Category Archives: I like shinies

Black Desert Online: My Character Templates (I’m getting better!)

So I was whining a bit the other day about how complex and sometimes fussy the BDO character creator is. While this is still true, I believe I have vastly improved my understanding of the tool by now. There is honestly very little you cannot do with the faces. I’ve sunk some more time into creating female characters for several of the classes and love how some of them turned out.

I was going to make these available over at BDO templates but the approval process is either very slow (I can only imagine how many entries they must get by now) or it’s broken for me… I decided to just make them available here in case anyone’s interested. All my characters end up looking like sisters – that’s because I am a raven haired lady in real life who’s always had a thing for the Morgana character (aka Morrigan or Morgan le Fay) from Arthurian legend. I like witches, basically smart and powerful women, I like magic in fantasy games and I like odd eyes!

The thing with other people’s templates in BDO is also that they provide great starting grounds for your own creations. So by all means, if you enjoy any of my below designs you can download them as zip-file here and customize away – have fun!

Ranger, witch and sorceress templates:


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Black Desert Character Creator: Difficult Business!

It may come as surprise to no one that I am/was among the players most interested in BDO’s character creation process ever since Pearl Abyss released previews. At a first and second glance, the customization options seem wild: change the size and color of your iris, reshape hair – that kind of stuff. Halfway through the developer probably realized that creating long-lasting characters would prove such an immense undertaking for many players at launch, that they decided to make BDO’s character creation tool available as standalone (get it here now). That in itself deserves some kudos and so do FFA online competitions and template sharing hubs made possible thanks to the devs taking MMO character creation seriously.

Unfortunately that’s where my enthusiasm ends because two hours in, I am not feeling the customization tool for Black Desert. The problems are manyfold: for some trivial things the options are endless while not for others (about 20 ways to customize every part of the eyes, only so many hair dues and colors), face editor controls are dodgy and frustrating to handle and the sub-menus are bewildering. Despite so many sliders, it is in fact quite hard and very time intensive to alter default looks: they are very defined, there’s no randomization option to start off from and yes, gender-locks. I could live with the latter myself but I am disappointed where faces and hair are concerned: the choices you are given for every class are very sameish, there are not that many choices and you can’t greatly alter hair either unless you like to do weird things with your bangs (also clipping errors) –


It took me an hour to alter the sorceress face from left to right. Pic 4 shows weird hair controls.

You can easily create ludicrously looking and ugly characters for that online event linked above, with crazy hair, ghastly smiles and star-shaped pupils. If we are talking serious choices and variety though, players will have to spend hours to make their characters look more unique because it’s all tedious manual labor. And don’t let those articles about famous lookalikes fool you – there are one or two ‘famous people’ already worked into the templates’ designs. It’s very easy to make Gandalf or Khaleesi but creating yourself or a significantly different character will take lots of time and understanding the different tools.

In some ways I think the creator is aiming too high; or rather, let’s say I would appreciate more variety in standard templates from the get-go with some extra options of alteration after that – not the other way around. Dragon’s Dogma has achieved this quite greatly for a non-MMO, so I hope BDO will add a bit more practicality to the whole process before launch. There’s a lot of potential to it if they make it a bit more user-friendly and effective.

Okay, I will stop the high-level whining now.

(Dragon’s Dogma is really cool though and finally out for PC, you should check it out!)

Favorite MMO things: Races


Bleu from Breath of Fire I

Not too long ago I talked about my favorite mounts in MMOs, so today we’re off to the races! Most MMOs have them and make full use of the fascination that is learning about different cultures and exploring different playable species. Unlike in the real world where there are no different races among people, no matter the American English use of the word which is alienating to me personally, MMOs can conjure up genetically different humanoids or even more alien, yet sentient beings for us to play and get involved in.

I’m a fan of racial diversity in MMOs, despite often having opted to play humans in the past, often for reasons of size, armor design and frankly identification. Fantasy MMOs have a wonderful opportunity to create content beyond all rules, so thanks to all of you who don’t follow my example and make more daring race choices instead! I love Tera’s Popori, the Asura and Charr in GW2 or Wildstar’s crazy Chua that defy at least some of the tiresome “shorties cliché” that’s so widespread in this genre. Things get especially interesting when MMOs dare venture into dragon territory, designing playable races that leave little room for anthropomorphization.

