Deep Roads

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It’s Over

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At this point I don’t know for certain if my character is weeping tears of frustration or joy.  Which ever the case I am just really happy that as of today and by the time I get home from work… the Love is in the Air event will be finished.  I felt so damned conflicted this year when it came to this event, largely because I don’t even know why I was participating.  I really really do not enjoy World of Warcraft holiday events, because they somehow manage to make something that should feel fun an exciting… into an obligation.  Then on top of that… I don’t even like the Love Rocket mount.  However because it is the rarest mount in the game, and I do not already have one… I feel somehow obligated to try for it every year.  I wish I could understand why I do it… and to the extent of pushing aside other games that I would enjoy more just so I can haplessly farm for a chase mount.  Sure it only takes a few minutes to do an attempt at the mount… but I felt obligated to run six different level 100 characters through it. Which by the time you check your garrison and shipyard on each, and queue for a dungeon…  you are talking about roughly an hour of your night gone…  chasing a mount I didn’t even really care that much about.

We talked at length about this phenomena over the weekend on the podcast, and largely why this works… and why it also frustrates us.  Tam suggested that it was because it feels like the game is not respecting our time…  and that is absolutely part of it.  I think for me personally a good deal of my frustration is that this madness is actually working.  This game knows my triggers so well, and it feels as though I have no control in the process.  There is a certain measure of excitement in the chase, and were this something I could normally farm on my own… it would fall into the same category as my attempts to get rare mounts from raid bosses.  However the fact that it is only available for a limited time…  triggers the “fear of missing out” that if we don’t become mindless drones we might miss that one opportunity to get something cool.  Even when in this case the something cool is not something we actually wanted in the first place.  It is just frustrating to see a company working so effectively against my nature and getting me to follow along in their scheme each year in trying for “the thing”.  Now granted I know without a doubt that come Halloween I will once again be chasing like mad in trying to get the Headless Horseman mount.  At least I can rest comfortable in the knowledge that it “could be worse”.  I mean it could be something as heinous as the Rift cash box chase mounts 🙂

Dwarf in the Deep Roads

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I don’t have a whole lot to say here, because I didn’t get terribly far into it…  however I did manage to start a quest chain leading me into the Deep Roads.  The Deep Roads are my happy place in the Dragon Age universe because if it were really possible…. I would absolutely live completely underground.  If you venture into any of my Minecraft settlements, you will see a pretty simple structure above ground… that leads to a massive snaking catacombs underneath.  I just feel safe underground, and I have loved being down in every cave I have been able to.  I still think having a structure that was mostly buried in a mountain would be my ultimate situation.  I wonder if some of my reaction of safety to being underground… comes from the fact that I live in a state where the wind comes sweeping down the plains…. and takes out an entire city every now and then.  In any case… we also got into a lengthy discussion about the Deep Roads on the podcast…. and I was shocked to find out that pretty much everyone other than me… unanimously hated them.  They just seem like a badass concept… here are these roads and warrens deep underground that you have to fight the Dark Spawn which natively live down there.  That pretty much sounds amazing…  constantly having a fresh flow of Dark Spawn to fight.  Then again…. I might not be normal when it comes to combat in video games.  The Deep Roads are like the most metal part of Dragon Age, and I am hoping together to get time to venture forth again down there.

 

 

 

Man With the Hand

The Man with the Hand

The Struggle

The Man with the Hand
The Man with the Hand

For over a year now I have desperately tried to get into Dragon Age Inquisition.  The game starts really slow and throws your character in the middle of a conflict that I did not really care for.  Be warned that there are going to be a few minor early game spoilers here, but I am going to try really hard not to say anything super spoilery.  During Dragon Age II, you are constantly getting vignettes of Varric being in essence tortured and questioned by a figure that is identified as “The Inquisitor”.  In Dragon Age Inquisition (and the anime if you had chance to watch it) you are introduced to Cassandra Penteghast…. the same Inquisitor who you learned to kinda hate during Dragon Age II.  The thing is…  in truth I actually rather like Cassandra, but the initial set up of the game places me squarely on the side of some epic side-eye when interacting with her.  Not to mention that my character is apparently being blamed for some catastrophe as a result.  Then with a huge amount of narrative whiplash I go from being the pariah and prisoner….  to quite literally the chosen one of Andraste.  At no point did I want ANY of this…  in past games I have only feigned interest in Andraste to get Leliana to like me.  I am generally fairly anti-religion in games… and in this case especially since my preferred method of playing Dragon Age games is to play a Dwarf that believes we all spontaneously came from the stone and will return back there again someday.

Then on top of that… we basically find out that there is a war breaking out between the Mages and the Templar, and I am not terribly fond of either side.  The entire game seemed to focus on my least favorite aspects of the Dragon Age world… and somehow got rid of the parts that I loved.  I absolutely love the concept of the Grey Wardens.  I was all about drinking demon blood and fighting dark spawn, and I would have been completely happy if we just had more games where I fought lots of bad things to save kingdoms.  With Dragon Age II…. it took a big detour, but even then I got to fight self righteous asshole red lyrium Templar…. and was mostly okay with it.  The thing that carried me through that game were the characters that I got interested in…. but the problem thus far with Dragon Age Inquisition…. were the fact that I simply was not really feeling the characters at all.  I like Cassandra just fine, and Dorian and Solas were both growing on me.  Varric felt like a caricature of Varric from Dragon Age II…. which bothered me from the start.  Leliana changed for the worst, and was not the character that I came to adore….  lost all of the soft spots and became this battle hardened zealot.  Blackwall is cool enough but I already had Cassandra to tank so quite literally had zero use for him.  The only character I completely and wholeheartedly loved…. was Sera, but that didn’t really feel like enough.  Mostly the grouping did not feel like “my team” in the same way as the other Bioware outings did, and more so felt like a bunch of characters that I just happened to get thrown in the same room with.

