The Farm

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The PC demo of Destiny 2 so far is following the same basic pattern that the PS4 weekend did, including a brief two hour window for players to explore the new Farm social space.  During the PS4 weekend I didn’t actually get the participate in this because it happened during a Saturday afternoon when I was out running errands with my wife.  As a result I was more than amped to be able to actually see what would ultimately be our new home as Guardians.  Are we even Guardians now without the light?  The space is gorgeous though I have to admit I am constantly feeling like someone is just about to line up a sniper shot on me.  The only times we have been able to be in the EDZ aka the European Dead Zone as player are during a handful of Crucible maps…  one of which has this insane corridor down the center of the map where everyone snipes you.  The farm as a whole though was a fairly dead experience given that there are no NPCs at all…  nor is there even the fabled Chicken.  That said I think the farm is going to work a lot better than the Tower did, as everything we need seems to be greatly compacted.  I liked this about the Temple of Iron, but the only problem there was we didn’t have access to the various faction vendors.  I am however super pumped that Tyra Karn is the Cryptarch we are keeping rather than Master Rahool or the charlatan Master Ives at the Reef that was constantly bugged.  This is the point where the AggroChat crew gives me crap for knowing the names of the Cryptarchs.

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I think more than anything I am curious to see how this space populates with stuff.  I’ve heard rumor that this is going to be a lot like Meredil was in World of Warcraft, that as you roam around the world you “save” people and bring them back to the farm.  If this is true then I guess it makes sense why there were no NPCs showing up… because there may simply not be a basepop for the zone.  What is available may load based on your progression in the game, with some sort of an instancing tech.  Either that or they may have just stripped everything out for the sake of the demo.  There are folks in my clan that reported that the social space worked their CPU and GPU harder than any other area we have seen, and I can only imagine that is due to all of the models being tracked.  I am not sure what the new social space limits are, but it definitely seemed like a sizable bit larger than tower.  During one of the heated football matches, there were probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 players actively on the farm.  This is small by MMO standards but pretty decent sized for something that is functionally a shooter lobby.  The other big takeaway is just how damned gorgeous everything is.  There are docks leading out on the lake… and I am hoping that we maybe get a few boats to explore.  The area surrounding the Farm in game supposedly has lots of signs and directions in German… so in theory that places this area in Germany?  Considering all we have really seen of Earth is the area surrounding the Baikonur Cosmodrome, it is going to be awesome seeing completely new vistas.

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After some time roaming around the farm, I gathered together with a few clanmates to run the strike since Tony aka DrGoob had not seen it.  The clan is slowly in the process of migrating from Band to Discord…  to some success.  The primary reason is that the PC chat built into Destiny 2 is absolutely horrible.  I mean on some level it is functional chat, but it sounds worse than any audio on a PC should.  In many ways it reminds me of the way that the original implementation of voice chat sounded in World of Warcraft.  Functionally it is tinny and quiet and compressed to living hell to make it take up as little bandwidth as humanly possible.  The other night Grace and I attempted to use it, and ultimately fell back on other voice comms because it was just too bad to stomach.  Apparently Tequila Mockingbird reached the same conclusion and finally latched onto Discord with both hands as providing a reasonable chat experience.  The voice chat on PSN was always horrible… but you sort of put up with it because it was a console.  It is a complete sin to use something this bad on the PC where there is Discord, Teamspeak, Mumble, Ventrilo, Skype and a plethora of other options waiting to be used.  The real interesting thing ahead is to see how the game shakes out… and where everyone ends up.  Thus far pretty much every PS4 player that has access to a machine that can run this game…  is heavily leaning towards the PC version.  The PC running on the lowest preset… looks better than the stock PS4 running the game.  Let that sink in for a moment.  In truth I would say the PC running at Medium…  looks better than what I have seen from the PS4 Pro captured footage.  My three year old gaming laptop runs the game well enough to give my PS4 a run for its money.  Now I plan on playing both platforms because I like the PS4 and I like having multiple copies of Destiny…  but It is almost 100% certain that I will be playing almost exclusively on the PC for awhile when it finally launches in October.

When A Beta Isn’t

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Last night I managed to run the Inverted Spire strike with a few friends…  Grace and Ammo.  For Grace it was her first time running the strike and while she was not as rabid…  was also a veteran of Destiny 1.  Ammo on the other hand…  the closest she had ever been to Destiny was drawing my Sunbreaker themed avatar.  If you know me very well… or are in that core group of people that I hang out regularly with…  you have had to listen to countless hours of me retelling things that happened in Destiny.  All of that apparently made her curious enough to try it out now that it was coming to the PC and available for download through the already very familiar Battle.net client.  Ammo while completely new to Destiny was by no means an FPS rookie because over the last year or so she has played a significant amount of Overwatch and is way the hell better than I am at it.  One of the things that I like about Destiny on the PC is how largely ubiquitous basic controls are if you have ever played a modern shooter.  Sure there are all manner of extraneous “super power” keys but the core gameplay of shoot shoot reload fall into the standard control scheme we are all used to.  The only real adjustment period of me was figuring out which key binds near WASD did which “power moves”.  Grace took to the game rather quickly and got to play big kid at several moments as she was able to get over and rez the rookie well before I could.  All in all it was a really fun experience and I am super glad that I wound up running the strike in this manner, since during the PS4 beta I largely just random queued for it.

