Catfish Dargon

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At least on some level I feel like I might be playing this game wrong.  I’ve put a little over eleven hours into the game at this point and I am just now hunter rank 4.  At this point I have managed to take down Great Jagras, Kulu-Ya-Ku, Pukei-Pukei, Barroth and Jyuratodus.  Now some of those I have taken down multiple times like I keep farming Barroth for bits and pieces to craft gear and I have taken down Kulu several times just because killing the angry chicken is fun.  Side note…  hunting Kulu in Wildspire Wastes is so much easier than Ancient Forest because it doesn’t keep running away up into the canopy of the trees.  My mission for last night was to farm some Barroth and attempt to get better gear… and another Monster Bone M which I did in both cases.  I don’t have a full set of gear yet, but I did manage to upgrade two pieces of Barroth gear and one piece of Jyuratodus.  It is around this point that I decided to start using the Samurai cosmetic armor because wearing Barroth armor makes you look like you are a walking rack of prime rib.  Jyuratodus so far has been the most annoying thing I have fought to date because it cannot decide if it as a Catfish or a Dragon…  so from now on it will simply be known as Catfish Dargon.  I never really got to a point where I was in danger….  I just found it terribly annoying to fight because being in the water and mud is dumb and I never want to do that.

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On my Palico front I now have Kenzie kitted out in a full set of Pukei-Pukei armor which seems to be working well.  I am completely in love with my Palico, and it sorta makes me sad that in the above screenshot she ever doubts that I will be bringing her along on the next hunt.  Side note… I have no clue if my Palico has a gender but in my head canon Kenzie the Cat is female so Kenzie the Palico is also female.  I feel like I am improving at the game largely because of the continued shortening of time it takes me to hunt certain things.  My first Barroth kill was a complete bear and I wound up firing an SoS flare because I had run completely out of mega potions.  On kill number two at the beginning of last night I still struggled a bit, but never really got close to either fainting or running out of resources.  On kill number three…  it finally felt like I knew what I was doing and simply executed a sequence of attacks I had rehearsed over time.  The other thing that I finally started getting the hang of last night was mounting the monsters and going into rodeo mode.  I think more than anything that has probably sped up my process because when I finally knock them down I can get in a bunch of really powerful attacks.  When I took down Kulu last night after my first ride the monster was already limping.  So far all of the monsters have been challenging, but I feel fairly comfortable in my longsword abilities and it is mostly me just executing on the same things I have learned to this point…  which I guess is maybe the point of the game?

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I love the cheesy grin and weird uppercut pose on my guild card, so you are likely going to keep seeing it over and over.  The biggest thing I am not quite grasping at this point is how the hell multiplayer actually works.  My theory was that I could potentially hop in on quests that folks were doing in the game session I happened to be in.  However when I click on a name everything seems to be grayed out.  I have no clue how social connectivity is supposed to work in this game and I have no clue what throwing someone a guild card actually does but I keep receiving a bunch of them.  Connecting with other people to play the game just feels way harder than it should be.  It should be as simple as…  is a friend of yours on…  okay click to join their game and kill monsters together.  Instead it feels like this weirdly contorted system that makes absolutely zero sense to my western brain.  I keep thinking back to the madness of Final Fantasy XI and World Passes…  and trying to place my mind into that sort of mindset because I just do not get it.  If someone could explain to me like I am five how this system works… I would greatly appreciate it.  I would love to be able to just hop in on someone else’s session and kill monsters because at this point I could give a shit about quest progression and just want more crafting bits.  Based on what I heard from Grakulen last night apparently people can’t join me when I am in an expedition, which seems sorta broken.  Regardless I am having a lot of fun in my own little sandbox… but sorta want to start learning how to group to take things down.

Barbecue Heroes

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Last night was apparently all about Monster Hunter World.  The game seems to have gotten its hooks into me because quite honestly all I could think about all day long was getting home and playing.  More than anything I spent a fair amount of processing cycles trying to figure out how I was going to shift up my attack combos to be more efficient with the Long Sword.  Right now I am focusing on a single weapon, and mindset wise…  I am tending to think about this game much the same way as I would a fighting game.  Traditionally with a fighting game I will focus on a single character and learn them first, so for example… with Street Fighter II I originally focused in on Ryu and learned everything I could about playing him before branching out and picking up Guile or Chun Li for example.  Additionally I tend to focus on finding a workable sequence of attacks and getting the most out of those before introducing new things into my mix.  For the moment this largely means building spirit gauge with triangle four times and then dumping spirit gauge with r2 four times.  I’m trying to work in fade slash in place of just rolling out of the way, but the press X to survive behavior is already deeply ingrained.  I need to sort out how to actually do the fade slash that turns you blue and gives you invulnerable frames…  but I am not quite there yet.

