Obsessive Minecraft Playing


Beware, Minecraft is a time siphon. Hours go in and block castles crafted from stone come out. Normally, when some fad indie game suddenly goes popular, it ends up being some obtuse title that’s difficult to really get into, unless you pour hours into getting over some ass learning curve. I held off on buying Minecraft for as long as I could, possibly for that reason or possibly for more shallow graphical preferences. I mean, it sounded neat and I know that it has been around for a long ass time but for some reason, I just didn’t find it appealing enough to try out, until a coworker basically showed me not only exactly what it was, but what could be done within the confines of the game. Since utterly caving in, I haven’t been able to put it down. This game is some serious crack.

Minecraft is part LEGO, part exploring and part survival. You start off in a randomly generated 3D world. Everything within this world is constructed of textured blocks, which are mineable and will yield various resources (mining stone will yield stone and so forth). These resources are used for building things and crafting items. You can use wood to make wooden planks. These wooden planks can be used to build a wooden house or used to craft things like swords, picks, etc. Oh and when evening hits, mobs will spawn from the darkness and try to kill you.

I think that everyone has their own approach to Minecraft; It’s certainly open enough. Some people focus on the exploration, some people stab the zombies and some people (okay most people probably) enjoy it as a giant bucket of LEGO. There is no real goal and no real story other than the one that you create. It’s just, fun to play. If you have some time and $10 it’s well worth a whirl. If I find time I will post my illustrated Minecraft story thus far. I really wish Minecraft had a screenshot key. Pasting images into paint and manually saving them is kind of ghetto, but whatever. PS: This comic makes sense now. Stupid exploding zombies…

Loremaster: OMFG Finally


Finally. I am officially done with questing until the expansion hits. I had a couple of other things that I wanted to do in the old world before Cataclysm, but this was the only one that I was intent on actually completing. There’s such a stark contrast between the old style quests from Vanilla WoW and the new ones in Northrend at this point. I would really love to level more alts but it’s hard going back to the old content. They’ve had their use and have served us well for over 5 years but it’s time to retire the old and welcome the new, come December or whenever Cataclysm is being released.

Finishing the Outlands wasn’t too bad, I polished off the remaining handful of quests fairly quickly while half watching Lord of the Rings. Kalimdor on the other hand was just a giant pain in the ass that took absolutely forever. The last handful of quests were spread all around that godforsaken continent. I had to look up missing quest chains; Apparently there were a couple that started in the Eastern Kingdoms, were mostly completed in the Eastern Kingdoms yet counted for Kalimdor. WTF. And, why is every zone on that side of the world soooo damned long.

Loremaster is a fitting farewell to old Azeroth, if not a serving reminder that I will not miss stepping foot in old school Kalimdor. Ever. Oh, the tabard pushed me over to 25, granting me the tabard achievement. Yay!

…PTRs are up. Time for Keiya’s UI version 4.0.

The Sky Crawlers

It is really unfortunate that there aren’t too many anime moves, much less good anime movies that aren’t a part of a televised franchise. So when a standalone anime film is released, I feel compelled to view it. The Sky Crawlers was released about two years ago. I’ve know about it for a while but just got around to picking it up. As a general warning, it’s not really a film made for the mainstream audience; If you are looking for a quick war romance or action flick, it is probably not for you. The Sky Crawlers is an intellectual and unconventional film with a deep message that can be pretty difficult to penetrate. However, if you know what to expect from a Mamoru Oshii film, then it really shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, The Sky Crawlers is arguably one of his more accessible films.

On the surface level, this movie is gorgeous looking: The aerial combat is fantastic and the scenery is top notch. I usually dislike blending 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional effects, but in this case it works fairly well, even if there are a couple of graphically awkward moments. I don’t know if it is because the film was granted a higher budget or if it is because technology has progressed to a point where we can do stuff like this and not make it look like 90s cheese. I suspect both. Either way, it’s pleasing to look at.