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Last nights experience got me thinking that maybe just maybe releasing through the Battle.net client was more than just a way of having to skip the infrastructure development costs of going to a brand new platform.  Overwatch is a weird game because while it is at its core a competitive shooter… it is also one wrapped in so much story that it is impossible to not at least know some of it even if you are not actively playing the game.  This is a game that I saw be adopted at frightening rates by gamers who were well versed in the Blizzard ecosystem but never really considered themselves fans of the first person shooter genre.  As a result many have had their horizons broadened to realize that yes they could do this shooter thing and with practice get rather damned good at it.  Now we have this Destiny thing coming along and poking its head into their already familiar gaming environment…  so why not take a peek.  I’ve already seen a lot of posts on my twitter feed talking about how individuals are enjoying the Destiny experience but only ever downloaded it because it was available for free through the Battle.net client.  Cross pollination is really beautiful thing… and I have found myself in this same boat several times in the past.  I am not the biggest fan of League of Legends…  but I immediately tried Heroes of the Storm because I wanted to see the Blizzard take on it.  I am not really a huge fan of RTS games anymore…  but I occasionally play Starcraft II because it has amazing storytelling.  I think the Battle.net coup for Destiny… will be bringing a whole bunch of new eyes into the franchise.

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Here is where we get to the problem.  The “Beta” that we are getting to experience isn’t actually Destiny.  It is a bit of a hollow shell that should have been clearly labelled as a demo, because it lacks so many of the reasons why I spent so many hours playing the first game.  If you look at my time played on the tracker sites… something like 77% of my time was spent doing random stuff on Patrol missions.  I liked roaming around, doing events… unlocking secrets on the dreadnaught…  all the while enjoying the really amazing gunplay.  Where are the events like Archon’s Forge or Court of Oryx…  that I could literally spend hours running over and over.  Don’t get me wrong… the Inverted Spire strike is a hell of a lot of fun, and even the 4 player Crucible is starting to grow on me.  The problem being however is that we really are not putting the best foot forward for a bunch of players that may or may not have ever experienced the franchise.  The other problem is that we are not exactly doing a great job of giving players that bounced hard off of Destiny 1 a great reason to feel positive about coming back.  Sure the Homecoming mission has more story elements in it than the entire vanilla game…  but I am questioning if that is enough.  I am bought in for the long haul because I have loved Destiny as a concept and an experience since the moment I got into the original Alpha of the game on the PS4.  Taken King proved to me that the game was worth my devotion and I have been back and at least peripherally active ever since.  I am a member of their core demographic… but had they maybe given us something other than a demo…  it might be enough to gain new followers rather than just galvanize their existing player base.  I hope people can see through the cracks and see the game that is ultimately going to be there behind the walled gardens.  I feel like I can and since I am also rabidly gobbling up all of the news that is leaking out about the content that is waiting on the console players September 6th…  I am so sold that I am planning on playing once again on two different platforms.  I am just not sure that we sold Ammo on the experience other than giving her a fun night of running a space shooter dungeon.

 

Destiny 2 PC Beta Thoughts

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Last night was the beginning of the Destiny 2 PC beta for those of us who have already preordered the game.  I am one of those weirdos that loves Destiny so much that I plan on playing it on multiple platforms.  With Destiny year 2 and beyond I played it actively on both the PS4 and Xbox One… and going forward I am planning on doing the same and splitting time between PC and PS4.  One of the things you need to realize is that I have some strange habits when it comes to gaming.  I split my time between my gaming desktop upstairs and my gaming laptop in the living room.  I’ve found the secret to marital happiness as a gamer is to be able to be flexible in my gaming habits and there are nights when I just need to be more available than cloistered in my office with my ear cans on.  As a result I have two systems to worry about being able to play Destiny on.  The positive is however as someone who potentially might be interested in Destiny 2, you are going to get functionally two different sets of reviews for the game…  one on a system that is heftier than the recommended specifications and one that is closer to the minimums.

Gaming Desktop

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Machine Specifications

  • Intel Core i7 5820k 3.3ghz 6 Core Processor
  • Asus X99-A/USB 3.1 ATX Motherboard
  • 32 gb G.Skill Ripjaws V Series DDR4-2400 Memory
  • MSI Geforce GTX 980 4GB Twin Frozr Video Card
  • System SSD but Game Running on Mechanical Hard Drive

For starters I spent absolutely zero time fiddling with the sliders and I just went with the defaults that it handed to me.  The end result was a gorgeous 1080p 60 fps experience.  I don’t have fancy monitors or anything even vaguely close to outputting a 4k or even 1440p signal so I went with it.  With time I plan on ratcheting up the detail level to see what I can do, but I am hearing from folks with 1080s that they are having issues sustaining frame rate on Ultra so more or less I am pretty damned happy with the results.  In truth the hardest thing I had to figure out was some third party screenshot tool that would actually record the screen.  Bungie has done a bunch of stuff to disable overlays and I had to fall back on the Nvidia Experience tools to be able to capture anything.  I am presently running the game in Windowed Fullscreen which is my preferred method and it just works great.  The difference in quality between the PS4 and PC is noticeable even just running the game in 1080p.    All of the textures just look crisper and less muddled, but that said the console experience with Destiny 2 on even a stock PS4 like mine….  looks noticeably better than the original Destiny.  Last night I tried out everything but the strike, and saw zero frame drop at any point during my experiences.  I have been keeping an eye on the lower left corner of the screen where I have the Nvidia framerate tools running… and the only time I saw drop was upon going into a pre-rendered cutscene.  All of those are still at 30 fps, which I would assume is to be able to support all of the different configurations of the game.

