Monday, February 26, 2007

Level 69

Well, I guess I'm completely under the spell now. Probably a good amount from 70 but I'll hit it this week whether I want to or not. I've seen about half of the 5 man instances so far and I've had some fun in each of them. Soon enough I'll have a flying mount (but not the epic one yet, I'm a bit from that joy).

My friend and I went a bit out of order on how we hit some of the zones. We went from Zangermarsh to Terrokar and ignored Blade's End even though Zangermarsh tried to send us to both Blade's End and Terrokar. From Terrokar we went to Nagrand, which was a little too high for us at the time but as we were duo-ing all the quests we more than held our own. Now both of us have only the last Wanted: quest left in Nagrand with no other quests to find, so I made my way to Shadowmoon Valley to pick up quests (figuring that would be the next zone we duo) and then ran up to Blade's End to start soloing those quests.

My general impression of the zones so far? Well, Hellfire Peninsula where you start is okay, but nothing mind blowing. It gets extra points for being the first zone and doing a good job of making you feel under siege when you first zone in. For the most part it's nothing amazingly different than the "old world" but I guess that's fine as there was nothing wrong with the old world. They took some time to make a few unique quests, but a lot of the quests were similar to things we've seen before.

Zangermarsh...hate. The thing is, the zone starts out so well. The landscape is amazing, you quickly gain rep with Cenarion Expedition and find some cool rewards, the Sporeggar are kind of cool. Then the quests really start to tax your patience. So many quests that involve going from one end of the zone to the other, so many quests that involve horrible drop rates, so many quests that just aren't in the same area and make quest stacking next to impossible. I have spent significantly more time in this zone than any of the others, and about 1/2 way through questing there I couldn't stand it any more.

Terrokar Forest is again okay. I really like the Bone Wastes area and the feel as you go into Auchindoin, but the rest of the zone feels like "generic forest area #3" with the added annoyance of those warp stalkers who seems to follow you on your mount forever. The druid place where the mana bomb had been set off is kind of a weird waste (fight a giant moth! Tell your friends!) but it led to a couple cool quests. The main thing Terrokar has going for it? It's laid out fantasically, quests stacked on top of each other if you take the time to find them all before starting out, it's your first experience with the Ethereals (who I dig) and it feels like you finish up there long before you hate the place.

Nagrand is really good. I like the alien feel of the zone, I found myself staring at the floating islands in the air and just admiring the look. Tons of ogres, and the ogres are always fun. The quest where you are creating war between two factions is at it's best when the two dumb ogres show up to help you plant the bodies at another ogre camp. That was a quest I would have found insanely annoying if not for the top notch work on the ogres talking to each other. The Ring of Blood was there, which is one of my favorite bits in the game so far. Also the Jump-O-Matic quest which is a fun diversion.

I won't make a final judgement on Shadowmoon Valley. I will say that entering through the demon army was very cool, and the "siege" feel of the zone is well done. Unfortunately, my general impression so far is that it's Blasted Lands 2.0. Hopefully that ends up not being the case.

Blade's I'm not done with the zone yet, but everything about this zone I love so far. I love entering through the cave, with a "kill spiders" quest on the way in to keep you from mounting up and ignoring the cave altogether. I love that all the quests in the first town send you to 1 of 2 areas, and the follow up quests all seem to go to the same place as well. I liked growing the elemental guardians (although I wanted to see them go rip some wolves up or something). I got to Toshley's Station and loved everything about that place. The inside jokes, the gnomes on fire, the fact that you can pick up 4-5 quests and then go talk to the clone guy who will slingshot you right over to wherever you need to be. The idea of being dropped into an area, questing and then riding back (1 way travel ftw) kept me from ever getting annoyed with travel, the quests were mostly unique, the gnomes were funny. What's not to like? Cap it off with the fantastic final quest of spinning the weather vane during your slingshot to the next quest area which I actually laughed out loud at, and so far everything has been peaches here.

I haven't even mentioned the landscape which is my favorite landscape in the game. It actually feels foreboding, it feels epic. I'm at my 3rd flight point so far in the zone and have had nothing but fun exploring and questing. This zone is exactly what they should be striving for.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Level 67, and the Ring of Blood

Weird. You know, I don't even have an experience bar while I play Warcraft. I don't want to be looking forward to gaining levels, I don't want to get stuck in that loop where I keep playing because I'm only 50k xp from levelling. Because of that, I honestly have no idea how close/far from levelling I ever am. If I knew how much experience was needed to go from one level to another, I could probably estimate how close I am, but I've purposely not done that.