I’m on the fence about discussing the plot, even though I probably will. It’s not really that hard to get the gist of what The Sky Crawlers is about (I’m pretty sure the back of the blu-ray packaging summarizes it), but I feel as if the movie should be treated almost like a mystery. In some sense that is what it felt like, to me at least. The film begins with a few clues and very little background information. As the narrative progresses, bits and pieces of the story are revealed. The characters themselves have no background; Everything that we learn about them is revealed through observation.

The character designs are simplistic and austere to a point, with heavy, if not exclusive focus on interaction. The Sky Crawlers illustrates a world in which immortal children or “Kildren” are trapped in a bleak, meaningless cycle of never ending, never progressing destruction and conscious ignorance. The pacing of the mirrors the characters’ mindset: A dreary haze that reiterates itself day in and day out. If the sprites within competitive online games, Team Fortress 2 for example had lives, this movie would be a pretty close approximation to what I would expect them to be like: Unending, repetitious conflict void of meaning and context. It’s a cruel version of ground hog day.

On one level, The Sky Crawlers seems like an anti-war film, we have the tired soldier and the bloody war. But if you take a closer look, it becomes pretty clear as the film progresses that Oshii is painting a very critical picture of the modern day anime industry. The scene with the foreigners and the fact that Oshii has made this film so self referential (Jin-Roh, Kusanagi) makes it pretty apparent. The outsiders look at this “fantasy world” and at the Kildren, a race completely disconnected from modern society, with fascination and udder adoration, not knowing that the pilots themselves are doomed to a cycle of unending, drab repetition. The pilots, like most anime series are literally interchangeable: One dies and is replaced by another pilot who is like in appearance in mannerism, differing only in name. No one cares, no one questions it. They represent the drudgery of escapism.

Oshii’s message penetrates the media so much in terms of pacing, atmosphere and length, almost to a fault. Though very strong, the action scenes are far in-between. Essentially, The Sky Crawlers is a 2 hour feature film of slow and deliberate “slice of life”-ish scenes of people going about their daily routines. It is a film of subtle gesture and emotion. Many important points of the story are narrated with little more than an odd glance between characters. If you don’t get the overall message and how it applies to the film thematically and mechanically, The Sky Crawlers is going to come across as dull and painfully slow.

It is a very good film intellectually, but perhaps not so much from an entertainment perspective (though I really really did like the plane fights). Even so, if you know what to expect and can appreciate it, The Sky Crawlers is a solid movie and well worth a watch. Oh and make sure to watch the movie through the credits. There is a scene afterwards.

Mementos (aka WoW Hoarding)

I really like the shared topics concept over at Blog Azeroth. Interestingly enough, the last (and only) time I have posted one was a little over a year ago about WotLK release speculation. Anyway, I have actually been meaning to post about this one for some time. A while back, Penny Arcade posted this comic which sadly reminded me a little of my own uuuh situation. For context, here is a screenshot of my bank inventory:


It used to be worse and doesn’t even include crafting materials and raid consumables, which I now keep on one of my banker mules in a slightly more organized state. I don’t really even know what half of this stuff is anymore, though I have a strong inkling that most of it needs to be disenchanted or deleted. I tend to do that on an item by item basis as I run out of space. Oh, my ArkInventory rules got messed up. At some point they just need to be deleted and redone.

The guild bank (not pictured) is far worse. You see, it used to be fairly organized before a round of account hacking that went down a couple of months back. Someone with access got compromised and the bank was cleaned out. A week later, the same thing happened to a lesser extent. Thankfully everything was restored and returned, but they were all returned to my mailbox. I wasn’t exactly a on the ball about keeping it organized in the first place. So that’s karma I suppose.

Shared Topic Idea: Mementos – What mementos have you kept and why? This topic is asking: What items or mementos have you kept (in your toon’s pack or bank) and why? Whether it be keepsakes, quest rewards, special items, random drops, whatever! – why did you decide to hang on to it? What’s its significance to you?