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As far as the evening went… I spent a good deal of it wandering around in the desert.  I made it far enough in the quest chain to unlock the next major area of the map and immediately found myself going into explorer mode trying to scout everything I could find from the new area.  One of the things I did not realize was that objectives do not show up on the map until my scout flies have found them…  so as a result I spent a good deal of the night trying to train up my scout flies for the new area while working on bounties.  I am still desperately hunting a M class monster bone, which I am guessing I cannot really get unless I take down something else big.  I have been sitting on one for awhile and need another to move up to the Bone Shotel III.  Ultimately I think I need to take Barroth down a bunch of times because I could use the materials from him to upgrade the armor for both me and my palico given that is the next big boost stat wise from the bone set I am wearing.  Unfortunately Barroth is also the first monster I have had to call for help on… not necessarily because I fainted too many times…  but because I saw myself quickly running out of resources.  I was down to my last two mega potions and I was having hell gauging how close to finishing it up I was so I went ahead and threw up an SOS flare to get someone to come help me.  Unfortunately by the time it was answered I had almost managed to take him down solo…  with Barroth falling within a few minutes of the new hunter joining me.

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Hunting with a second player though does make things like needing to sharpen your weapon way easier, and stopping to do that constantly really made a difference in my kill time and efficiency.  When I fought Pukei Pukei it took me forever to actually find the damned thing because it wasn’t pathing where I had seen it the night before.  However once I did… I managed to take it down way faster than I had almost any other monster to date.  It ran twice but I managed to kill it at the third location by I believe disabling its wing.  I am constantly ripping parts of monsters but also sorta not really understanding exactly what I am doing.  I’ve taken off a bunch of tails largely because that and the hind quarters in general seems like a place where I can get solid combo hits without fear of bouncing the attacks.  I wish I more fully understood what causes a bounce versus what causes a solid hit.  I struggled with bounces constantly with Barroth and I am guessing that was just a side effect of its armor coating.  Once I knocked off some plates and exposed the sinew below I managed to land really good hits and started dealing serious damage.  I am guessing this is where a weapon like the hammer comes in handy for knocking off the armor plates.  I can definitely see how each weapon is functionally deficient against specific types of monsters and why something like the charge blade that is flexible becomes a huge boon.  For now however I am focused on my Long Sword and getting the most out of it before moving to something else…  which admittedly may be the hammer or great sword next to see how bigger slower weapons feel.  The goal for last night was to finally get in the squad and I managed to do that finally towards the tail end of the evening.  Monster Hunter does not make grouping with others very easy, and I feel like it is still stuck in the mindset of having a bunch of 3DS around a table where everyone is physically present with each other.  All in all though…  I’ve already gotten far more out of this venture into the Monster Hunter world than I have with any other version of it I have played in the past which was my ultimate hope.

Bone Bunny Cat

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I spent a good chunk of my weekend roaming around aimlessly in Monster Hunter World.  I was not terribly certain about this game…  until I unlocked expeditions.  I’ve talked a little bit about my aversion to timed content, and I was deeply concerned that everything I had been picking up from the quest board involved some sort of a timer.  While I had managed to complete most of them well within the time limit…  my initial Great Jagras hunt was roughly 27 minutes out of the 50 minute limit.  The problem is knowing there is a timer hanging over my head keeps me from doing the things I want to be doing…  which is largely exploring and learning the map.  Once I realized there was a mode of gameplay that worked much like patrols in Destiny 2…  I was all on board with this concept especially since it meant that I could still hunt the big monsters freely on my own time table there.  I’ve been spending most of my effort trying to learn the longsword and at this point I have upgraded to the Bone Shotel II…  and need a M class monster bone to upgrade to the third step.

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My biggest challenge however is now that I have found expeditions…  my desire to do any other than bounties has pretty much dropped off the face of the planet.  I know I should be progressing the main story through the quests, because I realize I am on somewhat of a timer to complete the Horizon Zero Dawn quest before it disappears.  I’ve heard you can join missions from folks already doing that quest and just get your six parts that way, but I would actually like to reach the level required to properly do it.  As of last night I got a full set of Bone Armor equipped on both me and my palico and have upgraded all of my pieces to rank 2.  I did what so many others seem to have also done… and named my Palico after my real life middle cat Kenzie.  It’s fitting because if I was going to go out adventuring with one of my animals… it would absolutely be her.  She is my shadow most of the time and can deliver quite a wallop with her paw if she needs to.

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If you look at my card it looks like I have made ZERO progress in the game, but I am just sorta doing it in my own style.  At this point I have fought Great Jagras and Kulu-Ya-Ku and have been training up tracking on Pukei Pukei and Anjanath which I will tackle before too much longer.  My biggest problem right now is the fact that I know going into a big monster fight is a serious time commitment, and as a result I am reluctant to start one because I am not entirely certain when I will get pulled away from my screen.  My wife needed my help with something in the middle of the Kulu-Ya-Ku fight yesterday and I was trying desperately to finish it off quickly.  Side note…  until last night I had no clue I needed to be sharpening my weapon in the middle of these fights so in theory things might go a little smoother next go round.  There are so many of those little things that I am starting to pick up this time… that I absolutely did not in Generations.  It almost makes me want to go back and give Generations another go…  but I realize a big part of why I am starting to grok this game is the fact that it isn’t on a tiny handheld screen.  I am definitely not bouncing the way I have in the past and I want to spend more time getting into this title…  but also I still have the desire to play other things as well so it is a bit of a juggling act right now.  At some point soon I hope to meet up with Stormrazer in game and join his Squad.  The whole grouping thing feels like it could have been a lot more transparent and still feels like it was designed for handheld interactions where you are sitting across the room from the people you are playing with.  Hopefully they will tweak it over time and make it less obtuse.  All in all though I am enjoying myself quite a bit, and I am happy to finally grasp at least the basic concepts of the game that allow me to hunt things without fainting all of the time.

