Friendtime Storything

friendtimestorything

Bel Folks Stuff

Once upon a time I recorded a podcast called “Bel Folks Stuff”.  I am extremely talented at giving things super specific names.  The idea was pretty simple, AggroChat in a smaller setting allowing me to branch out and record shows with individual friends.  The central conceit of the show was that it was going to be somewhat of an interview show, where in theory I asked all of the participants the same questions each time.  There were things that worked about the show, and there were things that didn’t really.  It never gained much traction which was a bit of a bummer, but it is extremely to gain momentum when you are only releasing a show each month.  In the grand scheme of things I am still fairly proud of the shows, and every so often someone asks me when exactly I am going to record some more of them.

In truth…  while I want to do something similar, it feels weird to consider just starting up three years later and recording new episodes for the same show.  I cancelled the show in June of 2015, largely because I was going through a bit of a rough patch in my life and something needed to change.  At that point I was publishing Tales of the Aggronaut each morning seven days a week, recording AggroChat each Saturday, writing two weekly columns for MMOGames.com, and trying to squeeze in time to figure out when I can record with someone and get a Bel Folks Stuff episode in each month.  Additionally work was a little insane with me stepping up to more of a managerial role, and then also attempting to raid in two different games at the same time.  The show didn’t have a whole lot of listeners in the grand scheme of things, so it felt like it was the obvious thing to drop.  Ultimately in the long run I wound up cutting back more severely in that I am no longer really associated with MMOGames.com at all… and I have dropped this blog down to a weekday morning only thing.

The show had a good run however of seven episodes where I got to hang out and talk with eight different friends.  There was in fact a bonus episode where I got both Rowan and Scooter together to talk about gaming as a couple.  For those who didn’t even know the show existed…  here is a full list of the episodes that I now keep on the AggroChat.com page.

  1. An Evening With Syl
  2. Rowan and Scooter
  3. An Evening with Alternative Chat
  4. Evening with Petter
  5. Evening with Qelric
  6. A Good Friday with Liore
  7. Late Night With Jaedia

Huge thanks as always to @Gypsy_Syl, @RowanBlaze, @Sctrz, @Petterm, @QelricDK, @HeyItsLiore, and @Jaedia for making the show awesome and interesting to listen to.  The biggest problem that I ran into as a whole with the show is the fact that out of the eight folks I had to schedule time with…  only three were in anything even vaguely close to a drift compatible time zone.  That meant the whole process of finding a time that they were conscious and I could record was a challenge.  Unfortunately that is not really ever going away since a lot of the people I really want to sit down and have a chat with are European.  However trying to juggle that along with everything else on my plate was a bit much.  The problem is that I still have the desire to record something along these lines, but like I said before it felt weird just to start up doing the same thing again.

friendtimestorything

For awhile I have been trying to sort out how I wanted to functionally reboot “Bel Folks Stuff” and what changes if any I wanted to make to it.  I got completely hung up on the concept of having a friend on the podcast and having them tell me… and our listeners a story.  One of the constant threads among gamers is that we file away these experiences to recall at a later date as we tell tales to our friends and guildies.  I mean I have spun a yarn about the “Bunny Incident” numerous times in the past, enough that you can just say those words and most of the people I play with know exactly what I am talking about.  As I mulled over the concept a bit more I decided that I didn’t necessarily limit it to gaming stories only.  Sure that solidifies the niche of listeners I had for the show…  but in truth I am just not that super concerned about soliciting a huge number of listeners.  There was a period of time I thought maybe this would be an alternate career path, but after attempting to do the writing for pay thing…  I’ve come to realize how not compatible I am with that idea.

I name things oddly… and that is pretty much a given.  The name “Friendtime Storything” came from a lot of mulling things over and some brainstorming with my friend Neph who is going to ultimately be a victim of this process.  Now I simply need to figure out the list of people that I want to talk to and start scheduling times.  In truth this mornings post is intended to be somewhat of a recruitment vehicle.  What I am wanting to do is hard to explain without understanding what I was trying to do with Bel Folks Stuff in the first place.  Mostly it will be me sitting down with a friend and having a good chat, with as the tag line states…  a thinly veined excuse to make folks tell me a story.  I feel like I need a show like this to pull in the people that I don’t have time to talk with on AggroChat.  Right now we have a fairly fixed and reliable crew on that show with myself, Ashgar, Grace, Kodra, Tamrielo and Thalen.  That has been “the crew” for a few years now and apart from missing an episode here or there, or bringing in some additional folks for a big show…  that mix feels good the way it is.  This show is going to let me snag people and do something different.  The main plan is to release these episodes as sort of bonus material in the already existing AggroChat podcast feed.  In theory I SHOULD have enough free bandwidth on Libsyn to sneak one of these shows in each month.  There are a lot of things I would do differently had I a second chance… and one of them is to quit spawning secondary sites each time I had an idea to do something.

I am not entirely certain when this process is going to start, but I have a feeling that within the next few weeks an episode should appear.

 

Generations are Weird

This is absolutely not a topic I would have chosen for myself, but it is one that has been swimming around in my brain since last night.  Last night my good friend Liore posted an article called “F*ck You, I’m Not Millennial” from Huffington Post.  I initially braced myself for yet another “Millennial Bash” article, but what I found was something that articulated the general sense of confusion I have felt my entire life.  Generations are an odd construct, and it could be argued that they don’t exist.  However there are significant differences between mindsets and outlooks every so often.  I think vastly different than my parents or boss who are firmly planted in the Baby Boom era.  My parents thought vastly different than my grand parents who were the children of the Great Depression.  I was born in 1976 which lets me claim the late 70s, entire 80s, and early 90s…  as my formative years.  So I have various traits of folks who grew up in all of those…  and not an entire matched set of any specific generational stripe.

