Derpy Banana

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Last night I moved a little bit out of my comfort zone and decided to do what I had hoped to do some time ago… and test Beam.pro.  Firstly you have to understand that I have gone around and around with streaming services because none of them really seemed to fit me.  Twitch is the ten ton juggernaut in the room, and in a way that generally makes all other services irrelevant.  That said… I feel like it is a generally inferior experience for both the viewer and the streamer.  The lag delay between video stream and chat is horrendous and it pretty much makes any attempt at having a conversation with someone watching you impossible.  Hitbox seemed really cool other than some weird issues I had regularly with stream quality.  It however had little to no lag between video stream and chat and made it super easy to have conversations over.  They also seemed to have way better back end tools to support the day to day management of your stream and syndicating it to various social media platforms when you go live.  Beam however entered the ring some time ago, or at least came into my general consciousness when my friend Maeka decided to switch over to streaming on it exclusively.

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Braced Frame – Snapshot – Range Finder

So Beam represents a more twitch like experience in quality, but with far better chat delay and an interesting reward model for viewers and streamers.  Watching streams earns folks sparks, that can then be spent on either unlocking features for your own channel… or spending those sparks on other streamers who often offer weird things like sound boards for you to play with.  I admit the gamification aspect of the streaming interested me, and I find myself way more connected to the concept of letting a stream run while I am doing other things because I know that eventually it is going to benefit me.  For example… something I have always wanted was the ability to create an AggroChat team, and that functionality apparently unlocks when I hit 5000 sparks… to which I am sitting at roughly 2000 currently after a few days of usage.  Over the weekend I got my setup rearranged and organized so that things were going through the appropriate devices, thinking that sometime in the future I might maybe start streaming again.  However a thread on the That Gaming Forum Imzy was the catalyst needed to go ahead and push me across the line to trying to stream something properly.  When I got home last night I quickly assembled a fresh OBS install and pulled in the artwork I had from the previous attempts and before long I was up and running.

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Perfect Balance – Snapshot – Headseeker

The end result is me playing some of the absolute worst Iron Banner ever, but you can check out the VOD here on Beam.  I spent way more time turning my head to the left and checking chat than I did actually playing the game.  This is compounded by the fact that before last night I had played a half dozen Rift matches period, and it is a vastly different style of gameplay than I am used to in the Crucible.  Generally speaking I am used to the “rush to the choke point” style of game play that comes from Control or Supremacy, and in trying to play Rift that way… I died a lot.  Later on in the night after I chilled the hell out and started taking things more slowly… I started doing better but unfortunately this was LONG after I ended my stream.  I was still recording, however when I configured OBS I ended up accepting the default flv format… which Adobe Premiere seems not to know what to do with.  So I am either going to have to find a plugin that lets me import them… or find something to convert that to a format so I can actually properly edit it.  I did get one really solid match recorded, and I would like to edit that up and post it on my youtube channel at some point.

Perfect Balance - Extended Mag - Zen Moment
Perfect Balance – Extended Mag – Zen Moment

One of the big positives about Beam is that they are now owned by Microsoft which in theory means they are going to get more support.  The negative there is that Microsoft has a long and storied history of abandoning products…  zune anyone?  However the killer feature seems to be that it integrates perfectly with the Xbox One… which also adds to a little platform bias.  Most of the streams I have watched were streamed from an Xbone… so it confused my viewers when I said I was playing Destiny on the PS4.  Ultimately I have a pretty cool setup that I am happy with in that in my office I have my desktop beside what is essentially a console gaming area.  In a storage cabinet beneath my 48 inch television I have a PS4, PS3, Xbox 360 and now Xbox One all connected through an HDMI switch that then goes through a splitter before going into an Elgato HD that I picked up off craigslist for around $35 used.  That then feeds into my PC and is served up by OBS using the Elgato streaming tools.  So that means quite literally anything I can connect to my television through HDMI can then end up getting streamed out.  At one point I had my WiiU connected here, but I took that downstairs so I could hang out in bed and play on the weird remote device.  Also Nintendo has some pretty draconian practices surrounding streaming and youtube videos so I figured it was probably a good idea NOT to do that.

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At one point I drew up this diagram quickly to show how my set up works.  The key element there is the splitter and you can read more about that in a previous post I made back in June 2014 when I got the setup running.  As far as Iron Banner itself… I have interspersed some of my best rolls from the night in amongst the paragraphs.  In total I am sitting 3/4 of the way through Rank 3 and have picked up 3 fusion rifles, 1 scout rifle, 1 pulse rifle, 2 legs, and a helm… that I then bought the 100% roll from Lady Efrideet and infused that into it.  I feel like I made a decent start to getting to Rank 5 and I finally grasped the unique rhythm of the game mode as I went through the night.  I suddenly stopped being the lowest person on the team to vying for the top spot once again.  I am not terribly great at crucible but I am generally not as bad as I am in the stream test.  However that wasn’t really the purpose of the stream… it was to test out Beam.pro and I think so far I am saying it passes with flying colors.  I accepted the absolute default settings and it performed admirably.  Now is the time for me to actually set my channel up properly and try and sort out how precisely is the best way to use the service.

Favorite Addons

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This morning I decided to sit down and write up a post I had been meaning to for awhile.  Lately I have been having a significant number of friends returning to World of Warcraft, and among the first questions is always…  what Addons do I need?  This is as always a personal preference question, but I thought I would take a moment to talk about some of the addons I use and why.  I will be snagging screenshots from curse for the purpose of representing the addon given that it is always a pain in the butt to find circumstances that show them off properly.

One real quick note… I use the Curse client to update my addons and generally I find it  the best possible option.  I highly suggest you check it out.