The Turning Point

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A Better Horizon

As I said at the beginning of my post… this has been a struggle for over a year now.  I will sit down… play for a few hours….  not get drawn into the game and then log out once more.  With the new laptop I have been in the process of trying to play games that I for one reason or another struggled with.  At the top of that list was Dragon Age Inquisition, and last night I finally realized that I was sitting at a pretty major turning point in the story.  I had been putting off the assault on the breech, thinking that it might lead me down a path that would ultimately lock me into the “end game” in a same way as attacking the collector ship does in Mass Effect 2.  Sure I was only 20-30 hours into the game, but Dragon Age II was really short… so far all I knew the base game here was short as well if you simply steamrolled your way through the story.  Last night Dragon Age pulled a “Link to the Past” on me…  and bam all of the sudden I saw everything that everyone was talking about this game.  Essentially I now view everything that I did up to this point as largely “the tutorial level” and now it feels like the real game is finally beginning.  I have to tell you I am really excited to be “into” this game.

The game manages to pull together a sequence of events that not only cements your motivation and why you care about the events of the world…. but also serves to cement your team.  I went from feeling this was just a group of people that I was stuck with….  to being a group of MY people.  I am also completely bought into the Inquisition as an organization, because after last night I realized that I am the person shaping the fate of this organization.  I can make the Inquisition be this brutal force similar to its namesake…. or I can make it into an organization that cares about people and tries to save them in the process.  Bioware I am sold…. and I am ready to get started playing this game. What is frustrating about all of this is… Dragon Age: Origins had an AMAZING introduction… or at least it did if you played a Dwarf.  By the time I completed that opening sequence I was completely sold on the setting and the characters and ready to go out into the world and carve my niche.  Dragon Age II had a much rougher start, but even though it felt more forced and pushed down a single hallway… I eventually reached a point where it felt I was changing the world.  Inquisition though… feels like the worst of those two options…. where you have only the most vestigial of control over your own character as you are forced down a path.  Thankfully it seems that the skies are clearing…. and I am ready to step forth into the new world.

Iron Banner

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Modem Death Cry

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Better than Xur

Last night was a bit of a strange night in that I once again flipped between games like mad.  I started off in doing my daily love rocket frustration grind… and once again I have nothing to show for it.  Then I popped into Dragon Age Inquisition for a bit, but I am having a hard time remembering just what the hell I was doing when I last played.  So I wandered around a bit aimlessly and almost accidentally completed a quest.  Finally at the end of the session I realized that I apparently have one of those major quests waiting in the queue where I go off to seal some breach somewhere… and have apparently been just avoiding completing it each time I have played lately.  Once again I logged out sufficiently avoiding it, but at some point over the weekend I really need to finish it so that hopefully I can get back on stable ground once more with this game.  Throughout all of this my wife and I were trying to catch up on iZombie because at this point we are about five episodes behind.  It was around this point when the hulu stream stopped and I started having some issues staying connected to the network.  I get upstairs and once again my modem is insanely hot, and my internet connection that normally tests out around 200 Mbps is testing 5 Mbps.  I unplugged everything and did the “throw it in the fridge for a few minutes to cool it down” trick once more.

When I finally got everything back up and running… I decided to just hang out upstairs and play some Destiny.  So I set forth on a sequence of events that wound up keeping me awake until midnight.  Destiny is still that game that I can just play happily without much forethought.  Since I had not done so in awhile I opted to do a heroic, and I have to say… it was pretty miserable.  For whatever reason I almost always get the restorative mind when it comes to heroics….  which is essentially the destiny equivalent of the Oculus.  No one that I know of likes it…  because for starters it is a huge mission and involves the damned “move the orb” mechanic to keep pushing forward.  Additionally there is a segment with a bunch of Vex Cyclops that are just annoying to deal with.  Finally you have this horrible segment at the end, where you have to keep running the ball while trying to avoid the beam of death from the restorative mind… and at the same time avoiding waves of goblins and hobgoblins that spawn in.  This is pretty easy to deal with in normal, but in heroic the stupid beam of death is quite literally that.  I made it though and ended up with a few purples…. that wound up being disenchant fodder.  I continued running 36 strikes from that point on until I finally got an Exotic to drop…  which is ironically Truth, the weapon Xur is selling this week… but in a much better 290 version.

Player Versus

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I Want a Strike on This Map

It is round about here that my night starts to get a little strange.  I don’t hate the crucible but it is one of those activities that I never actually participate in.  Similarly I have never done Iron Banner or Trials of Osiris…  and I completely missed doing any of the Crimson Doubles.  Essentially I am a no show for the player versus player activities, and I have no clue why… but on a whim last night I decided to start doing Iron Banner.  Firstly I absolutely expected to be horrible, since Iron Banner is in theory worse for new players than Crucible.  In the Crucible all players are scaled down gear wise to a happy medium allowing all players of all levels and gearings to be viable and on somewhat even ground.  Iron Banner on the other hand does not scale the players down…  and my lackluster 298 ass is nothing compared to the 330 folks that are running around in the zone.  The funny thing is however that I seemed to do mostly okay.  Sure there were occasions where I just got wrecked from out of nowhere, but there were lots of other occasions where I gunned down my target and even so much managed to get a three streak of kills before finally getting wrecked in return.