[item]Skullflame Shield[/item]: This shield was my first epic piece of gear ever. I think. It was either this shield or the banana shoulders, I’m not sure anymore. It was a gift from a real life friend and still one of the coolest looking items in the game. The proc was decent back in the day iirc. [item]Glimmering Mithril Insignia[/item]: This trinket was the reward for completing a fairly annoying series of blacksmithing quests. I think it required a total of about 200+ mithril bars to complete. Old world spawn rates coupled with constant node camping made this such a pain in the ass to obtain. It is a testament to time spent ore farming. [item]Lawbringer Spaulders[/item]: I disenchanted my original banana shoulders at the beginning of the Burning Crusade in an attempt to free up bag space and regretted doing so. A couple of months back I went along on a Molten Core fun run and reacquired them. Alas, all is well in the world once more. [item]Commendation of Kael’thas[/item]: I wanted this trinket so bad in the Burning Crusade and never received it. A while back a couple of guild members were on a mount farming bender and were running that 5-man quite frequently. It finally dropped. [item]Jin’rohk, The Great Apocalypse[/item]: I leveled with this for much of WotLK. I will disenchant this word when an I get an even bigger and more awesome looking troll sword. I just, can’t bring myself to dump it. Not just yet.

I have a handful of old school raid items that I am reluctant to throw out: The Onyxia attunement necklace, the Dire Maul fire resistance trinket, the Onyxia cloak, the Molten Core water and a couple of other things. A good portion of my bank though are just tabards, fun trinkets and funny hats. I mean, literally every single funny hat and funny trinket that I have ever come across during my 5+ year journey around Azeroth. I would just kill for a vanity head slot. I mean, I should be able to raid in a chef’s hat without incurring the wrath of my fellow team mates.

Bonus: Here you all go, my inventory, which is somewhat messier than usual because it includes all of the stuff that I haven’t DE’d yet from ICC as well as some loremaster crap. I found this post from two years back. ArkInventory makes it soo sooooo much easier to sort through junk. I keep receiving odd error messages from it though. I have a feeling that I either need to start from scratch and redo all of my rules or just look into another bag mod.


I seem to be low on potions and flasks

Final Fantasy XIV: Gridania


This morning, for the first time ever, the Final Fantasy XIV updater actually worked. As in, I was able to download and install the patch as intended without having to resort to megaupload mirrors linked on forums. Rock on! Anyway, there is something that I find visually unappealing about the way Limsa Lominsa looks and is laid out. For whatever reason it just feels sterile to me or something.


So instead of continuing in that zone, I rolled a new character (pictured to the right) in Gridania. The city itself, set in the midst of a lush green forest, is comprised of crafted wooden structures interwoven with the natural environment. I suppose every fantasy MMO needs its “elven” city so this would be it. Gridania’s layout is fairy straightforward: It’s roughly a circle with a couple of offshoots. There’s still an ungodly amount of running between one end to the other, but I think that it is easier to navigate than Limsa Lominsa’s multi-tiered spread.

The Gridania Rank 1 quest line, “The Color of Sin” is a personalized linear story that is very single player Final Fantasy-esque, integrating short cutscenes with gameplay and dialogue. In pure MMO mechanical terms, the gameplay itself wasn’t too interesting; You run around between NPCs, you talk to people, do an escort quest and kill a few things. That’s pretty standard fare, but I really like how the entire quest line is packaged together. Overall, it succeeds as a narrative and at retaining the overall feel of the Final Fantasy franchise.


As a part of this quest line, after quite a bit of NPC bouncing, you are eventually told to head to the growery. At this particular location you are tasked with learning a dance from a group of 6 children in order to partake in a ritual. In order to learn this dance, you must talk with each child and perform a specific emote based off of a text clue. I think this part of the questline would have been less frustrating if the hints had made more sense (mistranslation?). I had to look up a few of the answers or copy the other players around me, who also looked just as confused based off of the frustrated emote spam. By the way, if anyone needs them, here are the solutions:

Elyn: /lookout (wave 3 times, what?)
Nicoliaux: /clap
Sansa: /bow
Ryd: /surprise
Aunille: /beckon
Powle: /cheer


In exchange for these “dance lessons,” you must escort two children into some forest grove. The escort quest functions much like any other MMO escort quest. You must stay near the children (bounds are represented by the red circle on the minimap) and you must not let any harm come to them. The NPCs aren’t on rails, they use some sort of pathing algorithm which is alright, just a little different than what I am used to.

