Friday, July 31, 2009

Radish The Hodre!

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Upon return from a romantic honeymoon getaway, our heroes Fulguralis and Fuubaar found themselves the center of a celebration of epic proportions. Fellow warriors and champions from their adventurer's alliance gathered in The Slaughtered Lamb to celebrate the joyous occasion. Much alcohol was drunk. Much fun was had.

It was then suggested that a raid on a horde town was in order... naked. Of course, when one goes streaking in search of a cross-faction incident, one would likely choose the closest town. This was the case as the honor unfortunately fell to Stonard. A short gryphon's flight and several strippings later, a group had gathered and begun to traverse a route from Nethergarde Keep to the stronghold of Stonard.

Upon arrival, the group pummelled the village guard with their fists repeatedly, casting very few spells, yet still managed to demoralize and subdue the small town. This was perhaps facilitated by the under-seasoned nature of the horde guards. After the massacre, a photograph was taken by chance, and can be found reproduced below.

(Side Note: You can see a fairly good representation of the UI I'm rolling with. Feel free to ask questions about it)

Of course, the shot is blurry and this is in no small part due to the imbibing of the rather strong beverage Nethergarde Bitter, which was drunk in massive quantities.

Having completed the mayhem, it was then suggested that a more challenged brawl was desired. Our heroes had raided the horde (or radished them, as it were), and that left another faction unscathed. Fortunately, the Dark Portal was but a stone's throw away with members of the Burning Legion on the other side. Rumor had it that the pit lord on the Stair of Destiny had made an inappropriate remark concerning the patronage of one of the warlock's minions. For this, a lashing deemed in order.

The group then staggered drunkenly back across The Blasted Lands and stumbled through the slightly dim portal. The glow did seem rather bright for a so-called Dark Portal, but that's a story for another time.

Upon their emergence on the other side, many of the combatants reclothed as there were scores of minions assaulting the gate. Besides, dying was found to make one lose one's buzz, and that's just not very sporting. Chaos ensued and a battle of epic proportions raged on the Stair of Destiny. Wave after wave of burning legionnaires crashed and broke on the drunken front held haphazardly by our heroes, finally enticing the offending pit lord to join the battle.

After the dust had settled, a mighty cheer rose up from the combined forces on that forsaken stair. The pit lord had been slain! Much revelry ensued.

Some time later, after sobering up, the following picture was taken. Sadly, it did not capture the pit lord, as his body had already been dragged off and violated profusely in the course of the revelry. Such descriptions as are not fit for this narrative we visited upon his personage, but suffice it to say there wasn't much left to photograph in any event. However, you can still see the bodies of many of the minions as they lie slain upon the stair.


(Thanks to everyone who came to our "WoW reception" and made it a blast. It was good to be back.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Profitable Professions: Inscription Versus ALL!!11!1!

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Hello all!!!!

Long time no see :D

I know that everyone and their mom has been talking about the prepatch blues blah blah blah.

You know what?! Who cares! I have ADD, I get distracted by all sorts of crap. My little gerbil on the wheel starts spinning and ideas start to fly.

Where my brain has been wondering as of late (before the wedding) was trying something that I've never attempted before: THE AUCTION HOUSE!

Since I'm back from the MUCH needed Honeymoon, I've decided to actually go through with this ludicrous idea of trying to make it big.

Here are my Goals that I will attempt to Achieve:

- Attempt to find a profitable niche that is not completely overloaded with competitors
- Do this by using Alchemy/Herb gathering as my Professions (because many other Experimenters are using the Inscription profession to make gold, I want to prove that you can make it using Alchemy)
- become established before 3.2 drops

With those Goals in mind, I must tell you that I'm not doing this for a Mammoth or a Motorcycle mount. I'm doing this to challenge myself to trying something new in a four year old game. I don't really care if I actually make it to Gold Cap but I would like to have a comfortable life with around 100k gold. To not have to worry about if my Alt will have to wait for her flyer & epic flyer would just feel wonderful!

I've been reading up on the Greedy Goblin, One Copper, JMTC blog ; & forum, even a short meandering over to Casual Hardcore to find out how I, Fuubaar, could be the next Hundred Thousandaire! (Gold cap is some where over 250k so I can't be a millionaire /sad day for me)All of the sources are wonderful and extremely useful to the competent Addon user/ Brain user... then there's me. I become all gung ho on an idea so I strive to know everything about everything then... OH SHINY!!!!

Wait... what was I doing again?

Focus!

Since my two Professions are Alchemy & Herb gathering, I need to start here. Where can profit be made with this combination? I am not planning on dropping either of my professions so that's out of the equation. I'm only saying this because many people jumped on the Goblin bandwagon and on board the Inscription Train to Profitsville. I know that there is profit to be made in every profession in any market at any time. Sometimes you just need to be willing to accept that you might have to work a little harder.

My thoughts on as to why so many others had tried & succeeded with inscription is that it has SO many items that can be made for profit. Small amounts of profit but spread across every classes glyphs. Think about it for a second, if you are level 80, you have probably invested in 3 major glyphs and 3 minor glyphs for your spec. Many of you might have even dual specced so... double that. If you're like me, I'll bet that NONE of your glyphs are the same ones. That means that there are at most 12 different glyphs that you thought were the best for your play style. That's just for ONE PERSON!!!!! Think of the possibilities here. What other profession is made like that? Alchemy sure isn't!

Lets take a look at Alchemy, you have three separate types of Master that you can become: Flasks, Potions, & Transmutations.

If you are a Potions master, when you create a potion, there is a chance for you to make double that amount. Now, if you mass produce these potions for money, you can see where the profit comes in. You sit down to make a stack of Potions and you end up with 26 instead of 20, with the same amount of materials, you sir are a happy person. 6 of those potions are straight profit but herein lies the problem. Who are the major buyers/ users of potions? Raiders. These people can buy in bulk or 1 at a time depending on what their needs are. Raiders want the best potions for their class and will ignore lower end potions (TBC potions). It's like buying a used car when you see a new car sitting there that is cheaper in cost & better looking. This is not to say that there aren't going to be people who will buy lower end stuff before they hit 80 for instancing and such but it's not quite the raiders market that we are more interested in.

