end there is a phase in which everyone needs to be physically close to a finger (each has one) and everyone takes a lot of damage. Once we let our operative spec heals and our healing merc DPS we could focus these fingers a little bit better, and apparently having one ranged DPS saved us just enough damage taken to clear the fight in one go. Our merc had never played DPS in raids before and both switched players did not have gear for their role, and yet it made all the difference. Funny how these things work sometimes.

Then there was the Dread Palace. We were amazed at how easy the first boss was: we did it on our first try without knowing of any tactics. The second boss was trickier, but worked out fine when we had figured the right way of dealing with the tiles. The third boss with present and past took some time to work out, but was very much fun. I really like the fight's design. After that there's the arena-in-space boss (picture above) which wasn't that complicated, but struck us with movement, range and boss mechanics bugs that I, simple healer, too obsessed with looking at health bars, didn't all get but were holding as back. So we need a couple of tries here each week, depending on our luck factor with the bugs - sometimes it's done in one go, sometimes not.

Uhm yeah. Sorry about the "arena-in-space boss" terminology, but there are so many dread masters and they keep on returning from death during the various raids that I can't hold them apart anymore. I'll just have to hope you understand.

The last fight of the Dread Palace took us weeks to figure out, though. I experienced the fight as very healing intensive and the fact that I got much better gear throughout the weeks didn't make a noticeable difference. I came in that state caused by repetition, I don't know if you know the feeling: I knew exactly when to use which heal on who at the first part of the fight. It's like your hands take over the keyboard, working together with your brain in a sync at a pace that your own thoughts cannot follow anymore. It is this rarely occurring flow that I really like about end game raiding.

This Sunday the time was there: we finally took down the last boss of the Dread Palace on hardmode and it was great. Bye bye, dread masters!

Dread master Tyrans having a bad day: defeated by Rav and her team

There is no nightmare mode of the Oricron raids (yet), so we have beaten the new content. What now? Luckily Bioware has provided us with many ways of saving the galaxy over and over again. After our final victory the night was still young, so we cleared the first boss of Scum & Villany on nightmare mode. We haven't looked further inside there yet, so working on that will be our next goal.

Thursday 31 October 2013

NBI: It's almost over

The last day of October, and thus the last day of the Newbie Blogger Initiative 2013 today! Also, confession day: I was planning to write several more advice pieces than the single one I have done, and I also had planned to feature three new blogs that I liked each week, but this real life thing came in the way and... ah well, I think the NBI was fun either way, with many new enthusiastic blogs and lots of discussion. I hope it was as much fun for our newbies as it was for me over a year ago, when I was a newbie myself!

Three final blogs for you to check out:
Thinking Play: Pasduil writes clever and thorough posts about gaming in general, but also about his passion, the too little represented (among newbie bloggers) LotRO. I'm hoping for more of these treats soon.
Away from game: Even though this blog is about different games than I play, Lonegun is a passionate writer that knows where to find those spots that interests any gamer. A pleasure to read.
JVT workshop: The blog of the one and only Joseph Skyrim (whom's name was totally stolen by the Elder Scrolls), prolific blogger ánd commenter. The place to be for in-depth posts about game design and you-name-it.

