Finding a Franchise

Dolly the Donkey

dollythedonkey Since I didn’t really have a place anywhere else this weekend to post this, I figure I will lead off this mornings post with it.  Meet Dolly the Donkey, she and the other donkey Carl are freaking adorable.  I’ve never been a huge fan of horses, but there is just something cute about Donkeys.  They are kind of like the corgi of horses, and these two are super good natured.  While they were obsessed with their food Saturday when we were visiting a friends ranch, on previous times they have been all too happy to come up to the fence and have their heads scratched.  Nothing miraculous or spectacular to see here, I just wanted to post a picture of this awesome animal.

The last time we were out there was for a end of school cookout, and at that time they had these adorable kittens.  You could pick one up and it would just collapse into a fit of purring in your arms.  We already have three cats, but there have been multiple times in the past we have had four.  The neighbor down the street has this adorable kitten, and off and on throughout the summer I have had to go down and feed their animals for various reasons.  So in the following weeks I had almost talked myself into getting a kitten.  However Saturday when we actually went to visit again, they were all sweet and adorable… but I just wasn’t feeling it.  All I could think about was the glorious mess that having a new kitten is, and the fact that I would be woken up at all hours of the night as it was off exploring.  I passed for now, but it may or may not be my final answer.

Finding a Franchise

Divinity2 2014-06-29 20-48-23-455 So all of this time while playing the game, I kept thinking in the back of my head…  why had I not played this game before now.  I originally thought it was a pretty good product offering considering it was released in 2012, but apparently I was looking at the wrong date.  2012 is when the last version of the game was released that rolled in both Divinity 2: Ego Draconis and the Flames of Vengeance expansion.  This game was actually released back in 2009, which makes it all the more impressive.  The problem is that it launched in a really tightly packed crowd of new releases.  Apparently this released opposite both Mass Effect 2 and Bioshock 2, which probably accounts for why exactly I had not played it before.  I was simply too busy with those two games to give much of a damn about anything else.  The thing is…  that is kinda sad considering just how good of a game it is.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 19-51-22-875 What is awesome about this experience is that it feels like I am discovering Fallout of Elder Scrolls for the first time.  Divinity is apparently this extremely storied franchise that I have not played at all.  At this point I have played Divinity Ego Draconis for over eight hours according to steam, and I feel like I have just barely scratched the surface.  I have only just now left the very first area of the game.  I would imagine that Divinity 2 is at the very least going to be a 100+ hour game for me, in the amount of detail it already has and how much I am finding myself backtracking to unlock past content.  The whole game reminds me so much of if the original Fable and Guild Wars 1 had a love child, because it seems to embrace the best qualities of both of these titles.  The further I get into the game, the more enjoyable the content and the various puzzles are.  This game is currently the king of jumping puzzles for me… in that they are challenging but not so frustrating that you want to throw the controller across the room.

Disappointing Skills

Divinity2 2014-06-29 17-53-29-549 The only real complaint that I have so far is that the skills that you unlock with your talent points, feel like they are not that exciting or powerful.  As a result you can see in most of the screenshots I only actually have 2 to 3 attacks unlocked.  I’ve found it far more beneficial to dump my mounts is sword and shield proficiency and lockpicking.  Both of which I have managed to max out currently, and both of which make the game so much more enjoyable.  Essentially the magical attacks for the warrior archetype are just “ho hum”.  Right now I have a whirlwind attack that knocks the enemies back sometimes, and a charge attack that I can use as a gap closer.  Neither one hits nearly as hard as a standard basic swing attack.  So I guess my problem is that it feels like I am wasting points if I continue to dump more into either of them.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 19-01-07-121 The only one I find myself really using much is the gap closer, because all of the ranged type enemies absolutely love running away and attacking from a distance.  Overall however the combat has been really fun, and there are several special abilities that you can perform based on a combination of movement and jumps along with your swings.  Nothing extremely powerful, but it can make a huge difference when fighting extremely tough encounters like the couple of Trolls that I managed to take down so far.  The game can be brutal, and this is definitely one of those games where you want to save often as there have been more than a few occasions where I screwed something up permanently… and had to reload from a previous stage.  One of the more interesting things about the game is that you can mindread NPCs when you talk to them…  you should do this every time because in some cases you will not get a second chance.

Gorgeous World

Divinity2 2014-06-29 17-49-07-764 This game is very obviously no Skyrim…. but it also predates that game by a years time.  For what it is, the game is extremely pretty and runs stable for me with absolutely everything cranked up.  In 2009 I am sure this game was a sight to behold, and was probably among the prettiest titles on the PC.  I still have no clue at all why this was not bigger news here, and why it managed to skirt under my radar.  I mean I knew the series existed, but quite honestly I never picked the previous games up on steam because they confused the shit out of me.  The first game is called Divine Divinity and the second game Beyond Divinity…  I kept looking for a game just called “Divinity” because I hate starting in the middle of a series.  I am not exactly sure when I purchased Divinity II but I am guessing it was a flash sale and extremely cheap for me to try and start in the middle of a series.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 18-25-46-594 Now however I have both Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity waiting to be played once I have reached a point where I feel like I am done with this game.  Additionally I went ahead and picked up Divinity: Original Sin the new game for when I finish with those.  I have a feeling that this franchise is going to become a favorite for me.  Honestly I think one of the things that kept me from picking up the game in the past is the Gothic series.  That game series looked so amazing and was apparently extremely popular in Europe, but each time I have tried to sit down and actually play it… the games have felt like complete crap.  So since this is also a European title, no matter how cool it looked… I kept remembering my continued disappointment with Gothic.  I guess there are probably a few other games out there that I should give a second chance, because there are likely more diamonds in the rough that simply did not get the press needed to make them a great success.

#Divinity #DivinityII

Divinity II: Directors Cut

Old Time Rock and Roll

Something interesting happened this weekend, I was hit with a critical case of nostalgia.  This all started while playing Wasteland 2 the other night, and seems to be continuing on today as I search for more games to give me that classic PC role-playing game experience.  I said yesterday that I was in a bit of an existential funk, and that seems to continue.  While I like the concept of playing Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online… for whatever reason right now they are just too fast paced for my current mood.  Essentially I am needing games that are a bit more prodding and deliberate, and preferably without other players bothering me.  I am going through one of my retreating phases, and I right now I just want to be lost in my own little world.

