This site has officially moved…

Please go to http://www.razakius.com

The address is the same but it is possible that not everyone knew the address and came here in other ways….

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Website move

Over the next few days I will be moving this website off of WordPress.com and onto my own server. I hate to say it but the reason for this is largely monetary, not that free isn’t bad compared to pay, but i’m already paying elsewhere and I need to start earning revenue and this site is one of many which will aid via google. I will be trying to limit the amount of advertising on each page to just one panel on the side and link panel on the bottom of the page (with a second possible panel being added to archives & search results). On the bright side, the bar for wordpress.com will no longer be on the top of the site when the move happens. I’m still trying to find a good way to use wordpress’s  global dashboard/username system so if there are any tricks to this, I’d like to hear them!

Christmas

In a way this post is a Commencement part 2. Because a lot of what occured over Christmas had to do, I think, with the commencement.

So the following week my sister’s family came down to spend Christmas with my mom, but on the way, my Uncle (one who also shouldn’t have known about the commencement) called her and told her about it. This left me with really quite an odd dilemma… I knew she would find out eventually, but I never really thought it would occur less than a week after the ceremony and just 3 days before Christmas!!! I at this point no longer even wanted to go to my mother’s house for dinner, and I certainly didn’t want to go for just “hanging out sake.” They convinced me to go for dinner, and luckily (or unluckily) they got a call from a neighbor saying their furnace went out and rushed back up directly after dinner. They were worried their pipes would freeze and burst which is a worthy concern! Because of this I didn’t have to sit around too long in the awkwardness.

For the record, when she was asking why she wasn’t invited, I didn’t really say it was because I didn’t like her or anything. I just said she didn’t do anything and I wasn’t really upset with her for anything. It is kind of implied obviously that I don’t like her in that but I didn’t actually SAY that.

While we did have dinner at my mom’s, our actual celebration is held off till New Years. The reason for this is largely because it is easier to get my daughter during this period for a longer time, but it has also made their Christmas’ easier to deal with as my sister can then go to their in-laws without concern for ours. So the following week, we drive up to her area for her to host Christmas this year. This turned out to be the real disaster…

On the Sunday, my mom calls and finds out if she has anything plan. Our thought was that we would likely eat at my sister’s that night and come back to the hotel with her family to swim. So my mom calls, and finds out that we should head over. We get there and spend 2 hours sitting around watching a Vikings game that no one cares about and then we eat. Afterwards, we go and begin to open presents (something we just assumed we would do the next day as we had about 14-16 hours to fill with new years!) By this time my daughter is tired, and cranky, and apparently sick as she puked later that night at the hotel. My daughter stops opening presents after opening half of hers before she gets bored and whiny and stops wanting to open presents. We quickly finish off the rest of the family’s presents, and pack up our stuff and head out. Only to find out that she wants us up, ready, and back at her house for breakfast by 9am in the morning!!! This is far too early as if we are lucky all of us will be up at 8am which would allow us just 1 hour to get everyone showered, and drive there just to eat a breakfast we would prefer to eat at the hotel at our leisure! So I quickly ask her if we can’t just eat the breakfast for lunch and then we would come at like 11am, a time much more reasonable for us to handle. She kindly lets us out of this and we actually return to the hotel angry that she has us all so harshly scheduled at her house that we can’t get a break and my daughter is crying because she thought we would go swimming that night, and then of course she pukes!

The next day starts out better, my mom takes my daughter to the pool early in the morning to get her some of her swimming in and we decide that because we missed swimming the day before, we should go that day, and we quickly realize that sledding needs to be left out as two huge physical activities and the swimming was far more important. So we get to my sister’s about an hour early, and tell her that we’d just rather not go sledding and we would prefer going swimming in the afternoon. My sister gets really pissed, slams her cooking around in the kitchen, refuses to talk for like an hour or two, and then forces her family to go sledding without us later in the day.

Luckily after that, the trip got a little better, we went swimming another time the following day, and my sister decided to go for a short time with her family. My daughter was extremely happy to have had the chance to swim and play with them so I’m happy we actually got that opportunity.

