2018 in review

My only gaming-related resolution for this year was to stop playing stuff when it isn’t fun anymore, and I adhered to that. Looking back I can say that, yes, I indeed had more fun and less headaches with gaming overall due to that, so mission accomplished.

One consequence was that I alternated between games even more than I did in the past. While that’s not an inherently bad thing it means that I still haven’t found a proper home game.

That being said, for the last two and a half weeks I’ve played the heck out of Black Desert Online again after shelving it in April, and I’m having tremendous fun right now.

To boldly go…where I hadn’t gone before. More on that soonish.

But let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

From January to April I played mostly Black Desert and EVE Online. In BDO I was very excited about the adventures that I had, and also about gathering, cooking and crafting. In EVE we had some great fights and participated in moon mining for the first time.

But mostly we just kept shooting stuff

I also mused about randomness, player made music  and non-consensual PvP in MMOs.

In April I started to play Path of Exile again, which absolutely dominated my playtime until mid-August. I talked about how much fun I have playing summoner characters, playing the Incursion challenge league and things that I love about the game in general.

I also killed Queen Atziri for the first time…only 4 1/2 years late

In June I celebrated my blog’s first birthday.

In August two things happened. One: the venerable Belghast revived Blaugust, and I signed up intending to reach the goal of posting every day during that month, which I managed to do. Two: I returned to Everquest II after a break of almost seven years. I fell in love with it again and wrote quite a bunch of posts about it since then.

The terrific ‘Crafting Epic 2.0’ netted me this sweet mount a couple weeks ago

During Blaugust I also talked about playing American Football, our participation in EVE’s Alliance Tournament and some more MMO-related stuff like level scaling, soloing and faction grinds.

In November International Picture Posting Month came along, and I posted a couple of themed screenshot collections.

During the year I also expanded my fledgeling columns Memorable Moments, where I share gaming related adventures I had that are special to me, and Stay awhile and listen, thoughts about music that I like.

As I said in the beginning I recently picked up Black Desert again, but I also still play EQII and EVE regularly.

The gaming industry in general and MMO industry in particular gave us a crapton of headscratchers and serious fuckups this year, I think more so than in any other year before. I don’t want to talk about that though, this is supposed to be a positive post after all.

Ok, well, I’ll just say this: yes, Blizzard, I indeed do have a phone, but that’s none of your goddamn business because in my opinion quality games and fucking phones don’t have anything to do with each other!

Anyway. I don’t really have any resolutions for 2019 except continuing to have fun doing what I love, and I feel exceptionally blessed that, barring any disasters happening to me, I’ll be able to do just that.

I wish you all a happy and above all healthy year 2019!

Blaugust Reborn comes to an end


Today is the last day of Blaugust Reborn and assuming that nothing went wrong with scheduling I’ve met the goal of publishing a post every day. Yay!

It was a very interesting, fun and also challenging experience. Until July 31st I had published one post every 9,5 days on average. Going from there to one per day was a steep slope, and I had to leave my comfort zone in more than one regard.

I once said that I deem most things happening to me not worthy to be written about. This hasn’t really changed, so I had to overcome the fear of writing something completely trivial that’s just wasting my and any potential reader’s time more than once. When I look back at those 31 posts I luckily can’t find one that I feel wasted at least my time. I don’t know about yours of course. Not all posts quite meet my standards though (had I had the time I’d thought of a better title for some posts for example), so the pressure of having to meet the deadlines was indeed noticable.

Another thing I had to learn was to refrain from writing until I’m ’empty’, cramming everything I have to say about a certain topic into one post.

In this post of his Bhagpuss said “This is what Blaugust does to you. I’m already wishing I’d split the Bless First Impressions posts into four chapters instead of just two.”

Indeed it does, and it’s actually a good thing. Not only does it leave something to write about for another time, I feel it also makes for posts that are much easier to read and digest (I wish I had already known this when I wrote this 3,400 word extravaganza).

Now, where do I go from here?

I know that I’ll continue to write, and of course I’ll also continue to read the blogs of many fellow Blaugustans, some of which I probably wouldn’t have discovered without this event.

I won’t keep posting every day though. While it obviously isn’t impossible it was quite a strain sometimes, and writing is supposed to relax and not stress me out.