In part I blame the internet and computers for shifting my focus on what I found important in life.  In High School I remember having to make an appointment at a big library an hour away to use the internet for a research paper…  which then largely involved WAIS and Gopher searches to find information to then download and print out.  Years later I met my wife over IRC and while we grew up 30 mins apart…  were introduced by a mutual friend living in Belgium.  So I largely grew up just accepting the fact that I was yet another Generation X member, even though I didn’t necessarily feel like I had all of the traits of Generation X.  According to the “sanity” version of the timeline in the Article above…  I am instead the first year of Generation Y, which is the generation that demographers largely forgot they spawned.  That break out honestly makes a lot more sense to me for a lot of reasons.  Firstly while my first console experience was Pong…. and we had an Atari that I remember fondly…  my gaming formative years were absolutely on the battleground of the Nintendo Entertainment System that I got in late elementary/early middle school.  So calling us the Nintendo generation seems fitting for a whole slew of reasons.

I still largely feel like I am out of sync with the generational construct.  Growing up I consistently hung out with folks way older than I was, and now that I am an adult thanks to the magic of the internet I tend to skew the opposite direction.  A large chunk of my friends are in their late 20s to mid 30s…  so while I feel like I definitely do not always see eye to eye with them…  I can at least understand their thought processes.  As a result I think my generation more than anything is a translation layer between what came before me, and what comes after me.  There are so many times at work I get pulled into discussions to do just this… and somehow explain to the Baby Boomer management what exactly the Millennial generation is saying or meaning.  Generations are this sort of social shorthand for trying to identify significant differences in the way groups of people were raised.  The problem with this is that I think the number of differences are accelerating, and before long there will really be no meaningful generational breaks.

Growing up when I did more or less in the 80s…  most families were fairly similar.  There were a lot of specific cultural touchstones brought on by the fact that we more or less had three channels of television to watch at a given time.  However as I aged everything was a sense of constant change… we went from records to cassettes to the Walkman to the CD to mini disc and finally ending up with the MP3…  and now streaming music services.  Media and entertainment was a moving target, that kept changing…. so we just accepted this as normal.  I remember I was a late adopter of the CD largely because I could purchase 2 cassette tapes for the price of 1 CD…  and that allowed me to get more music into my life.  There was also an element of scarcity in everything because I grew up in a town of 2500 people…  deep in flyover country.  To find any store not deeply constrained by limited stock, I had to travel roughly an hour to the south.  As a result we did a lot of experimenting and enjoying whatever the hell was available…  which lead to some extremely eclectic tastes pulled from the clearance bin at the mall.

Events felt larger and more homogeneous.  Everyone watched the Oscars because there was nothing better to do…  same goes for every awards show or movie of the week.  You could go to school the next day and it was pretty certain that everyone would be talking about the same things…  because there were a limited number of things actually happening on any given day.  Now other than shared interests…  I don’t have a clue one what is going on in most peoples lives unless I am intimately aware of the details.  To give the example above…  I’ve not watched an awards show or even really had one playing in the background as I did other things for at least a decade… probably pushing two.  The internet gave me access to so many better ways to spend my times, and as I grew up… it grew up too.  My first internet experiences were like many on AOL, but after racking up a $250 phone bill calling the next city over… that door slammed shut pretty fast.  It wasn’t until 93 / 94 ish when I got proper unlimited internet…  which involved a contorted system to actually get access.  I had to pay $20 a month to the phone company to make the next town over a “local call”, and then $40 a month to Galaxy Star Systems…  a budding regional ISP to get unlimited internet access at blazing 96000 baud dial up speeds.  So a grand total of $60 a month…  but it gave me doorways into completely different worlds.

I think in part this feeling of being an “Internet Pioneer” is what always drives me to keep trying new things.  It almost seems as though it is my duty to be the beta tester for everything that comes down the pipe since I have seen and experienced so much of what came before.  This feeling however I think is also what makes me feel out of phase with whatever generational boundaries I am supposed to be feeling.  My world has been one of managing change and figuring out how to deal with it.  I will claim that I do not like change at all… but when it happens I am generally the first to roll with the punches and sort out what the new normal is going to look like.  Maybe this is bombastic of me… but I would like to think of myself as being part of some Cipher generation… that uses our weird irregular experiences to help bridge the gaps between these other more traditional generations.  So while I might not understand the way a Baby Boomer thinks…  I can at least translate what I am saying in a way that is going to land and resonate with them.  I mean I do this as a job anyways…  translating deeply technical terms into a sequence of metaphors and easy to digest chunks that the business can understand.  Maybe I just always did this… and maybe the properties of whatever generation I happen to be really part of is a chameleon like sense of adaptability.  The only real normal we have ever experienced for any length of time… is change.

Twitter GOTY “Poll”

TheSecretWorld 2013-08-20 23-32-51-84

Last night was a bit of a rough night, because we had a massive storm blow through.  A side effect of the storm was the fact that about 11:30 my wife woke up on the couch because something dripped on her foot.  In the middle of our living room, dripping from one of the beams was a slow trickle of water.  At that point there really isn’t much to do other than put down a towel and a bucket and hope it stops.  However that sort of ruined any thoughts of a really solid nights sleep.  This morning I had originally intended on writing about a rather hamfisted absurdist article that is making its way through my twitter circle, but in truth I am simply going to not deal with that today.  It reminded me of conversations that myself and Tamrielo have on a regular basis… but I also wanted to approach the topic with more grace than I probably have in me right now.  So instead I am going to answer a twitter poll in blog form.

While technically not a poll, it is definitely a thing that I thought looked interesting so this morning instead of tearing into discussions that I don’t really want to get into…  I started thinking back upon various years and trying to determine the games that mattered the most to me during that time.  Also I may or may not be applying a little “in retrospect” to a few of these choices, but that is also ultimately my prerogative.  I limited myself to only picking games released during a specific calendar year, but in many cases the true impact the game had happened much later.

2012:  The Secret World

TheSecretWorld 2013-08-20 23-32-51-84

I really cannot say enough good about this game… from the perspective of someone just starting out playing it.  I’ve said an awful lot about this game over the years in three pages worth of blog posts… and probably some others that I failed to categorize correctly.  This often makes my “best games I am not playing” list whenever I compile one.  Functionally there are two vastly different game experiences…  the leveling game when you are digging through the story and trying to solve the mysteries of the world…  and the end game where you lose all creative freedom that you had while leveling.  The first game is phenomenal and something that I feel everyone should experience at least once.  The later…  is ultimately what caused us to quit and keeps me from reattaching to the game for any length of time.  However that said the ride is well worth it, and the game has some of the more interesting dungeons in MMOdom…  until you reach nightmare levels where everything sort of falls apart.  I am really looking forward to the re-release of the game under the Secret World Legends name… and hoping beyond hope that they can give me an experience to latch onto with both hands.

