Well, happy New Year to all reading this. 2013 was a pretty good year overall. Nothing major went wrong, no new equipment failures (though I was scared for my desktop machine for a while, like I mentioned in the last blog), and my debt is down even after paying for an expensive new machine.

Azuna is working out fine, after about three weeks. Windows 8.1 works pretty well as a touch-centric OS, but I just don’t see its interface as being viable on a desktop. Needless to say, Horo is sticking with Windows 7 (which has the best looking UI I’ve seen). At two pounds, it’s a bit heavy as an eReader, but it does work as one. We had the gang over last Saturday and played a couple turns of Virgin Queen, and I used Azuna to have a PDF of the current rules open, and the ability to search for terms came in handy at least twice.

Mostly, I’ve been taking it to work, and set it up as my podcast listening machine. Normally, I have to schedule everything out so that I don’t start a podcast that I can’t finish before I go home and turn the machine off. Now, it’s all on Azuna, and I could continue on the train. (I haven’t actually done that yet, though I did finish listening to one at home.) The first day, Azuna ran out of power around noon from running the WiFi continuously, but other than that has managed to get through a day without being plugged in. It did need to be plugged in during VQ, and I’m not really sure what I did that drained it so much faster. I’ve tested Europa Universalis IV (my newest non-MMO game), and it loads noticeably faster on Azuna than on Horo, but it really needs a mouse to play without frustration.

Speaking of podcasts, I had pretty much run out of things to listen to around March and decided to subscribe to a few new things, and re-listen to a couple of the better podcasts (notably Three Moves Ahead, and The History of Rome). Along with discovering more new good history podcasts along the way, this has taken a lot longer than I thought, and my listening is now in mid-May, with some… 500 episodes to go. It’s a good thing I don’t listen to current events.

As usual, I’ve had the last week plus off. I haven’t gotten as much as I would like done, as Neverwinter scuttled a fair amount of free time with a winter event that offered a nice reward: a green-quality healing companion (which I’ve been needing), but it was very labor-intensive to get the reward. I finally did it for my main character yesterday (the event has another week to go, but I realized I wasn’t going to have the time to spend after going back to work), but haven’t had any chance to go adventuring on my other two characters past the first day off.

They also released a little mini-game for the web portal of Neverwinter a couple weeks ago (Adventures on the Sword Coast). Your various companions form a party and go through a small dungeon or other hostile area, defeating encounters as they go. It’s actually a fairly clever simple dice game. Something to do while managing the crafting on the web portal.

The main event has been trying out Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. There was actually a sale just before Christmas, so me and Smudge got it for the price of the one-month subscription that comes with the game.

First: it’s pretty. Not only is the world pretty, but the modeling is well done. A few years ago, Smudge pondered doing a blog featuring all the technical glitches with modeling and and animation that she spots in the MMOs she plays. I wish she’d done it, it’s the type of technical criticism the industry desperately needs. WoW could have kept her going with weekly posts easily, Neverwinter is probably worse (but has fewer things overall to have problems), and SW:TOR is only somewhat better than WoW (as I recall), but Square knows its design and animation, so there’s very little to pick out here. On the other hand, there’s only voice acting on occasion (and oddly, you’ll get three lines, and then the rest of the scene is silent), and the questing is straight ‘take the quest’ without the conversation options of most recent MMOs.

Game-wise… it is laid back. It’s a much calmer and slower MMO than we’ve gotten used to, and shows a lot of its FF roots. Took a little bit to gel with the combat system, but now that I know what to expect, it’s not bad (we’ll have to wait on whether it’s good for higher level, I think). The multiclassing is interesting (especially as all the crafting and gathering are their own classes. The first few hours are spent in the main city without any combat going on, but it’s opening out into the standard combat-quest heavy MMO. Smudge is loving the crafting system, while I’m less enamored of it (I do actually kind of like the long-term management model of SWTOR and Neverwinter; now if only they didn’t kill them with other major problems). I’m not sure if we’ll be subscribing yet, but we’ve got another couple weeks to figure it out. I have discontinued my SWTOR subscription for the moment, and money is mostly going to Neverwinter at the moment (and we really need to get back to the campaigns there; darn winter festival).

Christmas itself was fairly good. I spent more on presents than I really wanted to, but it was all worth it. I didn’t get much myself. Some money, a neat shirt, things like that. Except Smudge, who wanted to get me some Kindle eBooks to encourage me to use Azuna, and made a great card to go with them after fighting with the Amazon website for a couple hours.

My game purchases were a bit slow this year, with nothing at all until March. I did, for the first time, pre-order a computer game this year (Europa Universalis IV, which was worth it). My board game purchases are slowing down to a mere trickle, though I am playing around with the concept of updating my older ASL materials to the current versions (which do look better), but that’s an expensive project. As it is, I expect to be purchasing some RPG materials on PDF, now that I have a portable platform for it.

Looking at the blog again, I had 58 posts with forty-seven tagged as gaming, nineteen review, eighteen ASL, nine books, eight history, seven Paradox, six C&C Ancients, four D&D, Forgotten Realms, three Europa Universalis, Space Empires, two life, Hearts of Iron, and one each horo, azuna, Crusader Kings, GTS, Victoria, SFB, FtG, CoR, Clash of Giants, Pursuit of Glory, NQoS, Circus Maximus, Red Empire, Flying Colors, Dominant Species.

The beginning of the year was dominated by the end of the series of old ASL games getting posted. The number of posts is down for the year, but without the weekly ASL series, that’s not a surprise. I can probably expect to drop closer to 50 next year. But the real interesting part is the ‘review’ section. It is only up a few from last year, but the number of books is down (I read fewer Osprey books last year), and I’ve started reviewing games again. Finally getting the Paradox series going is very good, though they all end up longer than I initially intend. But it’s a detailed look at how the games work, so they’re going to be long. I need to get back to EU: Rome.

I’m still ‘Reading My Way Through History’. I’m stalled at present by some books on earlier periods (this happens more and more often for some reason…). Currently, I’m reading The Fourth Part of the World, a very good book on the Waldseemüler map of 1517 and a number of related subjects. But my ‘current date’ has moved up from 1500 to 1600, so it’s still real progress.