Saturday, September 30, 2023

Text And Subtext - An Adventure With Morrissey And The Smiths

Yesterday, I was somewhat surprised to find I didn't have enough new music bookmarked to fill a post. It's certainly not that I haven't been listening to plenty. It just looks as though I haven't been keeping a note of what it was.

When that happens it's usually either because I've been listening to familiar artists doing what they do, something I enjoy but don't necessarily find worth sharing, or because the new stuff I've discovered sounded good to hear once but not so good I wanted to call attention to it. That happens a lot.

Still, I wanted to do something musical on a Saturday. It always seems like the day for it. Luckily for me, late last night something really quite peculiar popped up in my feeds. 

To save everyone the trouble of following the link, it goes to a piece at NME entitled

"‘The Smiths Are Dead’ is a new Commodore 64 game about Morrissey". 

What the hell?! So much to unpack there.

Firstly, it's a text adventure. Apparently people still write those. I guess if you're going to revisit the 'eighties it's on point. Do people still play them, though? I mean, I loved a good tesxt adventure back in the day but I can't make myself enjoy them now.

Secondly, it's for the Commodore 64. That's still around? Well, yes, apparently. When I started reading the article I assumed it would be some kind of emulator project. Then I got to the part that said "While it is currently out of stock on the Amiga Store, fans should sign up for email notifications for when it is available again."

Unless you're Square Enix, you can't run out of stock of a digital product. And the Amiga Store (It exists.) hasn't. They've run out of cartridges. The Smiths Are Dead is (Or I guess I should say was and probably will be again, some day.) available in physical format. Specifically, cartridge. Go figure.

I do not intend to turn this into an investigation of why anyone would a) want to develop software for the Commodore 64 in 2023 or b) issue said software in a physical format that - to the best of my admittedly limited knowledge - the original C64 discontinued in favor of tape and disk the first chance it got. 

At this juncture I ought to say I never liked the Commodore 64 and never owned one. I preferred first the ZX Spectrum and later the Amiga 500. I actually still have an Amiga. It's fully functioning as far as I know, or at least it was the last time I used it, which would have been some time in the early 'nineties. Very, very occasionaly I toy with the idea of getting it out and looking at it but somehow I find the urge very easy to resist. As for using it... let's get real.

Never underestimate the draw of the nostalgia market, though. And I guess if you're going to tap that, it makes sense to double down. A Venn Diagram of the Smiths, home computing, the 1980s and adolescent angst would look like one big, filled-in circle, after all.

Anyway, like it or not, "The Smiths Are Dead" text adventure for the Commodore 64 is a thing that exists. It's set right at the point when the band has just split up (Hence the title, which also plays on the Smiths' album "The Queen Is Dead", as absolutely no-one reading this needed to be told, I'm sure.) and the game takes Morrissey's perspective as he prepares to record his first solo album. The cast features a list of characters well-known to anyone familiar with the British music scene of the time:

• Steven Patrick Morrissey 'Moz' is the ex-singer of The Smiths and the character we will take during the adventure.
Gail Colson is my manager and the person who should help us redirect our career after the breakup of the group.
Geoff Travis is the owner of the Rough Trade record label, which published the music of The Smiths.
Stephen Street is a producer and a very prolific and valued musician in the English indie scene.
Vinny Reilly is the ideologue of Durutti Column and a genius with the guitar.
Andrew Paressi is a multi-functional artist who accompanied Morrissey at the start of Morrissey's solo career.

If you want to know more, I guess you'll just have to play the game. Always assuming you have a Commodore 64. With a cartridge port. And that the game ever comes back into stock. (Oh, alright. It is available as a digital download from as well. You can play it using an emulator. I might even do just that, one day.)

In the meantime, why not let's have some Smiths numbers? Everyone loves the Smiths, right? Just like everyone hates Morrissey, now. 

Only, we've all heard the songs so many times. Do we really need to hear them again? So let's have some covers of Smiths' songs! And heaven knows there are plenty to choose from. There can scarcely be any eighties' songwriters more covered than Morrissy and Marr.

Unfortunately, an awful lot of the covers sound an awful lot like the originals, something I've never really seen the point in. Covers ought to sound as unlike the originals as it's possible to get without not sounding like them at all. 

Also, just because there are so many and because I've decided to do this on the spur of the moment rather than work up to it over a number of weeks, I just don't have the time to sift through the thousands of faithful, respectful versions of This Charming Man and How Soon Is Now? on YouTube in search of something interesting, irreverent or original.

Luckily for me, plenty of people have done that already, so all I needed to do was leech off their hard work. At least, that gave me somewhere to start. From there, I relied on YouTube's recommend algorithm to throw up a few more that hadn't been included in every Best Smiths Covers list ever.

I've favored covers that have videos, but some of the best ones don't have any moving pictures, unfortunately, so I've had to accept a few static images as well. Also, since the game starts when the Smiths stop, I'm throwing in a few Morrissey solo numbers, god forgive me.

Enough preamble. Let's jangle!

The Boy With The Thorn In His Side - Holden

OMG! This is gorgeous! And double points for naming the band after a Salinger character then covering a Smiths' song. Talk about teenage alienation!  

Holden are a French duo. I'd never heard of them. It scares me how many great bands I've never heard of. It scares me even more how many I'll never hear at all.

How Soon Is Now? t.A.T.u

The oft-maligned, frequently misunderstood, always inspirational t.A.T.u, who I've loved ever since a blowhard I couldn't stand stormed out of a Yahoo Group I was in just because someone (Not me, sadly.) had the temerity to say they liked All The Things She Said when it first came out. Until then I didn't have any strong feelings one way or the other but I figured if he thought they were some kind of threat to the natural order, they had to be a force for good.

I really love the way Julia breaks the lines in strange places, like between "the" and "heir". It's typical of the idiosyncratic way the two of them phrase. They may not be the strongest singers but they're wonderful with a lyric. True storytellers, both of them.

This Charming Man - Stars

Here in a forceful, if louche, live rendition, opening with a heartfelt plea by frontman Torquil Campbell in which he exhorts everyone to go out and start a band withtheir friends so they'll never lose touch with each other.

I did that. Didn't work. Haven't seen any of them for decades. Just sayin', Torquil.

Girlfriend In A Coma - Mojo Nixon

I could have sworn I'd featured this one before but search says not. I seem to remember a conversation with Wilhelm about Mojo Nixon in the comments. Maybe it was at TAGN

I recommend watching this all the way through. The second half is the best part.

Ask - The Roberts Family

See? Not everyone's a cynic! Recorded during lockdown, apparently, although it looks like they're outside a beach hut. I hope you like the song because we're getting it again in a minute.