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Actually Won Some Matches

I think what makes this feel more enjoyable than a lot of the player versus player combat I have experiences is that it quite literally feels like there is no negative.  You play a match, you shoot some people, and at the end of it there is a chance of loot.  There are no repair bills, there are no lasting consequences… and even when you die you pretty much instantly respawn.  This feels more like the old school Doom deathmatch gameplay that I originally cut my teeth on.  Maybe I have shunned PVP all of this time without good reason.  Sure I rarely broke 1.0 KDR but as the night went on I got significantly better.  I even managed to pull a legendary from the place, and am pretty close to ranking up with the Iron Banner.  I have to say I am shocked at just how much I enjoyed myself, and in truth I really need to do more crucible as a result.  All of this kinda makes me look forward to the Dark Zone in The Division, because hopefully I can get a team together and we can roll around as a group exploring.  Maybe I am not as carebear as I always thought I was.

 

 

Brightly Colored Tinker Cart

Pixi Packs

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Every so often I see something that completely makes my night.  Originally I was logged into World of Warcraft to do the Love Rocket grind… and surprise to no one that went exactly as I expected.  Another night of running 6 holiday dungeons…  only to walk away with another handful of tokens and a few pets.  Between two of the dungeon runs, I happened to notice a familiar sight across the trade chat attached to the Garrison system.  The server I play on is Argent Dawn, the US version… and it was a day one server, one of two Roleplaying servers at launch.  As a result we have quite the history as servers go, and much of it is wrapped up in the individuals that inhabit it.  One of those is Pixi the bag making gnome.  She has been doing her roleplay shouts since the early days of the server… originally starting out in Iron Forge and now apparently moving to the Garrison system.  Now she traditionally charges more than the other bag makers on our server… but there is just something special about buying a “Pixi Pack” as she calls them.  She makes a grand gesture about it and gives you a silly amount of summoned mage food to fill the pack up.  Even asks you where you are going and offers to Teleport you to your destination.  She is one of those constants that has been here since day one… and gives me warm fuzzies every time I see the shout about her little white pony and tinker cart rolling into frame.

This is ultimately the reason why I could never truly play on any other server.  I have so many memories of the community and the people that populate it.  For years I was one of the forum rats that hung out constantly on the official server forums.  When Blizzard released the new forums and tried to force everyone to use RealID…  we abandoned that forum and started out own called the Argent Dawn Exiles.  There had been some rampant issues of folks getting banned for asking why someone had gotten banned…  there was some silly shit going on with the forums back then.  For awhile even saying the word “ban” was worthy of a ban…. so instead we made up the code word “Cream Cheese” which we used to horrible effect.  The awesome thing about the way the community was is that I got to hang out regularly with folks on both sides of the fence, and I have a lot of awesome friends Horde side as well as my original Alliance side connections.  Its when I think about how connected I still am to Argent Dawn, or in FFXIV Cactuar…  that I kinda lament the modern game infrastructure with free floating players and no real “servers” to speak of.  Sure it makes life so much easier at launch and making sure you can play with your friends, but there was something special about hanging out every night with the same larger population of people.

Viva LFR

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One of the trends that I have seen over the years is folks bashing the existence of LFR, or Looking For Raid.  I personally think its a great system, or WAS a great system in past expansions.  My only beef with it is that currently the gear that you get from LFR is kinda trash… and the set bonuses that exist are pale shadows of the set bonuses that folks actually need.  I’ve always thought that the only difference between LFR/Normal/Heroic gear should be item level… and as a result I think that LFR should drop tier.  The primary line of thinking is that for those doing normal raiding there is zero reason why we should ever darken the door of LFR other than the occasional Valor farming.  Even if in theory we could get slightly higher item level for the occasional slot that is lagging behind the rest of your set…  the challenge is in breaking your set.  I’ve lamented my inability to get rid of my 670 set of tier gear from BRF for awhile now, when in theory I could replace them with higher item level versions from HFC LFR.  The truth is however… that LFR is not for people with access to traditional raiding.

LFR is for the folks who don’t have the social infrastructure to be able to raid on a regular basis.  It is also for folks like me, who have an army of alts that make me sad when I see nothing but blue gear on them.  So since I had warm fuzzies last night about the server, I decided to stick around and run some LFR on the Shaman.  I recently hit 100 and through a mixture of baleful and garrison gear I was able to get up to high enough item level to be able to do BRF LFR.  Largely speaking I am just looking to push my item level up enough to hit 650 so I can move once again to the next gear and run HFC LFR, and be able to get decent gear that I might be able to actually function in Tanaan with.  In theory I might be able to survive simply because I have crafted 690 weapons, but I know Tanaan is going to be a stretch until I get some decent gear.  That is the problem with the current endgame “in world” content is that it is in no way as good as the Timeless Isle.  I remember when I dinged 90 with any character I generally had a stockpile of gear laying around to be able to equip and make that character instantly viable.  This time around the few BoA Baleful pieces only get you so far, and it relies on you actually being in Tanaan with that character to get the rest.  Additionally I find it insanely frustrating that Baleful itself can alternate between completely useless shit…  aka 650 items… to the damned near best you can get 695s.  In any case I figure over the next few nights I will finish the last two parts of BRF and hopefully at that point will have the item level to continue into Hellfire Citadel.

