Top 3 Favorite TV Seasons

Thanks to Syl for inadvertently stumbling on a topic for me to write about in today’s Blaugust entry!

Okay, the three best complete seasons of a television show ever as decided entirely by me:

1) Season 4 of Breaking Bad

Sorry to start out with a softball, but it would be silly to avoid the best just because it’s also popular. Season 4 of Breaking Bad delivered in a serious way on almost every promise made in the first three seasons. Walt and Jesse were given the space to grow as characters (remember The Fly?) while there was still plenty of edge-of-your-seat action. And that ending! I’ll never think of fried chicken joints the same way again.

(Video has spoilers up through season 3, but just an official trailer for 4.)

2) Season 3 of Big Love

Big Love is one of my favorite shows ever. It had a knack for mixing really complicated and nuanced characters with somewhat ridiculous prime time soap plots, a combination that I find irresistible. Season 3 is where the show hit its stride, in my opinion. You know enough about all of the characters to feel invested in their collective fates, and the plot started throwing good and bad events at them as fast as possible. It was rare for an episode to end without my jaw dropping, and that’s unusual for me.

The show was great all the way through all of its five seasons, including the ending, so I guess I’m basically saying you should watch Big Love.

(Video has light spoilers up through season 2, but just an official trailer for 3.)

3) Season 1 of Survivor

Children, let me tell you a story about a magical time when there was no such thing as “reality television”. One day this unassuming TV show appeared out of nowhere — a show where regular people were shipped to a desert island and filmed for 24 hours a day while they did weird challenges to survive and voted to kick each other out. And it.. was.. mind-blowing! We were all buying Colleen’s brown bikini and talking about how stupid Dr. Sean’s “alphabetical” voting strategy was. (How did you not realize that everyone would vote out Jenna, Dr. Sean. HOW?!) Everyone was divided on who they wanted to win, and I was rooting with all my might for Rich, the clever butthead who basically pioneered the idea of forming a secret alliance on reality shows.

Unfortunately I think it would be impossible to recreate how great that first season was, and seasons 1 and 2 of Survivor in particular are why we have so many horrible reality shows today, but man, it was pretty damn awesome at the time.

(This is the opening credits for season 1. Oh man, nostalgia flashbacks.)

Okay, enough blogging, back to using my day off to grind the final few levels in WildStar!

This Week in Liore
Aug03

This Week in Liore

gamesyouguys This Week in Liore

 

The July season ended in Hearthstone early Friday morning and I had a final rank of 18, which is just fine with me. For some reason I feel compelled to up my game though, and I’d love to see something more like rank 15 in August. To that end I’ve been working on a variety of decks and I finally managed to kill Faerlina, my first successful Heroic Naxx boss, so I feel like I might be making some skill progress. (I used a cheap homage to egg zoo.)

Otherwise not much time to play games this week unfortunately, although I did run the tower defense Adventure in WildStar a few times with friends.

ireadthis1 This Week in Liore

 

I wrote a somewhat contentious blog post earlier this week (more on that later!) and there were some interesting posts on similar topics, including one from Syl on Your Last MMO Ever and the Troubles of Aging Together and one by Cuppy who Refuses to Believe that MMOs are Dead.

In non-game writing, Arthur Chu has been on an essay bender this week with two great pieces for the Daily Beast on The Case Against Cards Against Humanity and Justine Tunney, Neoreactionaries, and the New 1%.

inthekitchen This Week in Liore

 

No new recipes this week, but I did finally get to sample the Peach and Lemon Thyme Freezer Jam I made last weekend and it is honestly pretty amazing. I got the flavor idea from this recipe but I did mine differently: mash about 8 skinned, pitted peaches with a potato masher. Add a few squirts of lemon juice (fresh is preferred), 3/4 cup white sugar, 3/4 cup brown sugar, a package of freezer jam pectin, and roughly two tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme leaves. Done!

Freezer jam is totally the best thing to make in the summer because you never have to turn on your stove.

watchthis This Week in Liore

 

I know I linked a Dark Souls playthrough last week but this one deserved special mention because it’s done by folks from my favorite gaming podcast, Crate and Crowbar.

Jesse Cox and Jirard from The Completionist play indie platformer hit, Shovel Knight.

My guild is currently holding a Hearthstone tournament and one of the first showdowns was between frequent Spelunky streamer Kinch and Cat Context co-host Ellyndrial.