This limits the Alchemist on profitable recipes. The Alchemist may have 150 recipes but only 4 Flasks, 5 Potions, and 2 transmutations are profitable. Many other professions are in a similar situation. No other profession has such a wide range of profitable recipes in their arsenal like inscription that it's very hard to look elsewhere when thinking about crafting your way to Fortune & Fame.

Now I'm not blind to see that yes Alchemy Flasks & potions are consumables so after every raid, people are running back to the AH to snake up more for the next run, but it gets REALLY boring crafting the Same Flask of the Stoneblood 10 gazillion times. Give me some variety damn it! Since every Alchemist has this small list of profitable recipes, there is a LOT of competition. Driving profits down into the red. One must be smart to enter into this blood bath that is the AH Flask business. Obviously, the best time to sell a flask is right before raiding time (normally 1-4 hours beforehand) so everyone is clamoring to post TONS of Flasks before the Deadline or you'll be receiving those beauties right back in your mail box.

Regardless of Alchemy's Handicap, I will turn a profit.

When doing my research at the many gold making blogs, I found a common thought that made me laugh.

"The Auction House is the Real PvP"

You are competing with the people that are playing a strategic game of wit & intellect to make more profit than you. It does not pay off to just run in & attack them without a strategy. One-shotting them does you no good as they will be back. It's like running a triathlon not a 300 meter sprint. You better be prepared to do some dirty work before you can turn out the profit in this industry.

Now to the Starting Line!!!!

I will start this triathlon by prepping a bank alt to carry out my bidding. I will need LOTS of bag space for all of my herbs and Flasks. This could possibly have a VERY large cost upfront. From what I've seen, Herb bags are OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive. On my server, a 28 slot herb bag is running close to 200g each. OUCH! The same 28 slot inscription bags are going for a whopping 4g.... Yeah, well I'm not amused. GG Blizzard.

Lucky for me, I'm married to a tailor :D

I will deck my banker out in the biggest bags I can muster and start filling it up with herbs and other materials that are needed to mass produce and keep the market stocked with Fuubaar Quality Potions & Flasks. My only concern is how to send my materials back & forth from Fuubaar to my alt.

I guess people: log on to their bank alts, clean out the Mail box of gold & items, sending Fuubaar all of the materials she would need to produce for that week, log off & on to Fuubaar, clean out mail box of Materials, mass produce until my eyes bleed, send everything back to the bank alt, Log off & on the the bank alt, Clean out Mail box & post the daily amounts of items.

/wipes sweat from brow

Well that just seems... mind numbing don't you think? This is probably why I've avoided having & actually using a Bank alt. I've done all of my storage, crafting, and selling on Fuubaar but I'm just completely out of space. It is time to grow and to allow this project to spread its Gold Making wings.

What I'm going to do is start working on a Bank Alt and get him ready. I'll keep track of how much gold I use to start everything and prove to you and myself that Alchemy can turn a profit.

Since this post is longer than most papers I wrote in College, I'll shut up now :)

SIDE NOTE: After I wrote this, I was flipping through my Reader and found this over at JMTC. I must be on to something /evil smirk

Play Nice Children

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It's official. We're in the grip of another case of pre-patch malaise. There are confirmations all over on the blogosphere of patch related anxiety. We're in the trough before another patch washes over us and fills in the empty spaces we've dug. That's okay though, it happens every patch. This too shall pass. Now is a good time to take a break, get some beer, and enjoy the last vestiges of summer as school threatens to rear its ugly head once again. For those of us that work all summer anyways, it's business as usual except that now we're going to have to start waking up in the dark again. The good news is, we've probably bottomed out on raid attendance and are going to start climbing back up here in the next few months. Give yourself a break. Eat a Snickers or something.

For me, this means I've been getting increasingly excited about the release of Aion. I'm at the point in WoW where I don't feel the urge to do it all, but know what I enjoy and don't have to spend gobs of time to get that enjoyment out of the game. To me, this is a good thing. I've never been a one-game guy and so it's nice to kind of settle in, have fun, and not worry too much that you're going to fall behind because you're not on every night. Sure I may not get every cool crazy epic thingy, but I'll still be able to run and try the new stuff when it comes out.

It also means I have time for other stuff. Right now, RL stuff is filling in the gaps, but I do look forward to being able to start a new adventure in a new game with Aion. And when you're excited about something, you probably start to read about it. At least I do. I mean, it seems like Blizz is taking forever with this patch anyways, right?

So, as I'm reading a few things are occurring to me. Try this conspiracy on for size...

As Samo pointed out over at Massive Nerd in the link above, perhaps there is more to this whole competition than we think. I've personally been very hesitant to paint things in a WoW vs Aion light, since both games can coexist in my world and I don't really think Aion is a "WoW-killer", merely a fun game that I'm looking forward to playing for many reasons. Howerver, just because I'm not pitting them against each other doesn't mean their respective marketing teams aren't.

I'm not going to regurgitate what Samo has already written, since he does a good job of it, but it got me thinking about the timing of things. What if Blizz is waiting until early September to release their major patch in order to compete with the release of Aion? Sounds a little crazy, right? After all, Blizz could be doing nothing more nefarious than stringing us out to have something exciting to talk about at BlizzCon (yet the date is relatively early, as last year's was in October, but the year before was in early August, so who knows). Also, it could have been the other way around and NCSoft could have plotted their release as well (I don't think the timing lines up as well for them though).

But look at it this way... I'd love to have Blizz release the patch right now. We're all sort of anxious for some new content and I certainly have time before Aion is released to go on a WoW binge and tackle the new stuff before their release. In short, if Blizz released the patch today, I could very easily play one game and then the other.

But if they wait? If they drop the patch right before Aion releases, then I, along with every other western gamer interested in both games, will have a choice to make. Dive into a brand new game at the expense of the one we've already invested heavily in, falling behind to some extent and delaying our WoW gratification - or - Ignore the new game for a bit and focus on WoW at the expense of falling behind there.

Now, for me, I'll balance the two games regardless, but to others, this may be a big staying point on whether or not to play. Think about if half of your friends are saying "hey come try this new game" and the other half are saying "dude, we got new WoW stuff to do, get in on this"... how torn are you going to feel know that, maybe, if you choose one, by the time you get to the other your friends will be "beyond" that. We certainly might be seeing a marketing ploy meant to prey on a "gray area" of gamers, trying to keep them firmly in one camp OR the other.