Character Created

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I’ve largely squandered my normal blogging time this morning by logging into the PS4 and getting things set up initially for Monster Hunter World.  I left my system running over night hoping that everything would go ahead and patch successfully.  I had heard there was a short day one patch to download and whatever the case I was in fact able to just log in and go this morning.  I may or may not have spent way more time on character creation than on doing anything else so far this morning.  I truly am a babe in the woods when it comes to Monster Hunter games, but I found a character design that I liked and named my Palico after my middle cat so I think I am going in the right direction at least.

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Normally when I create a “Belghast” character I tend to go with black hair, but in this game…  black was like absence of all light black.  It just sort of looked artificial without any real highlights or reflections.  Instead I opted to go with what was actually a dark dark blue grey, which I guess is fitting given that I myself am starting to turn grey.  I tried going with the full bushy beard but it didn’t really fit the character in the way I would have hoped.  I gotta say that Elder Scrolls Online still has the best beards and quite frankly I am happy that this has beards at all given the proclivity of Japanese and Korean games having shitty facial hair options.  In truth I am not even sure how much I will be seeing my own characters face given that it should be encased in some sort of armor.

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As far as weapons go…  right now I am planning on starting out with the Iron Katana and see how that treats me.  Always in the past I have used the equivalent of the buster sword, the super slow and hard hitting weapon and I always feel like I was not terribly agile.  This time around I am going to go for what I hope is a reasonably hard hitting weapon that offers some more nimbleness.  It goes against every instinct to not pick sword and shield, but I think I am going to try something else at least for awhile.  I don’t have a whole hell of a lot to talk about yet because I literally just got up to the first quest this morning, but I plan on poking my head tonight and seeing just how bad I suck at this game.

Lantern Light

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Last night went absolutely nothing like I had originally intended.  The initial goal I had in mind was to go home and attempt to pull myself back into a mindset where I could play Final Fantasy XIV.  Instead I hit a few detours along the way the first of which being that shortly after I had finished doing all of the stuff that I need to do when I first get home…  the power went out.  Now I realize this is mostly an irrational fear, but the first thing that always goes through my head is…  did you pay the bill?  I am not sure exactly why I have this fear because we have never actually been disconnected from any utility, but it is still something that happens.  I was already in my “not suitable for public” clothing, but I did stumble outside long enough to notice that all of my neighbors were also lumbering around by flashlight.  I called in the outage and reported it through the menu driven system and then spent the next little bit trying to sort out how to see reported outages without logging into the damned electric company page with an account that I didn’t have.  There is a local facebook group that serves as the closest thing we have to a city wide “water cooler” and my second place was to go check there knowing that there would already be a thread of a hundred or so posts about whatever was going on.  The lights went out around 6 pm and if the group was to be believed the estimated time for the fix was 11:30 pm…  which meant it was about to be a really long night living by lantern light.  It was around this time that I remembered I had the Switch and grabbed it from my office settling into the sofa to play some games.  I had played some Super Mario Odyssey and was about ten minutes into the Octopath Traveler demo when the power was magically restored at roughly 8 pm.

From there I did all of those things I had been avoiding… like opening the fridge to get a drink and settled down to play some Final Fantasy XIV.  Upon logging in I got greeted by friends… roamed around Limsa Lominsa and then promptly logged out because I just did not have it in me to do the group activities I need to do in order to make any semblance of forward momentum.  Instead I popped into Elder Scrolls Online and continued work on Stonefalls.  This zone is like a giant immovable object for me and the sooner I get on the other side of it the better.  It has singlehandedly killed every attempt at playing an Ebonheart Pact character because even though it has gone through a ton of changes since alpha…  it still is not what I would call a good zone.  The weird shape and geometry of the zone makes everything a bigger chore than it should be.  Objectives that might look really close on the map instead require you to backtrack half the way across the zone to find the proper entrance into the region you need to go.  All of this is just the functional reasons…  but there is also the fact that it is bleak.  The quake color palette and the constant smokey haze and falling ash make it not exactly the most visually exciting place to be.  I did however feel like I made a bunch of progress in the zone last night and checked off a bunch of areas.  I am not even sure where I am in the zones main story quest, and if I could change one thing about Elder Scrolls online I would make it so that those primary quests required to move to the next area were somehow highlighted differently in a FFXIV style manner.