With that bit of background, I was shocked when I hit 67 last night. It seems like I hadn't done much questing, and I actually dinged while I was out grinding leather. Rest xp certainly helps a massive amount, but I still thought I was probably a few days out. I'm not dreading 70 like I once was because I'm now committed to trying to finish all of the Outland quests (and I'll probably need to if I have any dreams of getting an epic flying mount).

I did run through a few quests last night. First, we did the escort quest which rewards you with the Miniwing pet. That was actually pretty fun, although my friend (Warlock) and I picked up a level 70 priest who was needing it so it wasn't exactly a close fight. Following the suicidal bird is fun, and I enjoyed it when he flew down to another platform and forced me to play Mario to get to him. The new pet is cool, and I haven't been seeing them around which is fun.

My buddy finally caught up to me on a couple of quest lines, so we also finished the one which ends in Shattrath City with the birds attacking you. This was possibly my favorite part of the night as my friend started the quest without warning me (he was low mana) and during the 2nd wave of birds he started cursing in Google Talk because his cat had jumped on his keyboard and minimized the game. Because of this, the next wave (3 birds) showed up before we had those 2 birds down. When he got the screen back up, he immediately sacrificed his void walker to try and stay alive while I did everything in my power to try and get all the birds down before the final "avatar" bird showed up. They were almost all down when the avatar showed up, my buddy died at pretty much the same instant, and then I tried to solo the avatar. I died after doing everything in my power, with the avatar at about 800 hp. It was hard to fight as my buddy was cursing his cat the whole time and I couldn't stop laughing.

We then headed out to Nagrand as I'd read about the Ring of Blood quest chain and it seemed entirely too good to be true. I had found the starting point of the quest earlier as I'd been grinding ogres for warbeads for Consortium rep, but never accepted because it said (5) players. He and I went there, begged for more people in general, ended up with another rogue, a 67 warrior and a 70 pally. The pally was from one of the better known guilds on the server so I had high hopes. We ended up one shotting all of the Ring of Blood bosses, and everything I'd read was correct. About 85k xp, about 50 gold, some pots and a blue weapon which is my first weapon upgrade in the expansion. Still weird going from purple to blue.

To finish up our night together (he went to bed while I grinded leather) we completed the jump-o-matic quest. Again, both of us were laughing hysterically on Google Talk as we both continued to miss that nest and continued to take large chunks of fall damage. That's one of those quests that you finish and just think how amazingly fun quests can be when it seems like the design team decides to let loose a little bit.


I decided I want to buy a copy of Oldboy to have, partially because it relates to my screenplay idea and I want to be able to watch it multiple times over a long period. Of course, we're a bit short on funds as usual and it's one of those things I think can wait. I did get a $25 gift card to Barnes and Noble over the holidays, but then I discovered that B&N seems to carry only the ultra deluxe Oldboy addition for $40. I suppose that's not bad when you consider I'd only be paying $15 of it, but at the same time I really don't want to pay that much when I don't really want any of the extras.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Level 66

Dinged 65 and 66 over the weekend in Warcraft. I played more than usual, but I felt like a good part of why I progressed two levels was soloing the Terrokar quests. That place just feels like condensed experience. While questing in Zangermarsh I felt like that zone dragged it's feet horribly. Too many quests asking you to run from one end of the marsh to the other, not enough quests happening in the same place. Terrokar questing is just laid out intelligently, and you're able to solo everything until you get to the Bone Wastes. So when my buddy was on we quested together in Nagrand (really all we finished was the Nesingwary quest line, but that is a LONG quest line), and when he wasn't online I either worked on Scryer/Consortium rep or quested in Terrokar.

I also ran Mana-Tombs for the first time. That makes 5 BC instances that I've run, and each of them I've only run once. It's interesting as I've had set people that I run instances with for so long, and I'm making a concerted effort to LFG all of the instances now. Heck, the people I ran with before would probably have no interest in helping anyhow but I'm interested in watching how different people play. As expected so far, most of the LFG groups are pretty poor as far as knowing how to play their class but you get an occasional gem in there. I'm really impressed with the new LFG tool and I've come to the realization that the only thing holding it back at this point is too few people bothering to use it.

The last boss in Mana-Tombs dropped his ring which was actually a minor upgrade for me. I wasn't going to roll as there was another rogue in the group who it would have been a huge upgrade for. He'd already gotten his blue in the run (leather boots) but I didn't think anybody else would be rolling on the ring and I figured I'd rather help him get a huge upgrade than worry so much about a minor stat upgrade for me. In the end, we had to grab a hunter close to the last boss and I realized he'd probably roll on it (he did) and a not very good warrior also chose to roll on it (he won). This was the same warrior who started the run by announcing he didn't like to tank and would only do it if "forced" to. Not only didn't he like it, he was really bad at it.