That said, I am still that boring conservative that won’t alt and prefers horses as mounts in MMOs, simply because I can’t shed my formative D&D years and that classic interpretation of high fantasy. I also find it takes time to get into ingame personas, so over the years I have only ever grown attached to very few of my characters. In chronological order:

  • Syl, Human in WoW
  • Syl, Arisen in Allods (yeah I don’t change nicks either, sue me)
  • Syl, Norn in GW2
  • Syl, Cassian in Wildstar
  • Syl, Au Ra in FFXIV

I have also had some brief flirts with Asura, Gibberlings and Lalafell but sooner or later, I end up playing characters that are tall. Of the four mains, Arisen and Au Ra are by far my favourite MMO races. No other race design has ever come close to the eerie grace of Allod’s undead cyborgs – if you dig cyberpunk and Egyptian mummies, the Arisen are for you (they disappear into a sarcophagus when going /sleep)! As for my current love that is FFXIV, the Au Ra may or may not be related to dragons but at the very least, their race design clearly toys with a human-dragon/lizard hybrid concept. Given that my longterm online name is based on a wild-elf/dragon character from the Dragonlance novels, there couldn’t be a more fitting race for me to play in MMOs.


At this point, I ask myself what races I’d like to see in MMOs that we haven’t seen yet? Considering some past JRPG favorites, I am leaning towards frogs (Glenn from Chrono Trigger) and naga (Bleu from Breath of Fire). I believe there were frog people in Everquest which has completely passed me by. Furthermore I would really like to see another serious attempt at darkelf/drow design sometime. Drow never seem nearly as badass in MMOs as I always imagined them reading the Forgotten Realms. Black skin, white hair, red eyes – what’s not to love?

Favorite MMO things: Mounts

I was never a big mount collector in MMOs, the way I am/was for gear or companion pets in the past. There was a time in WoW when I belonged to the top pet collectors on my realm, long before Pokémon became a thing in WoW. I remember when Blizzard started adding more and more of everything, halfway through TBC everyone was farming Stratholme, Zul’Gurub and Kharazan for mounts and then the whole protodrake-this and that trend kicked off, the rest is history. Today, players own literally hundreds of mounts and pets in WoW.

Me and my bud in LOTRO

Me and my bud in LOTRO

Very early into the mount mania, I was put off by the sheer amount of often sameish or else ludicrous mount design that bugged me for its silliness. Giant chicken and fetish polar bears are funny for a split second before they become eyesores. I realize, I am a conservative when it comes to picking my own transport companions though; I like horses, adored my horse in LOTRO for its realistic riding feel and sound effects. When it’s not a horse, I’ll most likely choose something that feels either natural to theme and setting or at least part of an established race (or else device) from fantasy fiction. So my favourite mounts are generally –

  • Horses
  • Dragons
  • Wildcats / Lions
  • Gryphons / Eagles
  • Magic/Mechanical devices

Oh and I don’t enjoy switching mounts frequently, either. You know those randomization macros for mounts and pets in MMOs? Yeah, don’t like them! Makes me feel as if I was a zoo-keeper rather than adventurer. Where am I keeping all those animals, Hermione’s bottomless handbag?

That’s not to say I don’t understand the collector’s drive, I do! I’ll check out whatever mounts come my way, sometimes I’ll even get a goofy one (usually for seasonal events) as long as it’s either free/cheap or easy to acquire. I won’t spend any cash on all the mounts however and I certainly wouldn’t grind any, unless the game forced me to. Still, no matter how many I own, I end up using the same one or two most of the time. I like thinking of my mount as companion, the way they are named in FFXIV. When MMOs give you a naming option for your mounts or pets, that’s a big plus in my book. Oh and taming your own mount, what ever happened to that feature?

Speaking of which, I currently own about 15 mounts in FFXIV, most of which were given to me as quest rewards or else as subscription deals. FFXIV doesn’t come with an awful lot of serious horse options, so I actually acquired Odin’s steed via the cash shop, which was money well spent. I also like my Chocobo because it belongs to Final Fantasy the same way mogs do. They are treated respectably in FFXIV with tons of cosmetic options similar to LOTRO’s horses. And the dragon mounts from the current expansion are just fantastic, I’d happily trade 20 different WoW protodrakes for my Midgardsormr and Twintania!


My favorite FFXIV companions

There are plenty of ludicrous, huge and nasty looking mounts in FFXIV too, in case you were wondering. Some of them are mind-bogglingly large and one or two, like the Bomb Palanquin, make me laugh whenever I see them. Yet somehow they still feel more natural within the Final Fantasy setting, maybe because this franchise has always had its frivolous, bizarre moments. Either way, I’m sticking to my horses and dragons – I am boring that way.

2015 Q3: A Busy time for Geeks and Gamers!

2015 has been a great year for MMOs, for me anyway, and I find myself struggling to keep track of all the goodness ahead this Q3 and beyond! Fall tends to be the time for gamers and geeks and some of us may soon find themselves in dire need for holidays to catch up with games, movies and other shenanigans.