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The other thing on my radar is that at the time of taking this screenshot we were roughly 17 hours away from unlocking Monster Hunter World on the PS4.  Granted I have no actual intent of staying up until midnight to play this game, but I do plan on playing Friday night.  This is going to be my first real attempt at playing a Monster Hunter title while it is in the public zeitgeist and I am hoping that by doing so…  I will be able to grok what the fuck is going on.  I’ve attempted the PS Vita version and purchase Generations for the 3DS…  but largely chocked up a lot of my problems to the fact that I am just not much of a handheld gamer.  World however is coming to the PS4 which will allow me to play it on this nifty 43 inch 4k television (even though I don’t have a pro and can’t do the higher resolutions really) and my hope is it will be a much more compelling experience.  I’ve always thought this was the sort of game I could get into if I had the proper introduction, because the core loop of grind random stuff to make yourself stronger to take down big bad monsters is one that I can likely get behind.  I am hoping I can rely on those who have come before like Ashgar and Stormrazor to get me over the adjustment hump.  I am also super excited that Arekkz is devoting a series of videos to easing beginners in.  I most definitely need the assistance.  Needless to say I will be on the PS4 giving it a whirl tomorrow.

Rift Prime Thoughts

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The launch of Rift was a really special time for me.  It was the first time that my “wow tourism” turned into something else.  It was the first time that I really immersed myself wholeheartedly into another game and I loved it so much.  At the time Rift was giving me everything I had said I wanted in an MMO and I chose to be a giant purple Bahmi warrior.  We had a lot of great times in the game and while we didn’t really start to break into the raid scene until the release of slivers…  we regularly had huge guild outings to open raid rifts which were an awful lot of fun.  At that point it was just a lot of fun to grab some friends and chase rifts for awhile, and in truth I cannot really remember what caused us to initially fade away.  For some players they never really grasped it in the first place as player fantasies turned out to be less than what they expected.  Others shifted back to the familiar womb of Azeroth, but a group of us stayed true to the cause for quite some time.  By the time the first expansion had rolled around however we were down to a shell of our former selves and a series of server mergers saw our little guild scattered.  I personally had landed on my feet with another very active guild in the form of Machiavelli’s Cats helmed by fellow blogger Liore, and entered a sort of second golden age of Rift for me personally.  I even managed to make my way into their raid rotation as I did my best impersonation of a dual wielding warrior.  With the launch of Storm Legion saw a bunch of changes and a bunch of folks wander off, and before long I was once again left as a member of a dwindling guild.  I made an attempt to rekindle the interests of my friends with a fresh start on Faeblight and the proper founding of House Stalwart in Rift, and it again worked for a time…  but by three months down the line we were once again down to a handful of people actively playing.  Essentially the core problem I have always seem to have with Rift is getting anyone other than myself interested in playing it for any length of time.  No matter how solo at heart you happen to be… if you don’t have a guild core to organize around it is really hard to keep excited about logging in every day.

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Recently Trion announced that they would be creating “Rift Prime” and it is not in fact shipping a temporal disturbance to your house in an hour or less.  I realize I am super late to the party in talking about this…  but I’ve been largely out of commission due to the flu so cut me some slack.  The idea in theory is that they are trying to roll back time, to an era when the game was subscription based and not fueled by loot box purchases and store purchases.  We don’t really have a ton to go on as to what specifically this means, but the full text of the blurb released on January 18th goes as follows.

Introducing RIFT Prime

In the Spring of 2018, we will launch a new server, RIFT Prime. We’ve paid a lot of attention in discussions with all of you and within the broader gaming community regarding business models in the MMO and games industry as a whole.

We have the opportunity to experiment with this fresh RIFT server using an oft-requested subscription model and progressively unlocked content. Our goal for RIFT Prime is to provide the experience that many of you have requested: no lockboxes, a significantly reduced store with more of the current store-based items obtained through gameplay (or removed entirely) – plus the excitement of sequential progression through RIFT’s content with monthly milestones and achievements.

So we know whatever it is will be happening in Spring…  which is one of those super squishy definitions as far as time goes.  It promises a return to a subscription only server, which admittedly is a huge boon as far as I am concerned.  During the early days of Rift the community was something I cared about and I regularly volunteered for groups forming up in public channels.  With the introduction of the free to play players…  I more or less stopped watching public channels because they were full of nothing that I cared to see.  I like the idea of starting over again with the core of vanilla Rift and building back out from there.  A good portion of my struggle to stay connected myself is that there is just so much competing wrong information that you have to sift through in order to find what is actual good advise.  We are lacking the Rift equivalent of Icy Veins to use as a sanity check to see if you are in fact speccing your characters in a reasonable manner.  I think rolling back the sands of time might help this a bit, especially if prime sees its own forum infrastructure to support the initiative.  Sure I would miss all of the toys I have accumulated over the years, but I also think having a reason to start fresh without having to deal with the baggage and friction of a free to play experience would be positive.