Gaming Laptop

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Machine Specifications

  • Asus ROG GL551JW
  • Intel Core i7 4720HQ 2.6 ghz
  • 16 gb DDR3 Memory
  • Geforce GTX 960M 2GB GDDR5
  • Mechanical Hard Drive
  • 3rd Quarter 2014 Release Date

While the Desktop was a picture of simplicity… literally everything about the Laptop experience was a hassle.  I included the street date of the laptop just for reference and to show that I am attempting to get this running in functionally a three year old machine.  I knew that 1080p was largely out of the question so I started trying to dial in specs for a 720p setup.  Since my laptop has a 15 inch screen that seemed completely reasonable and generally the only reason why I run MMOs in 1080p is because of the UI element resolution.  The biggest issue that I kept running into is that for some reason it felt like my mouse was dying on me.  I would have these issues where I could not swing my viewpoint to the right of my model, and then other times I couldn’t scope in my weapon at all.  After trying a bunch of configuration options I noticed that it was ultimately happening at the same place each time in the mission, which made me start doubting it was just the mouse.  After a bunch of searching I found a thread on Bungie PC Support forum talking about this same issue.  What I ultimately had to do was go find the executable for Destiny 2 and choose properties off the right click menu…  then change the compatibility settings to disable Scaling on High DPI settings.  Note this is called something different depending on the version of windows you are running, but in all cases it will be some Option referencing DPI.

Once this change was made my mouse suddenly started working as it should.  One more round of tweaks saw me setting the display mode to Windowed Fullscreen and I was finally playing the game in pretty good shape.  While its not amazing… it is playable at a generally 30 fps…  however as you can see in the upper right hand corner of the above screenshot…  I am dipping down into the high 20s occasionally.  The biggest challenge is that Destiny requires a ton of VRAM.  When I was playing on the Medium preset I was consuming every last bit of VRAM available and borrowing from the system memory.  I really appreciate Bungie including a gauge under the video settings to show just how much you are consuming and how much is left available.  The high preset functionally takes a little bit over 2 gb, and I would assume each time you ratchet it up those requirements go up again.  The other thing you can take away from the fact I was running it on a laptop… is that effectively everything on a laptop performs like it is a generation older than the equivalent Desktop component.  So my 4th gen i7 in truth performs about like a 3rd gen i5…  and my gtx 960m…  effectively performs the same as a gtx 760 in a desktop card.  Between the two setups you should be able to extrapolate how this game should be able to run on whatever your current gaming PC setup seems to be.

Gameplay Discussion

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For a complete write up about my feelings of the Destiny 2 beta… I highly suggest you check out my PS4 impressions post from July.  I am not going to spend a lot of time this morning talking about general topics.  Instead I am going to focus in on the tweaks that were made between the two betas.  The first noticeable thing is that the recharge rate that I complain so much about on the PS4 seems to be greatly improved.  During the tower courtyard fight on PS4 it felt like I was lucky getting a single super charge and a single grenade charge while fighting the three waves of red legion cabal.  During the PC beta… I could easily get 3 super charges and 2 grenade charges during the same time.  Grenade still lags a bit from what I would have liked it to be… but part of that might simply be that I am used to running around with the Armamentarium and as a result always have two grenade charges available, so even when I use one… there is almost always one sitting there waiting in reserve.  Things just feel “better” as a result of the recharge rates being cranked up, and it feels more like the Destiny experience I am used to.  My guess is that they have increased the rate of recharge you get from killing things, because the effect was a bit less noticeable in the Crucible.  Previously in the PS4 beta everyone got their supers at exactly the same time… which was just a few minutes from the end of the match.  During the PC beta I managed to get off two supers and was getting close to a third by the time the match ended, so in theory had I been playing better I probably would have easily gotten three supers.

The other big takeaway is that everything just feels more polished.  This one isn’t easy to quantify, but everything about this build felt production ready.  The other big takeaway is that once I got used to the hotkeys… the PC experience is just flawless and before long I reached a point where it was just as instinctive for me to hit F to activate my super as it is to mash my two shoulder buttons.  So far I have only modified one hotkey, and that was to change ~ from toggling between weapons since I use that as my push to talk key.  Instead I use the alternate key which is mouse wheel to shift between weapons.  For those going into the game I thought it might be useful really quick to run down the basic hotkeys.

