Life in Tornado Alley

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Closer Call
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Last night was an interesting night to say the least.  In the morning folks were talking about the potential for serious storms, but in Oklahoma we tend to take that with a grain of salt.  From the months of March through June pretty much every week there is some severe thunderstorm either hitting or looming on the horizon.  Living in “Tornado Alley” gives you a strange relationship with the weather.  It is something you fear at least a little, but also something that you get used to.  There are close calls and then there are close calls so when you hear a storm is a few miles away, you get to the point of being able to look at a map… knowing the general topography and deciding that will never make it to me and going on about your business.  Last night was not really one of those nights, because the storm in question was a bit of a sidewinder.  At first it looked like it would miss the suburb of Tulsa that I live in, so I was milling around upstairs not thinking much about it.  Then I got an urgent series of messages from my wife saying that they were watching it out of the window of the church and that it was coming straight for town.  I of course did the most Oklahoman of all things that I could do… I went out on the front porch and tried to see the storm.  In the above picture I circled the area of the cloud that was starting to lower, and moments after taking this photo I watched it slowly rope its way downwards towards the ground.  It was at this point that I started to take things deadly serious.  The below video that I found linked to a local news site shows the same area as I pointed out in the picture, but as it was actually lowering.

The problem is… if a Tornado hits our house we are probably dead.  The conventional wisdom is that you need to get to an interior room, as close to the center of your house, with no windows and doors.  The way our house is laid out this room doesn’t really exist.  We do however have a very tiny laundry room crammed between the garage and the hallway outside of the bedroom.  From the garage side there is a steel core door, and from the other side a wooden one.  So I proceeded to hang out on the floor of our laundry room crammed between the washer and the dryer with a thick blanket to pull over my head if things went really bad.  I tried to gather the cats, and as any cat owner will know… the best way to get your cats into an area is the shut the door.  So I shut myself in the laundry room and within a few moments the cats were scratching at the door so I let them in and shut it again.  I had the bedroom television blaring so I could somewhat tell where the storm was, and this is when it shifted course drastically again.  This time instead of coming straight for us like it seemed, when it hit the reservoir it shifted go to more straight east than north east and ended up passing just to the south east of us.  Since I mentioned it last night, we are fine just was a much closer call than I was used to.  Had the Tornado continued on its course it would have hit us, but instead it went off and hit a neighborhood about a mile and a half from us.  I spent the rest of the evening watching the weather as the storm picked up strength and hit other communities.  Unfortunately this is going to be the norm for the next several months as we make our way through another “Tornado Season”.  Huge apologies for missing the raid last night, but when shit like that is going on… I kinda need to prep to duck and cover.

Obsessions

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I originally had a post for this morning talking about “chasing unicorns”, but I feel like I want it to have its own full post, and with the happenings of last night I felt the need to talk about that instead.  So instead I am going to talk about another one of my Craigslist dealings.  I am cheap… and if you have read this blog for very long you will know that I really hate having to pay retail price for something.  I’ve gotten countless laptops, desktops, and gaming systems from Craigslist, but using the local site is an absolute craps shoot.  Some days there are amazing things out there, and then there are weeks or months of absolutely nothing.  When I get something stuck in my head that I would like to have… I tend to start searching Craigslist for it.  Recently one of those obsessions has been a Wii U and I had it in my head that I wanted to try and get one for under 200 bucks.  The bane of my existence however is that apparently on the Tulsa site no one EVER removes anything once they have sold it.  So you always have to start every discussion with the same message “Hey do you still have X thing you posted on Craigslist?”.  Last week I thought I had found my Wii U.  It was not in the Tulsa metro but was within easy driving distance… was $180, came with a pro controller, and I believe a single game.  The problem is by the time I contacted the guy he already had someone coming to look it at 4pm that day.  After not returning a text asking if they did in fact buy it… and the person still not having removed the ad from Craigslist… I was back at the drawing board.

The only problem is at this point the obsession set in completely.  I don’t have a clue why I decided I needed a Wii U, but apparently it was one of the more important things in my life for a period of days.  There was a point where I had text conversations going with four different sellers, trying to talk them down to the price range I was willing to pay.  All of them had positives and negatives… and none of them were willing to go all the way down to $200 for this reason or that.  The biggest problem in Tulsa is that everyone thinks their stuff is worth more than it actually is.  Then my wife suggested that I contact this one newer seller that had a bundle of stuff they were trying to sell for $300.  I had completely ignored it because it seemed so far out of my target price.  Amazingly enough after a few back and forths I got them to a $250 price tag for a very new looking system and four games:  Mario Kart, Hyrule Warriors, Splatoon, and Bayonetta 2.  All of the games being ones that I would have eventually picked up for myself…  except Bayonetta.  I figured if nothing else that game could potentially be traded off for something else, or it might surprise me.  Once I got the unit it actually ended up being a better deal because also installed on the system was Super Mario U/Luigi U and Megaman Battle Network 4: Blue Moon.  So a total of six games and a unit with no scratches that I could see for $250.  While the price was not as low as I was hoping I think the end value of the deal was worth it.  At some point I am going to pick up the title that ultimately made me want a Wii U in the first place…  Mario Maker, but I want to spend some time playing the games I just got before going down that road.  Now I need to keep my eyes peeled as we are junking for some of the Wii titles I never actually played.

