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Exploring the Ocean of Emptiness(EVE Blog): Pt6

 Pomp & Circumstance
     My time in Noir Academy was very fun, flying with good pilots and generally having a great time of killin' whatever needed it.  I'm happy to say I have graduated into Noir. proper, and am now a member of a pretty unique niche role in an MMO game.  Being a paid(in-game) PvPer/mercenary/gun-for-hire is something I'll certainly have to get used to.  So far things have been a little hectic between moving assets into proper positions and some political turmoil.  

 Towers like this one are high value player owned targets.
 Towers like this one are high value player owned targets.
     As I was coming into the corp, [NMG.]'s 0.0 holdings were coming under attack by The Kadeshi.  They had hit several systems attempting to tear down our Sovereignty claim in the area, typical sov warfare in EVE.  On my very first op with [NMG.] we set off to take out Kadeshi assets in our pocket of Providence.  The op was a clean and efficient tower takedown, using a fleet of Drakes.  We managed to get a bit of a standup fight out of the operation, taking out a handful of enemy Battle Cruisers with very minimal losses, and still destroying the tower.   POS towers now play a smaller role in Sov warfare, however taking out staging POS's is always a good thing.  One of these days ill take a bit of time to explain the space controlling segment of EVE.
     As it turns out, politics in the Providence area are still a complete cluster fuck, and a mystery to me.  I've long since lost interest in the political intrigues of EVE, I much prefer to just go out and shoot some ships and have some fun.  In an odd twist, [NMG.] leadership decided to hand over our systems to [CVA]: the long time & recently evicted owners of Providence who are still trying to fight their way back in.  There was much more to this decision than I know, or really care about.  Suffice to say, [NMG.] felt we were going to be removed one way or another and decided to hand them off before being back-stabbed by others in our prov holders pact.  And to be quite honest, this will probably mean taking more contracts for [NMG.] meaning I'll be doing more merc work and less pos/sov warfare.  
     On a last semi related, I went on my first contract op.  An employer contracted [NMG.] to kill off a couple of offline highsec POS towers so he could put up his own.  An announcement went up for us, wardecs went out, and 24 hours later we took down the towers with no incident in just under an hour.  It was a super clean and uneventful contract.  I missed one a day earlier for a freighter escort out of 0.0 which seemed similarly uneventful.  [NMG.] is on a bit of R&R, hence the lighter contracts this week, however I hear some more interesting work is headed our way *very* soon.  

Exploring the Ocean of Emptiness(EVE Blog): Pt5

Taking The Initiative:
     The last couple weeks has remained interesting with my stay in Noir. Academy (  [NA.]  ).    The guys teaching the courses and guests from Noir. Mercenary Group who FC for us from time to time have been incredibly fun to fly with.  I've lost a couple Drakes, a ship I actually rarely flew in PvP until recently, and had my share of decent kills.   Its hard to tell if Im keeping up to par with what they want in their main corp, they seem to play it pretty close to the vest.  Regardless of the outcome, this has been a very fun experience.  As I near the end of my [NA.] normal training time, finals week approaches, and we're running PvP gangs as often as possible.
     After a couple hours fiddling with the new Teamspeak server for [NMG.] and [NA.] the FCs were getting restless, and decided to take a couple of us academy guys out for a roam.  The FC planned to take us deep into 0.0 space, picking on ratters/anomaly runners/anyone who wanted to fight.  I hopped in my Heretic, an Interdictor, as its a class of ship I have some decent seat time in.  Although the Heretic itself is relatively new to me, I've flown its Caldari counterpart dozens of times in fleets of all sizes.  Interdiction is a dangerous job, you're in a light, vulnerable ship with a high target priority.  Getting in and out of fights can be costly for a dictor pilot.  
     Our gang consisted of 6 guys, all in nano cruisers and light ships like my interdictor and an interceptor.  We planned to move fast, strike what we could, and gtfo before any real response could form up.  After a few standoffs with some larger gangs while we were forming up, we zipped off deeper into 0.0 space.   I took my turn at lead scout, many empty systems passed by.  My lack of experience with how Anomalies work in EVE allowed an Ishtar to escape into the safety of PoS shields about 20 jumps into our journey, luckily that was no indication of the fights to come.
 Megathron awaiting its untimely demise.
 Megathron awaiting its untimely demise.

