Wednesday, April 1, 2020

All Hail The King Of The Cats: GW2

Guild Wars 2 has something of a checkered history when it comes to April Fools Day. There was the mega-popular Super Adventure Box in 2013 but then, two years later, there was the fixed wing fiasco that led many people to stop playing for the duration.

Since then, SAB has become an annual holiday in its own right and ArenaNet have become much more circumspect about pissing people off for the sake of a gag. This year they've come up with something that's likely to amuse most, delight some and irritate only a few - ailurophobes.

I was setting my Overseer missions in EverQuest II this morning when Mrs Bhagpuss came in to tell me there was something happening in Tyria. I finished up what I was doing and logged in to find I had mail.

Opening the envelope revealed a communication - of sorts - from His Royal Majesty, First Claw of the Realms and Conqueror of the Sunbeam Throne, the King of All Cats. That's some title for a cat that can't even speak English.

The directions sent me to Lion's Arch, appropriately, where a lot of people were running around in a frenzy, talking across each other in map chat and generally behaving like something big was happening.

Which it really wasn't. Mrs Bhagpuss popped up a party invite and I went to join her. She was treading water at the edge of the L.A. harbor, staring up at the biggest cat ever seen in Tyria.

We looked at it for a while. I took some screenshots. Various people wondered in map chat what the cat might want or what we might do to get its attention. I swam down to find that the King of of All Cats wears a collar and name tag, which suggests he might have an owner even more extraordinarly oversized than himself. And that he might not be quite as all-powerful as his title implies.


I went to check the forums to see if anyone had any information about what to do next. No-one did. For about the thousandth time I wished Dulfy was still in the game guide business.

Back in L.A. the general feeling seemed to be that the event was purely for the fun of seeing a very big cat. Which is plenty of fun for a lot of people, myself included.

Also, when you drink the tonic that comes with the mail, something I should have mentioned you need to do before you can see the King of the Cats at all, you also find intangible cats of regular size appearing all around you, wherever you go.


The tonics last an hour and you get nine of them, which is likely to be eight more than most people are going to need, although there are those for whom infinity tonics wouldn't be enough. According to the description they only work on April Fools Day so if you want to get your kitty fix on there's no time to waste.

Word was the King of the Cats could be seen from Gendarran Fields so I went to take a look. It took a little longer than expected because the character I was playing, my foremost Elementalist and primary World vs World character, has apparently never set foot in that map before today.

Once I'd worked out how to zone into Gendarran Fields from Lion's Arch, under somewhat unecessary instruction from Mrs Bhagpuss, there he was, a giant cat looming over the city wall. Most... impressive. Not to say disturbing.

I took a trip to a couple of other starter cities on a rumor that the big cat was visible in all of them but if he was, I couldn't find him. I settled for a few more selfies and that was pretty much that. [Edit - the rumor is true, as confirmed in this forum thread].

As April Fool events go it's quite low key but also well-judged. It's funny, surprising and doesn't ruin your day, which is more than I can say for 99% of practical jokes.

If it turns out there's anything more to it I'll come back with an update but for now, all hail our new overlord, the King of the Cats!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

You're Italic, I'm In Bold

Following on from yesterday's post, today's is not so much a piece of advice as a warning. Although yesterday's was a warning, too. Hmm...

If you study English at university, and particularly if your syllabus covers the New Criticism, a predictably ironically-named literary movement that began just after the Second World War and fell out of fashion about forty years later, there's a good chance you'll run into something called the Intentional Fallacy. It's sometimes also known as the Intentionality Fallacy, if only by those who like to add bonus syllables to words to make them seem more portentous.

In brief, the theory states that the author of a work is in no better position to know what it means than a subsequent interpreter or, as the online portal of the Oxford University Press' reference library has it, "Once a work is published, it has an objective status and its meanings belong to the reading public. Any surmise about the author's intention thus has to be tested against the evidence of the text itself." And if the OUP says it, it must be true.

Oddly, I never came across this important concept until I'd graduated. My clever-clever comic fan friends, self-taught polymaths, many of them, introduced me to it with bludgeoning force as we argued across pub tables across London in the 1980s. Oh, how foolish and naive I felt, the one with the piece of paper qualifying me to talk about this stuff and yet the one least equipped to do so. Of course, by then the theory itself was falling out of fashion, but I didn't know that either, so it didn't help me win any arguments.

There's bound to be a word for that; realizing you're the living embodiment of the principle you're trying to deny. If I'd taken my education seriously I might even know what it was.Then again, maybe I shouldn't be so swift to shoulder all the blame. I could have been better taught.

I'd say it's hard for someone barely out of their teens to question the competence of the teaching they're receiving at one of the world's most highly-recognized centers of excellence for the subject in question but in fact two people in my tutorial group did make a formal complaint about the abilities of one of our tutors in my third year. And I had a stand-up row with my Director of Studies over something similar in my very first term.


As I said at the time, I had better teaching in my school sixth form than I got most of the time at university. It's something to be aware of as we grizzled veterans dole out our teaspoons of advice. Just because someone does something all the time doesn't mean they know what they're doing.

It's also yet another example of exactly what I came here to discuss. Intentional Fallacy, my aunt Sally! I can't even keep my intent on the rails for a paragraph - how could anyone suppose I'd know what I meant to write even when I've finished writing it? It's frequently as much a surprise to me as it is to anyone.

Let's be a little more concrete, shall we? Yesterday I sat down to write a short piece about style. Syp published a Perfect Ten column at Massively OP a while back in which he went in to some detail about things that annoy him when he puts on his games journalist hat. The one that caught my attention was #4 "PR statements that randomly capitalize words".

That's a habit I'm not mad keen on, either, but then neither do I entirely subscribe to Syp's take on which words should be capitalized. At this point, two things come into play: accepted convention and house style. The thing to remember about syntax and grammar is that neither of them is physics. You can deny gravity all you want but you're still going to fall to your death when you jump off that cliff.

If you want to split your infinitives, though, or randomly capitalize Odd words then nothing and no-one can stop you. Chances are, even if someone calls you on it you'll be able to come up with an "authority" who says it's okay because all grammar and syntax ultimately derive from opinion and usage, not some literary Big Bang.

