Regularly Playing

ffxiv_dx11 2016-05-17 21-03-46-39

Yesterday I decided to start “truing up” my “Regularly Playing” section of my hot bar.  This area has been through many changes throughout the years and the whole idea was just to let readers know what I am actually playing right now.  It originally started as me simply i-framing in the information from Raptr… but since I don’t actually use that server or any other equivalent games tracker that isn’t going to work.  I shift games quite often, and I wanted a way to indicate what games are currently “on tap”.  So this shifted from “Now Playing” to “Frequently Playing” and eventually wound up with the verbiage of “Regularly Playing”.  The goal now is to evaluate the list once a month and make adjustments to keep it “mostly true”.  I realize I am finger quoting a lot of shit in this post, but the truth is I come home and log into whatever seems enjoyable unless I have a specific activity planned that night.  Over time some stuff fades away and other games get added, so I thought as part of this process I would talk a bit about where I am currently in each game on the list, as well as a bit about any that I might have removed or didn’t quite make the cut.

Destiny: The Taken King

RemotePlay 2016-05-06 06-15-52-89

I am still just irrationally enthralled by this game, though over the last week I have not played quite so much because I am starting to get back into MMOs once more.  This week has been all about Iron Banner, because I am trying my best to get my Hunter to Rank 5…  in spite of not being here for the weekend due to travel plans.  The major goal of the month was to hit 335 light and I have managed to do just that on the Titan, however I am still lagging on the Warlock and Hunter with the primary slot that they need the worst being literally any legendary quality artifact.  I need to sort out what I can do to get one of those because I have plenty of infusion fodder to feed into an artifact… they just have 320 blues currently equipped.  The only real frustration that I have with Destiny right now is that Bungie is apparently shit at math.  We were told that several activities would drop an item equal to your current light level of better.  However now sitting at 335, there are still a truly silly number of activities that drop 334 items.  From Challenge of Elders turn-ins last night I got both a 334 weapon and 334 arms, and from an exotic engram I got a 334 secondary…  all while showing up in game as 335 light.  This is pretty maddening since 334 is useful for infusion if you are desperate but what you want to see is 335s so you can bring up ALL of your gear to that light level.  Regardless I am still loving the game and I am hoping that the next big patch will address this problem.  Also hoping that when I get back from my trip I can finish the push to Rank 5 because I am roughly halfway to Rank 4 at the moment.

Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

ffxiv_dx11 2016-05-17 21-03-46-39

This marks the second week of me being “back” at least as far as doing the Tuesday night raid content is involved.  I am still very much in “catch up” mode, but I am enjoying myself.  As far as downtime activities I have started the grind to get elemental crystals for the first Anima weapon, aka the Relic 2.0 or 3.0 depending upon how you are counting.  I am loving being Lala-Bel once more and I guess whatever funk I was going through that was keeping me from playing MMOs has passed because I am enjoying myself again.  I very much need to be doing a nightly Expert but that has yet to happen quite yet.  After yesterdays post however I found a whole slew of people willing to be tagged and pulled in for expert running.  Now I just need to get back from this weekend and get started on this proper.  Also apologies ahead of time for the nightmares that will be induced by the creepy-assed Calcabrina dolls.

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls

Diablo III 2016-05-09 17-02-32-79

Season Six is very much winding down to a close, and I have managed to accomplish pretty much everything that I could have hoped for… at the very least I got my additional stash tab.  I have friends who still have things to knock out to get theirs so I am very much in a help as needed mode.  That said I am still poking my head into the game on a regular basis to farm for Menagerist Goblins…. something I have yet to actually see.  The highlight of the season was something that I did not even realize was a thing until it dropped.  I guess the cosmic wings are among the rarest item this time around.. because it is RNG on top of RNG on top of RNG.  You have to get one of the rainbow goblins to show up… and then have to get it to drop the Whimsydale portal… and then have to get a specific mob to show up in there to get them.  In any case pretty much any time I get a Whimsydale portal I holler at anyone who happens to be on to come along with me now just in case they drop again.  I’ve made it way further this season than at any other time… the only thing I am not looking forward to is trying to merge my current seasonal bank into my non-seasonal bank once more.

Overwatch

Overwatch 2016-05-23 22-21-59-52

This is the newest addition to the list and also the one I have spent the least time playing.  This week was the official launch of Overwatch, and my friends list has been completely on fire about this game.  I played it enough in beta to know that I liked it, and then ceased to play it any further waiting for launch.  Now that launch is here however… I have all of these competing priorities.  The game is really good and so far I have yet to find a champion that I don’t like… pending I give them a serious chance.  I was largely diametrically opposed to D.Va largely because the mech looked like a killer whale mixed with a guardian mode veritech.  However after getting the carbon fiber skin from a loot box… and giving her a proper try I found out that I really enjoyed it.  The game is probably the best designed shooter I have played in a very long time.  The thing that is going to keep me from really sinking my teeth in however… is it has no PVE/Exploration gameplay like Destiny.  If I could have Destiny set in this universe with character progression and collecting awesome weapons…  I would be completely hooked.  This will likely always be a game relegated to the “once or twice a week” column for me largely because I am just not that competitive.  Earning loot boxes is a cool reason to keep playing, but eventually there will come a point where I run out of things I care about that came come from lootboxes.

World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor

Wow-64 2016-05-16 06-44-18-73

This is the backburneryist of backburner games for me right now.  I’ve gotten in the habit of logging in daily and collecting my free money from the garrison… especially now that I put a massive dent in my finances and bought the Grand Expedition Yak.  That said every now and then I do play one of the characters that I am still in the process of leveling.  I have this grand idea that it would be fun to roll into Legion with a full list of level 100 characters, however I somehow doubt that is going to happen… much the way as it has never actually happened during any of the other expansions.  However that said the alt of choice right now is my druid that I am slowly pushing up.  In truth I am in a holding pattern until Legion and largely not paying a ton of attention to the game in the meantime.