Awaiting in Games

FFXIV is about to drop the 3.1 content patch soon which in good old SE fashion means a lot more of everything. Wildstar is transitioning to free-to-play tomorrow and I will be swimming in the new shop currency due to my past CREDD purchases. And anyone burning for raiding and healing in GW2 just got to hear the latest news about druids coming to Tyria.

That’s only as far as MMOs go for me. I am also looking forward to Jotun releasing tomorrow (check out the beautiful trailer!) and The Witcher 3’s first expansion pack coming out October 13th! Fallout 4 is due in November of course and also, ARK is still on my list of things to check out (currently on discount via Humble Bundle). Good times.

Awaiting in Movies

I’ve not been to the movies in a while, mostly because summer is for BBQ and river baths, but am definitely going to see the following new features as soon as they hit cinemas in Switzerland (which tends to be either sooner or much later than elsewhere, it’s odd):

Awaiting in Books

I used to read so much. In recent years, blogging, social media, podcasting and what else have left a mark on my reading schedule. I am still not an e-book person however and now that winter is slowly creeping up on us and it’s time for snuggling up in front of the fireplace again, I got around ordering a few books I’ve been meaning to read:

The other day, the postman also delivered my Chris Riddell illustrated book set of Neil Gaiman tales, so that’s what I’ll be doing over the weekend when I’m not playing Jotun or Wildstar. Which new games, movies or books are you looking forward to this Q3-Q4?


Lamenting Cover Art [#Blaugust 27]

Coming across an amazing Castlevania cover the other day on twitter, it hit me how much I miss the old game covers for videogames. I remember how we revered those boxes of nes and snes titles in the early days – how bold and colorful and over-the-top epic many of them were!


What happened? Okay, for one we entered the digital age of gaming. I admit I don’t miss the dust settling on rows of physical game copies. Still, I appreciate great concept art for games, posters, teasers, thumbnails in my Steam gallery. There’s no reason why digital gaming should go coverless, is there? Elaborate covers are a chance to tell a story within mere seconds. Like a main theme, they can sell a promise and herald things to come. They are someone’s vision of what the game should be, could be. They are distilled like poetry.


Do not even attempt to compare this to WoW cover art.

But who has time for poetry these days?

[FFXIV] In Heavensward, everyone is dressed for the Occasion

I hit level 58 tonight in A Realm Reborn and between catching my breath because of what’s happening in the main storyline and looking for aether currents everywhere, I need to give this expansion some serious props in terms of gear design – omigosh, it’s all so pretty!


Aurin race set (leftmost) and some caster sets between lvls 50-57.

Gear details have always been stunning in FFXIV (they’re all in 3D which helps a lot…) but adventurers starting out in early Eorzea had to put up with many a yellow burlap sack and baggy clothes in the past. Not so in the expansion: Heavensward is packed with armor sets from the get-go and they are all new and shiny and easy enough to acquire through questing or dungeons. I especially love the baroque and gothic vibes of some of my black mage’s gear and feel the class is properly treated for a change!

It’s rather remarkable how SE aren’t stingy on providing all this gear without demanding blood sacrifice. While good-looking and matching gear (weapons included) is hard to come by in many MMOs, it is impossible to underdress in Eorzea. And for my part, I find this very motivating.

[FFXIV] Happy Heavensward Launch and the Evolution of Me

This fine Tuesday June 23rd, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn got its very own, first expansion, an event which begs for a moment of recollection. For such a long way this title has come: this ship that had almost sunk into the morass of disastrous MMO launches, somehow managed to do the nigh impossible and turn its course around, establish ARR as a brand new title with over 2mio subscribers to date, and release an expansion packed with new content. It may have been a rocky road, yet across the finish line shines a title rivaling all other fantasy-themed MMOs currently on the market. Chapeau really, to all the folks at SE who made this happen!


Despite their ever fussy account-management, a thing that will surely never change, I somehow managed to get my early access for Heavensward running this past weekend and ding lvl 53 before official launch day. From what I’ve seen so far of the new zones and quests, I’m more than satisfied. The story picks up the pace from the Seventh Astral Era where it left off, the zones are beautiful if not slightly annoying in terms of navigation (apparently SE’s idea of making their audience desperate to fly), the new professions look interesting and the Au Ra aren’t nearly as dull as anticipated. In fact, I found myself surrendering to story pressure and swallow yet another bottle of Fantasia to transform myself, but more on that later. I also managed to get my chocobo off the ground for the first zone so far – a feat that doesn’t come free or easily in Heavensward for flight must be earned, again and again for each new zone. I should’ve known.

