Bounties and Newness

Shiny Newness

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Right now the bulk of my social infrastructure is on fire with people returning to Wildstar.  September 28th at Midnight EST was the official launch of the Wildstar Reloaded free to play experience.  They are going through the same sort of growing pains that everyone goes through when they launch a game, or in this case relaunch it.  When I got in last night, and managed to fight my way through the queue, I was greeted with a “server going down in 15 minutes” message as they were needing to do some sort of emergency maintenance.  This is absolutely par for the course for an event like this, but nonetheless disheartening.  I absolutely get why they were bringing the server down however because the tiny bit of time I was able to play the lag was horrific.

I did however manage to do what I had intended to do this morning, which was rifle through my bags… dump everything that was not needed in my bank, and start to clean out my mailbox.  With the change to the way the crafting system works, a lot of the old crafted items were consumed and instead we were mailed a stack full of equivalent materials.  I had seven or eight of these messages from Protostar, all containing things I have no clue what to do with them.  Thankfully however pretty much everything seemed to fit just fine in my tradeskill bag so I don’t have to care for this very moment.  I was able to consume all of the perks that I got through the whole cosmic points system.  I am one step away from tier 6, and as of last night I got some perk that causes me to gain omnibits faster which is kinda cool.  With new toys comes a new outfit, which I cobbled together this morning before sitting down to right a blog post.  For the time being… I think I am going to stay off the servers until things calm down a bit.

Daily Bounties

One of the things I am still enjoying quite a bit is my daily routine of logging into Destiny and getting new bounties.  I am not sure how a game goes from feeling oppressive and grindy, to fun an exciting in a single patch… but whatever the case Destiny did just that.  I think more than anything it is the increased drop rates that make things feel interesting, because when I know it is highly likely that I will get something for my time spent, I don’t mind spending time doing something.  I love the random chance of finding something cool, and maybe once I am geared enough to no longer care about drops…  it will feel different.  However every single engram that I see glowing in the distance is a chance at finding something to increase my overall light and as such make me more formidable.  Largely my key goal this week however has been to try and stock pile strange coins again in the hopes that on Friday Xur will bring me something awesome and exotic.

I still have so much story that I have yet to complete, and I have barely scratched the surface of the strikes that are available to me.  For the time being however I seem to get the most enjoyment from grabbing my bounties and going to some planet to whittle them down.  There is just something relaxing about this process, and in many ways it reminds me of the way I felt about the daily hunts in Final Fantasy XIV…  that is until I no longer really needed the currency to improve my gear.  There is something calming about having a routine and right now popping into Destiny is pretty much the first thing I do each night.  In the above video I decided to record a bit of me working my way through my daily quests, and that is actually my second attempt given that I had been recording for a bit only to realize that it was not picking up my mic.  Essentially I changed the way I am recording so that I could pull my boom mic out and be able to capture audio while I am playing on the PS4 easily.  The video itself was recorded through my Elgato HD, which I have hooked to a switch so that I can record any of my consoles.   The end product just looks better than the default video recording options on the PS4.

 

 

Better Faction Systems

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Loss of Nuance

Paineel

I had this topic that I wanted to talk about this morning, and jotted it down so that I would not forget.  Then last night I suffered from a bout of insomnia.  So my hope is that even without much sleep I can still make this topic work, and devote the amount of attention it deserves.  For years I have talked about my dislike of the faction wall system that was first popularized by Dark Age of Camelot, and then carried forth into the modern genre of MMOs thanks to World of Warcraft adopting it.  For many players they know nothing different than picking a red versus blue faction and living their entire gaming life’s within the confines of it.  I think I struggle against this concept because I remember a time when this wasn’t necessarily the case.  Lately I have been spending a lot of time playing my smuggler in Star Wars the Old Republic, and yes I realize that game is a very faction locked experience.  However if you think of the Smuggler itself in the Star Wars mythos, it has always been a character that skirted the lines trying to exist in Republic, Imperial and Hutt space at the same time, carving their own path balancing between them all.

The problem is, other than the original Everquest no game really supports this notion.  You cannot live between the faction lines making your own choices, instead you are asked to choose an allegiance that is about the most impersonal experience imaginable.  The problem is that I feel no personal responsibility for choosing Horde or Alliance or in many cases Red or Blue.  They don’t represent me as a person, and as such I have no real loyalty tied to them.  However in Everquest you were assigned essentially a default template of allegiances based on your racial choice… but from that point on you could blur the lines at will.  I remember spending copious amounts of time hunting Kobolds in the Warrens off of Toxxulia Forest, for the purpose of gaining faction in the otherwise aggressive city of Paineel.  Why did I do this? Honestly for no real reason other than I could, and that I thought the city of Paineel was extremely cool in its layout.  Sure I could have simply banked and quested at the far end of Toxxulia Forest in the already friendly city of Erudin, but instead I made the conscious choice to hang out with the Necromancers.

Sapping Creative Expression

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The problem with the faction wall system is that it forces all of the players to essentially be the same person.  Later games started throwing in optional faction grinds, but those grinds are always connected to “things”.  Gain this much reputation with this faction and you will get a nifty sword, or a pretty mount…  but otherwise once the current expansion is over they will be utterly meaningless from that point on.  The problem here is that these tertiary faction choices don’t actually effect the players game experience.  They don’t unlock new areas of the world, or more so close off other areas that the player did have access to.  Granted in the early days of World of Warcraft they did manage to create a few of these Factions that did actually do interesting things.  Namely I am talking about the back and forth seesaw of the Bloodsail Buccaneers and the assorted Goblin factions.  If you were truly insane you could skirt a thin line between gaining faction with the Bloodsails but also doing faction repair work with the Goblins to make sure you were not ever hitting “Kill On Sight” status.