 

Iron Banana

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Iron Banner

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The strange thing about this week is that we just finished one Kings Fall raid on Monday night, only to start a brand new one fresh last night.  It gave a certain Deja Vu feeling to the whole doing Oryx fight, especially given that it was so damned hard fought on Monday night.  However I will talk about that a little later.  First I want to talk about what seems to be me going completely off my rocker.  If we had talked months ago I would have told you I was a Diehard Carebear, and that if pressed I could probably shoot rainbows out of my belly in a pretty mean Carebear Stare.  Over the last few months however something has happened and I have come to realize that I actually do enjoy doing PVP in limited situations.  Those limited situations appear to largely be “Destiny” and “The Crucible”.  I am not exactly sure what makes this game different… it could be that there are relevant items that I can be earning that help me in PVE content, or it could be that it simply feels like there is no negative to doing it.  Whatever the case doing the Crucible is one of those activities that I mix in when I want to do something… but don’t want to do bounties or be bothered with grouping up for a strike.  The other interesting thing is… that I don’t really mind that I am ultimately bad at the content.

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Now I have heard stories of much toxicity from the Xbox Live community, and folks leaving crucible matches only to have nastygrams waiting for them from other players complaining about their performance and questioning their parentage.  So far the PSN community has been pretty chill about such things, and nobody actually uses the voice chat for public groups either.  The end result is that I can just zone out and play some Crucible without fear of retribution, and this zero pressure setting has made me actually enjoy it quite a bit.  So much so that while I know this is far from the first Iron Banner… it is the first one that I actually care about and will be trying to rank up to level five during.  Largely I am looking at it as a way of maybe getting some infusion fodder, and maybe just maybe a decent legendary hand cannon or machine gun out of the process.  As of last night I am closing in on Rank 2, and have managed to complete several of the pieces of the bounties that I never expected to….  like getting highest score among all the players in a match.  I’ve been warned that I should hold onto my brown weekly bounties until later in the week to turn in, because I guess they become worth more points as the weekend goes on.  I am however trying to complete the three dailies each night, and in theory when I get home from work tonight I should be able to knock those out and put in a bit more work towards the weeklies.

Melting Ogres

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Like I mentioned at the top of the post, it was a little strange stepping back foot inside Kings Fall given that we just finished Oryx the previous night.  Before the start of a new raid I end up with quite a bit of anxiety that is not fully alleviated until we get past both the ships and the piston wall jumping puzzles.  I am just bad at both of them, and end up falling so damned often that I feel like a moron.  I had a significant better run last Tuesday, and was back to my fumbling prime last night.  That said in both cases I was not the last person through either puzzle, so I guess I don’t feel too awfully bad about my performance.  For months I have listened to folks in the Destiny community complain about the RNG in the Kings Fall raid and how it never seems to actually give them any upgrades.  I feel like I have crested the new and shiny portion of the raid and am entering the valley of slow and prodding forward movement.  Which is to be expected given that at least armor wise I have every available drop… but still have a bunch of weapons I have yet to see.  The odd thing there is that I have gotten two of the pulse rifles, and two of the auto rifles…  but the rest of the primary weapon types I have not seen yet.  Given that last night was only my fourth trip to the raid… I feel like I have plenty of time.

Of the drops that I did manage to get… the only piece of armor that I might use is the chest piece and even then only because it has intellect on it.  The fist and auto rifle will absolutely be used as infusion fodder to push something else up.  The Suros Regime will replace the 280 one that I picked up off Xur some time ago, and the 310 Thunderlord will replace my previous 290 dropped version.  One of the things that I am coming to realize quickly is that apparently my first two times into the raid were flukes.  Granted all of the encounters still for the most part melt before us… but those first two Oryx kills seemed effortless.  They just worked flawlessly without much issue and while they still took a couple of attempts…  they only took a couple of attempts.  Monday and last night both seemed like a battle of wills as we kept plugging away at the fight, only to be waylay’d by this quirky bit or that.  I am not sure if I would truly elevate the problems we were having to the glitch tier, but definitely things felt like a battle and not like a loot pinata.  We managed to get Oryx on what we had deemed was the “last try” because several of us needed to go to bed, and even then we failed at doing the challenge mode variant…  finally deciding to go ahead and finish up “as is” just to get the kill in.  Supposedly I can walk in and do challenge mode at some point during the week and still get the bonus chest.  In any case… content lag or not… I am loving this game more than pretty much anything else right now and looking forward to the big April patch.

Glitchy Oryx

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Rookie Revenge

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Last night was one of those nights that went in a completely different direction than I was expecting.  If you remember last Tuesday we had a combination of one of the smoothest runs for me personally in Kings Fall with the jumping bullshit.  That then quickly became one of the glitchiest runs once we hit Oryx, and though we put up the valiant fight we simply ran out of time for attempts.  We had agreed to meet up last night, given that it was the night before reset… and give taking down Oryx another go.  We had a checkpoint already saved sitting at that encounter, so in theory it should not have taken terribly long.  That was at least my line of thought going into the night.  However we ran into a myriad of issues, but in part that is why this “Rookie Raid” exists is to get folks through the fights and teach them the things they need to succeed.  I absolutely resemble that remark given that this week was just my third time into the Kings Fall raid at all.  There is still so much about the raid and the various encounters that I simply don’t know… but I am trying to assimilate information as fast as I can.