I would love to play more storyline quests like this one. I hope that Square Enix is majorly holding back because after finishing “The Color of sin,” the next storyline quest doesn’t occur until you hit rank 10 (the one after that being at level 20 and so forth). Inbetween story quests, at least to my understanding, you grind on guildleve quests which are generally uninteresting. I mean, if the entire leveling structure was mostly story quest based, that would be pretty bad ass. At the moment, content seems way too sparse and bizarrly paced. But then again, Square Enix did say that they were holding a few things for release day.

Out of curiosity: are there any keybindings in this game or is there a way of at least macroing certain items? Since the menus are so slow and nested, I would like to be able to access as many things as possible with the keyboard. Ideally, ‘r’ for example should allow you to respond to tells, ‘j’ should open the quest journal and so forth. Doesn’t FFXI have default keybindings for most menu items?

Zul’Gurub and Cataclysm


If there is anyone out there who hasn’t finished Zul’Gurub yet for their achievements or posterity (or those stupid mounts that never ever ever drop), now is your last chance because when Cataclysm goes live, it will no longer exist as a raid instance and will instead be a quest hub in Northern Stranglethorn.

You know, I was a little disappointed that a troll raid instance wasn’t added into Wrath of the Lich King. Both Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman are two of my favorite instances in the game. It’s a vibrant zone with both challenging and interesting raid encounters. I remember it being so contrasting as a raid instance. It was colorful and open where Molten Core was constrictive and uniform. Back in the day, the loot and reputations rewards were pretty decent as well. It was one of those instances that I would continue to clear weekly without really getting that tired of.

It’s kind of a shame that it’s being dropped but I’m really looking forward to seeing what they did with it as a quest hub. I am sure that they will even drop a few nods to the “good old days” into that particular storyline. And hey, now that it’s more accessible, maybe everyone will once again have a chance to putz around Zul’Gurub meaningfully instead of just skipping over it to power level through the 60s. And who knows, maybe another Zul’X raid will be added in at some point.

Final Fantasy XIV Impressions


At some point I was thinking of purchasing Final Fantasy XIV and playing it for a month or two until Cataclysm approached its actual release date (in which case I would continue obsessively playing WoW :P). I don’t feel like I really gave Final Fantasy XI a fair chance and would have loved to at least experience a taste of why people find that game so attractive. But as mentioned before, I don’t really want to do the $60 temporary MMO thing again, ala Aion, so that leaves the open beta.

All other criticisms and issues aside, I will be frank: The interface and controls are horrible if not borderline unacceptable. My goal is to play the open beta past the introductory curve for the sake of getting into the real meat of the game but the problem is that, it feels like such a chore to do anything in FFXIV at this point. I mean, I was never fan of the nested menus, but they aren’t too different than any menu found in any of the console Final Fantasy games which weren’t too bad. the real problem is that there is a palpable delay between literally everything that you do. It is cludgy and feels like a bad port.

The interface lag makes it feel like I am playing the game through a remote terminal connection, which to my understanding is a correct assessment given that literally everything, including mouse control is being handled server side, or at least feels like it. Speaking of which, why is there no hardware mouse support? Supposedly Square Enix is ‘considering’ adding it into the game at some point, but that is such a basic feature. It is like selling a car and then adding the wheels on at a later date.

I think it’s pretty clear that Square Enix has absolutely no idea how to make a game that is not console based. There is a solid standard for PC MMO interfaces that hearkens back to the days of Everquest. Over the past decade or so, one game or another has build upon it but it is effectively, the same damn layout, it just works and there is little reason to deviate from it. But, I am playing a beta so hopefully within the next few weeks at least a few of the interface issues will have been polished out.

Also, the omega hares of death have been replaced by the dodos of impending doom.