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Category: Blaugust

Back with Blapril

Back with Blapril

It’s that time of year, again! Blaugust! I mean… Blapril!

I’ve been on a… hiatus of sorts, I suppose. It’s something I’ll get into in another more detailed post (I don’t want to churn out too many posts before Blapril starts), but suffice to say, I’m feeling well enough to start carving out some more time for myself and getting back to blogging.

I had intended to come back about now, to begin with, but it just happens that the ever-amazing Belghast has moved up his Blaugust blogging event to help get the blogging community feeling better amongst all the COVID gloom that’s overshadowed everyone’s life at the moment.

It’s a wonderful event, full of wonderful people, so be sure to sign up and join in if you’re interested in getting into blogging, getting back to blogging, or already blogging and looking to make more friends! You can view more information at Bel’s Blapril post, sign up at this form, and join the community discord, as well!

My goal is to try and make 31 posts between March 29 and May 9. This is not a pace that I will keep up with long term, but it is one that will help me to get back into the swing of content creation outside of my adult entertainment work.

Blaugust 2019 Postmortem

Blaugust 2019 Postmortem

Blaugust is over, which always brings me bittersweet feelings. August 2019 was a much better month for me than August 2018 was, which I am grateful for. As difficult as it became to write 31 posts, I somehow managed it. Though that’s thanks to finally checking off a to-do list item and moving all of my old articles from QueueTimes and MMO Games to my blog.

Last year’s insights after Blaugust concluded:

  • Blogging every day is a valiant goal, but is not something I can manage full-time.
  • On the days I journaled in my bujo (bullet journal), I was less likely to post a blog post.
  • I have good intentions of mini-events, but can have a difficult time implementing them.
  • When life gets overwhelming, my content creation endeavors take a nose-dive.

I don’t know that I learned much more about myself that is different than what I learned last year, so this year’s insights are similar.

  • Blogging every day is a valiant goal, but is not something I can manage full-time. Once again, I already knew this, but it’s nice to have a reminder that blogging/writing is not something I can commit to full-time, especially when I’m working what boils down to three jobs (actual full-time day job that pays the bills, NSFW job which is starting to help pay the bills, and streaming on Twitch). I am planning to try to go back to my goal of posting once a week (or more if inspiration strikes, but at least once a week).
  • On the days I blogged, I was less likely to journal in my bujo (bullet journal). Which I’m not trying to put a value statement on. I use journaling in my bujo as a way to prepare myself for difficult conversations, or work out my feelings, or discuss thoughts for/about therapy sessions. In a way, I feel that I somehow stunted my personal growth for the sake of hitting a thirty one day goal.
  • When life gets overwhelming, my content creation endeavors take a nose-dive. This more came out in my streaming endeavors this past month rather than my blogging (albeit only because of all the posts I copied over), but it still holds true. Day job stress makes it extremely difficult to complete things I actually want to do. (And triggers some intense negative feelings, but that’s why I’m working on coming up with some alternatives to the day job.)
  • I miss creating content that is more in-depth rather than more personalized. Copying over all of my longer form writings from working freelance has made me realize that I miss writing like that. While I enjoy having my blog as a more personalized endeavor, I also miss writing in a slightly more removed and analytical style (as many of the bloggers in Blaugust also seem to do, whether on occasion or consistently). Maybe I’ll look at doing a more in-depth or thought-out post once a month on top of my weekly personalized posts.
  • Numbers seem to be more of a distraction than a help. Throughout the month in the Blaugust Discord, some folks mentioned their blog follower counts, clicks, and views. While I understand that the numbers and the resulting milestones can be important to continuing blogging, I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, they do more harm than good. While I appreciate each and every person who spends time on my blog, clicks through, and follows, focusing on those numbers makes me compare myself to others more frequently. “Why am I not getting the same numbers?” is a common thought. And in the end, it really comes down to, (1) am I enjoying what I’m doing for myself, and (2) do I reach people who are invested. And if that happens to be only 3 people compared to someone else’s 30, in the end I suppose that’s good enough for me.

Okay, so maybe I learned a bit more than I initially thought I did. I loved seeing a bunch of new folks start blogging, and others pick up blogging again. I’m looking forward to continuing with catching up on blog posts, and getting to a point where I spend a little time every day reading everyone’s blogs (hopefully not every one of us is going to continue at a pace of a post a day or else I’ll never catch up!). I’m excited to have a backlog of post ideas, again. Though some of them might need to be posted sooner than later so I’m not referencing a six-month old post by another blogger by the time I get to my own post.

I also, like last year, want to give a huge shout out to Bel for all the time and energy he’s put into this endeavor. You are an amazing person who works wonders. Thank you for being you, and doing all that you do.

Lastly, I want to give a (somewhat shameless) plug to another blogging event in the hopes that folks stay blogging through then, and decide to participate. Since 2015, I’ve been running an event called IntPiPoMo. IntPiPoMo, or International Picture Posting Month is the image equivalent of National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo). NaNoWriMo focuses on writing 50,000 words over the course of the month of November. So, if a picture is a thousand words, that means that IntPiPoMo requires fifty pictures.

I’m looking forward to keeping up with everyone, and hopefully being a little bit more active in Discord over time. Thank you for all the fun ideas, all! Keep up the writing and the fun!