Things Removed From List

Elder Scrolls Online

The truth is the MMO Funk hit and I never really returned to playing this regularly.  I still very much want to, but it is going to need another lag in some other game for me to really sink my teeth into it.  The game that exists today is amazing and they have done a really good job of keeping the content fresh.  The biggest problem is I really don’t have anyone to play with over there on the North American server cluster.  Now if I were playing on the EU side… I know lots of active and happy guilds.  I would absolutely play with the Whitestar folks were that really a viable option.

Warframe

While initially interesting to me, this game just did not sink its teeth into me the way it did the rest of the AggroChat crew.  There is just something that I don’t like about it… and I have tried to reason out what exactly it was.  I still have an account and still have some cool stuff on it, so I might at a future date return to it, but it never really replaced my love for Destiny.

The Division

While technically it was never actually on the sidebar… it probably should have been.  I was all about The Division at launch and that excitement did not even manage to carry me through to the level cap.  I am sitting around level 26 and I am just not sure what is holding me back.  Largely the content at that level doesn’t feel nearly as interesting or rewarding as it did at lower levels.  The packs of mobs out in the world seem to be scaled for group play, and when you down folks… they don’t seem to be dropping anything interesting.  In theory I could hold my nose and grind through it… but what would  I be grinding for?  I am so far behind the curve in gear and it doesn’t feel like the game really gives you a lot of great options to catch up.  There has been a sequence of changes that I really didn’t feel like had me in mind.  At first I liked that it felt like you could progress through the game on many different vectors and end up at the same loot goal.  However the crafting material nerf really hurt that feel for me.  This is something I might return to later, once they offer some Destiny like catch up mechanisms to give players a hand up.

Tricksy Shotgunner

ffxiv_dx11 2016-05-24 18-54-08-12

Surprise Banner

RemotePlay 2016-05-26 06-16-13-62

This weekend as I have said before I will be going to visit friends in St Louis, or more literally Lake St Louis.  As a result we will be taking the weekend off from the podcast, and I will be taking the weekend completely off from my blog.  I am not sure if I will be making a post Monday or not…  because in theory if things work as intended we should be back Sunday night.  One of the things I was mildly relieved about was the fact that I would not be missing an Iron Banner.  There is a nasty bug going on right now that happens in a certain circumstance… which primarily involves the rocket launcher from the raid… if it happened to roll with the Clown Cartridge perk.  It combined with Cocoon meant that you could have limitless regenerating ammunition and be able to fire rockets long before the heavy ammunition showed up in crucible matches.  As a result they completely cancelled Trials of Osiris, and looked like they were going to cancel this months Iron Banner.  However yesterday unexpectedly Lord Saladin showed up at the tower, and just like that Iron Banner was on for the month of May.

I know without a doubt that there is no way I can manage to get three characters through to rank 5 this time around because I will be out of town for most of it.  However I decided to focus on my hunter that is my second highest light character.  The hope being that somewhere in this process I get some decent infusion fodder if nothing else.  This go around the weapons are the Fusion Rifle and Sidearm… neither of which I am actually interested in.  As far as armor we have Chest and Arms again, both of which are pieces that my Hunter has.  In theory I should probably be doing this on the Warlock because he could use both of them.  I did however manage to ALMOST hit Rank 3 last night on the Hunter and knocked out some of the harder achievements like “top score” for a match.  It was a lot of fun, and a whole bunch of that I chock up to the Lord of Wolves Shotgun.  I had not really fallen in love with this weapon, but I had moved it to the hunter at one point because it was 335 light and I needed something to get my light levels up.

What makes this weapon awesome is that it works unlike pretty much any other shotgun.  Firing it feels more like a pulse rifle, and at least now… no one seems to be expecting it.  So many times I managed to pick people off just outside of normal shotgun range with a single burst to the head.  While it doesn’t hit quite as hard as a traditional shotgun…  it still hits plenty hard and the perfect balance perk seems to help quite a bit with the otherwise nasty recoil.  This feels like one of those meta breaking weapons, that will probably only work well against untrained players.  There are plenty of ways to counter it… and lord knows last night several people figured it out.  However for guarding flags… this combined with Trip Mines seemed to be super effective.  Hunters are just brutal in any of the PVP modes, and that throwing knife… so much fun to use, so much cursing when it is used against you.  I am certain that I pissed off a handful of people during the night, because there was this one guy that seemed to make it his personal mission to seek me out and kill me…  not always effectively which probably only added to the frustration.  Its my hope that maybe I can push to Rank 5 tonight and then maybe try pushing the Warlock when I get back from my trip.

Goal Failing

ffxiv_dx11 2016-05-24 18-54-08-12

As stupid as it might sound… this is the thing that I have missed the most from Final Fantasy XIV.  The whole standing around and interacting while in the at the Free Company thing.  Unfortunately this is also something that doesn’t really happen that often.  It feels like with Heavensward there are not as many reason to keep returning to the Free Company house as there used to be.  Also the FC is going through that pre-patch doldrums with not that many people being on within a given night, unless that night is Tuesday.  I have been trying to clear my schedule so that I can participate in Tuesday night shenanigans and this week was no exception.  For whatever reason however we struggled quite a bit, and in part I think that was because we were way short of a standard 8 player group.  Towards the end we were down to five players… 1 tank, 2 healers, 2 dps which for most of the classic Extreme Primals was doable but considerably more difficult.  As a tank I had to start dealing with mechanics that I usually never see like weight of the world.  The other bummer was that through all of this struggle… we didn’t see any pony drops… and no real interesting weapons either.

As far as failing at my goal… it was my intention to get in every night and run at least one expert.  The problem being… nobody has been around and my desire to solo queue is minimal.  It is one of those hurdles that I need to push myself over, because I realize that it is not terribly likely that I will run into one of the “git gud” idiots.  Most of the community is pretty damned chill, but there is a small fraction that feels just as toxic as any other.  It was one of these people that halted another friends queue frenzy, and I guess I am afraid I will bump into one of those and have my happy reunion with this game halted.  If you can bring two players into a four player group… you can mitigate a lot of frustration and if nothing else kick the offending party.  However I wish I had a regular group of people to queue with for nothing more than a single expert, because god knows I need the currency to buy upgrades.