 

 

Rockets and Striders

Love Rocket Is A Lie

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Last night I did little productive.  I think I am still dealing with the after effects of not sleeping terribly well on Monday night, because I ended up going to bed insanely early.  I did however get Witcher 3 installed on the new laptop, and it runs amazingly well.  The strange thing is…. it almost runs better on the laptop on a mobile video card than it does upstairs on my desktop and a full fledged gtx 960.  That has been the oddest revelation is just how little difference there has been in performance, and in some cases it seems to perform better.  I am guessing that might be due to the difference of the laptop being a 4th gen i7 and my desktop being an FX-6300…. which if that is the case I guess I will be paying the Intel tax on all future systems.  The bulk of my actual game time was switching between my six level 100 characters in World of Warcraft and trying to get the “Love Rocket” mount to drop.  Now granted I have done this for several years at this point without luck, and quite honestly I am not sure why.  Now the Headless Horseman mount is badass… and I can absolutely see why I chase that every single year I am actively playing during the Halloween event.  I would absolutely use the hell out of a flying spectral horse, because it looks amazing.

The Love Rocket on the other hand…. I am largely just chasing because it exists and I don’t have it yet.  Now I have had the Blue and Red rockets from the card game for years, and never end up using either of them…. largely because I don’t like the slight wobble while flying.  So I cannot see how having a giant pink rocket is going to make that effect any better.  That said…  the thrill is in the hunt and even though I have gotten like a dozen pets…  I am still going after the mount every single day.  The best and worst part of the entire experience is when you go to click your Heart-Shaped Box… because for a moment you get a surge of hope… only to have it dashed quickly when you find nothing interesting inside.  I think the worst part of the event are the Love Tokens, because seriously…. could they have just not made these BOA?  There are some really cool things you can purchase with them like heirloom upgrades but by running the dungeon each day during the even you won’t get anywhere near enough to do something with them.  Sure there are a bunch of quests that you can also do…  but they are freaking annoying.  I have my magenta drake from doing the holiday events, and I made a little promise to myself never to touch them again…  well apart from the dungeon encounters.

Water Strider

The other big frustration for the player base right now seems to be the fact that the Water Strider is changing functionality in the latest Legion Alpha build notes.  Original its restrictions were simply limited to “non-battleground areas” but it seems like they are greatly reducing its usefulness by limiting it to only Draenor and Pandaria.  I absolutely get the frustration that players are feeling over this, because Blizzard honestly makes a bunch of bizarre calls.  What I don’t get is why this seems to be the breaking point for some folks, and other even more confusing changes weren’t.  What I have to somehow believe is that this is an additive effect of all of the fiddling that Legion seems to be doing… and that for some they are choosing to draw a line in the sand here.  To those players…  I promise that I understand your frustration.  I am losing an entire spec…  Gladiator will not exist in Legion and I have gone through the whole “seven stages of grief” thing over that.  Being able to be a viable dps with a sword and a shield has always been my ultimate “player fantasy”.  There is just something awesome about smashing mobs in the face with my shield, and a huge part of what kept me glued to Warlords as long as I was… was the ability to live out those dreams.  The side effect of that however is that it was a horribly fiddly spec, that was difficult to itemize for…. and because of that I can absolutely understand why it is going the way of the Dodo.

To the players who are frustrated over this mount…  I hear you… I really do.  There have been many times in the past of this blog where I have railed on Blizzard for their failures.  On March 25th of 2011 I wrote an article chronicling all of the things I saw as failures in the game in my “Is WoW the WoW-Killer?” post.  I read through it yesterday… and it was a lot less ranty than I originally thought it was.  The thing is…  I’ve learned that it is absolutely okay to play other games.  In fact I would say it is pretty damned healthy to shift back and forth between games on a regular basis.  That sort of distance has allowed me to see the parts of the game that really are being done well, and learn to ignore some of the things that just out and out piss me off.  Sure it means that I often disappear from World of Warcraft, and venture into other lands for awhile…  but that distance allows me to blow off the steam and remember when I come back why I liked the game in the first place.  I am not meaning this to be trite or offensive….  but if the Water Strider is your line in the sand…  then really it might be time for you to go explore other games as well.  I am not saying “leave” the game… just go play something else for a bit. The World of Warcraft is a great game, but during these long content doldrums it can also be an extremely frustrating game to be a fan of.  Right now I am actively playing WoW, FFXIV, Destiny, ESO….  and planning on picking up The Division when it comes out… and hoping to return and play some more SWTOR at some point as well.  Playing all of those games has in truth allowed me to more greatly appreciate the quirks and things that each of them do the best…. and to some extent ignore the faults.  The only true statement is that there is no WoW Killer coming…. but instead a bunch of interesting games to explore that have their own rich communities.

Snagging Playstation Plus Games

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Playstation Network Trick

This is a trick that my good friend Ashgar showed me some time ago, and I have talked a bit on the blog… but given several comments from my twitter feed I thought it was probably time to create a dedicated blog post about it.  One of the awesome things about Playstation Plus is the way that it synergizes between all of the available Sony platforms.  For the longest time I had only a Playstation 3, but had even intent of some day picking up both a Vita and a PS4.  At one point I think I was lamenting having to go upstairs and log in my PS3 because I had forgotten to grab that months free games.  It was then that Ash shared with me that you could in fact log in through the Playstation Network website and not only grab games for the systems you owned but also for everything that was currently available.  What was great about this is that for several months ahead of picking up my Vita and PS4 I was able to start stockpiling a library of games to play on it, so when I finally purchased them I had more than enough content to keep me interested.