Is this even good for the industry? I mean, after all, couldn't both games theoretically co-exist? Couldn't the companies "play nice"? After all, if we are enabled to play both games, we won't have to choose to leave one or the other, both groups get our money, and everyone wins.

Unfortunately, that's not really the trend gamers have set. As a community, we don't tend to spread ourselves over multiple games (sure there are many who do this, but I'd argue it's not the majority. We tend to pick one game and focus on it at the expense of others. In a sense, this probably hurts the industry that we operate like that. Sure, we're encouraging a competitive market, and that's good for us, but we may also be encouraging "copy-cats" which is one major complaint many gamers have: "It's just a WoW copy".

There's not really an easy answer, solution, or deep point to all this. It's just food for thought and something I've been mulling over recent that I wanted to share. I tend to think of the money I pay each month as my "vote" for what I think is good and what I think is bad. The beauty here is that I can have as many votes as I want. Similar to buying CD's nowadays, I like to throw my money at groups that I appreciate the work they've done. It's just a shock for me to sometimes realize that they may not be playing nice with each other, even though I'm fond of them.

It's sort of like having those two friends that you love hanging out with, but you can't have in the same place or they'll rip each other's heads off. Individually they're fine, but together it's caustic. Then add a bit of crazy to it, and imagine those two friends are jealous of your time spent with the other, and have a team of people plotting how best to monopolize your time. It's like a soap opera love triangle. Just watch out for the fake boobs and heavy make-up. She may look amazing, but in the end you might find out she's high maintenance and you're gonna pay for it later. Then again, maybe you were just in it for some short lived thrills...

And that analogy has gone on long enough, but I'm sure y'all could take it to new levels. :-D. With that, I bid you adieu.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Patience is Not My Virtue

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Do you ever have one of those days when you just want to punch things?

I'll save you an off topic rant and just say that hopefully my muse will return tomorrow after a day off...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Aaaaand Back to Live Action

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So yeah, from the title, obviously we made it back alive. The vacation was wonderful. The wedding wasn't bad either. :-D

Football season is coming up, so my duties there are increasing. Meanwhile, Fuu is trying to dig herself out of a mountain of Thank You notes and wedding gifts. (Any other married guys notice how little of the actual wedding gifts are really "for" guys? I mean, srsly, we got more cooking and cutesy house supplies than we know what to do with. Not that I'm saying cooking things can't be for guys because I certainly am at home in a kitchen, but it wasn't like the crazy cool chef's knife or the awesome barbecue set... no, it's the vegetable organizer. And I say f*#! vegetables. Bring on the meat! Amirite guys? Warlocks in general are just meat-lovers. Woot for parenthetical rants).

What this adds up to is that married life already doesn't agree with WoW time. However, we perceive this as only a temporary hurdle and will take it in stride, hopefully getting to raid at least one night a week and jumping on on the weekends (where we finally don't have meetings/travel galore). In other words, we'll probably be on every night, just chatting and doing nothing. It's what we do *shrug*. I just hope Blizz drops a patch in my lap soon to give me something to write about.

Hmmm... 91 entries on the feed reader. I gots some catchin up to do.... Let's see what the interwebs are buzzing abotu and I'll get back to you with some more topical discussions later. Until then... how you doin?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Day Five: Let's Do The Time Warp

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*Sparkie trots in, parchment in mouth, looks around at the destruction sadly*
*Spaz is asleep over in a corner, surrounded by various food wrappings and empty bottles of ale*
*Midnight sneaks quietly from a side room, shutting the door softly behind her and tiptoeing into the kitchen*
*Berry Blue comes out of one of the back rooms, rubbing his head slowly*
Berry Blue: "Man, that was one coool party last night, Nighty."
Midnight: "Yeah, it was wicked."
*They both look at some burn marks in the carpet*
Midnight: "Pablo stops in for a bloody minute, and look what he leaves us to clean up!"
Berry Blue: "Chill Nighty, we got until Monday to get this place back together."
*Midnight huffs and opens the parchment, tossing it to Berry Blue*
*Berry Blue starts cursing in elvish*
Midnight: "What in the bloody hell are you saying?"
Berry Blue: "The letter says they'll be back tomorrow!"
*Midnight curses in demonic*
DeeGee: "Dudes, can you keep it down?"
*Berry Blue glances over at the side room where the voice just came and looks questioningly at Midnight*
Berry Blue: "Seriously?"
Midnight: "Oh come off it. He'll be out of here in fifteen minutes anyways."
*Midnight stalks off towards the room*
*Berry Blue takes a step towards Spaz, then thinks better of it and just sits down, rubbing his head slowly*
Berry Blue: "Stay cool, Berry. You'll get this place back together before the Master and Mrs. get back."
*Posts picture*

Our final day finds us exploring Fuu's favorite place: the Caverns of Time. What better way to extend one's honeymoon than to go to a place that is timeless? With that being said, you should know that Chromie has agreed to warp us back at the end of the trip, so we won't need to travel home. We should be back tomorrow, I think... you know how confusing time travel can be... Hope everything is in order! -Ful

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day Four: Polaris

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*Sparkie trots in, parchment in mouth*
Spaz: "Weeeeee! Sugar!!!!"
Berry Blue: "You let him get in the pantry again, didn't you Nighty?"
*Midnight shrugs*
Berry Blue: "You really do love pain, don't you?"
*Midnight grins seductively*
Berry Blue: "Don't get any ideas, I'm ephemeral. All smoke, baby."
*Midnight frowns*
*Sparkie nudges Midnight's long leg*
Midnight: "Oh bollocks. I guess I'll just have to live vicariously now."
*Opens letter*
*Berry Blue posts the picture*
Day Four finds us picnicking in Nagrand under the stars. We watched the heavens swirl and shared intimate stories. Then I got jealous of the shooting stars, so I made some of my own. -Ful

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day Three: It's The Climb

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*Sparkie trots in, parchment in mouth*
Spaz: "Istill-don'tget-whytheydidn't-takeme?!!!"
*Midnight grabs the letter and opens it*
Midnight: "Gee, I can't imagine why."
Berry Blue: "Aww, leave him alone, Nighty. He's just happy for the two loooove birds."
*Posts picture*
Day Three we went mountain climbing out in storm peaks. The view from the top was breathtaking, and, of course, we brought our cold weather gear for a victory dance. -Ful