 

NBI 2016 Soon!

NBI2016

This is apparently the year of us getting our acts together a month late.  The whole Developer Appreciation Week thing… was supposed to happen in March but instead we did it in April.  Similarly the Newbie Blogger Initiative generally kicks off in May, but instead this year we are shifting it over to June.  Honestly June probably makes a lot more sense, especially for those folks with families because May means the insanity that comes with the end of the school year.  This years event is being marshaled by Doone of XP Chronicles and will contain a lot of the features that we have seen from past years.  However you might be asking yourself… why NBI?  Well to be honest, it is this incubator to help bloggers get started.  We all make the same sort of blog posts we make every year, but what it does a great job of is breaking down the barriers between those who used to only be readers, and are now starting out on their own.  Bloggers are this well that needs to be replenished every so often, because so many folks set out with good intentions and for whatever reason end up leaving the community.  Even us grizzled veterans need a fresh infusion of spirit every now and then to keep going, and in many ways this yearly event does that.  We begin to remember why we started our own blogs and why we got into this mess in the first place.  The biggest take away for me however… is that we have this long list of bloggers who have participated and are still actively blogging today.

Here is a big ole dump of some of the blogs that were once in a Newbie Blogger Initiative Class and are still active…

I feel like I probably missed a whole batch of blogs in there somewhere while crawling through my back posts about the Newbie Blogger Initiative, but regardless you can see this process has an effect on our community.  I support this notion largely because when I started blogging I had something like this to help me out too.  The “Blog Azeroth” forums were a similar incubator of excellent blogs related to the game World of Warcraft, and through them I found the support structure I needed to take my first steps into this world.  Now a bit over seven years later I am still blogging… and until recently doing it every day.  As a blogger you are going to need a community to bounce ideas off of, and if nothing else to tell you that you are doing an excellent job.  It can be extremely draining to sit down at a screen and unburden your soul in post form.  The other bloggers that I interact with on a daily basis, are my support structure and they can be yours too.

So You Want to Be a Blogger

You won’t likely find fame or fortune, but you will find is a great outlet for all of those thoughts that keep collecting dust in your brain.  I personally started out as one of those folks that rabidly posted on game forums.  I would create great walls of text about the things that I was passionate about.  I never really thought about creating a blog until I read one that made me realize… this is the sort of stuff I already write on a regular basis.  You’d think it would be simple as that, but in truth it is a lot easier to post a comment on someone else’s site than to create one of your own.  That is why we are here to help.  During the month of June the good sponsor bloggers in the NBI are going to be helping you out with writing prompts, and events that cause you to come up with content to post.  Folks like me will be mining our brains trying to come up with posts that might be helpful about the technology behind blogging, and that sort of thing.  All you need to do is…

  • decide where you are going to blog
  • come up with a catchy name
  • create social media accounts on every platform
  • set a posting schedule
  • come up with cute artwork
  • take lots of screenshots

wait…  I’ve overwhelmed you.  The truth is there are more aspects of blogging than could ever be dumped into a single post, but what we are really offering you is a hand up.  It is hard breaking into any community, and it is hard doing anything for the first time.  It is my hope that we can serve as Sherpas to climb this Everest.  What you can do is check out the various resources, and from there we can get you started in the right direction.

As always if there is anything particular I can help with as you start your journey, post a comment and I will help as best I can.

 

 

Bunny Returns

ffxiv_dx11 2016-05-22 21-40-42-17

Samurai For Hire

ffxiv_dx11 2016-05-22 21-40-42-17

Another happening over the weekend is that I appear to have fallen back into the habit of logging into Final Fantasy XIV on a regular basis.  It had been roughly six months since I was last regularly playing the game, and in that time I went from being just about as well geared as you could be… to being woefully and insanely behind the curve.  So much so that the gear coming out of the expert roulette is often times an upgrade over the piece I was wearing.  The positive however is that the game does a pretty damned good job of helping you catch up, and I now have a huge amount of content I could be running.  I’ve been trying to do an expert a day to get back into the swing of things, but I still greatly prefer to wait and do said expert with friends.  The other interesting sequence events is something that I talked about on the AggroChat podcast this weekend.  Not long ago I had returned to World of Warcraft and was attempting to be part of a raid group run by some friends of mine.  So much so that I even managed to recruit a bunch of other friends who were not actively raiding.  All of this sounded amazing on paper, until we actually sat down and started raiding.  From the first outing… I kept wondering what I was doing wrong because it just didn’t feel all that fun.

What was happening was this was my first time tanking in Warlords of Draenor other than a times where I had to fill in without notice.  It just didn’t feel the way I remembered tanking in World of Warcraft to feel.  Even more so I had started wondering if I just wasn’t really a tank at heart anymore.  I spent the majority of Warlords as a DPS, and I really enjoyed doing that…  even though I never really hard the drive to put up big numbers.  In fact while we were raiding Blackhand, I even went so far as to uninstall my DPS meters because I didn’t want to be bothered with the guilt of not topping the meters.  Ironically not having meters made my performance go up significantly.  All of this said I started to wonder if I just was not a tank main at heart anymore.  I developed this mental block against tanking, and started looking for ways to avoid it.  Then last Tuesday I participated in the Pony farm night, and the only gear set I was certain of happened to be my tank set.  My hope was that muscle memory would take over and it did… and ultimately I had a blast tanking again.

The Feel Matters

ffxiv_dx11 2016-05-21 13-52-53-31

The reality is that I still very much like tanking… its just that I don’t enjoy taking in World of Warcraft.  In part I think it is because I have gotten used to a game where the fights are messaged extremely clearly.  In Final Fantasy XIV there is never a question of “did I move far enough out” of this or that effect because there is a clear line on the ground showing you the effected radius.  In World of Warcraft there is never really this line because the areas of effect generally extend out quite a bit further than the graphic being drawn, meaning that as a tank you are constantly second guessing.  WoW also still feels very “mash a bunch of buttons and pray” at least while playing a Warrior, whereas FFXIV feels more deliberate and purposeful.  Maybe its just that I fell into bad habits over the years, and cannot seem to break myself of them.  Whatever the case I have been having a blast tanking in FFXIV and am thinking that while I will probably level tanks in WoW… I won’t return to actively filling that roll in group content anytime soon.  It just doesn’t feel right anymore, however if you need an Expert tank in FFXIV I am your man!