No-one can stop you, that is, unless you have an editor. If you have one of those, you'll almost certainly need to adhere to some kind of "house style", by which I don't mean "a repetitive four on the floor beat and a tempo of 120 to 130 beats per minute."

That - that right there - is an example of house style. At Inventory Full it's mandatory to make those kinds of faux clarifications with humorous intent whenever they can be shoehorned in. Annoying isn't it? And there's another, faux self-deprecation. We're big into faux here, as you can see, along with using plural pronouns for singular subjects, which brings me somewhere close to the point, at last.

In most cases the editor of the blog is going to be the blogger themselves. It's kind of like being a singer-songwriter or a writer-director. In fact, you're more of a hyphenate than that. Bloggers are writer-editor-publishers for the most part. And illustrators, too, often as not. Some of us are close to becoming Crazy Jane.

The good part is, it means you get to call all the shots. If you want to use three different fonts in the same post, you can. If you feel like putting every adjective into italic script, knock yourself out. You, as very irritating people like to say, do you.

If the you who you are happens to be the sort who decides this kind of thing before even before hitting Publish on the very first post, there's most likely not much I or anyone else can tell you. You know it all already. More likely, though, time will go by and one day you'll notice a house style has crept up on you.

The reason I sat up and took notice when Syp was taking PR reps to task over capitals is that, entirely unintentionally (insofar, as we have established, that intent can be known or assigned) I seem to have ended up with a whole set of House Rules on both capitalization and italicization. I also have a number of color-coded conventions for hyperlinks.

I never consciously planned for any of them and I don't have them written down so sometimes I forget exactly what they are and get them wrong. And sometimes I change them. After reading Syp's minor-key rant I decided he probably had a point about stock concepts like "class" so I'm trying to avoid capitalizing those.

Wlhelm also said something sharp once about bloggers who use acronyms for games without ever naming the game in full and that hit home. These days I always give the full name on first use, as in Elder Scrolls Online, before moving to ESO.

The observant (and, indeed, anyone still reading, which can't be many, surely?) will notice both of those are not just capitalized, as you'd expect, but italicized. That's because it's the first time either has appeared in this post.

I decided a while back to italicize proper nouns on first use. I have no real idea why but I noticed only this week that Tad Williams does it in the recap at the start of Empire of Grass so I probably picked it up from somewhere.

It is starting to get out of hand, though, and that's the danger. You begin with a harmless affectation that you think adds character and end up with so many self-imposed rules you spend more time copy-editing than coming up with interesting ideas.

Still, as I always say, it's your blog. And sometimes editing is more fun than writing the stuff. Often, actually. I really like editing.

If I ever had a point here I think I must have made it by now. Oh, wait, no, I know what it was!

This is the post I meant to write yesterday, when I ended up rambling about comments instead. Still don't know how that happened. The original intent of today's post, the critical piece of advice I wanted to pass along from my exalted position up here on this high horse, from which I have this excellent and flawless view, as I'm sure everyone understands, is that sometimes the post you end up writing isn't the post you thought you were going to write when you sat down.

And that's fine. You can always write the other post tomorrow.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Priceless Advice

We're still a couple of days from the end of March but Blapril has already started. This is Prep Week according to Bel's primer, when "those of us in the community who have been through this process a few times or at least feel like we have figured out this blogging thing ... help those of you who are new to the process to get started with some advice posts".

Only, this year I'm wondering how many Blaprilers are new to the process. In the past, for the New Blogger Initiative and Blaugust, I've ended up adding a bunch of newcomers to the blog roll but, checking the Discord list this morning, I only see a couple of self-confessed newbies: Magi Was Taken at Indiecator and Solarayo from Ace Asunder. And Magi is already on the blog list from last year!

There are about half a dozen others I don't know/haven't already added so they've gone on. Whether any of them need any advice, let alone any advice they're likely to get from me, I very much doubt but that's never stopped me before.

Speaking of blog rolls, that's one topic that comes up every year as Wordpress users express their traditional envy over the one and only aspect of Blogger they consider worth mentioning, namely the self-sorting, auto-updating roll-call. Equally predictably, every year I ponder the length of my own tail as it stretches downwards into the darkness, wondering whether I ought to give it a trim.

I never do. There are currently two hundred and seventeen entries in my blog roll. Eighty-three haven't posted anything for a year or more. Winner of the Long Time Dead Award is In The Mind whose most recent post dates back seven years to January 2013.

Like most blogs, however, it's still there. That's something to remember. Once you put this stuff up, particularly if you use a free hosting option, it's going to be there for a while. Okay, we all speculate sometimes about whether the folks at Google will up and pull the plug on Blogger one day, as they have with so many other projects, products and services, but until that happens your words, wise or foolish, are here to stay.

It's something to think about. Social media leaves a fingerprint. We all like a rant but, maybe, just take a breath before you hit Publish.

And that might just be a new piece of advice from me. Maybe it's the mood of the times spurring me on to caution, because it does seem to go against something I often recommend would-be bloggers should do, namely comment freely on other people's blogs.

I think that's good advice, obviously, or I wouldn't be handing it out, but there are comments and comments. When people consider blogging, one of the worries they have is often what kind of comments they might get. For most bloggers that quickly turns into a worry about whether they'll get any comments at all. This isn't YouTube or Reddit. At least in this part of the blogging woods, comments aren't guaranteed but intentionally nasty comments are extremely rare.

I would never discourage anyone from leaving a comment if they think they have something to say. It absolutely doesn't need to be original, witty or insightful. Obviously those are nice to get but a simple "Good post!" is always welcome. (Some smart alec is going to comment "Good Post!" at the end of this piece, now. I guarantee it. Except now I've called attention to it, maybe they won't. Oh, the post-modern suspense...).

On the other hand you don't really have to comment on every post you read. I mean, I know it sometimes seems like I do that but even I excercise some restraint. Occasionally.

Why, only last week I deleted three comments rather than send them! They weren't offensive. I just realized as I read them back that I was saying things I didn't really need to say about stuff I didn't really care about. I mean, I like to tease Tobold as much as the next person but it's not actually my job to correct everything he says that doesn't make sense.

Now, that last paragraph is a good example. It's supposed to be lighthearted but it's borderline rude. Maybe I ought to have re-written it slightly. How would it be if I said "I like to tease Tobold as much as the next person but it's not actually my job to correct everything he says when I think it doesn't make sense." 