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day Two: Going The Distance

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*Sparkie trots in, parchment in mouth*
Spaz: "Omigod! More PICTURES!!! Squeeee!"
*Spaz fumbles around with the parchment before Midnight snatches it from him*
Midnight: "Oh go and run around the flat or something won't you?"
*Cuts the seal*
*Berry Blue takes the picture and posts it behind him on his board of loooove*
Berry Blue: "Allllll right."
Day Two finds us out in the Shimmering Flats to catch some intense racing action. We placed some bets and won some gold. Don't give Spaz any sugar. -Ful

Monday, July 20, 2009

Day One: Midnight Swim

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*Sparkie trots into the room with a rolled bit of parchment in his mouth*
*Midnight takes the parchment*
Spaz: "openitOpenitOPENIT!!!!"
Midnight: "Oh calm down you mangy git."
*Midnight pulls a knife from somewhere and cuts the binding of the letter*
Midnight: "Mmmm. Nicked my finger."
*Drops the parchment and puts finger in mouth, sucking contentedly*
*A picture falls out and Berry Blue picks it up*
Berry Blue: "Awww, will you look at that. Two loooovers..."

Day one finds us in Tanaris, going for a midnight swim. Hope all is well back at home. -Ful

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Ceremony

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10 Minutes Before The Ceremony...
The Vows
Priest: "Do you, warlock, take this paladin to be your wife, to follow and to cherish, in disease and fully cleansed, as long as ye both shall have the ability to be resurrected?"
Fulguralis: "I do."
Priest: "And do you, paladin, take this roguish warlock to be your husband, to shield and to defend, in corruption and when soul stoned, as long as ye both shall have the ability to be resurrected?
Fuubaar: "I do."
Priest: "Really? I mean, he IS a warlock?"
*Fuubaar glares at the priest*
Priest: *holds up hands* "Fine, fine. Then by the Light, I do declare thee to be soulbound, for eternity. What the Light has joined, must no human, elf, dwarf, gnome, orc, draenai, undead, troll, tauren, dragon, random beast, plant creature, dungeon slime..."
Other Priest: "Skip a bit, brother."
Priest: "Right... What the Light has joined must no being separate!"

Introducing Mr. and Mrs.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Proposal

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Fulguralis: "Fuubaar, will you marry me?"
Fuubaar: "Of course!"
Fulguralis: "..."
Fuubaar: "..."
Fulguralis: "So, can I have my heart back now?"
Fuubaar: "That's not how it works. It's mine now."
Fulguralis: "Oh, I see. Can you at least set it on fire every now and then... for old time's sake?"
Fuubaar: "How's this?"
*Passionate Kissing*
Fulguralis: *blushes* "That'll work."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

RL Achievement: "Goin' to the Chapel"

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Well, I'm only two days away from becoming a married warlock. Things have really started to pick up (there are ALWAYS last minute changes/problems), but I'm really trying to put together something special to reflect the RL achievement. So, here's what you can expect...

Since I'm going to be ludicrously busy the next few days, and then on an unplugged honeymoon (wow, no electronics for a week? holy crap), I didn't want to just "afk" and leave y'all without something at least mildly entertaining. After all, life goes on for everyone else, right? In any case, the next seven posts will be picture posts, with hopefully a spot of humorous dialogue beneath semi-explaining the scene.

For all of next week, the theme is "Where would you go on your World of Warcraft honeymoon?" Now, we're not big RP'ers, but I thought it would be clever and kind of fun to pose this question to the community. What are, in your views, the most beautiful places in WoW? What are your top five? Where would you take your sweetie for a romantic getaway? Heck, where would you like to go yourself if it were real?

Look for our top five coming next week, one each day, and it'd be great to get some comments when I come back. Also, if any other bloggers feel inspired to write about the topic, I'd be happy to share it, and think it would be rather fun to find out where y'all would go. I'm hoping to be able to get great pictures and put in some dialogue and then schedule it all to go up. Last time I scheduled stuff... it didn't post, so if nothing happens, I apologize, but I tried and will retro-post upon my return.

Anyways, I just wanted to give you a preview of what's going to happen around here while I'm gone. I won't be replying to comments, but we'll certainly be reading them when we come back. Also, I'm hoping it's not too horribly dull, and I'll be back to regular writing after the much needed break.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The "B" Team

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A few days ago I came across a rather interesting post on a rather interesting blog. The blog is Elder Game and is co-written by two MMO developers with impressive looking resumes. It's more of a general MMO blog and covers topics that are mostly about game design and decision making. It's a good read if such things interest you. The post is called "The Warcraft Live Team's B-Squad" and explores the thought that there are very likely some new hands at the helm of WoW.

As a gamer who also has a lot of experience with sports, both as a coach and a player, the concept of a "B-Team" of developers is quite funny, poignant, and, in this case, apt. You see, in the sporting world, the B-team is usually your group of younger, less experienced players that are hoping to one day make the A-team, which is exactly the description the author was making about the development teams of MMOs.

Contrary to popular belief, being on the B-team is not all bad. Sure, you didn't make the "best" team, but that's often because you're young and need more work on your game. A second team allows you to do this, often when the stakes aren't as high. Additionally, with lower stakes, a B-team can be more focused on "fun" instead of "winning". In some ways, you can almost get back to the basics with a B-team and really work on the fundamentals of the game without all the fluff that goes with the Friday night lights.

The post goes on to make several good points about what being on the B-team means as far as MMO development goes, and explains several signs that Blizzard may have turned the reigns over to these second-stringers. What do you think? Have they brought in the B-team? The C-team? The Z-team?

Personally, I have no problem with bringing in the B-team at this point. WoW is a mature game, and torches need to be passed since we don't all live forever. Getting younger developers some experience in developing and balancing a game like WoW is essential for the future of the genre. After all, the B-teams of today are the A-teams of the future. You just hope that your B-team doesn't completely blow the game for you. I think WoW may have enough of a lead over the competition, that you can safely write this one down as a "win" in the books, but that doesn't mean we don't want to see good play for the remainder of the game.

Still, perhaps we should cut the team some slack. After all, maybe many of them are learning more than we are at this point. Maybe some of us have been with the game longer than the man behind the curtain. If so, that certainly puts things in a different light, does it not?