Last-minute advice

I know, I know, I should've been a good blogger and just posted these as articles themselves (bad Rav!). But late is better than never, no?
Layout: Contrary to what others may have written about this during this NBI event, I firmly believe in that you should make your blog look like how you like it yourself. Don't make it a simple blank page with black letters (read: boring) just because some readers might want to appear reading work stuff at their work. Those one or two readers aren't worth the effort - not to talk about the fact that almost everyone uses readers anyway. It is useful to think about some sort of format of your blog, as a consistent look makes people recognize it. For instance, as you may have noticed, my posts always start with a banner picture - and if I don't have an screenshot available, I torture my readers with homedrawn ones.
Name your games: People like to read blogs about games they play themselves, so there's no better way to catch the attention of a visitor than by making clear what games you write about, especially if you have a multi-game blog. If it's not clear already from your blog's title or layout, a short list of games can do wonders. Otherwise you risk people with short attention spans to just skip over your blog if they don't see anything that interests them right away. Here are some inspirational newbie blogs that did it right: Gamer by design, Part Time Core Gaming, Vagabond Worlds.
Comments: If you want to be part of the community and like interaction with readers, allow these. Make it as easy possible for people to comment and avoid Captcha like the plague. It's super annoying to regular visitors of your blog and I know of commenters that will just not comment at all when confronted with it. If you're afraid of spam, first try how much spam your blog actually receives and base your decision on that. A holding-comments-back-for-approval system is not advisable either if you want a fluid conversation between visitors. I know how frustrated I am when checking a blog I commented on several times a day to see if there are reactions and the owner hasn't seen or approved any yet. I myself use a hybrid system of no-Captcha but approve-comments for posts older than 14 days, because I found that I got spam on my older posts. I have no spam now, and I hope it's not too bothersome for people to select a profile they can comment with.
Blogroll: Again, if you want to be part of the community, take one. A blogroll is a good way of being part of the community and at the same time shows your visitors what sort of blogs you like. Don't be afraid of people leaving your blog faster because you have a blogroll: if they are bored with what they read, they will leave anyway, blogroll or no blogroll. People are usually quite conscious about what they are reading and don't just accidentally click away (that's something for your grandma who never touched a computer, not your average reader). Also, linking to others might mean they'll link you back. If you've just started a new and unknown blog, think about it like this: if you don't have a blogroll yourself, why would people add you on theirs? I prefer blogrolls on the front page myself, but you can always consider having one in a tab page if you think that clutters your page too much. 

Oh, and don't write walls of texts. Like the one above (facepalm).

Keep in mind that this is just advice and no more, so you're welcome to disagree, politely shout at me, ignore me and do whatever you want instead. I know you will, anyway.

Okay, this is enough for today. See you at the next NBI event! Or hopefully earlier.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

SWTOR: Smuggling plan

One of my more cryptic pictures today, inspired by Rowan's blog post notes. A griffon if you can explain all the numbers!*

For a long time past there's the option to 'smuggle' gear between characters of the same account using legacy gear and mail.** When my second character, sorcerer Fárah, reached level cap, I sent her leftover gear from sage Ravanel. Nowadays it's usually the other way around: Fárah does progression raiding with my Imperial guild and sends the leftover bits over to Ravanel. I always forget what gear my characters exactly have, though, so there's always some papers lying around with notes - also for other gaming stuff that involves any numbers or calculations.

Some people say I should just use one set of legacy gear and send the entire thing over each time I'm going to play the other character, but I refuse to do that, for the reasons of 1) bothersome and 2) cosmetics. Surely it's just utterly boring if both my characters look the same. Fashion above everything!

Not sure if I dare to categorize this one under "Drawings". Ah well, whatever.

* Cookies are so 2012.
** Credit for this interpretation of the word 'smuggling' goes to Njessi, I think I heard her use it like this first and it's awesome.

Monday 21 October 2013

In search of the true MMO gamer

I read an excellent post by Lonegun about the free level cap character viral that roams some MMOs. It was a little rant about how they dislike this feature and it was so excellent because it started me thinking about what this thing is that we call "MMO".

Lonegun in The Rant: Leveling is a Grind over at Away From Game:
"In my opinion people who are, “bored with the slog of leveling” are not true MMO gamers." 
Ouch, well, that hurt. (Okay, maybe not all that much.)

In an MMO, I usually enjoy the 'leveling' part on my first character. But to be honest, I'm not actually enjoying the leveling itself (I care very little for that aspect and an inaudible groan escapes me each time a guildie/kinnie exclaims "DING!" in chat), I enjoy the exploration, learning how to play my character and the lore (if it interests me). If a game is designed well, I incidentally reach level cap when I've seen everything (or a bit before, so there's a bit left to explore for other characters). After I've seen what the world has to offer, then it loses its appeal when I level more alts.