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There are two problems I foresee and I am going to talk a little bit about them.  Firstly how vanilla are we actually talking?  I never again want to return to an era when the “faction as fiction” patch has not been applied.  One of the best things to happen in Rift was the fall of the faction wall and I want to be able to run Guardian and Defiant together freely based on user choice.  Secondly…  if they build it will the people come back?  I can be as interested as possible, but if no core upwelling of players want to come back and play…  then my own journey through the game will be truncated as well without a guild base to build out upon.  I’ve not had the best luck with guild projects lately, and I am not sure if I even have the energy in me to try and organize anything for the purpose of Rift.  Destiny 2 was a colossal mess that never quite materialized into any semblance of regular group activities, but admittedly a lot of the problem there was the complete and total lack of guild chat.  I still love Rift and I have so many fond memories of the game, but always run into issues each time I attempt to play the modern incarnation.  At some point I left the tracks and never quite figured out how to re-rail myself.  If I could find an active community to do this thing with me… then maybe just maybe it would work.  However similar nostalgic based trips into other games have been short lived in the past, and even the third resurgence of Rift myself was us trying to do a similar “fresh start” that only wound up lasting three or four months.  At this point however I am willing to give it a shot.  If I am actively playing a game I am already in the mindset where I want to subscribe in order to support it…  so flipping that switch is a no-brainier for me personally.  The real question however is…  will I have anyone else joining me in that madness?

 

Games While I’ve Been Alive

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While roaming around the blogosphere yesterday I stumbled onto a post on Cheap Boss Attack.  This was apparently spurred on by a twitter thread that I did not originally see from a “The Well-Red Mage”.  The idea is pretty straight forward… go through the list of video game releases by year and determine what your favorite game for every year you have been alive was.  I thought this might be an interesting exercise so I took part in coming up with my list last night.  The only problem that I immediately saw is that I am part of what is realistically the first generation who can actually do this successfully.  The first commercial video games came out in 71/72 ish and even by the time I was born the list of available games in 76 was pretty short.  I of course had to rely on the wonder of wiki pages in trying to sort out what games were released in what years…  and unfortunately these pages were not exactly the most complete things especially from the late 90s onwards…  simply too many games to list.  So I started with the 1976 in Video Gaming page and moved upwards until we reach 2017.  There were several really tough spots that I agonized about…  but in the grand scheme of things I attempted to choose the game that ended up being the most important to me during that specific calendar year if I could remember it.  Now I am presenting the list without commentary.  I would love to see this thing gain legs and make its way around what is left of our blogging community.  Side note… yes I realize I am old.

  • 1976 – Breakout
  • 1977 – Combat
  • 1978 – Space Invaders
  • 1979 – Galaxian
  • 1980 – Berzerk
  • 1981 – Galaga
  • 1982 – Q-Bert
  • 1983 – Star Wars Arcade
  • 1984 – Marble Madness
  • 1985 – Super Mario Bros
  • 1986 – The Legend of Zelda
  • 1987 – Castlevania: II Simon’s Quest
  • 1988 – Ninja Gaiden
  • 1989 – Mega Man 2
  • 1990 – Super Mario Bros. 3
  • 1991 – Street Fighter II Arcade
  • 1992 – Wolfenstein 3D
  • 1993 – Doom
  • 1994 – Final Fantasy III (VI)
  • 1995 – Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millenium
  • 1996 – Diablo
  • 1997 – Castlevania: Syphony of the Night
  • 1998 – Fallout 2
  • 1999 – Planescape: Torment
  • 2000 – Diablo II
  • 2001 – Phantasy Star Online
  • 2002 – Dark Age of Camelot: Shrounded Isles
  • 2003 – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
  • 2004 – World of Warcraft
  • 2005 – Everquest II: Desert of Flames
  • 2006 – Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
  • 2007 – World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade
  • 2008 – World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
  • 2009 – Borderlands
  • 2010 – Fallout New Vegas
  • 2011 – Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • 2012 – The Secret World
  • 2013 – Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
  • 2014 – The Elder Scrolls Online
  • 2015 – Destiny – The Taken King
  • 2016 – World of Warcraft: Legion
  • 2017 – Horizon Zero Dawn

There are so many games that are conspicuously absent.  Everquest for example was a pretty major game in my life, but I managed to play it for three years without it actually making it on the list because there were just more personally “important” games that I needed to give the slot to.  Similarly I would have though Star Wars the Old Republic, City of Heroes and Warhammer Online would have made the cut…  similarly Rift but in all cases there was something that summed up that year for me more clearly than those MMOs.  I am curious to see what your list ends up looking like.  It was a fun challenge to try and whittle down 41 years of gaming into a neat bullet pointed list.  Technically I probably did not actually start playing anything until around 1979-ish on my parents sears pong clone.  Similarly I didn’t start video gaming proper until around 1980/81 when we got our used Atari 2600 but prior to that any time I was around a stand-up arcade cabinet I was begging quarters off my parents.  I even remember one place we used to eat had a mechanical crossbow game of some sort that I loved playing.  It has been a crazy trip watching my favorite past time transform from three pixels moving vertically on the screen with a paddle control to these complex worlds that I spend so much of my life engrossed by.

