Blaugust Day 8: Where Has the Fun Gone?

I am starting to think that there is something seriously wrong with me.

dread the writing of almost every blog post.

It’s not exactly for the lack of any ideas or anything to say – I could go grab one of the many writing prompts around the place; there are vague plans in my mind that I could share screenshots of my characters and talk about their backstories; there is a GW2 beta weekend going on that has already produced two impressions posts from the bountiful Bhagpuss; I have finished nearly all of the Trove things on the to-do list and either attempted or am making good progress on the others; I bought Savage Lands on a whim since it went on Steam sale and have been trying it out, just haven’t firmed up what I think about it yet, since it’s in Early Access and thus hard to make a judgment on…

… but it all remains rather ill-formed in my head, and all I want to do is just vegetate and watch some DOTA 2. (We’re almost at the last day now, 3 teams left.)

I think… part of the problem is that I can’t seem to muster up any enthusiasm lately.

Without that enthusiasm, without that excitement of “oh this is so cool and I want to share it with the world!” all I’m doing is feeding this general nihilistic sense of malaise and draining energy from the world at large, instead of something positive – which makes me want to say nothing instead. You know, the ol’ “If you can’t say anything good, then…”

I dunno, I have been -doing- a great many things, being productive and all, and generally feeding my secondary Achiever side, ticking off checklists, finishing collections, forming habits of repeat-this-loop-to-grind-and-earn-stuff but it all seems to be being done for the lack of anything better to do.

The primary Explorer side of me has been cast adrift and lost at sea for so long, it doesn’t quite know what to do with itself anymore.

Ok, new beta weekend? Oh, wait,  it’s probably not that new since it’s likely the same content as the prior previews. And wait, if I explore too much now, am I not shooting myself further in the foot when it releases? Maybe I shouldn’t go crazy now.

Ok, I can explore the new Revenant legend and elite specializations and stuff.

So I go make a new Revenant, spend about 10 minutes painstakingly changing all the stats on the beta gear to Berserker in order to get a fair baseline for how it feels, and then take it for a spin in Cursed Shore. Dual swords is pretty cool, skill 3 is pretty nuts (though it does open yourself up to getting locked into a long animation, not so good in PvP perhaps but certainly awesomely Shiro-channeling OP on normal PvE mobs), the rest feel slightly slow and awkward, but that could be due to unfamiliarity.

I test the Shiro utility skills, and then think about trying them out in conjunction with one of the other three legends, glance at the traits panel, the weapon skills panel, and my mind just generally explodes and shuts down. The possibilities are pretty darned complicated, sorta like elementalist and engineer in the number of mix-and-match skills they could potentially have, and I just think, nah… maybe I’ll learn it when it goes live, or maybe I won’t bother to learn it at all.

Then I gamely make a necro and a guardian to test out their elite specialization… and I realize that I don’t have the focus to sit through another 10 minutes of switching all their gear to Berserker again. Meh, maybe tomorrow, I think, and just wear the default Celestial stats and thwap a few mobs with their skills. Mostly I just see their animations, read the skill bar and go, “hrm, okay” but it’s absolutely impossible to judge good or bad damage potential wearing Celestial, so that’s a wash for now.

Try Verdant Brink? … Nah. It’s just going to be more jungle on fire and at war with Mordrem again. More story frozen in time while we’re stuck waiting for the expansion to launch. More trying to speed-grind Masteries in too short a time. There’s not going to be any forward progress, nothing will be saved in beta, it just doesn’t feel ‘fun’ yet. Maybe tomorrow.

Then I log off and end up grinding even more in Trove.

Or I give that up and open Savage Lands, and realize that all survival crafting sandbox games are basically punch-tree, punch-rock, accumulate X numeric resources to craft the next thing simulators.


I’m trying, but it feels pretty forced.

I wish I could find the fun again.

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Belghast and Blaugust, T for Tired, and the number 8.

BRB, Found the Best Game Ever

Yes, I am aware that the Blood and Madness Halloween update just launched in Guild Wars 2, with plenty of recycled old content giving new rewards.