What I truly love about MMOs is endgame. The challenge of getting a group together and get the best out of yourself, combined with the comradeship that emerges in a group when doing things together. This is what makes me log in with enthusiasm and keeps me interested in an MMO. I know this is not for everyone, in fact, this sort of gameplay is found in the more traditional MMOs (WoW, LotrO, SWTOR) and most new MMOs try to step away from it. However, this is what I like in MMOs, and if that makes a non-true MMO gamer (whatever that means), then so be it.

I would never buy a level capped character, though, that obliterates the whole idea of a 'game' for me. Playing my character makes me feel connected to it. It may sound strange, but my character gains worth to me with the time invested. If it is a terribly boring grind to level a character, I will just not play the game at all. Maybe this is the light in which we should see the recent get-a-level-capped-character offers: a desperate attempt to keep players interested.

I do not believe we have found the 'true MMO gamer' in Lonegun's leveler, though. In fact, I do not believe either the leveler or the hardcore end gamer necessarily represents the 'true MMO gamer'. The search continues this week in part two.

Thursday 17 October 2013

SWTOR: The obligatory trek

Whoa! What is happening to my master?

Well, Treek, you've got a lot of planets ahead of you to figure this one out...

Not even a couch surfer?

While I spend a lot of time in 'real life' enjoying movies wherein people's largest dreams are to 'explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations', my own exploratory desires leave something to wish for. It had been a month since Y-u'no reached level cap, but I still hadn't been able to get myself to travel to all those planets and collect some datacrons.

Time to deploy The Boyfriend! Since Tiger's slinger had recently hit level 55 as well, I could drag him along to show me how to get them (I SUCK at jumping!). We went for all the Cunning and Endurance datacrons per planet, using this list from SWTOR-Spy.

Got a clue already, Treek?

It's a grind

Many games have some sort of optional mechanic to get permanent stat boosts for you character. This is always some sort of grind to keep your characters busy and it's not really all that 'optional' in the sense that anyone doing hard challenges will never pass on them because not doing so will be gimping yourself in a way. I have a deep detest for any kind of grind, so the prospect of having to do this stuff already made me groan.

Then again, the deed system in LotRO is waaaay worse ("kill so-many-hundred of this type of mob in this region" or "find all these locations in this region" x 16 x 5 = a total of 80 times performing such a boring task per character). Not only do you need to find much fewer datacrons in Star Wars than you need to finish deeds in LotRO, they are also often hidden in a clever way, sometimes requiring you to solve a small puzzle in order to get to them.

These containers, held by magnets, were slowly moving around and we had to wait and jump from one to the other to get to the glowy reward up ahead.

The endurance datacron on Voss arguably took the most time, because we had to do the whole planetary quest line in order to get access. From now on I'm going to do that on any character that lands on Voss.

Also, I just looked at the picture above and it struck me how much Treek looks like a teletubbie with that antenna on her head (it's not actually on the head, but it looks like that from afar).

We managed to get all Cunning and Endurance datacrons done in one evening. Still, I wish you had to find all datacrons only once for all your characters. That would be the appropriate fun level for me: now it still feels like a grind.

So when we found our last datacron, on Makeb, it was time for a little party. With appropriate music, of course!

Wednesday 16 October 2013

SWTOR: Beware the aliens

This traffic sign on Corellia made me wonder. What would it mean? "Beware the aliens?" You would hope the whole Taris thing was buried well under the ground by now*, but I could imagine my twi'lek Y-u'no being perplexed as she halted her tauntaun to look at the sign.

On second thought, the aliens don't resemble twi'lek at all. They are more of the E.T.-phone-home type, but then the mobile version. They also look more like the archetype of evil aliens (think: Alien vs Predator) that we are to believe want to invade Earth. Or maybe I'm looking at this for too long and it just means: "watch out for people crossing the street" (with some imagination the figures represent a daddy alien with two children).