September ’19 Gaming Goals

September ’19 Gaming Goals

This post is (31/31) of the Blaugust 2019 event! You can find out more about Blaugust over at Belghast’s blog. I (Chestnut) created a Twitter list of all participants. UltrViolet created an OPML file of all the bloggers to import into your feed reader.

August Recap

Setting up goals as a more focused month-based list rather than, “here’s what I wanna do soon!” has definintely made a difference in how I use my playtime, or how I decide not to game at all. And I think it helped a lot with the way work has been, and looks to be continuing for the remainder of 2019.

  • Complete Vvardenfell Master Angler (ESO) – I had intentions to finish this, but then dinged 50 and got caught up in quests and CP.
  • Ding 42 on Warden (ESO) – I surpassed this! I hit 50! Once I hit 40, I got into the “OMG I’M SO CLOSE MUST DING” mindset, which helped.
  • Hit Revered with The Unshackled (WoW) – About freaking time. UGH. I hate Nazjatar with a passion.
  • Hit Revered with Rustbolt Resistance (WoW) – I’m super close. I should hopefully have it in another day (possibly two if things don’t go my way after daily reset).
  • Ding level 30 on Conjurer (FFXIV) – I didn’t even think I’d hit 30, but I ended up dinging 35!
  • Start re-watching MSQ cutscenes (FFXIV) – I didn’t do any of this, because I mainly logged in for roulettes. I figure once I hit 50, I’ll re-watch them to continue where I’d left off before quitting.
  • Finish a play though of Detroit: Become Human (PS4) – I honestly didn’t touch my PS4 at all for the month, except to watch Detective Pikachu.

September Goals

  • Hit CP 150 on Warden (ESO)
  • Ding level 50 on Conjurer (FFXIV)
  • Finish Auridon (ESO)
  • Finish Grahtwood (ESO)
  • Finish City of the Sun God (SWL)
  • Finish side missions in Blue Mountains (SWL)
  • Finish next route in Sweet Fuse (Otome)
  • Figure out a game for #SportSeptember and play it (Community Game-Along)
Long Term FFXIV Goals, Updated

Long Term FFXIV Goals, Updated

This post is (30/31) of the Blaugust 2019 event! You can find out more about Blaugust over at Belghast’s blog. I (Chestnut) created a Twitter list of all participants. UltrViolet created an OPML file of all the bloggers to import into your feed reader.

I originally put together a list in 2015 of what I wanted to pursue in FFXIV, but the game has changed so much (no more cross-classing, new jobs) that I wanted to do an update to streamline the list for what I hope to get done in the next six months. That, and plan out what I wanted to do as I dive back into the game since life circumstances have changed a bunch since last playing, too.

I’ve decided to change from maining a Warrior to maining White Mage (though I’m still a Conjurer), especially for the instant queues, but I plan to switch between White Mage and Dancer when I’m able to pick it up. I’m thinking I can do questing as a Dancer, and queues as White Mage.

I’m not sure I’ll get to everything on the list in six months, but it doesn’t hurt to set up an idea of a progression path.

I’m a determined Roe!

Disciples of War/Magic

  • White Mage 60
  • Pick up Dancer
  • White Mage 80 (simultaneously with Dancer)
  • Dancer 80 (simultaneously with White Mage)
  • Paladin 50
  • Bard 50
  • Dark Knight 50
  • Scholar 50
  • Summoner 50

Disciples of Land/Hand

  • Fisher 80
  • Botanist 80
  • Miner 80
  • Culinarian 50
  • Alchemist 25
  • Weaver 25
  • Leatherworker 25
  • Goldsmith 25
  • Armorer 25
  • Blacksmith 25
  • Carpenter 25
VTM OC: Donna Moss

VTM OC: Donna Moss

This post is (29/31) of the Blaugust 2019 event! You can find out more about Blaugust over at Belghast’s blog. I (Chestnut) created a Twitter list of all participants. UltrViolet created an OPML file of all the bloggers to import into your feed reader.

Vampire LARP

I’ve been playing a local Vampire LARP for a solid two and half years (I played a bunch during college, too), and even though it is sometimes draining (I just stepped down as a storyteller), I mostly enjoy it. After stepping down, I put together a new character based off of West Wing that worked with a character that Manthing created based off of West Wing as well. We’re surprised that nobody has mentioned the characters being based on West Wing.

Anyway, when I play a character, whether it be for online RP, live action RP, or tabletop RP I usually don’t put together a detailed backstory. I typically put together a few details, and then the backstory comes to me as I get deeper into the character and develop the missing pieces based on how the character acts. This time, however, it was different. There were events that Manthing and I had to sync up for our characters to relate and work together, so I wrote out a pretty detailed backstory.

I’m assuming if anybody from my LARP group stumbles on this, they won’t metagame (*stares and points at game rules*), so I wanted to share what I put together for her backstory. “But why, Chestnut?” Well, because I’m proud of what I put together. This is a different way for me to approach characters (and a clan I’ve never played, to boot). And it’s some of the only real creative writing I’ve done in a long time. So without further ado, here’s Donnatella Moss as a Ventrue.