Yes, I know it comes with a talking point so loaded that it’s just -asking- to be commented upon.

Yes, I am cognizant of the fact that most of the launch locusts are still in Archeage, focused upon the best made plans disintegrating in contact with other players and not really interested in anything else but the strange jargon of that world.

Or that the Warlords of Draenor expansion is soon to be upon us, so all the WoW stalwarts will make their way back home.

Yes, much of my singleplayer game attention is still being sucked up by Minecraft, where I’m trying to play both Agrarian Skies and Crash Landing without forgetting what the hell I was doing in the other map, while accumulating a list of other mods and modpacks that look damn interesting to “try one day.”

And thanks to Bragtoberfest and other bloggers, it’s suddenly occurred to me that:

a) Team Fortress 2 is kinda fun and I should make a point to play it more

b) Path of Exile still exists

c) Orcs Must Die 1/2 and Defense Grid 1/2 are both tower defense games I should play more of (yes, I actually Kickstarted DG2, and finally got around to checking my mail and found a Steam key waiting for me)

d) I haven’t played/continued Skyrim for a while, nor have I really given Civ 5 or various Tropico versions a fair shake in a bit

and e) I need to stop looking at my Steam games list again.

BUT I have found a game even better than all of the above, and it is likely to take up much of my attention for the week, with not much time left over for blogging once I factor in trying to keep apace in GW2 and sating a currently insane Minecraft addiction.

What game is that, you ask?

It’s something I haven’t had the opportunity to play in years. It’s the “contemplate and plan, then build your own dream PC” or the “endless wallet daydream” game.

Yep, my budget’s finally opened up the purse strings this month.

I’ve been reading computer hardware reviews actually dated this year, scanning the catalogue of parts available at the local store, narrowing down the choices to “things I want” and “things that fit my current priorities for this new computer” then applying the filter “things I can actually afford.”

That filter is pretty generous this month, which why I’m playing the game now, rather than a year ago or 2 or 3 or more, where I would feel awfully depressed and constricted with too low a budget.

See, here’s the odd thing about what I like out of my computers.

It’s not so much their objective performance as compared to everyone else at a current point in time (in which case, I would have to upgrade a lot and fast to keep up with the Joneses) but more that I want the computer I build for myself to be a lasting, quality piece of work. That it was pretty high-end, if not the absolute top-of-the-line, -when- it was built, at that period of time.

The Chinese have a saying, ” 一分钱一分货” (yī fēn qián yī fēn huò), which sorta literally translates to “one piece of money one piece of goods” or rather, you get what you pay for.

If you pay pennies, you’ll get goods worth that amount or basically, rubbish. For each cent or dollar extra that you pay, you get that amount of goods/value/worth/quality in return.

Like all proverbs, that doesn’t necessarily hold true all the time, but speaking generally, I find there’s more than a few grains of truth in it.

My old and current computer, as much as I joke about it to others (mostly to explain why my load times or graphics is way behind the current norm,) is still going strong, with not much breaking down beyond one X-Fi soundcard that decided that its drivers simply wouldn’t play nice with this newfangled Windows 7 any longer (ended up yanking it and falling back on the on-board Realtek audio – just as old if not older, and doing just fine – and some rattling case fans that took turns to protest that they were getting way too dust clogged at last (some reluctant cleaning took care of that – the front fan was a nuisance as graphics card and hard disks had to be pulled out of the way to work on it.)

I believe the reason it’s lasted so long, going on 7-8 years now, is because I bought good quality parts from known brands that generally do solid work and didn’t skimp or cut corners while doing so.

That priority is one of the factors I’m weighing quite heavily in my next selection of parts, along with the usual suspects of “great games performance” and “not insanely priced.”

Granted, I might have gotten a mite carried away at -finally- seeing the light at the end of the “new computer” tunnel and splurged a bit while I can afford it this month.