The problem here is… this was an isolated example that granted players access to a handful of boats in the ass end of the world.  This area was made immediately irrelevant as soon as the Burning Crusade and subsequent expansions released.  Instead as an Alliance player I always wanted to figure out a way to gain factions with the Tauren.  They were the only Horde race that seemed to cling to any ideals I could get behind, and I thought it would have been so interesting to be able to gain faction in a way that would allow you to enter the town and do commerce there.  Things are never completely black and white, and even in the lore there are characters that skirt the lines managing to be friendly to two different groups at the same time.  The entire World of Warcraft experience would have been so much richer if it allowed players through sheer will to grind out their own niche that lay somewhere between the predetermined choices.  I think it would have been interesting to allow players to create the ultimate “diplomat” that was friendly to essentially ALL of the races.

Fear for the Future

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The problem with games being iterative is that once a feature set becomes common, it essentially stays there forever.  This past weekend when we talked about Tron 2.0 in our AggroChat Game Club show, one of the lines of discussion was how the cultural norms for shooters have changed over the years.  What used to be representative of most of the shooters that were out in 2003, is no longer recognizable through the lens of the basic feature set that we now have come to expect.  World of Warcraft borrowed heavily from the games that came before it, and since it chose to go with a walled off faction system, games that have borrowed from it have essentially followed that mold.  Red and Blue factions with their own walled off areas of play have become the template for how to build a game, and right now the only real evolution has been a return to three factions instead of just two.  Sure games like Rift have torn down the wall and made faction into “fiction” but they have not really gone anywhere in the struggle of making faction a personal choice.

Now going back to the original thing that spurred this topic, Star Wars the Old Republic.  How much more rich would the smuggler have been if you quite literally could have been a freelancer in action and not just name.  The game does a decent job of making you feel like you live somewhere between the red and blue lines, and then when the second chapter happens it essentially rips all of that forcing you to align to the Republic faction.  Sure you can still play a dark side Smuggler, but these aren’t “real” decisions with any sense of “real” lasting consequences.  You can’t decide to say screw the republic and opt to live entirely in Hutt space or Imperial space.  You can’t decide to say on Alderaan or Balmorra and improve your faction with one of the leaders, opening up new questing opportunities that are unavailable to the average player.  Everquest is a game that I could never really play again, because I just can’t handle the essentially “primative” game client.  There however are still things that the game got right, that no other game that I have played have really tried to copy.  The problem is… right now I cannot see a game adopting a more real world faction system, without somehow turning it into a marketing focus and losing sight of all of the other things that have to be in place to make a game enjoyable.  Essentially I want real factions… but still be able to keep all of the things that I have come to expect from an MMO to this point.  Unfortunately I fear that the era of MMO experimental-ism is over… and at this point our feature set is locked in place just like the feature set of shooter is locked as well.  In the meantime however… I will still carry a rose colored torch for this features that I wish I could have in modern games.

 

Balmorra and Oryx

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Awesome Wife Update

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My wife is always awesome, but every now and then she does something so cool that I have to brag on her.  This weekend she was out shopping with a friend when I got a series of excited texts from her about something she found for me.  Awhile back I picked up some Star Wars shoes with this “A New Hope” artwork spread across the two shoes.  The problem being that they were expensive as shit and I hate the idea of wearing them out in my normal shoe rotation.  I wear a mixture of Vans and Airwalk slip on style canvas shoes and I seem to be able to destroy them pretty effectively.  My wife however found the above pair that is absolutely Star Wars print but not to the level that I wouldn’t want to wear them constantly.  She didn’t end up picking them up, mostly because she wanted me to try them on.  We get up yesterday and they were apparently also on sale at Target, so I am not sure how much we paid but I think they were under $20.  I just think its awesome that she saw the shoes and immediately thought that I would want them.  My wife isn’t necessarily a geek like I am, but she has always “gotten” the fact that I am and supported me in my quirkiness.  I am exceptionally lucky, and every now and then I feel like I need to acknowledge that fact publicly.

Starting Balmorra

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I had all of these intentions to make a big push yesterday in Star Wars the Old Republic, but in reality I only ended up playing it in the evening while watching television.  I did however manage to finish up all of the end of chapter one back and forth for the smuggler.  I now have Risha as an official companion rather than just someone hanging out on my ship.  Granted I will likely never end up using her, given that the Tank/Healer combo of Treek and I allows me to pretty much take on anything with ease.  Overall I do like the character of Risha and it is going to be interesting to see how the rest of the game plays out.  I figure she is going to remain being a vocal participant in the content.  Now we are going to enter into some spoiler territory, so you might want to stop reading if you have not completed the smuggler story line and intend to do so.  One of the absolute best moments in the game so far… was when I finally got to take down Skavak.  Up until this point I kept thinking to myself…  god why will this game not let me just kill this guy already!

Now that we have moved into Chapter 2 we get a new set of bad guys.  At this point I don’t really care much about this Voidwolf character, but I am absolutely all about taking on Rogun the Butcher.  Up until this point I have had him looming over my head and he has sent the occasional bounty hunter after me.  My hope is that when I finally am able to take him down it will be just as sweet as it was for Skavak.  I feel like as a smuggler I probably shouldn’t want to have a stand up fight against these Kingpins, but then again Leia did slay Jabba in rescuing Han…  so there is that example to follow.  There are moments in this game that I know are traps… but you pretty much have to go through them anyways.  The “rescue” mission on the derelict freighter for example, was absolutely going to be a trap and it was.  I did not however expect Port Nowhere to be the trap that it ended up being.   I guess it makes sense, because pretty much EVERY map you go to that is not on a main world ends up being a trap.  Looking forward to pushing through Balmorra because I can tell you right now I am ONLY doing class story quests here.  This is the planet that often kills my progress on Sith side, so will be looking forward to getting through it here on Republic.

Heroic Light

Heroic Ready Titan

Yesterday was a day almost entirely lost to Destiny.  After finishing my blog post, advertising the podcast, and finishing up the youtube version we ended up running out to Target to pick up my shoes.  We got home around 11:30 and from that point until around 3:30 I was engrossed in this or that activity within Destiny.  I wound my way through the Taken King story, largely because I wanted to open up the Dreadnought patrol zone.  I have to say Oryx was one of those fights that was probably way worse in my head than it actually was in reality.  The entire time during the fight I was tense beyond reason because I did not want to die and have to start over again.  So I spent most of my time dodging and running away while trying to regroup and get some solid shots in.  I don’t want to go into too much detail for those who have not done the fight, but there is a moment where he goes invulnerable except for a specific moment when you can attack.  This phase…  freaked me out more than anything I can remember in this game.

