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Thursday, July 30, 2015
Windows 10 public "beta"
Posted: 12:20:00 PM 0 comments
If you've at all been keeping up with the news, you've undoubtedly read that Windows 10 is a godsend, a vast improvement over previous versions of Windows, and that you should upgrade to the latest version and you'll have absolutely no regrets.

One thing that Windows 8 had over Windows 10, however, is that it worked.

Don't get me wrong, Microsoft got a lot of things in Windows 10 right. They took the god awful start screen in Windows 8 and managed to blend it with the typical Windows 7 start menu in an appealing way. They added an action center for your notifications. They even made speech recognition a thing with Cortana, which is a pretty decent addition even if I'm not going to use it much.

But there is SO MUCH wrong with Windows 10 right now that I say that casual users should not bother upgrading until they fix the major issues. Keep in mind that I spent much of yesterday upgrading all my drivers and software in an effort to eliminate these issues, to no avail.

Perhaps the biggest issue I have with Windows 10 is items missing in the start menu and from Cortana's search. Sure, Voicemeeter may not be a common application. Skype is. No matter how I install Skype, through the "Get Skype" application they added in Windows 10, or through Chocolatey, Skype simply does not appear on my start menu at all. Even if I find Skype.exe and make a shortcut to it and throw it in c:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs, I still end up without access to it unless I pin it to my taskbar. What the hell, Microsoft? Having items in the start menu has been a basic Windows feature for TWENTY YEARS. You couldn't get that right?

Now, I think this might be due to the fact that Windows 10 hasn't finished indexing my computer (it was about 40% done last night when I went to bed), but still, you shouldn't have to index the start menu. If it's there, let me use it! Ugh.

Another pretty noticeable issue is the fact that sometimes you can't right click on a tile in the taskbar. If you try it, you might get a context menu, or it might do nothing. Annoying when you're trying to close windows. The workaround for me was to hover over the tile to bring up the preview, right click THAT, and close the application that way. Or you can Alt+F4, but I have so much running at any one time that often right clicking the taskbar is simpler.

A huge problem for me is the case of the disappearing USB display. I run a three monitor setup, with two standard 1080p monitors side-by-side and a DoubleSight 1024x600 touchscreen below the main display. It's wonderful when it works, and had no problems in Windows 8.1. And to be fair, it works most of the time in Windows 10... up until the point that I run Crypt of the NecroDancer full screen. And even then the screen will continue to work while the game is running. The moment I alt-tab out of the game, the display freezes up, EXCEPT for the mouse. Then I'll go back into the game and the display will be fine. When I quit the game, though, that's when the display freezes up for good, and is entirely useless.

The worst part about this is that it so far seems to only happen with Crypt of the NecroDancer. Not Descent. Not Portal. Not World of Warcraft. Not other full screen games. It's something Crypt is doing when it's full screen that is killing that display. I thought it might be drivers, but I have the latest Windows 10 drivers for both the DoubleSight display and my AMD card. This is seriously messed up.

The list of annoyances continues:

  • Occasionally when you hit the Windows key, you can't type to search, and remains this way until you reboot. (Workaround is to use the Win+S combination to search via Cortana, which is the same thing, really).
  • The location finder is way off. I live in southeast Houston, and it shows my location up around The Woodlands. Within a 14 mile radius, of course. Oh, The Woodlands is 50 miles away.
  • You have to be an absolute power user to figure out how to get separate images as backgrounds on different monitors and NOT have Windows try to do a slideshow of those images. Basically, highlight the icons you want as your 3 background images and left click Set as Background Image. Then go into c:\Users\\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Themes and delete the slideshow.ini file. If your images are not on the desired screens, flip the numbers on the filenames in this directory and REBOOT after changing them to see the updates.
  • The action center will refuse to open sometimes, and behave that way until you reboot. See a theme here?
  • Some live tiles don't work. The calendar application used to display today's date, now it just display's the application's icon.
  • PC Meter for my 8GadgetPack gadgets is not being detected by those gadgets, resulting in some of them not displaying information, such as CPU or GPU temperatures.

This is just an example of the beta-ness of Windows 10. Many of these issues would cause the average user so much frustration. Do yourself a favor and stay away for now, unless you are a power user, or have very basic PC needs. Hopefully Microsoft gets on the ball and fixes these soon. Without pushing a broken update.

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Monday, July 13, 2015
Descent's Potential Ascent
Posted: 3:20:00 AM 0 comments
On a recent episode of the Six Gaming Podcast, we had a lengthy discussion about our futures in gaming. I mentioned on this episode that I felt I was at the point where one game that I was spending a large chunk of time was ending, and that another game would take its place, but I didn't yet know what game that was. With World of Warcraft sucking as of late, I've been trying to find out what the next game was that was going to grab my attention.

