Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Birthday Year in Review -- #Blaugust2021 Day 4

 It's my birthday! We've got a fun day planned and I even slept in a bit. So, it's time for a bit of a review. What a strange year it has been . . . and the theme of this year has been . . . 

STRESS 

. . . and dealing with the results of stress.

1- The Pandemic -- Just in general, being cooped up and working remotely has been pretty stressful for me. Trying to keep track of kids going to school remotely while working my job is not ideal. My wife is an educational assistant, so she worked at the school most of the year. I, on the other hand, pretty much was the only responsible parent around, and keeping the kids in check fell upon my shoulders. Add to this that I'm a people person, and being isolated wasn't great.

2- Hellish Power Outage -- I can't tell you how stressful that week was without power. The worry and helplessness that came from that was pretty real.  We worked it out, but that week had a long shadow.

3- Sell of KingsIsle -- The announcement that KingsIsle was being sold to Gamigo was a huge out of left field thing that kinda hit me with a right hook. I really had some heartbreak going on here because I love KingsIsle and for a while I felt like I was one of the faces of KingsIsle for so many players because of our KI Live Livestreams. It took a lot to say goodbye and realize that I wasn't going to be a part of that company anymore. I was also saying goodbye to so many friends and coworkers all at once.

4- Job Change -- I was safely picked up by the new company born out of the sale of KingsIsle, so I didn't miss any paychecks. In fact, I got a promotion out of it. But, there were a lot of unknowns that we all had to be patient about. What insurance do we have? What about my oodles of PTO? etc. etc.  It all got answered of course and everything worked out, but it just added to the stress.

5- Caffeine addiction -- I've often heard that video games are built on caffeine, but my caffeine and sugar addiction was real. I was doing stupid stuff too like drinking Coke back to back with eating jellybeans, so you know . . . it was a sugar addiction as well. Stress is bad enough, but there's nothing like a can of Coke to make you really feel that stress in your fingers and toes. It was leading to some pretty bad leg cramps in the middle of the night too, so you can add "interrupted sleep" to that list of stressors as well.

All of that was a disastrous cocktail leading up to the big crash in my life that I haven't really talked about on my blog yet.

6- Type 2 Diabetes -- A couple weeks after the hellish power outage, my body went into full rebellion and all of a sudden I just couldn't catch up to my thirst. I literally had 20 glasses of water that first day and I was still thirsty. I knew something was wrong, so I searched it online and that's when I knew . . . my stupid self had developed diabetes.  All the stress and sugar finally flipped the switch in my body and that was that. My father, mother, and one of my sisters all developed diabetes, and I should have been more careful because of this, but I didn't think about it.

I went to the doctor and he confirmed it . . . my blood was basically syrup in my veins at that point and it was so bad that I qualified for insulin. I didn't want insulin though, I wanted to go the diet route.

...and so I did.

The past 5 months has been a complete change for me as far as my diet goes. I've cut out sugar and carbs as much as I possibly can and created a diet that seems to work for me. My follow up visit with the doctor was a complete success. I dropped 40 pounds and got my blood sugar back to acceptable levels. I'm on Metphormin, which is actually a pretty common and cheap medicine to control diabetes, but I've had to make a complete life style change. So this year there won't be any traditional cake at my birthday. This year, the wife has a special "diabetic" cake for me as I head into my 50th birthday.

So I don't feel guilty when I say . . . this new birthday computer I'm typing on, with its $1000 video card inside and screaming speed, is so nice! 

It's a souped-up HP Omen . . . oh man, it's awesome!

I'm happy as can be. I'm in a better place now as I head into the back end of my life. Bring on the black balloons! Let's do this!

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Time Disappears in Risk of Rain 2 -- #Blaugust2021 Day 3

A couple months ago, I downloaded a game solely from the recommendation of my friend Jordon at work. We started working pretty closely together on the same Team right after our company was born from the ashes of when KingsIsle was sold to Gamigo. Jordon highly recommended Risk of Rain 2 to me and I had to give it a try. It sounded so outside my wheelhouse of usual games, but at the same time like something I'd totally enjoy. (Plus I think it was on sale if I remember right . . . ) Sold.

My first several runs at the game were absolutely brutal. I don't think I even made it past the first boss on my first few runs, and that's when it struck me exactly how challenging this game was and how that was exactly something I needed at the time. This scratched that itch in all the right ways. I've heard the original Risk of Rain was pretty epic as well . . . same game, but it was a 2D side scroller / platformer, but ROR2 takes all that goodness and rolls it into a 3rd person shooter.

I'm a cowboy robot fresh out of the escape pod. Let's do this!

