Cat Context 75: Assassin’s Creed, Konami vs. P.T., Mad Max
May20

Cat Context 75: Assassin’s Creed, Konami vs. P.T., Mad Max

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This week Liore, Ellyndrial, and Arolaide sit down to talk about the Victorian hats of the Assassin’s Creed announcement, Konami’s hissy fit over P.T., and Australian wasteland mutants.

Assassin’s Creed announced that their next game will feature a playable character who is a woman (gasp!), but it may be too little too late. And, really, couldn’t we all use a year off from AC anyway? Elly laments that there was never an AC game with Desmond as the main character, which sends Aro into a fit of lore rants about gods and DNA and the end of the world. Liore is confused as usual because she thought the AC games were about stabbing people and stuff.

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Konami is on a rampage when it comes to P.T., and we are not impressed. Liore hopes this is the catalyst to finally get people talking about DRM, while Elly raises the good point that Steam is DRM but we apparently manage to put up with that. When is it okay for a publisher to yank access to a game?

Later, Liore gives a brief review of Mad Max: Fury Road. It mostly sounds like gleeful giggling and whooshing noises.

Also Liore wants it to be known that she dissed superhero movies before it was cool! Elly takes a break from new fatherhood by playing a .. game that is obliquely about fatherhood! And don’t make Aro dinosaur, you guys!

Like to watch? This podcast has a livestreamed video version:

If you enjoyed this podcast, please “Like” or “Favorite” it in your media consumption method of choice! It makes us feel nice.

* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years

NBI: Creating a Podcast on the Cheap with WordPress
May19

NBI: Creating a Podcast on the Cheap with WordPress

This post was originally written for the first NBI in 2012. While my podcasting system has gained some finesse over the years, the principles are still the same. If you want the cheapest, easiest method of creating a podcast then this is the post for you.

Last week I wrote about finding your voice and creating great content, and today I’m going to talk about something technical: creating a podcast to accompany your blog.

There are a lot of great podcasts in the MMO blogging community, from 5 minute rants to epic 2-hour investigations. You can spend a lot of money on hardware and software supplies, and to be frank if you decide that podcasting is something you really love then you probably SHOULD be spending that money. Fortunately, amateur podcasting with a WordPress blog is inexpensive and relatively easy, and a great way to try out your audio chops.

Please keep in mind that I am not writing this from the perspective of a podcasting expert, because that would be a horrible lie. Instead what I am is someone who looked all this stuff up recently, and really in this day and age isn’t asking Google almost the same things as being an expert? Hmmm? Maybe don’t answer that. Anyway, on with the guide!

Before recording

There are a few resources that you absolutely must have. The first is a microphone. You probably already have this for talking to your guild in-game! The second is access to a program that will record at least you, but also possibly you plus guests. Skype is popular for this, or in my case I use our regular guild Mumble server. The third and final requirement is a storage place online where people can download your podcast once it’s finished. Podcasts aren’t necessarily very large — 25-30 MB for every half hour of recording — so you could get some cloud space or just put it on your website server.

Decide how long your podcast will be and roughly how you want to break down any segments if you have them. If you’re so inclined, write an outline and share it with your guests ahead of time. Keep in mind that you’ll probably want to record for longer than your show time! I record for an hour, and cut it down later to 30 minutes. That gives plenty of extra content if the sound goes wonky or I start to babble about my cats or whatever.

Do you want a theme or some musical interludes? The best source I found for royalty-free music is Free Music Archive. Make sure you check the licensing agreement for individual songs. Obeying the copyright wishes of independent artists is good karma!

While recording

Do a quick test to make sure everyone’s microphone is recording. (Mumble in particular allows users to mark themselves as un-recordable, so check!) Run a stopwatch while recording so you can keep track of how well you’re adhering to your segment outline. I like to write my intro and outro bits completely, because otherwise I will end up forgetting something important like who I am or the name of the podcast. Some things you might want to mention is where listeners can find the podcast on the web (ie. talk about your blog!), where they can subscribe, and when you’ll be back with another episode.

Ready? Now create some compelling audio content! *waves hands mysteriously*

After recording

Hooray, you have what is probably a big .wav file with a lot of interesting content and some mistakes! That wasn’t so bad, huh?