My wife has dove into Final Fantasy XIV Online. I personally have little interest in the Final Fantasy series, and watching her play hasn't done much to pique my interest.

League of Legends isn't it. For the first half of the year I did a segment called Ron's Bronze Plays that tracked my League of Legends play in the bronze tier. While I enjoy playing the game, I find I don't enjoy playing with random people. Despite Riot Games' testimony to the contrary, toxicity in the game is a very real thing. I don't like dealing with people that aren't cooperating in a game that requires cooperation. Sadly, my skill level doesn't allow me to rise above these players enough for me to enjoy the game. I still follow LCS and all, but I'm hardly playing the game any more.

Occasionally I dive into some indie games, and Crypt of the NecroDancer is one I've fallen for pretty hard. I use my XBox One controller for the game, and I am really enjoying challenging myself to do better. But this isn't a game I can play for hours on end every day, there's just not enough to it.

Much of my gaming time has involved me competing on the Descent Champions Ladder. Of course, Descent is old as hell, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. I've played this game on and off since it came out, but the coming resurgence of Descent via Descent: Underground has me captivated again. I'm still far off of my level of skill I had when I played back in the day, but I'm relearning the moves and the levels, trying to get back into the rhythm I had when I played the first time around. But Descent: Underground doesn't come out until next year, and the active Descent community is so small right now, it's hard to find games. Fortunately, there's things like the 20th Anniversary LAN coming up, but these events are few and far in between these days. I'm really hoping that Descent: Underground is "it", but we'll have to see.

Until then, I'm thinking of ways I can further the Descent community. I've restarted my old Descent dedicated server network project, in node.js of course, and am far enough along that I should have something usable for the LAN. With talk about there being a competitive scene in the new game, I've considered doing a podcast-like show centered around competitive Descent. I've even inquired with the Descendent Studios team to see if they have use for a JavaScript guy like me on their team. (Sadly, they don't yet!) I feel like I want to get involved, but the size of the community makes me wonder if this is worth my time. I do have other projects floating around, you know!

So for now, I continue playing more Descent and working on my Descent DSN project. Nothing else has really stood out and screamed "PLAY ME!".

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Thursday, July 02, 2015
Warlords of Draenor is a failure
Posted: 3:00:00 PM 0 comments
As a background, I have been playing World of Warcraft since about 3 months before The Burning Crusade was released. I have been a part of 4 guilds, including running Six Minutes To Release for over 7 years. The Six Gaming Podcasts exists solely because of World of Warcraft. I have seen the best that World of Warcraft has to offer. Today, I am seeing the worst.

If you haven't heard, it was recently announced that Warlords of Draenor has likely shipped its final content patch - and in the opinion of many players, its ONLY content patch. 6.1 was the social media patch which did not progress the Draenor story at all. Even if you count 6.1 as a major patch, that is still only 2 patches.

Here is a quick reference to the content released in previous expansions:

  Vanilla Burning Crusade Wrath of the Lich King Cataclysm Mists of Pandaria Warlords of Draenor
Major Patches Post-Launch
(Not necessarily content patches)
11
Maraudon,
Dire Maul,
PvP Honor System,
Alterac Valley & Warsong Gulch,
Blackwing Lair,
Zul'Gurub,
Silithus,
Ahn'Qiraj,
Tier 0.5,
Naxxramas,
Cross-Realm Battlegrounds
4
Black Temple,
Voice Chat,
Zul'Aman,
Sunwell
3
Ulduar,
Crusaders' Coliseum,
Icecrown Citadel
3
Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub 5-mans,
Firelands,
Dragon Soul
4
Brawler's Guild,
Throne of Thunder,
Deepwind Gorge,
Siege of Orgrimmar
2
Twitter,
Hellfire Citadel
Content at Launch Raids: 2
Dungeons: 16
Raids: 6
Dungeons: 15
Raids: 4
Dungeons: 11
Raids: 4
Dungeons: 9
Raids: 3
Dungeons: 9
Raids: 1
Dungeons: 8
Content patched in Raids: 5
Dungeons: 4
Raids: 2
Dungeons: 1
Raids: 5
Dungeons: 5
Raids: 2
Dungeons: 3
Raids: 2
Dungeons: 0
Raids: 2
Dungeons: 0

Warlords of Draenor the first expansion with less than 3 raid tiers, has had as many or less raids total than the other 4 expansions LAUNCHED with, has the least number of 5-man dungeons of any expansion, gave up queued scenarios, isolated players within their garrison, eliminated flying, and simply rehashed old ideas with its only major content patch.

Sure, Warlords of Draenor had some good content. The questing between level 90 to 100 was extremely well-done. Everything flowed correctly, there were more than one quest line you could take on at a time, and the build up to the dungeons made for a really good story. Sure, they funneled you into your garrison along the way, but the garrison didn't make you feel trapped. You WANTED to go out and explore, and explore we did.