Donnatella Moss

Donnatella Moss was born in Connecticut in 1865 to parents Paul and Margaret Moss. At a young age, Donna found herself to be a natural leader amongst her peers, which unlocked a desire early in life to dive into the world of powerful men in some way.

Donna found this more difficult to come by than she imagined. While she excelled in her academic studies as a child and young teenager, she was denied any form of higher education. Donna took it upon herself to spend time making connections using her “feminine wiles” with the gentlemen around town to learn all she could about various subjects, and obtain books about any topic she could find.

Somehow, despite Donna’s constant flirtations, she was never ostracized around town. Rather, folks found it endearing, and many of the older gentlemen in town took an interest in providing her with educational materials.

In 1885, Donna found herself enamored with a local politician in Hartford, Samuel Miller. Against his better judgement, and warnings from his peers about including a woman he was courting in politics, he invited Donna into his life as both his fiancé and his personal secretary. Soon after, Miller had moved into a new position within Washington, D.C.

The couple was enjoying their new home in Washington D.C., and looking forward to their upcoming nuptials. Tragically, however, three weeks before Donna and Samuel were to be married, he drowned in James Creek on his way home from drinking with friends.

Donna threw herself into her work to push away her grief, and in 1890 she was transferred to be a secretary in the office of Joshua Lyman, specifically to work as Malcolm Henry’s personal secretary and aide. Donna worked harder than she ever had before to prove herself to Mr. Henry—working long hours into the night, and proved to be very talented and competent when given the opportunity to work on her own.

It was during this time she realized that while she mourned Samuel, she had more political acumen than he’d had, and that being able to make decisions on her own for the benefit of Mr. Henry gave her a newfound confidence. This confidence helped her to move past her former fiancé’s death, and she soon found herself enamored with Malcolm, working even harder than she thought possible to prove herself to be a valuable asset to him.

Not long after, Malcolm pulled her aside and shared secrets with her that she’d never, in her wildest imagination, thought to be true. Stories of creatures in the night, like him, that manipulated and ran human politics and other aspects of society to their own ends and benefits. Puppet masters. Kings and Queens of the night. It was then that Malcolm offered Donna a place in his world. Without hesitation she accepted and became his ghoul.

In 1910, when it became necessary to explain her proper lack of aging, Malcolm arranged a series of favors to the then-Prince of Washington, D.C., and immediately cashed in his boons to receive permission to grant Donna the Embrace.

Again, Donna readily accepted, knowing that she was to spend her Unlife with Malcolm, and see to it that she helped him to rule as Kings and Queens of the night. It was at this time that Donna started pushing beyond her typical secretarial duties. She found that she depended upon a few handfuls of dirt from the park in which she was Embraced to ensure she was in peak condition.

With more access to academia, as Kindred society was much more accepting of women in powerful positions than Kine, she began studying beyond her duties, and working to gain allies within the community. Donna began learning Latin so that she could converse more privately with Malcolm, and also took up an unusual hobby in swordsmanship. The sounds and the sensations of the way blades felt against various materials was of specific interest to her, and she worked hard to master using blades to their best ability, along with learning anything she could about the history and art of swordsmanship itself.

When Malcolm shifted positions and moved to the Justice department, Donna moved with him, continuing as his assistant and lover. She found that while she was readily remembered by those she interacted with often, she was often forgotten by those she only briefly interacted with. While it was occasionally aggravating, it came with more benefits than detriments, and allowed Donna to move through circles she may not have otherwise prior to her Embrace.

One night, after many years (and aliases) at the Justice department, Malcolm pulled Donna aside and let her know he’d found out about a plan the humans had to hit the Camarilla hard, and where it hurt. She went with Malcolm to Mr. Lyman, but Mr. Lyman refused to believe the both of them, assuming they were both lying to him. Malcolm, and by extension Donna, were ordered from Lyman’s presence, and most likely soon to be the city as well.

It was then that Malcolm and Donna went underground, and were spared the worst of what happened, though they both knew that things were not going well for the Kindred in the city. Malcolm spent countless hours using human agents to gather intelligence, and he realized that the Camarilla of Washington, D.C. had been destroyed.

Malcolm decided to take his Sire’s name to claim his dignitas and resources, confiding in Donna that Malcolm Henry needed to appear “dead” and that she was to refer to him from now on as Joshua Lyman, her “adopted” Sire. This ruse needed to be kept up at all times due to “Josh’s” new retainer, Ryan Pierce, not knowing anything about Malcolm, and knowing Malcolm only as Josh.

The three relocated to Atlanta in order to hide from anyone who may have remembered Malcolm or Donna. Donna knows it is coming time for when she will be released from Josh (Malcolm), but longs to remain at his side through her Unlife to do what she can to help him rebuild and become the puppet behind the King’s throne.

Educational Benefits of Pirate 101

Educational Benefits of Pirate 101

This was originally posted on MMO Games on 17 January 2016. It is being re-posted here to archive the work I have done in case the original website ever shuts down.

Exploring Pirate 101

I’ve been enjoying exploring various children’s games this month for a multitude of reasons, namely, to scope out what is currently available that I can utilize with my own children in the future. I’ve heard many a good thing about Pirate 101 and thought it would be a fun game to try, and I definitely wasn’t wrong.