  • Movement – WASD + Mouselook
  • Primary Fire/Light Attack – Left Mouse
  • Scope/Heavy Attack – Right Mouse
  • Melee/Block – C
  • Grenade – Q
  • Reload – R
  • Jump – Space
  • Toggle Sprint – Shift
  • Toggle Crouch – Ctl
  • Class Ability – V
  • Super Move – F
  • Air Super Move – X
  • Interact With Objects – E
  • Kinetic Weapon – 1
  • Secondary Weapon – 2
  • Heavy Weapon – 3
  • Rotation Through Weapons – Mouse Wheel
  • Toggle Chat – T
  • Deploy Ghost – Tab
  • Return to Orbit – O
  • Character Loadout Screen – F1

It is a lot of hotkeys to remember, but in truth it largely matches the pattern I was used to with PC shooters already.  All in all I thought the PC Beta played amazingly well and it is going to be a really hard call as to which game gets the majority of my attention.  I think ultimately it is going to be determined by how many people that I know are chosing which platforms.  The only other thing that really concerns me are the general limitations of Battle.net already.  I feel like I am already bumping up against the maximum friend number there because of the various other Blizzard games that I play… and for the most part everyone in my Destiny clan is not already in that list.  So it is going to be a bit frustrating to try and find space to add everyone new in.  I am also really curious to find out how each of you felt that the PC Beta was when it goes “open beta” today.

 

 

 

Convenience Items

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Generally speaking I am pretty neutral towards “cash shops” in MMORPGs.  I’ve come to look at them as a sort of necessary evil in a world where the subscription model is largely broken.  When monthly subscription revenue stopped being able to support MMO titles… they were forced to branch out and look in other directions to figure out a way to pay for the development of new stuff.  There are times where this feels largely okay… and there are other times when it feels exploitative when more limited time cash shop only content is coming out then patch content.  All in all the model gets a lot of crap from the gaming community, but there are times when the benefit gained more than makes up for the generally icky feeling inside you get by having to deal with it.  In the case of a game like Guild Wars 2 where there is no “player plus plus” sort of system to entice you to go back on the monthly subscription plan to get additional access to shiny baubles…  it probably feels better than a lot of options.  There is a lot of stuff on the gem store…  most of it of no interest to me.  Generally speaking the Guild Wars 2 shop is full of a bunch of convenience items and cosmetic items.  The value of both is extremely personal, but this morning I thought I would talk about a handful of items that I have picked up over the years that have made my life in game more enjoyable.  Something of note… in all cases I caught the items when they were on sale and did not pay the full market value.

Copper-Fed Salvage-o-Matic

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This is hands down the single best purchase I have ever made in Guild Wars 2.  One of the biggest problems I have with the game is that it has a constant upkeep cost…  namely that you have to keep running to a vendor to buy more salvage kits and as I will talk about later…  harvesting tools.  Now there are times when I care about what I am getting from salvaging an item… in those times I either dip into my stock of Black Lion Salvage kits that I have accumulated… or my Mystic Salvage Kits that are extremely reasonable to make.  However most of the time if the item is green or lower I just want to grind it into bits to get it out of my inventory.  In those situations you are largely just going to use basic salvage kits that you can pick up off the vendor cheaply.  What the Copper-Fed Salvage-o-Matic does is save you that trip and simply charge you 3 copper per item salvaged.  This is ultimately a savings over the 3.52 copper per salvage from Basic Salvage Kits… but you would ultimately need to grind down something like 3 million items before saving enough money to have it “pay for itself”.  The convenience however makes it well worth the normally 800 gem price…  and when it goes on sale it is significantly cheaper.

Unbreakable Gathering Tools

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In a similar vein to the Salvage-o-Matic…  my next favorite purchase is something lumped in the general category of unbreakable tools.  I harvest everything in this game, because you never know when you might need all of those Strawberries.  As a result I used to have to constantly run to vendors and buy new tools… or in my case I used to carry around a stack of them taking up inventory space just in case one broke…  and I was standing beside a rich mithril node.  There are lots of different individual tools that have various effects on them…  and I managed to pick up my first set of unbreakable tools by slowly snagging them one by one as they went on sale.  As a result I have a mismatched set of a Clockwork pick, Molten Axe and Mad Scientists Foraging tool, but the functionality of never having to worry about running out of resources makes me extremely happy.  They also have a way less frilly set of tools simply titled Unbreakable Gathering Tools that gives you normal looking versions of each of the tools that simply never break.  This basic set normally goes for 2400 gems but over the weekend due to the Anniversary sales was going for 1680.

Mistlock Sanctuary Passkey

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One of the things that Guild Wars 2 added in is a number of cloistered areas that require some sort of access pass.  All told there is the Captain’s Airship Pass, Lava Lounge, Mistlock Sanctuary, Noble’s Folly, and Royal Terrace…  and with Path of Fire they are giving us another one called the Lily of the Elon.  Functionally they all serve the same role of giving you instant access to a condensed area that contains every possible NPC that you would need to interact with.  What makes Mistlock interesting is that it doesn’t exist in the normal world map…  so instead they give you a portal merchant that will take you to any capitol city in the world…  or return you to the zone you were just in.  I find this functionality to be amazingly useful especially when I need to just step AFK for a bit, and the ability to return me to almost exactly where I standing before is insanely useful.  Where this really comes in amazingly well is on alts that maybe don’t have access to the rest of the world yet.  There is one weird glitch however…  if you take an alt to Lion’s Arch before the story actually takes them there…  it will play the intro video as though you had just zoned in every single time you go there.  The weird bit of Mistlock Sanctuary… is that it is rarely actually for sale.  When it is you can pick it up for 1000 gems… but you have to watch the store like a hawk for when it is listed next.  There are limited time passes available on a regular basis…  but I personally only care about something like this if it is unlimited use.  This may or may not be why I have a bank full of short term convenience items that I will likely never actually use…. and wish I could put up on the market board.