I will start to post with some kind of regularity, something I didn’t do before Blaugust, so that readers will know what to expect. I’ll make it my goal to post at least once a week, twice if I have more to talk about.

The first post after this one will appear on September 10th at the earliest though, because we’re still on internet-free vacation until the 9th.

In closing I’d like to say Thank You to all of you once more. Thank you for reading my stuff, for commenting, liking and for coming back. Thank you for writing so many wonderful, insightful, delightful and awesome(ful) posts.

Above all thank you Belghast for reviving this great event and doing the heavy lifting for all of us.

See you folks around.


Appreciating the makers of our favourite pastimes


It’s Blaugust Reborn, and we now have Developer Appreciation Week. So today I want to say Thank You to some groups of people and one very special individual.

First I want to thank Grinding Gear Games for their outstanding work on Path of Exile. Not only did they develop the in my opinion best ARPG and true successor to Diablo II, they have continued to enhance it relentlessly without ever slowing down.

That this extraordinary game is still free to play without any kind of content-limitations is nothing short of amazing. All the more because it’s cash shop doesn’t sell a single item that comes even remotely close to P2W territory. It’s expensive, sure, but I imagine that’s literally the price you have to pay if you want to fund an ambitious game like this just by selling cosmetics and stash tabs.


Next I’d like to say thank you to CCP Games for EVE Online, and generally for being the crazy mavericks they are. While it’s true that none of their projects since EVE has turned out to be a big success – and I’m still a bit grumpy about World of Darkness personally – I still admire that they’re always trying to push the envelope and break new grounds.

EVE itself is a very unique game that I love despite its flaws, and I’m glad that CCP never gave in to the temptation of attracting more players by creating safe zones or something. Lots of changes made the game more accessible and even outright easier over the years (remember the time before warp-to-zero?), but compared to most MMOs it’s still relatively hardcore. That has always been their vision for the game, and thankfully they stick to it.

exefile 2018-01-17 20-48-40-212

Lastly I want to thank Emily “Domino” Taylor. She was Everquest II’s main dev for all things tradeskills and housing between 2007 and 2017. That pretty much says it all.

Oh ok then, I’ll elaborate.

Domino’s work and dedication is the main reason why Everquest II has an astonishing wealth of crafting and gathering related quests. Seriously, look at that list. Those aren’t your standard ‘craft 5 of this, get XP’ quests other games have. Those exist too, like the repeatable rush orders I mentioned, but aren’t even worthy to be listed in that timeline. Most of the ‘real’ quests have expansive storylines that evolve as you complete your tasks.

When the Rise of Kunark expansion gave players their first Epic Weapon questline crafters got their Tradeskill Epic to match. It really is an epic quest, and so are the rewards.


EQII’s player housing is, to me, the best there is. I’m not even talking about the abodes themselves or the placement mechanics, though those are great too.

What makes it really shine is the unbelievably huge amount of available items. Eq2wikia lists 9,732 entries in the “House Item (Item Type)” category, and that number doesn’t surprise me at all.

Of course many can be crafted by carpenters (which is why that’s my main tradeskill class). But you also get lots and lots as quest rewards and mob drops. Lore and Legend quests, which let you learn about specific creature types (by killing them, naturally), each give you a trophy and an actually readable book. The reward item of all Heritage quests can be transformed into a housing item if you don’t want to wear it. Seasonal events shower you with housing stuff. The list goes on.


Without Domino EQII just wouldn’t be the game that it is today, so again: thank you!

Spring cleaning and gathering frenzy

Some fellow Blaugustans, Bhagpuss and Shintar among them, recently talked about inventory management in MMOs.

Since I just returned to EQII after a long hiatus it’s become a very relevant topic to me too right now – out of sheer necessity, because my stuff is a total mess.

I’m a relatively tidy person in real life insofar that everything has it’s place. I put my keys, my phone etc. always where they belong. It makes me feel comfortable and, more importantly, I can’t find anything otherwise.

I try to do the same with my belongings in the games I play. As has been pointed out though, it’s just…so…much…stuff…

I always start by sorting pieces that thematically or practically belong together into the same container. Inevitably that container will fill up, so I expand to a second one. I can’t put it right next to the first one because that spot is already occupied by something important, and so on, and so forth. Before I even know it my carefully thought out system is in shambles and I have no idea where anything is anymore.