Without further ado, the parts list:

  • CPU: Intel Z97 4690
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte Z97X UD5H Black
  • Memory: Corsair Vengeance Pro 1866Mhz 16GB
  • Graphics Card: Gigabyte GTX 980 G1 Gaming
  • Power Supply: Corsair HX750i 750W
  • Case: CoolerMaster CM690 III windowed
  • CPU Cooler: CoolerMaster V4 GTS
  • Hard Disks: 2 Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSDs, 1 WD Black 7200rpm 1TB HDD
  • Optical Drive: LG16x Blu-Ray BH16NS40
  • OS: Windows 7
  • (To be added in November) Sound Card: Creative Soundblaster ZX
  • Monitor and speaker upgrades pending…

Words can’t describe how thrilled I am.

Here, have a little Ascii cheer instead.


As to the rationale:

As much as I would have liked to open the wallet even further and get one of those crazy X99 chipset processors with a super-blinged out motherboard, there IS a limit to my enthusiasm, and it sounded like a good idea to wait for the real enthusiasts to be the guinea pigs and break in all the new technology first.

I’d been leaning towards a Z97 4790K processor, except that I didn’t think experimenting with overclocking and possibly burning out what was intended to be my next stable and reliable gaming computer was a good idea, plus there were some mildly scary reports that this particular i7 processor was seriously overheating. After reading the whole rather current thread, it suddenly seemed wise to sit on the idea for a while and let the early adopters hash it out with Intel. Also, perhaps in six months to a year, the X99 processors would have gotten more affordable and the whole thing might be a moot point.

So I backed down step-wise to a 4690 and decided that I’d just go with the stock clock – since the priority for this particular computer, after all, is to be a worthy successor to the one that I’m typing on right now, old and still hearty.

I’ll save the creative and experimental overclocking or dream watercooling setups (had quite enough of unlikely water leaks over electronics, thank you) for when my budget can next afford a more modest hobbyist build computer – perhaps salvaging the guts of the old one after the new one is up and running and stable enough to let me log on daily to GW2 without freaking out that I’m missing a laurel reward. :)

The same thought of reliability led to picking up that particular Gigabyte motherboard.

I briefly considered Asus, since that seemed to be one of the stronger rivals, but decided that aesthetically, the whole armor-encased look didn’t quite work for me. The marketing jargon went rather overboard with the military-sounding stuff, and I rather imagine it might appeal to those who play some variant of Battlefield or Call of Duty all day long perhaps.

The whole plastic shield over the motherboard did look interesting, but it also struck me that it looked more like a dust trap when air blew up through the little wind tunnels – possibly improving air flow over the components, yes, right up to the point when dust jammed into all the nooks and little crevices, necessitating maintenance via needing to unscrew the plastic shield off, just to remove the dust.

So I backed away from that and decided to head back to Gigabyte, whose DSP4 motherboard is still doing excellent work in my current system.

They, on the other hand, have gotten carried away with quite a bit of game and audio-related bling, with a whole series of Gaming motherboards that apparently come with a special Killer NIC that prioritizes gaming packets, with the top of the line versions sporting a built-in Creative Soundcore 3D processor and what not.

Now, hang on a minute, I thought, I know I have a fondness for Creative audio solutions (from old good reputation and they’re a Singapore company), didn’t I -just- have the worse time trying to get their stupid drivers to play nice with Windows 7, granted on a card that’s marked “end of service life”?

And I’ve heard reports that folks have problems too with the drivers for the Killer NIC, and that it does use up extra CPU processing power…

I drooled over all the marketing bling for a while, then decided that for a motherboard, what I really wanted was redundancy.

As much as it sounded nice to just have a Creative chip on the motherboard itself, saving the need and money for a separate sound card, one can’t exactly pluck it out if it’s giving problems. I may as well just pay the extra 40 or 50 bucks and get a separate sound card, which would still have the same processor and possibly better components and supporting software, AND have a Realtek audio solution on the motherboard to fall back on, if/when the Creative shit decides it wants to break down. (It’s such NICE sounding shit though.)

Ditto, I didn’t just want a Killer NIC as my only connection to the internet. What if it decides it won’t play nice one day?

Fortunately, Gigabyte did have some motherboards that have both an ordinary Intel LAN and a Killer LAN. And it also so happened that this was on one of their ultra durable range, which goes through extended durability testing and with a warranty of up to 5 years.