Pirate 101 is a game by KingsIsle Entertainment, the creators of Wizard 101. The game itself is geared toward children approximately aged 10 but could definitely be played by children both younger, and older. It’s a wonderful game for parents to play with (or without) their children as well.

The voice over is charming, and my first time through had me giggling at the French-accented monkey. The combat was engaging, as it required some forethought, and was completely different from any other MMO combat I’ve ever encountered. Overall, it’s definitely a game to check out reviews for, and a game that I want to keep on the radar for when I have children old enough to play with.

However, while shared entertainment abounds, at first glance it doesn’t seem to cover anything educational for children, or ways for parents to engage learning with their offspring. So what are the educational benefits of Pirate 101?

Educational Benefits of Pirate 101

There are more skills children can learn while playing Pirate 101 than first meets the eye. While the game itself is not a game designed around education, there are many subject areas the game pulls from to create teachable moments for children.

Language Arts

Children can learn multiple different subsets of the language arts. For one, their reading, spelling, and grammar skills will improve. All of the dialogue in the game has voice over, but dialogue boxes also appear on the screen while the characters are speaking. These boxes can be used for children to practice their reading and comprehension skills, as well as identifying new vocabulary. Seeing words as they’re spoken also helps to improve spelling skills for when youngsters begin to write. Speaking of writing, many children utilize the environments in Pirate 101 to create fan fiction that they submit to KingsIsle Entertainment. This is creative thought and creation, which are important things for anyone to learn.


The graphics in Pirate 101 are unique with a cartoony style that is unmistakable. Children not only create fan fiction around the game, but also fan art. This teaches them various skills depending on how the art is created. If done as digital art, it teaches children important items within art programs that they can utilize later on in life to great benefit. Even traditional art and sculpture is something that children can take advantage of. Physically manipulating to create art helps children gain spatial awareness.


Players receive rewards and treasure throughout the game. There are also a plethora of items to purchase throughout the game, from gear to mounts and pets, and more. Children must learn how to save their gold in order to buy the items they want from the shops. This teaches them a multitude of money skills including budgeting, saving, and simple arithmetic from spending and earning gold. Youngsters will also learn inventory management. Even though it is not specifically a mathematics skill, it is an important one to learn that ties into budgeting and spending.

Computer Science

While Pirate 101 doesn’t specifically teach skills such as computer programming, digital art, and engineering, one cannot criticize the passion that young players obtain from experiencing amazing virtual worlds. Many future employees in computer science will have gained their passion from gaming at a young age.


Kids can learn about geography and land areas by utilizing the maps in game. Knowing the cardinal directions and how to navigate is important to sailing your ship around the world, and even just finding quest givers and objectives. Children will also gain skills in situational and locational awareness, as well as planning the best route to obtain an objective.


One can’t argue that there is a large amount of history associated with pirates. Ranging from the romanticization of pirates, to exploring pirates from different regions, there is a plethora of knowledge available for parents and children alike. This history brings up many questions to delve into with youngsters, such as why pirates are so popular in the media, or if pirates are really bad guys or good guys. Parents and children can also do research on pirates from around the world to learn more about their stories and discuss if any of the pirates in game remind them of the pirates from long ago.


Even though socialization isn’t a “hard skill” that is taught in classrooms, it is an extremely important thing to learn for everyday interactions in today’s busy world. Despite the limitations on chat functions, children can learn about being polite, helping others, listening, and other skills that will benefit them far into the future and throughout their adult life.


There is combat in Pirate 101, and as such can lead to easy conversation starters for addressing violence, both fantasy and real-life. Being an online game, it also provides many opportunities to discuss online safety and bullying with children. These are not skills that are innately learned, and parents need to spend the time addressing these topics with their youngsters.


There are many educational benefits of Pirate 101 that don’t fall within a specific category, such as focus, concentration, and strategy. The game offers players multiple quests, and it is important for children to remember which items are necessary for which quests, and where to go to be successful. During battles with enemies, players choose weapons and spells needed to defeat their opponents, as well as the placement for their characters based on the number of squares they are able to move. In some instances, players will need to strategize on how to complete objectives while avoiding as much combat as possible. Moves need to be planned in stages, which requires forethought and thinking ahead.

While I’ve touched on many skills that children can learn by playing Pirate 101, there are so many others for them and their parents to discover as they explore the world together.

August 2019 Note: This post is (28/31) of the Blaugust 2019 event! You can find out more about Blaugust over at Belghast’s blog. I (Chestnut) created a Twitter list of all participants. UltrViolet created an OPML file of all the bloggers to import into your feed reader.
Developer Appreciation: NCSoft and Carbine Studios

Developer Appreciation: NCSoft and Carbine Studios

This was originally posted on MMO Games on 27 April 2016. It is being re-posted here to archive the work I have done in case the original website ever shuts down.

This week is Developer Appreciation Week—a blogging event that began in 2010 with the intention to simply shed positive light on the gaming industry, and appreciate the game development teams that have done so much for the MMO genre. You can read more in detail about this years’ event at Tales of the Aggronaut.

Belghast puts it succinctly in the introductory blog post.

“The good folks in the games industry enter it because they love video games, and often times have a life long goal of ending up there. The industry itself is a really rough one, and we can all see how caustic the communities can be when they turn against a game or an individual.”

