Chit Chats are Good

I wonder if water and pop have the same effect as beer and coffee.  There’s a greasing of the wheels if you will, when the latter is offered.  Having a chat with a friend just seems to go better when those are around.  Even as a kid it was the coffee shop.

I’ve been doing some chatting these past few weeks with various folks, talking about personal and professional goals. From a professional front, I think we tend to want to talk to people who have gone through something similar, to get perspective.  I don’t mean shop talk, I mean actual career discussions.  I usually work with a Plan™, where each steps in my career is rather thought out.  I find the job that can use my skills but also provide me new ones.  I tend not to do the same thing for very long, maybe a couple years, before moving on to the next challenge.  The good/bad news is that due to the project I’ve been working on, that progress has been accelerated at an incredible pace, where I’m now into the 5-10 year window of where I planned to be.  So this is uncharted waters for the most part and I’m a solid 15-20 years younger than everyone I work with.  With 2 young kids.  It’s not that I’m bad at the job, just the opposite – it’s that the expectations of the position require some sacrifices at home, which I’m not really willing to do anymore.  Suffice it to say, this past year has been a heck of a ride and I’m trying now to get a better handle on it all – with varying degrees of success.

On the personal side, it has taken a very, very long time to find someone impartial with whom I can have an honest conversation.  Oh, there’s always family and the close circle of friends for sure, but there are certain topics that require, um, a certain skill set to discuss.  I am often unable to communicate ideas that are crystal clear in my mind, due to their sheer complexity and nuance.  It’s one of the main reasons I write this blog actually, to practice communicating ideas.  My wife and I were talking about this problem last week, and the list of folk on the list of “talk about anything” can be counted on one hand.  I have friends with whom I can talk sports, other philosophy, others science, others IT – some even cross across multiple fields.  Those that cross ALL the fields, those are really hard to find.  So when I found a professional that I gelled with, it was a really cathartic feeling.  Exhausting is a better term actually, since I typically don’t have the opportunity to talk about anything.  Having to think/analyze/absorb a complex conversation is fun.  And the beauty of it, is that afterwards I have the toolset to communicate it more effectively with my family/friends.  I know a lot of people have issues with mental health, and just finding someone with whom to connect makes a world of difference.


I did another veteran expedition, Space Madness. It’s a 15 minute run, if not less.  It’s such a massive contrast to some of the other expeditions, 30+ minutes in length, that I’m thinking I’m going to skip those other ones in the future.  The rewards are the same, though the longer ones have a few more enemies to kill.  Not enough to make the drop increases to be meaningful mind you.

I also spent a bit of time trying to figure out my tailor skill stream.  With drop 6, every tier got massively simplified – 2 items each, plus a “capstone” for extra points in the talent tree.  I took a look at the auction house and there isn’t a single “Master” level crafted item present, which is making me wonder if it’s worth the time/effort to pump up the skill.  I have more than enough plat to get there mind you… so I set some buy orders for material and we’ll see where that ends up.

In the meantime, I need to figure out why the load times are so dang slow.  The gaming laptop is about 6 months old and top of the line, so…there be something wonky somewhere.

Wildstar – I Goes Squish

I was pretty gassed out yesterday.  My eldest was in the same boat, taking a solid 12 hour snooze.  My wife is on a kick to redecorate the house, which is ok by me, but my ability to appreciate her efforts isn’t exactly stellar.  She spent a bit at the store, came back with bags and bags of knickknacks that seemed neat but I was just too out of it to really pay enough attention.  To bed I went and was out for 10 hours.

This weekend, I’ll make sure to spend the time focused on this redecorating.  It’ll be a nice change to the house and really allow us to put more of our own touch to what’s around us.


I mentioned yesterday that my power output had increased.  I ran a couple more tests and this is still accurate, for the most part.  Regular enemies die slightly faster than I recall, so it makes clearing some quests and expeditions all that easier.  Mind you, some are long as all heck.  Deep Space Exploration is nearly 40 minutes long, solo.  I enjoy it and the story but wowza, it takes forever.  I could clear all of Star Basin in that time, twice.

