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Coming Up

I’m going to have issues in the near future keeping up with everything that’s going on. Namely, gaming is going to have to take a back seat to work and school. Here’s what’s going on…

Currently I’m working nearly 40 hours a week, 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. Starting this Thursday, every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday will have an evening class going from 7pm to nearly 10pm. I’ll have an indeterminate amount of weekly homework to do and my “social obligations” to keep up. As a result, I’m going to be having less and less time to game. All that said, here are the things I’m very much looking forward to…

Civilization: Beyond Earth

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Any and all updates for Star Wars: The Old Republic

The upcoming patch for Diablo III

Now, the two game releases are coming in October and I’ve already got my copy of Borderlands coming to me (courtesy of the free copy I got at PAX East from the fine folks at 2K and Gearbox) and I need to pre-order Civ on Steam.

The upcoming things for SWTOR and Diablo III are big content updates that excite and thrill me (namely Galactic Strongholds and patch 2.1.0 respectively).

Anyway, I’ve got plenty of things to look forward to and in the meantime, I can’t guarantee having enough to talk about here. If I miss a Monday here or there, I hope it’s understood I’m just busy and very possibly have nothing to share.

Until next time!

 – Thomas

P.S. “Better to wear out than to rust out.” – Bishop Cumberland

 

Customer Service Follow-up

This past Thursday I submitted what I thought was a second customer service ticket in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Basically it solved my issue.

It turns out that the same bug that ate my cartel coins also probably interfered with my ticket submission. So, waiting until Thursday to file a second ticket probably wasn’t the best of ideas.

That said, Friday morning I had a response from customer service. They had refunded me my 600 cartel coins and informed me about what had probably happened to my first ticket.

I’m so glad that I was able to get through to CS after a while. I understand that they’re hardworking people and they don’t get a lot of gratitude (mainly because there’s not any real feedback they can get unless they hang out on the forums and that place is the land of negativity). I love how quickly they were able to resolve things for me and I really appreciate the help. I didn’t want to be frustrated with SWTOR and I’m glad I’m no longer.

I went and bought my 13th character slot on Saturday and then went and bought an unlock for a friend… and totally forgot that it takes a day and a half to cool down before I could trade it. Oops.

Anyway, I’ve been playing my Trooper Vanguard in SWTOR lately and I’d like to bang out some more of Taris tonight.

Until next time!

- Thomas

P.S. “Delighted customers are the only advertisement everyone believes.” – Ron Kaufman

The Customer Service Tango

I was poking at Star Wars: The Old Republic this past Saturday, and I decided that I wanted to mess around in the character creator without deleting any of my people. Well, as it turns out I had 12 characters and had to buy a new slot. Not a problem. With my monthly stipend of 600 cartel coins, a new character slot was only a few clicks away… or so I had thought.

I opened the Cartel Market, found the Additional Character Slot unlock item, and clicked Buy Now. I got a tiny error message (that I don’t remember what it specifically said) and then nothing happened. Except I still lost 600 cartel coins. There was nothing in my Unclaimed Items page, nothing in my inventory, and I still had 12 character slots. I was confused.

So, I logged out and back in. No change. I switched characters. Nope. I poked around a bit longer but then filed a customer service ticket in game. Alas, upon submitting the ticket, it vanished. Apparently there’s a bug that makes your tickets disappear from your Help Ticket History upon submission. I don’t know if it went through and I don’t remember exactly what I said. Lovely.

Let me say that I absolutely love Star Wars: The Old Republic. I have a six month subscription and I’ve had it since the game launched back in December 2011 (well, technically since January 2012 but that’s because I got a free month with the collector’s edition). I understand that bugs happen and it’s okay. I also understand that customer service may have not gotten to my ticket yet or it may have been eaten by the system. These things happen from time to time and I’m not sore about it.

However, I did pay for something that I didn’t get and that irks me on a more visceral level. So… I think I need to make a forum post tonight about it. I gave them Sunday and Monday to get back to me about it, so now it’s time to hit the forums and see what happens.

Watch as they get back to me as I write my forum post.

Until next time!

- Thomas

P.S. “The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.” – Jeff Bezos

Multiplay FTW

This past weekend I spent some time playing some Diablo III and Civilization V with my friends. Hands down, some of the most fun I’ve had is with my crazy friends in games.