Then 100 hit. Garrosh was killed at the end of Nagrand, and our only major questlines remaining were our weekly garrison quests and the legendary ring quest. Sure, we had dailies for Apexis, but other than raiding, dungeons, and PvP, what did Blizzard provide us?

Their first major patch of Warlords was 6.1. It was so lacking of content they even had a lame name for it, "The Adventure Continues". From their patch notes, here are the highlights:

  • Updated Blood Elf model
  • Heirloom Collectinos Tab
  • Cosmetic Transformations an Toy Effects improvements
  • Twitter Integration
  • Garrison, Follower, and Outpost updates

Blizzard considers this a major content patch because they incremented the first number after "6." to 6.1. But make no mistake, there is not enough content here to call this a major content patch. For all intents and purposes, 6.1 was business as usual for us players.

The second major patch was just released, 6.2, "The Fury of Hellfire". This was better, as it introduced Hellfire Citadel, mythic dungeons, and of course Tanaan Jungle. Something new to do, right?

Turns out it was just something new to look at. Here's a list of the content that was added:

  • Hellfire Citadel
  • Tanaan Jungle
  • Garrison Campaign
  • Legendary Questline
  • Mythic dungeons
  • Shipyard

Hellfire Citadel is a new raid tier, which is great news for raiding guilds, as we have fresh content to tackle. This is probably the best part of this content patch.

The legendary questline continues, but so far it's just a bunch of raiding. We'll know in a few weeks if this is worth. It probably is, but it's also quite a grind.

Tanaan Jungle visually is gorgeous. I cannot stop talking about how cool Tanaan looks, from the lush jungle to the desolation of the Throne of Kil'jaden, they got the zone's atmosphere down perfectly. The problem, however, is what you actually do.

First, there's the garrison campaign. Fine, a new series of quests, tie up some old loose ends, and we'll probably get a cliffhanger that says "Go raid Hellfire Citadel!" at the end. Still, a fresh questline with new story added can't be bad. Problem is that it's designed along the lines of the garrison campaign from 6.0. Namely, I may not get the same quest that my wife may get, which means we can't tackle the same content together. I find this bad design for an MMORPG. It would fit a single player game, but WoW is not a single player game.

Next up are the reputation grind dailies. I am so sick of daily missions in WoW, and have felt this way pretty much since they were introduced. It feels like end game filler content. There's no challenge to the daily quests, which makes playing them feel like you're just going through the motions for pretty much no tangible reward.

Also, the apexis grind. They added new bonus objectives that reset every day, so if you want to grind out the apexis, you can. You can even earn apexis just by killing, but you don't get a whole lot that way. The bonus objectives still can run out daily if you do them all, and the only real use for them is for oil for your shipyard because eventually you run out of the need for apexis once you get all your 695 gear. It's a boring grind, because your options are extremely limited. There are no scenarios, no real world events outside of world bosses, and the type of content you do is just a rehash of everything you've done so far. Where's the innovation? I feel Blizzard really sold themselves on how good their content was, when in reality it gets boring after just a week of play.

Mythic dungeons were added, which add higher difficulty to content we stopped caring about months ago. No real new dungeons were added. One of the great things about Wrath was the amount of dungeon content they added post-release. They seem to have abandoned something that worked well before.

And finally the shipyard. Oh, the shipyard. They hyped this up to be something really cool when the reality is it's just another garrison mission table with ships instead of followers. Personally I feel they need to abandon this whole garrison and mission idea. Bring back scenarios in their place, they were more fun!

In summary, Warlords of Draenor had some of the best leveling content, and some of the worst, most monotonous end game content they've ever put out. I've been extremely disappointed with how Blizzard has treated an expansion that we paid $10 extra for by really shortening the end game. They put out this great, epic time traveling/alternate dimension story, but they have supported it so poorly that I haven't had any interest in the story behind these raids. Why did we raid the ogres in Highmaul? Did we have any other reason to raid Blackrock Foundry than to get revenge on Blackhand? And Hellfire Citadel doesn't really end the whole story of Gul'dan and this alternate Draenor. How far down the rabbit hole are we going to go with this whole alternate dimension thing? We have so many unsolved stories on Azeroth, I feel Blizzard would be better served creating new story rather than re-hashing old story and making us defeat enemies we've already defeated in our own timeline.

This is most likely the end of Warlords of Draenor, so we can only hope the next expansion is better, but I am concerned that Blizzard is not going to learn from their mistakes, because the mistakes they supposedly learned from last expansion led to them making even worse mistakes this time around.

Give us content. Give us more to do at end game. Give us a game with a story we can get behind. Don't rehash old content in new zones. And for god sakes, don't you dare give us another selfie stick patch.

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