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I kept trying to time my sunbreaker super attack for when he was becoming vulnerable again all the while dodging taking damage.  The only negative about the encounter is that the adds definitely felt like nothing more than ways for you to regenerate your ammunition, and they were less of an issue once I realized this.  At first I kept trying to run from them and focus down Oryx, but I quickly realized that if I kept doing this I would get overwhelmed.  The big takeaway from the weekend is that I managed to hit 240 light, which is the first heroic level.  I did a couple of the Vanguard strikes on the play list, and I am going to keep trying to do those periodically.  I also started getting quests to do various “end game” content.  My main goal for the week is to regenerate enough Strange Coins to be able to buy something next Friday if Xur has anything interesting.  I am really happy that I had enough to buy Hawkmoon since I pretty much exclusively use Hand Cannons on my Titan.  At some point I plan on working my way up on either a Warlock or a Hunter, but for the time being I am really enjoying leveling Sunbreaker.  I am not sure exactly why Destiny has this renewed life for me… but for whatever reason I am grabbing on with both hands while the fun lasts.

 

Week In Gaming 9/27/2015

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Week of Playstation

This week was very much a week of me waiting on something to happen on my PC while pivoted to the side and playing the PlayStation 4 instead.  The strangest thing has happened and I am not sure exactly when it did.  For years I was a diehard Keyboard and Mouse gamer… and if you suggested that I play a shooter with a controller I would give you a dirty look at best… and at worst give you a thirty minute rant about why that is a sloppy control mechanism.  The thing is…  shooters now have a significant amount of aim assist regardless of what platform you happen to be playing them on.  Sure you can get closer to pixel perfect aiming with a keyboard and mouse… but I am finding for extended gaming sessions a controller just feels more comfortable.  Destiny was essentially the game that forced me to learn how to play with a controller, and now…  I am finding myself replaying some games that I played exclusively on the PC on my PS4.  Over the week I picked up the Borderlands “Handsome Collection” because it was silly cheap on PSN, and I have to say… I am finding the game more enjoyable over there.  While I won’t necessarily say I have abandoned the keyboard and mouse…  I am finding myself equally comfortable with a controller and it seems so strange to be typing those words.

Destiny

Exotic Weapon FTW!

This week the game that I spent the most hours playing was without a doubt Destiny.  I am not sure why but the game feels fresh and new, and all of the frustrations I had over gearing for light are just gone.  Instead light has become this number based on the average attack power and or defense of your items, and seeing it climb is awesome…  but at the same time not something oppressively holding me back from doing interesting things.  I now think of light much more like a traditional gear score system in MMOs.  There is some content gated on that number, but it doesn’t feel like something that is extremely grindy to get.  I happened to luck out this week and Hawkmoon this seasons exotic hand cannon was available on Xur.  I had enough coins to buy it and bam I am now rocking a really awesome weapon, which only serves to improve my experience.  I’ve heard that you can send blue engrams to low level characters as a more efficient way of farming Strange Coins, and I might end up doing that as I pretty much depleted my entire stash on this one item.

Super Hammer Brothers!
Super Hammer Brothers!

Other than that I am slowly working my way through all of the story content that I have not played since launch.  It feels strange to be progressing in three different storylines at essentially the same time, doing whichever happens to suit me at the moment.  The big thing I am trying to work towards right now is I really need the dreadnought patrol zone opened up because I keep getting those as daily quests.  I am not sure how far into the story that happens but I keep working on creeping that storyline forward in the hopes that the next one will unlock the patrol zone.  Other than that I unlocked Sunbreaker and am completing most of my content as that, in the hopes of leveling it quickly.  There is something satisfying Fist of Havoc, but I have to say super fire hammer brothers is also pretty awesome as well.  You can whittle down objectives super quickly while throwing those hammers.  I’ve taken Taken bosses down to half health during my “hammer time” but the only problem is it essentially leaves you out in the open and vulnerable.  So I end up having to run for cover as soon as I’ve spent all of my energy.  Needless to say I am having a lot of fun with Destiny and probably going to continue playing it over the coming weeks.

Creativerse

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I’ve blogged about this game already at length this week, but I have to say I am still really liking it.  I am also digging that the company is from McKinney Texas which isn’t terribly far from me.  Not sure if I can rig this but it would be kinda awesome to go down and meet that team at some point.  I am hoping that they end up doing Pax South this year, because the game has so much potential.  I called it “Pretty Minecraft” but really that is selling the game short by a large amount.  I will say that it has pretty much killed my desire to play Minecraft at all from this point out.  I get what people say about the mods, but in reality I never modded Minecraft that much other than adding in quality of life things like a mini-map.  Regardless of how I modified the game it just felt like I was playing the same thing over and over with varrying differences.  This game however feels fresh and interesting because the world itself is something that I don’t know the formula behind.  I talked about this a bit the other day, but I think part of it is the fact that I have no real resources to rely on yet.  I can’t go on a wiki and find out that obsidian spawns between these two coordinates or if I need an item for a recipe I have to find it the old fashioned brute force way of exploration.  If you are in the mood for a building and exploration fix I highly suggest you check it out.

Star Wars the Old Republic

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Oh Captain My Captain

Last night during and after the podcast I finished up Alderaan on my Smuggler.  In the time it has taken me to get this far on my Smuggler, I found out that Tam has leveled like three characters from 1 to 50.  How is he doing it?  Well he is doing ONLY the class storyline, and I think maybe he has made a convert out of me.  I shot through Alderaan last night only working on my class storyline and gained three levels in the process.  Mostly at this point I just want to see the class storyline on several new classes before Fallen Empire comes along and changes a good deal of it.  I think the rest of the day I am going to likely work on my Smuggler and see just how close to the end I can manage to get.  My hope is that even after Fallen Empire they come up with a way to speed characters to the post 50 content.  I need to circle back around and do the Shadows of Revan content on my Jedi Knight, but honestly I am having so much fun with my Sawbones.  This is still such a great game, if you just treat it like a subscription.  The free to play options are complete and total bullshit, and feel like the most punitive way to play a game I have seen period.  If you can stomach the fact that you have to pay a subscription to really enjoy this game…  then it seems like a really enjoyable experience still.