One of the things that threw off the rhythm of the raid early on was that Wet had to rush to the hospital with his mom.  Jex filled in admirably, and instead of snuggling with Wet in the middle I got to snuggle with his Titan while doing bubble duty.  For leadership we had an alternating mix of Jex and Squirrel depending on the situation, and they both did a great job stepping up to the plate and helping folks through the Oryx fight.  That said there is something almost talismanic about Wets presence, and when that is gone it is noticeable.  It is almost like we need his snarky commentary as a good luck charm to get us through the encounters.  We tried our best to fill in with talk of “MacGuffins” and “Tummy Wumzles” but it just didn’t quite feel the same.  So Wet if you are out there reading this you were definitely missed.

The Haul

On the positive side though it took us an hour and a half worth of constant attempts we managed to get down Oryx.  This was made even sweeter when we all realized that this was Warman’s first Oryx kill after apparently having gone to various Kings Fall raids for the last year on an almost weekly basis.  That right there is why the Rookie Raid exists, to get folks access to this sort of content and I am super thankful to be part of it.  I had wanted to raid myself for ages but never really had the opportunity, and then Squirrel, Wet, Jex and the rest of the Axioma Clan stepped in and bam… I am now doing awesome stuff in Destiny.  I am also falling off things quite a bit because I can’t jump for shit.  My biggest need right now is simply raw light levels, which I am working on a little bit at a time through exotic farming.  Unfortunately I seem to mostly get the same slots… that don’t really need leveling up, however I figure during this weekends Iron Banner I should get a few more exotics.

As has been my habit of late, now the haul for the night.  I was sitting at 25 moldering shards so apparently the “bonus loot” business is in full effect now.  The portion that I did not realize however is that it seems like the moldering shards are consumed upon getting said bonus loot?  I ended up getting three drops from Oryx plus additional shards, but it takes my total shards to 7 so it means that I guess I got two off the boss.  Anyways the awesome thing about last night is that I have a full “set” of armor from the raid and can now look like a Hive Knight.  I also picked up a second Smite of Merain which will just serve as either a spare copy for an alt… or infusion fodder to try and get my Mida Multitool up in level.  What I am looking forward to this weekend however is the return of Iron Banner which supposedly also has a decent chance of dropping me some upgrades.  It seems like the clan as a whole is planning on running stuff with it, and hopefully even though I suck at PVP in general I can get in on some action.  It would really be awesome to be able to hit rank 5 so I can start getting the good drops.

Scattered Gaming

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This weekend was an odd one.  After a string of relatively nice weekends, we ended up getting one that was either cold and windy… or cold and rainy, both of which drove my instinct to stay inside and hibernate.  The only problem is… with all this play time I largely squandered it and spent more time staring without purpose at games… than actually playing them.  It feels like I am starting to go through another one of my “funks” because nothing seemed to fit “just right” as far as games go.  I flitted between lots of different titles, playing them for a bit before shifting to something else…  often times ending right back up in the game I started in.  For a good chunk of the weekend I had the desire to play Destiny…  but wanted to instead be hanging out downstairs which only left me the unofficial remote play app as a solution.  Then there were games that I felt like I needed to make progress in like Division where I am still not at the level cap.  Friday was largely devoted to Undertale, and I think after forcing myself to play that game… it maybe soured the rest of my weekend.  So this morning I thought I would run down some of the progress I made in various games.

Undertale

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I wrote about this at length but after hanging up my controller as it were… I opted to instead watch several of the different endings.  I still feel fine in my decision to just abandon this game in an undefeated state.  I guess I don’t have a primal urge to finish games, and more often than not I get to the ending and just don’t finish.  I reach this point where I have gotten out of the game what I wanted, and I don’t see the point in expending that effort to push it across the finish line.  In the case of Undertale the thing that was driving me forward was to understand the story, and now between the podcast and the various youtube ending videos… I feel like I do.  Once that carrot was gone, the game play itself doesn’t make me want to ever touch this game again.  On the podcast folks talked about ways to lower the impact of the mechanics, like the Temmie armor…  but that isn’t even really an interesting option to me.

Destiny

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I really did not do much in Destiny other than a little bit of Crucible.  I am constantly amazed at how much I actually enjoy player versus player content in this game, when traditionally that is just not my thing.  I think a lot of it is that in this game it feels like there is zero negative impact on the rest of the game.  It is just another option I have to play, and gives me the same sort of PVE rewards that I expect to receive elsewhere.  Other than specialty modes like Trials of Osiris it feels like I am rewarded equally for just doing whatever I happen to want to do at the time.  I started down the path of the crucible simply as a way to get more Legendary marks, and then recently when I was grinding out sword kills I came to realize…  I was actually legitimately enjoying myself.  What is great about the crucible is that I get the central game play loop that I enjoy of shooting awesome weapons and charging around… without zero downtime.  It seems like it is easier to get Three of Coins to proc on Crucible than it is while doing strikes… or it might simply be that Crucible itself is just about the perfect amount of time per coin use.  While I have not actually gotten any of the really cool PVP drops…  I do get a fair amount of strange coins, motes and random pieces of armor that end up getting deconstructed.  Tonight I will hopefully be finishing up the rest of the Kings Fall raid that we had to abandon on Oryx last Tuesday, and beforehand it is my goal to hang out upstairs and run some more Crucible.