Again, kind of a culture shock after being in a guild where everybody naturally gravitated towards the most effective raid specs without being asked. The other rogue in the run was pretty bad too, he seemed to think he was a damage king but I was a bit too busy worrying about cc'ing the mobs that our non-tank let run to the healer to notice his damage.

It's a dance party!

7 year old had a slumber party on Saturday for her birthday. A bunch of 6 and 7 year olds shrieking and doing karaoke and dancing. I locked myself in the bedroom and hid. It was one of the few times that I was pleased to be asked by my kids not to be around.

Friday, February 16, 2007

World of Warcraft

What leisure time I do have lately I seem to spend in World of Warcraft. A few hours after the family goes to bed, a few hours to claim as my own leisure time. Use Google Talk to chat with a friend as we play together, taking the internet for granted in the fact that I'm chatting real time with a buddy in Ohio for free while we play a game real time together from opposite ends of the continent. Really amazing if you stop and think about it, but something that we just don't even think about any more.

I can remember in college when I first had my taste of what the internet and computers would actually mean. A friend of mine had bought Doom, and a few of us were amazed by it but it wasn't necessarily anything mind blowing. Another friend bought it, lugged his computer over and they connected the computers with those old coaxial network cards. Suddenly this kind of fun game literally blew my mind. The fact that the guy running around on my screen was actually my buddy on the other side of the room astounded me. Within a few weeks everybody in our group of friends had bought a high end computer (hello, student loans!) and we were having a network party every couple of weeks. Doom led to Heretic (which led to Hexen) which led to Duke Nukem 3D, which led to Descent, which led to Warcraft, which led to Command and Conquer, which led to Rise of the Triad, etc. We were insatiable, I don't think I ever bought so many games in such a short period of time and every purchase was based on how many players the game supposedly supported (never mind that actually connecting via network in most of these games was complete hell at the time, we never complained about that part).

Anyway, enough of the tangent. Pre-expansion I was a "casual hardcore" Warcraft player. I was in a high end guild, I've seen more of the content than most WoW players but not as much as the truly hardcore. The guild I was in had 15-20 people who were truly hardcore, putting in massive hours and raiding the 25 man instances on nights when nothing was scheduled. I was showing up for all the scheduled raids, but that was 2-3 nights a week and for maybe 3 hours on those nights. 12 hours a week was about the most I put into the game which I was pretty comfortable with. The only thing I wasn't comfortable with was how regimented it felt. So as we got near the expansion I made the decision it was time to part ways with the game. My best friend had stopped playing, and while I intended to still play online games I needed to get away from the game that I was playing on a schedule.

Fast forward to now. My friend and I try a few other games and realize that the other games out there don't actually appeal to us all that much. He starts talking about the expansion. We make the decision to come back and force each other to be more casual (our personalities lend themselves to being hardcore even if our lives don't have the time/availability for it). 2 nights ago I hit 64, he hit 65 last night (He spends quite a bit more time than I do) but we're both having fun. I'm a little bit uncomfortable with even hitting 70 as I'm not sure how either of us will handle it when we run out of Outland quests and I'm already yearning to see the inside of instances. Sad, really.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Screenplay Part Deux

Stuck in traffic last night I thought about my screenplay for over an hour. The whole time I was wishing I had a tape recorder to get some thoughts down, something to think about going forward. I got home and wanted to just start typing on the computer. As soon as I walked in the door I found out my Mom had arrived for dinner, so I sat down to eat. Then I had promised my son I'd play with him, so I did that. 2 hours after I'd walked in the door I'd lost every ounce of inspiration I was feeling.

I did realize which movies I need to sit down and watch which will be useful for my writing, so that's a positive. I'd hoped to at the very least have a chance to draw a map of the area the story takes place in so that I have a reference when I'm writing, but that didn't get done either. So often I feel like I'm living a life of obligations. Some of them I love, some of them I hate, all of them seem to stand between me and my dreams at times.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Father/Daughter Dance

Friday night I took my daughter to a Father/Daughter dance at her school. I'd really been looking forward to it, she cried last year when they sold out before we sent in our money (they sold out first day, we sent money the day after not knowing they'd sell so quickly). So we had these plans, my wife was so excited and wanted me to "treat her like a Princess".

Cutting through the little bit of drama at the beginning of the night (her anxiety about actually going once we got there) we had a nice dinner. She was acting silly and obviously didn't want to be treated like a Princess ("Treat me like a little girl!") which was fine. Then we got into the dance itself. She worries quite a bit about people watching her, and her looking silly. It's something I wish I could help her feel comfortable with but I'm realizing it's just her personality and all the work we do to make her comfortable in her own skin only goes so far. Because of this, she's got anxiety about dancing. The last thing I want is to increase her anxiety, so we chat a bit and stand to the side.

