I woke up this morning to discover that I was prodded by two excellent bloggers — Contains Moderate Peril and Braxwolf — to answer their questions as part of “The Liebster Awards”. As Brax put it, these are “the blogging equivalent of a 1970’s chain letter” that caters (good naturedly) to “a particular brand of narcissism”.

As you well know, dear reader, I do enjoy talking about myself.

Both Roger and Brax presented 10 questions, so in the interest of fairness I’ll just randomly choose 5 from each. (Sure, I could answer all 20 questions, but who am I, Belghast?!).

1. How did you get started blogging? (Brax)
So, I was reading a copy of Wired magazine way back in 1999 and they had a tiny little article about this thing called weblogs where people “logged the web”. I was fascinated and decided to make one of my own, named Pith and Vinegar. Back then weblogs were less long form writing and more about finding weird corners of the internet and sharing links along with a bit of commentary. And there weren’t very many of us — you seriously knew EVERYONE who had one. We had to code our own comment systems. People would get in passionate fights over whether “blog” was appropriate shorthand for weblog, and also whether you pronounced it “web-log” or “wee-blog”. It was pretty old school.

2. Do you have faith in your countries political institutions? (Roger)
I do, actually! (Well, I do about Canada. The US is pretty messed up.) We’re coming up on a decade under a terrible conservative government in Canada who has been doing their best to ruin everything (selling off public institutions, removing rights and freedoms) but change is coming and I have faith in the Canadian people’s sense of good. We believe in socialized medicine, we believe in gay rights, we believe in protecting the environment. We believe in being polite! We’re not perfect by any stretch — we have a disgusting history of racism against First Nations people, for example — but I believe in Canadians.

3. Do you regret anything that you’ve written or said on a podcast? (Brax AND Roger)
A friend asked me this for a podcast retrospective not long ago (hi Corr) and .. honestly no. I realize that’s not the most humble answer, but there you go! I’m actually really careful about what I post on my blog, which is not to say that everything I write is correct or even smart but that I try to be honest and factual when facts are available. I’m super picky about accurate word choice. The only thing I really regret on podcasts is any moment where I start to blather. Oh, and every time I start to talk I open with “Yeeeeah”. STOP SAYING YEAH.

4. What is the origin of your blogging name? (Brax)
“Liore” is just a name I made up for Everquest that I liked. But allow me to talk about the name of my blog for a second. You see, back when I created this site in 2008 I was the guild leader of a semi-hardcore raiding guild named Machiavellis Cat. (Why Machiavellis Cat? That’s a story for another day.) I wanted to write a blog about my experiences as a guild leader, so the name Herding Cats seemed perfect. In actual fact, Herding Cats is a terrible name for a blog. It has nothing to do with what I write about now in my post-WoW years, it doesn’t indicate gaming in any way, and it’s such a popular phrase that it doesn’t stand out on a page or in search engines.

To compound the issue I decided to start a podcast that was initially going to feature a rotating cast of guesthosts from my guild, aka Cats, and so we went with the clever name Cat Context. Cat Context. Sigh. At least it’s unique I suppose but it still makes no damn sense to most people.

Long story short, don’t let me name your blog.

6. Do you find common place social conventions, such as going for a drink after work, or inviting colleagues round to dinner, a pleasure or a chore? (Roger)
So, I have been diagnosed with strong social anxiety and much more mild ADHD (hyperactivity rather than inattention) which means that making boring small talk with awkward strangers is pretty much my worst nightmare. I enjoy very much hanging out in person with friends but I have spent my entire professional career mastering the ability to weasel out of “work retreats” or other torturous concepts. I do. not. like. being. bored.

7. Which blogger would you like to meet in real life and why? (Brax) / Is there a blogger or podcaster who has quit the scene or retired that you would like to see make a return? (Roger)
I want to meet Syl because she seems like a lovely person with a curious mind who I would get along with like gangbusters. I also have never met my Cat Context co-host Arolaide in person and oh my god we are so overdue for that. Aro and I joke that she is the bad twin and I am the good one, and I know we could get into so much trouble in person.

I’d say Roger for the podcaster who quit, but we know CMP is returning. Umm, How to Murder Time? No wait, they came back too. Pink Pigtail Inn? No, she writes a great movie blog now. Does anyone ever quit blogging or podcasting for good? :)

8. What is the thing you like most about yourself? (Brax)
I think I’m smart, and I think I write well. But beyond that, I’m incredibly loyal. Once I’ve mentally sorted you as one of “my people” — and that can be a dear close friend or just my favorite barista — I will go to great lengths to help you and, well, pardon the language but I will totally fuck shit up if I think someone is picking on you or being a jerk. I’m not great at sticking up for myself, but do not mess with my people.