The Division

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This weekend I managed to push Division a little harder than the rest of the games and caught up with my friend Tamrielo at least.  At the start of the weekend I was sitting at roughly level 20, and as of this morning I am just about a third into 22.  While I absolutely could play this and only give it partial attention at lower levels, as I have gotten into the twenties this is not really the case.  As a result this weekend I managed to die probably more than I actually managed to accomplish anything.  There are two missions that I know I attempted at least a half dozen times before finally giving it my full attention and pushing through.  My standard operating procedure while hanging out with my wife downstairs is that I essentially have one eye on the game and one eye on whatever we happen to be watching…  not literally but you know what I mean.  The problem with this is that in doing so I am not exactly paying attention to the best possible tactical spot that I could be in while shooting incoming mobs.  The addition of snipers really changed how the game works, and now that I have guys that rush me with shotguns as well..  I am having to be way more careful about how I take on content.  That said I feel like I made some decent progress, but most of it was in short bursts of me playing for thirty minutes to an hour… and then logging out and doing something else.  Thankfully much like Destiny… short batches of play time feel just as rewarding to me as multiple hour long sessions.

World of Warcraft

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The other major happening of the weekend was me poking around on my Forsaken Hunter in World of Warcraft.  Recently Blizzard added an achievement that you could unlock by leveling a character in WoW to 20, aka the free mode level cap.  For doing this you end up getting Lady Liadrin as an alternate Paladin hero in Hearthstone.  Not that I really play Hearthstone… and even more so… not that I really like playing Paladins in Hearthstone…  I have this drive to get the achievement and unlock the extra shiny bits.  The negative of this achievement is that it only counts if you have recently leveled to twenty after the launch of the achievement, that means my army of level 100s are doing me zero good for this goal.  As a result I opted to level something on The Scryers Horde side since that is where the bulk of my lower leveled characters are these days.  I largely played during the podcast on Saturday night, and as a result managed to get to I believe 18 before giving it up for the night.  The goal is to spend some time this week pushing it over the line, so that I at least can feel like I got this out of the way.  I honestly think this whole promotion is a brilliant idea to try and cross pollinate some of the players actively playing Hearthstone and get them to try World of Warcraft.  I know Hearthstone is a major nostalgia bomb for me… but I wonder if it is the same for a player who has ONLY played Hearthstone, now being able to see where those cards they love are actually from.

 

 

100th Episode Mishap

Things Happened

This morning I am blogging a bit out of sequence, because things happened.  Normally speaking on Sunday mornings I go through a little ritual.  Traditionally I manage to get what I think of as my first pass edit done on Saturday night, so that Aggrochat mostly resembles its final form by the time I go to bed.  I get up in the morning and mash it all together and do the final pass, before posting it all over the place.  Last night however… when I listened to the show my heart fell in my chest as I noticed that it was significantly screwed up.  All it took was for me to see the waveform to realize that something just wasn’t right, and I thought it was pretty much going to be an entire loss.  This morning however I screwed with the audio until I reached a point where… it is still very much screwed up but it is salvageable.  Essentially for whatever reason on the new Teamspeak setup my recording is completely jacked an sounds like trying to watch Cinemax in the 80s when you didn’t have it added to your subscription.  Admit it guys… we all tried to sneak a peak at stuff we shouldn’t be seeing through the constant mechanical hum.  The original pass this morning sounded pretty much exactly like that with me being shifted to a higher pitch than normal…  dubbing it Chipmunk Bel.

After a few hours of trying various things I managed to isolate a lot of the hum, and now instead it just sounds like I am in the witness protection program and disguising my voice with a really horrible modulator.  I think the show might be salvageable, and I am getting a push by our fans on witter to go ahead and post what exists.  The thing that shocks me is just how little I have freaked out over this.  The worse case scenario was that we lost a show… and in the the grand scheme of things it is pretty much a miracle that this… show 100 is the first time we have really had major issue.  Sure there have been times we have gotten disconnected in the middle of recording and that I have had to knit together a show out of two pieces.  However overall we have had really good luck, so much so that we never even thought about having more than one person try and do a recording at the same time.  In the future however I think we are going to have a bot hanging out doing nothing but recording the channel with the hopes that it catches everything in one nice constant volume stream.

Stuff Went Wrong

Additionally on the positive side everyone OTHER than me last night sounded amazing.  So the new set up seems to be great…. once I can sort out what the hell went wrong with my side of things.  That is what is so screwy is that while talking everyone else said I sounded great too, however when it came to actually recording my own voice it went horribly wrong.  If nothing else doing the bot recording thing should take care of that problem, but I still think there is some setting somewhere that is wrong… given that teamspeak saves audio settings on a server by server basis and even at times a channel by channel basis.  The plan is to do a bunch of testing between today and next weekend and will hopefully sort out which magical setting unscrews my voice.  In the meantime however I am pretty damned proud of how much I managed to minimize the effect.  Granted things are still screwed up… but they are in a much less screwed up state than they were this morning.  One of these days I really need to take some lessons in audio engineering because it would help if I had a damned clue what I was doing.

Done with Undertale

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Making My Own Finish

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Last night I finished Undertale… and what I mean by that is that I reached a point where I am just finished caring about the game.  I have so many conflicted feelings about this title.  On one hand I really do enjoy the story that is being told, and I made my best attempt to go pacifist.  The problem I have however is that there is a whole lot about the “game” that I simply hate.  For me it feels like I am very much playing two vastly different games.  One of which is this awesome console RPG where I wander around and talk to interesting people and do the occasional puzzle.  Then there is a completely different game that is the often times bullet hell shooter that is the combat system.  The combat system is the game that I hate, and the loner I had to play it the more I loathed its existence.  The strange part about it is that I love JRPGs and I love Bullet Hell shooters… they are awesome separate genres but there is something about the hybridization of this game that offends my sensibilities.