Let Me Kiss You - Nancy Sinatra feat. Morrissey

It's not like I was going to let this pass once I knew it existed. Nancy sounds sublime as always and the arrangement is gloriously crazy. Morrissey looks exceptionally sinister in that picture, though, doesn't he? Even by his terrifying standards, which is saying something.

Cada Dia Es Domingo (Everyday Is Like Sunday) - Mexrrissey

Again, I was almost certain I'd used this before but no. It's not even in my archive. I must just have watched it and moved on. Morrissey, of course, is famously Big In Mexico. So is Lana del Rey so I guess it balances out.

You're The One For Me, Fatty - planetbumi

I'm not sure how big Morrissey is in Indonesia these days but there's one hell of an indie scene in Jakarta that seems open to anything remotely redolent of the 'eighties and 'nineties so I guess he's doing okay. I always thought this was one of Moz's more overtly comic numbers, although it needs constantly to be stressed that almost all Morrissey lyrics are inherently amusing, usually intentionally so. 

It also can't be repeated often enough that the Smiths are actually a mosher's delight. All that angsty bedroom misery goes straight out the window once you hear these tunes played in a club. I never saw the Smiths but I did see Smiths tribute band These Charming Men once and believe me, it was exhausting! Pretty much like what you see above, really.

Just a couple more and then we'll wrap it up, I think. The longer I go on doing this, the more curious and exotic covers I'm finding. We could be here all day if I don't exert some self-discipline; something no-one ever accused Morrissey of doing.

Ask - Nina Shallman

I promised another version of Ask and here it is. Shimmering, I think, is the word. The dynamics on this are superb but where does that xylophone-style keyboard motif come from? It's not in the original, unless it's meant to be the guitar part. Sounds more like Peter Sarstedt's Frozen Orange Juice to me. 

Don't you just love the way she smiles so happily all the way through "It's the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb that will bring us together"? And yes, there are seven bombs. I counted.

The Light 3000 - Schneider TM

There Is A light That Never Goes Out is probably a lot of people's favorite Smiths song. It's hard to replicate the initial impact of the first hearing, when it kind of rips your soul out. Even harder in a cover, which is why this glitched, bleached-out rewrite works so well. Go elsewhere, get to the same place.

This Night Has Opened My Eyes - WDRL

I was checking to see if Juice WRLD had ever covered a Smiths song, because it seemed like something he might have done (He hasn't. Didn't. Sad.) when I found this instead. Actually, that's not quite how it happened but I wish it was.

While I'm wishing, I wish I'd been the one to leave the comment on YouTube that says "This song makes me feel like I’m driving home late at night after dumping a body in a lake." Not that I've ever done anything like that...

C'mon! Now you're wondering, right?

Okay, I know I said two more but let's make it the round dozen. I mean, Morrissey would want imperial measures, I'm sure.

Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others - Lilly Hates Roses

They're Polish. According to the text as translated by Google "Lilly Hates Roses, taking on the work of the British, pass well-known songs through the filter of their own sensitivity and already developed style. The result is unique arrangements in which The Smiths' music takes on an even deeper expression."

I don't know about all that but I like it.

And finally. We really couldn't do all of this without Rick Astley and Blossoms, could we? Their joyful reappropriation of the Smiths back catalog in recent times has gone a long way towards making it feel comfortable to listen to some of these songs again. I'm sure all Smiths' fans who've been having issues with Morrissey never shutting the fuck up would like to thank them.

Which song to choose, though? Oh, alright...

Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now - Rick Astley and Blossoms

It always was a bit of a plodder if we're honest but it's still a crowd-pleaser anyway. Not the finest sound quality but feel that crowd reaction.

And with that we're done. Until next time.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Traditional And Modern - Scattered Thoughts On A Friday

Following on from what I said yesterday I was going to be posting about today, this isn't going to be the promised (Threatened?) music post nor my considered thoughts on Carole and Tuesday. It might have something to do with AI in but it's beginning to look very much as though everything will, soon enough, so probably no need to draw attention to it.

I guess we may as well just call it another Friday Grab-Bag. On Friday. Again! Two weeks in a row that makes it! Who had that on their bingo card? No-one, I bet!


It's back! Panda Panda Panda, that is. (You can sing it to this tune - boy did I have to work to find a version I was willing to link!) 

I'd forgotten all about it. I had a clear window of a couple of hours this morning so I thought I'd try and nail down another instance in the signature quest from EverQuest II's soon-to-be-last-year's expansion, Renewal of Ro. As soon as I opened the launcher I saw two news items - one for Panda Panda Panda, the other for something called Gear Up, Swag It Up, which appears to be the new Gear Up, Level Up , another event that always runs around this time of year.

The main purpose of both GULU and PPP used to be to get everyone ready for the upcoming expansion but I guess it finally occured to someone that we only get a level increase every other year these days. Also, levelling up takes a fraction of the time it once did. I doubt anyone needs much help with that.

Gear is another matter. The panda quests, if you do the whole nine weeks of them, will get you something for every single slot plus all the necessary augments, not to mention a bunch of other useful stuff. When the quests were first introduced it made a huge difference to power levels but these days the difference is more incremental. 

I went straight over to check this year's rewards and they're good but not as good as the drops from the Shattered Overture instances. On the other hand, the panda quests are super-easy and extremely quick, plus you're guaranteed to get everything, whereas the SO instances take a while, aren't a cakewalk and give drops that have an element of RNG involved.

Of course, for anyone who plays more than one character at max level, the real attraction of the Panda quests is that they're account unlocks. You can get the rewards on as many characters as you like just for doing the quests once. Can't turn that down.

Usually I follow the walkthrough at EQ2 Traders but there doesn't seem to be one this year, possibly because Naimi Denmother is now the dev who writes them all, so I guess it would seem a little odd for her to hand out instructions. Never mind. The wiki has everything you need. Or it will have, when each quest appears.

As for Gear Up, Level Up I got a reward for it when I finished my main quest instance this morning so clearly you don't have to do anything in advance to qualify. I haven't been to look at the vendor yet but the Swag Shield buff ought to help me finish the Sig Line in good time for the expansion so I'll probably get that.

Speaking of which, isn't it about time we got the name of the expansion and the pre-order details?

How Are The Mighty Fallen

Demoted to a couple of paragraphs in a grab-bag. How humiliating! I read Amazon's blog on October's Prime Gaming giveaways last night and realised that even though I could have gotten a whole post out of the details, I really couldn't be bothered. 

I'd have to read up on a whole load of games that don't interest me and think of something snarky to say about them all and I really don't care enough to do it. I'm sure they're all perfectly fine for people who like that sort of thing and I'm far too mature to get a kick out of mickey-taking just for the sake of it. (Shut up at the back!)