Today, I want to share some appreciation for NCSoft and the Carbine Studios team.

Carbine Studios Developer Appreciation

Carbine Studios was founded in 2005 by seventeen former members of the World of Warcraft team. Carbine Studios was acquired by NCSOFT in 2007, and now functions as a subsidiary of them focusing on their own game, WildStar, as well as providing a great outlet for community interaction.

I want to give a shout-out and a big “developer appreciation hug” to all of the developers that reside at Carbine Studios, both currently and formerly. While I will be focusing on some more current members to thank, specifically for their work and dedication, it should be noted that overall neither of these games would be around if it wasn’t for everyone involved throughout their time at NCSoft. So, to the development and community team working at NCSoft, whether it be on Blade & Soul, WildStar, or any titles that comes our way, thank you for all your hard work and dedication!

Blade & Soul Developer Appreciation

Akli “Youmukon” Amichi – Youmukon is one of the Community Managers for Blade & Soul, focusing on the French community for the game. His main role is to be the link between the Community of Blade & Souland NCSOFT’s different teams scattered around the world. Prior to working on Blade & Soul, Youmukon was the French Community Manager for WildStar. Outside of Blade & Soul, Youmukon enjoys various interests, and is always interacting with the community—in both English and French. That’s dedication, folks. Thank you, Youmukon, for all your hard work on both titles and being front-and-center for the games you love.

Jonathan Lien – Jonathan is the Assistant Producer for Blade & Soul, and does a little bit of everything—gathering and analyzing feedback, building test plans, and planning strategies. He has worked hard to adapt Blade & Soul to a Western audience while preserving the integrity and core experience of the original game. He goes out of his way to listen carefully to feedback of the fans and takes care to make the game the best experience for the players. He is extremely active on Twitter, engaging with fans and listening to them. Thank you, Jonathan, for your hard work and dedication to keeping Blade & Soul’s heart.

Julianne Harty – Julianne is the Brand Manager for Blade & Soul. She is one of the experts on the team, and the hub from which the information comes through, including trailers, art assets, and even obscure lore. She believes that the community is the most valuable asset to the game and tries to engage them as much as possible. She works hard to incorporate feedback and suggestions, and she pays attention to the community voice in order to make Blade & Soul the best it can be. Thank you, Julianne, for always taking the time to value the community.

Nicolas Coutant – Nicolas is the Producer (NCSOFT West) for Blade & Soul and also serves as a communication hub for the game. He helps coordinate the team internally and has worked hard to help remove the stigma associated with Korean MMOs. He has helped to provide an experience to players that helps to shatter their prejudices and initial conceptions of Eastern MMOs. He hopes to always provide the best to the community. Thank you, Nicolas, for your constant dedication to the genre and the game.

WildStar Developer Appreciation

Chad “Pappy” Moore – Pappy is the Creative Director for WildStar, but he is best known as one of “the lore guys” for the game. His dedication to the game is second to none, and his passion for making the game better always shines through. He has recently implemented “DevConnects,” a series to engage the community to better understand what the players want from the game, and he has been following through on these suggestions to the best of his ability. Thank you, Pappy, for your constant consideration and interaction with the playerbase of  the game.

Kristen “Caydiem” DeMeza – Caydiem is the Senior Content Designer for WildStar, and has dabbled in almost everything the game offers players. She is one of the developers who goes out of her way to encourage community interactions, and is always available to answer questions and concerns, even if she has to answer with, “I don’t know, but I’ll pass the information along.” Thank you, Caydiem, for always being one to interact with the community and address their concerns as soon as possible.

Deirdre “DD” Hollis – DD is the Community Manager for WildStar. She started as a part of the community team and has worked her way into the role of Community Manager. As her handle (Sunshine) suggests, she is a ray of sunshine to players by always being the most positive she can be on both social media and live streams. She is always available to answer questions, or shoot the breeze, and makes it a point to be as knowledgeable on player concerns as she is able. Thank you, DD, for always being there when players need a pick-me-up and an ear to listen to with concerns for the game.

Gary Astleford – Gary is the Senior Story Designer for WildStar, who goes out of his way to interact with the community for any of their lore and story related questions or concerns. He spends time weekly carving out hours in which he answers questions and thoughts related to obscure WildStar lore via long Twitter threads with players, and he is always excited to share new tidbits of lore that are coming. Thank you, Gary, for being “the story guy” we get excited to converse with.

As I mentioned before, there are so many Developers and Community Relations members that deserve recognition at Carbine Studios for their work, dedication, passion, and love they’ve put into these games and their fan communities. Show your developer appreciation today by thanking your favorite Carbine developers for all the hard work they put in day-to-day to make our lives a little more fun.

August 2019 Note: This post is (27/31) of the Blaugust 2019 event! You can find out more about Blaugust over at Belghast’s blog. I (Chestnut) created a Twitter list of all participants. UltrViolet created an OPML file of all the bloggers to import into your feed reader.
Atlas Reactor Closed Beta Preview

Atlas Reactor Closed Beta Preview

This was originally posted on MMO Games on 16 April 2016. It is being re-posted here to archive the work I have done in case the original website ever shuts down.

