Regulators… mount up!

Oh sure, I get the blue beetle, Cassie gets the sporty green Lambo, and that damn kid has the Ferrari. Go figure.

The expansion, she be coming, and that means….

ACCOUNT WIDE MOUNTS!

It’s kind of funny, really.

I never pursued mounts as a quantity kind of thing before. As long as each of my characters had their own ‘unique’ ride to fit their character, I was happy.

Hadn’t ever pursued the expensive mounts (except to be a Dragon, of course), hadn’t ever spent much time trying to get any of the unobtainium forged flyers. Chances were good I’d get them on my main, and, well…

Flight Form trumps all else.

Shared mounts. Account wide.

This is delightful.

As you can see from the picture above, I’ve taken the news as a spur to drive me on to doing some of the things I never spent much time on before.

Like clearing trash in AQ40, looking for a shiny red ride.

Yes, my son ninja’ed the red one from me. Oh hell yes he did, too. No, I’m not joking, he totally jacked my ride.

And killing the first boss in Karazhan, every week, on every character that can solo it, until that damn horsie dropped out of sheer exhaustion.

I can’t stop looking at those eyes… those damn, knowing green eyes… what have they seen?

I love soloing content on my Druid. Always have. Mostly, I don’t. Over the years I finally faced up to the truth that I really am that shallow… if there ain’t something I want out of it, something concrete I could carry away, I’m not going to do it more than once. After I’ve had the thrill of exploration and adventure, I’m not going back.

Unless there are shinies of some sort.

It’s a hard truth to accept, but there it is.

Is there an enchant that might drop? A chance for a rare mount? Neat looking transmog gear?

If I can’t use it, I’m not gonna solo it.

If we made all gear drops Bind on Account, I’d never leave my Druid again, except when Team Snuffy needed a Priest to heal. I’d just run as a Druid and hand shit off to my alts, man.

Caer Morrighan has a great pair of posts on pursuing the Mountain O’ Mounts achievement, and I’ve been following it on my Druid as much as I can, with an eye toward soloable content.

The ‘Bind on Account’ thing is supposed to really mean ‘on Account’. Like, taking into account all characters on ALL SERVERS. There was a blue post that made that point very clear.

If I take into account the mounts I have across all characters… I think I might have 100 right now. Maybe.

Or… maybe I’m missing one.

One little RED ONE.

Little red ride jacking ninja mutter grumble mutter…

Bacon-Wrapped Brown Sugar Devil Dogs

After the Power of Bacon video I shared last night, I felt that I needed to back up my stated love of bacon with some proof.

I’ve shared things on the blog about bacon before, but it occured to me that most of the time I’m sharing with you the passion other people have shown for bacon. I’m not giving you any examples of the lengths I have gone for bacon in my own past.

Time to rectify that.

Recipe time!

Back in the old, old days, as a US Marine stationed in Camp Pendleton, California, our unit would frequently have beachside PT parties.

I surfed a lot back then, and played a ton of volleyball, so being one of the beach-dude sergeants in the unit I sometimes found myself ‘volunteered’ to run ladder volleyball competitions (department against department, of course) in tandem with company-wide beachside cookouts.

I had to bring food just like all the other NCOs and officers, but I also had to make sure all the gear was grabbed from MWR for the volleyball and get the setup and organization done, run around getting things squared away, etc. I didn’t want to stick myself with a dish that would take a lot of nursemaiding, in case shit came up that pulled me away.

There is no excuse for failing in a task, even bringing a dish to a potluck picnic type thang. If your food sucks, you don’t get to whine, “But Gunny, I had to go get Motor T and Supply over to field four, I didn’t have time to stir the jambalaya, it’s not my fault, waah.”

No, I had to anticipate what was likely to happen, and plan accordingly. My friends, sing along with me the same old song, “Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.”

Ah, the classics never go out of style.

So, since the first lesson is “no plan survives contact with the enemy”, I had to anticipate that no matter how well organized I had the events, shit would come up that would drag me away from my dish. I had to have something that would feed a lot of Marines and also take very little of my time during the actual competition and events.

A ‘fire and forget’ meal, if you will.

This, then, was my self-directed mission. To come up with a dish that would be damn tasty (pride is on the line here, you don’t just half-ass anything in the Marines, even a meal. Dear lord, especially a meal.), feed a big crew, be easy to transport, and take however long it took to prep but require very little attention once game time came around so I’d be free to run around watching teams and keeping track of the ladder match-ups.