Also, I get the feeling this has been one of the least-useful series I've done over the years in that no-one other than me really seems to mention Prime Gaming any more. I might be the only one left who cares, always assuming anyone else ever did. Or that I do.

I am still mildly interested to see what I can get for free each month. There's usually at least one game I think I might enjoy. This month that's definitely the bizarrely-named GRUNND.

The game's Steam page has a lot of detail, which is more than can be said for Prime Gaming. It's a kind of point & click adventure, which is good, but based on platforming design, which might not be. It's "inspired by the works of Franz Kafka and David Lynch", which is right up my street, as is the mention "Southern Gothic" but I'm not so keen on the influence of "Black Metal".

It sounds worth a look, anyway. I'll be claiming that one when it becomes available on 5 October. 

I'll probably also grab The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters the week after. It's"an atmospheric, story-driven game" set in a haunted school. All this month's choices are vaguely horror-related to fit in with Halloween. Horror's not really my thing but as I observed a while ago it seems to be creeping into everything nowadays, which has had something of a numbing effect on my sensiibilites. I can stomach a bit of horror better than I once could, anyway.

And that's probably it for this month. I suppose I might claim Ghostwire: Tokyo, which I had at least heard of, but honestly it's not speaking to me. Other than that, I claimed something for New World and Guild Wars 2 and that was it. The GW2 freebie includes a top hat, which is worth mentioning, I guess...

Still Looks Like A Brick To Me

I've never had a Facebook account and I have almost no interest in VR so I haven't been paying all that much atention to Mark Zuckerberg and his Meta project, other than to chuckle when Wilhelm points out the latest idiocy. As with Musk and Twitter, I really don't have a dog in the fight so it's easy to just sit back and treat it all like some wacky sitcom.

It was a bit of a surprise, then, to see this pop up in my feeds yesterday, followed by some quite cogent analysis this morning. Inbetween the two, I did a little research of my own, from which I learned not just that "Smart Glasses" are a thing but that they've been one for several years.

If you put "Smart Glasses" into Amazon you get over two thousand results, everything from simple specs offering Bluetooth hands-free calling at less than a tenner up to AR/VR sets costing thousands of pounds. Plenty of them have built-in video cameras, allowing you to film whatever you happen to be looking at, which I thought was the feature that had pitchfork-waving mobs threatening to burn Larry Page in effigy outside Google HQ when Google Glass was making headlines a few years back.

I always thought Google Glass was a great idea. It seemed so obvious that a light, comfortable, inconspicuous wearable, offering a heads-up display and access to social media was the inevitable next step after the smart phone. Only mass hysteria over spurious privacy issues and Google surprisingly running scared of public opinion stopped the device becoming ubiquitous.

Despite publicly withdrawing from the fight, Google quietly kept on with the project, developing and selling "Enterprise" versions to industry for a decade before finally throwing in the towel this spring. What lies behind that decision only Google knows, although this article lays the blame squarely on the cost, which at $1500 does seem steep. 

Pricing for RayBan's Meta Glasses, which I believe you will need a Meta account to use, start at a fifth of the cost of Google Glass - just $299. Not only do they have the video capability that supposedly caused all the ructions last time, they allow for hands-free livestreaming through Facebook and Instagram

If it wasn't for the tie-in with Facebook, I'd be wishlisting a pair of those right now. They look like the future to me, at least in principle.

I would not, however, be considering the actual Meta Quest 3, the device whose launch triggered my investigation to begin with. It's a clever idea with its "Passthrough AR", meaning you can see a representation of the real world as relayed by cameras in the unit, rather than being cut off altogether from reality as in previous VR headsets. 

It's still waaaaaay too big and waaaaaaay too weird to imagine wearing anywhere other than in the privacy of your own home, though - and even then you'd only want to wear it when no-one else was home to see you doing it. I mean, doesn't it remind you of that face mask Hannibal Lecter used to wear?

Still, we are clearly edging closer to the future we all thought was coming a decade ago. The last couple of would-be hype trains - NFTs and Crypto - ran into the buffers of their own worthlessness and ineptitude, while the one before them - Virtual Reality  - shunted itself into a siding, where it remains, of interest only to a relative handful of hobbyists. The next couple coming down the track - AI and AR - look far more likely to instigate the kind of paradigm shift we're all hoping for.

We are all hoping for that, aren't we? If only it wasn't Mark Zuckerberg driving the engine. (And I haven't even mentioned Snoop Dogg as a Dungeon Master...)

And Finally

I had more but it's getting late and my mouse is being really weird so I'm going to stop. I was going to finish with a tune but it seems I don't have many new ones to choose from. Good thing I didn't try and do a music post after all, eh?

Oh, I know! Let's have some Carole and Tuesday!

Don't worry. I'll be obsessed with something else soon enough. You'll look back at this little fad some day soon and wish it could have lasted longer!

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Down On The Farm

I'm back! Did you miss me? Nah, of course not. I was only gone for three days. And two nights, which we spent in a Shepherd's Hut about the size of the Mystery Machine, although luckily we only had to share it with a small black and white dog the size of a Scooby Snack, not a monster the size of ol' Scoob himself.

The hut was very comfortable and well-appointed, I have to say. Wifi, running water, electricity... I bet no shepherd ever had any of that. I could happily live in one although I'd need a better laptop if I was going to carry on blogging, too.

I did consider doing a whole post about it all but no-one really wants to see other people's holiday snaps and anyway Mrs. Bhagpuss took all the good ones with her iPhone and she hasn't uploaded them yet. Mine are all a bit blurry, what with my phone getting on in years now and not having had a great camera to begin with. 

I guess we could just have one - maybe of Beryl in the doorway of the hut. Everyone likes a cute dog picture or a picture of a cute dog. 

That one's really more of the hut than the dog, I guess, although you do get to see some of the canine paraphenalia that accompanies her on her travels:

  • orange collapsible water dish
  • small kibble bowl (With kibble.)
  • squeaky ball (The sky-blue thing.)
  • extremely long lead required to allow her to roam "free", even though farm regulations insist dogs be kept on leads at all times (Or leashes, if you prefer.)
  • red ball on rope, for chasing (Easy to throw very long distances with no appreciable effort.) 
  • weird blue boomerang thing I found in the long grass just after we arrived. 

That's just a fraction of the stuff we took for her. She had more luggage than I did. Literally. I'm a light packer.

The whole thing was more of a test of how well she'd travel and how much she'd enjoy being away from home. It's the first time she's stayed somewhere new overnight. As a dry run for something more ambitious, it was a complete success. Beryl's only obvious concern was that we had to come home again at all. She'd have liked to live in the Shepherd's Hut forever.

