A Gamer Geek's Cogitations, Conjectures and other Cortical Experiences

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Netflix and a Series of Unfortunate Events

Series of Unfortunate EventsNetflix has been dominating the streaming television market. It’s hard to believe that just 10 years ago I was subscribing to their DVD mail service. They are not only dominating the streaming market with movies and syndicated television series, but also with their own series. I have already expressed my enthusiasm for Jessica Jones and now I have a new series that I must tell you about. Lemony Snicket and a Series of Unfortunate Events, starring Neil Patrick Harris and Patrick Warburton.

It is the same Lemony Snicket story from 2004 starring Jim Carrey. It is just as dark and deranged, and it is excellent! Partick Warburton’s somber tone as Lemony Snicket is so amazing and authentic (which here means “realistic” or “lifelike”) that you are almost expecting him to cry at any moment. His monotone narration and stoic demeanor provides the perfect commentary for the plight of the Baudelaire orphans.

NPH as Olaf is the Perfect Dichotomy

If you are familiar with the books or the 2004 movie then you know that Count Olaf, the main antagonist, claims to be an actor. He thinks he’s a great actor, when he’s actually awful. Hence the dichotomy of Neil Patrick Harris’ portrayal, which is astounding! I think his Count Olaf is better than Jim Carry’s Olaf from the movie. When I saw the branding for this show I didn’t even recognize NPH behind all the makeup. Then I was skeptical as to whether he could pull off an eccentric buffoon because I still think Barney Stinson when I see Neil Patrick Harris. However, the only similarity between Barney and Olaf is they are both “legendary”.

There are only eight episodes, each one has about an hour runtime so there is plenty of time to catch up. It has been renewed for a second season. If you’re looking for a great show, albeit a little dark, you definitely need to check out Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

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I could accomplish so much more if I only had minions!

 

TBT: WoW 12 Years! And Great Times!

huolon_mountSo this issue of TBT (err, Fallback Friday? yes, I’m late) is going to appeal to a much different group of folks. If you follow any of Blizzard’s games then you know this week they are celebrating World of Warcraft’s 12th anniversary. People who don’t follow the gaming industry are probably shocked that a game is still thriving after 12 years. The funny thing is, that’s really not all that inconceivable. Final Fantasy will be releasing their 15th iteration of their franchise which began back in 1987. So WoW is a youngster by comparison but, if you will allow me a small pun, WoW 12 years!

It’s not a secret to my gaming friends that I have been playing this game for a long time, however, I have not been playing the entire 12 years. Actually I didn’t start playing until about the fall of 2005 when a friend convinced me to give it a shot. The first character I ever created was a male Night Elf Hunter named Discretus. Around February of 2006 I took a break from WoW until about June of the same year. I discovered that several of my co-workers also played so I created a Human Paladin on Alleria named Anthonius. I still play that paladin to this day. I didn’t forget about Discretus, however, that toon isn’t a male Night Elf anymore. After a few server transfers and a “Bruce Jenner” transformation, that character has become a female Draenai.

Gaming Friends are Real Friends Too

Neither of my two original toons go by those specific names anymore, however my gaming friends still address me by the moniker “Anth”. So who are these gaming friends, you might ask. Yes, most of them I have never met in person, but physical location isn’t required to create and maintain friendships. In fact I believe I have covered that very concept before. We all live in different parts of the continent, with different jobs and believe different things. Be that as it may, World of Warcraft is now just one thing we all have in common.

We were all part of a guild for seven years. When the realm population became meager, most of us transferred to a new server, with a higher population. A couple of us still raid together on the same team in a new guild, but all of us still keep in touch. Social media, chat clients and Discord allow us to still chat with each other. So over the twelve years Blizzard has provided us all with something more than mere recreation. It has forged unforgettable friends.

/cheers

TBT is one of those crazy Facebook trends. It stands for “ThrowBack Thursday” and often times people post pictures. I know the old adage “A picture is worth 1,000 words” but most of the time the pictures I want to post have a great story behind them. In my traditional nerdy fashion, instead of just a picture I want to provide a blog post for my TBT moments to share those great stories. I will not share stories in which the context will embarrass or incriminate myself or my friends and family.

Dawn of the Professional eSports Athlete

Professional eSports AthleteLast August Jimmey Kimmel got on a pedastal about YouTube’s Video Game Watching Service. He couldn’t understand why people would watch other people play video games. The funny thing is, that has been happening for several years now. There are people who find just as much entertainment value in eSport championships as they do watching any other sport. I’m not here to pontificate the *merits of watching eSports; I’m here to talk about the dawn of the professional eSports athlete.