 

 

Media Consumption 9/26/2015

The Second Week

There is a distinct reason why I decided to call this new feature “media” consumption rather than television or movies, namely because there are some weeks that go by that I don’t really watch much television.  For example unless having cartoon network going on in the background counts, I have not really watched any purposeful television since last Sunday.  I did however watch a lot of stuff online and listen to a lot of music, as such this week is going to be a bit of a pivot as I talk about some of those things.  As I am starting to pull out of my hibernation state a bit, I am by nature spending less time parked in front of the television.

Meg Myers – Sorry

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It is so rare that a musician comes around that so closely matches my personal tastes as Meg Myers.  I’ve seen her described as what would happen if Trent Reznor and Tori Amos had a kid…  and honestly I feel like that is probably a fairly apt theory.  The funny thing is that when I heard this theory I had no clue about the supposed affair that the two of them had back in the 90s… but a good friend of mine is a historian in all things Trent and filled me in on the details.  In reality the music is just damned amazing.  “Sorry” is her first full length album, but there have been a few EPs floating around for awhile that are up on Google Music, and they have been in pretty regular rotation since I first found out about her.  I feel so strongly about this music that when the album was released on September 18th I purchased it…  even though I had access to it freely through my Google Music subscription.  This means a lot, because I generally don’t buy music other than video game soundtracks… because I have access to stream pretty much anything I could ever want through Google Music.  In fact this is the first album I have purchased since backing the Amanda Palmer kickstarter.  It is the first musician in a long time that I feel like I want to wholeheartedly support.

If you have never heard anything by Meg Myers I highly suggest checking out the title track “Sorry”

If you want to pick it up… [Google Play] [iTunes] [Amazon]

Star Wars Phantom Menace Review

After last week going into how disappointed I was about the prequels after watching them again recently, a good friend of mine linked me a really strange youtube review of the series that takes place over the course of seven different videos.  Now there is some disturbing comedy woven in between the bits of actual review that I don’t necessarily think is sane and rational, but most of what this person is saying about the movies themselves is exactly what I had been feeling.  If you are like me and living in this constant state of disappointment about the movies… it might be a bit cathartic to listen to someone rip them a new one.  The amount of time spent delving into just why Phantom Menace was so horrible…  is a bit obsessive but I listened to them one night while playing Destiny.  I enjoyed myself, but your mileage may vary.

Inon Zur plays Fallout 4 Theme

If you have been around me for very long, one thing you know is that I love video game soundtracks.  One that has been on regular rotation for years is the Rift soundtrack composed by Inon Zur, so I am absolutely no stranger to his work.  In the above video we have him doing a very passionate rendering of the Fallout 4 theme song.  This combines so many things that I love, because you could not be any more excited about Fallout 4 than I am.  Hell I even managed to snag one of the pip boy editions.  Fallout is one of those game series that I have been passionate about since College and each one just seems to keep getting better.  Lately we have been talking New Vegas on the Podcast because Thalen is experiencing it for the very first time.  Knowing Inon Zur is the composer for the main score even makes me more excited about what the fourth installment might bring.

iZombie

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At this point my wife and I are around eight or nine episodes into the first season.  The hope is between today and tomorrow we can catch a few more episodes while she grades.  I still need to remember to set the DVR to start recording episodes from this season, since I guess the whole Fall television thing is happening.  I know that I can get the five latest episodes through Hulu but I want to make sure not to miss an episode and have to track it down somehow through nefarious means.  Have I ever mentioned that I hate the current state of television and how damned hard it is to sort out which medium happens to be streaming which shows?  I feel like if you are a television provider and not offering your shows either through Hulu or through Netflix… then you are passively giving me permission to track your stuff down illicitly on the interwebs by not giving me a subscription based option.  Anyways hopefully we will sort out the rest of this season and be caught up soon.  This is actually a good enough show however for me to watch it on a weekly/semi-weekly basis.

Fear the Walking Dead

I can honestly say that right now at this moment… there is not a single character on Fear the Walking Dead that I actually like.  In fact I would be just as happy as not to see them attacked by Zombies and then replaced by a cast of characters that we have yet to even meet.  As much as I am enjoying iZombie… I am that much NOT enjoying Fear the Walking Dead.  I keep hoping and waiting to see if it gets better, but right now…  that is very much not a thing that is happening.  In fact in many ways it has gotten worse, and it is my fear that they will drag this shit out until the sixth episode before finally giving us anything interesting.  All of the characters are weak and stupid… and I cannot fathom how any of them are going to survive past the end of this season let along the series as a whole.  I guess society hasn’t fallen apart enough for folks to start reverting to primal instincts yet, but I am so ready for the heroine addict son to end up as walker fodder.  I guess what is annoying about all of this is that so many people seem to be acting like “life as normal” can continue, when we the audience know that their suburban existence is over and that staying there is essentially a death sentence.  Maybe this is precisely what Kirkman was going for… making us loathe the characters so that when they ultimately die we will enjoy it?  I would be shocked it more than one of that first family actually makes it out of this season.  Right now I am betting on the mom, she seems to be starting to go down the path of Carol.

 

A Better Minecraft

Ash is Awesome

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I have a really huge wishlist on steam, in part because it is a nice way of tracking all of those games that I see every now and then that interest me.  Steam will remind me through their UI when they go on sale, and sometimes this is extremely handy.  However occasionally it has unintended consequences, like for example…  during Pax Prime my friend Ashgar somehow acquired a copy of the sandbox building game Creativerse.  The other night he handed me a key for it, and over the last few days I have been playing a significant amount of it.  I remember looking at the game and thinking “Pretty Minecraft” and honestly…  after playing a lot of it that title still largely applies.  Minecraft is a charming game, but it is also a fairly primative game.  The magic of Minecraft comes from the fact that it has been so easy to extend and create new types of experiences out of.  So in the meantime there have been lots of games that have come out providing a much more aesthetically pleasing experience.  Until recently I would have crowned SkySaga the king of this new breed of “pretty minecraft” games, but after playing Creativerse… I think maybe it is more fitting the title.