Does adding the "I think" qualify things sufficiently to shunt the sentiment from finger-wagging to self-deprecation? I'd say it probably does but it's a judgment call. It's definitely not as funny, though. Is the offence worth the joke?

Those are the kind of calls you have to make every time you post, I guess. I already made another, when I deleted a line from that same paragraph, referring back to the old rivalry between Tobold and another well-known blogging name, SynCaine. It wasn't very amusing when I read it back and who even remembers the rivalry anyway? Then again, shared memories are the kind of things that re-inforce a sense of community and that's a pretty important part of this whole blogging game.

I self-edit a lot. I just don't usually do it out loud. Often you can tell, though, because I make it into a feature.

When I did my recent music post I thought quite a lot about some of the videos I embedded.  It's not a matter of musical taste. I'm not bothered about posting music that's not to my readers' tastes because a) I have no real idea what those tastes might be and b) it's my blog and the more it reflects my tastes, the better.

No, it was more the nature of a couple of the videos. And the lyrics. Tempest Le Mans and Easter, specifically, as must be obvious if you read the post, even if you didn't watch the videos or listen to the songs. In the end I worked my apprehension into a supposedly humorous tone and used the songs I wanted to use. Maybe it worked, maybe it didn't, but I can live with it.

Conversely, while I was trawling for possibles for that post I watched a couple of things I would have quite liked to have put up but that, on reflection, I wasn't one hundred per cent convinced I wanted to be associated with. There's being clever and there's being too clever for your own good. I chose to leave them out and I'm happy enough with that decision, too.

I self-edit a lot when I'm choosing titles for the posts. Not, usually, because what I have in mind is offensive but because there are only so many rock dinosaurs you can wheel out before you start sounding like an out-of-touch uncle. There's something of a quota system in place here although clearly it doesn't apply to everyone, given the number of posts named for Lana del Rey or Lloyd Cole.

Getting back to the advice, since that's the theme, I guess what I'm saying is always be yourself but be sure you're being the self you want to be. Authenticity is a currency. Be careful how you spend it.

I know it often looks like it, but I don't just throw these things together, you know.


Images borrowed from The Internet. Not, obviously, The Internet. If you hold the copyright and you'd like not to have your work borrowed, just say the word.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

You've Been Fooling Me, Baby

Another week, another major holiday event in EverQuest II. This time it's Bristlebane Day, described by the wiki as "the annual live event that honors Fizzlethorpe Bristlebane and celebrates playful pranksters, tricksters, and good humor."

Fizzlethorpe Bristlebane is the trickster god of thieves and rogues. Every pantheon has to have one. His holiday has never been one of my favorites although it has its moments. I remember when the Ratical quest was added. That was fun. And I put some effort into getting a Horse of a Different Color, too.

It's become something of a cliché here, the way I link to unfeasibly lengthy lists of things to do on EQII holidays, but seriously, look at this. I wouldn't even call Bristlebane Day one of the really major dates in the calendar, either, although it's certain to be someone's favorite.

As I've observed before, EQII often employs a convention where a "day" lasts a week or two but I believe Bristlebane is unique in having an actual, single day when special things happen. That's April the first, of course. If you want to talk to the Sphinx or grab some shinies for the Prankster's Novelties collection, that's your moment.

Before and after, from the 27th of March until the 10th of April, the rest of the extensive program continues to play. Somewhat to my surprise, especially given what Kander was saying, there's no holiday-themed Overseer mission this time but there's no shortage of things to do.

Even though EQII has an excellent in-game calendar these days and although every character gets in-game mail announcing the event, I still hadn't noticed it was happening until a zelniak tried to kill me in The Blinding

It took me several moments to work out what was happening. There I was, like I am every day, happily trundling around the sands with my bunny and my pony and my trusty mercenary, gathering mushrooms and algae from bushes (just don't think about it), when suddenly something bit me. Hard.

Zelniaks are peculiar little goatlike creatures native to Luclin. We have them in original EverQuest, where they look a bit like zebras with sharp fangs, but over the intervening half-millennium they seem to have (d)evolved into cute, brightly orange, Shetland pony sized goofballs. They mill about in safe areas grazing and minding their own business and I tend to forget they're there.

Until they go psycho on me, that is. Once I'd adjusted to the situation I noticed two things: the zelniak was a two-up arrow heroic mob and it was even more colorful than usual. More significantly, when I killed it another one, different color, spawned instantly and began attacking me, too.

I killed that one and a goblin appeared, yelling some typical goblin nonsense. This was ringing no bells with me whatsoever. I had no clue what was going on but I was peripherally aware it must be related to some event or other. 

I killed the goblin and a small, wooden chest appeared. It was only when I opened it up and saw the Fool's Gold Coins within that I realised Bristlebane must be behind it all. Since then I've killed quite a few patchcraft zelniaks and their goblin keepers. I have the vaguest memory of these from previous years but really nothing's coming back to me even now.

I still wouldn't have gone out of my way to hunt the things down only I got jumped a few more times and something new happened. The fights are avoidable, by the way; patchcraft creatures are non-aggro until you get very close to them, then they match your character's level and attack, so if you don't want to bother with them you just have to practice social distancing. Only I kept forgetting and bumping into them by accident.

Each time it happened I finished off the trio of spawns and picked up my coins then went about my business. Until a metal chest dropped instead of a wooden one. Intrigued, I opened it and found inside a very decent upgrade to the cloak my Berserker was wearing. He had a nice level 155 Resolve item already but this was 165 and I don't see too many of those.

That does change things. I've been very slowly inching his gear up to 155 using the Overseer system but 165 items are still quite a rarity for me. If Bristlebane's handing them out then I'm killing every patchcraft zelniak I can find.

Since I'll also be piling up the holiday currency I guess I'd better go check out the vendors to see what they're selling and if I'm going to be there anyway I may as well pick up a couple, of the quests. There's a holiday dungeon that I'm not at all sure I've ever done, too, so I ought to go take a look at that...