ArkInventory

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This is probably the number one addon that I simply cannot function without.  At face value it takes all of your bags and presents them in a single window pane, and does the same for pretty much any bag like structure like your bank.  What sets this one apart from everything else that essentially does the same thing, is that you can configure virtual bags.  This allows you to sort all of your trade goods, or filter your gear in a way so that the highest item level items appear at the bottom of the bag.  I also use this as a way of finding what I have gotten that has dropped that is BoE because it appears in a different virtual bag.  Configuration has gotten a bit more cumbersome since it first was released but it is well worth the time.

Download Here

Can I Mog It?

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We all know the real end game is looking cool on your characters, and with the release of the Legion pre-expansion patch we got a brand new overhauled Transmog system.  I rejoiced at the thought of being able to finally reclaim all of that bank and void storage space that I simply used to keep cosmetic gear around for the purpose of transmogging.  However I was a little gunshy about simply just selling it… and the default Blizzard interface made it a little cumbersome to see if you did in fact have an item appearance.  This is when “Can I Mog It?” comes to the rescue showing you at a glance on the item tooltip if you have already collected the appearance or if you should send the item to an alt of a specific class or armor type.  For me this little peace of mind was super important before I actually started liquidating all of those hard fought appearance items.

Download Here

TransmogTokens

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If you are anything like me…  you are farming old world content to try and get new transmog options.  Look I may or may not care more about this system than pretty much anything else in World of Warcraft.  As a result you end up with a ton of the various tier tokens that you may or may not remember if you actually have the appearance for.  This addon does two important things… firstly it shows you how many appearances you have yet to collect that are unlocked with the token.  Secondly it shows you who you actually turn the token in to… which is often times even more important because I don’t always remember which tier turned in at which location because…  there have been a lot of raids I have done in World of Warcraft.

Download Here

NomiCakes

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Nomi is horrible.  NomiCakes makes dealing with him significantly less horrible.  What this addon does is simply tell you how many more recipes you can learn with a given consumable.  That way you don’t waste resources on something you don’t actually care about.  Granted at this point I have not learned everything that is available from any given food item… but at some point I hope to and NomiCakes is going to be there to remind me when that glorious day finally arrives.

Download Here

GTFO

This addon doesn’t really need a screenshot because…  it isn’t really a screenshot sort of thing.  If you raid… get GTFO simple as that.  The addon does one thing and does it amazingly well.. and that is play a god awful klaxon noise that you want to stop at all costs…  any time you are standing in something bad that deals environmental damage.  It is super simple, requires zero configuration and will immediately improve your awareness of bad… because you really don’t want to ever hear that noise again.  I especially love this as a tank because sometimes the boss is partially obscuring things that I shouldn’t be standing in… and this addon tells me that I need to move or make my healers hate me.

Download Here

Loot Toasts

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I love this addon and I am not entirely certain if I can explain why.  Largely I go on murderous rampages rather often, and I have definitely been the sort of person that ends up with a world BOE epic in their bag…. and didn’t even realize it.  I also sometimes go on farming trips, where I need a specific amount of this or that material…  and don’t want to keep having to check my bags to see if I can stop yet.  In both cases Loot Toasts helps me to keep an eye on what I just looted.  Essentially it allows you to have an area of the screen where things pop up briefly for items you have looted.  If it is something that stacks, it shows you both how many you just looted and how many you happen to have in your bags with you.  The tooltip is colored based on the rarity of the item so it is pretty easy to see out of the corner of your eye that you might have just gotten something interesting.

Download Here

World Quest Tracker

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World Quests are amazing, and pretty much in my experience the best possible way to gear your alts without tons of effort.  On the mobile app you are treated with this great view that summarizes what World Quests are available and what the rewards are… so if you are like me and mostly interested in the ones that drop gear, you can find them quickly.  The only negative is that logging into the mobile client, logs you out of the game.  What World Quest Tracker does is give you an in game interface to see the same sort of information, as well as adding in hooks for things like TomTom to give you waypoints to find where the quests start.  You have all sorts of filtering options that allow you to show say only Order Resources quests, or only quests that will help you complete a certain Emissary quest.  To make things even better… when you are on the flight map you can see all of the available World Quests so it makes picking the nearest flight path an ease.  I could not seriously imagine existing in Legion without this addon… much in the same way as Master Plan seemed to be a requirement for functioning in Warlords.

Download Here

Saved Instances

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One of the big challenges this expansion is the fact that Mythic Dungeons are essentially the new Heroic Dungeons, and that they come with a bizarre weekly lockout timer.  I always struggle with remembering who is locked to which zones, and while I can simply hit /raidinfo to see this information…  I found that I didn’t quite have the all in one interface that I really wanted.  Saved Instances is a widget that is added to your map border that gives you a quick chart of who has a lockout to which content.  I find this especially handy for farming old world content and raids, when I am trying for mounts or pets.  It will also keep track of the reroll tokens and who has used them…  and who has yet to redeem them for the week.

Download Here

Enemy Grid

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One of my favorite things about tanking in Final Fantasy XIV was the way that they chose to display threat.  It not only gave me an awareness of all of the targets in play, but gave me a quick at a glance view of which ones I had aggro on.  In the past I used a custom them for Tidy Plates to do this same sort of thing, but in coming back to World of Warcraft I happened across Enemy Grid.  It gives you a quick list of all of the available targets and if grays out the ones that you do not currently have aggro on.  Simple and easy and something I have gotten used to having in my arsenal of information.

Download Here

The Boring Stuff

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This is by now means a complete list of my addons, but more a list of the ones that I find particularly interesting.  My base UI is cobbled together from a bunch of addons that I have used for as long as I can remember, and it creates an interface that I am comfortable and familiar with.  I don’t generally go for the whole minimalist thing… and my UI is way more busy than most people would like…  however it works for me and is what I am comfortable with.  Here is a run down of some of the things that I didn’t talk about that I am simply too used to now to give up.