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When you enter the game you are asked to create a name for your character and choose a simple boy or girl avatar.  The game loses some points with me right out of the gate because these avatars really are not customized in any fashion.  From there you can set up your own private world or join someone elses, and similar to a minecraft server you can toggle different variables.  My world for example has PVP disabled, and I set a password…  but for the life of me I cannot seem to remember what password I set which will probably come back to bite me in the ass at a later date.  You are plunked into this pretty world with a power glove that allows you to pull blocks up from the ground, and a stick that serves as your default weapon.  The first thing I noticed was how generally difficult combat is because I died quite a bit trying to sort out which types of creatures I could kill and which I could not.  The other item that I finally noticed I had in my inventory allowed me to change my spawn point and plunk down a teleporter allowing me to pop around the world freely and teleport back to my spawn point later.

The Struggle is Enjoyable

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With Minecraft, from almost the first moment I set foot in game… I had resources that I could draw on.  There are wikis of every sort that contain detailed information about what every block does and how you can best use it in the game world.  So far I have not found anything similar for Creativerse, or at the very least when I google for anything… all that returns is a series of YouTube videos.  Since I don’t want to have to wade through a YouTube video to find the one nugget of information I need… I just started falling back on the things I know as true in Minecraft.  The basic logic of how the world works is very similar, but the primary difference comes in the actual creating of things.  Recipes in Creativerse are significantly more complicated than they are in Minecraft.  For example to create stone flooring, you need raw stone which is a given, but also stone rods and melted wax.  You get the melted wax by taking honey comb that you can only find way up high in the leaves of trees… and melting it in a forge.  The end result is this complicated sequence of chicken and egg scenarios where you never actually reach a point of equilibrium where resources no longer are a problem.  Coal for example is one of the basic resources needed in both Minecraft and Creativerse… but the primary difference is very early on in Minecraft I reach a point where I no longer care about getting Coal, however here since I have to use special expendable extractor items to harvest it… I am constantly searching for a new supply of both the resources to build more extractors and more coal nodes to extract.

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The problem with Minecraft is ultimately that we know that game too well.  Within thirty minutes of a new game I can go find every resource I need to do pretty much everything I would want to do.  In Creativerse I feel more at the whim of spawn dynamics and hoping to find the right needle in the haystack to keep moving forward.  I’ve learned several things, like how to find Diamond, but I still cannot for the life of me figure out a way to get a reasonable supply of obsidian…  which is needed for most of the Diamond item crafting.  One of the nice things about this game is that as you collect an item it starts opening up your recipes for said resource.  Then by crafting sub components it will unlock further things that you can create with it.   Occasionally while out in the field you can find books or pages of paper that contain special “fancy” versions of existing items that you already know how to create.  As you go through the game you upgrade your weapon and powercells for your glove, that allow you to do progressively more advanced things.  However at no point even though I am swinging a magitek looking sword… do I feel like I have made combat any easier.  When I see a creature especially while delving deep into the earth… there is still a high likelihood that I am going to get faced rolled and add another “death statue” to my collection.  The game keeps giving you these rock idols each time you die… and I’ve started surrounding my base in them as a bit of a sign of honor.

Darkness is Dangerous

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Much like Minecraft there is a day night cycle and during the night things spawn that do not appear during the day.  For lack of a better term I am going to call these things “corrupted” versions of the normal monsters that you can find during the day.  When the sun raises they disappear just like they do in Minecraft.  One thing that is different however is during the night treasure chests also appear to spawn, and wandering around the countryside looking for them is much easier because they give off a glow that you can see for a large distance.  However to do this you also have to survive the onslaught of aggressive critters that are generally slightly tougher than their day time counterparts.  These treasure chests also often give you access to materials that you cannot find yet on your own and give you a bit of a jump start.  The problem being however… if you find an item in a treasure chest you have no clue where  it actually came from.  There has been a lot of trial and error and me taking on things just to see what sorts of materials they might drop.  Funny enough it took me a really long time to figure out how to get a reliable source of sinew which is used by so many crafts.

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While the game does not have the sort of food and water survival system that Minecraft eventually adopted and so many addons provided, it does have something interesting.  When you are exposed to dangerous conditions you start to see an exposure bar appear.  For example if you are roaming through the solidified Magma area, you will start see a flame gauge begin to creep up.  I am not sure what happens when the gauge reaches the top, but I am guessing you catch on fire and die.  Similarly in the above image you can see a purple biohazard gauge which is when I broke through into the “corrupted” zone.  Deep under ground I found an area that had a slight purple glow, and featured corrupted trees and all sorts of nasty creatures.  It has been extremely difficult to explore because I broke through into the cavern way the hell up into the air, and I can only spend so much time in there before my corruption creeps too high and I have to retreat.  I need to figure out how exactly you can fight these influences and see if there is a way to counteract the exposure gauge.  Similarly I went out exploring and found a tundra biome and the entire time I was there a cold exposure gauge kept creeping up.  With no real way to counteract it I finally had to teleport back to base.  The tunnel to the corrupted zone is deep under my base so I figure at some point over the next few days I will explore it further.

Speaking of Bases

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Almost all of my time so far has been spent underground, but towards the end of the night I started working on an above ground dwelling I can be more proud of.  For a long time I had a simple stone shack plunked out in the middle of the Savannah.  Last night I started raising walls for a courtyard and building a proper stone floor.  I am not sure exactly where I am going with it, but I just wanted something more noticeable while I am out roaming around.  I want to build some sort of a tower and place a beacon at the top of that now that I finally have all of the components to build one.  I am certain that once I build a white beacon it will start unlocking the patterns for different colors.  The building system is pretty intuitive, but it reminds me more of Trove than it does of Minecraft in that you toggle back and forth between building and combat modes.  Trove would honestly be my ultimate “minecraft-like” game if it weren’t for the simple blocks and insanely garish color palette.  I love the combat though, and that along keeps me coming back… I am just not that big of a fan of the building aspect.  Creativerse however seems to have that side of the equation for me, and if you also really like Minecraft, but are getting tired of its primitive client…  you might check this game out.  Right now it is $19.99 on Steam Early access, but supposedly if it ever launches it will be free to play.  They originally planned on being in early access for 4-6 months… but now it has been a little over a year so who knows how long it will last.