Divinity II: Directors Cut

Divinity2 2014-06-29 08-29-05-500 I’ve had this game in my steam inventory for quite some time, but for one reason or another I never actually fired it up.  I had heard really good things about the Divinity series and the other night my friends Tam and Ashgar were off playing the brand new Divinity: Original Sin.  So when I cranked this game up I was expecting a Baldur’s Gate esc game along the lines of the original Divinity and Original Sin.  What it is instead however is something more akin to Knights of the Old Republic.  The control scheme is a behind the back pseudo action combat setup that still somehow manages to feel old school at the same time.   The controls are a bit prodding at times, but this is not exactly a high action game that allows you to dodge out of combat here and there to avoid enemies.  Instead there are minor flourishes that you can do here and there to improve your success, but for the most part it is stand up fighting.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 08-01-20-776 The character creator is adequate, as I was able to create something that I liked, however there really are not a lot of options.  Essentially you can be blonde or brown haired, and with a few different facial and hair choices for each color.  This allowed me to create something I liked enough to make me happy, but there really is not a lot of configuration available.  Thankfully in Divinity: Original Sin the newest game they seem to have fixed all of this and given players a bajillion different options.  I would say the customization is “passible” if only because it allows me to give my character long hair and a beard, which is “close enough” to the Belghast appearance.  The limited appearances makes me really glad the game is not Asian inspired, because I am pretty sure I would not have been able to create any character that I could stand.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 08-02-00-559 The game utilizes a silent protagonist with text dialog options for most of the interactions, and quite honestly I am happy with this.  I always find it jarring when my character has a voice that is not my own.  So if I am given the option of a well voiced character, or a silent one… I will almost always choose the silent one.  These games are about me inhabiting the space of the character, and not about watching the lives of someone else.  So in a game like Uncharted… I am watching a movie unfold in front of me that I am not a part of, this type of game however… it is all about the character being an extension of me.  The dialog is charming at times, but nothing I would call spectacular.  But then again I am not really playing this sort of thing for the dialog, I am playing it for the overall adventure.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 08-52-12-425 The game is several years old at this point, but it still looks extremely good.  This is no Skyrim mind you, but the world definitely looks believable and something I don’t mind spending a significant amount of time in.  Occasionally there are some really nice vistas and lighting effects like this one that I find really nice looking.  During some of my screenshots I was running on the default settings, but once I cranked everything up to max the game started to look extremely beautiful.  The visualization options like the mini-map and where we are supposed to go for various quests is pretty much non-existent.  The end result means you need to pay attention to the dialog and spend a good deal of time wandering around in order to figure out how exactly to complete each of  the quests you are given by townsfolk.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 09-00-14-372 I’ve not really played enough to get a good handle on how exactly character progression will work.  However when you first start the game you are set up as a Dragon Slayer, and as part of the ritual that gives you the powers of a dragon… it also wipes your memories, giving you a clean construct for picking a brand new path for your character.  You essentially have the choice of following the path of the melee warrior, the ranger or the mage.  In the first town you can freely switch between them, but once you leave the village your choice is locked.  There is thankfully a little testing ground that allows you to try each of the combat styles and see what fits you the best.  I of course went with the melee warrior, but I feel like the ranger would probably be extremely fun as well.  Mage on the other hand…  felt odd because there was a significant cast timer on each of the attacks.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 08-28-54-664 Admittedly so many times with these Steampowered Sunday games, I play it for a little bit but then never return to it.  I don’t think that is going to be the case with Divinity II.  This honestly seems like about the perfect game for my current mental state.  It feels the right speed, and I can cocoon myself in this fantasy world and explore it without the need to feel like I am letting anyone down in the process.  So while I have taken a break to knock out my morning blog post, as soon as I finish writing I am going to return to clearing the goblin camp I was working on when I paused the gameplay.  Right now on the summer sale this game is only $8 for the directors cut, and so far I am loving it.  If you are looking for an old school Knights of the Old Republic style adventure, then it might also be the game for you.

Enter the Waffles

Last night we had an odd recording of AggroChat as has happened before in the past, we had two of the original cast otherwise busy this week.  I butchered the hell out of the explaination, but thankfully I was corrected.  Essentially this week Tam and Ashgar are off to visit Kodra and to somehow have an intervention to replace his current machine, that we have not so lovingly referred to as a toaster.  That said I feel like maybe that is a disservice to toasters everywhere, as they seem to be far more functional.  As you’ve listened to our podcast in the past, when Kodra goes robot on us, it has nothing to do with his internet connection but is instead his machine freaking out.  Here is hoping operation replace Kodras machine has been a success.  In the meantime that left us down two people for the podcast and thankfully we had replacements all too happy to step in.

This is the first show to include Warenwolf, another one of our multi-year old chat group, also lovingly referred to as Waffles thanks to Mumble pronouncing his name oddly a few times.  In addition to Waffles we are joined by Dallian once again who is the best fill-in guest ever, and pretty much is just now our regular “5th man”.  We talk about the Steam Sale, Wasteland 2, Saints Row IV, Lego Minifigures Online, Wildstar, and Warlords of Draenor alpha among other things.  We ran a bit short this week due to some technical difficulties causing chunks of the show to get edited out, but I hope you will all still enjoy the results.  I believe next week we should be returning to our regular format.

#AggroChat #SteampoweredSunday #DivinityII

Desert Rangers

Taco Bell Salad

As strange as it sounds, one of the meals we used to eat all the time when we were watching our calories is Doritos Tacos from Taco Bell.  Each of them is pretty filling and only 170 calories a piece, and come in a variety of flavors now so it feels like you are eating way worse than you actually are.  For some time now I have had this idea of taking them and turning them into a Taco Salad.  Finally last night we actually did just this.  The idea is that you essentially dump out the contents of the tacos, crunch of the shells and them mix it all together with some form of a binding liquid.  I prepared my wife’s with four packets of Taco Bell hot sauce, and then did mine with some low fat ranch dressing.

The end result was really damned good.  Like amazingly tasty, and it felt and looked pretty much like a Taco Salad.  The only downside was it was a colossal mess to crunch the shells.  You know you your fingers feel after eating a bag of nacho cheese Doritos?  Well take that and multiply it by 100 because the shells themselves are not entirely dry as they’ve had taco fixings inside of them.  I need to find a better way than using my fingers to crunch them up, and if so them bam I have a brilliant fast food “hack” that was super tasty.  Three Tacos made a plate full of Taco Salad and was only 510 calories, I can totally live with that.  It inspired me to try their breakfast this morning, and I have to say it is in no way near as manageable.  In fact their breakfast seems like they ran an experiment of trying to cram as many calories into as little food as possible.

Desert Rangers

WL2 2014-06-28 08-50-25-607 Earlier this week my friend Warenwolf mentioned something about playing Wasteland 2, and as a result I decided to check and see if I had access as well.  Sure enough, when I dug out my forum link from the kickstarter project I had a steam early access code waiting for me.  Last night I intended to just pop in for a moment and check the game out, and wound up playing over an hour.  Now I knew of Wasteland, but I never really played it when it was originally out for the PC.  That predates the bulk of my PC gaming, and I was still heavily a console gamer at that time.  That said I was a massive fan of both Fallout and Fallout 2, and since Wasteland was the logical predecessor to those games I knew I had to get on board with this project.  In truth other than the fact that the original fallout runs pretty lousy on a modern PC, I can still play it for hours. WL2 2014-06-28 08-54-15-264 So far pretty much everything about this game is true to that genre and is a modern update of what feels like a classic game.  There is an over arching storyline that you can follow, or you can simply wander around the wastes looking for trouble.  You cannot however wander indefinitely as there is an interesting movement mechanic while you are on the overmap.  Each step you take consumes water, and you have a finite amount of this.  Every so often you can find an oasis here or there that lets you refill your canteens, but this keeps you from going too far off the beaten path.  Luckily if you follow the actual quest line it leads you to find a large number of Oasis spots that you can always fill up at along the way.

WL2 2014-06-28 09-09-05-758 Just like in Fallout as you wander around the world map you will come across random encounters.  The interesting thing is that each time you come across one of these you have the chance to either fight or run.  So far being the warmonger I am… I have fought all of them and it has been the source of much needed ammunition and medpacks.  Overall the combat is not super challenging, but it is tactical in nature.  Cover rules apply, so since I have a handful of ranged characters I try and place them behind a rusted out car hull or something similar and for the most part this allows me to whittle down the enemy forces.  Another strategy I have found works amazingly well is to simply wait out the enemy.  They seem to be willing to come to you most of the time, allowing you to set up from a defensive position and gun them down as they run towards you.

WL2 2014-06-28 08-55-30-666 The game allows you to assemble your own team of rangers to meet anything you might encounter out in the wastes.  For this first playing I chose to go with some premades so I have Pill the wasteland punk combat medic, Cold Eye the sniper, Bear the Native American tracker, and Big Bert the punk with a spiked bat and essentially my groups only front line fighter.  So far it seems like I assembled a fairly balanced team.  The only thing I am really missing is the ability to pick locks, but up until now I have only actually encountered a single locked object.  Cold-Eye has a mechanical repair skill, which I figure will come in handy eventually.  So far I am absolutely hooked, and looking forward to seeing the finished version.  From what I understand it is pretty much fully functional, just missing some polish.  Definitely glad I backed the kickstarter.

