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Monday, July 14, 2014

SL DJ School needs your help!

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If you were big into Second Life back in 2007 you'll no doubt remember just how big the Second Life DJ School was. If you were a DJ, Club Owner, Club Manager, or knew anyone in these fields you more than likely at least heard of the DJ Education titan. Second Life DJ School created and ran by Joanie Neddings, prided itself on educating, and training DJ's to be the best of the best on the grid and since it's creation has produced many of the top DJ's to ever work an event in the virtual world of Second Life. After a 3 year run SL DJ School would close in 2010 to be sold to Host Crate owner LustyLexy Larimore. The School remained closed until 2011 when SL DJ Academy was getting ready to close its doors. However, with the close of that school came the rise of Premiere DJ Academy ran by Rosalie Difference & Psilocybin Rain which would quickly take over the market with quality classes, a partnership for streams, and vendors for the best tip jars, and other club equipment in game. SL DJ School was then purchased by Rosalie Difference, so the brief resurgence of the Second Life DJ School came to a quick end, and the school's legacy was safe in the hands of one of the Schools original and most notable teachers. Eventually Premiere DJ Academy would be sold do to personal (real life) issues with both Rosalie Difference and Psilocybin Rain. Since then, there has been a few schools popping up on the grid, some good, some not so much. The landscape of DJing in Second Life has changed, as has the club scene. But now, one of the original teachers of SL DJ School, and Co-Owner of Premiere DJ Academy has begun a fundme account, in hopes to bring back this beloved landmark DJ School. I sat down with Rosalie earlier to talk to her about her new project to bring back the school.


Ragetrip Gaming: What made you decide to bring back the SL DJ School after all this time?


Rosalie Difference: You know there's always a part of me that will forever love DJing, and being apart of a school. I knew when Premiere was getting ready to be put up for sale that I would want to come back and do it all over again. Only took 2 years but I've been thinking about it since Premiere DJ Academy was sold.


Ragetrip Gaming: But why now? What made the timing right to do so at this point?


Rosalie Difference: Well the thing about SL is that it and RL have to have a  balance. Previously when owning Premiere I was in the process of filing for divorce, wasn't sure where I would be living, what I would be doing, and other many uncertainties. Which lead for my original decision to put it up for sale in the first place. Now, I work steady hours, in probably most stable job in the country. I have time to dedicate to it, and a pretty strong support group who is eager to see the business thrive and grow.

Ragetrip Gaming: That's right, your currently serving in the military as well. It's awesome that with such a busy schedule that your taking the time to get back into teaching in Second Life. As a DJ myself who learned DJing from you in fact, I see that your class could be beneficial both in and out of second life. For example people looking to start an online radio station, learn to DJ for there gaming streams, or even possibly to get an understanding to take the skills and apply them in real life. Do you offer a payment option for people who aren't into SL, or who are new and would rather pay via credit card or paypal?


Rosalie Difference: It's certainly a hectic life, but I thrive on a little chaos! As far as the payment options, yes we will be hosting in and out of world instruction. With a number of ways to book classes. We will be utilizing paypal, as well as the small marketplace forum Fiverr.com for a few alternative ways to pay. As many residents are not fond of putting money into a game, but with this skill, it's something that can be used not only in Second Life, but really any online setting, and even real club use for our mixing classes. So giving our future clients a little bit of versatility often puts them at ease.


Ragetrip Gaming: I know that currently you are working on raising the money to fund the project to pay for such things as Tier, a new build, as well as advertisement and other things needed to get it up off the ground. How is that whole process coming along?


Rosalie Difference: It's still in it's initial phases but the turnout has been wonderful so far. A few of our former affiliates, students, and even former staff are excited to see the project launch that they have generously donated funds to help us. We still have a bit to go, but the noise has certainly been humming about the social media, the founder herself has been in a sharing frenzy and backs the new launch 100%, She's been a great motivator so far to help get the word out.

Ragetrip Gaming: For the people who are considering donating to this cause are there going to be perks for donating at different levels and such as you'd see on kickstarter campaigns and such?

Rosalie Difference: Yes, we definitely want to be able to give back to these supporters. We have levels at all different price ranges, including access to custom made DJ Drops, DJ Intros, Free Classes to utilize or give as gifts, and many more coming each day!


Ragetrip Gaming: Excellent indeed. You are still my go to person for intros and drops. Your work is without a doubt the best in all of SL. Have you been around the club scene lately? I went out to several clubs a few weeks ago and I have to say that most of the DJ's I saw were terrible. What's your take on the current state compared to how it was say 2 years ago?