In the end, we're still paying them and still are entitled to a quality game for our money and time investments, but has WoW made us all just a little be "l33tist" as far as game design and polish is concerned? Can we now never be satisfied with anything less than the "A-team"? If so, they might need a bigger van.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Portal Usage in 10-Man Ulduar Plus some Tips and Tricks

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I went in for some extended raid time on Saturday in 10-man Ulduar. I pretty much haven't been able to do anything recently, but I found myself with a surprisingly free Saturday as Fuu was away getting girly stuff done to her in preparation for our upcoming vows, and I got my honey-do list done early. Wewt me.

As such, I thought I'd pass a long a friendly bulleted list of some tips and tricks I've been picking up in 10-man Ulduar. Feel free to add to it. I'll leave Flame Levi out, since I wrote another post about that here. Also, I'm going to be focusing more or Warlock Portal usage in my continuing crusade to justify it's existence, but I'll throw some other goodies in there as well.

  • If you are the harpooner for Razorscale, our portal lends itself well to this. Stick it back by the 'poons and you can beat the blinking mage, the sprinting rogue, or the slightly hastening hunter. If you're affliction, it's not like you'll be hurting your DPS any on the add phase anyways, amirite?
  • Speaking of Ms. Scale, there is a cleverly drawn circle in the center of her area. If you're a tank and kiting, use it. So much simpler to just DPS in the middle instead of trying to chase you all over the place.
  • Your Doomguard has an AoE attack. If you pull him out on this fight, use it. Be warned though, pets forget to take their smart pills for this fight and tend to just run off and never be heard from again.
  • Right before Ignis, there is trash. It is awful. Get over it and just run away from the whirlwind. Srsly, turn and run. The cake is a lie.
  • For Ignis, if your tank can stand near a pond and just turn the bastard to the left and then right for the scorches, as a DPS you can just stay put and go to down on that middle line thingy in the room. This makes it cake for ranged DPS.
  • On Ignis, use your portal to mitigate fall damage after the flame jets. Plus, you get to start casting a second before everyone else.
  • Also on Ignis, if he puts you in the crotch spa, after you enjoy your soak, you can use your portal to quickly get back in position (and thereby not stand in the scorch and die).
  • L is for Left and Light Bomb. R is for Right and Grrrrravity Bomb. Make sure to go 10 yards left and 15 yards right (if you all stack together in front, which is suggested)... or about four of the floor tiles to either side should make it safe, maybe five to the right.
  • If you're doing the above for XT, then you can portal back to the stack spot. Not really a big deal here, but fun.
  • If you're on add duty for XT, it may help to have your camera flip key bound to something so you can check behind you while doing things like "burning the heart".
  • When fighting the black knight... I mean Kologarn, there isn't really a clever portal usage, but lining up in the back with your ranged folks makes stepping up and running left or right to evade the Cyclops attack more tolerable.
  • Also on Kologarn, a great idea to tell your DPS folks: after the right arm dies, throw two spells of your choice on the body and then swap back to the adds. This assures that the OT has time to pick the kids up at the pool before you cannonball in.
  • I hesitate to even talk about Auriayayaya (or Lady Gaga as I call her), because (not altogether unlike the artist) she drives me batty. Perhaps its her crazy clothes or the overeager... cats. Whatever the case, she annoys the crap out of me with her crazy fearing (hey, that's my ability you unwarlocky wench!) and her interrupts (why the hell can't I cast anything NOW)... BUT, you can use the portal to designate and return to a stacking spot in front of the harlot.
  • If you're human, save your "every man" (or if you have a trinket) to exit from fear right before she runs you into that black hole sun of death. If you're a clothy, this can save you.
  • I hate Auriaya, have I said that? It deserves it's own bullet. It's 90% pull, 10% positioning and ALL F you in the A as a caster. Other than that, it's a cake walk.
  • That's about as far as we got. We took a couple of shots on the Iron Council, but not enough that I can give you something clever about it. Umm, does "don't aggro the dudes you didn't clear at the bottom of the stairs and get yourself killed" count? Yeah, don't do that. Not that I did or anything. (expletive deleted)
Hope you enjoyed this installment of the blind leading the blind and other exciting tales from abroad. As always, if you have anything to add, please feel encouraged to do so in comments. Thanks and see you next time!

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Drama Continues... Dramatically

4 comments

Cast of Characters

Fulguralis, the warlock in love and our main character

Spaz, an Imp with a quick wit and a sharp tongue

Midnight, a succubus with an insatiable lust for pain

Berry Blue, the smooth talking, jazz loving walker of the void

Sparkie, a cute and lovable felhunter

DeeGee, a doomgaurd with a peculiar affinity for tiny underwear

Pablo, the fiery latino infernal

ACT I, SCENE I

(We see before us a jewelry store in the very heart of Dalaran. Fine wares line the storeroom displays, sparkling in the light. Fulguralis walks into the jewelry store and begins to browse through the items with his trusty Felpup, Sparkie plodding along quietly next to him, gazing at all the shining objects under the glass.)

Fulguralis

Well boy, I never thought I'd be here doing this. I mean, she already stole my heart, and now she wants my soul in a shard.

(Sparkie just gazes at his master lovingly.)

Oh, don't give me that look. I know what I'm doing. Besides, she's never been anything but nice to you. Ugh... nice... Paladin... light...

(Sparkie begins to wag his tail at hearing the world Paladin, then wanders off amongst the displays while Fulguralis continues to scrutinize the contents in front of him in clear agony of the decision.)

Spaz

(Spaz sprints on stage.)

Hey-there-master-sir-man-thing. Whatareyoudoing? CanIhelp?

(Spaz knocks into a display, making it totter precariously.)

Fulguralis

(Fulguralis reaches out to steady the display, and then sighs.)

I’m trying to pick out a ring Spaz. Think you can manage to do that without destroying anything?

Spaz

Surething-boss!

(Spaz takes off like a bullet, running around the room and nearly breaking everything he whizzes by before returning with a shiny object in his hand that he’s somehow removed from the display case.)

Here-how-‘bout-this-one.

(Spaz holds out his hand which contains a ring called “Gatekeeper”. Fulguralis takes it.)

Getit?! She’s-the-gatekeeper-and-you’re-the-keymaster! HeehahaHEE! Okay-all-done-gotta-jet!

(Spaz exits the store in a blur of Impish delight. Fulguralis looks at the ring, sighs, and then sets it down on the counter in front of him.)

Midnight

(Midnight enters the store, walking seductively across the room towards Fulguralis with her whip in-hand. She steps up next to the Warlock and smacks herself loudly on the behind to get his attention.)