So yeah, the whole thing was an utter disaster, and I’m thinking likely in part due to the timing of the commencement thing. I don’t htink my sister would have gotten as huffy about the sledding thing had it not been for this issue. After all, she didn’t even particularly want to go sledding in the first place. I don’t know what is going to happen in future family events with get-togethers. As it stands I no longer wish to go up to their house. Maybe next year I will travel to see my brother with my daughter so that she has a chance to really visit with their family and maybe my sister will not be able to do such a trip and I can avoid a year. At the very least, I likely won’t see or hear from my sister for a few months, which I’m more than a little happy to know.

Commencement

After long thought, I decided to attend my graduation commencement a couple weeks ago. But when I made this decision, I decided that I would only do it under my terms. I wasn’t going to invite everyone just for the sake of doing so, and I wasn’t going to make a gigantic deal out of it. So I invited my mom, my brother, my aunt & uncle, and my best friend and her family, and left my sister out of the invitation rounds, choosing not to tell her at all that I was going to do it. I thought it would be better than saying to her, yeah I’m doing it but you can’t go because I don’t like you.

We also decided to do a small casual dinner with everyone afterwards at my favorite restaurant, but nothing major. My friend’s family decided not to go to this part so it was mostly my family and everyone told stories of their graduation, as one might expect to find at such a party. I decided since I was going ahead and doing it that I would go all out, so not only have a little dinner, but I also got graduation pictures taken, I went and got a nice outfit that could be used to graduate as well as pictures and interviews in the future. I ordered said pictures, and will order my walking pictures as well, both of which are very abnormal for me. And I went through all the crap to get a cap & gown and what not, I will likely be donating to my school at some point of my life, but I want to wait until I have more of an income before I do that.

The commencement itself was fine. My friend had a friend who was also graduating who invited me to sit next to her, which I did and was glad she invited me because otherwise I would have felt much more alone for the whole thing. I got to talking with some guy who was sitting next to me as well and had a fairly good time throughout. Scott Van Pelt was the special speaker. It was kind of odd, I didn’t feel he represented me at all as I don’t know who he is in particular, he had references to cartoons I’ve barely seen, and jokes targeted at a younger and different crowd. He definitely was not a speaker intended for me, but at the same time he did a fairly good job and had a couple good jokes to tell and interesting stories on how he got to become an ESPN anchor in the first place.

The whole ceremony itself went rather well, and I think it will turn out well in my life that I did choose to go to this, but for now I am a bit torn on whether it was all worth the time and money that it cost.

Merry X-mas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

If you are a regular to this blog, you may be wondering where exactly I have been. Well, with the holidays, finals, and graduation, I have been extremely busy and this has been something that needed to get cut out in order for me to make the time to do homework and papers and such. Over the next few days I plan on adding a lot of new posts including information on how my new guild has been going, how graduation went, a few movie reviews, plans for the future, and site updates. It should be an interesting few weeks and hopefully everyone finds something interesting to read about.

Joining a Raiding Guild

So on Saturday, someone I had previously grouped with messaged me and asked me if I wanted to join this new raiding guild that was starting up. Now normally I would generally say screw off, and move along. But of late, I have been fairly unhappy with both the game and with our recent raiding alliance.

Now notice that I do not say that I have been unhappy with my guild because I haven’t been. In fact, the last couple of weeks I’ve been getting along with people in my guild a lot better than I had in a long time and I’ve been having fun. Especially since one of our old friends had returned for the expansion. However, though I’ve had a good time when they have been on, with our smaller groups, it is still however fairly infrequent. Which is actually quite surprising because right before the expansion it was looking really good, we were getting more than 10 players on every evening on a regular basis. Then two people left, one we didn’t care about because we suspected he was just a bot anyway and the other wanted better raiding. Then a few others just stopped logging in, then the expansion hit and a number of people I think are frustrated by it and just don’t play as often and all of a sudden, it isn’t working. On top of that our raiding alliance isn’t that great.