 

 

 

Weekend Hibernation

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It was a truly bizarre weekend for a whole lot of reasons.  Primarily because whatever illness my wife had seemed to strike with a vengeance during the tail end of last week.  As I said before I was originally planning on going to RiffTrax with work friends on Thursday night but by the time I left work I realized there was no way I could make it through an entire evening.  Instead I begged off and went home and crashed on the sofa in my fuzzy blanket cocoon.  By the time Friday came around I was really doing considerably worse and took a sick day…  which in turn screwed up  our evening plans.  We were originally slotted to do this monthly family dinner thing, but we rescheduled it for next weekend because I was not sure how well I would be to drive.  Instead I returned to the blanket cocoon once more and was as a result available for our normal Friday night Emerald Nightmare clear run.  I wound up tanking it, with the stipulation being that I was not going to talk at all.  In fact to  prevent myself from doing this I muted my microphone…. which lead to a weird run since I am fairly vocal as we make it through the content.  To make it even more odd, we were without the OTHER vocal leader Kylana which meant a whole slew of people had to step up to the plate and help make sure the run went smoothly.  So seriously huge thanks to Mort, Phy, Beist, Bledd, and I am sure a whole slew of other people who also were chatty and helpful but I am not remembering at this very moment.  It was once again a super clean run, and in the end I wound up swapping off for Erry for the final encounter since it generally requires a bit more vocal tank coordination.

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Past that night I spent a lot of time piddling around in stuff by myself.  Namely this meant an awful lot of Final Fantasy XV, and I think maybe just maybe I am finally to the point where I am willing to move on past “world 1”.  As I said before there is a point where the game warns you that if you continue on you might not be able to return for awhile.  I took this warning to heart given that I just came from playing Final Fantasy XIV where this sometimes means that a two and a half hour long cut scene is about to happen.  Instead over the weekend I found out from some of the other folks playing it that at least in this case… the game is talking about a ten minute process and not a thirty hour long one.  In past games these warnings often times meant that you would not be able to return until you found the airship, and I am pleased to find out that this is not the case.  At this point though I am running out of things I can actually do in the starter world, and all of the hunts are of a significant level difference from my current level so I think the game is not so subtly telling me to move the hell on.

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Another thing that took up some time this weekend is that I tore down a chunk of my office and set up my new Xbox One.  For awhile now I have been interested in owning an Xbox One to be able to play the titles that don’t exist on the PS4.  Similarly there is an entire group of friends that I have that are on the Xbox path, and I have not been able to play with them.  Unfortunately there were really no titles that supported Xbox 360 crossplay with Xbox One, so as each of them has upgraded…  my options similarly narrowed.  While I have had this latent desire… I also just could not justify the street price for the console given that I am primarily a PC gamer first… and a Console gamer second.  However on Black Friday I actually partook of a deal on Dell.com for an Xbox One, Extra Controller, Headset, and Five Games:  Halo 5 Limited Edition, Farcry 4, Ryze Legendary Edition, Sunset Overdrive, and Metal Gear Solid V Ground Zeroes all for right at $200.  For this I was willing to jump on it and the box arrived at my house Saturday during the day… and I wound up setting it up after editing the podcast on Sunday morning.  There was another deal on Cyber Monday to pick up a copy of the Destiny Collection for the Xbox One for I believe $25 and I jumped on that too, so while I was installing other things…  I ported over my Xbox 360 copy of Destiny.  Firstly since I am largely a digital only gamer on PS4… I did not realize the whole download after installation was as much of a tedious chore as it actually was.  Halo 5 took a good three hours worth of download time, which I found insane and shocking.  Is this what disc copy gamers on the PS4 have to deal with as well? or is this largely just an Xbox One thing?  In any case… I was kinda happy to see that my PS4 clan tag ported over to the Xbox One, and while I will still primarily be playing Destiny on PS4, I want to level something to hang with my friends playing on the Xbone.

I’ve decided to start linking the podcast on Monday mornings in what generally ends up being a weekend rundown post.  Not that I think there is anyone who doesn’t have access to it… but just in case the youtube version embeds nicely.  The other big take away from the weekend was all of the food that we cooked.  We wound up having a weekend full of comfort food, cooked in the crock pot.  So Friday night before going to bed I threw our breakfast casserole on to cook so that when we woke up Saturday morning it was ready.  This dish consists of egg, cheese, potato, ham and sausage and it amazing.  We wound up eating on it for breakfast and lunch on Sunday as well…  and still have a bunch left over.  My wife had the bright idea to turn it into a breakfast burrito with a little salsa.  We also cooked our Chicken and Cheese Tortilla soup, which we only got two meals out of…  well and an extra helping or two.  Finally on Sunday we tried out this Orange Chicken thing…  that is close but not quite there.  It was good enough but it needs something to make it work properly…  and I think I screwed it up by putting the rice directly in the sauce and letting it cook.  I should have simply made a couple cups of rice and then ladled the sauce over it instead.  In any case…  my wife and I are both largely on the mend but we pretty much spent the entire weekend hibernating.  We started taking some OTC meds when it initially hit and I think it helped out quite a bit.