In Diablo III, the goal was to get a friend’s Demon Hunter some better equipment. The legendaries just kept dropping for him and we were laughing about how he was getting all the items and the Witch Doctor wasn’t getting any.

In Civilization V, I started a game with one friend where he’s America and I’m Venice. Then with him and two other friends, we did another game (he’s still America, I’m still Venice, but my other friends are Shoshone and Polynesia).

These days it’s not as easy as I’d like it to schedule time with my friends. Everyone’s getting or is already married, there’s kids, jobs, other friends. Everything’s perfectly understandable. This is, I think, one of the few times in the last several years where we’ve been able to arrange four player gaming for hours on end. It was really great and a lot more fun than I remember.

Sure, you can play these games alone, but sometimes, playing with friends just blows single player out of the water.

Until next time!

- Thomas

P.S. “The better part of one’s life consists of his friendships.” – Abraham Lincoln

Increasing Difficulty, Doesn’t Feel Like It – Diablo III

I played a ton of Diablo III this weekend, but the key thing that happened was I kicked the difficulty up from Torment I to Torment III and I didn’t really notice much of a change (other than the random death that was considerably more rare in Torment I).

What happened to push me into higher difficulty settings? Well it really only took one legendary sword.

I was playing along, using my Blackhand Key wand and I stumbled across this sword, Thunderfury. The version I have is far better than the one in the link, but essentially, that’s what it is. I slapped a Flawless Royal Emerald into the socket and immediately noticed a significant damage increase. Why? It turns out that when you have a near 50% critical hit chance (like I did), increasing your critical damage by 130% has a really big impact on your damage output. To the tune of making Torment I so easy I was getting bored and Torment II was almost as easy.

After that, the special equipment just started coming my way. Long story short, I now have three of the five pieces of Tal Rasha’s Elements, Mirrorball, and I’m well on my way to finishing out two other sets that I may use depending on my whimsy.

I even adjusted my build. No longer do I use Arcane Torrent, I now pelt enemies with Meteor Shower. I replaced the passive Evocation with Elemental Exposure. So now I’m hitting with ice (from Glacial Spike), lightning (courtesy of Thunderfury and Supermassive Black Hole), arcane (thanks to Cannoneer), and fire (from the meteors). That gives me and my allies a 20% bonus to damage (optimally if I’ve connected on an enemy with all four elements) thanks to Elemental Exposure.

Another reason for dropping Arcane Torrent: while it WAS doing tons of damage, it forced me to stand still while dumping my arcane power. Too much standing still doesn’t allow for a lot of survivability. Also, it just didn’t feel super satisfying to hit things. Glacial Spike is incredibly satisfying with how it smacks into things. Black Hole is very satisfying with how it just pulls most of the enemies into it, allowing me to fire Glacial Spike/Cannoneer into them or even Meteor Showers.

Here, take a look at my character (if you can, I’m not sure how well it works). While the sheet says my damage is in the 700k range (right now) I can regularly get that number up to over 1 million. I often crit for damage in the range of 2.5 – 4.5 million per hit (give or take) so I’m not sure how accurate that sheet number is, but there it is. I’m still enjoying how much damage I do and Torment III is just as easy as Torment I was before this windfall of equipment (pretty easy).

The take-away here is I’m having so much fun in Diablo III and I’m looking forward to the new patch and introduction of new things (which I talked about a few weeks ago).

Until next time!

- Thomas

P.S. Enjoy this old Blizzard joke.

Too Old? Never!

Today I was talking to someone at work about how they’re redesigning Batgirl and she’s looking really great (and practically dressed which is a plus with me). Another person mentioned that they thought I was too old for comics and I said something to the effect of “I’m a Toys R Us kid! I’m never growing up!”

Obviously, such a statement, “you’re too old for that,” is thrown around by people who aren’t aware of the breadth and depth of mediums such as comics and even video games. As this is a gaming blog, I’m going to tackle the game portion.

First, let’s look at the games themselves. Do they have an age ceiling? Nope. Do they have a minimum age? Some do. So, some can’t (well, SHOULDN’T) be played too young, but they’re available to anyone over that age up to the limit of our natural lives. Cool.

Although, I’m sure she’s not referring to LEGALLY aging out of them though. How about maturing past the content?