Saving Bleakrock

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Lets get this update out of the way.  I am still struggling quite a bit with this death flu bullshit that has been going around.  Here in my home state of Oklahoma there have been 45 deaths since the beginning of Flu Season, and I absolutely understand why.  I religiously take the Flu Shot each year when work offers it, but some of the estimates I have seen say it is only 10-15% effective against what is actually out in the wild.  Due to my case getting misdiagnosed as a sinus infection early on… it mean’t I lost that time window when something like Tamiflu would be useful.  Now I am having to just slog through it in an attempt to get to the other side.  This weekend things started feeling worse as it triggered my Asthma in a major way, and instead of podcasting Saturday night my wife was making a mercy run to Walgreens to pick up more medication that the on-call doctor prescribed.  This meant that Friday night I wound up having to take six Prednisone pills in one dose in an attempt to shock my system back to normal.  It is helping but going way slower than I would have liked, I am now starting day three of a dose pack and I am really hoping that today is the day that I start to feel more human again.  Most of the weekend I was in this mode where I felt fairly reasonable so long as I was sitting perfectly still and not doing much of anything.  The moment I would get up and attempt to do something simple like get a drink, or swap a load of laundry…  and it felt like I had just finished some epic uphill slog through the tundra.  I hate feeling useless, and I hate that this has continued to drag on as long as it has.  Since the only time I felt reasonable this weekend was sitting on the sofa snuggled into a blanket with my laptop…  that mean’t I spent most of my time playing games.  With the current state of World of Warcraft feeling fairly awful until they make what is going to inevitably be a balance and tuning pass on World Scaling…  I needed something else to hold my attention.  I am still playing quite a bit of Neverwinter, but for whatever reason that game feels best to me when played in short focused bursts.  It was around Friday that I started playing Elder Scrolls Online regularly and it managed to get its hooks into my psyche.

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I have been extremely stubborn in the way that I play Elder Scrolls Online.  For the uninitiated, the base game has a really cool feature of having a build in new game plus and plus plus modes. What that means is that as you beat your chosen faction’s content, you walk backwards around the ouroboros taking on the next faction in sequence while you play through all three.  I originally rolled as Daggerfall Covenant, which mean’t my new game plus faction is Aldmeri Dominion and then new game plus plus would be Ebonheart Pact.  Where we get into the stubborn part is that I refuse to play any of the “expansion” content aka Imperial City, Orsinium, Thieves Guild, Dark Brotherhood, Shadows of the Hist or Morrowind until I have completed all three of the original factions.  Of note each one of these factions is designed to be 50 levels of content and now we get into where I have stalled out…  it takes a very long time to work through the original game three times.  Aldmeri Dominion originally seemed like pure hell to me because of my severe distaste for all things elves…  and that faction has both the Altmer (High Elves) and the Bosmer (Wood Elves).  That said…  I do have a very deep soft spot for the often times completely feral cannibal Bosmer, and I have always loved the moon sugar imbibing Khajiit…  so I thought on those two elements alone I could probably make it through the content.  What I was not expecting however was to completely fall in love with the storyline featuring a bunch of elves and their weird struggles to hold together what apparently as a very unlikely alliance.  With elements of the Wild Hunt and crazy drug induced visions…  Aldmeri Dominion turned out to be a really excellent ride and I am sure Tam is pleased as hell with himself because I know he was responsible for at least some of the content.  This weekend I managed to finish up the main storyline in Reapers March, but I will admit there are a lot of side quests that I simply did not deal with over there that at some point I will probably revisit.  Ultimately I would love to 100% every one of the zones…  but that will take time and I did not want to burn myself out doing so.

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As a result last night I finally started Bleakrock Isle and Ebonheart Pact.  This is without a doubt the content that I tested most thoroughly over the course of the year or so that I was in various alpha and beta tests.  It was the content I could essentially do in my sleep…  along with Stros M’kai.  The funny thing is… time had clouded my memories and left me with vague idea for how the flow of the zone was supposed to go…  but left me struggling to remember how to get 100% of the refugees off the island.  I realize I could have easily skipped the intro area and moved straight on to Stonefalls, but in truth I have always found the intro areas to be extremely strong content.  I know they were a huge problem for players who wanted to log in and just start running amok, but for me personally… they were this great guided tour into the game.  That is one of the things I constantly find myself amazed by is just how damned good this game really is, and how relatively shunned it was by the broader Elder Scrolls community.  Each time I return I get immersed completely into the world and am right back where I left off mentally and wandering around completely interesting quests.  That honestly is a double edged sword because what ultimately causes me to wander away is that it is almost at times too immersive.  Much like playing the story in SWTOR I get engrossed in the game and have trouble doing anything else while playing it.  There is always more dialog to listen to and more quest chains to complete, and my ability to binge Netflix and play this game is largely a nonstarter.  If I want to Netflix… my game of choice is something like World of Warcraft that is so familiar and almost mind numbing that I can play it almost entirely with muscle reflexes.  Elder Scrolls is largely still a game about muscle reflex for me… but still one that I need to accurately read the tells that the mobs on screen are giving me to be able to react correctly to in order to stay alive.  I cannot simply blindly run around mashing buttons… or I will end up dead exceptionally fast for someone who has just shy of 200 champion points as of logging out last night.  I know I am probably playing less than optimally, but I have a build that works for me and feels reasonably well and I am afraid to dig too deeply into it past that.  Optimization is often times the path of misery for me and drains the fun out of the experience.  I do however need to perform a little resource to figure out exactly what the gear level breaks are and how soon I should be looking to upgrade out of my 160 CP gear into something else.