Now it’s time for post-production magic. Go download two amazing and totally free programs: Audacity and The Levelator. Open your raw podcast file in Audacity. If you haven’t used it before, Audacity is kind of like the Microsoft Word of audio files. You can select bits to cut and paste, insert silence, and so on.

The editing can take a long time. Really the only limitation is how picky you feel like being. I edit out obvious mistakes, gaps, and “Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm”s, and then also try to pare each segment down to 5 focused minutes. The first podcast took me roughly 10 hours to edit, while the second was done in a svelt 7 hours. Anyway, how much or how little you want to do depends on your raw content and your own preferences. There’s no wrong answer.

multiple tracks in audacity

Multiple tracks in Audacity

Once you’ve finished editing the voice file, save it as a .wav and start up The Levelator. This program runs a number of audio cleaning processes on your file, including adjusting levels and a whole bunch of stuff that I don’t really understand. The important point is that it makes things sound better, and we like that! When it’s done, open the file back up in Audacity. If you want to add music, go to “Edit” and “Add an audio track”. From there you can copy and paste in your music. Check the settings for things like fade out, if you want.

All done fiddling with the audio? Save the file as MP3, which will be a lot smaller than the .wav format.

Sharing your new podcast

Oh snaps, you have a podcast! It sounds pretty and has music and … it’s on your computer desktop. So now what?

First, upload your podcast to your online storage of choice. Decide how you want to integrate it into your blog — for example, I created a “podcast” category on Herding Cats for episodes. You might want to write a few notes to go with your podcast for information such as your theme music and any links you talked about during the episode. Set up a Feedburner feed specifically for your podcast. That will be the URL people can use to subscribe through Google Reader or most mobile podcast apps.

iTunes monitors your podcast through a special RSS feed, and unsurprisingly they can be quite picky about the details of this feed. I avoided the issue completely by installing the PowerPress Podcast Plugin. There are a lot of options with this plugin, so give yourself time to poke around and look at everything. PowerPress will add a media player automatically to your podcast posts, can track your downloads, and formats your iTunes RSS feed for you. (Note: iTunes requires a 600×600 “album cover” graphic, so be prepared for a little graphic design.)

Got PowerPress set up? Before submitting to Apple, test your podcast feed by manually importing it into the Podcast section of your iTunes application. Does the information look good? Can you hear your audio? Sweet! Go to the Podcast page in the iTunes store and select “Submit a Podcast” from the menu on the right. Apple will listen to your podcast before approving it, and it took us about 48 hours before it appeared online.

Voila, you are a blogger AND podcaster! Congratuations, you media maven. :)

A History of Level Capping
May18

A History of Level Capping

This weekend I sat down and finally got my first class to 50 in Final Fantasy XIV.

Of course in FFXIV, more than most games, the leveling isn’t over yet. I need to level up the other magic classes to get key cross-class skills on my White Mage, and there are a billion levels of crafting and gathering I could do if I was so inclined. But first I have so much to do at 50! There are many dungeons that I haven’t seen yet, much less attempted in hard mode. I need to make friends with the Kobold faction so eventually they’ll give me a palanquin mount. I can glamour my outfits now, and speaking of outfits there are a huge number of ludicrous hats available at level 50 and I need to obtain them.

I was under the impression that I rarely reach level cap in an MMO, but looking at the history that’s just not true. Allow me to share:

elfliore
Liore was the first character I made in World of Warcraft, and my first level capped character in an MMO. She’s gone through a number of races over the years, but this ooooold screenshot is from the Molten Core days. Liore is currently capped for Pandaria, but not for Draenor.

dwarflunedi
Lunedi reached level cap at the end of Wrath of the Lich King, during that stage of any expansion when you’ve finished most of the content and you’re just waiting for new stuff to do. She’s currently a troll, and capped for Cataclysm.