Notice that I never place quotes around athlete. I know many folks, especially other athletes, are probably scoffing and laughing. While that might seem like a knee-jerk reaction, who can really blame them. When you think about an athlete you think about someone physically fit (i.e. professional sports players, American Ninja Warrior, etc). In fact, even Merriam Webster’s definition says: “a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina”.

The Professional Athlete is Evolving

Regardless of the standard definition and what society imagines an athlete is, the concept of an athlete is changing. In fact, even Forbes has a article that is about redefining the professional athlete. Athletes are evolving where physicality isn’t the only thing that defines an athlete. Mental acuity is now playing a much larger role. I’ll admit that a large portion of the physical training an athlete goes through has a mental component to it.

Likewise, there is a physical component that contributes to that mental acuity for eSports athletes. Video games challenge your mind, thus training your brain to develop more awareness and griefersharpness. It’s not any different than training in a weight room, after all, your brain is a muscle. However, the physical condition of your body plays a role in how sharp your mind is and how quickly you can react. Do a google search for “esports athlete” and notice the predominate body type. How many of you were expecting this guy?

The only thing all these professional eSports athletes need to take it to the next level is someone to organize them … and then here comes Blizzard.

Blizzard Raised the Bar

At BlizzCon this year, Blizzard announced Overwatch League. This is going to be an actual gaming league; potentially the first ever professional eSports league. I do not know all of the details but from what I have been able to glean, its going to be pretty similar to a traditional sports league. Teams will have corporate sponsors. Players will have salaries and contracts. A player can be traded to another team. It all actually sounds very interesting. If Blizzard succeeds, it will be the first of its kind.

I go back and forth as to whether I think this will survive. At first the whole concept seems inconceivable. Blizzard is trying to create an ecosystem where gamers are paid to play their favorite competitive games. I’m really curious how they are going to convince companies to become corporate sponsors, besides the obvious companies (i.e. Steelseries, NVidia, etc). If they want this concept to expand beyond Southern California, then they are going to need support from other companies.

If Blizzard can secure enough sponsors, there will not be a shortage of players. There might be a shortage of skilled players. I want them to succeed because my greatest cause for concern are all those people quitting jobs to become the next “Fatal1ty” (aka Johnathan Wendel). As absurd as that sounds, you and I both know its true. A gamer has one of two dreams 1) work for a company that makes video games or 2) get paid to play video games. I’m not trying to be disparaging; I encourage anyone to pursue their dreams when an opportunity presents itself.

The one thing I am certain of, this will not be one of those “everyone gets a trophy” type of situation; not everyone can be a professional eSports athlete. As with all competitive sports, virtually and in reality, it will require real skill, real training and real commitment.

/TTYL

* Ironically I sided with Kimmel when I wrote a response to the hecklers

duke-nukem-smIf zombies attack the world, everyone will run and hide. Except for us gamers, of course. We’ve been waiting for this all our lives!

Blizzard Has Marginalized Professions

Blizzard Has Marginalized ProfessionsIsn’t it ironic that after talking about the trials and tribulations of leveling professions in Legion I’m now discussing how Blizzard has marginalized professions? Perhaps more people were dissatisfied with having to always gem and enchant their gear thus why Blizzard made such dramatic changes to professions. I’ll be honest, I actually miss putting gems in my gear and enchanting my weapon. In fact the latter really bums me out because I think some enchants on our artifact weapon would look amazing!

Actually how marginalized professions has become really bums me out. I always feel like leveling your professions was all part of the leveling experience. It’s one of those tertiary tasks you can do for those times you want to be in-game, but not really in the mood to quest. Granted Blizzard hasn’t removed just lackadaisically crafting at the kiln, but now crafted items are less meaningful. This is especially true for Jewelcrafting and Inscription.

Jewelcrafting, Inscription. Gone!

Job's DoneWell, not really, but if your profession is jewelcrafting and/or inscription, you are probably in the worst position. There are 16 gear slots (excluding the shirt) and, between two level 110 characters, I think I have a gem slot on one item. I’m not suggesting that a gem slot needs to be on every piece of gear again, but it might be nice to see more it than *3.125% of the time. Inscription is mostly cosmetic. Your target market are people who  like to change their shadow form or their ghoul’s appearance. The only way to make a profit using a profession is to complete the Obliterum quest chain and destroy everything you make and sell the obliterum.

Since you can use obliterum to increase item level, the traditional crafting professions (i.e. Leatherworking, Tailoring, & Blacksmithing) still have merit. You can make improvements on the higher level crafted items by using obliterum to increase their level up to 855. Enchanting is probably the only viable profession for progressing in the end game and turning a profit. As players acquire new gear from Mythic dungeons, raids or World Quests some of those items will need enchants.