Hail to the Chief

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-25 06-02-34-557 I logged into Wildstar for a bit, but really was not feeling the MMO thing.  I am in somewhat of an existential funk when it comes to online gaming right now.  I am going through one of my periods where I just want to play by myself, and not be bothered with other people.  These usually last a week or two and then I have recharged and can be my charming self again, but while it is going on it is probably just best for me to play mostly single player games.  Since I had so damned much fun the other night playing Saints Row IV I decided to fire it up and attempt to make some progress.  The problem with me and big sandboxy games is that I never actually get anything accomplished.  I have been wandering around the simulation picking up code fragments and knocking down Zin shield beacons reclaiming sections of the map.  Last night I actually made an attempt to complete some of the quests.

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-27 21-18-53-685

The major accomplishment of the night was getting to the top of this tower.  This is the granddaddy of all jumping puzzles I have ever encountered.  The tower itself is so high that the game lets you save at various warp points up the tower as you try and ascend it.  I admit it took me probably a dozen tries to get all the way to the top, and when I was up there my vertigo was going absolutely insane.  The last bit of the climb freaked me the hell out, and I am just glad it is over.  That said it was pretty cool because I actually feel like I accomplished something difficult.  In addition to this there was a whole sequence of events that introduced me to the various minigames including Fraud where you throw yourself in front of cars for money, and one where you rampage through the simulation on a zin battle tank.  I only managed to get bronze rating on fraud… but damned near got gold on my first try with the battle tank.  I guess my inner rampage pays off sometimes.

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-27 22-22-31-111 I actually progressed the main storyline a bit and in the same fashion as the Matrix, unplugged forcibly and woke up on a Zin Battlecruiser butt naked needing to escape from the vessel.  I can apparently take enough time to find a gun, but not enough to take a uniform off of one of the zin soldiers and wear that.  I will admit the whole naked escape sequence thing was pretty funny, and it makes me happy I went so insane with the various tattoos.  Like I really went crazy when I found the tattoo shop as you can see in the above picture.  I feel like this is what I like the most about Saints Row, is that it is really similar in nature to Grand Theft Auto…  but does not take itself seriously at all.  In fact if there is a way to poke fun at your character, the game is going to do it by putting it in ridiculous situations.  The fact that Saints Row is in essence a parody of a parody makes this the video game equivalent of one of the “Scary Movie” franchise movies.

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-27 22-22-31-111Saints Row is one giant running “dick and fart” joke, but it works and while it is extremely lowbrow it is insanely fun to play through.  Even if you don’t normally go in for that sort of thing…  I think there is something in Saints Row for pretty much everyone.  If this goes back on sale before the end of the Steam Sale… you should totally pick it up, because it is well worth the $10.  I am also happy I went ahead and picked up all of the insane DLC, because some of the costumes are just great.  Last night I was rocking the “cloud” outfit from FF7, but I have zero clue where to find the sword that goes with it.  Instead I was running around swinging the “anal probe” weapon.  At the end of the night I had just gotten out of the “matrix” and had not really explored the “real world” much at all, so I figure next play session I will do that.  This game makes my inner thirteen year old extremely happy.

#Wasteland2 #TacoBellSalad #SaintsRowIV

Grinch Stole Steam-mas

Changing the Game

The first Steam sale that I can remember was back in 2008 during the Christmas break.  It was a truly magical event where we saw entire publishers catalogs neatly packaged for a specific price.  I remember picking up everything that THQ had released to date for something insane like $20 and I was completely hooked.  The deals were just flat out unheard of at the time, and I opened my wallet and gobbled up a ton of things that I had wanted to play, but never bothered to pick up.  From that point on there have been multiple tiers of interest in a game for me.  There are always going to be the games that I will preorder happily so that I can play day one hour one, but these are getting significantly fewer in number.

There is a slightly larger group that I am willing to pick up when it goes on sale for the first time, meaning that first time steam drops the price for a daily deal or a weekend special.  There is a significantly larger group that I am interested in when the price gets below $10.  Then there is another batch that I am willing to pick up if the price ever lands below $5.  Finally there is a group that I have no interest in whatsoever even if they were giving it away for free, and these mostly are made up of the sports games out there.  All the while I know in the back of my head, the game is just going to keep getting cheaper each successive Christmas and Summer steam sale.  Essentially the amount I am willing to spend on any game is now reduced because I know something like steam exists.

Grinch Stole Steam-mas

The only problem is this year it all feels so formulaic.  In part this is because the games we see for sale this year, we also saw for sale during the Christmas 2013 sale, and the Summer 2013 sale, and the Christmas 2012 sale, and the Summer 2012 sale… etc etc.  The awesome and horrible thing about steam is that the catalog never depletes.  They still regularly offer deals on games a decade old, and while these are generally pennies on the dollar…  you can only see the “FATE collection” on sale so many times before you stop giving a crap about it.  Over the last few years it has felt like the Steam sale was less an insane deal on games, and more this event that everyone wanted to participate in.  There were “games” to be played and “party favors” to collect, and a universal sense of loss of money as folks indulged in picking up all of those games they had been waiting for.

The problem is this year it just feels tarnished.  I still instinctively check the page each time a new set of games goes on sale, and for the most part there hasn’t been anything that really excited me in the daily sales.  I am not sure if this is a side effect of me just being more accustomed to preordering the games I really care the most about, or if it is a cumulative effect that over the years I have cherry picked most of the good things from these sales already.  This year the thing I have really indulged in so far is using this opportunity as a way to pick up the various DLC associated with games I already owned, since while the games go at a significant discount, it is usually the DLC that goes for pennies on the dollar during the steam sales.  I used this opportunity to pretty much unlock everything that was available for Borderlands 2, and at the same time freak people out as it spammed my steam activity thread.

You can tell the magic is pretty much gone, when there are multiple flowcharts floating around the interwebs showing users how to get the best possible guaranteed deals from the sale.  The base rule is to never buy anything unless it is on a Daily Deal, Flash Sale or Community Choice.  Daily deals of course change out around Noon Mountain time I believe, and then Flash and Community Choice swap out every 8 hours.  Then at the very end of the event, on June 30th this time around… there is usually an encore sale featuring the best deals of the entire run of the sale.  This offers a last chance to pick up some of the more popular items.  Since there is this formula however it takes almost all of the excitement out of the process.  Once upon a time it was super exciting seeing what new wonders would go on sale each day, now it feels like you have guess what games will be big sellers based on the past performance on the store.

Soured the Milk

The thing is, it isn’t just steam that has destroyed my willingness to pay “full price” for anything.  PlayStation Plus is this amazing program where you pay $50 a year and get 2 games a month for each of their three platforms (ps4, ps3, vita).  Over the course of my time being a subscriber I have gotten 150 games through the program.  This coming month we are getting Strider for the ps4, a title I would have eventually bought…. but was holding off just on the off chance that it might be a free title thanks to the PS4s currently limited software library.  Sure enough it is this month and my waiting paid off…  and the thing is, that is really way Steam and Playstation Plus and even Games With Gold has taught gamers.  If you wait long enough you will get whatever it is that you wanted for next to nothing… or maybe even free.  Sure this gives publishers a longer tail on the revenue stream, letting them make some profit off of games that have already cycled off of the store shelves, but it also lowers the total value of ANY title in the process.

At this point $60 seems absolutely outrageous to me to pay for a game regardless of platform.  If it is something I am really amped to play, I might do it…  but very rarely am I willing to pay that for something that is not an MMO.  $40 is really the sweet spot of where I start to be interested in a title, but it isn’t until it gets to $10 or so that I am starting to be willing to pick it up “just because it looks interesting”.  Essentially all of these programs have turned games into a commodity for me that I know will lower significantly over time.  As far as console gaming goes, I have purchased mostly used games for years… and even then I am not willing to pay the type of prices that GamesStop, Best Buy or even our local chain Vintage Stock has to offer.  Most of these places drop the sticker price by $10 and call it good.  In order for me to snap up a console game, it has to be at Pawn Shop prices, so $15 bucks or so.