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Having done this now for a couple of years… I have to say the Sony Network site is less than easy to navigate.  Since their site is somewhat resistant to deep linking, I sorted out the best path to get to where I needed to go in a matter of clicks.  As a way of demonstrating the path, I threw together a quick image.  Once logged into the website, from the site header click the “Games” tab in the menu bar.  On the next screen that loads click “Playstation Plus” which is confusing because there is also a Playstation Plus Specials option that doesn’t really lead where you want to go.  Finally on the next page click “Free Games” which will then get you to the area of that months games.  Now something I have noticed is that it sometimes takes a few days for the PS+ titles of the month to show up in this section.  From here it is simply a matter of adding all of the games to your cart and checking out.  The games will all have a $0 price on them, but you still have to formally check out with them to get them added to your account.  If you encounter games saying that you are “not eligible” generally speaking that means the game supports cross buy and you only need to have one copy of the game for it to work on all platforms.  The store however will be showing a separate copy of the game for each platform it is available on.  Go ahead and check out with what is available, and if you refresh the page all of the games should then show up as “Purchased” like the below screenshot.

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Game With Gold As Well

The other thing I have realized is that this sort of trick works with Games with Gold from Microsoft as well.  Their system of releases is a little bit more fiddly as they seem to like to stagger them throughout the month, and when the next batch is released you generally lose access to the previous batch.  I have however been successfully adding Xbox One games to my account, without actually owning an Xbox One.  I figure at some point I will pick one up, and it will be nice to have a huge batch of games to play on it when I do.  The quirk with Games With Gold is that you have to check out with them individually, and often it still shows a price tag associated with the game… until you get to the final step of the checkout process.  Hopefully this post helps some folks out, because it is nice knowing that you can quickly snag your months worth of games without booting up the individual consoles.

Bunny Samurai Returns

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Half Undressed

I am back on the wagon as far as cutting out caffeine during the evening.  During my post PAX illness without really intending to, I quit drinking pop.  Any time I attempted to it hurt my already ungodly sore throat so I switched to mostly drinking water, juice or fake koolaid.  As a result my intake of Caffeine seriously plummeted, causing a few side effects.  Firstly my operating range… was greatly stunted, and by that I mean that I am able to stay awake until 10 pm max instead of my normal Midnight to 1 am sleep times.  Additionally I noticed that I actually slept better and fell asleep easier…  so after all of these years of thinking caffeine had little to no effect on me…  I am guessing I was completely wrong.  Monday night I was being lazy and ended up drinking Mountain Dew, instead of making something else to drink and when I finally tried to go to bed around 11 pm I found it significantly harder to actually get to sleep.  As a result last night I opted to drink mostly water, and once again returned to being able to fall asleep easily.  This however has some strange side effects…  like my body is still used to getting 4 to 6 hours of sleep a night, and for some reason when I go to bed at 9 pm I end up waking up again sometime around midnight.

So last night I ended up waking up around 11:30 pm and my body apparently thought I had slept a full night.  The television was blaring because it seems that I crashed hard and forgot to turn it off.  In my brain I am guessing that I equated the television to the alarm clock, and I started going through the routine of grabbing underwear and taking off my night clothes and heading for the bathroom to take a shower…. only to realize that it was not in fact 5:30 am part of the way through that process.  It is one of those moments when I was glad my wife was still completely conked out… because I am sure I looked like an idiot… half undressed, holding my underwear stumbling for the door.  The point at which I realized was when I went to turn off the alarm clock only for it to finally dawn on me that it was the television.  Now I am not saying I am giving up caffeine completely… because I just finished a tasty cup of coffee.  I am however trying really hard to not drink anything with caffeine once I get home from work, and I have absolutely cut energy drinks out of my life completely.  I am still very much going through  the phase where every time I pass a cooler in a store that is loaded with them…  I get that desire to purchase one.  The positive however is that for the most part I don’t “need” one, and other than yesterday after not sleeping terribly well the night before… I haven’t had any real moments during the day where I was fighting drowsiness.

New Machine Thing

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For the next few days I will likely be installing games on the new laptop, playing them once or twice and then moving on to installing another game.  This seems to be my tradition when it comes to getting a new machine, because ultimately I am wanting to see how much better everything seems to perform.  Last night the first game on the menu was Dragon Age Inquistion, which I finished installing Monday night.  It ran beautifully and using the Geforce Experience settings it picked reasonably high settings, or at least high enough to NOT have playdough hair.   After that I played some Fallout 4 and once again… it ran beautifully on reasonably high settings.  The thing I am noticing is that there seems not to be nearly the gap in performance between the gtx 960m and the gtx 960 as there has been in previous generations.  For the most part I am able to run things in the same sort of fashion I have come to expect on my desktop machine upstairs…  which honestly makes me even happier.  I was fully expecting the 960m to perform something akin to the 760/860 which had always been the case before… where a mobile card was roughly a full generation behind the desktop equivalent.  Maybe Nvidia realized that this felt shitty and was also deeply confusing to the customers?  The next game on tap will be to install the Witcher 3, which was another in the long list of games that my laptop simply would not play.  At some point I will settle down and actually begin to play some of these games… rather than just launch them to see how pretty they look.