This was my solution;

Bacon-Wrapped Brown Sugar Devil Dogs

In short form, what you’re doing is taking bacon, wrapping it around mini-sausages, and then putting them in a crock pot a layer at a time, covering each layer in brown sugar.

Oh, yeah.

The tools you’ll need:

A ‘really big’ crock pot or slow cooker and some tongs.  That’s it. You can use a regular sized or small crock pot, of course, but you’ll fit in less sausages, and that’s a sad thing. I prefer the oval style crock pots. You’ll see why later.

The ingredients you’ll need;

3 pounds of regular-cut smoked bacon, what countries other than the US might call ‘breakfast bacon’.
1 large box of brown sugar.
3 packages of mini-sausages, the precooked kind that in the US we commonly call “Lil’ Smokies”.
1 package wood toothpicks OR wooden satay skewers.

How to prep;

Cut the bacon strips into halves or thirds, depending on the bacon. The goal is to have a piece of uncooked bacon just long enough to wrap around the circumference of the mini-sausage, overlapping a little bit.

Lay out the ingredients like a production line; a bowl of mini-sausages, a pile of bacon pieces, a pile of toothpicks (or skewers) and the crock pot. Keep the brown sugar in a box to the side.

Take a mini-sausage, wrap a piece of bacon around it, pin in place with a toothpick all the way through, and put in the crock pot. The toothpick should hold the bacon on the mini-sausage.

Long wooden toothpicks work well for this, because they extend far enough through the mini-sausage to make it hard for the bacon to slide off while cooking.

Pro Tip, over time I started using wooden satay skewers instead of toothpicks, with multiple bacon-wrapped mini-sausages on each skewer. It works very, very, VERY well, especially since the skewers have less tendency to stick to each other in the pot like masses of toothpicks do. The drawback is, they are best used when you have an oval-style crock pot to let them all lay flat. Most crock pots are the round style and it’s hard to get the skewers to fill it in even layers.

Place the bacon-wrapped mini-sausages in the crock pot until you’ve got a solid layer, then cover that layer with brown sugar.

Keep repeating this, make another layer and cover with brown sugar, until the pot is mostly full of layers with brown sugar covering the top. Then put the lid on and get cooking.

How to cook;

Cook in the crock pot on high about 4 to 5 hours.

Walk away, you’re done. Hell yes!

The important thing to remember is the mini-sausages were already cooked when you put them in, and will just get better the longer they steep in hot brown sugar/bacon fat.

Note I didn’t say they would get healthier. If your health is a concern to you, you should have stopped reading this a long, long time ago. Don’t just walk away, take your granola-eating bran-munching low fat ass and RUN AWAY RUN AWAY NOW.

As the dish cooks, the bacon cooks off, the fat and juices blend with the brown sugar to create a sauce you wouldn’t believe, and all of this just… it just gets better and better over time without your having to do anything. You don’t even have to stir it, since the cover keeps all the moisture in the pot to rain down on the top layers, forming a crust.

You’ll be able to tell they’re done when all the bacon is fully cooked through on the top layers. If the top is done, the bottom layers are good to go.

I would spend the night before prepping it all, then leave the pot cooking all night long. Unplug, carry to the beach, set to ‘warm’ with tongs on the side to fish ’em out of the pot, and walk away, mission accomplished.

I hope the next time you have a get together and your thoughts turn to bacon, you’ll keep this treat in mind!

Thank you for your help!

For everyone who pounced on the voting last night, you have my thanks and a hearty “well done!”

While it’s true that the poll was shut down as a tie, and it’s unclear how things will turn out, I think that what you folks did was amazing.

The fact is, the voting was stagnant in that contest for a long time. While it ended in a tie last night, it didn’t finish with a lackluster showing. Thanks to you, there was some seriously dramatic moments last night.

The contest poll, after being open for months, started in the low twenties last night. In just a few hours, you pushed it to 45 votes, and inspired the other contestant to rise to meet the challenge.

I don’t know where the votes came from for the other contestant, but I know if I were the one running the contest, and I was the one who stated publicly that the purpose of the contest was to increase pageviews and drive traffic to my website, then mission darn well accomplished. You guys rock!

For Jessica, I haven’t spoken with her yet today, but I know her well enough to think that just having had your support in this, and the kind comments some of you have made concerning her video, will mean a great deal. I’m sure she’s upset at how it all ended, but at least it’s over. Err, oh wait. Tie. Right. Ah well, at least it’s out of our hands.