Awards Show and Timewalking

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This morning I am having a minor case of the deads.  I seem to have gotten whatever respiratory crud happens to be going around.  Yesterday morning I was largely doing okay… but then as the day went on I felt worse and worse to the point of begging out of Rifftrax last night.  Thankfully they were able to use my ticket for someone else, but it bums me out that I missed it.  However from the sound of it the double feature… would have completely wrecked me.  They apparently showed two complete movies rather than a short and a movie, and they didn’t actually leave the theater until 10:15 last night from a 7 pm show.  Instead I stayed snuggled up on the couch and had some left over crockpot Tikka Masala for dinner.  The bulk of the evening was spend winding my way through some horrible timewalking pugs.  The piece of this that I realized is simply that folks do not seem to remember the Cataclysm content nearly as well as the other content… or at least Cata still requires you to do actual mechanics to keep from wiping.  As a result I spend another large part of the night running back from wipes and trying to explain to people what went wrong.  I should be tanking…  but I wanted to shun all responsibility and just dps.  The part I didn’t realize is that in my sub 810 form… I would also end up being the carry that did twice as much damage as the others in a lot of the groups.  By the end of the night however I managed to pull my overall item level up to around 817, which now unlocked as of this morning some of the 830 world quest rewards.  In theory that is going to be how I gear my Deathknight, but logging in… doing the Emissary chest and then knocking out any items that look useful.

The other activity last night was a vague attempt at watching The Game Awards.  At some point this seems to have turned into a real awards show, when the first few years sorta felt like trying to make “fetch happen”.  Somewhere along the line it actually became “a thing” and now has significant support from companies.  It was largely something I was doing because I was bummed at missing RiffTrax and happened to see it scroll across my twitter.  The part I was not expecting was the fact that apparently… folks are using this as another opportunity to announce and or show off upcoming games.  There is a post in me somewhere about the never ending chain of promotional opportunities that game developers have right now.  For years it was the CES and that was literally the only place we got information.  Then E3 and Gamescom became significant players… and that was the moment when we found out literally everything that was to know about the upcoming games.  Now we technically have five different PAX shows, and a plethora of other events like the Playstation Experience that is happening this weekend… and individual company based shows like FFXIV Fan Festival and Blizzcon.  It seems like at any given point we are a week away from a potential cache of big announcements… and we as fans expect something important at each and every one of these.  It is almost as though we are expecting executives at EA or Ubisoft to be prepparing their “Thanksgiving game”, or their “Presidents Day” game to announce at any moment.  I don’t want to go on about this much longer… but I blame the constant deluge of things just on the horizon for constantly distracting us from the games we actually have installed and should be playing.  Saying that… here are some things that distracted me from games I should be playing.

We finally got some really good footage of Andromeda that goes into more detail about how the actual game is going to function and play in its final version.  Firstly I have to say I am super excited to see this because I like Mass Effect best when it is allowing me to play Star Trek Away Team.  Of the previous games… my favorite is Mass Effect 2 because it was one the one that allowed me the most freedom to pop around the galaxy doing tiny interesting vignettes.  The part I am hoping is that the moment to moment gameplay is going to be able to keep my attention.  There was just something about the way that Inquisition performed that was a turn off… and then you take the fact that I am now forced to play a faction that I would rather be cheerfully slaughtering…  and it was a recipe for a game that never quite clicked with me.  Andromeda however feels like it is going to be something I can sink my teeth into… especially if it allows me to constantly be recruiting new and interesting people to join my core team.  Also jump packs… are awesome.

Watching this trailer made me realize that no one has really done a good Monster Hunter style game for the PC platform.  I am sure in the comments someone is going to point out one that I missed, but Monster Hunter fills this weird niche between traditional RPG and Diablo.  Since this is being billed as an Action RPG I am hoping that maybe it falls along those lines.  What I don’t want this to be is another asymmetric team versus monster game like Evolve.  I have zero interest in that.  Like if it is possible for interest to go into the negatives…  then asymmetrical multiplayer falls into that category.  It is being billed however as a Free to Play take on Monster Hunter by ex Riot and Bioware devs.  On that billing alone… I am super interested.

If naked stranded on a beach crying Norman Reedus was not strange enough…  we get another trailer for Death Stranding.  Last I heard they had not actually even picked an engine yet, so I am finding it really hard to take anything I see on this game seriously at this point.  That said I am really liking the direction of this trailer.  I love the weird washed out post apocalyptic marsh thing going on… and I like the skele-zombie troopers thing and the Cthuloid tanks.  This feels like it is going to be creepy in all the right ways and we need more Cthulhu in our lives… or at least ones that play on modern platforms after the frustration that was Dark Corners of the Earth recently.  I am entranced and willing to throw money at the screen for this one, even if I don’t know specifically why I am.  Guillermo del Toro makes the best monsters, and I was just commenting the other day about how badly I would love to see another Hellboy movie.  Maybe this creations in this game can satiate the desire, because if nothing else it has me now following his twitter that is full of awesome monstrous stuff.

Darth Scrapheap

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If appearance systems are the “true” endgame… them I am woefully losing right now.  Last night I managed to push my Deathknight across the line and ding 110, to which I immediately abandoned all attempts at questing and instead focused on World Quests.  For those who do not know when you hit 110 all you need do is walk over to Khadgar and you can start up the madness on your alts without needing to do the faction grind.  Now I look like a random assemblage of crap…  or very much like a raiding dps warrior did in vanilla.  I know that helm is supposed to be menacing and Deathknighty… but it just keeps reminding me of a lizard or turtle… or something similar.  After a round of “complete the gear quests” I am sitting at 795 and I absolutely plan on exploiting the hell out of the Timewalking dungeons this weekend to help push that higher.  As much as I wanted to like the Paladin… it was mostly just a choice to push up so that I could have a miner to feed my engineering.  Similarly I started the Rogue with the thought of pushing up a Herbalist/Alchemist but stalled out because Rogues are squishy and annoying.  Instead I started working on my Deathknight because deep down inside I still have a lot of love for the character… the fringe benefit however is that now I have a reasonable Herbalist as well to at the very least feed my Seed-Battered Fish Plate habit.

