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Brawl for Y'all

This week's Hearthstone brawl is a co-op. You get to be either Shaman or priest, and you take turns with the other person trying to whittle down Nefarian from 200 life. Sounds daunting, don't it? He starts off with 0 attack power, then ramps that up to 5, and then 10. He does some AoE stuff in there as well, but your decks are stacked with enough buff and survive and draw to keep him going.

My partner and I managed to win my first try; my wife and her companion got him down to 2 before running out of cards. That's my only "complaint" about the brawl: it takes a long time, as long as both players going to fatigue takes (in my game, my partner ran out of cards the turn before we won). So this isn't one of those get-in, get-win, get-pack, get-out brawls.

Which is why I haven't bothered playing it on my F2P account yet, as I haven't felt like setting aside 25 minutes to do so. Maybe tomorrow.

A Night at the Opera

Jumped into ye olde H-stone for the second wing of Karazhan. Not a lot to say about it. It was not as absolutely straightforward as the first wing, but it went easy enough. Against Juliana (HP: 4, summon Romulo. Julianna takes no damage when Romulo is on the board) I took in Dragon Warrior. Done. For Big Bad Wolf (HP: passive, enemy minions are 1/1 and cost 1) I made a dragon priest deck… done. For The Crone (HP: 0, deal 100 damage, can't be used if Dorothee is alive) Dragon Warrior was instafail, so I took in an experimental priest deck that used a lot of battlecry: summon minions. Easy. Then I did the class challenges.

So that was 15 minutes of my life. It was fun enough, and I always like getting new cards. Not much else to say- if you play Hearthstone, you already know all this, and if you don't, why have even read this far?

More Man's Sky

I finally got my warp drive fixed and fueled, and jumped systems. Hopped on down to a new and found a recipe to make my own warp coils, or whatever they're called, so now I can warp around the universe to my heart's content.

I jumped again, new system, new planet, and found a new boat. Frisky sentinels swarmed me but I held them off as I mined what I needed to to fix my ride, then I got off the surface and into a space station… where I spent a million units on yet another boat.

Now i'm just following the Atlas prompts until I can score an Atlas pass, 'cause I hate locked doors. And I've got plans to max out my mining tool and weaponize it to the teeth so if I happen across any more sentinels or hostile scrub-jumpers, I'll be ready. We'll see where it goes after that.

Miss my lil' OG ship, though. See you on the dark side, kid.

She Shoots, We Score?

I know a guy who worked on the original Xbox team. The hardware side, the box itself. I can remember playing one of the early titles, that he was very excited about. It was "Beyond Good and Evil" and as he played, we marveled at how pretty and smooth it all was.

That was 11 years ago. Nowadays, things that were original to the first Xbox don't look pretty or smooth anymore. Nostalgia's nice, but only for a while. And here's what's funny about Beyond Good and Evil HD, which is free for the next two weeks via Games with Gold: it's an "update" to that old game, but it is, itself, now three years old. So what you're getting is a game that's a retro 360 title of a retro OG title. Ain't that a silly pair of pants.

I tried it out today and I might play a little more. I like the concept, running around taking pictures of things--it's not a new concept, and the collector part of my personality likes any game that has this feature (it's one of the reason I've logged 40 hours playing No Man's Sky but haven't left my starting solar system yet).

Otherwise the game's got that feel-good retro thing going, like I said, and it's a bit of a hodge-podge: there's a war, but it looks like it's media-sponsored. There's robots, a pig who is a mechanic, a hologram Latino complete with stereotypical accent, goat-children, and eyeballs on stalks you fight with sticks. Oh, and you live in a lighthouse, which has an electric shield, which only runs if you pay your electricity bill.

I didn't delete it after playing for 30 minutes, so there's that.

We're All a Little Wiggy

Ludwig "Wiggy" Wittgenstein once pointed out that if a lion could speak, we wouldn't understand it. Why did he choose lion? For the purposes of this blog post, I wish he'd chosen something a little less classy. Because I'm going to patronize fans of pro-wrestling when I say maybe it's this kind of Wiggy philosophy that explains how something so incredibly stupid as WWE2K16 could be so popular.