Hiya, suga. Heard you were fixin’ to buy a ring. Are you getting’ all domestic on me? That’s not very naughty…

(She loses her train of thought as she notices all the shiny, expensive jewelry around her in the store and her eyes light up. With noticeable effort, she restrains herself from swiping all of the rings up and disappearing into the night.)

Fulguralis

Spaz told you already? That little imp is a pain in my…

Midnight

Mmmmm. How about this one? This is what I would get if I were getting’ in touch with my more… tame… side.

(Midnight holds out a ring labeled “Furious Gladiator's Band of Dominance”.)

Take it or leave it suga. I gotta get outta here before my better sensibilities are spoiled by these talks of domesticity. Oh, listen to me use dem big words. A lady of the night ought not to be so… proper.

(She smacks herself again on the behind.)

Mmmm. That’s better. Toodles!

(Midnight exits the store, shaking her hips seductively as she leaves. Fulguralis looks at the ring, sighs, and then sets it down on the counter next to the first one.)

Berry Blue

(Berry Blue enters the store in a puff of blue smoke and glides across the room towards Fulguralis. Strangely, the overhead music in the store seems to have switched to smooth jazz.)

Heeeey there cool cat. I heard you was lookin’ for a ring of looooove.

Fulguralis

That damned Imp!

Berry Blue

Precisely… now let me see.

(The big blue voidwalker glides around the room as if waiting for the magnetic pull of one of the wares. Apparently feeling it, he finally stops, gingerly withdraws a ring and returns it to Fulguralis. It is labeled “Ring of the Fated”.)

You two are like Romeo and Juliet. Not the opera version, mind you, ‘cuz we killed them, but the ones from the old play of loooove. You’d be wise to get her this ring.

(A mournful horn sounds from somewhere off stage.)

Well, loooove calls. I’ll catch you on the flip side.

(Berry Blue exits the store in another puff of blue smoke and the music resumes its elevator-like quality. Fulguralis gazes at the ring, sighs, and then sets it down on the counter next to the first two.)

DeeGee

(DeeGee enters the store and struts over to Fulguralis.)

What’s up, bro? Check out my banana hammock.

(It seems as though DeeGee is thrusting a bit as he stands next to the warlock.)

You find a ring yet?

Fulguralis

Does he have to tell everyone?

DeeGee

(The doomguard looks down at the case next to him, and picks seemingly the first ring he sees. He casually flips it to Fulguralis who catches it and reads the label “The Leviathan's Coil”.)

Check it out, bro. Fits right? High five!

(DeeGee looks around worriedly for a moment.)

Dude, have you seen my beach ball? It’s, like, this big around.

(He flexes. Fulguralis shakes his head and averts his eyes.)

That sucks. Catch ya later, bro.

(DeeGee leaves the store, flexing the whole way out. Fulguralis glances at the ring in his hand before shuddering and setting it down next to the others on the counter.)

Pablo

(Pablo the Infernal enters the store at a run, crackling from the fire that constantly consumes his rock-like body. He walks over to Fulguralis, who only slightly shies away from the heat rolling in waves off of Pablo. Pablo wipes his brow dramatically.)

Sheesh, is it just me or is it hot hot hot in here?

(Fulguralis rolls his eyes at the awful pun.)

Rough crowd, huh? Anyways, I, ah, heard you was lookin’ for a ring, man.

Fulguralis

(Shakes one first at the sky.)

Curse that imp!

Pablo

Man, you’re loco. I ain’t stayin too long though. It’s always so hot out, I just want to go find me some shade, ya know?

(Pablo looks around quickly at the rings. He picks one up and tosses it to Fulguralis, who bobbles it around like a hot potato before reading the label “Fire Orchid Signet”.)

Here, take this one for your chica, man. She’ll love it, I promise. Women love to be told how hot they are, ya know?

(Pablo wipes his brow dramatically again.)

Man, I gotta go or I’m going to melt or something. Hasta!

(Pablo leaves the store quickly, leaving trails of smoke behind him. Fulguralis glances at the ring smoldering on the table next to the others and sighs.)

Fulguralis

I’m never going to be able to find the right ring! Warlocks are completely ill-suited to things like this. Who’s idea was this stupid custom anyways? Why can’t I just like, make a big bonfire for her or give her a pile of souls trapped in shards?

(Sparkie comes over and nuzzles against his master, who pats him on the head. The dog then whines and looks up at Fulguralis with something in his jaws.)

What’s that boy? Timmy’s in the well? Well that’s probably because I cast a spell of fear on him and he ran headlong into the well with no thought for his personal safety. Kids nowadays, am I right? You can hardly blame that on me. Oh, that’s not it? What’s that you have there?

(Fulguralis takes the ring from Sparkie’s mouth, wipes the slobber off of it and reads “Golden Engagement Ring”. Fulguralis looks down at his pet and smiles.)

That’ll do, boy, that’ll do.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Waiting for the WoW Patch and Contemplating the Aionic Endgame

9 comments
I really don't have much to say about WoW right now. I haven't been raiding because wedding planning is getting intense now that we're 9 days out, so I've just been doing the same 'ole dailies. I usually just log in, kill 15 scourge in Icecrown (on each toon), then PvP a bit. There really isn't a whole lot to say about that, now is there? I'm ready for a patch, new BGs, and new dailies... it's that simple. Plus you know how I hate to pontificate on PTR things that may (read: likely will) change before they go live.

Thus, the best WoW content I can offer is to reiterate how awesome chillblains + howling blast + glyph of HB is in PvP. An AoE slow down is just pure fun in so many cases. Got people following you while you're carrying a flag? HB. Got people trying to harass your squad-mates demolisher? HB. Wanted to piss off a whole group of the opposing faction? HB. There are just so many fun uses to make you uber elusive (or allow you to catch up).

So, in lieu of WoW content today, I'll offer a tidbit of Aion coverage.

I've avoided jumping full bore on the topic of Aion, mostly because I don't want to overhype an already hyped game before it's even released yet. This is akin to my aversion for discussion PTR stuff; there's so much that can change between now and release that I just don't want to get into specifics. I have, however, been following several of the blooming Aion blogs out there, which brings me to the source of today's topic: Aionic Thoughts.