Rosalie Difference: Actually that's been apart of my research lately, I like to do a in depth look at the state of things before I jump head first into them. I have to say I was a little surprised at the state of DJ knowledge recently, and at some pretty high traffic clubs too. Though it's apart of the knowledge gathering, finding that target audience, there is a lot of good we can do on the grid these days. One thing that I hope to be able to assist with is that growing as a DJ, some DJs just don't need basic classes, they already understand the use of the program..but now we can mold them into something people pay to see. Developing Personalities.. Developing Mixing Skills. These are things that I feel some are lacking. You can go a long way with a personality while you DJ.


Ragetrip Gaming: That was always my logic. Developing that persona is just as important as the technical aspect of things. So tell me, if all goes perfectly and you get the funding needed. When do you hope to be open for business?


Rosalie Difference: Absolutely, to this day, you are the only student I've ever had that racked in more money per set than I did! But all jokes aside, the funding is an integral part and it decides a lot of the timeline we will have. The quicker the funding the quicker the opening. We do hope though that we can aim for sometime in August. This would be absolutely ideal. But we understand planning and building are never sure with time lines. So until that happens we will continue to move forward with what we can.

Ragetrip Gaming: Thanks for the cheap plug. Seriously though it means a lot. I am pulling for you to get that funding you need, It is a great cause, and you always do great work and support the DJ and Club scene in SL 100%. I know your busy so is there anything else you'd like to say before I let you go?


Rosalie Difference: Honestly, I'd love to hear from anyone who has any feedback with the state of DJs on the grid. I'd love to hear about peoples experiences, what they would like to see, what they think doesn't work etc.. We work for them. Without them we wouldn't exist. So I hope to meet all those supporters on the grid, feel free to stop me when I'm out and about club hopping and last of all I just wanted to send out a huge thank you to all of the students, teachers, and supporters out there. You guys are awesome!


SL DJ School needs YOUR help. To bring the school back in it's full glory will cost, and Rosalie refuses to tarnish the legacy of the SL DJ School by bringing back an inferior product. This is where you guys come in. If your interested in looking more into how you can help, go to SL DJ School FundMe to find out more information. This is a very worthwhile cause. I have made a good amount of money and made quite the name for myself as a DJ in SL, and it all started with a class just like the ones that will be offered by Rosalie. In case people don't know, I am Psilocybin Rain, I have been a DJ in Second Life for close to 4 years now, and was nominated for DJ of the Year for 2013. These classes can help you as an SL DJ, and if your not in SL, you can contact Rosalie for information on how to pay with Paypal and learn outside of SL. You can learn Sam Broadcaster for the Radio style, personality based DJ, VirtualDJ for a more club style, live mixing DJ format, or even Nicecast for the Radio style for MAC users. Taking this class outside of SL has many benefits. If you'd like to set up an onlne radio station, DJ for your friends in other formats, or even take your skills to real life and become a DJ For Hire at parties, wedding receptions, etc. This is a great first step into learning the process of DJing on both the technical aspect, as well as character development, etc. For those of you who are on Second Life, or plan to join Second Life an education at a well known school such as SL DJ School is very important. It is a lot easier to get work at a quality club if you have an education at a top school such as SL DJ School. It also gives you contacts, and info from clubs currently looking for good DJs, the technical knowledge, as well as an idea on how to develop your on air personality. Alumni also gets technical support, and constant help through the schools group.

As of now, donations to the school have already began to pour in. Different donations levels receive different "gifts" as an incentive to donate. You can receive a free custom DJ intro from Rosalie herself for a $20.00 donation, A free basic class and custom DJ Drop for $35.00, and more. I will personally vouch that these are great deals, and Rosalie does some of the most amazing intro's that I've ever heard. Both of my trademark DJ Intro's were done by her, and any future intro or drop work will go directly to her. In my honest opinion this is one of the most worthwhile fundme campaigns you could possibly donate to. Not only can it benefit DJ's getting a free intro, class, etc. But for those of you who just enjoy going to clubs in SL, and the whole nightlife of the game. You are contributing to bettering the education and quality of DJ's on the grid. We've all been to clubs that host some just downright bad DJ's (If you do voice overs, over top of dead air then I'm talking to you!).

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Heroes of the Storm (Technical Alpha) First Impression

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I received my Technical Alpha invite to test out Heroes of the Storm last night. I've been curious about this one for some time, since I heard the announcement that it was being made. While I was interested, I wasn't exactly "excited". Blizzard has shown signs of phoning it in, and living off of a reputation that is long gone for some time now (at least in my opinion). With that said, I wasn't about to get super excited for it like I was for Diablo III, only to be terribly disappointed. After playing most of the night last night, and half of the day today I am ready to give my honest first impression of Blizzard's new free to play MOBA.

*NOTE*
Remember that the game is currently in the technical alpha phase. HotS is nowhere near finished or polished. I am giving my first impression of the game with that in mind. When the game is released, and even beta I'm sure the game will be A LOT more polished, and complete with many many changes.