Sure, there are some games that I’m way too old for and I’m definitely not the target market any more. I grew up playing Number Munchers, Mixed-Up Mother Goose Rhymes, Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego? and several others that were obviously designed with children in mind. I don’t really have a desire to play them today and they’re all far too easy for me now. No real challenges there (except maybe Carmen Sandiego). How about the other games I grew up with? Well, Starflight, Civilization, Sim City, X-Wing, and X-COM were all marketed to adults. Starflight was such a massive game, my Dad took a very methodical approach to it, mapping out every wormhole, each special artifact, and more on the map that came with the game. If you ever come across the map we have, you could probably beat the game with it. Civilization and Sim City are powerhouse franchises today, made by and played by people of every age group, but back then they had rather steep learning curves and it took some serious dedication (that children usually don’t come pre-built with) to master. X-Wing was one of several flight sims from the age when you were either in the Star Wars camp or the Wing Commander camp (I didn’t play Wing Commander until WC3 came out and I finally played the first two when I got to college) and there was no guarantee you could get your computer to play them without a potential video or sound card upgrade (which typically required being an adult). X-COM scared the crap out of me as a kid (those damn Chryssalids and their creepy grins) and still spooks me today, but I played that for almost 20 years, and even then, I’m playing the remake which will probably keep me playing another 20 or more years.

I think this issue with being too old for something is more a misperception of the medium in question. Comics have been viewed in the past as only a thing for children, but now the stories are more mature and tackle a wide variety of issues. In fact, they’ve been extremely mature for decades now.  Someone saying that you can be too old for comics hasn’t educated themselves enough regarding the material and thus, probably should either be given an opportunity to educate themselves or, failing that, should be left alone in their old-fashioned beliefs. No longer is it just Garfield bemoaning Mondays or Snoopy stealing Linus’ blanket. It’s a young woman being paralyzed by a murderous villain but surviving and becoming a source of inspiration to many. It’s a group of uniquely talented people coming together in adverse conditions to address a threat to society and life as we know it, overcoming their own personal foibles in an effort to do good. It’s a being from another world, or even just someone who’s different somehow, just trying to fit in.

So too it is with video games. They have never been solely a child’s plaything, they have given us incredible mental challenges to overcome, they’ve taxed our resolve, they’ve allowed us to step away from our daily grind and into a fantasy realm that was once only the purview of movies, music, books, and art. While some games attract children for the bright colors and flashy graphics, other games attract older folk for deeper, more nuanced reasons and can be appreciated in a much wider way. I can say with certainty that I have been as equally drawn into a good game as into a good book, a good movie, a good song, a good comic book. There’s that feeling upon finishing such a thing that is nearly indescribable. You know you’ve experienced a significant thing and you’re simultaneously breathless and sad and happy and lost and you don’t know whether or not to restart and try to recapture the experience or to step away and digest.

If growing up means being too old for comics and games, then I’ll never grow up. Of course, it helps I’m a Toys R Us kid.

Until next time!

- Thomas

P.S. This feels appropriate.

 

 

Laughing While Gaming

This weekend I was playing Mass Effect 3 multiplayer and decided to tap the Krogan Warlord Sentinel for play. It’s a predominantly melee based character, so never having really played him before, I poked around online and found some build advice for the skillset.

What I discovered was sheer joy.

Seriously. I spent every match running all over every map, “slapping” enemies out of the way, headbutting, and swinging my giant hammer imbued with biotic energy to one-hit-kill Brutes and more.

Built properly, the Krogan Warlord is a nigh-unstoppable juggernaut. That said, he’s only “nigh-unstoppable” because he can get synch-killed by Banshee’s and others if he’s not careful. I ran headlong into an insta-death at the pointy ends of a Praetorian and it wasn’t fun.

Now, the laughing part… whenever the Krogan Warlord starts his rage, he laughs. After some kills he laughs. With this preponderance of laughing, first you smile, then you start to laugh a little bit, then you’re cheering and laughing with abandon. He’s running, smacking enemies, laughing, and it’s so much fun!

Anyway, I thought I’d share that today. Games that make us laugh are difficult to make and this little thing here was a total surprise. I don’t think I’ll play him all the time, but he’s certainly a favorite.

Until next time!

- Thomas

P.S. “Now we can get back to doing what Krogan do best: saving everyone else from giant monsters.” – Urdnot Wrex

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