Bristlebane's celebrations are followed immediately by Beast'r, which only lasts a few days, and then there's nothing on the calendar other than the regular city festivals and moonlight enchantments for nearly two whole months, until Oceansfull washes up in early June. It could seem like bad timing, what with all the enforced idleness going on, but luckily there's the spaghetti western themed Game Update to look forward to in April. 

That should tide us over for a while.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Out Like A Lamb

The trees are in bud, the birds are in song, the sun is out - it's Spring! And here we all sit behind our firmly closed doors. But that's no reason to miss out on all the good stuff, now, is it?

Bunnies! Easter! Chicks! Lambs! Here they come!


When I happened across Pontevedran prodigies Furious Monkey House on YouTube several years back, I thought they must must be one of those internet things but nope. Very much a real, working band. This is their first recording from 2014, tentative and full of concentration as they tell the tale of Little Noisy Bunny as "he wakes up, goes out, to get some carrots".

Just a year later they're bursting with confidence on the magnificently funky When I'm Sleeping and five years on, with countless festival gigs and two albums behind them, they sound like this. I bet the bassist curses the day he decided to put that monkey mask on.

If you're already scratching your head, just you wait. You haven't seen Bunny Racket yet.

Let me quote from their Kickstarter : "Bunny Racket is a live action series that follows the adventures of 'King Bunny' - a guitar wielding, skateboarding, nature-loving rabbit with a passion to share his love of rock ’n’ roll. King Bunny travels the open highways in his old van, seeking adventure, inspiration and collaboration on his quest to create the greatest kids rock record of all time. " Anyone see anything wrong with that picture?

And this is what $50,688 (Australian dollars, that is) gets you these days:


Hey! Did somebody mention chicken?


Ok, now that really is an internet thing. Big Marvel covers well-known tunes using a squeaky rubber chicken. Here he gives Bad Bunny's Amorfada a good seeing to. Why not? Someone has to do it. Oh, they don't? Try telling him that.

Ok. let's get serious. Fun is fun and all that but in spring a young man's fancy turns to...


Girls! Specifically, Girls doing Honey Bunny. I'm not that struck on the tune but I'm a sucker for a supersaturated video.

Of course, a young man's fancy is only going to turn to girls, in Spring or any other time, if he's heterosexual. Anyone wondering how I'm going to link orientation to season here? Obviously you haven't heard Easter.


Easter, a Berlin-based duo, specialize in lyrics you might, euphemistically, call "problematic". My alternate choice from them was going to be Rabbit, yet another Spring double, but the lyrics to that one are arguably even more challenging. And you can hear them.

I get the feeling things are sliding away from me here. It's going to get worse before it gets better, I warn you. No, seriously, I am warning you...

Maybe if we take a break from rabbits, chickens and the holiest day of the year. What was the other thing I mentioned at the top? Oh yes, lambs. That's got to be safe, surely. I mean, lambs...


Tempest Le Mans with A Lamb, there. So jolly and yet so wrong. Maybe it's a metaphor. I hope it's a metaphor.

Alright. Deep breaths. I think we're over the worst of it now. Let's chill a little. You know things have gotten out of hand when someone who sounds like they've been sedated, intoning "Let me be your dog, I wanna be your dog" over and over, counts as a palate cleanser. Say hi to Bunny. She'd love it if you took her for a walk. It's permitted under current rules, I believe.


I picked that one up from a YouTube channel called TheLazylazyme. They have nearly half a million subscribers, me included, and everything they post sounds almost exactly like that. 

Something a tad more upbeat, maybe? How about the wonderful Beach Bunny? Like most people, I discovered her through the blown-up video for Prom Queen (seven million views and rising). I like everything I've heard but then I would. They make excellent videos, too, which never hurts. This one seems oddly appropriate right now. Can't think why...



Mrs. Bhagpuss doesn't usually bother to read my blog. She hears enough of my blether without having to see it written down. If I tell her I posted something from Kurt Vile she'll be over to check it out like a shot, though.

He's got that Neil Young/Grant Lee Buffalo thing going on. I quite like it. I'm not entirely sure Dust Bunnies really count for the Spring theme but we're a broad church. Oh, but hey, there's Spring cleaning! So it totally counts!


Moving back to less familiar territory, I think this next one is called Before Dawn and it's by Astro Bunny. Or it might be Atomic Bonnie. Google Translate offers both. Here's the original

原子邦妮 【天亮之前】官方完整版高畫質

in case anyone speaks Chinese.


Hmm. Another video that feels disturbingly on point. Maybe I should have thought this through a little more carefully....

Too late to worry about it now. Just two more to go and there's absolutely nothing offensive or disturbing about either of them. For given values of offence and disturbance, of course.

Remember John Fred and the Playboy Band? No, why would you? Nobody does. One hit wonders from the 1960s with an annoying novelty number called Judy in Disguise. Guess what? They had more, just as annoying, and one of them was Hey Hey Bunny!


Can't fault the spacesuit chic. Someone in the YouTube comments says it's Raquel Welch but I'm not sure how you could tell.

I saved the best for last. Consider it a reward for sticking with me this far. This is Polly Scattergood and she'd like to invite you to join her Bunny Club. She's got a dog and a gun and she's living in London. People take one look and they run, apparently.


Oh hell, I've done it again, haven't I?

Stay safe!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Tell Me Something I Don't Know : EverQuest II

As I was logging in to set my Overseer missions in EverQuest II this morning I noticed a news item on the launcher. Hard to miss, really. There it was, twice for some reason, right at the top of the list: Kander's Candor Podcast Launch.

I don't generally listen to gaming podcasts. People who sit at desks coding or framing quest trees all day tend not to be the most scintillating of speakers, or such has been my impression. Kander, though, has long had a reputation as a good egg so I thought I'd give it a go.

Even dark elves follow government health advice.
And I'm very glad I did. I'd strongly recommend anyone who plays EQII or retains an interest in how the game's doing to have a listen.

There are two episodes so far. You can access them directly from the website or via Anchor or Spotify. I used Anchor, a service I'd not heard of before. No sign up or registration needed - just click the button and it plays.

The format is very simple: community manager Dreamweaver hosts and Creative Director Kyle "Kander" Vallee dishes the dirt. They make a good duo. Dreaweaver has proven to be one of the more affable community reps and Kander is refreshingly unguarded, as befits the name of the podcast.

