Media Consumption 10/10/2015

Netflix Binge Time

This week things felt like they were starting to get back to normal.  Since last week was so freaking crazy I ended up taking Tuesday off and just hanging out around the house.  That meant it was the perfect time to binge watch something on Netflix.  Unlike the previous week there have been multiple times that I simply hung out downstairs with the laptop and television, and as such have some shows to talk about.  Of note, if anyone has something they suggest I watch feel free and chime in.  I am always looking for something interesting, but the caveat is it must be available either through Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime streaming.  I know iZombie has started back up, and I have the episodes recording to my DVR but am largely waiting on my wife to watch them since she also was able to get into the previous season.

Dark Matter – Season 1


Dark Matter is one of those shows that folks had been suggesting to me for some time now, but I never really got around to watching it.  When I first checked to see if the show was streamable somewhere, I was only able to watch like the last five episodes through Hulu.  Now the entire series is on Netflix and it seemed like the perfect time to watch it.  I can’t think of this show without also comparing it to another SyFy channel show Killjoys.  There are moments where you wonder if this is set in the same universe, because they seem extremely similar.  Distopic future where corporations control pretty much everything, and folks are forced to carve out their lives on the fringe of society.  The twist here is that the  crew woke from out of cryosleep only to find that they have all had their memories erased.  During the first season we spend a lot of time trying to sort out who they are and what exactly they were doing, and at the same time blending together as a team.

So far my two favorite characters are “Five” aka the hacker stowaway girl, and the Android…. that they sadly just keep calling Android.  I am hoping in season two they finally give her a name, because I like the character and actor playing her.  If you are a fan of Lost Girl it is the same actor that played the Fae Doctor on that show, and sometimes love interest of the succubus title character.  What is awesome is that obviously there is some malfunction with the Android as she is starting to develop emotions, which makes the experience very “Data” like.  As far as the hacker… I knew she looked familiar and it finally hit me.  She is the little girl that played Alessa in the Silent Hill movie, and I IMDB’d to confirm it.  There are moments where the show gives me very Cowboy Bebop vibe to it, as they wander around space looking for jobs to pull…. so you know they can eat and have fuel.  All we need now is a genetically modified Corgi.

Arrow – Season 3


Also showing up on Netflix is season 3 of Arrow, which I somehow completely missed arriving until last night.  While playing SWTOR I binged my way through about half of the season and plan on trying to finish it up today.  So far I am liking it, but I am not super keen on some of the events that have transpired.  There is a lot of this season that just feels like it is set up material for future events.  I feel like I also really need to watch Flash after this to help piece together some of the parts that are missing when ONLY watching this season.  The cross over episode felt a bit odd, because I am assuming it started with Flash.  Also the lengthy set up for Atom has been interesting but a little contrived.  I am also not super sure what is going on with the character of Felicity this season, she seems to be shifting personalities a lot.  I am largely cool with Laurel taking the mantle of Black Canary as well.  The problem with the DC universe is that I only really know a shallow version of it that tends to be very Batman-centric.

Growing up I was a Marvel kid, and the only comics I really delved into were the Batman and Green Lantern universes…  other than Superfriends that is.  Marvel always felt like the universe of gritty anti-heroes and that was the sort of thing I thought was cool.  DC however tended to have much more detailed story arcs, and they obviously did a far better job of licensing their properties than Marvel since we have the ability to see all of these cross overs.  Obviously the whole handing Cupid over to Suicide Squad bit… is going to end up biting them in the ass.  I am hoping as the season goes on we see more of the Suicide Squad, especially as this season and season four probably really need to set up for the Suicide Squad movie, seeing as that is not a part of the DC universe that most people know anything about.  Well that is other than Harly Quinn… at this point everyone knows and loves Harly Quinn.  Looking forward to finishing the season today, as I continued to work my way through the Bounty Hunter storyline.

Fear The Walking Dead – Season Finale


The funny thing about Fear the Walking Dead is how the episode finale had two vastly different effects on me and my wife.  Up until this point in the season she had been watching the episodes with me, and it seemed like maybe she was almost getting into the show.  Whereas honestly I was bored and kept waiting for the inevitable other shoe to fall, because having been a long time walking dead watcher…  you knew the bad stuff was coming eventually.  Finally in this episode everything starts to go wrong, and this is the point at which my wife completely loses interest.  It seems like she is fine with a world where people have to sort out how to survive, but not so much in a world where they are constantly being chased by the dead.  Daniel still rises from this episode as my favorite character, namely the only one who is truly prepared to exist in this world.  The only problem there is he takes what is a bad situation and makes it even worse by letting loose the first horde.

In earlier episodes we find that they were using a stadium as a shelter, much like they did in Katrina with the super dome.  Something goes wrong and people start turning, and the military is unable to sort out who is living and who is dead and just ends up chaining the entire contents in essentially assuring that all two thousand plus people end up as zombies.  So when Daniel turns them lose to use them to attack the military compounds, it gives us a hint and maybe HOW the hordes form.  Maybe they get started when zombies finally break out of places they have been pinned up in and keep wandering together because they don’t exactly have free will.  Which makes you wonder… where exactly did the mega horde near Alexandria come from?  The big thing I wanted from Fear the Walking Dead, was more insight into WHY the world fell to hell and that seems to be something that was not on the menu.  Largely I am disappointed in the show, and the lack of Talking Dead after it was a problem for me.  Talking Dead essentially played the role of having someone to talk about the show with, in a strange way.  I am hoping when Season Two comes around they will do a “Talking Fear” show or something like that.  In any case this week we get the return of the real Walking Dead show so in the meantime I am pretty amped for that since experiencing the watered down version.





MMOs Worth Playing: The Secret World

The Games Pusher

One of my friends coined the term “Games Pusher” to represent the force I have when it comes to getting people to try a game.  She said she called me a drug dealer in the nicest possible way, but the term has stuck in my head.  It is true, I get super excited about games and enjoy trying to introduce people to ones they are not currently playing.  The thing is…  originally I thought this was just me vying to get more people to join me in the game I am currently playing.  However I feel like there are dozens of MMOs that are really good and that people should play all of them at least for a bit.  So we zoom to earlier this week when a friend of mine… one @zerena_hoofs made the innocuous comment that “I need a new mmo in my life”.  At which point I ended up flooding her with suggestions.  I jokingly said that I could keep it up for hours… and in truth I really could.  While I generally suck at sticking with “columns” I always have the desire to spawn them.  This time the idea is to do a short run of posts each Friday talking about the awesome things relating to one MMO that is “worth playing”.  Since it is October, I thought I would start things off with the most Halloweeny of all MMOs…  The Secret World.

The Plot

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The game is set essentially in an alternate reality version of our own world, and with that comes a lot of pop culture references.  When your character is awoken to your own latent abilities by a mysterious bee flying into your mouth while you are sleeping, you are recruited by one of three different secret organizations.  It seems while the world “slept” there has been a secret cold war going on between three ancient powers:  The Knights Templar, The Illuminati and a mysterious and relatively unknown organization called Dragon.  Each organization has its own agendas…  for the Templar based in London it tends to be to keep the order.  For the Illuminati based in New York it is all about hoarding knowledge and making a profit.  For Dragon based on Seoul it is about sowing the seeds of chaos throughout the world.  This secret back and forth between these clandestine entities would have remained like this for continued centuries were it not for the fact that something is changing.  A darkness is bubbling up from the bowels of the earth in the form of “The Filth” which is this black ichor that infects anyone who touches it with a sort of deliberate madness.  Now each organization is trying to get to the bottom of what is going on, while at the same time protecting their own assets and vying for supremacy over the other orders.