This is the state I had left things in. It didn’t bother me right away though, I was too busy having fun. Then I decided to do a bit of gathering.

Gathering, too, has always been a fun and relaxing activity for me in EQII. The only gripe I had back in the day was that farming spell rares (or rares in general) could get pretty tedious at times because drop rates were low. They still might be at the currently highest tier, but boy, do they drop now in lower tiers.

I decided to farm tier 8 spell rares and make a quick run around Icebound Pass in Kylong Plains a couple of times before going to bed. The rares started to roll in almost immediately. Sometimes the game hadn’t yet played the sound effect for finding one when I’d already found the next. I was like on crack, I couldn’t stop.

After about 45 minutes it was really getting late though and I forced myself to quit. These were the spoils:


Wow! That’s seven Expert spells for Lakisa’s Inquisitor right there, also four for my Bruiser, and a whole lot extra for sale or crafting furniture. Granted, my Warlock’s wearing the Cloak of the Harvester, the Earring of Solstice, the Blessed Coldain Prayer Shawl and has skilled every gathering related AA ability there is. He’s chock-full of bonuses, is what I’m saying. Still, this is more than impressive compared to what I’ve been used to.

On the next day the moment came to stow these (as well as all the common and semi-rare stuff I gathered) away. That’s when I discovered the mess everything was in and decided to do something about it.

First I crafted a couple bigger strongboxes with my carpenter and made space for them in the shared bank. Then I logged in all my characters one by one and placed all mats they had except for their respective current tier into those boxes, sorted by tier and rarity. For the first time ever since I started playing EQII I have all tier 1-9 commons and rares (except for all those fruits, vegetables, meat and fish because f*ck those) in one place, neatly stacked and sorted.

Two rows per tier, each type of mat at it’s designated spot

Feels great!

My next venture will be to gather everything that’s missing or in scant stock (< 200) up to tier 10, so I’ll never have to be like ‘damn, where do I get that stuff now?’ again when I accept a low tier tradeskill quest or want to craft something for an alt.

A passsion from abroad


Blaugust Reborn is fully underway, and it’s ‘get to know each other week’. So I’m going to talk a little bit about myself today.

I already raved about two of my biggest passions, namely gaming and music, here and here, no need to delve further into those just now. There are some more about which I haven’t talked about at all yet. One of those is American football.

During the mid-nineties I watched quite a lot of American sports on TV, mainly NBA basketball and NFL football. Basketball wasn’t new to me, it’s a popular sport in Germany and I had also played myself at school. Football was indeed something new, and very different. I was fascinated and tried to learn the rules by watching the games attentively.

German TV changed a lot during the following years though, and American sports all but disappeared from the normal broadcasting networks. At best you could watch a weekly show that summarized a whole game week in 30 minutes, or not even that. Germany’s biggest pay-per-month network aired a handful of games per week, but it was expensive and their primary focus was always soccer, which doesn’t interest me in the slightest. Hence football fell off my radar despite my enthusiasm.

Fast forward to September 2015. Lakisa and I were on vacation in California and the surrounding states. You know, LA, San Francisco, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon, Zion and so on. The usual stuff tourists do. Whenever we’re in the US we like to watch a bit of american TV in the evening to relax and see what’s up. The selection of available networks varies from hotel to hotel. One evening we had FOX (I believe) and football was on. I was like ‘cool, I haven’t watched football in ages’ and left it on for a while.

I kind of expected Lakisa to ask me to switch channels again at some point. Instead she started asking questions about the game every now and then. Why did they do that? What happened just now? As anybody who knows me can attest I’m more than happy to give a detailed lecture on topics that interest me when given the chance, so I did. Amazingly she didn’t get sick of it, instead asking more questions and generally enjoying herself.

When we came back to the hotel after our next day’s excursion the first thing she asked after showering: is football on today? A fan was born!