Yeah, I'm going there. Free game via XBox Games with Gold for the second half of August. I was not looking forward to it. I have never been a fan of pro-wrestling. Not because it's fake. Not even because it's a bunch of half-naked men rubbing up on each other. More it's the fans, (not all of them) but the few bad apples who think that since their favorite "sport" is about kicking ass, they, too, must kick-ass.

(And look, the only reason I feel like I can even get away with saying the above is because no one reads this stupid blog. Truthfully, I think people should be allowed to like whatever they want to like, and who cares what my opinion is. Also, that John Cena seems like a decent guy, in that video where he equated patriotism with accepting diversity. So who am I to judge).

But even though I wasn't looking forward to the game, there was the little sliver of me that always holds out hope that a game will surprise me with some nuance or innovation that will delight me. Goat Simulator was like that.

But WWE2K16 was just awful. The game started, and I had no idea what I was doing--typical-- but then little pop-ups would explain how I could do things-- and they were some of the most overly-complicated nonsense I ever seen in a game. Twirling sticks and pressing buttons and micro-second timing just so I could duck a punch and punch back? What is this bullcrap? I couldn't delete the game fast enough. (Seriously. Deleting a game off of an XBox One console is as overly-complicated as executing a suplex stink-face bronco-buster.)

A what? Thanks, Google, for the wrestling move names there. You said them, but I have no understanding. That's all I can say about WWE2K16: nothing. Which makes sense since no one reads my blog and therefor, in sense, no one understands the nothing I say either.

I Achievements, Therefore I Am

The beginning of the month snuck past me, so it was a week or so before I downloaded the free Xbox Games With Gold stuff for August. I wasn't too thrilled to be getting them anyway, but free is free, so there's no harm in giving them a try. First I played Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate. I'm always saying, in this blog, that I don't know what I'm doing. Yeah, well, this game… here's a sentence from the Wikipedia entry on the plot of the game:

"The coalition capture an amnesiac mighty warrior, Shuten Dōji, who is later revealed to be an offshoot of Orochi who was born at the same time as Hydra; in reality, he is the world's will of Orochi's power, as well as Da Ji herself, who reluctantly joins after the coalition have her friend, Himiko as an unwitting hostage. "

You see what I mean? But nevermind that: I played it, I mashed buttons for fifteen minutes, and I racked up achievements: "All Together Now," "Dancing Across the Sky," and "Experience Rush." How did I earn them? I have no freaking idea.

Then I played Spelunky, although that one only held my attention for about five minutes, which was about four minutes more than I needed to earn the "So It Begins" achievement.

But wait, there's more! Rather than write a whole blog post about Guild of Dungeoneers, I'll just tell you that, based on Scott Johnson's good word, I paid the 4 bucks, downloaded it to my tablet, and started playing. I'm not very good at it, but already, I've earned "Demands a Nicer Room," "Pacifist," "NOOOOOooooo," "Can't Block This," "Oi, You What?!" "Tough Fight," "Flawless Victory," I Ain't Sayin' You're a Gravedigger," "Cat Puns Are Clawsome," "Quicker Than Thee," "Trophy Life," and "A Chump Will Do."

Oh, and should I tell you about the achievements my goblin hunter in WoW has racked up on the grind? Suffice it to say: they give these things away, these gosh-danged drug dealers, don't they.

Might As Well Mention Karazhan

Since July was "play hearthstone every day to get that golden mage" month, I've barely played at all this month. I get on for the brawl and the free card pack, of course, but after that, my heart's not in it. I wasn't even that excited about the new expansion.

Which is not a knock on the expansion itself. Nor do I fear I've lost my Hearthstone mojo. It'll come back, never fear. And meanwhile, the expansion has released the first wing. Whee.