The game relies upon urban legends and myths to weave a tapestry of strange happenings throughout the world.  One moment you are investigating a small town in New England overrun by Lovecraftian horrors and zombies, and the next you might be uncovering a lost city in the Egyptian desert forgotten to time and filled with its own unknown dangers.  All the while you are trying to sort out what is happening to the world and what you and your chosen order can do to fix it.   What makes all of this work is the fact that this game has some of the best writing I have seen in any game, MMO or not.  The quests are interesting and actually require some pretty damned devious puzzle to solve.  There was one quest in Egypt that I remember vividly that actually provided data that you had to decode that was included in a number of real world encoding mechanisms.  Only after decrypting all of them could you get the clue needed to solve the riddle.  To make life easier on you, the game provides an in game browser and Funcom operates a number of “fake” websites for people and corporations in game that contain clues that are needed to solve certain quests.

The Mechanics

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The game claims to not have levels or classes but in truth… neither of these are absolutely correct.  What the game offers is a free form character creation system, but that freedom is actually fairly dangerous.  You can in theory build a character that is so screwed up that you cannot actually function in the game.  The game provides a few specific templates for each of the professions and earning all of the abilities for this template gets you a nifty costume.  These also serve as relatively functional builds for you to work towards, that will hopefully prevent the problems of absolute freedom.  The challenge here is the fact that there is no “respec” or skills reset system.  Doing things in the world gains you ability points and skill points, each with their own uses.  Ability points are spent learning new abilities in several different weapon based trees, and Skill points are used to level your ability to equip higher tiers of gear.  In its most basic form a “build” is a combination of up to seven active abilities on your hotbar, and up to seven passive abilities that hopefully interact with the actives you chose.  Later in the game they introduced new weapons that also take up space, but those won’t unlock until you have completed a quest.

The game itself feels almost like a card building game like Magic the Gathering or the Guild Wars 1 skill system… where you are trying to build a “deck” of abilities that interact in interesting ways together.  For example you might have a passive that does something really interesting when you push an enemy into a “hindered” state, and then you would want to use that with abilities on your hotbar that trigger that hindered state.  What makes this extremely interesting is the fact that you can swap your abilities at any time out in the world, and when we were running dungeons we often found ourselves swapping around what specifically we were using to better synergize with what other players were bringing to the table.  The biggest problem is that the game takes a lot of careful research to play well.  One of our challenges was the fact that we each had a specific idea of what we wanted our character to be… and some of those options simply were not viable when you got to the hardest content.  I have not played the game in some time, but one of the challenges was that there were certain required abilities and not every weapon tree could provide those.

The Style

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One of the best aspects of the game for me personally, were the awesome cosmetic gear options.  I am a huge fan of  transmogging or whatever a given game calls it, and if my character looks awesome I feel awesome about playing it.  One of the coolest things that The Secret World has going for it, is that essentially all visible gear is cosmetic by nature, and you can swap between looks freely while you are out in the field.  All items you pick up go into a dressing room and you can swap bits whenever you feel like it.  The actually “gear” that gives you statistics are your weapons and a number of talismans… necklaces, bracelets, rings etc… that are other than your weapon non-visible gear.  To make weapons cosmetic as well, they give you the ability to create a weapon mold that can chance the appearance of an item.  Combined this gives players extreme freedom in expressing their characters…  but sadly that means that the majority of players are going to be women running around with as little clothing on as humanly possible.  The above screenshot is one of my favorites, because my friend Tam and I essentially both arrived at super similar looks while doing a mission completely accidentally.  We jokingly dubbed this our Blues Brothers pose.

Another great thing about the game is that it is truly a mega server experience.  There are “servers” but they really don’t actually matter.  All of the characters span all of the servers, and you can group freely  with anyone regardless of faction.  This means that there is never a situation where two friends playing this game won’t be able to play together.  The only negative is that Cabals themselves aka Guilds… don’t span multiple factions.  I’ve spent most of my time playing for the Templar, but I know just as many diehard Illuminati and Dragon players.  The only problem is with the Cabals not spanning factions, it made it mildly frustrating for the folks who didn’t want to play Templar, since the guild was in that faction.  The workaround is that the game supports social channels and we used them prolifically when we were playing actively.  Another really cool thing about the game is that it has an extremely devoted and active role-playing population.  If you wander around London you are going to find pockets of players acting out their characters, and that adds a certain depth to the environment.


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The growth of the game comes in the form of comic book like “Issues” where a batch of content is released with a common theme.  To date there have been twelve issues spanning from July 2012 to August 2015, each with their own themes and usually their own comic book cover to go along with it.

  • Issue 1: Carter Unleashed
  • Issue 2: Digging Deeper
  • Issue 3: The Cat God
  • Issue 4: Big Trouble in the Big Apple
  • Issue 5: The Vanishing of Tyler Freeborn
  • Issue 6: Last Train to Cairo
  • Issue 7: A Dream to Kill
  • Issue 8: The Venetian Agenda
  • Sidestories:  Further Analysis
  • Issue 9: The Black Signal
  • Sidestories:  Love & Loathing
  • Sidestories: The Last Pagan
  • Issue 10: Nightmares in the Dream Palace
  • Issue 11: Reaping the Wind
  • Issue 12: To the Dark Tower Below

Monetization for this game comes primarily in the form of purchasing these issues, and in the various cosmetic items that you can purchase only through the store.  They have a number of really cool themed outfits that you can pick up, and for subscribers they give you a unique batch of items each month.  I purchased a lifetime subscription when the game was released that converted when the game went free to play to one that gives me access to all the subscription content, and a stipend of cash shop currency each month to spend.  While we call this game “Free to Play” it is in truth “Buy to Play” meaning you have to purchase the base game in order to do anything.  From there to get these new stand alone issues you have to purchase them one by one.  Right now on Steam the game is running $29.99 but quite often it goes on sale for as little as $10.  Similarly there is an ultimate version available for $59.99 that includes all of the content as well as a custom costume and some other consumables.  I fully expect that as we get closer to Halloween we will see both of these versions get discounted heavily.  The long and short is.. this is one of the most enjoyable questing experiences I have ever had in any game.  The story content is amazingly well written and the quests themselves are extremely inventive.  That said occasionally the solutions are insanely difficult to figure out.  Thankfully there are plenty of awesome guide sides out there like for if you find yourself stuck.  This is one of those games that I think everyone should try, just be willing to devote some effort into sorting out just what kind of character you want to build.  Once you get into the game world however… it becomes extremely infectious…  just like the  Filth.



