Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls

The video game that I’m wasting time on lately is Diablo 3. I started playing regularly again when the Reaper of Souls expansion came out, and I managed to play an hour or two most days.

Reaper of Souls added the Crusader class, which is pretty fun. I like it because you can play it straight melee, like a Barbarian, or you can use the many ranged abilities and play more like a smite cleric wearing plate armor. But generally, I still lean towards the Wizard, and more recently, the Witch Doctor.

I overheard this conversation in the hardcore community channel the other day:

Player 1: What’s a good wizard build for high damage?
Player 2: Witch Doctor.


dogs laughingAnyway, it’s funny because it’s true. I’m not sure what the best wizard build is, to be honest. Since the recent patch (2.1), fire seems more viable and so does lightning. Before the patch I had fun running a combination Tal Rasha/Vyr’s build, but you can only take it so far because the meteors just don’t hit hard enough.

But then I discovered the Witch Doctor Grin Reaper build, via BadKarma’s excellent guide. This build is SO MUCH FUN. Viable in hardcore, softcore, T1 through at least T4. It’s like the pet doctor concept except for lazy people. All I do is basically click for my primary attack, and then my mimics, clones, giant pet, and fetishes do the rest of the work.

My pre-season softcore WD had a pretty much perfect set-up, except I was never able to find a Tall Man’s Finger for her. My hardcore season WD, on the other hand, found a TMF almost immediately. She’s just getting started, but already looks pretty good.

Now if I can just manage not to get killed by the random and annoying lag.

gold everywhere


This is What I’ve Been Doing

So thanks to my friend Creeva, I realized I hadn’t posted in a WHILE. Sorry about that. (BTW I love Creeva’s new layout, it looks really slick.)

Anyway, yeah…what HAVE I been doing?

1. Working, which is still going really well.
2. Buying a whole new HVAC system (two new AC units, two new coils, two new furnaces). Was that expensive? YES.
3. Dealing with the vagaries of my daughter’s pre-school and summer school schedule. Real school starts in just a week! She’ll be in kindergarten (all day at the Montessori school though, not our public school’s weak-ass half-day thing).
4. Playing WoW occasionally (log in, do dailies, poke around a bit, maybe some crafting, reorganize bank, log out).
5. Playing Left 4 Dead 2 occasionally (log in, shoot a lot of zombies, get frustrated at lag on Steam servers, log out).
6. Catching up on various TV shows – this summer I’ve watched all of the currently available seasons of Parks & Recreation, Boardwalk Empire, Nurse Jackie, and Game of Thrones, plus I’ve caught up to the latest on True Blood. I watch almost all of these shows on my iPad, which ROCKS.
7. Reading. Here are all the books that I’ve read so far this summer:
– All three of the Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins
– All five of the Song of Ice and Fire books by George R.R. Martin
Dead Reckoning (the most recent Sookie Stackhouse novel) by Charlaine Harris
Anno Dracula by Kim Newman (I understand this is part of a series too but can’t find the others on Kindle)
Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner
Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
–  Eifelheim by Michael Flynn
Already Dead by Charlie Huston (just started this actually)
I also started Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris, but I just can’t get into it. The topic is interesting to me (American movie industry of the late 60s), but maybe it’s the prose? Anyway, it leaves me cold and I suspect I may not finish it.

I still have  a backlog of maybe 20 or so items in my Kindle that I want to read, so I’m not buying ANYTHING new until I’ve finished all of it. This will help me save some money too, which is a good thing (see that painfully expensive new HVAC system, noted above).

And that’s what I have been doing!

MMOs and Me

This is a short history of my experiences with online games. For no reason other than I felt like writing it.