In other news we had a pretty good night of raiding with us coming in and killing Odyn once again after a weird off week thanks in large part to Thanksgiving.  It still took a few tries and there are a lot of fiddly bits we can improve on to make it less horrible at the end.  From there we had a crazy pull that never ended because we did not learn our lesson properly and or they said they patched something they didn’t actually patch.  From there we set up and changed a few things on Guarm and had an amazingly smooth one shot…  which is pretty damned awesome considering this was only our second night of attempts.  We then continued on to Helya and by the end of the we were pushing her into phase three and phase two was seeming less suicidal.  All in all I will count that as significant progress, the only negative being there just aren’t that many gearing options yet from this raid.  I am super bummed that I am going to have to miss our now “a thing” Friday night Emerald Nightmare clear this week.  I have a family thing that happens once a month, and this just happens to be that Friday.  Thankfully I think we have more than enough reasonable tanking options to make something work in my absence.  I am just bummed at losing a shot at maybe just maybe getting those last three corrupted essences.

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I also played a significant amount of Final Fantasy XV, and I have decided it is far less a boy band simulator and more Final Fantasy Entourage.  All of that said… I still like it quite a bit and it is absolutely priceless when Prompto sometimes hums the class FF battle victory theme after you finish a combat engagement.  Right now I am heavily engaged in a life of murder-hobo-ry as I am roaming the country side looking for baddies to vanquish and looting interesting cooking materials.  The key take away from yesterday however is that I gave the official Sony PS4 Remote Play a shot and man…  have they seemingly improved it greatly.  Sure there are still moments when it wigs the hell out and you are best to simply hold still until it stops struggling.  Those however are few and far between and for the most part the end result is an extremely smooth play experience.  For reference my PS4 is hard wired into my router, and I was connecting into it from my laptop over the wireless network.  I did some tests in Destiny to see if this was simply a “good enough for an RPG” thing or if it really was reasonable for playing other games.  I could notice a little bit of controller lag while running and doing some patrols… but it was more than reasonable enough for me to play.  I am not sure if I would be willing to go into the Crucible or something extremely difficult, but I had a good enough time killing random splicers in the Plaguelands remotely.  In truth it is “good enough” for 90% of the stuff I do in Destiny and I would absolutely be willing to try something like farming Archon’s Forge while remoted in through the laptop.  It is definitely good enough for Final Fantasy XV which greatly increase the range of play options I have…  and I am going to want to test this theory out on the Vita pretty soon.  I still think the performance of the unofficial “Twisted” Remote Play was better… but he has just been unable to keep it updated to function on the latest version of the PS4 firmware… and the bonus features of playing with a keyboard, mouse and xbox 360 controller simply are not worth being behind in the firmware version especially given that it will bar you from accessing the PSN store.  I am super happy though to see that Sony seems to continue to improve performance.

Final Fantasy XV Impressions

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Firstly let me start off by saying that I am going to try and be as spoiler free as possible this morning.  Last night I began Final Fantasy XV properly… or at least what I mean by that is I actually created a new game.  It had been quite a long time since I last played one of the demos that were available through PlayStation Plus so I spent the first thirty minutes or so working through the tutorial room.  Firstly I have to say how much I appreciate that the Tutorial Room is completely out of the game and something you can venture into by option.  In truth all I really wanted to do was familiarize myself with the combat a bit before setting off on the adventure, and I managed to do that through a series of guided encounters.  I feel like this tutorial could have been tightened up a bit, and a lot of the text removed because really…  I got what warp strike did without the need for ten panels of text explaining it.  However like I said this is entirely an optional experience and it allows you to escape out at any time and start the actual game.  What I was pleasantly surprised by is that I am pretty sure… the intro to Final Fantasy V is twice as long as the intro to this game, in that it gets you out and into the action pretty quickly, far more quickly than I was expecting.  The game does an excellent job of setting up quickly why you are going on the roadtrip and essentially who these people are that are assisting you along the way.  The game also gives you this interesting flashforward…  to set up that some bad shit is going to happen eventually.  While I originally called this a boy band roadtrip simulator… it actually does an amazing job of making you care about the characters… because from the first dialog the game is fleshing them out for you.

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  • Ignis – Tactician and Master Chef
  • Prompto – The runt of the litter, but also the romantic… constantly snapping photos
  • Gladiolus – The strong loyal type, but also ends up feeling almost big brotherly
  • Noctis – our prince… that ends up not being nearly as angsty as I expected.

We are given some insight to the relationships between Noctis and his father Regis in the intro, and some explanation as to why this road trip is happening… and that it might not be nearly as political in nature as it might seem.  The real gem however is the constant banter between your companions that much in the same way as the Dragon Age gives you little vignettes into each of them, and feels like more than just a simple looping soundtrack of quips.  It all seems purposeful and helps to flesh out the feeling of this group and explain the character motivations a little bit at a time.  I am honestly shocked that only two hours into the game I already care about this team, and for the most part like each of them for their own thing.  Hell I thought Prompto would be the new Snow…  the character that I wanted to punt off a cliff but even he has grown on me.  There are a lot of charming mini-games…  the one that endears me to Prompto is the fact that he takes random photos as you go through your daily activities between camping for the night.  While you are sitting around the camp fire or your inn room… you can sift through the photos and determine which ones are “keepers”.  In fact most of the images for this mornings post come from these.  The only complaint is that I wish when I clicked “save” in game that it actually saved it to the PS4 screenshot folder… and not some in game system that never actually goes full screen.  I had to drop these in photoshop to crop out the black border before actually using them in a blog post which was annoying.