Concerning the question of "why will Aion succeed where WAR has *failed* in large scale PvP?" Naamah writes:
Whereas WAR (I think) made a huge mistake in only having two realms, Aion has three. Yes, one is AI controlled but it will help to balance things immensely. The Balaur are unpredictable at the best of times but talking to friends on the Chinese and Korean server they seem to be especially ruthless towards the winning Realm, thus allowing the losing realm a chance to get back in the fight. Friends have described Balaur attacking while the two Realms are fighting and complete chaos ensuing as each side tries to decide whether they should continue attacking each other, help the Balaur against the opposing faction or just run as both sides come after them. Neither side can get too far ahead of the other side because the Balaur will not allow it. Its a wonderful mechanic and one that NCSoft is going to expand and improve upon as time goes on.

Here, I completely agree with Naamah about the importance of this mechanic. It seems like such a "no duh" addition to me in retrospect. I mean, balancing anything where multitudes of humans congregate and make intelligent (or non-intelligent, depending on your level of elitism) decisions with any sort of frequency is just going to be a night mare for any game designer. Look at all the changes that are needed in WoW on a monthly basis. The devs are constantly adjusting things and tweaking things here and there because some random player figured out a way to do something that they didn't intend to have happen.

Usually this results in an uneven playing field which, in essence, "breaks" the game. After all, once people would figure out the slant, they're going to only choose what gives them the advantage. Thus, you may have the case where one class is dominant over the other, one realm is dominant over another, or one part of the game lords over the rest. This creates an environment where few people choose to stay and play. It's just not fun like that.

PvP, by it's very nature, is completely uncontrollable by the developer. It's player versus player; not environment, not developer, not game mechanic... player. It's the old watchmaker analogy in action here: the devs make all the pieces, put them into play, then sit back and watch the chaos. In that sort of environment, the only way possible to balance the game is to stick your hand back in and remake a few things.

With the addition of a third, non-playable race, we see an elegant solution to a complex problem. It won't fix everything (such as class issues), but it certainly provides a convenient avenue by which the devs can nudge things this way or that to keep the game interesting... all without having to rely on patches and expansions to make their changes. We're talking the possibility of "real-time" adjustments here. One side dominating the other? Oh wait, here come the Balaur to turn the tide. What a neat concept, and one that will keep even the best PvP player guessing.

Obviously, we still need to wait and see how effective this move actually is and how well NCSoft uses it. However, it is a great idea that shows a lot of promise in making a large scaled, endgame PvPvE environment a working reality in Aion. I, for one, am excited about the possibilities.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

These Aren't The Droids You're Looking For

1 comments
You ever have one of those headaches that just won't go away? Maybe when I come out the other side of this, I'll have attained the power of telekinesis.

Come here, coffee mug.

*waves hand*

Nope, not yet.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Little Things That Piss Me Off

4 comments
If you've never heard the Rodney Carrington song, here's a YouTube link and one to the lyrics. Funny song from a funny man. (If you live in the Indy area, you've probably heard of Bob and Tom. If not, it's a radio comedy morning show, which is where I get at least half of these names from. I hate mornings, so it's good to wake up to a laugh).

Anyways, I wanted to do my own list of little things that piss me off in PvP Battlegrounds:
  • If there is a flag, fight at it. Not 50 yards away. Not on the Bridge to Nowhere. Not in your mom's kitchen (what is she always doing in there?). At. The. Flag.
  • Forget the the Farm. If you're in AB and you don't hold the LM, BS, ST, and Mine... Srsly, forget the Farm. It's not worth it until you've captured everything else.
  • If 15 people are sitting at the end of the underground passageway in WSG, seek an alternate route with the flag. You may think you're Steven Segal and can take 'em all on with your terrible moves, but you're not. You don't have the ponytail, for one.
  • Speaking of WSG, keep in mind that it isn't a rave party with the other team. Don't go out to the middle of the floor and just dance the whole time. And by dance I mean that poor excuse for fighting. We're not redcoats, we don't have to just march in lines at each other. Try spreading out and using some subterfuge. Sneak up on people. Rogues aren't the only ones who can do that you know. Nothing sucks more than a WSG with 15 on 15 in the middle.
  • How un-epic can an AV rush get? I know, I know, I like quickies too. Ask Fuu. I mean, umm... AV rushing: taking the epic out of Alterac Valley since birth. Especially when you lose.
  • Is it just me, or is the flag in Eye of the Storm pretty much worthless? If you don't at least hold two bases, forget the flag, cuz... man... it's over otherwise.
  • The key to Strand of the Ancients is the vehicles. There, I said it. Either protect them or kill them. If you're not in a vehicle, near a vehicle, or on your way to a vehicle... you're doing it wrong (I guess you could be manning a gun or planting charges... but does that ever really win you the BG?).
  • I'm not going to touch Clustergrasp. We have a love-hate relationship based on the fact that I call it Clustergrasp.
What else pisses you off in BGs? I'm not talking just when players plain suck, but things where you're like: "dude, you're doing it wrong." I'm not trying to be elitist here, I just think that after you BG for a bit, you should start to understand, you know, the point of the BG. Like are you capturing flags or are you protecting bases? Are vehicles a key component? What are you doing to try and win, not just scrumming in the middle like an idiot. Is it just me, or does that seem to happen far too often?

Monday, July 6, 2009

First Impressions: MMO Style

3 comments
Aion had another beta run over the weekend, and while I was mostly on hiatus due to the aforementioned wedding participation and Fuu-day (which some may recognize as Independence Day, which is important too, but if you ask Fuu... at least some of the fireworks are for her), we did get a couple hours of trial time in on Sunday night, late. Normally I'm not a big beta tester type of guy (you will never find me on WoW PTR crap), but we've played the game a bit (through nefarious means, as mentioned previously) and I really wanted to see how it ran on the American servers.

I have to say, the lag was so much better and the game just a tid bit more polished than the hack and slash version that I'd be trialing. All in all, I was quite pleased and it reaffirmed our decision to go ahead and pre-order the collector's edition. Good move by NC Soft to include both a beta key with the CE, as well as some unique in-game items. I'm usually not enticed by figurines, guides, and the like, but will certainly take cool access and in-game items. Blizz started this sort of trend (I think) with giving pets away and it's nice to see that NC Soft has apparently learned the lessons of the MMO community well. They seem to have taken a lot of "what works" in WoW and translated it into a solid game as opposed to forcing themselves to try and change everything to distinguish themselves (which I believe is the root cause of some of the failings of newer MMOs, but that's another topic).