Now that sounds like something that would meet my goal of having a computer built sturdy enough to last the next 5-7 years, if necessary.

Imo, the RAM’s fairly normal, if higher-end. Corsair’s a known brand.

I did drool a ton over the thought of their Dominator Platinum RAM, which just looks ridiculously blinged out and dead sexy, with soft white LED lights that would light the interior of the case… but sanity prevailed over serious temptation and I decided paying an extra hundred bucks for slick design and LED lighting was not something I oughta do at this point in time. (Maybe someday… *sighs dreamily*)

No, what I did, was I threw the wallet at the graphics card instead.

As far as I’ve gathered from reading, the GTX 980s are pretty much the newest thing on the block currently, but not dumb expensive expensive. Just expensive, but with really good performance and better power-savings and cooler temperatures than prior cards. I’m, in fact, still waiting for the shop to call me when their shipment arrives, because it’s that new, I guess, and still in transit from country to country.

I briefly entertained the thought of getting the GTX 970, which is a step down, but maybe getting two of those and SLI them together. Then I decided to leave that as a hobbyist project for the other dream computer and go with a single card solution for now, which is probably less likely to end up with a whole bunch of troubleshooting problems with specific games or programs.

Stable. Reliable. Durable. That’s the hope, anyway.

Same goes for the power supply, which isn’t the absolute high-end, but the next closest. It’s got a 7 year warranty, which I suppose, ought to count for something.

One mild annoyance I’ve encountered is that the 24-pin ATX connector is not fitting properly, either with the motherboard or the power supply. It goes in, but not all the way. There’s a couple of milimeters of gap, blocking the clip from clasping properly. After some Googling, I suspect it may be a common manufacturing defect from whatever company Corsair got those connectors from, as it seems to be turning up as an issue in other types of Corsair power supplies. It’s just that particular wire. All the rest of the wires fit fine.

So the build is on hold for now, while one pays a visit to the local distributors/repair center to make some noise and gripe until they hopefully give me a satisfactory solution to make me go away.

I’m still quite zen about the whole thing. I suppose I’ve already waited so long, a couple more days or a week won’t really hurt.

I’ll try to share some pictures at some point later.  I’m in love with the case. It’s a really cool case. Some really clever engineering in this one, plus a ginormous front fan.

I’m looking forward to having SSDs for Windows, Guild Wars 2 and current Steam games I’m playing that might benefit from those load speeds, while the rest of the Steam library, music and what not goes on the HDD.

I’ll confess I’m not exactly thrilled with the choice of a WD Black hard disk – Western Digital has not really struck me as a brand that makes stable, long lasting hard disks – it’s just practically the only brand the local store had in stock, that still had a decent warranty period… I decided not to go crazy on the terrabytes as a result, didn’t want excessive amounts of spinning platters, or a giant hard disk that would make backing up of data to external disks difficult. I suppose there’s room for this disk to surprise me.

After all, I’ve got Maxtor and Seagate hard disks in the current computer, and while I’m still somewhat pessimistic about how long they’ll last, so far so good… and this is an old computer, as I’ve said.

We’ll see. I suspect the best solution is just to get plenty of affordable hard disks and make multiple redundant copies of the data one wants to keep. If one disk fails, there’s still others, that kind of thing.

I’ve no clue if the Blu-Ray drive is any good, it’s just also what was available. As long as it does what it’s supposed to, it can’t be that different from any other brand.

The sound card’s not essential, and there’s a ubiquitous computer fair in my part of town coming up in November, so it’s earmarked for pickup then. Spares my wallet just a tide this month too.

One will have to cannibalize and use the existing monitor, speakers, keyboard, mouse and other such peripherals for the time being.

So yep, those are the big plans taking up most of my mind and time, front and center, for now.

I’ve already hauled home a good amount of the parts and am midway through the build, pending a graphics card and a properly fitting 24-pin ATX connector. Two more outside errands to run. No idea when the card will get here though.

Gonna take it nice and slow and savor every moment, inhaling all the new and shiny. That’s part of the fun of building yer own computer, imo.