When I play a bullet hell shooter, it feels like there is nothing on the line.  Sure I might lose a ship or I might have to start back at the beginning of the game, but there is nothing that I deeply care about on the game.  When it comes to an RPG… adding that bullet hell aspect feels too punishing for me.  If I fucked and forgot to save, a single screw-up might cost me hours of retracing my steps to try and reach the point where I have to try that fight all over again.  In a bullet hell title you often get some avenue for rapid trial and error as you figure things out on the fly.  I am very much a learn by doing person, and no amount of prep work ahead of time is going to get me through a fight until I reach my own internal click moment where I grok the mechanics at a purely muscle memory level.

Un-fun Experience

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If I somehow could have turned off the combat system and wound up with a game where I just walk around and talk to interesting people I would unabashedly sing this games praises.  Tonight we are recording the AggroChat Game Club show where we talk about Undertale and right now I feel like I am probably going to be the lone voice that did not really enjoy this game.  From the moment I first encountered the combat system I felt like I was “taking my medicine” and forcing myself through an experience that I simply was not enjoying.  So in many ways it felt like doing homework, and I found myself trying to rush through as fast as I could so I had something to talk about.  I don’t want to give too many spoilers in my blog post, and will likely save those for the podcast.  However I managed to get to the bullet hell-iest of all bullet hell glitch endings, which apparently means that I did not make enough friends along the way?  I did a bunch of research and watched several of the other ending options on YouTube and I have to say…  the ending I was heading for feels like a massive slap in the face.

I realize it is a central conceit in a lot of Japanese games that you get a shitty ending the first time… and that is supposed to drive you to play the game again to get a better ending.  I’ve always kinda thought this practice was bullshit, and instead of lighting a fire under me to get the better ending… I just tend to chuck that game in the dustbin as a thoroughly disappointing experience.  The primary problem with me and this game is that I don’t enjoy the central game mechanics… which are avoid stuff on screen as a a replacement for standard menu driven RPG combat.  I can absolutely play a game indefinitely that has a shitty story, but has mechanics that I really enjoy.  This is why I mesh so well with skinner box and grindy games… because I am enjoying that core loop enough to keep playing for the promise of something cool in the future.  That said I have never been able to struggle through a sub par mechanical experience just because I know there is a good story there somewhere.  When I reach a point when I think I would much rather watch a YouTube video of someone else playing…  then it is time for me to hang up my controller and cut my losses.

 

How to Survive 2 Impressions

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Sandbox/Mission Hybrid

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Roughly a month ago a friend of mine hooked me up with a copy of How to Survive 2, because she knew I was a fan of the whole zombie apocalypse genre and it was a game she was enjoying.  I had all of these plans to write up a proper impressions piece, but got sidetracked by all things The Division.  This game was a whole lot of the reason why I survived the lead up to the launch of that title, because it gave me something fresh to piddle around with.  The basics of the game are that you are a survivor in a world long after everything went to shit thanks to the zombie outbreak.  Since I did not play the first title, I feel like there is probably some background story there that I am missing.  What I do know however is that this title is set in the coastal region of Louisiana.  There are no real recognizable landmarks however, but instead the world simply borrows a swampy feeling Tileset.  The game has both single player and multiplayer game modes, but I have largely spent my time playing single player.

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Within moments of starting a new game you are introduced to the character of Kovac, a man that at first you only know as a voice coming through some sort of a speaker system.  He serves as your guide as he attempts to teach you the basics of surviving in this world.  The game itself is divided into two basic chunks, the large open world area that allows you to freely roam and explore, and very tight and controlled missions with specific objectives.  The missions themselves are repeatable and you can crank up the difficulty to give you better rewards and experience.  One thing of note, and why I am doing an impressions piece is that the game is in early access, and there are a lot of things that are simply not in the game yet.  Much of the tutorial that walks the players through how the world works is simply missing, so I had to rely on my friend and what I could google to figure out a few things.

Level Your Camp

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One of the big things that I was missing was how one actually levels up.  The game has two parallel systems that are designed to level up together, that is your “camp” that you are building in the open world and your character itself.  Both of these have levels associated with them that are purchased through the spending of experience gained through doing activities.  The fastest way to gain this experience for me at least, seemed to be to repeat one of the early missions with the difficulty slider cranked up as far as I was allowed to.  The reason the whole camp leveling thing was a bit confusing at first, was that the character level is locked to the camp level.  So in order to level up your character you have to first level the camp, and you will continue to stair step the two progressions from that point on.  In addition to raw level however there are numerous perks that you can unlock… some of which are absolutely must haves like the ability to open lock picks.  Others are improve the efficiency of using weapons or items, and I assume are also really important once you get a good idea for how you want to build out your character.

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The thing I have noticed is that the difficulty of encounters ramps up pretty quickly, especially in the open world.  For quite a while all I encountered were the generic slow zombies, however once I got to around level three or four the game started to throw in those “track star” zombies that have become popular in the more modern and edgy zombie films.  Around level five I encountered this games version of the boomer… the fat bloated corpse that explodes when you get it low on health.  I am sure as the levels continue to ramp up I will keep encountering other mixes of bad guys each one with their own way of dealing with it.  The only real problem is that in the bit I have been playing my only ranged option so far is a crafted bow.  I am wondering when exactly I will encounter guns, because while I have found a small bit of ammunition.. I have yet to find anything to use it with.