9. Do you ever find that your own personal values, principles and ethics put at odds with the wider gaming community? (Roger)
Ah hahahahahahahaha. Hahahahahahah! … Yes.

Look, I operate under the very simple rule of “Be Excellent To Each Other”. Sometimes people are having a crappy day and just need someone to be nice to them. The general wider gaming community, on the other hand, seems to think that everyone is a terrible scrub who needs to die in a fire. We are indeed “at odds”.

10. If you were to start up a video game company, what would you name it? (Brax)
Totally Legit Games! (My freelance company is called Totally Legit Publishing.)

11. You are standing behind someone who is unaware of your presence. Armed only with a seven inch filleting knife, what is the most efficient way to kill them? (Roger)


Okay, so according to tradition I have to tag in more victims and share some questions of my own. To wit:

1. What was your very first MMO character and why did you choose that race?
2. Would you rather have a tiny elephant as a pet, or a tiny kangaroo?
3. Do you overuse any figures of speech in your writing or speaking?
4. You can snap your fingers and visit any city in the world. Where are you?
5. What was your first (real life) pet? Who is your favorite pet?
6. You’re on a desert island and only have one album, one movie, and one book. What are they?
7. Why did you start a blog?
8. What’s your favorite video game soundtrack?
9. Which writers have been the most influential in your own writing?
10. What is your favorite virtual hat in any game?

And I tag in … Arolaide and Ellyndrial, Party Business, Clockwork, and Azuriel.

Thanks for all the fun, Maxis

Thanks for all the fun, Maxis

Back when I was a kid, my parents would occasionally let me rent a Nintendo from the local video store. (Yes children, we had to go to a store to rent videos.) There were a few games that I would rent over and over again, like Super Mario Bros. 2 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but one of my all-time favorites was SimCity. I can remember plenty of nights where I would actually fall asleep on the living room floor next to the warm wood stove after my parents went to bed, controller in hand and visions of skyscrapers in my head. Just one more year. One more. Okay, one more.

Somewhere around that time I picked up the cheat code for infinite cash. (I’m not even sure how I learned that — it’s hard to remember how this stuff got passed around in the days before the internet.) I quickly gave myself as much money as I could use and built and built.. and realized that I wasn’t having as much fun as usual. It was SimCity that taught me that games aren’t just about winning, they’re about the journey along the way to the finish line.

oldsimcity 500x333 Thanks for all the fun, Maxis

And that wasn’t even my first SimCity experience: I remember playing it in black and white on the Apple ][ in elementary school. Nor would it be my last! Last year I got SimCity 4 Thanks for all the fun, Maxis (affiliate link) going with a bunch of cool mods and just like when I was 12 I stayed up almost all night building and waiting to see what my loyal citizens would think of the changes. Just one more year. One more.

Today EA shut down Maxis Emeryville, the main Maxis studio and the one responsible for SimCity among other titles. I know that SimCity 2013 and The Sims 4 didn’t do very well, I suspect in large part due to the dumb specifications created by EA like being always-online and DLC-ready but honestly I don’t know the behind the scenes details. It doesn’t really matter.

For all of their recent missteps, this blog would probably not exist if it wasn’t for Maxis. I wouldn’t have fallen in love with games as much as I did as a kid. Those hours I put into the various versions of SimCity all through my life became hours I put into Tropico 4 and Roller Coaster Simulator and .. pretty much all sim games.

So thank you, Maxis. Thanks for creating a series of games that inspired me, entertained me, kept me up all night, and in a small way helped shape me into the person I am today.

But seriously, how do you reticulate splines?

My Keybinds

My Keybinds

Mr. Murf has a post up right now talking about his MMO keybinds, and asking others to contribute their own. I’ve been way too lazy to devise my own things to write about this week*, so I’ll take Murf up on his topic!

* (What if I told you that Blizzard debuted a gold-for-sub token and… everyone thought it was fine? Seriously. I got nothin’.)

Gamepads Forever

Way back in 2009 I got my first gamepad at the suggestion of a fellow raider in my guild. It was a Belkin n52 My Keybinds (affiliate link), and I used it for years until it literally fell apart. My next (and current) gamepad was a Logitech G13 My Keybinds (affiliate link) and while it’s worked fine I would give it a B+ grade overall because it’s a little too big for my hands and the info screen thing is totally useless and just takes up more precious physical desktop space. The classic N52 is now discontinued, but I would absolutely buy one again otherwise.