The gist of Risk of Rain 2 here is that you're an expendable robot sent down to an alien planet that is none to happy you've arrived. Wave after wave of enemies pour out and attack you as an enemy difficulty slider continues to get harder and harder. While on the surface of the planet, you unlock crates in exchange for money you earned by killing aliens. Inside these crates you have power up items that give you various boosts. If you're lucky, those boosts will have the perfect synergy and you'll be an epic powerhouse, which can give you just the edge you need to survive. You'll need them because if at any time you die, you're done, roguelike style, and start over as a new expendable robot jettisoned to the planet surface.

$25 bucks for an awesome buff -- yes please!

My son was so happy to see my playing Risk of Rain 2. He's like, DAD! I HAVE THIS GAME AND I'VE NEVER PLAYED IT! That kid's steam account is much more prolific than mine to be honest. He has a group of friends that make big plans to play games together, which only occasionally come to fruition, but he's always prepared by purchasing the game on sale. So this one I actually got to play with my teenage son and totally played out this wholesome meme together.

So far the highest I've gotten in the game is level 20 somewhere in the "HAHAHAHA" difficulty level after expending an hour rolling around as a MUL-T robot exploding the most ridiculous of enemies. There's a ton of different robots you can play as, but I've only unlocked a few beyond the beginning set. 

I believe the world I ended my run on was the world right before the last one from what I've read. I'll get there eventually! This is definitely a game I'd love to quote unquote beat some day.  There are a ton of challenges to undertake and characters to unlock and I feel like I've only scratched the surface, which gives this game a ton of replayability . . . which you absolutely need in a roguelike.

Die mr. lightbulb head demon alien!

It's a great game that somehow scratches that exploration itch while also scratching that try-to-survive goodness from all roguelikes. For an old cat like me, I always go back to that original feeling from playing the game Smash TV or Zombies ate my Neighbor as a youth where you have these hoards of enemies crashing at you. 

What I don't like about Risk of Rain 2 is how completely sucked into the game I get and lose total track of time. It can eat an hour of my time and unlike most games, I just don't know where that time went.  It just doesn't feel like an hour after you finished playing. It just sucks time away in the most glorious of ways, and during Blaugust, with an already busy schedule, that's a bad thing. ;)

Where'd that hour go? Oh yeah . . . I was playing Risk of Rain 2 . . . huh.

All in all, it's a really fun game that will be there to haunt me until I face that final boss. I will succeed eventually, and it'll stay installed on my computer until that happens. If I get more father and son time out of it while I'm at it, I'll be happy knowing exactly where that hour of time went.

Happy Dueling!

Monday, August 2, 2021

That 40k a day in Pirate101 -- #Blaugust2021 Day 2

For the majority of Pirate101's life, it has had to fight tooth and nail for every added piece of content past (and including) Valencia Part 2. This beautiful game, which I love dearly, sits quietly in the long, long shadow of its popular sister, Wizard101.  It suffers from being so similar to Wizard101 that mainstream MMO players shy away from it, and yet so dissimilar from Wizard101 that Wizard101 players also tend to shy away from it. Only the true KingsIsle fans, MMORTS fans, RPG story hounds, and people that dig furry pirates will really fall head over heels for this game like I have.

One of the updates that was hard fought for was the daily quest system back in September 2017, and it has remained the same way it was since that fateful day . . . over 1,400 days later, you can still find Count Monterfulino of Valencia, Count Medvedov of Grizzleheim, Don Allejandro of Monquista, and Lady Heathcliffe of Marleybone standing aboard the "Party Barge" near Skull Island forever engaging in diplomacy and offering players one daily quest each.  

Don Allejandro must eat five rhubarb pies a day!

Each successful quest completion will reward the player with 10,000 gold, or 40,000 gold for the whole suite of four each day. Yes, if my calculator app is right, then doing your dailies for the past 1,400+ days you would have made a whopping 56 million gold and change by sinking 7,000 cutthroat ships, collecting 7,000 pages of lost Grizzleheim report pages, and stealing 5,600 pieces of rhubarb and 5,600 needles and pieces of thread from angry clockworks sailing about in Marleybone. It's a short 10-15 minutes of your life every day. Get to it! 

Sink all the ships! Get all the weird stuff!

Side note, one thing that will help you speed your dailies up is realizing that the little cutthroat ships in the Skull Island skyway also count toward task completion. You don't have to sail to the other end of Marleybone to knock that one out while doing the other daily quests. 