Gaming Altruism

The Steam Sale has taught me to buy a lot more games… but has lowered the total price I am willing to spend on any single game.  The funny thing is…  this also has caused something completely different.  Every now and then there is a title that I believe in so much, that I am willing to buy additional copies and give away to my friends.  So this week Borderlands 2 was like $5 and one of my friends mentioned that they had never played the game… so BAM! I purchased it and gifted it to them, because like a really good book… I feel like that is a game that everyone should play.  This happens quite often in our little community.  Over the course of the week, I gave away several different games… but at the same time received several back from totally different people.  The prevalence of this happening has increased significantly over the years I have participated in the steam sale.

So while the total price given per item is less, there are several titles that get bought over and over to give as gifts.  A few of my friends keep a stock in their steam inventory of titles that they loved to give out to someone who hasn’t played them yet.  This has turned the whole process in a different direction for me, and when I see something like that happen it just makes me smile.  Games are to me like Books are to my wife… and just as there will always be a “must read” book that you have to share with everyone you know, there will be a “must play” game.  I am just happy to be in a place in my life where I can be generous like that without much issue.  It has always made me happy when I can turn someone onto something cool, be it a game or a song or even one of my favorite movies.  It is this act of sharing our favorite things that makes the internet such an awesome place to be.  Maybe in spite the formulaic nature of the steam sale,  there is still a little bit of magic left in that old top hat.

#SteamSummerSale2014

Stormtalon’s Lair

Sleeping Soundly

When my wife travels I always have trouble sleeping.  You get so damned used to having another person laying in bed beside you, that something just feels off.  The cats try really hard to make up for the fact that there is another person missing from the bed, but it doesn’t quite work the same.  When my wife is gone I end up with one cat pushed up against my face on my pillow… another one burrowed against me on the side my wife would normally be, and a third pretending the bed is lava by standing elevated on my legs.  The end result feels like I am trapped in place for fear of upsetting some crazy version of kitty jenga.

Last night however I picked my wife up from her latest trip, which should be the last of the season.  So when I hit the sack around 10:30 I conked out soundly and sleep that way for the majority of the night.  Its funny how amazing a good nights sleep feels when you haven’t been getting them.  I am still a bit groggy, but things feel like they just function better.  I should try getting this sleep thing more often.  By the time I finish this Monster Zero Ultra I should be feeling right as rain.  However it will never cease to amaze me what an effect having my wife home can have on me and my overall happiness and well being.

Nipplegate

So yesterday blizzard released the images of the new Male Human model as part of the reworking coming with Warlords of Draenor.  Overall I have to say they seem to have done a pretty good job of translating the original look to a more high fidelity version.  It has been compared to Gaston from Beauty and the Beast as well as the “Human” Shrek from the second movie.  I can definitely see the human shrek thing, but overall it doesn’t really bother me.  Belghast is a human male warrior, and I can see being just fine with the look and feel of the new model once you slap some facial hair on it.  The only thing I don’t get are the nipples.  What the hell is going on with those…  like I sincerely hope this is a texture mapping issue deforming them and not the intended final look.  They remind me somewhat of a pair of pepperoni slices glued to the canned ham like pectoral muscles.

It makes me wonder if the Dwarven male had the same issue, but we just didn’t notice because there was always a beard covering them up.  So I did some digging and the emotes manage to allow us to see the nipples on the Dwarven model.  Maybe it is just that they are smaller scale but they look less like something pasted onto the chest.  Yes I realize the irony here in pointing all of this out… because this is precisely the same sort of thing that women have had to go through every time a game releases a female model of anything.  Hell Wildstar as much as I love it… I am convinced the animators have never actually seen a female form, because the proportions for the waists especially are anatomically impossible.  Anyways…  twitter is freaking out.  Since I don’t tend to run around shirtless in an MMO, at the end of the day it doesn’t really effect me much.

Stormtalon’s Lair

WildStar64 2014-06-25 20-39-45-594 At this point we had run Ruins of Kel Vorath a few times, but there is a completely different level 20 dungeon that we had yet to touch.  So last night we managed to pull together a workable team and run Stormtalon’s Lair.  After the mess that was the last time I tried to tank one of these things wearing something other than tank gear, I opted to craft a bunch of new gear and augment it with a few careful auction house purchases.  The end result was that I had what felt like enough support power to do the job, and sure enough I had none of the threat issues that I had the last time.  It seems like if you are in tank gear, you will do just fine controlling the mobs in an instance, which is somewhat of a cool thing.  For awhile we had heard this dungeon was considerably harder than Kel Vorath, and by the difficulty we had with the first boss and some of the trash mobs I would have agreed with those people.

WildStar64 2014-06-25 21-18-38-440 However once we got used to the trash, it felt far more manageable than that of Kel Vorath.  While there were quite a few annoying things they did, there seemed to be far fewer of the “Random group wiping” type effects.  The first boss honestly was probably the hardest boss in the instance for us.  We managed to down the second boss in one try and the final boss I think took us two, and we finished it up with only three people standing.  As far as a dungeon to run multiple times… I would honestly far rather do Stormtalon now that I am used to it.  I don’t really want to give away any of the fight mechanics, because for us at least that is one of the most enjoyable things about going into a new MMO is hitting the fights completely cold and trying to figure out the mechanics on the fly.

WildStar64 2014-06-25 21-43-32-033 That said we did encounter an optional boss that completely beat our spirit down.  We made five or six attempts and never could quite land on the right strategy for dealing with it.  During the encounter he summons some adds, and if I try and tank both the boss and the adds I get absolutely wrecked.  I am wondering if this is going to be one of those situations where I have to kite the boss around while everyone burns the adds.  The problem is… the adds don’t go down terribly easily, and he summons more waves rapidly.  While we don’t have the answer yet, I look forward to going back in another night and trying to figure the encounter out.  Right now I am loving the feeling of the boss mechanics in these dungeons, because whoever did their encounter design is really doing some interesting stuff.

WildStar64 2014-06-25 22-03-03-871 For the longest time I have wished there was such a thing as 5 man raiding, and really the type of mechanics we are seeing are the level that normally accompany raid encounters.  I would say that the 5 man normal dungeons here are at least as difficult as LFR is in WoW.  I can see these encounters being an absolute nightmare to try and PUG your way through them.  There are moments where the entire group has to pay attention and do something or they die in almost every boss fight I have come up against.  While World of Warcraft tended to recycle boss mechanics from one expansion in the next expansions dungeon content…  this is something wholly different.  It is introducing a raid level of responsibility into encounters that I have not seen before.  The existence of Interrupt armor is going to be the death of many a PUG group.

#WoW #Warcraft #Nipplegate #Wildstar #StormtalonsLair

Packaged Chaos

Best Laid Plans

eso 2014-06-25 06-08-35-784 Last night I had every intent of coming home and playing Elder Scrolls Online all night long.  It felt like it had been ages since I had done so, and since I won’t likely be around tonight I thought it would be cool to play last night.  My wife is coming back into town from her second conference and I have to pick her up this evening around 7ish when she gets into town.  So that is going to minimize what time I have to do anything tonight.  Last night I technically logged into Elder Scrolls Online, but only managed to play for about thirty minutes before my mind wandered elsewhere.  To be honest the game looks even more beautiful than I remember it being, but I just was not in the right frame of mind to play it.