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Another big surprise for me was just how fluid and good combat feels.  I might be imagining things but it feels like they have tightened up the system considerably from the time I played Episode Duscae to now.  It could also simply be that I sat through thirty minutes of combat tutorial, and I didn’t exactly do that in the demo.  Whatever the case I feel like I can navigate combat without really thinking about it… which is honestly the way I like to play combat in most games.  I want to push my abilities to the realm of muscle memory, and just simply react instinctively to what is happening on the ground… and this game seems to let me do just that.  The only thing that seemed like it might be a little cludgy is the magic system, but thankfully I am not exactly the finger wiggler type.  So at least for the case of Noctis I will likely never equip a magical ability… other than maybe Cure.  As far as my team goes, they seem to have their own special abilities that more or less take the place of magic that unlock special team up style attacks.  There is an interesting mini-game where Ignis being the tactician… suggests an attack combo that will work especially well on your opponent.  This is less the Libra command from previous games… and more like a challenge mode to see if you can beat the mob while doing this one special attack.  If you succeed you gain additional ability points to spend on top of the normal ones you would receive for simply defeating the encounter.

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As far as the game world goes… it feels amazing.  This is a Final Fantasy game that has learned what works in Skyrim, the Far Cry series, and Dragon Age… and then re-branded all of that to work and fit perfectly in the Final Fantasy world.  The end result is this huge seamless world that lets you roam freely… with honestly very few constraints that I have found.  Unlike Final Fantasy XIV for example… you absolutely can walk off the edge of cliffs… or at least you can in some places that I found out while tracking down some mining resources.  The world is full of little details… like the ability to sit down beside this strange weather worn mascot for a diner.  As you would expect the act of you doing this causes Prompto to want to take a photo, so it feels very much like a bunch of friends out doing goofy shit and exploring the world…  free for possibly the first time from the shackles of having to live in Crown City under the watch of responsible adults.  Hell there are times the commentary running between the four of them reminds me of some of the random shit my friends and I talked about when we were off on our own road trips in High School.  This is easily the most “real” feeling Final Fantasy world I have experienced, and in a strange way it feels almost “American” in the way the various pieces fit together.  So the biggest surprise of the game came when I happened to touch what looked like a pinball machine in this same diner, and was thrown into a minigame.  Now generally speaking I don’t like Final Fantasy minigames that much, but this was actually really fun.  It was a weird amalgam of bullet hell shooter, pachinko and pinball machine…  with a strange multi character combat system.

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I reached the first point in the story when the game warns you… that if you continue on you won’t be able to return for a long time.  I could have simply said yes and moved the story along, but instead I decided to spend a bit more time and try and mine as much interesting bits from the area as I could before I moved the story forward.  In the past this always paid off in Final Fantasy games… and I am hoping it will here as well.  I decided to use that as a stopping point for the night however, and decided I wanted to go hang out on the sofa with my wife instead of play the PS4 which is hooked up in my office.  I really need to give this game a shot over remote play and see how reasonable it is to play that way.  The combat is active, but not so active that it would not be fairly forgiving of a little input lag.  Menu driven combat is definitely a sweet spot for remote play, but this might just work as well.  In any case…  the game is good.  I am extremely happy that I preordered through the PSN store… so that it preloaded in its entirety.  I am hearing otherwise popping the disc into the system causes a 45 minute install process to start, which has to be frustrating.  I was half expecting this to be the case with a digital download as well, but instead I was pleasantly surprised that I could just hit play and pop right into game without any fuss or mess.  This only serves to cement my decision that digital is always the correct way to go on these things.  I would be curious to hear your own thoughts of the game, but please for the time being keep your comments in the spoiler free variety.

Space Diablo

Last night was a good night.  It was a fairly crappy day at work because we were still dealing with the ramifications of events that happened over the break.  Nothing says excitement like an 8 am conference call.  That said I had an amazing bowl of chicken noodle soup waiting on me when I got home.  Sunday during the day we made a batch of soup in the crock pot, and for whatever reason soup is all the more amazing on day two.  This time around I added a little shredded cheese to it and it was insanely good and the perfect thing to at least in part make me forget the day that lead up to it.  As far as my evening the bulk of it was spent hanging out with Grace and Mor in Destiny.  While I consider myself still very much a fledgling player, they are more so… and as a result it was kinda fun just to ride along as Mor experienced all of the content for the very first time.  The big take away from the night however is that the year one strike bosses are still insane bullet sponges.  I kinda find it sad that they never went back and updates these strikes, when much better year two versions exist.  The walker in the Devil’s Lair normal difficulty strike… is quite possibly the hardest strike boss ever… or at the very least the one that takes the most time to bring down.  I solo walkers out in the patrol zones for fun…  and this one just would not die.

Mor calls the game “Space Diablo” and it is fitting because really in the end we are all after tasty loot.  Since I had already done most of this content before a bunch of times, I opted to play my Warlock which is generally my least progressed character.  On the Stormcaller spec for example I only had the base abilities unlocked that you exit the mission with.   By the end of the night however I had a significant amount unlocked, and gear wise my Warlock has suddenly pulled out ahead of my Hunter.  The thing with Warlock is that I like literally everything about it… except the jump.  Squirrel will probably fight me on this one, but it just feels wrong.  It doesn’t work the way I want it to work… and in truth if I could just give my Warlock the Titan jump… everything would be peachy.  Then again I would give literally every class the Titan jump, and part of me hopes that they introduce a second round of artifacts that do just this… allow you to customize each character by giving them a different class jump.  I don’t think that is likely ever going to happen, so in the meantime I will have to console myself with having permatracking thanks to Memory of Gheleon on every character.  If nothing else that artifact is amazing for finding chests… which considering just how many there are in the plaguelands greatly increase how much glimmer I am getting.