2013:  Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

ffxiv_dx11-2017-02-13-20-15-18-82

The impact this game has had on me and my friends is immeasurable.  Largely because it gave us a common ground in the form of an MMO experience that we all care about.  More than anything however it knows how to tell story in and interesting and serialized fashion, where the story arc from one expansion sets up the key players for the next.  This is also the only MMO that has ever sufficiently pulled off a surprise plot twist, and has done so many times…. and been willing to assault structures that I assumed were fixed and sacred to the game itself.  From August onwards in 2013…  my life pretty much belonged to Final Fantasy XIV until we slowly petered out when we ran out of things we were capable of doing.  However we came back and had a renaissance with the game that has continued to the present times with this still being the game we can all sort of agree on.

2014: Destiny

RemotePlay 2016-05-13 06-08-29-84

This is another game that realized its ultimate impact on me long after the year it actually released in.  Destiny is a really important game to me for a whole lot of reasons.  Firstly it has amazing moment to moment gameplay and it is hands down the best feeling shooter I have ever played.  From the moment I heard about the world and the setting I was completely sold… and in truth this is the game that pushed me to buy my way into the current console generation.  I got my PS4 console the week the first PlayStation exclusive alpha was happening, and the little I played of it hooked me extremely hard on the concept.  Year one had a lot of problems, and I sort of picked at it like you might pick at the remains of a meal you know you are done with…  but just keep nibbling on.  I did return to paying regularly towards the tail end of the first year, so that I was primed and ready for the launch of The Taken King.  From Year Two on however I have been a dedicated acolyte of the world, and own it for both PS4 and Xbox One…  and am contemplating making the leap to PC version with the launch of Destiny 2.  The game still has some narrative problems, but it does not stop me one bit from enjoying it.

2015: Fallout 4

Fallout4 2015-11-10 18-58-40-01

I love Fallout as a franchise.  I still remember saving up the cash to buy the first one when we were in college, and I was completely hooked.  I am not old school enough to remember Wasteland fondly, but I have always been a fan of the whole post apocalyptic nukepunk genre.  So while I am listing this as my game for 2015…  it is a hype cycle that began long before and continues long after.  This is still the game I boot up when I am in a specific mood.  Similarly I have played Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas countless times, and Fallout 4 simply replaces those in succession.  This game is proof to me at least that I care far more about systems, and gameplay…  than I really do about the main narrative in a game.  In fact the only reason why I probably beat this game is because we chose this as our November/December AggroChat game club game for the tail end of 2015.  I would probably still be avoiding the main story… and still off on my own having adventures in my head….  which is in truth my preferred method of playing a game.  Just talking about the game has given me this huge urge to boot it up…  right now…  which would be a horrible idea considering I have to go to work.

2016: World of Warcraft: Legion

wow-64-2017-01-18-06-25-49-07

I have to give a lot of credit here to World of Warcraft and the rebirth of the game that happened with the launch of the Legion expansion.  They took a game I thought I no longer really cared about, and was legitimately done caring about…. and turned it into an experience that I rabidly played.  I even managed to return to raiding and didn’t check out this time until we were a few bosses into Nighthold…  which is in truth way longer than I lasted in Draenor.  I’ve reached this point where I am not really playing the game or following it now… but the transformation that took place should nonetheless be honored.  They tried a whole bunch of new ideas that they admittedly borrowed from other games… but wove it together in a fashion that felt new and fresh.  Similarly I feel like it has to be said that they have done and continue to do a great job of managing patch cycles.  They finally broke the “three and done” mold that had happened with Pandaria and Draenor and by all accounts are still releasing interesting content.  I know at some point I will return and at the very least finish out the Legion flight meta achievement, but for the time being I am simply not forcing myself to play a game I am not super into.  Legion however is probably going to go down in history for me as their best expansion…  toppling what was previously my current favorite Wrath of the Lich King.

 

So now that I have given you mine… what are yours?  Feel free to post them in the comments section here… or join in the twitter poll.  I am curious to hear everyone’s thoughts.

 

 

 

 

Unlikely Agent

star-wars-the-old-republic-04-24-2017-19-17-58-05

star-wars-the-old-republic-04-24-2017-07-13-38-73

This is absolutely one of those mornings where I am staring blankly at WordPress sort of hoping that a blog post materializes in front of my eyes.  I have this fitful relationship with sleep.  It is something I crave but something I can never quite get at normal levels.  I mean I have my own normal, which is four to six hours of sleep a night.  If I get over that I tend to get groggy…  which is what happens to be going on this morning.  Sunday night I had a horrid bout of insomnia, which when combined with the fact that our middle cat was being insane…  meant I probably got two hours of real sleep.  So by the time I hit 9 pm last night I was conking out at the keyboard, and decided to put the house to bed and crash.  That means I managed to get roughly eight hours of sleep… and my body is confused as hell.  Its like… what was this thing, I think I like it…  lets do nothing but that from now on!  Hence the sitting in my office chair in a dark room, with a cat laying on the desk beside me…  staring blankly into oblivion.

star-wars-the-old-republic-04-24-2017-19-17-58-05

Before the impending crash however I spent a good deal more time with Star Wars the Old Republic working through the Imperial Agent story.  I mean there is a good reason why I saved this one for last… because in truth this has always been the class that I had zero interest in.  I am not a stealthy person…  nor am I necessarily a normally deceitful person.  So the idea of flying around the galaxy and crushing rebellions through unsavory means did not exactly sound that fun to me.  In true Bioware style however…  it is allowing me to play a fairly atypical Agent that regularly talks back to his handlers.  In truth I am trying to play it much like a smuggler that somehow got drafted into imperial service, and and for this reason I am not using any of the traditional imperial garb, but instead decided it was a great time to break out the Nico Okarr duster.