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Towards the end of the night however I did manage to settle into a single game… that is at least until sleep claimed me.  Yesterday was the release of the 3.2 patch in Final Fantasy XIV and I have honestly been fairly scarce in the game since well before the launch of 3.1.  I always said at some point I would get drawn back in, and I guess last night in installing the client that started to happen.  I am not sure yet if I will stick around for a long period of time… or if this will simply be another one of my “content locust” passes where I gobble up all of the new stuff and move on to something else.  I do however want to see the new story content in 3.2 before someone online spoils any of the key plot points, which considering that is already happening to folks…  I need to move fast.  Last night I didn’t get much more accomplished than the first few steps of the continuation of the main story quest.  I did however see several other quests that I am guessing are the new Hildebrand and new dungeon starter, that I will at some point have to pick up.  The thing is… there hasn’t been a moment where I didn’t care about this game…  I just wanted to play other things instead.  I have a feeling that it will be up to the MSQ to determine if I really want to stick around after finishing the content.  It seems like they also made some significant changes to the game, that I will have to sort through and determine how they effect me.  One of my guildies last night told me to respec out of Strength because apparently Vitality is now literally the only stat that applies for tanking, so thankfully I had enough company marks to do that.  This makes me wonder just how deep the rabbit hole of changes actually goes.

PS4 Remote Play

Strange Days

ASUS-ROG-GL551JW-DS74Yesterday was an extremely strange day, because an event happened that was largely unexpected.  As I have talked about over the last several months, my laptop is definitely seeing its age.  At the time I got it, it was an amazing power house of gaming with dual GT 650m video cards…  that could pretty much run whatever I happened to throw at it.  The problem is the laptop is from 2012, and in that time a lot of stuff has changed and we have gone through three generations of video cards.  So long as games were largely based on the PS3/Xbox 360 architecture everything was peachy, but as games dropped support for that generation and started to focus on the PS4/Xbox One it began to struggle.  The first game I can remember that it flat out would not run in a way that I could stand to play it… was Dragon Age: Inquisition which is shockingly taxing on a video card… especially one of this age.  Then came Fallout 4… and a long string of games that I had to run at 720p with greatly stripped down resolution options to get them to run at all.  So since before Christmas I had been watching the local Craigslist to see if there were any options out on the market that could be snatched up on the cheap.  I have a mixed past when it comes to Craigslist, because I have been able to get some insane deals like a Playstation 4 in early 2014 for only $200.  I have also gotten insane run around that seemed to last for weeks over a couple of laptops that the other party simply flaked out on.

Still I was not in dire straights and part of me was wanting to wait to see what the next generation of Nvidia cards looked like before purchasing a brand new laptop…  which seemed to be the direction I was heading towards.  Then over the weekend I actually saw something good on Craigslist, which surprised me in the midst of all of the over priced machines… and laptops that predate my current one.  Someone was selling a Asus Republic of Gamers laptop with an Intel Core i7-4720HQ processor, 16 GB of Ram, a Nvidia Geforce GTX 960m video card, with 1TB data drive and a 128GB SSD.  At first I apparently texted the wrong phone number, as I missed a zero in a sequence of four zeroes in a row.  However after texting the right address the guy responded pretty quickly.  I asked the standard questions… like does it have any issues, why are you getting rid of it, etc… and then started making offers.  Miraculously I apparently started off the bargaining in the right place, because I was able to talk him down to $600 which is a significant deal for that laptop.  So last night I spent the ever so fun game of starting to install everything I “need” to be happy with a laptop, but I have to say anytime I upgrade like this there is a little bit of sadness too.  I develop a personal relationship with my computers… and I guess part of me feels a little bad about kicking one to the curb to spend time with a newer model.  I know that is a strange sequence of thought…  but I can’t help but feel a little sad that I am moving on.

Remote Play

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Screenshot taken with Fraps while Streaming from PS4

One of the great promises of the Playstation 4 was the ability to remotely play the system from a Vita, Android device, or the Playstation TV set top box.  For the most part this works… but with certain constraints.  The Vita appears to do an amazing job of remote play, given its limited real estate and the slightly wonky control scheme.  However the Playstation TV set top box has been nothing but a disappointment.  There are threads all over the place talking about how to somehow get it to perform well, but most of these involve having a hard Ethernet connection back to the same router that the Playstation 4 resides connected to.  The problem here is… the entire idea of having it is to be able to extend the reach of your PS4 to another television.  Basically for a long time I was looking for a way to play my PS4 somewhere other than sitting up in my office, where I have it for the purpose of recording gameplay footage.  Awhile back I read about an unofficial side project that extended Remote Play to the PC, but never actually got around to checking it out.  The software is currently in active alpha development, but from what I was reading online it seemed like it actually worked well.  The author charges $10 for access to the alpha client… which is the only thing that had kept me from playing with it already.  So last night I took the plunge hoping that I could sit there and play PS4 as my laptop downloaded and installed various bits of software.

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Screenshot taken with Fraps while Streaming from PS4

Firstly I have to say… this thing is phenomenal.  There are a few hoops that you have to jump through like registering your PC with your Playstation 4 as a remote play device.  Additionally in order to get the native DualShock 4 to work I had to track down LibUSB which honestly took longer than any other part.  Once installed my DualShock 4 installed on my system and was recognized by the Remote Play application.  Unlike the native Remote Play options… this thing connects insanely fast to your PS4 and even the wake on lan functionality seems to work great.  The real test however is if I could manage to play Destiny on my PC without being frustrated by the control input lag.  Sure enough I managed to complete several duties and even hopped into some crucible where I managed to rack of some decent kill streaks…  all running remote over my wireless network.  Every now and then there is a slight bit of artifacting… and occasionally there might be an input hiccup… but in the grand scheme of things it works insanely well.  There are some constraints…  you are limited to a maximum of 720p running at 60 fps.  For the most part I ran the default of 720p at 30 fps and the experience was not necessarily perfect but good enough for me not to care about any imperfections.