Either way, Y-u'no moved on, in search of more datacrons.

* Before the devastating bombardment, Taris was racially divided in different levels with humans living in the luxury top apartments and aliens in the cheap lower grounds. Play Knights of the Old Republic to find out more (and if you haven't played it yet, this classic is absolutely worth it!).

Monday 14 October 2013

LOTRO: Into the woods

It was time for Tiger and I to start the last area of Wildermore: the Balewood. These woods to the northwest are usually shunned by the people from Wildermore, for spooky tales surround them. Still, some fled into it after running away from Núrzum and the orcs, and we were to find them back. 

As usual, I was a bit disoriented after just having logged in and mounting my warsteed, so I decided to just mindlessly follow the green arrow on the mini-map where Tiger had disappeared. I wasn't looking very much at the surroundings, in fact, I was looking so little at them that I just managed to halt my steed before I would have fallen down a deep cliff. There lay the Balewood, and my, was it beautiful!

We of course know that this wood is one of the outer parts of Fangorn, and it looked just as magical and fairy-tale like as I imagined. Only I imagined it as being very green, but here, it was winter.

Now we got excited thinking about the Ents and other creatures that may or may not be hiding in this forest. I will write more about that in my next LotRO post.

Friday 11 October 2013

Pokémon: May contain bad language

Mirror, mirror on the wall: which song's the most awful of them all?

So Unowns. Maybe you remember how I told you that there are 26 different varieties of this pokémon species, and that I never managed to catch them all before - but now I was determined to do so. It took me several months or so, but now I have!

And remember how much I hoped there would be some sort of reward for collecting them all? Like, a special item, or maybe even a special combined Unown species to catch? Super exciting! So was there a 'reward'? Yes there was.

Scientist: "You caught all the Unown variations? That's a great achievement!"

Yes, yes, I know, and a darn boring and long one at that. Now give me the loot!


"I've set up the printer here for handling Unown. Feel free to use it anytime."

My jaw just dropped. The Pokémon printer? I mean, really? (In case you don't know, it's an extra device that you could buy and put on your Game Boy to print out pictures of your pokémon - a thing that nobody actually owned. Including me, I don't own one. And I wouldn't know what to do with a piece of paper with an Unown on it anyway, I rather drawn them and put them on my blog.) Well, that was an epic anti-climax.

But wait, there's one spot vacant at the printer, after Unown nr. 26? And what do those message on the wall, e.g. "Escape", mean? Is there another enigma after all?

Monday 7 October 2013

NBI: The harvest of one week

My harvest back in 2008 - note the oldschool SoA outfit (one of the first screenshots I ever made)

It's Monday today (I know, I was vile of me to emphasize that), but... it also means we've survived one week of the NBI, hurray!

I think almost every sponsor wrote at least one advice post this past week, which made us end up with about enough food to publish a whole book. I first planned to post them here, but when I saw their large amount (28 and counting) I became struck with a sudden strike of laziness. You can always check them out here at the source, though.

At first I was a bit worried by the low amount of newbie blogs participating - I know some say that blogging is dead, but surely it isn't that dead?! - but as the week proceeded, more and more checked in, and now I'm having a day's job checking out all these new blogs.

I've made a special blogroll with NBI initiates which you can see to the right (scroll down a bit). Be sure to check them out and leave a comment if you have the time - I remember how much that motivated me when I was a newbie myself last year. I know there are a lot of blogs on there, but picking just one to leave a comment behind is already a great thing. And if you cannot choose, I'll help you a bit here.