Atlas Reactor is a new team-based tactics game by Trion Worlds, featuring a new form of turn-based combat with a twist, as players take strategic turns in combat simultaneously. The game features competitive team-based combat, a wide variety of “freelancers” (heroes) to choose from, PvE content via bot matches, and the Atlas Reactor Closed Beta brings us even more fun.

The customization available in the game is huge, and it keeps growing. Unique customizations include taunts, used to trigger an in-game highlight of the character allowing players to get closer to their favorites. There are also character skins, titles, user banners, and more.

I met with James Karras, Senior Producer, and William Cook, Lead Designer, to discuss the Atlas Reactor Closed Beta changes, which released on Thursday, April 14, 2016.

Meet Freelancer Elle

The Alpha introduced a new freelancer, Oz, and the Atlas Reactor Closed Beta introduces Elle. She’s a Firepower Freelancer, described as a cold-hearted assassin who just really likes to make a big old mess with her shotgun. Elle has one of the coolest primaries in the game with a targeting arc that can change shape from long and slim to short and wide. She is also the first freelancer to have an ability to dash one square and fire in the same turn, which can be used twice in a row.

She also has a free action to use in addition to other abilities where she can place an invisible drone on the ground. Enemy players will know that something has been placed, but they won’t know where the bot is located. The bot can be detonated at any time within three turns, when it will automatically self-destruct.

Elle has another ability, Overcharge, which grants additional damage to the next shot taken, including her Ultimate ability—a gigantic shotgun blast that deals knockback to everyone that gets hit, including Elle. It’s an interesting twist on freelancer abilities, and one that the developers hope to continue as they release more characters.

Introducing Seasons

Seasons are something new being implemented in the Atlas Reactor Closed Beta, and they include a story made of multiple chapters, challenges, contracts, and other rewards. The chapters follow the story of Atlas Reactor, and each season introduces new elements to it. These stories change throughout the year, and introduce chapters every few weeks.

In the closed beta, players will be trying out the first few chapters of the story and providing feedback for developers on how the system feels. It was built with the players in mind, and it tries to break down the barrier between free players versus those spending cash on the game. The story itself cannot be progressed without playing through it, and it will be available to read in full once a season closes.

Contracts and challenges that go along with the Seasons provide big rewards, including XP and crafting components. Rewards are gained by leveling, and include loot matrices (the equivalent of loot chests), which hold cosmetics such as taunts, banners, and emojis.

Levels can be purchased, and only correspond to acquiring cosmetic items. Karras and Cook made it clear that there is no way to buy power in Atlas Reactor, only cosmetics. Levels are being tuned in the Beta, and the XP gain is linear, which mean the experience needed to go from level 1 to level 2 is the same that’s needed to go from 58 to 59.

Any cosmetic items earned in a season are archived, and they cannot be earned past the season except for special events. The goal is for these seasonal items to still be available by special means, however, they’re much more difficult to obtain once the season is over.

In the future, the developers are looking to implement things such as objective-based game modes, ranked modes, additional maps, more freelancers, and spectator mode. Spectator mode is something they plan to try after Closed Beta has been running for a few weeks.

Crafting For Fun

New season-specific crafting materials are given out from completing challenges and contracts, and more loot matrices can be crafted from these materials. There are some matrices that can only be crafted, and some that can only be obtained through play.

Anything opened from loot matrix’s that are a duplicate can be broken down into materials again so that nothing is wasted. The developers wanted to set up a system so that all types of players can participate to the fullest extent.

Community Participation

Karras and Cook know that their game is different from other games on the market, and getting feedback during the Atlas Reactor Closed Beta is extremely important to them. They need to know how the seasons run and want to know if players are engaged and having fun.

To facilitate this, a community rewards program will be unlocked for those that purchase a Pre-Sale pack. Missions for this program were unveiled on Thursday, and are about building a community for the game, as well as excitement for the official release. Karras and Cook noted they, “wanted to build stuff that we would have fun with as players and devs.”

Atlas Reactor Closed Beta Access

The Closed Beta servers are open 24/7 for testing. Any players who played in the February Alpha, or earlier, is automatically added to the Closed Beta. The developers wanted to reward those players for helping to shape the game into what it is today.

Anyone else who doesn’t want to wait can grab a Pre-Sale pack to obtain access immediately. The lowest cost option is $10 USD and includes $10 USD worth of cash-shop money to spend on freelancers, skins, and more. Players can also sign up for the closed beta on Atlas Reactor’s website. Invitations to the Atlas Reactor closed beta will be sent out every so often to those who have signed up, however, there is no guarantee that anyone who signs up will obtain access to the closed beta.

There is no NDA on the Atlas Reactor Closed Beta, and the developers are excited to see what kinds of content their players share through Twitch, blogs, Twitter, Reddit, and other social media platforms.

August 2019 Note: This post is (26/31) of the Blaugust 2019 event! You can find out more about Blaugust over at Belghast’s blog. I (Chestnut) created a Twitter list of all participants. UltrViolet created an OPML file of all the bloggers to import into your feed reader.
Help Greenlight: Seduce Me 2

Help Greenlight: Seduce Me 2

This was originally posted on QueueTimes on 11 April 2016. It is being re-posted here to archive the work I have done in case the original website ever shuts down.