Misery and NDAs

Broken

Game Is Still Pretty

Over the last few days I have felt run down, and I am grasping at straws to figure out exactly why.  There seems to be something going around the office, but so far I am not really showing any signs of whatever it is other than simply being exhausted.  Last night I largely struggled with a Migraine that kept me in a pseudo hibernation state, but this morning as I sit down to the keyboard and attempt to drink my coffee I am just feeling generally lousy.  One of my co-workers has been out for three days with something, so I am hoping I am not coming down with whatever that was.  Last night was the night of restless gaming.  I attempted to log in and be present in Final Fantasy XIV but only wound up AFKing outside the guild hall.  It made me appreciate just how much I love our free company house.  It really is in just about the perfect location that seems to be close to just about everything in The Mists neighborhood.  The only problem is… it is small.  We have talked for a bit about potentially trying to pool our resources and getting a bigger house, but the problem there is we would have to move and likely out of our neighborhood.

One of the things that I like the most about where we are situated is that we actually know a large chunk of the neighbors surrounding us.  While it has not been nearly as busy since the launch of Heavensward as everyone has fallen into this pre 3.1 lull…  it is still nice feeling like you are part of something larger.  While idling in FFXIV I attempted to play some Destiny and managed to complete a few bounties.  However my aim was constantly wonky, and I knew I should not be attempting anything serious.  As the night wore on the headache got worse and ultimately I ended up retiring to bed for awhile… the finally ending up on the Sofa.  I hate those days where you have the will to play something…  but cannot struggle through the “bad feels” in order to actually make any headway.

NDAs are Back

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I am using Trove as the screenshot for this little section because it was one of the first “who needs an NDA” alpha games that I can remember playing.  Everything about that game process was so out in the open that development discussions were openly happening on Reddit.  For a period of time it seemed like every new game coming down the pipe was sans NDA so that folks could stream it freely and generate buzz.  I was shocked when I managed to get into the Warlords of Draenor friends and family alpha for example… and was told that I could talk about it freely.  The problem being… this open transparency bit more than a few games in the ass.  Development is a messy time and as things are changing…  you end up with features in “partially finished” states that look like a finished product to the gamer.  The big problem with open and “pay to join” Alphas is that they no longer feel like testing.  Instead you have simply released a broken game.

As a result lately I’ve noticed a significant number of games bringing back the NDA.  Hell some of them seem to be almost unwilling to let the NDA go, as they have been in fairly prolific testing for a couple of years.  As of right now I am in a handful of NDA bound alpha processes, and each of them seems to be trying to return to the era when Alphas were actually that.  The problem with this is, I am finding myself far less interested in playing something that I can’t actually talk about on my blog.  So generally speaking I install the Alpha client and play every now and then, but I am not actually playing enough to be a proper tester.  I feel bad for this because I have always been the type to bug note the hell out of things as I see them.  While I think it is probably a good thing for Alpha processes to regain some of their previous closed nature, I also feel far less invested in a game until it is actually hatched and ready for public consumption.  So many things over the last years have blurred the lines between finished product and testing, and the current era of incessant and constant “early access” games just makes me leery to invest too much of myself in a game until I know that it is nearing its finished state.

Of Geekdom

You’re A Gamer

Yesterday I saw the above video pop into my subscription feed on YouTube, and since Pixel is awesome and was a Blaugust participant I of course watched it.  In the video she talks about a problem of shunning going on in the “girl gamer” circles, and it prompted me to write yet another one of these pieces.  While I absolutely see the issue happening in that community, I also think the issue is inherent in all “geek” communities, and it becomes pretty damned frustrating.  For awhile now I thought I could blame it on my generation.  As far as video games go, we are essentially patient zero.  My folks had a pong system, then I graduated to Atari… then to Nintendo… and pretty much every gaming fad in between.  So for awhile now I have felt this strange sense of responsibility for apparently being part of the generation that created this broken model.  I thought maybe the gatekeeping came from the fact that for many of us we have experienced a bit of shame over our hobbies, or at least being treated to those “you are not normal” type of looks on a regular basis.

I wear my “geekdom” on my sleeve but once you leave the development row at work… I am absolutely “not like the other kids”.  I have Lego MiniFigures instead of pictures of kids, and I have to explain so many of the assorted items of kitch on my desk.  Weirdly enough pretty much everyone knows what a Creeper from Minecraft is however, but I guess if folks have kids… that makes sense.  The odd thing is…  I remember a time when it wasn’t like this really.  I remember when you went to someones house and saw an Atari… you were essentially instant friends because you had a fast point of reference.  Same thing happened for Nintendo, and everyone would huddle around the lunch room to talk about this game or that.  It wasn’t just a geek thing, it was an every kid thing.  Hell my wife does not consider herself a gamer at all… but she had an Atari and a Nintendo and played both.  Her favorite game growing up was Snoopy and the Red Baron, and at some point I am going to find one for her for no reason other than sheer nostalgia.  So I guess the question is… what happened?

Forming Camps

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The very first time I can really remember any tension forming, came from the early Sega versus Nintendo rivalry.  I mean during the Atari era there were other console systems like the Colecovision or Intellivision, but ultimately it didn’t really matter that much.  At the end of the day we were all playing the same ports of arcade games, which seemed to be universally offered on all platforms.  The first party title thing didn’t seem to really matter… that is until Mario and Sonic.  The advertising was constantly and obnoxious and full of partial truths.  I grew up in a small town, and quite literally no one that I knew could actually afford both a Super Nintendo AND a Genesis, so it ultimately meant you had to place all of your hope in one console or the other.  I don’t remember any fights breaking out but it was really the first time I can remember such a thing as someone owning the “wrong console”.  I had a friend with a Sega Master System, and I remember one birthday party where everyone was disappointed that he didn’t have a Nintendo to play.  No one really wanted to try this “other” thing, because everyone wanted to play Super Mario Brothers.