Also as you can see from the above image… I have started down the path of madness that is the relic 2.0 weapon… or 3.0 depending on how you want to count it.  As a result I spent a good deal of my weekend running FATEs and have suddenly remembered…. that I actually LOVE doing FATEs.  I checked and I am actually dangerously close to the 3000 FATEs achievement, which should tell you something.  This step in the weapon is reminiscent of the Atma step in the previous weapon, but it feels a lot less egregious.  You need to get three of each elemental drop… however the drop rate of each individual crystal seems significantly higher than Atmas.  At this point I have 3 earth, 3 ice, and 1 fire…  and have been spending time out in Churning Mists as of last night not having any luck getting a single one yet.  I did however decide this was a perfect opportunity to do something I had been considering for a long while.  As of last night I am not longer an Immortal Flame but now a proud member of the Maelstrom.  I’ve made decent progress already in pushing up my rank and I believe I am currently sitting at the 5000 seal step.  However doing doing these FATEs for the weapon the grand company seals seem to be coming insanely fast.  Hopefully before long I will be sitting at max rank yet again.  The only negative is… all of that awesome Immortal Flames gear is now essentially dead to my alts… until I repurchase the Maelstrom equivalents.

Questionable Tolerances

bluejay

Incomplete Saturday

bluejay

Morning Folks… it’s been a bit since we talked.  Well in truth its been two days… but it feels like it has been much longer.  Now is the time for me to see if I remember how to write a blog post.  In truth this was an odd weekend for me, and in ways that I didn’t quite expect.  For three plus years now my mornings have centered around writing a blog post.  So when I suddenly removed it from the equation…  the morning felt somehow without meaning.  What I mean by that is all of Saturday it felt like something was missing, and in a way that I find it hard to articulate.  You know that feeling in the back of your head when you know that you forgot something… but can’t quite figure it out.  It was something along those lines, with the key difference being I knew precisely what was different.  However I survived and managed not to write a single word… though I did find myself significantly more active on twitter, slack and discord than I normally am on the weekends.  I guess if I am not dumping out things in long post form, they ultimately make their way out regardless into tweets and such?

Sunday however was delightful, and I felt zero remorse for not making a blog post.  I think a huge part of this comes from the fact that I already scurry around like mad on Sunday mornings making sure that everything is done for the latest AggroChat episode.  After waging that battle I found myself struggling to try and find the desire to write a blog post.  Honestly had I done nothing but cut out Sundays… I think in the grand scheme of things my quality of life would have improved massively.  As far as the streak… it is not good and broken and I no longer have it looming over my head.  That said…  I do feel a minor bit of lament over having done it.  Once a streak is over… it is over.  Now I could start anew and begin working to beat three years… but I doubt that is going to happen.  I also doubt that I am going to permanently take off weekends from this point on.  In the back of my head how, weekends are optional time… and if I happen to have a post I want to make awesome, but I won’t necessarily feel pressured either way.

Table Saga

unknownbirbs

One of the constant topics of discussion for the last few weeks has been the backyard and whether or not we wanted to replace the table and chairs we had back there.  I know it is heady stuff and of extreme interest to you all.  The set that we currently have was handed down to us by some of our neighbors and while perfectly cromulent…  it is not exactly the easiest thing to sit at for long periods of time.  At the beginning of the season we picked up a set of Adirondack chairs that sit up straight rather than being permanently stuck in an awkward partially reclining position.  The idea was that we would get some sort of new table to go with these chairs that would work at their height level.  Further idea being that we could eat at the table or at the very least comfortably use a laptop or something while hanging out in the backyard.  Something you should know at this point is that we do the majority of our grocery shopping at ALDI these days.  Another thing you should know is that ALDI has some truly bizarre shit at times… not the least of which last week was a garden table that fit pretty much the dimensions we were looking for.  Even better is that it was just shy of $50, which moved it into serious contention.

With our neighbors out of town this weekend, we borrowed their pickup truck and used it to go pick up a table and haul it back home.  There was of course going to be “some assembly required” but after having seen IKEA directions we figured “how bad could it be”?  Now I love ALDI, but apparently there are some minor issues with construction tolerances when you are only paying $50 for a large garden table.  The first challenge was the fact that some of the screws seemed too large for the holes that they were supposed to go into.  The end result involved me essentially using the screw and truly silly amounts of torque to try and “drill” the hole larger with little metal shavings coming off of the metal piece I was screwing into.  I had to torque hard enough that apparently I ripped a chunk out of my finger in the process and had to take a quick break to apply a band-aid to stop said bleeding.  That hurdle solved we moved onto the problem of one of the six holes that the metal braces went into was not lining up… and not even vaguely close.  The end result there was to use a screwdriver to sort of bend the holes until we managed to get them to line up enough to slide the bolt through.  The resulting table seems nice and sturdy but what we originally thought was going to be fifteen minutes of our time… wound up taking close to two hours.

20160522_175317

Another quick note… the photos attached to this post were taken while sitting on the back patio and watching birds come visit the bush across from where we sit.  This whole bird watching thing has turned into a bit of a thing for me while we are back there.  I don’t really know what any of the birds are other than the obvious Bluejay, Cardinal or Robin.  They are adorable however as they hop around the branches looking for nom noms.  They can completely decimate a full feeder worth of bird seed in no time flat, and as a result I have started limiting myself to feeding every other day.  When I do this they tend to do a pretty damned good job of cleaning up anything that happened to fall on the ground between feedings.  The other interesting thing that I have learned is that sunflower seed hulls break down into compost extremely quickly for some reason.  I realize this is not exactly the most exciting post to make as my return from the weekend break, but screw it… its my blog and my birbs!