Among other things, we learn, to no-one's surprise, that the most recent expansion was produced under straightened circumstances, with neither sufficient time or resources for the polish the team would have liked. The only material evidence offered as to why is the sudden departure of an artist but it's clear a lot more than that must have been going on at Daybreak Towers back in the autumn.

Coco, the cupcake fairy.
(Anyone who gets that joke better have a six year old child 
or work in a bookshop)
It's also apparent that things are a lot better now. Kander sounds convincingly upbeat about how the situation has improved. He also sounds genuinely contrite about the errors and omissions that were made, something that appears to be going down well on the forums.

I don't raid so it had passed me by but apparently raiding was completely borked in Blood of Luclin. This is admitted and will be fixed. Crafting, which also got the short end in BoL, is going to get some attention too, including the return of level ranges to the tool tips on mats, (already been patched in) and the much-requested addition of writs for the new levels.

Personally I liked most of the changes to crafting introduced in BoL. I've done more crafting and especially more gathering this time than in any expansion for many years. I realize it's a minority opinion.

Looking ahead, Kander promises the same mistakes won't be repeated in this year's expansion, which is already two months ahead of schedule. He's not giving much away about the theme but I think we can assume it will be Luclin Part 2.

You talkin' to me, bub?
Beyond that, the team would like to do something original, or at least original to EQII. He  raises the tantalizing prospect of a Ravenloft style expansion with vampires and werewolves, something I would one hundred per cent love to see, although we kind of already had that back in Echoes of Faydwer, so maybe it's not as original an idea as all that, even for EQII...

Something that undoubtedly is new to the game is what we're getting in the first of this year's two Game Updates, coming in April. Cowboy ogres, a spaghetti western soundtrack and tumbleweed. Yee haw! I can't wait!

I'm somewhat more apprehensive for the big theme of the year, which is class balance. Words to stir the loins of hardcore raiders everywhere - and to strike dread into the heart of every dirty casual. Seriously, when did "balance" in any MMORPG ever take casual gameplay into account?

Class balance! RUN!!
As Kander says, though, it has been one of the big demands of the community for a while now. As indeed it has been in every MMORPG I've ever played, all the time. I exaggerate but not by much. Like it or not, class balance is coming, as is a major revamp for the Alternative Advancement (AA) system. The latter is going to be part of the 2020 expansion, though, so I'll save my fretting for later.

We learn more about the Overseer feature, most tellingly that, as I suspected, its great appeal to the team is the speed at which it can be used to deploy quest-like content. Where it takes months to produce a traditional Signature quest line, an Overseer quest for a holiday event can be put together in days. Figured as much.

The other big positive for the team is the way the Overseer feature has allowed them to re-use art assets from the defunct card game Legends of Norrath. I hadn't noticed it in EQII but it certainly explains where those gorgeous ilustrations in EverQuest's Overseer come from. There's a bit of a make do and mend attitude at Daybreak these days. I notice even the podcast header seems to have been recycled from the fifteenth anniversary.

Feedback? I'll give you feedback!
The system itself gets a major upgrade with "seasons" themed around expansions arriving in chronological order. Agents will get levels and the whole system will get fleshed out. No-one mentioned EQ but it certainly sounds like what the elder game has now, EQII will get next.

There's also going to be a new Community Council. I forget the exact name but it's one of those things where a select group of players acts as a focus group, sounding board and conduit between the playerbase and the developers. Apparently EQII used to have one. Can't say I remember it and I'm not a big fan of the concept but if it helps to take some of the heat off the devs that's to be welcomed.

There was probably more but that's what I can remember a couple of hours after listening to the two pods. It's instructive that at least two of these initiatives - the podcast itself and the Community Council - are revivals of things that used to happen. I can't help wondering how much of this was already in the planning stages and how much reflects a new approach, if not a new direction, following the recent, sudden change of leadership.

Whatever the reason, these are good and welcome changes. I wasn't worried about the future of the game before but having listened to Dreamweaver and Kander talk I feel positively enthusiastic.

Bring on the cowboy ogres!



Blapril, Come She Will

It's that time of year again!

Wait, what...?

Goes out. Comes in again.

So, Belghast, creator and patron saint of Blaugust, the annual let's get to it for bloggers, would-bes and once-weres, had this great idea. Here we all are, he thought, sitting at home, staring into space, wondering how to fill the idle hours until the world turns right side up....

... Well, not all of us, maybe. For some, working from home means working harder.

For most of us, though, probably not so much. Also, social contact. Some people are going to miss that. Okay, maybe not as many in this crowd as in others. Still, we all like a chat, right?

So, Bel thought, why not let's have Blaugust in April! What better to keep everyone busy and positive and motivated and cheerful? Also a little bit stressed because every year someone finds posting more than usual a little bit more difficult than they expected but that's the good kind of stress, right?

I have to wonder at the fortuitousness of the timing here. I mean, there are only two months of the year that begin with the letter "A". You can pretty much only have Blaugust and Blapril. Bljune or Blfebruary just don't cut it.

Bloctober, now... that would work. In fact, make it Blogtober and it's actually the best. And omg! Guess what? Blogtober is a thing! Did everyone know that but me? (Actually, I imagine I did know but I forgot. I get that a lot these days).

Getting back to the point (now there's a novelty) Bel has put together a whole raft of conversation starters to give the thing some structure. There's a media kit here that has all the links.

 The sign-up form is here.

Let's take a break. I was going to put a picture of a kitten here because, kittens! Then I thought of this. So appropriate in so many ways.

Just me? Oh well...



This time I decided not to register as a mentor. I was in two minds about it because I really liked the Discord mentor channel last time but it seems like a bit of a con to claim mentor priveliges just to get into the clubhouse. I didn't feel like I contributed much as a mentor last year - or indeed any other year - other than the advice posts I put up here, so I'm just going to participate this time. If I change my mind later maybe Bel will print me up a new nametag if I ask nicely.

April is interesting timing for reasons other than nomenclature. The current situation is that I'm now officially "furloughed", the bizarre etymology chosen for being paid by the government not to go to work. My employer has guaranteed full pay until the end of April (the government is funding to 80% indefinitely) but the situation nationally is due to be reviewed after three weeks anyway so, in theory, we could be back at work around April 12th.