Three new blogs for you to check out:
  • Lyle's Grind: brand newly started and inspired by the NBI, Lyle's Grind certainly doesn't look at all repetitive as the title implies. Lyle writes about all sorts of games and mentions tribbles in a post, so this is a blog I cannot ignore.
  • The Cynic Dialogues: a recently revived blog in which Scree is currently investigating new games on the horizon. I'm enthusiastic about the prospect of another blogger who might get into TESO and for the most part just can't look away because the layout looks so darn nice.
  • Crucible Gaming: no official newbie of the NBI, but a new blog nevertheless that I discovered earlier this week. Much to my surprise, Sig writes about LotRO and SWTOR: my favourite subjects! A must-check for everyone interested in these games.

That was it, keep blogging, commenting and see you around with the NBI!

Friday 4 October 2013

Using a pseudonym

Ravanel Griffon is not my real name. (Noooooooooooo! She deluded us! REVOLT!)

As I'm sure you're aware of, some people use their real name, and some use a pseudonym when blogging. And while scouting about around blogs, I sometimes stumble upon the following thought:

"Using your real name makes your blogging more professional." 

This also implies the opposite: using a pseudonym makes your blog being perceived as less professional, therefore having less credibility, less meaning. And guess what, this is not true.

Hence I thought it was refreshing to see Tobold (a quite successful blogger using a pseudonym himself, may I add) write a post 'in defence of the pseudonym'. He made me think "ah yes, that's why I write as Ravanel Griffon". And then I thought this might just be the thing to ramble on about in the light of the NBI, so here it comes.

The pro's of a gaming identity

Tobold in Survival and identity (Tobold's blog):
I am a scientist, and I have written publications in scientific journals as well as a bunch of patents. Now imagine somebody is doing a Google search on my real name for some professional reason: Obviously I do want him to find the stuff I have written professionally. But Google sorts search results by popularity, and games are a lot more popular than hard science. So if I had written my blog under my real name, my professional identity would have been buried in the search results.
I'm not ashamed of my activities as a gaming blogger. I think the idea that gaming is a waste of time is old fashioned and done for. Gaming is a fun way to pass your time and as long as you're not overdoing it there's nothing wrong with it - and this pretty much counts for any type of leisure activity. There's nothing wrong with blogging either: if anything, it's a very brain active hobby that trains both writing and networking skills. So why do I then 'hide' behind my gaming identity?

Indeed sometimes I feel like I should actually use my real name to make a statement and show people it's okay to game, but that is not the main purpose of this blog (it would look different if it would be, I tell you). I think Tobold hit the nail on the head.

It's fine as it is. People I know through gaming know me as Rav, and finding me as such on this blog is only logical to them. That I blog is no secret for people I know in 'real life', and if they're interested I'll give them the link. But if you look for Ravanel Griffon you'll get gaming related stuff, and if you look for my real name, you'll get professional stuff. It's just more convenient this way.

In the end, using a pseudonym isn't strange at all. Think about the book industry, where it is commonly accepted for authors to use one. Singers also often use pseudonyms and nobody is surprised with that. This doesn't make these people less credible. Why would blogging be any different?

Finally, Tobold gives some good advice on how to pick a virtual name, so make sure to check his post out.

But I want to use my real name!

Well, that's fine too, of course. Maybe you work in the gaming industry and want your name found related to your blog. Or you want to show your blog to all your friends without having to explain who Pwnmeister xBloodbathx is. Main point is, your gaming identity will reflect on your real name and will become fused with your online identity, and that is something you should be aware of.

My advice in this post therefore is: use whatever name you want, but make a conscious choice.

To conclude, if you're a blogger and reading this: what name do you use and why did you choose to do so? Write in the comments or write your own post about it. It would be interesting to hear and, who knows, it might even help a few newbies making a choice.

Thursday 3 October 2013

SWTOR: Flavour of the month

Look at that smug face

Hey all, this is Yuniper. Yuniper is a flavour-of-the-month (FOTM) operative. As I wrote earlier, healing operatives are in a very good spot at the moment, beating other healers left and right, especially in arenas. So that's why I'm superbusy leveling mine. Because I'm only interested in PWNing others, obviously.

I could of course instead be totally hipster and play a class that is currently in a weak to mediocre spot before it is cool.