Shared Inventory Slots

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I don’t really have a relevant image to this one… but one of the super handy things you can pick up in the game that is super cost prohibitive is shared inventory slots.  Sure your bank is shared by your entire account but starting with Heart of Thorns they started giving us the ability to add a special bag at the top of our inventory with items that are shared between all of my characters.  This becomes extremely handy when you say… put your Copper-Fed Salvage-O-Matic up there… or your Mistlock Sanctuary Pass.  Then every single character you log into can easily benefit from access to these items.  I wish the unbreakable gathering tools could work similarly… but unfortunately for those you either need to hot swap them between characters or own multiple sets.  When I say these are cost prohibitive…  you get one for purchasing heart of thorns and another for purchasing path of fire…  then from there they cost 700 gems per slot with price breaks if you buy 3 and 5 at a time.  You can in theory have 18 total per account…  but I imagine most players have significantly fewer given the cost.  Right now I largely use them as a way to give my Salvage-O-Matic, Mistlock pass, and my growing stack of Teleport to Friend items to all characters. In theory if I ever managed to pull one of the unlimited use bank or market passes…  they would go there as well.  Combined however all of these items have lowered the amount of day to day upkeep I have to deal with when playing Guild Wars 2… and as a result have greatly increased my overall happiness with my gaming experience.

 

 

 

Traditions End

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For the last several years there has been a tradition I have observed… and that is going upstairs and checking to see what is available on Xur for the week.  For the unindoctrinated… Xur is an Agent of the Nine… a group that we know next to nothing about in Destiny.  He also is somewhat of a garbage collector and brings trinkets for us to purchase each week either in the Tower or Reef social space.  Various activities in the game reward a currency called Strange Coins… and these are then exchanged for various items that always include an exotic weapon and a piece of exotic armor for each class.  The armor rolls are notoriously bad but it is still a reasonable way to get a jump start in light levels, and I absolutely abused this fact on my Xbox One account when I was leveling it.  One of my favorite sources of Xur info is from Patrick Casey, and at the head of this mornings video he made a comment about how he is just about to never have to see this squid faced guy again.  Not sure why… but it just sort of finally hit me…  our time with Destiny is almost over.  Within the next few days the PC Beta for Destiny 2 will begin… and then shortly after that the official launch of Destiny 2 on PS4 and Xbox One.  This really is the last weekend when Xur really matters at least for me in particular because starting on Monday I will be playing Destiny 2 on my PC systems… and starting the following Wednesday I will be playing it on my PS4.

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Destiny 1 as a whole has been an amazing experience, and I am looking forward to seeing Destiny Item Manager (the first screenshot) updating to start showing me all of my baubles that I begin collecting in Destiny 2.  A huge chunk of my experience has been my clan, and it is awesome to see the clan page updated to fly a brand new banner in preparation for what things are ultimately going to look like in Destiny 2.  I’ve worn the tag even when it didn’t really matter… like on my Xbox One account… and was proud to see it rise out of the ashes of Axioma.  Right now my future in the Destiny universe seems a little up in the air.  I am not entirely certain if I will be playing as a PS4 primary or PC primary…  and even then I have no clue what my clan situation is going to look like.  This is where my various gaming worlds begin to collide.  Destiny 2 existing on the PC is going to bring a lot of long time friends out of the woodwork that are interested in playing the game.  At that point I am not sure if it is better to flood TQMB…  or just start something on my own.  I am not even sure if you can have split clans based on platform… or if your Bungie account can only join one period.  I would like to remain in Tequila Mockingbird on what seems like the platform that they will be most active on…  aka the PlayStation 4.

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It seems really weird to be thinking that I might be standing in the Tower for the last time.  Sure Destiny 1 will remain in existence for a period of time… and I can always go back and experience things.  The problem is… will I actually want to?  Destiny 2 looks to be the first game with a ton more things to be doing… and it feels like something worth sacrificing an entire world for.  Sure I have gotten used to seeing The Traveler floating just off in the distance…  but I will get used to the new visuals of the European Dead Zone.  I will miss my vault full of weapons that I have accumulated through hours of grinding… and bending the arm of Squirrel and Jex into helping me do random stuff.  Destiny has been a magical time for me… and it feels like I have been away far too long.  I am ready to dust off my controller skills and venture forth into the new world when it opens on September 6th.  While I feel a little misty about the thought of abandoning the current one… I know bigger and better things are just on the horizon.  The challenge I always struggle with in gaming is that I have more friends than I can ever possibly play with at the same time… but I always try and juggle this as best I can.  I am certain that as we enter the new game I will figure out a way to balance playing with my awesome friends in Tequila Mockingbird… and all of the new people who will be giving the Destiny franchise a fresh chance.