Anyway, on to buttons!

g13 395x500 My Keybinds

I try as much as possible to use each button for the same kind of spells between games to improve my muscle memory and speed.

I stick to the traditional WASD buttons, although in my case they’re G4, G10, G11, and G12. G3 and G5 are left and right strafe. I know that for truly efficient movement I shouldn’t have buttons for backpedaling or turning left and right, instead just using G4 to move forward and doing all turning with my mouse. However it’s just not enough of a difference for me to care, particularly as a filthy casual. I’m pretty good at maneuvering with my lame turn buttons after all of these years, and I’m sticking to it.

G18 is always my main instant cast spell (usually HoTs or DoTs). It’s very easy for me to reach back and hit this button while I’m moving around.

G17, G16, and G15 are my main spells with longer casting time. In most cases, particularly as a healer, I have to be still while casting these so it doesn’t matter if they require my movement fingers. G8 is always my dispel or purge or whatever. G6 is always for procs — when a spell becomes active as a proc or gains potency or has a reduced mana cost it goes here. The rest of the buttons I assign as needed — maybe one or two, but generally the above takes care of all the battle-critical stuff.

My hand is too small to use the thumbstick for movement, so instead I assigned all directions to TAB. As a note, because I played a healer for years I didn’t have TAB assigned to a button for a long time and that was totally a mistake. Healers, get TAB targeting working for you and throw around some DoTs like a rad shadow priest.

The little button to the left of the thumbstick is always bound to jump. There are two types of MMO players: those who jump constantly and those who do not, and I am very much part of the former group.

Cat Context 70: Final Fantasy 14, Kickstarter Fatigue, Games for New Parents

Cat Context 70: Final Fantasy 14, Kickstarter Fatigue, Games for New Parents

cat context vertical Cat Context 70: Final Fantasy 14, Kickstarter Fatigue, Games for New Parents

Like Cat Context? Check out the The Gaming and Entertainment Network for more great shows!

This week Liore, Ellyndrial, and Arolaide talk about games! MMOs, even! I know, we’re as surprised as you guys.

New father Elly has been in the market for games that he can play with one hand and no time commitments. He talks about some of the successes in this regard, like Broken Age, and some other potential point-and-click titles. In the meantime, Elly’s been playing Dynasty Warriors 8 and he reports on how he’s been enjoying the game.

Liore starts an unplanned side discussion about Kickstarter and Patreon. Are we fully into a Kickstarter fatigue, at least for gamers? As an enthusiastic participant in the past, is Elly a little more cautious about crowd-funding games now? And how does Patreon compare to Kickstarter in how willing we are to part with our money?

But enough of all that, let’s talk about Final Fantasy XIV. Both Aro and Liore are enthusiastic about the game, and we .. gently.. suggest to Elly that he give it a shot.

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

Scenes from the Golden Saucer

Scenes from the Golden Saucer

(Looking for the latest episode of Cat Context? It’s been delayed by a day, and that delay sure had nothing to do with the subject of this post! Nope, nothing!)

Last night the Manderville Golden Saucer opened in Eorzea and welcomed in all citizens level 15 and higher for fun and games. I had a great time sampling some of the attractions, like coming in second place on my initial chocobo race and winning a small jackpot at the lottery. (Or as it’s called in Eorzea, a “cactpot”. Yes, really.) Of course I had to try my hand at Triple Triad, and I even started running around the world looking for NPCs to throw down against.

The Golden Saucer content is not only fun, but also as with everything else in FFXIV it looks great. Behold! (Click the images for large versions.)

cactuscasino 500x281 Scenes from the Golden Saucer

After logging on last night I got a quest from a fellow by the main portal in Ul’dah that gave an airship ticket to the Golden Saucer. I love how it looks from the outside.

ff 500x245 Scenes from the Golden Saucer

The inside reminded me a lot of modern day Earth casinos — all gleaming metal and fancy carpets — only GC has more giant stained glass windows.

cardslarge 500x292 Scenes from the Golden Saucer

Of course everyone showed up to check the new place out. The Triple Triad tables were packed with players.

casinoselfie 500x281 Scenes from the Golden Saucer

Crescende takes a selfie from the upper floor of the card room.

ttgameboard 500x220 Scenes from the Golden Saucer

The Triple Triad game board! The basic rules of the game are fairly straightforward, but there are regional variations that can make it quite confusing.

(PS: For more screenshots from yesterday’s Golden Saucer patch, go visit Mr. Murf.)

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