Sithmas Time Is Here


Merry Sithmas


It has been so surreal since the launch of the Force Awakens toy line.  Everywhere I go the world seems to be teeming with Star Wars enthusiasm and with that… comes a bunch of priced to own kitch.  While we have yet to reach anything close to the hype bubble we experienced before the release of Phantom Menace, it is still extremely noticeable.  A few weeks ago I wrote about re-watching the prequels and how I had wondered if maybe I was just too harsh on them at the time.  After re-watching I decided that no… they really were horrible films.  The problem is that for years I let them have control over my enjoyment of the Star Wars universe as a whole, and that frustrates me.  If you were to completely ignore their existence, then honestly the rest of the Universe is still pretty great.  Sure there was some strange stuff on the fridges of the Expanded Universe, but I cannot discount just how phenomenal the Old Republic Era has been.  I remember picking up one of the first Tales of the Jedi comics and being completely blown away at this concept of a universe set essentially 4000 years before the time of Skywalker.  Then as that universe blossomed over the course of sever comic series, and then came to life in the form of the Knights of the Old Republic game, I was absolutely hooked.  Now that I am back roaming around SWTOR, I am realizing I care about this universe far more than I ever realized.

When the game mentions Freedon Nadd or Exar Kun… I remember who they are and what they did in this worlds history.  I remember awesome characters like Nomi Sunrider from the comics, or Jolee Bindo from KOTOR.  When I see a reference to Casus Fett or Mandalore the Ultimate in game… I know who those characters are and can remember reading about them in the comics.  The thing is… it is not just the Old Republic era that is amazing.  Essentially each time another creative force has been given free reign in the fertile Star Wars universe… really awesome things have happened.  For example while the official Prequels are pretty horrible, the Clone Wars cartoon series is amazing.  No one can deny just how awesome Ahsoka Tano as is a character, and just how much more interesting the interaction is between her and Anakin…  than pretty much ANYTHING in the Prequels.  Now if we scan forward we have Star Wars Rebels… also being allowed free reign in the universe, this time within the constraints of the more well known modern era.  Similar to Shadows of the Empire it is weaving its way in and out of events we already know, and doing a great job of making us care about this new cast of characters.

Excitement Grows


Which leads me to realize…  the times I have really loved Star Wars lately is when someone has been able to wriggle out front under the grasp of George Lucas and run freely creating their own plot lines and characters.  Essentially this is exactly what is happening with Force Awakens… it is all the goodness of the Star Wars universe with none of the harmful effects that Lucas has forced upon it in recent years.  In fact Lucas has been more than a little bit salty when talking about Episode VII and the fact that for the most part Disney ignored his plans to create a movie focused around teenagers.  What is happening is that Disney has become the most powerful marketing juggernaut on the planet, and at the core of their methodology is protecting the bottom line, and with it the long term profitability of the franchises they own.  I am sure there is some computer program somewhere that knows precisely what fans will like, and just how far they are willing to allow the themes to be stretched.  While at some point down the line this might be a bad thing for innovation…  I sincerely doubt they will allow anything even vaguely close to midichlorians to ever happen again.

The only frustration I have with the Disney approach however is that so much of the Universe became ruled “non-canon”.  There were characters like Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Thrawn that were absolutely amazing…  in fact I have action figures for both of them hanging on my wall as well as Clone Emperor Palpatine, Dark Jedi Luke, and Jedi Leia.  Those stories meant a lot to me, and while there were parts of the Expanded Universe that were completely unfollowable… most of it made a certain logical sense at least at one time.  The problem being like most fan centered fiction, it iterated on itself causing the characters to become more distorted and unbelievably heroic as time went on.  It is my hope that they will figure out how to work some of the best characters into the new tales.  There has been rumors that Mara Jade will be introduced as an Inquisitor instead of the Emperors Hand for example, which is fine with me…  so long as she is introduced at all.  Basically I find myself in a strange place, of having hope for Star Wars… when for so many years I lacked it almost entirely.  I imagine as we get closer to the December release of the movie, the cross promotions and Star Wars branded soup cans will start to get annoying.  However in the meantime…  I am reveling in Sithmas.

The Professional

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As of last night I have finished Balmorra and Nar Shadda on the Bounty Hunter and just went through the “intermission” that generally occurs there.  I didn’t really expect to be all that into this storyline, because essentially it was one of the ones that I never intended to actually complete.  While I enjoyed the Trooper storyline, the class itself was not that compelling to me.  Largely I think this was the reason why I ultimately fell out of love with SWTOR after pushing three characters to the then level cap of 50.  Bounty Hunter however feels completely different, and much more action packed.  There are little things like rocket punch and the jet pack charge that make it feel more brutal…  even if the attacks are essentially the same as my trooper vanguard.   The funny thing about the storyline is just how much of myself I can pour into it.  I am playing a very grey bounty hunter, who does not kill anyone for free.  Also as the story goes on I am becoming a bit of a softy, and I am wondering exactly when that will bite me in the ass.  Essentially it does not seem like a very “sith side” storyline so far other than the fact that essentially I am doing everything for the sake of payback… and for a girl.

I imagine over the next few days I will rip through the content quickly and before the end of the weekend start work on the last of two classes.  Not sure what I will be doing next, if it will be the Inquisitor and its constant shock treatment… or if I will go for the Imperial Agent.  As it stands now… I am starting to lean towards Agent.  Whatever the case playing all of these stories is making me fall in love with the Bioware writing all over again.  It is also making me look forward to Fallen Empire and its more story driven focus.  When you ONLY play the class quests, SWTOR becomes a much better game because it has a nice clean story arc that does not get muddied by repeating the same planetary quests over and over again.  At some point I will go back and play some of the quests I missed Sith side, but for the time being I want to push through the classes because each one feels like it adds another piece of a puzzle to the central story arc of this game world.  This is also making me want to go back and get KOTOR 2 working, and actually attempt to beat it this time.  It feels like there is a chunk of storyline that I am missing there, and with it several characters that I really only know by name.  Essentially I am saying by all of this… that once again I am proud to be a Star Wars junkie.




Warriors and Bounty Hunters

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A Day Off

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Last week as you might be able to tell from the posts I made during it… was extremely stressful.  As a result I ended up taking off yesterday as a sort of “mental health day”.  It was absolutely glorious, because essentially I sat around playing video games and watching Netflix.  I won’t talk about the Netflix viewing because I will save that for Saturday, but I will talk about the games I played.  More than anything yesterday was a day devoted to Star Wars the Old Republic.  I have this mad mission to somehow finish the rest of the class storyline that I have not completed before the launch of Fallen Empire at the end of this month.  I know that seems a bit mad, but I am enjoying myself especially since we are in this length lag period in Final Fantasy XIV content.  Over the weekend I finished up Smuggler, and yesterday I completed Sith Warrior.  At this point I have completed Jedi Knight, Jedi Consular, Trooper, Smuggler and Sith Warrior… and I think quite possibly the Warrior is the most satisfying conclusion yet.  The most interesting thing to me is how the Jedi Knight and Sith Warrior class stories end up making a nice set of bookends.

The Jedi Knight storyline is deeply impersonal.  It always felt less about your own exploits and more about you essentially saving the galaxy.  What I mean is that the Jedi Knight storyline, IS the story of the game.  Every major story arc event that trickles down into other characters seems to stem from a conflict brewing for the Knights.  The end result is that it feels like you are more a slave of events and you doggedly follow the main story arc as the Republic war progresses.  Sith Warrior on the other hand is a completely different experience.  It is more personal, and more about your ambitions and your power as you ascend from an apprentice all of the way through essentially the Dark Council.  I don’t want to go into a ton of detail but the end result is a much more satisfying experience.  Every obstacle in your path you personally get to remove by your own hand.  Last night I mentioned to a friend that the Sith Warrior storyline felt more “Sithy” than the Jedi felt “Jedi” but I guess in the grand scheme of things that isn’t true.  The Sith are by nature about thinking inwards, and the Jedi are about thinking outwards…  and the Jedi storyline being detached from more personal vendetta…  I guess IS what a Jedi should be.