Sure - in fairyland!. I would guess we might be hitting the first of the series of peaks around then with more to come throughout the year. I'd be surprised if we come off lockdown much before the beginning of May and we'll almost certainly have to go back on it at least once. We may all end up back here doing Blaugust under the same conditions.

That's all speculation and fearmongering, though. Lot of that about.

What matters right now is Blapril! If you're reading this and you've never blogged, what are you waiting for? If you used to and you stopped, this is the perfect time to give it another go. And if you're already at it then maybe you'd enjoy stepping up a gear, cranking out a few extra posts, sharing your experiences and generally making your and our world a happier place.

Probably a good time for that.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Gift Horse

As I type this, Lord of the Rings Online is patching in the background. Standing Stone Games magnanimously decided to switch off the meter for most paid content through until the end of April, give us all something to do while we're self-isolating or sheltering at home.

That's a very generous gesture but it puts me in something of a quandary. I find it very hard to resist free stuff but in this case the stuff that's going free is the exact same stuff I once claimed LotRO was considerably more fun without.

Almost exactly three years ago to the day, looking back even farther into the storied past, when I played LotRO the first time around, I was scathing as I remembered "the increasingly onerous, exhausting commitment to questing in Middle Earth... All that swimming and riding. All that stiff text. All those unpronounceable names."  There were several reasons I stopped playing LotRo, I said, and quest overload was one of them.

Without quests I felt "as though I am playing the game instead of, as so often in quest-driven MMOs, as though the game is playing me". I said much the same about the endless free trial version of Final Fantasy XIV at around the same time. Clearly questing and I were having some issues in 2017. We probably needed some time out.

My abiding memory of questing in Middle Earth - swimming across this damn lake.
I hung around in both games for a couple of months, roaming and exploring and keeping formal questing to a minimum. I can't recall exactly why I drifted away from FFXIV but I know what eventually dampened my interest in Middle Earth: bag space.

Or, rather, lack of it. I was doing the tasks that require lots of body parts and my bags were full of ears and skins and horns and claws. They all had tiny icons, many of them identical, and they all needed sorting all the time and you really needed a spreadsheet to remember where to hand them in and in the end it all felt like too much hassle so I stopped.

I've written about the dreadful issues LotRO has with its inventory and its UI before. So have quite a few people. It's a notorious game for eyestraining point sizes and illustrations that make postage stamps look like billboards by comparison.

I think I read something about some of that having changed. Maybe. I hope so. I'd log in and check but in the time it's taken me to type this, the patcher has only managed to make it to 75% overall. It's on something called "forward iterations" now and there are more than sixteen thousand of them. LotRO's patcher doesn't have any better a rep than its UI.

The road leads ever onward - to the next quest hub.
The bigger question is, do I really want to play LotRO again, anyway? If it wasn't for the pull of getting something for nothing and the push of being unexpectedly at home for several weeks (at least) I wouldn't even be considering it.

Lord of the Rings Online sits comfortably in the big box of MMORPGs that I used to play and probably will again. Any of them could come out for an airing any time and none of them is ever likely to hang around for long before being put tidily away and forgotten for a few more months or years.

If I was going to make a list of former MMORPGs I'd like to re-visit, ordered in preference, LotRO would be on it, sure, but it wouldn't be all that near the top. Hmm... thinking about it, that's a list I might make. Maybe for Blapril. I'll need some ideas. Better make a note...

Sorry, where were we? Ah yes, no, LotRO could stand to wait a while. I just kind of picked up EverQuest again - at least I've been logging in most days to do my Overseer quests and watch my magician very slowly level up while standing in the Guild Lobby - so my "old MMORPG" slot is currently taken.

But, y'know, free stuff! And I would like to get to the original level cap eventually, just so I could say I did. If nothing else, having quests should make that happen faster, shouldn't it?

I could have sworn the hand-in guy was around here somewhere...
I don't know, though. I seem to remember questing being pretty slow. And dull. Maybe I should do the main storyline. That would be good xp, right?

Just a couple of problems with that. First, I've been avoiding it for about ten years, I disliked it so much the first time. But once again I seem to remember reading that something had been done to improve things. I could at least check it out.

But then, second, it's the one questline free players are already allowed to do. I hardly need SSG to turn on the free quest tap before I trot along behind Frodo at a safe social distance. I could do that any time.

I was hoping that by about now, just as I ran out of waffle, I'd be able to pop in and take some screenshots. I've about used up all my old ones. Only, the launcher is still patching furiously. We're on .dat files now, 3833 of 15894 downloaded so far.

I'm off to play something else.

To be continued. Possibly.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A Dead Squirrel That I Hit

A quick update on Divinity: Original Sin 2. It might be the game I'm playing the most right now, yet I'm still not convinced. It's addictive, for sure, but these days I'm less willing than I once might have been to mark that up as a positive.

Steam tells me I've played 67 hours so far. That's a lot of time to put into a game you're not entirely sure about, isn't it? There is something of an "I've started so I'm going to finish" in effect, I guess. Theoretically I'm at the end of the penultimate section. I know that because the game told me to go back to Malady and tell her I'd found a way to go to... wherever the hell it is we're supposed to be going.

And there's the problem. Sixty-seven hours in and I have only the vaguest idea of the plot. Let's recap: my character used to be a singer but somehow also a "sourceror", whatever that is. I'm still not at all clear. She has some nebulous bad thing inside her that keeps making me think of Black Desert's Black Spirit, although this one's not in the slightest degree amusing. My character's also a Godwoken, whatever that is. Some kind of big deal, or so they keep telling me.

That's a lot of baggage to be carrying about but there's way, way more. There was some sort of war recently or a demonic invasion or something. The fallout left people like my character subject to arrest, incarceration, interrogation and execution. Never been sure by whom, exactly. A church, a governement, a milatary force. All of the above.

The attitude of my supposed jailers varies so wildly as to be entirely incomprehensible. Some of them act like sadistic psychopaths, some like overworked scoutmasters. One minute they're setting up to torture you, the  next they're offering you cake. And everyone seems to have a plot going but none of the plots to together. Or matter a damn.



As if that wasn't enough, I've picked up three travelling companions, all with backstories and baggage of their own They all joined me with the caveat that they'd better get this thing done that they needed to do right this minute or they'd be off, count on it... and then none of them ever mentions it again.