If I recall, the first expansion we got, Naxxramas, was kinda hard. So was Blackrock Mountain. League of Explorers, on the hand, was pretty easy, and Karazhan is looking to be the same way. I was able to beat each boss my first try, whether it was a game that provided pre-made decks, or games where I went in with Dragon Warrior.

Easy, but fun. The prologue was a crazy game that depleted both our decks, the Silverware Golem was cute, the "Chess" showed off some really innovative mechanics, and Mirror afforded a board state that easily snowballed into wild zaniness.

But the rewards, the new cards themselves? Meh, I'm not smart enough to tell you if they're any good or not. Go watch the streamers, they got all the opinions.

I No Man's Skyed

I was a golf-ball, teetering on the edge of the buy-No Man's Sky-cup, and would have fallen in eventually. But that thunderous steps that were enough vibration to push me over was a review that panned the game, and called it awful. I forget now who made the video, but I think he's a famous reviewer (at least I recognized his voice when I watched it on YouTube). He said (this is not an exact quote) "Ever since Minecraft, developers have been trying to cash in with survival clones, and most of them have been terrible, and No Man's Sky might be the worst of them all."

Hey, what? No Man's Sky is just bad Minecraft? I'm in!

So I got it and started playing it, and he's right. It is kind of like Minecraft. You're on a randomly-generated surface without any thing you need to survive, so you have to collect materials and make your own stuff. Instead of a wooden axe and crafting table, you're making warp drives and mining cannons, but it's kind of the same thing, really.

There's way more to it than that, and while the reviewer said that, after a while, it gets to be the same darn thing over and over again, I don't think I'm anywhere close to that yet. The "tutorial" gets you off the planet's surface and into hyperspace, but I've chose to eschew that for the time being and just look for animals.

I do have a complaint, though, and it'll have to be in the tone of bitter old man who says things were better back-when. I'll be playing, looking for plutonium to charge my launcher so I can skip over a few continents and look for some alien ruins, when for no reason I can understand the game will slow down to a crawl. Apparently, this means my video card is out of memory. So I have to quit the game and start again.

Games are released before they're done, these days, aren't they. It's the times we live in. I suppose the game's slow down is a good reminder to stop staring at a screen and go hang out with my 10-month-old. But I paid 60 bucks for a game that (I hope) they're still working on. Takes away some of the magic, doesn't it.

The Grind Will Eat Your Soul

I had hernia surgery last week. Ain't that a hoot? It wasn't that bad, really, and the blessing wrapped around the curse is that I'm not allowed to do much while I recover. Fortunately, playing video games qualifies as not doing much.

But I'm, exhausted anyway, let me tell ya. The goal is to get my goblin hunter, Anjel, up to 100 before Legion comes out. I feel like 5 levels a day is a pretty good pace, up to 90 at least, and the slow it down for the rest of August. I get up about 6 am (I work from home and log on and queue up for random dungeons and then do pet battle-master daily quests. If I can get 5 levels by 1:00, I'm feeling pretty good, what with work and the baby and everything else.

It takes a lot out of me, though. Nothing else gets done. No other video games, no writing to speak of. I shouldn't complain, I know- back in the day It might take me a week to get another level. So 5 in a day is baller (thank you, heirlooms and boss nerfs!)

And even though it's a grind, there's still fun to be had. I don't know if I'd even be in-game if I wasn't pushing this hunter- which means I'd be missing the pre-Legion events. Every once in a while an invasion force will hit an area of Azeroth, and it's lots of fun to run around with a hundred other players, killing demons (not to mention the xp- about half a level, every time, for 10 minutes work).

But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to slowing down. Anjel hit 85 today (Hello, Pandaria) and so, one more day of punishment, then I'll ease back. You beleive me, right?

Diablo III Season 7, The Old Is New Again

Back when Diablo III first hit the PCs it wasn't very good. I'm told. I mean, I enjoyed it, but what do I know? I'm the kind of gamer who takes what he's given. I grew up on Atari. When the first Nintendo came out, I thought "well, there's why we don't have a cure for cancer yet. The geniuses have been working on this stuff."