Isghard is as impressive a city as it’s cold and uninviting, which goes with the social, political context and icy weather. Naturally, I was delighted to hear the city music come in four different variations with some lovely day and night themes, just the way the other capitals got them. It will be a while before we see any Heavensward soundtrack release, I fear (but in the meantime, some of us will find ways to listen to it anyway).

Heavensward at a first glance, fulfills all the promises of novelty. What I am somewhat disappointed in is how SE never seem much interested in improving the existing. Gripes like the quest tracker not allowing you to uncheck old quests, or the fact that for some reason you may not use a companion pet together with a mount, persist and have not been addressed. I realize that there are technical restrictions sometimes; I still expect some effort towards improving the mediocre, whether the player base (grudgingly) goes along with it or not.

Me, Myself and I

I’ve never changed a main character as often or as drastically as I have in FFXIV, an MMO which is very liberal in its re-customization options. I started this journey few months ago as Sylberry Goldwink, a delightfully sunny Lalafel with odd eyes and a cheeky face –

I still love that character to bits, in fact I believe SE have done a fantastic job on the race design of their smallest citizens. I usually don’t gravitate towards shorties in MMOs but next to the Asura and Gibberlings, Lalafel are truly my favorite people.

Unfotunately for them, armor design on higher levels doesn’t agree so much with Lalafel proportions (maybe less so on females than males) which is why I decided to give a more mature and darker type of character a go after reaching lvl 50. Yes, yet another tall human female called Syl, with raven black hair and a sardonic smile –

Human black mage Syl feels like the most accurate ‘real me’-condensation in an MMO since ever, so I was really happy with the outcome. Furthermore, I gave the character some distinct Lulu-attributes (I don’t have purple eyes for one thing), that aloof sorceress from FFX that has been resting on my desk for over 10 years in figurine-form, hugging her Mog companion. I may also have a T-shirt.

Needless to say I adore this character, yet I’m not perfectly happy with the way SE have treated Hyur females. Their movement seems graceless, as if not enough time had been invested in studying the anatomic female form and how that would affect motion. Maybe it’s the same for male Hyur, I don’t know. Few armor sets aside such as the above one, I often found myself standing around in baggy garments, which gave my character an almost buffoonish look. Bleh.

Granted, these are smaller details; for the most part SE character design and animations are top notch and beat most of their competition, armor detail certainly does too. Still, the launch of a new expansion was a great opportunity to check out the Au Ra, with their strange horns which are more or less obtrusive depending on the face you go for. It is a tragedy that SE decided to bundle face and horn types together – a most curious decision that greatly reduces your choice in different looks. You might really dig one of those four faces on display but if it comes with the huge lobster-shaped horns, tough luck! Seriously, this needs fixing.

In the end, I managed to create a character that I really enjoy and that probably feels the most Japanese/manga of the lot, while also reminding me of my old Rift Kelari mage. I went with a painted face look in honor of Harle, beloved jester figure from Chrono Cross. I could do without the tail thing honestly, but I absolutely love the idea of my character being partly dragonkin now, given that Sylvara, my online name of many years, has been taken from a special character in the Dragonlance novels who is also a dragon. This meant a name change was long overdue too since Sylberry Goldwink has by now expired its date of appropriateness.

A smart business model

It seems weird to switch character race as often as I have in FFXIV and yet, it’s always fun creating new looks for yourself. Be it Sylberry the sunny and funloving Lalafel, the dark human femme fatale with the stern face or the mischevious Au Ra jester – all these characters are a facet of my own personality. Many MMO players probably roll alts for this exact reason, which isn’t something particularly beneficial in FFXIV. Relying heavily on their main character, players are more likely to pay for character re-customizations whenever new features are introduced. At the same time, there’s already a lot of customization and job freedom in the game by default, as well as the odd Fantasia freebie once or twice a year. That’s more than fair in my book, even if I already spent some extra cash on my looks in the Mog Station. What can I say, I do like me my MMO character creation!

Catching Fireflies

So whaddaya know. Between speculations of ArenaNet launching a first GW2 expansion, Heart of Thorns (an event that would certainly bring me back to Tyria) and ESO going buy-to-play (an event that most certainly will not bring me back), I managed, with a little help from my friends, to re-instate my decrepit Square-Enix account and jump back into FFXIV:ARR on Cactuar, where bloggers roam.