Well, not unless we happen to randomly run across someone they recognize, in which case they hijack the controls for a few moments, have conversations I can't follow, do things I don't understand, often with extreme violence, leaving me to deal with whatever mess they've made while they step back into my entourage as thought nothing ever happened.

Until last night I also had a squirrel following me about, riding on a skeleton cat, talking about Giant Acorns and the end of the world. And then I had this humungous battle in an tight space Everything that could be set on fire was set on fire and then some.

When the smoke cleared the squirrel was a charred lump on the floor. Of the bone cat there was no sign. I tried to ressurrect the squirrel but the game wasn't having it. I had no idea the creature could be killed but then again I have - had - no control over where he went or what he did so I couldn't have done much about it anyway.

It was a bummer as the kids stopped saying sometime around 1972. Then I went to bed and watched Roswell and Maria broke up with Michael so it wasn't much of a fun evening all round.

I have a quest journal that is beyond bursting with storylines I've started but not finished. Almost nothing ever gets finished and even if it does it's purely by chance. I gave up trying to bring any of the side quests or sub plots to a conclusion long ago. That way madness lies.

Still, with all that unfinished, it seems ridiculous to go tell Malady we're done so I'm wandering about hoping a few things will sort themselves out by sheer momentum. About all I've learned is that some areas are a lot lower level than others and I probably went the wrong way at the beginning because all the almost impossibly hard fights I eventually won mean I'm now laughably overpowered, overlevelled and overgeared for the areas I'm discovering I missed.

My overal impression of the plot is that I have no idea what it is and I don't really care. The tone of the game is darker than I'd like or, more accurately, dark in a really unoriginal, boring, heavy metal kind of way. I have yet to meet a character I care about. I didn't even like the squirrel much; I just don't like feeling responsible for charring him to a crisp without even noticing.

I haven't taken any screenshots since I took some for the last post. Not one. What's more, it occurs to me that I never even thought of taking any. The game is quite gorgeous but the enforced camera angles are so appallingly awkward it's a struggle to appreciate the scenery. Lining people up for a shot is like buildng a card house wearing boxing gloves.

There's also a gaping chasm between the actions of my team's actions and the consequences. The game gives warnings should you attack guards or murder or steal in plain sight but we routinely leave town squares looking like slaughterhouses and no-one seems to notice. The bodies of people we killed a week ago are still lying in the same pools of blood as commerce and conversation carry on all around. It makes it hard to believe anything we do is real, let alone important.

The game's one saving grace - and it's a huge enough one to explain the many hours I've put in - is the tactical combat, which remains fascinating. I constantly discover new tricks, some of which are cheesing game mechanics, others which feel like genuine inspiration.

I won a huge fight with some much more powerful opponents by moving a dozen barrels of oil into their building using telekinesis. The I blocked all the exits with wooden crates while the guard on the door quite literally allowed me to box him in. I lobbed in a fire grenade and the whole thing went up like a fireworks factory. By the time the fire went out most of my opponents were already dead. Of course, so were all the NPCs inside I might have rescued or spoken to, but they were another kind of bad guy so...

Another even more unwinnable fight I ended up winning by having my most of the party stand way off in the woods then getting one person to pull like it was classic EverQuest. Splitting them was tough but it turns out mobs in D:OS2 do leash, eventually. That took me the best part of two whole evenings.

This kind of thing requires very intense concentration while at the same time taking place in a kind of stop motion that allows for breaks to be taken at any time. It's ideal for getting your mind off other, worrying topics. The necromantic abilities that require you to get close to someone and touch them to give them a disease are a little unsettling but that's about the only call back to reality.

That's where I am right now. It's very apparent that, with the mind-boggling depth of decision trees, this is a game that could be played and replayed but I think once will be enough for me. More than enough, most likely.

Then what? Steam sent me an alert today to let me know a game on my wishlist was on offer. It's Unavowed, described by PCGamer as "one of the best adventure games ever made" and by Rock Paper Shotgun as "unquestionably one of the most impressive point and click adventures made in many, many years."

I was going to buy it so I'd have something to keep me occupied during the lockdown after D:OS2 is done but then I read the description: "A demon possessed you one year ago..."

Been there, done that.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Strange Days

I know last summer I said I was going to diversify a little here on Inventory Full but I didn't plan on straying into real world politics or giving my opinions on live news stories. I'll leave that to the Gevlons and Tobolds of this world.

It would be strange to carry on as if nothing was going on right now, though, wouldn't it? And after all, many bloggers I follow already have a longstanding tradition of including anecdotes or episodes from their non-gaming life, something I did more than my fair share of last year.

As evidenced by a number of recent posts, plenty of bloggers are now working from home, voluntarily self-isolating or on lockdown, as Wilhelm tells us he is under California's oddly romantic-sounding "shelter at home" policy.

It's notable how fast attitudes have changed. I don't think Naithin will have been at all unusual in thinking that there might have been some level of media hype involved when this thing started rolling. We all know better now or at least I trust we do.

I'm in the unusual position of having had a week's holiday booked that then turned into two, right at the time things really began to move.That's afforded me a certain, peculiar perspective.

When I walked out of work two weeks ago with nothing but leisure time on my mind there was still no real hint of what was coming. The outbreaks in China had been in the news for weeks and the virus was moving around the world but I went to visit my eighty-eight year old mother a couple of days later and we barely even mentioned it as we chatted.

Just a couple of weeks later she's in isolation. It's Mothers' Day in the U.K. and normally I'd be visiting but this year the flowers got delivered and left on the doorstep and we kept our contact to a phone call. It's likely to be three months before we meet face to face. If that soon.

I was due to start back to work today but yesterday I had an email from my manager querying whether I would be self-isolating. She'd just received detailed guidelines on the vulnerable groups and she thought I might be in one of them.

I'm pretty sure I'm not. It was quite reassuring to find none of them applied to me at all but there was one gray area: I had chemotherapy last year. One of the effects of chemo is the depression of the immune system and anyone undergoing it or who's had it recently absolutely should not set foot outside the house at the moment.

I was warned strongly last year, long before Covid-19 was on anyone's radar, that even getting a cold could be dangerous. I took a lot of care to avoid that. I wore a facemask for a while and avoided anywhere with people.