We entered the Region of Immensea, a section controlled by an alliance called "The Initiative"  (  [TI]  ).   The scouts spread out a bit to find targets, and we were quickly rewarded.  Our interceptor pilot jumped into a system with a [TI] Megathron class battleship sitting at sniping range off the gate.  He quickly went into action, weaving and spiraling toward the BS avoiding all of the incoming fire.  Once he settled into a smooth orbit he called his tackle.  In the mean time, the remainder of the gang had amassed on the opposite side.  We jumped in, and a couple minutes later the Megathron was no more.  0 losses, and we continued the hunt.  
     A couple systems away, [TI] began to slowly mass a response gang.  Our gang spread out in one system hunting a Hurricane in an anomaly, missing him narrowly.  Our inty pilot burned ahead one jump to scout, the rest of the gang moved back to the inbound gate.  A moment later, a vagabond and scimitar appeared on scan, although they didnt yet engage our small gang.  We found out why very quickly, as one jump ahead out inty tackled a Drake on his way to join the fight.  At the same time, in our system 2 tacklers showed up to try and pin us to the gates, a stiletto had the unfortunate luck of landing right on top of our 2 interdictors and was Quickly dispatched.  A manticore suffered the same fate as he tried to deploy a bomb, ineffectively, against out spread out fast moving gang.  
     We turned our attention to the nearby tackled drake, the vaga and scimitar remained on scan, and would have been a very big challenge at this point had they decided to engage.  We quickly burned over to engage the Drake our inty had tackled, we knew re-enforcements had to be close by now.  Picking up a rifter kill along with it, we slowly whittled down the Drake.  
     After the drake was dead, we decided to gtfo.  Scan showed a large cruiser/BC/command ship gang about to land on us.  We high tailed it a few systems away, leaving from a different direction to their pocket than we entered.  Our small and fast moving gang easily evaded the larger and more cumbersome gang attempting to follow us, and within 3 jumps they broke off their pursuit.  0 losses, the hunters started to head back home.
     On our way out of immensea we also picked up a Raven kill and a Bestower, both the result of excellent small gang tactics by our leaders.  The extended fight with [TI] was the most fun, however all of our kills were clean and efficient, without many mistakes.  All in all it was a great evening and lots of excitement, even beyond the kills we scored.  This week we begin our finals, and a wardec to hopefully get us some more action and give us a taste of the merc life.  I can only hope we see many targets, fly with skill, and have good fights.
Edit: formatting
 A Raven quietly floating through space, unawares of the dangerous hunters nearby.
 A Raven quietly floating through space, unawares of the dangerous hunters nearby.

Exploring the Ocean of Emptiness(EVE Blog): Pt4

Basic Training:
     Over the last couple weeks, I have taken part in training operations with [NA.], hoping to get into the Noir. Mercenary Group.  The training has consisted both of basic combat tactics and discussions, and in field PvP operations against various foes.  From small gang frigate roams, Remote Repairing BattleShip(RRBS) ops training on the test server, and everything in between, its been kinda a hectic couple of weeks.  The most interesting part however is an assignment  handed to Noir. Academy as part of a bigger overall operation with the NMG regulars.
     Earlier this month Pandemic Legion and their allies began hitting the new Providence holders (the people who were formerly Ushra'khan and allies).  Basically, for those of you unfamiliar with the politics in EVE, Pandemic Legion is known to be excellent PvPers and seem to specialize in regional warfare, helping other power blocs attack.  Providence is a Player owned region of star systems that has been in flux for the last several months and seen a large share of fighting.  Noir. decided to jump in and get a little killing done, fighting against PL on several occasions.  Im uncertain and frankly don't care to know all the details of the politics involved, as long as I get to shoot things.  Unfortunately, all of the fighting has been based around EU timezones, leaving me on the sidelines hoping for some action, and this past sunday was my chance to have some fun.
 Pic Shamelessly stolen from the interwebz
 Pic Shamelessly stolen from the interwebz
     NMG and allies formed up a gang intent on fighting 'The Fist', PL's PvP fleet consisting of a large number of armor tanked Heavy Assault Cruisers(ie: Zealots, in large numbers) and Logistics support.  The Fist is known to be an extremely proficient PvP group, flying top quality ships with excellent skill and good tactics.  NMG formed up a large number of Drake Battle Cruisers with logistics support designed to engage them.  We started by attacking a PL structure to draw them out, semi successfully.  Our 90+ man gang managed to engage and kill a Battleship from a small PL force trying to deal with us, but otherwise it was a typical POS shoot.  Finally the FC gave the order to disengage and head toward the PL staging systems on word The Fist was active in the area.  
     Unfortunately, I would never make it to the target system.  Four jumps into our departure I was disconnected for a short time, upon re-logging, the fleet had moved 3 jumps ahead of me.  I logged back in to a Goonswarm small bomber gang, and they immediately engaged my now lone drake.  Stealth bombers are specifically designed to engage larger targets like my Drake. The first bomber disabled my warp drive and they began pouring on the DPS.  I noticed only a single guy had a Warp disruptor on me, so i focused my efforts on him.  Spinning up the sensor dampener I had equipped for gang work, I cut his targetting range down and began to burn away from their gang.  Before I reached half shields, I warped off.
 Drake flying through warp.
 Drake flying through warp.