If there is anyone I feel bad for, it is the third contestant, Kristen, who only had one vote. That has to hurt. And by hurt, I mean suck really, really bad.

Thank you again everyone, I really appreciate the effort you made, and I hope that your day and week go by swimmingly.

You know, swimmingly. Like, don’t stop or you’ll sink, man.

Asking for some Emergency Mobilization

I apologize for the last minute nature of this request, but I am asking for your help in a very personal matter.

I am asking for you to vote in a poll/contest.

I completely understand if you don’t want to, but I really hope you will, and if you do, the sad thing is it pretty much has to happen tonight. Like, right now.

Here is the situation.

There is a website called Violaman.com

Violaman.com is a website devoted to encouraging the play of and passion for violas. There are forums and discussions devoted to the viola, and all things said it is a nice website run for those who are already devoted to the viola as a musical instrument, and they also try and encourage more people to pick up the viola and play for the first time.

Now, a while back in January, violaman.com started a contest, where people could submit a video they created themselves into a contest, and the most popular video as determined by a poll on the sidebar of the violaman.com website by a certain time would win an actual viola.

Of course, that final day is today. The last chance for votes is tonight.

Here we come to the personal part.

My brother-in-laws’ daughter, Jessica, is a college student currently studying her tail off to be a veterinarian here in Minnesota. She works full time to support herself and pay for her schooling, and while I have never personally been a struggling student, Cassie was, and I think a lot of you who I consider my friends know full well what that’s like.

Jessica, besides fulfilling her dream of studying to be a veterinarian, is also passionate about the viola. She played one in band for years, is ardent enough in her love of the instrument to be a member of the violaman.com website.

As you can imagine, she can’t really afford one of her own. For Jessica, this contest seemed like the perfect opportunity to try and earn one through her creativity and let her passion shine through.

She created a video for the contest using claymation, and submitted it back in January.

The contest ends tonight, yes tonight, and she is currently not doing very well.

I am only JUST NOW finding out that Jessica, who is really, gotta say, hellaciously smart and creative and hard working, was doing any of this. I had no clue that she was trying to unleash the power of the internet and friends and reach out to those who might cheer her on and so forth.

Yes, I know. You see, I am family, but this was one of those ‘word of mouth friends and family on Facebook’ things, and of course everyone just assumed someone else had mentioned it to me.

I’m not on Facebook. Go figure. I had no idea.

As you know, I don’t really know anybody on the internet, and there is no way I could find a friend or two to vote and help out. Oh, of course not. Sigh.

Now, it can be hard to find where the stuff about the contest actually IS on the violaman.com website. It seems in earnest, but for example it will be hard for people to judge and vote for Jessica, since over the last few months her entry got, well, no longer where it’s easy to find out of the three contestants.

That’s right, Jessica is one of THREE final contestants, but you can[‘t easily find her video to judge it on it’s merits.

I can help you with that. Here is the video Jessica created on her own for the contest;

The contest rules are supposed to be on the site somewhere, but it boils down that, in order to vote, you have to register as a member, and then you can vote once and only once on the poll on the side. You can’t vote more than once per email address OR IP address. This isn’t a contest to try and spoof the poll, it’s a simple “I liked this better so here is my one vote” situation.

I ask of you to watch the video Jessica made for the contest, and if you like it, I hope you will go to the violaman.com website, register, and then vote for Jessica in the poll.

I really, really would appreciate it. This would mean a lot to me.

Remember, please only vote once. But, and I’m serious here, if you watch the video and like it, please vote.

Thank you all for your time.

 

The Annals of Awesome

Welcome to an entry in what I am going to call The Annals of Awesome™.

I came home tonight and asked Cassie what she might have been thinking for dinner. Her reply was, “I was thinking quesadillas and soup. We still have half a pound of bacon, so I thought we could fry up the bacon and add that in for…. bacon and cheese quesadillas.”

Crunchy bacon and delicious melted cheese in a grilled flour tortilla?

Oh yeah. 

“Dear”, I said afterwards, “These quesadillas are five star. At least.”

She just looked at me with a serious expression, and replied, “You can’t rate food five star when bacon is involved. It skews the results. I could take ice cream, sprinkle bacon on top and drizzle with strawberry sauce and caramel and you’d call it five star.”

To which my jaw dropped, and I made dot noises like this, “…..”

Ice cream with bacon, strawberry sauce and caramel?

GENIUS!

Mug of Coffee Pleasure +5

I have an announcement to make!

I have attained another level in my ‘adult’ base class by becoming a strong adopter of hot morning beverages.