I always think of the FOTM question that rises in every MMO now and then as amusing. There are people who get totally wound up about playing a class that is in a better spot than others and refuse to play one, or accuse others of playing one. Some might actually swap their main for another class because they don't want to be playing a "FOTM-class". Many do of course roll and play one instead "for lolz".

Me, I won't stop playing my sorcerer healer just because she's less optimal for some type of fights, because I love the class to bits. But I will level my operative because it seems the only way to get a taste of ranked PvP.

Monday 30 September 2013

SWTOR: The Corellia run

I got this shot when I was hunting for datacrons with Tiger's slinger Lyell. Somehow I really like it. My twi'lek is just walking away on this strange tilted platform, but seems to hesitate when good-looking Lyell comes running towards her from the opposite side. "Wait!"

There's this tension as if a story is just about to unfold. Or probably that's just my overactive imagination.

Friday 27 September 2013

Sims 3: Elaine's outfits

When a Sim grows into another life phase, the computer makes up random new outfits and - much to my dismay - saves it over the existing ones. When Elaine grew up to be a young adult, I thought it was time to give her a proper look. All her time tagging walls and making ground murals got her more interested in art and she slowly lost interest in skulls, roses and working in the deep night on the graveyard (she came home with a terrified moodlet each day, and street art turned out to be more rewarding anyway). So it was time to rip the rose out of her hair and get some serious outfits going.

Purple, black and bright green

As with all in-game fashion, I invested a ridiculous amount of time to come up with all the outfits, so I thought I could just as well post them here. Maybe it can be a source of inspiration or amusement. Enjoy!

Elaineportrait Elaine Elaine 3

F.l.t.r.: 1) Tiger hates this outfit with a passion. So much actually, that I he kept bugging me with negative comments for the whole Saturday. Without going into specifics, I do like the bit of odd combination now and then. I guess it's refreshing that I'm not the only one having such a passion over outfits for a change. 2) This is what I imagine Elaine wearing on a cold rainy day when she's inside. Cosy-looking but a tad rebellious on second glance with the purple boots and fingerless gloves. 3) An artsy outfit for a visit to the museum.

Elaineportrait Elaine Elaine

F.l.t.r.: 4) A formal outfit that could also work for a normal day. 5) A hip outfit that could work for both formal and normal days. This might actually be my favorite of the group. 6) A chique dress suitable for a gala. My least favorite of all outfits, but will work for those occasions.

Delilah Delilah Delilah

F.l.t.r. 7) Sports outfit. Elaine seems to be a fan of Brazil. 8) Hip pajamas. If you stare at these long enough you'll get dizzy and fall over without any effort on your side. 9) Cute bikini slightly outside of the colour palette.

Thursday 26 September 2013

NBI: Start your own gaming blog

Ever read Ravalation and thought: hey, I could do that as well? Well, maybe not, but for me that was exactly what I thought when I read the blog of another gamer and blogger, Lothirieth, over a year ago. I decided to give it a try, and here I am. 

Making a start with blogging is hard. You might feel insecure about what you write, or irrelevant because nobody knows you're out there yet - I know I did. But if you've ever considered starting a gaming-related blog, or have one you don't feel is quite finished, this is your chance. Starting October 1st, the second Newbie Blogger Initiative (NBI) will start off, giving newbie gaming bloggers all over the blogosphere a great headstart.

This year's hotspots:
  • NBI Headquarters: this brand new website is a portal to the NBI community with news and some good advice articles to get you started. 
  • Register at the NBI forum and write a post in the Newbie Blogger Check-in so people will know where to find your blog. This is the place where you can freely ask any questions and will get answers from experienced bloggers.
  • This time there's going to be extras with challenges, events and mentors - I'm certainly excited to see where this is all heading.

For me this is going to be a special time because I participated as a newbie last year, and now I'll be a sponsor! So hopefully I picked up enough to be of some use in this.