The pace of ESO is extremely slow compared to the games I have been playing lately, and I didn’t really want to force myself into playing it just for the sake of doing so.  So I did a bit of crafting and queued up more research since I had long since completed what I was working on for all of the slots in Blacksmithing, Woodworking and Outfitting.  I think mostly last night I was feeling overwhelmed by not remembering what the hell I was actually doing last time I had played the game.  The last several times I had logged in, it was just to do some Cyrodil with the guild.  As far as where I was in the actual completion of Auridon I had no real clue, and to make matters worse…  apparently the recent patch broke every single mod I had installed.  So more than anything, I didn’t feel like playing the game with the stock interface.

Packaged Chaos

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-25 06-02-34-557 I have to admit, somehow I completely missed playing Saints Row 3.  Now I have seen video of my friends doing completely batshit insane things…  and have it on multiple platforms, but for whatever reason I never actually played it.  I did however play Saints Row 2, and while I enjoyed myself it just felt like a “better” version of Grand Theft Auto 3.  It was charming, but for all of the same reasons why I never really cared for GTA, it didn’t just inspire me to go out and play Saints Row: The Third when it came out.  That said everything I have heard about the franchise has been amazing, so when Saints Row 4 went on an extreme sale yesterday I opted to pick it up and give it a shot.  So while I was playing Elder Scrolls last night, my mind was wandering to giving this game a shot as I had it remotely install to my main gaming machine.  That still is a great feature, I just wish that you could stay logged into steam on all of your computers and remote install to one or many.

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-24 22-49-07-500 For starters… where has this game been all my life, and why did I not do this sooner.  Basically Saints Row 4 scratches so many itches all at once it is silly.  Some of my favorite games are open world non-linear titles like the Elder Scrolls series, Fallout series, Just Cause 2 and this game is firmly in that wheelhouse.  You play through a rather long intro sequence, but it is so silly that it is wildly entertaining to me.  This sequence of events might somehow connect to the events at the end of Saints Row 3, but I have no real clue having not actually played it.  Essentially through a series of illogical leaps… you end up the president of the united states.  Then like a sequence out of Duke Nukem, these very familiar looking aliens invade the planet capturing all your friends from the previous game.  All of this is just enough plot to set up for the fact that you become trapped in a matrix like simulation and have to work to escape it.

I Know Kung Fu

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-24 22-53-21-358 Remember the crazy shit that Neo did in the Matrix where he “pushed” off the ground to leap insanely high up into the air… well gratz we get to do that here.  So on some level it feels a bit like running around City of Heroes at times as I have both Super Jump and Super Speed.  The system is familiar to anyone who has played GTA, that the more mayhem you cause the more attention you get from the police… and in this case eventually the alien invaders.  The escalation is pretty slow actually, but the it becomes extremely hard to “get away” long enough to let the system reset and for the police to stop chasing you.  I reached a point last night where every few minutes there were more aliens arriving on the scene and eventually they called in this insane gunship that I just simply could not take down as I did not have access to a rocket launcher yet.

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-24 22-55-39-996 Another cornerstone of the series is the insane options to dress up your characters.  While I did not purchase the above outfit… I came really close to doing so.  The only thing I wish is that I had the ability to change outfits on the fly, but that might be in there that I just haven’t figured out.  I seem to alternate between various steampunk and futuristic fusion looks.  I am really thankful that overall the costumes seem to be really cheap.  You tend to be rewarded several thousand “cache” each time you complete a mission, and I have yet to find a costume more than a few hundred.  The ability to play “dress-up” definitely helps out with the enjoyment of the game.  As is the ability to customize your base weapons to look insane.  Right now I am wielding Deckard’s pistol from Blade Runner, the heavy bolter from Aliens, and a Thompson machine gun…  all of which make me extremely happy.

Driving Funtime

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-24 22-52-50-195 So my Grand Theft Auto experience pretty much is limited to GTA 3, Vice City and San Andreas.  But in all of those games a major detractor for me was that when you boosted a vehicle that it performed like crap.  It was a struggle to get the vehicle to do what you want it to do.  Saints Row 4 does an amazing job at making the different vehicles feel awesome.  Above is a picture of me zipping through the city streets, and it feels like I am really hauling ass thanks to a really good use of motion blur.  I was able to zip around the city at max speed and still be able to make my turns when I needed to.  I also really like the variety of vehicles I have found so far.  I’ve even hijacked a garbage truck and it was equally fun to control, albeit a bit more unwieldy to maneuver.

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-25 06-47-32-833 I think one of the problems I have had with the Grand Theft Auto universe is that increasingly it has seemed like a felony simulator.  The game seems to favor a more realistic depiction of crime, while still maintaining a sense of gallows humor about it.  This makes me feel like a complete and total asshole while playing the game, and generally speaking I feel like the characters I am playing have little to know redeeming human values.  Saints Row goes in a completely different direction, making absolutely everything about the game over the top cartoony violence.  So playing it makes me feel like I am watching a Tom and Jerry cartoon from my youth.  This game goes one step further by telling you that you are just trapped in a simulation.  So when you blow away a pedestrian… they were just polygons in a simulation right?  The game lets me run amok without feeling horrible about it, and that works for me.  At this point I have just scratched the surface of the game, but I can see this becoming something I play quite regularly for awhile.

#SaintsRow4

Pairing Down

The Struggle

One of the biggest challenges about this whole “blog every day” concept is that some mornings there is just nothing at all in my head to talk about.  When I am sick like I was yesterday, I tend to turtle and pull my head up inside my shell, disconnecting me from the interwebs and all of you fine people.  Unfortunately when my biggest source of inspiration is gone, I can get a little bit of writers block.  It is mornings like this that I feel outline the importance of just allowing yourself to write whatever happens to pop into your head.  It might not be epic and exciting, but it is staying true to the mission as a whole.  Unfortunately we are well based the NBI 2014 initiative, otherwise I would spin this into some sort of an inspirational post about struggling through.

This is not a slight in any way to the previous NBI groups, but I have been really impressed with just how tenacious the Class of 2014 has been.  Generally speaking there is a significant drop off the month after the initiative as folks take a massive breather after having survived being the focus of so many folks attention.  When the spotlight fades a bit, it is rough to keep posting when you inevitably notice fewer people are reading.  However this group either is blissfully oblivious to the existence of blog statistics, or they really are writing for themselves, because they seem to still be going strong.  A few of the “newbies” are among the most prolific posters in my blog reader, and I am amped to still see them enjoying the whole experience.

Pairing Down

WoWScrnShot_061314_062051Right now I have come to realize that I am playing entirely too many MMOs to feel like I am making any significant progress in any of them.  Over the last two months I’ve played Warlords of Draenor, Rift, ArcheAge, Wildstar, Star Wars the Old Republic, Elder Scrolls Online, Defiance, Everquest II, Landmark, The Secret World, Diablo 3, Lego Minifigures Online and Trove.  While I embrace the whole polygamerous thing, I think even for me this is a bit too much especially when you throw in League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm on top of those… and occasionally some Hex and Hearthstone.  Mostly I think I need to drop some of the games that feel similar to me from the rotation, or at least games that scratch the same itch.

rift 2014-02-13 06-28-10-40 I feel like I have to keep testing Warlords of Draenor in part out of remembrance for River, and him being so damned excited to have gotten into the alpha process.  While I won’t be playing with the same wide eyed amusement that he would have, I am trying my best to enjoy the experience in his honor.  However I can safely say that I will not be playing the actual live World of Warcraft anytime in the near future.  I think maybe WoW has run its course with me for awhile, and Wildstar has stepped in to take its place in my heart without me really wanting it to.  Wildstar really is a much better version of WoW, and I am just embracing that fact.  As a result Rift and SWTOR are also losing out, because to me they still fill the same “wow-like” niche.  As a result I won’t be renewing my patron account in Rift.