In other words, I now drink coffee more than anything else, all morning long. Just like my parents, and my grandparents, and so forth.

Now, my beverage of choice is coffee, but I’m not going to be elitist about this. While I myself haven’t gone for one of the prestige classes built around Latte or Chai Tea, and I haven’t taken the disadvantage “Expensive Name Brand Vendor Only” in order to qualify for a higher social standing prestige class, I can appreciate what a delightfully diverse culture the hot morning beverage crowd has become.

Still. For me, it’s all about the coffee.

Coffee like you get in the generic can, with the color dot that says “not too strong, not too light, straight down the middle like a wuss afraid to fight”.

I’m interested in branching out, I keep an open mind. I’m not prejudiced, I like experimenting with the occasional Celestial Seasonings blend, a Mocha or a Latte, just for a taste of something different.

Seasonal coffees like Pumpkin Spice on a cold winter morning, mmmmm, yummy.

I found the Cinnamon-flavored coffee was amazing. It won my heart, yes it did.

I went back to get cases to stock up, only to find it gone without a trace. No location code, no shelf space, and the store has never carried it again.

It has become the Coffee That Must Not Be Named. Truly, it’s flavor was good, but now that I cannot have it, it has become that most exquisite of tastes, exotic and mysterious, never to be equalled.

I think, in fact, that the reason it was pulled was because it was too seductive.

It posed a threat to our modern American way of life. Homeland Security labeled cinnamon coffee a terrorist threat, and took it away, never to be seen again. If you listen close, you can hear the rubber hoses beat the beans and smell the grounds burn under the glare of the high-intensity lights.

Coffee that good? Too dangerous for mere mortals to comprehend or consume without terrifying effects.

I don’t like to think on the horrors that poor coffee may be suffering in a cell in Gitmo.

Instead, I like to think that the cinnamon coffee I sampled and now desire above all other blends was destined for the hallowed halls of Asgard, and it was a simple UPS sorting error that sent it to lowly Aldi’s Store #78545 instead.

A terrible fate may have been averted in the nick of time. Who could say what wonders or terrors my typing fingers may have bashed out under it’s divine influence?

The world will never know. The world was not MEANT to know!

Whew! Crisis averted.

Wait.

Oh, right. Coffee.

I be drinking coffee, and by coffee I mean a hot brew. I do not drink chilled coffee. To me, chilled coffee is what happens when you’re writing a long blog post, bring the cup up to take a sip, and make a face. Blech! Cold coffee. Shudder.

Nothing for it then but to prove geek cred by applying microwave radiation directly on tepid liquid, infusing pure, raw power into my beverage, power born of SCIENCE!

This post is not meant to be a passionate statement about coffee. That’s a bonus.

No, this is meant to be a message for all those like me who delight in the drinking of a nice, hot drink now and then.

While my hero Jack Reacher has his own thoughts on the perfect vessel to drink coffee from, what I like is a heavy ceramic mug, thick walled and oversized.

When we visited Walt Disney World, I saw the perfect mug, and carefully carted it back intact to our home on the other side of the country.

I have now been testing this mug. I’m not gonna endorse a mug until I’ve put it through it’s paces.

Well, I’m here to tell you, this mug is the cats meow.

I happily present to you, the Tigger Coffee Mug.

Now, I understand your concern when you see the words “oversized”.

Yeah right, heard that one before. What, it can hold a whole extra teaspoon? I need the ounces to be weighty, I have typing to do!

Allow me to reassure you. It is, indeed, oversized.

Here is my mug next to my other beverage of choice for the purposes of comparison.

There. That sucker will EAT the mountain dew can. Step off, dew, You’ve been warned.

So there you have it, my friends. When you’ve got a payload as powerful as coffee, shouldn’t you have a delivery system that shows the world you are SERIOUS about what you do?

Of course you should. 🙂

Shhh, be vewy, vewy quiet, I’m hunting DEMONS!

Bearwall! Ah, the smell of fresh bear droppings  on a nice clean blog page.

It smells like… oh, damn.

Smelly bear, smelly bear, what have they been feeding you?
Beer and bacon and BBQ beans, that’s what a big butted bear is made of.

Surprise, surprise, I have been playing a little Diablo 3 this week.

I don’t know that my experiences are going to be all that interesting, but my approach to the game has been to ignore it and all related discussions completely until release.

I wouldn’t say I’ve taken pleasure in ignoring the latest details MMO Champion would release during Beta, or in passing by the fevered, frenzied arguments about it’s features that popped up like shrooms all over the blogosphere.