Seduce Me 2: The Demon War is an otome game looking for members of the gaming community to greenlight the game for release on Steam. The game itself had a successful Kickstarter and will be releasing in May 2016. You’re probably asking, “Why should I Greenlight this?”. There are a number of reasons, but first, let’s cover some background information.

Update – April 11, 2016 6:30PM PST

As of April 11, 2016, the game has been greenlit on Steam! However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t valid points to be applied to other otome games, so give it a read anyway. Who knows, you may end up being interested in the game!

A Quick Otome 101

For those not in-the-know, the Wikipedia definition of an otome game is:

…a story based video game that is targeted towards the female market. Generally one of the goals, besides the main plot goal, is to develop a romantic relationship between the female player character and one of several male, or occasionally female characters. This genre is most established in Japan, and is mostly made up of visual novels and simulation games (particularly dating sims).

Otome games are not to be confused with eroge (a pornographic or erotic video game) or bishojo (a game centered around interactions with attractive females geared toward heterosexual males).

There is a lingo to otomes which could be an article in itself, but instead I want to cover just the few I’ll mention in this article.

  • Route: This is a way to denote a branch of plot for a specific character. Some characters can have multiple routes (and therefore, multiple endings). These are usually determined by choices you make throughout the course of the story.
  • CG: Literally “Computer Generated [Illustrations]”, it is a short-hand for the beautifully illustrated and detailed stills that accompany otome plots after triggering a scene via a specific choice. These are artwork outside of the typical cutouts on a background.

Seduce Me: The Otome

Seduce Me 2 is a sequel game to the free-to-play Seduce Me: The Otomeavailable on Steam. The original game is a Western-based PG-16 otome written, directed, and programmed by Michaela Laws. The plot revolves around Mika, a high school senior who inherits her grandfather’s estate. Upon arriving at the estate, Mika finds five injured gentlemen in the foyer, whom have been attacked by some mysterious and dangerous people. Mika soon discovers that the gentlemen are incubi, and out of sympathy for their current situation offers them a home. The question then becomes, does she want them to leave.

Seduce Me makes it a point to offer both human and supernatural routes, as well as same-sex and opposite-sex relationship routes—something that is severely lacking in the otome world. Laws also makes it a point to provide the route’s Happy ending to players regardless of whether they decide to pursue or forego a sexual encounter with the character-of-choice—an extremely positive message missing in many modes of media.

The art is also drawn in more of a mesh between Western and Eastern styles, making it easier for Western audiences to enjoy the CGs and connect with the characters.

Seduce Me 2: The Demon War

Michaela Laws is back for the sequel to the original game, expanding the story and taking us to the world of the incubi (the Abyssal Plains), and pursuing story that was only briefly touched upon in the first game.

The game includes six romanceable routes—five opposite-sex and one same-sex, and this time around includes more variation of endings, including some Bad ones. It is fully voiced in English, and the script is longer than the original game script with less routes. In short, it’s a whopper of a game!

Why It’s Important to Greenlight Seduce Me 2

There has been some talk on why kickstarting and funding otomes is important to the genre. In short, it comes down to an argument that is familiar to anime fans from the 90s. If Eastern companies see that there is a Western audience willing to pay for these to be localized, they are more likely to release them, thus increasing exposure for the genre, allowing more people to join in the fun. That means fans are going to need to vote with their wallets.

However, in this case, there is no wallet necessary to vote to see this particular game on Steam. In fact, it’s a Western-created otome, which can help open the doors to more people becoming interested in Eastern-created otomes. If the player-base for otome games can grow by introducing players to them through Western-developed themes and stories, we can help to bridge the gap in understanding of Eastern cultures (which can be a huge turn-off if you don’t know anything about them).

Not only that, you’ll be supporting a game and development team that strives to bring equal representation of sexual preferences and protagonist genders to the otome world, which will in turn bring more players to the genre, as well as helping to pave the way for other games to seek equal representation. A demo of the gameis available for play for any whom would care to experience what the game is like before Greenlighting.

All it takes to Greenlight is a simple click of your mouse. Whether or not you yourself plan on playing this game, it is an important step toward bringing more otome games to the West, and it’s not something otome fans can do alone.

August 2019 Note: This post is (25/31) of the Blaugust 2019 event! You can find out more about Blaugust over at Belghast’s blog. I (Chestnut) created a Twitter list of all participants. UltrViolet created an OPML file of all the bloggers to import into your feed reader.
What Wildstar Can Learn From The Secret World: Part 1

What Wildstar Can Learn From The Secret World: Part 1

This was originally posted on QueueTimes on 4 March 2016. It is being re-posted here to archive the work I have done in case the original website ever shuts down.

Two of my favorite games are The Secret World and WildStar, in no particular order. The Secret World has been Buy to Play since December 2012, and has a large chunk of time riding the “free to play” wave under its belt. By comparison, WildStar went Free to Play in September 2015. The Secret World recently reworked their membership benefits, and there are quite a few things Carbine could learn from Funcom in this regard.