We were exceptionally lucky with the weather, which was much better than forecast. We saw a lot of wildlife, including a fox which walked right across the gravel outside the hut there, several wild ponies, a herd of wild goats, a toad, a raven and a flock of sheep which forced me to drive into a hedge. Not, I should add, for the first time. I've been driven  off the road by herds of sheep and goats many times.

Unfortunately, since I was either driving or it was night-time when all of these things happened, I didn't get a photo of any of them. Well, I did of the ponies but they were too far away to look like much. Then again, while we were looking at them, a guy stopped next to us, got out of his car and crossed the road to photograph them and they all ran away, so I stand by my decision to shoot from a distance.

They're in the picture above, somewhere. Near the middle. I wouldn't worry if you can't make them out. They're only ponies, anyway. Being "wild" doesn't make them look any more exotic. You're not missing much. Also, Exmoor looks much more attractive than this in every other direction but that's where the ponies were. Not much I could do about it.

I did manage to get a picture of some butterflies. There were loads of insects, mostly the nice sort, although not all of them. Beryl managed to pick up two ticks (Yes, I know they're arachnids...) despite suposedly being on permanent ant-tick meds and I spotted an absolutely gigantic hornet, by far the biggest I've ever seen in this country, which I suppose is another thing we have to thank climate change for. 

Didn't take a picture of that either. Probably just as well.

Here are the butterflies but really it's just a picture of a big ivy bush with a few spots of indeterminate color scattered here and there.  There are a couple of red admirals on there and a comma, I think. There was a peacock as well but I'm not sure it's in the shot.

Other than look at birds, animals, insects and plants and walk a lot we didn't do very much worth mentioning. Went in a doll museum. Ate ice cream. Looked at some buildings. Ever seen a seventeenth century yarn market? I have, now. Mrs. Bhagpuss took a good picture of that one but I'd given up by then. 

It's a faff, having to take photos on a phone. Maybe I should get a pair of these. I have a post to write about that although since it also involves Mark Zuckerberg's Meta I imagine Wilhelm will have covered it before I get there.

I feel I'm short-changing any dog-lovers out there with the blurry snap above. I do have an excellent picture of Beryl that I could quite easily pass off as having been taken on holiday. Here it is.

I took it a few weeks ago, about a mile from where we live. You might ask why we bothered to go on holiday to somewhere that looks so similar but all I have to say to that is We Slept In A Shepherd's Hut! Plus we did go to the seaside as well. Can't do that around here.

The sea's down there somewhere. Just over the cliff. I collected some nice pieces of driftwood and several tide-softened bricks I mean to turn into something. Foraging for crafting materials isn't just for games, you know.

Ayway, it seems I've somehow ended up with a whole post about What I Did On My Holidays after all. At least it was short.

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow, probably either with a music post, something more about Carole and Tuesday or yet more about AI. Maybe all of those at once.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Take Me To The River

I seem to be starting a lot of posts I don't finish at the moment. Just did it again. I get a few hundred words in before I realise even I'm not interested in hearing what I have to say next. So I stop, send it to draft and start over. One day I'll be desperate enough for something to write about that even these turgid screeds will seem worth resurrecting. Fear that day!

Instead, here's something very weird I thought I'd share. I just spotted it on Steam and had to click through to find out if it was real.

Remember Rift? It was an MMORPG a lot of people had high hopes for, myself among them. I had a great time there for a few months and I still drop in now and then for a bit of a run around.

Long ago I linked my original account with Steam, so I get to see all the updates flagged along the top of the screen every time I log in. By far the most prolific sources of news on my Steam page are Bless Unleashed, New World, Valheim and Rift. New World and Valheim generally offer substantive information about significant changes to their games. Bless Unleashed and Rift... not so much.

Bless Unleashed seems to do a lot of "server maintenance" and "emergency updates", few of which contain new content. It actually works quite well as a form of subliminal advertising because I'm always thinking of re-installing and giving the game another try. I liked most things about it except for the combat.

Rift, under its current Gamigo ownership, does a lot of "events". Nearly all of these are rehashes of things that happened before Gamigo took over. MassivelyOP likes to report them while making ironic comments, most of which seem well deserved for once.

I rarely even think about joining in to try and get some bizarre mount or other, which is usually the reward. It was rainbow-colored unicorns last time, presumably because Gamigo's target market for the game is six year-old girls.

There's often speculation among the few who still care about just what Gamigo think they're doing with the game they bought in Trion's fire sale half a decade ago. I offer this as evidence that whatever it is, it's too weird to second-guess.

I don't know if that link works but it goes to a World Rivers Day quiz. Did you know it was World Rivers Day? I didn't but Gamigo did and they want to celebrate.

Given you can just Google all the answers, I think it's more of a lottery than a quiz. Then again, you're probably not going to need Google's help with the likes of questions like these:

Which of these famous tourist attractions was not created by a river?

  • The Grand Canyon
  • The Nile Delta
  • Niagara Falls
  • The Louvre


Rivers can carry rocks and mud called sediment for many miles. Sediment is often droppen when the river reaches the sea where it forms what feature?

  • Alpha
  • Beta
  • Delta
  • Archipelago

If you're interested, there's a whole week left to work on your answers. The top three highest scorers, drawn out of a hat because that'll be everyone, win 3,000 Credits. Not much use unless you play Rift. Also not much use to me since I have about 20,000 left from when they converted to F2P a decade ago. Never found any reason to spend those so I don't really need more.

As for what this tells us about Gamigo's long term plans for the game, maybe they could make that into an essay question. It'd be a lot harder to answer than anything in the quiz, that's for sure.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Intertextuality Friday

Super-quick Friday Grab-Bag because I wrote most of a longer post this morning before realizing it was going nowhere and now I don't have time to do much of anything. But I'm working tomorrow and we're going away for a couple of days next week - yes, actually "away", although not so far away we won't be able to drive there in a morning - so there probably won't be any posts for a bit, unless I take my laptop, except some of the keys aren't working and I don't particularly fancy posting some experimental piece that doesn't use the letter "B".

Enough drivel. Let's get on.

When Do I Get To Play WoW?

I said I wouldn't until either Blizzard got better or Microsoft bought them. I see from today's news that the last brick in the wall is about to topple. The CMA has provisionally approved the buyout. "Residual concerns" remain but apparently Microsoft is already "offering remedies" to calm any remaining qualms. I guess there could still be a twist in this never-ending tale but it seems a lot more likely things will now proceed in a stately manner to a resolution that suits everyone. Well, almost everyone. 

I don't know why I care, really. I don't play WoW all that much. I subscribe occasionally for a month or two but mostly I just futz around on the endless free trial. It's not like I've been jonesing for Azeroth ("Jonesing", for younger readers, used to be a slang term for addiction, specifically drug addiction, although later any kind of craving. Oh, who am I kidding? I don't have any younger readers.)