Well, yeah, I guess I would.

I was playing World of Warcraft, and while it’s nice to see what is intended in a beta for a game I’m actively playing, like WoW, I really couldn’t get into following all the details of a game that was unplayable.

Basically, I ask this of a company – if you’re creating a game, give me a video pimping your art design and music to entice my imagination, then give me some gameplay videos showing me what it’s like to actually get embedded into it. That’s it, I’ll take it from there. The more detail you tell me, the less left to my imagination. Give me a good view of the gameplay, I’ll see all I need for a snap judgment.

I played Diablo, Diablo II, and the expansions. I’ve got fond memories of them all, but the gameplay… they are, at their hearts, button mashing hack and slash dungeon crawlers, and there was nothing wrong with that at all. But the tastiest bits of those dungeon crawlers was exploring the world, the lore, and the specifics of the gameplay as it unfolded through the levels, so why would I want to spoil the mysterious bits with spoilers before I even crack the can?

Plus… one of the things I loved about my previous Diablo experiences was how rock-solid polished they were. Shit worked, no bugs. Why spoil by trying them when they’re all buggy?

I wanted to walk into the new game just like I did the old ones, to get immersed in a POLISHED game experience and enjoy my ignorance.

The best reason I could think of to follow the development would be to see if I felt enticed enough to buy it for $60, so as soon as they announced you got the game for free with an Annual Pass in WoW, well, I stopped following the news. Purchase was a done deal, I’ll play it when I get it, and see what it’s like then.

Fast forward to launch week, my friends. Ooh, new game, cool, time to see what all the hype was about. I hope it doesn’t suck!

I’ve been so successful at remaining spoiler free (that sounds better than ignorant, doesn’t it?) that I had to no shit look up how many classes there were and watch the “What the heck does this class do” videos on MMO Champion just to get some idea of which one I might try first.

I didn’t have even the most basic awareness of what was going to happen when I fired it up. Except, like, you know.

Demons and shit.

I watched the Barbarian video, the Demon Hunter and the Monk. I didn’t watch the Witch Doctor because the gameplay description was all “lol pets lol”, and I didn’t watch the Wizard because, well, squishy was my first impression, and squishy is for after you play around with it.

A heavy plate wearing class, a damage sponge, that is just the thing for a training wheels experience.

I didn’t think I’d start with a Barbarian though, because, well, it looked identical to a WoW Warrior, been there done that, I deal with rage issues enough as it is. If I want to deal with rage, I can just catch up on Twitter, plenty of rage to be found there.

I didn’t think I wanted to start with a Demon Hunter because, and this is the only real reason, I didn’t fancy micro-managing traps. Demon Hunter went on my mental “try when I’m bored with my first character, twin crossbows look sweet” list.

So I watched the Monk video, and I thought it looked pretty cool. It is about damn time someone decided that what the world lacked was Hungarian Ninjas, and I for one welcome our new Hungarian Ninja lightning-fisted overlords.

Awesome voice acting on the accents. I started off with a male one, booted through the startup intro and then thought, “Holy crap, this guy is so awesome, what does a female Hungarian Ninja sound like, OMIGOD RUN GO SEE GO SEEEEE”

I do not regret my decision. Sunshatter the female Hungarian Ninja is a lot of fun.

In getting started, the Monk certainly felt powerful, I kicked some skeleton ass. It was pretty cool. Nice effects, a melee class with lots of “get to the bad guy fast” abilities, very nice.

The more things change, though, the more they feel the same.

The first thing that really got into my head like Deja-Diablo-Vue was how like Diablo II the gear situation felt.

One of the things I carried forward from Diablo II was my irritation with their loot system.

Drops were always random, and it was difficult to know what stats you wanted, and if you did know exactly what was optimal, good luck ever finding it.

I only ever played Diablo II single player, and I remember feeling really irritated that they couldn’t have drops that were a little more… focused towards being useful, but in different ways.

I’m a warrior, what do I need Intellect on my plate helm for? Why does my two handed flamberge give me +Arcane Power? WTF?

At the time, I figured it was so that, when playing Diablo II in a group for years, the drop of an actually USEFUL piece of gear would be cause for celebration, acrimonious arguments, and furious dissention. All the stuff that helps bond a group.

So, yeah, when I saw the return of some of the silly stat combinations, it brought me right back.

The reality of Diablo III is better, much better, the new game does not bear any real resemblance to how bad Diablo II gear drop stats were, but the feel is there on each wtf drop.