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The interesting part about playing a Sith is that you know someone is always about to betray you.  So you go into the equation knowing that none of your allies are really ever your “true” allies.  As the story progresses they really find ways of driving this point home, and in many ways you have to deal with that fact or at least find ways to get past it.  In the end however every decision made leads you towards an epic conclusion allowing you to take out all of your frustrations.  The Sith Warrior story may be my favorite so far, just because there are so many epic moments where I absolutely feel like this avatar of wrath blazing a path through my enemies.  I started off trying to play a mostly Light Side Sith…  but as the events started reaching their conclusion I found myself succumbing to the darkside and began taking those “red” options to dispatch those who betrayed me.  In truth I ended the story line in a fairly “grey” state, which I guess is fitting.  In truth if I were a force user I would more than likely be a renegade that tried to live between the two factions, because it feels like the true path of the force is to find a balance between the two extremes.  To draw on the dark side and your rage when you need to defeat an enemy, but draw on the calm and peace when you need to solve issues.  My friend Tam mentioned something and it is absolutely true…  making a “good” choice Sith side feels more rewarding because people are shocked and amazed that you did not force choke them into submission…  whereas everyone expects it of you on the Jedi side.

Hunting Prey

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After finishing off the Sith Warrior I decided to flip over and start working on my Bounty Hunter that was just now getting to Dromund Kaas.  I figured I wanted a bit of a break from the “Sith” thing and having just finished playing a Smuggler I did not really relish playing a cunning character quite yet.  This leaves the Bounty Hunter, which has always felt a little odd to play.  As a Trooper the abilities felt like they made more sense, so I will have to sort through the bar and try and figure out what abilities I actually should be using.  I did not want to re-roll my character so I am playing Powertech, but planning on going one of the non-tank options.  At some point I am going to play a commando, which seems like it is far more satisfying to have a bit damned cannon than two pistols of the bounty hunter equivalent.  I think I will be fairly happy as a bounty hunter as soon as I can get my hands on some armor that LOOKS like a Bounty Hunter.  If I could run around in a color variant “Boba Fett” Mandalorian armor…  I would be super happy to play this character.  Until that happens however… I think I will ultimately be rather disappointed.

That is honestly one of my big complaints replaying content is that SWTOR should have made the getting of your class armor more of an important thing as you level.  There is an iconic look for each of the classes, and as you travel through the content you should start adding pieces of moddable armor to allow players to complete that “fantasy”.  Smugglers do a fair job of getting a few pieces of Han Solo-esc armor, and Jedi Knights eventually get a set of armor that feels like the armor+robe appearance you often see.  However the other classes…  seem to be a little less determined.  Jedi Consular is the story of having to suffer through a whole series of stupid looking armor sets, never quite finding one that really fits the class.  Bounty hunter so far, feels like I got my armor by scavenging bits off of my kills… and I guess in a way that fits.  All I really want is to look like Boba Fett… is that too much to ask?  I need to sort through my various cartel market options and see if I can find something I will be happy with.  If my characters look good I enjoy playing them regardless of how they perform, and my fear is that I won’t really get into this class until I can make him “not look stupid”.

Beginner’s Guide Experience

The Hype

I am breaking my own tradition and writing this blog post… while things are still fresh in my head instead of waiting until tomorrow morning…  or today if you are reading this.  Every now and then there is an immediate buzz about a game title, and this has lead me to be leery of this factor.  Sometimes the games are absolutely amazing, and other times they are pure hype. So when a brand new “art as game” title pops on the radar I get a little suspicious.  This is not normally the type of fare I go into, because I like things that explode and things to whack with big heavy swords.  That said when the word of The Beginner’s Guide started to circulate I got a bit curious.  When my friend finished playing it yesterday and wrote a lengthy blog post called pretentious I thought it might be worth checking out.   Especially knowing that it is a word he especially dislikes.  Granted when I sat down to watch a Let’s Play of the game, I had not read that blog post… or pretty much any other “review” of the game, other than the fact that there was simply a lot of buzz about it all of the sudden. So I went to YouTube and ultimately found a video by someone I have never seen before playing the game.

What I am left after watching the hour and a half long video… is some stuff I am not even sure if I can adequately put into words.  Hell to be truthful I am not really sure some of the emotions I am feeling actually even have proper names.  There are going to be spoilers involved with this post, so if you intend to play the game I highly suggest you stop reading.  I came into this play through like a blank slate, not really knowing what to expect other than the fact that this game came from the creator of The Stanley Parable which we had talked about a few times on AggroChat but I have never actually played myself.  After watching what is essentially an act of interactive fiction, I think you get out of it what you take into it.  Much like “The Box” from Dune, and the cave on Dagobah in Empire Strikes Back… it ultimately becomes a reflection of your own mental state.  Seeing the events unfold in front of me, I guess makes me realize how potentially broken I am inside.  I am sure someone could see the experience and immediately think “wtf is this crap”, but I guess I was in the right mindset for it to seep into my core.

The Terror

The narrator of the game is none other than the author, one Davey Wreden.  He tells a tale of a fellow game creator that he met at a Game Jam, and the unusual series of games that unfolded between the years of 2008 and 2011.  I have no idea who this Coda is or even at this point if it is a person that exists.  There are moments during the game play that you follow Davey down this course, descending into the deep interpreted meanings of these games.  Each game has a supposed point, and tells us a little bit about the Author.  As we reach the halfway point, there is a slow growing dread because I am scared that I know where this tale ends.  Each game seems progressively more alienating and more isolating…  like someone retreating into the dark cocoon of depression.  My terror at times was that we would find out at the end of this tale, that Coda had killed himself… and all that we were left with were this series of games that Davey was trying desperately to unravel.  That however is not at all what happens…  but instead in 2011 after Davey attempted to show the games to other people…  he simply broke off contact completely.  The final game is a series of frustrating puzzles that are either unwinnable or at the very least antagonistically set against the player.  After cheating your way through them with the help of the narrator you see a series of messages essentially telling Davey to never contact Coda again.

This game we are playing is supposedly a last ditch effort to get back on Codas good graces, to apologize publicly.  The thing is…  I don’t think there is a Coda.  I think this game is the tale of how one Davey Wreden reacted and internalized his struggle with his own fame brought on through the quirky success of Stanley Parable.  I think the game as a whole is essentially him working through is own issues, like he supposedly thought Coda was.  The problem there is… am I essentially doing the same thing he supposedly was by projecting myself and my own thought processes into the whole experience?  The truth is… we cannot help but do this.  There is no clinical distance that can keep us from doing this.  We imprint on the things we experience and we have to decode them through the only language we know… which is that of our own experiences.  So if you have never felt any of this alienation or crippling self doubt… then I feel like you could probably just let a game like this wash over you and not effect you in any way.  Unfortunately that is not the case for me.