I am occasionally breaking out the HK-55 helm when I want to feel more bounty hunter than smuggler.  I did most of Hutta in this fashion because I felt like anyone called the “Red Blade” simply would not do to be wearing Imperial Garb.  All of these mental adjustments are helping me to enjoy the story as I am sort of re-purposing what is happening into the narrative that I would rather be playing.  The positive is that apparently Kaliyo is eating it all up, given that she apparently likes violence against those who deserve it… and general smartassery the rest of the time.  Because of my general stance of only harming the wicked…  I am playing a fairly “grey” character, sitting on straight up neutral currently.  This is an interesting departure from the “did you say force lightning” options of the Sith Inquisitor.  At the point I crashed for the night I had just started Imperial Balmorra, which is probably my least favorite planet.  However just focusing on the class and planetary stories means I tend to get off the various planets pretty quickly, but at the same time feel like I see the entire place through the new classes eyes.

Touch of Darkness

star-wars-the-old-republic-04-23-2017-21-39-44-03

star-wars-the-old-republic-04-23-2017-11-31-26-72

I am deeply susceptible to fits of nostalgia, this is a known quantity if you have spent any time at all reading my blog.  One of the ways this regularly manifests itself is with a constant sequence of abrupt returns to games that I thought I had packed neatly away.  Without fail it seems like the moment I finally get around to uninstalling a given game…  that is ultimately the one I am going to be poking my head in next.  There are a few times of the year when I feel excessive “Star Wars Patriotism” for lack of a better term.  Obviously whenever a new movie releases that is an extreme time of loving all things Star Wars.  Similarly the made up internet holiday of “May the Forth” and “Revenge of the Fifth” have some effect but they are largely just contact highs brought on by the extreme amount of tweets I am going to read with pictures from the universe.  The one that apparently worked this time however was the Celebration Weekend, which I have several folks in my social feeds that attend.  However the absolute tipping point for me was setting a tiny adorable Jyn Erso delivering Deathstar Plans to every Leia cosplayer she came across.  When you combine this with the fact that I am kinda in a high point with Bioware right now after wrapping up Andromeda…  the two combined turned into me reinstalling SWTOR and picking up where I left off.  Ironically I had literally just uninstalled the SWTOR client from my laptop a few weeks back to free up some space.

star-wars-the-old-republic-04-22-2017-16-25-22-02

Around the launch of Force Awakens, myself and a few others of our crew had a short renaissance with Star Wars the Old Republic.  At that point I went on a bit of a bender trying to see all of the class story lines, and when eventually faded away from the game I was pretty near the end of the Sith Inquisitor content.  So instead of going out and experiencing the new content on my Jedi Knight main…  I wound up settling right back into the comfortable groove of running around and being a largely dark side Sith Sorcerer.  Its funny how each class really seems to dictate if I can go full Dark Side or not.  With the Jedi Knight, if you go Dark Side you just end up being the biggest asshole on the planet.  With the Inquisitor however, choosing those Dark Side options just feels right most of the time, especially when it allows me to use force lightning as the answer to any question.  One of my favorite sequences involved needed to smuggle someone off of a planet… and using Force Persuade to get past some guards…  and then Force Persuading my Ally when he asked how I did that.  However as I got later in the content, there were several moments where I just could not be cruel to those who didn’t deserve it.  Functionally if someone was loyal to me…  I would even go so far as to take a light side option to save them.

star-wars-the-old-republic-04-23-2017-21-39-44-03

When we last played the game it was during the twelve times story mission multiplier, meaning you could get through the game just by focusing on nothing but the main story.  Now instead the game highlights anything that is part of the main planetary story arc, and all of your class quests in purple…  and in theory it seems like just by focusing on those you can accomplish much of the same thing.  However it also seems like every last drop of experience has been increased, because when I hopped back in the game all I was missing was Corellia and the final show down between Republic and the Sith.  During the course of wrapping up the tiny bit I had remaining on Voss… and doing all of Corellia…  I wound up almost 56 before finally finishing the story.  So while the game is no longer quite the elevator to the top that it once was…  it still seems to go insanely fast.  I started an Imperial Agent last night after wrapping up the Inquisitor… and made it to 12 before leaving Hutta, doing nothing but focus firing the purple quest elements.  Functionally it is the Agent that is the last bit needed before having completed all 8 class stories, and it is also the least “Belghast” of all possible class stories.  So far it is interesting, and I opted to go Sniper instead of going healer once again on another smuggler type class.  I am not entirely certain if I will regret this or not, but I was somehow shocked to see that apparently at some point they did away with commendations, and all of the mod components are purchasable with credits.

star-wars-the-old-republic-04-23-2017-22-21-36-04

I am not entirely certain how long this whim is going to last, but for the time being…  I am enjoying myself and I guess that is all that really matters.  In the short term I will be playing a lot more Belgeist to see if I can actually manage to finish out the Agent story this time and get the achievement for having finished all eight classes.  I am not sure why this matters to me so much, but it is really similar to Elder Scrolls Online, and not wanting to do any of the “expansion” content without having finished all three realms of the original content.  I am in a similar holding pattern with not wanting to start any of the Fallen Empire content without having done all eight of the original story lines.  Fortunately it feels like the SWTOR goal is a hell of a lot closer than the Elder Scrolls Online goal given that I have yet to wrap the second realm there and have an entire third realm to go.  One of the awesome things about being woefully behind in several of these games… is the fact that I can always return whenever I feel like it….  and it seems like I have mountains of content waiting on me to sift through at my pace.  This is also why I tend to bounce pretty hard off of the games that have limited time content that functionally means if I am not playing it as my primary game… I will never get to experience it.  Whatever the case I enjoyed my weekend of comfort gaming, and time will tell how long it lasts.