See, the reason it’s all good is, all that crap gear has a point! You can destroy it for component parts without regret. Plus, and this is amazing, as far as I can see there is NO soulbinding, so you can equip a drop, use it as long as you’d like, and then trade it to someone else.

Oh yeah, did I mention my shock at that change before? There is an Auction House, and you don’t have to decide between equipping an awesome item to level with or selling it. You can do both!

Level with that awesome item, then when you get an upgrade, turn around and break it up into forging mats, or sell it on the AH to someone else. Or stick it in your shared stash for an alt to use someday.

That… that is pretty amazing to me. It seems almost TOO useful, too considerate to players, to be a Blizzard game design decision.

Then again, the Black Market Auction House is coming soon, as well as account-wide shared mounts, and those are a bit of a shocker too. I thought Blizzard wanted us to run things a bazillion times hoping for that rare drop, and then suffer the anguish of the “soulbound on the wrong character that ran it once to help a friend” tragedy.

Your tears nourish the black soul of Blizzard developers, who, or so I’ve heard, are all retired Special Forces E&E Trainer cadre who miss torturing willing participants in a myriad of perfectly legal ways.

My amazement of the transferrable loot system was overshadowed by my annoyance at how confused I feel at Blizzard’s itemization.

Understand, I could answer all of these questions with a 30 second web search. That’s not the point. The point is to have the joy of discovery all on my own, and that joy has to be balanced by my inevitable irritation when I’m ignorant, and can’t figure out a solution quickly.

As much else that I love, I continue to feel confused with armor and weapons.

For example… are there actual armor types?

I look at an item description, and it seems sometimes it says an item is cloth, other times leather, but many other times there is no actual ‘armor class’ or type listed, just an armor value.

Stats are fairly obvious in association, but can my Wizard wear the same types of armor as my Barbarian? There are class-specific items with a class name in some pieces, but in others, it seems pretty shaky.

It’s not quite as obvious as the system that I, as a WoW player, am used to. Such as “You are a Mage, you wear Cloth. Suck it up, silk-boy.” Or “You are a Druid, you can wear Cloth or Leather armor, you have a level 60 Skill that says if you wear all Leather you get stat bonuses so you are intended to wear leather whenever possible, if you don’t like it go stick a feather in your butt and pop flight form, bird-brain.”

Not a big issue, just… ah, the feel of Diablo II in the air. Refreshing!

When I’d played my Monk for a while, I decided I wanted to try a ranged class. I was having fun, but I was curious if a Wizard would feel noticeably squishier, and if so, would that be more challenging? The Monk was feeling a bit too easy mode.

I created a Wizard. A male Wizard. I refrained from making the obvious emo jokes when I saw his default pose, I just named him Unbearable, and really, when you look at his pose, why wouldn’t you? I look at him and I know *I* want to smack that smug know-it-all smirk off his face.

Here is the funny thing.

Because my monk was a melee combatant, I worked hard to get weapon upgrades. More powerful paired Vampiric daggers means more stabby-stab damage, right? Sorta?

But the Wizard is a spell-casting inferno of magical destruction. I am throwing lightning bolts and orbs of arcane might at the bad guys, all doing with the blowing up thing.

What does the DPS of a sword have to do with the damage my fireball does?

Well, it doesn’t, or so I reason out, and off I went through most of the first act ignoring my weapon unless a Wand dropped, since Wands might affect my Magic Missile.

I was having a pretty hard time towards the end, fighting the waves of bad guys in the Cathedral leading up to the Skeleton King. I was getting swamped, and as good as Arcane Orb is, it was taking every bit of skillful use of Frost Nova and that Arcane Explosion thingie AoE and running and gunning to stay alive.

Then, I decided to toss a 14.5 DPS flaming spear into my weapon slot. Just cause, you know. Flaming javelin mages are so the thing, right?

Oh hey, suddenly my Magic Missile is doing HOLY SHIT I BLEW UP THE WHOLE ROOM WITH MY ARCANE ORB OMGWTFBBQFORREALS.

It turns out, and this was a hell of a surprise, it turns out that the higher the DPS rating on my melee weapon, the more powerful my magical spells are.

So… my weapon is a stat stick that has no intuitive link with my magical power, but does anyway. Fair enough, lesson learned, time to toast some Horny Tauren… err, goatmens.