I’ll see you all, when I next see you. Computer building time’s got to come in front of blogging time, though it needs to share some space with gaming time.

Hopefully soon(TM), I’ll actually have screenshots on this blog that belong in this decade.

P.S. Does this count as Bragtoberfest? It should, right? Like, look at my soon-to-be system specs, whee! *brag brag brag*





(touches wood)

Path of Exile: Bragtoberfest Get-Together

Path of Exile played host to the second Bragtoberfest event that Eri kindly organized for us.

As per last week, it was good fun to meet and play with a whole host of other bloggers – Simcha, Jaedia, Syl, Doone and of course, Eri and Izlain.

Also, I had my eyes opened as to some aspects of a game that I rarely get to see – the multiplayer partying and group aspects, which I never really get the good fortune to see in detail, since that requires finding a group of people all interested in the same game and playing at the same timezones as me.

(Of course, 5am is not really sustainable for me either. One more meetup for TF2 next week and I’ll have to surrender in the name of getting normal sleep again.)

Path of Exile is interesting in that it allows up to 6 people to group.

That’s quite sizeable, with only the late and much-missed City of Heroes topping that at 8 (within my limited knowledge, anyway.)

There were, however, some more inconvenient aspects that made grouping a little less smooth than it could have been.

1) Are we in the same map? The same league?

The Twilight Strand is an initial introductory area that separates a new character from the first town.

While racers know that they can run through in a couple seconds past all the zombie mobs and beat on Hillock with a held down left mouse click and be in town in no time flat, the average individual encountering the map for the first time will want to actually play the game – that means hitting a few zombies, getting a level, opening some chests, and eventually meandering their way to Hillock and figuring out how to deal with him.

Each person completes this at a slightly different time and pace, making it a little tricky to meet up when everyone was still new and confused.

(Not to mention, our dear host Eri successfully joined the wrong league twice! Cue deletion and re-making of character. Twice.

Can’t blame ya though. Rampage league IS fun, and we should play more of that too. The more mobs you kill in a row, the more killstreak rewards of all shapes and size rain down from the skies, hence “Rampage.”

The good news about going standard league though was that I got to twink out my character later on, from my personal bank stash.)

Fortunately, someone hit on the good idea of creating a guild.

This was an effortless procedure.

Simply pressing S for “Social” and flipping to the Guild tab, allowed one to type in a guild name and voila, guild created. Once everyone’s assorted characters were invited, at least there was a shared communication channel for the future.

2) Where IS everybody anyway?!

Y’know, sometimes I don’t get games that start you off with the weirdest default settings ever.

Strife locks your camera down and refuses to let you scroll away from your character in the center. Path of Exile makes it all ridiculously dark and shadowy and doesn’t even give you a minimap to play with.

Seriously? What? Why? Are there really going to be people terribly confused if you offered them more vision?

Especially since these are UI options that can be set.

Our Path of Exile newcomers sounded very lost until I realized, courtesy of Syl griping to me about a missing minimap, that they didn’t have one.

It’s “Show Corner Map” in the UI tab of the Options… but really, you’d think this would be a helpful option to preset for newbies.

It took us a while to figure out how best to meet up. There seemed to be multiple instances of the town, and being that I’m not familiar with the whole grouping thing either (nor do I trade with anybody), I didn’t have offhand knowledge of how to hop instances until one met up in the right one.

We eventually did get ourselves over to the map after the town, The Coast, and there the whole party shebang sorted itself out quite nicely and naturally, with all the invited persons finding their way into the same map instance opened by the first person to enter, without any extra excessive effort on our part.

3) What do you get when you pour water onto six cats?

For a moment there, I could see why other games limit their team size to 3 or 4 people, because there were six individuals fanning out like a star, going their own separate directions. Some were chasing the next mob for xp, some were getting stuck by very deceptive ramps up and down and blocking walls, some were trying to chase after someone else, and pretty much nobody was following the same person.

It was, in fact, kind of funny.