 

World Scaling Thoughts

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Firstly since I was absent in making a blog post yesterday I feel like I need to address said lapse.  I’m dealing with this horrible strain of the flu that has been going around.  I was in fact one of those people who had the flu shot early in the season as soon as my work offered it, and still managed to catch it.  Last week I went to the doctor and they misdiagnosed me with a bad sinus infection.  As the week carried forward and I was not getting any better I went back to the doctor and this time around they thought to swab me for influenza.  I feel horrible because I probably infected a bunch of people during that weeks time considering people are dropping at my work like flies.  The biggest challenge of this batch seems to be thinking…  as in stringing together a sequence of thoughts into something that makes sense.  I tried it yesterday and failed…  primarily because the topic I want to post about involves a little finesse.  However here I go attempting to make a post work in between the coughing spells.

On Tuesday January 15th the World of Warcraft was once again forever changed with the introduction of patch 7.3.5 and World Scaling.  You have to understand I have been thought a lot of emotional tinges about this sequence of events and it really has taken me this long to be able to sit down and formulate my thoughts.  Now this is something that I had been wishing would arrive in World of Warcraft for so many years before there are lots of games out there that do it really well.  Prior to the patch I had been furiously leveling a Tauren Hunter and upon logging in I had the immediate guttural reaction of “Gah! This Feels Horrible! LOGOUT!!!”.  The longer I have lived with these changes the more nuanced my opinion has become, and today I am going to try and weave it all together into something that makes sense.  Firstly lets talk about what leveling has been like for the last few expansions in the heirloom economy.  Putting on a full set of heirloom items turned you into a god and you could pretty much roll though content with impunity.  With zero hyperbole…  on my beast mastery hunter I could pretty much oneshot every single mob in the game while doing level equivalent content.  This had a bunch of positives and a bunch of negatives…  the negative being you weren’t actually doing any of the content legitimately.  The positive is it allowed you to tackle all of those boss level encounters and made up for the fact that the zones you were leveling in were effective ghost towns and you might never actually see another player.

The other side effect is that you could level exceedingly fast because of the sheer volume of things you could kill in your wake.  You could pull big and pull sloppy and shake it off knowing there was virtually nothing the mobs could do to you that would actually kill you.  This meant that on a really good night I might be able to do twenty levels of content, and on average something along the lines of ten to fifteen.  It was not unusual for me to do literally all of outland in a weekend afternoon buzzing from 58 to 68 in a single sitting.  The changes have firmly closed this era of the game.  Speed leveling is probably still possible but the definition of fast has changed considerably.  In the nights after the patch I have played with many variables but for the most part it is a really good evening if I see two dings.  In addition to the lack of speed is the constant fear of death as even wearing a full set of heirloom gear I feel just as weak as if I were wearing greens.  I am constantly in peril of pulling too much or the wrong combination of mobs at the same time and maybe not being able to live through the damage.  Previously food and bandages had no value at all because you simply did not need them… but I find myself utilizing both again.  The big boss encounters however are the problem because once again… there is no native population of players leveling through these zones anymore.  There is no one in zone shouting that they need help cleansing ursoc for example…  an encounter that is still mostly unsoloable for anyone but a tank with some sort of health regeneration of their own.  The island full of all of the boss encounters in Grizzly Hills…  I couldn’t even get through one of the mini-bosses let alone the final encounter that requires burning down the boss while also managing large waves of adds.  Essentially if a quest rewards a blue item… it is probably off the menu for solo players to ever attempt because due to world scaling there will never be a time when it is far enough beneath your level to comfortably solo.