Ragetrip Gaming first impression



The first impression matters, and honestly what has become a blizzard trademark the first thing we see when loading HotS for the first time is a pretty epic cut scene. Blizzard has grown to make amazing opening cut scenes as we saw in Diablo III (Sure the game sucked, but the opening scene was awesome!). This one will not disappoint either.


The Beginning
Once inside the game, you go through a tutorial mode as Jim Raynor and meet up with Uther (from wow) who tells you why your in this strange place. From there, Uther leads you to a town that is being attacked by none other than Diablo. The tutorial walks you through a battle with Diablo there, followed by another full game simulation to teach you how to use your skills and what not. Overall the tutorial was fun, and the dialog between Raynor and Diablo is pretty epic.

After you've worked your way past the tutorial, you must play a game with all AI team and opponents to get a better handle of an actual game. Once you hit lvl 2, you can do Co-Op vs AI. Do one or two games there, and you'll unlock actual 5v5 PVP.


Team based objectives over lane phases & item boosting
Unlike traditional MOBA games HotS is not about pushing lanes, killing your opponents, and gearing up from the item store. In fact, there is no item store in HotS. Instead, with levels, you get to choose new abilities which make your character stronger. With the lack of gold gain, there is no real urgent need to stay in a lane. Instead, Blizzard offers objectives. Teams need to work together to clear jungle camps, but unlike League of Legends, when you kill a camp you must stand there a few seconds and those minions who are dubbed "Mercenaries" will go to the closest lane and push it for you. There are easy, through hard mercenaries that appear 5 minutes into a game. I find this to be a bit funny, that to get mercenaries to fight for you, you have to beat them down, but it is a unique way to go about it.


The Maps & Map Objectives
There are a few different maps one with a pirate like theme, one with mines, and another that is the dragon level, and I'm sure more to come. Each map hosts different objectives. Each map is unique with it's own traits. You will still have your mercenaries there, but the team objectives will change.


The pirate map, your team must work together to secure doubloons to pay the pirate, who will then use his ship to blast away at the enemies defenses. Whichever team gets the most doubloons each time the chests spawn and pay the pirate first gets to use that special assault. The interesting thing is, when you die, you drop those doubloons so expect team fights to ensue during this phase which happens every few minutes during a game.


In the mine level a mine will open up at both the top and bottom lanes. Your objective is to go into these mines and collect the skulls of the minions inside that you kill. Once collected. Remember, your team isn't the only one in the mines and like the pirate level, if you die you drop your skulls so expect violence in these mines. There is a boss down there as well that drops a ton of skulls. Once that's downed both teams will spawn a golem on the regular map, who's strength is determined by how many skulls your team collected.

The dragon level is a bit different. Instead of collecting items for your objective every few minutes you get the options to take control of two key points on the map, one on bottom and one up top. When the same team controls both, someone needs to click on the dragon statue in the middle. Doing so will turn that character into this dragon, who can rush lanes, enemies, etc. Doing massive damage to them until it dies or wears off.

Some people hate that there is no item shop, or gold and with that no real reason to stay in lane. I actually enjoy the fact that there are more team oriented objectives and commend the developers for not taking the easy route and making another DOTA clone. I understand the people who don't like it as well, but honestly if your looking for a more traditional MOBA, perhaps you should stick with DOTA 2 or League of Legends.


The Queue system
The Queue system in this game is totally different than MOBA's we are used to. Instead of the champion select mode where people choose, fight, and bicker over who they will be playing blizzard has taken an approach to this that I actually like a lot. You pick who you want to play, and then queue up and it matches you with a team. Sort of like Dungeon queuing in wow. Sometimes you may be stuck with 2 support or what not at this stage in alpha, but it seems to be pretty good at balancing the classes. I do think this needs to be tweaked even more like wow, where it selects 1 Tank, 1 Support, 2 Assassin's, and one specialist (only for solo-queue) to make it a lot more balanced.

You can however invite your buddies into a group to queue together and pick your own roles. I think this should be left alone since some teams may "want" to play with some strange comp and do well with it. But for SOLO Queues, I'd like to see it be a setup like I posted above so that you don't randomly get 2-3 supports in random queues. Other than a little fine tuning though, I do quite enjoy being able to play whoever I want to play, and it not be a race for who types "BOT" or "TOP" first. It also eliminates a lot of fights, and arguments that take place in other games. Some people claim that it destroys the strategies before a match and coordinating your picks.....but lets be brutally honest for a second....that rarely happens in Solo-Queues to begin with in normal play, and since it's alpha and the ranked system isn't in effect yet we have no idea what sort of changes will be made in solo-queue ranked play.