I would quite like to have a go at Cataclysm Classic, if and when it arrives. Most of it would be new content to me and I've heard that if you don't have prior attachments to the originals, some of the do-over zones are pretty good.

Started three consecutive paragraphs with "I" there. My old deputy headmaster would have his red pen out by now.

Words and Music

I was intrigued to read two reports this week about the very different approaches taken by the publishing and music industries to the looming threat to their business models posed by so-called AI. The music industry or at least the UK arm of that global monolith (Can a monolith have arms? I very much doubt it.) released "five fundemental rules" for engagement with our new digital overlords;

At a glance, those seem surprisingly reasonable and pragmatic. I'm very encouraged to see the would-be gatekeepers acknowledge that at least some of the people they're meant to be protecting might actually want to engage with this sort of thing.

Personally, I'd love to start messing around with the tech but I'd also like to feel comfortable putting the results on my YouTube channel and linking to them here and right now I'm definitely not going to be doing that. If they work out some copperplate licensing agreement with Google, though, I'm in there!

Meanwhile, George R R Martin, John Grisham, Jodie Picoult and fourteen more authors have filed a class action lawsuit against OpenAI for copyright infingement. That's not actually news. It happened a couple of months ago. I had heard about it before and tried to pay it no mind but yesterday I saw this at NME and the close-up of George in that hat and waistcoat was just too much to ignore.

The spectacle of vested (Hah!) interests clashing in this way is unattractive enough without framing the whole thing as some kind of battle for the soul of literature, when we all know it's about the money. George R R was a SciFi writer once upon a time, too, which somehow makes it even worse.

FFinger-Lickin' Good

If you want another example of how in the end it's always all about the money, Square Enix have you covered. I first saw this at MMOBomb under the headline "WTF IS Colonel Sanders Doing In Final Fantasy XIV?", which is exactly what I was thinking. 

I ate some KFC chicken once. It was in the early 'eighties, before I gave up eating meat altogether. I wouldn't say the Colonel's secret recipe (I'm guessing it's secret. If not, it should be.) turned me into a vegetarian but it sure didn't help. 

The most disgusting thing I've ever eaten was a brawn sandwich (Aka head cheese, which should tell you all you need to know. I'd link to the recipe but it would literally make you vomit just to read it.) It was handed out free on darts night in the pub where my college pals and I used to hang out in the even earlier 'eighties. That bucket of KFC chicken ran it a close second.

Maybe fried chocobo will taste better.

I So Don't Want It To End

Carole and Tuesday, that is. One more episode to go. Pretty sure I know what the seven minute miracle that saved Mars is now. Just have to watch it happen.

There will be a full review but for now let me say the second season is as good as the first, maybe better. The theme and opening sequence is going to be an all-time favorite. I could watch it over and over and I already have.

I've been looking at Carole and Tuesday merch. There are a number of large wall posters but none of the ones I've seen feature any of the scenes from the Season 2 intro, which seems like madness. Literally every shot is a poster waiting to happen.

Don't take my word for it. See for yourself.

I googled the lyrics to see if I could figure out what the song's about. It doesn't seem to relate to anything in the show unless it's in the final episode and I haven't seen yet. Maybe it's a hat-tip to P.J. Harvey. The show does name-check a lot of 20th century artists so it's not that unlikely.

Whatever, I love it. Been singing it in my head (And out loud.) for days. Carole and Tuesday has a lot to say about AI and music, by the way. I could iterate on that in the light of the aforementioned five fundemental rules but I'll save it for the review.

Last Of The Gang To Die

Crossing the streams, a zeitgeist game I never played spawned an anime I really loved when Edgerunners appeared as a post-launch prequel to Cyberpunk 2077. Without getting too spoilery, the series pretty much ran as a one-and-done, the ending leaving little room for a second season, the final episode being one of the more conclusive and downbeat resolutions I've seen for a while.

It was good to hear that the legacy of the show lives on in the game itself in the form of a lore-appropriate memorial. I've got T-shirts featuring both Rebecca and Lucy on my wishlist. That'll be my tribute although I guess playing the game might be a better one.

There's Something To Being Human After All

When I posted a video by yeule last week I said "We'll be hearing from her again. And again, I'm pretty sure." Oh boy. Ironic foreshadowing. Also misgendering, for which I can only apologise. I did not do my due diligence.

I also knew pretty much nothing about the post-human phenomenon that is yeule. I didn't know they were from Singapore, for a start. I don't know a lot about Singapore other than that my mother thought it was very clean when she went there. I guess when you beat people for dropping chewing gum that'll happen. 

Anyway, it's not the kind of environment you'd expect to foster teen rebellion or then again maybe it's exactly that. Either way, according to Pitchfork's review of their third (!) album, sofstscars, yeule "first started toying around with music production as a young teenager in the early 2010s, after they saw a live video of Grimes on the internet and thought, “This fucking bitch does it all by herself… so I’m gonna try.”"

The first two albums are variously described as ambient, glitch and "Asian post-pop".  Also vaporwave, I've seen, which tracks. yeule, who's name as I'm sure someone who isn't me will have realised long ago, comes from the Final Fantasy franchise, leaned heavily into post-humanism for their persona but the third album sways the other way, embracing the soft, messy reality of being human.

I don't know why it's taken me this long to notice them. I'm ashamed of myself, sometimes. I'm busy right now going through their back catalog. Here's one yeule made earlier. It seems relevant, somehow.

And finally...

Speaking of pronouns, on the always-reliable recommendation of Xyzzysqrl, I downloaded the demo for Penny Larceny: Gig Economy Supervillain on Steam. I played it, enjoyed it, wishlisted it. I'll wait for a sale to buy it, though. It's cheap but I'm even cheaper.

I wouldn't have mentioned it only it has by far the most impressive choice of pronouns at character creation I've ever seen. I took a screenshot.

I remember a really long time ago, long before the current on-trend gender awareness set in, reading a long list of possible pronouns and what they implied. It must have been a long time ago because I know I was at work and it's been a decade and a half since I had the good fortune to be able to web-surf and educate myself on the company dime.

Given the level of debate over the use of "they", I'd almost allowed myself to believe there were only the three choices left. I mean, I know that's not true. I was watching or reading something recently where someone's preferred pronouns were I/I... hmm, what was that? 

Anyway, even though I was theoretically aware other pronouns were still in play, it's nice to be reminded. I almost feel sorry I'm stuck with boring old he/him although I guess if I was that sorry I wouldn't be. Stuck with it, I mean.

And now, I think it's bedtime, which means the finale of Carole and Tuesday. Conflicted doesn't begin to cover my feelings about that...

Thursday, September 21, 2023

EverQuest 3 - What, This Again?!

I'm just going to put this down as a marker. I kind of feel I have to, for some reason, although God knows why.