After the Bomb

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Last night was one of those evenings when I just straight up crashed.  I wound up heading towards bed a bit before 9 pm and as far as I know I largely slept straight through without waking up.  I’ve felt like I had been coming down with something for a few days, but what I think instead is just that the allergens are going haywire.  The pollen index it seems has been stuck in the “Very High” state for the last few days which can absolutely account for why I have been generally sluggish and miserable.  All of this and the work load I am under has somewhat blunted what is generally a magical time for me…   convention season.  Right now both GamesCom and QuakeCon are happening and in a few weeks it will be Pax West.  This is in theory the time of the year when a bunch of announcements get made, but thusfar there has been nothing terribly groundbreaking.  At the moment I think the game I am most interested in of those announced this week is BioMutant by THQ Nordic.  While I generally don’t go in for the whole “Anthro” thing…  this game does however check all the forgotten and post apocalyptic world boxes.  I love games that are set in a time where technology is almost treated like magic and you have to scavenge the wastes to fortify yourself.  I wasn’t super sure about the game until I watched 11 minutes of gameplay footage that got released by IGN.

I really like that the game has a narrator, and that it chooses to have the characters speak in some sort of native animal language that we don’t understand.  Part of what made Bastion so damned infectious was the relationship between narrator and your actions… and I am hoping that BioMutant in many ways will feel similar.  Right now the game seems like Horizon Zero Dawn with TMNT style mutant animal people….  and in some what this reminds me a bit of Rage.  It is being described as a Post Apocalyptic Kung Fu Fable…  and I am generally okay with that notion.  The game play seemed really fluid switching back and forth between jumping swordwork and gunplay.  I have a lot of love for the concept of this because back in the day I was a HUGE fan of the After The Bomb setting in in the Palladium games Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pen and paper game.  It already has a page stubbed out on Steam so I am guessing it will be an early 2018 release and not something we are going to wait a super long time for.  The worst part about the game convention cycle is that you see a game well before it is set to release… and then by the time it actually launches the excitement has died down significantly.  I’ve long through the Bethesda system of announcing a game within six months of release is probably the ideal window.  Sure there are always rumors circulating before hand… but it is damned nice to see a trailer and see a firm release date at the end of it so that you know “this is how many months I have to wait”.  The truth is I find it harder and harder to muster the fever pitch levels of excitement that I once had for games… I think in part because we are deluged with so much information about it.  Every single rumor or half heard sentence gets dissected and churned into “exclusive” YouTube content….  that then gets copied by a half a dozen places because they are all desperate for eyeballs and clicks to try and pay the bills.  I think once you see the strings… or the great and powerful oz behind the curtain… the whole experience is a little less interesting.

 

 

 

Enjoy the Path

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The first image of the evening is what happens when you catch the daily completion bonus train.  I am still floored by the sheer number of people actively participating in events.  One of the cool happenings of the night though is that I organically crossed paths with @vbarreirojr who was one event behind me in the progression.  I sort of love the concept that happens in this game of the commander…  because you can see the telltale icons on the corners of your map and generally speaking are a reasonable indicator of where some manner of activity is going on.  I’m also starting to learn to get a bit better at watching chat.  Often times as new events are starting up someone will link a waypoint to allow folks to jump to it relatively quickly.  Through a combination of follow the catmander and waypoint jumping I managed to knock out the daily completion bonus in what felt like record time.  I think part of it as well is I am starting to develop a little ancestral memory, as to which are the best areas to harvest resources and which are the easiest vistas to view to get completion and such.  It’s funny how I almost look forward to the daily completion bonus because it ends to give me some focus…  and from there while participating in it I come up with some other game play for the evening.

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Early in the day I was talking to a friend who is contemplating trying to restart the game, and was questioning what sequence of things she needed to purchase.  Firstly I think Guild Wars 2 is either something that feels good or doesn’t… and lord knows it took me five years of trying it to finally figure out the secret to being able to enjoy it myself.  You can scan back through the history of this blog and you are going to find a bunch of posts that are pretty negative about this game.  I wrote one in particular where I called it one of my five biggest MMO disappointments just so you have an easy reference.  You are going to ultimately have to decide if the game works for you or not, because it absolutely did not for me for a very long time.  However the truth that I finally landed on is that you have to forget everything you know about how an MMO works to ultimately make Guild Wars 2 work.  What I mean by that is for the most part MMOs are very task oriented and involve you completing a sequence of objectives in order to move on to the next sequence of objectives.  The quest is the most common version of this and that least to more quests and ultimately provides a ladder for you to traverse a given zone with.  When you attempt to play Guild Wars 2 in this fashion…  your brain rebels against you.  There is no quest structure and the concept of hearts are what I tried to latch onto as the replacement.  The end result felt like this grindy busywork as I attempted to complete my way across a zone so that I could then move to the next area, making sure to 100% everything in my path.  In doing so I kept getting frustrated each time something took me off path or off whatever my current task was, and as a result I bounced exceedingly hard off of the game.

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Instead I personally find Guild Wars 2 works better if you view it like an ocean that you happen to be floating in.  If you allow yourself to move along with the current you get to experience all sorts of interesting things that happen along the path.  Instead of staying focused on some large overarching goal…  I find it works best to focus on whatever is presented in front of you.  If there is an event spawning near you, go over there and participate because it often times leads its way to other events in the same zone.  Instead of trying to traverse things in an A B C D E F manner…  I find it just feels better to let the zone explore itself almost.  Sure you end up often times going from A to F to G to C to E and eventually back to B and D…  but it is done so in a more organic manner.  The only negative to this approach is that I find it completely impossible to stay on task.  Ultimately I started playing Guild Wars 2 like I play Skyrim or Fallout…  just letting myself wander off into the horizon and check out the next shiny object in my field of view.  If there is a commander on the far side of the zone…  then I should probably head that way to see what all is going on.  Sometimes this has lead me to zone events that I didn’t even realize existed.  To some extent at times it feels like the game is playing you… but I think in this case it is probably perfectly okay.  This game is full of these extremely intricate micro objectives and feedback loops to keep you caught in their gravity and constantly doing stuff.  The fact that everything scales…  means that you are never going to be doing stuff that isn’t potentially valuable or lucrative.    Basically my advice to learning how to enjoy Guild Wars 2 is to stop focusing on the goal… and start enjoying the path.

