Howdy folks, I know it's been a long time. I been very busy, what with crazy stuff going on at work, busy weekends, and as much time with my beautiful and lovely Karen as is humanly possible!
This past weekend, Karen was here with me for 4 days. We had a blast together, hitting up the State Fair of Texas, the Fort Worth Zoo, and plenty of delightful little eateries around here. I was extremely sad to see her go, but I know it's not too much longer until the next time we can see each other (which will be around her birthday). Hopefully soon we can be a lot closer to each other after she graduates!! I adore her so much.
Funny little sidenote: on the Sunday before she left, I fired up my laptop and got her to try out World of Warcraft. She made a little Blood Elf Rogue (durn Blood Elves!) andI got her walking around, looking at quests, and making with the stabby stabby! I definitely think she got the basics down pretty quick, and seemed to be enjoying it. After she got back home, she told me she was having withdrawls of me, Firefly (which she had never seen and we got through 2 and 1/2 discs of), and WoW. Hehehe. My girlfriend is an extremely gorgeous geek. I think I'm the luckiest dude on the planet.
Probably my favorite part of the State Fair? The bird show. Seriously, it was one of the coolest things I've watched. They had a wide variety of bird species ranging from exotic singing parrots, to crows which could retrieve dollar bills, to a stork which flew low over the crowd and nearly hit Karen, and a lot in between. I love animals, and most birds are pretty high up on that list, so this show was a wonder to see. Incidentally, if you ever want to know what my favorite color is, search online for an image of a Hyacinth Macaw. Their feathers are a beautiful dark blue that I just love. The Fair's over now, sadly, but next year I highly recommend you go and see this show, if nothing else. It's awesome. Incidentally when we went to the Fort Worth Zoo, it made going through the raptor canyon area a lot more enjoyable, having learned so much and witnessed the bird's behaviors in a semi-uncaptive environment. Which was really nice, considering that my usual favorite portion of the zoo, the Herpetarium, was closed down for renovation and relocation. Grrrrr....FAIL, Fort Worth Zoo. Bleh! Oh well, someday the snakes will return!
In my last entry, I talked about the Mimiron Hard Mode encounter in the Ulduar dungeon of World of Warcraft.
What I didn't mention was that all the other bosses have a similar "Hard Mode" achievement, in which you purposefully make the encounter more difficult for a better challenge and better loot as well.
If you manage to accomplish all of these achievements, you earn a meta-achievement called "Glory of the Ulduar Raider". And you get a reward for your efforts, a reward that serves not only as an awesome looking form of transportation, but a mark of distinction, that your team was able to accomplish the truly difficult.
That reward takes the form of a Proto-Drake mount. This one has been magically bound in metal as a hatchling, and now it's fully grown, covered in metallic plate that's slightly rusted. Hence, his name: The Rusted Proto-Drake. Rusty or not, I think he looks awesome. Here's a screenshot of my 10-man team on our new mounts.
We'd been working on this since gaining our first hard mode back on the 20th of May, and finished it off on October 7th with our defeat of Yogg-Saron on his Hard Mode, having the assistance of only 1 of the Keepers. Under the normal fight, all four keepers assist you.
This fight is utterly crazy as it is. One of the mechanics of the fight is a numerical value known as your Sanity. Getting damaged by Yogg-Saron will lower your sanity, and if it drops to zero, you go insane, and Yogg essentially mindcontrols you into attacking your fellow players. You normally can restore your sanity by standing in one of the green beams of light that Freya, one of the keepers, places around the room.
In the Hard Mode, Freya is not present, only Thorim is. Thorim must be present as he is the only one who can kill Yogg's Immortal Guardians in Phase 3 of the fight. You thus have to manage your sanity by taking as little damage as possible.
For our successful attempt, we had 2 players down when we reached phase 3, and most of us were EXTREMELY low on Sanity. During Phase 3, Yogg Saron casts a spell called Lunatic Gaze. While this is active, anyone looking at Yogg takes damage and loses Sanity. If you're low on Sanity, you have to watch the timer for when Lunatic Gaze is about to go active, and turn away from him before that happens. If not, you're that much closer to going insane. Yogg will constantly spawn Immortal Guardians, which must be killed. Normally when they reach 1% of their health, they cannot be killed by players anymore. Thorim, however, has the power to kill them.