   In the next system, trying to catch up, I was again tackled and again successfully disengaged, but 2 more bombers had joined in; now totaling 5.  On what was to be the last system my drake would see in one peice, I was tackled on the inbound gate once more, this time at closer range and putting out much more dangerous damage to my Drake.  My shield faltered, damage began to wreck the weak armor and hull of my BC, I got one last cycle of dampening off and my Drake dove back into warp now at 20% structure.  Knowing the bombers would quickly follow, I had chosen to warp to the gate at 100km and quickly spin around and warp away to a safespot.  just as the bombers land on grid Im warping away, back to a safespot, deciding to give up on catching our gang who isn't coming back for a lone stuck BC.  They head out to the PL system and I wait out my aggression timers and the bomber gang.  They eventually get bored of looking for me and leave system and I hang out waiting for reports.
     The Fist fight went decently well, a handful of losses on both sides from what I gathered.  I would lose my Drake trying to get back to the staging system after reading a scouts report wrong.  "No big gangs in next system" is much different than "No, big gang in next system".  Otherwise, I had a good time sparring with the Goon bomber pilots, even as ridiculous as they tend to be with local smack talk.  It was interesting to see how effective a MWD(afterburner style equipment that allows you to move much faster than normal) and Dampener was against a bomber gang not fit to catch and hold a BC.  Surviving their gang was probably the most difficult piloting I've ever had to do in EVE.  Hopefully next time I can actually make it TO the damn fight though!
Edit: formatting

Exploring the Ocean of Emptiness(EVE Blog): Pt3

     This blog will not be "In Character" like my others (even though neither of them were 100% IC), to discuss a change in playstyle for how I'm approaching EVE online.  