It’s been lots of fun, dungeon crawling has never been more interesting. Learning to hold down the shift button whenever I want to blow stuff up at range (it keeps me from moving when I click), learning that I can click on my Templar companion’s portrait and train his skills and GIVE HIM gear to make him more powerful, there are all sorts of fun little discoveries so far.

And I’ll be honest with you, the fact that I am trying, screwing it up, getting myself in stupid situations and then discovering my error later? That is actually a large part of the fun.

There is something inherently perverse in how I’m playing the game. The moments that stand out for me as the best are the ones where I go “Oh shit! THAT’S what I was supposed to do! Well, duh.”

And yet… it’s been good.

I’ve been thinking, I’m having so much fun and being delighted by wonder and getting surprised by my mistakes and working through them, that I’m thinking I ought to try working ignorance into the rest of my day to day activities.

I’m thinking, from now on, when I’m driving I might want to stop turning my head around to see what is behind me and to the sides before I make a lane change. I think going to that extra effort to actually SEE the blind spots and make sure they’re clear before I change lanes is keeping me from having a certain taste of mystery, of wonder in my life. I think I should cut back on being informed, no turn signals either (why should I prevent other drivers from enjoying their own moment of enjoyable surprise learning experiences) and just glance in the side mirror and pop over in the same movement.

What could possibly go wrong with this plan?

Don’t worry though, I know I’m not the first one to think of this as a way to add a certain flair and excitement to my day. Hell, from what I can see on the road, I’m apparently the last one to realize how fun it must be.

Here’s hoping that you and yours are having a great time in whatever game you may be playing, and I’ll leave you with this tagline:

“Ignorance – It’s not just a playstyle choice, it’s a LIFESTYLE choice.”

He’s Playing My Song

Cassie and I drove down from the Twin Cities to Winona, Minnesota this weekend to see Collin Raye perform at Winona State University for a Mothers Day treat. Collin Raye is one of Cassie’s favorite musicians, and I admit I’m very fond of him as well.

Collin Raye has this one particular song that Cassie knows is probably my favorite song ever, a song that speaks to me of everything in my entire life, and how I feel about it. Probably a “I’m old” thing, but every time I hear Collin Raye sing the song, I get one of those flashback montage things in my head.

Well, Collin kinda hinted that the next song he was going to sing was going to be this song, so Cassie had enough advance warning to get the camera out and set it to record video.

The beginning is totally shaky-cam, but since Cassie was all twisted up trying to record from our third row seats without having the 1000 gigawatt light from the LCD screen on the camera blind everyone behind us, I think she did fantastic.

Honestly, this is probably my favorite song. It’s not one that goes on the gym workout track, or the “I want to drive 120 mph and feel like a Formula One driver” CD, but it’s the song that always makes me stop whatever I’m doing at the time to turn it up and listen.

I think it says it all that, during what is supposed to be Cassie’s special night to relax and enjoy the music she loves, she still thought of me to record this song. What it says is, I don’t do enough for Cassie.

I hope you enjoy it in the spirit it’s offered. And if you do, I encourage you to take the time to visit Amazon and consider buying one of his CDs. The new gospel one is, IMO,  fantastic. Undefeated is great too.

Happy Mothers Day, everyone.

In case the video embed doesn’t work, here is a direct link.

PS… I don’t get any money for this at all, this is a true word of mouth “I really love this song” thing. YMMV.

Cross Realm Leveling Zones?

I’ll admit, when I first saw MMO Champion tweet about a stunning MoP Cross-Realm Zones revelation, my only response was, “What the hell is that? No, really, what? Why? And again, what?”

I could copy/paste the official text from Blizzard, but I think I can safely bottom-line this.

Leveling zones are empty. Capital cities are full. This is a problem.

If we combine servers, leveling zones would have more players and feel more populated, but the capitols would be crushed in bored max level characters, and you would never find a mailbox again.

So, we will leave capital cities and high-population areas alone on separate servers, but combine the populations in the leveling zones.

Why will we do this?

Time for a direct quote.

Cross-realm zones give us the capability to ensure that level-up zones retain a population size that feels more like the high level areas of the game, leading to a more fun play experience for characters of all levels.

Before I even get into my opinion on this or talk about it, I want to address that statement.

There is one HUGE assumption in that statement. The assumption is, a crowded level-up zone provides a ‘more fun play experience’ than a low population one.

Did anyone ask you if you liked having the mobs and quest drops in a zone all to yourself? Did I miss a poll? The zones aren’t empty even now, they’re just lightly populated. Their new cross-realm zones won’t add people that weren’t there before, it’s just going to take the people that were already there, and pile them in tighter.