So I'm easy to please. I was Diablo fan since the first, (still love that spooky music (listening to it now) and I had no problems with II. With the third one, I bought it, made a wizard, got to the end, and that was that. Level 38. All done.

But it turns out the game was terrible. Who knew? So they fixed it. Hooray! Better loot. And Paragon levels. And Adventures. And Seasons. And an expansions Meanwhile. Blizzard is making new content for WoW, two new games (Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm) and even a frickin' movie.

Diablo III? They just keep tweakin' it. And think about this: the "thing" in D3 is to maximize your character's "build," usually via (or at least justified by) some pretty intentse number crunching. You're not just a gamer, you're a D3 hobbyist. And that's kind of how I see the devs on Team 3- a bunch of numbers nerds, making micro-adjustments to the game with eahc patch.

End result? I used Rebirth on that Wizard from years ago for this new Season. In two days of minimal play he's at level 20; I expect he'll pass his old high-level mark sometimes tomorrow and be 70 a few days after that. With, as I said, minimal play.

Introducing Anjel, My Latest Waste of Time

The pre-Legion patch, as I mentioned in my last post, allows for all kinds of transmoggin', via a new tab in collections menu. Instead of holding onto gear, you can transmog into anything you've collected, and thus you don't have to keep it. So, as i said, I've been going through old content, getting those tabs filled up, whee!

And when I get a piece of BoE gear that doesn't fit my main's armor class, I send it off to an alt that can wear it. Because it's not enough to collect. One must meta-connect. My main's a warlock, so he keeps the cloth. Plate goes to my Death Knight. Leather to my Rogue. Mail to my Mage.

Wait, what?

I have a shaman and a hunter to wear mail… but they're the wrong faction. Consternation! So, screw it, I started a new hunter. A female goblin hunter named Anjel.

That was two days ago- on day one I rushed up to level 30. The next day, level 40. Today, I've been busy with work and life and tedious distractions like that, so I'm only up to 45.

The key is heirlooms, of course, and the dungeon finder tool. Give me a few decent days, and I think I can make 100, easy. And then she can just sit there, checking her mail every few days, and "collecting" armor pieces.

Did I say "whee" already?

Gotta Wear 'Em All

I was never one much for the whole transmog thing. It's a shade to close to role-playing, not to mention the serious hit on bag space it takes. But this new pre-Legion patch, with it's new transmog collection system, has me now slogging through old raids and trying on new outfits.

It's the collector in me, is what it is. Did I ever tell you about the time I collected over 300 rubber ducks? Yeah, those were dark days. At least in WoW I don't need bins stacked up in my garage, potential creeping the ever-loving heck out of anyone who happens upon them.

I have always kind of liked walking through old raids and dungeons, though, so maybe its a slog, but it can be a fun slog. I've recently poked my head into places I'd never been before, just to see what pinks drop from the raid bosses (I call them "pinks" because when a new piece is added to your collection, you're notified in pink text in the chat window).

And when I get a BoE piece that doesn't fit my class? Off it goes to an alt. And I bet I'm not the only one. Blizzard's timing on this is excellent. They know they're going to get a huge uptick in users when Legion goes live, and this pre-patch is pulling many of those returning players in ahead of time. That should smooth out the curve a bit, I think.

A nice side effect of all this, for me, is I'm seeing things I didn't know were there, like this Time-Walking thing, which I only just realized yields pretty nice gear rewards. So I've been doing that, too.

And here I thought that with my 500th mage win in Hearthstone, I'd be sitting in front of my computer less. Sheesh.

Goal Reached: 500 Wins with Mage

Holy cow what a grind. Today I just decided to go for it and pushed out 25 wins to finish off the run. All Mage. Variations on tempo in Standard, and some mech stuff in Wild. Overall negative win rate, but I don't care. I'm done. It's over. “And I never have to play mage again (tm).

There for a while Wild was my bread n butter, as I quickly shot up to 10 or so, and hovered. Peaked at 8, then dropped back down to the low 11s. I thought Wild was where it's at- at least the games are quick. At least I can fit in Secret Eater against Secret Paladin.