Normally, the tanks and the melee DPS focus on bringing these guardians down, while all ranged focuses completely on ripping Yoggy apart. However, because I was so low on sanity, they told me to stay facing the Guardians, away from Yogg, and help bring them down. What followed was a lot of on-the-fly-moving folks around as people got too low on Sanity to safely attack Yogg. It was slow going, but it was going. Yogg's health was steadily decreasing.
Then the worst possible thing happened. Our main tank, Servillia, lost all of his sanity.
The guardians immediately turned and went after the rest of the raid, as did Serv. All we heard over our Ventrilo was the off tank, Thrakan, yelling "TURN AND BURN, TURN AND BURN!!" We all immediately turned around, faced Yogg, and unleashed everything we had. It didn't look good for us. With no one to control the Guardians, they ran around rampant, killing people, as we tried so hard to put out enough damage to bring him down, and it looked like we weren't gonna make it. I was furiously blasting with everything I had, waiting for when the guardians were going to come after me...
...and it happened. The guardians despawned as Yogg convulsed and fell over dead. We all earned our achievements, and began yelling with joy in Vent. I couldn't believe it, we'd finally done it. All the hard work, the repeated wiping, the frustrations, it had all paid off. It was done, and one of the coolest things I've ever seen in the game. So very cool. Just wanted to share that with ya'll.
Us celebrating in front of ol' Yoggy's dead self.
I've actually picked up another MMO to play when I need a break from WoW. It's called Champions Online. You've probably heard of City of Heroes, NCSoft's semi-well-known superhero MMORPG, this is along the same vein. I never played CoH, but from what what I'm told from those who did, Champions is better in nearly every way.
The game was initally being made by NCSoft, and grew out of a failed attempt to make an MMO on the Marvel Comics universe. However, they eventually sold it to Cryptic Entertainment, who finished the game and released it. You can buy it in stores or over the Steam download service.
The first thing that's worth mentioning about this game is the literally GINORMOUS character creation system. As someone who was used to the bare-bones character creator in World of Warcraft, this was nearly overwhelming. You have SO many options, so many costume pieces to choose from, that you could spend hours just playing with that. It does make sense though. In WoW, your clothing and armor change appearance as you get new equipment and put it on. In Champions, your appearance is what you make of it here. The items you get do not affect it in any way.
The first thing you choose is your powers "archetype". This is a collection of thematically linked together abilities and a base statisitics set. These range from Fire to Ice to Archery to Martial Arts to Power Armor to Sorcery to Telekinesis. There's a total of 18 archetypes to choose from, and what's truly killer is that you can actually pick around if you want to mix it up a little bit.
And that is perhaps the other truly amazing thing about this game, the sheer amount of customization you have. In WoW, if you're a hunter, for example, you're going to want the same set of stats on your items at all time.
In Champions, you gain the ability to, at levels 5 and 13, pick your "superstats". These two statistics will be what determines the strength of your powers, regardless of what archetype you select. Now, each archetype starts with a base set of statistics that gives you average values for all of them save two. These two are what they recommend you use as your super stats because they typically have other benefits for your archetyps, but they aren't required. You can thus mix and match whatever statistics you wish to focus on however you like. It's astounding.
And the customization does not stop there. You need not stick to powers from your archetype's pre-determined set, either!. As long as you have a minimum number of powers from one archetype, you can start learning powers from other types as well, and many of them synergize with certain other archetypes very well. For example, let's say you have a Power Armor hero, and he's gained a set number of Power Armor powers. If he gains a new power, he can switch over to the Eletricity Archetype and take the power Electric Form. Electric Form gives you a boost to Electricity and Particle damage, and aids in your energy gaining. The Power Armor archetype doesn't have many electric powers, but it has plenty of Particle damage in the form of it's many beam abilities!
The sheer degree of customizing, both in terms of character creation and ability gaining, means you will have yourself a truly unique character. Unless of course you fall into the truly sad realm of making characters that are blatant ripoffs of established superheros. I myself witnessed someone playing a Gambit copy known as "The Ragin' Cajun", and a Nightcrawler ripoff known as "Kurt Wagner" followed by a random series of letters. Those sorts of things are so very annoying.
I haven't gotten terribly far in Champions (Fireball, my pyrokinetic alter ego, is currently a mere level 15, while the hi-tech-armored bringer of justice known as Night Raven is catching up at level 14), but it looks to be loads of fun and a truly epic experience. If fantasty MMO's aren't your thing, I highly recommend you give the superheroic world a try. There's far more to the game than I could cover here in my basic review, and it's well worth your looking at.
I think that's all for now, my friends. Take care and I'll try to talk to you soon!