MassivelyOP has a concise, if somewhat snarky, run-through of such facts as exist. If you're interested, as I'm unfortunately aware a lot of people will be, I suggest taking the thirty seconds or so it'll take to read it. (TAGN also put up an excellent post about it as I was typing this.)

The gist, for those who can't be bothered - and who could blame them after the EQNext debacle? - is that EG7 qua Daybreak Games has finally confirmed, unequivocally, that there is an intent to create a sequel to EverQuest and EverQuest II.

The project is in what they uncharmingly describe as the "ideation phase", which means they're still thinking about it. They haven't done anything yet. They don't even plan to start spending any money on it until next year, at which point they're in for around $30m, maybe more.

That doesn't sound much to make an AAA MMORPG but it does happen to be the same amount FromSoftware spent developing Elden Ring. At least, that's what CEO Ji Ham says in the presentation, although where he's getting that figure from beats me. Some sources suggest it cost more like $200m. Even the low end estimate is $50-$70m.

In any event, he's big on FromSoftware: "Those guys? Love 'em - in terms of their model." He believes their success proves that hardcore gameplay can be both mainstream and highly profitable. And he wants the proposed EQ3 to be all of those things. Especially the hardcore part.

I haven't watched the whole of the near three-hour presentation but I have skimmed a fair bit of it and it's surprisingly entertaining. Ji Ham is an even more surprisingly engaging presenter and a lot younger than I imagined. He's also very clearly a gamer, something I definitely did not expect. At one point he speaks rather wistfully about the hours he spent trying and failing to beat one of the bosses in Elden Ring.

If nothing else, I recommend listening to a few minutes from 2:18:00 onwards, when Ji Ham buys heavily into the narrative that EverQuest back in the day was a very tough game and that that's nothing to be afraid of, commercially. I don't personally go along with all of it but he's not saying anything out of line with the generally accepted view of either the franchise or the genre.

He even goes as far as to suggest that the time and effort spent trying to make the EverQuest IP (And by implication MMORPGs as a whole.) more accessible was a mistake, even if that interpretation does somewhat fly in the face of the success of World of Warcraft (For which he correctly names EverQuest as an ancestor and prime influence.) much of which can be put down to its design brief, which was in great part to be an easier and more accessible take on the successful EQ formula.

That's all in the past. Now, the future for the IP is uphill in the snow both ways. Again.

And he seems genuinely enthused by it, that's the strange part. It's like listening to a gamer as much as a businessman. Forget the uncomfortable fact that Elden Ring is a finite, single-player experience and the proposed EQ3 an open-ended, massively multiple live service title. Forget that the FromSoftware ethos, far from being any kind of universal gaming paradigm shift, is instead deeply divisive and the subject of endless, often acrimonious debate.

Even leaving Elden Ring out of it, it has to be acknowledged that the mass market credentials of self-styled "hardcore" MMORPGs are seriously tarnished following the failure of high-profile titles like WildStar and the consistent crash-and-burn meta surrounding just about every indie attempt to turn back time to the self-styled Golden Age of MMOs. But hey, props for trying!

A few years ago something like this might have given me heartburn but I just can't summon up the indignation any more. I've seen all this so many times I can barely be bothered to raise a skeptical eyebrow. This proposed game hasn't even begun development yet. Whatever anyone says about it now will be utterly irrelevant by the time it becomes publicly available, if indeed it ever does.

The timescales quoted in the presentation seem radically optimistic. Apparently the plan is to begin development in 2025 for a 2028 release. I'd be interested to know what the last AAA MMORPG to go from concept to launch in three years was. Even more interested to hear about the last one that did it successfully. 

I suppose if you start the clock running from now, you can stretch it to five years, which does sound more reasonable. Maybe the 2025 "Start of Investment" has some financial implication rather than meaning literally what it says. Maybe there are people working on the project already.

Even then, if the putative EQ3 were to hit some kind of Early Access in 2028, by then I'll be seventy years old. I will not be playing a "hardcore" MMORPG in my seventies. Even if you considered me to belong to one of the older cadres of EQ fans, I'd guess by 2028 the majority of EQ vets will be in their 40s and 50s. This game better not rely on the same kind of reaction times as Elden Ring.

It seems to me that, as I've said before, if EG7/DBG really want to publish a third iteration of EverQuest (A count, by the way, that ignores a whole bunch of titles that have used the IP, not least the PlayStation 2 exclusive MMORPG, EverQuest Online Adventures.) they really ought to think about buying Visionary Realms and having Pantheon rebadged as an EverQuest sequel, which it patently is anyway.

And that's about as much as I want to say about EverQuest 3 for now. In fact, I'd as soon forget about the whole thing altogether, at least until there's some kind of alpha or beta or Early Access that I can sign up for or buy into (Because, obviously, no matter how unsuitable it is or how far outside the target demographic I am, I'll have to at least give it a try...)

As Ji Ham rather gleefully suggests and MOP glumly acknowledges, this is a hype train no-one's going to be able to ignore. For reasons I really don't begin to understand, given that the original EverQuest was by absolutely no reasonable measure any kind of global brand, just the biggest fish in a very small pool that most people at the time didn't even know existed, the mere mention of any resurrection of the IP now seems to incite a frenzied response from gamers, most of whom surely can never have played any iteration of the IP at all, far less been there in 1999, when it all began.

At this point, the whole EverQuest phenomenon reminds me of the infamous Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall Sex Pistols gig of 4 June 1976, which was attended by fewer than a hundred people but claimed as a seminal life experience by thousands. I look forward to years of listening to people droning on and on about what they imagine the new EQ will be like and throwing toddler-like tantrums when reality intrudes on their pipe dreams. Just like happened with EQNext and Landmark. Joy!

As for the plans for H1Z1... don't get me started!

Tuesday, September 19, 2023


I spent much of today in Dawnlands doing something I should have done long ago: tidying up my base. After about three hours of moving stuff around, about the best I can say is it's not as bad as it was.

Really, I ought at least to break everything down and start over. I should more probably move. I'm still operating out of the Grasslands Shelter, for the sole reason that very early on in the storyline one of the NPCs suggests you move in there and I did as I was told. It was fine for a while but it's far from convenient now. It's only the free, instant map travel that's kept me from doing something about it already.

As I posted a while ago, I have my eye on a sumptuous residence in a far more aesthetically pleasing location. It's all ready and waiting for me to move in but so far I've done absolutely nothing to make it happen. Instead, I've been squatting in a shack in a corner of the first village I washed up at, cluttering the place up with more and more crafting stations and storage boxes, giving no thought at all to what an eyesore I've created or how hard I'm making things for myself.