 Abaddon + Pulse + Scorch....  Excellent.
 Abaddon + Pulse + Scorch....  Excellent.
  The last few days have been pretty crazy for me in EVE.  The friends who came back to the game with me have started playing SC2, more WoW, and many other RL things keeping them from the game.  I've become the most active by far, most of my logged in time I'm the only one online in our corporation.  I took to some solo PvP, some market games to make some ISK, and generally just doing the solo thing as best I could.  As my market investments grew, I became less interested in mission running, and started taking on a more PvP focused mindset.  The thing I enjoy about EVE is the PvP.  I don't like the politics, the PvE content, Exploration etc.  I like the thrill of shooting at another player, win or lose, and thats what motivates me to play.  I decided to look for a corp with *hopefully* a similar outlook, and I doubt I could have found a better one.   
     Trolling the EVE forums, I stumbled on a simple ad.  Noir. Mercenary corp had opened their academy for recruiting.  My PvP experience, though varied and reasonably efficient, is not enough to apply directly to their main corp, and I have no illusions otherwise.  Over the last year or so I've amassed a mere 160 kills, and 39 losses (about 1 year total playing of which half was PvPing, 1 year off, and the last 2 months back in game).  Noir. is a professional Mercenary outfit, one of the best known in EVE online, they take on some of the biggest contracts, have a reputation for getting the job done, and have some of the best and most efficient pilots I've seen.  From asset denial, POS saves and POS takedowns, and a variety of other contracts, Noir. is well known to be professional and efficient.  On a recent 3 week contract according to their killboards, they racked up 553 kills, to a whopping 25 losses, and there are many similar contracts helping uphold their reputation.  You don't get into Noir. with 160 kills.
     The Noir. Academy [NA.] however, seems perfectly tailored to my needs.  They are the training wing of Noir., finding and molding pilots into whats needed for  their
 My Trusty Harbinger
 My Trusty Harbinger
various contracts.  It's designed for pilots that are younger, less experienced, or just needed to dust off the cobwebs after a break.  My app was accepted, and shortly the September class will begin.  I've flown a bit with some of the other recruits and the recruiter on the test server and so far they seem like just the kinda guys I like to fly with.  I've rounded up the appropriate ships for the first week of "classes", and now hopefully I'll get to get out there and shoot some stuff.
     Merc life is very interesting to me.  Being a paid/professional PvPer holds a certain appeal to me that politics and space holding do not.  I understand it wont make me tons of ISK, my trading/missioning will need to support me, but it adds a certain flavor to the game that I was lacking for a while.  Hopefully I'll graduate into Noir. and get to see some contracts.  Even if I fail to make the cut(a very strong possibility, less than 10% of recruits graduate to Noir.), this seems to be shaping up to a very interesting, and very different MMO experience. 

Exploring the Ocean of Emptiness(EVE Blog): Pt2

Three's a Crowd
      Combat is a game of intel.  Careful planning, researching good fits for ships.  Finding and engaging targets on your own terms, enticing people into a fight that's in your favor rather than theirs.  Slowly and methodically getting the right fights at the right places, on your terms.
     Screw all that.  High on my moderate success from last night I hope back in my Punisher, check all of the systems and repair it back to full strength, reload and head back to Mara, hoping to find a quick fight before I need to dock up for the evening.  Mara local has a handfull of people in it, including my victim from the night before, Chasin Muff, in her Punisher thats likely fit very similar to my own.  I scan a few belts looking for her, but find something even more intriguing.  Sitting in an isolated belt on scan are 3 relatively newer pilots all from the same corp, 2 Rifters and a Merlin, all T1 frigates like my own ship.   Typically Rifters are considered among the very best PvP frigates, but what the hell, I'm ready for a fight.
 My, what a nice Merlin
 My, what a nice Merlin
      Without hesitation my trusty Punisher plows into warp, landing dead center in the asteroid belt, unfortunately 35Km away from my opponents.  They appear to have just scored a kill, and are swarming the resulting wreck.  At the site of my Punisher they begin warping off, 2 of them go straight to another isolated belt.  The warp bubble once again surrounds my Punisher, and I take the moment of solitude in warp to check my directional scanner.  All 3 frigs, and now Chasin Muff's Punisher all showing on scan, things are about to get hectic.  I sit forward in my pilots chair...
     Coming out of warp, I land almost directly on top of one of the Rifters with the Merlin floating at around 10km, I focus my inital efforts on the Rifter pilot.  As my inital volleys shred the shields from my hapless target, the second Rifter appears on grid and engages.  Cycling my energy neutralizer, I quickly disable Rifter 1.  Caldari Navy Antimatter charges streak across the less than 500m between us, blowing huge holes in his armor.  Shortly after: he explodes, and I re-evaluate my situation.  The second Rifter and Merlin have both engaged, a Punisher has appeared on grid 50km off but I ignore her as a simple onlooker.  Only the Merlin has me tackled and both have closed to within 6km, well within range of my dangerous neutralizer, I decide to push the fight.  My Punisher is just dipping into armor, but I have faith in my hefty armor buffer. 
     The second Rifter is my primary target, I figure I can always neutralize the Merlin to gtfo if I need to.  Rifter 2 has settled into a 2.5km orbit, annoyingly out of my blaster range.  I begin draining his capacitor, his afterburner fit isn't phased by my scrambler and he is easily faster than my chunky frigate as I helplessly chase behind him in orbit.  My best hope is to shut down his AB and close to 1500m, and it works like a charm.  My armor is taking a pounding, dipping to near 50% as I finally close range, his ship now completely out of capacitor.  I fire up the blasters, overheat them for maximum damage.  I make a noob mistake here, leaving my guns on overheat for too long.  Luckily I notice and save my guns from burning up in the heat, 96% damage to each, too close.  He and his Merlin buddy are both finally dispatched.  Chasin Muff appears back on grid within 20km, but respectfully doesn't engage my now battered ship which would have been an easy kill for her.  I warp off to wait out my Criminal timer. 
     Once again, the fight only lasts a short time, but I am thoroughly satisfied with the combat.  I was entirely expecting to lose my punisher, and just wanted a big fight, and that's exactly what i got.

