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Fresh Starts, Brigwynism and Why I Hate Syrana

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I fail at many things.

I fail at not being completely awesome.

I fail at not being the best-looking person whenever I walk into a room.

Apparently, I also fail at quitting World of Warcraft.

A couple weeks ago, I announced that I had canceled my subscription, after several months of apathy.

Well, my account finally expires tomorrow. One small issue: I resubscribed yesterday.

What brought this about? Freaking Syrana. Her and several other bloggers had decided to form a Guild. Now, I will admit, Cataclysm has resparked a little interest in WoW for me. I always knew I'd get back into it at some point, I just wasn't expecting it to be this soon.

So, why so soon exactly? The idea of a fresh start. A new home for a new character on a new server with new friends. Despite my love for alts, I've never leveled one past 10 outside of Azjol-Nerub. So, the thought of a group of us starting fresh, without a stack of Gold in our pockets, without Heirlooms, without bloody Recruit-A-Friend was very enticing.

Now, this brings me to the concept of Brigwynism. You see, every time an expansion comes out, Brigwyn deletes his character and starts over again. Now, this may seem to be rather stupid, but I'm starting to see the appeal to it. For the last 2 expansions, and Cataclysm to follow, Blizzard overhauls large amounts of the game. New Talents, new stat usage, new Professions. For most of us, it's just click, click, click, let's-a go! However, by starting anew, Brigwyn gets to see these changes from the ground up. He gets to experience each one of them as it comes along.

How does Brigwynism affect me? Well, I've leveled about everything I want to: Warlock, Paladin, Hunter and Shaman. The other classes each have small hangups that prevent me from really getting into them. Well, starting fresh on a new server is my way to experience my classes anew. I almost wish I had done this on some of my characters previously. My Shaman was a wreck when 3.0 changed Strength to only grant 1 Attack Power instead of 2. What about my Warlock? In 4.0, he'll need Intellect. I NEVER gear for Intellect on my 'Lock. How much regearing will he need? Now, I can just roll a Worgen Warlock (say that 3 times fast) on Gilneas and really get an appreciation for how the class has changed in 4+ years.

So, to Syrana, Sideshow, Spooner and the rest of The Order, thank you. Thank you for making me realize why I fell in love with this game in the first place. This past weekend was the first time I've honestly, TRULY had fun in WoW in at least a year, probably more.

Ultimate Avengers Rant

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Okay, Marvel realized their Ultimate universe was growing a bit too complicated, so they blew it up. Relaunch time!

Ultimate Comics: Avengers, along with Ultimate Comics: Spiderman released last week, following in the wake of Ultimatum.

To make this quick, apparently Mark Millar has lost all comprehension of plot pacing and character development.

On Page 6, Hawkeye tells Nick Fury that Captain America has found out about BIG SECRET. Okay, cool. BIG SECRET will be the focus of the next few issues.

4 pages and 1 unnecessarily ludicrous action scene later, BIG SECRET shows up. Alright, gotcha. Important issue, let's move the plot along a little bit.

Very shortly thereafter, BIG SECRET whispers EVEN BIGGER SECRET to Captain America and throws him out of a helicopter.

This still halfway makes sense. The point of revealing BIG SECRET so soon was to dangle the plot thread of EVEN BIGGER SECRET.

A couple of pages later, after another, even more unnecessarily ludicrous scene which serves no point other than to show how cool Hawkeye is, Captain America reveals EVEN BIGGER SECRET to the readers.

Wait, what? Did they really just cram several issues of plot development into about 20 pages? Some like this, "more story for your dollar." Well, if Millar can maintain that pace for the next dozen or so issues, absolutely. But, no, it feels to me like he tried to cram as much hype into one issue as possible, just to make this issue a big deal. Now, the story will slow down with absolutely no point to it. Captain America will punch Nick Fury in the face, possibly cry a bit, and then tie everything together just in time to publish everything in a nice Trade Paperback.

Don't get me wrong, I loved the first two volumes of The Ultimates, even if it did take forever to get them on shelves. Then Jeph Loeb took over with Ultimates 3 and I lost all interest.

As Ultimate Comics: Spiderman #1 showed, a pure, simple story is perfectly fine for a relaunch. All the theatrics of Avengers was completely unnecessary and really turned me off on the future of the title.

Shadow Complex Review

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I'm not much of a game downloader. I think Xbox Live Arcade is cool and all, but very few games catch my interest.

My goal for the next couple of weekends was to finish off a couple outstanding games before Ultimate Alliance 2 comes out on Sept. 15th, and the following deluge of 4th Quarter games.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself dropping 1200 Points on Shadow Complex. After reading a few reviews and watching some videos, I COULD NOT pass this game up.

For the Microsoft-Universe equivalent of $15, you're getting a better game than many $60 ones.