The Stupor

Part of the reason why I am writing this while the experience is fresh, is that I hope to maybe be more honest about the experience.  I am by nature a creative person, and everything I do at least contains a part of me in it.  While I don’t blog in my own name, and have chosen to adopt a pen name of Belghast…  every post I write contains certain nuggets of myself that are more honest than I really mean them to be.  I am constantly beset with this desire to be liked and loved, and to find validation in the favor of others.  I find myself craving attention, but the problem is when I actually get it…  I don’t have a clue what to do with it.  This blog and the constant forward momentum, comes from a place that I don’t really understand.  Before blogging I was one of those people that would post all too long posts on forums.  Before that I was a devout IRC junkie and even managed to meet my wife that way.  I have this need to connect to people, even though I don’t really know how to.

I think in part this is why I find myself constantly trying to start new things, like segments on my blog, or lets plays…  only to abandon them when I get bored with them a few weeks to months later.  I am always dissatisfied with nearly everything I do, and nothing ever quite works the way I envision it working.  I’d love to say I don’t care about statistics and readership… but there are days I think to myself…  why am I doing any of this if no one is actually reading?  Then the very next day I sit down and the keyboard and keep writing.  I guess I do this because I have to, and I am not sure exactly how NOT to do it.  My world is arranged in a series of circles within circles, and the closer you get in the more I let people see of me.  However deep down at the center there is this place that no one gets to go, where I keep the parts of me that I think no one would like if they knew existed.  So there were levels in this game that maybe struck a deeper cord with me than others.  There was a level that as the player backed away from a stage, these walls kept slamming down in front of them… until at some point you simply couldn’t see the light of the stage any more.  This felt almost scarily familiar, and like all of those times that I needed to get away because I simply could not stand any more human stimuli in my life.  There have been so many times I have eaten my lunch in the silence of my car, just because I needed not to exist around others for the thirty minutes to an hour that it afforded me.

Final Thoughts

This post is ending to be far more personal than I intended it to be, but in truth the experience brought on by the game is more personal than I had expected it to be.  On AggroChat we have talked a lot about how games are generally bad at emotions, but this game…  has so many.  For some this experience might be liberating, but for me…  it was something else.  It has left me wallowing in my own faults and short comings.  Ultimately I saw myself in both Davey and Coda during this tale, because I think we are all a little bit of both of them.  Since finishing the Lets Play I have gone out to steam and purchased the game, and it will likely sit in my library unplayed.  I am not sure if I can really handle going through this experience a second time.   More than anything I wanted to purchase the game as a thank you for the experience, because even though I am a little off balance right now…  it is a rare experience that a game can cause that effect on anyone so when it does… it is well worth supporting.  Now I am going to spend the rest of my evening trying to get the thoughts out of my head that the game so firmly implanted there.


Day of Destiny

So Much Fireteam

Pause in loading gave a rare screenshot opportunity.
Pause in loading gave a rare screenshot opportunity.

It seems my recent Destiny addiction has rekindled the fires in a handful of my friends.  As a result over the weekend I spent most of it in a Fireteam with Damai attempting to help level our friend Carthuun represented above by his PSN name Saldonas.  Saturday night my wife was freezing, so I got drafted into going to bed the moment our podcast broke up to provide “warmth”.  As a result I had to spend a good chunk of Sunday morning editing the podcast, creating the YouTube version, blogging about it and broadcasting it to the world.  After that I of course has to throw out my own Aggronaut post… which means that I was fairly late getting started on playing anything.  By the time I logged into Destiny Damai and Carth had a fireteam going and were working on the last few missions of the original storyline.  From there we pushed through The Dark Below and House of Wolves expansion content as a group, which honestly had been a bullet point that I wanted to get through at some point.  The problem is with so much new and exciting stuff  to do and gear to get… I never quite got around to making the time for it.  However with Carth leveling for the first time… all of the items you get through those storyline elements were actually relevant.  I finally st0pped grouping around 7pm when my wife got back home, and I went off to fix dinner for the two of us.  At that point I think Carthuun was sitting around the level 25 mark which is not too shabby for a day of grouping.

The big thing that I sorted was how to use PS4 party chat comfortably.  I have a Logitech G430 sitting relatively unused because after swapping to using a Blue Yeti microphone on my machine upstairs, I swapped to simply using a pair of Behringer HPS3000 studio headphones.  The sound output was better and they are nowhere near as heavy as the Logitech pair because they don’t need an attached boom mic.  Ages ago I ordered a few pairs of adapters that take a standard headset and converts it down to the single jack style input that modern phones and the PS4 controller uses.  Yesterday I took the time to dig out my G430 and one of those adapters and after some fiddling and piping all of the game audio through the headset… I finally arrived at something that was fairly comfortable to use.  I don’t seem to mind the fact that playstation chat is mono audio… when I have the rest of the game audio coming through my headphones as well.  Additionally having something other than my dedicated PS4 headset…  makes them far more comfortable to use for several hours on end.  Also this finally allows me to crank up the game audio without frustrating my wife, who has on occasion asked me to turn it down when a really crazy moment happens and the audio is booming.  Now that it is sorted I feel more comfortable using a headset with the console, and am also more likely to just hang out in party chat for awhile.  I am wondering what the upper bound on a party group is, and if you can have more than just the three fire team members.

Swapping Companions

swtor 2015-10-05 06-22-22-63

When I got downstairs last night to prepare for the season finale of Fear the Walking Dead, I of course booted up and started playing Star Wars the Old Republic.  Now that I have finished with my smuggler, I am picking up where I left off on my Sith Warrior.  Through the course of the evening I worked my way through the rest of the Nar Shadda storyline and just now starting on Tattooine.  I have to say it is very nice to finally have all four buffs after beating one of each base class.  I am a bit saddened however that I am finally reaching the stage of the game where it feels like having a healer is a very useful thing.  This means relegating Vette to crafting and spending the majority of my time with Malavai Quinn.  In the grand scheme of things I have no problem with Malavai, because he seems like the honorable Imperial Soldier type.  The problem being that I just like running around with Vette, because I always loved Mission Vao, and honestly for me… she was always Mission 2.0 rather than her own character.  Instead she will farm up companion gifts… that I will ultimately give to her later…  which seems a little strange?

Basically if I have a shot in hell of getting the special legacy unlock thing for beating all of the stories, that means I have to play through the rest of Sith Warrior, Imperial Agent, Bounty Hunter, and Sith Inquisitor all before the end of the month.  I am seriously doubting I will be able to do it, but…. that said if I ONLY focus on the story missions I might be able to make it.  When you only focus on the class story the early planets at least go extremely quickly and you stay at a decent level.  I might need to spend some cartel coins however to unlock more mod gear to throw on my characters.  The plan I arrived at on my smuggler of upgrading my armor every other planet seemed to work pretty well and I would really like to do that with my Sith characters.  The problem being the game is not extremely forthcoming with armor options.  There are sets available for pretty much any level range on the Cartel Market, but each of them cost a fair amount of coin.  So I guess we shall see what ultimately happens.  I guess if I got desperate I could make them wear the free moddable flight suits they give you, but that is not exactly a great option.  I might use the imperial pilot suit for Malavai Quinn however.