I hope Blizzard is working on some big changes for professions. I would like to see them play a bigger role again. It doesn’t necessarily have to be as large of a role as it was back in Wrath of the Lich King. I’m not expecting a significant change during Legion but hopefully something clever and innovative in the next expansion. Until then mounts and pets seem to be the only real reason people even level professions.

/cheers

*  16 slots per toon * 2 toons = 32; 1/32 = 3.125%

duke-nukem-smIf zombies attack the world, everyone will run and hide. Except for us gamers, of course. We’ve been waiting for this all our lives!

As the Burning Legion Comes, We Bid Adieu to Draenor

Burning Legion ComesLast week we saw the activation of the 7.0 patch. The patch that paves the way to the launch of Legion. If you haven’t been paying attention, the patch includes the new Appearances interface, changes to all class talents, and the Demon Invasion (to name a few). As of the time of this post, the Demon Invasion hasn’t begun yet. It might be as soon as one week later, or it could still be a few weeks off. When that invasion happens, we will get the Demon Hunter class. Regardless, as the Burning Legion comes we bid adieu to Draenor.

Was Warlords of Draenor a Success?

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Shave and a Hair Cut …

So was this expansion a success? I doubt it. If you look at the subscription numbers over the past year, they haven’t been good. Blizzard has lost millions of subscriptions. Granted they still have more active subscribers than any other title out there, but they have dropped from 12 million down to about 5.5 million. That has got to make them cringe worse than Shave-and-a-haircut affects Roger Rabbit (I’m dating myself here).

Honestly, I think each expansion, since Wrath of the Lich King, has been weaker than the one before it. I don’t think it helps that this expansion uses time travel, which is always a sensitive concept to tackle. Yes, I thought it was cool to see Khadgar and fight Blackhand and Archimonde but this expansion felt more disjointed than Mists of Pandaria. It’s the curse of poor time travel story telling. It was clearly just an opportunity for the developers to create encounters with historic heroes. There was no attention given to the butterfly principal; our mere existence should have caused rippling consequences throughout the entire timeline. Perhaps Nozdormu swoops in at the end and uses a neuralyzer.

Were There Redeeming Qualities?

I don’t think this expansion was a complete wash. While the story lacked connectivity and relevance, the expansion introduced some new mechanics that I think are fun. Garrisons were the closest thing Blizzard has ever come to player housing. Unfortunately I think that is the closest we are going to get. One of the biggest criticisms about garrisons was that it ostracized players. The entire social component that is the foundation of the game was lost because everyone stayed in their garrison. I love the concept of the garrison; perhaps they just gave us a little too much to do and not enough reason to leave (other than daily quests).

The followers were another fun idea and I’m excited that its something they are going to continue in Legion. Collecting followers, for me, almost became like collecting Pokemon. You especially wanted to collect the familiar names (like Admiral Taylor, Harrison Jones, Millhouse Manastorm and Leeroy Jenkins, to name a few). I would like to know where Budd was this expansion; he would have been a great follower! I also liked that some followers had the Bodyguard trait, which is very useful when you are leveling or doing daily quests and you’re squishy.

One other thing I liked about Warlords of Draenor, albeit minor, was getting to see Draenor before it was torched and became Outlands. It was pretty cool to see Auchindoun in all its glory before it was turned to rubble. Karabor before it becomes Black Temple. Tanaan Jungle before it becomes Hellfire Peninsula. Someday, I would like to see Karazhan before it became dilapidated.

There was also that epic, and overdue, showdown between Garrosh and Thrall.

So we bid you adieu Draenor; I wish we could have prevented that which you will become, but the Burning Legion comes and we must be prepared!

minion_keboard_smI could accomplish so much more if I only had minions!

The MMO Times: The 18th of April

warcraft-legionIssue 143: Welcome back, gamers. I hope you are having great weather to enjoy some outside time (just watch out for that daystar). April 18th seemed to be the day that all the interesting news decided to surface. Nearly everything you are about to read was posted all on the same day. It’s not a big deal, honestly. It just means I might be assembling issue 144 sooner, depending on what else is announced this week. PAX East is coming up April 22nd – 24th in Boston so you can expect to see a few treats surrounding that after this weekend.

Blizzard seems to be back to their old tricks (of not listening to their player/fan base). Perhaps Overwatch on the cusp of our fingertips might be part of their excuse, but that would be kind of lame. Star Citizen is ready to welcome you to PAX East and while we are on the topic of “free”, Neverwinter is now available by another means. Your merciful wings are ready to aid you in the depths of hell (if you meet the Overwatch requirements). It’s a lot of interesting news to come out in one day. KCGO.

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