Combo Breaker

RemotePlay 2016-05-20 06-03-16-27

Ending the Streak

The other day I talked about how the three plus year streak has been looming over my head like this impassable object.  After long thought I’ve decided that the sooner I break it the better, and as a result I will not be making posts this weekend.  I mean that is in part a lie since I will be posting over on AggroChat Sunday morning in the form of our weekly episode.  However tomorrow morning I am going to chill out, and eat my breakfast in peace with zero thought of what the hell I am going to post that morning.  That is at least the theory… I have a feeling that in practice it is going to be a lot harder to NOT post than it is to post.  The end goal is basically to reach a point where I am posting a new post every workday morning, so I can continue the routine of drink coffee and write about stuff.  That means weekends and holidays I get to myself, or more than likely it just means I start gaming a little earlier on those days.  My hope is that some time off is actually going to present topics that I want to talk about, rather than trying to wrack my brain for a new post.

I have to tell you I am a little nervous about this “new experiment” following up the previous “grand experiment”.  It makes solid sense to just post week days since those are the days that folks generally read on.  However at this point I am just used to the comfortable routine.  So in theory the next time you will hear from me is Monday morning.  As far as my weekend plans…  I think I have a pretty chill one ahead of me.  Tonight may or may not be a thoroughly awkward family dinner, largely because I have not decided if I am actually going or not.  We just had one of these a few weeks back, but there is a family member in town that folks have not seen in some cases years…  so folks are pulling together an impromptu dinner.  Past that I am hoping the report of non-stop rain is exaggerated and I get to spend a little time out on the back porch.  I have bubbles that need blowing.  Last weekend I went to a birthday/adoption party and they had bubbles for the kids…  and it made me remember just how damned much I love blowing bubbles.  So I bought myself a small bottle of the soapy mess for hanging out on the back porch.  Viva adulthood and the ability to buy your own damned toys!

Light Level Cap

RemotePlay 2016-05-20 06-03-42-19

It has been a little over a month since I last set foot in the Kings Fall raid, or at least it seems like it.  There was a bit of a change around that ended up with Squirrel trying to start an earlier raid team beginning at 8 pm which is more sane and rational for those of us who get up at 5 in the morning for work.  However that never really took off in the fashion that we had hoped, and it also lead for the official “rookie” raid night to get moved to Wednesdays.  As a result of this switcheroo I simply didn’t raid for several weeks, and this week was my first time signing up again largely on the promise of a “guaranteed” 335 artifact from the War Priest Challenge Mode.  Unfortunately that Guarantee like oh so many things in Destiny, was not really set in stone and I wound up getting yet another damned 334 item.  I did however have a lot of fun running the raid, and after some time away from it all of the jumping puzzles that stress me out so much didn’t seem quite so bad.  I even managed to run the orb on sisters without screwing up too badly.

RemotePlay 2016-05-20 06-03-16-27

Last night Squirrel, Jex and I had what has become somewhat of a tradition… a night of Challenge of Elders and whatever the hell else any of us happened to need.  So on paper this should have been one of the easiest weeks, with precision shot bonus experience.  However in many cases we struggled to survive and I think it was largely the inclusion of “fresh troops” into the mix.  I died so damned many times last night, and we were just shy of being able to get to the 90,000 bonus in two rounds.  I would have felt bad about my performance were it not for the fact that both Jex and Squirrel died quite a bit as well.  The frustrating thing about CoE is it has become one of those “unskippable” activities each week because it is one of the few reliable means of getting 335 loot.  I say that… however almost every single item I got this week was a damned 334, which is completely maddening.  There seems to be some bug that hits where instead of giving you upgrades it starts giving you side grades.  That said I did manage to get a Titan Mark as end of match loot, and then after CoE we went to the Dreadnaught for some Court of Oryx.  After summing three Tier 3 events… the final one dropped my 335 Artifact taking me to the current light level cap.  This is extremely exciting for me, because this represents the first time in my history playing this game that I have EVER been capped on light.  Special thanks to Squirrel, Jex, Wet and the entire Axioma Clan for helping me get here.

Digital or Physical

Fun with Polls

A few days ago I posted a poll on my twitter feed asking a simple question about my followers gaming habits.  In the end 88 folks responded to the poll which is honestly more than I thought there would be… but far less than needed to really make it scientific and such.  Essentially I was thinking about how I have shifted from only purchasing games in physical retail stores… to almost never doing so.  In fact not counting the land-run for copies of Wildstar to redeem for bonus loot, the last game I likely purchased in a store was TERA back in January of 2011 (yes I had to look up the release date).  Even then the only reason why I purchased a physical copy was that it was not available through any of the online retailers I trusted, and I didn’t realize it was a game I would be interested in playing.  This was another case where I was following the great internet zeitgeist and getting in on the rush of yet another game…  that I would ultimately walk away from quickly.  This is also the last game other than the Wildstar land-run that I purchased from a GameStop… but that is an entirely different thing for a different day.

For Those Who Can’t See the Embedded Tweet

  • 65% – Mostly Digital
  • 16% – Mostly Physical
  • 19% – Fairly Equal Mix of Both

There are so many times that in my mind I think I represent the new normal, when in truth I am probably an outlier.  So with digital purchases I wanted to take the temperature of my gamer friends about the subject.  As it turns out I am in fact in the majority with 65% of you stating that you mostly purchase digital games.  Now the weirdity with twitter polls is that if you are using a third party client, you don’t actually see them.  As a result I had a large number of people comment directly but in those cases I am uncertain if they are also represented by a vote.  As a result I am only going to be looking at the poll numbers for percentages, but using the folks that responded to indicate trends.  Here are a few of the interesting trends that emerged.

