Lighting the second candle

I started this blog two years ago today.

Have another piece of cake. It’s been a year, you must be starving

As is tradition for such an occasion I’ll now look back upon the past year and also throw some statistics at you.

I published 83 posts since the blog’s first birthday, which is quite an uptick from the first year’s 34. The main contributing factor was Blaugust Reborn of course, which ‘made’ me publish 31 pieces during August alone. At the end of that month I had gained a lot of experience and also made a resolution: to post at least once a week going forward. Except for rare exceptions I managed to do that.

The wordcount per post went up from 691 in 2018 to 1061 in 2019, but I assume that’s mainly because I published a couple pretty short posts last year, especially during Blaugust, while more or less maintaining my usual post length this year up to now. We’ll see what happens if/when Blaugust comes around again.

Since I also wrote the obligatory end-of-the-year-review on December 31rd I’ll only include posts from 2019 in the following overview of topics.

I love how she almost looks like a pirate ship with the advanced crafted gear

From December to April I mainly played Black Desert Online. Building an Epheria frigate was a huge goal I pursued and eventually accomplished, which also prompted me to muse about long term goals in MMOs in general.

Another topic that occupied my mind was combat in MMORPGs, specifically how it needs to be designed to be enjoyable for me personally.

Just one of about five billion memes making the rounds

An article on Kotaku about Anthem’s development was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me regarding the sorry state the AAA gaming industry is in right now, and I felt the need to vent some steam in two posts about those issues.

It’s not all bad though, as a couple of new non-MMO releases managed to entertain and delight me a lot. There’s still hope that the big guns of the industry – looking at you, ActiBlizz and EA – won’t manage to fuck up our beloved hobby completely after all.

Can you spot the swarm of tiny specks that is our fleet?

A couple weeks ago my EVE Online corporation joined the nullsec alliance NC Dot, which rekindled my love for that game once more. I’ve played it a lot since then, and also utilized that newfound enthusiasm by finally starting to write down my whole history with the game. Parts one, two and three are published by now with more to come.

Even more spaceships. What can I say, I like spaceships

After reading a lot of good things about it I decided to make use of the currently running discount and bought Stellaris. A very long time ago I played a little shareware game called Planets with a couple of friends, and Stellaris kind of reminds me of it. Well, except that it’s like 500 times more complex. I still meet up with some of those guys online from time to time, mainly to play a few rounds of Battlefield or some other shooter. I hope to get them on board (no pun intended) and try out Stellaris with me. Could be fun. I’ll probably write about it too once I’ve digged a bit deeper into it.

And that’s all I have for you today. Keep blogging and keep reading, good folks. I know I will.


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!

Participating in IntPiPoMo 2018

My first full calendar year of blogging sure is a busy one. First there was Blaugust reborn, now International Picture Posting Month, or IntPiPoMo for short, has started.


Chestnut over at Gamer Girl Confessions is again hosting the event, which has the goal of posting fifty images of one’s own creation during the month of November. These can be anything from photos to drawn pictures or game screenshots.

As I’ve said before I’m a big screenshot buff, so I shouldn’t have a hard time picking 50 nice ones to share. I might even throw in a couple vacation pictures, who knows.

So, yes, I’ve signed up to participate. Should you be interested to join in on the fun, here’s all you need to know.

Thanks to Chestnut for hosting the event! I’m looking forward to see lots of great pictures, and also anxious to get home and start sifting through my archives.

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.


Memorable Moments – Chapter One

In my very first blog post I outlined my main reason for starting to write: to preserve and share great memorable experiences that might be forgotten otherwise.

One of those events came to pass in ArcheAge. Lakisa, our friend Tristron and I had a day full of adventure and excitement, and this was the catalyst that kindled my desire to write stuff down for the first time.

I had no idea how to start though, and unfortunately didn’t put in the effort to find out at the time. So now I’m going to try and reconstruct that day, for stories like these really shouldn’t pass into oblivion.