Exploring the Ocean of Emptiness(EVE Blog): Pt1

There are many roles to play in EVE online.  From Trading NPC goods, to running missions.  Fighting over player controlled 0.0 systems or smashing asteroids to bits for their minerals.  I've sampled a wide variety of what eve has to offer, but what keeps me returning is the PVP.   To explain the reasons would take an entire blog, but put simply; when you risk an asset during PvP no matter it's actual value, the PvP experience has more impact.  While other MMO's may do the raids and PvE end game, EVE lives and dies by PvP, almost literally.  

Back in the Saddle....  Again
   Some days finding a fight can be excruciatingly slow, something you forget when you've stopped blowing up ships for almost a year.  Aside from a random clash in Mara a month or so back, I haven't engaged anything more scary than mission 'rats for a *long* time.  Every now and then I get the urge, and today I finally gave in.  On the walk to the med services bay I start to get excited, ready to take on something more challenging.  Slipping into the jump clone vats I awake in a nearby station, my expensive mission running, care bear loving implant clone safely stored away for future use.

 I love this little ship!
 I love this little ship!

   Strolling through my home system hangar I debate my options.  Everything from shiny T2 ships to heavy hitting battle cruisers at my disposal, the decision is tough.  I've used my carebearing time wisely and have a well stocked hangar of pvp capable ships and the fittings to go with them.  That's when I spot one of my all time favorite ships, a single Punisher class frigate gathering dust.  The Punisher is the epitome of Amarrian starship engineering;  versatile, capable, and packing a variety of fitting options.  No fancy electronics, no drones, no frills; just a heap of sturdy armor and a large rack of gun mounts.   A large buffer tank is quickly assembled with an oversized 400mm armor plate and accompanying hardners.  I opt to forget about the standard Amarrian weapons(lasers) and mount 3 Tech 2 blasters and an energy neutralizer in their place, trading the range of T2 lasers(or even auto cannons) for the high damage output in close quarters of blasters.  An afterburner and warp scrambler round out the fit.
   As I undock and calibrate my systems and overview to the task at hand, I set course 15 jumps through low sec passing through Mara, a well known pirate hot-bed.  My initial jumps into low sec look promising with several pilots in system.  A quick scan reveals a few viable targets, however local rising and falling scares me off from tackling a cruiser sitting in the top Mara belt (these are typically bait ships).  I head off to my destination, checking every system on the way.  Systems fly by, scans light up showing a myriad of faction and T2 ships I dont feel are viable targets with my Punisher.  A Dramiel and Imperial Navy Slicer duo appear to be hunting me and I escape into nearby systems.  I briefly admire a Cynabal faction cruiser hanging out on a gate.  All these faction ships might be juicy targets for some, but I lack the confidence to take on such formidable opponents so soon after returning.   An hour passes, my destination reached and found now void of targets, I dejectedly set a course for home.   
   I decide to take the scenic route back through low sec to get home, another 15 jumps melt by, having made a full circle I find myself back in Mara.  With one person in Local I decide to do some scanning, and finally find a worthy opponent.  Sitting on the high sec exit gate in a Punisher of their own, I avoid a cyclone making his way through system.  Warping back and forth between his location and a nearby planet, I finally coax a fight and we engage at the customs office orbiting the planet.  