Also something you need to figure into that whole mess of 56 million gold is the fact that the current gold cap is 250,000 gold, so you would have needed to clear out all your gold a couple hundred times over to make it work for you with the most benefit.  That my friends is a lot of Aquilan gold piles. What's that?  Oh, it's a furniture item in Aquila that you buy for 200,000 gold with a resell value of 30,000 gold. That may seem like a bad rate of exchange, but honestly, what in the world are you going to do with all that gold? Heal companions at Miracle Mitch? (Embarrassing!) Refill your ship's boost a million times? (Sure. Why not?) Use the Transportaler for random porting back and forth? (mmm . . . if you say so.)  Decorate your 20th house? (I'll get around to it.) Refill your yum bottles till you can't no more? (I'm no lush!) Raise up the perfect Pet? (<--we have a winner!!)

Anyway, the daily updates also brought with it a faction vendor that sells you sparkler themed weapons if you've completed the daily quests a couple of times and unlocked him, and you also get exclusive badges above your head if you complete the daily quests 10 times, 100 times, and finally 500 times. After completing the dailies 10 times myself, you better believe my new stitch is the sparkler weapon and my new badge is the Fashion Assistant.

Looking good!  and yes . . . check out my new Nurse Quinn! LOL!

To be honest, I hate to even suggest changes to the Pirate101 daily system . . . making new quests is a big time sink, but we all know that it's the number one thing that would help burnout. Adding new things you can purchase at the vendor would be a big win. Especially if it's exclusive and locked beyond the high badge requirements. 

Personally I'd try to get Avery added as a quest giver on the Party Barge, but I'd make his quests all about side system engagement and cut the VO so it works more like Wizard101's Daily system: Hatch a pet, Play a mini-game, Use the team up kiosk, Visit your house, Use a doubloon, Enter the regatta, Enter ship PVP zone, Enter the PVP house, Enter the Parrrty Room, Enter the Smuggler's Arena, Visit a random skyway, and Defeat a badge-related unit (like troggies or water moles). Of course, tech to sense that a player has accomplished some of those might be too expensive . . . if that's the case, narrow that list down to just defeat badge-related units.

As I said in a previous post . . . I'd LOVE to see Bob Carrington and Captain Hande make their return as main villains that coincide with daily quests. What?  A necro can dream!

Ultimately it's really hard to make Daily Quests seem less grindy, but I have to say it's one of the things that's currently keeping me logged in and interested on my main character in Pirate101.

Happy dueling!

Sunday, August 1, 2021

My First Blood Moon in 7 Days to Die -- #Blaugust2021 Day 1

Recently I started playing 7 Days to Die because my drop-dead funny friend, Lessah, and I decided that it was time we played a game together. 

At first we thought we'd give Creativerse a try, but she wasn't really feeling it, so I said . . . name the game and I'll play. The game named happened to be 7 Days to Die, a survival game near and dear to her heart--one where she's put in well over 2,000 hours playing.

Lessah showed me the ropes on how to play this game and even pushed the record button so she could share highlights on her YouTube and Twitch channels. It's some great stuff like this, where I get stuck in a bathroom with a horde of zombies because curiosity killed the Friendly Necromancer.


I had a blast wandering the apocalypse with Lessah, but I really needed to learn the game more. Because of this I started a solo game on the side where I could really get to know the ropes. At the core, you could dismiss this as a Minecraft clone, but there's more to it than just that.

7 Days to Die is all about exploring houses that have gone through apocalyptical changes. In essence, each house is kind of like a mini-dungeon full of loot and zombies. Pathways through houses have been orchestrated where you can find hidden tunnels and zombies pop out at you from closets or drop down on you from above. Most houses have a loot bin hidden deep inside them, and that is the real candy you're looking for when you explore -- "The Khan's True Wealth" as Lessah is fond of saying.

Bobs Boars and Carl's Corn -- two great tastes that go great together!

In addition to this, there is a trader that acts as a hub for quests and as a vendor to sell your junk to. The trader typically gives you a choice from several quests. So far these all seem to involve clearing out an area of zombies, stopping a horde outbreak, fetching lost supplies, and digging for buried treasure. Completing quests gives you money and a choice of reward.

And you do all this while you have several life-blood counters ticking down, making the journey very difficult and full of excitement: 1- Food, 2- Water, 3- radiation levels, and 4- The Blood Moon. 

One, you can find food by rummaging houses or killing wild beasts (before they kill you) and using their meat in cooking recipes, which there are plenty of options, but to cook you have to first find cooking pot and a working grill rack for your fire.

Two, you also find water by rummaging, by filling empty jars with river water and boiling it, or by drinking murky water out of toilets . . . safely, if you can find a filtration mod for your helmet. 

Three, contact with zombies naturally leads to blood loss and also radiation exposure. If that exposure gets to high, you're out. The best way to counteract that seems to be either medicines or good ol' honey. That natural cure seems to take the radiation right out of your body.