When it was time to return home she asked if we’d be able to watch football there. I really didn’t know, so we did some research. Astonishingly a free cable network had just aquired the rights to air two Sunday games live, what a coincidence. We were on fire now though, and two games a week wasn’t enough. So we bought the NFL Game Pass. It was pretty expensive in Europe back then, but we watched so many games that I feel we got our money’s worth. The price has been reduced to a relatively moderate 160€ per year by now, and we have just renewed our subscription for our fourth season in a row.

Our home from home’s logo

We haven’t settled on one specific team we’re hardcore fans of, in case you’re wondering. But since watching a game is always more exciting when you’re rooting for either team we picked some that we like more than others. We’re fans of the Cincinnati Bengals (and hence despise the Steelers of course), the Seattle Seahawks and to a lesser extent the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints. After watching the third season of All or Nothing recently I imagine we’ll also have a closer look at the Dallas Cowboys this season, because everyone in that organisation (save Zeke Elliot maybe) seemed very likable to us.

Preseason has already begun, but of course we can’t wait for the regular season to start on September 6th. We’ll be on vacation until September 9th, so we’ll miss the opening game, but we’ll watch at least the first half of Seahawks@Broncos (or maybe rather Cowboys@Panthers?) live in the evening when we’re back home. Can’t wait.

Until then at least I won’t have to do without season football though, because my own team has two more games to play in August.

‘What was that, your own team?’ I hear you ask. ‘Aren’t you, like, too old for that?’

More on that tomorrow. 🙂

Blaugust 2018 – here we go!


It’s the first of August, so the blogging extravaganza that is Blaugust Reborn kicks off today.

The last week of July was Blaugust Prep Week, and our illustrious squad of mentors have posted lots of great advice. Thank you guys and girls, it’s much appreciated!  Also a big shoutout to Belghast again for bringing this to life and taking us along for the ride.

After reading all those insightful posts I’ve realized one thing above all: I should have put more thought into giving my blog a good name.

As I’ve said before I started to blog basically just for myself, so it didn’t seem to matter all that much at the time. Now there are actually people who read my writings, and I wish I had chosen more wisely.

I’m still very happy with my alias though. I’ve been using the handle Mailvaltar for a very long time now, and I still feel it represents me well. For context, it was the name of a (long defunct) death metal band in my hometown, who allegedly borrowed it from an evil warlock in some b-list horror movie no one’s ever heard of. If that’s true props to them, because I can’t think of a cooler and more self-ironic way to name a death metal band. In addition to this background I always liked the name’s look and sound, and to many people I’ve played online games with over the years I’ve just been “Mail” on voice chat, which is pretty convenient.

A friend of mine made this for me when I played America’s Army long ago

So I’ll definitely not change that, but I still feel the blog needs a proper name now. After all I don’t like it when a music album has only the band’s name and no name of it’s own either.

The main goal of Blaugust is to post every day for a month (and to have fun reading and writing stuff of course). Finding a fitting name for this blog is my personal secondary goal now.

Blaugust Reborn is here, and I’m in!

I’ve been reading gaming blogs for give or take six years now, so I already was aware of Blaugust – an initiative by and for bloggers, with the goal to write a blog post every single day for a full month. I didn’t blog myself back then yet, so for me as a reader it ‘just’ meant more content for my consumption. Thanks for that, by the way!

In 2017 Blaugust took a year off, so I didn’t have to decide if I wanted to participate. At the time I most definitely wouldn’t have dared to, what with just having started to blog and not yet knowing if I’d hang in there at all.

This year Belghast is reviving Blaugust, and after contemplating the pros and possible cons for a bit I’ve decided to give it a shot.

Banner taken from Tales of the Aggronaut

To be honest, I’m intimidated. By signing up for this I’ve become part of a community that has been blogging for ages, in some cases on multiple outlets at once. Many of these people I admire quite a lot for their writing skills and tenacity.

I’m also a bit anxious how I will go about posting every day, when until now I’ve only been posting about once every ten days on average.

But: I’m very much looking forward to it! I’m sure it’s an opportunity for me to learn a lot about writing, and maybe I’ll also finally get around to write about some other things than just the game(s) I’m playing right now.

In any case this is gonna be a ride!

If you’d like to participate Bel has all the info you need here. Should you just want to indulge in the organiser’s and participants’ labour, he also lists (and links to) every new participant every day, and we’ll probably link each other on our respective blogrolls soon (if we don’t already).