(Not pictured: Thursday the gnome mage who hit level cap at the end of Vanilla WoW and is still a mere level 62.)

accolade
Accolade was my first character in RIFT, and my first level 50 in that game. She’s a rogue, and was my attempt to get away from healing and explore the stabby, care-free world of DPS. You can tell how well that went, because…


Mercredi the Cleric was my true “main” in RIFT. She is wearing favorite outfit ever for any of my characters in an MMO.

panacea
Here’s a level-capped character that I forgot about until I started this reckoning: Panacea the Operative Healer in SWTOR. Although I haven’t played SWTOR in years, I remain smugly pleased with this character’s name.

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Liore Mark 2! It took a loooooooooooooong time, but Liore the Esper did eventually reach the level cap shortly before I stopped playing. Honestly I’m still not sure why WildStar didn’t do a lot better, or even why I’m not playing it. It’s a good game that came out at probably the wrong time. My character is super cute.

Crescende

The latest addition to the level capped gallery, Crescende Yaeger the White Mage. Long may she reign!

Time Management and Gaming, or a lack thereof
May13

Time Management and Gaming, or a lack thereof

So here’s the terrible truth you guys — I’ve barely played any video games for the last couple of weeks. I feed my virtual cats in Neko Atsume twice a day, and maybe play fifteen minutes of Puzzles and Dragons in bed before falling asleep.

Part of the problem is just being busy. I went from having no job to what borders on too much job in a matter of weeks. I get up early now, and I’ve been going to bed earlier than I have in years in an attempt to be functional before 10 a.m. (Weird.) I have a long commute, and at the end of the day zoning out in front of a Let’s Play seems more tempting than being more active and actually playing a game.

The big issue, though, is that I have a hard time prioritizing my gaming. I think it’s partially a response to The Bad Old Days ™ in WoW, when I quite cheerfully let too many things in my life slide because it’s raid time and we’re totally going to kill Gruul this week. I think there’s a whole generation of us with this weird black hole in our lives around 2007, and while I don’t regret any of that I’m also sensitive to any signs of it happening again.

neko atsume

SO MANY CATS

Consequently, gaming is just about the lowest item on my priority list. I feel bad about playing a game when I have almost anything else to do. Somehow even wasting half an hour on Twitter feels like a better use of my time, which it certainly is not.

I mean, I could play a game tonight, but I also really should balance my checkbook and read up on hotels for my upcoming trip and catch up on the news and well I haven’t mopped the kitchen floor lately and if I’m just going to be wasting my time with video games I really should do that first.

All this would be fine if I was satisfied with my current game consumption, but I’m not. I miss games. We’re six weeks out from the FFXIV expansion and I still have 1.2 levels to go, not to mention starting the huge amount of story quests available after the cap. I started a new play-through of Mass Effect 2 and all I’ve done so far is scan 18 million planets.

I want to game more, but sometimes I can’t escape the little voice that tells me there are much better ways to fill my time.

So tell me, dear grown-up readers: do you ever feel guilty about your video game time? How do you organize your schedule to make guilt-free time for elves?

NBI Talkback Challenge #1 … sorta
May08

NBI Talkback Challenge #1 … sorta

As I mentioned earlier in the week May is Newbie Blogger Initiative month! One of the ongoing events is a “Talkback Challenge”, where a topic is chosen once a week for everyone to write about. This week’s prompt is:

How did GamerGate affect you?

Oh dear. How do you write about a subject that you’re still afraid to put in the title of your post? For the record I’ve written about the whole mess a few times previously:

However, the NBI is a good cause so despite being uncomfortable with the subject matter allow me to share my GamerGate experience with you… Friday style.

When I first started hearing about it I was all

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It quickly became apparent that this was more than just some dumb internet drama: war had been declared on visible women in gaming and any one of us could be next. My Twitter feed went oddly quiet for a few days while most of the gaming women I knew were like

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The worst part was that no big game media outlet would talk about it for those first few weeks, much less take a stand. I felt abandoned by my hobby, like they were saying

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As I watched people I respect leave the gaming sphere, I stopped feeling intimidated and conflict-avoidant and instead started getting angry.

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GamerGate has been marginalized thanks in particular to the efforts of some very strong women, although they are still stalking, threatening, and ruining people’s lives. As for its effects on me, I stopped making YouTube videos about gaming, I chose to no longer register as media for gaming conventions, and when someone with “gamer” in their bio follows me on Twitter my first reaction is

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And that’s my story.

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