Where the power output has not increased is in elite enemies.  I clearly do not have enough strikethrough, as enemy armor is huge.  In the previous fight length, say 2 minutes or so, I could clear these guys, self-heal and allow my mini-pet to tank.  Today in the same time frame, I can barely get them down by 10%.

Which brings me to the next topic, crafting.  Top-level crafting was rejigged.  Instead of existing on its own, there’s a penultimate level which is a good level 50 entry point.  Then the top level has 3 specific tiers, one for dungeons, and then for the 2 raids – each recipe uses crafting vouchers to unlock.  Vouchers are acquired through crafting quests – not terribly hard to do.  Crafting the first item set requires some ingredients that are somewhat hard to acquire on your own (in that you can’t farm them, you need to open bags) but they have a decent power level.  The last 2 can be crafted but only unlock fully if you’ve cleared parts of the actual raids… so not much worth on the market.

I bought a few recipes, put in some buy order for the material (which is 50% less than the Buy Now option) and logged off for the night.  If things go well, I’ll have a few new pieces to craft tonight, focused nearly entirely on Strikethrough, to make those elites a whole lot easier to run.

And that’s just my DPS set…

Of note, I’ve updated both Esper guides – DPS and Healing.

Wildstar – Returning to Nexus

I was finally able to really log in to Wildstar and see a bit about what had changed.  Yay!  The good/bad news is that it’s mostly quality of life stuff.

The downside is the sheer expansion of consumables related to the item store.  I need to do more looking at that aspect.  Filling up a rested experience bar with a potion is a weird thing, but it’s just a time saver really.  I never found the leveling portion to be boring but I’m guessing I’m in the minority on that.

Stats have been renamed but function nearly the same as before.  Runes have been overhauled and while the interface is slightly different and the balance between them better, it’s not like the entire system was redone.  Crafting at the top level has changed a lot.  The activity of crafting is the same but the recipes are all different.

And that was the largest change for me.  My Esper had a decent amount of crafter gear equipped as I had not raided or run any dungeons in a long while.  I logged on to a full mailbox and an nearly naked character.  Since the items no longer exist, I was provided a crafting token to make a new one.  This part was neat.  Items have a sliding bar between DPS and support mode.  Instead of a random set of stats to select while crafting, you can now manually select what stats show up.  What this means is that there is a whole lot less RNG involved, which is a great quality of life improvement.  Crafting top tier items was crazy expensive, and replaced in short order, making crafting more or less useless outside of runes.

Combat is the same as before, though the power curve seems to have shifted a bit.  Maybe it’s that the gear has more power now… I’m not quite sure.  I ran a shiphand mission (called expedition now) and it was much easier than the previous runs.  I need to try some 5+ bosses to really get a verdict though, as those were usually tight affairs to solo on the Esper.

My housing plot seems to have exploded in size, near 4x what it was.  That is going to take quite a few hours to decorate.  I really liked the previous size, as the limitation meant that you had to be creative.  At this size, I’m a little perplexed why they didn’t make it account bound instead of per character.  I know I can teleport between them – which I do – but it’s still awkward.

Skill unlocks seem to be gone, which is awesome.  That was always an annoying part of the game that didn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Our guild bank was littered with skills that no one needed because they dropped 100x more than the ones that did.  AMP/ skill point unlocks are still there, as a goal for the elder gem (EG) folk.  This of it as an AA system really, that only truly takes effect at max level. There are a few spots to unlock these points, so it’s not like you’re forced to do it one way.  Maybe the drops on this have been fixed, I’ll have to check.

There’s no new content per se, so if you’re looking for more dungeons or adventures you’ll have to wait.  My guess would be not too long mind you, given that the people playing are not terribly likely to be new players as much as returning players.  They have 5 drops of content to get through, which is good for sure, but it would be hard to argue that the staff working on the F2P swap had anything to do with the content group (art, design, combat design).  Fingers crossed on that one.