But lots o' losses in Wild sent me back to Standard, and I finished at Rank 6. That's as high as I've ever made it-- and it begs the question. Should I switch to Warrior for the last few days of the season?

I don't know. Playing against warrior takes forever. I can only imagine what it must be like when it's a mirror match up. Then again, there are many different warriors to choose from (I should know, I got schooled by them all: Dragon, Control, OTK, even Pirate).

But what if I can make it to Rank 5? If I could do that, it would set a new bar for me: Rank 10 was my “legendary" rank, but if I make it to 5, that will have to become my new goal. And sheesh, I'm tired. However, I kind of get it now. People say that hitting legend (or whatever rank you're going for) is, more or less, a matter of grinding. Yes, there's skill, but even with skill, it's a slog.

We'll see. For now, I'm looking forward to non Hearthstone things. Just in time to cool off before the new adventure, One Night in Karazhan, arrives in two weeks. Sweet!

Hearthstone Deck MMR?

I've been trying to grind out some mage wins to get that golden portrait. It's a more do-able goal that going for legend, at least for someone with my skills.

This afternoon I was playing with a mech mage deck in Wild, and things were going horribly. I was 2-10. Yep, that's right. Dropped from Rank 8 to Rank 10. Mind you, I got all the way up there with this deck in the first place-- losing at Rank 8 I understand, but all the way back down with so few wins?

So I got frustrated, and decided to make a silly freezy death rattle mech mage deck (I call it Oslo cause them Norwegians like their death metal and its cold up there). And I went 3-0. And I'm no deck-making genius. I an unapologetic net-decker and I'm lucky to break Rank 10 in a good month.

Yes, it was probably just coincidence. But it got me thinking- what if Blizzard keeps track of your deck wins, or heck, just deck “xp” as it were? Maybe THAT'S why some people fly to legend with the crazy decks-- they're not innovative, they're just new!

I'm not smart enough to be able to test this out on my own. And come to think of it, I'm not asking anyone else to test it either… I think I'll let it just be a myth in my mind. A kind of feel-good thing that will encourage me to quit my losing streaks before they go to 10 and try new things.

Only 25 wins to get that golden mage, by the way. Maybe sometime in September? :)

Note: I wrote this yesterday but forgot to post it. I have since played Oslo many times and it loses. A lot.

A Personal Update

Don't worry- not sad, just reflective!

I have not been playing the vidja-games as much lately (which is a total lie: Hearthstone Mage Grind) but that's only because I've been doing other things. And that's not bad. I've been reading more books, doing more writing, running more, and work has also gotten a little busier.

But that also means less video-game blogging. Or, let's be honest: video-game silly-picture photoshopping. Let's be even more precise: adding dumb speech bubbles to video-game screen-shots.

Still, it's something I enjoy doing and I find myself missing it, even in the throes of a long run or a long book or a thousand-word chapter in a crappy novel I've been working on for the last three years (full disclosure: I've been “working" on, like, 10 or so novels for the last several years. I can't stay focused on one thing for too long- hence the many video games!)

I suppose discipline is the key. I should pick one or two days a week and make video games and screen-captures the priority. That's all well and good, but the truth is: the baby comes first, and then free-time availability cascades from there. My Tuesday run gets pushed to Wednesday, and my commitment to read one book a week means I'm up early on Thursday, and then I get a bonkers idea for another silly chapter…

The problem is that video games are easy, no brainy, like that friend you default-hang with when it's a nice day outside and you've got time to kill. Hit the patio of your favorite bar and shoot the breeze for a few hours. If you're over 40, you know what happens to friends like that. You drift apart.

That's sad in the case of real human beings. But with video games, I guess I'm taking for granted that they don't really care if I play them every day or once a month. And the bright-side is that, since no one reads this blog, no one cares if I post silly pictures all the time or only every so often.

Anyway, just wanted to get that off my chest. And now, a goofy screenshot.