 Fighting an NPC
 Fighting an NPC
   Shields melt quickly, and each of us begin draining capacitor at an astonishing rate from the other.  I close the gap quickly and settle into a steady tight orbit.  His fit is solid, boasting impressive Autocannon DPS, but sacrificing some tanking ability.  My capacitor begins to wane, and suddenly I see his scrambler and neutralizer shut off, he's completely out of capacitor giving me an edge in the fight.  Guessing his Damage control or any other tanking mods have shut off for lack of power, I crank up the blaster DPS, overheating them to push out maximum damage.  Antimatter charges melt his heavy armor plating away punching huge holes in his fragile structure, a quick burst from the neutralizer ensures his Damage control remains inactive, sealing his fate.  His Punisher explodes in a blinding flash!
   The whole fight lasts no more than a minute.  Adrenaline flowing, I'm reminded of all the reasons I love PvP.  The challenge, the risks, and the fights.  I couldn't have asked for a better way to get back on the horse, now, to find some more targets....
Edit: formatting

More WoW Junk & SF4: Gen can suck it.

So, another week into my WoW reunion, I decided that the LFG system is pretty damn good!  Check out my review of it here.  A lot of good things can be said about the new matchmaking system, and I've enjoyed it a lot since my return to WoW
On another note, a friend and I were working through hard mode trials on SF4, and got Gen's 1-4 down, I have to say, whoever designed him as a character was a sadistic jerk, who deserves a punch to the nether regions.  Seriously, his links that include a stance change boggle my mine.  And yet, I cant stop trying.  I think Gen 5 is out of the question after looking at it, my mind does not work in such ways.  Just... no.  I hate you.   I hereby declare that anyone who plays Gen at even a half-assed mediocre level is a far better SF4 player than I could ever hope to be.


What a long strange trip it's been: World of Warcraft

No, unfortunately I did not just get my violet drake, I'm not that dedicated anymore and still have a lot of the seasonal events to complete.  
I did, however, recently re-activate my account because my GF was wanting to give it a shot.  After a 9 month hiatus, I started reminiscing about why the game held such appeal to me for such a long time.  So, here's my abbreviated, long strange trip highlights.
In December of 2004, a good friend gave me a call, and told me to go pickup WoW, as we had been playing Diablo 2 off and on for quite a few months prior.  After some debate (I played UO and everquest and never really got into them), I gave in and thus began my multi-year journey into the World of Warcraft.  After several max level characters, hundreds of hours of play, a few headaches, and probably a few too many extra late nights, I always look back fondly on WoW and consider it one of my favorite games.  After just over 5 years now, I can still fire up the game and have a couple hours of enjoyment.  
And it all started back in 2004, wandering through the expansive and new areas, completing some not-too-original quests, and BSing with a friend about random

 Hooray 7 FPS!
 Hooray 7 FPS!
happenings of the day, both in and out of game.  I was a slow leveler, taking my time and not quite knowing how to play, the game was easy to pickup and hard to put down.  I think for me this is where a lot of new MMOs lose me, none of them have the early game pull that WoW can generate for a new player.  The game is excellently paced for a first play through, there is always enough to do, and enough incentive to do it.   I remember fondly the night that the Honor system was put into place for PvP play, before any battlegrounds were available.  On our PvP server, all hell broke loose in Hillsbrand foothills, and for weeks it was nearly impossible to run a low level character through there, the entire zone was a slide show, and a great time was had by all.  I had not quite finished leveling yet at that time, I dont even remember what patch or when it came down, I just remember it was a lot of fun.  
After finally hitting level 60, a few months of messing around in PvP, and gearing up in dire maul, patch 1.7 hit and allowed our smaller guild to get into ZG, a 20 man raid zone.  For me, this is where the game came alive.  There was no more boring questing, no more pvp grind, no more 5 man stuff that was now far too easy for us.  Our guild used it as a stepping stone into 40 man content, and finally started killing the bigger raid bosses in the game.  We got through ZG, MC, Onyxia, BWL, and finally hit a wall late in AQ which stopped our guild, the Twin Emperors.  After a month of grinding for poison resist gear and finally dropping Huhuran, our progression in vanilla wow was halted as announcements of TBC hit.  It is this time frame that hold some of my fondest memories of the game.  Many of our guild mates were real life friends, and family of members were invited along.  The content was not difficult really, just required a bit of coordination and a little teamwork, nothing like Naxxramas, or the TBC raids to come.  We never killed anything first, always months behind, but it didn't matter.  We had fun. 