Hopefully see you there during the NBI 2 event!

Wednesday 25 September 2013

SWTOR: A preliminary look into arenas

In about a week, the PvP update will be released and arenas will be added to the game. So I thought now would be the right time give you a look into what to expect (and totally not because I've been slacking with finishing this post of course! *cough*).

You all know my great sorrow after the news that 8vs8 ranked warzones are going to be removed from the game, but I'm a positive girl, so I tried to cheer myself up by investigating their replacement: 4vs4 arenas. So for the first time in my life, I copied my characters to the public test server (PTS) and tried some out. This is what I experienced:

Epic dramatic background music would've been appropriate. My apologies for the lack thereof.

Sorcs & sages in arenas

After I got stomped several times on healing sage Ravanel I swapped to healing sorcerer Fárah instead - she has way better PvP gear so that has to count for something, right? RIGHT?

To clarify, I'm talking about healing sorcs here, my main spec and the one I use in ranked. 

So what happened? Even on my properly geared sorc we got stomped and stomped. I recorded those matches on video and watched them back, but I couldn't see any significant mistakes I made. Sorc healers everywhere notice how they are now getting enough heals off in warzones and fail to keep the group alive.

Right now, healing sorcerers aren't viable in arenas against a group of similar skill with an operative healer. The same counts for mercenary healers.

Why? Because class balance issues present in 8vs8 warzones get exacerbated and become very significant in 4vs4 where pressure is high and the only objective is to kill the others. Remember:
1) Defensive cooldowns: these are non-existent apart from Force Barrier, which use doesn't allow you to do anything else (= rest of the team dies)
2) Spec shutdown: Interrupt Healing Trance/Innervate and there's only the slow Deliverance/Dark Infusion or the force insufficient Benevolence/Dark Heal left. Provided you get them off. The AoE heal Salvation/Revivivication is a hotspot that people need to fysicially stand in, making themselves vulnerable to smashers.
3) Force management: It's inevitable to run out of force after a while. With constant pressure on you, it's suicidal to use Noble Sacrifice/Consumption to get force back (it damages your health).

Wait, doesn't this list sound somewhat familiar?

So, what happens to Heal 2 Full, line of sight and let them pay for trying to kill you? Well, I guess you can heal to full if you're line of sighting and healing yourself. However, the rest of the team will die in the meanwhile.

Operatives do have defensive cooldowns (Dodge and Shield Probe) and they can keep on healing when they are up. If they would need to line of sight, they can have HoTs on the rest of their team that will still heal them.

A glance into the crystal ball

Now all of this is of course officially 'subject to change'. However, I think the three recent dev answers to exactly the sorc problems mentioned here aren't exactly a source of great hope (they basically told us to live with these problems and learn to play). We can expect no class updates within the coming months.

What what are my options?
  • Keep playing healing sorc: you probably can get away with this in regular warzones when playing against a team with less experience, however it won't be viable in ranked.
  • Switch to DPS sorc: even though these are squishy as well, they can still deal okay damage. I'll never be as good on a DPS class as I am on healer, though.
  • Roll an operative: this is basically what every ranked healing sorc on my server is doing. I'll need to level Yuniper up all the way from level 18 onwards, and I'm not sure if I like operative heals as much as sorc.
  • Play a DPS class: the highest one I'm not utterly crap at is a sniper, but she's level 20 or so still. I doubt I'll be able to play her on ranked quality though.

So what does the ball predict?

First, the servers will be overflown with scoundrel/operative healers, since the other healing classes are way behind. Guardian/juggernauts are also preferable to shadows/assassins in arenas, so we might see a bit more of them as well.

As free-to-play players will get unlimited access to warzones, we'll find a higher amount of casual players in our warzones who are unfamiliar with the mechanics. Arenas will be mixed with the other warzones - there will be no option to pick whether you want to play them or not when you queue. This might encourage people to play deathmatch in other warzones as well (as opposed to following objectives).