Import Troubles

There were a few people that indicated that they purchase almost 100% digital other than when they are importing a game from another region.  This makes complete sense as the payment methods that are widely available in English speaking regions, are totally not the case in other regions.  Then there are problems for example with South Korean games where you have to have some sort of national id to be able to purchase the game in the first place.  I know from past experiences trying to play Phantasy Star Online that figuring out how to pay for a Japanese game can be maddening and there are entire guides out there that are the equivalent of showing a screenshot and showing where to click to get through the sequence of screens to make a payment.  Especially now that Amazon allows folks to order from the .JP website with non-Japanese payment methods, sometimes just buying that physical copy can skirt a whole slew of frustration.

Console VS PC Divide

Another group of folks commented that they are 100% digital on the PC, but almost exclusively purchase physical copies for their consoles.  This again makes sense, because digital purchases on consoles are often times more expensive than purchasing through a retailer that is offering a discount to get your business.  There is also the case that consoles have a finite amount of storage space.  I know personally I have gone through the trouble of upgrading the hard drive in my PS3, PS4, and Xbox 360 to keep from running into the wall where I am constantly having to uninstall one thing to be able to play the next.  However in this case I know I am very much not in the majority.  Even with my Wii U I have an external hard drive connected so I simply won’t have to worry about storage space.  Buying that physical copy for the most part lets you insert disc and play… even though there is a modern trend of having to wait for a lengthy install process before playing it.  Also having that physical copy allows you to trade it off after you are done with it… which is apparently a much wider practice than I would have thought.  I tend to hold onto a game forever even in a case when it was a bit of a bomb.

Physical Exclusives

Another case that came up several times is that I had a group of folks that indicated that they buy digital unless there is a physical collectors edition… and then they go with the cool boxed edition.  I think this is a combination of a bunch of things, not the least being that the physical collectors editions have statues and mock-ups of in game items that you can’t get in any other form.  Then there is also the cool factor of seeing a wall of games.  I used to have a dedicated gaming space and a huge bookcase full of games similar to the one you see behind Jasyla in most of her videos.  Then problem being after several decades you end up with so much clutter that something in me snapped and just started giving it all away.  I mean that said I have a closet packed to the brim with older console stuff, but I’ve only started holding onto the things that were particularly rare.  It can be amazingly cool however to gaze upon your collection of rare physical collectors editions of games, so I absolutely see the appeal.

Concerns about Long-term Play-ability

This one came up a few times and I was not honestly expecting it.  There is a concern that while the console might work for decades… the game companies and the digital delivery methods might be long gone.  As a result we would be unable to play digital games.  This one also makes quite a bit of sense as I have lived through both the downfall of game consoles…  as well as the downfall of digital stores.  While the Dreamcast went the way of the dodo, I can still freely play the games that I have on their goofy gigabit pseudo dvd system.  Similarly I can talk about the disappearance of the Games with Windows store that Microsoft ran…  however in that case I think they simply rolled those purchases over to the Xbox store.  There is a certain amount of liability for digital purchases, so long as the main game company is in business.  This is the reason why you still see PSP titles available through the PSN store… even though that platform has long been shuttered.  I guess my line of thought has long been that if Sony and Microsoft are gone… there are going to be wider problems with their consoles given the amount of connectivity that is interwoven.   I know when my internet went out a few weeks back, it was kinda hell to find a game on the PS4 that I could play without it needing to “dial home” for something.  All of that said… I absolutely get this concern because the only way I can play Hellgate London is because I held onto my physical copy.

Wrapping Up

I really appreciated the wide number of responses that I got from folks on this question.  Actually it turned out pretty cool, and I have considered doing something like this again in the future.  I liked seeing all of the different points of view in a question I had thought about quite a bit myself… but one that wasn’t necessarily a hot button topic.  The other big scenario that I purchase physical copies of games… are when I happen to find a deal that is too insanely good to pass up.  Even then I take that serial number… and input it into steam because the last thing that I want to do is remember where the hell my physical copy is.  I love being able to have a console or a gaming machine loaded full of options, and be able to keep them “on tap” as it were.  I guess for me that was always my dream of having some sort of a gaming system where I could simply hit play and select one of any of the games I owned.  There was a period of time where I had sixteen consoles hooked up in my loft, but the complicated system of “A/B” switches that were required to make that work is maddening.  I love that I can just flip on my PS4 or Wii U pick a game and go, and this is also a big reason why I have zero qualms about repurchasing a game on a newer system.  In the end we all have different habits and different norms, and I thought it was awesome just how free you all were with your thoughts.

Musical Steeds

ffxiv_dx11 2016-05-17 21-16-18-00

Muscle Memory

ffxiv_dx11 2016-05-17 19-10-18-92

The tale of our run in Final Fantasy XIV has been interesting, namely we played for roughly two years straight… and then after the launch of Heavensward that original group more or less faded away from the game.  When we played the game at launch, I was towards the end of the pack when it came to leaving, and this time it seems like I was among the first.  I had split priorities when it came to FFXIV and WoW raiding… and to be truthful I was burning out intensely in both.  I last played regularly in December of 2015, and for whatever reason I’ve just not had much drive to dip my toes back in.  As additional story content was released, I made a college try to come back and consume it.  Unfortunately however I never actually made it all of the way through the 3.2 content.  As a result I admit I had more than a little trepidation upon returning, because I wondered how much skill I would have lost.  It turns out “muscle memory” is ungodly strong, and for the most part I was able to sit down and begin rotating through abilities and hitting hotkeys by reflex.

ffxiv_dx11 2016-05-17 20-39-11-95

What also helped however was the content we were doing.  Now our raid group met on Tuesday nights for two years, and it seems as though the current batch of Greysky folks have kept up that tradition.  This time instead however it has been turned in to a pony farm night.  Now back when we were doing the Extreme Primals legitimately, I had managed to get the whistle for the Leviathan pony, and counted myself damned lucky.  In the meantime however it appears that Square has increased the drop rate, and getting those musical horses seems to be a pretty regular occurrence.  What shocked me was just how quickly the boss fights came back, even in their currently abbreviated state.  For example I instinctively followed the normal tank queues for Titan… even though I initially stood on the wrong slice of cheese.  I was happy to know that I could in fact still apparently tank in this game, and I think I will feel significantly better actually doing some duty finder for gear currency.