Liberating Provinces

c97slxouiaaj7td

c97slxouiaaj7td

Last night I played what I would consider a truly excessive amount of Skyforge on the PS4.  There was even a point where I left my office upstairs… and logged into laptop downstairs to play more Skyforge over Remote Play.  I am not entirely certain why this game is so damned sticky for me right now…  when arguably better games like Horizon are not at this moment.  My working theory however is that I can only really handle playing one deeply narrative experience at a time…  then need the gaming equivalent of celery to clear my palate.  Skyforge makes an awesome version of celery…  which is probably not at all what the folks behind the game would want me saying about it.  However what I mean by that is that it presents a sequence of bite sized interactions and does so in a fairly enjoyable and no nonsense manner.  Functionally in the past this is always what I used Destiny for, but with the impending death of that game and the release of Destiny 2 in September…  that has really harmed my joy about spending a whole lot of time over there.  I mean sure I want to do all the raiding stuff in the new and improved 390 light versions…  but that also requires a lot of personal investment in trying to figure out what my clans schedule is like and how I can manipulate my own schedule to somehow be playing Destiny in the nights they are doing the things I need to do.  That was one long contorted sentence but it fairly adequately represents how I am feeling about raiding in general right now regardless of the game.

c97ssttvwaervem

I think one of the big improvements that happened at some point…  and is probably not directly tied to the console release is the campaign map.  When I last played the game you functionally went to the Aeleon observatory and would be presented with a number of chicklet sized images that represented missions you could run.  It felt like there was no real clear order to which you should be taking the content… and as a result I wound up skipping around something horribly and subjecting myself to things that were probably much harder than I should have.  The campaign make takes the game and attempts to make a clear narrative, so instead of playing a god answering 911 calls from various parts of an entire planet…   you are on a campaign to liberate your people from the invading monsters.  Functionally right now I am about halfway through the first fourth province in the sequence of nine provinces, and as of last night… I had barely just left the first one.  There are what seems to be four types of content that you can encounter during this process.  First there are solo missions that largely involve killing a bunch of mini bosses until you reach the end and ultimately drive the monster influence from an area.  The next type is solo boss fights, and these have been pretty rare…  but occasionally you are sent up against some sort of “big bad”.  Thirdly there are large open world zones where you are ultimately dumped in with a random assortment of other players to complete a bunch of mini objectives.  Lastly there are actual proper dungeons that require a group of adventurers to complete…  and unfortunately as of yet I have not actually done one of these.

c97sbbnuiaaga53

Last night I focused entirely on the solo mission/bossfight types along the main path of the campaign map, and completely ignored the dungeons and large open world areas…  because they simply take a bunch of time to get through and don’t actually serve to unlock new areas of the map.  I had a purpose in mind, and that single focus was to get to a temple for a class that I had not already unlocked.  The reasoning being that I wanted to know just what madness was involved with getting something other than the base three classes unlocked.  Sure enough by the time I hit map three I had access to the Archer temple…  where I was prompted with two options [Purchase] and [Donate 3,000,000 Credits].  I tried the purchase option and it acted like it was sending me to the Sony store… only to error out a short period of time later.  As far as Credits go…  at first I thought that was sheer madness but by the time I finished the night I was sitting at around 1.5 million Credits.  Sure it is going to suck to unlock all of the classes you might want to play, but it seems like there is going to be a time in the near future where 3 mil credits is no big deal.  The purchase option however has me confused because it seems like at least on some level the game is wired to let you buy your way into a specific class.  However for whatever reason this does not seem to function on the console…  which is making me want to fire up the PC client just to see how the hell it works there.  Whatever the case however… I am finding this game extremely enjoyable at the moment and if you can get past its flaws…  atrocious boob jiggle and being limited to 3 classes at the start…  I am hooked.

Pretentious Magitek

final-fantasy-xiv-a-realm-reborn-04-17-2017-21-06-31-06

final-fantasy-xiv-a-realm-reborn-04-17-2017-21-48-06-08

This morning my cats are being little butts.  The normally sweet one is prancing back and forth on the keyboard… and the one that is normally a butt just wants me to keep flinging a rubber band for her to chase.  None of this is really conducive to sitting down and writing a proper blog post.  The sweet one has now taken to sitting on the cabinet to the left of the computer and staring…  occasionally meowing.  She is likely afraid that she will waste away to nothingness in the time it takes me to write a post, and believes that I really should stop doing whatever it is humans do and go feed her.  On top of this I am having some hardware issues…  with a box that is not connected to this one but it is frustrating me to the point where I am constantly reaching over to the other keyboard and fiddling with stuff.  This also is not super great for writing a fully functional blog post.  However I still need to somehow push forward and come up with some form of brilliance…  even if that is dollar store brilliance that is on clearance for only 50 cents.

Last night I did not really do much in the way of gaming.  I finally finished watching the last episode of Iron Fist, and while doing so I worked on my baby machinist.  I managed to get back over the 60 barrier and turned my weapon red in the Palace of the Dead…  which makes no difference when it comes to the speed of leveling but feels like it does significantly for your ability to burn things down quickly.  I hit a string of parties with a tank and three dps…. and all things considered they tend to go pretty smoothly.  The only rough spots are when the group decides to fan out and split down different pathways.  In theory this is not a horrible way to approach the dungeon as a whole, but if anyone ends up pulling a mimic it is a certainty that someone will get pox.  As I have spent more time in the dungeon, my focus has shifted to trying to avoid pox at all costs…  at least until we have a pomander of purity waiting to be used.  Most of my wipes in Palace of the Dead have revolved around a bad pull combined with folks having pox.  The absolute worst moments are when a tank attempts to tank….  without having a healer.  I mean I get it… as a tank our instinct is to run in and gather everything up.  However that is just not really a viable option for running Palace of the Dead unless you have a pocket healer going in there with you.

final-fantasy-xiv-a-realm-reborn-04-17-2017-21-06-31-06

Another thing that has happened that I have not really talked about is that I crossed the 500 commendation barrier and now have my giant pretentious golden magitek armor.  I admit I was a little disappointed when I found out that the tune it plays is exactly the same as the normal magitek armor.  The weird thing about the commendation system is that it pushes me to be friendly even if I am not really feeling like doing so.  I tend to open every dungeon with a “hey folks” and close every dungeon with something along the lines of “thanks for the run, have a good one”.  I am not sure if this matters but I usually can at least steal a single commendation from each run.  Now my friends who random queue more often have been at the 500 mark for a very long time…  I largely pushed through the last 150 or so while dungeon the deep dungeon.  It feels like “strategic niceness” is a thing, and I feel sorta dirty admitting that sometimes I am just doing it for the sweet sweet comms.  The only problem is… even after having gotten the mount I am still keeping up the practice.  I think at some point it just began to feel normal to greet people when you join a dungeon and thank them when you finish…  so while this largely started out as a way to leech commendations from folks it has apparently become a ritual now for me.  This in part is why I wish other games would implement something like the commendations system.  I’ve noticed that while a lot of groups are completely silent…  that practice of the greeting at the beginning breaks the ice enough to get people discussing things if we run into problems.  Folks seem far less likely to sit on a mimic chest and try and solo it down for example, when they have talked at the start of a run.  It is like the act of a simple greeting makes it perfectly okay to say other things later, and while I tend to zone out…  it is nice to have the occasional line of dialog flying by in party.