Fallout-Esc

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There is a certain nostalgic feeling to playing this game that I have a hard time really putting into words.  In many ways the game reminds me of the original Fallout games, in that much of your interaction is happening in smaller closed maps that are tightly designed around a single mission.  There is a big of fog of war going on as well as you explore because you can only actually see a small section of the screen at a time.  This is magnified as you go into buildings because there is a forced zoom that happens allowing you to see finer detail inside.  This also makes it much easier for a zombie to sneak up on you and there have been a few moments especially on the night missions where I genuinely jumped when something lumbered out of a corner that I had not been looking yet.  Wandering a cityscape with only your flashlight to see with…  is unexpectedly tense given that this is a top down isometric game.  I definitely had moments of trying really hard to bait everything out of buildings before actually going in to explore them for the fear of getting overrun especially on higher difficulties.

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The game is very much not finished, but what is there was really enjoyable to play and helped to get me through those Division withdrawals.  I would really like to play this game with friends because I think it would be extremely awesome to explore larger cities together.  The game is targeting PC, PS4, and Xbox One, and I could absolutely see this being an enjoyable console co-op experience because the movement feels like it would translate well to a twin-stick controller setup.  The big thing to remember about this game is that it comes with the same early access concerns as always.  The game is not finished, but they seem to be updating pretty regularly.  They have a beta branch that has more frequent updates, but also likely is in a less polished state… and then the normal branch is largely stable.  I had quite a bit of fun playing the game, and I intend to pick it back up again.  It is the perfect thing to pop into do a mission, and then exit feeling like you accomplished something or at least moved the experience bar forward.  While going through all of my recent home renovations there were many occasions where I simply did not have the time to get into something terribly detailed.  Instead I booted up How To Survive 2, and poked around for a bit and got my quick gaming fix before returning to the fray.  I liked it and look forward to seeing how this evolves.  At some point I feel like I really need to poke my head into the original game since this one doesn’t really provide much backstory.

Death and Taxes

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A Very Bad Day

Tuesday night I slept fairly horribly, and spent most of it tossing and turning and unable to regulate my body temperature between too hot and too cold.  So yesterday I went into the day on a low point, with being extremely groggy and fumbling through activities.  Unfortunately this also seems to be the sort of day when something horribly goes wrong.  About 10 am yesterday morning we had a freak incident occur where a publish went wrong in the content management we use at work, that caused the entire xml cache to jettison itself and our main public facing website started throwing a “no nodes” error instead of serving content.  I proceeded to spend the next five hours trying to fix the problem by republishing every single piece of content on the site…  which is roughly 20,000 nodes worth.  We got the bulk restored really quickly, and then spent the next three hours fighting with a handful of tricky node trees, that seemed to be super picky about the order in which things were published.  By the time I exited work… all I really wanted was a drink…  or four.

When I got home however we decided to get the monkey off our backs of our taxes.  We itemize, and we also have them prepared…  not that I think we can’t do our own taxes but I will happily throw money at someone for the piece of mind that come an audit we can point the finger at someone else’s legal team to sort it out for us.  There is a level of stress that taxes invoke in me that is far higher than just about anything…  so doing them on the day I was already having a shitty day was maybe not a great idea.  Then again it wasn’t like the day could get much worse.  The problem being that as we were flailing about the house trying to gather the last two or three bits of information before going…  my wife and I were fussing with each other in a way that never really happens when money isn’t on the line.  All of the stress and anxiety, is generally for naught as we get our taxes done… and generally get back a decent refund.  The bigger stress last night was that I felt bad for missing the WoW raid… but thankfully it sounded like they had enough people to pull together without me.  I hear they even managed to down Iskar which is a brand new boss for our group.

Today however seems like it is starting off much the same way as yesterday.  I got to bed at a decent hour and it felt like I was getting good sleep… that is until about 2 am when I woke up thinking the alarm had gone off.  For whatever reason it seems like we fell asleep with the television on, and that noise made me think the alarm was going off.  In the middle of my trying to get ready, I noticed the smell of smoke.  Like enough to make me start freaking out about if the house was on fire.  So I started roaming the house to see if the smell that permeated got worse anywhere to indicate where it was coming from.  I woke my wife when I decided to leave the house and go wandering outside to see if it was something from a nearby house.  The smell was far worse outside, but once again it seemed to be diffuse without any real direction that it was coming from.  I finally hopped in the car and drove the neighborhood, and when the smell was the same up the hill from us…  I finally reached a point of solace that it was very much “not our house” and was able to attempt going back to sleep.  This morning on the news we found out that apparently there is a massive grass fire burning north of us, but still about a thirty minute drive… so that has to be one hell of a fire to generate that thick of smoke as far away as we were.