Now I will give you a history of the character recruited. I created him for a previous alliance whom really needed a defiler (and additional healers) for their raid force. After a small falling out our guild stopped going with them and we joined another alliance. This new alliance has no guard, or even zerk for that matter, and has a wealth of shamans… so many in fact that I have been #3 shaman when I am going and thusly very bored. Even so I tended to outparse (hps) the other healers in the raid and this angered me even more as I was not better equipped than them. All this tended to frustrate me even more so (and I get that yes Defilers can ward out of group which is one of the reasons why it is so great, but our group heals/wards do not and if I can outparse another defiler who is using those, I think something is up). I also tended to get frustrated that because they didn’t have real raid tanks, that the target would change a lot, and not a little. Often by the time the ward would go off, the target would change. Often cycling through no less than 4 targets, sometimes even warlocks and wizards (which isn’t surprising.

So in the end I felt very unneeded with this character and unused which was so annoying to me because this character’s entire purpose was to help out raids and he was not. On top of this the frustration of the expansion has left me wanting to cancel my account and here comes this guy… offering a better experience. To say this was a tough choice was hard to say the least because I absolutely adore my guild, I don’t want to be stuck into a more hardcore schedule, and I don’t like rules. But still I want a better experience and that is what I might be getting. As an aspiring game designer I also feel the need to experience these types of guilds to understand where they are coming from. And in addition I’m not particularly ready to quit EQ2 because I think this is overall the best game out there.

So here I am joining a guild I never would have thought I would join. I never have liked raiding guilds. I generally think they are bad for the game and bad for the community, I think that what they do should be done naturally without all the hubbub. But then people tend to be too greedy or uncaring to get it done. So we have to do it with strict rules & schedules. I figure at the very least I can try it for a few weeks and if the commitment of it really isn’t working then I can just bow out, they have a decent backup Defiler already, they are just looking for a main… and I am looking to be a main… so maybe it will work.

RoK

So now that I have gone a little further into the Rise of Kunark expansion I thought I’d give more in depth thoughts on the expansion. So far, my thoughts on the game have been fairly cosmetic. I like the largeness of the world, but hate how the world now looks and feels like WoW.

I forgot to mention the new “dynamic combat music” that they added into the game and overall I would say it is a resounding “bleh.” I think it is a great idea, but the music doesn’t seem to change at all in combat, any more than it did previously. I wonder how much time and effort they have wasted on this non-feature because it could have been used much better than this. Maybe in some respects they can take comfort in knowing that I can’t tell that the music is dynamic… but I think the unfortunate part is that they made all the dynamic bits sound the same and they all sound extremely drab so it’s just as bad as if you were listening to the old static music. I think a more productive idea would have been to add 4 or 5 new songs into it, maybe have a different song for each type of mob (normal, heroic, group, x2, and x4) and then in the future add new kinds of music for special zones or just to mix it up from time to time. At least this idea would have brought variety to the music (the one upshot of it is that the combat music does seem to change somewhat based on the zone you are fighting in which is similar to what I’m talking about).

Gameplay itself… this was a travesty of the game. I’m not exactly sure what exactly they were thinking here. Quests are amazingly good… obviously a nod to WoW design. You generally get 2-5% xp from completing a quest, plus xp, plus a fairly nice piece of equipment (usually better than what you would get off from mobs just by killing them). Mosts quests you can do solo, with a few heroic quests thrown into ends of lines with better loot rewards. It is also good to note that many of the quests are not group friendly, this is especially true in Kylong Planes. This means that if you have a quest to get 6 Drachnid Silks, you often need to do it for each member of the group so if you have a full group that is 36 drachnids.

Mobs themselves are fairly worthless, it seems the drop rate on chests has gone down significantly, and xp at 70-73 is about .1% per mob and above that it goes down significantly. Dungeons aren’t any better on xp, and at least in Karnor’s Castle the loot is even worse. They recently doubled the xp in dungeons and after going to KC with a group we quickly realized that with the increased xp, it still wasn’t worth grouping in the dungeons. This is how bad traditional group xp has been in this expansion.