"I see a couple of friends from class. Can I go play with them?". Sure, have fun. So there I stand at the Father/Daughter dance, for an hour. Occasionally seeing my daughter run past me, watching her have a blast. That's a treat for a kid, getting to run pretty unsupervised on a Friday night. I get that, and try my best not to be disappointed that she's having more fun with her friends than she was having with her Dad. I suppose I'd better get used to that.

As I'm standing against the wall counting the minutes until the dance will end, I can't help but be struck with how similar this feels to my younger days. Going to a dance, being a wallflower while the object of my affection runs about having fun.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Last night

Took my daughter to an event as school, was fun but as usual it meant coming home, eating and then running out the door. Have another event at school for her tonight, so I can expect the same. I'm not complaining, I love spending time with her and seeing her interested and happy. I just realize that my son isn't even in school yet, and the time that I spend with both of my kids is a reason that I don't have time to do other things sometimes. I can't imagine not spending time with them, and when I'm with them it's easy to feel that my priorities are in the right place. I just need to figure out if I should feel satisfied with my place as their father, or if I can successfully do that and something more.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

My screenplay

I've had an idea for a movie screenplay in my head for months and months. For a long time I thought about writing a book, even got started a couple of times, but for whatever reason things would just stop. A book makes sense because my sister used to be a literary editor (now an agent) and she's always volunteered to help me refine whatever I put together. That's a fantastic resource, yet the story in my head is definitely a screenplay and not a novel. It's even something that could be done so low budget that I might actually be able to find a way to put it together myself. Sure, it would be rough to drum up the funds and it could very well be a loss but wouldn't it scratch that creative itch I have?

I think a part of my personal issue with getting started is one of the last pieces of baggage my father left with me. I read a great interview with Roger Clyne where he mentioned telling his father that he was going to give music a try, and his father said he was disappointed and that Roger had failed. The rub being he'd failed because he said he'd try, not that he'd chosen music. The poison that I was fed when I was younger was the buildup of expectations (You can be anything you want!) followed by the cautionary wisdom (But be realistic!). For some stupid reason the cautionary wisdom has always stuck with me. Because of that I have trouble starting my writing, I don't want to end up "wasting" the time with nothing to show for it.

I know I'll always kick my own ass if I don't try something though.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

And now for something completely different...

If you haven't checked it out yet, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers have a new ecard set up where you can hear 3 of their new tunes. I personally like the songs quite a bit even if they're a bit more "poppy" than I'm used to from them. My understanding is these are the more radio friendly songs, which is something I can live with. The rest of the album will probably be closer to the music I'm used to.

Angry white guy

It's hard to write about something like this without coming across as completely emo. At any rate, I always found it odd how much I related to the book and movie Fight Club. See, if you listen to the highbrow reviewers they'll mock anybody who relates too much to the characters for multiple reasons. One of the reasons (which is valid) is that the characters have a need to be angry, even though they don't have a reason to be angry.

See, people think that the middle class white guys have no right to be angry. It's true, really. I don't think of myself as angry anyhow, but that's not the part of Fight Club that really clicked with me. It's more the discovery that I've become just another consumer, that I've somehow not come close to becoming that which I one day dreamt of being.

It's not anger, it's disappointment in yourself. No reason to be angry about it, but confusion seems a fair enough result. I guess at the end of the day it's a matter of how you cope with it. Do you accept it and move on, or do you look closer and try to figure out the why of it, and figure out if it's something you can live with or if changes need to be made?

Fuck it, I was right the first time. That sounds really emo.

What's the point?

Why bother with a Blog? I don't know myself. Not sure what I hope to accomplish. I certainly don't have amazing aspirations like getting Kevin Costner to look at my webpage, or turning a paperclip into a jumbo jet. I don't expect anybody to read it, which makes it an exercise in masturbation that would have embarrassed me even as a 14 year old. Basically, I'm at a place in my life where I've realized I'm so much the average white male that I'm not sure how I got here. Mid-life crisis? I'm too young, first of all, and secondly I have no desire to cheat on my wife and I'm driving a piece of crap rather than a sports car or a motorcycle. Those are the tell tale signs aren't they?

So I need to get in touch with who I am, with what my dreams once were, and I need to remember what it's like to have a life of passion instead of a life of apathy. Maybe I'll be shouting into an empty room, which is something that has always been fine with me, but I find that writing helps me to get in touch with my subconscious in ways that nothing else can.

I need to figure out how how to replace apathy and routine with hopes and dreams. It sounds big, but it's just as likely to end up with me swearing about the guy that cut me off on the way to work.