The Expansions basically ended our "Hardcore" raiding mentality.  The Gruul encounter we hit very early on in TBC, and it was still far far over tuned for a guild like ours.  For the entire month after we got to Gruul, only a couple dozen guilds world wide had killed him.  By the time they re-tuned the encounter the damage had been done.  We were not "good enough" to raid at that level.  As such, I saw SSC and The Eye at a pretty normal pace, but only saw MT, BT, and Sunwell very late in the expansion, and not all of the content.  I was a little disheartened, but Wrath of the Lich King allowed us to go to Naxx and see the fights newly tuned, which was nice.  I took my longest break right after naxx 25, having just come back a couple weeks ago.  I enjoy the new changes, being much more of a casual player now the way they have added some new features has really allowed me to play for just an horu or two and get some enjoyment out of the game.  I've seen everything in wow up to now, excluding ICC, and had a good time doing it.  Maybe some Dungeon reviews are in order?  Or maybe some short reviews on the new systems in place for the casual grumpy old player like myself.  Only time will tell! 
Thanks for reading through my reminiscing.

Game DLC: Why I *don't* hate it.

I was enjoying some intelligent debate with some other forum members regarding this here(ignore the flame posts at the top of the page):
Unfortunately it was locked at the thread OP's request.  Regardless, I'd like to continue the discussion a bit as Im interested in why exactly people hate DLC.  to re-iterate my stance:

The days of games without any DLC are going to come to an end.  There is a reason software publishers and devs love the idea of digital distribution, and its so they can monetize content.  As software development gets more complex and more costly developers have limited options as to the avenues they can take to remain profitable.  They can cut features, increase retail disk price, or monetize non-essential content that is unnecessary but adds to the appeal of the game.  I'm sure another retail disk price won't be widely accepted at this point but I can definately see it on the horizon.  Along with that, we'll see more and more micro transaction/DLC type content.  
Overall, developers have been pretty good about what they choose to sell as DLC.  Most everything I have seen is a value added type download.  Something that could have hit the cutting room floor before it saw the light of day, non essential extras.  Borderlands DLC was a good example.  You could tell this was a non-essential add on, but it was a whole new zone with a lot of new quests.  Due to the game's delay, they held back the DLC until a little too late IMO.  As bad as it looks, I would have preferred this be week 1 DLC, because it was a very Halloween esque theme and would have been great for that time frame.  Instead, I'm sure in part to appease people like yourself, they held it until thanksgiving time, although it was still enjoyable.  This is a great example of value added DLC, something that could have been just a tech demo and never seen production time due to no added benefit to the developer.
The one you are complaining about here is even better(referring to Heavy Rain: Chronicles DLC).  If you pre-order Heavy Rain you get some free short stories, completely non essential to the primary game.  This is not like selling a novel chapter by chapter.  This is like selling a novel, and having companion short story books that go with it using the same universe(and you get them free if you order the book early).  As an added bonus, if you don't pre-order, you'll still be able to buy them later to see some more Heavy rain if that's what you're looking for.  This is all completely non-essential stuff, so complaining about not getting it is useless.  The game is NOT incomplete without it. 
Using DA:O as another example.  The way it is presented may not be the most tactful, but there is absolutely NO requirement to buy DLC for that game.  You can play the entire thing without buying the extra content.  I do agree that the way it is presented is a little off-putting, and I can see this becoming a good trend you'll see more of in RPGs to come.  If you can appeal to a gamer in some way other than via a clinical looking menu, you're probably more likely to make a sale on that content.  you can't fault them for finding a way to sell the product that is tempting to potential consumers. 
DLC may seem like gouging to you, but again, it is all optional stuff.  It encourages extra development time dedicated to a game with content that otherwise may not be there AT ALL.  Since they can charge for it, DLC becomes something they can spend some more time on.  This is not bad for the consumer, because in the end you've already paid for your game in a playable and complete form.  If anything they add is non-essential it doesnt matter at all, its a bonus for people who want more, and it's ignorable for those who are allergic to spending money on more content.  
Personally, I love DLC.  It means when i finish my time with a game, I might be tempted to play it again in a few months when the DLC hits.  For a bit of extra money, it renews my interest in a title I currently own.  IMO, the Heavy Rain Chronicles are a brilliant addition, giving consumers more than what they would have gotten for pre-ordering, and allowing those who want more heavy rain to get just that.  This is very good for consumers and game developers/publishers alike.