YouTube AggroChat


The funny thing about AggroChat is that in the grand scheme of things… we don’t actually get that many listeners… or at least not enough listeners to go through the trouble of some of the things that I do.  For example… our YouTube videos maybe get a dozen views a piece.  That said I like doing them, and I am not sure why.  I guess they are just far easier to link to someone when they ask you about the show than linking the actual podcast page.  Also I like embedding a youtube video far more than I liked embedding the Libsyn player.  I feel like I could probably do better about advertising our show.  I tend to do it in a rather haphazard fashion, because I feel rushed to get each show out the door and ready.  By the time I finish editing, uploading, and doing all the other things… I reach this point where I just want to be done with it for another week.  It is not necessarily the most enjoyable period of my week.  I love making the show, but the tedium that comes from doing all the fiddly bits to make it happen…  gets annoying.  So I reach this point where I just want to hurl it out into the world and hope someone finds it interesting.  The hardest part is it feels like we don’t have a lot of feedback.  Podcast listeners tend to listen silently, and while we have a few people that comment here and there…  you don’t get the sort of commentary that you do when you have a blog.  There are weeks however like this week, where I feel like we got into some extremely interesting conversations, and it is well worth listening.  I love the folks I podcast with, because ultimately they are the folks that I hang out with on a daily basis.






Week in Gaming 10/4/2015

Moving in Slow Motion

This morning I am having one of those days that feels like I am fighting against quicksand, to be able to accomplish anything.  It is the fitting end of the week I have had where so many issues have come up, that I had to deal with.  This week was one where my boss was out of the office for most of it, which meant I got to be the boss.  This is a concept that sounds fun on paper, but after having done it for years…  I promise it is not nearly as entertaining as it sounds.  Being the boss means you are the one that has to deal with isssues when they arrise, even when the issues are of a magnitude that makes you just want to pull the covers over your head and forget the world exists.  As such my gaming was a bit odd, because I needed to vent my frustrations in the form of shooting aliens.  There were many nights this week where I intended to do something else, but ended up playing Destiny all night.  As such there really are not a lot of individual games to talk about but here goes nothing!

Star Wars the Old Republic

swtor 2015-09-29 20-14-18-19

As of last night during the AggroChat podcast I have officially completed the original Smuggler storyline, and with it… I have a lot of thoughts about what I experienced.  When Kodra played through this content I can remember him being extremely disappointed… but maybe I am just more simple minded, but I absolutely loved the ending.  It is everything I expected underworld dealings would be… romance, betrayal, and getting revenge on the people who betrayed you.  It wraps up everything a good outlaw story should, and like the best ones… ends up with you on the side of justice.  Maybe I just grew up with too many westerns, but it felt like it should to me.  My character wasn’t necessarily a white hat, but he definitely was not a black hat… and at the same time I got to do enough things that felt like decisions I would make, to keep me hooked on the storyline.  Now that I have wrapped this one up, I think I am going to work up faction on Risha and see what that romance option looks like.  After that I think I am putting the Smuggler to bed for awhile, no pun intended… and moving on to something else.

While I doubt I will manage to play through the four imperial storylines before the launch of Fallen Empire, I think I am going to make a good college try to do so.  It would be cool to go into Fallen Empire with the special perk for having defeated all eight storylines.  Last night I swapped over and started working on my Sith Warrior which is the next closest to moving forward.  I have to say once I stopped doing side quests and only focused on the character story the entire experience became far more enjoyable.  Not that the side quests are not awesome… but when you have done them multiple times…  they begin to drag on.  As I play my Sith Warrior I will probably keep doing side quests because most of them on the Imperial side I have not actually seen.  I wonder how many if any duplicate between the two factions.  In any case I am still very much enjoying my SWTOR vacation and I think it has been a great way to spend the lag time between 3.0 and the 3.1 patch in Final Fantasy XIV.


WildStar64 2015-09-30 06-35-20-37

I have to say the disappointment of the week has been the free to play launch of Wildstar.  I guess I say “disappointment” in quotes because really… any time you do a major launch there are significant issues expected.  Wildstar relaunch has not been smooth by any measure of the word.  In theory from what I have heard if you can manage to get things are fine…  but that was not my personal experience.  I fought through the queues twice this week, and each time moments after actually getting into the game… I saw a message scroll across my screen warning me that the servers would be coming down in 15 minutes.  What does not help I guess is the fact that I am entirely focused on the Entity server, which happens to be the most populated.  At some point I will get some play time in, but at the very least I was able to go fiddle with my inventory and clear out my mail box.  I also gathered up all of my new items, and I am almost tier 6 on the Cosmic Points system.  I have premium sub time through next May so I am sure during that time I will play it quite a bit.


Oryx is a badass

Not really sure what I can say about Destiny that I did not already cover this week in my blog post about it.  That said I am still having a blast playing, and several of my friends have also rekindled their interests in the game.  I’ve been getting snagged into a fire time quite often and as a result we are doing quite a few strikes to help my friend Damai get geared up.  Also this week Carthuun joined the game, so I have a feeling we will be doing some lower level content to help him catch up.  To some extent I have been working on leveling my Warlock other than doing my daily bounties, and enjoying replaying through the content.  This game is just so zen for me right now… nothing quite relaxes me like headshotting all manner of aliens, and in the strikes I have run I seem to get the lions share of the kills because of my focus.  I am absolutely in love with the Sunbreaker because seriously….  every game needs the ability to throw flaming hammers at your opponents.  I actually even spent some time running crucible skirmishes and enjoyed myself.  I didn’t lead the kill count for my team but I did manage to place second, and I didn’t have the negative experience some of my other friends have reported as a result.  I imagine that the community for Destiny PVP can be pretty horrible, I am just lucky that I have not seen that yet.

As far as today… I am probably going to spend a lot more of my time playing Destiny as while waiting editing the podcast this morning I managed to knock out most of the objectives.  After I wrap those up I will probably migrate downstairs and spend the rest of the day SWTORing on the sofa while watching something on the television.  Destiny has for whatever reason been the perfect blowing off some steam game for me this week.  My hope is that as I continue to gain light and gear up it will stay just as enjoyable.  I have yet to really try any of the true “endgame” content like the Raids and the Heroic Strikes, but I have to say if I have enough friends playing…  it might be interesting.  I am still just blown away by how much better the game feels to me.  Once again if you played the game at launch and found it lacking… I highly suggest you patch up your client and at least give the game a spin.  The changes trickle down through the entire game, and you should be able to see if you like the new feel before purchasing Taken King.  Thankfully there is the option to ONLY buy Taken King without having to repurchase the entire game… but those options are only available for digital copies of the game.  Not sure if you can upgrade a former physical copy or not.  The Destiny theme song however is playing in the background as I type this… so I am going to go answer its call.  Hopefully we all have an awesome week to come.


Media Consumption 10/3/2015

Week of PS4

This week was pretty much the week of me intending to play other games… and then never quite getting off of my PS4 in time to actually do that.  As a result I spent most of my time upstairs in my office with my chair turned to the side pointing at the television that runs my consoles.  Also as a result I did not really watch any television other than last Sunday night, which means that portion of my usual media consumption was pretty scant.  However that said I did watch a bunch of really interesting things on the Internets own television station…  aka YouTube.  As a result this episode of Media Consumption is largely going to focus on things I found interesting on YouTube.