The one thing that does irk me though, and this is really an issue of it being alpha with only a select few people getting invites thus far, but the skill level of players, and lack of overall teamwork and caring. There is NOT an option to report bad players. You can report for harassment, cheating, etc. But at this time (It is alpha after all) no reporting of bad players, or afkers. I'm sure the reporting of AFKers will change, but since blizzard caters to the casual player, I'm not holding my breath for being able to report unskilled players. It's not the lack of skill that really bothers me though, it's the lack of teamwork. I can understand that the game is new, and different and there is going to be players new to MOBAs in the alpha. However, the fact that everyone just runs on there own and seemingly ignores objectives in some games is awful. I guess you get the same in league and DOTA 2 in low level games as well. Also a lot of people are so used to league and DOTA that they are just programed to lane for 5-10 minutes straight but its still frustrating as hell, and with the lack of players since its alpha it's even worse. My advice is if you get into the alpha work on finding a team who will get in your voice chat server, and work together as soon as possible. There are TONS of people on the forums looking for teams to play with so they don't have to random queue so it shouldn't be too difficult. I forced myself to random queue all night last night just so I could write about my first impression of it as well.


Graphics, Voice Overs, and Soundtrack
The graphics are pretty awesome. The maps are unique and visually pleasing for sure, the cut scene at the beginning is great, but that's a given with blizzard games. There is small issues with heroes and such that I'm sure will be fixed by release. Overall though, the game is amazing in it's looks and I have really nothing bad to say about the graphics and level design of the game. The voice acting is what you'd expect from Blizzard if you've played any of the other blizzard games. Humorous at times, light hearted and fun. The music is actually really awesome. You get throwbacks to old school Warcraft games, and other blizzard titles in it. If your a fan of the old games, this entire game is almost a love fest from blizzard to it's fan base.


The Item Store
There is so much complaining right now about the prices in the item shop. I've looked into it, and the prices are around the same as in other games such as League of Legends and as of now, you can even purchase characters and even SKINS with in game gold and patience. I can't really speak on my thoughts on pricing. This is alpha, and who knows what will change before launch. You CAN buy stuff right now, I bought a nice bundle pack of heroes, which once the wipe happens you will be reimbursed your purchase price in in-game currency to re-buy what you like. But if your super concerned about high pricing just don't buy anything. Do what a lot of other people do. Wait, be patient, and earn your heroes and skins via gold.


Quests?...
Another interesting addition to a Moba is daily quests. You get these quests daily, which could be "Play a support role in 2 games", or "Play a character from Diablo". These games must be completed in PVP games and award a large experience gain as well as gold gain. This is one of the ways you'll earn your gold which is the in game currency to buy Heroes and Skins. I like the addition, since these quests get you gold, which means free heroes and skins. There is also another quest option, but I am not high enough level yet to use it so I cannot comment.


Mounts
Mounts are another addition that aren't typically in MOBA games. By hitting Z you can mount up and ride your horse around the map, and get back to things quicker after a death. I'm not 100% sure how I feel about mounts as it associates to game play just yet....however, there is no denying that this is awesome....



Conclusion
While I will not sit here and tell you that this game totally dwarfs league of legends and DOTA 2 and that blizzard is on it's way to being the undisputed king of MOBA's.....I can tell you that the game is fun, adds a lot of new features to a genre that has become stale with all of the DOTA clones out there, and has a ton of potential to be a really fun experience for it's players. Do I see it being a serious "E-Sport" like League of Legends and Dota 2?.....No, I don't. Do I think that's a bad thing? Not at all. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy League of Legends and play it often. While I'm nowhere near pro, I do love playing it. However with Heroes of the Storm it doesn't feel as "serious". It's fun, exciting, and games generally take 20-30 minutes to complete which are usually much shorter than League. I'm saying there is room in the market for an innovative MOBA with new ideas and mechanics that maybe isn't as "hardcore" as the others.....and to all the "Elite" and "Pro" League and DOTA 2 players......Give it a shot without comparing it to the others. Like I said, I love league myself....and this game WILL NOT replace league for me, not by a long shot. But if you give it a shot, you might find a fun, not-so serious game that you can play when you don't really have time for league, or your burnt out from all that Elo grinding. In conclusion the game needs a lot of work, and even then I doubt it will be a super serious, hardcore game. Blizzard hasn't been about the "Hardcore" fan base since Wrath of the Lich King (and some could argue even earlier than that). However that doesn't automatically make it a bad thing. If you go into this game looking for a new LoL or DOTA 2 your going to be disappointed. If you are going in with the mindset of having fun, while playing as your favorite characters from Blizzard's library then I think you will be pleasantly surprised at what you find and have a great time.....that is, unless they totally screw it up before release.