Shadow Complex is a side-scrolling action game in the vein of Metroid and the post-Symphony of the Night Castlevania games. The focus is on exploration and searching out upgrades for your character. You upgrade your weapon for more damage, you find special weapons that open up new parts of the map and you pick up health and ammo upgrades, as well as some nifty unlockables.

Combat is fun, effective and simple. Point your right analog stick at something you want dead, and pull the trigger. Targeting is a bit wonky when aiming at enemies in the background (it's pseudo-3D) but it doesn't detract from the overall play. The most fun aspect of the game is finding new and creative ways to take out enemies. Sneak up and knock them out or throw them off a ledge, knock a robot off the ceiling to blow them up, electrocute them by shooting out power conduits and almost anything you can imagine.

If you're dedicated and just blow through, you can complete the game in about 3 hours or so. However, exploring every nook and cranny of the map, finding the hidden items and overall enjoying what the game has to offer will clock in at around 10 hours or so. Add in multiple playthroughs for fun challenges and the mission-based Proving Grounds, and you're getting a lot of game for your buck.

I cannot recommend this game enough, and my friends are sick of me talking about it, so go get it!

Blizzcon '09 Thoughts

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Alright, so Blizzcon was this past weekend. I've slogged through all the videos, articles, blogs and tweets. So, here's my thoughts on the show.

Big thanks to WoW.com, MMO Champion, Twisted Nether and all the Twitter bloggers out there for the info!

Starcraft II

Not much shown here. There's been a deluge of media over the past few weeks. However, I must say that the level builder is impressive. I'll probably never use it, but the sheer quantity customization options is amazing.

Diablo III

I'm SO playing a Monk.

'Nuff said.


Yup, looks like MMO Champion was pretty much on the money.

I must admit, it seems like Blizzard is addressing many of the issues I have with the current game, foremost the complete destruction of the leveling experience. It's almost as if the read my letter.

The lore behind the expansion looks like fun. Deathwing is more badass than many give him credit for. Forget the Horde, forget the Scourge, forget the Old Gods. Hell, forget the Burning Legion. Deathwing could be the biggest threat Azeroth has ever seen.

Races: I'm still a bit iffy on the Goblins. However, the more I look into it, the more I like the Worgen.

Classes: For the most part, I fully support the class additions. The only ones I have problems with are Night Elf Mage and Dwarf Shaman. Perhaps a little more lore investigation will help.

Azeroth: At first I thought remodeling Azeroth was pretty stupid. Now that I know it's a total do-over for level 1-85 content, I'm a little more interested.

Flying: I actually hate flying, but that's a post of its own.

Archaeology: I love this. It's implementation, as well as the Path of the Titans seems like a very nifty addition. Also, I'm glad they decided not to introduce another full profession. Things are a bit crowded as it is. I could have lived without Inscription.

Mastery: This could very well be my favorite change. Talents will become interesting again!

Stat Simplification: Yes, please. Stats are getting out of hand. I don't want 6,000 Spellpower. Reforging seems cool, but I wonder about it's limitations. If they let players do too much, it could be annoying.

Guild Leveling: Sure, why not? Not really a huge deal for me.

Classes: Hunters get Focus back, yay. (I believe that was an old Alpha/Beta mechanic) I'm a bit disappointed that the "big" change to Soul Shards is a reworking of the Death Knight Rune system.

I'm sure I missed a point or two, but that's the bulk of it.

I have to say. A few months back, I was very disillusioned with WoW. However, it's nice to see the game moving back in (what I feel is) the right direction.

Okay, Bliz, I'll give it to you.

Hercules says, "Good job!"

Aion Preview: Combat

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It's been a while since I've done an Aion Preview post. My apologies, I am a fail blogger.

At least I'm getting back in the saddle with a good one! The meat and potatoes of the game, Combat!

Aion's combat is heavily skill-based. However, it is not a spam-fest. Rather, the most successful way to play is through careful timing of your skills, using the right ones at the right times, in the right situations.

One of the great features of Aion's combat is the Skill Chaining system.

Opening up your skill menu, you will find a button labeled "Chains." Clicking on it displays your available Chains.

For my Warrior, Ferocious Strike is the first skill in the basic Chain.

Once Ferocious Strike has been used, it then makes Robust Blow available. Note that Robust Blow cannot be used by itself, it MUST follow a Ferocious Strike.

As you continue to level and gain skills, the Chains will grow longer, as well as branch. You have options. Would you rather follow the Chain that does more damage, or results in a possible Knockdown? There are certain skills that can only be used against Knocked Down, Stunned or Staggered enemies. Again, it's all about situational awareness and using the right skills at the right time.

Another interesting aspect of Aion's combat is the Combat Movement system. No, that's not its exact name, that's what I'm rolling with since I can't recall the exact term. >.>

See that little arrow I've oh-so-expertly pointed out? That indicates that you have a movement buff active.