Still, the xp from quests is so good, that many people have already leveled to 80 and gotten some of the first sets of good gear and even progressed through much of the raid instances already. At this point I’d also like to note that there is a weird juxtaposition within the game. It is incredibly easy to level due to the ease of quests (some of which give you 3% xp and 14g just for walking 20 feet and talking to an NPC), yet I think many classes suffer. Any class with a basic mez and decent dps should be able to solo their way to 80 easily, in fact probably faster than it took to get from 60 to 70. Yet rangers and healers for sure are often having a difficult time with the mobs.  This is due to the fact that the mobs themselves hit really really really hard and often times stun. If you can keep these mobs away from you they are easy, even if you have one other player they tend to be easy. But here’s the rub, no one is looking for groups from 70-76 until the high level instances to show up. This is largely due to the inconvenience that is grouping together to do quests mixed with the lack of places to xp as just a group.

So the basic point is, if you got a constant group around in your guild or friends in which you can all do quests at the same time, you will likely hit 80 within 2 weeks fairly easily, but if you are in a small guild or on at times when others aren’t, you will find it painful to play this expansion. In fact, I have personally given up on the expansion entirely and gone to harvesting tier 5 instead.

What makes this expansion even more frustrating, is on top of the already more hard hitting mobs, Sony in their great wisdom has decided that healers don’t need mitigation and thus they only decided to put in leather for healers in the expansion until you hit the high level sets. This is awful because  the balance that was in place was that Druids did more dps and in exchange they lost armor (glass cannon theory). Well the chain and plate healers lost their armor without getting anything in return.

I’m not exactly sure what drugs Sony was taking on this expansion, but it was not good. They said that they had a lot of the same devs as EoF, and they were trying to build upon the good things they did in EoF… yet here we are and EoF is one of the best MMO expansions I have ever seen, and RoK isn’t even close. I think on EQ2 alone it ranks #3 out of 4, just ahead of DoF (I never liked DoF because there wasn’t a lot of area too it, the only thing they really added was 10 levels and climbing, and while climbing has gotten progressively better with each expansion, it wasn’t enough to justify an expansion). If Sony honestly thought RoK was building on the positives of EoF, they lost something in translation. They must have thought the only good things in EoF was a new race, old content, and larger zones… these things they have done again. But what was brilliant about EoF was also the secondary tradeskills, cloaks, second earring, fleshing out missing content spans (zones like Crushbone and Klak really did a lot to fill in some gaps previously inherent in the game).

Even the lessons they “learned” were screwed. Yes it also had good quests with useful rewards and decent xp, but it was well balanced, dungeons and zones were given for nearly every level that also had good xp and loot. You could solo, but you could group. The raids in EoF were actually harder than ones in KoS which from all accounts were harder than the ones in RoK. I realize that part of SOE’s new plan is to put the good cotent in at a later time (such as Throne or Unrest in EoF), but they should provide something to those people playing now and they also better come up with more than 2 decent zones in the next year because this expansion is lacking something fierce. The new race was interesting, but they stuck it even further in the middle of nowhere than Kelethin was… to this day I have attempted only once to visit there and gave up because I couldn’t figure out when the lifts would come down to get me (not even sure I was in the right place but think I was). I’ve heard that there is no way to get from Timorous Deep to any of the high level zones, which I can kind of understand because you don’t want low levels stumbling in but at the same time, why is it harder to go 1 mile away than it is to go 1000 miles away? Gorowyn is actually BETWEEN qeynos and Kylong Planes on the map, yet the boats make no stop at Gorowyn for any of the old cities, go figure. There are also no druid rings or spires to TD the way there were for Kelethin, people complained enough about transportation to Kelethin, Gorowyn is 10 times worse. The zone bigness is their other big lesson learned and they are bigger, in fact this is the only thing that Sony did right by this expansion.

After a few days of playing, I think I gave RoK about a B- which is respectable. After a couple weeks, I give them a solid D. The only thing that really saves this expansion is the big zones, and honestly I also liked the rework on racial traits which was badly needed IMHO. I think these features alone really did a good job at placing it ahead of Pillars of Flame which was the first expansion, but comes no where close to Kingdom of Sky or Echoes of Faydwer. With their recent commitment to not add any more adventure packs and not to release more than one expansion a year, EQ2 is now in trouble because I’m considering canceling my account after 2 weeks, how they going to fill the other 50 weeks?