Next up will be an adventure run, maybe a vet dungeon too.  I think I’ll level another alt too (I have an Engineer at max already) to see if the power/skill curve while leveling has been fixed.  I was kinda hoping that NCSoft would have put in a dungeon system like FF14 but I guess that’s for another post.

Reading the Patterns

My wife plays ball hockey, I play ice hockey.  She plays in a rec league, I play in men’s competitive and one group for pickup.  She’s adamant that the nicest man on the planet turns into an ape once you put a hockey stick in their hands.  I am not one to disagree.

The concept of competiveness for me is deeply associated with scope.  Rec/pickup is meant to just have fun and socialize.  At the end of the game, you’re going to see the opponents and have a beer with them.  It doesn’t make sense to take a whack at their knees.  Sometimes the blood boils, I get it, but it still strikes me as odd.  I know personally I tend to laugh the entire game, though there are certainly bouts of open frustration when you hit a string of bad luck.

Competitive though, that’s a different ball game.  You don’t usually have a beer with the opponents, so there’s certainly some bad blood that brews between both sides, usually just a couple players though.  The expectations are different as well.  It’s not so much about winning, because you can’t win them all.  It is however about trying.

I play on 3 teams, one of which has a much lower skill average than the others.  Well, to a degree I suppose.  The team itself is in a division of equally skilled players, so at the end it often turns into a meetup of mistakes.  Players who put effort, regardless of their skill set, build some level of confidence and improve – those that coast are really just spectators in the game.  That part really grinds my gears something fierce.

Skill is an interesting topic, if I can take a small tangent.  I remember a study where chess masters were presented a board for a few seconds and then it was hidden.  They then were able to replicate the board, piece for piece, without fail.  They did this because these were boards of actual games, where strategies were applied.  They tried again with boards that were setup by kids who didn’t know any of the rules, and few of the masters were able to copy the boards.  The lack of skill/understanding removed all patterns from the game.   Sports are a lot like this.  There is a certain pattern to a well-played game, and you can see this in most professional sports.  No look passes are a great example.  People just know where to be.  When you remove skill from that equation…the patterns go away.  It makes for rough going sometimes.

Greater Rifts

Following a bit on the theme of patterns, at higher GR levels, there are specific movement & skill patterns that need to be applied.  You can just go Rambo at the lower levels and bulldoze your way through but on the higher tiers, you’re going to suck floor.

The WD has an interesting pattern in GRs compared to Monks.  Depending on the gear set, you have more or less control of what’s going on.  Getting large packs together is harder, as your movement skills are a fair bit limited.  Using mimics (Grin Reaper) further complicates this, as they randomly cast their spells.  I understand the basic elements but the complex movements are still a learning process.  When to use the Wall, when and where to use Bears, when to use Haunt.  It’s all a neat little dance.  When it works out, you feel rewarded.  When it doesn’t, you feel cheated or pretty dumb.

The Monk on the other hand…you just flit around the screen massing up big piles of enemies.  You snapshot a decent EP, then learn to spread it in the group.  There’s more circling involved, a lot of quick jabs to keep the buffs up, but the actual skill use is simple.  Press SSS and things blow up.  I mean it sounds simple, and on paper it is, but in practice you need to get the timing down.

I like the challenge greater rifts apply here.  There’s more granular control on the difficulty than simply jumping up Torment levels and a much higher skill cap.  I think GR82 is the current record for group play, which would put it somewhere near uh, T 15 I guess?  I know that at GR60 a regular enemy has over triple the health of a guardian in a TX rift.  So finding the pattern of the class you’re playing is as important, if not more than the actual stats on your gear.  It’s a neat balancing act.


Still a huge queue, though I was able to log into my housing plot for 5 minutes before bed.  UI is the same as before, with a small (very small) item shop button.  Need to play through some more, fingers crossed it works tonight!

Please, Take My Money

Fall is finally here, what with the cold weather in like a beast.  I was thinking we might get a little longer of those super hot days, but hey, it was good while it lasted. This weekend was a fishing weekend with some hockey buddies.  Water was a little cold but there’s nothing like a canoe in a lake, surrounded by fall colours.