Tommy Westphall Theory

So firstly I have to give a major shout out to the PBS Idea Channel for creating videos that are almost always thought provoking or at least makes me want to discuss whatever it is they are talking about with my friends.  This week however they posted a video that quite literally blew my mind.  Tiny fireworks went off followed by lots of mental pain… as I attempted to reorient myself to accept the notion that what they were saying could be real.  They delved into this idea called the Tommy Westphall Universe Hypothesis, where essentially over four hundred different seemingly unrelated televisions shows… all occur in the same universe.  To make things even stranger the suggestion is that this entire universe exists in the mind of one autistic boy named Tommy Westphall that appeared on Saint Elsewhere.  If this sounds interesting then by all means watch the video and prepare to make mind explodey noises.

Ahoy – Nuclear Fruit Series

The problem with the internet is that things change regularly… and there is little to no way to track down what things previously were called.  There is this great channel that is currently called Ahoy, but I cannot for the life of me remember what the original name was.  Essentially it is a channel that does these awesome videos that explore video game concepts with amazing narration and artful two dimensional graphics.  I first was made aware of the channel through the Brief History of Graphics series where they delve into computer games and explore the various eras and the graphical changes that came into play as part of them.  There is also a really great series called Iconic Arms where they delve into the ubiquitous guns that we use in shooter games, and the origins of them… usually delving into the maker and the real world conflicts they were actually used in.  Today however I am here to talk about their latest five part series called Nuclear Fruit, where they delve into our fascination with nuclear warfare and the games that were inspired by it.  As of writing this there are only four parts available but the next part should arrive this coming week if they follow the standard schedule.  If you look in this playlist the video appears to be available but just flagged to “private”.

Cool Ghosts – The Taken King: Does it Fix Destiny?

If for some reason you missed this yesterday, I am a really huge fan of this video.  It does an excellent job of highlighting the things that felt wrong with Destiny Year One and the way many of those have been improved in Year Two.  Yesterday I also went into my own reasons for why I think the game is in a much better state, but still the video is well worth watching.  Matt Lees the guy who appears in the video makes absolutely brilliant videos, the problem being they are somewhat sporadic.  My hope is that his new “Cool Ghosts” initiative where he collaborates with another friend will serve to be a fertile ground for new content.  In the mean time we can always just re-watch his crowing achievements of the PS4 and Xbox One reveals.

Fear the Walking Dead


There is a huge part of me that is excited for this weeks Fear the Walking Dead…  because it means this season is over and we can return to the normal Walking Dead television show.  In all fairness I have to say last weeks episode had things finally starting to get interesting.  From this point out… I am going to delve into a ton of spoilers and if you have not been watching this show you might just want to stop reading this sub section.  We found out a bunch of stuff that does not bode well for the characters.  I have a feeling that there is no way that they are getting out of tomorrows episode without at least losing one of the characters.  Essentially the crazy old man… aka Daniel Salazar… aka the only person who has the survival instincts necessary to survive the undead apocalypse…   has kidnapped the soldier that his daughter Ofelia is sweet on.  Then he proceeds to do what so many fathers have wished they could do to the guys dating their daughters…  slowly peels away his skin in a cruel torture ritual.  The thing is…  as horrible as this act is… it is quite literally the only way he was able to get him to spill the beans about operation Cobalt.  This is apparently a planned execution of all of the civilians when they abandon the Los Angeles Basin.  As we go into this weeks episode it is essentially the day these events are supposed to play out.  That said it seems like most of the soldiers who would have been involved in said plan… got nommed on in an overrun hospital.  So here we go…  things are finally going to get crazy…  because I am tired of this suburban living under armed guard phase of the show.  Let the bodies hit the floor!  It is seriously time to weed out some of the characters.

Destiny Got Better

Destiny Year One

For a few weeks now I have wanted to write a post to explain all of the things that I did not like about Destiny Year One, and talk a bit about how Year Two has just made things “better”.  However it appears that Matt Lees, one of the lovely people behind the “abridged” e3 videos that I love so much…  has done pretty much exactly that in video form.  Seriously if you have not watched the abridged PS4 reveal video… stop what you are doing and watch it now because essentially that one video has given our group a whole slew of inside jokes for a few years.  Despite Matt having done such a great job of this mission I wanted to do in the first place…  I am going to attempt to do my own discussion.  Destiny was one of those games that quite literally made me buy a console.  Admittedly it was one of a long list of Playstation 4 games that I wanted to play, but it was finally the catalyst that got me to pick up a used unit and finally join the rest of my friends in owning that console.  More important than that… it was the game that got me to shed my pc-gaming-hipster distaste of the thought of playing a shooter on the console.  Prior to this game existing… playing a shooter without a mouse and keyboard was utter blasphemy in my household.

What we got however in Destiny Year One was this oddly disjointed and terribly uneven play experience.  The single player missions were excellent, and in spite of dinklebot not having a personality… and never actually letting us in on the details that were happening in the universe, I found myself craving more of the game.  The story is one of the big problems because so much of it was told through the collection of grimoire entries…  that you could not even read in game.  You had to trek out to the Bungie website, log in, and then you could find huge swaths of story-line for the events you just did in game.  That design decision was confusing at best, and a laughable mistake at worst.  Story issues aside… the moment to moment game-play was amazing… until you reached level 20.  Then a completely different game started about item management and trying to maximize just how much “light” you had on your gear.  This stat that simply did not exist before level 20 suddenly controlled not only how effective your gear was, but also what “level” your character was in game.

Grinding Light

Not A Year One Shot… my current state in the game

The problem with the post 20 game was that it introduced so many things that you simply had not seen before that point.  For example post 20 gear could be upgraded, and in fact this is something you needed to do in order to unlock the true potential and maximum light value.  With each incremental upgrade you added a few more points of light here or there and could increase your level.  In order to upgrade items you had to essentially grind out the rare materials that you had been picking up incidentally on planets but not really knowing what to do with them.  In fact the game gave you a way of turning in huge quantities of these materials… for quick faction and experience boosts, but gave no indication of why you might not want to do this.  As such I went into the end game with limited resources, and had to spend hours scouring the various patrol zones trying to find enough spinmetal or iron ore to pay for the upgrade of my items to the next rank.  This is the point where the game lost me, in that I had all of my gear needing to be upgraded but nowhere near enough materials to actually do this.

The other frustrating problem with the light system was the fact that you could get a potentially better item, but not be able to afford to use it.  What I mean by that is you would get say a weapon with a higher starting light, but after several rounds of upgrading your current weapon had more total light.  So you knew that if you upgraded you could get high light level and as a result higher physical level by using this new item…  but in the meantime you would have to suffer the penalty of losing light in the process.  This made gearing a frustrating mess, and in those early strikes one level difference meant the difference between being able to actively participate and feeling like you were dragging down the entire team.  What added to this frustration was the fact that drops in general were pretty scarce.  I could log in and run around collecting iron on Mars for a few hours, killing tons of things in the process and maybe just maybe see a couple of greens.  As a result the end game just felt disconnected from the awesome game play experience that we had getting there.