Something had to give and this morning it happened. I was ferreting through my dozen or so chests looking for something, when I finally snapped. I decided to clear the whole lot out and get organized for once. 

I began by making a whole load of fifteen-slot cabinets to replace my ten-slot chests. Then I made a wooden framework so I could stack them three high since you can't place them directly on top of each other.

Once I had that done, I moved everything from the chests into the cabinets, making more cabinets as I needed them. I also did something I really should have done from the beginning; sort everything into categories and put like with like. The game allows you to give each container an individual name so I labeled everything according to what was inside: Ore, Ingots, Herbs, Crystals and so on.

I invite you to imagine me, playing the game day after day, all the way back to the beginning of August, just dumping things randomly into unlabeled boxes, then having to search through all of them every time I wanted to find anything, which was all the time. 

This, of course, is what I always do. In most games I stop playing before I run out out of patience with the chaos. Not this one.

Everything was going very well until I hit an unforeseen snag. Dawnlands uses an excellent proximity search to populate a menu of all nearby storage, allowing you to select each container from a list rather than having to find its exact location. I was placing all my containers close enough to each other that the search would find everything, or so I thought.

It would have worked, too, if it hadn't been for those pesky kids a previously unknown limit to the number of containers displayable in the menu, which weirdly seems to cap at 21. I had closer to thirty cabinets stacked tightly together before I began to notice some of them weren't appearing in the list. I'd packed them too tightly to be able to inspect them all directly so I had to split them.

Only there wasn't enough space. That's how I ended up moving all my heavy industry - kilns and smelters - out of the Shelter altogether. I got out my hoe and flattened an area just outside the perimeter. Then I moved the big crafting stations, which you can just pick up and carry, fortunately, and built a second framework for storage in the space that was left.

After a deal more fiddling I got all my inventory into the new locations. I broke down all the empty chests and then took a look around. It was better but still not good. Time for more drastic measures.

Last week, having tired, finally, of roasting meat one piece at a time over an open fire while watching the ten second timer tick down, before picking it off the spit and starting on another, I'd taken a tip from Kazeyo and stacked ten spits together over another fire, this one well away from my sleeping hut. 

That allowed me to roast ten chunks of meat in the time it had been taking me to finish one but it also meant I no longer needed the single spit. I'd just left it there out of laziness but today I broke it down for mats so I could use the space for something else.

Before I could put anything else there, though, the fire had to go too. It was still cheerily burning where the spit used to be. I knew I needed a fire close to my bed or I wouldn't be able to sleep so I couldn't just get rid of it altogether, which was how I came to have the bright idea of putting the fire inside the hut. I mean, there was plenty of room, now I'd gotten rid of all the chests.

I picked up the still-burning fire and placed it on the floor of the wood-and-thatch hut, which promptly burst into flames. As I'm slowly coming to realize, Dawnlands is much more complex than any F2P mobile port has any right to be.

I grabbed the fire and put it outside again before the whole hut went up in smoke. I got some wood and thatch out of storage and made good the damage. Then I picked up the fire and put it next to the hut, only this time on the outside. It immediately set fire to the door, which quickly burned to ash.

On my third attempt I managed to get the fire settled sufficiently far from the hut so as not to set it alight but still close enough to keep me warm and dry in bed. As I type this, though, I realize I've left the fire unprotected from the elements, meaning the first shower will put it out. When I log back in I'll either have to move it yet again or build a roof over it.

I could always put it back where it was but then I'd have to find a new home for my loom, which is now where the fire and the spit used to be. I moved it out of the hut I'd made to keep it out of the rain. A lot of things in Dawnlands don't seem to work if they get wet.

I'd put that hut up in a hurry when I realized I couldn't just plonk a loom down in the road and expect it to work in all weathers but I'd built it in a really stupid place. It blocked the path and made me have to go around it every time I left the Shelter, something I somehow just got used to doing. It's astonishing how easily you begin to treat these little inconveniences as something you just have to accept. I could have moved the damn hut any time. I just never did, until today.

With the hut gone and the windmill, also an obstacle to foot traffic, now re-located at the far end of the cotton field, the whole area looked a lot tidier. It still has the air of some kind of shanty-town, quickly thrown up after a natural disaster, but at least it's orderly and you can get from one place to another without literally going round the houses.

After all that work I find myself in something of a dilemma. I could carry on and complete the job, turning the whole place into a neat, functional base with everything just so, but that would only make it less likely that I'll ever leave. Or I could belatedly bring my Grassland Shelter era to an end and move somewhere more appropriate to my level, either the aforementioned house on the hill or perhaps some other scenic location, somewhere I can begin work on that castle I always planned to build.

I think the most important thing is not to make any hasty decisions. That's how I got myself into this mess in the first place. I'll take a while to think it over. After all, moving home is one of the most stressful things you can do. No need to make it any harder than it has to be.

Monday, September 18, 2023

In The Event

To no-one's surprise more than my own, I have now completed all the solo content in the recent Shattered Overture update in EverQuest II

Okay, no I haven't... not really. According to the press release there are fifteen new Collections and seven solo missions (Five daily, two weekly.) as well as an unspecifed number of achievements. But that's busy work. I'm not bothered with any of that.

What I have done is completed both of the solo instances. I recorded my experiences in the first, Shattered Unrest, in a post last week, along with my thoughts about the pre-expansion event, Fractured Skies. Today I finished the second instance, Imprinted Memory: Origins of the Felfeather.

It didn't take long. Around half an hour or so. That's because it's what's known as an "Event Solo" dungeon. Event Solos differ from regular solo instances in several  important respects. They're smaller,  have fewer bosses and those bosses are significantly tougher. They're PvE fight clubs, basically.

I'd love to go into a bit more detail about what makes Event Solo dungeons diferent from regular Solo or from Advanced Solo, the third kind of "solo" instance, sometimes also known as Duo Dungeons because they're tuned for two players or a player plus a mercenary. Unfortunately, specific information seems to be exceedingly hard to come by. 

Indeed, if I hadn't been there, when all of these things were added to the game, I'm not sure I'd even know they existed. It's only when you come to click on the portal and find yourself confronted with a long list of options that you realise just how many flavors of dungeon EQII has.

Yes, but what?

It's harder than you'd imagine to find out just what they all are, too. The wiki has a Dungeon Timeline that I used to use a lot. I haven't looked at it for a while so I was surprised to see how apallingly out of date it's fallen. The page supposedly listing Solo instances is even worse. MassivelyOP published a very thorough guide to all of EQII's dungeons back in 2015. Now long out of date, it appears to be the last time anyone even attempted anything of the kind.

In a moment of madness, I thought I might ask Bard to bring me up to speed. I asked it

 "What are all the types of instanced dungeons in the MMORPG EverQuest II and how do they differ in difficulty?" 