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Once things wound down in Destiny, I disappeared downstairs and worked on my Deathknight for awhile.  Sunday with the start and stop nature of work, I didn’t get terribly far in knocking out some of my dungeon quests.  In fact there was a point where I had queued for a dungeon, and shortly after the second boss had to drop group to hop on a work conference call.  Were it a guild group this probably would not have been a show stopper given that I could alt tab back and forth as needed, however I excused myself from the PUG and became resigned to not actually finishing up Stormheim.  So last night I started off by running Halls of Valor, which went extremely quickly and allowed me to move on in good conscience to Highmountain.  Right now I am largely just focusing on the main story of the zone and ignoring any offshoots for the moment, because it already seems like I am going to ding 110 well before wrapping everything up.  At the moment I am sitting at 60% into 108, and have just started the quests in High Mountain meaning I have most of an entire zone to level through.  I will absolutely ding before leaving this zone, and then I can begin the slow process of gearing through World Quests.  I have to say that I love Frost Deathknight for both a leveling and dungeon running spec, and it is going to dethrone my Paladin as my primary alt.

All of this said… I am not likely to work on my Deathknight tonight because I have a date with Final Fantasy.  I am too old to stay up and play at the official launch of a game but instead have it sitting waiting for me on my PS4 for when I get home.

Working Weekend

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Well this morning is not getting off to a glorious start.  File this under the category of more issues with web hosting.  I seem to be unable to upload any new files to any of my blogs.  Some sort of permission issue, and unfortunately not one that I can remedy myself with the level of access that I have.  We had an issue over the weekend where my sites got peppered with a bunch of bad files that were being used to send spam mail.  As a result I think the web host maybe locked things down a little too tight.  I spent the bulk of my Saturday morning going directory by directory and deleting this fishy files that had gotten uploaded through some exploit somewhere along the line.  However in the meantime I can’t upload any new images… which kinda derails the whole process of blogging for me.  Instead of writing a proper post I have spent the last forty five minutes trying to resolve the issue on my own with zero luck.

As far as gaming this weekend I was all over the place.  I played some Rift and made it to level 67 in the Gedlo Badlands, and also partook of the weekend mount sale to pick up a couple of the previously lockbox only mounts including the back warmech thing.  Early in the week I had set my goals on leveling the Deathknight in World of Warcraft to 110.  Then I found out that the frost hidden appearance that drops from this weeks world boss… also requires Artifact Knowledge 4, which was not something I could hope to finish during the timeframe.  That said I still have been having an awful lot of fun on the Deathknight and even casually playing without a serious push… I managed to get him to just shy of 108.  In Destiny I worked on getting all three of my characters through the various weekly quests available from Shiro in the Iron Temple.  I now have all three classes at 385 or above with my Titan being the highest at 387.  Other than that I started Dishonored 2 and am struggling to get into it.  I am not sure what it is about the setting but it is far less interesting to me than Dunwall.  I am not terribly far in so I am going to continue giving it a shot until hopefully it clicks.

Other than all of this… my weekend was perforated by a lot of things happening at work that I ultimately had to log in and deal with.  A prime example is that I had been trying to finish a dungeon needed by my Deathknight when I had to drop the dungeon finder group… and hop on a conference call for an hour to try and sort out what was happening.  The problem with being salary…  and not having an official on-call rotation is that it means you are always on call.  We sorted it out but it was a something looming over my head because you are never quite certain when you are really “out” for the day.  I thought I put things to bed at 11 am… and I kept getting pulled back in until around 7 pm my time.  Something similar happened on Saturday as well, and I had to stop what I was doing and drive back to the house just to get in for thirty minutes to fix something.  As a result it felt like this really strange pseudo working weekend, and with us skipping the recording of AggroChat something felt off the entire time.  It is funny now our rituals ground us… and now badly I needed mine to make the weekend feel normal.  Raiding Karazhan I guess however helped to serve as a great cap to the weekend, seeing as we once again had a pretty smooth clear.

 

Confessions of an Aging Gamer

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I had some thing happen to me this morning while playing Rift that has happened countless times.  I got a message to the effect of “Hai Belghast!” from someone that I noticed is in fact on my friends list.  However for the life of me I have no clue who it is based on the name.  Not wanting to seem like a heartless bastard I play along, until finally some nugget of a conversation triggers in my head and explains to me that yes… I do in fact know the person and who they are.  Essentially my brains filing system works really weirdly when it is concerned with other people.  I meticulously file away bits of information like personal details… hell sometimes even emotions or songs that I attribute to that person…  my brain building this complex network of only vaguely connected information that I equate to as this person.  However often times when it comes to a name… that information is filed as unimportant and is often jettisoned into the sands of time.  Now there are some folks that use the same name in every single game… and for them I have a bit more rote memorization of those names…  and even better if they happen to recycle the same fragment of a name over and over like I do with “Bel”.  However the problem is after a couple of decades of playing MMOs… I have had so many names associated to so many different people crammed in my skull that it all sort of blends together.

If you think of it like this…

  • Everquest – probably had a pool of about 500 player names that I had to memorize and associate with one another on both Veeshan and Xegony the servers I played on.
  • Dark Age of Camelot – this was a relatively small guild, and we were part of a relatively small alliance so probably 200 names or so.
  • Horizons – I got active in the larger community here so probably around 300 names that I had to sort out and try and remember.
  • City of Heroes – all told probably about 300 names as well but there was a lot of carry over from EQ, DAoC and Horizons.
  • World of Warcraft – Recently we hit the 1000 character cap in the guild… and considering longevity and activity in the community as a whole both horde and alliance side in multiple guilds 2000 names or so total.
  • Rift – Been in several guilds on several servers…  so probably around 300 names to remember.
  • Guild Wars 2 – Not as active here but in four guilds so probably around 200 names to remember.
  • Elder Scrolls Online – We had 150 players at launch… and this was a strange once since we interacted with account names not characters.
  • Final Fantasy XIV – last I checked we were at around 300 characters in the guild, and if you factor in random community folks and other linkshells that probably goes up to around 500 character names.