Year Two

Shrine of Oryx event beginning

When Taken King got its announcement, I have to admit I was originally highly frustrated with the fact that there was no initial offering that did not also include the base game and its expansions.  They have since changed that and you can pick up a digital copy for around $30 that does not include all of the additional stuff.  However I have to say that I agree with the branding because Taken King essentially takes everything about the original game and fixes it.  For those who will understand the analogy, this is the Diablo 3 2.0 patch for Destiny.  Even if you do not buy Taken King, I highly suggest you patch back up Destiny and give it another shot.  Start a new character and revel in just how much better the overall experience feels.  I did just this, and within a few days it convinced me that I should go ahead and pick up the digital upgrade to Taken King.  Firstly the loot scarcity is no longer an issue at all.  I can play for a few minutes and I will have a stack of a dozen engrams that I need to decode on the tower.  Similarly the engrams themselves are more truthful.  If you get a blue engram, you will get at least a blue item.  If you get a purple engram you will get at least a purple item.  That said I have actually gotten a handful of purple items from blue engrams…  which is insanely exciting when it happens.

As far as the light grind… it is essentially no more.  Your light rating becomes something akin to a gear score in modern mmos.  It is a number that is an average of the attack and defensive ratings of all of the gear you have equipped.  Why this feels better is the fact that you can incrementally increase your rating, whittling down a few points a night giving you the feeling of constantly moving forward.  As far as upgrading gear goes, I have never run into a problem where I do not have the resources needed to upgrade an item, even though they still require the materials gathered on planet.  What has changed however is the fact that these nodes are far more plentiful.  There was a point last night that I was on Venus and could see four different spirit bloom nodes from where I was standing.  What makes this easier as well is that the Ghost is an actual item that can be upgraded.  You collect “shells” that change the appearance and defense rating gained by your ghost, and as you upgrade it they often have perks like the ability to increase the amount of a given resource that you gain.  When you bring up the ghost menu, that you would normally use to return to orbit… you get additional benefit now of the ghost scanning your surroundings and pointing out anything useful.  This gets used quite a bit in the later missions to help you map out your surroundings or show things that are invisible.

What has helped me at least is the fact that it feels like I have a bunch of little things that I can be doing at any point.  I am actually enjoying doing my bounties each day, and I just started working on my Gunsmith reputation.  That one is pretty interesting in that each week you can purchase a series of weapons from the Gunsmith and “field test” them.  Each weapon has different requirements to help it “gather information”.  For example I did one last night that only gathered information by killing Vex Minotaurs, and another that only gained completion if I got double kills with a sniper rifle… which as far as I could tell just meant two kills in quick succession without reloading my clip.  Once you have gained some reputation you are able to place “Armsday” orders, which apparently means that every Wednesday the Gunsmith will give you a rank appropriate weapon of the type you ordered.  All of this and more gives me the feeling that there are simply a bunch of things that I can do to improve my character in small and meaningful ways without really feeling that I am grinding without purpose.  I can quite literally lose entire nights playing this game right now, and last night I had every intent of logging in and playing for an hour… then going off to do something else.  I ended up playing all night,  because I kept finding one more thing that I wanted to accomplish.  I’ve now actually started playing through the game again on a Warlock, for when I want a break from my Titan main.  If you too were disillusioned with the original Destiny experience, I think you owe it to yourself to patch up the original game and give it another shot.  Even without the expansion you are still going to be able to experience new encounters in the old patrol zones, and at least get a taste for what “The Taken” as a race feel like.  If you are playing on the Playstation 4, hit me up with a friend request on Belghast my PSN account.





Alarms are Overpowered

I’m Late!


This blog post is going to be relatively short and sweet since I may or may not have forgotten to set the alarm last night.  My life tends to revolve around rituals and when one of those rituals is interrupted I forget to do something.  It is like I have committed entire segments of my life to muscle memory, but I can only actually do the things if I do them in the correct order.  For some reason I decided in my infinite wisdom to go ahead and check the front door and make sure the cars are locked early in the evening.  This is generally part of my whole “putting the house to bed” routine, and because I ran part of it… I never actually got to the part of the segment where I check the ferrets food and water and the cats water in the bathroom… and FINALLY just before crawling into bed set the alarm.  It kinda sucks to be a slave to my own systems, and the problem is I am extremely highly functioning…  until someone interrupts me when I am in the middle of one of them.  Then like a remote control car that got knocked on its side I flail hopelessly for a few minutes until something finally helps me reorient my mental processes.

It does worry me at times that I will be sitting there lost in a process and be unable to shift gears quickly.  Like if I am thinking about one thing, and need to conjure up the name of another person not connected to the thing I am thinking about.  I am horrific with names in general, but in those moments I seriously cannot for the life of me figure out what to call this other person.  There are social skills that I have figured out that smooth these moments, like how to effectively say hello to someone… while sounding sincere… at the same time attempting to pretend that you DO remember their name and you are just a casual person that doesn’t always say names.  I think more than anything… I have some really bad indexing systems in my brain.  I can see someone in the office and remember intimate details about their wife or kids or that they like this or that television show…  but cannot for the life of me remember that name is associated with their face.  I guess I have gotten used to the handles we all use in the virtual space that ARE extremely unique to the person, and often times adequately represent WHO they are, and as a result normal names just feel like an arbitrary system.

The Unlikely Patriot

swtor 2015-09-29 20-14-18-19

Last night exited in two very distinct segments.  Before my wife got home I spent that part of the evening playing Destiny and made my first attempts at raising my faction with the Gunsmith by testing weapons.  Up until this point I had no clue how this worked, and I probably should have been doing this from the moment I could equip one of the weapons.  However I failed miserably and am just now getting started.  When my wife did get home we went out to eat and ran errands, and when I finally sat my butt down afterwards the evening became all about trying to make progress in Star Wars the Old  Republic.  At this point I have finished Hoth and Belsavis and am now starting my way into Voss.  One of the things that I have enjoyed the most about the smuggler missions is that they make this weird overlapping pattern, where you end up revisiting places you have already been multiple times because the storyline leads you there.  For example when we realized we needed to go to Voss, there was a problem… that it would take some time to get the right docking clearances for me to land.  As a result I was asked to go take care of an issue on Belsavis while waiting, which filled in some details that I would ultimately use on Voss.  Essentially the progression feels more significant than simply following a course of planets, each time I land there is a reason for going there connected to the larger story arc in a way that was not quite so evident when playing some of the other characters.

The other thing that I find interesting is just how much of a “manwhore” my captain happens to be.  It seems like every single conversation there is the opportunity to flirt with whoever I am talking to.  The best moments however is when he gets shut down harshly.  The expression on the characters face is like someone broke his toy.  As such I find myself using the flirt option far more often than I would on any other character because that seems to be a significant part of the smuggler experience.  The thing is… the characters in game expect it from my character.  So when I receive negative faction for doing it… it is only 2 or 3 points at a time rather than the 20-30 points you lose on say a Sith Warrior when you flirt with a character and Vette catches wind.  I find this equal parts interesting and disturbing… because it is setting up a kinda bizarre paradigm with this character.  I mean everyone thinks of the smuggler as having this roguish charm… but I guess that also means being a lush about everything?  Then again if you think about it… all of the similar characters like Nathan Drake or Mal Reynolds tend to do the same thing.  It is funny how much the “Han Solo” lovable rascal trope has embedded itself into game media… the problem being…  I’ve never actually met this character in real life.  When you meet a guy that flirts with literally everyone around them… they tend to be a complete jackass that just happens to have an overdeveloped libido.