A Good Night

ffxiv_dx11 2016-05-17 21-16-18-00

It felt really great to be back, and equally great to be playing Lala-Bel again.  There is just something about this character that makes me happy, and maybe some of the funk I have been in has been due to the fact that I haven’t been playing him lately.  After the raid my friends Tzi, Rylacus and Nyte helped run me through The Antitower, the first of the 3.2 dungeons.  I poked around a bit afterwards trying to figure out where all the other dungeon quests started, but sleep claimed me pretty quickly.  I know I will be doing Destiny raid tonight, but the hope is to return to FFXIV in the coming days.  I mean maybe the answer is to simply play all the things.  Right now I am getting enjoyment out of WoW and FFXIV again… so maybe the idea is to simply ration them both.  I know I have a lot of catching up to do in FFXIV so it serves as an excellent game to grind away while downstairs.  When I left in December I was one of the better geared characters in the Free Company… and now I am probably one of the worst geared.  I know this… because in running the Antitower I managed to pick up no less than two upgrades, which is generally a good sign that you are way behind the curve.

I managed to get the Garuda pony which was an easy drop since everyone else in the raid had one, and was quite literally just farming it to get me one.  Then I rolled on Nightmare that dropped from Titan, and managed to get the lucky roll.  The only thing there is… I guess I didn’t fully realize that this was a rare drop from any of the first three primals… even thought Ashgar said as much.  I didn’t quite grok it at the time, or I would have probably passed on the roll.  We did not however see any of the ACTUAL pony that is supposed to come from Titan.  We did however manage to get at least one person a Leviathan mount, and I believe one other mount…  but I am drawing a blank.  All in all it was a really fun night and I am going to try and juggle my schedule so I can start making this a weekly thing.  Hopefully I didn’t do anything that pissed anyone off too terribly.  I felt a little bad falling right back into my overbearing tank mode… but like I said I was largely relying on instincts to get through the evening and that comes with the tendency to pull.  Ashgar however pulled for me a few times expecting that I would provoke it back from him, and I did like a good lalatank.  It was kinda great getting to hang with Tzi and Rylacus again, even thought poor Tzi had no voice at all.  Maybe I am over my mental block against MMOs, or maybe I just happened to choose the right nights to play again.

Three of Coins Problem

The Ultra Knight

RemotePlay 2016-05-17 06-00-25-85

Last night while making yet another trip to the Dreadnaught just to kill the Ultra Knight, I started thinking about what a glorious debacle the situation of exotic drop rates are in Destiny.  Don’t get me wrong, I love this game… and they have made so many great strides over the last year into truly making it an amazing place to be.  The problem is… they are seemingly inches away from landing on the target but nonetheless not quite there.  The problem currently centers around making doing content feel rewarding.  I completely blame the recent Iron Banner for giving me more hope than I probably should have had.  During that weekend I had a single activity that I wanted to be doing, as often as I could… and that was queuing for more Iron Banner.  During the weekend I managed to make it to Rank 5 on all three of my characters, and the primary motivation was the acquisition of loot.  Sitting in queue and playing a match felt like quite literally the best use of my time because I knew that every four or five matches I would be rewarded with some shiny bauble that either would replace my current item in that slot or serve as infusion fodder.

Once that weekend ended however it feels like I simply don’t have an activity like that that is equally rewarding.  There is of course Challenge of Elders, but the Challenge requires you to gather together a fireteam to really have a chance at completing it.  We have absolutely made a date on Thursday nights to try and get our various characters through CoE but the problem is… what do I do with the rest of my time in game.  I am largely a soloist, and it feels like I don’t have a similarly valuable activity that feels like I am spending my time wisely.  So as a result that activity ends up being heading to the Dreadnaught every 10-15 minutes to kill the Ultra Knight, so that I can consume yet another Three of Coins buff… and every fifth kill or so get an Exotic Engram, which may or may not decode to 335 light and help me push the goal forward.  In fact there are so many times that I will be playing another game like Diablo or last night World of Warcraft… where I take a break every 15 minutes or so and log into my PS4 via the Remote Play app with the sole purpose of rushing to the Ultra Knight and attempting to get that exotic engram.

 

Lies of Xur

RemotePlay 2016-05-17 05-57-28-68

The problem is that this isn’t really an enjoyable feedback loop and feels like a hacked workaround to solve core problems in the actual gameplay.  In theory that default thing I could be doing with my time should be either the Crucible or Vanguard play lists.  Those are activities that need players doing them to keep the game thriving.  However instead of getting interesting things while doing these activities, it feels like they solely serve the purpose of being a vehicle for me to spend Three of Coins buffs.  Then there is the problem of strikes like Dust Palace and Omnigul not actually removing the buff and triggering the potential of an exotic drop.   Then there is also the problem of Xur, where he is supposed to be this trader that sometimes brings us amazing things.  However for most of us, Friday is simply the occasional that finally allows us to restock our Three of Coins and nothing he has to offer is actually interesting.  This is because it feels like if you are doing any activity in this game, and you don’t have the Three of Coins buff active, you are playing the game completely wrong.

There is a lot of talk about Bungie summoning the Diablo developers to talk about the lessons they learned with the “Loot 2.0” patch.  One of the key lessons seems to have been lost in translation.  Diablo currently has a Three of Coins like effect when it comes to Legendary drops, but the difference is… it is always active.  In theory if you are actively playing the game you should be seeing a Legendary drop at least every 10-15 minutes with the chance going up significantly based on the difficulty of the activity you are tackling.  This means that doing literally anything from killing a level 1 mob to killing a boss has a chance of summoning a Legendary drop.  This is how things should ultimately work inside of Destiny, because going out into the world and doing activities should feel like the most rewarding activity.  You remember every time you get a drop from a boss, but no one remembers that one time the Cryptarch happened to give them something interesting.  It feels like Destiny needs to reconsider the way loot works in the game, and make it so that Strikes, Crucible, Nightfall, Prison of Elders, and Raids are the default thing that players want to go and do, rather than simply finding any vehicle for flipping that Ultra kill switch.  I also think there should be that random snowballs chance in hell of quite literally ANY mob out in the world dropping a super rare Exotic Engram, or even one of the good Legendaries at a decent light level.  Bungie needs to drive players into the feedback loop of doing group activities, because the activities are fun but also the best possible way for them to get rewards.