 So my stance is, I actually enjoy DLC.  I like that developers are able to support a game post release with new content, and get paid for their efforts.  I choose which DLC to buy based on if I feel it is 'worth it'.  I also know the realities of software development mean some paid DLC is the only way certain ideas will ever see any development time.  So far I haven't seen any truly blatant misuse, or truly incomplete releases that you have to pay to make whole.  Everything I have bought IMO has been a good value, and I enjoy the fact that my interest in a game can be renewed several months later by some interesting DLC.
How do you feel about DLC?

Forza 3 Demo: Assists & driving overview

So after spending quite a few hours playing around with the new Forza 3 demo (why must you taunt me with demos a month before release, WHY!?!?) I have had a lot of time with each set of assists on and off to really see how they were helping me out.  Here are some thoughts on each:
Auto Braking:
This was good for about 3 laps, to keep me off the walls.  Its pretty conservative in its braking and you still need to help it out, but it will get the car slowed down for you when you're careening toward a corner way too fast.  This will be a great new feature for those needing some help getting started on a sim type racing game, as braking early enough and hard enough can be a difficult task if you're brand new to this style of game.  Advanced players will turn this off immediately, as you'll find its a bit too conservative and can brake too early for my liking.
Suggested/Best line:
The dynamic suggested line is back, and seems very good for most situations.  I kept this on for a good portion of my racing until i was comfortable with the track and the car.  Again the line is pretty conservative, the braking zones(if you follow them) leave little opportunity for off track excursions.  I tend to turn this on for new tracks, and turn it back off once I know the course, this is a great learning tool.  I tend to try and follow the line a bit too closely, so turning it off is a bit of a freeing experience as I look at more of the track.  Even advanced players may want to leave this on for a few laps to get your bearings.
Stability management was one of the last assists I turned off.  It's pretty aggressive in slowing the car down if you get sideways, and there are several sudden elevation changes in the demo track that can upset the car and get you sliding if you're not prepared for them.  SMS at that point slows the car drastically to keep you on course.  This is most pronounced in the S bends after the first turn, as there's a small rise that tends to set the car sliding just after the second bend.  With SMS off it can be difficult to negotiate the rest of the section at full speed.  Once I turned SMS off my times improved a fair amount, but a couple sections of the track required more precise steering and track positioning to keep from upsetting the car.  Turn this off for better times, or leave it on for more consistency in some of the trickier sections. 
Anti-lock brakes and Traction Control function similarly, with ABS turning on under deceleration and TCS turning on under acceleration, both attempt to stop the car from sliding (either locking tires or spinning them).  I find TCS quite useful, however it takes away some of the tactile feel of acceleration out of corners.  The ABS seems to make the car very floaty, somewhat diminishing maximum brake strength.  Turning these assists off is not for beginners, as once they are off it takes much more finesse with the controls to keep the car on a racing line.  I found i was able to better control corner entry and exit with them off, as you can effectively threshold brake and accelerate off the corners.  You'll quickly find you cannot simply slam the brakes into a corner, as the car will slide violently and not really slow down effectively.
All in all, the assists got me back into the driving quickly, and as i turned them off I felt i had more and more control over the car.  The cars feel much heavier than in forza 2, and this lends to a great driving feel once you can navigate the track without the assists on.  The demo cars seem to be setup to under-steer slightly, an im sure more powerful or looser car setups will probably call for TCS and SMS to help keep them on the track much like forza 2.  I can definitely say this is the first time I've driven in cockpit, without assists, and with a manual transmission in any game and felt like I had more control rather than less.  The game's demo cars drive very very well, hopefully ill be able to get similar setups on my cars in the full game!