Maybe Blizzard is correct in saying that it will be more fun, but that was a statement of fact. They will do this, and it will make the game more fun. Period. End of discussion, because a flat statement like that doesn’t leave any room for discussion, there was a fact, and they are acting on it. If you disagree, then you are opposed to more fun for other people, you meanie, you.

Moving on from semantics, I’d like to talk about this concept like an adult for a few minutes.

I know it’s a stretch, work with me here.

What Blizzard has been coding and testing is a fact. They already had the idea, discussed it, committed resources to it, and have apparently gotten to the implementation stage for the big reveal.

But what made them think of it in the first place?

What I’m wondering is, what was the original intent. What benefits were intended to be gained, and who is going to reap them?

The normal image of a dev workshop is of a group of people tossing out ideas on improvements to the game. The goal of such an imaged gathering is to focus on new ideas that would please the existing customer, and retain them.

This could have come out of such a gathering, but there is another possibility that occurs to me.

They could have been having a meeting to discuss what they could do to try and retain the new players on a free trial account.

Any benefit to long term players who are already at max level would be incidental. We’ve already been through the zones, we’ve reached max level, we are at end game. We likely are in guilds, have friends, can get Heirlooms, and don’t need to group to complete quests in zones that had group quests and encounters nerfed.

It’s a subtle distinction, but this feels like a move intended to address the question, “How do we try and MAKE the world feel vital and alive to new players, when the existing players are all in capital cities?”

I’m going to take a moment to use a real world example to explain why I think this, and why I think it’s a very smart move.

Do you ever watch cooking shows? The ones where Gordon Ramsey goes to some failing restaraunt to tell them why they’re bollix? Or nightclub scenes?

One of the pieces of advice I’ve found fascinating, since I can test it myself when out and about, is to confine the space for the number of guests you’ve got, through things like moveable wall sections or dividers.

By keeping the space cramped, by pushing people close together but not too close, you build an artificial feeling of intimacy, of vitality.

Instead of large, echoing empty spaces that leave the area feeling like a lifeless void sucking all the music out of the room, you cram ’em all together, bumping into each other and chatting and hearing other people having a good time, noise and movement and energy, vitality.

People enter that kind of environment and feel that they’ve made a good choice; just look at all these other people that are having a great time, I made a wise decision to come here and have a good time too.

The idea is, you can have tons of space, but don’t open it up until the place is really jammed to capacity. People getting crunched in is better for overall business than a few people upset that they feel overcrowded.

That’s why I think that this came mainly from think-tank discussions on how to entice and retain new players, not from a discussion on how to improve the game for the existing playerbase as a whole.

I’m fine with it, I think it’s a good idea. I get that they have long had technology that increases spawn rates based on use… lots of people mining nodes increases spawn rates, that sort of thing. I’m not worried that, after fine tuning, we’re going to have a worse time trying to complete quests competing for drops. I LIKE having people in zones to bump into.

I think it’s a very nice improvement, and I love that the way it’s being implemented, when added to Real ID, means you can have friends leveling alts together and questing together even when they are on two different servers. That freaking rocks.

My point to bring this up, is simply to point out that aside from what is developed and goes live is the question, “Why might they have come up and invested time and money in this?”

That is always a good question to ask. It reveals what a game developer feels is an issue important enough to spend some real money to address.

You can say all sorts of things, but I like the glimpse I think this gives us of what they are worried about…. and what kind of action they’re going to take.

I won’t say I love it just yet, until I get a chance to try it live, but I’m one of those that likes to feel as if I’m part of a living, breathing, vital game world full of people having fun.

With most everyone playing max level characters, server population being what it is means that yes, there are tons of people playing alts… but they are the minority on any given server. By bringing them all together, why, I get to play with others instead of being all alone.

I bet the PvP servers are going to have a blast.

The best thing, the very best thing to me is maybe this will stop Blizzard from their repeated attempts to FORCE max level characters to spend time in low level zones to give a false sense of vitality in areas low level character inhabit.

The games played with removing portals, adding portals, moving portals around, forcing us to go through the Dark Portal to get to Shatt, to take the boat to get to Northrend, to keep us flying and riding around, to design professions that force us to fly all over the world back and forth through leveling zones for dig sites…

Please, stop trying to shoehorn forced zone populations. Let it stop.

Connect the servers up like this, let all the people actually interested in playing in a zone together BE in a zone together, and the World… will be a happy place.

*bonus game… how many assumptions did I make in my analysis? See how many you can count!