Chasing Aloy

c9kmq5qvoaahki

c9kmq5qvoaahki

It feels odd that it is Wednesday and I am just now getting around to writing one of my traditional “mixed bag” sort of posts.  Those are generally a Monday thing given that I have a bunch of gaming time to talk about in general, and almost always it is a shotgun blast across a bunch of different games.  However Monday was the anniversary post, and yesterday I wanted to write up my final thoughts upon beating Andromeda… so finally we are where we are writing about the assorted debris of the weekend.  If you had talked to me last week, you would have seen someone who was excited to be finishing up Andromeda so I could move back to Horizon Zero Dawn as my primary game.  While I have played it a few times…  that hasn’t really been what happened because for whatever reason I am having a bit of trouble easing back into the game.  Essentially it feels like the skills I had developed early on are painfully rusty, and the section of the game I am in doesn’t have nearly as much call to purpose so I feel a little bit like I am either stuck in “roam around aimlessly and kill zoids” mode, or trying to force my way through the few story quests I have.  The last town I reached gave me a slew of side quests, so in theory I will probably spend some time doing those to try and get myself reacquainted with the game.  The frustrating part about this is I do not want to be bouncing off of it… but for whatever case it just hasn’t quite fit my mood.  Maybe coming off Mass Effect Andromeda… I just sort of need to play a vastly different kind of game.

c9fjrlmuqae7nh4

The game I am playing a truly shocking amount of instead is Skyforge.  Pretty much every night I am at least getting in long enough to run a few missions.  Right now I find the bite sized gameplay appealing because there is no massive overarching commitment.  I can pop in for a few minutes and play a little bit, while feeling like I had a meaningful experience.  I had talked the game up to some of my friends and was super saddened to find out that apparently the female models are a boob jiggle mess.  I mean I knew that was a thing among the South Korean developers… but I didn’t know it was a Russian thing as well.  The other big problem with the game is that you ultimately have a long list of interesting classes….  but no easy way to access them.  You functionally have to start the game as a Paladin, a Smite Nuking Healer, or a Ice Mage… and then work your way to whatever class seemed interesting.  For me this was just perfectly fine given that I really like the Paladin as a class, and ultimately will probably always play it as my main in the game.  However I have a lot of friends who were interested in other classes but are never going to make it through the grind to ultimately get there.  I am shocked that you cannot simply buy your way to freedom in the game and unlock whatever class you really wanted to play…  or better yet allow characters to pick any single class to start with.  I mean the game has some really interesting classes like an Alchemist, the Kinetic, or Gunner…  so there is a lot of interesting stuff going on but unfortunately if you don’t like tank, mage and healer… you are going to bounce super hard before you get there.

final-fantasy-xiv-a-realm-reborn-04-16-2017-22-56-08-03

Finally I have been still popping my head into Final Fantasy XIV on a regular basis and working on my overarching mission…  which is to get all of the classes to at least 50 before the release of Stormblood.  I’ve set 50 as the goal because it allows me to jettison the bulk of the leveling gear from my bank vault, and reaching that level seems completely reasonable with Palace of the Dead.  Over the weekend I managed to push the Monk to 50, and am now sporting the full set of Allagan look-a-like gear that I have been picking up through the dank dungeon.  I like the set quite a bit because it is one of the few “armored” looking sets that you can get for a monk.  We had this lengthy discussion the other day about how we each favor different styles, and for me… it needs to be symmetrical and heavily armored to really make me perfectly happy.  What is left on the leveling track is Machinist and Astrologian… neither of which I had even trained in.  I picked up the Machinist from Ishgard and almost immediately hopped back into the Palace of the Dead rather than doing any of the actual class quests.  I have to mention that it was a bit of a chore to sort out what all abilities I should actually be using with that class… and how it functions.  However once getting used to it, I have to say I like it quite a bit.  It is gimmicky and RNG gated…  and I still have no clue if I am actually playing it correctly…  but for casual dungeon running it seems like a lot of fun.

Final Thoughts: Andromeda

mass-effect-andromeda-04-14-2017-22-27-26-53

mass-effect-andromeda-04-14-2017-22-27-26-53

This weekend I managed to finish Mass Effect Andromeda.  While I did not come close to hundred-percenting the game, I still feel like I touched all of the important bits.  Andromeda divides up its quests in a number of logical chunks:  Priority Ops, Allies and Relationships, Heleus Assignments, and Additional Tasks.  Priority Ops is functionally everything you need to do to finish the game.  Allies and Relationships are tasks you are doing for your crew or other significant individuals and organizations within the Andromeda Galaxy.  Heleus Assignments are for lack of a better term the equivalent of planetary missions from SWTOR, and anything you pick up for a specific planet ends up getting filed here.  Lastly there are a number a busywork items that get filed into the Additional Tasks bin… and I largely think of these as Daily Quests from the MMO genre.  According to the game I am sitting at 92% completion, and that is from doing all of the first three categories of quests and largely ignoring the last category…  unless I happened to complete it while doing something else at the same time.  All told according to Origin I have played 90 hours of gameplay, some of that being with the headstart and then continuing on into the release client.  I am going to do my best to avoid any major spoilers about the game, but functionally…  you cannot really talk about your experience without at least giving some minor details.