It was a nice mental break from work, though the overcast sun and about 10 hours of paddling did drain the batteries a fair bit.  Still, a lot of laughs, some amazing food and great company.  That’s the way it should be.  I’ve had my share of the awkward times with folk you really don’t need to be around.  Those days be done.  A cigar, a beer, and a big campfire.  That’s the life.


6 days after the relaunch and I can’t get past the character selection screen.  Either the login queue is hours long, or it fails to load the world afterwards. How very interesting.  I can only imagine how frustrating it is over with Carbine.  Too many people want to give them money (or at least look at their product) and they aren’t able to get them through the door.  Makes for bad conversion rates.  Good news is that it’s a quality product, and maybe with a better price point, it can have some “stickyness” to it.

There’s bound to be a point where I’ll be able to play again.  And hopefully this influx of new players will fill the coffers enough to get some new content in the game in short order.

Diablo 3

I fooled around with the Witch Doctor a bit more, filled out a few more pieces.  I think the power curve in this game is solid, in that the jumps don’t feel absolutely insane.  There’s a clear progression, with T6 being the “sweet spot” for most casual players.  The amount of time between those spots is where patch 2.3 has had the largest impact.  Item acquisition is twice as fast as before, what with the Cube as a viable option.  Mind you, on my WD, Kadala has been the lucky one for me, with the cube really only decent for set swaps.  Guess that’s what happens when there are so many items available for a class.

I’ve tweaked the play a bit as well, learning how to weave specific spells in the rotation.  Wall of Death and Zombie Bears have an interesting dynamic.  The former causes you to run when casting, the latter has clipping issues if you’re not positioned correctly.  Getting both to work in a given spot is some fancy footwork.

I also tried a chicken build, where you run at near 150% movement speed for 15s at a time, with next to no cooldown.  It makes speed clears something impressive, slightly ahead of the Monk when taking down groups.

I was able to get a few legendary gems leveled up, enough to give me enough juice to do T8 reliably well.  It’s really telling how those gems drastically impact the power curve.  I could feel the progress in each greater rift I did along the line, making clears that much easier.

As for the Monk, I tried fishing  a few rifts to clear a GR60 but never got anything decent enough.  Caves and ghosts have my number I guess.

Bears, Bears, Bears

It feels like a bus ran over me, stopped to pick up some fares, left and then realized he missed someone and drove back over me.  So you know, good.

Witch Doctor

In between fits of sleep, I was able to get a Witch Doctor off the ground in D3.  I had 1000 bloodshards and over 1000 death’s breath going in, so I knew I had a decent shot.  What I didn’t account for what the MUCH slower levelling speed of a WD, given that it’s so heavily pet based.  I died less often than my Barb but it took nearly double the time due to slow kill speeds.  Anyhoot, once I dinged 70, I started to gamble and gamble.

I was able to get a full set of Helltooth, a Belt of Transcendence, Thing of the Deep, and a Scrimshaw without too much hassle.  Plenty of Zuni’s as well, though that set takes a bit more work to build through.  I went from level 70 to T6 in about 15 minutes.  That’s 15 minutes of gambling as the result of rewards over X hours on the monk mind you.  This became abundantly clear when I played in T6, as most people didn’t have Paragon 100 and I was sitting over 500 (which due to scaling is about 10x more).

T6 works.  I’m continuing to gamble to fill in a few more slots but the amount of rerolls needed on the gear is quite a bit different than on other classes.  Most other classes focus on a single skill, stacking it upright.  Barb is either WW or HotA, Monk is EP.  WD are different, in that they have quite a few options available at the same time.  Wall of Death, Acid Cloud, Zombie Bears have 2 of the 3 in use.  Then there’s the weird synergy with gold pickup range increases, which through passives, provides a significant buff to output.  It’s a hot mess, with very specific “perfect rolls” that seem to be of a higher difficulty to achieve.  But that’s me, after a couple hours on the WD.