If you are moving forward while in combat, you will have additional Damage at the cost of Defense. This affects both Physical and Magical combat.

Backing up will increase your Parry and Block chances, while lowering your Physical Damage.

Strafing increases Evasion at the cost of Physical Damage.

The third piece of Aion's combat is Divine Power. Killing enemies grants DP, which fills up the gauge below your Mana:

This gauge has three levels: 0-2000, 2000-3000 and 3000-4000. Each level grants your character a visual glow effect, letting you know that you're OVER 9000! Err... yeah. Anyway, When over 2000, you can use your DP skill!

Explosion of Rage deals a moderate amount of damage and leaves the enemy in a vulnerable state. It looks amazing, on top of that. With the exception of Spiritmaster, none of the DP skills that I have seen are game-changing, but it could be the difference between victory and defeat.

That's because combat in Aion is HARD.

An even-level enemy is not a pushover. A single unplanned add could be fatal.

I'll cover death in a follow-up post, since that merits a discussion of its own.

Expansions and Awesomeness

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Okay, I'm sure you know that MMO Champion blew the lid off the next WoW expansion.

Of course, the internet has been exploding. Many question the reliability of the information. While I'm not willing to accept it for fact, I will say that I cannot remember the last time that MMO Champion has been wrong about something like this.

That being said, I will not be commenting on this until there's official word from Blizzard. You guys should know by now that's how I roll.

Instead, here's a thing!

Calm down, nerds.

If you haven't seen The Guild, you should. It's frakking hilarious.



Update: Meh, I decided to go back to the old way. Nothing to see here, move along.

Doing a little maintenance with the site.

I figured since I'm expanding my horizons a bit beyond WoW and Aion, that it would be in my best interest to stop segregating the links here. It would get a bit too much with WoW, Aion, City of Heroes, FFXIV and who knows what else all over the place.

Although now, it feels a bit cluttered.



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I did not play the Aion Closed Beta Event this weekend. As I mentioned last time around, I'm pretty much just waiting around for the retail release. However, I have been keeping up with the goings-on of the game.

There is only one word I have for the behavior I've seen this weekend: pathetic.

A portion of the player base has reached the Beta level cap of 30. This is not as terribly easy as you would imagine, as mid-20s leveling is brutal in version 1.0 of the game.

Now, at "level cap" in a PVP-based game, what is there to do? PVP, of course!

Aion has a PVP zone called The Abyss for mass-scale Faction vs Faction battle. Seems like a great time, eh? Except that's not how it went down.

There are also Rifts that open randomly throughout the world, allowing Asmodians and Elyos to enter opposing territory. In the release version, there are level caps and player limits on these Rifts, as well as penalties for repeatedly killing lower-leveled players. Unfortunately, that is not the case now.

So, what are all these level-capped players to do? face off and fight fair? Hell no. The stack up and surround lower-leveled cities and will not allow anybody to leave. Without chat channels enabled (again, Beta) it is impossible to mount a defense against this. Level 20 players have absolutely no way to combat this threat. Where are all the level 30 players of their faction to come to the rescue? Why, doing the EXACT SAME FRAKKING THING.

When given the option for a fair fight or making other people's lives miserable, what does a large portion of the community choose? To be complete asses!

Now, I understand. This is a PVP-focused game, and disrupting the other faction is a part of the game. I get this. I also understand that, when faced with impossible odds, the lower-leveled players have options. They can go to a non-rifting zone and grind for a while until the raid is over. Yeah, grinding sucks, but at least it's progress you wouldn't be able to make elsewhere.

However, this is Beta. Players are here to experience what the game has to offer. Intentionally preventing others from experiencing the game, for absolutely no gain of your own is just inexcusable to me.

You want to PVP? Go to The Abyss. That's what it's there for.

You want to raid the opposing faction? By all means, go for it. You're entitled to experience that part of the game, yourself. However, don't be asses. Don't spend all three bloody days that the event lasts camped outside a lower-leveled town.

That's just pathetic.

This is not an isolated incident, either. Some are worse than others, but from what I've seen, this is happening on both sides, across all servers.

Many players are incredibly upset about this. They think this is all they have to expect from the release version of the game. Thankfully, that's just not true, thanks to the limitations and penalties that I mentioned previously.

So, for any out there pissed about their experiences this weekend, please read this thread from the Aion Source forums. This is a fantastic thread (which, sadly, are few and far between these days) full of great information about what to expect in the REAL game, and how to avoid situations like this.

Also, if anyone out there actually reading this can give some perspective on the attackers, please do so. Help me understand the mindset of these people. As I said before, I understand that disrupting the opposing faction is part of the game. However, completely destroying someone's chance for entertainment seems unnecessary. Sure, the main point for attacking the opposing faction is to draw out defenders for battle and, presumably, fun all around. However, IT'S BETA, chat channels are disabled, and there IS NO OPPOSITION. So, simply, why?