mass-effect-andromeda-04-15-2017-00-04-39-61

Mass Effect Andromeda had the deck stacked against it before we even set foot in the game.  What I mean by this is the fact that the original Mass Effect trilogy is among the most loved gaming properties in history.  The number of N7 hoodies and car stickers that I see out in the wild is pretty staggering that I live in a section of fly over country that is not exactly known for its geek friendliness.  In truth I personally think that if they ever made the original Mass Effect trilogy into a science fiction television show that over the course of its run chronicles the events of the entire series…  you would have a hit on your hands that would eclipse Game of Thrones by a large margin.   So that said… trying to come in on the heels of that game and creating something that is going to ultimately keep up… and hopefully replace it…  is just largely a suicidal proposal.  The game had issues out of the gate and while the most recent patched fixed  most of the ones that were bothering me…  it is still the younger sibling of a child star, the Kieran to Macaulay Culkin.  This is not exactly a fatal flaw mind you, because as time has gone I’ve come to realize that Kieran Cuklin is the much better actor…  drawing out this analogy that horrifically dates me.

mass-effect-andromeda-04-12-2017-22-49-27-31

Regardless of how good the end product is…  there is still an awful lot of awkward that you are going to have to wade through until you reach the tipping point of caring about the game more than you care about the ephemera.  For me that point was about eight to ten hours into the game, which in itself is a hefty commitment for a game that has not fully grabbed you at that point.  The larger problem is that Bioware in general is extremely hit and miss about indoctrinating you into their worlds.  There is often times this odd chrysalis phase of the game, where it is trying to introduce you to new elements and characters and figure out ways to make you care about them.  It seems to be the case each time we enter a few franchise, so Mass Effect 1 suffered from it… but 2 and 3 were able to draw on the fact that you probably played the first and they did not need to give you a fully fleshed origin story as introduction.  The Dragon Age franchise unfortunately has had awkward beginnings each time because they have yet to give us a true sequel, jumping us into new characters and new perspectives for each game.  Mass Effect Andromeda similarly is plagued with a whole lot of awkward front loaded into the game…  as it attempts to induct us into a new universe filled with hundreds of new characters for us to start caring about.  This is not made any easier by the fact that the Pathfinder is very much NOT Shepard in any fashion, so it takes those first dozen hours to really let that fact sink in.

mass-effect-andromeda-04-12-2017-18-33-07-24

Prior to Andromeda my top Mass Effect games list would have gone a little something like this: 2, 3, 1.  One gets downgraded so heavily because it had an extremely awkward control scheme…  and Kaidan Alenko.  When it comes time in a play through I gleefully sacrifice Kaidan to the pages of History knowing that for the sake of my crew I am going to have to pretend that I cared.  After playing Andromeda the new list looks much the same…  just with Andromeda prepended on the beginning.  If you place any weight in the Bartle types… I am of split brain with heavy focuses on both Killer and Explorer and as a result respond extremely favorably to open world situations where I get to run amok.  Much of the reason why I liked Mass Effect 2 so much, is that there is a large sequence where you go on small character building missions and it allows you to delay the inevitable “rush to the end” that always happens in this sort of game.  Part of what makes exploring these large planets such a joy however is the introduction to the Nomad…  the vehicle we needed since the first Mass Effect.  I never really got into the Mako because it had the handling of a small city…  and the Hammerhead was a cool idea that was frustratingly constrained to a bunch of mini-game levels.  The Nomad on the other hand is your constant companion as you wander the planets providing protection from the worst the atmospheres have to offer and through the jump jets and rocket boosts gives you the ability to scale absolutely crazy obstacles.  As you can see from the above image, you can totally tear donuts or slide out on the ice if you so choose.  I absolutely sacrificed weapon and armor upgrades just to be able to craft more nifty addons for my Nomad.

mass-effect-andromeda-04-06-2017-22-58-19-02

It is impossible to talk about a Mass Effect game without at least hitting on the story.  For better or worse the original Mass Effect trilogy was largely the tale of the entire world slowly going to shit.  You and your crew from the moment you set foot in the universe are fighting a losing battle.  While you might win battles, you are ultimately losing the war…  and each game gets a little darker than the previous one.  There is of course some nobility and honor in being constantly the underdog, and it provides some excellent character building opportunities…  but it is a fixed path and you sort of know it while going through the game.  Mass Effect Andromeda however has a vastly different tone.  The world is complete shit at the beginning of the game, and everything that could have gone wrong seemingly has.  However over the course of your missions you are setting forth to build this better world for future generations.  There is a hopefulness in this game that is largely absent in the previous offerings, and given how generally shit our world is right now…  it is needed.  The wish fulfillment of setting forth into a new Galaxy to make a better future is extremely tangible… and the fact that the game then allows you to start making things better from the first planet you touch down on is extremely important.  So while I am not Shepard…  over time I came to grow into Ryder and figure out how exactly I would approach the game.  There has been a lot of frustration around the lack of the Paragon/Renegade system…  but in truth I largely found it too limiting.  There were times I just wanted to be a smartass, without actually going full asshole…  and this game allows me to do that.  What is lacking however is from what I can tell the ability to play a horrible human being…  and I am largely fine with that.

mass-effect-andromeda-04-09-2017-17-01-06-08

The main story arc covers everything that I want from a Mass Effect game.  You have evil races hell bent on your destruction, ancient technologies that you have to master…  and the promise of lots of interesting story vignettes along the way as you introduce yourself to an entirely new galaxy.  It is a glorious space opera and the final “rush to the end” sequence is one of the coolest I have seen in literally any video game.  It is reminiscent of the earth landing sequence in Mass Effect 3, and once you have started things up…  you functionally have to strap in and enjoy the ride because there is no stopping the final act of the game.  That is really all I can say without deeply spoiling the game, and I have danced around the edges of saying more throughout writing this post.  The one thing that I really want to talk about that this game does amazing well is the post ending.  Most games like this offer you some way of completing everything you missed after you have actually gone off to fight whatever malevolent force is set against you.  The problem is that in almost all cases they do some sort of hand wavy bullshit of returning you to a moment BEFORE the final fight… and allowing you to finish things up pretending like the fact moments of the game never happened.  Mass Effect Andromeda however lets you continue on with the entire world knowing that you defeated the big bad, and things are subtly altered in the world as a result.  This gives me an awful lot of hope that maybe just maybe the DLC for this game is going to literally extend the game much like an MMO, and it would be amazing if they helped to lay the ground work between this game and whatever the inevitable sequel happens to be.  At this point I desperately want more game to explore, and while I could roam around doing tasks…  I am figuring it is time for me to move on for now.  It was a great experience and once I got past some of the awkward windowe dressing…  I feel like this is probably the best crafted Bioware RPG to date.