I will say that the playstyle is quite a bit different.  Having a screen filled with pets and fire and bears (oh my!) is an eye assault.  Throw in another WD (or 2) and then you really have no idea what’s going on.  There’s a level of hectic present here that isn’t found in other classes, a sort of puppeteer without strings if you will.  Where the barb just blindly swings through the mess and the monk zip-zips through, the WD has a stutter to combat.  It’s certainly more deliberate, requiring use of all the buttons to be clicked.

Anyhoot, it’s an interesting run.  I think I’ll encounter a skill wall before a stat wall, which is different than the barb I have.  Also trying to fish a decent GR60 as well on my monk.  Ghosts and caves can take a hike.


I guess more good news/bad news.  Outside of perhaps SWTOR, I’m struggling to think of an MMO that did the F2P swap and wasn’t able to take the load of returning/new players.  SWTOR’s issues were rather minor, as their instancing/super server technology was “fixable” with some additions to the hardware.  Wildstar’s mega-servers are just face paint, they need to actually add entirely new servers to the fold, and that’s usually not an overnight fix.  So good news in that there are lots of people at your door, bad news in that they are having a heck of a time getting into your game – which can quickly snowball into a lost opportunity.

The extra good news is that there is zero MMO newness for a while.  People are dumping WoW in droves, FF14 is in the content lull before 3.1, SWTOR is a month+ out from their 2nd relaunch.  Even the F2P games out there aren’t showing a whole lot at this time (TSW feels “done” after Tokyo).  At least, not enough for me to pay attention.  Who knows, maybe they all expected this to happen.

Once I’m able to actually log in and play, I’ll have some updates to show for it.  In the meantime, my only reliable source of info is Syp.  And to be honest, his posts are giving me the Wildstar itch something fierce!

The Bench is Getting Full

The worst part of back to school is the infectious disease ward.  Kids are remarkably strong against this sort of stuff, basically ending up with coughs and sniffles.  Adults, or maybe just me, it’s like being under attack for a few weeks.

These past few days have been rough.  It’s not man-cold level, but it’s quite uncomfortable and makes it hard to concentrate.  I’d much prefer to just be in bed but there’s some work I can’t get out of. Sleep…

Barb is Benched

Seasons are an interesting breed, in particular season 4.  Once you have a character that can reliably complete TX difficulty, getting the next character up to speed is a much faster process.

I made a Barbarian the other day, got him to 70 rather quickly.  Then I used a combination of Bloodshards and Cube crafting to slot him in some decent gear.  It didn’t take long, maybe a couple hours, and he was in the full Wastes gear for a Whirlwind setup.  T6 was easy enough and I was able to get him some level 25 gems to make the process go even easier.  Finally I had enough upgrades to try TX, and damage-wise, it was ok.  Survival though?  That was a joke.

Barbs have a limited set of skills to prevent damage, chiefly through Ignore Pain.  When it’s up, things are decent enough.  When it’s down, you’re a tissue paper.  After about 30 minutes of tweaking, and constant deaths, I decided to sit the barb down and go back to the monk.

My monk can stand in the middle of crap and due to his very high dodge rating (compounded by high Dex), it takes a fair bit to knock him down.  The difference in power output between both is pretty close, but the survival aspect seems miles apart.  So the barb is sitting, maybe used for a bit of farming here and there, while the monk is pushing GR59/60.

I guess that’s the downside of melee players.

Which leaves me with one of the 3 ranged classes as an option.  Wizards have a weird stacking jumble playstyle linked to Archon mode.  Witch Doctors I don’t have a clue anymore, though they seem quite popular.  And Demon Hunters seem to be worse than Barbs.  I think once I clear a GR60 on the monk, I’ll swap to another class for kicks.


It’s Free to Play!  The servers are overloaded with people!  I don’t get how a 2,000 player queue is 25 hours exactly, nor do I get how megaservers are supposed to work (not the way they are now at least), but this does bode well for the game.

My gripe in my last run through the game was the lack of people for instanced content.  I could wait hours without anything happening, so I fell into mods to find a community.  Hopefully this F2P switch adds enough players to hit that critical mass point, where there’s enough people to keep the people interested.

(Interesting note, Wildstar going F2P caused a massive spike in views here.  Good things I guess.)