An Aside on RNG Boxes

First, I’d like to cover something outside of membership benefits that WildStar can take a note on. One of the big things in WildStar right now is the unhappiness with RNG boxes. The Secret World capitalizes on RNG bags and boxes as part of their holidays, and has added a feature, recently, that WildStar would be wise to look into if they plan to keep using these RNG boxes. In The Secret World, when a player purchases a RNG bag with real-life money (via Funcom points, or bonus points), the bag drops a Lucky Coin.

These coins can be turned in at a vendor to purchase some dropped items from these RNG bags if the desired item wasn’t obtained, assuming the player has enough coins. Generally the vendors contain the rarest of the drops, as well as a few recolors of some items. Also of note is the fact that RNG bag drops are not character bound, allowing players to buy or trade the items despite being cash shop items. Many players feel this is a fair system, and utilize the vendor a fair bit. If WildStar would implement something similar, I think it would help to quell some of the anger associated with RNG boxes.

Now, let’s get to the Meat and Potatoes. The Secret World and WildStar are two different games with two different systems. For the sake of comparison, I’m going to be summarizing what each benefit of membership provides to players to try to better form a base for said comparison.

Member Benefits in The Secret World

Membership in The Secret World costs 15 USD monthly, unless you are a Grand Master (someone who purchased the Lifetime Subscription while it was available), and provides the following benefits over buy to play players.

Increase to all experience gained

Experience (EXP) in The Secret World works differently than in other MMOs. EXP is used to give you Ability Points (AP) and Skill Points (SP). These are used to fill in your Ability Wheel, or in layman’s terms, to purchase your weapon spells and proficiencies. Once a player has filled their Ability Wheel to their liking, AP and SP can be applied to purchase and work towards other forms of progression for their character, including: auxiliary weapon skills (a third weapon type, including items such as rocket launchers and whips), Augments (which attach special effects to weapon spells), and AEGIS (a mechanic to penetrate mobs’ shields with specific damage types, and purchased from EXP gained specifically from quests in Tokyo). There are wheels for all of these, and players will always need EXP to fill these in, making EXP extremely important for continued character progression.

Token capacity increase

The cap on tokens members are able to gain have been increased by 20%. Marks of the Pantheon (MoP), an end-game token used to purchase gear, Augments, etc., had the cap raised weekly, and both Black Bullion (BB) and MoP had their total capacity increased by 20% as well.

Reduction to mission cooldowns

Quests in The Secret World are called Missions. Having a reduction from 18 hours to 8 hours makes it easier to pick-and-choose to complete daily instead of running missions that may not be a favorite (stealth and sabotage missions, anybody?). It is even more important when players enter the “endgame” missions in Transylvania and Tokyo which have a default cooldown of close to three days, making the cooldown reduction an extreme benefit for those pursuing endgame.

Reduction to Raid lockouts

Raids used to have a three-day lockout, and have now been reduced to 18 hours. Most games have a week-long lockout, so The Secret World was shorter to begin with. However, this will benefit progression-focused guilds working on Nightmare Kills of the newest raids, as well as gearing up alts and new raiders.

Free Anima Leaps

Anima Wells are spawn points throughout the world used to either fast-travel in a zone, or somewhere your anima spirit releases so you can run back to your corpse (or, interestingly enough, complete various missions in this form).

Increase to all Black Bullion gained

Black Bullion (BB) is one of the currencies in The Secret World gained via completing quests (from the very first quest you complete and every one after) and various objectives in PvP as well as through weekly challenges. It can be used to purchase Quality Level (QL) 10 gear, which is equivalent to end-game starter-blues in other games, as well as upgrade these QL 10 gear and glyphs (slotted bonus stats). It can also be used for fun cosmetic things—such as costumes and titles. Black Bullion is also used to upgrade AEGIS and Augments.

Item Store Discount

Members receive a 10% store discount, while Grand Masters receive a 20% store discount. I think almost anybody would agree that a store discount is a good thing. Especially when…

Bonus Points every 30 days

Members and Grand Masters receive 1200 Bonus Points (a $10 Funcom Point equivalent) every 30 days, which are valid for six months. This is a nice chunk of change to spend monthly just for paying your monthly subscription, especially with the store discount in place.

Two Lockout Timer Reset items every 30 days

These items completely reset the cooldowns on all missions, raids, and scenarios (dungeons). Some people may not use these items at all, whereas other people may use them for progression reasons, or just to be able to help friends run content.

Loyalty Rewards

The way The Secret World handles Loyalty Rewards is unique. Rewards are provided at 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, 180 days, and every 180 days after that. However, the rewards are handed out based upon how much subscription time has been paid for upfront. Grand Masters receive all the rewards immediately. If someone purchases a 90 day subscription up front, they will receive up through the 90 day rewards. The rewards also never go away if a subscription is canceled, and when re-subbing, members pick up where they left off for rewards and subscription time towards them.

All in all, The Secret World’s system is competitive, fair, and has lots of benefits to all types of players, whether they be focused on end-game content, are new players, like to play casually, enjoy various competitive levels of PvP, or are hardcore raiders. Next time, we’ll take a look at what WildStar offers, and how they stack up.

August 2019 Note: This post is (24/31) of the Blaugust 2019 event! You can find out more about Blaugust over at Belghast’s blog. I (Chestnut) created a Twitter list of all participants. UltrViolet created an OPML file of all the bloggers to import into your feed reader.