Eight Years of Aggronaut

You would think that over time I would get considerably better at doing this sort of thing, but in truth I still struggle to find inspiration on a regular basis.  This is a little funny considering that as of this morning I have been writing on Tales of the Aggronaut for eight years.  Last year there was an awful lot of pomp around the seventh anniversary, and I even got my good friend Ammo to do some artwork for the site as a result.  The problem with doing anything for eight years, is that after awhile you start to question if you are just simply repeating yourself in cycles.  I cannot tell you the number of times I sit down to write a post… and then have to google my own blog to see if I have actually already written this post before somewhere in the past.  In truth I have a sort of amnesia when it comes to writing things on this blog.  I sit down each morning and bang out a post, pouring my thoughts into each post…  and then as soon as I hit post the memory of having written it just sort of floats away.  I question sometimes if this blog is more therapy than exposition, because at this point I am not entirely certain I could really stop writing.  This is now a part of me and ingrained that I need to sit down each morning and attempt to say something meaningful.

This year saw me dialing things back a little however and breaking my daily blogging routine and shifting up the format to be weekly posts.  In truth this has been something extremely positive for me as a writer and a human being.  It gives me the weekend to simply not have to think about what I should and should not be writing about.  Sunday had been a hellacious day for me especially considering I got up and finished editing and prepping the AggroChat episode that we recorded the night before.  Then as soon as I wrapped that up I realistically needed to sit down and write a blog post before I was officially “free” to do anything.  This also made planning anything on the weekends rough given that I was already claiming from 9 pm onward on Saturday night…  then again functionally claiming an hour or two each morning.  Then if we needed to travel I had to either drag a laptop with me on our travels and do the upside down day thing…  or stage enough posts to cover the time away from home.  There was something ultimately liberating when it came to breaking the pattern.  So much of why I had been pushing myself was simply to make sure that I never dropped any of the plates that were spinning in the air, and once I allowed the first place to drop…  it became a lot easier to allow myself time off when I simply was not ready to make a post.  It also allows me to shift the format around a bit, so that if we take a vacation I can actually enjoy said vacation.  For example I didn’t make posts from Pax South this year… or over Spring Break when we roamed Dallas hitting all of the Half Priced Books.  The world seemed to manage just fine without me, and folks more or less have continued reading in spite of my occasionally dropping a post.

Part of the tyranny of the pattern is the fact that I felt like I became more known for the fact that I was doing the daily posting thing…  than anything I might have actually been writing about.  That said I have readers that have been around…  sometimes begrudgingly the entire eight years so in truth this was probably just anxiety brain being horrible.  The truth is that I still do not know why anyone reads this blog, and I am consistently baffled by the analytics.  That said I also feel like I am on this shared journey with all of you.  We are doing this together, even if you have never actually commented on the blog in the past.  It feels like I always have a friend there to tell the tales of my adventures and foibles to, and as a result I always strive to make this a much more intimate experience.  I let each and every one of you inside my mind from time to time to share my thoughts and feelings… and sometimes write more about “stuff” than I do gaming.  I thank you all for being there, and even if you are just standing in the background lurking…  the fact that you are there is important to me personally.  I don’t want to be a “brand” or try and turn this blog into some sort of vehicle for self promotion.  I just want it to be a shared experience of taking you all along with me as I do things.  So in the end I am thankful for each and every person that has decided to come along for the ride.

The funny thing about April is that for me it is apparently a time of new beginnings.  I started Tales of the Aggronaut on April 17th of 2009, because I was inspired by some of the World of Warcraft blogs that I had been reading.  In truth it was a single blog called the Wordy Warrior, by Aeridel that ultimately tipped me to the side of writing my own thing.  Sadly like so many blogs it is lost to the mists of time, but she went on to now be one of the amazing social media managers for World of Warcraft.  In 2013 when I felt like I needed to restart things with the blog, I opted to start the “Grand Experiment” and go from having several month long breaks in blog posts…  to blogging every single morning.  It was a bit of a swift kick in the ass, and it was something that I needed to gain the confidence to just sit down at a keyboard and start writing without being super concerned about creating greatness every single day.  I stuck with this for a little over three years before ultimately dialing it back for my own sanity.  In addition I am realizing that the very first AggroChat podcast episode was on April 13th… something we probably should have mentioned in this past weeks show.  So it seems like for me at least April is just this month where I hatch new ideas and make them into something tangible.  As a result I have one such idea that has been incubating in my head, I just need to find the time…  and volunteers to bring it to fruition.

In eight years of blogging I have written a little over 1500 blog posts, 1519 to be exact if I believe WordPress.  During that time I have had 128,828 unique readers from 186 different countries.  While English is not shockingly the top language group hitting the blog… French and German have a pretty large share of the numbers as well.  My heaviest usage day was apparently November 2nd 2015, when Marvel Heroes reposted one of my blogs on both Facebook and Twitter.  All of this is largely nonsensical to me because I still cannot fathom why anyone would actually care about my thoughts.  I am not really a big blog, and I don’t really have this massive audience…  but what I seemingly do have is a group of folks who are extremely devoted to whatever this experience is.  I’ve said it before and I still think its true.  There are really two types of readers out there regardless of whatever platform you happen to be posting on.  There are the folks who are interested in a specific topic and your blog just happens to be drift compatible with those goals.  However if you ever decide to shift focus, they can easily weed you out of their feed reader because it no longer meets their parameters.  Then there are the folks who have somewhere along the way imprinted upon you, and probably arrived originally because your interests were similar…  but ended up sticking around because they decided that they cared about you as a human being.  The later group is really the folks that are here for the long haul because over these past eight years I have bounced around like crazy.  So while this started as a “Warrior Tanking” blog and went through “Raiding Blog”, “General WoW Blog”, and “Rift Blog” phases…  what exists today is just “Bel Says Things”.  If you aren’t interested in that then you probably aren’t going to be around for long.  Regardless I am deeply humbled that I seemingly have so many people interested in that proposal, and I will try really hard to “not fuck this up” in the process.