Definitions: I’m going to talk primarily about MMOs – massively multiplayer online games. In general, that means an online game that has a persistent world and some social functions. This differentiates MMOs from other games that you just play online, such as shooters like Battlefield or Team Fortress; or strategy games that you can play competitively such as Age of Empires or Starcraft. Sometimes these MMO games are called MMORPGs: massively multiplayer online roleplaying games. That’s an accurate description, since you are generally creating a character and then playing as that character or avatar, whatever it might be. Characters are not particularly reality-based. MMOs is shorter and easier to type, though.

I’m going to to TRY to go in chronological order here. Bear with me, as my memory tends to get just a little fuzzy on this. Dates refer to the year that I started playing the game, when I can remember it, not the launch year (although in some cases this is the same, because I started playing at or close to launch).

The Sims Online (2002): I got into The Sims around 2000 and played it pretty faithfully for the next few years. When TSO was announced, I applied for, and was accepted into, the beta. There were pretty high hopes for this game, but I won’t mince words: it kinda sucked. It quickly degenerated into a grind. Later, long after I stopped playing, there was some controversy about “cyber prostitution rings” and other dramas. Fascinating as a case study of online behavior, but not so fun as a game. TSO has since closed.

Dark Age of Camelot (2003): Now THIS was, and still is, a fun game. My first “real” MMO experience, I played DAOC for a couple years, and met people that I still keep in touch with. The graphics, at first, were pretty basic and crude, though later expansions upgraded the engine and improved the look of the world. There were three “realms” or factions: Albion (based on Great Britain), Hibernia (based on Celtic folklore), and Midgard (based on Nordic mythology). All three were fun, though I mostly played an Alb, primarily a minstrel and a wizard. DAOC really gave me a chance to figure out what play styles I enjoyed (player vs. environment, or PVE, much  more than player vs. player, or PvP), what roles I liked playing on a team (ranged damage, healing, utility), and what roles I did not enjoy (stealth, melee combat).

Star Wars Galaxies (2003): The less said about this, the better, probably. Short version: it was really fun, immersive, and cool. Then SOE screwed us all and ruined it. The end. The only really good thing to come out of SWG is all the great people that I met. I keep in touch with many of them, and play other games with some of them now.

City of Heroes (2004): A really fun game! I’ve played it, off and on, since beta. (Yes, another game that was a beta tester for). This, along with its expansion City of Villains, was the first really successful MMO that wasn’t based on a fantasy setting, instead using super heroes and super villains in mostly urban settings. Lots and lots of free content updates, plus a few expansions. This is the MMO I was playing most recently, before switching to my current MMO (more on that later).

World of Warcraft (2004): This is the 800-pound gorilla in the room, and for good reason. WoW is an excellent game. It’s fun to play, immersive, lots of content, with a low barrier to entry. I was there opening weekend, in November of 2004, and played it off and on right up until early 2009. It has become the de facto standard that all other games are compared to. Every new game that’s announced is going to be “the WoW-killer,” but so far, none of them have been. Love it or hate it, it’s not going away any time soon. I just canceled my sub this spring, and I’d probably still be playing it, but with a little kid now I need a game that’s a little more casual.

Second Life (2005): Not a game, but a virtual world, I included it here just because I did try it. To be honest, I wasn’t really a fan. It’s great for people with some programming or graphics skills, because there are lots of opportunities to create your own content. In that way, it’s sort of a big sandbox. There’s also a lot of porny stuff, which is probably unsurprising.

Guild Wars (2005): Guild Wars is kind of different, in that once you buy the box to install the game, there are no subscription fees (just about all other MMOs cost a monthly fee to play, anywhere from $10 to $15). It’s also a little different structurally, because there is no “server” to choose to play on. Everyone plays together, and public areas are “instanced” so that they don’t get overpopulated. The game is really fun, gorgeous to look at, and not particularly deep. There have been several expansions (I only bought two of them), and the game continues to be fairly popular.