In non-game things I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy yesterday, and man that movie is fun. I think in retrospect I probably enjoyed it even more than The Avengers! I liked the goofball underdog vibe, and the world-building in Guardians was really good. There are plenty of aliens and panoramic space scenes, plus dogfights with spaceships make excellent use of modern 3D technology.

blogstuff This Week in Liore

 

This week on Herding Cats I did a quick post about the new Plague Wing in Hearthstone and some tools to make podcast editing with Audacity even faster. We also released episode 56 of Cat Context, which was mostly abut Destiny and Hearthstone, and I wrote a cranky post about how I feel MMOs and I may be going our separate ways.

There were a lot of really great comments for that post from folks who both agreed and disagreed with what I was saying, but one of my favorites was by Ocho, who said in part:

“Awwww. I feel you. The genre has absolutely changed, so much so that, and I hate to say it, it’s possible that what you are feeling is that the target audience itself has changed, and you are no longer a part of that target. And that’s okay. Things evolve, decades pass. MMO monogamists are becoming more and more an endangered species.”

I think his point is very true, and one that I should take to heart. Sometimes things you like just change into something you don’t like as much. It’s the nature of time.

socialnetworks This Week in Liore

 

My cat thinks I should stop taking so many selfies:

Bt60D3iIcAAaMya This Week in Liore

My Jam for the week is Disco 2000 by Pulp! This is one of my most favorite songs ever, and I just realized it’s almost 20 years old ahhhhhhh.

Meanwhile on Twitter I made a callout for MMO podcast owners that I want to repeat out here — get in touch if you’re not on that page and you’d like to be!

Faster Podcast Editing with Audacity Tools

Why am I posting on a Saturday?! What is happening?!

Oh right, it’s Blaugust, the evil scheme concocted by Belghast where bloggers try to post every day in August. I initially wasn’t going to participate, and I’m still not sure I’ll complete it, but I’ve had a bit of creative doldrums lately so… eh, let’s give it a shot.

Anyway, other people have asked me about this topic in the past and so here is my list of Audacity plugins and features that will vastly improve your quality of life as a podcast editor. These things combined have easily taken up to 3 hours off of my editing process, which is pretty significant.

Chris’s Dynamic Compressor
In the past I’ve talked about just using Levelator for drag-and-drop post-processing, but a few months ago I switched to Chris’s Dynamic Compressor and I’ve been very pleased with the change. Levelator is great but kind of a blunt tool — this compressor plugin is much more flexible and does a better job in my opinion. You will probably want to play around to find the right settings for your voices, and you still want to run the Audacity Normalizer filter too.

Nyquist Noise Gate
Discovering the existence of noise gates was a revelation for my editing. No more highlighting and silencing background noise! Just highlight part of the track with background sound and run the plugin on the “analyse” setting. Take the number it gives you and run it over the whole track. Voila, low level noise is now silence. Which works well with…

Truncate Silence
Props to Belghast for pointing this out on Twitter. Truncate Silence is a standard effect for Audacity that I never bothered exploring until recently and boy, was I wrong. This effect compresses silences that are a set length or longer. Run it over all your tracks at once to keep conversation moving along and automatically remove any trace of those “so I have nothing to say now” moments.

Sync Lock Tracks
This feature is under the Tracks menu in Audacity and is amazing for multi-person shows. Once you’ve got everyone’s voice tracks lined up, activate this feature and never worry again about messing up the sync during editing.

Cat Context 56: Destiny Beta and Hearthstone’s Curse of Naxxramas
Aug01

Cat Context 56: Destiny Beta and Hearthstone’s Curse of Naxxramas

cat context vertical Cat Context 56: Destiny Beta and Hearthstones Curse of Naxxramas

This week Liore, Ellyndrial and Arolaide sat down to talk about games! New games! Games like the Destiny beta and the Curse of Naxxramas patch for Hearthstone.

Elly and Aro both played the Destiny beta this past weekend, and they both seemed to have a good time. Aro thinks the game is beautiful but is not sold on it being console-only for a few reasons, while Elly is fully on board and ready for some shooting fun with friends. Meanwhile skeptic Liore is skeptical — Destiny may be fun, but it is actually an MMO?