In any case, to tie this in with WoW, I got to thinking about one very important aspect of MMOs in general that both WoW and Aion do quite well: starting areas.

If you ask me, Blizz sort of wrote the book on this. The very first time you log into WoW, you're amazed by the virtual world into which you've been plunged, yet you're not blown away by the complexity of the choices available to you. There are some nice, simple introductory quests that let you whet your appetite for more, and the UI is explored in non-mind-numbing detail. There is a delicate balance to be achieved in these starting areas. As they say: "You only get to make a first impression once" and in the MMO world (as with many other areas in real life), first impressions can often be the key to success.

Very simply, WoW nailed it for their game. When WoW started, people were continuously pulled in via the starting areas. Even now, years down the road, the starting areas continue grab the imagination and attention of new players. That alone speaks volumes about the quality of the game.

Similarly, this is a place where I believe Aion nails it as well. The starting areas pull you in without completely trying to "redefine" what you think you know about MMOs. They mix the familiar with the unfamiliar in ways that can please seasoned veterans and brand new gamers alike. Plus, they have the whole updated game engine thing going for them, so the scenery is ridiculously pretty straight away. Top it all off with smooth, localized questing, and an epic-feeling early story-line, and you have a real attention grabber.

I suppose it's late in the article to point it out, but I sort of define the starter area as where you go from level 1 to probably around level 10. In WoW, this is when you venture into your first city, maybe wandering into Stormwind (as a human) for the first time and marvelling at the awesomeness in front of you. You start to accumulate a few more spells and look forward to getting "cool" gear. In Aion, not only are you taken to a capital city which is stunning, given a healthy chunk of spells, and treated to a small taste of gearing, you also "ascend" or get your wings. They basically took the general concept of a starter area that WoW (and I'm sure other MMOs that I'm less familiar with) developed and used, and then sprinkled some epic on top of it. Bippity Boppity Bacon. (Jim Gaffigan ladies and gentlemen... *applause*)

I guess I feel like sometimes we get too caught up expecting developers to do too much to "break the mold" and give us something completely different, when, really, just adding a bit of epic can really shake things up. Spend some time on the story-telling and the scenery, and you'll grab players. You don't need to drastically alter game play, you just need to give us something that can grab our imaginations and pull us in to your world with the desire to make it ours. WoW excels at this (still) and Aion looks to be pretty good as well.

Clearly, starting areas are one of the keys to success in the MMO-RPG genre. Without a solid starting zone, you're just not going to grab the players you might have. They certainly aren't the whole story, but you're never going to get to the ending if you can't get past the first page.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Scheduler Issues

2 comments
So I totally had two posts scheduled to go up last week and for reasons unknown to me they did not. It says "scheduled" in my "edit posts" screen of blogger, yet they didn't post when they were scheduled. Weird. In any case, I went back and manually published them. Sorry for the mishap. I should be back to regular posting this week...

Oh, and Fuu's birthday was on the 4th, so wish her a happy one :-D.

Friday, July 3, 2009

First Dates Go Better With Booze

2 comments
*Smooth Jazz Intro*

Hey there all you cool cats. This is your pal Berry Blue, walker of the void realm and resident nightlife expert of the underworld. I come tonight to tell the tale of two unlikely lovers.

I caught up with the couple inside the Slaughtered Lamb, which is a popular hang out for some of the shadier sides of Stormwind, and one place where a big Blue love Berry like me can blend like easy notes laid on top of a smooooth baseline.

Dressed casually, they met at the bar, where the warlock made a fine choice of the local Pinot Noir after a gentle nudging from your boy Berry.

The found a cozy nook in the corner and settled in for the night. At first, as with most dates in Azeroth, it was pretty discordant. After all, what do a Paladin and a Warlock have in common?


Luckily, as I said, they had some fine wine between them.

She drank, and then he drank.

And pretty soon their conversation had grown boisterous and animated.

As is usually the case with a fine wine, the couple didn't know when to give it a rest, which resulted in some impromptu table dancing.

I can't say much for their moves, but dancing is an important cog in the love machine, so it's allllll good.

I lost track of the pair after that, as some smooth notes wafted in from the direction of the Blue Recluse, and I just had to go check it out. Last I saw 'em, they was headin' for the inn, arm in arm.

Looks like another night of looove in Azeroth made possible by yours truly, Berry Blue. Until next time cats, keep the baseline of looove beatin' for ol' Berry.

*Smooth Jazz Outro*

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Coupled IRL and Other Tales

0 comments
I didn't post yesterday, but I did pick up a RL marriage license with my betrothed, so that counts for something. Right? In that spirit, I wanted to direct you over to Syrana's article from yesterday about gaming as a couple. She offers some great advice, and Fuu and I really enjoy it. It's definitely nice to share a hobby.

I'm unplugging myself for the weekend to go stand up at my friend's wedding and celebrate Fuu's birthday (on the 4th!), so I scheduled the continuation of our RP story for Friday, and that's about all I'm going to get a chance to do this week.

I should be back around next week, catching up on what people are doing and pontificating from my pulpit in this corner of the blogosphere, but I suppose we'll see how it goes. The week after that is actually MY wedding, and then all bets are off. I do have a plan to cover the honeymoon with scheduled posts. Still, they're just going to be funny pictures which I hope some might find entertaining. I'll get back to the business of analyzing things after I'm a married man.

In other news, I did pre-order my copy of Aion today. After getting in some game time through nefarious methods, I've really found myself enjoying the game. I intend to raid, play, and stay in touch with friends on WoW, while starting fresh in Aion when it comes out. We'll see how it goes with this. I don't want to stop writing, and I'll still be keeping up on all things warlocky for the raiding aspect, plus I'm sure we'll be doing some of the new content as well. I like both games, but you may start to see some Aion stuff pop up. I'll probably try to confine that to Fridays (my RP may discontinue after the whole marriage thing... or not, depends on what you guys find entertaining/how much there is to talk about).

In any case, just a heads up that things might be changing a bit around here, but I hope to still be able to provide sound warlocky advice and information, as well as some of the other tidbits I offer from time to time. Feel free to let me know if there's something I'm missing due to spreading myself too thin. Unlike Samo, I didn't really want to start a fresh blog even if I'm spreading my wings (so to speak... aha). I hope that's okay with y'all.