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Screenshot taken with Fraps while Streaming from PS4

Where the really awesome bit comes in is the fact that the software author currently is working on mouse and keyboard controls, and for a little bit I actually tried playing Destiny with mouse and keyboard.  There is some work that still needs to be done… and the mouse just doesn’t quite move fast enough yet to make game play truly viable…  however since this software is actively being developed on I have a feeling that at some point soon… or with some configuration tweaking I will be able to sit on the sofa and play Destiny without the Dualshock 4.  Part of me wants to throw money at this guy to get him to add more features… because seriously this thing is working amazing.  Folks have already chimed in with “But Bel, Aren’t they adding official support?”.  This is true, but I have a feeling that Sony isn’t going to add in all of the features that this software is already starting to support, like the ability to pretty much play with ANY usb controller and not just the Dualshock 4.  I have a feeling that without any doubt Sony is not going to support Keyboard and Mouse emulation either.  In any case… it is $10 well spent even if you just want to play around with it.  Over the course of the night I played Destiny, Rayman Legends, and Farcry 4 all without issues.  Also of note… ALL of this was while I was downloading a game from steam, a game from origin, and copying files across my network… and STILL the remote play session refused to lag.

Unexpected Change

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Strange Transition

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I entered this weekend very much favoring the Playstation 4 version of The Division, because quite simply “it just worked”.  Friday and Saturday both I had all manner of problems with the PC version of the game, but it seems like most of those issues were server side.  Sometime during the day on Saturday they either ramped up new servers, or did sometime to improve the processing… because when booted up the game Sunday morning, everything seemed to magically “just work”.  It is funny just how much network and loading lag can destroy your game experience, because a lot of the problems I had associated with the game client itself…  simply went away.  Before I thought the console interface felt more smooth, but in truth the PC one works just as well once you are no longer fighting with input processing delays.  Additionally I was shocked and amazed at just how well I managed to get this working on my elder laptop.  It isn’t perfect and it isn’t nearly as pretty as it looks on my upstairs desktop….  but it works, and enough for me to get in and run missions or explore the world while watching some television.  Last night I even managed to do more than that, as I took down several bosses that I apparently forgot to pick up from the Hudson river camp.  I had no problem whittling down significantly higher level mobs, and it feels like the longer I play this game… the more I get used to the third person tactical style.

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The other big takeaway I have is how much I am now seeming to not only enjoy the PC client… but lean towards it.  One of the big reasons for me is Teamspeak and to a lesser extent Discord.  Both of which are simple voice solutions that sound so much better than Playstation party chat.  Also it allows me to hang out with people who are not necessarily playing the same game I happen to be playing.  Since I am part of a very social gaming community, this was a huge problem I had when it came to Destiny, because the entire time I was playing that game I felt walled off from my friends.  Another problem I am finding starting to disappear was the whole lack of “space guns” issue I talked about.  This game seems to have a really wide variety of weapon options, that cover more than just the AR/AK realm of assault rifles.  I’ve picked up no less than four different flavors of shogtun, each of which felt completely different in the way it handled.  I also managed to find what seems to be my “Ideal” weapon which is the Enfield L86 LSW rifle that you can see me firing in the above image.  It has pretty great single round accuracy and also fires some really tight bursts that while they travel up… seem to do so in a more predictable manner.   I guess this isn’t super shocking because in World War II games back in the day I used to love firing the Enfield MK1.

Remaining Challenge

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Now the challenge that remains is where exactly to pre-order the game from.  Everyone seems to be offering pretty much the exact same stuff for digital copies of the game…  with Gamestop being the only retail difference offering the Hazmat Suit seemingly in addition to the National Guard outfit that comes with the gold version.  For years I was absolutely opposed to darkening the door of a Gamestop, however at Pax South I met someone that made me start to re-evaluate that line of thinking.  Any company smart enough to make @JetPackHattie a manager… and give her free reign to create awesome events for her store seems like a place that cannot be all bad.  I also went int the other day when I was tracking down a Hori Fight Commander 4 controller, and no one tried to up sell me on anything….  which was always the problem I had with going in the first place.  Problem being at this point… I am not sure if I can pre-order in enough time to guarantee that I get the special bonus stuff.  I also hate physical copies of games, but it seems like GameStop now has a download only option for UbiSoft games at least.  The problem being…  part of me kinda wants this game tracking through Steam even though I still have to launch a horrible horrible secondary UPlay client.  So I begin to ask myself…. will I ever actually wear the Hazmat suit?  The answer is probably not… whereas I can absolutely see myself wearing the National Guard uniform… or at least parts of it.