For now I am happy to smell the roses and enjoy watching my Lalafell Arcanist study her book as she hurls mighty spells at the enemy. I have trusty Carbuncle to keep me company and a world of brooks and windmills to explore. SE got as many things right with this MMO as they got wrong – it’s up to the individual to make it work or not. Leaps and bounds from its predecessor, there is still a cleanness and arrangement to this world that bothers me sometimes, the way the same texture is stamped all over big areas and never alters or how there’s ten paths cutting through green plains when two would do just as well. I miss secrets too, little things to find off the beaten path instead of invisible barriers. Alas, Final Fantasy attracts us by familiarity: the well-known names and places, the quirkiness of its characters, the style of clothing, beautiful animations and of course music.


And fireflies. In the middle of the night, illuminating the sky. The promise of high adventure is like a lighthouse in the distance, always calling and spurring me on to discover what may lie beyond the next bend of the road. Eorzea or Tamriel, Azeroth or Tyria – Magic is only ever a glance away.

Tunes of Magic VIII: Listmas Edition – Greatest Videogame Soundtracks of 2014

It’s that time of the year again and like in 2013, I am publishing my personal VGM winners of the year under the official #listmas banner of the “United We Game” initiative.

2014 was a year of ups and downs as far as new releases were concerned, with some down times in Q1 especially but definitely not a bad year for gaming and music overall. As MMO players, we got at least four new high-quality OSTs to enjoy and like in previous years, the world of small gems and indies has contributed to an overall great year of videogame music. What also remains unchanged is my general rule of thumb: the best games tend to also have the best soundtrack (exceptions verify this rule!).

Without much further ado, I present this year’s “Top VGMs of 2014”-teaser compilation for all of you who would like to reminisce a year of VGMs the easy and most effective way: by listening!

To remove all doubt which were my favorite OSTs and SOTY (soundtrack of the year) in ascending order, here’s the tracklist of all the games included in this year’s round-up:

10. Dragon Quest X 3DS (Koichi Sugiyama)
DQ X was in fact only released for 3DS in September 2014 which is why I hadn’t heard of it earlier. This soundtrack is packed with classic theatrical and fun music and I highly recommend checking it out!

9. Cinders (Rob Westwood)
Cinders caught my eye on Steam one day and while I’m not big into romance novel click-adventures, the spooky fairytale vibe of the soundtrack is right down my alley.

8. Transistor (Darren Korb)
A must-have for Bastion fans, Transistor comes with an equally brilliant sound fusion of western, folk, electric and experimental. Also: for Buckethead fans!

7. Ethan Carter (Mikolai Stroinski)
The saddest game by far that I have played through in recent months, the beautiful music by Mikolai Stroinski is a perfect match to the overall sombre mood of the Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

6. Destiny (O’Donnell, Salvatori, Johnson, Mc Cartney)
Some games never deliver on their big promises, but the Destiny soundtrack at least is definitely one of the big must-haves in 2014!

5. Bravely Default (Revo)
Much to their fans’ delight, SE re-discovered their classic fantasy JRPG roots with Bravely Default. The entire soundtrack by Revo is a joy to listen through, producing gem after gem!

4. Child of Light (Cœur de Pirate)
A visually stunning, poetic journey deserves a special soundtrack and Cœur de Pirate, aka Béatrice Martin, has managed to elevate Child Of Light to an unforgettable experience that instantly reminded me of the very french movie Amélie.

3. Blade & Soul (Taro Iwashiro)
Released in Japan and Taiwan this year, Blade&Soul has yet to honor us with a western release. Until that time, it’s well worth checking out this very flavorful and diverse MMO soundtrack.

2. Warlords of Draenor
Listing all the composer involved in WoW soundtracks has become a real chore (Hayes, Stafford, Brower, Bajakian, Cardon, Guidotti…) but I’m glad the outcomes still seem to work out! WoD is one of my favorite OSTs of the year and has brought back countless memories of our early vanilla days. If I had to name a single favorite track overall, that would be “Wolf at the Gates” no question.

1. SOTY: Wildstar (Jeff Kurtenacker)
My soundtrack of the year easily, Wildstar has brought us all kinds of awesome music in 2014. This soundtrack is vast and vastly diverse, ethereal, creepy, whimsical and fun! We don’t often get to see fusion work off so well but Jeff Kurtenacker has done one remarkable job at composing for the Nexus! Must-have, folks!

My top 10 aside, this year’s honorable soundtrack mentions go to Valdis Story, Castlevania Lords of Shadow and Beatbuddy which came out in previous years and much later to my attention.

Annual disclaimer: videogame music does still not receive the attention it deserves from many publishers and developers, which is a sad affair for fans worldwide waiting to purchase official soundtracks and support composers. However, we can spread the word, let the artists know how much we appreciate them and bring as many players (and potential music lovers) on board as possible. Thanks for sharing this post and here’s to another great year of VGM!