This was not helped by Path of Exile’s limited design – in which one has the option to toggle on health bars over other party member’s heads, but lacks any option to actually tag anyone with a name tag like MMOs unless you hover over them and/or target them with your mouse.

Also, no handy party member arrows on your minimap if the party members are out of sight.

If you lose track of the party member indicators on the minimap screen, it’s going to take some detective work (possibly bringing up the larger map overlay) and communication (screaming “where the hell is everyone, someone give me a direction, no matter how vague, here!”) to find the party again.

The good news is that the Social screen at least showed the map each person in the guild or party was in, so I had it out fairly frequently, keeping an eye on everyone’s relative whereabouts.

The six souls eventually did find each other and the big zombie killing party started.

Zombie-raising too.

We had a whole bunch of witch classes with us, and not a few of them could resist the Raise Dead gem, so as zombies died from getting their faces smashed in, they got called up again into un-undeath and formed a friendly throng.


Feeling very safe here with the friendly zombie army tanking for us.

We smashed through the Coast, did a circle around Tidal Island and walked over Hailrake like he didn’t exist, ran south-ish then north-ish through the Mud Flats (with folks losing each other through the more open map), got into the Fetid Pool and did a full clear of that map, as per the quest.

Sometime amid the Lower Submerged Passage and the Flooded Depths where the Deep Dweller lurked, it started to get late for our EU folks and most took their leave.

I’m curious to know how the lag / latency / ping times were for our EU bloggers, playing on the PoE NA server. Path of Exile is known to have some sync issues, which do cause some freezing or lag in some situations.

I was doing quite well despite 224 ms latency, with only a few instances of freezing for a second at worst, which was better than I’d feared. Perhaps no one owned one of the more infamous lag-causing skills just yet.

Izlain joined us after that, and the remainder of our cohort finished up with the Submerged Passage, headed over to The Ledge (where Doone and me had a little sorta-kinda-Endless Ledge party while waiting for the two slowpokes to catch up with their quests) and went through the rest of Act I.

We took on the new and improved Brutus in the Prison, with his groundslamming that was almost actually threatening rather than a cakewalk, and then Merveil, the crazy siren in her lair.


Of course, it’s not so easy trying NOT to kill her while waiting for the last person to get into the room.

Merveil had lots of opportunity to show off her low hp emergency skills – summoning other mobs, summoning bosses, summoning a ridiculous number of tornadoes, etc.

All good though, it needed to feel a little bit challenging… even for a party.

Grouping-wise, the scaling felt pretty good so far. I was afraid of excessively hard or tanky mobs, but they still seemed to die fairly quick.

Rewards-wise, there did seem to be a somewhat increased quantity of items dropped, with more varied currency coming out of chests (orbs of transmutation, chance, even an orb of fusing and one or two alchemy orbs dropped.) Quality-wise, I’m not sure. There were one or two rares per boss or elite type mob, I think. Nothing too drastically out of the curve, but certainly not miserly either.

There was a comment from Izlain about the style of loot that was dropping. Very oldschool, in that everyone could see the loot dropped.

Apparently in Diablo 3, it’s all individual loot now. Which I gather is more like the old City of Heroes or a system like GW2, where each person gets their own private loot and can’t see or be tempted by anyone else’s.

From my quick perusal of PoE’s partying options, there are three kinds of distribution systems. Permanent allocation would have been the closest to the new style of loot drops, something like GW1, I suspect, where the loot that drops is permanently assigned to a person randomly.

Short allocation was the default, that I left it at for the most part. The loot is temporarily allocated to a player, who can pick it up before anyone else, and then after a while has passed, anyone else can grab it.

And of course, there’s free for all, which I swapped it to when it was just four folks left being friendly and rivalrous. (Then I spent most of my time plaguing Doone by ninja looting currency under his nose, with double the ping that he has. I’m sure he’s going to thrash me at Defence Grid for that!)

All in all, good fun.

I’d love to play more Path of Exile with folks. Especially in the higher levels, at the harder difficulties. (I have two characters stuck in the 60s that aren’t going anywhere! I can wait! And play alts!)

Just have to figure out those timezone matching blues.