 

Saltines and Weaponcraft

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eclipsedaystuff

Yesterday was a weird one, namely because everyone seemed to have eclipse fever for lack of a better term.  As a group we had largely made a plan to go over to the roof of the parking garage next door, and by the time the festivities actually started there were between fifty and a hundred people that had the same idea.  The positive is that everyone was more than willing to share their assorted ways of viewing the eclipse.  In Oklahoma we only actually had about 90% occlusion, which made the world feel like a storm front was just about to blow in.  The sky darkened, the temperature dropped a very small bit… but for the most part you could have easily not noticed anything going on unless you happened to look up.  I took the first image with the selfie cam on my old phone and that was just about the peak of occlusion…  and as you can see the day star still seemed pretty formidable.  The second shot is the idea of using a saltine cracker to project the shadow, and the third shot is this awesome box that the same coworkers husband had rigged.  The last shot is the eclipse through the filter of a pair of those shades…  but unfortunately it was hell to get the focus to latch onto it at all.  There were so many sets of shades that people were passing them around pretty freely, and I got to take more than a few peeks at the spectacle.  The only problem is…  my eyes felt really funny afterwards.  Like in part they felt like they were strained… or like I had been driving into the sun’s glare for too long.  It took about 2 hours for the effect to fully wear off, so I was concerned for a bit that maybe we ended up with some cheap knock off shades and I had done some actual damage.  My eyes are super sensitive to light in the best of conditions…  so forcing myself to be out and looking up…  probably just caused them to strain a bit.

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When I made it home for the evening I was still feeling a little off though.  So my evening activities ended up leaning towards the chill side of things.  Other than doing my daily completion bonus I largely focused on crafting and pushing up my weaponsmithing.  I had this weird sequence of events happen where I saw my character hit 402…  then somehow was back at 392.  Guild Wars 2 has this problem where the UI sometimes freaks the hell out, and in order to fix it I sometimes have to log out and back in.  In doing this I went from the 402 I was supposedly sitting at before I logged back to the 392, which is a bit frustrating.  However since for some reason I didn’t have the pattern to Orichalcum Ingots…  I am leaning to the side of this just being a presentation bug since the UI was acting up anyways.  I still had the materials though to push my way through to the 400s and now everything I craft seems to take a ton of time and materials.  I need to do a heck of a lot more farming of the level 80 zones because I only had the materials for I believe 64 ingots of Orichalcum.  I was in even worse shape in the Ancient Wood department, so I know I will be spending a lot of time in the end game zones doing content.  I am largely going down this path because I want to be able to craft my own ascended gear, and be able to craft my own exotics for  the purpose of trying to gamble and get that precursor.  I realize I should just focus on making a lot of money and buying the damned thing…  but I have a long ways to go until I will be able to do that.

Merry Eclipsemas

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Friday I was apparently smoking something and I decided to attempt to participate in one of those internet meme quiz things.  I was planning on doing it my own way where I just made a giant blog post about it.  However thankfully I did not get enough likes to actually trigger me to release the post.  Side note… I did actually write it and it is sitting in my saved drafts bin but I am somewhat relieved that I didn’t hit the threshold needed in my mind to make that post.  In other news today is in fact the Eclipse and while I am not anywhere near the totality…  it should still be interesting.  There is a big of a gathering happening on the roof of the parking garage next to work in order to celebrate it, but my meeting schedule will ultimately determine if I can attend.  The only negative is that I don’t have any way to view it safely.  I remember watching one as a kid, that had to be the one that happened in 1979 and my grandfather who was a welder by trade had me wear his welding hood.  I have no clue how best to really watch this one… I mean I guess in theory I could do the pinhole camera thing.  The awesome big is that this time we have the internet and live streams… and in theory can get a much better view sitting at the computer than we can outside.  It is extremely unique though to have the feeling that it was daytime minutes before and now you are standing in darkness.  There have been many warnings about not pointing your camera directly at the eclipse, but I was going to attempt this using my old phone’s front facing camera as a sort of way to know when it is safe to look at not safe to look.  Dealing with the eclipse always sort of reminds me of Perseus and Medusa, and trying to use a shiny surface to get a glimpse without turning to stone…  or in this case completely wrecking my eyes.