Liore has been getting back into Hearthstone to enjoy the arrival of the Curse of Nexxramas patch. She and Elly give their impressions of the first wing, share a bit of Naxx boss strategy, and talk again about how viable Hearthstone is in a world of CCGs.

Also, Aro talks about the neat indie game SteamWorld Dig! Elly remembers that couch co-op is super fun! Liore is playing Kim Kardashian Hollywood and she’s only a tiny bit sorry!

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.

* The IMDB listing for Destiny.
* Paste Magazine on Kim Kardashian Hollywood and the Price of Fame
* Official website for SteamWorld Dig
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years

A Quick Look at the Plague Wing in Hearthstone
Jul30

A Quick Look at the Plague Wing in Hearthstone

The second wing of Hearthstone’s Curse of Naxxramas adventure launched last night at 11:59pm PST. (Way to make that Tuesday launch date, guys!) This wing features the familiar faces of Noth the Plaguebringer, Heigen the Dance Dancer, and Loatheb, plus class challenges for the Mage and Hunter decks. Each wing costs 700 gold or $6.99.

Although Blizzard didn’t outright say as much I suspect that the odd launch time was to avoid the servers crashing, but it didn’t seem to help. It took about 30 minutes for my order to be processed, and for most of that time the game reported that I had 700 less gold in my account but the wing was still locked. They even had to shut down the Hearthstone store complete at one point. So much for a late start not crashing the servers!

hearthstone closed A Quick Look at the Plague Wing in Hearthstone

(Editor’s Note: As I was reading over this post at 11:30am PST I saw someone on Twitter mention having difficulty completing their purchase, so these troubles may still be going on right now.)

Anyway, once I finally got access to the Plague Wing I found the normal mode bosses even easier than those in the previous Spider Wing. Here’s an overview, with spoilers of course if you care about that kind of thing:

Noth the Plaguebringer
Special Ability: A passive to raise a 1/1 skeleton whenever an enemy dies.
Strategy: I was a little worried about playing my aggro pally deck here because it has a lot of minions with 1 health that could be easily killed, but I one-shot this boss.
Card Reward: Stoneskin Gargoyle! 3 mana for a 1/4 drop that restores to full health at the start of your turn. I was pretty excited to get this card because it was really fun to play in the Druid challenge from the previous wing and can become an obnoxious early taunter.

Heigen the Unclean
Special Ability: 1 mana to do 2 damange to the “left-most enemy minion”.
Strategy: The first thing to note is that Heigen’s power means YOUR left, and he can do it when you only have one minion on the board. I had a little trouble with this guy until I used a special Priest deck I made for Heroic Maexxna that is almost entirely spells, offensive battlecries, and minions with charge. Any strategy that doesn’t rely too heavily on hitting things with minions will work here.
Card Reward: Unstable Ghoul. 2 mana for a 1/3 drop that has a taunt and a deathrattle which deals 1 damage to all minions. This seems like an interesting anti-aggro or zoo deck card?

Loatheb
Special Ability: 2 mana to do 3 damage to the enemy hero.
Strategy: Loatheb starts out with a whopping 75 health in normal mode, but do not panic! He will frequently play a Spore card, which is a 0/1 drop that gives all enemy minions +8 attack upon its death. Yes, +8. I one-shot Loatheb with my pally aggro deck (I recommend a cheap aggro deck for this boss) and I don’t care because it was so much fun, you guys. Turning a couple of tiny 1- and 2-drops into monsterous minions that hit for double digits is deeply satisfying.
Card Reward: Sludge Belcher. 5 mana for a 3/5 drop that has a taunt and a deathrattle which summons a 1/2 slime that also has taunt. Although it costs an additional mana, I feel like this might be a good upgrade for the classic Sen’jin Shieldmasta taunt (“Taz’dingo!”) with that deathrattle. Someone smarter than me will have to run the math, though.

Once you’ve killed all three of the Plague Wing bosses in normal mode you’ll get:

loatheb A Quick Look at the Plague Wing in Hearthstone

To which I said, “Wait, what?”. I will be the first to admit that I’m a total noob at Hearthstone theorycrafting, but this seems really lame and highly situational.

Anyway, tonight I’ll try the class challenges and maybe poke at the Heroic versions. While I don’t think I would pay $7 for a wing, I do enjoy the content and so far between the fights and the cards it’s definitely been worth my 700 gold.

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