The advice I received at the time, though, made it quite clear that within a month or two of completing the course my immune system should have returned to normal. I should be fine now, getting on for six months later.

The text of the advice, however, is not entirely clear. I went into work this morning to discuss it and the upshot is that I'm back at home, typing this instead of standing in an empty shop staring into space. I'm self-certificating myself for a few days while my manager seeks clarity from our HR department over whether or not they believe I should be working.

By the time that's sorted out, with any luck the shop will have closed anyway. As I walked through the almost-deserted city center the difference from a couple of weeks ago was almost surreal. All the coffee shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs were closed as expected but so were the majority of shops of all kinds.

The government here hasn't quite yet gone as far as a full lockdown but many people think one's coming and soon. If it doesn't, we may have to close anway through sheer lack of people to keep the shop open. We always run close to the wire on staffing levels anyway - this could push us over the edge.

Our MD, however, is apparently very keen we should stay open. He's making a case for bookshops as an essential service, something that sounds as likely to convince the authorities as Gamestop's similar argument did in California.

Until government decrees otherwise, though, it looks as though our doors will stay open. If they do, I am expecting to have to go in eventually. At that point the choice is going to come down to whether I want to keep my job, which I'd quite like to do, or whether I consider my life to be sufficiently at risk that I have to quit.

[EDIT - And as I wake up this morning and check our website I see that by the end of the day the company I work for, like most other retailers in the UK, will have closed its doors to the public "until further notice" . Better late etc.]

That's probably overly dramatic. My feeling is that most of us are going to get Corvid-19 at some stage no matter how hard we try to avoid it. And most of us will recover. The trick is for not too many of us to get it all at once, so those who need it can get the care they require.

I'm expecting this to last months not weeks and I don't believe many countries are going to be able to survive or even sustain a lockdown with no obvious end in sight. What that means for day-to-day life for most of us is difficult to imagine.

This is going to be a long, strange year and things could get a lot stranger yet. The world will be different after all this is over. I just hope everyone reading this is there to see how different.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

A Piece Of Lost Dead Past

One of the featurettes included with Guild Wars 2's latest update, Visions of the Past, is the option to replay four instanced scenarios originally released during the first season of the Living World. I remembered the quartet quite well.

The North Nolan Hatchery was, I thought, the very first Living Story instance although looking back it seems Braham's retaking of Cragstead were both part of the March 2013 update, Flame and Frost: The Razing.  Back then I was quite complimentary about the Rox vignette, saying "The nursery instance was exactly the right degree of hard. I completed it without dying but I was downed a few times and it looked touch and go for a while".

That's quite instructive, isn't it? I very much doubt anyone's going to get downed in the Nolan Hatchery this time around. I did the instance yesterday and it was distinctly on the easy side. I brisked through it with only half a mind on what I was doing. We've all come along long way since 2013, not least Rox.

Before you get to relive the glory days there's some paperwork to complete. I was expecting one of ArenaNet's patented "Collects", GW2 code for quests, but it turned out to be a lot simpler than that. All you need to do is visit each of the orignal locations where the instances took place and find a "memento" of the occasion.

The hatchery and Braham's village, Cragstead, were both turned into permanent zones in the game when the Living Story moved on. You've been able to visit them, walk around and chat to NPCs there for years. I guess that dims the nostalgia a little but it makes finding the mementos very straightforward. Just go into the instance and keep heading deeper until you can't go any further. There you'll find a sparkling ground spawn with a big label atached. Can't hardly miss it.

The other two are very slightly harder to spot. The two instances in question no longer exist in the game so the mementos are just lying around outside where they used to be. I had a bit of trouble with the one for the krait tower, now lying in pieces across much of Viathan Lake in Kessex Hills, to the point that I eventually cracked and went to YouTube to watch a video made by someone with better eyesight than me.

Not only was the damn thing in pretty much the first place I'd tried, I'd actually looked right at it, seen it, wondered what it was, then left it lying there so I could spend ten minutes swimming about in toxic waste. Somehow I missed both the sparkles and the sign. Go me!

The last one is definitely the "hardest" to grab, although that's not saying much. It's pretty straightforward to find but karka are annoying even now. and it's down a coral run close to the jumping puzzle on Southsun Cove that's teeming with the infuriating little crabs..

Each pick-up completes an achievement and allows you to access the related instance from the Scrying Pool in the new Eye of the North. I did them all before I went back so I'm not sure if you can use them piecemeal or wehther you have to collect all four to make anything happen.

The four instances you receive access to are:



The only one I've done so far is North Nolan Hatchery. Cragstead I remember as being fairly dull and the toxic tower/krait tower as annoying but Canach's Lair I must have liked well enough because I wrote a guide for it. I might do that one again if I'm stuck for something to do some day.

Other than that, I'm not really all that fussed. It's nice to have the option, sure, but I can't honestly say I've thought about any of these instances even in passing these last six or seven years. Now, if it was the Marionette...

The decision to make the instances uniquely available via the Scrying Pool is very interesting. Anet could have chosen to place the zone-ins at the original locations or even through a UI element but instead they made sure we'd have to travel to the Eye of the North each time.

There's a clear intent to turn the Eye into something more than just another service hub. As well as the season one missions you can also access all the sub-raid "Strike" missions from there. It has something of the feel of one of the lobby zones from the original Guild Wars, particularly with the Xunlai storage chests lying about by the wall.

Eye of the North is described as an "upgradeable instance", which is true if what you understand by the word upgrade is "pay a one-time fee to use our services". I really can't see any point in this but I guess it's harmless enough.

Why anyone would want to access these services in this location sufficiently often to justify the effort and expense involved in setting them up beats me. I'd just hit "B" and go to the WvW hub for banking and broking, then hit "B" again to be returned to the Eye. I certainly wouldn't pay fifty gold for the privelige although I imagine some GW vets will think it's worth it just for the nostalgic frisson of banking with the Xunlai again, even if the Xunlai themselves are long gone.

As for crafting, I suppose you could just about imagine someone needing to make something urgently before a Strike mission but it's a bit far-fetched.

And that's about it for the Visions update. I quite enjoyed some of it.

Next!


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