This is my first PVP-focused MMO, so help this carebear understand.

Video Vacation, Day 5: Kings of Power


The most EPIC video ever created. Another one from Paul Robertson. (Link probably NSFW)

Take the awesomeness of yesterday's video and add in Akira and Neon Genesis Evangelion, and what do you get?

Kings of Power 4 Billion %

Part 1:

Part 2:

I hope I didn't give anybody a seizure.

Or a psychological disorder.

Video Vacation, Day 4: Pirate Baby


Remember those old-school side-scrolling action games? Well Paul Robertson (NSFW) makes animations taking that style and going completely insane with it.

Pirate Baby's Cabana Battle Street Fight!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Video Vacation, Day 3: GAR

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Longtime followers know that I have an appreciation for all things GAR.

gar, adj: A term used towards male characters and individuals who are so overwhelmingly manly that your own masculinity is absolutely *buried*, leaving you naught but a whimpering, swooning girl-child before them.

First up, a newcomer to the GAR scene: Bang Shishigami, The Hammer of Justice from the fighting game BlazBlue

I believe this is the fist time in fighting game history a character has had a Theme Music Power Up.

Next, the origin of GAR: Archer from Fate/Stay Night:

Finally, the Grand master of all things GAR, Kamina from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann! Spoilers if you haven't watched Gurren Lagann. In that case, WHY HAVEN'T YOU?!

Video Vacation, Day 2: The Craft of War

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Today, we take a look at the video that took the internet by storm. Hands down, the most impressive machinima I've ever seen.

The Craft of War: BLIND

Video Vacation, Day 1: Cranius Collection

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I'm going back to my roots on this one. Back on Hardcore Casual, every Monday I would feature a different WoW machinima.

In honor of Machinima Monday, I'd like to post a couple videos by my favorite artist, Cranius.

First up, my favorite WoW song ever, Big Blue Dress:

Also included is Cranius' masterpiece, Darrowshire:



Guess what, kids? I've got the whole next week off work.

You're all drooling over the prospect of massive content posts. Well, slow down there, Sally.

Yes, I will be doing lots of writing next week, but I'll be saving it all up for later. I'll be working through some fiction posts, as well as getting around to finishing up my Aion preview.

Instead, you'll be treated to Sam's YouTube Extravaganza! Monday through Friday, I'll be posting my greatest hits.

Strap in for Video Vacation.

Fiction Index


As my tales of Corrigan and his world continue to grow, I will need a place to collect all the stories.

This post will be constantly updated as new chapters are released and will always be available via the link at the top of the page.

Prologue: CYOA

CYOA started as a multi-blog, choose-your-own-adventure type story, written by myself and several other authors. I am proud to compile their work here for all to follow. The bold entries are "canon," the parts of the story I consider the "true path" for continuing the tale.

Prelude, by myself

The Hammer, by Byaghro
     The Battle Within, by Creep
          Cupid's Arrow, by Fulguralis
          All Good Things Must Come to an End, by Ithiel
     Patience, by myself
The Man in the Shield, by Fulguralis
     Go East, Young Man, by Grimtorn
          Corrigan Turns Back, by Jaramon
          A Weary Journey's End, by Creep
          Rescuing Lionheart, by Syrana
     The Southern Gate, by Snug
          Death Sentence, by Byaghro
          Untitled, by Skipper
The Libram, by Syrana
     Project Nataliah, by Jaramon
     Untitled, by Skipper
          The Final Battle, by Grimtorn
          Stand Your Ground, by myself

Chapter 1: Corruption

Part 1: Lessons
Part 2: No Good Deed...
Part 3: No Hope
Part 4: Sylphine's Story
Part 4.5: Sylphine's Story (Cont.)
Part 5: Breaking

Checking In

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Lots of little news to cover today.

First of all, last week was Aion's fifth Closed Beta Event. I played.. a little. I'm struck with the Beta Blues. There's very little motivation to play a character that will be deleted in 2 weeks. Without some seriously hardcore playtime, I won't be able to make it to the next tier of content, but that's okay. I have enough for several more preview articles.

I'll likely skip the Open Beta, to make me hungrier for the retail release.

Today is the big WoW Patch 3.2. Whoop-dee-doo.

Calm down, folks. I've still got a month of time on my account, so I'll at least poke my head into the new patch. I'm just not getting $15 worth of entertainment, at the moment. So, perhaps some time off will be good for me, and my wallet.

So, no WoW, no Aion, what's a guy to do? Well, I'll be spending some quality time with my consoles.

Oh yeah, then there's this guy:

Say hello to Garda, my Tanker.

Yes, after years of poking and prodding, I finally bit the bullet and bought City of Heroes. Expect some coverage in the future.