Hellgate: London (2007): HGL was another oddity. It had both a single-player version and an online, multiplayer version. Considered somewhat of a flop, I guess I proved what a weirdo I am by really liking it A LOT. It too was mostly instanced, and it didn’t have a lot of the traditional MMO social niceties (lots of emotes, community events, etc.). The gameplay of HGL mostly consisted of going to a challenge area, running through and killing as much as you could, and picking up all the loot you could carry. It was kind of simplistic and I dug it. Sadly, the studio producing Hellgate went out of business, and the game was closed at the beginning of 2009.

Age of Conan (2008): Sometimes friends talk you into something, and you end up really enjoying it (see: Hellgate, above). Other times, they talk you into something, and you do nothing but regret it! That was Age of Conan for me. Some friends I met through Hellgate talked me into trying it, and I have to admit – the first 20 levels or so were fun. After that, well…it just kind of sucked. To be fair, the game’s been out over a year now and I hear that there have been lots of improvements. I did take advantage of a free trial offer to try it out again a few months ago…and meh. I just couldn’t get into it. If you like lots of blood and gore in your MMO, AoC is for you – it’s got it in spades. Also naked boobs, and generally gorgeous graphics. In fact, the one GOOD thing that came out of me playing AoC was, I actually upgraded my video card. That would come in handy for…

Champions Online (2009): The superhero game I’m playing now. I tried it during the open beta, and was impressed enough to buy it. Since then I’ve come to love it. I’m only just getting into it and I feel like there’s so much more to learn and explore. It’s incredibly customizable, from the costumes to the power sets to the powers themselves. It’s the first game I’ve played that really doesn’t have any classes – you can pick powers from every set, and make yourself a healing/tanking/magician with a submachine gun, if that’s your thing. It is SO MUCH FUN.

So that’s how I’ve wasted my leisure time for the last 10 years or so. Of course, there are some notable MMOs that I did not try, for whatever reason: Everquest, Everquest II, The Matrix Online, Lineage, any of the Final Fantasy games, Warhammer Online, Darkfall. There are also games that I played briefly, as part of a free trial or beta, and didn’t like enough to consider continuing: Free Realms, Runes of Magic, Lineage II, The Lord of the Rings Online, Shadowbane.

What’s on the horizon? Hard to say. I’ll be playing Champions for quite a while, I’m sure. Next year, there’s Star Trek Online to think about, plus Star Wars: The Old Republic from Bioware. And even Blizzard is working on some new mystery MMO – maybe they’re making their own WoW-killer?

Aisle 10

Old school groove, probably best known because of Jet-Set Radio Future (I played that thing on our Xbox until it gave me motion sickness!). This video is pretty hilarious, and it’s an awesome groove. Check it:

What Are You Wishing For?


So what are you wishing for this holiday season? I guess I already bought myself a Christmas gift, although I got it at the beginning of November – my iPhone. I love this little toy and have not regretted the purchase for a second. With the iPhone, I’m all taken care of in the Christmas present department.

(Is it sad that one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten came from…me? I’m leaning more towards it feeling “empowered,” rather than “pathetic.”)

If I had to create a “wish list” for Christmas I’d wish for lot of abstract things – at first. Stuff like perfect health for my daughter, my husband, and me; a job for my husband (now that would be a great Xmas); and the resurgence of progressive values in American society. Unfortunately you can’t fit any of that stuff under the tree, so here are the top 10 items on my Amazon wishlist, commercial and crass as they may be:

1. Blade Runner (Five-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition)
2. Ray-Ban RB 2113 Wayfarers with Flex, tortoise frames/brown lenses
3. Amazon Gift Certificate <———– is that cheating?
4. BioShock for PC
5. Eye-Fi Wireless 2GB SD Memory Card
6. Any set of Justice League (or JL Unlimited) DVDs
7. Extra Pentax DL-I8 battery (for my camera)
8. My Boring Ass Life: The Uncomfortably Candid Diary of Kevin Smith
9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus (Volumes 1 and 2)
10. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier (Alan Moore)

What’s on your wish list?