The Non-WoW Itch

ARCHEAGE 2014-05-08 20-13-50-11It was fun trying to get into Defiance, but the problem is I got into the Destiny alpha… and it was pretty much everything I had hoped Defiance would be.  So I won’t be spending much more time trying to get into that game when I know there is something I will like much better coming later this year.  ArcheAge I want to like, but it has without a doubt the worst community of griefers I have experienced anywhere.  So unless Trion comes out and announces there will be a co-op server… it is pretty much a nonstarter for me and no sense really spending much more time on it.  Landmark on the other hand has an amazing community, but right now there just isn’t much game there for me to play.  They have built this amazing crafting sandbox, but without combat it isn’t all that interesting to me past the initial build phase.  They have added caves so I figure at some point I will poke  my head back in, but exploration without combat just sounds boring to me.  I’ve officially allowed my claim to be repossessed at this point.

EverQuest2 2013-10-02 06-37-39-56 I still have a special place in my heart for Everquest II, and I can’t say I won’t return to it in the future… but for now I think there are just too many other options.  EQ2 was one of those games where I hated the combat system but loved everything else about it.  Wildstar with its systems within systems is really filling the niche that EQ2 always did, which might be why it is feeling so sticky considering it is replacing both EQ2 and WoW for me.  The Secret World is one of those games I love to remember fondly, but never seem to have a desire to log into on a regular basis.  I know there is a bunch of storyline that I have yet to participate in, and I keep thinking that some weekend I will play through all of it.  That weekend just has yet to arrive, and lately the only time I seem to log in is when I get new hardware and want to test how it performs.

The Also Rans

Diablo III 2014-03-06 22-07-06-52 Diablo 3 is enjoyable, and at some point I would really like to get a crusader to 70…  hell I would like to get my monk to 70.  I just struggle to find any drive to play it when my own personal internet zeitgeist… aka the folks I hang out on voice chat nightly, are not also playing it.  It was really fun up until the release of Elder Scrolls Online and then boom we all vacated the premises.  For the time being I am pretty much crossing it off my list until there is another upwelling of desire among my friends to play it.  Trove is similarly really fun, but without a lot of people that I know playing it on a regular basis I have fallen back out of love with it.  I will likely continue to poke my head into the game irregularly but when I do play… so much has changed that the experience feels very off-putting.  The game is in a pretty much constant state of flux, which is awesome if you are devoted to this game, but confusing if you are a “sometimes” player like me. Play 2014-03-14 10-12-29-25 League of Legends will be a permanent fixture in my gaming rotation so long as I have friends who are devoted to playing it.  I don’t necessarily love the game, but I enjoy playing with my friends.  I personally like Heroes of the Storm so much better, but the problem is with it being in a limited release “technical alpha” state there just are not enough people around regularly to play with.  The MOBA genre is really only fun for me if I am playing with a group of friends, and in this scenario League wins out every time.  That is not to say that I won’t keep poking my head into Heroes especially as they add new waves of players.  As far as Hearthstone and Hex…  I am back playing Magic the Gathering in real life with friends at lunch time…  so the draw of these games is minimal right now.

Those Who Made the Cut

WildStar64 2014-06-20 22-30-01-908 So after spending all of this time culling games for this or that reason, I figure I should talk about the games I am deciding to keep in the rotation.  Warlords of Draenor I am actually enjoying when I do manage to get in and play it.  So yes I am partially doing it in honor of River, and his desire to be in the Alpha, but there is something charming about the new content.  I don’t feel like it will be enough to keep me in WoW, but for the time being I am enjoying it while I can.  Wildstar has pretty much filled the corner of my heart that desire to play a theme park MMO, and it really is the most glorious theme park of experiences once you give yourself over to it.  I feel like I have barely scratched the surface on what it has to offer, and I am intrigued at the schedule they have put out before us.  I really like that they are choosing to put in “hardmode” single and small group content before augmenting the raid game.  That says a lot that they understand that they need to focus on both going forward to keep players.

eso 2014-02-23 12-41-25-63 I still feel like I have so much more that I want to do in Elder Scrolls Online.  I want to finish the Aldmeri Dominion content and see the Ebonheart Content, as well as spend time exploring Craglorn.  I love this game even though I am not playing it much, and I can’t see dropping it from the rotation anytime soon.  I realize that not many players feel the same way about the game as I do, but really for me it is like the best possible version of Skyrim.  I have been out so long at this point that I feel like I am going to be extremely rusty.  There game has problems, namely it is awkward as hell to do anything as a group other than Cyrodil.  They really need to fix this, and I hope that the good folks at Zenimax are looking into things like mentoring.  Right now it is a really awesome single player experience, but gets cludgy when you start adding in more people.  That said it still does have amazing dungeon design, and there are so many of them that I have yet to experience.

LMO 2014-06-23 06-41-14-037 Last but not least is a game that has come in and taken my heart by storm.  Lego Minifigures Online is absolutely adorable and I love everything about this game.  Last night this was the only thing I actually played, and grouped up with Rae she managed to catch me up almost to her level in experience.  Right now we have a vastly different set of mini figures, and it is really enjoyable to group together.  We have both opted to get memberships, and the pocket dungeons are awesome… some of them ending up extremely challenging like the Dragon’s Lair dungeon with I think five different boss fights in it.  I’ve already gotten more than my moneys worth of enjoyment out of it, so this is definitely going to be in my weekly rotation for a long while.  It basically scratches the itch that Diablo 3 did, and cashes in on my absolute love of all things Lego.

So there you have it, going forward I am mostly going to be focused on Wildstar, Elder Scrolls Online and Lego Minifigures Online.  I of course reserve the right to change my mind and undo all of these in the blink of an eye.  That said I do have a ton of single player games that I want to play through, and both the PS3 and PS4 ready to stream content.  I spent a good chunk of the weekend playing Assassin’s Creed 4 for example… and I am absolutely horrible at it, but enjoying myself quite a bit.  As far as online games, I am going to try and limit myself to just these games above for the time being.  I know in September I will be digging into Destiny and playing that online with friends quite a bit, but it doesn’t directly conflict with the types of games I chose above.  Maybe with this abbreviated list, I won’t constantly feel overwhelmed when I sit down at night and try and figure what exactly I am going to do.`

Eternal Youth

Something in the air

Struggling to exist a bit this morning.  Yesterday evening we had a series of storms and something blew in with them that is pissing my asthma off.  So at the moment I am taking a breathing treatment while doing this mornings post.  It sucks when my lungs conspire against me, but after almost four decades of this you get used to it.  That seems weird to type that out, but I dinged 38 last week… and as my wife puts it I am officially in my “late” thirties now.  I don’t really feel any older most of the time, but there are moments when it catches up with me…  like when I am talking to a teenager and I realize they were not alive when I graduated high school.

Age is one of those things that sneaks up on you.  You assume everyone has the same experiences you had until you try and make a cultural reference that only really works well for folks born in the same decade as you.  Rae that cohosts the podcast with me is literally a full decade younger than me, and I am constantly reminded of the gulf of time between us.  Being a teacher my wife occasionally brings home of the the famous Mindset Lists for the incoming class of high schoolers.  Nothing is guaranteed to make you feel old like reading through one of those, and seeing it peppered with events you think are “recent” history.

Eternal Youth

LMO 2014-06-22 09-38-31-713 So in contrast when I find something that makes me feel eternally youthful, I latch onto it with both hands.  I think that is one of the things I love most about Lego’s, they bring me back to an earlier time when I was sitting in the floor building 1980s era insane space ships.  It is awesome to see that Lego Minifigures Online captures this optimism and bottles it into a Diablo like form.  I spent a good chunk of the weekend playing and I have to say I find it both adorable and infectious.  The gameplay is simple, but at the same time nuanced when you add in the way the different characters behave in the setting.  Right now I have settled on a team of the Roman Soldier, Forest Maiden and oddly enough the Waiter.