I could drive myself insane trying to trace the roots, but regardless of how we ended up in this situation…  it isn’t a great one.  Any system where we claim that Gamer A is not as much of a gamer as Gamer B because they like this thing or that thing…  is a really bad system.  I guess the part about it that I don’t really get is when did we start competing with each other on everything.  Can’t it be enough that you like a thing, and want to do a thing…  without having to feel the need to shit on everyone who is doing something else?  I mentioned Minecraft earlier, and that game honestly gives me a lot of hope.  A friend of mine was telling a story the other day, about how their kid bumped into some other kids while on vacation.  Somehow the topic of Minecraft came up, and suddenly all of these random strangers were instant friends.  Games have the power to bring people with no other shared interests together, and honestly most of the people I know on the internet… I know thanks to gaming.  So I see the potential that this shared interest has to unite us all… and it just makes me even the more depressed when I see people fighting over this game or that game.  Does it really matter if you prefer Call of Duty to Battlefield, or if you happen to like a PS4 over an Xbox One?  Can’t we all just be okay with saying “these are things I like” and be equally okay when someone else happens to like different things?

I Have No Answers

I have no real answers at the end of the day.  Lately I have seen a lot of angst in the World of Warcraft community as people disappear from that game.  I was absolutely part of the problem during the first great exodus to Rift, and I feel bad for it.  Ultimately what I want is for people to do whatever makes them happy, and play whatever game they are passionate about.  Similarly when they stop being passionate about it…  it is perfectly okay to walk away with zero shame.  Just because I am in a down cycle where I am not all that interested in World of Warcraft it doesn’t mean that I wish the game harm.  Sure there is a bit of schadenfreude occasionally over the earning reports, simply because I have felt for awhile that the staff doesn’t really get what players actually want.  I keep hoping that they will right the ship and turn us back to a game that I would be happy to play again.  At no point however do I want the game to go away or am I willing to actively rail against people for playing it.  I guess what happened to change my opinion… is that I started to see the alternative.

During that first parting of ways…  we had not seen the consequences of when a game stops being supported.  Ask the folks who played Star Wars Galaxies, City of Heroes or Vanguard how they feel about having a game world disappear.  After watching several worlds just simply vanish…  it has made me quite a bit more respectful of whatever game anyone happens to be playing.  We invest so much of ourselves in the games that we play, and whatever it is that you happen to be passionate about is awesome.  The gatekeeping and the “you must be this tall to ride this ride” signs that we seem to constantly be willing to tack up all over our landscape are counter productive.  I original thought it was my generation that broke the system, but now I am just not certain any more.  Maybe tribalism is just something that is naturally going to happen in any system when it gets too large.  Maybe “gamer” isn’t even really a thing anymore… and video games are just something that everyone does.  We don’t have a title for folks who watch TV, because that distinction is utterly meaningless.  Just because we both own a TV does not mean we are likely going to be watching the same shows…  but by the same token no one is expecting us to.  Maybe we need to shed the notion that we all have this common point of reference, and maybe we just need to accept the fact that we are all going to like different things.  Maybe in another generation this question just simply won’t exist any more because gaming has become so mainstream that nobody even thinks about it as an identity.  Whatever the case…  for the time being…  I just wish we could treat each other better.

 

 

Titans and Skywhales

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Two Worlds

Badass New Speeder and Armor Theme

Last night was a bit of a mixed night, in that I logged into Final Fantasy XIV early in the evening… and then spent most of the night with my chair turned to the side playing Destiny instead.  I largely logged in when I did to be available for any raid shenanigans later that evening and also be available for various folks who were wanting to get friends invited to the guild.  So I sat there with my headphones on attempting to monitor both games at the same time and doing a fairly poor job of paying attention to guild chat.  I gotta say I am enjoying the Titan again now that I gave up on the whole defensive thing and went back to striker.  There is something gratifying about doing Fist of Havoc in the middle of a pack of mobs and walking away to tell the tale.  Largely I spent my evening working on quests and bounties.  There are a handful that I cannot for the life of me figure out how to complete…  what the fuck is an “attachable grenade”?  I thought at first it was the lightning grenade that “sticks to any surface” but after a bit of reading this morning apparently it is the FIRST grenade option… which I don’t think sticks to anything.

Can’t Go Wrong With Black

At this point I am level 30, which I have to say really quickly how much nicer it is to have a simply leveling curve instead of that light bullshit.  Having to sift through items and find the one with the highest light amount…  was maddening especially when it often meant you were maybe turning down an otherwise superior item.  The only thing I question at the moment is the fact that all of this “leveling” gear is upgradeable…  whereas I am swapping out gear pretty much every single time I go out into the world, so upgrading it really is meaningless.  The only thing I am still holding onto right now is my exotic gun, and that is simply because I have not found anything with higher damage.  The moment I find a hand cannon with better stats, this exotic will likely get chunked in the bank for nostalgia reasons and I will happily use the next gun with better stats on it.  I am still fairly firmly attached to a Hand Cannon as my primary weapon… or as they for some reason occasionally refer to them as “Sidearms” instead.  As far as secondary and heavy… I am pretty partial to the Sniper Rifle and the Machine Gun because that combo gives me a strong way to pick mobs off at range… with a heavy with some serious stopping power.  Stopping power that you need for the Taken invasions that seem to spring up at random in every single open world zone in the game.  I stuck around on Mars long enough last night while working on a “kill champions” bounty last night, that I got to fight the same event several times in a row.  The giant Taken Vex Minotaur thing… is freaking brutal.  I don’t think it is quite as bad as a spider tank, but still pretty horrible to content with especially when there are not a ton of players around.