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I spent most of my weekend playing Guild Wars 2 and attempted to make further progress in the Living Story Season 2 content.  Before I get into that however I want to make another side note about just how damned active people are in this game.  It is really hard to get the scale from a single screenshot given how much people in general move around avoiding mechanics… but I was needing to do an event in Frostgorge sound for one of the steps in the quest chain.  While waiting for it to kick off I noticed a significant number of people gathering… and by the time we actually started there were a good fifty plus players participating.  Over the weekend I discovered Dulfy’s boss timer thanks to my friend Solaria…. and I spent a good deal of time bouncing around and doing world boss fights.  The weird thing about the Frostgorge Sound event though is that this isn’t on the timer…  it is just something that happens occasionally and apparently there are enough players out there wanting to complete it that we end up with the numbers that we had each time it runs.  When I first got to the zone I caught the tail end of the event and did not participate enough to be able to get credit.  However during that running there were still a significant number of players participating in the content.  It just floors me that there are enough players in the game that you can pretty much show up at any single event timer…  and know without a doubt that it is going to happen.  Now maybe during the wee hours of the morning this might not be the case but over the course of the weekend I kept hitting various encounters and each time we had more than enough to make sure it was a success.

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Another big happening of the weekend is that I managed to get my Ranger to level 80.  I managed to get him pretty close through the use of a bunch of Tome’s of Knowledge but I still needed to pour on the last five levels the old fashioned way.  Right now I think I am pretty happy with the combo of Greatsword and Longbow for this character, and have tweaked my spec to emphasize both of these weapon selections.  I cobbled together a set of gear once I dinged and am now out doing a secondary mission with the character… and that is popping between zones and taming animals.  For the most part I seem to have the best luck with my traditional Arctodus and River Drake combo…  but the longer I play the Drake seems to keep pulling ahead in most departments.  They just seem to be universally good… reasonable dps and excellent survival.  All of that said it does nothing to stop my desire to tame all of the things and have a completely filled out pet window.  I’m extremely torn as to which character I should be spending most of my time on… and this is one of those moments when I wish the map progress was shared.  On my warrior I managed to 100% a few new areas and am continuing down that path that I will ultimately need for the Legendary weapon madness.  As far as gambling for weapons…  I’ve decide more or less to stop that nonsense until I can actually craft the weapons myself.  On that front though I am now in Mithril territory as far as leveling goes and considering how much of that I have in my vault it should go pretty quickly.  I am however going to have to focus any of the zones that mine Orichalcum because I am severely lacking in my reserves of that metal.

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The other big take away from the weekend is that I am pretty sure the designers of this game intended you to be grouping up for the Living World content.  I say this because I just finished the second part of Chapter 4 and towards the end of that mission I had died so many times my character was completely naked.  The thing is… it hasn’t just been that one encounter because the last few major fights have taken a significant amount of time and put me up against some extremely hitpoint spongey bosses.  I am not going to go into specifics for the sake of spoilers…  though I guess the above image is in its own way a little spoilery.  I should in theory be grouping with friends to complete this content, but on some level I am getting a sense of pride in being able to do it all solo.  Sure sometimes it hurts, and I always have to repair afterwards but it is also forcing me to actually deal with the mechanics which I am hoping will make adjusting to the later fractals all that much easier.  I also in truth really need to spend some time optimizing my gear on the Warrior because right now other than the few ascended items I have… it is a little all over the place.  I am hoping to push up my weaponsmithing and armorsmithing in part to help fill out some of these gaps as I am already sitting on quite a few patterns that would be useful.  Long story short… still having an awful lot of fun in Guild Wars 2 and still finding tons of casual activities to accomplish.

 

Five Doctors

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rifftrax-doctor-poster-e6ff5abb7ba43188e4d31a7234bf8e8d-1One of the things that I do occasionally with some coworkers is go to the live broadcast of Rifftrax.  The concept there is a little odd given that the actual “live” show is in Nashville but is simulcast to theaters around the country…  two of which are in the Tulsa area.  Generally speaking we all meet for dinner first and then attend whatever they happen to be Riffing at that time.  Traditionally this is some movie down on the deep B and or Cult status list.  I think the last one I saw before last night was Samurai Cop back in March, and hands down the best one ever was them taking on The Room.  The weird thing about last night is that I was not terribly sure how I would feel about them Riffing on one of my Fandoms.  I’ve been a Doctor Who fan since my father indoctrinated me during the very long rein of Tom Baker.  Whatever concerns I might have had vanished quickly because their send up of the Five Doctors was amazing.  Pretty much everything we ever thought while watching some of the campy 80s shows…  took verbal form.  If you have a chance to see it I highly suggest it.  They are doing the traditional rebroadcast on August 24th so you might check to see if it is available at a theater near you.  I highly suggest the “live” Rifftrax experience in general.

Past this I don’t have a whole hell of a lot to talk about.  The problem with a Rifftrax night is that I don’t get home early enough to really do much in the way of gaming.  It was not long before I was downstairs conked out completely.  The following story is related for humor… and for evidence of how generally dead to the world I was.  I turned in pretty early and at some point during the night I apparently got up to use the restroom.  I don’t remember this at all, instead it was just like I suddenly woke up and was on the toilet….  and had apparently been there long enough to have my legs completely fall asleep.  So in my sleepy state I had to figure out how to finish my business…  and then pull my pants up and somehow stabilize myself as blood goes rushing back into my legs.  There was a point where I legitimately considered crawling on the floor to bed.  Even weirder was when I managed to hobble my way to the bed and sit down…  I couldn’t quite reason how to lift my then “full on pins and needles with a vengeance” legs up into the bed so I could lay down again.  This is of course way more than you bargained for when you decided to click through to my blog this morning.  While I do suggest Rifftrax… I would not suggest this whole walking on legs that you can’t actually feel thing.  It is an overrated experience.