The reply was so staggeringly inaccurate, I shudder even to summarise it here for fear some of the misinformation it contains might feed back into the system and self-perpetuate, somehow.

I'll just pick out a few of Bard's choicest flights of fantasy:

"Adventure Dungeons are designed for groups of 6-12 players and provide a more challenging experience. They often require players to work together to solve puzzles and defeat difficult bosses."

No, they don't, for the simple reason they don't exist! There's nothing in EQII called an "Adventure Dungeon" and never has been. If an instance allows two groups to enter ("6-12 players".) it's called a Raid X 2 , not an "Adventure".

"Lairs are designed for groups of 3-6 players and are similar to Heroic Dungeons, but they typically have a single boss encounter as their focus."

Excuse me? Lairs? 3-6 players? A single boss? What the hell is this? It's not EQII, that's for sure.

"Group Challenges are short, one-room dungeons that are designed to be completed quickly. They are a good way to test your group's skills or to earn quick rewards."

To be fair, that is kind of what an Event Heroic is like... I think. I've never actually been inside one but it sounds like the general idea. The Event Solo I did today all takes place in one location and doesn't take long. "Group Challenge" is not a term I've ever heard used in EQII, though.

Positively the most egregious error in Bard's typically confident outline of the available options, however, is this utterly wrong-headed, extremely dangerous piece of advice:

Heroic Dungeons: Heroic Dungeons are the easiest type of instanced dungeon in EverQuest II. They are a good starting point for players who are new to instanced dungeons or who are looking for a more casual experience.

That is literally the opposite of the truth. Heroic dungeons are instant death for new players, quite literally. If you enter an at-level Heroic instance as a new player, chances are the very first trash mob you pull will one-shot you. Well, they will over Level 100, anyway, which is the last decade of content.

Even in a group of experienced players a newcomer will probably not survive. It's one of the main complaints made by the few who try. Before you start running heroics, you need to do a lot of prep work just to get your Resolve high enough to be allowed through the door and that's just the start of it. A casual experience is the very last thing anyone would call Heroics in EQII.

So, Bard doesn't know what it's talking about. No surprise there. I sent some appropriate feedback explaining what was wrong with the answer, the first time I've felt motivated to do so. I can't imagine it will make the smallest iota of difference.

Nope. Still none the wiser.

Getting back to the purpose of the post, which I seem to have very successfully derailed, today marks the first time I have ever successfully completed an at-level Event Solo instance. I can't remember the last time I even tried. I just know that they're always much too tough so I never bother with them. So how did I manage it this time and why did I even bother? 

Well, I gave it a go because the first Shattered Overture dungeon seemed surprisingly easy and I got five upgrades out of it, meaning I'd be even stronger going into the second. More cogently, though, I didn't know it was going to be an "Event Solo" until I got there.

First I had to find the damn thing. I was expecting Dr. Arcana to send me there but it turns out the two dungeons have absolutely nothing to do with each other. In fact, if anything, Imprinted Memory seems to relate to the expansion prequel, Fractured Skies, inasmuch as it involves the Hooluk again. 

There doesn't appear to be any obvious lead-in to the dungeon from the storyline. I didn't get a letter and none of the NPCs I'd spoken to gave me any kind of hint on where to go next, let alone an actual breadcrumb quest. In the end I googled it and found the information I needed in Kaitheel's post on the beta test forums. It's a bit of a back-assward way to go about things. Surely I must have missed something that provides a pointer in the game itself?

I was always good at history.

Once I knew where to go it was very easy to get started. I spoke to the Hooluk questgiver, Tento Felfeather, at his roost above the Nest of the Great Egg. He gave me a rundown on what to expect and told me to look at a book on a lectern next to him. I clicked on it and the option of Event Solo or Event Heroic appeared.

I thought "Oh, what the hell... I can only die" and went in. 

And die I did. Three times in total. But that was fine. Twice, my merc rezzed me and I went on to win the fight. Once he rezzed me and I died again immediately and had to take a do-over. Even with the deaths it was all quite manageable, mostly because the whole thing takes place on a small sky island with no mobs at all other than the NPCs and the elementals they summon for you to fight. No running back, no trash to clear. Die, get up, start over.

I won't bore anyone with the complicated set-up involving Hooluk deities, ritual magic and imprinted memories. I found it quite interesting if also mostly incomprehensible. The Hooluk god uses a four-winged model I hadn't seen before although I imagine it's pulled from some raid or other. Impressive, anyway.

After the first death, which happened when I had the boss down to less than ten percent, I decided to swap out of offensive stance so I could have the full beneifit of all my many Berserker Get Out Of Dying Free tricks. Most of them require you to be set up for tanking not DPS.

I'd also recently taken the trouble to read through a whole lot of my abilities that I never use and it seems I have about three times as many "Oh, Shit!" buttons as I though I had. I also discovered that by judicious use of their various non-stacking timers I can use them a lot more freely than I've been in the habit of doing.

Pass the pickaxe!

I made full use of that knowledge during all three big fights and it made a huge difference. My aging mercenary isn't really up to the job of keeping me alive through the kind of beating I was taking so he was very grateful to have some of the responsibility taken off of his hands.

Better still, even though I died several times, I managed to so some proper tanking, positioning the mob away from the healer, meaning my Merc stayed alive throughout. It's the first real test I've given him since the fairly recent change to mercenary AI supposedly improved their reaction time for things like rezzzing and curing. He certainly seemed on the ball today so I think whatever they tweaked must have done the trick.

Part of the event involves not letting two owl brothers die and I managed that as well. All in all, my three deaths seemed like a pretty solid performance, especially for a first run. The instance is repeatable and I could probably make some improvements but even though it went much better than expected, I'm not sure I'll be doing it again. 

It would be profitable to go back. Once again, I got several good upgrades and every time that happens, the next time theoretically becomes easier. I'm very aware, however, that any advances I make now will be overwritten in a matter of weeks so my motivation to go again and again, in search of the increasingly unlikely drops I'd need to replace everything I'm wearing, isn't great.

Why We Fight.

I'm very pleased with myself for having done the two dungeons at all, not least because the upgrades should definitely make finishing the Adventure Signature questline from the current expansion a lot easier. That's something I do plan on doing before the next Xpack drops.

I think my main focus now, in terms of preparation, probably ought to be replacing my mercenary with another Inquisitor. Gotta have one of those for Verdict, the insta-kill spell that finishes off many a fight just in time. There's a chance I might pick up a new Inquisitor in the forthcoming expansion but I didn't get one last time or the time before that so I'm not counting on it. 

Of course, when the new expansion goes on sale, I could always consider stumping up for something better than the basic version. The higher-cost packs usually include a new merc. Maybe I'll consider it this time.

That'd be another first...

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