So not factoring other games in…  we are already up to around 5000 character names that are swimming around in my head looking for associations with some bundle of information about them.  Then there are a plethora of other games, twitter, raptr, steam and other means of contact that I have with names associated there is quite literally no way I could possibly keep up with it all.  I am trying to fake it like a pro but sometimes I fail miserably.  The problem is I want to remember, I want to know exactly who someone is just looking at a name but I simply can’t every time.  What is extra frustrating about it is… that the information is up there somewhere because I rarely if ever forget.  I just have the worlds worst filing system because I associate things with bits of information that make horrible indexes.  I mean how can you search by a feeling…  when you are only inputting a name?  Anyways so firstly I want to apologize if you are ever happy to see me logging in and I am super distant at first.  What I am honestly doing is trying to get more information from you to connect the puzzles pieces until it all comes snapping into focus.  Imagine yourself in a library where there are tons of books but no filing system… and the ones that you used last are of course the easiest to get to.  However the ones that haven’t been touched for months or years… they are going to take awhile to uncover but are eventually reachable.

I am not sure how much of this really is aging, and how much is the fact that I have way more information in my brain today that I had a decade or two ago.  I grew up in a small town where I only ever knew a couple hundred people total in my life.  Now I interact with literally thousands of people on a monthly basis, and in doing so…  I am desperately trying to care deeply about each and every one of them.  The empathy section of my brain is sort of permanently working on overdrive trying to grasp and hold as many people as I can in my monkeysphere while at the same time trying to lose as little information on the ones that just happen to slip out.  I realize this is a bit of an odd topic, and it is once again coming late in the day as I sit down at the keyboard for the first time for any extended length of time.  I guess I am proving that I can in fact write both in the early morning and in the evening.  In any case know that I really do care, I just sometimes need more time to boot up my search engine than others when it comes to retrieving any meaningful information from a name.  The image is of course not connected to this topic at all… I just wanted to somehow blunt the wall of text with a cool mount.

Waterless Thanksgiving

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I realize it is late, but if I blog now it still counts right?  Today was an extremely strange day, but I am now home and mostly happy and sane.  This whole adventure started last night when we heard on the news that my home town was on the brink of being without water.  The irony in that statement is that the town is named Nowata…  and this is essentially a running punchline that I have had to hear my entire damned life.  Tuesday morning an explosion rocked the Airosol chemical plant in Neodesha Kansas, roughly sixty miles from my home town.  In the process of fighting the fire all sorts of strange chemicals ran off into the Verdigris river…  that feeds the water supplies of a bunch of towns as it travels its way down and eventually joins up with the Arkansas river.  Namely this meant that the town I grew up in had to shut off water at midnight last night to keep from getting any contaminants into the system.  It was estimated by noon today that the taps would run dry as they only had about ten hours worth of water available in the tower.  When I first heard that I thought… well I guess there goes the plans for Thanksgiving, because surely no one was going to attempt to hold a big meal without access to a bathroom.  I would be wrong.

When I finally got a hold of my mom this morning she acted completely unfazed by the news, like it was silly for me to think that dinner might be off.  She just said that she was telling people to make sure they used the bathroom before coming.  She also said that we could always just go out behind a building…  remember I come from fairly humble roots.  My wife backed out because she needed to assist a friend of ours from trying to move out of her apartment, and in part because I don’t think she liked the concept of attempting Thanksgiving without running water.  Thankfully as it turns out they had prepped pretty much all of the food minus the bird well ahead of time, so it was just a matter of cooking a small turkey this morning.  All in all it went as pleasant as it could be given that it meant hanging out with my blatantly racist uncle and my sometimes extremely paranoid aunt.  My conspiracy theorist uncle did not make it, so there is at least that.  I love my parents dearly though and I appreciate the effort that my mom put into trying to make a proper Thanksgiving happen.

It has been rough the last few years because over time we have lost what I call our “anchor households” being those locations and individuals that glued the holidays together.  One by one I lost my grandparents, and with the death of my wife’s step father… and her father and step mom turning snowbirds and RVing full time…  we really don’t have much of an infrastructure for proper holiday observation.  We are not the hosting type, because honestly we are the ones that start a timer from the moment we eat…  because it starts ticking down until we have reached our fill of other human beings.  It is hard being an introvert in a very extrovert-centric family.  There were a whole slew of volatile topics discussed, but I essentially knew it was going to happen before hand so I had prepared myself for it.  All things considered though, it wasn’t a bad afternoon and I wound up staying around four hours which is probably a new record for me.  That was honestly the point where I decided… I should probably head towards someplace with indoor plumbing that worked.

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The highlight of the day however was seeing the army of orange fuzzballs following my dad around when I went home to see the handiwork on his new porch.  Also of note I saw two wild turkeys that have apparently been hanging around my folks house.  The cats though were adorable as can be, and one decided it liked me… and hung out beside me on the porch.  It of course screamed its little head off because my dad has gotten in the habit of feeding them wet catfood… and they apparently thought it was well past feeding time.  I love my family, but I never really felt that connected to them.  What I mean is to say that I never really fit in or seemed to think in the same way as they did.  Going home and visiting them is draining, because I feel like I have to put on my “Mark” suit, meaning I shift into the person that they expect me to be without really meaning to.  Being in my hometown always feels suffocating, because I have so much history there… and there are still a large number of people who remember me as something that I probably never was.  All of this makes me appreciate the life I have built for myself, my amazing wife, my furkids… and the family that I chose.  There are so many of you out there that may or may not actually read this… that I am thankful for having in my life.  While there are so many of you that I will probably never actually meet in the flesh… it doesn’t make each and every one of you any less my family.  I have a habit of adopting people… and I am thankful for each of you that I have in my life.