Hilt Punch

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Ultimately I ended up getting settled in after taxes and getting some food in me, roughly an hour after the start of the raid.  I could have of course logged into World of Warcraft, and gotten pulled into the raid as a late comer.  After the day I had however I was not exactly fit to be around other human beings, so instead I opted to chill out upstairs with the PS4 and some Destiny.  One of the missions that has been eluding me for awhile has been the continuation of the quest that upgrades my legendary quality sword to exotic.  There is a step early on where you need to get 50 “yellow bar” kills with the sword in PVE and 25 kills of players in the crucible.  While I occasionally poke my head into the Crucible… I am not exactly a regular PVP player.  That said last night I felt as combative as I was ever going to be… and my clan had suggested doing it on a week when Mayhem Clash was one of the highlighted modes.  Supposedly “heavy ammo drops like candy” or so someone said and in truth… sure it is more common than other modes but not exactly easy either.  There were so many times I picked up heavy ammo and instantly got gibbed by another player coming up right behind me before I could even get my sword out.  So instead more often than not I simply punched players with the empty hilt of my sword, which counts as a sword kill nonetheless.  Ironically in a lot of cases… the hilt without any ammo… still one shot players.

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Spending an hour or two doing Clash had a few awesome side effects.  Firstly I gained a fat stack of glimmer, more than enough to purchase the ship above from Petra in the Reef since I had recently reached rank 3 there.  It also meant that after bashing my face against it for a bit… I managed to get all 25 of my kills…  strangely enough the last six were gained in a single match, and single ammo pickup.  I just got lucky and managed to time my jumps just right as to slash folks as they came at me in the air.  This allowed me to knock out the next step pretty quickly, which was a special boss on the Dreadnaught.  I remember when I read up on the quest folks talking about how challenging that encounter was and that how they really needed to use sword block effectively.  In truth I would start out each foray by blocking an attack and then landing a succession of quick hits… but then would jump away and wait for my shields to recharge before repeating.  Doing that it took roughly three engagements before I had that boss down.  Now I am on a step that seems considerably more time consuming than any yet… where I need to collect special materials from the moon that supposedly occasionally drop from helium filament canisters and chests.  At the same time I need to use my solar abilities, which is pretty easy given that I am rocking the Armamentarium for double the grenades and some item that allows me to pretty much do nonstop solar punches.  Supposedly this means I need to kill 500 mobs with solar abilities and farm at minimum 100 helium fragment containers to get the drops.  My goal is to finish that part so that the next Armsday I can pick up the final piece which is the Sunless Cell strike… and convince Squirrel and Jex to help me get through that.  It feels good to get the crucible step out of the way… but I also know that next up is working on First Curse.  That said I actually really enjoyed playing the Crucible and managed to get a couple of legendary engrams out of the process and a handful of exotics including a 310 Twilight Garrison.

Sometimes We Fail

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The Rookie Raid

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For a little bit now, one of the highlights of my week has been the Rookie Raid night with my clan in Destiny.  I think mostly after playing the game for roughly two years… I was really wanting to raid, and getting to step foot in Kings Fall each week has been a blast.  There are still a lot of things that I absolutely screw up, but I feel like I am getting better.  I have always been one of those people that learns by doing, and it simply takes several repetitions before something actually gets cemented in my head.  The highlight of the night was the fact that I actually made it through the ship jumping puzzle on the very first time… and it only took me two tries to get over to the wall and get into the chest nook just after the ships.  This is serious progress because some of those jumps on past attempts took me dozens of tries to actually get.  Similarly I seemed to make it through the piston wall without a ton of issues this week which also felt good.  I ended up jumping to the final platform…  and then got confused thinking I went the wrong direction.  So I guess even I shocked myself that I had made it through with I think two deaths this week, instead of the literally dozens in previous outings.

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I’ve had to develop the practice of sitting down with my character once I have reached the final platform of a jumping sequence.  I wouldn’t go so far as the say that I am afraid of heights, because in real life I can look out over balconies or off the roofs of buildings without much issue.  I can climb up on things without much issue either…  well apart from the fact that I have zero dexterity.  However for whatever reason in video games… I get disoriented and almost dizzy when dealing with jumping sequences.  There are certain games that have triggered this feeling more than others, like Mirrors Edge.  However there are other games that are just as parkoury for lack of a better word… like Dying Light that don’t seem to bother me at all.  It has to be something about the perspective or some technical detail that does it… but whatever the case…  Destiny absolutely triggers these feelings.  So as stupid as it sounds, I feel like every time I don’t fuck up a jump… it is a pretty major victory for me.  It takes so much mental stamina to get me through one of the jump sequences that when I finish… I am constantly afraid that I will do something stupid that leads to me plummeting back down below and having to do it all over again.  So my little practice of sitting makes it seem like it is far less likely for me to somehow get bumped and fall.

Oryx Cheats

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One of the cool things about this week is that I got to learn a few slightly different roles during the fights.  Namely I moved from platform duty to Ogre duty, which is way more my style.  When our group does Oryx we do it “challenge” style which involves making sure the Ogres do not move before they die, allowing all of the blight orbs to spawn in essentially the same place.  This allows us to pop them all at the same time, and deal almost all of the damage to Oryx in a single turn.  That is at least when things work out.  As one of the Titans assigned to this duty, we run complimentary bubbles making sure Weapons and Blessing are both up and dropped in the same place.  This allows us to take advantage of our Touch of Malice and keep from killing ourselves in the process.  The goal is to dip back into the shield between ogres to replenish the shields and give us more life to spend while pummeling the adds.  This works great… until we have to go into the fight without a super bar.  We somehow managed to make it through that round but it was getting super dicey as far as the whole “not killing ourselves” part.  It was during the Oryx fight however last night… that shit just got weird.