LMO 2014-06-22 09-26-01-916 I have to admit, when I got a pack of minifigures to drop and I pulled the Waiter from it…  I was more than a little disappointed.  I had hoped for the Cyclops or the Knight… or even the Space Invader…  but got a guy in a suit with a wine bottle.  The awesome thing about the waiter is he exactly represents the ludicrousness of this game.  Who would have thought that a waiter would be a badass combat character.  All characters come in one of three basic types:  Defender, Striker and Builder.  Defenders have more survival at the cost of slightly weaker attacks.  Strikers have extremely powerful offense at the loss of survival.  Builders are odd things, because they can complete building objectives extremely quickly, but otherwise are pretty useless.  Essentially my lineup is a melee defender, ranged defender and a melee striker and it seems to be working pretty well.

LMO 2014-06-22 10-16-49-728 Over the weekend I decided to take the plunge and become a member, as there are quite a number of features paywalled.  Most importantly you cannot really complete any dungeons unless you are a member, and the world is scattered with these little offshoot areas full of treasure and minibosses…  aka exactly the sort of thing I love doing.  Additionally as a member you get a pack of minifigures a month as well as a batch of their cash shop currency.  For the most part the game uses a league like structure where instead of buying individual champions you buy packs that contain a random champion.  Here is where my only sticking point comes in.  If you purchase or win a pack… there is a chance of getting a minifigure you already own.  Instead of giving you back the diamonds for your purchase… they give you the other in game currency stars, like 1000 of them.  The problem is… that 1000 stars is in no way worth as much as the diamonds that went into purchasing.  Especially since as a member you have a massively increased rate of star drops.

Lego Minifigures

LMO 2014-06-23 06-41-23-422 That said I feel like this is a game where you could play it completely free if you so chose.  Essentially by the end of completing the introduction to the game you have four different minifigures.  The first three you choose upon creating your character, and are doled out your team through the series of a few quests.   The starter team I chose was the Roman Commander, Bee Girl and Fortune Teller, but there are three different sets you have to choose from and they are designed to be a “balanced” team with a defender, striker and a builder on them.   At the end of the tutorial you get a single random minifigure pack.  This is where I picked up my waiter, and while I was disappointed at first he has become one of my favorite characters to play.  So having four minifigures is a good start at playing the game, and I am sure you could complete almost all of the content with only these four.

LMO 2014-06-23 06-41-18-895 The only other barriers seem to be level based.  The big thing I have noticed since switching to being a member is that the drop rates in general are far better.  You get both a significantly larger amount of stars from breaking apart structures and diamonds from completing quests.  So this is going to make progression without payment significantly slower.  Honestly though I feel that is pretty much how it should be.  Free to play games have to make a profit somehow, and after watching Lego Universe crash and burn, I would love to see this one end up far more successful.  Funcom has made an extremely fun game, and it is the perfect… I want to play something, but I don’t want to think too hard game.  Seeing the Lego universe recreated flawlessly in online game form, is sure to be the source of hours of enjoyment.

#Lego #Minifigures #FreetoPlay

Crimzon CLover World Ignition

Technical Difficulties

Last night was probably the roughest time I have had editing the AggroChat podcast in the eleven episodes we have been running.  Mostly this centers around us trying to change the way we record the show.  Since its inception we have been recording it on the House Stalwart mumble server in a private and locked down channel.  This worked pretty well and produced the first ten episodes without much issue.  However on July 19th that server will be going away and as a guild we will be permanently switching to the Alliance of Awesome Teamspeak server.  In theory Teamspeak does the same type of things that mumble does, so I thought we could simply record our channel without much issue.  Turns out that was not quite the case.

Mostly we had a lot of issues with Kodra coming through either garbled or not at all when he was holding down his push to talk key.  Apparently on his end it was me that was coming through like this.  Oddly enough Ashgar and Rae didn’t seem to have any problems at all.  It might be something we can fiddle with codec wise to make it work better, but honestly after the trouble I had with last nights podcast I am just of the opinion that we not try and record on teamspeak again.  We have access to a more private mumble server, and I am guessing from now on we will just use that one instead.  A lot of folks have suggested skype, but none of us are really skype users… so that would take its own trial and error to figure out how to really use it.

Last night we finished recording around 9:30 and I started editing by 10 pm.  I did not actually finish editing the podcast until well after 12:30.  The hard part was trying to glue together enough audio out of the garbled sections to make sense of what was being said.  I’ve listened to most of it while I was editing and I think the end result works.  However if you hear something that doesn’t quite make sense…  it was probably me trying to make the of a corrupted segment of speech.  While I don’t think the show was our weakest, it definitely made for some strained recording time since we kept having to redo segments that did not transmit.  Hopefully what did make it through is enjoyable.

Fly That Geek Flag High

In this weeks episode we have the original cast reunited again.  Ashgar is back from doing whatever it was that Ashgar was doing the week before, and Kodra is back from the awesome gaming convention Origins.  As we had talked two weeks ago, Kodra gave us a run down of what exactly he did at Origins.  This leads to a little discussion about something that is unfortunate in the gaming and geek communities…  geek on geek shaming.  Apparently Kodra catches some crap from the Magic the Gathering gamers for his choice of playing the My Little Pony card game.  But hey we pretty much support all potential diversions here on AggroChat.

Additionally we talk about the Warlords of Draenor expansion and my experiences so far with the Alpha.  We also talk at length about the Wildstar patch schedule and our hopes that they are actually able to maintain it.  Join us for these topics along with a bunch of other ones that just get slipped in here and there was we go.  Since neither Ash or Kodra were here to talk E3 2014, we do a bit of a callback there as well to talk about a few things that make people excited.  Remember to let your geek flag fly high, but remember to respect everyone else’s choice of flag as well.

Crimzon Clover World Ignition

For the last couple of weeks I have been trying to get enough time to really give this game a proper playing.  My friend Ashgar and I seem to be the only folks in our immediate circle of friends that really appreciate the “bullet hell” shooter.  So when a new one comes out, he sometimes throws it on my game pile because he knows I will actually play it with him.  The latest one of these is a random gifting of Crimzon Clover, and if you want to see a more logical and proper write-up about the game check out Ash’s blog.  The other night when he was working on his indepth reviews of the game I took a break from Four Job Fiesta and Wildstar to play Crimzon Clover with him.  I say play it with him… but mostly we just happened to be on voice chat at the same time while both of us are in game.  It sadly does not support internet multiplayer gaming.

CrimzonClover_WI 2014-06-22 08-43-26-121 The game actually does a fair bit of bait and switch.  When I booted it up and started playing the other night I originally thought it was going to be a “Shmup” and not really a “Bullet Hell” shooter.  This however changes quickly as it somewhat eases you into the game play as you get used to the movement controls and various attacks.  By the time you reach the first boss however things have escalated to the point where you are dodging the attacks like crazy.  The game itself is extremely clean and the controls responsive.  This is the sort of game where you just hold down the fire button at all times and spend the rest of your time looking for the only safe spot on the screen.  I question in this genre why the fire isn’t just toggled on and left on, since there is never really a point at which you don’t want to be holding it down.

CrimzonClover_WI 2014-06-22 08-43-43-581 As is often the case with this type of game you end up with the choice between different ships.  Type-I tends to be the most baseline and the easiest to control, whereas Type-II and Type-III give you a benefit in one area but make another area variable through the play session.  I started off trying Type-II but quickly fell back on going with the tried and true “default option”.  Ash actually managed to beat the game, but I only made it through boss number four before deciding my fingers were too sore to continue onwards.  Apparently in order to truly beat the game, you have to make it through without hitting continue.  If you do that you get a different ending and I believe a different boss encounter.  This also seems to be a theme with a lot of these very serious games.  I remember in the BlazBlue games there were “good” endings and “bad” endings depending on how you did in the earlier content leading up to the final encounter.