In order to get your medium sized farm in ArcheAge you need to do a couple of trade runs. Trade goods are crafted at certain workbenches and can be sold to trade NPCs for gold or other rewards. The farther away you sell, the more it’s worth. The kicker is that trade packs are very heavy and slow you down considerably. You wear them like a backpack one at a time, and if you put it down on the ground anyone can pick it up and steal it.

If you don’t own a farm cart yet you can only speed up the process by using public transportation (carriages or airships), or by riding a donkey.

ArcheAge Adventure2

ArcheAge Adventure4

ArcheAge Adventure3
We did all three during the quests leading up to this one

The last quest requires you to deliver a trade pack to the other continent, so you need to cross the ocean by boat. This is where it gets dangerous because as soon as you leave coastal waters you’re in lawless territory and anyone can attack you. We were still pretty low level at the time, so even without tradepacks on our backs we’d be easy prey for pirates.

When we finally reached the shore I spawned my clipper and we set sail.

ArcheAge Adventure1
Myself at the helm, Lakisa at the harpoon and Tristron ready to reef or hoist the sail as needed

We were very nervous and kept our eyes peeled because the sight of any sail on the horizon was more than likely to mean trouble.

We tried to avoid the direct trade routes and zigzagged our way towards the destination. Nevertheless we spotted another ship once and collectively held our breath, hoping that whoever it was didn’t see us or had other things in mind. After a couple of tense seconds it was out of sight again. Phew.

Luckily the quest doesn’t actually require to hand over the trade pack to an NPC, you just have to reach a specific area with the cargo on your back. You have to get pretty close to the shore though, and since it’s the enemy continent it’s residents can attack you anywhere. I held my course towards the dock with trembling hands, ready to turn around as soon as the quest updated.

Then it happened. “Reef the sail!” I shouted on Teamspeak and turned the rudder (i.e. pressed the D key) as hard as I could. After having turned about 120° I gave the command to hoist the sail again, and we quickly gained pace and sped towards the open sea. Mission accomplished.

We made our way to our own continent’s nearest shore unharmed and delivered our trade packs to an NPC for a bit of profit.

Since this had been so thrilling and fun we weren’t ready to call it quits just yet. Instead we decided to try getting our hands on snowlion mount pups, which meant we’d have to do another trip across the ocean and even venture into the heart of the hostile country.

ArcheAge Adventure5
First we took the scenic route by rowboat at night with Tristron on minstrel-duty

This time we crossed the sea without incident and soon Haranya’s coast came into view.

ArcheAge Adventure6
The continent’s eastern theme is easily recognisable even from afar

But where to disembark? Enemy players weren’t our only concern, for NPC guards, too, would attack us on sight. The coastline consist of steep cliffs for the most part though, so we had no choice but to head for the village pictured above.

We found a spot without any guards close by, jumped off the clipper and tried to sneek our way into the hinterlands. We had to pass by a guard much too close for comfort once, but got through unharmed.

Once out of the village guards were no longer a problem, but we were still wary of other players and had quite a distance yet to cover. We decided to try going over the mountains instead of using the roads and paths.

We indeed managed to get pretty high up with the help of our gliders and some bold jumping maneuvers.

ArcheAge Adventure7
And were rewarded with some breathtaking sights for our troubles

This proved to be a veritable shortcut. Not only did we not see another player the whole time, we were in fact very close to our destination once we started to descend the mountain range on the other side.

Now it was time to tense up once more though, because if the location of our own continent’s mount NPCs was anything to go by chances of encountering other players would rise dramatically the closer we got.

Shortly before we hit ground level we could actually see the NPC as well a a couple of players from a distance. Luckily the players were rather low level, so we figured we’d probably be able to talk to the NPC and buy the pups before anything serious happened to us.

We mounted our gliders and sailed right towards the NPC. We managed to land right next to him, quickly bought the pups we wanted and legged it as if the devil was on our heels.

We got what we wanted and didn’t even die in the process. Victory again! We decided it was time to port home, nurse the pups to grow them into mature mounts and call it a day.

It was a funny, exciting and very rewarding adventure, and this is why I really love to play sandbox-like games.

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.