 

Flowers for Garou

FlowersPanorama_600

More Flora

FlowersPanorama_600

It feels really strange to follow up yesterdays post.  Those were a bunch of things that I felt like I needed to get out there, and to be honest about the doubt that I had been struggling with.  As it stands right now I am for certain taking a break over Memorial Day weekend rather than either pre-writing posts or arranging for guest posts.  I am also contemplating starting to make weekends optional.  Sunday is really the day that becomes madness for me because I am also scurrying around that morning trying to wrap up the various stuff required for posting an episode of aggrochat.  As far as this weekend, it was honestly one without a ton of gaming.  Instead I spent a large amount of time hanging out in the backyard.  Scope creep is a term we use in development when a project has gone beyond its boundaries in the number of features the user is requesting.  Our backyard has long since entered scope creep territory and that’s okay.  The original goal was just to make it more livable, and this has involved a whole sequence of smaller steps leading up to where we are today.  Once again I took a panorama of the progress, and you can see the larger version here.

We have now kept the original batch of flowers alive and actually thriving for two weeks now… so of course we doubled down on the proposition.  We spent a bit of Saturday afternoon tracking down more of the shepherds hooks so that we could have matching ones to the ones we had picked up at ALDI a few weeks back.  The other night while walking with a friend, my wife saw a hanging basket at a near by pop up nursery that she really liked.  We also happened to have a coupon from that same pop-up that if we spent $20 we could get a free hanging basket, so the end result is us adopting the purple, yellow and white hanging baskets and adding them to my “flower babies” as I have taken to calling them.  The only big things left are to wait on the grass to finish filling in where the weed treatments left barren patches… and so far it has started.  Then there is of course the idea kicking around about replacing the table we have with something that sits a little lower to the ground and that we could use our pseudo-Adirondack chairs with.  Then I am contemplating getting another of the umbrellas we found on sale to go in a post on the far deck side of the pool to add a little shade there from within the pool.  Like I said…. scope creep abounds.

The most interesting piece of scope creep over the last week however is the fact that we have entered the realm of bird stewardship.  I’ve not been able to take a great shot of them but we have soooo many birds.  In the panoramic shot you can see on the right side that I have a feeder hanging in among the tree that is really an overgrown hedge.  I’ve begun feeding fairly regularly, a first a blend from the Audubon soceity and later a bulk blend we got from Sam’s that fairly closely matched the nutritional mix of the first one.  Sunday morning while watering the flowers I filled the feeder up to roughly the halfway mark because it was ultimately what was left in the 40 pound bag after dumping the rest into a tightly sealed container.  This was at roughly 9 am… by the time we were out in the yard after my wife got home from church around 11 am… the feeder was completely empty again.  There have been times I have counted a dozen tiny sparrows feeding at the same time, with a bunch of cardinals, bluejays, and various sundry other birds that I cannot yet identify roaming around.  We have a couple that look like doves of some sort, and another couple that look like pidgeons.  Basically the entire time we have lived here I have wanted birds to hang out in the backyard and in the evenings I have been able to watch the baby sparrows hop and play around on the deck.  Unfortunately they are all pretty skittish at the moment, except for the Robins… they seem more than happy to roam within close distance of us looking for worms.  In any case… this is the non-gaming activity that is taking up a good chunk of my time.  On the weekends and evenings we tend to eat outdoors hanging out in our rockers watching the flora and fauna.  Yup… I am officially old, but not minding a minute of it.

Surprising Whim

Wow-64 2016-05-16 06-13-13-24

Most of my weekend gaming was spent in Diablo 3, doing various things…  and largely without purpose.  I managed to get my stash tab on Friday, and from this point on everything else is gravy in Season 6.  For awhile now even before the season, Diablo was the game I played when I didn’t know what else to play… and I spent a huge chunk of the weekend not knowing what else to play.  Normally Destiny would fill this niche but I didn’t really want to hang out upstairs when the couch was so damned comfy.  During the weekend I found out that my good friends Chestnut and Chaide from Wildstar have decided to re-up World of Warcraft, and the glory that is our collective community managed to recruit them to hang out on Argent Dawn Alliance with us.  I ended up logging in to do some invites last night and wound up sticking around and playing my Druid.  There was a part of me that thought… wouldn’t it be glorious if I could somehow ride into Legion with a full army of level 100 characters.  The actual leveling game of World of Warcraft is something that I have enjoyed greatly… it is just the Garrison busywork that ends up getting me down and making me no longer want to play.

Wow-64 2016-05-16 06-44-18-73

So the idea is simple… if I can focus heavily on leveling and or gearing my characters I might be able to get back into the game for a bit.  While watching my Sunday night shows, I managed to push from 91 to 93 and make a big dent in Shadowmoon Valley.  Normally speaking I take this abbreviated path around Draenor, jumping each time a new zone opens up to me.  This time around however I think I am going to just focus on the questing, because that is the thing that seems to be able to hold my focus even when the rush to end game doesn’t.  I mean with this character I am not pushing to get anywhere, and Hellfire Citadel feels stifling at the moment so I am in no rush to get back there with LFR.  As it stands I have my Druid, Priest, Rogue, Mage, Warlock and Monk to level… and I am sure that this current burst of interest in World of Warcraft won’t probably sustain my way through all of them, but I might be able to at least springboard this into a renewed interest in MMOs as a whole.  The absolute hardest for me is going to be the Mage because… really I could care less about finger wigglers and the least is always the pure finger wigglers.  I can pretend the Discipline Priest is a cloth tank, and I can focus on the awesome demon pets on the Warlock.  However with that mage… all I am left with is the fact that I am slinging spells which never really feels amazing.  Anyways who knows how long I will be around for, but I enjoyed myself last night.