CrimzonClover_WI 2014-06-20 20-02-18-571

I have to say this game is a really good entry into the genre, and combined with Danmaku Unlimited 2 gives some seriously good options for Bullet Hell shooters on steam right now.  I am happy that this genre is alive and well and did not die with the death of arcades.  This specific title is interesting in that it is what they call a Doujin or essentially the Japanese version of an Independent PC game.  This appears to be another thing that steam is doing right, in that it is giving these games a market in the united states.  Recettear is another one of these Doujin games and it has been wildly popular and also likely would never have been seen here without steam.  If you dig the Bullet Hell shooter genre, this is one of the more pristine examples I have seen in a long while.  You should totally check it out  because right now during the steam sale you can pick it up for only $7.  This game is more than worth that money even if you only slightly like shooters.

Working as a Group

Different Expectations

WildStar64 2014-06-20 22-10-26-608 Lately there has been some discontent in the guild, and it has made me painfully aware that different people are looking for vastly different things.  There is no right or wrong answer here, but simply a case of wildly different expectations of what they have come to expect out of a guild and MMO relationship.  I am not speaking for the guild or anyone in it in making this post, but I thought it might be useful for me to outline how I personally view a guild.  Like I said just because I see something this way doesn’t mean there are not a wide variety of other opinions on what is proper and good in guild etiquette.  However I’ve learned the fastest way to resolve any rough spots is to simply outline what you are expecting out of an arrangement.

Each of us comes to MMO gaming and guilds from a different set of past experiences.  While some of these overlap many times they do not, and that is where the misunderstandings stem from.  Massively Multiplayer games are not this monolithic experience, regardless of how we might think of them as such.  For me I come from a raider background, and even though I am mostly “casual” these days it still colors everything about my gaming experience.  Some players approach a guild from a PVP standpoint and then get frustrated when not everyone embraces the aspect of the game they enjoy the most.  Similarly role-players could feel left out in the cold when the guild as whole does not share their interest for deep personal character development.  While we might all think we play exactly the same game…  that is almost never the case.

Working as a Group

Belghast.140616.233202 I love doing big epic things with my guildies like raids or dungeons or even some pvp encounters.  The problem is… that while I love grouping up for these few cases…  I don’t ever want to quest with another person.  I did Star Wars the Old Republic as a dedicated Duo… and found the experience to be both rewarding on one hand, but deeply claustrophobic on another.  I’ve always found the group leveling experience, and especially the group questing experience to be extremely chafing.  Someone is always a quest ahead of the group and someone is always one or two quests behind.  There is a constant awkward struggle to try and keep this many armed abomination moving forward efficiently.  As a result my preference will always be to quest alone, and have my personal time.

That is not to say I am not willing to group up at a moments notice… but I want there to be a “purpose”.  If you need help killing this or that objective, or if there is an over world dungeon that you just can’t quite survive by yourself…  those are awesome times to group.  That said I like there to be a fixed duration of the grouping and a fixed goal in mind.  I am a truly horrible group mate, because I will wander off on my own constantly.  I’ve spent so much of my gaming time with other people depending on me for this or that, and when I level it is my time where I get to not give a shit about the needs or wants of others.  When we are in a dungeon and I am tanking however… I am all about the needs of the group and the goal of getting us through the dungeon successfully.

The Reality Check

WildStar64 2014-06-20 06-18-00-159 For most of my gaming experience I figured most players felt like I did, and preferred to quest alone.  However over the last few weeks I’ve come to the realization that there is a specific group of player that wants to literally be grouped up 24/7 and working together towards everything.  I think this is both noble and cool to have a leveling buddy like that… but I want no part of it at all.  What is cool is that there are enough of these folks that they should be able to form their own little “band of brothers” and conquer the world together, but they lack the spark to do just that. I guess in part I didn’t even realize players wanted this since the ability to solo at all for me at least feels like a hard fought battle.  In the early generations of MMO games, grouping was required to do anything at all, and it often meant a multiple hour long commitment.

I cut my teeth playing Everquest, and as a Dwarven Cleric…  trying to solo anything was an act of futility and my nights were often dictated by whoever happened to be tanking for the group.  I felt helpless and completely out of control, being forced to depend on someone else for my fun.  It was a feeling I did not like one bit.  So when I entered more modern games, I would pick whatever archetype could solo well and be relatively self sufficient.  Thankfully these were almost always tanks, since they mostly had the survival ability to take whatever the game threw at them.  So I decided that I actually liked being able to solo on one hand, and being the cornerstone of a group on the other.  The further into management I have gotten in my real life, the more I have craved my “solo” time in MMOs, where I can just do whatever the hell I want to do without having to worry about the needs and wants of the many.

Role of a Guild

WildStar64 2014-06-02 06-30-06-146 So I am sure at this point you are asking yourself…  why do I focus so much on the importance of guild and community.  Well honestly the guild gives a foundation and friendly faces that I see on a daily basis.  It gives me the sense that even though I am off on my own doing whatever I want to do… that I am working together with others towards a common goal of progressing the guild.  It is both friendly chat group and a constant source of inspiration and support when you need it.  Additionally it gives you access to a lot of really great people when it does come time to group up and do something meaningful in an MMO.  The guild shines when it comes time to run an Ship quest, Adventure, Dungeon or PVP match.  The other night we had a grand night of doing pvp and it was extremely fun… even though I traditionally shy away from player versus player gameplay.

I’ve always seen my role as a community organizer to be that of laying the ground work and collecting the awesome people all in one place, so that they too can take fate into their own hands and do cool stuff together if they choose to.  There lies the problem however, is that so many players want to sit back and have a “Cruise Director” plan events for them to attend.  I on the other hand counter that it is the responsibility of each player to take responsibility for their own fun.  If you want to do something, do it and convince people to come along with you.  I’ve posted a few times about what I term the art of Groupcraft, but I will link it here again.  One of the most empowering things you can do for yourself is to learn how to be confident in the assembly of a team that will work.

There are absolutely more successful ways of pulling together a group and making something happen when you want it to.  Essentially in my experience you have to talk to people directly to get them to actually notice that you are trying to do a thing.  This is much easier on voice chat, since you get the immediate feedback, however I did this same thing for years without the advent of voice chat.  The critical knowledge however is what exactly you need to be successful.  If you are a tank, then you need to find a healer and a few dps.  In order to find the healer, you have to know what classes CAN heal and who in the guild falls within those search parameters.  Basically for me a good guild is a friendly group of people that you like chatting with, but also a way to ease the finding of people to do something with.  A hand crafted guild group will always be more enjoyable than a PUG, and usually more successful.

Just My Point of View

WildStar64 2014-06-20 22-30-01-908Please note, like I said before this is just my point of view on the subject and what I am looking for out of a guild and the people in it.  This is not some maxim that I will not cross, because lord knows I am liable to turn around this afternoon and end up grouped with someone for a long period of time and enjoy myself.  These are just my tendencies and I thought it might be useful to open a dialog about what folks are expecting, by outlining what I am actually expecting.  The Alliance of Awesome has been an interesting experiment because it is this big glorious amalgam of a bunch of different communities with their own rich traditions.  House Stalwart had a shared guild culture that had been built up over the course of a decade, and it was pretty much expected that everyone in the guild felt the same way.

Going forward into this new experiment, we can no longer afford to expect that.  Each of us comes from potentially different backgrounds with some shared and some disparate experiences.  We have to come up with a brand new cultural norm as a result.  I don’t feel this is the time for anyone to throw their hands up and walk away in a huff because they did not get whatever it was they were looking for.  Instead it is time for folks to talk clearly about what exactly they are expecting out of this larger relationship.  I think we are on the precipice of having something truly amazing, that we can all benefit from.  We just need to take the time not to nurture it as it grows.  I would not have poured so much effort into it so far, if I didn’t think it could be great for everyone involved.