So do I mourn the old fast and silly leveling with heirlooms?  Admittedly a little bit.  Because it was fun to feel that powerful and get through the  content that quickly.  However I also realize it was a bit much and lead to all sorts of problems like being unable to kill something slow enough to complete any of those “use item while weakened” type quests.  Level scaling in truth is good for the health of the game because it means everyone will be actually doing the content in the game rather than buzzing past all of it.  Essentially everyone will be leveling every alt now like they were leveling their first.  I am sure Heirlooms do speed things up still, but it isn’t nearly as noticeable as before.  The problem I see however is that in the new economy… the survival capabilities of various classes are likely going to need to be tweaked.  I’ve been playing a bit as Survival Hunter…  and there are just certain encounters that I cannot handle by myself.  I take too much damage and cannot chew my way through the hitpoints before they chew through mine.  Survival is a fairly sturdy class, so that tells me lots of other classes are going to have pure hell in this new world order.  I am not sure what sliders they have to tweak how the content feels, but this first pass feels like it lands a bit to much on the side of unforgiving brutality at times.  There have been several times I have had to log out and walk away from leveling…  because it was annoying me too much.  Leveling alts was always my moment of zen and my happy place…  and now it is stressful.  Again a lot of the problems are with the fact that while the world is scaling I am still utterly alone in all of these zones with no help to be had from another player happening across my path and maybe seeing I am in trouble.  The general world sorta feels the way that Argus feels at times when you are a little undergeared….  and maybe that is the problem.  Heirlooms previously were supposed to scale like you were wearing the best blues you would wear at a given level.  There should never be a time when you feel undergeared for the content…  but unfortunately that is mostly how I have felt every moment after the patch.

Essentially it is an adjustment period, and I will have to get used to feeling weak again.  I think in the grand scheme of things this is probably a good step for the long term health of the game.  I just have to learn that I can’t fly nearly as close to the sun as I used to.

Sword Coast Chronicles

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Do you know how hard it is for me to say Neverwinter… and not follow it up with Nights?  Like that is hands down the hardest thing about playing the Cryptic made MMO…  is just stopping with the first word.  Like part of me feels like it would have simply felt better to call it Neverwinter Nights Online, but I am guessing that Bioware probably still has the licensing rights to “Neverwinter Nights”.  Regardless of this personal struggle I find myself suddenly unable to stop playing this game.  I am not really sure what is going on there but I am having a lot of fun and the content just seems to be flowing smoothly in a way it never did the few other times I tried to play it.  Everquest II had this concept of the golden path where a sparkly line of particle effects would attempt to lead you from objective to objective.  The problem is it never really worked right and was prone to completely abandon you if the effects clipped through the terrain, or simply route you in a truly bizarre manner.  As a result I think when I first saw that Neverwinter had a similar construct… I largely tried to ignore it after all of the bad experience attempting to make it work in EQ2.  The main difference is that here it actually works remarkably well, and while it might not be the most optimal path for questing purposes…  it does end up giving you a nice path to follow that eventually ends in you getting all of the objectives you need to knock out those quests.

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I had so many quests that were either partially completed or not even started scattered throughout a bunch of zones.  I am guessing I mostly ran around and killed stuff without really focusing on completing anything.  The problem with returning to a game after a significant amount of content has been added is you are never quite certain if something was in the game when you last played… or if you had just been completely oblivious to it.  One of these for me is  the introduction of the Sword Coast Chronicles tab which shows your general progress through the game, or at least what you should be working on content wise at a given level.  The only problem with this is that I am progressing way faster level wise than the content would in theory suggest.  I’ve been working on Neverdeath Cemetery still within the confines of Neverwinter proper.  If I had to guess I am now entering the second half of the content in that zone and should begin to start ticking off some of the boxes needed for the completion rewards.  So far the thing that is making this game stand out for me is just how interesting the locations are and how relatively densely packed they are with interesting vistas.  The one gotcha here is that the zones are not really as open as they might seem at first glance but instead in truth are more corridors to move through in a similar fashion to the zone design in something like Destiny 2.  So long as you treat the zone as a conduit to do the quests it feels really good…  when you start trying to break out off the beaten path and just traverse the zone without a purpose however it begins to feel frustrating and confining.

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Another thing I remember about this game is that it seemed really scarce with loot drops and at some point they went in completely the opposite direction.  I am getting more than enough gear from just running about to stay constantly upgraded and in the short time I have played I have gotten three different mounts as world drops and two companions.  There are entire subsections of this game that I have no clue what is even going on… like I vaguely remember there being some sort of web based component to this game.  I keep getting crafters and such from quests but I have no clue how to access it.  I attempted to do a little research yesterday but was constantly confronted with several year old information, so I am guessing the game just does not have much of a informational community presence.  Reading back through my original reviews of the game…  I seem to have thought it was an enjoyable experience each time I have attempted to play it.  The problem is I never really stick to it for one reason or another.  It already feels like I have gained way more traction in the game than any of my other efforts given that I logged in at level 16 Monday and now am just shy of level 30.  There are still a lot of ways that I feel like I don’t really know what the hell is going on, but I am slowly getting acclimatized to the game and feeling like I at least know my way round a bit.  The Dungeons I have run have been a mess… but the sort of mess where one person who is grossly overpowered just speed burns through the content and we sorta follow along haplessly looting shit.  At some point I want to check out the user created content that I know at some point went into the game.  I know my friend Tipa was super into that for awhile, so I am interested to see what playing that is like.  All in all I am still having a lot of fun, and probably just as shocked as you are to be seeing more Neverwinter posts.