And finally, every 7 days the blood moon comes, and I experienced my first just the other day. Now, I had watched my friend Lessah and her friend fight off a blood moon on her YouTube channel and got completely terrified at what I saw: hoards and swarms of unrelenting zombies attracted to your fresh meat.  

Because of this, I spent a whole in-game day and a half of preparations where I put down spikes all around my home base, blocked off the doors with fencing, covered the windows and stairways in barbed wire, and hunkered down for a terrifying experience.

Ready for the blood moon with spike traps and Molotov Cocktails a plenty.

What I didn't realize was that what I saw on Lessah's channel was a blood moon from several days in. I didn't know that it doesn't start out like that. Instead what I found out was that I waaaaay over prepared for the event. That first blood moon was basically two waves of a handful of zombies.

The biggest threat came from the skies as two zombie vultures started dive bombing me from the roof of my house.  They almost got me, but I was prepared with bandages and medicine -- stupid vultures!

Surviving the blood moon, though a bit anti-climactic compared to what I was expecting, felt pretty great.  Now the game just continues as I work in anticipation of Day 14 instead of Day 7.  I'll need to build my base back up a bit as they tore themselves up on my spike traps. 

Seems legit . . . They won't get past the spike traps and the barb wire on the stairs, will they?

All in all, I'm enjoying myself in 7 Days to die and that's mostly thanks to Lessah who made the experience more fun. If you're ever wanting to survive the apocalypse, it's good to have friends like good ol' Lessah Ismorah at your side.

Happy Dueling! 

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Welcome to #Blaugust2021 -- am I ready for this?!

Whoo boy . . . here we go. It's that time of year again where the blogging coalition that's gathered around Belghast unites to write and write some more during the month of August.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, please head over to Bel's Blog and catch on up with what's what in the MMO/videogame blogosphere.

I joined in back in 2019 where I wrote topics on everything from Terreria to Dungeons and Dragons -- it even led to a year-long romance with Project Gorgon and me blogging about my adventures there. 


My beautiful OC Project Gorgon picture commissioned from Mia Smith.

In 2015, I crushed it with several posts that reminisced about my favorite spots in DCUO, DDO, Everquest, WoW, and Wizard101. It's also a trip down memory lane for me seeing these old pictures of my family when we went to Classic Game Fest.

That kid is now as tall as his dad . . . maybe taller . . . 

Both times those were really grueling experiences with Blogging, so I know what I'm getting into here by joining in once again, but I'm confident that I can keep pace this year and I hope you're all excited to read along as I am to participate with my fellow bloggers. Be sure to follow along with the #Blaugust2021 tag on Twitter! There will be plenty of reading to do this year.

I've been writing up a short list of blog topics, and I'm falling well behind 30 days worth, so there are sure to be some surprises along the way. When the topics fall short, I can always fall back to Bel's handy dandy calendar of events.

So come along, let's get excited, and if you have any topics you'd like to see me tackle, please leave me a comment or a tweet. I appreciate your time. See you tomorrow morning!

Happy Dueling!

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Re-imagining the Regatta in Pirate101

There's an interesting ship dungeon in Pirate101 that's a little off the beaten path. It's a one-of-a-kind in game, and that makes it naturally more interesting than the dozens of other dungeons you can find in Pirate101.

As it turns out, two-boxing the Regatta is not too difficult!

As the Pirate's Regatta was one of two remaining quests in my quest log for Pirate101, I decided to duo it with my two box account to see how it'd go. The end result was that I was able to finish the event without much mishap! Well, a few of my companions got knocked out on that final fight, but it wasn't too bad.  

After the hour and a half that it took me to complete the event, I had a lot more scrip than I started with, but I'm pretty sure I'd need to run the regatta at least a dozen or more times to really get what I want from the Black Market shop where you buy exclusive rewards with said scrip.

I decided to take it to Twitter to see if there was a consensus and while I didn't get a ton of responses, I did get a response from @Telekneticissue that kind of summed up some of the suspicions I had while playing through the event.


I remember there was a little discussion about it on ye' old Pirate101 forums as well, and a quick search led me to mixed feelings about the Regatta, so I started thinking . . . if I was asked as a Designer to improve the Regatta, what would I suggest? 

It's a tough one to answer because the event is tuned to bringing a full party of 4, but can be done with as little as 2 . . . maybe even as little as 1, but I'm sure the time to complete the event escalates the fewer people that are involved.  In addition, you can't really adjust quest requirements based on the number of players that enter an instance together, so you want to ensure it's a fun challenge for all party sizes.