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In any case I will need to decide something since the game launches in roughly two weeks.  Of note…  just for the sake of anyone wondering how this game will look on their own aging hardware.  Every screenshot I posted this morning is pulled from my laptop which is essentially running 720p and the lowest possible graphical settings.  The game still looks really decent, or at least better than a lot of the previous generation of shooters.  As far as frames per second… at the high end I could hit 50 and at the low end I was hitting around 35… both of which I consider very playable especially given that I was playing the game on a three year old laptop.  Focusing in on targets that are a significant distance away is not the easiest thing in the world.  However with the Enfield I was able to headshot enemies that were on a rooftop from the safety of my hidey hole behind a planter box.  Sure I was targeting a blurry mess, but it was easy enough to determine where the “head” was in said blurry mess.  Essentially at least until the official PS4 Remote Play app releases…. the PC version seems to give me the most options given that I can play upstairs on my desktop, where my PS4 is sitting… or I can play downstairs on my laptop… and in both cases I can play with or without a controller.  The PC version also makes it significantly easier to take screenshots given that with the PS4 I have to constantly be swapping a thumb drive back and forth to copy the files off.  So yeah… over the course of the weekend I shifted allegiance and am now leaning heavily towards picking it up the PC.

 

Cat Hangers and Raptors

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Returning to Life

I am getting a really late start today, because I had to edit an extra long podcast this morning… then from that point on we have been doing adult type activities.  We walked to lunch at the local Pho place, and then went grocery shopping.  Finally I am now settling in to write my blog post.  Anyone who has kept up with my blog over the last month will realize that PAX South kicked my ass in so many different ways.  Firstly I was in significantly worse shape this year than I was last year.  In 2015 I had been walking every single day… and in 2016 I had pretty much fallen out of that habit.  So physically the exertion was real of walking 25 miles over the course of the days I was at the convention.  I think I simply wore myself down to the point where it likely made it easier for me to catch something at the convention, because starting that Sunday on the drive home I struggled with this crud quite literally until right now.  I am still in the process of fully getting back my voice, and I still go into random coughing fits.  That said I am feeling so damned much better than I did, and yesterday really helped that.  Also if you have read my blog for a very long time…  you will know that one of the pastimes that my wife and I like to partake is what I lovingly refer to as “junking”.  Generally speaking this is us going to a bunch of flea markets, thrift stores, and other “junk” shops in search of something.  For me personally my constant hunt is for cheap Legos… and for her… the mission varies greatly.  Recently she has been on the hunt for cheap board games for her class room.

The other thing that I really enjoy about the process is that I find some really strange shit while roaming around.  I tend to take photos of these and either blog about them… or simply post them to twitter throughout the day.  Yesterday was no exception, and you can see in the above image gallery some of the oddities I found.  The first image….  is apparently a Cat Hanger…. for when you want it to look like your cat is wearing your clothing.  The second was this insanely huge raptor mask…. that I thought I really needed, but had zero clue where I would actually put it.  I thought it would have been amazing to try and stuff and hang on the wall like a trophy.  Next up is the Freddy Krueger “Fright Squirter” which… is a disturbingly named product and I am just going to leave it at that.  I really like old school technology, and while roaming around I came across what I can only assume is a key punch of some sort? Either that or a really strange adding machine.  I also happened across this insane deal on Funko Pop Vinyl figures, and I managed to exercise real restraint in that I only managed to bring four of them home.  They were roughly $10 each before the special so I picked up Illidan, Tyrael, the Lone Wanderer, and the Borderlands Psycho.  There were so many that I wanted to pick up, and I probably would have if they had any of the Mass Effect series or some more of the Blizzard ones.  Basically it was this awesome day of running around and for once the weather cooperated, making it what seemed to be needed to greatly improve my spirits.

Teetering On the Fence

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I am guessing as the day went on yesterday, the folks at Ubisoft made some significant infrastructure changes because this morning I was able to play the Division PC without any of those hiccups I was experiencing yesterday.  Now unfortunately I am on the fence as to which platform I favor.  There is something nice about being able to play on the PC, especially since in theory my laptop is capable of running it….  albeit extremely ugly.  The big thing that concerns me about this game is that I think the Dark Zone will actually be somewhat fun to play around in, especially with a team.  On the PC how nice your system is will absolutely dictate how well you perform out there, and there is just something reassuring about knowing that you are on an even playing field with all of the other players you might encounter.  I had quite a bit of fun this morning, because I finally completed the cleaner mission unlocking the tech operative and restoring power to the section of the city.  I also spent a good bit of time wandering off the beaten path.  Last night on the AggroChat podcast I talked a bit about my lament for the lack of content density, and I guess in truth I just needed to wander around off of the main streets.  While roaming the back alleys I seemed to encounter quite a few more people than I did in other areas, which also seemed to be lucrative when it came to drops and other rewards.

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Essentially I need to see who all is interested in playing the game, and what their platform of preference is.  This is the sort of experience that is only really going to be fun if I can get a group of people to play with.  The other question is…. do I really have the time to devote to something else.  This game is only sixteen days away at this point, and I have so many other things that I want to be playing.  After the discussion last night about Warframe I really want to give that another chance, and there is so much left that I want to be doing over in Elder Scrolls Online.  Basically I question if I have enough time to devote to this new game, even thought I think it is going to be really fun.  One of the problems that Tam and I talked about last night on the podcast was the lack of “space guns” or that the game was essentially locked down to guns that actually exist today.  That said it does seem like there is a huge variety in weapons available, because I have at least a dozen different weapons right now that I have picked up as drops and they all perform vastly different.  In any case… I guess I need to be making up my mind soon so I can get my pre-order in and lock in those pre-release bonuses.  Mostly they are cosmetic in nature…. but you know me and my love of cosmetics.  Though I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised in just how many outfit drops I have found by roaming around.  The game looks to be a lot of the things that Destiny promised to be…  which in some way makes me sad…. because I still very much love Destiny.