I had heard before of the bugs in the Kings Fall raid… but luckily in the previous two weeks we had never really encountered any.  This week however they struck back with a vengeance, starting with several of us mysteriously dying to “misadventures”.  Other times the platform sequence got messed up, or our runner was unable to grab the orb for some reason… having the platform disappear beneath them before the transfer actually happened.  The scariest was when we saw an ogre appear in the default T state that models are generally modeled in… and then disappear quickly… coming up through the ground with the normal animation.  Essentially there was something seriously wrong with the server, and even though we tried several different tricks to right the ship… we ultimately had to call it to time.  The goal right now is to pop back in Monday night and see if we can wreck Oryx given that we have a check point right at the boss.  Sometimes we fail… but even in failing I had a really good time.  The loot on the other hand is starting to get more scarce, and I got some relatively low light level versions of things…  but I did manage to pick up another much needed slot in the arms.  I’ve posted a gallery of the various things, including the 310 Armamentarium chest that was waiting on me at the mailbox.  I am not really sure where along the way that dropped but  but it is much appreciated because I love having the extra grenades.  However as long as I am running Defender, I kinda feel like the Saint-14 helm is a must have.

 

Space Goats and Paid Content

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WoW Chronicles

WoWChroniclesLast Friday I managed to find a copy of the regularly back ordered…  World of Warcraft: Chronicles Volume 1.  One of the huge problems World of Warcraft has had to date is that a lot of the lore just feels somewhat tacked on.  I feel like much of the story was written during some late night unbridled “wouldn’t it be cool if” sessions, and there was a lot of hand waving going on from about Burning Crusade onward.  What the chronicles project is trying to do is to set in stone a true canon about the world, and how all of the interlinking pieces actually fit together.  I wholeheartedly support this notion… I just wish someone had the foresight to do it a decade ago, or at least when they decided to start really mixing things up with the first expansion.  I am sure there has been a penciled together napkin sketch of what the world was intended to look like, that at least partially exists in the minds still of the people working at Blizzard.  The problem is when something is not written down and set into print… it becomes too easy to erase a line here and graft on a new segment of lore there that really conflicts with something that came before.

What I am wondering is how much narrative cleanup are they committed to do to make this canon really a living document? While this project doesn’t exactly burn down what was in place before… it does invalidate a lot of things that happened and in other cases it simply explains things that already exist.  For example… the book indicates that the Spirit Healers that we have used for years are essentially a rogue faction of Val’kyr.  The book goes into depth about the relationship between the void lords, the titans, the old gods, and classifies things that lacked classification like the wild gods which now include the pantheon of August Celestials.  What I really hope to see is some of these lore fixes making their way into the game in either the form of new quests, or old quest revisions.  I will say that having some sort of concrete font of lore that they can keep going back to, makes me at least somewhat excited for the future of the game.  Lore has always been one of the big problems I had with World of Warcraft, and how confused and messy…. and downright incomplete it always seemed.  Hopefully we will start to see the fruits of this project with the coming expansion Legion… which even before this seemed like it was going to be a complete loregasm.

Paid Promotional Content

I am going to take the tail end of this mornings post to complain about something that has been bothering me.  Granted I know it will do absolutely zero good since it is quite obvious the forces in question are not even reading my blog.  For years I have gotten messages from various companies wanting to place paid content on my blog.  There is a practice that is frighteningly common that gets called by a bunch of names… but essentially marketers want to pay established blogs to place pre-written and pre-approved articles which serve as a sort of advertising for a product.  Essentially the practice makes me feel dirty inside that they are even targeting my blog… but most end up getting caught in the spam filter.  Here lately several have made it through on my About page, and I have taken to responding to them directly.  I realize I should just brush these off as the byproduct of having blogged for as long as I have, but it really sticks in my craw.

I get super excited about products, and games… and the other things that interest me in the world.  I’m a geek and a lot of geekdom is geeking out about something.  That said I want to make sure it is understood that when I get excited about something… it is because I am legitimately excited and that there is not some nefarious force behind the curtain pulling my strings.  Sure I would love to make money on my blog, or at least love to reach a point where it is self sustaining… the problem is every option to monetize means I am giving up some of my control.  For example if I were to install advertisements… I wouldn’t be able to curate WHICH advertisements I allowed onto the site, I would have to accept anything the ad network wanted to place there.  So the notion of “supporting” products that I don’t necessarily believe in, really bothers me.  As a result I have shunned pretty much all advertising, and while I freely accept alphas and betas to games… I only end up writing about the ones that really interest me.  I have friends in the gaming industry, and it is awesome…  but no one is paying me to like their product.

Basically what it all boils down to is that my opinion is not for sale.  None of the folks that have been approaching me will actually read these lines, but I still feel like it is important to say it loud and publicly.  Tales of the Aggronaut has been a work of love for going on seven years now, and while my opinions shift and change based on new data… they are still very much my opinions and not carefully scripted speaking points.  That said I will always be open to reviewing products if someone wants me to do so.  That said I will only write about the product when I feel like I have had enough time to see the entire picture, and when I have something interesting to say about it.  I also will never guarantee a positive review.  I am not really a ranty blogger, but I do talk about the points that disappoint me in games or products and that is likely to happen.  If someone finds this in a search later on…  hopefully they will actually read it before asking me to do something shifty like accepting payola for content.  I am extremely luck in that I have a day job that can support my blogging shenanigans, and that I don’t need to somehow turn this into a profit center.  I don’t begrudge those who are trying to monetize their content, but I can’t ever really condone shillery.