So, taking all that in stride, I think the real problem of the Regatta is player population, time decay, and motivation. To further explain it:

1- Player population in Pirate101 just isn't what it used to be, point blank. There are plenty of people that still play, but you can see it when you run around and play in the game . . . it's a bit barren these days.  

2- It's been five to six years since the content has released with no new update to the Scrip rewards a person can earn. 

3- When a person can get 4 players together who all want to earn Scrip, their time is probably better spent at the Smuggler's Arena where the scrip rewards are infinitely better, but the difficulty is ramped up. There's less risk in the regatta, but also fewer rewards.

To counter act all that, I'd suggest the following changes:

1- Place new Scrip rewards in the Black Market to freshen the motivation. It's been long enough that if players are going to be excited about the Black Market again, new rewards should be added. Maybe take some of the Boss rewards from around the Spiral and make new alternate versions of them with effect glows and a high price tag.  Or maybe pick one piece of ship equipment and make it more interesting -- I'd love to see ship cannons have more importance IMHO. Yes, there are probably a handful of people sitting on a glut of unused Scrip, but I'm sure it's not the majority of players.

2- Instead of increasing the difficulty of the Regatta, I'd simply suggest removing the first two waves of ships and bosses, so that there are only 3 waves total to defeat. This makes the Regatta more digestible and short, which leads me to . . .

3- Make the Regatta an event that can be turned on and off, so that it is cycled in and out of the game. This would give it more increased focus when it was active, and because it would now be limited time, the rewards could also be slightly increased.

4- Create a second Regatta event out of the first two waves you removed from the original Regatta and then add a tower boss as the final wave of the event. This then gives you a second, unique event you can turn on and off between the original regatta. 

5- For bonus points, make a third Regatta where the tower boss from the second Regatta is seasonal themed -- a giant Christmas tree, a sized up turkey platter, a giant cupig, etc. Turn this version of the Regatta on during holidays.

6- Make the Regatta entrance appear in Avery's Court so that it's in a location with more foot traffic . . . probably up by the Muskateer's Roost. It's so out of the way currently, that it's easy to forget the Regatta is even there.

So, that's a lot to ask for. If you could only choose one of the six suggestions, I'd take a look at numbers 2 and 3 above.  A little goes a long way, and that's my hot take on the Regatta on this fine Sunday morning! Of course, what people really want is not changes to the Regatta, but more story content . . . so . . . 

Thanks for reading and Happy Dueling!

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Pirate101: Sidequests Fini

And thus it happened, on 22 July . . . it was a rather time consuming task from Ludovico Muratori in Valencia Part 2, where you had to travel to all the different libraries in the spiral--gathering over due books and then returning them to their proper place in Valencia--but it was my last side quest, earning me the final sidequest badge, the Callabrian Completionist. Tada!

I'm wearing that one for awhile for sure!

The fancy quest finder tool in the quest log gave me its message "Try Again Later," and I was done.  All that's left in my quest log now is the Corsair's Challenge Nautical Quest and the Tower of Moo Manchu, and I gotta say . . . it feels pretty good to join the army of people who have already done this in Pirate101. Now I can log on and gather my daily quests to earn my 40k gold in peace and move on to new challenges!

That's all she wrote . . .

I even decided to treat myself by buying the S. M. Arson companion since I was whining about wishing I had chosen mutiny for the Dead Mike companion.  A Dead Mike clone will do nicely! 

So now the question becomes . . . what next?  Well, I've got a short list of things I still want to do in Pirate101.

1- Level all my under-leveled companions to 70.  That shouldn't be too tough.  I can get an easy 4 companion tomes a day with just logging on and doing the daily quests, plus collecting tomes and experience from the Brawling task.  That should happen pretty quick in fact.

2- Get the perfect pet.  I do like my skeletorous pet that I'm using currently on Thomas, but a Stingaloon. Dimetorsaur Phantasm, or a Grimtooth Reaper could be fun.  I still need to figure out what the perfect talents would be.

3- Get some moo gear.  You know what I'm talking about . . . the Nefarious Staff or the Imperial Boots . . . stuff like that.

4- Get enough scrip to buy something awesome like the Witchdoctor banner or smuggler's garb.

5- Move on to leveling my Buccaneer.

6- I also want to say that discovering Christmas in July was an absolute joy this morning. I'm not sure if I've played through the Krampus event yet. Getting the Krampus staff would be pretty great!

I really should do this event . . .

Anyway . . . thank you for following along with my Pirate101 side quest journey if you've been reading along.  It was pretty great to really devote some time to Pirate101.  There was so much left to do and it really did feel like the perfect time to jump in again and play.

Happy Dueling!