The 'base group' for an arena will consist of:
  • guardian/juggernaut tank
  • scoundrel/operative healer 
  • 2x DPS class

However, players on the PTS have already been experimenting with other group compositions that might be fun to try out.

Alternative group compositions

"Super Dong Cleave"

Source: (AioriBFZ' twitch stream)

To the left a regular team (voice chat is theirs), to the right the "Super Dong Cleave" team.

This setup revolves around having 3 or 4 DPS vanguards/powertechs spamming loads of AoE damage. Will work until groups learn to position themselves so that they are never grouped up (although they will be pulled into the AoE now and then).

Madness sorcs

Source: (mudclot's twitch stream, start from 3:40)

This group stacks Madness sorcs, heavily depending on DoTs. Without healing sorcs in the opposite team (as a result of the aforementioned) or due to the sheer number of DoTs players are getting attached to themselves, damage output is pretty crazy.


Knowing that I won't be able to play my favorite class in ranked greatly diminishes my initial curiosity/careful enthusiasm for arenas. In addition, I don't think arenas are 'for me'. For as far as you're able to make any objective opinion after getting stomped over and over, I thought the lack of objectives and constant killing made the gameplay plainly boring. The experience strangely enough reminded me a bit of shooter games, which I really don't enjoy playing. 

Winning or losing a warzone will depend strongly on what class composition you have and are up against. From what people have tried out on the PTS, either the basic team or stacking classes is a win. There's a fat chance people will want to play it safe by taking the jugg x op x DPS composition. I think this is a shame, as I believe class diversity is something that makes warzones more fun. Everyone playing the same classes is just (excuse me for saying it again) boring.

That said, we can't be sure how big the influence of arenas will be since there are still the old warzones mixed in the regular warzone queue. Also, regular warzones will be less affected than ranked ones. I do look forward to trying Dong Cleave for giggles with my vanguard, and I just hope I'll discover the (hopefully existing) charm of arenas when the time is there.

With many thanks to Tiger for keeping me up to date with all the arena streams posted.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Sims 3: Life in a penthouse

Granny is getting quite old by now, and after having become a three-star celebrity master chef and earned quite a bit, I thought I would grant her her wish to move to a penthouse. Elaine helped to bring some cash in by tagging some walls for the municipality (my guess is that they decided they rather give out commissions to her than have to deal with the stuff all over town being out of control) and after three days of hard work (Delilah even asked her blog followers for more donations, but this only brought 30 simoleons more to the table) they had gathered enough.

The new house! It has two floors and almost twice the space of the previous flat. Finally no bunk bed anymore now the girls are growing up. However, there was no place for granny's bed as a result, so she'll have to sleep on the balcony for the last days of her life.

The household actually made some money back by selling the old kitchen equipment, as that of the penthouse was already very good. The furniture was very depressingly dark brown, though, so I replaced it and made a new design. Fluo green is the new red, I suppose. Oh, and there's some lilac in the girl's room as well, to keep things a bit happy. Elaine is out of luck: no skull design in the new house, but I think she's getting over that phase a bit.

The most epic thing was installing a bubble bath on the balcony. My Sims run out there to skinny dip all the time. It gets better at night.

Now it was just time to wait and see grandma drop dead and get rid of the bed on the balcony. However, granny didn't seem to want to die. Even though her aging bar was totally filled, the Grim Reaper refused to pay the house a visit. I guess even for Sims death comes unexpected.

Oops, now it was already time for the eldest of the two, Elaine, to grow up into a young adult! She got a special birthday dress and all her schoolmates were invited. I think she tried very hard not to mind the shrimp she got as a birthday present (being a vegetarian).

And I had to spend an hour sorting out new outfits for Elaine, because the computer gave her a horrendous-looking makeover. But the drama had already occurred: one teenager already grew up, so my whole party-teenagers-living-together-without-elder idea has failed. What will happen next? Will granny survive Delilah growing up as well? Find out in the next Sims post.