Taking Down Skywhales

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While fiddling around with Destiny a large gathering of folks started showing up in Final Fantasy XIV.  After a bit Kodra being the awesome person that he is, took it upon himself to try and make a group happen.  I am super thankful that he did… because I was absolutely not paying a whole lot of attention because I was busy trying to headshot Taken.  It turns out we had a few people who had not managed to get Bismarck Extreme yet, so that set our course for the evening.  Learning nights are interesting when you are teaching a handful of people a fight, because it ends up shifting the balance for the rest of the group as well.  Players who were the newbie last time, step up and become the experts and I saw that happening quite a bit last night.  Bismarck Extreme is still serious business even though we have downed it several times now, and I went into it knowing that it would take a few tries before we finally got it down.  On our first attempt we predictably missed the back on the first try, but after that we adjusted and started hitting that first hurdle pretty reliably.

The hardest hurdle as always is getting down the two snakes in time.  The challenge there was simply a matter of keeping all of our dps alive and busy killing sky snakes because during that phase if you lose a single player it is highly unlikely that you will be able to pull it out.  We are quite simply not geared enough to be able to carry that objective too hard.  In truth we downed the boss the try in which we kept everyone alive.  That just happened to be about 15 minutes before the instance timer ran out.  I think it was a pretty great night though all things consider and we broke a few more players into the rigors of end game Final Fantasy XIV content.  For the time being Monday night raids are on hiatus until November when the 3.1 patch lands, and I think in the mean time we are going to use Monday nights as a sort of “get stuff accomplished” night for whatever anyone happens to need.  I would not mind farming more Bismarck or even getting a group back into Binding Coil of Bahamut.  Cosmetic gear is always a strong draw to get me back into a place.

 

Lost in Infinity

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Upgrade Day

For whatever reason I have been putting off the upgrade to Windows 10, even though all of my machines have been asking me to do it for some time now.  Essentially I keep telling myself there is always something looming on the horizon that is way to important to risk having a machine down.  It is either the Monday or Wednesday raids or the impending Saturday session for recording AggroChat.  However this week I told myself… that as soon as I finished with the AggroChat festivities Sunday morning that I would exit out of everything and upgrade.  So roughly 9:30 in the morning yesterday I took a leap of faith and performed a Windows 10 in place upgrade.  I have to say I am shocked and amazed at just how smoothly things went.  The only major issue that I have run into so far is the fact that I had no sound… which isn’t terribly shocking because I use an Asus Xonar sound card.  After some quick digging I found out that the Unified Drivers that I had been running all along updated to fix this issue.

The best surprise however was something that I had been concerned about for some time.  The account that I use to log into windows, and have used for awhile is my outlook.com account.  I like using this… as it makes more sense than my previous windows account.  That said my Xbox 360s as well as the old Games for Windows are configured to use a completely different account that is based on one of my second gmails.  So my biggest concern was how the Xbox Windows 10 app would work.  However it seems like Microsoft has thought of this problem and allows you to sign in a different account.  When I did this bam… my Windows login account is now bound to my Xbox Live account and cross linked allowing me the best of both worlds.  I don’t have an Xbox One, but if I did I am sure it would be handy to have this set up in such a fashion.

Lost in Infinity

Asoka and Adorable Wookie Youngling

While upgrading Windows I ended up playing Playstation 4 pretty much all day long, and inadvertently falling into a Disney Infinity shaped hole.  This time around the hub world feels much more interactive than it did in 2.0.  Additionally you have all of these really cool sidekicks to collect, and I am guessing the majority of which are gained through doing side quests.  While working on the Twilight of the Empire playset I managed to find four younglings that I could then use as sidekicks when I got back to the toybox.  I of course chose the Wookie youngling because who doesn’t want to be followed around by a tiny Wookie.  I’ve spent a lot of time playing both Asoka and Boba Fett, but Asoka is by far the furthest progressed.  Namely I don’t think I have Boba Fett as an option for any of my playsets that are available yet.

There are so many aspects of this game that are absolute crack for me, like collecting bits to decorate my house.  I added on a bit to my house which is basically a combat arena that lets you fight level appropriate baddies while in there.  You talk to a tiny side kick form Agent Coulson and bam he spawns a whole bunch of stuff for you to jump down and fight.  At this point I have only actually made it through a few areas of Twilight of the Republic, but I am now on Coruscant and just checked into the Jedi Temple.  I am just shocked that I quite literally lost from about 9 am until 3:30 pm yesterday afternoon playing this game.  The gameplay is pretty damned fun, and much in the same was as I enjoyed running around in Ratchet and Clank beating things up for bolts… the same sort of mechanic is in place here for Sparks that can then be spent on items for the toybox.

Waiting for Sleep

My First Rayman Game

Last night when it came time for bed I was getting choked up again from my allergies.  So I took some Benedryl and went upstairs to wait for it to kick in.  Since I did not really feel like futzing with my PC I opted to fire back up the PS4 and piddle around on it.  Would you believe that until last night I had never actually played a Rayman game?  I mean they always looked interesting enough, but there was something about the arms and legs floating in the air that bugged me about the character.  There was a recent flash sale and I managed to pick up Rayman Legends dirt cheap for the PS4, and since I had always wanted to give it a shot… it seemed like an awesome idea.  So far it seems like a fun game, but for whatever reason didn’t hold my attention for long last night.  I made it through one level  before popping out and trying something else.

Home Sweet Tower

Instead I settled into a game of Destiny and spent my time fiddling with gear and trying to sort out the things that had changed.  It seems like most of the really cool stuff is already available to me which kinda shocked me.  I’ve not picked up Fallen King and was not really planning on doing so any time soon.  However when I started working on leveling my character with their much streamlined system… all of this loot flagged with a Taken King icon started dropping.  I spent a lot of time on Mars working on a few bounties and kept running into fallen corruption zones where corrupted Vex and Cabal would spawn in.  These things were extremely nasty but had a chance of dropping some pretty nice stuff.  The biggest thing I noticed is that it seems like the drop rates are greatly increased when it comes to pretty much everything you can do.  I walked away with more weapons than I had seen in a very long time… since maybe launch.  Also it seems like engrams are more true to their color… if I got a blue engram I pretty much got a blue item out of it.  Maybe I was just exceptionally lucky last night, but it did not seem like I was pulling greens out of them like I did before.  I need to spend more time playing Destiny, I enjoy it still and I have a lot of fun running around with my Hand Cannon.  I still have yet to play any of the expansion content, so I need to do that at some point.